CHAPTER V

by Charles Dickens

No very great racing to-day, so no very great amount of vehicles: though there is a good sprinkling, too: from farmers’ carts and gigs, to carriages with post-horses and to fours-in-hand, mostly coming by the road from York, and passing on straight through the main street to the Course. A walk in the wrong direction may be a better thing for Mr. Goodchild to-day than the Course, so he walks in the wrong direction. Everybody gone to the races. Only children in the street. Grand Alliance Circus deserted; not one Star-Rider left; omnibus which forms the Pay-Place, having on separate panels Pay here for the Boxes, Pay here for the Pit, Pay here for the Gallery, hove down in a corner and locked up; nobody near the tent but the man on his knees on the grass, who is making the paper balloons for the Star young gentlemen to jump through to-night. A pleasant road, pleasantly wooded. No labourers working in the fields; all gone ‘t’races.’ The few late wenders of their way ‘t’races,’ who are yet left driving on the road, stare in amazement at the recluse who is not going ‘t’races.’ Roadside innkeeper has gone ‘t’races.’ Turnpike-man has gone ‘t’races.’ His thrifty wife, washing clothes at the toll-house door, is going ‘t’races’ to-morrow. Perhaps there may be no one left to take the toll to-morrow; who knows? Though assuredly that would be neither turnpike-like nor Yorkshire-like. The very wind and dust seem to be hurrying ‘t’races,’ as they briskly pass the only wayfarer on the road. In the distance, the Railway Engine, waiting at the town-end, shrieks despairingly. Nothing but the difficulty of getting off the Line, restrains that Engine from going ‘t’races,’ too, it is very clear.

At night, more Lunatics out than last night — and more Keepers. The latter very active at the Betting Rooms, the street in front of which is now impassable. Mr. Palmer as before. Mr. Thurtell as before. Roar and uproar as before. Gradual subsidence as before. Unmannerly drinking-house expectorates as before. Drunken negro-melodists, Gong-donkey, and correct cards, in the night.

On Wednesday morning, the morning of the great St. Leger, it becomes apparent that there has been a great influx since yesterday, both of Lunatics and Keepers. The families of the tradesmen over the way are no longer within human ken; their places know them no more; ten, fifteen, and twenty guinea-lodgers fill them. At the pastry-cook’s second-floor window, a Keeper is brushing Mr. Thurtell’s hair — thinking it his own. In the wax-chandler’s attic, another Keeper is putting on Mr. Palmer’s braces. In the gunsmith’s nursery, a Lunatic is shaving himself. In the serious stationer’s best sitting-room, three Lunatics are taking a combination-breakfast, praising the (cook’s) devil, and drinking neat brandy in an atmosphere of last midnight’s cigars. No family sanctuary is free from our Angelic messengers — we put up at the Angel — who in the guise of extra waiters for the grand Race-Week, rattle in and out of the most secret chambers of everybody’s house, with dishes and tin covers, decanters, soda-water bottles, and glasses. An hour later. Down the street and up the street, as far as eyes can see and a good deal farther, there is a dense crowd; outside the Betting Rooms it is like a great struggle at a theatre door — in the days of theatres; or at the vestibule of the Spurgeon temple — in the days of Spurgeon. An hour later. Fusing into this crowd, and somehow getting through it, are all kinds of conveyances, and all kinds of foot-passengers; carts, with brick-makers and brick-makeresses jolting up and down on planks; drags, with the needful grooms behind, sitting cross-armed in the needful manner, and slanting themselves backward from the soles of their boots at the needful angle; postboys, in the shining hats and smart jackets of the olden time, when stokers were not; beautiful Yorkshire horses, gallantly driven by their own breeders and masters. Under every pole, and every shaft, and every horse, and every wheel as it would seem, the Gong-donkey — metallically braying, when not struggling for life, or whipped out of the way.

By one o’clock, all this stir has gone out of the streets, and there is no one left in them but Francis Goodchild. Francis Goodchild will not be left in them long; for, he too is on his way, ‘t’races.’

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