Part 3 out of 3
giving two lives for one. Death was reaping more than enough. They
would try to save the "kid," but it looked hopeless. Was it a girl?
Yes, and an only child? She must be pinned under a seat. The fire
would be about opening up on her. Sure--sure they would see what could
be done. Anyway, the roof was due to smash down. But they'd see. But
there were lots of others who needed a hand; others who were not
pinned under seats with the flames hungry for them.
But Garrison had swung on to a near-by horse-cart, jammed into rubber
boots, coats, and helmet, tying a wet towel over nose and mouth. And
as some stared, some cursed, and some cheered feebly, he smashed his
way through the smother of flame to the choking screams of the child.
The roof fell in. A great crash and a spouting fire of flame. An
eternity, and then he emerged like one of the three prophets from the
fiery furnace. Only he was not a Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego. He
was not fashioned from providential asbestos. He was vulnerable. They
carried him to a near-by house. His head had been wonderfully smashed
by the falling roof. His eyebrows and hair were left behind in the
smother of flame. He was fire-licked from toe to heel. He was raving.
But the child was safe. And that wreck and that rescue went down in
For weeks Garrison was in the hospital. It was very like the rehearsal
of a past performance. He was completely out of his head. It was all
very like the months he put in at Bellevue in the long ago, before he
had experienced the hunger-cancer and compromised with honesty.
And again there came nights when doctors shook their heads and nurses
looked grave; nights when it was understood that before another dawn
had come creeping through the windows little Billy Garrison would have
crossed the Big Divide; nights when the shibboleths of a dead-and-gone
life were even fluttering on his lips; nights when names but not
identities fought with one another for existence; fought for birth,
for supremacy, and "Sue" always won; nights when he sat up in bed as
he had sat up in Bellevue long ago, and with tense hands and blazing
eyes fought out victory on the stretch. Horrible, horrible nights;
surcharged with the frenzy and unreality of a nightmare.
And one of his audience who seldom left the narrow cot was a man who
had come to look for a friend among the wreck victims; come and found
him not. He had chanced to pass Garrison's cot. And he had remained.
Came a night at last when stamina and hope and grit won the long, long
fight. The crisis was turned. The demons, defeated, who had been
fighting among themselves for the possession of Garrison's mind,
reluctantly gave it back to him. And, moreover, they gave it back--
intact. The part they had stolen that night in the Hoffman House was
This restoration the doctors subsequently called by a very learned and
mysterious name. They gave an esoteric explanation redounding greatly
to the credit of the general medical and surgical world. It was
something to the effect that the initial blow Garrison had received
had forced a piece of bone against the brain in such a manner as to
defy mere man's surgery. This had caused the lapse of memory.
Then had come the second blow that night of the wreck. Where man had
failed, nature had stepped in and operated successfully. Her methods
had been crude, but effective. The unscientific blow on the head had
restored the dislodged bone to its proper place. The medical world was
highly pleased over this manifestation of nature's surgical skill, and
appeared to think that she had operated under its direction. And
nature never denied it.
As Garrison opened his eyes, dazed, weak as water, memory, full,
complete, rushed into action. His brain recalled everything--
everything from the period it is given man to remember down to the
present. It was all so clear, so perfect, so workmanlike. The long-
halted clock of memory was ticking away merrily, perfectly, and not
one hour was missing from its dial. The thread of his severed life was
joined--joined in such a manner that no hitch or knot was apparent.
To use a third simile, the former blank, utterly fearsome space, was
filled--filled with clear writing, without blotch or blemish. And on
the space was not recorded one deed he had dreaded to see. There were
mistakes, weaknesses--but not dishonor. For a moment he could not
grasp the full meaning of the blessing. He could only sense that he
had indeed been blessed above his deserts.
And then as Garrison understood what it all meant to him; understood
the chief fact that he had not deserted wife and children; that Sue
might be won, he crushed his face to the pillow and cried--cried like
a little child.
And a big man, sitting in the shelter of a screen, hitched his chair
nearer the cot, and laid both hands on Garrison's. He did not speak,
but there was a wonderful light in his eyes--steady, clear gray eyes.
"Kid," he said. "Kid."
Garrison turned swiftly. His hand gripped the other's.
"Jimmie Drake," he whispered. For the first time the blood came to his
Two months had gone in; two months of slow recuperation, regeneration
for Garrison. He was just beginning to look at life from the
standpoint of unremitting toil and endeavor. It is the only
satisfactory standpoint. From it we see life in its true proportions.
Neither distorted through the blue glasses of pessimism--but another
name for the failure of misapplication--nor through the wonderful
rose-colored glasses of the dreamer. He was patiently going back over
his past life; returning to the point where he had deserted the
clearly defined path of honor and duty for the flowery fields of
It was no easy task he had set himself, but he did not falter by the
wayside. Three great stimulants he had--health, the thought of Sue
Desha, and the practical assistance of Jimmie Drake.
It was a month, dating from the memorable meeting with the turfman,
before Garrison was able to leave the hospital. When he did, it was to
take up his life at Drake's Long Island breeding-farm and racing-
stable; for in the interim Drake had passed from book-making stage to
that of owner. He ran a first-class string of mounts, and he signed
Garrison to ride for him during the ensuing season.
It was the first chance for regeneration, and it had been timidly
asked and gladly granted; asked and granted during one of the long
nights in the hospital when Garrison was struggling for strength and
faith. It had been the first time he had been permitted to talk for
any great length.
"Thank you," he said, on the granting of his request, which he more
than thought would be refused. His eyes voiced where his lips were
dumb. "I haven't gone back, Jimmie, but it's good of you to give me a
chance on my say-so. I'll bear it in mind. And--and it's good of you,
Jimmie, to--to come and sit with me. I--I appreciate it all, and I
don't see why you should do it."
Drake laughed awkwardly.
"It's the least I could do, kid. The favor ain't on my side, it's on
yours. Anyway, what use is a friend if he ain't there when you need
him? It was luck I found you here. I thought you had disappeared for
keeps. Remember that day you cut me on Broadway? I ought to have
followed you, but I was sore--"
"But I--I didn't mean to cut you, Jimmie. I didn't know you. I want to
tell you all about that--about everything. I'm just beginning to know
now that I'm living. I've been buried alive. Honest!"
"I always thought there was something back of your absent treatment.
What was it?" Drake hitched his chair nearer and focused all his
powers of concentration. "What was it, kid? Out with it. And if I can
be of any help you know you have only to put it there." He held out a
And then slowly, haltingly, but lucidly, dispassionately, events
following in sequence, Garrison told everything; concealing nothing.
Nor did he try to gloss over or strive to nullify his own dishonorable
actions. He told everything, and the turfman, chin in hand, eyes
riveted on the narrator, listened absorbed.
"Gee!" Jimmie Drake whispered at last, "it sounds like a fairy-story.
It don't sound real." Then he suddenly crashed a fist into his open
palm. "I see, I see," he snapped, striving to control his excitement.
"Then you don't know. You can't know."
"Know what?" Garrison sat bolt upright in his narrow cot, his heart
"Why--why about Crimmins, about Waterbury, about Sis--everything,"
exclaimed Drake. "It was all in the Eastern papers. You were in
Bellevue then. I thought you knew. Don't you know, kid, that it was
proven that Crimmins poisoned Sis? Hold on, keep quiet. Yes, it was
Crimmins. Now, don't get excited. Yes, I'll tell you all. Give me
time. Why, kid, you were as clean as the wind that dried your first
shirt. Sure, sure. We all knew it--then. And we thought you did--"
"Tell me, tell me." Garrison's lip was quivering; his face gray with
Drake ran on forcefully, succinctly, his hand gripping Garrison's.
