William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

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say that. It looks bad, kid. Here, don't take it so
hard. Get a cinch on yourself," he added, as he
watched Garrison's blank eyes and quivering face.

"I'm all right. I'm all right," muttered Billy
vaguely, passing a hand over his throbbing temples.

Drake was silent, fidgeting uneasily.

"Kid," he blurted out at length, "it looks as if
you were all in. Say, let me be your bank-roll,
won't you? I know you lost every cent on Sis, no
matter what they say. I'll give you a blank check,
and you can fill it out "

"No, thanks, Jimmy."

"Don't be touchy, kid. You'd do the same for

rnp "


"I mean it, Drake. I don't want a cent. I'm
not hard up. Thanks all the same." Garrison's
rag of honor was fluttering in the wind of his pride.

Garrison s Finish

"Well," said Drake, finally and uncomfortably,
"if you ever want it, Billy, you know where to
come for it. I want to go down on the books as
your friend, hear? Mind that. So-long."

"So-long, Jimmy. And I won't forget your

Garrison continued staring at the floor. This,
then, was the reason why the sporting world had
cut him dead; for a horse-poisoner is ranked in the
same category as that assigned to the horse-stealer
of the Western frontier. There, a man's horse
is his life; to the turfman it is his fortune one
and the same. And so Crimmins had testified that
he had permitted him, Garrison, to see Sis alone!

Yes, the signals were set dead against him. His
opinion of Crimmins had undergone a complete
revolution; first engendered by the trainer offering
him a dishonorable opportunity of fleecing the New
York pool-rooms; now culminated by his indirect

Garrison considered the issue paramount. He
was furious, though so seemingly indifferent.


Garrison s Finish

Every ounce of resentment in his nature had been
focused to the burning-point. Now he would not
leave New York. Come what might, he would
stand his ground. He would not run away. He
would fight the charge ; fight Waterbury, Crimmins
the world, if necessary. And mingled with the
warp and woof of this resolve was another; one
that he determined would comprise the color-
scheme of his future existence; he would ferret
out the slayer of Sis; not merely for his own vin-
dication, but for hers. He regarded her slayer as
a murderer, for to him Sis had been more than

Garrison came to himself by hearing his name
mentioned. Behind him two young men were seated
at a table, evidently unaware of his identity, for
they were exchanging their separate views on the
running of the Carter Handicap and the subse-
quent poisoning of the favorite.

"And I say," concluded one whose nasal twang
bespoke the New Englander; "I say that it was a
dirty race all through."


Garrison s Finish

"One paper hints that the stable was in on it;
wanted to hit the bookies hard," put in his com-
panion diffidently.

"No," argued the wise one, some alcohol and
venom in his syllables, "Waterbury's all right. He's
a square sport. I know. I ought to know, for I've
got inside information. A friend of mine has a
cousin who's married to the brother of a friend of
Waterbury's aunt's half-sister. So I ought to know.
Take it from me," added this Bureau of Inside In-
formation, beating the table with an insistent fist;
"it was a put-up job of Garrison's. I'll bet he made
a mint on it. All these jockeys are crooked. I
may be from Little Falls, but I know. You can't
fool me. I've been following Garrison's rec-
ord "

"Then what did you bet on him for?" asked his
companion mildly.

"Because I thought he might ride straight for
once. And being up on Sis, I thought he couldn't
help but win. And so I plunged heavy. And now,
by Heck ! ten dollars gone, and I'm mad ; mad clear


Garrison s Finish

through. Sis was a corker, and ought to have had
the race. I read all about her in the Little Falls
Daily Banner. I'd just like to lay hands on that
Garrison a miserable little whelp; that's what he
is. He ought to have poisoned himself instead of
the horse. I hope Waterbury'll do him up. I'll
see him about it."

Garrison slowly arose, his face white, eyes
smoldering. The devil was running riot through
him. His resentment had passed from the apa-
thetic stage to the fighting. So this was the world's
opinion of him ! Not only the world, but miserable
wastrals of sports who "plunged heavy" with ten
dollars! His name was to be bandied in their un-
clean mouths! He, Billy Garrison, former premier
jockey, branded as a thing beyond redemption ! He
did not care what might happen, but he would kill
that lie here and now. He was glad of the oppor-
tunity; hungry to let loose some of the resentment
seething within him.

The Bureau of Inside Information and his com-
panion looked up as Billy Garrison stood over them,


Garrison s Finish

hands in pockets. Both men had been drinking.
Drake and half the cafe's occupants had drifted out.

