His life and books
A REGULAR BARGAIN
By Nat Gould
“I bought him cheap, a regular bargain. You have only to look at the horse to see that. Cast your eyes over him, McIntyre, and tell me what you think of him,” said Aron Ryan, as he contemplated his recent purchase with an air of intense satisfaction.
McIntyre looked the horse up and down, felt his fore legs, passed his hand over the animal's back and quarters, glided his open palm gently down the bind legs, went behind him and examined him critically, and then gazed at Aron Ryan.
“Well?” exclaimed Ryan.
“How much?” said George McIntyre.
“What's he worth?” asked Ryan.
“A tenner,” replied McIntyre.
“Much you know about a horse,” said Aron Ryan, contemptuously. “A tenner for an animal like that. You'd like to buy him at double the price.”
“Wouldn't have him at a gift,” said McIntyre. “I merely put a price on him to oblige you. He's the sort of animal would be dear at a gift. By the way, Aron, I might just as well hear what you were persuaded to give for him.”
“That's my business,” replied the purchaser of the 'regular bargain'.” “I always thought you knew something about a horse, McIntyre. You have confessed your ignorance. You know more about haddocks - Scotch haddocks - than horses.”
McIntyre smacked his lips. Haddocks reminded him of home, and he was thousands of miles away from Aberdeen, on Yarran Station, in Queensland.
“I'd not swop a good haddock for him, mon,” said McIntyre. “You've been sold, Aron.”
“That horse is worth a hundred,” said Ryan, “and I bought him for twenty sovereigns.”
McIntyre lifted up his hands in horror, and exclaimed
“A fool and his money's soon parted.”
“Where on earth did you pick up that brute?” said Harold Donaldson, manager of Yarran Station, as be came on the scene.
“Bought him cheap at Toowoomba,” said Ryan.
Harold Donaldson laughed, and turning to McIntyre, said:
“And what do you think of Aron's bargain, Mac?”
“It's my belief,” said Mac, solemnly; “that Aron's been caught napping at Toowoomba by some of those Brisbane sharpes who are over for the races. He'd never have bought a horse like that, with his eyes open.”
“You're about right,” said Harold Donaldson. “Aron's been had for once in his life.”
They left Aron Ryan with his new purchase. He looked at the horse, and said:
“You're certainly no beauty, and you've a deuce of a temper, but you're a galloper. I wonder where those chaps picked you up. Not stolen, I hope. No, I hardly think they would have ventured upon that.”
Aron Ryan had been to Toowoomba on business, and, as generally happened, he selected race week for the occasion. He backed two or three winners on the totalisator and came out to the good. At Long's he met several men from Brisbane, and two of them, after more than two hours bargaining, sold him the horse McIntyre had such a low opinion of. No sooner had he purchased the horse than Aron Ryan took him to the racecourse to give him a spin. He soon discovered the horse, although bad tempered, was a good galloper, and he was by no means dissatisfied with his bargain. That the horse was well bred he had very little doubt, but he failed to ascertain how he was bred. He rode the animal back to Yarran Station, where his purchase did not excite admiration.
The Pic-Nic Races held annually at Yarran were a great success, and the number of local horses entered generally large. A good deal of amateur bookmaking took place over the various events, and the Darling Downs Cup, the principal race, caused a considerable amount of speculation.
After much consideration, Aron Ryan named his horse Bargain, and, to the amusement of the hands at Yarran, he entered him for the Darling Downs Cup of 50 sovs., run over a mile course. McIntyre had a book on this event, and was constantly trying to make Aron Ryan back Bargain with him. McIntyre, being a Scotchman, was desirous of making his book profitable, no matter which horse won, and although he held Bargain in contempt, had no desire to overlay the horse.
“Well, Mac, have you succeeded in inducing Aron to back his horse?” said Harold Donaldson, about a week before the races.
“No,” replied Mac; “he wants too long a price. I have only got a hundred pound book, and he wants twenty to one to a fiver.”
“Then let him have it,” was the reply, “for Bargain has not a hundred to one chance.”
“But Aron keeps galloping him,” said McIntyre, “and the brute might have just an outside chance.”
“Nonsense,” said Harold; “I'd run a horse like Bargain myself.”
“If that is the case, I had better lay him a hundred to five,” said McIntyre.
“Certainly,” replied Harold. “And the money will be as good as in your pocket.”
When McIntyre met Aron Ryan he said, “I've been thinking the matter over, and I'll lay you a hundred to five about Bargain, if you are still inclined to back him. Let me warn you before hand as a friend, that you have not a ghost of a chance. I think it only straightforward to tell you so.”
“I'll risk it, if it's all the same to you,” replied Aron. I will take a hundred to five from you, Mac. I'd sooner give you the money than any one else.”
“It is marvellous,” thought Mac, as he entered the wager, “how infatuated a man can become over a horse, if it is his own property. Now, if Bargain belonged to any one else, Aron Ryan wouldn't so much as look at him.”
