ALLEN AND HIS PASSENGER
For two hours, Allen had been keeping watch
in the peach orchard near the road. Allen was only
eleven years old, but he knew that his own home
was a station on the Underground Railroad across
Ohio. Sometimes he had seen a Negro man or
woman come in, tired and hungry. His father and
mother never told him how they came, or where
they went. It was enough for him to know that they
had been slaves, and were going to be free.
Today, he himself was part of the "Railroad," and
he felt very proud as he looked down the road to the
southward. That morning his father had said to him,
"Allen, I am going to the far field to work. If any
Negro should come along, thee can take him down
to the corn-field, if thee likes, and hide him under
the big walnut-tree. But do not tell me about it, or
thy mother, or anybody else."
And so Allen played by the roadside, and watched
for the runaway slave who might arrive. Surely
enough, at last there came a poor fellow, with feet
bleeding from the rough roads he had gone over,
and clothes torn by underbrush he had broken
through on his way to freedom. Hurrying along the
road, he would pause each few yards, turn his head
to listen, then hurry on again even faster than before.
Allen ran out into the road to meet him. The man
started in terror at sight of a human, and looked
from side to side, as if for a hiding-place. Allen spoke
"Is there somebody after thee?" he asked. "I'll
hide thee, so that they cannot find thee."
"Yo' will? Can yo', for shuah? Is yo' Mista' Jay's
Allen nodded. The Negro grinned.
"Dey tol' me dat I'd get help heah. I'll go jus'
where yo' says."
Allen quickly led the way among the trees of the
orchard. Soon they were out of sight of the road, and
the Negro looked back, sighing with relief. Beyond
the orchard was the big corn-field, with rows of corn
standing higher than the man's head.
"Nobody can find thee here," said Allen.
" 'Deed dey can't," answered the slave. "I feels
Farther and farther in among the rows of corn they
went, until at last the great walnut-tree was reached,
its branches spreading wide in every direction.
"Now thee stay right here," said Allen, "add wait
for me. I will come for thee at the right time."
"I won't stir from heah," answered the man. "I'se
been walkin' all day yest'day, and all night, an' I'se
tired 'nuff to sleep till tomorrow come, ef I only
wasn't so hungry."
"I will get thee something to eat," answered the
boy, as he started back to the house.
He intended to go to the pantry, and help himself
to some food for the fugitive. But when he reached
the kitchen, he found his mother busy spreading
slices of bread with butter, and laying cold meat
between them. She looked up, as he entered, and
smiled, but said nothing, and Allen sat down and
watched as she packed a basket with sandwiches,
cake, and fruit. Then she filled a jug with rich,
creamy milk, and turned to him.
"Allen, if thee knows of anybody whom thee thinks
is hungry, thee might take this basket to him."
Allen could hardly restrain his eagerness as he
slipped off the chair and seized basket and jug. But he
was rather amused, too, and he answered, with the
slightest touch of a smile, "I will try to find some-
body, but if I do not, I may eat the lunch myself."
"Very well," answered his mother, seriously, as
he hurried tout across the back-yard and over
fields to the great walnut-tree, where the colored
man sprawled, resting his weary limbs, and watching
hungrily for Allen's return.
The man ate as if he were starved. There was little
left in the basket when at last he paused and poured
out his thanks to the boy.
"I can sleep, now," he added. "I hasn't had my
stomach full since I lef' ol' Virginny"; and indeed, as
Allen turuned away, he stretched himself out on the
ground, and seemed to fall asleep on the instant.
Allen returned to the house and to his dinner. His
father and mother chatted as usual, but the boy was
unusually silent. He was thinking about the Negro
lying under the walnut-tree, and wondering if he
would get safely to Canada. He was soon to learn
there were men who would do all they could to pre-
vent this; for while the family were still at the table,
two rough-looking men came riding up to the gate,
and called loudly to Mr. Jay to come out. Obligingly,
he obeyed their call, saying, as he left the room:
"They look like slave-catchers. I suppose they are
searching for some unfortunate escaped Negro. Even
if I had one sitting here at the dinner table, I should
never give him up."
The Jay house stood rather near the road. Allen
slipped into the front room, and stood out of sight
beside an open window. Here he could hear all that
was said by the men on horseback, and by his quiet,
"Have you seen a nigger going by here today?"
was the first question.
"No, I have not," came the reply.
"Don't let him fool you, Jim," interrupted the
other rider. "The nigger didn't go past, because he
came in. Look here, you Quaker, that nigger's in your
house, and we're going to look for him there."
"There is no Negro in my house, but if it will give
you pleasure to look for one, you are at liberty to do
do so, provided you have the proper authority."
But this they did not have. They could only bluster
and threaten, and finally rode away in disgust.
Afternoon passed without event. Supper-time came
and it began to grow dark. Allen wondered more and
more about what was to be done with the man. Surely
he was not to be left under the tree all night. Then at
last his father spoke:
"Allen, I have a basket of apples to send to thy
grandfather. It is getting a little dark, but I think
thee can drive over with old Ned, can thee not?"
"Yes, indeed," answered the boy quickly.
"I will harness the horse for thee, and put the
apples in the wagon. It is only five miles, of course,
but if thee would like to take anybody along, I shall
be glad to have thee do so."
"Thank thee, father," said Allen quietly, as be-
came his father's son. Catching up his cap, he ran
through the kitchen door, and across the back-yard
toward the corn-field and the walnut-tree. The Negro
was still sleeping, but Allen caught him by the shoul-
der, and quickly roused him.
"Come," he said, "we're going on.",
The man sprang to his feet, caught up the basket
with its remains of lunch, and followed the boy to
the barnyard. There stood old Ned, harnessed and
tied to a tree, his head toward the road. Everything
was ready for the start, but Mr. Jay was nowhere to
be seen, and Allen knew that he was to drive away,
without more words.
It was now quite dark, but Ned, a wise and ex-
perienced old horse, knew the road even better than
did Allen, and trotted along at his own moderate
pace. They met few people, and had no adventures
of any kind before reaching the home of Allen's
grandfather. Half, an hour later, the Negro was
astride a good horse, and trotting northward with
another friendly Quaker beside him, on his way to the
next station of the Underground Railroad. Months
later, the Jays learned that he reached Canada safely.