William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

. (page 4 of 12)
Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 4 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


per head who have time and again distinctly heard
your childish prattle regarding dear Uncle and
Aunty Calvert.

"I'll wire on that the long-lost nephew has been
found, and you can proceed to lie right down in

tl



Garrison s Finish

your ready-made bed of roses. There won't be
any thorns. Bit of a step up from municipal lodg-
ing-houses, eh?"

Garrison clenched his hands. His honor was in
the last ditch. The great question had come; not
in the guise of a loaf of bread, but this. How long
his honor put up a fight he did not know, but the
eminent lawyer was apparently satisfied regarding
the outcome, for he proceeded very leisurely to read
the morning paper, leaving Garrison to his thoughts.

And what thoughts they were ! What excuses he
made to himself poor hostages to a fast-crumbling
honor ! Only the exercise of a little subterfuge and
all this horrible present would be a past. No more
sleeping in the parks, no more of the hunger cancer.
He would have a name, friends, kin, a future.

Something to live for. Some one to care for ; some

\
one to care for him. And he would be all that a

nephew should be; all that, and more. He would
make all returns in his power.

He had even reached the point where he saw in
the future himself confessing the deception; saw



Garrison s Finish

himself forgiven and being loved for himself alone.
And he would confess it all his share, but not
Snark's. All he wanted was a start in life. A name
to keep clean; traditions to uphold, for he had none
of his own. All this he would gain for a little sub-
terfuge. And perhaps, as Snark had acutely pointed
out, he might be a better nephew than the original.
He would be.

When a man begins to compromise with dishon-
esty, there is only one outcome. Garrison's rag of
honor was hauled down. He agreed to the decep-
tion. He would play the role of William C. Dag-
get, the lost nephew.

When he made his intention known, the eminent
lawyer nodded as if to say that Garrison wasted an
unnecessary amount of time over a very childish
problem, and then he proceeded to go into the finer
points of the game, building up a life history, sup-
plying dates, etc. Then he sent a wire to Major
Calvert. Afterward he took Garrison to his first
respectable lunch in months and bought him an outfit
of clothes. On their return to the corner nook, fifth

84



Garrison s Finish

shelf of the bookcase, a reply was awaiting them
from Major Calvert. The long-lost nephew, in
company with Mr. Snark, was to start the next day
for Cottonton, Virginia. The telegram was warm,
and commended the eminent lawyer's ability.

"Son," said the eminent lawyer dreamily, care-
fully placing the momentous wire in his pocket, "a
good deed never goes unrewarded. Always re-
member that. There is nothing like the old biblical
behest: 'Let us pray.' You for your bed of roses;

me for for " mechanically he went to the small

towel-cabinet and gravely pointed the unfinished
observation with the black bottle labeled "Poison."

"To the long-lost nephew, Mr. William C. Dag-
get. To the bed of roses. And to the eminent law-
yer, Theobald D. Snark, Esq., who has mended a
poor fortune with a better brain. Gentlemen," he
concluded grandiloquently, slowly surveying the lit-
tle room as if it were an overcrowded Colosseum
"gentlemen, with your permission, together with
that of the immortal Mr. Swiveller, we will proceed
to drown it in the rosy. Drown it in the rosy, gen-

85



Garrison s Finish

tlemen." And so saying, Mr. Snark gravely tilted
the black bottle ceilingward.

The following evening, as the shadows were
lengthening, Garrison and the eminent lawyer pulled
into the neat little station of Cottonton. The good-
by to Gotham had been said. It had not been diffi-
cult for Garrison to say good-by. He was bidding
farewell to a life and a city that had been detestable
in the short year he had known it. The lifetime
spent in it had been forgotten. But with it all he
had said good-by to honor. On the long train trip
he had been smothering his conscience, feebly awa-
kened by the approaching meeting, the touch of
new clothes, and the prospect of a consistently full
stomach. He even forgot to cough once or
twice.

But the conscience was only feebly awakened.
The eminent lawyer had judged his client right.
For as one is never miserly until one has acquired
wealth, so Garrison was loath to vacate the bed of
roses now that he had felt how exceeding pleasant
it was. To go back to rags and the hunger cancer

86



Garrison s Finish

and homelessness would be hard ; very hard even if
honor stood at the other end.

"There they are the major and his wife," whis-
pered Snark, gripping his arm and nodding out of
the window to where a tall, clean-shaven, white-
haired man and a lady who looked the thoroughbred
stood anxiously scanning the windows of the cars.
Drawn up at the curb behind them was a smart two-
seated phaeton, with a pair of clean-limbed bays.
The driver was not a negro, as is usually the case
in the South, but a tight-faced little man, who
looked the typical London cockney that he was.

