THE THUMB PRINT
W. A. FRASER
NOVEMBER i5, i92i
SUBSCRIPTION: TWENTY CENTS A COPY THREE DOLLARS A YEAR
J. VERNON McKENZIE, Editor J. L. RUTLEDGE, Associate Editor
COPYRIGHT 1921 BYTHE MACLEAN PUBLISHING COMPANY, LI Ml TED
VOLUME XXXIV. NUMBER TWENTY
OF COURSE Charter P. Thomas had taken a suite at the hotel. On the centre table of the sitting room stood a vase of luxuriant roses; they had been charged to the room account.
Charter P. touched the petals of a rose with his slim, girl-like fingers, drew an attenuated roll of bills from his pocket, looked at the money derisively, and then grinned like a mischievous boy into the pale gambler face of his companion, Jack Conway.
Conway watched this pantomime sardonically. He took a cigar from between his lips and growled: “Devilish
funny, no doubt, but I don’t quite get the humor of it.” “If you were dealing, Jack, you would.”
“Yes, you’re dealing, Charter P.. I’ve got the man, and the horse, and you’re in if you make good on the capital— that’s all we’re shy of.”
“Cheer up, Jack,” and Charter P. clapped his open palms together and wrung his fingers blithely. “Toronto is a sport town. Time of the Porcupine gold boom I took twenty-one thousand out of here on a pasteboard front, and if a chap I’d known in the West hadn’t blown in to town I’d have got away with a quarter of a million.”
“A case of save me from my friends,” Conway commented.
“I wired Bill Kennedy in New York to wi e me a hundred.”
“You’re out the price of a telegram.”
But Charter P. objected:
“He’ll send it; I gave him a tip on Amalgamated, and he cleaned up good and plenty—. he’ll send it.”
They presented a remarkable contrast, these two chevaliers d'industrie. Charter P. was a boy—a Peter Pan, dressed in exquisite taste; his round boyish face suggested an impossibility of guile ¡while Conway had written in large type across his forehead the word Beware. He, too, was clothed with simple taste; but his face was hard, merciless, blanched of all human compassion.
“Let’s go down, Jack,” Charter P. suggested, “and sort over the offerings in the rotunda.
I dreamt last night that a rainbow finished up there, and beneath the tesselated floor was a pot of gold.” Then Charter P. clapped his palms merrily together and grinned.
The two men had not taken six steps after their debouch from the elevator when Charter P. came full upon the babe in the bulrushes. He fairly gasped, for he had last seen Stewart Owen six years ago in Butte.
Charter P. indulged in a quick, furtive reconnaissance. The big white diamond in Owen’s tie, its brother in purity of water in a masonic emblem, the glittering blue-white star on a finger, were reassuring: the gods had dealt Charter P. four aces, cold.
• “Old Timer!” and Charter P. swept a little hand in front of Owen, a happy, eager recognition in his eyes.
“Great alkali!” and Owen’s powerful grip had crumpled the slim hand into a pansy leaf.
“My friend, Jack Conway, Stewart—Mr. Owen,
“Glad to know you,” and the gambler’s fingers were squeezed.
A twitch of Charter P.’s right eye telegraphed to Conway that the dream had come truethey had found the pot of gold.
“This is my wife, Mr. Thomas; and Mr. Conway, Delilah,” Owen reciprocated.
CHARTER P.’s babe eyes brightened in appreciation of the well-gowned, beautiful Delilah. Inwardly he murmured, “Gee! what a stunner!” And he also fell in love with Delilah’s diamonds.
“When d’you blow in, Charter P.?” Owen asked. “This morning. Just up from old New York for a flutter. Mr. Conway has a few gallopers and we took a run up to dribble some jack into the iron-man to-morrow.” Owen showed his strong white teeth in a smile. “Minin’ too slow, Charter?” “Not on your life, Stewart; I’m in deeper than ever. I married a niece of old Kran, of Kran, Loeder—you know what they stand for in the mining world—and I’m Secretary-Treasurer of an exploitation company that’s ready to buy up the Sahara Desert or any old place that’s got ore.”
“I can load you up,” Owen declared. “I’ve got
the biggest thing in a gold proposition on earth; I’ve got it by the tail pullin’ it down hill.”
“What’s it called?”
“The Shining Tree, an’ it’s a bird. A vein thirty-nine feet wide—stringers, of course—assays run as high as two thousand dollars to the ton, but an average assay clean across of seventy-three dollars.”
Charter P. clapped Owen on the shoulder. “Great Scott! just what we’re looking for; you give me your engineer’s report, and a typed proposition, and I’ll put it through in thirty days—I don’t want any option. You come back to New York with me, Stewart; I’ll pay all your expenses. What’s the price?”
“Good heavens! have you lost your nerve, boy? A million! Are you trying to beat out Rockefeller on giving away money? What’s come over you?” Charter P. almost cried in his grief over his friend’s foolish lack of thrift.
“Now, Stewart,” he added, when he had recovered from his sorrow, “I’m going to be deuced busy to-day with Mr. Conway, because we’ve got to feed the bird we’re going to kill to-morrow. Suppose you come to my room to-night, after dinner, and we’ll go into this thing. By that time, I fancy, I’ll have a prescription from a doctor, and if we can’t do any business we can talk over old times.”
“I’ll do that little thing, Charter P.” Owen acquiesced.
“Oh, by the way, Stewart, I’ve got a wired draft coming through from New York for fifty-one hundred dollars: do you know the telegraph people here—could you identify me?” Charter P. asked. “All you’d need to do is phone the manager that I’m here, and really am Charter P. Thomas.”
“Sure thing! I’ll phone the manager, Howard, that Charter P. Thomas is here in the hotel and I know him. That’ll be all you need in the way of identification unless you want—”
“No, no; don’t want any endorsing, just identification, that’s all, Stewart,” and Charter P. clapped his little hands together and wrung his fingers, as if he washed out the whole matter.
As Stewart and Delilah moved away Conway turned his cold eyes on his companion commendingly. Fiftyone hundred, boy—not so bad. Rather quick on the trigger, I must say.”
CHARTER P. grinned. “That bird Owen belongs. He's been stung so often before he cut his eye teeth that he’s gunshy of a touch. I don't want him to avoid us—see, Jack. That’s why I suggested the phone for identification.” "There are your two friends— they’re at the fourth table down,” Delilah said, as she sat down at dinner with her husband that evening. “And I’ll tell you candidly, Stewart,
I don’t like either of them.” “That suits me, Lilah. I don’t want you to like any man.” "No chance—I never did.”
"Stewart, you're tiring. An inquisitive man is impossible. I mean that Mr. Charter P. is too too, if you can understand that. And Conway—his eyes make me shiver.” “As to Conway, girl, he carries the danger signal so manifestly that anybody that falls
for him ought to; but Charter P. is one of those goodnatured, good hearted misplacements that a fellow can’t help but like. And he’s clever, too—clever as a whip. His people are really good people, rich. And Charter P. has done some awfully clever things.”
“What has he done that’s very clever. I wouldn’t—” “Well, he’s kept out of jail, and considering everything, I think that was pretty smart of Charter P. But if he is married into the Kran, Loeder group he might be able to place the Shining Tree in New York. I’m going to see what he’s got. If either Charter P. or Conway slip a cold deck on me I’ll know it, and just tear up the cards. See, girl?”
Charter P. and Conway finished their dinner, and as they passed the table at which Owen sat, the little man asked: “How would you like to come up to the room when you’ve finished your dinner, Stewart. Will you excuse him, Mrs. Owen?”
