Mardonius leaned forward clutching the table until the knuckles of his hands were white. “Tell me, Hegesistratus, am I in imminent danger?”
Yet, despite all this ominous introduction, it was pity and not fear that Arthur felt as he sat down by the old man, who had, so mysteriously it seemed, terrified his own family. He looked even less intimidating than usual this morning. He was obviously pleased by the news of the engagement, and his first words were almost roguish.
When the horses were called for the second heat they came up looking well. Both had cooled out admirably. Johnny Hartman, a white jockey, and one of the best riders on the turf, was upon Duane, Steve not being able to resume his mount. Up to this time Boston had never been marked by whip or spur, except in his first race, when he sulked when touched with a spur. He had won all of his races running purely on his courage. Col. Wm. R. Johnson, the “Napoleon of the Turf,” who was managing him in this race, procured a cowhide, and when he mounted Cornelius gave it to him with instructions to use it if necessary from start to finish. There was no delay at the post; the drum tapped, and they were off, followed by the continuous cheers of the crowd. I doubt if a more closely contested match for four miles was ever run over any course than was waged between these two great horses in this second heat. It was literally a fight to the death. With every muscle strained, every sinew drawn to its utmost tension, they raced head for head the entire distance. Duane was on the inside and held it to the finish, although Boston made repeated efforts in every mile to take it. It was drive, drive, drive; death or victory. First the head of gold striped with white would for a moment show in front, then the head of bronze with the white spot gleaming like a star of hope would take the lead, but never more than a scant head would at any time divide them. As the head of either horse would show in front their respective friends would give a ringing cheer, but as mile after mile of the mighty contest was measured off by the long, low, powerful strides of these great racers and the desperate character of the race became more and more apparent, the excitement became too intense for shouting, and as the horses turned into the stretch on the fourth mile for the run home nose to nose, bit to bit and stride for stride a stillness as of death came over the crowd. Not a shout, not a word, not a whisper was heard. The stable boys and rubbers with bated breath and bulging eyes stared with almost agonized expression on their faces up the stretch where the desperate battle was being fought. The lemonade vender gave up all thoughts of trade, and even the wily pickpocket forgot his calling for the moment, and his hand, still clutching his ill-gotten gains, trembled with excitement as he watched the flying stallions and heard the ceaseless patter of their hoof strokes.
So he went away to enlist as a cook. I heard, however, that when he was told that, in addition to his duties as an army cook, he might be called upon to slaughter animals, he came away sad and dejected, and, I think, turned his mind to other things.
Before Marian had reached her home she had revolved all these things very carefully in her mind, and the result which she arrived at was, that as it was impossible to purchase peace, and as the fight must now be fought out at all hazards, the only way--not indeed to insure success, for that was out of the question, but to stand a good chance for it--was to pay fresh and unremitting attention to the canvassing, and, above all, to try personally to enlist the sympathies of the voters, not leaving it, as in Woolgreaves it had hitherto been done, to Mr. Teesdale and his emissaries. With all her belief in money, Marian had a faith in position, which, though lately born, was springing up apace, and she felt that Squire Creswell might yet win many a vote which would be given to him out of respect to his status in the county, if he would only exert himself to obtain it.
For some moments only the sound of their sandals on the stony pavement broke the stillness, but at length Zopyrus asked: “Did this road stretching into the distance lure you too as you passed the gate?”详情 ➢
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