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r .fimæ_- mx )W)WAM I [ALL MGBTS O:;ERVED].. I 1 A Fortune at Stake ?"+IP' 1 — m +?. I By NAT GOULD, g $g £ Author of One of a Mob," Whirlwind's Year," A Chance of a is ? ? Lifetime," The Top Weight," A Reckless Owner" &c.  §&fxseM?^xfx$mRxJwatoKf *f* aw* _-EE-E_ PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS: ( WILLOUGHBY MARTINDALE, a wealthy young man, with everything the heart can desire, but reckless, headstrong, and a heavy gambler. "HARRY MATCHETT, his secretary, a man of sterling worth. ALMA ORMISON, Martindale's widowed sister, I who lives with him, with GLORIA and ROLAND, her two children. CHAPTER I. I Close to Newmarket's famous Heath stood a large, well-built house, the racing home of Willoughby Martindale, known locally as Wild Will, to his intimates as Will only. Westlands was built by a famous jockey; when he died it passed into the hands of Will Martindale, who at that time was only twenty-two, and had just come into an enor- mous fortune. It was what the auctioneers call a large and commodious mansion, re- plete with every convenience, suitable for a sporting nobleman or gentleman, with every facility for the keeping up of a large racing establishment. The stables—forty boxes—were at the rear of the house. They were built on the latest principles with regard to ventilation and comfort, and each box was lined with polished oak; several of them were padded half-way up with stuffed leather. The trainer's house was small, but perfect in every detail. The head lad had apartments to himself in the building occupied by the boys and apprentices; and the housekeeper 'had her own rooms, which were in close prox- imity to the spacious kitchens. There was ample evidence on every hand that the em- ployees at Westlands were comfortable and well looked after. Thirty-five of the boxes had occupants— high-priced, blue-blooded racers, the best that money could buy as regards pedigree; but racehorse buying being a lottery, some of them were costly failures. Several are destined to play prominent parts as the story onfolds. From this brief but sufficient de- scription it will be gathered that Will Martin- dale's racing establishment was one of the best at the headquarters of the Turf. His income was enormous, and during the five years he had been the owner of West- lands he had spent hundreds of thousands on his racing establishment, and in pursuit of the great game of which he was passion- ately fond. He loved racing and riding; -with him it was' an all absorbing passion. He was a great horseman, the equal of most professional jockeys, with whom he competed on equal terms. He rode his horses when possible, and accepted mounts when offered him, which was frequently. No race meeting was too far for him to attend, always provid- ing there was a mount when he got there. At twenty-seven Will Martindale was one of the most popular personages in racing circles. Possessed of unlimited means, he had the opportunity of gratifying every wish and whim. It was perhaps unfortunate he into his vast wealth at such an early age. His father, a great colliery proprietor and speculator, died when he was nineteen, and young Martindale at twenty-one found himself the owner of several millions. Being an only son lie had invariably had his own way from an indulgent father, whose time was fully occupied with his numerous investments. Hia mother died twelve months after his birth, another misfortune for which much that followed was responsible. The late Wilton Martindale had no inclination for racing, although he was fond of shooting, had a deer forest in the Highlands, vast grouse moors, and some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland. He owned a private yacht and was often seen at Monte Carlo in February, where he sometimes speculated at the tables, generally successfully. He loved his son in his way, but was not a good mentor, and young Will grew up with a firm idea that he could get everything he wanted for the asking. In addition to his millions, Will Martindale inherited all his father's estates. Everything -was left to him absolutely, with the exception of annuities and legacies to old servants. He had one sister, Alma. who made a run- away match with a young officer, and went out to India with him. This marriage so en- raged her father that when he died he left her only three hundred a year out of all his Millions. She was thankful even for thie, and never regretted the step she had taken. She was twenty-two when she eloped with handcome Bernard Ormison. of the 10th Hussars, ten years older than her brother Will, and she had been in India thirteen years when her hueband was treacherously killed by two natives. Will Martindale was a handsome man of medium height, with curly brown hair, blue eyes, and a mouth denoting some weakness of character. He had a wayward, reckless, headstrong disposition, and had of late be- come a very 'heavy gambler and plunger. There was quite a sensation when Wild Will entered the ring and made one of his great plunges on something he considered particularly g"d. He had for hi9 secretary at