“I was going to stick around a bit to wait for a friend.” Owen answered.
x “Leave word for him to come up,” Charter P. suggested. “I’ve got that—” and he smiled.
“All right, boys,” Owen agreed; “I’ll be up soon.” “Right-o! 234 is the room.”
When the two friends had passed on Owen said, “I’ll leave a note in Jack Andrews’ box, Lilah, but if you see him, or he calls up the room, tell him to come up to 234. The old gent likes a snifter, he likes the smell of it on, his whiskers. You see, Jack’s got Red Devil in a race tomorrow, an’ Yellow Tail’s in the same race. Of course, as you know, Yellow Tail runs in the name of his trainer, Hank Armour, though he belongs to the old man. So far the idea is that Red Devil’s to win, because Yellow Tail will be backed by the public on the strength of his last race. The old man, even with me, is pretty canny ’bout what he says, but I know that’s the idea. I guess Yellow Tail could win if he didn’t eat too big a breakfast or somethin’. That’s what I want to see Andrews about to-night— he was goin’ to let me know definite.”
“I’ll tell you something, Stewart,”
Delilah said thoughtfully, “I know that Mr. Andrews is worried Armour. It seems that Hank is sore over the division of the winnings on Yellow Tail; he thinks he didn’t get enough.”
“I guess that’s why the old man said he’d let me know to-night—he wanted to get that straightened out,”
Owen said thoughtfully. “But Jack ’ll get it right; that mud-head’s no match for the old man if it comes to a question of dog eat dog.”
TJALF an hour later Charter P.
-*■ Thomas was saying as he tipped the Roderick Dhu bottle to dribble amber liquid into three glasses:
“Stewart, if the Shining Tree mine is what you say it is, I can place it in New York for two millions.”
“I was wondering if you’d dropped out of the minin’ game, Charter P. I hadn’t heard of you in that line for three or four years,” Owen commented.
“Dropped out, is good, Stewart,” and the little man’s round face lighted up like a laughing moon. “That’s what happened six years ago, wasn’t it. I had a four-thousand-foot fall with a parachute.”
“I thought you went farther,” apd Owen laughed “I thought you’d gone clean through to China. That was over the Lucky Mike mine, wasn’t it?”
“The Unlucky Mike—you almost got it. Some people make money out of their business to race horses, but I hooked up with Conway over the ponies and get enough out of the game to play the mines. What d’you know about that, Stewart?”
“Damn funny! if you’ll pardon the profanity.”
“We’ve made some real old time killings, haven’t we, Jack?” Charter P. appealed to his somber friend.
“I’ve been playin’ the ponies a bit myself,” Owen admitted; “not too much a loser at that."
Charter P. laid a hand of remonstrance on Owen’s arm. “You stick to your mining, Stewart; you played that game like a lucky bettor, and unless a man’s away on the inside with the thorough-breds, he’d better give his money to his mother-in-law for safe keeping. Your best bet, from what you say, is the Shining Tree; you play it for a winner.”
“Ting-a-ling, zing-h-h-h!” It was the phone.
Charter P. jerked the receiver from the hook, and Owen heard him say, “Just a minute—hold the line!”
He put a hand over the mouthpiece and turned a troubled face toward Conway, saying: “Jack, it’s that
chap, Hank Armour, about that horse for to-morrow—he’s
down stairs there now, waiting.”
“Tell him to come up,” Conway answered casually.
“If it’s business, boys, I’ll pull my freight,” Owen suggested.
“It’s business, brother,” Charter P. declared, “but as to your pulling your freight, nothin’ doin’! I haven’t seen you for six years.”
“No, Mr. Owen, don’t go,” Conway added. “This chap’s got a horse that can win tomorrow, and from what Charter P. told me about you I don’t mind your knowin’ it.”
“Come on up,” Thomas called up into the phone; and coming over to the table he added, “I’ll just tell him that you’re of our party, see! It’s a pretty good thing, but you don’t have to chip in. You see, this chap
used to train for Conway; he wrote Jack to come up and that he’d make it worth while. To-day we saw him, and he says that if we’ll put down a big bet he’ll shoot this horse over. He’s kind of sore on somebody that welched on the last win they had—didn’t divvy up proper.”
The name, Hank Armour, had been zig-zagging through Owen’s brain as lightning tickles the sky; now surely he must be in on this, must sit it out. Hank wouldn’t know him by sight, but had probably heard his name from Jack Andrews, so he said:
“Just one thing, Charter; the father of money that’s got this Shinin’ Tree mine under option is a good man; he roosts on the top rung of the golden stairs, and if he knew I was mixed up in a horse play he’d bawl me out; he’d say, ‘Man of sin, you’re excused from this deal’. Introduce me under another moniker to this Johnnie— call me Daly, George Daly.”
KNUVKLES softly touched the room door, and Charter P. flung it open, admitting Hank Armour.
Owen looked at the man curiously; he had never seen him. And now, scrutinizing the heavy sullen face, he wondered why Jack Andrews had trusted Armour. Of course it had been as the Man from the Desert had explained, because Armour was a veritable clam in his economy of speech. But Stewart could see that Hank, like many secretive men, was a man in subdued rebellion.
Owen was introduced as Mr. Daly, one who bet ’em up high, the sky his limit. Owen saw the suspicious look
of hesitancy that drew the lids down over Hank’s solid eyes, so he said: “If you boys’ve got some little private deal on I’ll slip away.” “No,” Charter P. objected. He laid a baby hand on Owen’s shoulder, and turned to Armour: “You
don’t mind Mr. Daly, Hank. He’s been in with us in New York on a couple of killings. He’s all right; I stand for him, and I don’t burn up any good money giving things away.”
“That’s all right,” Armour said, slipping into a chair, and lifting to his lips the glass Conway had half filled with the liquor of optimism.
“Now then,” Charter P. said, “if you’ll just give us the lay-out, Hank, put the proposition on the table, and let Jack here size it up— cause he’s our expert in this game.” The shell of Hank’s casket of secretiveness had been cracked slightly by the heating force of half a glass of raw Scotch, and with a sudden suspicious side shoot of the eyes towards Owen, he plunged into his verbal dissipation.
“I got a hoss that broke his maiden just a few days ago, an’ he broke it good, he spread-eagled his field; he come home on the bit yellin’, ‘I’m hungry, where’s ’em oats!’ ” tt “Good stuff,” Charter P. commented; winners for mine every time.” “An’ I didn’t get nothin’ out of it!” and Hank looked as if he were going to cry.
“The old game, Hank,” Conway commented; “the man that bet the money said he’d been paid out in green goods, eh.”
“The old son-of-a-gun cleaned up fifty thousan’, an’ hands me two thousan’, sayin’ it wasn’t his money was bet an’ he couldn’t collect.” There was a little silence save for a tinkle of glass as Conway proffered Armour more of the encourager.
“An’ now to-morrer my hoss’s in a race, an’ this ol’ cuss ’s got a hoss in too. He figgers that we’ll make a boatrace of it, with his hoss, Red Devil, takin’ down the long end of the purse.”
“He’s got his nerve with him, Hank, after throwing you down once,” Charter P. commented bitterly.
“Nerve!—his nerve’d make a good web for the starting gate, there wouldn’t no hosses break through it.”
“And Hank, you want us to upset the boat, eh?” Conway queried, his poker face as placid, his gray eyes as stony as if he had said “Let us pray.”
“I’ll tell you what,I want, gentlemen—I’m goin’ to talk turkey. I’ve got to get mine this time. An’ if the ol’ cuss makes any kick I’ll interduce him to the stewards for a cup of tea—an’ he’ll get it. I’ve got somethin’ on him.”
