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    Chapter 16

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    Chapter 17
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    THE HOLDING-UP OF THE CLOSED CARRIAGE

    Artie found it still raining outside, harder than before, and the landscape was dreary and deserted,--neither man nor beast being in sight.

    "That remark about putting the negroes on guard was only meant to frighten me," he thought. "Now to get out and find my horse, and I'll make it warm for Major Dan Gossley and his hot-headed relatives. I'll show them that they cannot make a Union officer a prisoner with impunity."

    The young captain recommenced his digging, and presently the hole was sufficiently large to admit the passage of his body, for Artie was of slender build, and advancement in the army had not puffed him up with pride. Undaunted by the rain, which covered the passageway with mud, he crawled forth, on to the mansion lawn. A hasty look around convinced him that his egress had not been discovered.

    He was on a side lawn, and to get to the gateway of the road, must pass to the front of the house. But wishing to remain unnoticed, he did not take the direct course, but backed away with all speed for the nearest grove of trees. Once these were reached, he made a long detour, coming out near the spot where he had left his animal tied to a tree.

    The horse was gone, and as the equine was one not in the habit of either breaking or straying away, he rightfully concluded that Colonel Dick Bradner had had him taken to the plantation stables, directly after the surrender in the sitting room.

    "I've got to have the horse, that is all there is to it," he muttered. "I wonder if I can't get him without arousing the whole household?"

    It must be remembered that Artie was unarmed, and he knew that if discovered, it would go hard with him. But he was full of grit, and after a moment's consideration, started on another detour, this time in the direction of the quarters for horses, visible through a grove of walnut trees.

    The larger of the barns reached, Artie found the doors wide open, for the day was now fairly warm despite the rain, and he slipped inside. As he did so, a negro voice broke on his ear:--

    "De Yankees da hab got ter run, Da cannot fight no mo', We'll knock 'em wid de sword an' gun, An' da'll surrender suah!"

    It was the negro Sam who was doing the singing, while cleaning up Artie's horse, that had been tied up in a large box stall. The colored man was taking his time at the job, thinking he had the whole day before him.

    Ere Artie caught sight of either Sam or the horse, he espied something else which made his heart bound with satisfaction. On a feed-box lay the gun Sam had handled while on guard in the sitting room. It was double-barrelled and loaded ready for use.

    Making certain that the negro was the only person about the stables, the captain advanced cautiously and secured the firearm. He had it well in hand, when Sam swung around and discovered him.

    "Who--wha--what--" began the slave, staring at him as though he were a ghost.

    "Silence!" whispered Artie, and pointed the gun at the negro's head.

    "Please don't go fo' to shoot me, Cap'n!"

    "I won't, if you will remain quiet and answer my questions truthfully. If you attempt to cry out--"

    "I won't cry out--'deed I won't!" was the trembling answer.

    "All right. Now tell me the truth. Where is Major Gossley?"

    "Went out, sah, 'bout quarter of an hour ago."

    "On horseback?"

    "Yes, sah."

    "Do you know where he went?"

    "I ain't suah, sah, but t'ink he went to Rover."

    "Did he say anything about coming back?"

    "He dun tole missus he would be back in about two houhs."

    "You are telling me the truth? Remember, if you lie to me it may cost you your life."

    "I'se tole yo' de truf, Cap'n--deed I has," answered Sam, earnestly. He was still so scared he could scarcely speak.

    "I will soon find out. I am glad to see you have rubbed down my horse. Now saddle him as quick as you can."

    "Yes, sah."

    The negro sprang to work, and as he moved around Artie continued to keep him covered with the gun. In a few minutes the horse was ready for use, and then the young captain made the slave bring out one of Colonel Dick Bradner's animals likewise. Both were taken to a rear doorway, out of sight of the mansion.

    "Now get up there and come along with me," said Artie, as he hopped into the saddle. "And no treachery."

    "Whar yo' gwine ter take me, Cap'n?"

    "To the Union camp, so that you can't give your master the alarm. Do what I want you to do, and you will suffer no harm. In the sitting room you were only obeying your master's orders, so I shan't blame you for that."

    At these words Sam was evidently much relieved, and he consented to show the way by a back path to the side road. With the negro in front of him, Artie put spurs to his steed, and soon gained the fork where he had separated from Life Knox. He found the captain of the seventh company taking it easy under the thick shelter of a clump of trees and some brush.

    "Well, Captain, you've been a long time getting back," he remarked, as he gazed questioning at Artie with the gun and then at the negro. "Had some adventure, I reckon?"

    "That's it, Life, and there is no time to waste in giving particulars. I wonder how near the nearest troops are?"

    "A company of mounted infantry passed this place less than five minutes ago."

    "Can we overtake them, do you think?"

    "I don't see why not. They weren't moving fast. They had struck the wrong road, and thought some of going back."

    "We must bring them back. Come on!" and away went the captain, with Sam beside him and Life Knox just in advance. As they progressed, Artie told his tale, to which the tall Kentuckian listened closely.

    "You are right," he said, when Artie had concluded. "We must capture this Gossley by all means; and it will be as well to put a guard over the mansion and place Colonel Bradner and his wildcat of a wife under military arrest. There is no telling how much harm that couple has been doing the Union cause."

    Through the rain they soon discerned the company of mounted infantry returning, having found the mud and quicksands too much for the horses. They were a body of Michigan men, under the command of Captain Allen Fordick.

