Realizing I didn’t have a cabriolet, I started to walk for town. So many things were going through my head. If I were a little girl running away, where would I go? The woods? Alleys? No wait, I thought, my heart beginning to pound. What if someone saw her running and assumed she was a runaway slave? What if she was captured and put in a slave auction?
I decided that the best thing to do was to stay in Belmont for a few days and watch all the auctions. If I didn’t see her there, well, I didn’t know what I’d do.
When I reached town, I headed straight for the telegraph office.
Things not as planned –(stop)- Will be delayed –(stop)- No need to worry -(stop-) love, Charlie -(stop)-
I sat in my hotel room and stared at Jack’s telegram. It was two days after I had visited Harriet Sorenson, and I still hadn’t seen Hadessah. Jack encourged me to continue looking and wished for my safe return. It was nice to hear from him, to know he was all right.
There was going to be another slave auction that afternoon. Half of me wanted to go and the other half dreaded it. They were so hard to watch! Those poor human beings being sold to cruel masters… Families being torn apart… I had to hide my face from the crowd because I cried almost every time.
An hour or two later, I headed down to the auction house. It was a fair sized building. Inside was a platform where slaves were brought up to be sold. A man would give their names, ages and how they would be useful. The hardest part was when members of a family were bought by different masters. I sometimes got so emotional I had to leave.
“Alright folks, step right up,” the auctioneer said. “The first one we have is a boy around 13. He’s a real hard worker and learns quickly.”
People started throwing out numbers until finally the boy was sold and taken away. I couldn’t help but wonder where his mother was.
“This lil’ lady is 10 years old. She can sew, cook and do most anything! How much for Hadessah, folks? Come on, you can see how able she is!”
My heart stopped and for a second I couldn’t breathe. Hadessah? Could it be? She was small, had light-brown skin and curly brown hair. It had to be her!
The price kept rising as I hurriedly counted the wad of bills I had.
My heart sunk. I didn’t have enough.
“400 do I have 425? 425? 400 going once, twice, sold!”
I wanted to run over tell them no, no, they couldn’t have her! She wasn’t a slave!
I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to tell her it would be all right. Her eyes were wild with fear as they led her off the platform and to her new master. And when I saw a warm tear slip down her cheek, I could have wept, myself. There wasn’t any way I was letting her out of my grasp now.
The man took Hadessah outside and into his carriage. I leaned over to a woman standing next to me.
“Who’s that man?” I whispered.
“Hubert Claybourne. He owns a tobacco plantation a few miles away,” she said.
Inside my mind I was planning. Somehow, someway, I would rescue her.
The moonlight seeped in through my hotel room window, lighting up the room in an eerie sort of way. I moved quietly around, gathering my personal belongings, for I wasn’t sure if I would be back or not.
I hopped into the cabriolet I had waiting, and headed off through town. Only a few people were out at this hour, mostly drunks wondering aimlessly down the street.
We trotted down the dirt roads, the moon gleaming down on the fields. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jack was looking up at that same big, yellow moon. A breeze blew and I pulled my shawl a little tighter.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the Claybourne mansion. I paid the driver and said, “I may or may not be back. Wait 20 minutes and if I’m not here, you may go.”
I wasn’t about to walk those few miles back to town. I’m sure the driver’s curiosity was aroused when I walked around the side of the huge house, in the dark. But I didn’t care.
I made my way through the tall grass and towards the many stone buildings I could see off in the distance. I was careful not to be seen by any of the night guards. As a battle nurse, I was pretty good at crawling on the ground. The hard part would be finding Hadessah’s living quarters. There were so many!
Kathryn (aka Chatty Kathy)