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ently lifted the back door offen its hinges, slipped down into the weeds in the ditch, an' kept under cover o' them till I was out o' sight. Say, isn't it just a bully door?"
That afternoon Si and Shorty walked over to where a detail of men were at work building a bridge across Stone River, under the direction of a Lieutenant of Pioneers. They had an idea that an opportunity might occur there to pick up something that would add to their home comforts. The Lieutenant was bustling about, hurrying the completion of the work before night. As the detail was made up of squads from various regiments, he was not acquainted with the men, and had much difficulty assigning them to the work that would suit them best. He came up to Si, who still wore the artillery Sergeant's overcoat he had picked up during the battle, and said sharply:
"Here, Sergeant, don't stand around doing nothing. Set the men a good example by pitching in lively. There's plenty to do for everybody. If you can't find anything else, help dig down that bank, and roll those big stones into the fill. Hold on; I've thought of something else. I want a reliable man to send over for some lumber. Put one of your men on that wagon there, and go with him, and take this letter to Capt. Billings, over at the saw-mill. It's a requisition for a load of lumber. Avoid the camps as much as possible on your way back, or they'll steal every inch of it away from you."
"Very good, sir," said Si, saluting. "Shorty, jump on the wagon there, and gather up the lines."
Shorty very obediently took his place on the seat of the two-horse wagon employed by the Pioneers for their jobs.
"Hurry up," enjoined the Lieutenant; "we need those boards at once."
"Very good, sir," said Si, saluting.
"This is what I call a puddin'," said Shorty, oracularly, as they drove away. "The Lord always kin be trusted to help the deservin', if the deservin' only keep their eyes peeled for His p'inters. This146 comes from not workin' yesterday and goin' to church."
They drove down to the sawmill, delivered their requisition, and had their wagon loaded with newly-sawn plank. The Captain had the planks carefully counted, the number and feet entered upon the record, and set forth upon the return which he gave to Si to be delivered to the Lieutenant of Pioneers.
"Too dod-gasted much bookkeepin' in this army," remarked Si, rather disconsolately, and he put the paper in his blouse pocket, and they drove away. "Wastes entirely too much valuable time. What'd he count them boards for? Looked like he suspicioned us. How are we going to git away with any o' them?"
"I wouldn't have that man's suspicious mind for anything," answered Shorty. "He don't trust no body. All the same, we're goin' to have enough boards for our floor."
"How are we goin' to manage it?" asked Si.
"Lots o' ways. There's no need o' your carryin' that paper back to the Lootenant. I might pick up several hundred feet and sneak away without your knowin' it. Say," as a bright idea struck him, "what's the use o' goin' back to the Lootenant at all? Neither of us belongs to his detail. He don't know us from a side o' sole-leather. What's the matter with drivin' the wagon right up to camp, and swipin' the whole business, horses, wagon and all?"
"I hain't been in the army as long as you have, Shorty," said Si doubtfully. "I've made some progress in petty larceny, as you know, but I ain't yit quite up to stealin' a span o' horses and a wagon.147 Mebbe I'll come to it in time, but I ain't quite ready for it now."
"That comes from goin' to church yesterday, and hearin' the Chaplain read the Ten Commandments," said Shorty wrathfully. "I don't believe they ought to allow the Chaplains to read them things. They ain't suited to army life, and there ought to be a general order that they're prejudicial to good order and military discipline. Where'd the army be if they obeyed that one about not covetin' a horse or other movable property? I tell you what we'll do, since you're so milky on the thing: We'll drive up in front of our house, unload enough boards for our floor, you git out your gun and bayonet and stand guard over 'em, and I'll drive the wagon down near the bridge, and jump off and leave it."
"All right," said Si; "that'll do splendidly, if you think you kin dodge the Lootenant."
"O, he be darned," said Shorty scornfully. "I could git away from him if I wasn't 10 years old."
They carried out the plan. They drove up in front of their residence, and threw off a liberal quantity of the boards. The other boys raised a yell, and made a break for them. But Si ran inside, got his gun, and established himself on guard.
"Don't you budge an inch from there till I git back," shouted Shorty, as he drove away. "Don't let one of Co. Q lay a finger on them. They're the durndest thieves outside the Jeffersonville Penitentiary. You can't trust one o' them farther than you could sling a bull by the tail. I'll be back soon."
Shorty drove gaily down until he got close to the bridge. The Lieutenant had been impatiently148 expecting him, and as soon as the wagon came up it was surrounded by a crowd of men to unload it. The Lieutenant looked over the load.
