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Merino (loforth's face. She stopped as if
to catch her breath, then in a second or
two she went steadily forward and stood
out in front of the boy.

" I airCiimlet's mother," she said quietly ;
"an' I 'm here ter collect fer 'im, an' ter
arrange. Ve see, he hez frien's. 'T ain't
like some pore strays— jes at any one's
marcy."



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Drawn by W. L. Jacobs. Half-tone plate engraved by C. W. Chadwick
"•YE BETTER TRY TER TELL ME ERBOUT IT'"



" He has n't been with us a month/* re-
torted Tobey, eying her sharply ; " an' you
certainly look purty young to be his mo-
ther."

"Thet air a compHment I hev offen
heard," said Mrs. Goforth, affably; "from
my husband thet air in Louisville speshully,
an' from him I most enjoys it. But Brucey
— ez ye calls Gimlet on the track — he air
mine, ez ye kin durrectly see by his favorin'
me. Ez ter the hire fer him, I allers col-
lects every two weeks, ez I ginerally air in
need o* it long afore thet. We air pore
folks."

The two men consulted a few moments,
and then the older produced a bill.

" Here is ten dollars, but we don't want
you round the stables. 'T is n't any place
for women, and our horses are nervous and
must be humored."

A brighter color appeared in Mrs. Go-
forth's cheeks.



" Settle right up with Brucey, Mr. Yan-
ney, an' we wull perceed ter the Downs
an' git him a new place. He air handy
with bosses, an' they likes him. Ye may
own yer bosses— an' may not,"— her voice
grew sharper,—" but ye don't own the boy.
Ef ye do keep him, don't ye give him no
more Hquor. I don't want him with low
folks. M y f ambly war allers sportin' people,
but uster dealin' with the top-notchers in
boss circles."

Brucey whispered, sheltered by his mo-
ther's blue-print gown :

" Ye got 'em, mom. Mundane won't let
any one o' them other boys ride 'im. They
hev got ter hev me fer the races, they
hev."

So it seemed. The men came down to
Mrs. Goforth, and endeavored to placate
her. Indeed, Gimlet must ride Mundane
on Derby Day. The horse had taken a
great fancy to him. Everything would be



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A LADY OF BALANCE



709



right. Only she must see the boy outside.
The horses were so nervous.

Mrs. Goforth promised nothing. She
was trying to place the grizzled-gray man.
He had a niche in her memory, one that
she herself had described as "a regular
cupboard o' clutter." She was thoughtful
as Brucey accompanied her to the gate,
where she tied up the remaining provisions
for him and bestowed on him direct and
emphatic parting advice :

"Ye don't need ter be low-down an'
o'nery *ca'se ye air on the turf, Brucey.
Be jes ez high-strung ez a good boss. The
good Lord looks down on this race-track
same ez on a chiu-ch steeple, an* he peruses
all yer doin's, son. I don't like them two
men one ioty ; but ef ye aims yer money,
ye wuU hev to hev it. Ye better hoi* ter
the job onless they asts ye ter do wrong.
Ef they does, ye must tell *em ter git any
limb o* Satan they kin ter ride thet pore
animile — an* ye come right home. Jist
tell *em yer maw don*t trot in no sech
class, an' thet ye got a home ter come ter
ef things goes wrong outside. Ye hain't
got any handicap o* bein' 'thout a place
ter go — an' do ye be prupperly raised up
an' stiff-backed 'cordin'."



Ill

Over a week later, in the first hours of
the night, Mrs. Merino Goforth heard
some one coming up the creek-bed that
made the only road to her acre of clearing.
Her Gained sense of hearing and long ex-
perience soon convinced her that it was a
nocturnal visitor who knew the way well
and was not exercising any caution in ap-
proach. She opened the door and stood
waiting in the stariight for the late-comer.

A forlorn little shadow slipped up from
the deep gloom under the overhanging
bank to the cleared spot.

She met him half-way, and opened her
arms as she had done when he stumbled
up to her a little child, crying with a hurt.
And he, shaking and still blazing hot with
resentful anger, choked out :

" Tobey struck me, mom ; he struck me
fer nothin' ! "

In the faint light great welts showed
across his arm where he pulled back the
sleeve of his sweater.