"Well, we'll take it up from that day of the Carter Handicap.
Remember? When you and Waterbury had it out? Now, I had suspected that
Dan Crimmins had been plunging against his stable for some time. I had
got on to some bets he had put through with the aid of his dirty
commissioners. That's why I stood up for you against Waterbury. I knew
he was square. I knew he didn't throw the race, and, as for you--well,
I said to myself: 'That ain't like the kid.' I knew the evidence
against you, but it was hard to believe, kid. And I believed you when
you said you hadn't made a cent on the race, but instead had lost all
you had, I believed that. But I knew Crimmins had made a pile. I found
that out. And I believed he drugged you, kid.
"Now, when you tell me you were fighting consumption it clears a lot
of space for me that has been dark. I knew you were doped half the
time, but I thought you were going the pace with the pipe, though I'll
admit I couldn't fathom what drug you were taking. But now I know
Crimmins fed you dope while pretending to hand you nerve food. I know
it. I know he bet against his stable time and ag'in and won every race
you were accused of throwing. I tracked things pretty clear that day
after I left you.
"Well, I went to Waterbury and laid the charge against the trainer;
giving him a chance to square himself before I made trouble higher up.
Well, Waterbury was mad. Said he had no hand in it, and I believed
him. The upshot of it was that he faced Crimmins. Now, Crimmins had
been blowing himself on the pile he had made, and he was nasty.
Instead of denying it and putting the proving of the game up to me, he
took the bit in his mouth at something Waterbury said.
"I don't know all the facts. They came out in the paper afterward. But
Crimmins and Waterbury had a scrap, and the trainer was fired. He was
fired when you went to the stable to say good-by to Sis. He was
packing what things he had there, but when he saw you weren't on, he
kept it mum. I believe then he was planning to do away with Sis, and
you offered a nice easy get-away for him. He hated you. First, because
you turned down the crooked deal he offered you, for it was he who was
beating the bookies, and he wanted a pal. Secondly, he thought you had
split about the dope, and he laid his discharge to you. And he hated
Waterbury. He could square you both at one shot. He poisoned Sis when
"Every one believed you guilty, for they didn't know the row Crimmins
and Waterbury had. But Waterbury suspected. He and Crimmins had it
out. He caught him on Broadway, a day or two later, and Crimmins
walloped him over the head with a blackjack. Waterbury went to the
hospital, and came next to dying. Crimmins went to jail. I guess he
was down and out, all right, when, as you say, he heard from his
brother that Waterbury was at Cottonton. I believe he went there to
square him, but ran across you instead, and thought he could have a
good blackmailing game on the side. That wife game was a plot to catch
you, kid. He didn't think you'd dare to come North. When you told him
about your lapse of memory, then he knew he was safe. You knew nothing
of his showdown."
Garrison covered his face with his hands. Only he knew the great, the
mighty obsession that was slowly withdrawing itself from his heart. It
was all so wonderful; all so incredible. Long contact with misfortune
had sapped the natural resiliency of his character. It had been
subjected to so much pressure that it had become flaccid. The pressure
removed, it would be some time before the heart could act upon the
message of good tidings the brain had conveyed to it. For a long time
he remained silent. And Drake respected his silence to the letter.
Then Garrison uncovered his eyes.
"I can't believe it. I can't believe it," he whispered, wide-eyed. "It
is too good to be true. It means too much. You're sure you're right,
Jimmie? It means I'm proven clean, proven square. It means
reinstatement on the turf. Means--everything."
"All that, kid," said Drake. "I thought you knew."
Garrison hugged his knees in a paroxysm of silent joy.
"But--Waterbury?" he puzzled at length. "He knew I had been
exonerated. And yet--yet he must have said something to the contrary
to Miss Desha. She knew all along that I was Garrison; knew when I
didn't know myself. But she thought me square. But Waterbury must have
said something. I can never forget her saying when I confessed: 'It's
true, then.' I can never forget that, and the look in her eyes."
"Aye, Waterbury," mused Drake soberly. He eyed Garrison. "You know
he's dead," he said simply. He nodded confirmation as the other
stared, white-faced. "Died this morning after he was thrown. Fractured
skull. I had word. Some right-meaning chap says somewhere something
about saying nothing but good of the dead, kid. If Waterbury tried to
queer you, it was through jealousy. I understand he cared something
for Miss Desha. He had his good points, like every man. Think of them,
kid, not the bad ones. I guess the bookkeeper up above will credit us
with all the times we've tried to do the square, even if we petered
out before we'd made good. Trying counts something, kid. Don't forget
"Yes, he had his good points," whispered Garrison. "I don't forget,
Jimmie. I don't forget that he has a cleaner bill of moral health than
I have. I was an impostor. That I can't forget; cannot wipe out."
"I was coming to that," Drake scratched his grizzled head elaborately.
"I didn't say anything when you were unwinding that yarn, kid, but it
sounded mighty tangled to me."
"How? Why, we ain't living in fairy-books to-day. It's straight hard
life. And there ain't any fools, as far as I can see, who are allowed
to take up air and space. I've heard of Major Calvert, and his brains
were all there the last time I heard of him--"
"What do you mean?" Garrison bored his eyes into Drake's.
"Why, I mean, kid, that blood is thicker than water, and leave it to a
woman to see through a stone wall. I don't believe you could palm
yourself off to the major and his wife as their nephew. It's not
reasonable nohow. I don't believe any one could fool any family."
"But I did!" Garrison was staring blankly. "I did, Jimmie! Remember I
had the cooked-up proofs. Remember that they had never seen the real
"Oh, shucks! What's the odds? Blood's blood. You don't mean to say a
man wouldn't know his own sister's child? Living in the house with
him? Wouldn't there be some likeness, some family trait, some
characteristic? Are folks any different from horses? No, no, it might
happen in stories, but not life, not life."
Garrison shook his head wearily. "I can't follow you, Jimmie. You like
to argue for the sake of arguing. I don't understand. They did believe
me. Isn't that enough? Why--why----" His face blanched at the thought.
"You don't mean to say that they knew I was an imposter? Knew all
along? You--can't mean that, Jimmie?"
"I may," said Drake shortly. "But, see here, kid, you'll admit it
would be impossible for two people to have that birthmark on them; the
identical mark in the identical spot. You'll admit that. Now, wouldn't
it be impossible?"
"Improbable, but not impossible." Suddenly Garrison had commenced to
breathe heavily, his hands clenching.
Drake cocked his head on one side and closed an eye. He eyed Garrison
steadily. "Kid, it seems to me that you've only been fooling yourself.
I believe you're Major Calvert's nephew. That's straight."
For a long time Garrison stared at him unwinkingly. Then he laughed
"Oh, you're good, Jimmie. No, no. Don't tempt me. You forget; forget
two great things. I know my mother's name was Loring, not Calvert. And
my father's name was Garrison, not Dagget."
"Um-m-m," mused Drake, knitting brows. "You don't say? But, see here,
kid, didn't you say that this Dagget's mother was only Major Calvert's
half-sister? How about that, eh? Then her name would be different from
his. How about that? How do you know Loring mightn't fit it? Answer me
"I never thought of that," whispered Garrison. "If you only are right,
Jimmie! If you only are, what it would mean? But my father, my
father," he cried weakly. "My father. There's no getting around that,
Jimmie. His name was Garrison. My name is Garrison. There's no dodging
that. You can't change that into Dagget."
