Oliver Optic.

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

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Dan and Quin took the bateau, which had been put


into the water before dinner, and rowed up the
bayou to explore the region above them. Finding
an unobstructed passage for about two miles, they

By this time the work of the housekeepers was
finished and the labor of towing the Isabel up
the bayou was commenced. As the water was very
shallow In some places, they had to follow the chan-
nel; and it was sundown when they had moored
her to the point they had reached in the bateau.

"That will do very well," said Dan, as they made
her fast to a tree.

"De nigger hunters neber find us here, for sar-
tln," added Cyd, as he dashed the sweat from his

*'We are not in a safe place yet," continued Dan.
"But we are in no hurry, and we won't do any more
to-day. Let us have supper and go to bed."

Lily had already made the tea, and had every-
thing in a forward state of preparation.

After supper, the important question of the
watch came up again for consideration.

"We may as well settle this matter once for all,"
said Dan. "I suppose six hours' sleep is enough
for any of us."

"Plenty," added Quin.


"Dunno," said Cyd, shaking his head, and gap-
ing as though he had not slept any for a week.
*'Dis chile alius goes to sleep at eight, and wakes
up at five. How long's dat, Dan?"

"Nine hours; that's enough for a hog."

" 'Nuff for a nigger, too."

"I have got a plan all ready, and if you agree
to It we will adopt it," added Dan.

*'You's de cap'n, and weder we 'gree to it or
not, you mus' hab your own way," continued Cyd.

*'Not at all. We'll have no captain here. We
are not at sea, and we will all be equal. What we
do will be for our own safety. I intend to keep
my watch, and do my share of the work; so you
needn't grumble, Cyd."

^'Possifus! Cyd neber grumble in his life."

"You seem to think that I want to make you
do more than your share."

"No, sar. I's t'ink you do more'n your share,
Dan. Cyd ain't notin' but a nigger, and you's
almos' a gen'leman."

"Come, come, Cyd. I shall be angry if you
talk in that way. I am just the same as the rest
of you."

"HossifusI Wha — ^wha — ^wha "

"That'll do, Cyd."


**You's got all de brains, and knows jes' what
to do and where to go. Gosslfus ! Wha — wha —
what become ob us widout Dan?"

"Dat's jus' what I t'inks," added Quin. "You
does de t'inkin', and we does de wuck."

"I shall do my part of the work. Now listen
to me, and I will tell you how I think the work
ought to be divided. We'll go to bed at nine
o'clock, and turn out at five."

"Dem's um," nodded Cyd.

"I will take the first watch to-night, till one
o'clock, and Cyd the second, till five in the morn-

"But whar's my watch?" demanded Quin.

"At five o'clock you shall turn out and get break-
fast. To-morrow night it shall be your first watch,
and my second, and Cyd shall get breakfast the
next morning. Then Cyd shall have the first watch
the third night, and Quin the second, and I will
get breakfast. That makes a fair division, I

"Dat's all right," added Quin.

"Those who sleep but four hours in the night
can sleep during the day, if they wish."

"Yes, when de wuck's done," said Quin,


''We shall not have much work to do after we
get settled," replied Dan.

"All that's very fine," added Lily, who had been
listening to the arrangement; *'but I shall not con-
sent to It. I Intend to get breakfast myself."

"No, Lily," remonstrated Dan. "If you do all
the cooking, you will have to work harder than any
of the boys. One of us will do the heavy work
on deck, and you shall attend to the table. I am
willing you should do your share of the work, if
you Insist upon It, but not more than your share.
We shall have nothing to do but eat and sleep when
we get the boat In position."

Lily insisted for some time, but was forced to
yield the point at last ; for neither Dan nor his com-
panions would consent to her proposition. At nine
o'clock Lily went to her cabin, and Quin and Cyd
were soon sound asleep In their bunks. At one
o'clock Cyd was called, and Dan gave him his
watch, that he might know when to call Quin.

It was a difficult task for the sentinel to keep
awake; but I believe he was faithful this time In
the discharge of his important duty. At five Quin
was called, and Cyd Immediately proceeded to make
wp for lost time.



Cyd was roused from his slumbers at nine o'clock
to assist in working the Isabel farther into the
swamp, and in the course of the day she was safely
moored in her permanent position. The quick eye
of Dan had detected the admirable fitness of this
place both for concealment and defense. It was
not more than three miles from the lake.