The woman trembled as she held him
to her, her breath quick and uneven.



Slowly she drew herself up and guided
him toward the house, where the dim
lamplight showed.

" Come in, sonny."

There was a rough wooden bench along
the stone chimney, and on it some calico
comforts and cushions. Here she laid him
down, and stirred the covered embers on
the hearth to a lively blaze. Then she
stood beside him, with her bit of shawl
over her shoulders and two long plaits of
dark hair, like a child's, hanging down over
her breast.

"Ye better try ter tell me erbout it when
ye kin, Brucey."

" I did n't do nothin', mom ; I did n't.
I dunno whut he hit me fer. The boss
likes me an' keeps whinnyin' when I cpme
roun'. I heard 'im callin' this mornin',
an' I went in an' patted 'im, an' Tobey
come in. He hit me cruel an' kicked me
out the stall. I did n't do nothin'."

The mother lifted the thin hand and
arm. In the red glow from the fire the
rough palm was stained in ridges and lines.
A dark streak ran up the wrist.

" Did this come off the boss, Brucey ? "

The boy rubbed it vigorously.

" It 's thet boss sweat ag'm. It 's all
over my pants, too. I told Tobey I never
seen no boss like thet. He tole me ter
shet up er I 'd git hurt. Mom, I been
tryin' ter ride good an' keep the place,
but he dass n't hit me when I did n't do
nothin'. The boss don't like nobody else
but me; he kicks at Tobey an' the old
man. Thet air a good boss, mom ; but they
air not showin' him up fer anything. They
never wull let 'im out none ter show his
time. 'T ain't fair ter belittle *im, I say.
He looks at me like he was plumb dis-
gusted when 1 keeps holdin' 'im in. He
don't like it."

The mother smoothed back the curls
from the hot brow. She went to the door
and looked out— looked and listened.

" Them men don't know ye cut an' run,
do they ? " she asked in a low voice.

" I dunno an' don't keer. Ye tole me
ter come home. I crawled in the hay.
Tobey dared me ter snivel loud, he did."

A blazing stick had fallen forward on
the hearth, and Mrs. Goforth pushed it
back. Then she shoved the rough chair
aside, and threw herself on her knees by
the settle. Her arm slipped under the
restless head, and the boy was stilled by



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•AND RUN HE DID — ON WITH A SWEEP AND MAGNIFICENT RUSH THAT CARRIED
HIM UNDER THE WIRE HALF A LENGTH AHEAD"



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A LADY OF BALANCE



711



the leap and strength of the blood in her
veins. Her very vitality calmed and
nerved him. His sobs grew less frequent
as his anger ebbed away. When the si-
lence was broken only by long sighs, the
kneeling woman spoke to him.

" Brucey, ye hev come ter a high jump,
shore; but I believes ye wull take it all
right, like a man, 'stead of a leetle lad,
bein' ez ye air sca'cely more yit. I brieves
ye got thet in yer make-up thet wull kerry
ye over. Them welts don't hurt ye nigh
on to ez much ez they hurts me, son. They
cuts me clean inter the bone— an' sinner,
too. But, sonny boy, ye shorely knows
thet both ye an' yer step-paw promised ter
help me a-buildin' a kitching ter this house
last summer; an' I owes sixty-six dollars
on it yit, with int'rust, an* a mor'gidge ter
bind it. We hev seen hard times sence,
speshully sence ' Dullam bolted off. I hain't
hed nuiny fine washes durin' the winter,
an' we air likely ter see some money trou-
bles onless ye kin jes set yer leetle teeth
an' grit this thing through till the garding
an' the cow air ready ter holp out. It air
hard ter ast of a leetle feller like ye, but
I got ter do it, Brucey. Ye hev ter git ter
be a man, an' ye can't git ter the stake in
a minute. Ye got ter toughen yer hide
an' feelin's gradooal. Bein' ez ye hev the
makin's of a fine man in ye, I looks ter ye
ter swaller down yer big bad dose o' other
folkses' meanness, an' go back thar fer a
leetle spell."

