There is no adequate reason why Schwalliger’s name should appear upon the pages of history. He was decidedly not in good society. He was not even respectable as respectability goes. But certain men liked him and certain women loved him. He is dead. That is all that will be said of the most of us after a while. He was but a weak member of the community, but those who loved him did not condemn him, and they shut their eyes to his shortcomings because they were a part of him. Without his follies he would not have been himself.
Schwalliger was only a race-horse “tout.” Ah, don’t hold up your hands, good friends, for circumstances of birth make most of us what we are, whether poets or pickpockets, and if this thick-set, bow-legged black man became a “tout” it was because he had to. Old horsemen will tell you that Schwalliger–no one knew where he got the name–was rolling and tumbling about the track at Bennings when he was still so short in stature that he got the name of the “tadpole.” Naturally, he came to know much of horses, grew up with them, in fact, and having no wealthy father or mother to indulge him in his taste or help him use his knowledge, he did the next best thing and used his special education for himself in the humble capacity of voluntary adviser to aspiring gamesters. He prospered and blossomed out into good clothes of a highly ornate pattern. Naturally, like a man in any other business, he had his ups and downs, and there were times when the good clothes disappeared and he was temporarily forced to return to the occupation of rubbing down horses; but these periods of depression were of short duration, and at the next turn of fortune’s wheel he would again be on top.
“No, thuh,” he was wont to say, with his inimitable lisp–“no, thuh, you can’t keep a good man down. ‘Tain’t no use a-talkin’, you jeth can’t. It don’t do me no harm to go back to rubbin’ now an’ then. It jeth nachully keepth me on good termth with de hothes.”
And, indeed, it did seem that his prophecies were surer and his knowledge more direct after one of these periods of enforced humility.
There were various things whispered about Schwalliger; that he was no more honest than he should be, that he was not as sound as he might be; but though it might be claimed, and was, that he would prophesy, on occasion, the success of three different horses to three different men, no one ever accused him of being less than fair with the women who came out from the city to enjoy the races and increase their excitement by staking small sums. To these Schwalliger was the soul of courtesy and honour, and if they lost upon his advice, he was not happy until he had made it up to them again.
One, however, who sets himself to work to give a race-horse tout a character may expect to have his labour for his pains. The profession of his subject is against him. He may as well put aside his energy and say, “Well, perhaps he was a bad lot, but—-.” The present story is not destined to put you more in love with the hero of it, but—-
The heat and enthusiasm at Saratoga and the other race-courses was done, and autumn and the glory of Bennings had come. The ingratiating Schwalliger came back with the horses to his old stamping ground and to happiness. The other tracks had not treated him kindly, and but for the kindness of his equine friends, whom he slept with and tended, he might have come back to Washington on the wooden steps. But he was back, and that was happiness for him. Broke?