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Chapter 1

  • SACKVILLE MAYNE was still sober, although it was nearly two. The marble cloc_n the Mornington Arms Hotel recorded the hour and the phenomenon. Years o_inous environment has not yet robbed Mayne of the manorial air, although th_ecessary acres for the part were gone long ago.
  • Neither had Mayne quite lost the art of dining. He had done ample justice t_he dinner presented by his peripatetic host the Duke de Cavour. The wine_eft nothing to be desired.
  • "I am charmed," said the Duke in quite passable English, "charmed to have me_ou again. Our last foregathering in Naples was many years ago."
  • For Mayne's part he had forgotten the incident entirely. The Duke's memory wa_vidently more trustworthy than his own. All Mayne knew was that he had bee_n Naples at the time his noble host had mentioned. The latter, an elderl_uck with small eyes and a ludicrous pointed moustache, nodded over his glass.
  • "Those were pleasant days," he said, "twenty years ago! Dear me! And yet whe_ saw you in the billiard room last night I recognised you instantly. And wha_orses you used to drive in those days!"
  • Mayne smiled. The Duke had touched him on a tender spot. As the fond mothe_lings to the reprobate son who spells the family ruin, so did Mayne stil_ove the equine flesh which had been his destruction.
  • "I've come down in the world," he said. "Egad, how I manage to live upon m_altry little place is a mystery even to myself. But I still continue to hav_ bit of blood about me. It isn't every man who can boast of having bred an_un two Derby winners."
  • "The old Godolphin blood, I presume?" suggested the Duke.
  • Mayne nodded. There was a bond of union between himself and his host. All h_new about the latter he had gleaned that day from the  _Almanach de Gotha_.
  • The exclusive volume in question recorded the fact that de Cavour was a_nthusiast where racing was concerned. In a hazy kind of way, he wondered wha_o great a man was doing in Mornington.
  • "You race still?" the Duke asked.
  • "Oh no, I can't afford it. I only wish I could. I've got a colt entered fo_he Royal Clarendon Stakes at Oldmarket— run-off next week, you know—but _hall have to forfeit. Bar Sinister can beat any horse in the race bar th_avourite—ay, and even beat Rialto too, if wound up."
  • "Come, my friend, you are not so poor as all that."
  • Mayne smiled into his glass. Good wine develops the philosophical side of _an's nature. It also taps the well-springs of confidence.
  • "Indeed I am," he said; "and yet with a little capital, I think I could see m_ay clear. I would sell my soul for £1,000."
  • "Men are prepared to take big risks for sums like that."
  • "I know it. I am prepared to undertake anything short of manslaughter."
  • The Duke paused in the manipulation of a cigarette in his slim fingers. For a_lderly, gouty gentleman with a suggestion of apoplexy in the region of th_arotid, he had remarkably clean sinewy hands.
  • "I can show you how to make £1,000 with no risk at all," he said quietly. "Al_ou have to do is to take the money and hold your tongue."
  • "How pleasant! And the conditions?"
  • "Nothing more than the loan of your colt Bar Sinister. You will permit me t_ind the money for the stakes, and the horse will be sent up to-morrow to _table I shall mention, and in due course he will win the Royal Clarendon."
  • "Without a month's preparation the thing is impossible."
  • The Duke smiled. There was a strange light in his beady eyes.
  • "There is many a slip, of course," he responded. "Anyway, it matters ver_ittle whether Bar Sinister wins or not. That is a mere detail in my scheme.
  • The question is, can I have the horse if I deposit the money?"
  • "Now you ask the question, of course you may."
  • "Good. Mind, this is a profound secret. The horse is to be sent to Oldmarke_o Gunter's stables to run in your name. Whether Bar Sinister wins or no_atters very little. The favourite is firmly established at even money, so i_ were you I should not back the colt."
  • Mayne nodded carelessly. It was not for him to suggest that some rascality wa_float. He had known in his time racing dukes with no more inherent moralit_han dustmen. "It's all the same to me," he said, "as long as I get the money.
  • By the way, on the day following the Clarendon, the cup is run for a_ilverpool. Haven't you got something starting there?"
  • "A horse of my own breeding," the Duke responded. "Confetti. No chance, _ear. The odds are forty to one against. Only a few personal friends know I a_n England, or perhaps the odds would be a little less. You will see to thi_atter at once."
  • Mayne gave the desired assurance. Then the Duke proceeded to take from hi_ocket notes to the value of one thousand pounds.
  • "I am going to Oldmarket in the morning," he explained, "but not as the Duk_e Cavour. I have my reasons for being known as Mr. Smith. If you desire t_ommunicate with me please do so in that name _per_  Gunter. Again let me urg_pon you the advantage of silence in this matter."
  • A little while later and Mayne was driving his weedy bay towards his plac_hich lay just outside Mornington. Meanwhile, the Duke de Cavour alias Smit_ad retired to his private sitting-room. Once there he lighted a cigarette an_ocked the door. With a quasi-magical sweep of his hand, he removed wig an_oustache, and stood confessed for the time being in the legitimate form o_elix Gryde.
  • "Now let me see how I stand," he muttered, throwing himself into a chair. "_m the Duke de Cavour. In my disguise, made up from personal inspection of th_istinguished individual in question, I could defy the noble mother of d_avour to tell the difference between us. For the present the genuine articl_s under private restraint in Genoa. That is a fact of which the world know_othing. To make matters still more safe, there is no need for me to appea_ersonally, except at the finish to draw the money from the tur_ommissioners; and nobody will know that the horse running as Confetti in th_ilverpool Cup is anything but de Cavour's colt. One way and another I ough_o make £100,000 out of this business; and I deserve it, for the scheme ha_ccupied all my care and attention for a whole year."
  • So saying Gryde rose and proceeded to unlock a dispatch box, and took fro_hence two large photographs. They were both likenesses of horses and appeare_o be taken from the same plate. Gryde regarded them long and earnestly.
  • "A wonderful resemblance." he said, "the same age to a month, the same marks,
  • the same everything. It's the Godolphin blood in both, I expect. Upon my word,
  • I don't know which is Mayne's Bar Sinister, and which is the favourite for th_rand Clarendon, Sir George Julyan's Rialto. I wonder what Mayne would say i_e knew I had been hanging about here for six weeks to get that photograph.
  • And what a  _coup_  this is going to be!"