Hot rebellion was in the boy's eyes.

" I air on'y astin' ye ter do whut ye wull
hev ter do many an' many a time afore ye
dies — ter take whut comes an' suffer 'thout
squealin' like a pore leetle pig. Ye must
Tarn ter git hiut an' keep still— thet air
bein' grown folks. I dunno whut ye air
goin' ter do fer a livin' when ye gits be-
yant ridin' the bosses, but I hopes fer the
best. Even in race-hossin', any branch,
ye '11 need squar'ness an' grit ter live by
the right rulin' o' things."

" Dimimy says the old man an' Tobey
air up ter suthin' with the boss," tempo-
rized Brucey ; " ye shorely don't want me
in sech doin's. They ack quare— not lettin'
me inter thet stall when thet boss air callin'
ter me ez plain ez day."

"Who air Dummy?"

"Thet cryin' yeller boy ye fed oncet.
He says he crawlk roun' ev'rywhar, an* thet
he heard 'em say thet boss war never ter



be let out tell race day in some yuther
place."

" Whut do ye think yerself, Brucey? "

The boy threw up his arms.

" Would n't I jes like ter speed 'im, jes
oncet !" cried he. " I would show 'em. But
Tobey follers me on the boulevard an' the
Downs. He air allers cussin' me ter hold
*im in. Folks don't know nothin' erbout
thet thar boss Mundane."

There was a long silence. Brucey was
in a light doze when he heard his mother*s
voice next. It was again low and tender.

" Ye must go back afore daylight, son ;
but I 'U wake ye an' give ye some coffee.
Thar may be suthin' goin' on, Brucey,
thet ye kin ferret. Ef it air wrong-doin',
thet air the time ter show yer true colors.
I calkilate I seen thet grizzle' man in my
daddy's time. He war n't gray then,
Brucey; but he war thet mean he war
spotted on every track in the coimtry. Go
back, an' mebbe the Lord wull even up
them thar welts fer ye afore many happy
days goes over yer head. Now git a leetle
sleep, son. Ye kin depend on me ter watch
ye an' wake ye. I like ter see ye lyin'
thar— safe an' peaceful in yer home, an'
shore thet the Lord wull even thet thar
hidin' up fer ye. somehow er yuther."



IV

A COMELY woman in a clean print gown
stood in doubt at the terminal of the trolley-
line at Jacob Park. Far awa^ across the
flats between her and the city she could
see the green car coming over a sinuous
path.

"I did 'low ter walk up an' save a
nickel," she meditated; "but ef I does, I
wull be both tired an' muddy, an' with no
traces o' hevin' been spick, spandy clean
at the start. When I war settin' by Brucey
larst night an' studyin' whut I must do, I
thort erbout Mis' Renfrew bein' brung up
sportin', an' her daddy a hossman. My
dad uster on fold ter me thet ef ye hain't
got enough in yerself ter kerry a big bet,
ter frequent them thet air paved with gold,
an' git suthin' fer yer tip. I can't see roun'
this here thing, but I kin shorely git some
one else ter be at the place whar the wuss
dust air risin*.*'

Whirled rapidly into the heart of the
city, Mrs. Merino Goforth tried to formu-
late her suspicions. Suggestive memories



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hovered around the man with the scar
over his eyebrow. Vague they were ; con-
nected, somehow, with her father and the
days of old. The dark stains puzzled her,
and also Tobey's conduct. The hot blood
welled up in her when she thought of her
little lad sobbing in the night, but she
never lost her head.

" Ef thar air crookedness a-goin' on, thar
wull be the price ter pay now on the road
ter him," she thought j "an* 'thout me
mixin' in none. The preachers say thet
settlin' up ercounts with wicked folks air
the Lord's doin's, an' not for humans. I
never done a thing ter pay back folks in
all my life, but whut I felt real mean an'
low myself. So I long ergo I'ams ter fit
thet feelin' down when it oncet rises. I
shell leave thet business fer men ter 'tend
ter, ez it air men's place."

