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Bute was saying:

"Well, no one will start fer the mountings while this storm lasts, but,
wound or no wound, I must get out of this as soon as it's over. There's
no safety fer me here now."

"Ef they comes fer you, like enough they'll take me," replied Apache
Jack, who, now that he was alone with his confederate, could speak his
style of English fast enough. His character of half-breed was a
disguise which his dark complexion had suggested. "Ter-morrer night, ef
it's clar, we'll put out fer the easterd. I know of a shanty in the
woods not so very fur from here in which we kin put up till yer's able
ter travel furder. Come, now, take a swig of whiskey with me and then
we'll sleep; there's no need of our watchin' any longer on a night like
this. I'll jest step out an' see ef the pony's safe; sich a storm's
'nuff ter scare him off ter the woods."

"Well, jest lay my shooter on the cha'r here aside me 'fore you go. I
feel safer with the little bull-dog in reach."

This the man did, then putting his own revolver on the table, that it
might not get wet, began to unbar the door. Swift as a shadow Brandt
glided out of the shed and around on the opposite side of the shanty.

An instant later Bute was paralyzed by seeing his enemy enter the open
door. Before the outlaw could realize that Brandt was not a feverish
vision induced by his wound, the detective had captured both revolvers,
and was standing behind the door awaiting Apache Jack's return.

"Hist!" whispered Brandt, "not a sound, or you will both be dead in two
minutes."

Bute's nerves were so shattered that he could scarcely have spoken,
even if he had been reckless enough to do so. He felt himself doomed;
and when brutal natures like his succumb, they usually break utterly.
Therefore, he could do no more than shiver with unspeakable dread as if
he had an ague.

Soon Apache Jack came rushing in out of the storm, to be instantly
confronted by Brandt's revolver. The fellow glanced at the table, and
seeing his own weapon was gone, instinctively half drew a long knife.

"Put that knife on the table!" ordered Brandt, sternly. "Do you think
I'd allow any such foolishness?"

The man now realized his powerlessness, and obeyed; and Brandt secured
this weapon also.

"See here, Apache Jack, or whatever your name is, don't you run your
head into a noose. You know I'm empowered to arrest Bute, and you don't
know anything about the force I have at hand. All you've got to do is
to obey me, an officer of the law, like a good citizen. If you don't,
I'll shoot you; and that's all there is about it. Will you obey orders?"

"I no understan'."

"Stop lying! You understand English as well as I do, and I'll suspect
YOU if you try that on again. Come, now! I've no time to lose. It's
death or obedience!"

"You can't blame a feller fer standin' by his mate," was the sullen yet
deprecatory reply.

"I can blame any man, and arrest or shoot him too, who obstructs the
law. You must obey me for the next half-hour, to prove that you are not
Bute's accomplice."

"He's only my mate, and our rule is ter stand by each other; but, as
you say, I can't help myself, and there's no use of my goin' ter jail."

"I should think not," added Brandt, appealing to the fellow's selfish
hope of escaping further trouble if Bute was taken. "Now get my
prisoner out of bed and dress him as soon as possible."

"But he ain't able ter be moved. The superintendent said he wasn't."

"That's my business, not yours. Do as I bid you."

"Why don't yer yell fer help?" said Bute, in a hoarse whisper.

"Because he knows I'd shoot him if he did," remarked Brandt, coolly.

"Come, old man," said Jack, "luck's agin yer. Ef there's any hollerin'
ter be done, yer's as able ter do that as I be."

"Quick, quick! jerk him out of bed and get him into his clothes. I
won't permit one false move."

Jack now believed that his only means of safety was to be as
expeditious as possible, and that if Bute was taken safely he would be
left unmolested. People of their class rarely keep faith with one
another when it is wholly against their interests to do so. Therefore,
in spite of the wounded man's groans, he was quickly dressed and his
hands tied behind him. As he opened his mouth to give expression to his
protests, he found himself suddenly gagged by Brandt, who stood behind
him. Then a strap was buckled about his feet, and he lay on the floor
helpless and incapable of making a sound.

"Now, Jack," said Brandt, "go before me and bridle and saddle the pony;
then bring him to the door."

Jack obeyed.

"Now put Bute upon him. I'll hold his head; but remember I'm covering
you with a dead bead all the time."