"How do you know?" argued Drake, slowly, pertinaciously. "This here is
my idea, and I ain't willing to give it up without a fight. How do you
know but your father might have changed his name? I've known less
likelier things to happen. You know he was good blood gone wrong. How
do you know he mightn't have changed it so as not disgrace his family,
eh? Changed it after he married your mother, and she stood for it so
as not to disgrace her family. You were a kid when she died, and you
weren't present, you say. How do you know but she mightn't have wanted
to tell you a whole lot, eh? A whole lot your father wouldn't tell you
because he never cared for you. No, the more I think of it the more
I'm certain that you're Major Calvert's nephew. You're the only
logical answer. That mark of the spur and the other incidents is good
enough for me."
"Don't tempt me, Jimmie, don't tempt me," pleaded Garrison again. "You
don't know what it all means. I may be his nephew. I may be--God grant
I am! But I must be honest. I must be honest."
"Well, I'm going to hunt up that lawyer, Snark," affirmed Drake
finally. "I won't rest until I see this thing through. Snark may have
known all along you were the rightful heir, and merely put up a job to
get a pile out of you when you came into the estate. Or he may have
been honest in his dishonesty; may not have known. But I'm going to
rustle round after him. Maybe there's proofs he holds. What about
Major Calvert? Are you going to write him?"
Garrison considered. "No--no," he said at length. "No, if--if by any
chance I am his nephew--you see how I want to believe you, Jimmie, God
knows how much--then I'll tell him afterward. Afterward when--I'm
clean. I want to lie low; to square myself in my own sight and man's.
I want to make another name for myself, Jimmie. I want to start all
over and shame no man. If by any chance I am William C. Dagget, then--
then I want to be worthy of that name. And I owe everything to
Garrison. I'm going to clean that name. It meant something once--and
it'll mean something again."
"I believe you, kid."
Subsequently, Drake fulfilled his word concerning the "rustling round"
after that eminent lawyer, Theobald D. Snark. His efforts met with
failure. Probably the eminent lawyer's business had increased so
enormously that he had been compelled to vacate the niche he held in
the Nassau Street bookcase. But Drake had not given up the fight.
Meanwhile Garrison had commenced his life of regeneration at the
turfman's Long Island stable. He was to ride Speedaway in the coming
Carter Handicap. The event that had seen him go down, down to oblivion
one year ago might herald the reascendency of his star. He had vowed
it would. And so in grim silence he prepared for his farewell
appearance in that great seriocomic tragedy of life called "Making
GARRISON FINDS HIMSELF.
Sue never rightly remembered how the two months passed; the two months
succeeding that hideous night when in paralyzed silence she watched
Garrison away. The greatest sorrow is stagnant, not active. The heart
becomes like a frozen morass. Sometimes memory slips through the
crust, only to sink in the grim "slough of despond."
Waterbury's death had unnerved her, coming as it did at a time when
tragedy had opened the pores of her heart. He had been conscious for a
few minutes before the messenger of a new life summoned him into the
great beyond. He used the few minutes well. If we all lived with the
thought that the next hour would be our last, the world would be
peopled with angels--and hypocrites.
Waterbury asked permission of his host, Colonel Desha, to see Sue
alone. It was willingly granted. The girl, white-faced, came and sat
by the bed in the room of many shadows; the room where death was
tapping, tapping on the door. She had said nothing to her father
regarding the events preceding the runaway and Waterbury's accident.
Waterbury eyed her long and gravely. The heat of his great passion had
melted the baser metal of his nature. What original alloy of gold he
possessed had but emerged refined. His fingers, formerly pudgy, well-
fed, had suddenly become skeletons of themselves. They were picking at
"I lied about--about Garrison," he whispered, forcing life to his
mouth, his eyes never leaving the girl's. "I lied. He was square--"
Breath would not come. "For-forgive," he cried, suddenly in a smother
of sweat. "Forgive--"
"Gladly, willingly," whispered the girl. She was crying inwardly.
His eyes flamed for an instant, and then died away. By sheer will-
power he succeeded in stretching a hand across the coverlet, palm
upward. "Put--put it--there," he whispered. "Will you?"
She understood. It was the sporting world's token of forgiveness; of
friendship. She laid her hand in his, gripping with a firm clasp.
"Thank you," he whispered. Again his eyes flamed; again died away. The
end was very near. Perhaps the approaching freedom of the spirit lent
him power to read the girl's thoughts. For as he looked into her eyes,
his own saw that she knew what lay in his. He breathed heavily,
"Could--could you?" he whispered. "If--if you only could." There was a
great longing, a mighty wistfulness in his voice. Death was trying to
place its hand over his mouth. With a mighty effort Waterbury slipped
past it. "If you only could," he reiterated. "It--it means so little
to you, Miss Desha--so much, so much to--me!"
And again the girl understood. Without a word she bent over and kissed
him. He smiled. And so died Waterbury.
Afterward, the girl remembered Waterbury's confession. So Garrison was
honest! Somehow, she had always believed he was. His eyes, the windows
of his soul, were not fouled. She had read weakness there, but never
dishonesty. Yes, somehow she had always believed him honest. But he
was married. That was different. The concrete, not the abstract, was
paramount. All else was swamped by the fact that he was married. She
could not believe that he had forgotten his marriage with his true
identity. She could not believe that. Her heart was against her. Love
to her was everything. She could not understand how one could ever
forget. One might forget the world, but not that, not that.
True to her code of judging not, she did not attempt to estimate
Garrison. She could not bear to use the probe. There are some things
too sacred to be dissected; so near the heart that their proximity
renders an experiment prohibitive. She believed that Garrison loved
her. She believed that above all. Surely he had given something in
exchange for all that he owned of her. If in unguarded moments her
conscience assumed the woolsack, mercy, not justice, swayed it.
She realized the mighty temptation Garrison had been forced against by
circumstances. And if he had fallen, might not she herself? Had it not
taken all her courage to renounce--to give the girl up North the right
of way? Now she understood the prayer, "Lead us not into temptation."
Yes, it had been weakness with Garrison, not dishonor. He had been
fighting against it all the time. She remembered that morning in the
tennis-court--her first intimacy with him. And he had spoken of the
girl up North. She remembered him saying: "But doesn't the Bible say
to leave all and cleave unto your wife?"
That had been a confession, though she knew it not. And she had
ignored it, taking it as badinage, and he had been too weak to brand
it truth. Strangely enough, she did not judge him for posing as Major
Calvert's nephew. Strangely enough, that seemed trivial in comparison
with the other. It was so natural for him to be the rightful heir that
she could not realize that he was an impostor, nor apportion the fact
its true significance. Her brain was unfit to grapple. Only her heart
lived; lived with the passive life of stagnation. It was choked with
weeds on the surface. She tried to patch together the broken parts of
her life. Tried and failed. She could not. She seemed to be existing
without an excuse; aimlessly, soullessly.
After many horrible days, hideous nights, she realized that she still
loved Garrison. Loved with a love that threatened to absorb even her
physical existence. It seemed as if the very breath of her lungs had
been diverted to her heart, where it became tissue-searing flame.
