A PLACE FOR A SHOW
Pokey learns to place a bet at the races and, as usual, with unusual results.
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
"PETER, does every one who goes to the races bet?” I asked, casually.
‘‘What do you want to know for,
Pokey?” he asked.
“Oh, I just wondered!”
“Well, don’t do it,” he snapped. “When you begin to ask careless questions and wonder about things I can scent trouble coming my way.”
“But does everyone bet?” I persisted.
“Not at all! not at all” he said, decisively. “Betting does not necessarily follow one’s appearance at the race track.”
“Well, it seems to me it’d be pretty tame to go and not bet.”
“But you haven’t any idea of going, have you?”
Peter asked worriedly.
“I thought I might drop in some afternoon,” I said. “I really hadn’t any definite plans.”
“That’s just as well,” replied my husband,
“then you won’t be doomed to disappointment.”
“I fail to understand.”
“Then you’re dumber than I thought you were,” he retorted. “You’d be as safe at the races without me as Joan’d be at the Grand Canyon playing tag. Just put that in your pipe and draw on it.”
“There isn’t any need for you to display your vulgarity,” I reminded him, “and as far as going without you is concerned, you might as well know now that I’m going with Marion on opening day.”
“I forbid it.”
I jeered. “Do you think you can treat me, the mother of two, perfect twins, as though I were mentally deficient? How’ll you keep me from going?”
After that conversation between the two heads of the Ronald family languished.
Peter didn’t mention the subject again that night. Next morning he informed me that since I was so determined to go he’d get the afternoon off and take me.
“Peter, you’re a cherub,” I cried, throwing my arms about his neck.
“I’ll be a strangled one, if you don’t keep your feet on the floor,” he gurgled, getting red in the face. “You go ahead; fix things up with Marion, and we’ll have a spree —but—there’s not to be any betting, remember!”
“Whatever you say, darling,” I agreed, meekly, “What’ll you wear?”
“I’d thought of vest and trousers—maybe a coat if it’s cool, How about you?”
“Count mé out On the coat,” I said. “Say, Peter, I’d certainly love to have a platinum fox.”
“Go ahead, dear, a heartful of love never hurt anybody, but don’t drag hope in and count on me for the charity end of it. I’m only two jumps ahead of the bailiff now.” “But, Peter,” I argued, “if I had a fur I wouldn’t need a fur-collared coat—and my throat really is tender.”
“It’s fur tender and wool tough or you’d have pinched one of my army mufflers,” he observed, grinning. “Anyway, there’s no part of your anatomy in such a precarious state of health as my bank account. So if you want to get back to nature, go to the zoo, that’s as near as you’ll get to a fox this season.”
“All right, dear,” I murmured, resignedly. “Nobody asked you to give an address on the subject. You’ll wear your morning coat and silk hat won’t you?”
“I would,” he stated, regretfully, “but I haven’t a shirt I can wear with it, and—”
“If you wore one of your army mufflers, your shirt wouldn’t show,” I reminded. “Why not wear your striped pyjama coat and compete for the funny man’s prize?”
“I’ll just wear my business suit and be inconspicuous.” “Well, you won’t, not with me,” I assured him. “If you won’t dress I’ll go with Marion.”
“Have a heart,” he said, “I’d feel like a fool wandering around in my religious regalia. Let me go as is.”
“You heard me,” I said. “Take your choice.”
“But if I wear my silk hat I can’t drive Dear Brutus,” he said. “Fords weren’t made for fourflushing. Take your choice.”
“I have taken it,” I said. “More people can see my new black suit on the street cars anyway. If you win enough we’ll take a taxi home.”
“No betting,” he repeated, virtuously. “It’s against my principles.”
“Your principles shall be my principles and your interest my interest,” I giggled. “Of course, Peter, if you’d feel any better we could take a taxi both ways. Far be it from me to interfere—only, you’ve gotta dress up.”
Peter looked like an intelligent tailor’s dummy when he was ready. I knew that I’d have married him for his profile even if his hair hadn’t waved.
“Distinguished is the only word, m’love,” I enthused. “If your hair was silvered at the temples you’d leave Beau Brummell at the middle of the course when you passed the winning post. Let me fix up your temples, Peter.”
“Hurry and get your clothes on,” said Peter parading before the mirror. “The first race starts at three o’clock and it’s nearly two now.”
“Me? I’m all dressed but my skirt and coat,” I said. “Shod, manicured and marcelled.”
“What do you mean—all dressed but your skirt and coat?” echoed Peter. “This isn’t a lingerie contest, you know; it’s a horse race. Where’s your petticoat?”
“Don’t wear one with this,” I said scornfully. “Don’t need it; my skirt’s a wrap around and meets itself coming back.”
“I want you to wear a petticoat,” he said frowning. “I may be a bit old-fashioned but I cling to the petticoat.”
“Well, you won’t cling to mine to-day,” I assured him. “What’s superfluous is unbeautiful—and my skirt demands to fit beautifully, which it does over silk knickers.”
“I don’t like it,” said Peter.
