Little Henry Wilbur swallowed his last mouth-
ful of apple-sauce and gingerbread, and pushed back
his plate. "Mother, may I go out and roll my hoop
now?" he asked.
"Yes, for a little while," she answered. "But be
sure to come in at once when I call thee, for it will
soon be thy bed-time."
Henry seized his hoop from behind the door, and
ran out with it into the pleasant summer evening.
The plaything was only an old hoop from a barrel,
but it was round and strong, and the boy had en-
joyed many happy hours with it. Jumping down the
porch-steps, he set the hoop down, and with his
stick rolled it along the drive which led from the
house to the road. It is hilly country in northern
New York State, but the road at this point was level
and straight, and a fine place for rolling a hoop.
Tonight, however, his game was cut. short. He had
made only one or two trips back and forth along
his course, when he saw a horse, drawing a high-
topped buggy, come trotting briskly along the road
from the south. Henry stopped and looked.
"That's Jacob Pratt's horse, from South Easton,"
he said to himself. "I wonder if Jacob is bringing
us an escaped slave." He stared at the two men on
the seat. Yes, one of them was black. Dropping his
hoop, the boy dashed for the house to carry the news.
The home of Job Wilbur and his son Humphrey,
near Easton, New York, was a station of the Under-
ground Railroad. It was nearly three hundred miles
from the nearest slave-State, but it was on the road
to Canada for numbers of slaves from the Caro-
linas and Virginia. Slave-catchers seldom pursued es-
caping slaves into northern New York; but when
they did, they knew quite well that the Wilbur home
frequently gave shelter to fugitives.
Henry had often seen colored men and women
eating at his parents' table, or had known of their
being hidden in haymow or orchard until they could
be safely sent on to the next station. It was all a
regular part of his six-year-old life. And so he now
hurried to the house, calling to his father at the top
of his voice. Humphrey Wilbur came out onto the
"What is it, Henry?" he asked.
"Jacob Pratt is coming," panted the boy, "and he
has somebody witli him."
Humphrey turned back to the house, and spoke to
his wife, who was in the kitchen with her mother-
"Ann," he said, "I think our guests will be
The two women had nearly finished clearing the
supper table. Now they set things on again-apple-
sauce, bread and butter and gingerbread, while
Henry's grandmother hastily set the skillet on the
fire, and began to cream a dish of cold boiled po-
Presently the buggy came to the door, and two
men stepped out. Jacob Pratt's passenger was a short,
slim Negro, whom Jacob called Frank. The Wilburs
made them welcome, and hurried them in for supper.
"We are truly hungry," said Jacob Pratt, "and yet
I fear that Frank has little time to eat. I think a slave-
catcher is on his trail. At the cross-roads, three miles
back, we met a stranger on horseback who looked at
us very sharply, and although Frank sat far back
under the hood of the buggy, I fear he was seen."
"Sit down quickly," cried old Esther Wilbur, "and
eat what you can."
"We must do more than that," said her husband.
"If that man was a slave-catcher, he may be here
soon with others to help him. Jacob, thee had best
start back at once over the same road. If Humphrey
or I ride with thee, and we meet the man, they may
think they were mistaken, and spare us a visit. If
they do come here, we must do our best for Frank."
"I'll nebber be taken alive, suh," broke in Frank.
"Thee will not be taken," said Humphrey, reassur-
ingly. Then, turning to the older Wilbur, he contin-
ued, "Thee is right, father. Thee and Jacob must go
at once. If nothing happens, I will take Frank to
Union Village as soon as he has had his supper."
The two men hurriedly drove away, Job carry-
ing several generous slices of bread and cheese and
gingerbread for Jacob's supper. Humphrey then
turned to his small son who had been watching
everything with large eyes.
"Henry, go and roll thy hoop up and down the
road again. But keep a sharp watch, and if thee sees
a stranger coming, just turn thy hoop into the drive-
way toward the house. Do not come in. I shall be
watching, and will know what thee means."
Delighted to have the important post of watch-
man, Henry ran out to the road, and recommenced
his game. But it was soon interrupted, for he saw
two men on horseback riding toward him, on the
road by which Jacob Pratt had come and gone.
