Satan and Sam Shay by Robert Arthur
Robert Arthur (1909-1969) was a radio and RV producer, a knowledgeable editor, and a skillful writer of mysteries, fantasy, and science fiction. Proficient with both horror and comedy, many of his works, like the one below, are acknowledged classics.
I am told that sin has somewhat declined since Satan met Sam Shay. I cannot vouch for this, but they say that production has definitely fallen off since that evening when Sam Shay won three wagers from the Devil. And this is the tale of it.
Sam shay, you’ll understand, was a bold rascal with Irish blood in his veins, though Yankee-born and –bred. Six feet he stood, with wide shoulders and a grin and dark hair with a touch of curl to it. Looking at his hands and his brawn, you’d hardly have guessed he’d never done an honest day’s labor in his life. But it was true. For Sam was a gambling man, and since he was a boy, matching coppers or playing odd and even with his fellows, every penny passing through his fingers had been the fruit of wagering. And he was no approaching his thirtieth year.
Do not think to his discredit, however, that Sam Shay was a flint-hearted professional betting only on things that were sure or at odds much tipped in his favor. He bet not mathematically but by intuition, and the betting was as important as the winning. Were you to have given him the money, he would not have taken it; there would have been no savor to it. He must win it by his wits to enjoy it, and he could find fun in losing a good wager too.
So it was a sad thing to Sam that the girl of his heart, Shannon Malloy, should be dead set against gambling. But The late Malloy had squandered all his earnings in just such divertissements as Sam Shay enjoyed, and the Widow Malloy had brought her daughter up most strictly to abjure men who loved the sound of rolling dice, the riffle of the cards, or the quickening of the pulse that comes as the horses turn into the homestretch and stream for the finish line.
In the early days of their acquaintances Shannon Malloy, who was small, with dark eyes that held a glow in their depths, had overlooked Sam’s failing, feeling that Sam would mend his ways for love of her. And indeed Sam promised. But he could no more live without betting than he could without eating—less, for he could go a day without food undistressed, but in twenty years no sun had set without his making a wager of some kind, however small, just to keep his hand in.
Frequently, therefor, Sam Shay found himself in disgrace, while Shannon, more in sorrow than in anger, pleaded with him. And each time Sam once again promised to reform, knowing in his heart that once again he would fail. Inevitably, then, there came the time when Shannon, putting aside the veils that love cast upon her vision, saw with sad clarity that Sam Shaw was Sam Shay, and naught would alter him. She loved him, but her convictions were as adamant. So she gave him back the ring she had accepted from him when his resolves had been less tarnished.
“I’m sorry, Sam,” she had said, this very evening, and her words rang knell-like in Sam’s ears now as he strode homeward through the soft evening dusk that lay across the park. “I’m sorry,” and her voice had broken. “But today I heard your name spoken. Buy some men. And they were saying you are a born gambler who could make three bets with Satan and win them all. And if that is true, I can’t marry you. Not feeling as I do. Not until you change.”
And Sam, knowing that only some force far stronger than himself could turn him from his wagering, took the ring and went with only one backward glance. That glance showed him Shannon Malloy weeping but resolute, and he was as proud of her resolution as disconsolate that she should feel so strongly about his little weakness.
The ring was in his pocket and his fingers touched it sadly as he walked. It was a circlet cold to the touch, a metal zero that summed the total of his chances for having Shannon Malloy to wife. The twilight lay upon the pack, and it was queerly hushed, as if something was impending. But, lost in his thoughts, he strode along taking no notice.
It was as he came abreast an ancient oak that the shadow of the tree, athwart the sidewalk, with great unexpectedness solidified into a pillar of blackness church-steeple high, which condensed swiftly into a smallish individual with flowing white locks and a benign countenance.
The individual who had so unconventionally placed himself in Sam’s path was clad in garments of sober cut, and old-fashioned cape slung over his shoulders, and a soft dark hat upon his white hair. He smiled with innocent engagingness at Samuel Shay and spoke in a voice both mild and friendly.
