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  ― 98 ―

At the Melbourne Cup.

Douglas B. W. Sladen

I HAD received the appointment of aide-de-camp to an Australian Governor, and I was on my way out to my colony to enter upon my duties. My ship stopped a couple of days at Melbourne, and we arrived there—as the large mail-carrying steamers so generally do—on a Monday. Why they do so I don't know. I have heard it libellously asserted that it was to prevent the ships' companies eating their heads off at Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney on a Sunday, which is a dies non in port, but which does not impede navigation. Howsoever, we arrived in Melbourne on a Monday, and the next day happened to be that particular Tuesday in the year which was Cup Tuesday. Of course, as I was on my way to a Government House in another colony, I had the usual Government House civilities extended to me, including an invitation to take up my quarters with the Governor until I left Melbourne. After six weeks of it I was glad


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to get off ship-board for a stretch, though I had had a most enjoyable voyage; and, besides, a ship is a dreary place while she is in port, for all the passengers, whether or no they be leaving the ship for good, desert her. So I accepted, came up to Melbourne from Williamstown, and drove off to the Domain. It wasn't a very cheerful start. Everyone was out except the servants and the Governor's wife, who was too ill to see anyone. But the porter, a very experienced individual, after inquiring whether I cared for any lunch—which I refused, having lunched already—suggested that if I drove to the Melbourne Club I was pretty sure to find one or other of the Victorian A.-D.-C.'s there among the crowds congregating in the club in Cup week. So off I drove again, to inquire of the club porter. “Oh, yes,” he said,——was there, and went off to fetch him, and in a minute or two came back with him. I introduced myself, and he said: “As an A.-D.-C. you're an ex-officio member of the club; come and have a drink.” This we managed without the least awkwardness or trouble; but we were not so successful afterwards. He wanted to get back to the men with whom he had been playing whist, and I didn't know another soul in the place, and we didn't seem to have any ideas in common but soda-water, sugar, lemon—and whiskey. At last a bright idea struck him. “I'll


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Introduce you to Paget. You'll like to meet Paget; he's not long out from home.” This idea struck him after running his eye over every man hanging about the verandah or the lawn, and calculating their suitability for saddling with me. Paget was alone. He had just done playing billiards with a man who had gone out of the club a minute or two before. I was introduced to him right off, leaving my brother aide at liberty to resume his whist, which he did after telling me what time they dined at Government House, and begging me to apply to him for any kind of information or assistance, accompanied, no doubt, by an inward prayer that he might never set eyes on me again.

Paget turned out to be an officer in the Victorian forces. “Not a bad billet in its way,” he said. “It gives me the entrée here as an ex officio and perpetual honorary member, and gives a fellow a good status, the run of Government House and all the best people. One gets asked everywhere and to everything, and it's a fair ‘screw;’ but it doesn't lead to anything, and it isn't enough, because the people with whom it brings one in contact are all so thunderingly rich. I suppose you're going to the Cup to-morrow?”

I was ashamed to confess that I had never heard of the Cup until a couple of days before, when a flood of Adelaide people poured upon


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the steamer to take passage round to Melbourne for it.

“Of course you're going,” he said. “There'll be a drag starting from the club to-morrow, some time in the morning, and I'll get you a seat. I know D——, who's ‘shouting’ it, will be glad to give you one.”

“But how about the Government House people?” I inquired, dubiously; “won't they be going?”

“Yes; they'll be going, but they won't go until after lunch, and, except that you get a good view from the Governor's box, it's the poorest fun at the races going with His Excellency. You'd feel bound to be minding your P's and Q's instead of minding the horses. And he won't mind your not being there. Bless your soul! comfort yourself; he won't miss you.”

“Oh, very well, then. It'll be very kind of you to take me. What time shall I be here?”

“Oh, come early; they wouldn't wait for you if you were behindhand.”

The next day I turned up in good time, which was lucky, as the drag rattled round the Spring Street corner at twelve o'clock sharp, with its top sprinkled over with ladies, and the club porch and steps were thronged with gentlemen, whose field-glasses, slung over their shoulders, betrayed their


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destination. What kind of weather one might expect at a Melbourne Cup was transparent from the delicate silk and lace of the ladies, and the tall white hats (“white bell-toppers” in the colonial vernacular) and dust suits of the gentlemen.

