University of Virginia Library


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She may whistle for it! I'll never marry a woman
who chooses me on the score of my mare's legs
and bottom.”

Such was the elegantly-declared resolution of our
now thoroughly indignant Miles Henderson, when
Hammond reported how ill he had sped in his mission
to Geraldine.

“She certainly pays us no compliment.”

“Compliment! She treats us as if one man was
just the same to her as another. Who'd marry a woman
on such terms? What man who values his happiness
at all will take a wife who don't prefer him to all
other suitors?”


“Well, Ran.?”

“Geraldine does express this preference.”


“She knows very well that `Sorella' can beat Barry's
filly. She has done so. Now, it seems to me that this
must have been in the recollection of Geraldine when
she made the requisition.”

“Yes, but `Ferraunt' can beat `Sorella.'”

“True, perhaps; but if you will engage in the conflict
with Barry, I'll decline it. I'll leave the field to

“No, no, Ran.; that won't do. I sha'n't run at
all. If the lady don't like me sufficiently to answer
`Yes' at once, we're quits. I wouldn't have her now


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on any terms. I think she has treated us most outrageously.”

“I'm disposed to think her foolish and vexatious
mother's at the bottom of it all, though what she proposes
to gain by it, I do not exactly see; yet a thought
strikes me. It's very clear that Mrs. Foster has all
along preferred Barry to either of us. Now, if we
withdraw from the field, he walks the course and takes
the purse. This, perhaps, will be just the thing that
the mother hopes for. That she has blinded Geraldine
by some artifice, is very possible. Now, I'm not willing
that the mother should be gratified. I'm disposed
equally to balk her and to punish Geraldine. I feel
something of your indignation; and, though I'm sure
she prefers either of us to Jones Barry, yet I fear she
presumes upon what she thinks our passion for her, to
coerce us with this humiliating condition. She seems
to take for granted that we cannot but yield, however
little we may relish doing so.”

“What's your plan?”

“To accede to her conditions.”

“How, accede!”

“Yes, apparently at least. We'll write her to that
effect, see Barry, make the arrangements for the race,
and get all things in readiness.”


“It will be easy to throw Barry out—to beat him
after the first mile—and thus defeat the calculations of
the mother.”


“We agree that the wedding takes place the very
day of the race. Let them have the company, let
them get the parson, let them make the feast, and let

“Well! well!”

“Ride off as we came, leaving them to eat the supper,
and marry as they can.”

“Bravo! I like it! It will shame them to the
whole country.”


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“They deserve it! What think you?”

“It's a sentence! They shall pay the forfeit. The
idea is capital. It'll be a lesson to such people hereafter.”

“Then let us proceed about it. What we do we
must do quickly, so that the thing shall not be blown
unnecessarily abroad. I shall keep it from my mother
if I can; at all events, I must keep from her that I
mean to put in for this prize. To do this, I'll go home
with you, and we'll write and work from your house.
To Barry we must send to-morrow, and have the race
early next week.”

The arrangements, as devised, were all made. Barry
was invited to an interview, and readily came into the
arrangements; somewhat disappointed, however, to find
so prompt an acceptance of the conditions, in spite of
the confident predictions of Mrs. Foster. That good
lady was quite as much confounded as anybody else;
but she made the best of a bad bargain. She encouraged
Barry to hope; and it was with a confident face
that she could now say to her daughter—

“You see? 'Tis as I told you—you have only to be
firm, and he submits. This is the way with men, always.
Women yield too readily. Let them only stick out to
the last, and they'll rule in the end.”

Meanwhile, the affair got abroad, and was the cause
of no little excitement. The subject is one which still,
to this day, interests the people of the surrounding
country. They call it the “race for a wife.” Of
course, it was the crowning event in the history of
Geraldine Foster's eccentricities. They little knew
how small was the share of the poor girl in the proceeding.
Nettles was delighted with the affair. Its
novelty charmed him. He did not exactly expect that
Hammond would have engaged in the contest, for he
had quite as high an opinion of that gentleman's pride
of character as was entertained by Mrs. Foster; but he
said nothing against it. He told Jones Barry, however,
that the game was all up with him; that the “Fair


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Geraldine” stood no chance against either the heels of
“Ferraunt” or “Sorella.” “But,” he continued, “I
shall be glad to see you beat, for reasons I've already
given you. This girl is not the girl for you. Better
the step-mother, Mrs. Foster. She's neither old nor
ugly, and she knows what good living is. Besides,
she's a widow, whose gratitude to the man that will
take her off her own hands will make her tolerably submissive.
But, better still, the fat girl, Susannah, at
Hiram Davy's corner. She's the good creature, the
sweet laughing armful of happiness, all fat and good-humor.
Even Polly Ewbanks, whom you overthrew at
the ball, would be more suitable, and, for that matter,
she evidently likes you.”

