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Title: Chasing an Iron Horse - Or, A Boy's Adventures in the Civil War
Author: Robins, Edward, 1862-1943
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: "The Next Moment Was a Blank"]



CHASING AN IRON HORSE
Or
A Boy's Adventures in the Civil War

By
EDWARD ROBINS

Author of "With Washington in Braddock's Campaign,"
"A Boy in Early Virginia," etc.

[Illustration: QUI NON PROFICIT DEFICIT]

PHILADELPHIA
GEORGE W. JACOBS & CO.
PUBLISHERS



Copyright, 1902,
By GEORGE W. JACOBS & Co.

Published August, 1902.



Preface

The locomotive chase in Georgia, which forms what may be called the
background of this story, was an actual occurrence of the great Civil War.
But I wish to emphasize the fact that the following pages belong to the
realm of fiction. Some of the incidents, and the character of Andrews, are
historic, whilst other incidents and characters are imaginary. The reader
who would like to procure an account of the chase as it really happened
should consult the narrative of the Reverend William Pittenger. Mr.
Pittenger took part in the expedition organized by Andrews, and his record
of it is a graphic contribution to the annals of the conflict between
North and South.

                                                          Edward Robins.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                           PAGE
     I.  HAZARDOUS PLANS             7
    II.  NEARING THE GOAL           27
   III.  MINGLING WITH THE ENEMY    56
    IV.  PLOT AND PLOTTERS          95
     V.  ON THE RAIL               121
    VI.  AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE    156
   VII.  ENERGETIC PURSUIT         188
  VIII.  TWO WEARY WANDERERS       206
    IX.  IN GREATEST PERIL         232
     X.  FINAL TRIALS              263



ILLUSTRATIONS

"The Next Moment was a blank"                          Frontispiece
The Major merely changed the position of his legs                82
Fuller was steaming to the northward with "The Yonah"           192
None too soon had he executed this manoeuvre                    214
Watson placed his hand over the man's mouth                     270



CHASING AN IRON HORSE

CHAPTER I

HAZARDOUS PLANS


The lightning flashes, the mutterings of thunder, like the low growls of
some angry animal, and the shrieking of the wind through swaying branches,
gave a weird, uncanny effect to a scene which was being enacted, on a
certain April night of the year 1862, in a secluded piece of woodland a
mile or more east of the village of Shelbyville, Tennessee. In the centre
of a small clearing hemmed in by trees stood a tall, full-bearded man of
distinguished bearing. Around him were grouped twenty sturdy fellows who
listened intently, despite the stir of the elements, to something that he
was saying in a low, serious tone of voice. None of them, strangely
enough, wore a uniform, although they were all loyal Union soldiers
belonging to the division of troops commanded by General O. M. Mitchell,
then encamped on the banks of Duck River, only a couple of miles away. For
the country was now engaged in the life-and-death struggle of the Civil
War, when Northerner fought against Southerner--sometimes brother against
brother--and no one could predict whether the result would be a divided or
a reunited nation.

"My friends," the speaker was solemnly saying, as a new flash from the
darkened heavens lit up the landscape for a second, and showed how
resolute were the lines of his face; "my friends, if you go into this
scheme with me, you are taking your lives into your hands. It's only fair
that I should impress this upon you, and give any and all of you a chance
to drop out."

There was a quick, sharp clap of thunder, which was not loud enough,
however, to drown the earnest protest of every listener. "We're not
cowards, Andrews!" "We'll stick to you through thick and thin!" "Nobody's
going to draw back!" These were among the fervent answers which greeted
the leader addressed as Andrews. The latter was evidently pleased, though
by no means surprised. He was dealing with brave men, and he knew his
audience.

"All the better, boys," he went on, with a complacent ring in his soft but
penetrating voice. "You see, this is the situation. The Confederates are
concentrating at Corinth, Mississippi, and Generals Grant and Buell are
advancing by different routes against them. Now, our own General Mitchell
finds himself in a position to press into East Tennessee as far as
possible, and he hopes soon to seize Chattanooga, after he has taken
Huntsville, Alabama. But to do this he must cut off Chattanooga from all
railroad communication to the south and east, and therefore all aid. In
other words, we men are to enter the enemy's country in disguise, capture
a train on the Georgia State railroad, steam off with it, and burn the
bridges leading in the direction of Chattanooga, on the northern end of
the road. It is one of the most daring ideas ever conceived, and its
execution will be full of difficulties. If we fail we shall be hanged as
spies! If we succeed, there will be promotion and glory for all of us, and
our names will go down into history."

There was a murmur of encouragement from the men, as one said: "We must
succeed, if only to save our necks." The next moment the barking of a dog
could be heard above the whistling of the wind.

"Be careful," cried Andrews, warningly; "some one may be listening."

Hardly had he spoken before two figures bounded from the encircling trees
into the open space wherein stood the startled conspirators. While flashes
of lightning played through the branches, and gave fitful illumination to
the scene, the men saw revealed a lad of about fifteen or sixteen years of
age, flushed and breathless, and at his heels a tiny Yorkshire terrier,
bright of face, and with an inquiring glance that seemed to say: "What is
all this fuss about?" As the animal danced around the boy it was evident
that the latter was by no means frightened, or even surprised, by the
strangeness of this meeting in the forest. His regular, handsome features
and intelligent, sparkling gray eyes denoted excitement rather than fear.
He sprang forward, and, pulling a letter from an inner pocket of his blue
jacket, made straight for Andrews.

"Why, if it isn't George Knight," muttered one soldier, "and his chum,
Waggie."

The dog, hearing his own name, came up and fawned upon the man who had
spoken, while the boy thrust into the hands of the leader the letter which
he had so carefully guarded.

"This is from General Mitchell," explained young Knight. "He said it was
most urgent--and I was to fetch it to you as soon as possible."

Andrews opened the letter, as he replied kindly to the lad: "You look out
of breath, George. Did you have a hard time reaching here?"

"As Waggie and I were hurrying up the Shelbyville road in the darkness,"
returned George Knight, "we ran into a company of Confederate guerrillas.
They paid us the compliment of firing at us--and we had to run for our
lives. But we gave the fellows the slip."

Thereupon Waggie gave a growl. Andrews, who was about to read the letter
from General Mitchell, assumed a listening attitude. So did every one
else. Out on the highroad, not a hundred yards away, could be heard the
tramping of horses. Involuntarily the men put their hands towards the
pockets which contained their revolvers.

"The guerrillas!" muttered the boy, as Andrews gave him a questioning
look.

"How many are there of them?" asked the leader.

"Hard to tell in the dark," answered George. "I think there were a dozen
or so."

"Oh, if that's all, let's give 'em a scare, boys!" laughed Andrews.
Suiting the action to his words, he pulled out a pistol from his hip
pocket, and fired it in the direction of the highroad. His companions,
nothing loath, quickly followed his example. George and his canine chum
looked on expectantly, as if regretting that neither of them possessed a
weapon. Now there came the clatter of hoofs, like a stampede, and the
guerrillas seemed to be engaged in a wild scramble to get away. They were
an intrepid party, without doubt, but the sudden volley from the
mysterious and darkened recesses of the woods (which might come, for all
the Southerners knew, from a whole regiment of troops) demoralized them.
In another instant they were scampering off, and the sound of the horses
on the road was soon lost in the distance.

Andrews replaced his revolver, with a little chuckle of amusement.

"They are a daring lot to venture so near our army," he said. Then he
began to read the letter, with the aid of a dark lantern provided by one
of his companions.

While he is engaged in this occupation let us ask two questions. Who is
Andrews, and who is George Knight? James Andrews, though a Virginian by
birth, has lived in the mountains of Kentucky for many years, and is now a
spy of the Union army, in the employ of General Buell. The war is only
fairly begun, but already more than once has the spy courted death by
penetrating into the lines of the Confederacy, in the guise of a merchant,
and bringing back to the Northern forces much valuable information. He is
a man of fine education and polished manners, despite his life in the
wilds, and is tall, aristocratic-looking, and full of a quiet courage
which, in his own dangerous profession, answers far better than the
greatest impetuosity. He has plenty of daring, but it is a daring tempered
with prudence. Although he has masqueraded among the enemy at times when
the slightest slip of the tongue might have betrayed him, he has thus far
returned to the Union lines in safety. How long, some of his friends ask
anxiously, will he be able to continue in so perilous an enterprise? Yet
here he is, planning, with the consent of General Mitchell, a scheme
bolder than anything yet dreamed of in the annals of the war.

And what of George Knight? He is an active, healthy-minded drummer boy
belonging to one of the Ohio regiments in General Mitchell's division. His
mother had died in his infancy. At the outbreak of the war, a year before
the opening of our story, he was living in Cincinnati with his father. The
latter suddenly gave up a prosperous law practice to go to the help of the
North, secured a commission as a captain of volunteers, went to the front,
and was either captured or killed by the Confederates. Since the preceding
Christmas nothing had been heard of him. George, with an aching heart,
stayed at home with an uncle, and chafed grievously as he saw company
after company of militia pass through his native town on the way to the
South. Where was his father? This he asked himself twenty times a day. And
must he, the son, stand idly by whilst thousands of the flower of the land
were rushing forward to fight on one side or the other in the great
conflict? "I must enlist!" George had cried, more than once. "Pshaw!"
replied his uncle; "you are too young--a mere child." But one fine day
George Knight had himself enrolled as a drummer boy in a regiment then
being recruited in Cincinnati, and, as his uncle had a large family of his
own, with no very strong affection to spare for his nephew, there was not
as much objection as might have been expected. So the lad went to the war.
He had now become a particular _protégé_ of General Mitchell, who had
taken him into his own service as an assistant secretary--a position in
which George had already shown much natural cleverness.

After reading the letter just brought to him, Andrews tears it into a
hundred little pieces which he scatters to the winds.

"What's the matter?" ask several of the men, as they crowd around him.

"Hurry's the matter," laughs the leader, as unconcernedly as if he were
speaking of nothing more dangerous than a picnic. "The General tells me we
must start at once, if we want to accomplish anything. To-morrow [Tuesday]
morning he takes his army straight south to Huntsville. If he captures the
town by Friday, as he expects to do, he can move eastwards, to
Chattanooga. So we will do our bridge-burning and our train-stealing on
Friday, before the railroad is obstructed with trains bringing Confederate
reinforcements to the latter city."

Even in the darkness one could detect the gleam in the eyes of the men as
they saw before them, with pleasure rather than fear, the risky part they
were to play in the drama of warfare. The eyes of George sparkled,
likewise.

"If I could only go with them," he thought. What was camp life compared to
the delight of such an adventure? Waggie gave a bark. Even he seemed to
scent something interesting.

"You soldiers," continued Andrews, "must break into detachments, make your
way eastward into the Cumberland Mountains, and then southward, well into
the Confederate lines. There you can take the cars, and by next Thursday
night you must all meet me down at Marietta, Georgia. The next morning
according to a plan which you will learn at Marietta, (which is on the
Georgia State Railroad) we will put our little ruse into effect--and may
providence smile on it."

"But what will the men pretend to be while on their way down to Marietta?"
asked George, who could scarce contain either his curiosity or his
enthusiasm.

"Look here, my boy," said Andrews, in a quick though not in an unkindly
way. "I don't know that you should be hearing all this."

Had the scene been less dark one might have seen the flush on the boy's
face.

"I didn't think I was playing eavesdropper," he retorted.

Andrews put his right hand on George's shoulder. "Come," he said, in a
spirit of friendliness; "I didn't exactly mean that. I know you're to be
trusted, from what General Mitchell has said of you. But you must keep a
tight rein on your tongue, and not say a syllable, even in camp, of this
expedition. There's no reason why the whole army should be discussing
it--until the thing's done. Then you can talk about it as much as you
want."

George no longer felt offended. "You can depend on me," he said manfully.
"I won't even tell the General."

At this there was a peal of laughter from the men, which seemed to be
answered, the next instant, by a blinding fork of lightning, and then a
fresh outburst of thunder. Andrews lifted up his hand warningly. He was
very grave, as befitted a man on the verge of a mighty responsibility.

"Not so loud," he protested. "You boys must impersonate Kentuckians who
are trying to get down south to join the Confederate army. A great many
fellows have gone from Kentucky to throw in their lot with the
Confederacy, and if you are prudent you will have no trouble in making
people believe you. If any of you fall under suspicion on the way, and are
arrested, you can enlist in the Confederate army, and then escape from it
at the first opportunity. The Southerners are glad to get all the recruits
they can, suspicious or otherwise. But I hope you will all reach Marietta
in safety. Pray be careful of one thing. If you meet me as we are
traveling, don't recognize me unless you are sure no one is watching us.
At Marietta we will contrive to meet in the hotel near the railroad
station, where I will tell you all that is to be done the next morning."

"We have no money for the journey," interposed a young volunteer. "Uncle
Sam doesn't pay us privates very large salaries, you know, Mr. Andrews."

Andrews produced a large wallet from the inner pocket of his overcoat. It
was fairly bulging with paper money.

"I've seen to that," he explained. "Here's a whole wad of Confederate
currency which will pay your expenses through the Southern lines." And
with that he began to deal out the bills to the men, who hastily stowed
away the money in their own pockets.

"Now, boys," went on the leader, "I want you to divide yourselves into
parties of three or four, so that you may travel in separate groups, and
thus avoid the suspicion which might be aroused if you all went in a body.
And remember! One party must have nothing to do with another."

Thereupon, in the gloomy woods, the future spies formed themselves, as
their inclinations directed, into six parties or detachments, four
containing three men each, and two containing four. Andrews was to proceed
southward alone, without an escort. Poor George Knight and Waggie appeared
to be left out in the cold. George was burning to join the expedition.
Even the rain which suddenly began to fall could not quench his ardor.

"Mr. Andrews," he said, coming up close to the leader, and speaking in a
whisper, "can't I go to Marietta, too?"

Andrews peered at the boy in admiring surprise. "By Jove," he answered,
"you're not afraid of danger, even if you are little more than a child.
It's bad enough for grown men to risk their lives--and bad enough for me
to drag them into such a position,--without getting a plucky boy into the
scrape also. No! Don't ask me to do that."

"But I won't be in any more danger in the South than I am here," pleaded
George. "If I stay here I may be shot in battle, while if I go to Marietta
I----"

"If you go to Marietta, and are found out, you may be hanged as a spy,"
interrupted Andrews. "I'd rather see you shot than strung up with a
rope."

"The Confederates would never hang me if I am little more than a child, as
you call me," urged the lad.

Andrews was evidently impressed by George's persistence, but he hastened
to say: "Anyway, I have no authority to send you off on this chase. You
are a member of General Mitchell's military household, and he alone could
give you the permission."

"Then promise me that if I get his permission you will let me go."

The spy hesitated. He could just discern the earnest, pleading expression
in the upturned face of the boy, upon which the rain-drops were pouring
almost unnoticed.

"Well," he said, at last, "I am going back to camp now, and I start out
before daylight. If you can induce the General to let you accompany us
before that time I'll make no objection."

George gave a little exclamation of delight. "Come," he said, snapping his
fingers at Waggie, "let us see what we can do to talk the old General into
it."

The rain was now coming down in torrents, while the sharp, almost
deafening cracks of thunder sounded as if the whole artillery of the Union
army were engaged in practice. Soon all the conspirators were hurrying
back to camp. Andrews was the very last to leave the woods where he had
divulged his plans.

"Heaven forgive me," he mused, half sadly, "if I am leading these boys
into a death trap." But as a sudden flash of lightning illuminated the wet
landscape, as with the brightness of day, there came into the leader's
strong face a look of calm resolution. "It's worth all the danger," he
added.

                   *       *       *       *       *

An hour later George Knight came running into the tent which Andrews
occupied in the camp on Duck River. The leader was enveloped in a woolen
overcoat, and on his well-shaped head was a slouch hat of the kind
generally worn by Southerners. By the dim, sickly light of the candle
which sputtered on a camp stool it could be seen that he had been writing,
for pen, ink and a sealed letter were spread out upon the top of a
leathern army trunk.

"Well," cried Andrews, picking up the candle from its tin socket and
flashing it in the radiant face of the boy. "Ah! No need to ask you! I see
by your dancing eyes that you have wheedled old Mitchell into allowing you
to do a foolish thing."

The smile on the lad's face vanished. "Don't you want me to go along with
you?" he asked, in an injured tone.

The leader replaced the candle in the socket and then took one of George's
hands between his own strong palms. "George," he said cordially, "you're a
boy after my own heart, and I'd like nothing better than to have you for a
companion; but it's because I do like you that I'm sorry you are about to
run such a risk--and that's the truth. How did you contrive to persuade
the General?"

George seated himself on Andrews' bed, and laughed. "It was hard work at
first," he explained, "but after he had refused me twice I said to him:
'General, if you were a boy in my place, and had heard of this expedition,
what would you do?' 'By all the stars,' he said, 'I would run away to it
rather than miss it--and get shot afterwards as a deserter, I suppose.'
'Then don't put me under the temptation of running away,' said I. At this
the General laughed. Then he said: 'Well, tell Andrews you can go--and
that I'll never forgive him if he lets anything happen to you. After all,
the Confederates would never hang a child like you.'"

"So he too calls you a child!" laughed Andrews.

"Of course I'm not a child," cried George proudly, as he jumped from the
bed and stood up very straight, to make himself look as tall as possible;
"but the General may call me a six-weeks' old baby if he only lets me go
along with you."

"There is no time to waste," announced Andrews. "In the third tent from
mine, to the right, you will find Privates Macgreggor and Watson, of the
Second Ohio Volunteers. They have just offered to go with us, and I have
accepted them in addition to the rest. Go to them, ask them to get you a
suit of plain clothes, put it on instead of your uniform, and stick to
them closely from the moment you leave camp until you meet me, as I hope
you will, at Marietta. And be particularly careful to have nothing about
you which could in any way lead to your identification as a Union soldier
in case you should be arrested and searched."

"Hurrah!" said George, half under his breath.

"May we all be hurrahing this time next week," returned Andrews. "Here,
George, as you go out give this letter to the sentry outside, to be sent
off to-morrow in the camp mail." As he spoke he took the sealed note from
the army trunk, and handed it to the boy. "It is written to the young
woman I am engaged to marry," he explained, "and if we all get out of this
bridge-burning business with our heads on our shoulders you can come dance
at my wedding, and be my best man."

"I'd dance at twenty weddings for you," enthusiastically cried George, who
was beginning to have a great admiration for his new friend.

"You don't want me to be married twenty times, do you, my boy?" protested
Andrews, smiling.

"I would do a great deal to oblige you," retorted George. Then, after
warmly grasping his leader by the hand, he bounded out of the tent. The
night was black, and the rain was still descending in a veritable torrent,
but to the lad everything seemed clear and rosy. He only saw before him a
mighty adventure--and that, to his ardent, youthful spirit, made the whole
world appear charming.



CHAPTER II

NEARING THE GOAL


It was the Thursday afternoon succeeding the Monday night described in the
former chapter. On the north bank of the Tennessee River, not far from the
town of Jasper, three drenched figures might be discerned. They were
looking somewhat longingly in the direction of a white frame house not
fifty yards away from the stream, which, swollen by the recent storms, was
in a particularly turbulent mood. There was nothing very attractive about
the building save that it suggested shelter from the rain without, and
that the smoke curling up from its large chimney held forth vague hopes of
a palatable supper. Certainly there was little in the landscape itself to
tempt any one to remain outdoors. The three wanderers seemed to be of this
opinion, for they suddenly made a move towards the house. They were
roughly dressed, their clothes were soaking, and their high boots bore the
evidence of a long, muddy tramp across country.

"Well," grumbled one of them, a thick-set, middle-aged man, with a
good-humored expression and a four-days' growth of iron-gray beard on his
face; "why did I leave home and home cooking to enlist in the army and
then wander over the earth like this?"

"Mr. Watson!" exclaimed the person next to him, in a tone of boyish
surprise; "how can you talk like that? Why, _I_ am having the time of my
life."

The speaker was George Knight. There was mud on his face, and the natty
drummer boy in blue uniform had given place to a young fellow who
outwardly resembled an ordinary farm hand. But there could be no doubt,
from the light which shone in his bright eyes, that he was enjoying
himself to the full.

"Humph!" returned Watson. "When you get as old as I am, my boy, you won't
take such keen delight in walking through mire."

The boy laughed, and turned to the third member of the party. "Are you
tired, too, Macgreggor?" he asked.

Macgreggor, a compactly built, athletic young man of twenty-seven or
thereabouts, with a light-brown beard and mustache which made him look
older than he really was, shook the rain from his hat and said cheerily,
"I've done a good deal of mountain climbing since Tuesday morning, but I'm
not too tired to eat a good supper, if we are lucky enough to find one in
this place."

It need hardly be repeated that Watson and Macgreggor were the two men in
whose care Andrews had placed George Knight. They were both brave,
resourceful men. During their long trudge across the mountainous country
between Shelbyville and the Tennessee, Watson had uttered many a grumble,
but his complaints meant nothing more than a desire to hear himself talk.
When it came to fording a stream, climbing a precipice, or fairly wading
through the slush, he was quite as willing and energetic as the other two
members of his party.

George knocked loudly at the door of the house, as he and his companions
hastily sheltered themselves under the little piazza which ran along the
front of the place.

"Be on your guard, boys," whispered Watson. "Stick to your story about our
being Kentuckians, and say nothing imprudent that may arouse suspicion.
Remember! we _must_ be in Marietta by to-morrow night."

The meeting at Marietta had, at the very last moment, been postponed by
Andrews from Thursday night to Friday night. "It is well he did postpone
it," thought Macgreggor; "we are far enough from Marietta as it is."

The door was suddenly thrown open by an old negro "aunty" behind whom
stood a neat, bustling little white woman. The latter was evidently
engaged in the business of preparing supper, if one might judge from the
fact that her bare arms were almost encaked in flour.

"We are three Kentuckians from Fleming County on our way to enlist in
Chattanooga," spoke out Macgreggor, in a voice which seemed to have the
ring of truth in it. "Can we spend the night here, so that we can cross
the river in the morning?"

The expression of the woman, which had at first been one of surprise and
irritation at being stopped in her work, softened immediately. "Come in,"
she said, quickly; "my husband's only a farmer, and we can't give you
anything very fine, but it was never said of Mandy Hare that she turned
away from her house any loyal friend of the South."

With that she led her gratified visitors through a scantily-furnished
parlor into a kitchen which seemed to them like a Paradise. Over the
roaring fire in the great hearth several vessels were simmering and
emitting the most delightful odors, while a table near by was already set
for the coming meal. On a chair facing the fire a fat, white cat was
purring blissfully. The room was delightfully warm; the whole scene had an
irresistible attraction and air of domesticity.

"Make yourselves at home," commanded Mrs. Hare, cheerfully. "My husband
will be home from Jasper in a few minutes, and then you'll have something
to eat--such as 'tis."

At this instant there was a querulous little bark, which appeared to come
from the region of George Knight's heart. Mrs. Hare looked around in
surprise; the white cat stirred uneasily. The next second the boy had
shaken his overcoat, and from out of a large side pocket jumped the
diminutive Waggie. The cat, with one bound, took a flying leap to the
kitchen stairs, and brushing past the half-opened door at the bottom of
the flight, fairly tore up to the second story, where she disappeared.
Waggie gave a shrill yelp of emotion, but evidently concluded that it was
safer not to chase a strange and muscular cat in a strange house.

"Gracious me," cried Mrs. Hare; "did you bring that little fellow all the
way from Kentucky?"

"When I came away he followed me," replied George. He spoke the truth,
although he did not add that he "came away" from a Union camp rather than
from Kentucky. Waggie had been consigned to a member of General Mitchell's
staff, to remain with him during his owner's absence, but George had not
proceeded five miles on his journey before he heard a joyous bark behind
him--and there frisked and capered Waggie. "You'll have to turn spy now,"
George said. It was too late to send him back. Thus the dog joined the
party, much to the pleasure of all concerned.

Hardly had Waggie made his theatrical entrance into the kitchen before a
lean, prematurely shriveled man of fifty, whose long shaggy beard
proclaimed him a veritable countryman, came shambling into the room. At
sight of the three strangers a curious look came into his restless eyes.
It was almost as if the look was one of triumph. George, observing it,
shivered, although he could hardly say why he did so.

"This is my husband," explained Mrs. Hare, with an awkward attempt at
courtesy. "These men," she continued, addressing her lord and master,
"have the good of the Southern cause at heart, and are on their way to
Chattanooga, to enlist in the Confederate army." She cast such an
approving glance upon the wanderers as she spoke, and was so good-natured,
that George's heart smote him at the deception which was being practised
upon her. He was a frank, honest boy, who hated the very idea of appearing
anywhere under false pretences. But he realized that he was playing a part
for the good of his General, and his General's cause, and he resolved to
maintain, as well as he could, his new character of a Southern
sympathizer.

Farmer Hare gave to each of the visitors a surly recognition. Waggie
walked up to him, sniffed about his boots, and uttered a low growl. It was
plain that the dog did not approve of the master of the house.

"You fellows are taking a pretty long journey to serve the South,"
remarked Mr. Hare at last, in a nasal tone sadly at variance with the
customary soft Southern cadence.

"Can he suspect us?" thought Watson. The same thought went through the
mind of Macgreggor, but he merely said: "We are nearly at our journey's
end now. By to-morrow we will be in Chattanooga."

"Sit down and make yourselves comfortable," snarled Hare, with the air of
an unwilling host. The visitors took the chairs which Mrs. Hare had placed
for them at the supper-table. They were joined by husband and wife, and
the negro "aunty" was soon serving a delicious meal of corn bread, Irish
stew, and other good things. They all ate with a will, including Waggie,
who was given a private lot of bones by the fireside. When the supper was
over the farmer arose abruptly. "I s'pose you fellows have had a pretty
long tramp, and want to go to bed," he said. "We keep good hours in this
house, anyway, and turn in early at night--so that we may turn out early
in the morning."

"Give them a chance to dry themselves before the fire," urged Mrs. Hare.

"Let 'em dry themselves in bed," muttered the farmer. Whereupon he lighted
a candle, and turned towards the door leading to the second story. He was
evidently in a great hurry to get his guests up-stairs. Watson, Macgreggor
and George looked at one another, as if trying to fathom the cause of
their peculiar reception at the hands of Farmer Hare. But each one
silently decided that their only cue was to be as polite as possible, and
refrain from any altercation with their host.

"After all," thought Watson, "if we can spend the night here we will be
off again at dawn--and then let our surly host take himself to Kamchatka,
for all we care."

Half an hour later Watson and Macgreggor, thoroughly tired out, were sound
asleep, in one of the small rooms in the second-story of the house.
George, however, lay tossing from side to side on a bed in the adjoining
room, directly over the kitchen, with Waggie curled up on the floor close
by. The more he thought of the strange behavior of Hare the more uneasy he
became. Why had the farmer regarded him and his two companions with such a
suspicious glance? Then George suddenly recollected where he had seen that
face before. Yes! There could be no mistake. While he, Macgreggor and
Watson were dining that day at the village tavern in Jasper, Hare was
loitering on the porch of the place. But what of that? The three pretended
Kentuckians had told their usual story, and professed their love for the
Confederacy, and no one there had seemed to doubt their truthfulness for a
moment.

In vain the boy tried to fall asleep. At last, hearing voices in the
kitchen, he rose quietly from his bed, stole out of his room, and
stealthily walked to the little hallway that led to the kitchen stairway.
At the head of the staircase he halted. It was clear that Farmer Hare was
saying something emphatic, while his wife was entering a feeble protest.
An intuition told the listener that his own party was the subject of
discussion. Slowly, cautiously, he crept down the stairway, until he
almost touched the closed door which led from it to the kitchen.

"I tell you, woman," Hare was saying, "these three fellows are spies of
some sort, and the sooner we have them under arrest the better."

"I can't believe it," murmured the wife.

"I don't care whether you believe it or not," rejoined the husband, in a
harsh tone. "Don't I tell you that when these two men, and the boy, were
at the tavern in Jasper to-day, one of the men was recognized by John
Henderson. Henderson is a spy in the service of General Beauregard, and
was in the camp of General Mitchell only a few days ago, disguised as a
trader. There he saw this fellow--the one with the brown beard--and he
swears there's no mistake. But he didn't tell us in time--the three
disappeared. No; there's mischief of some sort brewing here, and I intend
to stop it, if my name's Hare. We don't want any spies around here."

"Spies!" exclaimed the woman. "Then if they are caught within our lines
they will be shot!" It seemed as if she shuddered as she spoke.

"Or hanged," added the farmer, with an unpleasant laugh.

"Let them go," whispered Mrs. Hare, pleadingly. "I'm just as good a
Confederate as you are, Jake, but don't let us have the blood of these
fellows on our hands. That nice little chap with the dog--I would as soon
see my own son get into trouble, if I was lucky enough to have one, as
that bright-eyed boy. Turn 'em out of the house, Jake, if you suspect
them--tell them to go about their business--but don't set a trap for
them." Her voice became almost plaintive. It was evident that the
strangers had made a favorable impression upon Mrs. Hare, and that her
woman's feelings revolted at the idea of betraying them, even though they
were the secret enemies of her cause. "I hate war, anyway," she added. "It
sets friend against friend, brother against brother, father against son,
state against state. All this trouble between the North and South might
have been fixed up without fighting, if there'd been a little more
patience on both sides."

"Don't preach," muttered Hare. "There ain't time for it. Where's Uncle
Daniel?"

The listening George did not know that "Uncle Daniel" was the black
farm-hand who helped Hare, but, from the name, he felt sure that a slave
was meant.

"Uncle Daniel is out in the barn, I reckon," answered the wife. "What do
you want him for?"

"Wait and see," rejoined her husband, gruffly. With that enigmatical reply
he opened a door leading to the barn, stalked out, and disappeared. There
was a half-stifled cry from Mrs. Hare, but she apparently made no effort
to detain him. "The Vigilants! Oh! the Vigilants!" she repeated, in
accents of distress.

"The sooner we get out of this the better for our necks," thought George.
He had no sense of fear; he was only filled with one consuming idea. He
must get word to his two companions, and at once. Just what Hare
contemplated in the way of a trap he could not tell, yet it was evident
that the sooner Watson and Macgreggor were awakened the more chance would
all three have for escaping from whatever fate the farmer had in store for
them.

Cautiously George crept back until he was at the door of the room where
the two men were heavily sleeping. His first impulse was to rattle at the
knob; but he recollected in time that this would make a noise that might
bring Mrs. Hare to the scene. He stood still and reflected. It would be
foolish to invite the attention of her husband or herself before a plan of
action could be decided upon. For nearly five minutes he stood in the
hallway, wondering how he could awaken his tired fellows without making a
disturbance.

"I wonder if I'm very stupid," thought the boy. He could hear the kitchen
door open, as Hare came back into the house, and began talking to his wife
in low tones. He could distinguish but one word. It was "Vigilants!"

