“He an’t gwine to be sold widout me!” said the old woman, with passionate eagerness; “he and I goes in a lot together; I ’s rail strong yet, Mas’r and can do heaps o’ work,—heaps on it, Mas’r.”
“On plantation?” said Haley, with a contemptuous glance. “Likely story!” and, as if satisfied with his examination, he walked out and looked, and stood with his hands in his pocket, his cigar in his mouth, and his hat cocked on one side, ready for action.
“What think of ’em?” said a man who had been following Haley’s examination, as if to make up his own mind from it.
“Wal,” said Haley, spitting, “I shall put in, I think, for the youngerly ones and the boy.”
“They want to sell the boy and the old woman together,” said the man.
“Find it a tight pull;—why, she’s an old rack o’ bones,—not worth her salt.”
“You wouldn’t then?” said the man.
“Anybody ’d be a fool ’t would. She’s half blind, crooked with rheumatis, and foolish to boot.”
“Some buys up these yer old critturs, and ses there’s a sight more wear in ’em than a body ’d think,” said the man, reflectively.
“No go, ’t all,” said Haley; “wouldn’t take her for a present,—fact,—I’ve seen, now.”
“Wal, ’t is kinder pity, now, not to buy her with her son,—her heart seems so sot on him,—s’pose they fling her in cheap.”
“Them that’s got money to spend that ar way, it’s all well enough. I shall bid off on that ar boy for a plantation-hand;—wouldn’t be bothered with her, no way, not if they’d give her to me,” said Haley.
“She’ll take on desp’t,” said the man.
“Nat’lly, she will,” said the trader, coolly.
The conversation was here interrupted by a busy hum in the audience; and the auctioneer, a short, bustling, important fellow, elbowed his way into the crowd. The old woman drew in her breath, and caught instinctively at her son.
“Keep close to yer mammy, Albert,—close,—dey’ll put us up togedder,” she said.
“O, mammy, I’m feard they won’t,” said the boy.
“Dey must, child; I can’t live, no ways, if they don’t” said the old creature, vehemently.
The stentorian tones of the auctioneer, calling out to clear the way, now announced that the sale was about to commence. A place was cleared, and the bidding began. The different men on the list were soon knocked off at prices which showed a pretty brisk demand in the market; two of them fell to Haley.
“Come, now, young un,” said the auctioneer, giving the boy a touch with his hammer, “be up and show your springs, now.”
“Put us two up togedder, togedder,—do please, Mas’r,” said the old woman, holding fast to her boy.
“Be off,” said the man, gruffly, pushing her hands away; “you come last. Now, darkey, spring;” and, with the word, he pushed the boy toward the block, while a deep, heavy groan rose behind him. The boy paused, and looked back; but there was no time to stay, and, dashing the tears from his large, bright eyes, he was up in a moment.