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Title: In The Saddle
Author: Optic, Oliver, 1822-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In The Saddle" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



                          THE BLUE AND THE GRAY--AFLOAT

                  Two colors cloth  Emblematic Dies  Illustrated
                              Price per volume $1.50

                             TAKEN BY THE ENEMY
                             WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES
                             ON THE BLOCKADE
                             STAND BY THE UNION
                             FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT
                             A VICTORIOUS UNION

                        THE BLUE AND THE GRAY--ON LAND

                  Two colors cloth  Emblematic Dies  Illustrated
                              Price per volume $1.50

                             BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER
                             IN THE SADDLE
                             A LIEUTENANT AT EIGHTEEN (IN PRESS)

                        (Other volumes in preparation)


                          ANY VOLUME SOLD SEPARATELY.


                      LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS BOSTON



[Illustration: "Be you uns soldiers, mass'r?"]



                                     THE
                              BLUE AND THE GRAY
                                   ON LAND

                               BY OLIVER OPTIC

                                IN THE SADDLE


                       _The Blue and Gray Army Series_


                                IN THE SADDLE

                                      BY
                                 OLIVER OPTIC

      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 GRAY NAVY SERIES" "A MISSING MILLION"
                      "A MILLIONAIRE AT SIXTEEN" "A YOUNG
                     KNIGHT-ERRANT" "STRANGE SIGHTS ABROAD"
                          "AMERICAN BOYS AFLOAT" "THE
                             YOUNG NAVIGATORS" ETC.

                                     BOSTON
                          LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
                                10 MILK STREET
                                      1895


                     COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY LEE AND SHEPARD

                             _All Rights Reserved_

                                  IN THE SADDLE


                                  TO MY FRIEND

                               WILLIAM R. BEATTY

               MY COMPANION IN MANY VERY AGREEABLE ASSOCIATIONS
                                  THIS VOLUME
                            IS CORDIALLY DEDICATED



PREFACE


"In The Saddle" is the second of the "Blue and Gray--On Land." In the
first volume a New Hampshire family was transplanted to the southern
part of one of the Border States just before the breaking out of the
Great Rebellion, now happily an event of the somewhat distant past. An
attempt is made in that book to describe the condition of the region in
the progress of the story; and the material for it was diligently looked
up in the records of those stormy times, in those of official character
in the archives of the State in which the events transpired, as well as
in "The Record of the Rebellion," Congressional Reports, and the
multitude of histories, narratives, biographies, and miscellaneous works
on the shelves of public and private libraries. The writer believes his
material statements are correct, and that the pictures he has given of
the disorderly condition of the State of Kentucky, especially in
the southern portion, are not overdrawn.

The story of the Lyon family introduces two branches of it, both from
the same Northern locality, though, unhappily, not of the same way of
thinking on the great question of loyalty to the national government and
Secession with the South. Plantation life and manners are presented to
some extent, as one of the brothers comes into possession of a large
estate and half a hundred slaves by the will of a Kentucky member of the
Lyon family. The first volume of the series is devoted to the "bringing
out" of the loyal element in the county where the plantation is located,
in opposition to the more demonstrative secession or neutral sentiment.
A Union meeting in a schoolhouse, disturbed by the "ruffians," as they
had come to be called, in which the loyal citizens vigorously defend
themselves, and expel the intruders, brings the affairs of the
neighborhood to a crisis. The planter is attacked by a mob, and with the
assistance of a few of his friends, and by arming a portion of his
negroes, successfully encounters the disturbers of the peace. Following
these stirring events, two companies of cavalry are enlisted by an
authorized officer, carefully drilled, and put in readiness to take the
field.

In the present volume this battalion enters upon active service. The
same characters are presented in the uniform of cavalrymen, mounted on
the fine equine stock of the plantation. Noah Lyon, the head of the
family, obtains an actual military title, instead of the merely
complimentary one given to him by his friends and neighbors. His two
sons, Deck and Artie, appear in the front rank in the operations in
which the squadron is engaged, though both of them enter the service as
privates. The young men are of the loftiest moral character, actuated by
the purest and most devoted patriotism. They are of good physique, in
vigorous health, and do not seem to know the meaning of the word fear.
If their individual exploits seem to any to be extravagant, they have
been more than paralleled on the battle-field in hundreds of instances.
Both of them are exceedingly fond of their steeds; and Deck, in the
months devoted to drill, makes no insignificant figure as a
horse-trainer. His steed, one of the blood stock of his deceased uncle,
is so intelligent and so apt a scholar, that he enables his rider to
achieve some rather wonderful feats in action. He is modest, and, when
praised for his deeds, attributes them to "Ceph." This young soldier
wins and obtains a promotion which will supply the title for the next
volume.

In contrast with the progressive fortunes of the loyal brother and his
two sons, the disloyal one, who had become, through the influence of his
money rather than his ability, the leader of the "ruffians," is again
introduced, with his two boys, who follow in the footsteps of their
father till they become disgusted with their lot.

The operations of the loyal battalion of cavalry are confined to the
protection of the bridges on the railroads, and to repressing "partisan"
onslaughts and outrages upon towns and villages largely inhabited by
citizens who are faithful to the national government. But the officers
and privates are faithful where loyalty meant vastly more than in the
North; and their zeal and earnestness in the discharge of their duty
left a stirring record behind them wherever they went.

                                               WILLIAM T. ADAMS.

  DORCHESTER, Dec. 12, 1894.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER I.                                    PAGE
    COLLECTING A BILL BY FORCE OF ARMS           15

 CHAPTER II.
    REVELATIONS OF A YOUNG GUARDSMAN             27

 CHAPTER III.
    SOMETHING ABOUT THE LYON FAMILIES            39

 CHAPTER IV.
    THE DAY'S MARCH OF THE SQUADRON              52

 CHAPTER V.
    THE LEADER OF THE SCOUTING-PARTY             64

 CHAPTER VI.
    A VERY OBSTINATE PRISONER CAPTURED           76

 CHAPTER VII.
    PREPARING FOR ACTIVE OPERATIONS              88

 CHAPTER VIII.
    THE ACTION BY THE RAILROAD BRIDGE           100

 CHAPTER IX.
    AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE ENEMY'S SCOUTS        112

 CHAPTER X.
    THE BATTLE BEGUN AT THE CROSS-ROADS         124

 CHAPTER XI.
    A DESPERATE CHARGE ON BOTH SIDES            137

 CHAPTER XII.
    THE YOUNG HERO OF THE BATTLE                149

 CHAPTER XIII.
    THE PERPLEXING MOVEMENTS OF THE ENEMY       161

 CHAPTER XIV.
    A LONG WAIT FOR THE ENEMY                   173

 CHAPTER XV.
    THE AMERICAN FLAG ON THE BRIDGE             185

 CHAPTER XVI.
    THE EXPLOSION ON THE BRIDGE                 197

 CHAPTER XVII.
    THE CONFUSION OF THE DAY EXPLAINED          209

 CHAPTER XVIII.
    INTRODUCING MR. BROWN KIPPS                 221

 CHAPTER XIX.
    THE CONSPIRACY ON THE BRIDGE                234

 CHAPTER XX.
    THE OPERATIONS OF THE BRIDGE-BURNERS        246

 CHAPTER XXI.
    A NEW DISPOSITION OF THE FORCES             258

 CHAPTER XXII.
    A DESPERATE DEED CONTEMPLATED               270

 CHAPTER XXIII.
    THE SKIRMISH ON THE HILL ROAD               282

 CHAPTER XXIV.
    CAPTAIN DINGFIELD'S STRATEGY                294

 CHAPTER XXV.
    SUNDRY FLANK MOVEMENTS ARRANGED             306

 CHAPTER XXVI.
    THE ENEMY'S BATTLE WITH THE MUD             318

 CHAPTER XXVII.
    AT THE CAMP-FIRE NEAR THE ROAD              330

 CHAPTER XXVIII.
    A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE                  342

 CHAPTER XXIX.
    THE RIVERLAWN CAVALRY CHANGES BASE          354

 CHAPTER XXX.
    THE MAGNATE OF GREELTOP'S VISIT             366

 CHAPTER XXXI.
    LIFE KNOX ON THE MOUNTAIN ROAD              378

 CHAPTER XXXII.
    THE SKIRMISH IN THE GREAT CIRCLE            390

 CHAPTER XXXIII.
    CAPTAIN STINGER THE FIRE-EATER              402

 CHAPTER XXXIV.
    THE RE-ENFORCEMENT FOR PLAIN HILL           414

 CHAPTER XXXV.
    SURROUNDED AND TOTALLY DEFEATED             426

 CHAPTER XXXVI.
    CAPTAIN VINEGOLD OF THE GUERILLAS           439



ILLUSTRATIONS.


    "BE YOU UNS SOLDIERS, MASS'R?"       _Frontispiece._

 ILLUSTRATED TITLE.
                                               PAGE
    "HELP! HELP! SHOUTED THE VICTIM"             18

    "ONE OF THE TEXANS TUMBLED FROM HIS HORSE"  123

    "SLING CARBINES! CHARGE THEM!"              207

    "HALT WHERE YOU ARE, KIPPS!"                282

    "WHAT ARE YOU UNS DOING HERE?"              317

    "THE RUFFIAN SEEMED TO BE AS POWERLESS AS
       AN INFANT IN HIS GRASP"                  383



IN THE SADDLE



CHAPTER I

COLLECTING A BILL BY FORCE OF ARMS


"Help! Help!"

This call for assistance came from a small house, poorly constructed by
those who had little skill in the art of carpentry. It stood near the
Spring Road, in a field of about ten acres of land, under cultivation,
though the rank weeds among the useful plants indicated that it had been
sorely neglected.

Those familiar with the locality would have recognized it as the abode
of one of those small farmers found all over the country, who were
struggling to improve their worldly condition on a very insufficient
capital. The house was hardly finished, and the want of skill was
apparent in its erection from sill to ridgepole.

Swinburne Pickford was the proprietor of the dwelling and land. He
worked for farmers, planters, and mechanics, for any one who would give
him employment, in addition to his labor in the cultivation of his land;
and with the sum he had been able to save from his wages, he had bought
the land, and started the small farm on his own account. He had a wife
and two small children; and, as his time permitted, he had built the
house with his own hands alone.

The section of the State of Kentucky in which this little place was
located had been sorely disturbed by the conflicts and outrages of the
two parties at the beginning of the War of the Rebellion, one struggling
to drag the State out of the Union, and the other to prevent its
secession. As in the other States of the South, the advocates of
disunion were more violent and demonstrative than the loyal people, and
after the bombardment of Fort Sumter appeared to be in the ascendant for
this reason.

The entire South had been in a state of excitement from the inception of
the presidential campaign which resulted in the election of Abraham
Lincoln, and the industries of this region suffered in consequence; and
it looked as though Pickford's house would never be entirely finished.
With the exception of the chimney, placed outside of the building, after
the fashion of the South, he had done all the work himself. Titus Lyon,
the mason of the village of Barcreek, had done this portion of the
labor, and the bill for its erection was still unpaid.

Inside of the house two young men, the older about eighteen and the
younger sixteen, both armed with muskets, had dragged the proprietor of
the house to the floor. One of them had his foot on the chest of the
fallen farmer, and the other was pointing his gun at him. Pickford had
evidently endeavored to protect himself from the assault of his two
assailants, who had got the better of him, and had only given up the
battle when pinned to the floor by the foot of one of them.

"Will you pay the bill I have brought to you?" demanded Sandy Lyon, who
was the principal aggressor in the assault. "Dr. Falkirk paid you over
fifty dollars to-day, and you have got the money to pay the bill, which
has been standing two years."

Swin Pickford made no reply to this statement; but just at that moment
he heard the clippetty-clip of a galloping horse in the road in front of
the house. With the foot of one of his assaulters on his chest, and the
other with an old gun in his hand at his side, Pickford realized that
nothing could be done but submit. Shooting in that locality and at that
time was no uncommon occurrence; for there seemed to be no law in the
land, and men generally settled their own grievances, or submitted to
them.

"Help! Help!" shouted the victim of the present outrage, with all the
strength of his lungs, which gave him voice enough to make him heard a
quarter of a mile distant.

"Shut up your head!" savagely yelled Sandy Lyon, as he pressed his foot
down with all his might by throwing all his weight upon the breast of
the prostrate farmer.

The sound of the horse's feet in the road seemed to give the victim a
new hope, and he tried to shout again. But Sandy flew at his throat like
a wolf, and choked him into silence.

"Find a couple of ropes or cords, Orly, and we will tie his hands behind
him!" called Sandy to his brother.

[Illustration: "'Help! Help!' shouted the victim."]

The younger brother hastened to obey the order. Finding nothing of the
description required, he rushed into the rear room of the house. The
pressure of the assailant's hands upon his throat, and the hope of
assistance from outside, stimulated the victim to further resistance,
for the gun in the hands of Orly no longer threatened him. With a
desperate struggle he threw Sandy over backwards, and sprang to his
feet. His persecutor picked himself up, and was about to throw himself
upon him again. Pickford, who was nearly exhausted by the struggle and
the choking, rushed to the open door; and as he was about to pass out he
encountered a young man in the uniform of a cavalryman, with a sabre
dangling at his side, and a carbine slung on his back.

At the moment when the cry for help came from the house, the young man,
mounted on a spirited horse, was riding along the Spring Road. He was a
stout fellow, not more than eighteen years old, with a pleasant face,
though a physiognomist would have observed upon it a look of
determination, indicating that he could not be trifled with on a serious
occasion. Neither the house nor the man who occupied it would have
tempted the soldier to enter it for any other reason than the call that
had just come from it.

The cavalryman reined in his steed, and halted him with his head to a
post in front of the dwelling. Dismounting in haste, he threw the reins
over the hitching-hook and hurried to the front door, just in time to
encounter Pickford as he was rushing out. The victim of the outrage was
gasping for breath, and presented a really pitiable aspect to the young
soldier, to whom he was not a stranger, though they had met as enemies
and not as friends.

"What's the trouble?" asked Deck Lyon, the cavalryman, as he encountered
the owner of the miniature plantation.

"I have been set upon, and nearly killed by your cousins, Sandy and Orly
Lyon, and one of them has nearly choked me to death," gasped Pickford.

"By my cousins!" exclaimed Deck Lyon, astonished at the reply of the
victim.

"Yes; both on 'em," groaned Swin, as he was generally called.

"I supposed you had gone to the county town with the Home Guards," added
Deck.

"No; I never 'listed, 'cause I have a family to take care on."

"Come in, and let me see what the trouble is," continued Deck, as he
pushed Swin in ahead of him.

Sandy had been in the act of throwing himself upon his victim again,
when he discovered his cousin in the person of the cavalryman. The sight
of him caused the angry young man to fall back; and Deck entered the
room just as Orly appeared at the rear door with a piece of bed-cord in
his hand.

"Good-morning, Sandy," said Deck, as pleasantly as though nothing had
called for his interference. "There seems to be some trouble here."

"Trouble enough," replied Sandy in a sulky tone.

"Swin Pickford calls for help as though you intended to murder him,"
continued Deck, as he looked from one to the other of the belligerents,
and took in Orly with the cord at the same time. "You are all on the
same side of the national fight, and you ought to be friends."

"We are not on the same side, for Pickford is a traitor," answered
Sandy.

"I'm no traitor!" protested Swin. "But I should like to ask what you and
Orly are, if I'm one. I was willing to join the Home Guards for home
service; but when they started to go inter the Confederate army, I took
off my name, for I didn't j'in for no sech work. But Sandy and Orly went
off with the company, and then deserted and come home. What's the sense
of them callin' me a traitor when I'm not one, and they be."

"If they deserted, they did a sensible thing," said Deck with a smile,
as he glanced at his two cousins. "But I am not here to settle any such
quarrel as this; for I don't care how much you ruffians fight among
yourselves."

"The trouble here has nothing to do with politics or the Home Guards,"
replied Sandy.

"Nothing at all, Deck," added Orly.

"What is it all about, then?" inquired Deck. "I came in because a cry
was heard from the house which made me think a murder was going on
here."

"That's jest what was goin' on here!" exclaimed Pickford.

"Nothing of the sort," protested Sandy. "Not a word has been said here
about the army or the Home Guards."

"But your father has marched his company farther south, to join General
Buckner's army."

"That had nothing to do with our business here. Swin Pickford owes
father twenty-seven dollars for building the chimney of this house, and
he has owed it for about two years, and it is time the bill was paid."

"That's all so, Deck Lyon; I don't deny none on't," added Pickford, who
had recovered his breath and his temper by this time. "But I hain't had
the money to pay the bill. I'm an honest man, and I allus pay my debts
when I ken. Times have been hard with me for the last two years. Folks
has been all over inter politics, and I couldn't hardly git money enough
to pay for the bread and butter of my wife and children; for there
wasn't next to no work at all."

"That's a poor excuse in your case, Swin," added Sandy.

"I went to Cap'n Titus more'n a year ago, and talked to him about that
debt," continued Pickford, without heeding the remark of Sandy. "He got
heaps of money out of his brother's property, and I didn't s'pose he
needed the money. I offered him five dollars, and told him I'd try to
pay him five every month. But he didn't want me to do it that way, and
told me I could pay it all to once, when I had the money. Then he wanted
me to help him git up the company, and I did; I hoofed it all over the
county for him, sometimes when I might have worked."

"But he has got money now!" Sandy broke in. "Dr. Falkirk paid him fifty
dollars this morning at the grocery; for I saw him do it, and heard him
say how much it was."

"I don't deny that, nuther," said the unfortunate debtor. "But I haven't
got three dollars left of that money now. I paid Grunge the grocer
nineteen dollars on't; for he knows I'm an honest man, and trusted me.
Then I paid a man that's poorer'n I am for some work he done on my
place, seven dollars and a half, and I had to pay my taxes or lose my
farm."

"I saw Dr. Falkirk pay him that money, and Orly and I tramped all the
way over here; for we have no horses at home now. He's got the money,
and won't pay the bill. Mother wants the money very much," added Sandy.


"She hasn't got a dollar in the house," Orly put in, perhaps telling
more than his brother wished to have revealed.

"Then you came over here to collect the bill at the muzzle of your gun,"
suggested Deck, who had seen the younger brother pick up his weapon,
which had fallen on the floor.

"We meant to make him pay," said Sandy. "I believe he has the money, and
I meant to search the house till I found it."

"You would have s'arched till the last gun fires, and you wouldn't found
it then," protested the victim, as he took an old wallet from his
pocket, which was found to contain about three dollars in silver.
"That's all I've got in this world, and none in the next."

"I don't believe he has got any more money, Sandy," said Deck to his
cousin, as he stepped up to him, and spoke to him in a low tone.

"I'm willin' to give him two dollars outen the little I got, though he
abused me wus'n any man ever did in this world, and sha'n't in the
next," interposed Pickford.

"I will take what I can get," replied Sandy, as he took the bill from
his pocket.

The debtor paid him two dollars in silver; and if his mother, as Orly
affirmed, had not a single dollar in the house, this small sum would be
gladly received by her. Deck led the way out of the house, and his two
cousins followed, just as Mrs. Pickford and her two small children came
into the room. The sight of them was enough to assure the visitors of
the poverty of the husband and father.



CHAPTER II

REVELATIONS OF A YOUNG GUARDSMAN


Dexter Lyon was very much perplexed by the situation of his uncle's
family in Barcreek; for he owned his place, which had cost five thousand
dollars, unencumbered; and about two years before he had received from
the estate of his deceased brother twenty thousand dollars in cash and
stocks.

"Of course the story that your mother had not a dollar in the house is a
fiction, such as people who collect money, or don't want to pay it out,
often tell," said the young cavalryman, as he went to the post where he
had secured his horse.

"Fiction? What do you mean by that?" asked Sandy Lyon, the expression on
whose face was very sad and discontented.

"You didn't mean that what you said was true?"

"What did I say that was not true?" inquired Sandy, looking at his
cousin as though he was in doubt whether or not to conceal the correct
answer to the question.

"Everybody in Barcreek knows that your father has gone to Bowling Green,
and you said that your mother had not a dollar in the house," replied
Deck, studying the expression on the face of his cousin. "You didn't
mean that, did you?"

Sandy looked at his cousin, and each seemed to be considering the
meaning of the other's looks. They were own cousins, and their homes
were not more than a mile apart; but they had not met for three months.
Politics, as the people of this locality generally called the two great
questions of the day, Unionism and Secession, had created a great gulf
between the two families. Judging from the threadbare and semi-miserable
condition of the two sons of Captain Titus, times had gone hardly with
the family.

"I did not say that mother had not a dollar in the house," said Sandy,
after a long silence.

"Orly said so, and you did not contradict him; so it is all the same
thing," added Deck.

"I did say so; and I said it because it was just as true as
Breckinridge's long letter," said Orly earnestly.

"That is not saying much for the truth of it," answered Deck, with a
smile on his handsome face; for he had the reputation of being a
good-looking fellow, especially since he had donned his uniform.

"Well, it is true as that the sun shines in the sky," added Orly; and
there was an expression of disgust on his face.

"But your father has plenty of money," suggested the young soldier.

"No, he hasn't," protested Orly.

"You are talking too fast, Orly," interposed Sandy reproachfully.

"We may as well let the cat out of the bag first as last, for she will
scratch her way out very soon," replied Orly. "Mother will be glad
enough to see that two dollars when Sandy offers it to her."

Just at that moment the blast of a bugle, or several of them, was heard
in the direction of the Cross Roads, the way Deck was going when he was
arrested by the cry for help from Pickford's house.

"What's that?" asked Sandy, as though he was glad to have the subject of
the conversation changed, however it may have been with his more
impulsive brother.

"It must be my company, or the squadron to which it belongs," replied
Deck rather indifferently.

"How many companies have you, Deck?" asked Orly.

"Only two yet, hardly enough for a battalion."

"Where are they going now?"

"Probably they are out for drill; and I must fall in as soon as the
companies come up," said Deck, as he mounted his horse and straightened
himself up in the saddle, as though he wished to present a proper
appearance before his cousins.

But the battalion or squadron was still at a considerable distance from
him, and the young cavalryman could not help looking at the pinched
faces of his cousins; for though they had ostensibly embraced the cause
of Secession, he was full of sympathy for them. They looked as though
they had been poorly fed, if not half-starved; and when the time had
come for them to have new suits of clothes, they had not obtained
them. But if Captain Titus's family was without money, it could be only
a temporary matter, for he could hardly have exhausted his twenty
thousand dollars in stocks and cash, though it was well known that he
had contributed five thousand dollars for the purchase of arms and
ammunition to be used by his company of Home Guards, which had now moved
south to join the Confederate army.

"As I said before, your father had plenty of money," continued Deck,
though he was not disposed to be over-inquisitive.

"He had at one time," Sandy admitted; and it was plain from his manner
that he was not willing to tell all he knew about his father's financial
affairs.

"I don't understand how your mother should be so short of money, Sandy;
but it is none of my business, and I won't ask any more questions,"
added the cavalryman, as he whirled his restive horse about. "I thought
you and Orly went with the company to Bowling Green, Sandy."

"We did; but we came back again," replied the elder brother. But there
appeared to be something to conceal in regard to their return.

"There wasn't any fun in soldiering without any pay, and without even
half enough to eat, with nothing to wear," added the plain-spoken
younger brother.

"You needn't tell all you know, Orly," interposed Sandy, with a frown at
his brother.

"You needn't snap at me, Sandy; for I told you before I had had enough
of this thing, and I shall never join the company again," returned Orly
earnestly. "Do you suppose I can enlist in one of your companies, Deck?"

"Shut up, Orly!" exclaimed Sandy very sternly. "You don't know what you
are talking about."

"I'll bet I know what I'm talking about, and my stomach knows too,"
retorted Orly.

"Don't make a fool of yourself! You don't mean to turn traitor to your
father and the cause, Orly?" pleaded Sandy; but he appeared to be trying
to keep up appearances.

"Hang the cause!" exclaimed Orly, as though he meant all he said. "My
father got me into the scrape, and he will get enough of it before he is
many months older."

"Use your reason and common-sense," counselled the elder brother.

"That's what we just haven't been using the last two years, and now I'm
going to use my reason and common-sense on my own hook. If you like
soldiering without pay or rations, Sandy, you can join the company again
as soon as you like; but when you catch me there, you will find a
Kentuckian without any eye-teeth," replied Orly, who was only two years
younger than his brother, and was considered the brighter boy of the
two; and his tones and his manner were vigorous enough to indicate that
he meant all he said.

"You are acting like a fool to talk like that before your cousin, who is
an abolition soldier."

"Before my cousin! His father and himself have been sensible from the
first; and I only wonder that Deck don't quote Scripture to us, and
gently remind us that 'the way of transgressors is hard;' for he can't
help seeing the truth of the proverb in both of us."

"I didn't know that things had become particularly hard with you," said
Deck.

"Orly is as wild as a goat, Deck. Don't mind what he says," interposed
Sandy.

"Or what Sandy says," interjected the younger of the two.

"Our company has not been mustered in yet, and of course we could not
draw pay or rations," added Sandy, who felt called upon to defend his
father and the "cause" from the implied censure of his brother. "Father
spent all the ready money he had to pay for rations and tents, and some
other things the Confederate government will furnish, and will pay him
back for all he has expended. That is the reason why my mother is so
short of money just now."

"That's all very good as far as it goes; but I don't believe the
Confederate government has got any more money than the Bank of England;
and it will be a long day before father gets his money back. We were
nearly starved when we left the company."

"But we did not desert, as some folks say we did," added Sandy, who was
in favor of putting the best foot forward. "Father sent us home when we
spoke of leaving, and he gave us a sort of furlough, in so many words.
If he could hear you talk, Orly, he would be ashamed of you."

"As I have been of him more than once," said the younger in a low tone,
as though he did not feel fully justified in speaking in that manner of
his father, who had a gross failing, which had recently been gaining
upon him.

Sandy heard the remark; and he was disgusted, though he could not deny
the justness of it. He had been ashamed of his father, but his inborn
pride did not permit him to say so outside of the family. If he had been
as plain-spoken as his brother, he might have informed Deck, who was the
only listener to the conversation, that the furlough had grown out of a
quarrel between Captain Titus and his older son.

The captain had always been what is known as a moderate drinker, but the
habit had grown upon him after he went to Kentucky. Some of the Home
Guard had been shot at while engaged in foraging among the farmers for
food in the outskirts of the county-seat where the company was encamped,
and it became a dangerous pursuit, as even the commander of the company
would not authorize it; for in the status of the body it was nothing but
plundering.

Sandy noticed that his father had his whiskey ration in increased
proportions, and he knew that it cost money. He and Orly were not half
fed, and the father lived on his favorite beverage. It provoked him to
wrath, and in a fit of desperation he spoke out to him as plainly as
Orly could have done it. The quarrel followed; and when Sandy declared
that he and his brother would leave the company, he had driven them from
his presence, and ordered them not to return. This was the furlough, "in
so many words," as Sandy put it.

Perhaps the approach of the squadron of cavalry was a relief to Sandy
Lyon, for it put an end to the conversation of a disagreeable nature to
him. He realized the truth of nearly all that Orly had said in regard to
the desperate situation of the Home Guard, and the family of its
commander; but his pride was still superior to the groans of his
stomach.

"Mother and the girls are going back to Derry as soon as she can get
money enough to pay the bills," said Orly in a low voice.

"I am ashamed of you, Orly!" protested Sandy, who had heard the remark;
for the bugle of the battalion had ceased its blast at that moment. "You
have no business to tell family secrets like that."

"Confound your family secrets!" exclaimed his brother. "I don't want to
quarrel with you, my brother, as father has done with Uncle Noah; but I
am not in favor of starving to death for the benefit of the Southern
Confederacy. You have too much family pride when it don't pay, Sandy.
You said that our sister Mabel should not go out to work in the family
of Dr. Falkirk, when mother said she might."

"Dr. Falkirk might have got a nigger woman to do his housework, instead
of paying double wages to Mabel," replied Sandy.

"That is nothing to do with the question. Mabel's wages have been all we
had to live on since we got home," returned Orly, letting out more of
the secrets of the family without any compunction.

"I wish you would hold your tongue, Orly," added Sandy fretfully.

"I said what I did for a purpose; but I shall have to stop now, for the
squadron is nearly here," replied Orly. "When can I see you again,
Deck?"

"Almost any time when I am not at drill, or absent on an errand, as I
have been to-day. You will find me at the camp or the house," replied
Deck, as he rode forward to a point where he could fall into his
position in his company.

"Why, there is Uncle Noah at the head of the column!" said Sandy, as the
squadron came near enough for him to recognize the familiar face of his
relative, even in the midst of his present unwonted surroundings. "He
looks like an officer."

"He is what people have been calling him since he came to Kentucky, and
is now actually Major Lyon," replied Deck, whom the boys had followed.

"But are you not an officer, Deck?" asked Orly.

"Not at all; Artie and I are high privates. They wanted to make us both
sergeants; but after we had talked with father, we declined all
positions," replied Deck, as he fell into his place.

It is time to give something of the history of the two families who had
emigrated to Kentucky, the family secrets of one of which had been so
freely revealed to Deck by the young Home Guardsman with Union
aspirations.



CHAPTER III

SOMETHING ABOUT THE LYON FAMILIES


The town of Derry in New Hampshire had contributed fourteen persons to
the population of Kentucky, all of them by the name of Lyon. Colonel
Duncan Lyon had gone there as a young man, and had made a very handsome
fortune. But he died at the age of fifty, and bequeathed his property,
consisting of a large plantation, which he had named Riverlawn, because
it had a delightful lawn, with great trees scattered over it, though
after the English fashion with none immediately in front of the large
mansion, to his two brothers and the children of one deceased ten years
before his death.

The elder of the two living brothers was Titus Lyon. He had removed to
his new home eight years before, and he appeared to be the black sheep
of the fourteen who had departed from their native town. He was a mason
by trade, and had done fairly well in his former home at his business.
He was one of those men who believed that fate or circumstances had
misused him, as he compared his worldly condition with that of his
eldest brother, who had departed this life leaving a fortune behind him;
or even of his other brother, who had always been a prosperous farmer.

Titus had been informed by Colonel Lyon that there was an opening for a
mason in the village of Barcreek, near which he resided, though he had
not advised him to remove to that locality, and was really opposed to
his coming. His discontent with his condition had induced him to change
his residence to this far-off section of the country, probably with a
motive which he concealed from both of his brothers. He had a wife, who
was an excellent woman, belonging to a very respectable family, and five
children, three girls and two boys, the latter already introduced.

The mason did tolerably well at his trade in his new home for a few
years, though it was not a business at which a fortune could be easily
made in that rural section of the country. It was not a prohibition
State, which seemed to make it all the worse for the head of this
family; for he had contracted the habit of drinking moderately when, as
a young man, he had been a stage-driver, and it had grown upon him in
his new home.

Titus had not become a sot, or even a very heavy drinker, before the
death of his brother; but he regularly imbibed his whiskey, and to some
extent his habit affected his manners and his morals. He had always
appeared to be extremely devoted to the colonel, and even fawned upon
him, during his residence in Barcreek; and he was always kindly treated
and assisted financially when he needed help.

Colonel Lyon died suddenly at the age of fifty. He had never been
married, and had no children to whom he could leave his property. About
a year before his decease he paid a visit of a month to his brother
Noah, the youngest of the three brothers, in his native town. The latter
was a substantial man, who held a very respectable position in the town;
he had been somewhat distinguished among his fellow-citizens, and had
been the incumbent of several town officers.

Noah Lyon was forty years old at the time of his brother's death, with
a good woman for a wife, who was in every sense a helpmate to her
husband. They had two children of their own, a boy and a girl, Dexter
and Hope. Cyrus, a fourth brother of the Lyons, had lost his life in a
freshet in Vermont, where he had settled as a farmer; and his wife had
perished with him, leaving two small children, Artemas and Dorcas. He
had not left property enough to pay his debts; but Noah promptly adopted
the little ones, and for ten years he had cared for and supported them
as though they had been his own.

Noah had suggested to Titus that he should take one of them to his home,
while he received the other in his own family; but his brother pleaded
the poor health of his wife for not doing so, and the little ones had
reached the ages of seventeen and fifteen when they were removed to
Kentucky. Noah and his wife treated them in every respect as their own
children, and no one could have asked a better home for them. They
called their uncle and aunt by the endearing names of father and mother.

At the death of Colonel Lyon, the telegraphic message announcing the sad
event had been immediately followed by a letter from Colonel Cosgrove,
summoning Noah to the late home of the deceased. To the intense
disappointment of Titus, the Riverlawn plantation had been left to Noah,
with the fifty-one slaves, and everything connected with the place.
Titus had set his heart upon the possession of the estate; for it would
give him a generous support without manual labor.

