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Blue are the skies of opening day; .. The bordering turf is green with May; The sunshine's golden gleam is thrown On sorrel chestnut, bay and roan; The horses paw and prance and neigh, Fillies and colts like kittens play, : And dance and toss their rippled manes, Shining and soft as silken skeins ; Wagons and gigs are ranged about, And fashion flaunts her gay turnout; Here stands—each youthful Jehu's dream The jointed tandem, ticklish team! And there in ampler breadth expand The splendors of the four in hand; On faultless ties and glossy tiles Their lovely bonnets beam their smiles (The style's the man, so books avow; The style's the woman anyhow); From flounces frothed with creamy lace Peeps out the pug-dog's smutty face, Or spaniel rolls his liquid eye, Or stares the wiry pet of SkyeO woman, in your hours of ease So coy with us, so free with these I
“Come on! I'll bet you two to one
I'll make him do it!" " Will you ? Done!"
What was it, who was bound to do?
I did not hear and can't tell you
Pray listen till my story's through.
Scarce noticed, back behind the rest,
By cart and wagon rudely prest,
The parson's lean and bony bay
Stood harnessed in his one horse shay-
Lent to his sexton for the day.
(A funeral, so the sexton said;
His mother's uncle's wife was dead.)
Like Lazarus bid to Dives' feast,
So looked the poor forlorn old beast;
His coat was rough, his tail was bare,
The gray was sprinkled in his hair; .
Sportsmen and jockeys knew him not,
And yet they say he once could trot
Among the fleetest of the town,
Till something cracked and broke him down
The steed's the statesman's common lot!
“And are we then so soon forgot ?"
Ah me! I doubt if one of you
Has ever heard the name, “Old Blue,”
Whose fame through all this region rung
In those old days when I was young!
“Bring forth the horse!" Alas! he showed
Not like the one Mazeppa rode;
Scant maned, sharp backed and shaky kneed.
The wreck of what was once a steed.
Lips thin, eyes hollow, stiff in joints;
Yet not without his knowing points.
The sexton, laughing in his sleeve,
As if 't were all a make believe,
Led forth the horse, and as he laughed
Unhitched the breeching from a shaft,
Unclasped the rusty belt beneath,
Drew forth the snaffle from his teeth,
Slipped off his headstall, set him free
From strap and rein-a sight to see!
So worn, so lean in every limb,
It can't be they are saddling him!
It is! his back the pigskin strides
And flaps his lank rheumatic sides;
With look of mingled scorn and mirth
They buckle round the saddle girth;
With horsey wink and saucy togs
A youngster throws his legs across,
And so, his rider on his back,
They lead him limping to the track,
Far up behind the starting point,
To limber out each stiffened joints
As through the jeering crowd be pass'do
One pitying look old Hiram cast;
“Go it, ye cripple, while ye can!"
Cried out an unsentimental Dan;
"A Fast Day dinner for the crows!".
Budd Doble's scoffing shout arose.
Slowly, as when the walking beam
First feels the gathering head of steam,
With warning cough and threatening wheeze
The stiff old charger crooks his knees
At first with cautious step sedate,
As if he dragged a coach of state.
He's not a colt; he knows full well
That time is weight and sure to tell;
No horse so sturdy but he fears
The handicap of twenty years.
As through the throng on either hand,
The old horse nears the judges' stand,
Beneath his jockey's feather weight
He warms a little to his gait,
And now and then a step is tried
That hints of something like a stride.
"Go!” Through his ear the summons sung
As if a battle trump had rung;
The slumbering instincts, long unstirred,
Start at the old familiar word;
It thulls like flame through every limba
What mean his twenty years to him ?
The savage blow his rider dealt
Fell on his hollow flanks unfelt;
The spur that pricked his staring bide
Unheeded tore his bleeding side;
Alike to him are spur and rein,
He steps a five-year-old again !
Before the quarter pole was past ,
Old Hiram said “He's going fast."
Long ere the quarter was a half
The chuckling crowd had ceased to laugh
Tighter his frightened jockey, clung
As in a mighty stride he swung,
The gravel flying in his track,
His neck stretched out, his ears laid back,
His tail extended all the while
Behind him like a rat-tail file!
Off went a shoe, away it spun,
Shot like a bullet from a gun.
The quaking jockey shapes a prayer
From scraps of oaths he used to swear
He drops his whip, he drops his rein,
Ho clutches fiercely for a mane;
He'll lose his hold-he sways and reels-
Ho'll slide beneath those trampling heels !
The knees of many a horseman quake,
The flowers on many a bonnet shake,
And shouts arise from left and right,
"Stick on! Stick on!" - Hould tight! Hould tight!"
“Cling round his neck and don't let go,
That pace can't hold-there! steady! whoa!"
But like the sable steed that bore
The spectral lover of Lenore,
His nostrils-snorting foam and fire,
No stretch his bony limbs can tire;
And now the stand he rushes by,
And “Stop him l-stop him!" is the cry.
“ Stand back I he's only just begun-
He's having out three heats in one!"
"Don't rush in front 1 he'll smash your brains;
But follow up and grab the reins !"
Old Hiram spoke. Dan Pfeiffer heard,
And sprang impatient at the word; 'n
Budd Doble started on his bay,
Old Hiram followed on his gray,
And off they spring and round they go,
The fast opes "doing all they know.""
Look! twice they follow at his heels,
As round the circling course he wheels,
And whirls with him that clinging boy,
Like Hector round the walls of Troy ;
Still on, and on, the third time round !
They're tailing off I they're losing ground!
Budd Doble's nag begins so'fail,
Dan Pfeiffer's sorrel whisks his tail !
And see ! in spite of whip and shout,
Old Hiram's mare is giving out!
Now for the finish! At the turn
The old horse-all the rest astern-
Comes swinging in with easy trot:
By Jovel he's distanced all the lot!
That trot no mortal could explain ;
Some said, “Old Dutchman come ågain!"
Some took his time—at least they tried,
But what it was could none decide;
One said he couldn't understand
What happened to his second hand;
One said 2:10; that couldn't be-
More like two twenty-two or three.
Old Hiram settled it at last;
"The time was two_too dee-vel-ish fast!"
The parson's horse had won the bet;
It cost him something of a sweat.
Back in the one horse shay he went;
The parson wondered what it meant,