William Blair Morton Ferguson.

Garrison's finish : a romance of the race course online

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tous umbrella and winter flannels; taking fortune
boldly by the hand; returning to first principles;
living for the moment; for the trial of skill, en-
durance, and strength; staking enough in the bal-
ances to bring a fillip to the heart and the blood to
the cheek.

It was a typical American crowd; long-suffering,
giving and taking principally giving good-hu-
mored, just. All morning it came in a seemingly
endless chain ; uncoupling link by link, only to weld
together again. All morning long, ferries, trolleys,
trains were jammed with the race-mad throng.
Coming by devious ways, for divers reasons; com-
ing from all quarters by every medium; centering
at last at the Queen's County Jockey Club.

And never before in the history of the Aqueduct
track had so thoroughly a representative body of
racegoers assembled at an opening day. Never be-
fore had Long Island lent sitting and standing room
to so impressive a gathering of talent, money, and
family. Every one interested in the various phases

Garrison s Finish

of the turf was there, but even they only formed a
small portion of the attendance.

Rumors floated from paddock to stand and back
again. The air was surcharged with these wireless
messages, bearing no signature nor guarantee of
authenticity. And borne on the crest of all these
rumors was one great, paramount. Garrison, the
former great Garrison, had come back. He was to
ride; ride the winner of the last Carter, the winner
of a fluke race.

The world had not forgotten. They remembered
The Rogue's last race. They remembered Garri-
son's last race. The wise ones said that The Rogue
could not possibly win. This time there could be
no fluke, for the great Red McGloin was up on the
favorite. The Rogue would be shown in his true
colors a second-rater.

Speculation was rife. This Carter Handicap
presented many, many features that kept the crowd
at fever-heat. Garrison had come back. Garrison
had been reinstated. Garrison was up on a mount
he had been accused of permitting to win last year.


Garrison s Finish

Those who wield the muck-rake for the sake of
general filth, not in the name of justice, shook their
heads and lifted high hands to Heaven. It looked
bad. Why should Garrison be riding for Colonel
Desha? Why had Jimmie Drake transferred him
at the eleventh hour? Why had Drake scratched
Speedaway? Why had Major Calvert scratched
Dixie? The latter was an outsider, but they had
heard great things of her.

"Cooked," said the muck-rakers wisely, and,
thinking it was a show-down for the favorite,
stacked every cent they had on Swallow. No long
shots for them.

And some there were who cursed Drake and
Major Calvert ; cursed long and intelligently those
who had bet on Speedaway and Dixie, bet on the
play-or-pay basis, and now that the mounts were
scratched, they had been bitten. It is entirely wrong
to tempt Fortune, and then have her turn on you.
She should always be down on the "other fellow"
not you.

And then there were those, and many, who did

Garrison s Finish

not question ; who were glad to know that Garrison
had come back on any terms. They had liked him
for himself. They were the weak-kneed variety
who are stanch in prosperity; who go with the
world ; coincide with the world's verdict. The world
had said Garrison was crooked. If they had not
agreed, they had not denied. If Garrison now had
been reinstated, then the world said he was honest.
They agreed now loudly; adding the old shib-
boleth of the moral coward: "I told you so." But
still they doubted that he had "come back." A has-
been can never come back.

The conservative element backed Morgan's Swal-
low. Red McGloin was up, and he was proven
class. He had stepped into Garrison's niche of
fame. He was the popular idol now. And, as Gar-
rison had once warned him, he was already begin-
ning to pay the price. The philosophy of the ex-
ercise-boy had changed to the philosophy of the
idol ; the idol who cannot be pulled down. And he
had suffered. He had gone through part of what
Garrison had gone through, but he also had experi-


Garrison s Finish

enced what the latter's inherent cleanliness had kept
him from.

Temptation had come Red's way; come strong
without reservation. Red, with the hunger of the
long-denied, with the unrestricted appetite of the in-
tellectually low, had not discriminated. And he had
suffered. His trainer had watched him carefully,
but youth must have its fling, and youth had flung
farther than watching wisdom reckoned.

