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Title: Making £10,000 Author: Talbot Mundy * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1204311h.html Language: English Date first posted: December 2012 Most recent update: December 2012 This eBook was produced by: Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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"I HAVE!" said the Honorable William Allison. And he closed his lips so tightly when he had said it, and his merry face looked so comically sorry, that Gladys Powers had no need to guess what the answer was.
"Tell me all about it!" she said promptly. She smiled back at him, but there was concern in her big dark eyes. "First of all, what did you say?"
"Me? Oh, I told him I'd like the deuce to marry you, don't you know, and all that kind of thing—said you were dashed charming girl and so on, and that I thought we'd hit it off together."
"And did you say it offhandedly like that?"
"Why, of course! You didn't expect me to go down on my knees to him, did you?"
She was trembling on the very verge of laughter, and drew out her handkerchief to hide it from him.
"No," she bubbled. "Go on. What did he say?"
"Said he'd no time for hereditary boneheads—dashed if I know what a bonehead is, exactly, but I'll bet it's something rude—and that he wouldn't let his daughter marry one on any terms! Said there were boneheads enough in the States, without coming across the water to find one! He added a lot of tommy-nonsense about the idea of an aristocracy being all wrong anyhow. So I asked him whether he'd have liked me any better if I'd been a brick-layer!"
The dimples began to dance again. She loved this lean, clean-looking Englishman very dearly; but love had not killed her sense of humor.
"Most extraordinary thing, but the mention of bricks seemed to make him positively savage!"
"He made his money building, you know. He's been fighting the brick-layers' union all his life; he says that, from first to last, they've cost him fifteen million!"
"He must be most uncommon oofy, to spend that much money fightin' a lot of brick-layers!"
"Father's not exactly a pauper, you know!"
"Confound him—he called me one!"
"That's exactly what you called yourself when you proposed to me!"
"I know I did. But I didn't mean it as literally as all that! I've got fifteen hundred a year of my own. I said that as his son-in-law I supposed I might amount to something financially some day! But he got awfully red in the face, and said he wouldn't have me for a son-in-law at any price. I asked him whether we couldn't come to some sort of terms. He said no! So I reminded him that as a business man—which he seemed so infernally proud of calling himself— he must realize that there's a way of compromising everything. He thought a little after that. Then he said suddenly that if I'd prove to him that I'm not a bonehead, he'd consider it. By the way, what the deuce is a bonehead?"
"A fool. Go on—what then?"
"I invited him to be a little more explicit. He said, 'Go and make some money, and bring it here and show it to me!' I asked him how much money, and he thought for a minute, and then snapped out, 'Ten thousand!' 'Dollars?' I asked him. You see, I could have borrowed that much, at a pinch, and have brought it round to him this afternoon! But he said: 'No; pounds! Go and make ten thousand pounds within the next six months, and show it to me. Then I'll let Gladys do as she likes about it!' So I bowed myself out."
"And can you do it?" asked Gladys Powers eagerly.
"Not if I want to keep out of jail, I'm afraid! You see, I've had no business training."
Gladys Powers dug the point of her umbrella into the frozen February grass, and frowned.
"I call it mean of father," she exclaimed, "to talk to you that way! He's forever preaching against what he calls 'bucking the other fellow's game,' and now he tells you to go and do it! He knows perfectly well that you're not a business man! Besides, he's bucking somebody else's game himself, and he's seen how futile it is!"
"Whose game's he buckin'?"
"Yours. He's perfectly crazy to get into society over here, "and he hasn't been able to do it."
"He'd find himself in society in a minute, if he'd let you marry me!"
Gladys smiled, in spite of herself. She knew that her father would either get what he wanted on his own merits and by his own efforts, or do without.
"Oh, if you could only get the better of him!" she exclaimed. "He'd think the world of you! Won't you try? Do try! It isn't that you're poor—he doesn't mind that; he wants me to marry a man with brains. Beat him! Then he'll have to admit that you've got brains. Try! Won't you?"
