Bred In The Bone by Thomas Nelson Page
BRED IN THE BONE
By Thomas Nelson Page
Charles Scribner's Sons New York, 1908
Copyright, 1891, 1904, 1906
It was the afternoon before the closing day of the spring meeting of
the old Jockey Club that so many people know. The next day was to be
the greatest ever known on that course; the Spring Meeting was to go
out in a blaze of glory. As to this everybody in sight this spring
afternoon was agreed; and the motley crowd that a little before sunset
stood clustered within the big white-painted gate of the grounds about
the Jockey Club race-stables rarely agreed as to anything. From the
existence of the Deity to the effect of a blister on a windgall,
through the whole range of stable-thought and horse-talk, there was no
subject, speaking generally, on which that mongrel population agreed,
except, of course, on one thingthe universal desirability of whiskey.
On this one subject they all agreed, always.
Yet they were now all of one mind on the fact that the next day was
to be the record on that course. In the first place, the prize in the
great over-night event, the steeplechase set for the morrow, was the
biggest ever offered by the club, and the cracks drawn together for
the occasion were the best ever collected at a meeting on that course.
Even such noted steeplechasers as Mr. Galloper's Swallow, Colonel
Snowden's Hurricane, and Tim Rickett's Carrier Pigeon, which had
international reputations, were on hand for it, and had been sent over
the sticks every morning for a week in hopes of carrying off such a
There was, however, one other reason for the unwonted unanimity. Old
Man RobinCol-onel-Theodoric-Johnston's-Robin-suhsaid it was to be
the biggest day that was ever seen on that track, and in the memory of
the oldest stable-boss old Robin had never admitted that any race of
the present could be as great, within a thousand miles, as the races
he used to attend befo' de wah, when hosses ran all de way from
Philidelphy to New Orleans. Evil-minded stable-men and boys who had no
mindsonly evillaid snares and trapfalls for Colonel Theodoric
Johnston's Robin, of Bull-field, suh, as he loved to style himself, to
trip him and inveigle him into admissions that something was as good
now as before the war; but they had never succeeded. The gang had
followed him to the gate, where he had been going off and on all the
afternoon, and were at their mischief now while he was looking somewhat
anxiously out up the parched and yellow dusty road.
Well, I guess freedom 's better 'n befo' d' wah? hazarded one of
his tormentors, a hatchet-faced, yellow stable-boy with a loud, sharp
voice. He burst into a strident guffaw.
Maybe, you does, growled Robin. He edged off, rubbing his ear.
Befo' de wah you 'd be mindin' hawgswhat you ought to be doin' now,
stidder losin' races an' spilin' somebody's hosses, mekin' out you kin
ride. A shout of approving derision greeted this retort.
Old Robin was a man of note on that circuit. It was the canon of
that crowd to boast one's self better than everyone else in everything,
but Robin was allowed to be second only to the speaker and the superior
of everyone else with a unanimity which had its precedent only after
Robin had been head of Colonel Theodoric Johnston's stable before
the war, the time on which his mind dwelt with tender memory; and this,
with the consideration with which he was treated by stable-owners and
racing-gentlemen who shone like luminaries on the far edge of the
stable-boys' horizon, and the old man's undoubted knowledge of a horse,
made him an authority in that world.
The Bullfield stable had produced some of the greatest horses of the
countryhorses to which the most ignorant stable-biped knew the great
winners of the present traced back their descent or were close
akinand if Colonel Johnston's stable lost anything of prestige, it
was not in Robin's telling of it. He was at it now as he stood at the
big white gate, gazing up the road, over which hung a haze of dust.
Deucalion, Old Nina, Planet, Fanny Washington, and the whole gleaming
array of fliers went by in Robin's illumined speech, mixed up with
Revenue, Boston, Timoleon, Sir Archy and a dozen others in a blaze of
Aw, what 're you giffin us! jeered a dusky young mulatto, clad in
a ragged striped sweater, recently discharged as a stable-boy. What
wus the time then? Why 'n't you read the book?
This was a dig at Robin, for he was no great hand at reading, and
the crowd knew it and laughed. The old man turned on the speaker.
Races now ain't no mo' than quarter-dashes. Let 'em try 'em in
fo'-mile heats if they want to see what 's in a hoss. Dat 's the test
o' wind an' bottom. Our hosses used to run fo'-mile heats from
New York to New Orleans, an' come in with their heads up high enough to
look over dis gate.
Why 'n't you read the books? persisted the other, facing him.
I can't read not much better than you ken ride, retorted
Robin. This was a crusher in that company, where riding stood high
above any literary attainment; for the other had been a failure as a
He tried to rally.
I 'll bet you a hundred dollars I can
Robin gazed at him witheringly.
You ain' got a hunderd dollars; you ain't got a hunderd cents! You
would n't 'a' been wuth a hunderd dollars in slave-times, an' I know
you ain' wuth it now.
The old man, with a final observation that he did n't want to have
to go to court as a witness when folks were taken up for stealing their
master's money, took out and consulted his big gold stop-watch. That
was his conclusive and clinching argument. It was surprising what an
influence that watch exercised. Everyone who knew Robin knew that watch
had been given him before the war as a testimonial by the stewards of
the Jockey Club. It had the indisputable record engraved on the case,
and had been held over the greatest race-horses of the country. Robin
could go up to the front door of the club and ask for the presidenthe
possessed this exclusive privilegeand be received with an open hand
and a smile, and dismissed with a jest. Had not Major McDowell met him,
and introduced him to a duke as one of his oldest friends on the turf,
and one who could give the duke more interesting information about the
horses of the past than any other man he knew? Did not Colonel Clark
always shake hands with him when they met, and compare watches? So now,
when, as the throng of horse-boys and stable-attendants stood about
him, Robin drew his watch and consulted it, it concluded his argument
and left him the victor. The old trainer himself, however, was somewhat
disturbed, and once more he gazed up the road anxiously. The ground on
which he had predicted the greatness of the next day was not that the
noted horses already present were entered for the race, but much more
because he had received a letter from one whom he sometimes spoke of as
one of his childern, and sometimes as one of his young mastersa
grandson of his old master, Colonel Theodoric Johnston of
Bullfieldtelling him that he was going to bring one of his horses, a
colt his grandfather had given him, and try for the big steeplechase
Old Robin had arranged the whole matter for him, and was now
awaiting him, for he had written that he could not get there until late
in the day before the race, as he had to travel by road from the old
Though old Robin let no one know of his uneasiness, he was watching
now with great anxiety, for the sun was sinking down the western sky
toward the green bank of trees beyond the turn into the home stretch,
and in an hour more the entries would be closed.
