When rendered thus secure of their prey, they began to level
their whole train of artillery against the boasted honours of his
short-lived triumph. Then the extensive manors, the ancient
forests, the paternal mansions, began to tremble for their future
destiny. The pigeon was marked down, and the infernal crew began
in good earnest to pluck his rich plumage. The wink was given on
his appearance in the room, as a signal of commencing their
covert attacks. The shrug, the nod, the hem--every motion of the
eyes, hands, feet--every air and gesture, look and word--became
an expressive, though disguised, language of fraud and cozenage,
big with deceit and swollen with ruin. Besides this, the card
was marked, or 'slipped,' or COVERED. The story is told of a
noted sharper of distinction, a foreigner, whose hand was thrust
through with a fork by his adversary, Captain Roche, and thus
nailed to the table, with this cool expression of concern-- 'I
ask your pardon, sir, if you have not the knave of clubs under
your hand.' The cards were packed, or cut, or even SWALLOWED. A
card has been eaten between two slices of bread and butter, for
the purpose of concealment.
With wily craft the sharpers substituted their deceitful
'doctors' or false dice; and thus 'crabs,' or 'a losing game,'
became the portion of the 'flats,' or dupes.