Alcantra

A man, a horse, and a mysterious jockey

How I ever came to be a friend and ally, co-conspirator and business partner, of Tobias Starkweather it is not important to relate. The moralist might find in the narrative a painful instance of moral disintegration and decay, the cynic might smile and regard the whole episode as indicating nothing more culpable than childish credulity and vanity.

For this reason the story will never be told. I am satisfied that those who have shared with me an interest in horses, those in whose veins has flowed the deadliest virus known to man, will understand. They know that this interest is fraught with many dramatic possibilities, and that it may lead the most virtuous of men, on occasion, perilously near the rocks of moral turpitude.

There is no human interest that leads a man in stranger or more fascinating paths. There is no human relationship that introduces him to a more interesting group of his fellows or enables him to rub elbows with a more alluring multitude of kindred enthusiasts.

From the moment that a horse lover takes his first tentative steps into this half-gypsy land of paddock and race track, auction room and hunting field, when he first feels within him the stirrings of a strange desire, and learns to know that it is the call of the horse, from that moment he treads the paths of a new and wonderful country.

It is not alone the noble beast that allures; it is far more the followers in his train—men and women, rich and poor, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, all actuated by motives ranging from the noblest and purest to the most sordid and unworthy.

It was into this unknown world that at I ventured many years ago, and in it I have seen strange things and stranger people. It was in this land that I first encountered Tobias, and for many months I dwelt there with him. It had been written in the book of fate that we should meet. I was the one person in the world suited to Tobias and his needs, and he was for me as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The most trivial circumstance brought about this epochal meeting. I desired a horse. Not any horse, for I had long since passed that early stage. I desired one particular and special horse. There was nothing unusual about this. I was in a chronic state of desire, if not for it is one horse, then for another. Poets have sung the anguish of mortals in the agony of desire for a loved one. They ably have told the poignant story of human love, but they have never sung, so far as I know, the love of a man for a horse, the all-conquering lust for possession that seizes a man when he sees the horse of his dreams. When this is done the Great Epic will have been created.

I desired a horse, and with cold deliberation and callous indifference to the consequences conspired to secure him. At this point Tobias came into the picture. The fullness of time had come. Tobias and I were to meet. It was a moment of tremendous significance to us both, though we did not realize it at the time. Tobias came to me with credentials as the one intermediary who could secure the desired horse for me. Blinded as I was, at the moment, by the fervor of my longing, I did not regard Tobias as an instrument to this end.

The negotiations proved long and difficult. I was still inexperienced enough to find it almost impossible to to dissemble my desires, and I marveled at the coldly indifferent manner in which Tobias approached the owner. I’ve since grown to regard as one of his most engaging qualities the horseman's ability to stifle all his longings and to conduct long and delicate transactions in a manner of utter boredom. On many occasions I should have despaired of a fortunate outcome had I not been buoyed up by Tobias's unfailing optimism and hopefulness.

At last, however, I secured the horse. Even this triumphant conclusion of labors did not excite Tobias. He. brought me the news with the same air of world-weary indifference that had characterized him from the first. It is true that my exultation was somewhat tempered by the fact that the price paid for the beast was considerably higher than that I had authorized Tobias to pay, but this did not seem to be a matter of interest to him. Nor did the horse prove to be the jewel I had wanted, but Tobjas assured me that they rarely were; and after all, he pointed out, it was I who had wanted to the animal, not he. Had he consulted his own convictions in the matter, he would have purchased a quite different horse, but as I had expressed an unalterable determination to possess this one, here he was. It was clear that Tobias was quite guiltless in the matter.

After a few months of troubled and disillusioning ownership, I sought Tobias, this time to dispose of the horse for me. The previous owner had assured me that he had parted with the horse only under the pressure of temporary embarrassment, and that at any time he would be glad to buy him back at the price I paid for him.

