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   Chapter 16 No.16

Two Little Confederates By Thomas Nelson Page Characters: 8349

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


After crossing the gully, and walking on through the woods for what they thought a safe distance, they turned into the path.

They were talking very merrily about the General and Hugh and their friend Mills, and were discussing some romantic plan for the recapture of their horses from the enemy, when they came out of the path into the road, and found themselves within twenty yards of a group of Federal soldiers, quietly sitting on their horses, evidently guarding the road.

The sight of the blue-coats made the boys jump. They would have crept back, but it was too late-they caught the eye of the man nearest them. They ceased talking as suddenly as birds in the trees stop chirruping when the hawk sails over; and when one Yankee called to them, in a stern tone, "Halt there!" and started to come toward them, their hearts were in their mouths.

"Where are you boys going?" he asked, as he came up to them.

"Going home."

"Where do you belong?"

"Over there-at Oakland," pointing in the direction of their home, which seemed suddenly to have moved a thousand miles aways.

"Where have you been?" The other soldiers had come up now.

"Been down this way." The boys' voices were never so meek before. Each reply was like an apology.

"Been to see your brother?" asked one who had not spoken before-a pleasant-looking fellow. The boys looked at him. They were paralyzed by dread of the approaching question.

"Now, boys, we know where you have been," said a small fellow, who wore a yellow chevron on his arm. He had a thin moustache and a sharp nose, and rode a wiry, dull sorrel horse. "You may just as well tell us all about it. We know you've been to see 'em, and we are going to make you carry us where they are."

"No, we ain't," said Frank, doggedly.

Willy expressed his determination also.

"If you don't it's going to be pretty bad for you," said the little corporal. He gave an order to two of the men, who sprang from their horses, and, catching Frank, swung him up behind another cavalryman. The boy's face was very pale, but he bit his lip.

"Go ahead," continued the corporal to a number of his men, who started down the path. "You four men remain here till we come back," he said to the men on the ground, and to two others on horseback. "Keep him here," jerking his thumb toward Willy, whose face was already burning with emotion.

"I'm going with Frank," said Willy. "Let me go." This to the man who had hold of him by the arm. "Frank, make him let me go," he shouted, bursting into tears, and turning on his captor with all his little might.

"Willy, he's not goin' to hurt you,-don't you tell!" called Frank, squirming until he dug his heels so into the horse's flanks that the horse began to kick up.

"Keep quiet, Johnny; he's not goin' to hurt him," said one of the men, kindly. He had a brown beard and shining white teeth.

They rode slowly down the narrow path, the dragoon holding Frank by the leg. Deep down in the woods, beyond a small branch, the path forked.

"Which way?" asked the corporal, stopping and addressing Frank.

Frank set his mouth tight and looked him in the eyes.

"Which is it?" the corporal repeated.

"I ain't going to tell," said he, firmly.

"Look here, Johnny; we've got you, and we are going to make you tell us; so you might just as well do it, easy. If you don't, we're goin' to make you."

The boy said nothing.

THE BOY FACED HIS CAPTOR, WHO HELD A STRAP IN ONE HAND.

"You men dismount. Stubbs, hold the horses." He himself dismounted, and three others did the same, giving their horses to a fourth.

"Get down!"-this to Frank and the soldier behind whom he was riding. The soldier dismounted, and the boy slipped off after him and faced his captor, who held a strap in one hand.

"Are you goin' to tell us?" he asked.

"No."

"Don't you know?" He came a step nearer, and held the strap forward. There was a long silence. The boy's face paled perceptibly, but took on a look as if the proceedings were indifferent to him.

"If you say you don't know"-said the man, hesitating in face of the boy's resolution. "Don't you know where they are?"

"Yes,

I know; but I ain't goin' to tell you," said Frank, bursting into tears.

"The little Johnny's game," said the soldier who had told him the others were not going to hurt Willy. The corporal said something to this man in an undertone, to which he replied:

"You can try, but it isn't going to do any good. I don't half like it, anyway."

Frank had stopped crying after his first outburst.

"If you don't tell, we are going to shoot you," said the little soldier, drawing his pistol.

The boy shut his mouth close, and looked straight at the corporal. The man laid down his pistol, and, seizing Frank, drew his hands behind him, and tied them.

"Get ready, men," he said, as he drew the boy aside to a small tree, putting him with his back to it.

Frank thought his hour had come. He thought of his mother and Willy, and wondered if the soldiers would shoot Willy, too. His face twitched and grew ghastly white. Then he thought of his father, and of how proud he would be of his son's bravery when he should hear of it. This gave him strength.

"The knot-hurts my hands," he said.

The man leaned over and eased it a little.

"I wasn't crying because I was scared," said Frank.

The kind looking fellow turned away.

"Now, boys, get ready," said the corporal, taking up his pistol.

How large it looked to Frank. He wondered where the bullets would hit him, and if the wounds would bleed, and whether he would be left alone all night out there in the woods, and if his mother would come and kiss him.

"I want to say my prayers," he said, faintly.

The soldier made some reply which he could not hear, and the man with the beard started forward; but just then all grew dark before his eyes.

Next, he thought he must have been shot, for he felt wet about his face, and was lying down. He heard some one say, "He's coming to," and another replied, "Thank God!"

He opened his eyes. He was lying beside the little branch with his head in the lap of the big soldier with the beard, and the little corporal was leaning over him throwing water in his face from a cap. The others were standing around.

"What's the matter?" asked Frank.

"That's all right," said the little corporal, kindly. "We were just a-foolin' a bit with you, Johnny."

"We never meant to hurt you," said the other. "You feel better now?"

"Yes, where's Willy?" He was too tired to move.

"He's all right. We'll take you to him."

"Am I shot?" asked Frank.

"No! Do you think we'd have touched a hair of your head-and you such a brave little fellow? We were just trying to scare you a bit and carried it too far, and you got a little faint,-that's all."

The voice was so kindly that Frank was encouraged to sit up.

"Can you walk now?" asked the corporal, helping him and steadying him as he rose to his feet.

"I'll take him," said the big fellow, and before the boy could move, he had stooped, taken Frank in his arms, and was carrying him back toward the place where they had left Willy, while the others followed after with the horses.

"I can walk," said Frank.

"No, I'll carry you, b-bless your heart!"

The boy did not know that the big dragoon was looking down at the light hair resting on his arm, and that while he trod the Virginia wood-path, in fancy he was home in Delaware; or that the pressure the boy felt from his strong arms, was a caress given for the sake of another boy far away on the Brandywine. A little while before they came in sight Frank asked to be put down.

The soldier gently set him on his feet, and before he let him go kissed him.

"I've got a curly-headed fellow at home, just the size of you," he said softly.

Frank saw that his eyes were moist. "I hope you'll get safe back to him," he said.

"God grant it!" said the soldier.

When they reached the squad at the gate, they found Willy still in much distress on Frank's account; but he wiped his eyes when his brother reappeared, and listened with pride to the soldiers' praise of Frank's "grit," as they called it. When they let the boys go, the little corporal wished Frank to accept a five-dollar gold piece; but he politely declined it.

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