I had barely time to notice that the ladies—mostly girls and young married women—had the slim, upright figures, regular features, and piquant expression which I afterwards found to be characteristic of colonial girls, when I heard Paget saying, “Jump up here, old man. I've spoken to D——. He's busy now; I'll introduce you some other time.”

I climbed up where he pointed, and found myself amid a bevy of ladies. Paget introduced me to them all, and one of them made room for me beside her, and at once plunged into an easy, natural conversation. Paget sat down opposite me, and in a minute or two the rest of the men were in their places, the horn was tootled, and with a few slips and kicks from the wheelers, off we started down the noble thoroughfare of Collins Street, as far as the centre of the town, where we turned up to the right, along what was once the Sydney Road. I had plenty of time to take stock of the street, because, apart from the steepness of the descent and the crowdedness of the road, I found that the


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municipal bye-laws of Melbourne compel horses to come down to a walk at every crossing within the city boundaries.

The ladies came up to the club in a shimmer of light silks and laces, calculated to take the citadel of bachelorhood by storm, but I had noticed that as we were going down the street they had one by one slipped into their dust-cloaks of yellow china silk, and as we shot round the corner into the street running north and south I recognised the prudence of their precaution, for, eddying down the street as if it had been charging itself with dust and grit all the way from Carpentaria, swept a gust—I think I ought to say a black squall—of north wind, almost blinding us and obscuring the view like a fog. As this kind of thing lasted with brief intervals all the way to Flemington, where the race-course is situated, I think the less said about that drive the better. But for the vivacity of the girls it would have seemed interminable; but the frank, hospitable, though not in the least undignified, colonial way they had made me quite one of the party. Paget seemed to be particularly much one of the party with a lady at his side.

It is needless to say that the whole road from the heart of Melbourne—indeed from the farthest suburbs on the other side—was choked with vehicles and foot passengers. But though all classes were


  ― 104 ―
represented in the throng there was not the slightest symptom of rowdiness. Everyone seemed to be going to a picnic where everyone was to enjoy him or herself in an orderly way. Arrived at the racecourse we drove down a long incline with an incipient avenue to the gates, where we were requested to show our tickets or pay. Most of the other gentlemen were members, and could muster between them enough ladies' passes to frank all the ladies, but I had to fork up a half-sovereign, which I expect I should have saved if I had gone under the wing of His Excellency—there is something in vice-royalty after all.

Arrived on the course, it was simply delightful. King Dust was not admitted, and I found myself bowling along the soft turf of the carriage paddock into a bevy of drags and carriages, and the waggonettes which do duty for cabs in Melbourne. The course was a kind of amphitheatre in the elbow of a hill, at the foot of which stood, in the middle, the magnificent grand stand, flanked on one side by the saddling paddock, and on the other by a carriage paddock. In front of the saddling paddock, beyond the judge's box, stood the stands for the stewards and those connected with the horses; in front of the grand stand was a delicious lawn of soft matted grass, and at the foot of the stand a broad pavement designed as a promenade


  ― 105 ―
for the occupants of the stand, to which those who had paid their ten shillings for admittance to the enclosure were admitted free. The lawn was left sloping, except just by the rails, in order to accommodate people who chose to stand there while a race was being run. Behind the grand stand was a hill—the “hill” famous in Gordon's poems and the annals of Melbourne racing. This was already, although the first race was not to be run for some little time yet, literally alive with people, one bizarre, seething mass. And when I lifted up my glasses to survey the noble course, so smooth and level and green even in this severe climate, I saw, right away on the far side of the river, considerable knots of people on every eminence.

The enclosure itself was very full. Not only was the grand stand crowded, but the lawn and the pavement were thickly studded with groups of promenaders; each group, as a rule, consisting of a gentleman walking between a couple of ladies, whether in the interests of propriety, or because the supply of gentlemen was short, I wasn't told. The ladies did not promenade without a gentleman, and I found, when I examined it closer, that the stand was filled almost entirely with ladies. Would the stand have been deserted if there had been a gentleman forthcoming for every pair of the disconsolate ones? I should be afraid to say no. The


  ― 106 ―
saddling paddock contained quite enough gentlemen for the job. I have said that there was still some little time before the first race. Paget was dreadfully uneasy.

“My dear fellow,” he said, “you won't want to be ‘stuck up’ with the ladies now. You'll want to come away and hear the odds.”