“Go to it, Hank; the sky’s our limit,” Charter P. dçclared.
'T'HE whiskey had suffused Hank’s surly face with an * angry red gloom; his eyes were defiant, like the pig eyes of a bear at bay.
“I got to have five thousan’ bet for me, an’ I got to have a thousan’ put in my hand to-night, leavin’ four thousan’
“Doesn’t seem enough,” Charter P. chirped blithely; “haven’t you forgotten something, Hank?”
“I ain’t forgot nothin’; I ain’t forgot I was declared out of the last winnin’s. My hoss, Yellow Tail—” Hank checked, the horse’s name had slipped through the whiskey oiled machinery of his secretiveness.
“Yellow Tail,” Owen murmured thoughtfully; “didn’t he win somewhere this summer?”
“He won a week ago, an’ he’s right on top another race now—fit as any hoss ever was,” Hank answered.
“Has he got much to beat in this race to-morrow?” Conway asked.
“Red Devil can outrun the others, an’ Yellow Tail can beat Red Devil doin’ anythin’; the ol’ man knows it. He thinks the public’ll back my hoss an’ give him a better price on Red Devil. An’ if I take Yellow Tail, which he calc’lates I’m goin’ to, then his hoss’ll be a certainty.” Again there was a little silence; Conway and Charter P. putting up a hesitating bluff to impress Owen, for their delicious scheme was to profit, and Owen to furnish the capital.
If they could have shot a ray of mental fluorescence through Owen’s mind they would have been startled. If the horse had been any horse but Yellow Tail, if the man had been any man but Hank Armour, Owen would have come blithely into the scheme and gambled—on the level. Now he was about to double-cross these double-crossers. They were clever, and he also must put up a front. Apparently he was all they fancied, a rich happy-go-lucky,
an easy mark for such experienced men as themselves.
“It’s up to you, Jack,” Charter P. broke the silence; “how does it assay?”
“Cut out that thousand, Armour—” Conway commanded.
“Nothin’ doin’!” Hank answered sullenly.
“But men don't carry a thousand dollars around in their pockets,” Charter P. objected. “We’ll get it for you to-morrow.”
“To-morrow!” Hank sneered; “that’s the way I was settled with last time.”
“Before the race this time, Hank."
“I got to get it to-night; I got to whisper my hoss fust thing in the mornin’ whether he’s to win or not. He’s on a diet. When he’s goin’ to win you can’t get that hoss to eat too much or drink two or three pails of water; an’ if he knows he’s not needed he jus’ enjoys hisself at the feed box, ’cause he’s a good doer.”
Charter P. coughed, lighted a cigarette, and ran a baby hand over the smooth glossy black hair that lay so flat against his little round skull.
"We put through a draft on New York to-day,” Conway advised, “and the money’ll be here in the morning.”
“That’ll be too late,” Hank declared. “If I get a thousan’ to-night I’ll know you’re talkin’ turkey; if I don’t get a thousan’ with a guarantee of four thousan’ bet, it’s off—you fellers can guess about the race.”
CHARTER P. turned impulsively toward Owen.
“How about you, Stewart—could you get my cheque for a thousand cashed here in the hotel to-night?”
“I’d cash it myself for you, Charter, but I use the bank! The hotel wouldn’t have that much spare cash at ten o’clock at night.”
Charter P. switched to Armour. “Will you take a cheque?”
“No. I ain’t sayin’ it ain’t good, but cheques gets stopped.”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, boys,” Owen said; “I’ll come in on this.”
He addressed Armour. “I’ve got a bunch of coin over at the Royal Bank, but I can’t get that to-night. I’ll see if I can dig up a thousand to-night, but if I can’t you can depend on me bein’ in on this to-morrow.”
“There’s another little thing,” Conway interrupted, for he saw that Hank, obdurate, set in his ideas, was about to object, “and that is, that we’ve got to bet this money in the morning in New York. I’m in touch with my man there, and he’ll put the bet down just before race time so it can’t come back to the track. If we're going to bet five thousand for Mr. Armour we’ve got to bet about thirty thousand for ourselves to make anything. It’s too good a chance to pike over. My man in New York has got a ten thousand dollar credit on my account with Joe Urder—”
“I’ll chip in a third in the morning,” Charter P. asserted.
“And you can count on me for my third; I’m in this to a finish,” Owen declared. Inwardly he muttered, “to a finish!”
Hank had placidly listened to this financial debate; now he said; “Mr. Daly said somethin ’bout diggin’ up a'thousan’. There’s a racin’ picture on here; I’ll go an’ take that in, I want to see it, an’ I’ll come back in an hour-an’-a-half That thousan’ ’d make all the rest of it look good to me.”
“I’ll get busy right away,” Owen declared, shoving his chair back.
Charter P. said, “We’ll pull this off, boys; we’ve just got to have confidence in each other; we ought to clean up a hundred thousand.”
“If I don’t get the money to-night what’s your address.
Armour, so that I can ring you up early in the mornin’?” Owen asked .
“I’m stoppin ’ at the Douglas House, ’ Armour answered; “King East, ’bout half way to the Grapevine Track.”
“Will you be there after the picture?” Owen asked.
“Yes, I’ll go back home to go to bed. I’ve got to get up at five in the mornin’ to work my hosses.”
Owen had wanted this little bit of information, his idea being to find Andrews, and accompany the old gentleman to interview Mister Hank as soon as possible.
At that instant Conway held up his hand to command silence, his gray eyes fastened on the door in a gesture of intense listening; then he rose silently, tip-toed across the room, and threw the door open, darting into the hall. Then he came back into the room closing the door behind him; pointing a thumb at the open transom, he said, “I could have sworn I heard somebody smother a cough,
I heard it twice.”
“Did you see anybody?” Charter P. queried.
“I thought I caught a glimpse of a man turning down the side hall, but I missed him.”
Owen grinned. “Every room on this floor’s occupied,” he said; “somebody’s been passin’, that’s all.”
“We should have closed the transom,” Charter P. growled.
A FRIGHTENED look hovered in Armour’s eyes He rose uneasily, saying: “I don’t want none of this
to leak till after the race, then I don’t give a damn. It’s the surest thing I ever had in my life, an’ if I can clean up fifteen or twenty thousan’ I’ll buy a couple of horses of my own an’ that ol’ cuss can go back to the desert where he come from for all I care.”
“Oh, you needn’t worry none,” Owen soothed; “there wasn’t anybody there—just somebody passin’; there won’t be any leak.”
“No,” Charter P. agreed, “there’s too much money in sight for any of us to take a chance on it getting out. You do your part, Armour, and we'll do ours; you get your horse tightened up and win the race. We’ll put the money down; we’ve all got lots of jack, and we’re all gamblers. You’ve got a sure thing, and we’re sure-thing players.” “Well,” Owen said, rising, “I’ll take a scoot around an’ see if I can make a touch for a thousand. If I can find a certain man he’ll cash my cheque because he runs a night game and they have the jack there. If I don’t come back you’ll know I didn’t get it; but I’ll fix things in the morning, sure.”
Owen’s first move, was, not to find the man to cash his cheque, but to find the Man from the Desert, Jack Andrews.
Andrews wasn’t in his room, so Owen shot down the elevator and searched the ground floor of the hotel for a gray clothed, gray whiskered, gaunt individual wearing a slouch hat. None of the bell boys had seen him about.
