Mrs. Wingfield did talk the matter over with the overseer, and things went on in consequence more smoothly. Vincent, however, adhered to his wish, and it was arranged that as soon as he could get a nomination he should go to West Point, which is to the American army what Sandhurst and Woolwich are to England. Before that could he done, however, a great political agitation sprang up. The slaves States were greatly excited over the prospect of a Republican president being chosen, for the Republicans were to a great extent identified with the abolition movement; and public feeling, which had for some time run high, became intensified as the time approached for the election of a new president, and threats that if the Democrats were beaten and a Republican elected the slave States would secede from the Union, were freely indulged in.
In Virginia, which was one of the most northern of the slave States, opinion was somewhat divided, there being a strong minority against any extreme measures being taken. Among Vincent's friends, however, who were for the most part the sons of planters, the Democratic feeling was very strongly in the ascendant, and their sympathies were wholly with the Southern States. That these had a right to secede was assumed by them as being unquestionable.
But in point of fact there was a great deal to be said on both sides. The States which first entered the Union in 1776 considered themselves to be separate and sovereign States, each possessing power and authority to manage its own affairs, and forming only a federation in order to construct a central power, and so to operate with more effect against the mother country. Two years later the constitution of the United States was framed, each State giving up a certain portion of its authority, reserving its own self-government and whatever rights were not specifically resigned.
No mention was made in the constitution of the right of a State to secede from the Union, and while those who insisted that each State had a right to secede if it chose to do so declared that this right was reserved, their opponents affirmed that such a case could never have been contemplated. Thus the question of absolute right had never been settled, and it became purely one of force.
Early in November, 1860, it became known that the election of Mr. Lincoln, the Republican candidate, was assured, and on the ninth of that month the representatives of South Carolina met at Charleston, and unanimously authorized the holding of a State convention to meet in the third week in December. The announcement caused great excitement, for it was considered certain that the convention would pass a vote of secession, and thus bring the debated question to an issue. Although opinion in Virginia was less unanimous than in the more southern States, it was generally thought that she would imitate the example of South Carolina.
On the day following the receipt of the news, Vincent, who had ridden over to the plantations of several of his friends to talk the matter over, was returning homeward, when he heard the sound of heavy blows with a whip and loud curses, and a moment later a shrill scream in a woman's voice rose in the air.
Vincent checked his horse mechanically with an exclamation of auger. He knew but too well what was going on beyond the screen of shrubs that grew on the other side of the fence bordering the road. For a moment he hesitated, and then muttering, "What's the use!" was about to touch the horse with the whip and gallop on, when the shriek again rose louder and more agonizing than before. With a cry of rage Vincent leaped from his horse, threw the reins over the top of the fence, climbed over it in a moment, and burst his way through the shrubbery.
Close by a negro was being held by four others, two having hold of each wrist and holding his arms extended to full length, while a white lad, some two years Vincent's senior, was showering blows with a heavy whip upon him. The slave's back was already covered with weals, and the blood was flowing from several places. A few yards distant a black girl, with a baby in her arms, was kneeling on the ground screaming for mercy for the slave. Just as Vincent burst through the bushes, the young fellow, irritated at her cries, turned round and delivered a tremendous blow with the whip on her bare shoulders.
This time no cry came from her lips, but the slave, who had stood immovable while the punishment was being inflicted upon himself, made a desperate effort to break from the men who held him. He was unsuccessful, but before the whip could again fall on the woman's shoulders, Vincent sprang forward, and seizing it, wrested it from the hands of the striker. With an oath of fury and surprise at this sudden interruption, the young fellow turned upon Vincent.
"You are a coward and a blackguard, Andrew Jackson!" Vincent exclaimed, white with auger. "You are a disgrace to Virginia, you ruffian!"
