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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN (continued)
The king he visited around, in the evening, and sweetened everybody up, and made himself ever so friendly; and he give out the idea that his congregation over in England would be in a sweat about him, so he must hurry and settle up the estate right away, and leave for home. He was very sorry he was so pushed, and so was everybody; they wished he could stay longer, but they said they could see it couldn’t be done. And he said of course him and William would take the girls home with them; and that pleased everybody too, because then the girls would be well fixed, and amongst their own relations; and it pleased the girls, too-tickled them so they clean forgot they ever had a trouble in the world; and told him to sell out as quick as he wanted to, they would be ready. Them poor things was that glad and happy it made my heart ache to see them getting fooled and lied to so, but I didn’t see no safe way for me to chip in and change the general tune.
Well, blamed if the king didn’t bill the house and the niggers and all the property for auction straight off-sale two days after the funeral; but anybody could buy private beforehand if they wanted to.
So the next day after the funeral, along about noontime, the girls’ joy got the first jolt; a couple of nigger traders come along, and the king sold them the niggers reasonable, for three-day drafts as they called it, and away they went, the two sons up the river to Memphis, and their mother down the river to Orleans. I thought them poor girls and them niggers would break their hearts for grief; they cried around each other, and took on so it most made me down sick to see it. The girls said they hadn’t ever dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold away from the town. I can’t ever get it out of my memory, the sight of them poor miserable girls and niggers hanging around each other’s necks and crying; and I reckon I couldn’t a stood it all but would a had to bust out and tell on our gang if I hadn’t known the sale warn’t no account and the niggers would be back home in a week or two.
The thing made a big stir in the town, too, and a good many come out flatfooted and said it was scandalous to separate the mother and the children that way. It injured the frauds some; but the old fool he bulled right along, spite of all the duke could say or do, and I tell you the duke was powerful uneasy.
Next day was auction day. About broad-day in the morning, the king and the duke come up in the garret and woke me up, and I see by their look that there was trouble. The king says: “Was you in my room night before last?” “No, your majesty”- which was the way I always called him when nobody but our gang warn’t around.
“Was you in there yesterday er last night?” “No, your majesty.” “Honor bright, nowno lies.” “Honor bright, your majesty, I’m telling you the truth. I hain’t been anear your room since Miss Mary Jane took you and the duke and showed it to you.” The duke says: “Have you seen anybody else go in there?” “No, your grace, not as I remember, I believe.” “Stop and think.” I studied a while, and see my chance, then I says: “Well, I see the niggers go in there several times.” Both of them give a little jump; and looked like they hadn’t ever expected it, and then like they had. Then the duke says: “What, all of them?” “No-leastways not all at once. That is, I don’t think I ever see them all come out at once but just one time.” “Hello-when was that?” “It was the day we had the funeral. In the morning. It warn’t early, because I overslept. I was just starting down the ladder, and I see them.” “Well, go on, go on-what did they do? How’d they act?” “They didn’t do anything. And they didn’t act anyway, much, as fur as I see.
They tip-toed away; so I seen, easy enough, that they’d shoved in there to do up your majesty’s room, or something, sposing you was up; and found you warn’t up, and so they was hoping to slide out of the way of trouble without waking you up, if they hadn’t already waked you up.” “Great guns, this is a go!” says the king; and both of them looked pretty sick, and tolerable silly. They stood there a thinking and scratching their heads, a minute, and then the duke he bust into a kind of a little raspy chuckle, and says: “It does beat all, how neat the niggers played their hand. They let on to be sorry they was going out of this region! and I believed they was sorry. And so did you, and so did everybody. Don’t ever tell me any more that a nigger ain’t got any histrionic talent. Why, the way they played that thing, it would fool anybody.
In my opinion there’s a fortune in ‘em. If I had capital and a theatre, I wouldn’t want a better lay out than that-and here we’ve gone and sold ‘em for a song. Yes, and ain’t privileged to sing the song, yet. Say, where is that song?- that draft.” “In the bank for to be collected. Where would it be?” “Well, that’s all right then, thank goodness.” Says I, kind of timid-like: “Is something gone wrong?” The king whirls on me and rips out: “None o’ your business! You keep your head shet, and mind y’r own affairsif you got any. Long as you’re in this town, don’t you forgit that, you hear?” Then he says to the duke, “We got to jest swaller it, and say noth’n: mum’s the word for us.” As they was starting down the ladder, the duke he chuckles again, and says: “Quick sales and small profits! It’s a good business-yes.” The king snarls around on him and says, “I was trying to do for the best, in sellin’ ‘m out so quick. If the profits has turned out to be none, lackin’ considable, and none to carry, is it my fault any more’n it’s yourn?” “Well, they’d be in this house yet, and we wouldn’t if I could a got my advice listened to.”
The king sassed back, as much as was safe for him, and then swapped around and lit into me again. He give me down the banks for not coming and telling him I see the niggers come out of his room acting that way-said any fool would a knowed something was up. And then waltzed in and cussed himself a while; and said it all come of him not laying late and taking his natural rest that morning, and he’d be blamed if he’d ever do it again. So they went off a jawing; and I felt dreadful glad I’d worked it all off onto the niggers and yet hadn’t done the niggers no harm by it.