The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 17

The Derby

An attendance at the Newmarket Second Spring Meeting had unfortunately not been compatible with the Silverbridge election. Major Tifto had therefore been obliged to look after the affair alone. ‘A very useful mare,’ as Tifto had been in the habit of calling a leggy, thoroughbred, meagre-looking brute named Coalition, was on this occasion confided to the Major’s sole care and judgement. But Coalition failed, as coalitions always do, and Tifto had to report to his noble patron that they had not pulled off the event. It had been a match for four hundred pounds, made indeed by Lord Silverbridge, but made at the suggestion of Tifto; — and now Tifto wrote in a very bad humour about it. It had been altogether his Lordship’s fault in submitting to carry two pounds more than Tifto had thought to be fair and equitable. The match had been lost. Would Lord Silverbridge be so good as to pay the money to Mr Green Griffin and debit him, Tifto, with the share of the loss?

We must acknowledge that the unpleasant tone of the Major’s letter was due quite as much to the ill-usage he had received in reference to that journey to Silverbridge, as to the loss of the race. Within that little body there was a high-mounting heart, and that heart had been greatly wounded by his Lordship’s treatment. Tifto had felt himself to have been treated like a servant. Hardly an excuse had even been made. He had been simply told that he was not wanted. He was apt sometimes to tell himself that he knew on which side his bread was buttered. But perhaps he hardly knew how best to keep the butter going. There was a little pride about him which was antagonistic to the best interests of such a trade as his. Perhaps it was well that he should inwardly suffer when injured. But it could not be well that he should declare to such men as Nidderdale, and Dolly Longstaff, and Popplecourt that he didn’t mean to put up with that sort of thing. He certainly should not have spoken in this strain before Tregear. Of all men living he hated and feared him the most. And he knew that no other man loved Silverbridge as did Tregear. Had he been thinking of his bread-and-butter, instead of giving way to the mighty anger of his little bosom, he would have hardly declared openly at the club that he would let Lord Silverbridge know that he did not mean to stand any man’s airs. But these extravagances were due perhaps to whisky-and-water, and that kind of intoxication which comes to certain men from momentary triumphs. Tifto could always be got to make a fool of himself when surrounded by three or four men of rank who, for the occasion, would talk to him as an equal. He almost declared that Coalition had lost her match because he had not been taken down at Silverbridge.

‘Tifto is in a deuce of a way with you,’ said Dolly Longstaff to the young member.

‘I know all about it,’ said Silverbridge, who had had an interview with his partner since the race.

‘If you don’t take care he’ll dismiss you.’

Silverbridge did not care much about this, knowing that words of wisdom did not ordinarily fall from the mouth of Dolly Longstaff. But he was more moved when his friend Tregear spoke to him. ‘I wish you knew the kind of things that fellow Tifto says behind your back.’

‘As if I cared.’

‘But you ought to care.’

‘Do you care what every fellow says about you?’

‘I care very much what those say whom I choose to live with me. Whatever Tifto might say about me would be quite indifferent to me, because we have nothing in common. But you and he are bound together.’

‘We have a horse or two in common; that’s all.’

‘But that is a great deal. The truth is he’s a nasty, brawling, boasting, ill-conditioned little reptile.’

Silverbridge of course did not acknowledge that this was true. But he felt it, and almost repented of his trust in Tifto. But still Prime Minister stood very well for the Derby. He was second favourite, the odds against him being only four to one. The glory of being part owner of a probable winner of the Derby was so much to him that he could not bring himself to be altogether angry with Tifto. There was no doubt that the horse’s present condition was due entirely to Tifto’s care. Tifto spent in these few days just before the race the greatest part of his time in the close vicinity of the horse, only running up to London now and then, as a fish comes up to the surface, for a breath of air. It is impossible that Lord Silverbridge should separate himself from the Major — at any rate till after the Epsom meeting.

He had paid the money for the match without a word of reproach to his partner, but still with a feeling that things were not quite as they ought to be. In money matters his father had been liberal, but not very definite. He had been told that he ought not to spend above two thousand pounds a year, and had been reminded that there was a house for him to use both in town and in the country. But he had been given to understand also that any application made to Mr Morton, if not very unreasonable, would be attended with success. A solemn promise had been exacted from him that he would have no dealings with money-lenders; — and then he had been set afloat. There had been a rather frequent correspondence with Mr Morton, who had once or twice submitted a total of the money paid on behalf of his correspondent. Lord Silverbridge, who imagined himself to be anything but extravagant, had wondered how the figures could mount up so rapidly. But the money needed was always forthcoming, and the raising of objections never seemed to be carried back beyond Mr Morton. His promise to his father about the money-lenders had been scrupulously kept. As long as ready money can be made to be forthcoming without any charge for interest, a young man must be very foolish who will prefer to borrow it at twenty-five per cent.

