She was lost.
It was dark out, dark enough for Abby to see the constellations in all of their glory.
Follow the drinking gourd...
The thought came unbidden as she heard the hounds announcing their presence. Abby lifted her lightweight skirts and began to run. Only then did she realize that she was barefoot. The rags that she had wrapped around her feet were gone. Probably lost in the last bog she traveled in.
Twigs stabbed her feet as she ran blindly through the forest.
Abby glanced over her shoulder before looking forward. The riverbank makes a mighty good road... another tip came forward and Abby knew what she needed to do.
The ice water splashing startled her, but she pressed on, wading deeper. The water was up to her waist then to her chest. Abby’s chest tightened as she struggled to keep breathing.
She couldn’t touch bottom. Abby floundered, gasped, until a calloused hand grabbed her wrist, and then pulled her onto a raft. The man gave her a nod as she slid onto the raft. Streams of water trailed down her back and dripped off her nose.
“I’ll take you upriver then you need to travel north until you find a cabin with a light in the barn.”
Abby nodded as the man continued. “Tell the owner ‘a friend of a friend sent me.’ They will protect you until it’s safe.”
She nodded again, her dark eyes studying the man’s stout form—nothing more than an inky contrast against the night. The man moved again, this time bent over Abby and pulled a scrap of fabric over her.
“You’ve got a long journey ahead of you, just keep on headin’ north.”
The raft drifted towards the bank and using the pole, her rescuer pulled the raft close enough for Abby to get off and wade to shore. Without a second glance behind her, Abby took off running towards the trees once again. Only then did she pause to check the position of the North Star. Reaching into the now wet satchel, she pulled out the jerky, chewed at it before putting it away, and began to travel again.
Abby knew that she had to be gone before the slave hunters got across the river. She didn’t want to face the hounds again. She slung the rough sack over her shoulder and began to walk again.
It took her awhile. Her feet were throbbing—probably cut from unseen slate on the riverbed. Ignoring the now throbbing pain, she kept on walking. She had hurt more when her master beat her for not telling him where Maggie, a former slave, went was a small price to pay.
She was shivering now. The night air chilled her to the bone, but she pressed on. Only a few more hills to go, she thought, pressing on.
Finally, nestled in a valley sat a small cabin with a light lit in the barn. Relief flowed through Abby’s spirit as she began to sprint into the valley, ignoring the call of the hounds encircling her. She was gonna make it. She was gonna be free!
“There that runaway is, get her!” A man’s voice shattered the silence further.
Abby continued to scramble towards the cabin. She knew that if she could get there, she would be safe. The hounds were gaining on her and Abby continued to run. She was not going to give up.
Bloodied footprints marked her path and a rough hand grasped her arm and pulled her to the ground. Abby closed her eyes as she felt the heavy breathing against her neck.
“Stay still.” The voice hissed into her ear. “Stay still and play along.”
The iron hand pulled her to her feet. “Gentlemen, why are you pursuing my farmhand’s daughter?” He asked, still holding on her arm. He squeezed her arm one more time.
“Get back into the house. Your father and mother was worried ‘bout you, Lizzie.” He berated Abby, shoving her towards the cabin. “Now what do you hafta say for yourself?”
Abby struggled not to show her confusion as her mind fumbled for an answer. “I got lost...”
It was the truth. The man scowled at her, “Get inside, Lizzie. You got a long day ahead of you.”
Abby nodded and scrambled towards the cabin. Praising God underneath her breath as she opened the door and settled onto the floor in the cabin. She was gonna be free one day—no matter the cost.
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