Read CHAPTER V of Chasing an Iron Horse / A Boy's Adventures in the Civil War, free online book, by Edward Robins, on ReadCentral.com.

ON THE RAIL

At an early hour the next morning, just before daylight, the conspirators were standing on the platform of the Marietta station, awaiting the arrival of their train the train which they hoped soon to call theirs in reality. They were all in civilian dress; even Walter Jenks had contrived to discard his uniform of a Confederate officer, regarding it as too conspicuous, and he was habited in an ill-fitting suit which made him look like an honest, industrious mechanic.

Andrews was pacing up and down with an anxious, resolute face. He realized that the success of the manoeuvre which they were about to execute rested upon his own shoulders, but he had no idea of flinching. “Before night has come,” he was thinking confidently, “we shall be within the lines of General Mitchell, and soon all America will be ringing with the story of our dash.”

George, no less sanguine, was standing near Watson and Macgreggor, and occasionally slipping a lump of sugar into the overcoat pocket which served as a sort of kennel for the tiny Waggie. There was nothing about the party to attract undue attention. They pretended, for the most part, to be strangers one to another, and, to aid in the deception, they had bought railroad tickets for different places for Kingston, Adairsville, Calhoun and other stations to the northward, between Marietta and Chattanooga.

Soon the train was sweeping up to the platform. It was a long one, with locomotive, tender, three baggage cars and a number of passenger cars. The adventurers clambered on it through various doors, but at last reached the passenger car nearest to the engine. Here they seated themselves quite as if each man had no knowledge of any one else. In another minute the train, which was well filled, went rolling away from Marietta and along the bend around the foot of Kenesaw Mountain. “Only eight miles,” thought George, “and then ”

The conductor of the train, a young man with a very intelligent face, looked searchingly at the boy as he examined his ticket. “Too young,” George heard him mutter under his breath, as he passed on to the other passengers.

A thrill of feverish excitement stirred the lad. “What did he mean by too young?” he asked himself. “Can he possibly have gotten wind of our expedition?” But the conductor did not return, and it was not until long afterwards that George was able to understand what was meant by the expression, “Too young.” The man had been warned by the Confederate authorities that a number of young Southerners who had been conscripted into the army were trying to escape from service, and might use the cars for that purpose. He was ordered, therefore, to arrest any such runaways that he might find. When he looked at George it is probable that he thought: “This boy is too young to be a conscript,” and he evidently gave unconscious voice to what was passing through his mind. Fortunately enough, he saw nothing suspicious in any of the Northerners.

The train ran rather slowly, so that it was bright daylight before it reached Big Shanty. “Big Shanty; twenty minutes for breakfast!” shouted the conductor and the brakemen. George’s heart beat so fast that he almost feared some one would hear it, and ask him what was the matter. The hoarse cries of the employees as they announced the name of the station made him realize that now, after all these hours of preparation and preliminary danger, the first act of his drama of war had begun. Every one of his companions experienced the same feeling, but, like him, none had any desire to draw back.

No sooner had the cars come to a standstill than nearly all the passengers, excepting the Northerners, quickly left their seats, to repair to the long, low shanty or eating-room from which the station took its unpoetic name. Then the train hands, including the engineer and fireman, followed the example of the hungry passengers, and hurried off to breakfast. The engine was deserted. This was even better than the adventurers could have hoped, for they had feared that it might be necessary to overpower the engineer before they could get away on their race.

The twenty-one men and the one boy left in the forward passenger car looked anxiously, guardedly, at one another. More than one felt in his clothes to make sure that he had his revolver. Andrews left the car for half a minute, dropped to the ground, and glanced rapidly up and down the track. There was no obstruction visible. Within a stone’s throw of him, however, sentries were posted on the outskirts of the Confederate camp. He scanned the station, which was directly across the track from the encampment, and was glad to see, exactly as he had expected, that it had no telegraph office from which a dispatch concerning the coming escapade might be sent. Having thus satisfied himself that the coast was clear, and the time propitious, he reentered the car.

“All right, boys,” he said, very calmly (as calmly, indeed, as if he were merely inviting the men to breakfast), “let us go now!”

The men arose, quietly, as if nothing startling were about to happen, left the car, and walked hurriedly to the head of the train. “Each man to his post,” ordered Andrews. “Ready!”