Red had not gone back. He was young yet. But
the first flush of his manhood had gone; the cream
had been stolen. His nerve was just a little less
than it had been; his eye and hand a little less
steady; his judgment a little less sound; his initia-
tive, daring, a little less paramount. And races have
been won and lost, and will be won and lost, when
that "little less" is the deciding breath that tips the

But he had no misgivings. Was he not the idol ?
Was he not up on Swallow, the favorite ? Swallow,
with the odds two to one on. He knew Garri-


Garrison s Finish

son was to ride The Rogue. What did that mat-
ter? The Rogue was ten to one against. The
Rogue was a fluke horse. Garrison was a has-been.
The track says a has-been can never come back. Of
course Garrison had been to the dogs during the
past year what down-and-out jockey has not gone
there? And if Drake had transferred him to Desha,
it was a case of good riddance. Drake was famous
for his eccentric humor. But he was a sound judge
of horse-flesh. No doubt he knew what a small
chance Speedaway had against Swallow, and he
had scratched advisedly; playing the Morgan en-
try instead.

In the grand stand sat three people wearing a blue
and gold ribbon the Desha colors. Occasionally
they were reen forced by a big man, who circulated
between them and the paddock. The latter was Jim-
mie Drake. The others were "Cottonton," as the
turfman called them. They were Major and Mrs.
Calvert and Sue Desha.

Colonel Desha was not there. He was eating his
heart out back home. The nerve he had been living


Garrison s Finish

on had suddenly snapped at the eleventh hour. He
was denied watching the race he had paid so much
in every way to enter. The doctors had forbidden
his leaving. His heart would not stand the excite-
ment; his constitution could not meet the long jour-
ney North. And so alone, propped up in bed, he
waited ; waited, counting off each minute ; more ex-
cited, wrought up, than if he had been at the track.

It had been arranged that in the event of The
Rogue winning, the good news should be tele-
graphed to the colonel the moment the gelding
flashed past the judges' stand. He had insisted on
that and on his daughter being present. Some mem-
ber of the family must be there to back The Rogue
in his game fight. And so Sue, in company with
the major and his wife, had gone.

She had taken little interest in the race. She
knew what it meant, no one knew better than she,
but somehow she had no room left for care to oc-
cupy. She was apathetic, listless; a striking con-
trast to the major and his wife, who could hardly
repress their feelings. They knew what she woulcj


Garrison s Finish

find at the Aqueduct track find the world. She did

All she knew was that Drake, whom she liked
for his rough, patent manhood, had very kindly
offered the services of his jockey; a jockey whom he
had faith in. Who that jockey was, she did not
know, nor overmuch care. A greater sorrow had
obliterated her racing passion; had even ridden
roughshod over the fear of financial ruin. Her
mind was numb.

For days succeeding Drake's statement to her that
Garrison was not married she waited for some word
from him. Drake had explained how Garrison had
thought he was married. He had explained all that.
She could never forget the joy that had swamped
her on hearing it; even as she could never forget
the succeeding days of waiting misery; waiting,
waiting, waiting for some word. He had been
proven honest, proven Major Calvert's nephew,
proven free. What more could he ask ? Then why
had he not come, written?

She could not believe he no longer cared. She.

Garrison s Finish

could not believe that; rather, she would not. She
gaged his heart by her own. Hers was the woman's
portion inaction. She must still wait, wait, wait.
Still she must eat her heart out. Hers was the
woman's portion. And if he did not come, if he
did not write even in imagination she could never
complete the alternative. She must live in hope;
live in hope, in faith, in trust, or not at all.

Colonel Desha's enforced absence overcame the
one difficulty Major Calvert and Jimmie Drake had
acknowledged might prematurely explode their hid-
den identity mine. The colonel, exercising his
owner's prerogative, would have fussed about The
Rogue until the last minute. Of course he would
have interviewed Garrison, giving him riding in-
structions, etc. Now Drake assumed the right by
proxy, and Sue, after one eager-whispered word to
The Rogue, had assumed her position in the grand

Garrison was up-stairs in the jockeys' quarters of
the new paddock structure, the lower part of which
is reserved for the clerical force, and so she had not


Garrison s Finish

seen him. But presently the word that Garrison
was to ride flew everywhere, and Sue heard it. She
turned slowly to Drake, standing at her elbow, his
eyes on the paddock.

"Is it true that a jockey called Garrison is to
ride to-day?" she asked, a strange light in her eyes.
What that name meant to her!

"Why, yes, I believe so, Miss Desha," replied
Drake, delightfully innocent. "Why?"

"Oh," she said slowly. "How how queer! I
mean isn't it queer that two people should have
the same name? I suppose this one copied it; imi-
tation being the sincerest form of flattery. I hope
he does the name justice. Do you know him ? He
is a good rider? What horse is he up on?"

Drake, wisely enough, chose the last question.
"A ten-to-one shot," he replied illuminatingly.
"Perhaps you'll bet on him, Miss Desha, eh? It's
what we call a hunch coincidence or anything like
that. Shall I place a bet for you?"