He got on the patriarch’s trail at the side entrance. The porter had called a taxi for him. The gray whiskered gentleman had come to him in a great hurry, saying that his jockey was sick and he was going to see him; he had heard him say some hotel but didn’t know what one it was.
Owen hovered about the rotunda for an hour, but Andrews did not return. He left a note in the patriarch’s box for the latter to call up his room when he came in. Then he went up to his own room and related to Delilah the particulars of this first chop bit of double-crossing on the part of Hank.
“Well, Tootie,” she said, “it’s the first time you ever struck a piece of luck by stringing with crooks. You have a passion for the company of snide gentlemen, and you general y get the hook.”
“How come this is luck, Lilah?” Owen asked.
‘ Because you’ve seen their cards Now Mr. Andrews can do just what he wants to with that race. If the little cherub that sit up above watching your juvenile career hadn't been on the job they’d have picked up some other easy mark and got away with it. We’d have bet our money on Red Devil, and they’d have won out on Yellow Tail.” “That’s right, girl, it was a bit of luck, though I was pretty danged sore over it.”
‘ And that baby crook, Charter P. is four-flushing, and the man with him, Conway, is a three-card man. Their game is to get your ten thousand to bet on Yellow Tail—’’ “I said five thousand, girl.”
YOU SAID Conway planned for you to bet thirty thousand among the three of you, and they would get your ten thousand in the morning, to send to New York. They might even give a thousand of it to Armour—if they had to, but you’d never see a bit of your ten thousand, because they wouldn’t bet a dollar of their own, they haven’t got it ”
“How d’you know they haven’t got it—you a mind reader?”
“When you told me about the suite of rooms and the vase of roses on the table I knew he was four-flushing, Tootie; from your gorgeous reminiscences of Charter P. in the West I knew that he was doing what you call a wealth-play.”
“Ah, Lilah, you were guessin’; Charter P. is like a kid with candy when he’s got money, you were guessin'— the woman’s intuition stuff,” and Owen frowned.
“Howard of the telegraph company was here in the evening,” Delilah remarked with the air of a bored dismissal of the discussion.
“What did he want—to see me?’
“Yes, but not very particularly; I chatted with him.” “I suppose he didn’t mind—not if you levelled on him with ’em lamps.”
But Delilah was brushing her rich mass of coal-black hair, and seemingly addressing the mirror, said: “How-
ard wanted to tell you something about that draft of Charter P.’s.”
“Gone flooey, has it?”
“No; it came through all right, but Howard thought you ought to know that there's a little coon hiding in the fence somewhere. You said to Howard, over the phone, when you identified Charter P. that he expected a wired remittance of fifty-one hundred, didn’t you?”
“Well, the remittance was fifty-one hundred—minus the fifty.”
“Holy Moses! Just a hundred dollars!” Owen gasped. “Yes. But don’t worry, Toots; with a hundred to stave off the hotel, bright-boy Charter P. will land you or some other easy mark. I suppose that rich wife sent it to him.”
“Holy smoke! if that isn’t Charter P. all over; looks like a babe and ’s got a gall that would win a war. Dang little cuss! that’s why I always liked him.”
“But stringing you, Tootie, what about that?”
“Yes, by dang! I’ve got to get hold of .lack Andrews and block this before they do anything.”
But getting hold of the Man from the Desert was some contract. Half-a-dozen times Owen called up the patriarch’s room—there was no answer; half-a-dozen times he went down to the lower floor, but nobody had seen the man who looked like Father Time —nobody.
Delilah had gone to bed; and at last Owen turned in, saying, “I’ll read for awhile: he’s sure to call up when he comes in; I’ve left a note for him.”
It was past twelve o’clock when the phone buzzed.
Continued on page 47
The Thumb Print
Continued, from page 13
“There he is at last, the old reprobate!” Owen cried, springing from bed. Then in a tone of disgust he said, “Somebodywants you, Lilah. I guess you’re invited to Government House.”
“Who could want me,” Delilah complained, as she crawled lazily from comfort.
“P’raps it’s Mr. Stella,” Owen opined maliciously.
Then Delilah’s soft voice called into the phone. “Hello! Yes, yes, Mrs. Owen. Zeb—that you, Zeb?”
Stewart watched Delilah’s face wax into intensity as she listened for a full halfminute.
“Hold the line, Zeb,” she commanded. “If they cut you off ring up again immediately.” She turned to Owen: “Stewart, that’s Zeb on the phone at some place near the stables trying to get Andrews, and can’t, so called me.”
“He says somebody has got Yellow Tail out night-riding him, and he wants you to get Andrews and come down at once. What shall I tell him?”
/"\WEN scratched his head perplexedF' ly. “Let me speak to him. That ol’ nigger’s just had a nightmare, that’s all; he’s full of bootleg whisky, I guess.” Then Stewart brought Zeb to a closeup on the wire, and wound up by saying, “All right, Zeb, you wait there by the comer gate, and if I can’t get the ol’ man I’ll be there: keep tab on them.”
Owen called up the patriarch’s room. “That ol’ cuss is still out night-hawkin’,” he growled as he hung up.
As Owen hustled into a heavy tweed suit he continued: “Who the devil
could be night-ridin’ Yellow Tail?” “Who, Tootie—why, of course it’s the crook gang you’re in with. Hank is doing the night-riding himself.” “How’ll they get anything out of that?” He was now lacing his boots.
“It's simple. They get your ten thousand in the morning, but don’t bet it; they want to make sure that the horse can’t win, then they’re ten thousand ahead. Hank doesn’t know but that Andrews will put a_ jockey on Yellow Tail’s back and tell him to win.”
“Gad, you’re right, girl—that’s the idea!” Stewart had slipped a thirty-two caliber Smith and Wesson into his pocket.
‘.‘Better leave that here, Stewart,” Delilah said. “You don’t need to take a chance of killing a man now that you know what they’re doing.”
“Girl, I’ve toted a gun in the West where it's jus’ like a piece of jewelry, it’s as safe with me as a slice oi cheese. It’s jus’ in case three or four of ’em pile on top your hubby an’ spoil his pretty face. See, —jus’ a bluff, that’s all. I can lick the three that were in that room to-night; the baby, Charter P., the washed-out gambler, and Hank the slow. Now I’m all set,” and Stewart slipped into an overcoat. "I’ll go along to Jack’s room to make sure, then I’ll take a taxi to the course. With a strong tip to the chauffeur I can make that in fifteen minutes. If old" Jack calls up jüs’ tell him what’s
He turned his handsome face, now alight with excitement, to Delilah, and she, thawing from her usual indifference, gave him a warm kis3.
“Momma love Pappa?” and Stewart laughed.
“Perhaps. But don’t get into trouble, boy.”
“Please may I take one swipe at a crook if I get a chance?” Then he was gone.
Owen asked at the office for Andrews, but the night-clerk hadn’t seen the old man about.
As Owen stepped into a taxi he said to the chauffeur: “Full speed ahead, buddy, for the gate at the corner of the Grapevine Course; that gate that lets into the stables on the west side—get me?”
And as the rubber tires drew a hissing song of speed from the asphalt Stewart spoke through the open window: “A
five dollar tip, buddy, for speed, an’ any fine is on me.”
THE car lurched forward at this suggestion, as if automatically it knew. It was a powerful hotel Packard, and the chauffeur was a sport. There was little traffic at that midnight hour, and as the black thing thrust through the night, men,
late-outers, turned on the sidewalk to mutter, “A stolen car—auto bandits— I wonder who got it!”
Owen was exhilarated. The wind crackling through the open window cackled( a battle refrain; his blood tingled.
“Good boy,” he rasped against the pushing wind; “go to it, kid—step on the gas!”
