The Shearer’s Colt

Part II - Chapter XV

The Dopers

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

THE CHINESE are a peaceful people—up to a certain point—and they always prefer diplomacy to more violent methods. Thus it came that when two truculent American toughs became obstreperous at the low-class Chinese restaurant known as the House of the Rising Sun, and stated that they intended to knock the block off the waiter who had served them, the proprietor did not send the waiter out to them. Instead, with a sort of grim humour, he sent, them out a boarder at the restaurant, a Chinaman newly arrived from Australia and well known to our readers under the name of Jimmy the Pat.

One look at Jimmy the Pat satisfied them that here was no defenceless Chinaman to be clouted with impunity. Instead of giving him a punch on the jaw, they offered him a drink of samshoo and asked him to sit down with them.

“Sit down, guy,” they said, “and have a shot of the curse of China. We b’long big Amellican lacehorse. You savvy lacehorse?”

“Me plenty savvy lacehorse,” said Jimmy the Pat, who had got away from Australia with most of his money and was finding life insupportable among a lot of his countrymen whose ideas of gambling were limited to perpetual games of fan-tan for pitifully small stakes. “Me plenty savvy lacehorse. What name lacehorse belong you?”

As already stated Jimmy the Pat could talk quite good English when it suited him to do so, but in his character of refugee from justice it was necessary to give nothing away. His shrewd brain told him that these were no owners of a racehorse but were “wrong uns” of the worst description, such as he had often employed in Australia.

They were vultures that had come over in the wake of the money-spending army, in the hopes of getting their beaks into something payable, by fair means or foul. The smaller man was an Italian-American with sleek black hair and quick beady eyes. In the crime sheets of his own country his name figured as Dominic Salvatore better known as Dominic the Doper. His friend was a Spaniard or Mexican or some sort, yellow-visaged, with an utterly expressionless face. When any racecourse swindle occurred in the States a police call would go out for Ramon Hialeah, a name that he had adopted from a leading American race-track.

Like most criminals they specialized in one particular line, the fixing-up of favourites for big events; and with the curious vanity of criminals they would often boast to the police of cases in which they had managed to beat the rap (escape from justice) through the aid of a good mouthpiece and some suborned evidence.

Normally, they would never have talked to a stranger; but they were full of samshoo and felt boastful and vain-glorious. Sensing some sort of kindred spirit in the Chinaman, Dominic put out a feeler.

“Any guy with money could make a big rise over here,” he said. “Fix’em up one, two favourites, back ’em other horse. You savvy any man got money bet longa horse?”

“Hi-yah,” said Jimmy the Pat, “me savvy man got plenty money—’ow you fix’em lacehorse?”

“Never you mind how me fix’em lacehorse. You show us the mazuma and we’ll show you the fix. Look here, brother,” he went on, “I ain’t going to talk Chow talk to you any more. You savvy English all right. You didn’t get that pin in your tie growing cabbagee. This place ain’t so all-fired slow after all. We met one guy already had the right idea. A waiter in a club he was, and he heard one of the big shots say he’d give five thousand dollars—what you call a thousand pounds—to have this English horse fixed up. That’s the way to talk.

“Now, see guy, this is the lay of the cards. Our American horse can burn up the track for six furlongs, but he’ll quit cold at anything over a mile. That’s right, ain’t it, Ramon? If we can fix up the English and the Australian horses for the long race on the last day, we can back the Frenchman and he’ll be the outsider at a long price. We’ll have money in our ears. But we must get someone that will bet big and give us our chop out of it. We’ll see that we get it too. How does this sound to you, brother? Do you know any one that wants to pick up fifty grand, easy money?”

Needless to say, Jimmy the Pat felt this programme was ideal in every way, but having three times the brain-power of the two American crooks he was careful not to appear too eager. Also he continued to act the unsophisticated Chinaman.

“You say you fix’em two horse,” he said. “Welly, ni’. But s’pose you no fix ’em! My countlyman velly lich man, but no like lose money.”

Professional pride lent indignation to Dominic’s answer:

“Say, you. Whadda you think we are? Just tin-horn sports talkin’ through our hats? We got the fast stuff and the slow stuff. We can make a horse beat a railroad train or we can make him lie down and go to sleep on the track. This dead-and-alive old burg ain’t seen nothin’ like we’ve got. You show us the horses and the money, and you can go home and have a shave and a hair-cut till it’s time to bring round a bag for the kale. We must wait till the last day, ’cos they’ll watch these hosses like they was diamonds the first two days. Then they’ll let up a bit and we’ll get a chance to put in the work.”

In the end it was agreed that all parties concerned should meet at the restaurant the next night to fix up details, and the star boarder of the House of the Rising Sun went into the fan-tan room with the feeling that once more he was on the track of something really worth while.

The meeting of the International League of Dopers next evening resolved itself into a committee of ways and means. As nobody trusted anybody else, all sorts of precautions had to be taken about the obtaining of the reward for their enterprise and the division of the reward when obtained. The two Americans and the Chinaman were reinforced by the dismissed waiter, a self-satisfied little Cockney who thought himself a past master in turf roguery. When he saw his associates he began to think that he might be lucky if he got out of it with his life. The huge muscular Chinaman and the two tight-lipped American crooks were very different propositions to the servants’ hall breed of bandits among which he had cut quite a dashing figure. Still, it was a case of over shoes over boots with him, so he decided to go through with it.

“It’s a Hearl,” he said. “A Hearl what I ’eard sayin’ ’e would give a thousand to see Connie’s ’orse beaten. An’ ’e said it to a Baronite and a Marquis. I ’ave the names wrote down, an’ the date, and everythink. Now, if we can bring this horf we can write to the Hearl and tell ’im to spar up with the money or we’ll go to the Jockey Club and call the Baronite and the Marquis to give evidence. An’ they’d love it—I don’t think—to have to go into the dirty water and through the mangle before that nasty sneerin’ Jockey Club lot. Fix Connie’s ’orse up an’ the money’s all right, but wot do I get out of it? That’s the point. Wot do I get out of it?”

“You’ve said a mouthful, kid,” said Dominic, “that’s the point. What do we all get out of it? Speakin’ for me and Ramon, if anybody tries to scale us for our share, well, they won’t live very long nor enjoy theirselves very much. Wot about you?” he went on turning to the Chinaman.

“Me no likee fightee,” said Jimmy the Pat. “But my countlyman, he b’long hatchet-man Tong, longa China. Hatchet-man Tong all over world, longa London, longa Sanfrisco, longa Sydney. Use automatic, no use hatchet now.”

This brief sketch brought to the mind of the waiter a vision of himself going for his life, with the hatchet-men after him with automatics. Even the American crooks were impressed, for they knew better than anybody else the danger of offending one of these Chinese secret societies.

“Why worry, guys?” said Dominic. “Why worry? We ain’t goin’ to play no skin game on each other. We’re all gentlemen ’ere. There’ll be plenty for all of us. We’ll get it off the sheet boys [bookmakers]. Now, let’s come down to tin tacks. We want somebody to put up ten grand on the right horse. Will your countryman do it?”

Ten grand, or in English figures two thousand pounds, was a big stake, but Jimmy the Pat had dealt in big figures and he still had plenty of money. Like all Chinese he would sooner gamble than eat. He decided there and then to go on with the business.

“All li,” he said, as casually as though he were clinching a deal for a jar of ginger. “All li. My countlyman he find’em money. I go long, see you fix’em horse.”

This did not suit the plans of the dopers at all, and Ramon Hialeah, speaking for the first time, made a few ill-chosen remarks.

“Chee,” he said, speaking out of the corner of his mouth, “who’s goin’ to give dis horse de woiks? Us or you? You yaller Chink . . . ”

He got no further. Jimmy the Pat had summed up the situation quickly, and he knew that if he sailed with this pirate crew he had to be either captain or cabin-boy; and he had no intention of being cabin-boy. Quick as a flash, he hit Ramon on the chest with his right hand and at the same time dropped his left hand into his coat-pocket, where a bulge suggested an automatic. It is said that when an amateur wishes to hit a man on the chest, he aims at his chest, but a professional wishing to hit a man on the chest, aims at his backbone. Ramon flew out of his chair as though kicked by a horse and lay on the floor gasping, while Jimmy the Pat glared down on him and said:

“Me b’long hatchet-man Tong, too.”