The girl's eyes kindled strangely. Then she hesi-


Garrison s Finish

"But but I can't bet against The Rogue. It
would not be loyal."

Mrs. Calvert laughed softly.

"There are exceptions, dear." In a low aside she
added : "Haven't you that much faith in the name
of Garrison? There, I know you have. I would
be ashamed to tell you how much the major and I
have up on that name. And you know I never
bet, as a rule. It is very wrong."

And so Sue, the blood in her cheeks, handed all
her available cash to Drake to place on the name
of Garrison. She would pretend it was the original.
Just pretend.

"Here they come," yelled Drake, echoed by the
rippling shout of the crowd.

The girl rose, white-faced; striving to pick out
the blue and gold of the Desha stable.

And here they came, the thirteen starters; thir-
teen finished examples of God and man's handicraft.
Speed, endurance, skill, nerve, grit all were there.
Horse and rider trained to the second, Bone, mus->

Garrison s Finish

cle, sinew, class. And foremost of the string came
Swallow, the favorite, Red McGloin, confidently
smiling> sitting with the conscious ease of the idol
who has carried off the past year's Brooklyn Handi-

Good horses there were; good and true. There
were Black Knight and Scapegrace, Rightful and
Happy Lad, Bean Eater and Emetic the latter the
great sprinter who was bracketed with Swallow on
the book-makers' sheets. Mares, fillies, geldings
every offering of horse-flesh above three years. All
striving for the glory and honor of winning this
great sprint handicap. The monetary value was the
lesser virtue. Eight thousand dollars for the first
home; fifteen hundred for the second; five hundred
for the third. All striving to be at least placed
within the money placed for the honor and glory
and standing.

Last of all came The Rogue, black, lean, danger-
ous. Trained for the fight of his life from muzzle.
to clean-cut hoofs. Those hoofs had been cared
'for more carefully than the hands of any queen;


Garrison s Finish

packed every day in the soft, velvety red clay
brought all the way from the Potomac River.

Garrison, in the blue and gold of the Desha stable,
his mouth drawn across his face like a taut wire, sat
"hunched high on The Rogue's neck. He looked as
lean and dangerous as his mount. His seat was rec-
ognized instantly, before even his face could be dis-

A murmur, increasing rapidly to a roar, swung 1
out from every foot of space. Some one cried
"Garrison!" And "Garrison! Garrison! Garrison!"
was caught up and flung back like the spume of sea
from the surf -lashed coast.

He knew the value of that hail, and how only one
year ago his name had been spewed from out those
selfsame laudatory mouths with venom 1 and con-
tempt. He knew his public. Adversity had been a
mighty master. The public they who live in the
present, not the past. They who swear by triumph,
achievement; not effort. They who have no mem-
ory for the deeds that have been done unless they
vouch for future conquests. The public fickle as


Garrison s Finish

woman, weak as infancy, gullible as credulity,
mighty as fate. Yes, Garrison knew it, and deep
down in his heart, though he showed it not, he
gloried in the welcome accorded him. He had not
been forgotten.

But he had no false hopes, illusions. His had
been the welcome vouchsafed the veteran who is
hopelessly facing his last fight. They, perhaps, ad-
mired his grit, his optimism; admired while they
pitied. But how many, how many, really thought
he was there to win ? How many thought he could

He knew, and his heart did not quicken nor his
pulse increase so much as a beat. He was cool, im-
placable, and dangerous as a rattler waiting for the
opportune moment to spring. He looked neither to
right nor left. He was deaf, impervious. He was
there to win. That only.

And he would win? Why not? What were the
odds of ten to one? What was the opinion, the
judgment of man? What was anything compared
with what he was fighting for? What horse, what


Garrison s Finish

jockey among them all was backed by what he was
backed with? What impulse, what stimulant, what
overmastering, driving necessity had they compared
with his ? And The Rogue knew what was expected
of him that day.

It was only as Garrison was passing the grand
stand during the preliminary warming-up process
that his nerve faltered. He glanced up he was
compelled to. A pair of eyes were drawing his.
He glanced up there was "Cottonton"; "Cotton-
ton" and Sue Desha. The girl's hands were tightly
clenched in her lap, her head thrown forward; her
eyes obliterating space; eating into his own. How
long he looked into those eyes he did not know. The
major, his wife, Drake all were shut out. He
only saw those eyes. And as he looked he saw
that the eyes understood at last ; understood all. He
remembered lifting his cap. That was all.

