Oliver Optic.

Watch and wait : or, The young fugitives ; a story for young people online

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less than the Insatiate slave hunters of the South.
^ With these difficulties before them, the young
fugitives started upon their uncertain voyage. It
was a bright, pleasant evening, with a lively breeze
from the westward. The long confinement of the
camp in the swamp made the changing prospect
exceedingly exhilarating. They had encountered
perils before, and the experience of the past pre-
pared them for the trials of the future. They had
a head wind down the bayou which led to the lake,


and it required two hours of hard work for the
two boys to work the Isabel down to the open
water; but when this labor was accomplished, the
foresail, mainsail, and jib were hoisted, and they
had a fair wind down the lake.

"Now, Lily, our voyage is commenced," said
Dan, as he seated himself at the helm.

*'Yes; and I am so glad to get out of that dis-
mal swamp !" replied she, with a smile which spoke
the joy of her heart.

"Perhaps you will wish yourself back again be-
fore many days, and perhaps before many hours."

"Do you think there is much danger, Dan?"

"We may not meet with a single difficulty, and
we may be in danger all the time. I cannot tell.
I hope for the best, but I am ready for the worst."

"Anything is better than slavery, Dan."

"Even death itself, Lily," replied Dan, solemn-


"But there will be no people out on the lake in
the night — ^will there?"

"There may be; but we may not find a good
place to conceal ourselves during the day. We may
be discovered, for there are more people at the
lower end of the lake than in the part where we
have been."


"We will pray to God, Dan, every day, and he
will protect us, as he has before," added Lily,

"And while we do that, we must be very care-
ful. There is one thing I have been dreading ever
since we began to prepare for this cruise."

"What is that, Dan?"

"You know Mr. Lascelles?"

"Yes ; he spends a week at Redlawn every year,
and master used to stay a week at his plantation."

"He lives down this way somewhere — I don't
exactly know where. The Isabel, I think, came
down here one year; if so, I am afraid they will
know the boat."

"Possifus!" exclaimed Cyd, who had been silent-
ly listening to this conversation. "Dey'll ketch us,
for shore."

"I'm not afraid of being caught; but Colonel
Raybone almost always visits Mr. Lascelles in the
month of May. Suppose he should be there, and
we should happen to go near his plantation?"

"Hossifus!" groaned Cyd. "Massa Raybone
down dar! Dis chile gubs it all up den."

"Don't give up yet, Cyd," laughed Dan.

"Mosslfus I If dis nigger see ole massa, he
done sink into de ground, like a catfish in de mud."



'You haven't seen him yet, Cyd; and what is
more, I don't believe you will see him."

*'I hope not," added Lily, with a shudder,

"If we do, it will not alter anything,"

"What would you do, Dan ?"

"I will never become a slave again. We have
guns and powder, bullets and shot."

"Would you kill him?"

"No man shall stand between me and freedom.
I would shoot him or any other man, if it were
necessary to secure our safety."

"Gossifus! Shoot Massa Raybonel" exclaimed

I "I hope we shall not be obliged to fire upon any
man ; but I shall do so, and you must do the same,
Cyd, if we are in danger of being captured."

"Do anything you say, Dan," replied Cyd, whose
mind readily settled upon any policy adopted by
his leader.

"Now, Lily, you had better turn in, as Mid-
shipman Raybone used to say. You must sleep
while you can, for you may have no rest again for
several days."

"Fm not sleepy; but you are going to have a
very hard time. When we get out to sea we shall
have to run all the time— shall we not?"


"Yes — night and day."

**Then when will you sleep?"

"Cyd and I must sleep by turns. We shall get
along very well if the weather is only good."

About eleven o'clock both Lily and Cyd retired
to their berths, leaving Dan alone on deck. The
wind held fair till about three o'clock in the morn-
ing, at which time the Isabel was within ten miles
of the outlet of the lake. It was too dark for the
careful skipper to discover the nature of the shore,
and he was waiting for a little daylight to enable
him to find a suitable place to lie up during the
next day. The boat was fully three miles from
either shore, when the wind suddenly died out.
Directly ahead, there were several small islands,
but they w^ere farther off than the main shore.

