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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 16
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    "Who can that be?" asked the lady of the mansion, nervously, as the knock was repeated.

    "I will go and see," answered Colonel Bradner. He turned to the two negroes. "See that he doesn't get away from you."

    "He shan't git de chance, Mars'r," answered Joe, who had picked up his gun again.

    Arising from his couch, where he had retained his seat while covering the young captain, the crippled advocate of the Southern cause stumped to the door, walked out of the room, and closed the barrier behind him. His wife accompanied him.

    Artie strained his ears to catch what might be said. A hope had entered his mind that the newcomer might be Life Knox, who had grown impatient of waiting at the forks of the road and come in this direction to find him. He felt certain that if it was the tall Kentuckian, there would presently be exceedingly "warm" times about the place.

    But he was doomed to disappointment. The voice was that of a man, loud, rough, and savage, and the front door was closed with a bang. Then a long talk followed in the hallway, and the newcomer pushed his way into the sitting room.

    "So we meet again," was the salutation Artie received, with a dark frown from a pair of wolf-like eyes. "Reckon you didn't expect to see me quite so soon, and under such circumstances."

    "You are right,--I never expected to see you again, Major Gossley," replied Artie, for the newcomer was the noted leader of the guerillas encountered at Greeger Lake.

    "How does it make you feel?"

    "I haven't had time enough to consider that side of the question," Artie returned, trying to keep as calm as possible, although he realized that the coming of the guerilla leader was a bad thing for him.

    "Reckon you will realize it before I have done with you," muttered Gossley. "Martha, has he been telling you anything about me?" he added, turning to his sister.

    "A string of falsehoods, Dan,--a string of falsehoods! Said you actually robbed a miller,--was going to hang him because he wouldn't give up his money," ejaculated Mrs. Bradner, excitedly. "I wanted Dick to give him the lash; the base Yankee deserves it."

    "He deserves a rope--as they all do," said Gossley. "It was a fine thing to steal our hosses and sell 'em, wasn't it?"

    "Your horses were not stolen, as I told that lady."

    "They were--and my money was taken, too. The Riverlawns are a pack of thieves,--worse than any band of raiders that ever came out of Tennessee," stormed the irate leader of the ill-fated expedition to Greeger Lake.

    "How much money did you have?" questioned Artie, calmly, hoping to draw the guerilla out.

    "I had nearly two thousand dollars, all told."

    "In Confederate money?"

    "Partly; and partly in United States scrip and gold."

    "Where did you get so much money?"

    The major of the guerillas scowled. As readers of the volume before this know, Gossley had obtained the money by selling a large quantity of grain, pork, hams, and bacon taken in the guerilla raids. The chief had kept the money on his person, expecting to divide with his men later. About the time the horses of the raiders were driven off, the money disappeared, stolen by some of the guerillas, but Gossley was firmly convinced that the base Yankees had relieved him of the amount.

    "It's none of your business where I got the money," stormed the man. "I had it, and that's enough. Your regiment stole it,--and I'm going to get square."

    "That's right, Dan; don't give him an inch," broke in Mrs. Bradner.

    "I never saw your money or heard of it," added Artie, quietly.

    "Of course he wouldn't acknowledge it," said Colonel Bradner, who had sunk down on the couch again.

    "I've a good mind to put a bullet through you where you stand," went on the guerilla leader. "But I won't do it; I'll try another game. If I am not mistaken, you are Captain Lyon."

    "I am."

    "You have a brother who is a major in the Riverlawn regiment."

    "Right again."

    "And your father is the colonel of the command."

    "I call him my father. He is in reality my uncle."

    "It's the same thing--so far as I am concerned."

    "I don't see how that concerns you at all."

    "Don't you? I am bound to have that money back."

    "We haven't got it."

    "Never mind, a colonel of a regiment is responsible for the actions of his men; eh, Dick?"

    "To be sure--undoubtedly," answered Colonel Bradner, and he winked his eye suggestively.

    "Which means that you are going to try to get your money from Colonel Lyon?" said Artie, indignantly.

    "Which means that or something like it. I don't care if the colonel pays it, or the major, so long as I get it back in gold. I won't take any more United States shinplasters. In a few months more they won't be worth the paper they are printed on."

    "That's as true as you're born," put in Colonel Bradner.

    "What about Confederate scrip?"

    "It will be as good as gold--in a short time. But we are talking too much, and I came here on another errand." The guerilla turned to his brother-in-law. "You can keep him locked up for about forty-eight hours, can't you?"

    "I had planned to lock him up before you came," answered the crippled veteran. "There is a pantry in the cellar which will make a capital cell."

    "All right. Joe, lead the way, and you will follow him, Lyon. I will come after," said the guerilla chief. "March!"

    "Supposing I refuse to be locked up," ventured Artie.

    "I will put a bullet through your head without hesitation."

    "You are a generous enemy, to say the least," was the young captain's comment; and without further words he moved off.

    The colored man led the way through the hallway to the rear, where there was an enclosed stairway to the cellar. The latter place was gloomy, and the air far from wholesome. Soon the three stood before the pantry which had been mentioned. It was a square affair, built of heavy planking and with an equally heavy door. There was a bolt on the door, and likewise a padlock.

    "Now, Captain, you will step inside," said the guerilla, grimly. "And let me utter a word of caution. One of the negroes shall stand guard, and at the first attempt to escape he shall fire on you."

    Artie entered the pantry, and the door was immediately closed, locked, and bolted. A moment later Gossley walked away and returned upstairs. What the negro Joe did, Artie did not know.