One glance proved to him they were strangers.
Shaking with excitement, he guided his hoop into
the driveway and toward the house. Glancing ahead,
he saw his father's face swiftly withdrawn from the
window, and he knew that his warning had been
The riders galloped up and turned in at the gate
where Henry stood, watching. In the house, mean-
while, there had been much commotion.
"It may not be they, Frank," said Henry's father,
"but thee had better go up into the attic until we are
sure. I will get the ladder, so thee can reach the
He hurried through the kitchen to the woodshed
where the ladder was kept. Frank followed at his
heels. But as the two men started back with the
ladder the Negro also snatched up the axe from
where it lay in the shed.
"Frank, Frank, thee must not take that," cried the
two Wilbur women together.
"I'll nebber be taken alive; nebber, nebber," an-
swered the man, clutching the axe.
"Give me the axe, Frank, and thee hasten up the
ladder," exclaimed Humphrey Wilbur. "We want no
"I won't use it less'n I hab to," answered the
Negro. "But they can't take me alive."
He disappeared into the attic, letting the trap-door
fall behind him. As Humphrey caught the ladder and
hurried away with it, the two horsemen were draw-
ing rein by the porch, and the next instant one of
them knocked loudly. Henry's grandmother let them
in, for they had a warrant to search the house. Every
room was carefully examined.
"There's a trap-door," said one of them, finally.
"Perhaps he's up there."
"No," said the other, "there wasn't time. They
couldn't have known we were coming until we
"Just the same, I'm going to look," was the reply.
A moment later he had placed the ladder, then he
pushed open the trap-door, only to shrink backward
Above him stood Frank with the axe ready in his
"Look out," cried Frank, "I doan' want to huht
yo', but yo'll nebber take me alive."
There was nothing for the two slave-catchers to
do but back down the ladder.
"We'll go now," they cried, "but we'll be back,
and then look out for yourself."
They were hardly out of the house, however, be-
fore Humphrey Wilbur was helping the Negro to
swing down from the attic opening. There would be
a little time for them to prepare now, for the two
slave-catchers had gone for help-they never loitered
about singly. Wilbur's wife came hastening with one
of her own neat gray dresses.
"Quick!" she said. "Get into this. Thee must get
away with all speed." On went the dress, and the
two women swiftly pinned white neckerchief and
gray shawl into their proper places. The man's face
was hidden in the tunnel-like depths of a Quaker
bonnet, and it seemed hardly possible that this was
the desperate Negro who, a few minutes before,
had defied the slave-catchers with an axe.
Humphrey Wilbur was already in the barn, hur-
riedly harnessing the horse to a wagon loaded with
potatoes. "The grocer in Union Village wants these
potatoes tonight," he said. "It is Seventh-Day, and
he keeps late hours. Thee shall go with me, Frank.
Get in! Get in!"
The two climbed to the wagon-seat, and drove
away in the gathering dusk, to all appearances a
Quaker man and woman who were on the way to
market in Union Village five miles to the north.
* * *
Henry pulled at his mother's hand, "Will he get
to the next station all right?"
"I think so, dear."
"Shall we ever see him again?"
Probably not; he will find work and a home in
But, much to the surprise of the Wilburs, they
did see Frank again. Two or three years later, after
the outbreak of the Civil War, when Negroes were
comparatively safe in any part of the North, Frank
came back to them, and asked for work on their farm.
For a number of years, he was a most faithful and
devoted helper, and Henry's close friend.
Henry heard from him many stories of slavery
and of his escape to freedom.
"Thee ought to have another name, now, Frank,"
said Henry one day. "Now thee is free, thee should
have two names."
"So I ought. Well, den, I'd like to take de name
of Wilbur. Dat's de' bes' name I know."
"But thee doesn't look a bit like us, Frank," said
the boy. "People who have the same name ought to
look something alike."
"Dat's so. Well, I'se made a lot ob good 'quain-
tances 'round heah. I'll just call myself 'Quaintance,
-Frank 'Quaintance. How's dat?"
"That's very good," answered Henry. "Nobody
else has a name like that."
And so Frank the slave became Frank Quaintance,
the free man, and was known by that name from