TOM OF THE RAIDERS
ILLUSTRATED BY MORGAN DENNIS
To DOLORES AND SAM WITHOUT ADHESIONS
I WITH THE SECOND OHIO II THE RAIDERS START III ARRESTED IV TOM GOES ALONE V TOM ARRIVES AT THE BEEGHAM'S VI ON TO CHATTANOOGA VII IN MARIETTA VIII THE TRAIN IS CAPTURED IX THE RACE X "THEY'RE AFTER US!" XI THE PURSUIT XII SPEEDING NORTHWARD XIII FIGHTING WITH FIRE XIV THE END OF THE RACE XV CAPTURED XVI ESCAPING XVII FIGHTING THE RIVER XVIII NORTH OF THE TENNESSEE XIX THE LAST DASH XX TOM REPORTS AT HEADQUARTERS XXI THAT CERTAIN PERSON
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Again and again Tom fed logs into the flames. Frontispiece
The little ferryboat pitched and turned in the current of the river.
The men were feeding the ties they had collected, out upon the road through an opening they had broken in the rear of the car.
"I didn't want to come here, Marjorie, for fear I'd get you into trouble—"
WITH THE SECOND OHIO
As he rounded the last bend of the road, Tom saw the white tents of the Union army stretched out before him. He forgot how tired he was after his long walk, and pressed forward eagerly, almost running. The soldiers who were sauntering along the road eyed him curiously.
"Hey, you! You can't go by here without a pass!" The Sentry's rifle, with its long gleaming bayonet, snapped into a menacing attitude.
Tom stopped abruptly, caught his breath, and asked: "Is this the Second Ohio?"
"Maybe," answered the Sentry coldly. "What do you want to know for?"
"I've come to see my cousin—Herbert Brewster, of Company B."
The Sentry's position relaxed. He brought his rifle to the ground, leaned upon it, and gazed at the young man who stood before him. "Well now!" he said. "He'll certainly be glad to see you! We don't get many visitors down this way. What's your name?"
"Going to enlist?"
"Yes. How'd you guess it?"
"Oh, I dunno. I just thought so. You're pretty young, ain't you?"
"Eighteen," answered Tom. "I'm old enough to fight." He looked past the Sentry, down at the even rows of tents which formed the company streets of the Second Ohio. His heart beat faster at the thought that he would be part of it after today. A soldier in the Union army!
"I'll send a messenger with you down to Company B," said the Sentry. "You'll have to get the Captain's permission before you can see your cousin."
It was early in April, 1862. The troops under the command of General O. M. Mitchel were encamped between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, after a march from Nashville through a steady drizzle of rain. It had been a dreary, tedious march, made worse by long detours to avoid burnt bridges, detours over roads where the heavy wagons of the army sank hub-deep in the glue-like mud. It had been a fight against the rain and mud every inch of the way. And now, except for the details of bridge repairing, the troops were resting, drying their water-soaked knapsacks, and gathering strength for the march southward. Rumors of Chattanooga were in the air, and the camp was buzzing with talk of "Mitchel's plan of campaign." Groups of soldiers stood about exchanging views on what would happen next, speculating upon the points where they would come into contact with the rebs: others were playing games, or lying upon blankets spread before their tents, sleeping, reading and writing letters. The rows of tents gave a suggestion of military orderliness to the scene, but it was a suggestion only, for the tents and their guy ropes were strung with blankets and clothing put out to dry.
Although it was not quite what he had expected to see, the camp was wonderful and thrilling to Tom Burns. He had expected more military pomp and precision; not simply hundreds of men, half-clothed and weather-worn, loitering and shifting between rows of tents. Even the tents were patched and dirty. But if the scene did not compare with the picture he had in his imagination—of officers mounted upon spirited horses, buglers sounding calls, companies standing at attention—there was a spirit of action and excitement in the air which made him rejoice. These men, who were half-clothed because the only garments they had to put upon their backs were tied to the guy ropes drying, were hardened campaigners; men, roughened and toughened in their months of service, pausing a moment before battle. The stains and tears of the tents were campaign badges. Tom began to feel proud that "his" regiment was not like the new, raw troops he had seen in the north—immaculately clean troops which had never known a night in the open, far from the comforts of barracks.
He was speechless as the messenger who had been detailed by the Sergeant of the Guard led him down the regimental street, where the officers' tents faced each company street. Company F ... Company E ... Company D.... At the head of each street was a small penciled sign telling them what company they were passing. Tom glanced ahead to Company B. In front of the officer's tent two men were talking.
"Is one of them the Captain?" he asked.
"Yep—the short one," answered the messenger. "The other's the doctor."
"What's the Captain's name?"
They stopped a few paces from where the Captain and the doctor were standing, and waited. Tom hazarded a glance down the street of Company B to see if he could catch a glimpse of his cousin, but Herbert Brewster was not in sight. Presently the Captain turned toward them. He was a short man, heavily built, and his manner was that of a man who had spent a lifetime commanding soldiers.
"Well, what is it?" he asked.
The messenger snapped to attention: he saluted. "This man wants to see Herbert Brewster of your company, sir."
"I'm his cousin, sir," added Tom.
The Captain dismissed the messenger with a nod. "You're Corporal Brewster's cousin, eh?"
"Corporal?" asked Tom.
The Captain laughed. "I thought that would surprise you. Yes, he was made Corporal last week. You'll find him in the third tent on your left. I don't suppose you know that he's on the sick list with a bad ankle?"
"I hope it isn't serious."
"Hm-m-m"—the Captain stroked his chin—"no, the ankle isn't serious, but being on the sick list is. Run along and cheer him up. Tell him that I'll be down to see him in a few minutes."
The Captain turned back to the doctor, and Tom threaded his way down the street. At the third tent he stopped, pulled open the flap and peered in. There was Bert, stretched out on his bedding, writing a letter. His right ankle was a mass of bandages from which his toes peered out. He did not look up from his writing.
"Does Corporal Herbert Brewster of Cleveland, Ohio, live here?" asked Tom.
"You, Tom! you!"
"Don't try to get up on that bad ankle." He rushed over and grabbed Bert's hand. "How are you?"
"What in the world are you doing at Murphytown?—or whatever they call this end of the mud-puddle. And how are all the people? When did you see mother and father last?"
Tom held up his hands in surrender; then, as he sat down on the edge of the bedding, Bert took him by the shoulders and shook him. "They're all fine. I'm here to enlist, Corporal. Will you have me in your squad?"
"You bet! Tell me about home."
Bert had been among the first to enlist, and, except for one furlough of two weeks, he had not been able to return home. Many minutes passed before Tom reached the point of his own departure from Cleveland; how he had gained the consent of his father and mother to his enlistment; his trip to Murfreesboro and all his adventures and misadventures en route. "And, by the way," he ended, "the Captain said that I was to tell you that he'd be here to see you soon. And what did you do to your ankle?"
"The Captain's coming to see me, eh? Humph! A lot of good that'll do me. Was he talking with the doctor?"
"Humph!" Bert plunged into thought.
"How about the ankle?" Tom reminded him. "What did you do to it?"
"I was on a bridge detail yesterday," answered Bert gloomily. "We were loading some pilings to be hauled up to a bridge, and I was on the wagon, placing them as they were shoved up to me. They were all greasy with mud, and I—well, I was thinking about some other things, and I stepped on a slippery hunk of mud. I went down; then one of the pilings rolled over when my foot struck it, and went on my ankle."
"Gee, that's hard luck!"
"I'd just as soon sprain a dozen ankles," answered Bert. "That isn't the hard luck."
"What do you mean?" asked Tom.
Bert looked at him for a moment, then shook his head. "No," he said. "I can't tell you. It's something we were planning to do, and"—he motioned towards his ankle—"here I am. Perhaps I'll tell you later."
The flap of the tent was pushed aside and the Captain entered. He stood for a moment looking regretfully at Bert. "I'm sorry," he said, "but the doctor says it can't be done. Too bad!"
Bert glared at his ankle. "Well, sir, if it can't be done, it just can't."
Tom watched the two men, wondering what thoughts were in their minds. What was this mysterious plan that was ending so badly?
The Captain spoke at last: "It's nice that you have your cousin here to keep you company while you're waiting for your ankle to heal."
"He'll be with me longer than that, Captain. He's come to enlist."
"Good!" exclaimed Captain Moffat. He turned to Tom. "I 'll be glad to have you, my boy!"
"And I'll be glad to be with you."
"Sir!" corrected Bert. "You'll have to learn to say 'sir' in the army."
"Yes—sir!" replied Tom.
The Captain smiled: "What's your name?"
"Burns, sir. Tom Burns."
"And how old are you!"
"Young," commented the Captain, "but you look strong enough to stand the life." He put out his hand. "I'm glad to have you. We need men these days, and we can always handle a few recruits. You can stay here with Corporal Brewster until you're assigned to a squad. I'll have some bedding sent down here for you to use until you draw your kit." He started out, then paused. "Don't be too disappointed, Brewster. There'll be other chances."
"Keep me in mind for the first chance, Captain."
"I'll promise you that."
"Thank you, sir," said Bert. "Do you know who will take my place?"
"Not yet," replied Captain Moffat. "I'll have to select a man."
He left the tent, his heavy sword clanking as he walked. Tom resumed his seat beside Bert.
"What is this scheme of yours, Bert?" he asked. "Can't you tell me? Is it a secret?"
Bert considered the matter for nearly a minute, while Tom watched him intently. "Yes, it's a secret," replied Bert; then he added, "But I'll tell you."
"If it's a military secret, perhaps you'd better not. Of course I wouldn't tell anyone, but...."
