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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

On His Own

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The croupier places his hand in the bag and draws forth a numbered square and immediately calls out the number. The man who owns the card with that particular number on it, covers the square with a match. The one who covers the fifteen numbers on his card first shouts "House." The other backer immediately comes over to him and verifies the card, by calling out the numbers thereon to the man with the bag. As each number is called he picks it out of the ones picked from the bag and says, "Right." If the count is right he shouts, "House correct, pay the lucky gentleman, and sell him a card for the next school." The "lucky gentleman" generally buys one unless he has a Semitic trace in his veins.

Then another collection is made, a school formed, and they carry on with the game.

The caller-out has many nicknames for the numbers such as "Kelly's Eye" for one, "Leg's Eleven" for eleven, "Clickety-click" for sixty-six, or "Top of the house" meaning ninety.

The game is honest and quite enjoyable. Sometimes you have fourteen numbers on your card covered and you are waiting for the fifteenth to be called. In an imploring voice you call out, "Come on, Watkins, chum, I'm sweating on 'Kelly's Eye.'"

Watkins generally replies, "Well keep out of a draught, you'll catch cold."

Another game is "Pontoon" played with cards; it is the same as our "Black Jack," or "Twenty-one."

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A card game called "Brag" is also popular. Using a casino deck, the dealer deals each player three cards. It is similar to our poker, except for the fact that you only use three cards and cannot draw. The deck is never shuffled until a man shows three of a kind or a "prile" as it is called. The value of the hands are, high card, a pair, a run, a flush or three of a kind or "prile." The limit is generally a penny, so it is hard to win a fortune.

The next in popularity is a card game called "Nap." It is well named. Every time I played it I went to sleep.

Whist and Solo Whist are played by the high-brows of the Company.

When the gamblers tire of all other games they try "Banker and Broker."

I spent a week trying to teach some of the Tommies how to play poker, but because I won thirty-five francs they declared that they didn't "Fawncy" the game.

Tommy plays few card games; the general run never heard of poker, euchre, seven up, or pinochle. They have a game similar to pinochle called "Royal Bezique," but few know how to play it.

Generally there are two decks of cards in a section, and in a short time they are so dog-eared and greasy, you can hardly tell the ace of spades from the ace of hearts. The owners of these decks sometimes condescend to lend them after much coaxing.

So you see, Mr. Atkins has his fun mixed in with his hardships, and, contrary to popular belief, the rank and file of the British Army in the trenches is one big happy family. Now in Virginia, at school, I was fed on old McGuffy's primary reader, which gave me an opinion of an Englishman about equal to a '76 Minute Man's backed up by a Sinn Feiner's. But I found Tommy to be the best of mates and a gentleman through and through. He never thinks of knocking his officers. If one makes a costly mistake and Tommy pays with his blood, there is no general condemnation of the officer. He is just pitied. It is exactly the same as it was with the Light Brigade at Balaclava, to say nothing of Gallipoli, Neuve Chapelle, and Loos. Personally I remember a little incident where twenty of us were sent on a trench raid, only two of us returning, but I will tell this story later on.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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