[Editor: This is a chapter from The Yellow Wave: A Romance of the Asiatic Invasion of Australia (1895) by Kenneth Mackay.]
The protest is decided.
On the Monday after the race, the A.J.C. committee sat to decide the protest entered against Io. The outspoken indignation of the public, and the private efforts of not a few prominent racing men, had alike failed to induce the owner of Satan to withdraw his charge.
‘My horse is heavily backed,’ was his answer to both argument and appeal, ‘and I mean to go by the rules.’
Unfortunately on this point they were singularly clear, and as the member who was supposed to have plunged heavily on Satan put it: ‘They would stultify themselves as a responsible body if they broke through a clearly-stated and most important regulation for the sake of sentiment.’
This settled the matter, and as a question of racing law the committee upheld the objection, and awarded the race to Satan.
As Hatten and Johnson walked out of the committee-room, Ted laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder.
‘It’s a cursed shame, old chap,’ he said, ‘a cowardly robbery. I wish I had the committee in nigger country for about half an hour.’
Turning a face a trifle white, Dick replied coolly, almost cheerfully:
‘They couldn’t help it, Ted; every man of them, bar Mills, would have given me the race if he could. We have to thank him and that dog from Grabben Gullen for the lot.’
‘Well, we’re in the soup, any way,’ retorted Ted ruefully, ‘every mother’s son of us; but there, old man,’ as Dick started to apologize, ‘none of that: you rode like a hero for us; it makes me mad to think it was all for nothing.’
‘You forgot my lady’s gift,’ said Dick lightly. ‘Ted,’ he continued, ‘you may call me as big a fool as you like, but that bunch of flowers means more to me than all I have lost.’
‘Oh, confound your lady’s gift! I wish she’d kept her flowers to herself!’ exclaimed Johnson wrathfully. ‘I didn’t think Heather was such a fool.’
‘Neither did I,’ said Hatten absently; ‘but never mind, I’m awfully sorry for all the fellows who backed me, and I admit it’s a bit of a facer; still, it’s not the first. Let’s have a drink.’
‘Look here, Dick,’ said Johnson as they drove out later to Irish Town together, ‘we know each other well enough for me to speak straight: I’ve got a hundred left; will you go me partners in it for, say, a couple of months?’
‘No, thanks, old chap,’ answered Hatten; ‘as luck has it, I find I have held on to enough to get Billy, the mare, and myself up North again. But you’ve put me in your debt just as much as though I hadn’t.’
‘Nonsense!’ muttered the bushman, anxious like all his craft to deprecate any imputation of generosity. ‘What do you think of this talk about the Russians collaring India? It’s not much in my line, but I heard them gassing about it at breakfast yesterday, and old Zenski said something about our sending another contingent. As you’re a bit given to soldiering, I thought you might be on for going.’
‘I gave that up years ago,’ answered Dick — ‘in fact, ever since I was Lieutenant in Orloff’s Mounted Rifles in Brisbane.’
‘Was not that the chap who shot a man and escaped from the steamer at Colombo, the time Miss Cameron was coming out?’
‘Yes,’ replied Hatten, flushing slightly; ‘and, say what they will, I’ll swear the fellow deserved it. Orloff was a hot-tempered beggar, but as straight as a die.’
‘People said at the time that he was jealous about ——’
‘People are idiots!’ interrupted Dick, for this was a question he would never willingly discuss, both because he knew it was Heather’s wish to let it die, and because, feeling there was much truth in it, it pained him. ‘But about this contingent business; if it is got up, I won’t be one.’
‘Why, the last was a regular picnic!’
‘That’s right enough; and don’t think I’m funking, Ted; but the fact is, I fancy we’ll be all wanted at home before long.’
‘Why, the Unionists are dead to the world!’
‘Perhaps. Cheeky as the beggars were, it would be better if they weren’t,’ replied Hatten seriously. ‘I don’t like all this land-grant, syndicate business, Ted. Queensland — at any rate, up North — is full of Kanakas and coolie scum. All the old squatters are either gone or are managing for a lot of Johnnies who never saw Australia, and don’t care a rap for it so long as dividends come in.’
‘It’s a bit sick, I’ll admit; but you know what a devil of a time the Unions gave us before McLoskie let in cheap labour.’
‘If I’m not mistaken, old Zenski and that Levant crowd at Point Parker will give us a worse time still,’ retorted Hatten. ‘I don’t cotton to these oily foreigners.’
‘But, hang it, man! Zenski hates the Russian Government like poison,’ exclaimed Johnson in astonishment.
‘So he says,’ retorted Dick suspiciously. ‘But I wouldn’t trust the sneering old devil as far as I could pitch him; and what’s more, I’d like to see something more reliable between us and the Russian squadron than a lot of Kalmuck stockmen and coolie sugar-slaves.’
Just then the cab pulled up in front of Io’s quarters, and Johnson forgot to reply as he caught sight of Billy’s head stuck out of the horse-box.
With arms resting on the top of the lower door, the trainer watched his visitors’ approach.
‘Well, Billy, what do you think of it?’ asked Hatten.
‘I think they’re a lot of pigs — not ordinary swine, but sandy-haired, long-tailed hogs, with manes on their backs!’ replied the trainer, adding solemnly, as he spat over his left arm: ‘Blast ’em!’
‘How’s the mare?’
‘Barring bein’ a bit cut about the stifles, and generally gravel-rashed, she’s fit to go out now an’ give that d——d mosquiter-chested waster three stone and a floggin’!’
Walking up to his favourite, Dick ran his hand lightly over her swelled stifles; then, caressing the head that she bent towards him, he said a trifle bitterly:
‘You’re all I’ve left, old girl.’
‘What have I done, Master Dick?’ muttered a voice at his elbow.
‘Your best, Billy,’ replied Dick gratefully. ‘It was all my fault.’
‘All a woman’s tomfoolery,’ grunted Johnson.
‘See here, Mister Johnson,’ said Billy. ‘You know my general opinion of wimmin?’
‘They’re the ruin of boys and stables — eh, Billy? You’re about right in this case.’
‘Well, given in all about this affair, I don’t include Miss Heather in no such opinion.’
‘She ain’t a woman.’
‘What the deuce is she, then?’
‘She’s a Duchess; the King never knighted a better.’
Absurd as Billy’s compliment was, Hatten’s heart warmed towards him as it had never done before.
‘You’re right, Billy,’ he said heartily. ‘Get Io on board the mail to-morrow night, and next season we’ll give them another taste of our quality without the chance of winning on a foul.’
Kenneth Mackay, The Yellow Wave: A Romance of the Asiatic Invasion of Australia, London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1895, pages 89-94