Garrison never remembered how he got through
his introduction to his "uncle" and "aunt." His
home-coming was a dream. The sense of shame
was choking him as Major Calvert seized both hands
in a stone-crushed grip and looked down upon him,
steadily, kindly, for a long time.

And then Mrs. Calvert, a dear, middle-aged lady,
had her arms about Garrison's neck and was saying
over and over again in the impulsive Southern fash-
ion: "I'm so glad to see you, dear. You've your



Garrison s Finish

mother's own eyes. You know she and I were
chums."

Garrison had choked, and if the eminent lawyer's
wonderful vocabulary and eloquent manner had not
just then intervened, Garrison then and there would
have wilted and confessed everything. If only, he
told himself fiercely, Major Calvert and his wife
had not been so courteous, so trustful, so simple, so
transparently honorable, incapable of crediting a
dishonorable action to another, then perhaps it
would not have been so difficult.

The ride behind the spanking bays was all a
dream ; all a dream as they drove up the long, white,
wide Logan Pike under the nodding trees and the
soft evening sun. Everything was peaceful the
blue sky, the waving corn-fields, the magnolia, the
songs of the homing birds. The air tasted rich as
with great breaths he drew it into his lungs. It gave
him hope. With this air to aid him he might suc-
cessfully grapple with consumption.

Garrison was in the rear seat of the phaeton with
Mrs. Calvert, mechanically answering questions,

88



Garrison s Finish

giving chapters of his fictitious life, while she re-
garded him steadily with her grave blue eyes. Mr.
Snark and the major were in the middle seat, and
the eminent lawyer was talking a veritable blue
streak, occasionally flinging over his shoulder a bol-
stering remark in answer to one of Mrs. Calvert's
questions, as his quick ear detected a preoccupation
in Garrison's tones, and he sensed that there might
be a sudden collapse to their rising fortunes. He
was in a very good humor, for, besides the ten thou-
sand, and the bonus he would receive from Garrison
on the major's death, he had accepted an invitation
to stay the week end at Calvert House.

Garrison's inattention was suddenly swept away
by the clatter of hoofs audible above the noise con-
tributed by the bays. A horse, which Garrison in-
stinctively, and to his own surprise, judged to be a
two-year-old filly, was approaching at a hard gallop
down the broad pike. Her rider was a young girl,
hatless, who now let loose a boyish shout and waved
a gauntleted hand. Mrs. Calvert, smilingly, re-
turned the hail.

89



Garrison s Finish

"A neighbor and a lifelong friend of ours/' she
said, turning to Garrison. "I want you to be very
good friends, you and Sue. She is a very lovely
girl, and I know you will like her. I want you to.
She has been expecting your coming. I am sure she
is anxious to see what you look like."

Garrison made some absent-minded, commonplace
answer. His eyes were kindling strangely as he
watched the oncoming filly. His blood was surg-
ing through him. Unconsciously, his hands became
ravenous for the reins. A vague memory was stir-
ring within him. And then the girl had swung her
mount beside the carriage, and Major Calvert, with
all the ceremonious courtesy of the South, had intro-
duced her.

She was a slim girl, with a wealth of indefinite
hair, now gold, now bronze, and she regarded Gar-
rison with a pair of very steady gray eyes. Beauti-
ful eyes they were; and, as she pulled off her gaunt-
let and bent down a slim hand from the saddle, he
looked up into them. It seemed as if he looked
into them for ages. Where had he seen them be-

90



Garrison s Finish

fore? In a dream? And her name was Desha.
Where had he heard that name? Memory was
struggling furiously to tear away the curtain that
hid the past.

"I'm right glad to see you," said the girl, finally,
a slow blush coming to the tan of her cheek. She
slowly drew away her hand, as, apparently, Garrison
had appropriated it forever.

"The honor is mine," returned Garrison mechan-
ically, as he replaced his hat. Where had he heard
that throaty voice?



CHAPTER V.

Also a Ready-made Husband.

A week had passed a week of new life for Gar-
rison, such as he had never dreamed of living. Even
in the heyday of his fame, forgotten by him, unlim-
ited wealth had never brought the peace and content
of Calvert House. It seemed as if his niche had
long been vacant in the household, awaiting his oc-
cupancy, and at times he had difficulty in realizing
that he had won it through deception, not by right
of blood.