At last he gave a faint exclamation of satisfaction, and stole back to his
own room. Waggie, who was now lying on the bed, moved uneasily. George
lighted a candle and examined the plastered wall which ran between his
room and the one where the unconscious Watson and Macgreggor were gently
snoring. He knew that the bed on which they slept was directly on the
other side of this wall, and he judged that the partition itself was very
thin. In this theory he was correct: the laths and their plaster covering
formed a mere shell, which was not much thicker than an ordinary wooden
partition. Taking a large jack knife from his waistcoat he began to cut
into the wall, about four feet from the floor. Before long he had made a
small hole, not bigger than the dimensions of a five-dollar gold piece,
straight through the plaster. Looking through it, with the aid of his
candle, he saw that Watson and Macgreggor were stretched out in bed on the
other side, each half-dressed and each sleeping as if there were no such
thing in the world as war or danger.

"They deserve a good sleep," said the boy to himself; "but it can't be
helped, so here goes!" At the same moment he extinguished his candle,
pulled it out of the candlestick, and poked it through the hole. He
directed it in such a way that it fell squarely on the face of Macgreggor.
The man suddenly stopped snoring, turned his body from one side to the
other, and then started up in the bed, in a half-sitting posture.

"Macgreggor! Mac!" whispered George; "it's I, George Knight. Don't speak
loud."

"Where on earth are you?" asked the newly-awakened sleeper, in a startled
voice.

"Never mind where I am," answered George. "Only don't make a noise. But
get up, light your candle, and open your door for me without letting them
hear you down-stairs."

By this time Watson was awake too, and had jumped to the floor. When
Macgreggor lighted his candle, and saw the little hole in the wall, at
which appeared one of George's eyes, he almost gave a cry of surprise; but
prudence restrained him, and he merely touched Watson's arm, pointed to
the hole, and then quietly unlocked the door of their room. George soon
crept carefully in, and proceeded, in as low a voice as he could command,
to tell the two men what he had heard from the kitchen.

"The Vigilants!" whispered Watson. "Why, don't you know what that means?
When we were in Jasper to-day I saw some of them standing around the
village grocery store, and even talked with them. They thought I was a
good 'Confed,' and I found out that they are organized into a band to
arrest suspicious characters, keep things in order in this section of the
county and even turn guerrillas when they are wanted."

"I see the whole thing," said Macgreggor. "This Hare has sent his negro
over to Jasper to bring the Vigilants here to take charge of us, and to
string us up, no doubt, to the first convenient tree. The sooner we get
away from here the better for our lives. Jasper is only two miles off, and
the Vigilants will be riding over here before we have time to say Jack
Robinson."

"There's still time," said George, "and as there's only one man here
against us now--I mean Hare--we can seize him, tie him to something, and
then escape into the darkness."

"So we can, my boy," replied Watson, who was thinking as deeply and as
calmly as if a game of chess, rather than a matter of life and death, were
the issue. "There's no trouble as to our escaping. But remember this. It's
pitch dark and raining again like cats and dogs; we don't know our way; we
are sure to get lost before we have run fifty yards from the house, and
these Vigilants, who understand every foot of the country, will divide
into small parties, and hunt us down, as sure as fate. And if they can't,
they will put hounds on our track--and then we'll be beautifully carved up
into beefsteaks. I have seen hounds, and I know how they appreciate a nice
little man hunt." Watson smiled grimly.

Macgreggor walked silently to one of the windows, opened the sash just a
crack, and listened. He could hear nothing but the downpour of the rain.
Yet it would not be long before the Vigilants dashed up to the house. No
doubt they had all been telling anecdotes in the corner grocery store, and
they would take but a short time for the mounting of their horses.
Cautiously closing the window he returned to the centre of the room.

"It's a dark night," he said, "and all the better for a plan I have to
propose. We are each secretly armed with pistols, are we not? Well, then,
let us put out this candle, and open the window to the left, looking out
towards the highroad to Jasper. When the Vigilants come riding up the road
and get in front of the house we will suddenly fire on them. This may
cause a panic, as the fellows will not be able to tell just where the
enemy are, and then----"

"Pshaw!" interrupted Watson. "You don't know whom you're dealing with.
These Vigilants are as brave as they are reckless, and there are at least
twenty-five or thirty of them. Three men can't frighten them. They would
only get us in the end, even if we did succeed in disabling one or two of
them in the first surprise."

"Then what are we to do?" asked George eagerly. Watson was so composed
that the boy felt sure he must have some better plan for escape.

"I have a scheme," said Watson, quite simply. "I have been hatching it in
my brain while we were talking. But the quicker it's put to the test, the
quicker will we save our necks. Are you willing to trust me blindly?"

There was a whispered "yes" from both the other conspirators. Watson
inspired confidence by his assurance.

"Then let us get all our clothes, shoes, everything on at once, and walk
boldly down-stairs."

Three minutes later the trio were marching down-stairs into the kitchen.
Hare and his wife were standing at the fireplace, looking the picture of
surprise, as their guests burst into the room, with the irrepressible
Waggie at their heels. The old negro "aunty," who had been dozing on a
stool near the hearth, jumped to her rheumatic feet in consternation.
"Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" she cried, throwing her withered arms above her
turbaned head. For the guests held revolvers in their hands, and the
"aunty's" heart always sank at the thought of gunpowder.

The farmer took a step forward, as if uncertain what to do or say. At last
he said, trying to smile, yet only succeeding in looking hypocritical:
"You ain't going to leave us this time of night, are you? Wait till
morning, and get some breakfast."

"It's a nice breakfast you'd give us in the morning," laughed Watson, with
a significant look at their host. "A halter stew, or some roast bullets, I
guess!"

Hare jumped backward with such suddenness that he almost knocked into the
fire his frightened wife who had been standing directly behind him. "What
do you mean?" he hissed.

"You know perfectly well what I mean, Mr. Hare," said Watson, looking him
straight in the face, whilst the other spectators listened in breathless
interest. "You have sent word to the Jasper Vigilants to ride over here
and arrest us, on the suspicion of being spies."

Had the heavens suddenly fallen, the countenances of the Hares could not
have shown more dismay.

"How did you find that out?" asked the farmer, quite forgetting to play
his part of amiable host.

"Never mind how," cried George, who was burning to play his part. "Only
it's a pity you haven't as much mercy in you as your wife has."

"Listen," said Watson, as he motioned the others in the room to be silent.
"George, you will watch this old negress, and if she attempts to make a
sound, or to leave the room before we are ready, give her a hint from your
revolver."

With a scream of fright, comical in its intensity, the "aunty" sank back
on her stool near the hearth, and covered her dark face with her hands.
There she sat, as if she expected to be murdered at any moment.

"And you, Macgreggor," continued Watson impressively, "will keep the same
sort of watch over Mrs. Hare. Happen what may, there is not to be a sound
from either woman."

Mrs. Hare started in confusion. Her husband made a bound for the kitchen
door. With another bound no less quick Watson darted forward, caught the
farmer, pushed him back at the point of the pistol, and bolted the door.

"What do you want to do?" demanded Hare. "Are we to be murdered?"

"No," cried Watson, "but----"

Then there came the sound of horses' hoofs in the distance. Every one
listened eagerly, and none more so than the farmer.

"You're done for," he said slowly, casting a half-malevolent,
half-triumphant glance at the three Northerners.

"Not by a great deal," said Watson. "March with me to the parlor, open the
front door just a crack, and, when the Vigilants come up, say to them that
we three men have escaped from the house, stolen a flatboat, and started
to row across the Tennessee River. Send them away and shut the door. I
will be standing near you, behind the door, with my pistol leveled at your
head. Make one movement to escape, or say anything but what I have told
you to say, and you are a dead man!"

The patter of the horses was becoming more and more distinct.

"Will you do as I tell you?" asked Watson, very coolly, as he toyed with
his revolver.

"If I won't?" asked Hare. His face was now convulsed by a variety of
emotions--fear, rage, craftiness, and disappointment.

"I give you three seconds to choose," said Watson. "If you refuse, you
will be stretched out on that floor."

Mrs. Hare, with white cheeks, leaned forward, and whispered to her
husband: "Do as he tells you, Jake. Better let these Yankees go, and save
your own life."

"One--two----" counted Watson.

Hare held up his right hand, and then dropped it listlessly by his side.

"I give in," he said sullenly. "You've got the better of me." He looked,
for all the world, like a whipped cur.

There was not a second to lose. The horsemen were riding up to the house.
Watson motioned to the farmer, who walked into the parlor, which was
unlighted, closely followed by the soldier. There were sounds without, as
of horses being reined in, and of men's gruff voices. Hare opened the
parlor door a few inches, while Watson, safe from observation, stationed
himself within a few feet of him, with cocked revolver. "Remember!" he
whispered, significantly.

"Is that you, boys?" shouted Hare. "Those three spies I sent word about
escaped from here ten minutes ago, stole a boat on the bank, down by the
landing, and started to row across the river."

"They will never reach the other side a night like this," called out some
one.

"What did you let 'em get away from you for?" asked another of the
Vigilants.

"How could I help it?" growled the farmer. "They were well armed--and
'twas three men against one."

"Pah! You've brought us out on a wild-goose chase, and on a durned bad
night," came a voice from the wet and darkness.

"Perhaps they'll drift back to this side of the river, and can be caught,"
one Vigilant suggested. But this idea evidently met with little approval.
It was plain, from what Watson could hear of the discussion which ensued,
that the Vigilants were disgusted. They were ready, indeed, to give up the
chase, on the supposition that the three fugitives would either drift down
in midstream, or else be capsized and find a watery grave.

"Come, we'll get home again," commanded a horseman, who appeared to be the
leader. "And no thanks to you, Jake Hare, for making us waste our time."

"Say Jake, won't you ask us in to have something warm to drink?" cried
another Vigilant.

Watson edged a trifle nearer to Hare, and whispered: "Send 'em away at
once, or else----"

Once bring the Vigilants into the house, as the soldier knew, and capture
or death would be the result.

Hare could almost feel the cold muzzle of the revolver near his head.

"Go away, fellows," he called, "You know I ain't got nothing for you."

A jeer, and a few sarcastic groans greeted this remark. "I always reckoned
you was a skinflint," yelled one of the party.

There was a derisive cheer at this sally. Then, at a word of command, the
Vigilants turned their horses and cantered back towards Jasper. The sound
of hoofs became fainter and fainter.

"Shut the door," ordered Watson, "and go back to the kitchen."

Sullenly the farmer obeyed. When the two were once more by the blazing
hearth, George and Macgreggor, who had been guarding Mrs. Hare and the
negress, rushed forward to grasp the hands of their deliverer. They were
about to congratulate him upon his successful nerve and diplomacy when he
interrupted them.

"Don't bother about that," he said; "let us get away from here as soon as
possible, before our kind host has a chance to play us any more tricks."

"I suppose you think yourself pretty smart, don't you?" snapped Hare,
casting a spiteful glance at Watson.

"So smart," put in George, "that if you don't want to be laughed at from
now until the day of your death you'd better not tell the citizens of
Jasper about to-night's occurrences."

"Come, boys, let us be going," exclaimed Watson impatiently, as he offered
his hand to Mrs. Hare, and said to that lady: "Thank you for the best
supper we've had since we left--home."

Mrs. Hare refused to shake hands, but she regarded Watson with an admiring
expression. "I won't shake hands with you," she replied, half smiling,
"for you may be an enemy of the South, but I'm glad you've escaped
hanging. You've too much grit for that. As for you, Jake, don't ever
pretend to us again that you're the brainiest man in the county."

"Hold your tongue, woman," cried the amiable farmer.

In a couple of minutes the three travelers were striking out from the back
of the house into the slush, and rain, and blackness of the night. Waggie
was occupying his usual place inside a pocket of George's overcoat. He had
supped regally at the Hares on bacon and bones, and he felt warm and at
peace with the world.

Before the party had more than emerged from the garden (a task by no means
easy in itself, on account of the darkness), something whistled by them,
to the accompaniment of a sharp report. Looking behind them they saw the
meagre form of Hare standing in the kitchen doorway. He held a rifle in
his right hand. The kitchen fire made him plainly visible.

"Pretty good aim, old boy," shouted Macgreggor, "considering you could
hardly see us. But I can see you plainly enough."

As he spoke he drew his revolver. Hare was already putting the rifle to
his shoulder, preparing for another shot. He had hardly had a chance to
adjust the gun, however, before he dropped it with a cry of pain and ran
into the house. A bullet had come whizzing from Macgreggor, and struck the
farmer in his right arm.

"Just a little souvenir to remember me by," laughed the lucky marksman.

"Hurry up!" cried Watson. "To-morrow night we must be in Marietta. We are
still many miles away, and in a hostile, unknown country."

So the three pushed on into the gloom. The prospect of meeting James
Andrews at the appointed place was not reassuring. Their only hope was to
keep on along the bank of the Tennessee River until they reached
Chattanooga. From there they could take a train for Marietta.

"Shall we make it?" thought George. Waggie gave a muffled bark which
seemed to say: "Courage!"



CHAPTER III

MINGLING WITH THE ENEMY


It was weary work, this tramping along the Tennessee shore, through mud,
or fields of stubble, over rocks, or amid dripping trees; but the three
kept on towards Chattanooga for a couple of hours, until all the good
effects of their warming at Farmer Hare's were quite vanished. Watson,
having showed by his mother-wit and presence of mind that he was a man to
be relied upon, had now resumed his privilege of growling, and gave vent
to many angry words at the roughness and unutterable dreariness of the
way.

"Why was America ever discovered by that inquisitive, prying old
Christopher Columbus?" he grunted, after he had tripped over the stump of
a cottonwood-tree, and fallen flat with his face in the slime. "If he had
never discovered America there would never have been any United States;
had there never been any United States there would never have been any war
between North and South; had there never been any war between North and
South I wouldn't be making a fool of myself by being down here. I wish
that fellow Columbus had never been born--or, if he was born, that he had
never been allowed to sail off for America. Ugh!"

In a few minutes they reached a log cabin situated on an angle of land
where a little stream emptied itself into the now stormy waters of the
Tennessee River. There was no light nor sign of life about the mean abode,
and the travelers were almost upon it before they saw its low outline in
the dense gloom.

"Look here," said Watson, calling a halt. "There's no use in our trying to
go further to-night. It's too dark to make any sort of time. And we are
far enough away now from Jasper to avoid any danger of pursuit--even if
our amiable friend Mr. Hare should inform the Vigilants."

"Don't be afraid of that," said Macgreggor and George in the same breath.
Hare was not likely to relate a joke so much at his own expense as their
clever escape had proved. Even if he did, they reasoned, the chances of
capture were now rather slim, whatever they might have been when the three
fugitives were nearer Jasper.

"Then let us get a few hours' sleep in this cabin," urged Watson. "Some
negro probably lives here--and we can tell him our usual Kentucky story.
Give the door a pound, George, and wake him up."

George used first his hands and then his boots on the door, in a vain
effort to make some one hear. He took Waggie out of his pocket, and the
shrill little barks of the dog added to the noise as he jumped around his
master's feet.

"Let's break the door down," urged Macgreggor. "The seven sleepers must
live here. We might pound all night and not get in."

With one accord the three threw themselves vigorously against the door.
They expected to meet with some resistance, due to a bolt or two; but,
instead of that, the door flew open so suddenly that they were
precipitated into the cabin, and lay sprawling on the ground. It had been
latched but neither locked nor bolted.

"We were too smart that time," growled Watson, as the three picked
themselves up, to the great excitement of Waggie. "The place must be
deserted. So much the better for us. We can get a little sleep without
having to go into explanations."

He drew from inside his greatcoat, with much care, three or four matches.
By lighting, first one and then the others, he was able to grope around
until he found the hearth of the cabin. Cold ashes marked the remains of a
fire long since extinguished. His foot struck against something which
proved to be a small piece of dry pine-wood. With the flame from his last
match Watson succeeded in lighting this remnant of kindling. He carefully
nursed the new flame until the stick blazed forth like a torch. Then the
travelers had a chance to examine the one room which formed the whole
interior of the lonely place. The cabin was deserted. It contained not a
bit of furniture; nothing, indeed, save bare walls of logs, and rude
mortar, and a clean pine floor.

"This palace can't be renting at a very high price," remarked Macgreggor,
sarcastically.

"It will do us well enough for a few hours' sleep," said George.

Watson nodded his head in assent. "It's a shelter from the rain, at
least," he said, "and that's something on such a pesky night." While he
was speaking the rush of the rain without confirmed the truth of his
words, and suggested that any roof was better than none. Ere long the pine
stick burned itself out; the intruders were left in absolute darkness. But
they quickly disposed themselves on the floor, where, worn out by the
fatigues of the day and the stirring adventure of the evening, they were
soon fast asleep. They had closed the door, near which Waggie had settled
his little body in the capacity of a sentinel. George dreamed of his
father. He saw him standing at the window of a prison, as he stretched his
hands through the bars and cried out: "George, I am here--here! Help me!"
Then the boy's dream changed. He was back in the dark woods near
Shelbyville, listening to Andrews as the leader outlined the expedition in
which they were now engaged. In the middle of the conference some one
cried: "The Confederates are on us!" George tried to run, but something
pinned him to the ground--a wild animal was at his throat.

He awoke with a start, to find that Waggie was leaping upon his chest,
barking furiously.

"Hush up, you little rascal!" ordered George. He felt very sleepy, and he
was angry at being aroused. But Waggie went on barking until he had
succeeded in awakening Macgreggor and Watson, and convincing his master
that something was wrong.

"What's the trouble?" demanded Watson.

"Listen," said George, softly. He was on his feet in an instant, as he ran
first to one and then to the other of the two windows which graced the
cabin. These windows, however, were barricaded with shutters. He hurried
to the door, which he opened a few inches. The rain had now stopped, and
he could hear, perhaps a quarter of a mile away, the sound of horses
moving cautiously through the mud, along the river bank. In a twinkling
Watson and Macgreggor were at his side, straining their ears.

"Can it be cavalry?" asked Macgreggor.

"Mounted men at least," whispered Watson. "Perhaps the Vigilants are on
our track, bad luck to them!"

"Can Hare have told them, after all?" queried George.

"Don't know about that," muttered Watson, "but I think we have the
gentlemen from Jasper to deal with once again."

"Let's decamp into the darkness before it's too late," said Macgreggor.

"Come, come," whispered Watson impatiently. "If they are on the scent, and
we leave this hut, they will only run us to earth like hounds after a
fox."

The baying of dogs which were evidently accompanying the party gave a
sudden and terrible effect to the force of Watson's argument. And now the
Vigilants, if such they were, came nearer and nearer. The three
Northerners who listened so anxiously at the doorway could already detect
the sound of voices.

"There's but one thing for us to do," quickly murmured Watson. "We must
stay in this cabin."

"But they won't pass the place by," urged Macgreggor. "If they know it to
be deserted by a tenant this is the very reason for their looking in to
see if we are hiding here. And when it comes to defending ourselves, how
can we put up any sort of barricade?"

"When you can't use force, or hide yourself, try a little strategy,"
answered the soldier. "Can either of you fellows talk like a darky?"

"Not I," said Macgreggor. Had he been asked if he could speak Hebrew, he
would not have been more surprised.

"Can you, George?" asked Watson, as he shut the door.

"I might," whispered George. "When I was up in Cincinnati we boys
used----"

"Never mind what you boys did--only do as I tell you, and if you can give
a good imitation you may save us from arrest, and worse!"

The horsemen now seemed to be within a few yards of the cabin. They had
evidently halted for consultation. Meanwhile Watson was whispering some
instructions to George. After he had finished he leaned against the door
with his whole weight, and indicated to Macgreggor that he was to do the
same thing. The latter obeyed in silence.

The horsemen without made a great deal of clatter. If they were pursuing
the fugitives they did not seem to think secrecy of movement very
necessary. "Whose cabin is this?" demanded one of them.

"It did belong to old Sam Curtis, but he's moved away, down to Alabama,"
some one answered.

"Some darky may live in it now, eh?" said the first voice.

"Perhaps it's empty, and these tarnation spies are in it," was the
rejoinder in a lower tone.

The men moved their horses closer to the house, which they quickly
surrounded. No chance now for any one to escape; it seemed as if the three
men in the cabin must inevitably be caught like rats in a trap. Yet they
waited courageously, breathlessly. It was a tense moment. Another minute
would decide their fate. Would they remain free men, or would they fall
into the hands of their pursuers, with all the consequences that such a
capture implied?

Already one of the Vigilants, evidently the leader, had dismounted.
Approaching the door of the cabin, he gave it a push as if he expected it
would open at once. But there was no yielding; Watson and Macgreggor were
still leaning firmly against the other side.

The leader began to knock on the door with a revolver. "Here, here," he
shouted; "if there's any one in this cabin, come out--or we'll have you
out!"

At first there was no response, save a bark from Waggie. The leader
rattled savagely at the door. "Let's break in," he cried to his
companions, "and see if the place has any one in it!"

The Vigilants were about to follow the example of their leader, and
dismount when there came a wheedling voice--apparently the voice of a
negress--from within the cabin.

"What you gemmen want dis time o' night wid poor Aunty Dinah?"

"A nigger's living here," muttered the leader, in surprise.

"What for you gwyne to disturb an ole niggah at dis hour?" asked the voice
from within.

"It's all right, aunty," called out the leader. "We only want some
information. Come to the door."

"In one minute I be with you," was the answer. "I'se a nursin' my old man
here--he done gone and took the smallpox--and----"

The smallpox! Had the voice announced that a million Union troops were
descending upon the party the consternation would not have been half as
great. The smallpox! At the mention of that dreaded name, and at the
thought that they were so close to contagion, the Vigilants, with one
accord, put spurs into their horses and rushed madly away. The leader,
dropping his revolver in his excitement, and not even stopping to pick it
up, leaped upon his horse and joined in the inglorious retreat. On, on,
dashed the men until they reached the town of Jasper, tired and provoked.
Like many other men, North or South, they were brave enough when it came
to gunpowder, but were quickly vanquished at the idea of pestilential
disease.

"Bah!" cried the leader, as they all reined up in front of the village
tavern, which now looked dark and uninviting; "those three spies, if spies
they are, can go to Guinea for all I care. I shall hunt them no more."

There was a general murmur of assent to this fervent remark. One of the
Vigilants said, in an injured tone: "I wish Jake Hare was at the bottom of
the ocean!"

In explanation of which charitable sentiment it may be explained that
Farmer Hare, on the departure of Watson, Macgreggor and George Knight, had
run all the way to Jasper. Here he told the Vigilants that the three men
had returned in the boat (which he had previously declared they had taken)
and landed on the bank of the river. They could be easily caught, he said.
He carefully suppressed any account of the way in which he had been
outwitted by Watson. The fact was that Hare made up his mind, logically
enough, that the fugitives would keep along the Tennessee until morning
came, and as he had seen the direction they had taken he determined to set
the Vigilants on their track. His scheme, as we have seen, was nearly
crowned with success.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"A miss is as good as a mile," laughed Watson, as he stood with his two
companions in the pitch black interior of the cabin, listening to the last
faint sounds of the retreating Vigilants.

"There's nothing like smallpox, eh?" said George.

"Or nothing like a boy who can imitate a darky's voice," put in
Macgreggor. "Where did you learn the art, George?"

"We boys in Cincinnati had a minstrel company of our own," the boy
explained, "and I used to play negro parts."

"I'll never call the minstrels stupid again," said Watson. "They have been
instrumental in saving our lives."

"Rather say it was your own brains that did it," interposed George.

So they talked until daybreak, for they found it impossible to sleep.
Meanwhile the weather had changed. When the sun came peeping over the
horizon, between tearful clouds, as if afraid that it was almost too damp
for him to be out, the trio were pushing cautiously along the bank of the
Tennessee, in the direction of Chattanooga.

"I don't know who brought the Vigilants out for us the second time, unless
it was our dear friend Hare, and I don't know whether they will give us
another chase this morning," said Watson, as they were laboriously
ascending one of the mountain spurs which led down to the river shore,
"but we must go steadily on, and trust to luck. To delay would be fatal.
This is Friday--and we must be in Marietta by this evening."

On they trudged, over rocks and paths that would have taxed the ability of
a nimble-footed chamois, as they wondered how the rest of their friends
were faring, and where might be the intrepid Andrews. Sometimes Waggie
scampered joyously on; sometimes he reposed in his master's overcoat. The
clouds had now cleared away; the sun was shining serenely over the swollen
and boisterous waters of the crooked Tennessee. Nature was once more
preparing to smile.

"I'm getting frightfully hungry," cried George, about noon-time. "I
wouldn't mind a bit of breakfast."

"There's where we may get some," said Macgreggor. He pointed to an
old-fashioned colonial house of brick, with a white portico, which they
could see in the centre of a large open tract about a quarter of a mile
back of the river. The smoke was curling peacefully from one of the two
great chimneys, as if offering a mute invitation to a stranger to enter
the house and partake of what was being cooked within. In a field in front
of the mansion cattle were grazing, and the jingle of their bells sounded
sweetly in the distance. No one would dream, to look at such an attractive
picture, that the grim Spectre of War stalked in the land.

"Shall we go up to the house, and ask for something?" suggested
Macgreggor, who was blessed with a healthy appetite.

Watson looked a little doubtful. "There's no use in our showing ourselves
any more than is necessary," he said. "Rather than risk our necks, we had
better go on empty stomachs till we reach Chattanooga."

But such a look of disappointment crept over the faces of George and
Macgreggor, and even seemed to be reflected in the shaggy countenance of
Waggie, that Watson relented.

"After all," he said, "there's no reason why there should be any more
danger here than in Chattanooga or Marietta. Let's make a break for the
house, and ask for a meal."

Hardly had he spoken before they were all three hurrying towards the
mansion. When at last they stood under the portico, George seized the
quaint brass knocker of the front door, and gave it a brisk rap. After
some delay a very fat negress opened the door, and eyed the strangers
rather suspiciously. Their tramp over the country had not improved their
appearance, and her supercilious, inquisitive look was not strange, under
the circumstances.

"What you folks want?" she asked, putting her big arms akimbo in an
uncompromising attitude. Watson was about to reply when an attractive
voice, with the soft accent so characteristic of the Southerners, called:
"What is it, Ethiopia? Any one to see me?"

The next instant a kindly-faced gentlewoman of about fifty stood in the
doorway.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked pleasantly.

Macgreggor proceeded to tell the customary story about their being on
their way from Kentucky to join the Confederate army further south. His
heart smote him as he did so, for she was so gentle and sympathetic in her
manner that he loathed to practice any deception, however necessary; but
there was no help for it. So he ended by asking for something to eat.

"Come in," said the mistress of the mansion, for such she proved to be,
"and take any poor hospitality I can offer you. My husband, Mr. Page, and
both my children are away, fighting under General Lee, and I am only too
glad to do anything I can for others who are helping the great cause." She
smiled sweetly at George, and patted his dog. The boy regarded her almost
sheepishly; he, too, hated the idea of imposing on so cordial a hostess.

Mrs. Page led the party into a great colonial hallway, embellished with
family portraits. "By-the-way," she added, "there is a Confederate officer
in the house now--Major Lightfoot, of the --th Virginia Regiment. He
reached here this morning from Richmond and goes to Chattanooga this
afternoon on a special mission."

Watson bit his lip. "We're coming to too close quarters with the enemy,"
he thought, and he felt like retreating from the mansion with his
companions. But it was too late. Such a move would only excite suspicion,
or, worse still, lead to pursuit. "We must face the thing through," he
muttered, "and trust to our wits."

Mrs. Page ushered the strangers, including the delighted Waggie, into a
large, handsomely paneled dining-room on the left of the hallway. She made
them gather around an unset table. "Sit here for a few minutes," she said,
"and the servants will bring you the best that Page Manor can offer you.
In the meantime, I'll send Major Lightfoot to see you. He may be able to
help you in some way."

She closed the door and was gone. "I wish this Major Lightfoot, whoever he
is, was in Patagonia at the present moment," whispered Watson. "It's easy
enough to deceive the Southern country bumpkins, and make them think you
are Confederates, but when you get among people with more intelligence,
like officers----"

"What difference does it make?" interrupted Macgreggor, looking longingly
at a mahogany sideboard. "Didn't you hear Mrs. Page say the Major was a
Virginian? He doesn't know anything about Kentucky."

"That's lucky," laughed Watson, "for we don't either."

"Hush!" came the warning from George. The door opened, and several negro
servants began to bring in a cold dinner. What a meal it was too, when the
time came to partake of it, and how grateful the three hungry travelers
felt to the mistress of the house. When it had been disposed of, and the
servants had left the dining-room, George said, almost under his breath:
"Hadn't we better be off? We have a good number of miles yet, between here
and Marietta."

Watson was about to rise from the table when the door opened to admit a
tall, stalwart man of about thirty, whose cold, gray-blue eyes and
resolute mouth denoted one who was not to be trifled with. He was dressed
in the gray uniform of a Confederate officer, but he had, presumably, left
his sword and pistols in another room. The visitors stood up as he
entered.

"Glad to see you, my men," he said, shaking hands with each one.

"Is this Major Lightfoot?" asked Watson, trying to look delighted, but not
making a brilliant success of it.

"Yes," returned the Major. "I hear you boys are Kentuckians."

"We are," said Macgreggor stoutly; "we are ready to die for our country,
and so we are journeying southward to enlist."

"You're a pretty young chap to take up arms," observed the Major, eyeing
George keenly.

"One is never too young to do that," answered the boy. He was determined
to put a bold face on the affair, and he saw no reason why the Confederate
officer should suspect him if he spoke up unhesitatingly.

"The South has need of all her loyal sons," remarked Watson, who felt no
compunction in deceiving the Major, whatever might have been his
sentiments as to hoodwinking Mrs. Page.

"So you all come from Kentucky?" went on the officer. "That interests me,
for I come from Kentucky myself!"

The jaws of the three strangers dropped simultaneously. Had a bomb fallen
at their feet they could not have been more disconcerted. What did they
know about Kentucky, if they had to be put through a series of
cross-questions by a native! But there was no reason, after all, why the
Major should dwell on the subject.

"I thought Mrs. Page said you belonged to a Virginia regiment," exclaimed
Macgreggor, almost involuntarily.

"So I do," replied the Major, "but I only settled in Virginia two years
ago. I was born and bred in Kentucky, and there's no state like it--now is
there?"

"No!" cried the trio, with a well-feigned attempt at enthusiasm. They felt
that they were treading on dangerous ground, and resolved to play their
parts as well as they could.

"Do you all come from the same part of Kentucky?" queried the Major, as he
sat down on a chair, evidently prepared for a pleasant chat.

"From Fleming County," said Watson carelessly, quite as if he knew every
other county in the State. "I fear, sir, we must be moving on towards
Chattanooga. We are in a hurry to enlist, and we have already been delayed
too long."

The Major completely ignored the latter part of this sentence. "From
Fleming County," he said. "Well, that's pleasant news. I know Fleming
County like a book. There is where my father lived and died. What part of
the county do you come from?"