Deep in her heart was the true woman-
liness—the happy dependence on the idea
masculine that makes the joy of the sex.
Men could do everything, anything. They
were the power in the world. Betrayed
and neglected as she was, her heart longed
for the recreant 'Dullam. He would know
what to do; or, if he did not, he would
pretend he did, which was quite as com-
forting and conclusive.

Her ideas of Mrs. Renfrew's home had
not been of a stately and splendid mansion
of red brick, with plate-glass windows and
beautiful filmy draperies showing behind
tall vases of bloom.

" Lawsy ! I never oncet dreamt it," she
observed, "with her nice free ways o'
speech."

Should she ring the front bell or go
around the house ? Her decision was
prompt.

" I won't belittle myself none ; I allers
treated her perlite."

A lovely room it was where Mrs. Ren-
frew, ensconced among silken cushions,
received her. At the wide window to the
south sat a big, broad gentleman with gray
hair and mustache. Could this be any one
but Mis' Renfrew's own daddy ?

" Law, Mis' Renfrew," she said, " I air
shore thet must be yer daddy thet ye sot
sech store by."

"It certainly is," said the gentleman,
smiling.

" The Lord sent ye," beamed the coun-
trywoman. "I come ter ast Mis' Ren-
frew's advice erbout a race-hoss matter



which a man should ferret out An* ye
air here, which I hev wished. "

They placed her in a Qhair between
them, and she told her story. The gray-
haired man was at first amused, then inter-
ested and excited- Wh^n the story was
finished, he brought a hearty hand down
upon a ponderous knee with a slap.

" By the powers, ma'am» you have un-
earthed something ! That horse is probably
being tampered with, apd is kept dark to
play for a big stake at the races. Look
into it ? Well, I most certainly will. I am
going to have horses here myself. You
deserve something good for your trouble."

" Ez ter thet," replied Mrs. Goforth, " I
air glad ter meet with sech a gendeiun
fer my Brucey's sake. I hev his makin' on
my mind. Ef he could on'y git a good
place ter work when he air too heavy ter
ride, an' 'Dullam would come home ter
his rightful place, I would n't be astin' one
thing thet a nangel out o* heaven could
offer me. I feel like a feather a'ready
beca'se I hev shed thet secrit. I would n't
be handicapped with a onderhand doin's
fer a fortin. I don't need no extry weight
ter trot straight, do I, Mis' Renfrew ? "



Having passed on her burden of care,
Mrs. Merino Goforth considered that her
duty was done, save that of keeping watch
on Brucey. Hardly a day passed but she
hurried over the flats to Douglas Park.
Long since a system of conmiunication
had been established with the aid of the
silent Dummy, who crawled around every-
where. Sometimes Brucey met his mother
at the freight siding, sometimes near the
gate. The interviews were short.

" He hain't beatin' me up none," averred
Brucey ; " fer I tells him I jes won't ride
fer him ef he takes ter it. Thar I got 'im,
fer thet hoss natchully despises him. But
thar air some one else on his trail, mom ;
an' I feels shore of thet thar."

" Whut makes ye think thet ? " asked
the mother, easily.

" Dum an' me speers a big man erroun*
consid'ble," replied the boy ; " an' he asts
questions. Ast me erbout the hoss. I jes
said it war a purty good hoss. Ast me did
I curry 'im up, an' I said I 'd hev ter git
on a box ter do it. Then they larf ed like
it war funny. Ast me hed he one white



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A LADY OF BALANCE



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foot I said I never hed seen no white
foot ter thet hoss, an' he larfed ag'in. I
believes, mom, the hoss hev hed a white
foot, an' they air puttin' some stuff on thet
an' on a spot on his side. Dummy seen
'em, he says. But ye shet up an' don't
say nothin'. Tobey would kill me."

Mrs. Goforth closed her lips firmly
enough. Mrs. Renfrew's daddy knew all
by this time, and, whatever happened, the
matter was in better hands than her own.
Her part was the anxious one to keep
Brucey safe. As she walked away along
the pike she came up with a horseman
who, sitting erect on a splendid hunter,
was scanning the park race-track and also
the speedway to the boulevard.

