There were good horses entered against The Rogue. Major Calvert's Dixie, for instance, and Speedaway, the wonderful goer owned by that man Drake. Then there were half a dozen others--all from well-known stables. There could be no doubt that "class" would be present in abundance at the Carter. And only he had so much at stake. He had entered The Rogue in the first flush consequent on his winning the last Carter. But he must win this. He must. Getting him into condition entailed expense. It must be met. All his hopes, his fears, were staked on The Rogue. Money never was so paramount; the need of it so great. Fiercely he hugged his poverty to his breast, keeping it from his friend the major.
Then, too, he was greatly worried over Sue. She was not looking well. He was worried over Garrison's continued absence. He was worried over everything. It was besetting him from all sides. Worry was causing him to take the lime-light from himself. He awoke to the fact that Sue was in very poor health. If she died-- He never could finish.
Taken all in all, it was a very bad time for the two oldest families in Cottonton. Every member was suffering silently, stoically; each in a different way. One striving to conceal from the other. And it all centered about Garrison.
And then, one day when things were at their worst, when Garrison, unconscious of the general misery he had engendered, had completed Speedaway's training for the Carter, when he himself was ready for the fight of his life, a stranger stepped off the Cottonton express and made his way to the Desha homestead. He knew the colonel. He was a big, quiet man--Jimmie Drake.
A week later and Drake had returned North. He had not said anything to Garrison regarding what had called him away, but the latter vaguely sensed that it was another attempt on the indefatigable turfman's part to ferret out the eminent lawyer, Mr. Snark. And when Drake, on his return, called Garrison into the club-house, Garrison went white- faced. He had just sent Speedaway over the seven furlongs in record time, and his heart was big with hope.
Drake never wasted ammunition in preliminary skirmishing. He told the joke first and the story afterward.
"I've been South. Seen Colonel Desha and Major Calvert," he said tersely.
Garrison was silent, looking at him. He tried to read fate in his inscrutable eyes; news of some description; tried, and failed. He turned away his head. "Tell me," he said simply. Drake eyed him and slowly came forward and held out his large bloodshot hand.