William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

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had first looked into those gray eyes. He laughed
nervously to himself.

"If I was Garrison, whoever he was, I wonder

Garrison s Finish

what kind of a person I was! They speak of him

as if he had been some one And then Mrs.

Calvert said he had disappeared. Perhaps I am

Nervously he brought forth the page from the
race-track annual Sue had given him, and studied
it intently. "Yes, it does look like me. But it may
be only a double; a coincidence." He racked his
brain for a stray gleam of restrospect, but it was
not forthcoming. "It's no use," he sighed wearily,
"my life began when I left the hospital. And if I
was Garrison, surely I would have been recognized
by some one in New York.

"Hold on," he added eagerly, "I remember the
first day I was out a man caught me by the arm on
Broadway and said : 'Hello, Billy !' Let me think.
This Garrison's name was Billy. The initials on
my underwear were W. G. might be William Gar-
rison instead of the William Good I took. But if
so, how did I come to be in the hospital without a
friend in the world ? The doctors knew nothing of


Garrison s Finish

me. Haven't I any parents or relatives real rela-
tives, not the ones I am imposing on?"

He sat on the bed endeavoring to recall some of
his past life; even the faintest gleam. Then ab-
sently he turned over the photograph he held. On
the reserve side of the leaf was the record of Billy
Garrison. Garrison studied it eagerly.

"Born in eighty-two. Just my age, I guess
though I can't swear how old I am, for I don't
know. Stable-boy for James R. Keene. Contract
bought by Henry Waterbury. Highest price ever
paid for bought-up contract. H'm! Garrison was
worth something. First win on the Gravesend track
when seventeen. A native of New York City.
H'm! Rode two Suburban winners; two Brooklyn
Handicaps; Carter Handicap; the Grand Prix,
France; the Metropolitan Handicap; the English

Derby Oh, shucks! I never did all those

things; never in God's world," he grunted wearily.
"I wouldn't be here if I had. It's all a mistake. I
knew it was. Sue was kidding me. And yet they'


Garrison s Finish

say the real Billy Garrison has disappeared. That's
funny, too."

He took a few restless paces about the room.
"I'll go down and pump the major," he decided
finally. "Maybe unconsciously he'll help me to re-~
member. I'm in a fog. He ought to know Garri-
son. If I am Billy Garrison then by my present
rank deception I've queered a good record. But
I know I'm not. I'm a nobody. A dishonest no-
body to boot."

Major Calvert was seated by his desk in the great
old-fashioned library, intently scanning various
racing-sheets and the multitudinous data of the
track. A greater part of his time went to the culti-
vation of his one hobby the track and horses for
by reason of his financial standing, having large
cotton and real-estate holdings in the State, he could
afford to use business as a pastime.

He spent his mornings and afternoons either in
his stables or at the extensive training-quarters of
his stud, where he was as indefatigable a rail-bird
as any pristine stable-boy.


Garrison s Finish

A friendly rivalry had long existed between his
neighbor and friend, Colonel Desha, and himself
in the matter of horse-flesh. The colonel was from
Kentucky Kentucky origin and his boast was
that his native State could not be surpassed either
in regard to the quality of its horses or women.
And, though chivalrous, the colonel always men-
tioned "women" last.

"Just look at Rogue and my daughter, Sue, suh,"
he was wont to say with pardonable pride. "Thor-
oughbreds both, suh."

It was a matter of record that the colonel, though
less financially able, was a better judge of horses
than his friend and rival, the major, and at the
various county meets it was Major Calvert who al-
ways ran second to Colonel Desha's first.

The colonel's faith in Rogue had been vindicated
at the last Carter Handicap, and his owner was now
stimulating his ambition for higher flights. And
thus far, the major, despite all his expenditures and
lavish care, could only show one county win for his
stable. His friend's success had aroused him, and


Garrison s Finish

deep down in his secret heart he vowed he would
carry off the next prize Colonel Desha entered for,
even if it was one of the classic handicaps itself.

Dixie, a three-year-old filly whom he had recently
purchased, showed unmistakable evidences of win-
ning class in her try-outs, and her owner watched
her like a hawk, satisfaction in his heart, biding the
time when he might at last show Kentucky that her
sister State, Virginia, could breed a horse or two.