As the car swirled around a swinging turn sixty yards from the gate of attainment, Owen clutched the driver by the shoulder, crying, “Stop here, buddy!” The brakes screeched, and with a sigh, as if exhausted by the mad run, the motor hushed.
“Wait here,” Owen commanded, as he flung through the open door and ran to the gates, beyond which loomed the ghostly white-washed stables, looking like sleeping ghosts in the black pall of the cloudy night.
As Owen checked his rapid run at the gate the figure of Zeb, his black face indiscernible in the night gloom, stepped forward from beside a big white wooden
“Dat you, Mistah Owen?” Zeb queried in a hoarse whisper; “where Mistah Andrews—didn’t you get de boss?” “No, Zeb, he was out,” Owen answered in a voice raised just above a whisper. “Tell me what’s trumps—have you been havin’ a dream?”
“No, sah, no sah;” the darkey expostulated: “I been ’way down de Kingston Road seein’ ’bout buyin’ some chickens from a man’s got some fightin’ birds, an’ when I’m cornin’ back on de suhbuhban cah—Good Lawd, sah! I see a boy ridin’ a hoss, an’ nachally I look right smaht see what ’tis, ’cause it ain’t no time foh hosses to be out ob bed. I cahn see him ’cause ob de headlight ob de cah, an’ jes ’s we cotch up I see dat ol’ blon’ brush ob Yellah Tail peepin’ out f’om behin’ a sheet dey ’ve got roun’ him. Dey’ve got a hood an’ eberyt’ing on him, but dey cahn’t hide dat tail. You see, boss, dey been night-ridin’ ob him ovah to de uddah track, an’ was dryin’ him out by walkin’ him back dat long roun’d ’bout way home.”
“Who was it, Zeb?”
“I dunno, boss, it wa’n’t no collud boy in de saddle. He got his cap pulled down, but I see his white jaw.”
“See the men?”
“I jest see one man; he come slippin’ in t’rough de gate aftah I get heah.” “Was it Hank?”
“Oh Lawd! I don’ know, boss. I’m scahed to get too close, an’ it’s mighty dahk. Den de boy bring de hoss in t’rough dat gate ’bout quahtah houh ago, ’cause he’s walkin’ him slow. I’m on de fas’ cah, so I get time to phone up. De two ob dem is in de stall now, if dey ain’t gone.”
“Come on then, Zeb,” Stewart said, “I’ll find out who it is, an’ I guess he’ll remember. I guess I know who ’tis.” j
TT HAD flashed on Owen that Hank’s story of going to the picture show was all a bluff, that he had come down there to night-ride the horse, and it was all a clever plan put up by the crooked Conway to get Stewart’s money.
Owen drew off his overcoat, saying, "Grab this, Zeb; I’m going into action.” He slipped the pistol from his hip into his coat pocket. “Now lead the way, Zeb,” he said, “go slow ands oft. When you come to the stall just whisper which one it is.”
“It’s mighty dahk, boss.”
A turn to the right through a gate in a board fence, and down toward the first row of stabling that was the border of the grounds, Zeb led.
Suddenly he halted, and put his hand on Stewart’s arm. Standing perfectly still they heard a sharp metallic click as if a key had turned the bolt of a padlock. Then there was a curious swish, swish, swish; as though a coarse broom brushed against earth.
Zeb raised his short figure until his thick lips were flat against Owen’s ear, and whispered, “Dey’ve closed de doah, an’ one ob dem is brushin’ out de foottracks wid de broom.”
The gloom was intense, deeper still beneath the covered way that ran the full length of the stables.
There was the muffled sound of soft-
spoken words, the swish, swish ceased; and Owen knew that whoever it was would move away in another second. He rushed, as though plunging on the center line. ít was the only way, give them no time to draw a gun, or to set themselves.
The stall was perhaps twenty feet away, and the men at the door heard him coming, heard the mad charge of rushing feet on gravel.
As he sprang beneath the roofed passageway, Owen’s left shoulder smashed against a post indiscernible in the gloom. As he swung half about he crashed into the figure of a man and struck a sweeparm blow, his fist landing on the corner of the other man’s forehead, practically smashing Owen’s thumb joint.
At that instant something soft, like an eight ounce glove, landed on Owen’s jugular, and he went down, fighting against unconsciousness like a drowning man. He felt sleepy, he groped for the thing he was trying to do. He pulled his legs up, but they rocked idly like flippant groggy posts. Something or somebody was tugging at his collar; fingers that felt nice were rubbing his temples. Why, yes, of course, it was Zeb, waking him— time to get up!
The .dream broke suddenly, and he struggled groggily to his feet, the pain in his thumb helping him back to understanding. He drew a hand across his forehead; it was clammy, cold with wet perspiration.
“T’ank de Lawd, boss, yuh all right. Lawd! I to’ught dey’d killed yuh.”
‘T know. I suppose they’ve gone, Zeb?”
“On de run, boss. De big fellah, w’en I grabbed him by de coat, give me a kick, an’ I guess I got broke shin. O Lawd! he’s got a kick like a mule, dat fellah. De otha’ fellow jes’ landed on you’ neck wid de stable broom—dat’s what hit yuh. It’s a mighty heavy one made outa willah.”
“You didn’t see who it was, Zeb?” “No, boss; de action was too mighty fas’, an’ it too blame dahk.”
“Is the stall locked?”
“It suah am.”
“Well, I guess we’d better get back. I’ve done the best I could. All the harm’s done now that can be done.”
IAN THE way to the gate Owen said;
“Zeb, don’t say a word about this.” “All right, boss; Zeb can keep his mout’ shut.”
“Don’t you speak about it to Hank.” “P’raps Hank don’ need nobody to tell him ’bout it, Boss.”
“If you keep your mouth shut there’ll be fifty dollars bet for you on a winner to-morrow. D’you get that, boy?” “Zeb’ll be dere wit’ de shut mout’,
Owen picked up his coat and just as he had started toward his taxi there was the spit-spit, crack,crack, ghur-r-r-rh! of an automobile being started up in a vacant lot over across Queen St.
With a yell to his chauffeur of “Get her started, boy!” Owen broke into a run.
He flung into the auto crying, “Get after that car that’s jus’ swingin’ on to Queen—Twenty-five dollars if you catch it. I want that duck.”
The car lurched, dipped out of the hollow of the earth-road, took the turn almost on two wheels, and as they struck the asphalt of Queen St., there was the roar of the cut-off, and far ahead, like a twin star of Mars, glowered the red lights of the fleeing car in front.
Stewart sat with his head thrust forward through the open window, encouraging the mad driver of the mad machine.
“We’re goin’ fifty,” the chauffeur panted.
“Hit her up.”
“She’s at her limit,” the chauffeur replied.
Like cicadae the rubber tires were singing a song of speed on the hard roadbed. Once the car swerved clear to the illegal side, as something with a headlight thrust itself out of a side street, missing death and destruction by a foot.
Stewart laughed. “That Johnnie’s hair ’ll be white in the mornin’.”
“If he got the number I’ll be in court,” the chauffeur responded.
“Got nothin’. He thinks he’s missed a comet by a hair-breadth. Hit her up, ‘buddy, you’re gainin’.”
“He’s goin’ some. Does he know we’re after him?”
“Shouldn’t wonder. I broke one thumb on his coco, an’ I want to have one more
punch at him. Step on the gas, buddy.” “S-s-s limit!” the chauffeur gasped. “You’re gettin’ him—you’re gettin’
The two gleaming red eyes in front were growing larger. Now, as the car flashed beneath an electric lamp, they could make out its shape, it, too, was a powerful machine.
