The Blue and the Gray—On Land
AN UNDIVIDED UNION
AUTHOR OF "THE ARMY AND NAVY SERIES" "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD, FIRST AND SECOND SERIES" "THE BOAT-CLUB STORIES" "THE GREAT WESTERN SERIES" "THE WOODVILLE STORIES" "THE ONWARD AND UPWARD SERIES" "THE LAKE SHORE SERIES" "THE YACHT-CLUB SERIES" "THE RIVERDALE STORIES" "THE BOAT-BUILDER SERIES" "THE BLUE AND THE GRAY—AFLOAT" "ALL OVER THE WORLD—FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD SERIES" "THE BLUE AND THE GRAY—ON LAND" ETC. ETC. ETC.
AUTHOR OF "THE OLD GLORY SERIES" "BOUND TO SUCCEED SERIES" ETC.
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS 1899
COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY LEE AND SHEPARD.
All Rights Reserved.
AN UNDIVIDED UNION.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
To My Friend
FRED D. IRISH
WHOSE ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORT AND SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS
IN DISTRIBUTING MY BOOKS
AMONG THE YOUTH OF THE UNITED STATES
HAS BEEN A CONSTANT INSPIRATION
This Work is Affectionately Dedicated
The outline and incomplete material of AN UNDIVIDED UNION were left among the papers of the late William T. Adams ("Oliver Optic"), and the same notes that were to complete the "Blue and Gray—On Land" series also closed the life-work of America's best-known writer of boys' stories.
There has been a constant demand that this unfinished concluding volume be prepared for publication, and Mr. Edward Stratemeyer, author of the remarkably popular "Old Glory" series, based upon the Spanish-American war, undertook the task of picking up the threads of the narrative and carrying it to such a conclusion as was evidently intended. He has performed the work devotedly and successfully, and sustained the harmony of the series to the end.
The publishers take this opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of Mr. Adams, whose name has been inseparably connected with this house for so many years. Such was his loyalty that no manuscript for publication in bound form was ever given to any other publisher, and the present volume is the one hundred and eighth to bear the magical name of "Optic." It is gratifying to be able to record that in return for his steadfastness in remaining by the house of his choice through prosperity and adversity an actual sale of more than two million copies of Mr. Adams's books has been reached, while the present season finds them enjoying undiminished favor.
No more striking testimonial could be asked than the constant applications from men of mature life for the books that so charmed them as boys, in order that their own sons may have the same enjoyment. Or, could anything be more conclusive than that one of the most prominent men in the public life of our state still turns to his favorite "Oliver Optic" books for pleasurable relief when the cares of the day have made rest seem almost an impossibility?
Critics come and critics go, but the hold of "Oliver Optic" upon the popular mind remains unchanged. No mean-souled man could so endure. As he said himself: "I have never written a story which could excite the love, admiration, and sympathy of the reader for an evil-minded person or bad character. This has been my standard; and, however others may regard it, I still deem it a safe one." All who had any connection with the publication of Mr. Adams's works loved the man, and his visits were marked with cheerful words for each one, in whatever capacity employed, and will linger helpfully while life remains. All who knew him join in honoring the unfailing kindness and clean, true nature of this great writer and noble friend of youth.
LEE AND SHEPARD.
APRIL 1, 1899.
"AN UNDIVIDED UNION" is the sixth and last volume of the "Blue and Gray—On Land" series. Like its predecessors it relates the adventures of the Riverlawn Cavalry, a Union regiment, raised in Kentucky, and participating in the daring campaigns undertaken by the Army of the Cumberland. The fifth volume of the series left the regiment at Murfreesboro, after most gallant service performed at the battle of Stone River; in the present book is given an account of the operations around Murfreesboro, before Tullahoma, and through the bloody battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and other contests leading up to Sherman's famous March to the Sea.
As in the other stories of this series, Deck Lyon has again come to the front as a daring hero, but his achievements are closely seconded by his foster brother, Artie, and by the firm friend of the two, Captain Life Knox. If Deck does some smart things, it must be remembered that he was a smart young man or he would not have risen to be senior major, first battalion, of the Riverlawns. Besides this, the major still had with him his famous charger, Ceph, a steed with almost human intelligence on certain points, and one that had helped him to escape from many a perilous position.
In the completion of this work some thirty authorities have been consulted, including the Government Records, records of the Army of the Cumberland, and biographies of the principal generals on both sides who took part in the various operations. Thus the book has been made, from an historical standpoint, as accurate as possible. It may be that errors have crept in, but if so it is hoped that they will not be of sufficient importance to mar the general usefulness of the volume, outside of its value as a bit of fiction.
CHAPTER I PAGE
A CALL FOR ASSISTANCE 1
AN UNEXPECTED SET-BACK 13
THE ENCOUNTERS AT THE BRIDGE AND ON THE RAFT 26
A FIRST VICTORY OVER THE ENEMY 40
TWO FLAGS OF TRUCE 53
A MISSING DOCUMENT OF IMPORTANCE 67
IN WHICH THE ENEMY'S SUPPLIES ARE CONFISCATED 80
THE ENGAGEMENT NEAR SPRING HILL 95
MAJOR DECK LYON MAKES A PROMISE 109
A TRIP ON A RAFT 123
THE ENCOUNTER AT THE RAILROAD TRESTLE 137
IN THE BURNING COTTON MILL 150
AN ADVANCE ALL ALONG THE LINE 163
ARTIE IS MADE A PRISONER 176
GOSSLEY THE GUERILLA 189
THE HOLDING-UP OF THE CLOSED CARRIAGE 203
THE CAPTURE OF THE CONFEDERATE SPY 216
THE EVACUATION OF TULLAHOMA 228
IN WHICH THE RIVERLAWNS ARE CAUGHT IN A TRAP 242
MAJOR LYON WINS A BATTLE AND LOSES HIS HORSE 256
CROSSING THE TENNESSEE RIVER 269
THE SIGNALS IN THE DARK 281
AN IMPORTANT CAPTURE ON THE MOUNTAINS 294
OPERATIONS IN MCLEMORE'S COVE 306
"HOLD THE HILL FOR TEN MINUTES, AT ANY COST!" 320
THE BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA 333
MAJOR LYON PLAYS THE PART OF A SPY 346
AN ADVENTURE AT CRAWFISH SPRINGS 359
MAJOR LYON REJECTS A PROPOSAL 372
A FRIEND IN NEED 386
THROUGH THE ENEMY'S LINES 398
THE SECOND DAY AT CHICKAMAUGA 412
CAPTAIN ARTIE LYON IS SHOT DOWN 426
MAJOR LYON MAKES A DISCOVERY AND DELIVERS A MESSAGE 440
THE SIEGE OF CHATTANOOGA AND A HUNT FOR DRUGS 453
FIERCE FIGHTING—AN UNDIVIDED UNION—CONCLUSION 468
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'Water,' he murmured. 'Water!'" Frontispiece
PAGE "'Surrender, or you are a dead man!'" 32
"'So we meet again,' was the salutation Artie received." 190
"His foot caught the man in the face." 249
Captain Vallingham attempting to escape. 308
"'Say, Major, tumble right down yere!'" 352
"He found himself face to face with the Confederate captain." 428
AN UNDIVIDED UNION
A CALL FOR ASSISTANCE
"How many miles have we still to go, Deck?"
"Not over seven by this road, Artie," replied Major Deck Lyon, commanding the first battalion, Riverlawn Cavalry, of Kentucky. "I should think the surroundings would begin to look familiar to you, even if we have been away from home for some time."
"I never frequented this road," exclaimed Captain Artie Lyon, commanding the fourth company of the Riverlawns. "Doesn't it run into that cut where you saved Kate Belthorpe and the rest of her party from that gang of so-styled 'Home Guard' ruffians?"
"I believe it does," was the slow response, and Major Dexter Lyon blushed; for although the incident referred to had occurred many months before, it was still fresh in his mind, as were also the beautiful face and bewitching eyes of the maiden. The young major was but nineteen years of age, and it could hardly be said that he was in love, yet a warm attachment had sprung up between these two people. "Does your wound trouble you in riding, Artie?" he went on, to change the subject, and thus prevent his cousin from teasing him in his most susceptible spot.
"Not enough to count." Artie paused to urge his lagging horse ahead. "I wonder if any of Morgan's desperadoes are in this neighborhood. I understood from what Captain Ripley said that they were trying to overrun the whole State. It's a pity we haven't more of such first-class sharpshooters around as he commands."
"What's the matter with Life Knox's tall boys, Artie? I reckon they can shoot about as well as any of Ripley's men, even though they are not as well drilled. If I know anything about it, Life is a whole host in himself."
