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|Shorty Dreams||Jack London|
|Page 1 of 3||
That night, when Smoke took up his customary place at the table, the keeper shut down the game.
"The game's closed," he said. "Boss's orders."
But the assembled game-owners were not to be balked. In a few minutes they arranged a pool, each putting in a thousand, and took over the table.
"Come on and buck us," Harvey Moran challenged, as the keeper sent the ball on its first whirl around.
"Give me the twenty-five limit," Smoke suggested.
"Sure; go to it."
Smoke immediately placed twenty-five chips on the 'double nought,' and won.
Moran wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"Go on," he said. "We got ten thousand in this bank."
At the end of an hour and a half, the ten thousand was Smoke's.
"The bank's bust," the keeper announced.
"Got enough?" Smoke asked.
The game-owners looked at one another. They were awed. They, the fatted proteges of the laws of chance, were undone. They were up against one who had more intimate access to those laws, or who had invoked higher and undreamed laws.
"We quit," Moran said. "Ain't that right, Burke?"
Big Burke, who owned the games in the M. and G. Saloon, nodded.
"The impossible has happened," he said. "This Smoke here has got a system all right. If we let him go on we'll all bust. All I can see, if we're goin' to keep our tables running, is to cut down the limit to a dollar, or to ten cents, or a cent. He won't win much in a night with such stakes."
All looked at Smoke. He shrugged his shoulders.
"In that case, gentlemen, I'll have to hire a gang of men to play at all your tables. I can pay them ten dollars for a four-hour shift and make money."
"Then we'll shut down our tables," Big Burke replied. "Unless--" He hesitated and ran his eye over his fellows to see that they were with him. "Unless you're willing to talk business. What will you sell the system for?"
"Thirty thousand dollars," Smoke answered. "That's a tax of three thousand apiece."
They debated and nodded.
"And you'll tell us your system?"
"And you'll promise not to play roulette in Dawson ever again?"
"No, sir," Smoke said positively. "I'll promise not to play this system again."
"My God!" Moran exploded. "You haven't got other systems, have you?"
"Hold on!" Shorty cried. "I want to talk to my pardner. Come over here, Smoke, on the side."
Smoke followed into a quiet corner of the room, while hundreds of curious eyes centred on him and Shorty.
"Look here, Smoke," Shorty whispered hoarsely. "Mebbe it ain't a dream. In which case you're sellin' out almighty cheap. You've sure got the world by the slack of its pants. They's millions in it. Shake it! Shake it hard!"
"But if it's a dream?" Smoke queried softly.
"Then, for the sake of the dream an' the love of Mike, stick them gamblers up good and plenty. What's the good of dreamin' if you can't dream to the real right, dead sure, eternal finish?"
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