“Then don’t look at it,” I suggested, “and if I might have a half a look in that mirror we’d have a better chance of getting to the races to-day.”
FOR the next five minutes he walked from room to room restlessly; hummed, whistled, and then I heard him moving the bric-a-brac.
“Sit down and keep quiet,” I called. “You make me nervous.”
“Well, you make me sick,” he yelled. “Are we going to the fall meet or the spring one?”
“Well, if I spring you’ll fall alJ right,” I called out. “Have you got your field glasses?”
“Great snakes, no,” he roared^ and I heard him rushing cellar-ward.
“That’s good for at least ten minutes,” I calculated, consulting my watch. But in five minutes Peter jubilantly joined me; his glasses waved triumphantly aloft, his hands and knees were covered with dust and his face was smudged.
“Got ’em honey,” he exulted. “Are you ready now?”' “Yes, but you’re not,” I stated coldly, swinging him mirrorward. “Look at that vision!”
“What the—why the—wh-h-y don’t you keep the cellar clean?” he shouted, mopping his face with his grey silk handkerchief.
“Stop that!” I cried. “Hold still and keep still.” 1 attacked him with the stiff brush and managed to get the dust off his clothes.
“Now, interview the soap suds and the towel in the order named,” I commanded, “and then come back to mama. Remember, no wetting your face and washing it on the towel. Hadn’t I better go and order a taxi?’' “All right,” he growled, and with the smile of victory upon my face I obeyed my husband’s behest.
By the time the taxi arrived we had become reconciled. We sallied forth in glory. We drove directly to the general entrance and there Peter paid the taxi man and we bought our little tag tickets and went in. Peter met some of his friends almost at once, and the way he beamed when he introduced me did much to quicken the glow of sweetheart days in my hardened heart.
“I want a programme, dear,” I intimated, and before Peter could move to get one Major Grantham, whom I had just met, gave me his, with funny little marks and notations opposite each race.
“Is there an appendage to the programme explaining all these hylogierics?” I asked archly.
“Heiroglyphics, Ruth,” corrected Peter.
“Those are the horses I am playing, Mrs. Ronald,” said the Major, affecting not to have heard Peter’s amendment, and ignoring my stammered apology. “I only play one horse in each race. I may play him three times, straight, place and show, and then, unless I’m ’way out, he’ll bring home some of the smoke-cured cutlets —but I never play two horses in the same race.”
“Fancy!” I exclaimed. “Don’t you ever bet on a horse just because you like its name or its master or the colors the jockey wears?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” he laughed. “I generally like to know something about the horse I put my money on. It’s the Scotch in me I guess.”
“It doesn’t affect Peter that way,” I said. “It generally makes him careless and free-handed, it—” and then I stopped.
“Haw, haw!” he laughed and right away I knew that he’d be perfectly at home in a paddock.
“How does one go about it if one wishes to place a bet?” I asked with an elaborately impersonal air.
“Why, it’s simple,” he said. “Very simple. That section over to the right there is marked Women’s Pari-Mutuel and is reserved entirely for ladies. You go in there, to a two or five dollar wicket, give the man your money and tell him what horse you want to play and what for. Then he gives you a little ticket telling you what you’ve told him and that’s all. If you win you take the ticket back and cash it.”
“Sounds easy,” I remarked, brightly, “but I’ll bet it’s like lots of card tricks; easy to watch but the devil to do.”
ONE of the Major’s eyebrows shot up quizzically and then he turned to Peter.
“I say, Ronald, you’ve a shocking ignorant wife,” he grinned. “She doesn’t even know how to bet.”
“Don’t tell her,” begged Peter. “The guy who. said that ignorance was bliss knew his lesson—my wife’s ignorance is my bliss—if you get me.”
Major Grantham laughed, and with a bow for me and a jovial “See you later,” he passed on.
“Don’t you start anything to-day, Ruth, or I won’t take you anywhere again,” said Peter warningly. “What’ve I done now?”
“Nothing. I’m just telling you,” he said. “Let me see your programme.”
“Buy one of your own,” I said, for I didn’t want him to see what Major Grantham had marked on it.
Peter turned away from me so quickly that he tripped over his cane and almost made a French knot out of himself to keep from falling.
“Wait until later, dear,” I said, as I steadied him.
‘‘Wait Until after the races and if you fall then, and fall in the right direction, you’ll be half-way home.” “Haw! haw!” bawled Peter, to cover his embarrassment.
“Don’t do that or they’ll put a yellow blanket on you and offer you oats,” I remonstrated. “With your leg action and weight you’d be an odds on favorite.”
“If you’re going to wax punny I’m going home,” stated Peter. “When I want a witty monologue I’ll go to a vaudeville house and pay for my laughs.”
“But why not patronize home industry, dear?” I queried.
“I give in, you win! Take your laurel wreath and choke on the leaves; anything for peace!”
“Here comes Major Grantham back again. You talk to him,” I said. As Peter reached for me I fled toward the Women’s Pari-Mutuel room.
