The story of a gallant sportsman, who took a long gambling chance, and lost... and won
CAPTAIN GEOFFREY TOLLEMACHE polished his patent leather shoes with a discarded woolen sock, and then proceeded to whisk some stray particles of lint from his old-fashioned morning coat. After a brief contemplation of the mirror shine on each sleeve, he plunged his hand into a trouser pocket and brought out a collection of coins which he laid with slightly tremulous fingers on the dresser.
“Humph! Monday is what ■—four days away.” He sighed gently. “Two dollars and sixteen cents divided by four gives—ah, gives fifty-four cents. Dear me, what a vast difference a few inches make on a race track. If only Silver Song’s nose had been just a tiny bit, ah, longer, I should be in clover. Now, I’m afraid, we shall have to go on reduced rations once more.”
He repocketed the coins one by one, jingling them musically, “Glad, they’re not bills. Always feel I have more money when I can hear the tinkle of silver.”
Standing thus in front of the cheap golden oak dresser, tall, straight-backed, his shoulders squared almost arrogantly, one hand now twisting the drooping ends of his grey moustache, he looked like some epic figure that had stepped out of the magnificent eighties of the Victorian
age into the drabness of a present-day, fifth-rate roominghouse. But if there was drabness in his surroundings, Captain Tollemache saw none of it. His was an elasticity of spirit that was proof against the direst thrusts of misfortune; that regarded the mere casual amusement of to-day as sufficient. To-morrow anything might happen. Someone might drop a fortune in his lap, or he might have the right amount on the right horse at the right time. Fortune was always just around the corner; had been for forty years, since that epochal day when, stripped to his last ten-pound note on the English turf, he had passed from the companionship of a crack cavalry regiment into a new world, distasteful at first, but always interesting, always attractive, always great with possibilities. To a wonderful degree, Captain Tollemache possessed the temperament of happiness, And his cheerfulness of spirit found expression in a courtesy which won him many
friends, the majority as poor as he; which was not the fault of the captain, who would have distributed benevolence as readily as he bestowed compliments, but for the iron fact that his monthly pension check of $50 was his sole income.
His faded blue eyes, a twinkle in them, were now directed on a group photograph supported by an untidy pile of racing charts, A score of cavalry officers in tropical uniforms, with the Pyramids forming a sombre background, it had been taken when Kitchener was still an obscure subaltern, but to Captain Tollemache each faded figure was a creature of flesh and blood.
That laughing, curly-haired youngster on the right, with one hand resting on the shoulder of Tollemache’s khaki tunic, was Dudley Baxter, who had ridden a hunter upstairs to the second floor of a Mayfair flat, and then ridden it down again to a street packed with openmouthed Cockney spectators. The man on his left was Dandy Markham, he of polo fame, -who had risen to command the regiment and had died at its head in that wild charge at Elandslaagte. The squadron leader, sitting next to the mild-faced colonel, was the uncle of the reigning sovereign, now a venerable field-marshal with a
flair for opening church bazaars, Good fellows all, of whose present whereabouts he had as little knowledge as if each lived in a different planet, and remembering this the gay twinkle in his eyes disappeared, but only for a moment. His fingers gave a final satisfactory twist to his moustache and then he walked with stiff gait to the door. Opening it, he stood motionless, aware of a peculiar sound proceeding from the ground floor. He cupped his hand to his ear and listened intently.
"Ha! some one appears to be in distress,” he remarked. Three long strides brought him to the head of the stairs, down which he descended with an unusually heavy step, his walking-stick playing a tattoo on the banisters. In the small front hall he came to a halt, and cleared his throat. "Mrs. -ah-Bellamy!”
From behind the shelter of a shabby g’een curtain which veiled the mysteries of the kitchen came a small, worried-looking woman. Her features were swollen; her eyes were red. She dabbed at them furtively with the corner of her apron as she approached. Captain Tollemache bowed stiffly.
"Ah, hum, Mrs, Bellamy, will you do me the extreme kindness of notifying anyone who may call that I shall not be in until a late hour this afternoon. Ha!”
Mrs. Bellamy nodded her head. Dully, she watched the captain lingering to brush his silk hat with caressing fingers: then suddenly burst into tears. Desisting from his task. Captain Tollemache shifted his weight from one foot to the other and hemmed and hawed prodigiously. "Have you had ah bad news, madam?” he finally asked.
"It's my Tim. Captain,” she replied, in a desolate voice. "He's in trouble and I don’t know which way to turn to get him out of it. I don’t, indeed.”
Captain Tollemache knew Tim as his widowed landlady's only son, a pleasant-faced, shock-haired youth, with a marked aversion to any form of steady employment. "And what has Timothy done this time, ha?”
"He didn't do anything; that’s just it,” she answered brokenly. "It was another boy who had the car and took Tim out in it, and the police came along and locked both of them up.”
"Ha! Beastly things, these motor cars—make no end of trouble,” observed the captain. “But, my dear madam, why did the police interfere with your son and his friend—in short, why did they arrest them?”
