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There is a retired village within the limits of Prariedom, well known to all who have ever gazed upon the beautiful [1] scenery amid which it lies cradled, like a pearly drop of dew in the blushing bosom of the rose. Upon a bluff, gently rising from an island-dotted river, it is built ; a puffing, steam-driving saw mill is the only sound that rises above the gentle plash of the pebble-kissing waters, and the bee-like hum of business.

But we cannot pause to feast the eye upon the beautiful in nature, for it is of a stone ware-house that stands conspicuous in the aforesaid town, and of scenes that are said to have transpired therein, that we would [2] speak. Long this receptacle of produce, freight, &c., remained unoccupied, [1] and as its upper story was easy of access, many a wanton boy has taken himself quietly from the shelter of the parental roof, when the good dame with night-cap closely drawn over her well-saved locks, was snoring a shrill treble to her better half’s deep bass, and there carefully perused the history of the four kings, illustrated with engravings, and bound in fifty-two volumes. The young scoundrels, though, were sometimes detected, when the blind was a boot.

But others, also, are said to have then and there produced like documents, which, by the way, are not admissible in evidence, and closely studied the parts thereof that treat upon a

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certain science known by the unique name of “ Poker ;” report says that even one of the patriarchs of the village, one Deacon –––––, oft-times might have been found there having a little game, with a long-visaged, not remarkably handsome and moral friend of his, whom I shall call Ben, but that is not his name by a long chalk. Now, both of these personages, and, to the scandal of the town be it spoken, for circulating such stories, are, and ever have been, above reproach though not, if we credit the gossip, above taking a quiet set down. Both, also, had long been engaged upon a public work that was then non est, and one, the worthy Deacon, was the rightful owner of a large stock of tools, to-wit : crow-bars, wheel-barrows, saw-logs, and an old dilapidated pair of cumbrous truck-wheels.

Well, one night, as the story goes, (for I tell the tale as it was told to me,) the Deacon and his friend Ben, forgetting for a time their morals, and forgetting each other’s funds, quietly proceeded to the old ware-house, and stealthily crawled up stairs. Seated upon a box, one produced a candle, and the other a greasy deck, and soon they were deep in the enjoyment and mysteries of the game. Steadily they played at a dime ante, and a dollar better, till the funds of the Deacon were all exhausted, and he was forced to bolt the game or ante up tools.

“ A crow-bar ante !” shouted he, inwardly anathematizing his bad luck, and all the card makers in the universe.

On the cards were dealt, and the hands immediately raised.

“ A chip,” was the response of his winning friend.

“ A crow-bar better than you.”

“ I see that, and raise it a half.”

“ A crow-bar makes it good, and I go a wheel-barrow better.”

“ I call you.”

The hands were shown, and again the Deacon was minus. Still on, however, went the game, and the cards were against

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him, and his stock of bars and barrows had dwindled down till but few remained.

Again the cards were being shuffled, when the countenance of the Deacon became less frowning, and lit up with a new hope.

“ A saw-log blind !” shouted he, and rubbing his hands in the excess of his delight, he seized the pictures and raised them.

A moment both sat still, gazing at the cards, for both had splendid hands, and then Ben, a quaint and usually silent one, whispered,

“ I see that blind.”

“ I make it good and raise it a crow-bar,” fairly hallooed the Deacon ; he was certain of success, and nervous with anticipation.

“ Two better than you.”

“ Five barrows better than you.”

“ Ten than you.”

“ Twenty than you.”

How long the game would have progressed in this manner is difficult to determine, had not the Deacon’s barrows given out. Still he was not to be foiled, but he was bound to play his hand for all he was worth, and again shouted :

“ Forty saw-logs better.”

“ Twenty barrows than you,” quietly responded Ben.

“ Fifty logs than you.”

“ A hundred bars than you.”

But at this exciting stage of the game the Deacon’s logs had almost failed, and he knew not what to ante up for a sight. Despair for a moment rested in his features, turning them as dark as night. But a lucky thought forced itself upon his over-heated brain at the moment, and a smile, bright as the noon-day sun, lit up his face and he shouted.

“ Bars, barrows, logs, truck-wheels, and all, I call you.”

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“ What have you got ?” queried the sober-faced Ben.

“ Four Kings !” replied the Deacon, triumphantly throwing down his hand, and holding up his head with the air of a conquerer.

“ They aint good.”

“ They aint good !” fairly screamed the thunder-struck Deacon, “ What the—(and he almost swore) have you got ?”

“ Got ? Only four little spots !”

How the Deacon slept that night it would be hard to determine, and ever since, when questioned, he dare not deny the truth of the story, but naturally drops his head as he replies :

“ There must be some truth in it, for my barrows and bars are all gone.”

Report says he did not slumber well, however on the night in question, and that during all the dark hours, his worthy spouse was awakened by a voice like thunder bursting upon her ears, the words of which sounded like—

“ Ben, a saw-log blind, and a wheel-barrow better !”


Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure. Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 54-67. (University of Virginia Alderman Library).

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “beautifel.”
[2] Original text reads “wculd.”
[3] Period replaces comma in original text.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.