Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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hold a bull," was asked if he would care to ride a gallop on Mis-
sionary. Nothing, he said, would delight him more; that was just
precisely the sort of horse he loved to ride ; and as for pulling — ^they
would see ! What they saw within a few minutes of the powerful
horseman being put up into the saddle was Missionary disappearing
over the horizon, and Sir Peter, in Derbyshire, received a wire,
simply containing the words : " Missionary last seen going north.
Has he passed Osmaston yet ? " It is a long way from Clewe Hill


to Osmaston Manor, but the horse looked as if he was going to get

In 1899 it happened that a connection of mine, a young cavalry
officer, Captain H. A. Johnstone, determined to buy some horses,
and asked me to manage them. The jumpers I consequently
begged Mr. Saunders-Davies to train. He wanted horses badly,
having many empty boxes. It is difficult, indeed, to find a trainer
who does not want horses; there is always room for just a few
more than he has, or if there is not room he can make it ; but
Mr. Saunders-Davies did a very characteristic thing. Interview-
ing the owner, he said that it would certainly give him particular
pleasure to receive any horses he might like to send, but at the same

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time he felt bound to tell him, as he was young at the game, that

if he were starting with any idea that money was to be made,

whether he proposed to bet or not, it would be judicious to abandon

the project ; with fair luck, he might make both ends meet ; on

the other hand it was extremely probable that he would find

the sport expensive. The result, however, was that Cushendun,

whom I had bought from my friend the late Colonel McCalmont for

400 guineas, and some others, went to Clewe Hill, including a horse

called Monti, own brother to Timon, who ran remarkably well in

Manifesto's National, but turned out worthless. Cushendun, a son

of Colonel McCalmont's Ascot Cup winner Timothy, had a string

halt ; some of the experts declared he was lame as he was led out at


Tattersairs, his hocks were criticised as weak, and indeed few
people except myself liked him ; but he proved to be a good horse
until a leg which affected him early in his career developed into
serious mischief. He was only once beaten as a four-year- old, and
that in a race which he ought to have won — unfortunately Mr. Davies
did not ride him on this occasion ; and as a five-year-old one of six
races in which he was successful was the Great Sandown Steeple-
chase, which he won by ten lengths with 12 st. 71b. on his back.
That he stood as long as he did is remarkable testimony to his
trainer's skill.

In 1903, Cushendun, probably because his leg worried him, became
very intractable, and some time after he had left Mr. Saunders-

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Davies's stable Woodland the trainer — a master when dealing
with ** difficult " horses — begged to be allowed to take him in hand.
His idea was to put him in a cart, which he thought would perhaps
quiet him down. In a cart he was put accordingly, and he left the
yard. What happened afterwards is not precisely known. Little
bits of wood and iron were picked up over a radius of a mile or
two, but anything distantly resembling a cart was never seen again;
not even identifiable portions of the vehicle could be collected. It
is thought that he may have kicked, an accomplishment in which
he shone, his leg notwithstanding.

He stayed, had a very useful turn of speed, and in 1901 his
trainer was quite sanguine about his chances for the Grand National,
in which he had list. 2 lb. to carry. This was the year of the
blizzard. Snow lay two or three inches deep on the course, and
blew about in dense whirling clouds. Owners, trainers, and jockeys
petitioned for a postponement of the race, but the stewards decided
that it must be run, with the result that of twenty-four starters I
think I am right in saying that only seven finished. Cushendun
slipped up on his side in the middle of a field after going about
five furlongs, and the trainer-jockey came back disconsolate.

Captain Johnstone, like most soldiers who run steeplechase
horses, was anxious to win the Grand Military Gold Cup, and
searching about for an animal likely to accomplish this feat, I heard
of a 'chaser who had had a successful career in Ireland, called Boreen-
chreeogue. Mr. Saunders-Davies agreed with me that this was an
animal to be bought if possible, and went over to Ireland to see if it
could be got for fifteen hundred guineas, with a preference, however,
for not going beyond a thousand. I have elsewhere published the
story of his expedition, and fear to repeat it in detail lest the reader
may have come upon it before. The owner of Boreenchreeogue— I
shortened it to Boreen — stuck out for his price, thrice Mr. Saunders-
Davies got into his cart and drove to the gate, to be beckoned back
and told that a hundred would be knocked off: and ultimately he
got the horse for eleven hundred guineas and a contingency of
another five hundred if he won the National or the Manchester
Steeplechase ; a contingency which however had to be squared, as
horses that go for the Grand Military Cup must be free from con-
tingencies of any sort. I asked poor Reggie Ward to ride, and we
all went down to Cheltenham one day in order that we might give
the horse a school over fences next morning, when, however, the fog
was so dense that the idea of the gallop had to be abandoned.
Boreen ran disappointingly, only being able to get third to Lambay
and Covert Hack ; and next day in the United Service Steeplechase
did worse still, for he was unable to beat Scotland Yard, a five-year-