I felt as if I should excessively like to be stuck up with the ladies now. More than one of them was distractingly pretty, and all were piquant to a degree. Besides, from Paget's previous behaviour, I should have judged that he would not have cared how much he was stuck up with the ladies. However, I felt in a manner bound, in return for his kindness, to follow his lead, so down I went with him to interview the ring. Siren voices invited us to back our opinion.

“Do you care to put anything on,” he said, “because, if you do, I know a beggar who always has the straight tip for anything from Ballaarat, and this is a hurdle race. Ballaarat people are death on anything with a jump in it.”

“Well, if you can get any ‘information,’ ” I said, “I rather like putting a pound or two on a race.” He found his friend from Ballaarat, who pronounced Lady Hampden the best thing at the money, and forthwith we each invested a pound—or, as Paget called it, a “note”—on her ladyship at six to one,


  ― 107 ―
with one of the numerous little cash bookmakers who congregate round the low wooden steeple where the latest scratchings are posted.

“Now I want you to come along to the side by the stewards' box—that's where the big fish of the ring, Leviathan Joe and his brother and Josephs and Barnett and those kind of people lie. I want to do a bit of hedging. I've got a thousand to ten against Dirk Hatteraick for the Cup, and I want to lay some of it off, as I don't feel quite sure of him. The fact is that I've backed him ‘on the ticket' of that famous dream. A man who has dreamt some wonderful prophecies about horse-racing had a dream that Martini-Henri would win the Melbourne Derby and Dirk Hatteraick the Melbourne Cup, so I told a fellow to take the double for me about a week ago—a thousand to ten the odds were then. A thousand would just set me up. I'm engaged to be married; that's to say, I'm engaged to a girl, but her governor won't hear of it till I have a house to take her to; and I could just furnish it nicely and have a bit of a reserve to fall back on besides my pay if I won this thousand.”

I must confess that I felt inclined to tell him how much I admired his simplicity. I don't know much about the ring, but I know enough to know that it isn't exactly the place I should go to if I wanted to find a marriage portion. However, I


  ― 108 ―
spared him a good deal because I wanted to hear further divulgings.

“The girl's awfully well off—one of the best people—and her governor says he'll ‘come down heavily’ when he allows her to marry; and he hasn't any objection to me, he says, only he wants some guarantee of my having something to live on—in fact, of my not being an adventurer. So he has promised to let me marry her as soon as I have furnished a decent house for her to live in, and show him the receipts of the furniture's being paid for. I was talking to the girl as we drove here,” he continued.

“I thought so,” was my mental ejaculation, “and the reason why you aren't talking to her now is that you expect to make your pile, where many a smart fellow, though long-headed, familiar with horses from his cradle, and thick as thieves with the whole racing fraternity, has gone down. O sancta simplicitas! Go forth, beloved of heaven, only the stars will have to take more interest than they generally do in human affairs if your frail bark is going to make its haven.”

One after the other of the big bookmakers, as he tackled them upon the subject of Dirk Hatteraick, burst out laughing and said, “Why, you're joking, Mr. Paget; you never think anyone's going to back that thing?”




  ― 109 ―

“Why, he did thundering well over in Adelaide.”

“But, lor', look at the company; he ain't any more chance for the Melbourne Cup than one of Goldsbrough's dray-horses.”

“That's what you said about Zulu, when it was dreamt that he'd win. ‘Take back the little lame pony,’ one of you bawled out when he was stripped for the race; and he won the Cup in the fastest time on record, bar Darriwell's year.”

“Zulu kicked the pot over.”

“Well, what can you do for me about Dirk Hatteraick?”

They all shook their heads dubiously, and one of them said—“The quoted odds aren't anything so wonderful; but you can't find a backer that I know of.”

Paget looked at the clock. “They'll be starting soon; we'd better go up into the stand to look at the race.”

“Shan't we go back to the drag?” I asked, feeling a rather rueful hankering after the dainty girls who had made my drive to the course so pleasant.

“Oh, no,” he replied; “you'll see much better in the stand. Besides, if we went to the drag we might not be able to get away again directly to get back to the ring—we might have to trot some of the ladies up and down the lawn.”

