The job before him, in his attempt to win Lady Ongar, was a peculiar job, and that Archie well knew. In some inexplicable manner he put himself into the scales and weighed himself, and discovered his own weight with fair accuracy. And he put her into the scales, and he found that she was much the heavier of the two. How he did this — how such men as Archie Clavering do do it — I cannot say; but they do weigh themselves, and know their own weight, and shove themselves aside as being too light for any real service in the world. This they do, though they may fluster with their voices, and walk about with their noses in the air, and swing their canes, and try to look as large as they may. They do not look large, and they know it; and, consequently, they ring the bells, and look after the horses, and shove themselves on one side, so that the heavier weights may come forth and do the work. Archie Clavering, who had duly weighed himself, could hardly bring himself to believe that Lady Ongar would be fool enough to marry him! Seven thousand a year, with a park and farm in Surrey, and give it all to him — him, Archie Clavering, who had, so to say, no weight at all! Archie Clavering, for one, could not bring himself to believe it.
But yet Hermy, her sister, thought it possible; and though Hermy was, as Archie had found out by his invisible scales, lighter than Julia, still she must know something of her sister’s nature. And Hugh, who was by no means light — who was a man of weight, with money and position, and firm ground beneath his feet — he also thought that it might be so. “Faint heart never won a fair lady,” said Archie to himself a dozen times, as he walked down to the Rag. The Rag was his club, and there was a friend there whom he could consult confidentially. No; faint heart never won a fair lady; but they who repeat to themselves that adage, trying thereby to get courage, always have faint hearts for such work. Harry Clavering never thought of the proverb when he went a-wooing.
But Captain Boodle of the Rag — for Captain Boodle always lived at the Rag when he was not at Newmarket, or at other race-courses, or in the neighborhood of Market Harborough — Captain Boodle knew a thing or two, and Captain Boodle was his fast friend. He would go to Boodle and arrange the campaign with him. Boodle had none of that hectoring, domineering way which Hugh never quite threw off in his intercourse with his brother. And Archie, as he went along, resolved that when Lady Ongar’s money was his, and when he had a countess for his wife, he would give his elder brother a cold shoulder.
Boodle was playing pool at the Rag, and Archie joined him; but pool is a game which hardly admits of confidential intercourse as to proposed wives, and Archie was obliged to remain quiet on that subject all the afternoon. He cunningly, however, lost a little money to Boodle, for Boodle liked to win, and engaged himself to dine at the same table with his friend. Their dinner they ate almost in silence — unless whcn they abused the cook, or made to each other some pithy suggestion as to the expediency of this or that delicacy — bearing always steadily in view the cost as well as desirability of the viands. Boodle had no shame in not having this or that because it was dear. To dine with the utmost luxury at the smallest expense was a proficiency belonging to him, and of which he was very proud.
But after a while the cloth was gone, and the heads of the two men were brought near together over the small table. Boodle did not speak a word till his brother captain had told his story, had pointed out all the advantages to be gained, explained in what peculiar way the course lay open to himself, and made the whole thing clear to his friend’s eye.
“They say she’s been a little queer, don’t they?” said the friendly counsellor.
“Of course people talk, you know.”
“Talk, yes; they’re talking a doosed sight, I should say. There’s no mistake about the money, I suppose?”
“Oh, none,” said Archie, shaking his head vigorously. “Hugh managed all that for her, so I know it.”
“She don’t lose any of it because she enters herself for running again, does she?”
“Not a shilling. That’s the beauty of it.”
“Was you ever sweet on her before?”
“What! before Ongar took her? O laws, no. She hadn’t a rap, you know; and knew how to spend money as well as any girl in London.”
“It’s all to begin then, Clavvy; all the up-hill work to be done?”
“Well, yes; I don’t know about up-hill, Doodles. What do you mean by up-hill?”
“I mean that seven thousand a year ain’t usually to be picked up merely by trotting easy along the fiat. And this sort of work is very up-hill, generally, I take it — unless, you know, a fellow has a fancy for it. If a fellow is really sweet on a girl, he likes it, I suppose.”
“She’s a doosed handsome woman, you know, Doodles.”
“I don’t know anything about it, except that I suppose Ongar wouldn’t have taken her if she hadn’t stood well on her pasterns, and had some breeding about her. I never thought much of her sister — your brother’s wife, you know — that is, in the way of looks. No doubt she runs straight, and that’s a great thing. She won’t go the wrong side of the post.”
“As for running straight, let me alone for that.”
“Well, now, Clavvy, I’ll tell you what my ideas are. When a man’s trying a young filly, his hands can’t be too light. A touch too much will bring her on her haunches, or throw her out of her step. She should hardly feel the iron in her mouth. That’s the sort of work which requires a man to know well what he’s about. But when I’ve got to do with a trained mare, I always choose that she shall know that I’m there! Do you understand me?”
