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"But," protested Carter, "it's not a racing story, it's a detective story!"
"The devil it is!" gasped Spink. "But what's the difference! " he exclaimed. " They've got to buy it anyway. They'd buy it if it was a cook-book. And, I say," he cried delightedly, "that's great press work you're doing for the book at the races! The papers are full of you this morning, and every man who reads about your luck at the track will see your name as the author of 'The Dead Heat,' and will rush to buy the book. He'll think 'The Dead Heat' is a guide to the turf!"
When Carter reached the track he found his notoriety had preceded him. Ambitious did no run until the fourth race, and until then, as he sat in his box, an eager crowd surged below. He had never known such popularity. The crowd had read the newspapers, and such head-lines as "He Cannot Lose!" "Young Carter Wins $70,000!" "Boy Plunger Wins Again!" "Carter Makes Big Killing!" "The Ring Hit Hard!" "The Man Who Cannot Lose!" "Carter Beats Book-makers!" had whetted their curiosity and filled many with absolute faith in his luck. Men he had not seen in years grasped him by the hand and carelessly asked if he could tell of something good. Friends old and new begged him to dine with them, to immediately have a drink With them, at least to "try" a cigar. Men who protested they had lost their all begged for just a hint which would help them to come out even, and every one, without exception, assured him he was going to buy his latest book.
"I tried to get it last night at a dozen news-stands," many of them said, "but they told me the entire edition was exhausted."
The crowd of hungry-eyed race-goers waiting below the box, and watching Carter's every movement, distressed Dolly.
"I hate it!" she cried. "They look at you like a lot of starved dogs begging for a bone. Let's go home; we don't want to make any more money, and we may lose what we have. And I want it all to advertise the book."
"If you're not careful," said Carter, "some one will buy that book and read it, and then you and Spink will have to take shelter in a cyclone cellar."
When he arose to make his bet on Ambitious, his friends from the club stand and a half-dozen of Pinkerton's men closed in around him and in a flying wedge pushed into the ring. The news-papers had done their work, and he was instantly surrounded by a hungry, howling mob. In comparison with the one of the previous day, it was as a foot-ball scrimmage to a run on a bank. When he made his first wager and the crowd learned the name of the horse, it broke with a. yell into hundreds of flying missiles which hurled themselves at the book-makers. Under their attack, as on the day before, Ambitious receded to even money. There was hardly a person at the track who did not back the luck of the man who "could not lose." And when Ambitious won easily, it was not the horse or the jockey that was cheered, but the young man in the box.
In New York the extras had already announced that he was again lucky, and when Dolly and Carter reached the bank they found the entire staff on hand to receive him and his winnings. They amounted to a sum so magnificent that Carter found for the rest of their lives the interest would furnish Dolly and himself an income upon which they could live modestly and well.
A distinguished-looking, white-haired official of the bank congratulated Carter warmly. "Should you wish to invest some of this," he said, " I should be glad to advise you. My knowledge in that direction may be wider than your own."
Carter murmured his thanks. The white-haired gentleman lowered his voice. "On certain other subjects," he continued, "you know many things of which I am totally ignorant. Could you tell me," he asked carelessly, "who will win the Suburban to-morrow? "
Carter frowned mysteriously. "I can tell you better in the morning," he said. "It looks like Beldame, with Proper and First Mason within call."
The white-haired man showed his surprise and also that his ignorance was not as profound as he suggested.
"I thought the Keene entry----" he ventured.
"I know," said Carter doubtfully. "If it were for a mile, I would say Delhi, but I don't think he can last the distance. In the morning I'll wire you."
As they settled back in their car, Carter took both of Dolly's hands in his. "So far as money goes," he said, "we are independent of your mother--independent of my books; and I want to make you a promise. I want to promise you that, no matter what I dream in the future, I'll never back another horse." Dolly gave a gasp of satisfaction.
"And what's more," added Carter hastily, "not another dollar can you risk in backing my books. After this, they've got to stand or fall on their legs!"
"Agreed!" cried Dolly. "Our plunging days are over."
When they reached the flat they found waiting for Carter the junior partner of a real publishing house. He had a blank contract, and he wanted to secure the right to publish Carter's next book.
"I have a few short stories----" suggested Carter.
Collections of short stories, protested the visitor truthfully, "do not sell. We would prefer another novel on the same lines as 'The Dead Heat.'"
"Have you read 'The Dead Heat'?" asked Carter.
"I have not," admitted the publisher, but the next book by the same author is sure to----. We will pay in advance of royalties fifteen thousand dollars."
"Could you put that in writing?" asked Carter. When the publisher was leaving he said:
"I see your success in literature is equaled by your success at the races. Could you tell me what will win the Suburban?"
"I will send you a wire in the MORNING," said Carter.
They had arranged to dine with some friends and later to visit a musical comedy. Carter had changed his clothes, and, while he was waiting for Dolly to dress, was reclining in a huge arm-chair. The heat of the day, the excitement, and the wear on his nerves caused his head to sink back, his eyes to close, and his limbs to relax.
When, by her entrance, Dolly woke him, he jumped up in some confusion.
"You've been asleep," she mocked.
"Worse!" said Carter. "I've been dreaming! Shall I tell you who is going to win the Suburban?"
"Champneys!" cried Dolly in alarm.
"My dear Dolly," protested her husband, "I promised to stop betting. I did not promise to stop sleeping."
"Well," sighed Dolly, with relief, "as long as it stops at that. Delhi will win," she added. "Delhi will not," said Carter. "This is how they will finish----"He scribbled three names on a piece of paper which Dolly read.
"But that," she said, "is what you told the gentleman at the bank."
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Davis' Short Stories Vol. 2 -by- Richard Harding Davis