While he waited he beguiled the time with stories about his old
master's stable, and about the equine stars that shone in the
pedigree of this horse.
Colonel Johnston's fortune had gone down with the close of the war,
and when his stable was broken up he had recommended his old trainer to
one of his friends and had placed him with a more fortunate employer.
Robin had not seen his old master's grandson for yearsnot since he
was a little boy, when Robin had left homeand he pictured him as a
dashing and handsome young gentleman, such as he remembered his father
before him. As to the horse, not Sir Archy himself had been greater.
Robin talked as though he had had the handling of him ever since he was
dropped; and he ran over a pedigree that made the boys about him open
their wicked eyes.
Just then a stable-boy discerned out on the highway across the field
a rider, coming along at a swinging trot that raised the dust and shot
it in spurts before him.
Yonder he come now! cried the urchin, with a grimace to attract
the attention of the crowd. They looked in the direction indicated, and
then in' chorus began to shout. Old Robin turned and glanced
indifferently down the road. The next instant he wheeled and his black
hand made a clutch at the boy, who dodged behind half a dozen others as
a shout of derisive laughter went up from the throng. What Robin saw
was only a country lad jogging along on a big raw-boned, blazed-faced
horse, whose hipbones could be seen even at that distance.
You know dat ain't my horse! said the old man, sharply. You young
boys is gittin' too free with you' moufs! Dat horse
The rest of his speech, however, was lost; for at that moment the
horseman turned from the highway into the road to the race-course and
came swinging on toward the gate. The gang behind old Robin broke into
renewed jeers, but at the same time kept well out of his reach; for the
old man's face bore a look that no one dared trifle with, and he had a
heavy hand on occasion, as many of them had come to know. His eyes now
were fastened on the horse that was rapidly approaching through a cloud
of dust on the yellow road, and a look of wonder was growing on his
The rider pulled rein and drew up just outside the open gate,
looking down on the group there in some bewilderment Then his eyes
lighted up, as the old trainer stepped out and, taking off his hat, put
forth his hand.
My young master. He took the bridle just as he might have done
years before had his old master ridden up to the gate.
The act impressed the gang behind him as few things could have done,
and though they nudged one another, they fell back and huddled together
rather farther away, and only whispered their ridicule among
The boy sprang from the saddle, and the old man took possession of
They were a strange-looking pair, horse and rider, fresh from the
country, both of them dusty and travel-stained, and, as the stable-boys
whispered among themselves, both starving for the curry-comb.
The lad passed in at the gate, whipping the dust from his clothes
with the switch he carried.
Robin glared back fiercely to see that no insolent response was
made, but there was no danger. The voice and manner were such that many
a hand jerked up to a cap. Besides, the young lad, though his clothes
were old and travel-stained, and his hair was long and was powdered
with dust, showed a clean-cut face, a straight back, broad shoulders,
and muscular legs, as he strode by with a swing which many a stable-boy
Robin led the horse away around the end of the nearest stable. No
one would have known his feelings, for he kept a severe countenance,
and broke out on the nearest stable-boy with fierce invective for not
getting out of his way.
The horse carried his head high, and, with pointed ears, wide eyes,
and dilated nostrils, inspected everything on either side.
It was only when the new-comer and Robin were out of hearing that
the jeers broke out aloud, and even then several of the on-lookers,
noting the breeding along with the powerful muscles and flat bone,
asserted that it was a good horse, all the same. They had eyes for a
As the old trainer led the horse away around the long stables, the
low rumble of far-off thunder grumbled along the western horizonRobin
glanced in that direction. It might mean a change in the chances of
every horse that was to run next day. The old man looked downcast; the
boy's countenance cleared up. He scanned the sky long and earnestly
where a dull cloud was stretching across the west; then he followed the
horse among the long lines of low buildings with a quickened step.
It was not till they had reached a box-stall in an old building far
off in one corner of the grounds that the old negro stopped. When he
had been expecting another horsethe horse of which he had boasted to
his entire acquaintancehe had engaged in advance a box in one of the
big, new stables, where the descendant of the kings would be in royal
and fitting company. He could not bring himself now to face, with this
raw-boned, sunburnt colt, the derisive scrutiny of the men who had
heard him bragging for a week of what his young master would show them
when he came. Yet it was more on his young master's account than on his
own that he now slunk away to this far-off corner. He remembered his
old master, the king of the turf, the model of a fine gentleman, the
leader of men; whose graciousness and princely hospitality were in all
mouths; whose word was law; whose name no one mentioned but with
He remembered his young master as he rode away to the war on one of
the thoroughbreds, a matchless rider on a matchless horse. How could he
now allow their grandson and son, in this rusty suit, with this rusty
colt at which the stable-boys jeered, to match himself against the
finest men and horses in the country? He must keep him from entering
But as the old fellow stopped before the stall and glanced at the
horse he had been leading, his face changed. It took on the first look
of interest it had worn since the horse had appeared on the road in a
cloud of dust. He was standing now directly in front of him. His eyes
opened. The deep chest, the straight, clean legs with muscles standing
out on the forearms in big knots, the fine head with its broad, full
brow, its wide eyes full of life and intelligence, the delicate muzzle,
suddenly caught his eye. He took a step to one side, and scanned the
horse from top to hoof, and his face lighted up. Another step, and he
ran his hand over him, up and down, from topknot to fetlock, from crest
to croup. At every touch his eyes opened wider.