I felt in my heart of hearts that this wouldn't be such a very dreadful alternative to trotting after


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him and Dirk Hatteraick all day, but of course I could say nothing; so up to the stand we went. There were still a few minutes before the race started, and everybody on the stand seemed to be occupying the time with getting up “sweeps.” Each little party was putting its half-crowns, or shillings, or sovereigns into a hat, and was tearing up and folding the printed forms for “sweep” drawing which are affixed to the end of the S. R. C. official programme for every race. These slips were then thrown into the hat, and drawn out amid vast excitement. Then everybody plunged into his or her programme to make out the colours of the horses they had drawn, and discussed chances.

Paget looked on at the whole business with undisguised contempt. “This is one of the reasons why I like to give the drag a wide berth,” he said. “The ladies pester you so about ‘sweeps.’ They're awful rot. You'd much better choose your horse, and put a ‘note’ on him. If you only bet on the post you're certain of a run for your money then. But Melbourne's just mad about ‘sweeps.’ There's a man called Jimmy Miller handles thirty or forty thousand pounds of the public money every Melbourne Cup, and takes his ten per cent off the lot. However, he's very ‘square’ and above board about it all; and such as it is you have your chance for your money. He has 2000 subscribers


  ― 111 ―
at a ‘note’ each in each of his ‘sweeps,’ and he gets up nearly twenty ‘sweeps’ over each ‘cup.’ The first horse gets £900, second and third so much each, starters so much each, and even non-starters so much each, so that everyone who draws a horse gets something. But it's all ‘piffle’ going in for ‘sweeps.’ If you're going to touch a race at all, make your opinion, and back it.”

Suddenly the bookmakers' screech is stilled, and a hoarse murmur going up from the stand announces that they're off. I offer Paget my glasses. He fancies that he is a connoisseur, and can judge the form of horses for future betting. I have no faith in my powers in this respect, and prefer taking in the tout-ensemble with my naked eye to having it focussed by the glasses on a little mob of horses which every other second is lost behind some obstacle or other. Paget calls out hopeful things of the white, green sleeves, and red cap of Lady Hampden, but hope's a poor anchor, and Lady Hampden comes in second instead of first, amid shouts of “Ringwood! Ringwood!” and we go down into the paddock to pay over our pounds and look pleasant.

Then Paget said, “I know a little chap who's awfully thick with the Flemington stables. He can always lay you on to a safe thing, where it's in their hands. Ah, there he is!” he called out,


  ― 112 ―
making a dive into the crowd. “Wait there until I come back.”

In a little while he came back, pronouncing Falka to be “stiff for it,” so we accordingly invested upon Falka, he stifling my insinuations as to whether the “little chap” was as reliable as his friend from Ballaarat with, “Well, you know, anything with a jump in it is always an open thing, but Falka's ‘stiff’ for this.”

Falka didn't prove “stiff for it,” but could only crawl in as far as second, as we saw to our dismay from the stand, where we had again taken up our position for the race. As we went down the steps after it, he said, “I should like to go and see if I can do anything with Dirk Hatteraick, when we have settled up over this.”

I felt that this was rather much, and quoted with glee to him that the ladies had told us we were to be sure to come back the very minute after this race to help to give them some lunch, after which I felt that I could do the champagne justice, for I was beginning to find Paget and Dirk Hatteraick rather dry work.

“You men out from home are no better than the colonial article,” said the pretty girl who had made room for me on the drag-seat as I came up. “Hardly one of you gentlemen has been near us since we first came in, and as for Mr. D——” (the


  ― 113 ―
owner of the drag) “not even lunch can make him gallant.”

The honour among thieves would not permit me to “round upon” Paget, so I had no confess to the soft impeachment, and to try and look knowing about horses; but I registered a vow to do full justice to the ladies and the luncheon before returning to the charge with Dirk Hatteraick.

The girl I was talking to—I never made out her name—was what many men would call a real beauty, with her petite graceful figure, short straight nose, violet-blue eyes, auburn hair, and complexion an impersonation of cleanliness and freshness; and the luncheon, alike in poultry and spicy meats, delicate sweets, delicious fruits and cream, and choice champagne and whiskey, was a triumph. Among the fruits there were some not very usual in England, but I didn't trouble them much, confining myself to things that went better with champagne. After lunch, while the other gentlemen were smoking, I took my fair and nameless friend and another lady for a promenade upon the lawn, where, what between the charms of their society and capital music from a band with the very imposing title of the Australian Military Band, I began to blossom into a thorough sense of enjoyment, when Paget, walking with the lovely pleading-faced girl who was to become his wife


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whenever he made his grand coup over the races, swerved towards us and said, “We'd better be back in our places soon, if we want to do anything.”