The Isabel was secured between two islets, in the
midst of a broad lagoon. The channel between the
two portions of land was only wide enough to ad-
mit the boat, and the shore was covered with an im-
pregnable thicket of bushes and trees, so that the
fugitives were obliged to "strip" the sailboat, and
take out her masts, before they could move her into
the narrow bayou.

The next day when the morning work on board
was done, they commenced the task of concealing
the Isabel more effectually from the view of any



persons who might possibly penetrate t^e swamp.
A half-decayed log was thrown across the channel,
and green branches stuck in the ground, till the
boat could not be seen. A coat of green paint was
then put oyer the white one, and the party were
satisfied that no one could discover their retreat,
unless he happened to blunder upon it.

In these preparations a great deal of hard work
was done; but the feeling of security which they
procured amply compensated for the labor. When
it was done, the fugitives enjoyed a season of rest,
and for a week they did nothing but eat and sleep,
though a strict watch was kept all the time to guard
against a surprise. But this was an idle and stupid
life ; and even Cyd, who had formerly believed that
idleness was bliss, began to grow weary of it. A
few days more were employed in building a bridge
from the deck of the boat to the island, in estab-
lishing a kitchen on shore, and in making such other
improvements on board and on the land as their
limited experience in the swamp suggested.

After every change and addition which the inge-
nuity of the fugitives could devise had been com-
pleted, the time again began to hang heavily on
their hands. It was a happy thought of Lily that
Dan should open a school for the instruction of


Quin and Cyd, and half the day was very pleasant-
ly occupied in this manner. At the end of a month
both of these pupils were able to read a little from
Dan's Testament, and they continued to make good
progress during the remainder of their residence in
the swamp.

At the end of a month, Dan saw with dismay
the inroad which had been made upon the supply
of provisions. The addition of one person to the
party had deranged his calculations, for Quin was
blessed with a tremendous appetite. It was neces-
sary that a sufficient quantity of the bacon and
crackers should be reserved for the voyage that was
yet before them, which might be a month in dura-
tion, or even longer. This supply had been care-
fully stowed away in the fore hold, and at the rate
they consumed their provisions, the remainder
would not last them two months.

Dan communicated his doubts and fears on this
subject to Quin and Cyd, who immediately became
very wise, and suggested a dozen expedients to meet
the difficulty. Cyd proposed to forage on a plan-
tation, which was immediately condemned as in-
volving too much risk. Quin thought they might
go to the nearest store and purchase food, as both


Dan and Lily had considerable sums of money.
This also was too dangerous.

''What's de use stoppin' here so long?'* asked

"The search for us has not ended yet," replied

"But dey won't t'lnk no more ob us in two monfs
from dis yere time."

"Very true; but the water will be so low that
we can't get out of the lake In less than one month
from now. We must stay here till next spring,"
added Dan, decidedly.

"Wha — ^wha — what ye gwlne to stop here a
whole year for?" demanded Cyd, with his usual

"When would you leave?"

"When de water gets high In de fall."

"If we go to sea In the fall or winter, we shall
meet with terrible storms In the Gulf. We should
perish with the cold, or founder In a gale. We
may have to be at sea a month. We shall have to
meet our greatest perils after we leave this place."

"Well, I s'pose you knows best, Dan; and we's
gwlne to do jus' what you say," replied Quin, meek-


"Dem's um, Dan; you just tell dis chile wot you


wants done, and we's gwine to do not'in' but do It,'*
said Cyd.

"But we must have something to eat while wc
remain here," added Dan.

*'Dat's so; niggers can't lib widout eatin'."

"We can do as the Indians do — ^we can hunt and
fish," suggested Dan.

"Sartin — ^plenty ob ducks and geese, pigeons and

"And we have fowling-pieces, with plenty of
powder and shot; but none of us are hunters, and
I'm afraid we shall not have very good luck in
shooting game."

It was decided that Dan and Quin should try
their luck on the following day ; and having taken
an early breakfast, they started in the bateau, row-
ing down the bayou in the direction of the lake.
Dan was provided with a fowling-piece, while Quin
was to try his luck as a fisherman. The former
was landed at a convenient place, while the latter
pushed off into the deep waters of the lake, each to
exercise his craft to the best of his ability.