West1and Harry Matchert, a mar. of about five-and- thirty, and in him he found a true and loyal friend. Matchett was secretary to "'The Racing Club in London, of which Martindale was a member. One night there was a dispute over cards. Will lost his temper, and threatened reprisals on his partner, whom he accused of playing into the hands of their opponents. This was a serious accusation, and was natu- rally resented. All four had dined well, if not wisely, and the row became unbearable to the other occupants of the room. Harry Matchett was very popular with everyone in the club, and, being a well-bred man, whose father had been unfortunate in his investments, and left him almost without means, he mixed on equal terms with the members; he had been unanimously appointed secretary when he applied for the posi- tion. He came into the card-room when the dispute was at its height, and angry words were bandied to and fro. He did not know Will Martindale so intimately as many of the members; but he summed up his character, acd had taken a great personal liking to him —that of a strong man for a weaker. He did not hesitate, but went straight to the table. Mr. Martindale, someone wishes to see you in my room," he said. quietly. His cool tone—he spoke as though nothing unusual had happened-b;d a curious effect on the four men. The row ceased at once. They looked at each other. Then Will, in hia «asy, good-natured way, laughed, and said to his partner, I'm sorry I accused you of playing into their hands. I am sure I made a mistake. I apologise." "All right, Martindale, we're all a bit squiffy,' and I'm sure you didn't mean it," was the reply. I'll come with you. Please excuse me, gentlemen," he said, as he got up from the table and stood by Harry Matchett. "We'll close the game," was the general response, and so the incident ended. When Will entered the secretary's office he saw no one. "I thought someone wished to see me?" he said. Matchett smiled as he replied, "I did; are you sorry you came?" Will saw at once why he had acted thus- it was to get him away from the table, to avoid further row. Some men would have re- sented this well-intentioned interference. Not so Will Martindale. "Matchett, you're a brick. I was making an ass of myself—so were the other fellows for that matter; you did the best thing pos- sible under the circumstances, and I thank you. The others were quite as bad as myself "Yes, no doubt about it," said Matchett. I'm glad vou see it in the right liyht." "I'd be a fool if I didn't," said Will. I'll go home. Good-night!" And he shook hands. Will Martindale thought over the occurrence at the club, and the more he considered th. joatter, the firmer became bit; coijriction th. Harry Matchett was just the man he required te his secretary. He liked him, although he had not seen much of him, but he knew suffi- cient of his family and past life to influence I him in his favour. It was always his way to help a man when he was in poor circum- stances. Very often he was taken in, deceived, but there were many genuine cases in which his timely aid came just in time, when despair was uppermost and the mind becom- ing unhinged by trouble. He wrote to Matchett, offering him the post, with a handsome salary. It came as a great surprise to the secretary of the Racing Club; he saw at once the advantages of such a position, but did not understand the motive prompting Will Martindale to make it. He saw him at the club, they had a long inter- view, and the upshot of it was that he re- signed his post at the club, much to the regret of the members, and went to Westlands. A particularly shrewd member of the club remarked, when he heard of the appointment, That is the moat sensible thing Martindale has done for many a day." It did not take Harry Matchett long to settle down in his new surroundings. He had always taken an interest in racing, and studied the form of the best horses closely. He also attended the principal meetings round London, as the guest of the clubs, and had been welcome. He quickly discovered that Will Martindale intended to leave the financial management connected with West- lands in his hands; this alone was a heavy responsibility. As for Will, he was kindness itself, and in the course of a couple of years he became much attached to his secretary. CHAPTER II. I Harry Matchett generally accompanied Harry the Heath in the early morning. He was a good rider, and had a cob for his use. Thirty-five horses constituted the string at Westlands, and Will had expressed his inten- sion of buying some good yearlings at Don- caster. He had already accepted plans, and given the contract, for forty additional boxes, which would make eighty in all. To his trainer's remonstrance he said: "You're clever enough to buy the best stock and to train them, and I fancy I am not quite a novice in the saddle, and shall be able to ride when they are ready." The trainer at Westlands was Fred Dand. There's no better jockey than yourself," said the trainer. When we have a real good Derby horse, I hope you'll ride him." "You bet I will!" answered Will. j It was Harry Matchett's greatest pleasure in life to