The fox darted almost silently in between the wooded groves, swiftly maneuvering over blades of dewy grass and shattered debris from last evening’s storm.In the distance, the baying of foxhounds could be heard echoing through the terrain as the dirt and gravel trembled under the horses’ huffs speedily following the hounds through every thicket of trees and over every stony stream.His master was unyielding in his pursuit of the fine-looking creature.Being the only other man that could keep up with his master gave Billy great satisfaction.This persistent dedication to his master’s side would serve Billy, and his master, well in the tumultuous years to come, just as it served him well this day.
Billy had been hand picked by the head master, Mr. Suffolk, to serve the colonel.Billy was well known on the plantation for his brute strength, but also his capacity for leadership and keen thought.His abilities to think and lead, traits usually unnoticed and uncared for, were greatly appreciated.Had it not been for Mr. Suffolk’s languid demeanor towards work, Billy’s skills would most likely have gone overlooked.Suffolk gave Billy a great deal of responsibility unheard of for a slave in Virginia, or anywhere for that matter.So, when the colonel came to Mr. Suffolk and asked for his “most well-bred and sensible slave” Suffolk had no other choice but to recommend Billy.He hated the thought of losing such a solid body and of actually having to fulfill his duties, but he feared what would happen if he recommended one of the other brutes, who would most assuredly fail the colonel’s expectations.
This is how it came to be, two years later, that on a crisp autumn day Billy rode along side his master, with five foxhounds leading the pursuit and a pack of other riders far behind.The colonel had been a master hunter for years.The thrill of the chase and showing of stamina was what moved him, not the promise of death, which he saw as a cruel, brutal trait of the sport even though his ancestors touted it to be the most important.The colonel felt that there could still be a sense of achievement even if the hunt did not end with the foxes’ death.This perspective of the colonel would later cause most of his British counterparts to see him as weak and vulnerable.They chided the colonials for being lead by a man who did not have the resolution to kill his quarry.Billy, on the other hand, viewed this quality of his master as one of his finest.He saw great humanity and dignity in him for sparing the foxes’ life.
As they continued their chase through the rugged land, Billy began to notice that his master’s persistence seemed far greater than usual.They had now been riding for nearly six hours with no signs of letting up.He was amazed that the fox had not found a burrow to go underground, and that the hounds had not let up in their search.It was as if the stakes were higher for this chase, and Billy’s master, his hounds, the fox, and Billy all knew it.
It was no wonder to Billy why his master seemed more excited than usual for this particular foxhunt.For months now the colonel had been under great stress.His correspondence with Philadelphia had more than tripled in recent weeks, and there was talk of a major promotion in the immediate future.Billy knew his master would accept any challenge wholeheartedly and patriotically, but he also knew the colonel fretted about leaving his dear wife and beautiful Virginian home.Billy sensed this stress growing every day.The colonel had a deep, brooding consciousness about him, almost as if he knew the true severity of the task upon which he was about to embark.Billy never dared to question his master about the letters he received or the moods he was in, for it was hardly his place, but even a simple eye could see the growing strain on the colonel.So, when Billy was informed of the upcoming chase, he was more than elated for his master since he knew what wonderful relief it would be.
Up ahead of Billy and the colonel the hounds’ cries began to cease.It was obvious to both riders that the chase was over.As they came upon the hounds, they could tell immediately that this pursuit had ended differently than most of the others.The fox lay in the middle of a circle of hounds, its brilliant orange-red coat contrasted ever so lightly with a sheen of blood red.Billy and his master pulled their horses to a halt and slowly dismounted.The hounds moved for the colonel, who delicately bent to pick up his prey.For a brief instant Billy sensed a strange feeling about his master.The colonel stood for a moment, exacting the cost of his pursuit and accomplishment.He touched his hand to the most severe wound on the fox and doused it in the foxes’ blood, and then he walked to Billy and smeared the blood onto his cheeks.When the other riders caught up, they were surprised to find the body of the fox slung over the colonel’s horse as he and Billy trotted back towards the stables.Neither man had a smile on his face.
The silence was palpable on the slow ride back.Billy stayed behind his master with ambivalent thoughts running through his head.Never had a chase ended with so little celebration.Billy again felt deep concern for his master as they rode towards the setting sun.He had seen a great change in him that day.There was a peacefulness lost that would never be reclaimed.He touched the drying blood of the fox and wondered why the colonel had done such a thing.
In a few days their greatest journey together would begin.On the horizon lay the prospects of great honor and grand achievements, but also blinding pain and endless suffering.Through it all Billy would remain by his master’s side, the unflappable servant and most consistent companion.
Created: Feb 03, 2012Patrick Edmonds Document Media