The Rocking-Horse Winner
‘And how much is Bassett betting on Daffodil?’Perhaps a hundred and fifty pounds,’ said Paul.
Oscar was silent. He was very surprised but he was also very interested. He decided to take Paul to the racecourse where Daffodil was racing. It was Paul’s first visit to a race meeting and his blue eyes shone with excitement. Daffodil won his race.
‘I have one thousand, five hundred pounds now,’ said Paul. ‘Uncle, if you want to be a partner with Bassett and me, we could all be partners. But you must make a promise. You must never give the information about the winning horses to anybody else.’
The next afternoon, Oscar took Bassett and Paul to a park and they talked.
‘If I’m sure about the winner, we’re successful,’ said Paul. ‘But sometimes I’m not sure. Then we lose.’
‘But when are you sure?’ asked Uncle Oscar.
‘It’s Master Paul, sir,’ said Bassett slowly, in a soft, quiet voice. ‘Perhaps Heaven tells him. He was absolutely certain that Daffodil would win.’
‘But where’s the money that Paul has won?’ asked Oscar.
‘I keep it safely for him,’ said Bassett. ‘Whenever Master Paul wants the money, he can have it.’
‘Fifteen hundred pounds!’ said Oscar, shaking his head. He almost did not believe it.
‘Yes,’ said Bassett.
They drove home again. Oscar asked to see Paul’s fifteen hundred pounds, and Bassett showed it to him. Then Oscar decided to become a partner too.
‘Sometimes I’m absolutely sure which horse will win,’ said Paul. ‘I was sure about Daffodil. Sometimes I have an idea, and sometimes I have no idea at all, do I, Bassett? Then we have to be careful, because we lose.’
‘And when you’re sure, what makes you sure?’ asked Oscar.
Paul looked uncomfortable. ‘Oh, well, I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I’m sure, Uncle. That’s all.’
The next race was the Leger. Paul was ‘sure’ about the winner of this race. He bet a thousand pounds on a horse called Lively Spark. Lively Spark came in first place and
Paul won ten thousand pounds. Oscar Cresswell won two thousand pounds.
‘You see,’ said Paul. ‘I was absolutely sure that Lively Spark would win.’
‘I don’t understand how you’re guessing correctly,’ said Oscar. ‘What are you going to do with your money?’
‘I wanted to get money for mother,’ replied Paul. ‘She said that she had no luck because father is unlucky. I want to be lucky. Then 1 can stop the whispers in our house.’
‘Whispers in the house?’ repeated Oscar in surprise. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Oh — oh, I don’t know,’ said Paul. ‘But the house never has enough money. And so it’s always whispering. I want to stop the whispers. But I don’t want mother to know about my luck. She wouldn’t let me bet on the horses.’
‘Very well, Paul! We won’t tell her,’ said Oscar.
Paul and his uncle made a plan. Paul gave five thousand pounds to Oscar, and Oscar gave the money to a lawyer. The lawyer was going to tell Hester about a relative who she had never met. Hester was going to get five thousand pounds because the relative had died. Each year, on her birthday, Hester was going to receive one thousand pounds.
‘So my sister will have a birthday present of a thousand pounds for the next five years!’ said Oscar.
Paul’s mother had her birthday in November. By that time, the whispers in the house had become very loud. Paul was worried.
Hester opened her letters at breakfast on her birthday.
Paul watched his mother’s face carefully as she read the lawyer’s letter. But she did not smile, her face became hard and cold.
‘Did you have any presents for your birthday?’ asked Paul.
‘Not really,’ said his mother. Then she went to the city.
In the afternoon, Oscar came to the house. He told Paul that his mother had been to see the lawyer. She had many large debts and she owed a lot of money too many people. So one thousand pounds was not enough for her. She wanted to have the whole amount. She wanted the five thousand pounds immediately.
‘Oh, let her have all the money now,’ said Paul. ‘We can win some more money. We’ll get a lot of money if I choose the winners of the Grand National, or the Lincolnshire, or the Derby. I’m sure to know the winner for one of these races.’
So Hester got the whole five thousand pounds. She spent a lot of money on new furniture and expensive things for the house. She told Paul that he would go to an expensive school in the autumn.
Then something very strange happened. The voices in the house suddenly changed. Before, they had only whispered. But now, they began to shout: There must be more money! There must be more money!
Paul was frightened. He spent a lot of time with Bassett. The day of the Grand National race arrived, but Paul was not sure about the name of the winner. He bet on the wrong horse and lost a hundred pounds. He did not know the winner for the Lincoln either, and he lost fifty pounds. He became very worried and his eyes were wild and strange.
‘Don’t worry about it, my boy!’ said Oscar.
The next big race was the Derby.
‘I must know the winner for the Derby!’ said Paul. His big blue eyes shone strangely. Even his mother noticed that Paul did not look well.