THE RED HOSE RACE
“All competitors for the Red Hose, get ready!” called the bell-man, who announced the events at the sports, and immediately all was stir and bustle and excitement.
“Wha’s gaun to win the day, Andrew?” enquired Matthew Maitland, as they stood waiting for the runners to emerge from the dressing tent.
“I dinna ken,” answered Andrew Marshall. “That’s a damn’d unfair handicap anyway. My neighbor is no’ meant to lift it seemingly. Look at the start they’ve gi’en him, an’ young Rundell starts at the limit.”
“Ay!” said Matthew. “It’s no’ fair. It’s some o’ Black Jock’s doings. He’s meanin’ young Rundell to wun it.”
“Ay, it looks like it; but it’s fashious kennin’ what may happen. Rab’s a braw runner,” and Andrew spoke as one who knew, for he was the only person who had seen Robert train.
“Weel, it’s harder for him to be a rinner than for young Rundell, a man wha never wrocht a day’s work in a’ his life, while Rab’s had to slave hard and sair a’ his days.... Though Rundell can rin too,” he added, with ungrudged admiration.
“Ay, he ran weel last year, but they tell me he’d like to get the Red Hose to his credit, though for my pairt they’d been far better to ha’e presented it to him, than to gi’e him it that way. Man, he’s a dirty brute o’ a man, Black Jock!” and there was disgust in his voice. “Jist look at Mag Robertson there, flittering aboot quite shameless, and gecking and smirking at him, an’ naebody daur say a word to her. She’s a fair scunner!”
“If she belonged to me, I’d let her ken a different way o’t.”
“Ay, Andra,” was the reply. “But ye maun mind that Mag mak’s mair money than Sanny does. Jist look at her, the glaikit tinkler that she is. Black Jock’s no’ ill to please when that pleases him.”
Mag Robertson, the subject of their talk, was quite oblivious, apparently, of the many remarks that were being passed about her, and she continued to follow Walker, who as a committee member, was busily arranging matters for the race.
“She’s gie weel smeekit, Andra!” observed Matthew in a whisper, as Mag passed close by. “Did ye fin the smell o” her breath?”
“Ay!” replied Andrew. “She can haud a guid lot before ye see it on her. She’s—” but a shout from the crowd cut his further revelations short.
“Here they come!” cried Matthew excitedly, as the tent opened, and young Rundell came out with confident bearing, leading the other half-dozen athletes to the starting place. “Let’s gae roon’ to the wunnin’ post so as to see the feenish.”
The competitors lined up, each on his separate mark, ready for the signal to start. Rundell, in a bright-colored costume of fine texture, showed well beside the other racer who started along with him at forty yards. Peter was slimly built, but there were energy and activity in his every movement; his legs especially, being finely developed, showed no superfluous flesh; his chest alone indicated any weakness, but withal he looked a likely winner.