Tom, who had, to the full, the gentle, domestic heart, which woe for them! has been a peculiar characteristic of his unhappy race, got up and walked silently to look at his children.
“It’s the last time,” he said.
Aunt Chloe did not answer, only rubbed away over and over on the coarse shirt, already as smooth as hands could make it; and finally setting her iron suddenly down with a despairing plunge, she sat down to the table, and “lifted up her voice and wept.”
“I declare, it’s real mean! I don’t care what they say, any of ’em! It’s a nasty, mean shame! If I was a man, they shouldn’t do it,—they should not, so!” said George, with a kind of subdued howl.
“O! Mas’r George! this does me good!” said Tom. “I couldn’t bar to go off without seein’ ye! It does me real good, ye can’t tell!” Here Tom made some movement of his feet, and George’s eye fell on the fetters.
“Boys,” said Haley, coming up, briskly, “I hope you keep up good heart, and are cheerful. Now, no sulks, ye see; keep stiff upper lip, boys; do well by me, and I’ll do well by you.”
The boys addressed responded the invariable “Yes, Mas’r,” for ages the watchword of poor Africa; but it’s to be owned they did not look particularly cheerful; they had their various little prejudices in favor of wives, mothers, sisters, and children, seen for the last time,—and though “they that wasted them required of them mirth,” it was not instantly forthcoming.
“Lucy,” said the trader, “your child’s gone; you may as well know it first as last. You see, I know’d you couldn’t take him down south; and I got a chance to sell him to a first-rate family, that’ll raise him better than you can.”
But who, sir, makes the trader? Who is most to blame? The enlightened, cultivated, intelligent man, who supports the system of which the trader is the inevitable result, or the poor trader himself? You make the public sentiment that calls for his trade, that debauches and depraves him, till he feels no shame in it; and in what are you better than he?