The moment came. The starter dropped his red flag. “They’re away!”
Not for one second did Agba need to hunt for Lath in that flying stream of horseflesh. He did not even look for the scarlet and white stripes of the jockey’s body-coat. His eyes were fixed on the littlest horse, the littlest horse that got away to a bad start!
The field was far out in front. The big horses were whipping down the steep slope to Devil’s Dyke, skimming along the running gap, leaping up the opposite bank and across a long flat stretch. They were beginning to bunch, making narrow gaps. Lath was coming up from behind. He began filling in the gaps. He went through them. He was a blob of watercolor, trickling along the green turf between the other colors.
For a brief second the horses were hidden by a clump of hawthorn trees. Agba’s knees tightened. He felt Sham quiver beneath him, saw white flecks of sweat come out on his neck. It was well the grooms were there to hold them both!
The horses were coming around the trees now. The golden blob was still flowing between the other colors. It was flowing beyond them, flowing free!
In full stride, Lath was galloping down the dip and up the rise to the ending post. He was flying past it, leaving the “lusty” horses behind.
“The little horse wins!”
“Lath, an easy winner!”
“Lath, son of Godolphin Arabian, wins!”
People of all ages and all ranks clapped their hands and cheered in wild notes of triumph.
Agba never knew how he and Sham reached the royal stand. But suddenly, there they were. And the Earl of Godolphin was there, too.
“I am pleased to give,” Queen Caroline was saying in her sincere, straightforward manner, “I am pleased to give and bestow upon the Earl of Godolphin, the Queen’s Plate.”
Everyone could see it was not a plate that she held in her hands at all. It was a purse. But only Agba and the Earl knew how much that purse would mean to the future of the horse in England. The Earl looked right between the plumes in the Queen’s bonnet and found Agba’s eyes for an instant. Then he fell to his knees and kissed the Queen’s hand.
A hush fell over the heath. The Queen’s words pinged sharp and clear, like the pearls that suddenly broke from her necklace and fell upon the floor of the stand. No one stooped to recover them, for the Queen was speaking.
“And what,” she asked, as she fixed one of her own purple plumes in Sham’s headstall, “what is the pedigree of this proud sire of three winning horses?”
Agba leaned forward in his saddle.
There was a pause while the Earl found the right words. “Your Majesty,” he spoke slowly, thoughtfully, “his pedigree has been…has been lost. But perhaps it was so intended. His pedigree is written in his sons.”
How the country people cheered! An unknown stallion wearing the royal purple! It was a fairy tale come true.
The princesses clapped their hands, too. Even the King seemed pleased. He puffed out his chest and nodded to the Queen that the answer was good.
Agba swallowed. He felt a tear begin to trickle down his cheek. Quickly, before anyone noticed, he raised his hand to brush it away. His hand stopped. Why, he was growing a beard! He was a man! Suddenly his mind flew back to Morocco. My name is Agba. Ba means father. I will be a father to you, Sham, and when I am grown I will ride you before the multitudes. And they will bow before you, and you will be King of the Wind. I promise it.
He had kept his word!
For the first time in his life, he was glad he could not talk. Words would have spoiled everything. They were shells that cracked and blew away in the wind. He and Sham were alike. That was why they understood each other so deeply.
The Godolphin Arabian stood very still, his regal head lifted. An east wind was rising. He stretched out his nostrils to gather in the scent. It was laden with the fragrance of wind-flowers. Of what was he thinking? Was he re-running the race of Lath? Was he rejoicing in the royal purple? Was he drawing a wood cart in the streets of Paris? Or just winging across the grassy downs in