In less time than it takes to write this account the seizure of the train was accomplished, in plain view of the puzzled sentries. The two men who were to act as engineer and assistant engineer clambered into the empty cab of the locomotive, as did also Andrews and Jenks. The latter was to be the fireman. One of the men uncoupled the passenger cars, so that the stolen train would consist only of the engine, tender, and the three baggage cars. Into one of these baggage cars the majority of the party climbed, shutting the doors at either end after them, while the two men who were to serve as brakemen stationed themselves upon the roof. Watson and Macgreggor were in this car, while George, with Waggie in his pocket, was standing in the tender, his handsome face aglow with excitement, and his eyes sparkling like stars.

“All ready! Go!” cried Andrews. The engineer opened the valve of the locomotive; the wheels began to revolve; in another second the train was moving off towards Chattanooga. The next instant Big Shanty was in an uproar. As he peered over the ledge of the tender, and looked back, George saw the sentries running here and there, as the passengers in the breakfast-room came swarming out on the platform. There were shouts from many voices; he even heard the report of several rifles.

But shouts or shots from rifles could not avail now. The engine was dancing along the track on the road to Chattanooga; Big Shanty was soon many yards behind. George took Waggie out of his pocket, and held him up in the air by the little fellow’s forepaws. “Say good-bye to the Confeds,” he shouted, “for by to-night, Wag, you’ll be in the Union lines!” The dog barked gleefully; and jumped about on the platform of the tender, glad enough to have a little freedom again. Then Waggie was replaced in his master’s pocket.

Andrews, who was sitting on the right-hand seat of the cab, looked the picture of delight.

“How was that for a starter?” he cried. “It’s a good joke on Watson: he was so sure the sentries would stop us, and the soldiers didn’t realize what we were doing until it was too late for them! Hurrah!”

It was all that the four men in the cab, and that George in the tender, could possibly do to keep their balance. The road-bed was very rough and full of curves; the country was mountainous, and the track itself was in wretched condition. Yet it was a magnificent sight as “The General,” which was the name of the engine, careered along through the picturesque country like some faithful horse which tries, with all its superb powers of muscle, to take its master farther and farther away from a dangerous enemy.

But suddenly the engine began to slacken its speed, and at last came to a complete standstill. Andrews, who had made his way into the tender, with considerable difficulty, in order to speak to George, turned a trifle pale.

“What’s the matter, Brown?” he shouted to the engineer.

“The fire’s nearly out, and there’s no steam,” was the rejoinder. At the same moment the men in the baggage car opened the door nearest the tender, and demanded to know what had happened.

Andrews called back to them that there would only be a short delay.

“It’s only the fire that’s out,” he added; “and I’m thankful it is nothing worse. When I saw the train slowing up I was afraid some of the machinery had broken.” No one understood better than he how a broken engine would have stranded all his men in the enemy’s country, only a short distance away, comparatively, from Big Shanty and the Confederate camp.

George worked with a will in assisting the men in the cab to convey wood from the tender into the engine furnace. In three minutes “The General” had resumed its way.

“I wonder,” thought George, as the train twisted around a curve and then sped across a narrow embankment, “if any attempt will be made to follow us.” But the very idea of such pursuit seemed absurd.

Andrews turned to Jenks with a smiling countenance. “The most difficult part of our journey is already over,” he said triumphantly. “There’s only one unscheduled train to meet, in addition to the two regulars. After I meet it, probably at Kingston, twenty-five miles or more farther on, we can put the old ‘General’ to full speed, and begin our work! We have got the upper hand at last.”

“Don’t forget your telegraph wire is to be cut,” said Jenks, as he jammed his shabby cap over his head, to prevent it from sailing off into space.

“Wait a couple of minutes,” answered the leader. “We’ll cut it.” He knew that although there was no telegraph station at Big Shanty, yet the enemy might tap the wire, if it were not cut, and thus send word along the line that a train manned by Northern spies was to be watched for and peremptorily stopped. The simplest obstruction on the track would be sufficient to bring this journey to an untimely end.

“Brown, we’ll stop here,” commanded the leader, a minute or two later, as the engine was running over a comparatively level section. “The General” was soon motionless, whereupon Watson, peering out from the baggage car, called out: “Anything wrong?”

“Only a little wire-cutting to be done,” shouted Andrews. Then coming to George, he said: “Look here, my boy, how are you on climbing?”

“Never had a tree beat me yet,” said the lad.

