The brilliant yellow sun stood high and hot in the sky. The humidity seems to make the surrounding land shimmer with a maddening haze. It was more blue that August morning than any other day and few vultures circled around the air. They cried out to each with shrilling screeches. Chelsea looked up and licked her dry chapped lips, at least they were free. There were vultures of a whole different breed congregating before her as well; dressed in well-tailored black or grey suits, big hats and dust-greyed boots. The sun licked her back and bare shoulders, the scratchy dirty dress she wore was two sizes too big for her and she struggled to keep it in place. This was her third time on an auction block. She was sold at ten years old, along with her entire family, to a very wealthy cotton plantation, again at age fourteen to work in the kitchens of an aristocrat. Well, she was really traded, the cotton farm wanted a strapping boy instead and the other family wanted an extra girl in the kitchen. She spent most of her days washing pots, pans and cleaning the kitchen. Lord Trelawny eventually went poor, with all his drinking, gambling, and whoring. He was poor, destitute and the topic of public gossip; his poor wife went back to her father’s estate miles and miles away with the children. All his worldly assets were being sold to recoup his large debt and that included Chelsea. So here she was again being gawked at. She felt like a hot kettle close to its boiling point.
“Folks, next item up for bid,” The portly well-dressed banker pointed at Chelsea; she kept her head down, “This pretty little nigger gal right here. She is strong, of breeding age, still has all her teeth too, and she can read a little too. Where will we start the bidding men?”
The fat pig face banker mopped his brow with a large white handkerchief looking into the crowd, eagerly awaiting the bids.
“Let’s see her face!” Someone yelled and was accompanied by a chorus of yeses.
The banker struggled a little as Chelsea fought back but he overpowered her, lifting her chin to face the audience. He pried her mouth open to show her teeth and pulled down the front of her dress to bare her breasts. Chelsea quickly pulled it back up and the hot kettle inside her got closer to whistling. Her temper had gotten her in trouble before, she did all she could to restrain herself. She didn’t want to be thrashed again.
“I have a twenty dollar bid, good gentlemen, do Ihear twenty-five? She is a fine cook.”
The auction went on in earnest, soon all the property including Chelsea was sold off to the highest bidders. She was then taken away along with another young girl and some china were in a wagon heading away from the town square and down the dusty road.
Angus Millwood was a proud self made man and came to prominence here in the growing town of Providence. What once was a parched patch of hardened dust was now a land with several large Plantations and manors, a decent town square with a bank, two doctors’ offices, haberdashery, dress shops, and everything a booming town needed. He wished his father could see him now, the big man he was. He would be surprised to see his son so established and Angus would have loved to rub his face in it before shooting him between the eyes. Wilbur Millwood had been a hard, cruel, and uncaring bastard who would beat and berate his children and his wife. Angus’ poor mother Rebecca suffered at his hand before she died a young and broken-spirited woman. Angus wished he had been brave enough to kill the wicked bastard but nature had taken it’s course and he had died a painful death due to illness. Thank heavens, God did answer prayers.
Now his tobacco, which sprawled over several acres, was some of the best in the country and he had also an orange orchard. Angus also keep a few horses and did sell them occasionally. Angus was already dreaming of how to expand his holdings. He puffed his chest as he watched his eldest son Albert ride in a wagon of supplies, slaves, and a crate of that good firebrand whiskey he loved so much. It was a good time to be Angus Millwood, he smiled and waved at his son. Albert drove the wagon along the wide path leading up to the main house.
“Ho there young Albert!”
“Hiya Paw,” the grinning youth greeted his father as he swung down his long legs from the wagon.
“Get over there boy!” Angus shouted at the slave who was bent over a rake gathering leaves, “Git over there you old nigger!”
The slave unloaded the supplies as fast as his old bones would allow him while Albert brought a bottle of the whiskey from the crate and hand-delivered it to his father who took it with delight. He gave it a loving kiss.
“Good work my son!” He grinned and slapped his back. They sat on the porch and looked out the front yard.
Angus got down to business.
“What of the Morgan place? Is he up to sell it yet? Do you have any news?”
“ Well…..the bank is giving him some more time to pay off all them loans he has; so he isn’t willing to talk about selling, but in time father.”
Angus scratched his chin, he didn’t like that. He hated waiting, he believed in making things happen; why wait for doors to open when you can break through walls.
“I might have to motivate him to sell, Yes I might just have to do that, he can’t afford all that debt. I need to buy that land.”
“It shouldn’t take long, not too long Paw.” Albert said earnestly, “Just have to wait a bit, the bank will foreclose in a matter of months. I mean his farm is failing.”
“My boy, you gonna have to learn to grab the bull by the horns and yank it hard to get him to go how yah want it to. I’ll make him sell son, we needs all the land. I want you to inherit a big spread. Big! Big spread.” He guffawed and slapped Albert’s arm.