AS SOON as I was safely inside, I looked at the • programme again and assured myself that it was Bonnie Dundee that Major Grantham had marked.
“Maybe that’s just some of the Scotch in him, and maybe he knows the horse,” I soliloquized. Taking two dollars from my purse I approached the wicket. “Two dollars on Bonnie Dundee,” I said, briskly. “Straight, place or show?” asked the man.
“I don’t care as long as she comes in first,” I said. “She can wobble all over the track if she wants to.” “What I mean is, do you want her to win, second or third?” he asked.
“Of course I want her to win,” I said.
“You want a straight then,” he asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said agreeably.
“But I’ve got three kinds here,” he began patiently.
“There are five on my programme,” I corrected. “Lady,” he interrupted me, “you can bet three ways. You--”
“For two dollars?” I cried brightening.
“No—two dollars each. A straight ticket means you are betting on the horse to win; place or second means that you are betting it will come first or second, and in that case you get second money; show means that if the horse you bet on comes in first, second or third you’ll be in on third money—that is, you have three chances to win. Now—which do you want?”
“Bonnie Dundee,” I said firmly.
The lady behind gave me a bit of a push but I quieted her with a look and turned my attention back to the man.
“All clear now?” I asked brightly.
“You want Bonnie Dundee,” he said, putting a hand to his head, “but I’ll sell my shirt for a plugged nickel if I know whether you want a straight, second or third.”
“Would you mind telling me about the three chances again?” I asked.
HE TOLD me, but he spoke as though he had difficulty keeping his teeth from showing.
“I see now,” I said. “If I buy a straight and Bonnie Dundee comes first I win twice as much as I would if she came second, and three times as much as if she came third, but I have only one chance to win, whereas with place I have two chances and show three. Is that it?”
He nodded and wiped his brow. I hadn’t noticed the heat myself, but then he was a big man in a little cage, and with a line-up of women behind me I knew he was busy.
“That’s the idea, lady.”
I leaned close to the wicket and dropped my voice: “I’ll leave it to you,”
I whispered. “What would you do?”
He murmured something about murder but the woman behind gave me another shove which sent me past the wicket.
“Give it to me straight,”
I yelled, meaning the information. His brow cleared and he shoved a little bit of ■pasteboard at me. Then I
put my ticket out of sight in my skirt pocket and rejoined Peter.
“All hitched up now?” he whispered and squeezed my arm, which, when we are in public and have been quarreling means “all is forgiven.”
“You’ve said it, brother,” I said, squeezing his arm in return. “Now where’ll we go to see the funny fillys?” “Pokey, I don’t want you to be picking up track jargon,” said Peter with decision. “You’re so sweet and untouched, dear—don’t try to ape sophistication. Your innocence is your chief est charm.”
“Not my face nor my boyish form?” I giggled. Peter frowned and steered me into a box—one of the front boxes, occupied by the fair and haughty of the smartest set. They were all conscious that they were exponents of the latest vogue.
“Get out your spy glass, poppa,” I said, and Peter glared at me as he focused them importantly.
“There’s the post,” he cried suddenly.
“Which one do you refer to?” I inquired. “I see them at regular intervals supporting the fence.”
“Don’t try to be funny,” he growled. “I referred to the sound of the bugle.”
“Then why veil it in mystery?” I asked.
DETER started to say something but changed his mind. “That’s right, dear, count ten before you speak,” I approved. “The spoken word can never be recalled.”
He glared and turned from me to the horses. “Bonnie Dundee is number one, the favorite, and the safest bet—”
“You’re just as good as a synonym dictionary, dear,” I interrupted.
“And,” continued Peter with dangerous calm, “she won’t pay awfully well, for the odds are not great. It’s the long shot horse that pays best—if it pays at all.” “What do you mean by ‘long shot’?”
“The one that pays the longest odds; the one that folks don’t think will win—and does.” he explained.
“That’s interesting,” I said. “Oh, Peter, are they going to start them now?”
“Yes, watch the string; when it drops they’re off,” he said.
There was a moment’s tense silence over the great gathering, and then, as the string dropped, like a great wave breaking, came the cry, springing simultaneously from twenty-five thousand throats: “They’re off!”
“Oh, Peter,” I yelled above the din. “Peter, aren’t they wonderful—which one’s ahead, Peter? Where is Bonnie Dundee?”
“She’s second—no, third; she’s coming—she’s got the rail—watch her go—on! on! faster—on Bonnie
Dundee—go It, girl, you're doing it—keep it up, Dundeel Dundee! you’re ahead—you’ve got a nose; keep it girl, just keep it, don’t let ’em edge you! Keep the rail! Atta girl, Dundee! Dundee—come on, hold it, hold it —she’s gaining again—she’s got a quarter length, a half —Dundee wins!” hollered Peter, and it was only because I was so close to him that I could hear what he was saying, for everybody was yelling.
“She won, Peter, she won, she won,” I cried hysterically.
“She did that,” he chuckled. “Isn’t it the sport of kings, Ruth?”
“You’ve said it,” I agreed, “but it’s likely to be a costly sport for me.”
