“He rides like an Italian,” Bransome declared, shutting up his glasses. “There’s never a thing in this race to touch him. I am going to see if I can get any money on.”
Another set of hurdles and then the field were out of sight. Soon they were visible again in the valley. The Prince was riding second now. Somerfield was leading, and there were only three other horses left. They cleared a hedge and two ditches. At the second one Somerfield’s horse stumbled, and there was a suppressed cry. He righted himself almost at once, however, and came on. Then they reached the water jump. There was a sudden silence on the stand and the hillside. Somerfield took off first, the Prince lying well away from him. Both cleared it, but whereas Lady Grace’s mare jumped wide and clear, and her rider never even faltered in his saddle, Somerfield lost all his lead and only just kept his seat. They were on the homeward way now, with only one more jump, a double set of hurdles. Suddenly, in the flat, the Prince seemed to stagger in his saddle. Lady Grace cried out.
“He’s over, by Jove!” the Duke exclaimed. “No, he’s righted himself!”
The Prince had lost ground, but he came on toward the last jump, gaining with every stride. Somerfield was already riding his mount for all he was worth, but the Prince as yet had not touched his whip. They drew closer and closer to the jump. Once more the silence came. Then there was a little cry,—both were over. They were turning the corner coming into the straight. Somerfield was leaning forward now, using his whip freely, but it was clear that his big chestnut was beaten. The Prince, with merely a touch of the whip and riding absolutely upright, passed him with ease, and rode in a winner by a dozen lengths. As he cantered by the stand, they all saw the cause of his momentary stagger. One stirrup had gone, and he was riding with his leg quite stiff.
“You’ve won your money, Grace,” the Duke declared, shutting up his glass. “A finely ridden race, too. Did you see he’d lost his stirrup? He must have taken the last jump without it. I’ll go and fetch him up.”
The Duke hurried down. The Prince was already in the weighing room smoking a cigarette.
“It is all right,” he said smiling. “They have passed me. I have won. I hope that Lady Grace will be pleased.”
“She is delighted!” the Duke exclaimed, shaking him by the hand. “We all are. What happened to your stirrup?”
“You must ask your groom,” the Prince answered. “The leather snapped right in the flat, but it made no difference. We have to ride like that half the time. It is quite pleasant exercise,” he continued, “but I am very dirty and very thirsty. I am sorry for Sir Charles, but his horse was not nearly so good as your daughter’s mare.”
They made their way toward the stand, but met the rest of the party in the paddock. Lady Grace went up to the Prince with outstretched hands.