His life and books
TOM TEMPEST'S TEMPTER
By Nat Gould
“You're a lucky fellow,” said Bruce Colley.
Capt. Tom Tempest, home from the front for a week, smiled at him.
“You think so? Why?” he asked.
“No need to ask why. It's a self-evident fact. You've won the V.C.; you're rich; you're the owner of Tempter; you've not had a scratch yet; and you're engaged to Myra Townley. Isn't that enough of fortune's favours for one man?” said Bruce, who had been severely wounded and limped badly. He was in the same Regiment as his friend, but one step lower in rank.
“Sounds all right,” said Tom dolefully.
“Man alive, what more could you wish! Myra Townley is a beautiful woman, her riches will be added to yours; she is calculated to make you happy - and you look as though you'd got a fit of the blues.”
“And supposing I have? Good fortune affects people differently,” said Tom.
“If I were in your place I'd prance for joy.”
“Myra is a splendid woman. We've been allotted to each other ever since we can remember,” said Tom, still gloomy.
“You don't mean to say you're not in love with her?” exclaimed Bruce.
“I suppose 1 am. I ought to be. I've had every opportunity. It has grown on me, probably is still growing.”
“And she loves you, anybody can see it,” said Bruce, in an enquiring tone.
“I daresay you're right, I have not thought much about it. Do you think she loves me?”
“Then we'll accept it as a fact. You're a good judge.”
“Tempter's going to win the Hailton Steeplechase, isn't he? You'll ride him?”
“He's got a chance, of course. Bolton thinks he will.”
Fred Bolton was Tom Tempest's trainer, a clever man, shrewd, and an excellent judge of horses. He had been at the game for nearly 50 years, ever since he was a lad.
“You must win, Tom. I've been saving up for a plunge. It's absolutely necessary. I want the cash.”
“There's not much cash to be made backing horses,” protested Tom.
“What else can I do? I must have money. I'm in debt.”
“Draw on me. I've heaps of superfluous coin - hardly know what to do with it.”
“Impossible; you are my best friend.”
“Then make use of me.”
“Here's Ida,” said Bruce, as the door opened and a very pretty woman came into the room.
Ida Colley, Bruce's sister, welcomed Tom with a bright smile. His face lit up as he looked at her; his eyes shone with a bright light. Bruce Colley, as he watched him, said to himself in surprise:-
“By Jove, I never thought of that!”
“I congratulate you, Capt. Tempest, on your good fortune. You are quite a hero. We all love brave men,” she said heartily. “You try to make little of it, but it won't do. We know differently, don't we, Bruce?”
“Rather! I was just telling him he is a lucky fellow, everything in his favour - military honour, riches, owns Tempter, the best steeplechaser we have, and he's engaged to your dearest bosom friend, Myra Townley. He ought to be surfeited with good things,” said Bruce.
Ida glanced at Tom quickly and sighed.
“Myra, she's a dear; don't you think so?” she asked.
Tom made a wry smile.
“As you say, she is a dear, a regular prize. We have been brought up to love each other for years. It's been put to a pretty good test. We're the best of chums,” he replied.
When Capt. Tempest left the house he went to Piccadilly Circus. He did not look like a man overwhelmed with happiness, yet he ought to have been. It was good to be home again for a few days, and much was to happen in that tine. He was to receive the Cross from the King at Buckingham Palace; he was to ride Tempter in the Hailton Steeplechase; and divers other engagements claimed his attention.
One of these engagements was to lunch with Myra Townley that day.
He walked along Regent street and met her near Oxford Circus. She welcomed him eagerly. She had hurried up to town to greet him.
“We'll lunch here if you are agreeable?” said Tom.
“Quite; anywhere with you, Tom Tempest, V.C.,” answered Myra, laughing.
“Don't talk nonsense, Myra. It doesn't become you.”
“Does my frock?”
“Yes, your garments always suit you. You have excellent taste. This table will do,” said Tom, as the waiter came forward.
“Are you hungry? You ought to be. I expect you have none too many luxuries at the front,” she said.
“More than you'd think. I'm hungry for love,” he said, looking at her, his eyes mischievous.