"Because, Captain, the car didn’t belong to this other boy. He'd taken it for a joyride, but my Tim didn’t know that. And now the police say that one’s as bad as the other.” She had recourse to her apron again. “And everyone says I ought to get a good lawyer, and how car I with empty rooms on my hands all this summer?” "Lawyers,” remarked Captain Tollemache meditatively, "are a pack of rogues. That has been my experience, Mrs. Bellamy, as I’ve probably explained to you on a former occasion. Still, they are necessary rogues at times, and this seems to be one of them.” He raised his stick and made little thrusting motions at the banisters. “And so I shall make it my-ah-business to see one this morning and place him in possession of the particulars regarding your son’s present-ah-difficulty. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Bellamy, permit me to suggest that you do not allow your mind to dwell too much—er—in short, keep a stiff upper lip. Young men will be young men. Y es, undoubtedly, they will. Ha! I recall the time when I was a cadet at Sandhurst, and we, that is myself and Dudley Baxter, who became a major, and who, I understand, is ranching somewhere out in the west, or was, borrowed two hunters from the commandant’s stable and rode ’em in a point to point race at Aldershot. And now mark you, madam, w-hat happened. The commandant turned up at the races, and I never shall forget the look he gave us when we weighed in. Never! for we’d borrowed these particular horses without the -ah-formality of asking the owner’s permission. In a word, my dear Mrs. Bellamy, it nearly led to rustication, and in my time, rustication was indeed a very serious matter for a gentleman cadet.”
The speaker nodded cheerfully a couple of times, clapped his silk hat on the side of his closely cropped gray head turned on his heel and walked majestically to the door. For some little time he stood on the top step regarding with benevolent interest the life of Patten Street as it flowed by on each side; then he marched down the steps and set his face in the direction of that part of the city of Toronto in which its business heart throbbed with the steadiest rhythm between the hours of nine and five.
NOON found him in a seat in the rotunda of the King Alfred Hotel, leisurely scanning the turf gossip in a morning newspaper. Suddenly his interest was caught and held by a heading;
’Westerner Enters Horse in Ontario Jockey Club Cup.’ Etonian, Owned by Dudley Baxter, of Calgary, Assured Starter in Saturday’s Feature Race.’
“Extraordinary!” exclaimed the captain as he stared at the headlines. “Etonian, indeed, Humph, what does the rest of the article say? . . . Dudley Baxter, hitherto
unknown figure in the eastern turf world . . . humph, and staying here at the hotel . . Well, in that case,
I must certainly look him up.”
He crossed to the information desk where the clerk greeted him pleasantly.
“Anything I can do, Captain?”
"Why, yes, 1 was wondering if you could tell me where I could find Major Dudley Baxter-ah-formerly of the Red Hussars. I understand he’s registered here.”
"There’s a Dudley Baxter, from Calgary, in room 300; would that be your man?”
"Is he by any chance a tall man— ah—about my age?’’asked the captain anxiously.
“No, he’s quite a young fellow. Saw him around the rotunda a moment ago. Shall I have him paged?”
Disappointment was stamped on the captain’s features, as his mind slowly assimilated the clerk’s information. The fingers tugging at the drooping moustache shook noticeably.
“Humph, not Dudley after all. But why Etonian? Strange . . . Ah, you were speaking about having him paged. An excellent idea." He waved liis stick at a nearby chair. “I shall be sitting over there.”
Five minutes later a tall young man in tweeds stood before him. “You were wanting to see me—Dudley Baxter?” he enquired crisply.
The captain struggled to his feet, and closely examined the tanned features of the speaker. “Ah, yes, Mr.
Baxter. I take it that you are a connection of Major Dudley Baxter?”
“My father, sir,” affirmed the other, with a smile that disclosed even white teeth.
“Your father, ha—I might have known it, for you resemble him greatly.
I am Captain Tollemache, an old comrade of his.”
The smile of the young westerner broadened to a grin. He took off his Stetson hat. “Gosh! Captain Tolle mache, I’m surely glad to meet you I’ve heard dad speak of you a thousand times.”
“And your father, how is he?”
Baxter’s face sobered. “Dad died two years ago.”
“God bless my soul!” exclaimed the captain, for once losing his habitual composure. “Let me sit down.”
The young man sank into the next chair and glanced with covert sympathy at his companion. Captain Tollemache was staring fixedly ahead. His hands grasped the handle of his stick with an intensity of grip that blanched the knuckles. Beneath his shaggy gray eyebrows, the faded blue eyes were brimmed with tears. He appeared to have lost all consciousness of the other’s presence. Then, suddenly, he straightened in his chair and cleared his throat.
“ Y ou must—ah—pardon me,” his voice was tremulous to the point of breaking, “but your father and I were rather—ah—pally in the old days, and this sad news has upset me somewhat.”
They were silent for a moment, and then the young man asked “ You’re on a visit to this country, I suppose?” “On a visit? Well, no, not exactly. The fact is I have been here some time—in short, I have resided in Toronto for several years. And yourself, do you intend to stay in this city, ha?”
“Who me? No, sir. I’m just here for the race meeting at Woodbine Park.”
“Of course, of course,” recalled the old man. “I read that in the paper. Humph, and so you’re interested in racing, eh?” his gray head wagged reminiscently. “When we were in the Red Hussars, your father and I jointly, that is, both of us, ah—owned some really smart horses. I rode one of them in the Grand National, and didn’t do so badly. In short, I-ah-won.”