"Oh, I agree with you there, Deck." There was another pause as the pair of horsemen swung around a heavily wooded bend. "What a pity father couldn't get a furlough to come home with us. I don't believe he would have been missed, when the main body of the Department of the Cumberland is doing nothing but keeping an eye on Bragg. Mother and the girls would have been delighted to see—Hullo, if there isn't Levi Bedford coming this way—and with half a dozen of the boys! Something is up, sure!"
As Captain Artie broke off, a tall, heavy-set man, mounted on a coal-black horse, burst into view, riding at a high rate of speed. Behind the man came six stout negroes; and all of the party carried guns, and the white man a pistol in addition.
"Hi, Levi!" yelled Major Deck, as soon as the party of seven came within hailing distance.
"Deck!" burst out the overseer of Riverlawn. "And Artie, by all that's fortunate!"
"De young mars'rs!" came from several of the colored men. "Proud to see yo', Mars'r Dexter, an' Mars'r Artie!"
At this Deck and Artie smiled on the slaves. Deck shook hands with Levi Bedford, and Artie followed suit. "Is there any special reason for this meeting being fortunate, Levi?" questioned the major, anxiously.
"I think so," was the hasty answer. "Less than two hours ago, and just after I had made the rounds at Riverlawn, to make sure that everything was all right, and no marauders in sight, I received this note." And the overseer passed over a small sheet of note-paper, upon which a few lines were written in pencil, in a small hand.
"DEAR MR. BEDFORD: If you can, come to our assistance at once. A detachment of three soldiers of Morgan's cavalry has arrived at Lyndhall. One of the three is to return to his company at once and bring them here to plunder the estate. I am at home alone with my sister Kate and three servants. The negro who delivers this is a stranger to me, but well known to my father.
"Kate in danger!" The words left Deck's lips before he could think to repress them. "Levi, we must not waste a moment in getting to Lyndhall!"
"Just my idea," responded the overseer. "I didn't lose a minute in getting the boys together, after I received that. Some of the boys were out in the back pasture, rounding up two stallions that broke away; but I sent word for them to follow, and I reckon they'll soon be after us, four or five strong."
"Four more will give you eleven men, counting yourself. Artie and I will make thirteen. An unlucky number—for those ruffians, if we get to Lyndhall in time. Forward!" and Major Deck wheeled his horse, followed by Captain Artie; and away went the entire party at the best speed their animals could command.
The time was the middle of the month of January, 1863, and the Army of the Cumberland, under General Rosecrans, was resting in and around Murfreesboro. The long, stubborn fight at Stone River had exhausted the men, and no new campaign could be undertaken until the wrecked and burned lines of communication were restored, the army reclothed and otherwise put into proper shape, and the necessary steps taken to make Murfreesboro safe as a new base of supplies.
As the readers of the former volumes of this series know, the Riverlawn Cavalry was one of the first to be organized in the State of Kentucky, at the time when the Commonwealth was still undecided as to whether it should remain in the Union or throw its lot in with the Confederacy. The original body of men, forming two companies, had been raised very largely by Noah Lyon, the father of Dexter, who had used them in putting down the lawless uprisings of the Home Guards of the neighborhood—a mob of unprincipled fellows who, under the guise of wishing to defend Kentucky's neutrality during the great conflict, secretly plotted to aid the Confederacy, and later on, when the Commonwealth declared for the Union, promptly joined the ranks of the Secessionists.
From two companies the command had developed to a full regiment of twelve companies, of which Noah Lyon was colonel. Following his father into the war, Dexter had, by hard work and a bravery which sometimes bordered on recklessness, risen from the ranks until he became senior major, while his cousin Artie, of about Deck's age, had well earned the commission of a captain. Both had been wounded more than once, Artie rather seriously, and both were known to care little or nothing for the injuries received in such a righteous cause.
The first duty of the Riverlawns as a regular military body had been to put down the raids of several bands of guerillas operating in counties bordering upon, or near, the Tennessee State line. Successful in these, the command had become a part of the Union army, and as such had taken an active part in the battle of Mill Springs, or Logan's Crossroads, as it is sometimes called. After this had come a series of operations on and around Duck River, and in the entrenchments before Corinth, and then had come the advance of Rosecrans's forces upon Murfreesboro, ending in the bloody battle of Stone River, which, while hardly a victory, caused the shattered forces of the Confederate General Bragg to retreat, and go into winter quarters at Tullahoma.
Although each of the Lyons fought with the warmth and enthusiasm of a true Kentuckian, not one of the members of the several families living at Riverlawn and at Barcreek, a small, nearby town, had been born within the borders of the State. All hailed from New Hampshire, and were Yankee bred as well as born.
The original emigrant to Kentucky had been Duncan Lyon, one of four brothers, who had settled at Riverlawn and made a comfortable fortune in raising hemp, tobacco, and horses. Duncan Lyon had been as good-hearted as he was successful, and under his care Riverlawn had become a model plantation and stock-breeding farm, with Levi Bedford as superintendent or overseer, and with fifty-one slaves, old and young, who thought "Mars'r Lyon de best gen'men in de hull world."
The next member of the family to come West had been Titus Lyon, another of the four brothers. Titus was a mason by trade, and inclined to be shiftless, and when Duncan Lyon wrote that the mason at Barcreek was dead, Titus had very promptly come on with his wife, two sons, and three daughters. It had taken a good deal of help from Duncan to place Titus on his feet, and even then the proprietor of Riverlawn was pained to note that the mason was more inclined to loaf around the village, drinking whiskey and talking politics, than he was to work at his trade.
During the times that Duncan Lyon and Titus were locating in Kentucky, Noah Lyon was attending strictly to his farm in New Hampshire, not a large place, but still one upon which, by economy, he managed to earn a living not only for himself, his wife, and his two children, Dexter and Hope, but also for the two children of his deceased brother Cyrus, Artemas and Dorcas. From the time that Artie and Dorcas came into the family they were looked upon as brother and sister by Deck and Hope, and both always referred to Mr. and Mrs. Noah Lyon as father and mother.
The somewhat unexpected death of Duncan Lyon had proved a shock to all his relatives, but when Lawyer Cosgrove, of Bowling Green, the county seat, came forward to read the plantation owner's will, the second shock, to Titus Lyon, was even greater than the first.
Duncan Lyon had valued his estate at one hundred thousand dollars. Riverlawn was put down as being worth twenty-five thousand dollars, and this magnificent property, including all things in the house and on the grounds and the fifty-one slaves, went to Noah Lyon, who likewise received ten thousand dollars, half cash and half stocks, for having taken care of Artie and Dorcas since they had become orphans. It may here be remarked that Duncan Lyon had been a bachelor, and had never felt capable of raising the children himself. To the children he left one-quarter of his estate, half cash and half stocks, Noah to remain their guardian until of age.
Of the balance of his property he gave to Titus only twenty-five thousand dollars, from which amount was to be deducted a note for five thousand, leaving the mason twenty thousand dollars, half cash and half in stocks. All the stocks to be divided were named in a schedule, so there might be no disputes.
As might be supposed, Titus Lyon was very angry over the provisions of his brother's will, thinking that Riverlawn should have been settled upon himself. When Noah Lyon gave up his home in the East to take charge of Riverlawn, Titus did not call upon him for several days, and for some time after that the unreasonable mason talked about being swindled out of five thousand dollars, he thinking he ought to have had half of the ten thousand given to Noah for supporting Cyrus's children, although he had never lifted a hand to assist the orphans.
With the breaking out of the war Titus had been in his element. Strange as it may seem, he had sided with the South in the struggle, and had even gone so far as to spend a large amount of money in equipping a company of Home Guards, of which he was to be captain. But the arms and ammunition, hidden away in a cavern, had been discovered by Artie and Deck who had turned them over to Noah Lyon, for use, later on, by the Unionists. This confiscation of property had made matters even worse between the two families, and for a long while Titus and his two sons were very bitter. They entered the Confederate service much against the wishes of Titus's wife, and while serving under the stars and bars one of the sons, Orly, was killed and Titus was taken prisoner.
His own capture and the killing of Orly, coupled with the fact that Sandy, the older son, was nearly starved while in the Southern service, produced a profound impression upon Titus Lyon. While a prisoner he gave up drinking and signed the pledge. Then when Sandy suddenly left the Confederate service to enlist on the Union side under his Uncle Noah, he began to study the situation, and he wrote to Noah that he had seen the error of his ways and was now for the Union, once and forever. Later on he was released, and he joined the Riverlawns, to become adjutant of the regiment in which Sandy was now a second lieutenant of the fifth company, second battalion, the battalion being commanded by Major Tom Belthorpe, of Lyndhall and the company by Captain Gadbury, a dashing young soldier, who was far more attentive to Margie Belthorpe than Deck Lyon had ever dared to be to her younger sister.
There had been but one thing concerning Duncan Lyon's will which had excited much curiosity when the document was read and when the lawyer having the matter in hand had had his say. This was concerning the fifty-one negroes installed at Riverlawn. Noah Lyon was requested not to part with any of them. Furthermore, the heir to the plantation was left a sealed letter which was not to be opened until five years later. The Lyons sometimes imagined the contents of the letter concerned the disposition of the slaves, but they had no positive information on the point.
