Oliver Optic.

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

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He returned in a moment with a bottle and a
tumbler. The fugitive still lay upon the deck, pant-
ing and groaning like a dying gladiator after the
mortal struggle of the arena. Freedom was worth
the exertion he had made, though every fiber in
his frame had been strained. He had manfully
fought the battle, though without the Interference
of our party he would certainly have lost the day.
Dan poured out a tumblerful of the wine which
the bottle contained, and placed it at the lips of the
sufferer. He eagerly drank off the draught, and
sank back upon the deck.

"He will be better soon. He Is all out of
breath," said Dan, as he brought one of the cush-
ions from the standing-room and put it under the
poor man's head.

"Gossifus!" shouted Cyd, who still retained his
position at the helm, though his Interest in the
scene of the forward deck caused him to steer very
badly. "Hossifus!" added he. In gasping tones;
*'de dogs! de dogs!"

*'What's the matter, Cyd?" demanded Dan.

**De dogs ! Dey done eat dis chile all up ! Dey


won't leabe de ghost ob a grease spot of dis yere
nigger!" cried Cyd, in mortal terror.

*'Mind how you steer, then!" replied Dan, has-
tening to the assistance of his terrified companion.
"Don't you see you have thrown her up into the
wind, so that the sails won't draw a bit?"

"Mossifus! dis chile don't want to be food for
de dogs."

*'You will be, if you don't mind what you are
about," said Dan, as he took the tiller; and putting
it up, the boat gathered fresh headway, and soon
shot out of reach of the bloodhounds.

"Why don't you shoot de wicked dogs?"

"I don't want any more noise. I hate the dogs
as bad as you do, but we must be careful," replied
Dan. "Now, can you mind what you are about,
and keep the sails full?"

"Dis chile kin do dat, for sartin."

"If you don't, the dogs will have you. Now,
be careful, and I will go forward, and take care
of the poor fellow, who is nearly dead. Watch the
sails ; never mind the dogs ; they can't catch you, if
you sail the boat properly."

"You kin trust dis chile for dat. Cyd isn't afeerd
ob notin', only he don't want to be eat up by de
wicked dogs,"


Dan went forward, where Lily was bending over
the panting runaway, rubbing his temples, and
speaking sweet words of hope and comfort to him.
In a short time he was in some measure recovered
from the effects of his fearful struggle with the
fate that beset him.

"I was sure I was caught, when I saw de boat,"
said he, as he raised himself to a sitting posture,
and gazed with astonishment at those who had so
singularly proved to be friends. Instead of foes.

"Are there any men on your track?" asked Dan,
who could not lose sight of the peril he had incurred
by this Samaritan act.

*'I 'speck dar is," replied he. "I hear dem off
eber so far, but I don't see dem."

"Can they chase you on the lake?"

"I 'speck dey can. Dey'U get a boat and f oiler
de dogs."

"Where are you from?" asked Lily.

"From Major Pembroke's plantation, 'bout ten
mile from dese yere parts, I 'speck."

"How long since you run away?"

"I luff de place about tree days ago. I stay
in de cane-brake till noon to-day, and git so hun-
gry I could Stan' It no longer. Den I goes out
to find something to eat. Den somebody sees me,


and dey foller me wid de dogs. I done kill two
of dem dogs, and I kill de rest, but I hear de men
coming, and I run for de lake. I 'speck, when I
git In de water, to frow de dogs off de scent, but
they git so near dey see and hear me. Dem's
mighty fine nigger dogs, or dey never foller me
into de water. I done gib it all up when I hear
dem In de water arter me."

"Did you get anything to eat when you went out
of the cane-brake?" asked Lily.

"No, missy; I got seen 'fore I find anyt'ing."

"Poor fellow ! Then you haven't had anything
to eat for three days?"

"Nothing but leabes an' de bark ob trees."

"I will give you some supper at once," said
Lily, as she hastened to the cabin.

"Lily I" called Dan. "You mustn't light the
lantern, or make a fire."

"Why not?"

"The light would betray us. The slave hunters
will soon be out in their boat after this man."

"I will not, then."

While Lily was engaged below, Dan provided
the runaway with a suit of his own clothes, which
were not much too small for him, as he was a man
of medium stature. He then conducted him to the


standing-room, for he was still too weak to walk
without support. His supper was brought In, and
he ate cold bacon and potatoes, bread and cheese,
till the wondering Lily thought he would devour
their whole stock of provisions, and till Dan kind-
ly suggested that he would make himself sick if
he ate any more.