The first of the skipper's trials seemed to have
overtaken him; but he did not permit himself to
despair. He hoped, when the sun rose, a breeze
would come, and enable him to find some hiding
place for the day. There was nothing to do but
watch and wait, and Dan reclined upon the cush-
ioned seat to meditate upon the uncertainties before

There was not a breath of air upon the lake,
and the sails hung motionless in their places. Lily


and Cyd still slept, and Dan did not call them;
for he was willing to spare them even an hour's
usejess anxiety. The moments hung heavily upon
the Impatient skipper; but at last the daylight came,
and he had a chance to study the situation. On the
shore at his left there was a sugar plantation, the
mansion of which was built within a short distance
of the water; for here, as In the vicinity of Red-
lawn, the highest land was nearest to the streams.
But the estate was three miles distant, and he
hoped that the Isabel would not attract the atten-
tion of the people on the place.

The sun rose, but no wind came to gladden the
heart of the Impatient and anxious skipper. The
active life of the plantation had commenced. He
could see the smoke curling up from the chimneys
of the cook-house near the mansion; and In dif-
ferent parts of the lake he counted three boats
moving about near the shore. These signs pro-
duced an intense uneasiness In his mind, which was
not lessened by the appearance of Lily, who came
upon deck about this time.

While he was explaining to her the nature of
their unpleasant position, the smoke of a little
steamer was seen beyond the Islands. She soon
<ame in sights and was headed directly toward thQ


spot where the Isabel lay becalmed. Dan and his
fair companion were appalled by this new danger;
for a suspicion In the mind of any person on board
the steamer could hardly fall of being fatal to
them. But Dan was soon prepared to make the
best of the circumstances.

"Cyd, Cyd!" called he, as he rushed into the

"Wha — wha — what's de matter?" stammered
Cyd, springing to his feet.

"Go on deck at once," replied Dan, as he slung
the powder horn and shot pouch over his shoul-
ders, and took one of the fowling-pieces.

Cyd was on deck before him, and discovered the
nature of the danger which menaced them. The
bateau, which had been placed upon deck, was
launched, and Cyd was directed to get Into It with
the oars, and pull off a few rods from the Isabel.

*'Now, Lily, you must go to your cabin, close
the door, and on no account show yourself while
the steamer Is In sight," said Dan.

"But what are you going to do, Dan?" asked
she, y/Ith an expression of the deepest concern.
"Are you going to shoot any one?"

"No, dear," replied Dan, with a smile at her
fears; "I am going to pretend to be a sportsman.


As we can't get out of the way of the steamer, I
intend to be as bold and impudent as I can. There,
go to your cabin now, and we will hope for the

Lily retired to the cabin, closed the door after
her, and threw herself on her knees to pray for the
safety of herself and her friends during the im-
pending peril. In the meantime, Dan walked up
and down the deck, with the gun in his hand, ap-
parently looking in all directions for game. Just
as the steamboat came within hailing distance of
the Isabel, a couple of brant fortunately flew over,
and Dan fired. His practice in the swamp had
made him a very good marksman, and he was so
lucky as to bring down one of the birds. Cyd, as
before instructed, pulled with all his might to the
spot where the game had fallen.

"Possifus!" shouted he; "massa fotch dat bird
down, for shore!"

When he uttered this exclamation the bateau
was within a few yards of the steamer, and the
few passengers on board of her, anxious to see the
sport, hastened to the boiler deck, and thus obtained
a full view of the Isabel, as she rounded in under
her stern, on her way to the plantation, where she
evidently intended to make a landing.


**Any news below?" shouted Dan, hailing the
steamer as she approached.

"By Heaven! that's my boat and my boy!"
exclaimed a gentleman on the boiler deck, as the
steamer glanced by the Isabel. "Stop the boat!
Stop her!"

It was Colonel Raybone 1



Dan heard the words of the gentleman on the
boiler deck of the Terre Bonne— for that was the
name of the steamer — and at once recognized his
master. The worst fear that he had entertained
was fully realized. That unfortunate calm had
betrayed him into the hands of his enemy. But
he was fully determined to carry out his resolution,
and fight for life and liberty, even if he had to
contend against the whole force of the steamer.

It appeared that the request, or rather the com-
mand, of Colonel Raybone to stop the boat was
not immediately complied with; for she continued
on her course for several minutes before she finally
halted, a quarter of a mile from the Isabel. By this
time Cyd returned with the bird which the sports-
man had killed, and Dan announced the appalling
fact that Colonel Ra3^bone was on board of the

steamer, and had recognized him and the boat.



"Posslfus!" exclaimed Cyd, leaping upon the
deck of the Isabel. "Wha — ^wha — what we gwine
to do?"

"Take this gun, and do as I do," replied Dan,
as he went into the cabin after the rifle.

*'Gwine to shoot him!" groaned Cyd. "Hossi-
fus ! gwine to shoot ole Massa Raybone !"

*'Do you want to go back to Redlawn with
him, Cyd?" demanded Dan, with compressed lips.

"Don't want to go back, for shore. Gossifus!
Dis chile's a free man now."

"Then use your gun when I tell you."

"Cyd do dat, for sartin," replied he, examining
the lock of the fowling-piece. "Mossifus! Dis
nigger shoot de whole crowd if you says so, Dan."

V'Don't fire till I tell you, and take good aim,"
added the skipper, as he finished loading the rifle.

"What's the matter, Dan?" asked Lily, open-
ing the cabin door a little way, for she had heard
the stirring words of her friends on deck.

Dan told her, in as few words as possible, what
had happened, and the poor girl nearly fainted
when she heard the name of her master.

"Then we are lost I" added she, in tones tremu-
lous with emotion.


"Not yet, Lily. Be of good courage, and don't
show yourself on deck."

The affrighted maiden threw herself upon her
knees by her cot, and prayed fervently that God
would Interpose his strong arm to save them from
the fate which now seemed to be inevitable. While
she prayed, Dan and Cyd worked, and made such
preparations for the pending encounter as their
limited means would allow. There was only ai
small number of passengers on board of the
steamer, and the resolute captain of the Isabel
hoped that a few shots would intimidate them, and
prevent Colonel Raybone from rushing upon cer-
tain death.

But the planter of Redlawn was as resolute as
his runaway chattel, and a battery of artillery
would not have deprived him of the satisfaction of
pouncing upon the fugitives. Though no fear
could deter the master from attempting to recover
what he regarded as his own by the law of God
and man. It was otherwise with the captain of the
Terre Bonne; for he declared that he was in a
tremendous hurry to make his trip, having been
detained over night at the foot of the lake. He
sympathized with Colonel Raybone In his desire


to recover his slaves; but he positively refused to
put the boat about and capture the runaways.

It IS not Improbable that the captain of the
steamer saw the guns and the preparations made
to receive a boarding party, and possibly he
reasoned In his own mind that a chance shot was
as likely to kill him as any other man on board;
at any rate, he was as resolute In his refusal as any
of the resolute parties we have already mentioned.

Dan could hardly believe his senses when he saw
the Terre Bonne standing out toward the landing
place before the plantation. When her wheels
started again, he nerved himself for the encounter;
for he supposed she would come about, and bear
down upon him. It was Incredible that Colonel
Raybone should give up the chase without an ef-
fort to capture them; and he knew his master too
well to think, after more consideration, that he
would abandon his slaves without an energetic ef-
fort to recover them.

The steamer went in to the landing place, leav-
ing Dan to wonder and rejoice at the happy ^urn
which had taken place in the affairs of his party.
He informed Lily of the altered state of things
on deck, and the devout girl was happy in the re-«


flection that her prayers had been so promptly

"But we haven't seen the end of it yet, Lily.
Oh, no," added Dan, "Colonel Raybone will never
give us up. He would spend more money than
we are all worth for the pleasure of flogging me
for running away; but he shall never have the
satisfaction. I had rather die here like a man than
be scourged to death at the dead oak."

"Can't we get away? Is there no chance to
escape?" asked Lily, whose beating heart was full
of mortal terrors.

"Gossifus! Wha — ^wha — ^what's de reason we
can't take de bateau and row ober to de shore, and
take to de woods?" suggested Cyd.

"Well, what then?" demanded Dan, calmly.

"Why, den run like a possum up a gum tree."

"With bloodhounds and slave hunters on your
track. No, Cyd; we should certainly be taken if
we did that."

"What shall we do, Dan?" murmured Lily.
"We shall certainly be taken if we stay here."

"No; we have beaten off the slave hunters twice,
and we can do it agin. They will come in small
boats, and I will shoot them down, one at a time,
if they persist," answered Dan, bringing down the


butt of the rifle upon the floor of the standing-room
to emphasize his words.

*'But you may be shot, yourself, Dan," said Lily,
with a visible shudder.

*'No; I will conceal myself behind the bulwarks
when they come within range of my rifle."

"But can't we get away? Can't we escape with-
out shooting any of them?" pleaded the poor girl,
with a natural horror of bloodshed.

"We cannot unless we have wind."

"Gossifus! Dar dey come!" exclaimed Cyd,
pointing to two boats pulling out from the landing
place of the plantation.

"Heaven protect and defend us!" cried Lily.
"I will pray for wind; I will pray with all my soul
for a breeze, Dan, and our Father in Heaven, who
has so often heard my prayers, will hear me again."

"Stop a minute, Missy Lily; stop a minute,"
interposed Cyd, gazing earnestly down the lake;
"needn't pray no more. Missy Lily; dar's a breeze
comin' up from de soufeast. Hossifus! de breeze
am comin' like a possum down a cotton tree ! Pos-
sifus ! Hossifus ! Gossifus ! De breeze am
comin' !" shouted Cyd, as he danced round the deck
like a madman. "Needn't pray no more. Missy
Lily. De breeze am come."


"Then I will thank God for sending it,'* re-
plied the poor girl, a smile of joy playing radiantly
upon her fair face.

If Dan was not so extravagant as his companion
on deck, he was not less rejoiced, especially as the
wind from this quarter promised to be a strong one.
The bateau was hastily hoisted upon the deck of
the Isabel, and the sails trimmed to catch the first
breath of the coming breeze.

"Mossifus ! Dat breeze wuth a hun'd t'ousand
million dollars!" shouted Cyd, as the first puff of
the welcome wind swelled the sails of the Isabel.

"It may be worth more than that," replied Dan,
calmly. "It may be life and liberty to us."

The breeze had come, and plenty of It; but for
the course the skipper wished to lay. It was dead
ahead; yet It mattered little where It carried them,
if It only enabled them to escape from the terrible
man who was the Impersonation of slavery to them.
As the wind freshened, the lake was agitated, and
the Isabel dashed on as though she understood the
Issues which depended upon her speed. In half
an hour the pursuing boats could not be seen ; and
no doubt they had abandoned the chase In despair.

It was useless to seek a place for concealment,
for the white sails of the Isabel were doubtless


watched by scores of eager eyes; so Dan ran up
under the lee of one of the small islands that dot
the lake, and came to anchor there. He did not
care to run up the lake any farther than was neces-
sary, and he did not think it prudent to beat down
the lake in the face of his pursuers. No more
anxious skipper than he of the Isabel ever paced a
deck. Colonel Raybone was as energetic as he was
remorseless, and would leave no means untried to
capture the fugitives. Dan was at first afraid that
he would charter the steamer, and pursue them in
her; but this fear was removed when he saw the
Terre Bonne steaming on her way up the lake.

The fugitives breakfasted on cold ham and hard
bread while the boat remained at anchor; but not
for a single instant did the watchful skipper inter-
mit his gaze in the direction In which he had last
seen the pursuing boats. It was a late breakfast,
for it was ten in the forenoon when It was finished.
But this meal, though It seemed to Increase the
vigor and resolution of the party, did not remove
a particle of their anxiety for the future.

Dan, as we have before shown, was a master
of strategy; and It Is good generalship to pene-
trate the purposes of the enemy. Our hero was
all the time trying to do this, but, of course, with-


out any encouragement of success. He only felt
sure that Colonel Raybone would cover the lake
with boats filled with slave hunters, If he could
find them, and that every hour of delay Increased
the peril of his situation. He intended to wait till
night, and then, under cover of the darkness, run
down to the outlet of the lake, and escape to the
Gulf. This purpose was encumbered by a terrible
doubt; he feared that the southeast wind would die
out when the sun went down, and that the fugitives
would again be at the mercy of the slave hunters.
The thought was so appalling that Dan, In the
middle of the afternoon, determined to run the
gantlet of the boats, and trust to Providence for
success. In a few moments after this decision was
reached, the Isabel was under way, and standing,
close-hauled, down the lake.

The southeast wind, having free course, and
blowing fresh, had kicked up a heavy sea for an
inland sheet of water; but this was highly favor-
able for the Isabel, and very unfavorable for the
flatboats In which the pursuers chased them. As
Dan had anticipated, the slave hunters were on the
alert; and as the Isabel was standing through a
narrow channel between two islands, the two boats


which had chased her In the morning dashed out
from under the lee of one of them.

*'Take the helm, Cyd, and keep her steady as
she Is !" said Dan, as he grasped the rifle.

"Posslfus!" exclaimed Cyd; but he promptly
obeyed without further speech.

