“For fear the innocents will lose their money?” asked Bud.
“Yes. I don’t want to be a party to robbing those fellows.”
“Don’t you worry. If you want to punish Norris and his friends, don’t interfere. Let it go on, I tell you. They’ll be the worst-beaten lot o’ crooks that ever robbed a town.”
“All right, Bud, if you say so.”
It was now time for the race of the day, and Bud and Norris marked off the course.
Ben was appointed judge, with a large man, apparently a stranger in the town, who was chosen by Norris, and the two selected a third.
The third man was a stranger to Ben, but he picked him out of the crowd, and the other judge accepted him.
As Stella climbed into the saddle, Hatrack gave two or three kittenish jumps, and the crowd yelled. It had not expected this added feature to the race, a girl jockey.
Shout after shout went up as she rode over the course slowly, Hatrack having settled down into his usual dejected manner. The cheers and some of the jeers that greeted him came from the men who had been induced to bet on him.
“Now, Stella,” said Bud, as Stella rode back again, “when you start, shout ‘Vamose!’ in Hatrack’s ear. That’s the word he has always been sent away with. Stick tight, an’ let him go. Don’t forget the word ‘Vamose!’”
The great Chiquita.
Hatrack and Magpie were now brought up to the starting point.
The boy who traveled with old man Norris was on the back of the latter horse, sitting in a regular jockey’s saddle and stripped of all superfluous clothing.
He was the typical jockey now. He had put away all the appearance of youth, and was a crafty and sly man.
It was apparent that the whole outfit was in the racing business, and as the crowd looked at the discrepancy between the two horses, and observed that on the best-looking horse was a professional jockey, while on the crowbait was only a girl, something like a groan went up.
But some of them were game, and cheered Stella to the echo.
“You’re all right!” shouted her supporters.
“Hurrah fer ther girl jockey,” yelled the cow-punchers. “I got a month’s wages that says she’ll win the race.”
But the other side had something to say, also. They made all sorts of fun of Hatrack, and roars of laughter went up as he ambled, stiff-legged, onto the course.
Clay Whipple was chosen to start the race, and stood beside the track with a red flag in his hand. The two horses were jockeyed back and forth for several minutes.
“Are you ready?” shouted Clay, as they came up.
“No!” shouted Stella.
“No!” answered the jockey.
Back again they went, and came up neck and neck, the riders nodding to Clay.
“Go!” cried Clay, bringing down the red flag with a swish through the air.