    The cellar had been damp and unwholesome, the pantry was more so, and the first breath of air he took into his lungs made Artie shudder. Was it possible he would be kept in such a place as this for forty-eight hours, and in his wet clothing?

    "I must get out,--if such a thing is possible," he said to himself. "But I must be careful what I do, or the guard will shoot at me. Those negroes fear their master, and they are bound to obey orders."

    Waiting for a while, to make certain he was really alone, Artie brought forth a match and lit it. The tiny blaze revealed to him a long splinter of pitch-pine board, and this he ignited into a tiny torch, not daring to let it burn too freely for fear of being smothered by the smoke.

    As has been said, the pantry was built of heavy planking. It was five feet from front to back and side to side, and in the rear were several shelves, now swept of their contents. Behind the shelving were several small boards, put up as if they covered a cellar window. Overhead were the beams and boards of the parlor floor of the mansion, and beneath was a cement bottom as hard as stone.

    The under shelf in the closet was quite low, and removing the shelves above it, Artie used it as a seat, and gave himself up to his reflections. It must be confessed that he felt decidedly blue. He was caged like a rat in a trap, and what his captors intended to do next with him there was no telling.

    "I wonder if they will send to father for money?" he asked himself. "Gossley intimated as much. This is a new way of handling a prisoner in this country. Gossley ought to be an Italian brigand. I shouldn't wonder if he sends a note to the colonel, threatening, if the money is not forthcoming, to shoot me. And he will shoot me, too--there is no doubt of that. The man has no more heart than a grindstone--he showed that when he attempted to hang Price, the miller."

    Artie was not one to sit down and kick his heels in dejection. To him, 'while there was life there was hope,' and having examined the sides and front of his prison, he turned his attention to the rear. A little work loosened one of the small boards previously mentioned. He was about to tear the board away, when he heard footsteps in the cellar; and he shoved the board back into place.

    It was Martha Bradner who had come down, accompanied by the negro Joe. Evidently the woman wanted nothing more than to render the young Unionist uncomfortable.

    "Hope you like the cell?" she began.

    "Thank you, Madam."

    "What is that strange smell? Have you been burning something?"

    "Nothing of any consequence," returned Artie. He had put out the pitch-pine torch and hid it behind him.

    "My brother is going to get square for the terrible manner in which your regiment treated him," went on the lady of the house, maliciously.

    "He is holding me for a hostage, is that it?"

    "You will find out fast enough, young man."

    "Is he going to make his demands at once?"

    "No. He has important work for General Bragg that must first be attended to," answered the lady, who had not yet learned the value of silence upon certain occasions.

    "Then he is a messenger for the general, eh? That is quite a high position to occupy."

    "No higher than Daniel deserves," was the airy reply. "My brother is a great soldier, were his real ability recognized."

    "No doubt he is a big man,--if General Bragg trusts him to do his scouting for him. It's hard work to play the part of a spy in a Union camp, I can tell you that."

    "Daniel is fully equal to the task," said the lady.

    She seemed totally ignorant of the fact that Artie was "drawing her out," and that she was letting her tongue run altogether too fast. Her brother had told her something of his mission, and she wanted this Northern mudsill to know what an important man that brother really was.

    "Perhaps your brother won't get back into the Confederate lines to tell all that he has learned," continued Artie.

    "He'll be back to-morrow morning. He has a first-class horse, and the Union password, and he--"

    "Martha! What are you doing down there?" came in the voice of Colonel Dick Bradner, as he appeared at the head of the cellar stairs. "I thought you promised Dan to leave the prisoner alone for the present."

    "I am not hurting him--nor is he hurting me," called back Mrs. Bradner.

    "I wouldn't talk too much to him--at least, not about our affairs or Dan's."

    "Colonel, I am able to manage for myself," was the icy response to this suggestion. "If it had not been for me we would not have captured this--this good-for-nothing Yankee."

    "Perhaps that is true, my dear. But be sure and tell him nothing about Dan."

    "Oh, dear, I can never do anything without your interference!" burst out the lady, petulantly. "Joe, lock him in again;" and she flounced out of the cellar, past the colonel, who tried in vain to detain her, and up to her own room. The negro did as ordered, and Artie was left once more to himself.

    What the captain had learned filled him with interest. Gossley was not only going to hold him for the money that might be gotten out of such a proceeding, but he was going to hold him until a secret mission for General Bragg could be executed. The guerilla chief was now a spy within the Union lines.

    "If only Life knew that, and knew I was here," he half groaned. "I must get away from here--not only for my own sake, but in order to make Gossley a prisoner and thus prevent him from carrying any news of importance to the Confederates. How can I get away?"

    Over and over again Artie asked himself that question. In the meantime he began work on the board again, this time without a light. After several minutes of twisting and pulling the board came off, revealing several panes of glass, set in a window frame. But beyond the glass was a mass of dirt, showing that the cellar opening had been completely closed up from the outside.

    For the instant the captain was dismayed; then his natural buoyancy of spirit returned. "I can dig that dirt away, sooner or later," he muttered, and set to work removing the glass.

    A job of this sort looks easy, on paper; in reality Artie found the task quite hard, and it took the best part of an hour to remove the panes without making a noise. The glass out of the way, he drew his pocket-knife and began to dig at the dirt, which came away easily, falling in clods into his hand. The clods he placed on the cement flooring directly under the opening.

    The ground had been banked up for nearly three feet, so it took some time to reach daylight. But at last the blade of the knife cut into the roots of the sodding, and Artie felt that liberty was only a question of a few minutes more. He worked away diligently, and soon had a hole as big as his hand. Through this he peered anxiously. Was there a guard outside, ready to frustrate his design?
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