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mother had been awake, he would interested in the species. It may have told her all—how that he had be accepted as a fact, that nearly used money belonging to his em- every person who goes there, goes ployers, not for the first time; that with the intention of getting the it was imperative he should replace best of his neighbour, if he can it; and that it was better to take for possibly manage it; and Alfred was a time these savings, hoarded up by not one of the exceptions that his grandfather for a then unknown proved the rule. His moral conpurpose, rather than allow exposure sciousness was as spotted as the to come. “Mother would have morality ofthose he elbowed. There given me right,' he often thought, were men who backed the favourites, but he did not have the opportunity who backed the jockeys' moints, of testing whether his thought was who backed the stable (whichever correct. All his life he was never one it might be), who backed their to know whether his mother had fancy, who backed the owners, who gone down to the grave with the backed the issue of famous sires, consciousness that her son, as well who backed the prophets' selecas her husband, was a thief. tions, and who laid out their money
in accordance with a system. Many
of them had private information of CHAPTER XXV. such-and-such horses, and knew for
a certainty that they must winALFRED NEGLECTS THE WARNING OF
some from superior excellence of DON'T TOUCH ME, AND RUES IT.
their own, some because their opBut, in a lame sort of way, he ponents were not going to try. found justification for the act. He Men of straw most of them; miserwould not take the brand upon able crawlers through the crooked himself; fate and bad luck were to ways of life, striving to reach the blame, not he. He took the money heaven of their hopes by means of with the firm intention of replac- any species of roguery ; who will ing it, and with the conviction (by look their friends in the face, and lie what sophistry gained, heaven only deliberately; who take the name knows) that he would be able to of God in vain a dozen times an do so; and he gave himself credit hour; whose hands and tongues for his intention, as if it were an are ready at any moment to filch act performed. With part of the and profane; and in whose bad money he had backed horses to minds the noblest qualities of huwin a heavy stake, but his usual man nature are but themes for ribad luck pursued him ; in his ver- bald jest. I who write these words nacular, one horse was pulled,' am no purist; I am no more moral another was scratched' an hour than my neighbours, I dare say; before the race, and others went and I love pleasure almost as well wrong in all sorts of ways. But his as I love work. Temptations beset heaviest stroke of bad luck, and us all, at times, and not one of us one which almost maddened him is strong enough always to resist. at the time of its occurrence, was I, as well as you, have had occathe disqualifying of a horse he had sion to be sorry, and would, if I backed after it had actually won could, live over again some of the the race. This took place on a time that is past, and would strive suburban race-course, where prob- to avoid slipping. I have deceived ably the finest collection in the myself often, and have given myworld of blacklegs, thieves, and self credit for things which have swindlers may be seen by any one resulted from no merit that I pos
sess. But I do not deceive myself surely in his favour now. He had when I say that I have a hearty lost twice; he must win in the contempt for roguery and mean- third venture. Up went the black ness, and that I have a horror of board with the names of the horses blasphemy and the profaning of for the third race. Among them human and divine things. And, was Never Despair. Acting upon as at no open gatherings in the an inspiration, Alfred backed Never wide world can so much roguery Despair for eight pounds, and oband knavery be seen as at some tained the odds of five to oneof these small race-meetings (and that is, if Never Despair won, Alin some large ones, too), I think fred's gain would be forty pounds. it a pity that they are encouraged The horse did win. It was an exby high authorities, whose position citing race between the favourite among the people is almost that of and Never Despair; and as the a teacher.
