A covered farm-wagon drawn by two horses
pulled slowly along a sandy road in northern Dela-
ware. It was a beautiful July day in 1853, and the
strong farm-horses hardly needed to be guided as
they went steadily along in their slow jog-trot.
The driver, however, seemed a bit apprehensive
about something, and he frowned as he saw a man
on horseback trotting briskly toward him. Then he
seemed to gather himself to meet whatever might
"Good evening, Mr. Kent," said the rider, as the
"Good evening, John," answered the other. Kent
would have driven on without pausing, but the man
John Frame had artfully stopped his horse so that
Kent's wagon must stop also.
"Where are you going so late in the afternoon,"
asked Frame. "You are far from market and from
"I have a special errand," answered William
The other smiled knowingly, 'and added, "And
you have a very special load of goods; or I am much
"Well, yes," said the Quaker. "A miscellaneous
assortment, and I must be driving on, for, as thee
says, it is growing late."
But as he urged his horses on, the sound of a
cough came from the back of the wagon. It was
instantly stifled, as though a hand had been clapped
over the coughing mouth. But the sound was un-
mistakable, and John Frame, leaning forward on his
horse, laughed loudly.
"I thought I might find out something if I kept
you talking long enough," he said. "Now I know for
certain the sort of merchandise, you are carrying."
He laughed again, and spurred his horse, galloping
off at top speed, giving the startled Quaker no chance
A voice now broke from inside the wagon-a
woman's voice. "Oh, my Lawd," it cried despair-
ingly. "Now us is lost, fo' shuah. Jim, you rascal,
why cain't you keep yo' mouf shut?"
"I couldn't, mammy, I couldn't," answered a child.
"I held in, an' held in, an' when I t'ought I'd stopped
it, de cough came out, befo' I know'd it." He
coughed again, violently, as he spoke.
William Kent had set his horses going again on
the northward road, but cast many uneasy glances
behind him. Presently, the wagon neared a cross-
road and he called back over his shoulder:
"I am sorry for all you folks tucked away there. I
told you that we would reach our stopping-place in
a half hour or so. But since we met John Frame, I
feel that we must change our route, for I fear he has
gone to give information about us. He would guess,
of course, that we were on the way to Joshua
Spencer's home, and the marshals will go there and
search the place from top to bottom."
"We'll do anythin' you say, massa," exclaimed a
man's voice, the speaker hidden from sight.
"Well, Frank," Kent replied, "if the children can
stand it to sit there for another three hours or so, I
will take you by another road, and to other good
friends. It will be much safer."
"Yo' heah dat, chilluns," said the man, Frank,
"yo' got to sir quiet heah, fo' a good while yit, or yo'
may get cotched, an' took back."
"We'll be quiet - We'll be good"-We don'
wanta be slaves no mo'," rose a chorus of children's
voices, accompanied by violent coughing.
William Kent turned his horses into the cross-
road, without further word, and drove on. For many
minutes the only sounds were a burst of coughing
from the sick child, or a suppressed whimper of "Oh,
mammy, I'm so hungry."
"Keep up your courage," William Kent would
then say to them. "We're getting nearer the place
And indeed, soon after nine o'clock, the wagon
mounted a hill, and stopped before a pleasant farm-
house on the summit.
"Here we are," said Kent. He climbed down, and
opened the wagon at the rear. Out came his passen-
gers, cramped and stiff from their long ride-a Negro
man, a woman, and three children. As they painfully
descended, the house-door opened, and a handsome
young Quaker couple appeared on the porch, smiling
"James and Amelia Jackson," said the driver, "I
wish you to know Frank and Sarah here, who are
traveling northward with their children, Gus and
Cassy and Jim."
Even as he spoke, and as the Jacksons greeted their
unexpected guests, little Jim broke into a spasm of
coughing which shook him from head to foot, and
ended with an unmistakable "whoop."
"Whooping-cough," cried' Amelia Jackson, turn-
ing pale. "What shall we do?" She looked up at her
husband. "We cannot bring them into the house, on
account of our children."
"The first. thing to do," answered James, "is for
Jim to keep as far away from Gus and Cassy as he
can." He laid his hand on the boy's ragged shoulder,
and drew him apart from the others. "And the second
thing is for them all to have a good supper. As for
their beds, the hay-mow is half-full of fresh, sweet
hay, and there's no better bed in the world than
"Thy barn is perilously near the road," objected
Kent, "and I warn thee there is danger."
"I think they are safe enough tonight," answered
the farmer. "If the marshals are on the trail, they will
spend themselves at the Spencer house. Our friends
can sleep tonight, and tomorrow is another day."
James Jackson led the way to the barn, while his
wife darted into the house, to prepare a hearty supper
for the fugitives-plenty of homemade bread and
butter, a great pitcher of milk, cold meat, cake, and
blackberries. Presently Jackson returned for blankets
and other things needed for the night. Back and forth
he went, carrying bedding and food. At the last load,
his wife followed him to the barn with a cup of
"simmer," the old-time homemade cough syrup, of
butter, brown sugar and water boiled down together.
A spoonful or two of this, taken whenever one felt
inclined to cough, would soothe the irritated throat,
and often stop a cough entirely. And it tasted good.
Children of that day thought it was almost worth
while having, a cough, for the sake of the unlimited
"simmer" that went with it.
So Amelia Jackson carried out a cup of "simmer"
for poor, little Jim, eating his supper in a corner of
the hay-mow as far away as possible from his brother
and sister. He coughed now and then, with a loud
"whoop" which terrified his mother.
"Oh, Jim, Jim," she exclaimed. "Does it hu't you?
Pore little boy! Oh, Jim, don't be sick. If you's sick
we'll all be cotched, an' taken back."
"I won't be sick, mammy;" answered Jim stoutly,
and relieved her mind considerably by eating as
hearty a supper as any of the others.
The meal over, the Jacksons helped their guests to
make beds for themselves in the terraces of fragrant
hay. The children, even Jim, dropped off instantly to
sleep, and their parents seemed no less ready to rest
as the Jacksons hung a lantern over a beam and said
The next morning all were much rested and re-
freshed, though Jim continued to "whoop," and his
mother, in terror of discovery, kept close by him,
clapping her hand over his mouth at every outbreak.
Another cup of "simmer" came with the breakfast,
and the Jacksons told their plans for the day.
"There are three or four families close by, all of
whom work together to help our colored friends,"
said James Jackson.
"From, this hilltop we can see the Hockessin valley
for miles, and the road by which the marshal would
come. I have visited all our neighbors this morning,
and between us we shall keep a steady watch on that
road during the entire day. If any strangers should
be seen coming, we will be able to hustle you away
to a safer place."
"But it might not be so comfortable as here," broke
in Amelia. "So, unless there is immediate danger, you
will stay here through the day. But you need not be
Thee can even let Jim cough when he has to,"
she added with a smile, turning to the anxious colored
So throughout the long day, some member of the
little Quaker community on the hill was constantly
on watch. A messenger, sent to inquire at Joshua
Spencer's home, brought back word that the house
had been searched. Only William Kent's caution had
saved Frank and his family from capture.
However, no searchers came to the Jackson home
that day, and, as soon as it began to grow dark in the
evening, the family were stowed away in the big
wagon, with its large hood shielding them from pass-
ing view, and James Jackson drove them through the
night toward the next station of the Underground
"Even a mild case of whooping-cough can be very
dangerous sometimes," Jackson smilingly remarked.