“Good evening, Sam,” he said as one might to an acquaintance not seen in a great while. “I’ll bet you don’t know who I am.”
But Sam Shay, his right hand gripping the stout thorn stick he liked to carry about with him, was not to be trapped. He had seen the shadow of an oak tree change into a man, and hist, to say the least, was unusual.
“Why,” he proclaimed boldly, “I have a hundred dollars in my pocket, and I’ll lay it against one that you are Satan.”
Satan—for Sam’s intuition had not failed him—let an expression of displeasure cross the benign countenance he had assumed for this visit. For he, too, had heard the report Shannon Molly had quoted to Sam—that he could make three bets with Satan and win them all. And, his curiosity aroused, the Devil had come to test Sam’s prowess, for he was fond of gambling, though a bad loser.
But the expression was gone in an instant and the gentle smile resumed its place. The old gentleman reached beneath his cloak and brought out a wallet which bulged pleasingly, although it was of a leather whose appearance Sam did not care for.
“That may be, Sam,” Satan replied genially, “And if I am, I owe you a dollar. But I have another hundred her says you can’t prove it.”
And he waited, well pleased, for this was a wager that had stumped many eminent philosophers in centuries past. But Sam Shay was a man of action, not of words.
“Taken,” he agreed at once, and raised his thorn stick above his head. “I’ll just bash you a time or two over the pate. If you’re an honest citizen I’ll take your wallet, and if you’re Satan I’ll win the wager. For you could not let a mortal man trounce you so and still look yourself in the eye—an accomplishment quite individually yours. So—”
And Sam brought the stick down in a whistling blow.
A sulfurous sheet of flame cracked out from the heart of the oak tree, and the thorn stick was riven into a thousand splinters that hissed away through the air. A strong pain stho up Sam’s arm, a tingling, numbing sensation that extended to the shoulder. But, rubbing his wrists, he was well satisfied.
Not so Satan. In his anger the little old gentleman had shot upward until he loomed twelve feet high now and looked far more terrifying than benign.
“You win, Sam Shay,” Satan told him sourly. “But there’s a third bet yet to come/” Which Sm knew to be true, for on any such occasion as this when the Devil showed himself to a mortal, the unhappy man must win three wagers from him to go free. “And this time we’ll increase the stakes. Your soul against the contents of this wallet that you can’t win from me again.”
Sam did not hesitate. For he must wager, whether he would or not.
“Taken,” he answered. “But I must name the bet, since you named the others, and it is my turn now.”
Satan it was who hesitated, but right and logic were with Sam, so he nodded.
“Name it, then,” he directed, and his voice was like grumbling thunder beyond the sky lin.
“Why, as to that,” Sam told him with an impudent grin, “I’m betting you do not intend for me to win this wager.”
Hardly were the words out of his mouth before Satan, in uncontrolled rage, had shot up to a tremendous height, his black cloak flowing from him like night itself draping over the city. For Sam had caught him neatly. If he responded that he did intend for Sam to win, then Sam perforce must go free. And if he responded that he had not so intended, then Sam won anyway.
Glaring down from his great height, Satan directed an awful gaze upon Sam Shay.
“This is an ill night’s work you have done!” he cried in a voice that shook with rage, so that the skyscrapers near by trembled a bit, and the next day’s papers carried an item concerning a small earthquake. “Here me will, Sam Shay! From this moment onward, never shall you win another wager! All the forces of hell will be marshaled to prevent you.”Then, while Sam still gaped upward in dismay, the great figure faded from sight. A vast blast of hot air fanned past Sam, singeing the leaves of the nearest trees. He heard a distant clanging sound, as of a metal gate closing. After that all was quiet as it had been before.
Sam Shay stood in thought for several minutes and then realized he still was fingering the ring Shannon Malloy had returned to him. He laughed in something of relief.
“Glory!: he said aloud. “I’ve been standing here dreaming, while my mind wandered. If I’m to have nightmares, I’d best have them in bed.”
By morning Sam had half-forgotten his queer bemusement of the evening before. But that Shannon had dismissed him and returned his ring he remembered all too well. The bit of gold seemed heavy in his pocket as the weight that lay on his heart, so that he set about choosing his wagers for the day’s racing with a gloomy mind.
It was perhaps his gloom that made it harder than was customary for him to make a choice. Usually his intuition made quick decision. But today he labored long and was only half-satisfied when he had finished marking down his picks.
Then, having breakfasted, with Shannon Malloy’s face coming betwixt him and his coffee, he rode out to the track. Today he desired action, crowds, noise, excitement to take his mind off Shannon’s rejection of him. So that the passing throngs about the mutuel windows, the crowd murmur that rose to a shrill ululation as the horses burst from the barrier, the heart-tightening sensation as they turned into the home stretch, all fitted well into his mood.
And he was feeling better when, his tickets tucked inside his pocket, he stood with the rest and watched the leaders in the first swing around the turn. He was well pleased to not his choice to the fore by half a dozen lengths, when something happened. Perhaps the nag put its hoof into a pocket in the track. Perhaps it broke stride or merely tired. At all events, it faltered, slowed as though the Devil himself had it by the tail–now why had that precise comparison flashed across his mind then? Sam Shay wondered–and was beaten to the finish by a neck.
Sam tore up his tickets and scattered the to the breeze. He was not distressed. There were six races yet to come, and his pockets were well filled with money.
But when the second his pick threw its jockey rounding the three-quarter pole and in the lead, and when in the third a saddle girth broke just as the jockey was lifting his mount for a winning surge, Sam Shay began to whistle a bit beneath his breath.
It was queer. It was decidedly queer, and he did not like it in the least. And when in the fourth, just as it was in the lear, his choice swerved and cut across the nag behind it, thus being disqualified. Sam’s whistle grew more tuneless. He sniffed and sniffed again. Yes, it was there–the faintest whiff of sulfur somewhere about. In a most meditative mood Sam purchased a single two-dollar ticket for the fifth.
The ticket, as he had been unhappily convinced would be the case, rpoved a poor investment, his horse throwing a show at the far turn and pulling up last, limping badly.
Sam’s whistle dropped until it was quite inaudible. He made his way toward the paddock and stood close as they led the windeed horses out. As his choice passed, he sniffed strongly. And this time there was the slightest touch of brimstone mixed with the smell of sulfur.
Walking with a slow pace that did not in any way reflect the churning of his thoughts, Sam Shay returned to the grandstand and in the minutes before the next race was run reflected fast and furiously. Already his pockets, so thickly lined but an hour before, were well-nigh empty. And apprehension was beginning to sit, a tine cloud, on Sam’s brow.
This time he bought no ticket. But he sought out an individual with whom he had had dealings and stood beside him as the race was run. The ponies were streaming around the three-quarter pole and into the stretch, with forty lengths and a half-a-dozen horses separating the first nag from the last, when Sam spoke suddenly.
“Ten dollars,” he said to his acquaintance, “ to a dime that Seven doesn’t win.”
The bookie gave him an odd glance. For Seven was the trailer, forty lengths behind and losing distance steadily. Any moral [sic] eye could see she couldn’t win, and it came to him Sam might be daft.
“Twenty dollars!” said Samuel Shay. “To a five-cent piece!”
They were odds not to be resisted, and the bookie nodded.
“Taken!” he agreed, and the words were scarce out of his mouth before Seven put on a burst of speed. She seemed to rise into the air with the very rapidity of her motion. Her legs churned. And she whisked forward so fast her astonished jockey was but an ace from being blown out of the saddle by the very rush of air. Closing the gap in a manner quite unbelievable, she came up to the leaders and, with a cant yard to the finish, shot ahead to win.
The crowd was too dazed even to roar. The judges gathered at once in frowning conference. But nothing amiss with Seven’s equipment could be found–no electric batteries or other illegal contrivances–so at last her number was posted.