Umhm! He hard as a rock! He was talking aloud, but to himself. He
's got de barrel to stay, an' he leg jes as clean as a pin!
It was the first word of praise he had vouchsafed. The young owner's
face lighted up. He had felt the old man's disappointment, and his
heart had been sinking. It was lifted now.
What you say he pedigree?
I know. Dat 's de blood! Imported LeamingtonFanny Wash'n' by
Revenue! He 'll do. Hit 's bred in de bone!
Did you ever see such bone? the boy asked, running his hand over
the big knee-joint.
The old trainer made no answer. He glanced furtively around to see
that no one heard the question. Then he went on feeling the horse, inch
by inch. Every muscle and sinew he ran his hand over, and each moment
his face cleared up more and more. He ain' nothin' but rock! he said,
straightening up. Walk him off dyah, sonwith a wave of his hand
It was as if he were speaking to a stable-boy. He had now forgotten
all but the horse, but the young man understood.
He took the bridle, but the horse did not wait. At the first step he
was up with him, with a long, swinging stride as springy as if he were
made of rubber, keeping his muzzle close to his master's shoulder, and
never tightening his rein. Now and then he threw up his head and gazed
far over beyond the whitewashed fence toward a horse galloping away off
on the curving track, as if there were where his interest lay.
Straight as a plank, muttered the old trainer, with a toss of his
head. 'Minds me o' Planet. Got de quarters on him.Bring him back!
As the young man returned, the older one asked, Can he run?
Run! Want to see him move!
Without waiting for an answer, he vaulted into the saddle and began
to gather up the reins. The horse lifted his head and gathered himself
together, but he did not move from his tracks.
Wait. How far is you come to-day? demanded Robin.
About forty miles. I took it easy. He turned the horse's head.
The old man gave an exclamation, part oath, part entreaty, and
grabbed for the reins just as the boy was turning toward the track,
where a whitewashed board fence stood over four feet high.
Waitwhar you gwine! Forty mile! Whar you gwine? Wait!
Over into the track. That fence is nothing.
He settled himself in the saddle, and the horse threw up his head
and drew himself together. But old Robin was too quick for him. He
clutched the rider by the leg with one hand at the same time that he
seized the bridle with the other.
Git off him; git off him! Without letting go the bridle, he half
lifted the boy from the saddle.
That won't hurt him, Uncle Robin. He 's used to it. That fence is
Gi' me dis hoss dis minute. Forty mile, an' 'spec' to run
to-morrow! Gi' me dis hoss dis minute, boy.
The young owner yielded with a laugh, and the old trainer took
possession of the horse, and led him on, stopping every now and then to
run his hand over his sinewy neck and forelegs, and grumbling to
himself over the rashness of youth.
Jes like he pa, he muttered. Never could teach him to tek keer o'
a hoss. Think all a hoss got to do is to run! Forty mile, an' want to
put him at a five-foot fence when he cold as a wedge!
When he was inside the stable his manner changed. His coat was off
in an instant, and no stable-boy could have been more active. He set
about grooming the horse with the enthusiasm of a boy, and the horse
after the first inquisitive investigation of his new attendant, made
with eye and nose, gave himself up to his care. The young owner did the
same, only watching him closely to learn the art of grooming from a
past-master of the craft.
It was the first time in years that Robin had played hostler; and it
was the first time in his life that that horse had ever had such a
grooming. Every art known to the professor of the science was applied.
Every muscle was rubbed, every sinew was soothed. And from time to
time, as at touch of the iron muscles and steel sinews the old fellow's
ardor increased, he would straighten up and give a loud puff of
Umph! Ef I jist had about a week wid him, I 'd show 'em som'n'! he
declared. Imported Learn
He don't need any time. He can beat anything in this country,
asserted the owner from his perch on a horse-bucket.
You ain' see 'em all, said Robin, dryly, as he bent once more to
his work. An' it 's goin' to rain, too, he added, as the rumble of
thunder came up louder from the westward.
That 's what I am hoping for, said the other. He 's used to mud.
I have ridden him in it after cattle many a day. He can out-gallop any
horse in the State in mud.
Robin looked at the young man keenly. He showed more shrewdness than
he had given him credit for.
Kin he jump in mud? he demanded.
He can jump in anything. He can fly. If you just had let me take
him over those fences
Robin changed the subject:
What 's his name? I got to go an' enter him.
The boy told him. The old man's countenance changed, but the other
did not see it. He was busy getting a roll of billsby no means a
large onefrom his pocket.
How much is it? I have the money all right. He proudly unrolled
the money, mostly dollar bills. The old negro took the roll and counted
the money slowly.
Is dis? he began, but stopped. After a minute's thought he
went over them again.
Heah. He took out about half the money, and handed the rest back.
Wait. I 'll tend to it. He reached for his coat. Don't you do
nuttin' to him while I 'm gone, an' don't you lef' him, not a minute.
He put on his coat and went out.
His path led out from among the stables to the wing of one of the
buildings where the superintendent and his staff had their offices.
Here a colloquy took place between Robin and the cigar-smoking,
dark-skinned clerk in charge, and then Robin left and paid a visit to
another kind of officialan official on the main road, just outside
the grounds, who kept an establishment which was divided into two
departments. One was dignified by the word Café painted in black
letters on the white ground of the painted pane, though on the door was
the simple American word Bar. Over the door of the other was an
attempt to portray three gilded balls. The proprietor of this
bifurcated establishment, a man with red hair, a low forehead, a broad
chin, and brawny shoulders, a long lip and long arms, rejoiced in the
name of Nicholas Crimins, though by most of his customers he was
irreverently called by a diminutive of that name. The principal part of
his business undoubtedly came from the side of the establishment with
the short name; but it was known to the stable-fraternity that on
occasion Old Nick would make an advance to a needy borrower who was
down on his luck of at least fifteen per cent, of almost any
article's value. Saddles, bridles, watches, pistols, scarf-pins, and
all the indiscriminate belongings of a race-track population were to be
found in his store. And it was said that he had even been known to
take over a stable when the owner found it necessary to leave the State
on exceptionally short notice.
