The Dead Heat by "Old Calabar"
No, never had there been such a state of excitement in any ball-room
before, when it became known that Captain O'Rooney had entrapped
Lieutenant Charles Fortescue, of the Stiffshire Regiment, into a
thousand guineas match P.P., owners up, twelve stone each, and four
miles over the stiffest country in Galway.
The match had been made at the supper-table, after the ladies had left;
but nevertheless, the news had been carried to them, and they were
"Fancy," said one, a tall, handsome brunette, "that that little
wretched bandy-legged O'Rooney should have got round our handsome
friend in such a mean way. He is jealous and disgusted with Fortescue's
waltzing, and he is the best waltzer in Ireland."
"I'll make him a set of colours to ride in," returned the toast of five
counties, the beautiful Alice Gwynne. "I never made any before, but
'there's luck in odd numbers, says Rory O'More,' and so he is sure to
win in them."
"Too bad," exclaimed the gray-haired Colonel of Fortescue's regiment to
some gentlemen standing by him at the supper-table, "to have hounded
the lad into it. O'Rooney is a noted steeplechase rider, and my boy"
(he always called the youngsters of his regiment his boys), "though a
workman across country, never rode a race in his life; but I hear that
Captain O'Rooney has the character of looking up the Griffs."
"Faith, Colonel, ye are about right there," said a jolly-looking young
Irishman; "he is just the boy that can do that same; he is mad now
because Fortescue's English horse cut him down to-day, and pounded
him—a thing that has never been done before."
"Bedad, you're out there, Mat," put in another; "I'd be after thinking
it is because the Leaftenent has been making mighty strong running
entirely with Alice Gwynne all this blessed night. O'Rooney, by my
faith, does not like that, devil a hap'orth; he considers
himself the favoured one—the consated spalpeen."
"He the favoured one!" remarked big H——, of Fortescue's regiment;
"why, he cannot suppose he would have a ghost of a chance with that pug
nose and whisky-toddy countenance of his against Fortescue of ours.
Why, Old Nick himself could not boast of an uglier face than Pat
Rooney. Fortescue is about the handsomest and nicest fellow in the
service, and though only a poor man, yet there are devilish few girls,
at least of any taste, who would give him the 'cold shoulder.'"
The conversation was put an end to by the redoubtable Captain O'Rooney
they were descanting on, and with whom all seemed to be on such bad
terms, walking towards them.
"I will make one endeavour now," said the Colonel, "to put a stop to
"Captain O'Rooney," said he, as that gentleman joined them, "I am sorry
to hear of this proposed steeplechase, and for such a sum. Mr Fortescue
is a young man, and has acted very foolishly; moreover, though he holds
the post of adjutant, he has little, I know, but his pay, and such a
loss as a thousand pounds would seriously inconvenience him. Let me
recommend, Captain O'Rooney, that Fortescue give you a hundred pounds
to-morrow morning and draw the bet. What say you, gentlemen all, is the
"Nothing fairer," they exclaimed.
"See now, Colonel," said Captain O'Rooney, "let us hear what Mr
Fortescue says: he is not here; he'll be found in the ball-room, I'm
"True for ye, Captain dear," said the jolly-looking young Irishman
before alluded to. "Divil a bit," he continued, with a sly and
malicious twinkle of his blue eye, "is Fortescue in the ball. Be
jabers, he is seated in the card-room alone by Alice Gwynne, playing
with her bouquet and fan. I'll go and fetch him; but it's a pity to
disturb him. I'd almost take my oath he has been asking her to be Mrs
Fortescue, and by my soul I don't think she has said no." So saying,
the young man, without giving the other time to answer, vanished from
"What is it, Colonel?" said Fortescue, coming in almost immediately
"See now," said O'Rooney, interrupting him; "the Colonel says this is a
foolish match we have entered into, and proposes that ye should pay me
a hundred down to-morrow to let ye off. What d'ye say?"
"What do I say?" replied the young man; "why, I'll do anything the
Colonel likes. I think it is a foolish match. I was excited and out of
humour when I made it. I'm better now, and if you like to take a
hundred and draw, why I'll send you a cheque to-morrow morning for the
amount, or run you for a hundred, which you like."
"See, now," said the Captain, his naturally red face getting purple
with anger and excitement. "I've heard ye both—the Colonel and
yourself; now both of ye hear me. If ye were to offer me nine hundred
and ninety-nine pounds, d—n me if I'd take it, for by the Rock of
Cashel, I'll lick ye and break your heart and neck over the country;
and see now, Fortescue," he continued, "steer clear of the heiress."
