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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 2. - 3/11 -
Jewry and Jewry to Jerusalem. Then it was I promised her I'd bet no more--never again: I'd give up the turf; I'd try and start again. Down in my soul I knew I couldn't start again--not just then. But I wanted to please her. She was remarkable in her way; she had one of the most imposing intelligences I have ever known. So I promised. I promised I'd bet no more."
The Young Doctor caught Kitty Tynan's eyes by accident, and there was the same look of understanding in both. They both knew that here was the real tragedy of Crozier's life. If he had had less reverence for his wife, less of that obvious prostration of soul, he probably would never have come to Askatoon.
"I broke my promise," he murmured. "It was a horse--well, never mind. I was as sure of Flamingo as that the sun would rise by day and set by night. It was a certainty; and it was a certainty. The horse could win, it would win; I had it from a sure source. My judgment was right, too. I bet heavily on Flamingo, intending it for my last fling, and, to save what I had left, to get back what I had lost. I could get big odds on him. It was good enough. From what I knew, it was like picking up a gold-mine. And I was right, right as could be. There was no chance about it. It was being out where the rain fell to get wet. It was just being present when they called the roll of the good people that God wished to be kind to. It meant so much to me. I couldn't bear to have nothing and my wife to have all. I simply couldn't stand--"
Again the Young Doctor met the glance of Kitty Tynan, and there was, once more, a new and sudden look of comprehension in the eyes of both. They began to see light where their man was concerned.
After a moment of struggle to control himself, Crozier proceeded: "It didn't seem like betting. Besides, I had planned it, that when I showed her what I had won, she would shut her eyes to the broken promise, and I'd make another, and keep it ever after. I put on all the cash there was to put on, all I could raise on what was left of my property."
He paused as though to get strength to continue. Then a look of intense excitement suddenly possessed him, and there--passed over him a wave of feeling which transformed him. The naturally grave mediaeval face became fired, the eyes blazed, the skin shone, the mouth almost trembled with agitation. He was the dreamer, the enthusiast, the fanatic almost, with that look which the pioneer, the discoverer, the adventurer has when he sees the end of his quest.
His voice rose, vibrated. "It was a day to make you thank Heaven the world was made. Such days only come once in a while in England, but when they do come, what price Arcady or Askatoon! Never had there been so big a Derby. Everybody had the fever of the place at its worst. I was happy. I meant to pouch my winnings and go straight to my wife and say, 'Peccavi,' and I should hear her say to me, 'Go and sin no more.' Yes, I was happy. The sky, the green of the fields, the still, home-like, comforting trees, the mass of glorious colour, the hundreds of horses that weren't running and the scores that were to run, sleek and long, and made like shining silk and steel, it all was like heaven on earth to me-- a horse-race heaven on earth. There you have the state of my mind in those days, the kind of man I was."
Sitting up, he gazed straight in front of him as though he saw Epsom Downs before his eyes; as though he was watching the fateful race that bore him down. He was terribly, exhaustingly alive. Something possessed him, and he possessed his hearers.
"It was just as I said and knew--my horse, Flamingo, stretched away from the rest at Tattenham Corner and came sailing away home two lengths ahead. It was a sight to last a lifetime, and that was what I meant it to be for me. The race was all Flamingo's own, and the mob was going wild, when all of a sudden a woman--the widow of a racing-man gone suddenly mad--rushed out in front of the horse, snatched at its bridle with a shrill cry and down she came, and down Flamingo and the jockey came, a melee of crushed humanity. And that was how I lost my last two thousand five hundred pounds, as I said at the Logan Trial."
"Oh! Oh!" said Kitty Tynan, her face aflame, her eyes like topaz suns, her hands wringing. "Oh, that was--oh, poor Flamingo!" she added.
A strange smile shot into Crozier's face, and the dark passion of reminiscence fled from his eyes. "Yes, you are right, little friend," he said. "That was the real tragedy after all. There was the horse doing his best, his most beautiful best, as though he knew so much depended on him, stretching himself with the last ounce of energy he could summon, feeling the psalm of success in his heart--yes, he knows, he knows what he has done, none so well!--and out comes a black, hateful thing against him, and down he goes, his game over, his course run. I felt exactly as you do, and I felt that before everything else when it happened. Then I felt for myself afterwards, and I felt it hard, as you can think."
