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LECTURE VIII.
FALSE CARDS, LOGIC, LUCK.
——
“And shall we turn our fangs and claws
Upon our own selves without cause,
For what design, what interest,
Can beast have to encounter beast?”—Hudibras.

There are three kinds of false cards—

(1) Those that deceive everybody;

(2) Those that deceive your opponents only;

(3) Those that deceive your partner only; and a sparing use of the two first—especially towards the end of a hand—is often advantageous;[38] but in playing cards that deceive everybody, you must be prepared to take entire charge of the game yourself, or you will probably have your conduct referred to afterwards. The third is sacred to bumblepuppy.

One thing is very certain, that the original leader is never justified in playing a false card.

Clay’s conclusion does not altogether harmonize with his premises—a very unusual circumstance with[70] him—for after objecting strongly to false cards on high moral grounds, and prefacing his remarks by the expression of a touching belief that in no other position of life would anybody tell him what is untrue, he ultimately arrives at the delicious non sequitur, that if your partner is very bad, or holds miserably weak cards, or towards the end of a hand, you may often play a false card with advantage: why you should do what you know to be wrong, because another person is bad, or weak, or because you hold four cards and not thirteen, or even because such nefarious conduct may benefit yourself, he does not explain, and in default of that explanation he appears stronger as a whist player than a moralist. But the logic of whist is a thing per se, utterly dissimilar to any known form of argument;[39] it finds vent in such syllogisms as “You ought to have known I had all the spades, I led a diamond,” or, “I must have the entire suit of clubs, I discarded the deuce;” though the usual reply is “the deuce you did,” this is merely paltering with a serious subject; the only effective argument is to throw[71] something at the speaker’s head—the argumentum ad hominem—(of course this would create more or less unpleasantness at first, but the speaker would soon find his level, if you hit him hard enough) “unfortunately this discipline by which such persons were put to open penance and punished in this world—that others admonished by their example might be afraid to offend”—has fallen into desuetude; until the said discipline be restored again, which—although it is much to be wished[40]—can never be until the present reprehensible practice of screwing candle-sticks, match-boxes, and all reasonable missiles into the table be done away with, you have two courses open to you:

(1) You can give an evasive answer;[41]

(2) You can pretend to be deaf; this is a capital[72] plan, as it gives you the option either of being unaware anybody spoke, or of totally misunderstanding him.[42] There is an utter inability to see that any question can possibly have two sides, evidenced by such remarks as “My finesse was justifiable, yours was bad play.”[43] The two prepositions, post and propter, are constantly mistaken for one another—it seems to be thought that because they both govern the accusative case, their meaning is identical, or, to speak more correctly, convertible.

But you must be prepared to contend against other things besides false cards and curious logic; there is a fiend often reported to be present in the card-room, known by the name of “Luck,” and you ought to be acquainted with two of the common stratagems for circumventing him; it is by no means unusual to see two obese elderly persons—who have just lost a rubber by revoking, ruffing each other’s winning cards with the thirteenth trumps, forgetting to score honours et id genus omne—after first roundly anathematizing this malefic spirit, taking precautions[73] against such things happening again by slowly and painfully rising from their respective chairs, and at great personal inconvenience, changing places with each other; this is one way; another is to throw away several additional shillings in the purchase of new cards; turning your chair round and sitting down again is also supposed to have an emollient tendency.

That there is such a thing—though stupidity is often mistaken for it—is, to my mind, as undoubted as that there are birds; but whether one or the other is to be caught by putting salt on its tail—without taking other precautions—must be left to that right of private judgment already mentioned. (Page 34.)

It is true the Swan of Avon sings—
“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie
Which we ascribe to Heaven,”

but he was only a literary person, not a whist player; and if a careful exercise of your judgment satisfies you that either calling (and paying) for new cards, or wearing out the seats of your knickerbockers by dodging from chair to chair, is a specific for want of memory and attention, so let it be: whatever conclusion you arrive at, it is your duty to respect your seniors.


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