I emphatically didn't want to “do” anything except resign myself to the sense of enjoyment; but Paget seemed to have a right, so I said meekly, “After this turn,” and in a few minutes back we went to Dirk Hatteraick.

But about one thing I was firm. Paget's renewed confidence in the “little chap” could not persuade me to back his opinion for the Railway Stakes, the next race on the card. I said I'd stand out this race. He backed some brute, I forget what, who never came within a hundred yards of it, and then remarked, as if it was for the very first time, “Let's go and see what we can do about Dirk Hatteraick.”

I mournfully submitted, and once more we proceeded to interview the leviathans near the stewards' box.

“Can't touch Dirk Hatteraick,” was his greeting, in pure Hebrew-English. “You might perhaps have got a stray backer at the rooms last night at 100 to 3, but this morning—Lord bless you! the public ain't what they used to be. They know almost as much about it as we do ourselves nowadays.”

“I'll see what I can do for you,” Mr. Paget, said a very gentlemanly-looking young bookmaker.


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“There's no one I'd sooner oblige than you, but I fancy that there must be others like yourself with some Dirk Hatteraick money to lay off. We laid a good many doubles between us in the ring over that dream. If you'll stand somewhere about here, so as to be handy, I'll see what I can do for you.”

Stand somewhere about, and think about Dirk Hatteraick, I suppose. That seemed a lively lookout to meet, but then Paget had a right.

“Hang it all!” I said to myself, “there's one thing I'm not going to do—I'm not going to talk about that blessed horse all the time until somebody takes compassion on him.” And then an idea struck me to try and find out something about the colonies from Paget by way of killing time.

No admirers turned up, so just before three o'clock, the time at which the Railway Stakes were to be run, we trotted back to the stand, where Paget had the honour and glory of seeing the brute he had backed come in absolutely nowhere, and obliged to slacken off because the crowd had begun to encroach upon the course when he came in.

When Paget went down to settle up he began to get rather desperate. So far he had betted on every race and lost on every race, and he hadn't been able to lay off one halfpenny of his Dirk Hatteraick money.

I was growing desperate too. I didn't want to


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be chained to the saddling paddock all the afternoon at my first Melbourne Cup. I am not a betting man, though I like an occasional flutter, and I wanted to see something of the sight, which everyone told me was the sight of Australia. So I said, “I vote we go and have a stroll upon the lawn, before we settle down to business again.”

“Of course, we will, old man. I know it's awfully selfish of me, but I'm so worried about that horse. Dreams are all very well, but the ‘little chap’ who's given me all the tips says he absolutely can't win, that he hasn't a mortal show of being placed, so I must try and do something with the money. However, we'll have a spell on the lawn.”

So off to the lawn we went, and before we had been on it five minutes he had picked up the lady he was engaged to, with his usual, “Just wait here until I come back, old fellow,” and there I was, stranded, while he was pacing her up and down, asking her commiseration for Dirk Hatteraick, I have no doubt.

As I had promised to wait for him, I had nothing on earth to do but stand and look at the people. The men I didn't think dressed up to the occasion, as a body. To be sure there were a fair number in “white bell-toppers” and dust suits, but there were also plenty of tweed jackets, and not a few


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unsightly cheap helmets. Even the gentlemen who had come with ladies were not by any means all of them scrupulously dressed. The “masher” element was conspicuously absent. The idea that would suggest itself to an habitué of Pall-mall would be that all the men had some greater attraction elsewhere. But in spite of their unceremonious dress, on occasions of ceremony I found afterwards that there are not a better lot of fellows living, and the heat of the climate is some excuse for an unstarched appearance. But if the “dandy” element was wanting in the men, the dainty element is found as conspicuously present in the ladies, who rejoiced in a climate whose regularity of sunshine ensured them impunity in airing all manner of delicate and perishable fabrics. Lace parasols, hats with valuable plumes, soft lace, silk dresses of delicate tints, gloves and slippers the daintiest and most perishable, told of their confidence in the dryness of their climate, and their dread of its heat. Although so richly dressed, none of the ladies seemed overdressed, for their light costumes suited the sunshine, and there was an absence of anything garish or inharmonious in their toilettes, and many of the girls were so pretty, with their tall, slim figures, pleasing features, and piquant expressions. Prettiness is certainly very prevalent in Australia, whatever absolute beauty may be.




