William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

. (page 8 of 12)
Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 8 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


imagination.

"No, no, you don't remember," he mused sadly.
"Now you're tooting along with the high rollers.
But I ain't kickin'. It's Crimmins' way never to
give his hand in the dark, but when he does give
it for life, my boy, for life. But I was thinkin'
pf the wife and kids you left up in Long Island;

182



Garrison s Finish

left to face the music. Of course I stood their
friend as best I could "

"Then I'm married?" asked Garrison slowly.
He laughed a laugh that caused the righteous
Crimmins to wince. The latter carefully wiped
his eyes with a handkerchief that had once been
white.

"Boy, boy!" he said, in great agony of mind.
"To think you've gone and forgot the sacred bond
of matrimony! I thought at least you would have
remembered that. But I says to your wife, I says :
'Billy will come back. He ain't the kind to leave
you an' the kids go to the poorhouse, all for the
want of a little gumption. He'll come back and
face the charges "

"What charges ?" Garrison did not recognize his
own voice.

"Why, poisoning Sis. It's a jail offense," ex-
claimed Crimmins.

"Indeed," commented Garrison.

Again he laughed, and again the righteous Crim-
mins winced. Garrison's gray eyes had the glint



Garrison s Finish

of sun shining on ice. His mouth looked as it had
many a time when he fought neck-and-neck down
the stretch, snatching victory by sheer, condensed,
bulldog grit. Crimmins knew of old what that
mouth portended, and he spoke hurriedly.

""Don't do anything rash, Bud. Bygones is by-
gones, and, as the Bible says : 'Circumstances alters
cases,' and "

"Then this is how I stand," cut in Garrison
steadily, unheeding the advice. He counted the dis-
honorable tally on his fingers. "I'm a horse-pois-
oner, a thief, a welcher. I've deserted my wife
and family. I owe you how much?"

"Five thousand," said Crimmins deprecatingly,
adding on the two just to show he had no hard
feelings.

"Good," said Garrison. He bit his knuckles; bit
until the blood came. "Good," he said again. He
was silent.

"I ain't in a hurry," put in Crimmins magnani-
mously. "But you can pay it easy. The major "

"Js a gentleman," finished Garrison, eyes nar-
184



Garrison s Finish

rowed. "A gentleman whom I've wronged

treated like " He clenched his hands. Words

were of no avail.

"That's all right," argued the other persuasively.
"What's the use of gettin' flossy over it now?
Ain't you known all along, when you put the game
up on him, that you wasn't his nephew; that you
were doin' him dirt?"

"Shut up," blazed Garrison savagely. "I know
what I've done. Fouled those I'm not fit to grovel
to. I thought I was honest in a way. Now I
know I'm the scum I am "

"You don't mean to say you're goin' to welch
again?" asked the horrified Crimmins. "Goin' to
tell the major "

"Just that, Crimmins. Tell them what I am. Tell
Waterbury, and face that charge for poisoning his
horse. I may have been what you say, but I'm not
that now. I'm not," he reiterated passionately, da-
ring contradiction. "I've sneaked long enough.
Now I'm done with it "

"See here," inserted Crimmins, dangerously rea-
185



Garrison s Finish

sonable, "your little white-washing game may be
all right to you, but where does Dan Crimmins come
in and sit down ? It ain't his way to be left stand-
ing. You splittin' to the major and Waterbury?
They'll mash your face off! And where's my five
thousand, eh? Where is it if you throw over the
bank?"

"Damn your five thousand!" shrilled Garrison,
passion throwing him. "What's your debt to what
I owe ? What's money ? You say you're my friend.
You say you have been. Yet you come here to
blackmail me yes, that's the word I used, and the
one I mean. Blackmail. You want me to continue
living a lie so that I may stop your mouth with*
money. You say I'm married. But do you wish
me to go back to my wife and children, to try to
square myself before God and them? Do you wish
me to . face Waterbury, and take what's coming
to me? No, you don't, you don't. You lie if you
say you do. It's yourself yourself you're thinking
of. I'm to be your jackal. That's your friendship,
but I say if that's friendship, Crimmins, then to



Garrisons Finish

the devil with it, and may God send me hatred in-
stead!" He choked with the sheer smother of his
passion.

Crimmins was breathing heavily. Then passion
marked him for the thing he was. Garrison saw
confronting him not the unctuous, plausible friend,
but a hunted animal, with fear and venom showing
in his narrowed eyes. And, curiously enough, he
noticed for the first time that the prison pallor
was strong on Crimmins' face, and that the hair
above his outstanding ears was clipped to the roots.

