“If I only knew what kind of a jockey he is!” Then, as Horace Holton came up, smiling greetings: “Holton, how’s the betting?”
“Can’t you hear?” said Holton, as a vagrant breeze brought to their ears bits of the vocal tumult from the betting-ring.
“Ten to nine against Queen Bess,” Frank heard a voice call loudly, although the crowd’s great murmur made the words come indistinctly to his ears. “Even on Catalpa,” was the next penetrating cry, and then: “Two to one, Evangeline!”
The young owner shuddered. Could it be possible that Neb was right and that the Colonel’s jockey would appear on time, or were the dire predictions of defeat which, he knew, were being made everywhere around him, true prophecies? Tales of all but fatal injuries to the handsome mare had been freely circulated, and, despite denials in the newspapers, were still alive, and these he knew to be quite false; but he knew of the other dire disaster—the defection of his jockey—of which the crowd was also well aware. He had not the slightest doubt that if Queen Bess should run at all she would do all that her best friends expected of her and more; but it seemed to him a possibility that he would find it necessary, at the last minute, to withdraw her from the race entirely, for sheer lack of a rider.
Again the breeze brought from the betting-ring the loud shouts of the book-makers. The message that they told was most depressing to the worried owner.
“Why, this morning she was the favorite,” he said, “and now the odds are all against her!”
Holton nodded. “On the strength o’ this jockey as nobody knows. Got any money on, yourself, Layson?”
“Not a cent. I’ve enough at stake, already.”
Holton smiled unpleasantly, intimating that Frank’s lack of betting on his horse was proof positive that the worst tales told were true. “That settles it. The bookies are right. Th’ mare’s no chance with a new jockey, an’ you know it.”
“If I were betting,” said Frank angrily, “I’d back her with every dollar that I have on earth.”
Holton smiled at him unpleasantly. “I say she can’t win and you know it.” He waited for some answer from the anxious owner, but received none. Then, taking out his check-book: “See here—I’ll bet you five-thousand even against her!”
Frank, annoyed but helpless, shook his head. “I haven’t the money,” he admitted.
“You ain’t got the sand!” said Holton, aggravatingly.
Frank turned from him angrily, and old Neb, who had listened, stepped quickly up to him. “Marse Frank,” he pleaded, “don’ yo’ let dat white-trash bluff yo’!” The old darkey’s voice was tremulous, his eyes were moist with feeling for his humiliated master. A great resolve thrilled through him. “See heah, honey, I’s be’n sabin’ all mah life. I’s got a pile o’ money in de bank. Take it all, now, honey, an’ bet it on Queen Bess.”