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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. Well, darned it if the king didn’t prepare to auction the house and the n------ and all the property just two days after the funeral. Anybody could buy anything from him privately beforehand if they wanted to.
So the next day after the funeral, along about noon-time, 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 knowed the sale warn’t no account and the niggers would be back home in a week or two. The girl’s bubble started to burst around noon the day after the funeral. A couple of n----- traders came along and the king sold his n------ to them for a reasonable price. The buyers wrote a check, and away they went. Two sons were sold up the river to work in Memphis and their mother was sold down the river to New Orleans. I thought the girls and the n-----’s hearts were going to break out of grief. They cried and carried on so much that it made me down right sick to watch. The girls said they never dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold to out-of-towners. I will never forget the sight of those poor miserable girls and n------ hugging each other and crying. I probably wouldn’t have been able to stand it, and would have ratted out our whole gang, if I hadn’t known that the sale wasn’t legal and that the n------ 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. The sale caused major controversy in town and prompted many people to put their feet down in protest because it was so scandalous to separate the mother and children that way. It hurt the reputation of the king and the duke, but the king played along, despite the duke’s protests. You could tell the duke was getting pretty 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: The auction was held the day after. The king and the duke came up to the attic around mid morning and woke me up. I could see by the look on their faces that there was trouble. The king said:
“Was you in my room night before last?” “Were you in my room the night before last?”
“No, your majesty"—which was the way I always called him when nobody but our gang warn’t around. “No, your majesty,” which is what I always called him when no one except the people in our little group were around.
“Was you in there yisterday er last night?” “Were you in there yesterday, er, I mean, last night?”
“No, your majesty.” “No, your majesty.”
“Honor bright, now—no lies.” “Be honest now—don’t lie.”
“Honor bright, your majesty, I’m telling you the truth. I hain’t been a-near your room since Miss Mary Jane took you and the duke and showed it to you.” “Honestly, your majesty. I’m telling you the truth. I haven’t been near your room since Miss Mary Jane showed it to you and the duke.”
The duke says: The duke said:
“Have you seen anybody else go in there?” “Have you seen anyone else go in there?”
“No, your grace, not as I remember, I believe.” “No, your grace. Not that I remember anyway.”
“Stop and think.” “Stop and think.”
I studied awhile and see my chance; then I says: I thought about it awhile, and saw the opportunity I was looking for. I said:
“Well, I see the niggers go in there several times.” “Well, I’ve seen the n------ go in there several times.”
Both of them gave a little jump, and looked like they hadn’t ever expected it, and then like they HAD. Then the duke says: Both of them jumped a little bit, completely caught off guard. Then they acted like they expected that to be my answer. The duke said:
“What, all of them?” “What do you mean? 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.” “No. Well, not all at the same time, anyways. I think there was only one time when I saw them all come OUT at the same time.”
“Hello! When was that?” “A-ha! 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.” “It was in the morning on the day of the funeral. I’d overslept, so it wasn’t too early. I was just coming down the ladder when I saw them.”
“Well, go on, GO on! What did they do? How’d they act?” “Well, go on, go on! What did they do? How were they acting?”
“They didn’t do nothing. And they didn’t act anyway much, as fur as I see. They tiptoed away; so I seen, easy enough, that they’d shoved in there to do up your majesty’s room, or something, s’posing 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.” “They weren’t doing anything. And they weren’t acting strangely as far as I could tell. They tiptoed away. It looked to me as if they’d gone in to clean up your majesty’s room, thinking you were awake, but slipped quietly when they found you still in bed. They didn’t want to wake you up and get in any trouble.”
“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 the duke he bust into a kind of a little raspy chuckle, and says: “My god! That’s it!” said the king. Both of them looked pretty sick, and pretty silly too. They stood there a minute thinking and scratching their heads. The duke finally burst into kind of a raspy chuckle, and said:
“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 theater, 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?” “Those n------ played their hand pretty well. They pretended to be SAD that they were being sold far away from here! And I believed they WERE sorry, and so did you and everyone else. Don’t ever tell ME that n------ can’t act. Why, the way they acted, they could have fooled ANYBODY. They could make a fortune, in my opinion. If I had some money and a theater, I couldn’t ask for better actors. And we’ve just sold them for a pittance! A pittance! Hey, where’s that check the traders wrote you?”