It is during the last race meeting at Saratoga, and one evening I am standing out under the elms in front of the Grand Union Hotel thinking what a beautiful world it is, to be sure, for what do I do in the afternoon at the track but grab myself a piece of a 10-to-l shot.
I am thinking what a beautiful moon it is, indeed, that is shining down over the park where Mr. Dick Canfield once deals them higher than a cat’s back, and how pure and balmy the air is, and also what nice-looking Judys are wandering around and about, although it is only the night before that I am standing in the same spot wondering where I can borrow a Betsy with which to shoot myself smack-dab through the pimple.
In fact, I go around to see a character I know by the name of Solly something, who owns a Betsy, but it seems he has only one cartridge to his name for this Betsy and he is thinking some of either using the cartridge to shoot his own self smack-dab through the pimple, or of going out to the race course and shooting an old catfish by the name of Pair of Jacks that plays him false in the fifth race, and therefore Solly is not in a mood to lend his Betsy to anybody else.
So we try to figure out a way we can make one cartridge do for two pimples, and in the meantime Solly outs with a bottle of applejack, and after a couple of belts at this bottle we decide that the sensible thing to do is to take the Betsy out and peddle it for whatever we can, and maybe get a taw for the next day.
Well, it happens that we run into an Italian party from Passaic, N.J., by the name of Giuseppe Palladino, who is called Joe for short, and this Joe is in the money very good at the moment, and he is glad to lend us a pound note on the Betsy, because Joe is such a character as never knows when he may need an extra Betsy, and anyway it is the first time in his experience around the race tracks that anybody ever offers him collateral for a loan.
So there Solly and I are with a deuce apiece after we spend the odd dollar for breakfast the next day, and I run my deuce up to a total of twenty-two slugs on the 10-to-l shot in the last heat of the day, and everything is certainly all right with me in every respect.
Well, while I am standing there under the elms, who comes along but a raggedy old Dutchman by the name of Unser Fritz, who is maybe seventy-five years old, come next grass, and who is following the giddyaps since the battle of Gettysburg, as near as anybody can figure out. In fact, Unser Fritz is quite an institution around the race tracks, and is often written up by the newspaper scribes as a terrible example of what a horse player comes to, although personally I always say that what Unser Fritz comes to is not so tough when you figure that he does not do a tap of work in all these years.
In his day, Unser Fritz is a most successful handicapper, a handicapper being a character who can dope out from the form what horses ought to win the races, and as long as his figures turn out all right, a handicapper is spoken of most respectfully by one and all, although of course when he begins missing out for any length of time as handicappers are bound to do, he is no longer spoken of respectfully, or even as a handicapper. He is spoken of as a bum.
It is a strange thing how a handicapper can go along for years doing everything right, and then all of a sudden he finds himself doing everything wrong, and this is the way it is with Unser Fritz. For a long time his figures on the horse races are considered most remarkable indeed, and as he will bet till the cows come home on his own figures, he generally has plenty of money, and a fiancee by the name of Emerald Em.
She is called Emerald Em because she has a habit of wearing a raft of emeralds in rings, and pins, and bracelets, and one thing and another, which are purchased for her by Unser Fritz to express his love, an emerald being a green stone that is considered most expressive of love, if it is big enough. It seems that Emerald Em is very fond of emeralds, especially when they are surrounded by large, coarse diamonds.
I hear the old-timers around the race tracks say that when Emerald Em is young, she is a tall, good-looking Judy with yellow hair that is by no means a phony yellow, at that, and with a shape that does not require a bustle such as most Judys always wear in those days.
But then nobody ever hears an old-timer mention any Judy that he remembers from back down the years who is not good-looking, and in fact beautiful. To hear the old-timers tell it, every pancake they ever see when they are young is a double Myrna Loy, though the chances are, figuring in the law of averages, that some of them are bound to be rutabagas, the same as now. Anyway, for years this Emerald Em is known on every race track from coast to coast as Unser Fritz’s fiancee, and is considered quite a remarkable scene, what with her emeralds, and not requiring any bustle, and everything else.
Then one day Unser Fritz’s figures run plumb out on him, and so does his dough, and so does Emerald Em, and now Unser Fritz is an old pappy guy, and it is years since he is regarded as anything but a crumbo around the race tracks, and nobody remembers much of his story, or cares a cuss about it, for if there is anything that is a drug on the market around the tracks it is the story of a broker.