Now had come the night before the Derby, and it must be acknowledged that the young Lord was much fluttered by the greatness of the coming struggle. Tifto, having seen his horse conveyed to Epsom, had come up to London in order that he might dine with his partner and hear what was being said about the race at the Beargarden. The party dining there consisted of Silverbridge, Dolly Longstaff, Popplecourt, and Tifto. Nidderdale was to have joined them, but he told them on the day before, with a sigh, that domestic duties were too strong for him. Lady Nidderdale — or if not Lady Nidderdale herself, then Lady Nidderdale’s mother — was so far potent over the young nobleman as to induce him to confine his Derby practices to the Derby-day. Another guest had also been expected, the reason for whose non-appearance must be explained somewhat at length. Lord Gerald Palliser, the Duke’s second son, was at this time at Cambridge — being almost as popular at Trinity as his brother had been at Christ Church. It was to him quite a matter of course that he should see his brother’s horse run for the Derby. But, unfortunately, in this very year a stand was being made by the University pundits against a practice which they thought had become too general. For the last year or two, it had been considered almost as much a matter of course that a Cambridge undergraduate should go to the Derby as that a Member of Parliament should do so. Against this three or four rigid disciplinarians had raised their voices — and as a result, no young man up at Trinity could get leave to be away on the Derby pretext.

Lord Gerald raged against the restriction very loudly. He at first proclaimed his intention of ignoring the college authorities altogether. Of course he would be expelled. But the order itself was to his thinking so absurd — the idea that he should not see his brother’s horse run was so extravagant — that he argued that his father could not be angry with him for incurring dismissal in so excellent a cause. But his brother saw things in a different light. He knew how his father had looked at him when he had been sent away from Oxford, and he counselled moderation. Gerald should see the Derby, but should not encounter that heaviest wrath of all which comes from a man’s not sleeping beneath his college roof. There was a train which left Cambridge at an early hour, and would bring him into London in time to accompany his friends to the racecourse; — and another train, a special, which would take him down after dinner, so that he and others should reach Cambridge before the college gates were shut.

The dinner at the Beargarden was very joyous. Of course the state of the betting in regard to Prime Minister was the subject generally popular for the night. Mr Lupton came in, a gentleman well known in all fashionable circles, parliamentary, social, and racing, who was rather older than the company on this occasion, but still not so much so as to be found to be an incumbrance. Lord Glasslough too, and others joined them, and a good deal was said about the horse. ‘I never kept these things dark,’ said Tifto. ‘Of course he is an uncertain horse.’

‘Most horses are,’ said Lupton.

‘Just so, Mr Lupton. What I mean is, the Minister has got a bit of a temper. But if he likes to do his best I don’t think any three-year-old in England can get his nose past him.’

‘For half a mile he’d be nowhere with the Provence filly,’ said Glasslough.

‘I’m speaking of a Derby distance, my Lord.’

‘That’s a kind of thing nobody really knows,’ said Lupton.

‘I’ve seen him ‘ave his gallops,’ said the little man, who in his moments of excitement would sometimes fall away from that exact pronunciation which had been one of the studies of his life,’ and have measured his stride. I think I know what pace means. Of course I’m not going to answer for the ‘orse. He’s a temper, but if things go favourably, no animal that ever showed on the Downs was more likely to do the trick. Is there any gentleman here who would like to bet me fifteen to one in hundreds against the two events — the Derby and the Leger?’ The desired odds were at once offered by Mr Lupton, and the bet was booked.

This gave rise to other betting, and before the evening was over Lord Silverbridge had taken three-and-a-half to one against his horse to such an extent that he stood to lose twelve hundred pounds. The champagne which he had drunk, and the news that Quousque, the first favourite, had so gone to pieces that now there was a question which was the first favourite, had so inflated him, that, had he been left alone, he would almost have wagered even money on his horse. In the midst of his excitement there came to him a feeling that he was allowing himself to do just that which he had intended to avoid. But then the occasion was so peculiar! How often can it happen to a man in his life that he shall own a favourite for the Derby! The affair was one in which it was almost necessary that he should risk a little money.

Tifto, when he got into his bed, was altogether happy. He had added whisky-and-water to his champagne, and feared nothing. If Prime Minister should win the Derby he would be able to pay all that he owed, and to make a start with money in his pocket. And then there would be attached to him all the infinite glory of being the owner of the winner of the Derby. The horse was run in his name. Thoughts as to great successes crowded themselves upon his heated brain. What might not be open to him? Parliament! The Jockey Club! The mastership of one of the crack shire packs! Might it not come to pass that he should some day become the great authority in England upon races, racehorses, and hunters? If he could be the winner of the Derby and Leger he thought that Glasslough and Lupton would snub him no longer, that even Tregear would speak to him, and that his pal the Duke’s son would never throw him aside again.

Lord Silverbridge had brought a drag with all its appendages. There was a coach, the four bay horses, the harness, and the two regulation grooms. When making this purchase he had condescended to say a word to his father on the subject. ‘Everybody belongs to the four-in-hand club now,’ said the son.

‘I never did,’ said the Duke.

‘Ah — if I could be like you!’

The Duke said that he would think about it, and then had told Mr Morton that he was to pay the bill for this new toy. He had thought about it, and had assured himself that driving a coach and four was at present regarded as a fitting amusement for young men of rank and wealth. He did not understand it himself. It seemed to him to be as unnatural as though a gentleman should turn blacksmith and make horseshoes for his amusement. Driving four horses was hard work. But the same might be said of rowing. There were men, he knew, who would spend their day standing at a lathe, making little boxes for their recreation. He did not sympathise with it. But the fact was so, and this driving of coaches was regarded with favour. He had been a little touched by that word his son had spoken, ‘Ah — if I could be like you!’ So he had given the permission; the drag, horses, harness, and grooms had come into the possession of Lord Silverbridge; and now they were put into requisition to take their triumphant owner and his party down to Epsom. Dolly Longstaff’s team was sent down to meet them half-way. Gerald Palliser, who had come up from Cambridge that morning, was allowed to drive the first stage out of town to compensate him for the cruelty done to him by the University pundits. Tifto, with a cigar in his mouth, with a white hat and a blue veil, and a new light-coloured coat, was by no means the least happy of the party.

How that race was run, and how both Prime Minister and Quousque were beaten by an outsider named Fishknife, Prime Minister, however, coming in a good second, the present writer having no aptitude in that way, cannot describe. Such, however, were the facts, and then Dolly Longstaff and Lord Silverbridge drove the coach back to London. The coming back was not triumphant, though the young fellows bore their failure well. Dolly Longstaff had lost a ‘pot of money’, Silverbridge would have to draw upon the inexhaustible Mr Morton for something over two thousand pounds — in regard to which he had no doubt as to the certainty with which the money would be forthcoming, but he feared that it would give rise to special notice from his father. Even the poor younger brother had lost a couple of hundred pounds, for which he would have to make his own special application to Mr Morton.

But Tifto felt it more than anyone. The horse ought to have won. Fishknife had been favoured by such a series of accidents that the whole affair had been a miracle. Tifto had these circumstances at his fingers’ ends, and in the course of the afternoon and evening explained them accurately to all who would listen to him. He had this to say on his own behalf — that before the party had left the course their horse stood first favourite for the Leger. But Tifto was unhappy as he came back to town, and in spite of the lunch, which had been very glorious, sat moody and sometimes even silent within his gay apparel.

‘It was the unfairest start I ever saw,’ said Tifto, almost getting up from his seat on the coach so as to address Dolly and Silverbridge on the box.

‘What the —— is the good of that?’ said Dolly from the coach-box. ‘Take your licking and don’t squeal.’

‘That’s all very well. I can take my licking as well as another man. But one has to look to the causes of these things. I never saw Peppermint ride so badly. Before he got round the corner I wished I’d been on the horse myself.’

‘I don’t believe it was Peppermint’s fault a bit,’ said Silverbridge.

‘Well; — perhaps not. Only I did think I was a pretty good judge of riding.’ Then Tifto again settled down into silence.

But though much money had been lost, and a great deal of disappointment had to be endured by our party in reference to the Derby, the most injurious and most deplorable event in the day’s history had not occurred yet. Dinner had been ordered at the Beargarden at seven — an hour earlier than would have been named had it not been that Lord Gerald must be at Eastern Counties Railway Station at nine pm. An hour an half for dinner and a cigar afterwards, and half an hour to get to the railway station would not be more than time enough.

But of all men alive Dolly Longstaff was the most unpunctual. He did not arrive till eight. The others were not there before half-past seven, and it was nearly eight before any of them sat down. At half-past eight Silverbridge began to be very anxious about his brother, and told him that he ought to start without further delay. A hansom cab was waiting at the door, but Lord Gerald still delayed. He knew, he said, that the special would not start till half-past nine. There were a lot of fellows who were dining about everywhere, and they would never get to the station by the hour fixed. It became apparent to the elder brother that Gerald would stay altogether unless he were forced to go, and at last he did get up and pushed the young fellow out. ‘Drive like the very devil,’ he said to the cabman, explaining to him something of the circumstances. The cabman did do his best, but a cab cannot be made to travel from the Beargarden, which as all the world knows is close to St James’s Street, to Liverpool Street in the City in ten minutes. When Lord Gerald reached the station the train had started.

At twenty minutes to ten the young man reappeared at the club. ‘Why on earth didn’t you take a special for yourself?’ exclaimed Silverbridge.

‘They wouldn’t give me one.’ After it was apparent to all of them that what had just happened had done more to ruffle our hero’s temper than his failure and loss at the races.

‘I wouldn’t have had it to happen for any money you could name,’ said the elder brother to the younger, as he took him home to Carlton Terrace.

‘If they do send me down, what’s the odds?’ said the younger brother, who was not quite as sober as he might have been.

‘After what happened to me it will almost break the governor’s heart,’ said the heir.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43