“Whatja mean?” cried Peter, looking worried.
“I’m glad you don’t use an amplifier,” I stated. “If you did they’d hear you in Jerusalem. If I stay near you it’s likely to cost me my hearing.”
“ ’Satall?” grinned Peter. “Say kid, Bonnie Dundee pays eight dollars straight.”
“Not really, Peter?” I gasped.
“Absotive!” he said. “Excuse me a few minutes, dear, there’s a chap down there I want to catch—” and before I could say anything Peter was on his way.
“I’ll bet a broken cookie to a cocked hat you’ve gone to see the same sort of chappie I’m going to see,” I giggled as I started for the pari-mutuel room to collect my money.
HpALK about crushes! “Form in straight lines before *the wicket,” ordered a burly policeman.
“How can a curved object form a straight line?” I muttered as he passed by with his exhortation. “From the way this line is moving everybody won a million and it’s being paid in pennies. I’m sorry, lady, I’d rather hold you on my lap than on my shoulder,” I intimated to the fat dame in the rear who was gracefully resting upon me.
“What do you mean?” she asked icily.
“Nothing more than I said,” I assured her, but just at that moment the line began to move forward, and I and my burden went with it.
“Eight dollars, please,” I said to the man in the cage when I got there, and with a grin he paid it and I started to go out.
“Might’s well take a little flyer on the next,” 1 soliloquized and consulted my programme. There were four entries for the race—Record Maker, Gold Prince, Lightning and Atta Boy. I didn’t know what the other names and the figures and stars and asterisks meant, but Atta Boy got a chuckle out of me, so I decided to put my money on him.
The man had been so patient with me before that I decided I’d patronize him again to show I appreciated what he’d done, but he didn’t even act as though he knew me.
“Lightning, straight,” said the woman in front of me.
Then I stepped up and smiled brightly at him, but he just looked an interrogation, so I said, “Atta Boy, straight.”
When I got back to our seats, Peter was there and looking rather worried.
“Where’d you go?” he asked. “You gave me a scare when I came back and you were gone. Where’d you go?”
“Don’t raise your voice, Peter. I’m not a horse you’re cheering on to victory,” I said. “I went to speak to a man I thought I knew, but when I got up close I saw he’d forgotten me so I just let it go.” “Well, you be sure you know the guy you speak to here,” said Peter. “This is no primary class of a Sunday School. You’ve never seen a steeplechase, have you?” “In Sunday School?” I asked.
“Anywhere,” he said, without smiling. “The horses run in the field for this, and they have to jump those hedges. It’s never wise to bet on a steeple chase—it's anybody’s race. The best horse may fall at the first jump.” Continued on page 72
A Place for a Show
Continued from page 23
“Oh,” I said flatly, “and which is the favorite?”
“Record Maker,” he told me. “There’s the post, now watch them.”
“That’s what I came for,” I assured him. “Which is Atta Boy?”
“The last,” he said. “Whata you want to know for?”
“I like the name,” I giggled. “Say— don’t act as though you suspected me of murder or something. Can’t I ask a civil question without being put through the third degree?”
“Now don’t get feverish,” he urged. “There, they’re off again.”
THE woman beside me rather spoiled the steeplechase forme. Evidently she had put her entire dower on Record Maker and she wasn’t losing any opportunity of encouraging him or of reminding him of his duty to his supporters.
“Record Maker,” she yelled—then took two breaths. “Record Maker!” and two breaths, and so on, ad lib, ad infinitum, B.C., A.D., and et cetera.
“I know she’s got a metronome in her pocket,” I said to Peter as I watched her regular convulsions with admiration. “Just watch and keep time.”
“I came to watch the race,” stated Peter, giving the woman a glassy eye. “Ahhhhhh—Record Maker’s down!”
“Is he killed, Peter?” I wailed. “Oh. Peter, where’s the little boy who was riding him? Is he killed too?”
“Say, are you working on commission for an undertaker’s firm?” asked Peter. “Nobody’s killed; see, they’re up again
and off. Record Maker’s lame though— he’s out.”
But still the human stop-watch beside me kept up her vocal practice.
“I wonder whether they pay her on time or by the yell,” I asked Peter audibly, but he merely gave me a dig in the ribs to keep quiet.
“Atta Boy’s leading now,” he remarked. “Didn’t he take that hedge prettily. Lightning’s gaining on him now. Catch him, Lightning!”
“Atta Boy! Atta Boy! Atta Boy!’’ I yelled, entering into brief competition with my record making neighbor.
“Yell for Lightning,” cried Peter. “Come on. Lightning!”
“Atta Boy’s mine,” I shouted back. “Show ’em speed, Boy—you’re the stuff!”
“Atta Boy wins,” said Peter, dejectedly, as the boy took the last jump a full length ahead of Lightning and passed the winning stand with his tail tickling Lightning’s nose. “I told you it was anybody’s race.”
“How much will Atta Boy pay, Peter, dear?” I asked, tremulously.
