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      "No, you can't, I tell you. Turn 'em loose this minute, and give 'em back their things, and go yourselves to your car. We're goin' to start now. Here," he continued to the two men, "is a dollar. Take your pies and dig out. Don't attempt to sell any o' them pies to these boys, or I'll hang you myself, and there won't be no foolishness about it. Git back to your car, boys.""Do you think there's any rebels around here?" said Si, the caution which experience had taught him making a temporary reassertion of itself.

      "Afo' de Lawd, Boss, is hit you dat's cookin' dat chicking? I done smelled hit more'n a miled away, and hab been huntin' foh hit all ober camp. Say, Boss, foh de Lawd's sake, jist gib me a little teenty, weenty sup in dis heah tin cup for my boss. He's an ossifer, an' is layin' in de ossifer's horsepitol ober dar. Hit'll do him a powerful sight ob good."

      Shorty and Si considered Nate Hartburn their special protege, and were deeply anxious to transform him into a complete soldier in the shortest possible time. He was so young, alert, and seemingly pliable, that it appeared there would be no difficulty in quickly making him a model soldier. But they found that while he at once responded to any suggestion of a raid or a fight, drill, discipline and camp routine were bores that he could be induced to take only a languid interest in. Neither Si nor Shorty were any too punctilious in these matters, but they were careful to keep all the time within easy conversational distance of the regulations and tactics. Naturally, also, they wanted their pupil to do better than they did. But no lecturing would prevent young Hartburn from slouching around camp with his hands in his pockets and his head bent. He would not or could not keep step in the ranks, nor mark time. While Si was teaching him he would make a listless attempt to go through the manual of arms, but he would make no attempt to handle his gun the prescribed way after the lesson was ended. Si was duly mindful of the sore time he himself had in learning the drill, and tried to be very considerate with him, but his patience was sorely tried at times.

      CHAPTER XIX. TEDIOUS CONVALESCENCE"Now," said Shorty, as they stood in line, waiting the order to move, "as Old Rosy has clearly waked up to business, I hope to gracious that Mr. Bragg will be found at home ready for callers. We've wasted six months waiting for him to get good and ready, and he certainly ought to be in trim to transact any little business we may have with him."

      "De Lawd be praised and magnified foreber, but I will," said the negro, dropping on his knees and holding up his hand. "Swar me on a pile o' Bibles big as a haystack. I'd radder go to hell on my knees backward dan tech de fust drap ob dat. I's too anxious to hab Cappen McGillicuddy git well, so I is. What'd become ob dis pore niggeh if he should die? No, indeedy. Hope I'll drap dead in my tracks if I taste de least wee morssel."

      The insolent, threatening enemy had retreated far across the mountain barrier. For the while he was out of reach of striking or being struck. The long-delayed commissary-wagons had come up, and there was an abundance to eat. The weather was delightful, the forests green, shady and inviting, the scenery picturesque and inspiring, and every day brought news of glorious union victories, over which the cannon boomed in joyful salutes and the men cheered themselves hoarse. Grant had taken Vicksburg, with 25,000 prisoners, and chased Joe Johnston out of sight and knowledge. Prentiss had bloodily repulsed Sterling Price at Helena. Banks had captured Port Hudson, with 6,000 prisoners. The Mississippi River at last "flowed unvexed to the sea." Meade had won a great victory at Gettysburg, and Lee's beaten army was in rapid retreat to Virginia. "The blasted old Southern Confederacy is certainly havin' its underpinnin' knocked out, its j'ints cracked, and its roof caved in," remarked Si, as the two boys lay under the kindly shade of a low-growing jackoak, lazily smoked their pipes, and gazed contentedly out over the far-spreading camps, in which no man was doing anything more laborious than gathering a little wood to boil his evening coffee with. "'Tain't fit to store brick-bats in now. By-and-by we'll go out and hunt up old Bragg and give him a good punch, and the whole crazy shebang 'll come down with a crash.""Turn the harness around the other way on 'em."


      "Jehosephat, how good that tastes," said Shorty, speaking still faintly, but far more freely than at first, after he had drained the canteen. "Sonny, run and git some more; and mind you fill the canteen full this time. I feel as if I could drink up the Mississippi River. Say, boys, what's happened? Appearintly, I got a sock-dologer on my head from some feller who thought I was too fresh. I'm afraid I'll have a spell o' headache. But we got the flag, didn't we?"The rebel crawled over the gunwale into the boat as cautiously as if there were torpedoes under him.


      CHAPTER IX. SHORTY IN TROUBLE"I won't write you a word about Maria," said the youth, seeing his advantage, "onless you promise to send me a whole lot o' catridgesa hatful. Powder and lead costs a heap o' money. And so do caps."


      With eager eyes they scanned the landscape of billowy mountains and hills to the east and south.