“I’ve heard about that,” Baxter observed. “Etonian, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Etonian, and by the way, I notice that you have a horse by that name entered in the Jockey Club cup, ha!”
“Named after the very chap you rode in the National, sir. That was dad’s idea.” He glanced at the clock. “I wonder if you’d care to have lunch with me? I don’t know a soul in this town, and running across you is like meeting someone from home.”
“Very happy, I assure you,” replied the captain.
“You say you read something about my being at
Woodbine Park,” said Baxter, as soon as th ey had taken their seats in the grillroom. “Did the paper have anything about the horse? Any recent workouts?”
“No, I can’t recall that it did,” answered the other after a momentary reflection. He laughed gently. “Merely said you were—ah—a newcomer to the turf and had entered a five-year-old maiden for the cup.”
The westerner heaved a sigh of relief. “D’you know, sir, I think Etonian has a splendid chance on Saturday. He’s been working awfully well since he came here.” “Really!” exclaimed the captain, pausing in the act of helping himself to a veal cutlet to stare at his host. “I must bear that in mind, because I do a little speculating at times. But there are some remarkably fine horses in this cup affair. Relay, for one. Herring won the Preakness with him, you remember, and I happen to knowthat he thinks a great deal of Relay’s chances. And then these Gramsea people alw-ays send fit animals to the post in the big handicaps. Very smart stable that, very; and a man was telling me only this morning that their pair, Rosisto and Eastern Dandy, are fit as fiddles.”
Dudley Baxter’s eyes gleamed. He leant forward and lowered his voice to an impressive w-hisper. “Suppose I were to tell you, Captain, that Etonian has w-orked two miles and a quarter—that’s the cup route, you know-— with Sweet Alysia, who’s easily the best distance runner on this continent, and that he beat her going away; and that when he did he w-as carrying 124 pounds, which is fourteen more than the handicapper’s given him for next Saturday—would you think he had a chance?”
Captain Tollemache stared. “Bless my soul! A most excellent chance. If Sw-eet Alysia had been entered in the cup, she’d be one to four. Humph, your horse beat her indeed. ’Pon my w-ord, I feel like putting a small bet on him myself.”
“Put a large one,” smiled the young man confidently, “and unless the dockers and hustlers get w-ise between now and post time, you’ll get thirty to one. You see, Captain, there’s no form on my horse in the racing charts. Although he’s a five-year-old, he has only run three races and. these were on w-estern tracks that aren’t recognized here in the east. And so, outside of yourself, and my own
two stable boys, who are as close as clams, and yours truly, no one knows how good Etonian is. That’s one advantage of doing your own training.”
“And a very great advantage,” concurred the captain as they rose and made their way to the rotunda. “And now—ah hum—that we have so opportunely met, I must have you to dine with me at my diggings—ah—one of these days. At present, ha! things are a trifle—er— messy. My landlady, a most worthy widow, is having a rather upsetting time—in short, her son has got himself into a little—ah—trouble. Just a matter of days until the wind blows fair once more, but—”
“Lots of time for that,” broke in Baxter, “and by the way, Captain, as I’ve already explained, I’m a stranger in a strange city; how about being my guest at the track on opening day?”
The old man beamed. “Dear me, that is exceedingly thoughtful of you. Day after to-morrow, is it not? Yes, to be sure, I shall be delighted to avail myself of your offer, and, in the meanwhile, I shall wish you the very best of —ah—luck.” He shook his host’s hand warmly, and walked from the hotel humming a gay little snatch from Pinafore.
“Dudley Baxter’s son, and Dudley Baxter dead. Humph!” He stood for a moment on the sidewalk and stared up and down the street. “Looks a good deal like Dudley, too. Nice boy, very nice. Ah, well, breeding counts with men as well as with—ah—-horses. Oh, yes, undoubtedly. And that reminds me . . . the Bellamy boy! Must look up a lawyer fellow. Ha! if young Baxter is as good a judge of horseflesh as dear old Dudley was, then there will be corn in Egypt in the very near—ah—
future. And thirty to one, he said. Dear me, a most attractive price.”
' I 'HERE was a sunny imperturbable cheerfulness pervading the captain’s mien when he entered a nearby cigar store to purchase his daily racing chart. “Tell me, Mr. Denney,” he requested the sallow-faced man behind the counter, “do you happen to know of a lawyer you can recommend?”
“What kind of a lawyer, Cap’n, criminal, corporation, real estate, there’s all kinds, y’know?”
“Of course, of course.” He hooked his stick over his left arm and gave his moustache a reflective twirl, “I fancy the one I want would be the—ah—criminal kind.”
“Then it’s easy,” asserted the other, with an air of finality. “Dick Freer’s your man. If he can’t get a fellow off there’s no lawyer in this town that can. But he comes kind o’ expensive, they tell me.”
The old man pondered a moment. “Would you be so kind as to give me his address?”
The cigar-store man picked up a telephone book and thumbed over the pages. Here we are . . . Freer, Maskem and Fratch, 600 Belinda Building. You know where that is, Cap’n?”