ride on to the glorious Heath and watch the horses at work. In two years he had become one of the best-liked men at headquarters. All the reliable men in New- market were glad to make his acquaintance, and at every trainer's house, with one excep- tion, he was welcome. The exception was Malise Hardwin, of Abney Lodge, a clever trainer, but with a somewhat tarnished reputation. Nothing de- finite had been laid to his charge; but he was unpopular, and horses trained in his stable had the knack of winning when least expec- ted. He was Martindale's first trainer; but, easy-going as Will was, he soon discovered his horses won when Malise Hardwin liked, not when he, Will, wished them. There was much rivalry between the stables Westlands and Abney Lodge—and the two trainers were barely on speaking terms. It was after Harry Matchett had been in- stalled at Westlands over two years that an event took place which considerably influ- enced the whole of his future, although at the time he thought very little of it, except inso- much as it changed the routine of their lives. When Captain Ormison was killed in India, his wife was induced to remain in the country for nearly two years, visiting numerous friends, who endeavoured to mitigate hei troubles by kindnesses and attentions which were much appreciated. Her children, Gloria and Roland, were at school in Eng- land. The former was fifteen, the latter a year her junior. Alma Ormison naturally wished to have them with her, but India was nc climate for them, and although sorry to lose her, her friends advised her to make hei home in the old country. Gloria and Roland had paid brief visits to Westlands, and were passionately attached to their uncle, who was so much younger than their mother, a fact they could hardly grasp, as they were brother and sister. Mrs. Mars- den had a wild time," so she said, when Gloria and Roland paid a visit. She adored them, of course, but said they were the plague of her life, and it was high time their mother came home to look after them. It had been a great grief to Mrs. Marsden when Alma eloped with Captain Ormison, and she had never quite forgiven her for deserting hei young brother and her father. Will Martindale came into Matchett's room one morning with a letter in his hand. Harry saw at once there was unexpected news, Will seemed quite excited. "This is from my sister in India, Alma Ormison. She's coming home. I've only seen her once since she bolted with Bernard—Cap- tain Ormison. I was only a youngster at the time, but I remember it well. and how cut up the governor was about it. He never forgave her; can't imagine why. As a rule he was easy to get on with and most indulgent. I fancy Ormison must have offended him in some way. You will be pleased to see her again," eaid Harry. I "By Jove! I shall. When she brought the children home to England to go to school, I thought I had never seen such a handsome woman. Alma was always considered a beauty, but she'd developed into a glorious woman when I saw her last," he eaid, en- thusiastically. She is coming home to remain, I presume, to have the children with her. They will be glad," said Harry. You bet they will, but what a dance they'll lead her," said Will, smiling. You spoil them when they come here," said Harry. Not a bit of it. Roley is a mischievous imp, but he's a genuine lad; there's nothing of a sneak, no underhand business about him, and doesn't Glory stick up for him. What a pair they are, it would be hard to match them." It would indeed," said Harry. Is Gloria like her mother? Yes, but not so perfect in features. She'll not be as handsome as Alma," said Will. He sat down. Harry looked at him, know- ing he was debating something in his mind, and waited for him to speak. I've got a plan. I think it will work, and I ought to do what I can for them," said Will. "What is it? I mean to ask Alma to make her home at Westlands, and bring the youngsters with her. She has only a small income. My father did not treat her fairly; sometimes I think he left it to me to look after her wants. There's heaps of room in this big place, and she will brighten things up; besides, it's much better to have a lady at the head of affairs, and she's a favourite of old Mary's," said Will. Harry Matchett wondered how it would work; whether Will and his sister would agree. It would make a vast difference in their mode of living if she came. "What do you think about it?" asked Will. Harry was somewhat taken aback. He did not expect the question. Why should he be consulted? Will had a perfect right to do as he thought best. I'm sure vou will U-ko hor." said Will aua you Know tne cnndrfeti. i iancy yoa I will not object to them." I have nothing to do with it, it rests en- tirely with yourself," said Harry. I They will not interfere with your work." Oh, no, I am sure they will not." Then I shall ask her to stay here, and make it her home. It is the best I can do. Besides, I like the idea; Alma used to be a jolly good sort. She can ride, too. I don't suppose she has forgotten that in India; they are often on horseback — women and men. She'll liven us up. We see men here, but no women; when