The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories HTML version
The Outcasts Of Poker Flat
As Mr. John Oakhurst, gambler, stepped into the main street of Poker Flat on the morning
of the twenty-third of November, 1850, he was conscious of a change in its moral
atmosphere since the preceding night. Two or three men, conversing earnestly together,
ceased as he approached, and exchanged significant glances. There was a Sabbath lull in
the air which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath influences, looked ominous.
Mr. Oakhurst's calm, handsome face betrayed small concern in these indications.
Whether he was conscious of any predisposing cause was another question. "I reckon
they're after somebody," he reflected; "likely it's me." He returned to his pocket the
handkerchief with which he had been whipping away the red dust of Poker Flat from his
neat boots, and quietly discharged his mind of any further conjecture.
In point of fact, Poker Flat was "after somebody." It had lately suffered the loss of several
thousand dollars, two valuable horses, and a prominent citizen. It was experiencing a
spasm of virtuous reaction, quite as lawless and ungovernable as any of the acts that had
provoked it. A secret committee had determined to rid the town of all improper persons.
This was done permanently in regard of two men who were then hanging from the
boughs of a sycamore in the gulch, and temporarily in the banishment of certain other
objectionable characters. I regret to say that some of these were ladies. It is but due to the
sex, however, to state that their impropriety was professional, and it was only in such
easily established standards of evil that Poker Flat ventured to sit in judgment.
Mr. Oakhurst was right in supposing that he was included in this category. A few of the
committee had urged hanging him as a possible example, and a sure method of
reimbursing themselves from his pockets of the sums he had won from them. "It's agin
justice," said Jim Wheeler, "to let this yer young man from Roaring Camp--an entire
stranger--carry away our money." But a crude sentiment of equity residing in the breasts
of those who had been fortunate enough to win from Mr. Oakhurst overruled this
narrower local prejudice.
Mr. Oakhurst received his sentence with philosophic calmness, none the less coolly that
he was aware of the hesitation of his judges. He was too much of a gambler not to accept
Fate. With him life was at best an uncertain game, and he recognized the usual
percentage in favor of the dealer.
A body of armed men accompanied the deported wickedness of Poker Flat to the
outskirts of the settlement. Besides Mr. Oakhurst, who was known to be a coolly
desperate man, and for whose intimidation the armed escort was intended, the expatriated
party consisted of a young woman familiarly known as the "Duchess"; another, who had
won the title of "Mother Shipton"; and "Uncle Billy," a suspected sluice-robber and
confirmed drunkard. The cavalcade provoked no comments from the spectators, nor was
any word uttered by the escort. Only, when the gulch which marked the uttermost limit of