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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 22. A Gambling-House
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The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 22. A Gambling-House Post by :kevinf Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :3016

Click below to download : The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 22. A Gambling-House (Format : PDF)

The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 22. A Gambling-House

CHAPTER XXII. A GAMBLING-HOUSE

Having completed this important business arrangement, the two friends went out to explore the town. The limits were narrow compared with those of the flourishing city of the present day. Where the Palace and Grand hotels now stand was a sand-hill, and the bay encroached upon the business part of the city far more than now.

Scarcely a stone's throw from the grocery, on Montgomery street, between California and Sacramento, was the office of Adams' Express, which advertised to forward gold-dust and packages by every steamer.

"I will go in here, Mr. Ferguson," said Tom. "I shall not feel comfortable till I have started this money homeward. I am sure it will be wanted."

"Right, my lad. We will attend to it, by all means."

They entered the building,--a very humble one it would now be considered,--but they found other customers before them, and had to wait for their turn.

"What can I do for you?" asked the clerk, in a quick, business-like tone.

"I want to send home a hundred dollars," said Tom.

"Give me the address."

This was done, the money paid over, and a receipt returned in two minutes.

"How long before my father will receive the money?" asked Tom.

"The steamer starts in three days. About a month will be needed."

Then Tom moved aside, and the next man took his place.

"I am glad that is attended to," said Tom, relieved. "Now, Mr. Ferguson, I will go wherever you wish."

"We had better secure a lodging," said the Scotchman. "When we are sure of a bed we can walk about at our leisure."

Lodgings were to be had, but they were generally very dear. The first room looked at was five dollars per day, without board,--a price our friends were unwilling to pay. Finally they found a decent, though small room, with rather a narrow bed, which could be had for three fifths of that sum, and they engaged it.

"We will have to go back to the mines soon," said Tom. "San Francisco is too expensive for us to live in."

"You can afford it better than I, Tom," said his friend.

"Why?"

"Because you have a business that brings you in an income."

"Oh, I forgot that," said our hero, smiling. "Things happen so fast here that I haven't got used to my new position. Do you think I invested my money wisely, Mr. Ferguson?"

"Yes, my lad, since your agent is a trustworthy, honest man."

"I am sure I can trust John Miles."

"If I were not confident of it, also, I would not have encouraged you to take so important a step."

"I think I won't write to father about it," said Tom, after a pause. "He might think I had acted foolishly, and become anxious. If I succeed, then I shall be glad to surprise him. I think I shall make money; but I don't want to count on it too much. I shall be ready to go back with you to the mines whenever you say the word."

As they sauntered about, gazing curiously at the motley sights around them, they heard strains of music. It appeared to proceed from a large wooden building, with a jutting roof, under which, on benches, lounged a number of persons, some of them Mexicans, in their native costumes, smoking cigarettes. A large American flag was displayed over the door, and a crowd was constantly passing in and out.

"Let us go in," said Tom.

His companion making no objection, they entered. The first sight of the interior made clear the character of the place. There were numerous tables, spread with games,--faro, monte, and roulette,--each surrounded by an absorbed and interested group. "Easy come, easy go," was the rule with the early California pioneers, and the gaming-table enlisted in its service many men who would not have dreamed at home that they could ever be brought to tolerate such an instrument of evil.

Tom was a country boy, and unsophisticated, but he could not help understanding the nature of the business which brought so many to the place.

"I suppose they are gambling," he said.

"Yes, poor, deluded creatures!" said the Scotchman, who had been brought up to an abhorrence of games of chance. "They are wasting their time and their substance, and foolishly laying up for themselves future misery."

Had this remark been heard it would have excited indignation, and perhaps subjected the speaker to insult; but the players were too intent upon their varying chances to pay any attention to the remarks of by-standers.

"I hope, Tom, you will never yield to the seductive lures of the gaming-table," continued Ferguson.

"I don't think there is much danger," said Tom. "I have always been taught that gambling is wicked."

"May you long feel so, my lad!"

Tom did, however, watch the players with interest. He saw money lost and won, without understanding exactly how it was decided. From the game his attention was drawn to the gamesters. He was led to notice, particularly, a young man of prepossessing countenance, who was evidently profoundly excited. From time to time he drew out a roll of gold pieces, which he placed on a card, and invariably lost. He must have had a considerable sum; but, small or large, he was in ill-luck, and constantly lost. As he neared the end of his resources the feverish blush upon his handsome features was succeeded by a deep pallor, and there was no mistaking the expression of deep anguish and despair which announced that he had reached the end.

Tom became painfully interested in the young man, and silently drew the attention of his companion to him. When the end came, and the victim, thoroughly "cleaned out," turned to go out, Tom said, in a low voice, "Let us follow him."

Ferguson acquiesced. He, too, had become interested, and the young man's expression as he passed our two friends was so despairing that Ferguson felt some alarm as to the effect of his disappointment upon his mind.

Once in the street, Ferguson and Tom followed the unfortunate young man into an obscure street, keeping up with difficulty, for his pace was rapid and excited. It proved to be a fortunate thing, for when he supposed himself free from observation the young man drew a pistol, and, with an incoherent exclamation, placed it in contact with his temple.

Tom sprang forward, and so did the Scotchman; but the boy was the quicker and more agile, and dashed the pistol aside just in time to prevent a suicide.

"Why did you do that?" asked the baffled would-be-suicide, gloomily, turning his gaze upon Tom.

"I was afraid you were going to kill yourself."

"So I was."

"What could induce you to take such a rash step?" asked Ferguson.

"I have been a reckless fool. I have lost all my money at the accursed gambling-table, and my life is not worth retaining."

"It appears to me," said the Scotchman, quietly, "that you set too high a value upon money. You have certainly been very foolish to risk it at the gaming-table, and the loss will no doubt inconvenience you; but was your money all you had to live for?"

The young man regarded Ferguson with some surprise; but his excitement was evidently abated. The quiet tone of the speaker had a favorable effect upon him.

"I didn't think of it in that light," he admitted.

"Have you no relatives to whom your life is of value?"

"Yes," answered the young man. "I have a mother and sister."

"Would not your death affect them more than the loss of money?"

"Yes."

"It seems to me that to take your life would be to treat them cruelly."

The young man was evidently agitated by contending thoughts.

"I suppose you are right," he said, slowly; "but let me tell you all, and you can judge me better: I arrived in California six months since. My home is in Ohio, not far from Cincinnati. I was fortunate enough to commence mining at a point on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where I was almost alone. I 'struck it rich,' and two days since arrived in San Francisco with over two thousand dollars in gold-dust."

"You were certainly in luck," said Ferguson, surprised.

"I turned it into money, and, in strolling about the city, was lured into that accursed den. I looked on and was fascinated. I thought I would try my luck. I began with a small stake, and kept on till I had lost every dollar. In one hour the fruits of six months' labor are gone. Do you wonder that I am reduced to despair?"

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