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Sitting in Judgment
by [?]

The show ring was a circular enclosure of about four acres, with a spiked batten fence round it, and a listless crowd of back-country settlers propped along the fence. Behind them were the sheds for produce, and the machinery sections where steam threshers and earth scoops hummed and buzzed and thundered unnoticed. Crowds of sightseers wandered past the cattle stalls to gape at the fat bullocks; side-shows flourished, a blase goose drew marbles out of a tin canister, and a boxing showman displayed his muscles outside his tent, while his partner urged the youth of the district to come in and be thumped for the edification of the spectators.

Suddenly a gate opened at the end of the show ring, and horses, cattle, dogs, vehicles, motor-cars, and bicyclists crowded into the arena. This was the general parade, but it would have been better described as a general chaos. Trotting horses and ponies, in harness, went whirling round the ring, every horse and every driver fully certain that every eye was fixed on them; the horses — the vainest creatures in the world — arching their necks and lifting their feet, whizzed past in bewildering succession, till the onlookers grew giddy. Inside the whirling circle blood stallions stood on their hind legs, screaming defiance to the world at large; great shaggy-fronted bulls, with dull vindictive eyes, paced along, looking as though they were trying to remember who it was that struck them last. A showground bull always seems to be nursing a grievance.

Mixed up with the stallions and bulls were dogs and donkeys. The dogs were led by attendants, apparently selected on the principle of the larger the dog the smaller the custodian; while the donkeys were the only creatures unmoved by their surroundings, for they slept peaceably through the procession, occasionally waking up to bray their sense of boredom.

In the centre of the ring a few lady-riders, stern-featured women for the most part, were being “judged” by a trembling official, who feared to look them in the face, but hurriedly and apologetically examined horses and saddles, whispered his award to the stewards, and fled at top speed to the official stand — his sanctuary from the fury of spurned beauty. The defeated ladies immediately began to “perform” — that is, to ask the universe at large whether anyone ever heard the like of that! But the stewards strategically slipped away, and the injured innocents had no resource left but to ride haughtily round the ring, glaring defiance at the spectators.

All this time stewards and committee-men were wandering among the competitors, trying to find the animals for judgment. The clerk of the ring — a huge man on a small cob — galloped around, roaring like a bull: “This way for the fourteen stone ‘acks! Come on, you twelve ‘and ponies!” and by degrees various classes got judged, and dispersed grumbling. Then the bulls filed out with their grievances still unsettled, the lady riders were persuaded to withdraw, and the clerk of the ring sent a sonorous bellow across the ground: “Where’s the jumpin’ judges?”

From the official stand came a brisk, dark-faced, wiry little man. He had been a steeplechase rider and a trainer in his time. Long experience of that tricky animal, the horse, had made him reserved and slow to express an opinion. He mounted the table, and produced a note-book. From the bar of the booth came a large, hairy, red-faced man, whose face showed fatuous self-complacency. He was a noted show-judge because he refused, on principle, to listen to others’ opinions; or in those rare cases when he did, only to eject a scornful contradiction. The third judge was a local squatter, who was overwhelmed with a sense of his own importance.

They seated themselves on a raised platform in the centre of the ring, and held consultation. The small dark man produced his note-book.