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"Mebbe we've bin tryin' to force this plant too fast. There's danger about puttin' new wine into old bottles. It's not the right way to train anything. The way to break a colt is to hang the bridle on the fence where he kin see and smell it for a day or two. I'll go a little slow with him at first. Would you like something more to eat, Abe?"
"Yes, Boss. 'Deed I would," answered the negro with cheerful promptness, forgetting all about the pangs of the "new birth of freedom."
THE END OF BOOK NO. 2.
BOOK No. 3 PREFACE
"Si Klegg, of the 200th Ind., and Shorty, his Partner," were born years ago in the brain of John McElroy, Editor of The National Tribune.
These sketches are the original ones published in The National Tribune, revised and enlarged somewhat by the author. How true they are to nature every veteran can abundantly testify from his own service. Really, only the name of the regiment was invented. There is no doubt that there were several men of the name of Josiah Klegg in the union Army, and who did valiant service for the Government. They had experiences akin to, if not identical with, those narrated here, and substantially every man who faithfully and bravely carried a musket in defense of the best Government on earth had sometimes, if not often, experiences of which those of Si Klegg are a strong reminder.
THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO THE RANK AND FILE OF THE GRANDEST ARMY EVER MUSTERED FOR WAR.
CHAPTER I. OUT ON PICKET
THE BOYS SHOW THE DEACON A NEW WRINKLE IN THE CULINARY ART.
SOME days later, Si had charge of a picket-post on the Readyville Pike, near Cripple Deer Creek. The Deacon went with them, at their request, which accorded with his own inclinations, The weather was getting warmer every day, which made him fidgety to get back to his own fields, though Si insisted that they were still under a foot of snow in Indiana. But he had heard so much about picket duty that, next to battle, it was the thing he most wanted to see. Abraham Lincoln was left behind to care for the "house." He had been a disappointment so far, having developed no strong qualities, except for eating and sleeping, of which he could do unlimited quantities.
"No use o' takin' him out on picket," observed Shorty, "unless we kin git a wagon to go along and haul rations for him. I understand now why these rebels are so poor; the niggers eat up everything they kin raise. I'm afraid, Deacon, he'll make the Wabash Valley look sick when you turn him loose in it."
"I guess my farm kin stand him," said the Deacon proudly. "It stood Si when he was a growin' boy, though he used, to strain it sometimes."
They found a comfortable fence-corner facing16 south for their "tent," which they constructed by making a roof of cedar boughs resting on a rail running from one angle to another. They laid more boughs down in the corner, and on this placed their blankets, making a bed which the Deacon pronounced very inviting and comfortable. They built a fire in front, for warmth and for cooking, and so set up housekeeping in a very neat and soldier-like way.
Mr. Klegg Enjoys Solid Comfort. 16
The afternoon passed without special incident. Shorty came in with a couple of chickens, but the17 Deacon had learned enough to repress any questions as to where and how he got them. He soon became more interested in his preparations for cooking them. He had built a big fire in a hole in the ground, and piled a quantity of dry cedar on this. Then he cut off the heads and legs of the chickens, and, getting some mud from the side of the road, proceeded to cover each, feathers and all, with a coating nearly an inch thick.
"What in the world do you mean by that, Shorty?" asked the Deacon in surprise.
"He's all right. Pap," assured Si. "He'll show you a new wrinkle in chicken-fixin' that you kin teach mother when you go home. She knows more about cookin' than any other woman in the world, but I'll bet she's not up to this dodge."
The fire had by this time burned down to a heap of glowing embers. The boys scraped a hole in these, laid on it their two balls of mud, then carefully covered them with live coals and piled on a little more wood.
"I'll say right now," said the Deacon, "that I don't think much o' that way. Why didn't you take their feathers off and clean out their innards? Seems to me that's a nasty way."
"Wait and see," said Shorty sententiously.
Si had mixed some meal into a dough in the half-canteens he and Shorty carried in their haversacks. He spread this out on a piece of sheet-iron, and propped it up before the fire. In a little while it was nicely browned over, when Si removed it from the sheet-iron, turned it over, and browned the other side. He repeated this until he had a sufficiency of18 "hoe cakes" for their supper. A kettle of good, strong coffee had been boiling on the other side of the fire while this was going on. Then they carefully raked the embers off, and rolled out two balls of hard-baked clay. Waiting for these to cool a little, they broke them. The skin and feathers came off with the pieces and revealed deliciously savory, sweet meat, roasted just to a turn. The intestines had shriveled up with the heat into little, hard balls, which were thrown away.
"Yum—yum—yum," said Shorty, tearing one of the chickens in two, and handing a piece to the Deacon, while Si gave him a sweet, crisp hoe cake and a cup of strong coffee. "Now, this's what you might call livin'. Never beat that cookin' in any house that had a roof. Only do that when you've stars in the roof of your kitchen."
"It certainly is splendid," admitted the Deacon. "I don't think Maria could've done better."
It was yet light when they finished their supper, filled their pipes, and adjusted themselves for a comfortable smoke. One of the men came back and said:
"Corporal, there's a rebel on horseback down the road a little ways who seems to be spying on us. We've noticed him for some little time. He don't come up in good range, and we haven't fired at him, hopin' he'd come closer. Better come and take a look at him."
"Don't do anything to scare him off," said Si. "Keep quiet. Me and Shorty'll sneak down through the field, out of sight, and git him."
They picked up their guns and slipped out under19 the cover of the undergrowth to where they could walk along the fence, screened by the heavy thicket of sumach. Catching the excitement of the occasion, the Deacon followed them at a little distance.
Without discovery Si and Shorty made their way to a covert within an easy 50 yards of where the horseman sat rather uneasily on a fine, mettled animal. They got a good look at him. He was a young, slender man, below medium hight, with curly, coalblack hair, short whiskers, a hooked nose, and large, full eyes. He wore a gray suit of rather better make and material than was customary in the rebel army. He had a revolver in his belt and a carbine slung to his saddle, but showed no immediate intention of using either. His right hand rested on his thigh, and his eyes were intently fixed on the distant picket-post.
"A rebel scout," whispered Si. "Shall we knock him over, and then order him to surrender, or halt him first, and then shoot?"
"He can't git away," said Shorty. "I have him kivered. You kivver his hoss's head. Then call him down."
Si drew his sights fine on the horse's head and yelled:
"Surrender, there, you dumbed rebel."
'surrender, There, You Dumbed Rebel.' 21
The man gave a quick start, a swift glance at the blue uniforms, and instantly both hands went up.
"That is all right, boys. Don't shoot. I'm a friend," he called in a strong German accent.
"Climb down off o' that boss, and come here, and do it mighty sudden," called out Si, with his finger still on the trigger.20
The horse became restive at the sound of strange voices, but the man succeeded in dismounting, and taking his reins in his hand, led the horse up to the fence.
"Very glad to see you, boys," said he, surveying their blue garments with undisguised satisfaction, and putting out his other hand to shake.
"Take off that revolver, and hand it here," ordered the wary Shorty, following the man with the muzzle of his gun. The man slipped his arm through the reins, unbuckled his revolver, and handed it to Shorty. Si jumped over the fence and seized the carbine.
"Who are you, and where did you come from?" asked Si, starting the man up the road toward the post.
"What rechiment do you belo