"No need of that. I'm civil enough now."

"Well, you know we're sort of strangers, and it's no more than prudent
for me to be on the safe side till we part company. That's right, strap
his feet underneath. Now lead the pony in such directions as I say.
Don't try to make off till I'm through with you, or you'll be shot
instantly. I shall keep within a yard of you all the time."

They were not long in reaching the horse that Brandt had borrowed, and
Jack said, "I s'pose I kin go now."

"First untie Bute's hands so he can guide the pony."

As the fellow attempted to do this, and his two hands were close
together, Brandt slipped a pair of light steel handcuffs over his
wrists, and the man was in his power. Almost before the new prisoner
could recover from his surprise, he was lifted on the borrowed horse,
and his legs also tied underneath.

"This ain't fa'r. You promised ter let me go when you got Bute off."

"I haven't got him off yet. Of course I can't let you go right back and
bring a dozen men after us. You must be reasonable."

The fellow yelled for help; but the wind swept the sound away.

"If you do that again, I'll gag you too," said Brandt. "I tell you both
once more, and I won't repeat the caution, that your lives depend on
obedience." Then he mounted, and added, "Bute, I'm going to untie your
hands, and you must ride on ahead of me. I'll lead Jack's horse."

In a moment he had his prisoners in the road, and was leaving the mine
at a sharp pace. Bute was so cowed and dazed with terror that he obeyed
mechanically. The stream was no longer a shallow brook, but a raging
torrent which almost swept them away as Brandt urged them relentlessly
through it. The tavern was dark and silent as they passed quickly by
it. Then Brandt took the gag from Bute's mouth, and he groaned, cursed,
and pleaded by turns. Hour after hour he urged them forward, until at
last Bute gave out and fell forward on the pony's neck. Brandt
dismounted and gave the exhausted man a draught from his flask.

"Oh, shoot me and have done with it!" groaned Bute; "I'd rather be shot
than hanged anyhow."

"Couldn't think of it," replied the detective, cheerily. "My rule is to
take prisoners alive, so that they can have a fair trial and be sure
that they get justice. I'd take you the rest of the way in a bed if I
could, but if you can't sit up, I'll have to tie you on. We'll reach a
friend of mine by daylight, and then you can ride in a wagon, so brace
up."

This the outlaw did for a time, and then he gave out utterly and was
tied more securely to the pony. Out of compassion, Brandt thereafter
travelled more slowly; and when the sun was an hour high, he led his
forlorn captives to the house of a man whom he knew could be depended
upon for assistance. After a rest sufficient to give Bute time to
recover somewhat, the remainder of the journey was made without any
incident worth mentioning, and the prisoners were securely lodged in
jail on the evening of the 24th of December.




CHAPTER V

WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE


Brandt's words and effort had had their natural effect on the mind of
Clara Heyward. They proved an increasing diversion of her thoughts, and
slowly dispelled the morbid, leaden grief under which she had been
sinking. Her new anxiety in regard to her lover's fortune and possible
fate was a healthful counter-irritant. Half consciously she yielded to
the influence of his strong, hopeful spirit, and almost before she was
aware of it, she too began to hope. Chief of all, his manly tenderness
and unbargaining love stole into her heart like a subtle balm; and
responsive love, the most potent of remedies, was renewing her life.
She found herself counting the days and then the hours that must
intervene before the 25th. On Christmas eve her woman's nature
triumphed, and she instinctively added such little graces to her toilet
as her sombre costume permitted. She also arranged her beautiful hair
in the style which she knew he admired. He might come; and she
determined that his first glance should reveal that he was not serving
one who was coldly apathetic to his brave endeavor and loyalty.

Indeed, even she herself wondered at the changes that had taken place
during the brief time which had elapsed since their parting. There was
a new light in her eyes, and a delicate bloom tinged her cheeks.

"Oh," she murmured, "it's all so different now that I feel that I can
live for him and make him happy."

She was sure that she could welcome him in a way that would assure him
of the fulfilment of all his hopes; but when he did come with his
eager, questioning eyes, she suddenly found herself under a strange
restraint, tongue-tied and embarrassed. She longed to put her arms
about his neck and tell him all - the new life, the new hope which his
look of deep affection had kindled; and in effort for self-control, she
seemed to him almost cold. He therefore became perplexed and uncertain
of his ground, and took refuge in the details of his expedition,
meanwhile mentally assuring himself that he must keep his word and put
no constraint on the girl contrary to the dictates of her heart.