How he gets from place to place, and how he lives after he gets there, is a very great mystery to one and all, although I hear he often rides in the horse-cars with the horses, when some owner or trainer happens to be feeling tender-hearted, or he hitch-hikes in automobiles, and sometimes he even walks, for Unser Fritz is still fairly nimble, no matter how old he is.
He always has under his arm a bundle of newspapers that somebody throws away, and every night he sits down and handicaps the horses running the next day according to his own system, but he seldom picks any winners, and even if he does pick any winners, he seldom has anything to bet on them.
Sometimes he promotes a stranger, who does not know he is bad luck to a good hunting dog, to put down a few dibs on one of his picks, and once in a while the pick wins, and Unser Fritz gets a small stake, and sometimes an old-timer who feels sorry for him will slip him something. But whatever Unser Fritz gets hold of, he bets off right away on the next race that comes up, so naturally he never is holding anything very long.
Well, Unser Fritz stands under the elms with me a while, speaking of this and that, and especially of the races, and I am wondering to myself if I will become as dishevelled as Unser Fritz if I keep on following the races, when he gazes at the Grand Union Hotel, and says to me like this:
‘It looks nice,’ he says. ‘It looks cheery-like, with the lights, and all this and that. It brings back memories to me. Emma always lives in this hotel whenever we make Saratoga for the races back in the days when I am in the money. She always has a suite of two or three rooms on this side of the hotel. Once she has four.
‘I often stand here under these trees,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘watching her windows to see what time she puts out her lights, because, while I trust Emma implicitly, I know she has a restless nature, and sometimes she cannot resist returning to scenes of gaiety after I bid her good night, especially,’ he says, ‘with a party by the name of Pete Shovelin, who runs the restaurant where she once deals them off the arm.’
‘You mean she is a biscuit shooter?’ I say.
‘A waitress,’ Unser Fritz says. ‘A good waitress. She comes of a family of farm folks in this very section, although I never know much about them,’ he says. ‘Shovelin’s is a little hole-in-the-wall up the street here somewhere which long since disappears. I go there for my morning java in the old days.
‘I will say one thing for Shovelin,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘he always has good java. Three days after I first clap eyes on Emma, she is wearing her first emerald, and is my fiancee. Then she moves into a suite in the Grand Union. I only wish you can know Emma in those days,’ he says. ‘She is beautiful. She is a fine character. She is always on the level, and I love her dearly.’
‘What do you mean–always on the level?’ I say. ‘What about this Shovelin party you just mention?’
‘Ah,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘I suppose I am dull company for a squab, what with having to stay in at night to work on my figures, and Emma likes to go around and about. She is a highly nervous type, and extremely restless, and she cannot bear to hold still very long at a time. But,’ he says, ‘in those days it is not considered proper for a young Judy to go around and about without a chaperon, so she goes with Shovelin for her chaperon. Emma never goes anywhere without a chaperon,’ he says.
Well, it seems that early in their courtship, Unser Fritz learns that he can generally quiet her restlessness with emeralds, if they have diamonds on the side. It seems that these stones have a very soothing effect on her, and this is why he purchases them for her by the bucket.
‘Yes,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘I always think of Emma whenever I am in New York City, and look down Broadway at night with the go lights on.’
But it seems from what Unser Fritz tells me that even with the emeralds her restless spells come on her very bad, and especially when he finds himself running short of ready, and is unable to purchase more emeralds for her at the moment, although Unser Fritz claims this is nothing unusual. In fact, he says anybody with any experience with nervous female characters knows that it becomes very monotonous for them to be around people who are short of ready. ‘But,’ he says, ‘not all of them require soothing with emeralds. Some require pearls,’ he says.
Well, it seems that Emma generally takes a trip without Unser Fritz to break the monotony of his running short of ready, but she never takes one of these trips without a chaperon, because she is very careful about her good name, and Unser Fritz’s, too. It seems that in those days Judys have to be more careful about such matters than they do now.
He remembers that once when they are in San Francisco she takes a trip through the Yellowstone with Jockey Gus Kloobus as her chaperon, and is gone three weeks and returns much refreshed, especially as she gets back just as Unser Fritz makes a nice score and has a seidel of emeralds waiting for her. He remembers another time she goes to England with a trainer by the name of Blootz as her chaperon and comes home with an English accent that sounds right cute, to find Unser Fritz going like a house afire at Belmont.