The break went from his voice, but it rang with reflective, remembered misery. "I was ruined. One thing was clear to me. I would not live on my wife's money. I would not eat and drink what her money bought. No, I would not live on my wife. Her brother, a good enough, impulsive lad, with a tongue of his own and too small to thresh, came to me in London the night of the race. He said his sister had been in the country-down at Epsom--and that she bitterly resented my having broken my promise and lost all I had. He said he had never seen her so angry, and he gave me a letter from her. On her return to town she had been obliged to go away at once to see her sister taken suddenly ill. He added, with an unfeeling jibe, that he wouldn't like the reading of the letter himself. If he hadn't been such a chipmunk of a fellow I'd have wrung his neck. I put the letter her letter-in my pocket, and next day gave my lawyer full instructions and a power of attorney. Then I went straight to Glasgow, took steamer for Canada, and here I am. That was near five years ago."
"And the letter from your wife?" asked Kitty Tynan demurely and slyly.
The Young Doctor looked at Crozier, surprised at her temerity, but Crozier only smiled gently. "It is in the desk there. Bring it to me, please," he said.
In a moment Kitty was beside him with the letter. He took it, turned it over, examined it carefully as though seeing it for the first time, and laid it on his knee.
"I have never opened it," he said. "There it is, just as it was handed to me."
"You don't know what is in it?" asked Kitty in a shocked voice. "Why, it may be that--"
"Oh, yes, I know what is in it!" he replied. "Her brother's confidences were enough. I didn't want to read it. I can imagine it all."
"It's pretty cowardly," remarked Kitty.
"No, I think not. It would only hurt, and the hurting could do no good. I can hear what it says, and I don't want to see it."
He held the letter up to his ear whimsically. Then he handed it back to her, and she replaced it in the desk.
"So, there it is, and there it is," he sighed. "You have got my story, and it's bad enough, but you can see it's not what Burlingame suggested."
"Burlingame--but Burlingame's beneath notice," rejoined Kitty. "Isn't he, mother?"
Mrs. Tynan nodded. Then, as though with sudden impulse, Kitty came forward to Crozier and leaned over him. The look of a mother was in her eyes. Somehow she seemed to herself twenty years older than this man with the heart of a boy, who was afraid of his own wife.
"It's time for your beef-tea, and when you've had it you must get your sleep," she said, with a hovering solicitude.
"I'd like to give him a threshing first, if you don't mind," said the Young Doctor to her.
"Please let a little good advice satisfy you," Crozier remarked ruefully. "It will seem like old times," he added rather bitterly.
"You are too young to have had 'old times,'" said Kitty with gentle scorn. "I'll like you better when you are older," she added.
"Naughty jade," exclaimed the Young Doctor, "you ought to be more respectful to those older than yourself."
"Oh, grandpapa!" she retorted.
A WOMAN'S WAY TO KNOWLEDGE
The harvest was over. The grain was cut, the prairie no longer waved like a golden sea, but the smoke of the incense of sacrifice still rose in innumerable spirals in the circle of the eye. The ground appeared bare and ill-treated, like a sheep first shorn; but yet nothing could take away from it the look of plenty, even as the fat sides of the shorn sheep invite the satisfied eye of the expert. The land now, all stubble, still looked good for anything. If bare, it did not seem starved. It was naked and unshaven; it was stripped like a boxer for the rubbing-down after the fight. Not so refined and suggestive and luxurious as when it was clothed with the coat of ripe corn in the ear, it still showed the fibre of its being to no disadvantage. And overhead the joy of the prairie grew apace.
September saw the vast prairie spaces around Askatoon shorn and shrivelled of its glory of ripened grain, but with a new life come into the air-sweet, stinging, vibrant life, which had the suggestion of nature recreating her vitality, inflaming herself with Edenic strength, a battery charging itself, to charge the world in turn with force and energy. Morning gave pure elation, as though all created being must strive; noon was the pulse of existence at the top of its activity; evening was glamorous; and all the lower sky was spread with those colours which Titian stole from the joyous horizon that filled his eyes. There was in that evening light, somehow, just a touch of pensiveness-- the triste delicacy of heliotrope, harbinger of the Indian summer soon to come, when the air would make all sensitive souls turn to the past and forget that to-morrow was all in all.
Sensitive souls, however, are not so many as to crowd each other unduly in this world, and they were not more numerous in Askatoon than elsewhere. Not everybody was taking joy of sunrises and losing himself in the delicate contentment of the sunset. There were many who took it all without thought, who absorbed it unconsciously, and got something from it; though there were many others who got nothing out of it at all, save the health and comfort brought by a precious climate whose solicitous friend is the sun. These heeded it little, even though a
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