our and commotion of a passing procession. The
"Open Race" was the main excitement of the after-
noon; it was run "in colours", and there were about
a dozen dashing competitors, several of them well-
known winners in such events.
But everything connected with this contest reached
me as though from a long way off, since I was half-
stupefied by yawning nervousness. They appeared
to be accomplishing something incredible by gallop-
ing round the course. I had got to do it myself in half
an hour; and what was worse, Dixon was relying on
me to put up a creditable performance. He even
expected me to give the others "a shaking up".
Stephen had ceased to be any moral support at all:
in spite of his success last year he was nearly as
nervous as I was, and when the field for the Open
Race had filed out of the hurdle-guarded enclosure,
which did duty as the paddock, he disappeared in the
direction of Jerry and I was left to face the future alone.
Also, as far as I knew, my horse hadn't yet arrived,
and it was with a new species of alarm that I searched
for him after I had seen the race start; the paddock
and its environs now looked unfriendly and forsaken.
I discovered my confederates in a quiet corner
under a hayrick. They seemed a discreet and un-
assuming pair, but Dixon greeted me with an in-
vigorative grin. "I kept him away from the course as
long as I could," he said confidentially; "he's as quiet
as a sheep, but he knows what he's here for; he's staled
twice since we got here." He told me that Mr.
Gaffikin was about and had been looking for me* "He
says our horse stands a jolly good chance with the
going as good as it is."
I said there was one place, in and out of a lane,
where I'd have to be careful.