‘She takes a lot of other trips without me during the time we are engaged,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘but,’ he says, ‘I always know Emma will return to me as soon as she hears I am back in the money and can purchase more emeralds for her. In fact,’ he says, ‘this knowledge is all that keeps me struggling now.’
‘Look, Fritz,’ I say, ‘what do you mean, keeps you going? Do you mean you think Emma may return to you again?’
‘Why, sure,’ Unser Fritz says. ‘Why, certainly, if I get my rushes again. Why not?’ he says. ‘She knows there will be a pail of emeralds waiting for her. She knows I love her and always will,’ he says.
Well, I ask him when he sees Emerald Em last, and he says it is 1908 in the old Waldorf-Astoria the night he blows a hundred and sixty thousand betting on a hide called Sir Martin to win the Futurity, and it is all the dough Unser Fritz has at the moment. In fact, he is cleaner than a jay bird, and he is feeling somewhat discouraged.
It seems he is waiting on his floor for the elevator, and when it comes down Emerald Em is one of the several passengers, and when the door opens, and Unser Fritz starts to get in, she raises her foot and plants it in his stomach, and gives him a big push back out the door and the elevator goes on down without him.
‘But, of course,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘Emma never likes to ride in the same elevator with me, because I am not always tidy enough to suit her in those days, what with having so much work to do on my figures, and she claims it is a knock to her socially. Anyway,’ he says, ‘this is the last I see of Emma.’
‘Why, Fritz,’ I say, ‘nineteen-eight is nearly thirty years back, and if she ever thinks of returning to you, she will return long before this.’
‘No,’ Unser Fritz says. ‘You see, I never make a scratch since then. I am never since in the money, so there is no reason for Emma to return to me. But,’ he says, ‘wait until I get going good again and you will see.’
Well, I always figure Unser Fritz must be more or less of an old screwball for going on thinking there is still a chance for him around the tracks, and now I am sure of it, and I am about to bid him good evening, when he mentions that he can use about two dollars if I happen to have a deuce on me that is not working, and I will say one thing for Unser Fritz, he seldom comes right out and asks anybody for anything unless things are very desperate with him, indeed.
‘I need it to pay something on account of my landlady,’ he says. ‘I room with old Mrs. Crob around the corner for over twenty years, and,’ he says, ‘she only charges me a finnif a week, so I try to keep from getting too far to the rear with her. I will return it to you the first score I make.’
Well, of course I know this means practically never, but I am feeling so good about my success at the track that I slip him a deucer, and it is half an hour later before I fully realize what I do, and go looking for Fritz to get anyway half of it back. But by this time he disappears, and I think no more of the matter until the next day out at the course when I hear Unser Fritz bets two dollars on a thing by the name of Speed Cart, and it bows down at 50 to 1, so I know Mrs. Crob is still waiting for hers.
Now there is Unser Fritz with one hundred slugs, and this is undoubtedly more money than he enjoys since Hickory Slim is a two-year-old. And from here on the story becomes very interesting, and in fact remarkable, because up to the moment Speed Cart hits the wire, Unser Fritz is still nothing but a crumbo, and you can say it again, while from now on he is somebody to point out and say can you imagine such a thing happening?
He bets a hundred on a centipede called Marchesa, and down pops Marchesa like a trained pig at 20 to 1. Then old Unser Fritz bets two hundred on a caterpillar by the name of Merry Soul, at 4 to 1, and Merry Soul just laughs his way home. Unser Fritz winds up the day betting two thousand more on something called Sharp Practice, and when Sharp Practice wins by so far it looks as if he is a shoo-in, Fritz finds himself with over twelve thousand slugs, and the way the bookmakers in the betting ring are sobbing is really most distressing to hear.
Well, in a week Unser Fritz is a hundred thousand dollars in front, because the way he sends it in is quite astonishing to behold, although the old-timers tell me it is just the way he sends it when he is younger. He is betting only on horses that he personally figures out, and what happens is that Unser Fritz’s figures suddenly come to life again, and he cannot do anything wrong.
He wins so much dough that he even pays off a few old touches, including my two, and he goes so far as to lend Joe Palladino three dollars on the Betsy that Solly and I hock with Joe for the pound note, as it seems that by this time Joe himself is practically on his way to the poorhouse, and while Unser Fritz has no use whatsoever for a Betsy he cannot bear to see a character such as Joe go to the poorhouse.