And she said "Won't you?" in a way that went straight to the heart of the Honorable William Allison. He stood in front of her for a moment stock-still, gazing straight ahead beyond her.
"I'll have a try!" he said in a low voice. "Tell me—is he really keen on this idea of gettin' into society?"
"He's crazy about it! He's crazy because he's failed! He hates failure, and he means to keep on at it until he's won!"
Bill Allison reflected again for about a minute; he was beginning to look singularly gloomy.
"I don't see how that's goin' to help much," he said, more to himself than to Gladys Powers. "Still,"—and he looked straight into her eyes, and she read resource there, and believed in him and took courage,—"I can but try! We'll see!"
AN HOUR later the Honorable William Allison strolled into one of the most exclusive clubs, and subsided gloomily into a deep arm-chair. It was one thing to say that he would try, but quite another thing to think out a feasible plan on which to act.
"Confound the man!" he muttered savagely.
"Hullo, Bill!" said a pleasant voice beside him; and he started and looked round.
"You, Galloway? Why the deuce didn't you speak before? How long have you been here? Were you here when I came in?"
"Thought I'd watch you, Bill! Dashed interestin', believe me! First time in my life that I ever saw you lookin' gloomy! Been busy wonderin' what's up! Money-lender naggin' you?"
"No. Nothin' to speak of."
"Liver out of order?"
"Never better in my life."
"Some female woman been unkind to you?"
"Bill—you're in love!"
"You can't deceive me, Bill! So she won't have you, eh? Well, you'll get over that all right. There are heaps more women, Bill, and they're all of 'em too good for you and me! Your troubles don't amount to anything—listen to my tale of woe! Trainin' stable all gone to the deuce—eight rotten gee-gees all eatin' their useless heads off—three of 'em lame—two of 'em crocks that couldn't win a sellin' plate to save their lives—an' that brute Souffrière so savage that nobody can do a thing with him! He half killed an unfortunate stable-boy the day before yesterday. The boy's in hospital—at my expense! Takes a sight of the whip to induce any of the other boys to go near the brute. Pity of it is that he's entered for the Grand National—and he could win it, if only I could find a man to ride him!"
"He certainly could win it!" said Bill Allison, with an air of absolute conviction.
"I know he could, Bill! But I've got to sell him; there's nothin' else for it! My stable's been losin' me money for so long that I simply can't stave off my creditors for another week!"
"But why sell the best horse you've got? Why not keep him, and sell the rest?"
"Seen the others?"
"Yes, I've seen 'em."
"Would you buy 'em?"
"Well, speakin' personally, no! Still—"
"Shut up talkin' rot, then! Souffrière's got to go: I'm goin' to sell him next week."
"Is he fit?" asked Allison. An idea seemed to have risen new-born behind his eyes, for they positively blazed as he leaned forward and looked at Galloway.
"He's fit as a fiddle—now. He won't be, though, in a week's time. All he needs is gallopin', and, I tell you, I can't get a man to ride him."
Bill Allison lay back in his chair again, with his tall hat tipped forward over his eyes. His long lean leg, crossed over the other, moved up and down rhythmically, and the fingers of his right hand drummed gently on the arm of the chair.
"Tell me, Sammy." he said suddenly, "are you keen on sellin' Souffrière? D'you want to get out of the racin' game for good?"
"Want to? I should say not! If I could think of any way out of quittin'— "
"I've thought of one!"
"Out with it, then, as you love me! I'd give ten years of my ill-spent life for the right idea!"
"Ten years won't do, Sammy, my boy! We'll have to do this on half shares and hold our respective tongues. Also, we'll have to be singularly—most uncommon—careful!"
I'm the carefulest young fellow you ever knew, Bill. There's not even a woman can make me talk, when I don't want to!"
They talked together for the next three hours, mysteriously; and every now and then one or the other of them was emphatic.
At the end of that time the Honorable William Allison hurried to his chambers and superintended the packing of his portmanteaus. A little later he took a train into the country. But his friend Sammy Galloway, contrary to his original intentions, remained in town.
