LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY 11
protection and indulgence for one of hopeless misery and toil, — so long it is impossible to make anything beautiful or desirable in the best-regulated administration of slavery.
Mr. Shelby was a fair average kind of man, good na-tured and kindly, and disposed to easy indulgence of those around him, and there had never been a lack of any-tiling which might contribute to the physical comfort of the negroes on his estate. He had, however, speculated largely and quite loosely; had involved himself deeply, and his notes to a large amount had come into the hands of Haley; and this small piece of information is the key to the preceding conversation.
Now, it had so happened that, in approaching the door, Eliza had caught enough of the conversation to know that a trader was making offers to her master for somebody. She would gladly have stopped at the door to listen, as she came out; but her mistress just then calling, she was obliged to hasten away. Still she thought she heard the trader make an offer for her boy ; — could she be mistaken ? Her heart swelled and throbbed, and she involuntarily strained him so tight that the little fellow looked up into her face in astonishment.
" Eliza, girl, what ails you to-day ? " said her mistress, when Eliza had upset the wash-pitcher, knocked down the work-stand, and finally was abstractedly offering her mistress a long night-gown in place of the silk dress she had ordered her to bring from the wardrobe.
Eliza started. " Oh, missis! " she said, raising her eyes ; then, bursting into tears, she sat down in a chair, and be^an sobbing.
"Why, Eliza, child! what ails you ?" said her mistress.
" Oh, missis," said Eliza, " there 's been a trader talking with master in the parlor ! I heard him."
" Well, silly child, suppose there has."
"Oh, missis, do you suppose mas'r would sell my