I imparted this information to Tobias, but he did not seem to be impressed by it. The process of selling was much more rapid than that of purchasing, despite the fact that the previous owner was still in difficulties and could not buy the horse as he most ardently desired. In fact, as Tobias explained to me, the horse market was in a very unsettled condition, and if I desired to sell (which I most certainly did) he advised me to take any offer I could get. Things were very bad. Again Tobias triumphed. I sold at a figure considerably below the lowest I had fixed, but any sale just then was a miracle, so Tobias said.

By this time Tobias was firmly woven into the warp and woof of my horse life. On the whole I profited by it. But sordid motives were the smallest factor in my regard for Tobias. His appearance alone was enough to reward me. A tiny scrap of a man, he might have been thirty, he might have been sixty. I never could decide. As I listened enthralled to the recitals of his experiences I leaned toward the higher figure, for no man of less than sixty could have had time to have all the things happen to him that had happened to Tobias. Yet as I grew to know him and witnessed repeated feats of strength and agility I knew he must still be young. His face gave no hint of his age. Sallow, almost colorless, it still had the fresh contours of youth. An utterly mirthless mouth, a head almost entirely bereft of hair, contrasted strangely with a mouthful of perfect teeth of unimpeachable genuineness. He was always clad in riding togs of a strange and indiscriminate nature, and yet he had that gift, so infrequently seen in men, of so wearing clothes, no matter what they were, that he looked well groomed and well set up.

For some time our relations were not intimate, nor were our contacts frequent. Tobias seemed to have no place of permanent residence. If I wished to find him I had to make a circuit of the salesrooms and stables, and sooner or later I would find him, dapper, shaven, clean, but as usual in the depths of an unconquerable melancholy. He appeared glad to see me, but never greeted me with enthusiasm, and never appeared to part from me with regret.

Then a never-to-be-forgotten day dawned. At an early hour I was interrupted at breakfast by the announcement that Tobias was without. I had not seen him for months. He had a habit of disappearing for long periods, and these absences were never explained. His intimates could not enlighten me, because he had no intimates. Before greeting him I telephoned my business associates that matters of the utmost importance might keep me busy all day. I felt that the day upon which Tobias sought me out was sure to be pregnant with possibilities.

Tobias greeted me in sadness, and the talk flowed along the easy channels of mutual horse interest. I waited for him to arrive at the matter in hand by his usual circuitous methods. At length I was rewarded. I wish I could reproduce with any justice the melancholy sweetness of his recital. In substance I was told that a series of most unfortunate events had reduced Tobias to financial extremities unknown before, He blamed no one, least of all himself. They were due to the uncertainties inherent in his calling, and when disaster came it must be patiently borne.

Financial extremity was no new experience for Tobias—I knew that—but on this occasion difficulties had arisen at a most unfortunate moment, just when fortune was about to smile. The circumstances appeared to be these. There was a horse we both knew. His reputation was bad; it could not be worse. Tobias felt sure, however, that his shortcomings were due to his environment and to lack of proper care and training. His career on the turf had been a series of misfortunes, accidents, and tragedies. He was now for sale, having nearly killed a stableboy and having lost two important steeplechases from a sullen refusal to leave the post. The price was low, but an immediate sale desired. Tobias saw a chance to retrieve all past losses. He wished to purchase the horse, spend as many months as necessary on his education and the correction of his faults, and then race him another season. But most unfortunately, at just this moment, his finances were at the lowest possible ebb.

At this point, it seems, he had thought of me. Not at all as a possible source of money, but rather as the person to whom he could offer a priceless privilege. I had long enjoyed, he knew, the pleasures of the hunting field and show ring, and now he felt was the time for me to enter into a larger field of equine activity. It was high time I tasted the joys of the turf, and felt the thrill of winning a race with a horse of my own. To buy an outlaw, educate him, and win with him! That was something to do.

