He took them off, sash, breeches, jerkin, turban, and all, and stood up in his shirt. The other two I stripped myself, and so drunk were they that they entered into the spirit of the thing, and themselves tore at the buttons. Then with Ringan’s sword behind them, the three marched out of doors.
There we found their companions stripped and sullen, with Faulkner and the men to guard them. We made up neat parcels of their clothes, and I extorted their names, all except one who was too far gone in drink.
“To-morrow, gentlemen,” I said, “I will send back your belongings, together with the tar and feathers, which you may find useful some other day. The night is mild, and a gentle trot will keep you from taking chills. I should recommend hurry, for in five minutes the dogs will be loosed. A pleasant journey to you.”
They moved off, and then halted and apparently were for returning. But they thought better of it, and presently they were all six of them racing and stumbling down the hill in their shifts.
The Quaker stretched his legs and lit a pipe. “Was it not a scurvy trick of fate,” he observed to the ceiling, “that these poor lads should come here for a night’s fooling, and find the best sword in the Five Seas?”
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.