‘They can’t never beat thet hoss,’ Uncle Eb had said to me.
‘’Fraid they will,’ I answered. ‘They’re better hitched for one thing.’
’But they hain’t got the ginger in ’em,’ said he, ’er the git up ’n git. If we can show what’s in him the Hawk’ll beat ’em easy.’
If we won I was to get the prize but I had small hope of winning. When I saw one after another prance out, in sparkling silver harness adorned with rosettes of ribbon — light stepping, beautiful creatures all of them — I could see nothing but defeat for us. Indeed I could see we had been too confident. I dreaded the moment when Uncle Eb should drive down with Black Hawk in a plain leather harness, drawing a plainer buggy. I had planned to spend the prize money taking Hope to the harvest ball at Rickard’s, and I had worked hard to put the Hawk in good fettle. I began to feel the bitterness of failure.
‘Black Hawk! Where is Black Hawk?’ said one of the judges loudly.
‘Owned by David Brower o’ Faraway,’ said another looking at his card.
Where indeed was Uncle Eb? I got up on the fence and looked all about me anxiously. Then I heard a great cheering up the track. Somebody was coming down, at a rapid pace, riding a splendid moving animal, a knee rising to the nose at each powerful stride. His head and flying mane obscured the rider but I could see the end of a rope swinging in his hand. There was something familiar in the easy high stride of the horse. The cheers came on ahead of him like foam before a breaker. Upon my eyes! it was Black Hawk, with nothing but a plain rope halter on his head, and Uncle Eb riding him.
‘G’lang there!’ he shouted, swinging the halter stale to the shining flank. ‘G’lang there!’ and he went by, like a flash, the tail of Black Hawk straight out behind him, its end feathering in the wind. It was a splendid thing to see — that white-haired man, sitting erect on the flying animal, with only a rope halter in his hand. Every man about me was yelling. I swung my hat, shouting myself hoarse. When Uncle Eb came back the Hawk was walking quietly in a crowd of men and boys eager to feel his silken sides. I crowded through and held the horse’s nose while Uncle Eb got down.
‘Thought I wouldn’t put no luther on him,’ said Uncle Eb, ’God’s gin’ ’im a good ‘nuff harness.’
The judges came and looked him over.
‘Guess he’ll win the prize all right,’ said one of them.
And he did. When we came home that evening every horse on the road thought himself a trotter and went speeding to try his pace with everything that came up beside him. And many a man of Faraway, that we passed, sent up a shout of praise for the Black Hawk.
But I was thinking of Hope and the dance at Rickard’s. I had plenty of money now and my next letter urged her to come home at once.