THERE was nobody in London with a more varied or extensive acquaintance than Sammy Galloway. He was popular for his sunny disposition and his thoroughly sportsmanlike qualities; and, although his comparative poverty precluded his returning hospitality to any great extent, his presence at all kinds of social functions was in very great demand. So he had no difficulty whatever in securing an introduction to Mr. Franklin Powers.
Sammy was ushered into the largest room of the most expensive private suite in the most up-to-date hotel in London; and he was kept waiting there for fully ten minutes before Mr. Powers appeared. To use his own expression, he was" sweatin' like a horse" when his host finally arrived and demanded, rather brusquely, what he might want.
Mr. Powers had been just long enough in England to realize that letters of introduction from influential sources were seldom guileless when addressed to himself. He had made the discovery that society is as greedy of favors from millionaires as it is chary of extending them. So there was a note of challenge in his voice, and it acted as a tonic to Sammy Galloway. He left off feeling nervous, and displayed true genius by tackling his quarry in the one way that was at all likely to have effect. "I've come to talk business," "he said, as he resumed his seat.
"Good!" said Franklin Powers. "I'm listening!"
"I've been told—and I won't divulge the name of my informant on any terms— that you are anxious to get into the best society over here."
Powers stood up as though a spring had been suddenly released inside him. "Go on!" he said non-committally.
"I can show you the way—on terms."
Powers sat down again, and the two men looked at each other in tense silence for about a minute. Each liked the appearance of the other. There was no gainsaying the rugged strength of the millionaire; he looked like what he was—a born fighter, whom many victories had made self-confident. And Sammy Galloway, who looked the acme of good nature, also looked honest. His introductions, too, were unexceptionable.
"Let's hear all about it!" said Mr. Powers.
"I'm not here for fun!" said Sammy. "There are a lot of things I'd rather do than this. But, as long as you understand, to begin with, that I'm playing my own game as well as yours, we ought to hit it off all right."
Powers nodded. "I hope it's not introductions!" he said. "I've tried 'em— had dozens of 'em. All they ever got me was invitations to charity bazaars, and a pink tea or so now and then!"
"Lord, no!" said Sammy. "You've got to do a thing like this off your own bat! Introductions are all right, of course, to begin with, provided they're the right kind. But a man wants more than that. Nobody cares much where a man comes from; what he's got to do is to be something or do something out of the ordinary. Millionaires are as common as stray dogs! What's wanted is a millionaire who's something else besides; and—and that's where I come in!"
Powers nodded again. "Go on!" he said. "I'm interested!"
"You want to do something big in a social sort of way that'll make the right crowd take notice of you."
"I've given a couple of very expensive parties," said the millionaire. "But that didn't work. Half the people I invited didn't come, and those that did come weren't any good!"
"Exactly!" said Sammy. "Any fool can give a party! Now do something decent!"
The millionaire stared hard at him, not quite certain how to take that remark. "What would you do, for instance?" he asked after a moment.
"Win a classic race!"
"Win a what?"
"Be the owner of a horse that wins the Grand National, for instance."
"The only horses I've ever owned were truck-horses. I don't know a thing about race-horses. My daughter and I use autos. I wouldn't know how to go about it."
"Exactly!" repeated Sammy. "That's where I come in! I own a horse that can win the National, and I've got to sell him. I'm broke, you understand."
Powers got up again and began to pace the room. "How do you know he can win the National?" he demanded abruptly.
"How do you know in advance that you can put through one of your big business deals?" asked Sammy.
"That's different. It's my hand that puts them through. I succeed where another man would very likely fail. I know how!"
"That's my case again," said Sammy triumphantly. "I could sell this horse for enough money, to get me out of debt; but the man who bought him couldn't win the National with him. He needs riding, and I've got the only man in England who can do it. He's a brute of a horse—savage as they make 'em; wants a real man on his back."
"Then you want me to buy your horse? Is that what it all amounts to?"
