Complete Poetical Works

The Thought-Reader of Angels

Reported by Truthful James

Bret Harte

WE HEV tumbled ez dust
    Or ez worms of the yearth;
Wot we looked for hez bust!
    We are objects of mirth!
They have played us—old Pards of the river!—they hev played us for all we was worth!

Was it euchre or draw
    Cut us off in our bloom?
Was it faro, whose law
    Is uncertain ez doom?
Or an innocent “Jack pot” that—opened—was to us ez the jaws of the tomb?

It was nary!    It kem
    With some sharps from the States.
Ez folks sez, “All things kem
    To the fellers ez waits;”
And we’d waited six months for that suthin’—had me and Bill Nye—in such straits!

And it kem.    It was small;
    It was dream-like and weak;
It wore store clothes—that’s all
    That we knew, so to speak;
But it called itself “Billson, Thought-Reader”—which ain’t half a name for its cheek!

He could read wot you thought,
    And he knew wot you did;
He could find things untaught,
    No matter whar hid;
And he went to it, blindfold and smiling, being led by the hand like a kid!

Then I glanced at Bill Nye,
    And I sez, without pride,
“You’ll excuse us.    We’ve nigh
    On to nothin’ to hide;
But if some gent will lend us a twenty, we’ll hide it whar folks shall decide.”

It was Billson’s own self
    Who forked over the gold,
With a smile.    “Thar’s the pelf,”
    He remarked.    “I make bold
To advance it, and go twenty better that I’ll find it without being told.”

Then I passed it to Nye,
    Who repassed it to me.
And we bandaged each eye
    Of that Billson—ez we
Softly dropped that coin in his coat pocket, ez the hull crowd around us could see.

That was all.    He’d one hand
    Locked in mine.    Then he groped.
We could not understand
    Why that minit Nye sloped,
For we knew we’d the dead thing on Billson—even more than we dreamed of or hoped.

For he stood thar in doubt
    With his hand to his head;
Then he turned, and lit out
    Through the door where Nye fled,
Draggin’ me and the rest of us arter, while we larfed till we thought we was dead,

Till he overtook Nye
    And went through him.    Words fail
For what follers!    Kin I
    Paint our agonized wail
Ez he drew from Nye’s pocket that twenty wot we sworn was in his own coat-tail!

And it was!    But, when found,
    It proved bogus and brass!
And the question goes round
    How the thing kem to pass?
Or, if passed, woz it passed thar by William; and I listens, and echoes “Alas!

“For the days when the skill
    Of the keerds was no blind,
When no effort of will
    Could beat four of a kind,
When the thing wot you held in your hand, Pard, was worth more than the thing in your mind.”

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