His life and books
THE COLT BY FIREFLY
By Nat Gould
“A fellow can do nothing with an animal like that,” said Hector Raby, pointing disdainfully at a colt in one of the loose boxes at Darra Station.
“How's he bred ?”asked Phin Peace, a visitor to Darra as the guest of the manager.
“We call him the colt by Firefly,” said Raby, “and that's as far as we can get.”
“But surely you know his dam?” said Phin Peace.
“Never heard of her,” replied Hector. “He is called the colt by Firefly because he resembles that sire very much, but goodness knows how he's bred. Not that it makes much matter, for he's a useless beggar at any time.”
“I rather like the look of him,” said Phin. “Is he for sale?”
“For sale?” exclaimed Hector Raby. “I believe the boss would be only too pleased to give him away.”
“You don't give much away on Darra Station as a rule,” said Phin Peace, smiling.
The same evening Phin had a chat with the manager of Darra Station about the colt by Firefly, and eventually he purchased the animal for a ten pound note.
Phin Peace was a capital rider, and when he got the colt safely to Sydney he set about turning him into shape to sell again. The colt by Firefly had not pace enough for racing purposes, but Phin Peace soon discovered he could jump.
He was riding the colt along Randwick-road one morning when the steam tram frightened the animal. For a moment the colt plunged, and then suddenly leaped the fence at the opposite side of the road, and landed in Moore Park. Phin managed to keep his seat, and was rather surprised at the way in which his horse had shown his jumping capabilities.
After a few weeks' practice the colt by Firefly proved beyond doubt that he was a high jumper of exceptional merit.
The show of the New South Wales Agricultural Society was near at hand, and a prize of thirty guineas was offered for the best high jumper.
Phin Peace determined to enter the colt, and named him Wasp.
Now the manager of Darra Station and his trusty henchman, Hector Raby, rather prided themselves upon securing prizes tor jumpers at the Sydney Show. For two years in succession Raby's horse, Footsure, had won the high jump, and he made certain of beating the record and landing it for a third time.
Hector Raby met Phin Peace in Pitt-street, near Tattersall's Club, a couple of days before the jumping competition was to take place.
Raby at once commenced to chaff him about his purchase of the colt by Firefly, and Phin kept him in ignorance of his intentions in regard to the horse.
“ You fancied you had made a bargain when you secured him for a tenner,” said Raby, “but I knew better. The colt never was any good, and never will be. What have you done with him? Take my advice and give him away to a friend you have not much regard for.”
Phin Peace stood the chaffing well and gradually led the conversation round to the jumping competition at the show.
“I suppose you reckon you are going to win the high jump again with Footsure,” he said.
“Don't know of anything likely to beat him,” said Raby. “The horse that takes Footsure down will have to be something out of the common. By the by, I noticed that you had a horse called Wasp entered. Has he any chance of being second or third?”
“Wasp has a remarkably good chance of being first,” said Phin smiling.
“Do you mean to say you can beat our fellow?” asked Raby in amazement.
“For a 'dark' horse, Wasp is a wonder,” said Phin.
“Where did you pick him up?” asked Raby.
“In the country, and I did not give a very long price for him. I found out he could jump when I was riding him on the Randwick-road one day. A tram startled him, and he cleared the fence into Moore Park like a swallow.”
“Nonsense,” said Raby; “you're chaffing.”
“Fact, I assure you. I'm open to bet you that Wasp takes Footsure's measure this year.”
Hector Raby smiled blandly. He thought he scented something good on, and he dearly loved a sporting wager - as most bushmen do.
“How much?” asked Raby.
“Oh, I do not make heavy wagers !”said Phin. “I merely want to back my opinion.”
“I'll tell you what I'll do,” said Raby. “If Wasp beats Footsure I'll give you a hundred for him.”
A merry twinkle came into Phin Peace's eyes. He was enjoying the fun immensely. It would be a rare joke, he thought, to sell the despised colt by Firefly to Hector Raby for a hundred pounds.
“If Wasp beats Footsure he ought to be worth more than a hundred to you," said Peace.
“Not having seen the horse I cannot say how much he is worth,” replied Raby; “but I am quite willing to risk a hundred for him if he can beat my horse”
“We must have a wager on too,” said Phin. “I'll bet you a 'pony' Wasp beats Footsure, and if he does you must give me a hundred for him, and he is cheap at the price.”
“That will suit my book all right,” said Raby, who knew a hundred was not a stiff price for Wasp in the event of his beating such a well-known jumper as Footsure. “Where is this wonderful animal to be seen?”
“He is up at my place at Richmond,” said Phin, "and will not be down until to-morrow; so you must wait until you see him on the ground.”
“Afraid to let me have a peep at your crack, eh?” said Raby, with a smile.
“Not at all, my boy,” said Phin. “You are bound to like him because you are such a good judge of a horse and seldom make mistakes.”
“I should never make such a mistake as to give ten pounds for a brute like the colt by Firefly,” said Raby.
“Perhaps not,” chuckled Phin “I suppose you would not care to have him at Darra again?”
“No,” said Hector, “we had quite enough of him before we were lucky enough to sell him to you.”
The day for the jumping competition arrived, and Hector Raby felt confident of success with Footsure. Even if Footsure by some unlucky chance was beaten, it would be some consolation to have the winner for a hundred.
“You ride your own horse, I suppose?” said Phin Peace, as he met Hector Raby on the ground.
“Yes, do you?”
“And you still think you have a chance?”
“An excellent chance. You will be very much surprised to day, Raby.”
“I certainly shall be if you win,” was the reply.
“You'll be still more surprised when you have paid your hundred pounds for the winner,” said Phin.
Hector Raby laughed as he said, “You are counting your chickens before they are hatched.”
When Phin Peace appeared in the ring on Wasp, Hector Raby thought, “That horse is very like the colt by Firefly. I'm rather glad of it, for it is certainly not a point in his favour.”
“What do you think of him?” said Phin as he rode up.
“I can't think much of him,” said Raby, “because he's too much like the colt by Firefly. Hang me if I don't think he's a twin brother!”
“They certainly are very much alike,” said Phin. “It is quite a difficult matter to tell one from the other.”
“You have no chance of beating Footsure with that fellow,” said Raby.
The jumping contest was keenly contested, and, as was generally expected, Footsure jumped well. Wasp, however, cleared the bar in a very clever manner, and even Hector Raby commenced to think Phin Peace's horse had a bit of a chance.
Higher and higher rose the bar, and still Wasp cleared it. The excitement commenced to increase now it was clearly seen the result was not a certainty for Raby's horse.
At last Footsure, after a desperate effort, failed to clear the bar. Wasp followed, and Phin Peace rode him well, but he also failed to clear the jump. Again Footsure tried and failed, and at his second attempt Wasp just cleared it, and won amidst loud cheers from the vast crowd.
“You've beaten me,” said Hector Raby, “but the luck was all on your side. However, I don't think I have made a bad bargain with you, for Wasp cannot be dear at a hundred and twenty-five, which is the amount it will cost me, with your wager thrown in.”
When Hector Raby and the manager of Darra Station came to look at Wasp next morning they were both surprised.
“If I did not know such a thing to be impossible, I should say it is the colt by Firefly that we sold to Phin Peace,” said the manager.
“He is wonderfully like him,” said Hector Raby, commencing to have doubts about it.
“I've given Phin a hundred for him,” said Raby. “He ought not to be dear at that.”
“I should think not,” replied the manager. “I guess you have got him cheap. A colt that can beat Footsure is dirt cheap at that price.” He was examining the horse as he spoke, and when he saw the brand on his shoulder he could not suppress an exclamation of surprise.
“What's the matter?” asked Raby. “Anything wrong with him?”
“No, not much,” stammered the astonished manager, “but look at this brand.”
Hector Raby examined the brand, and, as he did so, Phin Peace came into the stable with a broad smile spread over his face.
“Know him now, Raby ?” he asked laconically.
“Well, this beats all I ever came across,” said Hector Raby. “It's the colt by Firefly; I thought it was Wasp all the time. I never saw two horses so much alike before”
“I have not got two horses,” said Phin. “That is the colt by Firefly - dear at ten pounds - and he won the jumping contest. Dirt cheap at a hundred, eh! Raby?”
Hector Raby and the manager of Darra Station took the colt hack with them when they returned home from Sydney. After a considerable lapse of time Hector Raby, as he looks at the animal, can hardly bring himself to believe it is the colt by Firefly that was sold to Phin Peace for a "tenner" and bought back again for a hundred.
The Colt by Firefly by Nat Gould was published on 21 August 1897 in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.