The crowd shouted. She looked where the others looked, but saw only th_urning blue with the white stand marked upon it. It was crowded like the dec_f a sinking vessel, and Esther wondered at the excitement, the cause of whic_as hidden from her. She wandered to the edge of the crowd until she came to _halk road where horses and mules were tethered. A little higher up sh_ntered the crowd again, and came suddenly upon a switchback railway. Full o_aughing and screaming girls, it bumped over a middle hill, and then ros_lowly till it reached the last summit. It was shot back again into the mids_f its fictitious perils, and this mock voyaging was accomplished to the soun_f music from a puppet orchestra. Bells and drums, a fife and a triangle,
cymbals clashed mechanically, and a little soldier beat the time. Further on,
under a striped awning, were the wooden horses. They were arranged so wel_hat they rocked to and fro, imitating as nearly as possible the action o_eal horses. Esther watched the riders. A blue skirt looked like a ridin_abit, and a girl in salmon pink leaned back in her saddle just as if she ha_een taught how to ride. A girl in a grey jacket encouraged a girl in whit_ho rode a grey horse. But before Esther could make out for certain that th_an in the blue Melton jacket was Bill Evans he had passed out of sight, an_he had to wait until his horse came round the second time. At that moment sh_aught sight of the red poppies in Sarah's hat.
The horses began to slacken speed. They went slower and slower, then stoppe_ltogether. The riders began to dismount and Esther pressed through th_ystanders, fearing she would not be able to overtake her friends.
"Oh, here you are," said Sarah. "I thought I never should find you again.
How hot it is!"
"Were you on in that ride? Let's have another, all three of us. These thre_orses."
Round and round they went, their steeds bobbing nobly up and down to the soun_f fifes, drums and cymbals. They passed the winning-post many times; they ha_o pass it five times, and the horse that stopped nearest it won the prize. _ong-drawn-out murmur, continuous as the sea, swelled up from the course—_urmur which at last passed into words: "Here they come; blue wins, th_avourite's beat." Esther paid little attention to these cries; she did no_nderstand them; they reached her indistinctly and soon died away, absorbed i_he strident music that accompanied the circling horses. These had now begu_o slacken speed…. They went slower and slower. Sarah and Bill, who rode sid_y side, seemed like winning, but at the last moment they glided by th_inning-post. Esther's steed stopped in time, and she was told to choose _hina mug from a great heap.
"You've all the luck to-day," said Bill. "Hayfield, who was backed all th_inter, broke down a month ago…. 2 to 1 against Fly-leaf, 4 to 1 agains_ignet-ring, 4 to 1 against Dewberry, 10 to 1 against Vanguard, the winner a_0 to 1 offered. Your husband must have won a little fortune. Never was ther_uch a day for the bookies."
Esther said she was very glad, and was undecided which mug she should choose.
At last she saw one on which "Jack" was written in gold letters. They the_isited the peep-shows, and especially liked St. James's Park with the Hors_uards out on parade; the Spanish bull-fight did not stir them, and Sara_ouldn't find a single young man to her taste in the House of Commons. Amon_he performing birds they liked best a canary that climbed a ladder. Bill wa_ttracted by the American strength-testers, and he gave an exhibition of hi_uscle, to Sarah's very great admiration. They all had some shies at cocoa-
nuts, and passed by J. Bilton's great bowling saloon without visiting it. Onc_ore the air was rent with the cries of "Here they come! Here they come!" Eve_he 'commodation men left their canvas shelters and pressed forward inquirin_hich had won. A moment after a score of pigeons floated and flew through th_lue air and then departed in different directions, some making straight fo_ondon, others for the blue mysterious evening that had risen about th_owns—the sun-baked Downs strewn with waste paper and covered by tipsy men an_omen, a screaming and disordered animality.
"Well, so you've come back at last," said William. "The favourite was beaten.
I suppose you know that a rank outsider won. But what about this gentleman?"
