Men tried half a dozen times a day to trade me out of my bay mare Fanny, or my sorrel mare Flora—they said I ought to match up with two of a color; and the crow-baits offered me would have stocked a horse-ranch. People with oxen offered me what looked like good swaps, because they were impatient to make better time; and as I went along so stylishly I began turning over in my mind the question as to whether it might not be better to get to Iowa a little later in the year with cattle for a start than to rush the season with my fine mares and pull up standing like a gentleman at my own imaginary door.
As I went on to the westward, I began to see Blue Mound rising like a low mountain off my starboard bow, and I stopped at a farm in the foot-hills of the Mound where, because it was rainy, I paid four shillings for putting my horses in the stable. There were two other movers stopping at the same place. They had a light wagon and a yoke of good young steers, and had been out of Madison two days longer than I had been. I noticed that they left their wagon in a clump of bushes, and that while one of them—a man of fifty or more, slept in the house, the other, a young fellow of twenty or twenty-two, lay in the wagon, and that one or the other seemed always to be on guard near the vehicle. The older man had a long beard and a hooked nose, and seemed to be a still sort of person, until some one spoke of slavery; then he broke out in a fierce speech denouncing slaveholders, and the slavocracy that had the nation in its grip.
“You talk,” said the farmer, “like a black Abolitionist.”
“I’m so black an Abolitionist,” said he, “that I’d be willing to shoulder a gun any minute if I thought I could wipe out the curse of slavery.”
The farmer was terribly scandalized at this, and when the old man walked away to his wagon, he said to the young man and me that that sort of talk would make trouble and ruin the nation; and that he didn’t want any more of it around his place.
“Well,” said the traveler, “you won’t have any more of it from us. We’re just pulling out.” After the farmer went away, he spoke to me about it.
“What do you think of that kind of talk?” he asked.
“I don’t own any niggers,” said I. “I don’t ever expect to own any. I don’t see how slavery can do me any good; and I think the slaves are human.”
I had no very clear ideas on the subject, and had done little thinking about it; but what I said seemed to be satisfactory to the young man. He told his friend about it, and after a while the old man, whose name was Dunlap, came to me and shook my hand, saying that he was glad to meet a young fellow of my age who was of the right stripe.
“Can you shoot?” he asked.
I told him I never had had much chance to learn, but I had a good gun, and had got some game with it almost every day so far.
“What kind of a gun?” he asked.