He was one of those men who contrive to believe in and expect what they
most desire. He had been his wealthy brother's neighbor for eight years,
and knew something about the estate. For this reason, and because he was
next in age to the deceased, he had come to believe that the place
belonged to him. The colonel had other views; for he realized that Titus
was not an entirely reliable person, was not much of a business man, and
his drinking habit was continually growing upon him.

The eldest brother had, however, endeavored to make a fair division of
his property among his nearest of kin. He had given some legacies to his
personal friends, including his faithful overseer, who had served him
for many years.

Then he had given Noah ten thousand dollars in consideration of the fact
that he had supported the children of Cyrus for ten years. To him also
he bequeathed twenty-five thousand dollars in trust for these children.
He had left the same sum to Titus, less a mortgage note given at the
time the mason had purchased his residence in the village. The will was
accompanied by an inventory of the entire property, indicating that the
colonel had figured up his resources, and endeavored to make an
equitable division among his legal heirs.

With the will also came into the possession of Noah two letters, one
enclosing the other. The open one directed him not to sell any of the
slaves on the plantation, and the other was not to be opened for five
years. The sum of money left to his successor on the plantation, in
payment for the support of the niece and nephew of the testator, and the
disposition of the negroes, were the principal grievances of Titus,
apparently, though the real one had been the giving of the plantation to
Noah. In some of his moments, when he had rather overcharged himself
with whiskey, he had furiously assailed his innocent brother for what
the dead one had done in his will.

Noah was a mild and peaceful man under ordinary circumstances, and he
did his best to preserve intact his fraternal relations with his angry
and discontented brother. Some discussion had taken place between them,
and Titus was as unreasonable as a mule. The subject rendered him
furious, aided by the whiskey, and the difference on this matter became
a decided rupture.

Colonel Lyon had sometimes been charged with over-indulgence to his
negroes; and it was true that he had treated them as kindly as though
they had been hired servants instead of slaves, perhaps more so. The
"people," as they were often called on the plantation, after the manner
of a man-of-war, had not been valued in the inventory of the deceased
planter, and had not been mentioned in the document, any more than the
horses, mules, and cows.

By this omission Titus believed that he had been cheated out of his
share of about thirty thousand dollars. Noah exhibited the open letter
of the colonel to him; but this only fanned his wrath. He appeared to
believe that his deceased brother had no rights in his own property, all
of which he had accumulated himself. He had nursed himself into the
conviction that he was the victim of a gross injustice, and he had
little patience, or even toleration, with his mild-mannered brother, who
had never spoken to the colonel about his will, or the colonel to him.

This family quarrel owed some of its bitterness, on the part of Titus,
to other circumstances than the naked merits of the case, if there was a
shadow of justice in the charges of his brother against him. Noah had
not a particle of it in his composition; for he was a true Christian,
and returned good for evil so far as he was permitted to do so. The
political situation in Kentucky had complicated the relations of the
brothers.

Titus had belonged to one party, while his brother was an earnest member
of the other; though with a very wide difference of opinion, one had
proved to be as patriotic as the other. Probably because Noah was
emphatically devoted to the Union, Titus had taken the other side of the
question in Kentucky, where all was excitement and turmoil from the
nomination of the candidates for the presidency. The agitation became
that of Loyalty and Secession.

The governor had issued his proclamation in favor of the neutrality of
the State, and Home Guards were organized to enforce it. But it never
amounted to anything; for the majority were demonstrated to be Union
men, and appealed to the traditions of the past as the first State to
join the original thirteen. Captain Titus had become the commander of
one of these companies, on his promise to uniform and equip his men. He
had expended a considerable portion of the money he had inherited in the
purchase of arms and ammunition for his command, though he had never
been able to supply his soldiers with uniforms.

He had sent to New York for an abundant supply of weapons and
cartridges, including two brass field-pieces, over a hundred
breech-loading rifles, and nearly as many revolvers of several sizes. He
intended that his company should be the best equipped in the region, and
his newly acquired wealth made him very extravagant. But the Union
forces had begun to show themselves in the State, and the loyal element
exceeded in numbers the Secessionists; so that it was necessary for the
commander of the Home Guards to take extraordinary precautions for the
safety of the war material he had purchased.

With some difficulty he had moved the cases from the train at Dripping
Spring, carted them to a point on Bar Creek, from which he had conveyed
them to one of the numerous sink-hole caverns which abound in this part
of the State. He had carefully disposed of them, with the aid of his two
sons and some trusted neighbors, intending to give them out to his men
in a few days.

An indiscretion on the part of his wife had given a hint of the
existence of the arms at Riverlawn, which an exploration of Artie Lyon,
the adopted son, had worked into tangible evidence of the place where
the munitions had been concealed. Noah believed it was a duty he owed to
his country to obtain possession of these arms. He had already been
warned by his brother that he was regarded as an abolitionist, and that
a mob, consisting mainly of the Home Guards, were agitating the question
of burning his mansion and driving him out of the county.

When the loss of the arms was discovered, Titus became absolutely
furious, and, either with or without sufficient evidence, accused Noah
of stealing the property. A very enthusiastic Union meeting was held at
the Big Bend schoolhouse, and was attended by some of the most prominent
citizens of the county. The action of Major Lyon, as he had come to be
called very generally as a title of respect, in accordance with a
prevailing custom, in securing the arms was heartily approved by the
assembly.

That very night the ruffians of the Home Guard, for such they were,
which included most of the baser element of the locality, had made an
attack on the plantation of Major Lyon, intending to burn and destroy
it, if not, as was hinted, to hang the planter to one of the big trees
on his lawn. But a few of his neighbors had rallied to his assistance,
and his negroes were armed with the confiscated weapons, and the attack
was an utter failure.

Colonel Belthorpe, who had been a soldier in his earlier years,
commanded the defenders of the estate, and the mob marched to his
plantation to wreak their vengeance upon him by the destruction of his
property; but the same forces defeated them there, with many wounds, and
the loss of a few lives.

At the Union meeting Major Lyon had proposed to raise a company of
cavalry. He had offered to contribute a considerable number of horses
for the service, and his neighbors had followed his example; and over a
hundred steeds were pledged. Letters had been written to the commander
of the Union army in Kentucky, relating to this project, and Lieutenant
Burke Gordan had been sent to organize the company; and he was followed
later by several non-commissioned officers to assist in the drill. The
ruffians had made an attempt to stop the enlistments at Riverlawn, where
the camp was located; but they had been beaten off.

The recruiting had progressed very successfully; and instead of one
company, two had been organized during the next three months. Major Lyon
and his two sons had drilled and studied the military art in the most
determined manner; for they were enthusiastic in the support of the
government. The two companies, though hardly entitled to the name, were
called a squadron. The planter, in spite of his protest, was made the
major of the command; and he had become competent for the position. This
was the squadron which marched by the house of Swin Pickford while Deck
was talking with the two sons of Titus about the strait of the captain's
family in Barcreek village.



CHAPTER IV

THE DAY'S MARCH OF THE SQUADRON


It seemed to be almost a miracle that Noah Lyon had been transformed
into a soldier; and those who had known him in the State of New
Hampshire could hardly have recognized him. He had always been a
dignified, peaceable, and quiet man--the very antipode of a fire-eater.
At his former home he had been a justice of the peace, and was regarded
as a person of eminent gravity.

His anger, if he was ever stirred by any such passion, was nothing more
than indignation. But he was not a milk-and-water man; and, gentle as
were his manners, he was an earnest man. He had never developed any
military ambition in his earlier years, though he was sorry he had not
done so when he found himself on the very border of the Rebellion. He
was still of the military age, and was a hearty and vigorous man at
forty-two, when he was called into the service.

He was an earnest and determined patriot; and nothing but the need of
the nation could have induced him to put on a uniform, and drill
laboriously for months in preparation for his new sphere. He belonged to
the class who were said to make the best soldiers, because they went
into the field as high-toned men, with whom a principle was at stake.
Such soldiers had not been hurried into the camp by the excitement of
the times, or by any motive but patriotic duty.

Sandy and Orly Lyon stood in front of Pickford's house, and observed the
approaching column of cavalry; but the most of their attention was given
to Uncle Noah. It was a very strange sight for them to see him in the
uniform of a soldier, riding at the head of the squadron. These boys had
drilled and marched with the Home Guards, and their father had military
aspirations, though he was a little past the military age. They could
not help contrasting the appearance of Major Lyon's command with that of
Captain Lyon's.

Not all the Home Guards in the State were of the character of the
ruffians forming the company which had marched to Bowling Green, and who
had been the principal participants in the outrages and the ruffianism
in the vicinity of Barcreek. Some of the companies were composed and
officered by Union men, who did some of the first fighting in the State
when the Confederates fortified Cumberland Gap in the eastern section.
Such as these wheeled into the Union army, while those of the Secession
stripe promptly joined the forces on the other side.

No doubt many of these Home Guards believed sincerely in the neutrality
policy, which was advocated by some of the best men in the State; but it
afforded thousands of ruffians the advantages of an organization for
plunder and outrage. But its day had gone by. Major Lyon insisted from
the beginning that it was a fraud; and, in spite of the action of the
governor, Kentucky adhered to the Union. It cost something there to be
true to the old flag, and the State deserves all honor for the struggle
it made against the breaking up of the Union.

Major Lyon sat erect upon his horse, a valuable animal, which had been
his favorite since his arrival. There was nothing like vanity in his
expression, as might have been excusable at the head of such a fine
body of men; but he looked as he always did, earnest and determined, his
soldierly character resting more on his devotion to the cause than on
any other motive. He wore a felt hat, ornamented with a black feather,
which the mustering officer had prevailed upon him to adopt.

The squadron was composed of rather young men as a rule, and they were
the sons of farmers and others engaged in business. They were
fine-looking men, and they had been diligently drilled by the officers
sent to Riverlawn for the purpose. Perhaps the commander was the only
real planter enlisted; for most of them in the vicinity were past the
age for active service, though they had done their duty in repressing
outrages and keeping the peace.

Captain Gordon, who had been charged with the organization of the first
company, was in command of it, while Captain Truman, a young lawyer,
whose eloquent voice had been raised for the Union in the important
meeting at the Big Bend schoolhouse, was in command of the second; but
he had proved in the Riverlawn battle that he was a brave man, and would
make a good soldier. Tom Belthorpe, who had taken part in the defence
of Lyndhall and of Riverlawn, was first lieutenant of the first company;
while Major Gadbury, whose military title was one of courtesy, held the
corresponding rank in the second company.

It had required a great deal of persuasion to induce the proprietor of
Riverlawn to accept the position of major. He was a man of character;
and some of the planters in the neighborhood, especially Colonel
Cosgrove and Colonel Belthorpe, convinced him that it was his duty to
the cause to take the place. He had proved to them, in the engagements
with the ruffians, that he had the material in his composition of which
reliable commanders are made.

Deck Lyon had a tremendous reputation for courage and skill at Lyndhall;
for he had rescued both of the daughters of its owner from the hands of
the ruffians, who had captured them for the purpose of assisting in the
recovery of the arms the major had secured. When it came to the matter
of electing officers for the second company, Tom had advocated the
choice of Deck as captain, though he was only eighteen years old, to the
position.

Of course the young man was elated at the idea of being elevated to such
a position before he had been tried in the service; but it did not seem
to be quite right to him, and he went to his father for advice. The
major promptly advised him to accept no position in the company. He was
too young to be the commander of a company, which might be ordered on
duty by itself. As his father pointed out to him the difficulties in his
way, Deck went to the other extreme, and declined to take a place even
as a non-commissioned officer. Artie Lyon liked the stand he had taken
so well, that he followed his example, and both remained privates.

Deck and Artie did not forget the favorable mention of their names, and
they electioneered very zealously for the choice of Tom Belthorpe as
first lieutenant. In the case of the former, perhaps Deck was
unconsciously influenced by the fact that he had a very pretty sister,
who had manifested no little interest in him since he had attacked the
ruffian who held her as a prisoner. In fact, Tom had two pretty sisters;
but this fact affected Lieutenant Gadbury more than any other person.

When the squadron had advanced a short distance, Major Lyon wheeled his
horse, and faced his command, who were marching as usual on the road by
fours. He had learned his lesson well at the camp; for the squadron had
been thoroughly drilled from the beginning, up to the point where the
"school of the battalion" had been their practice.

"Battalion, halt!" he commanded, with a voice loud enough and clear
enough to be heard far back of the place where the order was given.

Captain Gordon declared that he had not caught the major in a single
error or slip since he had begun to exercise the squadron. The command
was repeated by the subordinate officers, and the force came to a full
halt. Deck had stopped by the side of the road, to await the coming up
of his section, and his father called him as soon as he had halted the
battalion.

The young man had been on a military errand for the major, rather than
for his father, who insisted that his two sons should fare precisely the
same as other soldiers of the companies. There was to be no favoritism
on account of relationship. Deck could not report the result of his
errand while the commander was marching at the head of his column, for
the new companies had not reached the free-and-easy stage which came
later.

Deck saluted the major as though they had never met before in their
lives, and his father acknowledged it. Then the private reported the
result of his mission.

"You have been making some stay at this house we are passing," continued
Major Lyon, as he glanced back at the two boys who were still standing
there.

"Found a fight going on in the house, and I went in on account of a call
for help," replied Deck.

"But that is Pickford's house, and no ruffians would attack him,"
suggested the major. "Are these Titus's boys standing here?"

"They are. Uncle Titus has a bill against Pickford for twenty-seven
dollars for building his chimney, and Sandy and Orly were trying to
collect it by force of arms."

"I will hear more of that another time, Dexter," added Major Lyon,
cutting short the story. "I declare, I hardly knew those boys!"

"They have had a hard time of it; but I must fall in," said Deck, as he
began to turn his horse. "I suppose you are out for a drill, father."

"We are not; we are going on duty this time. General Buckner is
somewhere in this vicinity, and evidently intends to occupy Bowling
Green. Colonel Cosgrove came over to see me this morning. He says
Captain Titus's company have got into the Confederate army at last, and
have been supplied with arms of a poor quality, though not with
uniforms."

"His men have been about half-starved while waiting, and that is the
reason why Sandy and Orly came home," added the young soldier.

"Another time for that, Dexter. Are you all ready to march with your
company?" asked the major.

"I have my sabre, carbine, and pistols; but I have no blanket, as I see
the rest of the men have."

"You can be supplied from the wagon in the rear. But fall in," said the
major, as he prepared to resume the march.

Deck galloped back to the section in which he belonged, where he had
only to take his place at the side of Artie, though inside of him, for
he was a trifle taller than his cousin. In the infantry, the tallest men
are placed on the right, which is always the head of the column, while
in the cavalry the tallest are placed in the middle.

"What does all this mean, Deck? Didn't I see Sandy and Orly Lyon by that
house?" asked Artie.

"They are there, whether you saw them or not," replied Deck.

"Battalion, at ease, march!"

In the infantry, when the order for "route step!" is given, the men need
not even keep step, and the formalities are relaxed in some other
respects. In the cavalry, in which the horses take all the steps, the
strain of precise position and movement is removed, and the soldiers may
make the best of their journey. Artie wanted to know all about his two
cousins he had seen at Pickford's, and Deck told him the whole story of
what had occurred there.

"Is it possible that Uncle Titus's family are reduced to such a strait?"
demanded Artie, his pity and sympathy apparent on his face.

"The boys say Aunt Meely and the girls are going back to Derry; and
that looks as though the family were very hard up," replied Deck. "And
Mabel has gone out to work in the family of Dr. Falkirk."

"I think Sandy and Orly must be in a desperate situation when they try
to collect a bill with a gun."

"I have no doubt of it; though Sandy tried to put the best face on the
matter, and said the part of the Confederate army that was to come to
Bowling Green had not got there yet, and that they will be all right as
soon as the company is mustered in. Orly speaks out loud, and tells all
he knows about the condition of the family. He wants to join one of our
companies."

"Orly Lyon!" exclaimed Artie. "Why, he was one of the loudest
Secessionists in the village!"

"He has got enough of it, working without pay or rations," added Deck.
"But where are we going, Artie?"

"I'm sure I don't know; why didn't you ask your father, if you want to
know?"

"Ask my father! You know better than that, Artie; for you are aware that
commanding officers don't tell what they are going to do till they get
ready to do it," returned Deck.

"We are provided with ammunition and rations, and very likely we have
come out to-day in order to get used to carrying them on a march,"
suggested Artie.

"Not at all; for father told me we were out on duty to-day, though he
did not say what it was," replied Deck.

The march continued all day long, and it began to look as though it
would extend into the night. About nine o'clock in the evening Major
Lyon called a halt at a point where a railroad could be seen in the
gloom of the night. The column had just crossed a bridge of considerable
length over a creek, and the position of the railroad indicated that it
must be bridged over the same stream.

While the commander and his officers were trying to make out the
surroundings, half a dozen muskets were discharged from a covert of
trees; but fortunately none of the cavalrymen appeared to be struck by
the bullets. But it was evident that the time for action had come.



CHAPTER V

THE LEADER OF THE SCOUTING-PARTY


As the squadron came to a region where Major Lyon was no longer familiar
with the country, scouts had been sent out ahead of the column to give
information in regard to any possible enemy. Confederate troops had been
reported from several different directions by those who had occasion to
travel about the State. As indicated by some of their operations, their
present policy was to destroy the railroad bridges, so as to prevent the
government from forwarding troops by them.

General Buckner, or his forces, had destroyed one at Rolling Creek; but
he was supposed to be falling back upon Bowling Green, as regiments from
Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois began to reach this part of the State. It
was possible that the squadron might come in contact with some of these
forces; and the men were very anxious to find them.

Sergeant Knox was at the head of the scouts. He was a man of forty-two,
a tall, raw-boned Kentuckian, whose enterprise and love of adventure had
led him into the region beyond the Mississippi, where he had been a
regular soldier, a hunter, a trapper, and _voyageur_. For some reason he
had become a strong friend of Deck Lyon, who was never tired of
listening to his stories of the regions beyond the pale of civilization.
He was a bluff, good-natured man with those who pleased his fancy; and,
though he was not bitter or revengeful, he was capable of being a
terrible enemy.

Firing at a target was part of the regular drill of the cavalrymen in
camp, and Life Knox always put his ball inside of every other. His name
was Eliphalet, and he sometimes laughed at his parents for giving him
such a long name. Captain Gordon had had no little difficulty in
inducing him to sign his name in full on the enlistment papers. He had
abbreviated it to "Life," and declared that he had never signed anything
but that to any document in all his life.

He was born and "raised" in Warren County, though he had wandered far
from it at an early age, after the death of his father and mother. He
had a brother who was a prosperous planter, and with him he had lived
the last two years of his life. When he came to Riverlawn to enlist, he
brought with him a long rifle, which was a load for an ordinary man to
carry. He was told that he could make no use of it in the army; but he
asked Deck to take care of it for him, and he put it in his room.

It was occasionally brought out when the soldiers were firing at a
target, and Life produced the most surprising results with it. He was
pretty sure to hit the bull's-eye with it every time; for he had been
trained where his daily existence depended upon the accuracy of his aim.
He could bring down a squirrel as far as he could see him; and he always
insisted that the rifle had as much to do with the result as himself.
His shooting was observed with interest by the officers and men; and he
was called, not simply a good, but a remarkable, shot. He was a dead
shot to any living thing at which he aimed.

Life Knox was a good-hearted man; but there was a sort of inborn
aristocracy in him which would not permit him to associate intimately
with all his comrades in the ranks, though he treated them well, and
spoke pleasantly to them. Deck was always respectful to him, and Life
had taken a decided fancy to him. When the tall Kentuckian was ordered
upon the scout, he took care that Deck should be one of the party. They
had ridden together all the afternoon, and Life had made the time seem
short to the young man by relating all the details of a fight with a
party of Indians.

As the darkness of the evening came on, Life ordered his men to keep a
sharp lookout on all sides, and suspended his thrilling narratives that
his own watchfulness might not be impaired. The scouts were passing
through what appeared to be a plantation, though they could not yet see
any buildings. Suddenly the light of a fire flashed up at a considerable
distance to the right of the scouts in the road.

"A fire, Life!" shouted Deck, as he discovered the glare of the first
flame that rose in the darkness.

"Hush, little one!" interposed Knox. "Don't tell the neighbors about it,
for it might astonish them."

"I don't believe there are any neighbors very near us," replied Deck in
a low tone. "But there is something going on in this vicinity."

"We won't tell 'em, whoever's at work round here, that we are coming. By
the light of the fire I can see a mansion or farmhouse over yonder."

As he spoke, the report of the half-a-dozen muskets, more or less, that
had attracted the attention of the main body of the squadron, was heard,
though the scouts were half a mile distant. The building of the fire was
possibly a signal for the discharge which had so soon followed it; but
no other connection could be suggested between them.

"One man can always do better in lookin' inter things than a dozen,"
said Life, as he was trying to connect the fire and the firing in a
reasonable manner. "Ride over towards that fire, Deck, and see what you
can see."

"Be you uns soldiers, Mars'r?" asked a negro, coming out of a cornfield
at the side of the road, where the stalks had concealed his coming.

"Of course we are, Cato," replied Deck, who was nearest to him.

"Who done tole you my name, Mars'r?" asked the negro, whose surprise
seemed to have driven everything else out of his head.

"I guessed at it. But what do you want? I told you we were soldiers,"
added Deck. "Do you come from that house beyond the cornfield?"

"Yes, Mars'r; but if you uns is soldiers, which side was you on?"
inquired Cato very cautiously.

"Not gone, Deck?" asked Knox, riding up to him.

"This contraband has just come out of the field, and belongs to the
house we saw in the distance. I thought he could tell me better than I
could see for myself what is going on here," replied Deck.

"You are right, Deck."

"But he wants to know which side we are on before he says anything,"
added Deck.

"Then he is a sensible nigger. Of course we uns belong on the Union
side; and when you catch Life Knox on any other side, you'll catch a
coon asleep," replied the sergeant, decidedly enough to satisfy any
doubtful person. "What's gwine on at that fire, Minky?"

"Bress de Lod if you was Union sodgers! and my name is Cato!" exclaimed
the visitor, earnestly enough for a camp-meeting. "Dey is a hull
regiment of Sesh sodgers ober dar!" he added, pointing in the direction
from which the report of the firing had come.

Without waiting for any further information, Knox called Lane, one of
the scouts, and sent him back to report what the negro said to Major
Lyon. He was directed to move slowly after he had gone the eighth of a
mile; for the enemy were at some point on the right of the road, and he
would get a shot if he disturbed them.

"What are the Sesh soldiers here for, Cato?" asked Knox, as soon as his
messenger had gone.

"Gwine to burn de bridge ober dar," replied the man, pointing in the
direction in which the structure had been made out in the gloom of the
evening.

"Well, why don't they burn it, then?"

"Dey done got oder business at de mansion-house, sar."

"What other business have they got there?"

"I reckon de story's as long as Uncle Zeke's sarmints; but de fust thing
is, dey's gwine to hang Mars'r Barkland to one ob dem trees, if he don't
tell whar he hide his money," answered Cato, as he gave a hurried
glance at the fire.

"How many men are there at the house, or near it, Cato?" asked Knox with
deep interest.

"I done count six on 'em."

"Then we won't allow a Union man to be hung to a tree. Scouts,
attention, march!" called the sergeant hurriedly.

With this order, Life dashed into the cornfield, closely followed by
Deck and the others. The harvest had been gathered in the field, and
there was nothing but the stalks that remained to obstruct the passage
of the squad. The fire was at the edge of a grove, on ground slightly
elevated, and not far in the rear of the mansion, which could now be
distinctly seen. In approaching it, the cavalrymen came to a spot less
elevated than the grove, where Knox halted to reconnoitre.

"There's a lot of the villains coming from the house!" exclaimed the
sergeant, as he brought his horse to a full stop all at once.

"They have about finished hanging Union men in our county," said Deck,
"and I don't believe they will hang this one here."

"You can bet your horse they won't," added Life. "They can't see us
yet, and I think we had better fix things a little before we begin
business."

"We obey orders, Sergeant. There's a knoll over on the right covered
over with trees."

"I was looking at that; and we will move over there, and take a position
behind it, where they can't see us," replied Knox, as he led the way
through a hollow, which brought the party to it.

The mansion-house was on the highest ground in the vicinity, though it
was not on a hill. The fire seemed to be plentifully supplied with wood;
for it burned brightly, and shed its light on the road leading from the
house to the grove. A group of men could be seen approaching the
elevation where the fire burned. They moved very slowly, and appeared to
have considerable trouble in making any progress at all. There was a
prisoner in the midst of the party, and he was very unwilling to move in
the direction indicated by his oppressors.

While they were observing the spectacle, Cato joined them, for he had
followed the cavalrymen as rapidly as he could on foot. He evidently
belonged on the plantation, and knew all about the nature of the affair
in progress, though the sergeant was not disposed to listen to a story
as "long as Uncle Zeke's sermons."

"Do you know what those villains are doing there, Cato?" he asked, when
the negro had recovered his breath.

"Dey drag ole Mars'r Barkland ober to de tree, whar dey will hang him,"
answered Cato promptly.

"Then your master has plenty of money?"

"I dunno, Mars'r; he neber tole me notin' about dat."

"I s'pose not. Are the men who came to the mansion in uniform, Cato?"

"No, sar; no uniform but de rags dey wear. Cap'n Tites is out at bof
elbows, and a nigger'd be 'shamed to wear sich a coat."

"Did you hear what they said when they came to the house?"

"Hear ebery word dey say, Mars'r, 'cause I waits on de table when dey
done took supper."

"Then they had supper at the mansion?"

"Yes, sar; dey was all half-starbed, and dey eat more'n twenty men, and
done drink whiskey enough to float a canal-boat."

"Did that captain you spoke of drink whiskey, Cato?" asked Deck.

"He done drink more as all de rest on 'em. Mars'r Barkland willin' to
gib dem de supper and de whiskey, but he don't want to gib 'em any
money. Cap'n Tites tell him he done got million money; but mars'r say he
don't hab none. Den de cap'n say he hang 'im to a tree if he don't gib
up de money."

"That will do, Cato; I think I understand the matter now," said Knox, as
he changed his position so that he could get a better view of the scene
of action. "They have got nearly to the tree. It is about time to make a
move."

The sergeant questioned the negro in regard to the road which led to the
rear of the house, and some other matters relating to the locality. Knox
was a strategist in a small way, as he had been obliged to be in
defending himself from Indians and wild beasts. In a moment he had his
plan ready to put into operation.

"I count nine men there, taking in the planter," said he. "Cato says
there is a whole regiment camped in here somewhar. I don't believe it,
Deck; but we don't want to stir 'em up just yet. You will take Owens
and Fox, and ride round to that road Cato tells about, and I will go in
on this side. I'll do most of the job with my four; but I don't want 'em
to git off to their main body. Major Lyon'll tend to them."

Deck started at once with his two followers, directed by Cato again; and
the negro went himself with all the speed of his legs. He came to the
road, which was simply a driveway over the plantation, and soon reached
the house. He was galloping his steed; but when he came to the house he
reined him in at the plaintive supplication of an elderly woman and a
young lady, whose face he could not see in the gloom of the evening.



CHAPTER VI

A VERY OBSTINATE PRISONER CAPTURED


Deck Lyon's horse had been one of his father's best stock, and he had
been selected by Levi Bedford, the overseer, for his use. He was a very
spirited animal, and not every young fellow of eighteen would have felt
at home in a saddle placed on his back. As the ladies from the house
rushed forward to intercept him, Ceph, which was his abbreviated name,
was startled, reared, and faced the music, as he had been taught to do.

"I didn't mean to scare your horse, sir," said the elder of the ladies;
"but for the love of Heaven, can't you do something for my husband?"
demanded Mrs. Barkland, as she proved to be.

"Oh, save my father, if you can!" added the younger woman. "Oh, my
father! They are abusing him shamefully, and they have threatened to
hang him."

"That is the business in which I am engaged; and, if you will excuse
me, I will attend to it," replied Deck, as he gave Ceph the signal to go
ahead again with his legs.

"Do save him!" repeated the old lady, who wanted to talk some more about
the matter.

But the young cavalryman waited to hear no more; and his horse went off
at a dead run, the other two following him as rapidly as their steeds
would permit, and he was several rods ahead of them. In a couple of
minutes he had reached a point which commanded a view of the place
chosen for the spectacle. The actors had evidently preferred to be at a
distance from the mansion, where the women could not interfere with
them, the better to carry their point with the owner of the plantation.

They had the intended victim with a rope around his neck, and there
could be no doubt in regard to their purpose. One man had the other end
of the line, and was climbing a tree with it, to pass it over a branch.
Five men were on the ground, and their attention had already been
attracted by the approach of the horsemen from the direction of the
house; and they did not appear to have observed the others, with Knox at
their head, for they had passed behind a thicket of young trees on a
knoll.

"Halt!" shouted one of the five men in a voice loud enough to be heard
half a mile. "If you come any nearer we will fire!"

"Fire away!" yelled Deck with all the force of his lungs.

But he reined in his steed; and Ceph obediently came to a full stop,
while he unslung his carbine, his companions doing the same without any
suggestion from him. They came up to him, and ranged their horses at his
side. The carbines were ready for use in a moment, and all three of them
were aimed at the five men surrounding the planter. The actors in the
tragedy very plainly did not like this demonstration; for they did not
fire, though all of them had aimed at the intruders on this side of
them. The distance was still considerable, and probably they had no
great faith in the arms in their hands.

"Now we will go ahead, if you are ready, Fox and Owens," said Deck,
though he had no authority whatever to direct their movements.

The speed and sagacity of Ceph appeared to have placed him in command of
the little squad, for his horse always kept away ahead of every other
when he was permitted to do so. Deck was a brave fellow; he seemed to
have no idea of anything like fear when he was required to face an
enemy; but his father, who thought his son was inclined to be reckless,
had carefully instilled into his mind the necessity of prudence.

Knox had said that he intended to do most of the work on the present
occasion; but just now it looked as though the whole of it had fallen on
Deck's party. It was possible that he and his men had been entangled in
the bushes and young trees, or had come to some water they could not
easily pass. Deck led the way, and his companions kept close to him. The
man in the tree had passed the line over the branch, and thrown the end
down to the others.

"Halt where you are!" shouted the man who had spoken before; and this
time his voice gave Deck a thrill which caused him to stop his horse.

The two parties were not more than two hundred feet apart; and the
leader believed the speaker was his uncle, Captain Titus Lyon. This gave
him much to think of besides the identity of the commander of the
expedition upon which the squadron had fallen. It was evident to him
that the first work of the cavalry squadron raised at Riverlawn was to
be fighting the Home Guards, or "ruffians" as they had hitherto been
called.

Deck was annoyed and disconcerted at the discovery he had made, and it
checked his enthusiasm; for the quarrel with Uncle Titus, which he
insisted upon carrying to extremes, was in the family. The forces at
Riverlawn had defeated and driven off him and his command three times,
and it was an old story. He had hoped and expected that the campaign
would present the war in a new aspect.

It gave the young soldier his first lively impression of the results of
civil war. He was not at all inclined to shoot his father's brother;
though he was just as earnestly determined to do his whole duty to his
country, without regard to his relationship with any of the combatants
on the other side. They were there by their own choice, and were
responsible for the consequences.

With his carbine ready for instant use, Deck rode forward very slowly;
and, more than at any time before, he wished Knox would arrive upon the
scene of action. Captain Titus could now be clearly identified; and he
had evidently made up his mind to proceed with the business in hand, as
only three men had appeared so far to interfere with the operation. He
had turned his attention from the intruders, and was talking to the
unfortunate planter he had captured in a brutal manner, and shaking his
fist frequently in his face.

"Stand by the rope!" called he to the other men. "The fellow is as
obstinate as a mule, and we must make an end of him."

"Aim at the men who are holding the rope," said Deck to his companions,
and the three carbines were promptly pointed at them. "This thing has
gone far enough!" continued he, addressing the principal actor in the
scene.

"Who are you?" demanded Captain Titus, stopping long enough in his
operation to examine the intruders.

"I don't want to shoot you, but if you proceed any farther with this
business we shall fire," replied Deck.

Captain Titus was plainly astonished, if not confounded, when he
recognized his nephew in the uniform of the cavalry. He did not like the
looks of the three carbines pointed at his men. But Deck felt somewhat
ashamed of the delay he had made in relieving the terrified planter from
the extremity to which he had been reduced, and he decided to bring
matters to a head at once. Starting his horse, he dashed to the rope,
and seized it with one hand.

"Fire at him!" yelled Captain Titus furiously, to two of the ruffians
with muskets in their hands.

One of them raised his weapon to aim at Deck, who instantly fired at
him. He dropped his gun upon the ground, and grasped his right arm with
the left hand. The other man then raised his musket; but both of the
other horsemen fired at him at the same instant, and he dropped heavily
on the sod.