And at Calvert House life had resolved itself into silence. The major
and his wife were striving to live in the future; striving to live
against Garrison's return. They were ignorant of the true cause of his
leaving. For Sue, the keeper of the secret, had not divulged it. She
had been left with a difficult proposition to face, and she could not
face it. She temporized. She knew that sooner or later the truth would
have to come out. She put it off. She could not tell, not now, not
now. Each day only rendered it the more difficult. She could not tell.
She had only to look at the old major; to look at his wife, to see
that the blow would blast them. She had had youth to help her, and
even she had been blasted. What chance had they? And so she said that
Garrison and she had quarreled seriously and that in sudden anger,
pique, he had left. Oh, yes, she knew he would return. She was quite
sure of it. It was all so silly and over nothing, and she had no idea
he would take it that way. And she was so sorry, so sorry.
It had all been her fault. He had not been to blame. It was she, only
she. In a thoughtless moment she had said something about his being
dependent on his uncle, and he had fired up, affirming that he would
show her that he was a man, and could earn his own salt. Yes, it had
been entirely her own fault, and no one hated herself as she did. He
had gone to prove his manhood, and she knew how stubborn he was. He
would not return until he wished.
Sue lied bravely, convincingly, whole-heartedly. Everything she did
was done thoroughly. She would not think of the future. But she could
not tell that Garrison was an impostor; a father of children. She
could not tell. So she lied, and lied so well that the old major,
bewildered, was forced to believe her. He was forced to acquiesce. He
could not interfere. He could do nothing. It was better that his
nephew should prove his manhood; return some time and love the girl,
than that he should hate her for eternity.
Each day he hoped to see Garrison back, but each day passed without
that consummation. The strain was beginning to tell on him. His heart
was bound up in the boy. If he did not return soon he would advertise,
institute a search. He well knew the folly of youth. He was broad-
minded, great-hearted enough not to censure the girl by word or act.
He saw how she was suffering; growing paler daily. But why didn't
Garrison write? All the anger, all the quarrels in the world could not
account for his leaving like that; account for his silence.
The major commenced to doubt. And his wife's words: "It's not like Sue
to permit William to go like that. Nor like her to ever have said such
a thing even unthinkingly. There's more than that on the girl's mind.
She is wasting away"--but served to strengthen the doubt. Still, he
was impotent. He could not understand. If his nephew did not wish to
return, all the advertising in creation could not drag him back.
Yes, his wife was right. There was more on the girl's mind than that.
And it was not like Sue to act as she affirmed she had. Still, he
could not bring himself to doubt her. He was in a quandary. It had
begun to tell on him, on his wife; even as it had already told on the
And old Colonel Desha was likewise breasting a sea of trouble.
Waterbury's death had brought financial matters to a focus. Honor
imperatively demanded that the mortgage be settled with the dead man's
heirs. It was only due to Sue's desperate financiering that the
interest had been met up to the present. That it would be paid next
month depended solely on the chance of The Rogue winning the Carter
Handicap. Things had come to as bad a pass as that.
The colonel frantically bent every effort toward getting the
thoroughbred into condition. How he hated himself now for posting his
all on the winter books! Now that the great trial was so near, his
deep convictions of triumph did not look so wonderful.
There were good horses entered against The Rogue. Major Calvert's
Dixie, for instance, and Speedaway, the wonderful goer owned by that
man Drake. Then there were half a dozen others--all from well-known
stables. There could be no doubt that "class" would be present in
abundance at the Carter. And only he had so much at stake. He had
entered The Rogue in the first flush consequent on his winning the
last Carter. But he must win this. He must. Getting him into condition
entailed expense. It must be met. All his hopes, his fears, were
staked on The Rogue. Money never was so paramount; the need of it so
great. Fiercely he hugged his poverty to his breast, keeping it from
his friend the major.
Then, too, he was greatly worried over Sue. She was not looking well.
He was worried over Garrison's continued absence. He was worried over
everything. It was besetting him from all sides. Worry was causing him
to take the lime-light from himself. He awoke to the fact that Sue was
in very poor health. If she died-- He never could finish.
Taken all in all, it was a very bad time for the two oldest families
in Cottonton. Every member was suffering silently, stoically; each in
a different way. One striving to conceal from the other. And it all
centered about Garrison.
And then, one day when things were at their worst, when Garrison,
unconscious of the general misery he had engendered, had completed
Speedaway's training for the Carter, when he himself was ready for the
fight of his life, a stranger stepped off the Cottonton express and
made his way to the Desha homestead. He knew the colonel. He was a
big, quiet man--Jimmie Drake.
A week later and Drake had returned North. He had not said anything to
Garrison regarding what had called him away, but the latter vaguely
sensed that it was another attempt on the indefatigable turfman's part
to ferret out the eminent lawyer, Mr. Snark. And when Drake, on his
return, called Garrison into the club-house, Garrison went white-
faced. He had just sent Speedaway over the seven furlongs in record
time, and his heart was big with hope.
Drake never wasted ammunition in preliminary skirmishing. He told the
joke first and the story afterward.
"I've been South. Seen Colonel Desha and Major Calvert," he said
Garrison was silent, looking at him. He tried to read fate in his
inscrutable eyes; news of some description; tried, and failed. He
turned away his head. "Tell me," he said simply. Drake eyed him and
slowly came forward and held out his large bloodshot hand.
"Billy Garrison--'Bud'--'Kid'--William C. Dagget," he said, nodding
Garrison rose with difficulty, the sweat on his face.
"William C. Dagget? Me? Me? Me?" he whispered, his head thrown
forward, his eyes narrowed, starting at Drake. "Just God, Jimmie!
Don't play with me----" He sat down abruptly covering his quivering
face with his hands.
Drake laid a hand on the heaving shoulders. "There, there, kid," he
murmured gruffly, as if to a child, "don't go and blow up over it.
Yes, you're Dagget. The luckiest kid in the States, and--and the
damnedest. You've raised a muss-pile down South in Cottonton. Dagget
or no Dagget, I'm talking straight. You've been selfish, kid. You've
only been thinking of yourself; your regeneration; your past, your
present, your future. You--you--you. You never thought of the folks
you left down home; left to suffocate with the stink you raised. You
cleared out scot-free, and, say, kid, you let a girl lie for you; lie
for you. You did that. A girl, by heck! who wouldn't lie for the
Almighty Himself. A girl who--who----" Drake searched frantically for
a fitting simile, gasped, mopped his face with a lurid silk
handkerchief, and flumped into a chair. "Well, say, kid, it's just
plain hell. That's what it is."
"Lied for me?" said Garrison very quietly.
"That's the word. But I'll start from the time the fur commenced to
fly. In the first place, there's no doubt about your identity. I was
right. I've proved that. I couldn't find Snark--I guess the devil must
have called him back home. So I took things on my own hook and went to
Cottonton, where I moseyed round considerable. I know Colonel Desha,
and I learned a good deal in a quiet way when I was there. I learned
from Major Calvert that his half-sister's--your mother's--name was
Loring. That cinched it for me. But I said nothing. They were in an
awful stew over your absence, but I never let on, at first, that I had
"I learned, among other things, that Miss Desha had taken upon herself
the blame of your leaving; saying that she had said something you had
taken exception to; that you had gone to prove your manhood, kid. Your
manhood, kid--mind that. She's a thoroughbred, that girl. Now, I would
have backed her lie to the finish if something hadn't gone and
happened." Drake paused significantly. "That something was that the
major received a letter--from your father, kid."
"My father?" whispered Garrison.
