"No matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted
upon the altar of slavery, the moment he touches the sacred soil
of Britain, the altar and the God sink together in the dust, and
he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible
genius of universal emancipation."
[John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), Irish orator and judge
who worked for Catholic emancipation.]
A while we must leave Tom in the hands of his persecutors,
while we turn to pursue the fortunes of George and his wife, whom
we left in friendly hands, in a farmhouse on the road-side.
Tom Loker we left groaning and touzling in a most immaculately
clean Quaker bed, under the motherly supervision of Aunt Dorcas,
who found him to the full as tractable a patient as a sick bison.
Imagine a tall, dignified, spiritual woman, whose clear muslin
cap shades waves of silvery hair, parted on a broad, clear forehead,
which overarches thoughtful gray eyes. A snowy handkerchief of
lisse crape is folded neatly across her bosom; her glossy brown
silk dress rustles peacefully, as she glides up and down the chamber.
"The devil!" says Tom Loker, giving a great throw to the bedclothes.
"I must request thee, Thomas, not to use such language,"
says Aunt Dorcas, as she quietly rearranged the bed.
"Well, I won't, granny, if I can help it," says Tom; "but
it is enough to make a fellow swear,--so cursedly hot!"
Dorcas removed a comforter from the bed, straightened the
clothes again, and tucked them in till Tom looked something like
a chrysalis; remarking, as she did so,
"I wish, friend, thee would leave off cursing and swearing,
and think upon thy ways."
"What the devil," said Tom, "should I think of them for?
Last thing ever I want to think of--hang it all!" And Tom
flounced over, untucking and disarranging everything, in a
manner frightful to behold.
"That fellow and gal are here, I 'spose," said he, sullenly,
after a pause.
"They are so," said Dorcas.
"They'd better be off up to the lake," said Tom; "the
quicker the better."
"Probably they will do so," said Aunt Dorcas, knitting peacefully.
"And hark ye," said Tom; "we've got correspondents in Sandusky,
that watch the boats for us. I don't care if I tell, now.
I hope they will get away, just to spite Marks,--the cursed
"Thomas!" said Dorcas.
"I tell you, granny, if you bottle a fellow up too tight, I shall
split," said Tom. "But about the gal,--tell 'em to dress her up
some way, so's to alter her. Her description's out in Sandusky."
"We will attend to that matter," said Dorcas, with
As we at this place take leave of Tom Loker, we may as well
say, that, having lain three weeks at the Quaker dwelling,
sick with a rheumatic fever, which set in, in company with
his other afflictions, Tom arose from his bed a somewhat
sadder and wiser man; and, in place of slave-catching, betook
himself to life in one of the new settlements, where his talents
developed themselves more happily in trapping bears, wolves, and
other inhabitants of the forest, in which he made himself quite a
name in the land. Tom always spoke reverently of the Quakers.
"Nice people," he would say; "wanted to convert me, but couldn't
come it, exactly. But, tell ye what, stranger, they do fix up a
sick fellow first rate,--no mistake. Make jist the tallest kind
o' broth and knicknacks."
As Tom had informed them that their party would be looked for
in Sandusky, it was thought prudent to divide them. Jim, with
his old mother, was forwarded separately; and a night or two after,
George and Eliza, with their child, were driven privately into
Sandusky, and lodged beneath a hospital roof, preparatory to taking
their last passage on the lake.
Their night was now far spent, and the morning star of liberty
rose fair before them!--electric word! What is it? Is there
anything more in it than a name--a rhetorical flourish? Why, men
and women of America, does your heart's blood thrill at that word,
for which your fathers bled, and your braver mothers were willing
that their noblest and best should die?
Is there anything in it glorious and dear for a nation, that
is not also glorious and dear for a man? What is freedom to
a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it? What is freedom to
that young man, who sits there, with his arms folded over his broad
chest, the tint of African blood in his cheek, its dark fires in
his eyes,--what is freedom to George Harris? To your fathers,
freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is
the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute; the right to call
the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless
violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to
have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his
own, unsubject to the will of another. All these thoughts were
rolling and seething in George's breast, as he was pensively leaning
his head on his hand, watching his wife, as she was adapting to her
slender and pretty form the articles of man's attire, in which it
was deemed safest she should make her escape.
