William Blair Morton Ferguson.

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

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to observation-car time and time again. He could
not remain still. The first great fury of the storm
had passed. It had swept him up, weak and nerve-
less, on the beach of retrospect; among the wreck
of past hopes; the flotsam and jetsam of what
might have been.

He had time for self -analysis, for remorse, for
the fierce probings of conscience. One minute he
regretted that he had run away without confessing
to the major; the next, remembering Sue's advice,
he was glad. He tried to shut out the girl's picture
from his heart Impossible. She was the picture;
all else was but frame. He knew that he had lost
her irrevocably. What must she think of him?
How she must utterly despise him !

On the second day doubt came to Garrison, and
with it a ray of hope. For the first time the pos-


Garrison s Finish

sibility suggested itself that Dan Crimmins, from
the deep well of his lively imagination, might have
concocted Mrs. Garrison and offspring. Crimmins
had said he had always hated him. And he had
acted like a villain. He looked like one; like a
felon, but newly jail-freed. Might he not have in-
vented the statement through sheer ill will? Real-
izing that Garrison's memory was a blank, might
he not have sought to rivet the blackmailing fetters
upon him by this new bolt?

Thus Garrison reasoned, and outlined two
schemes. First, he would find his wife if wife
there were. He could not love her, for love must
have a beginning, and it feeds on the past. He had
neither. But he would be loyal to her; loyal as
Crimmins said she had been loyal to him. Then
he would face whatever charges were against him,
and seek restoration from the jockey club, though
it took him his lifetime. And he would seek some
way of wiping out, or at least diminishing, the stain
he had left behind him in Virginia.

On the other hand, if Crimmins had lied Gar-

Garrison s Finish

rison's jaw came out and his eyes snapped. Then
he would scrape himself morally clean, and fight
and fight for honorable recognition from the world.
He would prove that a "has-been" can come back.
He would brand the negative as a lie. And then
Sue. Perhaps perhaps.

Those were the two roads. Which would he
traverse? Whichever it was, though his heart, his
entire being, lay with the latter, he would follow
the pointing finger of honor; follow it to the end,
no matter what it might cost, or where it might
lead. Love had restored to him the appreciation of
man's birthright; the birthright without which
nothing is won in this world or the next. He had
gained self-respect. At present it was but the
thought. He would fight to make it reality ; fight to
keep it.

And that night as the train was leaping out of the
darkness toward the lights of the great city, racing
toward its haven, rushing like a falling comet, some
one blundered. The world called it a disaster;
the official statement, an accident, an open switch;


Garrison s Finish

the press called it an outrage. Pessimism called it
fate stern mother of the unsavory. Optimism
called it Providence. At all events, the train
jammed shut like a closing telescope. Undiluted
Hades was very prevalent for over an hour. There
were groans, screams, prayers all the jargon of
those about to precipitately return from whence
they came. It was not a pleasant scene. Ghouls
were there. But mercy, charity, and great courage
were also there. And Garrison was there.

Fate, the unsavory, had been with him. He had
been thrown clear at the first crash ; thrown through
his sleeping-berth window. Physically he was not
very presentable. But he fought a good fight
against the flames and the general chaos.

One of the forward cars was a caldron of flame.
A baby's cry swung out from among the roar
and smart of the living hell. There was a frantic
father and a demented mother. Both had to be
thrown and pounded into submission ; held by sheer
weight and muscle.

There were brave men there that night, but there

Garrison s Finish

was no sense in giving two lives for one. Death
was reaping more than enough. They would try
to save the "kid," but it looked hopeless. Was it a
girl ? Yes, and an only child ? She must be pinned
under a seat. The fire would be about opening
up on her. Sure sure they would see what could
be done. Anyway, the roof was due to smash down.
But they'd see. But there were lots of others who
needed a hand; others who were not pinned under
seats with the flames hungry for them.

But Garrison had swung on to a near-by horse-
cart, jammed into rubber boots, coats, and helmet,
tying a wet towel over nose and mouth. And as
some stared, some cursed, and some cheered feebly,
he smashed his way through the smother of flame
to the choking screams of the child.

The roof fell in. A great crash and a spouting
fire of flame. An eternity, and then he emerged
like one of the three prophets from the fiery furnace.
Only he was not a Shadrach, Meshach, or Abed-
nego. He was not fashioned from providential as-
bestos. He was vulnerable. They carried him to.


