|Chapter Title||SYDNEY RACES.|
|Newspaper Title||Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876)|
|Trove Title||Harry Linton's Downfall: A Story of Old Sydney|
HARRY LINTON'S DOWNFALL. A STORY OF OLD SYDNEY. BY R. A. ATKINS. CHAPTER IV. SYDNEY RACES. See the course throng'd with gazers, the sports are begun, What confusion - but hear ! -" I'll bet you, sir !" "Done, Done!" A thousand strange murmurs resound far and near, Lords, hawkers, end jockeys assail the tired ear. Dibdin. A fortnight after the conversation which took place between Cash and his servant, as recorded in the second chapter, much anticipatory excitement prevailed in Sydney, relative to the races, which were advertised to " come off" in the course of a few days. The colonial betting market was very brisk. The "favourite" was a horse called Hector, the property of an officer of the 73rd Regt., and long odds were laid on him. Mr. Cash, who was considered a particularly " knowing card " in all matters connected with the turf, and who, by means of his almost unlimited wealth, was able to obtain every information relative to the horses entered, fearlessly backed Hector against the field, making up his book confidently, and apparently having no intention to "hedge." He found numbers ready to "take him up," on all sides, and before the day's racing arrived he had laid bets on the favourite to the amount of six thousand pounds. The event was looked forward to with much pleasurable aniticipation by the officers and mess of the gallant Seventy-third. The honour of the regiment was at stake, and depended on the success of Hector's running. How dreadful the idea that a military horse should be beaten by a civilian - nay, worse, a colonial hack ! Harry Linton, who was an enthusiast in all matters of "horse-flesh," was infected with the general excitement, and became impressed with the idea that Hector could not be beaten. Was he not an imported nag - a "thoroughbred" from old England ? What possible chance could an uneducated bush horse have against one of his faultiess pedigree ? It was whilst Harry was in this sanguine state of mind that he received seven hundred pounds from home - for the elder Linton's allowance of one thousand a year was not strictly adhered to. It often became fifteen hundred, perhaps two thousand per annum ; for, as the old squire said, "That Sydney's a deuced expensive place, and I should not like the lad to run short." It was out of this remittance that Harry was to pay the £400 to Colonel Winter, or, failing to do so, to give up all thoughts of wedding the fair Dora. The mess of the Seventy-third was generally a very lively affair : the officers were jovial, dashing spirits, who drank, diced, gambled, and snubbed "emancipists " on every available occasion. Harry Linton was
the steadiest man in the regiment ; but the less we pry into his private proceedings, perhaps, the better, in these very moral days. It was on the evening of the day preceding the Sydney races that the officers sat around the mess table discussing with post prandial animation, the all-engrossing topic. " I say, Linton," said the Major, a portly gentleman with a fiery countenance, " is it true that you've laid five to one on Hector ? It it is, old fellow, I must congratulate you. I thought we should persuade you to back the favourite, and not be the only one of ours to hang fire !" "It's quite true !" said Harry, excitedly. " I've bet with Lieutenant Lee, of the 'Roarer,' he backed a horse called Colonist, and two others, against Hector, taking five to one." The young man appeared excited and nervous, and there could be no doubt but that he had been following out his father's advice to "stick to port," in fact, as the Major thought to himself, " the young fellow's hazy." "In ' monkeys' or 'ponies' ?" enquired Captain Matchlock - lighting a fresh cigar. " In hundreds," replied Harry, cracking nuts at the rate of a dozen a minute. "By this time tomorrow night I shall have pocketed a hundred pounds !" " You may depend on that, my boy," hiccupped Captain Lambert, the owner of Hector, who suddenly rose his head from the table, where it had been peacefully reposing on a pillow of nutshells and orange-peel. " You may depend on that. Hector's safe to win - no doubt about it ;" and the gallant Captain drank a glass of wine, freed his hair from the nutshells, and went out to look at the "favourite." Harry tried very hard to feel certain of it, too, but he failed most signally. What if the horse lost, and he had to hand over the five hundred pounds to the man with whom he had bet ? This was a lieutenant on board a man-of-war, then lying in the harbour, and the vessel would sail for England on the day following the races, so that the money must be paid immediately after the cup race, as it had been arranged, as the gallant Lieutenant would have to repair on board at once, to make preparations for sailing. The bet had been made by Harry under the pressure of persuasion by his brother officers. They had persuaded the young man that it was his duty, as an officer, to back the regimental horse, and to escape their badinage he had done so. Harry was one of those who do not like to be outdone in anything, and so, instead of betting in twenties, or even filties, he had at once rushed into hundreds. No sooner was the bet