"No, it's all right for me to tell you." Bert put his hand into his knapsack which lay beside his bed and pulled forth a map. "Look here." Tom moved up beside him and they spread the map out on their knees. "There's a town called Corinth." Tom pointed with a brown forefinger. "Beauregard is there. And here is Atlanta, which is Beauregard's base of supplies. Here is Murfreesboro where we're camped. If Beauregard's supplies were cut off between Atlanta and Chattanooga, what would happen to Beauregard?"
"He'd been in for trouble," answered Tom.
"Chattanooga would be flying Mitchel's flag." Tom's eyes brightened, and he turned so that he could look squarely at his cousin. "But, Bert, how were you going to do it?"
Bert smiled wanly, and left Tom in suspense a moment before he answered. Then he glanced balefully at his ankle. "Some of us were going into the South, and ... well, we were simply going to do it."
"The railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga?" asked Tom.
"You've guessed it, but, on your life, don't breathe a word of it."
Tom's eyes opened wide. "Never! And aren't they going to do it now! Just because you're ankle is broken?"
"They'll do it, all right," answered Bert. "I'm not that important. There's only one man who is so important that they have to have him."
"And who's that?"
"The leader—the man who planned it. He knows the country." Bert folded the map and put it back in his knapsack.
"I'm sorry about your ankle," Tom said weakly. "With a chance like that!" He whistled, and leaned back, with his hands clasped around a knee, gazing steadfastly at the roof of the tent. Bert rested his chin in his hands and sat silently, looking at him. Tom's eyes narrowed and his fingers tightened until they were white.
"Bert...." he began, then stopped.
Their eyes met. Tom leaned forward and clutched his cousin's arm. "Do you think, Bert, that Captain Moffat would let me go in your place?"
"I don't know," answered Bert. "But we can ask. Asking won't do any harm."
"Will you ask him? Will you really?"
"Do you want to go? Without knowing any more about it than that?"
"More than anything else in the world. Do you think he will let me go, Bert? Tell him that I'm not afraid—that I can be trusted to carry out orders. You know I can do it, don't you, Bert?"
"Yes, I know you can do it. And I thought that you'd probably want to do it. That's why I disobeyed orders and told you. I wanted to give you the chance to volunteer."
"I wonder if the Captain'll just laugh and say that I'm a raw recruit."
"The Captain isn't that kind of man," answered Bert. "He doesn't laugh at a fellow just because he wants to do something. And about being a raw recruit.... It's my opinion that he'd rather send a recruit, if he's a good man, than a trained soldier. Trained soldiers are too scarce. He was willing to let me go because I volunteered months ago for any expedition that was to be sent out. When the call came for a man from each company, he called me into his tent, and just told me that I was going. Of course, a man doesn't have to go. It's for volunteers only. You know what it might mean if you got caught?"
"That we'd be held as spies. And perhaps...?"
They were silent for a moment.
"Will you ask the Captain now?" demanded Tom.
"You go on up to his tent and ask him if he'll come down here for a minute," said Bert. "You're absolutely positive that you want to go? You wouldn't rather have me wait until tomorrow while you think it over?"
"No! Ask him now, before he decides on someone else!"
Tom clapped his cousin on the shoulder, hurried out of the tent and up the company street.
THE RAIDERS START
"Come with me," said Captain Moffat, as he emerged from Bert Brewster's tent. Tom had been waiting outside, while Bert and the Captain were talking. He had recognized several men from Cleveland in the company and had tried to carry on a conversation with them. But conversation was impossible. His mind was too full of hopes and plans to recall the news from home. Now, as he walked up the company street, he wondered what the Captain was thinking. Would he be allowed to take Bert's place? He hazarded a glance at the Captain's face, but he could find no answering expression there—always the same stern mask, from which black eyes flashed. Tom could feel his heart pounding as they entered the Captain's tent.
"Sit down," said Captain Moffet, pointing to a box. He called his messenger. "I don't want to be disturbed for a few minutes."
"Very good, sir," answered the messenger. He stationed himself a few yards in front.
"It strikes me," the Captain said, as he sat in a folding chair directly before Tom, "that you are entirely too young to be sent out on such an expedition as this. But I like to know that you volunteer for it. It gives me a comfortable feeling to have men in my company who are always ready for anything that comes up, who are perpetual volunteers for the dangerous jobs."
Tom felt his heart sink. Then he wasn't to be allowed to go! This was simply a nice way of telling him that he couldn't!
"But, Captain," he said explosively, "I'd rather do this than anything else on earth. I am young—I'll admit that—but that'll make me all the more valuable. If it comes to carrying messages, I can run for miles without stopping. Why, I can move faster and fight harder just because I am young! Please give me the chance!"
The Captain looked at him narrowly. "You really want to go, don't you?"
"Yes!" Tom almost shouted.
"All right," said the Captain, rising from his chair. "You are going." Tom wanted to thank him, but he was speechless. "You will hold yourself in readiness for orders." The Captain had become the quiet, stern military man again. "You will let it be known that you are here to visit your cousin, and when you leave camp you will say that you are returning home."
"In the meantime, provide yourself with some rough clothes at Shelbyville, and some heavy shoes. I will provide you with a revolver. That will be all now."
Tom hurried back to his cousin's tent in a daze.
The next afternoon at the general store in Shelbyville he bought a rough suit, and a heavy pair of shoes. "Just wrap the suit up," he told the clerk, "I'll be in for it tomorrow, or the next day. I'll wear the shoes." He tramped back to Murfreesboro, displayed his pass to the Sentry, and went to Bert's tent.
"The doctor has been in again," Bert told him. "He says that my ankle will be well in a week or so."
"Good!" exclaimed Tom. "Look at my pretty little shoes." He displayed the heavy, rough boots he had bought at Shelbyville.
"You ought not to start in those things," advised Bert. "New shoes will cripple you. Here, we'll trade." He produced a pair which had been worn soft in miles of marching. "And here's a waterproof cape for you."
"No, I don't want to take your things."
But Bert insisted. "I know this sort of life. You take 'em and don't argue."
Bert had told him all that he knew of the raid, but, as he remarked, "that's little enough." None of the men who had volunteered knew the details of the expedition: they knew only that they were to accept orders from an unknown man, follow him blindly and willingly into whatever he might lead them. It was to be a raid of great importance, a raid that might change the course of the war if it proved successful. So great was the secrecy that no man knew who his companions were to be. All of them, as Tom, were waiting for orders to be given without knowing when the orders would come, nor what they would be. Tom spent hours, when his cousin's tentmates were away, studying the map, memorizing minute details of it.
Orders came on his third day at camp. He was clearing away the tin plates and cups from which they had been eating dinner, when the Captain's orderly appeared at the door of the tent. "Cap'n wants to see you immediately."
Tom and Bert exchanged a glance; then Tom followed the messenger to the Captain's tent.
When the messenger had been stationed to keep intruders away, the Captain said: "You will leave tonight. Take the Wartrace road out of Shelbyville and walk about a mile and a quarter. When you come to a fork in the road go into the trees and wait until you're picked up. You should be there at eight o'clock. You understand?"
"Repeat my instructions."
Tom repeated them without fault.
"Good! Wait here for a moment." The Captain left the tent. He returned presently with the Major of the battalion and another Captain. From the box where the documents of Company B were kept, he produced enlistment papers. For several minutes, while Tom stood tense and erect, the Captain wrote. The other two officers talked in an undertone.
"Sign here," said the Captain. Tom signed. The Major picked up the paper and glanced through it.
"Hold up your right hand," said the Major. Then Tom heard the oath which bound him to serve the United States of America honorably as a soldier.
"I do," he replied, and let his hand drop to his side again.
The two officers signed the papers, shook hands with him, nodded to Captain Moffat and left the tent. It all happened so quickly that Tom could scarcely realize that he was now a soldier. When he had entered the tent he was a civilian, bound merely by promises of service; now he was a soldier, without a uniform, to be sure, but none the less a soldier. His eyes dimmed and he looked away from the Captain.
Captain Moffat folded the paper, returned it to the box, and faced Tom. He looked at him thoughtfully for a few seconds; then placed his hands upon his shoulders.
"Private Tom Burns," he said softly. "Good luck to you. It will be Second Lieutenant Tom Burns if this expedition is a success. Good luck, my boy, and may God be with you." He took Tom's hand and shook it.
And then Tom found himself walking down the street of Company B—a soldier of Company B—and he scarcely knew that his feet were treading ground.
There were two men in the tent, talking with Bert, and Tom waited impatiently for them to leave.
"Tonight," he said shortly, as the tent flap dropped behind them.
They sat silently until Bert exclaimed, "I envy you! You're the luckiest boy in the world, walking right into such a chance as this."
"I wish you were going."
"So do I."
Silence overcame them again.
"I'd better write a letter home," Tom said presently. "I'll say that I've enlisted and let it go at that."
It was shortly before six o' clock when Tom left camp. He went to the store in Shelbyville, claimed the suit he purchased two days before, and induced the proprietor to let him make the change in the back room of the store. He made a bundle of the clothes he had discarded, left them at the store saying that he would call for them in a few days, then went out on the one street of the village. It was deserted; the good citizens of Shelbyville were at dinner, and a few soldiers who had come to the village to make purchases were hurrying back to camp to be there when mess call sounded. In the excitement of his departure Tom had forgotten that he must eat, but, with a half-hour to spare before starting for the meeting place, he returned to the store and stuffed his pockets with food. Then, with a hunk of cold meat in one hand and a slice of bread in the other, he walked down the village road, eating his supper as he went. Near the edge of the village he saw two men ahead of him, and he wondered if they too were members of the expedition. They stopped, leaning against a fence, and eyed him as he went by.