On the shore of the lake Dan saw an abundance
of wild ducks ; but they were so very wild that he
found a great deal of difficulty in getting near
enough to risk the expenditure of any portion of


the precious ammunition which was to last a year.
He fired twice without Injuring the game, and be-
gan to think that he was never Intended for a
sportsman. The third time he wounded a duck,
but lost him. This was hopeful, and he determined
to persevere. At the next shot he actually bagged
a brant, and, what was better, he believed he had
"got the hang" of the business, so that he could
hunt with some success.

We will not follow him through the trials and
disappointments of a six hours' tramp; but the re-
sult of his day's shooting was five ducks and one
goose, with which he was entirely satisfied. With
the game in his bag, he hastened back to the place
where Quin had landed him in the morning. The
other sportsman had been waiting two hours for
him, and had been even more fortunate than his
companion, having captured about a dozen good-
sized catfish. The result of the expedition was
very promising, and the food question appeared to
be settled. With light hearts they pulled back to
the camp, as Dan had christened their dwelling
place in the swamp.

"Where is Cyd?" asked Dan, as he hauled the
boat through the dense thicket which concealed the
Isabel from the gaze of any outsiders.


"He IS here on deck," replied Lily, with a'
troubled expression. "Something ails him."

*'What's the matter?"

"I don't know ; he is very sick, and I am so glad
you have come!" added the poor girl, who ap-
peared to have suffered an age of agony in the ab-
sence of the hunter.

Dan was alarmed, for he had not yet considered
even the possibility of the serious illness of any
member of the party; and Lily's announcement
conjured up in his vivid imagination visions of suf-
fering and death. He was full of sympathy, too,
for his companion, to whom he was strongly at-
tached. With a heart full of painful and terrible
forebodings, he leaped upon the deck of the Isabel,
and rushed to the standing-room, where Cyd lay
upon the floor. The sufferer had evidently just
rolled off the cushioned seat, and was disposed in
the most awkward and uncomfortable position into
which the human form could be distorted.

Dan and Quin immediately raised him tenderly
from the floor, and placed him upon the cushions.
This movement seemed to disturb the sufferer, and
he opened his eyes, muttering some incoherent
words. At the same time he threv/ his arms and
legs about in a frightful manner. Dan was quite


as much puzzled and alarmed as Lily had been.
He did not know what to do for him. His ex-
perience as a nurse had been very limited, and his
knowledge of human infirmities was extremely de-

*'What ails him?" asked Lily, whose anxiety
for the patient completely beclouded her beautiful

"I don't know," replied Dan, hardly less solicit-
ous for the fate of his friend. "How long has he
been sick?"

"After you went away I was busy in the cabin
for two or three hours, taking care of the dishes
and cleaning up the place. When I came on deck
he seemed to act very strangely. I never heard
him talk so fast before. Pie said he felt sick, and
thought he should vomit. He was so weak he
could not walk; when he tried to do so, he staggered
and fell. I helped him upon the seat, and then he
seemed to be asleep. I bathed his head with cold
water. When he waked up he was stupid, and I
was afraid he would die before you got back. I
didn't know what to do; so I gave him some

"How much did you give him?" asked Dan.

"Only about half a tumbler full — as much as


you gave Quin when he was sick. Poor fellow!
You don't know how much I have suffered In your

During this conversation, Quin, who had more
skill as a physician and nurse than his companions,
had been carefully examining the patient.

*What do you think of him, Quin?" asked Dan,
as he turned from Lily to consult with him.

"I t'ink dar's hope for Cyd," replied he, a queer
smile playing about his mouth as he glanced at the
anxious leader of the party.

"Do you? Then you understand the case — do

"Yes, sar; I do, for sartln. My old massa used
to hab jus' such fits as dat," added Quin, his coun-
tenance beaming with Intelligence.

"What did you do for him?"

"Not'in', but put him to bed and let him sleep
it off; I t'ink cold water good for him. Dat's
what missus used to do for old massa when he hab
It bery bad."

At the suggestion of Quin, Cyd was placed out-
side of the washboard, and half a dozen buckets
of cold water were dashed upon him by the relent-
less hand of the negro nurse.


"Wha — ^wha — ^wha " roared Cyd, as the

first bucket fell upon him.

"See dar !" exclaimed Quin, triumphantly. "He
done git better so quick. Gib him some more";
and he dashed another pailful upon him.