AN UNEXPECTED SET-BACK
Deck Lyon was mounted on his famous horse Ceph, so nicknamed after the even more famous charger ridden in ancient days by Alexander the Great. The young major had trained Ceph from ponyhood, and rider and beast understood each other perfectly. On more than one occasion Ceph had performed in a truly wonderful fashion on the battlefield, and once, when being promoted, Deck had declared that the honor of the occasion rested with his equine comrade and not himself.
As the small body of whites and negroes moved onward in the direction of the Belthorpe plantation, Deck took the lead, with Artie and the faithful Levi close behind him. In the rear came the armed slaves riding in two ranks of three men each. The men could hardly be termed soldiers, yet during the time that Noah Lyon had been away from Riverlawn the overseer had drilled them thoroughly, both in horsemanship and in carbine practice, and they were, consequently, a long way removed from raw recruits. Moreover, upon the occasion of the attack upon Riverlawn, they had been under fire and had not flinched, so it was known that they could be depended upon even in a hazardous emergency.
Even without such a fine bit of horseflesh under him, Deck would have been anxious to go to the front. The note received by Levi filled him with alarm, and in his mind all sorts of troublesome thoughts ran riot. The Belthorpe sisters were at home alone, two of Morgan's guerillas were in possession of Lyndhall, and a whole company were soon expected. What indignities might not the sisters suffer, not to say anything of the confiscation and ruin of Mr. Belthorpe's property?
"This is certainly rough on Kate," observed Artie, as he advanced to his cousin's side. "We ought to have Captain Gadbury with us—for Margie's sake."
"If only those ruffians don't attempt to carry Margie and Kate off," half groaned the major, biting the lip upon which a faint mustache was beginning to show. "I suppose the major would be at Lyndhall, only father didn't think it wise to let so many officers off at one time. Levi, what did the negro who delivered the note have to say?"
"Not a word?" queried Artie.
"Absolutely not a word—and for the best reason in the world: he was deaf and dumb," and the overseer smiled broadly. "I tried to question him, but he only shook his head and pointed to his tongue."
"Humph! I didn't know there was a deaf and dumb negro around Lyndhall," mused Deck. "Forward, boys, we mustn't lag!" he shouted to the ranks in the rear.
"We's comin', Mars'r, jest as fast as we kin come!" answered the servant called General, who was the "high private" of the occasion. "Come, don't yo' go fo' to drap behind, Clinker!" he cried out to the heaviest man of the crowd, the blacksmith and horseshoer at Riverlawn.
"Ain't drappin' behind," growled Clinker. "I'll git to Lyndhall afore yo' do, yo' don't look out," and away he galloped after Deck and the others.
The day was frosty but clear, an ideal one for a ride, and mile after mile was passed, between the now almost barren fields, and through long groves of leafless trees. The horses from Riverlawn had always been boasted of as being the best in that section of the country, and now they were proving their worth.
The mansion home of the Belthorpes stood near the road, with the plantation extending to both sides and to the rear. At a distance up the highway upon which Major Deck and the others were travelling was a grove of walnut trees, and as soon as this grove was reached the young commander of the forces called a halt.
"We don't want to run into an ambush," he explained to Levi and Artie. "For all we know to the contrary, that whole company of guerillas may be in possession of Lyndhall, and if they have got wind of the fact that word has been sent out for assistance, it may go hard with us, if we are caught napping. I'll go on a scout, and if the coast is clear I'll come back and tell you. If I get into trouble a couple of pistol shots will notify you."
To carry out his object, the major dismounted and turned Ceph over to one of the servants. Then, examining his pistol to see that it was in proper condition for use, he struck out boldly, along a path which ran through the walnuts and came up over a lawn fringed by magnolias, to the south of the mansion.
Deck did not slacken his pace until the magnolias were reached. Here, from an opening, he looked toward the house. Not a soul was in sight, and pistol in hand, he crept along the line of trees until he was within fifty feet of a side veranda.
At this moment the door to the veranda opened and a girl stepped out, clad in a house dress, with a cape thrown around her shoulders and a worsted shawl caught over her head in bonnet fashion. Deck did not have to look twice to convince himself that the girl was Kate Belthorpe.
"Kate!" he cried, softly and half involuntarily. "Kate!"
The girl, hearing his voice, stopped short and stared around her in amazement. Then, as he waved his hand to her, she ran down the steps of the veranda, and reaching him, almost embraced him.
"Oh, Deck! Why I—I didn't know you were coming here!" she stammered, with a blush. "Are you home on a furlough?"
"Yes—fortunately, Kate," he answered, remembering that they had kissed before, yet hardly daring to do so now—since, to him at least, his intentions were becoming serious. "I—I trust they haven't harmed you and Margie any? Where are the ruffians? Have the whole company arrived yet?"
The girl started and stared at him. "Why, Deck, what are you talking about? I know nothing of any ruffians."
The major was nearly dumfounded by this announcement. "You don't know?" he queried slowly. "Then what does this mean? Levi Bedford received it less than three hours ago."
It took but a moment for Kate Belthorpe to master the contents of the note. "I don't know what it means," she said. "I don't believe Margie ever wrote it. Come in, she is in the sitting room, writing a letter to brother Tom."
With his mind in a whirl the young major followed Kate into Lyndhall mansion. Margie was found as described, and was equally astonished to see him. The situation was explained, and she glanced at the note.
"It is a forgery, and is not even in my hand-writing, Deck," she said quickly. "There is some underhanded work here."
"Yes, and I know what it is!" cried Deck. "That note was penned with the intention of getting Levi and the negroes away from Riverlawn. My father's place may even now be suffering an attack. I must get home without an instant's delay!"
"Oh, I trust you are mistaken, Deck!" murmured Kate, her beautiful eyes filling with tears. "What will your mother and your sisters do?"
"Heaven alone knows, Kate," he answered, his voice growing curiously husky. "Artie and I were going home when we met Levi and six of the slaves on the road. Four or five other slaves were to follow, so it is safe to say that out of about fifteen men who can use firearms two-thirds are now away from Riverlawn and awaiting me in the walnut grove just below here. Good-by!" and he held out his hand.
"Good-by, and take care of yourself!" burst in Margie, and gave him a warm brotherly kiss. Seeing this, Kate did not hold back, and Deck sped from the mansion with the warm contact of her sweet lips still haunting him.
But now was no time for sentiment, however delightful it might prove, and the young major burst into the grove all out of breath with running.
"Quick, to Riverlawn!" he shouted, as he leaped again into the saddle. "We have not a moment to lose! The note was a decoy, to get Levi and the others to leave our house. Pray Heaven we may reach there before mother and the others are subjected to insult, or before any damage is done!"
"A decoy!" gasped Levi Bedford. He could scarcely believe his ears. "Then that negro was not dumb, I'll wager! Boys," he turned to the slaves, "did any of you see that fellow who brought Mrs. Lyon the note this morning?"
"'Deed I did, sah!" came from Clinker.
"So did I, sah," put in Woolly, another of the body.
"Did either of you hear him speak?"
Clinker shook his head. Woolly, however, smiled shrewdly. "I dun racken I did, Mars'r Bedford, when he crossed de creek bridge. But I dunno wot he said, fo' I was a right smart step off."
"It doesn't matter what he said," replied Levi. He turned to Deck. "You are right. I have been badly fooled, and don't deserve to hold the position with which your father entrusted me—that of taking care of his family and his property."
"Don't blame yourself, Levi," Deck hastened to say, seeing how bad the overseer felt. "You did what you thought was right, and what I should have done under the circumstances. The best we can do is to get over the ground just as lively as we can, and if you know of any short cuts to take, so much the better."
They were already going ahead at full speed, Deck and Levi in the lead and Artie and the negroes following as rapidly as possible. "I was thinking, we might take the trail through Charwell meadow—the ground is stiff enough to hold horseflesh," observed the manager of Riverlawn. "But that may make us miss the four or five fellows who were to follow us, and if anything is wrong at Riverlawn, we may want all the help we can gather."
"How much will the Charwell trail shorten the ride?"
"A good mile and three-quarters, possibly two miles, if the ground at the lower end is hard."
"Then let us take that short cut, all but Clinker, who can take the regular road and turn back the second detachment as soon as it comes up," answered the young major, unconsciously speaking in military terms, as was now his usual habit.
"Good! You've got a long head—just as you always had!" cried Levi, and in a minute more Clinker was instructed into the new order of things. Shortly after this the others left the road and took to a well-defined trail running through a woods and then across the meadow previously described. At the end of the meadow the party came out upon the road running almost parallel with the creek, but at a considerable distance above the spot where the bridge to Colonel Lyon's domain was located.