Sam Shay paid over the twenty dollars, while his acquaintance goggled at him. He would have asked questions, but Sam was in no mood for conversation. He moved away and sought a seat. There he pondered.
There could no longer be any doubt. His dream of the evening before had been no dream. It was Satan himself he had met face to face in the park, and Satan was having his vengeance for being bested. Sam could not call to mind the name of any other man in history who had outwitted the Devil without ruining it, and it was plain he was not to be the exception.
Watering was Sam’s life and livelihood, as Satan had well known. And if Sam was never to win another bet–He swallowed hard at the thought. Not only would he have lost Shannon Malloy for naught, but he would even be forced to the indignity of earning his living by the strength of his hands, he who had lived by his wits so pleasantly for so long.
It was sobering reflection. But for the moment no helpful scheme would come. Just before the warning bell for the last race of the day, however, Sam rose with alacrity. H counted his money. Aside from carfare back to town, he had just fourteen dollars upon him. Seven two-dollar tickets–and in the last there was a field of seven!
Sam chuckled and bought seven tickets to win, one on each of the entries. Then, feeling somewhat set up, he found a position of vantage. “Now,” he said beneath his breath, “let’s see the Devil himself keep you from having a winning ticket this time, Samuel Shay!” and complacently he watched his seven horses get off a to a good start.
The race proceeded normally toward the half, and then to the three quarters, with nothing untoward come about. Sam chuckled some more, for if he cashed a ticket on this race, then Satan had been bested again, and his curse on Sam’s wagering broken.
But the chuckle came too soon. As the seven turned into the stretch, into a sky that had been cerulean blue leaped a storm cloud purple and black. From the could a bolt of lightning sped downward, in a blinding flash, to strike among the branches of an ancient elm which stood beside the grandstand near the finish line. A horrid thunderclap deafened the throng. The elm tottered. Then it toppled and fell across the track, so that the seven jockeys were just able to pull up their mounts in time to avoid plunging into it.
And as sudden as it had come, the storm cloud was gone.
But obviously there could be no winner of the last race. The perplexed and shaken stewards hurriedly declared it no race and announced that all bets would be refunded. Sam received his money back–but that was not winning. And with the bills thrust into his coat he gloomily returned to his lodgings to devote more thought to this matter. For it was plain the Devil had meant what he had said–Sam would never win another wager. And with all the myriad hosts of Hell arrayed against him, Sam did not see what he could do about it.
But the Shays were never a quitter stock. Though Beelzebub and all his myrmidons opposed him, Sam was of no mind to turn to honest labor without giving the Devil a run for his money. So in the days that followed, Sam, with the dogged resolution, did not cease his efforts to make a wager he could win. And his endeavors were a source of some concern in Hell.
It was on an afternoon two weeks perhaps after the fateful meeting between Satan and Sam Shay that the Devil recalled the matter to his mind and pressed a button summoning his chief lieutenant to make report. Whisking from his private laboratory, where he was engaged in a delicate experiment leading toward the creation of a brand-new and improved form of sin, his head assistant covered seven million miles in no time at all and deposited himself in Satan’s presences, still scorching from the speed at which he had come.
the Devil, seated behind a desk of basalt, frowned upon him.
“I wish,” he stated, “to know if my orders concerning the mortal y-clept Sam Shay have been carried out.”
“To the letter Infernal Highness,”his lieutenant replied with a slight air of reserve.
“He has not won a wager since I pronounced my curse upon him?”
“Not of the most inconsequential kind.”
“He is thoroughly miserable?”
“He is in such despair he might even commit suicide, and so place himself in our hands?”
The other was silent. Satan’s voice took on sharpness.
“He is not in despair?”
“He is in a very low frame of mind indeed,” his chief assistant replied with reluctance. “But there is no notion of suicide in his mind. He is defiant. And troublesome in the extreme, I must add.”
