“Right, kid. And that’s what I wished to speak about. In the first place, Major Calvert knows where you are. Colonel and Miss Desha do not. In fact, kid,” added Drake, rubbing his chin, “the major and I have a little plot hatched up between us. Your identity, if possible is not to be made known to the colonel and his daughter until the finish of the Carter. Understand?”
“No,” said Garrison flatly. “Why?”
“Because, kid, you’re not going to ride Speedaway. You’re not going to ride for my stable. You’re going to ride Colonel Desha’s Rogue—ride as you never rode before. Ride and win. That’s why.”
Garrison only stared as Drake ran on. “See here, kid, this race means everything to the colonel—everything in the world. Every cent he has is at stake; his honor, his life, his daughter’s happiness. He’s proud, cussed proud, and he’s kept it mum. And the girl—Miss Desha has bucked poverty like a thoroughbred. I got to know the facts, picking them up here and there, and the major knows, too. We’ve got to work in the dark, for the colonel would die first if he knew the truth, before he would accept help even indirectly. The Rogue must win; must. But what chance has he against the major’s Dixie, my Speedaway, and the Morgan entry—Swallow? And so the major has scratched his mount, giving out that Dixie has developed eczema.
“Now, the colonel is searching high and low for a jockey capable of handling The Rogue. It’ll take a good man. I recommended you. He doesn’t know your identity, for the major and I have kept it from him. He only thinks you are the Garrison who has come back. I have fixed it up with him that you are to ride his mount, and The Rogue will arrive to-morrow.
“The colonel is a wreck mentally and physically; living on nerve. I’ve agreed to put the finishing touches on The Rogue, and he, knowing my ability and facilities, has permitted me. It’s all in my hands—pretty near. Now, Red McGloin is up on the Morgan entry—Swallow. He used to be a stable-boy for Waterbury. I guess you’ve heard of him. He’s developed into a first-class boy. But I want to see you lick the hide off him. The fight will lie between you and him. I know the rest of the field—”
“But Speedaway?” cried Garrison, jumping to his feet. “Jimmie—you! It’s too great a sacrifice; too great, too great. I know how you’ve longed to win the Carter; what it means to you; how you have slaved to earn it. Jimmie—Jimmie—don’t tempt me. You can’t mean you’ve scratched Speedaway!”
“Just that, kid,” said Drake grimly. “The first scratch in my life—and the last. Speedaway? Well, she and I will win again some other time. Some time, kid, when we ain’t playing against a man’s life and a girl’s happiness. I’ll scratch for those odds. It’s for you, kid—you and the girl. Remember, you’re carrying her colors, her life.