"They're off ! They're off !" That great, magic
cry ; fingering at the heart, tingling the blood. Sig-


Garrison s Finish

nal for a roar from every throat ; for the stretching
of every neck to the dislocating point; for prayers,
imprecations, adjurations the entire stock of na-
ture's sentiment factory. Sentiment, unbridled, un-
leashed, unchecked. Passion given a kick and sent
hurtling without let or hindrance.

The barrier was down. They were off. Off in a
smother of spume and dust. Off for the short
seven furlongs eating up less than a minute and a
half of time. All this preparation, all the prelimin-
aries, the whetting of appetites to razor edge, the
tilts with fortune, the defiance of fate, the moil and
toil and tribulations of months all brought to a
head, focused on this minute and a half. All, all for
one minute and a half!

It had been a clean break from the barrier. But
in a flash Emetic was away first, hugging the rail.
Swallow, taking her pace with all McGloin's nerve
and skill, had caught her before she had traveled
half a dozen yards. Emetic flung dirt hard, but
Swallow hung on, using her as a wind-shield. She
was using the pacemaker's "going."


Garrison s Finish

The track was in surprisingly good condition,
but there were streaks of damp, lumpy track
throughout the long back and home-stretch. This
favored The Rogue; told against the fast sprinters
Swallow and Emetic. After the two-yard gap left
by the leaders came a bunch of four, with The
Rogue in the center.

"Pocketed already!" yelled some derisively. Gar-
rison never heeded. Emetic was the fastest sprinter
there that day; a sprinter, not a stayer. There is
a lot of luck in a handicap. If a sprinter with a
light weight up can get away first, she may never
be headed till the finish. But it had been a clear
break, and Swallow had caught on.

The pace was heart-breaking ; murderous ; terrific.
Emetic's rider had taken a chance and lost it; lost
it when McGloin caught him. Swallow was a bet-
ter stayer; as fast a sprinter. But if Emetic could
not spread-eagle the field, she could set a pace that
would try the stamina and lungs of Pegasus. And
she did. First furlong in thirteen seconds. Record
for the Aqueduct. A record sent flying to flinders.


Garrison s Finish

My ! that was some going. Quarter-mile in twenty-
four flat. Another record wiped out. What a

A great cry went up. Could Emetic hold out?,
Could she stay, after all? Could she do what she
had never done before? Swallow's backers began
to blanch. Why, why was McGloin pressing so
hard? Why? why? Emetic must tire. Must,
must, must. Why would McGloin insist on taking
that pace? It was a mistake, a mistake. The race
had twisted his brain. The fight for leadership had
biased his judgment. If he was not careful that
lean, hungry-looking horse, with Garrison up,
would swing out from the bunch, fresh, unkilled
by pace-following, and beat him to a froth. . . .

There, there! Look at that! Look at that. God!
how Garrison is riding! Riding as he never rode
before. Has he come back? Look at him. . . .
I told you so. I told you so. There comes that

black fiend across It's a foul ! No, no. He's

clear. He's clear. There he goes. He's clear.
He's slipped the bunch, skinned a leader's nose,.

Garrison s Finish

jammed against the rail. Look how he's hugging
it! Look! He's hugging McGloin's heels. He's
waiting, waiting. . . . There, there ! It's Emetic.
See, she's wet from head to hock. She is, she is!
She's tiring ; tiring fast. . . . See ! . . . Mc-
Gloin, McGloin, McGloin! You're riding, boy,
riding. Good work. Snappy work. You've got
Emetic dead to rights. You were all right in fol-
lowing her pace. I knew you were. I knew she

would tire. Only two furlongs What?

What's that? . . . Garrison? That plug
Rogue? ... Oh, Red, Red! . . . Beat
him, Red, beat him! It's only a bluff. He's not in
your class. He can't hang on. . . . Beat him,
Red, beat him! Don't let a has-been put it all over
you! . . . Ride, you cripple, ride!
What? Can't you shake him off? ... Slug
him ! . . . Watch out ! He's trying for the rail.
Crowd him, crowd him! . . . What's the mat-
ter with you? . . . Where's your nerve? You
can't shake him off! Beat him down the stretch!
He's fresh. He wasn't the fool to follow pace, like


Garrison s Finish

you. . . . What's the matter with you? He's
crowding you look out, there! Jam him! . . .
He's pushing you hard. . . . Neck and neck,
you fool. That black fiend can't be stopped. . . .
Use the whip ! Red, use the whip ! It's all you've
left. Slug her, slug her! That's it, that's it ! Slug
speed into her. Only a furlong to go. ...
Come on, Red, come on! . . .