Then Crimmins spoke; through his teeth, and
very slowly: "So you'll go to Waterbury, eh?"
And he nodded the words home. "You little cur,
you you little misbegotten bottle of bile! What
are you and your hypocrisies to me? You don't
know me, you don't know me." He laughed, and
Garrison felt repulsion fingering his heart. Then
the former trainer shot out a clawing, ravenous
hand. "I want that money want it quick!" he
spat, taking a step forward. "You want hatred,
eh? Well, hatred you'll have, boy, fJatred that



Garrison s Finish

I've always given you, you miserable, puling, lily-
livered spawn of a "

Garrison blotted out the insult to his mother's
memory with his kunckles. "And that's for your
friendship," he said, smashing home a right cross.

Crimmins arose very slowly from the white road,
and even thought of flicking some of the fine dust
from his coat. He was smiling. The moon was
very bright. Crimmins glanced up and down the
deserted pike. From the distant town a bell chimed
the hour of eight. He had twenty pounds the bet-
ter of the weights, but he was taking no chances.
For Garrison, all his wealth of hard-earned fistic
education roused, was waiting; waiting with the
infinite patience of the wounded cougar.

Crimmins looked up and down the road again.
Then he came in, a black-jack clenched until the
veins in his hand ridged out purple and taut as
did those in his neck. A muscle was beating in his
wooden cheek. He struck savagely. Garrison side-
stepped, and his fist clacked under Crimmins' chin.
Neither spoke. Again Crimmins came in.

188



Garrison s Finish

A great splatter of hoof-beats came from down
the pike, sounding like the vomitings of a Catling
gun. A horse streaked its way toward them. Crim-
mins darted into the underbrush bordering the pike.
The horse came fast. It flashed past Garrison. Its
rider was swaying in the saddle; swaying with
white, tense face and sawing hands. The eyes
were fixed straight ahead, vacant. A broken sad-
dle-girth flapped raggedly. Garrison recognized
the fact that it was a runaway, with Sue Desha up.

Another horse followed, throwing space fu-
riously. It was a big bay gelding.^ As it drew
abreast of Garrison, standing motionless in the
white road, it shied. Its rider rocketed over its
head, thudded on the ground, heaved once or twice,
and then lay very still. The horse swept on. As
it passed, Garrison swung beside it, caught its pace
for an instant, and then eased himself into the sad-
dle. Then he bent over and rode as only he could
ride. It was a runaway handicap. Sue's life was
the stake, and the odds were against him.



189



CHAPTER XI.

Sue Declares Her Love.

It was Waterbury who was lying unconscious on
the lonely Logan Pike; Waterbury who had been
thrown as the bay gelding strove desperately to
overhaul the flying runaway filly.

Sue had gone for an evening ride. She wished
to be alone. It had been impossible to lose the
ubiquitous Mr. Waterbury, but this evening The
Rogue had evinced premonitory symptoms of a dis-
temper, and the greatly exercised colonel had in-
duced the turfman to ride over and have a look
at him. This left Sue absolutely unfettered, the
first occasion in a week.

She was of the kind who fought out trouble
silently, but not placidly. She must have something
to contend against; something on which to work
out the distemper of a heart and mind not in har-
mony. She must experience physical exhaustion



Garrison s Finish

before resignation came. In learning a lesson she
could not remain inactive. She must walk, walk,
Up and down, up and down, until its moral or text
was beaten into her mentality with her echoing
footsteps.

On this occasion she was in the humor to dare
the impossible; dare through sheer irritability of
heart not mind. And so she saddled Lethe an
unregenerate pinto of the Southern Trail, whose
concealed devilishness forcibly reminded one of
Balzac's famous description: "A clenched fist hid-
den in an empty sleeve."

Sue had been forbidden to ride the pinto ever
since the day it was brought home to her with ir-
refutable emphasis that the shortest distance be-
tween two points is a straight line. It was more
of a parabola she described, when, bucked off, her
head smashed the ground, but the simile serves.

But she would ride Lethe to-night. The other
horses were too comfortable. They served to irri-
tate the bandit passions, not to subdue them. She

191



Garrison s Finish

panted for some one, something, to break to her
will.

Lethe felt that there was a passion that night
riding her; a passion that far surpassed her own.
Womanlike, she decided to arbitrate. She would
wait until this all-powerful passion burned itself
out ; then she could afford to safely agitate her own.
It would not have grown less in the necessary in-
terim. So, much to Sue's surprise, the filly was
as gentle as the proverbial lamb.

