William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

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The Heavy Hand of Fate.

Garrison left Long Island for New York that
night. When you are hard hit the soul suffers a
reflex-action. It recoils to its native soil. New
York was Garrison's home. He was a product of
its sporting soil. He loved the Great White Way.
But he had drunk in the smell, the intoxication of
the track with his mother's milk. She had been
from the South; the land of straight women,
straight men, straight living, straight riding. She
had brought blood good, clean blood to the Gar-
rison-Loring entente cordiale a polite definition of
a huge mistake.

From his mother Garrison had inherited his cool
head, steady eye, and the intuitive hands that could
compel horse-flesh like a magnet. From her he
had inherited a peculiar recklessness and swift dar-
ing. From his father well, Garrison never liked


Garrison s Finish

to talk about his father. His mother was a mem-
ory; his father a blank. He was a good-looking,
bad-living sprig of a straight family-tree. He had
met his wife at the New Orleans track, where her
father, an amateur horse-owner, had two entries.
And she had loved him. There is good in every
one. Perhaps she had discovered it in Garrisons
father where no one else had.

Her family threw her off at least, when sne
came North with her husband, she gradually
dropped out of her home circle ; dropped of her own
volition. Perhaps she was afraid that the good
she had first discovered in her husband had been
seen through a magnifying-glass. Her life with
Garrison was a constant whirlwind of changing
scene and fortune the perpetual merry or sorry
go-round of a book-maker; going from track to
track, and from bad to worse. His friends said
he was unlucky; his enemies, that the only honest
thing in him was his cough. He had incipient
consumption. So Mrs. Garrison's life, such as it
was, had been lived in a trunk when it wasn't

Garrison s Finish

held for hotel bills but she had lived out her mis*
take gamely.

When the boy came Billy she thought Heaven
had smiled upon her at last. But it was only hell.
Garrison loved his wife, for love is not a quality
possessed only by the virtuouos. Sometimes the
worst man can love the most in his selfish way.
And Garrison resented the arrival of Billy. He re-
sented sharing his wife's affection with the boy.

In time he came to hate his son. Billy's educa-
tion was chiefly constitutional. There wasn't the
money to pay for his education for any length of
time. His mother had to fight for it piecemeal. So
he took his education in capsules; receiving a dose
in one city and jumping to another for the next,
according as a track opened.

He knew his father never cared for him, though
his mother tried her best to gloze over the indif-
ference of her husband. But Billy understood and
resented it. He and his mother loved in secret.
When she died, her mistake lived out to the best of
her ability, young Garrison promptly ran away


Garrison s Finish

from his circulating home. He knew nothing of
his father's people; nothing of his mother's. He
was a young derelict; his inherent sense of honor
and an instinctive desire for cleanliness kept him
off the rocks.

The years between the time he left home and
the period when he won his first mount on the
track, his natural birthright, Billy Garrison often
told himself he would never care to look back upon.
He was young, and he did not know that years of
privation, of hardship, of semi-starvation but
with an insistent ambition goading one on are not
years to eliminate in retrospect. They are years to

He did not know that prosperity, not adversity,
is the supreme test. And when the supreme test
came; when the goal was attained, and the golden
sun of wealth, fame, and honor beamed down upon
him, little Billy Garrison was found wanting. He
was swamped by the flood. He went the way of
many a better, older, wiser man the easy, rose-
strewn way, big and broad and scented, that ends


Garrison s Finish

in a bottomless abyss filled with bitter tears and
nauseating regrets ; the abyss called, "It might have

Where he had formerly shunned vice by reason
of adversity and poverty making it appear so naked,
revolting, unclean, foreign to his state, prosperity
had now decked it out in her most sensuous, allur-
ing garments. Red's moral diatribe had been cor-
rect. Garrison had followed the band-wagon to
the finish, never asking where it might lead; never
caring. He had youth, reputation, money he could
never overdraw that account. And so the modern
pied piper played, and little Garrison blindly danced
to the music with the other fools; danced on and
on until he was swallowed up in the mountain.

Then he awoke top late, as they all awake ; awoke
to find that his vigor had been sapped by early
suppers and late breakfasts; his finances depleted
by slow horses and fast women; his nerve frayed
to ribbons by gambling. And then had come that
awful morning when he first commenced to cough.
.Would he, could he, ever forget it?


