Read CHAPTER VI of The Rider in Khaki A Novel , free online book, by Nat Gould, on ReadCentral.com.

A FLYING FILLY

A great crowd at Epsom, a Derby Day crowd bent on enjoyment and backing winners. Ella gazed at the wonderful scene in astonishment; it was different from anything she had seen.

It was not a new sight to Eve, and she smiled at her friend’s amazement.

“I never expected anything like this,” said Ella.

“Is it equal to a Melbourne Cup crowd?” asked Eve.

“More people, of course; but it is quite different.”

“In what way?”

“I hardly know, everything is different, the course, the people, the stands, the ring, that seething mass down there,” and she pointed to Tattersalls.

“Wait till you see the favorite’s number go up, then there’ll be something to look at,” said Alan.

“Is Merry Monarch favorite?” she asked.

“No, Gold Star and he’ll about win.”

“Don’t you believe him,” said Eve, “he’s deceiving you; my tip will win, Merry Monarch, I had it straight from the Baron.”

“Who’s the Baron?” asked Ella.

“A great admirer of Eve’s,” said Alan.

“Is that true?” asked Ella.

“Mr. Chesney states it as a fact; I am not aware of it,” was the reply.

They went into the paddock and inspected some of the horses, but the crush was so great they were glad to return to the box.

Half an hour before the great race there was a scene of unparalleled excitement, for there had been much wagering for some weeks and several of the runners were heavily backed. Orbit came with a rush in the market and touched four to one; Merry Monarch was at eights, a good price, for the Baron was a popular idol with the public.

Nothing, however, shook the position of Gold Star, who was firm as a rock, and Alan accepted five to four about him in thousands; somehow, he was not inclined to save on Merry Monarch, was it because the Baron had given Eve the tip?

The parade was interesting; the new colors of the sixteen riders flashed in the sun, the horses’ coats shone like satin.

Gunner was on the favorite. Tommy Colley rode Orbit, Ben Bradley Merry Monarch. He was a great horseman, quite at the top of the tree. His finishes were superb, he had snatched many a race out of the fire on the post.

Nothing looked better than the Baron’s horse as they went past on the way to the post; the scarlet jacket glided along quickly, heading the others. Gold Star and Orbit were much fancied. Curlew, Halton, and Sniper had friends. Postman was the outsider, a two-hundred-to-one chance; only a few pounds went on him for the sake of the odds.

Thousands of people watched the horses, little dreaming that in another twelve months Epsom Downs would be vacant on Derby Day and wounded soldiers the only occupants of the stand, turned into a hospital. There was, however, a shadow of war over the land, and rumors had been ripe for some time that all was not well. Nobody on this wonderful day, however, anticipated the storm would burst so soon. There had been false alarms before, rumblings of thunder from Europe, but the country was lulled with a sense of security which events completely shattered. Hundreds of men watching the Derby were lying dead on the battlefields before twelve months had passed.

The race commenced, and after a roar of “They’re off!” the shouting ceased, there was a peculiar stillness for a few moments, then the hubbub broke out again, gradually increasing as the horses came along.

“What’s that in white?” asked Eve.

“Postman, a two-hundred-to-one chance,” said Alan.

The outsider was lengths in front, his jockey had been instructed to come right away and do the best he could. It was a forlorn hope, such tactics were more likely to succeed than others because they would not be anticipated.

Gold Star and Merry Monarch were racing together in good positions; so were Orbit and Curlew; while Sniper was at the tail end of the field.

Ella thought it a strange uphill and down course, very different from the flat tracks of Flemington, Caulfield, and Ranwick. She would not have been surprised to see a spill at one of the bends, and when Tattenham Corner was reached she gave a gasp as she saw two or three riders dangerously near the rails. Once in the straight the excitement broke loose, the strange, wonderful excitement a race for the Derby causes and which is like no other vast human emotion anywhere, and for any cause. The Derby thrill has a hold upon people that nothing else has, and is repeated year after year. There are men who have seen many Derbies decided and for thirty years or more in succession have experienced the thrill of the race.

A Derby transplanted from Epsom is a mere ordinary race. It is the famous surroundings cause the fascination, and Epsom Downs shares the fame of Derby Day.

Gold Star picked his way through to the front, and as he took the lead there was a tremendous shout for the favorite. It made Ella start, and Eve said:

“Something worth seeing and hearing, is it not?”

