CHAPTER I WHICH INTRODUCES JOHNNY GAMBLE AND HIS LAST HUNDRED DOLLARS
About the time the winner of the Baltimore Handicap flashed under the wire, Johnny Gamble started to tear up a bundle of nice pink tickets on Lady S. Just then Ashley Loring came by swiftly in the direction of the betting shed. Loring stopped and wheeled when he caught sight of him as did most men who knew him.
"Hello, Johnny! I didn't know you had run over. How are you picking them to-day?" he asked.
"With a dream book," answered Gamble, smiling; "but I ate lobster last night."
"I didn't know that you cared for the ponies."
"I don't; and it's mutual. Thought I'd take one more whirl, though, before the Maryland governor also closes the tracks for ever. How are you doing?"
"I'm working on a new system," stated the tall young man with elation. "With this scheme, all you have to do is to bet on the right horse. What did you have in the handicap?"
"The off bay over there," replied Gamble, indicating a team attached to a sprinkling wagon, away on the farther side of the course. "Have one of her calling cards, Loring," and he proffered one of the ex-tickets.
"Lady S?" translated Loring. "I cut her acquaintance three bets ago." And, turning just then toward the grandstand, he smiled up into one of the boxes and lifted his hat.
Glancing in that direction, Gamble was shocked to find himself looking squarely into the dark eyes of a strikingly beautiful young woman who stood with her hands resting upon the rail.
"What do you know about Collaton?" he asked; and, in spite of himself, he looked again. The young lady this time was laughing with a group of likable young idlers, all of whom Gamble knew; and, since the startling stranger was occupied, he could indulge in a slightly more open inspection.
"I saw Collaton on the track to-day and he was making some big bets," replied Loring with a frown. "He's not broke, Johnny. He's merely been letting you hold the bag."
"Well, help me let go. Loring, I must dissolve that partnership."
The young lawyer shook his head.
"No way to do it so long as the books remain lost. Unless one of you buys outright the practically defunct Gamble-Collaton Irrigation Company and assumes all its liabilities, you will remain responsible, since Collaton possesses no visible property. I'm sure that he stung you, Johnny."
"Stung me! I'm swelled up yet."
"It's your own fault. You trusted him too much."
"He trusted me. I sold land."
"Of course he trusted you. Everybody does. Meantime he was out West incurring obligations. You should have gone into bankruptcy and settled at twenty cents on the dollar when you had a chance, as I advised you."
"Couldn't. I look in the glass when I shave. Anyhow, it's all paid now."
"How do you know, with the books lost? You started in with an equal amount of money. When that was gone Collaton announced himself broke—and let you foot the bills. If he only raked off half of what he spent he got back his own and a tidy fortune besides. Your only chance is to have that enormous land deal turn out a winner."
"It's worse than Lady S....