In the dark cool basement of an old Philadel-
phia house a ten-year-old colored boy was bend-
ing over a pair of high riding-boots, rubbing them
with all the strength of his thin, wiry arms. He was
not only the apprentice of M. Genolles, a tailor,
who had come from Paris many years before, but
also his body-servant, as valets were often called in
Wajelma owed his name to the tradition told him
by his mother, that an ancestor of his own had been
chief of a tribe in the heart of Africa, and was named
Wajelma. His mother had been happy when the op-
portunity came for him to be apprenticed to M.
Genolles, for it meant that he would have a good
trade when he grew up.
M. Genolles was reasonably kind to him. The boy
was seldom beaten, thanks to his quick hands and
eyes. And he was not a slave. There were still some
slaves in Pennsylvania in the year 1804, but Wajelma
and his mother both were free.
Today Wajelma was worried. M. Genolles had
told him that he was returning to France, and when
the boy asked him about his apprenticeship, the reply
was merely, "You'll find out in good time."
Wajelma was puzzling over this reply when sud-
denly a hand fell on his shoulder, and M. Genolles
spoke sharply, "Quick, get those boots into the chest
and lock it. The wind is up, and the boat will sail in
Wajelma's nimble hands made short work of the
final packing and locking, but all the time he kept
asking himself inwardly, "What about me? What am
I to do?"
The carriage was at the door, the chest strapped
on, and Wajelma stepped up to his master to wish
him a good trip. "But you're coming to the ship with
me," said M. Genolles. "I have something special
for you there."
"I'll get my cap, sir," answered Wajelma, but his
master snapped out, "There's no time. In with you!"
He pulled the boy into the carriage and slammed the
door. "To the packet, and hurry, man ," he shouted to
the driver, and they were off.
As they neared the docks, the spread sails of the
fast packet made a beautiful sight in Wajelma's eyes.
Once on deck, he was no less interested, for this
was his first visit to a large boat. His arms laden with
cloaks and bundles, he followed M. Genolles down to
the cabin, where several friends of his master, as well
as other passengers, were congregated.
"Wait here in the corner for me," said M.
Genolles, turning to greet his friends. Minutes went
by . . . a quarter-hour. Wajeima slipped timidly to M.
Genolles' side. "May I say goodbye, sir, and wish you
a pleasant journey?"
At that moment, they felt the ship move beneath
their feet. "I must hurry, sir," exclaimed the boy,
trying to slip out of the sudden firm grasp he felt
on his shoulder. "You little fool, you're going to
France with me," said M. Genolles.
"But I can't-I can't-my mother . . ." stammered
the frightened boy.
"Get back in your corner, and not a sound out of
you, or you'll be beaten black and blue," was the
only answer. The little boy, helpless, and seeing only
unkind amusement in the faces of the other men,
crouched in the corner, his face hidden on his knees,
his fists pressed against his mouth, as he tried not to
One comforting thought sprang into his mind. His
mother nearly always stopped to see him on Wednes-
days, and this was Wednesday. If only . . . but it was
a vague hope.
On Wednesdays, Wajelma's mother had a day's
washing in the neighborhood of M. Genolles' house.
As usual, on this Wednesday, she went early in order
to have a few moments with her little boy. She hardly
expected to find him waiting for her, as he was gen-
erally kept busy by his master. But the news given her
by the servants was completely unexpected:
"Wajelma go to de ship wid massa. De ship gone.
Wajelma ain't come back."
The poor mother dared not let her dismay stupefy
her. She knew at once that Wajelma was probably
kidnaped to be sold as a slave when the packet
touched Baltimore, in the slave-State of Maryland.
There was one person who might save her boy-
Isaac Hopper, the Quaker, the last hope for many of
the colored people, in cases just like this. There were
many white friends of the Negroes, but Hopper was
the most tireless of them all.
In a few moments the poor mother was pouring
out her suspicions to him. On the instant, Hopper
rushed out of his house to the pier only a few blocks
away. But the ship was nearly out of sight.
He hurried back to his house and mounted his
fastest horse. If he could get to Gloucester Point,
three miles below the little Philadelphia of that day.
before the ship should pass there, he had a good
chance of getting aboard her. At Gloucester Point
there was a ferry to take passengers across the Dela-
ware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
He had no spurs, no whip, but he dug his heels
deep into the sides of the astonished horse, which
lengthened into a faster and faster gallop. A bend
in the road showed him the river. Good! He had
gained! Luck was with him, for the packet had not
yet reached the Point. He poured his story hastily
into the ears of the woman who kept the ferry.
