(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

George Robins and Naboth Bird are young men for whom footracing is “their pastime, their passion, their principal absorption and topic of conversation”; although neither is a champion runner, each occasionally wins “some sort of trophy.”

On an August bank holiday, they go to a garrison town on the coast of England, where the holiday is being celebrated with a carnival of games. The crowd attending includes a medley of soldiers, sailors, most of the population of the town, and a number of blind beggars. The young men meet two girls who have come from London for the holiday; the “short snub” Naboth devotes his attentions to Minnie, the more demure of the girls, while the “cute good-looking” George offers “his gifts of gallantry” to Margery, who displays “some qualities not commonly associated with demureness.”

After George and Margery engage in some trivial flirtation, the young men enter the mile race. George wins third prize. When the men are dressing after the race, they are pursued by Jerry Chambers, a “cockney ruffian living by his wits,” who suggests that he could get the first and second place winners disqualified so that George could claim the first prize of five pounds. They reject his offer with appropriate scorn.

When the prizes are awarded by a portly countess, the only titled person the young men have ever seen, the name of W. Ballantyne is called out for the third place winner in the mile race. When no one comes forward, George quickly exchanges his tweed cap for Nab’s bowler and claims the prize as W. Ballantyne. The prize is a sovereign, a gold coin worth one pound. After the awarding of the prizes is completed, George, again wearing his tweed cap, disappears, leaving his friends wondering what he...

(The entire section is 725 words.)