|Beautiful Belmont, Part 12 -- The Wheeling Slave Auction: Bidding For Lucinda Taylor.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 11 - The Wheeling Slave Auction: Selling Aunt Tilda Taylor.
I was favorably impressed with the Southerner who had last bid on Aunt Tilda. He appeared a thoughtful, humane individual. I later learned he was a Mr. Copeland from Louisiana, and owned two large sugar plantations on the Mississippi River just above New Orleans. He lived on the one nearer the city, the other being 75 miles further up-river. The latter he had given to his son, who was given to gambling. I later also learned that the man who inspected Aunt Tilda's mouth was from the hemp district in the state of Mississippi, and his name was Maxwell.
While Maxwell was holding some conversation with the auctioneer, and the papers were being made out for Aunt Tilda's transfer to Mr. Cope, I noticed her daughter, Lucinda, weeping again. I sidled up to her, touched one of her hands hanging at her side and asked if she was sick. She stooped down over me and one of her tears dropped on my cheek. "No, no," she said; "they have sold mamma and I'll never see her again." She bent lower over me and said, "Who is that man who bought mamma? I saw you talking to him." "Oh, that is Mr. Cope; he is a Quaker, and lives over near where I do in Ohio. He is our miller," I replied. "Won't you go and ask him to buy me, too, so I can stay with mamma?" she said, still in a whisper.
"Here, boy, git out of here! Aunt Tilda, come down from there and let Lucinda go up," cried the auctioneer. I hastened off to deliver the message to Mr. Cope, who replied, "Yes, yes, my lad," and for the first time I saw another Quaker-dressed gentleman to whom he turned, and they began a quiet, earnest conversation a little apart from the others. Aunt Tilda came down from the block, closely watching the features and actions of her new master.
The girl went tremblingly up the steps. Her face and features were almost entirely concealed by a deep buff-colored sunbonnet. "Hold up your head there and let the buyers see you! No foolishness now!" yelled the auctioneer.
"It is my duty," said the auctioneer, turning to the crowd, "to tell all purchasers that the three slaves, Aunt Tilda and her two children, Lucinda and Mose, are good, obedient and industrious slaves. They have been well raised by an aristocratic gentlewoman in eastern Virginia, who died a year or so ago, and they were purchased at administration sale by a gentleman in this city who has met with financial misfortune, and they are now being sold to satisfy a judgment. The title is good; and I recommend them as good, obedient servants. The other nigger was bought at the same time from a neighboring slaveholder, and was brought here with the other three, and the owner and title are the same. I cannot recommend that boy, Sam Alexander, as highly as I can the others. He is a good worker, strong, active and industrious. He is pretty well educated, having kept the books and attended to the business affairs of his master in the eastern part of the state, on whose plantation he was born and raised. But gentlemen, he is a hard nigger to keep your eyes on. He has run away twice, and so you should buy him with your eyes open. Outside of this he is a good slave, as far as educated slaves go. How much am I offered for 'Cinda Taylor? how much? how much?"
The bidding between the two Southerners became quite spirited, and the eyes of Lucinda and her mother, and indeed all four of the unfortunate slaves, were turned searchingly upon Mr. Cope. He stood watching the contest in silence with the other Friend near him. The price had reached the nine hundred dollar level on Maxwell's bid, when Copeland dropped out with the remark that he did not really need the girl, but was willing to give her a good home.
"I guess I can give her as good a home as you can, sir," said Maxwell, with miffed air and insulting look. The eyes of both men met for a moment in a kind of half challenge, and there appeared to be a half-formed reply on Copeland's lips, but he said nothing. He was a man of self-control and deliberate coolness, but in the look he gave Maxwell he showed he was a dangerous one to trifle with.
The auctioneer was about to close on Maxwell's bid, when the soft voice of Mr. Cope said, "I'll give thee one thousand." Maxwell stared him full in the face for a moment or so, and then said, "Well, by the Lord! Here, let me examine that girl." He stepped up on the platform and tore the bonnet from Lucinda's head, with the expression, "Here, let the people see what you look like." He caught her chin, which had been resting on her breast, and jerked her face upright in full view of everyone. I think her beauty surprised even him when the sun shone on that long, wavy black hair. He looked her in the eyes and studied her face. Then he placed his hand on her breast. A murmur of disapproval came from the bystanders. I was standing beside the mulatto, Sam, and he made an involuntary spring for the platform. I heard a chain rattle, and for the first time I noticed his right wrist was cuffed to the left wrist of a guard. The look of hatred he gave Maxwell showed me he was in love with Lucinda. She gave him a look of desperation, but he could do nothing. Maxwell bid fifty dollars more.
"I will give eleven hundred for her," said Mr. Cope. Again the hopes of those concerned and of the whole audience were raised in the prospect that Maxwell would not become the purchaser. He stepped to the side of the platform and, looking Mr. Cope full in the face, said, "Now, see here, I want this girl. I have the money to pay for her and I'll own her if it takes a fortune." "Very well, then I think we will make thee pay for her," was the reply. "You are bidding to make her cost me money, are you?" "No, friend, I am only bidding to give her a respectable home with her mother." "Do you mean to insinuate, sir, that I will not give her a respectable home? If you do, you are a liar." "Be patient, friend, thee is getting excited. If my words convict thee in thine own heart, it is not my fault, but the fault of the condition of thy heart. I only told thee for what reason I was bidding."
"I will give fifteen hundred dollars for her," said Maxwell in great anger. "Let us make it sixteen," said Mr. Cope. "Seventeen," said Maxwell. "Eighteen," replied Cope. "Nineteen hundred," responded Maxwell with bitterness. At this there was a long discussion between Mr. Cope and his Quaker friend. After speaking for a few moments, they called Mr. Copeland to one side in quite a lengthy conversation. I slipped up close to listen. Mr. Copeland was saying, "Gentlemen, I have no use whatever for the girl. I only bid, hoping to take her out of the hands of that villain. There is no use bidding against him. I know him. He is very wealthy. I know what he wants her for, and I know he will get her in spite of us all. Nevertheless, as you say you have exhausted your funds, I will make one more bid."
"I will give two thousand dollars," said Mr. Copeland to the auctioneer. "The deuce you will! A new Richmond in the field," said Maxwell, "Well, I'll make it twenty-one hundred." She was sold to Maxwell at that figure. Lucinda burst into a flood of tears as she was led down the steps. I slipped up to her side and, unobserved by others, placed in her hand a gingerbread horse cake, which I bought for a penny in the markethouse. She noticed this token of concern for her, and stooped down and kissed me on the forehead. I told her when I got to be a man and had lots of money I'd come and buy her away from that fellow. "Ah, my dear child," she said, "it will be too late then."
I asked her why she could not run away and come over to our house across the river, and I'd hide her so they could not find her. "Where do you live, child; how would I get there?" "I live just back of the hill back of Martinsville. You just come across the ferry, go up the road back of town to the big brick house by the schoolhouse. That is Mr. Van Pelt's house, and this boy with me is James Van Pelt, and they are friends of the slave. They will show you where I live." She looked at us both earnestly as though to memorize our features.
For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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