Bassett is the family gardener who helps Paul place bets on horses. He used to work around horses and racing and he talks about racing all the time, so it seems reasonable that Paul would seek his advice. He takes the boy seriously and follows all the boy’s instructions in placing the bets. He also keeps Paul’s money safely hidden away, at least until Uncle Oscar gets involved. He is the only adult who treats Paul with a serious respect. It is Bassett’s seriousness that convinces Uncle Oscar that Paul’s gift for picking winners is real. He is trustworthy and kind, but he is also a servant, so once Uncle Oscar takes over, he respectfully withdraws from the action.
Oscar Cresswell is Paul’s uncle and Hester’s brother. He is in a better financial position than Hester, since he owns his own car and a place in Hampshire. This is because he inherited the entire family fortune, leaving Hester to depend on her husband for support. It is Uncle Oscar who stumbles upon Paul’s secret of earning money through gambling, but he does not at first believe in Paul’s gift. He thinks that Paul is not serious and treats the boy as if he were merely playing a game. After Oscar realizes that Paul’s tips are dependable, he encourages the gambling. Oscar arranges for a lawyer to funnel money to Hester. He also bets his own money, using Paul’s tips for his own profit.
Although Uncle Oscar seems harmless at first, the reader becomes aware that he is using Paul for his own benefit. He makes no effort to teach Paul about being careful with money or the dangers of gambling. Oscar does nothing to help Hester and her family, neither by giving money nor by helping Hester budget what money she does have. Because Oscar only uses Paul for his own financial gain, he is revealed to be shallow and selfish.
Hester is Paul’s mother, who is incapable of loving others. She is not only obsessed with money, but she is also irresponsible with the money she does get. When Paul arranges through his attorney to give her a thousand pounds a month from his winnings, she immediately begs the attorney for the entire amount. However, instead of paying her debts, she spends the money on new things for the house. This results in an even greater need for more money. She also does not express any thanks for this sudden windfall, depriving Paul of the joy of providing the much-needed income for his family.
Although at the end of the story Hester becomes increasingly concerned about Paul’s deteriorating health, she still does not love him, even when he dies. At the beginning of the story, it is stated that ‘ ‘at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody.” This image is repeated at the end of the story, when Hester sits by her son’s bedside “feeling her heart had gone, turned actually into a stone.” Before he dies Paul asks “Mother, did I ever tell you? I’m lucky,” she responds, “No, you never did.” However, the reader remembers that Paul did, indeed, tell her that he was lucky earlier in the story. Since she pays little attention to him, she does not remember this.
When Hester finally receives the financial fortune she has always wanted but loses her son in the process, the reader realizes that Hester will probably not feel the loss of her son and will probably waste all that money in record time. All of these details show Hester to be cold, unfeeling, wasteful, and shallow.
See Oscar Cresswell
Paul is the young boy in the story who tries desperately to find a way to have “luck,” meaning money, for his mother. He begins to ride his rocking horse furiously, even though he has outgrown it, because when he does so, he somehow is given the name of the horse that will win the next race. He makes an astounding amount of money this way with the help of the gardener Bassett (who places his bets for him), and later with the help also of his Uncle Oscar. For the final big race, the Derby, he rides himself into a feverish delirium, but he is sure of the winner. His uncle places a large bet for him Just as his uncle arrives to tell him of the fortune he has made, he dies from the fever. Paul dies for the sake of making money for the family, particularly his mother, even though her “heart was a stone.”
Paul seems completely unaware that he has overtaken responsibilities that are rightly his parents’. He seems only concerned with relieving the anxiety he perceives in the house caused by a lack of money. He tries to understand why there is not enough money by asking his mother, but she only says that his father “has no luck.” He directly associates luck with money, so the gambling seems like a natural solution to the problem. He is so innocent in his enthusiasm for the game he begins playing with Bassett that even when his uncle discovers that he has been gambling, he does not stop Paul from gambling further. Even though Paul is still a child, all of the adults, Bassett, Uncle Oscar, and Paul’s mother, seem to treat him like an adult. No one anticipates that Paul will pay a huge price for playing this game. No one even questions Paul’s ability to pick the winners of the horse races, or wonders how in the world Paul is able to pick winners so accurately.
Throughout the story Paul remains innocent, as well as desperate, to help his mother, who seems oblivious to Paul’s concerns. Although it is clear to the reader that Paul is very intelligent and sensitive, no one in the story seems to notice or appreciate Paul’s gifts until it is too late.
Short Stories for Students, Volume 2, D. H. Lawrence, Edited by Kathleen Wilson, Published by Gale Research, New York, 1997.