which I lost. I promised him, honor bright, it
was only between me and him; only you gave me
that ten-shilling note I started winning with, so I
thought you were lucky. You won't let it go any
further, will you?"
The boy gazed at his uncle from those big,
hot, blue eyes, set rather close together. The
uncle stirred and laughed uneasily.
"Right you are, son! I'll keep your tip private.
Daffodil, eh? How much are you putting on him?"
"All except twenty pounds," 12 said the boy.
"I keep that in reserve."
The uncle thought it a good joke.
"You keep twenty pounds in reserve, do you,
you young romancer? What are you betting,
"I'm betting three hundred," said the boy
gravely. "But it's between you and me, Uncle
Oscar! Honor bright?"
The uncle burst into a roar of laughter.
"It's between you and me all right, you young
Nat Gould," 13 he said, laughing. "But where 's
your three hundred?"
"Bassett keeps it for me. We're partners."
"You are, are you! And what is Bassett put-
ting on Daffodil?"
"He won't go quite as high as I do, I expect.
Perhaps he'll go a hundred and fifty."
"What, pennies?" laughed the uncle.
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"Pounds," said the child, with a surprised
look at his uncle. "Bassett keeps a bigger reserve
than I do."
Between wonder and amusement Uncle Oscar
was silent. He pursued the matter no further, but
he determined to take his nephew with him to
the Lincoln races.
"Now, son," he said, "I'm putting twenty on
Mirza, and I'll put five on for you on any horse
you fancy. What's your pick?"
"No, not the fiver on Daffodil!"
"I should if it was my own fiver," said the child.
"Good! Good! Right you are! A fiver for me
and a fiver for you on Daffodil."
The child had never been to a race-meeting
before, and his eyes were blue fire. He pursed his
mouth tight and watched. A Frenchman just in
front had put his money on Lancelot. Wild with
excitement, he flayed his arms up and down, yell-
ing "Lancelot! Lancelot!" in his French accent.
Uaffodil came in first, Lancelot second,
Mirza third. The child, flushed and with eyes
blazing, was curiously serene. His uncle brought
him four five-pound notes, four to one.
"What am I to do with these?" he cried,
waving them before the boy's eyes.
"I suppose we'll talk to Bassett," said the boy.
"I expect I have fifteen hundred now; and twenty
in reserve; and this twenty."
His uncle studied him for some moments.
"Look here, son!" he said. "You're not serious
about Bassett and that fifteen hundred, are you?"
"Yes, I am. But it's between you and me,
uncle. Honor bright?"
"Honor bright all right, son! But I must talk
"If you'd like to be a partner, uncle, with
Bassett and me, we could all be partners. Only,
you'd have to promise, honor bright, uncle, not
to let it go beyond us three. Bassett and I are
lucky, and you must be lucky, because it was
your ten shillings I started winning with. ..."
Uncle Oscar took both Bassett and Paul into
Richmond Park for an afternoon, and there they
11. shillings: coins formerly used in Britain. (There were 20
shillings in a pound.)
12. twenty pounds: the equivalent of about $1,000 in today's
dollars. (In the mid-1920s, a pound was worth about $5,
and the purchasing power of a dollar was about 10 times
what it is now.)
13. Nat Gould: a well-known British horseracing authority
UNIT SIX PART 1: NEW IMAGES OF REALITY
must bi here must be more money! There must be more nu
"It's like this, you see, sir," Bassett said.
"Master Paul would get me talking about racing
events, spinning yarns, you know, sir. And he
was always keen on knowing if I'd made or if I'd
lost. It's about a year since, now, that I put five
shillings on Blush of Dawn for him: and we lost.
Then the luck turned, with that ten shillings he
had from you: that we put on Singhalese. And
since that time, it's been pretty steady, all things
considering. What do you say, Master Paul?"
"We're all right when we're sure," said Paul.
"It's when we're not quite sure that we go down."
"Oh, but we're careful then," said Bassett.
"But when are you sure?" smiled Uncle Oscar.
"It's Master Paul, sir," said Bassett in a secret,
religious voice. "It's as if he had it from heaven.
Like Daffodil, now, for the Lincoln. That was as
sure as eggs." 14
"Did you put anything on Daffodil?" asked
"Yes, sir. I made my bit."
"And my nephew?"
Bassett was obstinately silent, looking at Paul.
"I made twelve hundred, didn't I, Bassett? I told
uncle I was putting three hundred on Daffodil."
"That's right," said Bassett, nodding.
"But where's the money?" asked the uncle.
"I keep it safe locked up, sir. Master Paul he
can have it any minute he likes to ask for it."
"What, fifteen hundred pounds?"
"And twenty! And forty, that is, with the
twenty he made on the course."
"It's amazing!" said the uncle.
"If Master Paul offers you to be partners, sir,
I would, if I were you: if you'll excuse me," said
Oscar Cresswell thought about it.
"I'll see the money," he said.
They drove home again, and, sure enough,
Bassett came round to the garden-house with
fifteen hundred pounds in notes. The twenty
pounds reserve was left with Joe Glee, in the
Turf Commission deposit. 15
"You see, it's all right, uncle, when I'm sure!
Then we go strong, for all we're worth. Don't
"We do that, Master Paul."
"And when are you sure?" said the uncle,
"Oh, well, sometimes I'm absolutely sure, like
about Daffodil," said the boy; "and sometimes I
have an idea; and sometimes I haven't even an
idea, have I, Bassett? Then we're careful, because
we mostly go down."
"You do, do you! And when you're sure, like
about Daffodil, what makes you sure, sonny?"
"Oh, well, I don't know," said the boy uneas-
ily. "I'm sure, you know, uncle; that's all."
"It's as if he had it from heaven, sir," Bassett
"I should say so!" said the uncle.
But he became a partner. And when the Leger
was coming on Paul was "sure" about Lively
Spark, which was a quite inconsiderable horse.
The boy insisted on putting a thousand on the
horse, Bassett went for five hundred, and Oscar
Cresswell two hundred. Lively Spark came in
first, and the betting had been ten to one against
him. Paul had made ten thousand.
"You see," he said, "I was absolutely sure
Even Oscar Cresswell had cleared two
"Look here, son," he said, "this sort of thing
makes me nervous."
"It needn't, uncle! Perhaps I shan't be sure
again for a long time."
14. as sure as eggs: absolutely certain (a shortened form of
the expression "as sure as eggs is eggs").
15. Turf Commission deposit: a bank where bettors keep
money for future bets.
TO inconsiderable (Tn'ken-sTd'er-e-bel) adj. not worth consideration; insignificant
"But what are you going to do with your
money?" asked the uncle.
"Of course," said the boy, "I started it for
mother. She said she had no luck, because father
is unlucky, so I thought if I was lucky, it might
"What might stop whispering?"
"Our house. I bate our house for whispering."
"What does it whisper?"
"Why— why"— the boy fidgeted— "why, I
don't know. But it's always short of money, you
"I know it, son, I know it."
"You know people send mother writs, 16 don't
"I'm afraid I do," said the uncle.
"And then the house whispers, like people
laughing at you behind your back. It's awful,
that is! I thought if I was lucky — "
"You might stop it," added the uncle.
The boy watched him with big blue eyes, that
had an uncanny cold fire in them, and he said
never a word.
"Well, then!" said the uncle. "What are we
"I shouldn't like mother to know I was lucky,"
said the boy.
"Why not, son?"
"She'd stop me."
"I don't think she would."
"Oh!" — and the boy writhed in an odd way —
"I don't want her to know, uncle."
"All right, son! We'll manage it without her
I hey managed it very easily. Paul, at the
other's suggestion, handed over five thousand
pounds to his uncle, who deposited it with the
family lawyer, who was then to inform Paul's
mother that a relative had put five thousand
pounds into his hands, which sum was to be
paid out a thousand pounds at a time, on the
mother's birthday, for the next five years.
"So she'll have a birthday present of a thou-
sand pounds for five successive years," said
Uncle Oscar. "I hope it won't make it all the
harder for her later."
Paul's mother had her birthday in November.
The house had been "whispering" worse than
ever lately, and, even in spite of his luck, Paul
could not bear up against it. He was very
anxious to see the effect of the birthday letter,
telling his mother about the thousand pounds.
When there were no visitors, Paul now took
his meals with his parents, as he was beyond the
nursery control. His mother went into town
nearly every day. She had discovered that she
had an odd knack of sketching furs and dress
materials, so she worked secretly in the studio of
a friend who was the chief "artist" for the
leading drapers. 17 She drew the figures of ladies
in furs and ladies in silk and sequins for the
newspaper advertisements. This young woman
artist earned several thousand pounds a year, but
Paul's mother only made several hundreds, and
she was again dissatisfied. She so wanted to be
first in something, and she did not succeed, even
in making sketches for drapery advertisements.
She was down to breakfast on the morning of
her birthday. Paul watched her face as she read
her letters. He knew the lawyer's letter. As his
mother read it, her face hardened and became
more expressionless. Then a cold, determined
look came on her mouth. She hid the letter under
the pile of others, and said not a word about it.
"Didn't you have anything nice in the post for
your birthday, mother?" said Paul.
"Quite moderately nice," she said, her voice
cold and absent.
She went away to town without saying more.
But in the afternoon Uncle Oscar appeared.
He said Paul's mother had had a long interview
16. writs: legal documents (in this case, demands for the
payment of debts).
17. drapers: in Britain, dealers in cloth and dry goods.
UNIT SIX PART 1: NEW IMAGES OF REALITY
' must be more money! There must be mo
with the lawyer, asking if the whole five thousand
could not be advanced at once, as she was in debt.
"What do you think, uncle?" said the boy.
"I leave it to you, son."
"Oh, let her have it, then! We can get some
more with the other," said the boy.
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,
laddie!" said Uncle Oscar.
"But I'm sure to know for the Grand
National; or the Lincolnshire; or else the Derby.
I'm sure to know for one of them," said Paul.
So Uncle Oscar signed the agreement, and
Paul's mother touched 18 the whole five thousand.
Then something very curious happened. The
voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a
chorus of frogs on a spring evening. There were
certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He
was really going to Eton, his father's school, in
the following autumn. There were flowers in the
winter, and a blossoming of the luxury Paul's
mother had been used to. And yet the voices in
the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and
almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iri-
descent 19 cushions, simply trilled and screamed in
a sort of ecstasy: "There must be more money!
Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now,
now-w! Now-w-w — there must be more
money! — more than ever! More than ever!"
It frightened Paul terribly. He studied away
at his Latin and Greek with his tutor. But his
intense hours were spent with Bassett. The Grand
National had gone by: he had not "known," and
had lost a hundred pounds. Summer was at
hand. He was in agony for the Lincoln. But even
for the Lincoln he didn't "know," and he lost
fifty pounds. He became wild-eyed and strange,
as if something were going to explode in him.
"Let it alone, son! Don't you bother about it!"
urged Uncle Oscar. But it was as if the boy
couldn't really hear what his uncle was saying.
"I've got to know for the Derby! I've got to
know for the Derby!" the child reiterated, his big
blue eyes blazing with a sort of madness.
His mother noticed how overwrought he was.
"You'd better go to the seaside. Wouldn't you
like to go now to the seaside, instead of waiting?
18. touched: took.
19. iridescent (lr'T-des'ant): shining with a rainbowlike
display of colors.
Spotted rocking horse, late 1800s.
Wood with polychrome, 29" x 53",
courtesy of Ricco Moresca Gallery.
THE ROCKING-HORSE WINNER
There must be more money! There must be more
I think you'd better," she said, looking down at
him anxiously, her heart curiously heavy because
But the child lifted his uncanny blue eyes.
"I couldn't possibly go before the Derby,
mother!" he said. "I couldn't possibly!"
"Why not?" she said, her voice becoming
heavy when she was opposed. "Why not? You
can still go from the seaside to see the Derby
with your Uncle Oscar, if that's what you wish.
No need for you to wait here. Besides, I think
you care too much about these races. It's a bad
sign. My family has been a gambling family, and
you won't know till you grow up how much
damage it has done. But it has done damage. I
shall have to send Bassett away, and ask Uncle
Oscar not to talk racing to you, unless you
promise to be reasonable about it: go away to
the seaside and forget it. You're all nerves!"
"I'll do what you like, mother, so long as you
don't send me away till after the Derby," the
"Send you away from where? Just from this
"Yes," he said, gazing at her.
"Why, you curious child, what makes you care
about this house so much, suddenly? I never
knew you loved it."
He gazed at her without speaking. He had a
secret within a secret, something he had not di-
vulged, even to Bassett or to his Uncle Oscar.
But his mother, after standing undecided and
a little bit sullen for some moments, said:
"Very well, then! Don't go to the seaside till
after the Derby, if you don't wish it. But promise
me you won't let your nerves go to pieces. Prom-
ise you won't think so much about horse-racing
and events, as you call them!"
"Oh no," said the boy casually. "I won't think
much about them, mother. You needn't worry. I
wouldn't worry, mother, if I were you."
"If you were me and I were you," said his
mother, "I wonder what we should do!"
"But you know you needn't worry, mother,
don't you?" the boy repeated.
"I should be awfully glad to know it," she
"Oh, well, you can, you know. I mean, you
ought to know you needn't worry," he insisted.
"Ought I? Then I'll see about it," she said.
Paul's secret of secrets was his wooden horse,
that which had no name. Since he was emanci-
pated from a nurse and a nursery-governess, he
had had his rocking-horse removed to his own
bedroom at the top of the house.
"Surely you're too big for a rocking-horse!"
his mother had remonstrated .
"Well, you see, mother, till I can have a real
horse, I like to have some sort of animal about,"
had been his quaint answer.
"Do you feel he keeps you company?" she
"Oh yes! He's very good, he always keeps me
company, when I'm there," said Paul.
So the horse, rather shabby, stood in an arrested
prance in the boy's bedroom.
The Derby was drawing near, and the boy grew
more and more tense. He hardly heard what was
spoken to him, he was very frail, and his eyes were
really uncanny. His mother had sudden strange
seizures of uneasiness about him. Sometimes, for
half an hour, she would feel a sudden anxiety
about him that was almost anguish. She wanted to
rush to him at once, and know he was safe.
Two nights before the Derby, she was at a big
party in town, when one of her rushes of anxiety
about her boy, her first-born, gripped her heart
till she could hardly speak. She fought with the
feeling, might and main, 20 for she believed in
common sense. But it was too strong. She had to
20. might and main: with all her strength.
TO remonstrate (n-mon'strat') v. to protest or object
There must be mo / There must
leave the dance and go downstairs to telephone
to the country. The children's nursery-governess
was terribly surprised and startled at being rung
up in the night.
"Are the children all right, Miss Wilmot?"
"Oh yes, they are quite all right."
"Master Paul? Is he all right?"
"He went to bed as right as a trivet. 21 Shall I
run up and look at him?"
"No," said Paul's mother reluctantly. "No!
Don't trouble. It's all right. Don't sit up. We shall
be home fairly soon." She did not want her son's
privacy intruded upon.
"Very good," said the governess.
It was about one o'clock when Paul's mother
and father drove up to their house. All was still.
Paul's mother went to her room and slipped off
her white fur cloak. She had told her maid not to
wait up for her. She heard her husband down-
stairs, mixing a whisky and soda.
And then, because of the strange anxiety at
her heart, she stole upstairs to her son's room.
Noiselessly she went along the upper corridor.
Was there a faint noise? What was it?
She stood, with arrested muscles, outside his
door, listening. There was a strange, heavy, and
yet not loud noise. Her heart stood still. It was a
soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful. Some-
thing huge, in violent, hushed motion. What was
it? What in God's name was it? She ought to
know. She felt that she knew the noise. She knew
what it was.
Yet she could not place it. She couldn't say what
it was. And on and on it went, like a madness.
Softly, frozen with anxiety and fear, she turned
the door handle.
I he room was dark. Yet in the space near the
window, she heard and saw something plunging
to and fro. She gazed in fear and amazement.
Then suddenly she switched on the light, and
saw her son, in his green pajamas, madly surging
on the rocking-horse. The blaze of light suddenly
lit him up, as he urged the wooden horse, and lit
her up, as she stood, blonde, in her dress of pale
green and crystal, in the doorway.
"Paul!" she cried. "Whatever are you doing?"
"It's Malabar!" he screamed in a powerful,
strange voice. "It's Malabar!"
His eyes blazed at her for one strange and
senseless second, as he ceased urging his wooden
horse. Then he fell with a crash to the ground,
and she, all her tormented motherhood flooding
upon her, rushed to gather him up.
But he was unconscious, and unconscious he
remained, with some brain-fever. He talked and
tossed, and his mother sat stonily by his side.
"Malabar! It's Malabar! Bassett, Bassett, I
know! It's Malabar!"
So the child cried, trying to get up and urge
the rocking-horse that gave him his inspiration.
"What does he mean by Malabar?" asked the
"I don't know," said the father stonily.
"What does he mean by Malabar?" she asked
her brother Oscar.
"It's one of the horses running for the Derby,"
was the answer.