Dusk came, and then darkness. The sky was overcast, but occasionally the moonlight flashed through a break in the clouds, showing the road before him. Walking was difficult, for the half-dried mud was slippery, and the broad wheels of wagons had made deep ruts. Several times he stumbled, and once he wrenched his ankle. He made his way more carefully after that, sometimes feeling out the ground with the toes of his boots before he placed his weight forward. The thought of being disabled before he had really started on the adventure, of going back to camp to commiserate with Bert over sprained ankles, filled him with dread. The deepest ruts turned away from the main road to a farm house: a dog barked, and Tom hurried forward. Several hundred yards further along the road, he thought he saw a man who moved behind a tree and hid. He did not stop to investigate.
Tom paused for a moment at the fork of the road; then went forward breathlessly. Between the bushes which lined the edge of the fork stood several tall trees, with their trunks lost in black, ragged undergrowth. In the darkness he made out a trail. Again he paused, straining for the slightest sound. As he took a step forward he heard someone say:
He stopped short. "Hello," he gasped; then, when he had overcome his surprise, "Where are you?"
"Just four feet ahead of you."
"Who are you?"
"Brown, Company F, Twenty-first Ohio."
"Oh,"—this with relief in his voice—"I'm Burns, Company B, of the Second. Are there any others here?" He went forward and they tried to make out each other's faces in the dark.
"No. There was to be a third man with us, Andrews said," answered Brown. "He hasn't come yet."
"And who's Andrews?" asked Tom.
Brown laughed. "Why, he's the man who's leading us. The one who's going to take us in."
"I didn't know," answered Tom. "They didn't tell me much—except that I was going. That was enough."
"That's about as much as most of the men know," remarked Brown. "Knight and I were the only ones who talked with Andrews. We are the engineers."
"The engineers?" asked Tom. "What sort of engineers?" He heard Brown chuckle.
"Well, they didn't tell you much, did they? Locomotive engineers, of course. We're going to steal a railroad train."
"Steal a railroad train!" exclaimed Tom.
"Yep! That's what we're going to do."
Tom gave a low whistle.
Brown continued: "We're going to take a train on the Georgia State Railroad. Knight and I are to run it, and the rest of you...."
From down the road came a mumble of voices. Brown clutched Tom's arm and they listened. "That's them!" exclaimed Brown in a whisper.
One man of the approaching group stepped off the road into the fork, while the others waited.
"Brown," he called.
"Right here, sir." Brown stepped forward, and Tom followed.
"How many are with you?" asked the man.
"Just one—Burns. The third hasn't come yet."
"How are you, Burns? I'm Andrews." He groped for Tom's hand in the darkness, shook it. "I wonder where the other man is. Well, it makes no difference. We won't wait for him. Come on."
They followed him, out to where the others were standing.
"This way, men," said Andrews, starting up the road on the left. Brown and Tom fell in beside him. "The rest of you straggle out so that you can get off the road quickly if anyone comes." Then, to Brown and Tom: "Perhaps he's lost, or perhaps he's changed his mind. Three others weren't where I told them to be, but we'll get along just as well without them. I arranged it this way so that if any of you did decide at the last minute that you didn't want to go...." He did not finish the sentence. Presently he said: "I want no men who aren't anxious to be with me."
Tom could not see Andrews' face, but he liked his calm, pleasant voice. Conversation stopped, except for Brown's remark, "It looks like rain," and Andrews' answering, "Hm-m-m." For several minutes they plodded along the road, hidden even from the intermittent light of the moon by the trees that grew beside the road.
"Here we are," said Andrews presently. They stopped and waited for the others; then turned off the road into a small opening in the woods. Andrews went ahead of them, and called back, "Come over here."
They found him with two men. There came a rumble of thunder, so remote that it seemed like an echo, but to the ears of Andrews' men it was a sharp reminder of the troubles that might lay ahead of them.
"Hm-m-m! Perhaps you were right, Brown," said Andrews.
Thunder sounded again, this time nearer.
"Let's count heads," said Andrews. "Get in a semi-circle, just as close together as possible."
The men groped about, arranging themselves. Tom found himself shoulder to shoulder between two of them. Presently they were quiet. Andrews' calm, authoritative voice came again: "Starting at this end, give your names and your organizations."
Then: "Bensinger, Company G, Twenty-first Ohio"—"Dorsey, Company H, Thirty-third"—"Brown, Company G, Twenty-first"—"Pittenger, Company G, Second".... There were twenty of them, not including Andrews. Tom found himself between Wilson, Company C, of the Twenty-first Ohio, and Shadrack, Company K, of the Second Ohio.
The thunder sounded again and a few drops of rain pattered down. A murmer arose from the men. More thunder, and a flash of lightning. Another crash, and more rain splashed about them.
"It looks as though we're in for bad weather, men," said Andrews. "Gather about me so that you can all hear what I'm going to tell you." A streak of lightning illuminated the scene as they moved forward. Tom caught a glimpse of Andrews: a tall man, heavily built, with a long black beard. The rain was falling steadily. Tom unslung the cape which Bert had given him and put it on. There was a general rustle of capes and coats: then silence. Andrews continued: "I want all of you to understand that any man who wishes to change his mind may do so, and return to camp when we leave here. I want only those men who are willing and anxious to see this thing through, to follow me to the end"—he paused—"and that end may well be disaster. You have three days and three nights in which to reach Marietta, and you may travel as you see fit. Avoid forming groups of more than four. The course is east into the Cumberland Mountains, then south to the Tennessee River. Cross the river and travel by train, from whatever station you come to, through Chattanooga to Marietta. I will follow the same general course. Be at the hotel in Marietta not later than Thursday evening, ready to start the next morning. Have you any questions to ask about the route?"
There were questions, many of them. Over and over again he traced the course they were to follow; told them what they might find at certain points, what to avoid.
"I will supply you with all the Confederate money you will need. Carry none of our money with you."
"And if we are questioned?" asked Brown. Tom recognized his voice; then, in another flash of lightning he caught a glimpse of his face. That one glimpse was to change the course of Tom's adventures.
"I am coming to that presently," answered Andrews. "Buy whatever you need, and hire any sort of conveyance that you may think safe. But don't be lavish with the money I'm giving you—it may have to last a long time. It should be more than enough, but we can't tell what will happen. And now about being questioned: If you have to answer questions, say that you come from Fleming County, Kentucky; that you are on your way to join the Southern troops. I happen to know that no men from Fleming County are in the Southern army, and so there will be little risk of meeting anyone from there. And if you are asked why you don't enlist immediately, say that you want to join a regiment in Atlanta."
"And if we're completely cornered?" asked one of the men.
"In the Southern army?"
"Surely. Remember, men, that you are playing a bigger game than your own personal likes and dislikes. The idea of enlisting in the Southern army may seem terrible, but it isn't so terrible as being captured and tried as a spy. You can desert at the first chance. And remember this: upon every one of you depends the success or failure of this venture."
There was a murmer of approval, then silence.
"Tomorrow morning General Mitchel starts on a forced march. He will surprise and capture Huntsville on Friday. Our work is to capture the train that same day, destroy communications from Atlanta and join him with all possible speed. We will try to reach him with our train. Failing that, we will desert the train and join him as best we can."
Mitchel would move the next morning! Huntsville! Chattanooga! For a moment the men were silent; then came a sharp "Ah!" The long winter campaign was ended; now for action!
"We will start at once," said Andrews. A crash of thunder drowned his words. "From Marietta onwards we will fight it out together."
He began to distribute money to them. Several groups disappeared into the night.
"Shall we go together?" asked a man at Tom's right. "My name's Shadrack."
"Yes. Mine's Burns."
"Mine's Wilson," said another man. "Let's make it three."
They filed past Andrews, took the handful of Confederate money he held out, and started toward the road. The rain ceased for a few seconds; then came a flash of lightning, a burst of thunder, and the rain came swirling down. In an instant, Tom and his two companions were utterly alone in the black night, headed for the Southern lines.
"The Union pickets are at Wartrace," said Wilson, as they plodded down the road.
"We ought to pass them tonight," Tom added. "Have we any way of identifying ourselves?"
"No," replied Wilson. "We'd better try to avoid them."
"What I hope," remarked Shadrack, with a chuckle, "is that our pickets are sleepy—dreaming of a nice warm fire at home, instead of keeping on the alert. Whew! what a storm!"
The steady pelting of the rain made conversation impossible. The road was becoming a slippery gumbo into which their feet sank deeply, and they put all their strength into the laborious task of walking. Finally, after an hour, they stopped to rest.
"I don't think we've gone more than two miles," said Tom.
"The railroad track runs along here to the left some place," Wilson remarked. "If we could reach it, we'd find better walking."
"You'll have to swim to get there," muttered Shadrack. "Those fields will be mud up to our necks."
"Be quiet!" Tom whispered. "Someone's coming."
"Probably some of our own men," said Wilson.
They stood silently as two men passed them on the road. It was impossible to see them in the darkness, but they caught a broken sentence, "...find a barn ... too much mud...."
"That's about the best thing that we can do," said Shadrack, after the men had gone by. "Find a barn some place, and stay there for the night."
"I'd like to push on," replied Tom. "What do you think, Wilson?"
"Let's try to reach the railroad."
Shadrack grunted his assent, and they trudged along the road, looking for an opening to the left. Presently a flash of lightning showed them a field. They climbed the fence and started across. Their feet sank in mud that seemed bottomless, and water oozed in over their shoe-tops.
"Can you make it?" asked Wilson.
"Yeh—go on," answered Tom, panting.
"I'm coming," muttered Shadrack.
It took them a half-hour to cross the field; then they sat on the fence exhausted. No lightning came to show them the way, so they climbed the fence, crossed another road, and entered a second field. The mud here was worse.
"Bogged!" exclaimed Shadrack.
They retreated to the road.
"Let's follow this road," suggested Tom. "It seems to go in the general direction of the railroad tracks."
"Probably goes to a farmhouse," replied Wilson.