Into this odorous establishment old Robin now went and had a brief
interview with the proprietor, whose surprise at the old trainer's
proposition was unfeigned. As he knew Robin was not a gambler, the
money-lender could set down his request to only one of two causes:
either he had lost on a race that day, or he had points which made
him willing to put up all he could raise on a horse next day. He tried
him on the first.
Had bad luck to-day? I lost a pile myself, he began insinuatingly.
Thim scoundrels 'll bate ivery horse they say a man look at. It 's a
Nor, I did n 't lay a dollar on a hoss to-day, declared Robin. He
It was not that, reflected Mr. Crimins. Then it must be the other.
Robin's look decided him.
Any news! he asked confidentially, leaning forward and dropping
his husky voice. This meant, generally, had he heard of anything likely
to change the chances of next day's race.
Urwho 's goin' to win the steep'!
Robin looked wiser.
Wellthe' may be some surprises tomorrow. You keep your eyes open.
Dese heah Yankee hosses don' always have dey own way
I try to, but thim sheenies! Tell me what you know? His voice was
a cajoling whisper now. They says Hurricane'sor is it Swallow's!
He was looking with exaggerated interest at something in his hand,
waiting in hopes that Robin would take up the sentence and complete it.
Robin chuckled, and the chuckle was worth what he wanted.
Swallow 's too fat; Hurricane 's good, but it 's muscle an' wind
an' de blood what tells in de last mileblood an' bottom. You keep yer
eye on a dark hoss. Gi' me meh money.
The loan-broker still held on to the notes, partly from force of
habit, while he asked: Who 's a-ridin' him!
But Robin reached for the bills and got them.
Somebody as knows how to ride, he said, oracularly. You 'll see
As he turned away the lender muttered an oath of disappointment The
next moment he examined something curiously. Then he put it to his ear,
and then in his pocket with a look of deep satisfaction.
Well, I 'll make this anyhow.
When Robin came out of the shop, for the first time in twenty years
he was without his big gold watch. He passed back by the secretary's
office, and paid down the sum necessary to enter a horse in the next
day's steeplechase. The clerk looked toward the door.
Don't you know the sun is down?
De sun down! 'Tain't nothin' but de cloud. De sun 's a quarter of a
hour high. Robin walked to the door.
What time is it by your watch?
Hit 's edzactly seven His back was to the official.
Humph! grunted the clerk. Don't you know
the sun sets at ten minutes to seven!
lackin ' sixteen minutes forty-two seconds and a quarter,
pursued Robin, with head bent as if he were looking at a watch.
Oh, you be hanged! Your old watch is always slow.
My watch? Dis heah watch? He turned, buttoning his coat carefully.
You know whar dis watch come f'om? He pressed his hand to his side
and held it there.
Yes, I know. Give me your money. It will help swell Carrier
Pigeon's pile to-morrow.
Not unless he can fly, said Robin.
What 's his name! The clerk had picked up his pen.
Robin scratched his head in perplexity.
Le' me see. I 'mos' forgit. Oh, yes. He gave the name.
What! Call him 'J. D.'?
Yes, dat 'll do.
So, the horse was entered as J. D.
As Robin stepped out of the door the first big drops of rain were
just spattering down on the steps from the dark cloud that now covered
all the western sky, and before he reached the stable it was pouring.
As he entered the stall the young owner was on his knees in a
corner, and before him was an open portmanteau from which he was taking
something that made the old man's eyes glisten: an old jacket of faded
orange-yellow silk, and a blue capthe old Bullfield colors, that had
once been known on every course in the country, and had often led the
Robin gave an exclamation.
Le' me see dat thing! He seized the jacket and held it up.
Lord, Lord! I 's glad to see it, he said. I ain' see it for so
long. It 's like home. Whar did you git dis thing, son! I 'd jest like
to see it once mo' come home leadin' de field.
Well, you shall see it doing that to-morrow, said the young
fellow, boastfully, his face alight with pleasure.
I declar' I 'd gi' my watch to see it.
He stopped short as his hand went to his side where the big gold
timepiece had so long reposed, and he took it away with a sudden sense
of loss. This, however, was but for a second. In a moment the old
trainer was back in the past, telling his young master of the glories
of the old stablewhat races it had run and what stakes it had won.
The storm passed during the night, and the sun rose next morning
clear and bright. One horse, at least, that was entered for the big
race was well cared for. Robin had slept in his stall, and his young
master had had his room. They had become great friends, and the young
man had told the old trainer of his hopes. If he won he would have
enough to send his sister off to school in the city, and he would go to
college. Robin had entered into it heart and soul, and had given the
boy all the advice he could hold.
Robin was up by light, looking after the horse; and the young owner,
after waiting long enough to take another lesson in the proper handling
of a horse about to run, excused himself, and, leaving the horse with
the old trainer, went out, he said, to exercise for his wind. This
was a long walk; but the young rider's walk took him now, not along the
track or the road, but along the steeplechase course, marked by the
hurdles; and though the ground was wet and soggy on the flat, and in
some places the water still stood, he appeared not to mind it in the
least. So far from avoiding the pools, he plunged straight through
them, walking backward and forward, testing the ground, and at every
jump he made a particular examination.
When he returned to the stable he was as wet as a drowned rat, but
he looked well satisfied, and the old trainer, after he had talked with
him a few minutes, was satisfied also.
Dat boy 's he gran'pa's gran'chile, he muttered, well pleased with
The crowd that assembled at the course that afternoon was enough to
fill the hearts of the management with joy, if a management has hearts.
