Beneath Harney’s coarse nature there was a strange susceptibility to female beauty, and neither the lustrous blue of Alice’s large eyes, nor yet the singular sweetness of her voice, as she thanked the clerk for his trouble, had been forgotten. He had heard that she was rich—how rich he did not know—but fancied she might possibly be worth a few paltry thousands, not more, and so, of course, she was not prepared to compete with him, who counted his gold by hundreds of thousands. Five hundred was all she would give for Rocket. How, then was he surprised and chagrined when, with a coolness equal to his own, she kept steadily on, scarcely allowing the auctioneer to repeat his bid before she increased it, and once, womanlike, raising on her own.
“Fie, Harney! Shame to go against a girl! Better give it up, for don’t you see she’s resolved to have him? She’s worth half Massachusetts, too, they say.”
These and like expressions met Harney on every side, until at last, as he paused to answer some of them, growing heated in the altercation, and for the instant forgetting Rocket, the auctioneer brought the hammer down with a click which made Harney leap from the ground, for by that sound he knew that Rocket was sold to Alice Johnson for six hundred dollars!
Meantime Alice had sought the friendly shelter of Ellen’s room, where the tension of nerve endured so long gave way, and sinking upon the sofa she fainted, just as down the Lexington turnpike came the man looked for so long in the earlier part of the day. She could not err, in Mr. Liston’s estimation, and Alice grew calm again, and in a hurried consultation explained to him more definitely than her letter had done, what her wishes were—Colonel Tiffton must not be homeless in his old age. There were ten thousand dollars lying in the —— Bank in Massachusetts, so she would have Mosside purchased in her name for Colonel Tiffton, not as a gift, for he would not accept it, but as a loan, to be paid at his convenience. This was Alice’s plan, and Mr. Liston acted upon it at once. Taking his place in the motley assemblage, he bid quietly, steadily, until at last Mosside, with its appurtenances, belonged ostensibly to him, and the half-glad, half-disappointed people wondered greatly who Mr. Jacob Liston could be, or from what quarter of the globe he had suddenly dropped into their midst.
Colonel Tiffton knew that nearly everything had been purchased by him, and felt glad that a stranger rather than a neighbor was to occupy what had been so dear to him, and that his servants would not be separated. With Ellen it was different. A neighbor might allow them to remain there a time, she said, while a stranger would not, and she was weeping bitterly, when, as the sound of voices and the tread of feet gradually died away from the yard below, Alice came to her side, and bending over her, said softly, “Could you bear some good news now—bear to know who is to inhabit Mosside?”