Here, surely, was the big man, Mrs. Ren-
frew's daddy, otherwise Colonel Maunce.
So intent was he on the outlook that she
watted sometime before he noticed her.

" How do you do, ma*am ? Been to see
your boy ? I talked to him the other day.
The scamp has the making of a man in
him, Mrs. Goforth."

The mother colored with pleasure, and
a mist blotted out the landscape.

" Shorely thet air a fine thing ter say ter
a mother," she began tremulously, " an' air
calkilated ter stir up her feelin's. When
yer has but one an' only offspring, yer
eggs air all in one basket, ye sees, colonel."

" I have been trying to get a good square
look at that horse, Mrs. Goforth," con-
tinued the rider, going nearer to her ; " but
it has not been possible. If it is the horse
I think, there will be something doing on
Derby Day. If I could be sure— umph !
But they will not have it. I would know
Wanderer in a tan-yard if I could get near
him, but I do not want the men to be sus-
picious of me. Now, Mrs. Goforth, if I
do not find out anything between this and
Thursday, you give your boy a word. Tell
him that, no matter what those men tell
him to do at the race,— either to ride to
win or not,— that he is to ride for all that
is in that horse and himself, if it finishes
both— and I will see fair play afterwards."

"I beUeves ye, sir," said the woman,
then her lips went white ; " but them air
bad men. Ye must take care o' Brucey."

" I will be there," said the big man, with
a jovial laugh. " I don't mind telling you
that I have several scores to even up with
Yanney, as he calls himself —that man with
the scar. He has n't been in Kentucky



for years. His name will not let him in.
You must have heard of Coll Crum, if
you 've always been round the tracks, Mrs.
Goforth."

Doubt and certainty struggled in Mrs.
Goforth's countenance for a few moments.
Then slowly memory seized the name and
ransacked die " cupboard o' clutter."

" Coll Crum ? " she repeated fearfully.
" I orter hev known thet scar ter oncet.
He 'most broke my daddy's heart with a
mean trick, an* he war run off the Downs
shorely. An' thet man hez been hirin' my
Brucey! I wull never rest day ner night
till he air hum ag'in."

" He is safe until after Derby Day," said
the colonel ; " and we will protect him then.
They have to have him to race the horse
at all. I know him— notional and nervous
as a woman. These folks left their last
boy in a hospital in Memphis with a broken
leg. They will want to take Brucey on
with them, or I will miss my guess, espe-
cially if the horse goes through here all
right. I don't suppose any one knows
whether he is to run to win or not."

" Brucey do not," asserted the mother.
"He air ez innercent ez a day-old colt.
An' no matter how I feels pussonal, I got
ter act a woman's part an' hev patience.
Ye take my boy's life in yer hand ; but I
air leanin' on yer promise. I wull shorely
tell Brucey ter ride ter win ; but I must be
thar ter see it."

" You shall be," answered the colonel ;
" my daughter and I thought of it. I shall
send you a ticket, and she says she intends
to make you some little presents."

" Seein' it air Mis' Renfrew, I am proper
thankful," was Mrs. Coforth's answer ; " fer
I hev no idee she wull clean out closets
an' attics on me, but feel like I orter be
treated like I war not a hard-workin'
woman— with feelin's. I never hed no fine
closes, colonel, ner hed a single hanker
thet away. I seen lots o' knob females go
ter perdition fer gay ripparel. Daddy uster
say thet a good hoss did n't need no yeller
saddle ter win, ner a jockey rigged out
like 'n old maid's parrot. But, colonel,"
and her eyes shone, " ef I air goin' ter set
up in thet gran' stan' like a leddy, arter all
these years o' the turf an' observin' races
from cracks in the fence an' from the roofs
o' sheds handy, I wull shorely consider
Mis' Renfrew ez real thortful ter lend me
some things. Ef ye would n't fergit it,