The prognostications of the eminent lawyer, Mr.
Snark, to the effect that everything would be sur-
prisingly easy, were fully realized. To the major
and his wife the birthmark of the spur was convin-
cing proof ; and, if more were needed, the thorough
coaching of Snark was sufficient.

More than that, a week had not passed before it
was made patently apparent to Garrison, much to his



Garrison s Finish

surprise and no little dismay, that he was liked for
himself alone. The major was a father to him, Mrs.
Calvert a mother in every sense of the word. He
had seen Sue Desha twice since his "home-coming,"
for the Calvert and Desha estates joined.

Old Colonel Desha had eyed Garrison somewhat
queerly on being first introduced, but he had a poor
memory for faces, and was unable to connect the
newly discovered nephew of his neighbor and friend
with little Billy Garrison, the one-time premier
jockey, whom he had frequently seen ride.

The week's stay at Calvert House had already
begun to show its beneficial effect upon Garrison.
The regular living, clean air, together with the serv-
ices of the family doctor, were fighting the consump-
tion germs with no little success. For it had not
taken the keen eye of the major nor the loving one
of the wife very long to discover that the tubercu-
losis germ was clutching at Garrison's lungs.

"You've gone the pace, young man," said the ven-
erable family doctor, tapping his patient with the

93



Garrison s Finish

stethoscope. "Gone the pace, and now nature is
clamoring for her long-deferred payment."

The major was present, and Garrison felt the hot
blood surge to his face, as the former's eyes were
riveted upon him.

"Youth is a prodigal spendthrift," put in the
major sadly. "But isn't it hereditary, doctor ? Per-
haps the seed was cultivated, not sown, eh ?"

"Assiduously cultivated," replied Doctor Blandly
dryly. "You'll have to get back to first principles,
my boy. You've made an oven out of your lungs
by cigarette smoke. You inhale? Of course.
Quite the correct thing. Have you ever blown to-
bacco smoke through a handkerchief ? Yes ? Well,
it leaves a dark-brown stain, doesn't it? That's
what your lungs are like coated with nicotin. Your
wind is gone. That is why cigarettes are so injuri-
ous. Not because, as some people tell you, they are
made of inferior tobacco, but because you inhale
them. That's where the danger is. Smoke a pipe
or cigar, if smoke you must ; those you don't inhale.
Keep your lungs for what God intended them for

94



Garrison s Finish

fresh air. Then, your vitality is nearly bankrupt.
You've made an old curiosity-shop out of your stom-
ach. You require regular sleep tons of it "

"But I'm never sleepy," argued Garrison, feeling
very much like a schoolboy catechised by his master.
"When I wake in the morning, I awake instantly,
every faculty alert "

"Naturally," grunted the old doctor. "Don't you
know that is proof positive that you have lived on
stimulants ? It is artificial. You should be drowsy.
I'll wager the first thing you do mornings is to roll
a smoke ; eh ? Exactly. Smoke on an empty stom-
ach ! That's got to be stopped. It's the simple life
for you. Plenty of exercise in the open air; live,
bathe, in sunshine. It is the essence of life. I think,
major, we can cure this young prodigal of yours.
But he must obey me implicitly."

Subsequently, Major Calvert had, for him, a
serious conversation with Garrison.

"I believe in youth having its fling," he said
kindly, in conclusion ; "but I don't believe in flinging

95



Garrison s Finish

so far that you cannot retrench safely. From Doc-
tor Blandly's statements, you seem to have come
mighty near exceeding the speed limit, my boy."

He bent his white brows and regarded Garrison
steadily out of his keen eyes, in which lurked a fund
of potential understanding.

"But sorrow," he continued, "acts on different na-
tures in different ways. Your mother's death must
have been a great blow to you. It was to me." He
looked fixedly at his nails. "I understand fully what
it must mean to be thrown adrift on the world at the
age you were. I don't wish you ever to think that
we knew of your condition at the time. We didn't
not for a moment. I did not learn of your
mother's death until long afterward, and only of
your father's by sheer accident. But we have al-
ready discussed these subjects, and I am only touch-
ing on them now because I want you, as you know,
to be as good a man as your mother was a woman ;
not a man like your father was. You want to for-
get that past life of yours, my boy, for you are to
be my heir; to be worthy of the name of Calvert,

96



Garrison s Finish

as I feel confident you will. You have your
mother's blood. When your health is improved, we
will discuss more serious questions, regarding your
future, your career; also your marriage." He
came over and laid a kindly hand on Garrison's
shoulder.

