Brown, Hallie Q.
|HARRIET TUBMAN -- Harriet--The Moses -- 1821--March 10, 1913|
|The Story of Joe|
A slave named Joe fell into the hands of a new master whose first order to him was to strip and take a whipping as a reminder to better behave himself. Joe, seeing no present help submitted to the lash, but thought to himself, "This is the first time--and the last!" That night he went to the cabin of Harriet's father and said, "Next time Moses comes let me know." In a few weeks Harriet came, then as usual men, women and children began to disappear from the plantations. Joe, his brother and two others went with the party. Hunting and hiding,--separated and brought together again by roundabout ways, passed on through the aid of secret friends they got at last opposite Wilmington, Delaware. The pursuers were hot
It was Harriet's method, we are told, to leave on a Saturday night, since no advertisements could be issued on Sunday, thus giving the fugitives a day's start of publicity. They found the bridge at Wilmington closely guarded by police officers on the lookout for them. It seemed impossible to cross in safety. But in that city lived Thomas Garrett a great lover of humanity through whose hands two thousand slaves are said to have passed on their way to liberty. His home was the North Star to many a fainting heart.
This century has grand scenes to show and boast of among its fellows. But few transcend that auction-block where the sheriff was selling all Garrett's goods for the crime (?) of giving a breakfast to a family of fugitive slaves. As the sale closed the officer turns to Garrett saying: "Thomas, I hope you'll never be caught at this again." "Friend," was the reply, "I haven't a dollar in the world, but if thee knows a fugitive who needs a breakfast, send him to me." Harriet had secret news sent to this good Quaker. He was equal to the emergency. He engaged two wagons and filled them with brick-layers, Irishmen and Germans. They drove over the bridge, shouting and singing as if for a frolic in the country. The guards let them pass and naturally expected to see them return. As night fell the merry party came back making as much noise as before and again passed without suspicion, but this time the runaways were concealed at the bottom of the wagons and soon hidden away in the home of Mr. Garrett. So far so good, but Joe could not feel at ease until he was safe in Canada.
As the train in which they were approached the suspension bridge below Niagara Falls, the rest of the excited party burst into singing even before they were out of danger, but Joe was too oppressed to join in their joy.
When the cars began to cross the bridge Harriet, anxious
"Joe, look at de Falls!" "Joe, you fool you--come see de Falls! It's your last chance." But Joe sat still and never raised his head. At length Harriet knew by the rise in the center of the bridge and the descent on the other side that they had crossed the line. She sprang across to Joe's seat, shook him with all her might and shouted, "Joe, you've shook de lion's paw." Joe did not know what she meant. "Joe, you are free."
Then the strong man who could stand under the master's whip without a groan, burst into a hysterical passion of weeping and singing, so that his fellow passengers thought he had gone crazy. But all rejoiced and gave him sympathy when they knew the cause of his emotions.