But I am a minor yet, and the auctioneer would not accept my bid.
Therefore I thought you might be kind enough to bid for me."
The lieutenant made no answer, but looked at the earnest face of the boy with unmistakable sympathy. The auctioneer assumed again an insulted, affronted, pathetically entreating or scornfully repelling tone, according as it suited his purpose; and the price of Lady Clare crawled slowly and reluctantly up from fifty to seventy dollars. There it stopped, and neither the auctioneer's tears nor his prayers could apparently coax it higher.
"Seventy dollars!" he cried, as if he were really too shocked to speak at all; "seven-ty dollars! Make it eighty! Oh, it is a sin and a shame, gentlemen, and the fair fame of this beautiful city is eternally ruined. It will become a wagging of the head and a byword among the nations. Sev-en-ty dollars!"--then hotly and indignantly--"seventy dollars!--fifth and last time, seventy dollars!"--here he raised his hammer threateningly--"seventy dollars!"
"One hundred!" cried a high boyish voice, and in an instant every neck was craned and every eye was turned toward the corner where Erik Carstens was standing, half hidden behind the broad figure of Lieutenant Thicker.
"Did I hear a hundred?" repeated the auctioneer, wonderingly. "May I ask who was the gentleman who said a hundred?"
An embarrassing silence followed. Erik knew that if he acknowledged the bid he would suffer the shame of having it refused. But his excitement and his solicitude for the fair fame of his native city had carried him away so completely that the words had escaped from his lips before he was fully aware of their import.
"May I ask," repeated the wielder of the hammer, slowly and emphatically, "may I ask the gentleman who offered one hundred dollars for Lady Clare to come forward and give his name?"