Mr. Benson smiles in reply, and adjusts the very stiffly starched corners of his ponderous shirt collar, which he desires to keep well closed around his chin. “An honourable man, that’s true, sir, can’t live honestly by the law, now-a-days,” he concludes, with measured sedateness. He will now get his bill-book, in which to make a record of the piece of paper taken in exchange for the human ‘imp.’
“Clap your name across the face!” demands Graspum; and Grabguy seizes a pen, and quickly consummates the bargain by inscribing his name, passing it to Mr. Benson, and, in return, receiving the bill of sale, which he places in his breast pocket. He will not trouble Mr. Benson any further; but, if he will supply a small piece of paper, Mr. Grabguy will very kindly give the imp an order, and send him to his workshop.
“Will the gentleman be kind enough to help himself,” says Mr. Benson, passing a quire upon the table at which Mr. Grabguy sits.
“I’ll trim that chap into a first-rate mechanic,” says Mr. Grabguy, as he writes,—“I have bought the bearer, Nicholas, a promising chap, as you will see. Take him into the shop and set him at something, if it is only turning the grindstone; as I hav’nt made up my mind exactly about what branch to set him at. He’s got temper-you’ll see that in a minute, and will want some breakin in, if I don’t calklate ’rong.” This Mr. Grabguy envelopes, and directs to his master mechanic. When all things are arranged to his satisfaction, Nicholas is again brought into his presence, receives an admonition, is told what he may expect if he displays his bad temper, is presented with the note, and despatched, with sundry directions, to seek his way alone, to his late purchaser’s workshop.
“Come, boy! ain’t you going to say ‘good-by’ to me ’afore you go? I hav’nt been a bad master to you,” says Graspum, putting out his hand.
“Yes, master,” mutters the child, turning about ere he reaches the door. He advances towards Graspum, puts out his little hand; and in saying “good by, master,” there is so much childish simplicity in his manner that it touches the tender chord embalmed within that iron frame. “Be a good little fellow!” he says, his emotions rising. How strong are the workings of nature when brought in contact with unnatural laws! The monster who has made the child wretched—who has for ever blasted its hopes, shakes it by the hand, and says—“good by, little ’un!” as it leaves the door to seek the home of a new purchaser. How strange the thoughts invading that child’s mind, as, a slave for life, it plods its way through the busy thoroughfares! Forcibly the happy incidents of the past are recalled; they are touching reclections-sweets in the dark void of a slave’s life; but to him no way-marks, to measure the happy home embalmed therein, are left.
Workings of the slave system.