"Halt!" cried Deck, as the horsemen reached the edge of the clearing. "Don't show yourselves until I give the order."
"I think Levi and I ought to go forward with you, Deck," interposed Artie, who was thinking of his sister, as well as of his Aunt Ruth and his Cousin Hope.
"Well, you can go; but we must be careful not to expose ourselves to the enemy," was the ready reply of the major, who had unconsciously taken command of the expedition.
"Supposing we separate," went on Artie. "One can go up to the bridge, one down to where the logs are usually tied up, and one over to the bend. That will give us three points of observation."
"Right you are, Artie. General Thomas couldn't have planned it better," answered Deck. "I'll go to the bridge, and you can go down to the logs. Levi, is there a raft handy?"
"There is, just above the logs, and there is a canoe up at the bend. We used it day before yesterday, when Faraway and I went over and came back by the bridge."
"Then it will be an easy matter for us to make an advance all along the line. What of Fort Bedford?" continued the major, referring to the ice-house which, during the early troubles at Riverlawn, had been turned into an arsenal. The so-styled fort was built along the creek, almost opposite the point where the logs and the raft rested.
"It's still there, but it contains little outside of a few guns and two boxes of ammunition."
"I was thinking, if those rascals are here, and the worst comes to the worst, it will be a good thing if we can take possession of the fort, and use it in defending my mother and the girls and ourselves."
"If the coast is clear, I'll move for the fort without delay," said Artie. "One man can hold that place, if the doors and the portholes are properly secured."
"That's so, but don't do anything rash, Artie," said Deck, gravely. "Remember what Ripley said—those guerillas of Morgan's are the worst cut-throats Kentucky has ever seen."
"Artie might wait until I can help him," suggested Levi. "If the fort isn't occupied now, it won't take long to get the boys over to it in the canoe and with a small raft in tow."
And so it was arranged that the young captain should wait on the movements of the overseer, and this decided, the three set off on their various missions.
THE ENCOUNTERS AT THE BRIDGE AND ON THE RAFT
At the time of which I write the name of Morgan's Cavalry was already known throughout the length and breadth of Kentucky, and those of the inhabitants who were on the side of the Union heard of his coming to one neighborhood or another with dread.
When the boys in blue were refitting at Nashville, late in the year 1862, Morgan, having made several raids in Kentucky, though hardly, as yet, any of consequence, determined to visit the State once more, taking with him the pick of the Confederate cavalry of this section of our country. His first engagement was with a few companies of Michigan troops, on the 24th of December, where he suffered a loss of seventeen men. On Christmas Day came an engagement near Munfordsville, and then the notorious leader attacked the stockade at Bacon Creek. A vigorous resistance was made, but the explosion of a number of shells within the enclosure made a surrender necessary, and this was followed by the burning of the bridge across Bacon Creek, after which Morgan advanced to Nolan, where another bridge was destroyed.
The march of the cavalry was now turned toward Elizabethtown, and here a fierce fight occurred between the Confederates and a body of six hundred infantry under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, which lasted six hours. The infantry could do but little against the superior numbers of the cavalry, although fighting valorously, and in the end Morgan gained his point and began a march along the railroad, destroying everything in sight as he advanced.
It had been hoped by Bragg that Morgan's raid would help the cause of the South a great deal; but the sudden movement of Rosecrans from Nashville to Murfreesboro dimmed the glory considerably. On the 29th of December Morgan was attacked at Rolling Fork on Salt River and driven to Bardstown, from which point he began to make his slow but certain retreat from the State.
Captain Ripley, Deck's friend of the sharpshooters, had called Morgan's cavalry cut-throats. This was an appellation common in those days, but it is hardly justifiable. But there is no doubt that a portion of the raiders were men of low moral character, and these fellows, when foraging, thought it no more than right to confiscate everything in sight. In the neighborhoods strong in Union sentiment whole plantations were laid waste, and the women and children made to suffer untold indignities.
It has been said that Morgan himself had left the State. This was true, but numerous detachments of the cavalrymen remained, some under captains and lieutenants who held no commissions in the Confederate army, and these were mixed up with guerillas,—lawless bodies,—who, while pretending to fight for the Southern cause, thought only of murder and plunder. For these latter bodies Morgan was not responsible, yet they were spoken of everywhere as Morgan's Raiders.
From the very start of hostilities there had been a strong sentiment in Barcreek and vicinity against the dwellers at Riverlawn. Here the first Union cavalry companies had been formed, and from this house a father and two sons (Artie was always called the colonel's son) had gone forth. More than this, Colonel Lyon had declared that all he possessed should go to uphold the Union cause were it needed. Those of Confederate tendencies had muttered against this, and ever since the first attack on Riverlawn had been repulsed, numerous "fire-eaters" had longed for a chance to "get square."
Deck thought of all these things as he moved from the shelter of the clearing along the creek in the direction of the bridge. From one source and another he had learned of a score of men of the vicinity joining Morgan's Raiders, and he felt certain now that these fellows would be found among those bent on the looting of his father's estate.
The young major could not get his mind away from a certain rowdy of Barcreek who rejoiced in the name of Gaffy Denny. At a Union meeting held at the schoolhouse when the war began, Deck had refused this man admittance to the building, even when the ruffian drew a bowie-knife, and had caused the fellow to decamp by showing his pistol. Since this time he had heard twice from Denny—first that he had joined the guerillas operating throughout the county, and again that he was trying to pay his addresses to Dorcas, who, it may readily be imagined, would have nothing to do with him. Denny was a man of thirty-five, a "hoss" trader when he worked, which was but seldom, and as sly and nervy as he was unprincipled.
"If Gaffy Denny is in this, he shall hear from me," murmured the major, as he worked his way along the creek's shore. There was a low fringe of brush overhanging the water, and he skulked behind this, passing the few breaks encountered by crawling on his chest through the grass. His progress was necessarily slow, and it took five minutes to reach the bridge, although the distance from the clearing was not more than an eighth of a mile.
From behind the brush he had more than once looked over in the direction of the mansion. Not a soul had appeared in sight, and had he not known otherwise, he would have said that the homestead was deserted.
When within half a rod of the bridge the major halted, for a slight movement behind the tree overshadowing the bridge seat—that seat where his father and Uncle Titus had once so bitterly quarrelled—had attracted his attention.
"Was that a squirrel or a man's hat?" was the question he asked himself, when the view of something else answered the question. The new object to come into view was the elbow of a man, and the shining barrel of a gun followed.
"A guard, I'll wager my commission," was Deck's thought. "I wonder if he is alone and if I can capture him single-handed."
The major, having led the way into many a hot fight, was not the one to hang back in such an emergency as this. Even while wondering if the man on the bridge was alone, he hurried forward, keeping the tree between himself and the individual. The bridge was gained and the tree was but three yards off when a partly loose plank tipped up, making enough noise to attract the attention of the man, who leaped forward, pointing his gun as he came.
"Halt!" he spluttered, but the word was still on his lips when Deck ducked, caught the gun barrel with his left hand, and with his right levelled his pistol full into the sentinel's face.
"Surrender, or you are a dead man!" commanded Major Deck, sternly. "Let go of the gun."
The fellow, taken completely by surprise, hesitated, as if inclined to argue the point. "Wha—what?" he stammered. "See yere, this ain't fair, nohow!"
"Let go, or I'll fire," was Deck's only answer, and he fingered the trigger of his revolver nervously.
In a second more he had the gun in his possession, and then he compelled the man to throw up both hands. "Now march up the road away from the bridge," he continued. "And no treachery, or I'll put a ball through you on the spot."
"I reckon I have fell in with Deck Lyon," said the sentinel, with a sickly grin, as he moved on as the major had commanded.
"I am Deck Lyon; but I don't know you, although I've seen you at Bowling Green. What do they call you?"
"They call me Sergeant Hank Scudder in our company."
"And what company is that?"
"Cap'n Casswell's command—unattached."
"Casswell's guerillas, eh?"
"We ain't guerillas—we belong to the boys in gray."
"Does your captain hold a commission from headquarters?"
"'Tain't fer me to answer thet question, Major."
"From the fact that you refuse to answer it, I infer that he does not; consequently he is nothing but a guerilla, and worse, and you are—"
"Hold on, Major, don't be too hard on a poor fellow who has his living to make."
"This isn't making a living—it's stealing one. Tell me truthfully, is Gaffy Denny with your company?"
"Gaffy Denny is first leftenant, Major."
"Where are the others?"
"Somewhere around the house and barns."
"How long since you arrived here?"
"'Bout an hour and a half ago."
"How many are there here? Answer me truthfully, or, my word for it, I and my friends will hang you to one of yonder trees."
"Got many friends with yer, Major?"
"Enough. Now answer my question," and again Deck's weapon came up on a level with the guerilla's head.
"There air twenty-five on us, I reckon."
"Were you the only man left on guard?"
"Who put you on guard?"
"Isn't Captain Casswell in command?"