“It isn’t up yet. What’s your voice all trembly for?” he asked.
“I got so excited when Record Maker fell,” I replied. “Peter, I’m so hoarse from yelling my throat’s ready to crack. I've gotta get a drink.”
“My sad aunt, what's the use of paying for seats in a box for you?” he hissed. “Go on and get one. Do you know where there’s a fountain?”
“Right by the entrance I saw one,” I Continued on page 74
Continued from page 72 recollected. “Peter, you stay here and if the folks in front get up, pinch their seats.”
“Ruth!” he said, in a horrified tone. “Well, you know what I mean,” I said. “Occupy their chairs if that suits you any better. I’ll be back as soon as I can get here.”
“Make it snappy,” he said. “Good gosh! Atta Boy pays thirteen.”
T ALMOST yelled for joy. That meant Jthat I’d already made seventeen dollars and got my stakes back.
“Could I buy a ticket now for the fourth race?” I asked the man in the wicket.
“No, ma’am, not until after we close for this one,” he said. “It’ll be fifteen or twenty minutes yet.”
I decided to wait, and it also seemed to be the better part of valor not to bet on the next race. I knew that if I kept on making excuses to leave the box, Peter’d get wise. So I studied my programme and made marks on it like I saw the others doing. There were eight horses running in the fourth race, which was the biggest of the meet, and was to be run for the president’s plate. The favorite seemed to be Mercury. Pegasus was the second one mentioned, and third and fourth places were given to Star Dust and Speedy Prince.
I ran down the list and at the very bottom was a name which made me think of home and children. It was Joan of Arc. Right away I knew that was my horse.
“I’ll play Joan of Arc for my little Joan,” I thought.
When the wickets opened I was_ right there. I’d done a bit of thinking in the interim, and the conclusion arrived at was that I’d better place bigger bets and fewer, and not arouse the ready suspicion of my lord and master.
“If I bet ten dollars and lose it I’ll still be seven ahead of the game,” I thought, so I walked boldly up to my gentleman friend and said: “Gimme five straight
on Joan of Arc.”
He looked up quickly and winked at
“It’s out, is it?” he asked.
“I hope not. I’m betting on it because my little daughter’s name is Joan,” I said. “They couldn’t keep my money if it was out, could they?”
“No, of course not,” he said, looking relieved. “Five straight?” and he handed me the little cardboard slips. ■
Peter was raging.
“Did you rent the fountain for the afternoon or have you leased it for the
“You’re as touchy as a centipede with corns,” I cried. “I had to stand in line for
ages and ages.”
“To get a drink?” marvelled Peter. ^ “No, to buy a hot ice cream sandwich,” I said, coldly. “What race is this?”
“This is the biggest race of the whole meet,” he said condescendingly. Pit’s being run for the president’s plate and Mercury is the favorite with Pegasus a close second. If I was betting I’d put my money on Mercury for place, but it won’t pay much at that.”
“Oh, Peter, why?” I wailed, my heart
“Just because it’s a close race between the two and they’re both good—the odds aren’t up on them,” he said.
“I never studied any of the foreign languages but French and German,” I intimated, and just then the post sounded and the eight horses came out.
“Isn’t Mercury a peachissimus,” I cried. “Oh, Peter—isn’t Pegasus a lallipalooza?” “Can it!” hissed Peter. “The crowd in this box’ll think I’ve brought a wop with me. Talk English.”
“But, Peter, I don’t know stable idioms,” I objected, and the man next to Peter haw-hawed most objectionably while Peter turned brick red and pinched me.
“One pinch more and you’ll be fitted for a wooden kimona,” I threatened him. “I’m only having a good time.”
“Well—we aren’t a duet,” said Peter. “Whew! some of the also rans aren’t so bad to look at. I like the looks of Star Dust.”
“Is the number on the horse the same as the number on the programme? I mean do they denote that the horse is one and the same—if you understand me?” I asked.
“I don’t, but I think you’re right,” he said. “Number one on your programme is
Mercury, and Mercury is wearing the number one. See?”
“Then number eight would be Joan of Arc, wouldn’t it?” I asked.
“Unless someone’s mixed the horses or the numbers,” admitted Peter. “What’s your interest in number eight?”
“Only the name, darling,” I whispered, cuddling up to him—“Joan—don’t you see?”
“Bless your maternal heart,” said Peter, patting my hand warmly. “Always thinking of your babies, aren’t you?” “Nearly always,” I amended truthfully. “How far do they run, Peter?”
“A mile and a furlong,” he said, consulting his programme. “Don’t try to watch the numbers, dear. Watch the jockey’s colors. Mercury’s purple and white. See?”
“And Joan of Arc is paddy green and gold,” I thought, but I didn’t say anything.
THEY had an awful time lining the horses up. Some of them were so full of pep that the jockeys couldn’t keep them still for a second. Finally the hush of the thousands was broken by the ■deafening roar of “They’re off.”
Again came the rhythmic waves of sound as the huge throng threw dignity to the winds and screamed, and surged, and shouted at the straining horses and their crouching riders.