Tobias came as near showing enthusiasm as I ever saw him. He unfolded the plan. For the moment it would be necessary for me to furnish the money for the price of the horse. Tobias did not enlarge on this; it was a matter of no great concern who did it. He would give me a note for half the price and we could be joint owners and partners. He would conduct the education of our stable, and ride our horse in the races in which we entered him.

As Tobias led me on through all the stages of our progress, and showed me how inevitably we should reach that crowning hour when we should flash under the wire a winner amid the frenzied acclaim of a mighty throng, my blood began to tingle. I did not confess to him that in my wildest hours I had already dreamed this dream, and longed for its realization.

True to my horseman instincts, I demurred. I pointed out all the difficulties, and enlarged upon the almost certain failure of our hopes. Tobias listened in respectful silence, and then asked if I should like to visit the horse. We did so. I had seen the creature before, but never realized what a perfect beast he was. He was the handsomest thing that ever stood on shoes. Tobias pointed out to me certain physical indications of stamina and speed, and assured me that from my own experience I should see that he was one horse in ten thousand. He certainly looked to be. I gazed long and earnestly at his eyes. They attracted my attention, for I had never seen such human eyes in a horse’s head before. With all their beauty, there was a look of baffled cynicism in them. They fascinated me. They seemed to look out on a world made for disappointment; they told a story of unrewarded effort, of uncrowned strife, and seemed to say that, after all, the world’s rewards are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

The horse was purchased in what struck me as a very short time. There seemed to be no doubt that the owner wished to part with him. He gave us minute directions as to his care and management, and seemed deeply concerned lest we both come to an untimely end. Tobias seemed to have provided for most of the details in advance. He had secured quarters for the horse, and all I had to do was to hand the owner a check and receive a note for half the amount duly signed by Tobias.

After careful consideration we selected a name. Tobias was indifferent as to what it should be, provided it began with A. This seemed important to him for some occult reason, and I could raise no valid objection beyond the fact that it restricted our choice. Finally I decided upon Alcantara. The name met Tobias's requirement in regard to the A, and it had for me certain romantic literary associations.

The weeks that followed our purchase of Alcantara—I could never teach Tobias not to accent the second syllable—were uneventful except that I soon discovered which half of Alcantra I owned. I was in firm possession of the forward end, the end that was fed. Each month I received mounting bills for grain, as well as for strange accoutrements with which I was not familiar. Each month Tobias calculated to a penny, and sent me a note for an exact half of the expenses.

I did not see much of Alcantara, but Tobias reported progress, and he seemed satisfied with his pupil. For some reason he did not care to appear before the world as even half-owner, and he allowed it to think that I owned the horse and that he was in my employ as trainer. I attributed this, at first, to Tobias's natural modesty, but I soon learned that there were the best of reasons why Tobias did not wish to appear to have any possessions of any character. So I assumed the entire responsibility of ownership with all its attendant glories and inconveniences.

One morning I was told that Alcantra was right. He had been moved to a large training stable, and Tobias had been working him over the jumps for some time. The expense of keeping him here was considerably greater, but, as Tobias pointed out, this was unavoidable if I meant to do the right thing by the horse. He never said 'we'; he always spoke as if I had sole authority. 1 was flattered by this, and soon came to regard myself as a full-fledged owner. I read the racing papers and followed the exploits of other horses. I knew their records and the details of their age and class.

Upon being asked to visit the horse, I brushed aside all business matters and went to the scene of action. It was an extensive and beautiful estate used entirely for the care and schooling of horses. By some means, unknown to me, Tobias had secured admission, and was using the schooling fields. There was a steeplechase course laid out for schooling, and it was over this that Tobias intended to give Alcantara his first serious work, and he wished me to witness it.