"Um-m-m, the very party. Written from 'Frisco--on his death-bed. One
of those old-timey, stage-climax death-bed confessions. As old as the
mortgage on the farm business. As I remarked before some right-meaning
chap says somewhere something about saying nothing but good of the
dead. I'm not slinging mud. I guess there was a whole lot missing in
your father, kid, but he tried to square himself at the finish, the
same as we all do, I guess.
"He wrote to the major, saying he had never told his son--you, kid--of
his real name nor of his mother's family. He confessed to changing his
name from Dagget to Garrison for the very reasons I said. Remember? He
ended by saying he had wronged you; that he knew you would be the
major's heir, and that if you were to be found it would be under the
name of Garrison. That is, if you were still living. He didn't know
anything about you.
"There was a whole lot of repentance and general misery in the letter.
I don't like to think of it overmuch. But it knocked Cottonton flatter
than stale beer. Honest. I never saw such a time. I'm no good at
telling a yarn, kid. It was something fierce. There was nothing but
knots and knots; all diked up and tangles by the mile. And so I had to
step in and straighten things out. And--and so, kid, I told the major
everything; every scrap of your history, as far as I knew it. All you
had told to me. I had to. Now, don't tell me I kicked in. Say I did
right, kid. I meant to."
"Yes, yes," murmured Garrison blankly. "And--and the major? What--did
he say, Jimmie?"
Drake frowned thoughtfully.
"Say? Well, kid, I only wish I had an uncle like that. I only wish
there were more folks like those Cottonton folks. I do. Say? Why,
Lord, kid, it was one grand hallelujah! Forgive? Say," he finished,
thoughtfully eyeing the white-faced, newly christened Garrison, "what
have you ever done to be loved like that? They were crazy for you. Not
a word was said about your imposition. Not a word. It was all: 'When
will he be back?' 'Where is he?' 'Telegraph!' All one great slambang
of joy. And me? Well, I could have had that town for my own. And your
aunt? She cried, cried when she heard all you had been through. Oh, I
made a great press-agent, kid. And the old major-- Oh, fuss! I can't
tell a yarn nohow," grumbled Drake, stamping about at great length and
vigorously using the lurid silk handkerchief.
William C. Dagget was silent--the silence of great, overwhelming joy.
He was shivering. "And--and Miss Desha?" he whispered at length.
"Yes--Miss Desha," echoed Drake, planting wide his feet and
contemplating the other's bent head. "Yes, Miss Desha. And why in
blazes did you tell her you were married, eh?" he asked grimly. "Oh,
you thought you were? Oh, yes. And you didn't deny it when you found
it wasn't so? Oh, yes, of course. And it didn't matter whether she ate
her heart out or not? Of course not. Oh, yes, you wanted to be clean,
first, and all that. And she might die in the meantime. You didn't
think she still cared for you? Now, see here, kid, that's a lie and
you know it. It's a lie. When a girl like Miss Desha goes so far as
to-- Oh, fuss! I can't tell a yarn. But, see here, kid, I haven't your
blood. I own that. But if I ever put myself before a girl who cared
for me the way Miss Desha cares for you, and I professed to love her
as you professed to love Miss Desha, than may I rot--rot, hide, hair,
and bones! Now, cuss me out, if you like."
Garrison looked up grimly.
"You're right, Jimmie. I should have stood my ground and taken my
dose. I should have written her when I discovered the truth. But--I
couldn't. I couldn't. Listen, Jimmie, it was not selfishness, not
cowardice. Can't you see? Can't you see? I cared too much. I was so
unworthy, so miserable. How could I ever think she would stoop to my
level? She was so high; I so horribly low. It was my own unworthiness
choking me. It was not selfishness, Jimmie, not selfishness. It was
despair; despair and misery. Don't you understand?"
"Oh, fuss!" said Drake again, using the lurid silk handkerchief. Then
he laid his hand on the other's shoulder. "I understand," he said
simply. There was silence. Finally Drake wiped his face and cleared
"And now, with your permission, we'll get down to tacks, Mr. William
"Don't call me that, Jimmie. I'm not that--yet. I'm Billy Garrison
until I've won the Carter Handicap--proven myself clean."
"Right, kid. And that's what I wished to speak about. In the first
place, Major Calvert knows where you are. Colonel and Miss Desha do
not. In fact, kid," added Drake, rubbing his chin, "the major and I
have a little plot hatched up between us. Your identity, if possible
is not to be made known to the colonel and his daughter until the
finish of the Carter. Understand?"
"No," said Garrison flatly. "Why?"
"Because, kid, you're not going to ride Speedaway. You're not going to
ride for my stable. You're going to ride Colonel Desha's Rogue--ride
as you never rode before. Ride and win. That's why."
Garrison only stared as Drake ran on. "See here, kid, this race means
everything to the colonel--everything in the world. Every cent he has
is at stake; his honor, his life, his daughter's happiness. He's
proud, cussed proud, and he's kept it mum. And the girl--Miss Desha
has bucked poverty like a thoroughbred. I got to know the facts,
picking them up here and there, and the major knows, too. We've got to
work in the dark, for the colonel would die first if he knew the
truth, before he would accept help even indirectly. The Rogue must
win; must. But what chance has he against the major's Dixie, my
Speedaway, and the Morgan entry--Swallow? And so the major has
scratched his mount, giving out that Dixie has developed eczema.
"Now, the colonel is searching high and low for a jockey capable of
handling The Rogue. It'll take a good man. I recommended you. He
doesn't know your identity, for the major and I have kept it from him.
He only thinks you are /the/ Garrison who has come back. I have fixed
it up with him that you are to ride his mount, and The Rogue will
"The colonel is a wreck mentally and physically; living on nerve. I've
agreed to put the finishing touches on The Rogue, and he, knowing my
ability and facilities, has permitted me. It's all in my hands--pretty
near. Now, Red McGloin is up on the Morgan entry--Swallow. He used to
be a stable-boy for Waterbury. I guess you've heard of him. He's
developed into a first-class boy. But I want to see you lick the hide
off him. The fight will lie between you and him. I know the rest of
"But Speedaway?" cried Garrison, jumping to his feet. "Jimmie--you!
It's too great a sacrifice; too great, too great. I know how you've
longed to win the Carter; what it means to you; how you have slaved to
earn it. Jimmie--Jimmie--don't tempt me. You can't mean you've
"Just that, kid," said Drake grimly. "The first scratch in my life--
and the last. Speedaway? Well, she and I will win again some other
time. Some time, kid, when we ain't playing against a man's life and a
girl's happiness. I'll scratch for those odds. It's for you, kid--you
and the girl. Remember, you're carrying her colors, her life.
"You'll have a good fight--but fight as you never fought before; as
you never hope to fight again. Cottonton will watch you, kid. Don't
shame them; don't shame me. Show 'em what you're made of. Show Red
that a former stable-boy, no matter what class he is now, can't have
the licking of a former master. Show 'em a has-been can come back.
Show 'em what Garrison stands for. Show 'em your finish, kid--I'll ask
no more. And you'll carry Jimmie Drake's heart-- Oh, fuss! I can't
tell a yarn, nohow."
In silence Garrison gripped Drake's hand. And if ever a mighty
resolution was welded in a human heart--a resolution born of love,
everything; one that nothing could deny--it was born that moment in
Garrison's. Born as the tears stood in his eyes, and, man as he was,
he could not keep up; nor did he shame his manhood by denying them.
"Kid, kid," said Drake.