“Pegasus has the rail,” yelled Peter. “Up and at ’im, Mercury—nose ’im out, boy!”
At first they seemed to be running in two parallel lines—almost like a double •drawing team. As they took the first •curve they strung out into a longer line, with Pegasus still at the rail, but Mercury ■crowding him for the lead. At the first third of the course, Mercury had obtained the lead, with Pegasus apparently tiring a bit, and the others so close that there was no chance of seeing what order they were keeping. After the halfway part was passed, with the others keeping their position? pretty well, I saw that the green and gold was creeping up slowly, but surely.
“On, Joan of Arc! Atta girl! Make ’em step!” I yelled, dancing up and down. “A Joan, a Joan, a Joan!”
“You’re crazy,” yelled Peter. “Mercury’s leading. Come home, Mercury!” “Joan’s coming up,” I hollered. “Look •at ’er come! Oh, Peter! Oh, Joan! Come •on, Joan—come home to mama!”
A sudden silence fell on the great crowd. Mercury had a lead of only a ■nose, with the winning post just a hundred yards away; hi? jockey had given him his headland was urging him on for all there was in him. The whip hand flailed his gleaming flanks unmercifully. The arm ■of the jockey in green and gold rose and 'fell with the same ruthless rhythm. Joan of Arc had to gain a nose and an inch to win, but held in the first half of the race, she had a reserve to call up, while Mercury Lad put forth all there was in her from the drop of the rope, and once in the lead had raced to hold it.
“Mercury! Joan of Arc! Mercury! Joan of Arc!” thundered the crowd.
Inch by inch Joan of Arc gained.
“Nose and nose—” roared the man ■beside Peter. “A last spurt, Mercury—a last spurt if it’s to be even a draw!”
ID UT it wasn’t. With one last significant -bJ response Joan of Arc lunged forward and a blur of green and gold and purple and white shot past the judges’ stand. Joan of Arc had won by a nose!
For a single breath there was absolute silence over the mass—and then groans and cheers leaped through the silence as a ■circus dog leaps through the papered 'hoop.
At the judges’ stand the numbers were •run up: First, number eight; Second, ■number one; Third, number two.
“Ww-w-w-hat w-w-w-ill J-j-joan of Arc pay, Peter?” I stuttered.
“It won’t pay Peter anything,” he mourned. “The odds aren’t up yet—but 'they’ll be good, I’ll tell the cross-eyed world. My hat. If I’d only had the nerve 'to take a chance on a long shot.”
“Might as well tear this up,” said the man beside Peter, ruefully, displaying a 'ticket marked “straight,” which he had on Mercury.
“Just a minute,” said Peter, stretching ■out a hand for it. “Look, dear, this is what they give you for your money when you 'place a bet, and then you hand it in at the ■wicket afterward, if your horse wins, and get your money.”
“Isn’t it cute and interesting?” I giggled and for a moment I was tempted to show Peter the five I had in my purse.
I had turned my back to the field and was surveying the crowd in the grandstand.
“Oh, Peter, I think Bob and Betty are up there?” I cried, and I raised myself up to see better. It wasn’t Betty. But I had a good chance to see the crowd, so I sat down on the top rail and watched. I knew that Peter’d tell me what the odds were when they were posted and anyway I’d won both the other times, and wasn’t very much excited, now that I knew I wouldn’t lose my tenner. I had just spied Marion and was trying to catch her eye when a groan from the crowd interrupted the train of thought. There were a couple of cheers too, and I twisted about to see, but Peter forestalled me.
“Joan of Arc pays a hundred and eighty-seven dollars and a half for straight!” he said, in hushed tones.
“No, Peter! . No!” I hollered. “It i can’t ....”.
“It does,” he said, in a hollow voice. “A hundred and eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents for a two dollar flyer!”
“P-p-p-p-p-p-eter,” I stuttered, “P-p-p-eter, don’t be mad. I b-b-b-et. I b-b-b-b-et ten dollars.”
“On what?” yelled Peter.
“On J-j-j-j-oan of Arc,” I assured him, “I—”
PETER forgot where I was and made a lunge for me. Unconsciously I dodged. Have you ever dreamed you were falling through space? Then you know the sensation I had, only it wasn’t a dream! I felt myself go backwards, turn over twice, and I know I screamed. The next moment I sensed a moving mass beneath me and the title of a movie, “Shifting Sands,” passed through my mind, only in this case it was shifting hands and heads and arms and humans. I was only in suspense a few seconds and then I hit bottom hard. When I looked up it was into a sea of seething faces. A few feet above all the rest loomed Peter’s face, white, and mostly eyes.
Two gentlemen helped me to my feet and I stood there gazing stupidly about me, and on each wrist, bracelet-wise, I wore the rim of a man’s straw hat.
“She’s my wife; let me through!” I heard Peter calling. As he appeared I suddenly pulled myself together mentally and turned to greet him.
“Ruth,” he began.
“What’d you shove me over for?” I shouted. “I didn’t fall; you deliberately pushed me.”