“Then try your skill at that pole yonder, and see if you can get to the top of it.”

Without waiting to make answer George handed Waggie to Jenks, jumped from the tender to the ashy road-bed, and started towards the nearest telegraph pole, only a few feet away from the engine. It was a far more difficult task to coax one’s way up a smooth pole than up the rough bark of a tree, as George soon learned. Twice he managed to clamber half way up the pole, and twice he slid ignominiously to the ground. But he was determined to succeed, and none the less so because the men in the baggage car were looking on as intently as if they were at the circus. Upon making the third attempt he conquered, and reached the top of the pole amid the cheering of the spectators.

“Now hold on there for a minute, George,” called Andrews. He produced from one of his pockets a ball of very thick twine, or cord, to one end of which he tied a small stick of kindling-wood, brought from the tender. Next he leaned out from the cab and threw the stick into the air. It flew over the telegraph wire, and then to the ground, so that the cord, the other end of which he held in his left hand, passed up across the wire, and so down again. To the end which he held Andrews tied a good-sized axe.

“Do you see what I want?” he asked the boy, who was resting himself on the cross-bar supporting the wire.

George needed no prompting. The cord was eight or nine feet away from him; to reach it he must move out on the telegraph wire, hand over hand, with his feet dangling in the air. Slowly he swung himself from the cross-bar to the wire, and began to finger his way towards the cord. But this was an experience new to the expert tree-climber; ere he had proceeded more than three feet his hands slipped and he fell to the ground. The distance was thirty-five feet or more, and the lookers-on cried out in alarm. The boy would surely break his legs perhaps his neck!

But while Master George might not be an adept in handling a wire he had learned a few things about falling from trees. As he came tumbling down he gracefully turned a somersault and landed, quite unhurt, upon his feet.

“I’ll do it yet,” he maintained pluckily, running back to the telegraph pole.

“Wait, George,” shouted Andrews. He leaped from the cab, and taking a new piece of the cord, tied it around the lad’s waist. “If I had the sense I was born with I might have done that first,” he muttered.

George began his second ascent of the pole, and this time reached the top without hindrance or mishap. Andrews now fastened the axe to the cord, of which George had one end; in a few seconds the axe had been drawn up by the boy. Then, with his left hand holding on to the cross-bar, and his legs firmly wound around the pole, he took the axe in his right hand and hit the wire. Three times did he thus strike; at the third blow the wire snapped asunder, and the longer of the two pieces fell to the ground. He let the tool fall, and slid down the pole as the men cheered him lustily. Andrews now took the axe, cut the dangling wire in another place, and threw the piece thus secured into the tender.

“They can’t connect that line in a hurry,” he said, as he turned to George with the remark: “Well, my son, you’re earning your salt!” George, blushing like a peony, felt a thrill of pride.

“And now, fellows,” added Andrews, addressing the men in the baggage car, “it will be best to take up a rail, so that if we are pursued, by any chance, the enemy will have some trouble in getting on any further.”

The occupants of the car, headed by Watson, sprang to the ground. Andrews handed him a smooth iron bar, about four feet in length. “We have no track-raising instruments,” explained the leader, “but I guess this will answer.” Watson managed to loosen some of the spikes on the track, in the rear of the train, by means of this bar; later several of his companions succeeded in placing a log under the rail and prying it up so that at last the piece of iron had been entirely separated from the track.

The perspiration was dripping from Watson’s brow. “Great guns!” he growled, “we are acting as if we had a whole eternity of time before us.”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Andrews, reassuringly, as he leaped into the cab; “we have been running ahead of schedule time. But hurry up; there’s lots of work before us!” In the next minute the Northerners were once more on their way.

After the train had run a distance of five miles, Andrews signaled to the engineer, and it was brought slowly to a stop. The chief jumped from the engine, walked along the track to the end car, and gazed intently to the southward.

“No sign of pursuit thus far,” he said to himself. Then, turning back and speaking to the men in the baggage car who had once more opened the door, he cried: “There’s time, boys, for another wrestle with the telegraph only this time we will try a new plan.” This time, indeed, a pole was chopped down, and placed (after the wire had been cut) upon the track directly behind the last baggage car.

“There,” said Andrews, “that will have to be lifted off before our friends the enemy can steam by even if they have an engine good for seventy miles an hour.”

Walter Jenks came walking back to the cab. He looked pale and tired.

