About eleven oclock the next day, a mixed throng was gathered around the court-house steps,smoking, chewing, spitting, swearing, and conversing, according to their respective tastes and turns,waiting for the auction to commence. The men and women to be sold sat in a group apart, talking in a low tone to each other. The woman who had been advertised by the name of Hagar was a regular African in feature and figure. She might have been sixty, but was older than that by hard work and disease, was partially blind, and somewhat crippled with rheumatism. By her side stood her only remaining son, Albert, a bright-looking little fellow of fourteen years. The boy was the only survivor of a large family, who had been successively sold away from her to a southern market. The mother held on to him with both her shaking hands, and eyed with intense trepidation every one who walked up to examine him.
Dont be feard, Aunt Hagar, said the oldest of the men, I spoke to Masr Thomas bout it, and he thought he might manage to sell you in a lot both together.
Dey neednt call me worn out yet, said she, lifting her shaking hands. I can cook yet, and scrub, and scour,Im wuth a buying, if I do come cheap;tell em dat ar,you tell em, she added, earnestly.
Haley here forced his way into the group, walked up to the old man, pulled his mouth open and looked in, felt of his teeth, made him stand and straighten himself, bend his back, and perform various evolutions to show his muscles; and then passed on to the next, and put him through the same trial. Walking up last to the boy, he felt of his arms, straightened his hands, and looked at his fingers, and made him jump, to show his agility.
He ant 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, Masr and can do heaps o work,heaps on it, Masr.
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 Haleys 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, shes an old rack o bones,not worth her salt.
You wouldnt then? said the man.
Anybody d be a fool t would. Shes half blind, crooked with rheumatis, and foolish to boot.
Some buys up these yer old critturs, and ses theres a sight more wear in em than a body d think, said the man, reflectively.
No go, t all, said Haley; wouldnt take her for a present,fact,Ive seen, now.
Wal, t is kinder pity, now, not to buy her with her son,her heart seems so sot on him,spose they fling her in cheap.
Them thats got money to spend that ar way, its all well enough. I shall bid off on that ar boy for a plantation- hand;wouldnt be bothered with her, no way, notif theyd give her to me, said Haley.
Shell take on despt, said the man.
Natlly, she will, said the trader, coolly.
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