booked than young Linton repented having made it. Certainly, the chances were greatly in his favour - but then, it he should lose ! Five hundred pounds was certainly a large sum to stake on the race ; but was that all he had staked ? No ! far from all. He had, thoughtlessly, also risked his chance of obtaining the hand of Dora - for well he knew the stubborn nature of old Winter, and knowing the man with whom he had to deal - a man who obstinately adhered to his promises, even though he were the sufferer thereby - the conviction forced itself upon him that if Hector lost the race he would lose both his five hundred pounds and Dora - lose them irrevocably ! But it was now too late to recall what he had done - so it was only left for him to hope for the best. Certainly he could "hedge," but then he had too much confidence in the horse he had backed to think of that. And so the terrible suspense increased day by day, and hour by hour, as the time drew near, which would settle all doubts ; and never was the health of prince, potentate, or friend more fervently desired than was that of the gallant race-horse Hector. The day of the races at length dawned bright and fair ; and the calm of a spring morning fell refreshingly on the excited, turbulent crowd that hurried towards the course. On the equipage of the popular Governor who with Lady Macqunrie was heartily cheered, as he was whirled along towards the scene of the days sport. On a motley multitude bond and free, on foot, on horseback, and in conveyances of primitive build, and unsatisfactory springs. And on Cash, Linton, and the gallant 73rd all pushing towards the course, and praying for the success of Hector. While the necessary preparations for the race are being made, we will, with your kind permission, reader, see if we can recognise some of the more notable personages on the course. Suppose we post ourselves here and watch them as they, ascend to the rude "Grand Stand," which makes us smile, in spite of ourselves, at its roughly constructed unsightliness. First comes the Governor, and Lady Macquarie, smiling and bowing amid the cheers of the people ; then the commander of the forces and the officers of the garrison ; next John Thomas Bigee, Esq., a commissioner sent from home to enquire into the state of the colony ; and his secretary, Thomas Hobbs Scott, Esq., both newly arrived, and who appear full of all due importance ; then Andrew Thomson, Esq., J.P., the ex-convict ; then G. Howe, Esq., onnother emancipist, proprietor of the New South Wales Gazette ; then Messrs. William Wentworth and Gregory Blaxland, accompanied by their old friends and fellow tourists, Lieutenant Lawson, and Mr. Lewin, the painter and naturalist ; and then come others of lesser note. And so one by one they pass us by ; hundreds of old faces long since turned to dust, and forgotten, men who never lived to see the progress that this country has made, the babe whom they so carefully tended, and whose faltering steps they guarded, in the days of their life and activity. At length the bell rang and the course was cleared, the races had began. The Cup race, in which Hector was to run, was not the first on the list, arid the public excitement appeared all centered on that event. There was another horse that rose greatly in favour with the betting community, as, he cantered past to the starting place. This second favorite, was "Colonist," the property of a resident in the new settlement of Bathurst ; and he certainly was noble animal. Though he did not show the breed of Hector yet he was evidently of a stronger frame, and, as a considerable quantity of rain had fallen on the previous night, rendering the ground heavy, many began to think that Colonist's chance was not so bad after all. Those who had bet confidently on Hector now began to " hedge" cautiously, and amongst this number were Cash and young Linton. The latter on seeing the new horse pass the stand, and hearing the genuine buzz of admiration which his appearance called forth, had hurriedly muttered his apologies to Dora Winter, who with her father had come
to see the races, and hastened into the betting ring. He found the betting much changed since an hour previously. " Very small odds were now offered in favour of Hector and those were taken up with, avidity. Harry's mind was made up, he would " hedge." He did so to the amount of two hundred and fifty pounds. " There ! " he exclaimed as he walked back again to his place on the stand, " my mind's easier now. No matter which of the the two wins, and one or the other is sure to win, I'm safe only to lose two hundred and fifty, and I can easily manage to make up the old Colonel's money in that case." Eight horses were entered for the race, and as Harry again seated himself at Dora's side, the starter dropped the flag and off they went. Hurry skurry, mud flying in the faces of the onlookers ; jockeys plying whip and spur ; betting men trembling, laughing, cursing, and praying ; loud cries of "yes !" no ! here they are I stand back I" and as the horses dashed past the winning post, and gradually pulled up, a hoarse roar, as of the sea, a mephistophilean laugh, and an eager rush, to hear what ? That the Ladies Cup had been won by neither Hector nor Colonist, but by an outsider upon whom no one had ever thought of laying a sixpence.