It was April 16. Month of budding life; month of hope; month of spring
when all the world is young again; when the heart thaws out after its
long winter frigidity. It was the day of the opening of the Eastern
racing season; the day of the Carter Handicap.
Though not one of the "classics," the Carter annually draws an
attendance of over ten thousand; ten thousand enthusiasts who have not
had a chance to see the ponies run since the last autumn race; those
who had been unable to follow them on the Southern circuit. Women of
every walk of life; all sorts and conditions of men. Enthusiasts glad
to be out in the life-giving sunshine of April; panting for
excitement; full to the mouth with volatile joy; throwing off the
shackles of the business treadmill; discarding care with the
ubiquitous umbrella and winter flannels; taking fortune boldly by the
hand; returning to first principles; living for the moment; for the
trial of skill, endurance, and strength; staking enough in the
balances to bring a fillip to the heart and the blood to the cheek.
It was a typical American crowd; long-suffering, giving and taking--
principally giving--good-humored, just. All morning it came in a
seemingly endless chain; uncoupling link by link, only to weld
together again. All morning long, ferries, trolleys, trains were
jammed with the race-mad throng. Coming by devious ways, for divers
reasons; coming from all quarters by every medium; centering at last
at the Queen's County Jockey Club.
And never before in the history of the Aqueduct track had so
thoroughly a representative body of racegoers assembled at an opening
day. Never before had Long Island lent sitting and standing room to so
impressive a gathering of talent, money, and family. Every one
interested in the various phases of the turf was there, but even they
only formed a small portion of the attendance.
Rumors floated from paddock to stand and back again. The air was
surcharged with these wireless messages, bearing no signature nor
guarantee of authenticity. And borne on the crest of all these rumors
was one--great, paramount. Garrison, the former great Garrison, had
come back. He was to ride; ride the winner of the last Carter, the
winner of a fluke race.
The world had not forgotten. They remembered The Rogue's last race.
They remembered Garrison's last race. The wise ones said that The
Rogue could not possibly win. This time there could be no fluke, for
the great Red McGloin was up on the favorite. The Rogue would be shown
in his true colors--a second-rater.
Speculation was rife. This Carter Handicap presented many, many
features that kept the crowd at fever-heat. Garrison had come back.
Garrison had been reinstated. Garrison was up on a mount he had been
accused of permitting to win last year. Those who wield the muck-rake
for the sake of general filth, not in the name of justice, shook their
heads and lifted high hands to Heaven. It looked bad. Why should
Garrison be riding for Colonel Desha? Why had Jimmie Drake transferred
him at the eleventh hour? Why had Drake scratched Speedaway? Why had
Major Calvert scratched Dixie? The latter was an outsider, but they
had heard great things of her.
"Cooked," said the muck-rakers wisely, and, thinking it was a show-
down for the favorite, stacked every cent they had on Swallow. No long
shots for them.
And some there were who cursed Drake and Major Calvert; cursed long
and intelligently--those who had bet on Speedaway and Dixie, bet on
the play-or-pay basis, and now that the mounts were scratched, they
had been bitten. It was entirely wrong to tempt Fortune, and then have
her turn on you. She should always be down on the "other fellow"--not
And then there were those, and many, who did not question, who were
glad to know that Garrison had come back on any terms. They had liked
him for himself. They were the weak-kneed variety who are stanch in
prosperity; who go with the world; coincide with the world's verdict.
The world had said Garrison was crooked. If they had not agreed, they
had not denied. If Garrison now had been reinstated, then the world
said he was honest. They agreed now--loudly; adding the old shibboleth
of the moral coward: "I told you so." But still they doubted that he
had "come back." A has-been can never come back.
The conservative element backed Morgan's Swallow. Red McGloin was up,
and he was proven class. He had stepped into Garrison's niche of fame.
He was the popular idol now. And, as Garrison had once warned him, he
was already beginning to pay the price. The philosophy of the exercise
boy had changed to the philosophy of the idol; the idol who cannot be
pulled down. And he had suffered. He had gone through part of what
Garrison had gone through, but he also had experienced what the
latter's inherent cleanliness had kept him from.
Temptation had come Red's way; come strong without reservation. Red,
with the hunger of the long-denied, with the unrestricted appetite of
the intellectually low, had not discriminated. And he had suffered.
His trainer had watched him carefully, but youth must have its fling,
and youth had flung farther than watching wisdom reckoned.
Red had not gone back. He was young yet. But the first flush of his
manhood had gone; the cream had been stolen. His nerve was just a
little less than it had been; his eye and hand a little less steady;
his judgment a little less sound; his initiative, daring, a little
less paramount. And races have been won and lost, and will be won and
lost, when that "little Less" is the deciding breath that tips the
But he had no misgivings. Was he not the idol? Was he not up on
Swallow, the favorite? Swallow, with the odds--two to one--on. He knew
Garrison was to ride The Rogue. What did that matter? The Rogue was
ten to one against. The Rogue was a fluke horse. Garrison was a has-
been. The track says a has-been can never come back. Of course
Garrison had been to the dogs during the past year--what down-and-out
jockey has not gone there? And if Drake had transferred him to Desha,
it was a case of good riddance. Drake was famous for his eccentric
humor. But he was a sound judge of horse-flesh. No doubt he knew what
a small chance Speedaway had against Swallow, and he had scratched
advisedly; playing the Morgan entry instead.
In the grand stand sat three people wearing a blue and gold ribbon--
the Desha colors. Occasionally they were reinforced by a big man, who
circulated between them and the paddock. The latter was Jimmie Drake.
The others were "Cottonton," as the turfman called them. They were
Major and Mrs. Calvert and Sue Desha.
Colonel Desha was not there. He was eating his heart out back home.
The nerve he had been living on had suddenly snapped at the eleventh
hour. He was denied watching the race he had paid so much in every way
to enter. The doctors had forbidden his leaving. His heart could not
stand the excitement; his constitution could not meet the long journey
North. And so alone, propped up in bed, he waited; waited, counting
off each minute; more excited, wrought up, than if he had been at the
It had been arranged that in the event of The Rogue winning, the good
news should be telegraphed to the colonel the moment the gelding
flashed past the judges' stand. He had insisted on that and on his
daughter being present. Some member of the family must be there to
back The Rogue in his game fight. And so Sue, in company with the
major and his wife, had gone.
She had taken little interest in the race. She knew what it meant, no
one knew better than she, but somehow she had no room left for care to
occupy. She was apathetic, listless; a striking contrast to the major
and his wife, who could hardly repress their feelings. They knew what
she would find at the Aqueduct track--find the world. She did not.
All she knew was that Drake, whom she liked for his rough, patent
manhood, had very kindly offered the services of his jockey; a jockey
whom he had faith in. Who that jockey was, she did not know, nor
overmuch care. A greater sorrow had obliterated her racing passion;
had even ridden roughshod over the fear of financial ruin. Her mind
For days succeeding Drake's statement to her that Garrison was not
married she waited for some word from him. Drake had explained how
Garrison had thought he was married. He had explained all that. She
could never forget the joy that had swamped her on hearing it; even as
she could never forget the succeeding days of waiting misery; waiting,
waiting, waiting for some word. He had been proven honest, proven
Major Calvert's nephew, proven free. What more could he ask? Then why
had he not come, written?
She could not believe he no longer cared. She could not believe that;
rather, she would not. She gaged his heart by her own. Hers was the
woman's portion--inaction. She must still wait, wait, wait. Still she
must eat her heart out. Hers was the woman's portion. And if he did
not come, if he did not write--even in imagination she could never
complete the alternative. She must live in hope; live in hope, in
faith, in trust, or not at all.