"Poor child!" she exclaimed. "Of course we'll help
all we can. Here, John," she cried to one of the ferry-
men. "Put Mr. Hopper aboard the packet as quickly
as you can, and stay by him until he gets the boy
who's being carried off."
The ferryman rowed toward the ship, Hopper
standing in the prow of the boat, waving his wide
Quaker hat, and gesticulating with his other arm. The
captain took it for granted that here was another pas-
senger for Baltimore, so he slackened speed, and, as
the boat came alongside, ordered the sailors to help
the late-comer aboard.
" Keep alongside the packet and watch for us,"
said Hopper to the ferryman as he climbed nimbly
up the rope-ladder let down for him. The captain,
bowing to his supposed new passenger, was given no
greeting save the terse query: "Where can I find M.
"In the cabin, sir. May I ask-" But the sudden
disappearance of Hopper down the companionway
left the question in the air.
Hopper hastened to the cabin. There in the corner
was the huddled form of the little boy, not even look-
ing up in his despair. The group of men smoking and
drinking around the table jokingly called to Hopper
to join them. But instead he walked directly to M.
Genolles, whom he knew by sight.
"My friend," he said, "what dost thou intend to do
with the boy there?"
"Take him with me. He is my apprentice."
"True, but according to the laws of Pennsylvania,
thou canst not take him with thee without having
first obtained the consent of his mother, of himself,
and of the magistrates. This thou hast not done."
"Fiddle; we are not in Pennsylvania now, and I
have the boy. That ends it."
"No," said the Quaker. "It does not end it. The
boy will go back with me. And as this packet is taking
us nearer and nearer to Baltimore, we must leave it
"Captain! Captain!" he called loudly. The captain
appeared in the companionway. "Put me and this boy
into the ferryboat that is waiting alongside."
At first the captain refused. "Why should I trouble
my passengers?" he, asked.
"Thou shalt soon know," answered Friend Hop-
per, drawing from his pocket a book containing the
laws of Pennsylvania. He opened it, and read aloud
the law concerning kidnaping and its punishment.
The captain was frightened. He saw that he himself
would be involved if Wajelma stayed on the boat,
so he finally said to Genolles, "You'll have to give
"Go on deck," said Hopper to the boy, and
Wajelma darted up the stairs like a flash. Genolles
tried to catch him, but he ducked under the snatch-
ing hands. Hopper rushed after him, followed in
turn by the entire party from the cabin, Genolles
shouting violently, "You shall not take him!"
The ferryman in his boat below was watching.
anxiously for Isaac Hopper and the boy. When he
heard the shouting he stood up in the boat, calling
to them. Wajelma neared the rail. The man held
up his arms, and caught the boy as he leaped. And
only just in time, for Genolles' clutching fingers
grazed the boy's shirt as he disappeared over the
ship's side. Furious, the tailor turned on Hopper who
was also about to slip over the rail, seized him, and
began to beat him with his free fist. The others
joined him, shouting "Pitch the meddler into the
river!" The captain stood by, but offered no help to
Hopper. Indeed, he seemed to be enjoying the affair.
But Hopper was strong and active. As a good
Quaker, he would not exchange blows with the
others, but thought, seizing a coat in, his fist, "If
I'm thrown into the water I'll take someone with
me." A sharp blow on his arm automatically loosened
his grip on the coat. But the next second he had
grabbed another. This coat was pulled from him, and
he laid hold on another, and another. It seemed as
though the struggle might go on forever. But sud-
denly the right moment came. Hopper unexpectedly
tore himself loose, evaded a violent blow, let go of
the coat he had in his grip, and sprang over the rail.
He fell in a heap in the waiting boat. Before he could
disentangle himself, the alert ferryman, had the boat
yards from the packet, though not too far to miss the
howls of rage from its defeated passengers.
Wajelma had been rigid with fear all during the
struggle. Now he sobbed in relief, excitement and
gratitude. "How did you find me?" he asked. "Oh,
was it Wednesday and my mother's visit?"
"Yes, and she didn't waste a minute. Neither did
I," chuckled the warm-hearted Friend. "Who'll be
the happiest, you or she, when we get back to Phila-