While he was eating, Dan satisfied his curiosity
In regard to the Isabel and the party on board of
her. The runaway, whose name was Quin — an
abbreviation of Quincy — listened with astonishment
to the story of these elegant fugitives, who ran
away In a yacht, and lived In a style worthy of a
planter's mansion. No doubt he thought their
experience was poetical and pretty, compared with
his own, for his flight had been a death struggle
with famine and flood, with man and brute.

In the meantime, the Isabel had run the dogs
out of sight, and the waters in the direction from
which she had just come were as still as death. No
doubt the lake would be scoured in search of the
fugitives; but for the present the party seemed to
be secure from pursuit.

The boat w^as now approaching the northern
shore of the lake, and it became necessary to tack.
The wind held steady, but light ; and Dan had but


small hopes of being able to reach his destination
before daylight. When everything was made snug
on the other tack, and there seemed to be no pres-
ent danger ahead or astern, Cyd conducted Quin
to one of the forward berths, and he turned in for
the night. The runaway was evidently a very pious
slave, and the young fugitives listened with rever-
ent interest to the long prayer he offered up before
he retired. It was a paean of thanksgiving for his
escape from the fangs of the slave hunters. It was
homely speech, but it was earnest and sincere, and
those who listened were deeply impressed by its
fervid simplicity.

Dan and Lily sat alone In the stern of the boat,
for Cyd had been permitted to turn In with the
runaway. They talked of freedom and the future
for an hour, and then they were startled by the
sound of oars In the distance. The slave hunters
were on their track.



Though the Isabel carried all her extra sails,
the wind was so light that she made very little
progress through the water, and the sound of oars
which indicated the approach of a boat was ap-
palling to Dan. There could be no doubt that it
contained the slave hunters in pursuit of Quin ; and
the fate of the whole party seemed to be linked with
that of the slave, who was sleeping in happy se-
curity in the cabin.

The schooner was close-hauled, and sailing as
near the wind as she could; but Dan, as soon as
he realized the peril of the situation, gave the boat
a couple of points, which sensibly increased her
speed. When he first heard the pursuer's boat, it
was just abeam of the Isabel. His present course,
therefore, carried him nearer to the boat for a time,
but it was not safe to permit her to get to the wind-
ward of the Isabel in that light breeze,



Dan was satisfied that If he had been In the four-
oared boat with his black crew, he could have over-
hauled the Isabel in a short time, if the two crafts
had been in the positions occupied by the pursuer
and the pursued. The race depended entirely upon
the character of the boat In which the slave hunters
had embarked.

Whatever the result of the pursuit, Dan was
fully determined not to be taken himself, nor to
p€rmlt his friends on board to be taken. With the
arms In the cabin, he was confident that he could
make a good defense. But the thought of taking
the life, even of a slave hunter, was terrible to him,
though he had fully reasoned himself into the be-
lief that such a course would be perfectly justifiable
before God ; and he cared little for the judgment of
a slaveholding community. His Maker had given
him the right to be free — had endowed him with the
right to use his own bone and sinew for his own
benefit and happiness ; and the man or the communi-
ty that attempted to deprive him of this right com-
mitted a crime against God and him, and It was his
duty to defend himself against this violation of his
Heaven-given right.

He hoped, however, to be spared the pain of
resorting to the use of arms. He prayed to God,


with all the earnestness of an earnest nature, for
more wind; for his creed, if he had any, was very
simple, and included a belief in special providences.
The boat of the slave hunters was now not more
than half a mile distant, and the chase had become
intensely exciting to Dan and Lily, who alone were
on deck. The trembling maiden could with diffi-
culty maintain a reasonable self-possession. She
was terrified as the panting hare when she feels the
warm breath of the pursuing hound.

"We shall certainly be taken, Dan," said she,
as she caught sight of the boat beneath the main
boom of the schooner. *'We are lost."

"No, Lily, not lost. You shall never be taken
while I have a drop of blood left in my body," re-
plied Dan, in a low and earnest tone.

"Why, they are ever so much nearer than they
were when we first saw them."

"That is true; but it is only because I changed
the course of the boat."

"Why did you change it, then?"

"Because, if I run her down into the corner of
the lake, they can easily cut us off."

"I suppose you have done the best you could."

"There was no other way to do," answered Dan,


as he glanced under the boom at the pursuer. "We
shall soon know which boat goes the fastest now."

"I don't understand It at all," said Lily, whose
knowledge of seamanship was very limited.