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old, to whom, however, he was endeavouring to concede 2st.
Mr. Saunders- Davies won the Newmarket Spring Handicap Steeple-
chase on him after he had made such a mistake at the water that
his recovery was little short of a miracle. Two fences from home
he looked like winning the Manchester Steeplechase, but over-
jumped himself; and having strained the muscles of his quarters at
Liverpool was never of any use subsequently, though his trainer
again distinguished himself by getting him round, sufficiently to
enable hinvto start more than once.

An extraordinary race won by Mr. Saunders-Davies was run at


Hereford in 1891. He was on his brother's horse Magot,and at the
second fence the animal blundered, came down on his head, and got
the bit out of his mouth. He was a fine fencer, and recovermg him-
self — chiefly of his own accord, of course, his rider having next to
no power over him — followed Mintridge, ridden by Mr. W. A. Villar,
round the course, jumping all the fences without accident. Nearing
home he got on even terms with the leader and actually won a head !
One of the illustrations represents a quaint incident which
would certainly not be comprehensible without explanation. At

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Totnes, in 1897, Mr. Saunders-Davies was riding a horse called
Prince Arthur. Half a mile from home this most extraordinar)'
steeplechase course crosses the river, and in the midst of the stream
the horse got his foot in the martingale and fell, unfortunately with
his rider under him. Before the jockey was quite drowned, how-
ever, the animal began to struggle violently, and his drenched pilot
— pilot seems an appropriate term in this particular case— was
enabled to slip from under him. He had, naturally, lost his whip,
which he valued, as it had been given him by Mr. C. S. Newton in


remembrance of a race won in the brown and yellow hoops. A
crowd of people were on the bank, and to them the dripping jockey
shouted, ** Can anyone see my whip ? " One wag suggested that the
mouth of the river should be watched ; however, whilst Mr. Saun-
ders-Davies hurried off to change for and ride in the next race his
brother came down from the stand, and got some boys to paddle
and hunt for the lost trophy. An enterprising snapshooter took
the photograph, a reproduction of which appears.

The best horse Mr. Saunders-Davies ever rode he has no hesi-

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tation in saying was Cloister. He was a very hard puller and carried

his head extraordinarily low, but approaching a fence his rider would

see him cock his ears, and knew that all was well. Mr. Saunders-

Davies has also ridden Manifesto, the other 12 st. 71b. hero of

Liverpool. This was at Sandown, a month after the National, with

the Manchester race intervening, and the great horse ran wretchedly.

On Cloister Mr. Saunders-Davies won the Welsh Grand National

at Cardiff, and horse and jockey being alike favourites the scene of

enthusiasm was a memorable one. An extraordinarily good horse

over banks on which he has won races was Covert Hack, though

the rider was fortunate in ever having the mount. The day before

the race in which Covert Hack was to take part at Punchestown

Mr. Lushington, wanting a jockey, asked Mr. Saunders-Davies if
he would ride an animal for him whom he described as a *' clinking
jumper," suggesting that it would be a 'good thing to have a ride
over the course just to see what it was like. Mr. Saunders-Davies
gladly consented, got up, and set off gaily, to be turned over at the
very first fence, into which the horse galloped without attempting to
rise. As a matter of fact the animal was quite blind, a circumstance,
however, which was not discovered till afterwards !

Mr. Saunders-Davies, being a careful man, has kept a record of
every race in which he has ridden under National Hunt Rules. As
already stated he has been up in 1,068, has won 322 times, been
placed 364 times, unplaced 372, and has had 103 falls. These

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figures, it will be seen, are really something wonderful. He has
been in the first three 686 times, and only failed to get a place when
his horse has not fallen on 269 occasions.

From Cheltenham Mr. Saunders-Davies removed to Weyhill, a
place which seems especially lucky, for everyone who goes there
appears to start successfully. He did so, though his luck was not
well maintained, and in 1901 he removed to his present establish-
ment at Myrtle Grove, picturesquely situated in Sussex, with
excellent stables and some of the best gallops in the country.
Mr. A. M. Singer*s horses occupied most of the boxes on his arrival,
and this gentleman, determining to take to breeding thoroughbred


stock there, made paddocks and erected buildings which seemed
likely to be one of the joys of Mr. Saunders-Davies's life; but in a
few months Mr. Singer changed his mind, no doubt to the great
regret of his friend. With flat-race horses as well as jumpers the
Myrtle Grove trainer has been notably successful. It is easy to win
with good animals, but he has carried off a considerable number
of stakes with very bad ones, though no specially notable prizes
have fallen to his charges except the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood,
which was won in 190 1 by O 'Donovan Rossa, who was in great
form about that time. The wayward Bridge was another who was
often there or thereabouts in short races, and Rambling Katie left
Myrtle Grove to win her second Manchester Cup.

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I must tell one little story about Myrtle Grove and its trainer

which struck me as particularly amusing, and appealed to

Mr. Saunders-Davies's sense of humour. In all training stables

the boys seem to find an invincible attraction to the nearest town

where there is a telegraph office. They are anxious, indeed, to send

away such items of information as they think will be of profit to

their correspondents, and though trainers are aware that their lads

cannot know much, the head of a stable prefers to have his affairs

discussed as little as possible. The boys from Myrtle Grove

resembled their brethren at other places, and one of the excuses for

a journey to the post office was a wish to back a horse. Realising

this, Mr. Saunders-Davies interviewed his head lad. If the boys


wanted to bet, he said, he would turn bookmaker; that is to say,
the head lad might let them know that they could always be on at
starting price, and his master would find (or receive) the money.
Most of their wages, it was anticipated, would be retained at home
by their employer ; and this little matter was arranged just before
the Goodwood Meeting last year. Mr. Saunders-Davies had told
me about it, chuckling at the idea of killing two birds with one
stone — teaching the boys not to bet and pocketing the price of the
lesson. They were going to make a little purse and put it all on
something for the Stewards' Cup.

" What did your boys pick for the race ? " I asked him after the
numbers had been hoisted.

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** Xeny, confound them ! " he replied.

Xeny had started at 25 to i, and the Myrtle Grove backers had
£6 or £j on. This, however, is an accident not likely to happen
often, and if the arrangement continues it is not difficult to guess
who will have the best of it in the long run.

At present nearly a score of owners have horses under the care
of the subject of this memoir. For one thing, they like to be asso-
ciated with a friend, and for another they know that their animals
could not have a more skilful and conscientious guardian. It is a
very general hope that some day Myrtle Grove will harbour a real
** smasher " who will come out and sweep the board.


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Wave upon wave in the wind, undulation on undulation, the wheat
fields rippled their wealth. The glorious August sun heated the air
with shimmering tenseness, baking the short grass on the wild,
lands, but urging on the feathered ears of grain to finer growth and
proportion. Far away, like shreds of veils, faint clouds were scat-
tered over the horizon, timidly reaching out overhead as though
afraid of the scorching rays. The light hot wind that played along
was laden with the smell of the grain, tainted with the green reek of
the sloughs.

On the top of a rise was a squatter's home ; rough and grey it
looked in the fierce sunlight. A shed for the horses, an apology for
a granary, a miserable coop for some chickens, completed the little
group of buildings. Hysterically a hen cackled, announcing that
rare thing on the North- Western prairie, a fresh egg.

The clatter of a stool, a rush of footsteps, and Samuel King
tumbled helter-skelter from the low fly-beset doorway.

" Marthy ! Marthy ! ** he shouted, shrilly, his voice dying away
on the instant in the burning atmosphere, " Susan's laid a egg fo'
sure this time ! "

Still cackling, the speckled hen retreated, he advancing eagerly
to her nest under the stable sill.

•* I got it, Marthy, I got it ! "

Brown, oblong, and warm it lay in his rough palm.

" Thank ye, Susan." He drew the sweat from his forehead with
a quick accustomed motion. The hen perched angrily on a plough-

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share and cackled on vociferously. Then from over in the comer of
the yard a cock crowed its harsh tones, softened by the heat.