"Suits me exactly," said Shadrack.
During the next twenty minutes they made their way slowly along the road, slipping in the mud, sometimes falling. Twice Tom went down on his hands and knees. Shadrack sprawled face downward, and got up muttering something about "eating the filthy stuff."
Ahead of them a dog commenced to bark; then a door opened, and a man stood looking out.
"Call your dog off," yelled Wilson.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" demanded the farmer. The dog continued to bark, but he did not approach them.
"We're on our way to Wartrace," answered Wilson, "and we're lost in the storm. Can you give us a place to sleep?"
"Are you soldiers?"
Wilson paused a moment, then answered, "No."
"Come on up here then, and let's look at ye," answered the farmer. "Here, Shep, shut up that barking! Come here!"
They saw the dog curl up at its master's feet, and they went forward.
"How far are we from Wartrace?" asked Wilson, as they approached the door.
"'Bout two miles," answered the farmer. "Wait there, and I'll take a look at ye." He reached to one side and took a lamp. Then, shielding his eyes from the light, he held it up and glanced from one to the other. The dog came toward them, whining and growling. "Shut up, Shep. All right—come on in."
They entered the shanty. In one corner of the room a dilapidated stove was glowing; in another corner there was a bed, made of rough boards, with a pile of dirty bedding on the straw. A table and one chair completed the furniture. Near the door some farm implements were stacked. A rusty, battered pan on the floor caught the water that dripped in through a leak in the roof.
Now, for the first time, the three adventurers had an opportunity of seeing each other. Tom, as he took off his cape and water-soaked coat, glanced first at Wilson, then at Shadrack. Wilson was a tall man, nearly forty, with a serious face. His mouth was stern, and he had sharp gray eyes. Shadrack was short and plump. He was still blowing and puffing from his exertions in the mud, but he laughed as he took out a handkerchief and wiped his face. He had, in truth, been eating mud, for his face was streaked with it. "Had my mouth open when I fell," he explained.
The farmer stood at the door, watching them silently as they took off their shoes and put them by the stove. Finally he asked, "What are you going to Wartrace for?"
Tom had been wondering what story they had better tell him. They were still north of their own lines, even though they were in enemy country, and he felt that there might be some danger in saying that they were on their way to join the Southern army. He decided to leave the response to Wilson, who, because of his age and experience, was the natural leader. But, before Wilson could speak, Shadrack replied:
"We're from Fleming County, Kentucky, and we're going through the lines to join the Confederate army."
Wilson frowned and shook his head at Shadrack.
"So?" asked the farmer. "Goin' to fight the Yanks, eh?"
"Yep," answered Shadrack, "an' we're goin' to give 'em a good licking! That's what they need! We've seen all we want to see of Yanks."
"Well, I'll tell you right now that you're going to waste yer time," replied the farmer. "An' maybe you'll waste more than that."
Shadrack sat down on the floor near the fire, and Tom squatted beside him.
"You have some pretty bad rainstorms in this part of the country, don't you?" Wilson asked.
While Wilson was speaking, Tom nudged Shadrack, and muttered, "Be careful—don't talk too much." Shadrack's eyes lighted in puzzled surprise.
After a long silence, the farmer spoke: "You men better turn around again an' go back to yer homes. Yer folks need you more than the South does. The North is going to win this war."
In their hearts they were elated to hear a Southerner say that their own troops would be victorious; but, having told one story, they decided not to change.
"No," said Wilson solemnly, "we must go on."
Presently the farmer arose and stretched, "I'll go out an' see if the chickens are all right," he said, and left the shanty.
"Don't be a fool," said Wilson earnestly, "Don't be a better rebel than the Southerners."
"I'm sorry," replied Shadrack. "That's what we were told to say...."
"I know," interrupted Wilson, "but we have to be careful in the way we tell that story. For one thing, remember that we're still inside our own lines."
"Yes," replied Shadrack ruefully.
"I think you'd better do the talking for us," suggested Tom to Wilson. "We'll just agree to what you say."
"Now, that's a good idea!" exclaimed Shadrack. "We'll just nod our heads an' say, 'That's right!' I'll not say a word after this."
A half-hour passed before the farmer returned. Without speaking, he took off his boots and coat, and lay down on his bed. The others arranged themselves on the floor about the stove, and Tom blew out the light. The floor was hard, but the stove was warm—and they were dry. Sleep came almost immediately.
They were awakened at dawn by the door opening, and a man shouting, "Get up there! Hold you hands up! Strike a light, Johnson."
Tom jumped to his feet. In the half-light of morning he saw the glint of a revolver. Wilson and Shadrack were beside him, and the farmer was sitting on the edge of his bed. They put their hands up—all except the farmer. The bluish flame of a sulphur match sputtered, then grew bright. Three Union soldiers stood before them with drawn revolvers, while a fourth lighted the lamp.
"These are the men, I presume, Smith?" asked the Sergeant.
The farmer grunted.
Tom and Shadrack looked to Wilson to speak, but he said nothing. So the farmer had sent word to Union troops! When he had gone out to look after his chickens, he had sent a messenger with the news that three ardent Southerners were to be captured at his house if the soldiers would come and get them! Captured by their own troops!
"Pull on your boots," ordered the Sergeant. "Wait a minute! Look through their clothes and see if they're armed, Martin."
The soldier who had lighted the lamp approached, and ran his hands through their pockets. He produced three revolvers and laid them on the table. The Sergeant picked them up, glanced at them to be sure they were loaded; then distributed them among the soldiers.
"That's all, Sergeant," said the soldier addressed as Martin.
"All right, get on your boots. You did a good night's work, Smith."
"I told 'em they'd better go back home," said the farmer dully.
Tom, Wilson, and Shadrack sat on the floor pulling on their heavy, water-laden boots. When they stood up, the Sergeant said: "Call Jim and Max." Two more soldiers appeared, making six in all.
"Two of us to a prisoner. Come on."
They left the shanty. The farmer was still sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at them.
TOM GOES ALONE
The rain had ceased. Dawn, flooding above the heavy clouds, was at last filtering through, and the world rested tranquilly in a bluish, shadowless light. Tom, as he stepped from the shanty, with his arms held by two Union soldiers, glanced about him in wonderment. This unfamiliar scene, which had been an endless blackness the night before, was like a dream country into which he was straying half awake. The events of the previous day became remote and unreal. He paused for a moment, but the apprehensive tightening of fingers upon his arms made him suddenly aware of the fact that he was a prisoner, and he fell into step with the soldiers.
"So you were a-goin' to fight the Yanks, were you!" asked one of them.
"We'll talk about that later," answered Tom.
"'Pears to me that it ain't anything I'd want to talk about at any time if I was you," answered the other soldier.
Tom, with his guards, was in the lead; then came Wilson, with Shadrack a few paces behind him. The Sergeant was with Shadrack. Tom glanced back, and his eyes met Wilson's. There was a flash of understanding between them; then Wilson turned to look at Shadrack, as though cautioning silence. No one spoke as they picked their way along through the ooze of mud in the direction of the main road. To their left was another shanty, much like the one in which they had spent the night, and before the door stood a man, with his wife and child, gazing at them dumbly. The man was dressed, but the woman and child had wrapped tattered blankets over them for protection against the cold. Tom, as he watched them, reconstructed the drama of the night before. They, he thought, were "poor whites," like the man in whose shanty they had slept—Smith, the soldiers had called him—and their hearts were with the Northern army. Smith, when he had left on the pretext of attending to his chickens, had probably gone to them, routed them out of bed to tell them of the rebels he was harboring. The man had dressed and floundered through the mud until he came to the Union pickets, brought the soldiers back with him to Smith's shanty. That was his service to the Northern cause, and he must feel proud now, thought Tom. There, huddling together on the doorstep of their miserable, rain-soaked hut, they had visible proof of having helped the North, of having rendered their service. And their pride, lifting them for a brief moment from the pitiful squalor of their lives, seemed such a fine thing to Tom that he hoped they would never know of the mistake they had made. He glanced back and saw them still watching, silent and motionless.
When the procession had come to a spot where it was hidden both from the shanties and the road, Wilson spoke:
"Sergeant, I'd like to have a word with you."
"All right," answered the Sergeant. "What is it?"
"Alone, I mean," answered Wilson. "It's important. I'm not trying to escape. It's so important that I can't let the rest of your men hear it."
"You men stand by these two prisoners while I hear what the reb has to say," ordered the Sergeant. "Come over here."
Wilson went to the Sergeant and talked earnestly for several minutes. The Sergeant watched him narrowly, frowning. A few of Wilson's words drifted over to the others; "...not asking you to take my word ... to some person of authority ... not lose a minute about it...." The Sergeant was visibly impressed. He tilted his cap and scratched his head; shifted his weight from one leg to another; stroked his whiskers. Finally, after a brief discussion, they came to a decision.
"This man and I are going to take the wagon," announced the Sergeant. "We have to get to Wartrace as quick as we can. You others 'll have to walk. It'll take too long if we all ride—too much of a pull for the horses."
There was some grumbling among the guards at the prospect of trudging through the mud when they had expected a comfortable ride in the wagon. However, without understanding what it all was about, they accepted the Sergeant's decision. When they reached the road where the wagon was standing, Wilson said to Tom:
"I'll try and meet you before you get to Wartrace. Take your time."
"Yep," added the Sergeant, "don't hurry."
They saw the wagon, drawn at a trot, disappear down the road, the mud spurting out from the wheels. Tom and Shadrack exchanged glances and laughed.
"Now I call that extraordinary!" exclaimed one of the guards. Then, as if he liked the word, he repeated, "Extraordinary!"
"If we give you our words not to try escaping," asked Tom, "will you let go our arms? You have the guns, anyhow. It'll make walking easier."