"You know the shape of the letter A?"

"I do."

"Well, that boat has been running up one leg of
the A, and I have been running up the other; so,
you see, we must be coming nearer together. I
had to run this way In order to use the wind to the
best advantage."

"But you will come together in this way in a few


"No; we are as near now as we can be, unless
that boat sails faster than we do. I shall continue
to sail In a straight line, but I shall get ahead of
the other if she does not change her course. She
cannot cut me out now, at any rate."

Probably Lily was willing to talk of this sub-
ject to banish more painful thoughts from her mind,
though it is not likely that she clearly compre-
hended the tactics of the skipper of the Isabel.

* 'Don't you think I had better call Cyd and ,,
Quin?" asked she, after she had again glanced at
the position of the pursuing boat.


"No, let them sleep. We will not call them till
it Is necessary to do so,*' replied Dan.

"Do you think we can escape them?" asked she,

"I cannot tell, Lily. I hope so. It depends en-
tirely upon the wind. If the breeze should die out,
of course we could make no progress at all."

"Do you think the wind will die out?" said
she, nervously.

"I can't tell, Lily. I hope not, I pray not."

"Suppose It should die out, Dan?" added she,
moving up nearer to the skipper.

"If we lose the wind there is nothing to prevent
the boat from overtaking us at once."

"Oh, dear!" shuddered Lily, moving up still
nearer to him who was her only earthly protector.

"Why do you tremble so, Lily?" asked Dan, as
he took her hand and pressed It In his own, perhaps
thinking that he might thus impart to her some of
his own steadiness.

"Because I am so terribly frightened," replied
she, with quivering lips. "I would rather die than
be taken; and I have been thinking that I would
throw myself Into the lake If the boat catches us."

"You shall not be taken, Lily," said Dan, his
lips compressed, and his teeth tightly closed, evinc-


ing the determination with which he had resolved
to meet the slave hunters, if they attempted to lay
their polluting hands upon the gentle girl by his

"What can you do against such men as those?"

*'I can fight, Lily; I would do so to save myself,
but more to save you."

"Oh, Heaven! If I should be taken! What
would become of me?"

*'No, no, Lily; don't take on so," said Dan, as
he passed his arm around her waist — a familiarity
in which he had never before indulged, but which
was done only as a father clasps his child — to in-
spire her with more confidence, to assure her that
she was in the care of one who was able and willing
to save her from the dreadful fate that impended.

"I w^ish I could be brave as you are, Dan," said
she, confidingly; for the expedient of her devoted
friend seemed not to be without some effect. "You
don't appear to be at all alarmed."

"Because I have firmly resolved not to be taken
myself, and not to let you be taken."

"I suppose they only want Quin."

"They cannot have him. He is a fugitive, like
ourselves, and I don't believe God would permit
us to escape if we should wickedly abandon him/'


"Nor I ; we won't do that. We will all be taken
together," said Lily, whose sympathy for the hunted
runaway seemed, for the moment, to give her new

"Do you suppose they know anything about
us?" asked she.

"Perhaps they do. I suppose Colonel Raybone
has sent hunters in every direction for us, and has
probably offered a reward."

"Then we shall certainly be taken," answered
Lily, with a shudder.

"We will not be taken, Lily, whoever pursues

"Hallo! In the boat there!" shouted a man
of the pursuing party.

The slave hunters were now within less than a
quarter of a mile of the Isabel, for they had been
gaining upon her by a vigorous use of their oars.
The boat which contained them was now exactly
astern of the schooner.

"Hallo!" replied Dan, who, knowing that the
men could not talk and row to the best advantage,
was quite willing to converse with them.

"What boat's that?" shouted the spokesman of
the slave hunters.

"Captain Barrett's," replied Dan, whose virtue


was not sufficiently developed to induce him to tell
the truth in his present perilous situation.

"Where from?"

"Down below Brashear," answered Dan, who
had previously made up his mind what to say if
any conversation with the pursuers should become

"What ye doin' up here?"

"Came up with a party."

"Seen ary runaway nigger in the water?"

"No," shouted Dan, promptly.

The question filled him with hope, for it as-
sured him the slave hunters had not been near
enough even to hear the report of the fowling-
pieces when he fired them; or, at least, not near
enough to discover who had fired them.

"Didn^t ye see him?" asked the pursuers again.


"Gossifus ! Wha — ^wha — ^wha — ^what's de mat-
ter?" demanded Cyd, rushing up from the cabin
with Quin, both of them having been awakened
from their slumbers by the voice of the skipper.

