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THE CRITICAL MOMENT
By Charles Graham Ross
"Do you hear? Fifty bid. Do I
tear five? All right, sir. And seventy.
Seventy-five? Thanks Last chance,
gentlemen. Seventy-five once, twice."
"I withdraw the horse I'll pay the
Walter Elston, idly engrossed in
watching a conventional country
horse auction scene, fixed his eye
upon the last speaker. Something in
the sad, drooping face, the half
broken utterance, as if the man was
in sorrow or pain, awakened his sym
pathetic nature magically.
He stood silent and watchful, deep
ly interested, as from an old time
worn wallet the owner of the horse
drew out the one bill it contained, ev
idently his last, and with a sigh
handed it to the auctioneer.
"Sorry, Mr. Young," spoke the lat
ter, "but this is an off day, it seems.
Bring Snowfoot around next sales
day and we'll try it without extra
charge. Your price is prety steep, but
the animal is worth it"
"Yes, I can't possibly do with less
than $150," spoke Mr. Young in a
subdued tone. "It's a matter of life
Young Elston followed the last
speaker as, the bridle, lo6sely looped
over his arm, he walked slowly away
from the bartering crowd. At the
road Elston, after a rapid glance over
the splendid animal, stepped up to
him. The fine points of the horse
attracted him. Then again he traced
some deep soul tragedy upon the
words he had overheard.
"Excuse me," he said in an off
hand mnaner, but courteously. "I
didn't get a chance to bid on your
horse. What's the price, sir?"
"Seventy-five was the top bid," an
swered the old man, "but I want dou
'ble." "Doci?" questioned Elston, ex
, mining the teeth of the animaL
"Gentle as a kitten, with one who
knows his temper whirlwind under
a wicked whip lash. My daughter's
horse, sir, but we've got to part with
him. It is the price of her mother's
life. An operation or death, the doc
tor says, and they won't move with
out the money in advance."
"I'll take Snowfoot," announced
An expression of relief, gratitude,
joy clossejfl the face of Robert Young
as the crisp bank notes were counted
Off Its Feed," the Hostler at the
Elston Place Told Its Master
into his trembling hand. His tears
fell upon. them. He tried to thank
Elston, just managed to ask his name
and hurried away as though a new
hope in life was giving him wings.
"A girl for your owner, eh?" chat
tered Elston lightly to Snowfoot
"Then we'll treat ypu gently, my
friend," and Snowfoot seemed to ac
cept the words as a guarantee of good
faith and went along the road giving
Elston no trouble.
At a cross path, however, his steps
grew halt He extended his face