He unceremoniously took his seat beside Annette, to the indignation of little Jimmy Reed. It was hard to accept Carter’s patronizing tolerance, but a certain curve to his eyebrows and the turn of his head served as perpetual reminders of Ruth.
Annette greeted Sandy effusively. She had found Jimmy entirely too limber a foil to use with any degree of skill, and she knew from past experience that Sandy and Carter were much better matched. If Sid Gray had been there also, she would have been quite happy. In Annette’s estimation it was all a mistake about love being a game for two.
“Who was your stylish friend?” she asked Sandy.
“Ricks Wilson,” said Sandy, shortly.
Carter smiled condescendingly. “Your old business partner, I believe?”
“Before he was yours,” said Sandy.
This was not at all to Annette’s taste. They were not even thinking about her.
“How m-many dances do you want for to-night?” she asked Sandy.
“The first four.”
She wrote them on the corner of her fan. “Yes?”
“The last four.”
“And the four in between. What’s that on your fan?”
“But it is. Let me see.”
“Will you look at it easy and not tell?” she whispered, taking advantage of Carter’s sudden interest in the judges’ stand.
“Sure and I will. Just a peep. Come!”
She opened the fan half-way, and disclosed a tiny picture of himself sewed on one of the slats.
“And it’s meself that you care for, Annette!” he whispered. “I knew it, you rascal, you rogue!”
“Let g-go my hand,” she whispered, half laughing, half scolding. “Look, Carter, what I have on my fan!” and, to Sandy’s chagrin, she opened the fan on the reverse side and disclosed a picture of Nelson.
But Carter had neither eyes nor ears for her now. His whole attention was centered on the ring, where the most important event of the day was about to take place.
It was a trial of two-year-olds for speed and durability. There were four entries—two bays, a sorrel, and Carter’s own little thoroughbred “Nettie.” He watched her as she pranced around the ring under Ricks’s skilful handling; she had nothing to fear from the bays, but the sorrel was a close competitor.
“Oh, this is your race, isn’t it?” cried Annette as the band struck up “Dixie.” “Where’s my namesake? The pretty one just c-coming, with the ugly driver? Why, he’s Sandy’s friend, isn’t he?”
Sandy winced under her teasing, but he held his peace.
The first heat Nettie won; the second, the sorrel; the third brought the grand stand to its feet. Even the revolving procession halted breathless.
“Now they’re off!” cried Annette, excitedly. “Mercy, how they g-go! Nettie is a little ahead; look, Sandy! She’s gaining! No; the sorrel’s ahead. Carter, your driver is g-going too close! He’s g-going to smash in—Oh, look!”