His life and books
A Triple Event
By Nat Gould.
"You'll do. You're as fit as I know how to make you, said Fred Knowles, as The Queen pulled up after her final gallop on Epsom Downs the Monday before the Derby.
The Queen was a beautiful bright bay mare, and her owner and trainer, Fred Knowles, had great hopes of winning the Derby and the Oaks with her. He knew that to secure this double his mare must be a wonder, and such he considered her.
He was not a rich man, and when he gave two thousand guineas for The Queen as a yearling, he had to borrow five hundred pounds to enable him to pull through the year.
It does not fall to the lot of every man to be able to find a friend willing to lend "a monkey" with no better security than the prospect of a win in the course of twelve months or more. Fred Knowles, although not blessed with money, had more than his share of luck, and as he was wont to say:-
"In racing luck's even better than money.”
When the hammer fell at the Doncaster sales, and The Queen was knocked down to him, he reckoned up how he was to pay for her. He managed it somehow, and then found himself decidedly short.
His home was at Rattlesford, and his nearest neighbour, William Harrison, was a well-to-do farmer, with a partiality for horses, and an enthusiastic hunting man. Molly Harrison and Fred Knowles were on friendly terms; many people thought it would be a match between them, and Fred devoutly hoped to confirm the general opinion.
Molly's father was the only person who failed to grasp the situation; he had no idea his daughter and Fred Knowles were entered for the matrimonial stakes. When Fred found the "shoe pinch," he wondered where he could borrow five hundred pounds. |
The first time Molly Harrison saw The Queen she went into ecstasies about her.
"She is a beauty," said Molly. "I ! never saw such a filly. Where did you buy her?"
Fred explained he had purchased her at Doncaster, adding laughingly:-
"And when I paid the two thousand guineas for her I almost repented my rashness, for it left me very little cash to go on with."
"But she'll win you some good] races and get it all back," said Molly.
"Oh, yes, I have no doubt about that, if I can manage to hang on for a year or two. She's in the Derby and Oaks. She might win one of those races and set me up for life."
"Or both," said Molly.
"I can hardly expect to land a double like that, he answered.
"Why not? She looks good enough."
"So I believe she is; but I shall have to race her as a two-year-old to try and win a bit, and I had much rather keep her until she is three years old."
Molly was thinking. In a few moments she said: - "How much do you want to carry you over this year?"
“Five hundred," said Fred, wondering why she asked.
"Suppose I get it you?"
“I could not accept it," he said.
"Why not?" she asked in some surprise.
"Because -" he hesitated.
"Tell me,” she said coaxingly.
"I hardly like to."
"If you were not Miss Harrison, I'd accept gratefully," he said.
"I thought we were friends," she said.
"We are, very good friends. At least, I hope so," he said eagerly.
"Then where is the difficulty?"
Fred made up his mind to plunge.
"I hoped we might be more than friends before long, and therefore it is impossible for me to accept your offer."
Molly understood him, the hint was plain enough. She was pleased. He saw encouragement in her face, and told his tale.
"So, that's it; that's the difficulty?" said Molly.
"Yes," he answered ruefully.
"Do you know you have asked me to be your wife, although you went about it in rather a roundabout way?" "she said, smiling.
"Are you offended?"
"Dear me, no; I have seen it coming, Fred, for some time," she said, laughing.
They were standing in The Queen's box. Before they left it she promised to marry him, on condition her father consented.
“Will he?”' asked Fred.
"1 think so; leave it to me - I know how to handle him - and say nothing about it until I tell you," she said.
He agreed. There was nothing Molly could have asked him he would not have done, he was so happy.
"And if I get you the five hundred," she said, “I am to have a share in The Queen."
"What's mine is yours now,”laughed Fred.
"Not yet; we are not made one,” she said, smiling.
"You can have a half-share in her," he said.
“No, I will take only live hundred pounds' worth."
"How business-like," he said.
It took Molly some considerable time before she persuaded her father that five hundred pounds invested in The Queen was likely to prove profitable, but eventually she had her way, and he agreed to lend Fred Knowles the money on his daughter's behalf.
"It's her share, not mine," said Mr. Harrison, "and, mind you, I think I'm a fool to indulge her whim. However, here's the cash, and mind the security turns out as good as you expect."
"I'll do my best to make it a sound investment," said Fred.
"Risky, very risky," muttered Mr. Harrison. "Molly can wheedle anything out of me."
"I hope so," thought Fred, looking ahead to the time when their engagement would be mentioned.
This was how Fred Knowles got "the monkey," and it had been wonderfully useful.
The Queen only ran twice as a two year-old, winning a couple of small races. She came on so fast that Fred thought it advisable to give her a run in public; if she won, so much the better.
Her two-year-old career had been very easy, and The Queen had developed into a splendid three-year-old.