Without a word the young planter, mad with rage at this interference, rushed at Vincent; but the latter had learned the use of his fists at his English school, and riding exercises had strengthened his muscles, and as his opponent rushed at him, he met him with a blow from the shoulder which sent him staggering back with the blood streaming from his lips. He again rushed forward, and heavy blows were exchanged; then they closed and grappled. For a minute they swayed to and from but although much taller, the young planter was no stronger than Vincent, and at last they came to the ground with a crash, Vincent uppermost, Jackson's head as he fell coming with such force against a low stump that he lay insensible.
The contest had been so sudden and furious that none had attempted to interfere. Indeed the negroes were so astonished that they had not moved from the moment when Vincent made his appearance upon the scene. The lad rose to his feet.
"You had better carry him up to the house and throw some water on him," he said to the negroes, and then turned to go away. As he did so, the slave who had been flogged broke from the others, who had indeed loosened their hold, and ran up to Vincent, threw himself on his knees, and taking the lad's hand pressed it to his lips.
"I am afraid I haven't done you much good," Vincent said. "You will be none the better off for my interference; but I couldn't help it." So saying he made his way through the shrubbery, cleared the fence, mounted, and route homeward.
"I have been a fool," he said to himself as he rode along. "It will be all the worse for that poor beggar afterward; still I could not help it. I wonder will there be any row about it. I don't much expect there will, the Jacksons don't stand well now, and this would not do them any good with the people round; besides I don't think Jackson would like to go into court to complain of being thrashed by a fellow a head shorter than himself. It's blackguards like him who give the Abolitionists a right to hold up the slave-owners as being tyrants and brutes."
The Jacksons were newcomers in Virginia. Six years before, the estate, of which the Cedars, as their place was called, formed a part, was put up for sale. It was a very large one, and having been divided into several portions to suit buyers, the Cedars had been purchased by Jackson, who, having been very successful as a storekeeper at Charleston, had decided upon giving up the business and leaving South Carolina, and settling down as a land-owner in some other State. His antecedents, however, were soon known at Richmond, and the old Virginian families turned a cold shoulder to the newcomer.
Had he been a man of pleasant manners, he would gradually have made his way; but he was evidently not a gentleman. The habits of trade stuck to him, and in a very short time there were rumors that the slaves, whom he had bought with the property, found him a harsh and cruel master. This in itself would have been sufficient to bring him disrepute in Virginia, where as a rule the slaves were treated with great kindness, and indeed considered their position to be infinitely superior to that of the poorer class of whites. Andrew Jackson had been for a few months at school with Vincent; he was unpopular there, and from the rumors current as to the treatment of the slaves on the estate, was known by the nickname of the "slave-driver."
Had Vincent been the son of a white trader, or a small cultivator, he knew well enough that his position would be a very serious one, and that he would have bad to ride to the border of the State with all speed. He would have been denounced at once as an Abolitionist, and would have been accused of stirring up the slaves to rebellion against their masters; a crime of the most serious kind in the Southern States. But placed as he was, as the heir of a great estate worked by slaves, such a cry could hardly be raised against him. He might doubtless be filled and admonished for interfering between a master and his slave; but the sympathy of the better classes in Virginia would be entirely with him. Vincent, therefore, was but little concerned for himself; but he doubted greatly whether his interference had not done much more harm than good to the slave and his wife, for upon them Andrew Jackson would vent his fury. He rode direct to the stables instead of alighting as usual at the door. Dan, who had been sitting in the veranda waiting for him, ran down to the stables as he saw him coming.
"Give the horse to one of the others, Dan; I want to speak to you. Dan," he went on when he had walked with him a short distance from the stables, "I suppose you know some of the hands on Jackson's plantation."
Dan grinned, for although there was not supposed to be any communication between the slaves on the different estates, it was notorious that at night they were in the habit of slipping out of their huts and visiting each other.
"I know some ob dem, Massa Vincent. What you want ob dem? Berry bad master, Massa Jackson. Wust master hereabouts."
Vincent related what had happened, to Dan's intense delight.
