He stuck a long gnawed pencil erect between his finger and thumb, and stared impertinently at Moore. The Squire nodded, and the bidding went on in this silent fashion till the bids had actually run up to three thousand four hundred dollars. All this while the poor negro, whose limbs no longer supported him, crouched in a heap on the table, turning his haggard eye alternately on Moore and on the erect and motionless pencil of the broker. The crowd had become silent with excitement. Unable to stand the heat and agitation, Moore’s unfriendly brother had crossed the square in search of a “short drink.” Moore nodded once more.
“Three thousand six hundred dollars bid,” cried the auctioneer, and looked at Isaacs.
With a wild howl Isaacs dashed his pencil in the air, tossed up his hands, and thrust them deep down between his coat collar and his body, uttering all the while yells of pain.
“Don’t you bid, Mr. Isaacs?” asked the auctioneer, without receiving any answer except Semitic appeals to holy Abraham, blended with Aryan profanity.
“Come,” said Moore very severely, “his pencil is down, and he has withdrawn his bid. There is no other bidder; knock the lot down to me.”
“No more offers?” said the auctioneer slowly, looking all round the square.
There were certainly no offers from Mr. Isaacs, who now was bounding like the gad-stung Io to the furthest end of the place.
“This fine buck-negro, warranted absolutely unsound of wind and limb, going, going, a shameful sacrifice, for a poor three thousand six hundred dollars. Going, going—gone!”
The hammer fell with a sharp, decisive sound.
A fearful volley of oaths rattled after the noise, like thunder rolling away in the distance.
Moore’s brother had returned from achieving a “short drink” just in time to see his coveted lot knocked down to his rival.
We left the spot, with the negro in the care of Peter, as quickly as might be.
“I wonder,” said Moore, as we reached the inn and ordered a trap to carry our valuable bargain home in—“I wonder what on earth made Isaacs run off like a maniac.”
“Massa,” whispered Peter, “yesterday I jes’ caught yer Brer Hornet a-loafin’ around in the wood. ‘Come wi’ me,’ says I, ’and bottled him in this yer pasteboard box,’” showing one which had held Turkish tobacco. “When I saw that Hebrew Jew wouldn’t stir his pencil, I jes’ crept up softly and dropped Brer Hornet down his neck. Then he jes’ rose and went. Spec’s he and Brer Hornet had business of their own.”
“Peter,” said Moore, “you are a good boy, but you will come to a bad end.”
As we rode slowly homeward, behind the trap which conveyed the dear-bought slave, Moore was extremely moody and disinclined for conversation.
“Is your purchase not rather an expensive one?” I ventured to ask, to which Moore replied shortly—