"Met these 'ere ladies on the 'ill an' been showing them over the course.
No offence, I hope, guv'nor?"
William did not answer, and Bill took leave of Sarah in a manner that told
Esther that they had arranged to meet again.
"Where did you pick up that bloke?"
"He came up and spoke to us, and Esther stopped to speak to the parson."
"To the parson. What do you mean?"
The circumstance was explained, and William asked them what they thought o_he racing.
"We didn't see no racing," said Sarah; "we was on the 'ill on the wooden
'orses. Esther's 'orse won. She got a mug; show the mug, Esther."
"So you saw no Derby after all?" said William.
"Saw no racin'!" said his neighbour; "ain't she won the cup?"
The joke was lost on the women, who only perceived that they were bein_aughed at.
"Come up here, Esther," said William; "stand on my box. The 'orses are jus_oing up the course for the preliminary canter. And you, Sarah, take Teddy'_lace. Teddy, get down, and let the lady up."
"Yes, guv'nor. Come up 'ere, ma'am."
"And is those the 'orses?" said Sarah. "They do seem small."
The ringmen roared. "Not up to those on the 'ill, ma'am," said one. "Not suc_eautiful goers," said another.
There were two or three false starts, and then, looking through a multitude o_ats, Esther saw five or six thin greyhound-looking horses. They passed lik_hadows, flitted by; and she was sorry for the poor chestnut that trotted i_mong the crowd.
This was the last race. Once more the favourite had been beaten; there were n_ets to pay, and the bookmakers began to prepare for departure. It was th_oor little clerks who were charged with the luggage. Teddy did not seem as i_e would ever reach the top of the hill. With Esther and Sarah on either arm,
William struggled with the crowd. It was hard to get through the block o_arriages. Everywhere horses waited with their harness on, and Sarah wa_fraid of being bitten or kicked. A young aristocrat cursed them from the box-
seat, and the groom blew a blast as the drag rolled away. It was like th_nstinct of departure which takes a vast herd at a certain moment. The grea_andscape, half country, half suburb, glinted beneath the rays of a settin_un; and through the white dust, and the drought of the warm roads, the brake_nd carriages and every crazy vehicle rolled towards London; orange-sellers,
tract-sellers, thieves, vagrants, gipsies, made for their variou_uarters—roadside inns, outhouses, hayricks, hedges, or the railway station.
Down the long hill the vast crowd made its way, humble pedestrians an_arriage folk, all together, as far as the cross-roads. At the "Spread Eagle"
there would be stoppage for a parting drink, there the bookmakers would chang_heir clothes, and there division would happen in the crowd—half for th_ailway station, half for the London road. It was there that the traditiona_ports of the road began. A drag, with a band of exquisites armed with pea-
shooters, peppering on costers who were getting angry, and threatening t_rive over the leaders. A brake with two poles erected, and hanging on _tring quite a line of miniature chamber-pots. A horse, with his fore-leg_lothed in a pair of lady's drawers. Naturally unconscious of the garment, th_orse stepped along so absurdly that Esther and Sarah thought they'd chok_ith laughter.
At the station William halloaed to old John, whom he caught sight of on th_latform. He had backed the winner—forty to one about Sultan. It was Ketle_ho had persuaded him to risk half a sovereign on the horse. Ketley was at th_erby; he had met him on the course, and Ketley had told him a wonderful stor_bout a packet of Turkish Delight. The omen had come right this time, an_ourneyman took a back seat.
"Say what you like," said William, "it is damned strange; and if anyone di_ind the way of reading them omens there would be an end of us bookmakers." H_as only half in earnest, but he regretted he had not met Ketley. If he ha_nly had a fiver on the horse—200 to 5!
They met Ketley at Waterloo, and every one wanted to hear from his own lip_he story of the packet of Turkish Delight. So William proposed they shoul_ll come up to the "King's Head" for a drink. The omnibus took them as far a_iccadilly Circus; and there the weight of his satchel tempted William t_nvite them to dinner, regardless of expense.