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colonel, would ye mention a parysol? It
would n't make an ioty o' (ifference ef
't war a year old er so ; but ef ever I hed one
dream when I war a real leetle slip, a-settin'
with daddy's arm errotm' me an' seein'
races, it truly war ter be a leddy an' set
under a parysol when the Derby winner
comes cahootin' under the wire. Thar air
nothin' ez movin' ter express all yer f eelin's
with ez a parysol ; an' I would kerry it back
the next day shorely, with no bones broke."
" You shall have that parasol," said the
colonel ; " and you shall certainly wave it
when Brucey comes home in the third race,
and we all win a pot out of Coll Crum's
rascality. I will send it out on Wednesday,
and the ticket also. You can count on us,
Mrs. Goforth."

Sunshine, the fairest of blue skies, and a
warm and delightful little breeze, made
Derby Day delightful. The field was the
brightest green ; the grand stand, crowded
with ladies, a mass of lovely color that from
a distance looked like a great bouquet. Op-
posite the judges' stand sat a woman who
caught the eye because of a certain whole-
some and fresh radiance in her face. Mrs.
Renfrew had done well in sending her a
gray cloth suit and a white shirt-waist.
Under the neat black hat were the refrac-
tory dark curls in wild confusion, in spite
of all the soapings, slickings, and hair-pins.
She carried a pink-and-white-striped silk
parasol, which the colonel declared he
would not have missed buying for a for-
tune, and which guided him to her in the
last half-hour before the races.

" Mundane ij to run in the third race,"
he announced ; " and Brucey is all right.
Now I want you to have a share in this.
Here is some money in envelops marked
one, two, and three. Before the third race
you call one of those men that take the
bets, give him one to win, two for place,
and three to show. You cannot lose much
that way."

" Bettin* with yer money ? " gasped the
woman.

".We '11 divide. There 's Mrs. Renfrew,
her husband, and half a dozen others in it.
We think Mundane can win. Lucky Devil
is the favorite, but they don't know the
other horse like I do."

" Ef I hain't settin' up here bettin' like
an old banker ! " soliloquized Mrs. Goforth,
"with a leddy's dress 'n' hat, 'n' a pink



parysol. Oh, ef daddy could on'y see me
now, an' realize thet I war holdin' stakes,
— mebbe more *n a hundred dollars, — he
would actooally be happy wharever he
air ! An' this air shorely suthin' ter remem-
ber an' ter recoimt for ever 'n' ever. I won-
der whut 'Dullam would say. I don't s'pose
thet he ever considered me ez wuth much
in looks er bearin', er he 'd never hev gone
erway. But I hev real good frien's, an' I
wull suttinly take whut I kin git in this
world an' enjoy myself, with no repinin's
ter handicap me. It air in folks ter be er
not be. The hoss shorely gits in on its
time, not its trainin'."

Much as she enjoyed the first races, her
anxiety was too great for her to be quite
herself. In her mind's eye there was only
one figure, that of a slim, curly-haired lad
with bright eyes. Because of him she did
not appreciate the brilliancy of the bustling
scene, nor could she enjoy the gay music
of the band, that, at other times, would
have filled her with a childish delight.
The UtUe lad was in her heart, tugging
at her thoughts, her interest, her fears.
She imagined him getting into his white
and crimson, the flaunting cap on his rowdy
curls. She mentally saw Tobey tightening
straps, with commands and strong lan-
guage, and the pseudo-Yanney toss the
boy into the saddle. Her heart stood still,
her eyes were strained to the spot where
she knew he would appear. Into the flood
of spring sunshine he would suddenly come,
splendid and triumphant. He was hers in
this hour of worldly glare and glory, her
man-child to do all that her sex had de-
nied her, to achieve, to stand out before
the world. And this was his first step.

Into the glare and glory, swirling around
as the last bars of the dashing music
crashed, — dazzling orange, blue, green, and
crimson dots on animate forms that cur-
veted and curved and danced and backed,
—there came the horses for the third race.
Up rushed Lucky Devil, gray and lean,
and topped by as lean a boy in harlequin
colors of green and scarlet. On came
Corona, a slippery sorrel with four dainty



Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 87 of 120)