“Some race, bud,” Owen commented; “but you’re ridin’ Man o War—you’ll win in a walk. Slip the grease.”
Between flat open spaces they raced in the night gloom, the grass, the shrubs, and little orchards swooning by like clouds of fog. Buildings swept by racing the other way like toys blown in a strong wind. Their horn honked a continuous warning.
Now the car in front was coming back to them; half-a-mile and they would
CUDDENLY the breaks screeched,_and ^ Owen’s broad shoulders hit the window frame, and but for its holding grasp he would have shot through the wind shield. There was a despairing cry of “Hell!” from the chauffeur, for across the street in front of them two tapering fingers, white with black bands, twenty feet long, had deliberately slipped down from above to meet in a blocking of the way; there was the ding-dong clamor of a bell, and the puff, puff, puff! of a ponderous freight engine—they were at the level crossing of the G.T.R.
“My God!” Owen moaned, as he sank back on to the cushioned seat; “blocked!” Then in majesty, like a huge centipede, the freight train dribbled over the crossing, a gigantic rebuke to the petty impetuosity of the eager Owen.
“Oh, heavens!” Stewart growled. “If I had my pyjamas here I’d go to bed. The other end of that train hasn’t left the Union Station yet!”
But at last, possibly a ten minutes of at last, the red caboose, on its screeching wheels, had passed, a pushing engine at its heels puffing a derisive chuckle. Then the attenuated arms of restraint climbed slowly skyward, and the chauffeur asked, “What now, sir?”
“Let’s get out an’ push this car home,( buddy—I don’t give a hang what happens.” At the hotel Owen handed the chauffeur a bill; “Here’s five for the try goinj down, an’ another five for the try cornin’ up. You’re some jockey, take it from me;, we got pinched off, that’s all. Charge the fare to my room.”
Of the porter he asked, “Did two fellows come in here in the last fifteen minutes; a little round-faced dude, an’ a long-faced cuss that looks like a parson, p’raps one of em with his eye in a sling— come in a car?”
“No, sir,” the porter answered; “nenbody’s come in a car for near an hour.” Owen went up to Jack Andrews’ room and rapped on the door. At the third tattoo of his knuckles a heavy voice queried sleepily, “Who’s that?”
"It’s me, Uncle. I got to see you for a minute.”
THE door was unlocked, and as Owen entered, the old man crawled back into bed expostulating querulously: “If
you want comp’ny son, why don’t you go out to the woods an’ hunt up an owl?” “Where’s the switch?”
“Don’t turn on that dang glare, son.
I ain’t been in bed long, an’ .1 got to get up at five.”
“Sure; there’s plenty of light cornin’ in through the window from the street lamps,” Owen agreed.
Then sitting on the edge of the bed he told of his Aladdin-like trip.
When he had finished the patriarch lay silent for a couple of minutes turning the thing over in his mind—there was so much ofit.
“I kinder half suspected that cuss, Hank, would do some dirt,” Andrews growled' presently. “You see, son, the way we divided that money won over Yellow Tail the last time—you needin’ so much to prop up the mine—I couldn’t afford to give him a big stake such as he was lookin’ for. I give him two thousan’, which was purty good for a feller was chewin’ shoe leather for the las’ two years; but he beefed about it, an’ I been kinder watchin’ him.”
“Well, he aims to get even to-morrow, evidently, Uncle.”
“Kinder looks like it, son. But now he’s killed the goose; he’s made it a sure thing for Red Devil. All we got to do is go the limit on the bay; there ain’t
nothin’ to worry ’bout. I guess Hank was feared I might switch, an’ win that race with Yellow Tail, then, you see, you’d want the winning’s of the ten thousan’ they were to get out of you, so Conway put him up to make it a sure thing Yellow Tail’d get beat.”
“That’s the dope, Uncle; it’s a clear case of highway robber—; they weren’t even givin’ me a gamblin’ chance. Say, if Hank has got an eye in the mornin’ ask him how he came by it.”
“You plugged him, eh?”
“I sure did. Dad. An’ I’ve got a thumb that’ll he in a sling in the mornin’. I put a thumb-print on him that’ll be good evidence if there’s any row over it. I’d like to soak the pair of crooks, Charter P. an’ Conway, jus’ after the same fashion. How’ll I fix ’em, Uncle?”
“You can’t do nothin—they ain’t wuth it. It don’t pay to waste time gettin' even with cheap skates like that.” “Shall I call ’em down—blow the gaff in the mornin’?”
“Sure not: don’t say nothin’; don't
let on you know what’s doin’. I guess from what you say they ain’t got no money; they was jus’ after your ten thousan’. I guess Conway was jus’ stringin’ Hank; they wouldn’t ’ve give him a bean outer that; they’d jus’ keep it, an’ tell him that if he opened his mouth they’d spill the beans ’bout double-cross work. He’s purty dang stupid, Hank is; he don’t talk none, an’ that’s all he’s got.”
“What’ll I do when they come to me ’bout bettin’ the ten thousan’, Uncle?”
THE patriarch turned this over in his mind for a few seconds. “You’d bes’ have a roll of a few thousan’s in your pocket; when it comes to a show-down flash it, an’ say you’re ready to go on with the deal; ask ’em to put up their five or ten thousan’ apiece, then you’ll go together an’ bet it.”
Owen chuckled. “I get you, Uncle; I get you. That’ll settle it.”
“Yes sir,” the patriarch affirmed; “when I go down to the course in the mornin’ I’ll stay down. There’s an idee galivantin’ up an’ down my nut that there’s some right smart ’vangilizin’ work to he done to-morrer if we’re to come out on top, son. Nex’ to gettin’ a good hawse in the pink of condition there’s nothin’ so entertainin’ as standin’ a bunch of crooks on their heads, to say nothin’ of hankin’ a fair amount of jack over said transaction.”
"You’re all to the mustard, uncle.”
“I was jus’ thinkin’, ” the patriarch continued, “that if it wasn’t outside of hankin’ hours if I could take down in my pocket ’bout two thousan’ dollars, that when that race was over we’d be kinder shakin’ hands.”
“I got more ’n that in the office safe,” Owen declared; “I’ll get it if you say the
“The reason is,” the old man explained, “that I’ll be hittin’ the trail afore sunrise, an’ I’ll be toler’ble busy till the time of that race.”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Owen dein five minutes Owen was back in the old man’s room with the money.
“That’s ’bout all, son,” Andrews said as he put the sheaf of bills under his pillow; “you jus’ tend to ’em crooks in the mornin’, not lettin’ ’em know nothin’, an’ I’ll do my bes’ with the hawses. Don’t bet a dollar till I say shoot. I’ll see you jus’ afore the race.”
Of course the moving midnight episode had to he rehearsed again to Delilah, and some arnica rubbed well into the thumb joint followed by a bandage, Delilah wondrously tender over it. She had not gone to sleep.
Owen took her face in his hands and kissed her on the eyes, saying with a little apologetic grin: “Say, girl, looks 's if
you cared what happened the old man, eh?”
“Don’t he silly, Tootie.” she admonished.
“I guess I ain’t got nothin’ on you at that,” and he patted her cheek.
As Owen ate his breakfast next morning he could see at intervals the cherub face of Charter P. Thomas at the door of the dining room.
“The vultures ’re hoverin’ close, girl,” he confided to Delilah; “Charter P. is gettin’ anxious to finger the coin. He’s goin’ to see it, an’ that’s as far ’s he’ll get.” “Don’t let it out of your hands for a second, Tootie, or it’ll vanish.”
