The Best British Short Stories of 1922 HTML version

The Dice Thrower
(Thomas Moult)
(From Colour)
Hunger is the most poignant when it has forced physical suffering to the highest point
without impairing the mental functions. Thus it was with Silas Carringer, a young man of
uncommonly high spirit, when he found himself a total stranger in a ramshackle Mexican
city one rainy night in November. In his possession remained not a single article that he
might have pawned for a morsel of food. And he had already stripped his body of every
shred of clothing except the few garments he was compelled by an inborn sense of the
fitness of things to retain. Bodily starvation, as a consequence, was added to hunger, and
his misery was complete.
It chanced that an extraordinary happening awaited Silas Carringer that night in Mexico;
otherwise he would either have drowned himself in the river within twenty-four hours or
died of pneumonia within three days. He had been without food for seventy hours, and
his mental desperation had driven him far in its race with his physical needs to consume
the remaining strength of his emaciated body. Pale, weak, and tottering, he took what
comfort he could find in the savoury odours which came streaming up from the basement
kitchens of the restaurants in the main streets. He lacked the courage to beg or steal. For
he had been reared as a gentleman, and was accordingly out of place in the world.
His teeth chattered, his eyes had dark, ugly lines under them, he shambled, stooped, and
gasped. He was too desperate to curse his fate--he could only long for food. He could not
reason. He could not reflect. He could not understand that there were pitying hands
somewhere that might gladly have succoured him. He could think only of the hunger
which consumed him, of the food that could give him warmth and comparative
Staggering along the streets, he came at last to a restaurant a little way from the main
thoroughfares. Stopping before the window, he stared greedily at the steaks within, thick
and juicy and lined with big, fat oysters lying on ice; at the slices of ham as large as his
hat; at the roasted chickens, brown and ready for the table; and he ground his teeth,
groaned, and staggered on.
A few steps onward was a drinking saloon. At one side of it was a private door with the
words "Family entrance" painted thereon. And in the recess of the door (which was
closed) there stood the dark figure of a man.
In spite of his own agony, Carringer saw something which appalled him in the stranger's
face as the street light fell upon it; and yet at the same time he was fascinated. Perhaps it
was the unspeakable anguish of those features that appealed to the starving man's
sympathy, and he came to an uncertain halt at the doorway and stared rudely upon the