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Storyline taken from Runaway to Freedom, by Barbara Smucker


Part Three: The Liberator

Julie and her crippled friend, Lisa, are slaves escaping from Sinful Misery, but sometimes it seems impossible to go on.

At last the hills rolled out into fields and well-traveled roads again. “Which way, now?” Lisa asked, falling into a heap at the edge of some unripe grain of rejoicing. “I’m as weak as a baby.”

“Maybe we could get something in town,” I said.

“I’m not going into any town,” Lisa said. “You know what the Kindness folks said about hunters after us.”

But I wasn’t listening to her. Over the tops of the grain I had caught sight of a old man pulling a cart down the road. “Look!” I whispered. “He’s a slave like we are. Maybe he can help us.” Lisa looked doubtful, but I stepped out to talk to him.

“Going to Peace Land?” he repeated, when I had told him our story. “There is a freed man who takes escaping slaves across the River Doubt, named Fred Helper. You better hide in the day, but follow these determination tracks at night. They’ll take you to his place.” He handed us a loaf of helpfulness. “Here, take my lunch. I’d be doing the same thing if I was young,” he told us, and plodded off down the road.

I felt sorry for the old slave, but was very thankful for his helpfulness. We hid in the field of grain and rested for the day as best we could. That night dark clouds hid the moon as we started off down the silver tracks.

Suddenly the the ground began to rumble. We were barely off the tracks when the Believing Train flashed by and rattled off into the night. Toward Peace Land.

“Would be like flying if we were on one of them,” Lisa said, rubbing her sore back. We climbed back up and stumbled on.

The next night the harvesting moon rose full and bright. It made us nervous. We left the open tracks for the ditches, keeping the Star of Truth in sight. Finally we stopped by a cornfield of courage and I suggested we pick something to eat. We were both near to dropping anyway, but the barking of a dog sent us scrambling up the nearest tree.

“It’s only a dark boy,” I told Lisa in relief.

“Are you Fred Helper?” I called out, and then wished I hadn’t been so brave.

“No,” the boy said coldly, “and I never want to get mixed up with his business either.” We held our breath, but he called his dog and then said in a low voice, “The place is right next to the water, and they always have a candle in the window. That’s all I’ll tell you.”

I set off toward the sound of flowing water, dragging Lisa along with me. Ignoring her doubts, I knocked at the door of the little cabin and called out, “For truth and righteousness!” A man opened the door. “Are you Fred Helper?” I asked.

“You’ve come to the right place,” he said, as he and his good wife, Confidence, took us to their secret room. Lisa had hardly stumbled in when she slumped over with weariness.

“Poor child,” the good woman said, “here is some good courage soup to strengthen you.” As we sat down to eat, she surprised us by saying, “We’ve been expecting you girls ever since your friends Adam and George came through.” Of course, we had to hear the story.

On their way back to Hate-Good plantation, Adam and George had managed to roll themselves off into a sorrowful swamp, Fred told us. They hid there all night to drown their scent from the hounds. By rubbing on a jagged rock they were able to break the chain that held them together. “It was only last week that they made it to this stop on the Trail,” Fred finished.

“A sorry sight they were, too—sick, with their wrists bleeding, and those chains hanging off of them,” Confidence said. “We cared for them until they could walk again.” I couldn’t help crying then, thinking of those cruel chains. Yet, to think, they were on their way to freedom still!

Suddenly the quiet of the room was broken by the bark of Fred’s dog, Watch. Slave hunters had tracked us to this very place! Confidence helped us escape to the roof while the rough men searched the house below. The peace of the night had disappeared and danger was very near.

As soon as the hunters had left, Fred Helper told us we must cross the River Doubt as soon as possible. The darkness pressed in close as we huddled in the Boat of Trust and listened to the river signals. “It’s safe, just lie still,” our friend said softly. “When we get to the other side another helper will be there to meet you.” So we were rowed over like somebody’s valuables and tucked away in a waiting wagon. With a lurch we were off again on the Trail to Holiness. Where would it take us now?

Our new guide was not long in telling us. “If all goes well, we will reach the Liberator’s house by morning,” he said, “Don’t move if we are stopped.” The Liberator of slaves? Master of Love himself? It didn’t seem possible, but when dawn broke we were standing in front of a solid brick house. Nothing grand or glorious. Could it be the place?