When the first race was called, the stands and paddocks were already
filled, and the road was crowded with vehicles as far as the eye could
see. The club and club-paddock filled later, as is the way with
fashionable folk; but when the second race was called, these, too, were
packed, and they looked, with the gay dresses of the throng that filled
every foot of space, like great banks of flowers, while the noise that
floated ont sounded like the hum of a vast swarm of bees.
The great race of the day was the fourth on the programme, and all
minds were fastened on it, the interest in the other races being merely
Before the big event the paddock was thronged with those who came to
see the horses. A curious crowd they werestout men, heavy-jawed and
coarse-lipped; thin men, sharp-eyed and fox-faced; small, keen men,
evil-looking boys, and round-faced, jovial-looking fellowsall stamped
with horse. Among these mingled refined-looking gentlemen and
fashionably dressed ladies.
Even under their blankets the horses were a fine-looking lot.
Among the crowd was a group of which the center was a young and very
pretty girl. A simple white gown became her youth and freshness, and a
large white hat with a long white ostrich-feather curled over the brim,
shading her piquant face, added to her charm. A few pink roses fastened
in her dress were the only color about her, except the roses in her
cheeks. Most of those with her were men considerably older than
herself. They appeared, rather, friends of her father, Colonel Ashland,
a distinguished-looking gentleman, known to turfmen as the owner of one
of the best stock-farms in the country. He loved horses, but never
talked of them. The young lady had just left school, and had never seen
a steeplechase before, and her eagerness kept her companions in
continual merriment. They were bantering her to bet, which she had as
yet refused to do. All were deeply interested in the race. Indeed, two
of the gentlemen with Colonel Ashland, Colonel Snowden and Mr.
Galloper, had horses entered in the steeplechase; and as they examined
the horses and made observations on them apt as a proverb, many of the
bystanders strained their ears to catch their words, in hopes of
getting a few last points on which to lay their bets.
Hurricane, a medium-sized bay, was next to the favorite; but
Swallow, a big-boned sorrel, was on his form going up in the betting,
and Mr. Galloper was in fine spirits. He was bantering his friend for
odds that his big chestnut with the cherry colors would not beat the
Presently in the round came, led by an elderly negro, whose face
wore a look portentous of mystery, a big horse covered with a sheet. A
set of clean legs appeared below the sheet, and the head set on the
long, muscular neck was fine enough for a model.
What horse is that? asked one of the gentlemen. It was the same
question that many were asking as the horse walked with a long, easy
swing, as quiet, yet as much at home, as if he were in his own
Hello! that must be the new entry'J. D.,' said Colonel Snowden,
pushing forward to get a good look at him.
Whose horse is this, Robin? enquired Colonel Ashland.
The old fellow touched his hat.
Dis is Mr. Johnstone hoss, suh. He spoke with pride.
Not a very distinguished name, laughed one of the others, Mr.
Newby, a youngish man dressed in the latest race-course style. He wore
bits and stirrups as pins and fobs, owned a few horses, and talked
Old Robin sniffed disdainfully.
Oh, it may be, said the young girl, turning her eyes on him with a
little flash. She saw that the old darkey had caught the words.
What Mr. Johnston is it, uncle? she asked, kindly, with a step
Mr. Theod'ric Johnston, madam. He spoke with pride.
What! Colonel Theodoric Johnston? Is he living still? asked
Colonel Ashland. I thought heHow is he?
Oh, nor, suh! He 's dead. He died about three years ago. Dis
gent'man is the gran'sonone o' my young masters. I was the fust
pusson ever put him on a hoss.
Can he ride?
Kin he ride! You wait an' see him, laughed the old man. He ought
to be able to ride! Ken a bud fly? Heah he now.
He turned as the young owner, brown and tanned, and hardly more than
a boy, came up through the crowd. He, like his horse, had been
carefully groomed, and through his sun tan he bore a look of
distinction. He was dressed for the race, but wore a coat over his
faded silk jacket. As he turned and found Robin talking to a lady, his
cap came off instinctively. The men looked at him scrutinizingly.
Are you Colonel Theodoric Johnston's grandson? enquired Colonel
Snowden. He used to have some fine horses.
Yes, sir. His eye stole to the horse that was just beside him, and
the color mounted to his cheek.
And he was a fine man. The turf lost one of its best ornaments when
he retired. Colonel Ashland was the speaker.
Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. His cap was in his hand, his words and
manner were respectful, but when he spoke he looked the other in the
eyes, and his eyes, though shy, were clear and calm.
We were just admiring your horse, said the young lady, graciously.
He turned and looked at her with the color flashing up in his tanned
Thank you. I am glad if he meets with your approval. He ended his
formal little speech with a quaint, slow bow. I wish he were worthier
Oh, I am sure he is, she said, politely. At least, you have our
good wishes. Her eye fell on one of her companions. Has n't he, Mr.
The latter only looked at the younger man and grunted.
Well, at least you have mine, she said, with an air of bravado.
Thank you. I 'll try to deserve them.
Dat young lady knows a hoss, asserted old Robin, triumphantly.
Jes look at him, dyah. What bone an' muscle! He raised the sheet and
waved his dusky hand towards his charge.
Yes, that 's what I say. Such bone and muscle! she repeated, with
Especially the bone! observed Mr. Newby, in a low tone.
I shall back him, she said. She held in her hand a rose which had
broken off its stem. She took it and stuck it in a loop in the sheet.
Just then the first bell sounded, and the hostlers began to get the
horses ready to appear before the judges, while the riders went off to
weigh in, and the crowd began to stream back to the stands. As the
group turned away, the young owner took the rose from the loop and,
with a shy look around, hid it in the breast of his jacket. His eye
followed the white hat till it passed out of the paddock gate.
Do you really think that horse can win? asked Mr. Newby of the
young lady, as they strolled along. Because I tell you he can't. I
thought you were a sport. Why, look at his hocks! He won't get over the
I shall back him, said she. What is the Liverpool?