'* Thankye, too, Dick," old Sam said, gravely, and went back
to the log house.

'* Thar, girl ! a right fresh egg I got fur ye ! " He placed it
carefully on the table.

The interior was small and neat ; a bed, a table, three chairs,
and a rusty stove were its only furnishings. Clothes dangled here
and there from wooden pegs on the wall, worn boots peered forlornly
from beneath the attic ladder — nothing more. She looked up at him,
eyes tremulous and pleading.

*' It's so hot, Sam,'* she murmured, from her position by the
crack of the north door. ** It's so hot ! "

** Aye, girl ; but ye must eat ! Ye hain't ate nothin' fur two
days ! "

She gave a quick, petulant motion.
*' I don't want anything ! "

With a deep sigh the old man sat down, while the blistering
heat grew. He looked fondly and with great pride over the vast
acres that belonged to him ; acres that were heavy in weight, golden
with dollars — money.

** Aye, money," he whispered ; ** money ter give her everythin*
she wants, money ter make up ter her incause I'm old, money ter
make her happy ! An' it's all out thar, out thar ; growin', fillin' ter
twenty-five and thirty dollars an acre ; an', by God, it's fur her ! "

** What are you muttering about, Sam ? " the girl asked, tossing

uncomfortably in the tiny breeze that came from the north-west.

'* About you, girl ; alius about you ; I ain't got nawthin' else ! "

She stood up wearily, smoothing her rough blouse and skirt,

throwing back the loose damp masses of hair that clung about her

face. She was beautiful, but the great hazel eyes had something

unanswerable in them, something that no man could fully understand,

** It's frightful hot, Sam," she said, moving to him. " I'm

choking — here ! " She tore at her throat.

** Girl, girl ; since yer father gi'en yer ter me as wife, I've loved
ye all I knowed how. I'm only an old man, an' a rough one, but
rd — rd — " he looked about in desperation — "I'd give up any-
thin' ye asked, ef et wuld make ye happy."

"Dear old Sam," she whispered, "dear old Sam. I know ye
would give me anythin' I wanted ! " She turned from him impul-
sively and threw herself down by the north door again.

He jumped to his feet, the strong old figure alert and keen, his
eyes bright, and flashing a strange gleam from beneath their shaggy

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** What d'ye want then ? I giv's yer money, I giv*s yer clones,
I giv's yer my old life, an' I worships yer, girl ; ain't that enough ? "
She looked at him steadily for a moment, while the flies buzzed
and sang, while the heat grew in its suffocating strength.

" Sammy," she spoke with an effort, almost forcing the words,
** Sammy, I've loved yer like a — " she hesitated — ** like a woman
should ; but I'm lonely ! " ' ■ ■

The old man looked at her ; then turned away with an ineffable
sadness in his eyes.

" Aye," he muttered, " she's lonely ! "

Thus the afternoon passed in reeking, sweltering hours.
Slowly the broiling sun sank into a scarlet west ; degree by degree
the air cooled until, with the shadows of evening, the atmosphere
was less burning in its draught, less sweating in its grip.

" Girl ! " He crawled beside her. " Girl ! "

** Yes, Sammy." She woke from a welcome doze. ** What ? "

The old man fought with himself for an instant, then swallowed
Mrhat he wanted to say. " Ye know I loves yer, don't ye ? "

" Yes," she answered, slowly.

'* Ye know I'd sell my soul fur ye ; giv' up everythin' fur ye, ef
ye asked it ?

" Ye-es," more slowly.

** What is't then ye's wantin' ? Tell me, girl ; tell me, an' I'll
g^iv' it ye ef I can ! I hain't got much, but what's mine's yours.
Honey ; what d'ye want ? " The old man's voice was strong and
clear ; cracked a little with years perhaps, but ringing true.

She lifted herself on one elbow ; reached out and stroked the
long, grey hair affectionately, kindly.

" Sammy, I shouldn't talk this way, I shouldn't ; but a woman's
just a woman, Sammy ; ye can't a 1\^ ays understand her ways, nor
see the meanin' of her words ; a woman's a cur'ous thing, Sammy ! "
She sank back slowly into the little draught that stole in under the
north door.

