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Salute to Adventurers

13. I Stumble Into A Great Folly
I never breathed a word about the night's doings, nor for divers reasons did Ringan; but
the story got about, and the young fools were the laughing-stock of the place. But there
was a good deal of wrath, too, that a trader should have presumed so far, and I felt that
things were gathering to a crisis with me. Unless I was to suffer endlessly these petty
vexations, I must find a bold stroke to end them. It annoyed me that when so many
grave issues were in the balance I should have these troubles, as if a man should be
devoured by midges when waiting on a desperate combat.
The crisis came sooner than I looked for. There was to be a great horse-racing at
Middle Plantation the next Monday, which I had half a mind to attend, for, though I cared
nothing for the sport, it would give me a chance of seeing some of our fellows from the
York River. One morning I met Elspeth in the street of James Town, and she cried
laughingly that she looked to see me at the races. After that I had no choice but go; so
on the Monday morning I dressed myself with care, mounted my best horse, and rode to
the gathering.
'Twas a pretty sight to see the spacious green meadow, now a little yellowing with the
summer heat, set in the girdle of dark and leafy forest. I counted over forty chariots
which had brought the rank of the countryside, each with its liveried servant and its
complement of outriders. The fringe of the course blazed with ladies' finery, and a tent
had been set up with a wide awning from which the fashionables could watch the sport.
On the edge of the woods a multitude of horses were picketed, and there were booths
that sold food and drink, merry-go-rounds and fiddlers, and an immense concourse of
every condition of folk, black slaves and water-side Indians, squatters from the woods,
farmers from all the valleys, and the scum and ruck of the plantations. I found some of
my friends, and settled my business with them, but my eyes were always straying to the
green awning where I knew that Elspeth sat.
I am no judge of racing, but I love the aspect of sleek, slim horses, and I could applaud
a skill in which I had no share. I can keep my seat on most four-legged beasts, but my
horsemanship is a clumsy, rough-and-ready affair, very different from the effortless
grace of your true cavalier. Mr. Grey's prowess, especially, filled me with awe. He would
leap an ugly fence without moving an inch in his saddle, and both in skill and the quality
of his mounts he was an easy victor. The sight of such accomplishments depressed my
pride, and I do not think I would have ventured near the tent had it not been for the
Governor.
He saw me on the fringe of the crowd, and called me to him. "What bashfulness has
taken you to-day, sir?" he cried, "That is not like your usual. There are twenty pretty
dames here who pine for a word from you."
 
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