THE SOLDIER'S ALMANACK, BIBLE AND PRAYER BOOK"
From "The History Of Playing Cards With Anecdotes Of Their Use In
Conjuring, Fortune-Telling And Card-Sharping"
Edited by Rev. Ed. S. Taylor, B.A.
Published in London in 1865
Richard Middleton, a soldier, attending divine service, with the rest
of the regiment at a church in Glasgow, instead of pulling out a
Bible, like his brother soldiers, to find the parson's text, spread a
pack of cards before him. This singular behaviour did not long pass
unnoticed, both by the clergyman and the sarjeant of the company to
which he belonged; the latter in particular requested him to put up
the cards, and on his refusal, conducted him after church before the
Mayor, to whom he preferred a formal complaint of Richard's indecent
behaviour during divine service.
"Well soldier!" said the Mayor, "what excuse have you for this
strange scandalous behaviour? If you can make any apology, or assign
any reason for it, it's well; if you cannot, assure yourself that I
will cause you, without delay, to be severely punished for it."
"Since your honour is so good," replied Richard, "I will inform you,
I have been eight days on march, with a bare allowance of sixpence a
day, which your honour will allow is hardly sufficient to maintain a
man in meat, drink, washing, and other necessaries that consequently
he may want, without a Bible, Prayer Book, or any other good book."
On saying this, Richard drew out his pack of cards, and presenting
one of the aces to the Mayor, continued his address to the magistrate
"When I see an Ace, may it please your honour, it reminds me that
there is only one God; and when I look upon a Two or a Three, the
former puts me in mind of the Father and Son, and the latter of the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A Four calls for remembrance the Four
Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A Five, the five wise
Virgins who were ordered to trim their lamps; there were ten, indeed,
but five, your worship may remember, were wise, and five were
foolish. A Six, that in six days God created heaven and earth. A
Seven, that on the seventh day he rested from all that he had made.
An Eight, of the eight righteous persons preserved from the deluge;
viz., Noah, and his wife, with his three sons and their wives. A
Nine, of the Nine lepers cleansed by our Saviour; there were ten, but
only one returned to offer his tribute of thanks. And a Ten, of the
ten commandments that God gave Moses, on Mount Sinai, on the two
tablets of stone." He took the Knave and put it aside. "When I see
the Queen, it puts me in mind of the Queen of Sheba, who came from
the furthermost parts of the world to hear the wisdom of Solomon, for
she was as wise a woman as he a man, for she brought fifty boys and
fifty girls, all clothed in girls' apparel to shew before King
Solomon, for him to test which were boys and which were girls, but he
could not until he called for water to wash themselves; the girls
washed up to their elbows, and the boys only up to the wrists of
their hands, so King Solomon told by that. And when I see the King,
it puts me in mind of the great King of Heaven and Earth, which is
God Almighty, and likewise his Majesty King George the Fourth, to
pray for him."
"Well," said the Mayor, "you have given a good description of all the
cards except one, which is lacking."
"Which is that?" said the soldier.
"The Knave," said the Mayor.
"If your honour will not be angry with me," returned Richard, "I can
give you the same satisfaction on that as any in the pack?"
"No," said the Mayor.
"Well," returned the soldier, "the greatest knave that I know is the
sarjeant who brought me before you."
"I don't know," replied the Mayor, "whether he be the greatest knave
or no; but I am sure that he is the greatest fool."
The soldier then continued as follows; "When I count the number of
dots in a pack of cards, there are 365, so many days as there are in
a year. When I count how many cards are in a pack, I find there are
52, so many weeks are there in a year. When I reckon how many tricks
are won by a pack, I find there are 13, so many months are there in a
year. So that this pack of cards is both Bible, Almanack, and Prayer
Book to me."
The Mayor called his servants, ordered them to entertain the soldier
well, gave him a piece of money, and said he was the cleverest fellow
he ever heard in his life.