But with all the dough Unser Fritz carries in his pockets, and plants in a safe-deposit box in the jug downtown, he looks just the same as ever, because he claims he cannot find time from working on his figures to buy new clothes and dust himself off, and if you tell anybody who does not know who he is that this old crutch is stone rich, the chances are they will call you a liar.
In fact, on a Monday around noon, the clerk in the branch office that a big Fifth Avenue jewellery firm keeps in the lobby of the States Hotel is all ready to yell for the constables when Unser Fritz leans up against the counter and asks to see some jewellery on display in a showcase, as Unser Fritz is by no means the clerk’s idea of a customer for jewellery.
I am standing in the lobby of the hotel on the off chance that some fresh money may arrive in the city on the late trains that I may be able to connect up with before the races, when I notice Unser Fritz and observe the agitation of the clerk, and presently I see Unser Fritz waving a fistful of bank notes under the clerk’s beak, and the clerk starts setting out the jewellery with surprising speed.
I go over to see what is coming off, and I can see that the jewellery Unser Fritz is looking at consists of a necklace of emeralds and diamonds, with a centrepiece the size of the home plate, and some ear-drops, and bracelets, and clips of same, and as I approach the scene I hear Unser Fritz ask how much for the lot as if he is dickering for a basket of fish.
‘One hundred and one thousand dollars, sir,’ the clerk says. ‘You see, sir, it is a set, and one of the finest things of the kind in the country. We just got it in from our New York store to show a party here, and,’ he says, ‘she is absolutely crazy about it, but she states she cannot give us a final decision until five o’clock this afternoon. Confidentially, sir,’ the clerk says, ‘I think the real trouble is financial, and doubt that we will hear from her again. In fact,’ he says, ‘I am so strongly of this opinion that I am prepared to sell the goods without waiting on her. It is really a bargain at the price,’ he says.
‘Dear me,’ Unser Fritz says to me, ‘this is most unfortunate as the sum mentioned is just one thousand dollars more than I possess in all this world. I have twenty thousand on my person, and eighty thousand over in the box in the jug, and not another dime. But,’ he says, ‘I will be back before five o’clock and take the lot. In fact,’ he says, ‘I will run in right after the third race and pick it up.’
Well, at this the clerk starts putting the jewellery back in the case, and anybody can see that he figures he is on a lob and that he is sorry he wastes so much time, but Unser Fritz says to me like this:
‘Emma is returning to me,’ he says.
‘Emma who?’ I say.
‘Why,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘my Emma. The one I tell you about not long ago. She must hear I am in the money again, and she is returning just as I always say she will.’
‘How do you know?’ I say. ‘Do you hear from her, or what?’
‘No,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘I do not hear from her direct, but Mrs. Crob knows some female relative of Emma’s that lives at Ballston Spa a few miles from here, and this relative is in Saratoga this morning to do some shopping, and she tells Mrs. Crob and Mrs. Crob tells me. Emma will be here to-night. I will have these emeralds waiting for her.’
Well, what I always say is that every guy knows his own business best, and if Unser Fritz wishes to toss his dough off on jewellery, it is none of my put-in, so all I remark is that I have no doubt Emma will be very much surprised indeed.
‘No,’ Unser Fritz says. ‘She will be expecting them. She always expects emeralds when she returns to me. I love her,’ he says. ‘You have no idea how I love her. But let us hasten to the course,’ he says. ‘Cara Mia is a right good thing in the third, and I will make just one bet to-day to win the thousand I need to buy these emeralds.’
‘But, Fritz,’ I say, ‘you will have nothing left for operating expenses after you invest in the emeralds.’
‘I am not worrying about operating expenses now,’ Unser Fritz says. ‘The way my figures are standing up, I can run a spool of thread into a pair of pants in no time. But I can scarcely wait to see the expression on Emma’s face when she sees her emeralds. I will have to make a fast trip into town after the third to get my dough out of the box in the jug and pick them up,’ he says. ‘Who knows but what this other party that is interested in the emeralds may make her mind up before five o’clock and pop in there and nail them?’
Well, after we get to the race track, all Unser Fritz does is stand around waiting for the third race. He has his figures on the first two races, and ordinarily he will be betting himself a gob on them, but he says he does not wish to take the slightest chance of cutting down his capital at this time, and winding up short of enough dough to buy the emeralds.
It turns out that both of the horses Unser Fritz’s figures make on top in the first and second races bow down, and Unser Fritz will have his thousand if he only bets a couple of hundred on either of them, but Unser Fritz says he is not sorry he does not bet. He says the finishes in both races are very close, and prove that there is an element of risk in these races. And Unser Fritz says he cannot afford to tamper with the element of risk at this time.
He states that there is no element of risk whatever in the third race, and what he states is very true, as everybody realizes that this mare Cara Mia is a stick-out. In fact, she is such a stick-out that it scarcely figures to be a contest. There are three other horses in the race, but it is the opinion of one and all that if the owners of these horses have any sense they will leave them in the barn and save them a lot of unnecessary lather.
The opening price offered by the bookmakers on Cara Mia is 2 to 5, which means that if you wish to wager on Cara Mia to win you will have to put up five dollars to a bookmaker’s two dollars, and everybody agrees that this is a reasonable thing to do in this case unless you wish to rob the poor bookmaker. In fact, this is considered so reasonable that everybody starts running at the bookmakers all at once, and the bookmakers can see if this keeps up they may get knocked off their stools in the betting ring and maybe seriously injured, so they make Cara Mia 1 to 6, and out, as quickly as possible to halt the rush and give them a chance to breathe.
This 1 to 6 means that if you wish to wager on Cara Mia to win, you must wager six of your own dollars to one of the bookmaker’s dollars, and means that the bookies are not offering any prices whatsoever on Cara Mia running second or third. You can get almost any price you can think of right quick against any of the other horses winning the race, and place and show prices, too, but asking the bookmakers to lay against Cara Mia running second or third will be something like asking them to bet that Mr. Roosevelt is not President of the United States.
Well, I am expecting Unser Fritz to step in and partake of the 2 to 5 on Cara Mia for all the dough he has on his person the moment it is offered, because he is very high indeed on this mare, and in fact I never see anybody any higher on any horse, and it is a price Unser Fritz will not back off from when he is high on anything.
Moreover, I am pleased to think he will make such a wager, because it will give him plenty over and above the price of the emeralds, and as long as he is bound to purchase the emeralds, I wish to see him have a little surplus, because when anybody has a surplus there is always a chance for me. It is when everybody runs out of surpluses that I am handicapped no little. But instead of stepping in and partaking, Unser Fritz keeps hesitating until the opening price gets away from him, and finally he says to me like this:
‘Of course,’ he says, ‘my figures show Cara Mia cannot possibly lose this race, but,’ he says, ‘to guard against any possibility whatever of her losing, I will make an absolute cinch of it. I will bet her third.’
‘Why, Fritz,’ I say, ‘I do not think there is anybody in this world outside of an insane asylum who will give you a price on the peek. Furthermore,’ I say, ‘I am greatly surprised at this sign of weakening on your part on your figures.’
‘Well,’ Unser Fritz says, ‘I cannot afford to take a chance on not having the emeralds for Emma when she arrives. Let us go through the betting ring and see what we can see,’ he says.
So we walk through the betting ring, and by this time it seems that many of the books are so loaded with wagers on Cara Mia to win that they will not accept any more under the circumstances, and I figure that Unser Fritz blows the biggest opportunity of his life in not grabbing the opening. The bookmakers who are loaded are now looking even sadder than somewhat, and this makes them a pitiful spectacle indeed.
Well, one of the saddest-looking is a character by the name of Slow McCool, but he is a character who will usually give you a gamble and he is still taking Cara Mia at 1 to 6, and Unser Fritz walks up to him and whispers in his ear, and what he whispers is he wishes to know if Slow McCool cares to lay him a price on Cara Mia third. But all that happens is that Slow McCool stops looking sad a minute and looks slightly perplexed, and then he shakes his head and goes on looking sad again.
Now Unser Fritz steps up to another sad-looking bookmaker by the name of Pete Phozzler and whispers in his ear, and Pete also shakes his head, and after we leave him I look back and see that Pete is standing up on his stool watching Unser Fritz and still shaking his head.
Well, Unser Fritz approaches maybe a dozen other sad-looking bookmakers, and whispers to them, and all he gets is the old head-shake, but none of them seem to become angry with Unser Fritz, and I always say that this proves that bookmakers are better than some people think, because, personally, I claim they have a right to get angry with Unser Fritz for insulting their intelligence, and trying to defraud them, too, by asking a price on Cara Mia third.
Finally we come to a character by the name of Willie the Worrier, who is called by this name because he is always worrying about something, and what he is generally worrying about is a short bank roll, or his ever-loving wife, and sometimes both, though mostly it is his wife. Personally, I always figure she is something to worry about, at that, though I do not consider details necessary.
She is a red-headed Judy about half as old as Willie the Worrier, and this alone is enough to start any guy worrying, and what is more she is easily vexed, especially by Willie. In fact, I remember Solly telling me that she is vexed with Willie no longer ago than about 11 a.m. this very day, and gives him a public reprimanding about something or other in the telegraph office downtown when Solly happens to be in there hoping maybe he will receive an answer from a mark in Pittsfield, Mass., that he sends a tip on a horse.
Solly says the last he hears Willie the Worrier’s wife say is that she will leave him for good this time, but I just see her over on the clubhouse lawn wearing some right classy-looking garments, so I judge she does not leave him as yet, as the clubhouse lawn is not a place to be waiting for a train.
Well, when Unser Fritz sees that he is in front of Willie’s stand, he starts to move on, and I nudge him and motion at Willie, and ask him if he does not notice that Willie is another bookmaker, and Unser Fritz says he notices him all right, but that he does not care to offer him any business because Willie insults him ten years ago. He says Willie calls him a dirty old Dutch bum, and while I am thinking what a wonderful memory Unser Fritz has to remember insults from bookmakers for ten years, Willie the Worrier, sitting on his stool looking out over the crowd, spots Unser Fritz and yells at him as follows:
Hello, Dirty Dutch,’ he says. How is the soap market? What are you looking for around here, Dirty Dutch? Santa Claus?’
Well, at this Unser Fritz pushes his way through the crowd around Willie the Worrier’s stand, and gets close to Willie, and says:
‘Yes,’ he says, ‘I am looking for Santa Claus. I am looking for a show price on number two horse, but,’ he says, I do not expect to get it from the shoemakers who are booking nowadays.’
Now the chances are Willie the Worrier figures Unser Fritz is just trying to get sarcastic with him for the benefit of the crowd around his stand in asking for such a thing as a price on Cara Mia third, and in fact the idea of anybody asking a price third on a horse that some bookmakers will not accept any more wagers on first, or even second, is so humorous that many characters laugh right out loud.
All right,’ Willie the Worrier says. ‘No one can ever say he comes to my store looking for a marker on anything and is turned down. I will quote you a show price, Dirty Dutch,’ he says. ‘You can have 1 to 100.’
This means that Willie the Worrier is asking Unser Fritz for one hundred dollars to the book’s one dollar if Unser Fritz wishes to bet on Cara Mia dropping in there no worse than third, and of course Willie has no idea Unser Fritz or anybody else will ever take such a price, and the chances are if Willie is not sizzling a little at Unser Fritz, he will not offer such a price, because it sounds foolish.
Furthermore, the chances are if Unser Fritz offers Willie a comparatively small bet at this price, such as may enable him to chisel just a couple of hundred out of Willie’s book, Willie will find some excuse to wiggle off, but Unser Fritz leans over and says in a low voice to Willie the Worrier:
‘A hundred thousand.’
Willie nods his head and turns to a clerk alongside him, and his voice is as low as Unser Fritz’s as he says to the clerk: ‘A thousand to a hundred thousand, Cara Mia third.’ The clerk’s eyes pop open and so does his mouth, but he does not say a word. He just writes something on a pad of paper in his hand, and Unser Fritz offers Willie the Worrier a package of thousand-dollar bills, and says: ‘Here is twenty,’ he says. ‘The rest is in the jug.’
‘All right, Dutch,’ Willie says, ‘I know you have it, although,’ he says, ‘this is the first crack you give me at it. You are on, Dutch,’ he says. ‘P.S.,’ Willie says, ‘the Dirty does not go any more.’
Well, you understand Unser Fritz is betting one hundred thousand dollars against a thousand dollars that Cara Mia will run in the money, and personally I consider this wager a very sound business proposition indeed, and so does everybody else, for all it amounts to is finding a thousand dollars in the street.