"I'll keep Dixie's class a secret," he was wont to
chuckle to himself, as, perched on the rail in all sorts
of weather, he clicked off her time. "I think it is
the Carter my learned friend will endeavor to cap-
ture again. I'm sure Dixie can give Rogue five sec-
onds in seven furlongs and a beating. That is, of
course," he always concluded, with good-humored
vexation, "providing the colonel doesn't pick up in
New York an animal that can give Dixie ten sec-
onds. He has a knack of going from better to,

Now Major Calvert glanced up with a smile as
Garrison entered.


Garrison s Finish

"I thought you were in bed, boy. Leave late
hours to age. You're looking better these days. I
think Doctor Blandly's open-air physic is first-rate,
eh? By the way, Crimmins tells me you were out
on Midge to-day, and that you ride well, like Billy
Garrison himself. Of course he always exag-
gerates, but you didn't say you could ride at all.
Midge is a hard animal." He eyed Garrison with
some curiosity. "Where did you learn to ride? I
thought you had had no time nor means for it."

"Oh, I merely know a horse's tail from his head,"
laughed Garrison indifferently. "Speaking of Gar-
rison, did you ever see him ride, major?"

"How many times have I asked you to say uncle,
not major?" reproved Major Calvert. "Don't you
feel as if you were my nephew, eh? If there's any-
thing I've left undone "

"You've been more than kind," blurted out Gar-
rison uncomfortably. "More than good uncle."
He was hating himself. He could not meet the
major's kindly eyes.

"Tut, tut, my boy, no fine speeches. Apropos of

Garrison s Finish

this Garrison, why are you so interested in him?
Wish to emulate him, eh ? Yes, I've seen him ride,
but only once, when he was a bit of a lad. I fancy
Colonel Desha is the one to give you his merits.
You know Garrison's old owner, Mr. Waterbury,
is returning with the colonel. He will be his guest
for a week or so."

"Oh," said Garrison slowly. "And who is this
Garrison riding for now ?"

"I don't know. I haven't followed him. It seems
as if I heard there was some disagreement or other
between him and Mr. Waterbury; over that Carter
Handicap, I think. By the way, if you take an in-
terest in horses, and Crimmins tells me you have an
eye for class, you rascal, come out to the track with
me to-morrow. I've got a filly which I think will
give the colonel's Rogue a hard drive. You know,
if the colonel enters for the next Carter, I intend
to contest it with him and win." He chuckled.

"Then you don't know anything about this Garri-
son?" persisted Garrison slowly.

"Nothing more than I've said. He was a first-

Garrison s Finish

class boy in his time. A boy I'd like to have seen
astride of Dixie. Such stars come up quickly and
disappear as suddenly. The life's against them, un-
less they possess a hard head. But Mr. Waterbury,
when he arrives, can, I dare say, give you all the
information you wish. By the way," he added, a
twinkle in his eye, "what do you think of the colo-
nel's other thoroughbred ? I mean Miss Desha ?"

Garrison felt the hot blood mounting to his face.
"I I that is, I I like her. Very much indeed."
He laughed awkwardly, his eyes on the parquet

"I knew you would, boy. There's good blood in
that girl the best in the States. Perhaps a little
odd, eh? But, remember, straight speech means a
straight mind. You see, the families have always
been all in all to each other; the colonel is a school-
chum of mine we're never out of school in this
world and my wife was a nursery-chum of Sue's
mother she was killed on the hunting-field ten
years ago. Your aunt and I have always regarded
the girl as our own. God somehow neglected to give


Garrison s Finish

us a chick probably we would have neglected Him
for it. We love children. So we've cottoned all
the more to Sue."

"I understand that Sue and I are intended for
each other," observed Garrison, a half-cynical smile
at his lips.

"God bless my soul! how did you guess?"

"Why, she said so."

Major Calvert chuckled. "God bless my soul
again! That's Sue all over. She'd ask the devil
himself for a glass of water if she was in the hot
place, and insist upon having ice in it. 'Pon my soul
she would. And what does she think of you?
Likes you, eh?"

"No, she doesn't," replied Garrison quietly.

"Tell you as much, eh?"


Again Major Calvert chuckled. "Well, she told
me different. Oh, yes, she did, you rascal. And
I know Sue better than you do. Family wishes
wouldn't weigh with her a particle if she didn't like
the man. No, they wouldn't. She isn't the kind


Garrison s Finish

to give her hand where her heart isn't. She likes
you. It remains with you to make her love you."

"And that's impossible," added Garrison grimly
to himself. "If she only knew! Love? Lord!"

