Dacre, who was waiting his arrival, received him with empressement.
“My dear Bob, I am so glad to see you. Those confounded fellows—”
“Gulch and Swindelmann!”
“Exactly. Threatened to prosecute, or some nonsense; and as my name is attached to the document, you see I was uneasy. But, of course, you can put the thing right at once.”
Bob’s face fell.
“I am afraid that I can’t, my dear fellow. I have not had any remittances, and I am just as hard up as possible.”
“That’s bad; but, however, I half expected as much. So I made it my business to go down to Hampton Court and see Ryle.”
“My dear Dacre—”
“Don’t thank me. I saw the ruffian, and told him what I believe to be the state of the case; and he was rather huffy at first, and said that you—that is we—had promised to pay, and that the bill was out of his hands, and that money was ‘tight,’ and so on. But he made me promise to bring you out if you came up, and that he would see if he could make a further advance.”
“A further advance—can’t we renew?”
“Impossible. Gulch and Swindelmann never do that. If we don’t pay before the day after to-morrow, they will ‘take steps’ as they call it.”
“Hang it!” cries Bob, rumpling his hair. “What’s to be done?”
“Try and get some more coin from Charley, I suppose. You see, Bob, that I expected you to put the thing right, and made no provision myself. If you had only told me before, I might have scraped the money together somehow, but I can’t do it now.”
Bob was hit hard. He believed in friendship, and so on, and did not like to see such a good fellow as Dacre suffer on his account. So, after a moment’s silence, he took up his hat and said,
“Well, I suppose there’s no help for it. Let us go and see Ryle.”
Mr. Ryle was quite willing to see them; indeed, that wary money-lender had a little scheme of his own which he intended, if possible, to bring to a successful issue.
Mr. Charles Ryle was somewhat of a sporting turn. Like most men of his stamp, the Horse, as a money-making animal, possessed great attractions for him. He had owned several notable racehorses in his time, and before he became “respectable” had done a very profitable business on the turf. It is true that the horses which he was reported to own, won but rarely; but perhaps their losing was more remunerative. When they did win, they won as big a thing as they could, and no one professed to be more astounded than Mr. Ryle himself. He became possessed of his horses in various ways. Sometimes he bought them at quiet race meetings; sometimes a trip to the Continent, or the Irish market, would result in an addition to the stables at Thames Ditton, which were ostensibly owned by a lean, wispy-looking man, by name Docketer, but which in reality belonged to Mr. Charles Ryle. Sometimes he bought a “crack” on commission, as a speculation, and sometimes his horses represented bad debts.
The Cardinal was one of these last.
Little Miniver was right in his surmise regarding that animal and Lord Lundyfoot. The Cardinal by Manxman, out of La Grande Duchesse by Perigord out of Pantinella, dam Lady Lisle by Saunterer, by Sultan out of Beeswing, had been the property of Lord Lundyfoot, and that nobleman had been imbued with what he termed “a notion of the horse.” Notwithstanding the poor opinion entertained by the sporting world in general concerning the Cardinal, his owner had entered him for various races, and backed him heavily.
The result was in the highest degree unsatisfactory. Though admitted by “Peeping Tom,” and “O.P.Q.,” and “X.Y.Z.,” and “Scrutator,” and “Orange and Purple,” and some other scores of anonymous sporting oracles, to be “a great sticker through dirt,” the Cardinal had stuck effectually in the “ruck,” and up to this time had never won a race. Poor Lundyfoot put on his money with a tenacity of purpose worthy of a better cause, but in vain. At last he succumbed to the pressure of fate and creditors, and, as his croney and companion, Dick Waffles, remarked— “threw up the sponge, sir; begad, and gave in!” Ryle possessed much “paper” with the Lundyfootian signature, and after a touching interview with his lordship, in a private room at Long’s, consented to take the Cardinal as part payment of his debt.
“You’ve got a ‘crack’ at last, Charley, my boy,” said his lordship, when the bargain was concluded; “I haven’t been lucky with him myself, but if you mind your p’s and q’s, by the Lord Harry, sir, he’ll make your fortune yet!”
Up to this time Ryle had not been satisfied with his bargain.
Mr. Docketer ostensibly purchased the much vaunted horse, took him down to Ditton, and in a fortnight expressed his opinion that “he were the biggest bullock he ever see!” When pressed for his reasons by Ryle, he shook his head, and said, “He may be a good useful ’oss through the clays, Muster Ryle, but as for racin’ him, why I’d putt ten stone on him, and run him tew mile.”
Ryle felt dispirited. He had seen the horse run several times, and was always of opinion that he ought to have got what he went for; and had it not been for the well-known fact that Lundyfoot always “ran to win,” would have suspected foul play. But Lundyfoot’s stable, like Caesar’s wife, was above suspicion. A few private trials in which light weight nags, with small boys on their backs, left the “big horse” six lengths behind, only confirmed Mr. Docketer’s judgment, and when that veteran himself failed to get more than a mile in two minutes out of him, the Cardinal was condemned as one of Mr. Ryle’s failures. But he had taken the horse with all his engagements, and did not feel inclined to forfeit just at present.