“Oh, knock quick!” Lisa whispered breathlessly, as I hesitated. “We can’t stand here on the street.” Suddenly I felt frozen. Here we were, two dirty beggars—would he take us in? It was Lisa who painfully reached up and clanged the knocker. The door opened and we were standing before the Liberator himself.

“For truth and righteousness,” I murmured, looking up fearfully into the tall man’s face. His eyes seemed to melt all the iciness right out of me. He looked from me to Lisa with a strange mixture of love and sadness, and then drew us inside with a smile that lit up his whole face.

As we entered the hall, his voice became serious. “Slaves seeking freedom?” He asked in a most quiet voice. We only could nod, as his eyes searched our faces. I felt fear and hope tingle all through me when he said with a note of triumph in his voice, “That is why I am here. Grace! We have two girls here from Sinful Misery that are cold and hungry.”

In answer to his call, a smiling girl appeared with two shawls. They were knitted in warm scarlet wool and completely covered our ragged clothing. We tried to thank her, but she only laughed. “There is no place for chills in Master Love’s house,” she said merrily. “Wrap up well and dinner will be ready in a moment.”

We sat down at a table spread with a white tablecloth and beautiful glass dishes. A sweet-faced woman, named Mercy, was soon serving us steaming mugs of bittersweet tea. “Oh, it is wonderful,” Lisa murmured, as she wrapped her stiff fingers around the warm mug. “Can it be real?”

Someone coughed and I looked up to study the four dark faces on the other side of the table. Until then, I hadn’t really noticed them. I was startled to see how dirty and thin they were, but then realized that we were just as bad off. No one spoke as we gratefully ate the food served us. Even here we were uneasy and afraid.

As soon as we finished eating, Mercy took Lisa and I out into a narrow passage. We could hear stomping at the front door and Master Love’s voice, and then a familiar and very chilling sound.

“Dear sir,” a gruff voice said, “if you are so good, why do you allow such filthy runaway wretches into your house? We have come to fetch them back at once!” It was the same slave hunter that had tracked us to Fred Helper’s home!

Before I could wonder what to do, Mercy was pulling us into a bedroom and had whisked the cover off the bed. “You must lie down close together and I will spread the Master’s own comforter over you,” she said quickly. “If you don’t move or speak, you will be perfectly safe.” As we lay ourselves down between the clean sheets, she added more softly. “The Master knows how to handle these men. I’ll be close by. Don’t be afraid.”

The minutes ticked by and all we could hear was the creaking of Mercy’s rocker. Suddenly footsteps came near and the door burst open. “What do we have here?” said the slave hunter.

“This is my handmaidens’ room, as you can see,” a quiet voice replied.

“Do you use it for anything else?” the man asked suspiciously.

“No, it is only for those that I take into my service.” I held my breath. I had heard that the Master of Love never told lies, but how could this be true? The footsteps were going away and Mercy had shut the door.

“You can come out now,” she said, lifting the covering off of us. “See? You are safe now.” “But—but,” I began, “it wasn’t quite true what he said.”

“Do you mean to say that you aren’t headed for Peace Land?” Mercy asked.

“That’s where we want to go, ma’am,” Lisa said.

“Then you haven’t heard that this is the house of the Liberator and all that seek freedom must come here first?”


“Well then, if you want to get clean over the border, safe and sound, you must let Master Love be your Master and direct everything. That makes you his handmaidens, see?”

Suddenly I saw it all. This wasn’t just another place to snatch a bite to eat and head on. This was our gateway to freedom! “Then, our journey is over at last!” I cried out in delight.

Mercy smiled and said, “Not so fast, dear, for you must both wash and dress before you board the train tonight.”

The scrubbing which Grace gave was more than enough to remove the last traces of dirt from our skin. It left me glowing with new life and happiness. We weren’t going to be anybody’s old slave anymore. Dressed in warm new clothes, Lisa said she felt like a fine, cleaned-up lady. Grace said that she hardly could recognize us.

In the gray of evening Master Love led us out the front door and into a black curtained carriage. “Looks like a funeral cart,” Lisa whispered as he lifted her in.

“If it looks like death now, remember it is life on the other side,” the Master said. He pulled the shades down and the light was shut out. We were left in a blackness that felt almost peaceful as we headed down the Trail to Holiness. No one would turn us back now.