"Which is the best dinner here?" he asked the commissionaire.
"The East Room is reckoned the best, sir."
The fashion of the shaded candles and the little tables, and the beauty of a_pen evening bodice and the black and white elegance of the young men a_inner, took the servants by surprise, and made them feel that they were ou_f place in such surroundings. Old John looked like picking up a napkin an_sking at the nearest table if anything was wanted. Ketley proposed the gril_oom, but William, who had had a glass more than was good for him, declare_hat he didn't care a damn—that he could buy up the whole blooming show. Th_ead-waiter suggested a private room; it was abruptly declined, and Willia_ook up the menu. "Bisque Soup, what's that? You ought to know, John." Joh_hook his head. "Ris de veau! That reminds me of when——" William stopped an_ooked round to see if his former wife was in the room. Finally, the head-
waiter was cautioned to send them up the best dinner in the place. Allusio_as made to the dust and heat. Journeyman suggested a sluice, and the_nquired their way to the lavatories. Esther and Sarah were away longer tha_he men, and stood dismayed at the top of the room till William called fo_hem. The other guests seemed a little terrified, and the head-waiter, t_eassure them, mentioned that it was Derby Day.
William had ordered champagne, but it had not proved to any one's tast_xcept, perhaps, to Sarah, whom it rendered unduly hilarious; nor did th_elicate food afford much satisfaction; the servants played with it, and lef_t on their plates; and it was not until William ordered up the saddle o_utton and carved it himself that the dinner began to take hold of th_ompany. Esther and Sarah enjoyed the ices, and the men stuck to the cheese, _ine Stilton, which was much appreciated. Coffee no one cared for, and th_ittle glasses of brandy only served to augment the general tipsiness. Willia_iccupped out an order for a bottle of Jamieson eight-year-old; but pipes wer_ot allowed, and cigars were voted tedious, so they adjourned to the bar,
where they were free to get as drunk as they pleased. William said, "Now let's
'ear the blo——the bloody omen that put ye on to Sultan—that blood—packet o_urkish Delight."
"Most extra—most extraordinary thing I ever heard in my life, so yer 'ere?"
said Ketley, staring at William and trying to see him distinctly.
William nodded. "How was it? We want to 'ear all about it. Do hold yer tongue,
Sarah. I beg pardon, Ketley is go—going to tell us about the bloody omen.
Thought you'd like to he—ar, old girl."
Allusion was made to a little girl coming home from school, and a piece o_aper on the pavement. But Ketley could not concentrate his thoughts on th_ain lines of the story, and it was lost in various dissertations. But th_ompany was none the less pleased with it, and willingly declared tha_ookmaking was only a game for mugs. Get on a winner at forty to one, and yo_ould make as much in one bet as a poor devil of a bookie could in six months,
fagging from race-course to race-course. They drank, argued, and quarrelled,
until Esther noticed that Sarah was looking very pale. Old John was quit_elpless; Journeyman, who seemed to know what he was doing, very kindl_romised to look after him.
Ketley assured the commissionaire that he was not drunk; and when they go_utside Sarah felt obliged to step aside; she came back, saying that she fel_ little better.
They stood on the pavement's edge, a little puzzled by the brilliancy of th_oonlight. And the three men who followed out of the bar-room were agree_egarding the worthlessness of life. One said, "I don't think much of it; al_ live for is beer and women." The phrase caught on William's ear, and h_aid, "Quite right, old mate," and he held out his hand to Bill Evans. "Bee_nd women, it always comes round to that in the end, but we mustn't let the_ear us say it." The men shook hands, and Bill promised to see Sarah safel_ome. Esther tried to interpose, but William could not be made to understand,
and Sarah and Bill drove away together in a hansom. Sarah dozed of_mmediately on his shoulder, and it was difficult to awaken her when the ca_topped before a house whose respectability took Bill by surprise.