The Young Master
Two days after, a young man drove a light wagon up through the avenue of China trees, and, throwing the reins hastily on the horses neck, sprang out and inquired for the owner of the place.
It was George Shelby; and, to show how he came to be there, we must go back in our story.
The letter of Miss Ophelia to Mrs. Shelby had, by some unfortunate accident, been detained, for a month or two, at some remote post-office, before it reached its destination; and, of course, before it was received, Tom was already lost to view among the distant swamps of the Red river.
Mrs. Shelby read the intelligence with the deepest concern; but any immediate action upon it was an impossibility. She was then in attendance on the sick-bed of her husband, who lay delirious in the crisis of a fever. Master George Shelby, who, in the interval, had changed from a boy to a tall young man, was her constant and faithful assistant, and her only reliance in superintending his fathers affairs. Miss Ophelia had taken the precaution to send them the name of the lawyer who did business for the St. Clares; and the most that, in the emergency, could be done, was to address a letter of inquiry to him. The sudden death of Mr. Shelby, a few days after, brought, of course, an absorbing pressure of other interests, for a season.
Mr. Shelby showed his confidence in his wifes ability, by appointing her sole executrix upon his estates; and thus immediately a large and complicated amount of business was brought upon her hands.
Mrs. Shelby, with characteristic energy, applied herself to the work of straightening the entangled web of affairs; and she and George were for some time occupied with collecting and examining accounts, selling property and settling debts; for Mrs. Shelby was determined that everything should be brought into tangible and recognizable shape, let the consequences to her prove what they might. In the mean time, they received a letter from the lawyer to whom Miss Ophelia had referred them, saying that he knew nothing of the matter; that the man was sold at a public auction, and that, beyond receiving the money, he knew nothing of the affair.
Neither George nor Mrs. Shelby could be easy at this result; and, accordingly, some six months after, the latter, having business for his mother, down the river, resolved to visit New Orleans, in person, and push his inquiries, in hopes of discovering Toms whereabouts, and restoring him.
After some months of unsuccessful search, by the merest accident, George fell in with a man, in New Orleans, who happened to be possessed of the desired information; and with his money in his pocket, our hero took steamboat for Red river, resolving to find out and re-purchase his old friend.
He was soon introduced into the house, where he found Legree in the sitting-room.
Legree received the stranger with a kind of surly hospitality,
I understand, said the young man, that you bought, in New Orleans, a boy, named Tom. He used to be on my fathers place, and I came to see if I couldnt buy him back.
Legrees brow grew dark, and he broke out, passionately: Yes, I did buy such a fellow,and a hl of a bargain I had of it, too! The most rebellious, saucy, impudent dog! Set up my niggers to run away; got off two gals, worth eight hundred or a thousand apiece. He owned to that, and, when I bid him tell me where they was, he up and said he knew, but he wouldnt tell; and stood to it, though I gave him the cussedest flogging I ever gave nigger yet. I blieve hes trying to die; but I dont know as hell make it out.
Where is he? said George, impetuously. Let me see him. The cheeks of the young man were crimson, and his eyes flashed fire; but he prudently said nothing, as yet.
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