“Don't speak of her, the cow! I'll never forgive
her for that tumble. She threw me, thrusting her elephant
legs between mine, just when I was cavorting.

“The boot's on t'other leg, Jones. It was you that
thrust your pegs in the wrong direction, and you did
the mischief. In truth, Jones, I'm afraid it was more
design on your part than accident.”

“I swear to you, Tom, I never designed anything;
but I'm willing to confess that that `peach' was quite
too much for me, after the sherry and champagne.”

“Not a bit of it; but there was a sort of destiny
that made you and Polly Ewbanks fall together; and,
mark my words, I prophesy that, if ever you marry,
it'll be one of the three—Polly Ewbanks, Sukey Davy,
or the widow Foster—and I don't care much which;
though Sukey or Polly, either, would make you the
best wife. It's very certain that if Geraldine Foster
is to be got by running only, you stand no chance
against `Ferraunt' and `Sorella.'”

Mrs. Hammond at length heard of the terms of the
conflict, and was shocked at its monstrosities. She at
once appealed to her son in the earnest language of a
mother, to avoid any such competition. He answered
her evasively but satisfactorily, in calm but earnest


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“Fear nothing, mother; there is no prospect of my
ever being united with Miss Foster.”

And here the matter rested until the day appointed
for the trial. The three competitors had, in their
separate answers, agreed upon the terms. They had
also—using a discretion which had been conferred upon
them—concurred in entreating that the day of the race
should be that of the wedding also. The company were
accordingly invited, and the Reverend Timothy Bindwell,
of the Presbyterian Church, was entreated to be
present, and made his appearance in his robes of office
at the appointed hour. He was one of those to whom
it was always agreeable to bring the young together in
the blessed ties of marriage, particularly where the
wedding-supper was apt to be good, and the marriage-fee
a liberal one. His expectations, on the present
occasion, were of superior magnitude. It was observed
as an evil sign by Geraldine that Mrs. Hammond,
though invited, was not present when the company was
assembled. She remarked this to her mother, as something
ominous; but the latter had her answer.

“Oh! she no doubt feels as bitter about it as she
can. If her pride could have ruled her son in such a
matter, he had never consented to the terms.”

“I hardly think that he will consent now.”

“How! When we have it in black and white, under
his hands? But dress, my child”—this conversation
took place in Geraldine's chamber—“dress, so as to be
quite in readiness. I'll send Rachel up to help you.”

“Send no one! I'll ring if I want her.”

The mother left the room, and the poor girl, as if
with a presentiment of the mortification to which she
was destined, sank down listlessly before the window,
looking out upon the long avenue up which the competitors
were to ascend. How bitter were her reflections
at this moment! How she deplored the readiness
with which she had given ear to her mother's counsels!
and with what warning solemnity did the words and
looks of Hammond, in their last interview, when he


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came to expostulate, rise to her recollection! She
probably would not have been dressed but for the reappearance
of Mrs. Foster, who insisted upon her
immediate preparations. She assisted her in making
her toilet, taking care all the while so to speak as to
fortify the pride of the damsel, and excite her spirits
through the agency of her vanity. Pale, but—in the
language of Mrs. Foster—“beautiful as an angel,” the
devoted girl was at length prepared for the conflict and
the company. Meanwhile, let us look after the several
claimants for her hand.

We need not detail the preliminaries, important to
the parties, but not so to us, which were duly arranged
among themselves. Time, place, distance, the signal
for the start, were all agreed upon; and at the proper
minute the several competitors, each attended by his
friend, appeared upon the ground. Tom Nettles officiated
on the part of Jones Barry, who had in fact become
a sort of dependent upon the superior judgment of
that humorist, and never failed to seek him on every
emergency. Henderson and Hammond were attended
by two young men, whom it is not important to introduce
more especially to our readers. The word was given,
and the three steeds leaped off most beautifully together,
but had not run a hundred yards before the “Fair Geraldine,”
as if fearing the loss of her good name in such
formidable rivalry, or frightened by some unusual object
along the roadside, suddenly bolted into the woods, taking
rider through bush and through brier, a formidable
chase, which, but for his frequent practice as a fox hunter,
would have certainly endangered his neck. When the
unfortunate Barry succeeded in reining in his capricious
beauty, who seemed disposed to emulate her namesake,
he found his competitors clean gone out of sight, and
himself hopelessly distanced. He gave up the chase
entirely, and, cantering out into the open track, came
forth just as Nettles, and the two other bottle-holders,
were riding forward to the “Lodge.” He joined them,
and, putting the best air upon his defeat possible, he


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told them how it happened. The two friends of Hammond
and Henderson condoled with him like men of
proper gallantry; but Nettles openly congratulated him
upon the event.