Had the Major asked them to tell the area of the United States in square
inches he could not have propounded a more puzzling question.

"Dunder and blitzen;" thought Watson. "If I only knew more of Kentucky
geography I might get myself out of this scrape."

"We come from the southeastern part of the county," said Macgreggor, after
an awkward pause.

"Near what town?"

Another pause. Oh, for the name of a town in the southeastern part of
Fleming County, Kentucky. The Major was looking at the visitors curiously.
Why this sudden reticence on their part?

At last Watson spoke up, although evasively. "We were a long distance from
any town; we worked on adjoining farms, and when the call to arms came we
determined to rush to the rescue of our beloved Southland."

The Major gave Watson one searching look. "Humph!" said he, "that's all
very pretty, and I'm glad you are so patriotic--but that won't do. What is
the nearest town to the places you live in?"

The name of Carlisle flashed through Watson's mind. He recalled that it
was somewhere in the part of Kentucky in which Fleming County was
situated. A man he knew had once lived there. He would risk it.

"The nearest town is Carlisle," he said shortly. "And now, Major, we
really must be off! Good-bye!"

He started for the door, followed by George and Macgreggor, who were both
devoutly wishing that such a state as Kentucky had never existed.

"Wait a second," suddenly commanded the Southerner, stepping in front of
the door to bar the way. "You seem to be strangely ignorant of your own
county. Carlisle happens to be in the adjoining county."

"Here, sir, we're not here to be examined by you, as if we were in the
witness box," cried Watson, who hoped to carry the situation through with
a strong hand. He would try a little bluster.

A sarcastic smile crossed the firm face of Major Lightfoot. "Don't try to
bluff me," he said quietly but sternly; "for it won't work. I see very
clearly that you fellows have never been in Fleming County, nor do I think
you have ever been in Kentucky at all, for the matter of that. You
certainly talk more like Yankees than Kentuckians."

"Then you don't believe us?" asked Macgreggor, trying to assume an air of
injured innocence.

"Certainly not," answered the Major. He folded his arms, and regarded the
visitors as if he were trying to read their inmost thoughts. "You are
lying to me! And as you've lied to me about coming from Kentucky, it's
quite as likely you've lied to me about your being on your way to enlist
in the Confederate army. For all I know you may be Union spies. In short,
my friends, you are acting in the most suspicious way, and I put you under
arrest!"

George's heart sank within him. He was not afraid of being arrested, but
to think that he might never take part in the bridge-burning expedition.
Lightfoot turned the key in the door.

Watson walked up to the Major, and tapped him on the shoulder. "Look
here," he said, in the tone of a man who is quite sure of his position.
"You talk about putting us under arrest, but you're only playing a game of
bluff yourself. We are three to your one--and I'd like to know what is to
prevent our walking out of this house, and knocking you down, too--or, if
you prefer, shooting you--if you attempt to stop us?"

Lightfoot laughed, in a superior sort of way. "Go, if you want," he said
curtly; "but I don't think you'll go very far." His eyes glistened, as if
he thought the whole scene rather a good joke. "Half a mile back of this
mansion there's a squadron of Confederate cavalry picketed. If I give them
the alarm they'll scour the whole countryside for you, and you'll all be
in their hands within an hour."

Watson turned pale. It was the paleness of vexation rather than of fear.
"Why were we fools enough to come to this house," he thought. He knew how
quickly they could be caught by cavalrymen.

The Major smiled in a tantalizing manner. "I think you will take my advice
and surrender," he said, sitting down carelessly in a chair and swinging
one of his long legs over the other. "If, on investigation, it proves that
you are not spies, you will be allowed to go on your way. If there's any
doubt about it, however, you will be sent to Richmond."

Macgreggor, with a bound, leaped in front of the Confederate, and, pulling
out a revolver, pointed it at Lightfoot's head. "Unless you promise not to
have us followed, you shan't leave this room alive!" he cried with the
tone of a man daring everything for liberty. George fully expected to see
the officer falter, for he had seen that the Major was unarmed.

But Lightfoot did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he gave one of his
provoking laughs. "Don't go into heroics," he said, pushing Macgreggor
away as though he were "shoohing" off a cat. "You know I would promise
anything, and the second your backs were turned I'd give the alarm. You
don't think I would be fool enough to see you fellows walking away without
making a trial to get you back?"

Macgreggor hesitated, as he looked at George and Watson. Then he answered
fiercely, handling his pistol ominously the meanwhile: "We've but one
chance--and we'll take it! We will never let you leave this room alive,
promise or no promise. You are unarmed, and there are _three_ of us,
armed."

The Major did not seem to be at all startled. He merely changed the
position of his legs, as he answered: "Killing me wouldn't do you any
good, my boy! If you do shoot me before I can escape from the room the
shooting would only alarm the house--the cavalry would be summoned by Mrs.
Page, and you would find yourself worse off even than you are now."

Watson touched Macgreggor on the shoulder. "The Major's right," he said;
"we would only be shooting down a man in cold blood, and gaining nothing
by it. He has trapped us--and, so long as those plagued cavalrymen are so
near, we had better submit. I think I've got as much courage as the next
man, but I don't believe in butting one's head against a stone wall."

Macgreggor sullenly replaced his pistol. He could not but see the force of
Watson's reasoning. The Major rose to his feet. He was smiling away again,
as if he were enjoying himself.

"We surrender!" announced Watson with a woebegone expression on his strong
face.

"You'll admit," said Lightfoot, "that I was too clever for you?"

There was no answer. George picked up Waggie. "Can I take my dog along
with us, wherever we go?" he asked.

[Illustration: The Major Merely Changed the Position of His Legs]

The Major suddenly advanced towards George, and patted the tiny animal.
"Hello! Waggie, how are you, old man?" he cried.

George gasped. "How on earth did you know Waggie's name?" he asked. For
Waggie had been chewing at a bone on the floor ever since the entrance of
the Confederate, and his master had not addressed a word to him during
that time.

"I know his name almost as well as I do yours, George Knight," said
Lightfoot.

In his excitement George dropped Waggie on a chair. The three Northerners
heard this last announcement with open-mouthed astonishment.

Lightfoot burst into a great laugh that made the mystery the more intense.
"Why, comrades," he cried, "I ought to go on the stage; I had no idea I
was such a good actor. Don't you know your friend, Walter Jenks?" The
Southern accent of the speaker had suddenly disappeared.

The listeners stood dumfounded. Then the whole situation dawned upon them.
They had been most gloriously and successfully duped. This Major Lightfoot
was none other than Walter Jenks, a sergeant from General Mitchell's camp,
whom Andrews had sent out on the bridge-burning party. He had shaved off
his beard, and assumed a Southern accent (something he was able to do
because he was a Marylander), so that the guests at the Page mansion had
failed to recognize him.

Jenks shook the three warmly by the hand. "It was a mean trick to play on
you fellows," he explained, lowering his voice, "but for the life of me I
couldn't resist the temptation."

"How on earth did you turn up here in the guise of a Confederate officer?"
asked Watson, who now felt a sense of exhilaration in knowing that he
might yet join Andrews at Marietta.

"It is too long a story to tell," whispered Jenks. "I'll only say here
that I got lost from the other two fellows I was traveling with--was
suspected of being a spy in one of the villages I passed through--and, to
avoid pursuit, had to shave off my beard and disguise myself in this
Confederate uniform, which I was lucky enough to 'appropriate.' I was
nearly starved--stumbled across this place or my way down--told a
plausible story (Heaven forgive me for deceiving so delightful a lady as
Mrs. Page)--and here I am! And the sooner we set off from here, the sooner
we will meet at the appointed town."

"When the war's over," remarked Macgreggor, "you can earn a fortune on the
stage."

Half an hour later the four Northerners had taken a grateful farewell of
the unsuspecting Mrs. Page, and were hurrying along the bank of the
Tennessee. By four o'clock in the afternoon they had reached a point
directly opposite Chattanooga. Here they found a ferryman, just as they
had been given to expect, with his flat "horse-boat" moored to the shore.
He was a fat, comfortable-looking fellow, as he sat in tailor-fashion on
the little wharf, smoking a corncob pipe as unconcernedly as though he had
nothing to do all day but enjoy tobacco.

Watson approached the man. "We want to get across the river as soon as
possible," he explained, pointing to his companions. "This officer
(indicating Walter Jenks, who retained his Confederate uniform) and the
rest of us must be in Chattanooga within half an hour."

The ferryman took his pipe from his mouth and regarded the party
quizzically. "You may want to be in Chattanooga in half an hour," he said,
in a drawling, lazy fashion, "but I reckon the river's got somethin' to
say as to that!" He waved one hand slowly in the direction of the stream,
which was, without a shadow of doubt, an angry picture to gaze upon. Its
waters were turbulent enough to suggest that a passage across them at this
moment would be attended by great risk.

But to the anxious travelers any risk, however great, seemed preferable to
waiting. If they missed the evening train from Chattanooga to Marietta
their usefulness was ended. No bridge-burning adventure for them!

"I tell you we _must_ get over to-night," urged Jenks, who hoped that his
uniform would give him a certain prestige in the eyes of the ferryman. "I
am Major Lightfoot, of the --th Virginia, and I'm on an important mission.
Every minute is precious!"

"That may be true enough, Colonel," replied the man, ignoring the title of
"major," and taking a whiff from his pipe. "That may be true enough, but I
calculate nature's got somethin' to say in this world. And I calculate I
ain't a-going to risk my life, and the happiness of my wife and five
children, by tryin' to stem the Tennessee in this turmoil."

George's heart sank within him. To be so near the realization of his dream
of adventure, and to be stopped at the eleventh hour by this stupid,
cautious boatman! Waggie, who had been frisking near him, suddenly became
solemn.

Watson pulled from his coat a large pack of Confederate money. "There's
money for you," he cried, "if you'll take us over!"

The ferryman eyed him in a sleepy way, and took another pull at that
provoking pipe.

"Money!" he said, after a long pause, during which the Northerners gazed
at him as if their very lives depended on his decision. "Money! What's the
use to me of money, if we all get drowned crossing over?"

As he spoke the river roared and rushed downwards on its course with a
heedlessness that quite justified him in his hesitation. "Wait till
to-morrow morning, and the Tennessee will be quieter. Then I'll help you
out."

"Wait till doomsday, why don't you say?" thundered Jenks. "We must take
the risk--and I order you to take us over, at once!"

"You may be a very big man in the army," answered the ferryman, "but your
orders don't go here!" He produced a small tin box from the tail of his
coat, leisurely poured from it into his pipe some strong tobacco, and
slowly lighted the stuff. Then he arose, walked to the edge of the wharf,
and beckoned to a lad of nine or ten years old who was half asleep in the
boat. The boy jumped up, leaped upon the wharf, and ran off along the
river's bank in the opposite direction from which the four strangers had
come. He had received a mysterious order from the ferryman.

"What's the matter now?" asked Macgreggor, who had a strong desire to
knock down this imperturbable fellow who refused to be impressed even by a
Confederate uniform.

"Nothing," replied the man, stolidly. He sat down again, crossed his legs,
and took a long pull at the pipe.

"For the last time," shouted Jenks, shaking his fist in the smoker's face,
"I order you to take out that boat, and ferry us across the river!"

"For the last time," said the man, very calmly, "I tell you I'm not going
to risk my life for four fools!"

George walked up closer to Watson, and whispered: "Let's seize the boat,
and try to cross over ourselves!"

Watson beckoned to his two companions, and told them what the boy
suggested.

"We will be taking our lives in our hands," said Jenks, "but anything is
better than being delayed here."

"Besides," added Macgreggor, "although the river _is_ pretty
mischievous-looking, I don't think it's any more dangerous than waiting
here."

Jenks took out his watch, and looked at it. "I'll give you just five
minutes," he said, addressing the ferryman, "and if by that time you
haven't made up your mind to take us over the river, we'll take the law
into our own hands, seize your boat, and try the journey ourselves."
Waggie began to bark violently, as if he sympathized with this speech.

The man smiled. "That will be a fool trick," he answered. "If it's
dangerous for me, it'll be death for you uns. Better say your prayers,
partner!"

"Only four minutes left!" cried Jenks, resolutely, keeping an eye on the
watch.

The ferryman closed his eyes and resumed his smoking. The others watched
him intently. Meanwhile George was thinking. Two minutes more passed. The
boy was recalling a saying of his father's: "Sometimes you can taunt an
obstinate man into doing things, where you can't reason with him."

"Time is up!" said Jenks, at last. "Come, boys, let's make a break for the
boat!"

The ferryman placed his pipe on the ground with the greatest composure.
"Take the boat if you want," he observed, rising to his feet, "but you
fellows won't get very far in it! Look there!"

He pointed up the river's bank. The boy who had been sent away a few
minutes before was coming back to the wharf; he was now, perhaps, a
quarter of a mile away, but he was not alone. He was bringing with him
five Confederate soldiers, who were walking briskly along with muskets at
right shoulder.

"You fellows looked kind o' troublesome," explained the ferryman, "so as
there's a picket up yonder I thought I'd send my son up for 'em!"

Watson made a move towards the boat. "Better stay here," cried the
ferryman; "for before you can get a hundred feet away from the bank in
this contrary stream those soldiers will pick you off with their muskets.
D'ye want to end up as food for fishes?"

The men groaned in spirit. "It's too late," muttered Jenks. He could
picture the arrival at Marietta of all the members of the expedition save
his own party, and the triumphal railroad escapade the next day. And when
the Northern newspapers would ring with the account of the affair, his own
name would not appear in the list of the brave adventurers.

Suddenly George went up to the ferryman, and said, with much distinctness:
"I see we have to do with a coward! There's not a boatman in Kentucky who
wouldn't take us across this river. Even a Yankee wouldn't fear it. But
you are so afraid you'll have to get your feet wet that you actually send
for soldiers to protect you!"

George's companions looked at him in astonishment. The boatman, losing his
placidity, turned a deep red. "Take care, young fellow," he said, in a
voice of anger; "there's not a man in Tennessee who dares to call Ned
Jackson a coward!"

"I dare to call you a coward unless you take us over to Chattanooga!"
answered the boy, sturdily. "You're afraid--and that's the whole truth!"

Jackson's face now underwent a kaleidoscopic transformation ranging all
the way from red to purple, and then to white. All his stolidity had
vanished; he was no longer the slow countryman; he had become the
courageous, impetuous Southerner.

"If you weren't a boy," he shouted, "I'd knock you down!"

"That wouldn't prove your bravery," returned George, regarding him with an
expression of well-feigned contempt. "That would only show you to be a
bully. If you have any courage in your veins--the kind of courage that
most Southerners have--prove it by taking us across the river."

The soldiers were gradually drawing near the wharf. Meanwhile George's
companions had caught his cue. He was trying to goad Jackson into ferrying
them over the riotous stream.

"Humph!" said Macgreggor; "a good boatman is never afraid of the water;
but our friend here seems to have a consuming fear of it!"

"He ought to live on a farm, where there is nothing but a duck pond in the
shape of water," added Jenks. Jackson was actually trembling with rage;
his hands were twisting nervously.

Watson eyed him with seeming pity, as he said: "It's a lucky thing for you
that you didn't enlist in the Confederate army. You would have run at the
first smell of gunpowder!"

Jackson could contain his wrath no longer. "So you fellows think I'm a
coward," he cried. "Very well! I'll prove that I'm not! Get into my boat,
and I'll take you across--or drown you all and myself--I don't care which.
But no man shall ever say that Ned Jackson is a coward!" He ran to the
boat, leaped into it and beckoned to the Northerners. "Come on!" he
shouted. Within a minute George, Macgreggor, Watson and Jenks were in the
little craft, and the ferryman had unmoored it from the wharf.

"Never mind," he cried, waving his hand to the soldiers, who had now
reached the wharf. "I don't want you. I'm going to ferry 'em over the
river--or go to the bottom! It's all right."

Already were the voyagers in midstream, almost before they knew it. It
looked as if Jackson, in his attempt to prove his courage, might only end
by sending them all to the bottom. Waggie, who was now reposing in a
pocket of George's coat, suddenly gave a low growl. George produced from
another pocket a bone which he had brought from Mrs. Page's house, and
gave it to the dog.

"Well," laughed Watson, in unconcern, "if Wag's to be drowned, he'll be
drowned on a full stomach--and that's one consolation."

"He's the only critter among you as has got any sense," snarled the
ferryman; "for he's the only one who didn't ask to be taken across this
infarnal river!"



CHAPTER IV

PLOT AND PLOTTERS


In after years George could never quite understand how he and his
companions reached the Chattanooga shore. He retained a vivid recollection
of tempestuous waves, of a boat buffeted here and there, and of Ned
Jackson muttering all manner of unkind things at his passengers and the
turbulent stream. They did at last reach their destination, and bade
farewell to the ferryman, whom they loaded down with Confederate notes.

No sooner was the latter embarked on the return voyage than Watson said:
"That was a clever ruse of yours, George. That Jackson was a brave man at
heart, and you put him on his mettle. He wanted to show us that he wasn't
afraid of the water--and he succeeded."

George laughed. He explained that it was a remark of his father's which
had put the idea into his own head, and then he wondered where that same
father could be. Was he dead or was he still living, perhaps in some
prison?

It was not long before the party reached the railroad station at
Chattanooga. Here they purchased their tickets for Marietta, and were soon
in the train bound southward for the latter place. The sun had nearly set
as the engine pulled slowly out of the depot. The car in which they sat
was filled with men on their way down South, some of them being soldiers
in uniform and the rest civilians. Macgreggor, Watson and Jenks were at
the rear end of the car, while George had to find a seat at the other end,
next to a very thin man who wore the uniform of a Confederate captain.

"Isn't it strange?" thought the boy. "To-morrow morning we will be
reversing our journey on this railroad, and burning bridges on our way
back to Chattanooga. But how are we to steal a train? I wonder if Andrews
and the rest of the party will be on hand to-night at Marietta." Then, as
he realized that he was in a car filled with men who would treat him as a
spy, if they knew the nature of his errand to the South, there came over
him a great wave of homesickness. He had lived all his life among friends;
it was for him a new sensation to feel that he was secretly opposed to his
fellow-travelers.

The thin Captain who sat next to him turned and curiously regarded Waggie,
who was lying on his master's lap. He had shrewd gray eyes, had this
Captain, and there was a week's growth of beard upon his weazened face.

"Where did you get your dog from, lad?" he asked, giving Waggie a pat with
one of his skeleton-like hands. It was a pat to which the little animal
paid no attention.

"From home--Cincinnati."

George had answered on the spur of the moment, thoughtlessly, carelessly,
before he had a chance to detect what a blunder he was making. The next
second he could have bitten out his tongue in very vexation; he felt that
his face was burning a bright red; he had a choking sensation at the
throat.

The emaciated Captain was staring at him in a curiously surprised fashion.
"From Cincinnati? Cincinnati, Ohio?" he asked, fixing his lynx-like eyes
attentively upon his companion.

Poor George! Every idea seemed to have left him in his sudden confusion;
he was only conscious that the Confederate officer continued to regard him
in the same intent manner. "I say," repeated the latter, "is your home in
Ohio?"

"Yes, Cincinnati, Ohio," said the boy boldly. "After all," as he thought,
"I had better put a frank face on this stupidity of mine; a stammering
answer will only make this fellow the more suspicious."

"So then you're a Northerner, are you, my son?" observed the Captain. "I
thought you spoke with a bit of a Yankee accent!"

"Yes, I'm a Northerner," answered George. As he felt himself plunging
deeper and deeper into hot water he was trying to devise some plausible
story to tell the officer. But how to invent one while he was being
subjected to that close scrutiny. One thing, at least, was certain. Once
he had admitted that his home was in Ohio he could not make any use of the
oft repeated Kentucky yarn.

"And what are you doing down here?" asked the Captain. He spoke very
quietly, but there was an inflection in his voice which seemed to say:
"Give a good account of yourself--for your presence in this part of the
country is curious, if nothing more."

George understood that he must think quickly, and decide on some plan of
action to cover up, if he could, any bad results from his blunder. He was
once more cool, and he returned the piercing look of the officer with
steadfast eyes. His mind was clear as to one thing. There was no need of
his trying to invent a story, on the spur of the moment, with a man like
the Captain quite ready to pick it to pieces. For it was plain that this
Confederate was shrewd--and a trifle suspicious. The boy must pursue a
different course.

"My being down South is my own concern," he said, pretending to be
virtuously offended at the curiosity of his inquisitor.

The Captain drew himself up with an injured air. "Heigh ho!" he muttered;
"my young infant wants me to mind my own business, eh?"

George flushed; he considered himself very much of a man, and he did not
relish being called an "infant." But he kept his temper; he foresaw that
everything depended upon his remaining cool. He treated the remark with
contemptuous silence.

The officer turned away from him, to look out of the window of the car.
Yet it was evident that he paid little or no attention to the rapidly
moving landscape. He was thinking hard. Not a word was spoken between the
two for ten minutes. Most of the other passengers were talking excitedly
among themselves. Occasionally a remark could be understood above the
rattle of the train. George heard enough to know they were discussing the
battle of Shiloh, which had been fought so recently.

"I tell you," cried a soldier, "the battle was a great Confederate
victory."

"That may be," answered some one, "but if we have many more such victories
we Southerners will have a lost cause on our hands, and Abe Lincoln will
be eating his supper in Richmond before many months are gone."

At this there was a chorus of angry dissent, and several cries of
"Traitor!" George listened eagerly. He would dearly have liked to look
behind him, to see what his three companions were doing, or hear what they
were saying, at the other end of the car. But he was not supposed to know
them. He could only surmise (correctly enough, as it happened) that they
were acting their part of Southerners, although doing as little as
possible to attract attention. One thing worried the young adventurer. He
distrusted the continued silence of the Captain.

It was a silence that the officer finally broke, by looking squarely into
George's face, and saying, in a low tone: "When a Northerner travels down
South these times he must give an account of himself. If you won't tell me
who you are, my friend, I may find means of making you!"

As he spoke the train was slowing up, and in another minute it had stopped
at a little station.

"Now or never," thought George. He arose, stuffed Waggie into his pocket,
and said to the Captain: "If you want to find out about me, write me. This
is my station. Good-bye!"

The next instant he had stepped out of the car, and was on the platform.
He and an elderly lady were the only two passengers who alighted. No
sooner had they touched the platform than the train moved on its way,
leaving the Captain in a state of angry surprise, as he wondered whether
he should not have made some effort to detain the boy. It was too late to
do anything now, and the officer, as he is carried away on the train, is
likewise carried out of our story.

What were the feelings of Watson, and Jenks, and Macgreggor as they saw
George leave the car, and the train rattled away? They were afraid to make
any sign; and even if they had thought it prudent to call out to the lad,
or seek to detain him, they would not have found time to put their purpose
into execution, so quickly had the whole thing happened. Not daring to
utter a sound, they could only look at one another in blank amazement.
"What was the boy up to," thought Watson, "and what's to become of him?"
He was already devotedly attached to George, so that he felt sick at heart
when he pictured him alone and unprotected at a little wayside village in
the heart of an enemy's country. Nor were the other two men less
solicitous. Had George suddenly put on wings, and flown up through the
roof of the car, they could not have been more horrified than they were at
this moment. Meanwhile the train went rumbling on, as it got farther and
farther away from the little station. It was now almost dark; the brakeman
came into the car and lighted two sickly lamps. Some of the passengers
leaned back in their seats and prepared to doze, while others, in heated,
angry tones, kept up the discussion as to the battle of Shiloh. The
civilian who had hinted that the engagement was not a signal victory for
the Confederates got up and walked into a forward car, to rid himself of
the abuse and arguments of several of his companions.

Watson was sorely tempted to pull the check rope of the train, jump out,
and walk back on the track until he found the missing boy; but when he
reflected on the possible consequences of such a proceeding he unwillingly
admitted to himself that to attempt it would be the part of madness. He
would only bring the notice of every one in the train upon himself;
suspicion would be aroused; he and his companions might be arrested; the
whole plot for burning the bridges might be upset.

"What can have gotten into George's head?" he said to himself a hundred
times. Jenks and Macgreggor were asking themselves the same question.
Steadily the train went on, while the sky grew darker and darker. In time
most of the passengers fell asleep. Occasionally a stop would be made at
some station. Marietta, in Georgia, would not be reached until nearly
midnight.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Where had George gone?" the reader will ask. The question is not so hard
to answer as it may seem. The moment that the Captain had become
inquisitive the boy had made up his mind that the sooner he could get away
from that gentleman the better it would be for the success of Andrews'
expedition. He saw that the train stopped at different stations along the
road, and he began to map out a scheme for escape. Thus, when the cars
came to the place already spoken of, he jumped out, as we have described,
and stood on the platform with the elderly lady who had alighted almost at
the same instant. The latter passed on into the station, and left the
platform deserted, except for George. Hardly had she disappeared before
the conductor pulled the check-rope, and the train began to move. As it
slowly passed by him the boy quickly jumped upon the track, caught hold of
the coupling of the last car, and hung there, with his knees lifted up
almost to his chin. In another second he had grasped the iron railing
above him; within a minute he had raised himself and clambered upon the
platform. The train was now speeding along at the customary rate. As
George sat down on the platform, he gave a sigh of relief. No one had seen
him board the car. For all that the inquisitive Captain knew he might
still be standing in front of the station. And what were Watson, Jenks and
Macgreggor thinking about his sudden exit from the scene? George laughed,
in spite of himself, as he pictured their amazement. He would give them a
pleasant surprise later on, when they reached Marietta. In the meantime he
would stay just where he was, if he were not disturbed, until they arrived
at that town. Then it would be late at night, when he could evade the
lynx-eyed Confederate officer.

Having settled his plans comfortably in his mind George was about to put
his hand in his coat pocket to give a reassuring pat to Waggie (who had
been sadly shaken up by his master's scramble) when the door of the car
opened. A man put out his head, and stared at the boy.

"What are you doing here, youngster?" asked the man. George recognized him
as the conductor of the train.

"Only trying to get a breath of fresh air," replied the lad, at the same
time producing his railroad ticket and showing it in the dusk. The
conductor flashed the lantern he was holding in George's face, and then
glanced at the ticket.

"Well, don't fall off," he observed, evidently satisfied by the scrutiny.
"You were in one of the forward cars, weren't you? Where's your dog? In
your pocket, eh?" He turned around, shut the door, and went back into the
car without waiting for an answer.

"One danger is over," whispered George to himself. Then he began to pat
Waggie. "You and I are having an exciting time of it, aren't we?" he
laughed. "Well, there's one consolation; they can't hang you for a spy,
anyway, even if they should hang me!"

So the night passed on, as George clung to the railing of the platform,
while the train rumbled along in the darkness to the Southward. The
conductor did not appear again; he had evidently forgotten all about the
boy. At last, when Waggie and his master were both feeling cold, and
hungry, and forlorn, there came a welcome cry from the brakeman:
"Marietta! All out for Marietta!"

In a short time the passengers for Marietta had left the train. Watson,
Jenks and Macgreggor were soon in a little hotel near the station, which
was to be the rendezvous for Andrews and his party. As they entered the
office of the hostelry all their enthusiasm for the coming escapade seemed
to have vanished. The mysterious disappearance of George had dampened
their ardor; they feared to think where he could be, or what might have
become of him.

The office was brilliantly lighted in spite of the lateness of the hour.
In it were lounging eight or nine men. The pulses of the three newcomers
beat the quicker as they recognized in them members of the proposed
bridge-burning expedition. Among them was Andrews.

"Yes," he was saying, in a perfectly natural manner, to the hotel clerk,
who stood behind a desk; "we Kentuckians must push on early tomorrow
morning. The South has need of all the men she can muster."

"That's true," answered the clerk; "Abe Lincoln and Jefferson Davis have
both found out by this time that this war won't be any child's play. It'll
last a couple of years yet, or my name's not Dan Sanderson."

Macgreggor and Jenks walked up to the register on the desk, without
showing any sign of recognition, and put down their names respectively as
"Henry Fielding, Memphis, Tennessee," and "Major Thomas Brown,
Chattanooga." The latter, it will be remembered, wore a Confederate
uniform. Watson wrote his real name, in a bold, round hand, and added:
"Fleming County, Kentucky." Then he turned towards Andrews. "Well,
stranger," he said, "did I hear you say you were from Kentucky? I'm a
Kentuckian myself. What's your county?"

He extended his right hand and greeted Andrews with the air of a man who
would like to cultivate a new acquaintance. Andrews rose, of course, to
the occasion, by answering: "I'm always glad to meet a man from my own
state. I'm from Fleming County."

"Well, I'll be struck!" cried Watson. "That's my county, too! What part of
it do you live in?"

After a little more of this conversation, which was given in loud tones,
the two men withdrew to a corner and sat down. "We are all here now except
two of our men," said Andrews, in a low voice. "Half of the fellows have
gone to bed, thoroughly tired out. But where's George? Isn't he with
you?"

"It makes me sick to think where he is," whispered Watson, "for----"

Before he could finish his sentence George entered the office, followed by
Waggie. He had lingered about the Marietta Station, after leaving the
platform of the car, until he was safe from meeting the Captain, in case
that gentleman should have alighted at this place. Then he had cautiously
made his way to the hotel.

Watson rose as quietly as if the appearance of George was just what he had
been expecting. "What did you lag behind at the station for, George?" he
asked. Then, turning to Andrews, he said: "Here's another Kentuckian,
sir--a nephew of mine. He wants to join the Confederate army, too."

George, as he shook hands with Andrews quite as if they had never met each
other before, could not help admiring the presence of mind of Watson.

"You young rascal," whispered the latter, "you have given me some
miserable minutes."

"Hush!" commanded Andrews, in the same tone of voice. "We must not talk
together any more. As soon as you go up-stairs to bed you must come to my
room--number 10, on the second floor, and get your instructions for
to-morrow. Everything has gone very smoothly so far, and we are all here
excepting two of us, although some of us have had a pretty ticklish time
in getting through to this town. Remember--Room Number 10."

Andrews moved away. Soon all the members of the party assembled at the
hotel were in their rooms up-stairs, presumably asleep, with the exception
of George and his three companions. They were able, after considerable
coaxing, to get admittance into the dining-room. Thereby they secured a
nocturnal meal of tough ham, better eggs, and some muddy "coffee." The
latter was in reality a concoction consisting of about seven-eights of
chickory, and the other eighth,--but what the remaining eighth was only
the cook could have told. The meal tasted like a Delmonico feast to the
famished wanderers, nor was it the less acceptable because they saw it
nearly consumed before their hungry eyes; for Waggie, who had a power of
observation that would have done credit to a detective, and a scent of
which a hound might well have been proud, made his way into the
dining-room in advance of the party, and jumped upon the table while the
negro waiter's back was turned. As George entered, the dog was about to
pounce upon the large plate of ham. Mr. Wag cast one sheepish look upon
his master, and then retired under the table, where he had his supper
later on.

