Chapter XXIX: The Pursuit

The absence of mammy Judy, daddy Joe, Charles and little Tony, on the return early Monday morning of Colonel Franks and lady from the country, unmistakably proved the escape of their slaves, and the farther proof of the exit of 'squire Potter's Andy and Beckwith's Clara, with the remembrance of the stampede a few months previously, required no farther confirmation of the fact, when the neighborhood again was excited to ferment. The advisory committee was called into immediate council, and ways and means devised for the arrest of the recreant slaves recently left, and to prevent among them the recurrence of such things ; a pursuit was at once commenced, which for the three succeeding days was carried in the wrong direction—towards Jackson, whither, it was supposed in the neighborhood, Henry had been lurking previous to the last sally upon their premises, as he had certainly been seen on Saturday evening, coming from the landing.
No traces being found in that direction, the course was changed, the swiftest steamer boarded in pursuit for the Ohio river. This point being reached but a few hours subsequent to that of the fugitives, when learning of their course, the pursuers proceeded toward the place of their destination, on the Mississippi river.
This point being the southern part of Missouri but a short distance above the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, the last named river had, of necessity, to be passed, being to the fugitives only practicable by means of a ferry. The ferryman in this instance commanded a horse-boat, he residing on the opposite side of the river. Stepping up to him—a tall, raw-boned athletic, rough looking, bearded fellow—Eli saluted:
' We want to cross the river, sir!'
5' Am yers free?' enquired the ferryman.
' Am I free ! are you free ?' rejoined Eli.
' Yes, I be's a white man !' replied the boatman.
' And so am I!' retorted Eli, ' and you dare not tell me I'm not.'
'I'll swong, stranger, yer mus' 'scuse me, as I did n' take notice on yez ! but I like to know if them air black folks ye got wey yer am free, cause if they arn't, I be 'sponsible for 'em 'cording to the new law, called, I 'bleve the Nebrasky Complimize Fugintive Slave Act, made down at Californy, last year,' apologized and explained the somewhat confused ferryman.
10' Yes,' replied Henry, ' we are free, and if we were not, I do'nt think it any part of your business to know. I thought you were here to carry people across the river.'
' But frien',' rejoined the man, ' yer don't understan' it. This are a law made by the Newnited States of Ameriky, an' I be 'bliged to fulfill it by ketchin' every fugintive that goes to cross this way, or I mus' pay a thousand dollars, and go to jail till the black folks is got, if that be's never. Yer see yez cant blame me, as I mus' 'bey the laws of Congress I'll swong it be's hardly a fair shake nuther, but I be 'bliged to 'bey the laws, yer know.'
' Well sir,' replied Henry,' we want to cross the river.'
' Let me see yez papers frien' ? asked the ferryman.
' My friend,' said Henry, ' are you willing to make yourself a watch-dog for slaveholders, and do for them that which they would not do for themselves, catch runaway slaves ? Don't you know that this is the work which they boast on having the poor white men at the North do for them? Have you not yet learned to attend to your own interests instead of theirs ? Here are our free papers,' holding out his open hand, in which lay five half-eagle pieces.
15' Jump aboard!' cried the ferryman.
Quick, quick!' shouted he, as the swift feet of four horses were heard dashing up the road.
Scarcely had the boat moved from her fastenings, till they had arrived; the riders dismounted, who presenting revolvers, declared upon the boatman's life, instantly, if he did not change the direction of his boat and come back to the Missouri shore. Seizing a well-charged rifle belonging to the boatman, his comrades each with a well aimed six-barreled weapon.
' Shoot if you dare !' exclaimed Henry, the slaveholders declining their arms,—when, turning to the awe-stricken ferryman, handing him the twenty-five dollars, said, 'your cause is a just one, and your reward is sure; take this money, proceed and you are safe—refuse, and you instantly die !'
' Then I be to do right,'declared the boatman, 'if I die by it,' when applying the whip to the horses, in a few moments landed them on the Illinois shore.
20This being the only ferry in the neighborhood, and fearing a bribe or coercion by the people on the Illinois side, or the temptation of a high reward from the slave catchers, Henry determined on eluding, if possible, every means of pursuit.
' What are your horses worth?' enquired he.
' They can't be no use to your frien' case they is both on 'em bline, an' couldn' travel twenty mile a day, on a stretch!'
' Have you any other horses ?'
' They be all the horses I got; I gineraly feed a spell this side. I lives over here—this are my feedin' trip,' drawled the boatman.
25' What will you take for them ?'
' Well, frien' they arn't wuth much to buy, no how, but wuth good lock to me for drawin' the boat over, yer see.'
' What did they cost you in buying them ?'
' Well, I o'ny gin six—seven dollars apiece, or sich a matter for 'em' when I got 'em, an' they cos me some two—three dollars, or sich a matter, more to get 'em in pullin' order, yer see.'
' Will you sell them to me ?'
30' I hadn't ort to part wey 'em frien,' as I do good lock o' bisness hereabouts wey them air nags, bline as they be.'
'Here are thirty dollars for your horses,' said Henry, putting into his hand the money in gold pieces, when, unhitching them from their station, leading them out to the side of the boat, he shot them, pushing them over into the river.
' Farewell my friend,' saluted Henry, he and comrades leaving the astonished ferryman gazing after them, whilst the slaveholders on the other shore stood grinding their teeth, grimacing their faces, shaking their fists, with various gesticulations of threat, none of which were either heard, heeded or cared for by the fleeing party, or determined ferryman.
Taking a northeasterly course of Indiana, Andy being au accustomed singer, commenced, in lively glee and cheerful strains, singing to the expressive words :
' We are like a band of pilgrims,
35In a strange and foreign land,
With our knapsacks on our shoulders,
And our cudgets in our hands,
We have many miles before us.
But it lessens not our joys,
40We will sing a merry chorus,
For we are the tramping boys.'
Then joined in chorus the whole party—
' We are all jogging,
Jog, jog, jogging,
45And we're all jogging,
We are going to the North !'
The Wabash river becoming the next point of obstruction, a ferry, as in the last case, had also to be crossed, the boatman residing on the Indiana side.
' Are you free ?' enquired the boatman, as the party of blacks approached.
' We are,' was the reply of Henry.
50'Where are you from?' continued he.
'We are from home, sir,' replied Charles, ' and the sooner you take us across the river, just so much sooner will we reach it.'
Still doubting their right to pass he asked for their papers, but having by this time become so conversant with the patriotism and fidelity of these men to their country. Charles handing the Indianan a five dollar piece, who on seeing the out-stretched wings of the eagle, desired no farther evidence of their right to pass, conveying them into the State, contrary to the statues of the Commonwealth.
On went the happy travelers without hinderance, or molestation, until the middle of the week next ensuing.
To Chapter XXX