“What’s the matter?” asked Andrews.

“I strained my back a bit in helping the fellows to put that pole on the track,” was the answer.

“Go back into the car and take a rest,” urged the leader. “George can take your place as fireman. Eh, George?”

The boy, coming up at that moment, and hearing the suggestion, smiled almost as broadly as the famous Cheshire cat. He longed to know that he was of some real use in the expedition. So Jenks retired to the baggage car, carrying with him, for a temporary companion, the struggling Waggie, who might be very much in George’s way under the new arrangement of duties.

Off once more rattled “The General,” and George, in his capacity of fireman, felt about three inches taller than he had five minutes before. The spirits of Andrews seemed to be rising higher and higher. Thus far everything had gone so successfully that he began to believe that the happy ending of this piece of daring was already assured.

“Now, my boys, for a bit of diplomacy,” he said, at last, as the occupants of the cab saw that they were approaching a small station flanked by half a dozen houses. “Stop ‘The General’ here, Brown, for I think there’s a tank at the place.”

As the train reached the platform and slowly stopped, the station-master, a rustic-looking individual with a white beard three feet long, shambled up to the cab.

“Ain’t this Fuller’s train?” he drawled, gazing curiously at the four Northerners, as he gave a hitch to his shabby trousers. He could not understand the presence of the strangers in the engine, nor the disappearance of the passenger cars.

Andrews leaned out of the cab window. He knew that Fuller was the conductor of the stolen train, whom they had left behind at Big Shanty. “No,” he said, in a tone of authority, “this is not Fuller’s train. He’ll be along later; we have the right of way all along the line. I’m running a special right through to General Beauregard at Corinth. He is badly in need of powder.”

“Be the powder there?” asked the station-master, pointing to the three baggage cars.

The men hiding in one of them had received their instructions; they were as silent as the grave, and their doors were closed. The brakemen sat mute on top of the cars.

“Yes, there’s enough powder in there to blow up the whole State of Georgia,” returned Andrews.

“Wall, I’d give my shirt and my shoes to Beauregard if he wanted ’em,” said the man of the long beard. “He’s the best General we have in the Confederate service; yes, better even than Robert Lee.”

“Well, then help Beauregard by helping me. I want more water I see you have a tank here and more wood.”

“You can have all you can hold,” cried the station-master, enthusiastically. He was only too glad to be of use.

Thus it happened that ten minutes later “The General” was speeding away from the station with a fresh supply of water and a huge pile of wood in the tender.

“That yarn worked admirably, didn’t it?” asked Andrews. The engineer and his assistant laughed. George shut the heavy door of the furnace, into which he had been throwing wood, and stood up, very red in the face, albeit smiling.

“But even if the story was true,” he suggested, “you couldn’t get through to Corinth.”

“Exactly,” laughed the leader, “but our goat-bearded friend at the station didn’t think of that fact. Corinth is away off in the state of Mississippi, near its northern border, nearly three hundred miles away from here; besides, if I were a Southerner, I couldn’t possibly reach there without running afoul of General Mitchell and his forces, either around Huntsville, or Chattanooga. However, I knew more about Mitchell’s movements than the station man did and that’s where I had the advantage.”

“We may not have such plain sailing at Kingston,” said the engineer, as “The General” just grazed an inquisitive cow which showed signs of loitering on the track.

“We’ll have more people to deal with there,” admitted Andrews, “and we must be all the more on our guard.”

Both the men spoke wisely. It was just two hours after leaving Big Shanty, and about thirty miles had been covered, when the alleged powder-train rolled into the station at the town of Kingston.

“I hope we meet that irregular freight train here,” muttered Andrews. There were certainly plenty of cars in evidence on the sidings; indeed, the station, which was the junction for a branch line running to Rome, Georgia, presented a bustling appearance.

No sooner was “The General” motionless than a train-dispatcher emerged from a gathering of idlers on the platform and walked up to the locomotive. He held in his hand a telegraphic blank. As he saw Andrews, who was leaning out of the cab with an air of impatience that was partly real and partly assumed, the dispatcher drew back in surprise. He recognized “The General,” but there were strange men in the cab.

“I thought this was Fuller’s train,” he said. “It’s Fuller’s engine.”

“Yes, it is Fuller’s engine, but he’s to follow me with his regular train and another engine. This is a special carrying ammunition for General Beauregard, and I must have the right of way clear along the line!”