“I do,” replied Captain Tollemache with a wave of his stick, “and I am extremely obliged, sir, for your courtesy.”
The young woman who presided over the inquiry desk in the offices of Freer, Maskem and Fratch looked up from her magazine into the cheerful face of the stately, gray-haired stranger standing before her. The captain swept off his hat, and bowed from his hips. “Have the
goodness, my dear young lady, to convey this card to Mr.—ah—Freer and tell him that I shall be glad to see him at his convenience.”
She was a pert, dark-eyed miss of twenty years, with a tongue sharpened by daily contact with a world in which repartee was more noted for pungency than good humor, but there was something about this caller that compelled her unwilling respect and caused her to abandon the usual tactics of demanding if the visitor had an appointment. Instead, she took up the card, noticed that it was engraved, and walked to a private office. In two minutes she was back. “Mr. Freer will see you, sir. That’s his office in there.”
Captain Tollemache entered a room where a middle-agedclean-shaven man was seated at a desk littered with papers. He swept these on one side, directing at his visitor the inquiring gaze with which the average lawyer greets a new client. The captain sat down in a chair, placed his silk hat carefully on the desk and addressed the lawyer. “You have, I perceive, my card, sir. Good! I came to consult you on certain business which is of considerable moment to the parties concerned.”
Freer nodded. Most of his callers said the same thing, even if they didn’t say it in the same courtly manner.
“This matter doesn’t concern me—ah—personally, sir. It has to do with a young man who was implicated with another young man in what the newspapers are pleased to describe as—ah—joyriding.”
“What’s his name?” asked the matter-of-fact lawyer.
“Bellamy, Timothy Bellamy, and—”
“What’s the other chap’s name?”
“Dear me, that I’ve forgotten, or rather I do not recall having heard it. But let me explain—ah— briefly, Mr. Freer. This boy—”
“Quite so, Bellamy, Timothy Bellamy, is the son of a very estimable person, whom I have known for some years—in short, she is the landlady from whom I rent my—ah—hum—chambers, and as I understand from her this lad, Timothy, accepted the invitation from the other youth to go riding in the motor car.”
“Which happened to be stolen.”
The captain picked up his hat from the desk, surveyed the lining intently, and answered, “I understand so.”
“And what do you want me to do?”
“That isprecisely whatl am—er—coming to,” said the captain with a sunny smile. “In short, Mr. Freer, that is why I am here. It is my desire that you take up the defence, the—er—legal defence of this young man, or boy rather, Timothy Bellamy.”
“Where is he now?”
“In the—ah—hum jail, so his mother informs me.” “Well, the first thing to do is to get him out on bail. You can arrange that?” The lawyer looked expectantly at his client, noticing for the first time that the well-cut morning coat had been brushed and cleaned to an almost threadbare condition.
“Bail? Ha! I hadn’t thought of that. What do you suppose the people who look after such things would consider a necessary sum as bond—that’s the correct term, is it not?”
The lawyer scribbled idly on a pad. “Of course, I don’t know the full particulars of this case, but five hundred to a thousand that’s what they usually ask. “That would be in cash, ha?”
“Property or cash.”
“I see,” observed the captain, a little uncertainly, his fingers jingling the loose silver in his pocket. “And may I enquire further what your —ah—retainer would be, sir?”
“It all depends, Colonel Tollemache.”
“Captain,” corrected the other gently. “I never had the honor of commanding a regiment.”
“My mistake, captain, but regarding my fee, well, you haven’t told me very much about the case. Suppose you bring this boy’s mother here,” he looked at his engagement calendar—“I have to be at the Assizes to-morrow, and Saturday’s a short day—at ten o’clock on Monday morning, and then we can go into the whole thing.” Freer pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.
The captain remained seated. “Really, Mr. Freer, I am quite inexperienced in these matters, and so I sincerely wish you would give me some sort of an idea—in short, I should be eternally grateful if you would furnish me with this information, er, that is, the exact amount that ycur services would cost.”
“It wouldn’t be less than—” the lawyer’s eyes lifted to the pathetically expectant old face, and something he read there made him leave the sentence uncompleted. Traveling downwards, his glance fell in swift succession on the old-fashioned wing collar, frayed at the points, the faded hues of the regimental tie, the telltale shine on
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the sleeves of the black morning coat. “By the way, what is your line of business?” he asked abruptly.
“Business, business!” repeated the other in a puzzled voice. “Oh, yes.” His face cleared. “I see what you mean. I have none.”
“Private income, eh?”
“Not exactly,” said the captain, getting a little red in the face. “I have—ah—a pension; a small one, but sufficient, oh quite sufficient for my—er—needs.” Then, in a sudden burst of confidence, he added. “Between ourselves, Mr. Freer, I supplement it by occasional investments on the —ah—turf.”
The lawyer enjoyed a laugh. “Good! perhaps you can give me an occasional winner, captain, because I’m rather fond of trying to beat them, although I seldom do. And now you asked me to name my fee. It will be fifty dollars.”
“Fifty dollars, ha! Oh, yes, very reasonable, I must say. Then I shall make it my business to be here with Mrs. Bellamy on Monday. Ten o’clock, you said?”