After they had finished their meal, the four conspirators were taken
up-stairs by a sleepy bell-boy, and shown into a large room containing two
double beds. The servant lighted a kerosene lamp that stood on a centre
table, and then shuffled down to the office.

Macgreggor lifted the lamp to take a survey of the room. "Take a good look
at those beds, fellows," he said, with a grim chuckle; "it may be a long
time before you sleep on such comfortable ones again. For if we come to
grief in this expedition----"

"Pshaw!" interrupted Jenks impatiently, but in subdued tones. "Don't
borrow trouble. We are bound to succeed."

Macgreggor placed the lamp on the centre table, and began to take off his
shoes. "I'm just as ready as any of you for this scheme," he answered,
"but I can't shut my eyes to the risks we are running. Did you notice on
your way down that the railroad sidings between Chattanooga and Marietta
were filled with freight cars? That means, to begin with, that we won't
have a clear track for our operations to the Northward."

Watson smiled rather grimly. "The more we appreciate the breakers ahead of
us," he whispered, "the less likely are we to get stranded on the beach.
But we really can't judge anything about the outlook for to-morrow until
we get our detailed instructions from Andrews."

As he spoke there was a very faint tap at the door. The next moment
Andrews had cautiously entered the room. He was in stocking feet, and wore
neither coat nor waistcoat.

"I thought it better to hunt you fellows up," he explained, in a voice
that they could just hear, "instead of letting you try to find me. I was
listening when the boy showed you up to this room." He proceeded to sit
upon one of the beds, while his companions gathered silently around him.
"Listen," he continued, "and get your instructions for to-morrow--for
after we separate to-night there will be no time for plotting.

"To-morrow we must reverse our journey and take the early morning train to
the northward, on this Georgia State Railroad. In order to avoid
suspicion, we must not all buy tickets for the same station. In point of
fact we are only to go as far as Big Shanty station, near the foot of
Kenesaw Mountain, a distance of eight miles. Here passengers and railroad
employees get off for breakfast, and this is why I have selected the place
for the seizure of the train. Furthermore, there is no telegraph station
there from which our robbery could be reported. When we board the train at
Marietta we must get in by different doors, but contrive to come together
in one car--the passenger car nearest the engine. After all, or nearly all
but ourselves have left the cars at Big Shanty for breakfast, I will give
the signal, when the coast is clear, and we will begin the great work of
the day--that of stealing the locomotive."

Here Andrews went into a detailed description of what each man in the
expedition (he had now twenty-one men, including himself, and not counting
George) would do when the fateful moment arrived. George, who sat
listening with open mouth, felt as if he were drinking in a romantic tale
from the "Arabian Nights," or, at least, from a modern version of the
"Nights," where Federal soldiers and steam engines would not be out of
place. He thrilled with admiration at the nicety with which Andrews had
made all his arrangements. It was like a general entering into elaborate
preparations for a battle. The two soldiers who were to act as engineers,
those who were to play brakemen, and the man who was to be fireman, had
their work carefully mapped out for them. The other men were to form a
guard who would stand near the cars that were to be seized; they were to
have their revolvers ready and must shoot down any one who attempted to
interfere.

"We must get off as quickly as possible," went on the intrepid Andrews.
"From what I hear to-night it is evident that General Mitchell captured
Huntsville to-day, which is one day sooner than we expected him to do it.
We must cut all telegraph wires and then run the train northward to
Chattanooga, and from there westward until we meet Mitchell advancing
towards Chattanooga on his way from Huntsville. I have obtained a copy of
the time-table showing the movement of trains on the Georgia State
Railroad, and I find we have only two to meet on our race. These two won't
trouble us, for I know just where to look for them. There is also a local
freight-train which can be passed if we are careful to run according to
the schedule of the captured train until we come up to it. Having gotten
by this local freight we can put on full steam, and speed on to the
Oostenaula and Chickamauga bridges, burn them, and run on through
Chattanooga to Mitchell. There's a glorious plan for you fellows. What do
you think of it?"

There was a ring of pride in his lowered voice as he concluded.

"Admirable!" whispered Walter Jenks, "It's a sure thing, and the man who
invented the scheme has more brains than half the generals in the war!"

As George pictured to himself the stolen train flying along the tracks, in
the very heart of the enemy's country, he could hardly restrain his
enthusiasm. "It's grand!" he murmured. Had he dared he would have given a
great cheer.

The leader smiled as he saw, in the dim lamplight, the radiant face of the
boy. "You have lots of grit, my lad," he said, in a kindly fashion, "and
God grant you may come out of this business in safety." Then, turning to
Watson, he asked: "How does my plan, as now arranged, impress you,
Watson?"

After a minute's silence, during which the others in the room gazed
intently at Watson, that soldier said: "I have as great an admiration for
James Andrews as any one of our party, and I am ready to follow wherever
he leads. Whatever my faults may be, I'm not a coward. But we should look
carefully on each side of a question--and I can't help thinking that owing
to circumstances which we have not taken into account our expedition
stands a very decided chance of failure."

"What are those circumstances?" asked Andrews.

"In the first place," was the reply, "I find that there is a large
encampment of Confederate troops at Big Shanty. Escape in a captured train
would have been very easy while those soldiers were elsewhere; but, being
there, do you suppose that the sentries of the camp will stand idly by
when we seize cars and locomotive and attempt to steam away to the
northward? In the second place--and this is no less important--the
railroad seems to be obstructed by numerous freight trains, probably not
on the schedule, and flying along the track towards Chattanooga will not
be as plain sailing as you believe. One unlooked-for delay might be fatal.
We are in the midst of enemies, and should there be one hitch, one change
in our program, the result will be failure, and perhaps death, for all of
us."

There was a painful silence. At last Andrews said, very quietly, but with
an air of strong conviction: "I think the very objections you urge, my
dear Watson, are advantages in disguise. I know, as well as you, that
there's a big encampment at Big Shanty, but what of it? No one dreams for
one second that there is any plot to capture a train, and no one,
therefore, will be on the lookout. The thing will be done so suddenly that
there will be no chance for an alarm until we are steaming off from the
station--and then we can laugh. If we strike any unscheduled trains, they
too will be to our advantage; for they will make such confusion on the
road that they will detract attention from the rather suspicious
appearance of our own train."

"Perhaps you are right," answered Watson, rather dubiously.

Andrews arose from the bed, and solemnly shook hands with each of his four
companions. Then he said, very impressively: "I am confident of the
success of our enterprise, and I will either go through with it or leave
my bones to bleach in 'Dixieland.' But I don't want to persuade any one
against his own judgment. If any one of you thinks the scheme too
dangerous--if you are convinced beforehand of its failure--you are at
perfect liberty to take the train in any direction, and work your way home
to the Union camp as best you can. Nor shall I have one word of reproach,
either in my mind or on my lips, for a man whose prudence, or whose want
of confidence in his leader, induces him to draw back."

Andrews was an adroit student of men. No speech could have better served
his purpose of inducing his followers to remain with him. It was as if he
declared: "You may all desert me, but _I_ will remain true to my flag."

"You can count on me to the very last," said Watson stoutly. He was always
ready to face danger, but he liked to have the privilege of grumbling at
times. In his heart, too, was a conviction that his leader was about to
play a very desperate game. The chances were all against them.

"Thank you, Watson," answered Andrews, gratefully. "I never could doubt
your bravery. And are the rest of you willing?"

There were hearty murmurs of assent from Jenks, George and Macgreggor.
Jenks and the boy were very sanguine; Macgreggor was rather skeptical as
to future success, but he sternly resolved to banish all doubts from his
mind.

"Well, George," said Andrews, as he was about to leave the room, "if you
get through this railroad ride in safety you will have something
interesting to remember all your life." In another moment he had gone. The
time for action had almost arrived.



CHAPTER V

ON THE RAIL


At an early hour the next morning, just before daylight, the conspirators
were standing on the platform of the Marietta station, awaiting the
arrival of their train--the train which they hoped soon to call theirs in
reality. They were all in civilian dress; even Walter Jenks had contrived
to discard his uniform of a Confederate officer, regarding it as too
conspicuous, and he was habited in an ill-fitting suit which made him look
like an honest, industrious mechanic.

Andrews was pacing up and down with an anxious, resolute face. He realized
that the success of the manoeuvre which they were about to execute rested
upon his own shoulders, but he had no idea of flinching. "Before night has
come," he was thinking confidently, "we shall be within the lines of
General Mitchell, and soon all America will be ringing with the story of
our dash."

George, no less sanguine, was standing near Watson and Macgreggor, and
occasionally slipping a lump of sugar into the overcoat pocket which
served as a sort of kennel for the tiny Waggie. There was nothing about
the party to attract undue attention. They pretended, for the most part,
to be strangers one to another, and, to aid in the deception, they had
bought railroad tickets for different places--for Kingston, Adairsville,
Calhoun and other stations to the northward, between Marietta and
Chattanooga.

Soon the train was sweeping up to the platform. It was a long one, with
locomotive, tender, three baggage cars and a number of passenger cars. The
adventurers clambered on it through various doors, but at last reached the
passenger car nearest to the engine. Here they seated themselves quite as
if each man had no knowledge of any one else. In another minute the train,
which was well filled, went rolling away from Marietta and along the bend
around the foot of Kenesaw Mountain. "Only eight miles," thought George,
"and then----"

The conductor of the train, a young man with a very intelligent face,
looked searchingly at the boy as he examined his ticket. "Too young,"
George heard him mutter under his breath, as he passed on to the other
passengers.

A thrill of feverish excitement stirred the lad. "What did he mean by too
young?" he asked himself. "Can he possibly have gotten wind of our
expedition?" But the conductor did not return, and it was not until long
afterwards that George was able to understand what was meant by the
expression, "Too young." The man had been warned by the Confederate
authorities that a number of young Southerners who had been conscripted
into the army were trying to escape from service, and might use the cars
for that purpose. He was ordered, therefore, to arrest any such runaways
that he might find. When he looked at George it is probable that he
thought: "This boy is too young to be a conscript," and he evidently gave
unconscious voice to what was passing through his mind. Fortunately
enough, he saw nothing suspicious in any of the Northerners.

The train ran rather slowly, so that it was bright daylight before it
reached Big Shanty. "Big Shanty; twenty minutes for breakfast!" shouted
the conductor and the brakemen. George's heart beat so fast that he almost
feared some one would hear it, and ask him what was the matter. The hoarse
cries of the employees as they announced the name of the station made him
realize that now, after all these hours of preparation and preliminary
danger, the first act of his drama of war had begun. Every one of his
companions experienced the same feeling, but, like him, none had any
desire to draw back.

No sooner had the cars come to a standstill than nearly all the
passengers, excepting the Northerners, quickly left their seats, to repair
to the long, low shanty or eating-room from which the station took its
unpoetic name. Then the train hands, including the engineer and fireman,
followed the example of the hungry passengers, and hurried off to
breakfast. The engine was deserted. This was even better than the
adventurers could have hoped, for they had feared that it might be
necessary to overpower the engineer before they could get away on their
race.

The twenty-one men and the one boy left in the forward passenger car
looked anxiously, guardedly, at one another. More than one felt in his
clothes to make sure that he had his revolver. Andrews left the car for
half a minute, dropped to the ground, and glanced rapidly up and down the
track. There was no obstruction visible. Within a stone's throw of him,
however, sentries were posted on the outskirts of the Confederate camp. He
scanned the station, which was directly across the track from the
encampment, and was glad to see, exactly as he had expected, that it had
no telegraph office from which a dispatch concerning the coming escapade
might be sent. Having thus satisfied himself that the coast was clear, and
the time propitious, he reentered the car.

"All right, boys," he said, very calmly (as calmly, indeed, as if he were
merely inviting the men to breakfast), "let us go now!"

The men arose, quietly, as if nothing startling were about to happen, left
the car, and walked hurriedly to the head of the train. "Each man to his
post," ordered Andrews. "Ready!"

In less time than it takes to write this account the seizure of the train
was accomplished, in plain view of the puzzled sentries. The two men who
were to act as engineer and assistant engineer clambered into the empty
cab of the locomotive, as did also Andrews and Jenks. The latter was to be
the fireman. One of the men uncoupled the passenger cars, so that the
stolen train would consist only of the engine, tender, and the three
baggage cars. Into one of these baggage cars the majority of the party
climbed, shutting the doors at either end after them, while the two men
who were to serve as brakemen stationed themselves upon the roof. Watson
and Macgreggor were in this car, while George, with Waggie in his pocket,
was standing in the tender, his handsome face aglow with excitement, and
his eyes sparkling like stars.

"All ready! Go!" cried Andrews. The engineer opened the valve of the
locomotive; the wheels began to revolve; in another second the train was
moving off towards Chattanooga. The next instant Big Shanty was in an
uproar. As he peered over the ledge of the tender, and looked back, George
saw the sentries running here and there, as the passengers in the
breakfast-room came swarming out on the platform. There were shouts from
many voices; he even heard the report of several rifles.

But shouts or shots from rifles could not avail now. The engine was
dancing along the track on the road to Chattanooga; Big Shanty was soon
many yards behind. George took Waggie out of his pocket, and held him up
in the air by the little fellow's forepaws. "Say good-bye to the Confeds,"
he shouted, "for by to-night, Wag, you'll be in the Union lines!" The dog
barked gleefully; and jumped about on the platform of the tender, glad
enough to have a little freedom again. Then Waggie was replaced in his
master's pocket.

Andrews, who was sitting on the right-hand seat of the cab, looked the
picture of delight.

"How was that for a starter?" he cried. "It's a good joke on Watson: he
was so sure the sentries would stop us, and the soldiers didn't realize
what we were doing until it was too late--for them! Hurrah!"

It was all that the four men in the cab, and that George in the tender,
could possibly do to keep their balance. The road-bed was very rough and
full of curves; the country was mountainous, and the track itself was in
wretched condition. Yet it was a magnificent sight as "The General," which
was the name of the engine, careered along through the picturesque country
like some faithful horse which tries, with all its superb powers of
muscle, to take its master farther and farther away from a dangerous
enemy.

But suddenly the engine began to slacken its speed, and at last came to a
complete standstill. Andrews, who had made his way into the tender, with
considerable difficulty, in order to speak to George, turned a trifle
pale.

"What's the matter, Brown?" he shouted to the engineer.

"The fire's nearly out, and there's no steam," was the rejoinder. At the
same moment the men in the baggage car opened the door nearest the tender,
and demanded to know what had happened.

Andrews called back to them that there would only be a short delay.

"It's only the fire that's out," he added; "and I'm thankful it is nothing
worse. When I saw the train slowing up I was afraid some of the machinery
had broken." No one understood better than he how a broken engine would
have stranded all his men in the enemy's country, only a short distance
away, comparatively, from Big Shanty and the Confederate camp.

George worked with a will in assisting the men in the cab to convey wood
from the tender into the engine furnace. In three minutes "The General"
had resumed its way.

"I wonder," thought George, as the train twisted around a curve and then
sped across a narrow embankment, "if any attempt will be made to follow
us." But the very idea of such pursuit seemed absurd.

Andrews turned to Jenks with a smiling countenance. "The most difficult
part of our journey is already over," he said triumphantly. "There's only
one unscheduled train to meet, in addition to the two regulars. After I
meet it, probably at Kingston, twenty-five miles or more farther on, we
can put the old 'General' to full speed, and begin our work! We have got
the upper hand at last."

"Don't forget your telegraph wire is to be cut," said Jenks, as he jammed
his shabby cap over his head, to prevent it from sailing off into space.

"Wait a couple of minutes," answered the leader. "We'll cut it." He knew
that although there was no telegraph station at Big Shanty, yet the enemy
might tap the wire, if it were not cut, and thus send word along the line
that a train manned by Northern spies was to be watched for and
peremptorily stopped. The simplest obstruction on the track would be
sufficient to bring this journey to an untimely end.

"Brown, we'll stop here," commanded the leader, a minute or two later, as
the engine was running over a comparatively level section. "The General"
was soon motionless, whereupon Watson, peering out from the baggage car,
called out: "Anything wrong?"

"Only a little wire-cutting to be done," shouted Andrews. Then coming to
George, he said: "Look here, my boy, how are you on climbing?"

"Never had a tree beat me yet," said the lad.

"Then try your skill at that pole yonder, and see if you can get to the
top of it."

Without waiting to make answer George handed Waggie to Jenks, jumped from
the tender to the ashy road-bed, and started towards the nearest telegraph
pole, only a few feet away from the engine. It was a far more difficult
task to coax one's way up a smooth pole than up the rough bark of a tree,
as George soon learned. Twice he managed to clamber half way up the pole,
and twice he slid ignominiously to the ground. But he was determined to
succeed, and none the less so because the men in the baggage car were
looking on as intently as if they were at the circus. Upon making the
third attempt he conquered, and reached the top of the pole amid the
cheering of the spectators.

"Now hold on there for a minute, George," called Andrews. He produced from
one of his pockets a ball of very thick twine, or cord, to one end of
which he tied a small stick of kindling-wood, brought from the tender.
Next he leaned out from the cab and threw the stick into the air. It flew
over the telegraph wire, and then to the ground, so that the cord, the
other end of which he held in his left hand, passed up across the wire,
and so down again. To the end which he held Andrews tied a good-sized
axe.

"Do you see what I want?" he asked the boy, who was resting himself on the
cross-bar supporting the wire.

George needed no prompting. The cord was eight or nine feet away from him;
to reach it he must move out on the telegraph wire, hand over hand, with
his feet dangling in the air. Slowly he swung himself from the cross-bar
to the wire, and began to finger his way towards the cord. But this was an
experience new to the expert tree-climber; ere he had proceeded more than
three feet his hands slipped and he fell to the ground. The distance was
thirty-five feet or more, and the lookers-on cried out in alarm. The boy
would surely break his legs--perhaps his neck!

But while Master George might not be an adept in handling a wire he had
learned a few things about falling from trees. As he came tumbling down he
gracefully turned a somersault and landed, quite unhurt, upon his feet.

"I'll do it yet," he maintained pluckily, running back to the telegraph
pole.

"Wait, George," shouted Andrews. He leaped from the cab, and taking a new
piece of the cord, tied it around the lad's waist. "If I had the sense I
was born with I might have done that first," he muttered.

George began his second ascent of the pole, and this time reached the top
without hindrance or mishap. Andrews now fastened the axe to the cord, of
which George had one end; in a few seconds the axe had been drawn up by
the boy. Then, with his left hand holding on to the cross-bar, and his
legs firmly wound around the pole, he took the axe in his right hand and
hit the wire. Three times did he thus strike; at the third blow the wire
snapped asunder, and the longer of the two pieces fell to the ground. He
let the tool fall, and slid down the pole as the men cheered him lustily.
Andrews now took the axe, cut the dangling wire in another place, and
threw the piece thus secured into the tender.

"They can't connect that line in a hurry," he said, as he turned to George
with the remark: "Well, my son, you're earning your salt!" George,
blushing like a peony, felt a thrill of pride.

"And now, fellows," added Andrews, addressing the men in the baggage car,
"it will be best to take up a rail, so that if we are pursued, by any
chance, the enemy will have some trouble in getting on any further."

The occupants of the car, headed by Watson, sprang to the ground. Andrews
handed him a smooth iron bar, about four feet in length. "We have no
track-raising instruments," explained the leader, "but I guess this will
answer." Watson managed to loosen some of the spikes on the track, in the
rear of the train, by means of this bar; later several of his companions
succeeded in placing a log under the rail and prying it up so that at last
the piece of iron had been entirely separated from the track.

The perspiration was dripping from Watson's brow. "Great guns!" he
growled, "we are acting as if we had a whole eternity of time before us."

"Don't worry about that," said Andrews, reassuringly, as he leaped into
the cab; "we have been running ahead of schedule time. But hurry up;
there's lots of work before us!" In the next minute the Northerners were
once more on their way.

After the train had run a distance of five miles, Andrews signaled to the
engineer, and it was brought slowly to a stop. The chief jumped from the
engine, walked along the track to the end car, and gazed intently to the
southward.

"No sign of pursuit thus far," he said to himself. Then, turning back and
speaking to the men in the baggage car who had once more opened the door,
he cried: "There's time, boys, for another wrestle with the
telegraph--only this time we will try a new plan." This time, indeed, a
pole was chopped down, and placed (after the wire had been cut) upon the
track directly behind the last baggage car.

"There," said Andrews, "that will have to be lifted off before our friends
the enemy can steam by--even if they have an engine good for seventy miles
an hour."

Walter Jenks came walking back to the cab. He looked pale and tired.

"What's the matter?" asked Andrews.

"I strained my back a bit in helping the fellows to put that pole on the
track," was the answer.

"Go back into the car and take a rest," urged the leader. "George can take
your place as fireman. Eh, George?"

The boy, coming up at that moment, and hearing the suggestion, smiled
almost as broadly as the famous Cheshire cat. He longed to know that he
was of some real use in the expedition. So Jenks retired to the baggage
car, carrying with him, for a temporary companion, the struggling Waggie,
who might be very much in George's way under the new arrangement of
duties.

Off once more rattled "The General," and George, in his capacity of
fireman, felt about three inches taller than he had five minutes before.
The spirits of Andrews seemed to be rising higher and higher. Thus far
everything had gone so successfully that he began to believe that the
happy ending of this piece of daring was already assured.

"Now, my boys, for a bit of diplomacy," he said, at last, as the occupants
of the cab saw that they were approaching a small station flanked by half
a dozen houses. "Stop 'The General' here, Brown, for I think there's a
tank at the place."

As the train reached the platform and slowly stopped, the station-master,
a rustic-looking individual with a white beard three feet long, shambled
up to the cab.

"Ain't this Fuller's train?" he drawled, gazing curiously at the four
Northerners, as he gave a hitch to his shabby trousers. He could not
understand the presence of the strangers in the engine, nor the
disappearance of the passenger cars.

Andrews leaned out of the cab window. He knew that Fuller was the
conductor of the stolen train, whom they had left behind at Big Shanty.
"No," he said, in a tone of authority, "this is not Fuller's train. He'll
be along later; we have the right of way all along the line. I'm running a
special right through to General Beauregard at Corinth. He is badly in
need of powder."

"Be the powder there?" asked the station-master, pointing to the three
baggage cars.

The men hiding in one of them had received their instructions; they were
as silent as the grave, and their doors were closed. The brakemen sat mute
on top of the cars.

"Yes, there's enough powder in there to blow up the whole State of
Georgia," returned Andrews.

"Wall, I'd give my shirt and my shoes to Beauregard if he wanted 'em,"
said the man of the long beard. "He's the best General we have in the
Confederate service;--yes, better even than Robert Lee."

"Well, then help Beauregard by helping me. I want more water--I see you
have a tank here--and more wood."

"You can have all you can hold," cried the station-master,
enthusiastically. He was only too glad to be of use.

Thus it happened that ten minutes later "The General" was speeding away
from the station with a fresh supply of water and a huge pile of wood in
the tender.

"That yarn worked admirably, didn't it?" asked Andrews. The engineer and
his assistant laughed. George shut the heavy door of the furnace, into
which he had been throwing wood, and stood up, very red in the face,
albeit smiling.

"But even if the story was true," he suggested, "you couldn't get through
to Corinth."

"Exactly," laughed the leader, "but our goat-bearded friend at the station
didn't think of that fact. Corinth is away off in the state of
Mississippi, near its northern border, nearly three hundred miles away
from here; besides, if I were a Southerner, I couldn't possibly reach
there without running afoul of General Mitchell and his forces, either
around Huntsville, or Chattanooga. However, I knew more about Mitchell's
movements than the station man did--and that's where I had the
advantage."

"We may not have such plain sailing at Kingston," said the engineer, as
"The General" just grazed an inquisitive cow which showed signs of
loitering on the track.

"We'll have more people to deal with there," admitted Andrews, "and we
must be all the more on our guard."

Both the men spoke wisely. It was just two hours after leaving Big Shanty,
and about thirty miles had been covered, when the alleged powder-train
rolled into the station at the town of Kingston.

"I hope we meet that irregular freight train here," muttered Andrews.
There were certainly plenty of cars in evidence on the sidings; indeed,
the station, which was the junction for a branch line running to Rome,
Georgia, presented a bustling appearance.

No sooner was "The General" motionless than a train-dispatcher emerged
from a gathering of idlers on the platform and walked up to the
locomotive. He held in his hand a telegraphic blank. As he saw Andrews,
who was leaning out of the cab with an air of impatience that was partly
real and partly assumed, the dispatcher drew back in surprise. He
recognized "The General," but there were strange men in the cab.

"I thought this was Fuller's train," he said. "It's Fuller's engine."

"Yes, it is Fuller's engine, but he's to follow me with his regular train
and another engine. This is a special carrying ammunition for General
Beauregard, and I must have the right of way clear along the line!"

The dispatcher scanned the train. He saw nothing to excite his suspicions.
The baggage cars were closed, and might easily be filled with powder and
shot; the men in the engine, and the two brakemen on the top of one car
had a perfectly natural appearance.

"Well, you can't move on yet," he announced. "Here's a telegram saying a
local freight from the north will soon be here, and you must wait till she
comes up."

Andrews bit his lip in sheer vexation. He had reasoned that this irregular
freight train would already be at Kingston on his arrival, and he hated
the idea of a delay. The loiterers on the platform were listening eagerly
to the conversation; he felt that he was attracting too much attention.
But there was no help for it. He could not go forward on this single-track
railroad until the exasperating freight had reached the station.

"All right," he answered, endeavoring to look unconcerned, "shunt us
off."

Within three minutes the train had been shifted from the main track to a
side track, and a curious crowd had gathered around "The General."

It was a critical situation. The idlers began to ply the occupants of the
cab with a hundred questions which must be answered in some shape unless
suspicion was to be aroused--and suspicion, under such circumstances,
would mean the holding back of the train, and the failure of the
expedition.

"Where did you come from?" "How much powder have you got on board?" "Why
did you take Fuller's engine?" "Why is Beauregard in such a hurry for
ammunition?" were among the queries hurled at the defenceless heads of the
four conspirators.

George, as he gazed out upon the Kingstonians, began to feel rather
nervous. He realized that one contradictory answer, one slip of the
tongue, might spoil everything. And in this case to spoil was a verb
meaning imprisonment and ultimate death.

A dapper young man, with small, piercing eyes and a head that suggested a
large bump of self-conceit, called out: "You chaps can't reach Beauregard.
You'll run right into the Yankee forces."

"I've got my orders and I'm going to try it," doggedly answered Andrews.

"And run your ammunition right into the hands of the Yankees?" sneered the
dapper young man. "I don't see the sense in that."

An angry flush came into Andrews' cheeks. "When you have been in the
Confederate army a little while, young man, as I have," he said, "you'll
learn to obey orders and ask no questions. Why don't you go serve your
country, as other young men are doing, instead of idling around at a safe
distance from the bullets?"

At this sally a shout of laughter went up from the crowd. It was evident
that the dapper young man was not popular. He made no answer, but went
away. "Will that freight never turn up?" thought Andrews.

Suddenly there came a barking from the baggage car nearest the tender,
wherein were confined the majority of the party. George's heart beat the
faster as he listened; he knew that the querulous little cries were
uttered by Waggie.

An old man, with snow-white hair and beard, cried out: "Is that dog in the
car part of your ammunition?" His companions laughed at the witticism. For
once Andrews was nonplused. George came bravely to the rescue.

"It's a dog in a box," he said, "and it's a present to General
Beauregard."

"Well, I hopes the purp won't be blown up," remarked the old man. There
was another titter, but the story was believed.

"Things are getting a little too warm here," Andrews whispered to George.
As the words left his lips he heard the screeching of a locomotive. "It's
the freight!" he cried.

It was, indeed, the longed-for freight train; puffing laboriously, it came
up to the station and was quickly switched off to a siding.

"Now we can get rid of these inquisitive hayseeds," said Andrews.

"Look," cried George; "I see a red flag!" He pointed to the rear platform
of the end freight car, from which was suspended a piece of red bunting.
Andrews stamped his foot and indulged in some forcible language. He knew
that the flag indicated the presence of another train back of the
freight.

Andrews was out of the cab like a flash. "What does this red flag mean?"
he demanded of the conductor of the freight train, who was about to cross
the tracks to enter the station.

"What does _what_ mean?" asked the conductor, in a tone of mild surprise.

"Why is the road blocked up behind you?" asked the leader. Had he been the
President of the Southern Confederacy he could not have spoken more
imperiously. "I have a special train with orders to take a load of powder
to General Beauregard without delay! And here I find my way stopped by
miserable freight trains which are not a quarter as important as my three
cars of ammunition."

"I'm sorry, sir," explained the conductor, "but it ain't my fault. Fact
is, Mitchell, the Yankee General, has captured Huntsville, and we're
moving everything we can out of Chattanooga, because it's said he is
marching for there. We have had to split this freight up into two
sections--and t'other section is a few miles behind. Don't worry. It'll be
here soon. But, look here, sir! You'll never be able to reach Beauregard.
General Mitchell will get you long before you are near Corinth."

"Pooh!" replied Andrews. "Mitchell may have taken Huntsville, but he can't
stay there. Beauregard has, no doubt, sent him flying by this time. And,
anyway, I'm bound to obey orders from Richmond, come what may."

"I wish you luck, sir," said the freight conductor, who was impressed by
the authoritative bearing of Andrews, and believed the spy to be some
Confederate officer of high rank.

The leader returned to the cab. It was still surrounded by the curious
idlers.

"This is what I call pretty bad railroad management," he grumbled, loud
enough to be heard by the Kingstonians. "This line should be kept clear
when it's necessary to get army supplies quickly from place to place. What
are fifty freight trains compared to powder for the troops?"

The minutes passed slowly; it seemed as if that second freight train would
never come. At last a dull, rumbling sound on the track gave warning of
the approach of the second section. In a few moments the heavily-laden
cars, drawn by a large engine, had glided by "The General," down the main
track. The men in the cab gave unconscious sighs of relief. Now they could
move onward. But what was it that the sharp eyes of George detected? Yes,
there could be no mistake. At the end of the second freight train was
another red flag.

"Look!" he whispered. Andrews saw the flag, and turned white.

"How many more trains are we to wait for?" he said.

After regaining his composure he left the engine, to seek the conductor of
the new train. He was back again in five minutes.

"Well?" asked George.

"I find from the conductor that there's still another section behind him,"
explained Andrews. "The Confederate commander at Chattanooga fears the
approach of General Mitchell and has ordered all the rolling stock of the
railroad to be sent south to Atlanta. The new train should be here in ten
minutes."

In the meantime the people around the station had all heard of the danger
which threatened Chattanooga from the Union army. The train-dispatcher
came running over to the engine, and doffed his cap to Andrews.

"It ain't none of my business," he said, with supreme indifference to any
rules of grammar, "but they say Mitchell is almost at Chattanooga--and
you'll never get through to Corinth."

Andrews assumed an air of contemptuous superiority.

