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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Gambler

page 17

The Gambler.

It was the same in Death as in Life; no matter what the stakes involved, he was what they called a " born gambler." Whether carry-ing on with his many-sided civil avocations, punting in the two-up ring when the Brigade was back resting, or having a duel with an enemy sniper in the firing line, it was all a gamble; and he "chanced his luck", as he put it, and left the decision to Fate. In brief, he was a fatalist, one of those whose philosophy is expressed, "Whatever is going to come, will come all right."

Let us call him Ike Smith—for the name matters not. Ike was born and bred round Surrey Hills, a congested, semi-slum district of Sydney; and right from the start he learnt the ups and downs and ins and outs of life, as only a child bred in such surroundings can.

Even on the day of his birth, his very existence seemed to be left to Fate, for his mother was delicate, and it was a gamble between the doctors and their physics as to whether little Ike lived or not. He survived the ordeal, and year by year grew into a confirmed fatalist. From selling newspapers on the trams, he turned bis fancy to a job on the Municipal Council. This steady work of fixed routine did not appeal to him, though. It did not have for him any spice, not the elements of gambling which were present in the little enterprises of his own. So, abandoning his Council job, he got himself a turnover. One could see him and hear him driving up and down the streets extolling the virtues of wild rabbits, regularly three times weekly. The remainder of the week he spent on the racecourse, or some other rendezvous of the gambling community.

Some time later saw Ike, an ordinary, ginger-haired trooper, doing his bit with the Light Horse in Palestine. In every "School" in the Brigade Ike was a prominent figure and a consistent punter. Sometimes he won, some-times he lost, but always he had the same spirit obsessing him: "I'll give it a spin". If it was decided that someone was to approach the officer for a "chit" for refreshments; if an attempt was to be made to outwit the Bedouins; or if Ike found that he had only a dollar left a week before pay-day, he would always resign himself to his old maxim and "give it a spin" Came a day when the Brigade moved out across the Jordan. They came into contact with the enemy and each man, Ike included, was doing his bit gamely. A squadron got into a particularly hot position and things were becom-ing critical. The Squadron Commander came along, and one could see by his troubled and anxious face that something was doing. "I want a volunteer to go over to that Lewis Gun on the ridge there. Two men have been killed there, but the position must be held at all costs," he said. "I'll give it a spin" said Ike, coming forward first.

The Gambler poured it into the enemy until he, too, was put out of action by shrapnel through the lungs. Then followed a long trip in a cacolet to the Clearing Station. This was not conducive to recovery, and on arrival the M.O. gave him one glance, and told an orderly to sit by him.

This was comparative ease after the long trip over rough ground, and Ike's mind settled down to a state of supreme contentment and peace-fulness. Before him all was black, but out of the blackness came grey mist, and Ike saw a little barefooted, ragged boy jumping on and off the moving trams, with a bundle of newspapers under his arm. The shadows drifted, and Ike next saw a young man sweeping the city streets, sweeping right up through the mist until he came out on broad plains and green slopes. Here there was a ring of soldiers, intent on two-up. He lingered with them for awhile, and then mounted his horse and headed for the hills of Moab. How gentle was this horse, how smooth the motion. Now his horse was disappearing, and he was being borne through space.

Up, up he went into the darkness. At last he arrived amidst a vast assembly of people. Babes, men and women, young and old, all were standing in darkness on the edge of a deep, dark chasm. There was a white-bearded patriarch, who seemed to be the central figure. He had just risen from the depths, and Ike peeped down whence he had come. Deep down below there were phantom shapes soaring, white, cool streams and silvery clouds. All was happiness and purity.



"What is this? " asked Ike, turning to the patriarch.

"This", was the reply, "is Death. Are you coming?"

"I'll give it a spin", said Ike

And the orderly sitting by his side gently drew the blanket over his cold, white face.