sporting writers said the next mornBeing at this suburban race- ing, Never Despair caught the fameeting (having obtained the holi- vourite in the last stride, and won day by shamming illness), Alfred by a short head. “By —!' mutterat once set to work backing horses. ed a man by Alfred's side, ‘Never He had in his pocket more than Despair's won, and I'm done for ! twenty pounds, the surplus of the And then, with muttered oaths money he had taken from the iron hanging about his white lips, the box, and he had fully made up his loser looked around, ready to pick mind that a great stroke of good a pocket. : Hurrah !' cried Alfred, luck was to come to him on this taking off his hat and waving it. day, and that he would go home “Hurrah! Never Despair's won !' with a purse filled with other per- But stopped suddenly, for fear that sons' losings. His plan of ope- a mistake might occur, or that rations upon this occasion was a there might be something wrong very simple one. He pursued the with the horse, or that the jockey 'doubling system—a system which might be found a pound short in his undoubtedly would result in gain, weight. His first fear was dispelled if it could be carried out without by the appearance of the number stopping. In the first race he of Never Despair on the black selected a horse, and backed it for board. Then Alfred, trembling with two pounds; the horse did not excitement, waited for the magic win. All the better for the next words which would proclaim that race, thought Alfred, as he walked the jockey had passed his ordeal in about, and studied on his race- safety, and that the race was really card the string of horses that were and truly won by the horse he had next to compete. In this race he backed. The three or four minutes made his selection, and backed his that intervened seemed to be three horse for four pounds. Again the or four hours, and Alfred fretted horse came in among the rear di- and fumed, and dug his nails into vision, and again Alfred lost. He his hands. At length came the began to look anxious, and ner- magic cry from the saddling padvously fingered the money in his dock, 'All right! “All right! All pocket. Should he leave off, and right!' screamed Alfred, and the be content with his losses? He recognised scouts took up the cry, fortified his faint heart with some passing it from list to list. Off brandy, and walked among the scampered Alfred to get his forty crowd to pick up information. No, pounds, and came away radiant, he would go on; the odds were with eight five-pound notes and his own deposited stake of eight then by pluck. Why shouldn't he pounds clenched in his fist. “How be one of them? Why should he much have I won?' he thought. On not buy his own trap, have private the first and second races he had boxes at the music-halls, wear lost six pounds. Six from forty, diamond rings and diamond pins, thirty-four. That was good ; thirty- and an Ulster coat down to his four pounds were not a bad day's heels? Some of them had country work. “I knew luck would turn houses and race-horses of their said Alfred exultantly. 'I knew own, and ate and drank of the best; luck would turn ! Let me see. as for champagne, they might swim Thirty-four pounds a day — how in it. The iron was hot; now was much is that a year?' And began the time to strike it. He would reto reckon up his thousands, and place the money he had taken from look a long way ahead. He had the iron box, buy Lizzie a gold watch now in his pocket nearly sixty and chain, and buy Lil a handpounds. He gave a shilling to an some present too; the old man also old gipsy woman, who detained should have something. Flushed him a few moments by telling him and elated, he walked into the ring. that a beautiful young lady with The names of the horses for the brown eyes was thinking of him at fourth race were being chalked on that moment. Of course she is,' the black board. There were eleven exclaimed Alfred merrily, breaking runners—a large field, thought Alaway from the fortune-teller with a fred, but the odds will be all the laugh. 'I could have told you that, greater. The black board being mother! He was in the highest hoisted, he ticked off on his card the of spirits. What shall I buy for names of the horses that were to Lizzie?' he thought. “I'll buy her run. By a strange chance one was a watch. And Lil, too, I mustn't named Don't Touch Me. There forget her. I want some new clothes was nothing very singular in this myself. I'll buy that diamond ring appellation; as a matter of fact you young Shrewboy at the office wants will find in the sporting papers of to sell. He only asks twelve pounds to-day a list of outlawed horses, for it, and it just fits my little among which you will see such finger. It sparkles like anything ! names as Bird of Prey, Phryne, There's that money, too, I borrowed Roll Call, I Must Not Touch It, from the box: I must put it back.' and others as significant. Now this If he had been wise, he would not horse, that Alfred was disposed to have indulged in these extravagant back directly he saw that it was anticipations; he would have been among the runners, carried its own content with his winnings. But recommendation with it. Don't who ever knew a wise gamester? Touch Me was a sufficiently fair He went to the best drinking-bar warning for any horse to carry, never on the race-course, and treated him- mind how lightly it was weighted ; self to a bottle of champagne; and but Alfred fancied it as it took its said to himself, as he drank it, that preliminary canter. 'It will walk in,' now his luck was in, and he would he heard some one say, “and it bebe a fool not to back it. He might longs to So-and-so,' mentioning the go home that afternoon with two or name of one of the “knowing ones' three hundred pounds in his pocket, of the turf. How these persons earn if he had a spark of courage in him. the distinctive title of the “knowing Nothing venture, nothing have. ones' there is no necessity here to How had the leviathans of the ring inquire ; it can scarcely be by the made their money? First by luck, exercise of the cardinal virtues, which pagans declared to be jus- siders! Give it a name, captain. tice, prudence, temperance, and What'll you put a fiver on ?' could fortitude, although the second tempt him. He knew the ropes named, prudence, bears a wide and better than that; he knew that various meaning, and they might these capitalists, whose stock-inlay claim to it in the interests of trade consisted of a bit of chalk, a self. However it was, there stood piece of deal wood, a stool, a Don't Touch Me on the