"All right," drawled a guard. "That's a good idea." He turned to the other soldiers, and asked, "What do you think? Let 'em walk a couple of paces ahead, eh?" It was agreed.
Tom and Shadrack went ahead, while the guards followed, speculating among themselves on this new turn of affairs.
"Wilson is probably going to the officer in command and have him rush through a message," said Tom. "I suppose they have a telegraph line between Wartrace and headquarters."
"I hope so," replied Shadrack. "I wonder how far the others got?"
Tom had been wondering the same thing. "Probably not much farther than we did," he answered.
More than an hour later they saw a light buggy drawn by two horses approaching them; then they distinguished Wilson and the Sergeant. As the horses were reined in, Wilson jumped from the buggy.
"All right," he said, laughing. Then to the guards, "Thanks for your company, boys. Let's have our guns."
The guards looked at the Sergeant, puzzled. "Yep," said the Sergeant, "give the revolvers. These men are all right. The Captain says that we're to forget that we've ever seen 'em." He winked at Wilson, then reached out and slapped him on the back.
As the soldiers walked away, Wilson said: "Andrews arrived at Wartrace early this morning, just after these men left, and told the Captain to be watching for any of his men who might get caught by the sentries. When I went into the Captain's room, he looked at me and said, 'Andrews?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' In about two minutes I was on my way back. We have to cut down along a road about a hundred yards from here. I have a pass to get us by the Sentry. We have to make Manchester tonight."
Without wasting any time in talking, the three men hurried to the road that would take them past the Union lines and into the enemy country. A few minutes later a Sentry challenged them. Wilson produced his pass, the Sentry nodded and they went forward.
As they pressed on across the strip of country between the Northern and Southern pickets, General Mitchel's army of ten thousand men broke camp. Tents were struck, wagons loaded, knapsacks swung into place ... and the army stretched out to crawl wearily through that sea of jelly-like mud towards Huntsville.
It was early in the afternoon when Tom, Shadrack, and Wilson reached Manchester. They were tired and wet, but far worse than being tired and wet, they were hungry. They resolved that the first thing they should do was forage for food, and so they made their way directly to the small store in the center of the village. But there was little food to be had there. The storekeeper, a wizened old man who had lost all interest in selling things, told them that they might be able to buy something from one of the village people—he didn't know who had food for sale. Perhaps the Widow Fry—he indicated the general direction of the Widow Fry's house—might give them something. They turned away from the store disconsolately.
"It's raining again," remarked Shadrack. He turned his round face upward and gazed at the sky so solemnly that the others laughed. But there was no disputing the fact: the drizzle had commenced. To the south, in the direction of Chattanooga, the clouds had formed a dark, ominous wall, as though nature were raising a barrier to the expedition.
A man, hurrying to be home and out of the rain, came abreast of them. Tom stopped him.
"Can you tell us where the Widow Fry lives?" he asked.
"Yes," answered the man, and he glanced from Tom to Shadrack and Wilson deliberately. "But tell me why everyone is going to the Widow Fry's!"
"Everyone?" asked Wilson.
"Well, three men stopped me 'bout a minute ago and asked the same thing," the man replied. "Friends of yours, maybe?"
"No," answered Wilson. It was a truthful answer, too, for even if the men belonged to Andrews' party, they would not have recognized them. "The storekeeper said we could get something to eat there."
"Just traveling, are you!" persisted the man.
"So to speak," replied Wilson. He was determined not to risk trouble again, not to say that they were on their way to join the Southern army until they were well within the Southern lines.
"Come on, let's be getting in out of the rain," said Tom suddenly. "Don't let's stand here getting wet. Where is the Widow Fry's?"
"'Fraid of the wet, young man?" asked the native of Manchester.
"Yes," answered Tom bluntly.
"Well," drawled the man. He turned away from them sufficiently for Tom to nudge Wilson and motion up the street. Andrews was riding toward them! He was mounted upon a tired-looking bay, whose head drooped from hard riding. Andrews looked equally tired, for he sat hunched up in the saddle, his cape drawn tightly around him and his head bowed. "Y'see that clump of trees down yonder!" asked the man. "The Widow Fry's house is just beyond that. Are you journeyin' far?"
"Thank you," answered Tom. "No, we're not going far." They strode away, leaving the inquisitive citizen of Manchester staring after them. "The old fool!" Tom exclaimed. "He'd keep us there for an hour. I wonder where Andrews is going?" He hazarded a glance over his shoulder. Andrews was almost up to them.
"We'd better not speak to him until we're farther away from these houses," said Wilson.
"When we get down almost to the trees, I'll hail him."
They quickened their pace so that Andrews would come abreast of them near the Widow Fry's. Several times Tom glanced back to see if Andrews was watching them, but the leader's eyes seemed never to waver from the pommel of his saddle. The village street narrowed down to a country road, and the "plock-plock-plock" of the horse's hoofs on the mud sounded directly behind them.
"This is all right," said Wilson. "Let's slow down." Then, as the horse came up to them, Wilson said: "Andrews!"
"Follow me," Andrews answered. He touched his horse with his spurs. The animal was too tired to do more than quicken its step, but it carried Andrews ahead of them rapidly.
"He didn't seem surprised," said Wilson.
"He knew who we were when he saw us on the street, I think," answered Tom.
"Good-by, warm food," wailed Shadrack, for they were passing the Widow Fry's. "Hot coffee, a plate full of stew, bread...."
"Don't talk about it," begged Tom.
"Fried eggs and ham," continued Shadrack.
"We'll put you down and feed you mud, if you say another word. Won't we, Wilson!"
"If we don't starve to death first," Wilson replied.
"Good-by, food," Shadrack wailed again. He picked up a stick from the roadside and commenced to gnaw it; then, surprised because the others were not eating, he broke the stick in three parts, and said: "Do have some of the nice tender steak, Mr. Burns and Mr. Wilson." They threw the sticks at him. He ran ahead of them. They finished the bombardment with hunks of mud, and chased after him, slipping and splashing along the road.
Andrews had dismounted, and they saw him leave the road, leading his horse. They followed, and found him standing at the horse's head, waiting for them.
"How did you fare, men?" he asked. After they had told him of their adventures, he continued: "This rain is bad. I'm afraid of it. If it keeps up, General Mitchel will be delayed one day, perhaps two days. It will be impossible for him to reach Huntsville in time—impossible."
He appeared to be thinking aloud, rather than talking to them. His head was bowed, and he stroked the horse's neck mechanically.
"I dare not go back now in hopes of getting into communication with General Mitchel. It would never do to leave my men scattered about the country, waiting for me to return. Do you men, from your experience, think that the General can reach Huntsville on Friday?"
Wilson was first to answer. "I don't think so," he said. "Some of the forces might reach there in time, but I don't think the General can concentrate at Huntsville for an attack before Saturday. Not with this mud to wade through."
"I agree with Wilson, sir," said Shadrack.
The three men turned to Tom. He felt suddenly embarrassed. Three veterans asking him, a soldier of one day's campaigning, for an opinion! "From what I've heard of General Mitchel," he said, "I think he will do whatever he says he will do—even if he has to attack Beauregard's army single handed." Then he added, as though to explain away what he had said: "But that is nothing more than my opinion of the man. I ... I enlisted just yesterday."
"Yesterday!" exclaimed the three older men.
"Yes. My cousin was going on the raid, but he sprained his ankle. I came to enlist, and I begged the Captain to send me."
"I see," answered Andrews, studying him. After a moment he plunged again into consideration of the problems which lay before him. "I am going ahead on the theory that Mitchel will be one day late in reaching Huntsville," he said at last. "We must find all the men and tell them, so that there will be no confusion in Marietta."
"There are three men at the Widow Fry's back there," said Shadrack. "I don't know if they're some of ours or not."
Andrews nodded. "We'll find out presently. I'm worrying most about our engineers. I think I know where I can find Knight, but Brown has gone on ahead. Do any of you know Brown?"
"I do, sir," answered Tom. "We met at the same place last night, and then I got a good look at him in the lightning."
"Hm-m-m! That may help."
"Mr. Andrews," commenced Tom.
"Yes? What is it?"
"If we're going to delay a day, shouldn't someone be sent back with a message for General Mitchel?"
"I've been considering that," answered Andrews. "Will you volunteer?"
"No," Tom answered flatly. "Of course, I'll go if I'm ordered, but I'll not volunteer."
"Hm-m-m ... well, never mind about that. I have some other work for you." Andrews seemed to emerge from a fog of indecision. "I want you to take my horse and travel south as rapidly as you can. If you come across any of our men who may be ahead of us, tell them that the raid is postponed one day. I—if I can—will get word back to the General. I want you to locate Brown. I was told that he and the man who is traveling with him—I don't know who it is—managed to get a ride in a farmer's wagon. They left here this morning, and the farmer was going to take them as far as a village called Coal Mines. You'll probably overtake them, but if you don't find them on the road, go into Chattanooga and catch the train for Marietta Thursday. Brown will probably catch that train. Tell him about the change in plans, and wait in Marietta for us. We will be there Friday night. In the meantime, I will locate Knight. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," answered Tom. "What shall I do with the horse?"
"The poor brute is just about ready to drop now," replied Andrews. "Ride him as far as he'll carry you, then turn him loose. Throw the saddle and bridle into the bushes. It's after four o'clock now. You'd better be getting along."
"Yes, sir." Tom took the reins.
"Say!" Shadrack broke in, "he'd better have something to eat, or he'll fall off the horse. We were just going to the Widow Fry's to persuade her to give us a meal."
Andrews reached into his pockets, and drew forth two paper packages. "Here's some bread and meat. I'm sorry I haven't anything more, or anything better. You can eat it while you ride."