“Troublesome?” The three-billion-bulb chandelier overhead rattled. “How can a mere mortal be troublesome to the hosts of Hell? Kindly explain yourself.”
the tips of his lieutenant’s batwings quivered with inward nervousness, and absently he plucked a loose scale from his chest. But summoning his resolution, he answered.
“He is a persistent mortal, this Sam Shay,” he replied humbly. “Although your infernal curse has been passed upon him, he refuses to be convinced he cannot evade it. He is constantly scheming to get around the fiat by means of trickery and verbal quibbling. And I have had to assign a good many of my best and most resourceful workers to keep a twenty-four-hour watch on Sam Shay to see he does not succeed. Let me explain.
“Last week, having already tried some hundreds of wagers of various kinds, he offered to bet an acquaintance it would not rain before noon. The wager was the merest quibble of a bet, for it then lacked bu ten seconds of the hour, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, and, in addition, the Weather Bureau had actually predicted storm.
“Sam Shay, however, got his gamble accepted by promising to spend double his winnings, if he won, on strong drink for his companion. A completely specious wager if ever one was made. Nevertheless, had it not rained before the hour of noon, technically he would have been the winner of a bet, and so the letter of your hellish curse would have been violated.
“So, upon the notice of mereset seconds, I had to call two hundred and eighty workers away from urgent duty in Proselytizing, to borrow on an instant’s notice another hundred from Punishment, to take a score of my best laboratory technicians off Research, and rush them all to the spot. Between them they managed to divert a storm that was raging over Ohio and scheduled to cause a flood estimated to produce for us a job of a hundred and eighty souls, whisking it to cover New England within the time limit.
“But the affair caused widespread comment, threw us off schedule, and has disrupted my entire force, due to the necessity of keeping a large emergency squad upon twenty-four-hour duty in constant readiness for an other such calls. And there have been dozens of them. Simply dozens!”
A drop of sweat rolled down the unhappy demon’s brow, dissolving in steam.
“That’s only a sample,” he said earnestly. “This Sam Shay has scores of such tricks up his sleeves. Only yesterday he was attempting to win a wager at the racetrack, and his efforts kept us busy the entire afternoon. In the fifth race he made such a complicated series of bets as to the relative positions in which the various horses would finish that my most trusted aide completely lost track of them. He had to call on me personally at the last moment, and since of the wagers was that the rae itself wouldn’t be finished, the only solution I could hit upon in time was to have all the horses finish in a dead heat, save for the one Sam Shay had bet upon to win.
“This one, in order to confound the fellow, I was forced to remove entirely from the race and set down in Australia, so that one of Shay’s various stipulations concerning it could come true. But the talk caused by the seven-horse dead heat, together with the complete disappearance of one of the beasts and its jockey, caused a considerable stir.
“Taken in conjunction with the storm I had to arrange, and a number of similar matters, it has started a religious revival. People are flocking into the churches, undoing some of our best work. So, Your Infernal Highness, if only we could overlook one or two of Sam Shay’s more difficult wagers, it would make things much easier to–”
The crash of Satan’s hooves upon the adamantine tiling cut him short.
“Never! I have put my curse upon this shay! It must be carried out to the letter. Tend to i!”
“Yes, Prince of Evil,” his head assistant squeaked and, being a prudent demon, hurled himself away and across the seven million miles of space to his laboratory so swiftly that he struck with such force at the other end he was lame for month. And never again did he dare mention the matter.
But of all his Sam Shay had no inkling. he was immersed in his own problems. Having failed in every waer he had made, however difficult to lose, he was in a depressed state of mind.
His resources were coming to an end. There were but a few dollars left in his pockets and none in his bank account. Shannon malloy refused to see him. he had not won a wager since the night he had met the Devil, and he was so low in his mind that several times he had caught himself glancing through the “Help Wanted” sections of the papers.
Upon this particular day he was so sunk in despair that it was the middle of the afternoon, and he had not once tried the Devil’s mettle to see if this time he could slip a winning wager past the demonic forces on watchful guard all about him. It was a day cut and tailored to his mood. The sky was lowering gray, and rain whipped down out of the north as if each drop had personal anger against the earth upon which it struck. And Sam Shay sat in his room, staring out at the storm, as close to despair as it had ever been his misfortune to come.