As his mind grew clearer, his keen observation began to reveal hopeful
indications. She was listening intently with approval, and something
more in her expression, he dared to fancy. Suddenly he exclaimed, "How
changed you are for the better, Clara! You are lovelier to-night than
ever you were. What is it in your face that is so sweet and
bewildering? You were a pretty girl before; now you are a beautiful
woman."

The color came swiftly at his words, and she faltered as she averted
her eyes, "Please go on with your story, Ralph. You have scarcely begun
yet. I fear you were in danger."

He came and stood beside her. "Clara," he pleaded, "look at me."

Hesitatingly she raised her eyes to his.

"Shall I tell you what I hope I see?"

The faintest suggestion of a smile hovered about her trembling lips.

"I hope I see what you surely see in mine. Come, Clara, you shall
choose before you hear my story. Am I to be your husband or friend? for
I've vowed that you shall not be without a loyal protector."

"Ralph, Ralph," she cried, springing up and hiding her face on his
shoulder, "I have no choice at all. You know how I loved papa; but I've
learned that there's another and different kind of love. I didn't half
understand you when you first spoke; now I do. You will always see in
my eyes what you've seen to-night."






FOUND YET LOST


CHAPTER I

LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS


Hopeless indeed must that region be which May cannot clothe with some
degree of beauty and embroider with flowers. On the 5th day of the
month the early dawn revealed much that would charm the eyes of all
true lovers of nature even in that section of Virginia whose
characteristics so grimly correspond with its name - The Wilderness. The
low pines and cedars, which abound everywhere, had taken a fresh green;
the deciduous trees, the tangled thickets, impenetrable in many places
by horse or man, were putting forth a new, tender foliage, tinted with
a delicate semblance of autumn hues. Flowers bloomed everywhere, humbly
in the grass close to the soil as well as on the flaunting sprays of
shrubbery and vines, filling the air with fragrance as the light
touched and expanded the petals. Wood-thrushes and other birds sang as
melodiously and contentedly as if they had selected some breezy upland
forest for their nesting-place instead of a region which has become a
synonym for gloom, horror, and death.

Lonely and uninhabited in its normal condition, this forbidding
wilderness had become peopled with thousands of men. The Army of the
Potomac was penetrating and seeking to pass through it. Vigilant
General Lee had observed the movement, and with characteristic boldness
and skill ordered his troops from their strong intrenchments on Mine
Run toward the Union flank. On this memorable morning the van of his
columns wakened from their brief repose but a short distance from the
Federal bivouac. Both parties were unconscious of their nearness, for
with the exception of a few clearings the dense growth restricted
vision to a narrow range. The Union forces were directed in their
movements by the compass, as if they were sailors on a fog-enshrouded
sea; but they well knew that they were seeking their old antagonist,
the Army of Northern Virginia, and that the stubborn tug-of-war might
begin at any moment.

When Captain Nichol shook off the lethargy of a brief troubled sleep,
he found that the light did not banish his gloomy impressions. Those
immediately around him were still slumbering, wrapped in their
blankets. Few sounds other than the voices of the awakening birds broke
the silence. After a little thought he drew his notebook from his
pocket and wrote as follows:

