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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 15
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    ARTIE IS MADE A PRISONER

    Life Knox had been right; the road he had taken was the correct one, while that which Artie was pursuing was merely a side trail, joining the main road again about a half mile beyond. The side road led up to a plantation owned by Colonel Dick Bradner, one of the most zealous Confederates in the State of Tennessee.

    Colonel Bradner was a military man, but he was not now in active service. In his younger days he had served in the Mexican War, and had gained, under General Taylor, a commission as first lieutenant in the volunteer army of that date. His military ardor had cost him his right arm and his left leg, and, being thus crippled, further service was out of the question.

    Colonel Bradner had always been a fire eater, hot to the last degree; and if he had had his way, war between the North and the South would have broken out in '58 instead of '61. For a time he had drawn a pension from the government at Washington; but this was now cut off, and the loss made the military gentleman more bitter than ever, if such a thing were possible.

    The plantation on the side road was one of good size. In days gone by it had flourished, and been a source of riches to the colonel and his wife, the only members of the household. The slaves had numbered sixty-five, all able-bodied, and all worth five hundred dollars each at the auction block in Memphis. Now all but six of the slaves had run away, the plantation was neglected, and what there had been of stores had been given to the Confederate forces, simply from the fact that, had they not been given up, friend or foe would have confiscated them as one of the necessities of the great conflict.

    Unaware that he was wrong, and likewise unaware that he was "running his head into the lion's mouth," Artie galloped down the side trail, sending a shower of mud up against the trees as he passed them by. Not a soul was in sight, and it looked as if the neighborhood, for miles around, was deserted.

    Presently he reached a negro hut--the first belonging to the Bradner plantation. The door stood wide open, the rain beating far in over the sill. A brief survey convinced the young captain that the abode was deserted.

    "The negroes have grown scared, and run for it," he mused, as he continued on his way. "Hullo, there's another cabin, and another. I've struck some village, I reckon--or a plantation. If somebody would only appear--ah!"

    Through the low-hanging trees he had caught sight of the mansion, standing between an avenue of pines. To the front was a path of sand, and to the rear a small brook. The fields were on the other side of the brook.

    "That looks as deserted as were those cabins," thought Artie, when he saw a woman pass hastily by one of the parlor windows. Concluding that the men were off to the war, and that the lady was the only person left at home, he turned up the sandy path and rode to the front porch, where he dismounted, and used the heavy brass knocker attached to the oaken door.

    His arrival had been noticed, yet it was several minutes before anybody answered his summons. In the meantime he heard a spirited murmur of voices, as though two persons in the hallway were discussing the situation.

    It was Mrs. Dick Bradner who let him in,--a short, stout woman of fifty, with piercing black eyes and jet-black hair. Her skin was as dark as that of a mulatto, and her features were by no means prepossessing.

    "Well?" she snapped, as she threw back the door.

    "I stopped for a bit of information," replied Artie, as he bowed and came into the hallway, a wide affair, running directly through to the rear.

    "What is it you wish to know?" was the short query, as snappy as her first greeting had been.

    "I am a bit mixed on the roads. There is a split about an eighth of a mile above here, and I would like to know if this is the regular road, or if the other road is."

    "You're a Yankee officer, I take it."

    "I am, madam."

    "What company do you belong to?"

    "I am captain of the fourth company of the Riverlawn Cavalry, of Kentucky."

    "The Riverlawns!" came in something like a gasp. "Well, I never! Dick! Dick!"

    "Well, Martha, what?" growled the colonel, from an inner room. "Send him about his business."

    "He belongs to the Riverlawns, Dick,--that cavalry--"

    "Hush, Martha." There was the stumping of a wooden leg, and Colonel Bradner appeared. "So you belong to the Riverlawns, Captain? Come in, I would like to talk to you."

    "I haven't much time to talk, sir," answered Artie. "I must be on my way. If you will tell me about the roads--"

    "In a minute, Captain, in a minute. But I would like a little information myself--about the Riverlawns."

    "Yes, we want to know all about them," put in Mrs. Bradner. "My brother--"

    "Martha, do let me do the talking," interrupted the colonel, with a significant look behind Artie's back which the captain failed to catch. "Walk into the sitting room, where there is a small fire. I can't go without some fire on a damp day, even in June. The rheumatism is too bad in my poor stumps. Come in."

    The colonel led the way, and Artie followed, although the delay was not to his taste. Yet he was curious to learn what his host wanted to know concerning the cavalry his father (so called) commanded. Perhaps the lady's brother belonged to one of the companies, despite the fact that she was a Tennesseean.

    The sitting room was a cheerful place, and the fire felt decidedly comfortable, and Artie wished he was not in a hurry. Colonel Bradner shoved a cane rocker toward him, and sank down on a lounge. Feeling that his wet clothing would not hurt a cane rocker, Artie sat down.

    "By the way, Martha, tell Joe and Sam to come in," said the colonel, in an off-handed way. "They must clean up that cellar before the rain ruins everything. Tell them to clean out that back pantry the first thing."

    "But, Dick--"

    "Never mind, my dear, tell them;" and the head of the house waved his wife off, winking at her when Artie was not looking. The wink satisfied the lady more than did her husband's words, and she moved off in deep thought.

    "So you belong to the Riverlawns, Captain. What company, if I may ask?"