Tom thanked him and mounted the horse. "Good-by, sir. Good-by, Wilson and Shadrack. Luck to you." He turned the horse into the road, and started southward. Now he was alone, with the South before him.
TOM ARRIVES AT THE BEECHAM'S
Wednesday dawned in a drizzle of rain. It had seemed to Tom, riding through the long night on a horse whose legs trembled at every step, that the dawn would never come; that the world had been conquered by the downpour. At least it had seemed so until the monotony of the rain and cold deadened his senses, allowing him to fall into a doze.
He straightened in the saddle, and stretched. A chill seized him, and he commenced to shiver violently. His clothes were wet and heavy.
"This won't do," he said aloud, with his teeth chattering. At the sound of his voice the horse pricked up his ears feebly. "Poor fellow! You're just about ready to drop, aren't you?" He reined in, stroking the horse's shoulder; then dismounted. For a few seconds he clung to the saddle, supporting himself; his numbed legs refused to hold him until he brought them to life by stamping and kicking. Even then he was none too sure of his step.
"Poor boy!" he said to the horse. "It's been a hard trip for you. Poor boy! Here, let's take that bit out of your mouth and see if you can find something to eat. There's not much around here, is there?" The horse commenced chewing at some weeds which had sprung up along the roadside. Tom pulled out the sodden remains of the food Andrews had given him, gave the bread to the horse and ate the meat. Then, leading the horse, he walked along the road. He had passed Coal Mines shortly after midnight, but without coming upon Brown. Probably, he thought, Brown and his companion had found a house or barn in which they were spending the night, which meant that he was ahead of them and would be in Chattanooga when they arrived.
A half-hour later he tried to remount, but the horse was too exhausted to bear his weight. They rested for a few minutes and then walked for another half-hour. Several times the horse stumbled. When they stopped to rest again, the horse braced his legs as though it took all his strength to stand. His head was hanging, and his eyes were dull.
"Poor fellow," Tom repeated. "It's cruel to make you do this, but I can't leave you here." If he had to abandon the animal, he wanted to leave him where there was some chance of finding food. Here there was nothing.
They pressed on again, walking for a few minutes, then resting. It was nearly seven o'clock when they came to a big house, standing several hundred yards from the road. Tom turned up the driveway. Presently the odor of frying bacon came to his nostrils, and he felt faint and dizzy.
"Lan' sakes alive," exclaimed the negro woman who came to the door. "Lan' sakes, have you all been out in this rain storm. Jasper!"
"Yas'm," came the answer. A little negro boy appeared from around his mother's skirts.
"Take this gentleman's horse 'round to de stable. Come right in, sir."
"Thank you," answered Tom wearily. "Can you give me something to eat?"
"Yassir. You come right in."
"I'd better unsaddle the horse first, mammy," replied Tom.
"Jasper, you tell yo' pa to unsaddle this gentleman's horse. You come right in here, sir. I'll tell the white folks."
Tom needed no second urging. He entered the big kitchen, his stomach wrenching and aching at the odor of food. "Don't bother about telling the white folks that I'm here, mammy," he said. "Just give me something to eat. I'm starving."
"Yassir, yassir," replied the old woman, "but a kitchen ain't no place for white folks to eat. I'll just run an' tell Mr. Beecham you all is here." She disappeared through the door leading to the back part of the house.
Tom decided that it was no time for ceremony. On the table lay a loaf of bread—the colored woman had been slicing it when he knocked—and in the pan sizzled a dozen slices of bacon. In less than five seconds, Tom was eating a bacon sandwich. And he was halfway through the second sandwich when the colored woman came back to the kitchen.
"Sakes!" she exclaimed. "I guess you is suh-tainly hungry. Mr. Beecham he's coming right away."
Mr. Beecham proved to be an elderly, stern-faced gentleman. He stood in the doorway gazing at Tom.
"Well, sir," he said at last. "Do you prefer my kitchen to my dining-room, sir?"
"No, Mr. Beecham, I don't," answered Tom. "But in these clothes, wet to the skin, it would be an intrusion to go farther than the kitchen."
It was an answer that Mr. Beecham appreciated. Tom was glad that the last evidences of the stolen bacon sandwiches had disappeared down his throat. He stood waiting for Mr. Beecham to speak—and wondering if he was to be invited for breakfast.
"Will you come with me, please?" asked Mr. Beecham. They passed through a corridor, and into the big entrance hall, where logs were blazing In a fireplace. "In these days," continued Mr. Beecham, "it is customary to ask people who they are. You understand, I trust."
"Certainly, sir," said Tom. "My name is Thomas Burns, and I'm from Fleming County, Kentucky. I'm on my way to Atlanta to enlist." He had been bracing himself for the past minute to tell that story, and it came smoothly, convincingly. For a moment after it was out, he hated himself.
Mr. Beecham pursed his lips and nodded. "Excellent!" he exclaimed. "Will you be my guest at breakfast, sir?"
"Thank you, sir," Tom replied. "But in these clothes...."
"I daresay we will be able to find other clothes for you. If you will come with me?"
"First I'd like to go to the stable and see my horse. I gave him a hard ride last night to put distance between me and the Union pickets."
"Certainly." Mr. Beecham called another colored boy, who guided Tom to the stable. There he found his horse munching hay, wearily but contentedly. The stableman approached, armed with grooming implements.
"That's good," said Tom. "Give him a good grooming, and a blanket. Then, in a half-hour, give him a feed of oats."
He slipped a dollar into the negro's hand, and left him beaming.
Mr. Beecham escorted him to a room upstairs, where, with the aid of another negro servant, they found clothes to replace the wet things he was wearing. They left him to wash and dress.
"We will have breakfast just as soon as you are ready," said Mr. Beecham as he closed the door.
Tom wondered if all these negroes were slaves. He had seen an occasional negro in the North, but of course they were freed. He had expected to find them different; less cheerful, perhaps, and carrying an air of oppression. And it disturbed him slightly not to find them so.
Mr. Beecham had provided him with a suit of his own clothes. They were about the same size, but a suit cut for a man of more than fifty looks strange on a boy of eighteen. Tom glanced at himself in the mirror and laughed. However, it was part of the adventure he had been tossed into.
As he left his room and started down the stairs, the chatter of women's voices struck his ears. Then he saw two women standing with Mr. Beecham before the fire. One of them was elderly, and the other was a girl—about his own age, Tom thought. She was strikingly pretty, standing there in the glow of the fire, glancing up out of the corners of her eyes, as though she could not restrain her curiosity.
"May I present Mr. Burns, my dear," said Mr. Beecham. "My wife and my niece, Miss Marjorie, Mr. Burns."
Tom bowed, muttering "Mrs. Beecham, Miss Marjorie." When he caught the girl's eyes, he saw a twinkle of amusement. Then he remembered his clothes, and he blushed. The formalities of introduction over, they turned to the dining-room, where two negro girls were already arranging breakfast. It was a feast: coffee, hot cakes, eggs ... everything that Shadrack in his wildest moments of hunger could have dreamt of.
Mr. Beecham's conversation about the war, conditions in the South, his hatred of the North and the abolitionists, occupied most of Tom's attention. It was difficult to play the role of Southerner; he wanted to protest against some of the things the older man said. There was slight opportunity for him to reply, however, and so he simply nodded, apparently agreeing heartily.
"Did you ride far last night?" asked Miss Marjorie finally.
"From Wartrace," he said. "I came through the lines there."
"And weren't there any Union sentries?"
"I didn't stop to investigate."
Mr. Beecham broke in upon their conversation at that point with some observations of his own upon the subject of Northern politics. Then he drifted to war manoeuvers: "I tell you, Beauregard will smash that man Mitchel to a million pieces. Mitchel is so frightened that he dares not move. Whichever way he moves, he is lost. He is trapped like a man at chess. The best thing he can do is to surrender before he loses his troops. He dares not move."
And Tom was thinking to himself: "How surprised you'd be if you knew that Mitchel was moving this very minute."
Mitchel was moving. Under the weight of their water-soaked equipment, his men were plodding wearily through the mud, marching slowly and steadily upon Huntsville. While Tom had been riding through the night, Mitchel's men had slept on the flooded ground between Shelbyville and Fayetteville. Now they were prying the heaving wagons from the mud holes, while the cavalry swept out on the flanks to clear the country of enemy scouts. Skirmishers were advancing through the woods and over the hills, protecting the troops, with their thousands of wagons and guns, from surprise attack. General Mitchel, riding through the drizzle, announced to his aides: "Regardless of the weather, we will attack Huntsville Friday."
Even Andrews, underrating Mitchel's relentless determination to do what he said he would do, if all the forces of the weather were against him, thought himself safe in delaying the raid at least one day.
ON TO CHATTANOOGA
"I must leave, sir, as soon as my horse is fit to travel," replied Tom to Mr. Beecham's questions regarding his plans. "That will give me more than enough time if the ferry is running, and just enough time if I must follow the river to the Chattanooga ferry."
Mr. Beecham's house was only ten miles from the town, figured on the map; but the weather made map figuring hazardous. The Tennessee River had mounted to a torrent under the continual rains, and the ferries which customarily provided short-cuts were, for the most part, not operating. Tom gathered that information at breakfast. He had no intention of trying to cross at the Chattanooga ferry, for the Confederate guards there would be dangerously strong, and it remained to find some ferryman who could be bribed to risk the trip. That might take time.
"I'll look at your horse while I'm out," said Mr. Beecham. He was preparing, regardless of the storm, for his usual walk about his estate. He went out, and Mrs. Beecham turned to her household duties. Miss Marjorie and Tom were alone, standing before the blazing fire in the hall. There was still that disconcerting twinkle of amusement in her eyes.
"I suppose I do look funny," he said, glancing down at his clothes.
"It's not kind of me to laugh," she replied. "Were you very wet!"
