The finest rooms in the city are gambling dens. In gilded parlor, amid costly tapestry, you may behold these dens of death. These houses have walls attractive with elaborate fresco and gems of painting—no sham artist’s daub, but a masterpiece. Mantel and table glitter with vases and statuettes. Divans and lounges with deep cushions, the perfection of upholstery, invite to rest and repose. Aquaria alive with fins and strewn with tinged shells and zoophytes. Tufts of geranium, from bead baskets, suspended mid-room, drop their witching perfume. Fountains gushing up, sprinkling the air with sparkles, or gushing through the mouth of the marble lion. Long mirrors, mounted with scrolls and wings and exquisite carvings, catching and reflecting back the magnificence. At their doors merchant-princes dismount from their carriages; official dignitaries enter; legislators, tired of making laws, here take a respite in breaking them.
From all classes this crime is gathering its victims: the importer of foreign silks, and the Chatham street dealer in pocket-handkerchiefs; clerks taking a game in the store after the shutters are put up; and officers of the court whiling away the time while the jury are out. In the woods around Baden Baden, in the morning, it is no rare thing to find the suspended bodies of suicides. No splendor of surroundings can hide the dreadful nature of this sin. In the third watch of this very night, the tears of thousands of orphans and widows will dash up in those fountains. The thunders of eternal destruction roll in the deep rumble of that ten-pin alley. And as from respectable circles young men and old are falling in line of procession, all the drums of woe begin to beat the dead march of ten thousand souls.
Seven millions of dollars are annually lost in New York city at the gaming-table. Some of your own friends may be at it. The agents of these gaming-houses around our hotels are well dressed. They meet a stranger in the city; they ask him if he would like to see the city; he says, “Yes;” they ask him if he has seen that splendid building up town, and he says “No.” “Then,” says the villain to the greenhorn, “I will show you the lions and the elephants.” After seeing the lions and the elephants, I would not give much for a young man’s chance for decency or heaven. He looks in, and sees nothing objectionable; but let him beware, for he is on enchanted ground. Look out for the men who have such sleek hats—always sleek hats—and such a patronizing air, and who are so unaccountably interested in your welfare and entertainment. All that they want of you is your money. A young man on Chestnut street, Philadelphia, lost in a night all his money at the gaming-table, and, before he left the table, blew his brains out; but before the maid had cleaned up the blood the players were again at the table, shuffling away. A wolf has more compassion for the lamb whose blood it licks up; a highwayman more love for the belated traveller upon whose carcass he piles the stone; the frost more feeling for the flower it kills; the fire more tenderness for the tree-branch it consumes; the storm more pity for the ship that it shivers on Long Island coast, than a gambler’s heart has mercy for his victim.