“Oh, by all means! the three of us!”
The flower ignored them both. “There was the auctioneer,” she said; “there were the slaves, there the crowd of bidders; between them the block, above them the beautiful dome. Very soon Mingo was on the block, and the first bid was from Sidney. She was the only one in a hurry except Mingo. He was trying to see her, but she was hiding from him behind grandpere; yet not from the auctioneer. The auctioneer stopped.
“‘Who authorized you to bid here?’ he asked her.
“‘Nobody, sir; I’s free.’ She held up her paper.
“Grandpere nodded to the auctioneer.
“‘Will Mr. Chapdelaine please read it out?’
“He read it out, signature and all.
“‘Anybody know any one of that name?’ the auctioneer asked, and grand’mere said:
“’That’s my aunt. This free girl is my maid.”
“‘Oh, bidding for you?’ he said; and grand’mere said no, the girl was bidding on her own account, with her own money.
“‘What kind of money? We can’t take shinplasters.’ For ’twas then ’sixty-one—year of secession, you know.
“‘Gold!’ Sidney called out, and held it up in a black stocking, so high that every one laughed.”
“Not Mingo, I fancy.”
“Ah, no, nor the keeper of the gang.”
“—Wonder how Mingo was behaving.”
“He? he was shaking and weeping, and begging this and that of the man who held and threatened him, to keep him quiet. So then the auctioneer began to call Sidney’s bid. You know how that would be: ’Gentlemen, I’m offered five hundred dollars. Cinq cent piastres, messieurs! Only five hundred for this likely boy worth all of nine! Who’ll say six? Going at five hundred, what do I hear?’ But he heard nothing till—’third and last call!’ Then the owner of the gang nodded and the auctioneer called out, ‘six hundred!"’
“And did Sidney raise it?”
“No, she wept aloud. ‘Oh, my brotheh!’ she cried, ‘Lawd save my po’ brotheh! I’s los’ him ag’in! I done bid my las’ dollah at de fust call!’”
“And Mingo knew her voice, spied her out?”
“Yes, and holloed, ‘Sidney! sisteh!’ till grand-mere wept too and a man called out, ‘No one bid that six hundred!’ But grandpere said: ’I bid six-fifty and will tell all about this unlikely boy if his owner bids again.’
“So Mingo was sold to grandpere. ‘And now,’ grandpere whispered to grand-mere and her friends, ’go pack trunks for the ship as fast as you can.’”
“And they parted like that? But of course not!”
“No, only expected to. In the Gulf, at the mouth of the river, a Confederate privateer”—the narrator’s voice faded out. She began to rise. Her aunts were returning.
Mademoiselle, we say, began to rise. Chester stood. Also Cupid. The aunts drew near, speaking with infantile lightness: