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 furious.

"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 this match."

"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 proposal fair?"

"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 after thinking."

"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 the room.

"What is it, Colonel?" said Fortescue, coming in almost immediately after.

"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,

'My own,

'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 chance."

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 flat.

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 favourites.

"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 revelation.

"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 distinguishable.

"Yes," replied Fortescue, carelessly, "he will be with us at mess. Here, take the horse home, Forester"—to his man—"see no one comes near him."

"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 MUM!"

"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:—

"Dear Colonel,

"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.—

"Yours faithfully,

"P. O'Rooney.

"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 right."

"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 then?

"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 House"—

"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 windy."

"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 flames of——"

"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 Captain O'Rooney.

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 urchin.

"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 illigant rider."

"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 him entirely."

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 twice too!"

"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 carriage.

"Oh, what a beauty he is!" said Miss Gwynne. "Who is the little fat man leading him?"

"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 horse away.

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 a field.

"Fortescue's leading," said Lord Plunger, with his field-glasses to his eyes.

"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 spiral movements.

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 terrific pace.

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 other side.

"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 water.

"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 Plunger.

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 flagging.

"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 of others.

"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 faint.

"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 himself.

"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 matter?"

"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 indescribable.

Fortescue was taken to the carriage and quickly driven away.

"Ah, Alice!" said he, "I told you I should carry your colours to the fore."

"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 HEAT.