As she turned for home, Waterbury rode out of
the deepening shadows behind her. He had left the
colonel at his breeding-farm. Waterbury and Sue
rode in silence. The girl was giving all her atten-
tion to her thoughts. What was left over was de-
voted to the insistent mouth of Lethe, who ever
and anon tested the grip on her bridle-rein; ascer-
taining whether or not there were any symptoms
of relaxation or abstraction.

It is human nature to grow tired of being good.
Waterbury's better nature had been in the ascend-
ancy for over a week. He thought he could afford

192



Garri'son s Finish

to draw on this surplus balance to his credit. He
was riding very close to Sue. He had encroached,
inch by inch, but her oblivion had not been inclina-
tion, as Waterbury fancied. He edged nearer. As
she did not heed the steal, he took it for a grant.
We fit facts to our inclination. The animal arose
mightily in him. In stooping to avoid an over-
hanging branch he brushed against her. The con-
tact set him aflame. He was hungrily eying her
profile. Then, in a second, he had crushed her head
to his shoulder, and was fiercely kissing her again
and again lips, hair, eyes; eyes, hair, lips.

"There!" he panted, releasing her. He laughed
foolishly, biting his nails. His mouth felt as if
roofed with sand-paper. His face was white, but
not as white as hers.

She was silent. Then she drew a handkerchief
from her sleeve and very carefully wiped her lips.
She was absolutely silent, but a pulse was beating
beating in her slim throat. The action, her si-
lence, inflamed Waterbury. He made to crush her
waist with his ravenous arm. Then, for the first

193



Garrison s Finish

time, she turned slowly, and her narrowed eyes
met his. He saw, even in the gloom. Again he
laughed, but the onrushing blood purpled his neck.

Desperation came to help him brave those eyes
came and failed. He talked, declaimed, avowed
grew brutally frank. Finally he spoke of the mort-
gage he held, and waited, breathing heavily, for the
answer. There was none.

"I suppose it's some one else, eh?" he rapped
out, red showing in the brown of his eyes.

Silence. He savagely cut the gelding across the
ears, and then checked its answering, maddened
leap. The red deepened in Sue's cheek two red
spots, the flag of outrage.

"It's this nephew of Major Calvert's," added
Waterbury. He lost the last shred of common de-
cency he could lay claim to; it was caught up and
whirled away in the tempest of his passion. "I saw
him to-day, on my way to the track. He didn't
see me. When I knew him his name was Garrison
Billy Garrison. I discharged him for dishonesty.
I suppose he sneaked home to a confiding uncle

194



Garrison s Finish

when the world had kicked him out. I suppose
they think he's all right, same as you do. But he's
a thief. A common, low-down "

The girl turned swiftly, and her little gauntlet
caught Waterbury full across the mouth.

"You lie!" she whispered, very softly, her face
white and quivering, her eyes black with passion.

And then Lethe saw her opportunity. Sensed it
in the momentary relaxing of the bridle-rein. She
whipped the bit into her fierce, even, white teeth,
and with a snort shot down the pike.

And then Waterbury 's better self gained su-
premacy; contrition, self-hatred rushing in like a
fierce tidal wave and swamping the last vestige of
animalism. He spurred blindly after the fast-dis-
appearing filly.



Garrison rode one of the best races of his life
that night. It was a trial of stamina and nerve.
Lethe was primarily a sprinter, and the gelding,
raised to his greatest effort by the genius of his

105



Garrison s Finish

rider, outfought her, outstayed her. As he flew
down the moon-swept road, bright as at any noon-
time, Garrison knew success would be his, providing
Sue kept her seat, her nerve, and the saddle from
twisting.

Inch by inch the white, shadow-flecked space be-
tween the gelding and the filly was eaten up. On,
on, with only the tempest of their speed and the
flying hoofs for audience. On, on, until now the
gelding had poked his nose past the filly's flying
hocks.

Garrison knew horses. He called on the gelding
for a supreme effort, and the gelding answered im-
pressively. He hunched himself, shot past the filly.
Twenty yards' gain, twenty yards to the fore, and
then Garrison turned easily in the saddle. "All
right, Miss Desha, let her come," he sang out cheer-
fully.

And the filly came, came hard ; came with all the
bitterness of being outstripped by a clumsy gelding
whom she had beaten time and again. As she caught
the latter's slowed pace, as her wicked nose drew

196



Garrison s Finish

alongside of the other's withers, Garrison shot
out a hand, clamped an iron clutch on the spume-
smeared bit, swung the gelding across the filly's
right of way; then, with his right hand, choked the
fight from her widespread nostrils.