"I happen to know more of General Mitchell's movements than you do," he
said, "And, what's more, no Confederate officer takes orders from a
railroad employee."

"I didn't mean any offense," answered the train-dispatcher.

"Then go back and see that the switches are ready for me to move on the
instant the next freight gets here," ordered the leader. The young man
walked away, with a nod of assent.

"He talks proud enough," he thought; "he must be a relation of Jefferson
Davis, from his airs."

After the dispatcher had gone, Andrews whispered to George: "We ought to
let the boys in the car know the cause of our detention--and warn them
that in case of anything going wrong in our plans they must be prepared to
fight for their lives. Could you manage to get word to them without
attracting suspicion?"

The boy made no verbal answer. But as he left the cab and vaulted to the
ground, his looks showed that he understood what was wanted, and proposed
to execute the commission. After sauntering among the men who stood near
the engine, he crossed the track of the siding, directly in front of "The
General's" headlight, and soon leaned, in a careless attitude, against the
car in which so many of his companions were waiting. He was now on the
opposite side of the track from the Kingstonians, but directly alongside
the main track, and in full view from the station.

George began, in a very low tone, to whistle a few bars from "The Blue
Bells of Scotland." It was a tune he had often indulged in during his
travels from the Union camp. As he finished there came a bark of
recognition from Waggie, and a slight stir in the car.

"Are you there, Watson?" asked the boy, under his breath. "Can you hear
me? If you can, scratch on the wall."

There was a moment's pause, and the faint sound of footsteps was heard
within the car. Then came an answering scratch.

George went on, in the same tone, as he leaned against the car, and
apparently gazed into space: "Andrews wants you--to know--that we're
waiting--till some freight trains--get in--from Chattanooga. But if
anything--should happen--before we--can get away--be ready to fight. Keep
Waggie from barking--if you can."

Another scratching showed that Watson had heard and understood. But Waggie
began to bark again. George was filled with vexation. "Why did I let
Waggie go in the car?" he asked himself.

Just then a welcome whistle proclaimed that the third freight train was
approaching. It was time; the delay at Kingston must have occupied nearly
an hour--it seemed like a whole day--and the men about the railroad
station were becoming skeptical. They could not understand why the
mysterious commander of the powder-train should persist in wanting to go
on after hearing that Mitchell was so near.

When George returned to the engine the new freight went by on the main
track directly in the wake of the second freight, which had been sent half
a mile down the line, to the southward. The main track was now clear for
Andrews. But the intrepid leader seemed to be facing fresh trouble. He was
standing on the step of the cab, addressing the old man who had charge of
the switches.

"Switch me off to the main track at once," thundered Andrews. "Don't you
see, fool, that the last local freight is in, and I have a clear road!"

There was a provokingly obstinate twist about the switch-tender's mouth.

"Switch yourself off," he snarled. "I shan't take the responsibility for
doing it. You may be what you say you are, but I haven't anything to prove
it. You're a fool, anyway, to run right into the arms of the Yankee
general."

His fellow-townsmen indulged in a murmur of approval. The men in the cab
saw that another minute would decide their fate, adversely or otherwise.

"I order you to switch me off--in the name of the Confederate Government!"
shouted the leader.

More citizens were running over from the station to find out the cause of
the disturbance.

"I don't know you, and I won't take any orders from you!" said the
switch-tender, more doggedly than ever. He walked over to the station,
where he hung up the keys of the switch in the room of the ticket-seller.

In a twinkling Andrews had followed him, and was already in the ticket
room.

"You'll be sorry for this," he cried; "for I'll report your rascally
conduct to General Beauregard!" He seized the keys as he spoke, and shook
them in the old man's face.

The latter looked puzzled. He had begun to think that this business of
sending powder to Beauregard was a trick of some kind, yet the confident
bearing of the leader impressed him at this crisis. Perhaps he had made a
mistake in refusing to obey the orders; but ere he could decide the knotty
problem Andrews took the keys, hurried from the station, and unlocked the
switch. Then he jumped into the cab, as he shouted to the men near the
engine: "Tell your switch-tender that he will hear from General Beauregard
for this!" He gave a signal, and the engineer grasped the lever and opened
the steam valve.

"The General" slowly left the siding and turned into the main track. As
the train passed the station, heading towards the north, the switch-tender
was standing on the platform, with a dazed expression in his eyes. Andrews
tossed the keys to him, as he cried: "Forgive me for being in such a
hurry, but the Confederacy can't wait for you!" Soon Kingston was left
behind.

"Keep 'The General' going at forty miles an hour," said the leader. "We
have only the two trains to meet now--a passenger and a freight--which
won't give us any trouble. I tell you, we had a narrow escape at Kingston.
More than once I thought we were all done for."

"I was pretty well scared when that rascal of a Waggie barked," observed
George. The train was now gliding swiftly on past hills and woods and
quiet pasture-lands. After the long delay the sensation of rapid motion
was delightful.

"By Jove!" cried Andrews, with a tinge of humor. "You must bring that
rogue back with you into the engine. When he barks in a place where
there's supposed to be nothing but powder the thing doesn't seem quite
logical. It throws discredit on an otherwise plausible story. Let us stop
a couple of miles from here, near Adairsville, do some wire-cutting,
release Waggie, and see how the fellows are getting along in the baggage
car."

When the stop was made the men in the car quickly opened the door and came
tumbling to the ground. They were glad to stretch their legs and get a
breath of fresh air. Waggie bounded and frisked with delight when he
espied George.

"I've had a time with that dog," said Jenks. "I had a flask of water with
me, and he insisted on my pouring every bit of it out on the palm of my
hand, and letting him lap it."

The other occupants of the car were crowding around Andrews, as they
discussed with him the fortunate escape from Kingston. Watson, who seemed
to be fired with a sudden enthusiasm, addressed the party.

"Boys," he said, "when I heard that switch-tender refuse to put us on the
main track I thought our hour had come. But the coolness and the presence
of mind of our friend Andrews have saved the day. Let us give him three
cheers! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!"

The cheers were given with a will.

"Thank you, comrades," said Andrews, modestly. "But don't waste any time
on me; I only did what any other man would have done in my place. Let's
get to work again--time's precious."

At a hint from him George clambered up a telegraph pole, taking with him a
piece of cord by which he afterwards drew up an axe. Then he cut the wire,
while others in the party were removing three rails from the track in the
rear of the train. The rails were afterwards deposited in the baggage car
occupied by the men, as were also some wooden cross-ties which were found
near the road-bed.

"All this may be a waste of time," said Andrews. "We shall probably be in
Chattanooga before any one has a chance to chase us."

"Yet I have a presentiment that we shall be chased," cried Macgreggor. "I
believe there will be a hot pursuit."

His hearers, including Andrews, laughed, almost scornfully.

"Just wait and see," returned Macgreggor. "A Southerner is as brave, and
has as much brains as a Northerner."

We shall see who was right in the matter.



CHAPTER VI

AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE


On sped the fugitive train once more, and in a few minutes it had stopped,
with much bumping and rattle of brakes at the station called Adairsville.
Hardly had the wheels of the faithful old "General" ceased revolving
before a whistle was heard from the northward.

Andrews peered through the cab up the track. "It's the regular freight,"
he said, and calling to the station hands who were gaping at "Fuller's
train," as they supposed it must be, he told them the customary story
about the powder designed for General Beauregard. They believed the
leader, who spoke with his old air of authority, and they quickly shunted
his "special" on to the side track. No sooner had this been accomplished
than the freight made its appearance.

As the engine of the latter passed slowly by "The General" Andrews shouted
to the men in the cab: "Where's the passenger train that is on the
schedule?"

"It ought to be right behind us," came the answer.

"That's good," whispered Andrews. "Once let us pass that passenger, and
we'll have a clear road to the very end of the line."

In the meantime the freight was moved past the station and switched on to
the siding, directly behind the "special," there to wait the arrival of
the passenger train.

George began to grow restless, as the minutes passed and no train
appeared. At last, with the permission of Andrews, he jumped from the cab,
and walked over to the platform, Waggie following close at his heels. He
looked anxiously up the track, but he could see nothing, hear nothing.

Two young men, one of them a civilian and the other evidently a soldier
who was home on furlough (to judge by his gray uniform and right arm in a
sling), were promenading up and down, and smoking clay pipes.

"I don't understand it," the soldier was saying. "They talk about sending
powder through to General Beauregard, but it's an utter impossibility to
do it."

"You're right," said his friend. "The thing looks fishy. If these fellows
are really what they----"

"Hush," whispered the soldier. He pointed to George as he spoke. "Well,
you're beginning railroading pretty young," he added aloud, scrutinizing
the boy as if he would like to read his inmost thoughts.

"It's never too young to begin," answered the boy, carelessly.

"What is this powder train of yours, anyway?" asked the soldier, in a
wheedling voice which was meant to be plausible and friendly.

George had heard enough of the conversation between the two young
Southerners to know that they were more than curious about the supposed
powder train. And now, he thought, they would try to entrap him into some
damaging admission. He must be on his guard. He put on as stupid a look as
he could assume (which was no easy task in the case of a boy with such
intelligent features), as he replied stolidly: "Dunno. I've nothing to do
with it. I'm only fireman on the engine."

"But you know where you're going?" demanded the soldier, with a gesture of
impatience.

"Dunno."

"Who is the tall chap with the beard who has charge of the train?"

"Dunno."

"How much powder have you got on board?"

"Dunno."

"I don't suppose you even know your own name, you little idiot!" cried the
soldier. "The boy hasn't got good sense," he said, turning to his friend.

"You were never more mistaken in your life," answered his friend. "He's
only playing a game. I know something about faces--and this boy here has
lots of sense."

George called Waggie, put the animal in his pocket, and walked to the door
of the little station without taking any notice of this compliment to his
sagacity. Under the circumstances he should have preferred the deepest
insult. He felt that a long detention at Adairsville would be dangerous,
perhaps fatal.

Opening the door, the boy entered the station. It comprised a cheerless
waiting-room, with a stove, bench and water-cooler for furniture, and a
little ticket office at one end. The ticket office was occupied by the
station-agent, who was near the keyboard of the telegraph wire; otherwise
the interior of the building was empty.

"Heard anything from the passenger yet?" asked George, as he walked
unconcernedly into the ticket office.

"Just wait a second," said the man, his right hand playing on the board;
"I'm telegraphing up the line to Calhoun to find out where she is. The
wires aren't working to the south, somehow, but they're all right to the
north."

Click, click, went the instrument. George returned leisurely to the
doorway of the waiting-room. He was just in time to hear the young soldier
say to his friend: "If these fellows try to get away from here, just let
'em go. I'll send a telegram up the road giving warning that they are
coming, and should be stopped as a suspicious party. If they don't find
themselves in hot water by the time they get to Dalton I'm a bigger fool
than I think I am."

George stood stock still. Here was danger indeed! He knew that to send a
telegram up the road would be but the work of a minute; it could go over
the wires to the north before the "special" had pulled away from
Adairsville.

At this moment the station-agent came out of his office. "The passenger is
behind time," he said, and he ran quickly across the tracks to speak to
Andrews, who was looking anxiously out from the cab of "The General."

"It's now or never," thought George. He turned back into the deserted
waiting-room, entered the ticket-office, and pulled from the belt under
his inner coat a large revolver--the weapon which he carried in case
self-defense became necessary. Taking the barrel of the revolver, he tried
to pry up the telegraphic keyboard from the table to which it was
attached. But he found this impossible to accomplish; he could secure no
leverage on the instrument. He was not to be thwarted, however; so
changing his tactics, he took the barrel in his hand and began to rain
heavy blows upon the keys, with the butt end. In less time than it takes
to describe the episode, the instrument had been rendered totally
useless.

"There," he said to himself, with the air of a conqueror, "it will take
time to repair that damage, or to send a telegram." He was about to leave
the office when he discovered a portable battery under the table. It was
an instrument that could be attached to a wire, in case of emergency.
George hastily picked it up, and hurried into the waiting-room. It would
never do to leave this battery behind in the office; but how could he take
it away without being caught in the act? His eyes wandered here and there,
until they rested upon the stove. There was no fire in it. An inspiration
came to him. He opened the iron door, which was large, and threw the
battery into the stove. Then he closed the door, and sauntered carelessly
out to the platform. The soldier and his friend were now standing at some
distance from the station, on a sidewalk in front of a grocery store. They
were engaged in earnest conversation. Over on the side-track, where "The
General" stood, the station-agent was talking to Andrews. George joined
his leader, and sprang into the cab.

"From what I hear," said Andrews, "the passenger train is so much behind
time that if I make fast time I can get to Calhoun before it arrives
there, and wait on a siding for it to pass us."

"Then why don't you move on," urged George, who happened to know how
desirable it was to get away, but dared not drop any hint to his leader in
the presence of the station-agent.

"You're taking a risk," said the station-agent. "You may strike the train
before you reach Calhoun." He was evidently not suspicious, but he feared
an accident.

"If I meet the train before we reach Calhoun," cried Andrews, striking his
fist against the window-ledge of the cab, "why then she must back till she
gets a side-track, and then we will pass her."

He turned and looked at his engineer and the assistant.

"Are you ready to go, boys?" he asked. They quickly nodded assent; they
longed to be off again.

"Then go ahead!" ordered Andrews. "A government special must not be
detained by any other train on the road!"

"The General" was away once more. George began to explain to Andrews what
he had heard at the station, and how he had disabled the telegraph.

"You're a brick!" cried the leader, patting the boy approvingly on the
shoulder; "and you have saved us from another scrape. But 'tis better to
provide against any repairing of the telegraph--and the sooner we cut a
wire and obstruct the track, the better for us."

Thus it happened that before the train had gone more than three miles "The
General" was stopped, more wires were cut, and several cross-ties were
thrown on the track in the rear. Then the train dashed on, this time at a
terrific speed. Andrews hoped to reach Calhoun, seven miles away, before
the passenger should arrive there. It was all that George could do to keep
his balance, particularly when he was called upon to feed the engine fire
with wood from the tender. Once Waggie, who showed a sudden disposition to
see what was going on around him, and tried to crawl out from his master's
pocket, came very near being hurled out of the engine. Curves and up
grades seemed all alike to "The General"; the noble steed never slackened
its pace for an instant. The engineer was keeping his eyes on a point way
up the line, so that he might slow up if he saw any sign of the passenger;
the assistant sounded the whistle so incessantly that George thought his
head would split from the noise. Once, at a road crossing, they whirled by
a farm wagon containing four men. The boy had a vision of four mouths
opened very wide. In a second wagon and occupants were left far behind.

In a space of time which seemed incredibly short Calhoun was reached. Down
went the brakes and "The General" slid into the station to find directly
in front, on the same track, the long-expected passenger train.

"There she is!" cried Andrews; "and not before it's time!"

It was only by the most strenuous efforts that the engineer could keep
"The General" from colliding with the locomotive of the opposing train.
When he brought his obedient iron-horse to a standstill there was only the
distance of a foot between the cowcatchers of the two engines. The
engineer of the passenger train leaned from his cab and began to indulge
in impolite language. "What d'ye mean," he shouted, "by trying to run me
down?" And he added some expressions which would not have passed muster in
cultivated society.

"Clear the road! Clear the road!" roared Andrews. "This powder train must
go through to General Beauregard at once! We can't stay here a minute!"

These words acted like a charm. The passenger train was backed to a
siding, and "The General" and its burden were soon running out of
Calhoun.

"No more trains!" said Andrews. His voice was husky; the perspiration was
streaming from his face. "Now for a little bridge burning. There's a
bridge a short distance up the road, across the Oostenaula River, where we
can begin the real business of the day. But before we get to it let us
stop 'The General' and see what condition he is in."

"He has behaved like a gentleman, so far," said the engineer. "He must be
in sympathy with us Northerners."

"Slow up!" ordered Andrews. "The old fellow is beginning to wheeze a
little bit; I can tell that he needs oiling."

Obedient to the command, the engineer brought "The General" to a halt. As
the men came running from the baggage car, Andrews ordered them to take up
another rail.

"It's good exercise, boys," he laughed, "even if it may not be actually
necessary."

Then he helped his engineers to inspect "The General." The engine was
still in excellent condition, although the wood and water were running a
little low. It received a quick oiling, while George climbed up a
telegraph pole and severed a wire in the manner heretofore described.
Eight of the party were pulling at a rail, one end of which was loose and
the other still fastened to the cross-ties by spikes.

Suddenly, away to the southward, came the whistle of an engine. Had a
thunderbolt descended upon the men, the effect could not have been more
startling. The workers at the rail tore it away from the track, in their
wild excitement, and, losing their balance, fell headlong down the side of
the embankment on which they had been standing. They were up again the
next instant, unhurt, but eager to know the meaning of the whistle.

Was there an engine in pursuit? Andrews looked down the track.

"See!" he cried.

There _was_ something to gaze at. Less than a mile away a large
locomotive, which was reversed so that the tender came first, was running
rapidly up the line, each instant approaching nearer and nearer to the
fugitives. In the tender stood men who seemed to be armed with muskets.

"They are after us," said Andrews. "There's no doubt about it." He was
very calm now; he spoke as if he were discussing the most commonplace
matter in the world.

His companions crowded around him.

"Let us stand and fight them!" cried Watson.

"Yes," urged Jenks, who had forgotten all about his sore back; "we can
make a stand here!"

Andrews shook his head. "Better go on, boys," he answered. "We have taken
out this rail, and that will delay them. In the meantime we can go on to
the Oostenaula bridge and burn it."

There was no time for discussion. The men yielded their usual assent to
the orders of their chief. They quickly scrambled back into the train, to
their respective posts, and Andrews gave the signal for departure.

"Push the engine for all it's worth!" he commanded; "we must make the
bridge before the enemy are on us." The engineer set "The General" going
at a rattling pace.

"How on earth could we be pursued, after the way we cut the wires along
the line," muttered the leader. "Can the enemy have telegraphed from Big
Shanty to Kingston by some circuitous route? I don't understand."

"Are you making full speed?" he asked the engineer, a second later.

"The old horse is doing his best," answered the man, "but the wood is
getting precious low."

"George, pour some engine oil into the furnace."

The boy seized the oil can, and obeyed the order. The speed of "The
General" increased; the engine seemed to spring forward like a horse to
which the spur has been applied.

"That's better," said Andrews. "Now if we can only burn that bridge before
the enemy are up to us, there is still a chance for success--and life!"
His voice sank almost to a whisper as he uttered the last word. With a
strange, indescribable sensation, George suddenly realized how near they
all were to disaster, even to death. He thought of his father, and then he
thought of Waggie, and wondered what was to become of the little dog. The
boy was cool; he had no sense of fear; it seemed as if he were figuring in
some curious dream.

Suddenly Andrews left the engine, lurched into the tender, and began to
climb out of it, and thence to the platform of the first baggage car.
George looked back at him in dread; surely the leader would be hurled from
the flying train and killed. But he reached the car in safety and opened
the door. He shouted out an order which George could not hear, so great
was the rattle of the train; then he made his way, with the ease of a
sure-footed chamois, back to "The General." He had ordered the men in the
car to split up part of its sides for kindling-wood. By the use of the
cross-ties, which they had picked up along the road, they battered down
some of the planking of the walls, and quickly reduced it to smaller
pieces. It was a thrilling sight. The men worked as they had never worked
before. It was at the imminent risk of falling out, however, and as the
train swung along over the track it seemed a miracle that none of them
went flying through the open sides of the now devastated car.

On rushed "The General." As it turned a curve George, who was now in the
tender, glanced back to his right and saw--the pursuing engine less than a
mile behind.

"They are after us again!" he shouted. "They have gotten past the broken
rail somehow," he said. "They must have track repairing instruments on
board."

Andrews set his lips firmly together like a man who determines to fight to
the last.

George made his way back to the cab. "Will we have time to burn the
bridge?" he asked.

"We must wait and see," answered the leader, as he once more left the
engine and finally reached the despoiled baggage car. He said something to
Jenks; then he returned to the cab.

"What are you going to do?" anxiously asked the boy. He could hear the
shrill whistle of the pursuing locomotive. "Com-ing! Com-ing!" it seemed
to say to his overwrought imagination.

Andrews made no answer to George; instead he shouted a command to the
engineer: "Reverse your engine, and move backwards at full speed!"

The engineer, without asking any questions, did as he was told. Jenks ran
through to the second car and contrived, after some delay caused by the
roughness of the motion, to uncouple it from the third. This last car was
now entirely loose from the train, and would have been left behind had it
not been that the engine had already begun to go back. Faster and faster
moved "The General" to the rear.

"Go forward again," finally ordered Andrews. The engine slowly came to a
standstill, and then plunged forward once more. Now George could see the
meaning of this manoeuvre. The third car, being uncoupled, went running
back towards the enemy's tender. Andrews hoped to effect a collision.

But the engineer of the pursuing locomotive was evidently ready for such
an emergency. He reversed his engine, and was soon running backwards. When
the baggage car struck the tender no harm was done; the shock must have
been very slight. In another minute the enemy's engine was puffing onward
again in the wake of the fugitives, while the car was being pushed along
in front of the tender.

"That didn't work very well," said Andrews, placidly. "Let's try them
again."

Once more "The General" was reversed. This time the second car was
uncoupled and sent flying back. "The General" was now hauling only the
tender and the one baggage car in which the majority of the members of the
party were confined. The second attempt, however, met with no better
result than the first: the enemy pursued the same tactics as before;
reversing the locomotive, and avoiding a serious collision. It now started
anew on the pursuit, pushing the two unattached cars ahead of it,
apparently little hampered as to speed by the incumbrance. And now,
unfortunately enough, the bridge was in plain view, only a few hundred
yards ahead. As the enemy turned a new curve George caught a view of the
tender. A dozen men, armed with rifles, were standing up in it; he could
see the gleam of the rifle barrels.

"More oil," ordered Andrews. The boy seized the can, and poured some more
of the greasy liquid into the fiery furnace. He knew that the wood was
almost exhausted, and that it would soon be impossible to hold the present
rate of progress. Oh, if there only would be time to burn the bridge, and
thus check the pursuers! But he saw that he was hoping for the
impracticable.

"Shall we stop on the bridge?" asked the engineer, in a hoarse voice.

"It's too late," answered Andrews. "Keep her flying."

Over the bridge went the engine, with the pursuers only a short distance
behind.

"Let us have some of that kindling-wood for the furnace," shouted Andrews
to the men in the baggage car. The men began to pitch wood from the door
of the car into the tender, and George transferred some of it to the
furnace.

"That's better," cried the engineer. "We need wood more than we need a
kingdom!"

"Throw out some of those cross-ties," thundered the leader. The men
dropped a tie here and there on the track, so that a temporary obstruction
might be presented to the pursuing locomotive.

"That's some help," said Andrews, as he craned his neck out of the cab
window and looked back along the line. "Those ties will make them stop a
while, any way." In fact the enemy had already stopped upon encountering
the first log; two men from the tender were moving it from the track.

"We've a good fighting chance yet," cried Andrews, whose enthusiasm had
suddenly returned. "If we can burn another bridge, and block these
fellows, the day is ours!"

"The water in the boiler is almost gone!" announced the engineer.

George's heart sank. What meant all the wood in the world without a good
supply of water? But Andrews was equal to the emergency. "Can you hold out
for another mile or so?" he asked.

"Just about that, and no more," came the answer.

"All right. We are about to run by Tilton station. A little beyond that,
if I remember rightly, is a water tank." Andrews, in his capacity as a spy
within the Southern lines, knew Georgia well, and had frequently traveled
over this particular railroad. It was his acquaintance with the line,
indeed, that had enabled him to get through thus far without failure.

Past Tilton ran "The General," as it nearly swept two frightened rustics
from the platform. Then the engine began to slow up, until it finally
rested at the water tank.

"I was right," said Andrews. He leaped from the cab, and gazed down the
line. "The enemy is not in sight now," he cried. "Those ties are giving
them trouble. Put some more on the track, boys. George, try some more
wire-cutting. Brown, get your boiler filled."

In an incredibly short space of time the telegraph wire had been cut, the
engine was provided with water, and some more ties had been placed upon
the track in the rear. What a curious scene the party presented; how
tired, and dirty, yet how courageous they all looked.

"Shall we take up a rail?" demanded Macgreggor. Scarcely had the words
left his lips before the whistle of the enemy was again heard.

"No time," shouted the leader. "Let's be off!"

Off went the train--the grimy, panting engine, the tender, and the one
baggage car, which was now literally torn to pieces in the frantic
endeavor to provide kindling-wood.

"We want more wood," George shouted back to the men after they had
proceeded a couple of miles. Some wood was thrown into the tender from the
baggage car, with the gloomy news: "This is all we have left!"

"No more wood after this," explained George.

"All right," answered Andrews, very cheerfully. "Tell them to throw out a
few more ties on the track--as long as they're too big to burn in our
furnace."

The order was shouted back to the car. It was instantly obeyed. There was
now another obstruction for the enemy; but George wondered how Andrews,
full of resources though he might be, would find more wood for the engine.
But Andrews was equal even to this.

"Stop!" cried the leader, after they had passed up the line about a mile
from where the ties had been last thrown out. "The General" was soon
motionless, breathing and quivering like some blooded horse which had been
suddenly reined in during a race.

"Here's more work for you, boys," cried Andrews. He was already on the
ground, pointing to the wooden fences which encompassed the fields on both
sides of the track. The men needed no further prompting. In less than
three minutes a large number of rails were reposing in the tender. George
regarded them with an expression of professional pride, as befitted the
fireman of the train.

"No trouble about wood or water now," he said, as "The General" tore
onward again.

"No," replied the leader. "We will beat those Southerners yet!" He
positively refused to think of failure at this late stage of the game. Yet
it was a game that did not seem to promise certain success.

Thus the race continued, with "The General" sometimes rocking and reeling
like a drunken man. On they rushed, past small stations, swinging around
curves with the men in the car sitting on the floor and clinging to one
another for fear they would be knocked out by the roughness of the motion.
As George thought of this terrible journey in after years he wondered why
it was that engine, car and passengers were not hurled headlong from the
track.

"We are coming to Dalton," suddenly announced Andrews. Dalton was a
good-sized town twenty-two miles above Calhoun, and formed a junction with
the line running to Cleveland, Tennessee.

"We must be careful here," said Andrews, "for we don't know who may be
waiting to receive us. If a telegram was sent via the coast up to
Richmond, and then down to Dalton, our real character may be known. Brown,
be ready to reverse your engine if I give the signal--then we'll back out
of the town, abandon the train, and take to the open fields."

George wondered if, by doing this, they would not fall into the hands of
their pursuers. But there was no chance for argument.

The speed of "The General" was now slackened, so that the engine
approached the station at a rate of not more than fifteen miles an hour.
Andrews saw nothing unusual on the platform; no soldiers; no preparations
for arrest.

"Go ahead," he said, "and stop at the platform. The coast's clear so
far."

It was necessary that a stop should be made at Dalton for the reason that
there were switches at this point, owing to the junction of the Cleveland
line, and it would be impossible to run by the station without risking a
bad accident. It was necessary, furthermore, that this stop should be as
brief as possible, for the dilapidated looks of the broken baggage car and
the general appearance of the party were such as to invite suspicion upon
too close a scrutiny. Then, worse still, the enemy might arrive at any
moment. Andrews was again equal to the occasion. As the forlorn train drew
up at the station he assumed the air and bearing of a major-general, told
some plausible story about being on his way with dispatches for
Beauregard, and ordered that the switches should be immediately changed so
that he could continue on to Chattanooga. Once again did his confident
manner hoodwink the railroad officials. The switch was changed, and "The
General" was quickly steaming out of Dalton. The citizens on the platform
looked after the party as if they could not quite understand what the
whole thing meant.

"Shall we cut a wire?" asked George.

"What is the good?" returned Andrews. "The enemy's engine will reach
Dalton in a minute or two--perhaps they are there now--and they can
telegraph on to Chattanooga by way of the wires on the Cleveland line.
It's a roundabout way, but it will answer their purpose just as well."

"Then we dare not keep on to Chattanooga?" asked George, in a tone of keen
regret. He had fondly pictured a triumphant run through Chattanooga, and
an ultimate meeting with the forces of Mitchell somewhere to the westward,
accompanied by the applause of the troops and many kind words from the
General.

"Not now," answered the leader. "We may yet burn a bridge or two, and then
take to the woods. It would be folly to enter Chattanooga only to be
caught."

At last Andrews saw that he must change his plans. He had hoped, by
burning a bridge, to head off the pursuing engine before now; his failure
to do this, and the complication caused by the telegraph line to
Cleveland, told him that he must come to a halt before reaching
Chattanooga. To run into that city would be to jump deliberately into the
lion's mouth.

"Let us see if there's time to break a rail," suddenly said the leader.
The train was stopped, within sight of a small camp of Confederate troops,
and the men started to loosen one of the rails. But hardly had they begun
their work when there came the hated whistling from the pursuing engine.
The adventurers abandoned their attempt, leaped to their places in cab and
car, and "The General" again sped onward. There were no cross-ties
remaining; this form of obstruction could no longer be used. It was now
raining hard; all the fates seemed to be combining against the plucky
little band of Northerners.

Andrews began at last to see that the situation was growing desperate.

"There's still one chance," he muttered. He knew that he would soon pass a
bridge, and he went on to elaborate in his mind an ingenious plan by which
the structure might be burned without making delay necessary, or risking a
meeting with the pursuers. He scrambled his way carefully back to the
baggage car.

"Boys," he said, "I want you to set fire to this car, and then all of you
crawl into the tender."

There was a bustle in the car at once, although no one asked a question.
The men made a valiant effort to ignite what was left of the splintered
walls and roof of the car. But it was hard work. The rain, combined with
the wind produced by the rapid motion of the train, made it impossible to
set anything on fire even by a very plentiful use of matches.

"We'll have to get something better than matches," growled Watson. He had
just been saved from pitching out upon the roadside by the quick efforts
of one of his companions, who had seized him around the waist in the nick
of time. Andrews went to the forward platform of the car.

"Can't you get us a piece of burning wood over here," he called to
George.

The lad took a fence rail from the tender, placed it in the furnace, until
one end was blazing, and then contrived to hand it to the leader from the
rear of the tender. Andrews seized it, and applied the firebrand to
several places in the car. But it was no easy task to make a
conflagration; it seemed as if the rail would merely smoulder.

"Stop the engine," he ordered. "The General" was brought to a halt, and
then, when the artificial wind had ceased, the rail flared up. Soon the
torn walls and roof of the car burst into flames.

"Into the tender, boys," cried Andrews. The men needed no second bidding.
The fire was already burning fiercely enough, despite the rain, to make
their surroundings anything but comfortable. They scrambled into the
tender. The engineer put his hand to the lever, pulled the throttle, and
the party were again on the wing although at a slow and constantly
lessening rate of speed. At last they scarcely moved.