Garrison s Finish

Billy Garrison huddled down now in the roaring
train as he thought of it. It was always before
him, a demoniacal obsession that morning when
he coughed, and a bright speck of arterial blood
stood out like a tardy danger-signal against the
white of his handkerchief; it was leering at him,
saying: "I have been here always, but you have
chosen to be blind."

Consumption the jockey's Old Man of the Sea
had arrived at last. He had inherited the seeds
from his father ; he had assiduously cultivated them
by making weight against all laws of nature; by
living against laws of God and man. Now they
had been punished as they always are. Nature
had struck; struck hard.

That had been his first warning, and Garrison
did not heed it. Instead of quitting the game,
taking what little assets he had managed to save
from the holocaust, and living quietly, striving for
a cure, he kicked over the traces. The music of
the pied piper was still in his ears; twisting his
brain. He gritted his teeth. He would not give

Garrison s Finish

in. He would show that he was master. He
would fight this insidious vitality vampire; fight
and conquer.

Besides, he had to make money. The thought
of going back to a pittance a year sickened him.
That pittance had once been a fortune to him. But
his appetite had not been gorged, satiated; rather,
it had the resilience of crass youth; jumping the
higher with every indulgence. It increased in ratio
with his income. He had no one to guide him; no
one to compel advice with a whip, if necessary. He
knew it all. So he kept his curse secret. He would
pile up one more fortune, retain it this time, and
then retire. But nature had balked. The account
youth, reputation, money was overthrown at

Came a day when in the paddock Dan Crimmins
had seen that fleck of arterial blood on the hand-
kerchief. Then Dan shared the secret. He com-
menced to doctor Garrison. Before every race
the jockey had a drug. But despite it he rode
worse than an exercise-boy; rode despicably. The


Garrison s Finish

Carter Handicap had finished his deal. And with
it Garrison had lost his reputation.

He had done many things in his mad years of
prosperity the mistakes, the faults of youth. But
Billy Garrison was right when he said he was
square. He never threw a race in his life. Horse-
flesh, the "game," was sacred to him. He had
gone wild, but never crooked. But the world now
said otherwise, and it is only the knave, the saint,
and the fool who never heed what the world says.

And so at twenty-two, when the average young
man is leaving college for the real taste of life,
little Garrison had drained it to the dregs; the lees
tasted bitter in his mouth. .

For obvious reasons Garrison had not chosen his
usual haven, the smoking-car, on the train. It was
filled to overflowing from the Aqueduct track, and
he knew that his name would be mentioned fre-
quently and in no complimentary manner. His soul
had been stripped bare, sensitive to a breath. It
would writhe under the mild compassion of .a for-
mer admirer as much as it would under the open

Garrison s Finish

jibes of his enemies. He had plenty of enemies.
Every "is," "has-been," "would-be," "will-be" has
enemies. It is well they have. Nothing is lost
in nature. Enemies make you; not your friends.

Garrison had selected a car next to the smoker
and occupied a seat at the forward end, his back
to the engine. His hands were deep in his pockets,
his shoulders hunched, his eyes staring straight
ahead under the brim of his slouch-hat. His eyes
were looking inward, not outward; they did not
see his surroundings; they were looking in on the
ruin of his life.

The present, the future, did not exist; only the
past lived lived with all the animalism of a rank
growth. He was too far in the depths to even
think of reerecting his life's structure. His cough
was troubling him; his brain throbbing, throbbing.

Then, imperceptibly, as Garrison's staring, blank
eyes slowly turned from within to without, occa-
sioned by a violent jolt of the train, something
flashed across their retina; they became focused,
and a message was wired to his brain. Instantly


Garrison s Finish

his eyes dropped, and he fidgeted uncomfortably in
his seat.

He found he had been staring into a pair of slate-
gray eyes; staring long, rudely, without knowing
it. Their owner was occupying a seat three re-
moved down the aisle. As he was seated with his
back to the engine, he was thus confronting them.

She was a young girl with indefinite hair, white
skin coated with tan, and a very steady gaze. She
would always be remembered for her eyes. Gar-
rison instantly decided that they were beautiful.
He furtively peered up from under his hat. She
was still looking at him fixedly without the slight-
est embarrassment.

Garrison was not susceptible to the eternal fem-
inine. He was old with a boy's face. Yet he found
himself taking snap-shots at the girl opposite. She
was reading now. Unwittingly he tried to criti-
cize every feature. He could not. It was true that
they were far from being regular; her nose went
up like her short upper lip; her chin and under lip
said that she had a temper and a will of her own.