And then, womanlike, Sue fainted, and Gar-
rison was just in time to ease her through his arms
to the ground. The two horses, thoroughly blown,
placidly settled down to nibble the grass by the
wayside.

Sue lay there, her wealth of hair clouding Gar-
rison's shoulder. He watched consciousness return,
the flutter of her breath. The perfume of her
skin was in his nostrils, his mouth; stealing away
his honor. He held her close. She shivered.

He fought to keep from kissing her as she lay
there unarmed. Then her throat pulsed; her eyes
opened. Garrison kissed her again and again ; grip-
ping her as a drowning man grips at a passing
straw.

With a great heave and a passionate cry she
flung him from her. She rose unsteadily to her

197



Garrison s Finish

feet. He stood, shame engulfing him. Then she
caught her breath hard.

"Oh!" she said softly, "it's it's you!" She
laughed tremulously. "I I thought it was Mr.
Waterbury."

Relief, longing was in the voice. She made a
pleading motion with her arms a child longing
for its mother's neck. He did not see, heed. He
was nervously running his hand through his hair,
face flaming. Silence.

"Mr. Waterbury was thrown. I took his mount,"
he blurted out, at length. "Are you hurt?"

She shook her head without replying; biting her
lips. She was devouring him with her eyes; eyes
dark with passion. The memory of that moment
in his arms was seething within her. Why why
had she not known! They looked at each other;
eye to eye; soul to soul. Neither spoke.

She shivered, though the night was warm.

"Why did you call me Miss Desha?" she asked,
at length.

"Because," he said feebly his nature was true
198



Garrison s Finish

to his Southern name. He was fighting self like
the girl "I'm going away," he added. It had to
come with a rush or not at all. And it must come.
He heaved his chest as a swimmer seeks to breast
the waves. "I'm not worthy of you. I'm a a
beast," he said. "I lied to you; lied when I said
I was not Garrison. I am Billy Garrison. I did
not know that I was. I know now. Know "

"I knew you were," said the girl simply. "Why
did you try to hide it ? Shame?"

"No." In sharp staccato sentences he told her
of his lapse of memory. "It was not because I
was a thief; because I was kicked from the turf;
because I was a horse-poisoner "

"Then it's true?" she asked.

"That I'm a beast?" he asked grimly. "Yes,
it's true. You doubt me, don't you? You think I
knew my identity, my crimes all along, and that I
was afraid. Say you doubt me."

"I believe you," she said quietly.

"Thank you," he replied as quietly.

"And you think it necessary, imperative that
199



Garrison s Finish

you go away ?" There was an unuttered sob in her
voice, though she sought to choke it back.

"I do." He laughed a little the laugh that had
caused the righteous Dan Crimmins to wince.

She made a passionate gesture with her hand.
"Billy," she said, and stopped, eyes flaming.

"You were right to break the engagement," he
said slowly, eyes on the ground. "I suppose Mr.
Waterbury told you who I was, and and, of;
course, you could only act as you did."

She was silent, her face quivering.

"And you think that of me? You could think
it of me? No, from the first I knew you were
Garrison "

"Forgive me," he inserted.

"I broke the engagement," she added, "because
conditions were changed with me. My condition
was no longer what it was when the engagement
was made " She checked herself with an ef-
fort.

"I think I understand now," he said, and ad-
miration was in his eyes ; "I know the track, I



Garrison s Finish

should." He was speaking lifelessly, eyes on the
ground. "And I understand that you do not know
all."

"All?"

"Um-um-m." He looked up and faced her eyes,
head held high. "I am an adventurer," he said
slowly. "A scoundrel, an impostor. I am not
Major Calvert's nephew." And he watched her
eyes; watched unflinchingly as they changed and
changed again. But he would not look away.

"I I think I will sit down, if you don't mind,"
she whispered, hand at throat. She seated herself,
as one in a maze, on a log by the wayside. She
looked up, a twisted little smile on her lips, as he
stood above her. "Won't won't you sit down and
tell tell me all?"

He obeyed automatically, not striving to fathom
the great charity of her silence. And then he told
all all. Even as he had told that very good trainer
and righteous friend, Dan Crimmins. His voice
was perfectly lifeless. And the girl listened, lips
clenched on teeth.

301



Garrison s Finish

"And and that's all," he whispered. "God
knows it's enough too much." He drew himself
away as some unclean thing.

"All that, all that, and you only a boy," whis-
pered the girl, half to herself. "You must not tell
the major. You must not," she cried fiercely.

"I must," he whispered. "I will."