"Not by a long way! I could sell him, as I told you. There are more than a dozen men I know who would take a chance on buying Souffrière. I'm offering you more than just a horse, and I'm asking more than just the price of him. I'm offering to win the National with him for you, and I'm willing to be paid by results. That horse is worth about three thousand guineas as he stands; they'd pay that price for him for the stud, and anyone you care to ask will confirm what I say. I'm asking you two thousand guineas for him—cash; and in return for that amount I'll transfer him, engagements and all, into your name. If he doesn't win the National, he's yours anyhow, and you'll be able to sell him again for enough to get back the two thousand—together with the expenses of my training-stable, which I'll expect you to guarantee from now until the race comes off. If he wins, I get your check for ten thousand pounds immediately after the race."
"But why do you come to me?" asked Powers suspiciously. "Why don't you go with your offer to one of your own countrymen?"
"I thought I'd be able to make a quick deal with you, for one thing, and I knew you'd got the money. Besides, I've got ulterior motives. When the thing's all over, I've a friend I want to introduce to you; possibly he can put something in your way, too. He'll be able to help you socially better even than I can. But I want you to learn to have confidence in me first. One thing at a time."
"But how is this business of winning the Grand National going to help me socially?"
"Believe me," said Sammy darkly, "there's positively nothing you could do that would help you more!"
Powers drew the stub of a pencil from his pocket, and tossed it up and down on the palm of his hand in a movement that was characteristic of him when he was making up his mind.
"Supposing he wins, who gets the stake?" he asked.
"When is the Grand National run?"
"Latter part of March—six weeks from now."
"And this jockey you speak of—are you sure of him?"
"Absolutely! If he doesn't ride the horse, you can call the deal off, and I'll pay you your money back!"
Powers looked hard at him through narrowed eyes. He was stil1 uncertain. The pencil-stub was still dancing on the palm of his hand. This man was certainly a gentleman—his introductions were beyond all question everything that they ought to be. He looked honest and spoke squarely. The proposition was unusual, but—
"Will you give me your word of honor that this proposition's on the level?" he demanded.
Powers tossed the pencil up and caught it. His mind was made up. "I'll go you, then! How much cash did you say? Two thousand guineas? Two thousand one hundred pounds, eh?"
And Mr. Franklin Powers produced his checkbook and made out a check in favor of Mr. Sammy Galloway for that amount.
SIX weeks later the fashionable sporting crowd put in its annual appearance on Aintree racecourse. It was tall-hatted and fur-coated, and as different from a summer-season racing crowd as could easily be imagined. The people who brave the March winds at Aintree are those who go racing for the love of it, and not just because it happens to be the thing to do.
Galloway, most immaculately dressed, leaned against the paddock railing and talked through it to his friend Allison. Allison was overcoated from ears to heels; he looked thinner than when he and Sammy had talked together at the club, but the glow of health was on him, and he seemed happy as a school- boy.
"What odds are they laying?" demanded Allison.
"Twenty to one!"
"I don't wonder!" said Allison, looking over his shoulder at Souffrière. The big red devil of a horse was being led round and round the paddock at what was intended to be a walk—blanketed until nothing of him was visible except his savage eye, which peeped out through a hole in his hood. As Allison spoke, the brute snorted and squealed and snatched at his leading-rein, and a pitched battle followed between him and the man who led him. Above the buzz and clamor of the crowd came the raucous bellowing of a book-maker: "Twenties, Souffrière! Twenty to one, Souffrière!" But no one seemed anxious to bet on him.
"Have you got the money on?" asked Allison.
"The whole two thousand?"
"Every single penny of it."
"So we stand to win forty thousand pounds, eh?"
"We do—or else lose everything!"
"Don't think of it! How did you keep old Powers out of the way?"
"He and Miss Powers were awfully keen to come into the paddock," said Sammy. "But I told him it wouldn't do. Said I wanted his entrance on the scene to be as dramatic as possible; asked him to wait until the race was over before showing up, and then lead in the winner. He and Miss Powers are sitting in a box right in the middle of the grand stand, and they're both of 'em half frantic for the race to begin. I'd better go over to 'em now, and try to keep 'em quiet. So long! Good luck, Bill!"
