Period referred to: 1870s
Sound category: Social > Gambling and fairgrounds
Title of work: Esther Waters
Type of publication: Novel
Author: George Moore
Year of publication: 1894
Page/volume number: Chapter XXXIII
A Victorian fairground ride at the Epsom Derby
The crowd shouted. She looked where the others looked, but saw only the burning blue with the white stand marked upon it. It was crowded like the deck of a sinking vessel, and Esther wondered at the excitement, the cause of which was hidden from her. She wandered to the edge of the crowd until she came to a chalk road where horses and mules were tethered. A little higher up she entered the crowd again, and came suddenly upon a switchback railway. Full of laughing and screaming girls, it bumped over a middle hill, and then rose slowly till it reached the last summit. It was shot back again into the midst of its fictitious perils, and this mock voyaging was accomplished to the sound of music from a puppet orchestra. Bells and drums, a fife and a triangle, cymbals clashed mechanically, and a little soldier beat the time. Further on, under a striped awning, were the wooden horses. They were arranged so well that they rocked to and fro, imitating as nearly as possible the action of real horses.
[. . .]
Round and round they went, their steeds bobbing nobly up and down to the sound of fifes, drums and cymbals. They passed the winning-post many times; they had to pass it five times, and the horse that stopped nearest it won the prize. A long-drawn-out murmur, continuous as the sea, swelled up from the course—a murmur which at last passed into words: "Here they come; blue wins, the favourite's beat." Esther paid little attention to these cries; she did not understand them; they reached her indistinctly and soon died away, absorbed in the strident music that accompanied the circling horses.