Ryan's Bargain became a standing joke in more senses than one. Bargain was a bay, not a good coloured bay, but had the sort of coat he might have been expected to have had he been foaled dark and turned light by a new patent process. He was a narrow horse, and Harold Donaldson said he must have been flattened out in a railway collision in his younger days, and had not swelled out properly since. Bargain had a patch on his forehead, which could not by any stretch of imagination be called a star. He had a white stocking, and the remainder of his legs were darker than his body. Bargain's tail also afforded amusement. McIntyre said somebody must have pulled hairs out to tickle the horse in order to make him move. In addition to these defects Bargain had a wall eye.
Aron Ryan, however, could see lots of good points about Bargain. He liked the cut of the horse's head, and then he was as sound as a bell, and a great length from hip to hock. The owner of Bargain chuckled to himself as he looked at those hind-quarters, so well set down, and thought of their propelling power. He galloped Bargain about the paddocks, and on the quiet gave him a rattling spin or two that proved the horse had a lot of pace. Aron Ryan was a member of the Yarran Amateur Pic-nic Race Club, and a duly qualified gentleman rider at their meetings. He was a nice handy weight, and could easily ride his own horse, as the Darling Downs Cup was framed as a heavy-weight handicap.
There were a dozen entries, and it was anticipated the lot would go to the post. Harold Donaldson thought The Cup a good thing for his own horse, Speedwell; and McIntyre was saving this animal in his book.
On the day of the races buggies and sulkies came from all parts of the district, and also a plentiful supply of waggonettes and people on horseback. It was a regular pic-nic with the races thrown ill. They have a way of doing these things up country which is most enjoyable. The various events excited much interest and were purely sporting affairs. All the riders were well known, and there was the keenest rivalry amongst them.
When the big event of the day came on it was seen that the dozen horses entered were all to start. Aron Ryan's colours were all green, and more jokes were of course cracked at his expense.
“Very appropriate colours,” said Harold Donaldson. “You have only to look at Bargain to see his owner must have had a lot of green in his eye when he bought him.”
“McIntyre, you'd better 'hedge,'” said Aron, before he got into the saddle.
“ 'Hedge' on such a scare-crow as that,” exclaimed Mac, “I wonder you have the impudence to start him. I want a new saddle, and I'll bet you one your horse is not in the first three.”
“All right,” said Aron quietly, “I'll put that new saddle on Bargain. It will improve his appearance.”
They were not long at the post, and when the flag fell Bargain got away badly, and was actually last when they were fairly going. But before half the distance had been covered the green jacket was fast overhauling the leaders. McIntyre could hardly believe his eyes when he saw Bargain gaining ground in this style, and when the green jacket drew alongside Harold Donaldson he gave an exclamation of surprise.
“I'm going well,” sang out Aron, “but I'm afraid he won't last.”
Harold made no reply, but he thought for a horse that would not last Bargain was going remarkably well. There was a slight hill to finish up, and Aron Ryan reserved his horse for the final effort.
“Ryan's horse will win!” said some one standing near McIntyre, who turned and said:
“Bargain win? He hasn't a ghost of a chance.”
“Look at him now,” was the reply.
McIntyre looked, and the expression on his face was not one of unalloyed pleasure. Bargain was striding up the hill at a great pace, Aron Ryan sitting comfortably on him, most of the other riders being hard at work on their horses. People were too surprised to cheer. So much had been said about Aron Ryan's Bargain, that he was about the last horse they expected to see win.
It was not an exciting finish, for Bargain beat Harold Donaldson's horse by a good five lengths, and won easily. The smile on Aron Ryan's face as he rode back to scale was expansive, and covered a vast amount of thoughts. When he had weighed in he sought out McIntyre, and found him sitting in a dejected altitude on an empty luncheon hamper.
“You look a bit hipped, Mac,” said Aron. “Has your luncheon disagreed with you?”
“My luncheon was excellent,” said McIntyre, “but I have been deceived. Aron! it was not a friendly act to spring that horse upon me.”
“Oh, he's developed into a horse now has he?” said Aron. “He's not a brute, or a haddock, or a scarecrow, or a smashed up railway accident, or any other nice name now. Looks are deceiving, Mac; that's your only chance of getting married.”
“So you won after all,” said Harold Donaldson. “That horse of yours can gallop. I'd never have thought it.”
“Nice horse isn't he?” said Aron. “Beautiful horse. Not a fault can be found with him. His colour's a bit against him, and he's got a wall eye, and a deuce of a temper, but he's a good horse now. You see he's won a race and it makes a heap of difference.”
“The chaff's on your side this time,” laughed Harold. “How's McIntyre?"
“He's suffering from indigestion,” said Aron. “I left him sitting down trying to swallow his losses.”
Harold Donaldson laughed heartily, as he said:
“You have taken us all in, Aron. I don't know what the other fellows think, but I quite agree with you. When you bought that horse for twenty pounds you got 'a regular bargain.' ”
This short story by Nat Gould was published on 3 July 1897 in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News .