Colonel Desha's enforced absence overcame the one difficulty Major
Calvert and Jimmie Drake had acknowledged might prematurely explode
their hidden identity mine. The colonel, exercising his owner's
prerogative, would have fussed about The Rogue until the last minute.
Of course he would have interviewed Garrison, giving him riding
instructions, etc. Now Drake assumed the right by proxy, and Sue,
after one eager-whispered word to The Rogue, had assumed her position
in the grand stand.
Garrison was up-stairs in the jockey's quarters of the new paddock
structure, the lower part of which is reserved for the clerical force,
and so she had not seen him. But presently the word that Garrison was
to ride flew everywhere, and Sue heard it. She turned slowly to Drake,
standing at her elbow, his eyes on the paddock.
"Is it true that a jockey called Garrison is to ride to-day?" she
asked, a strange light in her eyes. What that name meant to her!
"Why, yes, I believe so, Miss Desha," replied Drake, delightfully
"Oh," she said slowly. "How--how queer! I mean--isn't it queer that
two people should have the same name? I suppose this one copied it;
imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. I hope he does the
name justice. Do you know him? He is a good rider? What horse is he up
Drake, wisely enough, chose the last question. "A ten-to-one shot," he
replied illuminatingly. "Perhaps you'll bet on him, Miss Desha, eh?
It's what we call a hunch--coincidence or anything like that. Shall I
place a bet for you?"
The girl's eyes kindled strangely. Then she hesitated.
"But--but I can't bet against The Rogue. It would not be loyal."
Mrs. Calvert laughed softly.
"There are exceptions, dear." In a low aside she added: "Haven't you
that much faith in the name of Garrison? There, I know you have. I
would be ashamed to tell you how much the major and I have up on that
name. And you know I never bet, as a rule. It is very wrong."
And so Sue, the blood in her cheeks, handed all her available cash to
Drake to place on the name of Garrison. She would pretend it was the
original. Just pretend.
"Here they come," yelled Drake, echoed by the rippling shout of the
The girl rose, white-faced; striving to pick out the blue and gold of
the Desha stable.
And here they came, the thirteen starters; thirteen finished examples
of God and man's handicraft. Speed, endurance, skill, nerve, grit--all
were there. Horse and rider trained to the second. Bone, muscle,
sinew, class. And foremost of the string came Swallow, the favorite,
Red McGloin, confidently smiling, sitting with the conscious ease of
the idol who has carried off the past year's Brooklyn Handicap.
Good horses there were; good and true. There were Black Knight and
Scapegrace, Rightful and Happy Lad, Bean Eater and Emetic--the latter
the great sprinter who was bracketed with Swallow on the book-maker's
sheets. Mares, fillies, geldings--every offering of horse-flesh above
three years. All striving for the glory and honor of winning this
great sprint handicap. The monetary value was the lesser virtue. Eight
thousand dollars for the first horse; fifteen hundred for the second;
five hundred for the third. All striving to be at least placed within
the money--placed for the honor and glory and standing.
Last of all came The Rogue, black, lean, dangerous. Trained for the
fight of his life from muzzle to clean-cut hoofs. Those hoofs had been
cared for more carefully than the hands of any queen; packed every day
in the soft, velvety red clay brought all the way from the Potomac
Garrison, in the blue and gold of the Desha stable, his mouth drawn
across his face like a taut wire, sat hunched high on The Rogue's
neck. He looked as lean and dangerous as his mount. His seat was
recognized instantly, before even his face could be discerned.
A murmur, increasing rapidly to a roar, swung out from every foot of
space. Some one cried "Garrison!" And "Garrison! Garrison! Garrison!"
was caught up and flung back like the spume of sea from the surf-
He knew the value of that hail, and how only one year ago his name had
been spewed from out those selfsame laudatory mouths with venom and
contempt. He knew his public. Adversity had been a mighty master. The
public--they who live in the present, not the past. They who swear by
triumph, achievement; not effort. They who have no memory for the
deeds that have been done unless they vouch for future conquests. The
public--fickle as woman, weak as infancy, gullible as credulity,
mighty as fate. Yes, Garrison knew it, and deep down in his heart,
though he showed it not, he gloried in the welcome accorded him. He
had not been forgotten.
But he had no false hopes, illusions. His had been the welcome
vouchsafed the veteran who is hopelessly facing his last fight. They,
perhaps, admired his grit, his optimism; admired while they pitied.
But how many, how many, really thought he was there to win? How many
thought he could win?
He knew, and his heart did not quicken nor his pulse increase so much
as a beat. He was cool, implacable, and dangerous as a rattler waiting
for the opportune moment to spring. He looked neither to right nor
left. He was deaf, impervious. He was there to win. That only.
And he would win? Why not? What were the odds of ten to one? What was
the opinion, the judgment of man? What was anything compared with what
he was fighting for? What horse, what jockey among them all was backed
by what he was backed with? What impulse, what stimulant, what
overmastering, driving necessity had they compared with his? And The
Rogue knew what was expected of him that day.
It was only as Garrison was passing the grand stand during the
preliminary warming-up process that his nerve faltered. He glanced up
--he was compelled to. A pair of eyes were drawing his. He glanced up
--there was "Cottonton"; "Cottonton" and Sue Desha. The girl's hands
were tightly clenched in her lap, her head thrown forward; her eyes
obliterating space; eating into his own. How long he looked into those
eyes he did not know. The major, his wife, Drake--all were shut out.
He only saw those eyes. And as he looked he saw that the eyes
understood at last; understood all. He remembered lifting his cap.
That was all.
"They're off! They're off!" That great, magic cry; fingering at the
heart, tingling the blood. Signal for a roar from every throat; for
the stretching of every neck to the dislocating point; for prayers,
imprecations, adjurations--the entire stock of nature's sentiment
factory. Sentiment, unbridled, unleashed, unchecked. Passion given a
kick and sent hurtling without let or hindrance.
The barrier was down. They were off. Off in a smother of spume and
dust. Off for the short seven furlongs eating up less than a minute
and a half of time. All this preparation, all the preliminaries, the
whetting of appetites to razor edge, the tilts with fortune, the
defiance of fate, the moil and toil and tribulations of months--all
brought to a head, focused on this minute and a half. All, all for one
minute and a half!
It had been a clean break from the barrier. But in a flash Emetic was
away first, hugging the rail. Swallow, taking her pace with all
McGloin's nerve and skill, had caught her before she had traveled half
a dozen yards. Emetic flung dirt hard, but Swallow hung on, using her
as a wind-shield. She was using the pacemaker's "going."
The track was in surprisingly good condition, but there were streaks
of damp, lumpy track throughout the long back and home-stretch. This
favored The Rogue; told against the fast sprinters Swallow and Emetic.
After the two-yard gap left by the leaders came a bunch of four, with
The Rogue in the center.
"Pocketed already!" yelled some derisively. Garrison never heeded.
Emetic was the fastest sprinter there that day; a sprinter, not a
stayer. There is a lot of luck in a handicap. If a sprinter with a
light weight up can get away first, she may never be headed till the
finish. But it had been a clear break, and Swallow had caught on.
The pace was heart-breaking; murderous; terrific. Emetic's rider had
taken a chance and lost it; lost it when McGloin caught him. Swallow
was a better stayer; as fast as a sprinter. But if Emetic could not
spread-eagle the field, she could set a pace that would try the
stamina and lungs of Pegasus. And she did. First furlong in thirteen
seconds. Record for the Aqueduct. A record sent flying to flinders.