The three cavalrymen reloaded their weapons, and were immediately ready
for the next move. The three men at the rope seemed to be appalled at
the fate of their associates, and released their hold upon it. A moment
later they began to skulk off in the direction of the grove.

"Don't let them escape, Owens!" said Deck, to the one nearest to him.

Both of them darted off at a gallop, and headed them off, driving them
back to the tree from which the rope was hanging. Again Deck seized the
line, and urged his horse up to the place where the planter was
standing. Reaching down from his seat in the saddle, he cut the cords
that bound the prisoner, and then directed him to remove the rope from
his neck.

"I owe my life to you, young man," said Mr. Barkland, panting with
emotion and excitement.

"I suppose you are a Union man, sir?" added Deck.

"I am; and that is the reason why I am subjected to this outrage,"
replied the intended victim.

"What brought you here, Deck Lyon? Who sent you here to interfere with
my business?" demanded Captain Titus, confronting his nephew with a
savage frown.

"We shall not allow any such business as this," answered Deck, who was
not at all inclined to parley with the captain of the late Home Guards,
now in the service of the Confederacy. "You and those with you will
consider yourselves as prisoners of war."

"Prisoners of war!" exclaimed Captain Titus. "I reckon we ain't nothin'
of the sort. Do you mean to take six on us with only three?"

"We shall not take the trouble to count your numbers. Mr. Barkland, you
can return to your house, for your wife and daughter are very anxious
about you. I hope you have not been injured, sir."

"Only in my nerves," replied the planter, as he started for his mansion.

At this moment Knox and his three men dashed upon the scene, to the
great astonishment of Captain Titus.

"Well, Deck, is the business finished?" asked the sergeant, as he reined
up his steed. "We had to go about two miles to get here, and that is
what made it so late."

Deck reported what had happened so far. The man who had dropped so
heavily on the ground was not killed; but he was bleeding from a wound
in the side of the head, and the ball had only stunned him. The other
man, with a bullet through his arm, was worse off.

"This man who is in command of the company is my uncle, Captain Titus,"
said Deck in a low voice to the sergeant.

"What! Major Lyon's brother?" exclaimed Life. "I have heard all about
him, and he is a pesky troublesome fellow."

"I don't want anything more to do with him, Life, and I wish you would
dispose of him," added Deck.

"Do you want me to kill him? I can't do that; for"--

"Nothing of the sort!" interposed the nephew warmly. "Of course I don't
want you to do anything of the sort."

"We have six prisoners of war, and we will march them down to the main
body," added Knox.

The sergeant proceeded to form his prisoners in a single rank; but
Captain Titus appeared to have brought all his obstinacy and
unreasonableness with him, and he refused to take the place assigned to
him.

"Where are you going?" demanded the prisoner, as though he still ruled
the roost, as he had doubtless done in his company.

"None of your business where we are going," replied the sergeant. "If
you don't take your place I shall put you into it."

"This thing won't last long, for my company will take a hand in the
business in the morning, and a battalion of Texan cavalry will make it
warm for you."

"We are not talking about your company or any Texan cavalry. Will you
take your place in the line? That's the only question you have got to
settle," returned Knox.

"I won't take any place!" replied the captain with a volley of oaths.

"Swear not at all, my man," continued Life, as he seized the rebellious
prisoner by the back of his coat collar, lifted him clear of the ground,
and then brought him down in the place assigned to him. "Stay there!"

"I won't stay there!" growled he, as he attempted to leave the spot.

But Knox seized hold of him again, lifted him up, and slapped him down
across the pommel of his saddle, face down.

"Any way you like, my man; but you are going with this crowd. Forward,
my men!" and he placed himself at the head of the squad, and started in
the direction of the road, in spite of the struggles of the prisoner.
But they had not reached the road where they had first seen Cato, when
the head of a column appeared in the act of turning into the field,
doubtless guided by Hart, the messenger who had been sent to report to
the major in command.

Knox halted his little force, and threw his prisoner on the ground
without any ceremony, ordering Owens to take charge of him. The column
consisted of only the first company, the other having been sent to take
another position. Captain Truman had been ordered to hold himself in
readiness to cut off the retreat to the westward of the force which Lane
had reported upon.

"What have you here?" asked Major Lyon, as he saw the six prisoners in
front of Knox's scouts.

"Prisoners, Major; and I am sorry to say that your brother is one of
them," replied the sergeant. "They were about to hang the planter, Mr.
Barkland, who lives in the mansion yonder; but we saved him, and sent
him home."

"My brother a prisoner!" exclaimed the major very sadly.

He gave the order to march, and the first company proceeded towards the
planter's mansion.



CHAPTER VII

PREPARING FOR ACTIVE OPERATIONS


The discipline which Knox had administered to Captain Titus had taken
some of the obstinacy out of him, and he was willing to march with the
other prisoners. All of them had been engaged in the "Battle of
Riverlawn," as it was called, when the mob had been driven away from the
plantation. They were placed between a couple of ranks of troopers, and
no further attention was given to them till the company halted, a short
distance from the mansion.

It was the camp for the night; and the horses were picketed, the tents
pitched, and a cordon of sentinels stationed around the whole. The
prisoners were provided for as comfortably as the soldiers, and the
major had an opportunity to inquire into the situation. He had reached
the point to which he had been ordered. The region in the vicinity of
the railroad bridge had been examined by a large body of scouts, and
nothing like an enemy had been discovered. A trio of negroes had been
seen, and they were always ready to tell all they knew to persons
wearing the national uniform.

There was no military force near the bridge. After Knox had sent back a
messenger with the information obtained from Cato, that "a whole
regiment" was encamped at the right of the road, Major Lyon had sent a
couple of trusty men to examine the locality. These soldiers had crept
cautiously into the woods, and found the force indicated; but it
consisted of only a single company, as they could see by the light of
the camp-fires. They had no tents, and most of the men were lying about
on the ground.

It was now evident that this was Captain Titus's company. They were
encamped near the railroad; but there were no bridges of any consequence
near them, and they had doubtless postponed the work of the expedition
till the next morning. Though the major had never even heard the name of
Mr. Barkland, the planter, his brother must have had some information in
regard to him, or he would hardly have visited his mansion and
attempted to extort money from him.

Major Lyon did not care to meet his brother, for his conduct had been
explained to him, and he was in a bad frame of mind even for him; but he
ordered Knox to bring another of the party engaged in the outrage to his
tent. He had selected one who appeared to be a reasonable man, and his
manner was quite different from that of the captain. The major had seen
him before, but he knew nothing about him.

"Do you belong to the company encamped in the woods farther down the
road?" asked the major.

"How do you know there is any company there?" demanded the fellow, who
seemed to be somewhat surprised at the question.

"I ask questions, but I don't answer them," replied Major Lyon with a
smile.

"That's jest my case," replied the Home Guardsman with a capacious grin.
"I don't tell all I know every day 'n the week."

"You don't know so much that you couldn't tell it as often as that,"
added Captain Gordon, who was present at the interview, and thought the
major was more pleasant than the occasion required.

"But I know sunthin' you want to know," chuckled the man.

"Not at all; I know all about your company," said the major.

"Then what did you ask me if I belonged to it for?"

"Knox, this man thinks he knows too much, and you may take him away,"
called the major to the sergeant, who stood at the door of the tent.

"Oh, I'm willin' t' answer you," grinned the fellow. "I belong to that
company."

"What were you doing up here, then?"

"Cap'n Titus thought the man that lives on this plantation had more
money 'n he could manage, and he was willin' to help him take care
on't."

"In other words, you intended to rob him."

"I didn't intend nothin' o' the sort. I obey the orders of the cap'n. If
you want to know anything more about it, you'll have to ask him."

"Is your company the only body of troops about here?" asked the major,
to whom Knox had reported what Captain Titus said about "Texan cavalry."

"You'll have to ask the cap'n about that; for he didn't tell me all he
know'd."

It was evident that the man knew nothing of any importance, and the
sergeant was directed to send him back to his quarters. At the entrance
to the tent a visitor was waiting, who proved to be Mr. Barkland, and he
was promptly admitted. He expressed his obligations for the important
service rendered to him, and commended the energy of the young man who
had been foremost in saving him from the fatal rope.

"These ruffians must have known that you had your money concealed in the
house," suggested the major.

"I haven't any great amount in the house," replied Mr. Barkland. "I have
a bank account in Louisville, and I had some money in the bank at
Munfordville; but there are so many marauding parties about in this
section of the State, that I took out the little I had in the latter,
and had it in the house."

"Hardly a safe place in these troublous times," added Major Lyon.

"Safer than that bank, I thought," said the planter, "I am a Union man
before anything else just now; and I think some Secessionist connected
with the bank spread the news about that I had withdrawn my money,--only
about thirty-five hundred dollars,--and the captain of this Home Guard
had heard it."

"That was unfortunate."

"It would have been for me if your company had not come along. About
dark half a dozen of them came to the house, and wanted to get some
supper, which I was willing to give them; for I never turn away any one
who wants something to eat. The captain wanted whiskey, and I gave it to
him; but it seemed to make him crazy, for he did not behave like a
gentleman."

"That is apt to be the effect of whiskey," added the major, who was
thinking of its results in the case of his brother.

"Then they told me I had money in the house, or the captain did; for
none of the rest of them said anything. I replied that I had no money
for them; and then the captain became abusive, and threatened me if I
did not give it up," continued the planter. "As I said, I am a Union
man, and I decided to let them hang me to a tree, as he threatened to
do, rather than give up my money to a lot of traitors, who would use it
to assist in pulling down the government I believe in. My wife and
daughter begged me to give up the money; but I was firm to the end, and
even when the rope was around my neck."

"Your fate would not have been an uncommon one with Union men,
unhappily," added the major.

"Could I see the young man that was foremost in saving me? I wish to
express my personal gratitude to him for the service; for he was a brave
fellow, and managed the affair well, or he would have failed. The
ruffians were six to three; but the young man hit in the right place
every time."

"Who was he, Knox?" asked the major of the sergeant, who had listened to
the narrative while standing at the entrance of the tent.

"It was Deck, Major," replied Knox, with a smile on his wiry face.

"Send for him."

Deck soon appeared in the tent; and the planter grasped his hand,
pouring out his thanks for what he had done. He desired to take him to
his mansion, that his wife and daughter might have an opportunity to
express their obligations to him; but Deck declined to go.

"Now, Mr. Barkland, do you know of any other body of troops in this
vicinity?" asked the major, changing the subject of the conversation.

"Nothing within my own knowledge, Major Lyon," replied the planter.
"Captain Tites and his men"--

"Captain who?" interposed the major.

"Captain Tites; that is what the others called him, or, at least, the
name sounded like that."

"Very well, Mr. Barkland, go on," replied the chief of the squadron.

"They did not speak out very plainly; but they alluded to a body of
Texan Rangers, as they called them, as though they were somewhere in
this vicinity," the planter proceeded.

"That captain spoke of them since we took him," said Knox.

"I was just coming up to headquarters to report some information
obtained by Sergeant Decker at the road," interposed Deck. "He stopped
a negro on horse-back, who was going for a doctor. He said there was a
company of cavalry, or more of them, camped about three miles on the
road to Greensburg. He knew nothing at all about them."

"It looks as though there was a considerable force in this vicinity,"
added the major.

"I have given you all the information in my power, Major Lyon, and I
will return to my house. If I can be of any service to you, call upon
me," said Mr. Barkland, as he took the hand of the commander.

He left the tent, and Deck soon followed him, leaving the major and
Captain Gordon alone. On the table in the centre of the tent was a map,
which these two officers had been consulting when the guardsman was
brought in. On it the major had made several crosses with a red pencil,
indicating the location of the railroad bridge, which was believed to be
the objective point of Captain Titus's company, the camp of this force,
the mansion of the planter; and now he made another at the supposed
location of the cavalry camp of the enemy.

"There is a prospect of some fighting in this vicinity by to-morrow,"
said Captain Gordon, as he looked at the crosses on the map.

"Colonel Cosgrove rode over to Riverlawn yesterday to inform me that
Captain Titus's company had left the day before, at an early hour in the
morning, marching on the railroad. He had just obtained some news, which
he considered reliable, to the effect that an order had come up for the
destruction of the railroad bridges," added Major Lyon, as he put his
pencil point on the road. "It was understood in Bowling Green that
General Buell was about to send troops to the southward, and this is an
attempt to break up the means of transportation by rail."

"If there are any Texan Rangers about here, they must have been sent
from some other point," said Captain Gordon. "But we know where the
enemy are, and that is half the battle under present circumstances. The
cavalry and the infantry of the enemy are at least five miles apart."

"Captain Truman has the infantry where he can put his hands on them in
the morning. His orders are to send Lieutenant Gadbury to the farther
side of the railroad, with half his company, and station the other half
behind this knoll, so that neither of them can be seen from the main
road, and to have both forces in position before daylight in the
morning. Neither force is to attack till the enemy begin operations upon
the railroad."

"I wondered that you did not bag the whole of this company of Home
Guards while they were in camp," added the captain.

"Under the name by which we know them, I am not quite sure of their
status; and I prefer to have them make a beginning, which will prove
them to be the enemies of the government," replied the major. "I gave
Truman the most explicit orders, and I have no doubt he will do his
whole duty. It is a part of my purpose to have the whole of Captain
Titus's company captured."

The major put a good deal of stress on the name by which his brother had
been called, for he evidently did not like to pronounce his real name.

"I think your plan of action will readily bring about such a result."

"I put a low estimate upon the fighting character of the enemy in front
of Truman; but I have stood up before them, though I believe they are
better armed now than when they attempted to capture Riverlawn and
Lyndhall. Your company will be held in reserve for the Texans, if there
prove to be any."

"I have no doubt, after all I have heard, that the information in regard
to them is correct," added the captain. "It appears from their locality
that they are likely to come to the railroad by the road which passes
Mr. Barkland's mansion."

The major and the captain arranged a plan for the reception of the
Rangers, and then stretched themselves on their camp-bed, to obtain a
little sleep before the exciting events which were expected the next
day. At about midnight the sentinel awoke them, saying that the planter
desired to see the commander. He was admitted, and reported that two men
had just been to his house to inquire for "Captain Tites." One of them,
he said, was Lieutenant Lagger, in command of the company in the absence
of the captain.

Major Lyon turned over and went to sleep again, satisfied that Buck
Lagger would begin operations in the morning.



CHAPTER VIII

THE ACTION BY THE RAILROAD BRIDGE


It was hardly daylight the next morning when Major Lyon sprang from his
camp-bed. The first thing he recalled was the visit to his tent in the
night of Mr. Barkland. He thought it was rather strange that Captain
Titus had not brought his lieutenant, as it now appeared that he was in
reality, as he had been before only in appearance; for he was a ruffian
of the rudest stripe.

Three months before he had attempted to shoot Levi Bedford, the major's
faithful overseer, as he drove past his house; and he had been his
brother's principal supporter in the attacks of the mob upon Riverlawn
and Lyndhall. He was just the desperado for such work as that in which
the commander of the Home Guards had engaged the evening before.

"Sentinel!" called the major to the guard at headquarters.

"Here, Major!" replied the soldier.

"Send for Dexter and Artemas Lyon. Have them report at headquarters
mounted," added the major, as he proceeded to complete his simple
toilet.

The "assembly" was not sounded that morning, lest the noise should be
heard in some other camp; but all the men had been called verbally, and
were getting ready for the business of the day. The troopers assigned to
that duty were watering the horses at a brook which flowed through the
plantation, and others were striking the tents. A number of pickets on
foot had patrolled the roads for a mile from the camp, but there had
been no alarm during the night. Deck and Artie promptly reported at the
major's tent as they had been ordered to do.

"Good-morning, boys," said their father. "Do you know where the railroad
bridge over the creek is?"

"I do," replied Deck.

"I have a message for Captain Truman. You will find his company in two
divisions this morning, one on each side of the bridge, and both of them
are in concealment by this time in the morning. The captain is behind
the hill, just this side of the creek. Do you think you can find him?"

"I know I can," replied Deck.

"You must remember that he is keeping his men out of sight. My message
is for him alone. He is not aware that Captain Titus and his companions
at the mansion were captured last night. Whether the work will be
carried on by his first lieutenant or not, I don't know. This officer is
Buck Lagger; and I know that he will be glad to get the command of the
company, even for a short time. I believe he will begin the destruction
of the bridge early this morning; for, according to Levi Bedford, Buck
believes he is a bigger man and an abler captain than his superior
officer."

"I have no doubt if there is any mischief to be done, Buck will do it as
soon as possible," added Deck.

"But if he fails to do so, tell Captain Truman to move over to the camp
they occupied last night, and to keep his eye on the company. You will
also inform him that there is a company of Texan cavalry in camp about
three miles to the south-east of us, and they will probably be on the
move this morning," continued Major Lyon.

"Texan cavalry!" exclaimed Deck.

"Music somewhere here to-day," added Artie with a smile.

"The first company will be between this enemy and the second company,
and you will tell Captain Truman to give no attention to them. Now go as
soon as possible," added the major; and the boys started on their
mission.

The horses were in excellent condition, and the boys were pleased to
have something to do that brought them out of the ranks for a time. The
section of country which one could take in from the hill on which the
mansion of the planter was located, included the railway and two common
roads. South of the railroad, and extending in the same general
direction, was the road by which the command had marched from Riverlawn.

The camp of the Home Guards was at the south of it, and half a mile from
it; for it appeared to have been a part of the purpose of Captain Titus
to conceal his force. The half-dozen shots which had been fired as the
troopers passed came from a party of strollers, it afterwards appeared;
and Buck Lagger, in charge of the camp, had not discovered the presence
of the cavalry from Riverlawn.

At the point where Cato had been first seen, and who had given the
information in regard to the outrage at the mansion, the road to the
south branched off, or rather crossed the other at right angles. On this
one was the mansion of Mr. Barkland, and about three miles farther south
was the reported camp of the Texans. Deck had had no opportunity to
study the panorama of the region as it might be seen in the daytime from
the hill by the planter's house, for the darkness shut off his view.

The camp of the first company was on the south road, and the boys rode
in the direction of the railroad bridge. The day was breaking in the
east, but it was not light enough to see distinctly the prominent object
in the vicinity. They could make out the hill where they expected to
find Captain Truman, but not the one on the other side of the railroad.

"Hold on, Deck!" said Artie, when they came to the crossing of the
roads. "I hear a noise off towards the west."

"It is the tramp of men's feet; but that is none of our affair," replied
Deck.

"I have no doubt it is the Home Guards," added Artie.

"I know it is; didn't father say they were to come over here to do their
work? We can report to Captain Truman that the enemy are approaching,
and he will be glad to get the information."

Deck started his horse; but they had been directed to move with as
little noise as possible, and they could not hurry. They took the
cross-road, and the hill was on the right, and the railroad bridge on
the left of it. Leaving the road, they struck into the field, and moved
toward the station of the first half of the second company.

"Who comes there?" called a voice from the grove that surrounded the
hill.

"Friends," replied Deck.

"Advance, friends, and give the countersign."

"Riverlawn," answered Deck, giving the word that had been selected the
day before. "We have a message for Captain Truman from Major Lyon. Where
is he?"

"Not far from here," replied Blenks, who was in charge of the picket
line. "I will conduct you to him."

They found the captain seated on his horse, apart from his command,
eating his breakfast from his haversack. The men were all mounted, and
in readiness for immediate service, though they were standing at ease,
some of them taking their morning meal.

"Good-morning, Deck," said Captain Truman, as he recognized his early
visitors. "You left your bunk in good time this morning."

"We are the bearers of orders from Major Lyon," replied Deck, who was in
the habit of doing most of the talking, though Artie had a tongue of his
own; and he repeated all the orders and all the information with which
they had been charged.

"Captain Titus a prisoner!" exclaimed the captain, when he had finished.
"Then it remains to be proved whether or not Lieutenant Buck Lagger will
execute the orders received by Captain Titus."

"We heard them down the road as we came along," said Artie.

"I have no doubt they will be at work within half an hour," added Deck.
"But we must hurry back, for our company will move farther to the south,
I think, judging from the message we brought to you."

"But you can't go now, for you will meet the Home Guards by the time you
get to the south road. The ruffians would be glad to get a couple of
prisoners like you and Artie; for then Buck Lagger could exchange you
both for his captain."

"Such an arrangement would not suit Buck Lagger at all," replied Deck.
"When Levi Bedford brought Buck to the fort at Riverlawn, after he
attempted to kill him on the road, the villain did not speak very
handsomely of his captain, but said he should soon be in command of the
company himself."

"Be that as it may, you ought not to throw yourselves into the midst of
these ruffians," the captain insisted. "If they don't capture you, they
would take great pleasure in abusing you."

"Mounted as we are, I think we could take care of ourselves against the
whole of them," answered Deck.

The soldiers of the squadron had an utter contempt for the fighting
qualities of this company, and Deck and Artie shared it with the
others. But the captain protested so earnestly against their exposing
themselves to a needless peril, that they agreed to wait behind some
bushes near the south road till the company had passed. They would
gladly have learned something more in regard to the plan of the captain;
but he was as reticent as military men usually are, and kept his own
counsel. The messengers rode to the knoll covered with bushes which they
had observed near the road when they entered the field.

"We shall have a chance to see something of this affair," said Deck, as
he stopped his horse at a point where the bushes would conceal them from
those passing in the road.

"Do you suppose the first company will remain where they are for any
length of time?" asked Artie.

"Father didn't say anything about that; but I imagine he will put the
company in a position to meet the Texans."

"There they come!" exclaimed Artie. "They are just turning into the
south road. Buck Lagger looks big enough to be a brigadier-general."

"But they are straggling along as though they were going to a picnic,"
added Deck. "There are some of them half a mile in the rear."

Then the boys observed two wagons drawn by mules, and the stragglers
appeared to be the guard for their protection. Buck Lagger led the
compact portion of his command, who were armed with axes as well as
muskets. The south road ran under the railroad bridge, and the Guard
halted there. The lieutenant lost no time in beginning his work. A
portion of the men went to work at the abutment, trying to remove some
of the stones in the wall, evidently with the intention of blowing up
the end of the structure when the wagons arrived with the powder.

About one-half of the men were sent to the platform of the bridge,
climbing up the embankment a short distance beyond the wall. As soon as
they reached the wooden portion of the bridge, they began to pull up the
planks of the platform, and toss them over into the creek, a work which
would not at all interfere with the usefulness of the structure for the
passage of trains. These men were in so elevated a position that the
boys could distinctly see their operations.

Then they heard the crack of a rifle, and one of the soldiers dropped
from the bridge into the creek. This single effective shot was followed
by a volley; and, though they could not be seen, it was clear that
Lieutenant Gadbury had led his command to the front, and they had opened
fire on the destroyers of the bridge. His men were good marksmen; for
not a few of them were hunters, and they had had abundant practice at
the camp.

"They can't stand much of that sort of thing," said Deck, much excited
by what he saw.

"Not they; they are coming down from the bridge now," added Artie.

"Here come the rest of the company," exclaimed Deck, as Captain Truman,
followed by his fifty men by fours, dashed through the field at full
gallop. "I reckon I don't stay here any longer."

"But the baggage-train of the enemy has not come up yet," suggested
Artie.

"But I want to see what is going on, and we can't see anything in the
road from here, and that is where the fight is going to be," returned
Deck, who was far more excited than his brother. "I suppose Lieutenant
Gadbury is coming down to the bridge from the north, and now Captain
Truman is approaching it from the south. They will have it out there."

Both divisions of the company halted at some distance from the enemy,
and began to pour a murderous fire into them, crushed as they were
between the upper and nether millstones. The plan of Major Lyon had been
carried out to the letter. The Guards returned the fire with all the
energy they could muster; but it was very soon evident that their
weapons were doing little harm to the cavalry.

"This is little better than wholesale murder!" exclaimed Captain Truman;
and he sent the second lieutenant, with half his men, into the field,
with orders to charge the enemy in concert with him.

This charge was made; and the enemy were ridden down by the horsemen,
till they cried out for quarter. Buck Lagger lay dead upon the ground,
with not less than a dozen others, while half the rest of them were
wounded. The victory was complete, and the cavalrymen were only sorry
they had not met a foe worthy of their steel. Eight of them were
wounded, two of them severely.



CHAPTER IX

AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE ENEMY'S SCOUTS


The baggage-train of the Guards had seen from a distance that the battle
had begun, and they had halted in the road. They still blocked the way
for Deck and Artie; but they could no longer remain as spectators to the
exciting scene which had just transpired, and had ridden down to the
field of action; but the fighting had ceased. The cavalrymen were
picking up their wounded; and Dr. Farnwright, the surgeon of the
battalion, was attending to their needs.

"Well, boys, this affair seems to be finished; and we made very short
work of it," said Captain Truman, as they rode up to the spot where he
was observing the labors of the men.

"We have seen the whole of it, and now we are ready to return to our
company," replied Deck.

"The road is clear now, and there is nothing to prevent your return."

"The wagons of the enemy have halted in the road, and there seems to be
half-a-dozen men or more in charge of them," said Deck.

"I will send a squad to bring them in," replied the captain, as he
called a sergeant near him, and directed him to take ten men and perform
this duty. "You will go with Sergeant Langford, boys, and I think you
will be all right."

"Have you any message for the major, Captain?" asked Deck.

"You have seen the skirmish yourselves, and you can report it as it was.
We were fired upon smartly for a time; but the muskets of the enemy were
of all sorts and kinds, and most of them good for nothing. We have eight
men wounded, two of them badly, and the rest slightly. Sergeant Langford
has just reported to me that the enemy lost eight men killed, and
fifteen wounded, some of them fatally. The rest of the command are
prisoners."

Sergeant Langford appeared with his ten men, and the boys went with him
on their return to their company. It was not yet sunrise, and the
principal task of the morning had been accomplished; for the action had
lasted hardly more than a quarter of an hour. Lieutenant Blenks was
compelling the Guards to pick up and care for their own wounded, and to
bury their dead. The men were sulky, and the cavalrymen were compelled
to drive them to this duty.

"It was sharp work for a few minutes," said Langford to the boys, after
he had called them to his side.

"It was; but the thing was very handsomely done," replied Deck. "I think
these ruffians have had quite enough of it."

"They are as sulky as a bear that has lost her cubs. They were not
willing to pick up their own dead and wounded, and wanted our boys to do
it for them; but a few slaps with the flat of the sabres brought them to
the point," added the sergeant. "I suppose the work in this quarter is
done now."

"I think not. I doubt whether we have finished," replied Deck; but he
said nothing about the Texan Rangers, for he did not feel at liberty to
use the information he had obtained as a messenger.

The wagons of the enemy had halted where the men in charge of them could
see what had happened at the bridge; but when the sergeant's squad
approached them, they brought their muskets to their shoulders, as
though they intended to defend their property.

"Unsling carbines!" called Langford to his men; and they promptly obeyed
the order.

But the baggage guard did not fire; for some one among them seemed to
have more sense than the others, and had interposed to prevent a useless
sacrifice of life. A dispute followed among them, and the sergeant
advanced upon them.

"No more jaw!" interposed Langford. "Start your mules, and go ahead!"

"Where are we going? We ain't no use over there now," said one of the
men.

"You are no use anywhere! Start your teams!" added Langford, as he
slapped the last speaker with the flat of his sabre. "Shove them along,
boys!"

"We ain't goin' over there; we'll turn round and go back where we come
from," added the spokesman of the party.

"Are you all idiots?" demanded Langford. "Your wagons are wanted over at
the bridge, and that is where you are going."

The troopers soon started the teams with a vigorous use of the flat
sides of their sabres. The guardsmen were disposed to resist; but they
were vigorously pushed forward, and when a fellow hung back, he was
gently pricked with the point of the sharp weapons.

"I believe a good part of these ruffians are idiots, as Langford
suggested," said Deck, as he and Artie rode forward. "They don't seem to
understand that they are taking part in the war."

"That's so," replied Artie, laughing. "If they find they cannot destroy
the bridge, all they have to do is to go back where they came from, and
call it square. But Langford has brought them to their senses."

A smart gallop of a few minutes brought the messengers in sight of the
mansion-house of the plantation. The first company was not where they
had left it in the early morning; but they soon discovered a couple of
the men, who seemed to be patrolling the south road.

"Where is the company, Yowell?" asked Deck, when they came within
speaking distance.

"Behind the mansion. We were sent down to look for you," replied the
soldier. "Major Lyon was afraid something had happened to you."

"We are all right. Have you seen any of the enemy up this way?"

"Not a man of them. If you take this path it will bring you to the
house, and you will find the major there."

The boys took the path indicated, and put their horses to their best
speed. When they came to the house, they were greeted in the yard by the
planter and his family, and the ladies poured forth their gratitude to
Deck for the service he had rendered the evening before. But the young
cavalryman could not stop to listen long to them.

"Where is Major Lyon?" he asked, looking about him.

"He is on the top of the house," replied Mr. Barkland.

"Come up here, both of you!" shouted the major from his elevated
position.

Giving the reins of their bridles to the orderly, who was there with the
commander's horse, Mr. Barkland showed them the way to a platform on the
roof of the mansion, from which a full view of the surrounding country
was obtained; only the railroad bridge was shut out by a hill.

"What makes you so late, boys?" asked the major, as they presented
themselves before him.

"The baggage-train of the enemy stopped in the road, with half-a-dozen
men in charge of it, so that we could not pass it without a fight,"
replied Deck.

"Has anything been done at the bridge?" asked the commander anxiously.

"Yes, sir; the battle has been fought and won, and the whole company of
Home Guards are prisoners," replied Deck, giving the entire story all in
a heap.

"That is good news, though I expected no other result. What was our
loss?"

"None killed; eight wounded, two of them seriously, the others slightly.
The enemy's loss is eight killed and fifteen wounded, some of them
fatally," replied Deck, who had studied over the report of the fight he
was to make; and then he proceeded to give the details of the affair.

This was in the beginning of the war, and before any battle of magnitude
had been fought, so that the action at the railroad bridge seemed to be
a considerable affair. The major listened with deep interest to all the
particulars. Doubtless he was pleased with the report of the result;
but he frequently raised the field-glass in his hands to his eyes as he
listened, and it was evident that he was more concerned in regard to the
approach of the enemy from the south.

He put several questions to the boys, which were answered by both of
them, and fully informed himself in regard to the situation at the
bridge, which was about three miles distant from the mansion.

"You will both return to the bridge; give my order to Captain Truman to
leave a sufficient force on the ground to guard the prisoners, to
dispose of the dead and wounded, and then to join me at this place with
all the men that can be spared," said the major.

The boys saluted him, and hastened to obey the order. In a few minutes
they were galloping over the road again. On their way down the stairs
they met Captain Gordon on his way to the roof. He had been the
recruiting officer sent by the commanding general of the department to
organize the first company, and the major had used all his influence to
elect him to the office he filled himself. He had declined the position,
for he thought it better that the planter of Riverlawn should fill that
place. He had an apartment at the major's mansion, and they had been on
the most intimate terms from the beginning.

"I have posted Lieutenant Belthorpe behind the hill," said Captain
Gordon, as he saluted his superior officer. "I have given him full
instructions."

"I have just sent for Captain Truman and as many of the second company
as can be spared," replied Major Lyon. "They have beaten Captain Titus's
command, and captured the whole of them."

"Can you make out any movement of the enemy to the south of us, Major
Lyon?" asked the captain.

"Nothing yet. Everything is in readiness, I suppose, to carry out our
plan."

"Everything; and the men are in fine spirits."

"The only thing I fear is that the Rangers will take the other road to
the bridge," suggested the major.

"But that would make the distance at least two miles farther," replied
Captain Gordon. "Can it be possible that the commander of the Rangers
has obtained information of our presence here, and of the result of the
affair at the bridge?"

"I think not; and yet it is possible, for not many in command could be
so neglectful of all reasonable precautions as Captain Titus was."

"If they come this way, we are all ready for them. I have scouts out to
the eastward of our position, who will report to us the passage of any
force by the east road, as they call it here," continued the captain.
"The Texans are not early risers, or we should have seen them by this
time. I will return to my company, and await further orders."

The boys understood the necessity of haste, and in less than fifteen
minutes their foaming steeds brought them into the presence of Captain
Truman, to whom they delivered their message. He had already reduced
everything to a condition of order. The wounded had been removed to a
deserted shanty, probably used by the railroad workmen, and the
prisoners were surrounded by a guard of twenty men. All was quiet on the
ground, and the captain was glad to receive the order brought by the
messengers.

Lieutenant Blenks had already been placed in command of the camp, and
the captain gave the order for Lieutenant Gadbury to have his men in
marching order at once; and twenty men from the second platoon were
added to their number. But Deck and Artie did not wait for this body to
move, but started at once on their return; for they were anxious to be
present in any engagement that might take place. They had little
compassion for their horses, fond as they were of them, and dashed down
the road at their best speed.

"Hi!" exclaimed Artie, as they reached the cross-road.