"The General" was now passing over the bridge--a covered structure of
wood. Andrews uncoupled the blazing car, and climbed back into the tender.
The engine again sped on, leaving the burning car in the middle of the
bridge. The scheme of the leader was apparent; he hoped that the flames
would be communicated to the roof of the bridge, and so to the entire
wood-work, including the railroad ties and lower beams.

"At last!" thought Andrews. He would have the satisfaction of destroying
one bridge at least--and he would put an impassable barrier between the
enemy and himself. His joy was, however, only too short lived. The
Confederates boldly ran towards the bridge.

"They won't dare to tackle that car," said George, as "The General" kept
moving onward. Yet the pursuing engine, instead of putting on brakes,
glided through the bridge, pushing the burning car in front of it. When it
reached the other side of the stream the car was switched off on a siding,
and the enemy prepared to sweep onwards. The bridge was saved; Andrews'
plan had failed. The Northerners gave groans of disappointment as they
fled along in front.

Finally it was resolved to make a last stop, and to attempt to pull up a
rail. The enemy was now some distance behind, having been delayed by the
time necessarily consumed in switching off the car, so that there seemed a
reasonable chance of executing this piece of strategy. When the men had
again alighted on firm ground several of them felt actually seasick from
the jolting of the engine and tender. It was now that one of the party
made a novel proposition to Andrews. The plan seemed to have a good deal
to recommend it, considering how desperate was the present situation.

"Let us run the engine on," he said, "until we are out of sight of the
enemy, and are near some of the bushes which dot the track. Then we can
tear up a rail, or obstruct the track in some way, and quickly hide
ourselves in the bushes. The engineer will stay in 'The General,' and, as
soon as the enemy comes in sight, can continue up the road, just as if we
were all on board. When the Confederates reach the broken rail, and
prepare to fix it, we can all rush out at them and fire our revolvers.
They will be taken by surprise--we will have the advantage."

"That sounds logical enough," observed Andrews; "it's worth trying,
if----"

Again the enemy's whistle sounded ominously near. There was no chance to
argue about anything now. The men leaped to their places, and "The
General" was quickly gotten under way.

Watson looked at Jenks, next to whom he was huddled in the tender.

"How long is this sort of thing to be kept up?" he asked. "I'd far rather
get out and fight the fellows than run along this way!"

Jenks brushed the rain from his grimy face but made no answer.

"This all comes from that fatal delay at Kingston," announced Macgreggor.
"We would be just an hour ahead if it hadn't been for those wretched
freight trains."

The enemy's engine gave an exultant whistle. "Vic-to-ry! Vic-to-ry!" it
seemed to shriek.



CHAPTER VII

ENERGETIC PURSUIT


Who were pursuing the Northern adventurers, and how did they learn the
story of the stolen engine? To answer these questions let us go back to
Big Shanty at the moment when the train having the conspirators on board
reached that station from Marietta. The conductor, William Fuller, the
engineer, Jefferson Cain,--and Anthony Murphy, a railroad official from
Atlanta, were among those who went into the "Shanty" to enjoy breakfast.
They were naturally unsuspicious of any plot; the deserted engine seemed
absolutely secure as it stood within very sight of an encampment of the
Confederate army.

Suddenly Murphy heard something that sounded like escaping steam. "Why,
some one is at your engine," he cried to Fuller, as he jumped from his
seat. Quick as a flash Fuller ran to the door of the dining-room.

"Some one's stealing our train!" he shouted. "Come on, Cain!" The
passengers rushed from their half-tasted meal to the platform. The
conductor began to run up the track, followed by his two companions, as
the train moved rapidly away.

"Jerusha!" laughed one of the passengers, a gouty-looking old gentleman;
"do those fellows expect to beat an engine that way?"

The crowd joined in the fun of the thing, and wondered what the whole
scene could mean. Perhaps it was but the prank of mischievous boys who
were intent on taking an exciting ride.

"What's up, anyway?" asked Murphy, as the three went skimming along on the
railroad ties, and the train drew farther and farther away from them.

"I'll bet some conscripts have deserted from camp," cried Fuller. "They'll
run up the line a mile or two, then leave the engine and escape into the
woods." He did not imagine, as yet, that his train was in the hands of
Northern soldiers.

On, on, went the trio until they reached the point where George had cut
the wire.

"Look here," said Cain; "they've cut the wire! And look at the broken
rail!"

One glance was sufficient to show that the engine thieves, whoever they
might be, knew their business pretty well. There was something more in
this affair than a mere escape of conscripts.

"Look up the road," said Murphy. He pointed to some workmen who had a
hand-car near the track, not far above him. Hurrying on, the trio soon
reached these men, explained to them what had happened, and impressed them
into the service of pursuit. In two or three minutes the whole party were
flying up the line on the hand-car.

"Kingston is nearly thirty miles away," explained Fuller, as they bowled
along. "I don't know who the fellows are, but they'll be blocked by
freight when they get there, and we may manage to reach them somehow."
Even if the unknown enemy got beyond Kingston, he thought he might yet
reach them if he could only find an engine. The whole escapade was a
puzzle, but the three men were determined to bring back "The General."

Thus they swept anxiously but smoothly on until--presto! The whole party
suddenly leaped into the air, and then descended into a ditch, with the
hand-car falling after them. They had reached the place where the
telegraph pole obstructed the track. They had turned a sharp curve, and
were on it, before they realized the danger.

"No one hurt, boys?" asked Murphy.

No one was hurt, strange to say.

"Up with the car," cried Fuller. The hand-car was lifted to the track,
beyond the telegraph pole, and the journey was resumed.

"Shall we find an engine here?" thought Fuller, as the car approached
Etowah station.

"There are iron furnaces near here," said Murphy, "and I know that an
engine named 'The Yonah' has been built to drag material from the station
to the furnaces. It's one of the finest locomotives in the South."

"I hope that hasn't been stolen too," said Cain.

Now they were at the station. They knew that it would be impossible to
make the necessary speed with a hand-car. If they were to reach the
runaways they _must_ obtain an engine, and quickly at that.

"By all that's lucky," shouted Murphy; "there's 'The Yonah'!"

There, right alongside the platform, was the welcome engine. It was about
to start on a trip to the iron furnaces. The steam was up; the fire was
burning brightly.

Etowah was ablaze with excitement as soon as the pursuers explained what
had happened.

"I must have 'The Yonah,'" cried Fuller, "and I want some armed men to go
along with me!" No question now about seizing the engine; no question as
to the armed men. With hardly any delay Fuller was steaming to the
northward with "The Yonah," and the tender was crowded with plucky
Southerners carrying loaded rifles. The speed of the engine was at the
rate of a mile a minute, and how it did fly, to be sure. Yet it seemed as
if Kingston would never be reached.

When, at last, they did glide up to the station, Fuller learned that the
alleged Confederate train bearing powder to General Beauregard had left
but a few minutes before. Great was the amazement when he announced that
the story of the leader was all a blind, invented to cover up one of the
boldest escapades of the war.

[Illustration: Fuller was Steaming to the Northward with "The Yonah"]

But now Fuller was obliged to leave the faithful "Yonah." The blockade of
trains at Kingston was such that it would have required some time before
the engine could get through any farther on the main track. He seized
another engine, which could quickly be given the right of way, and rushed
forward. Two cars were attached to the tender; in it were more armed men,
hastily recruited at Kingston. They were ready for desperate work.

"'The Yonah' was a better engine than this one," said Murphy, regretfully,
before they had run more than two or three miles. He spoke the truth; the
new engine had not the speed of "The Yonah." The difference was quite
apparent.

"We must do the best we can with her," said Fuller. "Put a little engine
oil into the furnace. We'll give her a gentle stimulant."

His order was promptly obeyed, but the locomotive could not be made to go
faster than at the rate of forty miles an hour. Murphy and Cain were both
at the lever, keeping their eyes fixed as far up the line as possible, so
that they might stop the train in good time should they see any
obstruction on the track. Thus they jogged along for some miles until the
two men made a simultaneous exclamation, and reversed the engine. In front
of them, not more than a hundred yards away, was a large gap in the track.
It marked the place where the Northerners had taken up the rails south of
Adairsville.

"Jupiter! That was a close shave!" cried Murphy. For the train had been
halted within less than five feet of the break. Out jumped the whole
party, Fuller, Cain and Murphy from the cab, and the armed men from the
cars. The delay, it was supposed, would be only temporary; there were
track-laying instruments in the car; the rails could soon be reset. But
when it was seen that each of the rails had disappeared (for our
adventurers had carried them off with them) there was a murmur of disgust
and disappointment.

"Why not tear up some rails in the rear of the train, and lay them in the
break," suggested one of the Southerners.

"That will take too long," cried Fuller, and to this statement Murphy
readily assented. As it was, the stolen "General" was far enough ahead of
them; too far ahead, indeed. If the pursuers waited here for such a
complicated piece of work as this tearing up and re-laying of the track,
they might lose the race altogether. The conductor and Murphy started once
more to run up the road-bed (just as they had footed it earlier in the
morning at Big Shanty), and left the rest of the party to mend the track.

Were they merely running on in an aimless way? Not by any means. They had
not gone very far before the freight train which Andrews had encountered
at Adairsville came groaning down the track. The two men made violent
gesticulations as signals to the engineer, and the train was slowly
stopped.

"Did you meet 'The General'?" cried Fuller.

The freight engineer told the story of the impressed powder-train that was
hurrying on to Beauregard, and of the fine-looking, imperious Confederate
who was in command.

"Well, that Confederate is a _Yankee_," came the explanation.

The freight engineer made use of some expressions which were rather
uncomplimentary to Andrews. To think that the supposed Confederate, who
had acted as if he owned the whole State of Georgia, was an enemy--a spy!
Why, the thought was provoking enough to ruffle the most placid temper.
And the engineer's natural temper was by no means placid.

"I must have your engine to catch these fellows!" said Fuller. Naturally
there was no dissent to this command. He quickly backed the train to
Adairsville, where the freight cars were dropped. Then Fuller, with engine
and tender still reversed (for there was no turn-table available), hurried
northward on the way to Calhoun station.

"This engine is a great sight better than the last one I had," said the
conductor, in a tone of exultation, to Bracken, his new engineer.

"Ah, 'The Texas' is the finest engine in the whole state," answered
Bracken, with the air of a proud father speaking of a child.

They were tearing along at a terrific speed when Bracken suddenly reversed
"The Texas" and brought her to a halt with a shock that would have thrown
less experienced men out of the cab. On the track in front of them were
some of the cross-ties which the fugitives had thrown out of their car.
Fortunately Fuller had just taken his position on the tender in front and
gave the signal the instant he saw the ties. As "The Texas" stood there,
all quivering and panting, the conductor jumped to the ground and threw
the ties from the track; then he mounted the tender again, and the engine
kept on to the northward with its smoke-stack and headlight pointed in the
opposite direction. The same program was repeated later on, where more
ties were encountered.

When "The Texas" dashed into Calhoun it had run a distance of ten miles,
including the time spent in removing cross-ties, in exactly twelve
minutes.

"I'm after the Yankees who're in my stolen engine," cried Fuller to the
idlers on the platform. "I want armed volunteers!" He wasted no words; the
story was complete as he thus told it; the effect was magical. Men with
rifles were soon clambering into the tender. As "The Texas" glided away
from the platform Fuller stretched out his sturdy right arm to a boy
standing thereon and pulled him, with a vigorous jerk, into the cab. The
next minute the engine was gone. The lad was a young telegraph operator
whom the conductor had recognized. There was no employment for him as yet,
because the wires were cut along the line, but there might be need for him
later.

Fuller was now aglow with hope. He was brave, energetic and full of
expedients, as we have seen, and he was warming up more and more as the
possibility of overtaking "The General" became the greater. From what he
had learned at Calhoun he knew that the Northerners were only a short
distance ahead. His promptness seemed about to be crowned with a glorious
reward. He might even make prisoners of the reckless train-robbers.

And there, not more than a mile in front of him, was "The General"! He saw
the engine and the three baggage cars, and his heart bounded at the
welcome sight. Then he espied the men working on the track, and saw them,
later, as they rapidly boarded their train. The Southerners in the tender
of "The Texas" cheered, and held firmly to their rifles. At any second now
might their weapons be needed in a fight at close quarters.

Of the chase from this point to Dalton we already know. Before Fuller
reached that station he knew that it would be possible to send a telegram
to Chattanooga, by way of Cleveland, even if the Northerners should cut
the wires on the main line.

"Here," he said to the young telegraph operator, "I want you to send a
telegram to General Leadbetter, commanding general at Chattanooga, as soon
as we get to Dalton. Put it through both ways if you can, but by the
Cleveland line at any rate." The conductor took a paper from his wallet
and wrote a few words of warning to General Leadbetter, telling him not to
let "The General" and its crew get past Chattanooga. "My train was
captured this morning at Big Shanty, evidently by Federal soldiers in
disguise," he penciled.

On the arrival at Dalton this telegram was sent, exactly as the shrewd
Andrews had prophesied. Then "The Texas" fled away from Dalton and the
chase continued, as we have seen in the previous chapter, until a point of
the railroad about thirteen miles from Chattanooga was reached.

In the cab of "The General" Andrews was standing with his head bowed down;
his stock of hopefulness had suddenly vanished. At last he saw that the
expedition, of which he had cherished such high expectations, was a
complete failure. A few miles in front was Chattanooga, where capture
awaited them, while a mile in the rear were well-armed men.

"There's only one thing left to do," he said mournfully to George, who was
regarding his chief with anxious interest. "We must abandon the engine,
scatter, and get back to General Mitchell's lines as best we can, each in
his own way!"

Then the leader put his hand on the engineer's shoulder. "Stop the
engine," he said; "the game is up; the dance is over!"

The engineer knew only too well what Andrews meant. He obeyed the order,
and the tired "General," which had faithfully carried the party for about
a hundred miles, panted and palpitated like a dying horse. The great
locomotive was, indeed, in a pitiable condition. The brass of the journals
and boxes was melted by the heat; the steel tires were actually red-hot,
and the steam issued from all the loosened joints.

Andrews turned to the men who were huddled together in the tender.

"Every man for himself, boys," he cried. "You must scatter and do the best
you can to steal into the Federal lines. I've led you as well as I
could--but the fates were against us. God bless you, boys, and may we all
meet again!"

As he spoke the leader--now a leader no longer--threw some papers into the
furnace of the locomotive. In a twinkling they were reduced to ashes. They
were Federal documents. One of them was a letter from General Mitchell
which, had it been found upon Andrews by the Confederates, would in itself
have proved evidence enough to convict him as a spy.

The men in the tender jumped to the ground. So, likewise, did George, the
engineer and his assistant. Andrews remained standing in the cab. He
looked like some sea captain who was waiting to sink beneath the waves in
his deserted ship. He worked at the lever and touched the valve, and then
leaped from his post to the roadbed. The next moment "The General" was
moving backwards towards the oncoming "Texas."

"We'll give them a little taste of collision!" he cried. His companions
turned their eyes towards the departing "General." If the engine would
only run with sufficient force into the enemy, the latter might--well, it
was hard to predict what might not happen. Much depended on the next
minute.

There was a whistle from "The Texas." "The General" kept on to the rear,
but at a slow pace. No longer did the staunch machine respond to the
throttle. The fire in the furnace was burning low; there was little or no
steam; the iron horse was spent and lame.

The adventurers looked on, first expectantly, then gloomily. They saw that
"The General" was incapacitated; they saw, too, that the enemy reversed
their own engine, and ran backwards until the poor "General" came to a
complete standstill. Pursuit was thus delayed, but by no means checked.

"That's no good," sighed Andrews. "Come, comrades, while there is still
time, and off with us in different parties. Push to the westward, and we
may come up to Mitchell's forces on the other side of Chattanooga."

Soon the men were running to the shelter of a neighboring wood. George
seemed glued to the sight of the departing "General." He felt as if an old
friend was leaving him, and so he was one of the last to move. As he, too,
finally ran off, Waggie, who had been released from his master's pocket,
bounded by his side as if the whole proceeding were an enjoyable picnic.
When George reached the wood many of the men were already invisible. He
found Watson leaning against a tree, pale and breathless.

"What's the matter?" asked the boy anxiously.

"Nothing," said Watson. "This rough journey over this crooked railroad has
shaken me up a bit. I'll be all right in a minute. Just wait and we'll go
along together. I wouldn't like to see any harm happen to you, youngster,
while I have an arm to protect you.

"Come on," he continued, when he had regained his breath; "we can't stay
here. I wonder why Mitchell didn't push on and capture Chattanooga. Then
we would not have had to desert the old engine."

The fact was that General Mitchell, after capturing Huntsville on April
the 11th, had moved into the country to the northeastward until he came
within thirty miles of Chattanooga. At this point he waited, hoping to
hear that Andrews and his companions had destroyed the railroad
communications from Chattanooga. No such news reached him, however; he
feared that the party had failed, and he was unable to advance farther,
under the circumstances, without receiving reinforcements. But of all this
Watson was ignorant.

The man and boy stole out of the wet woods, and thence a short distance to
the westward until they reached the bottom of a steep hill which was
surmounted by some straggling oaks. They started to walk briskly up the
incline, followed by Waggie. Suddenly they heard a sound that
instinctively sent a chill running up and down George's spine.

"What's that?" he asked. "Some animal?"

Watson gave a grim, unpleasant laugh. "It's a hound," he answered. "Come
on; we don't want that sort of gentleman after us. He'd be a rougher
animal to handle than Waggie."

George redoubled his pace. But his steps began to lag; his brain was in a
whirl; he began to feel as if he was acting a part in some horrible dream.
Nothing about him seemed real; it was as if his sensations were those of
another person.

"Anything wrong?" asked Watson, as he saw that the lad was falling behind
him.

"Nothing; I'm coming," was the plucky answer. But fatigue and hunger, and
exposure to the rain, had done their work. George tottered, clutched at
the air, and then sank on the hillside, inert and unconscious. In a moment
Waggie was licking his face, with a pathetic expression of inquiry in his
little brown eyes, and Watson was bending over him. Again came the bay
from the hound and the distant cry from a human voice.



CHAPTER VIII

TWO WEARY WANDERERS


"Poor boy," muttered Watson. "He is done out." He saw that George's
collapse was due to a fainting spell, which in itself was nothing
dangerous. But when he heard the distant baying of the dog, and heard,
too, the voices of men--no doubt some of the armed Southerners from the
pursuing train--he saw the peril that encompassed both himself and the
boy. Here they were almost on top of a hill, near the enemy, and with no
means of escape should they be unfortunate enough to be seen by the
Southerners or tracked by the hound. If George could be gotten at once to
the other side of the hill he would be screened from view--otherwise he
and Watson would soon----But the soldier did not stop to think what might
happen. He jumped quickly to his feet, seized the unconscious George, and
ran with him, as one might have run with some helpless infant, to the top
of the hill, and then down on the other side. Waggie came barking after
them; he seemed to ask why it was that his master had gone to sleep in
this sudden fashion. Watson paused for a few seconds at the bottom of the
hill, and placed his burden on the wet grass. There was as yet no sign of
returning life. Once more came that uncanny bay. The man again took George
in his arms.

"We can't stay here," he said. He himself was ready to drop from the
fatigue and excitement of the day, but hope of escape gave him strength,
and he ran on through an open field until he reached some bottom-land
covered by a few unhealthy-looking pine-trees. Here he paused, panting
almost as hard as the poor vanished "General" had done in the last stages
of its journey. He next deposited his charge on the sodden earth. They
were both still in imminent danger of pursuit, but for the time being they
were screened from view.

Watson bent tenderly over the boy, whilst Waggie pulled at his sleeve as
he had been accustomed to do far away at home when he wanted to wake up
his master. George finally opened his eyes and looked around him, first
dreamily, then with a startled air.

"It's all right, my lad," whispered Watson cheerily. "You only fainted
away, just for variety, but now you are chipper enough again."

George stretched his arms, raised himself to a sitting posture, and then
sank back wearily on the ground.

"I'm so tired," he said. "Can't I go to sleep?" He was utterly weary; he
cared not if a whole army of men and dogs was after him; his one idea was
rest--rest.

"This won't do," said Watson firmly. "We can't stay here." He produced
from his pocket a little flask, poured some of the contents down the boy's
throat, and then took a liberal drink himself. George began to revive, as
he asked how he had been brought to his present resting-place.

"In my arms," exclaimed Watson. "But I can't keep that sort of thing up
forever. We must get away from here. Every moment is precious."

As if to emphasize the truth of this warning, the baying of the dog and
the cries of men began to sound nearer. Watson sprang to his feet. The
increase of the danger gave him new nerve; he no longer looked the tired,
haggard man of five minutes ago.

"We can't stay here," he said, calmly but impressively; "it would be
certain capture!"

George was up in an instant. The draught from the flask had invested him
with new vigor.

"Where shall we go?" he asked. "I'm all right again."

"To the river," answered Watson. He pointed eagerly to the right of the
pines, where they could see, in the darkening light of the afternoon, a
swollen stream rushing madly past. It might originally have been a small
river, but now, owing to the spring rains and freshets, it looked
turbulent and dangerous. It was difficult to cross, yet for that very
reason it would make a barrier between pursued and pursuers. Should the
former try the experiment?

"Can you swim?" asked Watson.

"Yes."

"Then we'll risk it. After all, the water's safer for us than the land."

Out through the pines they ran until they were at the water's edge. The
sight was not encouraging. The river foamed like an angry ocean, and a
strong current was sweeping down to the northward.

The soldier looked at the boy in kindly anxiety. "The water is a little
treacherous, George," he said. "Do you think you're strong enough to
venture across?"

"Of course I am!" answered George, proudly. He felt more like himself now;
he even betrayed a mild indignation at the doubts of his friend.

"Well," began Watson, "we had--but listen! By Jove, those rascals have
discovered us! They're making this way!"

It was true; the barking of the dog and the sound of many voices came
nearer and nearer. Waggie began to growl fiercely, quite as if he were
large enough to try a bout with a whole Confederate regiment.

"Take off your shoes, George," cried Watson. "Your coat and vest, too."

Both the fugitives divested themselves of boots, coats and vests; their
hats they had already lost in their flight from "The General." In their
trousers pockets they stuffed their watches and some Confederate money.

A sudden thought crossed George's mind. It was a painful thought.

"What's to become of Waggie?" he asked. "I can't leave him here." He would
as soon have left a dear relative stranded on the bank of the river.

"I'm afraid you'll have to leave him," said Watson.

"I can't," replied George. There was a second's pause--but it seemed like
the suspense of an hour. Then the lad had a lucky inspiration. He leaned
down and drew from a side pocket of his discarded coat a roll of strong
cord which had been used when he climbed the telegraph poles. Pulling a
knife from a pocket in his trousers he cut a piece of the cord about two
yards in length, tied one end around his waist and attached the other end
to Waggie's collar. The next instant he had plunged into the icy water,
dragging the dog in after him. Watson followed, and struck out into the
torrent with the vigor of an athlete.

George found at once that his work meant something more than keeping
himself afloat. The current was rapid, and it required all his power to
keep from being carried down the river like a helpless log. Waggie was
sputtering and pawing the water in his master's wake.

"Keep going," shouted Watson. "This current's no joke!" Even he was having
no child's play.

Just then George had his mouth full of water; he could only go on battling
manfully. But he began to feel a great weakness. Was he about to faint
again? He dared not think of it. There was a loosening of the cord around
his waist. He looked to his left and there was Waggie floating down the
stream like a tiny piece of wood. His head had slipped from his collar.

Watson tried to grab the dog as he floated by, but it was too late. He
might as well have tried to change the tide.

"Go on, George, go on!" he urged, breathlessly. The boy struggled onward,
but he had already overtaxed his strength. He became dizzy; his arms and
legs refused to work.

"What's the matter?" sputtered his companion, who was now alongside of
him.

"Go on; don't mind me," said George, in a choking voice.

"Put your hand on my belt," sternly commanded Watson. The young swimmer
obeyed, scarcely knowing what he did. Watson kept on like a giant fish,
sometimes in danger of being swept away, and sometimes drawing a few feet
nearer to the opposite bank.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The next thing that George knew was when he found himself lying on the
river's edge. Watson was peering at him anxiously.

"That's right; open your eyes," he said. "We had a narrow escape, but
we're over the river at last. I just got you over in time, for when we
neared shore you let go of me, and I had to pull you in by the hair of
your head."

"How can I ever thank you," said George, feebly but gratefully.

"By not trying," answered Watson. "Come, there's not a second to lose.
Don't you hear our enemies?"

There was no doubt as to the answer to that question. Across the river
sounded the baying and the harsh human voices. Almost before George
realized what had happened Watson had pulled him a dozen yards away to a
spot behind a large boulder.

"Keep on your back!" he ordered. "The men are on the other bank."

None too soon had he executed this manoeuvre. He and George could hear,
above the noise of the rushing stream, the tones of their pursuers. They
had just reached the river, and must be searching for the two Northerners.
More than once the hound gave a loud whine, as if he were baffled or
disappointed.

"They can't be here," came a voice from across the river. "We had better
go back; they may be down the railroad track."

"Perhaps they swam across the stream," urged some one else.

"That would be certain death!" answered the first voice.

There was a whining from the dog, as if he had discovered a scent. Then a
simultaneous cry from several sturdy lungs. "Look at these coats and
boots!" "They did try to cross, after all." "Well, they never got over in
this current!" "They must have been carried down the Chickamauga and been
drowned!" Such were the exclamations which were wafted to the ears of the
two fugitives behind the rock.

[Illustration: None too Soon Had He Executed this Manoeuvre]

"The Chickamauga," said Watson, under his breath. "So that's the name of
the river, eh?"

There was evidently some heated discussion going on among the unseen
pursuers. At length one of them cried: "Well, comrades, as there's not one
of us who wants to swim over the river in its present state, and as the
fools may even be drowned by this time, I move we go home. The whole
countryside will be on the lookout for the rest of the engine thieves by
to-morrow--and they won't escape us before then."

"Nonsense," interrupted a voice, "don't you know night's just the time
which they will take for escape?"

"Are you ready, then, to swim across the Chickamauga?"

"No."

"Then go home, and don't talk nonsense! To-morrow, when the river is less
angry, we will be up by dawn--and then for a good hunt!"

Apparently the advice of the last speaker was considered wise, for the men
left the river bank. At last their voices could be no longer heard in the
distance. The shades of twilight began to fall, and the rain ceased. Then
Watson and his companion crawled cautiously from behind the boulder. They
were two as dilapidated creatures as ever drew breath under a southern
sky. With soaking shirts and trousers, and without coats, vests, or shoes,
they looked the picture of destitution. And their feelings! They were
hungry, dispirited, exhausted. All the pleasure seemed to have gone out of
life.

"We can't stay in this charming spot all night," said Watson,
sarcastically.

"I suppose a rock is as good as anything else we can find," answered the
boy gloomily. "Poor Waggie! Why did I try to drag him across the river?"

"Poor little midget," said Watson. "I'll never forget the appealing look
in his eyes as he went sailing past me."

"Do you hear that?" cried George.

"Hear what? Some one after us again?"

"No; it's a dog barking!"

"Why, it sounds like Waggie, but it can't be he. He's gone to another
world."

"No, he hasn't," answered George. He forgot his weakness, and started to
run down the bank, in the direction whence the sound proceeded. Watson
remained behind; he could not believe that it was the dog.

In the course of several minutes George came running back. He was holding
in his hands a little animal that resembled a drowned rat. It was
Waggie--very wet, very bedraggled, but still alive.

"Well, if that isn't a miracle!" cried Watson. He stroked the dripping
back of the rescued dog, whereupon Waggie looked up at him with a grateful
gleam in his eyes.

"I found him just below here, lying on a bit of rock out in the water a
few feet away from the bank," enthusiastically explained George. "He must
have been hurled there, by the current."

Watson laughed.

"Well, Waggie," he said, "we make three wet looking tramps, don't we? And
I guess you are just as hungry as the rest."

Waggie wagged his tail with great violence.

"Think of a warm, comfortable bed," observed the boy, with a sort of grim
humor; "and a nice supper beforehand of meat--and eggs----"

"And hot coffee--and biscuits--and a pipe of tobacco for me, after the
supper," went on Watson. He turned from the river and peered into the
rapidly increasing gloom. About a mile inland, almost directly in front of
him, there shone a cheerful light.

George, who also saw the gleam, rubbed his hands across his empty stomach,
in a comical fashion.

"There must be supper there," he said, pointing to the house.

"But we don't dare eat it," replied his friend. "The people within fifty
miles of here will be on the lookout for any of Andrews' party--and the
mere appearance of us will be enough to arouse suspicion--and yet----"

Watson hesitated; he was in a quandary. He was not a bit frightened, but
he felt that the chances of escape for George and himself were at the
ratio of one to a thousand. He knew actually nothing of the geography of
the surrounding country, and he felt that as soon as morning arrived the
neighborhood would be searched far and wide. Had he been alone he might
have tried to walk throughout the night until he had placed fifteen or
twenty miles between himself and his pursuers. But when he thought of
George's condition he realized that it would be a physical impossibility
to drag the tired lad very far.

Finally Watson started away towards the distant light.

"Stay here till I get back," he said to George; "I'm going to explore."

In less than an hour he had returned to the river's bank.

"We're in luck," he said joyously. "I stole across to where that light is,
and found it came from a little stone house. I crept into the garden on my
hands and knees--there was no dog there, thank heaven--and managed to get
a glimpse into the parlor through a half-closed blind. There sat a
sweet-faced, white-haired old gentleman, evidently a minister of the
gospel, reading a chapter from the scriptures to an elderly lady and two
girls--his wife and children I suppose. He can't have heard anything about
our business yet--for I heard him ask one of the girls, after he stopped
reading, what all the blowing of locomotive whistles meant this
afternoon--and she didn't know. So we can drop in on them to-night, ask
for supper and a bed, and be off at daybreak to-morrow before the old
fellow has gotten wind of anything."

Soon they were off, Watson, George and Waggie, and covered the fields
leading to the house in unusually quick time for such tired wanderers.
When they reached the gate of the little garden in front of the place
George asked: "What story are we to tell?"

"The usual yarn, I suppose," answered Watson. "Fleming County,
Kentucky--anxious to join the Confederate forces--_et cetera_. Bah! I
loathe all this subterfuge and deceit. I wish I were back fighting the
enemy in the open day!"

They walked boldly up to the door of the house and knocked. The old
gentleman whom Watson had seen soon stood before them. The lamp which he
held above him shone upon a face full of benignity and peacefulness. His
features were handsome; his eyes twinkled genially, as if he loved all his
fellow-men.

Watson told his Kentucky story, and asked food and lodgings for George and
himself until the early morning.

"Come in," said the old man, simply but cordially, "any friend of the
South is a friend of mine."

The minister (for he proved to be a country preacher who rode from church
to church "on circuit"), ushered the two Northerners and the dog into his
cozy sitting-room and introduced them to his wife and two daughters. The
wife seemed as kindly as her husband; the daughters were pretty girls just
growing into womanhood.