Garrison s Finish

a near-by house. His head had been wonderfully
smashed by the falling roof. His eyebrows' and
hair were left behind in the smother of flame. He
was fire-licked from toe to heel. He was raving.
But the child was safe. And that wreck and that
rescue went down in history.

For weeks Garrison was in the hospital. It was
very like the rehearsal of a past performance. He
was completely out of his head. It was all very
like the months he put in at Bellevue in the long
ago, before he had experienced the hunger-cancer
and compromised with honesty.

And again there came nights when doctors shook
their heads and nurses looked grave; nights when
it was understood that before another dawn had
come creeping through the windows little Billy
Garrison would have crossed the Big Divide ; nights
when the shibboleths of a dead-and-gone life were
even fluttering on his lips; nights when names but
not identities fought with one another for existence ;
'fought for birth, for supremacy, and "Sue" always
won ; nights when he sat up in bed as he had sat up


Garrison s Finish

in Bellevue long ago, and with tense hands and
blazing eyes fought out victory on the stretch. Hor-
rible, horrible nights; surcharged with the frenzy
and unreality of a nightmare.

And one of his audience who seldom left the
narrow cot was a man who had come to look for
a friend among the wreck victims ; come and found
him not. He had chanced to pass Garrison's cot.
And he had remained.

Came a night at last when stamina and hope and
grit won the long, long fight. The crisis was turned.
The demons, defeated, who had been fighting
among themselves for the possession of Garrison's
mind, reluctantly gave it back to him. And, more-
over, they gave it back intact. The part they
had stolen that night in the Hoffman House was

This restoration the doctors subsequently called
by a very learned and mysterious name. They gave
an esoteric explanation redounding greatly to the
credit of the general medical and surgical world.


Garrison s Finish

It was something to the effect that the initial blow
Garrison had received had forced a piece of bone
against the brain in such a manner as to defy mere
man's surgery. This had caused the lapse of

Then had come the second blow that night of
the wreck. Where man had failed, nature had
stepped in and operated successfully. Her methods
had been crude, but effective. The unscientific blow
on the head had restored the dislodged bone to its
proper place. The medical world was highly pleased
over this manifestation of nature's surgical skill,
and appeared to think that she had operated under
its direction. And nature never denied it.

As Garrison opened his eyes, dazed, weak as
water, memory, full, complete, rushed into action.
His brain recalled everything everything from the
period it is given man to remember down to the
present. It was all so clear, so perfect, so work-
manlike. The long-halted clock of memory was
ticking away merrily, perfectly, and not one hour


Garrison s Finish

was missing from its dial. The thread of his sev-
ered life was joined joined in such a manner that
no hitch or knot was apparent.

To use a third simile, the former blank, utterly
fearsome space, was filled filled with clear writing,
without blotch or blemish. And on the space was
not recorded one deed he had dreaded to see. There
were mistakes, weaknesses but not dishonor. For
a moment he could not grasp the full meaning of
the blessing. He could only sense that he had
indeed been blessed above his deserts.

And then as Garrison understood what it all
meant to him; understood the chief fact that he
had not deserted wife and children ; that Sue might
be won, he crushed his face to the pillow and cried
cried like a little child.

And a big man, sitting in the shelter of a screen,
hitched his chair nearer the cot, and laid both hands
on Garrison's. He did not speak, but there was a
wonderful light in his eyes steady, clear gray


Garrison s Finish

"Kid," he said. "Kid."

Garrison turned swiftly. His hand gripped the

"Jimmie Drake," he whispered. For the first
time the blood came to his face.



Proven Clean.

Two months had gone in; two months of slow
recuperation, regeneration for Garrison. He was
just beginning to look at life from the standpoint
of unremitting toil and endeavor. It is the only
satisfactory standpoint. From it we see life in its
true proportions. Neither distorted through the
blue glasses of pessimism but another name for
the failure of misapplication nor through the won-
derful rose-colored glasses of the dreamer. He
was patiently going back over his past life ; return-
ing to the point where he had deserted the clearly
defined path of honor and duty for the flowery
fields of unbridled license.

It was no easy task he had set himself, but he
did not falter by the wayside. Three great stimu-
lants he had health, the thought of Sue Desha, and
the practical assistance of Jimmie Drake,

Garrison s Finish

It was a month, dating from the memorable
meeting with the turfman, before Garrison was able
to leave the hospital. When he did, it was to take
up his life at Drake's Long Island breeding-farm
and racing-stable; for in the interim Drake had
passed from the book-making stage to that of
owner. He ran a first-class string of mounts, and
he signed Garrison to ride for him during the en-
suing season.