"Wait a minute," said the major, as Garrison
prepared to leave. "Here's a letter that came for
you to-day. It got mixed up in my mail by acci-
dent." He opened the desk-drawer and handed
a square envelope to Garrison, who took it mechan-
ically. "No doubt you've a good many friends up
North," added the major kindly. "Have 'em down
here for as long as they can stay. Calvert House is
open night and day. I do not want you to think that
because you are here you have to give up old friends.
I'm generous enough to share you with them, but
no elopements, mind."

"I think it's merely a business letter," replied
Garrison indifferently, hiding his burning curiosity.
He did not know who his correspondent could pos-
sibly be. Something impelled him to wait until he
was alone in his room before opening it. It was
from the eminent lawyer, Theobald D. Snark.


Garrison s Finish

"BELpvED IMPOSTOR: 'Ars longa, vita brevis'
as the philosopher has truly said, which in the Eng-
lish signifies that I cannot afford to wait for the
demise of the reverend and guileless major before
I garner the second fruits of my intelligence. Ten
thousand is a mere pittance in New York one's
appetite develops with cultivation, and mine has
been starved for years and I find I require an in-
come. Fifty a week or thereabouts will come in
handy for the present. I know you have access to
the major's pocketbook, it being situated on the same
side as his heart, and I will expect a draft by fol-
lowing mail. He will be glad to indulge the sport-
ing blood of youth. If I cannot share the bed of
roses, I can at least fatten on the smell. I would
hate to be compelled to tell the major what a rank
fraud and unsurpassed liar his supposed nephew is.
So good a liar that he even imposed upon me. Of
course I thought you were the real nephew, and it
horrifies me to know that you are a fraud. But, re-
member, silence is golden. If you feel any inclina-
tion of getting fussy, remember that I am a lawyer,
and that I can prove I took your claim in good
faith. Also, the Southerners are notoriously hot-
tempered, deplorably addicted to firearms, and I
don't think you would look a pretty sight if you
happened to get shot full of buttonholes."

The letter was unsigned, typewritten, and on plain

Garrison s Finish

paper. But Garrison knew whom it was from. It
was the eminent lawyer's way not to place dama-
ging evidence in the hands of a prospective enemy.
"This means blackmail," commented Garrison,
carefully replacing the letter in its envelope. "And
it serves me right. I wonder do I look silly. I
must ; for people take me for a fool."



The Colonel's Confession.

Garrison did not sleep that night. His position
was clearly credited and debited in the ledger of
life. He saw it; saw that the balance was against
him. He must go but he could not, would not.
He decided to take the cowardly, half-way measure.
He had not the courage for renunciation. He
would stay until this pot of contumacious fact came
to the boil, overflowed, and scalded him out.

He was not afraid of the eminent Mr. Snark.
Possession is in reality ten-tenths of the law. The
lawyer had cleverly proven his Garrison's claim.
He would be still more clever if he could disprove
it. A lie can never be branded truth by a liar.
How could he disprove it? How could his shoddy
word weigh against Garrison's, fashioned from the
whole cloth and with loyalty, love on Garrison's

Garrison s Finish

No, the letter was only a bluff. Snark would
not run the risk of publicly smirching himself for
who would believe his protestations of innocency?
losing his license at the bar together with the cer-
tainty of a small fortune, for the sake of over-
working a tool that might either snap in his hand
or cut both ways. So Garrison decided to disre-
gard the letter.

But with Waterbury it was a different proposi-
tion. Garrison was unaware what his own relations
had been with his former owner, but even if they
had been the most cordial, which from Major Cal-
vert's accounts they had not been, that fact would
not prevent Waterbury divulging the rank fraud
Garrison was perpetrating.

The race-track annual had said Billy Garrison
had followed the ponies since boyhood. Waterbury
would know his ancestry, if any one would. It was
only a matter of time until exposure came, but still
Garrison determined to procrastinate as long as pos-
sible. He clung fiercely, with the fierce tenacity of


Garrison s Finish

despair, to his present life. He could not renounce
it all not yet.

Two hopes, secreted in his inner consciousness,
supported indecesion. One: Perhaps Waterbury
might not recognize him, or perhaps he could
safely keep out of his way. The second : Perhaps
he himself was not Billy Garrison at all; for coin-
cidence only said that he was, and a very small
modicum of coincidence at that. This fact, if true,
would cry his present panic groundless.