"You must not. You won't You must go away,
go away. Wipe the slate clean," she added tensely.
"You must not tell the major. It must be broken
to him gently, by degrees. Boy, boy, don't you know
what it is to love; to have your heart twisted,
broken, trampled ? You must not tell him. It would
kill. I know." She crushed her hands in her
lap.

"I'm a coward if I run," he said.

"A murderer if you stay," she answered. "And
Mr. Waterbury he will flay you keep you in
the mire. I know. No, you must go, you must
go. Must have a chance for regeneration."

"You are very kind very kind. You do not say

2O2




"I can't give you up, I won't!"



Page 2oj.



Garrison s Finish

you loathe me." He arose abruptly, clenching his
hands above his head in silent agony.

"No, I do not," she whispered, leaning forward,
hands gripping the log, eyes burning up into his
face. "I do not. Because I can't. I can't. Be-
cause I love you, love you, love you. Boy, boy,
can't you see? Won't you see? I love you "

"Don't," he cried sharply, as if in physical agony.
"You don't know what you say "

"I do, I do. I love you, love you," she stormed.
Passion, long stamped down, had arisen in all its
might. The surging intensity of her nature was
at white heat. It had broken all bonds, swept every-
thing aside in its mad rush. "Take me with you.
Take me with you anywhere," she panted passion-
ately. She arose and caught him swiftly by the
arm, forcing up her flaming face to his. "I don't
care what you are I know what you will be. I've
loved you from the first. I lied when I ever said
I hated you. I'll help you to make a new start.
Oh, so hard! Try me. Try me. Take me with
you. You are all I have. I can't give you up. I

203



Garrison s Finish

won't! Take me, take me. Do, do, do!" Her
head thrown back, she forced a hungry arm about
his neck and strove to drag his lips to hers.

He caught both wrists and eyed her. She was
panting, but her eyes met his unwaveringly, glo-
riously unashamed. He fought for every word.
"Don't tempt me Sue. Good God, girl! you
don't know how I love. You can't. Loved you
from that night in the train. Now I know who
you were, what you are to me everything. Help
me to think of you, not of myself. You must guard
yourself. I'm tired of fighting I can't "

"It's the girl up North?"

He drew back. He had forgotten. He turned
away, head bowed. Both were fighting fighting
against love everything. Then Sue drew a great
breath and commenced to shiver.

"I was wrong. You must go to her," she whis-
pered. "She has the right of way. She has the
right of way. Go, go," she blazed, passion slipping
up again. "Go before I forget honor ; forget every-
thing but that I love."

204



Garrison s Finish

Garrison turned. She never forgot the look his
face held ; never forgot the tone of his voice.

"I go. Good-by, Sue. I go to the girl up North.
You are above me in every way infinitely above
me. Yes, the girl up North. I had forgotten.
She is my wife. And I have children."

He swung on his heel and blindly flung himself
upon the waiting gelding.

Sue stood motionless.



205



CHAPTER XII.

Garrison Himself Again.

That night Garrison left for New York; left
with the memory of Sue standing there on the
moonlit pike, that look in her eyes; that look of
dazed horror which he strove blindly to shut out.
He did not return to Calvert House; not because
he remembered the girl's advice and was acting
upon it. His mind had no room for the past.
Every blood-vessel was striving to grapple with the
present. He was numb with agony. It seemed as
if his brain had been beaten with sticks; beaten to
a pulp. That last scene with Sue had uprooted
every fiber of. his being. He writhed when he
thought of it. But one thought possessed him. To
get away, get away, get away; out of it all; any-
how, anywhere.

He was like a raw recruit who has been lying on
the firing-line, suffering the agonies of apprehen-

206



Garrison s Finish

sion, of imagination ; experiencing the proximity of
death in cold blood, without the heat of action to
render him oblivious.

Garrison had been on the firing-line for so long
that his nerve was frayed to ribbons. Now the
blow had fallen at last. The exposure had come,
and a fierce frenzy possessed him to complete the
work begun. He craved physical combat. And
when he thought of Sue he felt like a murderer
fleeing from the scene of his crime; striving, with
distance, to blot out the memory of his victim.
That was all he thought of. That, and to get away
to flee from himself. Afterward, analysis of ac-
tions would come. At present, only action; only
action.

It was five miles to the Cottonton depot, reached
by a road that branched off from the Logan Pike
about half a mile above the spot where Water-
bury had been thrown. He remembered that there
was a through train "at ten-fifteen. He would
have time if he rode hard. With head bowed,

207



Garrison s Finish

shoulders hunched, he bent over the gelding. He
had no recollection of that ride.

But the long, weary journey North was one he
had full recollection of. He was forced to remain
partially inactive, though he paced from smoking


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12

Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 8 of 12)