“Be quiet, or I shall be sorry I came in with you. Hungry for love? Where have you been this morning? Have you seen her?”
“She is here, my one, my only love, the adored of many years. I say, Myra. We've got to be married, you know.”
“Have we? Well then, the sooner the dreadful sacrifice is completed the better. When is it to be?”
“I'll give you first call,” he said.
“I pass - you can have it,” she answered. “Do we love each other, Tom?”
“Of course! Everybody says so. It must be true.”
“You are not polite: let us change the subject. You will win on Tempter on Thursday, I suppose?”
“Same question Bruce Colley asked,” he said. “I'll have a good try. Bruce is in low water - wants to make a rise by backing Tempter. I wish he had some of my money.”
“Did you meet Ida this morning?”
“Don't you think her very pretty?” Myra laughed roguishly.
“Yes; don't you?”
“Beautiful! I like her better than any woman I know,” replied Myra.
He told her he was going to Spond Woods later on to ride Tempter a gallop over the fences; she went with him to St. Pancras. Just before the train started she said -
“I shall not see you again before Thursday at Hailton. There will be a big crowd to see you ride. I am glad you are so popular. And Tom, you haven't even kissed me.”
He laughed. Myra was a merry soul. No wonder he liked her.
“Haven't had a chance. It couldn't be done in Regent street, or the restaurant. We might have pulled it off in the taxi, but I never gave it a thought,” he said.
The signal was given, and she said as the train moved -
“Good-bye until Thursday. You must win on Tempter, or I shall be very disappointed.”
“I'll do my best; I wouldn't disappoint you for worlds,” he replied, as he waved his hand.
It was an hour's journey to Spond Woods, and Tom Tempest sat back in his seat giving himself up to reflections.
Certainly Myra was a most desirable woman. Any man ought to be satisfied to marry her. He knew he was envied the prospective possession of her. He was absolutely certain he did not love her. He was equally confident she did not love him. They were the best of friends, always had been; even as children they clung together, and he took all the blame when there was trouble over some madcap escapade. As they grew older, the parents on either side watched their attachment with growing interest.
When they finished their education, and Tom Tempest went into the army, they were given to understand it was their duty to unite the two families by uniting themselves. They accepted the decree without protest. It seemed the proper thing. They regarded it humorously, laughed and joked about it. He didn't believe they had ever taken it seriously.
He smoked, considered the cigar excellent, and thought of Ida Colley. He wondered if Bruce had the slightest inkling that he, Tom, loved Ida. He had no doubt about it himself. The feeling he had for her was entirely different from that which he entertained towards Myra.
And what of Ida?
When she came into the room that morning, and their eyes met, a kind of
electric shock thrilled him. He believed it was communicated to her. He was rich. Bruce Colley and Ida were anything but that. Myra had plenty of money. It would be far more equitable to distribute it where it was wanted. Bruce would not refuse to take money from his brother-in-law. If he did, then Ida might manage to overcome his scruples.
The thought of being Bruce Colley's brother-in-law was blissfully pleasant. He contemplated the prospect with serene satisfaction.
AT SPOND WOODS
On Spond Woods platform the magic of sport was in the air. There was something horsey about the station; even the motor waiting for him had a racy look about it; the man in the driving seat resembled a jockey. The porter touched his cap; the stationmaster came out of his office: they were glad to see him safe and sound, and showed it.
At Spond stables Tom received cordial welcome from Fred Bolton, the trainer, who said he looked splendid, fit as a fiddle, and able to do his best on Tempter.
They went round the stables, where Capt. Tempest had about a dozen horses in training. The establishment had been reduced lately. They were a pretty good lot, but Tempter was the favourite, and had already given his owner some winning mounts.
Tempter was a splendid bright bay, with black points, a big horse in every way, but not cumbersome standing well over 16 hands, six years old, his only failing a peculiar temper which had to be humoured, but was much to his advantage when ridden by a man who knew him. The horse recognised his master at once.
“He's been looking round for you ever since you were here last,” said the trainer. “Horses know as much as men - at least, I'm sure he does.”
