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Luck of Roaring Camp


     By the time he was a month old, it became clear that the boy must be given a name. He had generally been known as "the Kid," "Stumpy's boy," or even by Kentuck's special name, "the little devil." But none of these seemed to meet with the wishes of the camp and were at last dropped in favor of something more definite. Gamblers and adventurers are generally very superstitious, and Oakhurst one day mentioned that of late the child had brought "luck" to Roaring Camp. It was certain that of late they had been more successful. "Luck" was the name agreed upon, with a first name of Tommy, in case he should ever need it. The name of the child's mother was not even considered. "It is better," said the gambler Oakhurst, "to take a fresh deal all around. Call him Luck and start him out right in the world."
     A day was accordingly set apart for the christening. What was meant by this christening, the reader may well imagine, who had already gathered some idea of the reckless character of Roaring Camp. The man who was put in charge was one "Boston," a great lover of fun, and the event seemed to promise some real excitement and a number of laughs. This clever fellow had spent two days in preparing the celebration. It could hardly be described as religious, but was, instead, intended to make fun of all such church celebrations. Several of the men were trained to sing, and Sandy Tipton was to be godfather to the child.
     But after the whole camp had marched, with music and flags, to the spot chosen for the event and the child had been placed there as though in a regular church, Stumpy stepped out before the surprised crowd. "It isn't my wish to ruin your fun, fellows," he said seriously, eyeing the faces around him, "but it strikes me that this thing isn't exactly fair. It's a pretty low trick we're playing on this here child to bring in all this fun that he isn't going to understand. And if there's going to be a godfather here, I'd like to see who's got any better rights than I have." A silence followed these words of Stumpy. The first man to admit that he was wrong was Boston himself, who was thus robbed of this fun.
     "We're here for a christening," said Stumpy quickly, following up his advantage, "and we'll have it. I name you Thomas Luck, according to all the rules of the church, the United States, and the state of California--so help me God." It was the first time that the name of God had been used except as a swear word in the camp. The form of the christening was perhaps even more curious than Boston had planned it; but, strangely enough, no one took any notice and no one laughed. "Tommy" was christened as seriously as he would have been under a Christian roof, and he cried a little and was made comfortable in the usual way.
     And so a new manner of life came into being in Roaring Camp. Little by little, various important changes came over the town. The cabin set apart for "Tommy Luck" or "The Luck," as he was more often called, was the first to show sings of these changes. The cabin was kept very clean and was freshly painted. All loose or broken boards were fixed, and the inside was papered. The special cradle--brought eighty miles by horse--had, in Stumpy's way of putting it, rather killed the rest of the furniture. So it was necessary to change other pieces as well. The men who were in the habit of dropping in at Stumpy's to see "how The Luck was getting along" seemed to find thing there to their liking with the result even "Tuttle's Grocery" found itself forced to take steps to improve its appearance. Accordingly, a new carpet was bought and several new mirrors. The unpleasant reflection of themselves which the men saw in these mirrors also caused, in turn, a change for the better in the camp's habits of dressing and keeping clean.
     Stumpy laid down very definite rules before letting anyone enjoy the honor of holding or playing with "The Luck." This was a particularly cruel blow to Kentuck, who by reason of his own careless character and the many years spent in camps, had begun to consider his clothes as kind of second skin, which, like the skin of a serpent, was never changed, but little by little wore out and fell off him. Yet such was the strong influence of the many changes that even Kentuck began to appear regularly every afternoon in a clean shirt and with his face shining from having from having been washed so well.
     Nor were other rules of a different nature forgotten in the camp. "Tommy," who was supposed to spend al his time in an effort to sleep or at least rest, must not be bothered by noise. The shouting and loud cries which had gained for the town its particular name were not permitted within hearing distance of Stumpy's. The men talked in whispers or smoked in silence like Indians. Swearing was, by general agreement, given up, and such expression as "D-n the luck" was set aside as having, now, a special meaning. Music and singing were allowed, as it was thought that these had a quieting effect, and a certain song sung by "Sailor Jack," an English seaman, was particularly enjoyed. It was quite a sight to see Jack holding The Luck, rocking from side to side as if with the motion of a ship, and singing his song of the sea. Either through the special rocking of Jack, or because the song was so long--it had ninety different parts and was always sung right up to the very end--the desired effect was usually gained. Little Tommy fall asleep.
     At such times the men would lie on the grass under the trees smoking their pipes and drinking in the beauty of the song and the warm summer evening. An idea that this represented real peace and happiness had taken hold of the camp. "This here kind of thing," said the Englishman Simmons, sitting upon the ground and leaning back peacefully against a tree, "is beautiful." It reminded him of England.