"What is it, Artie?" asked Deck, who was looking to the right.

"Don't you see? There are a couple of mounted men wearing the gray!"
exclaimed Artie with energy.

"What are they?" asked Deck.

"What are they? It is as plain as a stone wall to a blind man after he
has stumbled over it, that they are the Texans who are expected over
here."

"Are there only two of them?" asked Deck facetiously. "Your head is
level, Artie, and they are a couple of scouts who are feeling the way
for a bigger body further back."

[Illustration: "One of the Texans tumbled from his horse."]

Just at that moment a bullet whistled between the two boys; for the
scouts could have no difficulty in making out the uniform of the two
messengers. Both of them unslung their carbines; and, without
considering what consequences might ensue, both of them fired, Artie
delivering the first shot. One of the Texans tumbled from his horse, and
Deck aimed at the other; but he was less fortunate in his discharge, for
the remaining man still clung to his horse. Raising his carbine, he
fired.

"I am hit," said Deck, as he held up his left arm.

The man who had delivered his fire wheeled his horse as soon as he had
done so, and galloped back by the way he came.



CHAPTER X

THE BATTLE BEGUN AT THE CROSS-ROADS


Deck and Artie Lyon were not veterans in military service; but on
several occasions during the preceding six months they had been within
the reach of flying bullets. They had not become hardened to the
whizzing, boring sound they make in their passage through the air, for
they carried wounds and death in their train; but they had considered
and talked about the chances of being hit, and fully realized the
possible consequences.

"We are in the hands of the good Lord," Noah Lyon used to say; "and if
it be his will that we suddenly pass the portals that divide the seen
from the unseen, or that we languish for weeks or months upon the couch
of pain, we can only submit to the divine will; and all we have to do is
faithfully to discharge our duty to God and our country. God and our
country! Let this be our watchword, boys; and with it on our tongues
and in our hearts, we ought to fear no danger."

Some appear to be brave in mere bravado, and the pride of many gives
them courage: but the bravest men are those who are earnestly devoted to
the discharge of their duty; for principle generates courage when it is
founded upon religious faith. It was in this firm reliance that the
father had schooled his sons. He was a faithful apostle, and they were
loving disciples.

"Where are you hit, Deck?" asked Artie, full of anxiety in regard to his
brother, though he could see that he was not very severely wounded.

"Right in the arm, half-way between the wrist and the elbow," replied
Deck with a smile; for the time had come for him to feel something of
what had only been talked about before. "It won't amount to much, though
it doesn't feel good."

"Let me see it, and I will fix it up as well as I can," added Artie, as
he wheeled his horse till he was at the side of his companion.

The noble steeds stood as quietly as though they understood what had
occurred, while Artie rolled up the sleeve of the jacket, and disclosed
the wound. The fond and devoted mother had provided each of them with a
bandage and a handful of lint, and she had even practised them in doing
up a leg and an arm. Artie wiped away the blood, and then applied the
lint, around which he wound the bandage, as he had been instructed.

"It is not a bad wound, as you say, Deck, and I hope you will never have
a worse one," said Artie, as he pinned the end of the bandage.

"Thank you, Artie, and you are quite a surgeon," replied Deck, as he
straightened out his arm. "That feels better, though it is still rather
warm. But we have business on our hands, and we can't fool away any more
time. What do you suppose the presence of those two fellows here means?"

"There is only one thing that it can mean," replied Artie, as he
strained his vision to take in whatever might be seen in the direction
from which the two scouts had come. "There must be a body of cavalrymen
not far behind them."

"I don't understand this business," added Deck. "Let's ride up the
slope, and then we can see the enemy if there is any there."

"It won't take both of us to do that. We know, if everybody in the
company does not, that there is a company of Texan Rangers camped about
three miles from Mr. Barkland's plantation. From their odd uniform we
have a right to believe these two scouts belonged to that company. Very
likely the captain of it is up to some mischief; and if a part of the
force should come over here after Captain Truman has departed to join
our first company, they could undo all that has been done, burn the
bridge, and recapture all the prisoners."

"That's so!" exclaimed Deck, taking in the argument of his brother, and
fully agreeing with it.

"As you are wounded, I will ride up the slope, and see what is to be
seen, while you hurry back as fast as Ceph will take you to Captain
Truman, and tell him all about it," suggested Artie.

"All right; go ahead!" returned Deck, as he wheeled his horse, while
Artie galloped up the slope, which was quite gentle for half a mile.

When the latter reached the spot where the Texan had fallen, he saw that
he was not dead, though the blood was oozing from a wound in his
breast. His horse was quietly feeding on the bushes at the side of the
road; but Artie could not stop to do anything for his wounded enemy,
though his heart was big enough to do everything in his power. He rode
on at the highest speed of Dolly, as he called her, though she had had
another name before he made her acquaintance. He reached the top of the
hill, if it could be called such, and the spot commanded a view of the
country for several miles.

It was not a plain which opened to him, for the prospect was bounded by
a range of hills several miles distant, the intervening space having a
sort of rolling surface. The first object that attracted his attention
was a horseman, riding at full gallop up a slope about a mile distant
from him. He concluded that he was the scout whose companion had fallen
from his horse when he fired his carbine. He must have stopped by the
way, or ridden more slowly than at present, or he would have been out or
sight in the time he had taken.

Artie had halted on the crown of the slope, for it was useless to go any
farther. He could see the country for at least two miles; and it was
not prudent for him to proceed alone. He sat upon his horse considering
what he should do next. The only course left open to him was to return
to the south road; but if an enemy was approaching by the east road, as
the presence of the two scouts indicated, it was important that he
should ascertain the fact.

He kept his eyes busily engaged in wandering along the whole horizon to
the east and south of him. If Captain Truman's command were not wanted,
it would be an error to detain them. On the other hand, the result of
the morning's work would be all undone if the enemy should advance after
the larger portion of the second company had been withdrawn. It was a
perplexing question for a boy of eighteen to settle; and he realized the
responsibility that had accidentally, as it were, fallen upon him.

If he was not at the cross-road when Deck returned from his visit to the
camp at the bridge, Captain Truman would march his men up the slope,
when they might be needed in the vicinity of the planter's house. He
decided to compromise with the circumstances, and wait a reasonable time
for some evidence of an advance on the part of the Texans. The two
scouts had come from beyond the elevation where he stood; and unless
they were simply messengers or spies, there must be a force behind them.
As spies, they would not have appeared in full uniform.

When he had waited perhaps ten minutes, he discovered something moving
over the top of one of the hills south-east of him. With the utmost
eagerness he observed the spot. He could not make out anything that
looked like a road. But presently the moving object became more definite
to his gaze. He wished he had his father's field-glass; but all he could
do was to watch and wait. In a few minutes more the moving object
resolved itself into a body of mounted men. They were marching along the
summit of an elevation, and he saw them begin the descent.

While still in sight the troop halted, and Artie concluded that the
scout who had escaped had come up with them, and was making his report.
But he could not leave yet; for it was important that he should report
the strength of the enemy, as well as his actual presence in the
vicinity. The young cavalryman had a full view of the valley into which
the troop were descending; and as soon as they marched again he
estimated, and even counted, the number of men.

The Texans did not compel him to wait a great while, for they resumed
the march at full gallop. They had been moving at a very moderate gait
when Artie first saw them. The report of the scout doubtless assured the
officer in command that a force of Union cavalry was located near the
bridge, and he was hurrying his men forward to meet it. Artie had seen
enough to assure him of the approach of an enemy, and he started on his
return to the cross-road. He had seen the whole of the force, and had
estimated its number at forty-four men in the ranks; for he had counted
eleven sections of four in each.

Dolly had had quite a rest while he was observing the approach of the
enemy; and, as soon as he had obtained the facts, he was in a hurry. He
urged his steed forward at her best speed. He reached the cross-road
just as Deck appeared there; for the information he brought perplexed
the captain not a little in regard to his duty under the changed
circumstances, and he had been detained to answer a great many
questions.

"Where is Captain Truman?" shouted Artie, as soon as he was within
speaking distance of his brother.

"He will be here in a few minutes with his men," replied Deck, who had
also remained, to have his wound properly dressed by the surgeon. "Have
you seen the enemy, Artie?"

"I have; and they are within a mile and a half of here now," replied
Artie. "They are advancing with all speed, and they will be here in a
few minutes."

"Here is the captain," added Deck; and a minute later the troopers were
halted.

"Here is Artie, Captain Truman; and he has big news for you," said Deck,
who appeared to have forgotten that he was wounded.

"Your report, Artie," demanded the captain.

"The Texan Rangers--at least, that is what I suppose they are--will be
here in ten or fifteen minutes, if they don't stop by the way."

"Is it a large force?" asked the captain, with some anxiety visible on
his face.

"Forty-four men, as I estimated them, besides the officers."

"We outnumber them, then. But I am ordered to report at the planter's
house," said the officer, who appeared to be musing upon the situation.

He was not an experienced officer; and his mind was charged with the
idea that the soldier must obey his superior officer, though his
intellect was broad enough, and he had read in his military books that
one in command of a force must use judgment and discretion. This was
what he was thinking of when he alluded to his orders, which he would
not have done if the boys had not been the sons of the major, and he was
on very intimate terms with them.

"But, if you obey your orders, the bridge will be destroyed, and the"--

"I don't intend to obey them; I am not quite blind, my boy," interposed
Captain Truman, with a smile on his face. "Less than fifty men, you say,
Artie. I made up my mind, from what Deck said, that if there was a force
approaching from that direction, the enemy were divided, and were coming
to the bridge by the two roads."

"There must be more than forty-four men in the whole company, besides
the officers," added Artie.

"No doubt of it," replied the captain, looking about him.

Then he called for Lieutenant Gadbury, and sent him, with thirty men,
back to the field where they had been concealed to await the attack of
the Home Guards on the bridge. Then he ordered the rest of the men,
about forty in number, to unsling their carbines, and formed them across
the south road. In a somewhat longer time than Artie had predicted, the
head of the enemy's column, arrived at the top of the hill, where they
halted.

A couple of officers appeared in front of the troop, and seemed to be
surveying the situation. They could see the railroad bridge, and that it
had not been destroyed by another division of the Confederates. But they
could not see the camp that had been established at the side of the
structure, for it was on much lower ground. They could also see the
cavalry of Captain Truman, stationed about six feet apart, so that they
extended both ways on the crossing along the south road.

The Union cavalry doubtless looked like a small force to the officers
who observed it. They had the reputation of being bold and brave men,
and the order to attack was not long withheld. The officer in command
led his men down the hill at full gallop, the men yelling like so many
demons; for, at this early stage of the war, the troops of the enemy had
acquired the notion that these hideous cries would intimidate their
foes; but they did not in this instance.

"Now, my boys, this will be no fool's play!" shouted Captain Truman at
the top of his lungs. "These troopers are not Home Guards; and there
will be fighting, and no child's play. Stand up to it like men--like
Kentuckians, and, above all, like Union men!"

The soldiers responded with a hearty cheer; and they kept it up till the
enemy were within gunshot range, where they halted. They were formed
across the road, but with only half-a-dozen men in a rank, so that they
were still clustered in a rather solid mass. In this condition they
delivered their first volley. One of the Union men dropped from his
saddle, and only one. If others were wounded, they said nothing. The
fire was promptly returned; but, so far as could be seen, with no
greater effect than that of the Rangers.

The Union men, as ordered, continued to fire at will; and it was soon
evident that their carbines were superior to those in the hands of the
enemy, for they discharged at least twice as many shots. The report of
the muskets had brought the force of Lieutenant Gadbury into the rear of
the enemy, and both divisions of the company were pouring bullets into
them.



CHAPTER XI

A DESPERATE CHARGE ON BOTH SIDES


The Texan Rangers were formed in a rather compact mass, while the Union
line was considerably extended. Captain Truman had ideas of his own;
and, though he was not a martinet, he was disposed to follow strictly
the rules and precedents of military practice. His men could not very
well fire into forty-five men huddled together in a small space without
hitting some of them. On the other hand, the enemy might discharge a
volley into his force, placed about six feet apart, with comparatively
little effect.

He was surprised to observe how few of the Rangers fell from their
horses at the first discharge of his men; but their practice immediately
began to improve, and as soon as the detachment of Lieutenant Gadbury
dashed into the road in the rear of the enemy, the fire became very
destructive. Many of the enemy were killed and wounded, and it looked
as though they would all be destroyed.

The Texans were brave men; they were impulsive and reckless, and they
seemed to be perfectly satisfied that they could overcome the Union
cavalry, and carry everything before them. In a few minutes it was
evident to the captain of the second company that the officer of the
enemy had made a fearful blunder, led into it by his impulsive ardor. He
had conducted his men into the fight without sufficiently understanding
the situation, and without taking the trouble to feel of the enemy
beforehand. He had rushed blindly into the engagement with a feeling of
contempt for his foe, and with the belief that the Texan cavalry could
carry everything before them.

In a few minutes he had discovered his mistake, as he saw his men drop
before the fire in the front and rear of his force. He had been beyond
the crown of the elevation in the road when Captain Truman stationed his
flanking party behind the knoll, where they could not be seen by the
enemy. He had recklessly regarded the force in front of him as the
entire strength of his foe.

The Rangers were between the upper and the nether millstone, as the
Home Guards had been early in the morning; and it was only a question of
time when they would all be shot down. In the village of Barcreek,
Captain Truman had won a reputation as a chess-player among the better
class of citizens who were fond of the game. He had reached the
conclusion that warfare was to be conducted on similar principles, and
he was on the lookout for an opportunity to "checkmate" his antagonist.
He had fought the battle in the morning on the plan laid down for him by
Major Lyon.

By dividing his detachment, and placing forty of them in front of the
Texans, and spreading them out so that they appeared to be even a
smaller force, he had tempted the attack in which the enemy were
suffering so severely. It was not in the power or the nerve of any body
of soldiers to stand up against such a deadly fire from their front and
rear. They must either be shot down or surrender. It evidently had not
occurred to the lieutenant in command of the Rangers to resort to the
last expedient to save his men; but he was plainly making a movement to
extricate them from the trap into which he had so inconsiderately led
them.

"Attention, company!" shouted Captain Truman at the top of his lungs, as
he interpreted the movement of the enemy. "Close order, march!"

The file closed up in a more compact mass. The command was given to
sling their carbines, and to draw their sabres; and it was given none
too soon, for the captain had correctly divined the intention of the
lieutenant on the other side of attempting to cut his way through the
force in front of him.

"Can you make out what Lieutenant Gadbury is doing, Deck?" asked the
captain, who was rather near-sighted.

Deck and Artie had both remained near the captain; and they had not been
idle or indifferent, but acted as volunteers in the second company.

"His men are slinging their carbines, as the enemy have done," replied
Deck.

"We are going to have some hot work, my boy. If you are ready to return
to the first company"--

"I am not ready to return, Captain Truman!" exclaimed Deck. "I think you
need all the men you can have, and I shall add one to the number. I have
not heard any firing to the south of us, and I don't believe the first
company has been engaged yet."

"But I am somewhat concerned about our prisoners at the bridge. There
are a hundred of them, or very nearly that number. They must have heard
our firing, and Lieutenant Blenks may have his hands full. You can
render better service by looking after this part of the field," added
the captain.

"Of course I am ready to go wherever I can do the most good," replied
Deck, who could not help wondering if the captain was not sending him
out of the way because he was the major's son.

"You are wounded, and you can be spared better than some other man. Some
of our poor fellows have bitten the dust. Ride over to the bridge; and,
if Blenks is having no trouble with the prisoners, go over to the rear
of the enemy, and direct Gadbury to follow up the charge of the Texans."

Deck saluted the captain, and dashed down the road towards the bridge
with all the speed the willing Ceph could command. It was a few minutes
that he required to reach the position of Lieutenant Blenks, who had
heard the firing, and had drawn up his men for any duty that might be
before them. No movement on the part of the prisoners was apparent to
Deck, and they were surrounded by a guard, with their carbines in their
hands; for the officer had ordered them to be on the lookout for any
demonstration.

"I am sent by Captain Truman to ascertain the condition of the
prisoners," said Deck, as he saluted the lieutenant.

"The prisoners are all right," replied the officer with a smile. "As
soon as I heard heavy firing I strengthened the guards around them; for
I thought they might want to take a hand in the fight over yonder. I had
a talk with the second lieutenant of the Guards, now in command, and he
told me that a company of Texan cavalry were to have connected with his
force here."

"But the force we have engaged cannot be more than half the company; and
all of them must have known that at least one of our companies was in
this vicinity," added Deck.

"The lieutenant, whose name is Condor, tried to induce Lagger to wait
till they had joined their forces before he meddled with the bridge; but
he refused to do so."

"Buck Lagger desired to win his spurs while the captain of the Guards
was absent. But you need no assistance here," added Deck, as he wheeled
his horse.

"None at all; we could ride these fellows down in two minutes. But their
arms are loaded into our baggage wagon, and they could do nothing if
they tried," replied the officer.

The messenger galloped up the road and into the field by the side of the
east road. It was not cultivated, though it had been years before, and
was now overgrown in places by small trees and bushes. Behind these Deck
made his way to a point abreast of the enemy. He was in time to hear the
order to charge upon the Union cavalry at the foot of the hill. The
lieutenant had evidently delayed this order for some time; for when his
men ceased to fire, the Union troopers had followed their example, and
prepared for the decisive event of the conflict. The messenger rode into
the road and saluted the officer in command of the flanking party.

"Captain Truman's order is that you follow up the enemy in the rear as
they charge down the hill," said Deck.

"I am all ready to do that," replied the officer, as he pointed to his
men, who sat upon their horses with their drawn sabres in their hands.

They were not more than two hundred feet from the Texans, and Lieutenant
Gadbury had already addressed some inspiring words to them. The other
division could be plainly seen at the foot of the hill, and both parties
were observing the enemy with the most intense interest. Judging from
the impetuous and reckless conduct of the Rangers, the conclusion had
been reached on both sides to charge the foe; for any other movement
would be turning their backs to the enemy.

During the tacit suspension of the conflict, both combatants had
improved the opportunity to care for their wounded. Two of the men only
had been killed so far, but half a dozen of them had been wounded; for
the Texans had given most of their attention to those at the foot of the
hill. Of these six, four kept in their saddles, and refused to take the
rear. The wounds were dressed as far as possible, and Dr. Farnwright was
a busy man at his post on the cross-roads.

Suddenly the officer in command of the Texans appeared in the rear of
his force, and made a furious gesture with his sword, pointing in the
direction of Gadbury's men. This was not what was expected of the
Rangers; and for the moment all the advantage was in favor of the enemy,
so far as numbers were concerned.

"Fours, right about, march!" shouted the Confederate lieutenant. "Now
charge with all the blood there is in you! Ride them down, and use your
sabres like men!"

The order was promptly obeyed by the Texans, who appeared to be under
excellent discipline; but they had hardly whirled around before the
watchful eyes of Captain Truman discovered what they were doing, and his
energetic shouts of orders could be heard by the force now in front of
the Rangers. In another moment the main body of the company were
spurring their steeds with all their might up the hill. Their sabres
were in their hands, and they were using them in urging forward their
horses. They came like a whirlwind, with the captain in advance; and
there was not a man among them who would not have been ashamed to be a
laggard under such leadership.

It was well known that there were two or more companies of cavalry from
Texas in this part of the State, and they had excited an unwholesome
dread among the citizens by their desperate bravery and their reported
prowess. In the squadron of Riverlawn cavalry, as it was sometimes
called, the troopers had talked about them a great deal, and an
emulation had been created among them to measure sabres with them. They
had the opportunity on this occasion, and the pride of every soldier had
been roused to the highest pitch.

Though the flanking division of the company was now outnumbered for the
moment, all the Union men looked upon the change of front in the enemy
as something like the appearance of the white feather, and they were
encouraged by this phase of the combat. Lieutenant Gadbury, as soon as
he saw the change of front on the part of the Rangers, was disposed to
take the bull by the horns.

"Open order, march!" he shouted. "Sergeant Lingall, march half the
column into the field on the left, and strike them on that side."

With the twenty men left to him, he gave the order to move forward at a
gallop, imitating the example of the Texan lieutenant in taking his
place in advance. No mercy was shown to the poor horses, which were
goaded with sabre and spurs to their highest speed. The two divisions
were rushing upon each other with a fury that promised a tremendous
shock when they came together. Deck had placed himself in the front
rank, and added one to the number reduced by death and wounds.

He was not a full-grown man; but he was a stout fellow, and as brave as
a lion, which he had proved on some former occasions. Ceph, his
intelligent horse, fully seconded him. The rider selected the point
where he was likely to hit. It looked to him just as though the two
officers in command would meet each other, and have a pass with their
sabres, for which they had exchanged their dress swords. But the Texan,
before the onslaught came, had moved over nearer the left flank of his
force, in order to obtain a better view of his men; but he had started
to regain his former position just as the crash of the two bodies
ensued. He was directly in front of Deck, when Captain Truman shouted to
his men to stand up to the work before them, and not yield a hair while
the breath of life was in them.

Ceph had been ridden a great deal by his master before he became his
war-charger, and he had trained him to some tricks in which the other
horses had not been drilled. One of these was to leap over a high bar.
As the young cavalryman saw the lieutenant of the enemy directly in
front of him, he drew his rein, as Ceph had been instructed; and the
steed stood up on his hind-legs, Deck clinging with his wounded arm to
his holsters.

The gallant charger understood that he was to leap over the object in
front of him; but it was more than he could do, and he came down with
his fore-legs over the neck of the smaller horse of the lieutenant. The
horse went down, the rider upon him, and Deck gave a sharp thrust with
his sabre at the same moment. The officer was disabled at least, and
Deck dashed over him into the thickest of the fight.



CHAPTER XII

THE YOUNG HERO OF THE BATTLE


The steed of the officer of the Texans was a diminutive animal, and was,
perhaps, a mustang from Mexico, a tough little beast with nearly the
endurance of a mule. Ceph, in the exercise through which his young
master put him when they were alone by themselves, had leaped quite as
high as the backbone of the officer's steed; but it was under favorable
circumstances. In the furious conflict both the rider and the steed were
excited in the highest degree.

Ceph had failed to leap over the back of the mustang, but he had brought
him to the ground, and the lieutenant upon him; for he could do nothing
for himself, and Deck made a vigorous use of his sabre the moment the
enemy was under him, as his gallant charger sprang from the wreck he had
accomplished, and dashed forward into the _mêlée_.

If Deck had won no prize for his sabre drill, it was only because none
was offered. He was as quick as a flash in his movements, and had a
strong arm. The Ranger nearest to his officer when the latter went down
aimed a tremendous blow at the head of the young soldier, which would
have cleft it in twain if Deck had not parried it skilfully and
powerfully. In return, he inflicted the same kind of a blow upon his
assailant, whose horse carried him out of the affray when he ceased to
direct him, and he fell to the ground at the side of the road.

The ringing voice of the Texan officer was no longer heard in the
furious strife, and the Rangers were fighting each on his own
responsibility. Captain Truman had brought up his men, and they had made
a tremendous onslaught. The ten men sent to the flank had done their
whole duty, and Deck found not a single one of the enemy who was not
engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with a Ranger. The enemy were
surrounded, hemmed in, and discouraged by the fall of their brave
leader. They were also outnumbered, and one of them was often engaged
with two of the Union cavalrymen.

The Texans had assuredly done all that could be done, and it was soon
evident that they were only defending themselves till they could work
out of the desperate _mêlée_. On the flanks, as they could detach
themselves from the struggling mass, they fled into the field on the
south of the road. Such a conflict could last but a few moments, for
there was not breath enough in the human body to keep up such a strain.

An observer would have supposed that more than half on both sides had
been killed; yet very few had fallen to the ground, and fewer still had
come out of it without wounds of greater or less magnitude. The Texans
fought to free themselves from the embrace of the Unionists, as it were;
and as soon as they had worked out of the confusion, they fled at the
best speed of their half-exhausted animals. Some one among them had
taken in the lay of the country; and they all fled in one direction,
which was towards the road by which they had come from their camp.

The battle was fought, and the Union cavalrymen remained in possession
of the field. Most of the men were at least spotted with gore, and some
of them looked as though they had been at work in a slaughter-house.
Dr. Farnwright had already begun his work at the side of the road. Three
of the company were silent and motionless, and the surgeon had
pronounced them dead. The wagons were sent for, including those of the
Guards, and the few who were severely wounded were sent to the hospital
the surgeon had established.

Deck had received no additional wound; and the bullet injury did not
trouble him much, for he could handle his reins with the left hand
nearly as well as ever. Artie had received three cuts upon his sword
arm, but they happened to be all slight. In fact, the soldier who had
not been damaged to some extent was hardly to be found. Only five men
had been killed, nine wounded seriously enough to disable them.

"You seem to be all right, Deck," said Captain Truman, when they met at
the camp.

"I am, Captain, and ready for another fight when you bring it along,"
replied the young soldier, laughing, and putting a bold face on the
situation.

"Don't be too ambitious, my boy," replied the officer, shaking his head.
"You have been reckless to-day."

"But I have come out all right; and I don't think I was any more
reckless than the rest of the fellows," added Deck.

"You have fought like a veteran; and I think we owe more to you for the
result of the action than to any other single individual, though all the
boys behaved like heroes, and proved that they were the equals of even
the Texan desperadoes."

"I don't think I did anything more than the rest of our fellows,"
suggested Deck; and he was not in this matter indulging in mere bravado:
he really believed he had done nothing except what came naturally to his
hands, as others had done.

"Then I must differ in opinion from you; but while I commend your skill
and bravery, I cannot wholly approve of the gymnastics in which you
indulged at the beginning of the charge, for it was simply
recklessness," said the captain very seriously. "It is your duty to
fight courageously, my boy; but it is also a duty you owe to your
country, as well as to your father and all the members of your family,
to save your life and limbs with honor if you can."

"Haven't I done so, Captain Truman?" asked Deck, with a very cheerful
smile on his face. "I came out with hardly a wound after the bullet hit
me in the arm at the beginning. I have nothing but half-a-dozen
scratches to show for it."

"You were excited to the highest pitch in the affair, and you have not
got over it yet. When you do, you will feel your scratches more. But I
hope you will not be so reckless another time, my boy."

"I didn't know I was reckless. Lieutenant Gadbury fired our blood so
that I could hardly hold in; and I went in for all I was worth, and only
did the best I knew how," replied Deck, trying to cool off his heated
blood.

"You didn't know you were reckless, my boy!" exclaimed the captain. "You
were a volunteer in the second company, and you advanced ahead of the
first rank with the lieutenant. That was a bold exposure; but what I
particularly refer to as reckless was your attempt to leap your horse
over that of the Texan leader."

"I did not intend to leap my horse over him; but I went for that
officer. When I came up with him, and was going to use my sabre, Ceph
thought I wanted him to leap over him, for he and I have practised
together at that a great deal. He meant right; but I knew he couldn't
clear the horse, small as he was, to say nothing of the rider. Ceph came
down upon both of them, and I drove my weapon into the officer before he
had a chance to stick me. That was the whole of it."

"If you were not trying to make your steed leap over the horse and
rider, I will acquit you of recklessness in that particular."

This conversation occurred as they were moving back to the camp. The
wounded on both sides were put into the wagons, the lieutenant in
command of the Rangers among the others. He was badly wounded, and his
chance of recovery was small. Those the doctor pronounced dead were
placed by the side of the road, to be disposed of later.

"How are you now, Artie?" asked Deck, as he rode up to his brother at
the camp, and looked at him with anxiety, to ascertain the extent of his
injuries, though he looked as rosy and vigorous as usual.

"I'm all right, Deck, though I have a lot of scratches, and a cut on the
sword arm which is beginning to make itself felt," replied his brother,
quite as cheerfully as the other.

"I didn't see you till the affair was about over," added Deck. "But you
were putting in the dry licks as though you felt that your time for work
was very short."

"But I saw you just us soon as we started from the cross-roads, and I
did not expect to see you come out of it alive, Deck," replied Artie;
and he could not wholly conceal the admiration he felt for his brother
since he saw him take his place in advance of his detachment, and
vanquish the Texan lieutenant almost in the twinkling of an eye. "The
captain said you were reckless at the time of it."

"He don't say so now."

"You tried to leap your horse over rider and steed."

"Ceph did that on his own hook; and I could not very well help following
his lead, as I was on his back, though I had nearly slidden off when he
mounted in the air. I am not badly damaged, and I am ready to return to
the first company; I am only waiting for the captain to write a note to
the major."

"I am all ready to go back, though I should like to have Dr. Farnwright
dress the cut on my arm before I go," added Artie. "But he is too busy
with the men who are worse off than I am, and I will let it go as it is.
But here comes the captain with a paper in his hand. I suppose father
will wonder what has become of us."

"He must have heard the firing in this direction. Perhaps he has been
fully occupied himself, or he would have sent more men over this way."

No effort had been used to make prisoners of any of the Texans, for the
captain had his hands full. He was satisfied that Major Lyon expected
warm work where he was, for he would not have sent for the additional
force otherwise. The rest of the company with which he had been engaged
might be at no great distance from him, and doubtless this was the force
the first company was expected to encounter.

"Here is the letter, Deck, in which I have given a hasty statement of
the action," said Captain Truman, as he handed him the paper, which
could hardly be called a letter. "I believe we have met a portion of the
enemy he expected to engage; and probably he is not in a hurry, for we
have heard no firing at the south of us."

"We are all ready to go; but Artie has a wound in his arm which troubles
him, and there is no surgeon with the first company," interposed Deck.

"Farnwright!" shouted the captain, as he saw that he had just finished
his attention to one patient and was hastening to another.

The surgeon came promptly at his call, and proceeded to dress the arm of
the wounded soldier without his dismounting from his horse.

"I wish I had no worse cases than that, my boy," said the doctor.

"I am sorry you have, sir," replied Artie.

"You will be all right in a few days, my young friend; and I learn that
you have both fought like Trojans, though I believe Artie did not try to
leap his horse over any Texan's head," added Dr. Farnwright, with a look
of admiration at Deck, who appeared to have won the laurel of the day on
the field.

"Neither did I, Doctor. If any one tried to do a big thing, it was
Ceph," protested the hero.

"Ceph? Who is he?"

"My horse;" and Deck hastily gave his version of the daring deed, as it
appeared to be to those who had observed it.

But the dressing of the wound was finished, and the young soldiers
started on their return to the camp of the first company. The excitement
of the morning had subsided, and they began to feel the wear and tear to
which they had been subjected.

"We don't get such a morning's work as this every day in the week," said
Artie as they crossed the east road.

"But I imagine we shall get some worse days than this has been," added
Deck. "We haven't seen the end of this day yet, and we may be in another
fight before noon. I suppose these Texan troopers have been sent over
here to destroy the bridges on the railroad extending to Louisville."

"It isn't a great while since the Confederates were trying to keep the
road open," added Artie.

"The situation has changed since that, and we are farther along into the
war. Then they wanted to keep this road open, so that they could bring
provisions down for the use of the armies of the enemy. Now they want to
destroy them, to prevent the United States Government from sending
troops for the invasion of the Southern States," replied Deck.

The conversation the rest of the way was in regard to the events of the
day, filled up with surmises as to what the first company was doing.
When they left Major Lyon he was on the top of the planter's house,
surveying the surrounding country, wishing to obtain the first
intelligence of the approach of the enemy. Both of the messengers
wondered that he had not seen the coming of the detachment with whom the
second company had engaged; but they concluded that the road they had
taken led them beyond certain hills in that direction.

When the boys reached the mansion of Mr. Barkland, Major Lyon was still
on the house, and shouted to them to join him at once.



CHAPTER XIII

THE PERPLEXING MOVEMENTS OF THE ENEMY


The commander of the squadron had not yet become familiar with the
trials, doubts, and anxieties of military life in the midst of actual
fighting; and though he was as calm and resolute as ever, he seemed to
the boys to be greatly disturbed about something. Thus far all the
fighting had been done by the second company; but before this time Major
Lyon had confidently expected to be engaged with the cavalry which had
encamped three miles from the mansion of the planter.

The reputation of the Texans had been spread over this portion of the
State; and they were regarded as terrible soldiers, real fire-eaters,
and he had by no means underrated them. He had made the most careful
preparations to meet them, and had sent the two messengers to obtain a
re-enforcement from the second company, which had successfully
completed its work at the railroad bridge, and could spare a portion of
their strength.

Deck handed his father the letter from Captain Truman as soon as he came
into his presence. The major opened it without saying a word, for he
expected it to give him the information he had been so anxiously
awaiting. The firing to which he had listened, though it was so faint
that he could hardly make it out, had assured him that something not
laid down in his programme had been in progress. While he was reading
the hurriedly written communication, Deck and Artie busied themselves in
examining the region lying to the eastward of the mansion.

