Tales of Old Newton Races

PICKING THE LADY.”

The next group is round one who is running the three-card trick. This is not a game of skill, and if you win anything off this gentleman you may consider yourself lucky. On the other hand, I honestly think he deserves all he wins. Should you happen to be in company and the three-card trick is introduced, take my advice, leave it alone, and resist all temptations. The one who manipulates the cards has one or two confederates in the group around him. He takes a numbered card and a queen in one hand and a numbered card in the other. The queen card is held below the numbered card, he shows you the three cards, then makes a pass with them by throwing the one card through the other two and letting them fall face down. It is even money you dont pick the lady. You have been watching so keen that you are sure you could pick it, but you hesitate, until one man puts half a crown on the card you think is the queen. Of course, he is one of the lads; but before you have time to put your bit on, the card is turned up, and sure enough, it is the queen, and five shillings is promptly paid over.

Once again the cards are taken up and thrown down again. This time the confederate is first down with his half-crown, but on a card which has fallen in a different position to the previous throw. The reason the confederate put his money down first is so that you will follow his lead. All the same, you have been again watching keenly and feel sure the card with the half-crown on is the queen. You put a shilling on the card just to chance it, as a shilling is neither here nor there, and one or two others are tempted the same way and also put the same stake on. The card is then turned up, and sure enough, it is the queen. The winnings are paid over to you quite cheerfully, and the card-sharper, once more takes up the three cards, shows you the queen, makes the usual pass, and again you are asked to pick the ” lady.” This is the time the sharper rakes in the shekels from the mugs.

Before the confederate puts his money on what he thinks is the “lady,” the sharper says a word or two to the group around him in this manner: ” You know, gentlemen, it is illegal to play this game, and although I only do it for a pastime and a little interest between ourselves, I cannot afford to let the police catch me, because a heavy fine is inflicted if we are caught playing this game. You therefore understand, gentlemen, why I must keep a sharp look-out for the police.” He then deliberately turns his back on the cards and looks the other way, making you believe he is on the lookout for the police.

While his back is turned, the confederate takes a hand. He turns the corner of one of the cards up, so that all in the group can see it. Although he only turns the corner up, it undoubtedly looks to be the queen. Of course, the sharper has given him time to do the trick, as when he turns round he says: ” Has anyone touched these cards?” All the mugs cry out in unison: ” No, nobodys touched em.”

It is once more the confederate who is first to put his money on, but this time he puts a half-sovereign on, and doesnt forget to give the mugs a knowing wink as he does so. As it certainly looks a ” cert,” no odd shillings go on, oh no, half-sovereigns and sovereigns this time. Often four or five pounds have I seen on a card. Before the card is turned up the sharper once more says to the group: ” Now, gentlemen, lets be fair to one another. You are sure no one has touched the cards?” “Certainly not,” they answer him. “That being so, gentlemen, will one of you kindly turn the card up?” Note all the money is on the card his confederate turned up, to show you it was the queen. Then one of the crowd turns up the card, but it is not the ” lady.” The sharper himself turns up the other two cards, one of which is the queen, saying: ” Hard lines, gentlemen,” and rakes in the shekels. Not a word is spoken among the little group, and it melts away like snow, sadder men undoubtedly, but I cannot say wiser men, because they dont know how it is done; neither do I. The card-sharpers then wait for a fresh lot of ” mugs.”