It was the first chance for regeneration, and it
had been timidly asked and gladly granted; asked
and granted during one of the long nights in the
hospital when Garrison was struggling for strength
and faith. It had been the first time he had been
permitted to talk for any great length.

"Thank you," he said, on the granting of his re-
quest, which he more than thought would be re-
fused. His eyes voiced where his lips were dumb.
"I haven't gone back, Jimmie, but it's good of you
to give me the chance on my say-so. I'll bear it in
mind. And and it's good of you, Jimmie, to to


Garrison s Finish

come and sit with me. I I appreciate it all, and
I don't see why you should do it."

Drake laughed awkwardly.

"It's the least I could do, kid. The favor ain't
on my side, it's on yours. Anyway, what use is a
friend if he ain't there when you need him? It
.was luck I found you here. I thought you had
disappeared for keeps. Remember that day you
cut me on Broadway? I ought to have followed
you, but I was sore "

"But I I didn't mean to cut you, Jimmie. I
didn't know you. I want to tell you all about that
about everything. I'm just beginning to know
now that I'm living. I've been buried alive. Hon-

"I always thought there was something back of
your absent treatment. What was it?" Drake
hitched his chair nearer and focused all his powers
of concentration. "What was it, kid? Out with
it. And if I can be of any help you know you
have only to put it there." He held out a large
hand. ,


Garrison s Finish

And then slowly, haltingly, but lucidly, dispas-
sionately, events following in sequence, Garrison
told everything; concealing nothing. Nor did he
try to gloze over or strive to nullify his own dis-
honorable actions. He told everything, and the
turfman, chin in hand, eyes riveted on the narrator,
listened absorbed.

"Gee!" Jimmie Drake whispered at last, "it
sounds like a fairy-story. It don't sound real."
Then he suddenly crashed a fist into his open palm.
"I see, I see," he snapped, striving to control his
excitement. "Then you don't know. You can't

"Know what?" Garrison sat bolt upright in his
narrow cot, his heart pounding.

"Why why, about Crimmins, about Waterbury,
about Sis everything," exclaimed Drake. "It was
all in the Eastern papers. You were in Bellevue
then. I thought you knew. Don't you know, kid,
that it was proven that Crimmins poisoned Sis?
Hold on, keep quiet. Yes, it was Crimmins. Now,


Garrison s Finish

don't get excited. Yes, I'll tell you all. Give me
time. Why, kid, you were as clean as the wind that
dried your first shirt. Sure, sure. We all knew it
then. And we thought you did "

"Tell me, tell me." Garrison's lip was quiver-
ing; his face gray with excitement.

Drake ran on forcefully, succinctly, his hand
gripping Garrison's.

"Well, we'll take it up from that day of the Car-
ter Handicap. Remember? When you and Wa-
terbury had it out? Now, I had suspected that
Dan Crimmins had been plunging against his stable
for some time. I had got on to some bets he had
put through with the aid of his dirty commissioners.
That's why I stood up for you against Waterbury.
I knew he was square. I knew he didn't throw
the race, and, as for you well, I said to myself:
'That ain't like the kid.' I knew the evidence
against you, but it was hard to believe, kid. And
I believed you when you said you hadn't made a
cent on the race, but instead had lost all you had.


Garrison s Finish

I believed that. But I knew Crimmins had made
a pile. I found that out. And I believed he drugged
you, kid.

"Now, when you tell me you were fighting con-
sumption it clears a lot of space for me that has
been dark. I knew you were doped half the time,
but I thought you were going the pace with the
pipe, though I'll admit I couldn't fathom what drug
you were taking. But now I know Crimmins fed
you dope while pretending to hand you nerve food.
I know it. I know he bet against his stable time
and ag'in and won every race you were accused
of throwing. I tracked things pretty clear that
day after I left you.

"Well, I went to Waterbury and laid the charge
against the trainer; giving him a chance to square
himself before I made trouble higher up. Well,
Waterbury was mad. Said he had no hand in
it, and I believed him. The upshot of it was that
he faced Crimmins. Now, Crimmins had been
blowing himself on the pile he had made, and he
iwas nasty. Instead of denying it and putting the


Garrison s Finish

proving of the game up to me, he took the bit in
his mouth at something Waterbury said.