"Which of you gentlemen just now gave his
opinion of Billy Garrison?" asked the jockey

"I did, neighbor. Been roped in, too?" Inside
Information splayed out his legs, and, with a very
blase air, put his thumbs in the armholes of his ex-
ecrable vest. He owned a rangy frame and a loose
mouth. He was showing the sights of Gotham to a
friend, and was proud of his knowledge. But he
secretly feared New York because he did not know

"Oh, it was you?" snapped Garrison venomously.
"Well, I don't know your name, but mine's Billy
Garrison, and you're a liar!" He struck Inside In-
formation a whack across the face that sent him a
tumbled heap on the floor.

There is no one so dangerous as a coward. There
is nothing so dangerous as ignorance. The New
Englander had heard much of Gotham's under-
current and the brawls so prevalent there. He

Garrison s Finish

had heard and feared. He had looked for them,
fascination in his fear, but till the present had never
experienced one. He had heard that sporting men
carried guns and were quick to use them ; that when
the lie was passed it meant the hospital or the
morgue. He was thoroughly ignorant of the ways
of a great city, of the world; incapable of meeting
a crisis; of apportioning it at its true value. And
so now he overdid it.

As Garrison, a contemptuous smile on his face,
turned away, and started to draw a handkerchief
from his hip pocket, the New Englander, thinking
a revolver was on its way, scrambled to his feet,
wildly seized the heavy spirit-bottle, and let fly at
Garrison's head. There was whisky, muscle, sinew,
and fear behind the shot.

As Billy turned about to ascertain whether or not
his opponent meant fight by rising from under the
table, the heavy bottle landed full on his temple.
He crumpled up like a withered leaf, and went over
on the floor without even a sigh.

It was two weeks later when Garrison regained

Garrison s Finish

full consciousness; opened his eyes to gaze upon
blank walls, blank as the ceiling. He was in a hos-
pital, but he did not know it. He knew nothing.
The past had become a blank. An acute attack
of brain-fever had set in, brought on by the ex-
citement he had undergone and finished by the
smash from the spirit-bottle.

. There followed many nights when doctors shook
their heads and nurses frowned ; nights when it was
thought little Billy Garrison would cross the Great
Divide ; nights when he sat up in the narrow cot, his
hands clenched as if holding the reins, .his eyes
flaming as in his feverish imagination he came
down the stretch, fighting for every inch of way;
crying, pleading, imploring: "Go it, Sis; go it!
Take the rail! Careful, careful! Now now let

her out ; let her out ! Go, you cripple, go " All

the jargon of the turf.

He was a physical, nervous wreck, and the doc-
tors said that he couldn't last very long, for con-
sumption had him. It was only a matter of time,
unless a miracle happened. The breath of his life

Garrison s Finish

was going through his mouth and nostrils; the
breath of his lungs.

No one knew his name at the hospital, not even
himself. There was nothing to identify him by.
For Garrison, after the blow that night, had man-
aged to crawl out to the sidewalk like a wounded
beast striving to find its lair and fighting to die

There was no one to say him nay, no friend to
help him. And hotel managements are notoriously
averse to having murder or assault committed in
their houses. So when they saw that Garrison was
able to walk they let him go, and willingly. Then
he had collapsed, crumpled in a heap on the side-

A policeman had eventually found him, and with
the uncanny acumen of his ilk had unerringly diag-
nosed the case as a "drunk." From the station-
house to Bellevue, Garrison had gone his weary
way, and from there, when it was finally discovered
he was neither drunk nor insane, to Roosevelt Hos-
pital. And no one knew who or what he was, and


Garrisons Finish

no one cared overmuch. He was simply one of the
many unfortunate derelicts of a great city.

It was over six months before he left the hos-
pital, cured so far as he could be. The doctors
called his complaint by a learned and villainously
unpronounceable name, which, interpreted by the
Bowery, meant that Billy Garrison "had gone

But Garrison had not. His every faculty was
as acute as it ever had been. Simply, Providence
had drawn an impenetrable curtain over his mem-
ory, separating the past from the present ; the same
curtain that divides our presents from our futures.
He had no past. It was a blank, shot now and then
with a vague gleam of things dead and gone.