There is really nothing that can make Cara Mia run out of the money, the way I look at it, except what happens to her, and what happens is she steps in a hole fifty yards from the finish when she is on top by ten, and breezing, and down she goes all spread out, and of course the other three horses run on past her to the wire, and all this is quite a disaster to many members of the public, including Unser Fritz.
I am standing with him on the rise of the grandstand lawn watching the race, and it is plain to be seen that he is slightly surprised at what happens, and personally, I am practically dumbfounded because, to tell the truth, I take a nibble at the opening price of 2 to 5 on Cara Mia with a total of thirty slugs, which represents all my capital, and I am thinking what a great injustice it is for them to leave holes in the track for horses to step in, when Unser Fritz says like this:
‘Well,’ he says, ‘it is horse racing.’
And this is all he ever says about the matter, and then he walks down to Willie the Worrier, and tells Willie if he will send a clerk with him, he will go to the jug and get the balance of the money that is now due Willie.
‘Dutch,’ ‘Willie says, ‘it will be a pleasure to accompany you to the jug in person.’
As Willie is getting down off his stool, somebody in the crowd who hears of the wager gazes at Unser Fritz, and remarks that he is really a game guy, and Willie says: ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘he is a game guy at that. But,’ he says, ‘what about me?’
And he takes Unser Fritz by the arm, and they walk away together, and anybody can see that Unser Fritz picks up anyway twenty years or more, and a slight string halt, in the last few minutes.
Then it comes on night again in Saratoga, and I am standing out under the elms in front of the Grand Union, thinking that this world is by no means as beautiful as formerly, when I notice a big, fat old Judy with snow-white hair and spectacles standing near me, looking up and down the street. She will weigh a good two hundred pounds, and much of it is around her ankles, but she has a pleasant face, at that, and when she observes me looking at her, she comes over to me, and says: ‘I am trying to fix the location of a restaurant where I work many years ago,’ she says. ‘It is a place called Shovelin’s. The last thing my husband tells me is to see if the old building is still here, but,’ she says, ‘it is so long since I am in Saratoga I cannot get my bearings.’
‘Ma’am,’ I say, ‘is your name Emma by any chance and do they ever call you Emerald Em?’
Well, at this the old Judy laughs, and says: ‘Why, yes,’ she says. ‘That is what they call me when I am young and foolish. But how do you know?’ she says. ‘I do not remember ever seeing you before in my life.’
‘Well,’ I say, ‘I know a party who once knows you. A party by the name of Unser Fritz.’
‘Unser Fritz?’ she says. ‘Unser Fritz? Oh,’ she says, ‘I wonder if you mean a crazy Dutchman I run around with many years ago? My gracious,’ she says, ‘I just barely remember him. He is a great hand for giving me little presents such as emeralds. When I am young I think emeralds are right pretty, but,’ she says, ‘otherwise I cannot stand them.’
‘Then you do not come here to see him?’ I say.
‘Are you crazy, too?’ she says. ‘I am on my way to Ballston Spa to see my grandchildren. I live in Macon, Georgia. If ever you are in Macon, Georgia, drop in at Shovelin’s restaurant and get some real Southern fried chicken. I am Mrs. Joe Shovelin,’ she says. ‘By the way,’ she says, ‘I remember more about that crazy Dutchman. He is a horse player. I always figure he must die long ago and that the chances are he dies broke, too. I remember I hear people say all horse players die broke.’
‘Yes,’ I say, ‘he dies all right, and he dies as you suggest, too,’ for it is only an hour before that they find old Unser Fritz in a vacant lot over near the railroad station with the Betsy he gets off Joe Palladino in his hand and a bullet-hole smack-dab through his pimple.
Nobody blames him much for taking this out, and in fact I am standing there thinking long after Emerald Em goes on about her business that it will be a good idea if I follow his example, only I cannot think where I can find another Betsy, when Solly comes along and stands there with me. I ask Solly if he knows anything new.
‘No,’ Solly says, ‘I do not know anything new, except,’ he says, ‘I heard Willie the Worrier and his ever-loving make up again, and she is not going to leave him after all. I hear Willie takes home a squarer in the shape of a batch of emeralds and diamonds that she orders sent up here when Willie is not looking, and that they are fighting about all day. Well,’ Solly says, ‘maybe this is love.’