"Silence, Cyd!" said Dan, in a low, decided

"Hush, Cyd I" added Lily, in a whisper. "Don't
speak a word."


"Wha— wha— wha "

*'Hush, Cyd!" repeated Lily, who seemed, in the
moment of danger, to be endowed with a self-pos-
session at variance with her former timidity.

*'Where you bound now?" called the slave

"Home," replied Dan.

They asked no further questions for a time, and
Dan saw, with a thrill of satisfaction, that they
were lying upon their oars. He hoped that his an-
swers had convinced them the runaway was not on
board; but in this he was disappointed. He heard
the men in the boat talking together, though he
could not make out what they said. When the con-
ference was ended, they renewed their efforts to
overtake the Isabel.

*'Hallo, the schooner!" shouted the spokesman

"Hallo, the boat," replied Dan.

"Heave to, and let us see you a minute."

"What for?"

"Want to talk with you."

"Can't stop."

"Guess ye kin. Haven't ye seen nary nigger?"


"Well, stop — won't ye?"


"Can't stop; must get home by sunrise."

"Well, ye must stop!" yelled the speaker, an-
grily, and with an oath.

"Hossifus!" groaned Cyd, in mortal terror.

"Shut up, Cyd!" added Dan, sternly. "If you
can't hold your tongue, I'll throw you overboard!"

"Possifus! Ugh! Wha— wha— wha "

"Come, Cyd," interposed Quin, in a low tone,
"don't make a noise. If you do, we shall all be

"Dis chile's awful skeered. I done wish I hadn't
come," replied Cyd, in a gentler tone ; but the words
trembled on his lips.

"Quin," said Dan.

"Sar," replied the fugitive, with a self-possession
which thoroughly shamed the quaking Cyd.

"Take hold of the painter of the bateau, and
haul it alongside."

"Yes, sar."

"Cyd, take hold and help him. Haul it up to
the foremast, and take it on deck."

The order was obeyed, though Cyd, in his terror,
was not able to render much assistance. The bateau
was taken on deck to assist the sailing of the Isabel,
and also to prevent the pursuers from seizing it, if


they should unfortunately come near enough to
do so.

"Stop your boat, I say!" yelled the slave hunter,
after they had pulled for a few moments with the
most determined zeal.

"Can't stop !" replied Dan.

"Stop her, or I'll fire into you !"

"Gossifus!" exclaimed Cyd, whose teeth were
still chattering with fear,

Dan made no reply, and concluded not to an-
swer any more questions.

"Are ye goin' to stop her?" demanded the pur-
suer. "I b'lieve you've got that nigger on board;
and if ye don't heave to, I'll fotch ye up with a

"Bring up the guns, Cyd," said Dan, with forced

"Wha— wha— wha "

"The guns!" said Dan, fiercely, as he stamped
his foot upon the flooring to emphasize his mean-

"Gossifus! I don't think " But Cyd dis-
appeared in the cabin without giving those on deck
the benefit of his thoughts.

"Now, Lily, you must go into your cabin. Lie
down in your berth, for they may fire upon us,"


said Dan. **Don't be alarmed ; there are only three
men in that boat, and we can certainly beat them

"I will not leave you, Dan. I am not afraid of
the bullets. I only fear "

At that moment the report of a gun startled
them, and the ball whistled close by Dan's head.



**Take the helm, Cyd, and mind how you steer !"
said Dan, with earnestness, as he rose from his seat,
and seized one of the guns.

"HossifusI" exclaimed Cyd, aghast at the
thought. "Wha — ^wha — ^wha "

"Take the helm!" repeated the resolute skip-
per, with a decision which left no alternative for
the boy.

"Possifus! Dis chile don't want to set dar and
be shooted."

"There is no more danger there than there is
anywhere else. Take your place, and don't be a
coward. If you want to be free, you must fight for
it now."

"Golly ! Dis nigger ain't afeered, but Cyd don't
want to be shooted, kase you can't do widout Cyd."

But the trembling foremast hand took his place

at the tiller. He continued to mutter to himself,



as though he was repelling the charge of cowardice
which had been fastened upon him.

"Come, Lily, you must go Into your cabin now,"
added Dan, tenderly, as he turned to Lily. "This
is no place for you."

"Oh, Tm not afraid of the guns, Dan; only of
the slave hunters, and I cannot hide myself from

"You may escape if you stay In the cabin, and
you can do no good here. I shall feel better to
know that you are in a place of safety."