“The hand of fate is in it, Jones. You are destined
for Polly Ewbanks, Sukey Davy, or the widow. I'm
glad of it. This jade is too high-necked for you, and
would have ruined you forever as a good fellow.”

Thus talking, they wheeled into the avenue. Meanwhile,
let us hurry to the “Lodge,” and see how things
are working there. Geraldine had not long descended
to the parlor, and was in the midst of salutations and
congratulations innumerable and inconceivable, when
the cry rose from the piazza—“They are coming! They
are coming!” This occasioned a rush. The bride was
deserted, and with a strange sinking of the heart, she
crouched, rather than reclined, on the sofa, leaving it
to others to report the conflict, which she no longer
had the courage to behold. Mrs. Foster was the first to
bounce into the piazza as she heard the cry. Parson
Bindwell placed himself along-side of her, and the several
groups, according to relationship or intimacy, ranged
themselves in near neighborhood. The banisters were
thronged, two long benches were filled with crowding
forms, and several stood upon chairs dragged for the
purpose from the parlor. Poor Geraldine hearkened
breathlessly to the murmurs and the cries from without.

“The sorrel has it!” cried one.

“And now the iron gray!” cried another.

“But where's Barry? Where's Barry?” was the
impatient inquiry of Madam Foster.

“Distanced!” was the answer from one of the party,
“as I always said he would be.”

It was evident there were but two horsemen, and these
were Hammond and Henderson. The race was evidently
a close one. Approaching in front, the spectators could
see no inequalities in their speed, and opinion was kept
in a constant state of fluctuation as they advanced.

“Now they come! They come with a rush!”


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“The sorrel has it!”

“No, `Ferraunt!'”

“It's hard to say which!”

“They come! They come!”

At these words, Geraldine could bear the suspense no
longer. She darted to her feet, rushed to the door-way
just in season to behold the two horses, lock and lock,
wheel before the entrance; while the riders, waving and
kissing their hands to the company, and bowing their
heads, darted away at the same speed in the opposite
avenue leading up the road, and were lost to sight in
a moment.

“What does that mean?” demanded the parson.

“They are off!” said another. “But who won?”

“The iron gray! Hammond was ahead by a neck.”

“It was close work; neck and neck, and hard to say
which had it till the last moment. Then it was that
Ran. Hammond's horse came out a neck ahead.”

Such was the verdict, gravely delivered, of those who
had most closely watched the conflict. But where were
the competitors? Where was he who had triumphed,
and to whom the trembling prize was to be awarded?
Geraldine did tremble, but it was with a joy which spoke
out in her bright eyes, and played in a sweet smile upon
her pouting lips. But why did not Hammond appear?
What could be the meaning of that reverential bow, that
wave of the hand, as the riders continued on their course;
and of the long delay which followed? Meanwhile,
Barry and Nettles, with their companions, made their
appearance. The misfortune of the former was soon
explained; and, in her grief and vexation, Mrs. Foster
drew him in with her to the well-known little room where
he had sipped his tea and toddy at her hands, to reproach
him, as well as she could, for his accident and defeat.
Here he could not help the reflection forced upon him
by Nettles, that there was really something quite lovable
in the widow. It was while they sat together that
Geraldine rushed into the chamber, her face red, her
eyes dilating in anger, her whole appearance that of indignation


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almost rising into fury. She held a crumpled
paper to her mother, which had once been a neatly-folded

“See to what I am brought by your counsel!”

The mother read. The note was from Hammond to
Geraldine. It ran thus:—

“Mr. Hammond presumes that curiosity as to the
respective speed of his and other horses, alone, prompted
the singular requisition of Miss Foster, and that she had
no serious design of making such performance the condition
of a solemnity so vital to her happiness as that of
marriage. Mr. Hammond has done his best to gratify
her curiosity, and should be sorry to avail himself of the
result to the prejudice of Miss Foster. He accordingly
begs leave to release her from any supposed obligations
to himself.”

“Disgraced! Insulted! Oh that I were a man!
That I had a friend! a brother!”

The widow pushed Barry, and, as Geraldine paced
the chamber with face averted, she contrived to whisper
him. He at once started forwards at the repeated

“That I were a man! That I had a brother! an

“Give me this hand, Miss Geraldine, and I will be
your avenger.”

“Will you kill him, kill him?” she demanded, turning


“Who but Randall Hammond? He has degraded
me before all these people. Kill him, and you shall
have the hand that he rejects with scorn.”

“I'll call him out. I'll shoot him if I can!”

“Do so, sir! do it quickly, and I am yours, yours!”