"The road by which the Texans came must be just beyond that hill, a
couple of miles from us," said Artie, as they went as far as they could
from the major. "I know I saw them come out from behind it; for I sat on
my horse, on the highest ground I crossed, watching them for some time."

"There's father's map," added Deck, pointing to the sheet which lay on
the railing that surrounded the platform; and then he went for it. "I
wondered father did not see this force from his high perch on this
house."

The young soldiers spread out the map, and examined it very closely.
They readily found the planter's house, and then a road, nearly parallel
to the east one, passing over several hills. The high ground, as they
made out the locality with the aid of the map, was covered with forest,
as marked and as they could see with their own eyes.

"They went behind that highest hill, and of course they could not be
seen from the top of this house," said Deck, as he restored the map to
the place where he had found it.

"I wonder he did not send more messengers down, to ascertain what had
become of the force he sent for," added Artie in a low tone.

"He was expecting an engagement with the Texans all the time, and had
prepared for it, so that he did not want to spare any of his men."

Major Lyon had finished the reading of the letter, which had evidently
given him some trouble, for it was written on horse-back with a pencil.
He had not heard the conversation of the sons, so deeply had he been
absorbed in the perusal of the missive from the bridge.

"It appears that you have had a fight near the bridge," said he, as the
boys approached him. "Both of you are very highly commended for your
courage and steadiness, and I am glad to hear so good a report of you.
And both of you have been wounded."

"Only some scratches, father," replied Deck. "I got one in the beginning
of the action; but it has hardly troubled me at all, and I was able to
do my duty through the whole of it.

"Deck was the hero of the day, and the whole company are talking about
him down at the bridge," said Artie.

"But I did no more than my brother. I think we both did our duty, if
saying that is not vanity; and we had better let it go at that," replied
Deck.

"We will let the matter rest till another time, at least," added the
major; "for I have something else to think of just now."

Major Lyon took his field-glass, and directed it to the south, as he had
done all the forenoon, looking for the approach of the main body of the
Texans. He scanned the region in detail, but nothing was to be
discovered. Then he proceeded to question his messengers respecting the
action, especially in regard to the manner in which it had been brought
about.

"There is something concerning the situation here which I cannot
understand," said he, with the same perplexed look he had worn since the
arrival of the messengers. "I expected your return about two hours ago."

"We started to come back as long ago as that," replied Deck. "When we
came to the cross-roads we discovered two mounted scouts on the east
road approaching us. One of them fired, and I was wounded in the arm. We
returned the fire, and Artie brought down one of them. The other went
back the way they had come. I returned to the camp to notify Captain
Truman, and Artie followed the retreating trooper."

Artie related his experience in looking for the Texans, and the result
of his search. Between them both they gave the details of the fight.

"Captain Truman stated that his orders were to join you here; but it was
plain enough to him that the camp at the bridge would be captured if he
took his force away," said Deck.

"He did quite right; and the approach of the Texan detachment in that
roundabout way put an entirely new phase on the situation," added the
major, looking down at the roof of the building, while his brow was
wrinkled by his active reflection. "We have been waiting since daylight
for the coming of the enemy down this south road."

"Do they know the Riverlawn Cavalry is here, father?" asked Deck.

"Of course they know it; for it appears that they send out scouts a long
way ahead, and they must have found out that we are here. I directed
Captain Gordon to send scouts out till he discovered where the enemy
were; and it is time we had a return from them."

"I have a return from my scouts," said Captain Gordon, springing to the
roof out of the skylight at this moment.

"Where are the enemy now?" asked the major anxiously.

"They were breaking camp when my men left," replied the captain. "I sent
six men, the most intelligent in the company, in charge of Sergeant
Knox, who has performed his duty very faithfully."

"He always does. Have your six men returned?" asked Major Lyon.

"No, sir; Knox returned alone to report. He left Sergeant Sluder and
the other four as pickets in the road a mile and a half from here, to
report the approach of the enemy if they came this way."

"But if they were breaking camp, why have we not heard from them before
this time?" demanded the major.

"Some of the troopers that escaped from the fight on the east road must
have reached the camp by this time," interposed Deck. "Of course they
have informed the captain of the company what happened over there."

"What fight?" asked the captain sharply, as he turned to Deck.

The captain had to be informed of what the major had already learned.

"This puts an entirely different complexion on the situation," said
Captain Gordon, when he had heard something about the fight with the
Texan cavalry. "That detachment of forty-five men were sent over to the
bridge. Now, the question is, What were they sent for?"

"I have no doubt the Texan captain is aware of the presence of the
Riverlawn squadron in this vicinity. He has found the road here picketed
by our men. It looks to me as though this detachment was sent round by
that back road to take us in the flank and rear when the main body came
down upon us in front. They have been waiting all this time for them to
get a position," said the major, with less anxiety on his face than
before.

"But those who escaped from the fight have now given him full
information that they were beaten off by our men," suggested Captain
Gordon. "They were preparing for a move of some sort; for Knox left his
horse in the road, and made his way through fields and groves, till he
was in sight of their camp."

"Have you anything to advise, Captain Gordon?" asked Major Lyon.

"I think I should attack them where they are," he replied.

"I cannot agree with you, Captain," added the superior officer.

"But we are losing time whatever we do," said the captain.

"We will march immediately, and with all the haste we can, to the
cross-roads. Give your orders to that effect without any delay. Send
the prisoners first, with a proper guard," said Major Lyon very
decidedly.

By this time Captain Gordon had acquired a great deal of respect for the
judgment of the commander, even in military matters; for he had proved
himself equal to the position in which he had been placed; and, mild as
he was ordinarily, he had shown that he had a will of his own. But the
captain proceeded to obey his orders without offering any objection, and
the major had not time to explain his plans in detail.

"Captain Truman and his detachment are coming," said Deck, who had been
using his father's field-glass for his amusement, while he listened to
the conversation at his side.

"Mount your horse, Artie, and give him my order to return to the
cross-roads!" added Major Lyon sharply.

Artie departed on the instant, and Deck remained on the roof. He could
see from his lofty position all that took place in the vicinity. He saw
the six prisoners, including his uncle, Captain Titus, marched down the
slope with an escort of half-a-dozen troopers. The baggage-wagons
followed them; and the company was formed in the road by fours. Captain
Gordon had hurried the preparations to the best of his ability.

"The pickets are coming in, Dexter," said Major Lyon, as he returned the
field-glass to the case slung at his side. "You can take your place in
the ranks, my son. Whether the pickets have been sent for, or are driven
in by the enemy, I don't know. We will see when we reach the ground."

The young man followed his father down the stairs. In the lower entry
they met the family; and the planter expressed regret that they were
about to leave the vicinity of his house.

"I have felt that I was protected from insult and depredation while your
command was here, and I am sorry to have you go," said Mr. Barkland.

"I am afraid we should do you more harm than good if we remained,"
replied the major. "If we stayed here it might produce a fight, and that
would imperil your family. I think the enemy will be too much in a hurry
to stop to molest you if they march by this road, as they may or may
not."

"I had hoped to see more of your son who rendered such a great service
last night," said Mrs. Barkland.

"And I wanted to see him very much," said the daughter.

"They have no time to meet you at present."

"But what is the matter with your arm, Mr. Lyon?" asked Miss Barkland,
when she discovered the extra bandage which the doctor had put on
outside of his coat.

"I got a scratch; but it wasn't the cat that did it," replied Deck,
laughing.

"Both of my boys have been slightly wounded to-day in the action down by
the cross-roads; but they are still able to do their duty, and I thank
God it was no worse," added Major Lyon, as he took the hand of the
planter.

They all took the hand of Deck, and repeated their thanks to him. He
followed his father out of the house, in front of which they met Knox.

"The enemy are moving down this road, Major Lyon," said the Kentuckian
as he saluted.

"All right; give the captain my order to march at a gallop," replied the
commander, as he mounted his own horse.

The column moved; and the major soon reached the head of it, where he
took his place by the side of the captain.

"The enemy have started upon this road," said he. "Whether or not they
have sent another detachment around by that back road can hardly be
known till we find them there."

"The captain of the Texan Rangers does not seem to have any contempt for
strategy, as was reported of him," replied Captain Gordon. "I have no
doubt his scouts informed him that the Riverlawn Cavalry were in camp on
the plantation."

"And I have no doubt now, from the way things have worked, that the
detachment were sent round to take us in the flank. They don't seem to
have made any connection with Captain Titus's company, and did not
expect to find one of our companies at the bridge."

There was some confusion ahead, and the company were thrown back. The
column had overtaken the prisoners and the baggage. The captain sent
forward an order for both to take the side of the road. The major saw
his brother drawn up with the others, and he shouted "Noah!" as he was
passing; but the commander took no notice of him.



CHAPTER XIV

A LONG WAIT FOR THE ENEMY


The only feeling Major Lyon had in regard to his unfortunate brother was
that of sorrow. If he had been disposed to do so, he could not leave his
soldiers to converse with him, as Titus evidently desired; for he was
hurrying the first company forward in order to unite his forces and
secure a favorable position before the enemy in his rear could overtake
him. Doubtless Titus desired to make a request of some kind; perhaps to
be set at liberty, perhaps only to demand a ration of whiskey.

The captain was so imprudent that he was as likely as otherwise to
reproach him, call him a thief, or something of that kind, as he had
done before, in the presence of his command. He had been captured in the
act of committing a dastardly outrage, as well as being in the military
service of the enemy. He was willing to extend to him every reasonable
privilege; but he was a prisoner of war, to take the mildest view of his
condition, and the major was not a man who could be conveniently blind
to an obvious duty.

The first company proceeded on its rapid march, and in a short time
reached the cross-roads, where it was halted, with the head of the
column near the camp at the railroad bridge. Captain Truman hastened to
the major as soon as he halted, and the commander extended his hand to
him.

"I commend you, Captain Truman, for the good work you have accomplished;
and I thank you for the skill, courage, and devotion with which you have
done your duty. But the enemy are in motion in this direction on the
south road, and we have no time for anything but preparation for the
immediate future. It is possible that a detachment of the enemy may
approach by the east road."

"I have a picket stationed a mile up that road, and we shall have early
notice of any force coming from that direction, Major Lyon," replied the
captain of the second company, which had just been sent back by the
order of which Artie had been the bearer.

"Very well. You have fought a severe fight, Captain; in what condition
are your men?" inquired the commander.

"They are in excellent condition; for they have found that they are
fully the equals of the Texans on fighting ground, and they are ready
and anxious to meet the enemy again. We have buried our dead, and our
wounded are doing well."

Major Lyon had carefully studied the face of the country for several
miles in the vicinity of the planter's mansion, from his elevated
position on the building, and had observed it for the present situation
as he rode down from the plantation. He had confidently expected an
attack while he was near the house of Mr. Barkland. He had arranged his
plan to receive the assault; and Lieutenant Belthorpe, with one-third of
the company, had been sent around through the grove to a position behind
a knoll, which would effectually conceal him from the enemy till the
time came for him to assail the Texans in the flank and rear.

Captain Gordon had heartily approved this plan, and they had force
enough to carry it out successfully. Major Lyon regretted very much that
the issue had not come in the manner he had anticipated. The plan
of the captain of the Rangers had evidently failed because he had not
heard from the detachment sent by the hill road, as the natives called
it. He must have had some means of knowing where this flanking party
were, or he would have moved sooner. Probably a swift rider was to have
been sent back when the force reached the cross-roads; but they had not
got so far as that. His first news must have been the defeat of this
portion of his command.

"Captain Truman, have you noticed a considerable knoll on the left of
the south road, just above the cross-roads?" asked the major.

"I have; and I thought of posting my reserve under Lieutenant Gadbury
there; but I found it was too far off for the time at my command,"
replied the captain.

"Can it be reached without going by the south road?"

"Very easily; by riding through this field, where we were posted this
morning, crossing the east road, and then through a valley, which will
conceal the force till they reach the shelter of the knoll."

"How many men can you muster in your company?"

"About eighty, if you are to remain in this vicinity; for ten or fifteen
will be a sufficient guard for the prisoners."

"Then you will march your available force to the point indicated. I see
that you have hoisted the American flag on the railroad bridge," added
the major.

"It is the camp flag, and I wanted it in the most sightly place I could
find," replied the captain.

"It will answer a double purpose, then. Could you see it from behind the
knoll?"

"Perfectly; we did not get the flag-pole elevated till half an hour
ago."

"I shall send Deck to lower that flag, and remain by the staff till I
give him the signal to hoist it again. Then you will march to the south
road with all speed, and attack the enemy in the rear or on the flank."

"I understand you perfectly, Major Lyon, and your order shall be carried
out to the letter," replied Captain Truman, as he saluted, and hurried
to his company, which had been formed in the field by the side of the
road.

"Dexter!" called the commander, when he had found his son in the ranks.


Both of the boys had been used as messengers during the morning, and
this service had led them into the most dangerous positions; and both of
them had fought like heroes as volunteers while their company was at the
plantation.

Deck came out of his place in the ranks, saluted his father, and
expected to be called upon for more messenger service, hoping it would
lead him into the thickest of the action, as it had before.

"Do you see that flag on the railroad bridge, Dexter?" asked his father,
pointing at the ensign.

"I do; and I take off my cap to it," replied Deck, suiting the action to
the word.

"You will go to it and haul it down, my son."

"Haul down the American flag!" exclaimed Deck.

"As long as it is not for a surrender or the abandonment of the camp,
you need have no scruples about it," replied the major, with a smile at
the boy's objection. "You will obey the order, and you will remain at
the staff. When you see me wave my handkerchief three times in the air,
you may set your conscience at ease by hoisting the flag again."

The commander made the signal over his plumed hat, so that the
messenger would be able to recognize it when it was given in the fight,
if there should be one, of which he was not altogether sure after the
disappointment of the morning.

"I shall see that signal from the bridge if it is made three miles off."

"Keep your eyes wide open after the engagement begins; for it is a
signal, really an order from me, of the utmost importance, and the
result of the action may depend upon it," added the major very
impressively. "I have called upon you for this service because I know I
can depend upon you, Dexter."

"Of course I shall do my duty and obey my orders to the best of my
ability," replied Deck; but judging from the expression on his face he
was not pleased with the mission assigned to him.

"You can go to the bridge at once; but you will not haul the flag down
till I make the signal agreed upon to you," added Major Lyon.

"But, father, do you expect to fight this battle without me?" asked
Deck, with a very cheerful smile on his face; and he would not have said
as much as that to any other person, even as a joke.

"You have made yourself the hero of the day, and perhaps you ought to
have a little rest," replied his father, quite as cheerfully as the son,
for he took the question as it was intended.

"I don't exactly like the idea of squatting on that bridge, and looking
on while there is any fighting going on," continued the young soldier.

"But the position to which I have assigned you is one of the most
important on the field. I can trust you to be watchful, while another,
interested in the action, might neglect his duty."

"I have nothing more to say, father," replied Deck, as he rode off in
the direction of the bridge.

Major Lyon had made his dispositions and issued his orders before he
spoke to his son. Captain Truman was galloping over the field towards
the east road, with sixty men, which was the number finally designated
for the service at the knoll. Captain Gordon had posted his men along
the roads and the adjoining fields. The baggage-wagons and the prisoners
had arrived from the plantations, and Captain Titus had an opportunity
to rejoin his company; but the glory of his military life seemed to have
passed away. He was treated the same as the rest of the prisoners, and
no one took any notice of him. He was not in good odor even in his own
company; for his men declared that he had deserted them the night
before.

The enemy had not yet appeared; and even the pickets that had been
posted a mile down the south road had not been driven in, which would be
the first indication that hostilities were at hand. Those from the
second company who were scouting the east road had not been heard from;
and they had been ordered to proceed as far as a certain hill, where
Artie had first seen the detachment sent that way.

Noon came, and the soldiers ate their dinner from their haversacks, and
the horses took their oats from the grass. It was a very quiet time, and
the Riverlawn battalion would have been glad to receive an order to
march upon the enemy wherever they could be found. They were impatient
for something to do, especially the first company, which had not yet
seen any fighting.

Major Lyon improved his time as he took his lunch with Captain Truman,
in listening to a fuller report of the action on the east road. The
commander asked particularly in regard to the lieutenant who had fallen
under the onslaught of Deck Lyon. He had been wounded in the chest by a
ball, and he had gone down from a cut of the young soldier's sabre. He
had been stunned by the blow, and left on the field. But he had been
conveyed to the camp in the wagon with other wounded men, and the
surgeon had dressed his wounds. He believed he would recover.

"I should like to see that man," said the major.

"I saw him walking about the shanty hospital not long ago. I spoke with
him, and he is a very gentlemanly fellow. You can send for him if you
wish, Major. But it is time for me to join my company, as I sent the men
in charge of Lieutenant Gadbury; for I had to give some orders in regard
to the prisoners."

"I will not send for him; but I will ride down to the hospital, which is
only a few rods from the cross-roads. Captain Gordon, I wish to have
some one near me to carry my orders, if need be," said the commander, as
Captain Truman rode off.

"Your orderly?" asked the captain.

"I prefer Artie Lyon; I have already sent Dexter on duty upon the
bridge. I am going down to the hospital; send me notice at once if any
movement is apparent."

Artie was sent to him at once; but Deck had told him where he was going,
and he hoped he would not be sent to join him. He followed his father to
the hospital, where Dr. Farnwright received him. He asked for the Texan
lieutenant; and the surgeon pointed him out, seated on a log at the side
of the road.

"This is Major Lyon, commanding the squadron," said the doctor,
introducing him.

The officer rose from his seat, and saluted the major very politely.

"This gentleman is Lieutenant Makepeace, of the Texan Rangers," added
the surgeon.

"That does not sound like a Southern name," replied Major Lyon, and he
took the hand of the wounded officer.

"I am a Northern man; but my home has been in Texas for seven years,
though I came from a New England State."

"I regret to see you on the wrong side in this war, though I am sorry
that you have been wounded."

"I don't know exactly how I came in this service; but I was very near
being elected to the captaincy of this company, though I am not a
Texan."

"Who is the commander of the company?"

"Captain Dingfield."

"There comes the picket down the hill!" exclaimed Artie, who had
discovered half-a-dozen men running their horses down the descent.

"Then I must leave you; but I shall see you again," added the major, as
he dashed up the road at full speed.



CHAPTER XV

THE AMERICAN FLAG ON THE BRIDGE


As Major Lyon rode out from the hospital he encountered Sergeant Sluder
pressing his horse to the best of his speed; but it was hardly necessary
for him to deliver the message of which he was the bearer, for there was
movement enough among the men to assure him that the enemy were
approaching, even if Artie had not seen the return of the pickets.

The major waved his handkerchief three times above his plumed hat, and
the American flag came down at once on the bridge. Deck had not fallen
asleep at his post, though he found the situation very monotonous. The
sergeant reached the commander, and delivered a message from Captain
Gordon. The major had never been in a regular battle, only in the
affairs with the ruffians at Riverlawn and Lyndhall.

In fact, there had been nothing in the present campaign which could
properly be called a battle. The second company had done all the
fighting so far. At the bridge a few shots had demoralized the Home
Guards; and though the action in the road had been severe, it was hardly
more than a skirmish. But the commander had proved before that he had
abundance of courage, though he had engaged in less actual fighting than
his two sons.

Major Lyon reached the position of Captain Gordon just as the pickets
came in, headed by Life Knox. The men were all in position, and those of
the first company were eager for the conflict; for they had done
nothing, and rather envied their companions in the second company, who
had fought and won a victory against a portion of the enemy. They were
very much excited, and it would have suited them better if their captain
had led them in a charge at once against the Texans; for the most trying
position of the ordinary soldier is when he is in the presence of the
enemy, and is permitted to do nothing but wait; and they had been doing
that all day.

"You have been driven in, Knox," said Captain Gordon, as the sergeant
saluted him.

"Not exactly driven in, Captain," replied the Kentuckian with a cheerful
smile, as though events were not moving half fast enough for him. "The
Texicans are marching as though they were going to a funeral, and they
don't seem to be in no hurry to git here."

"But you came down the slope as though you were not going to a funeral,"
added the captain.

"Where are the enemy now, Knox?" asked the major.

"They are about half-way betwixt here and the mansion-house of the
planter. I didn't hurry up to tell you they were coming, but to let you
know that I had seen a force over on the road in the hills. I thought I
saw something moving; and I climbed to the top of the tallest tree I
could find, on the highest ground 'twixt here and the planter's house."

"What did you see?" demanded the major.

"I got a look through a small notch between two hills, and I saw some
cavalry pass along; but I reckon I saw only the tail end on 'em, for
they was out o' sight in two seconds, and I couldn't find nothin' more
on 'em. I knew then why the company wasn't in no hurry."

"Then, I suppose we are in no hurry," added the major. "I see that
Captain Dingfield intends to carry out his plan as he laid it out for
this forenoon."

"Who?" asked the captain.

"Captain Dingfield, who commands the Texans; I learned his name from the
lieutenant who was wounded. I hardly supposed he would send another
flanking party by that road," replied Major Lyon, "This news calls for
some change in our plans."

"I reckon that captain on the south road hain't got over fifty men with
him, if he has that," continued the sergeant.

"How could you estimate the number, Knox," asked the captain.

"When I am sent out scouting, I generally find out all I can," replied
the sergeant, who looked as though he felt that the correctness of his
information had been questioned.

"We know you do, Knox; and we only want to know your means of arriving
at a conclusion, in order to judge of the accuracy of your report," the
captain explained.

"I looked them over when I climbed the tree," continued the scout with
energy. "The force was just coming round a bend in the road down a hill,
and I counted in fours up to forty. I don't know how many scouts they
had out ahead, but I added ten to what I had counted."

"I have no doubt you are quite correct, Sergeant," added the captain. "I
did not doubt your statement in the first place, and I was only curious
to know how you were able to make up your estimate."

"I saw that six of you came down the hill together; have you left no
pickets in front of the company?" inquired the major.

"The captain gave me nine men to scout the region over there, and six of
'em have come in, for I thought they might be wanted," answered Knox.

"You knew that we had nearly two hundred men at this point," suggested
the major, who realized that the sergeant had something in his mind to
which he was slow to give utterance.

"If this is a council of war, Major Lyon, I ain't in it, and I've told
all I know," replied Knox. "I have reported that the Texicans is divided
into two bodies, one on 'em comin' down the south road slower'n cold
molasses runs, and the other's movin' over the hill road; and I reckon
they ain't goin' to no funeral over yonder."

"In other words, you think the two divisions of the enemy intend to
attack at the same time," added the major.

"What be they goin' over that way for if that ain't what they mean?"
asked the Kentuckian in answer to the question. "But I don't feel sartin
that they mean to come down here by the east road."

"What else can they do?" inquired the major, much interested in drawing
out the sergeant.

"I don't reckon I'd better say anything more. I obey orders, but I don't
give none," answered Knox, who was evidently afraid of thrusting himself
into the counsels of his superiors. "Captain Dingbat"--

"Dingfield," interposed the captain with a smile.

"Captain Dingfield sent them men over here to knock down and burn that
bridge; and I reckon he's go'n' to do it if he can."

"And I am sent here to prevent him from doing it; and I shall do so if I
can. You may speak out loud, Knox, just what you wish to say," said the
major rather impatiently.

"If you look at that map you had on the housetop, you will see that the
hill road crosses the east road, just as this south one does here. Ain't
that so, Artie? You have been over there, they say," said the sergeant,
appealing to the major's aid.

"It does; I was up there some time this morning; but I don't know where
it leads to," replied Artie.

"It stands to reason that it crosses this railroad somewhere within five
miles of this cross-road. That's the way the Texicans are coming down
here to destroy the bridge. I've said my say, and I hain't got nothin'
more to say," added Knox, wheeling his horse out of the circle that
surrounded the commander.

"Artie, do you know where Captain Truman is posted with his command?"
asked the major in rather hurried tones.

"I do not," replied the aid, as he had now practically become, though
the position was not regular for a private.

The commander pointed out the knoll behind which the captain's force had
been sent.

"Follow the east road till you can see behind that hill. Captain Truman
is there, and you can readily find him," continued Major Lyon. "Give
him my order to move his command out to the east road, and there await
further orders."

Artie's steed was well rested after his several forenoon jaunts, and he
went up the slope of the road like the wind. Sergeant Knox had retired
from the immediate presence of the superior officers, afraid that he was
getting to be too forward for his rank. He believed that the force
moving by the hill road had been ordered to the railroad. While the
major was not disposed to accept his view in full, he intended to be
prepared for a movement of the kind suggested by the Kentuckian.

"What do you think of the idea advanced by Knox, Captain Gordon?" asked
the commander.

"Of course it is possible that he has correctly divined the intention of
the enemy," replied the captain. "But it would not be wise to ignore the
enemy in front of us."

"I have no intention of doing so; for I have ordered Truman to the east
road, in readiness to act to the north of us, while we give our
attention to the enemy in front of us. We have men enough to annihilate
this force, if it is no larger than Knox states."

"I believe he is entirely correct in his figures; and I am inclined to
have considerable confidence in his theory of Captain Dingfield's plan."

"Probably we have double the force of the enemy in this vicinity; and it
would be a crying shame if the bridge were destroyed because we were
outmanoeuvred," said the major, with more than usual vigor in his
speech. "There is the structure within a quarter of a mile of us, and I
wonder if they intend to destroy it under our very eyes. But where are
the Texans in front of us? Even at a funeral march they ought to be near
enough by this time to send in our pickets."

"It begins to look as though they were amusing us while they were making
arrangements to burn the bridge elsewhere," replied Captain Gordon,
quite as anxious about the situation as his superior. "Artie has made
quick work of his orders, for Captain Truman is half-way to the road,
just coming out from behind the hill."

Major Lyon thought of Deck on the bridge in this connection, and looked
in that direction. The signal for Captain Truman's command to move into
the rear of the force advancing by the south road would not be needed.
If he deemed it advisable, he could send part of the first company to a
point near the road he had already selected. He rode to a place where
the ground was a little higher than where the conference had taken
place, and there made the signal above his plume upon which he had
agreed with Deck and the captain of the second company. He repeated it
till he had made it three times; and he could not help thinking what a
relief it would be to his son to be permitted to leave this solitary
post.

"A cheer for the American flag, which will be hoisted on the railroad
again in a moment!" shouted Major Lyon to the soldiers near him; and the
word was passed along through the column.

The cavalrymen were always ready to cheer the flag; and in a few moments
the eyes of the entire company were fixed upon the flagstaff on the
bridge. The major watched it with as much interest as any one present;
and he was ready to join in the cheer, and to lead it off. He waited
patiently for a couple of minutes, and then he wondered if his son had
gone to sleep at his solitary vigil; for the flag did not mount to the
proud position it had held before it was lowered.

Major Lyon waited full five minutes, but no flag appeared. He could not
understand it after the careful charge he had given Deck in regard to
the importance of the position to which he had been assigned. It was
fortunate that the plan of receiving the assault had been changed; for
Captain Truman's command would have remained behind the hill, and out of
sight of the conflict, if there had been one, while his men were needed
in the road.

As the hoisting of the flag was no longer needed as a signal, the major
was not inclined to say anything about his son's failure to do his duty;
for all his men might be needed at any moment to repel an attack on the
south road, and another on the east road. But he was very indignant, as
well as very much grieved, at Deck's neglect of duty; for it did not
occur to him that there could be any excuse for or justification of the
boy's conduct.

Major Lyon used his field-glass diligently for some time, while he was
waiting for the appearance of the first company's pickets, as he had not
thought to do at first. With this aid he examined the top of the bridge
very closely; but he could see nothing of the absent soldier. It did not
enter his mind that anything could have happened to the young man, for
the bridge was a high one, and in sight of all in the ranks, and in the
camp on the shore of the creek; though the stream was large enough to be
called a river in any Northern State.

Close by the flagstaff, over the abutment of the bridge, was a high
fence extending a short distance. Some thought it had been built where
the snow was troublesome in winter; others, that it was the side of a
shanty which had stood there, and only the roof and ends had been
removed. If Deck was not behind this fence, he was not on the bridge,
was the conclusion of his father. But a movement on the east road called
his attention away from the subject.



CHAPTER XVI

THE EXPLOSION ON THE BRIDGE


The movement on the east road, where the fight of the morning with the
Texans had taken place, was occasioned by the simultaneous arrival of
the second company from behind the knoll, and the hasty return of the
pickets from the hill region. The former was there in accordance with
the order of which Artie was the bearer to Captain Truman; but the
latter event was the more important, inasmuch as it promised to reveal
the operations of the enemy, which had hitherto been concealed.

The sergeant in charge of the picket reported in hot haste to the
captain of the second company, by whom he had been sent out; and a
moment later Artie was flying down the hill to the major, with the
substance, in a short sentence, of the intelligence brought in. The
commander had noticed the rapid movement on the road, though Captain
Truman had come out of the field half a mile from the cross-roads. The
pickets came at a furious gallop; for the sergeant, though not admitted
to the counsels of the officers, was intelligent enough to understand
the importance of his report.

Major Lyon, though he had begun to be alarmed at the non-appearance of
Deck on the bridge, hastened back to the cross-roads, where Artie soon
rode up to him. The delay of the enemy on the south road was generally
understood to be caused by the non-arrival of an expected detachment
from the hills. The major knew what the report of the pickets would be
before it was brought to him; for his impression was that Life Knox was
correct in his interpretation of the intention of the enemy. The
disappearance of Deck confirmed his belief that operations had actually
commenced on the bridge.

"The pickets report that a detachment of about fifty has marched north
by the hill road!" shouted Artie, as soon as he came within speaking
distance of his father.

"Ride back; give Captain Truman my order to march his command to the
cross-roads!" added Major Lyon with more than usual energy, though he
was still as cool and self-possessed as he had been all day.

Artie wheeled his horse, and in a moment he was running Miss Dolly up
the slope at a breakneck speed.

"Captain Gordon!" called the major as he rode toward him.

The captain dashed up to him on the instant.

"Send Knox and his scouts to me!" added the commander.

The Kentuckian and the men he had selected for the service in which he
had been engaged were at hand; and Knox saluted the major, in readiness
for any duty upon which he might be sent.

"Ride to the bridge! Leave your horses below! Get up to the track with
all the haste you can make! Deck was stationed there to hoist the flag
at a signal from me, which I have made several times; but he does not
obey the order, and I begin to fear that something has happened to him,"
said the major in hurried tones.

"I'll find him if he is there!" exclaimed Knox, with an expression of
determination on his face.

"I think you will find a small force of the enemy near the bridge, Knox.
Don't fall into any trap; I will have at least half a company up there
in a few minutes."

"I will keep my eyes wide open, Major," replied the Kentuckian, as he
rode off towards the bridge.

"Captain Gordon, send Lieutenant Belthorpe with half your company to the
bridge. Just beyond the camp he will find a practicable road up the
embankment. He will be in abundant season to receive the force
approaching by the hill road."

The captain saluted his superior, and made no reply. It was evident
enough to the commander that Captain Dingfield had been on the alert,
and that he intended to destroy the bridge even in the face of, and
under the very eyes of, the Riverlawn Cavalry, of double his own
strength, though he might not be aware of its numbers. If Major Lyon did
not manifest his chagrin and annoyance at the present situation, he felt
it none the less.

He realized that Captain Dingfield had been amusing him all day with the
prospect of a fight, while he was carrying out his plan for destroying
the bridge. It was all plain enough to him now, and he wondered that he
had not placed a guard on the bridge early in the morning. It looked now
like a serious omission; but he hoped it was not too late to remedy the
defect in his plan. What had become of Deck was a mystery he could not
fathom.

After the hauling down of the flag, the major had been too fully
occupied elsewhere to think of the bridge, and he had not even glanced
at it till he made the signal. It had not occurred to him that the
structure could be in any danger while his squadron was in sight of it.
He watched the force of Lieutenant Belthorpe as they hurried by the road
to the point where they could ascend to the track, and he believed he
had done all that was necessary to save the bridge from destruction.

Captain Truman was approaching the cross-roads with his company, and the
attack of Captain Dingfield might be expected very soon. It was
necessary to make a new arrangement of the troops. The major had already
formed his plan, and he wheeled his horse to join Captain Gordon and
give his orders. At this moment an explosion rent the air, which made a
great deal of noise, though it had not the volume of an earthquake.

Major Lyon turned his head, expecting to see the bridge a wreck, with
the fragments of it flying in the air. He looked for Knox and his
companions, who had been ordered to climb upon the bridge without
waiting to ride around to the embankment. They had not yet mounted the
abutment, and were then securing their horses near the bank of the
creek. But the bridge was not a wreck, though some timbers and planks
had been elevated in the air; but most of the matter that was thrown up
appeared to be earth and stones.

But where was Deck? Even with the pressure of duty upon him, he could be
excused for thinking of his son, who had so strangely disappeared. He
watched the movements of Knox and his men. If they had been a couple of
minutes later they might have been hurled from the high structure by the
force of the explosion. But he was greatly relieved when he saw that
they were not harmed, or at least not disabled; for he saw the tall
Kentuckian running with all his might to the abutment, followed by
his five men. They were all there, and they began to climb up the wall.

