Sometimes, on a cold winter's eve when the snow lay in heaps upon the ground, my neighbor would visit and we would sit at the table and play not a few games of draughts. My daughter would bring us something warm to drink, or even, at times, a pitcher of ale; my neighbor always would remark about how fine was my ale, thinking, I wager, to be urged on to a second glass. We would play until the fire burned low on some of those nights, and daughter would sit and watch all the while. How hard it was the next morning to rise early for work, and how equally difficult it must have been for her to rise for school! Still, we enjoyed our games, and she seemed to enjoy sitting by every bit as much.
So it was one evening that, with the hour getting late and the room starting to chill, we decided to contest one final game. And what a game it turned out to be, one to remember all through the years! My neighbor and I, being very closely matched as to skill and temperment, had pretty evenly divided the score thus far, and of course we were both rather hoping to win this last match and carry the honors of the evening. I had the Black men, he the White, and the game proceeded in this manner.
1. 9-14 22-18
2. 5-9 24-19
3. 11-15 18x11
4. 8x24 28x19
5. 4-8 25-22
6. 9-13 29-25
7. 8-11 22-18
8. 14-17 21x14
9. 10x17 18-15
10. 11x18 23x14
11. 7-11 25-22
12. 11-16 14-10
"Alas," I cried, "I fear all is lost. Good neighbor, I believe the evening is yours." Although I did always essay to win in a gracious manner and equally so to lose in a sportsmanlike fashion, still, I am sure, there was disappointment in my voice.
But suddenly, to my great surprise--- and, I am certain, my neighbor's as well--- my daughter spoke out and said, "Oh, father, I think not; surely the game is drawn!"
"Daughter," said I, "there is no shame in my loss. Pray do not detract from the skill shown by our good neighbor in his command of the White pieces in this excellently played game."
"Oh, no, father, that I would not do," she replied, "but still, though well played by you and our neighbor alike, even so, the game is most surely drawn."
At this moment our neighbor smiled, put down his pipe, and said, "Aye, then, good father, let your spirited young lass contest the finish in your stead!"
"Oh, father, may I?" asked she, and I knew she was not to be denied; whereupon, I moved my chair to the side, she moved her own round to the Black side of the board, and the play went on.
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6-24, 27-11, 12-16, 31-27, 1-6, 27-24, 6-10, 24-20, 16-19, 20-16, 19-24, 16-12, 10-15, 11-8, 2-7, 8-4, 15-18!, 22-15, 7-11!, 15-8, 17-22!, 26-17, 13-22, 32-28, 24-27, 28-24, 27-32, 24-19, 32-27, 19-16, 22-26, 30-23, 27-18, 16-11, 18-15, 11-7, 3-10, 8-3, 15-11. Drawn.
The look upon my countenance, and that of my neighbor, could only be described as sheer amazement; but after a moment, we broke into smiles of delight, and began to applaud.
"Well done, daughter!" said I. "That was a truly incredible demonstration!"
"You have bested us both!" said he. "Never would I have foreseen such a wondrous line of play!"
She only smiled in return and, most graciously, poured a bit more into our neighbor's glass, even though by now it was near three o'clock in the morning and long past time for all of us to be abed.
After that memorable night, my neighbor and I played seldom again at draughts; we both knew who was most skilled of all, and it was neither he nor I.