Here, I 'll tell you what I 'll do, said Mr. Newby. I 'll bet you
two to one he does n't win the race. He winked at the others.
Very well. I don't approve of betting, but I 'll do it this time
just to punish you.
Now I 'll bet you two to one he does n't come in secondthat boy
won't get him over the water-jump.
Very wellno, I don't want to take odds. I 'll bet you even. I
must be a sport.
The other protested, while the rest of the party looked on with
Oh, well, if you insist, said Mr. Newby. What shall it be?
A box of the best
Of the best cigars!
No; I don't smoke. Candy.
Oh, you expect to win!
Of course. Who ever saw such bone and muscle!
They reached their places in the box, smiling and bowing to their
acquaintances about them.
As soon as they were settled, the young lady picked up a paper lying
by, and began to search diligently for the name of her horse.
Ah, here it is! She began to read. It was a column of forecasts.
Tell me, please, what does '100 to 1' mean!
That the horse is selling at that.
Selling? What does that meant
There was an explosion of laughter from those about her. They
Oh, what cheats men are! she exclaimed with conviction.
Come, I 'll let you off if you ask quarter, laughed Mr. Newby. No
horse can jump with knees as big as that.
Never! I 'll back him to the end, she declared. Oh, there he is
now! There is his yellow jacket, she added, as the buzz grew louder
about them, and glasses were levelled at the horses as they filed by
spirited and springy on their way to the starting-point some furlongs
down the course. No one else appeared to be looking at the big brown.
But his rider was scanning the boxes till his eye rested on a big hat
with a white feather; then he sat up very straight.
Two of the gentlemen came up from the paddock. Colonel Snowden had
the horse that was next to the favorite. They were now talking over the
Well, what are you going to do? How do you stand? his friends
A good chance to win. I don't know what that new horse can do, of
course; but I should not think he could beat Hurricane.
Of course he cannot, said Mr. Newby. Ridden by a green country
He has some good points and has a fine pedigree.
Mr. Newby raised his eyebrows. So has his rider; but pedigrees
don't count in rides.
I never could understand why blood should count in horses and not
in men, said Miss Ashland, placidly. Oh, I hope he 'll win! she
exclaimed, turning her eager face and glancing back at the gentlemen
over her shoulder.
Well, I like that! laughed Colonel Snowden. With all that money
on the race! I thought you were backing Hurricane?
Oh, but he hasn't anybody to back him, she protested. No; I sha
'nt back Hurricane. I shall back him.
Which? The horse or the rider?
The horseno, both! she declared, firmly. And oh, papa, she
exclaimed, glancing back at him over her shoulder, they say he wants
to win to send his sister to school and to go to college himself.
Well, I must say you seem to have learned a good deal about him for
the time you had.
She nodded brightly. That 's what the old colored man told a friend
If he does n't go to college till he wins with that horse, said
Mr. Newby, he is likely to find his education abbreviated.
I shall back him, anyhow. She settled herself in her seat.
Here, I 'll tell you what I will do. I will bet you he don't get a
place, said Mr. Newby.
How much? What is a 'place'? she asked.
It was explained to her.
How mucha hundred to one!
No; not that!
You 're learning, laughed her friends.
There! they 're off. Here they come! buzzed the crowd, as the flag
at last fell, and they came up the field, a dozen in all, two in the
lead, then a half-dozen together in a bunch, and two or three behind,
one in the rear of all. Old Robin's heart dropped as the cry went up:
The countryman 's left. It 's yellow-jacket! It was too far off for
him to see clearly, but the laughter about him was enough.
That boy don't know how to ride. What did they put him in for?
A minute later, however, the tone changed. The country boy was
coming up, and was holding his horse in, too. The riders were settling
themselves and spreading out, getting their horses in hand for the long
In fact, the old trainer's last piece of advice to his young pupil
was worthy of a Delphic track,
Don' let 'em lef you; but don't let 'em wind you. Don't git so far
behind 't folks 'll think you 's ridin' in de next race; but save him
for de last half-mile. You 'll have plenty o' room den to let him out,
an' de track 's mighty heavy. Watch Hurricane an' Fightin' Creek. Keep
nigh 'em, but save him, an' look out for de Liverpool.
It was on this advice that the young rider was acting, and though he
was in the rear at the start he did not mind it. He saw that two or
three riders were trying to set the pace to kill off the other horses,
and he held his horse in, picking his ground.
So they passed two or three fences, the horses in the same order,
and came toward the water-jump in front of the stands. It was a
temptation to rush for it, for the safest chance was in front, and the
eyes of thousands were on them. Some of the riders did rush, and the
leaders got over it well; but in the bunch two horses struck and went
down, one going over and turning a complete somersault on the other
side, the other from a false take-off falling back on the near side,
with his rider almost under him, immediately in front of young
Johnston's horse. Whether it was the fall of the two horses with the
splash of the water in the ditch beyond, or whether it was the sudden
twitch that Johnston gave his bridle to turn the brown as the horse and
rider rolled almost immediately before him, or whether it was all these
taken together, the brown horse swerved and refused turning entirely
back, while the rest of the field swept on. The other horses and riders
had scrambled to their feet, and the mind of the crowd was relieved.
They broke into a great shout of laughter as the rider of the brown
deliberately rode the horse back.
You are going the wrong way!
He 's going to meet 'em! they shouted, derisively.
Even the gentlemen about the young girl of the white hat in the club
box who had backed the brown horse could not help joining in.
Now, Miss Catherine, where are you? asked Mr. Newby. Will you
allow that I can pick a horse better than you? If so, I 'll let you
He pulled him out to avoid striking those other men, declared the
girl, warmly. I saw him.
Oh, nonsense! Who ever heard of a man pulling out in a steeplechase
to avoid striking another horse? I have heard of a man pulling out to
avoid killing his own horse; but that boy pulled out because his horse
refused. That horse had more sense than he. He knew he could n't take
it. Hello! what 's he doing? For young Johnston, his face set hard,
had turned his horse and headed him again toward the jump. At that
moment the other horses were rising the slope on top of which was the
next jump, and the brown caught sight of them. He had appeared till now
a little bewildered; but the effect was electrical. His head went up,
his ears went forward; a sudden fury seemed to seize him, and he shot
forward like a rocket, while the crowd on the other side of the track
hooted in derision.
By Jove! He 'll go down if he rushes like that, cried the men in
the box. But he did not. He hardly appeared to see the fence before him
any more than he heard the jeers of the crowd. With high head and
pointed ears, he dashed at it, taking it in his stride, and clearing it
with a mighty bound.
The crowd in the stands, carried away, burst into a storm of
applause, and the gentlemen about the young girl of the big white hat
clapped their hands.
Old Robin, down in the paddock, was shouting and talking volubly to
a crowd of strangers.
He 's a jumper! He 's got de pedigree. Dat 's blood. You ain' see
my old master's hosses befo'.
Your old master's horses! growled a gruff voice behind him. You
made me lose fifty dollars on yer blanked horse wid yer blanked lies.
You 'll pay it back or yer won't see that watch ag'in.
Robin glanced at the angry pawnbroker, but he did not have time to
argue then. The horse galloping up the long slope before the stables
engrossed his attention. He simply edged away from his reviler, who
went off to hedge his bets, if possible.
He 's a good horse, but he 's out of the race, said one of the
gentlemen who had been bantering Miss Ashland.
Yes, but he never had a chancea mere flash. You can't expect a
common pick-up to run against a field like that.
Mr. Newby turned back to the girl, who was leaning forward watching
the horse going over the hill.
Well, Miss Catherine, ready to ask terms yet?
No; was n't that the water-jump!
Yes; but he has got to go over it again. Come, I 'll bet you twenty
to one he does n't win.
Now I 'll bet you a hundred and twenty to one he does n't get a
Now I 'll even things up, and bet you he does n't come in
Done! said the girl, turning on him with a sudden flash. He shall
come in, if I have to go down there and ride him in myself.
An exclamation from one of the others broke in on this banter:
Blessed if he is n't gaining on them!
And sure enough, as the brown horse came out from beyond the hill,
though he was still far to the rear of the field, he had undoubtedly
lessened the gap between them. The young girl's eyes sparkled.
Oh, he can't keep it up. He 's riding his heart out, said one of
the other gentlemen, with his glasses to his eyes. But he 's a better
horse than I thought, and if he had had a rider he might
He has got to make the Liverpool, and he 'll never do it, said Mr.
Newby. There he goes now. Watch him. Jupiter! he 's over!
Did you see that jump? He 's got stuff in him!
But not enough. He 's got to go around once and a half yet.
The blue is leading. Red-jacket is coming up. The green is done
So it went, with the horses coming around the curve for the second
time. The favorite and about half the others were running well, their
riders beginning to take the pace they proposed to keep to the end.
Several others were trailing along behind at various distances, among
them the two horses that had shot out in the lead at first, and behind
all but the last one, which was manifestly already beaten, the big
brown horse, galloping with head still up and ears still pointed
forward, bent on catching the horses ahead of him.
The field swept by the stands, most of them getting safely over the
big water-jump, though several of the horses struck hard, and one of
them went on his knees, pitching his rider over his head. The country
horse had still to take the leap, and all eyes were on him, for it was
the jump he had refused. Bets were offered that he would refuse again,
or that after his killing chase he would be too winded to clear it and
would go down. At any rate, they agreed the boy who was riding him was
crazy, and he could never last to come in.
Old Robin ran across the track to try and stop him. He waved his
Pull out. You 'll kill him! Save him for another time. Don't kill
him! he cried.
But the young rider was of a different mind. The vision of two girls
was in his thoughtsone a young girl down on an old plantation, and
the other a girl in white in a front box in the club. She had looked at
him with kind eyes and backed him against the field. He would win or
The horse, too, had his life in the race. Unheeding the wild waving
of the old trainer's arms, he swept by him with head still up and ears
still forward, his eyes riveted on the horses galloping in front of
him. Once or twice his ears were bent toward the big fence as if to
gauge it, and then his eyes looked off to the horses running up the
slope beyond it. When he reached the jump he rose so far from it that a
cry of anxiety went up. But it changed to a wild shout of applause as
he cleared everything in his stride and lighted far beyond the water.
Old Robin, whose arms were high in the air with horror as he rose,
dropped them, and then, jerking off his hat, he waved it wildly around
He can fly. He ain't a hoss at all; he 's a bud! he shouted. Let
him go, son; let him go! You 'll win yet.
But horse and rider were beyond the reach of his voice, galloping up
Once more they all disappeared behind the hill, and once more the
leaders came out, one ahead of the others, then two together, then two
more, running along the inside of the fence toward the last jumps,
where they would strike the clear track and come around the turn into
the home stretch. The other horses were trailing behind the five
leaders when they went over the hill. Now, as they came out again, one
of the second batch was ahead of all the others and was making up lost
ground after the leaders. Suddenly a cry arose: The yellow! The
orange! It 's the countryman!
Impossible! It is, and he is overhauling 'em!
If he lives over the Liverpool, he 'll get a place, said one of
the gentlemen in the club box.
But he can't do it. He must be dead, said Mr. Newby. There goes
one now. The red-jacket 's down.
I 'm out, said Mr. Galloper. He 's up all right.
He 'll get over, said the girl. Oh, I can't look! Tell me when he
's safe. She buried her face in her hands.
There he goes. Oh!
Oh, is he down! she panted.
Jove! Nohe 's over clear and clean, running like a streak, said
the gentleman, with warm admiration. He 's safe now. Only two more
hurdles. It 's all clear. That boy is riding him, too.
The girl sprang to her feet.