"I don't know all the facts. They came out in
the paper afterward. But Crimmins and Water-
bury had a scrap, and the trainer was fired. He
was fired when you went to the stable to say good-
by to Sis. He was packing what things he had
there, but when he saw you weren't on, he kept it
mum. I believe then he was planning to do away
with Sis, and you offered a nice easy get-away for
him. He hated you. First, because you turned
down the crooked deal he offered you, for it was
he who was beating the bookies, and he wanted a
pal. Secondly, he thought you had split about
the dope, and he laid his discharge to you. And he
hated Waterbury. He could square you both at one
shot. He poisoned Sis when you'd gone.

"Every one believed you guilty, for they didn't
know the row Crimmins and Waterbury had. But
Waterbury suspected. He and Crimmins had it out.
He caught him on Broadway, a day or two later,
and Crimmins walloped him over the head with


Garrison s Finish

a blackjack. Waterbury went to the hospital, and
came next to dying. Crimmins went to jail. I
guess he was down and out, all right, when, as you
say, he heard from his brother that Waterbury was
at Cottonton. I believe he went there to square him,
but ran across you instead, and thought he could
have a good blackmailing game on the side. That
wife game was a plot to cinch you, kid. He didn't
think you'd dare to come North. When you told
him about your lapse of memory, then he knew
he was safe. You knew nothing of his show-

Garrison covered his face with his hands. Only
he knew the great, the mighty obsession that was
slowly withdrawing itself from his heart. It was
all so wonderful; all so incredible. Long contact
with misfortune had sapped the natural resiliency
of his character. It had been subjected to so much
pressure that it had become flaccid. The pressure
removed, it would be some time before the heart
could act upon the message of good tidings the
brain had conveyed to it. For a long time he re-


Garrison s Finish

mained silent. And Drake respected his silence to
the letter. Then Garrison uncovered his eyes.

"I can't believe it. I can't believe it," he whis-
pered, wide-eyed. "It is too good to be true. It
means too much. You're sure you're right, Jim-
mie? It means I'm proven clean, proven square.
It means reinstatement on the turf. Means every-

"All that, kid," said Drake. "I thought you

Garrison hugged his knees in a paroxysm of si-
lent joy.

"But Waterbury?" he puzzled at length. "He
knew I had been exonerated. And yet yet he must
have said something to the contrary to Miss Desha.
She knew all along that I was Garrison ; knew when
I didn't know myself. But she thought me square.
But Waterbury must have said something. I can
never forget her saying when I confessed: 'It's
true, then.' I can never forget that, and the look
in her eyes."


Garrison s Finish

"Aye, Waterbury," mused Drake soberly. He
eyed Garrison. "You know he's dead," he said
simply. He nodded confirmation as the other
stared, white-faced. "Died the morning after he
was thrown. Fractured skull. I had word. Some
right-meaning chap says somewhere something
about saying nothing but good of the dead, kid.
If Waterbury tried to queer you, it was through
jealousy. I understand he cared something for Miss
Desha. He had his good points, like every man.
Think of them, kid, not the bad ones. I guess the
bookkeeper up above will credit us with all the times
we've tried to do the square, even if we petered
out before we'd made-good. Trying counts some-
thing, kid. Don't forget that."

"Yes, he had his good points," whispered Gar-
rison. "I don't forget, Jimmie. I don't forget that
he has a cleaner bill of moral health than I have.
I was an impostor. That I can't forget; cannot
wipe out."

"I was coming to that." Drake scratched his
grizzled head elaborately. "I didn't say anything


Garrison s Finish

when you were unwinding that yarn, kid, but it
sounded mighty tangled to me."


"How? Why, we ain't living in fairy-books to-
day. It's straight hard life. And there ain't any
fools, as far as I can see, who are allowed to take
up air and space. I've heard of Major Calvert, and
his brains were all there the last time I heard of
him "

"What do you mean?" Garrison bored his eyes
into Drake's.

"Why, I mean, kid, that blood is thicker than
water, and leave it to a woman to see through a
stone wall. I don't believe you could palm yourself
off to the major and his wife as their nephew. It's
not reasonable nohow. I don't believe any one
could fool any family."

"But I did!" Garrison was staring blankly. "I
did, Jimmie! Remember I had the cooked-up
proofs. Remember that they had never seen the
real nephew "

"Oh, shucks! What's the odds? Blood's blood.