[Illustration: "Sling carbines! Charge them!"]

Something like a shout from the direction of the cross-roads attracted
the major's attention at this moment. Wheeling his horse again, he saw
the pickets rushing down the hill beyond which they had been observing
the enemy on their "funeral march." Their return could mean but one
thing, which was that Captain Dingfield's command were advancing.

Lieutenant Belthorpe was hurrying his force to the embankment; and if
there were any Rangers there, he would soon confront them. Knox and his
companions had reached the top of the bridge, and all of them were
busily engaged about something; but the observer could not tell what it
was, though the appearance of several small volumes of smoke indicated
that the Texans had started several fires on the wooden structure.

The head of the enemy's column had not yet appeared on the hill which
shut off the view of the planter's mansion, and there was time enough
for the major to make the dispositions of his force. Half of the first
company were left, and the whole of the second, except the twenty men
doing guard duty at the camp. The commander had in the neighborhood of
a hundred and twenty-five men on the spot; and with this force he could
soon annihilate the fifty troopers, more or less, who were marching to
the attack, or were supposed to be doing so.

"Captain Gordon, take what is left of the first company, and make a
detour to that hill on the right of the road. It is nothing more than a
knoll; and you will attack them on the flank as soon as Truman engages
them in the road," said the major.

"I was thinking of suggesting that as soon as you sent for Captain
Truman at the knoll on the other side of the road," replied the captain,
when he had ordered Gilder, his second lieutenant, to march the platoon
to the place indicated.

"I have no doubt that explosion was the signal for the advance of
Captain Dingfield," added the major, as he looked back at the bridge,
where the sergeant and his men were still at work.

"It looks so; and the Rangers must have had some men over near the
bridge who got up that attempt to blow it up. But it looks as though it
was a failure," replied Captain Gordon, as he rode off to join his
command.

Captain Truman, with about seventy-five troopers, was at the
cross-roads, waiting for orders. The major directed the head of the
company to place the troopers in the road and at the side of it, with
their carbines unslung. The commander had sent Artie for a sabre; and he
had taken possession of it, indicating that he did not intend to be an
idle spectator to the conflict if his personal service was needed.

"Can I take my place in the ranks where I belong, father?" asked Artie.

"No, my son; I may want you at any moment to carry an order," replied
Major Lyon; and possibly he thought this might be the only son left to
him since the disappearance of Deck.

"There comes the head of the column!" exclaimed Captain Truman.

"Have your men all ready to fire, Captain," added the major. "But don't
be in a hurry to do so. I will give you the order."

It was no longer a funeral march on the part of the enemy, for they were
forcing their steeds to the utmost. The captain was in front of his
platoon, and that was all the men he had. He had lost one lieutenant at
the first action, and probably he had been compelled to send the second
with the detachment by the hill road.

"It looks as though they intended to begin with a charge," said Captain
Truman.

"Perhaps the captain will change his mind before he has gone much
farther," replied the major very quietly.

The soldiers acted as though they were very impatient. The major thought
the Texan captain was reckless, and was making use of fire-eating
tactics instead of cool military judgment. Possibly he expected to be
able to cut his way through the force in front of him, and join the one
he had sent to the bridge by the hills.

Probably Captain Dingfield had not a little of the contempt for Northern
soldiers which pervaded the ranks of the Confederate army at the
beginning of the war. He was a brave and impulsive man, and doubtless
believed that a vigorous charge would drive the Riverlawn Cavalry out of
his way, as he would brush away the flies that annoyed him when he read
his newspaper. The fact that one portion of his company had been soundly
whipped and driven from the field appeared to have no influence over
him.

"Now is your time, Captain Truman," said the major, who had waited till
the enemy were more than half-way down the hill. "Have your men take
good aim, and fire."

The captain gave his orders with a vim which indicated his impatience to
begin his work. The carbines were all discharged almost as one, and the
road was filled with the smoke of the volley; but the breeze was fresh
enough to drive it away in a moment. At least seventy-five balls had
been sent into the midst of the fifty men, and the troopers had been
trained to do good work with their carbines.

As the smoke cleared away, it was seen that a number of the Texans had
fallen from their horses, while others were reeling in their saddles. A
couple of minutes later another volley was heard at the right of the
road, and more of the cavalrymen went down. The major could not see the
command of Captain Gordon, but he had been prompt in the discharge of
the duty assigned to him.

"Sling carbines! charge them!" said the major.

The order was promptly obeyed, and the commander rode forward with the
captain of the second company. But in a minute more there was nothing
there to charge. What was left of the enemy suddenly wheeled their
horses and began a retreat in hot haste. If they had not done so not one
of them would have been left to contest the field in five minutes more.

The first company were just breaking out of the field when the second
came up, and Major Lyon ordered the captain of the second to halt.
Riding forward, he directed Captain Gordon to pursue the discomfited
troopers, and capture them if he could. The fight was ended practically;
and it had been little better than a slaughter, all owing to the
reckless course of Captain Dingfield.



CHAPTER XVII

THE CONFUSION OF THE DAY EXPLAINED


A single volley from each company of the Riverlawn Cavalry proved to be
enough to settle the affairs of the enemy in front. Major Lyon looked
about him in the road, and he was surprised to find but eight forms
lying on the ground. How so many bullets could have been fired into
fifty men with no greater loss of life seemed strange to him; but he was
just beginning to obtain his experience. The result did not prove that
only that number had been hit; for the number lying in the road did not
fully indicate the enemy's loss.

Captain Gordon began a vigorous pursuit of the retreating enemy; but
they had the start of him by at least a mile, for he had met with some
obstructions in reaching the road after his men had delivered their
fire. Both the pursuers and the pursued disappeared behind the hill, and
there was nothing more that the second company could do. The major had
looked over those left upon the field, to ascertain if the captain was
among them; but he was not.

"Captain Dingfield was a bold and reckless officer; and, as he rode at
the head of his troop, I wonder that he is not lying here with the
others who dropped from their horses," said Major Lyon, as he surveyed
what had not yet ceased to be a sad sight.

"He was exceedingly fortunate to escape, though he may have carried off
with him half-a-dozen bullets in his body," replied Captain Truman.

"Either he had no idea of how many men we have, or he intended to make
only a demonstration against us, to enable the force he had sent to the
bridge to finish their work," added the major. "The explosion seems to
have been the signal for him to advance; and I am inclined to believe he
intended only to prevent me from using my force to interfere with the
work of those he had sent for the destruction of the bridge. Fortunately
that matter had been attended to, and Belthorpe has men enough to
overcome that sent by the hill road."

"I should say that Dingfield had been thoroughly and completely routed,"
replied Captain Truman with more enthusiasm than the major could feel;
for the latter realized that the bridge had narrowly escaped destruction
in the very face of his squadron, and under their very eyes.

"I don't know yet," he returned. "We can tell better about that when we
have ascertained the condition of the bridge."

"We can still see it, and it does not appear to have suffered any very
serious injury."

"March your company back to the cross-roads, Captain Truman. We shall
soon learn what more we have to do. The bridge does not appear to have
suffered much, as you suggest," added the commander as he rode down the
hill, with Artie at his side.

"What do you suppose has become of Deck, father?" asked the young man;
and there was a look of great anxiety on his face.

"I don't know, and I cannot conjecture," replied the father with a blank
look at the inquirer. "I saw him lower the flag as I had ordered him to
do. It did not occur to me that there could be any movement in progress
there then. For the next hour or more I had enough to think of near the
cross-roads, and I don't know that I looked at the bridge once in that
time; certainly not with the expectation of seeing anything there."

"I can't understand it at all, father," added Artie; and he looked as
though the tears might easily come into his eyes, for they had been
together from their childhood, and had always been greatly devoted to
each other.

They had never been known to quarrel with each other, though each was
rather tenacious of his own opinion. Deck was not his own brother, only
his cousin, though the fraternal feeling had always been as warm and
earnest as though they had been born of the same father and mother.
Since the troubles in the vicinity of Riverlawn had begun, and they had
served side by side in the fights with the ruffians, as well as in
drilling together for three months, the tie that united them had become
even more intimate. Artie was fearfully anxious in regard to the fate of
his brother; and his father was not less so, though he was more
successful in concealing his feeling.

"I cannot understand it any better than you can," replied the major. "If
I had thought of his safety at all, I should have considered him as
more secure on the bridge than at the cross-roads, where we were liable
to confront the enemy at any moment. Dexter had been so forward in the
action on the east road, that I felt rather relieved to think that he
was in a safe place. I wished him to do his duty faithfully; but he rode
into the front rank of the company, being a volunteer, and threw
himself, horse and all, upon the lieutenant in command of the enemy."

"I saw him do that myself, though Deck says Ceph tried to leap over the
officer's horse of his own accord," added Artie. "There must have been
some of the enemy's men on the bridge when we supposed there was no one
there."

"For my part, I did not suppose anything at all about it, as I have said
before; but I am confident now there must have been some of the Texans
there, or men in their employ," continued the major. "It appears that
the farther abutment of the bridge had been mined, though the work must
have been done at the top. It seems to have been badly done, as though
the workmen were laboring under great disadvantages."

The father and son could explain nothing; for they had nothing to base
their opinions on, the explosion and the smoke of the fires being all
the facts in their possession. Life Knox and his scouts had doubtless
obtained some information by this time which would enable them to
conjecture the fate of poor Deck. They continued on their way, with the
second company just behind them. There was nothing to be done, unless it
was to send a re-enforcement to Lieutenant Belthorpe, though it was
doubtful if he had encountered the enemy.

As soon as Major Lyon and Artie reached the hospital they heard a
vigorous yell, which seemed to come from the guards in charge of the
camp. It was immediately followed by a hearty cheer from the second
company. Both father and son looked about them without being able to see
anything to call forth these cheers.

"Up goes the flag, father!" shouted Artie, who had directed his gaze
where others were looking, and saw that the American flag had just been
hoisted on the pole upon the bridge.

"Always a welcome sight, but more so now than usual," added the major,
as he raised his field-glass and directed it to the flagstaff. "I see
the tall form of Sergeant Knox at the halyards, and he has done this
thing. I pray that it may be the herald of good news in regard to
Dexter."

"Do you suppose the flag means that he has found Deck, father?" asked
Artie, as a flood of hope flashed through his mind.

"It is impossible to tell what it means; but the sergeant seems to be
climbing down the wall, and he will soon be here," replied the major.

Artie started his horse, with the evident intention of going to the
bridge; but the major called him back, and directed him to wait where he
was till Knox joined them.

"I may want you at any moment," said the father. "I have been using you
and Dexter as my orderlies, and I appoint you to that position now."

"Is there any news from up above, Major Lyon?" asked the wounded
lieutenant, who had walked to the spot where the commander stopped his
horse. "I heard a volley a little while ago; has there been another
engagement?"

"A very brief one," replied the major. "It was very soon decided, for
Captain Dingfield retreated as soon as he had received our fire."

"Captain Dingfield!" exclaimed the wounded lieutenant; "that is not at
all like him."

"It was the only thing he could do. He left eight of his men in the
road, where they dropped from their horses; and of course he led away
many others with bullets in their bodies. I should say that Captain
Dingfield had been a very reckless commander, and I was almost sure I
should find his body among the killed; but it was not there, and I
suppose he is still carrying it with him."

"We did not expect much of any difficulty in this expedition, and we
were satisfied that we could ride over the Home Guards we heard had been
sent here to protect the bridges," replied Lieutenant Makepeace rather
languidly, for he had been severely wounded.

"I have a squadron of United States cavalry under my command," said the
major proudly.

"So I discovered this forenoon; not that you had a squadron here, but
that the troopers were regular cavalrymen; and I must say that no men
ever fought better, for my command were beaten and driven off in less
time than it takes to tell of it," added the prisoner with an attempt to
smile. "But two full companies were sent over here, though I have not
yet been able to find the other."

"But the other company is here," said Major Lyon.

"Where?"

"There they are," answered the commander, pointing to the camp. "They
are prisoners of war now."

"That accounts for it."

"That company were Home Guards in the first of it, but now they have
become regular Confederate soldiers."

"They have made a mess of this expedition."

"I suppose you have a force over at the north end of the railroad
bridge, lieutenant," said the major very quietly, and not expecting the
prisoner would answer the question.

"If there is, it has been sent there since I was wounded. Everything has
worked very differently from what we expected; for Captain Dingfield
talked the whole thing over with me. We have fought the battle, and lost
it. I suppose there is no harm in comparing notes after the affair is
finished."

"I should think not; for I don't believe you can give me any
information that will be useful to me now," replied the major.

"We ascertained that your company was camped near that plantation; and
we had no idea that you had more than one. We believed the company sent
from Bowling Green, which we have not seen yet, for we have not been
there, was posted somewhere on what is called the east road. Dingfield's
plan was to march down by the south road, use up your company near the
plantation, and then effect a junction with the infantry company for the
destruction of the bridge, which is said to be a matter of great
importance to the South."

"I should say that it was; and my orders came from the general in
command to prevent it," interposed the major.

"I was sent by Captain Dingfield round by the hill road, to attack you
in the rear while he took you in front. As I said, we had no suspicion
that you had another company of cavalry here. One of my scouts was shot,
and is in this hospital with me. The other came back to me. But he had
seen only two troopers; and I decided to push on, especially as I had
four bridge-builders with me."

"Four bridge-builders!" exclaimed the major, "And what became of them?"

"I was ordered to send them by the nearest road to the bridge; and I was
told, when I inquired on the way, that the hill road was the shortest
cut to it. They had a six-mule wagon with them, containing their tools,
tents, blasting-powder, and provisions. I came down the east road with
my force, while they continued on their way by the hill road. My force
was defeated as we approached the cross-roads, where I was to turn up."

"I waited all the forenoon and some of the afternoon for Captain
Dingfield to attack me," said the major.

"The bridgemen made us late in starting, and the mules delayed us for
hours on the road. Our surprise was in finding a whole company waiting
for us at the cross-roads, where we had anticipated no obstacle."

The arrival of Knox prevented the major from obtaining any further
information from the obliging lieutenant; but later in the day he
explained his own operations to him. The capture of Captain Titus's
company early in the morning, and the superior force of the loyal
troops, had saved the bridge, though there was still an enemy to fight
by the force of Lieutenant Belthorpe.

The account of the bridge-builders threw some light on the disappearance
of Deck Lyon. It was evident that they had attempted to destroy the
bridge; but when Knox reported to the major, he was compelled to
acknowledge that he had been unable to find him, or to obtain any
intelligence of him. But Deck had had a lively experience, and it
becomes necessary to return to him while engaged in his solitary vigil
at the foot of the flagstaff.



CHAPTER XVIII

INTRODUCING MR. BROWN KIPPS


Deck Lyon did not like the service to which he had been assigned on the
bridge. The importance of the duty, as laid down to him by his father,
did not make the situation any pleasanter.

Though his conscience approved his conduct in taking the place without
attempting to avoid the service, it would have suited him better to
remain in the ranks, and have a part in the action which was soon to
take place, as officers and privates all believed.

He had nothing to do after he had hauled down the flag,--at least,
nothing but watch his father, whose plumed hat was the only one of the
kind on the field; and he had no difficulty in keeping it in sight all
the time. He was not obliged to keep his eyes fixed on him every moment,
for he knew when to expect the signal to hoist the flag; and it would
not be given till the first company had engaged the enemy somewhere on
the south road, between the top of the hill and the cross-roads.

He was all alone, and he could speak to no one. He had rolled up the
flag with the halyards still attached to it, and placed it at the foot
of the pole. He had been sitting on his horse all day, and for a time he
amused himself in walking up and down the bridge. It did not occur to
him that there was a human being anywhere near him except those who were
in the camp below, and they were some distance from him. He looked at
the prisoners, and the cavalrymen who were keeping guard over them. They
were not an interesting sight to him, for the former consisted mostly of
the ruffians whom he had fought in the field and in the schoolhouse.

"Nothing to do, and nobody to help me," said Deck to himself, as he
seated himself at the foot of the flagstaff, with his legs dangling over
the bank of the creek below. The pole had been set up where it was most
convenient to fasten it, and the place was about ten feet from the
abutment. The bridge spanned not only the stream of water, but the
valley through which it flowed.

This valley was crossed by the embankment to within forty feet of the
creek; and the south road passed under the bridge, close to the
abutment. The high fence, or side of the shanty that had stood there,
was on the solid ground, which had been filled in, and Deck was hardly
more than a rod from it. He had walked about here, and he concluded that
some kind of a building had stood there; for he found a temporary
workbench, which had doubtless been used by the bridge-builders.

The signalman at the flagstaff was fully armed, as when he dismounted;
and when he seated himself on the plank of the bridge, his sabre had
nearly tripped him over the side of it to the ground below; but he was
very active, and he saved himself. In this position he observed the
occupation of the prisoners, who appeared to have no interest whatever
in the impending fight at the cross-roads. Some of them were playing
cards, to which they were more accustomed than to the routine of the
soldier; some were asleep; and a few were mending their ragged garments.

They were not an interesting sight to the watcher on the bridge. Among
them was his Uncle Titus, who sat on a log in front of his tent. He
wore a disgusted look, perhaps because he was deprived of his usual
whiskey rations; for Major Lyon refused to allow liquor to be served to
any prisoner. He had chosen for himself, and had joined the Confederate
army. He considered himself a sort of family martyr, because his brother
had chosen to give his plantation to Noah instead of to him; and this
feeling largely influenced him in his political choice.

Deck had only one wish, as he sat with his legs over the side of the
bridge, and that was that the enemy would speedily appear on the south
road; for then his father would give him the signal to hoist the flag.
When he had done that his mission would be ended, and he could hasten
back to his place in the ranks, in season, he hoped, to take part in the
action. The more impatient he became, the more vigilant was his scrutiny
of the plumed head of his father.

Several times he thought, when any movement was made by the soldiers,
that the time had come. The minutes seemed to be longer to him than any
he had ever known before. He looked at his watch, after he had refrained
from doing so several times by the thought of his own impatience, and
he found he had been on the bridge only half an hour; though it seemed
to him that he had been there four times as long as that. But just at
that moment, and before he had restored the watch to his pocket, he
heard sounds which turned his attention in another direction.

He heard footsteps near him. No one but himself had been sent to the
bridge, and the sound gave him a decided sensation. They came from the
north end of the bridge; and the high fence prevented him from seeing
the person whose tramp he heard. He was not alarmed; and he listened to
the footsteps, waiting for the individual to come out from behind the
obstruction. Then the steps were accompanied by the whistling of a tune,
as though the person was an idler, who had no other means of employing
his time.

Deck Lyon was not a musician, though he had done some singing before his
voice changed. The whistling began to have an interest to him, and he
listened with all his might. The person was either a Union man or a
Secessionist; and the young cavalryman thought the air he selected must
give him some information on this delicate point. If he whistled
"Dixie," either from choice or from the force of habit, it would not be
difficult to determine on which side he had cast his political lot.

On the other hand, if he piped "The Star Spangled Banner," "Hail,
Columbia!" or "John Brown's Body," Deck thought he should be more
rejoiced to meet him at this particular moment. Possibly the whistler
had not kept up with the times in his musical education, for he piped
none of the airs named; but presently the signalman recognized the notes
of "Yankee Doodle," which answered his purpose even better than any of
the melodies named. Secessionists had no taste for this ancient air at
just this time.

The man appeared to have stopped behind the high fence, and did not
immediately reward the expectant waiter with a sight of his person. He
heard some blows with an axe or heavy hammer upon the planks underfoot;
then he resumed his whistling, which became more vigorous than artistic.
It was evident even to Deck that the performer had not been trained in
the art he was practising, but he seemed to be plentifully supplied
with wind, and he had just doubled the quantity of sound he produced;
and the melody intended was unmistakably "Yankee Doodle," and this was
the important point to the listener.

Still, the whistler did not show himself; though he was hardly more than
forty feet distant from his audience, and seemed to be unconscious that
he had a listener. Deck wanted to see that man, but he persistently kept
his body corporate behind the obstruction to his view. Arranging his
sabre, so that it should not trip him up and tumble him off the bridge,
he sprang lightly to his feet. He stepped back a couple of paces, and
then obtained a full view of the piper, who certainly was not skilful
enough to have "played before Moses."

He did not wear a uniform, and therefore he did not belong to the Texan
Rangers; for Deck had fought them, and knew how they were clothed. This
struck him as an important point; for he had made sure before he rose
from his seat that his carbine, slung at his back, was in condition for
instant service. His regulation pistols were in the holsters on his
horse; but he had supplied himself with a small revolver at Fort
Bedford, for there was a tendency with fresh recruits to overload
themselves with weapons on entering active service, and thousands of
dollars worth of such were thrown away when they became a burden.

The stranger was dressed like a mechanic; and he seemed to be examining
the planking of the bridge, which is not usually a matter of vital
importance in such a structure for railroad purposes. The man stopped
whistling, and began to use a middling-sized sledge-hammer, directing
his blows at the heads of the spikes under his feet. Then he dropped the
hammer, and picked up an adze, with which he trimmed off the projecting
edge of a plank. Deck thought this was very strange work for a man to be
doing at such a time, and in such a place.

But the mechanic was whistling a Union air; and this fact seemed to make
it all right, and prevented him from having a suspicion that all was not
right in the presence of the man on the bridge. The railroad in Kentucky
was a loyal institution, as it was a disloyal one farther South. Deck
therefore came to the conclusion that he was an employee of the company.
He decided to interview the stranger, and ascertain more precisely who
and what he was.

In matters of military duty Deck was a close constructionist; and the
first question he asked himself was whether or not he ought to leave his
post, even to go a distance of forty feet. His sole occupation till he
received the signal to hoist the flag, was to watch for it; and he kept
his father's plumed hat in sight all the time. But he could see the
handkerchief when it was waved as well from behind the fence as at the
flagstaff; or, at most, he had only to step back a few paces to enable
him to command a full view of the expected battle-ground, and of the
hill behind which Captain Truman was posted with his command.

He did not for an instant lose sight of his sole duty; but he walked a
few paces at a time towards the fence, and then looked back, to make
sure that he could see the plume of the major. As it was in sight all
the time, he continued to advance very slowly. When he reached the end
of the fence the centre of his watch was still to be seen, and nothing
seemed to be in progress in any of the roads visible from his position.

Just at the moment when he was almost within speaking distance of the
mechanic, who had ceased to whistle, the latter picked up his tools and
moved to the other end of the fence, where he began to hammer the spikes
again. The man appeared to take no notice of him, or even to be aware of
his presence. Assured that he could see the skirmishers who had been
sent beyond the hill if they were driven in, he continued to advance
still farther, though he went to the middle of the bridge, where the
fence did not obstruct his view.

Deck wanted to know more about the man with the sledge and the adze. The
flag was to be hoisted as a signal for the second company to attack the
enemy in the flank or rear, while the first engaged them in front. The
fight must begin before the signal could be required, and the signalman
would have abundant notice when the firing began that his services would
soon be required. The fence was less than a hundred feet in length, and
he had not far to go to confront the mechanic.

Keeping the cross-roads in view till the fence shut it out, he made a
quick movement to the immediate vicinity of the workman, who was
hammering away with the sledge with all his might. He made so much noise
that he could not hear the steps of the soldier.

"What are you doing here?" shouted Deck.

The mechanic took no notice of him, and did not seem to have heard him.
He repeated his inquiry, this time a great deal louder than before. The
man stopped in his work, and looked at him with apparent astonishment,
as though he had discovered his presence for the first time.

"I am fixing the bridge, don't you see?" replied the workman, as though
he deemed it a foolish question. "What are you doing here?"

"I am on duty on the bridge," replied Deck.

But he could not see the soldiers near the cross-roads, where his father
had been most of the time, and his conscience smote him as though he had
stolen the brood in a chicken-coop. He did not wait to say any more, but
he ran with all his speed till he reached a point where he could see the
plume of the commander of the squadron.

"What's the matter? What you runnin' off fur?" shouted the mechanic.
"You needn't run; I won't hurt you."

Deck thought this was rather cool from a man apparently unarmed, to one
with a carbine slung on his back, and a sabre at his side; but he judged
that the fellow aspired to be a humorist, for he looked as good-natured
as though he had just perpetrated a first-class witticism. But the
cavalryman did not halt till he reached the end of the fence, where he
made a careful survey on the field of the expected combat. He was too
busy just then to notice the man.

"What is the matter, Mr.----? I reckon I don't know your name," said
the man; and the sound indicated that he had followed the other nearly
to the end of the fence.

"They call me Deck, those who know me best," replied the trooper,
willing to humor the mechanic. "Now, who are you?"

"My name is Brown Kipps; but most folks don't take the trouble to call
me anything but Kipps, Mr. Deck."

"My front name is Dexter; Deck for short," added the soldier.

"What is your back name?"

"Lyon."

"You look like a lion," added Kipps. "Won't you take a seat on this old
bench, and let us talk it over?"

Deck declined the invitation.



CHAPTER XIX

THE CONSPIRACY ON THE BRIDGE


Kipps appeared to be a good-natured man, and Deck declined to take a
seat on the bench with him simply because it would place him where he
could not see the signal when his father made it. The man did not seem
to be so intent upon driving in the heads of the spikes in the planks as
he had been, and perhaps he thought he had worked hard enough to entitle
him to a rest.

"Jest come and take a seat here, Deck Lyons; you look all worn out, and
you need a little rest," said Kipps, as Deck placed himself at the end
of the fence.

"I'm not all worn out, and I think I can stand it to keep on my feet a
while longer," replied the signalman.

"Well, you must git tired luggin' them things round all day," persisted
the mechanic.

"What things?"

"Why, that shooter on your back, and that broadsword a-danglin' agin
your shins."

"They are not very heavy, and not so much of a load as your
sledge-hammer and adze."

"I'm used to kerryin' them; but I'll bet a day's pay that gun on your
back is heavier'n my hammer."

"I don't bet, but my carbine is lighter than your sledge," replied Deck;
and it seemed to him as though the workman was trying to accomplish some
object, though he could not make out what it was. "Besides, I don't have
to lug my arms without any help, for I am generally on horse-back."

"Have you seen Tom Lobkill about here in your travels on this bridge?"
asked Kipps, suddenly changing the subject of the conversation.

"I don't happen to know Tom Lobkill, and I don't know whether I have
seen him or not."

"Don't you know Tom Lobkill? I thought every man in Tennessee knew Tom."

"That may be; but as I never put foot in Tennessee yet, I never happened
to meet him," replied Deck.

"I reckon this is Kentucky," added Kipps, with a mild horse-laugh. "You
see, we fellers that work on the railroad don't allers mind jest what
State we're in, for we keep shiftin' from one to another all the time."

"But I think you don't have to do much shifting between Kentucky and
Tennessee at the present time," suggested Deck.

"Not as much as we did a while ago. If you hain't seen Tom Lobkill, did
you come across Lank Rablan in your travels on the road?" asked Kipps,
as he rose from his seat, and walked to the end of the fence, though he
still remained behind it.

"I don't know him any better than I do the other fellow, and I haven't
seen him. You seem to have a good many friends about here, Brown Kipps."

"Not a great crowd; there ain't but four on us, and t'other is Sykes
Wimble. I s'pose you hain't seen nothin' o' him, nuther?"

"I don't know him," replied Deck, more curious yet to know what the man
was driving at. "What are you four doing about here?"

"We are on the railroad."

"So I supposed; and I suppose one of you is the president of the
company, and perhaps the other three are the vice-presidents," said the
cavalryman, quite as good-natured as his companion.

"Well, no, not exactly; I ought to be the president of the company, but
I ain't," answered Mr. Kipps. "If I was, some of us bridgemen would get
better pay, and a chance to sleep nights some o' the time."

"Then you are bridgemen; and I saw you knocking in the heads of the
spikes over there. I suppose you were sent down here to rebuild this
bridge if the enemy destroyed it."

"That's jest what we are here for; but I don't reckon the enemy'll
destroy it this time."

"I should say not."

"But I was lookin' for my gang-mates, and I don't see what's become on
'em;" and Kipps looked about him as though he really wished to find
them. "I had to go down below to git a hunk o' t'backer out'n the wagon,
and the t'other three went down this way;" and the bridgeman produced a
great twist of the native weed, and bit off enough to load two pipes. "I
reckon you hain't seen nothin' on 'em, hev yon, Deck Lyons? I reckoned
they went over the creek."

"I have not seen any of them, and no one has crossed the bridge since I
came upon it," replied Deck.

"I rather think I can fetch 'em if they are anywhere round here," added
Kipps, as he took a whistle from his pocket and applied it to his lips,
producing three short blasts. "All on us carries one o' these, because
we sometimes get scattered on the work."

The whistle seemed to be as potent as that of the boatswain on board of
a man-of-war, for one after another three men mounted to the bridge just
beyond the abutment on the farther side. Each of them had a pipe in his
mouth, and they came upon the track as though they were in no hurry.
They were dressed like Kipps, in workingmen's clothes, and one of them
was about six feet and a half high. All of them had axes in their hands,
but none of them seemed to be provided with firearms.

"They weren't fur off, and they kept awful still, or I should have hearn
them," said Kipps, as they crossed the track and placed themselves
behind the fence.

Deck wondered how they had secured a place down the embankment without
being seen by him; but his attention had been directed the other way to
the position of the squadron. But he realized that they could have
crossed the track some distance farther up the road, and walked down
from there under the shadow of the road-bed.

"Well, boys, I reckoned you'd got lost, for I couldn't find nothin' on
you," said Kipps, as the men approached the end of the fence at which
Deck stood. "What you been doin', Lank Rablan?"

"When you went down to the wagon, we uns dropped down the bank to have a
smoke, and we got to talkin' about this business round here," replied
the tallest of the three, who was about as lofty in his upper works as
Life Knox, and about as spare in his filling up. "We consayted that this
bridge was go'n' to get burnt up last night; but it's all here yet, and
I reckon them so'diers down thar's done a big thing."

"We hain't got no job on our hands for to-day," said another of them.

"What was it that the nigger told you, Sykes Wimple?" asked Lank Rablan,
who was the tall fellow.

"He told me the troopers had captured the whole company sent here to
destroy the bridge; and there they be down there, guarded by the horse
soldiers," replied Sykes, pointing in the direction of the camp. "I
suppose this fellow is one of them," he added, pointing to Deck.

"I am one of them," replied the signalman.

"What company do you belong to?" asked Lank.

"To the Riverlawn Cavalry."

"You hain't had no fightin', I reckon."

"Yes, we have; the second company defeated the force that came here at
daylight this morning, and captured the whole of them. The same company
had a brush with the Texan Rangers, and they all took to the woods,
except those that were killed or badly wounded. The hospital over there
is full of them. If you stay on this bridge long enough, you will see
more fighting over on the south road."

The bridgemen looked at each other, and said nothing for a few moments.
Deck began to feel as though he was neglecting his duty; for he had been
giving his whole attention to the talk of the men, with only an
occasional glance at the troopers below. He looked again, and for the
moment he did not see the plume of his father. He had changed his
position, though it was not likely that he had gone far, and he began a
search for him with his eyes. He did not discover the major at once; for
he had moved a short distance up the south road, to give his orders to
Captain Gordon.

While he was continuing his search, he was suddenly and violently drawn
backwards behind the fence. If the bridgemen did not talk together in
words they did by their looks. If any one had been regarding the scene
described, it would have been sufficiently evident to him by this time
that the bridgemen were engaged in a conspiracy, the first act of which
was to secure the person of the Union soldier who had been posted at the
flagstaff. But there was no one to observe what transpired on the
bridge.

At a nod from Brown Kipps, Lank Rablan sprang lightly forward; and,
seizing hold of the carbine which was slung on his back, he dragged him
into the shadow of the fence in the twinkling of an eye. As soon as Lank
had drawn him within reach of the others, they all laid hold of him.
Deck struggled with all his might, and struck out right and left with
his fists till his hands were secured, each by a man, while the other
two held his body. The tussle was quickly finished, for the young
soldier could do nothing against four full-grown mechanics.

Of course Deck realized that he was the victim of a plot prepared while
none of the operators were in sight. His first feeling was one of
humiliation that he had allowed himself to be captured at his post, or
so near it. He blamed himself for leaving the flagstaff; but probably
the result would have been the same if he had not left it, for a
distance of fifty feet would not have prevented the conspirators from
securing him where he was.

The four ruffians who had carried out their plan appeared to be what
they claimed; bridgemen, for they were all provided with the tools that
are used in such work. But it was evident to him when the question came
to his mind, that they were not Union men, and could not be in the
employ of the railroad company, which was now a loyal institution, after
a violent discussion with its Tennessee stockholders.

"Don't kick, my little man," said Kipps, who appeared to be the foreman
of the gang, whatever they were. "It won't do no good."