At last he bestirred himself; it was not in the blood of a Shay to sit thus, forever wrapped in gray gloom. He found his hat and ulster and with heavy step made his way out and down the street to a cozy bar and grill where perhaps a cheery companion might lighten his mood.
Ensconced in a corner where a fireplace glowed he found Tim Malloy, who was by way of being Shannon’s brother, a round, merry little man who was the merrier because a mug of dark stood upon the table before him. Tim Mallow greeted him with words of cheer, and Sam sat himself down, answering as nearly in kind as he might. He ordered himself a mug of dark, too, and made inquiry concerning Shannon.
“Why, as to that,” Tim Malloy said, draining off half his mug, “sometimes of a night I hear her crying, behind her locked door. And”–he drained off the rest of his dark”she ever did that before he gave you back your ring, Sam.”
]”Have another,” Sam invited, feeling suddenly somewhat heartened. “Then mayhap she might take back the ring if I asked her, you think?” he asked, hope in his tone.
Tim Mallowy accepted the dark, but after dipping into it, shook his head, a mustache of foam on his lip.
“Never while you’re a betting man, Sam, and that’ll be forever,” he said, “Unless some wondrous force stronger than she is makes her do it. Not though she’s unhappy the rest of her life from sending you away.”
“Would it make any difference if she knew I lost all the wagers I make now?” he asked.
“Not so much as a pinpoint of difference,” Tim Malloy answered. “Not so much as a pinpoint. To change the subject, how long will it keep raining, would you say?”
“All day, I suppose,” Sam said, in a gloom again. “And all night, too. I’ve no doubt. Though I could stop it raining in five minutes if I’d a mind to.”
“Could you so?” Tim Malloy said, interested. “Let’s see how it goes, Sam. Just for curiosity’s sake.”
Sam Shay shrugged.
“Bet me a dollar it’ll stop raining within five minutes,” he said. “And I’ll bet the same it’ll not. But since it’ll be costing me a dollar to show, you must promise to spend it back again treating me.”
“Fair’s fair,” Tim Malloy answered prompt. “And I promise. then, Sam, I bet you a dollar it’ll stop raining inside five minutes.”
Lackadaisically Sam accepted, and they laid their wagers out upon the table. And sure enough, within the five minutes the storm clouds overhead abruptly whisked away. The blue sky appeared; the sun shone, and it was as if the storm had never been.
“Now that’s a curious thing, Sam,” oTim Malloy said, eyes wide, as he ordered up more dark. “And if you could do that any time you wished, your fortune would be made.”
“Oh, I can do it.” Sam sighed, disinterested. “Fair to storm and storm to fair; I need but wager on it to make it come the opposite of my bet. For that matter, an event I make a gamble on will come out the opposite, be it what it may. It’s a curse laid upon me, Tim.”
“Is it now?” said Tim Malloy, and his eyes grew wider. “And by whom would the curse be laid, Sam Shay?”
Sam leaned forward and whispered in his ear, and Tim Malloy’s eyes bad fair to start from their sockets.
“Draw in a deep breath,” Sam said, nodding. “Sniff hard, tim. You’ll see.”
Tim Malloy sniffed long and deep, and awe crept upon his features.
“Sulfur!” he whispered. “Sulfur and brimstone!”
Sam but nodded and went on drinking his dark. Tim Malloy, tough, stretched out a had and put it upon his arm.
“Sam,” he said, voice hoarse. “you have never heard that there’s people willing to pay good money to insure the weather’ll be as they want it upon a certain day? Have you never heard of insuring against storms, Sam, and against accidents, sickness, twins, and such misfortunes? And insuring isn’t really betting. It’s but a business–a legitimate, money-making business.”
Sam stopped drinking his dark. He put his mug upon the table with a bang, and upon his face there came a look.