“Yes; I understand you, Doodles.”
“I always choose that she shall know that I’m there.” And Captain Boodle, as he repeated these manly words with a firm voice, put out his hands as though he were handling the horse’s rein. “Their mouths are never so fine then, and they generally want to be broughf up to the bit, d’ye see? — up to the bit. When a mare has been trained to her work, and knows what she’s at in her running, she’s all the better for feeling a fellow’s hands as she’s going. She likes it rather. It gives her confidence, and makes her know where she is. And look here, Clavvy, when she comes to her fences, give her her head; but steady her first, and make her know that you’re there. Damme, whatever you do, let her know that you’re there. There’s nothing like it. She’ll think all the more of the fellow that’s piloting her. And look here, Clavvy; ride her with spurs. Always ride a trained mare with spurs. Let her know that they’re on; and if she tries to get her head, give ‘em her. Yes, by George, give ‘em her.” And Captain Boodle, in his energy, twisted himself in his chair, and brought his heel round, so that it could be seen by Archie. Then he produced a sharp click with his tongue, and made the peculiar jerk with the muscle of his legs, whereby he was accustomed to evoke the agility of his horses. After that, he looked triumphantly at his friend. “Give ‘em her, Clavvy, and she’ll like you the better for it. She’ll know, then, that you mean it.”
It was thus that Captain Boodle instructed his friend Archie Clavering how to woo Lady Ongar; and Archie, as he listened to his friend’s words of wisdom, felt that he had learned a great deal. “That’s the way I’ll do it, Doodles,” he said, “and upon my word I’m very much obliged to you.”
“That’s the way, you may depend on it. Let her know that you’re there — let her know that you’re there. She’s done the filly work before, you see; and it’s no good trying that again.”
Captain Clavering really believed that he had learned a good deal, and that he now knew the way to set about the work before him. What sort of spurs he was to use, and how he was to put them on, I don’t think he did know; but that was a detail as to which he did not think it necessary to consult his adviser. He sat the whole evening in the smoking-room, very silent, drinking slowly iced gin-and-water; and the more he drank, the more assured he felt that he now understood the way in which he was to attempt the work before him. “Let her know I’m there,” he said to himself, shaking his head gently, so that no one should observe him; “yes, let her know I’m there.” At this time Captain Boodle — or Doodles, as he was familiarly called — had again ascended to the billiard-room, and was hard at work. “Let her know that I’m there,” repeated Archie, mentally. Everything was contained in, that precept. And he, with his hands before him on his knees, went through the process of steadying a horse with the snaffle-rein, just touching the curb, as he did so, for security. It was but a motion of his fingers, and no one could see it; but it made him confident that he had learned his lesson. “Up to the bit,” he repeated; “by George, yes, up to the bit. There’s nothing like it for a trained mare. Give her head, but steady her.” And Archie, as the words passed across his memory, and were almost pronounced, seemed to be flying successfully over some prodigious fence. He leaned himself back a little in the saddle, and seemed to hold firm with his legs. That was the way to do it.
And then the spurs! He would not forget the spurs. She should know that he wore a spur, and that, if necessary, he would use it. Then he, too, gave a little click with his tongue, and an acute observer might have seen the motion of his heel.
Two hours after that he was still sitting in the smoking-room, chewing the end of a cigar, when Doodles came down victorious from the billiard-room. Archie was half asleep, and did not notice the entrance of his friend. “Let her know that you’re there,” said Doodles, close into Archie Clavering’s ear; “damme, let her know that you’re there.” Archie started, and did not like the surprise, or the warm breath in his ear; but he forgave the offence for the wisdom of the words that had been spoken.
Then he walked home by himself, repeating again and again the invaluable teachings of his friend.
During breakfast on the following day — which means from the hour of one till two, for the glasses of iced gin-and-water had been many — Archie Clavering was making up his mind that he would begin at once. He would go to Bolton Street on that day, and make an attempt to be admitted. If not admitted to-day, he would make another attempt to-morrow; and, if still unsuccessful, he would write a letter — not a letter containing an offer, which, according to Archie’s ideas, would not be letting her know that he was there in a manner sufficiently potential; but a letter in which he would explain that he had very grave reasons for wishing to see his near and dear connection, Lady Ongar. Soon after two he sallied out, and he also went to a hairdresser’s. He was aware that in doing so he was hardly obeying his friend to the letter, as this sort of operation would come rather under the head of handling a filly with a light touch; but he thought that he could in this way, at any rate, do no harm, if he would only remember the instructions he had received when in the presence of the trained mare.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01