Chapter 33159004

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33159004
Full Date1898-07-29
Page Number61
Corrections8
Word Count4314
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-01-31
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleWon by Jockeyship: A Sporting Sketch
article text

WON BY JOCKEYSHIP.

A SPORTING SKETCH.

By FRANK H. HART.

OHAPTER I.

Arthur Hudson whistled gaily as he

ran up the steps of his uncle's residence at Toorak one bright summer morning. Was there not every reason for him feel gay ? For weeks he had been racked

with doubts as to whether Nellie Vernon

the beauty from Riverina who had taken Melbourne society by storm with her charming grace, loved or merely tolerated him. The uncertainty, so exquisitely painful to all lovers who have not put their fate to the test, had to be ended, and Nellie had promised to be

his, provided, of course, he could obtain the consent of her father, a wealthy pastoralist, who preferred his home on

the plains and the company of his flocks and herds to the fascinations and pomp

of city life.

Arthur Hudson did not anticipate that this condition would be difficult to obtain. It was true that Vernon père was known as one of the Australian wool kings, but Hudson felt justified in believing that a rising young barrister, who had taken high degrees at the university and was reckoned to have a brilliant future before him in politics as well as in law, in addition to being the heir of a rich uncle, was a suitable candidate for the hand even of Miss Nellie Vernon.

The ardent lover, however, is always prone to doubt and anxiety ; and when

his aunt, observing his entrance, called out, " There is a letter for you in the study, Arthur," accompanying the

announcement with a significant smile, sudden nervousness possessed him. He knew intuitively that the letter awaiting him was the reply which he had been expecting from Nellie's father. Hastening into the study Hudson seized the missive and tore it open with feverish impatience. Confident as he was that he would be regarded by the world as an eligible parti, he was uncertain as to the light in which he would be judged by the man in whose hands lay his fate.

The letter was written in bold and decisive characters, which formed a clear index of the nature of the writer. Arthur scanned it eagerly to the end, and then, with a dull Iook of amazement and pain in his eyes, dropped back in his chair.

This is what he read : -

Sir, Your letter, in which you ask for the hand of my daughter In marriage, has duly reached me. I have to inform you that I cannot entertain your proposal. By this mail I have told Miss Vernon to return home, and I must ask you, as I have directed her, to end this

intimacy. There can be no thought of a union between you and my daughter. My decision is unalterable, and it is useless for you to address any further communications to me on the subject. Yours truly, CHARLES VERNON."

" The cantankerous old brute," was Arthur's mental comment, when he had so far recovered from his surprise as to think coherently. " He writes to me on such a question in just the manner that he would adopt if writing to his woolbrokers. Fancy an old curmudgeon like that being Nellie's father ! But i if he takes me to be so easily got rid of as that he is mistaken," continued the lover after a pause. " No," he exclaimed audibly and rising to his feet in his excitement, " I am not going to give up, after that dear girl has told me that she loves me She is a prize worth fighting for, and I shall not rest till she is mine."

" What is all this excitement over,

Arthur dear ?" said his aunt, coming into

the room. * I hope nothing has occurred to upset you."

" The meaning is, aunt, that a man

considers that he can treat his daughter as if she were one of his merino sheep. Nellie's father knows that she loves me yet he, abruptly and without assigning any reason, says that there can be nothing between us, and directs that our intimacy shall cease. Oh," he added passionately, " I should like to have him

in front of me now !"

" But you must not be so excited, Arthur. That will do no good. Where are you going ? " ( The young man had picked up his hat, and was proceeding

to rush out ).

" I am off to see Nellie. That old autocrat bas ordered her to return home, and I am not going to let her leave Melbourne until she hears my vow to make her mine in spite of all obstacles."

As Hudson flew clown the stairs his aunt looked after him lovingly and somewhat anxiously. Soon her brow cleared, and she muttered, " He is a dear boy, though he is impetuous. I have confidence in him. Such courage and determination will win him success in the end."