As Fred looked her over, after her gallop on the Downs, he felt a glow of satisfaction. If ever a filly was fit to win a big race The Queen was.
Sam Kearn, a crack jockey, was engaged to ride her in the Derby and Oaks, and was on her back in the final gallop. He heard the trainer's remarks, and said:-
"Fit enough, as you say, and she'll take a heap of beating. She's a real flier, that's what she is."
Mr. Harrison and Molly were staying with friends at Epsom for the Derby week, and rode on the Downs intending to see the gallop.
"I am sorry you are too late," said Fred, as they came up.
"My fault," said. Molly. "I ought to have let you know we intended coming. How did she gallop?"
"Couldn't have done better." said Fred. "Look at her."
The Queen was nibbling grass which Fred held out to her in his hand. She was in perfect condition, and Molly, who was a good Judge, recognised this.
"There!" she exclaimed, turning to her father. "What did I tell you. She'll win the double. I'm certain of it".
Mr. Harrison smiled. He was in good humour. He saw The Queen was a perfect thoroughbred, and fancied her for the Oaks, but the Derby was another matter.
"You'd much better keep her for the ladies' race," he said to Fred.
"Not run her in the Derby!" exclaimed Molly. "How can you be so foolish, father?"
"If she misses the Derby it will not prejudice her chance in the Oaks," said Fred.
* * *
The first week in glorious June, the month of roses, the .days of sunshine and joyous hearts; glorious, leafy June, the month of months in "Merrie England."
Epsom Downs on Derby Day! Who does not remember the sight, and thrill at the thought of great battles fought out to a finish on the famous course?
The sun blazed down on the booths and flags, the coaches, carriages, 'buses, carts, and the masses of humanity crowded together on the hill. The stands were packed. Tattersall's filled to overflowing, the paddock's green carpet trod by thousands of dainty feet; ravishing costumes everywhere, sunshades of myriad colours; and the thoroughbreds, the attraction of the day, quietly waiting unconcernedly for the racing to commence.
It was an open Derby - the market showed it - five to one on the field, and no particular favourite. No one-horse race this time, no odds-on chance to frighten backers; everyone might have their fancy, with a reasonable chance of success.
The Queen was the centre of curiosity in the paddock. She was the only filly in the race, and not one of her sex had been successful since Shotover won, carrying the famous yellow-and-black cap of the Duke of Westminster. The ladies mobbed The Queen; the gentlemen smiled at their enthusiasm; no filly would win this year's Derby, in their opinion.
Molly Harrison was excited - it would have been strange to see her calm. The busy, noisy, bustling scene affected her. Fred laughingly said she was far more excitable that The Queen.
Sam Kearn, in the claret jacket and yellow cap of Fred Knowles, pushed his way through the crowd, entered the paddock, and walked to the stall in which stood The Queen, quite unconcerned at the tumult around her.
The filly was saddled, Sam mounted her, and they went up the paddock, closely followed by a big crowd.
"Good luck, Sam," said Molly, shaking hands with him.
The jockey looked at her flushed face, her bright eyes, and thought-
"She's a lovely girl, and no mistake. I wonder if Fred means business in that quarter?" Aloud he said -
"Thank you. I think she'll win. I'll do my best."
Mr. Harrison was standing by. Fred Knowles was leading The Queen.
"Splendid, isn't she ?" Mr. Harrison heard someone close behind him say.
"The Queen ? Yes, a grand filly."
"I mean the girl - the one speaking to the jockey."
"Yes, she's very good looking. Lucky beggar, Fred Knowles; he's the trainer. I hear he's engaged to her. She's old Harrison's daughter. He lives in our county; a rare fellow in the hunting field."
Mr, Harrison turned round sharply, but ho could not discover the speakers.
"Engaged to Fred Knowles!" He never thought of that. Of course it was not correct; but there was no telling what might happen. They had been thrown together a good deal since Molly had purchased a share in The Queen, or, to be more correct,'since he had done for her.
There was, however, no time to talk about this now. He hurried Molly away to the stand, where he shared a box with his friends.
It was tough work pushing through the crowd, and the horses - twelve of them - were walking round as they entered.
"Will The Queen win, Molly ?" said a bright looking girl in the box.
"I hope so," said Molly. "I really think she will".
"How jolly. Look here," she said, and pointed to a claret and yellow rosette she had pinned on her blouse. "The winning colours, Molly."
The Knight, Crusader, and Seagull,dashed past in the preliminary canter, all going well. Then came Flax, Memory, and Lord Charles.
"Here's The Queen," said Molly. The filly went along in splendid style, moving evenly, covering a lot of ground.
There was a murmur of admiration as Sam Kearn let her out, and she swept along, a picture of symmetrical beauty.
"Ten to one The Queen!" roared the bookmakers; and many men accepted the odds after her gallop past.
