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Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
William Wells Brown
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Chapter 2. Going To The South
"My country, shall thy honoured name,
Be as a bye-word through the world?
Rouse! for, as if to blast thy fame,
This keen reproach is at thee hurled;
The banner that above the waves,
Is floating o'er three million slaves."
DICK WALKER, the slave speculator, who had purchased Currer and Althesa, put them
in prison until his gang was made up, and then, with his forty slaves, started for the New
Orleans market. As many of the slaves had been brought up in Richmond, and had
relations residing there, the slave trader determined to leave the city early in the morning,
so as not to witness any of those scenes so common where slaves are separated from their
relatives and friends, when about departing for the Southern market. This plan was
successful; for not even Clotel, who had been every day at the prison to see her mother
and sister, knew of their departure. A march of eight days through the interior of the state,
and they arrived on the banks of the Ohio river, where they were all put on board a
steamer, and then speedily sailed for the place of their destination.
Walker had already advertised in the New Orleans papers, that he would be there at a
stated time with "a prime lot of able bodied slaves ready for field service; together with a
few extra ones, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five." But, like most who make a
business of buying and selling slaves for gain, he often bought some who were far
advanced in years, and would always try to sell them for five or ten years younger than
they actually were. Few persons can arrive at anything like the age of a Negro, by mere
observation, unless they are well acquainted with the race. Therefore the slave-trader very
frequently carried out this deception with perfect impunity. After the steamer had left the
wharf, and was fairly on the bosom of the Father of Waters, Walker called his servant
Pompey to him, and instructed him as to "getting the Negroes ready for market."
Amongst the forty Negroes were several whose appearance indicated that they had seen
some years, and had gone through some services. Their grey hair and whiskers at once
pronounced them to be above the ages set down in the trader's advertisement.
Pompey had long been with the trader, and knew his business; and if he did not take
delight in discharging his duty, he did it with a degree of alacrity, so that he might receive
the approbation of his master. "Pomp," as Walker usually called him, was of real Negro
blood, and would often say, when alluding to himself, "Dis nigger is no countefit; he is de
genewine artekil." Pompey was of low stature, round face, and, like most of his race, had
a set of teeth, which for whiteness and beauty could not be surpassed; his eyes large, lips
thick, and hair short and woolly. Pompey had been with Walker so long, and had seen so
much of the buying and selling of slaves, that he appeared perfectly indifferent to the
heartrending scenes which daily occurred in his presence. It was on the second day of the
steamer's voyage that Pompey selected five of the old slaves, took them in a room by
themselves, and commenced preparing them for the market. "Well," said Pompey,
addressing himself to the company, "I is de gentman dat is to get you ready, so dat you