On the head of conscience, Garrison did not
touch. He smothered it. All that, he forced him-
self to sense was that he was "living like a white
man for once"; loving as he never thought he
could love.

The reverse, unsightly side of the picture he
would not so much as glance at. Time enough when
he would be compelled to. Time enough when he
was again flung out on that merciless, unrecog-
nizing world he had come to loathe; loathe and
'dread. When that., time came it would taste ex-
ceeding bitter in his mouth. All the more reason,


Garrison s Finish

then, to let the present furnish sweet food for
retrospect; food that would offset the aloes of
retribution. Thus Garrison philosophized.

And, though but vaguely aware of the fact, this
philosophy of procrastination (but another form
of selfishness) was the spawn of a supposition;
the supposition that his love for Sue Desha was
not returned; that if was hopeless, absurd. He
was not injuring her. He was the moth, she the
flame. He did not realize that the moth can ex-
tinguish the candle.

He had learned some of life's lessons, though
the most difficult had been forgotten, but he had
yet to understand the mighty force of love; that it
contains no stagnant quality. Love, reciprocal love,
uplifts. But there must be that reciprocal condi-
tion to cling to. For love is not selfishness on a
grand scale, but a glorified pride. And the fine
differentiation between these two words is the line
separating the love that fouls from the love that

And even as Garrison was fighting out the night

Garrison s Finish

with his sleepless thoughts, Sue Desha was in the
same restless condition. Mr. Waterbury had ar-
rived. His generous snores could be heard stalking
down the corridor from the guest-chamber. He
was of the abdominal variety of the animal species,
eating and sleeping his way through life, oblivious
of all obstacles.

Waterbury's ancestry was open to doubt. It was
very vague; as vague as his features. It could not
be said that he was brought up by his hair because
he hadn't any to speak of. But the golden flood
of money he commanded could not wash out cer-
tain gutter marks in his speech, person, and man-
ner. That such an inmate should eat above the
salt in Colonel Desha's home was a painful ac-
knowledgment of the weight of necessity.

What the necessity was, Sue sensed but vaguely.
It was there, nevertheless, almost amounting to an
obsession. For when the Desha and Waterbury
type commingle there is but the one interpretation.
Need of money or clemency in the one case; need


Garrison s Finish

of social introduction or elevation through kinship
in the other.

The latter was Waterbury's case. But he also
loved Sue in his own way. He had met her first
at the Carter Handicap, and, as he confided to him-
self : "She was a spanking filly, of good stock, and
with good straight legs."

His sincere desire to "butt into the Desha family"
he kept for the moment to himself. But as a pre-
liminary maneuver he had intimated that a visit
to the Desha home would not come in amiss. And
the old colonel, for reasons he knew and Waterbury
knew, thought it would be wisest to accede.

Perhaps now the colonel was considering those
reasons. His room was next that of his daughter,
and in her listening wake fulness she had heard him
turn restlessly in bed. Insomnia loves company as
does misery. Presently the colonel arose, and the
strong smell of Virginia tobacco and the monoto-
nous pad, pad of list slippers made themselves ap-

Sue threw on a dressing-gown and entered her

G a r r i s o*n s Finish

father's room. He was in a light green bathrobe,
his white hair tousled like sea-foam as he passed
and repassed his gaunt fingers through it.

"I can't sleep," said the girl simply. She cud-
dled in a big armchair, her feet tucked under her.

He put a hand on her shoulder. "I can't, either,"
he said, and laughed a little, as if incapable of un-
derstanding the reason. "I think late eating doesn't
agree with me. It must have been the deviled crab."

"Mr. Waterbury?" suggested Sue.

"Eh?" Then Colonel Desha frowned, coughed,
and finally laughed. "Still a child, I see," he added,
with a deprecating shake of the head. "Will you
ever grow up?"

"Yes when you recognize that I have." She
pressed her cheek against the hand on her shoulder.

Sue practically managed the entire house, look-
ing after the servants, expenses, and all, but the
colonel always referred to her as "my little girl."
He was under the amiable delusion that time had
left her at the ten-mile mark, never to return.

This was one of but many defects in his vision.

Garrison s Finish

He was oblivious of materialistic facts. He was
innocent of the ways of finance. He had come
of a prodigal race of spenders, not accumulators.
Away back somewhere in the line there must have
existed what New Englanders term a "good pro-
vider," but that virtue had not descended from
father to son. The original vast Desha estates de-
creased with every generation, seldom a descendant
making even a spasmodic effort to replenish them.
There was always a mortgage or sale in progress.
Sometimes a lucrative as well as love-marriage tem-
porarily increased the primal funds, but more often
the opposite was the case.

