Poor White HTML version
As he stood alone in the barnyard, excited at the thought of the adventure on
which Clara and Hugh had set out, Jim Priest remembered Tom Butterworth. For
more than thirty years Jim had worked for Tom and they had one strong impulse
that bound them together--their common love of fine horses. More than once the
two men had spent an afternoon together in the grand stand at the fall trotting
meeting at Cleveland. In the late morning of such a day Tom found Jim
wandering from stall to stall, looking at the horses being rubbed down and
prepared for the afternoon's races. In a generous mood he bought his
employee's lunch and took him to a seat in the grand stand. All afternoon the two
men watched the races, smoked and quarreled. Tom contended that Bud Doble,
the debonair, the dramatic, the handsome, was the greatest of all race horse
drivers, and Jim Priest held Bud Doble in contempt. For him there was but one
man of all the drivers he whole-heartedly admired, Pop Geers, the shrewd and
silent. "That Geers of yours doesn't drive at all. He just sits up there like a stick,"
Tom grumbled. "If a horse can win all right, he'll ride behind him all right. What I
like to see is a driver. Now you look at that Doble. You watch him bring a horse
through the stretch."
Jim looked at his employer with something like pity in his eyes. "Huh," he
exclaimed. "If you haven't got eyes you can't see."
The farm hand had two strong loves in his life, his employer's daughter and the
race horse driver, Geers. "Geers," he declared, "was a man born old and wise."
Often he had seen Geers at the tracks on a morning before some important race.
The driver sat on an upturned box in the sun before one of the horse stalls. All
about him there was the bantering talk of horsemen and grooms. Bets were
made and challenges given. On the tracks nearby horses, not entered in the
races for that day, were being exercised. Their hoofbeats made a kind of music
that made Jim's blood tingle. Negroes laughed and horses put their heads out at
stall doors. The stallions neighed loudly and the heels of some impatient steed
rattled against the sides of a stall.
Every one about the stalls talked of the events of the afternoon and Jim leaned
against the front of one of the stalls and listened, filled with happiness. He wished
the fates had made him a racing man. Then he looked at Pop Geers, the silent
one, who sat for hours dumb and uncommunicative on a feed box, tapping lightly
on the ground with his racing whip and chewing straw. Jim's imagination was
aroused. He had once seen that other silent American, General Grant, and had
been filled with admiration for him.
That was on a great day in Jim's life, the day on which he had seen Grant going
to receive Lee's surrender at Appomattox. There had been a battle with the
Union men pursuing the fleeing Rebs out of Richmond, and Jim, having secured
a bottle of whisky, and having a chronic dislike of battles, had managed to creep
away into a wood. In the distance he heard shouts and presently saw several
men riding furiously down a road. It was Grant with his aides going to the place
where Lee waited. They rode to the place near where Jim sat with his back