Alma is here it will be differ- ent. She will make friends and invite them." Mrs. Marsden was consulted. She was not at all put out, and said she would be very glad to have Miss" Alma at Westlands. The good soul thought she might act as a check upon Master" Will in his somewhat head- long career, which caused her sore misgivings at times. Had she known the full extent of his rash doings Mary Marsden would have been aghast. Will waited until his sister arrived in Lon- don, and then wrote to her requesting her to come to Westlands and make her there with the children. She deliberated over the letter, thinking what would be best for Gloria and Roland. She could not make up her mind. It would be better to see Will a;.d talk it all over, and she answered his letter to that effect. He at once went to London, and saw her. There was an affectionate greeting. Thero was a sadness in face which added to its beauty; she had evidently suffered much, and felt her loss keenly. He alluded to Captain Ormison's death in such a quiet, sympathetic way that Alma was much touched; a few tears relieved her feelings. She wr,s some- what overwrought at being in England after a long absence. At first she raised objections, saying it was not right she should saddle herself upon him. disarrange his household, spoil his bachelor quarters, and so on. "But you must come, Alma." he said. "It is only right. I have far more money than I know what to do with. Besides, you will be a great help to me. I cannot entertain ladies, and men's society palls upon one at times. You will change all that. Invite your friends and make the house cheerful. Then there's Glory and Roley, they love Westlands—you ask them. When you see them scampering about the Heath on their ponies you will be delighted. "What will Mary say?" she asked. Mary he exclaimed. She was in the seventh heaven of delight when I told her I intended asking you to come and live with us. She's a good soul. I don't know what I should have done without her." Suppose I come for a few weeks to see how it works?" she said. As you please. Once I get you there I shall not allow you to go away." I We shall see. Perhaps I am not a.s amiable as you think. I am thirty-seven, a good deal older than you, and I have de- veloped a temper in India. The climate fovStered it. There is a good deal to irritate one in the life there," she said. Since her husband's death she had received unwelcome attentions from two or three officers who ought to have known better. She resented them, and this was one reason for her rather hurried departure. I'll risk all that," he said, smiling. Then, in a sudden burst of admiration, he ex- claimed, I say, Alma, do you know you are a very beautiful woman "Am I?" she answered, smiling. "A bit faded, and jaded. I have had a good deal of trouble. It has made you more interesting," he said. I am proud of you as a sister, indeed I am. I haven't seen a woman to compare with you." Don't flatter, Will, it's not in your line." I'm not flattering. It's gospel truth," he said, in his boyish way. She saw he was genuinely pleased. "When will you came to Newmarket!" he asked. She hesitated. She had several calls to make, messages to deliver from India, and so on. Then she must do some shopping. He watched her expressive face. It suddenly oc- curred to him she might be short of money. He remembered what he had spent on certain ladies of his acquaintance, and a flush of shame came over his face. "Alma," he began in a hesitating way. What is it. Will You'll not be offended. I know you are proud, and all that, but yon must. consider our positions. I have two or three millions, more, and I don't know what ro io with it all. You must take some. You have a right to it, as much right as I have." She made a motion of protest. Yes you have. and I believe our father in- tended me to make you an adequate allow- ance. You know he died suddenly. He had no time to alter his will, which was made on the spur of the moment, when he was angry, fcnd his feelings got the better of him." He saw a desk in a corner of the room he always carried a cheque-book in his pocket, he said it "saved a heap of trouble." She watched him sit down, take the book out, and spread it on the desk, then she crossed over, placed her hand on his shoulder, and said, "You must not, I cannot accept it." He filled in the cheque, signed, and handed it to her. That will do to buy some frocks before you come down. I want you to look your best, and put off mourning, you have been in black quite long enough. You must come out into the world again, sister mine, and be your old merry self." The cheque was drawn for five hundred pounds. This is far too much," she œgan, pro- testing, but he slopped her. "Say no more about it, do as I tell you; it's a mere bagatelle, I shan't miss it. I put a good deal more than that on a horse some- times, so have no scruples. You will rescue it from the bookmakers and put it to a far better purpose." He overcame her objections at last. con- vinced her he was right, that it would be for their mutual benefit, and his life at Westlands would be far happier. He made no mention of