The Deshas, like all true Southerners, believed
that love was the only excuse for marriage; just
as most Northerners believe that labor is the only
excuse for living. And so the colonel, with no
business incentive, acumen, or adaptability, and
with the inherited handicap of a luxurious living
standard, made a brave onslaught on his patrimony.

What the original estate was, or to what extent
the colonel had encroached upon it, Sue never


Garrison s Finish

rightly knew. She had been brought up in the
old faith that a Southerner is lord of the soil, but
as she developed, the fact was forced home upon
her that her father was not materialistic, and that
ways and means were.

Twice yearly their Kentucky estate yielded an
income. As soon as she understood affairs, Sue
took a stand which could not be shaken, even if
the easy-going, mooning colonel had exerted him-
self to that extent. She insisted upon using one-
half the yearly income for household expenses; the
other the colonel could fritter away as he chose
upon his racing-stable and his secondary hobby
an utterly absurd stamp collection.

Only each household knows how it meets the
necessity of living. It is generally the mother and
daughter, if there be one, who comprise the inner
finance committee. Men are only Napoleons of
finance when the market is strong and steady. When
it becomes panicky and fluctuates and resolves itself
into small unheroic deals, woman gets the job.
For the world is principally a place where men


Garrisons Finish

work for the pleasures and woman has to cringe
for the scraps. It may seem unchivalrous, but true

Only Sue knew how she compelled one dollar
to bravely do the duties of two. Appearances are
never so deceitful as in the household where want
is apparently scorned. Sue was of the breed who,
if necessary, could raise absolute pauperism to the
peerage. And if ever a month came in which she
would lie awake nights, developing the further
elasticity of currency, certainly her neighbors knew
aught of it, and her father least of all.

The colonel recommenced his pacing. Sue, hands
clasped around knees, watched him with steady, un-
winking eyes.

"It's not the deviled crab, daddy," she said
quietly, at length. "It's something else. 'Fess up.
You're in trouble. I feel it. Sit down there and
let me go halves on it. Sit down."

Colonel Desha vaguely passed a hand through
his hair, then, mechanically yielding to the superior


Garrison s Finish

strength and self-control of his daughter, eased
himself into an opposite armchair.

"Oh, no, you're quite wrong, quite wrong, quite
wrong," he reiterated absently. "I'm only tired.
Only tired, girlie. That's all. Been very busy, you
know." And he ran on feverishly, talking about
Waterbury, weights, jockeys, mounts all the jar-
gon of the turf. The dam of his mind had given
way, and a flood of thoughts, hopes, fears came
rioting forth unchecked, unthinkingly.

His eyes were vacant, a frown dividing his white
brows, the thin hand on the table closing and re-
laxing. He was not talking to his daughter, but
to his conscience. It was the old threadbare, tat-
tered tale spawn of the Goddess Fortune; a thing
of misbegotten hopes and desires.

The colonel, swollen with the winning of the
Carter Handicap, had conceived the idea that he
was possessor of a God-given knowledge of the
"game." And there had been many to sustain that
belief. Now, the colonel might know a horse, but
he did not know the law of averages, of chance, nor


Garrisons Finish

did he even know how his fellow man's heart is
fashioned. Nor that track fortunes are only made
by bookies or exceptionally wealthy or brainy own-
ers ; that a plunger comes out on top once in a mil-
lion times. That the track, to live, must bleed
"suckers" by the thousand, and that he, Colonel
Desha, was one of the bled.

He was on the wrong side of the table. The
Metropolitan, Brooklyn, Suburban, Brighton, Fu-
turity, and a few minor meets served to swamp the
colonel. What Waterbury had to do with the case
was not clear. The colonel had taken his advice
time and time again only to lose. But the Ken-
tucky estate had been sold, and Mr. Waterbury held
the mortgage of the Desha home. And then, his
mind emptied of its poison, the colonel slowly came
to himself.

"What what have I been saying?" he cried
tensely. He attempted a laugh, a denial; caught
his daughter's eyes, looked into them, and then
buried his face in his quivering hands.

Sue knelt down and raised his head.

Garrison s Finish

"Daddy, is that all?" she asked steadily.

He did not answer. Then, man as he was, the
blood came sweeping to face and neck.

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Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 6 of 12)