The Deacon's Adventures At Chattanooga In Caring For The Boys Part 1

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Si Klegg.

by John McElroy.

Book Five

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.'

The Publishers.

SI KLEGG

CHAPTER I. THE DEACON PROVIDES

RESORTS TO HIGHWAY ROBBERY AND HORSE STEALING.

THE Deacon was repaid seventyfold by Si's and Shorty's enjoyment of the stew he had prepared for them, and the extraordinary good it had seemed to do them as they lay wounded in the hospital at Chattanooga, to which place the Deacon had gone as soon as he learned that Si was hurt in the battle.

"I won't go back on mother for a minute," said Si, with brightened eyes and stronger voice, after he had drained the last precious drop of the broth, and was sucking luxuriously on the bones; "she kin cook chickens better'n any woman that ever lived. All the same, I never knowed how good chicken could taste before."

"Jehosephat, the way that does take the wrinkles out down here," said Shorty, rubbing appreciatively the front of his pantaloons. "I feel as smooth as if I'd bin starched and ironed, and there's new life clear down to my toe-nails. If me and Si could only have a chicken a day for the next 10 days we'd feel like goin' up there on the Ridge and bootin'

old Bragg off the hill. Wouldn't we, Si?"

"Guess so," acceded Si cheerily, "if every one made us feel as much better as this one has. How in the world did you git the chicken, Pap?"

"Little boys should eat what's set before 'em, and ask no questions,"

said the father, coloring. "It's bad manners to be pryin' around the kitchen to find out where the vittles come from."

"Well, I've got to take off my hat to you as a forager," said Shorty. "A man that kin find a chicken in Chattenoogy now, and hold on to it long enough to git it in the pot, kin give me lessons in the art. When I git strong enough to travel agin I want you to learn me the trick."

The Deacon did not reply to the raillery. He was pondering anxiously about the preservation of his four remaining chickens. The good results manifest from cooking the first only made him more solicitous about the others. Several half-famished dogs had come prowling around, from no one knew where. He dared not kill them in daylight. He knew that probably some, if not all, of them had masters, and the worse and more dangerous a dog is the more bitterly his owner resents any attack upon him. Then, even hungrier looking men with keen eyes and alert noses wandered near, with inquiry in every motion. He would have liked to take Shorty into his confidence, but he feared that the ravenous appet.i.te of convalescence would prove too much for that gentleman's continence.

He kept thinking about it while engaged in what he called "doin' up the ch.o.r.es," that is, making Si and Shorty comfortable for the day, before he lay down to take a much-needed rest. He had never been so puzzled in all his life. He thought of burying them in the ground, but dismissed that because he would be seen digging the hole and putting them in, and if he should escape observation, the dogs would be pretty certain to nose them out and dig them up. Sinking them in the creek suggested itself, but had to be dismissed for various reasons, one being fear that the ravenous catfish would devour them.

"If I only had a balloon," he murmured to himself, "I might send 'em up in that. That's the only safe way I kin think of. Yes, there's another way. I've intended to put a stone foundation under that crib, and daub it well, so's to stop the drafts. It orter be done, but it's a hard day's work, even with help, and I'm mortal tired. But I s'pose it's the only way, and I've got to put in stones so big that a dog can't pull 'em out."

He secured a couple of negroes, at prices which would have paid for highly-skilled labor in Indiana, to roll up enough large stones to fill in the s.p.a.ce under the crib, and then he filled all the crevices with smaller ones, and daubed over the whole with clay.

"There," he said, as he washed the clay from his hands, "I think them chickens are safe for to-night from the dogs, and probably from the men.

Think of all that trouble for four footy chickens not worth more'n four bits in Injianny. They're as much bother as a drove o' steer'd be. I think I kin now lay down and take a wink o' sleep."

He was soon sleeping as soundly as only a thoroughly-tired man can, and would have slept no one knows how long, had not Shorty succeeded in waking him towards morning, after a shaking which exhausted the latter's strength.

"Wake up, Mister Klegg," said Shorty; "it must 've bin rainin' dogs, and they're tryin' to tear the shanty down."