Next morning Tom mounted Tempter and rode him over a hard course of three and a half miles, on which there were several stiff fences. The horse moved and jumped in faultless style. Tom was pleased with his ride; glad to be in the saddle again.
“Never made a mistake,” he said to the trainer. "You have him in fine fettle.
“He'll win. You ride better than ever,” was the reply.
Tom returned to London. He had no time to waste, for his leave was short and there were many things to do.
He went to Colley's in the afternoon, and found Ida out. This annoyed him, and he waited for her return.
He talked spasmodically to Bruce, who wondered why he was so absent-minded. Had anything gone wrong with Tempter, he asked him? Tom replied that the horse was better than he had ever been.
“Then my plunge will come off. There'll be a lot of betting on the race and a big field,” said Bruce.
Tom made no reply. He was listening for Ida's footsteps. He became impatient. There was a ring, the sound of a woman's voice, which he fancied was familiar, and Myra Townley was announced.
“Ida, I hear, is out, so I thought I'd come and see how you are,” she said to Bruce; then, noticing Tom, she exclaimed -
'”You here! I thought you were at Spond Woods!”
“So I was this morning,” he said. “You'll find Bruce in excellent spirits. Do you often come to see him?”
“Frequently. He's Ida's brother,” said Myra.
“I see - that accounts for it. Lucky fellow to be wounded and have the sympathy of the fair sex!” said Tom, looking from one to the other curiously.
Bruce did not appear at ease. What was the matter? Tom tried to puzzle it out. It had not occurred to him before that his brother officer might be fond of Myra. Bruce caught his glance, detected knowledge there, enlightenment. What did t matter? He could admire Myra if he wished. True she and Tom were engaged, but they were not married, so where was the harm in loving her - at a distance?
“Tom's waiting for Ida,” said Bruce pointedly.
“He's one of your sister's admirers,” she said to Bruce.
“Of course I am!” snapped Tom. “Everybody with an eye to beauty admires Ida.”
“And he and I are engaged. Don't you think I ought to be jealous?” asked Myra.
“We've been friends for a long time, almost as long as you and I,” said Tom.
Ida came in presently. Myra saw her colour heighten as she shook hands with Tom. She smiled quietly. She began to understand, and the knowledge did not trouble her; it came as a relief.
They went away together. Ida watched them from the window as they walked down the road.
“Who arrived first?” she asked her brother.
“Tom,” said Bruce. “I think he was very disappointed you were out.”
“Do you think he and Myra will marry?” she asked as carelessly as she could.
“Of course! They've been engaged a long time.”
“Engaged people do not always marry”, returned Ida, and there the subject was dropped.
The Hamilton Steeplechase was to be decided at Woodlands Park, a popular meeting place in the Midlands.
Capt. Tempest arrived at Spond Woods the night before. The trainer's house was quiet and a good rest would be beneficial. He went to bed early, about 10 o'clock.
Before retiring he saw Tempter, who was amiable and quiet. The trainer said he was fit to run for a man's life.
Bolton locked the door of the box as they came out.
“There's not much danger,” he said, “but it's as well to be careful. What tramps there were seem to have disappeared since the war started.”
Tom was not tired, merely sleepy, and no sooner was he in bed than he became oblivious of everything.
About midnight he awoke with a start and sat up listening. He was accustomed to be wide awake in a minute or two.
He heard a droning sound resembling the wind whistling, buzzing, through telegraph wires.
He slipped out of bed and opened the window. The sound increased. Before he decided what caused it he saw a flash of light. This was followed by a terrific explosion which rattled the windows and shook the house. There was a sound of glass smashing.
“A bomb!” exclaimed Tom. “Must be a Zeppelin raid.”
He opened the door and shouted. Fred Bolton was already out of his room, hurrying downstairs.
“Zeppelin, not far away either!” he shouted back. “I'm going to see Tempter. What deuced bad luck! He'll be frightened to death!”
“Stay where you are. Never mind the horses; you're safe here,” said Tom, but the trainer was at the foot of the stairs. Opening the side door he slipped out.
