The three murrays sat around their pleasant
fire, each occupied in his own way. Mrs. Murray, by
the light of a candle turned the heel of the woolen
yarn stocking she was knitting. Her husband, with
another candle on the little stand beside him, read
aloud from the "Anti-Slavery Standard." Eleven-
year-old Richard shook a long-handled skillet full of
popcorn which he held over the coals, and listened
happily to the sound of its popping.
"Here is the account of a slave-sale in Charleston,"
said Richard's father. "Mothers separated from their
children, husbands from their wives. It is terrible
work," he sighed, "but it cannot last."
His wife nodded. "The guilty ones will surely be
punished. 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the
As she spoke there was the sound of feet on the
porch, and a knock at the door. John Murry laid
down his paper, went to the door, and opened it.
"So you are at home, are you?" was the officious
greeting which came from outside.
"Yes,"; answered Mr. Murray, gravely. "I am at
home. Is there anything else that thee would like to
"Not just now," was the visitor's reply. As he
spoke, he brushed past Mr. Murray, and glanced into
the living-room. Richard and his mother looked up in
surprise, and the man stepped back to the door.
"Everybody is at home here," he said to his com-
panions outside, and the party left the porch, with a
word of thanks to Mr. Murray who in deep thought
closed the door, dropped a heavy bar across it, and
came back to his seat.
This happened in Ohio, about the year 1856. The
Murrays and practically all their neighbors were
strongly opposed to slavery. Whenever the marshals
were on the track of an escaped slave, there were
half a dozen Quaker homes here which were sure to
be searched, and first of all the home of John and
John Murray looked thoughtful as he resumed
his reading. After a few moments a second knock,
much louder, sounded on the door He sprang to his
feet and looked at his wife.
"They have been to the stable and found the
horses gone. Now they are sure there are slaves in
the settlement, and they will search the house." He
turned to the windows, and pulled down the shades,
while Mrs. Murray: dropped a cone-shaped tin ex-
tinguisher over the flame of each of the candles.
As the window-shades descended, a heavy blow
shook the door, and an angry voice outside shouted:
"Open the door! Open-in the name of the United
"We are caught"' said John Murray. "There is
only one thing to do."
His wife darted from the room, while he spoke to
the boy, who was excitedly watching the door.
"Richard, go upstairs, and wait until I call thee
down. Then come quickly, and pop corn again, as
though nothing had happened. Keep on popping,
even though we do have visitors."
Richard hurried up the stairs. As he reached the
top, he stopped in amazement, as he caught a glimpse
of his mother coming quickly back to the living-room,
leading a Negro by the hand.
"What is wanted?" Richard's father was calling to
the men outside.
"You know very well what is wanted," came the
reply. "We are after a fugitive slave. Open the door,
or we shall break it in!"
"If you are peaceable, I will gladly let you in,"
answered John Murray, as he and his wife hurried
the Negro into the room where they had just been
Richard stared in surprise from the top of the
stairs. He knew that his father had not intended
that he should see this, hut he could not turn his eyes
away, though he determined to let no word escape
him to show where the fugitive might be. Where
could they hide him in that room, anyway? There
were no closets, nor large pieces of furniture which
might conceal him.
As the boy stood puzzling, his father softly called
him, and he hastened down the stairs, hearing all the
while a rain of blows on the stout house-door. He
hurried into the room, and glanced about. There was
no sign of the Negro. His mother was lighting the
candles again with a "spill," or lighter, from the vase
of tapers on the mantel. The cat, which had been
sleeping in a chair, was now curled up on the hearth-
stone close to where Richard himself had been stand-
ing. Where was the slave? But even as he wondered,
he took up his skillet of popcorn and held it over
Outside, there was a shout, "Now, boys, all to-
gether!" There was a rush, and John Murray threw
open the door, just as three men plunged against it
and fell headlong into the hall, one of them breaking
a chair as he fell.
The three rose quickly in much ill-temper. "We
want that nigger slave, Mr. Murray, and we mean to
have him," said the leader. "Here's a warrant for his
"We have no nigger slaves here, my friend; none
but free people-as free as thee, and with much bet-
ter manners. And as for thy warrant-where is thy
warrant for breaking my furniture?"
"Search the house, boys," said the leader. "Don't
pay any attention to the abolitionist."
"Give them a light, Hannah. Let them look; let
them search thoroughly." This was spoken with a
Hannah Murray handed a lighted candle to the
men. "You should be proud of your business,", she
said. "You should be proud of chasing poor black
people over the country, to carry them back to
The men hurried about their search, and the tramp
of their feet sounded along the halls, and from room
to room over the house. John and Hannah Murray
took their seats again, and looked soberly into the
fire, while Richard, upon the hearthstone, popped his
corn carefully, although it was all he could do to keep
from shouting with excitement.
Through the bed-rooms, the kitchen and the cellar
the searchers went, but found no sign of the escaped
slave; they muttered a few words of apology and left
the house again. Hannah Murray took the candle
from them, saying gently, as she closed the door:
"What would your mothers think if they knew you
had descended to such work as this?"
The clatter of horses' hoofs sounded on the road.
The men were gone. Richard could no longer contain
"What did thee do with him, father?" he cried.
"Where did thee hide him?"
"So thee watched?" asked his father.
"I didn't mean to; but mother came in with him
before I was upstairs."
"Perhaps thee should know, now; but first let me
see if any of our visitors remain on the porch or
nearby." Mr. Murray stepped out, and looked care-
fully around. Finding nobody, he returned to the
"Now, Richard," he said with a smile. "I think
thee has popped corn enough. Step off the hearth-
stone, and lift old Tabby back to her chair. Did thee
wonder how she came to get down on the hearth-
"A little, but I was thinking more about the man."
"I lifted her down myself," said his father, turning
back the rag carpet from the half of the hearthstone
which it covered. "Now help me move the stone."
Together they turned the stone back. Here was ex-
posed the entrance to a dark but roomy hole beneath
the floor of the house. A small ladder was provided
for descending. Several people might be comfortably
hidden in the recess while search went on over their
Richard peered in eagerly, while his father called:
"Yes, massa," came a voice from the darkness
below. "Can I come up now?"
"Yes, I think it is safe for thee now."
John Murray held a candle over the hole. Richard
was amazed that here in his own house was such a
hideaway that his own exploring curiosity had not
led him to discover before. How could it have been
made without his knowledge? Perhaps at night while
he was asleep. He looked at his father with beaming
Now he was big enough to be a part of the Rail-
The Negro came quickly to the surface, and the
hearthstone and carpet were replaced. Then John
"Samuel, thee should know my boy Richard, who
stood on the hearthstone above thee, with his cat
sleeping beside him, and so turned the search away
from this room."
The fugitive turned toward the boy, but Richard
spoke quickly to stop the thanks which were coming.
"I didn't know that I Was doing it, but I'm glad if I