This oblivion may have been the manifestation
of an all-wise Almighty. Now, at least, he could
not brood over past mistakes, though, uncon-
sciously, he might have to live them out. Life to
him was a new book, not one mark appeared on its
clean pages. He did not even know his name


Garrison s Finish

From the "W. G." on his linen he understood
that those were his initials, but he could not inter-
pret them; they stood for nothing. He had no
letters, memoranda in his pockets, bearing his name.
And so he took the name of William Good. Per-
haps the "William" came to him instinctively; he
had no reason for choosing "Good."

Garrison left the hospital with his cough, a little
money the superintendent had kindly given to him,
and his clothes; that was all.

Handicapped as he was, harried by futile at-
tempts of memory to fathom his identity, he was
about to renew the battle of life; not as a veteran,
one who has earned promotion, profited by expe-
rience, but as a raw recruit.

The big city was no longer an old familiar
mother, whose every mood and whimsy he sensed
unerringly; now he was a stranger. The streets
meant nothing to him. But when he first turned
into old Broadway, a vague, uneasy feeling stirred
within him ; it was a memory struggling like an im-
prisoned bird to be free. Almost the first person


Garrison s Finish

he met was Jimmy Drake. Garrison was about to
pass by, oblivious, when the other seized him by
the arm.

"Hello, Billy! where did you drop from "

"Pardon me, you have made a mistake." Gar-
rison stared coldly, blankly at Drake, shook free
his arm, and passed on.

"Gee, what a cut !" mused the book-maker, staring
after the rapidly retreating figure of Garrison. "The
frozen mitt for sure. What's happened now?
Where's he been the past six months? Wearing
the same clothes, too! Was that Billy Garrison?
It certainly was, and yet he looked different. He's
changed. Well, somehow I've queered myself for
good. I don't know what I did or didn't. But
I'll keep my eye on him, anyway." To cheer his
philosophy, Drake passed into the Fifth Avenue for
a drink.



A Ready-made Heir.

Garrison had flattered himself that he had known
adversity in his time, but in the months succeeding
his dismissal from the hospital he qualified for a
post-graduate course in privation. He was cursed
with the curse of the age; it is an age of specialties,
and he had none. His only one, the knowledge of
the track, had been buried in him, and nothing
tended to awaken it.

He had no commercial education; nothing but
the savoir-faire which wealth had given to him,
and an inherent breeding inherited from his mother.
By reason of his physique he was disbarred from
mere manual labor, and that haven of the failure
the army.

So Garrison joined the ranks of the Unemployed
Grand Army of the Republic. He knew what it
was to sleep in Madison Square Park with a news-


Garrison s Finish

paper blanket, and to be awakened by the carol of
the touring policeman. He came to know what it
meant to stand in the bread-line, to go the rounds
of the homeless "one-night stands."

He came perilously near reaching the level of
the sodden. His morality had suffered with it all.
Where in his former days of hardship he had
health, ambition, a goal to strive for, friends to
keep him honest with himself, now he had nothing.
He was alone; no one cared.

If he had only taken to the track, his passion ;
legitimate passion for horse-flesh would have
pulled him through. But the thought that he ever;
could ride never suggested itself to him.

He had no opportunity of inhaling the track's
atmosphere. Sometimes he wondered idly why he
liked to stop and caress every stray horse. He could
not know that those same hands had once coaxed
thoroughbreds down the stretch to victory. His
haunts necessarily kept him from meeting with
those whom he had once known. The few he did


Garrison s Finish

happen to meet he cut unconsciously as he had once
cut Jimmy Drake.

And so day by day Garrison's morality suffered.
It is so easy for the well-fed to be honest. But
when there is the hunger cancer gnawing at one's
vitals, not for one day, but for many, then honesty
and dishonesty cease to be concrete realities. It is
not a question of piling up luxuries, but of supply-
ing mere necessity.

And day by day as the hunger cancer gnawed at
Garrison's vitals it encroached on his original stock
of honesty. He fought every minute of the day,
but he grimly foresaw that there would come a time
when he would steal the first time opportunity af-

Day by day he saw the depletion of his honor.
He was not a moralist, a saint, a sinner. Need
sweeps all theories aside; in need's fierce crucible
they are transmuted to concrete realities. Those
who have never known what it is to be thrown with
Garrison's handicap on the charity of a great city
will not understand. But those who have eve


Garrison s Finish

tasted the bitter crust of adversity will. And it is
the old blatant advice from the Seats of the Mighty :
"Get a job." The old answer from the hopeless
undercurrent: "How?"