The crowd began to laugh and I thought it might be better to tell Peter off when we got home. So I stopped frowning and grinned. I wish now I’d freed my mind, for in the light of later events I didn’t dare.
“What have you there?” he asked, pointing to my wrists.
“They say that a drowning man will clutch at a straw,” I giggled, “but it isn’t everyone who rings two. Will the applicants for new katy’s please step forward?” Just at that moment, though, I remembered what we had been talking about when I tried to fly, and I turned to Peter quickly.
“Honestly, Peter, does Joan of Arc pay all that money?” I cried.
“She does, ma’am,” stated some man. “Did you have anything on her?”
“Only ten dollars,” I said modestly. “Ten dollars!” yelled the man. “Where’d you have her?”
“In my pocket,” I said, fishing out my tickets.
“Pokey, did you play her straight, place or show?” trembled Peter.
“Straight,” I answered in the same way.
“Five golden straights—lucky lady. Do you know what a fortune you’ve made?” asked the man.
“No,” I said, “but if some of you could break away from the rhetoric long enough to tell me I’d be glad.”
“Five times a hundred and eightyseven dollars and fifty cents,” he said.
“If it was addition I could do it on my fingers,” I stated, “but since it’s multiplication I’m outta luck. Peter, you do it and then let me go and collect.”
“Nine hundred and thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents,” he said, in his most religious voice.
“Amen,” I giggled. “And Peter, while we’re in a crowd I may as well confess that I bet on the first and second races too. I
j made six dollars on the first and eleven , on the second.”
He had nothing to say except what was laudatory and could be whispered in my ear as he escorted me to the pari-mutuel place.
“I’ll wait for you right here, Pokey,” he said. “Hang on tight to your money and to your tickets, and don’t let the man fool you. He’s gotta pay you nine hundred and thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents. See?”
“I do,” I said solemnly. “Don’t go ’way Peter. I feel sorta weak.”
“Don’t faint until you’re back with the money,” he said, sternly.
THERE wasn’t such a big line-up this time. From the conversation around me I gathered that a big majority had played Mercury for straight and Pegasus 1 place, and so they weren’t cashing in. It i was only the canny ones who had played their favorites for place and show who were lined up, and even they weren’t j making much out of it.
When I put down my five tickets and said, “Joan of Arc, five straight,” the man behind the wicket nearly dropped, but he ponyed up all right.
“Who tipped you off?” he murmured, enviously.
“No one,” I replied. “I bet on it because my daughter’s named Joan.”
“Sentimental spondulicks!” he gasped.
I “Does your husband know?” i “He didn’t until five minutes ago,” I ; said, and then I counted out my money j and rejoined Peter.
“I’ll take it,” he said, putting out a hand for it.
“Not without a receipt,” I said, trying to get it into my skirt pocket, but it wouldn’t go in, and I had to choose between the risk of carrying my wad in my hand or entrusting it to Peter. So I handed it over respectfully.
“If you start anything I’ll call a cop,” I hissed as I saw the satisfied grin on his face.
“Let’s go home, papa,” I said, a moment later. “Nearly everybody’s going now, and I’m sort of worn out with the excitement. I don’t feel equal to any more betting to-day.”
“That’s just as well,” grinned Peter. “Honestly kid, you’re a fool for luck.”
“It wasn’t luck, it was maternal love and brains,” I said, indignantly. “Peter, I wanta go home.”
“So you shall,” he said, and we joined the crowd. “Want to take a taxi home?” “Oh no, let us mingle with the bourgoise just once more,” I said, languidly.
“That’s right, kid, sling a snippy lariat,” grinned Peter.
“Oh, stop grinning,” I said wearily. “Remember, it’s my money; not yours.”
WE HAD reached the curb by this time and stood there, undecided whether or not to take a taxi. As we discussed the relative merits of the motor and street car, the limousine beside us filled up, the chauffeur stepped on the gas and snapped the door shut. At the same moment a gust of wind swung my skirt outward and the catch of the car door caught it and snaffled onto it as the door : slammed shut.
“P-Peter,” I gasped. But that was all ' I had time for. The car jumped forward, there was a sound of ripping patent fasteners, and the car sped off with my treasured wrap-around skirt flying like an indecorous grey crepe, from the side of the car.
“Stop thief,” I yelled, and started after it.
“Ruth, Ruth—my gosh! wait!’ came Peter’s voice behind me, but I wasn’t going to let the inmates of that limousine ride coolly off with my skirt. As I tore down the street in wake of the speeding car, I realized, at the moment my brain registered the word coolly, that I wasn’t any too warm, and at that moment I stopped dead in my tracks. The short coat of my black suit stopped at the hips, and ! from there down I was gayly clad in orange ! silk knickers, nude hose and black suede ! pumps. For just a second I remembered that my hat was black and I knew that I harmonized even if I was in a predicament.
“Peter,” I wailed. “Oh, Peter, I want some clothes.”
By the crowd which surrounded me you’d have thought that I’d won the President’s Plate, instead of having lost a skirt and in all probability a husband. “Go ’way,” I cried at the crowd. “Go I ’way, so my husband can see me?”
