A moment later and the shouting became a very tempest of sound.
“They’re off!” he cried, staring through his field glasses in an excitement which promised, if he did not curb it, to send him tumbling from his shaky foothold. “Oh, what a splendid start!”
“Who’s ahead?” inquired Miss Alathea, very much excited. “Colonel, who’s ahead?”
“Catalpa sets the pace, the others lying well back.”
“Why doesn’t Queen Bess come to the front?” Miss Alathea cried, as if he were to blame for the disquieting news he had reported to her. “Oh,” she exclaimed, to the Colonel’s great astonishment, “if I were only on that mare!”
“At the half,” the Colonel shouted, beside himself with worry, “Evangeline takes the lead ... Catalpa next ... the rest are bunched.”
Miss Alathea, at the moment, was trying to see satisfactorily, through the very knot-hole which the Colonel had abandoned. She sprang from it hastily, however, and to the foot of the tree which acted as his pedestal, when he exclaimed:
“Oh, great heavens! There’s a fall ... a jam ... and Queen Bess is left behind three lengths!” He leaned so far out that he heard the limb beneath him crack, and, in hastening to a firmer footing, almost lost his balance. This startled him, and, for an instant, took his eager gaze away from the struggling horses on the track within, but he quickly regained poise. “She hasn’t the ghost of a show!” he cried, disheartened. “Look! Look!”
Miss Alathea hugged the tree and looked, not at the horses, for that was quite impossible, but up at him with wide, imploring eyes.
“She’s at it again, though, now!” he cried. “It’s beyond anything mortal, but she’s gaining ... gaining!”
Miss Alathea’s excitement now was every bit as great as his. She had never seen a race in all her life, yet, now, she performed there at the foot of the great tree, a series of evolution not unlike those of many a “rooter” at the track within. She jumped up and down upon her toe’s, clenched her hands and cried: “Oh, keep it up! Keep it up!”
“At the three-quarters she’s only five lengths behind the leader and still gaming!” cried the Colonel, in excited optimism.
Miss Alathea could no longer endure the agony of waiting on the ground for his reports. Instead she tried to scramble to his side, but, failing, utterly, to accomplish this unaided, held her hands up to him, crying: “Oh, pull, pull! I can’t stand it! I’ve just got to see!”
The Colonel turned upon his perch and looked down at her, smiling. “Coming up, Miss ’Lethe?” he inquired. “All right, don’t break your neck, but get where you can see.” Hastily he gave her such assistance as his absorbed attention to the events within the fence permitted, and, with a wild scramble, she found herself close by his side, holding half to him, half to a curving branch.
“Look! Look!” he cried, again. “In the stretch! Her head is at Catalpa’s crupper ... now at her saddle-bow ... but she can’t gain another inch. Still ... yes ... yes ... she lifts her! See!... See!... Great God! She wins!”