A cab carried Arthur Hudson rapidly to the house where his lady love resided.

He had been a frequent visitor there, and the neat housemaid who opened the door had no hesitation in ushering him into the drawing-room, where he awaited

the coming of the girl he loved.

Nellie Vernon came to him with the evident traces of tears in her eyes, and with a sadness of mien which rendered her even more precious than ever to the man before her, whose resentment to the "soulless father" increased as be witnessed the effect of his treatment on the woman he adored.

" Arthur," she said," with a little catch of pain in her voice, " you have my father's answer. " He says that we can have nothing more to say to each other. Oh, I am wretched. Why did I ever come to Melbourne ? Why did fate throw us together ? I love, but it is

forbidden."

" Nellie," passionately cried her companion, as he stepped forward and drew the now weeping girl to his breast. " I swear that I will not give you up, though your father command it ten thousand times. You are mine by the right of our love for each other, and nothing can part us."

" But no," she rejoined, slightly dis- engaging herself and leaning her weary head upon her arm, which she rested on the mantelshelf. " My father has made up his mind, and I know he will not

alter it."

" What is his meaning ? " enquired Arthur. " What are his objections to me ?"

" Here is his letter," replied Nellie. " Dad says he has other plans for my

future."

" And does he regard you as a household chattel - something inanimate and

without feeling that he can regulate .mechanically ?"

" Oh, do not. speak thus. You hurt me, Arthur."

" There, darling," Hudson hastened to say soothingly. " I am sorry I spoke so churlishly. I will read this and see if there is any explanation of the difficulty."

With anger rising in his soul as each word impressed itself upon his mind, Arthur read : - "My dear daughter, I am intensely annoyed to find that you have allowed yourself to receive the attentions of one of those city jackanapes. He says in a letter to me that you love him. This I will not believe. I would never consent to your marriage with a man of that stamp. I know the type too well. They wear collars which reach their ears, trousers rolled up five inches at the bottom, and a general air of vacuity and stupidity - no mimd above the frivolities of life and no ambition

but to be considered a leader of fashion. The husband of my daughter must be one worthy of the name of man, and he is not to be found in the unhealthy atmosphere in which you have been mixing. Come home at once. I am sorry that l ever let you go down there. Understand that there must be no more heard of this foolish escapade. You need give no thought to the question of a husband. I have my own plans in regard to that, * and this incident will hasten on their realisation. Troubles never come singly, they say. It was not enough that a brainless city fop should wish to marry my girl, but now Ernest Clarke, whom I relied upon to ride Marquis in the Open Hurdle Race at Hay next month, writes to tell me that be will have to ride for his father, who has determined to send Benzon for

it. The two people I placed confidence in have disappointed me, though perhaps, under the circumstances, I

should not blame Clarke so much. I

am resolved on winning the race, however, and have written to Scobie to send me up a good rider. I shall expect you home by Friday next. Your affectionate father, CHARLES VERNON."

" So I am a 'a brainless city fop," commented Hudson bitterly. " I wear high collars, tumed-up pants, and a general air of vacuity and stupidity. This really is very flattering, I must say."

" Don't be so angry, Arthur. I am not to blame. Goodness knows, I am

miserable enough already."

" I know you are, Nellie, and it is cruel of me to think so much of the personal affront. " But," he added, with an appealing air which struck the girl as ludicrous, " do you consider that I answer your father's description ?" Nellie could not help laughing, and to prevent her lover being offended, she placed her shapely little hand caressingly on his shoulder and replied, * No, dear, you are everything that is good and

handsome."

Such an action and such a statement would be balm for any injury. They

calmed the storm in Arthurs breast immediately, and, moved by the caress, he gathered Nellie in,his arms and kissed her fervently.

" Arthur," she said, putting the distance of the fireplace between them, " we are doing wrong. You do not know dad as I know him. He will never give way in this matter now that he has taken up

an unfavourable stand."

" Well he is an old ass, then."