He kept his hand in his pocket as he said it, and the two crooks expected an automatic bullet at any moment. Realizing that Jimmy had the drop on them, they did not attempt to draw their guns but hurriedly conceded all points in dispute and cleared out.

Thus was a new captain elected to the International League of Dopers. After the others had left the room Jimmy the Pat drew a large pipe from his pocket, lit it, and proceeded to enjoy a well-earned smoke.

In the next few weeks a tide of visitors flowed into London from all countries of the world, lured by the attraction of the great international series of horse-races. The American horse duly arrived, a big plain-bodied and somewhat ungainly animal trained to jump out at top speed and go for his life on the hard dirt tracks of his native country. As he had several strains of American blood in his pedigree he had drifted somewhat away from the original English type and was short in the neck and carried all his power in his rump. The Americans specialize in speed, for a speed horse can get two or three races to suit him on any programme while a stayer can only get one race a day.

Clean Sweep, as he was called, after his Broomstick breeding, was accompanied by his owner, a wealthy young American who said that his horse might get beaten but he himself was from Missouri and they would have to show him. As befitted his importance, Clean Sweep travelled not exactly with a full band but with a retinue comprising his private chemist, his Press agent, a motion picture outfit, and several galloping partners. The Americans stand their horses up to a lot of work and they have a lotion, an embrocation, and a cough mixture for every change of weather or every variation in the horse’s temperature. Bill the Gunner was allowed to visit the American stable and came away saying that the horse had a separate strapper for every leg and a “messer” (masseur) for each side of its body.

The French horse Edouard, a scion of the Teddy breed, came over with much flourish of trumpets and was easily the smallest horse of the internatioaal quartette. But the French specialize in stayers, for their racing is largely supported by Government subsidies given to encourage the breeding of horses’ tough enough to stand a military campaign. A lithe, wiry gentleman, this French horse, with a well-earned reputation for going to the front and beating off challengers one after another as they came at him. Still, as Crusader’s trainer said, a weight-for-age race is not like a handicap, and if the Frenchman had to make all his own running the English and Australian horses would have the last run at him and their greater stride and speed should be able to smother him at the finish.

The early betting favoured the American horse for the six-furlong race, while Crusader was a strong favourite for the two longer races. The cognoscenti voted that the Australian horse looked lonely without a cart. But every time he drifted in the betting Red Fred’s money put him back to his old place again. What psychologists call the herd instinct is strong in the English, who all like to back the same horse, and in the various betting-clubs Crusader was a strong favourite. As one of the johnnies put it: “These chaps that back outsiders always have something wrong with them.”

Not that the early betting was very heavy, for there is no chance of winning a fortune at long odds in a field of four. There was, however, constant support from some unknown quarter for the French horse in the long race. After a time Mr Manasses became uneasy and ordered Connie Galbraith—she was always Connie Galbraith to the multitude—to come and see him.

Finance is supposed to be a soulless business, but just as there are artists in surgery there are artists in finance. The soul of the artist needs the stimulus of difficulty to make him do his best, and Mr Manasses was a financial artist. He dearly loved to get hold of a semi-bankrupt concern and put it on its feet by stretching credit; by putting good men in charge; and by asking—nay, by compelling—support from the big Jewish interests. When the Saxonite Motor Company was drifting to ruin under the guidance of an expert engineer and a gifted inventor, did not Mr Manasses take charge and make it pay thirty per cent under the management of his nephew and a staff of super-salesmen? The management of Connie’s racing syndicate had been merely a routine job, but things had occurred which called for a master mind. An elderly and unimpressive Jew, of the type that would have defied the greatest make-up artist in the world to make him look like anything else, Mr Manasses sat in his office and took charge of the situation.

He had known Connie in her rag-factory days. In fact, Connie’s widowed mother had many a time been helped by one of the gigantic Jewish charities administered with marvellous efficiency by Mr Manasses. Also, he was an aristocrat of his race, and the fact that Connie had become an English countess was—in his eyes—just one of those accidents that are liable to occur to anybody. To him she was still the Whitechapel Jewess with whom he was accustomed to chat in the Whitechapel lingo and he saw no reason for making any change.

Connie blew into his office like a sirocco, dragging Fitzroy and Red Fred after her like bits of windblown paper. She sat herself down in a chair, and opened on him in pure Whitechapel:

“Now, Manasses, wot’s on yer mind? ’As somebody been givin’ yer a bad two bob? Tell Auntie wot they’ve been doin’ to yer.”