"No, the cap'n was shot down in a skirmish three days ago—back of Edmonton, and he's laying at the house of a friend ten miles from yere."
While talking the pair had moved across the road, and now Deck turned his prisoner in the direction of the clearing. Soon they came in sight of General, Clinker, and one other of the slaves.
"The first prisoner, General," said the young officer. "Have you anything with which to bind him?"
"Look yere, Major, this ain't handsome!" cried Sergeant Hank Scudder, in alarm.
"Handsome or not, you can thank your stars that I didn't shoot you dead on the bridge," rejoined Deck. "How about a cord, General?"
"We dun got one, Mars'r Deck," answered the slave, and producing it he and Clinker soon bound the guerilla's hands behind him, after which the rope at his wrists was passed around a stout tree.
Deck's next movement was in the direction of the raft, for nothing was to be seen of Artie, and he was anxious to know how the young captain was faring. He had hardly reached the pile of logs to which the raft was moored, when a sharp cry rang out on the frosty air.
"Help! General, Woolly, Clinker! Help!" There followed another cry, and leaping through the brush and onto the logs Deck saw his cousin battling manfully in a hand-to-hand conflict with two rough men in gray, one of whom was trying to possess himself of the captain's sabre.
In such an emergency Major Deck did not hesitate as to a proper course of action. Had the men been regular Confederates he would have been justified in shooting at them; being guerillas he felt himself even more justified. He took careful aim and fired, and the rascal who had just wrenched the sabre from Artie's grasp fell, shot through the thigh, an ugly wound though not a fatal one.
Surprised at the counter-demonstration thus made, the second guerilla turned to see from what direction the shot had come. Giving him no chance in which to take in the situation, Deck fired a second time, the bullet whistling past the man in gray's shoulder. With a yell the fellow started to retreat from the logs, slipped on the wet and frost-covered surface beneath him, and rolled over and over until he went with a loud splash into the creek, not to reappear upon the surface of the icy current until fifty feet away.
"Artie, are you hurt?" demanded Deck, as he watched the man who had gone overboard.
"N—no, but th—that man nearly choked the life out of me," was the answer, with a cough. "Don't let him get away," and the young captain nodded toward the guerilla who was making for the plantation side of the creek.
"He shan't get away." Deck elevated his voice and his shooter at the same time. "Come back here, unless you want a hole put through your head!" he called out.
To this the guerilla did not reply. But he kept on swimming, and seeing this both Deck and Artie fired. A yell of pain was the answer to the shots, and the man turned around.
"Are you coming back?" demanded Deck.
"Yes! yes! don't shoot ag'in!" came with something like a groan.
The wounded man on the logs was writhing in pain, but nothing could be done for him just now, and Deck and Artie watched the man in the water. "I'm a goner!" came from the individual of a sudden, and throwing up both arms he disappeared from view.
For the instant Deck stared blankly and Artie looked at him. "Was that a genuine move, or is he shamming?" questioned the captain.
"I take it he is shamming," answered the major. "I don't believe he was badly wounded at all. Wait," and he continued to watch.
In half a minute the body of the guerilla appeared, a hundred feet below the logs. "Turn back here, or I'll put a bullet through your body for luck!" sang out Deck, and raised his pistol again.
"Don't! don't!" came the quick reply. "I'll come—don't hit me ag'in, Cap'n!"
In less than five minutes after this the guerilla was on the raft once more. Deck was on the point of marching him up into the grove by the creek road when Levi Bedford came up in the canoe, demanding to know what the several shots meant. He was highly pleased to think that three men had already been put out of the contest.
"I've discovered the guerillas moving around at the back of the mansion and around the largest of the barns," he said. "Now that you have used your pistols the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to get over to the fort and take possession of it."
"You are right," returned Deck. "Let us go over on the raft, as first proposed; but General can come around by the bridge and bring all of the horses, or keep them where they will be handy in case they are wanted. We ought not to give these guerillas the least chance to escape."
The General was called from his hiding-place and matters were explained. While he went off with the horses, Levi Bedford led the way to the raft and unmoored her, fastening the painter to the stern of the canoe, which, though so called, was, as old readers already know, really a round-bottom rowboat. The overseer, Deck, and Artie entered the canoe, the first two at the oars, while the slaves deposited themselves on the raft, doing what they could to aid their progress over the stream by means of several sweeps which had been picked up.
A FIRST VICTORY OVER THE ENEMY
It may be asked why a rush was not made upon the mansion and barns, instead of the stealthy advance now under way. The answer to this is, Deck and the others knew that the force to be encountered was larger than their own, and probably just as well, if not better, armed. Moreover, the young major felt that some of the guerillas must be on the lookout from the mansion, and an advance across the lawn in front and to one side, or the meadow to the rear and the other side, could only have been accomplished after a serious loss of life. The guerillas of Kentucky were for the most part "dead-shots," and the youthful commander was not inclined to risk his men in the open against their superior numbers.
The creek at the point where the raft had been moored was between sixty and seventy feet wide, consequently the journey to the other side did not occupy over five minutes, even though the raft was an unwieldy thing to handle. As soon as they were near enough to do so, all hands leaped into the meadow grass, and started on a rush for Fort Bedford.
Bang! bang! bang! The three shots in rapid succession came from the rear of the largest barn, and Deck felt something rush through his cap and his hair beneath. A groan came from Clinker, who was struck in the side. The negro staggered but kept on, his eyes rolling and staring from a pain that was new to him.
"'Tain't much, I reckon," he panted, in reply to Levi Bedford's question. "Anybuddy else hit?"
Nobody was, and without halting to return the fire they pressed on. Soon they were under the shelter of the ice-house, as dark and silent as the rest of the plantation had previously appeared.
"I left it locked up," explained Levi Bedford, when Artie gave a cry as he caught sight of the door. The heavy slabs of wood had been smashed in with a stout log used as a battering-ram, and a hasty search revealed the fact that the arms and ammunition, the overseer had mentioned, had been carried away.
As the party passed into the building several more shots were fired at them, but the bullets merely found resting-places in the woodwork or flattened themselves on the stone walls. Levi Bedford now saw one of the shooters near the edge of the barn and fired his rifle, but whether or not the shot took effect he could not ascertain.
"Well, we are here," said Artie, after Clinker's wound had been examined and dressed. "The question is, what's next?"
Deck silently counted their forces again. As General was absent, they numbered but eight including himself. He shook his head seriously.
"We are but eight, and if that captured rascal is to be believed they have three times that number," he said.
"But our other negroes must be around somewhere," said Artie, "and they'll need some men to guard the women folks,—unless they have locked them up,—or—or—"
"Or done away with them," finished Deck, bitterly. "For myself, I am ready to make a dash forward, be the consequence what it may. But I can't ask it of you and the slaves," and he turned to the overseer.
"I'll do whatever you think best, Major," responded Levi, warmly. "But supposing I go out with a flag of truce and learn what they have to say?"
"Hadn't I better go along?" asked Deck, eagerly.
"If you wish—yes."
A handkerchief was soon tied to a stick, and, leaving Artie in command of the armed slaves, the young major and the overseer sallied forth, waving the flag of truce over their heads. They started toward the mansion, but before half the distance was covered a loud and rough voice from the barn called upon them to halt, and they halted.
"Come this way with thet rag!" was the next order. "If ye go to the house we'll open fire on ye!"
As there seemed no help for it, Deck and Levi turned toward the barn. While still a hundred feet from the building they were ordered to halt again, and then a man in gray, wearing a tangled beard of black, with matted hair to match, came forth to greet them.
"Well?" he demanded laconically, as the major and the overseer paused.
"Dan Wolfall, what does this mean?" demanded Levi, recognizing the individual as a former citizen of Barcreek, and one who had left "between two days" because of a horse stealing which had been laid at his door.
Wolfall grinned, thereby showing a set of uneven yellow teeth, much the worse for constant tobacco chewing. "I reckon as how it means we-uns is in persession o' this yere plantation," he answered slowly, shifting his quid from one jaw to the other.
"Whom do you mean by we-uns?" asked Deck.
"Me an' the rest o' Captain Casswell's company o' Confederates, sonny. Say, you feel big in them sodger clothes, don't ye?" Wolfall asked, with another grin.
"Do you know that you are liable to be shot down or hung as outlaws?" went on Deck.
"Reckon we air jest as liable ter be shot down as Confed'rates, ain't we?"
"Such men as you would be a disgrace even to the Confederacy, Wolfall," interposed Levi Bedford, his honest eyes flashing fire. "Years ago Duncan Lyon saved you from a long term in prison, and this is how you reward his brother and his nephews."
"Don't preach, Bedford, I ain't ust to hearin' on it. Times is changed, an' if the Lyonses is gwine to take a stand ag'in the best interests o' this State, why they hev got to take the consequences, thet's all."