Tobias greeted me and led me to the stable. If Alcantara had been a thing of beauty when I first beheld him, he was a thousand times more so after weeks of care and attention. He was led out for his owner's inspection. I could not conceal my admiration, bad form as I knew it to be to express it. Tobias pronounced him to be fair, but added that further improvement was possible. Tobias mounted, and assumed that curious crouching position affected by jockeys. To me it always seemed the most perilous of ways to ride a horse. Alcantara held a high head, and used his feet daintily. As he trod the yielding turf he was the personification of beauty, strength, grace. He pranced and whirled restlessly at the starting line, and Tobias gently moved him along to the point lip wanted. At a prearranged signal Tobias let him go. He passed me—a blur of shining satin, and thundering hoofs. I watched him through my glasses as he gracefully cleared barrier after barrier, and approached a water jump at the far end of the course. At this point I saw him swerve from his course and disappear. Long and patiently I awaited his return. Finally, far off on the horizon, a tiny speck appeared. It was Alcantra returning home. Tobias was crouched on his back, and as he passed me I caught a glimpse of a face as expressionless as the back of my hand. If Tobias was ill at ease he did not betray it.

After the details of Alcantara's toilet were attended to Tobias joined me.

'What happened?' I asked.

'He ran away,' Tobias replied, and that was his sole comment.

I returned to the city and left Tobias to solve the difficulty of making Alcantara go in the right direction at the right time. I felt sure that if this could be done, and if he proceeded with anything like the rapidity he had shown that afternoon, there was not a living horse that could pass him.

From then on Tobias worked in secret. I saw no more trials and had only meagre reports from the training field. Tobias and I had a few conferences at which we decided to play for high stakes. We elected to let the minor race-meets go, and to enter Alcantara in the Bedford Steeplechase. This was described as an open steeplechase for gentlemen or professional riders—about three miles of natural country, over post and rails and brush.

Then followed detailed statements as to weights and other restrictions. The prize was a small purse and a piece plate—but immense prestige. We knew the field would be large and the quality good, and the winner would jump in value and reputation. Both Tobias and Alcantara were found to meet all the requirements of the committee in charge. Tobias attended to all the details and I signed the entry bIank and paid the minor expenses. It was necessary for us to appear under colors. This I left entirely to Tobias, who acquired, at my expense, appropriate garments to wear on the eat day. His taste in this connection was not what I could have wished it to be. He chose a tunic of pure white with sleeves slashed with lavender, and a lavender and white striped cap. It was bit more conspicuous than the modest extent of my racing stable seemed to testify, but here I felt that Tobias shouldould have his way, as he was to appear in the garments, not I.

The week before the race I saw little of Tobias. He spent all his time with Alcantra, or else in moody cogitation. I found business affairs irksome and could not seem to keep my mind off the pending trial of speed. The sporting sections of the newspapers were a solace until they began to discuss the race and estimate the contestants. Scant attention was paid to Alcantara by any of the writers. Only one referred to him at length, and then merely to enlarge on his bad behavior during training. As the day of the race approached, however, many strange stories began to appear. Not only were his bad manners discussed, but there were hints of lack of condlition, and innuendo as to physical blemishes. I was enraged by this and sought Tobias to see what could be done to stem the tide of misstatement. Tobias professed never to have heard of any of it, and as he was evidently deeply engrossed in more important matters, as well as suffering from a severe attack of melancholia, I decided to accept his dictum that the less said, the sooner mended.

At last the fateful day came. I was early on the field, and felt strangely nervous and ill at ease. I read the entry list a thousand times, and recovered my composure a little when I saw the name of Alcantara, and my own as owner. Details of Alcantara's age, sex, and color were given, as well as my racing colors, and T. Starkweather was announced as the rider. The field was all that could be desired. It included the best the region could produce, and I recognized some horses who had substantial reputations.