“You’ve got the idea, colonel, I mean, captain. And in the meanwhile I’ll get a report on the case, If he wasn’t the boy who actually stole the car it’s possible to get him off with a suspended sentence.” “His mother assures me he was not.” “Ah, these mothers, captain, how they stick up for their sons.” The lawyer smiled tolerantly. “However, we’ll thresh it all out on Monday. See you then.”
OUTSIDE the Belinda Building, Captain Tollemache twisted the ends of his moustache with fierce energy. “Fifty dollars! Humph, that’s a deuce of a lot of money. Wants it all on Monday, I suppose. Now, let mesee. Pension cheque due on Monday; fifty dollars there. Deduct from cheque, Mrs. Bellamy’s account that—ah—leaves the sum of twenty-two dollars. Present assets are what? Humph, one dollar and eighty-four cents.” His chain of thought was suddenly broken. “Baxter’s horse! how’ foolish of me to
forget. Ha! there’s the solution in a nutshell. Why, bless my soul, I can not only provide our lawyer friend’s retainer, but the—the bail bond as well.”
His hands strayed into a vest pocket and brought forth a handsome gold hunting watch. “Must obtain the sinews of war in the usual way, I presume. Nuisance to be without one, but I’ll get it out on Monday of course; just four days, and there are plenty of clocks.”
An hour later, the captain inserted his latch key in the front door of No. 333 Patten Street, walked into the hall and thumped the ferrule of his stick on the patternless linoleum. “Ah, hem, Mrs. Bellamy!”
She came at his summons, a tragic figure. “Yes, captain.”
“Ha! as I promised you this morning, I have been looking into the legal aspect of this matter, and have made the necessary arrangements on behalf of your son, Timothy—in short, Mrs. Bellamy, I have engaged the services of a lawyer to defend him. Possibly you have heard of him, Mr. Richard Freer, quite an eminent member of the bar, I’m given to understand.”
The little woman’s eyes widened. “Mr. Freer! Oh, Captain, we were only talking about him this morning. Why he’s the best in the city. But they say he doesn’t look at a case under a thousand dollars. How—”
The captain leaned towards her and wagged an admonitory finger. “Rumor, my dear madam, is seldom based on—ah —truth. I remember in the Soudan campaign, which was long before your time, Mrs. Bellamy, that stories were told about a dear friend of mine in the horse gunners—they said that on our march up the Nile his gun limbers were packed with champagne bottles, not—ah—shells, Pack of lies, madam. But to return to the subject, while Mr. Freer’s fee is by no means a trivial one, it should cause you no concern. In short, what I mean to convey is that it will be looked after. In fact, I may say it practically has been. And so, you will be good enough to present yourself at his office, on the sixth floor, Belinda Building, at ten o’clock on Monday morning next. I shall be there, and the three of us will go into the whole facts of the case. In a word, Mrs. Bellamy, we shall then and there map out our lines of defence.”
Her careworn features lighted up. “With Mr. Freer as his lawyer, I know
Tim’ll get off. I-don’t know how to
thank you, Captain, for all your kindness.”
“Tut, tut, Mrs. Bellamy, the services I have been able to render are of a very trivial nature. Very. And ah now, madam, I think I shall retire to my room for I have had a lot of business to transact on my own account to-day, and it has fatigued me somewhat.”
The short October day was going as the old man climbed the stairs, With a sigh of relief he settled himself in an armchair, while the shadows stole into the room and enveloped its drab contents in a merciful cloak.
Outside, in a neighboring back yard, an industrious Boy Scout practised bugle calls. The man in the chair more asleep than awake, stirred uneasily Eccentric fancies jostled and elbowed one another in his brain. ‘Boot and Saddle!’ Was that what the bugle was sounding? Well, he wasn’t in the mood to answer it. He was too tired; too old. But others weren’t. Here they came now, stepping gaily out of the shadows, real as ever they were in the old days—Dandy Markham, Molyneux, Fortescue, that fair-haired boy, Torrington—he who at Elteb had had swept the Dervish spears towards his own breast to gain that precious five seconds for the square to be ‘ormed, and yes, Dudley Baxter, too. Here they were and many another of that rollicking, devil-may-care band in their swagger hussar jackets and their trim Hessian boots, spurs ajingling, swords clanking. They were around his chair now, calling
him by name, greeting him with peals of merry laughter. Looking into his face, shaking his hand. He answered each in turn, smiled with them, struggled unsteadily to his feet, and—and, they vanished.
Awake, he tottered with extended hands towards the light bracket, and switched it on. “Bless my soul!” he exclaimed, bewildered, rubbing his eyes, “I must have been dreaming, and yet I’d have sworn they were here.”
A sudden pain in his left side contorted his features. He caught hold of the edge of the dresser and steadied himself. “Dear me,” he muttered, studying the gray face that the mirror reflected—“I hope I’m not going to have another of those beastly attacks. Humph, what did that young snip of a doctor say?—avoid excitement. Better lay doggo until Saturday; need to be fit then if only to see this horse of he Baxter boy win the Cup.”
