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BORN TO SORROW.
It has been remarked by some critic of extraordinary acumen that no novel or story of any kind is complete without either a horserace or a boat-race, and that it is as difficult to keep one of those sports out as it was for poor Mr. Dick to keep Charles I. out of his memorial. I do not, in the slightest degree wish that this story of mine should be considered a sporting story. It is my misfortune to have it so, owing to the fact that a man whom I had hoped originally to make a sober family-man of, tamed out a great sporting character, and destroyed all my newly-budding hopes.
The Derby Day has been so often described— •ell, indifferently, badly—that I feel a very natural diffidence in putting my pen to it; still, as in it and its fortunes the ruin or success of Grantley were wrapped up, I must fain tread along the well-beaten track, and where I fail I am not too proud to refer my reader to the sporting column of the Times or Daily News (What a glorious harvest the penny-a-liners must reap on occasions like these! and how amusing it is to note the fidelity with which they note every occurrence in the day's course!); or, if these fail, let the reader walk into a print-shop and stand for an hour before Frith's picture. There he will see every light and shadow of this farrago of fun and misery, and excitement and villany. Let him begin carefully with the group of thimble-riggers in the extreme left; not faillnK to notice the youth who has had his pockets entirely cleared out at that amusing little game °f "One small pea and three little thimbles," >nd that pretty touch of nature where the healthy honest country lass is trying to dissuade her Tumma8 from trying his hand at the enticing pastime towards which, half in irresolution half in fear, he seems inclined. Then let n'rni take in the groups lunching on the drags, and the acrobat who, with agonised face, is calling to the half-starved little boy to come and tumble; while he, poor little elf, is gloating otm the lunch which the footman is removing from a hamper. And thence, to the extreme "got, where a solitary woman in a barouche is
pestered by a gipsy to have her fortune told, as if she did not know her fortune already. Alack! she well knows thai the only fortune for such as her is to keep in the good graces of the man whom the world delicately calls her "protector;" to smile and look pretty to please him, while the canker-worm of conscience is eating into her very heart and hollowing hercheek with fear lest she be turned adrift upon the colder charity of the world and the streets. To a man who regards this wonderful picture with a philosopher's eye the story of the Derby Day will have been told—and sufficiently well told too.
In the present days of rail much of the humour and gaiety of the road to the Derby has vanished. People prefer even the momentary squash at the station to the perilous adventures along the road where the well-dressed and respectable are the sure mark for the reprobation and ill-natured remarks of the cad and costermonger. As this is inclined to prove rather an eventful Derby for the two favourites, "Peep o' Day," on which Grantley's fortunes rely, and "Athleta" seem to be exactly wellmatched—both magnificent horses, both ridden by very experienced jockeys, and both trained to the very highest pitch of perfection which it is possible a horse can reach, as the interest of the race is great; so London is beginning to thin early in the morning, and towards noon it will resemble the great Sahara for very loneliness—everybody who has time and means will have assembled on Epsom Downs. At the Club doors and the houses in Mayfair and Belgravia very spicy-looking drags, completely equipped, are standing, and servants busily employed in packing the various assortment of good things from Gunter's and Fortnum and Mason; swells of every description; army swells, with bronzed faces and great tawny moustaches; public office swells in all the dandyism of light zephyr overcoats and white hats with gossamer veils; and, I am sorry to say, even a few clerical swells, who cannot get over their college love of sporting and a horse, are to be seen roaking-up their books, lazily puffing at very large cigars, or mounting to the box-seat of the drags, and gathering the reins into their practised hands, while the gaily-rosetted horses fume andjprance
and want to be off. Snobs, too, of every kind and description, who try to make up, after the style of the swell, and succeed in making but a very poor imitation of the "curled darlings," though they do look rather imposing in their "Nicholl's patent Derby paletots," and their curly white hats and cheap jewellery. They cannot help, though, calling one another "Arry" and " Bill" and interchanging mutual witticisms in which the entire absence of the letter H is much more noticeable than anything intheshape of wit. They, too, are all smoking; and they, too, hold betting-books in their hands, in which they enter their little bets. But among all these men—swell and snob, gentle and simple—there seems to be one opinion, and that is, " ' Peep o' Day' is safe to win: nothing can hope to touch him, with Challoner on his back."