Give me your glasses. It isit is! He 's safe! she cried. She
turned to Newby who stood next to her. Ask quarter and I 'll let you
He 'll never be able to stand the track. It 's fetlock-deep.
But at that moment the horses turned into the track, and the real
race began. Newby's prophecy went to the winds. As was seen, the
leaders were riding against each other. They had dropped out of account
all the other horses. They had not even seen the brown. The first thing
they knew was the shout from the crowd ahead of them, blown down to
them hoarsely as the big brown horse wheeled into the stretch behind
them. He was ahead of the other horses and was making hotly after the
four horses in the lead. He was running now with neck outstretched; but
he was running, and he was surely closing up the gap. The blood of
generations of four-mile winners was flaming in his veins. It was even
possible that he might get a place. The crowd began to be excited. They
packed against the fences, straining their necks.
How he was running! One by one he picked them up.
He 's past the fourth horse, and is up with the third!
The crowd began to shout, to yell, to scream. The countryman, not
content with a place, was bent on winning the race. He was gaining,
The two leaders, being well separated, were easing up, Hurricane,
the bay, in front, the black, the favorite, next, with the third well
to the rear. The trainers were down at the fence, screaming and waving
They saw the danger that the riders had forgot.
Come on! Come on! they shouted.
Old Robin was away down the track, waving like mad. Suddenly the
rider of the second horse saw his error. The rush of a horse closing up
on him caught his ear. He looked around to see a big brown horse with a
white blaze in the forehead, that he had not seen since the start,
right at his quarter, about to slip between him and the fence. He had
just time to draw in to the fence, and for a moment there was danger of
the two horses coming down together.
At the sight old Robin gave a cry.
Look at him! Runnin' my hoss in de fence! Cut him down! Cut him
But the brown's rider pulled his horse around, came by on the
outside, and drew up to the flank of the first horse. He was gaining so
fast that the crowd burst into shouts, some cheering on the leader,
some the great brown which had made such a race.
The boxes were a babel. Everyone was on his feet.
The yellow 's gaining!
No; the blue 's safe.
Orange may get it, said Colonel Ashland. He 's the best horse,
and well ridden.
He was up to the bay's flank. Whip and spur were going as the leader
saw his danger.
Old Robin was like a madman.
Come on! Come on! he shouted. Give him de whipcut him in
twolift him! Look at himmy hoss! Come on, son! Oh, ef my ol' master
was jest heah!
A great roar ran along the fences and over the paddock and stands as
the two horses shot in together.
Oh, he has won, he has won! cried the girl in the big hat,
springing up on a chair in ecstasy.
No; it 's the blue by a neck, said her father. I congratulate
you, Snowden. But that 's a great horse. It 's well that it was not a
I think so, said the owner of the winner, hurrying away.
They have cheated him. I am sure he won, asserted the young lady.
They laughed at her enthusiasm.
Newby, said one of the gentlemen, you 'd better get Miss
Catherine to pick your horses for you. Newby winced.
Oh, it 's easy! said the girl, nonchalantly, Bone and muscleand
a green country boywith a pedigree.
As Johnston was leading his horse away, the gentleman who had fallen
at the water-jump came up to him.
I want to thank you, he said. I saw you pull him around.
I was afraid I 'd strike you, said the other, simply.
Just then two gentlemen pushed through the crowd. One was Mr. Newby.
Are you the owner of this horse! he asked the young man.
Yes, sir. He spoke with pride.
Dat he is de owner, put in old Robin, who had the bridle, an' he
owns a good hoss! He got de ambition.
Want to sell him?
Um-um-hmd' n' know. I came on to sell him.
Don't you sell him. Don't you never sell him, urged the old
trainer. Keep him, an' le' me handle him for you. You 'll git mo' 'n
second money next time.
I 'll give you a thousand dollars for him. What do you say?
Old Robin gave an exclamation.
A thousand dollars! For dis hoss!
The gentleman's friend broke in:
Oh, come, Newby, don't rob the boy. He 'll give you two thousand,
They were examining the horse as he walked along under his blanket.
Two thousand? The boy was hesitating. It was a great sum to him.
No; but I 'll split the difference, said Mr. Newby: I 'll give
you fifteen hundred for him if he is as good as I think him when I look
him over. What 's his name?
Oh, the devil! I 'll change his name pretty quickly.
No, you won't, said the boy.
Won't I? I 'll show you when I get him, he muttered. Well, what
do you say?
Will you promise not to change his name?
The other laughed.
Not much! When I buy him he 's my horse.
He 'll never be your horse.
He 's not for sale. He turned away.
Oh, nonsense! Here; wait
I would not sell him to you, sir, at any price. Good-morning. He
You 've lost a good horse, said his friend.
Oh, I 'll get him yet!
I don't think so, said Colonel Ashland, who, with his daughter on
his arm, had come up to congratulate the young rider.
I wish I might have won for you, said the young man to Miss
Ashland. His cap was in his hand and he made the same quaint bow that
he had made before.
I think you did win; at least, you ought to have had it. My father
says he is a great horse.
At the words the color mounted to his sunburned cheeks. Thank you,
he said, and looked suddenly deep into her eyes.
She put out her hand to pet the horse, and he turned and rested his
head against her. She gave an exclamation of delight.
Oh! father, look.
We know our friends, said young Johnston.
Dat we does. She 's de on'ies one as bet on him, asserted old
Robin. Dat young lady knows a good hoss.
Who is that boy? asked Mr. Newby, as the horse was led away.
A green country boy with a pedigree, said a low voice at his
Where does he come from!
Virginia, said Colonel Ashland. And his name is Theodoric
Johnston. It 's bred in the bone.
Next morning as young Johnston rode his horse out of the stable
gate, old Robin walked at his side. Just in front of the pawn-shop
Robin pulled out his watch and examined it carefully.
I don' mind but one thing, he said. I did n't have dis yisterday
to hol' de time on him. But nem mind: wait tell nex' season.