The Rocking-Horse Winner
Hester was a beautiful woman whose family was important and powerful. But she had no luck. Hester fell in love and got married. But her marriage became dull and empty. She had three beautiful children — a boy and two girls. But she did not love them. Hester pretended that she loved them, but she knew that she did not. Hester’s husband travelled to the city each day and worked in an office. But he was not very successful in his job and did not earn much money. Hester did not know how to make money either. They both spent more money than they could earn. So they had serious money problems. Hester and her family lived in a fine house, which had a pleasant garden. Beautiful and expensive things filled the house. The children had all the toys that they wanted. But sometimes it seemed that a voice was whispering in the house. The children could hear the voice all the time. Nobody spoke about it, but the whisper was everywhere. There must be more money! There must be more money! Hester’s son was called Paul.
‘Mother,’ said Paul, ‘why don’t we have our own car?’ ‘Because we’re the poor members of the family,’ she said. ‘But why are we poor, mother?’ asked Paul.
When Hester replied, her voice was cold, hard and angry. ‘Well,’ she said slowly, ‘it’s because your father had no luck.’
‘Is luck the same thing as money, mother?’
‘No, Paul. Luck brings money. If you’re lucky, you have money. That’s why it’s better to be born lucky than rich. If you’re rich, you may lose your money. But if you’re lucky, you will always get more money.’
‘Oh!’ said Paul. ‘And is father not lucky?’
‘He’s very unlucky, I think,’ said the mother bitterly.
‘Well,’ said Paul, ‘I’m a lucky person.’
‘Excellent!’ said Hester, laughing.
Paul saw that his mother did not believe him, and this made him angry. So the boy decided to try and find luck.
Paul had a rocking horse in the nursery, the room where the children played. While his sisters played with their dolls, Paul sat on the big wooden rocking horse and rode it madly. Then he stood in front of it, staring into its face. Its red mouth was slightly open, and its big glass eyes were wide and bright. ‘Take me to the place where there is luck!’ he said to the horse.
The horse could help him to find luck. That is what Paul believed. Sometimes he hit the horse on the neck, to make it go faster. He rode it more and more wildly, hoping for luck.
Paul’s mother had a brother, Oscar Cresswell. One day Paul’s mother and Uncle Oscar came to the nursery when Paul was riding his horse.
‘Hello, young jockey!’ said Uncle Oscar. ‘Is your horse going to win its race?’
Paul finished his mad ride and got down from the horse.
‘What’s the horse’s name?’ asked Uncle Oscar.
‘He doesn’t have just one name,’ said Paul quietly. ‘He has different names. He was called Sansovino last week.’
‘Sansovino?’ said Oscar. He was surprised. ‘But that’s the name of the horse which won the big race at Ascot. How did you know that name?’
‘He talks about horse-races with Bassett,’ said Paul’s sister.
Bassett was the young gardener who worked for Paul’s parents. He had been Oscar Cresswell’s servant in the war, when Oscar was an army officer. Bassett now worked in the garden of Paul’s house. Bassett knew a lot about horseracing. Oscar was very pleased that Paul was becoming interested in horseracing too. He went to see Bassett to ask him a few questions about his nephew.
‘Master Paul asks me a lot of questions about the races, sir,’ said Bassett.
‘And does he ever make a bet?’ asked Oscar.
‘I don’t want to tell you Master Paul’s secrets,’ said Bassett. ‘Please will you ask him that question yourself?’
Oscar took Paul for a ride in his car. ‘Tell me, Paul, do you ever bet money on a horse?’ he asked.
‘Do you think that I shouldn’t?’ asked Paul.
‘No,’ said his uncle. ‘I hoped that you could give me a tip for the next big race at Lincoln. What’s your advice? Which horse is going to win?’
‘It’s going to be Daffodil,’ said Paul.
Daffodil had not run in many races and had not been successful. No one expected Daffodil to win the race.
‘Daffodil!’ asked Oscar. ‘Are you sure? What about Mirza?’
‘I only know the winner,’ said Paul. ‘That’s Daffodil. You won’t give the information to anybody else, will you Uncle? I promised Bassett that I wouldn’t tell anyone. Bassett and I are partners. We share our information with each other.
‘Bassett lent me five shillings to bet on my first racehorse,’ Paul went on. ‘But the horse lost. Then you gave me ten shillings. I bet that money on a horse, and it won! So I thought that you were lucky. But you won’t tell anyone else, will you?’
‘All right,’ said Oscar. ‘I’ll keep your tip about Daffodil a secret. How much money are you going to bet on Daffodil?’
‘Three hundred pounds,’ said the boy in a serious voice.
Oscar was very surprised. Three hundred pounds was a huge amount of money. He laughed.
‘Where is your three hundred pounds?’ he asked.
‘Bassett keeps it safely for me,’ the boy replied.