Harry Matchett; she was not aware of his presence in the house. He left her after ex- tracting a promise that she would be there in the course of a fortnight or three weeks. When he left. Alma wondered whether, after all, she had done right. It was a re- sponsibility she had undertaken. She had heard of Will's doings in India, and knew his headlong career would require a firm hand to check it. Would she be strong emrngh for that? If she had someone to help her she might succeed, single handed it would he almost impossible. She had a firm will, was capable of self-restraint not often found in her sex. In India she had come through temptations unscathed. She had commanded respect from men who were wont to regard women as their lawful prey. Captain Ormi- son had been a kind. affectionate husband, but his character was weak, although he did not lack courage. She had been left much alone—he had gone away for months at a time with his regiment, leaving her in the house with her children and the native ser- fants. When Gloria and Roland went to London, she felt desolate. Her love for Ormison never wavered, but she did not fail I to hear rumours which caused her pain, and although he indignantly denied the imputa- tionp, she was not fully convinced of his inno- cence. She was troubled at her father's obstinate refusal to forgive her; she wrote him several times, but he did not reply, at which she wondered, because he had ihvari- ably been kind I to her. Did lie know something about her husband, of which she was ignorant, which caused him to harden his heart? This was a question-she asked herself many times, more especially when she learnt Bernard was given to lapses, and did not altogether lead a reputable life. She never regretted her marriage, and when the end came her sorrow was deep and sin- cere. She took herself severely to task for allowing him to go away alone. She ought to have accompanied him, no matter what the inconvenience might have been, or what hard- ships she would have had to suffer. It was all over now, a new life seemed to spread itself out before her. At Westlands she would have every comfort, it would be good for Gloria and Roland, and next to them her' duty must be to her brother. There would be no one to advise her how to act. She must consider the best way to help him when she arrived there. Will Martindale went from London to Monte Carlo, writing to Harry Matchett, in- forming him of his whereabouts. Harry was not surprised. There was an attraction at this fashionable resort, which he thought out weighed the fascinations of the table with Will Lady Laura Launcelot was there. He had seen her portrait in a fashionable, paper, and Will Martindale's name had been couplec with her T^advshin'a freouentlv wriaVid win wouia steer clear or tne lady, whose beauty was a general theme of conversation, and whose impecuniosity was proverbial. Harry Matchett had not heard the date of Alma Ormiston's coming to Westlands, nor had Mrs. Marsden. Will, with characteristic neglect, had forgotten to mention it. He had written to her from Monte Carlo, fixing the date for her to come to New- market, saying he would be home by that time to receive her. Alma was ready to travel at the appointed time, and went down to Newmarket; her lug- gage was to follow. Harry Matchett was just leaving the houst as she drove up from the station. She was somewhat surprised there was no carriage from Westlands to meet her. He saw a lady get out, and looked at her in surprise; then, with a start, he saw how beautiful she was. He noted the perfection of her figure, the elegance of her dress, the nobility of her bearing, and wonder seized him. He was at a loss what to say, how to act; he waited for her to speak. Alma was almost as much surprised as Harry; she was not prepared for this. She, too, was attracted. Harry was a fine, good- looking man, and coming before her suddenly, she experienced a curious sensation, which caused her some agitation. Who was he? Is my. brother, Mr. Martindale, at home?" she asked. So this was Will's sister. Did he know she was coming; had he forgotten to tell them at Westlands? You are Tvlrs. Ormison?" he asked, ad- miration which he euld not suppress showing in his eyes. Sli- saw it. She would have been blind had 3 not done so. "Yes; and you?" sh<v asked. I am Harry Matchett, your brother's secretary," he replied. You live at Westlands! she exclaimed, a startled look in her eyes. "Yes; I have been here for some time. Did not Mr. Martindale"^tell you?" "No; he never mentioned it." Please come in; I will send for Mrs. Marsden. Your brother is at Monte Carlo. He will be sorry he missed you, very sorry." "My brother is away?" she said, in a startled tone. She was already in the hall. "I am expecting him to return every day," said Harry. What was she to say? How was she to act? She did not wish to remain during Will's absence; yet what must she do? They looked at each other. Their eyee met. The tell-tale blood rushed into their faces. Harry guessed what had happened, from hints dro-ppeeby Will; and this beautiful woman had come to Westlands to stay, and he vm ?°?  "? ?0 &e CC7tM7HM<?