The Yorick: 1 - Gordon and his Friends by Hugh McCrae

Born into the world six years after the Centaur Laureate's death, I have yet been able to see something of him, tangible and real; a lock of hair forming a ring upon white paper. From my father, this ring passed to Grace Jennings Carmichael; from Grace Jennings to God-knows-whom. I remember a Mrs. Lauder who sent McCrae honey out of the country accompanied by letters (interminably long) all about Gordon; she it was who had cropped the saved the treasurous curl.

Gordon appears a strange creature -- a little touched perhaps; sometimes taciturn, sometimes emotional. He rode both well and badly; he had to be mounted on a good stayer. He took it out of his horses. Trainers and jockeys knew him better than other people; so that, away from the turf, among the churches of Collins-street, he stalked solitarily; his green-lined wide-awake hat and painted Wellington boots making him conspicuous wherever he went.

If the spirit moved him he would join Kendall or Walstab, and, unembarrassed, recite verses in a monotonous voice for hours at a stretch. Kendall, in mouldy black, hugging an umbrella between his knees, constituted an ideal listener -- one who dwelt on every word and criticised justly.

The other aspect of Gordon, the devil-may-care bushman, we know him through Hammersley's anecdote; and it requires little imagination to see him in the yard of the the Hunt Club Hotel, astride a diminutive cob, using his legs like oars to paddle it forward. Quixote on Sancho's ass could not have presented a more ludicrous figure.

Brittle-tempered; once, in a dispute about horses, he pushed George Watson down, and, kneeling on his chest, began to strangle him. Watson worked free, clubbed his riding-crop and, had not partisans of both sides run between, might have killed him. Months afterwards Mrs. Gordon was thrown in the hunting field; she became unconscious. Watson, dismounting, stripped himself of his coat to make a pillow; at the same time he sent a boy with his cap to bring water from a creek. Some of the water he used for washing her face; the rest was given her to drink. Adam, half dazed from a similar fall, staggered towards the couple. Marcus Clarke, who was present, explained what had happened and tried to steady him a bit; but there was no withstanding the ardent husband.

"Maggie! Maggie! Are you hurt?"

"Adam dear, it's scarcely anything."

Gordon lifted his wife's head, and touched the wetted coat. "Whose coat?"

Somebody answered, "Mr. Watson's, sir?"

For a moment the men stood separated; then, suddenly, their hands met, clapping together with a joyful sound.

First published in The Bulletin, 30 January 1929

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