    "I am under no special orders, having finished my mission to this neighborhood," said the captain, when they had told him why he was wanted. "I'll take hold with pleasure. That spy ought to be captured, if such a thing is possible. I thought the rebels had given up the spy business since Williams and Peter were hung."

    The captain of the mounted infantry referred to a case which early in the month had challenged the attention of the entire North and South. Two young men presented themselves at the headquarters of Colonel Baird and represented themselves as inspectors from Washington, sent on to inspect the outposts. They showed proper papers supposed to be signed by Adjutant General Thomas and by General, afterwards President, Garfield, then chief of Rosecrans's staff, and were allowed to begin their work. But soon a suspicion was excited, and the pair were captured just as they were about to pass out of the Union lines. They were searched, and the sword of one was found to be marked C. S. A.--Confederate States of America. General Rosecrans was telegraphed to and denounced them as pretenders. A drum-head court-martial was ordered at quarter to five in the morning, and the two Confederates broke down and confessed. They begged for clemency, but orders had been to hang them if they were found guilty, and at half past ten in the morning they were executed in the presence of a large body of troops. This act was denounced in the South, but, terrible as it was, it was in strict accord with the rules of war.

    From the negro, the three captains, riding abreast, in advance of the mounted infantry, learned in what direction lay the road Major Gossley would most likely use in returning from Rover. It was little more than a foot-path, running through the plantation fields and coming up over a foot-bridge to the creek in the rear.

    "I would advise hiding in the woods close to the house," said Artie, when consulted. "A dozen men can surround the house, to prevent the colonel and his wife from taking French leave."

    "But they may have taken leave already," suggested Life, and as he spoke he saw a covered carriage approaching. "Perhaps they are in this."

    "They must be!" cried Artie, as the carriage came to a sudden halt, and the negro spoke to somebody inside. "Sam, isn't that Joe on the box?"

    "Yes, Cap'n."

    "Then it is Colonel Bradner's rig, sure," went on the young officer. "Forward, and we'll soon have them prisoners!" and away he dashed in the lead. By the time he had come alongside of the turnout the negro coachman had turned about and was lashing the team furiously, in an attempt to escape in the opposite direction.

    "Stop that team, or I will fire!" ordered Artie, and aimed the gun he still carried.

    At these words a scream came from the carriage, and then from under a black canvas cover was thrust the face of Mrs. Bradner.

    "Don't you dare stop us, you miserable Yankee!" she screamed. "I won't have it!"

    "Don't make a fool of yourself, Martha," came from the colonel, in a lower tone.

    "Stop, I say," went on Artie, and placed the muzzle of the gun within two feet of the negro driver's head. Without delay Joe drew up, and the carriage came to a stop.

    "Go ahead! Don't stop!" screamed Mrs. Bradner, more unreasonable than ever.

    "Madam, you had best keep quiet," said Captain Fordick. "We know what you and your husband have been doing to Captain Lyon, and you can both consider yourselves under military arrest."

    "Under arrest!" gasped the lady. "How dare you speak to me in this insulting fashion!"

    "I dare by the authority of the United States. You will please keep quiet while the negro drives you back to the house."

    "I won't keep quiet! I'll--"

    "Oh, Martha, shut up!" broke in the colonel. "You'll only make matters worse."

    "What, Dick Bradner, do you turn against me?" was the indignant query. "Have you no backbone left to stand up against these--these vile Northern mudsills?"

    "If you don't keep quiet I'll have you bound and gagged, Madam," said Captain Fordick, after whispering to Artie.

    "You won't do--"

    "Yes, I will. Cameron and Waltling, advance and bind this woman. If she says another word, gag her."

    For one moment the lady of the plantation glared at the speaker. Then her courage gave way, and she sank back and burst into tears.

    "Oh, please--please don't touch me!" she moaned. "I'll--I'll keep quiet--I didn't mean anything by what I said."

    "Very well then--see you remain silent." The captain of the mounted infantry turned to the negro driver. "Turn back to where you came from, and lose no time in driving."

    "Yes, Mars'r Ossifer!" replied Joe, promptly, and there was a grin on his ebony face, as though he rather enjoyed the discomfiture of his mistress.

    With roads so bad, it was hard work to get the closed carriage back to the mansion, and once it looked as if the turnout would have to be abandoned in the mud. But the trip was finally concluded, and the colonel and his downcast spouse were marched into the sitting room.

    "Now, Colonel Bradner, the boot is on the other leg," remarked Artie, and it must be confessed the young captain could not help smiling. "How do you like the situation?"

    "I don't like it," grumbled the crippled advocate of the Southern cause. "But I have sense enough not to kick;" with a significant glance at his wife.

    "Dick Bradner, if we ever--" began Mrs. Bradner, when a look from Captain Fordick silenced her. All three of the Union captains now questioned Bradner concerning Gossley's return.

    "He won't be back--he has gone to join Bragg," said the colonel, before his wife could speak.

    "He will be back--to punish you all," burst out Mrs. Bradner, and then covered her face with her hands, as she realized the mistake she had made. "Oh, what have I done now?" she wailed.

    "Made a fool of yourself again," answered the colonel, bluntly. "That speech may cost Dan his life."

    "Oh, I didn't mean it;" and she burst into tears. Leaving her husband to comfort her as he saw fit, the Unionists left the couple in the sitting room. Several weapons they had possessed had been taken from them, and now a guard was stationed in the hallway outside of the door, and another guard in the garden under the sitting-room windows. This done, the three captains prepared to capture Major Dan Gossley as soon as he should make his appearance.
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