The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
5/8/16. Read online at www.classicshorts.com. Originally published in 1926.
A family living beyond their means finds luck and money in an unlikely place: their young son.
A mother and father have three children, two girls and one boy, Paul. Both parents make an income, but it is modest, especially when it is revealed that their other family members and peers seem to have more than enough. The mother always seems dissatisfied and though the parents rarely mention the family's money troubles, the children can feel it in the air and the house. In fact, often the children believe they can hear the house saying things like, "There's never enough money," which obviously makes them feel uneasy. Mother and Paul have a conversation about why they don't have any money and Mother says it's because they are unlucky. Paul's father is unlucky and Paul's mother is unlucky for having married Paul's father. She says that some people are just born lucky and it's better to be lucky than rich because you can lose money if you're rich, but you can make more money if you're lucky.
Paul has an old rocking-horse for a toy, and though he is getting too old for it, he still rides it. One day, Uncle Oscar is visiting and talks with Paul about his rocking-horse. He asks Paul what the horse's name is and Paul says it changes every week--last week it was Sansovino. Oscar says that horse just won at Ascot and, through a back and forth conversation, they and the reader realize that Paul has been riding his rocking-horse and somehow seeing the upcoming race and predicting the winners. He doesn't always know with certainty, but if he fully immerses himself, he will know if it is the sure winner or not. Paul has been working with Bassett, a gardner, who places the bets for Paul and for himself. They've already made some money but Oscar also gets involved and the trio make even more. At one point, Paul cashes out 5,000 pounds and they set up a trust in his mother's name to give her 1,000 pounds every year on her birthday for five years. When she gets the letter, she is disappointed she can't get it all at once and talks to the trustee. Paul and Oscar agree that she can have the full amount to pay outstanding debts. The family goes back to living in a little bit of luxury, but Paul can still feel the house whispering for more, more, more.
The Derby is coming up and Paul just knows that if he can predict the winner, the family's money problems will be solved and everyone will be happy. Mother and Father go out for an evening and Mother feels constantly uneasy. She calls to check up on the kids and hears from their nanny that they are. When they return, she hears a weird noise and goes to investigate. Up in Paul's room, in the dark, he is furiously riding his rocking-horse. He screams "Malabar! It's Malabar" to his parents before passing out. The parents are confused but Oscar is there and understands. He and Bassett place bets on Malabar to win the Derby and they had planned to bet a huge sum of money for Paul. At 14-to-1 odds, Paul's bet ends up netting the family 70,000 pounds (plus about 10,000 he already had from betting.) They tell Paul this and he is so happy. He tells his mother all about how he can predict the winner after he rides his rocking-horse, but he is so overworked that he passes away that evening.
Thoughts and Other Info:
Poor Paul, always trying to help out his family. This is a story I've read a few times but I've never read anything else like it. It's so memorable.
"There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck."
Memorable Lines or Passages:
"My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner." - D.H. Lawrence
rocking horse, winner, rocking-horse, lucky, unlucky, gambling, betting, horse race, derby, predictions, horserace, sad, family
I'm just a short story lover and voracious reader who wants to keep track of the shorts I read and help others remember the ones they've forgotten.