"Now, Dan," he went on, "I am afraid that after my interference they will treat that poor fellow and his wife worse than before. I want yen to find out for me what is going on at Jackson's. I do not know that I can do anything, however badly they treat them; but I have been thinking that if they ill-treat them very grossly, I will get together a party of fifteen or twenty of my friends and we will go in a body to Jackson's, and warn him that if he behaves with cruelty to his slaves, we will make it so hot for him that he will have to leave the state. I don't say that we could do anything; but as we should represent most of the large estates round here, I don't think old Jackson and his son would like being sent to Coventry. The feeling is very strong at present against ill-treatment of the slaves. If these troubles lead to war almost all of us will go into the army, and we do not like the thought of the possibility of troubles among the hands when the whites are all away."
"I will find out all about it for you to-night, sah. I don't suspect dat dey will do nuffin to-day. Andrew Jackson too sick after dat knock against de tump. He keep quiet a day or two."
"Well, Dan, you go over to-night and find out all about it. I expect I had better have left things alone, but now I have interfered I shall go on with it."
Mrs. Wingfield was much displeased when Vincent told her at dinner of his incident at Jackson's plantation and even his sisters were shocked at this interference between a master and his slave.
"You will get yourself into serious trouble with these fanciful notions of yours," Mrs. Wingfield said angrily. "You know as well as I do how easy it is to get up a cry against any one as an Abolitionist and how difficult to disprove the accusation; and just at present, when the passions of every man in the South are inflamed to the utmost, such an accusation will be most serious. In the present instance there does not seem that there is a shadow of excuse for your conduct. You simply heard cries of a slave being flogged. You deliberately leave the road and enter these people's plantation and interfere without, so far as I can see, the least reason for doing so. You did not inquire what the man's offense was; and he may for aught you know have half murdered his master. You simply see a slave being flogged and you assault his owner. If the Jacksons lay complaints against you it is quite probable that you may have to leave the state. What on earth can have influenced you to act in such a mad-brained way?"
"I did not interfere to prevent his flogging the slave, mother, but to prevent his flogging the slave's wife, which was pure wanton brutality. It is not a question of slavery one way or the other. Any one has a right to interfere to put a stop to brutality. If I saw a man brutally treating a horse or a dog I should certainly do so; and if it is right to interfere to save a dumb animal from brutal ill-treatment surely it must be justifiable to save a woman in the same case. I am not an Abolitionist. That is to say, I consider that slaves on a properly managed estate, like ours, for instance, are just as well off as are the laborers on an estate in Europe; but I should certainly like to see laws passed to protect them from ill-treatment. Why, in England there are laws against cruelty to animals; and a man who brutally flogged a dog or a horse would get a month's imprisonment with hard labor. I consider it a disgrace to us that a man may here ill-treat a human being worse than he might in England a dumb animal."
"You know, Vincent," his mother said more quietly, "that I object as much as you do to the ill-treatment of the slaves, and that the slaves here, as on all well-conducted plantations in Virginia, are well treated; but this is not a time for bringing in laws or carrying out reforms. It is bad enough to have scores of Northerners doing their best to stir up mischief between masters and slaves without a Southern gentleman mixing himself up in the matter. We have got to stand together as one people and to protect our State rights from interference."
"I am just as much in favor of State rights as any one else, mother; and if, as seems likely, the present quarrel is to be fought out, I hope I shall do my best for Virginia as well as other fellows of my own age. But just as I protest against any interference by the Northerners with our laws, I say that we ought to amend our laws so as not to give them the shadow of an excuse for interference. It is brutes like the Jacksons who have afforded the materials for libels like 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' upon us as a people; and I can't say that I am a bit sorry for having given that young Jackson what he deserved."
"Well, I hope there will be no trouble come of it," Mrs. Wingfield said. "I shouldn't think the Jacksons would like the exposure of their doings which would be caused by bringing the matter into court; but if they do, you may be quite sure that a jury in Richmond at the present time would find against you."
"I don't suppose that they will do anything, mother. But if they must, they must; and I don't suppose anything serious will come of it any way."
The next morning Vincent went down early to the stables. As he approached them Dan came out to meet him.
