PART I RIGHT ROYAL
An hour before the race they talked togetherA pair of lovers in the mild March weather,Charles Cothill and the golden lady, Em.
Beautiful England's hands had fashioned them.
He was from Sleins, that manor up the Lithe;Riding the Downs had made his body blithe;Stalwart he was, and springy, hardened, swift,Able for perfect speed with perfect thrift,Man to the core yet moving like a lad.Dark honest eyes with merry gaze he had,A fine firm mouth, and wind-tan on his skin.He was to ride and ready to begin.He was to ride Right Royal, his own horse,In the English Chaser's Cup on Compton Course.
Under the pale coat reaching to his spursOne saw his colours, which were also hers,Narrow alternate bars of blue and whiteBlue as the speedwell's eye and silver bright.
What with hard work and waiting for the race,Trouble and strain were marked upon his face;Men would have said that something worried him.
She was a golden lady, dainty, trim,As like the love time as laburnum blossom.Mirth, truth and goodness harboured in her bosom.
Pure colour and pure contour and pure graceMade the sweet marvel of her singing face;She was the very may-time that comes inWhen hawthorns bud and nightingales begin.To see her tread the red-tippt daisies whiteIn the green fields all golden with delight,Was to believe Queen Venus come again,She was as dear as sunshine after rain;Such loveliness this golden lady had.
All lovely things and pure things made her glad,But most she loved the things her lover loved,The windy Downlands where the kestrels roved,The sea of grasses that the wind runs overWhere blundering beetles drunken from the cloverStumble about the startled passer-by.There on the great grass underneath the skyShe loved to ride with him for hours on hours,Smelling the seasoned grass and those small flowers,Milkworts and thymes, that grow upon the Downs.There from a chalk edge they would see the towns:Smoke above trees, by day, or spires of churchesGleaming with swinging wind-cocks on their perches.Or windows flashing in the light, or trainsBurrowing below white smoke across the plains.By night, the darkness of the valley setWith scattered lights to where the ridges metAnd three great glares making the heaven dun,Oxford and Wallingford and Abingdon.
"Dear, in an hour," said Charles, "the race begins.Before I start I must confess my sins.For I have sinned, and now it troubles me."
"I saw that you were sad," said Emily.
"Before I speak," said Charles, "I must premise.You were not here to help me to be wise,And something happened, difficult to tell.Even if I sinned, I feel I acted well,From inspiration, mad as that may seem.Just at the grey of dawn I had a dream.
It was the strangest dream I ever had.It was the dream that drove me to be mad.
I dreamed I stood upon the race-course here,Watching a blinding rainstorm blowing clear,And as it blew away I said aloud,'That rain will make soft going on the ploughed.'And instantly I saw the whole great course,The grass, the brooks, the fences toppt with gorse,Gleam in the sun; and all the ploughland shoneBlue, like a marsh, though now the rain had gone....