Tom, half-dressed, followed him. The frightened maids were shivering at their doors. He reassured them, said it was all over and the danger had passed. But he was not sure of it.
Outside he heard no sounds, nor did he see anything in the sky. The night was dark; no doubt the bomb was dropped near Spond Woods in the hope of blowing up the Powder Mills which were in the vicinity, although he knew the raiders were not particular where the place was so long as damage was done and innocent men, women, and children killed.
Fred Bolton was in Tempter's box. The horse trembled all over. He lashed out and tried to get his bead loose. The trainer spoke to him soothingly, making attempts to go up to him.
“He's in an awful state,” said Fred. “It's unlucky. It will do him a lot of harm. He'll not forget it in a hurry.”
Tom spoke to the horse and his voice had a quietening effect, and gave the trainer a chance to go to his head, where he stroked and patted his face and neck. Tom came and assisted. Tempter gradually cooled down and became himself.
“Never thought we'd get Zeps over here!” said Fred. 'Quiet place this, nothing to damage; appears to me nowhere's safe these times.”
They were still stroking Tempter when Tom said:-
“The danger's past, I -”
His words were checked by another loud explosion, which shook the stables and set Tempter off again. He reared, came down with a jerk, pawed furiously, then let out with his heels.
“Look out!” shouted Fred, as the horse made a savage grab at Tom. Fortunately the teeth did not get fairly hold of his arm, but they scraped the skin, making a bad surface wound.
Tom gave an exclamation of pain, and reeled against the side of the box; the trainer swore.
“It wasn't his fault,” said Tom. “No wonder he's frightened!”
The whirring sound outside was distinctly heard for a few minutes; then it gradually died away and all was quiet, except for the noise of the frightened horses in their boxes, and the rushing about of the lads.
“Better go indoors and have your arm bound,” said Fred. “It's a nasty tear.”
Tom smiled as he said:-
“It will lie a bit stiff, I expect, but I shall be able to ride.”
In the house the trainer examined Tom's arm; it had been well sponged and was now being bound up.
“It might have been a lot worse. We've had a narrow escape, I guess,"”he said.
“Must have had,” replied Tom. “I hope it will end well, but we shall be handicapped in the race, what with my arm and Tempter's fright.”
Fortunately Tom fell asleep quickly, and did not wake until nearly breakfast time.
“How do you feel?” asked the trainer anxiously. “The rest's done you good, eh?”
“Much better,” answered Tom. “But my arm's deuced stiff. It will wear off, I hope.”
He tried to move it about, but could only do so with difficulty.
“I've had a bad time with Tempter. He's in a deuce of a temper even now. He's pranced about all night like a mad horse. He'll be dangerous to ride. Hadn't we better put somebody else up? You mustn't run any risks. We can't spare you at the front,” said Fred.
Tom laughed as he looked at the trainer's anxious face.
“Give up the mount? Not I - that's not my way! I'll ride him and win despite everything. There'll be the more credit in the victory.”
“Sure you can manage it?”
“I shall be right enough. If Tempter is, too, we'll pull through.”
“That's just it – he isn't right yet. I wish he'd gone to the course last night.”
“Perhaps it would have been better. Anyhow, it was my fault, and it can't be helped now.”
“He'll have to go to the station in half an hour.”
“You'll manage him?”
“I hope so, but we're sure to have trouble. He'll be waltzing all over the place.”
“Well, we've got to get him there somehow,” said Tom.
“You've no occasion to worry about that. Sit still until it's time to motor to Woodlands,” said the trainer.
Tempter was led out of the box by Fred, who watched him carefully, noting that the horse seemed quieter.
It was a few minutes before the train was due when he was led into the stable yard. The horsebox was on the siding, the door down, and Tempter was led to it. No sooner did he hear the rattle of his feet on the board than he sprang back, nearly knocking his attendants down.
They tempted him to enter in various wave, but no dainties succeeded in coaxing him in.|
Presently the stationmaster's fox terrier, sniffing around, went into the box. Tempter pricked up his ears, lowered his head, snorted two or three times, then quietly went into the box and rubbed his nose against the dog.