Garrison s Finish

He noted also that she had a mole under her left
eye. But one always returned from the facial per-
egrinations to her eyes. After a long stare Gar-
rison caught himself wishing that he could kiss
those eyes. That threw him into a panic.

"Be sad, be sad," he advised himself gruffly.
"What right have you to think? You're rude to
stare, even if she is a queen. She wouldn't wipe
her boots on you."

Having convinced himself that he should not
think, Garrison promptly proceeded to speculate.
How tall was she? He likened her flexible figure
to Sis. Sis was his criterion. Then, for the brain
is a queer actor, playing clown when it should play
tragedian, Garrison discovered that he was wishing
that the girl would not be taller than his own five
feet two.

"As if it mattered a curse," he laughed contemp-

His eyes were transferred to the door. It had
opened, and with the puff of following wind there
came a crowd of men, emerging like specters from


Garrison s Finish

the blue haze of the smoker. They had evidently
been "smoked out." Some of them were sober.

Garrison half -lowered his head as the crowd en-
tered. He did not wish to be recognized. The
men, laughing noisily, crowded into what seats
were unoccupied. There was one man more than
the available space, and he started to occupy the
half- vacant seat beside the girl with the slate-col-
ored eyes. He was slightly more than fat, and the
process of making four feet go into two was well
under way when the girl spoke.
"Pardon me, this seat is reserved."
"Don't look like it," said Behemoth.
"But I say it is. Isn't that enough?"
"Full house; no reserved seats," observed the
man placidly, squeezing in.

The girl flashed a look at him and then was si-
lent. A spot of red was showing through the tan
on her cheek ; Garrison was watching her under his
hat-brim. He saw the spot on her cheeks slowly
grow and her eyes commence to harden. He saw
that she was being annoyed surreptitiously and


Garrison s Finish

quietly. Behemoth was a Strephon, and he thought
that he had found his Chloe.

Garrison pulled his hat well down over his face,
rose negligently, and entered the next car. He
waited there a moment and then returned. He
swung down the aisle. As he approached the girl
he saw her draw back. Strephon's foot was delib-
erately pressing Chloe's.

Garrison avoided a scene for the girl's sake. He
tapped the man on the shoulder.

"Pardon me. My seat, if you please. I left it
for the smoker."

The man looked up, met Garrison's cold, steady
eyes, rose awkwardly, muttered something about
not knowing it was reserved, and squeezed in with
two of his companions farther down the aisle.

Garrison sat down without glancing at the girl.
He became absorbed in the morning paper twelve
hours old.

Silence ensued. The girl had understood the
fabrication instantly. She waited, her antagonism
routed, to see whether Garrison would try to take


"How dare you insult my daughter, suh ?"

Page 4-j.

Garrison s Finish

advantage of his courtesy. When he was entirely
oblivious of her presence she commenced to inspect
him covertly out of the corners of her gray eyes.
After five minutes she spoke.

"Thank you," she said simply. Her voice was
soft and throaty.

Garrison absently raised his hat and was about
to resume the defunct paper when he was inter-
rupted. A hand reached over the back of the seat,
and, before he had thought of resistance, he was
flung violently down the aisle.

He heard a great laugh from the Behemoth's
friends. He rose slowly, his fighting blood up.
Then he became aware that his ejector was not one
of the crowd, but a newcomer; a tall man with a
fierce white mustache and imperial; dressed in a
frock coat and wide, black slouch hat. He was

"How dare you insult my daughter, suh?" he
thundered. "By thunder, suh, I've a good mind to
make you smart right proper for your lack of man-
ners, suh! How dare you, suh? You you con-


Garrison s Finish

temptible little little snail, suh ! Snail, suh !" And
quite satisfied at thus selecting the most fitting
word, glaring fiercely and twisting his white mus-
tache and imperial with a very martial air, he seated
himself majestically by his daughter.

Garrison recognized him. He was Colonel
Desha, of Kentucky, whose horse, Rogue, had won
the Carter Handicap through Garrison's poor ri-
ding of the favorite, Sis. His daughter was ex-
postulating with him, trying to insert the true ver-
sion of the affair between her father's peppery ex-
clamations of "Occupying my seat!" "I saw him
raise his hat to you!" "How dare he?" "Complain
to the management against these outrageous flirts 1"
"Abominable manners!" etc., etc.

