The Game of Cards
Dreamed 1883/12/7 by Anna Kingsford
I dreamed I was playing at cards with three persons, the two opposed to me being a man and a woman with hoods pulled over their heads, and cloaks covering their persons. I did not particularly observe them. My partner was an old man without hood or cloak, and there was about him this peculiarity, that he did not from one minute to another appear to remain the same. Sometimes he looked like a very young man, the features not appearing to change in order to produce this effect, but an aspect of youth and even of mirth coming into the face as though the features were lighted up from within. Behind me stood a personage whom I could not see, for his hand and arm only appeared, handing me a pack of cards. So far as I discerned, it was a man's figure, habited in black. Shortly after the dream began, my partner addressed me, saying,
"Do you play by luck or by skill?"
I answered: "I play by luck chiefly; I don't know how to play by skill. But I have generally been lucky." In fact, I had already, lying by me, several "tricks" I had taken. He answered me --
"To play by luck is to trust to Without; to play by skill is to trust to Within. In this game, Within goes further than Without."
"What are trumps?" I asked.
"Diamonds are trumps," he answered.
I looked at the cards in my hand and said to him:--" I have more clubs than anything else."
At this he laughed, and seemed all at once quite a youth. "Clubs are strong cards, after all," he said. "Don't despise the black suits. I have known some of the best games ever played won by players holding more clubs than you have."
I examined the cards and found something very odd about them. There were the four suits, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades. But the picture cards in my hand seemed different altogether from any I had ever seen before. One was queen of Clubs, and her face altered as I looked at it. First it was dark, almost dusky, with the imperial crown on the head; then it seemed quite fair, the crown changing to a smaller one of English aspect, and the dress also transforming itself. There was a queen of Hearts, too, in an antique peasant's gown, with brown hair, and presently this melted into a suit of armour which shone as if reflecting firelight in its burnished scales. The other cards seemed alive likewise, even the ordinary ones, just like the court-cards. There seemed to be pictures moving inside the emblems on their faces.
The clubs in my hand ran into higher figures than the spades; these came next in number, and diamonds next. I had no picture-cards of diamonds, but I had the Ace. And this was so bright I could not look at it. Except the two queens of Clubs and Hearts I think I had no picture-cards in my hand, and very few red cards of any kind. There were high figures in the spades. It was the personage behind my chair who dealt the cards always. I said to my partner:--"It is difficult to play at all, whether by luck or by skill, for I get such a bad hand dealt me each time."
"That is your fault," he said. "Play your best with what you have, and next time you will get better cards."
"How can that be?" I asked.
"Because after each game, the 'tricks' you take are added to the bottom of the pack which the dealer holds, and you get the honours you have taken up from the table. Play well and take all you can. But you must put more head into it. You trust too much to fortune. Don't blame the dealer; he can't see."
"I shall lose this game," I said presently, for the two persons playing against us seemed to be taking up all the cards quickly, and the "lead" never came to my turn.
"It is because you don't count your points before putting down a card," my partner said. "If they play high numbers, you must play higher."
"But they have all the trumps," I said.
"No," he answered, "you have the highest trump of all in your own hand. It is the first and the last. You may take every card they have with that for it is the chief of the whole series. But you have spades too, and high ones." (He seemed to know what I had.)
"Diamonds are better than spades," I answered. "And nearly all my cards are black ones. Besides, I can't count, it wants so much thinking. Can't you come over here and play for me?"
He shook his head, and I thought that again he laughed. "No," he replied, "that is against the law of the game. You must play for yourself. Think it out."
He uttered these words very emphatically and with so strange an intonation that they dissipated the rest of the dream, and I remember no more of it.
Source: Dreams and Dream-Stories by Anna Kingsford (1888; edited by Edward Maitland)
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