"Now for it," said she, as she stood before the glass, and shook
down her silky abundance of black curly hair. "I say, George,
it's almost a pity, isn't it," she said, as she held up some of
it, playfully,--"pity it's all got to come off?"
George smiled sadly, and made no answer.
Eliza turned to the glass, and the scissors glittered as
one long lock after another was detached from her head.
"There, now, that'll do," she said, taking up a hair-brush;
"now for a few fancy touches."
"There, an't I a pretty young fellow?" she said, turning
around to her husband, laughing and blushing at the same time.
"You always will be pretty, do what you will," said George.
"What does make you so sober?" said Eliza, kneeling on one knee,
and laying her hand on his. "We are only within twenty-four
hours of Canada, they say. Only a day and a night on the lake,
and then--oh, then!--"
"O, Eliza!" said George, drawing her towards him; "that is it!
Now my fate is all narrowing down to a point. To come so near,
to be almost in sight, and then lose all. I should never live
under it, Eliza."
"Don't fear," said his wife, hopefully. "The good Lord would
not have brought us so far, if he didn't mean to carry us through.
I seem to feel him with us, George."
"You are a blessed woman, Eliza!" said George, clasping her with
a convulsive grasp. "But,--oh, tell me! can this great mercy be
for us? Will these years and years of misery come to an end?--shall
we be free?
"I am sure of it, George," said Eliza, looking upward, while
tears of hope and enthusiasm shone on her long, dark lashes.
"I feel it in me, that God is going to bring us out of bondage,
this very day."
"I will believe you, Eliza," said George, rising suddenly up,
"I will believe,--come let's be off. Well, indeed," said he,
holding her off at arm's length, and looking admiringly at her,
"you are a pretty little fellow. That crop of little, short
curls, is quite becoming. Put on your cap. So--a little to
one side. I never saw you look quite so pretty. But, it's almost
time for the carriage;--I wonder if Mrs. Smyth has got Harry rigged?"
The door opened, and a respectable, middle-aged woman
entered, leading little Harry, dressed in girl's clothes.
"What a pretty girl he makes," said Eliza, turning him round.
"We call him Harriet, you see;--don't the name come nicely?"
The child stood gravely regarding his mother in her new and
strange attire, observing a profound silence, and occasionally
drawing deep sighs, and peeping at her from under his dark curls.
"Does Harry know mamma?" said Eliza, stretching her hands
The child clung shyly to the woman.
"Come Eliza, why do you try to coax him, when you know that
he has got to be kept away from you?"
"I know it's foolish," said Eliza; "yet, I can't bear to have
him turn away from me. But come,--where's my cloak? Here,--how
is it men put on cloaks, George?"
"You must wear it so," said her husband, throwing it over
"So, then," said Eliza, imitating the motion,--"and I must stamp,
and take long steps, and try to look saucy."
"Don't exert yourself," said George. "There is, now and then,
a modest young man; and I think it would be easier for you
to act that character."
"And these gloves! mercy upon us!" said Eliza; "why, my
hands are lost in them."
"I advise you to keep them on pretty strictly," said George.
"Your slender paw might bring us all out. Now, Mrs. Smyth, you
are to go under our charge, and be our aunty,--you mind."
"I've heard," said Mrs. Smyth, "that there have been men down,
warning all the packet captains against a man and woman, with
a little boy."
"They have!" said George. "Well, if we see any such people,
we can tell them."
A hack now drove to the door, and the friendly family who had
received the fugitives crowded around them with farewell greetings.