The Deacon rubbed his eyes and hastened a moment to the clamor outside.

It seemed as if there were a thousand curs surrounding them, barking, howling, snarling, fighting, and scratching. He s.n.a.t.c.hed up a club and sprang out, while Shorty tottered after. He ran into the midst of the pack, and began laying about with his strong arms. He broke the backs of some, brained others, and sent the others yelping with pain and fright, except two particularly vicious ones, who were so frenzied with hunger that they attacked him, and bit him pretty severely before he succeeded in killing them. Then he went around to the end of the crib nearest his precious h.o.a.rd, and found that the hungry brutes had torn away his clay and even the larger of the stones, and nothing but their fighting among themselves had prevented the loss of his chickens. "What in tarnation set the beasts onto us," inquired Shorty wonderingly. "They were wuss'n cats around catnip, rats after aniseed, or cattle about a spot o' blood.

I've felt that me and Si wuz in shape to bring the crows and buzzards around, but didn't expect to start the dogs up this way."

"I've got four chickens hid under the underpinnin' there for you and Si," confessed the Deacon. "The dogs seemed to 've smelled 'em out and wuz after 'em."

He went to the hiding place and pulled out the fowls one after another.

"They are all here," he said; "but how in the world am I goin' to keep 'em through another night?"

"You ain't a-goin' to keep 'em through another night, are you?" asked Shorty anxiously, as he gloated over the sight. "Le's eat 'em to-day."

"And starve to-morrer?" said the thrifty Deacon rebukingly. "I don't know where any more is comin' from. It was hard enough work gittin'

these. I had calculated on cookin' one a day for you and Si. That'd make 'em provide for four more days. After that only the Lord knows what we'll do."

"Inasmuch as we'll have to trust to the Lord at last, anyway," said Shorty, with a return of his old spirit, "why not go the whole gamut? A day or two more or less won't make no difference to Him. I feel as if I could eat 'em all myself without Si's help."

"I tell you what I'll do," said the Deacon, after a little consideration. "I feel as if both Si and you kin stand a little more'n you had yesterday. I'll cook two to-day. We'll send a big cupful over to Capt. McGillicuddy. That'll leave us two for to-morrer. After that we'll have to trust to Providence."

"If ever there was a time when He could use His ravens to advantage,"

said the irreverent Shorty, "it's about now. They carried bread and meat to that old prophet. There's a lot o' mighty good men down here in this valley now in terrible want of grub, and nothin' but birds kin git over the roads to the rear very well."

"Don't speak lightly o' the Lord and His ways, Shorty," said the Deacon severely.

"'Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace.

Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smilin' face,'

as the hymn says. Here, take these chickens in one hand and this pistol in the other, and guard 'em while I go down to the branch and wash and git some water. Then I'll cook your breakfast."

Again the savory smell of the boiling chickens attracted sick boys, who begged for a little of the precious food. Having double the quant.i.ty, the Deacon was a little more liberal, but he had to restrain Shorty, who, despite his own great and gnawing hunger, would have given away the bigger part of the broth to those who so desperately needed it.

"No, Shorty," said the prudent Deacon. "Our first duty is to ourselves.

We kin help them by gittin' you and Si on your feet. We can't feed the whole Army o' the c.u.mberland, though I'd like to."

A generous cupful was set aside for Capt. McGillicuddy, which his servant received with grat.i.tude and glowing reports of the good the former supply had done him.

With the daylight came the usual sh.e.l.ls from the rebel guns on Lookout Mountain. Even the Deacon was getting used to this noisy salutation to the morn, and he watched the sh.e.l.ls strike harmlessly in the distance with little tremor of his nerves. As the firing ceased, amid the derisive yells of the army, he said quietly:

[Ill.u.s.tration: GIT DOWN FROM THERE! COMMANDED THE DEACON 21]

"That last sh.e.l.l's saved me a good deal o' work diggin'. It, tore out a hole that'll just do to bury the carca.s.ses of these dogs."

Accordingly, he dragged the carca.s.ses over after breakfast, and threw the dirt back in the hole upon them.

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