When we got across the river, we found Leroy – an escaped slave – a’sleepin’ in our tree house. That’s when I told Jack we could get in big trouble if we helped him out or hid him or found him a place to stay. But Jack liked this new challenge and he liked Leroy right off. Leroy had a big straw hat and he was big and muscular and very dark. Said he came up from Alabama and was separated from his family in Charleston two years earlier when he and his sister and mom were auctioned off to different masters right at the same slave market we were just at. When Leroy saw us he looked like a scared raccoon and he took a runnin’ leap and jumped off of the tree house but Jack said to hold on, that we wouldn’t hurt him. So he stopped and turned around and stared at us wide-eyed.
“Hey want an apple boy? What’s your name?” I said.
“I’m called Leroy and I am so hungry, thank you sah, thank you!”
Leroy gobbled down the apple and then Jack gave him his too.
“Where you goin’ in such a hurry boy?” Jack said.
“I is goin’ to Massachusetts so I can be a lawya and git ma famli bak sah. We waz all done solded heya in Charleston some time ago and I went with ma masta to Albama and I ain’t seen hide nor hair of ma sista or motha since. I can read and rite a little so I wants to be a lawya sah. How fur is Massachusetts anyhow sah?”
“You got a long, long, long way to go Leroy and you goin’ to be hunted down all the way-why don’t ya let us help ya get there.”
“No sah, I gotta go. If’n I stop I thinks I’ll neva get goin’ agin and I git caught and the dogs’ll git me.”
“But you’re safe here. No-one but us comes here. Stay here for a while,” I said, “until we can figure a plan. If anyone can help you out of this fix, we can. And Jack here is the best kniver in all of Charleston and I bet we can help ya find out where your sister and mother went off to.”
“You can? You ain’t tryin’ to trick me now, is you?”
“When is the last time you ate anythin’?” said Jack.
“Well I been pickin’ raspberries and findin’ vegables and such in da gardens dat I seen on da way heya but I havn’t had no good dinna sah, not since I left dat plantation shanty five weeks now. I been travlin’ nites and sleepin’ and hidin’ days. I just keep a’goin’ up da rivers and hidin’ in da swamps where I knows people probably won’t go in.”
“Well Leroy,” Jack said, “you just stay here and we’re a’goin’ to go fetch a big pile of food for ya. So don’t ya go anywhere! You safe here cuz this is our secret fort and no-one but me and Jeremy and one other boy knows it’s here. Stay here okay? I promise we’re not going to turn ya in but that we is goin’ to help ya escape. Okay?”
“Yes sir, I’ll stay. You seem like fine yunguns and I trust ya already.”
“Be back in a few hours then,” I said.