There had been a long talk that morning between himself and a young lady, a stranger to him, whose wondrous beauty had thrilled his heart just as it did every heart beating beneath a male’s attire. The lady had seemed a little worried, as she talked, casting anxious glances up the Lexington turnpike, and asking several times when the Lexington cars were due.
“It shan’t make no difference. I’ll take your word,” the auctioneer had said in reply to some doubts expressed by her. “I’d trust your face for a million,” and with a profound bow by way of emphasizing his compliment, the well-meaning Skinner went out to the group assembled near Rocket while the lady returned to the upper chamber where Mrs. Tiffton and Ellen were assembled.
Once Harney’s voice, pitched in its blandest tone, was heard talking to the ladies, and then Ellen stopped her ears, exclaiming passionately:
“I hate that man, I hate him. I almost wish that I could kill him.”
“Hush, Ellen; remember! ’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord,’” Alice whispered to the excited girl who answered hastily:
“Don’t preach to me now. I’m too wretched. Wait till you lose everything by one man’s villainy, then see if you won’t curse him.”
There was an increased confusion in the yard below, and Alice knew the sale was about to commence. The white-haired colonel kept watch while one after another of his household goods were sold. Inferior articles they were at first, and the crowd were not much disposed to bid, but all were dear to the old man, who groaned each time an article was knocked off, and so passed effectually from his possession.
The crowd grew weary at last—they must have brisker sport than that, if they would keep warm in that chilly November wind, and cries for the “horses” were heard.
“Your crack ones, too. I’m tired of this,” growled Harney, and Ellen’s riding pony was led out. The colonel saw the playful animal, and tottered to Ellen’s chamber, saying:
“They’re going to sell Beauty, Nell. Poor Nellie, don’t cry,” and the old man laid his hand on his weeping daughter’s head.
“Colonel Tiffton, this way please,” and Alice spoke in a whisper. “I want Beauty. Couldn’t you bid for me, bid all you would be willing to give if you were bidding for Ellen?”
The colonel looked at her in a kind of dazed, bewildered way, as if not fully comprehending her, till she repeated her request; then mechanically he went back to his post on the balcony, and just as Harney’s last bid was about to receive the final “gone,” he raised it twenty dollars, and ere Harney had time to recover his astonishment, Beauty was disposed of, and the colonel’s servant Ham led her in triumph back to the stable.
With a fierce scowl of defiance Harney called for Rocket. Suspecting something wrong the animal refused to come out, and planting his fore feet firmly upon the floor of the stable, kept them all at bay. With a fierce oath, the brutal Harney gave him a stinging blow, which made the tender flesh quiver with pain, but the fiery gleam in the noble animal’s eye warned him not to repeat it. Suddenly among the excited group of dusky faces he spied that of Claib, and bade him lead out the horse.