"What do you mean, sir," retorted the young man, firing up. "Steer
clear of the heiress? you forget yourself; do you presume to put a lady
in the question?" and saying this, he turned away.
"All devilish fine," said O'Rooney, sticking his hands in his pockets
and sauntering away from the supper-table, humming a verse of Harry
Lorrequer's well-known song:—
"The King of Oude
Is mighty proud,
And so were onst the Caysars (Cæsars);
But ould Giles Eyre
Would make them stare,
Av he had them with the Blazers.
"To the devil I'd fling—ould Runjeet Singh
He's only a prince in a small way;
And knows nothing at all of a six-foot wall,
Oh! he'd never do for Galway."
"Won't he?" muttered Fortescue to himself, as he caught the last words,
"perhaps I'll show you he will." If the Captain had not been so blind
with passion, he might have heard the gallant Adjutant singing sotto
voce a verse of a song from the same author, as he strode
carelessly from the room:—
"Put his arm round her waist,
Gave ten kisses at laste,
'Oh!' says he, 'you're my Molly Malone,
'Oh!' says he, 'you're my Molly Malone!'"
What did he mean?
"By the great gun of Athlone, I'm mighty glad entirely they're both
gone from the room," said a hard-riding Galway squire, as the
illustrious Captain O'Rooney disappeared from sight. "I thought there
was an illigant row brewing. Better as it is. Where O'Rooney is to get
the coin from if he loses, divil a one of me knows. He's in 'Quare
Street' long ago. Never mind, boys; let us have the groceries. 'O
Punch! you are my darling,' and the devil fly away with dull care. Now
Colonel," he continued, "upon my conscience, as O'Rooney won't listen
to reason, you must look after Fortescue's interests. O'Rooney will
endeavour to pick out a country. I mean he will go building up walls,
and so on. You must have your own way a little, or, begorra, he'll do
as he likes entirely. Now, there is one thing that will beat him if
anything will—you must insist on that, or I would not give a trauneen
for Fortescue's chance—and that is" (he dropped his voice to a
whisper) one if not two WATER-jumps; if anything
will stop Mad Moll it is WATER."
"It shall be done," said the Colonel; "I'll see that the lad is not
taken advantage of." And the old field-officer kept his word, as will
be seen in the sequel.
O'Rooney was greatly disturbed when he knew there were to be one or
more water-jumps. He fought hard and gallantly against it; but the
Colonel was obdurate. "By Gad, sir," said he, "you do not want it
entirely your own way, do you? I have not interfered with the country
in any way. I have said nothing as to the six-foot wall you have built
up, and others equally dangerous, and now you cavil at a paltry ditch."
"Ditch do ye call it, Colonel? fifteen feet of water, hurdled and
staked, a ditch, and another of eleven. By my troth, no such like
ditches are found between this and Ballinasloe. But never mind. Glory
be to Moses, I'll get over them. And then, h—ll to my soul, if the
English horse will ever come near Mad Moll's girths again."
"We think nothing of nineteen feet, sir," said the Colonel. "In
England, fifteen feet is nothing; but my youngster shall have a
Great was the excitement throughout the country—indeed, in all parts
of Ireland. Such a match had not been known for years—"a thousand
pounds!" What could the English soldier have been thinking of! The nags
went on well in their training, closely guarded by their respective
admirers. The English horse took to wall-jumping beautifully; but it
was doubted whether, even with his great turn of speed, he had the foot
of the Irish mare—a clipper. Then again, though Fortescue was a cool
and daring horseman, he had not the experience of the Captain, who had
ridden many a hard-contested race before, across country and over the
The stakes had been made good and deposited according to agreement with
the Colonel. The Captain had found friends to share in the bet, for
though he was generally disliked, yet they had confidence in his horse
and his horsemanship. Fortescue, too, had friends, nor had his
commanding officer been idle. Men from his own regiment had come
forward, so all he stood to lose was two hundred and fifty; this and
other matters made him sanguine and light-hearted. In addition to all,
he had received a beautiful cap and jacket from Miss Gwynne.
The sporting papers, English and Irish, teemed with the forthcoming
match. "Lieut. Charles Fortescue's bay horse Screwdriver, aged, against
Capt. O'Rooney's chestnut mare Mad Moll, six years old, for ONE
THOUSAND guineas a side," appeared in the County Chronicle.
The excitement was intense. Such a stiff bit of country had not been
seen or ridden over for years. The betting would have been decidedly in
favour of the Captain, but his mare's well-known dislike to water
prevented anything like odds being laid—so they were both about equal
"By George, old fellow!" said one of Fortescue's chums to him one
morning, some six days previous to the race, "I really think your
chance is becoming more rosy every hour. The more O'Rooney's mare sees
the water the less she likes it. A sergeant in my company, a Galway
man, has a country cousin in the barracks who knows all about it. Just
go to Sergeant Blake," he said, turning to a bugler passing by, "and
tell him to come here, and bring his cousin with him. Mr Fortescue
wishes to see him."
The man soon appeared. "Salute your supareor," said the Sergeant, as he
squared his heels. "Touch your caubeen."
"Arrah, now, Patrick, wasn't I after doing it?"
"Well, do it at onst, ye murdering ruffian, and tell all ye know."
"Yes, sir, yer honour," commenced the man, "Faix, the Captain 'av' been
trying the mare day after day at the water. Onst she jumped finely. The
Captain made a brook close by our cabin, and is often wid her there.
Sometimes she jumps and sometimes she won't; and when she won't, mille
murther! maybe don't he larrup her! Long life to your honour! but I
don't think the mare likes water, at all, at all. And by my troth,
there's many a man thinks the same. The devil's luck to him! he's been
all over the fresh-planted praties, and cut them to smithereens, bad
cess to him! But av course, Leiftenent, ye won't tell on a poor boy,
more by token as he is after doing yer honour a little sarvice. I
wouldn't give a handful of prayers for my life if he found me out; for
sorra a one knows the Captain better than myself, death to his sowl!
Tear-an-ages! he's a terrible bad man entirely, is the Captain. The top
of the morning, and long life to your honour!" said the gossoon, as the
Sergeant led him away, pocketing half a crown.
"There, Fortescue, what do you think of that?" said his friend, as they
sauntered away to the anteroom for a whiskey and soda. "It's evident
Mad Moll is no water jumper. By Jupiter! I think you will pull through.
Quite fair my giving the lad half-a-crown. O'Rooney's friends have been
doing the same—fair play is a jewel!"
Somehow the public at last began to lean towards the English horse. He
did his work quietly and openly, without any attempt at concealment.
But what is this excitement in the barrack yard? Officers are rushing
to the mess-room. Two gentlemen have been driven up there in a car.
Lord Plunger and his friend Bradon have arrived. They are old friends
of the Stiffshire battalion.
"By George! Plunger and Bradon, I'm delighted to see you," said the
warm-hearted Colonel, hastening in, while endeavouring to make his
sword-belt meet about his somewhat bulky waist. "I did not tell the
boys I had written for you both. Lunch ready in ten minutes—glass of
sherry first to wet your mouths. Now, Fortescue will have a little good
advice. You will ride the last gallop to-morrow morning, Bradon, and
give us your opinion. Dammee, I'm so glad to see you both in the wild
west. Here, some one tell the captain of the day I won't have another
roll-call. Obliged to do this kind of thing here, Bradon—never know
what's going to happen from one minute to another. Shooting landlords
like the devil. Potted Lambert last week; five shots in him, and the
only one that did no harm was the one that took him in the forehead.
Rest his sowl, as the Irishmen say, a near escape for him. Lucky dog!
Here is the sherry!" In this way did the popular Colonel rattle on.
The gallop is over, and Screwdriver has been tried at even weights
against a good one. George Bradon had thought it better that Fortescue
should ride his own horse in the trial, which he did. "By Jove, you've
got a clipper, Fortescue!" said the former, as they pulled up; "you
don't know how good. I deceived you all when I told you I had borrowed
this nag to try you. Keep your mouth shut, hermetically sealed, old
fellow, and I'll tell you something you will care to know. It is no
commoner you have galloped against to-day. Mind, on your life, not a
word to your dearest friend. It's my own horse, Guardsman, you
have had a spin with—the winner of the Cheltenham Grand Annual!"
The young man thus addressed sat like one in a dream, at this
"It's all old Mason's doing, Fortescue," said he. "He advised me to
bring him over. I'm off now. Look at that knot of people coming over
the hill; there are some who crossed the Channel yesterday with me who
would know my old pet, and I would not have it blown upon for a
trifle—the horse has been in Ireland for a week on the quiet. I'm now
off, across country to Athenry, where Mason is, and has a stable for
him. The horse will leave by the late train to-night for England with a
lad; so no one will be a bit the wiser. My old stud-groom will come to
your diggings this evening with me to give you a help. So au
revoir till mess-time, when you will see yours truly;" and putting
his horse at a five-foot wall, he sent him over, hurling the loose
stones behind him in a cloud, and was quickly out of sight.
"So your friend has gone," said the gallant Colonel, as Fortescue
walked his horse up to a host of his brother-officers and friends
assembled in a knot on the hill, amongst which several strangers were
"Yes," replied Fortescue, carelessly, "he will be with us at mess.
Here, take the horse home, Forester"—to his man—"see no one comes
"That's a horse to back," said a sly-looking little man in a large drab
overcoat; and coming up to Fortescue he whispered quietly to him: "I'm
on your nag for a plumper. I keep my own counsel, and shall not split.
I never come except with a rush at the last minute. My glasses are
good. You've had a spin with one of the best cross-country horses in
England. Clever and fast as that nag is, he can't give you seven
pounds. You ran him to a length or two. I know George Bradon and
Guardsman well. I've won a pot full of money on them before. There,
don't look scared; you are a youngster. Sit well down on Screwdriver,
hold him together, don't give a lead over the water, and you will land
him a winner. I know more than you think; but for my own sake I'm
"News for you all!" said the Colonel of Fortescue's regiment, bursting
into the mess-room, where some nine or ten officers were at breakfast,
amongst whom were Lord Plunger and Bradon. "Here, Fortescue," continued
the excited old gentleman, "this letter"—holding out one—"concerns
you more immediately. Read it out."
The young man thus addressed took the letter and read the following:—
"As you all know, this is the morning of the race. Something has
happened. For God's sake ride over and see me at once.—
"Clough-bally-More Castle, Friday morning."
"There, gentlemen, what do you think of that?" cried the Colonel, as
Fortescue slowly folded up the letter and returned it to him.
"Something in that—no race for a guinea."
"Race or no race," said Lord Plunger, "the money is lodged with you. It
is a p.p. bet, and must be paid."
"Mare gone amiss," put in Bradon. "I knew he was giving her too much of
it. This is a hard, stony country; horses won't stand much continued
work. Poor brutes! they are galloped shin sore—all the life and energy
taken out of them—sweated to death, and made as thin as
whipping-posts, and they are said to be in condition. Serves him
"Hold, Bradon, my boy," interrupted Lord Plunger, "you do not know that
such is the case. The mare was all right last night, that I am certain
of. She is about six miles from here, at a Mr Blake's. I am inclined to
think O'Rooney has got into trouble."
"At any rate we shall soon know," returned the Colonel; "for here is my
horse coming round. I shall be back in an hour or a little more. I'll
look after your interests, Fortescue," he continued. "It is only
half-past ten now. The race is not till three. Keep cool, and don't
take too many brandy-and-sodas, till you see me again." And so saying,
he took his departure.
What was up? Had the mare broken down? Was O'Rooney arrested? It must
be one or the other. It could not be about the stakes, for these were
lodged to the Colonel's credit in the Bank of Ireland. What could it be
"I cannot help thinking, Fortescue," said Lord Plunger, "that somehow
or other you will have to don the new colours, doeskins, and tops, and
give us a sight of your way of crossing the Galway country." As he was
speaking, one of the mess waiters came in and said a few words to
Fortescue, which made that gentleman immediately leave the room. On
reaching his quarters he found seated there a sly-looking little man in
a large drab overcoat.
"I beg your pardon," said the stranger to the officer as he entered.
"You know me, I think?"
Fortescue slightly inclined his head.
"The object of my coming," continued the sly-looking little man, "is to
tell you that there is a writ out against Captain O'Rooney for four
hundred pounds. He will not show up to-day. He is a Sunday man:
now the race is ours—yours I ought to say—you will only have to go
over the course. Good-morning."
But he was not allowed to depart in that way. He was soon in the
mess-room, and all were put in possession of the facts.
In the meantime the good Colonel rode on at a rapid pace, wondering at
the contents of the note, and conjuring up all sorts of things.
Five-and-twenty minutes brought him to the gate, or what should have
been the gate, of Clough-bally-More Castle, but it was gone. Cantering
up the neglected wilderness-like avenue, he was soon in front of a
ruinous-looking pile. This was Clough-bally-More Castle—a place best
described by a quotation from Hood's beautiful poem of "The Haunted
"Unhinged the iron gates half open hung,
Jarr'd by the gusty gales of many winters,
That from its crumbled pedestal had flung
One marble globe in splinters.
