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The Finish Of Patsy Barnes
by [?]

That afternoon, after his work with McCarthy, found him at the Fair-grounds. The spring races were on, and he thought he might get a job warming up the horse of some independent jockey. He hung around the stables, listening to the talk of men he knew and some he had never seen before. Among the latter was a tall, lanky man, holding forth to a group of men.

“No, suh,” he was saying to them generally, “I’m goin’ to withdraw my hoss, because thaih ain’t nobody to ride him as he ought to be rode. I haven’t brought a jockey along with me, so I’ve got to depend on pick-ups. Now, the talent’s set agin my hoss, Black Boy, because he’s been losin’ regular, but that hoss has lost for the want of ridin’, that’s all.”

The crowd looked in at the slim-legged, raw-boned horse, and walked away laughing.

“The fools!” muttered the stranger. “If I could ride myself I’d show ’em!”

Patsy was gazing into the stall at the horse.

“What are you doing thaih,” called the owner to him.

“Look hyeah, mistah,” said Patsy, “ain’t that a bluegrass hoss?”

“Of co’se it is, an’ one o’ the fastest that evah grazed.”

“I’ll ride that hoss, mistah.”

“What do you know ’bout ridin’?”

“I used to gin’ally be’ roun’ Mistah Boone’s paddock in Lexington, an’–“

“Aroun’ Boone’s paddock–what! Look here, little nigger, if you can ride that hoss to a winnin’ I’ll give you more money than you ever seen before.”

“I’ll ride him.”

Patsy’s heart was beating very wildly beneath his jacket. That horse. He knew that glossy coat. He knew that raw-boned frame and those flashing nostrils. That black horse there owed something to the orphan he had made.

The horse was to ride in the race before the last. Somehow out of odds and ends, his owner scraped together a suit and colors for Patsy. The colors were maroon and green, a curious combination. But then it was a curious horse, a curious rider, and a more curious combination that brought the two together.

Long before the time for the race Patsy went into the stall to become better acquainted with his horse. The animal turned its wild eyes upon him and neighed. He patted the long, slender head, and grinned as the horse stepped aside as gently as a lady.

“He sholy is full o’ ginger,” he said to the owner, whose name he had found to be Brackett.

“He’ll show ’em a thing or two,” laughed Brackett.

“His dam was a fast one,” said Patsy, unconsciously.

Brackett whirled on him in a flash. “What do you know about his dam?” he asked.

The boy would have retracted, but it was too late. Stammeringly he told the story of his father’s death and the horse’s connection therewith.

“Well,” said Brackett, “if you don’t turn out a hoodoo, you’re a winner, sure. But I’ll be blessed if this don’t sound like a story! But I’ve heard that story before. The man I got Black Boy from, no matter how I got him, you’re too young to understand the ins and outs of poker, told it to me.”

When the bell sounded and Patsy went out to warm up, he felt as if he were riding on air. Some of the jockeys laughed at his get-up, but there was something in him–or under him, maybe–that made him scorn their derision. He saw a sea of faces about him, then saw no more. Only a shining white track loomed ahead of him, and a restless steed was cantering with him around the curve. Then the bell called him back to the stand.

They did not get away at first, and back they trooped. A second trial was a failure. But at the third they were off in a line as straight as a chalk-mark. There were Essex and Firefly, Queen Bess and Mosquito, galloping away side by side, and Black Boy a neck ahead. Patsy knew the family reputation of his horse for endurance as well as fire, and began riding the race from the first. Black Boy came of blood that would not be passed, and to this his rider trusted. At the eighth the line was hardly broken, but as the quarter was reached Black Boy had forged a length ahead, and Mosquito was at his flank. Then, like a flash, Essex shot out ahead under whip and spur, his jockey standing straight in the stirrups.