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Ella, her face eager with excitement.

Although Gold Star held such a prominent position his victory was not yet assured, for on the right, in the center of the course, came Merry Monarch, and Orbit, with Postman still struggling gamely. They reached the stands amid terrific din, a pandemonium of sound, and people pressed hard on to the rails, five or six deep, in the vain hope of seeing the tops of the riders’ heads, and gleaning some information as to the likely winner from the color of their caps.

As they neared the Judge’s box Ben Bradley prepared for his famous rush. He had Merry Monarch well in hand, the horse had not yet felt the pressure, that was to come suddenly, in a second. Gold Star strode up the rise followed by Orbit, and again and again he was proclaimed the winner.

But a race is never won until the winning-post is passed, and much may happen in a few strides. Tommy’s vigorous riding gave his mount a chance; but Bradley pushed Merry Monarch on, and inch by inch, yard by yard, he raced up to the favorite, joined issue, and a great finish began.

The tumult was tremendous. Ella was amazed; she had seen the excitement of a Melbourne Cup but it was nothing to this. The crowd swayed in masses, the movement dazzled; it resembled a flickering film before the “movies” were improved upon.

Down the course thousands of people, commencing at Tattenham Corner were running at top speed, anxious to discover what had won. Before they knew, the result was out in Fleet Street and the boys were careering toward the City and the West End spreading the tidings.

Bradley’s great rush proved effective. He got every ounce out of his mount and Merry Monarch beat Gold Star by half a length. The usual scene followed as the winner was turned round and came back to the enclosure through a living lane, the Baron proudly leading his horse, raising his hat in answer to the deafening cheers. It was the great moment of his life, as it is to every man who has experienced the sensation of leading in a Derby winner.

Eve was delighted, she had a good win. She chaffed Alan unmercifully; he took it in good part. Ella looked at him sympathetically, she had lost her money.

“I suppose you were on the winner?” said Harry Morby.

“No, I followed Mr. Chesney’s advice,” said Ella ruefully.

Eve heard her and said:

“It’s your own fault; I gave you the tip, the Baron’s tip it was worth following.”

Next day The Duke won the Royal Stakes and Evelyn Berkeley’s friends had another good win.

Oaks Day turned out most enjoyable. The sun shone brightly, the ladies were in force, the dresses worthy of the occasion.

Alan had paid particular attention to Eve after the Derby, and any little jealousy she might have felt regarding Ella was dispelled.

Harry Morby devoted himself to Ella, and they appeared to get on well together.

The Acorn Stakes brought out ten runners, a beautiful lot of fillies, all trained to the hour; but Evelyn stood out from the rest as the gem of the lot and was a raging hot favorite at even money.

Eve wore the Chesney colors and never looked better; all eyes were on her in the paddock as she moved gracefully about with Alan and her friends. From the box they looked down into the ring and heard the cries of “Even money the field.”

“The money is being piled on your namesake,” said Harry. “She is splendid; and by Jove, Miss Berkeley, you’re more than a match for her! You’re positively dazzling! She must win she can’t help it. I saw her eying you in the paddock wonder what she thought?”

Eve laughed heartily as she said:

“So you think she will win. I hope so. Evelyn’s a good name for a winner.”

“It is, you are always a winner,” said Harry.

“I’m not so sure about that,” replied Eve; and he saw her glance rested on Alan.

“He’s having a wonderful week,” said Harry, following her glance.

“Splendid. Don’t you think he deserves his luck?”

“Yes; he’s a generous, warm-hearted fellow, but in some things he’s blind.”

“Indeed? What are they?”

“I will not venture to say; perhaps you can guess,” answered Harry, laughing.

Baron Childs entered the box. He soon monopolized Eve; it was evident he admired her.

“Better chance it,” said Harry to Alan; “you may lose her.”

He laughed as he said:

“I can’t compete with the Baron.”

When the tapes went up Evelyn jumped off in front, racing down the slope at a great pace.

Fred Skane had said it was the best thing of the meeting and he proved right. It was marvelous how the flying filly galloped; there was no fault in her movements. Tommy sat still, letting her run her own race. It was her first appearance and she showed no signs of nervousness.

She lead from start to finish, winning in a canter by five lengths in very fast time; a great performance, recognized and cheered as such.

“It was good of you, Alan, to call such a flyer Evelyn,” said Eve.