"Well, Dan, what's your news?"
"Berry great bobbery ober at Jackson's last night, Massa Vincent. Fust of all I crept round to de huts ob de field hands. Dey all know nuttin bout it; but one of dem he goes off and gets to hab a talk with a gal employed in de house who was in de habit of slipping out to see him. She say when de young un war carried in de old man go on furious; he bring suit against you, he hab you punished berry much-no saying what he not going to do. After a time de young un come round, he listen to what the old man say for some time; den he answer: 'No use going on like dat. Set all de county families against us if we have suit. As to dat infernal young villain, me pay him out some other way.' Den de old man say he cut de flesh off de bones ob dat nigger; but de young one say: 'Mustn't do dat. You sure to hear about it, and make great bobbery. Find some oder way to punish him.' Den dey talk together for some time, but girl not hear any more."
"Well, then, there will be no suit anyhow," Vincent said. "As to paying me out some other way, I will look after myself, Dan. I believe that fellow Jackson is capable of anything, and I will be on the lookout for him."
"Be sure you do, Massa Vincent. You ride about a great deal, dat fellow bery like take a shot at you from behind tree. Don't you go near dat plantation, or sure enuff trouble come."
"I will look out, Dan. There is one thing, I always ride fast; and it wants a very good shot to hit one at a gallop. I don't think they will try that; for if he missed, as he would be almost sure to do, it would be a good deal worse for him than this affair would have been had he brought it into court. You keep your ears open, Dan, and find out how they are thinking of punishing that poor follow for my interference on his behalf."
After breakfast a negro arrived with a note for Mrs. Wingfield from Mr. Jackson, complaining of the unwarrantable and illegal interference by her son on behalf of a slave who was being very properly punished for gross misconduct; and of the personal assault upon his son. The writer said that ho was most reluctant to take legal proceedings against a member of so highly respected a family, but that it was impossible that ho could submit to such an outrage as this.
Although Mrs. Wingfield had expressed her disapproval of Vincent's conduct on the evening before, there was no trace of that feeling in her reply to this letter. She wrote in the third person, coldly acknowledging the receipt of Mr. Jackson's letter, and saying that she had heard from her son of his interference to put a stop to one of those brutal scenes which brought discredit upon the Southern States, and that she considered he had most rightly punished Mr. Jackson, jun., for his inhuman and revolting conduct; that she was perfectly aware the interference had been technically illegal, but that her son was fully prepared to defend his conduct if called upon to do so in the courts, and to pay any fine that might be inflicted for his suffering himself to be carried away by his righteous indignation. She ended by saying that as Mr. Jackson was a stranger in Virginia, he was perhaps not aware that the public sentiment of that State was altogether opposed to such acts of brutality as that of which his son had been guilty.
"What have you been doing to that fellow Andrew Jackson?" one of Vincent's friends, a young fellow two years older than himself, said to him a few days later. "There were a lot of us talking over things yesterday, in Richmond, and he came up and joined in. Something was said about Abolitionists, and he said that he should like to see every Abolitionist in the State strung up to a tree. He is always pretty violent, as you know; but on the present occasion he went further than usual, and then went on to say that the worst and most dangerous Abolitionists were not Northern men but Southerners, who were traitors to their State.
He said: 'For example, there is that young Wingfield. He has been to England, and has come back with his heart filled with Abolitionist notions;' and that such opinions at the present time were a danger to the State.
"Two or three of us took the matter up, as you might guess, and told him he had better mind what he was saying or it would be the worse for him. Harry Furniss went so far as to tell him that he was a liar, and that if he didn't like that he would have satisfaction in the usual way. Master Jackson didn't like it, but muttered something and slunk off. What's the matter between you?"
"I should not have said anything about it," Vincent replied, "if Jackson had chosen to hold his tongue; but as he chooses to go about attacking me, there is no reason why I should keep the matter secret." And he then related what had taken place.
The young Virginian gave a low whistle.