The dispatcher scanned the train. He saw nothing to excite his suspicions. The baggage cars were closed, and might easily be filled with powder and shot; the men in the engine, and the two brakemen on the top of one car had a perfectly natural appearance.

“Well, you can’t move on yet,” he announced. “Here’s a telegram saying a local freight from the north will soon be here, and you must wait till she comes up.”

Andrews bit his lip in sheer vexation. He had reasoned that this irregular freight train would already be at Kingston on his arrival, and he hated the idea of a delay. The loiterers on the platform were listening eagerly to the conversation; he felt that he was attracting too much attention. But there was no help for it. He could not go forward on this single-track railroad until the exasperating freight had reached the station.

“All right,” he answered, endeavoring to look unconcerned, “shunt us off.”

Within three minutes the train had been shifted from the main track to a side track, and a curious crowd had gathered around “The General.”

It was a critical situation. The idlers began to ply the occupants of the cab with a hundred questions which must be answered in some shape unless suspicion was to be aroused and suspicion, under such circumstances, would mean the holding back of the train, and the failure of the expedition.

“Where did you come from?” “How much powder have you got on board?” “Why did you take Fuller’s engine?” “Why is Beauregard in such a hurry for ammunition?” were among the queries hurled at the defenceless heads of the four conspirators.

George, as he gazed out upon the Kingstonians, began to feel rather nervous. He realized that one contradictory answer, one slip of the tongue, might spoil everything. And in this case to spoil was a verb meaning imprisonment and ultimate death.

A dapper young man, with small, piercing eyes and a head that suggested a large bump of self-conceit, called out: “You chaps can’t reach Beauregard. You’ll run right into the Yankee forces.”

“I’ve got my orders and I’m going to try it,” doggedly answered Andrews.

“And run your ammunition right into the hands of the Yankees?” sneered the dapper young man. “I don’t see the sense in that.”

An angry flush came into Andrews’ cheeks. “When you have been in the Confederate army a little while, young man, as I have,” he said, “you’ll learn to obey orders and ask no questions. Why don’t you go serve your country, as other young men are doing, instead of idling around at a safe distance from the bullets?”

At this sally a shout of laughter went up from the crowd. It was evident that the dapper young man was not popular. He made no answer, but went away. “Will that freight never turn up?” thought Andrews.

Suddenly there came a barking from the baggage car nearest the tender, wherein were confined the majority of the party. George’s heart beat the faster as he listened; he knew that the querulous little cries were uttered by Waggie.

An old man, with snow-white hair and beard, cried out: “Is that dog in the car part of your ammunition?” His companions laughed at the witticism. For once Andrews was nonplused. George came bravely to the rescue.

“It’s a dog in a box,” he said, “and it’s a present to General Beauregard.”

“Well, I hopes the purp won’t be blown up,” remarked the old man. There was another titter, but the story was believed.

“Things are getting a little too warm here,” Andrews whispered to George. As the words left his lips he heard the screeching of a locomotive. “It’s the freight!” he cried.

It was, indeed, the longed-for freight train; puffing laboriously, it came up to the station and was quickly switched off to a siding.

“Now we can get rid of these inquisitive hayseeds,” said Andrews.

“Look,” cried George; “I see a red flag!” He pointed to the rear platform of the end freight car, from which was suspended a piece of red bunting. Andrews stamped his foot and indulged in some forcible language. He knew that the flag indicated the presence of another train back of the freight.

Andrews was out of the cab like a flash. “What does this red flag mean?” he demanded of the conductor of the freight train, who was about to cross the tracks to enter the station.

“What does what mean?” asked the conductor, in a tone of mild surprise.

“Why is the road blocked up behind you?” asked the leader. Had he been the President of the Southern Confederacy he could not have spoken more imperiously. “I have a special train with orders to take a load of powder to General Beauregard without delay! And here I find my way stopped by miserable freight trains which are not a quarter as important as my three cars of ammunition.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” explained the conductor, “but it ain’t my fault. Fact is, Mitchell, the Yankee General, has captured Huntsville, and we’re moving everything we can out of Chattanooga, because it’s said he is marching for there. We have had to split this freight up into two sections and t’other section is a few miles behind. Don’t worry. It’ll be here soon. But, look here, sir! You’ll never be able to reach Beauregard. General Mitchell will get you long before you are near Corinth.”