And Garrison had been silent. He was in a men-
tal and moral fog. He guessed that his supposed
father had not been all that a man should be. The
eminent lawyer, Mr. Snark, had said as much. He
knew himself that he was nothing that a man should
be. His conscience was fully awakened by now.
Every worthy ounce of blood he possessed cried out
for him to go ; to leave Calvert House before it was
too late; before the old major and his wife grew to
love him as there seemed danger of them doing.

He was commencing to see his deception in its
true light; the crime he was daily, hourly, commit-
ting against his host and hostess; against all de-
cency. He had no longer a prop to support him
with specious argument, for the eminent lawyer had
returned to New York, carrying with him his initial

97



Garrison s Finish

proceeds of the rank fraud Major Calvert's check
for ten thousand dollars.

Garrison was face to face with himself; he was
beginning to see his dishonesty in all its hideous
nakedness. And yet he stayed at Calvert House;
stayed on the crater of a volcano, fearing every
stranger who passed, fearing to meet every neigh-
bor ; fearing that his deception must become known,
though reason told him such fear was absurd. He
stayed at Calvert House, braving the abhorrence of
his better self; stayed not through any appreciation
of the Calvert flesh-pots, nor because of any mone-
tary benefits, present or future. He lived in the
present, for the hour, oblivious to everything.

For Garrison had fallen in love with his next-
door neighbor, Sue Desha. Though he did not
know his past life, it was the first time he had un-
derstood to the full the meaning of the ubiquitous,
potential verb "to love." And, instead of bringing
peace and content the whole gamut of the virtues
hell awoke in little Billy Garrison's soul.

The second time he had seen her was the
98



Garrison s Finish

following his arrival, and when he had started on
Doctor Blandly's open-air treatment

"I'll have a partner over to put you through your
paces at tennis," Mrs. Calvert had said, a quiet
twinkle in her eye. And shortly afterward, as Gar-
rison was aimlessly batting the balls about, feeling
very much like an overgrown schoolboy, Sue Desha
tennis-racket in hand, had come up the drive.

She was bareheaded, dressed in a blue sailor cos-
tume, her sleeves rolled high on her firm, tanned
arms. She looked very businesslike, and was, as
Garrison very soon discovered.

Three sets were played in profound silence, or,
rather, the girl made a spectacle out of Garrison.
Her services were diabolically unanswerable; her
net and back court game would have merited the ear-
nest attention of an expert, and Garrison hardly
knew where a racket began or ended.

At the finish he was covered with perspiration
and confusion, while his opponent, apparently, had
not begun to warm up. By mutual consent, they
occupied a seat underneath a spreading magnolia-

99



Garrison s Finish

tree, and then the girl insisted upon Garrison resum-
ing his coat. They were like two children.

"You'll get cold; you're not strong," said the girl
finally, with the manner of a very old and experi-
enced mother. She was four years younger than
Garrison. "Put it on ; you re not strong. That's
right. Always obey."

"I am strong," persisted Garrison, flushing. He
felt very like a schoolboy.

The girl eyed him critically, calmly.

"Oh, but you're not; not a little bit. Do you
know you're very very rickety? Very rickety,
indeed."

Garrison eyed his flannels in visible perturbation.
They flapped about his thin, wiry shanks most dis-
agreeably. He was painfully conscious of his el-
bows, of his thin chest. Painfully conscious that
the girl was physical perfection, he a parody of
manhood. He looked up, with a smile, and met the
girl's frank eyes.

"I think rickety is just the word," he agreed,
spanning a wrist with a finger and thumb.

IOO



Garrison s Finish

"You cannot play tennis, can you?" asked the
girl dryly. "Not a little, tiny bit."

"No; not a little bit."

"Golf?" Head on one side.

"Not guilty."

"Swim?"

"Gloriously. Like a stone."

"Run?" Head on the other side.

"If there's any one after me."

"Ride? Every one rides down this-away, you
know."

A sudden vague passion mouthed at Garrison's
heart. "Ride?" he echoed, eyes far away. "I I
think so."

"Only think so! Humph!" She swung a rest-
less foot. "Can't you do anything?"

"Well," critically, "I think I can eat, and
sleep "

"And talk nonsense. Let me see your hand."
She took it imperiously, palm up, in her lap, and
examined it critically, as if it were the paw of some
animal. "My! it's as small as a woman's!" she ex-

101



Garrison s Finish

claimed, in dismay. "Why, you could wear my
glove, I believe." There was one part disdain to
three parts amusement, ridicule, in her throaty voice.

"It is small," admitted Garrison, eying it rue-
fully. "I wish I had thought of asking mother to
give me a bigger one. Is it a crime?"