Seeing that Connie had elected to play the part of a dialect comedienne Mr Manasses answered her in kind.

“Connie, vere are your ears that ’aven’t ’eard the people that are workin’ underground? Vere is your nose” (here Connie clapped her hand over that organ), “that you ’aven’t smelt somethin’ in the air? Vere are your eyes that you ’aven’t seen in the papers all the money that is comin’ for the French ’orse? His owner don’t bet at all and yet there are men bettin’ as if they knew something. Vot’s the meanin’ of that Connie? It means that somebody is goin’ to settle the other horses. We can’t afford to have anything go wrong you know.”

“’Ow can anything go wrong?” said Connie. “There’s enough seats sold now to show a profit.”

“Never mind about the profit, Connie. If we give the people a bad show that’s somethin’ goin’ wrong ain’t it? It mustn’t ’appen, Connie. Vere ’ave you got your ’orse?”

“Where would you think I’d ’ave ’im,” said Connie. “In a wooden ’utch in the back yard? ’E’s down at the trainer’s, o’ course.”

Mr Manasses felt it was time to drop the Whitechapel and to talk impressively:

“Tell your trainer to slip him away quietly up to your own place at Newmarket. You’ve got loose-boxes there. You must put a guard on him day and night, but I don’t know where you’d get a man you could trust. There’s not hundreds in this job, there’s thousands in it if they can fix the favourite.”

“Listen ’ere,” said Connie, waving her hand towards Fitzroy. “You see Percy the Pet sittin’ at the end of the table lookin’ like a counter-jumper out of a job? Well, ’e’s Sandow at six stone seven. ’E lifted me with one ’and.”

Here Connie relapsed into the Yiddish. “’E’th that throng,” she said, “that I think ’e muth be vun of uth. If any dopers comes along my money’s on little pansy-face ’ere. ’E’s fell out with ’is girl and that’ll make ’im fight savage. And ’e don’t know the value of money. ’E wanted to sling up a thousand-a-year job just because ’e wasn’t earnin’ his pay. Could you make yourself believe that Mithter Manattheth?”

Mr Manasses looked very hard at Fitzroy. But he had seen so many freaks in his life that one or two more made little difference to him.

“What have you been doing, Mr Fitzroy?” he said.

Fitzroy reflected that for the past year or two his life had been just one thing after another. He seemed to have an incurable flair for getting into trouble and anything was better than hanging round the Countess’s establishment doing nothing.

“I’ll take it on if you like,” he said. “But it’s all nonsense about my being so strong. I know a hold or two, that’s all. I was a policeman for a bit.”

Here Red Fred thought he ought to get into the argument.

“My oath,” he said, “he was. He arrested me. An’ he threw a twenty-stone Chinaman all over northern Queensland. That same Chow’s wanted for murder now.”

This sounded to Mr Manasses like the outline for a movie scenario, but he supposed that it must be the sort of thing they habitually did in Australia. To him it was far more surprising that Fitzroy should want to give up a thousand-a-year job because he wasn’t earning the money. Remarking that he was prepared to insure Fitzroy’s life in a very good company, he turned to the next item on the agenda which was the protection of Red Fred’s horse.

“Get two men with revolvers,” he said, “and let them watch your horse day and night. I’ll give you a letter to a cousin of mine and he’ll let you have the revolvers at wholesale price. No use wasting money. Have you got any men you can trust?”

“Too right, I have,” said Red Fred, “I’ve got one anyhow. Bill the Gunner. He’ll shoot ’em like crows if they come pokin’ round. He’ll shoot first and ast ’em what they want afterwards.”

“Yes,” said Connie, “and look at the publicity if he shot a chap. There’s no Press agency stuff about a dead man. Every paper in London ’d ’ave to print it.”

Bitter experience had taught Manasses that when a music-hall star interferes in business there is always trouble and generally disaster.

“You leave the publicity to me, Connie,” he said. “You look after your horse and I’ll look after the publicity. Now run along, I’ve got something important to do.”

Little did Mr Manasses know the publicity this affair was to get!

The Shearer’s Colt - Contents    |     Chapter XVI - In Aid of Charity

Back    |    Words Home    |    Paterson Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback