In 1857, while helping to conceal a runaway slave on her father's Mississippi River steamboat, twelve-year-old Libby looks to God for support and hopes that her friend Caleb will let her join the Underground Railroad.
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Lois Walfrid Johnson is the award-winning author of more than twenty books. She has received the Gold Medallion award, the C.S. Lewis children's book award, and the Silver Angel Award from Excellence in Media and the Wisconsin State Historical Society Award for Distinguished Service to History for the stories in the ADVENTURES OF THE NORTHWOODS series. She and her husband, Roy, have three grown children and live in Minnesota. size : 5.2 x 8Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Chapter One - Darker Than Night
A lantern hung near the gangplank, casting a glow over the Christina's deck. Libby Norstad's deep brown eyes sparkled in its light. "We got away!" she whispered to Caleb. "We really got away!"
To Libby it seemed a miracle. For the past two days and nights, they had faced constant danger.
Caleb Whitney's blond hair fell over his forehead, nearly reaching his eyes. He grinned at Libby, then glanced up at the hills of Burlington, Iowa. The steamboat owned by Libby's father lay at the landing. While deckhands brought in the gangplank, Caleb kept watch.
Now, late at night, the streets looked empty, yet Libby knew that Caleb was searching for someone. Near the riverfront, the windows of tall warehouses seemed like dark eyes staring down at them.
With three quick blasts of the whistle, the Christina put out into the Mississippi River. As the strip of water between the land and boat grew wide, Libby felt relieved. In spite of all kinds of danger, they had escaped!
Just then Libby felt a movement behind her. As she turned, she saw Jordan Parker creeping forward without a sound. When he drew close to the lantern, he stopped, as if afraid to enter the circle of light.
A fugitive slave, Jordan had managed to get away from his master, a cruel slave trader named Riggs. Like Caleb, Jordan also stared up at the city. On the streets above them no one stirred. Then a dark shape stepped out from the shadow of a warehouse.
Jordan moaned. "It's Riggs!"
With one quick movement, Caleb lifted the glass of the lantern and blew out the flame. Libby dropped down on her hands and knees, but it was too late.
"Riggs knows," she whispered as Caleb joined her behind piles of freight. "He saw you."
"He saw you too," Caleb warned, his voice low.
A feeling of dread tightened Libby's stomach. "What should we do?"
Caleb shushed her. "Sound carries on water."
A short distance out from shore, the Christina started to turn. As her bow swung around to face downstream, Libby stared at the man next to the warehouse. Then the center of the boat blocked her view.
"How long was Riggs there?" she whispered. "How much did he see?"
"Too much," Caleb told her. At thirteen, he was a year older than Libby. Now Caleb led her and Jordan to a place at the front of the boat where no one could hear them talk.
When the boys dropped down on crates, Libby found a nail keg to sit on. "You're sure it was Riggs?" she asked. It had been too dark to see the man's face, and she wanted to believe they were wrong. According to Caleb, Riggs was the cruelest man he knew.
"It were Riggs, all right." Jordan's voice held no doubt. "He gots one shape-and I knows it!"
"But he could have stayed hidden," Libby answered. "Why did he step out so we could see him?"
"That man wants us to know he's on our trail," Jordan said. "He wants to scare us any way he can."
In the darkness Libby shivered. As long as the slave trader searched for him, Jordan would never be safe. Libby didn't like being frightened by the sight of Riggs, but deep inside she trembled just thinking about him.
Then she remembered. "Jordan, you weren't in the light. Maybe Riggs doesn't know that you're with us."
Jordan sighed. "I wish you was right, Libby. That man Riggs is like a bloodhound on my trail. When he sniffs out Caleb, he sniffs out me."
Since the age of nine, Caleb had worked on the Underground Railroad, the secret plan to help runaway slaves reach freedom. Once fugitives started on the secret route, they usually kept moving if it was safe. Instead, for special reasons Jordan would stay on the Christina.
"What's wrong?" Caleb asked Libby, as though sensing her worry.
"N-n-nothing!" Libby hated the sound of her voice. "Nothing at all!" If she told Caleb what bothered her, he would think she was a scaredy-cat. Instead, Libby tried to push her fear away.
I want to have courage, she thought. Courage like Caleb and Jordan.
On that March night in 1857, Libby knew the penalty to anyone who helped runaway slaves on their race to freedom. According to law, slave hunters could follow fugitives into free states. There they could gather a posse and bring runaways back to their owners.
Leaning closer, Caleb peered into Libby's face. When she tried to hide her feelings, the light of the moon gave her away. "You're scared," Caleb said. "You're scared that Riggs will come on board and find Jordan."
"Well, doesn't that frighten you?" Libby asked.
"Nope," Caleb answered.
"What do you mean, nope? Pa is captain of this boat and owner too. Don't you care that he could be arrested for hiding a runaway slave?"
"Of course I care!"
"You don't sound like it!" Libby felt upset now. "You know what would happen if Riggs found Jordan on the Christina. It's the law of the land that Pa could be found guilty for hiding a fugitive. He'd have to pay a big fine!"
"Is that all you're worried about?" Caleb asked. "The fines? The money?"
Libby stared at him. "What if Pa can't pay the fines? He would lose the Christina!"
"Yup! He would." Caleb didn't sound too upset.
"What's worse, Pa could go to jail! Wouldn't you be scared if the captain were your father?"
Caleb sat with his back to the moon. Darkness shadowed his face, but Libby saw the shake of his head. "There's something that bothers me a whole lot more," he said.
"What's that?" Libby asked. More than once she had found it hard to understand this strange boy.
"What could be worse than Pa going to jail?"
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Book Description Bethany House Publishers, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111556613520
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Book Description Bethany House Publishers, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1556613520
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