Chronicles of Clovis HTML version

A Matter Of Sentiment
It was the eve of the great race, and scarcely a member of Lady Susan's house-party had
as yet a single bet on. It was one of those unsatisfactory years when one horse held a
commanding market position, not by reason of any general belief in its crushing
superiority, but because it was extremely difficult to pitch on any other candidate to
whom to pin ones faith. Peradventure II was the favourite, not in the sense of being a
popular fancy, but by virtue of a lack of confidence in any one of his rather
undistinguished rivals. The brains of clubland were much exercised in seeking out
possible merit where none was very obvious to the naked intelligence, and the house-
party at Lady Susan's was possessed by the same uncertainty and irresolution that
infected wider circles.
"It is just the time for bringing off a good coup," said Bertie van Tahn.
"Undoubtedly. But with what?" demanded Clovis for the twentieth time.
The women of the party were just as keenly interested in the matter, and just as helplessly
perplexed; even the mother of Clovis, who usually got good racing information from her
dressmaker, confessed herself fancy free on this occasion. Colonel Drake, who was
professor of military history at a minor cramming establishment, was the only person
who had a definite selection for the event, but as his choice varied every three hours he
was worse than useless as an inspired guide. The crowning difficulty of the problem was
that it could only be fitfully and furtively discussed. Lady Susan disapproved of racing.
She disapproved of many things; some people went as far as to say that she disapproved
of most things. Disapproval was to her what neuralgia and fancy needlework are to many
other women. She disapproved of early morning tea and auction bridge, of ski- ing and
the two-step, of the Russian ballet and the Chelsea Arts Club ball, of the French policy in
Morocco and the British policy everywhere. It was not that she was particularly strict or
narrow in her views of life, but she had been the eldest sister of a large family of self-
indulgent children, and her particular form of indulgence had consisted in openly
disapproving of the foibles of the others. Unfortunately the hobby had grown up with her.
As she was rich, influential, and very, very kind, most people were content to count their
early tea as well lost on her behalf. Still, the necessity for hurriedly dropping the
discussion of an enthralling topic, and suppressing all mention of it during her presence
on the scene, was an affliction at a moment like the present, when time was slipping away
and indecision was the prevailing note.
After a lunch-time of rather strangled and uneasy conversation, Clovis managed to get
most of the party together at the further end of the kitchen gardens, on the pretext of
admiring the Himalayan pheasants. He had made an important discovery. Motkin, the
butler, who (as Clovis expressed it) had grown prematurely grey in Lady Susan's service,
added to his other excellent qualities an intelligent interest in matters connected with the
Turf. On the subject of the forthcoming race he was not illuminating, except in so far that
he shared the prevailing unwillingness to see a winner in Peradventure II. But where he