The men return from dinner into the front room with the “humming” stove and watch a “turmoiling sea of snow” outside the hotel window. Scully announces that a blizzard has blown into town. The men don't seem bothered by this news, settling in with their pipes with a sense of “lazy masculine contentment.”
Though the “turmoiling sea of snow” that Scully announces doesn't initially concern the men, it symbolizes impending chaos. The contradiction between the violent weather and the calm demeanor of the men demonstrates both the parts of their fate they can't control and their ignorance to their role in the violence to come.
Johnnie and the old farmer begin playing another game of cards, which the cowboy and the Easterner watch intently. The Swede remains separately by the window, though he seems intrigued by the beginning of a new game. The game breaks suddenly into another argument, and the old farmer gets his coat and leaves the hotel. The Swede laughs at the old farmer's exit.
The game between Johnnie and the farmer ends with an argument again, suggesting an ironic inevitability of violence following a game that often revolves around chance. This also foreshadows the violence to come following the later game between Johnnie and the Swede. The Swede's laughter at the farmer's exit, meanwhile, indicates his attempt to mask his fear, which only alienates him by making him seem strange to the other men.
The men form another game of cards—the cowboy partners with Johnnie, and the Swede is asked to join on the side of the Easterner. The Swede is hesitant to play, edging “nervously” toward the table, but finally throws his hand in. When the Swede sits down at the table he laughs shrilly and nervously, startling and confusing the other men.
The men playing cards together suggests the way they continue to tempt fate, despite the indications that it will lead to violence. The Swede's inability to mask his nervous laughter and his unwillingness to admit his fear further alienates him from the other men.
The men begin to play and are soon too distracted by the game to take notice of the Swede’s strange behavior. The cowboy is a “board-whacker,” meaning he plays his cards aggressively and frequently slams his fist on the table. The Easterner and the Swede are unsettled by his intensity, looking “miserable” each time the cowboy throws down his high cards, but Johnnie seems pleased by his partner's victories. The Swede interrupts the game to say he supposes “a good many men” had been killed in the front room of the hotel. The jaws of all the men drop, and the game stops in the middle of a new deal. Johnnie becomes immediately defensive of the hotel, asking the Swede “What in the hell are you talking about?”
The cowboy’s board-whacking unsettles the other men, except for Johnnie who appears to be so obsessed with winning that he doesn't mind what intimidation tactics his partner uses. This aggressive play seems to push the Swede even further into paranoia, as he makes a strange statement about men being killed in the hotel—a clear reflection of his own fear. His inability to express this fear in a clear and unaccusatory way sets the men against himr and makes Johnnie particularly defensive.
Despite Johnnie's arguments that the Swede is insane and that nobody has ever died in the Palace Hotel, the Swede insists that someone has been killed in that very room. He urges the other men to agree that his suspicions are valid, particularly the Easterner, but the latter says after “prolonged and cautious reflection” that he doesn't understand what the Swede means. Johnnie becomes more and more angry at the Swede, who suddenly feels that all the men are against him, even the Easterner, who he thought was his trusted partner.
The Swede's alienation and his paranoia continue to grow. The Easterner’s choice not to support the Swede foreshadows his later silence when the Swede accuses Johnnie of cheating—which, in turn, will lead to the Easterner's guilt at the end of the story. The Swede's inability to express his fear in a way that the men can understand builds tension between them.
The Swede proclaims that he will be killed before he leaves the hotel. He backs himself up against a wall, “struggl[ing] to control his fright.” He has “the dying-swan look” in his eyes. At this moment, the Swede takes notice of the blizzard blowing “blue” snow outside. Scully comes into the room and begins to ask the men what the fuss is about. The other hotel guests are confused by the Swede's behavior, and what has made him so afraid. Over the course of Scully's questioning of both sides, the Swede admits, “yes, of course, I'm crazy.”
As the Swede's fear and paranoia come to a head, Crane describes him as a “dying-swan” to indicate his fragile state. The men's confusion over the cause of the Swede's fear further alienates the Swede from the others. In this scene in particular, the wild blizzard is symbolic of the Swede's chaotic and irrational thoughts.
The Swede insists on leaving the hotel because he does not want “to be killed.” Scully tries to stop the Swede, insisting he won't be “troubled” under his roof. Against Scully's wishes, the Swede heads upstairs to pack his bags. Meanwhile, Scully questions the men downstairs, who state their innocence—the Easterner says that he “didn't see anything wrong at all” in the other men's behavior. Scully chastises his son for not being more hospitable, and Johnnie proclaims, “Well, what have I done?”
Scully refuses to give his hotel and reputation a bad name. Johnnie's inability to see his own wrong-doing reflects a larger inability of all the characters to see how they contribute to the impending violence and alienation of the Swede.