Meanwhile Garrison had silently walked into the
smoker. He tried to dismiss the incident from his
mind, but it stuck; stuck as did the girl's eyes.

At the next station a newsboy entered the car.
Garrison idly bought a paper. It was full of the
Carter Handicap, giving both Crimmins' and Wa-
terbury's version of the affair. Public opinion, it


Garrison s Finish

seemed, was with them. They had protested the
race. It had been thrown, and Garrison's dishonor
now was national.

There was a column of double-leaded type on the
first page, run in after the making up of the paper's
body, and Garrison's bitter eyes negligently scanned*
it. But at the first word he straightened up as if
an electric shock had passed through him.

"Favorite for the Carter Handicap Poisoned,"
was the great, staring title. The details were
meager; brutally meager. They were to the ef-
fect that some one had gained access to the Water-
bury stable and had fed Sis strychnin.

Garrison crumpled up the paper and buried his
face in his hands, making no pretense of hiding
his misery. She had been more than a horse to
him; she had been everything.

"Sis Sis," he whispered over and over again,
the tears burning to his eyes, his throat choking : "I
didn't get a chance to square the deal. Sis Sis,
it was good-by good-by forever."



Beginning a New Life.

On arriving at the Thirty-fourth Street ferry
Garrison idly boarded a Forty-second Street car,
drifting aimlessly with the main body of Long Is-
land passengers going westward to disintegrate,
scatter like the fragments of a bursting bomb, at
Broadway. A vague sense of proprietorship, the
kiss of home, momentarily smoothed out the wrin-
kles in his soul as the lights of the Great White
Way beamed down a welcome upon him. Then it
was slowly borne in on him that, though with the
crowd, he was not of it. His mother, the great
cosmopolitan city, had repudiated him. For Broad-
way is a place for presents or futures; she has no
welcome for pasts. With her, charity begins at
home and stays there.

Garrison drifted hither and thither with every
cross eddy of humanity, and finally dropped into


Garrison s Finish

the steady pulsating, ever-moving tide on the west
curb going south the ever restless tide that never
seems to reach the open sea. As he passed one well-
known cafe after another his mind carried him back
over the waste stretch of "It might have been" to
the time when he was their central figure. On every
block he met acquaintances who had even toasted
him with his own wine; toasted him as the king-
pin. Now they either nodded absently or became
suddenly vitally interested in a show-window or the
new moon.

All sorts and conditions of men comprised that
list of former friends, and not one now stepped
out and wrung his hand; wrung it as they had
only the other day, when they thought he would
retrieve his fortunes by pulling off the Carter Han-
dicap. They did not wring it now, for there was
nothing to wring out of it. Now he was not only
hopelessly down in the muck of poverty, but hope-
lessly dishonored. And gentlemanly appearing
blackguards, who had left all honesty in the cradle,
now wouldn't for the world be seen talking on

Garrison s Finish

Broadway to little Billy Garrison, the horribly
crooked jockey.

It wouldn't do at all. First, because their own
position was so precarious that a breath would send
it tottering. Secondly, because Billy might happen
to inconveniently remember all the sums of money
he had "loaned" them time and again. Actual ne-
cessity might tend to waken his memory. For they
had modernized the proverb into: "A friend in
need is a friend to steer clear of."

A lesson in mankind and the making had been
coming to Garrison, and in that short walk down
Broadway he appreciated it to the uttermost.

"Think I had the mange or the plague," he
mused grimly, as a plethoric ex-alderman passed
and absent-mindedly forgot to return his bow an
alderman who had been tipped by Garrison in his
palmy days to a small fortune. "What if I had
thrown the race?" he ran on bitterly. "Many a
jockey has, and has lived to tell it. No, there's
more behind it all than that. I've passed sports
who wouldn't turn me down for that. But I sup-

Garrison s Finish

pose Bender" (the plethoric alderman) "staked a
pot on Sis, she being the favorite and I up. And
when he loses he forgets the times I tipped him to
win. Poor old Sis!" he added softly, as the fact
of her poisoning swept over him. "The only thing
that cared for me gone ! I'm down on my luck
hard. And it's not over yet. I feel it in the air.
There's another fall coming to me."

He shivered through sheer nervous exhaustion,
though the night was warm for mid-April. He
rummaged in his pocket.

