[Editor: This short story was published in The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 2 October 1927.]
The innocent abroad
(By “’Varsity Mac.”)
Attired in a grey-tweed suit little too large for him, and carrying all the earmarks of a young dairy-farmer from the Darling Downs, Bob strolled through the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. He was thinking that this part of the city was almost as lonely as the back paddock at home, when he came across a stranger seated on the grass, shuffling a few cards to pass the time away.
The man’s dexterity amazed the country youth. He stood fascinated while the cards were fanned, shuffled, and snapped with bewildering rapidity. “Can you pick the ace, Dig?” he suddenly asked.
“I don’t know,” Bob answered nervously. “Can you?”
“I’ll try it,” replied the man, taking out three cards. After a quick shuffle he placed the cards on the ground. After much deliberation he turned up the ace and said, “I’ll bet you five bob you can’t do it.”
“Oh, no, I’ve heard about you blokes before. You wait for us country fellows and take us down for our money!” saying which Bob started to walk on.
“Hi, don’t run away, Dig. What do you take me for? ’Struth, I’m not a rook. I thought you country blokes were sports.”
Bob, half-heartedly, turned back.
“Here, have a look at the cards,” invited the stranger, “there’s nothing crook about them.”
After a minute inspection, Bob seemed satisfied and undertook to pick out the ace or fork out five bob. Quickly the cards were shuffled and placed. Bob, after much hesitation, turned up the correct card and pocketed five bob.
The bet was doubled and again won by the youth. Gaining confidence, he picked the winner once more, and was another 10 bob to the good.
The delighted youngster willingly doubled the bet, but when the cards were placed he lost confidence and became undecided.
“You’re a rook, after all,” he said, “I don’t believe the ace is there at all.”
“Of course it’s there. Search me if you don’t believe me. Haven’t you —”
“Now, then, what’s on here?” came a stern voice, and both were startled on looking up to see a policeman.
“Oh,” said Bob, the cocky, “this man has rooked me of a quid and he’s trying to do me for another. I don’t believe the ace is there at all.”
“Don’t you believe him, constable, he’s just won 25 bob,” said the bewildered city man.
“You lying beggar,” said Bob, and grabbing the cards, he added: “Look, I knew the ace wasn’t there. He’s rooked me, and when I get home there’ll be a terrible row.”
“I tell you, constable, this young fella —”
“Don’t try that tale on me,” answered the bobby. “Come along, now.”
It suddenly dawned on Bob that he did not want the publicity of a court case. “If you lock him up, mister, my name will get into the papers and I’ll get the father of a hiding from the old man. As long as I get me quid I’ll be satisfied.”
The policeman hesitated. “All right,” he said, “give the lad his quid and clear out and think yourself darn lucky.”
The spieler’s face was a study of baffled rage and partial relief. A note changed hands, and the policeman, patting the country lad on the shoulder, counselled: “Now, don’t be such a fool again. That crook would have cleaned you out if I hadn’t come along.”
“Thanks, I won’t,” answered Bob, as he hurried off, sucking the thumb that had marked the ace after being pricked by a pin in the lapel of his coat. But his left hand, thrust deep into his trousers pocket, kept a tight grip on the buckshee winnings.
“Cripes,” he was heard to mutter, “that’s a darn sight easier than milkin’ cows and pullin’ corn!”
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 2 October 1927, p. 6