The disguises the party had assumed were in accordance with
the hints of Tom Loker. Mrs. Smyth, a respectable woman from the
settlement in Canada, whither they were fleeing, being fortunately
about crossing the lake to return thither, had consented to appear
as the aunt of little Harry; and, in order to attach him to her,
he had been allowed to remain, the two last days, under her sole
charge; and an extra amount of petting, jointed to an indefinite
amount of seed-cakes and candy, had cemented a very close attachment
on the part of the young gentleman.
The hack drove to the wharf. The two young men, as they appeared,
walked up the plank into the boat, Eliza gallantly giving her arm
to Mrs. Smyth, and George attending to their baggage.
George was standing at the captain's office, settling for
his party, when he overheard two men talking by his side.
"I've watched every one that came on board," said one, "and
I know they're not on this boat."
The voice was that of the clerk of the boat. The speaker
whom he addressed was our sometime friend Marks, who, with that
valuable perservance which characterized him, had come on to
Sandusky, seeking whom he might devour.
"You would scarcely know the woman from a white one," said Marks.
"The man is a very light mulatto; he has a brand in one of
The hand with which George was taking the tickets and change
trembled a little; but he turned coolly around, fixed an unconcerned
glance on the face of the speaker, and walked leisurely toward
another part of the boat, where Eliza stood waiting for him.
Mrs. Smyth, with little Harry, sought the seclusion of the
ladies' cabin, where the dark beauty of the supposed little girl
drew many flattering comments from the passengers.
George had the satisfaction, as the bell rang out its farewell
peal, to see Marks walk down the plank to the shore; and drew
a long sigh of relief, when the boat had put a returnless
distance between them.
It was a superb day. The blue waves of Lake Erie danced,
rippling and sparkling, in the sun-light. A fresh breeze blew from
the shore, and the lordly boat ploughed her way right gallantly
O, what an untold world there is in one human heart! Who thought,
as George walked calmly up and down the deck of the steamer,
with his shy companion at his side, of all that was burning in
his bosom? The mighty good that seemed approaching seemed too good,
too fair, even to be a reality; and he felt a jealous dread, every
moment of the day, that something would rise to snatch it from him.
But the boat swept on. Hours fleeted, and, at last, clear and
full rose the blessed English shores; shores charmed by a mighty
spell,--with one touch to dissolve every incantation of slavery,
no matter in what language pronounced, or by what national
George and his wife stood arm in arm, as the boat neared
the small town of Amherstberg, in Canada. His breath grew thick
and short; a mist gathered before his eyes; he silently pressed
the little hand that lay trembling on his arm. The bell rang; the
boat stopped. Scarcely seeing what he did, he looked out his
baggage, and gathered his little party. The little company were
landed on the shore. They stood still till the boat had cleared;
and then, with tears and embracings, the husband and wife, with
their wondering child in their arms, knelt down and lifted up their
hearts to God!
"'T was something like the burst from death to life;
From the grave's cerements to the robes of heaven;
From sin's dominion, and from passion's strife,
To the pure freedom of a soul forgiven;
Where all the bonds of death and hell are riven,
And mortal puts on immortality,
When Mercy's hand hath turned the golden key,
And Mercy's voice hath said, Rejoice, thy soul is free."
The little party were soon guided, by Mrs. Smyth, to the
hospitable abode of a good missionary, whom Christian charity has
placed here as a shepherd to the outcast and wandering, who are
constantly finding an asylum on this shore.
Who can speak the blessedness of that first day of freedom?
Is not the sense of liberty a higher and a finer one than any of
the five? To move, speak and breathe,--go out and come in unwatched,
and free from danger! Who can speak the blessings of that rest
which comes down on the free man's pillow, under laws which insure
to him the rights that God has given to man? How fair and precious
to that mother was that sleeping child's face, endeared by the memory
of a thousand dangers! How impossible was it to sleep, in the
exuberant posession of such blessedness! And yet, these two had
not one acre of ground,--not a roof that they could call their
own,--they had spent their all, to the last dollar. They had
nothing more than the birds of the air, or the flowers of the
field,--yet they could not sleep for joy. "O, ye who take freedom
from man, with what words shall ye answer it to God?"