The Mott Street Poker Club
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The Mott Street Poker Club

 

The Reverent Mr. Thankful Smith

He Visits the Club and Makes an Impression

 

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IT was some days before the Club recovered sufficiently from the shock which the ungrateful and inappreciative visitor from the Pacific Coast had inflicted on it, to resume its sessions. When it did, it had not entered very deeply into the game before a shadow fell upon the table. It was the shadow of a venerable man of color, who stood outside the laundry window looking in upon the battle of chance with wondering eyes.

“My souls!” said the venerable colored person, “If dem Chinese isn’t playin’ pokah.”

The venerable colored person blew his nose violently on a venerable colored handkerchief.

“Dem heathen Chinese is a playin’ pokah,” repeated the venerable colored person, ramming his handkerchief back in his pocket. “For de Lohd! dis am my missyun.”

And opening the door, he walked in on a new deal, for which Mr. Lee-Tip was shuffling.

“De Reberend Mistah Thankful Smiff,” he said bowing, while the Club stared at him stupefied. “A pooah, humble serbent ob de Lohd and President of de Thompson Street Pokah Club.”

The word “Poker” was all that Mr. Hong-Lung could understand of this address. But as the Rev. Mr. Smith wore a handsome oroide watch-chain and looked as if he might have a watch fastened to it, Mr. Hong-Lung’s commercial instincts rose at once and he asked,—

“You sabbe polkel?”

“Do I know dat game of sin and wraff?” queried the Rev. Mr. Smith. “Ask Cyanide Whiffles. Ask Tooter Willyums. Ask Gus Jonsun.”

And the Rev. Mr. Smith sat down, pulled out his wallet and laid it on the table. Mr. Lee-Tip’s eyes gleamed and Mr. Hong-Lung felt for his small change. The Rev. Mr. Smith blew his nose impressively and said,—

“Gimme some kyards, my poor, benighted brother from de distant clime. Gimme some kyards and prepaiah foh to receibe de ‘sperience of an expert.”

Mr. Lee-Tip dealt him a hand, and the Rev. Mr. Smith lighted a cigar and bet a nickel. By the time the hand was all in he had lost a quarter. The next hand found him fifteen cents out, and the next let him down easy at eight.

“Pears to me,” muttered the Rev. Mr. Smith, suspiciously, “dat dere’s somefin’ wrong heah; my souls! dere mus’ be. Dese yer Chinees has too much luck to be nateral.”

At this juncture his eye lighted on the effigy of Joss on the shelf over the clothes-wringer, where the usual incense was burning.

“De Lohd forgib me!” he ejaculated; “I knowed somefin’ was wrong. And me a playin’ poker wid heathens dat offers up burnt offerings to graben images!”

The mental perturbation of the Rev. Mr. Smith betrayed itself in such a manner as to arouse the astonishment of his hosts and lead them to a general suspicion that their visitor was a victim to an aberration of the mind. Mr. Hong-Lung, by way of a feeler, put out the solicitous inquiry,—

“You feel sickee?”

“Sick,” groaned the Rev. Mr. Smith. “Yea, poor benighted heathen — sick wid de sins and de dewices of Satan.”

And as an active protest against the wiles of the evil one be reached up with his umbrella and poked the deity of the house off its shelf. Joss, being made of no more substantial substance than baked clay, gilt and painted, split to pieces, which the Rev. Mr. Smith proceeded to grind up under his ample and ponderous foot.

Mr. Lee-Tip was the first to recover from the stupor into which this act of sacrilege plunged the Club.

“Why fol you do that, niggel?” he demanded.

“Go sofly,” retorted the Rev. Mr. Smith, waving his umbrella like a musical conductor’s baton. “Choose yo langwidge, idollytur. Don’t ‘buse yo Christyun betters.”

“Why you bleak um Josh, niggel?” persisted Mr. Lee-Tip, commencing to edge towards the corner where the kindling-wood was piled up.

“Chile ob wraff,” replied the Rev. Mr. Smith, knocking the vase full of Joss sticks off the shelf, which had served for an altar, “unsay dem rash and ‘busive words.”

By way of reply, Mr. Lee-Tip threw a bundle of kindling-wood at his head. The Rev. Mr. Smith dodged it, and it knocked Mr. Hop-Sam under the table.

“Dem dat weels de sword perishes by de sword,” cried the Rev. Mr Smith. “Look out dar, idollytur, I’se a comin’.”

He did not get more than half-way, however, before another bundle of wood came in such violent contact with his abdominal region that it doubled him up among the fragments of the shattered idol. For a few minutes there was a species of pyrotechnic display of athleticism all over the laundry. The air was a tangle of arms, legs, pigtails and the Rev. Mr. Smith’s umbrella. When the tempest cleared away Mr. Lee-Tip was bathing a pair of black eyes at the sink, Mr. Hop-Sam was staunching the flow of blood from his nose, Mr. Hong-Lung was repairing damages in the back room, and Mr. Gin-Sing and the Rev. Mr. Smith’s wallet had disappeared together.

As for the Rev. Mr. Smith himself, he surveyed the scene of his late adventure from across the way, more in sorrow than in anger, and there was a grim smile on his face as he wiped his razor and restored it to his pocket.

“Dey triumfed by dere numbers,” he said “But I guess I gib dem idollyturs a tase of Christyun warfare all de same.”

And he started up town, humming the grand old air of “Shiloh” to cheer himself on his way.

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