"Go away dar!" cried Cyd, trying to rise; but
Dan held him fast.

"Dat do him heaps ob good," added Quin; and
he continued to apply the harsh remedy.

"Don't do it any more, Quin," interposed Lily,
who seemed to think the remedy was as bad as the

"Do him power ob good. Drive de fit right
away from him," answered Quin, as he remorseless-
ly dashed another bucket of cold water upon the
patient. "Dat's wat dey call de water cure."

"Go away dar!" screamed Cyd. "Luff dis chile

"Don't, Quin; he does not like it," said Lily.

" 'Pose he don't; nobody likes de medicine."

"But you may kill him," added Dan.

"Kill him! Don't you see he's growin' better
all de time? Dar; dat'll do," replied Quin, as he
carried the bucket to the forecastle.

"Wha — ^wha — what's the matter?" demanded


"Do you feel better, Cyd?" asked Dan, tender-
ly, as he permitted the patient to roll over Into the

"Yes, sar!

(( <T>

Vs born way down 'pon de Mlssissip ;
Ts crossed de riber on a cotton-wood chip,' '*

roared Cyd, trying to sing a familiar song.

"Why, he Is crazy!" exclaimed Lily.

"Yes, missy, he's crazy; but he soon git ober it,"
answered Quin, laughing.

"Why do you laugh, Quin? You don't seem
to be at all concerned about him," added Lily.

"Bad fit, missy r

"What alls him?"

"Bad fit, missy; my ole massa use to hab lots
ob dem fits," chuckled Quin.

"But what kind of a fit Is it, Quin?"

"Not'In', missy, only Cyd done drink too much
whisky, and get drunk — dat's all."



Even Lily laughed when she realized that her
friend Cyd was in no danger of dying in the bad
fit which had attacked him; she laughed at his
strange actions and his silly expressions; they all
laughed for a time, but there was something very
serious in the occasion. The patient was taken
down into the cabin, and put to bed in his bunk.

When he was asleep again, and the rest of the
party had returned to the deck, the serious part of
the affair came up for consideration ; and the meet-
ing was so solemn and momentous that even the
good luck of the two sportsmen was forgotten,
and the game and fish were allowed to remain un-
noticed in 'the bateau. To Dan and Lily it was
a terrible thing for a boy like Cyd to get drunk.
It was very funny, but it was awfully serious in
view of future consequences.

Several bottles of wine and liquor had been de-



posited in the lockers under the seats in the stand-
ing-room, and Cyd had helped himself as he sat
there alone. This was the key to his mysterious
sickness; and while his companions congratulated
themselves upon Cyd's expected recovery, it was
deemed prudent to place all the intoxicating bever-
ages on board in a secure place. A locker in Lily's
cabin was selected for this purpose, and it was soon
out jf Cyd's reach.

Dan wanted to throw all the liquor overboard,
except a couple of bottles to be used as medicine;
but Quin thought that some use might be made of
it at a future time. There was no one on board,
except Cyd, who would drink it; and he had im-
bibed rather as a frolic than because he had any
taste for the fiery article.

The patient slept all the rest of the day and
all the following night. The next morning he
was afflicted with a terrible headache, and was so
stupid that he was good for nothing. He was
severely reprimanded for his folly, and made a
solemn promise never to partake again; and as
the dangerous fluid was all locked up, and the key
in Lily's possession, it was believed that he would
not violate his obligation.

Roast ducks and geese, and fried fish, were the


food of the party for several days to come; and
the change from salt provision was very agreeable.
About once a week Dan and Quin repeated the
excursion to the lake, and almost always returned
with a plentiful supply of fish and game. The
fugitives lived well, especially as pigeons, par-
tridges, and an occasional wild turkey graced their
table. A roast coon was not an unusual luxury;
for by extending their hunting grounds in various
directions, they added very much to the variety of
their larder.

The small stores, such as butter, salt, sugar,
coffee, and tea, were exhausted In the fall, though
they had been very carefully expended. They had
been so long accustomed to their luxurious living,
that the want of these articles was felt as a very
great hardship. Their nice ducks and geese were
absolutely loathsome without salt, and Dan came
to the conclusion that salt was a necessity, and that
it must be procured at any risk. About twenty
miles from the camp there was a village where
groceries could be obtained ; and after a great deal
of consideration It was decided to undertake a
journey for this purpose. They had been five
months In the swamp without seeing any human
being, though Dan and Quin, in one of their hunt-


ing trips, had heard voices on the lake. They felt
entirely secure in the camp, and Lily was not afraid
to remain with Cyd while Dan and Quin went after
the needed supplies.