"I don't say I blame you, Wingfield; but I tell you, you might have got yourself into an awful mess if the Jacksons had chosen to take it up. You know how hot the feeling is at present, and it is a serious matter at any time to interfere between a master and his slaves in the Southern States. Of course among us our feelings would be all against Jackson; but among the poorer class of whites, who have been tremendously excited by the speeches, both in the North and here, the cry of Abolitionist at the present moment is like a red rag to a bull. However, I understand now the fellow's enmity to you.
"None of us ever liked him when ho was at school with us. He is an evil-tempered brute, and I am afraid you may have some trouble with him. If he goes about talking as he did to us, he would soon get up a feeling against you. Of course it would be nonsense to openly accuse a member of an old Virginian family of being an Abolitionist; but it would be easy enough to set a pack of the rough classes of the town against you, and you might get badly mauled if they caught you alone. The follow is evidently a coward or he would have taken up what Furniss said; but a coward who is revengeful is a good deal more dangerous than an open foe. However, I will talk it over with some of the others, and we will see if we can't stop Andrew Jackson's mouth."
The result of this was that the next day half a dozen of Vincent's friends wrote a joint letter to Andrew Jackson, saying that they regarded his statements respecting Vincent as false and calumnious, and that if he repeated them they would jointly and severally hold him responsible; and that if, as a result of such accusations, any harm happened to Vincent, they should know where to look for the originator of the mischief, and punish him accordingly.
"You should be more careful, Andrew," his father said, as white with fury, he showed him his letter. "It was you who were preaching prudence the other day, and warning me against taking steps that would set all the whole country against us; and now, you see, you have been letting your tongue run, and have drawn this upon yourself. Keep quiet for the present, my son; all sorts of things may occur before long, and you will get your chance. Let this matter sleep for the present."
A day or two later when Vincent went down to the stables he saw that Dan had something to tell him, and soon found out that he wished to speak to him alone.
"What is your news, Dan?"
"I heard last night, Massa Vincent, that old man Jackson is going to sell Dinah; dat de wife ob de man dey flogged."
"They are going to sell her!" Vincent repeated indignantly. "What are they going to do that for?"
"To punish Tony, sah. Dar am no law against dar selling her. I hear dat dey are going to sell two oder boys, so dat it cannot be said dat dey do it on purpose to spite Tony. I reckon, sah, day calculate dat when dey sell his wife Tony get mad and run away, and den when dey catch him again day flog him pretty near to death. Folk always do dat with runaway slaves; no one can say nuffin agin dem for dat."
"It's an infamous shame that it should be lawful to separate man and wife," Vincent said. "However, we will see what we can do. You manage to pass the word to Tony to keep up his spirits, and not let them drive him to do anything rash. Tell him I will see that his wife does not get into bad hands. I suppose they will sell the baby too?"
"Yes, Massa Vincent. Natural the baby will go wid de modder."
Vincent watched the list of advertisements of slaves to be sold, and a day or two later saw a notice to the effect that Dinah Morris, age twenty-two, with a male baby at her breast, would be sold on the following Saturday. He mounted his horse and rode into Richmond. He had not liked to speak to his mother on the subject, for she had not told him of the letter she had written to Jackson; and he thought that she might disapprove of any interference in the matter, consequently ho went down to Mr. Renfrew, the family solicitor.
"Mr. Renfrew," he said, "I want some money; can you lend it me?"
"You want money," the solicitor said in surprise. "What on earth do you want money for? and if you want it, why don't you ask your mother for it? How much do you want?"
"I don't know exactly. About eight hundred dollars, I should think; though it may be a thousand. I want to buy a slave."
"You want to buy a slave!" repeated Mr. Renfrew. "What on earth do you want to buy a slave for? You have more than you want now at the Orangery."
"It's a slave that man Jackson is going to sell next Saturday, on purpose to spite the poor creature's husband and drive him to desperation," and Vincent then repeated the whole story of the circumstances that had led up to the sale.