"Here, children," said the old man, "get these poor fellows some supper.
They're on a journey to Atlanta, all the way from Kentucky, to enlist. And
I'll see if I can't rake you up a couple of coats and some old shoes."

He disappeared up-stairs, and soon returned with two half-worn coats and
two pairs of old shoes, which he insisted upon presenting to the
fugitives.

"They belong to my son, who has gone to the war," he said, "but he'd be
glad to have such patriots as you use them. How did you both get so bare
of clothes?"

"We had to swim across a stream, and leave some of our things behind,"
explained Watson. He spoke but the simple truth. He was glad that he did,
for he hated to deceive a man who stood gazing upon him with such gentle,
unsuspecting eyes.

It was not long before Watson and George had gone into the kitchen, where
they found a table laden with a profusion of plain but welcome food.
Waggie, who had been given some milk, was lying fast asleep by the
hearth.

George looked about him, when he had finished his supper, and asked
himself why he could not have a week of such quiet, peaceful life as this?
Yet he knew that he was, figuratively, on the brink of a precipice. At any
moment he might be shown in his true light. But how much better he felt
since he had eaten. He was comfortable and drowsy. The minister and his
family, who had been bustling around attending to the wants of their
guests, began to grow dim in his weary eyes. Watson, who was sitting
opposite to him, looked blurred, indistinct. He was vaguely conscious that
the old gentleman was saying: "These are times that try our souls." Then
the boy sank back in his chair, sound asleep. He began to dream. He was on
the cowcatcher of an engine. Andrews was tearing along in front on a
horse, beckoning to him to come on. The engine sped on faster and faster,
but it could not catch up to the horseman. At last Andrews and the horse
faded away altogether; and the boy was swimming across the Chickamauga
River. He heard a great shout from the opposite bank--and awoke.

Watson had risen from the table; the pipe of tobacco which the minister
had given him as a sort of dessert was lying broken on the hearth. There
was a despairing look on his face. It was the look that one might expect
to see in a hunted animal at bay. Near him stood the old man, who seemed
to be the incarnation of mournful perplexity, his wife, who was no less
disturbed, and the two daughters. One of the latter, a girl with dark hair
and snapping black eyes, was regarding Watson with an expression of anger.
On the table was an opened letter.

"I am in your power," Watson was saying to the minister.

What had been happening during the half hour which George had devoted to a
nap?

"Poor, dear boy, he's dropped off to sleep," murmured the minister's wife,
when she saw George sink back in his chair. She went into the sitting-room
and returned with a cushion which she proceeded to place under his head.
"He is much too young to go to the war," she said, turning towards
Watson.

"There was no keeping him from going South," answered his companion. "He
would go." Which was quite true.

The minister handed a pipe filled with Virginia tobacco to Watson, and
lighted one for himself.

"It's my only vice," he laughed pleasantly.

"I can well believe you," rejoined the Northerner, as he gratefully
glanced at the spiritual countenance of his host. "Why should this old
gentleman and I be enemies?" he thought. "I wish the war was over, and
that North and South were once more firm friends." He proceeded to light
his pipe.

They began to talk agreeably, and the minister told several quaint stories
of plantation life, while they smoked on, and the women cleared off the
food from the table.

At last there came a knocking at the front door. The host left the
kitchen, went into the hallway, and opened the door. He had a brief parley
with some one; then the door closed, and he reentered the room. Watson
thought he could distinguish the sound of a horse's hoofs as an unseen
person rode away.

"Who's coming to see you this kind of night?" asked the wife. It was a
natural question. It had once more begun to rain; there were flashes of
lightning and occasional rumbles of thunder.

"A note of some kind from Farmer Jason," explained the clergyman. "I hope
his daughter is not sick again."

"Perhaps the horse has the colic," suggested one of the girls, who had
gentle blue eyes like her father's, "and he wants some of your 'Equine
Pills.'"

"Who brought the letter?" enquired the wife.

"Jason's hired man--he said he hadn't time to wait--had to be off with
another letter to Farmer Lovejoy--said this letter would explain
everything."

"Then why don't you open it, pa, instead of standing there looking at the
outside; you act as if you were afraid of it," spoke up the dark-eyed
girl, who was evidently a damsel of some spirit.

"Here, you may read it yourself, Cynthia," said her father, quite meekly,
as if he had committed some grave offense. He handed the envelope to the
dark-eyed girl. She tore it open, and glanced over the single sheet of
paper inside. Then she gave a sharp cry of surprise, and darted a quick,
penetrating glance at Watson. He felt uneasy, although he could not
explain why he did.

"What's the matter?" asked the minister. "Anything wrong at the Jasons'?"

"Anything wrong at the Jasons'," Miss Cynthia repeated, contemptuously.
"No; there's something wrong, but it isn't over at Jasons'. Listen to
this!" She held out the paper at arm's length, as if she feared it, and
read these lines:

  "Pastor Buckley,

  "Dear Sir:

  "This is to notify you as how I just have had news that a party of
  Yankee spies is at large, right in our neighborhood. They stole a
  train to-day at Big Shanty, but they were obleeged to jump off only a
  few miles from here. So you must keep on the lookout--they are
  around--leastwise a boy and grown man have been seen, although most
  of the others seem to have gotten away. One of my sons--Esau--caught
  sight of this man and boy on the edge of the river late this
  afternoon. He says the boy had a dog.

                                                        "Yours,
                                                    "Charles Jason."

After Miss Cynthia finished the reading of this letter there was a silence
in the room almost tragic in its intensity. Watson sprang to his feet, as
he threw his pipe on the hearth. Waggie woke up with a whine. The Reverend
Mr. Buckley looked at Watson, and then at the sleeping boy in a dazed
way--not angrily, but simply like one who is grievously disappointed. So,
too, did Mrs. Buckley and her blue-eyed daughter.

Finally Miss Cynthia broke the silence.

"So you are Northern spies, are you?" she hissed. "And you come here
telling us a story about your being so fond of the South that you must
travel all the way from Kentucky to fight for her." She threw the letter
on the supper-table, while her eyes flashed.

Watson saw that the time of concealment had passed. His identity was
apparent; he was in the very centre of the enemy's country; his life hung
in the balance. He could not even defend himself save by his hands, for
the pistol which he carried in his hip-pocket had been rendered
temporarily useless by his passage across the river. Even if he had
possessed a whole brace of pistols, he would not have harmed one hair of
this kindly minister's head.

"I _am_ a Northerner," said Watson, "and I _am_ one of the men who stole a
train at Big Shanty this morning. We got within a few miles of
Chattanooga, and then had to abandon our engine, because we were trapped.
We tried to burn bridges, but we failed. We did no more than any
Southerners would have done in the North under the same circumstances."

It was at this point that George awoke. He saw at once that something was
wrong but he prudently held his tongue, and listened.

"You are a spy," reiterated Miss Cynthia, "and you know what the
punishment for that must be--North or South!"

"Of course I know the punishment," said Watson, with deliberation. "A
scaffold--and a piece of rope."

The minister shuddered. "They wouldn't hang the boy, would they?" asked
his wife anxiously.

Mr. Buckley was about to answer, when Miss Cynthia suddenly cried,
"Listen!"

Her sharp ears had detected some noise outside the house. She left the
room, ran to the front door, and was back again in a minute.

"Some of the neighbors are out with dogs and lanterns, looking, I'm sure,
for the spies," she announced excitedly, "and they are coming up the
lane!"

The first impulse of Watson was to seize George, and run from the house.
But he realized, the next instant, how useless this would be; he could
even picture the boy being shot down by an overwhelming force of
pursuers.

"They are coming this way," said Mr. Buckley, almost mournfully, as the
sound of voices could now be plainly heard from the cozy kitchen.

"We are in your hands," said Watson, calmly. He turned to the minister.

"You are fighting against my country, which I love more dearly than life
itself," answered Mr. Buckley. "I can have no sympathy for you!" His face
was very white; there was a troubled look in his kindly eyes.

"But they will be hung, father!" cried the blue-eyed daughter.

"I'm ashamed of you, Rachel," said Miss Cynthia. Mrs. Buckley said
nothing. She seemed to be struggling with a hundred conflicting emotions.
Waggie ran to her, as if he considered her a friend, and put his forepaws
on her dress.

"Are you going to give us up?" asked Watson.

"I am a loyal Southerner," returned the minister, very slowly, "and I know
what my duty is. Why should I shield you?"

Watson turned to George.

"It was bound to come," he said. "It might as well be to-night as
to-morrow, or the next day." The pursuers were almost at the door.

"All right," said George, pluckily.

"Father," said Miss Cynthia, "the men are at the door! Shall I let them
in?"

Mrs. Buckley turned away her head, for there were tears in her eyes.



CHAPTER IX

IN GREATEST PERIL


"Wait!" commanded the minister. There was a new look, one of decision,
upon his face. "Heaven forgive me," he said, "if I am not doing right--but
I cannot send a man to the gallows!"

He took a step towards the door leading to the entry.

"Not a word, Cynthia," he ordered. He opened a large closet, filled with
groceries and preserving jars, quickly pushed George and Watson into it,
and closed the door.

"Now, Rachel," he said, "let the men in." The girl departed. Within the
space of a minute nearly a dozen neighbors, all of them carrying muskets,
trooped into the kitchen. They were sturdy planters, and they looked wet
and out of humor.

"Well, Dominie," exclaimed one of them, walking up to the fire and warming
his hands, "you can thank your stars you're not out a mean night like
this. Have you heard about the big engine steal?"

"Friend Jason has written me about it," replied Mr. Buckley.

"Why, it was the most daring thing I ever heard tell on," cried another of
the party. "A lot of Yankees actually seized Fuller's train when he was
eating his breakfast at Big Shanty, and ran it almost to Chattanooga. They
had pluck, that's certain!"

"We're not here to praise their pluck," interrupted another man. "We are
here to find out if any of 'em have been seen around your place. We've
been scouring the country for two hours, but there's no trace of any of
'em so far--not even of the man with the boy and the dog, as Jason's son
said he saw."

"Why didn't Jason's son tackle the fellows?" asked a voice.

"Pooh," said the man at the fireplace; "Jason's son ain't no 'count. All
he's fit for is to dance with the girls. It's well our army doesn't depend
on such milksops as him. He would run away from a mosquito--and cry about
it afterwards!"

"You haven't seen any one suspicious about here, have you, parson?" asked
a farmer.

The minister hesitated. He had never told a deliberate falsehood in his
life. Was he to begin now?

"Seen no suspicious characters?" echoed the man at the fireplace. "No boy
with a dog?"

The tongue of the good clergyman seemed to cleave to the roof of his
mouth. He could see the eagle glance of Miss Cynthia fixed upon him. Just
then Waggie, who had been sniffing at the closet door, returned to the
fireplace.

"Why, since when have you started to keep dogs, parson?" asked the last
speaker.

The minister had an inspiration.

"That dog walked in here this evening," he said. "I believe him to be the
dog of the boy you speak of." He spoke truth, but he had evaded answering
the leading question.

"Great George!" cried the man at the fireplace. "Then some of the spies
are in the neighborhood yet!" There were shouts of assent from his
companions.

"When did the dog stray in?" was asked.

"More than an hour ago," said Mr. Buckley.

"Come, let's try another hunt!" called out a young planter. The men were
out of the house the next minute, separating into groups of two and three
to scour the countryside. The lights of their lanterns, which had shone
out in the rain like will-o'-the-wisps, grew dimmer and dimmer, and
finally disappeared.

As the front door closed the minister sat down near the table, and buried
his face in his hands.

"I wonder if I did wrong," he said, almost to himself. "But I could not
take a life--and that is what it would have been if I had given them up."

"Pa, you're too soft-hearted for this world," snapped Miss Cynthia.

Mrs. Buckley looked at her daughter reprovingly.

"Your father is a minister of the gospel," she said solemnly, "and he has
shown that he can do good even to his enemies."

Mr. Buckley arose, and listened to the sound of the retreating neighbors.
Then he opened the door of the closet. Watson and George jumped out
joyfully, half smothered though they were, and began to overwhelm the old
man with thanks for their deliverance.

He drew himself up, however, and refused their proffered hand shakes.
There was a stern look on his usually gentle face.

"I may have saved your necks," he said, "because I would sacrifice no
human life voluntarily, but I do not forget that you are enemies who have
entered the South to do us all the harm you can."

"Come," said Watson, "it's a mere difference of opinion. I don't care what
happens, George and I will never be anything else than your best
friends!"

"That is true," cried George; "you can't call us enemies!"

The manner of the minister softened visibly; even Miss Cynthia looked less
aggressive than before.

"Well, we won't discuss politics," answered Mr. Buckley. "You have as much
right to your opinions as I have to mine. But I think I have done all I
could be expected to do for you. Here, take this key, which unlocks the
door of my barn, and crawl up into the hayloft where you can spend the
night. If you are there, however, when I come to feed the horse, at seven
o'clock to-morrow morning, I will not consider it necessary to keep silent
to my neighbors."

"Never fear," said Watson, in genial tones; "we'll be away by daylight.
Good-bye, and God bless you. You have done something to-night that will
earn our everlasting gratitude, little as that means. Some day this
wretched war will be over--and then I hope to have the honor of shaking
you by the hand, and calling you my friend."

Watson and George were soon safely ensconced for the night in the
minister's hayloft, with Waggie slumbering peacefully on top of a mound of
straw.

"I think we are more comfortable than our pursuers who are running around
the country," said George. He was stretched out next to Watson on the hay,
and over him was an old horse-blanket.

"Thanks to dear old Buckley," answered Watson. "He is a real
Southerner--generous and kind of heart. Ah, George, it's a shame that the
Americans of one section can't be friends with the Americans of the other
section."

Then they went to sleep, and passed as dreamless and refreshing a night as
if there were no dangers for the morrow. At the break of day they were up
again, and out of the barn, after leaving the key in the door.

"I feel like a general who has no plan of campaign whatever," observed
Watson, as he gazed at the minister's residence, in the uncanny morning
light, and saw that no one had as yet arisen.

"I guess the campaign will have to develop itself," answered George. The
night's rest, and the good supper before it, had made a new boy of him.
Twelve hours previously he had been exhausted; now he felt in the mood to
undergo anything.

The two walked out of the garden, accompanied by Waggie, and so on until
they reached an open field. Here they sat down, on the limb of a dead and
stricken tree, and discussed what they were to do.

"We don't know," mused Watson, "whether any of our party have been caught
or not. But one thing is as certain as sunrise. Just as soon as the
morning is well advanced the pursuers will begin their work again, and
they will have all the advantage--you and I all the disadvantage."

"The men will be on horseback, too," added George, "while we will be on
foot. We must remember that."

"Jove," cried Watson, giving his knee a vigorous slap. "I've got an
idea."

"Out with it," said George.

"Listen," went on his friend. "Here is the situation. If we try to push to
the westward, to join Mitchell's forces, in broad daylight, or even at
night, we are pretty sure to be captured if we try to palm ourselves off
as Kentucky Southerners. If we hide in the woods, and keep away from
people, we will simply starve to death--and that won't be much of an
improvement. That Kentucky story won't work now; it has been used too much
as it is. Therefore, if we are to escape arrest, we must change our
characters."

"Change our characters?" repeated George, in wonderment.

"Exactly. Suppose that we boldly move through the country as two
professional beggars, and thus gradually edge our way to the westward,
without appearing to do so. You can sing negro songs, can't you?"

"Yes; and other songs, too."

"That's good. And Waggie has some tricks, hasn't he?"

"He can play dead dog--and say his prayers--and howl when I sing--and do
some other tricks."

"Then I've got the whole scheme in my mind," said Watson, with enthusiasm.
"Let me play a blind man, with you as my leader. I think I can fix my eyes
in the right way. We can go from farm to farm, from house to house,
begging a meal, and you can sing, and put the dog through his tricks.
People are not apt to ask the previous history of beggars--nor do I think
any one will be likely to connect us with the train-robbers."

George clapped his hands.

"That's fine!" he said. There was a novelty about the proposed plan that
strongly appealed to his spirit of adventure.

Watson's face suddenly clouded.

"Come to think of it," he observed, "the combination of a man, a boy and a
dog will be rather suspicious, even under our new disguise. Remember
Farmer Jason's letter last night."

"That's all very well," retorted George, who had fallen in love with the
beggar scheme, "but if we get away from this particular neighborhood the
people won't have heard anything about a dog or a boy. They will only know
that some Northern spies are at large--and they won't be suspicious of a
blind man and his friends."

"I reckon you're right," said Watson, after a little thought. "Let us get
away from here, before it grows lighter, and put the neighbors behind
us."

The man and boy, and the telltale dog, jumped to their feet.

"Good-bye, Mr. Buckley," murmured Watson, as he took a last look at the
minister's house, "and heaven bless you for one of the best men that ever
lived!"

They were hurrying on the next moment, nor did they stop until they had
put six or seven miles between themselves and the Buckley home. The sun,
directly away from which they had been moving, was now shining brightly in
the heavens, as it looked down benevolently upon the well-soaked earth.
They had now reached a plantation of some two hundred acres or more, in
the centre of which was a low, long brick house with a white portico in
front. They quickly passed from the roadway into the place, and moved up
an avenue of magnolia trees. When they reached the portico a lazy looking
negro came shuffling out of the front door. He gazed, in a supercilious
fashion, at the two whites and the dog.

"Wha' foah you fellows gwine come heh foah?" he demanded, in a rich,
pleasant voice, but with an unwelcome scowl upon his face.

"We just want a little breakfast," answered Watson. He was holding the
boy's arm, and looked the picture of a blind mendicant.

The darky gave them a scornful glance. "Git away from heh, yoh white
trash," he commanded. "We doan want no beggars 'round heh!"

Watson was about to flare up angrily, at the impudent tone of this order,
but when he thought of the wretched appearance which he and George
presented he was not surprised at the coolness of their reception. For not
only were their clothes remarkable to look upon, but they were without
hats. Even Waggie seemed a bedraggled little vagabond.

But George rose valiantly to the occasion. He began to sing "Old Folks at
Home," in a clear sweet voice, and, when he had finished, he gave a
spirited rendition of "Dixie." When "Dixie" was over he made a signal to
Waggie, who walked up and down the pathway on his hind legs with a comical
air of pride.

The expression of the pompous negro had undergone a great change. His
black face was wreathed in smiles; his eyes glistened with delight; his
large white teeth shone in the morning light like so many miniature
tombstones.

"Ya! ya! ya!" he laughed. "Doan go way. Ya! ya! Look at de dog! Ho! ho!"

He reentered the house, but was soon back on the portico. With him came a
handsome middle-aged man, evidently the master of the house, and a troop
of children. They were seven in all, four girls and three boys, and they
ranged in ages all the way from five to seventeen years.

No sooner did he see them than George began another song--"Nicodemus, the
Slave." This he followed by "Massa's in the cold, cold ground." As he
ended the second number the children clapped their hands, and the master
of the house shouted "Bravo!" Then the boy proceeded to put Waggie through
his tricks. The dog rolled over and lay flat on the ground, with his paws
in the air as if he were quite dead; then at a signal from his master he
sprang to his feet and began to dance. He also performed many other clever
tricks that sent the children into an ecstasy of delight. Watson nearly
forgot his rôle of blind man, more than once, in his desire to see the
accomplishments of the terrier. But he saved himself just in time, and
contrived to impart to his usually keen eyes a dull, staring expression.

By the time Waggie had given his last trick the young people had left the
portico and were crowding around him with many terms of endearment. One of
them, seizing the tiny animal in her arms, ran with him into the house,
where he must have been given a most generous meal, for he could eat
nothing more for the next twenty-four hours.

The handsome man came off the portico and looked at the two supposed
beggars with an expression of sympathy.

"You have a nice voice, my boy," he said, turning to George. "Can't you
make better use of it than this? Why don't you join the army, and sing to
the soldiers?"

George might have answered that he already belonged to one army, and did
not feel like joining another, but he naturally thought he had better not
mention this. He evaded the question, and asked if he and the "blind man"
might have some breakfast.

"That you can!" said the master, very cordially. "Here, Pompey, take these
fellows around to the kitchen and tell Black Dinah to give them a _good_
meal. And when they are through bring them into my study. I want the boy
to sing some more."

The black man with the white teeth escorted the strangers to the kitchen
of the mansion, where an ebony cook treated them to a typical southern
feast. It was well that Black Dinah had no unusual powers of reasoning or
perception, for the beggars forgot, more than once, to keep up their
assumed rôles. Watson found no difficulty in eating, despite his supposed
infirmity, and George came within an inch of presenting a Confederate bill
to Madame Dinah. But he suddenly reflected that paupers were not supposed
to "tip" servants, and he stuffed the money back into his trousers
pocket.

When they had finished Pompey escorted them to the study of the master of
the house. It was a large room, filled with books and family portraits,
and in it were assembled the host (Mr. Carter Peyton) and his children.
The latter were still engaged in petting Waggie, who began to look a
trifle bored. From the manner in which they ruled the house it was plain
that their father was a widower. At the request of Mr. Peyton, George sang
his whole repertoire of melodies, and the dog once more repeated his
tricks. Watson was given a seat in one corner of the study. "It's time we
were off," he thought.

As Waggie finished his performance Watson rose, and stretched out his hand
towards George.

"Let's be going," he said.

"All right," answered George. He was about to say good-bye, and lead his
companion to the door, when a turbaned negress entered the room.

"Massa Peyton, Massa Charles Jason done ride oveh heh ta see you."

"Is he here now?" asked Mr. Peyton. "Then show him in. I wonder what's the
matter? It is not often that Jason gets this far away from home." The girl
retired.

Charles Jason! Where had the two Northerners heard that name? Then it
flashed upon them almost at the same instant. Charles Jason was the name
of the farmer who had warned Mr. Buckley about them. If he saw them both,
and in company with the dog, they would be under suspicion at once.

George drew nearer to Watson and whispered one word: "Danger!" He picked
up Waggie and put him in his pocket.

"We must be going," reiterated Watson, moving towards the door with
unusual celerity for a blind man who had found himself in an unfamiliar
apartment.

"Don't go yet," urged Mr. Peyton, seeking to detain the supposed
vagabonds; "I want Mr. Jason to hear some of these plantation songs. I'll
pay you well for your trouble, my boy--and you can take away all the food
you want."

"I'm sorry," began George, "but----"

As the last word was uttered Farmer Charles Jason was ushered into the
study. He was a chubby little man of fifty or fifty-five, with red hair,
red face and a body which suggested the figure of a plump sparrow--a
kindly man, no doubt, in the ordinary course of events, but the last
person on earth that the two fugitives wanted to see.

"Well, this _is_ a surprise," said the master of the house, very
cordially. "It's not often you favor us with a visit as far down the
highway as this."

"When a fellow has gout as much as I have nowadays," returned Jason, "he
doesn't get away from home a great deal. But something important made me
come out to-day."

"Nothing wrong, I hope?" asked Mr. Peyton.

George took hold of Watson's left hand, and edged towards the open door.
But Mr. Peyton, not waiting for Jason to answer his question, leaped
forward and barred the way.

"You fellows must not go until Mr. Jason has heard those negro melodies."

Owing to the number of people in the room (for all the children were
there), Jason had not singled out the Northerners for any attention. But
now he naturally looked at them. There was nothing suspicious in his
glance; it was merely good-natured and patronizing.

"Yes, don't go," cried one of the children, a pretty little girl of ten or
eleven. "Show Mr. Jason how the doggie can say his prayers." She hauled
Waggie from George's coat, and held him in front of the farmer. George
seized Waggie and returned him to his pocket. There was an angry flush on
the boy's face. He had no kind feelings for pretty Miss Peyton.

Jason's expression underwent a complete transformation when he saw the
dog. An idea seemed to strike him with an unexpected but irresistible
force. The sight of the dog had changed the whole current of his thoughts.
He stared first at Watson, and then at George, with a frown that grew
deeper and deeper. Then he turned to Mr. Peyton.

"I came over to tell you about the Yankee spies who are loose in the
county," he cried quickly, in excited tones. "One of them was a boy with a
dog. My son saw them--and I believe this to be the lad. I----"

The farmer got no further.

"Come, George!" suddenly shouted Watson.

At the back of the study there was a large glass door leading out to the
rear porch of the house. He ran to this, found that it would not open, and
so deliberately hit some of the panes a great blow with his foot.

Crash! The glass flew here and there in a hundred pieces. The next moment
the ex-blind man had pushed through the ragged edges of the remaining
glass, and was scurrying across a garden at the back of the house. After
him tore George. In going through the door he had cut his cheek on one of
the projecting splinters, but in the excitement he was quite unconscious
of the fact. The children and their father stood looking at Jason in a
dazed, enquiring way. They had not heard of the locomotive chase; they
knew nothing of Northern spies; they did not understand that the farmer
had suddenly jumped at a very correct but startling conclusion.

"After them!" shouted Jason. "They are spies!"

By this time the whole house was in an uproar. Most of the children were
in tears (being frightened out of their wits at the mention of terrible
spies), and the servants were running to and fro wringing their hands
helplessly, without understanding exactly what had happened. Jason tore to
the broken door, broke off some more glass with the end of the riding whip
he held in his hand, and was quickly past this bristling barrier and out
on the back porch. Mr. Peyton was behind him.

At the end of the garden, nearly a hundred yards away, was an
old-fashioned hedge of box, which had reached, in the course of many
years, a height of twelve feet or more. A little distance beyond this box
was a wood of pine-trees. As Jason reached the porch he could see the two
Northerners fairly squeeze their way through the hedge, and disappear on
the other side. He leaped from the porch, and started to run down the
garden. But his enemy, the gout, gave him a warning twinge, and he was
quickly outdistanced by Mr. Peyton, who sped onward, with several negroes
at his heels.

The party continued down the garden until they reached the hedge; then
they ran to the right for a short distance, scurried through an arched
opening in the green box, and thus reached the outskirts of the pine
woods. Next they began to search through the trees. But not a sight of the
fugitives could they obtain. After they had tramped over the whole woods,
which covered about forty acres, they emerged into open fields. Not a
trace of the runaways! They went back and made a fresh search among the
pines; they sent negroes in every direction; yet the result was the same.
When Mr. Peyton returned, very hot and disgusted, to his usually quiet
study he found Charles Jason lying on the sofa in an agony of gout.
Several of the children were near him.

"Oh, papa, I hope you did _not_ catch them," cried one of the latter. She
was the little girl who had pulled Waggie from George's pocket.

Mr. Peyton laughed, in spite of himself.

"Have you fallen in love with the boy who sang, Laura?" he asked, with a
twinkle in his eye.

"No," said Miss Laura, indignantly, "but Mr. Jason says they were
spies--and spies are always hung--and I wouldn't like to see that nice dog
hung."

The father burst into a peal of merriment.

"Don't worry," he said; "I reckon the dog would be pardoned--on the ground
that he was led astray by others older than himself. Anyway, the rascals
have gotten away as completely as if they had disappeared from the face of
the earth."

Jason groaned. Whether the sound was caused by pain, or disappointment at
the escape of the spies, or both, it would have been hard to tell. When he
was taken to his home, not until the next day, he vowed he would never
more chase anything, be it even a chicken.

And where were the missing man, boy, and dog? Much nearer to the Peyton
house than any of its inmates fancied. When Watson and George ran down the
garden their only idea was to get as far off from the house as possible,
although they believed that they were pretty sure to be captured in the
end. Their pistols were still useless; they did not know the geography of
the neighborhood; there were enemies everywhere. But after they squeezed
through the hedge, they found in front of them, between the box and the
edge of the woods, a little patch of muddy, uncultivated land, devoted to
the refuse of a farm. A trash heap, a broken plough, empty boxes, barrels,
broken china, and other useless things betokened a sort of rustic
junk-shop--a receptacle for objects which had seen their best days.

Among this collection, the quick eye of Watson caught sight of a large
molasses hogshead, now empty and with its open end turned upwards. He
pulled George by the sleeve, pointed to the hogshead, and then looked at
the hedge, as he said, breathlessly: "This is big enough to hold us both;
jump in--the hedge is so high they can't see us from the house!"

There was no chance to say more. In a twinkling the two had vaulted into
the huge barrel, and were fairly squatting at the bottom. Above them was
the open sky and the warm sun. Any pursuer who chose to stand on tiptoe
and look in would have been rewarded for his pains. But Watson calculated
that no one would think of the hogshead for the very reason that it stood
out so prominently amid all the trash of this dumping ground. No one, in
fact, gave a thought to the spot; it suggested nothing in the way of a
hiding-place. Once a negro who had joined the hunt brushed by the
hogshead, much to the terror of its occupants, but he gave it no heed. A
few minutes later Mr. Peyton stopped within a few feet of it, to speak to
his white overseer.

"We have searched the wood thoroughly," said the overseer, "but they are
gone--that's sure."

"Well, they have gotten out of the place," observed the master. "But they
won't get many miles away. I want you to take the sorrel mare and spread
the alarm through the neighborhood."

"Yes, sir."

Hardly had Mr. Peyton and his overseer hurried away before Waggie indulged
in a little yelp, to ease his own feelings. He found things rather cramped
at the bottom of the hogshead, to which he had been transferred from
George's pocket; he longed to have more leeway for his tiny legs.

"If you had given that bark a minute ago," muttered George, "you would
have betrayed us, Master Waggie."

"Oh! oh! oh!" whispered Watson; "I am so cramped and stiff I don't know
what will become of me. This is the most painful experience of the war."

There would have been something amusing in the position of the hiders if
it had seemed less dangerous. Watson was now sitting with legs crossed, in
tailor fashion; on his lap was George; and upon George's knee jumped
Waggie.

"You're getting tired too soon," said George. "We will be here some time
yet."

He was quite right, for it was not until dusk that they dared leave their
curious refuge. Sometimes they stood up, when they got absolutely
desperate, and had it not been that the tall hedge protected him, the head
of Watson would assuredly have been seen from the Peyton mansion. At last
they cautiously abandoned the hogshead, and crept into the pines in front
of them. When it was pitch dark the fugitives pushed forward in a
northwestwardly direction, until they reached a log cabin, at a distance
of about four miles from their point of departure. Within the place a
light was cheerily burning.

"Shall we knock at the door?" asked Watson, in some doubt.

"I'm very hungry," laughed George. "I think I could risk knocking
anywhere--if I could only get something to eat."

"Well, we might as well be hung for sheep as lambs," observed Watson. "Let
us try it."

He had begun to think that it was only the question of a few hours before
he and George would be in the hands of the enemy.

They knocked at the door. It was half opened by a long, lanky man, with a
scraggy chin-beard, who looked like the customary pictures of "Uncle
Sam."

"What is it?" he asked the travelers. There was a sound of voices within.

Was it prudent to play the blind man once again? Or had this fellow heard
of the excitement at the Peyton mansion? Watson bethought himself of a
method of finding out whether or not he should be endowed with sight.

"Are we anywhere near Squire Peyton's?" he demanded.

"'Bout four miles off, or five miles by the road along the creek," said
this Southern "Uncle Sam."