The door was shut quickly, and the trainer made the horse fast. Strange to say the dog declined to come out, and his owner laughingly said he could go with his friend. Two lads went in the compartment to accompany the horse.
The trainer returned home at a brisk walk, and soon afterwards he and Tom started for the course.
There were no untoward incidents on the journey, although Fred Bolton said he would not be surprised at anything happening after the occurrences of the night and morning.
The London papers contained a brief account of the raid on the Midlands, but nobody appeared to know where the bombs had fallen. It was satisfactory to learn that no material damage had been done and no lives lost.
When, however, the people arrived at Hamilton the news quickly spread that bombs had fallen near Spond Woods, and that Tempter and Capt. Tempest were injured; by the time Woodlands Park was reached these reports became much magnified and exaggerated.
There was a large crowd and the news spread rapidly.
Bruce Colley, with his sister and Myra Townley, came by train. He managed to move about with the assistance of a crutch.
They heard the news soon after arriving on the course, and were very much upset in consequence. Myra said Tom would have wired had it been serious.
She was looking round to see if Tom had arrived when Tempter was led into the paddock towards the stalls. Myra recognised the horse. She had seen Tom win on him, and seldom forgot a racer.
“There's Tempter!” she exclaimed. “He doesn't look much amiss. Let us make enquiries.”
They walked over, Bruce limping slowly after them.
In answer to questions, one of the lads said the horse had been terribly frightened and would be a dangerous mount for anybody - probably Capt. Tempest would stand down.
“Oh, I hope so!” said Ida, agitated.
“He's been badly hurt,” went on the lad. “Tempter bit him in the arm when he tried to quieten him.”
Ida went pale.
Tom Tempest and his trainer arrived in good time. They were anxious to find out how Tempter had borne the journey, what sort of temper he was in. Tom had his arm in a sling - not that it was necessary, but he wished to rest it.
He saw Bruce and the ladies and at once went to them. Enquiries were fired at him from all three. Ida was quiet. She felt this deeply. He must have had a narrow escape. She shuddered to think what might have happened.
“You will not ride, I suppose?” questioned Myra.
He laughed as he replied:-
“I shall, and win, I hope; at least I must make the attempt. My arm is painful. but it might have been a lot worse.”
“But Tempter is in a very bad mood. The lad says he'll be a dangerous mount,” protested Myra.
“Confound the fellow!” muttered Tom; then added:- “Oh, he'll have got over that! The shock frightened him, and no wonder - we all had a narrow escape.”
Myra made no further remark, but Ida whispered to her brother:-
“Try and persuade him not to ride.”
“I say, old man,” said Bruce, when they were alone, “you really ought not to ride. You are not fit, and the horse may play tricks. If you happened to be injured there'd be a row about it.”
“Don't worry about me, I'll be all right,” said Tom.
The interest in the big event increased when Capt. Tempest came into the saddling enclosure wearing his colours - bright green, and white sleeves and cap - his left arm bound tightly above the elbow.
Tempter was saddled by the trainer. The horse was nervous, restive. He fidgeted, lashed out as the girths were tightened, snapped savagely, had a wild look in his eyes. Experienced men shook their heads and said the captain would not have a pleasant ride.
Ida Colley was miserable. She had some difficulty in concealing her agitation. It was patent to Myra, who also felt uneasy.
“I wish it were over,” said Ida. "Try again and persuade him not to ride.”
“It would be useless. He has the colours on. I know Tom - he won't give in. We must hope for the best. Why are you anxious about him?” answered Myra.
“He is Bruce's best friend. I am sure it will break him down if anything happened to Capt. Tempest,” said Ida - at which Myra smiled, thinking it a lame excuse; she was almost angry because Ida seemed to feel it more than herself.
The bookmakers were busy; there was a big field, over a score of runners, and much betting on the race,
When the saddling bell rang Tempter had gone back in the betting. The adverse rumours affected the market. Manplot, a well-known 'chaser, stood at three to one, Tempter at fours, and Henchman, Riverside, Buck, Tippoo, Red Cap, and Float were all backed. The favourite was the mount of Harry Bestman, a formidable rider over fences.