"Fm not afraid, Dan; really, I am not," re-
plied she, earnestly.

"But you are In our way here, Lily. Do go Into
your cabin, and lie down In your berth."

"I will If I am In the way."

"If we have to fight, it will be right here, and I
am determined to resist to the last."

"I will go" ; and Dan led her to the door of her

She entered, and threw herself upon the cushions
of the berth, and Dan, satisfied that she was in a
place of comparative safety, turned his attention to
the defense of his party.

"Can you handle a gun?" said he, turning to


Quin, who appeared to be as cool and resolute as
the skipper.

"Well, I done shoot some," replied Quin.

"Take a gun, then."

"Wha — wha — ^wha " gasped Cyd.

"Silence, Cyd! Keep both eyes on the sails, or
I'll put a bullet through your head. I didn't ex-
pect you would be a coward at such a time as this."

"Dis chile ain't a coward," answered Cyd, rising
from his seat.

"Sit down, and mind your helm then!"

"Give me de gun, and I'll show you Cyd ain't no
coward, nohow."

"You never fired a gun In your life. You would
be more likely to shoot yourself than anybody else.
Mind your helm ; that's all we want of you."

"Possifus! Dis chile ain't no coward, nohow,"
growled Cyd, as he cast his eyes at the sails. "Fire
away dar, and show dese folks Cyd's no coward !"

"Gwine to fire into dem folks In de boat?" asked

"I am. If occasion requires," replied Dan, as he
discharged the gun he held In his hand In the direc-
tion of the pursuers. "But I want to let them
know that we are armed, and able to give as good


as they send. I don't want to kill any of them if
I can help it."

"I don't mind killin' ob 'em; dat's what dey
done do to me if dey gits a chance."

*'Stop your boat !" shouted one of the men again;
and it was evident, from the tones of the speaker,
that the report of the gun from the Isabel was not
altogether favorable to the views of the pursuers.

Dan made no reply, but loaded up his gun for
further use.

*'Stop your boat, or we'll fire Into you again,"
shouted the speaker.

*'If you do you will get as good as you send,"
answered Dan, as he put the cap upon his piece.

The reply was followed by another shot from
the slave hunters; but the ball whistled far above
the heads of the fugitives. Dan took deliberate
aim at the boat, and fired, ordering Quin to do the
same. So far as they could discover, neither of
the shots took effect. From this time both parties
kept up occasional firing; but as the night was so
dark, and the motion of the boats not favorable to
a steady aim, no one In the Isabel was hit, and Dan
and his companions were not aware of any differ-
ent result to the other boat.

Cyd maintained his position at the helm with


the steadiness of an old salt who had stood at the
wheel in a hundred battles; and Dan, witnessing
his improved demeanor, began to think his singu-
lar conduct had been the result of excitement rather
than of timidity.

But one thing was painfully evident to all on
board of the schooner — that the boat was gaining
upon her, and that the wind was gradually dying
out. There was no hope for them except in their
own right arms. They must fight for llbery, fight
for the rights which they had boldly reassumed.
Dan and Quin were fully determined upon this
course, and if they could bring Cyd up to a sense
of duty on this trying emergency, there would be
some chance of success.

As it was, the odds were against them. The
pursuers were probably men accustomed to the use
of arms, while all in the Isabel were, to say the
least, very indifferent marksmen. Hitherto, they
had fired at a dark mass on the water, for they
could not distinguish the enemy in the gloom of the
night, and the pursuers had been subject to the
same disadvantage. A nearer approach to each
other of the contending parties would enable both
to obtain a more accurate aim, and the work of
death could not be much longer postponed.


"De wind's clean gone/' said Cyd, as the heavy
sails of the Isabel began to flap idly in the brails.

"Cyd, you must fight !" added Dan, earnestly.

"Possifus !" exclaimed Cyd, rising and seizing
a boat-hook that lay on the quarter. "Dis chile
will fight, for sartin."

"Good, Cyd! You are a brave fellow! You
deserve to be free, and you shall be."

"Hossifus! Don't tell Cyd he's a coward, kase
he ain't no such t'ing, nohow."

"I didn't mean that, Cyd; and I take it all back,"
added Dan. "The boat has lost her headway now.
They will be upon us in a moment or two. Stand
firm, Cyd, and break the head of any man that at-

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Online LibraryOliver OpticWatch and wait : or, The young fugitives ; a story for young people → online text (page 6 of 12)