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May 27, 1865

How I Went to the Great Race between Lodi and Norfolk

There can be no use in my writing any account whatever of the great race, because that matter has already been attended to in the daily papers. Therefore, I will simply describe to you how I went to the race. But before I begin, I would like to tell you about Homestead - Benj. W. Homestead, of the Incidental Hotel. [I do not wish to be too severe, though, and so I use fictitious names, to prevent your finding out who it is I refer to, and where his place of business is.]

It will ease my mind to tell you about him. You know Homestead, clerk at the Incidental Hotel, and you know he has the reputation of being chatty, and sociable, and accommodating - a man, in fact, eminently fitted to make a guest feel more at home in the hotel than in his own house with his own wife, and his own mother, and his wife's mother, and her various friends and relatives, and all the other little comforts that go to make married life a blessing, and create what is known as "Sweet Home," and which is so deservedly popular-I mean among people who have not tried it. You know Homestead as that kind of a man. Therefore, you would not suppose that attractive exterior of his, and that smiling visage, and that seductive tongue capable of dark and mysterious crimes.

Very well, I will ask you to listen to a plain, unprejudiced statement of facts:

On or about the 21st of the present month, it became apparent to me that the forthcoming race between Norfolk and Lodi was awakening extraordinary attention all over the Pacific coast, and even far away in the Atlantic States. I saw that if I failed to see this race I might live a century, perhaps, without ever having an opportunity to see its equal. I went at once to a livery stable - the man said his teams had all been engaged a week before I called. I got the same answer at all the other livery stables, except one. They told me there that they had a nice dray, almost-new, and a part of a horse - they said part of a horse because a good deal of him was gone, in the way of a tail, and one ear and a portion of the other, and his upper lip, and one eye; and, inasmuch as his teeth were exposed, and he had a villainous cast in his remaining eye, these defects, added to his damaged ears and departed tail, gave him an extremely "gallus" and unprepossessing aspect - but they only asked two hundred and forty dollars for the turn-out for the day.

I resisted the yearning I felt to hire this unique establishment. Then they said they had a capacious riding-horse left, but all the seats on him except one had been engaged; they said he was an unusually long horse, and he could seat seven very comfortably; and that he was very gentle, and would not kick up behind; and that one of the choicest places on him for observation was still vacant, and I could have it for nineteen dollars - and so on and so on; and while the passenger agent was talking, he was busy measuring off a space of nine inches for me pretty high up on the commodious animal's neck.

It seemed to me that the prospect of going to the races was beginning to assume a very "neck-or-nothing" condition, but nevertheless I steadfastly refused the supercargo's offer, and he sold the vacancy to a politician who was used to being on the fence and would naturally consider a seat astride a horse's neck in the light of a pleasant variety.

I then walked thoughtfully down to the Incidental, turning over in my mind various impossible expedients for getting out to the Ocean Race-Course. I thought of the horse-cars and the steam-cars, but without relief, for neither of these conveyances could carry me within four miles of the place. At the hotel I met the abandoned Homestead, and as nearly as I can recollect, the following conversation ensued:

"Ah, Mark, you're the very man I was looking for. Take a drink? "

I cannot be positive, but it is my impression that I either stated that I would, or else signified assent by a scarcely perceptible eagerness of manner common to me under circumstances of this nature.

While we were drinking, Homestead remarked, with considerable vivacity:

"Yes, I was just looking for you. I am going out to the great race on Tuesday, and I've a vacancy and want company. I'd like to have you go along with me if you will."

I set my glass down with a suddenness and decision unusual with me on such occasions, and seizing his hand, I wrung it with heartfelt warmth and cordiality. It is humiliating to me to reflect, now, that at that moment I even shed some tears of gratitude, and felt them coursing down the backbone of my nose and dripping from the end of it.

Never mind the remainder of the conversation - suffice it that I was charged to be at the Incidental punctually at ten o'clock on Tuesday morning, and that I promised to do so.

Well, at the appointed time, I was there. That is, I was as near as I could get - I was on the outskirts of a crowd that occupied all the pavement outside and filled the office inside. Young Smith, of Buncombe and Brimstone, approached me with an air of superiority, and remarked languidly that he guessed he would go to the races. He dropped his airs, though, very suddenly, and came down to my level when I told him I was going to the races also. He said he thought all the conveyances in town had been secured a week ago. I assumed a crushing demeanor of wealthy indifference, and remarked, rather patronizingly, that I had seen greater races - in Europe and other places - and did not care about seeing this one, but then Homestead had insisted so on my going with him that -

"The very devil!" says young Smith, "give us your hand! we're compangyongs dew vo-yaj!" (he affects the French, does young Smith,) - "I'm going with Homestead, too, my boy!"

We grew cordial in a moment, and went around, arm-in-arm, patronizing the balance of the crowd. But somehow, every man we accosted silenced our batteries as I had silenced young Smith's in the first place - they were all going with Homestead. I tell you candidly, and in all seriousness, that when I came to find out that there were a hundred and fifty men there, all going to the races, and all going with Homestead, I began to think it was - was - singular, at the very least, not to say exceedingly strange.

But I am tired of this infamous subject - I am tired of this disgraceful narrative, and I shall not finish it.

However, as I have gone this far, I will quote from a conversation that occurred in front of the hotel at ten o'clock. The degraded Homestead stepped out at the door, and bowed, and smiled his hated smile, and said, blandly:

"Ah, you are all here, I see. I am glad you are so punctual, for there is nothing that worries me so much when I am going on a little trip like this for recreation, as to be delayed. Well, boys, time presses - let's make a start."

"I guess we're all ready, Mr. Homestead," said one gentleman, "but - but how are you going?"

The depraved Homestead smiled, as if he were going to say something very smart, and then, "Oh," says he, "I'M GOING TO WALK!"

I have made a plain, simple statement of the facts connected with this outrage, and they can be substantiated by every man who was present upon that occasion. I will now drop this subject forever.

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