“Something might be done by judicious puffery, and laying against him all he could get,” said he to Docketer.
Docketer turned his straw end for end, and plunging his hands in his pockets, looked moodily at the pebbled-yard, and replied,
“You may lay agen him till you’re black in the face, and you won’t get your money on then. He’s a good feeder, and a sound ’oss, Muster Ryle, but the best thing you can do with him is to sink his peddygree, and henter him over the water.”
“Won’t do, Docketer!” returned Ryle. “That game don’t pay now-a-days.”
“Then make a hunter of him, he ain’t quick enough for a steeplechase.”
“Don’t see it.”
“Well, bust it, then!” exclaimed poor Docketer at length; “crack him up in the papers, and sell him to a swell.”
“I must sell him to somebody, that’s clear. But who’ll buy him?”
“Buy him! Why, if I had your chances, Muster Ryle, I’d make ’em buy him, whether they liked him or not. You sell him, sir; get him puffed if you can, and I’ll lay agen him if I pawn my Sunday vestkit.”
Ryle laughed, “I see what I can do with him, Docketer,” said he, “but I’m afraid he’s a hard bargain.”
So the “big horse” was kept at exercise, and Mr. Docketer went up and down the earth telling people “that he’d got a ‘flyer’ in his stable, on the quiet, you know, and was going to see what he could do with him.”
But nobody bit. The fish did not rise well at the fly, and some weeks had passed, and the Cardinal was yet unsold.
When Dacre and Bob reached Hampton Court they were ushered into the presence of the august Ryle, who was pretending to be immersed in business.
“Ah! good morning, gentlemen; work follows me out here, you see. When a man has as many irons in the fire as I have, his life is not a bed of roses, by any means. Sit down, Mr. Calverly, and take a glass of sherry, after your drive. What has procured me the pleasure of your company on such a bleak day as this?”
Bob was a little astonished at this, and looked at Dacre. That gentleman, more used to the ways of the insidious Ryle, replied,
“Mr. Calverly was anxious about that little bill of his.”
“Ah!” said Ryle, holding up a glass of the “old brown” between his finger and thumb. “Just so; I had forgotten. The fact is that I paid it away in the course of business, and looked upon it as done with. Help yourself, Mr. Dacre. Nothing wrong, I hope?”
“Well, the fact is,” said Bob, “that there is something wrong. I have not received any remittances, and I came to ask you if you could advance me a little more money.”
“Dear me, Mr. Calverly, I am sorry to hear that. You see that I am not in the habit of lending money, and I merely made you a little temporary advance because you were a friend of Mr. Dacre’s; but I really thought that you would repay me at the end of the month. I am afraid that I must refuse.”
Bob felt his heart sink.
“But I can’t take up the bill.”
“I am sorry, very sorry. Who are the holders?”
“Gulch and Swindelmann.”
“Very nasty firm to have dealings with, Mr. Calverly. I could have wished that it had been anybody else.”
“Now come, Ryle, you must do this for us,” says Dacre. “Mr. Calverly is sure to be ‘all right’ in another month or so, and will settle matters satisfactorily.”
Ryle looked across at Rupert under the cover of another glass of sherry. “How much do you want, Mr. Calverly?” said he, “I would be happy to do anything for you if I could. But—”
“Two thousand,” says Dacre, before Bob could speak.
“Two thousand! My dear sir, do you think that I am made of money?”
“Fifteen hundred would do,” says Bob.
“Come, Ryle, can’t you arrange it? I have no doubt that Mr. Calverly is not particular to a twenty pound note, but we must have enough to take up the bill, you know.”
“Well,” returned Ryle, after a pause, “I know a man who might lend you some money; but he is rather a peculiar fellow. In fact, he is a Turfite, and he will be sure to want to put off some horse or another upon you.”
Bob laughed. “I don’t mind a horse much, but I must get out of this scrape, by hook or by crook.”
“Look here,” said he, “I’ll tell you what to do. We’ll just drive down to his place. It is only five miles from this, and I’ll introduce you to him.”
Dacre looked askance. “What on earth is he going to do?” he thought. But Bob had jumped at the proposal. Visions of an infuriated Gulch and an irate Swindelmann, backed up by actions-at-law and notices in the newspapers, rose before him.
“Come along then!” he cried. “It’s getting late; we’d better go at once.” While the phaeton, resplendent with silver, and gorgeous with grooms, was being brought round, Dacre managed to speak to the money lender. “What are you going to do?” he asked.
“Sell him the Cardinal,” returned Mr. Ryle, curtly.