How does Mr. Oakhurst die in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably the best of the "undesirables" in Bret Harte's short story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," John Oakhurst was a kind-hearted gambler who gave one last gift to his friends before departing for the canyon. After kissing the Duchess goodbye, Oakhurst secretly added wood to fuel the fire a bit longer. He then set off with Tom, the Innocent. But Oakhurst apparently knew he had little or no chance of survival because when rescuers eventually found him, they found a deuce of clubs attached to a pine tree with a Bowie knife. Included was a message:

Beneath This Tree
Lies The Body Of
JOHN OAKHURST,
Who Struck A Streak Of Bad Luck
On The 23rd Of November, 1850,
And
Handed In His Checks
On The 7th December, 1850.

Oakhurst had chosen to take his own life,

with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart, though still calm as in life, beneath the snow lay he who was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat.

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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