"Do you know if he's living at his place now?"

"He was there three days ago, whan I driv over ta sell him some shotes,"
returned "Uncle Sam." "Reckon he must be there still."

"Humph!" thought Watson; "this fellow hasn't heard anything about the
Peyton _fracas_. I'll lose my sight once again."

He clutched George's hand in a helpless fashion, and poured forth a tale
of woe. He was blind and poor, he said; he and his nephew (meaning George)
were in need of food and shelter.

"I'll sing for you," said George.

"Tarnation pumpkins," cried Uncle Sam; "I hate squalin'. But come in. I
never shut my door on anybody."

He opened the door the whole way. The two Northerners and the dog walked
into the dazzling light made by a great wood-fire--and confronted five
Confederate soldiers and an officer who were toasting their feet at the
hearth! They all glanced at the newcomers, who dearly regretted, when too
late, that they had entered. The officer stared first at Watson and then
at George with the air of a man who is searching for some one. Uncle Sam
introduced them to the party in a manner more vigorous than polite.

"Here's a couple o' beggars," he said. "Ma, get 'em somethin' to eat!"

"Ma," who was his wife, came bustling out of the second room, or kitchen,
of the cabin. She was red in the face, and of generous proportions.

"Look here, pop," she cried, "do you expect me to cook for a hotel? I've
just been feedin' these soldiers, and now you want me to get victuals for
beggars."

When the plump hostess saw the blind man, the boy and the dog, her face
softened. She went back to the kitchen, and soon returned with some coarse
but highly acceptable food, which was gratefully eaten by George and
Watson.

"Do you two tramp through the country together?" asked the officer. He was
addressed by his men as Captain Harris. Every line and feature of his
clean-shaven face denoted shrewdness.

"Yes," answered Watson. "My nephew sings--the dog has some tricks--we make
a little money--even in war time." He would put the best face possible on
this trying situation.

"You have no home?" went on the officer, in a sympathetic voice.

"None."

"Where did you come from before you took to begging?"

Watson hesitated for a second. Then he said: "Lynchburg, Virginia." It was
the only place he could think of at that moment, and it seemed far enough
off to be safe.

"I spent three weeks in Lynchburg last year," said Captain Harris. "What
part of the town did you live in?"

This time George came to the rescue. "On Main Street," he answered. He had
known a boy in Cincinnati whose mother had once resided in Lynchburg, and
he had heard the lad speak of a Main Street in that town.

"On Main Street," repeated the Captain. Was the look that passed quickly
across his face one of surprise or disappointment?

"Yes, on Main Street," asserted George. He felt very sure of himself now.

"How near were you to the Sorrel Horse Hotel?" asked the Captain, after a
brief pause.

"About two streets away, eh George?" said Watson. He had, very naturally,
never heard of the Sorrel Horse, and he knew nothing of Lynchburg, but it
would be fatal to show any ignorance on the subject.

"Yes, just about two streets away," agreed the boy.

The men were all sitting near the blazing fire. Suddenly Captain Harris,
without saying a word, lifted his right arm and sent his fist flying
towards the face of Watson, who sat near him. With an exclamation of anger
Watson jumped to his feet, just in time to avoid the blow.

"What do you mean?" he cried, as he glared at his antagonist.

The Captain smiled. He did not seem at all pugnacious now.

"I mean," he answered, "that I have proved my suspicions to be true. I
thought you were not blind--and I find that you still have enough sight
left to see a blow when it is coming to you!"

Watson could cheerfully have whipped himself for his blunder.

"Further," went on the officer, in a politely taunting tone that was very
provoking, "I find that neither you nor the boy ever lived in Lynchburg,
for the simple reason that there is no Sorrel Horse Hotel in that place,
and there never was!"

How nicely had he planned this little trap! And how foolish the two
fugitives felt.

"And now, my dear beggars," went on the Captain, in the same ironical
vein, "allow me to say that I don't believe you are beggars at all. I
strongly suspect that you are members of this engine-stealing expedition
which has come to grief. This afternoon I was sent out from Chattanooga,
among others, to scour the country, and it will be my duty to march you
there to-morrow morning."

There was a pause painful in its intensity.

"Have either of you got anything to say?" demanded the Captain.

"We admit nothing!" said Watson.

"I'm not surprised," answered the Captain. "Your offense is a hanging one.
But you were a plucky lot--that's certain."



CHAPTER X

FINAL TRIALS


The next morning Watson and George Knight, with the faithful Waggie (who
was destined to remain with his master throughout all these adventures, in
which he had played his own little part), were taken by the detachment of
Confederates to Chattanooga. Here they were placed in the jail, and here
also, in the course of a few days, were brought Andrews and the other
members of the ill-fated expedition. For they were all captured, sooner or
later, as might have been expected. The whole South rang with the story of
the engine chase, and every effort was made to track and capture the
courageous Northerners.

After a stay of several weeks in Chattanooga the party were taken by
railroad to Madison, in Georgia, for it was feared that General Mitchell
was about to take possession of the former place. In a few days, however,
when the danger had passed, they were returned to Chattanooga. It was not
until September of 1863 that this city fell into the hands of a Union
force.

Of the movements and separation of the prisoners after their return to
Chattanooga, or of the experiences of some of them in Knoxville, it is not
necessary to make detailed mention. Andrews, after a trial, was executed
in Atlanta as a spy, dying like a brave man, and seven of his companions,
condemned by a court-martial, shared the same fate. It was the fortune of
war. George could never dance, as he had promised, at his leader's
wedding.

Let us change the scene to the city prison of Atlanta, where the remaining
fourteen members of the expedition were to be found in the following
October. Among them were Watson, George Knight, Jenks and Macgreggor.
Waggie, too, was still in evidence, but he would have found life rather
dreary had not the kind-hearted jailer allowed one of his family to take
the dog many a scamper around the city.

"Poor Andrews," said Watson, one afternoon, "it is hard to realize that he
and seven others of us have gone."

The party were occupying a well-barred room on the second floor of the
prison. This second floor comprised four rooms for prisoners, two on each
side of a hallway. In the hallway was a staircase which led to the first
story, where the jailer and his family had their quarters. Outside the
building was a yard surrounded by a fence about nine feet high, and here
and there a soldier, fully armed, was on guard.

"I don't want to be doleful, boys," said Macgreggor, "but I think we will
soon follow Andrews. As the days rolled on and we heard no more of any
trial or execution I began to hope that the Confederate Government had
forgotten the rest of us. I even thought it possible we might be exchanged
for the same number of Confederates in Northern prisons, and thus allowed
to go back to our army. But I've kept my eyes and ears open--and I have
now become anxious."

"Why so?" asked George. The boy looked thin and very pale, after his long
confinement.

"I heard some one--I think it was the Provost-Marshal--talking to the
jailer this morning, at the front door of the prison. I was looking out of
the window; you fellows were all playing games. 'Keep a very strict eye on
those engine-stealers,' the marshal said; 'a court is going to try
them--and you know what that means--death! A trial will be nothing more
than a formality, for the whole fourteen of them are spies, under the
rules of war. They were soldiers who entered the enemy's line in civilian
disguise. So don't let them get away.'"

Macgreggor's listeners stirred uneasily. This was not what might be called
pleasant news.

"Why didn't you tell us before?" asked Jenks.

"I hadn't the heart to," returned Macgreggor. "You boys were all so
cheerful."

Watson cleared his voice.

"I tell you what it is, boys," he whispered, as he gave Waggie a mournful
pat; "if we don't want to be buried in an Atlanta graveyard we must
escape!"

George's white face flushed at the thought. The idea of liberty was
dazzling, after so many weary days.

"Well," said one of the men, in the same low tone, "it's better to escape,
and run the risk of failing or of being re-captured, than to rot here
until we are led out to be hanged."

"Let's invent a plan that will enable us not only to get out, but to
_stay_ out," laughed Jenks.

There was dead silence for nearly ten minutes. The men, who had been
sitting on the floor watching two of their number at a game of checkers,
were deep in thought. At last Watson opened his lips.

"I have a plan," he whispered. "Tell me what you think of it. You know
that about sunset the darkies come into the rooms to leave us our supper.
The jailer stands outside. Then, later, the jailer comes and takes away
the dishes. He is then alone. Suppose we seize him, gag him, take his
keys, unlock all the doors on this floor, and release all the prisoners.
As you know, there are a number besides our own party--whites and negroes.
All this must be quietly done, however, if it is to prove successful. Then
we can go down-stairs, without making any noise, overpower the seven
sentinels, take their guns, and make off, after locking up these
gentlemen."

Watson went further into details, to show the probable workings of his
scheme. It was finally agreed that the dash was well worth the trial. As
Jenks remarked: "It's either that or a few feet of cold rope, and a
coffin!"

The late afternoon of the next day was fixed upon for the escape. In
addition to the fourteen remaining adventurers, a Union captain from East
Tennessee, who shared the room with them, was to be associated in this
daring enterprise. It seemed to George as if the hour would never come;
but as the sun began to sink gradually towards the horizon on the
following afternoon he realized, from the feverish restlessness of the
whole party, that there was not much longer to wait.

"Keep up your nerve, fellows," said Watson, who had become the leader of
the party, "and remember that all depends upon the quietness with which we
conduct things on this floor, so that the guard below won't take the
alarm."

As he spoke there was a rattling of keys and a creaking of locks. The
heavy door of the room opened, and in walked Waggie. He had been having a
walk, with a daughter of the jailer, and one of the negro servants had
taken him up-stairs and unlocked the door. The next moment the key was
turned; the prisoners were again shut in from the world.

"Poor little Waggie," said Macgreggor. "Is he going too?"

"I've taken him through too much to leave him behind now," said George
fondly. "Look. This is as good as a kennel." He pointed to an overcoat,
which the East Tennessee Captain had given him, and showed on one side a
large pocket. The side of the latter was buttoned up closely to the coat.

The minutes dragged along. Finally Watson said, with a sort of mournful
impressiveness: "Boys, let us all bid each other good-bye. For some of us
may never meet again!"

The men clasped one another by the hand. In the eyes of most of them were
tears--not timid tears, but the tears of soldiers who had become attached
to one another through suffering and hoping together. It was a solemn
scene which the rays of the dying sun illumined, and George would never
forget it.

Watson brushed a drop from his cheek.

"I feel better, now," he said cheerfully; "I'm ready for anything.
Remember one thing. Treat the jailer as gently as possible. He has been a
kind fellow where some would have been the reverse."

"Aye," murmured his companions. It was an order which had their hearty
sympathy.

In a little while there was the long-expected creaking at the door. It was
supper time! Two negroes entered and placed some pans containing food upon
the table. Then they retired, and the door was locked.

"Eat, boys," whispered Watson; "we don't know when we may get our next
square meal."

The men soon disposed of the food. Hardly had they finished before the
door was thrown open, and the jailer, an elderly, bearded man, appeared.

"Good-evening, men," he said, in a pleasant, unsuspicious voice. He halted
at the doorway with the keys in his right hand.

It was a terrible moment. George felt as if he were living ten years in
that one instant.

[Illustration: Watson Placed His Hand Over the Man's Mouth]

"Good-evening, sir," said Watson, approaching the jailer. "It's such a
very pleasant evening that we intend to take a little walk." He threw back
the door as he spoke.

The jailer was unprepared for this move. He did not even divine what was
intended.

"How--what do you mean----" he faltered.

"We've had enough of prison life," said Macgreggor, in a calm, even voice,
"and we are going to leave you. Now give up the keys, and keep very quiet,
or you'll find----"

"Keep off!" cried the jailer, as he tightened his hold on the bunch of
keys. He was about to call for help, but Watson placed his left hand over
the man's mouth, and with his right clutched the unfortunate's throat.
Then Macgreggor seized the keys, after a sharp but decisive struggle, and
hurried into the hallway, where he began to release the general prisoners.
He quickly unlocked in succession the doors of the three other rooms on
the second floor. The men thus freed did not understand the significance
of it all, but they saw unexpected liberty staring them in the face, and
they ran out of their quarters like so many sheep.

Meanwhile the members of the engine expedition, with the exception of
Watson and Macgreggor, had run almost noiselessly down the staircase,
through the jailer's quarters on the first floor, and thus out into the
prison yard. Some of them threw themselves upon the three soldiers in the
rear of the yard, wrenched from them their muskets, crying out at the same
time: "Make a movement or a cry and we'll shoot you down!" The rest of the
party, among whom were George Knight and Jenks, tore into the front part
of the yard, where four guards were patroling near the main door of the
jail. Two of these guards were quickly disarmed. But the other two, seeing
the oncoming of the prisoners, ran out of the gate of the picket fence,
uttering loud cries as they went. Their escape was entirely unexpected.

The general prisoners now came tumbling into the yard, headed by Watson
and Macgreggor. Watson, warned that there was no time to lose, had
released his hold upon the astonished jailer. He did not know that two of
the sentinels had escaped, but he arrived down-stairs just in time to see
the result of their disappearance. A large reserve guard of Confederates,
warned of the jail delivery by these two soldiers, came rushing madly into
the yard.

"Look out, boys!" cried Watson. Other members of the engine party, seeing
the arrival of the troops, released the five remaining sentinels, threw
down their newly acquired muskets, and began to scale the prison fence.
There came the sharp crack of rifles from the reserve guard. Whiz! The
bullets rattled all around the heads of the fence-climbers, the whistling
noise having for accompaniment the cries of the angry Confederates. Whiz!
Another volley! Yet no one was hit. On the fugitives went, as they
descended on the other side of the fence, and made for some woods at a
distance of nearly a mile from the prison.

"After 'em, men," came the word of command to the Confederates. Soldiers
were running hither and thither, while the general prisoners, who had been
released by Macgreggor, were soon safely housed in their old rooms. The
bullets were flying thick and fast within and without the prison yard; the
scene was one of pandemonium. Ere long five of the engine party had been
captured, three inside of the yard and two immediately outside. Among
these were Jenks and Macgreggor who were both uninjured, but both very
much disheartened. Soon there was the clatter of hoofs, and a troop of
cavalry dashed up to the front of the jail.

"No more chance of escape!" said Jenks bitterly, as he looked out of the
barred window. He could hear the cavalry colonel excitedly crying: "Hunt
down the fellows till you have every one of them!"

"I hope some of the boys will get off," remarked Macgreggor. "Any one who
is captured is sure to be hung now." Afterwards another prisoner was
captured. There were now six of the party back in jail.

Where were Watson and George during this escapade? No sooner had the
former cried out his warning, on the approach of the reserve guard, than
he made directly for George, who was in the back part of the yard.

"Come on," he said, in tones of suppressed excitement, "over the fence
with us. It's our only chance--now!"

Imitating the example of others the man and boy were soon balanced on top
of the wooden fence. Whirr! George was conscious of a whistling sound, and
a bullet flew by him as it just grazed the tip of one ear.

"Hurry up!" urged Watson. In another second the two had dropped from the
fence and were running like mad over a large field.

"Halt!" cried some voices behind them. Looking back they could see that
about a dozen soldiers were in hot pursuit. A ball sped by George,
dangerously near the capacious pocket in which Waggie was ensconced; a
second bullet would have ended the life of Watson had it come an inch
nearer the crown of his head.

"Look here," said Watson. "These men are fresh--we are weakened by
imprisonment--they will get up to us in the end. Let's try a trick. The
next time the bullets come we'll drop as if we were dead."

At that moment another volley rattled around and over them. Watson threw
up his arms, as if in agony, and sank on the grass. George uttered a loud
cry, and went down within a few feet of his companion.

All but one of the Confederates halted, upon seeing the apparent success
of their aim, and turned to pursue in a new direction. The remaining
soldier came running up to the two prisoners, and after taking one look
which convinced him that they were either dead or dying he scurried back
to rejoin his detachment. There was no use in wasting time over corpses
when living enemies remained to be caught.

The "corpses" waited until all was quiet around them. Then they arose, and
kept on towards the woods. These they reached when darkness had fallen
upon the trees--a circumstance which aided them in one way, as it lessened
the danger of pursuit. But in another way the night impeded their progress
for they could not get their bearings. They groped from tree to tree, and
from bush to bush, like blind men. Once they heard a great rustling, and
were convinced that it was caused by some of their companions, but they
dared not speak, for fear of a mistake. At last they stumbled out upon a
deserted highroad.

"Where are we?" whispered George.

"I don't know," returned Watson. "Hark! Do you hear anything?"

A sound, at first very faint, became more and more distinct as they
listened. Galloping horsemen and the rattle of sabres proclaimed the
approach of cavalry.

"Back into the woods," urged Watson. "We may be putting ourselves in a
trap--but for the life of me I don't know where else to go!"

They hurried into the wood, where they crawled under a scrubby pine bush,
and anxiously awaited the outcome. On rushed the horsemen until they
reached the outskirts of the wood. Here they halted. The hiders under the
pine bush could hear one of the officers say: "The infantry will soon be
here to relieve us."

"We've had a great time to-night," growled another officer. "These
Yankees, not content with troubling us on the battle-field, must even stir
things up when they are prisoners."

"I don't wonder those locomotive-stealers wanted to escape," laughed the
first officer. "They know what the punishment of a spy always is."

In a few minutes a company of infantry marched to the scene. After a short
conference between their officers and those of the cavalry the horsemen
galloped away. The infantry were now formed into squads, and sent to keep
guard in the woods.

"Things are getting rather warm!" whispered Watson. George murmured an
assent. Well might he do so, for a sentry had soon been posted within
fifty feet of the two fugitives. The situation was fraught with the
greatest danger. Watson and George realized that the soldiers would patrol
the woods until morning, when discovery would be inevitable.

Watson sank his voice so low that it could just be heard by his
companion.

"We can't afford to stay here until daylight," he whispered. "We must
wriggle out of here until we come to the edge of the road. Then we must
make a break and run."

"Run where?" asked George.

"Providence alone knows," answered Watson. "We must trust to chance. But
anything is better than remaining here, to be caught like rabbits by
dogs."

"I'm ready," replied George. He already saw himself back in the Atlanta
prison, and he even pictured himself with a rope around his neck; but he
was prepared for any adventure, whatever might be the result.

"The sooner the better," whispered Watson. Without any more words the two
began to wriggle along the ground and kept up this snake-like motion until
they reached the edge of the wood. It was slow work and very tiresome, but
it was their one chance of escape. Then they stood up, and bounded across
the highroad.

"There they go!" shouted one of the soldiers in the wood. At once there
was an uproar, as the sentries ran out into the road, and began to fire
their guns in wild confusion. It was pitch dark, and they could see
nothing. Over the road and into an open field tore the two fugitives. They
felt like blind men, for they could hardly distinguish any object before
them; moreover they were wholly ignorant of their surroundings. They ran
on, however, and finally reached another field in which were several large
trees. Watson made straight for one of them.

"Up we go," he said, and, suiting the action to the order, he had soon
clambered up the tree, and seated himself across one of its branches.
George was quick to follow; he climbed up with even more celerity than
Watson, and settled himself on a neighboring branch.

They could hear the cries of the sentries, mingled with an occasional
shot. Two of the soldiers passed directly under the tree occupied by the
Northerners.

"They have gotten off," one of them was saying.

"I'm not surprised," rejoined the other sentry. "Any fellows who could do
what they did at Big Shanty are not easy customers to deal with."

In a little while the two sentries returned, and, again passing under the
tree, evidently went back to the woods. The uproar had ceased; there was
no more firing; it was plain that the chase had been abandoned.

After the lapse of half an hour Watson and George descended from their
uncomfortable perches. Once upon the ground the boy released Waggie from
his pocket, and the little party pushed on in the darkness for about a
mile. Here they found a hayrick in a field, alongside of which they laid
their weary bones and slept the sleep of exhaustion. When daylight came
they had awakened, feeling much refreshed and ready for more adventures.

"I'll tell you what I think," said Watson. "There's a chance for us yet,
provided we try a new means of getting away from the South."

"What do you mean?" asked George.

"If we try to move northward," continued Watson, "we are sure to be
caught. Every countryman between Atlanta and Chattanooga will be on the
lookout for us. Instead of that, let us strike out towards the Gulf of
Mexico, where we should reach one of the ships of the Union blockading
squadron. New Orleans is in the hands of the North, and many of our
vessels must be patroling the Gulf. Once we reach the coast we are
practically free."

"The very thing!" cried the boy. "You're a genius!"

Watson smiled.

"Not a genius," he said, "but I have what they call horse-sense up our
way--and I'm not anxious to return to the delights of the Atlanta
prison."

Acting upon this new theory the wanderers began their long journey. This
they pursued amid many hardships, not the least of which was hunger. Even
poor Waggie grew emaciated. First they reached the banks of the
Chattahoochee River, after which they secured a boat and rowed their way
down via the Apalachicola River, to Apalachicola, Florida, on the Gulf of
Mexico. Here they found, to their great delight, that a Federal blockading
squadron was patroling on the Gulf, near the mouth of Apalachicola Bay.

The two fugitives now pushed their little boat out into the open sea. They
were a sorry looking couple, with their old clothes fairly dropping from
them, and their thin, gaunt figures showing the consequences of many days
of privation. Watson was feverish, with an unnatural glitter in his eyes,
while George's face was a sickly white. Waggie reposed at the bottom of
the rickety craft, as if he cared not whether he lived or died.

"Look!" cried Watson, who was at the oars. He pointed out towards the
south, where were to be seen a collection of masts and smoke-stacks,
rising above long black hulls.

"It's the Federal fleet," said George. He was glad to have a look at
it--glad to know that deliverance was at hand--but he felt too exhausted
to put any enthusiasm into his voice.

"Can you see any flag?" he asked, wearily. "Perhaps we have been fooled
after all. The ships may belong to the Confederate navy."

Soon they could detect, as they drew nearer, a flutter of bunting from the
vessel nearest to them.

"It's the old flag!" cried George, jumping from his seat in the stern with
a precipitancy that threatened to upset the boat. "See the blue--and the
red and white stripes! Hurrah!" But he was too weak for much enthusiasm
even now and he soon had to sit down once more.

Watson uttered a cry which was meant to be triumphant, although it came
like a hoarse croak from his parched throat. Then the tears gushed into
his eyes as he gazed again upon the flag. It almost seemed as if he were
home again.

Nearer and nearer they rowed to the squadron. There were four ships of
war, and now they could see the sailors walking the decks and the guns in
the portholes.

"We'll be there in ten minutes now," said Watson, "and I think I can eat
a----" He gasped and failed to finish the sentence. He half rose from his
seat, relinquished the oars, with a despairing cry, and then, losing all
consciousness, pitched over the gunwale into the sunlit waters of the
Gulf.

George jumped up from the stern and stretched out his arm to seize the
inanimate body of his friend. But the movement was too much for the
equilibrium of the frail boat and for the balance of the boy. Out into the
water shot George, overturning the craft until its keel was in the air.

George struck out for Watson and succeeded in grabbing him by the hair of
his head just as he was about to disappear beneath the waves. Then he
changed his hold upon the man, and with his left hand clutching the neck
of Watson's coat he pulled to the side of the upturned boat. To this he
held with his right hand like grim death, as he put his left arm around
Watson's waist. The boy was panting for breath, and as weak as if he had
been swimming for miles. Not until now had he thoroughly realized how
hunger, exposure and privation had done their work. The next instant he
felt a gentle paddling near him; he looked down and there was Waggie's wet
but plucky little face.

"Hello! old boy," said George. "I would rather drown myself than see you
go under. So here goes!"

He released his hold of Watson and by a quick movement swung Waggie to the
upturned bottom of the boat, near the keel. The tiny animal gave a bark
that said "Thank you," as plainly as if he had spelled out every letter of
the two words. George again seized Watson and clung to the boat more
tightly than before. The soldier gradually came back to consciousness.

"What have I done?" he asked, staring wildly at the hot sun above him.

"Nothing!" answered George. "Only try to hold on to the boat. For I'm so
worn out that it's all I can do to keep myself up."

Watson clawed frantically at the gunwale. At last he managed to grasp it
with his tired, bony fingers.

"I can't hold on much longer!" suddenly said George, in a faint voice. His
hands were numb; he felt as if he had not one particle of strength left in
his emaciated body. His mind began to wander. He forgot that he was in the
Gulf of Mexico; he thought he was holding on to a horse. By and by the
horse began to move. Could he keep his grasp on the animal? No; not much
longer. The horse started to canter, and the boy felt himself slipping
backward. In reality he had let go his hold upon the boat. So, too, had
Watson. The next moment was a blank. The sun came burning down on poor
Waggie, perched on top of the craft, as he growled piteously at the sight
of master and friend drifting helplessly away.

                   *       *       *       *       *

When George recovered his senses he was lying on the deck of one of the
war-vessels, and Waggie was barking in an effort to awaken him. Near him
sat Watson, with a happy smile on his wan face. Around him was a group of
officers.

"By Jove," one of the latter was saying. "Those poor fellows had a narrow
escape. It was well we saw their plight and sent a boat after them. It got
there just in time."

"Well, my boys," asked an older officer (who was evidently the captain of
the vessel), in a gruff but not unkindly tone, "what on earth _are_ you,
and where did you come from? You don't appear to have been gorging
yourselves lately."

When George and Watson were a little stronger they told the story of their
adventures, in brief but graphic terms, to the interested group of
officers. When they had finished the Captain came up to them, and put a
hand upon the shoulder of each.

"You fellows want a good round meal!" he said emphatically. "And after
that some clothes will not come amiss, I guess."

To this they readily assented. How delicious the food tasted when it was
served to them at the officers' mess; and how comfortable but strange they
felt when, an hour later, they were arrayed in all the glory of clean
underclothes, shoes, nice suits and naval caps. When they came on deck
again, how the sailors did cheer. And Waggie! How fine and cheerful he
looked, to be sure, all decked out in ribbons provided by the tars; and
how pleased he felt with the whole world since he had eaten--but it would
take too long to detail the _menu_ with which the dog had been regaled.
The wonder was that he survived the spoiling that he received during the
next four days.

At the end of that time he accompanied his master and Watson, who were
sent on a government vessel to New York. From New York they traveled by
rail to Washington, where they were to relate their experiences, and the
result of the railroad chase, to President Lincoln.

First they saw Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War, who made them dine and
spend the night as his guests, and who the next morning took them to the
White House. George trembled when he was ushered into the private office
of Mr. Lincoln. He felt nervous at the thought of encountering the man
who, more than any one else, held in his hand the destiny of the nation.
But, when a tall, gaunt person, with wonderful, thoughtful eyes and a
homely face, illumined by a melancholy but attractive smile, walked up to
him and asked: "Is this George Knight?" all the boy's timidity vanished.
As he answered, "Yes, I am George Knight," he felt as if he had known the
President for years.

Mr. Lincoln listened to the narrative of the two fugitives--now fugitives
no longer--and put to them many questions. When the recital was over the
President asked: "Do you know that poor General Mitchell has died from
yellow fever?"

They answered in the affirmative, for Mr. Stanton had given them this
unwelcome information upon their arrival in Washington.

Mr. Lincoln pulled a paper from one of the pockets of his ill-fitting
black coat and handed it to Watson.

"Here is a commission for you as a Captain in the regular army," he
explained. "I know of no one who could deserve it more than Captain
Watson."

"How can I ever thank you, Mr. President?" cried Watson.

"The thanks are all on my side," answered the President, smiling. "That
reminds me of a little story. When----"

Mr. Stanton, who was standing immediately behind his chief, began to cough
in a curious, unnatural way.

A gleam of humor came into the unfathomable eyes of the President.

"Mr. Stanton never appreciates my stories," he said, quizzically, "and
when he coughs that way I know what he means." Then, turning to George, he
continued: "My lad, you are one of the heroes of the war! I had intended
giving you, too, a commission, but I find you are too young. But I suppose
you want to see more of the war?"

"Indeed I do, Mr. Lincoln!" cried George.

"Well, since poor Mitchell is dead, how would you like to go as a
volunteer aid on the staff of one of our generals?"

"The very thing!" said the boy, with ardor.

Mr. Lincoln faced his Secretary of War.

"You don't always let me have my own way, Mr. Secretary," he observed,
dryly, "but I think you must oblige me in this."

"The boy's pretty young," answered the Secretary, "but I fancy it can be
arranged."

"Very good," said the President. "And now, George, if you behave with half
the pluck in the future that you have shown in the past, I'll have no fear
for you. Do your duty, and some day you may live to see--as I may not live
to see--a perfect reunion between North and South; for God surely does not
intend that one great people shall divide into two separate nations."

George left the White House in a perfect glow of enthusiasm. The very next
day he was ordered to join the staff of General George H. Thomas, and he
joyfully obeyed the summons to leave Washington. His only regret was in
parting from Waggie, whom he was obliged to entrust to the care of a
friend of Secretary Stanton's. The boy saw plenty of army life throughout
the rest of the war. When the conflict was over he hurried back to
Washington, found Waggie alive and well, and then went home with him to
Cincinnati. Here he had a startling but delightful reunion with his
father, whose mysterious disappearance had been due to his capture by the
Confederates, and an incarceration for many months in an out-of-the-way
Southern prison.

There were many things of interest which George did not learn until after
the last gun of the war had been fired. One was that Watson had made a
brilliant record for himself as a regular army officer, and had come out
of the war with a sound skin and the rank of Colonel. Another piece of
news concerned the fortunes of the soldiers who escaped from the Atlanta
jail. Eight of the engine party and the East Tennessee Captain (this
number including Watson and George), managed to escape, and finally
reached the Northern lines in safety. The six prisoners who were
recaptured, among them Macgreggor and Jenks, escaped hanging, and were
exchanged for the same number of Southern prisoners. Jenks was killed at
the battle of Gettysburg; Macgreggor served through the war, was honorably
discharged as a Major of Volunteers, and finally developed into a
successful physician in the growing city of Chicago.

Waggie has been gathered to his canine forefathers these many years. But
it is comforting to reflect that he lived to a fine old age, and died full
of honors. He was known far and wide as the "Civil War Dog"--a title which
caused him to receive much attention, and a good many dainty bits of food
in addition to his regular meals. Let it be added, however, that his
digestion and his bright disposition remained unimpaired until the end.

George Knight is now a prosperous merchant, happily married, and living in
St. Louis. He is proud in the possession of a son who saw active service
in the Spanish-American War as an officer in the navy. Before we say
good-bye to our hero let us record that he never forgot the kindness of
the Rev. Mr. Buckley, who had saved his life as a boy. Many a
Christmas-time gift testified to the gratitude of the Northerner.

In the desk in George Knight's office is a bundle of letters from the old
clergyman. The last of these to be received reads as follows:

  "Dear Friend George:

  "This is Christmas Day--the last, I am sure, that I will ever see. I
  am too feeble to write you more than my best wishes for the holiday
  season, and to say--Thank God, the war has been over these twenty
  years and we are once more a united nation. No North, no South, no
  East, no West--but simply America. I have been spared to see
  this--and I am grateful.

                                              "Cordially yours,
                                                     "Amos Buckley."

THE END





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