Here they come, in a smother of dust. Neck and
neck down the stretch. The red and white of the
Morgan stable; the blue and gold of the Desha.
It's Swallow. No, no, it's The Rogue. Back and
forth, back and forth stormed the rival names. The
field was pandemonium. "Cottonton" was a mass
of frantic arms, raucous voices, white faces. Drake,
his pudgy hands whanging about like semaphore-
signals in distress, was blowing his lungs out:
"Come on, kid, come on! You've got him now!
He can't last! Come on, come on! for my sake,
for your sake, for anybody's sake, but only come !"

Game Swallow's eyes had a blue film over them.
The heart-breaking pace-following had told. Red's


Garrison s Finish

error of judgment had told. The "little less" had
told. A frenzied howl went up. "Garrison! Gar-
rison! Garrison!" The name that had once meant
so much now meant everything. For in a swirl
of dust and general undiluted Hades, the horses had
stormed past the judges' stand. The great Carter
was lost and won.

Swallow, with a thin streamer of blood thread-
ing its way from her nostrils, was a beaten horse ; a
game, plucky, beaten favorite. It was all over.
Already The Rogue's number had been posted. It
was all over; all over. The finish of a heart-break-
ing fight; the establishing of a new record for the
Aqueduct. And a name had been replaced in its
former high niche. The has-been had come back.

And "Cottonton," led by a white-faced girl and
a big, apoplectic turfman, were forgetting dignity,
decorum, and conventionality as hand in hand they
stormed through the surging eruption of humanity
fighting to get a chance at little Billy Garrison's

And as, saddle on shoulder, he stood on the

A frenzied howl went up. "Garrison! Garrison! Garrison!"

Page 278.

Garrison s Finish

weighing-scales and caught sight of the oncoming
hosts of "Cottonton" and read what the girl's eyes
held, then, indeed, he knew all that his finish had
earned him the beginning of a new life with a
new name; the beginning of one that the lesson he
had learned, backed by the great love that had come
to him, would make paradise. And his one unut-
tered prayer was: "Dear God, make me worthy,
make me worthy of them all !"

Aftermath was a blur to "Garrison." Great hap-
piness can obscure, befog like great sorrow. And
there are some things which touch the heart too
vitally to admit of analyzation. But long after-
ward, when time, mighty adjuster of the human
soul, had given to events their true proportions,
that meeting with "Cottonton" loomed up in all its
geatness, all its infinite appeal to the emotions, all
its appeal to what is highest and worthiest in man.
In silence, before all that little world, Sue Desha
had put her arms about his neck. In silence he had
clasped the major's hand. In silence he had turned
to his aunt ; and what he read in her misty eyes, read


Garrisons Finish

in the eyes of all, even the shrewd, kindly eyes of
Drake the Silent and in the slap from his congratu-
latory paw, was all that man could ask; more than
man could deserve.

Afterward the entire party, including Jimmie
Drake, who was regarded as the grand master of
Cottonton by this time, took train for New York.
Regarding the environment, it was somewhat like a
former ride "Garrison" had taken; regarding the
atmosphere, it was as different as hope from despair.
Now Sue was seated by his side, her eyes never once
leaving his face. She was not ordinarily one to
whom words were ungenerous, but now she could
not talk. She could only look and look, as if her
happiness would vanish before her eyes. "Garri-
son" was thinking, thinking of many things. Some-
how, words were unkind to him, too ; somehow, they
seemed quite unnecessary.

"Do you remember this time a year ago?" he
asked gravely at length. "It was the first time I
saw you. Then it was purgatory to exist, now it is
heaven to live. It must be a dream. Why is it that


Garrison s Finish

those who deserve least, invariably are given most?
Is it the charity of Heaven, or what ?" He turned
and looked into her eyes. She smuggled her hand
across to his.

"You," she exclaimed, a caressing, indolent in-
flection in her soft voice. "You." That "you" is a
peculiar characteristic caress of the Southerner. Its
meaning is infinite. "I'm too happy to analyze," she
confided, her eyes growing dark. "And it is not
the charity of Heaven, but the charity of man."

"You mustn't say that," he whispered. "It is
you, not me. It is you who are all and I nothing.
It is you."

She shook her head, smiling. There was an air
of seductive luxury about her. She kept her eyes
unwaveringly on his. "You," she said again.

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