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103 CHAPTER XVII. An escape attempted, and what happened during the same. the appointed hour arrived, and there I was ready— ready, and away with my prize! Martha, I saw by the flashing of a lamp as we passed, looked as pale as ashes; but there could be no mistaking the resolution, amounting to sternness, in her eyes. Her compressed lips, too, and that whole expression of her features, were so unusual as to give her an appearance I had never remarked in her before. Could the gentle Quaker girl, indeed, have all this time, contained such elements of spirit and promptitude? I had not understood her properly, that was certain. Nat hurried to us, from the corner near by, where he had been waiting. He had his dog Jack with him, and the two, with a certain activity, were more quiet than usual for them. “Mr. Peterson and I’ve got the boat waiting,” said Nat, “and we’ll soon row you over.” As for that, if it were necessary, I could take a hand myself, thanks to the practice which most New York boys get along her docks and shores. 104 Nat told us that he had almost given us up, and was just on the point of departure. He supposed that some unforeseen obstacle intervened, and Martha’s flight had been postponed to a more convenient season. Martha’s bundle; I gave it to Nat with a great caution of its importance. We hurried rapidly along the streets, Martha holding to my arm, though she needed little support; for the brave girl felt in this emergency of her life, as she afterward told me, fully capable of tracking her own part, even should some still more eventful crisis occur, and should she become deprived of my support. Nat, carrying the parcel which Martha had brought away, was the only cause I had for disturbance. Our quick steps, and a certain flutter which could not be avoided, in our demeanor, joined with this parcel, I feared, might arouse the inquisitive suspicions of the watchmen. I at first thought of directing Nat to keep some distance behind us; but as we didn’t know exactly the locality of the dock where, as he informed us, the boat lay; and indeed, as we took our course from street to street, and hurried around corner after corner, without settled plan—there was no other way than to stick together and ruin our chances. “What is your hurry, neighbors?” saluted our ears, as a watchman stepped out from the doorway of a corner grocery we were wending by. I looked him as coolly as I could in the face, and asked him what he meant by stopping us in that manner. 105 “No offence,” said he, “only I always try to do my duty.” “Well what has your duty to do with us?” “Perhaps nothing, and then, again, perhaps something,” was his answer. I suppressed my annoyance as well as I could, when Martha, with woman’s instinct, remarked, with a quiet tone: “Now friend, do not prevent us; but take this shilling and refresh thyself with some coffee, and let us go on our way peaceably.” The gentle voice of Martha, whose manner showed her to be so different from what the guardian of the night no doubt supposed, reassured him probably more than the coin, and he said he did not mean any harm, but he had to look out and do his duty. We hurried on as before, and were within a couple of squares of the river, when we were suddenly stopped, from behind, by two watchmen, one of whom laid a hand firmly on my shoulder. “What’s your hurry, this dark night?” he said coolly. I didn’t like his tone at all. If there be any thing in a man’s voice to judge his intentions by, he was a different fellow from the one whose good offices we had escaped, a few minutes before. Besides, there were two of ’em; and, in such a case, a little gratuity was not likely to have any effect. “What have you in that bundle?” said he to Nat. I felt Martha’s arm tremble a little, but she answered distinctly. 106 “The young man carries some clothing and other things, that belong to me.” “Are you sure they have always belonged to you?” said he. “Perfectly sure,” said Martha, with a self-possession that fully equalled that...


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