There came a day when the question of honesty
or dishonesty was put up to Garrison in a way he
had not foreseen. The line was drawn distinctly;
there was no easy slipping over it by degrees, un-

The toilet facilities of municipal lodging-houses
are severely crude and primitive. For the sake of
sanitation, the whilom lodger's clothes are put in
a net and fumigated in a germ-destroying tempera-
ture. The men congregate together in one long
room, in various stages of pre-Adamite costumes,
and the shower is turned upon them in numerical

This public washing was one of the many draw-
backs to public charity which Garrison shivered at.
As the warm weather set in he accordingly took full
advantage of the free baths at the Battery. On
his second day's dip, as he was leaving, a man


Garrison s Finish

whom he had noticed intently scanning the bathers
tapped him on the arm.

He was shaped like an olive, with a pair of
shrewd gray eyes, and a clever, clean-shaven
mouth. He was well-dressed, and was continually
probing with a quill tooth-pick at his gold-filled
front teeth, evidently desirous of excavating some
of the precious metal.

"My name's Snark Theobald D. Snark," he
said shortly, thrusting a card into Garrison's pas-
sive hand. "I am an eminent lawyer, and would
be obliged if you would favor me with a five min-
utes' interview in my office American Tract

"Don't know you," said Garrison blandly.

"You'll like me when you do," supplemented the
eminent lawyer coolly. "Merely a matter of busi-
ness, you understand. You look as if a little busi-
ness wouldn't hurt you."

"Feel worse," added Billy mildly, inspecting his
crumpled outfit.


Garrison s Finish

He was very hungry. He caught eagerly at this
quondam opening. Perhaps it would be the means
of starting him in some legitimate business. Then
a wild idea came to him, and slowly floated away
again as he remembered that Mr. Snark had agreed
that he did not know him. But while it lasted, the
idea had been a thrilling one for a penniless, home-
less wanderer. It had been : Supposing this lawyer
knew him ? Knew his real identity, and had tracked
him down for clamoring relatives and a weeping
father and mother? For to Garrison his parents
might have been criminals or millionaires so far as
he remembered.

The journey to Nassau Street was completed in
silence, Mr. Snark centering all his faculties on his
teeth, and Garrison on the probable outcome of
this chance meeting.

The eminent lawyer's office was in a corner of
the fifth shelf of the American Tract Building book-
case. It was unoccupied, Mr. Snark being so intel-
ligent as to be able to dispense with the services of
office-boy and stenographer; it was small but cozy.


Garrison s Finish

Offices in that building can be rented for fifteen dol-
lars per month.

After the eminent lawyer had fortified himself
from a certain black bottle labeled "Poison: ex-
ternal use only," which sat beside the soap-dish in


the little towel-cabinet, he assumed a very preoc-
cupied and highly official mien at his roller-top desk,
where he became vitally interested in a batch of
letters, presumably that morning's mail, but which
in reality bore dates ranging back to the past

Then the eminent lawyer delved importantly into
an empty letter-file; emerged after ten minutes'
study in order to give Blackstone a few thoroughly
familiar turns, opened the window further to cool
his fevered brain, lit a highly athletic cigar, crossed
his legs, and was at last at leisure to talk business
with Garrison, who had almost fallen asleep during
the business rush.

"What's your name?" he asked peremptorily.

Ordinarily Garrison would have begged him to
go to a climate where thermometers are not in de-


Garrison s Finish

mand, but now he was hungry, and wanted a job,
so he answered obediently : "William Good."

"Good, William," said the eminent lawyer, smi-
ling at himself in the little mirror of the towel-
cabinet. He understood that he possessed a thin
vein of humor. Necessary quality that for an emi-
nent lawyer. "And no occupation, I presume, and
no likelihood of one, eh?"

Garrison nodded.

"Well" and Mr. Stark made a temple of wor-
ship from his fat fingers, his cigar at right angles,
his shrewd gray eyes on the ceiling "I have a posi-
tion which I think you can fill. To make a long
story short, I have a client, a very wealthy gentle-
man of Cottonton, Virginia; name of Calvert
Major Henry Clay Calvert. Dare say you've heard
of the Virginia Calverts," he added, waving the
rank incense from the athletic cigar.

He had only heard of the family a week or two
ago, but already he persuaded himself that their
reputation was national, and that his business rela-
tions with them dated back to the Settlement days.


