"Here dey come! here dey come! Look out fo'
Suzy an' Flora!" A colored boy darted along the
woodland path into the settlement of Cabin Creek,
shouting a warning as he ran. But almost as his words
were heard, the tramp of horses' hoofs sounded be-
hind him, and a party of horsemen broke from the
forest and trotted into the clearing. They were white
men looking for two escaped slaves-whose names
the boy-lookout was shouting.
Cabin Creek was a large settlement of free Ne-
groes who had taken up land together in Indiana.
Some of them had been born free in the Northern
States. Some of them had bought themselves free
from Southern masters, and many of these had rela-
tives who were still slaves. All of them were glad to
help any slaves who might reach them on their way
The boy's shrill cry brought men and women hur-
rying from all parts of the settlement, gathering
especially around one particular cabin. One of the
horsemen pointed to this cabin. He was the marshal,
the police officer of the neighborhood.
"I guess your girls will be there, Mr. Elwyn," he
said. "That's where their grandparents live, and if
you're sure they have gotten this far-"
"I don't know how they did it," answered the
other. "They're only fifteen or sixteen years old, and
it's two hundred and fifty miles from here to my
plantation in Tennessee. I suppose they slept in the
fields, and picked corn and berries by the way. But
I knew they'd try to come here, and I've traced them.
Yes, they're here, all right."
"It seems a pity to nab 'em, after they've walked
so far, and as hungry as they must have gotten, to
be free," said the marshal.
"Never you mind that. They're my property. I've
spent money to find them, and to get this gang to-
gether to take them away from this nigger city. I.
mean to have them, and I want you to do your duty."'
The marshal said no more, but jumped from his
horse, and drew an important-looking paper from his
pocket. This he opened and showed to the Negroes
standing around the door of the cabin-half a dozen
sturdy black men, and one old woman.
"This is my writ," he said. "The Judge gave it to
me. It says that you must let us go into your house
and take the two girls who belong to Mr. Elwyn."
"Yo' can't take 'em away," cried the old woman.
"Dey is my own gran'chillen, an' I'll nebber let 'em
go back to be slaves."
"You must do what the order says," answered the
marshal, trying to push past her into the house. But
the black men beside her stood like a wall, so he
stopped. The slave-owner then ordered the Negroes
to stand aside. "Get out of the way, you niggers," he
But they stood firmly. Then one of them said,
"Sorry, suh, but we ain't yo' slaves. We'se free men,
jes' as free as yo' is. If yo' wants to come in here, we
mus' see de writ ourselves, an' know it's jus' accordin'
The marshal handed the speaker the paper, which
he read, slowly and carefully from beginning to end,
while the slave-owner fumed and fretted. Meanwhile,
a number of colored people slipped into the house-
women, boys, one or two men-the guards opening
a way for them while still blocking the whites.
The Negro with the writ now said: "Dis paper
orders us to gib up de girls, Suzy an' Flora Elwyn,
to dere master. Suzy an' Flora are my own nieces, an
I won't gib 'em up 'less'n I hab to. How do I know
if he's dere master? How I know he's Mr. Elwyn?"
Again Elwyn broke out angrily, and tried to force
his way through. But the marshal calmed him, and
began a long argument with the Negro. Meanwhile,
as they talked, every few moments colored people
were coming and going from the house, until the
the slave-hunters paid little attention except to ob-
serve that the girls did not appear. Finally, the Negro
seemed to give up.
"Will yo' promise dat de gals will hab a fair trial
in court, if I let's yo' in?" he asked the marshal. The
marshal promised, and the man turned to his mother.
"It's de bes' we can do, mother," he said.
They moved from the door, and the marshal and
the slave-owner rushed in. The other whites, waiting
outside, expected to hear the girls scream in terror.
Instead, they heard the swearing of angry men, as
they searched in vain all over the cabin. The girls
were not there! As the furious men came out, even
their own companions burst out laughing. "The girls
must have been let down through a hole in the
ground to the Underground Railroad," shouted one.
None of the whites, however, could guess what a
really bold and clever thing had been done. The
girls were actually in the cabin when the party came
up. But the Negroes had laid careful plans. The
girls' uncle delayed the marshal at the door as long
as he could. Inside, the girls were hastily dressing
in boys' clothes, with slouch hats drawn down to
shade their faces. While the talk went on, Negroes
walked in and out, until the whites were accustomed
to seeing them. Then the girls walked out with oth-
ers, under the very nose of their former master.
Behind the trees and bushes a few yards away, two
fast horses were standing beside a great log, each
with a rider mounted. The girls in their boys cloth-
ing had simply mixed with the crowd, and then
slipped away, stepped upon the log, and jumped onto
the horses' backs behind the men who were waiting
for them. Starting off slowly, so as not to be heard,
the horses were urged into a run as soon as it was
safe, and carried the girls off at full speed. Their
uncle, of course, knew when they came out, and as
soon as they were safely away, let the slave-hunters
go into the cabin.
For twenty-five miles the girls traveled, riding
double with the horsemen, who were risking heavy
fines or imprisonment for helping them. That eve-
ning they arrived at Newport, Indiana, and the home-
of Levi Coffin.
Levi Coffin and his wife, "Aunt Katy," took good
care of the tired girls, gave them a hearty supper,
and sent them to bed. They were sure there would
be no danger that night. The next day, however, an-
other Negro rode from Cabin Creek saying that the
slave-hunters had divided into small parties, in order
to search all the Quaker towns nearby. One party was
coming to Newport, he said.
Mr. Coffin was in his store when this word came.
He hurried to his home to tell Aunt Katy to hide
the girls. Then he went back to his store, so that he
really would not know where they were if he were
asked. Soon afterward, several strangers appeared
in town, rambling around, asking about stray horses
- which they could not describe very well - and
bursting suddenly into homes of colored people. They
walked up and down in front of the Coffin home, but
did not quite dare to go in.
Even if they had done so, they were not likely to
have found the girls. Aunt Katy had hidden them
in a bed. There were no springs or hair mattresses
on beds in the country, at that time. A large sack,
the size of the bed, filled with clean rye straw, was
placed over the bed-slats. Above this, another sack,
or tick, full of feathers, made a soft and comfortable
bed. Aunt Katy had the two girls lie between the
ticks, carefully arranging the feather tick above
them so they could breathe easily. Then she made up
the bed, as usual, smoothed the counterpane, and put
the pillows in place. The slave-hunters might sup-
pose the girls were in Levi Coffin's home, but they
were not sure, and so dared not go in, for fear that
they themselves might be arrested. So that night the
girls came out from between the mattresses, and slept
in the bed in the ordinary way.
For several weeks longer, however, their former
master was in the neighborhood, hunting for them.
The Coffins never knew when their house was be-
ing watched, and the girls dared not so much as
go to a window during all that time.
Finally, however, Mr. Elwyn gave up his search,
and went back to Tennessee. Then Levi Coffin helped
Suzy and Flora to the next station of the Under-
ground Railroad, and they finally reached Canada