    "I am captain of the fourth company, Mr. ----"

    "Excuse me, I should have introduced myself and my wife. Colonel Dick Bradner, at your service."

    "You are not in active service, Colonel," and Artie smiled faintly.

    "Do I look as if I was? But I have seen service, young man, having gone all through the Mexican War."

    "Indeed! I am glad to meet you, sir. But about the Riverlawns and Mrs. Bradner's brother--"

    "I'll get there in a moment, Captain. You see I am getting old and long-winded. I used to stump the State during election time, but I'm getting so tiresome now nobody will listen to me."

    "I am listening, Colonel. But I have a duty to perform which must be accomplished as soon as possible."

    "I reckon I need not ask what it is. It's none of my business, of course not."

    "What were you going to ask me concerning our regiment?" asked Artie, half desperately, for he was afraid the crippled colonel would keep him there all day.

    "I wanted to ask you if your command did not take part in an engagement at Greeger Lake, last fall?"

    "We did."

    "What was the result of that engagement?"

    "We took about five hundred guerillas prisoners, and--"

    "Guerillas! Do you dare to call our troops--Oh! pshaw, go on,--what did you do?"

    "We took about five hundred guerillas prisoners, and to keep them from eating up our rations, marched them back into Tennessee, where they belonged."

    "And confiscated their horses and their money?"

    "No, we turned their horses loose; that was all. I never heard anything about any money," answered Artie, promptly.

    He tried to appear at ease, but he was much worried. The veteran of the Mexican War was turning out to be a strong Southern sympathizer. It looked as if there might be trouble before he left the house.

    "I understand some of the soldiers had their money taken from them. But that was to be expected of the Yankees--they don't know what honor is."

    "Colonel Bradner, I did not come here to be insulted!" exclaimed Artie, leaping to his feet. "I have answered your questions, now I would like you to answer mine. What about this road in front of your house? Is it the main road, or is it not?"

    "It is the main road--to my plantation."

    "Then the other road is the main road?"

    "Yes."

    "That is all I wish to know, and I'll bid you good afternoon," replied the young captain, and backed toward the hallway door.

    "You're not going just yet, are you?" asked Colonel Bradner, with a quizzical tone in his voice.

    "I am," said Artie, and not liking that tone, he swung around, to find himself confronted by Mrs. Bradner and two burly negroes, each of the latter with a gun in his hands.

    "Up with your hands, Captain, or Joe and Sam will blow off your head," commanded the cripple, and drew at the same time a pistol from his hip pocket. The pistol was pointed at Artie's breast, while each of the guns was aimed at the side of his head.

    Artie was brave, and in some instances as rash as Deck; but there were times when he kept his head cool, and this was one of these times. He had both pistol and sabre in his belt, but he knew that the slightest movement to use either of the weapons would mean to him either serious injury or death. And he was just then of a mind to keep his skin whole.

    "Do you surrender?" demanded Colonel Bradner, after a painful pause, during which Artie had been doing a powerful lot of thinking.

    "I don't see what else I can do," was the cool reply, and as he spoke, Artie raised his hands. But he also walked to the window,--to find it locked, and another negro standing guard outside.

    "There is where you show your sense, Captain. Joe, advance and receive the captain's sabre and his pistol."

    "You spoke about what was done with the guerillas at Greeger Lake. Are you going to rob me of my weapons?"

    "No, you shall have them back,--when the proper time comes. If I let you keep them, you might attempt to commit suicide when left alone."

    "Which means that you are going to make a prisoner of me?"

    "Which means exactly that, Captain. I trust you enjoy the prospect."

    "I think it is a foolish movement on your part. Do you not know that this country is overrun with Union troops, some of which are bound to come to this place sooner or later?"

    "Let them come; we do not care," burst out Mrs. Bradner. "My poor brother's loss shall be avenged!" she added tragically.

    "Did your brother belong to those guerillas?" questioned Artie, a light breaking in on his mind.

    "He was at the head of the command which participated in the unfortunate engagement at Greeger Lake," responded the woman, tartly. "He would have won had he not been outnumbered, four to one."

    "Was your brother Major Gossley?" continued Artie.

    "He was and is. His command is now with General Bragg--and will soon help to wipe out this horde of villanous mudsills, who have entered our State," resumed the lady of the house, grandiloquently. "Do you remember my brother in person?"

    "I remember him very well. There was a miller at Greeger Lake named Price. He had hidden away his money, and your brother made him give it up by threatening to hang him. The man was dragged to a tree and a rope placed about his neck. When the Riverlawns captured the command, your brother was compelled to give Price back his money."

    At these plain words, the lady of the house grew furious. "It is a falsehood--a base, malicious, Yankee falsehood!" she screamed. "Dick, why don't you bind him and give him--a--a--the lash?"

    "I'll bind him fast enough," answered the colonel. "After that, we'll see what is best to be done. Joe, is there a rope handy?"

    "Yes, Mars'r," answered the foremost of the negroes.

    "Take it and bind the prisoner's hands behind him. Sam, keep him well covered, and I will do the same. Between two fires, he will keep quiet enough, I'll warrant."

    Without delay, the negro Joe procured the rope and walked up behind Artie. Resistance just then would have been foolish, and Artie's weapons were soon taken from him, after which he was made a close prisoner. The rope had scarcely been adjusted, when there came a loud knocking on the front door of the house.
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