"One dollar in, bird-seed," he mused grimly,
counting the coins under the violet glare of a neigh-
boring arc light. "All that's between me and the
morgue. Did I ever think it would come to that?
Well, I need a bracer. Here goes ten for a drink.
Can only afford bar whisky."

He was standing on the corner of Twenty-fifth
Street, and unconsciously he turned into the cafe
of the Hoffman House. How well he knew its
every square inch! It was filled with the usual
sporting crowd, and Garrison entered as noncha-


Garrison s Finish

lantly as if his arrival would merit the same com-
motion as in the long ago. He no longer cared.
His depression had dropped from him. The lights,
the atmosphere, the topics of conversation, discus-
sion, caused his blood to flow like lava through his
veins. This was home, and all else was forgotten.
He was not the discarded jockey, but Billy Garri-
son, whose name on the turf was one to conjure

And then, even as he had awakened from his
dream on Broadway, he now awoke to an apprecia-
tion of the immensity of his fall from grace. He
knew fully two-thirds of those present. Some there
were who nodded, some kindly, some pityingly.
Some there were who cut him dead, deliberately
turning their backs or accurately looking through
the top of his hat.

Billy's square chin went up a point and his un-
der lip came out. He would not be driven out. He
would show them. He was as honest as any there ;
more honest than many ; more foolish than all. He
ordered a drink and seated himself by a table, in-


Garrison s Finish

differently eying the shifting crowd through the
fluttering curtain of tobacco-smoke.

The staple subject of conversation was the Car-
ter Handicap, and he sensed rather than noted the
glances of the crowd as they shifted curiously to
him and back again. At first he pretended not to
notice them, but after a certain length of time his
oblivion was sincere, for retrospect came and
claimed him for its own.

He was aroused by footsteps behind him; they
wavered, stopped, and a large hand was laid on his

"Hello, kid! you here, too?"

He looked up quickly, though he knew the voice.
It was Jimmy Drake, and he was looking down at
him, a queer gleam in his inscrutable eyes. Gar-
rison nodded without speaking. He noticed that
the book-maker had not offered to shake hands, and
the knowledge stung. The crowd was watching
them curiously, and Drake waved off, with a late '
sporting extra he carried, half a dozen invitations
to liquidate.


Garrison s Finish

"Kid," he said, lowering his voice, his hand still
on Garrison's shoulder, "what did you come here
for? Why don't you get away? Waterbury may
be here any minute."

"What's that to me?" spat out Billy venomously.
"I'm not afraid of him. No call to be."

Drake considered, the queer look still in his eyes.

"Don't get busty, kid. I don't know how you
ever come to do it, but it's a serious game, a
dirty game, and I guess it may mean jail for you,
all right."

"What do you mean?" Garrison's pinched face
had gone slowly white. A vague premonition of
impending further disaster possessed him, amount-
ing almost to an obsession. "What do you mean,
Jimmy?" he reiterated tensely.

Drake was silent, still scrutinizing him.

"Kid," he said finally, "I don't like to think it of
you but I know what made you do it. You were
sore on Waterbury; sore for losing. You wanted
to get hunk on something. But I tell you, kid,


Garrison s Finish

there's no deal too rotten for a man who poisons
a horse "

"Poisons a horse," echoed Garrison mechanically.
"Poisons a horse. Good Lord, Drake!" he cried
fiercely, in a sudden wave of passion and under-
standing, jumping from his chair, "you dare to say
that I poisoned Sis! You dare "

"No, I don't. The paper does."

"The paper lies! Lies, do you hear? Let me
see it ! Let me see it ! Where does it say that ?
Where, where? Show it to me if you can! Show
it to me "

His eyes slowly widened in horror, and his mouth
remained agape, as he hastily scanned the contents
of an article in big type on the first page. Then
the extra dropped from his nerveless fingers, and
he mechanically seated himself at the table, his eyes
vacant. To his surprise, he was horribly calm. Sim-
ply his nerves had snapped; they could tortune him
no longer by stretching.

"It's not enough to have have her die, but I
must be her poisoner," he said mechanically.


Garrison s Finish

"It's all circumstantial evidence, or nearly so,"
added Drake, shifting from one foot to the other.
"You were the only one who would have a cause
to get square. And Crimmins says he gave you
permission to see her alone. Even the stable-hands

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