But of all the scenes that might have been observed in Lexington on that day, the most remarkable occurred in front of the old courthouse at the hour of high noon. On the mellow stroke of the clock in the steeple above the sheriff stepped briskly forth, closely followed by a man of powerful frame, whom he commanded to station himself on the pavement several feet off. A crowd of men and boys had already collected in anticipation, and others came quickly up as the clear voice of the sheriff was heard across the open public square and old market-place.
He stood on the topmost of the courthouse steps, and for a moment looked down on the crowd with the usual air of official severity.
Gentlemen, he then cried out sharply, by an ordah of the cout I now offah this man at public sale to the highes biddah. He is able-bodied but lazy, without visible property or means of suppoht, an of dissolute habits. He is therefoh adjudged guilty of high misdemeanahs, an is to be sole into labah foh a twelve-month. How much, then, am I offahed foh the vagrant? How much am I offahed foh ole King Solmon?
Nothing was offered for old King Solomon. The spectators formed themselves into a ring around the big vagrant and settled down to enjoy the performance.
Staht im, somebody.
Somebody started a laugh, which rippled around the circle.
The sheriff looked on with an expression of unrelaxed severity, but catching the eye of an acquaintance on the outskirts, he exchanged a lightning wink of secret appreciation. Then he lifted off his tight beaver hat, wiped out of his eyes a little shower of perspiration which rolled suddenly down from above, and warmed a degree to his theme.
Come, gentlemen, he said, more suasively, its too hot to stan heah all day. Make me an offah! You all know ole King Solmon; dont wait to be interduced. How much, then, to stahtim? Say fifty dollahs! Twenty-five! Fifteen! Ten! Why, gentlemen! Not ten dollahs? Remembah this is the Blue-grass Region of Kentuckythe land of Boone an Kenton, the home of Henry Clay! he added, in an oratorical crescendo.
He aint wuth his victuals, said an oily little tavern-keeper folding his arms restfully over his own stomach and cocking up one piggish eye into his neighbors face. He aint wuth his taters.
Buy im foh is rags! cried a young law-student, with a Blackstone under his arm, to the town rag-picker opposite, who was unconsciously ogling the vagrants apparel.
I might buy im foh is scalp, drawled a farmer, who had taken part in all kinds of scalp contests and was now known to be busily engaged in collecting crow scalps for a match soon to come off between two rival counties.
I think Ill buy im foh a hat-sign, said a manufacturer of ten-dollar Castor and Rhorum hats. This sally drew merry attention to the vagrants hat, and the merchant felt rewarded.
Youd bettah say the town ought to buy im an put im up on top of the cout-house as a scarecrow foh the cholera, said someone else.
What news of the cholera did the stage-coach bring this mohning? quickly inquired his neighbor in his ear; and the two immediately fell into low, grave talk, forgot the auction, and turned away.
Stop, gentlemen, stop! cried the sheriff, who had watched the rising tide of good-humor, and now saw his chance to float in on it with spreading sails. Youre runnin the price in the wrong directiondown, not up. The law requires that he be sole to the highes biddah, not the lowes. As loyal citizens, uphole the constitution of the commonwealth of Kentucky an make me an offah; the man is really a great bargain.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|