Flashing past, too, bowl trim little equipages, with a charming air of wickedness about them— two ladies generally, with a footman behind. One glance at them is quite enough to show that they come from the mysterious little villas near St. John's Wood and Brompton; and if a Roman chronicler had to mention their names, he would say something like Phryne or Lai's. Their get-up is irreproachable. Well-hung carriage, pair of grey ponies, untanned harness, and the ladies themselves resplendent in the latest eccentricities of he Follet, gold-bespangled chignons shining under squares of tulle, called by courtesy bonnets, and in the hands of the driver a thing which is neither a whip nor paraBoi, but a compound of both.
"O bella eik del' oro" when men can afford to make their sins and follies so expensive! As for the sin of the thing, and the consequences, 'tis a mere bagatelle entirely; the only consideration is, who shall do these things in the most gorgeous manner? It really is not a pleasant subject to touch upon, but it does sometimes move the bile, even of a moderately wicked man, to see the complaisant way in which the public prints notice these things: they speak of them in the tone of amused pity, in which one alludes to the harmless pranks of a funny child, instead of employing all their efforts to check the tide of advancing immorality. They will not see that, as surely as the wave of iniquity from the East swept over and sapped the rude, but honest foundations of Rome, so surely will this winking at and half-praise of the evil doings of the demi-monde, at Paris and elsewhere, sap the morals of the English, who are the greatest set of imitators under Heaven. If they even finished their praise in the words of the immortal Artemus, "This is rote sarcastical," they would do something to counteract the evil. But, as I said, it is ill trenching on this forbidden ground. We must keep our tongues within our teeth, and our pens innocent of ink, and indulge merely in the extremely vague hope that the performers in these brilliant vicious comedies will *' 'scape the burning."
Even to the lowest depths the excitement of the Derby Day is penetrating. Costermongers, pn this suspicions morn, attire themselves in
gorgeous array—the hairy cap is not wanting, nor the well-greased curl that charms the heart of the ladies of Houndsditch and Camberwell; nor the waistcoat (blue velveteen) with brass buttons, like the firmament with all the stars. And the much-suffering donkey gets to-day a holiday—not from blows and curses, but from the task of dragging along large heaps of vegetables, and drags along his master and his wife, with a small barrel of beer perchance wherewith to refresh the inner man.
One continuous stream of life is pouring through the road to Epsom Downs, and the passage is kept alive by the shouting of the vulgar, even now three-parts drunk; an occasional fracas at a turnpike, when the Jehus, simple and noble, do not see the payment of toll in the same light as the toll-keeper; and variegated by the gay parterres of young ladies who line the walls of the " Ladies' Seminaries," and while they demurely pretend not to notice the admiration and openly-expressed compliments of the men on the drags, secretly wish that they could escape for the nonce from the stern thraldom of Pallas Athene, in the shape of The Misses Crammera, and take share in the mad hurly-burly. And so, in the heat and the dust, in the mingled racket of fun and noise, the stream of life —Rag, Tag, and Bobtail—keep pouring on to the Downs; while, by the roadside, ragged Tatterdemalions rush by, screaming at the top of their voices, " C'reckt card of the race, gents! Dorling's c'reckt card!" and all the itinerant vagrants who have a mind to turn an honest or dishonest penny, as the case may be; Ethiopian minstrels, with faces that smell unpleasantly of lamp-black, and collars that stick up over their hats, and banjos and tambourines; vendors of penny ballads hoarsely shouting instalments from their chaste selections; thimble-riggers, with the table on their backs, and the thimbles and pea in their pockets; proprietors of the "Wheel of Fortune," who illustrate the failings of that arrant jade in the truest colours, for, somehow, no one is ever tortunate except the proprietor of the wheel; acrobats, with their performing gear on their backs, on the " omnia mea mecum porto" principle, followed by their pale, wearied, draggletailed wives and hard-working children, who will he glad enough to snatch a little sleep when the Derby is played out; for they have been plodding along from untimeous hours of the morning, and they hardly know, poor little souls, whether they are asleep or awake, but that the mid-day sun is staring into their eyes; and, finally, our dear old time-honoured friend Punch, and his consort Judy, and the dog Toby; but. alas! no '* prince of darkness;" for the Lord Chamberlain has discovered that he is no gentleman, and has ordered his instant dismissal from the drama of domestic life. As people are hung even now-a-days sometimes, the hangman is retained, hut under protest; people don't care for John Ketch as they used.
On they stream, in a pink-coloured picturesque line, haughty impassive swells | knowing Turf