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Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 9

As soon as Thomas Garrett heard of the condition of these poor people, his plan was formed. He engaged two wagons, filled them with bricklayers, whom of course he paid well for their share in the enterprise, and sent them across the bridge. They went as if on a frolic, singing and shouting. The guards saw them pass, and of course expected them to re-cross the bridge. After nightfall (and fortunately it was a dark night) the same wagons went back, but with an addition to their party.

The fugitives were on the bottom of the wagons, the bricklayers on the seats, still singing and shouting; and so they passed by the guards, who were entirely unsuspicious of the nature of the load the wagons contained, or of the amount of property thus escaping their hands.

And so they made their way to New York. When they entered the anti-slavery office there, Joe was recognized at once by the description in the advertisement.

Well,” said Mr. Oliver Johnson, “I am glad to see the man whose head is worth fifteen hundred dollars.”

At this Joe’s heart sank. If the advertisement had got to New York, that place which it had taken them so many days and nights to reach, he thought he was in danger still. “And how far is it now to Canada?” he asked. When told how many miles, for they were to come through New York State, and cross the Suspension Bridge, he was ready to give up.

From dat time Joe was silent,” said Harriet; “he sang no more, he talked no more; he sat wid his head on his hand, and nobody could ‘muse him or make him take any interest in anyting.” They passed along in safety, and at length found themselves in the cars, approaching Suspension Bridge.

The rest were very joyous and happy, but Joe sat silent and sad. Their fellow-passengers all seemed interested in and for them, and listened with tears, as Harriet and all their party lifted up their voices and sang:

I’m on my way to Canada,
That cold and dreary land;
The sad effects of slavery,
I can’t no longer stand.

I’ve served my master all my days,
Widout a dime’s reward;
And now I’m forced to run away,
To flee the lash abroad.

Farewell, ole master, don’t think hard of me,
I’ll travel on to Canada, where all the slaves are free.
The hounds are baying on my track,
Ole master comes behind,Resolved that he will bring me back,

Before I cross de line;I’m now embarked for yonder shore,
There a man’s a man by law;
The iron horse will bear me o’er,
To shake de lion’s paw.

Oh, righteous Father, wilt thou not pity me,
And aid me on to Canada where all the slaves are free.
Oh, I heard Queen Victoria say,
That if we would forsake

Our native land of slavery,
And come across the lake;
That she was standin’ on de shore,
Wid arms extended wide,

To give us all a peaceful home
Beyond de rolling tide.
Farewell, ole master, etc.

The cars began to cross the bridge. Harriet was very anxious to have her companions see the Falls. William, Peter, and Eliza came eagerly to look at the wonderful sight; but Joe sat still, with his head upon his hand.

Joe, come look at de Falls! Joe, you fool you, come see de Falls! its 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 sid, 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’re free!” shouted Harriet. Then Joe’s head went up, he raised his hands on high, and his face, streaming with tears, to heaven, and broke out in loud and thrilling tones:

“Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul is safe!
Oh, go and carry de news,
One more soul got safe.”

Joe, come and look at de Falls!” called Harriet.

“Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul got safe.”

was all the answer. The cars stopped on the other side. Joe’s feet were the first to touch British soil, after those of the conductor.

Loud roared the waters of Niagara, but louder still ascended the anthem of praise from the overflowing heart of the freeman. And can we doubt that the strain was taken up by angel voices, and that through the arches of Heaven echoed and reechoed the strain:

Glory to God in the Highest,
Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul is safe.

The ladies and gentlemen gathered round him,” said Harriet, “till I couldn’t see Joe for the crowd, only I heard ‘Glory to God and Jesus too!’ louder, than ever.” William went after him, and pulled him, saying, “Joe, stop your noise!  You act like a fool!’

Then Peter ran in and jerked him mos’ off his feet,–” Joe, stop your hollerin’! Folks ‘ll think you’re crazy!” But Joe gave no heed. The ladies were crying, and the tears like rain ran down Joe’s sable cheeks. A lady reached over her fine cambric handkerchief to him. Joe wiped his face, and then he spoke.

Oh! if I’d felt like dis down South, it would hab taken nine men to take me; only one more journey for me now, and dat is to Hebben!”

Well, you ole fool you,” said Harriet, with whom there seems but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous, “you might a’ looked at de Falls fust, and den gone to Hebben afterwards.” She has seen Joe several times since, a happy and industrious freeman in Canada.

Previously: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 5
Next: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 7

This is part of a multi-part series published to celebrate Black History Month in 2012. The list of published posts can be found at Book Directory: Scenes In The Life Of Harriet Tubman. Use the Stay In Touch box below to recieve e-mail notifications about new posts.

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