“I’m both glad and sorry,” said Abe. “I’m glad that you licked the slaver and got the negroes out of his reach. I reckon I’d have done the same if I could. I’m sorry because it looks to me like the beginning of many troubles. The whole subject of slavery is full of danger. Naturally southern men will fight for their property, and there is a growing number in the North who will fight for their principles. If we all get to fighting, I wonder what will become of the country. It reminds me of the man who found a skunk in his house. His boy was going after the critter with a club.
“‘Look here, boy,’ he said, ’when you’ve got a skunk in the house, it’s a good time to be careful. You might spyle the skunk with that club, but the skunk would be right certain to spyle the house. While he’s our guest, I reckon we’ll have to be polite, whether we want to or not.’”
“Looks to me as if that skunk had come to stay until he’s put out,” said Samson.
“That may be,” Abe answered. “But I keep hopin’ that we can swap a hen for the house and get rid of him. Anyhow, it’s a good time to be careful.”
“He may be glad to live with me, but I ain’t willin’ to live with him,” Samson rejoined. “I ain’t awful proud, but his station in life is a leetle too far below mine. If I tried to live with him, I would get the smell on my soul so that St. Peter would wonder what to do with me.”
“That touches the core of the trouble,” said he. “In the North most men have begun to think of the effect of slavery on the soul; in the South a vast majority are thinking of its effect on the pocket. One stands for a moral and the other for a legal right.”
“But one is righter than the other,” Samson insisted.
That evening Samson set down the events of the day in his book and quoted the dialogue in Offut’s store in which he had had a part. On the first of February, 1840, he put these words under the entry:
“I wouldn’t wonder if this was the first trip on the Underground Railroad.”
IN WHICH MR. ELIPHALET BIGGS GETS ACQUAINTED WITH BIM KELSO AND HER FATHER.
In a musty old ledger kept by James Rutledge, the owner of Rutledge’s Tavern, in the year 1832, is an entry under the date of January 31st which reads as follows:
“Arrived this day Eliphalet Biggs of 26 Olive Street, St. Louis, with one horse.”
Young Mr. Biggs remained at Rutledge’s Tavern for three weeks with his arm in a sling under the eye of the good doctor. The Rutledges were Kentucky folk and there the young man had found a sympathetic hearing and tender care. Dr. Allen had forbidden him the use of ardent spirits while the bone was knitting and so these three weeks were a high point in his life so to speak.