Garrison s Finish

Garrison found occasion to say he'd never heard
of them, and the eminent lawyer replied patroniz-
ingly that "we all can't be well-connected, you
know." Then he went on with his short story,
which, like all short stories, was a very long one.

"Now it appears that Major Calvert has a nephew
somewhere whom he has never seen, and whom he
wishes to recognize; in short, make him his heir.
He has advertised widely for him during the past
few months, and has employed a lawyer in almost
every city to assist in this hunt for a needle in a
haystack. This nephew's name is Dagget William
C. Dagget. His mother was a half-sister of Major
Calvert's. The search for this nephew has been
going on for almost a year since Major Calvert
heard of his brother-in-law's death but the nephew
has not been found."

The eminent lawyer cleared his throat eloquently
and relighted the athletic cigar, which had found
occasion to go out.

"It will be a very fine thing for this nephew," he
added speculatively. "Very fine, indeed. Major


Garrison s Finish

Calvert has no children, and, as I say, the nephew
will be his heir if found. Also, the lawyer who
discovers the absent youth will receive ten thousand
dollars. Ten thousand dollars is not a sum to be
sneezed at, Mr. Good. Not to be sneezed at, sir.
Not to be sneezed at," thundered the eminent lawyer

Garrison agreed. He would never think of
sneezing at it, even if he was subject to that form
of recreation. But what had that to do with him?

The eminent lawyer attentively scrutinized the
blue streamer from his cigar.

"Well, I've found him at last. You are he, Mr.
Good. Mr. Good, my heartiest congratulations,
sir." And Mr. Snark insisted upon shaking the be-
wildered Garrison impressively by the hand.

Garrison's head swam. Then his wild dream had
come true! His identity had been at last discov-
ered! He was not the offspring of some criminal,
but the scion of a noble Virginia house! But Mr.
Snark was talking again.

"You see," he began slowly, focusing an attentive

G a r r i s on' 's " Finish

eye on Garrison's face, noting its every light and
shade, "this nice old gentleman and his wife are
hard up for a nephew. You and I are hard up for
money. Why not effect a combination? Eh, why
not? It would be sinful to waste such an oppor-
tunity of doing good. In you I give them a nice,
respectable nephew, who is tired of reaping his wild
oats. You are probably much better than the
original. We are all satisfied. I do everybody a
good turn by the exercise of a little judgment."

Garrison's dream crumbled to ashes.

"Oh !" he said blankly, "you you mean to palm
me off as the nephew?"

"Exactly, my son ; the long-lost nephew. You are
fitted for the role. They haven't ever seen the or-
iginal, and then, by chance, you have a birthmark,
shaped like a spur, beneath your right collar-bone.
Oh, yes, I marked it while you were bathing. I've
haunted the baths in the chance of finding a dupli-
cate, for I could not afford to run the risks of ad-

"It seems this nephew has a similar mark, his

Garrison s Finish

mother having mentioned it once in a letter to her
brother, and it is the only means of identification.
Luck is with us, Mr. Good, and of course you will
take full advantage of it. As a side bonus you can
pay me twenty-five thousand or so when you come
into the estate on your uncle's death."

The eminent lawyer, his calculating eye still on
Garrison, then proceeded with much forensic abil-
ity and virile imagination to lay the full beauties of
the "cinch" before him.

"But supposing the real nephew shows up?" asked
Garrison hesitatingly, after half an hour's discus-

"Impossible. I am fully convinced that he's dead.
Possession is nine points of the law, my son. If
he should happen to turn up, which he won't, why,
you have only to brand him as a fraud. I'm a kind-
hearted man, and I merely wish Major Calvert to
have the pleasure of killing fatted calf for one in-
stead of a burial. I'm sure the real nephew is dead.
Anyway, the search will be given up when you are


Garrison s Finish

"But about identification?"

"Oh, the mark's enough; quite enough. You've
never met your kin, but you can have very sweet,
childish recollections of having heard your mother
speak of them. I know enough of old Calvert to
post you on the family. You've lived North all
your life. We'll fix up a nice respectable series of
events regarding how you came to be away in China
somewhere, and thus missed seeing the advertise-

"We'll let my discovery of you stand as it is,
only we'll substitute the swimming-pool of the New
York Athletic Club in lieu of the Battery. The Bat-
tery wouldn't sound good form. Romanticism al-
ways makes truth more palatable. Trust me to
work things to a highly artistic and flawless finish.
I can procure any number of witnesses at so much

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Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 3 of 12)