* * * * *
"With shatter'd panes the grassy court was starr'd;
The time-worn coping-stone had tumbled after;
And through the ragged roof the sky shone, barr'd
With naked beam and rafter."
Getting off his horse and walking up the broken, moss-covered steps,
the Colonel rang the bell, which gave forth a melancholy sound that
scared a colony of jackdaws who had established themselves unmolested
for many a year in the chimneys and uninhabited rooms.
On the second summons a shock head was cautiously poked out of an upper
window. "Sure now, it's no use at all, at all, av yer ringing away like
that: the master's gone abroad these six months; he told me to say so
last night. Divil a writ can you serve him wid, my honey; av ye don't
be off the master will be after shooting ye for a thafe from the hall
"I'm no writ server," returned the Colonel. "I come in consequence of a
note I received from Captain O'Rooney this morning."
"Troth, then, ye are the English soldier colonel. His honour the master
will be wid ye at onst," and the head disappeared.
Presently that of the Captain protruded.
"See now, Colonel," said he, "ould Mat thought you were a Bum. I'm
sorry to say I'm a Sunday man now. The thundering thieves
they've been about the place all the morning to serve me. I wish they
may get it. Nabocklish! catch a weasel asleep. I'll let you in."
In a minute or so the front door was slowly and cautiously unchained,
and the Colonel found himself in the hall of Clough-bally-More Castle.
It was a perfect ruin, and, if possible, more ghastly and
miserable-looking on the inside than the outside. The Captain's room
was, however, pretty cosy, and in decent repair. A bright turf fire
burnt on the hearth; a couple of guns adorned the walls; rods,
fishing-tackle, and various other sporting paraphernalia were scattered
about the room in indescribable confusion.
"Be seated, Colonel," said the steeple-chase rider; "I may as well come
to the point at once. D——, of Galway, has a writ out against my
person for four hundred pounds. They tried to serve it on me last
night, and again this morning, the divil fly away with them! May the
"What is to be done, Capt. O'Rooney?" interrupted the Colonel. "You
know it is a p.p. bet, and out of my power to do anything. Mr Fortescue
has only two hundred and fifty on it. The rest is made up by gentlemen
who will insist on the terms of the bet being adhered to. You ridiculed
our offer of scratching the bet for a hundred: far better for yourself
had you done so. I should not like any advantage taken of you, and you
ought to have a run for your money. What is it you propose?"
"See, now, Colonel; the only way is, that if you do not hold me to the
day, we can run it off on Sunday."
"Sir! Captain O'Rooney!" hotly interrupted the Colonel; "you must be
mad! Ride a steeple-chase on a Sunday! Do you suppose, sir, any of my
officers would be guilty of such a thing, or that I would allow it?"
"See, now, Colonel," interposed the Captain, "then there is no other
way but Mr Fortescue letting me off altogether. I've five hundred on it
on my own account. I'll give a hundred and scratch it."
"Quite impossible," said the Colonel; "you know I can't do it. I am
really very sorry for you, but stay, there is yet one way, and if I can
manage it the race may yet come off. D——, who has the writ out
against you, does the wine for the mess. Now, will you agree to
this—that if you win, I pay him the four hundred and the balance to
yourself? If you do not win you shall be exactly in the same position
you are now, namely, locked up in your own house."
"Tare an' ages, a capital idea! Colonel, I agree." And it was forthwith
signed and sealed between them.
"I'll send out to you in an hour," said the Colonel, as he took his
departure. "I will write and tell you how it is to be, race or no race.
Depend on me; I'll do all I can."
The Colonel succeeded, and the terms he mentioned were acceded to by
D——, who thought it was his only chance of ever getting a farthing.
"Hang it, gentlemen," said the light-hearted old officer, "we could
have got the money without a race; but I should not have liked it said
of the regiment that we took any advantage. Now, win or lose, everyone
must say that we have behaved pluckily in this matter."
Such a crowd as there was on the road all the way to the hill of
Thonabuckey, where a good view could be had of the race! Cars,
donkey-carts, wiry-looking horses with wiry and sporting squireens on
them crowded the road—all on their way to see the thousand-guinea
steeple-chase between the English soldier gentleman and the famous
Such excitement, such running and jostling of the dirty unwashed to get
along! There was the old blind fiddler, Mat Doolan, in a donkey-cart,
and perched on the top of a porter-barrel, scraping away, and
occasionally giving a song.
"Sure it's himself that can bring the music out of the instrument. He
is the best fiddler in the west," sang out one. Then a chorus of voices
would break in asking for various tunes and songs. "Arrah, now, give us
'Croppies lie down.'" "'Wreath the bowl,'" cried another. "Hell to the
bowl, let's 'ave 'Tater, Jack Walsh,' or 'Vinegar Hill,'" demanded a
sturdy ruffian. "No, no; 'The breeze that blows the barley,' 'St
Patrick's day in the morning,' or 'Garry-owen' for me." "Begorra, no;
'Larry before he was stretched,' is my favourite," said a ragged
"Hurrah! here comes the Captain," bawled another; and the dirty
unwashed yelled as he passed in a tax-cart driven by a friend.
"Which is the Captain?" demanded a soldier.
"Death! don't you know him? Musha, why that one forenent ye in the
white caubeen and frieze coat. Troth, he's a broth of a boy! devil a
one in Ireland can bate him on Mad Moll across country. Sure he's an
"Hould yer noise, here comes Squire Gwynne and the ladies in the coach,
and the English soldier gentleman wid 'em. Agra! but he's a mighty fine
young man is that same. Bedad, it's Miss Alice that's looking swate on
It was true: there was Charles Fortescue of the Stiffshire Regiment
going to the scene of action in the Squire's waggonette, and sitting
beside his affianced bride, the beautiful Alice Gwynne with eight
thousand a year the instant she married.
"Hurroo!" shouted the people as the carriage dashed past. "Three cheers
for the Master of Gwynne! And another for the lady!" They were in the
humour to shout at everything and everybody.
The course is reached at last. It is a circular one, and everything has
to be jumped twice; hardly anything is to be seen but dark frowning
walls. Many cars and carriages have got down by the water-jump. There
is no end of youth and beauty. All the county élite are there as
lookers-on. A place has been kept for Mr Gwynne, and also one for the
large waggonette of the officers. Eager spectators are scattered all
over the course, but the big wall and the two water-jumps are the
centre of attraction. The wall is a fearful one, six feet high, built
up of large loose stones. The water-jump is also a pretty good one. A
little mountain stream has been dammed up. It is fifteen feet wide,
four feet deep, and hurdled and staked on the taking off side.
"By Jingo, it is a twister!" said Mr Gwynne, a hunting man, as he
looked at it. "I say, Ally," to his daughter, "you would not like to
ride over that, would you?"
"No, indeed, papa," said the poor girl, with her beautiful eyes full of
tears—she was terribly agitated. "I never shall be able to look at
Charles as he jumps it: it's fearful to look at, and it has to be done
"Never mind, Alice, dear," said Fortescue, "the old horse will carry me
over like a bird. The only difficulty in the whole thing is the big
wall; that is a rattler! but in your colours, of course, I shall get
over all right. Let me do that wall and I am pretty safe, for I know
Screwdriver has the foot of Mad Moll; and these colours, too, they must
not play second fiddle. Cheer up!" and he whispered something that made
the fair girl smile through her tears.
"Now, Fortescue," said George Bradon, taking his friend aside, "let me
give you a little advice: this is your maiden effort: whatever you do
be cool; don't flurry or worry yourself; you have a knowing fellow to
ride against, who is well up to these things. Now the wall is the
principal thing, and my opinion is, he will try and baulk your horse
there; therefore, my boy, don't let him give you a lead over it, but
lead him. That you have the speed of the mare there is not a doubt.
Remember, too, you must not go at the wall too fast: keep him well
together, with his hind legs well under him, and pop him over. Now,
with regard to the brook, on no account give him a lead there; if
necessary, walk your horse to it rather than go first. Keep your head,
old fellow, and where you dare, make the pace a cracker, if you can do
it without pumping your horse; the mare is overtrained, and will not
last if she is bustled. I don't know that I can say any more: now, go
and sit by your lady fair till it is time to weigh."
The officers had sent their two cricket tents down, the scoring one for
the scales, and the other for luncheon. The latter one was filled with
gentlemen discussing the merits of the different horses.
"Here comes your nag, Fortescue," said a young sub, running up to the
"Oh, what a beauty he is!" said Miss Gwynne. "Who is the little fat man
"That," said Bradon, who had joined them, "is my old stud-groom, one of
the best men in Europe; he says Screwdriver's trained to the hour.
Here, Mason, turn the horse round and show him to the lady."
The old man touched his hat as he did so.
"He's a good 'un, miss," he said, "and nothing but a good 'un; and if
Mr Fortescue rides him patiently, I think that no Mad Moll will have a
chance with him." And touching his hat again he turned and walked the
The regimental champion was then immediately surrounded by the men of
the Stiffshire Regiment.
The weighing is over, and Screwdriver mounted. Fortescue's colours are
crimson, with gold braiding. Capt. O'Rooney's are all green. Both
gentlemen look thorough jocks, and sit their horses easily and well;
but there is a look of the older hand about the Captain.
"Who will lay me two to one against Screwdriver?" cried out a
sly-looking little man in a large drab overcoat. "I'll do it to any
amount up to a thousand."
"I'll take you even money for a hundred," said a flashily-dressed man
on a bay horse.
"I want odds, sir," said the little man; "but as I see there is no
betting to be done here, make it two hundred and I'll take you."
"Done," said the other. And the bets were booked.
All is now excitement, for the horses are walking away to the
starting-post. The judge had locked himself up in the little box
allotted to him, which has been lent by the race committee, but little
did he think he would see such a close finish.
"They're off!" is the cry, as the two horses are seen cantering across
"Fortescue's leading," said Lord Plunger, with his field-glasses to his
"Oh, papa, hold me up so that I may see," said the beautiful and
anxious Miss Gwynne.
The eyes of scores were on her as she stood up, for all the gentry were
well aware in what relation she stood to Fortescue.
"Well lepped!" roared the multitude, as the horses topped a wall.
"Capital jumpers both," said the sly-looking little man; "the horse for
my money. Will nobody bet?" he roared out. But all were too eager to
attend to him.
Fortescue is in front, and going at a good rate across some grass. The
first brook is now approached, and the Captain in his turn, leads at a
strong pace. All are anxiously looking to see how Mad Moll will like
it, for she is twisting her head from side to side. Fortescue has taken
a pull at Screwdriver, who is some six lengths behind.
"Hang me if she means jumping!" said Bradon, as he saw the mare's
But he was wrong: a resolute man and a good one was on her back. She
jumped the brook, but in bad style, her hind legs dropped in, and as
she just righted herself, Fortescue's crimson jacket flashed in the air
and cleared it splendidly, amidst the shouts of hundreds.
"Splendidly jumped!" said Lord Plunger. "Fortescue is a fine horseman,
Bradon, and is riding the horse patiently and well."
"He is," was the quiet reply.
All eyes are now directed to the wall, which the horses are rapidly
approaching. Fortescue is seen to lead at it, and the old horse clears
it at a bound, as did the mare.
"It's all up," said Bradon, as he closes his glasses; "Fortescue will
win in a canter."
"The Captain's down!" screamed a host of voices, as he and the mare
came to grief at the second water-jump.
"May he stick there for the next ten minutes!" muttered the sly little
man, a wish in which not a few joined—a certain fair lady especially.
But he is up and at work again, none the worse. The horses were going
at a great pace, and the jumps were taken with beautiful precision by
both. Bradon began to look anxious, the sly little man fidgety, and
Lord Plunger wore a thoughtful look.
The anxious girl's face was flushed to scarlet with excitement and
emotion, and she trembled fearfully.
"It will be a close thing," said the sly-looking little man; "the mare
is better than I thought."
There were only a few things to be jumped now of any consequence—the
two brooks and the big wall. The horses there turned, ran through an
opening made in the wall, and finished on the flat in front of the
carriages. The brook is now approached for the second time: the mare
comes at it first, jumps it, and topples down on her nose on the
opposite side; the Captain is pitched forward on her ears, but recovers
himself like lightning, and is away again, leading Fortescue at a
But what is the little sly man doing? As the mare recovers herself he
is seen to dart across the course and pick up something flat, and put
it into his pocket. "By G—d! turn out as it will we are saved," he
muttered. "I'll lay any money against the mare," he screamed out. But
no one took him.
The wall is now approached again; the Captain leads; but as the mare is
about to rise he turns her sharply round and gallops in a different
direction. Screwdriver refuses it too.
"Damnation! I thought it," said Bradon; "there's a blackguard's trick!"
"Oh! poor Charles," ejaculated the beautiful Alice; "my poor colours!"
"The Captain's cleared it!" shouted out the multitude, as the mare was
seen to take the wall splendidly.