"MY DARLING HELEN - I obey an impulse to write to you this morning. It
is scarcely light enough to see as yet; but very soon we shall be on
the move again to meet - we known not what, certainly heavy, desperate
fighting. I do not know why I am so sad. I have faced the prospect of
battles many times before, and have passed through them unharmed, but
now I am depressed by an unusual foreboding. Naturally my thoughts turn
to you. There was no formal engagement between us when I said those
words (so hard to speak) of farewell, nor have I sought to bind you
since. Every month has made more clear the uncertainty of life in my
calling; and I felt that I had no right to lay upon you any restraint
other than that of your own feelings. If the worst happened you would
be free as far as I was concerned, and few would know that we had told
each other of our love. I wish to tell you of mine once more - not for
the last time, I hope, but I don't know. I do love you with my whole
heart and soul; and if I am to die in this horrible wilderness, where
so many of my comrades died a year ago, my last thoughts will be of you
and of the love of God, which your love has made more real to me. I
love you too well to wish my death, should it occur, to spoil your
young life. I do not ask you to forget me - that would be worse than
death, but I ask you to try to be happy and to make others happy as the
years pass on. This bloody war will come to an end, will become a
memory, and those who perish hope to be remembered; but I do not wish
my memory to hang like a cloud over the happy days of peace. I close,
my darling, in hope, not fear - hope for you, hope for me, whatever may
happen to-day or on coming days of strife. It only remains for me to do
my duty. I trust that you will also do yours, which may be even harder.
Do not give way to despairing grief if I cannot come back to you in
this world. Let your faith in God and hope of a future life inspire and
strengthen you in your battles, which may require more courage and
unselfishness than mine.

"Yours, either in life or death, ALBERT NICHOL."

He made another copy of this letter, put both in envelopes, and
addressed them, then sought two men of his company who came from his
native village. They were awake now and boiling their coffee. The
officer and the privates had grown up as boys together with little
difference of social standing in the democratic town. When off duty,
there still existed much of the old familiarity and friendly converse,
but when Captain Nichol gave an order, his townsmen immediately became
conscious that they were separated from him by the iron wall of
military discipline. This characteristic did not alienate his old
associates. One of the men hit the truth fairly in saying: "When Cap
speaks as Cap, he's as hard and sharp as a bayonet-point; but when a
feller is sick and worn out 'tween times you'd think your granny was
coddlin' yer."

It was as friend and old neighbor that Nichol approached Sam and Jim
Wetherby, two stalwart brothers who had enlisted in his company.
"Boys," he said, "I have a favor to ask of you. The Lord only knows how
the day will end for any of us. We will take our chances and do our
duty, as usual. I hope we may all boil coffee again to-night; but who
knows? Here are two letters. If I should fall, and either or both of
you come out all right, as I trust you will, please forward them. If I
am with you again to-night, return them to me."

"Come, Captain," said Jim, heartily, "the bullet isn't molded that can
harm you. You'll lead us into Richmond yet."

"It will not be from lack of goodwill if I don't. I like your spirit;
and I believe the army will get there this time whether I'm with it or
not. Do as I ask. There is no harm in providing against what may
happen. Make your breakfast quickly, for orders may come at any
moment;" and he strode away to look after the general readiness of his
men.

The two brothers compared the address on the letters and laughed a
little grimly. "Cap is a-providing, sure enough," Sam Wetherby
remarked. "They are both written to the pretty Helen Kemble that he
used to make eyes at in the singing-school. I guess he thinks that you
might stop a bullet as well as himself, Jim."

"It's clear he thinks your chances for taking in lead are just as
good," replied Jim. "But come, I'm one of them fellows that's never hit
till I am hit. One thing at a time, and now it's breakfast."

"Well, hanged if I want to charge under the lead of any other captain!"
remarked Sam, meditatively sipping his coffee. "If that girl up yonder
knows Cap's worth, she'll cry her eyes out if anything happens to him."

A few moments later the birds fled to the closest cover, startled by
the innumerable bugles sounding the note of preparation. Soon the
different corps, divisions, and brigades were upon their prescribed
lines of march. No movement could be made without revealing the close
proximity of the enemy. Rifle-reports from skirmish lines and
reconnoitring parties speedily followed. A Confederate force was
developed on the turnpike leading southwest from the old Wilderness
Tavern; and the fighting began. At about eight o'clock Grant and Meade
came up and made their headquarters beneath some pine-trees near the
tavern. General Grant could scarcely believe at first that Lee had left
his strong intrenchments to give battle in a region little better than
a jungle; but he soon had ample and awful proof of the fact.
Practically unseen by each other, the two armies grappled like giants
in the dark. So thick were the trees and undergrowth that a soldier on
a battle line could rarely see a thousand men on either side of him,
yet nearly two hundred thousand men matched their deadly strength that
day. Hundreds fell, died, and were hidden forever from human eyes.