“So it is,” he said, struck by the sudden thought. “So it is!”
“Sam,” Tim Malloy said, emotion in his tone, “let us take but a single example. This Sunday coming the Loyal Sons of St. Patrick parade. Suppose, then, the Loyal Sons said to you, ‘Sam, we want to insure it does not storm this Sunday coming. Here’s twenty dollars insurance money against rain. If it storms, now, you must pay us five hundred, butif it’s fair, you keep the twenty.”
“And then suppose, Sam, you came to me and, ‘Tim,’ you’d say, ‘I want to make a bet. And the bet is one dollar against another dollar that this Sunday coming it will rain.” Whereupon I’d say to you, ‘Sam, I accept the wager. One dollar that it does not rain this Sunday coming.’
“And as you are doomed to lose your gamble, it does not rain; you keep the twenty dollars paid you by the Loyal Sons, and your profit, Sam. Your fair profit on a straightforward business deal which no one could call gambling, would be–”
“Nineteen dollars!” Sam said, much moved. “Nineteen dollars profit, Tim, and no wager involved. And you say there are many people wanting such insurance?”
“Thousands of them,” said Tim Malloy. “Thousands upon thousand of them. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t insure them against anything they wish–seeing as you’re backed, one might say, by all the resources of a tremendous big firm.”
Sam Shay stood up, and in his eyes there was a light.
“Tim,” he said in a voice that rna, “here is twenty dollars. Rent me an office and have a sign painted saying “Samuel Shay, Insurance.’ The biggest sign that can be managed. And here, Tim, is a dollar. That dollar I bet you Shannon will not say ‘yes’ to me a moment hence when I call upon her. Do you take the wager?”
“I take it, Sam,” agreed Tim Malloy, but already Sam was striding out and in scarce a minute was standing in the Malloy living room, large and masterful, while Shannon, who had tried to hold the door shut against him, stared at him with blazing eyes.
“Sam Shay,” she cried hotly, “I won’t see you!”
“You cannot help seeing me,” Sam replied with tenderness, “for I am standing here before you.”
“then I won’t look at you!” cried Shannon, and shut her eyes.
“In that case you must take the consequences,” said Sam and, stepping forward, kissed her so that Shannon’s eyes fle open again.
“Sam Shay,” she exclaimed, “I–”
“I’ll bet a dollar,” Sam interrupted her, “you’re going to say you hate me.”
“It was indeed what Shannon had been about to say, but now some perverse demon seemed to seize her tongue.
”I’m not!” she denied. “I was going to say I love you.”
And, having said it, she stared at Sam as if she could not believe her ears.
“then, Shannon darling,” Sam Shay asked, “will you take back my ring and marry me? And I’ll bet another dollar you’re going to say no.”
And “no” it was that Shannon tried to say. But once again it was as if a contrary devil had her tongue.
“Indeed I’m not,” she declared, to her own consternation. “For I say yes, and I will.”
With which Sam swept her into his arms and kissed her again, so soundly she had no more time to wonder at the way her tongue had twisted. Indeed, she was forced to believe it was some strange power in Sam himself that had drawn the words from her. And on the point Sam wisely refrained from ever correcting her.
Thus they were married, and at this moment Sam Shay’s insurance business is prospering beyond belief. Money is flowing in from all sides, and being a prudent ma, Sam has arranged his affairs in excellent order. H was wagered with Tim Mally, his junior partner, that he and Shannon will not live in good health to be ninety-nine each, while Tim has wagered they will. Sam has likewise bet that he and Shannon will be desperately unhappy, Tim gambling to the contrary. Finally Sam has gambled that they will not have ten fine, strapping children, six boys and four girls, and Tim has placed his money that they will.
So sin continues to decline as Sam’s business grows, and Sam himself sleeps soundly of nights. And if there is sometimes the faintest smell of brimstone and sulfur about the house, as though from much coming and going of harassed demons, no one in the household minds it, not even Dion, youngest of the ten young Shays.