Lord Charles was the favourite at four to one, and the others were all backed at various odds. They were lined up at the post now, and thousands of glasses were levelled across the hill in the hope of catching a glimpse of the start.
The familiar shout, "They're off," proclaimed the race had commenced. Flax was away first, and soon led by half a-dozen lengths, which he quickly Increased to a dozen. In the last lot came The Queen.
As they disappeared from view the claret jacket and orange cap seemed to move forward, and Molly anxiously watched for the reappearance of the colours at the top of the hill.
Flax still led as they raced for Tattenham Corner, with the favourite well up and The Queen lying handy.
It was a pretty sight as they reached the famous Corner, and at this point the leader ran wide, leaving Crusader and The Knight to move up on the inside, The Queen close on the rails behind Lord Charles. Down the hill they came at a tremendous pace, Sam Kearn holding his mount well in hand.
Fred Knowles anxiously watched his colours - so much depended upon the race. A victory might win him Molly Harrison as well as a big stake. No wonder his heart beat fast and his pulse tingled.
At the bottom of the hill, Lord Charles was close behind Crusader and The Knight; then came The Queen, and Seagull.
A roar from the crowd heralded the ascent of the hill towards the winning post. In a few moments the Derby would be over and another winner inscribed on the roll of fame.
The Queen was dangerously near the leaders, the yellow cap shone conspicuously, and Molly, in her excitement. said quickly -
"She'll win, father. Look at her. Sam has not moved on her yet."
Mr. Harrison shook his head doubtfully. There was a lot of ground to make up before the judge's, box was reached.
Sam Kearn took in the situation rapidly. There was no time to lose, and he pressed The Queen hard. She responded gallantly; her long stride began to tell; she breasted the hill in magnificent style. It was a sight worth seeing.
Thousands of people watched the first half-dozen horses in breathless excitement. Any one of them had a chance of winning. It was still an open race.
The favourite hold his ground, but Fred Knowles's mare was creeping up. Her backers were already shouting her name. "The Queen!” “The Queen!" was heard far and wide.
Molly's face betrayed her excitement. and she could not keep still. If The Queen won she knew her father would he in a good humour, and she had something important to tell him on Derby night.
Fred Knowles saw his mare pass Seagull and The Knight, and draw up nearly level with Lord Charles. He wished the race was over, the suspense was becoming unbearable.
Sam Kearn was comfortable. His mount was going well, he felt certain of beating the favourite.
A terrific shout greeted The Queen as she drew level with Lord Charles. For a second he held her, then she gained an advantage, and her head showed in front.
This was too much for Fred Knowles; he waved his hat, and shouted wildly to Sam to “come on”.
The pressure of the dense mass of people on the rails was almost unbearable, and on the packed stands thousands of waving handkerchiefs and hats could be seen.
"You'll do,” had been Fred's comment as the mare pulled up after her gallop on Monday, and he was right. On she came, Sam Kearn riding her comfortably, not a bit flurried, although he was within an ace of winning his first Derby.
"The Queen wins !"
The cry rent the air, a good old-fashioned Derby yell, and as Molly heard it her face turned pale, she bit her lip, and her hands clenched. This was the supreme moment. She never forgot the wave of tumultuous feeling that swept over her in those brief moments.
The winning post was not many yards away; the jockey on the favourite made a last desperate effort; Lord Charles responded gallantly, held his ground, then shot his bolt and fell back beaten.
The gallant mare came on full of running. There was no doubt about the result now, and a mighty cheer greeted her as she passed the post a couple of lengths in front of Lord Charles.
Up went the numbers, and The Queen had won. Molly sat down, almost exhausted, and her father said with a quiet smile -
"That was a good investment, after all, Molly. Much better than I expected. Fred's a clever fellow."
The proudest man on the course that day was Fred Knowles as he led his mare through the surging crowd. The victory was popular, all the more so on account of the sex of the winner.
When Fred met Molly after the race she felt a strong inclination to kiss him. Had it been a secluded spot this would certainly have happened, but she restrained her feelings before the crowd.
"I shall have something important to tell you in the morning,", she said as they parted.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Wait and see," was the smiling reply.
After dinner Mr. Harrison called his daughter aside. She wondered what be had to say. He looked serious.
"I overheard a remark in the paddock before the Derby," he said. "It concerned you, and I felt angry at the time. Of course there is no truth in it. All the same, it annoyed me."
"What was it ?" she asked.
"I heard someone say Fred Knowles was a lucky man because he was engaged to you."
"Is that all ?" was Molly's astounding reply.
Mr. Harrison looked at her in amazement.
"Good gracious my child, isn't that sufficient?"
"Quite," said Molly demurely.
Her father stood perplexed.
"You take it coolly." he said. "What is the meaning of it."