Thinking to sweep away the rear-guard of Lee's retreating army, Grant
ordered a strong advance on the pike in the afternoon. At first it was
eminently successful, and if it had been followed up vigorously and
steadily, as it undoubtedly would have been if the commander had known
what was afterward revealed, it might have resulted in severe disaster
to the Confederates. The enemy was pressed back rapidly; and the
advancing Union forces were filled with enthusiasm. Before this early
success culminated, genuine sorrow saddened every one in Captain
Nichol's company. With his face toward the enemy, impetuously leading
his men, he suddenly dropped his sword and fell senseless. Sam and Jim
Wetherby heard a shell shrieking toward them, and saw it explode
directly over their beloved leader. They rushed to his side; blood was
pouring over his face, and it also seemed to them that a fragment of
the shell had fatally wounded him in the forehead.

"Poor Cap, poor, brave Cap!" ejaculated Sam. "He didn't give us those
letters for nothing."

"A bad job, an awfully bad job for us all! curse the eyes that aimed
that shell!" growled practical Jim. "Here, take hold. We'll put him in
that little dry ditch we just passed, and bury him after the fight, if
still on our pins. We can't leave him here to be tramped on."

This they did, then hastily rejoined their company, which had swept on
with the battle line. Alas! that battle line and others also were
driven back with terrible slaughter before the day closed. Captain
Nichol was left in the ditch where he had been placed, and poor Sam
Wetherby lay on his back, staring with eyes that saw not at a shattered
bird's nest in the bushes above his head. The letter in his pocket
mouldered with him.

Jim's begrimed and impassive face disguised an aching heart as he
boiled his coffee alone that night. Then, although wearied almost to
exhaustion, he gave himself no rest until he had found what promised to
be the safest means of forwarding the letter in his pocket.




CHAPTER II

LOVE AT HOME


Long years before the war, happy children were growing in the village
of Alton. They studied the history of wars much as they conned their
lessons in geography. Scenes of strife belonged to the past, or were
enacted among people wholly unlike any who dwelt in their peaceful
community. That Americans should ever fight each other was as undreamed
of as that the minister should have a pitched battle in the street with
his Sunday-school superintendent. They rejoiced mildly when in their
progress through the United States history they came to pages
descriptive of Indian wars and the Revolutionary struggle, since they
found their lessons then more easily remembered than the wordy disputes
and little understood decisions of statesmen. The first skating on the
pond was an event which far transcended in importance anything related
between the green covers of the old history book, while to Albert
Nichol the privilege of strapping skates on the feet of little Helen
Kemble, and gliding away with her over the smooth ice, was a triumph
unknown by any general. He was the son of a plain farmer, and she the
daughter of the village banker. Thus, even in childhood, there was
thrown around her the glamour of position and reputed
wealth - advantages which have their value among the most democratic
folk, although slight outward deference may be paid to their
possessors. It was the charming little face itself, with its piquant
smiles and still more piquant pouts, which won Albert's boyish
admiration. The fact that she was the banker's daughter only fired his
ambition to be and to do something to make her proud of him.

Hobart Martine, another boy of the village, shared all his schoolmate's
admiration for pretty Nellie, as she was usually called. He had been
lame from birth, and could not skate. He could only shiver on the bank
or stamp around to keep himself warm, while the athletic Al and the
graceful little girl passed and repassed, quite forgetting him. There
was one thing he could do; and this pleasure he waited for till often
numb with cold. He could draw the child on his sled to her home, which
adjoined his own.

When it came his turn to do this, and he limped patiently through the
snow, tugging at the rope, his heart grew warm as well as his chilled
body. She was a rather imperious little belle with the other boys, but
was usually gentle with him because he was lame and quiet. When she
thanked him kindly and pleasantly at her gate, he was so happy that he
could scarcely eat his supper. Then his mother would laugh and say,
"You've been with your little sweetheart." He would flush and make no
reply.

How little did those children dream of war, even when studying their
history lessons! Yet Albert Nichol now lay in the Wilderness jungle. He
had done much to make his little playmate proud of him. The sturdy boy
developed into a manly man. When he responded to his country's call and
raised a company among his old friends and neighbors, Helen Kemble
exulted over him tearfully. She gave him the highest tribute within her
power and dearest possession - her heart. She made every campaign with
him, following him with love's untiring solicitude through the scenes



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeTaken Alive → online text (page 5 of 26)