"So long, Sammy! Good luck!"
As Sammy Galloway joined the little party in the box, Souffrière's price began to alter in the betting.
"Why, they're only laying fifteen to one against him now!" said Gladys Powers. "Listen! I wonder why that is?"
"Dunno, I'm sure," said Sammy, taking the vacant chair between her and her father. "Unless some one in the crowd's spotted who's goin' to ride him."
"Why, is the jockey so well known? I thought he was just one of your men."
"Oh, he's fairly well known," said Sammy. "Listen! They've shortened him some more!"
"Twelve to one, Souffrière! Twelve to one, Souffrière!" barked the bookies.
"What's the jockey's name?" asked Gladys.
"Just Bill. Look! There they come!"
There was a sudden silence, and everybody craned forward to watch the horses coming out. Seventeen of them, prancing and cavorting, filed out, one by one, on to the course. They missed their blankets, for the March wind nipped them; and as they danced on tiptoe in their eagerness to get their heads down and be off, they presented as fine a spectacle as could be witnessed anywhere. The last to come out was Souffrière—seventeen hands of plunging red deviltry; and as he reared on his hind legs and seesawed through the gate, the crowd began to hum again with conversation.
But the bookies were still silent. To a man, they were watching Souffrière through field-glasses. Suddenly one of them closed his glasses with a snap and turned toward the rest.
"It is!" he yelled excitedly. "Tens, Souffrière ! Ten to one, Souffrière!"
The last-minute plungers, who always form a quite considerable percentage of the betting crowd, took that to be an echo of inside information. There was a rush to get on at ten to one, and in a moment the price had shortened down to eights. The bookies bellowed it out above the ceaseless murmur of the crowd.
"He'll be the favorite in a minute at this rate!" said the millionaire, grinning with pleasure that he took no trouble to conceal.
Souffrière was the biggest and by far the finest-looking of the field. He came on to the course sideways, fighting for his head like a mad devil. He seemed the squealing, dancing, plunging, lashing embodiment of energy. His red coat shone like new satin, and his great muscles played up and down beneath it like springs of tempered steel. He was a picture of a horse. Anyone with half an eye could see that he was trained down to the last touch; and the rider who sat him so perfectly, and coaxed and steadied him, seemed as lithe and well trained as the horse.
"That man's face seems strangely familiar!" said Franklin Powers, staring through his field-glasses.
Gladys Powers had thought the same thing; she too was watching closely through her glasses.
"Who did you say his jockey was?" she asked Sammy. "Bill who?"
"Watch, Miss Powers! This'll be worth watching!"
"It looked almost like—"
"Oh, all men look pretty much alike in racing-kit! Watch!"
Every rider excepting Souffrière's gave his horse a trial jump over the first fence on the course. But Souffrière was taken straight down to the starting-point. It seemed better, to the man who rode him, to take the first jump blind than to let the horse have his head yet for so much as a second. He kept him by the starting-gate until the other horses came and lined up on either side of him.
"They're off!" roared the crowd.
It is like the thunder of a big wave on rocks, and the growl of the undertow—that sudden exclamation of the waiting crowd. It thrills even the oldest race-goer. Gladys Powers leaned against the rail in front of her and tried to stop her heart from palpitating by pressing it against the wood. The silence of the dead followed, as the horses raced neck and neck for the first jump. They reached it all together in a bunch. Souffrière rose at it as if it were a mountain, shot over it without touching a twig, and landed neatly in his stride on the far side, half a length in front of the rest. Between that jump and the next he continued to gain steadily.
But the Grand National is a five-mile race, or thereabouts—five miles of the stiffest going in the world. The jumps are prodigious. No ordinary horse could get across them, and none but the stoutest-hearted man dare try to ride him. The pace was a cracker, and Sammy Galloway—gazing through his glasses beside Gladys Powers—grunted and ground his teeth.
"What's the matter?" asked Gladys.