He fumbled in his coat for his pocketbook and opening it he took out five tendollar bills and a pawn ticket. “Fifty dollars at thirty to one, means fifteen hundred. A very nice little nest egg, very nice, indeed. One could do a great deal with fifteen hundred dollars. What a splendid stroke of luck it was meeting that young man this morning.” He slowly prepared himself for the night’s repose.
"PIELD glasses slung from his shoulder, his silk hat at a rakish angle, his features happily serene, the captain greeted Baxter in the members’ section of the Woodbine racing enclosure on opening day.
“A beautiful course, is it not,” he approved as they took their seats in the westerner’s box. “I’ve always maintained it’s comparable with Goodwood from the —ah—scenic point of view. The lake in the background is very restful to the eye . . . How is your horse, ha?”
“Fit as a fiddle and crying to run. I don’t want to appear boastful, but, barring accidents, I think that we’ll take a drink out of that cup to-night.”
The Jockey Club Cup was the third race on the program, and as soon as the winning numbers had been slotted for the second, Baxter sprang to his feet. “Would you like to look over Etonian in the paddock?” he asked.
“Delighted,” answered the old man, rising and following the westerner through the milling crowd to the saddling enclosure. A freckle-faced youth was leading Etonian into number four stall when the two men arrived in the paddock. Baxter stripped off the blanket and patted the black, satiny coat affectionately, “What d’you think of him, sir?”
“Humph, he appears very fit; very, but,” he turned an anxious eye towards the proud, young owner “hasn’t he rather—ah—short forearms for a flat racer?”
“Yes,” answered Baxter slowly, “I suppose you could fault him there, and I’ve heard criticism about his heavy quarters, too, and the shape of his head, but you can take my word for it, Captain, that in spite of his homely looks he can run.”
“Without a doubt,” agreed the other heartily. “I must say he has a most ambitious eye, and those small ears of his—er —and the way they’re set on, spell Arab to me.”
“I think you’re right there, but it’s a long way back.” The young man wheeled to greet a small figure in a riding jacket of white, slashed with violet bars. The captain’s eyes bulged. “The old colors, by Gad! Your father’s and mine!” His lips quivered.
“I thought they’d catch your eye,” said Baxter quietly. “This is Jockey Perkins, Captain Tollemache. He’s the boy who’s going to bring the horse home, aren’t you, Moon?”
Moon Perkins, a hardfaced veteran, who tipped the scales around 110 pounds, grinned cavernously. “Goin’ to try, at any rate.”
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A bugle blared. “I’ll have to get busy and saddle up,” remarked the young owner, “but as soon as I send the horse i out to the track I’ll come back to the stand and we can watchtheracetogether.” He paused to lay a friendly hand on the captain’s sleeve. “And don’t be afraid to j bet, sir.” '
”Ha, I’ve been so interested that I’d I almost forgotten that part of it. But bet fore I go and buy my—ah hum—ticket, let me wish you, and you too, sir,” turn! ing to Moon Perkins, “the very best of luck, humph.”
Baxter hoisted the jockey into the saddle. “Don’t make a move with him, Moon, until you come out of the back stretch on the last lap. Let him run his own race until then, he likes to come from behind, remember, and he doesn’t begin to get unlimbered until he’s gone a mile or more. And whatever you do don’t lay a whip on him. He can’t stand it.” He hesitated. “Maybe, you’d better hand your gad to me.”
“I’d be lost without it,” demurred the jockey. “Honest, Mr. Baxter, I would. Anyway, I’ll recollec’ what you say.” He pressed in his knees, clucked to his mount and followed the first three horses as they filed out of the paddock.
In the mutuel pavilion, Captain Tollemache approached the fifty-dollar wicket and laid five ten-dollar bills on the narrow counter. “A straight ticket on Etonian, please,” he requested.
Turning away, a voice greeted him, and he looked into the face of Richard Freer.
“Do you know anything good for this race, Captain?” the lawyer asked.” The Gramsea entry’s three to two, Relay’s around threes, and I’m trying to find something to beat them with.”
“Ha! Mr. Freer, this is an opportune meeting.” He edged the other away from the jostling crowd that was besieging the ticket vendors’ wickets. “It so happens that a young friend of mine has an entry in this race, and, between ourselves, it has a most excellent chance. This, of course, in strict confidence.”
“Surely, but what’s the name of the horse?”
The captain bent forward and whispered: “Etonian. Better—ah—hurry, you’ve only a couple of minutes.”
“But he’s forty to one on the approximate odds’ board!” protested the lawyer.
“So much the better,” approved the old man. “Never let a price frighten you, Mr. Freer; it’s the horse you’re playing, not the—ah—odds.”
“Well, thanks, Captain, I’ll follow your advice and bet him across the board.’
THE field of eight were passing the grandstand on the way to the barrier when Captain Tollemache emerged from the wagering pavilion and re-entered Baxter’s box.