Only one of the boats — that which contained
Colonel Raybone — was near enough to board the
Isabel as she dashed through the passage. It was
evidently the Intention of the planter to spring on
board as she passed through the channel; for he
stood in the bow of his boat with the painter In
his hand. One of the rowers in the other boat had
"crabbed'* his oar and lost it overboard, or the
colonel's plan would have succeeded.

"Put down the helm, Cyd! Luff, luff!" shout-
ed Dan, as he fathomed the purpose of his master.

"Luff 'um 'tis!" replied the helmsman.

The Isabel was running tolerably free at the
time the order was given, and when she luffed up,
the planter's boat lay directly in her path. The next
Instant she struck the bateau full on the broadside.

"Posslfus !" shouted Cyd, at the top of his lungs,
as he heard the crashing and snapping of the pme
boards, -that indicated the destruction of the plant-
er's boat.



The Isabel dashed furiously on her way, passing
over the bateau of the slave hunters, which pres-
ently reappeared astern of her. Colonel Raybone,
iwho, In spite of his years and his habits, was an
active man, seized the bowsprit of the sailboat, as
it bore his frail bark beneath the waves ; and while
Dan and Cyd were eagerly gazing into the water
astern of them in search of their dreaded master,
he climbed upon the forecastle of the Isabel, thus
saving himself from the wreck and the water.

"Hossifus!" roared Cyd, as he turned to ob-
serve the course of the boat, and discovered upon
deck the stalwart form of Colonel Raybone — to
him the most terrible man on the face of the earth.

The exclamation attracted the attention of Dan,
and a glance forward revealed to him the desper-
ate situation of his party. The slave master, near-



ly exhausted by the shock of the collision, and his
exertions In hauling himself up to the deck of the
Isabel, had failed to improve the first moment that
ushered him Into the presence of his astonished
chattels; and the loss of that opportunity was the
ruin of his expectations. Dan instantly raised his
rifle; but the old feeling of awe and reverence for
the sacred person of his master prevented him from
firing at once.

"Ha, you villains! IVe got you at last!" said
Colonel Raybone.

Without making any reply to this expression of
rage and malice, Dan fired, but not at the head or
the heart of the colonel ; for he did not wish to kill
him. The rifle was aimed at one of his legs, and
the ball passed through the fleshy part of his thigh.
Colonel Raybone, with a volley of curses, sank
upon the deck of the Isabel, a stream of blood flow-
ing from his wound. Dan dropped the rifle, and
took one of the fowling-pieces, ready to complete
his work If the occasion should require. His face
was deadly pale, his lips quivered, and his frame
trembled, as though the ball had passed through
him, instead of his master. He had watched and
waited too long for liberty and true life to sacrifice
all his hopes when they were on the point of being


realized, to a sentimental horror of shedding the
blood of a slave master.

Lily, as soon as she heard the report of the rifle,
opened her cabin door, and stepped out into the
standing-room. The pale face and quivering lips
of Dan first attracted her attention; and when he
pointed to the forecastle, she saw the prostrate
form of her master, and sank upon the seat, over-
come with fear and horror.

"Don't be afraid, Lily," said he. "He cannot
harm us now."

"Have you killed him?" gasped she.

"No; I did not intend to kill him. I would not
have fired at him if I could have helped it. I only
hit him in the leg."

"But he will die."

"He may; I cannot help it. We should have
been slaves again in a moment more if I had not

"This Is horrible!" moaned Lily.

"But it is better than slavery," replied Dan,
firmly, though he was scarcely less agitated than
his gentle companion. "Mind your helm, Cyd,
and go to windward of that little island ahead,"
he continued; for the helmsman's ideas had been
considerably shaken up by the stirring events which

lWatch and wait ^20

had just transpired. The second boat, astern of the
Isabel, was engaged in picking up the oarsmen of
the first, and with the fresh breeze there was no
danger of pursuit from that direction. Colonel
Raybone was evidently suffering severely from his
wound, but his mental tortures seemed to be greater
than his physical pain. His mouth was still filled
with curses, and maledictions of rage and hatred
were poured out upon the runaways. He was so
violent in his agony that none of the party dared
to approach him, and Dan stood with the fowling-
piece in his hand, ready to protect himself and his
companions from any possible assault. There he

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Online LibraryOliver OpticWatch and wait : or, The young fugitives ; a story for young people → online text (page 10 of 12)