“Is that Mocassin?” he called to the lad riding the mare.
“That’s the Queen o’ Kentucky, sir,” replied the other cockily. “Never was beaten, and never will be—given fair play.”
“Done your gallop?”
“Half an hour since.”
Ginger drove on discreetly.
On a knoll, three hundred yards away, four men were standing.
“There they are!” said Ginger. “Pretty,
ain’t they?—specially Chukkers.
I don’t know who that fat feller is along of ’em.”
But Silver knew very well.
The Queen of Kentucky
The little group on the knoll came off the grass on to the road, close in talk.
Jaggers was tall and attenuated. He had the look of a self-righteous ascetic, and dressed with puritanical austerity. No smile ever irradiated his gaunt face and remorseless eyes. His forehead was unusually high and white; his manners high, too; and if his morals were not white, his cravat, that was like a parson’s, more than made up for the defect. It was not surprising then that among the fraternity he was known as His Reverence, because his bearing gave the impression of a Nonconformist Minister about to conduct a teetotal campaign.
Chukkers, who was wearing the familiar jodhpores which he always affected, was quite a different type. A big man for a jockey, he rarely rode under eleven stone, though he carried never an ounce of flesh. Sporting journalists were in the habit of referring to him as a Samson in the saddle, so large of bone and square of build was he. His success, indeed, was largely due to his extraordinary strength. It was said that once in a moment of temper he had crushed a horse’s ribs in, while it was an undeniable fact that he could make a horse squeal by the pressure of his legs.
He was clearly a Mongol, some said a Chinaman by origin; and certainly his great bowed shins, his dirty complexion, his high cheek-bones, and that impassive Oriental face of his, gave authority to the legend. When you met him you marked at once that his eyes were reluctant to catch yours; and when they did you saw two little gashes opening on sullen-twinkling muddy waters.
The worst of us have our redeeming features. And Chukkers with all his crude defects possessed at least one outstanding virtue—faithfulness—to the man who had made him. Ikey had brought him as a lad into the country where he had made his name; Ikey had given him his chance; to Ikey for twenty-five years now he had stuck with unswerving devotion, in spite of temptation manifold, often-repeated, and aggravated. The relations between the two men were the subject of much gossip. They never talked of each other; and though often together, very rarely spoke. Chukkers was never known to express admiration or affection or even respect for his master. But the bond between them was intimate and profound. It was notorious that the jockey would throw over the Heir to the Throne himself at the last moment to ride for the little Levantine. And of late years it had been increasingly rare for him to sport any but the star-spangled jacket.