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The Ingrate
by [?]

Meanwhile the white hills of the North were beckoning to the chattel, and the north winds were whispering to him to be a chattel no longer. Often the eyes that looked away to where freedom lay were filled with a wistful longing that was tragic in its intensity, for they saw the hardships and the difficulties between the slave and his goal and, worst of all, an iniquitous law,–liberty’s compromise with bondage, that rose like a stone wall between him and hope,–a law that degraded every free-thinking man to the level of a slave-catcher. There it loomed up before him, formidable, impregnable, insurmountable. He measured it in all its terribleness, and paused. But on the other side there was liberty; and one day when he was away at work, a voice came out of the woods and whispered to him “Courage!”–and on that night the shadows beckoned him as the white hills had done, and the forest called to him, “Follow.”

“It seems to me that Josh might have been able to get home to-night,” said Mr. Leckler, walking up and down his veranda; “but I reckon it’s just possible that he got through too late to catch a train.” In the morning he said: “Well, he’s not here yet; he must have had to do some extra work. If he doesn’t get here by evening, I’ll run up there.”

In the evening, he did take the train for Joshua’s place of employment, where he learned that his slave had left the night before. But where could he have gone? That no one knew, and for the first time it dawned upon his master that Josh had run away. He raged; he fumed; but nothing could be done until morning, and all the time Leckler knew that the most valuable slave on his plantation was working his way toward the North and freedom. He did not go back home, but paced the floor all night long. In the early dawn he hurried out, and the hounds were put on the fugitive’s track. After some nosing around they set off toward a stretch of woods. In a few minutes they came yelping back, pawing their noses and rubbing their heads against the ground. They had found the trail, but Josh had played the old slave trick of filling his tracks with cayenne pepper. The dogs were soothed, and taken deeper into the wood to find the trail. They soon took it up again, and dashed away with low bays. The scent led them directly to a little wayside station about six miles distant. Here it stopped. Burning with the chase, Mr. Leckler hastened to the station agent. Had he seen such a negro? Yes, he had taken the northbound train two nights before.

“But why did you let him go without a pass?” almost screamed the owner.

“I didn’t,” replied the agent. “He had a written pass, signed James Leckler, and I let him go on it.”

“Forged, forged!” yelled the master. “He wrote it himself.”

“Humph!” said the agent, “how was I to know that? Our niggers round here don’t know how to write.”

Mr. Leckler suddenly bethought him to hold his peace. Josh was probably now in the arms of some northern abolitionist, and there was nothing to be done now but advertise; and the disgusted master spread his notices broadcast before starting for home. As soon as he arrived at his house, he sought his wife and poured out his griefs to her.

“You see, Mrs. Leckler, this is what comes of my goodness of heart. I taught that nigger to read and write, so that he could protect himself,–and look how he uses his knowledge. Oh, the ingrate, the ingrate! The very weapon which I give him to defend himself against others he turns upon me. Oh, it’s awful,–awful! I’ve always been too confiding. Here’s the most valuable nigger on my plantation gone,–gone, I tell you,–and through my own kindness. It isn’t his value, though, I’m thinking so much about. I could stand his loss, if it wasn’t for the principle of the thing, the base ingratitude he has shown me. Oh, if I ever lay hands on him again!” Mr. Leckler closed his lips and clenched his fist with an eloquence that laughed at words.