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Suddenly I heard Paget call me. “Dirk Hatteraick,” again I groaned to myself.

But it wasn't. “Chandos,” he said, “let me introduce you to Miss Audley; I wish you two'd wait about here till I come back. I must go and do something about that horse, and I don't want to miss Miss Audley in the crowd.”

I had no objection, and Miss Audley was willing to waive any delicacy she might have felt in order to oblige her lover during his anxiety. So we waited there on the lawn in front of the stand.

I could not help looking at my charge. She had that beauty well described as pleading. She was very fair, with pale gold hair, and a complexion naturally pale and colourless, but now flushed with excitement. Her features were finely-cut and soft; her eyes almost a forget-me-not blue; and her whole form lily-like in its fragility and slenderness. She was not of the healthy Australian type of beauty, but more of the exotic American type. She was beautifully dressed—richly but quietly, although the fabric was light and bright; distinctly one of the loveliest and most attractive girls on the lawn. I wondered how she would break the ice. But she started off as if there were none to break.

“Is there any chance of any horse beating Dirk Hatteraick?”

If a gentleman had asked me such a question, I


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should have thought he was poking fun at me; and if he wasn't, I should certainly have thought of poking fun at him. However, it was different where one's interlocutor was a lovely girl, and the question asked in perfect bona fides.

I fenced. I said, “I don't think Dirk Hatteraick will win, because Mr. Paget has gone away to bet against him, and he is sure to know.”

This was logic with a woman about her lover, and she seemed fairly satisfied; but she continued very excited, and talking to me as animatedly and unreservedly as if she had known me all her life.

The race drew nearer and nearer, but still no Paget. I asked her what we should do—whether I should take her back to the drag, or what?

“We promised to wait,” she said, “so we must wait; only I think, as we shall miss all the race except the finish, we might edge up to the railings, so as to see the horses fly past and hear the thud of their hoofs.” Again the hush of the bookmakers, followed by the hoarse murmur of the grand stand, told that they had started, and in three minutes and a-half, as poor Gordon wrote—

“They came with the rush of the southern surf
On the bar of the storm-girt bay;
And like muffled drums on the sounding turf
Their hoof-strokes echo away.”

Thud—thud—thud—thud. In front of them all


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flies a bright bay horse, with streaming charger's tail. Dirk Hatteraick is a chestnut, and a chestnut is second; but it is not Dirk Hatteraick. When the numbers go up we read: 1—Martini-Henry; 2—First Water; 3—Commotion. So gallant five-year-old Commotion has carried 10st. 1lb. to a place; but my attention is attracted elsewhere. I feel a daintily-gloved hand on my arm, and a pleading face, pale once more with nervousness, bares its soul before me, and says: “He did bet against Dirk Hatteraick, didn't he?”

“I can only say he went away to, I know.”

How sorry I feel for that girl! It almost sickens me of horse-racing; and then comes along her lover, as white as a sheet himself, but laughing excitedly.

“Did you lay any of that money away?”

“No, I couldn't get rid of a farthing, but I saved my ten pounds at the last minute by taking ten to five about Martini. Still, ten pounds isn't a thousand, is it, Queenie? I wouldn't mind having lost the ten; it isn't that, but when I saw a chestnut second, I thought it was Dirk Hatteraick ‘coming’ just at the last, and believed that I really had won a thousand. Oh, Qucenie, I must give up betting, my nerves can't stand it.”

Ten pounds is a good deal to a girl, and Miss Audley thought it was a great thing that he hadn't


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lost that. In fact, she felt quite relieved, though she sympathised with his not winning his thousand pounds just when he actually seemed to have it within his grasp.

At that moment the “little chap” came along. He was a “gentleman,” and knowing Miss Audley, raised his hat to her, and came towards them with a beaming smile. Paget thought he must have forgotten all about his disappointment—for it was the “little chap” that he had commissioned to back the dream double, Martini-Henry for the Derby and Dirk Hatteraick for the Cup, at a thousand to ten.

“You settle up that tenner with Joe, will you, and I'll send you a cheque,” he said.

