Lucinda Wilson hurried along the country road
toward her home, wondering if she would be in time
to ride the first load of hay. There was nothing more
delightful, Lucinda thought, than riding from the
hayfield into the barn, perched high upon a load of
new, sweet-smelling hay. She had wanted to go into
the field with her father and his helpers immediately
after their mid-day dinner, but her mother needed
her for an errand first.
One of their neighbors was ill, and Lucinda's
mother and several other friendly housewives were
helping the family by sending in bread and butter
and hot dishes of meat and potatoes.
Lucindia did her errand faithfully. She slipped
quietly into the Myrick kitchen, put three loaves of
bread in the pantry, and the closely-covered bowl of
butter in the cool cellar. Then she tiptoed upstairs,
to ask how Mrs. Myrick was feeling.
"Mother, will be here tonight to stay with her,"
she told the neighbor who was acting as nurse at the
In those days trained nurses were little known.
People took care of one another, and if a member of
a family was sick, friends and neighbors came in by
turns to help with the nursing.
Her friendly errand done, Lucinda was now free
for her hay-ride. She walked swiftly down the maple
shaded road, glancing behind her occasionally, down
the road coming up from the south. This was the
road on which fleeing slaves usually arrived, and in
her fancy she was always expecting to see such trav-
elers, so she was not surprised, as she turned into the
short-cut path to her home, to see a man running
toward her from around a bend in the road. He was
light brown in color and might be mistaken at a dis-
tance for a white man, but his terror identified him
as an escaping slave.
Lucinda waited for him to come near, and then
called to him, "Is there somebody after thee?"
He stopped suddenly. "Yes, Missy; dey's close
behin' me. Whar can I hide?"
"Come with me, quick. Father will know what
He hurried after her into the short-cut path, and a
moment later its windings hid them both from sight
of the road. The two men who came galloping up
just as they disappeared did not realize that the slave
had taken to the faintly marked path.
"That fellow runs well," said one of them. "He's
around that next bend already."
"He's making for Wilson's, of course," answered
the other. "I've lost a dozen niggers there, or more.
They seem to disappear from the earth. But we ought
to catch this fellow before he gets to the door, and
they won't have time to hide him, for once."
The two slave-catchers spurred their horses, and
Meanwhile, the poor fellow whom they meant to
catch was racing along the path, closely following
Lucinda's flying feet. He was covered with dust, his
clothes were the roughest of slave-clothes, and he
was so tired that he staggered as he ran. Both of
them glanced over their shoulders at first, but nobody
pursued, so they relaxed their pace a bit.
They hurried through the barnyard, and out into
the great meadow behind. Lucinda had feared her
father might be at the far end of the field, but to her.
joy, the wagon stood near the barn, her father and
another man pitching hay up to a third man, who
received and tramped it down on the load.
"Father!" she cried out. "Father!" Her father
started; then dropped his pitchfork and hurried to
them. "Hide him, quick, father," she urged. "They
were close behind him, and we ran through the path.
They didn't see us, but they're near."
"Through the path," said her father, thoughtfully.
"If they did not see you, they have gone to the house.
They will search the house, first, and then come out
to the barn, and look for me. We have at least five
minutes yet." He looked carefully at the Negro, then
stepped up to him, lifted one of the man's hands, and
held his own sunburned hand beside it. There was
hardly any difference in shade.
John Wilson smiled. "We can do it," he said.
"Can thee pitch hay?"
The man nodded.
"Come, then," said Mr. Wilson. He hastened into
the barn, the fugitive at his heels. A moment later,
they were out again. But in that moment, the Negro's
appearance had been completely changed. A full suit
of Mr. Wilson's overalls covered his torn and dirty
clothes. A broad-brimmed straw hat, such as the
hay-makers were wearing, hid his woolly hair and
the back of his neck. In his hand he held a pitchfork.
The two men strode out to the hay-wagon. Lucinda
hesitated a moment about following them, but her
father called to her to come. "I have another hand
today," he said. "The wagon will be loaded in no
time, and thee shall have thy ride."
The next moment four men were working where
three had worked before. Forkful after forkful of hay
was tossed to the load. The newcomer was as skillful
as any of the Quakers. Then came a loud hail from
the barn-door. A man was standing there, calling to
Mr. Wilson. Lucinda's father dropped his, pitchfork
and went toward him, Lucinda following in order
to hear the conversation.
"Say, Mr. Wilson," said the slave-catcher, "you've
got a runaway nigger here, and we're after him.
Where is he?"
"Thee knows very well that even if I had an es-
caped Negro here, I would never tell thee where to
"The fellow was just ahead of us. He must have
come into your place. My partner and I have gone
through the house, and now he's searching the barn.
Who are these men you have out here?"
"Thee can see for thyself," said Mr. Wilson,
The man came out of the barn, and walked a few
steps toward the great wagon with the three over-
alled workers busy around it. Lucinda, turning to
watch them, noticed how dexterously the Negro kept
his back to the slave-catcher, or when he turned to
toss up a forkful of hay, kept the hay before his face
for the instant it might have been seen.
The man stared in every direction over the field.
Nobody was in sight except the busy workers by the
hay-wagon, and the little girl waiting to ride on the
The three sunburned men were dressed alike in
overalls and broad-brimmed hats. There was no
ragged and woolly-headed Negro to be seen, and
so he turned away with an exclamation of disappoint-
"Bill," he called to his partner in the barn, "I don't
see that fellow anywhere out here. Either he went
past this place after all, or else he's gone under-
ground like those others."
"He's nowhere in the barn, sure," answered the
other, coming to the door. I've been all along the
haymow and looked in' every stall and feed bin."
"What about the manger?" asked his partner.
"I pulled a horse's or a cow's nose out of every
one of them. Nothing doing.
"You don't suppose he might be wearing a little
girl's clothes?" he said with a sarcastic grin, looking
"Come on," was the reply. "We don't have time
to be funny."
Angrily the two, men rode away, leaving the es-
caped slave in comparative safety.
The mulatto wished to stay and work to show his
gratitude, but Mr. Wilson reminded him that this
was only a breathing spell and not freedom and he
must continue on for his own safety-for the Wilson
home was a busy station on the Railroad.
That night, washed and fed, he slept in a comfort-
able bed in the Wilson home, and the next day,
dressed in clean clothes, was sent on his way toward
Canada and freedom.