"Where's your soldier now?" shouted out a chorus of voices.
"Shure it's myself," said the captain, "could never be licked."
"Most unfortunate!" said the old Colonel, "a dirty trick; and after my
kindness to him, too!"
"The soldier is going at it again!" cried the people; and the horse is
seen to rise gallantly at it, but both horse and rider came down on the
"Och, wirra wirra, vo vo! Mother of Moses, he's kilt entirely!" bawled
out a countryman; "poor young fellow!"
"Miss Gwynne's fainted," said a young sub, running into the tent for
"By G—d! he's up and at it again," screamed out the sly little man:
"the mare's baked too; look at her tail."
All faces were flushed and eager. The horse was coming along at a
tremendous pace. The captain was at work: his legs could be seen
sending the spurs deeply into her; and he took an anxious look over his
shoulder every now and then.
"The mare's beaten!" resounded on all sides, as she was seen to swerve
in her stride.
"Oh that the finish were only a hundred yards farther!" said Lord
The winning-post is approached. The old horse has not been touched by
Fortescue, whose face is seen, even at that distance, to be deluged
with blood. He holds Screwdriver well in hand; he sees the mare is
"Green wins!" "Red wins!" shouts the crowd.
It is an anxious moment. Both horses are seen locked closely together.
But the strain on Screwdriver's jaw is relaxed, and Fortescue is seen
to shake him up; the whip hand is at work, and they pass the post
abreast. The Colonel dashes off, as does the sly little man, and a host
"What is it?" said the Colonel, as he galloped up.
"A dead heat," replied the judge.
The sly little man smiles grimly as he hears these words.
"Is Charles hurt, papa?" said the beautiful occupant of the Master of
Gwynne's carriage, opening her eyes languidly, as she rose from her
"No, dearest; cut a little, I believe. It is a dead heat."
Both horses were now returning to scale.
"Dead heat?" said the Captain. "Well, we must run it off in an hour. I
won't give in."
"Hurt, sir?" inquired old Mason, as he took hold of the old horse's
bridle and led him back.
"A bit of a cut on the forehead," returned Fortescue, "that is all.
Captain O'Rooney pulled his mare round at the wall—little cad!"
"A scoundrel's trick," said the Colonel.
Fortescue goes to weigh in first.
"All right, sir," said the man in charge of the scales.
The Captain now approaches, saddle and saddle-cloths in hand, and seats
"Eleven stone eleven," said he of the scales, looking at them intently.
"Three pounds short, Captain."
"What?" yelled out O'Rooney. "Look again, man, look again!"
"Eleven stone eleven," replied the clerk.
"Give me my bridle!" roared the Captain. "What the h—ll is the
"Ay, give him his bridle!" said the sly-looking little man; "he can
claim a pound for it; but that won't make him right. Look at your
saddle-cloth, sir. You will see it has burst and a three-pounds lead
gone. You did it at the big water-jump the second time, and I picked it
up. Here it is."
Cheer after cheer rent the air as the fact was announced. The soldiers,
of course, went almost frantic.
"Here, come away," said Lord Plunger and Bradon, seizing Charley's arm,
"Get away as quickly as you can. There will be a row. Your horse has
already gone, with seventy or eighty of our men with him. You rode the
race splendidly, old fellow!"
"That he did," said the sly-looking little man.
The Captain had lost the race. He was short by two pounds, allowing him
one for his bridle. The scene of confusion that followed was
Fortescue was taken to the carriage and quickly driven away.
"Ah, Alice!" said he, "I told you I should carry your colours to the
"Thank God you did so! This is your first and last race, promise me."
The Captain went back to Clough-bally-More Castle; but in a day or two
he was non est, and his creditors were done.
The regiment had a jovial night of it. Fortescue's health was drunk in
bumper after bumper; but he was not there to acknowledge the
compliment; some one else had him in charge.
A short time after the Stiffshire were quartered in Manchester, and the
Colonel one day encountered no less a person than Captain O'Rooney.
"See now, Colonel," said the latter, "you must bear me no ill-will. I
did a shabby trick, I'll allow, at the wall, but I was a ruined man.
I'm all right now. I've married a rich cotton-spinner's widow with some
three thousand a year; but it's all settled on her."
Fortescue and Miss Gwynne are long ago married; and at the different
race meetings that they attended they often saw the celebrated Captain
O'Rooney performing; but in all the numerous races he was engaged in,
he never rode—at any rate in a steeple-chase—another DEAD