"Arthur ! You must not speak like that of him. He loves me devotedly, and thinks he is acting for the best."

" It is not very wrong to call him an old ass when he calls me a brainless fop ; and as to his acting for the best is he not doing his best to ruin both our lives ?"

" He will break my heart if he insists on my marrying the man of his choice.

That I do know."

The speech conveyed such evidence of misery on the part of the bewitching young person who uttered it, that Hudson, did not allow the width of the fireplace to divide them long, and a very pretty and interesting little love scene ensued. It is unnecessary to describe it. They comforted each other with promises of undying affection; but both felt that they were not gettiug any nearer to a solution of the difficulty which beset

them.

" What can be your father's plans for your future, of which he speaks ? " asked Arthur at length.

" He had never mentioned them to me before," replied Nellie, " I can only

surmise what he means."

" Do you think that the latter paragraph means that he has chosen this Ernest Clarke as your future husband ?"

" That is what I do imagine, but I know that Ernest has no comprehension of any such proposal existing."

" How do you know that, Nellie ? It would be surprising, in my opinion, if he did not fall in lore with you ;" and Arthur looked at his sweetheart with a proud air which won for him a grateful

look in return.

" All men do not see with your eyes, sir. Ernest Clarke, if you must know,

thinks Nellie Vernon's sister Jessie much more lovable than Nellie Vernon herself."

" Phew? There is another surprise in store for your respected parent." A momentary pause, and then, " Eureka, I have it," he concluded exultantly.

" Have what ?" asked Nellie, who was not a little frightened by the suddenness of his exclamation.

" I see a way of defeating your father's plans." Then he jubilantly continued, " Your, father says he has written to Scobie for a jockey. I know Scobie well ; he trained Cedric for me when I won the Hunt Club Cup last year. I know he will oblige me in this matter. I shall arrange with him to let me go up as the ' good rider ' who your father requires. Mr. Vernon says l am a city fop. Well, I shall prove to him that the rider of two Hunt Club Cup winners in three years is not the effeminate creature he imagines him to be. Then, darling, I can with confidence renew my suit."

" But, Arthur, you would have to masquerade as a jockey - you would have to relinquish your 5 in. collar and your turned-up pants," she concluded in a charming manner.

" So I should, Nell. But I would do that and more to prove my devotion. The joy I expressed when I gained your love was no meaningless utterance. You are my life and my love, and I shall win you yet."

Here it must be confessed by the conscientious chronicler that the dialogue ended for some moments. It is strange that lovers never do carry on a conversation without these interruptions.

Arthur's remarkable proposal was discussed subsequently. Nellie was, at first averse to it, but at length, her consent was won for her lover to visit her home in the character of a jockey. Analysed, there was a certain romance about the experiment that attracted her, as romance always does attract women ; and, moreover, she was pleased with the proof Arthur was going to give of his

affection.

The young man left at last, having arranged before parting that their next meeting place should be Fassifern Station, and their characters owner's daughter and jockey respectively.

CHAPTER II.

Hudson's scheme progressed favour-ably. He had little difficulty in getting Scobie's cooperation. Arthur was a splendid horseman, and the trainer had no scruples in selecting him to ride in the colours of Mr. Vernon, of Fassifern. It was vacation time, and a brother barrister arranged to look after his friend's practice while the latter " spent a few weeks rusticating," as it would be

announced.

A week later saw the young man installed at Fassifern. He kept up his role well, and had greatly impressed Mr. Vernon with his diligence in attending to and schooling Marquis.

Returning one morning from the training track with Nellie, her father was profuse in his praises of "Scobie's

boy." There was a very amused look on Nellie's face as she listened to the statement that " a poor, rider never found a place in the employ of the Ballarat trainer." She had felt very proud of Arthur as he sat on his mount and confidently raced him at the schooling hurdles. He had certainly a pretty seat in the saddle, and had adapted himself splendidly to the horse's somewhat excitable temperament.

" He is a very smart chap, that jockey, " commented Mr. Vernon. " Looks rather superior for one in his position. By Jove he has lovely hands with a horse, though."

" I did not notice anything remarkable about his hands," rejoined Nellie.

" You do not understand my meaning, girl. When I say that a man has lovely hands I do not intend to imply that they are of a milk-and-white complexion, like those of the curled darlings of Toorak,

who I so much abominate. I mean that he handles his horse well."

" Oh," remarked Nellie, in a manner conveying the impression that the subject had no interest for her.

" I know your fashionable friends do not value these accomplishments in men, and I am afraid that you are acquiring similar tastes. They would rather have a man who can dress elegantly, dance 'divinely,' and converse in the style adopted by society imbeciles. But when you marry, my girl, it shall be to a man like Hudson, who can manage a horse and has some other qualifications beyond being able to mix well in society."

" Oh ! dad," exclaimed Nellie, in well feigned horror, " you would not marry me to a jockey surely."

" Of course not," thundered the father angrily. " You girls are confoundedly apt to jumping to wrong conclusions. I instanced Hudson merely because he

rides well and has a manly bearing. No, the man you will marry will be your equal in position and a credit to our house."

Nellie sighed, and Mr. Vernon was considerate enough to allow the subject to drop. They had previously gone into the question rather warmly, and the father felt that he would do no good by renewing the debate at that stage.

Secretly Nellie was delighted at the manner in which " dad " had committed himself, and she inwardly praised her lover's enterprise and ingenuity in adopting such a plan for putting himself in a favourable light before her father.

Jessie and Ernest Clarke, who had arrived at the mutual understanding that they were passionately attached to each other, were taken into the lovers' confidence, and Nellie and Arthur contrived by their agency to meet frequently, renew their vows of unalterable devotion and discuss the progress of the scheme for the subjugation of an adverse parent.

On the eve before the races Nellie exclaimed, as she rested her head on the shoulder of her jockey lover, " Oh, Arthur, I shall be glad when it is all over ; but, dear boy, I admire you

just as much in your disguise as I did

before. You could never be other than

noble and good."

The compliment was rewarded by a warm embrace, and Hudson fondly rejoined, " I am glad that obstacles have arisen, darling, because it will prove how deeply I love you. Tomorrow, I shall put my fate to the test. Clarke is well mounted, but Marquis races kindly with me, and I feel certain of victory. The fact that your dear eyes are watching, and that you desire my success, is sure to urge me on to victory and to claim a wife."

Next day heard the bell ring out on the Hay racecourse for the Open Hurdle Race, which was to have such an important influence in determining the happiness of two beings at least. The

settlers for miles around gathered for the meeting, which was the chief event in the local racing year. !

The Hurdle Race was the first item on the programme. Though not the most important in point of value, great interest

attached to it. There were twelve acceptors,

many of whom were well-known known city performers.

An exceptionally good class of horses

visited Hay. On this occasion Glenloth, that afterwards distinguished itself by winning a Melbourne Cup, was

engaged in the principal flat races, having as an opponent the Wagga horse, Rainbow, who was quite capable of stretching the neck of the son of Glenmarkie. The Tysons' string, trained by Larry Holmes, comprised a number of speedy animals, purchased at rather tall figures at Melbourne sales, and there

were locally-bred candidates whose claims could not be despised.

Marquis was to represent Fassifern in the hurdles, and was a horse Mr. Vernon had bred himself. He purchased the dam when she was in foal to Glorious, and Marquis came to light and was reared in a Murrumbidgee paddock. The gelding had good blood on the dam's side, and as a three year old won the Hay Maiden Plate in a workmanlike manner. He was more

of a stayer than a sprinter, however, and his owner, of whom there was no better judge of horseflesh in the district, determined to put him to the illegitimate game for a start and afterwards give him a trial over big timber

on metropolitan courses.

