Alcantra

A man, a horse, and a mysterious jockey

I do not recall what happened then, except that I dimly remember clambering out of the box into a milling crowd. One by one the horses returned with drooping heads and heaving flanks. They were stripped, and the jockeys and their kit again weighed. I sought out Alcantara. He stood proudly in the surging crowd with head erect, nostrils distended and eyes gleaming. All at once I found myself beside him. I threw my arm over his neck and heard the whirr and click of countless cameras. Someone appeared with an immense floral horseshoe and laid it on Alcantara's neck; again the cameras clicked and whirred. Tobias joined me. I wrung his hand. Words failed me. A stableboy, my stableboy, a complete stranger to me, assisted Tobias, and Aicantara was shrouded in an enormous cooler and led away.

It was over. The hour of my dream had come and passed. Again I confronted a battery of cameras, this time holding an ornate piece of plate. I sought the stable. Tobias was in no mood to talk. I told him to come to me in the evening, and with my wildly jubilant companions I motored home. We were recognized at every turn, and cheers and shouts of congratulation greeted us everywhere. I was in a daze. The whole thing seemed unreal; everything but the memory of the face of my business partner, of which I caught a momentary glimpse as I posed with the silver pitcher. It was not a pleasant face to remember.

We dined sumptuously at the club and I insisted on paying for everything. This was my night, I explained, and besides, the Committee would be sending me a sizable check in the morning. After dinner I hastened home to meet Tobias. I half expected to find him there on my return. He had not come, so I sent out for all the evening papers, particularly those more devoted to the gentle art of horse racing. I read every word of them all. In every one I saw my picture. In some of the photographs I held the pitcher, but in most of them I had my arm caressingly around Alcantara's neck. None of the pictures, I thought, did justice to either Alcantara or myself, and my smile seemed peculiarly silly and fatuous.

I finished the papers, and still Tobias failed to appear. After an hour or two I resorted to the telephone. I could not find him at any of the places I thought he. might frequent on this memorable evening. The race track failed to respond, the training quarters knew naught of Tobias or the horse.

With aching head I went to bed and passed a night of troubled dreams. I was up early and breakfasted alone. The morning papers gave me some solace. But it all seemed cold and perfunctory now.

The doorbell rang in the distance, and I was brought a letter and a tiny bundle. The letter proved to be a laconic communication from Tobias. In the briefest manner I was told that, a few hours after our triumph, Alcantara had passed out of this world of turmoil and trouble. Heart strain in the race—that was all; it was not uncommon, Tobias would see me soon, but in the meantime he had sent me a memento of Alcantara. I opened the bundle and found a dainty racing shoe scarcely scratched by use.

I sat for a moment stunned by the unexpected news; then I determined to be up and doing. I dashed to the race track. Tobias was not there; nor was Alcantara. I made inquiries, only to learn that Tobias and the horse had departed for an undesignated destination. I spent the day following fruitless clues.

I declined an invitation to a congratulatory dinner to be given that night by friends, and spent the evening in the solitude of my library in thoughtful mood. I reviewed with care all the incidents of my association with Tobias. I recalled one detail that I had forgotten. Before the race, Tobias and I had agreed that, should Alcantara win or make a respectable showing, we should sell him at once at as high a figure as possible. In my sober moments I had no desire to continue in the racing game, and Tobias pointed out that the interest in Alcantara would be passing. Some other horse would eclipse him and his value would drop. To this end I had executed a document authorizing Tobias to negotiate a sale, in his own name, at any price satisfactory to him. I had suggested such an arrangement after witnessing one of Alcantara's most perverse and ill-mannered performances during his schooling. His conduct had made me despair of ever selling him at all.

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