My! that was going some. Quarter-mile in twenty-four flat. Another
record wiped out. What a pace!
A great cry went up. Could Emetic hold out? Could she stay, after all?
Could she do what she had never done before? Swallow's backers began
to blanch. Why, why was McGloin pressing so hard? Why? why? Emetic
must tire. Must, must, must. Why would McGloin insist on taking that
pace? It was a mistake, a mistake. The race had twisted his brain. The
fight for leadership had biased his judgment. If he was not careful
that lean, hungry-looking horse, with Garrison up, would swing out
from the bunch, fresh, unkilled by pace-following, and beat him to a
froth. . . .
There, there! Look at that! Look at that! God! how Garrison is riding!
Riding as he never rode before. Has he come back? Look at him. . . . I
told you so. I told you so. There comes that black fiend across-- It's
a foul! No, no. He's clear. He's clear. There he goes. He's clear.
He's slipped the bunch, skinned a leader's nose, jammed against the
rail. Look how he's hugging it! Look! He's hugging McGloin's heels.
He's waiting, waiting. . . . There, there! It's Emetic. See, she's wet
from head to hock. She is, she is! She's tiring; tiring fast. . . .
See! . . . McGloin, McGloin, McGloin! You're riding, boy, riding. Good
work. Snappy work. You've got Emetic dead to rights. You were all
right in following her pace. I knew you were. I knew she would tire.
Only two furlongs-- What? What's that? . . . Garrison? That plug
Rogue? . . . Oh, Red, Red! . . . Beat him, Red, beat him! It's only a
bluff. He's not in your class. He can't hang on. . . . Beat him, Red,
beat him! Don't let a has-been put it all over you! . . . Ride, you
cripple, ride! . . . What? Can't you shake him off? . . . Slug him!
. . . Watch out! He's trying for the rail. Crowd him, crowd him! . . .
What's the matter with you? . . . Where's your nerve? You can't shake
him off! Beat him down the stretch! He's fresh. He wasn't the fool to
follow pace, like you. . . . What's the matter with you? He's crowding
you--look out, there! Jam him! . . . He's pushing you hard. . . . Neck
and neck, you fool. That black fiend can't be stopped. . . . Use the
whip! Red, use the whip! It's all you've left. Slug her, slug her!
That's it, that's it! Slug speed into her. Only a furlong to go. . . .
Come on, Red, come on! . . .
Here they come, in a smother of dust. Neck and neck down the stretch.
The red and white of the Morgan stable; the blue and gold of the
Desha. It's Swallow. No, no, it's The Rogue. Back and forth, back and
forth stormed the rival names. The field was pandemonium. "Cottonton"
was a mass of frantic arms, raucous voices, white faces. Drake, his
pudgy hands whanging about like semaphore-signals in distress, was
blowing his lungs out: "Come on, kid come on! You've got him now! He
can't last! Come on, come on!--for my sake, for your sake, for
anybody's sake, but only come!"
Game Swallow's eyes had a blue film over them. The heart-breaking
pace-following had told. Red's error of judgment had told. The "little
less" had told. A frenzied howl went up. "Garrison! Garrison!
Garrison!" The name that had once meant so much now meant--everything.
For in a swirl of dust and general undiluted Hades, the horses had
stormed past the judges' stand. The great Carter was lost and won.
Swallow, with a thin streamer of blood threading its way from her
nostrils, was a beaten horse; a game, plucky, beaten favorite. It was
all over. Already The Rogue's number had been posted. It was all over;
all over. The finish of a heart-breaking fight; the establishing of a
new record for the Aqueduct. And a name had been replaced in its
former high niche. The has-been had come back.
And "Cottonton," led by a white-faced girl and a big, apoplectic
turfman, were forgetting dignity, decorum, and conventionality as hand
in hand they stormed through the surging eruption of humanity fighting
to get a chance at little Billy Garrison's hand.
And as, saddle on shoulder, he stood on the weighing-scales and caught
sight of the oncoming hosts of "Cottonton" and read what the girl's
eyes held, then, indeed, he knew all that his finish had earned him--
the beginning of a new life with a new name; the beginning of one that
the lesson he had learned, backed by the great love that had come to
him, would make--paradise. And his one unuttered prayer was: "Dear
God, make me worthy, make me worthy of them--all!"
Aftermath was a blur to "Garrison." Great happiness can obscure, befog
like great sorrow. And there are some things that touch the heart too
vitally to admit of analyzation. But long afterward, when time, mighty
adjuster of the human soul, had given to events their true
proportions, that meeting with "Cottonton" loomed up in all its
greatness, all its infinite appeal to the emotions, all its appeal to
what is highest and worthiest in man. In silence, before all that
little world, Sue Desha had put her arms about his neck. In silence he
had clasped the major's hand. In silence he had turned to his aunt;
and what he read in her misty eyes, read in the eyes of all, even the
shrewd, kindly eyes of Drake the Silent and in the slap from his
congratulatory paw, was all that man could ask; more than man could
Afterward the entire party, including Jimmie Drake, who was regarded
as the grand master of Cottonton by this time, took train for New
York. Regarding the environment, it was somewhat like a former ride
"Garrison" had taken; regarding the atmosphere, it was as different as
hope from despair. Now Sue was seated by his side, her eyes never once
leaving his face. She was not ordinarily one to whom words were
ungenerous, but now she could not talk. She could only look and look,
as if her happiness would vanish before his eyes. "Garrison" was
thinking, thinking of many things. Somehow, words were unkind to him,
too; somehow, they seemed quite unnecessary.
"Do you remember this time a year ago?" he asked gravely at length.
"It was the first time I saw you. Then it was purgatory to exist, now
it is heaven to live. It must be a dream. Why is it that those who
deserve least, invariably are given most? Is it the charity of Heaven,
or--what?" He turned and looked into her eyes. She smuggled her hand
across to his.
"You," she exclaimed, a caressing, indolent inflection in her soft
voice. "You." That "you" is a peculiar characteristic caress of the
Southerner. Its meaning is infinite. "I'm too happy to analyze," she
confided, her eyes growing dark. "And it is not the charity of Heaven,
but the charity of--man."
"You mustn't say that," he whispered. "It is you, not me. It is you
who are all and I nothing. It is you."
She shook her head, smiling. There was an air of seductive luxury
about her. She kept her eyes unwaveringly on his. "You," she said
"And there's old Jimmie Drake," added "Garrison" musingly, at length,
a light in his eyes. He nodded up the aisle where the turfman was
entertaining the major and his wife. "There's a man, Sue, dear. A man
whose friendship is not a thing of condition nor circumstance. I will
always strive to earn, keep it as I will strive to be worthy of your
love. I know what it cost Drake to scratch Speedaway. I will not,
cannot forget. We owe everything to him, dear; everything."
"I know," said the girl, nodding. "And I, we owe everything to him. He
is sort of revered down home like a Messiah, or something like that.
You don't know those days of complete misery and utter hopelessness,
and what his coming meant. He seemed like a great big sun bursting
through a cyclone. I think he understands that there is, and always
will be, a very big, warm place in Cottonton's heart for him. At
least, we-all have told him often enough. He's coming down home with
us now--with you."
He turned and looked steadily into her great eyes. His hand went out
to meet hers.
"You," whispered the girl again.