And just as they finally were all harnessed up and the horn sounded, the crowd yelled, “They’re off,” and Van Bibber and all of them turned on their high seats to look back.
“Magpie wins,” said the whip.
“And Jack Frost’s last,” said another.
“And I win my one hundred dollars,” said Van Bibber. “It’s really very curious,” he added, turning to the girl. “I started out with two hundred dollars to-day, I spent only twenty-five dollars on flowers, I won six hundred and twenty-five dollars, and I have only one hundred and seventy-five dollars to show for it, and yet I’ve had a very pleasant Fourth.”
Of course, Van Bibber lost all the money he saved at the races on the Fourth of July. He went to the track the next day, and he saw the whole sum melt away, and in his vexation tried to “get back,” with the usual result. He plunged desperately, and when he had reached his rooms and run over his losses, he found he was a financial wreck, and that he, as his sporting friends expressed it, “would have to smoke a pipe” for several years to come, instead of indulging in Regalias. He could not conceive how he had come to make such a fool of himself, and he wondered if he would have enough confidence to spend a dollar on luxuries again.
It was awful to contemplate the amount he had lost. He felt as if it were sinful extravagance to even pay his car-fare up-town, and he contemplated giving his landlord the rent with keen distress. It almost hurt him to part with five cents to the conductor, and as he looked at the hansoms dashing by with lucky winners inside he groaned audibly.
“I’ve got to economize,” he soliloquized. “No use talking; must economize. I’ll begin to-morrow morning and keep it up for a month. Then I’ll be on my feet again. Then I can stop economizing, and enjoy myself. But no more races; never, never again.”
He was delighted with this idea of economizing. He liked the idea of self-punishment that it involved, and as he had never denied himself anything in his life, the novelty of the idea charmed him. He rolled over to sleep, feeling very much happier in his mind than he had been before his determination was taken, and quite eager to begin on the morrow. He arose very early, about ten o’clock, and recalled his idea of economy for a month, as a saving clause to his having lost a month’s spending money.
He was in the habit of taking his coffee and rolls and a parsley omelette, at Delmonico’s every morning. He decided that he would start out on his road of economy by omitting the omelette and ordering only a pot of coffee. By some rare intuition he guessed that there were places up-town where things were cheaper than at his usual haunt, only he did not know where they were. He stumbled into a restaurant on a side street finally, and ordered a cup of coffee and some rolls.