Illegal Sale of Her Son
ALITTLE PREVIOUS TO Isabel's leaving her old master, he had sold her child, a boy of five years, to a Dr. Gedney, who took him with him as far as New York City, on his way to England; but finding the boy too small for his service, he sent him back to his brother, Solomon Gedney. This man disposed of him to his sister's husband, a wealthy planter, by the name of Fowler, who took him to his own home in Alabama.
This illegal and fraudulent transaction had been perpetrated some months before Isabella knew of it, as she was now living at Mr. Van Wagener's. The law expressly prohibited the sale of any slave out of the State,—and all minors were to be free at twenty-one years of age; and Mr. Dumont had sold Peter with the express understanding, that he was soon to return to the State of New York, and be emancipated at the specified time.
When Isabel heard that her son had been sold South, she immediately started on foot and alone, to find the man who had thus dared, in the face of all law, human and divine, to sell her child out of the State; and if possible, to bring him to account for the deed.
Arriving at New Paltz, she went directly to her former mistress, Dumont, complaining bitterly of the removal of her son. Her mistress heard her through, and then replied—‘Ugh! a fine fuss to make about a little nigger! Why, haven't you as many of ‘em left as you can see to, and take care of? A pity ‘tis, the niggers are not all in Guinea!! Making such a halloo-balloo about the neighborhood; and all for a paltry nigger!!!’ Isabella heard her through, and after a moment's hesitation, answered, in tones of deep determination—‘I'll have my child again.’ ‘Have your child again!’ repeated her mistress—her tones big with contempt, and scorning the absurd idea of her getting him. ‘How can you get him? And what have you to support him with, if you could? Have you any money?’ ‘No,’ answered Bell, ‘I have no money, but God has enough, or what's better! And I'll have my child again.’ These words were pronounced in the most slow, solemn, and determined measure and manner. And in speaking of it, she says, ‘Oh, my God! I know'd I'd have him agin. I was sure God would help me to get him. Why, I felt so tall within—I felt as if the power of a nation was with me!’
The impressions made by Isabella on her auditors, when moved by lofty or deep feeling, can never be transmitted to paper (to use the words of another), till by some Daguerrian art, we are enabled to transfer the look, the gesture, the tones of voice, in connection with the quaint, yet fit expressions used, and the spirit-stirring animation that, at such a time, pervades all she says.
After leaving her mistress, she called on Mrs. Gedney, mother of him who had sold her boy; who, after listening to her lamentations, her grief being mingled with indignation at the sale of her son, and her declaration that she would have him again—said, ‘Dear me! What a disturbance to make about your child! What, is your child, better than my child? My child is gone out there, and yours is gone to live with her, to have enough of every thing, and be treated like a gentleman!’ And here she laughed at Isabel's absurd fears, as she would represent them to be. ‘Yes,’ said Isabel, ‘your child has gone there, but she is married, and my boy has gone as a slave, and he is too little to go so far from his mother. Oh, I must have my child.’ And here the continued laugh of Mrs. G. seemed to Isabel, in this time of anguish and distress, almost demoniacal. And well it was for Mrs. Gedney, that, at that time, she could not even dream of the awful fate awaiting her own beloved daughter, at the hands of him whom she had chosen as worthy the wealth of her love and confidence, and in whose society her young heart had calculated on a happiness, purer and more elevated than was ever conferred by a kingly crown. But, alas! she was doomed to disappointment, as we shall relate by and by. At this point, Isabella earnestly begged of God that He would show to those about her that He was her helper; and she adds, in narrating, ‘And He did; or, if He did not show them, He did me.’