"He's taking it too fast!" He had reached the open ditch already—a misnamed contraption with a guard-rail in front of it and a thumping big fence on the far side; it had been the death of more good men and horses than all the other risks of steeple-chasing put together. As Galloway spoke, Souffrière's rider dropped his hands, and the horse swung his great hind legs under him and leaped over it like a cat. He cleared it without touching, and his rider—his head a little to one side—watched his fore feet critically to see how he placed them when he landed.
"Look at him!" said Sammy. "Ain't he cool! But what's he takin' it so fast for?"
Souffrière was a full length in the lead now—striding along as though he found the going easy, and eating up the distance between jumps with long, easy strides that told of tremendous strength still in reserve. He had a hundred and forty pounds to carry,—twenty-eight pounds less than the top weight,—and he was making nothing of it. The two horses next behind him rose at the open ditch together, cannoned heavily, and fell—one of them with a broken back. The remainder cleared it; but the accident gave Souffrière a lead of two full lengths. The race had still nearly four miles to go, and Galloway, watching through his field-glasses, could see Souffrière's rider looking behind him to see where the others were.
"Take a pull, man! Take a pull!" he grumbled aloud. "There's simply tons of time'"
"Didn't you give him instructions how to ride before the race started?" asked Gladys, who had been reading up horse-racing matters since her father had become an owner.
"Me? Tell Bill how to ride!? I should say not! He's out and away the best horseman in England! Watch him!"
Souffrière, slugging his head against the bit, seemed bent on increasing the lead still further, and his rider seemed quite disposed to let him do it. The great horse was still sweeping along without any apparent effort, and jumping as a cat jumps—carefully. The pace, though, was nothing short of tremendous. It was much too hot to last, and the field was tailing out behind already. As they rounded the turn for home, Souffrière was more than four lengths in the lead. Six other horses were waiting on him, and going strong— one little brown horse, that was running fourth, seeming to go well within himself. They were all six letting Souffrière make the pace for them, and every one of them was clearly to be reckoned with.
As they galloped up toward the grand-stand, though, Souffrière's rider seemed to be cracking on the pace even a little faster. Those who watched him narrowly enough through field-glasses could see him speaking to the horse. Gladys was one of those who watched the rider's face. Suddenly she clutched at Sammy's sleeve and whispered to him.
"Tell me, Mr. Galloway, who's that riding him? It looks from here like—It is! Isn't it?"
"Quiet now, Miss Powers!" said Sammy. "Don't give the game away! Yes—it is! Watch him!"
As Souffrière galloped past the grand-stand, Sammy Galloway found time to scrutinize Mr. Powers' face for a second. The millionaire was watching the horse as though his whole fortune depended on his winning. He had no time to study the rider, and no idea as yet who was on the horse's back; and Sammy heaved a sigh of relief as he turned to watch the race again.
The horses were starting on their second journey round the course, and there was beginning now to be something different in the gait of Souffrière that was noticeable to a close observer—his stride had lost a little of its elasticity. Carefully nursed, he looked good to win the race yet, especially considering the lead he had; but there were more than two miles of wicked country still ahead of him, and he needed riding.
Saving the one question of pace, he was being ridden perfectly; no man could have ridden him better. Jump by jump, his rider schooled him over the fiercest course in England as coolly and perfectly as though he were out for a practice gallop; and, so far, Souffrière had not touched a twig. But the pace was a killer.
A booky voiced the general sentiment. "Ten to one, Souffrière!" he roared. Several people laughed. Nobody ran to bet with him. Then, at the water-jump, Souffrière put a foot wrong as he landed, and stumbled badly.
"He's down!" roared the crowd.
Gladys Powers smothered a scream and clutched at Sammy's sleeve. He was not down, though. The stumble had cost him a good length of his lead, but he was up and going strong.
Now two of the other horses were beginning to challenge Souffrière's lead. Whips were going. Their jockeys moved on them, and the distance between them and Souffrière began to grow gradually less. They gained very little on him between the jumps, for his long, easy strides were in his favor, arid he was almost able to hold his own; but at each jump they lessened his lead, for he had begun to pause before taking off, and he was landing clumsily. Each pause, and each mistake, cost him five yards or more.