It was resolved that Dan should pass himself
off as a white boy, who, with a party of hunters,
had encamped in the woods. He therefore dressed
himself for the part he was to play, and embarked
In the bateau v/ith Quin, who was to act as his
servant. With the utmost care they pursued their
journey, and, without any incident or accident,
came In sight of the village where they were to
purchase the stores. But Dan did not think it
prudent to visit the place In broad daylight ; so they
concealed themselves in the swamp, and slept by
turns till nearly daylight the next morning.

This seemed to be the most favorable time to
visit the store; and they entered the village, which
was called so by courtesy, for it had only six houses.
Putting on the bold, swaggering air of a young
Southerner, Dan entered the place, followed by
his servant. With all the bluster necessary to keep
up his character, he roused the shopkeeper, and or-
dered, rather than requested, him to open his store.
Fortunately, trade was not so lively in the place
as to render the merchant independent of his busi-


ness, and he gladly opened his establishment even
at that unseemly hour. He asked a great many
questions, which Dan answered very readily. The
purchases were all made, and Dan's funds, though
they amounted to nearly thirty dollars, were al-
most exhausted. When the stores had been gath-
ered together, a new and appalling difficulty pre-
sented itself. Dan had not intended to purchase
a quarter part of the supplies which were now piled
in the middle of the store. It was five miles to the
lake, and no two men in the universe could have
carried them that distance.

The matter was one of so much importance, and
the articles obtained with so much greater facility
than he expected, that he had been tempted to pro-
cure this large stock. But the pile was so large
that he began to repent of the act, and to wish that
half his money was in his pocket again. To remedy
the difficulty he began to bluster, and told the store-
keeper that he must get a team and tote the goods
down to the lake for him.

The man objected; but he at last consented to
procure his neighbor's mule team and help them
out. For this service Dan paid him two dollars
more, which entirely collapsed his exchequer. The
stores were safely deposited in the bateau, and the


man drove off, apparently as well satisfied with his
morning's work as the other party to the transac-

As soon as he was out of sight and hearing,
Quin could contain himself no longer, and vented
his satisfaction at the success of the enterprise In
the most violent and extraordinary manner. He
laughed till his eyes were filled with tears, and had
nearly upset the overloaded boat by his extrava-
gant demonstrations.

"What's the matter, Quin?" demanded Dan,
astonished at the conduct of his usually prudent
and sedate companion.

"Bress de Lo'd, we's got all de t'ings," exclaimed

"Don't crow till you get out of the woods."

"Dar's de hard bread, and de salt, and de but-
ter — golly, Massa Dan, you done do dat t'ing bery

"Wait till we get back to camp before you say
anything. We are not out of danger yet."

"But we's got de t'ings, Dan — de coffee, de
sugar, and de salt."

"Take your oar now, and when we get back
we'll have a jolly time."


"Bress de Lo'd, yes, Dan," said the delighted
Quin, as he grasped the oar.

Prosperity makes men careless and reckless. The
bateau was so crowded with stores that the rowers
had but little space to use the oars. Their progress
was necessarily very slow. They wanted to get
back to camp before night, and instead of keeping
under the lee of the land, where the boat would
not be likely to attract attention, they proceeded
by the shortest route. When they reached the up-
per end of the lake, and were within five miles of
the camp, they were startled to see a boat put out
from one of the small islands, and pull toward

"De Lo'd sabe usl" exclaimed Quin, as he dis-
covered the boat, which contained two white men.

"Take no notice of them, and don't speak a
word," said Dan, in a low tone.

"De Lo'd hab us in his holy keeping!" ejacu-
lated Quin, reverently, as he raised his eyes toward

"Do you know them?" asked Dan.

"One of dem's Massa Longworth; don't know
de oder," replied Quin, his teeth chattering as
though he had been suddenly seized with the ague.

"Who is he?"


*'De oberseer on de plantation next to ole

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Online LibraryOliver OpticWatch and wait : or, The young fugitives ; a story for young people → online text (page 8 of 12)