When Owen came out to the rotunda Charter P. and Conway were discussing the quality of their cigarettes. They were as casual, as seemingly disinterested, as John Silver sharpening a knife to slit a throat.
It was Charter P. who said; “That party, Hank, has been keeping the phone hot this morning wanting to know what about it. He isn’t going to win unless the money’s bet.”
“I’ve jot an idea,” ' Conway interposed, “that he means to win that race anyway, but naturally he wants to land something worth while,” and the gambler winke4 at Thomas.
“But that’s guessing,” Charter P. objected; “we don’t know that and we might burn up good money. But if he got five thousand bet for him it’ll be a certainty. If we’re going to do it we’ve got to get it off to New York right away, then get Hank up here, and show him a copy of the telegram that the money’s on. What about you, Stewart?”
“I’ll play the hand out,” Stewart declared. “I got to wait till the bank’s
“Good stuff, Stewart,” and Charter P. patted him on the back. “You come up to my room at ten-fifteen, and we’ll dnch this play. It’ll net us a hundred thousand; we’ll singe the books.”
AT TEN-FIFTEEN the door of Thomas’s room was swung wide in answer to Owen’s tap, by the obsequious Charter P, and he was waved to a chair at the center table like the prodigal being installed at the feast of veal.
On the table lay a pad of telegraph forms; a pen stood ready in an ink bottle. To Owen it was something like a scaffold with a dangling noose waiting for its victim, and he reflected grimly that if he hadn’t known all about the plant, if he had been a rich stranger, how smoothly the thing would have been put over. It was an elucidation of items he had read in the newspapers of wire-tappers fleecing usually sane men out of large sums.
As a hors d'ouevre Charter P. wrote out a telegram:
1437 1-2 Broadway
Bet thirty thousand on Yellow Tail fourth race Grapevine Course, Tor-
He signed it with a flourish and pushed it over to Conway for his signature. Then he held the telegram up to Owen, asking, “How’s that?”
Owen grinned—he couldn’t help it, it was so rich.
He pulled a huge roll of bills from his pocket, as he did so covertly watching the gray hawk eyes of Conway. He had anticipated just what he saw there—an evil glitter of cupidity. Stewart Owen, the easy mark, was enjoying himself.
Charter P. bubbled over. “The longgreen talks, Stewart,” he cried; “what part of a million is there?”
“My share of the bet. And, boys, we’re playin’ for table stakes.” Owen put the money on the table, his hand flat on top of it.
"What—what d’you mean, Stewart?” Charter P’s voice was a gulp, a gasp.
“Just the usual, Charter P., no markers. You two gentlemen uncover your ten thousand each and we’ll bet it right here in good old -Toronto. Ab Alden’ll take it an’ lay it off in Buffalo an’ Chicago; he’s as good as the wheat.”
“But my money’s in New York,” Thomas objected.
“Where’s the money. Charter P., for that draft on New York you put through yesterday?”
"It hasn’t come yet, Stewart.”
“Yes— it has; you collected yesterday afternoon, not fifty-one hundred dollars, as you told me, but just one hundred bucks.”
The rosy flush departed from Charter P’s face leaving it a sickly yellow. He sagged back in his chair like an apple dumpling that had collapsed. At a snarling oath from Conway, Owen turned a pair of fierce black eyes on the gambler, and asked, “What’s that?”
“Just this,” sneered Conway, “you’re calling Charter P. as if he were crooking you, and I don’t like it!”
“Well, Mister Three-card-man, you had better let it rest at that,” and Owen shoved the roll of bills back into his hip pocket.
“What d’you mean by that? Con-
way drawled, not a twitch to his cold, merciless face
“I mean,” and Owen leisurely drew himself to his feet, “that if you two are on the level an’ cough up your share of this bet. I’ll play the hand out with you. But if you say one word I don’t like I’ll twist your damn scrawny neck. That’s plain, isn’t it? That's where I stand—I stand
/"’ONWAY was a cold-blooded gambler;
he had nerves of steel; he didn’t know how to be afraid; but he had a keen intellect. He knew that strong sinewy hand of the man who was built like a prize fighter would take him by the throat and shake him like a rat; he knew it. There was a gun slung under his armpit, hut this was no place for gunplav. It wasn’t worth it.
Charter P. broke the tension. “Look here, Stewart,” he expostulated, "don’t let’s get excited about it. We havep’t got the money here, but we’ve got it in New York. This is a sure thing. Chip in. We’ll bet the money there—”
Rut Owen interrupted. “All right, Charter P., you bet your money there, hut I’ll act for myself in this matter;
I can keep my end clean if I’m my own
Owen put on his hat, took a step toward the door, then turned, and his white teeth showing in an amused smile said: "“Charter P.. it’s six years since you knew me, isn’t it7”
“It’s all of that, Stewart.”
“Well, Charter P., I’ve growed up an’ you’ve growed down. I’ve ouit bunkin’ my friends; you take the tip from me an’ do the same.”
Down at the track that afternoon up to the time of the third race Owen had failed to locate the Man from the Desert. Of course Andrews had said that, he would be busy rearranging the involved crisscross of Hank’s entanglement, buf Owen had swallowed this statement with a grrin of salt: it couldn’t possibly take every
minute of the several hours to do the business: it was mystifying. He knew that
Andrews was an eccentric, a misanthropic individual who took streaks of aloofness. At all times he was a man who took little interest in a race he hadn’t a hope in. To him racing was a matter of brick laying, years of it had dimmed the glamour. He loved horses hut he had no time for any eciuine fondling, mental or physical, except for the individuals in his own bam. Of course Andrews would he on hand before the fourth race in which Red Devil and Yellow Tail started, he had said he would.
“I haven’t seen the old cuss,” Stewart confided to Delilah as he came hack to the club lawn from a pilgrimage to the paddock: “if he was a chap that hit the bottle I’d say he’d found a cache of the strong stuff and was in the hay.”
“Don’t worry, Tootie,” Delilah advised. “Andrews is always on the job, he isn’t a fusser, the old gent is wise; he expects you to bet on Red Devil, and he generally wa'ts until he is sure everything is alt right.”
“Sure thing, girl. Old Jack will ^ be there with the advice, and I’m goin’ to level two thousan’ on Red Devil because— well, you know why.”
“That is, if Andrews tells you to—he said not to bet till he told you, didn’t he?” Owen pulled out his watch. “It’s ten minutes to four now,” he explaimed irritably, “and the horses go to the post at four. I think I’ll go out to the paddock an’ see if I can find the old man —I don’t want to miss this bet.”
“I wouldn’t do that, Tootie,” Delilah objected: “you might miss Andrews
in the crowd. He knows we sit here on the lawn, and if everything is all right he’ll come to you and tell you what to bet on.” „
“What to bet on! Owen sneered; “it’s Red Devil an’ nothin’ else now the other horse was night-ridden. _ If I didn’t know the old man so well I’d he suspicious he was givin’ me the wrong stear, keepin’ me off the horse. Or the old cuss may’ve hooked up with some other owner an’.they’re makin’ a boat-race of it with Red Devil jus’ out for an airin’. He borrowed two thousand of me last night what’d he do that for?”
“Tootie, the only time to worry over a man doing wrong is after he’s done it. then you know what you’re talking about. If I was to worry over everything funny mldn’t 1
you do I’d have a sweet life, wouh Besides, if you don’t bet you can’t
LL impatience, agitated by the gambler eagerness, Owen sat with hi eyes glued on the little gate that led from the paddock to the club lawn.