Lieut. Bruce Colley stuck to his brother officer and Tempter. Something told him Tom would win in spite of everything. He knew his dauntless courage, that he was always "a good one to follow, a bad one to beat." Bruce stood to win a couple of thousand. It would be a rare windfall if it came off; he needed it badly.
The horses came on to the course - all except Tempter. Where was he? He was still in the paddock, obstinately refusing to let Tom mount; he whirled round like a teetotum, and, despite the trainer's efforts, refused to keep still. Had Tom's arm not been so painful he would have got into the saddle somehow; but he had to be careful. If the wound started bleeding it would be bad for him.
The time for starting was at hand, but two minutes remained, when Tom managed to mount, and ride out in haste.
A cheer greeted him as he appeared on the track.
No sooner did Tempter hear the noise than he plunged and reared, then tried to get his head; failing in which his temper became worse. Tom's arm ached badly, but the excitement caused him almost to forget the pain. It was a struggle for mastery, and he liked nothing better.
Ida Colley watched the horse and his rider, her heart beating fast. If it were like this before the race, what would the real thing be?
At last the horse seemed to settle down; finding the struggle going against him he wisely gave in, but there was something at the back of his animal mind that threatened danger later.
Tom knew there was no time to lose. He saw the horses at the post, but allowed Tempter to go down at his own pace; it would never do to upset him now.
The starter became impatient; but, seeing the laggard coming, restrained himself, and got the field into line so that there would be no delay.
At last Tom arrived, had his place pointed out, took up his position, and, before Tempter had a chance to break out into his tantrums again, they were "off' to an excellent start.
Over the first obstacle they went at top speed, then raced along the flat toward the second. Neither was formidable – the big jumps were to come latter. It was stiff course, over four miles, and Capt. Tempest knew it well.
The runners were an even lot; the pace sound from the start.
Tempter was going well, fencing in his best style; but Tom knew “the devil” lurked in him somewhere. So far he had made no mistake, and half the distance was covered. Five horses were knocked out, and there was a long tail.
They had to go. over the water jump twice. It was stiff, a replica of the famous Valentine's Brook. Tempter was good at water, but somehow Tom fancied he disliked it the first time.
As they came past the stand the cheering was loud. There was a big made fence opposite, and everybody had a good view of the leap.
Two horses bungled badly. Marplot, the favourite, went over in fine style; then came Buck, Riverside, and Red Cap, all going well.
Tempter pricked up his ears as he saw the obstacle. Tom felt the horse bound under him. He thought it would be a clear jump – and so it would have been but for Float, who cannoned against have been Tempter as he
was about to take off.
The consequence of this unfortunate mishap was that he made a false jump; but he was such a fine fencer that he almost topped it. But not quite. He struck the rail, which was brushed, and this pitched Tom forward.
There was a cry from the stand, sharp and clear. It was Ida Colley, who could not suppress her feelings.
She saw Tempter poised in the air, then Tom Tempest shot forward, and she thought he was going over the horse's head.
Tempter blundered badly as he landed, fell on his knees, struggled, rolled from side to side, then staggered on to his legs.
Tom retained his seat in a marvellous way. It was wonderful to watch him making recovery and helping Tempter to do the same. He was back in the saddle, and had the horse going again almost before the crowd realised what a narrow escape it had been. When they did there was terrific cheering.
Myra Townley shook Ida by the arm. She felt angry with her for giving way.
“Don't faint and make yourself ridiculous,” snapped Myra. “There's no danger - it's over. Look - he's got Tempter going again!”
Ida was on the verge of collapse, Myra's vigorous shake did her good.
“I couldn't help it, Myra,” said Ida. “It's very silly of me, but I was so frightened. I thought he'd be killed.”
“Ida, you're in love with Tom,” said Myra.
“No, no, no,” protested Ida feebly. “Please don't, Myra. It is not kind.”
“You are, I'm sure of it. I'll tell him,” said Myra.
"If you do I'll never speak to you again.”
“Oh, yes, you will, dear - then it is true?” said Myra.
Ida made no reply; she was too agitated. Myra had discovered her secret. What would she think of her - and she engaged to Tom? It was a very trying situation; she would not have felt it so much had she known Myra's feelings.
Attention was again fixed on the horses They were going along the far side of the course. Tempter was almost last, a couple of riderless horses close to him.
Tom's arm pained him. The exertion at the jump opposite the stand caused the wound to bleed and shifted the bandage. He looked ahead and saw Marplot in front. There was very little chance of catching him, but he did not despair. He knew what a good horse Tempter was if he would do his best. The chances were he would not.
The bungling jump opposite the stand had not improved his temper. He sulked unmistakably, his pace did not improve; there must be a quick change if he was to have a winning chance.
Over the first fence along the back stretch Tempter showed a disposition to shirk. Tom was in no mind to humour this and gave him a couple of sharp reminders, which were promptly resented.
From the stand the race seemed over so far as the chance of Tempter was concerned.
Bruce Colley thought of his wagers and sighed. Myra heard and asked if his leg pained. He smiled as he said:-
“No, not more than usual. It's a bit of a nuisance. What made you ask?”
“Thought I heard you groan,” she said.
“Only a sigh. I am afraid I shall lose my wagers.”
“I am sorry. Have you backed Tempter for much?”
“Quite a plunge for me!” he answered.
She knew he had none too much money. She also knew she loved him, and not Tom; and it would have given her much joy and satisfaction to be able to help him.
As she was thinking these things she caught sight of the green and white, and and Tempter had made up a lot of ground.
“Look, Bruce! Look!” she exclaimed eagerly.
He was sitting on a chair. In order to see better he tried to get up quickly, but his leg gave way and he caught hold of Myra to steady himself. She helped him by placing her arm round him, steadying him. They were close together; it was almost like an embrace; their bodies were in contact; he had his arm on her shoulder, half round her neck, their faces close together. Their eyes met. For a moment the race, the surroundings, were forgotten; they were alone. Then Bruce said -
“I'm a clumsy beggar. Have I hurt you?”
“Hurt me!” she exclaimed, and he understood. She had been very near to him, their faces almost touching. The joy of thinking she might love him almost overcame him.
All this happened in a second or two. The race again claimed attention. Tempter was gradually drawing nearer the leaders, making up his ground. If he kept on at this pace there might be a chance for him.
Myra recovered herself. She wondered if Bruce knew! She thought he did; it seemed to glow in his eyes and reflect itself in hers.
She was happy, would be happier still if Tempter won. As she watched the race again she thought this possible.
Tom was alive to every move of the race. He was a fine horseman, had won many events, and his courage was undoubted. Despite the somewhat severe strain on his nerves, owing to the events of the night, he was still fit and hard; his strenuous life at the front fitted him to undergo any calls on his body.
Tempter was doing much better now; he seemed to understand his rider would brook no nonsense, so resigned himself to the inevitable and settled down resolutely into his stride.
The fright of the night before, however, had taken a good deal out of him; he was hardly the horse he would have been had the explosion not occurred. As Tom had said, they were heavily handicapped; but despite these odds he still had hopes of making a good race of it.
Fred Bolton watched the running anxiously; he believed Tempter would have won easily had all gone well with him. Even now he had not given up hope. When the horse nearly came a cropper his heart was in his mouth, not so much from fear of losing the race, as from the peril Capt. Tempest was in. When Tempter came on his knees it seemed as though his rider could hardly escape.
Things were shaping better now, as Tempter gained on the rest. Marplot was tiring and gradually falling back. Riverside, Red Cap, and Buck were labouring on. Tom's hopes were raised as he watched them.
He was riding his best, possessing his soul in patience, giving Tempter every chance, humouring him, steadying him at the jumps, sparing him for a smart run home when the last fence was passed.
There was considerable excitement on the stand. Backers of Marplot began to have doubts; the supporters of Riverside, Buck, and Red Cap were apprehensively doubtful; the remainder of the horses had no chance unless all the leaders fell.
As Tempter drew up to Red Cap there was a shout, and Bruce Colley sheered. He still supported himself on Myra's arm, and was in no hurry to relinquish it.