"Kentucky has declared for the Union and we are on the right side," said Deck. "Let us come to an understanding of the situation. What have you done with my mother and my two sisters?"
"I reckon Leftenant Denny has 'em safe, sonny. Them's nice clothes, sonny, but a gray suit would look a heap sight better."
"Are they still at the mansion?"
"They air onless the leftenant has took 'em away."
"What do you propose to do here?"
"Enjoy ourselves, sonny."
"Which means that you are going to confiscate all our stores and steal our valuables."
"As you please, sonny. If yer come only to abuse such gents as we air, better be gittin' back, sonny," and now the Kentucky guerilla tapped his horse pistol significantly.
"How many are there of you?" went on Deck, hardly able to resist keeping his hands from the ruffian.
"Twict as many as half, sonny. Is that all ye want ter know?"
"I see you are not inclined to meet me fairly," continued Deck, sternly. "I order you to leave this place at once."
"Ain't obeyin' orders jest now, sonny."
"Very well; then you and your comrades in this raid must take the consequences if you are captured. Moreover, my men and I will shoot you down like dogs if we get the chance," and Deck turned back, followed by Levi.
"Thet shootin' won't be all one-sided!" called the guerilla after the pair, and disappeared into the barn.
When the major and the overseer returned to Fort Bedford, Artie wished to know immediately what had been accomplished.
"Nothing," answered Deck, his face clouded in perplexing thoughts. He was almost "stumped," although he did not care to admit it.
A shout was now heard along the creek, and looking from the fort those within saw five colored men standing at the clearing. They were the slaves that had followed the first detachment to Lyndhall. With the colored men were three whites, farmers living in the vicinity who had called at Lyndhall on business and who had been persuaded by Margie and Kate to join in the defence of Riverlawn.
"Eight more guns," said Artie. "That gives us sixteen all told. Hang me, if I'm not in for making a rush!"
Deck's face began to brighten. "Levi, how many men do you think are at the barn?"
"I saw four looking from behind the doors," answered the overseer. "Those with Wolfall made five. I don't believe there were any more."
"Then I'll tell you what I'll do," went on the young commander. "As secretly as I can, I'll recross the creek and join the men in the clearing. I'll bring them around to the meadow by the road, and along the berry bushes at the other side of the lawn. There will be nine of us, and as soon as we are in a position to attack the barn, I'll fire two shots in quick succession. Then you must make a demonstration against the house. But be careful that it doesn't cost you any lives."
Both Levi and Artie were quick-witted enough to see the advantage of Deck's plan and readily agreed to it. Without the loss of a moment the major left the fort, crawling on his hands and knees through the grass to the creek.
Here the canoe and the raft were found as they had been left. Detaching the boat from the logs, he leaped in, and crouching low, sculled for the opposite shore with all speed. He was taking a big risk and knew it, and expected every instant to receive a shot from the enemy.
But none came, thanks to Levi, who, calculating the time he would be thus exposed, ran to the opening of the fort and called on several to do the same. As no good chance for an aim was given, the guerillas did not open with their guns, but they kept their eyes on the fort, and the creek was for the time being neglected.
On reaching the edge of the clearing, Deck did not lose a moment, but hurried the slaves and the white men back to the road and to the bushes lining the upper side. As they marched along on the double quick he explained the situation to Ralph Bowman, Sandran Dowleigh, and Carson Lee, the three farmers, all natives of the county, and all Union men to the core.
"They ought to be wiped out," said Bowman, with a vigorous nod of his head. "I know Wolfall and Denny well, and a rope over a tree is the medicine they need."
"I've got my Long Sam with me," put in Carson Lee, tapping his long rifle affectionately. "Just let me get one peep at Denny or Wolfall, thet's all." Lee was a crack shot, and on more than one occasion had taken the first prize at target-shooting.
It took the best part of a quarter of an hour to reach the meadow Deck had mentioned. Here there was a slight rise of ground, beyond which stood the barn. From their position only the top of the structure could be seen. Crawling Indian fashion to the top of the rise, the major inspected the situation again. As before, not a soul was in sight.
Before moving forward he had stationed one of the slaves some distance closer to the mansion. The man was armed with a double-barrelled gun, and as Deck waved his handkerchief two reports rang out, the signal agreed upon. Hardly had the echo of the gun died away than Levi, Artie, and the others emerged from the fort, and began moving around the meadow toward the front of the house.
The demonstration did just what was expected. Several men appeared at the mansion windows, to fire in vain at the detachment from the fort, they keeping pretty well out of range. From the barn poured the five guerillas counted by Levi, anxious to learn if their services were needed elsewhere.
By this time Deck's command was at the top of the rise, and the major called on his men to take careful aim and fire, discharging his pistol at the same moment. Carson Lee picked out Wolfall and the ruffian dropped like a log, shot through the head. Two of the others went down, one hit in the arm and the other in the side. The two remaining stopped in perplexity, not knowing whether to return to their original shelter or run for the mansion.
"Charge!" cried Major Deck, rushing for the barn with all the swiftness of his youthful legs. "Come on, boys; don't let one of them get away!" And he continued to fire as he advanced, finally succeeding in hitting one of the remaining pair of guerillas in the calf of the leg, a painful though not a serious wound. Seeing the turn of affairs, the last ruffian, also wounded, sped for the mansion as though a legion of demons were after him. Those who had reloaded gave the fellow half a dozen shots, but he was not hit again, and tumbled pell-mell up the veranda steps and through a doorway opened hastily to afford him entrance.
"A first victory and without a single loss," said Deck, as sheltered by the big barn he began to reload his pistol, while the others also looked after their weapons.
"Don't kill us!" came in a groan from one of the wounded—the man the major had hit.
For reply Deck pointed his pistol at the ruffian's head. "You deserve to die, but I'll let up on you on one condition—tell me exactly how many men there are in the mansion."
"I don't know, Major. There were twenty-two of us at the start, including the five we had here. I think three men were posted on the road and along the creek."
"One man has returned to the house; the others are out of the fight," said Deck, turning to Lee. "That leaves exactly fifteen guerillas in the mansion. We number sixteen."
"That's so; but they are well fortified," interposed Sandran Dowleigh, who had not gone to war because he was subject to fits, but who, nevertheless, took a lively interest in military matters. "They will mow us down like wheat if we dare to make a rush."
"I will consult with Levi Bedford and Artie before we make another move. Keep your eyes open while I am gone," said the major, and moved off in a roundabout way for Fort Bedford.
TWO FLAGS OF TRUCE
The first battle, if such it might be called, had been fought and won. Four of the guerillas had been put out of the contest, one forever, and one had escaped to the mansion. The contest had been entirely one-sided, for the ruffians had not had time left to them in which to fire so much as a single charge.
But though the present victory had been gained quickly and with ease, Deck knew that the work still cut out for himself and his command would prove much more difficult and dangerous. The guerillas in the mansion would be on a close watch, and it would go hard with any one imprudent enough to advance within reasonable shooting distance.
By the time the major had gained the fort those intrusted with the work of making a demonstration had returned to the shelter of the stone walls. No injury had been done, and Artie and the overseer had had their hands full in keeping the slaves from rushing directly for the mansion regardless of consequences, especially when it was noted that four men had gone down in the vicinity of the barn.
"Fifteen still left," mused Levi, when Deck had spoken. "We can go them one better, but—"
"It makes a big difference where the fifteen men are located," said Artie. "Five might hold the mansion against us—if they were good shots and wide-awake."
"If only I knew mother and the girls were safe, I would play them a waiting game," said Deck, taking a long breath. "They'll think we have sent for reenforcements and will want to make terms, sooner or later."
"We can send off for reenforcements!" cried Artie. "Clinker can rouse out every Unionist within two miles of here."
"He would not find many," answered Levi. "The majority are off to the war."
"One thing, it will be dark soon," went on Deck. "We can move up pretty close then, for there won't be much moonlight."
"But what of mother and the girls in the meantime?" questioned the young captain.
"I don't believe they will dare harm them," said the overseer. "They know that if they did, and were caught, every one of 'em would swing for it. Denny may try to get a bit sweet on Miss Dorcas, but I reckon she can hold her own. Those guerillas—"
"Hark!" interrupted Deck. "Somebody is screaming for help! It is Dorcas!"
He rushed to the door of the fort, followed by Levi and Artie. It was Dorcas, true enough. The girl had just come out on the mansion porch and was trying to get away from a guerilla who held her.
"That is Gaffy Denny!" ejaculated the major, drawing his pistol once more. "Hi, you rascal, leave her alone!" and regardless of consequences he started across the meadow for the lawn fronting the porch.
"Deck, save me!" came in faint tones from Dorcas. "Oh, save me!"
"I will!" was the reply. And Deck increased his speed, bounding over the meadow trenches with an agility that would have done credit to a trained athlete. He had barely gained the lawn when Dorcas broke from Gaffy Denny's grasp and fled down the porch steps toward him. At the same time Hope appeared, followed by Mrs. Lyon and several guerillas who had been in the act of transferring the lady prisoners from one room of the mansion to the other.