"As wet as one person can possibly be. I absorbed at least half of the rainstorm between Wartrace and here. No more water would stick to me—it just rolled off, finally."
"I don't think I should like being a soldier," she said. "Do you?"
"I haven't tried it. I'm just beginning."
"Do you want to fight?"
"It isn't a question of wanting to fight," he replied. "It's a question of duty."
"Oh." She sat down and he took a chair beside her. "But you were out of it. No one would have said that it was your duty to run the danger of going through the Union pickets."
He wished that she would not talk about the war. It was unpleasant, this lying to a girl. With Mr. Beecham it was different. Then he remembered that she had said "Union pickets," instead of "Yankee pickets." It struck him as strange, coming from a Southern girl.
"Tell me about your home," she asked.
He gave a rather sketchy description of his imaginary home in Fleming County, Kentucky—a none too convincing description. Then he tried to change the subject by asking her if she had always lived with the Beechams.
"No—not always," she answered. "Is Fleming Cou...."
"And is your name Beecham?" he interrupted, anxious to avoid the subject of Fleming County.
"My name is Landis," she answered. "Marjorie Landis. Is Fleming County very large?"
"No—no. Not very large. And where did you live before you came here?"
"With mother." It seemed to be her turn for evasion. "I presume," she continued, "that you know all the people in the county?"
He wondered if, by some chance, she knew people there, if she was going to pin him down to persons and definite places in Fleming County.
"No, indeed," he answered. "You see, I haven't been there all the time."
"I never was very good at geography," she began apologetically. "Where is Fleming County?"
"Oh, it is in the southern part of the state," he said. He decided to study the first map he could get his hands upon.
"Let's do as we used to do in school," she said. "Bound Fleming County for me."
Tom decided that he hated all girls, and Miss Marjorie Landis in particular. She had trapped him, easily and pleasantly.
He forced himself to laugh, and the laugh sounded mirthlessly in his ears. "Oh, I've forgotten," he said. "I can't remember what counties are around us there. I wonder when this rain will stop? We'll have to build us an ark if it keeps on much longer. Wouldn't a war on an ark be a strange thing? The ark would keep turning in the current—the North would become the South and the South would become the North, and so rapidly that we wouldn't know which side we were fighting on. Do you think we'd have to stop and change uniforms every time the ark turned?" He arose and went to the window. "I wonder if my poor horse is getting rested! It's a pity to ride him again this afternoon. Perhaps I'd better go out and see him."
She, too, arose. "Never mind about the horse, Mr. Burns," she said. "You'd much better be studying geography! Wait here a moment."
She turned and ran up the stairs. Tom, his head pounding, watched her disappear. What was she going to do, now that she had trapped him? Of course she knew that he had not been telling the truth. Presently she returned with a book under her arm. Scarcely glancing at him, she approached, opened the book—it was a geography—turned the pages to a map of Kentucky.
"There!" she said. He looked at her, rather than the book. "No—study it."
He did as she bade him—and found Fleming County in the north-eastern part of the state. It had been a bad guess. Then he glanced at the names of the counties surrounding it.
"But why...." he began.
"Give me the map!" she demanded. "Now can you remember them!"
"Please! Say them—the counties!"
"Lewis, Carter, Morgan, Bath, Nicholas, Mason."
As the door opened and Mr. Beecham entered, they turned. "Mr. Burns has been showing me on the map where he lives," said Miss Marjorie sweetly.
"Ah, yes—ah, yes," answered Mr. Beecham. "Ah, yes, indeed."
Tom scarcely heard him, or saw him.
"Your horse will be ready to carry you in a few hours, I think," said Mr. Beecham. "You must have ridden him easily, sir."
"I didn't press him harder than was necessary," responded Tom.
"I tell you," announced Mr. Beecham, divesting himself of his storm coat, "it takes a Southern man to get the most out of horse flesh, without hurting the horse. A good reason for the superiority of our cavalry! I trust you are going to join the cavalry."
"Yes, sir," answered Tom. He was thoroughly sick of deception. At that moment, if he could have found an adequate excuse for departure, he would willingly have walked the remaining distance to Chattanooga—and swum the river in the bargain.
Mr. Beecham settled himself before the fire. "I've not known many gentlemen from Kentucky," he announced. "For the most part I stay at home, and we have few travelers along this road. There was a Mr. Charles, of Floyd County. Isn't that just east of Fleming County!"
"No," answered Tom, "Carter County is on our east." He glanced at Miss Marjorie. She was watching him intently, alive to the dangerous ground he was treading.
"Ah, yes," answered Mr. Beecham, "so it is—so it is. Let me see the geography a moment, dear." Miss Marjorie gave him the book, opened to the map of Kentucky. "Quite so—quite so. Floyd County is here." He pointed.
"Yes," answered Tom. "Does there seem to be any chance of the storm ending, sir?"
The weather provided a safer subject of conversation, which lasted for nearly a half-hour. Then Tom became intensely interested in Mr. Beecham's estate, and the difficulties of handling crops in war time. Miss Marjorie sat near them, sewing. Tom would have given everything he possessed for two minutes alone with her. Why was she befriending him? He asked the question over and over again.
It was decided that one of Mr. Beecham's servants should go with Tom to the ferry landing. The servant, carrying a note from Mr. Beecham to the ferryman, would show him the way, and, more than that, it would be additional proof to the ferryman that Mr. Beecham was especially desirous of Tom's being taken across the river. "Then I'll know if old Jones who runs the ferry does as I tell him to do," explained Mr. Beecham. "They don't like to cross when the river's high."
Dinner was served, and still Tom had no opportunity to speak with Marjorie alone. The glances they exchanged were charged with meaning—but it was an unexplainable meaning. Several times as he pondered over it, Tom lost the thread of Mr. Beecham's remarks, and had to grope for the right answers.
"Your horse will be ready for you in a few minutes," said Mr. Beecham as they arose from the table.
"And your clothes are dried and in your room," added his wife.
It was time to be going. He mounted to his room, changed into the rough suit he had bought in Shelbyville, and forced his feet into his soggy shoes. They were waiting for him before the fire as he came down. After a moment, Mrs. Beecham left them. Tom hoped desperately that Mr. Beecham would do likewise.
"I'll see if Sam is bringing your horse," he said.
Tom's eyes met Marjorie's as the older man entered the next room, where he could look out toward the stables. He had no sooner disappeared than Tom asked in a low voice: "Why did you do that?"
"You're not a Southerner, are you?" she asked.
"No," he answered bluntly. "But what...?"
"I'm not either," she replied. Her glowed with excitement. "I'm from Albany...."
They were interrupted by Mr. Beecham's returning. "The horse is coming," he announced. Mrs. Beecham entered the room.
"Thank you for your hospitality," said Tom.
"It has been a pleasure," replied Mrs. Beecham.
"A pleasure, sir—a pleasure," responded her husband.
Tom's dislike for the deception he was practising made him want to run from the house. For the moment he hated the idea of the expedition.
He put out his hand to Marjorie. She gave him a cool, firm clasp, and looked straight into his eyes. "I wish you the best of luck for everything you undertake," she said slowly.
"Thank you," he replied. "I'll need luck." Her hand gave his a quick pressure. Once again the railroad raid became a great, thrilling adventure in which he was to play a part.
"He bowed and left the house.
"Sam!" called Mr. Beecham.
"Yassah!" answered the negro boy who was mounted upon another horse.
"You stay there until this gentleman is across the river."
Tom mounted and they started down the road. He looked back, saw Marjorie at the window, and waved. She answered him.
Despite the rain which beat in their faces, Tom studied the country through which they were passing, and asked the negro boy innumerable questions. But he found his mind slipping back constantly to Marjorie. A Northern girl in the South! Surrounded by "rebs" but still true to her country! And she wished him luck!
"Whose place is that?" asked Tom, pointing to a small house which was almost hidden from the road by trees.
An expression of dislike came over the negro's face. "Mistah Murdock's," he answered.
"No, suh," replied the negro. The expression of dislike changed visibly to repugnance and fear. He added: "He keeps dawgs!"
There was no need to ask more. The negro's tone was sufficient. Dogs! There was only one reason why a man made a business of keeping dogs—to chase escaping slaves. The thought was horrible to Tom, and he turned away.
They found the ferryman in his shanty, hugging a stove.
"No crossing today," he announced. "Look at that there river. No crossing today. Besides that, it's forbidden by the law. No Sentry, no crossing."
That was good news! No Sentry! "Mr. Beecham thought that you would take me across," said Tom. "Sam, give him Mr. Beecham's note."
"Yassuh." Sam produced the note.
The ferryman read it, scratching his head. "That man'll be my death yet," he said. "Take a horse across today? No, sir! I'll take you across if you and the nigger'll handle oars, but not the horse! No, sir! It's against the law, anyways. No Sentry, no crossing. No, sir! I'll risk the river an' the law, just because Mr. Beecham asks it, but I can't take that there nag."
"Well, then we'll leave the horse behind," answered Tom. "I can pull an oar. Can you row, Sam?"
The negro backed against the wall, shaking his head, terrified at the thought of the rough crossing.
"Just like all of 'em," said the ferryman. "When there's any danger, don't count on them. Mr. Beecham treats his niggers too easy, anyways. I always say if he'd lick 'em they'd be better."
"He's pretty easy with them, is he?" asked Tom.
"Treats 'em as though they were prize stock," answered the ferryman in disgust. "I guess you and I can get across," he grumbled. "Two white men're better 'an a dozen of 'em."
"Sam, you take my horse back to Mr. Beecham. I'll write a note for you to carry." Tom wrote a message, explaining that the horse could not be ferried across, and asking that it be disposed of in any manner that suited Mr. Beecham's convenience.
