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Checkers A Hard-luck Story   By:

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[Frontispiece: CHECKERS]














I had never before attended the races. "The sport of kings" is not popular in Boston, my former home, but here in Chicago every one turns out on Derby Day, if at no other time. And so, catching something of the general enthusiasm, my friend Murray Jameson, who by the way is something of a sport, and I, who by the same token am not, found ourselves driving a very smart trap out Michigan avenue, amidst a throng of coaches, cabs, breaks and buggies, people and conveyances of every description beautiful women beautifully costumed, young men, business men, toughs and wantons all on their way to Washington Park, and all in a fever of excitement over the big race to be run that afternoon the great American Derby.

"Now Jack," said Murray, as in due process we reached our box and sat gazing at the crowds about and below us, "it strikes me that we should have a small bet of some sort on the different races, just to liven things up a bit. What say we go down into the betting ring and have a look at the odds?"

"As you like," I answered, rising to show my willingness; "but you will have to do the necessary, I do n't know one horse from another."

"The less you know the more apt you are to win," said Murray airily; "but if you say so, I 'll make one bet for both of us, share and share alike. No plunging goes to day though, Jack; we do n't want to gamble. We 'll have up a couple of dollars, just to focalize the interest. If we lose it won't amount to much, and if we win we win.

"But just a word of warning before we go down. Keep your eye on your watch and your money, or you 'll get 'touched;' and if we should chance to be separated in a crowd, be careful not to let anyone 'tout' you."

Now, if there 's one thing I am especially proud of, it is my ability to take care of myself in any company, and Murray's patronizing manner, in view of my professed ignorance, rather galled me.

"The man who gets my watch or money is welcome to it," I answered shortly, buttoning my coat about me as we walked along; "and as for being 'touted' well, I 'll try to take care of that."

Whether to be 'touted' was to be held up, buncoed, or drugged and robbed, I had no definite notion; but I took it to be a confidence game of some sort and despised it accordingly.

Just here, following Murray, I elbowed my way into the hottest, best natured, most conglomerate crowd it was ever my lot to mingle with. Merchants, clerks and gilded youths, laborers, gamblers, negroes, and what not, money in hand, pushed, pulled and trod upon each other indiscriminately in their efforts to reach the betting stands.

The book makers, ranged along in rows, stood on little platforms in front of their booths, taking the crowd's money and calling out the amount and nature of each bet to assistants within who scratched off and registered corresponding pool tickets which were quickly returned to the struggling bettors.

On a blackboard at the end of each booth were posted the names of the horses with their jockeys. Against these names the book makers chalked up their figures, increasing or lessening the odds from time to time as the different horses were fancied or neglected in the betting.

"There 's nothing in this race but Maid Marian," said Murray, scanning the blackboards critically; "but 4 to 5 is the best I see on her, and I want even money or nothing" the which was largely Greek to me until by questioning and deduction I found the situation in English to be as follows:

Maid Marian was judged on breeding and past performance to be much the best horse in the race, so much so that although about to run with five or six other racers, the book makers demanded odds from those who bet on her in the ratio of 5 to 4... Continue reading book >>

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