A little jostling here and there as the riders urged their high-spirited mounts towards the three-inch webbing; a plunge forward as some eager boy tried to anticipate the starter’s action; a hoarse yell of admonition when that official detected the manoeuver, and then the tense roar from the great concourse; “They’re off!” Out from the chute leapt the cavalcade, the macaw-like colors of the jockeys flashing in the October sunshine. Up the stretch they stampeded on their way to the first turn, and the roar of the crowd intensified as the Gramsea pair at once went into the lead, Resisto on the rail, his stable mate, Eastern Dandy, half a length behind. Hotspur, the heavilyweighted king of the distance brigade on Kentucky tracks, lapped Eastern Dandy, Relay’s lean head at his saddle girths, while the violet and white silks of Moon Gibson on Etonian trailed in rear of the field.
“That Gramsea horse is setting a fearfully fast pace,” observed Captain Tollemache. “He must be trying to kill off his opposition.”
“It isn’t the speed at the beginning of a race that counts,” said Baxter quietly. “It’s the speed in the last quarter-mile. D’you notice that young Sparks has got Relay in his lap; he must have half-adozen wraps on him. There’s the one I’ve got to beat . . . what’s the matter sir, are you ill?” He turned with concern to his companion who hadslumped back on on his seat, his face suddenly a bluish gray.
“Nothing, my dear boy. Heart troubles me a wee bit when I become excited.” The captain drew a long breath and smiled feebly. “Tut, tut, don’t bother about me, just go on and watch the race. Be all right in a jiffy. Mere nothing.”
Half reluctantly, Baxter turned away and retrained his glasses on Resisto, now sweeping into the stretch at the end of the first lap, with Relay two lengths behind his flying heels, Eastern Dandy having dropped back to third position. Hotspur’s outstretched head was aligned with Eastern Dandy’s quarters, but the rest of the field was strung out well in rear, Etonian plodding along a length behind the seventh horse. As the Gramsea horse sped past the grandstand the crowd broke into another tumult of cheering, and the roar of the excited throng restored the captain to his feet. By the time his shaking fingers had brought his binoculars into position, Resisto had reached the turn into the back stretch.
“Ha! Etonian’s running very strongly,” he exclaimed, “but he has a great deal of ground to make up, and it doesn’t look as if that Gramsea horse is coming back to the others.”
Baxter made no reply. With breathless interest he was watching the blackcoated racer approaching nearer and nearer the point where Moon Perkins had been directed to make his move. The gay colored dots were strung along the distant back stretch like dancing beads on a necklace, the black and gold jacket on Resisto still well in the van. In another moment, the flying leader was around the upper bend.
“Now look at my horse!” Baxter suddenly cried.
Moon Perkins at last had come into action. Etonian’s peculiar stride quicki ened, lengthened, and gradually he began 1 to annihilate the distance that separated I him from the rest of the pack. In the next 1 hundred yards he had thundered past j two tiring rivals and was fast picking up Hotspur and Eastern Dandy. A cry erupted from the excitement-racked crowd: “Look at that western horse going up!” But, strong as ever, still two lengths in front of his nearest pursuit, the stretch-running Relay, sped Resisto, and this was his advantage when his rider steered him into the home straightaway.
“Here’s where the real race starts,” said Baxter with grim emphasis.
Throughout the first two miles, Resisto had hugged the rail as closely as a glove fits the hand, saving every inch of ground. The Gramsea colt had made his own pace, but he still had something left to draw on beside his gallant heart, and, as he pointed his shapely head for the final heart-breaking straight quartermile run, Resisto’s rider called on him for that reserve. And as he did, Jockey Sparks shook the last wrap off his wrists, and issued his challenge. Swish! his whip descended on the heaving flanks of the Preakness winner, and Relay spurted forward. In half-a-dozen bounds, the two lengths’ lead was cut down to one; now to a half-length; at the eighth pole, the pair were racing like a team.
Moon Perkins had swung wide entering the stretch, losing ground, but the veteran
rider knew that he had a strong horse under him, and he wanted to take no chanees of being blocked in the run home. Leaning forward, his cap visor touching Etonian’s sable neck, he was calling on his mount, urging him with voice, hands and heels.
And in the centre of the loam surfaced racing strip, his ears pricking, his legs moving like those of a frightened jack rabbit, Etonian came on. And the crowd went wild.
The boy on Resisto, sensing that he had another rival to deal with beside the horse matching strides at his side, drew his whip. For a few yards, the Gramsea colt responded to the goad; gave up his last ounce; then his earlier efforts told and he cracked with the goal a hundred yards away. Etonian gained with every stride. His ugly b ack head was up and past the beaten Resisto; went on to draw level with Relay. Together, neck and neck, head and head, nose and nose, the two gallant thoroughbreds raced towards the imaginary wire that spelt the end of the epic struggle.
Then a wild cry of protest, instantly drowned in the bedlam that raged all around him, was wrung from Baxter’s tense lips. Moon Gibson had brought down his whip with a savage slash on Etonian’s quarters-once, twice, thrice! The black flattened his ears, let go of his bit, dropped his head, and in the next instant Relay had passed him in one tremendous bound, winner of the Cup by a nose.
The young westerner, lost to everything but the race, jammed his glasses into their case with savage energy. “Tossed away in the last stride!” he fumed. “The fool the damn fool! Why in the world didn’t I take that whip away from him?” He was suddenly conscious that someone had moved into the box—a clean shaven middle-aged man, who was bending over Captain Tollemache, The old man was lying back in his chair, eyes closed, his face a ghastly pallor.