Deck was painfully conscious of what the leader said; for the others had
taken his carbine and sabre away from him, and laid them on the bench.
With the slings of his firearm they were securing his arms behind him,
while Lank Rablan held him by the collar of his jacket. It occurred to
him then that the ruffians had not taken his small revolver from him,
and had not even discovered that he had one; but it might as well have
been at the bottom of the creek so far as being of any service to him in
that important moment, for his hands were both in possession of the
enemy.

He had kicked with his long boots, and endeavored to bring his spurs to
bear upon the shins of his antagonists; but Kipps had strapped his sabre
belt around his ankles, thus depriving him of his only remaining natural
means of defence. While they were securing his arms behind him, which
their evidently intended to do with the greatest care, he was faced to
the position of his company. Then it occurred to him that he had one
resource left. His voice could not be tied up like his legs and arms,
and he could use that if nothing else.

"Help! Help! Help!" he shouted at the top of his lungs three times.
"Below, there! Sentinels! I am"--

This was as far as he was permitted to proceed; for Kipps caught his
handkerchief from the opening of his jacket, and stuffed it into his
mouth. If any of the sentinels around the prisoners' camp heard him,
they could make nothing of the cries. If they looked about them, they
could see nothing on the surface of the bridge, even if the shouts had
not come from behind the fence.

"No use, my little beauty!" exclaimed Kipps, as the two men completed
the operation of strapping his arms behind him. "They can't hear you
down below, and you only worry yourself, without doin' a bit of good.
Now be a Christian, and keep quiet like a little lamb, as you are. We
are going to be busy now for a little spell, and we shall have to fasten
you to the bench. Be easy, and amuse yourself the best way you can. You
can whistle 'Yankee Doodle' if you like, and I reckon you can do it
better than I did."

It was no use to say anything, or to attempt to do anything. He was
tied to the bench, facing the track; and Kipps was considerate enough to
take the handkerchief from his mouth, and return it to the inside of his
jacket. The other three men had already hastened over to the place where
they had come upon the bridge, and disappeared. The foreman took his
carbine from the bench, and started to follow the others.

"It would break my heart, my pretty dove, to have to shoot you with your
own piece; but if you make a row, I shall have to do it. If you keep
quiet we won't hurt you."

Saying this, Kipps left him.



CHAPTER XX

THE OPERATIONS OF THE BRIDGE-BURNERS


Deck was alone, a prisoner, his ankles bound together, his wrists
strapped behind him, and his body made fast to the old bench against the
fence. He was not absolutely uncomfortable physically; for Brown Kipps
had extended some consideration to him, so that he suffered no pain from
the bonds which secured him. The fastenings were straps, taken from his
accoutrements; and they did not cut into his flesh, as cords might have
done if they had been tied too tight.

All his pain was in the soul, which manacles are dramatically and
metaphorically said to pierce when the victim is a high-spirited person.
Deck had been captured at his post; and this fact humiliated him, though
a court-martial would have acquitted him of all blame. No one below
could possibly know that anything had happened to him, or a file of
troopers would have been sent to release him before this time. He was
almost in sight of his father and Artie; but they were busy watching and
waiting for the fight which all believed would certainly take place.

But the prisoner was not left entirely without occupation other than his
needless and undeserved self-reproaches; for if any one was to blame it
was his father, who had placed him alone at such a distance from the
rest of the force, though no one suspected the presence of an enemy in
that direction. He had enough to do to observe the operations of the
bridgemen. The moment they had secured the prisoner to the satisfaction
of the foreman, the other three hastened to disappear over the
embankment. They were out of sight but a few minutes, and then one of
them returned, while the other two passed up to him several gallon cans.
By this time Kipps joined them; and a lot of small bundles of light
wood, such as is much used in the South in kindling fires, were tossed
up, and caught by the foreman.

Deck understood that all these articles were combustibles, though he
could not make out the nature of some of them. All of them were left
where they had been received, on the platform of the bridge. It was
evident enough to the manacled observer that the structure was doomed,
and was to be burned in the very presence of the cavalry sent to protect
it. Deck twisted, squirmed, and struggled when he realized the
intentions of the bridgemen.

It galled him to the inmost depths of the soul to think that the bridge
was to be destroyed before his eyes, and he had not the power to do
anything to save it. He did not believe he would be left to perish in
the flames, if they reached the place where he was secured, and he had
not a selfish fear. He was tempted to repeat the cries he had made
before; but the threat of Kipps to shoot him if he "made a row"
restrained him. It was folly to throw away his life; for he was vain
enough to believe it might be of some service to his country in its hour
of peril.

When the men had finished passing up the material, which had plainly
been collected in this place for the destruction of the bridge, each of
them took a tin case under his arm, and they moved over to the shelter
of the fence where they had left their tools. They stopped there long
enough to obtain a couple of shovels and as many pickaxes, and then
went to the end of the fence next to the bridge.

If the occasion had been less serious, Deck would have been amused at
the bridgemen's attempts to conceal themselves from the force below.
They worked like miners following a vein of ore deep down in the bowels
of the earth, as the witness had seen them in pictures, lying on their
backs, or curled up in a heap, using the pickaxe as they could. Between
the wall and the embankment the earth had settled so that there was a
considerable cavity. Two of the men worked in this hole for a while, the
others lying prone upon the ground and watching them.

Then the four cans they had brought were deposited in the aperture,
Kipps adjusting and preparing them with his own hands. Deck did not
understand what they intended to accomplish by this operation, though he
concluded that they meant to blow up the abutment, and that the cans
contained powder or dynamite. Whatever the work was, it was soon
completed; and then the movements of the men became more amusing than
ever. They crawled about on their hands and knees, carrying the cans and
bundles of light wood.

They unbound the packages of wood, arranged the little sticks in heaps,
and poured what Deck supposed was spirits of turpentine or kerosene over
them and on the planks of the structure. The work of preparation was
soon completed; for the men seemed to be skilled in the operation, as
though they had had experience in these details. They all crawled back
to the shelter of the fence, and straightened their backs again.

"Now, my little lily of the valley, I shall have to put you under
marching orders," Kipps said, as he stopped before the prisoner.

"What are you going to do with me?" asked Deck, though he hardly
expected a definite answer to the question.

"I don't know, my butterfly; but I reckon you uns over there," he
replied, pointing to the soldiers below, "would make mischief for we uns
if we stay here a great while longer;" and he proceeded to release the
victim from the bench.

"I judge that you intend to blow up and burn this bridge," added Deck.

"The whole Yankee army couldn't save it now!" exclaimed the chief
bridgeman. "We uns, about two hundred so'diers along with us, was sent
over here to make an opening between these two hills; and if you think
we ain't go'n' to do it, why, you don't know Brown Kipps, that's all!"

"I think I have been pretty well introduced to him," replied Deck, who
had become somewhat accustomed to the situation; and he thought he
should fare better with such a person as the foreman by being
good-natured than by growling and annoying him. "When you whistled
'Yankee Doodle,' I made up my mind that you were a true Union man, and
my heart went out to you."

"I ain't much on 'Yankee Doodle,' and I could done better with 'Dixie;'
and I ain't none o' them carrion as whistles 'Yankee Doodle' for the fun
on't. It did well enough to still your nerves," said Kipps, as he
finished releasing the legs of his prisoner. "Now I want you to march up
to that place where you see the wagon standin' down by the side of the
railroad. You needn't keep step, nor nothin' o' that sort. I reckon the
cheese-knife and the shooter are too heavy for a young feller like you
to kerry, and I'll tote 'em for you," continued the bridge foreman, as
he began to examine the lock of the carbine.

"You are very kind, Mr. Kipps," replied Deck.

"That's me all over when you use me well; but, my little lion, if you
should take into that small coon's head o' yourn to be ongrateful for my
kindness to you, and make a row, or try to run away, I should have to
shoot you jest the same as I should a 'possum if I wanted a Christmas
dinner in the woods. Is this thing loaded with ball?"

"Of course it is; it wouldn't be any better than a broomstick if it were
not," replied Deck.

"I don't know as I see through this thing edzactly," said Kipps, as he
continued to study the mechanism of the lock. "I've got the cartridges,
but I don't see any ramrod. Won't you just show me how to work it?"

"Teach you how to use a carbine to shoot me with!" exclaimed Deck,
trying to laugh. "You must excuse me, for that would be giving
information to the enemy in time of war, and I should be court-martialed
for it."

"Jest as you like, Yank; but if there is one load in the pipestem, that
will be enough to put you out of the way of any court-martial. I reckon
I see into it now; you put the pill in here."

"I haven't anything to say on that subject, Mr. Kipps; but if you
should happen to shoot yourself with it, that would save some Union
soldier the trouble of doing the job," added Deck.

"But we uns hain't got no time to fool," said the foreman briskly.
"You'll let the cat out jest as soon as you see us by the wagon. You can
start things now, and open up the cat-bag as soon as you git 'em
started."

"What's all that gwine on down below?" asked Lank Rablan, as he looked
cautiously by the end of the fence.

"Well, what is it?" demanded Kipps impatiently.

"They are all lookin' up hyer; and that feller with a squawrel's tail in
his hat is shaking a white rag over his head as though he'd lost his
senses, if he ever had any," Lank explained.

"No matter what it is! Go to work, and hurry up, Sykes!" said Kipps in
vigorous tones. "Now, my little Yankee angel, jest move over to the
other side of the track, and march lively!"

Sykes was already crawling along the bridge, lighting the fires he had
prepared. There were not more than half a dozen of them, and they were
soon blazing up, though in the bright sunshine they did not make much
show. Deck followed Lobkill and Rablan, as he was directed, while Kipps,
with the carbine in his hand, brought up the rear. The foreman changed
his plan when he found that the attention of the soldiers below was
directed to the bridge; and, still sheltered by the fence, the two in
advance left the level of the track, and made their way along the slope
of the embankment.

Deck was ordered to follow them; but as his arms were still bound behind
him, he found it was a rather difficult matter to preserve his balance.
Kipps spoke to him quite savagely, perhaps believing he was making a
movement to slide down the slope to the field below.

"If you think it is an easy matter to walk along this steep bank with
your hands tied behind you, just let Mr. Lobkill put you in the same
condition that I am, and see how you will get along," replied Deck, as
good-naturedly as before.

"There may be sunthin' in that. Jest hold still a moment," said Kipps.

Deck was glad enough to stop; for he was hardly able to keep on his
feet, as the earth slipped away under him. The foreman unstrapped the
fastening, and put the sling in his pocket, perhaps for the same use in
the future.

"Now, little lovely, trot again; but don't you forget that I have got
the hang of this shooting-iron, and the ball can trot faster'n you can."

The prisoner obeyed the order, and he was beginning to think that the
foreman was a tolerably good sort of a fellow, aside from his politics.
He followed his leaders; and he had now no difficulty in keeping up with
them, for he could retain his balance as well as any of them. In a short
time they reached the vicinity of the wagon, which stood in the field,
with the six mules that drew it there fastened to the pole. The
mule-driver was a negro, who was asleep on the grass by the side of the
vehicle.

"Now, my little Yankee saint, we are all right, and in about three
minutes and three-quarters that bridge will go up the air; or some on't
will, and the rest on't will go the same way in smoke," said Kipps, as
he seated himself on a disused sleeper, and took a black pipe from his
pocket. "Don't you think we uns are right smart down this way?"

"I suppose you are;

    'For Satan finds some mischief still
           For idle hands to do.'"

"But Satan didn't find any for you uns in the ranks over yonder, fur
they've been idle all day," retorted Kipps with an explosive
horse-laugh.

"But we whipped out a force of Texan Rangers over yonder, and I don't
believe they have done running yet," answered Deck.

"Them Texicans is gwine to wipe you uns out 'fore they git done with
you," added Lank Rablan. "I consayt they see'd sunthin' on the bridge,
fur they was all lookin' that way when we left."

"There comes Sykes, and I reckon he can tell us sunthin' about it," said
Kipps. "If anything's the matter down below there, I reckon we four had
better go down and lick the Yankees out of their boots."

"Don't you do it, Mr. Kipps," interposed Deck. "They might hang you for
burning the bridge."

"Wait till we hear what Sykes has got to say, and then"--

But the remark, brilliant as it might have proved to be, was interrupted
by the explosion which was heard on the south road, and which had been
the signal for Captain Dingfield to make the attack.

"There goes your bridge!" exclaimed Kipps, looking at his prisoner with
a glow of exultation on his brown face. "Now I reckon you can see that
your Yankee cavalry couldn't save it."

"I cannot see the bridge from here, and I don't know whether or not they
have been able to save it. Wait till we get further news, Mr. Kipps."

"I reckon we don't stop here no longer, for we've done our work, and
that bridge is burning lively before this time," added the foreman, as
he shouted to the negro driver to hitch on his mules.

In ten minutes more the bridgemen had loaded themselves in the covered
wagon, with all their tools and material. Deck was given a place under
the canvas, while the four men were seated at the forward end. The negro
started his team, and the prisoner had no idea where he was going.



CHAPTER XXI

A NEW DISPOSITION OF THE FORCES


Major Lyon listened with the most intense interest to Lieutenant
Makepeace's statement in regard to the bridge-builders, as he called
them, though bridge-burners proved to be a more appropriate designation.
It was clear enough to him that his son had encountered these men; and
the disappearance of Deck appeared to be explained, though what had
become of him was still the vital question.

Life Knox had returned alone, leaving his men to guard the bridge; and
if it had been in order for the sergeant to express an opinion on the
subject, he would have said that sentinels should have been placed on it
as soon as the company of Captain Titus had been captured. The major had
tardily arrived at this conclusion. As soon as he came to the vicinity
of the hospital, Knox discovered the plumed hat of the commander, which
Deck had watched all the time he was on the bridge.

"I'm right sorry I don't bring you any good news of your son," said
Life, riding up to the commander, and saluting him as soon as he turned
away from the wounded prisoner. "The first thing we had to do was to put
out the fires, and then I went about a mile up the track to look for
Deck; but I could not find him."

"Did you see anybody over there?" asked the major.

"Not a solitary soul, Major Lyon."

"The prisoner in the hospital, with whom I have been talking, said that
four bridge-builders, with a wagon and six mules, went over that way,"
suggested the major.

"I reckon they've been to the bridge, and set it afire; but none of them
was there when I come to it. If they had a wagon and six mules, they
left as soon as they'd done the job they come to do."

"What was the condition of the bridge when you reached it, Knox?" asked
the major.

"It was all afire, but it hadn't burnt much. If we'd got there ten
minutes later, nothin' could saved it; and we had to work lively as it
was."

"But there was an explosion there."

"That didn't amount to shucks. I reckon they stuck the cans of powder in
between the 'butment and the bankin', and it only blowed out a lot of
dirt, and knocked off a couple of stones from the top of the wall. They
brought half-a-dozen bundles of light wood with them, pulled them to
pieces, and then poured sperits turpentine over and all around 'em; for
we found the cans on the platform. The fires were blazin' lively when we
got there; but we poked the wood all off the bridge. We found some
barrels o' water they kept on the platform to put out fires, and it
didn't take long to make an end on't. That's all I know about it,
major."

"But what do you suppose has become of Dexter, Knox?" asked the father,
concealing his feelings as much as he could.

"The bridge-burners had gone when we got there, and I reckon they took
Deck with 'em," replied the sergeant.

"I suppose there is no other way to account for his absence. Lieutenant
Belthorpe has been sent with half the first company to look out for the
enemy in that direction," added the major. "Return to the bridge, Knox,
and make sure that no further attempt is made to destroy it. The flag is
still there, and I see that you have hoisted it again. If you need any
assistance, haul down the flag as a signal to that effect."

The sergeant hastened back to his post; and the major rode up to the
cross-roads, just in time to meet the scouts who had been sent up the
east road, coming down the hill at full speed. There were only two of
them; but they had left two others at the hill road.

The pair of riders who came in as the major reached the cross-roads were
scouts; for they had been sent out with orders to go where they pleased
in the hills to obtain all the information they could, especially in
regard to the approach of any body of the enemy. They were not pickets
nor skirmishers, who are sent out to act on fixed lines.

"We have just come from the hill road," said one of the scouts, as he
saluted the major. "A detachment of the Texans has just come down from
the hills, and all four of us retreated behind a knoll to see where they
were going."

"And where were they going?" demanded the commander impatiently.

"They kept on the hill road, going north."

"How many of them were there?"

"Forty-two, besides the officer in command, who had one arm in a sling,
and his head bound up so that he could not wear his cap."

"That must have been the troop that we engaged on the south road," said
the major. "But how could they have got around to the point where you
saw them?"

The scouts could not answer this question, and the commander sent them
back to the point from which they had come. The last he had seen of
Captain Dingfield's command was on the south road, retreating at the
best speed of their small horses. He had sent Captain Gordon in pursuit
as soon as his men were available. So far as he knew, there was no
highway by which the hill road could be reached short of six miles south
of the cross-roads, near the place where the Texans had camped the night
before.

In order to have reached the position where they were reported to be by
the scouts, they must have found a way across the country. He opened his
map, and began to study it very diligently, to ascertain if there was a
road which he had failed to notice before.

"More scouts coming in, father!" exclaimed Artie, who retained his
position near the field-officer, the only one present with the squadron,
for the regiment had not been fully organized.

Major Lyon turned his attention in the direction of the east road. He
saw two riders galloping down the hill with all speed; and he folded up
his map, restoring it to his pocket. The coming of these men meant
something. The whole of the Texan company were accounted for, as half of
them had been sent to the north by Captain Dingfield, and now the other
half had been reported as having gone in hot haste in the same
direction. Had any re-enforcement been sent to the Texan cavalry?

The major had no doubt the officer at the head of the troop reported was
Captain Dingfield. He had expected to find his body in the road after
the action, for he had been the most prominent person for the aim of the
men. The same bullet could hardly have hit him in the head and in the
arm, and it was plain that he had been wounded at least in two places.

"Where is Major Lyon?" shouted the foremost of the two scouts.

"Here!" shouted Artie, though it was a needless question, for the plume
of the commander distinguished him from all others.

"Messenger from Captain Gordon," said the foremost scout, as he reined
in his foaming steed, and saluted the major.

"Where did you see him?" demanded the commander.

"On the hill road, where I rode half a mile at his side; for he was
chasing the enemy that went along just before, and Styles and Brehan
came down here to report them to you."

"What is your message from Captain Gordon?" asked the major sharply.

"He told me to tell you he had pursued the enemy without getting near
enough to fire at them."

"But how came he on the hill road?" demanded the commander impatiently.

"He told me to say to you that they had taken to the fields near the
planter's house, and, after a good deal of winding about, had come to
the hill road. When I told him we had seen the enemy, he wanted to know
how far they were ahead of him; and I told him as near as I could guess
they were about half a mile from him. That is all I know about it, Major
Lyon."

"Where are Styles and Brehan now?"

"We passed them on our way down, and I suppose they will stay at the
crossing till they get further orders."

"Very well; return to your places in the company," added the commander,
as he proceeded to consider the information he had just received.

The situation was clearly defined in his mind. One-half of the first
company, under Lieutenant Belthorpe, had been sent up the railroad; and
the other half, under Captain Gordon, was pursuing the enemy. Captain
Dingfield had sent half his force by the hill road to the north, and now
he was retreating in the same direction with the other half. But the
whole of the first company would come together somewhere in the vicinity
of the railroad, and then there would be another fight.

The commander had with him at the cross-roads and at the camp the whole
of the second company, where they were not likely to be needed; for it
was evident that Captain Dingfield had left none of his force behind
him, as by this time he had realized the pressing need of all his men
farther north. It was plain enough to the commander that another action
was to be fought very soon, if it was not already in progress, though no
firing could be heard.

"Artie, tell Captain Truman I wish to speak with him," said he, as he
took his map from his pocket again. It seemed to him that the seat of
the fighting had been transferred to the north a few miles. But the
bridge was still safe, and so far he had accomplished his mission.
Captain Truman had proved to be an excellent officer, though all in the
two companies had had no previous service in actual warfare; but they
had shown that the only thing they lacked was military experience, and
in that respect they were like a very large proportion of all the
officers in the field.

"I was just coming to you, Major Lyon, when you sent for me," said the
captain, as he reined up his horse in front of the commander. "One of
my men has just informed me that there is a train coming down the
railroad from the north."

"Artie," called the major, "hurry over to the bridge, and give Knox my
order to detain the train that is approaching till he receives further
orders from me."

Artie did not wait an instant, but ran his horse down the road, calling
to the idlers and prisoners to get out of the way. He was fortunate
enough to find the sergeant where he could hail him from his horse, and
delivered the order.

By this time the train was moving very slowly towards the bridge, and
Knox stopped it behind the fence which had done so much ill service in
concealing the bridgemen. In front of the engine was a platform car, on
which was a field-piece and half-a-dozen soldiers; but the messenger
could not stay to examine the provisions for the protection of the
train, which was doubtless a pioneer of another of more importance. He
reported to his father what he had seen.

"The wounded and the prisoners have now become an incumbrance to me, and
I have decided to send them all back to our camp at Riverlawn," the
major began, as soon as Artie left him. "So far the enemy have failed
to destroy this bridge; but I have no doubt they will continue to
operate as they have begun, until they have disabled the railroad."

"The one over the Green River in Hart County is likely to be the next
one threatened," added the captain.

"That or some other. I have stopped this train because it affords me the
means of transportation for the wounded and prisoners. I shall place the
removal of them in your charge. You will have the train stopped where it
crosses the swamp road beyond Dripping Spring, and march those who are
able to walk to Riverlawn. Take the wagons of Captain Titus's company
with you, mules and all, and convey the wounded in them. How many men do
you require for this service?"

"Twenty will be enough," replied Captain Truman, who appeared not to be
pleased with the service upon which he was ordered.

The commander directed him to proceed with his arrangements at once,
communicating first with the officer of the troops on the train. In a
few minutes Lieutenant Blenks, in charge of the camp, who was to go with
the captain, had mustered the prisoners, while his superior was engaged
with the officer on the train. This gentleman was a quartermaster, with
the rank of lieutenant, who had been sent on a duty he did not explain;
but he put a veto on the plan of the major at once. He had to make some
observations near Bowling Green, and the train would return before
night. He suggested that Riverlawn was not a proper place to send the
prisoners or the wounded, and he proposed to convey them to Louisville.

Captain Truman reported the result of his interview; and the major
accepted the compromise, and was better pleased with it than with his
own plan. The prisoners were marched to the railroad in charge of the
guard selected, and at dark the train took them on board. It was not
necessary for the captain to go with them, but the lieutenant was to
return as soon as possible with the soldiers.

Not long after the train started, Major Lyon marched with all his
remaining force to the hill road, to form a junction, if possible, with
the two divisions of his first company.



CHAPTER XXII

A DESPERATE DEED CONTEMPLATED


Deck Lyon was not at all satisfied with his situation in the wagon in
which he had been loaded with the tools and materials of the
bridge-burners; and from the bundles of light wood, cans of powder,
turpentine, and kerosene in the vehicle, this appeared to be the proper
name for the four men. With the men smoking their pipes on the front
seat, it did not appear to him to be a very safe position.

The wagon would have been called a "prairie schooner" farther west; and
was of the kind used in Tennessee and North Carolina, and perhaps
elsewhere in the South. It had a high front and rear, with a sheer
between them like an ancient galley. It was provided with a canvas
cover; and the bows at either end carried it out about three feet beyond
the body, like an awning in front of a window. The driver rode on the
nigh wheel mule, with a long whip in his hand. He was a skilled
teamster, and did not soar to the refinement of reins, but did his
driving by word of mouth, and the application of the whip.

Deck had no idea where he was, or where he was going, for he had not
studied the map of the present locality. He did not know where these men
had come from. Captain Truman was evidently unaware of their existence
in this section, or he would have set a guard over the bridge, after he
had captured it in the early morning. If the son had listened to his
father's conversation with the wounded prisoner, he would have learned
that the bridge-burners had been sent over with the flanking detachment
that had been defeated and driven off by the second company. They had
made their way to the vicinity of the bridge with their wagon, and had
watched for an opportunity to do their work.

They had found the signalman in their way; and, doubtless, it had
required some time to arrange their plan for getting him out of the way.
Deck was alone, and was not a very dangerous opponent in himself; but he
could give an alarm by firing his carbine or otherwise, which would
bring an armed force to his assistance. It was necessary to resort to
strategy; and the proceedings of Brown Kipps to get the troublesome
signalman out of the way have already been detailed. If the young man
had had more experience of the ways of the world in general, and of the
methods of bridge-burners in particular, they would not have succeeded
so well.

The combustible goods and other articles in the wagon seemed to have
been pitched into the vehicle at random; for they were not arranged in
anything like order, and everything was in confusion. It seemed to the
prisoner a piece of remarkably good fortune that he had not had his legs
and arms bound, as when he was first taken. He was only a boy, though a
stout one, and they did not seem to set a high estimate on his prowess
as a fighting character; for they had not seen him in the skirmish on
the east road, when he had given Lieutenant Makepeace the wounds which
had disabled him.

The sabre and carbine which had been taken from him had been carelessly
thrown into the wagon, though they were within reach of the men. Deck
was a young man of too much enterprise to be mentally inactive in the
midst of his present misfortune, and the wagon had hardly started before
he began to consider his chances of escaping from the custody of the
four men. At the first glance he could see that the chances were all
against him. If it came to a fight, there was no chance at all for him;
and his inborn prudence did not permit him to think of such a thing as a
physical contest with a threefold odds against him.

But he was not discouraged at the mountain of difficulty in front of
him, but proceeded to study the situation very carefully. It will be
remembered that his captors had neglected to take from him the revolver
he carried in one of his pockets; for, doubtless, it did not occur to
Kipps that he was supplied with such a weapon. Deck set a very high
value on the pistol in his present emergency. The trousers with which he
had been supplied by the government were not made with hip pockets, a
very serviceable improvement to the garment, not unknown even at the
beginning of the war.

This kind of pocket was very useful to those who were in the habit of
carrying revolvers; but Deck's ingenuity had enabled him to provide for
the deficiency. He had arranged a sort of hook under one of the back
suspender buttons, about where the pocket would have been if the garment
had been supplied with one, so that he could readily produce the weapon
on occasion. He had a box of cartridges in his pocket, and the revolver
was fully loaded for instant service.

His carbine and sabre lay on the merchandise behind the men, all of whom
were seated on a front seat under the projecting cover, and the wagon
was wide enough to provide close quarters for all of them. The canvas
could be drawn down so as to protect the contents of the body from the
weather; but now it was fastened up, so that the vehicle was open in
front.

Deck thought he might work his way forward far enough to enable him to
reach his regular weapons; and at first he thought he would take this
step. If he succeeded in obtaining them, all the advantage he expected
to gain was in preventing his custodians from using them on an
emergency; for the revolver in his pocket was a more effective weapon in
the wagon. He looked over the miscellaneous loading of the vehicle, and
tried to find a place for each of his feet in his advance to the forward
part of the wagon.

His survey of the ground was not at all satisfactory; for there was no
firm foundation for his feet. He must move noiselessly, or the attention
of his captors would be called to him. He could not expect to go three
feet without disturbing some of the articles; and his caution compelled
him to abandon the attempt to recover his arms. They were not essential
to his success in any plan he might adopt; and if Kipps discovered that
he was trying to escape, he would certainly have his arms tied behind
him again; and that might cut off all his chances. He was satisfied that
it was not prudent for him to attempt to reach and obtain his carbine
and sabre.

Then a more desperate scheme occurred to him, and it seemed to be more
feasible than the other. He had his revolver; and, after a great deal of
practice with it, he had become quite skilful in its use. He had seated
himself on a box close to the rear curtains of the wagon when Kipps
committed him to his canvas prison. Though it seemed to him like
"fastening a door with a boiled carrot," he had seen the foreman adjust
and fasten a padlock on the curtains after he had drawn one over the
other.

Doubtless this was done to prevent thieves from stealing any of the
stores in the vehicle in the night; but any enterprising robber, with a
sharp knife in his hand, could speedily make an opening in the canvas.
These men were not soldiers, so far as the prisoner knew; though perhaps
they were more effectively opposing the plans of the government than if
they had been, by destroying its facilities for the transportation of
troops and supplies for the suppression of the rebellion. They were
enemies as much as though they had worn the gray uniform.

Deck sat on the box with his hand on his revolver. He could sit there,
and with the six bullets in his pistol he could shoot every one of his
captors, unless some of them fled before his fire. One of them might
seize and use his carbine; but he would have a barrel in his weapon
ready for him. This seemed to him to be the most promising scheme that
suggested itself, so far as mere success was concerned. It would rid
this vicinity of the State of four men who might do as much mischief to
the loyal cause as a whole company of soldiers, even if they were Texan
cavalry.

Deck took the revolver from the hook inside his trousers, and assured
himself that all the barrels were charged. Then he looked the wagon over
again, and considered what he was about to do. Incidentally he asked
himself what the mechanics intended to do with him. Doubtless they would
hand him over to the military, and he would be sent to the South. It was
not a pleasant prospect, and he prepared to use his weapon.

It was war in which his lot was cast; and the business of war was the
killing of men, and the more the better. He raised the weapon; but, in
spite of his reasoning, his soul revolted at the thought of the act he
had been ready to commit a few moments before. Brown Kipps had used him
as kindly as the circumstances would permit, and had not confined his
arms behind him when in his judgment it did not appear to require it. It
looked like a cold-blooded murder, and a cowardly deed besides, to shoot
these men in the back of the head.

He believed that, if he committed the deed, the remembrance of it would
haunt him as long as he lived; and the Confederate prison was better
than such a black memory. He put the revolver in his pocket; and he felt
more like a Christian when he had decided not to be guilty of the
outrage to which he had been tempted. He wondered what his father, who
was a true Christian, would say when he related this incident to him, if
he ever saw him again.

"Mr. Kipps," said he on an impulse which suddenly seized him.

"Well, my little dandy, what now?" asked the foreman, as he turned his
head as far as his crowded seat would permit.

"Don't you think you have carried me about far enough?" demanded Deck.

"I reckon not jest yet. You are a Yankee soldier, and you may be wuth
sunthin' to us afore we get through with you," answered Kipps very
good-naturedly. "I reckon you uns down below there got some prisoners
out o' we uns."

"No doubt of that," added Deck.

"We know'd there had been a fight down there; but we don't know nothin'
more about it."

Deck told him something more about it, including the fact that
Lieutenant Makepeace was a prisoner in the hospital.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Kipps, deeply interested in the statement.
"Makepeace brought us over here part of the way; and he's a right down
good feller, and I liked him better'n Dingfield. I'm sorry for him. Is
he in a bad way?"

"I can't say how bad; but he has a bullet in his chest, and a sabre-cut
on the head," replied Deck. "Our surgeon is taking good care of him."

"I'm glad you uns took care on him; and if you get hurt, we uns will do
as much for you," said the foreman.

"But I have already done a great deal more than that for you; and you
may thank me that you four are not dead at this particular moment,"
added the prisoner boldly, as he decided to adopt another method of
proceeding.

"How's that, little sonny? I don't edzactly see it," answered Kipps,
standing up on the platform in front of the wagon, so that the other
three could turn round and see the prisoner.

"Not ten minutes ago I had made up my mind to shoot all four of you, and
make my way back to my company," continued Deck, as he produced his
revolver, and held it up so all four of them could see it.

At this moment the wagon went over some obstacle like a large log; and,
as the hind wheels descended from it with a heavy "jounce," Deck was
thrown forward, and only saved himself from a fall among the assorted
loading by grasping one of the bows.

"We done com'd to de road, Mars'r Kipps!" shouted the driver, as he
stopped his team after a succession of yells at the mules.

"Stay where you are, Jube!" called the foreman. "I want to know how my
life was saved, for one, afore we go any farther. What's the reason we
uns ain't not all dead, little 'possum?"

"Because I didn't shoot you all," replied Deck, as he stood holding to
the bow with one hand, and the revolver with the other.

"Do you expect, little po'k-eater, we uns should 'a' let you do such a
wicked deed as that?"

"But I could have done it without asking your permission," replied Deck.
"I was sitting on that box, and I could have taken you first through the
back of your head; and if one of you had moved to resist, I could have
finished him in the twinkling of an eye. I don't like to boast, Mr.
Brown Kipps, but I am a dead shot with this particular revolver; and it
would have been ready for business again the instant I had disposed of
the second man. It fires six shots, and I had a chance to complete the
job, even if I missed my aim twice. Don't you see it?"

"Where did you get that little shooter, Lyons?"

"My name is Lyon; there is only one of us here. Of course I have had the
revolver about me all the time, and you were so considerate as not to
take it from me, simply because it did not come into your head to look
for it."

"Why didn't you do the shootin' when you had the chance, little coon?"

"Because I concluded that it would be mean and cowardly to shoot four
men in the back of the head, and that it would haunt me as long as I
lived."