“Pooh!” replied Andrews. “Mitchell may have taken Huntsville, but he can’t stay there. Beauregard has, no doubt, sent him flying by this time. And, anyway, I’m bound to obey orders from Richmond, come what may.”

“I wish you luck, sir,” said the freight conductor, who was impressed by the authoritative bearing of Andrews, and believed the spy to be some Confederate officer of high rank.

The leader returned to the cab. It was still surrounded by the curious idlers.

“This is what I call pretty bad railroad management,” he grumbled, loud enough to be heard by the Kingstonians. “This line should be kept clear when it’s necessary to get army supplies quickly from place to place. What are fifty freight trains compared to powder for the troops?”

The minutes passed slowly; it seemed as if that second freight train would never come. At last a dull, rumbling sound on the track gave warning of the approach of the second section. In a few moments the heavily-laden cars, drawn by a large engine, had glided by “The General,” down the main track. The men in the cab gave unconscious sighs of relief. Now they could move onward. But what was it that the sharp eyes of George detected? Yes, there could be no mistake. At the end of the second freight train was another red flag.

“Look!” he whispered. Andrews saw the flag, and turned white.

“How many more trains are we to wait for?” he said.

After regaining his composure he left the engine, to seek the conductor of the new train. He was back again in five minutes.

“Well?” asked George.

“I find from the conductor that there’s still another section behind him,” explained Andrews. “The Confederate commander at Chattanooga fears the approach of General Mitchell and has ordered all the rolling stock of the railroad to be sent south to Atlanta. The new train should be here in ten minutes.”

In the meantime the people around the station had all heard of the danger which threatened Chattanooga from the Union army. The train-dispatcher came running over to the engine, and doffed his cap to Andrews.

“It ain’t none of my business,” he said, with supreme indifference to any rules of grammar, “but they say Mitchell is almost at Chattanooga and you’ll never get through to Corinth.”

Andrews assumed an air of contemptuous superiority.

“I happen to know more of General Mitchell’s movements than you do,” he said, “And, what’s more, no Confederate officer takes orders from a railroad employee.”

“I didn’t mean any offense,” answered the train-dispatcher.

“Then go back and see that the switches are ready for me to move on the instant the next freight gets here,” ordered the leader. The young man walked away, with a nod of assent.

“He talks proud enough,” he thought; “he must be a relation of Jefferson Davis, from his airs.”

After the dispatcher had gone, Andrews whispered to George: “We ought to let the boys in the car know the cause of our detention and warn them that in case of anything going wrong in our plans they must be prepared to fight for their lives. Could you manage to get word to them without attracting suspicion?”

The boy made no verbal answer. But as he left the cab and vaulted to the ground, his looks showed that he understood what was wanted, and proposed to execute the commission. After sauntering among the men who stood near the engine, he crossed the track of the siding, directly in front of “The General’s” headlight, and soon leaned, in a careless attitude, against the car in which so many of his companions were waiting. He was now on the opposite side of the track from the Kingstonians, but directly alongside the main track, and in full view from the station.

George began, in a very low tone, to whistle a few bars from “The Blue Bells of Scotland.” It was a tune he had often indulged in during his travels from the Union camp. As he finished there came a bark of recognition from Waggie, and a slight stir in the car.

“Are you there, Watson?” asked the boy, under his breath. “Can you hear me? If you can, scratch on the wall.”

There was a moment’s pause, and the faint sound of footsteps was heard within the car. Then came an answering scratch.

George went on, in the same tone, as he leaned against the car, and apparently gazed into space: “Andrews wants you to know that we’re waiting till some freight trains get in from Chattanooga. But if anything should happen before we can get away be ready to fight. Keep Waggie from barking if you can.”

Another scratching showed that Watson had heard and understood. But Waggie began to bark again. George was filled with vexation. “Why did I let Waggie go in the car?” he asked himself.

Just then a welcome whistle proclaimed that the third freight train was approaching. It was time; the delay at Kingston must have occupied nearly an hour it seemed like a whole day and the men about the railroad station were becoming skeptical. They could not understand why the mysterious commander of the powder-train should persist in wanting to go on after hearing that Mitchell was so near.

When George returned to the engine the new freight went by on the main track directly in the wake of the second freight, which had been sent half a mile down the line, to the southward. The main track was now clear for Andrews. But the intrepid leader seemed to be facing fresh trouble. He was standing on the step of the cab, addressing the old man who had charge of the switches.