“The old gentleman’s fainted,” said the newcomer. “I think we’d better get him out of this crowd.”
Between them, they carried the limp form down the steps to a couch in the clubhouse dressing room. A messenger was sent hot foot for the track physician. Baxter dipped a handkerchief in cold water, wrung it out and laid it on the captain’s forehead. He loosened his collar. “Looks pretty bad,” he said, shaking his head gravely. “I wish that doctor’d hurry.”
OUTSIDE, a wild roar came from the crowd. Some woman laughed hysterically. “They’re hanging up the prices,” remarked the clean shaven man, and he pulled aside a curtain to peer out of the window. “Good Lord! Etonian’s paying $32.00 for a two-dollar place ticket, and and, yes . . . $12.00 to show. That was the horse Captain Tollemache was so sweet on. I played it across the board, and thanks to his tip I’ve done pretty well.”
“You know the captain, then?”
“Just met him the other day. Freer’s my name, lawyer, here.”
“Mine’s BaxterDudley Baxter.”
The other’s eyes widened. “Baxter, eh? Then you’re the owner of the horse that ran second, the one I just mentioned.’ Baxter nodded. “It was a tough race to lose. Thought the Cup was in my pocket until Perkins lost his head and pulled his whip, the one thing I’d warned him against But if he’s paying fifteen to one for a
place I won’t , do so badly . Hallo!
what’s this?" He stooped over and picked up a pocketbook. “Is this yours?” Freer shook his head. “It might belong to the captain,” he suggested.
“I’ll see if it does,” said Baxter, opening it. His eyes fell on a $50 straight mutuel ticket, and a folded slip of paper. Straightening this out he saw that it was a pawnticket for a gold watch. His color mounted as he read the name, ‘Geoffrey Tollemache.’ “Poor old boy,” he said softly.
The track physician came bustling in. He adjusted a stethoscope to his ears and bent over the silent figure, listening intently. Then he shook his head and pursed hi lips.
“Is . . . it . . . serious?” asked Baxter, anxiously.
“Serious? Why, his heart’s all shot to pieces. I’ll give him a strychnine injection but he hasn’t a chance; it’s just a matter of minutes. Humph, where’s that grip of mine?” The doctor pounced on a syringe and charged it.
Suddenly the eyelids in the bluish-gray face fluttered and opened. A blank stare, then slow recognition as the dim eyes rested on Baxter’s concerned features. “Ha! your . . . horse won, eh?” It was no more than a faint whisper. “Splendid . . . knew he would . . . when . . . I. . . saw him make . . . his . . . stretch run . . . Like to have seen . . . ah . . . finish . . . excitement . . . too much ...” The faded blue eyes wandered to Freer. “Mr. Freer, eh . . . fortunate . . . now Etonian won . . . have—ah—legacy ... to make. . .”
The lawyer caught the import of the broken words before either of the others. He clapped his hand to his breast pocket only to recall that he had transferred the papers and envelopes it had contained to the overcoat now draping his chair in the member’s stand. His groping fingers touched his racing program. He whisked it out. Yes, the back page was blankA fountain pen sprang to hand. He knelt down by the couch, bending close to the gray face settled in the improvised pillow. The bloodless lips moved. “What . . . ah . . . did . . . Etonian . . >. pay?’.
“Thirty to one!” the information came like a pistol shot from Baxter, who glanced meaningly at Freer.
The ghost of a smile flickered across the old man’s face. “Pocketbook . . . please ... in coat . . . I . . . think.”
Baxter slipped it into Freer’s hand.
“Ticket . . . there . . . on . . . Etonian ...” The lawyer extracted the voucher and held it up. . . .“Ah . . . what’s . . . the value?”
“Fifteen hundred and fifty dollars!” again Baxter’s voice boomed.
“Bequeath ... ah ... to . . Mrs. Teresa Bellamy . . . 333, Patten . . . Street.”
Hurriedly the lawyer wrote, and the doctor guided the dying man’s fingers to form a cross. The signatures of Baxter and the physician were appended. The lawyer’s eyes approved the westerner. “You’re a real sport,” he whispered admiringly.
Once again the eyelids in the gray face drooped and closed. The sable wings were brushing closer and closer, but outside the small room the well-ordered routine of a race track was proceeding.
A bugle sounded the summons to the riders in the next race. The notes echoed and re-echoed in the chamber of death, and the heavy lids lifted from the halfglazed eyes. Incredibly, the dying man raised himself on one elbow, his gaze directed to the half-open door through which the afternoon sun danced in gleaming golden shafts. A great exaltation appeared to have seized him. His eyes, full open now shone with an intense light. He held up an imperious hand. He called aloud.
And through the door they came, rallying again to the bugle call—that gallant band of beau sabrenrs with wdiom he had lived and jested and fought alongside in the long ago. Dandy Markham, Torrington, Fortescue. Major Dudley Baxter—they were at his side now, bending over him raising him with strong but infinitely tender hands.
The clarion notes of the.bugle again! Bugle? No! for Captain Geoffrey Tollemache it was the trumpets sounding a golden greeting, as, in the midst of that goodly company, he passed over to the other side.