"No; a calamity." Her foot was going restlessly.
"I like your eyes," she said calmly, at length.

Garrison bowed. He was feeling decidedly un-
comfortable. He had never met a girl like this.
Nothing seemed sacred to her. She was as frank
as the wind, or sun.

"You know," she continued, her great eyes half-
closed, "I was awfully anxious to see you when I
heard you were coming home "

"Why?"

She turned and faced him, her gray eyes opened
wide. "Why? Isn't one always interested in one's
future husband?"

It was Garrison who was confused. Something
caught at his throat. He stammered, but words
iwould not come. He laughed nervously.

IO2



Garrison s Finish

"Didn't you know we were engaged?" asked the
girl, with childlike simplicity and astonishment.
"Oh, yes. How superb!"

"Engaged ? Why why "

"Of course. Before we were born. Your uncle
and aunt and my parents had it all framed up. I
thought you knew. A cut-and-dried affair. Are
not you just wild with delight?"

"But but," expostulated Garrison, his face
white, "supposing the real ne I mean, suppos-
ing I had not come home? Supposing I had been
dead?"

"Why, then," she replied calmly, "then, I sup-
pose, I would have a chance of marrying some one
I really loved. But what is the use of supposing?
Here you are, turned up at the last minute, like a
bad penny, and here I am, very much alive. Ergo,
our relatives' wishes respectfully fulfilled, and *
connubial misery ad libitum. Mes condolences. If
you feel half as bad as I do, I really feel sorry for
you. But, frankly, I think the joke is decidedly
on me."

103



Garrison s Finish

Garrison was silent, staring with hard eyes at the
ground. He could not begin to analyze his
thoughts.

"You are not complimentary, at all events," he
said quietly at length.

"So every one tells me," she sighed.

"I did not know of this arrangement," he added,
looking up, a queer smile twisting his lips.

"And now you are lonesomely miserable, like I
am," she rejoined, crossing a restless leg. "No
doubt you have left your ideal in New York. Per-
haps you are married already. Are you?" she cried
eagerly, seizing his arm.

"No such good luck for you," he added, under
his breath.

"I thought so," she sighed resignedly. "Of
course no one would have you. It's hopeless."

"It's not," he argued sharply, his pride, anger in
revolt. He, who had no right to any claim. "We're
not compelled to marry each other. It's a free
country. It is ridiculous, preposterous."

"Oh, don't 'get so fussy!" she interrupted petu-
104



Garrison s Finish

lantly. "Don't you think I've tried to kick over the
traces? And I've had more time to think of it than
you all my life. It is a family institution. Your
uncle pledged his nephew, if he should have one,
and my parents pledged me. We are hostages to
their friendship. They wished to show how much
they cared for one another by making us supremely
miserable for life. Of course, I spent my life in
arranging how you should look, if you ever came
home which I devoutly hoped you wouldn't. It
wouldn't be so difficult, you see, if you happened to
match my ideals. Then it would be a real love-
feast, with parents' blessings and property thrown
in to boot."

"And then I turned up a little, under-sized,
nothingless pea, instead of the regular patented,
double-action, stalwart Adonis of your imagina-
tion," added Garrison dryly.

"How well you describe yourself !" said the girl
admiringly.

"It must be horrible !" he condoled half -cynically.

"And of course you, too, were horribly disap-
105



Garrison s Finish

pointed?" she added, after a moment's pause, tap-
ping her oxford with tennis-racket.

Garrison turned and deliberately looked into her
gray eyes.

"Yes; I am horribly," he lied calmly. "My
ideal is the dark, quiet girl of the clinging type."

"She wouldn't have much to cling to," sniffed
the girl. "We'll be miserable together, then. Do
you know, I almost hate youl I think I do. I'm
quite sure I do."

Garrison eyed her in silence, the smile on his
lips She returned the look, her face flushed*

"Miss Desha "

"You'll have to call me Sue. You're Billy; I'm
Sue. That's one of the minor penalties. Our pre-
natal engagement affords us this charming familiar-
ity," she interrupted scathingly.

"Sue, then. Sue," continued Garrison quietly,
"from your type, I thought you fashioned of better
material. Now, don't explode yet a while. I
mean property and parents' blessing should not
weigh a curse (with you. Yes ; I said curse damn,

106



Garrisons Finish

if you wish. If you loved, this burlesque engage-
ment should not stand in your way. You would
elope with the man you love, and let property and
parents' blessings "

"That would be a good way for you to get out of
the muddle unscatched, wouldn't it?" she flashed in.
"How chivalrous ! Why don't you elope with some


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 4 of 12)