This custom may make no appeal to slow, lethargic temperaments, but there are in the country tens of thousands of quick, nervous, sanguine, excitable temperaments ready to be acted upon, and their feet will soon take hold on death. For some months and perhaps for years they will linger in the more polite and elegant circle of gamesters, but, after a while, their pathway will come to the fatal plunge. Finding themselves in the rapids, they will try to back out, and, hurled over the brink, they will clutch the side of the boat until their finger-nails, blood-tipped, will pierce the wood, and then, with white cheek and agonized stare, and the horrors of the lost soul lifting the very hair from the scalp, they will plunge down where no grappling hooks can drag them out.
Young man! stand back from all styles of gambling! The end thereof is death. The gamblers enter the ten-pin alley where are husbands, brothers, and fathers. “Put down your thousand dollars all in gold eagles! Let the boy set up the pins at the other end of the alley! Now stand back, and give the gamester full sweep! Roll the first—there! it strikes! and down goes his respectability. Try it again. Roll the second—there! it strikes! and down goes the last feeling of humanity. Try it again. Roll the third—there! it strikes! and down goes his soul forever. It was not so much the pins that fell as the soul! the soul! FATAL TEN-STRIKE FOR ETERNITY!”
Shall I sketch the history of the gambler? Lured by bad company, he finds his way into a place where honest men ought never to go. He sits down to his first game only for pastime and the desire of being thought sociable. The players deal out the cards. They unconsciously play into Satan’s hands, who takes all the tricks, and both the players’ souls for trumps—he being a sharper at any game. A slight stake is put up just to add interest to the play. Game after game is played. Larger stakes and still larger. They begin to move nervously on their chairs. Their brows lower and eyes flash, until now they who win and they who lose, fired alike with passion, sit with set jaws, and compressed lips, and clenched fists, and eyes like fire-balls that seem starting from their sockets, to see the final turn before it comes; if losing, pale with envy and tremulous with unuttered oaths cast back red-hot upon the heart—or, winning, with hysteric laugh—“Ha! Ha! I have it! I have it!”
A few years have passed, and he is only the wreck of a man. Seating himself at the game ere he throws the first card, he stakes the last relic of his wife, and the marriage-ring which sealed the solemn vows between them. The game is lost, and, staggering back in exhaustion, he dreams. The bright hours of the past mock his agony, and in his dreams, fiends, with eyes of fire and tongues of flame, circle about him with joined hands, to dance and sing their orgies with hellish chorus, chanting—“Hail! brother!” kissing his clammy forehead until their loathsome locks, flowing with serpents, crawl into his bosom and sink their sharp fangs and suck up his life’s blood, and coiling around his heart pinch it with chills and shudders unutterable.