"Well," said the smith, feeling among his tools, "them plantations down thar, stranger, an't jest the place a Kentuck nigger wants to go to; they dies thar tol'able fast, don't they?"
"Wal, yes, tol'able fast, ther dying is; what with the 'climating and one thing and another, they dies so as to keep the market up pretty brisk," said Haley.
"Wal, now, a feller can't help thinkin' it's a mighty pity to have a nice, quiet, likely feller, as good un as Tom is, go down to be fairly ground up on one of them ar sugar plantations."
"Wal, he's got a fa'r chance. I promised to do well by him. I'll get him in house-servant in some good old family, and then, if he stands the fever and 'climating, he'll have a berth good as any nigger ought ter ask for."
"He leaves his wife and chil'en up here, s'pose?"
"Yes; but he'll get another thar. Lord, thar's women enough everywhar," said Haley.
Tom was sitting very mournfully on the outside of the shop while this conversation was going on. Suddenly he heard the quick, short click of a horse's hoof behind him; and, before he could fairly awake from his surprise, young Master George sprang into the wagon, threw his arms tumultuously round his neck, and was sobbing and scolding with energy.
"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.
"What a shame!" he exclaimed, lifting his hands. "I'll knock that old fellow down — I will!"
"No you won't, Mas'r George; and you must not talk so loud. It won't help me any, to anger him."
"Well, I won't, then, for your sake; but only to think of it — isn't it a shame? They never sent for me, nor sent me any word, and, if it hadn't been for Tom Lincon, I shouldn't have heard it. I tell you, I blew 'em up well, all of 'em, at home!"
"That ar wasn't right, I'm 'feard, Mas'r George."
"Can't help it! I say it's a shame! Look here, Uncle Tom," said he, turning his back to the shop, and speaking in a mysterious tone, "I've brought you my dollar!"
"O! I couldn't think o' takin' on 't, Mas'r George, no ways in the world!" said Tom, quite moved.
"But you shall take it!" said George; "look here — I told Aunt Chloe I'd do it, and she advised me just to make a hole in it, and put a string through, so you could hang it round your neck, and keep it out of sight; else this mean scamp would take it away. I tell ye, Tom, I want to blow him up! it would do me good!"
"No, don't Mas'r George, for it won't do me any good."
"Well, I won't, for your sake," said George, busily tying his dollar round Tom's neck; "but there, now, button your coat tight over it, and keep it, and remember, every time you see it, that I'll come down after you, and bring you back. Aunt Chloe and I have been talking about it. I told her not to fear; I'll see to it, and I'll tease father's life out, if he don't do it."
"O! Mas'r George, ye mustn't talk so 'bout yer father!"
"Lor, Uncle Tom, I don't mean anything bad."
"And now, Mas'r George," said Tom, "ye must be a good boy; 'member how many hearts is sot on ye. Al'ays keep close to yer mother. Don't be gettin' into any of them foolish ways boys has of gettin' too big to mind their mothers. Tell ye what, Mas'r George, the Lord gives good many things twice over; but he don't give ye a mother but once. Ye'll never see sich another woman, Mas'r George, if ye live to be a hundred years old. So, now, you hold on to her, and grow up, and be a comfort to her, thar's my own good boy, — you will now, won't ye?"
"Yes, I will, Uncle Tom," said George seriously.
"And be careful of yer speaking, Mas'r George. Young boys, when they comes to your age, is wilful, sometimes — it is natur they should be. But real gentlemen, such as I hopes you'll be, never lets fall on words that isn't 'spectful to thar parents. Ye an't 'fended, Mas'r George?"
"No, indeed, Uncle Tom; you always did give me good advice."
"I's older, ye know," said Tom, stroking the boy's fine, curly head with his large, strong hand, but speaking in a voice as tender as a woman's, "and I sees all that's bound up in you. O, Mas'r George, you has everything, — l'arnin', privileges, readin', writin', — and you'll grow up to be a great, learned, good man and all the people on the place and your mother and father'll be so proud on ye! Be a good Mas'r, like yer father; and be a Christian, like yer mother. 'Member yer Creator in the days o' yer youth, Mas'r George."
"I'll be real good, Uncle Tom, I tell you," said George. "I'm going to be a first-rater; and don't you be discouraged. I'll have you back to the place, yet. As I told Aunt Chloe this morning, I'll build our house all over, and you shall have a room for a parlor with a carpet on it, when I'm a man. O, you'll have good times yet!"
Haley now came to the door, with the handcuffs in his hands.
"Look here, now, Mister," said George, with an air of great superiority, as he got out, "I shall let father and mother know how you treat Uncle Tom!"
"You're welcome," said the trader.
"I should think you'd be ashamed to spend all your life buying men and women, and chaining them, like cattle! I should think you'd feel mean!" said George.
"So long as your grand folks wants to buy men and women, I'm as good as they is," said Haley; "'tan't any meaner sellin' on 'em, that 't is buyin'!"
"I'll never do either, when I'm a man," said George; "I'm ashamed, this day, that I'm a Kentuckian. I always was proud of it before;" and George sat very straight on his horse, and looked round with an air, as if he expected the state would be impressed with his opinion.
"Well, good-by, Uncle Tom; keep a stiff upper lip," said George.
"Good-by, Mas'r George," said Tom, looking fondly and admiringly at him. "God Almighty bless you! Ah! Kentucky han't got many like you!" he said, in the fulness of his heart, as the frank, boyish face was lost to his view. Away he went, and Tom looked, till the clatter of his horse's heels died away, the last sound or sight of his home. But over his heart there seemed to be a warm spot, where those young hands had placed that precious dollar. Tom put up his hand, and held it close to his heart.
"Now, I tell ye what, Tom," said Haley, as he came up to the wagon, and threw in the handcuffs, "I mean to start fa'r with ye, as I gen'ally do with my niggers; and I'll tell ye now, to begin with, you treat me fa'r, and I'll treat you fa'r; I an't never hard on my niggers. Calculates to do the best for 'em I can. Now, ye see, you'd better jest settle down comfortable, and not be tryin' no tricks; because nigger's tricks of all sorts I'm up to, and it's no use. If niggers is quiet, and don't try to get off, they has good times with me; and if they don't, why, it's thar fault, and not mine."
Tom assured Haley that he had no present intentions of running off. In fact, the exhortation seemed rather a superfluous one to a man with a great pair of iron fetters on his feet. But Mr. Haley had got in the habit of commencing his relations with his stock with little exhortations of this nature, calculated, as he deemed, to inspire cheerfulness and confidence, and prevent the necessity of any unpleasant scenes.
And here, for the present, we take our leave of Tom, to pursue the fortunes of other characters in our story.