“What tenner?” was the reply; “you don't suppose that I was going to let you be such a fool as to touch that brute, Dirk Hatteraick?”

“Then I havn't lost that ten pounds after all, Queenie, so that the ten pounds I won on Martini-Henry is all to the good.”

“Ten pounds!” said the “little chap”—“thousand you mean. I protected you against yourself.”

“What do you mean?” asked Paget, turning deadly pale with excitement. “Don't joke, man; it's too serious a matter.”

“I mean that when I found that Dirk Hatteraick hadn't a show (I made inquiries as soon as you


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asked me to make the bet), I backed the two Martini-Henris for you instead at a thousand to twenty-five, and if your ears can't believe me, let your eyes go and see it in Joe Thompson's book.”

“Then I really have won a thousand pounds?”

“Honour bright.”

“Good——”

Paget was all of a stagger; in another minute he would have fainted. I said to the “little chap,” “Hadn't we better get him a nip of raw whisky?”

“I've got a flask in my pocket,” he replied, whipping it out; and twirling off the top he put it to Paget's lips. Paget took a pull; the raw spirit nipped the back of his throat, and checked the dizziness. Two minutes after he was all right again.

I felt that I had wronged the “little chap” as an authority for tips, and grew quite penitent. Miss Audley did not understand the transaction, or her beautiful lips might have put the “little chap” to the blush with the fervent words of her gratitude.

It is needless to say that Paget did not trouble the paddock any more that day, and I, as I had no one to take me there, was quite content to walk up and down the lawn between the races with the young lady with the violet eyes who had taken compassion on me from the first. For each race


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we climbed on to the top of the drag to watch the horses, and Paget took his hat round to get up the half-a-crown “sweeps” in the most docile manner, after all his diatribes against the practice.

And so the afternoon wore away. To avoid the interminable delay in getting the drag home through the congestion of vehicles which takes place at the end of a day's racing, a deputation of the ladies asked the gentlemen to take them home by train, and let the grooms take the drag home. I was considerably surprised, knowing the kind of thing one would have to expect from an English railway on such an occasion. I hinted my surprise to the young lady with the violet eyes, but she did not see why there should be any difficulty. Nor was there. There are only two classes on the Victorian railways. On race days at Flemington all the first-class carriages are at one end of the train, all the second-class at the other. A barrier right across the platform divides them. A separate entrance gives ingress to each; when the station-master thinks enough people are on the platform to fill the train, he shuts the door, so arranged as to shut easily in spite of the pressure of a large crowd These people are then shipped, the train started; and when a fresh batch of people have been admitted to the platform, a new train is brought alongside, and so on until all the thousands and


  ― 124 ―
thousands have been entrained. There is no crush, no disorder, no scrambling. Ladies in the most delicate and destructible fabrics can go by train without the least fear of their being spoiled. A short run brought us to Melbourne, where we made our exit from the station just as easily and comfortably, and then, after seeing the rest of the party into their cabs, I bade good-bye, and took a hansom out to Government House to dress.

That night, I learned afterwards, Paget and Miss Audley devoted to ecstasy and the wildest castle-building; and next day he went to her father, and stating that he was now in a position to furnish a house, asked for the paternal consent to their early marriage. The “little chap” had given him a cheque for £1000, saying that he would get the money himself on settling day if Paget gave him his order on “Joe” for the amount. Paget was thus enabled to show Mr. Audley his bank-book as evidence. Of course, neither he nor Miss Audley let out to the old gentleman where the money came from. He had already, imagining it to be a mere farce that would never be claimed, given his permission for their marriage, on condition of the furniture being forthcoming. So all he could do was to submit, which he did with good grace, a good dowry, and a good big cheque for a wedding present to give them an impetus at their start.


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When I come down to Melbourne for the spring races the Pagets always have a bedroom for me, and lovely Mrs. Paget, with her pleading face, is only as much less cordial than her husband as delicacy demands. Both feel that a barrier is broken down between us by my participation in the climax of their drama.

Paget, as befits a man who won his coup by the wise disobedience of his agent, has left off dabbling in the ring, and when he goes to the races, is quite content with paying his devoirs to the wife he idolises. I am unregenerate; I always go to the races with the “little chap,” and when he says plunge, I plunge, and I make money because I am wise enough to own to myself that I am an absolute duffer in betting, and don't know one horse from another without its jockey.

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