Textual Notes

1of] 59; of of 'squire 62
1to] 59; to a ferment. 62
1was] 59; not in 62
1,] 59;62
3,] 59; not in 62
3raw-boned] 59; tall, raw-boned, athletic, 62
3bearded] 59; beardy 62
5enquired] 59; inquired 62
6!] 59; ? 62
8,] 59; ; 62
9did n] 59; didn 62
9take] 59; take no notice 62
9cause] 59; case 62
9,] 59; not in 62
10,] 59; ; 62
10do] 59; don 62
10nt] 59; t 62
11,] 59; ; 62
11cant] 59; can't 62
11of] 59; o' 62
11Congress] 59; o' Congress. 62
11swong] 59; I'll swong, it's 62
11be] 59; not in 62
11bliged] 59; bleged 62
11.'] 59; . 62
12,'] 59; ; ' 62
13' ?] 59; '?' 62
14,] 59; ; 62
14is] 59; is just the 62
14at] 59; of 62
14your own interests] 59; your own interests 62
15-16ferryman.] 59; 'Quick, quick!' 62
17and] 59; boat and, come 62
17well-charged] 59; well charged 62
17.] 59; : 62
18awe-stricken] 59; awe stricken 62
18,] 59; : 62
18proceed] 59; money, proceed, and 62
19be] 59; I be's to 62
19,] 59; ; 62
20high] 59; higher 62
20of] 59; of farther pursuit. 62
21enquired] 59; inquired 62
22your] 59; you 62
22'] 59; ', 62
22is] 59; be's 62
24horses] 59; hosses 62
24gineraly] 59; ginerly 62
24.] 59; ; 62
26,] 59; not in 62
26'] 59; ', 62
26no how] 59; nohow 62
26wuth] 59; wuth a good 62
28o] 59; on 62
28ny] 59; y 62
28matter] 59; a matter, for 62
28'] 59; , 62
28cos] 59; they cos' me 62
28get] 59; git 62
30wey] 59; with 62
30,'] 59; ', 62
30bisness] 59; bisniss 62
31,'] 59; !' 62
32,'] 59; !' 62
32grinding] 59; gnashing 62
33of] 59; for 62
33au] 59; an 62
33,] 59; not in 62
33expressive] 59; expressibe 62
37cudgets] 59; cudgels 62
38We] 59; And 62
38.] 59; , 62
48enquired] 59; inquired 62
51,] 59; ; 62
51sooner] 59; sooner we will 62
51we] 59; not in 62
52pass] 59; to pass, he 62
52.] 59; , 62
52handing] 59; handed 62
52Indianan] 59; Indianian 62
52statues] 59; statutes 62
53,] 59; not in 62