The little ferryboat pitched and turned in the current of the river. Tom, swinging on his big oar in answer to the ferryman's cries of "Ho!" "Now!", saw the other bank creeping nearer. At last they cleared the full flood of the stream. On the other shore, Sam stood open-mouthed, watching them.
It was eight o'clock that evening when Tom, soaked to the skin again, cold, hungry, and tired, tramped into the little town of Chattanooga. A few lamps shone through the windows into the deserted street, making dull splotches of yellow in the mist. Three or four people passed him, hurrying to be out of the storm.
He stopped one man and asked: "Where can I find a hotel?" Then he gasped as the man straightened and threw back the coat he had thrown over his head and shoulders: it was a Confederate soldier!
"That's about as good as any place," answered the Confederate, pointing across the street. "Where you see the two lights burning."
"Welcome." He pulled the coat about his face again and disappeared into the storm.
Tom crossed the street to spend his first night behind the Confederate lines.
Tom awoke dazed from twelve hours of sleep. For a moment he could not remember where he was; then it flashed across his mind. In Chattanooga! He sprang from bed, dressed and went downstairs. It was late, but the proprietor of the hotel gave him breakfast, after some grumbling about people who had nothing to do but sleep.
The train from Marietta did not leave until two o'clock, and as the hotel clock had just struck ten, Tom began to wonder what he should do with himself. For a half-hour he sat in the hotel watching the people who passed in and out. The sight of so many young men in civilian clothes reassured him, for it meant that there was less chance of being questioned by the military authorities. Finally he went out to the street. The rain had stopped, and the sun was struggling through the clouds.
There were crowds of civilians and soldiers upon the narrow sidewalks, and through the streets lumbered the heavy wagons of the Southern army. Tom walked along slowly, scanning the faces of the people he passed, hoping to catch a glimpse of Brown. Finally he reached the station.
A train had just come in, and the station was crowded with passengers, struggling out with the bags and packages, and townspeople who had come to get the news. Tom listened closely to the chatter. The train was from Memphis and had passed over the line which Mitchel was about to attack. There was no suggestion of excitement or activity along the route. Then the news of Mitchel's movement had not advanced before him, thought Tom. To him, that was the best news in the world. Mitchel's plans were successful.
He followed the crowd from the station and once again began wandering about the streets. Not far away was a big shed labeled Commissary Department. The army wagons were backed up to a loading platform, and Confederate soldiers were busy transferring boxes of supplies. By this time Tom had lost the first sense of strangeness at being in the enemy country, and so he went over to watch the soldiers work.
Presently it was noon, and time for dinner. He returned to the hotel.
There, sitting apart from the others at one end of the long table, were Brown and his companion! They glanced at him, and then continued eating. It dawned upon Tom that while he knew Brown, Brown did not know him. He took a seat opposite them.
"How d'you do?" said Tom.
Brown and the other man nodded, but did not speak.
"Just traveling through?" asked Tom.
"Yes," said Brown.
"Where are you from?" Tom's manner was casual and friendly.
"Kentucky," answered Brown.
"Oh, is that so? Coming through to enlist?"
"Whereabouts in Kentucky do you hail from?" persisted Tom.
"Well, that's good news! I'm from Fleming County myself. Let's see, I think I remember you. Your name is Brown, isn't it?" Brown's eyes were wide; the other man's jaw was drooping. "Surely I remember you," continued Tom. "You're a locomotive engineer, aren't you? I presume you'll be running a locomotive here in the South. We need engineers."
Brown was speechless; his companion was rising from the table.
"That's all right," said Tom. "Sit down! I'm Burns. We met at the same place last Monday night, Brown."
"Young man!" said Brown, slowly recovering his power of speech. "When I get my revenge on you, you'll feel it!"
"Whew!" breathed the other.
When dinner was finished, they left the hotel to find a spot where they could talk. Tom told them of the change in plans. It was decided that they should leave for Marietta on the afternoon train, rather than spend the extra day in Chattanooga. Dorsey, who was traveling with Brown, thought that there might be some others who had not been told of the change and who would be on the train.
As they threaded their way through the crowd at the station, Tom caught the first intimation of Mitchel's drive upon Huntsville. "The train is jam-full," a man was saying. "There isn't a seat left. All those soldiers who went through here this morning are being sent back."
"Why is that?" asked his companion.
"They don't seem to know," the man continued. "They got as far as Stevenson—that's a little place down the line about thirty miles—and then they received orders to go back. They're to join Beauregard at Corinth as fast as they can by the way of Atlanta and Meridian."
"Hm-m-m, that's strange!"
"Perhaps there's a wreck between here and Corinth."
Tom whispered the news to Brown and Dorsey after they were aboard the train. They exchanged glances.
It was ten o'clock that night when the brakeman of the train called, "Marietta!" Dorsey was asleep on the coal box of the car, while Tom and Brown dozed against the door. They had taken turns at the coal box for eight hours. Now they moved stiffly out to the platform, relieved that the journey had ended. For several minutes they waited at the station, slowly circulating among the people to see if they could recognize any other members of the expedition.
"I guess we're the only ones here," said Tom.
"Looks that way," replied Brown. "Let's go to the hotel."
"I'd give a good deal to know where Mitchel is at just this minute," said Tom.
"So would I," replied Dorsey. "I hope we're not making a mistake by delaying a day."
"It's my opinion," said Brown, "that when Mitchel starts to do a thing, it takes more than mud to stop him."
They walked on silently toward the hotel.
While they drifted off to sleep that night, General Mitchel was perfecting the last details of the attack upon Huntsville. Every road was blocked by scouts to prevent the news of the advance going before them. Ten miles to the south lay Huntsville, unaware of the approaching army.
The last rush of the advance commenced at two o'clock in the morning. Mitchel's weary army struggled to its feet, and stood ready to march. The cavalry was the first away, and disappeared silently into the night. There were no bugle calls, and no shouting. Even the noise of the horses' hoofs was deadened by the deep mud of the road. The four cannons which the cavalry took with it fell into position; then the infantry moved forward. As each regiment passed, General Mitchel addressed his men; then when the last of them was on the road, he and his aides pressed towards the front.
When daylight came, the cavalry was four miles from Huntsville. The first section of cavalry galloped to the west of the town, the second to the east, while the remaining cavalrymen, led by General Mitchel, dashed for the station. Now all restraints upon noise were removed. The shouting of the cavalrymen drifted back to the infantrymen to quicken their steps, and the cannons hammered along the road.
A few minutes later, Huntsville was in the control of the Union troops. At the station, Mitchel found fifteen locomotives, eighty cars, and a cipher message from Beauregard to the Confederate Secretary of War. Beauregard was desperately in need of troops, said the decoded message.
THE TRAIN IS CAPTURED
"I have no positive information, but I think that Mitchel captured Huntsville today!"
Andrews was speaking. An exclamation of surprise came from the men who were clustered about him in a room of the hotel at Marietta. There were nineteen of them; travel-worn, tired and still wet from the incessant rain. It was their last conference before the raid.
"The line between Chattanooga and Corinth is blocked," continued Andrews, "and no one knows the cause of it. No trains and no telegraph messages are coming through. Of course it may be that Beauregard has heard of Mitchel's advance and has chosen to operate in silence. All that we can do is hope and pray for the best, and carry out our orders. If we can destroy the railroad between here and Chattanooga, it will put the city at Mitchel's mercy. Then our work is done. It will remain for Mitchel and Beauregard to fight it out."
He paused, and there was a moment of profound silence while the men considered the situation. Then Andrews spoke again:
"The fact that action has started between Chattanooga and Corinth means that our task is additionally hazardous. The odds we must overcome are greater than I expected. If we have made a mistake in delaying a day, we must work the harder to keep that mistake from costing Mitchel his victory. The train we are to capture leaves Marietta at six o'clock tomorrow morning. I will see that you are called before five so that you will have plenty of time to get to the station. Carry food with you, for there's no telling when you'll sit at a table again. Buy tickets for points north of Big Shanty—Allatoona, Etowah, Calhoun and Dalton—so that you won't excite suspicion. Get aboard the same car in groups of two and three, and don't show that you are acquainted. Avoid all talk about the raid. We must say everything that is to be said here tonight before we separate. I will be in the same car, and if trouble starts, follow me.
"At Big Shanty we will seize the train. The train stops at Big Shanty for the crew and passengers to have breakfast. Stay in the car until the others have left; then, when you see me leave, follow me to the head of the trains. Walk slowly, and carelessly, as though you were simply out to stretch your legs. Brown and Knight will go with me to the engine, and you, Burns"—he pointed to Tom—"you come with us, too. I want you as fireman. Ross will uncouple the train after the third box-car. The box-cars are empties being sent to Chattanooga for supplies which the rebs are storing in Atlanta. The doors will be unlocked. The rest of you are to climb aboard the last box-car. Do all of you understand?" The men nodded. "Have your guns ready to use in case there is any interference, but don't fire unless you must. After the train has started...."
He paused; then, with a gesture which told them that he would not even try to guess what might happen, he added: "We will succeed or leave our bones in Dixie! That is all I can tell you. Tonight, before you go to sleep, examine your guns and make sure that they are not clogged or rusty."
The meeting was over, and each man, as he stepped from the room, realized that he was on the verge of a great adventure. They made their way silently along the dark corridors of the hotel.
"I'm about ready to explode," said Tom. "Think of it! I'm going to be fireman!"
"I'll make you heave wood so fast that you'll be sorry for that trick you played in Chattanooga," replied Brown. "Did I tell you about that, Knight?"
Knight, Brown, Dorsey, Wilson, and Tom were all occupying the same room. The hotel at Marietta was crowded, and the men were sleeping wherever they could squeeze themselves in. Tom, Dorsey, and Brown, having had several nights of good rest, had relinquished the bed and sofa to the three newcomers, and had spread blankets on the floor.