Si Defended the Plunder. 148
"I wonder if he sent enough. Let me see your return," he said, looking up at the seat, where he expected to find the Sergeant he had put in charge. But the seat was empty. Shorty had jumped down, prudently mingled with the crowd, avoided the Lieutenant's eye with much more than his usual diffidence, and was modestly making his way back to camp behind a thicket of hazel bushes. When he got to the house he was delighted to find Si still master of the situation, with all the boards present and accounted for. They quickly transferred them to the interior, and found that they had enough for a nice floor, besides a couple of extra ones, to cut up into a table and stools.
"You done good work in keepin' the other boys offen 'em, Si," said he. "I was afraid you wouldn't. The only thing I've got agin Co. Q is that the boys will steal. Otherwise they're the nicest kind o' boys."
A couple of days later they got a pass to go down to Murfreesboro' and look the sleepy old town over. They were particularly interested in the quaint old courthouse, which had once been the capitol of Tennessee. They happened into one of the offices, which was entirely deserted. On the wall hung a steel engraving of Jeff Davis in a large oak frame.
"That blamed old rebel picture oughtn't to be hangin' there, Si," observed Shorty.
"Indeed it oughtn't. Jeff ought to be hung to a sour-apple tree, and that glass'd make a nice winder for our house."
"Indeed it would," Shorty started to answer, but time was too precious to waste in speech. In an instant he had shoved an old desk up to the wall, mounted it, and handed the picture down to Si. They wrapped it up in their overcoats, and started back for camp. They had seen enough of Murfreesboro' for that day.
CHAPTER XIII. "HOOSIER'S REST"
SI AND SHORTY CHRISTEN THEIR PLACE AND GIVE A HOUSE-WARMING.
WITH a tin roof, a real door, a glazed window and a plank floor, Si and Shorty's house was by far the most aristocratic in the cantonment of the 200th Ind., if not the entire Winter quarters of the Army of the Cumberland. A marble mansion, with all the modern improvements, could not more proudly overshadow all its neighbors than it did.
Even the Colonel's was no comparison to it. A tent-fly had been made to do duty for a roof at the Colonel's. It could not be stretched evenly and tight. It would persistently sag down in spots, and each of these spots became a reservoir from which would descend an icy stream. A blanket had to serve as a door, and the best substitute for window glass were Commissary blanks greased with fat from headquarters' frying-pan. The floor, instead of being of clean, new plank, as Si's and Shorty's, was made of the warped and weather-beaten boards of a stable, which had been torn down by a fatigue detail.
Si and Shorty took as much pride and pleasure in their architecture as any nabob over his million-dollar villa. They were constantly on the alert for anything that would add to the comfort and luxury151 of their home. In their wanderings they chanced to come across an old-fashioned bedstead in an out house. It was of the kind in which the rails screw together, and the bed is held up by a strong cord crossing and recrossing from one rail to another. This looked like real luxury, and they at once appropriated it without any consultation with the owner, whoever he may have been.
"It'd be a waste o' time, anyhow," remarked Shorty. "He's a rebel, and probably over there in Bragg's army."
They made a tick out of the piece of wagon-cover, filled it with beech leaves, and had a bed which surpassed their most extravagant ideas of comfort in the army.
"Shorty," said Si, as they snugged themselves in the first night, "this seems almost too much. Do you ever remember settin' the whole night on a rail, with nothin' over us but clouds leakin' ice-water?"
"Shut up," said Shorty, giving him a kick under the blankets. "Do you want me to have a night mare?"
They got a number of flat stones, and laid down a little pavement in front of their door, and drove an old bayonet into the logs to serve as a scraper. They rigorously insisted on every visitor using this before entering.
"For common Wabash-bottom fly-up-the-cricks and private soljers, you're puttin' on entirely too many frills," said Sol Murphy, the Wagonmaster, angrily, as it was firmly insisted upon that he stay outside until he carefully cleaned his shoes on the bayonet. "A man that's afraid o' mud hain't no152 business in the army. He orter stay at home an' wear Congress gaiters an' pantalets. You're puttin' on too many scollops, I tell you. You knowed all 'bout mud in the Wabash bottoms. You had 'nuff of it there, the Lord knows."
"Yes, we had," replied Shorty; "but we was too well raised to track it into anybody's parlor."
"Parlor," echoed Sol, with a horse-laugh. "Lord, how fine we are, just becaze one o' us happens to be a measly little Corporal. In some armies the Wagonmaste