The sight of his mother pursued by these ruffians excited Deck to the highest degree, and without a thought of the danger he continued on his course until within a hundred feet of the porch. Then he fired at Gaffy Denny and saw the guerilla clap his left hand over his right shoulder, showing that he had been struck. Denny had scarcely made the movement when Levi Bedford fired and the temporary leader of the guerillas pitched headlong on the grass, not to rise again.
The fall of Denny caused the men behind him to pause, and as they stood on the porch Artie opened on them and another fellow was slightly wounded. Then came half a dozen gun and pistol reports, and Deck felt himself hit across the left side of the neck. The bullet left nothing more than an ugly scratch, from which the blood flowed freely.
But now the prisoners from the mansion had come up to their would-be rescuers, and catching sight of the blood, Hope fainted in Artie's arms. Mrs. Lyon staggered toward Deck, while Levi caught Dorcas by the hand.
"My son, you are wounded," gasped the mother. "Oh, what shall we do?"
"It's not much, mother," answered Deck. "Come, give me your arm and we'll get back to the fort," and catching hold of his parent he urged her in the direction of the meadow. At the same time Artie caught up Hope and followed, with Levi and Dorcas by his side.
The overseer was the only man of the party who was not handicapped, for the major did not dare let go of his mother for fear she would sink down. Levi turned quickly, and as the men on the porch prepared to fire, pulled trigger twice, wounding one additional guerilla.
But now came a volley from the mansion windows, and the overseer was struck in the arm. A second volley was about to follow, when a yell arose from the meadow and the slaves under Clinker came on, shooting as well as they could on the run. The windows of the mansion, now wide open, received considerable attention, and two guerillas were noted to fall back with yells of either fright or pain.
Deck got one more chance to fire, and then had to turn all of his attention to his mother, who was so out of breath she could no longer move. "My brave boy, save yourself!" she gasped. "Save yourself! And save Hope and Dorcas!"
"I won't leave you, mother dear," he returned tenderly, and picked her up despite her protests. He was soon following Artie to the fort, with Dorcas running by his side, while Levi remained behind to take command of the slaves and cover the retreat. From around the back of the meadow came those left by the major at the barn, thinking a regular attack on the mansion had been made.
Mrs. Noah Lyon was no light load, and when Deck gained the shelter of the fort he was ready to drop with his burden. Finding the most comfortable seat the place afforded, he deposited his precious load upon it and fanned her with his soldier cap. Hope was just reviving and was soon able to take care of herself.
"Oh, how thankful I am we have escaped from those ruffians!" cried Dorcas, almost ready to cry in her excitement. Then she knelt down in front of her aunt—that aunt who had for years been a mother to her. Hope joined the group, and tears flowed down every feminine cheek.
"Keep watch here, Artie!" called out Deck, when he saw that all was well for the time being, and as the young captain nodded, the major leaped out into the open once more. The battle between those in the mansion and those on the edge of the lawn was waxing hot, and he felt that he was needed.
A great load was lifted from his mind, now he knew his mother and the girls were safe, and he felt that he could endure almost anything. Taking a short cut by leaping over a ditch some ten feet wide, he came up in front of Carson Lee and the others from the barn. Lee had already been firing, at long range, and the man subject to fits declared he had dropped one guerilla stationed at an attic window.
"It is best that we divide our forces," said Deck. "Levi can take care of those under him. We will take the opposite side of the house. There are two magnolias over there—just the spot for such a sharpshooter as you, Lee."
"Co-rect, lead on and I'll follow," answered Carson Lee, with a grin, for nothing pleased him more than to have his marksmanship praised. Soon the entire party was making another detour, while Levi's men fell back gradually to a safe position in a dry trench near the centre of the meadow—a trench begun in the spring but never connected with the creek.
When the major's party reached the magnolias, Lee and another of the farmers climbed into the branches, taking care, however, to keep the main trunks of the trees between themselves and the mansion. The others collected underneath, also, on the sheltered sides.
"Levi and the niggers have fallen back to a ditch in the meadow," announced Lee, a minute later. "All the guerillas have gone into the house."
"An' there ain't a head to be seen at the winders," finished Dowleigh, the other man in the tree. "Reckon they have gone in fer a parley among themselves."
"We have them where the hair is good and long now," said Deck, smiling. "Not one of them can leave the house without being seen."
"How about to-night, Major?" laughed Bowman.
"As soon as it gets dark we can draw closer, and throw a guard completely around the place. But I imagine we'll hear from them before that—now the ladies have escaped."
"How so?" asked Bowman, with interest.
"As long as they held the ladies they thought they could make terms when they pleased. Now, the case is different, and, in my opinion, they will try to make terms before we have a chance to send for aid with which to wipe them out, as the saying goes."
"Don't ye make no terms," burst in Carson Lee. "They don't deserve 'em."
"We'll see what they have to say, if they do come out," concluded the major.
The best part of half an hour passed, and during that time everybody placed his weapon in proper fighting trim again. Lee took one shot at a face which appeared at a bedroom window and received a shot in return, but neither took effect. Evidently the guerillas were on the alert.
"I told you so!" Deck felt like saying, when the side door of the mansion opened and a man waved a white towel toward them. But the major remained silent, and the man advanced cautiously to the edge of the veranda. Then the young commander waved his handkerchief in return, and marched up the lawn to interview the ruffian with the flag of truce.
The fellow was an ugly looking customer, over six feet tall, thin, and with a face horribly pox-marked. He came swaggering up to within five yards of Deck and halted.
"Say, don't yer think this game has been played long enough?" he grunted rather than asked.
"Entirely too long," answered Deck, briefly. He had not yet forgotten the manner in which he had been addressed at the barn.
"We-uns is ready ter make terms if yer don't ask the earth," continued the tall guerilla, swinging his lanky arms into a fold. "Wot do yer say to it?"
"I think you had better make terms."
"Oh, we ain't so terribully skeered, Major. But makin' terms might suit better all around, thet's all."
"Well, what do you propose?"
"This. You-uns let us withdraw on our hosses to the road an' give us half a mile start, an' we-uns will leave everything in the house jest as we found it."
"And if I refuse?"
"Then we'll burn the hull shebang to the ground and take wot comes arfterward," exclaimed the guerilla, vehemently, and added an expression I would not care to transcribe to these pages.
"Do you know what will come?"
"A fight most likely," and the guerilla shrugged his bony shoulders.
"Yes, and a heavy one, if our reenforcements arrive in time. And as commander here I'll promise you that if you harm the house or its contents in the least, every man captured shall be hung to yonder trees as an incendiary and thief."
"Ye can't do thet—not to Confed'rit sodgers, Major."
"I don't recognize you as Confederates. You are simply outlaws."
"'Tain't so; we—" The guerilla paused and began to think of the instructions which had been given him. "Wot kind o' terms air you calkerlatin' ter make, Major?" he asked, in a milder tone.
"I want all in the house to surrender, and if you do I'll simply hand you over to the county authorities and they can do with you as they think best. But each of you must swear to leave Riverlawn alone in the future."
"The boys won't agree on thet—I know they won't."
"They can do as they please; you have my terms," returned Deck, curtly.
"Yer won't treat us as simple prisoners o' war?"
"No; for such you are not. Neither your captain nor your lieutenant holds a commission signed by the Confederate authorities."
The guerilla paused as if to say more. Then tossing his shaggy head he walked back to the mansion, while Deck joined his command at the magnolias.
"Bowman, you can do a big thing for me if you will," he said, calling the farmer aside, and he explained a little ruse which had just popped into his head. The scheme made Bowman laugh heartily, and he at once departed to carry it out, taking one of the negroes with him.
It was just growing dusk when the farmer reached the vicinity of the creek bridge. Calling on Woolly, the negro, to march by his side, he quickly crossed the roadway, in plain sight of the mansion. He passed from one thicket to another, and as soon as he was out of sight turned back and went through the same performance again. This he repeated a score of times, sometimes going alone and again with Woolly. This accomplished, he told the negro to move down the creek and show himself at half a dozen different places just as quickly as the act could be performed, he at the same time doing as much in the opposite direction. Sometimes the pair showed themselves with their coats, sometimes without, and they knocked their head coverings into all sorts of shapes.
The ruse succeeded admirably, for even Levi, at the fort, was led to believe a dozen or more armed men had just arrived, and he was for a while considerably worried, thinking they might possibly be reenforcements for the enemy. Bowman's appearance opposite Fort Bedford cleared up the matter, and the farmer came over to give the overseer the particulars, thereby risking a shot which, fortunately, proved harmless.
"It certainly ought to bring them to terms," said Levi. "I'll wager they will be out with another flag in less than a quarter of an hour."