Then there were only three jumps left to take, and a straight run home of less than two furlongs. He might do it yet, but it seemed very doubtful. Sammy Galloway gripped his glasses, and ground his teeth, and swore beneath his breath. Gladys Powers clutched his arm again, and her father stood up in the box—rigid with excitement.
"Oh, Bill, you idiot!" groaned Galloway. "Steady him, man! Steady! Take a pull, and let 'em pass you! You'll catch 'em again in the straight! Oh, you idiot!"
Even as he spoke, the man he apostrophized took up his whip and sent home three good rousing wallops to Souffrière's ribs. The second horse—the little one that had been running fourth so gamely all the way—was coming up hand over hand.
"Twenty to one, Souffrière!" roared a booky, and a chorus of other bookies echoed him.
Then the horses and their riders caught the intoxicating roar from the stands—the roar of an appreciative crowd, that has turned the heads of contestants ever since the dawn of history and has ruined many a fellow's chances. It was the crucial moment. All of the horses were stretched to their limit.
"My God!" groaned Galloway. Souffrière's rider was flogging like a wild man—or seemed to be. It was the one, absolute, and only thing he should not have done! Just behind him—gaining on him fast, and coming up on the inside—was the little brown horse. He and Souffrière charged at the last hurdle side by side, racing shoulder to shoulder for it, with Souffrière's head only the least bit in front.
Crack! came his rider's whip. Souffrière slipped badly at the take-off, and hit the hurdle hard with both hind legs.
"He's down!" roared the crowd.
This time Souffrière was really down—kicking and struggling like a brute possessed. His rider was still on him, clinging with both hands to his neck, and trying to force his weight backward into the saddle again. Souffrière kicked, and struggled, and rose to his feet. Gladys Powers screamed. Powers swore, and smashed his glasses against the rail in front of him. The third horse rose at the jump, cleared it, and missed Souffrière on the far side by about an inch!
"Now ride!" yelled Galloway. "Ride, man! Ride!"
The man in front had glanced over his shoulder, and, seeing that he was leading by a safe margin, had pulled up a bit to save his horse. There was more than a furlong still of straight going on good green grass, and the race was still to win.
"It's all up!" groaned Galloway; and the millionaire looked toward him and nodded. "Worth it, though!" he said, with a wry smile. "I was never more excited in my life!"
"Thank heaven, he wasn't killed!" said Gladys. She was white as a sheet, and trembling.
"Oh, watch!" said Sammy. "Watch!"
The crowd was yelling and thundering in the stand. They had reckoned without Souffrière and his rider! The big red devil was game to the last kick, and his last kick was not due yet by a long way. It dawned on the brute suddenly that there were two horses now in front of him. That, and the whip, and his rider's spurs convinced him that there was still a fight ahead, and he settled down to catch them in real earnest. He passed the second horse like a flash, and gave chase to the little one in front with his eyes shut and his head slugged against the bit—while the crowd roared and yelled until the grand-stand sounded like the thunder of an army.
"Oh!" yelled Galloway. "Look at that, will you!"
The whip was out again, and Souffrière's rider was putting in all he knew. The whip rose and fell like a flail.
"He's not floggin' him! D'you see that? He's not floggin' him! Oh, Bill, you're the cunnin'est old dog that ever —"
Bill was flogging at his boot. The rider of the first horse heard the whack-whack-whack behind him, and started his own whip going. He flogged his horse, though. The game little fellow changed his feet, and in that second Souffrière caught up with him. Then down came Bill's whip on Souffrière's flank, and he spurted, and the two flashed past the winning-post in a thundering, snorting, sweating, wild-eyed streak—so close together that no one outside the judges' box could tell which was the winner.
Then the roar of the crowd died down to expectant silence, while everybody watched the number-board. A man started fumbling with the numbers, and Sammy saw them even before they were on the board.