“Switch me off to the main track at once,” thundered Andrews. “Don’t you see, fool, that the last local freight is in, and I have a clear road!”

There was a provokingly obstinate twist about the switch-tender’s mouth.

“Switch yourself off,” he snarled. “I shan’t take the responsibility for doing it. You may be what you say you are, but I haven’t anything to prove it. You’re a fool, anyway, to run right into the arms of the Yankee general.”

His fellow-townsmen indulged in a murmur of approval. The men in the cab saw that another minute would decide their fate, adversely or otherwise.

“I order you to switch me off in the name of the Confederate Government!” shouted the leader.

More citizens were running over from the station to find out the cause of the disturbance.

“I don’t know you, and I won’t take any orders from you!” said the switch-tender, more doggedly than ever. He walked over to the station, where he hung up the keys of the switch in the room of the ticket-seller.

In a twinkling Andrews had followed him, and was already in the ticket room.

“You’ll be sorry for this,” he cried; “for I’ll report your rascally conduct to General Beauregard!” He seized the keys as he spoke, and shook them in the old man’s face.

The latter looked puzzled. He had begun to think that this business of sending powder to Beauregard was a trick of some kind, yet the confident bearing of the leader impressed him at this crisis. Perhaps he had made a mistake in refusing to obey the orders; but ere he could decide the knotty problem Andrews took the keys, hurried from the station, and unlocked the switch. Then he jumped into the cab, as he shouted to the men near the engine: “Tell your switch-tender that he will hear from General Beauregard for this!” He gave a signal, and the engineer grasped the lever and opened the steam valve.

“The General” slowly left the siding and turned into the main track. As the train passed the station, heading towards the north, the switch-tender was standing on the platform, with a dazed expression in his eyes. Andrews tossed the keys to him, as he cried: “Forgive me for being in such a hurry, but the Confederacy can’t wait for you!” Soon Kingston was left behind.

“Keep ‘The General’ going at forty miles an hour,” said the leader. “We have only the two trains to meet now a passenger and a freight which won’t give us any trouble. I tell you, we had a narrow escape at Kingston. More than once I thought we were all done for.”

“I was pretty well scared when that rascal of a Waggie barked,” observed George. The train was now gliding swiftly on past hills and woods and quiet pasture-lands. After the long delay the sensation of rapid motion was delightful.

“By Jove!” cried Andrews, with a tinge of humor. “You must bring that rogue back with you into the engine. When he barks in a place where there’s supposed to be nothing but powder the thing doesn’t seem quite logical. It throws discredit on an otherwise plausible story. Let us stop a couple of miles from here, near Adairsville, do some wire-cutting, release Waggie, and see how the fellows are getting along in the baggage car.”

When the stop was made the men in the car quickly opened the door and came tumbling to the ground. They were glad to stretch their legs and get a breath of fresh air. Waggie bounded and frisked with delight when he espied George.

“I’ve had a time with that dog,” said Jenks. “I had a flask of water with me, and he insisted on my pouring every bit of it out on the palm of my hand, and letting him lap it.”

The other occupants of the car were crowding around Andrews, as they discussed with him the fortunate escape from Kingston. Watson, who seemed to be fired with a sudden enthusiasm, addressed the party.

“Boys,” he said, “when I heard that switch-tender refuse to put us on the main track I thought our hour had come. But the coolness and the presence of mind of our friend Andrews have saved the day. Let us give him three cheers! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”

The cheers were given with a will.

“Thank you, comrades,” said Andrews, modestly. “But don’t waste any time on me; I only did what any other man would have done in my place. Let’s get to work again time’s precious.”

At a hint from him George clambered up a telegraph pole, taking with him a piece of cord by which he afterwards drew up an axe. Then he cut the wire, while others in the party were removing three rails from the track in the rear of the train. The rails were afterwards deposited in the baggage car occupied by the men, as were also some wooden cross-ties which were found near the road-bed.

“All this may be a waste of time,” said Andrews. “We shall probably be in Chattanooga before any one has a chance to chase us.”

“Yet I have a presentiment that we shall be chased,” cried Macgreggor. “I believe there will be a hot pursuit.”

His hearers, including Andrews, laughed, almost scornfully.

“Just wait and see,” returned Macgreggor. “A Southerner is as brave, and has as much brains as a Northerner.”

We shall see who was right in the matter.