Garrison s Finish

You don't mean to say a man wouldn't know his
own sister's child? Living in the house with him?
Wouldn't there be some likeness, some family trait,
some characteristic? Are folks any different from
horses ? No, no, it might happen in stories, but not
life, not life."

Garrison shook his head wearily. "I can't fol-
low you, Jimmie. You like to argue for the sake
of arguing. I don't understand. They did believe

me. Isn't that enough? Why why " His

face blanched at the thought. "You don't mean to
say that they knew I was an impostor? Knew all
along? You can't mean that, Jimmie?"

"I may," said Drake shortly. "But, see here, kid,
you'll admit it would be impossible for two people
to have that birthmark on them; the identical mark
in the identical spot. You'll admit that. Now,
wouldn't it be impossible?"

"Improbable, but not impossible." Suddenly Gar-
rison had commenced to breathe heavily, his hands

Drake cocked his head on one side and closed

Garrison s Finish

an eye. He eyed Garrison steadily. "Kid, it seems
to me that you've only been fooling yourself. I
believe you're Major Calvert's nephew. That's

For a long time Garrison stared at him unwink-
ingly. Then he laughed wildly.

"Oh, you're good, Jimmie. No, no. Don't
tempt me. You forget; forget two great things.
I know my mother's name was Loring, not Calvert.
And my father's name was Garrison, not Dagget."

"Um-m-m," mused Drake, knitting brows. "You
don't say? But, see here, kid, didn't you say that
this Dagget's mother was only Major Calvert's half-
sister ? How about that, eh ? Then her name would
be different from his. How about that? How do
you know Loring mightn't fit it? Answer me

"I never thought of that," whispered Garrison.
"If you only are right, Jimmie! If you only are,
what it would mean? But my father, my father,"
he cried weakly. "My father. There's no getting
around that, Jimmie. His name was Garrison.


Garrison s Finish

My name is Garrison. There's no dodging that.
You can't change that into Dagget."

"How do you know?" argued Drake slowly, per-
tinaciously. "This here is my idea, and I ain't will-
ing to give it up without a fight. How do you know
but your father might have changed his name?
I've known less likelier things to happen. You
know he was good blood gone wrong. How do you
know he mightn't have changed it so as not disgrace
his family, eh? Changed it after he married your
mother, and she stood for it so as not to disgrace
her family. You were a kid when she died, and you
weren't present, you say. How do you know but
she mightn't have wanted to tell you a whole lot,
eh? A whole lot your father wouldn't tell you be-
cause he never cared for you. No, the more I think
of it the more I'm certain that you're Major Cal-
vert's nephew. You're the only logical answer.
That mark of the spur and the other incidents is
good enough for me."

"Don't tempt me, Jimmie, don't tempt me,"
pleaded Garrison again. "You don't know what


Garrison s Finish

it all means. I may be his nephew. I may be
God grant I am ! But I must be honest. I must be

"Well, I'm going to hunt up that lawyer, Snark,"
affirmed Drake finally. "I won't rest until I see
this thing through. Snark may have known all
along you were the rightful heir, and merely put
up a job to get a pile out of you when you came into
the estate. Or he may have been honest in his dis-
honesty; may not have known. But I'm going to
rustle round after him. Maybe there's proofs he
holds. What about Major Cal vert? Are you going
to write him?"

Garrison considered. "No no," he said at
length. "No, if if by any chance I am his nephew
you see how I want to believe you, Jimmie, God
knows how much then I'll tell him afterward.
Afterward when I'm clean. I want to lie low ; to
square myself in my own sight and man's. I want
to make another name for myself, Jimmie. I want
to start all over and shame no man. If by any
chance I am William C. Dagget, then then I want

Garrison s Finish

to be worthy of that name. And I owe everything
to Garrison. I'm going to clean that name. It
meant something once and it'll mean something

"I believe you, kid."

Subsequently, Drake fulfilled his word concern-
ing the "rustling round" after that eminent law-
yer, Theobald D. Snark. His efforts met with
failure. Probably the eminent lawyer's business
had increased so enormously that he had been com-
pelled to vacate the niche he held in the Nassau
Street bookcase. But Drake had not given up the

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Online LibraryWilliam Blair Morton FergusonGarrison's finish : a romance of the race course → online text (page 9 of 12)