Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE ASSAYER'S STORY, by                    
First Line: "'gentlemen,' said the assayer, 'you may talk all you want to'"
Last Line: "saying, in tones of unprejudiced candor: I hold three inquests!"
Subject(s): Story-telling


"GENTLEMEN," said the assayer, "you may talk all you want to,
I knew a case where four aces were beaten by three of a kind, sir!"

"Three of a kind and a gun!" retorted a listening comrade.

"Not a bit of it, sir; the winner played perfectly fairly."

Nudging up nearer the fire they heard this remarkable story:
"'Way out in Arizona, that land of coyotes, jack-rabbits,
Greasers, Apaches, and such, with a sprinkling of mining frontiersmen
Lending tone to the whole and keeping them all from damnation,
Lies the scene of my tale 'mid men of quick minds and quick action;
Chivalrous when they'd occasion, eager with knife and revolver,
Gen'rally quiet when sober, outrageously brash when in liquor,
Brave as but few men are brave, and strong with the vigor of morning —
I could say more for the men, but hardly so much for the country.

"There in Red Gulch, where it happened, progress had planted her footsteps;
Churches and schools were a-building, horse thieves and thugs had been fired;
Ev'rything pointed a future, not so productive of story,
Not filled with animal spirits, but doubtless a blamed sight more decent.
Yet, as might be expected, it was a time of transition;
Men who for years had been drunk continued to gaze on the serpent;
Those with the natures of snakes never grew harmless and dovelike;
All who had been walking arsenals kept their accoutrements handy;
None who had gambled a lifetime turned out Methodist preachers.

"So it happened one day that the newly elected officials
Held their first annual meeting in the big room in the feed store,
Used for a court-house pro tem., and settled affairs of the county;
Argued it wasn't respectable, hanging a man without trial,
Fixed on the site of the jail and hired a tenderfoot teacher.
Satisfied, then, with their labor and feeling entitled to pleasure,
Coroner, sheriff, and judge adjourned, with the clerk of the county,
Over to Kelley's back room for a period of solid enjoyment;
Entered and called for some cards, procured irrigating materials,
Shuffled and cut and straightway were deep in the science of poker.

"There they dallied some hours, assisted by liquid refreshments;
Nothing particular happened till somebody started a jack-pot;
All of them passed three times, till several hundreds of money
Piled itself up in the middle and lay there, embodied temptation!
Twenty-five dollars it cost when the clerk had looked over his fistful;
Twenty-five more was the straddle when the matter got round to the sheriff;
All of them looked kind of nervous, sort o' conscious of something impending;
But when the judge, too, came in and raised that there bet a full fifty,
All set their molars together and humped themselves ready for combat.

"Meanwhile, the coroner, pale, but brimful of cool self-possession,
Saw all the bets of the others, until, on the table before them,
Lay near the fortune of each, then broke the ominous silence,
Noting the fact that the crowd had just about sized his whole pile up,
So it behooved him to call. Straightway the clerk, all triumphant,
Showed down four kings and an ace as a very good thing to fall back on.

"'Not yet, ole hoss,' said the sheriff, and gave a king and four aces
Forth to their wondering eyes, while the judge amid general confusion
Made a quick motion behind, saying: 'I hold a straight flush, ace high,
sir!'

"After the smoke cleared away, the coroner, slowly emerging
Out from under the table, pocketed all of the money,
Saying, in tones of unprejudiced candor: 'I hold three INQUESTS'!"





Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!


Other Poems of Interest...



Home: PoetryExplorer.net