One bright summer morning in southern Ohio,
sunlight creeping across her face woke thirteen-year-
old Lucinda Wilson at about five-thirty o'clock. She
sat bolt upright, and then made a leap out of bed as
she thought, "The strawberries on the hill must be
ready to pick." Lucinda had been watching with eager
eyes a hill overgrown with wild strawberries. Now
she joyously planned to surprise the family at break-
fast with a basketful of the luscious, ripe berries.
She dressed rapidly but quietly so as not to disturb
her sleeping sister. Lucinda had had the big bed to
herself that night, as seventeen-year-old Mary was
spending a few days with a chum on a nearby farm,
and Ruth, the fifteen-year-old, slept on a narrow cot
under the eaves at one end of the big upstairs room.
The Wilson house stood some distance back from
the main road, with a long, straight drive from the
gate to the front door. The drive seemed much too
long to the girls on foot walking it, so Lucinda took
a short-cut to the strawberry hill which lay along the
highway, a path leading out of the barnyard, almost
invisible in the tangle of growth. Lucinda hurried
along the path to the road, and started up the hill.
There were the berries, just as red and delicious as
she had hoped. She began to pick rapidly, but the
bottom of her basket was not even covered when a
voice called to her from the highway below.
Startled, she looked down and saw two men on
horseback. They were strangers to her, and her first
glance put her on guard, for her home was a station
on the Underground Railroad. These men, she felt
certain, were slave-catchers.
The next instant Lucinda knew she was right. The
man who had called to her, dark and scowling, now
spoke again, "Have you seen two black girls go past
here?" he asked. "Two girls about seventeen or eight-
een years old? They're only a few minutes ahead of
us, we're sure."
Lucinda shook her head. She answered them hon-
estly that she had just come to the spot, and had seen
nobody but themselves.
The men touched their horses and moved on. But
Lucinda had no more thought of berries. The two
girls would come to her home, she was sure, and the
men would catch them at the very door, unless they
were warned. She looked cautiously after the riders,
to make certain neither was glancing behind; then
she darted across the road and ran back along the
In a few moments, she was in the farmyard, and
hurrying to the house. As she tore open the back-
door, she heard her mother's voice at the front. The
Negro girls had come, and the men would be there
the next instant. Breathless, she burst upon them.
The door was still open, the girls and her mother
standing in the hall.
"Shut the door! shut the door, quick!" she gasped.
"They're coming after you!"
Even as she spoke she saw a horse turn into the
driveway. Mrs. Wilson slammed the door, locked it,
and looked wildly around for a hiding-place for the
two trembling colored girls.
"Oh, dey'll drag us back again. We'll nebber be
free, nebber!" cried one of them.
"Hush!" said Mrs. Wilson. "Go upstairs. Quick!"
They rushed up the stairs; and into the room where
Ruth was now up and half-dressed. She looked up,
startled, as the four burst in.
"Lucinda," her mother directed, "put on thy night-
cap and night-gown again, and get into bed."
She seized Mary's night-clothes from under the pil-
low, and thrust them upon one of, the colored girls.
"Put these on, and' get into bed with my daughter.
Lie next the wall, and turn thy head away from the.
door. Pull the cap well down over thy face."
As the, girl hastened to obey, Mrs. Wilson lifted
the top of a large square wicker clothes-hamper which
stood at the side of the room. Fortunately, it was
"Get in there," she said to the other girl, who
stepped in, and crouched down for the lid to be
A loud knock sounded at the front. door. "Sit on
the basket, Ruth, and catch thy dressing-gown around
thee. The. slave-catchers will be up here in a mo-
Mrs. Wilson glanced around the room. There was
nothing in sight to show that the colored girls had
been there, and she hastened down 'the stairs to open
"Good morning, ma'am," said one of the men.
"We're after those two nigger girls that you have
"Indeed," she answered, "and how does thee know
that we have two Negro girls here?"
"Because we were right on their heels, and we
know they wouldn't have gone past here. So you'll
have to let us search the house."
"You are welcome to do so, if you wish. But I can
assure you that it will be wasted labor. You will find
no Negroes here."
"We'll see about that," answered the man, as the
two began a thorough search of each room in the
house. Mrs. Wilson let them open the doors, and
look as they would, until they came to the girls'
room. Then she stepped forward.
"My three daughters sleep there," she said, "and
it is yet early morning. Gentlemen, I beg you not to
enter their room."
"Just as likely to be here as anywhere," said one
of the men, and he opened the door and went in.
There were the three girls, two in bed, with the bed-
clothes pulled up to their ears; the other sitting upon
the wicker hamper, holding her wrapper about her,
as though taken by surprise. In the hamper under
her, however, the terrified colored girl was trembling
so that it seemed to Ruth the men must see the
hamper shaking. She sat as heavily as she could, and
covered the hamper with her wrapper' as far as pos-
Somewhat embarrassed, the men looked hastily
about the room, opened the closet-door, and finding
nothing, went out again, with a half-hearted apology.
"Well," said one of them, as they came from the
last room, "it begins to look as though those girls
went past here, after all. We'd better put on speed,
and perhaps we can overtake them yet."
"I told you that you would find no colored girls
here," said Mrs. Wilson, quietly. She then hospitably
offered them breakfast, but they refused in their haste.
They galloped off and the girls were free to come
from their hiding-places.
"De Lord bress you, missy," said the girl who had
been Lucinda's bedfellow during, those tense mo-
ments. "You saved us, shuah."
"I'm glad I decided to pick strawberries for break-
fast," said Lucinda. "And it's still early enough for
me to go back and fill my basket. We'll have some
for breakfast, after all."
The two colored girls stayed quietly in the house
all day. Late that night a covered wagon took them
to another Quaker home on another road. From there
they were sent on next day with little danger, for
word had come back that the two slave-catchers had
lost all trace of them and declared that they had bur-