“Ther° goes the bugle!” he cried, as a little man standing at the gate raised a silver cornet to his lips and tooted the order for the jocks to mount their horses.
A steady stream of men poured from the paddock and hurried across the lawn toward the bett ng machines, but among them Owen failed to discern the somber gray-whiskered Man from the Desert. He couldn’t down the feeling of unrest, of suspicion; he was so in the dark, and any minute the iron betting machines might clang their rapacious mouths shut, and he would be closed out. His midnight ride, his struggle at the stables, the unpleasant taste in his mouth that a friend he had benefited had tried to rob him— all these things would be for nothing; and why? Would it be another case of a friend throwing him down? He knew that Andrews had a code of morals written on the reverse side of a silver dollar.
“Hello! there he comes!” Owen cried at last.
Delilah giggled, for the Man from the Desert, always somber and grotesque, was wearing a pair of big yellow goggles, and as he strode solemnly toward them he was like an itinerant gargoyle.
Owen sprang to his feet only to smother the eager query with a gasp of disgust, for the eight horses were slipping through the gate of the paddock to the course; he woo'd probably be shut out with his bet. The leisurely stroll of the patriarch was damnable.
Owen grasped Andrews by the arm when he finally drifted close, asking, “Quick what is it?”
“ ’Tain’t no place for you to bet, son,” the old man drawled. “You’re too late, anyway.”
“I know damn well I am, Uncle—waitin’ for you.”
“That’s right, Mr. Owen; I told you to wait. I had to kinder stick dost to ’em two stalls till the hawses went out. When you’ve got a cuss like Hank doublecrossin’ you you can’t afford to take an eye off what’s doin’.”
“But, hang it, Uncle, I don’t understand; I’m gettin’ the worst of it some way or other.”
“Well, Mr. Owen, we’ll jus’ talk it over after the race, an’ I’ll explain. I want to watch these hawses run. It’s a kind of game to me playin’ my wits agin Hank’s, an’ I want to see how it comes out.” “Yes, Stewart,” Delilah interposed, “we won’t have any heart throbs this time because we haven’t anything on. Let’s just enjoy the race.”
There was the clang of a huge brass gong at the starter’s stand, the thrusting rush of thoroughbreds, an indistinguishable roar from the stand; and now the galloping steeds were pounding the course on their way for the bitter struggle of a mile that tried heart, and courage, and sinew, and wind.
“Red Devil didn’t get none the best of the start,” the patriarch commented, swinging his glasses to cover the thoroughbreds as they swirled round the first turn. “It ain’t too bad—it ain’t too bad, though. An’ Kelly has swung him in against the rail, nice an’ tidy, nice an ’ tidy, boy! Lord Jim’s in front, but that don’t mean nothin’; he can’t stay a mile.”
Owen had swung his glasses up; he lowered them for a second to say: “Holy
Moses! look at that yellow skate go by his horses!”
For across the track on the back stretch a gold-colored horse, his blond tail switching irritably showing that spurs were stinging his flanks, was running by the trailers, and before they had reached the lower turn was lapped on Red Devil who was now third.
There ha^ been so much double-crossing, so much interwoven deviltry, that Owen’s mind was immersed in misgiving. He voiced it: _ “That dang ye'low thing with the peroxided switch’ll win it, Une'e,” he muttm-ed in a subdued voice. “There ain’t neth'n’ the matter with him except speed
“Thp f ni«h of the mile is right hp-e :n front ef us. not over on the hack stretch, sen an’ two boys Kel'y an’ Soren, is nrht v here I like to see ’em— dost together. I kinder whispered both cf ’e to aet li'-e Christians to each ether.” the natçi'arch answered. “An’ Kelly’s ms’ loafin’, he’s jus’ lettin’ Red Devil
keep handy for an openin’ for his run home.”
But even as the patriarch drooled, the blond tail showed closer and closer to the leaders.
“The ol’ man’s just kiddin’ himself,” Owen growled inwardly; aloud he said, “Uncle, I believe Hank has put it over the bunch of us.”
“Hank ain’t put over nothin’,” Andrews snarled; “ ’em two boys knows what they’re doin’, but Hank don’t. ’Em boys is sittin’ their hawses, an’ I bet Kelly’s tellin’ Soren a funny story. ■ Kelly ain’t worryin’ Red Devil none, an’ the hawse knows it.”
In a sudden comprehension, a revelation, Owen grasped Delilah’s arm with a tenseness that hurt; for at the turn into the stretch the brown mare, Miss Swift, showed a length in front of Red Devil, at whose girth nodded the golden head and blond topknot of Yellow Tail—and Yellow Tail was next the rail.
'T'O OWEN it was a shoo-in for Miss Swift. His blood surged hot. Andrews could have put him on to the good thing, but it was probably a case of keeping the odds long; Andrews and the owner of Miss Swift would be on, and nobody else except a few piking bettors.
Suddenly the right arm of Miss Swift’s jockey rose and fell three times. And now the bay and the chestnut were seen to edge in between the brown mare and the rail. They were gaining.
“The boy on Miss Swift has gone to the bat; she’s done for!” Andrews commented drily.
Now the bay, Red Devil, was level with the mare; but still at his girth rose and fell the blond topknot of Yellow Tail.
Owen’s formulated theory shattered, he watched the struggle with a mind that floated. He felt that in the brain that nestled in the gray-thatched skull beside him was the solution of the race—that there it was already won and lost.
And the old man beside him was the most composed individual of all the twenty thousand that watched the steeds, he had ceased to comment; he stood like a grim something that Rodin had' chiselled from marble, his face turned toward that long home stretch that was like a lane of destiny claiming the eyes of all the thousands in the stand.
Half' up the stretch the duel, three cornered, was fought. Then there were but two, the chestnut and the bay. And a hundred yards from the finish, just beyond the betting machines the blond topped head of Yellow Tail nodded in front, and foot by foot he came away to flash past the Judges’ Stand a length in front.
Owen’s mind was a chaos. “What— why—how?” just words, galloped through his half-numbed brain. Had the shoo-in of Miss Swift gone wrong?
He turned to the patriarch, who, lowering his glasses, had dropped the ye low goggles over his eyes, saying; “I guess Hank dished us all, Uncle. He must’ve doped that horse so that he forgot all about his night-ride. All the satisfaction I get out of it is that I handed him a good healthy black eye.”
The patriarch, shoving the goggles up on his forehead turned a pair of eyes full upon Owen, one of them set in a beautiful blueish-black aureola.
“You—you, Uncle?” Owen stammered aghast.
“Yes, son. It was me you handed the black eye to las’ night; it’s me as carries your thumb print.”
“It was you—you—that night-rode— Yellow Tail?”
“Nobody night-rode Yellow Tail, son. Me an’ Kelly jus’ took him out for a leetle walk, an’ left the mud in his hoofs, an’ rubbed a leetle soap into his hair to make him look ’s he’d sweated, so’s to make Hank think he’d been night-rode I knowed Hank could get half-a-dozen fellers in this town to put a thousan’ on the hawse if they knowed he had a good thing. An’ I knowed he’d do it after the way he worked with ’em crooks. You see, son,
I went up to their room las’ night as you lef' word for me to do, an’ heard Hank’s voice through the transom afore I had time to knock; then I guess I listened more’n a feller oughter do, an’ jus’ shot away to stop his 'eetle game. It kinder leaked out there was somethin’ wrong with the hawse to-day, an’ that’s why he started at five to one. I bet the two thousan’ I borrered from you on him, which said winnin’s we’ll split fifty-fifty.”