NOTE: 10 Canadian dollars equals about 12,000 lire (Italian currency before Euros). I'm using current rates to determine the following prices. If you have a better idea, I'm willing to receive advice.

XAXAXAXA

". . . And this is a lovely piece, blonde, sleek, strong and soft. Do I hear eleven thousand lire? Eleven thousand? We have it. Do I hear twenty thousand? Twenty in the back. Thirty? How about thirty thousand? Forty thousand! Forty up front here! Can I get a fifty? Fifty thousand? No? Forty thousand going once, twice . . . sold to the man up front!"

The man took the slave and paid the auctioneer his money. I listened from a huddle farther back, looking at the man ranting off gibberish in a voice too fast to be normal. I understood nothing of what he said, only that the more excited his voice, the higher the price. And that fact that we were dealing in lire and not pounds or francs. I had woken up that morning in a covered wagon with four other slaves, all equally filthy as I, on our way to God knows where. Before that, it was hazy, though I believe I was recently given up by a workhouse.

A slave behind me was quietly translated to English, which I understood in patches. My native tongue, Gaelic, was really my only language. I wished I was back in Scotland.

I was suddenly and roughly pulled up onto the platform, and the man spoke more rapidly than ever. I'm sure he was emphasizing my tiny waist and thin, malnourished legs. I knew that I could have been attractive, because mostly males had bought me so far, but I also knew that I was an object, and if my master wanted me to look pretty, then I was.

I looked around at the crowd. From the straight noses and dark hair, I guessed I was probably somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea. Probably Italy, because I was somewhere north of it before. Though why I would be all the way in southern Italy was unbeknownst to me. Maybe they liked slaves better.

It soon hit me that the auctioneer was getting pretty excited. I knew one currency from the next, and I knew a lot of lire weren't that many English pounds; so I must have been going pretty high. Finally, I was grabbed by yet another man and heaved into the back of an open cart with foodstuffs and other random objects. My dirty tunic became slightly dirtier when I hit the bottom of the cart. I scrubbed a hand through my lank brown hair and sat on a bag of meal. New life, here I come . . . again.