Ida, standing beside them, felt alone, but was comforted to find how occupied Myra was with her brother. If she loved Bruce what was there to stand in the way of her loving Tom?
The horses were nearing the last fence, and, once over it, all would depend on heir speed in the run home.
Marplot got over - the horse fenced well throughout. Riverside blundered, but landed on his feet. Buck scrambled over. Red Cap fell and threw his rider almost under Tempter's feet. Tom's mount avoided him with the wonderful cleverness always shown by horses in such circumstances.
Tom felt hls mount take off, and, as Tempter rose over the hurdle, knew he as safe. Would the horse make up the distance in the run in?
Tempter landed well and raced after the favourite and Riverside at a great pace. He was catching them hand-over-hand, and the winning post was not far off.
The cheering grew louder as Tempter drew nearer. Bruce Colley shouted the horse's name. Myra and Ida waved their hands. There was a scene of excitement everywhere.
“By Jove, he'll do it! I believe he'll win!” said Bruce, squeezing Myra's arm, which she did not mind in the least.
Nearer and nearer drew Tempter. All signs of temper had left him, and Tom knew the horse at last was doing his best just when necessary.
He reached Buck, passed him, drew level with Riverside, headed him, and rapidly gained on the toiling Marplot.
How the people cheered! It made Ida tingle with the intensity of her feelings to hear them. How popular Capt. Tempest was! What a hero – acknowledged as such by crowd!
It was a great battle right up to the last; for Marplot was game and would not give up the struggle.
Tempter drew up to the favourite's quarters, and there was another roar of delight. Then he was level, and for a few strides they raced head and head.
Both riders were accomplished. Harry Bestman knew Capt. Tempest would give no quarter. It was to be a fight to the finish.
It seemed as though the two horses could not separate. Their heads, outstretched, were yet level; with wide eyes and distended nostrils, every muscle in play, they struggled on.
A cheer greater than any before proclaimed that Tempter had at last wrested the lead from his opponent. His head showed in front, and this slight advantage gained he increased to the end.
As the horses went past the judge's box, Tom Tempest's Tempter was a couple of lengths to the good.
He had won.
What a day of rejoicing for Tom and his friends! Congratulations poured in on him. He had to answer many enquiries about the raid, and state how he and Tempter escaped.
He was glad when it was all over, for his arm still pained him.
He returned to town with Bruce, Myra, and Ida. They were to stay at the Colleys' for the night.
Bruce and Tom met in the drawing room before dinner: the former said-
“You've got me out of a hole. I've won more than two thousand; it will bide me over sundry difficulties. I thank you for winning.”
Tom laughed as he replied -
“That's not much. I wish you'd let me do more for you, but you're too proud.”
“You can do something for me,” said Bruce.
“By George, I'm glad! What is it, old man?” said Tom.
“Tell me whether the coast's clear - whether I can have a chance to make Myra my wife?” he replied.
“You are a cool hand,” said Tom, smiling. “Fancy a fellow asking his friend to give up his girl. Upon my word that takes the cake!”
“It began this way,” said Bruce. “Don't you remember when I said you were a lucky fellow and told you why?”
"Yes, I recollect."
“I fancied you were not enthusiastic about Myra - that you did not love her; also that you loved somebody else. I was perfectly certain I loved her,” said Bruce.
“So you thought I loved somebody else? Who?” asked Tom.
“You'll not be angry?”
“No. Why should I?”
“I discovered, or thought I did, that you loved Ida,” ventured Bruce.
“By Jove, you're right! I do love her! You can trust her to me?”
“Certainly! But what about Myra?”
“Suppose I ask her?” suggested Bruce.
Later in the evening Myra said to Tom -
“You're a good fellow for giving me my liberty.”
“You're a dear woman for giving me mine,” he replied.
“And the strange part of it is how quickly we have surrendered it again,” said Myra, laughing.
Tom Tempest's Tempter by Nat Gould was published on 15 July 1916 in The Journal (Adelaide, Australia). It appears to have been published earlier in the Novel Magazine, but the date is unknown.