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A few weeks later we were off to Paris and Longchamp, where I made a major faux pas. After the first race, I mistakenly tried to collect a win payoff with a place ticket. The cashier glared and pushed the ticket back without a word. I shrugged and smiled weakly. Then, as I moved to pick up my 50-franc misunderstanding so I could cash it at the proper window, he slammed the back of my hand with a rubber stamp and grabbed my pinky in one fist, my index finger in the other, so that I couldn't pull my wounded hand out of his cage. Suddenly, there was a lot of French screaming, and Faith turned red with rage. She tried to scratch my attacker's face but was thwarted by the narrow bars.
Fortunately, an elderly, very distinguished-looking, English-speaking Frenchman came to my aid. Only the slight fray of his collar and a cracked lens in his binoculars belied his elegance. I explained to him, above the intermittent shouts, that I hadn't quite mastered the difference between the windows for gagnant and plac�e and that I certainly wasn't trying to steal the clerk's money. The clerk finally released me when the old Frenchman evoked the memories of Black Jack Pershing and Marshal Ferdinand Foch in my behalf.
"The racing here is gorgeous, but the betting is quite impossible," Faith told my rescuer, trying to explain away my difficulty.
"Ah hah, if you do not understand our normal racing, you must see the tierce," he said. His eyes rolled back in his upturned head, and he went on, "It is absolutely fantastique. You would think it was an am�ricain invention. But it is not—it is French. Ah, tierc�, tierc�."
"But what is it exactly?" I asked.
"Ah, what is it?" he said. "A way of life—no, no, a way of starvation. Who knows?" He puffed his cheeks helplessly and gave a Gallic shrug. "This morning all of France wagers on the tierc�. It is all quite mad, quite mad."
"But what is it exactly? A lottery?"
"A lottery? No, no, no, no. It is a wager, a wager, monsieur. There is a skill; you must know horse racing. Ten thousand, a hundred thousand, one million francs are wagered each Sunday morning on the tierc�. It is here this very afternoon, the fifth race."
He examined his program and continued, "It is the reason I have come. I have a good feeling all week. One must pick the order of the first three who finish. I myself have picked two of the first three. Perhaps today.... So you see it is most assuredly not a lottery. No, no, no, no. And the winnings, my friend...." He slapped his forehead and his gray eyes rolled again, in a mock faint. He had also hooked Faith's arm, but she didn't seem to mind a bit. We invited him to join us and he accepted.
Faith won the fourth race with a horse called Le P�ch�. Her winnings came to 70 francs, which she promptly reinvested in the tierc�. She decided to wheel Nos. 9 and 5 with the rest of the field. The Frenchman hurriedly did the same. I sat it out, thinking that this most assuredly was a lottery.