And, in spite of himself, Oscar Cresswell
spoke to Bassett, and himself put a thousand on
Malabar: at fourteen to one.
The third day of the illness was critical: they
were waiting for a change. The boy, with his
rather long, curly hair, was tossing ceaselessly on
the pillow. He neither slept nor regained con-
sciousness, and his eyes were like blue stones.
His mother sat, feeling her heart had gone,
turned actually into a stone.
In the evening, Oscar Cresswell did not come,
but Bassett sent a message, saying could he come
up for one moment, just one moment? Paul's mother
was very angry at the intrusion, but on second
thoughts she agreed. The boy was the same. Per-
haps Bassett might bring him to consciousness.
21. as right as a trivet: in perfect condition.
THE ROCKING-HORSE WINNER
'•ere must be men
The gardener, a shortish fellow with a little
brown mustache and sharp little brown eyes, tip-
toed into the room, touched his imaginary cap to
Paul's mother, and stole to the bedside, staring with
glittering, smallish eyes at the tossing, dying child.
"Master Paul!" he whispered. "Master Paul!
Malabar came in first all right, a clean win. I did
as you told me. You've made over seventy thou-
sand pounds, you have; you've got over eighty
thousand. 22 Malabar came in all right, Master
"Malabar! Malabar! Did I say Malabar,
mother? Did I say Malabar? Do you think I'm
lucky, mother? I knew Malabar, didn't I? Over
eighty thousand pounds! I call that lucky, don't
you, mother? Over eighty thousand pounds! I
knew, didn't I know I knew? Malabar came in all
right. If I ride my horse till I'm sure, then I tell
you, Bassett, you can go as high as you like. Did
you go for all you were worth, Bassett?"
"I went a thousand on it, Master Paul."
"I never told you, mother, that if I can ride my
horse, and get there, then I'm absolutely sure — oh,
absolutely! Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky!"
"No, you never did," said his mother.
But the boy died in the night.
And even as he lay dead, his mother heard her
brother's voice saying to her: "My God, Hester,
you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a
poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil,
poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he
rides his rocking-horse to find a winner." ♦
22. eighty thousand: the equivalent of about $4 million in
-7 s 8
UNIT SIX PART 1: NEW IMAGES OF REALITY
Connect to the Literature
1. What Do You Think?
What scene or
image in the story
did you find most
• What happens when Paul rides his
• What does he do with his
• Why doesn't Paul want to leave
before the Derby?
2. Why do you think Paul becomes obsessed with horseracing?
• his mother's attitude toward money
• the "voices" in the house
• what happens when he rides the rocking
3. How would you describe the relationship between Paul and
his mother's view of herself and her family
what she says about luck
> • what Paul wants to do for his mother
4. Why do you think the voices get louder after Paul's mother
receives the 5,000 pounds?
5. Who, if anyone, do you think is to blame for Paul's death?
Support your answer with evidence from the story.
DRAWING CONCLUSIONS Based on the
chart in your QJ readers notebook, what conclusions
would you draw about the role of luck in the lives of Paul,
his mother, and his uncle Oscar? For each character, is luck
a negative, a positive, or a neutral force?
7. What If? How might the outcome of the story have been
different if Paul's predictions had started to fail?
8. Connect to Life Popular culture today is full of suggestions
that people can achieve happiness by acquiring possessions.
What do you think of this approach to life?
FORESHADOWING IN FICTION
A writer's use of hints or clues that
suggest events and consequences
that will appear later in a narrative is
known as foreshadowing. The use
of foreshadowing points readers to
significant developments in the story
and creates a mood of suspense.
Early in "The Rocking-Horse Winner,"
the strange frenzy with which Paul
rides his rocking horse foreshadows
the tragedy of his final ride.
Cooperative Learning Activity
Working with a small group of
classmates, use a chart like the one
shown to list other examples of
foreshadowing in the story. Note
how each one prepares readers for
the tragic ending.
madly on his horse
while his sisters
| IRONY | Lawrence uses
irony— a contrast between expec-
tation and reality— to explore the
meaning of luck for the story's
characters. For example, Paul's
mother's statement "If you're lucky
you have money" (page 1008) is
ironic when read in the light of the
story's ending. List other examples
of irony, explaining how each
contributes to Lawrence's
exploration of luck.
THE ROCKING-HORSE WINNER
1. Advice Column Imagine you are
Paul's mother. Write a letter to an
advice columnist, asking for advice