** Aye girl, but ye'r the only woman in the world ; ye'r honest,
ye'r squar' to me, and I — I, by God," he burst into deep sobs that
disturbed the quiet, ** I'm only a rough old man ! "

His sorrow appealed to her. She smoothed his wet forehead
tenderly, and caressed the worn, gnarled hands.

** Never mind, Sammy, never mind ; women don't know when
they're well off, they're fools sometimes ; that's Nature, Sammy."

" Natur' ! What's Natur' ? " he said, standing up. '* I loves ye,
and ye know it ; but I'm old and cain't go galivantin' round ter
da.nces and sich, incause all the strength I got I want ter use in
makin' money fur ye — out in the wheat." He waved his thin arms

wo. cxxviii. VOL. xxn.— March 1906 S

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towards the doorway through which the stars now flickered and
gleamed. *' That's the Natur* I knows — the sun, rain, and frost ;
thar ain't no other, Marthy — is thar ? "

Her great hazel-brown eyes opened wide in the semi-gloom.

" Poor old Sammy," she whispered, softly, "poor old Sammy ;
alway$ the wheat ! *'

Silently he went out to the stables and gravely milked their only
cow, the warm white liquid hissing metallically in the tin pail. The
odour of straw soothed, the smell of the animal body before him
calmed his sorrow.

** Sho, Bess,'* — he slapped the gaunt beast playfully — " ye'r
gettin' shy o' milk ; grass is p'utty stiff, ain't it ? " The cow looked
at him over her shoulder and chewed her cud placidly.

** That's the only Natur' I knows," he muttered, as he went out
into the hot night. **Onct! " — he drew himself up proudly in his
old tattered overalls, his faded blue shirt — "Onct, it seems as though
I knowed somethin' different, but I've clean lost it ! "

His eyes wandered over the dark landscape. Grey-black and
far away the nearest rises in the prairie seemed ; stifling the air
came and went in his lungs ; eveh his long grey beard dripped with
the heat of his body. The darkness was laden with the invisible
noises of the night ; myriads of wings hummed as insects stung and
flew away. Out yonder coyotes yelped, their doleful voices rising
and falling as the draught breathed and died. Gophers whistled
sharply at the entrances of their holes, piercing the blackness with
sounds that tingled the ear. And over it all a sky spotted with
stars that wavered in their gleam as he looked at them. The old
man went and lighted a candle. By its flickering yellow sheen he
saw the girl tossing by the north door. Hurriedly he poured some
milk into a cracked coarse china cup.

" Here, Honey, have some o' this."

With half-opened eyes she took it and tasted, then flung it
from her.

** Sammy ! " she coughed ; ** I thought it was water."

He picked up the broken bits one by one and carefully threw
them out of doors.

** I'll get ye some water," he said, quietly, and took down a bright
bucket that shone faintly in the candle light.

She started up quickly.

** Never mind, Sammy, it isn't worth four miles walk."

But he was gone, and a breathless silence came on the interior,
broken only by the buzzing of flies and flappings of moths towards
the candle. She settled back to her old position, gasping for a cool
whiff of air.

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A figure appeared in the door — tall, lithe, and strong, with
steady blue eyes that had no furtive intention in them, even in the

** Martha ! " The voice was low, soft. " Martha ? '*
The girl sat up. " Here, Fred," she answered, quietly,,

With light steps he reached her side, blowing out the candle as
he passed.

*' Martha ! " he sought to kiss her.

" No, lad ! *' She pushed him away resolutely. ** It can't be."

** Why, why ? " the man begged, his tones vibrating with his
great feelings.

A silence between the two — deep silence. Then, " Because he
loves me, Fred ; that's enough ! "

" But he doesn't love you — he can't — as I do ! "

" Ssssh ! " she warned. ** Even if he can't give me everything
in the world, no one else has the right to, onless he says the word."

" I'll tell him, I'll show him how he can't, and he'll under-

" No, Fred, you mustn't, because he's honest in his love ;
are you ? "

She turned on him quickly,

"You know," he whispered, pressing her hand, "you know
what I have resisted for you ! " He stood up. *' I'll come to-night
for your answer, Martha — to-night."

Silence again.

A sultry hour and another passed on, she lying there battling
with herself.

** Here's water, girl ; fresh f om th' river, but I'm afeared it's a
trifle warm ! "

She drank eagerly in great gulping swallows the tepid water
that was in old Sam's bucket.

" It's not bad, Sammy," she murmured.

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 19 of 52)