"It is all very abominable on the part of these Jacksons," Mr. Renfrew said, "but your interference was most imprudent, my young friend; and, as you see, it has done harm rather than good. If you are so quixotic as to become the champion of every ill-treated slave in the State, your work is pretty well cut out for you."
"I know that, sir," Vincent replied, smiling, "and I can assure you I did not intend to enter upon any such crusade; but, you see, I have wrongly or rightly mixed myself up in this, and I want to repair the mischief which, as you say, I have caused. The only way I can see is to buy this negress and her baby."
"But I do not see that you will carry out your object if you do, Vincent. She will be separated just as much from her husband if you buy her as if any one else does. He is at one plantation and she is at another, and were they ten miles apart or a hundred, they are equally separated."
"I quite see that, Mr. Renfrew; but, at least, she will be kindly treated, and his mind will be at rest on that score. Perhaps some day or other the Jacksons may put him up for sale, and then I can buy him, and they will be reunited. At any rate, the first step is to buy her. Can you let me have the money? My mother makes me a very good allowance."
"And I suppose you spend it," the lawyer interrupted.
"Well, yes, I generally spend it; but then, you see, when I come of age I come in for the outlying estates."
"And if you die before, or get shot, or any other accident befalls you," Mr. Renfrew said, "they go to your sisters. However, one must risk something for a client, so I will lend you the money. I had better put somebody up to bid for you, for after what has happened the Jacksons would probably not let her go if they knew that you were going to be the purchaser."
"Thank you very much," Vincent said warmly; "it will be a great weight off my mind," and with a light heart he rode back to the Orangery.
Vincent said nothing during the next two days to any of his friends as to the course the Jacksons were taking in selling Tony's wife; for he thought that if the news got about, some of his friends who had heard the circumstances might go down to the auction and make such a demonstration that Jackson would be obliged to withdraw Dinah from the sale, in which case he would no doubt dispose of her privately. On the Saturday he mounted his horse and rode into Richmond, telling Dan to meet him there. At the hour the sale was announced he went to the yard where it was to take place.
This was a somewhat quiet and secluded place; for although the sale of slaves was permitted by law in Virginia, at any rate these auctions were conducted quietly and with as little publicity as possible. For although the better classes still regarded slavery as a necessary institution, they were conscious that these sales, involving as they did the separation of families, were indefensible, and the more thoughtful would gladly have seen them abolished, and a law passed forbidding the sale of negroes save as part and parcel of the estate upon which they worked, an exception only being made in the case of gross misconduct. Many of the slave-owners, indeed, forbade all flogging upon their estates, and punished refractory slaves, in the first place, by the cutting off of the privileges they enjoyed in the way of holidays, and if this did not answer, threatened to sell them-a threat which was, in the vast majority of cases, quite sufficient to ensure good behavior; for the slaves were well aware of the difference between life in the well-managed establishments in Virginia and that in some of the other Southern States. Handing his horse to Dan, Vincent joined a knot of four or five of his acquaintances who had strolled in from mere curiosity.
There were some thirty or forty men in the yard, a few of whom had come in for the purpose of buying; but the great majority had only attended for the sake of passing an idle hour. Slaves had fallen in value; for although all in the South professed their confidence that the law would never attempt by force of arms to prevent their secession, it was felt that slave property would in future be more precarious, for the North would not improbably repeal the Jaws for the arrest of fugitive slaves, and consequently all runaways who succeeded in crossing the border would be lost to their masters.
Upon the other side of the yard Vincent saw Andrew Jackson talking to two or three men who were strangers to him, and who, he guessed, were buyers from some of the more southern States There were in all twelve lots to be disposed of. Of these two or three were hands who were no longer fit for field work, and who were bought at very low prices by men who owned but a few acres of land, and who could utilize them for odd jobs requiring but little strength. Then there was a stir of attention. Dinah Moore took her stand upon the platform, with her baby in her arms. The message which Dan had conveyed from Vincent to her husband had given her some hope, and though she looked scared and frightened as she clasped her babe to her breast, she was not filled with such utter despair as would otherwise have been the case.