Tobias sought me out and again assured me that the horse was right. He suggested that a small wager on him might be profitable. I am not a betting man, but the last weeks had affected me strangely. I had begun to feel a large catholicity of spirit toward all the details of horse ownership and horse racing, and I allowed Tobias to conduct me to a flamboyant young man, who placed a modest sum for me at the surprising odds of 30 to 1. Again I sought Tobias to learn the reason for the odds being so against Alcantara. The incident had shaken my faith in him, and I began to think my visions of possible victory empty dreams. Tobias felt that the odds were probably the result of the unfortunate items in the press, but he pointed out that they meant larger profits if we won, which seemed to me a sordid point of view.

I had secured a box and had invited a few of my intimate friends to occupy it with me. I had chosen those who had been in the secret of my ownership from the first, and who seemed to regard my entering the racing game with less concern than some others, notably my business associates.

The first races on the fiat, and a minor steeplechase or two, seemed to me perfunctory and spiritless, though the crowd seemed to enjoy them. Late in the afternoon the Bedford was announced, and there was an evident stirring of interest among the lookers-on. The board at the judges' stand gave the field, and I noted with some concern that none of the favorites had been scratched. Proudly I saw the name of T. Starkweather appear with the number nine. As I sat tearing my programme to shreds with nervous fingers, I tried to think what suggestions of good fortune the number nine indicated. I could think of nothing but the Muses, and their connection with horse racing seemed remote.

Then came the parade from the paddock. Led by a scarlet-coated official, the eleven contestants passed the grandstand. Had I been in a normal condition, I should have been thrilled by it. Eleven creatures, sleek, sinewy, nervous, with tossing, impatient heads, foam-flecked fore quarters, and dainty tread, they seemed hardly to touch the soft earth beneath their feet. On the back of each a crouching little figure brilliant in gaudy satin.

They weighed in. I watched Alcantra. For sheer beauty he was peer of the best. He seemed strangely docile, and I tried desperately to read the secret of those baffling eyes. I finally got them in my glass for a fleeting second, and I saw the same strange, tired look, the same eternal interrogation that always appeared there. As Tobias remounted I watched his face. Sallow, thin from weeks of training, there was not a shadow of expression of any sort. His face was as baffling as Alcantra’s eyes.

They were off to the post just within my line of vision. For a while confusion reigned. Turning, milling, rearing, it seemed impossible that an orderly start could ever be made. This was the crucial moment. Would Alcantara start? This was the uncertainty. If he did, there was a fair chance that he would finish well up; if not, it was all over. I watched him closely. Tobias had his hands full, and was maneuvering skillfully. I had noticed that he carried no whip and his heels were innocent of spurs. Now he seemed to need them. Instead he leaned still farther over and caressed the nervous neck before him.

They were off. Thanks to some strange good fortune, Alcantara had consented to start with them. They thundered by in a blur of-color, closely bunched, with Alcantara holding a respectable position to the fore. The race was twice around a prescribed course, beginning and ending on the home stretch of the race track. In a few seconds they were on the turf and out of sight for the moment. As advised by Tobias, I at once joined a throng of spectators rushing to points of vantage. With a hundred others I sought the water jump, the last jump before reentering the race course. Being long of limb and spurred by an excitement I had never known before, I outstripped the others and placed myself where I commanded a perfect view of the jump and its approach.

How long I waited I do not know. It seemed hours. Then a stableboy, whose ears were acute from constant attendance at races, smote me mightily on the back and shouted in my ear. Now I could hear that matchless sound, the beat of hoofs on firm turf, and over the crest of a little hill appeared the head and shoulders of a rider. It was not Tobias, and my heart sank. Down a steep dip they came, headlong for the brush and water. Singly and in pairs they rose and sailed incredibly, landing in their stride, and tearing off again in a welter of color and confusion.. The jump took its toll, for here two horses went down. Some mischance, some misstep or ill-considered move by their riders, brought them down, one clear of the water, the other half in it. The jockeys rolled like balls of bright silk and were barely missed by the following horses, and the field went on. Of the eleven starters I counted nine at the jump. The two that went down left only seven in the running, and of these AIcantara was the fifth. They had to complete the circuit twice, so I rushed back to another jump near enough the grandstand to permit me to regain my box to see the finish.

At this jump Alcantara had moved up to third position and was running easily. Of the two horses ahead of him was faltering, but the other had evidently not extended himself, and was running easily under the restrained hand of a smiling and confident rider.

Here I got a good look at both Tobias and his mount. Tobias was well forward on his horse's neck, tense and rigid, his enormous lavender sleeves ballooning out behind him. His lips were moving—not in prayer, I fancy, but in some strange jockey incantation. He was telling Alcantara something, and the horse was listening. As they flashed by I saw a new Alcantara. Gone was the cynic's pose, gone the bewildered, questioning look in the eyes; in their stead were a fire and a will to win that had transfigured him. After the jump was cleared Tobias sat down to ride. As they vanished, the stooping shoulders were sinking lower and lower, the cramped knees coming higher and higher, and the hands reaching out nearer and nearer the tossing head.

I returned to my box. There was nothing to do now but to live through the dreadful moments until they reappeared. I pressed my hand to my aching eyes. I was dimly conscious of some jocular remarks from my companions. I did not have long to waft. On the brow of the hill just before the water jump they appeared for a second, and almost even with the leader I saw the lavender and white. Tobias had moved up! Would he survive the water jump a second time? I closed my eyes again. Then the throng rose as a man, and far off I heard cheering. The moment of my dreams had come. Down the stretch they raced, stride for stride, the rival jockey resorting to whip and spur. Tobias was so far forward that he could almost whisper in the sensitive ears, and his lips were moving convulsively. On they came. A few scant rods ahead was the finish, and, as yet, it was the race for either. Suddenly Alcantara seemed to gather himself. Tobias raised his head and shoulders a bit and Alcantara pushed his nose by his rival. The horse faltered for a second, and Alcantara swept under the wire a clean length in the lead.

I do not recall what happened then, except that I dimly remember clambering out of the box into a milling crowd. One by one the horses returned with drooping heads and heaving flanks. They were stripped, and the jockeys and their kit again weighed. I sought out Alcantara. He stood proudly in the surging crowd with head erect, nostrils distended and eyes gleaming. All at once I found myself beside him. I threw my arm over his neck and heard the whirr and click of countless cameras. Someone appeared with an immense floral horseshoe and laid it on Alcantara's neck; again the cameras clicked and whirred. Tobias joined me. I wrung his hand. Words failed me. A stableboy, my stableboy, a complete stranger to me, assisted Tobias, and Aicantara was shrouded in an enormous cooler and led away.

It was over. The hour of my dream had come and passed. Again I confronted a battery of cameras, this time holding an ornate piece of plate. I sought the stable. Tobias was in no mood to talk. I told him to come to me in the evening, and with my wildly jubilant companions I motored home. We were recognized at every turn, and cheers and shouts of congratulation greeted us everywhere. I was in a daze. The whole thing seemed unreal; everything but the memory of the face of my business partner, of which I caught a momentary glimpse as I posed with the silver pitcher. It was not a pleasant face to remember.

We dined sumptuously at the club and I insisted on paying for everything. This was my night, I explained, and besides, the Committee would be sending me a sizable check in the morning. After dinner I hastened home to meet Tobias. I half expected to find him there on my return. He had not come, so I sent out for all the evening papers, particularly those more devoted to the gentle art of horse racing. I read every word of them all. In every one I saw my picture. In some of the photographs I held the pitcher, but in most of them I had my arm caressingly around Alcantara's neck. None of the pictures, I thought, did justice to either Alcantara or myself, and my smile seemed peculiarly silly and fatuous.

I finished the papers, and still Tobias failed to appear. After an hour or two I resorted to the telephone. I could not find him at any of the places I thought he. might frequent on this memorable evening. The race track failed to respond, the training quarters knew naught of Tobias or the horse.