"Fred and I only wait for your consent," she said smiling.
Mr. Harrison blustered, raged, stormed; and Molly said as she looked round, "Hush! They will think you are scolding me."
"So I am," he said angrily. "When did this happen ? How dare he do it? Confound his impudence !"
Molly placed her hand on his arm, looking into his face. "You dear old dad. You're angry now, but you'll get over it, and give your consent," she said coaxingly.
"But you will. The Queen won the Derby, and she'll win the Oaks, and Fred will be able to make a good home for me. You like him. I have heard you say so many times."
"But I never contemplated him as a son-in-law."
"You'll soon get used to it," said Molly. "I want you to give me something."
He grumbled and seemed on the point of breaking out again, when she said:
"It is not much I ask - your consent to our engagement?"
"You can't mean it Molly ?" he said.
"Indeed I do. I shall be very unhappy if you refuse. Let me tell him in the morning."
There was a sharp tussle, but at last he gave in, and when Molly met Fred next day he saw by her face she had succeeded.
"I won," she said, merrily.
"He consented ?"
"Yes. after a struggle. We have to thank The Queen for it I think," she said.
What followed can be imagined.
Molly said, "Don't" and Fred said.,"Just one more."
Fred kept out of Mr. Harrison's way until the Oaks day, when they met in the paddock. By this time Molly's father had calmed down considerably.
"You won a big stake over the Derby ?" said Mr. Harrison.
"Yes," said Fred. "More money than I ever handled before."
"You have also won another big stake," said Mr. Harrison.
Fred looked at his boots.
"My daughter tells me you are engaged."
"With your permission," said Fred.
"My permission! I like that. It seems to me you fixed it all up before you consulted me."
"I'm sorry," but I really couldn't help it. I love Molly very much indeed."
"Oh, do you. And what about me? Don't I love her ?"
"We both love her," said Fred.
"But we can't divide this stake," said Mr. Harrison.
"We shall live close to you; you will see her as often as you like."
"I have given in. Molly always beats me in an argument. Mind and be good to her, or you'll have me to reckon with," said Mr. Harrison. "There, there, that will do. It's got to be, and the sooner it's over the better."
"Here's the mare," said Fred.
The Queen looked none the worse for her severe struggle in the Derby, and she was a raging hot favourite for the Oaks. Backers would not hear of defeat. Her task was much easier than on Wednesday.
Mr. Harrison loved a good horse, and the sight of The Queen looking a perfect picture, put him in a good humour.
"You'll pull off your double, Fred,” he said.
"I feel confident," he replied, noticing Mr. Harrison had called him by his Christian name.
Molly joined them, all smiles.
"I see you are very good friends," she said.
"It's more than he deserves," grumbled her father. "It does not fall to the lot of many men to win the the Derby, the Oaks, and a wife, in a week."
"You put the wife last," said Molly, laughing.
"It's the order in which the events, happen, if they come off," he said.
The ladies' day was a brilliant success, and The. Queen's name was on every tongue., The Derby winner was to pull off the great Epsom double ; defeat seemed impossible.
Sam Kearn knew he had a comparatively easy task, if all went well, but had no intention of throwing away a chance.
Ten runners were despatched on their journey, and when they entered the straight, The Queen, one of the hottest favourites on record for the Oaks, was sailing away at the head of the field. The claret and yellow stood out by itself, and all down the course frantic cheers greeted the now famous mare.
It was a win to talk over for years to come, how The Queen landed the Oaks in the easiest possible style, and placed the double to her owner's credit.
Later on there was more to talk about. The marriage of Fred Knowles and Molly Harrison was announced in the autumn, and the week following The Queen won the St. Leger.
Mr. Harrison had refused to receive a cheque for five hundred pounds offered him by Fred Knowles.
"Keep it as part of Molly's wedding present," he said, and would take no denial.
And Fred's wedding present' to Molly; what was it?
He gave her The Queen, and when Mr. Harrison heard of it, he exclaimed:-
"Why, she's worth twenty thousand pounds at the very best. There's no doubt whatever about it."
"And supposing she is," said Fred, '"What of that? I part with one queen and receive another. Molly's my queen now, and will continue to reign supreme at Rattlesford."
Mr. Harrison looked pleased.
A little later he asked, with a broad smile on his face:-
"I say, Fred, how much did you land over that Epsom double altogether?"
"I can't quite reckon it up." he replied, smiling. "There's no telling what Molly's worth. It's beyond my power or that of anyone else to value her."
This story was published as A Double at Epsom on 24 December 1908 in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Queensland, Australia), and as A Triple Event on 17 August 1918 in the Observer (Adelaide, Australia), and reprinted uder that later title on 2 April 1921 in the Brisbane Telegraph and on 8 April 1921 in The Week (Brisbane, Australia).