This was to be Marquis's first trial over hurdles. * In his early schooling he

proved himself to be a born jumper, but he

had rather an awkward mouth and was inclined to rush his fences. For this

reason Mr Vernon, failing to secure the services of Ernest Clarke, who was without doubt the finest amateur rider in Riverina, had sent to Scobie for a jockey. He took a great pride in his horse, and was determined that Marquis's début should not be a failure.

Hudson had had a good look around the saddling paddock, and with the eye

of a man experienced in the business he

had calculated the calibre of the horses which Marquis had to meet. Benzon he had seen before and knew him to be considered dangerous, and the best of the others he judged to be a wear and tear looking brown by Robert the Devil, which Joe Haywood had brought down from Wagga.

" It will not be such a runaway victory as I had on Cedric," ruminated Arthur. " Benzon has a great turn of speed, and the Wagga chap will be upsides with them when the whips are cracking, if I am any judge ; but some of the weeds are sure to make the pace sound in the early part, and Marquis will come at the right end. He has a stout heart and jumps like a stag."

When Hudson appeared in his colours - the gold' jacket and black sleeves

which Mr. Vernon boasted were never seen on the back of a duffer - he attracted the admiring gaze of many a Riverina damsel, and Nellie, who at a

distance saw him emerge from the weighing enclosure, felt more than ever proud of her brave knight. The shapely

character of his limbs were seen to

advantage in the close fitting costume which jockeys adopt, and his graceful carriage, half proud but wholly manly, betrayed breeding just as much as did the appearance of Marquis as contrasted with that of some of the

" cuddies " opposed to him.

The attention turned upon her lover by local residents was not lost on Nellie, either ; and with a woman's pride she would have been glad did the world only know that this man, who to them was only a common jockey, was in reality the honoured and welcome guest at fashionable houses in Melbourne and the one being in all creation she could

love.

Tears of gratitude and adoration rose in the maiden's eyes as she reflected on the circumstances of his presence there that day, and thought : " He is doing this for me. How can I ever repay him for such a proof of his love ?"

" Nell, dear," whispered the sweet voice of her sister Jessie in her ear, " are you not going over to wish him good luck ? And don't you think he looks handsome ? Next to Ernest," she added with pardonable partiality, "I consider he is the finest man I ever met."

Nellie in her heart of hearts was not in the least inclined to admit that even

that paragon, Ernest Clarke, was worthy to be compared to her Arthur, but she refrained from arguing the question and

rejoined, " Come, Jessie, we will go across now that he is alone."

Hudson was saddling Marquis as his sweetheart drew near. He noticed her

approach and welcomed her with one of those rare smiles of recognition that only lovers can employ. Still, no action

of his would arouse suspicion in the minds of anyone who might be looking as to the relationship which existed

between them.

" I came to offer you my good wishes, Arthur," Nellie said, and continued, as she thought of the risks which all riders have to take, " and oh ! I do hope you will not get hurt."

" Thank you, darling," he replied, as fervently as he could while performing the work of tightening up a girth into the fourth hole. " As to the danger, have no fear on that score, Nell. Marquis has never blundered at a jump yet, and I am sure he will not misbehave today, especially as I am carrying your colours, pet. He would never be so ungallant as to disgrace this ( glancing down at a small strip of blue ribbon drawn through one of the button holes in his jacket ). " Would you, Marquis, old chap ?" he concluded, putting his lips near the horse's ear.

Marquis lazily turned and slightly

shook his head, as if in mute answer to the question.

Noticing that the crowd were beginning to move in the direction of her father's stall, Nellie whispered, "Au revoir, Arthur ; remember that I shall be thinking of and watching you all the time," and walked off with Jessie to the

stand.

" Now then, Hudson," cheerfully remarked

Mr. Vernon as he gave Arthur a " leg up " into the saddle, " right leg forward this time, and you will not find me ungenerous at the end of the race."

" I will do my best, sir," was the obedient reply. " I think I shall just

about win."

To Be Concluded.