With aching head I went to bed and passed a night of troubled dreams. I was up early and breakfasted alone. The morning papers gave me some solace. But it all seemed cold and perfunctory now.

The doorbell rang in the distance, and I was brought a letter and a tiny bundle. The letter proved to be a laconic communication from Tobias. In the briefest manner I was told that, a few hours after our triumph, Alcantara had passed out of this world of turmoil and trouble. Heart strain in the race—that was all; it was not uncommon, Tobias would see me soon, but in the meantime he had sent me a memento of Alcantara. I opened the bundle and found a dainty racing shoe scarcely scratched by use.

I sat for a moment stunned by the unexpected news; then I determined to be up and doing. I dashed to the race track. Tobias was not there; nor was Alcantara. I made inquiries, only to learn that Tobias and the horse had departed for an undesignated destination. I spent the day following fruitless clues.

I declined an invitation to a congratulatory dinner to be given that night by friends, and spent the evening in the solitude of my library in thoughtful mood. I reviewed with care all the incidents of my association with Tobias. I recalled one detail that I had forgotten. Before the race, Tobias and I had agreed that, should Alcantara win or make a respectable showing, we should sell him at once at as high a figure as possible. In my sober moments I had no desire to continue in the racing game, and Tobias pointed out that the interest in Alcantara would be passing. Some other horse would eclipse him and his value would drop. To this end I had executed a document authorizing Tobias to negotiate a sale, in his own name, at any price satisfactory to him. I had suggested such an arrangement after witnessing one of Alcantara's most perverse and ill-mannered performances during his schooling. His conduct had made me despair of ever selling him at all.

Recalling this act of imbecility on my part, I cursed Tobias as a faithless friend. Then there appeared before me the face of my vanished partner in all the pathos of his melancholy. I saw again the drooping corners of his youthful mouth, and his old man's eyes, tired and lustreless, and I knew I wronged him. I thought of him as bowed with grief, hiding from the world, and waiting for the first poignancy of his sorrow to pass that he might seek me out.

I found no allusion in the press to the passing of the winner of the Bedford. I made no more inquiries, with a hideous suspicion gnawing my heart, I felt that all my relations to this unfortunate horse had best be buried in a grave as unmarked and unknown as his own.

I solved now the mystery of Alcantra's eyes. He had seen from the first the futility of the whole enterprise. He had known, come what might, victory or defeat, triumph or humiliation, we should be parted. If not an untimely end, then the duplicity of man would sever us forever. For one crowded hour he had determined to live, or some strange alchemy was wrought by the whispering lips of the little man bestride him. For a few glorious moments he would be king, and king he was.

The following days brought painful reminders of the past. Bills of all sorts came in, among them one for a floral horseshoe that cost a prince's ransom. These I paid without comment.

One evening, being in reminiscent mood, I picked up a copy of a sporting sheet which I had affected during my brief period of ownership. The first item which attracted my attention was the announcement of the sale of Alcantara, the recent winner of the Bedford, by his 'owner and trainer,' T. Starkweather. The price was staggering.

I read it carefully, folded the paper with precision, and laid it beneath a horseshoe on my desk.

I returned to the routine of my former life, and after many months restored my associates' shaken confidence. I could have taken stern measures to find Tobias and wrest from him my share of his ill-gotten gains. But to what purpose? It was vastly better that the glamour of my brief career on the turf should fade gradually and not be extinguished with a sordid quarrel.

The lavender and white no more flash beneath autumnal suns over grassy meads. As an owner I no longer participate in the pleasures of the race. But sometimes, when in pensive mood, I wonder. Where is Tobias? Through what devious paths is that little, silent, joyless man threading his way? Has he a partner in horses now, and who is he? Will Alcantara start, and if he does will he continue in the desired direction? Is he still living his perplexed and questioning life over brush and rails on natural country? If so, where? I do not know. I do not care.

I had my hour.

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In