"Ten—seventeen—six!" he read off.
Ten was Souffrière!
"Come on, Mr. Powers!" said Sammy Galloway. "You're too late to lead him in, but you can see him in the paddock!" He took Miss Powers' arm, and the millionaire followed them to the paddock at a run. Souffrière was already blanketed again, and was trying hard to eat a stable-hand who was leading him back to his box; and Galloway left them looking at him, while he hurried round to the weighing-room door. There he waited patiently, and presently the Honorable William Allison emerged in jockey-kit—covered with mud and foam, but beaming. "Bill, you idiot, we've won twenty-five thousand pounds apiece, and it's just twenty-five thousand more than you deserve! What, in heaven's name, possessed you to ride the race like that?"
"Point is, I won it, Sammy! Had to ride it that way! Haven't been riding Souffrière in his gallops every day for nothing, you know! I got a line on him right away at the start. If you pull him, he sulks and fights. You've got to let him gallop his worst all the way, and whip the steam out of him at the finish! Got that check for ten thousand yet?"
"Of course not! I can't ask him yet!"
"You must, Sammy! I've got to have it!"
"Better leave it till Monday, hadn't we? Let him settle up like the bookies do; that'll be soon enough."
"No, Sam; I've got to have it now! Go and find him, and make him write it out, while I have a tub and a change. Bring it to me in the dressing-room."
"All right, Bill; I suppose you're running this. I'll ask him. But, I say, I'd feel awfully mean if he tried to kick me! I'm beginning to like the old boy!"
It seemed to Mr. Franklin Powers a little bit like sharp business to be asked for his check almost the instant the race was over. He was beginning to wonder, too, where all the social glamour was that had been promised him; nobody had noticed him as yet. However, he was a man of his word, and he produced his check-book and a fountain-pen, and wrote out a check for ten thousand pounds in favor of Sammy Galloway. "Meet you in the box!" said Sammy, turning to hurry away again. "I'm going to bring something in the society line to introduce to you," he added over his shoulder as an afterthought.
Twenty minutes later Sammy Galloway came back to them; and with him was the Honorable William Allison—quite immaculately dressed, smiling as usual, and perfectly at ease. He raised his hat to Gladys, but said nothing to her. She watched him in absolute amazement, for the contrast between this dandy and the man in silk who had ridden Souffrière was almost unbelievable. Allison walked straight up to the millionaire, and produced a folded piece of paper from his pocket.
"Here's the ten thousand you mentioned, Mr. Powers," he said, smiling affably.
Powers seized the piece of paper and examined it. It was his own check for ten thousand that he had given Sammy Galloway!
"This isn't yours!" said the millionaire. "You're not Galloway!"
"Look on the other side, won't you? You'll see that he's indorsed it over to me!"
"What's the meaning of all this?" asked Powers.
"That's the ten thousand that you told me to go and make! I preferred that it should be ten thousand of your money, that's all!"
"Then you and Mr. Galloway are—er —"
"Accomplices?" suggested Allison.
"And was this talk about getting me into society all bunk?"
"Not a bit of it!" said Sammy, stepping forward. "Allow me, Mr. Powers! This is my friend that I said I'd like to introduce to you afterward. You'll remember, I said he can do more for you socially than even I can!"
"Who thought out this scheme?" asked Franklin Powers—bewildered for almost the first time in his life.
"Bill did!" said Sammy. "I simply obeyed orders! He planned the game, and he rode Souffrière. No other horseman in England could have brought him in a winner. It took a man with brains to win this race and to put through such a scheme. We were both of us broke, and we've each of us made twenty-five thousand, thanks to him—and you!"
"You've got everything you bargained for!" said Allison, trying not to laugh. "As my prospective father-in-law you'll have the entree into society right away. May I take it that your—ah—your objection is—ah—withdrawn?"
"You may! Shake!"
The Honorable William Allison turned to Gladys. "Care to come into the paddock?" he asked her, almost casually.
"I'll go anywhere in the world with you!" she answered.
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