Had a bet been made the overseer would have won by five minutes, for exactly ten minutes later another flag of truce was shown, and a second messenger sallied forth to make terms with Major Deck.
A MISSING DOCUMENT OF IMPORTANCE
Major Dexter Lyon was on the lookout and saw the second flag of truce as quickly as any one. At the same time Carson Lee, still in the top of the magnolia, announced that "another rag" was "out for an airin'."
"You want ter go slow," he added. "They may be gittin' desperate an' up to some o' their mean tricks."
Promising to use all caution, Deck advanced to meet the new messenger. He proved to be a mild sort of a guerilla and was evidently extremely nervous.
"I came out to arrange terms with you," he said, in such a low voice that Deck could hardly hear him.
"Are you ready to surrender?"
"We are—on certain terms."
"I gave your other messenger my terms. I haven't any others to make."
"The boys is divided as to wot to do. About half of 'em is willing to give themselves up unconditionally, the other half want to be treated as prisoners of war."
"I will not treat any as prisoners of war—I said that before," answered Deck, firmly. "Are you willing to give yourself up unconditionally?"
"Then you had best do so without delay—and so had the others who think as you do. We will give you just ten minutes in which to make up your minds," went on Deck, feeling he had the enemy, "on the run," and determined to make the best of his chances.
"So them reenforcements have arrived, eh?" said the messenger, and now his voice actually trembled. "Just hold on ten minutes, Major, and I'll be back," and he almost ran for the house.
The man left the front door wide open, and Lee, from his superior position, announced that a lively confab was in progress within. In less than five minutes the messenger marched forth, followed by five of his comrades, all trailing their guns.
"Five on 'em goin' to give up," announced Lee, when a shot was fired from the mansion, and one of the guerillas was seen to throw up his arms and fall headlong. He had been shot through the neck, and expired almost instantly. The others set out on a run for the magnolias, fearful that their former companions in arms would murder them likewise for deserting. A dozen reports from both sides followed, but no further damage was done.
As soon as the four guerillas reached Deck's command they were disarmed, and a guard of two slaves conducted them to a distance, keeping a close watch upon them. Another negro was sent by a circuitous route to the fort, to tell the defenders there what had occurred.
Deck now felt certain that those remaining in the mansion would soon make a dash for safety, satisfied that every moment's delay increased their peril, and preferring to run the risk of being shot than the certainty of being hung if captured. At the most there could not be over eight guerillas in a condition to fight, and the major felt assured his forces could readily take care of them.
The dash came just after Deck's message had been delivered to Levi and Artie. Almost simultaneously all the lower doors of the mansion were thrown open and seven guerillas darted out, to scatter in as many different directions, three going off toward the meadow behind the barns, one in the neighborhood of the negroes' huts, and the others taking to the creek and the bridge over it. In less than two minutes each ruffian was at least a hundred yards from the nearest of his companions.
In this emergency there was but one thing to do, and that was to divide up the detachments at the magnolias and at the fort. This was done by Deck on one side and Artie on the other, and away went the major and Faraway, the slave, after the guerilla who was making for the bridge, while every other ruffian was being pursued in a similar fashion by the remaining Unionists.
It had grown darker rapidly, and it was with difficulty that the major kept his man in sight, especially after the bushes near the bridge were reached. There was also a danger of a shot, but none came just then.
"He's gone!" suddenly burst out Faraway, when the bridge was less than a hundred feet away. "De earth hab swallowed him up!"
"He went under the bridge," answered Deck, halting. "Go slow, for he'll shoot us if he can."
After this the advance was made with great caution, until the young commander had gained the pile of stones upon which rested one end of the wooden structure. Here the great tree growing by the bridge bench cast a deep shade all around, and he had to strain his eyes to see at all.
Crack! It was the report of a pistol and it came from less than fifty feet away. As the report died away Deck was seen to throw up his arms and drop. At once an exultant chuckle proceeded from the guerilla's lips, and heedless of the negro, he darted out of his hiding-place and ran for the creek road.
"Oh, Mars'r Deck!" cried Faraway, in dismay, when he started back dumfounded, for the young major had suddenly arisen to a kneeling position, taken careful aim and fired. The bullet sped true to its mark, and the guerilla went down, shot through the right knee.
"Hang yer cursed Yankee trick!" he groaned, as Deck came up to him, totally uninjured from the shot aimed at him a minute previously. Lying as he was, he attempted to fire again, but the major kicked the pistol from his grasp and Faraway pounced upon him and pinned him to the ground.
"Any kind of a trick would be justifiable in capturing such a rascal as you," said Deck, as he directed Faraway to disarm the prisoner. This done, and making sure that the fellow could not walk away, they propped him up on the creek bridge and left him.
Returning to the vicinity of the mansion, Deck found that one other guerilla had been captured by Artie and Clinker, and that white men and negroes were scattered in all directions endeavoring to round up the remainder. The search for the fleeing ones was kept up until midnight, and two others were wounded and taken into custody.
All the prisoners were either marched or carried to Fort Bedford, and here the wounded ones were cared for as tenderly as though they were friends instead of enemies. The dead were laid out for burial, unless the bodies should be claimed by relatives or friends.
Deck had bound a silk handkerchief around his neck, which felt stiff where the bullet had scratched it. Artie had been hurt, too, but the wound was of small consequence. The Unionists received even greater care than the guerillas.
It was exactly two o'clock in the morning when Deck came into the mansion thoroughly worn out by what he had passed through. Mrs. Lyon had ordered Diana (not Dinah, if you please) to prepare the best meal Riverlawn could afford, and while the family and the other whites sat down in the dining room, the negroes made themselves comfortable in the spacious kitchen. In the meantime the prisoners at the fort were kept under close guard and a messenger was despatched to notify the county authorities of what had taken place.
The mansion had been turned topsy-turvy, and a few articles of bric-a-brac had been smashed, but otherwise the loss did not seem to be of much consequence outside of the fact that two dozen silver spoons and a gold butter dish were missing, also some wine and whiskey put down in the cellar by Duncan Lyon and which the family of Noah had never touched.
"I do not mind the liquor, but I do mind the loss of my mother's spoons," said Mrs. Noah. "However, I am glad matters are no worse."
"I was afraid they would break open father's safe," said Deck, referring to the strong box in the library, in which the colonel was wont to keep his cash and his private papers. "I was much relieved to see it still locked up."
While Deck had been speaking Levi came in, and now he turned to Mrs. Lyon. "That safe—I left it open for you," he cried hurriedly. "Did you—"
"I left it open," gasped Mrs. Lyon, falling back in her chair. "I forgot all about it until just now—the guerillas scared me so when they marched in. If they—"
"The safe is shut—but still—" began Deck, and arising hastily he hurried to the library, with Levi, Artie, and the women folks at his heels. The door refused to budge and Levi worked the combination, a new device Noah Lyon had had put on the door just before leaving home for the seat of war.
When the strong box came open a mass of private papers and account-books fell out upon the carpeted floor, and it was easy to surmise that the guerillas had looted the safe of all that could be made valuable to them. Levi declared three hundred dollars in gold gone, also two hundred in United States paper money, besides a small box of jewellery, the most valuable articles in which had been a diamond ring and a diamond stud Duncan Lyon had worn during his life, and of which no disposition had ever been made.
"We are five hundred dollars out by this raid," said Artie, while Mrs. Lyon shook her head sadly. "We had better question the prisoners about this."
He went off to do so, accompanied by Levi. While they were gone Deck proceeded to arrange the scattered books and papers and restore them to their original resting places.
"Hullo!" he ejaculated, as he picked up an empty envelope. It was marked! "Not to be opened till five years from the date of my death. Duncan Lyon."
"The secret envelope uncle left to father!" cried out Hope. "Oh, Deck, where are the contents?"
"That is what I should like to know," responded her brother, kneeling down with a hand lamp, the better to see. A large batch of papers were sorted with great care, but nothing which might have belonged in the envelope was unearthed.
"This is worse than the loss of the money or the spoons," sobbed Mrs. Lyon, bursting into tears. "Your father has always been very careful of that secret communication, which he thought related to your Uncle Duncan's slaves. I am sure he will be much put out when he finds the contents of the envelope gone."
Mrs. Lyon's tears set the girls to crying, and it took some time for Deck to quiet the three. In the meanwhile he had all the female colored help in the mansion search for the missing paper. These people brought him a dozen or more sheets from out-of-the-way corners, but all proved valueless, and at length Deck strode down to the fort.
The prisoners had been searched, but nothing had been found on them of value. Each man was closely questioned, and the timid guerilla who had carried the second flag of truce that afternoon admitted that he had seen a certain fellow known as Totterly at the safe and had seen the guerilla tear open an envelope, look over its contents and then cram a paper in his coat pocket. Totterly had also taken a chamois bag—the bag which contained the three hundred dollars in gold. Who had taken the paper money was not known to the timid prisoner, nor did he know anything about the spoons.