The Young Engineers in Arizona by H. Irving Hancock


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Page 1

At the same moment a fly had lighted on each of the mirrors before the
two customers.

The man who had offered the bet was a well known local character--Jim
Duff by name, by occupation one of the meanest and most dishonorable
gamblers who had ever disgraced Arizona by his presence.

There is an old tradition about "honest gamblers" and "players of square
games." The man who has been much about the world soon learns to
understand that the really honest and "square" gambler is a creature of
the imagination. The gambler makes his living by his wits, and he who
lives by anything so intangible speedily finds the road to cheating and

Jim Duff had been no exception. His reputation was such that he could
find few men among the residents of this part of Arizona who would meet
him at the gaming table. He plied his trade mostly among simple-minded
tourists from the east--the class of men who are known in Arizona as

Rumor had it that Jim Duff, in addition to his many years of unblushing
cheating for a living, had also shot and killed three men in the past on
as many different occasions.

Yet he was a sleek, well-groomed fellow, tall and slim, and, in the
matter of years, somewhere in his forties. Duff always dressed well--
with a foundation of the late styles of the east, with something of the
swagger of the plains added to his raiment.

"Stranger, you might as well hand me your money now," drawled Duff,
after a few moments had passed. "It'll save time."

"Your fly hasn't hopped yet," retorted the second man, with the air and
tone of one who could afford to lose thousands on such stupid bets.

The second man was of the kind on which Jim Duff fattened his purse.
Clarence Farnsworth, about twenty-five years of age, was as verdant a
"tenderfoot" as had lately graced Paloma, Arizona, with his presence.

Even the name of Clarence had moved so many men to laughter in this
sweltering little desert town that Farnsworth had lately chopped his
name to "Clare." Yet this latter had proved even worse; it sounded too
nearly like a girl's name.

So far as his financial condition went, Clarence had the look of one who
possessed money to spend. He was well-dressed, lived at the Mansion
House, often hired automobiles, entertained his friends lavishly, and
was voted a good enough fellow, though a simpleton.

"My fly's growing skittish, stranger," smiled Jim Duff. "He's on the
point of moving. You'd better whisper to your fly."

"I believe, friend," rejoined Clarence, "that my fly is taking nap. He
appears to be sound asleep. You certainly picked the more healthy fly."

Jim Duff gave his barber an all but imperceptible nudge in one elbow.
Though he gave no sign in return, that barber understood, and shifted
his shears in a way that, even at distance, alarmed the fly on the
mirror before Duff.

"Buzz-zz!" The fly in front of the gambler took wing and vanished
toward the rear of the store.

Some of the Arizona men looking on smiled knowingly. They had realized
from the start that young Farnsworth had stood no show of winning the
stupid wager.

"You win," stated young Clarence, in a tone that betrayed no annoyance.

Drawing a roll of bills from his pocket, he fumbled until he found a
twenty. This he passed to Duff, sitting in the next chair.

"You're not playing in luck to-day," smiled Duff gently, as he tucked
away the money in one of his coat pockets. "You're a good sportsman,
Farnsworth, at any rate."

"I flatter myself that I am," replied Clarence, blushing slightly.

Jim Duff continued calmly puffing at the cigar that rested between his
teeth. They were handsome teeth, though, in some way, they made one
think of the teeth of a vicious dog.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Mon 19th Aug 2019, 12:32