The auctioneer stated the advantages of the lot in the same business-like tone as if he had been selling a horse:
"Lot 6. Negro wench, Dinah; age twenty-two; with male child. Strong and well made, as you see, gentlemen; fit for field work, or could be made a useful hand about a house; said to be handy and good-tempered. Now, gentlemen, what shall we say for this desirable lot?"
One of the men standing by Andrew Jackson bid a hundred dollars. The bid was raised to a hundred and fifty by a rough-looking fellow standing in front of the platform. For some time the bidding was confined to these two, and it rose until it reached seven hundred and fifty, at which point the man near the platform retired, and there was a pause.
Vincent felt uncomfortable. He had already been round to Mr. Renfrew, who had told him that he had deputed an agent to buy; and until the man near the platform stopped he had supposed that he was the solicitor's agent.
"Now, gentlemen," the auctioneer said, "surely you are not going to let this desirable piece of property go for seven fifty? She would be cheap at double the price. I have sold worse articles for three thousand."
"I will go another twenty-five dollars," a tall man in homespun and a broad planter's straw hat said quietly.
The contest now recommenced, and by bids of twenty-five dollars at a time the amount was raised to twelve hundred and fifty dollars.
"That's enough for me," the man standing by Andrew Jackson said; "he may have her at twelve fifty, and dear enough, too, as times go."
Will any one else make an offer?" the auctioneer asked. There was no response, and the hammer fell.
"Nathaniel Forster," the tall man said; and advancing to the table he counted out a roll of notes and gave them to the auctioneer, who handed to him a formal note certifying to his having duly and legally purchased Dinah Moore and her infant, late the property of Andrew Jackson, Esquire, of the Cedars, State of Virginia.
The purchaser had evidently made up his mind beforehand to secure the lot, for he handed a parcel he had been holding to Dinah, and said briefly, "Slip those things on, my lass."
The poor girl, who had before been simply attired in the scantiest of petticoats, retired to a corner of the yard, and speedily came forward again dressed in a neat cotton gown. There were several joking remarks made by the bystanders, but Dinah's new master took no notice of them, but with a motion of his hand to her to follow him, walked out of the yard.
A minute later Vincent followed, and although he had no doubt that the man was the agent Mr. Renfrew had employed, he did not feel thoroughly satisfied until he saw them enter the lawyer's office. He quickly followed. They had just entered the private room of Mr. Renfrew.
"That's right, Wingfield," the lawyer said. "You see we have settled the business satisfactorily, and I think you have got a fairly cheap bargain. Just wait a moment and we will complete the transaction."
Dinah gave a start as Vincent entered, but with the habitual self-repression of a slave she stood quietly in the corner to which she had withdrawn at the other end of the room.
The lawyer was busy drawing up a document, and touching the bell ordered a clerk to go across to Mr. Rawlins, justice of the peace, and ask him to step across the road.
In a minute Mr. Rawlins entered.
"I want you to witness a deed of sale of a slave," Mr. Renfrew said. "Here are the particulars: 'Nathaniel Forster sells to Vincent Wingfield his slave, Dinah Moore and her male infant, for the sum of fourteen hundred dollars.' These are the parties. Forster sign this receipt."
The man did so. The justice put his signature as witness to the transaction, dropped into his pocket the fee of five dollars that the lawyer handed to him, and without a word strolled out again.
"There, Dinah," Mr. Renfrew said, "Mr. Wingfield is now your master."
The girl ran forward, fell on her knees before Vincent, seized his hand and kissed it, sobbing out her thanks as she did so.
"There, that will do, Dinah," the lawyer said, seeing that Vincent was confused by her greeting. "I think you are a lucky girl, and have made a good exchange for the Orangery instead of the Cedars. I don't suppose you will find Mr. Wingfield a very hard master. What he is going to do with you I am sure I don't know."
Vincent now went to the door and called in Dan and told him to take Dinah to the Orangery, then mounting his horse he rode off home to prepare his mother for the reception of his new purchase.
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