black printed placard, and a stump of a board, and there before his eyes lead pencil, were swindlers, who cantered Don't Touch Me on the were allowed to rob with the policeturf, with a celebrated jockey on man looking on. Truly, if Justice its back. “I'll back it for every shil- is blind, the law that is supposed ling I've got in my pocket,' thought to lead to it has a cast in its eye. Alfred, and make a good haul.' But Having made his great venture, he would make sure that he was Alfred went to look at the horse right. How ? By one of those fool that carried it. It was a nobleish superstitions which gamblers be- looking animal, in splendid conlieve in. He wrote the names of the dition, fit to run for a man's life. eleven runners on eleven pieces of Just behind it, making its way leipaper, folded them separately, and surely to the starting-post, was a shook them together in his pocket. horse named the Cunning One. “Now,' he said; if I draw Don't Alfred laughed as he noted the difTouch Me, that will settle it.' He ference between the two horses. put in his hand, and drew one of He was in the enclosure where the the folded pieces of paper. Open- swells were, having, after his wining it he read Don't Touch Me, nings on Never Despair, paid for and that settled it. It's the fa- that privilege; and as he laughed vourite,' he said, almost aloud in now, he heard, “I'll take a thousand his excitement, as he consulted the to thirty. “I'll give it to you,' was lists, and saw that Don't Touch the answer of a bookmaker; 'a Me was quoted at three to one; thousand to thirty against the Cun'it's the favourite, and it's sure to ning One! Turning, Alfred saw win!' Down went his money. Not the man who had taken the bet, all with one man. One man might a 'tall, thin, languid swell, who not be able to pay him so large a drawled his words out as if speaksum when the race was over. So he ing were a labour. A thick mousinvested twenty pounds with one, tache covered his lips, or something ten with another, five with another, might have been seen in the exuntil he had put all he had upon pression on them that would have Don't Touch Me. He stood al- given the lie to his apparently untogether to win about a hundred concerned and drawling manner. and seventy pounds. He selected "There's thirty pounds clean thrown
safe men' to bet with. In some away,' thought Alfred, with a look lists, kept by men who looked re- of contempt at the languid swell; markably like costermongers with a nice fly chap he is to back such a polish on, the odds against Don't a horse as the Cunning One. It's Touch Me were quoted at four, only fit for a scavenger's cart.' five, and even six to one; but Al- Away went the horses to the startfred knew that these worthies were ing-post; there was a difficulty in welchers, and not all their seduc getting a fair start, each jockey trytive offers, not all their flattering ing to jockey' the others. Full ‘Now then, captain, what d'ye twenty minutes elapsed, the while want to back? Any odds on out- a very Babel of sound, created by the hoarse strong voices of the for a few moments behind a great betting men, kept the fever of ex- clump of bush on the other side of citement to boiling point. Again the course, and when they reapand again the cry · They're off ! peared the aspect of affairs was was raised, and again and again changed. The horse that had made came the mild addendum, “No; the running had dropped behind, another false start. During this and one or two others also were at ' time Alfred heard nothing, saw no- the tails of Don't Touch Me and thing but the horses; he had staked the Cunning One. A mile and a his all upon Don't Touch Me, and quarter of the race was run, and it was upon that horse of all of them these two horses were held in with that he fixed his attention. The wrists of steel, while the riders sat jockey's colours were pink; those as if they grew out of their saddles. of the jockey of the Cunning One Another horse dropped behind, not were saffron. Alfred noticed that because Don't Touch Me and the both these horses were kept com- Cunning One were making an efparatively cool and quiet by their fort to get to the front, but because riders, while the false starts were it was pumped out, and had had being made. This was all in Al- enough. Now they are coming into fred's favour, and he remarked it the straight run home. 'A monkey with satisfaction, and said, “It's all to a pony on pink and saffron !' right, it's all right! Don't Touch shouts a bookmaker; 'a monkey Me is sure of the race. But his to a pony, first past the post ! face was pale with suffering, not- He is right in his judgment. The withstanding. How he wished it final struggle is not yet come, but was all over! 'I won't put another slight efforts on the part of the shilling on,' he said; 'when the race jockeys enable Don't Touch Me is over, I'll go straight home. At and the Cunning One to thread length the horses were coming toge- through their horses and come to ther, and a straight line of variegated the front. Alfred clenches his teeth, colour was seen. It will be a start and his fingers work into his palms this time,' said some one, and the and his lips twitch convulsively. next moment the flag drops again, Nearer and nearer they come, inand “They're off! They're off !' creasing in every stride the distance burst from a thousand throats. The between themselves and their combell rings to prove that this time petitors. Within five hundred yards it is not a false alarm. ' Before the from the winning post, they are horses had gone a hundred yards neck and neck. 'Pink wins! SafAlfred saw the pink jacket of Don't fron wins! Saffron's beat! Pink's Touch Me and the saffron jacket done! These words are yelled of the Cunning One in the rear out frantically, and Alfred suf'All the better,' he thought; for it fers a martyrdom. Suddenly the was a two-mile race, and it was jockey of Don't Touch Me touches good policy to save the wind of the his horse slightly with his spur, horses that were intended to win and the noble creature bounds until the final struggle. On they to the front, gaining a full halfcame, rushing like the wind past length on the Cunning One. But the grand stand, and although no the Cunning One's jockey raises great distance separated them, saf- his whip, and recovers his lost fron and pink were the absolute ground. Then ensues a grand struglast. The race was being run at a gle, every foot of ground being great pace. Alfred was ablaze with contested. They might be strugexcitement. The horses were lost gling for dear life, or for something