“ ’Sno treat for him,”gibed a roughlooking man. “Can’t somebody lend her something?”
I’d begun to take off my coat when I realized that I had put on a false front of real lace, and didn’t have a blouse on, so I just stood pat and wished more than anything else that I was wearing a veil.
“Say, sister, loan me your coat,” I begged a woman who had forced her way through, and just as she was goodnaturedly divesting herself of it Peter pushed his way into my line of vision.
“H-h-hello, dearie,” I hiccoughed. “Loan me your coat.”
Peter didn’t say a word. He stripped his morning coat off and held it out to me.
“I’m afraid it won’t go around,” I said nervously. “You’re so thin.”
“Could you step in it—in the armholes I mean?” he hissed.
“What good’d that do me,” I argued, “I’ve got a pair of—•”
“Shush!” he yelled, and dropping his cane he grabbed the coat from me and then picked me up bodily in his arms.
“Let me out,” he snarled, at the nearest man, “I’ve gotta taxi waiting somewhere on the fringe of the crowd.”
“Here’s your cane, Mister,” called a youth, hooking it in Peter’s arm. “Maybe you’ll want it when you get home.”
Peter ignored him, but I gave him a dirty look, and then to the cheering of the crowd, Peter in his shirt sleeves, with me on his shoulder, strode to the car that was waiting for us, the chauffeur nearly apoplectic with suppressed mirth.
“Open the door,” snapped Peter, and then he tried to get in without reconnoitering. The result was that my head hit the top a thundering wallop and I saw Mercury and Mars and the rest of the heavenly constellations.
PETER ripped out a cuss and then, still being cross-eyed, I saw that the youth who had given him his cane was tendering my hat which the jar had knocked off.
“Is there anything else that isn’t properly hitched on?” he inquired icily, as we drove off.
“Not that I know of,” I retorted weakly. “Bow, Peter! Bow to the crowd. Royalty seldom gets an ovation like this.” “You’d better not anger me, further,” he warned me.
“Oh, Peter, if you only had a sense of humor,” I giggled. “Us riding home after winning a thousand dollars and you in your shirt sleeves and me in—in—”
“In sane,” he supplied. “What ever possessed you to rush after that car?” “The human desire to keep what is my own,” I retorted. “Peter, when we reach home will you go in and bring me out a skirt or something?”
“I will not,” he stated. “I’m going to wrap you up in the rug and carry you in. Think I’m going to have the neighbors wondering whether we’ve taken up a caravan existence? Stand up in those orange atrocities and dress yourself in a limousine? Not if I know myself.”
“Now don’t get all wrought up over it,” I said. “You’re here and I’m here and we’re both minus an article of wearing apparel, but we’ve made—I’ve made—a thousand dollars almost and I refuse to be despondent. I’ve more on than if I were at a dance—only it’s located differently.”
“Why didn’t you take your own coat off?” he said, surveying his shirt sleeves with disdain.
“Because I haven’t a blouse on,” I retorted.
“Sufferin’ saints!” bellowed Peter. “Next time I take you out I’m going to hold inspection parade first.”
“Gimme, gimme, gimmee!” I interrupted him.
“What’n heck d’yuh want now?” he roared.
“A little silence and my money to count,” I stated, and Peter handed over my roll which would have choked an ox.
He regained his equanimity while we counted it, and by the time we reached the house he was almost normal.
“Lemme cover your head too and then they’ll think I’ve bought a rug or something at an auction,” he pleaded, so I consented and was almost smothered with dust and swallowed giggles. Peter didn’t even wait to unroll me when he got me in the house, but put me down on the rug and paid off the man.
IN A vain effort to untangle myself I guess I rolled over a couple of times. Anyway just after the front door closed I received an avful kick in the ribs and then I heard Peter stumble and fall.
“Lemme out,” I said, in a smothered voice, and Peter jerked me out of the rug.
“Now what’s wrong?” I inquired, nursing my ribs. “What’d ja kick me for?” “Didn’t,” said Peter. “You moved and I tripped over you and darn near broke my neck.”
“Well, you’ve enough that you could spare a bit,” I said, tartly, as I struggled out of the folds of the rug. “So far as I can see the day has been just about evenly divided between love and hate—success and failure—fortune and disaster.”
“If you’re going to make a speech I’m going out,” said Peter, rescuing his coat and putting it on.
“That suits me fine,” I said. “That’s one more thing to be glad about.”
“Yes?” said Peter, sarcastically. “And what are the others?”
“I won on three horses, and you didn’t,” I said. “You bumped your head, which evens up for bumping mine; you stole the rug from the limousine and I didn’t. I’m going to have a platinum fox, and if you’re going out you can advertise for my skirt.”
Peter gazed at me open mouthed.
“Shut your mouth, dear; it’s hard on the hinges,” I remonstrated, gently, “and Peter, here’s the fifty cents change I won —buy yourself something nice—or have your coat pressed. Bye-bye for now.”