Kipps suddenly jumped over the seat, and began to make his way to the
place where the prisoner stood; but Deck pointed the revolver at him,
and commanded him to halt.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SKIRMISH ON THE HILL ROAD


Brown Kipps leaped over the seat, and acted as though he was in a hurry
to reach Deck Lyon, after he had explained the desperate deed he had
contemplated; and the latter thought the movement indicated violence on
the part of the foreman.

"Halt where you are, Kipps! Don't come any nearer!" exclaimed Deck; and
the revolver in his hand enforced his command.

"Don't shoot, sonny! I only wanted to catch you by the hand, and shake
it with right good will," replied Kipps, as he halted where the carbine
and sabre of the young cavalryman were lying between his two feet. "I
b'lieve what you been tellin' on us; and I reckon it's right lucky some
on us on this front seat ain't all ready to be put in the ground."

[Illustration: "Halt where you are, Kipps!"]

"I assure you that I have told you the exact truth," said Deck, as he
dropped his revolver to his side.

The moment he did so Kipps stooped as quick as a flash and picked up the
carbine.

"Don't shoot, little one!" he continued, as the prisoner raised his
weapon again, ready to meet this new combination in front of him.

Deck realized that he must act quick, and he was in the very act of
firing at the foreman when he spoke. He looked his opponent in the eye;
but the bridge-burner did not bring the carbine to his shoulder. He had
grasped it near the muzzle, and he held it with the stock hanging down;
but he proceeded no farther than this, and the revolver pointed at the
head of Kipps, ready to fire if he elevated the piece. He was in doubt.
The words of the foreman did not indicate that he meant violence; he
felt that he had chance enough to save himself by shooting his opponent
before he could bring the carbine to bear upon him. But perhaps this was
the most exciting moment in the lifetime of the young soldier.

"Don't shoot, sonny!" repeated Kipps, still holding the carbine in a
position that rendered it entirely useless; and as he spoke he advanced
towards his prisoner.

"Don't come any nearer, Kipps, or there will be a breathless body in
this wagon!" exclaimed Deck, with vim enough to convince the other that
he was in dead earnest.

"I won't come no nearer, if you say so, Lyons. I was only go'n' to bring
this shootin'-iron and give it back to you, jest to show you that I was
right friendly-like to you; and I wanted to catch you by the hand,
'cause I believe you could 'a' killed some or all on us if you'd had a
mind to. I reckon we won't quarrel after you've held up when you mou't
have stuck some on us."

"Drop that carbine, Kipps, and then I can better understand what you
mean," replied Deck.

"That's what's the matter, is it? I was only go'n' to give it back to
you," protested the foreman, as he let go of the piece; and it dropped
upon the loading of the wagon.

Deck lowered his revolver to his side; and Kipps climbed over the
bundles, boxes, tools, and cans, till he was within reach of his late
prisoner, for he seemed no longer to regard him as such. He extended his
big hand to the cavalryman, whose right still firmly held his weapon,
and he took the hand of the other with his left.

"That's a right-down honest Tennessee fist, Lyons, and the gizzard
always goes with it," said he, as he squeezed the hand of Deck till he
was on the point of crying out with the pain of the cracking bones.
"There's that cheese-knife and shooter of yourn, and you can take 'em as
soon as you get ready. You're a Yankee; but you've sunthin' more'n a
rock for a gizzard."

"There's my hand in yours, Kipps; it's the left, but that is nearest to
the heart," replied Deck, now fully trusting the Tennesseean, as he
thrust the revolver into his pocket, satisfied that he should have no
further use for it at present.

"You've got a rayle Tennessee gizzard in your bowels, Lyons, and I like
you. If anybody wants to do you an ill turn, he's got to fight Brown
Kipps, sure," added the foreman.

"And the rest on us," put in Tom Lobkill.

"That's so," chimed in Lank Rablan. "We ain't none on us gone dead yet;
and if you hadn't got a gizzard tucked away somewhar in your bowels,
some on us mou't 'a' been on t'other side o' Jordan's swellin' flood."

"Here's your tools, Lyons," continued Kipps, as he brought the sabre and
carbine to Deck. "Here's the trimmin's that goes along with 'em, and you
can rig yourself out jest as you was when I fust laid eyes on you."

As he spoke he took from his pockets the belt, sling, and other articles
belonging to his equipment. Deck seated himself on the box again, and,
after he had adjusted them, he put them on. He turned his back to his
companions in the wagon, and restored his revolver to the hook where he
carried it; for he did not care to show them where it had been
concealed.

"I suppose you don't intend to carry me any farther, Kipps," said Deck,
when he had fully accoutred himself for a march; and he hoped to be in
the ranks of his company within a couple of hours.

With his companions, he believed the bridge had been destroyed, and that
his father had failed in the principal object of his mission, though he
had defeated the enemy in every engagement in which he had met them.

"I reckon you can go jest where you like, and kerry that gizzard o'
yourn with you," replied Kipps. "I'm only sorry you're a Yankee, for
you've behaved handsome enough to be a Tennesseean."

"I am equally sorry you are not all four Union soldiers, standing up
like true men for your country and its government," replied Deck.

"I reckon we'd better not talk on that subject, for we can't agree,
nohow," answered the foreman, as he went to the front of the wagon. "Now
you can git out at this end, for t'other's locked."

This was a happy conclusion of the whole matter; and Deck realized that
he had accomplished more by the course he had adopted than if he had
carried out his cold-blooded intention to shoot his custodians. He went
to the front, and Kipps assisted him to alight; for his weapons
interfered with his movements in descent.

"Where are we now, my friends?" asked Deck, as he looked about him.

"I don't know, no more'n a goose in a poke," replied Kipps. "We've come
some miles, more or less, from the railroad; and this is the road we
come down on. Where are we, Jube?" he demanded of the negro driver.

"I reckon we's here, Mars'r Kipps," replied the driver with a grin from
ear to ear.

"I reckon so too; but whar's here, Jupiter?"

"Donno whar you be, Mars'r!" exclaimed the negro, who seemed to think
the foreman was joking with him.

"I don't know whar I am, Jube; do you?" replied Kipps, looking about him
to identify anything in the surroundings.

"I know for sartin; we done come dis way befo', Mars'r. Dis is jest de
place whar we done struck in de field to find de roleraid," replied the
driver confidently. "Dis wot de fo'kes here call de hill road."

"But we didn't come over that log before."

"No, sar; dis nigger runn'd ag'in it, and twis' it round."

"I reckon we'd better camp here for the night, and wait for orders,"
said Kipps, "You can go the way you come, Lyons."

"I don't know that I can find my way," replied Deck. "I have been shut
up in your wagon all the way, so that I could see nothing."

"You can foller the wagon-track, and that will fotch you out all right,"
added Lank.

But Deck was in doubt about returning to the railroad. He knew that
Lieutenant Belthorpe had been sent over to the railroad, and he had seen
the troopers ride up the embankment. He thought it strange that he had
not encountered his force; and he proceeded, Indian fashion, to examine
the road for horse-tracks in the sand. The sod was so tough that it bore
no indentation inside of the log; but in the road he found plenty of
horseshoe marks, and he proceeded to study them.

They all indicated that the riders were headed to the south, or in the
direction of the east road, the latter of which led to the camp and
cross-roads. Was it possible that Belthorpe had returned to the camp?
This was what the marks suggested. Deck then walked by the log, and
found the track extended towards the north. He followed them for about a
quarter of a mile, and then he found where they began on the road.

At this point he found the fence had been thrown down, and there were
plenty of horse-tracks in the cornfield which it surrounded. These led
up from the direction of the railroad. In the soft ground he found, on
the left of the great body of the marks, which indicated that the
detachment had marched by fours, the print of a bar shoe, often called a
round shoe. He was aware that Tom Belthorpe rode a horse shod in this
manner, for the steed had belonged in the stable of the planter of
Riverlawn.

His investigation proved that not only a company of cavalry had come up
from the railroad to the highway, but that it was the force under
command of the first lieutenant of the first company. He returned to the
highway, wondering what had become of this detachment. But Deck did not
know that a portion of the Texan Rangers had come down the hill road, as
reported by the scouts of the squadron. He hastened back to the place
where he had left the wagon. As he approached it he saw two mounted
Rangers talking with the bridge-burners, or rather with the foreman of
them; and the other three were helping the driver to hitch on his mules,
for they had begun their preparations to camp there for the night.

The two scouts turned their horses and rode away in the direction from
which they had come. Deck had halted when he saw them, and put himself
behind a big tree at the side of the road. But as soon as they rode off
at a gallop, as though they were in a hurry, he advanced. The
bridge-burners were all busy in getting the mules ready for a start.

"You better make tracks with all your legs towards the railroad, sonny,"
said Kipps earnestly.

"What has turned up now?" asked Deck with interest.

"Them men was the scouts of our company, and we are ordered to move to
the north with all the speed we can get out of the mules," continued
Kipps. "Our company, or a part on't, will be here soon; and I don't want
'em to ketch you, Lyons, for I can't do nuthin' for you if they get hold
on you."

"All right, Kipps; and I am very much obliged to you for your kind
service. But where are you going?" asked Deck.

"I don't know no more'n the dead. I'm to foller this road, and I hain't
the leastest idee whar it'll fetch out," replied the foreman, as he took
his place on the front seat, and Jube started the unwilling team.

The driver plied his whip with cruel vigor, and the wagon soon
disappeared. Deck was perplexed. Belthorpe had marched up the hill road,
as indicated by the tracks of the horses, and the Rangers were marching
down the same road. How did it happen that they had not met, and a fight
had not ensued? He could not explain it. Just above him was a grove, or
a field covered with sparsely scattered trees.

Deck was very anxious to ascertain the situation of affairs in this
section, and he hoped to be able to give his father some important
information when he met him. He placed himself behind a tree in the
grove. He had hardly secured his position before he heard the clatter of
horses' hoofs and the clangor of sabres in the road above him. In a
minute he obtained a view of them, and they were Rangers. They were
hurrying their horses as though they were engaged in some important
movement.

The troops had not come abreast of the observer before he heard a
furious yell in the grove not far from him. The shout of "Riverlawn!"
was heard, with other yells; and a body of the Union cavalry dashed into
the road, and fired a volley from their carbines.

"Sling carbines! Draw sabres!" shouted an officer; and Deck recognized
the well-known voice of Tom Belthorpe. Then they charged into the enemy
with a fury that promised to annihilate them in a very short time.

Deck belonged in this portion of the first company; but he had no horse,
and he could not join in the charge; but he began to use his carbine.
The Texans fought bravely and desperately, and the two forces seemed to
be about equal. The interested observer saw one of his company topple
over from his horse, and the excited animal dragged him, with one foot,
in the stirrup, off the field. Deck caught the horse, and reduced him to
subjection with a vigorous arm. He released the soldier, who was
insensible, and placed him under a tree. Then he mounted the steed, and
dashed into the fight.

He had hardly struck a blow with his sabre before he heard the clanging
of sabres some distance in the rear. At the head of it was the officer
in command, with one arm in a sling, and his head tied up with bandages.
They were Texan cavalry, without a doubt; and Deck called the attention
of the lieutenant to the fact.



CHAPTER XXIV

CAPTAIN DINGFIELD'S STRATEGY


The officer at the head of the approaching force, wounded in the head
and arm, could be no other than Captain Dingfield; but there was no one
present who knew anything about the brief action in which the commander
of the Texan force had been defeated, and from which he had made a very
hasty retreat. Major Lyon had sent Captain Gordon with half his company
in pursuit of the fleeing enemy; the passage of both the pursuers and
the pursued across the east road had been reported by the scouts at the
cross-roads.

Deck had not been able to force his way into the thickest of the fight;
and, being near the side of the road, he was the first to discover the
approach of the second detachment of the enemy. The action was in
progress in a broad, open space in the road, where the trees had been
cut off from the land; and the ground occupied was partly in this
field. He could readily determine that Belthorpe had chosen this place
for the action because it presented more open space.

Doubtless his scouts had reported to him the approach of the first
section of the enemy, and he had concealed his force in the grove to
which Deck had retreated to observe the movements of both parties in the
conflict. But he thought the lieutenant had made a mistake in delaying
his attack until the detachment of the enemy had advanced too far, and
he had thrown his men upon the rear instead of the flank.

The lieutenant had less than fifty men, and the enemy fought with
desperate courage and determination. But his men were fresh; for they
had been moving leisurely about in quest of the foe, and had been
resting a short time in the grove, while the Rangers had ridden a long
distance. The arrival of the rest of their company would throw all the
advantage, both in position and numbers, over to the side of the enemy;
and Deck saw in an instant that the battle would be lost if it continued
under these unfavorable circumstances.

"Lieutenant!" he shouted, flourishing his sabre to attract attention,
when he had approached as near as he could to the officer.

Tom Belthorpe was using his sabre vigorously, and he had just smote to
the ground a trooper, when he heard the voice of Deck. He had not seen
him before, and was not aware of his presence. He concluded on the
instant that the son of the major was the bearer of an order from his
father; and he knew the young man well enough to understand that he
would not call him at such a time on an unimportant matter, and he rode
towards him.

"What is it, Deck?" he demanded, full of the excitement of the conflict.

"Yon are flanked and outnumbered!" shouted Deck; though in the noise and
fury of the action no one but the lieutenant heard or noticed his call.
"There is another detachment of the Rangers coming up the road. You are
beaten if you don't get out of it!"

"I don't understand you, Deck," replied the officer, glancing at his men
still engaged in the furious strife.

"There is a force of the enemy of at least fifty men coming up the road,
and in three minutes more they will fall upon your rear!" repeated
Deck, speaking as clearly as though he had been reading his piece in
school.

"Where do they come from?" demanded Tom, as he looked back in the
direction indicated by the sabre of his friend, and they were the best
of friends.

"I don't know anything at all about it," answered Deck impatiently.

The fresh troopers of the lieutenant's command were driving the enemy
before them by the vigorous fighting they had put into the attack, and
they were somewhat superior in numbers. By the time Deck had given his
warning the enemy had been forced back to the point where the wagon had
emerged from the fields and woods. The lieutenant was obviously very
unwilling to give an order to retreat when victory was almost within his
grasp. It was the first action in which he had been engaged, and his
pride as a soldier was implicated.

Tom looked again at the approaching re-enforcement of the enemy; and
then very reluctantly he summoned the bugler, and ordered him to sound
the call, "To the rear." It was given in the quickest of time; and the
faces of the troopers indicated their astonishment and chagrin at the
nature of the call, when victory was only a question of minutes.

The men fell back; but the enemy were not disposed to follow them, and
perhaps believed they had gained a victory. They were facing down the
road, and they could not help seeing that a re-enforcement for their
side was approaching. The lieutenant in command reformed his men, but he
did not order them to charge upon their retiring foe.

"I don't understand this business, Deck," said Tom Belthorpe, when he
realized that the officer in command of the enemy did not intend to
pursue him.

"I don't understand anything beyond what I can see with my own eyes,"
replied Deck. "I have just come over this region in a wagon, and I
advise you to retreat towards the railroad, if you will excuse me for
saying so."

The lieutenant gave the order for his men to retire in the direction
indicated, and the officer and Deck followed them.

"We were within two minutes of a victory, Deck," said Lieutenant
Belthorpe, still panting with the exertion he had put forth in the
combat.

"But you would have lost it, and had the tables turned on you two
minutes later," replied Deck.

"What next?" asked the officer, who, in his inability to understand the
situation, was perplexed and baffled. "I don't feel like running away
just as we were whipping those Texans."

"But it is easier to run away before you have been whipped yourself than
it would be afterwards. I should judge that the force approaching is the
other half of the Rangers' company. There they come," added Deck, as the
furious riders seen in the distance halted in the road near where the
bridge-burners had proposed to camp for the night.

Without consulting his friend and companion in regard to the expediency
of doing so, the lieutenant gave the order for his platoon to halt at
the moment when they had encircled one of the knolls so common in that
region. He and Deck were in the rear; and though the men could not see
the road, it was in full view from the position occupied by the officer.

"I am not feeling like doing any more running away just yet," said Tom,
who was quite willing to forget that he was a lieutenant in the presence
of Private Deck Lyon.

"They have halted, and there is no occasion to run away just yet; but it
is best to take the bull by the horns before he gores you," added the
private. "I think we had better rest under that big tree, and keep out
of sight till you get a better idea of this thing, Lieutenant."

The suggestion was adopted, and they rode to a position under the tree
where they could see without being seen.

"They have come together, and they don't seem to know where they are any
better than we do," said the lieutenant. "I should say they had had a
hard ride by the looks of their horses;" and the officer had looked at
the reunited company through a small opera-glass he carried in his
pocket, though the distance was hardly more than five hundred feet.

"Hold on a minute, Tom!" exclaimed Deck, as he slid from his horse, and
fastened him to a branch.

"What are you going to do now, Deck?" demanded the lieutenant.

"I am going up there to find out what is going on," replied the private,
as he detached his sabre, and fastened it to his saddle.

"But you will be picked up," suggested Tom.

"If I am I will let you know; but I am determined to get posted, so that
I can give you reliable information," answered Deck. "But I obey your
orders; and, if you tell me not to go, of course I shall not."

"Do as you think best, Deck," replied the lieutenant, who found it
difficult to realize that he was the military superior of his friend.

Deck waited for nothing more. His carbine was still slung at his back;
but he had provided that the clang of his sabre as he walked should not
betray him. He had looked the ground over before that day, and knew
where he was locally, though he was ignorant of the positions of the
several bodies of troopers other than those before his eyes. He was on
the border of the grove, consisting of large trees, rather far apart. He
got behind the trunk of one of these, and then picked his way from one
to another, till he was within thirty feet of the officers in command
of the company.

The lieutenant of the platoon which had done the fighting had ridden
away from his command a short distance; and when Deck first saw him he
was peering into the region between the railroad and the road, doubtless
anxious to ascertain what had become of the force with which he had just
been engaged. The man with his head tied up and his arm in a sling
called upon a sergeant to rearrange the bandage on his head; and he had
just completed his task when Deck reached the shelter of the tree he had
selected. The wounded officer, for such his uniform and shoulder-straps
indicated that he was, appeared to be ready for business.

"Where is Lieutenant Redway?" he demanded very impatiently.

"There he comes, Captain Dingfield," replied the sergeant at his side.

The lieutenant hurried up his jaded steed, and saluted his captain.

"I thought I saw a fight going on here," continued the commander of the
company, though Deck had never heard his name before.

"So there was, Captain Dingfield; and a very sharp one at that," replied
Lieutenant Redway. "But we defeated the enemy, whipped them out of
their boots, and they fled like a flock of frightened sheep down that
opening;" and the reporter of this information pointed in the direction
in which Tom's command had retired.

"If the Father of Lies, who is always swinging his caudal appendage over
the world in search of the biggest liars, should come here for one,
where could Captain Dingfield hide you, Lieutenant Redway?" said Deck to
himself; for it would not have been prudent to say it out loud.

"Why didn't you follow them up?" demanded the captain, with some
indignation in his tones and manner.

"Because you were in sight with the rest of the company; and I deemed it
my duty to wait for orders, especially as you had sent me directions to
hurry forward the bridge brigade," replied the lieutenant.

"But I am closely pursued by a force in the rear; and it cannot be far
behind me by this time. How large was the detachment you fought,
Redway?" asked the captain, looking behind him at the road, as though he
believed his pursuers were close at hand.

"About the size of my command; fifty men, I should say."

"You ought to have wiped them out; and you have made a mess of it by not
doing so," added the captain.

The two officers had withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of their men,
and chosen a place within twenty feet of Deck's tree, so that he could
hear them very distinctly. The conversation was exceedingly interesting
to him, especially the fact in regard to the pursuing force.

"I acted upon my best judgment."

"I had a rough fight in the road, on my way to the bridge, and I have
hardly forty men left, while the Yankees will have a full company when
the detachment behind me comes up," added the captain, who was evidently
in a contemplative mood. "The force you whipped must be at no great
distance from this road."

"I think they will keep on running for the next three miles," said
Redway. "I went up the road to look for them, but I could see nothing of
them."

"But we shall be outnumbered if we let the two parts of this company
come together. I have found that they fight like Texans. If we meet the
whole of them together, we shall be whipped, as Makepeace was. There is
only one thing to do. Form the whole company in column by fours, and we
must go back and beat our pursuers, before they get as far as this,"
said Captain Dingfield, suddenly becoming very animated and energetic.

Deck concluded that the time had come for him to leave his retreat; and
he felt that he had not lost his time in carrying out the plan he had
suggested. But it would be safer for him to retreat in five minutes more
than at that moment. He looked on while the Rangers formed, and saw them
march on their present mission. He had not a very high opinion of the
strategy of Captain Dingfield; and if his subordinate officer had given
him correct information, perhaps he would have adopted a different
course.

The Rangers could no longer see him, and he broke into a run as soon as
they had gone. He found everything as he had left it, and he proceeded
to report his intelligence to Lieutenant Belthorpe.



CHAPTER XXV

SUNDRY FLANK MOVEMENTS ARRANGED


Captain Dingfield, with the portion of his company with which he had
attacked Major Lyon near the cross-roads, where he had been badly beaten
at the first assault, had fled across the country, and was continuing
his flight along the hill road. Doubtless he did not intend to fight a
battle at the point mentioned, but had made the attack immediately after
the explosion on the bridge to occupy the attention of the force there
until his men had completed the destruction of the structure.

He appeared to have discovered that the squadron of cavalry he had
encountered was not so easily annihilated as he had believed they would
be by his invincible Rangers. On the contrary, he found his troop in a
difficult situation, with a superior force near him. Doubtless he had
read in what manner Napoleon I. defeated an army of superior numbers by
taking it when divided into two parts, delivering battle to each in
turn.

Captain Gordon, with half his company, had been sent in pursuit of him,
but had been somewhat delayed in his movements. Captain Dingfield had
united the two portions of his company after the skirmish of one of them
with Lieutenant Belthorpe, who was believed to have retreated to the
railroad.

Deck Lyon had listened to the interview between the captain and
lieutenant of the Rangers, and fully understood their plan. As soon as
the company had departed on their mission to annihilate the detachment
of Captain Gordon, he hastened back to the big tree where he had left
Lieutenant Belthorpe. Tom had just crossed swords with the enemy for the
first time, and had fought like a lion; but he was nervous in regard to
the situation. He had no superior officer near him, and he felt the
responsibility of his position.

"Well, Deck, what next?" he asked, before the young soldier could get
within talking distance of him.

"There is work for you," replied Deck; and though he knew precisely what
ought to be done, he was very careful not to suggest anything. He did
not wish to overstep the line of his duty as a private, though he and
the lieutenant were on the most intimate and familiar terms of
friendship. He hurried his steps; and in as few words as possible he
related all he had seen and heard.

"Then, Captain Dingfield has gone out with his whole company to
intercept Gordon?" said the officer.

"Precisely so; and I don't know what force Captain Gordon has with him,"
added Deck. "The Rangers believe your command has retreated to the
railroad, and are well out of the way."

"We will convince them to the contrary very soon," said Tom with energy,
and darted off at the best speed of his horse for the knoll where he had
left his men.

Deck restored his sabre to its place, and mounted his horse. He was
ready to return to the ranks; but Tom called him, and he took his place
at the side of his friend. The lieutenant asked him a great many
questions; for the troop could not move at their best speed on account
of the trees and bushes.

"I suppose we have nothing to do but follow and pitch in when we find
the enemy," said Tom, when they came out on the hill road. "We can't see
anything of Dingfield's company yet."

"He has not got over the top of that hill we see ahead, and is in the
valley this side. Neither of us has been over this road, and we know
nothing at all about it," replied Deck, careful not to wound the pride
of his officer.

"Why don't you speak out, Deck, and tell me what you are thinking
about?" said the lieutenant somewhat impatiently. "You keep in your
shell as tight as a Baltimore oyster. You did not hesitate to tell me
what you had in your sconce when we were fighting that detachment in the
road."

"I only intended to give you the information that Dingfield's company
was coming, and would then outnumber you," replied Deck.

"You advised me to retreat, and I did so, for I saw that you were
right."

"But you are my superior officer, and my business consists in obeying
your orders," replied the private with becoming humility.

"None of that, Deck! We will keep up all the forms and ceremonies; but I
want you to be Deck Lyon, while I am Tom Belthorpe, when we are side by
side as we are at this moment. I say all we have to do is to ride ahead
till we find the enemy, and then pitch in. Is that your idea, Deck?"

"With all due deference, Tom, it is not," replied the private.

"Confound your deference!" exclaimed the lieutenant. "I asked your
advice, and you mumble about forms."

"I will speak as plainly as I know how to speak. If you show yourself to
Captain Dingfield, he will run away if he can. He has been badly
punished to-day, and he can't stand much more of it. When he finds
himself pinched between Captain Gordon and yourself, I don't believe he
will feel like cutting his way out."

"But he outnumbers Gordon just now," Tom objected.

"Of course you will not let Captain Gordon suffer," continued Deck. "If
you will allow me to say it, I will suggest what I should do if I were
in your place."

"Allow you! Confound you, Deck! Didn't I ask you point-blank what you
would do?" demanded Tom.

"We are moving at a dog-trot now, and that is just right. Before we get
to the top of that hill yonder in the road, I should halt, and send a
scout ahead to report on what there is to be seen," said Deck.

"All right! I detail you as the scout," answered the lieutenant very
promptly.

"Then I will leave you. If I raise my cap over my head, hurry up. If I
make no sign, come along leisurely," added Deck, as he urged his steed
to a gallop, and dashed ahead.

Just then he wished he had Ceph; but he had left him hitched near the
bridge when he ascended it to take in the flag, though the horse he had
was not a bad one. How far in the rear of Captain Dingfield's company
Captain Gordon had been he had no means of judging. Deck reached the
summit of the hill over which the road passed. He reined in his steed,
and walked him till his own head was high enough to see over the crest
in front of him.

Captain Dingfield's company was not in sight. Not more than half a mile
ahead of him was another hill, beyond which the enemy had disappeared.
He took off his cap and waved it in the air above his head. Tom could
not help seeing it; and his command were immediately galloping towards
him. Deck did not wait for them, but ran his own horse till he reached
the summit of the second hill. Here he halted again. There was a third
hill, and probably one every mile or half-mile; for this was the hill
road.

Captain Dingfield had not hurried his men, and Deck discovered his force
on the lowest ground between the two hills. He had halted there, and the
men appeared to be watering their horses. Deck was sorry he had not a
field-glass. He fell back a short distance, so that his horse should not
be seen by the enemy, hitched him to a sapling, and returned to the top
of the hill on foot. After examining the location of the enemy as well
as he could, he concluded that a road crossed that upon which both
forces were moving, though he was not sure.

Returning to his horse, he mounted again, and descended the hill a few
rods. The lieutenant had reached the top of the first hill, and Deck
waved his cap again. As soon as Tom reached the spot where the private
was, he halted his command. He hastily informed his officer that the
enemy were at the foot of the hill on the other side.

"I must not lose sight of them for long," said Deck. "I will go ahead
again, and make the same signal for you to advance."

"But you expect there will be a fight, don't you, Deck?" asked the
lieutenant.

"There will be if Captain Dingfield don't run away by a road I believe
extends through the valley. I think the captain of the Rangers is
waiting for Captain Gordon to come upon him in this place. I will keep a
lookout for our men," replied Deck, as he rode up the hill again.

The private was a very enthusiastic soldier; and he thought it would be
a capital idea to bag the Rangers, and make prisoners of the whole
company. It would be a feather in Tom Belthorpe's cap, and he would have
been glad to place it there. He hitched his horse again, and then
climbed a tree. Some of the hills in the vicinity were cultivated, and
some were not. From his elevated perch he discovered a farmhouse on the
road, of whose existence he had not before been confident. He had no
doubt of the fact now.

There was a cornfield on the left of the road where he was, but at some
distance from it. Between this tilled land and the hill road was a
considerable extent of wild land, covered with hillocks, and the whole
of it overgrown with small trees and bushes. Near the place where the
platoon had halted, Deck perceived a practicable passage through the
tanglewood; and he went down the tree in a desperate hurry, to the
imminent peril of his limbs, though he reached the ground in safety.

A glance at the summit of the third hill assured him that Captain Gordon
was not yet in sight. Slinging his carbine, and buckling on his belt, he
hastened to the lieutenant, and, without any unnecessary manifestations
of deference, stated the plan he had brewed in the top of the tree.

"I should like to see the whole of that company bagged, Tom," said he,
as he led the way to the opening he had seen. "I should like to see you
do it, I am only afraid Dingfield will escape by that road, and I should
like to have you block his way in that direction."

"But if we shut up that road against him, we shall leave the hill road
open to him," replied Tom.

[Illustration: "What are you uns doing here!"]

Deck bit his lip, for he had not thought of this; for he was not a
full-fledged strategist any more than his officer.

"You are right, Tom; and that is the end of my scheme," added Deck.

"Not a bit of it, Deck. Why not compromise on your idea; send half our
force across the cornfield, and leave the other half to take care of
this road? I like that idea," said Tom with enthusiasm.

"You would have but twenty-five men to hold this road against the whole
of Dingfield's company," said Deck.

"But we don't intend to move till Captain Gordon is here to take a hand
in the game," answered Tom. "You will go with Sergeant Fronklyn to the
cross-road, and I will stay here. As soon as I see the rest of our
company coming down the hill, I will strike the enemy in the rear, while
the captain goes in on the front. You will sail in from the by-road as
soon as you hear the firing, Deck. That is fixed. Now have deference
enough for your officer to hold your tongue, and obey your orders."

"I am as dumb as a dead horse," replied Deck.

Both of them were laughing; and Deck hastened to a place where he could
see over the crest of the hill, while the lieutenant divided his force
for the two undertakings. In a few moments all was ready, and Tom joined
his friend.

"It is time we were moving," said Deck.

"All is ready for you; and Fronklyn will take counsel of you when
necessary," replied the lieutenant.

"Don't show yourself on the top of the hill, Tom; for that might let the
cat out of the bag," added Deck.

The scout, as Deck considered himself for the present, joined the
detachment detailed for the by-road, and led them into the wild region,
Fronklyn remaining some distance behind him. The enemy were in a deep
hollow, and the guide soon assured himself that the detachment could be
neither seen nor heard by them. The sergeant advanced in response to his
signals. A spur of the hill concealed them, and they galloped across the
field, from which the crop had been harvested. He guided the force to a
point beyond the farmer's house. Leaving the sergeant and his men where
the buildings shut off the view of the hill road, Deck rode cautiously
to the other side of the house.

"What you uns doin' here?" asked the farmer, showing himself from behind
his barn.

"We are attending to our own business, and it wouldn't be a bad idea for
you to do the same," replied Deck, who did not like the looks of the
man.

"I reckon you uns is Confedrits," he added.

"You are out of your reckoning."

"There's some more on 'em over to the brook. I reckon I'll go over, and
let 'em know you're here," suggested the farmer.

"If you do, you will get a bit of lead through your upper story,"
replied Deck, as he rode on.

He had hardly started his horse before a volley was heard in the
direction of the hill road.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE ENEMY'S BATTLE WITH THE MUD


The sound of the volley did not come from the top of the hill, and
Captain Gordon would not have been so simple as to waste the powder and
balls in the carbines of his men at an impracticable distance from the
object of his attack. Lieutenant Belthorpe must have seen his force as
soon as he reached the top of the hill; and no doubt he had hurried to
join in the attack at the right moment, so that it could be made in the
front and rear at the same time.

But plans do not always work precisely as they are arranged beforehand.
Deck turned his steed as soon as he heard the volley, and hastened back
to notify the sergeant; but Fronklyn had heard the discharge, and
marched on the instant. For a non-commissioned officer, he was decidedly
a man of parts, though he had not been in a fight till that day.

"Hurry up, Sergeant! I think we shall have warm work over on the hill
road as soon as we can reach it. They are firing lively now on both
hills," said Deck, as he took his place by the side of the officer.

"We are all ready for it; and the men were as mad as a bull in a swarm
of hornets as the recall was sounded back there a while ago, when they
were licking the enemy out of his boots," replied Fronklyn.

"They are likely to get enough of it now," added Deck, as they galloped
forward at the best speed they could get out of the horses.

But the firing suddenly ceased, and there was a noise ahead other than
the sounds of battle, which attracted the attention of Deck and the
sergeant. It was the clang of sabres and the rattle of accoutrements,
and the sounds came from a less distance than to the hill road.

"What does this mean?" asked Deck, as he reined in his horse. "Halt your
men here!" he added, as he obtained a full view ahead.

Fronklyn promptly accepted the suggestion, and gave the order; but he
did not understand the reason for making it. The cross-road extended
through the wild region over which the detachment had passed farther up
the hill. In this part of it the surface was more irregular than above;
on the left was a meadow, through which flowed the brook that crossed
the main road. Just ahead of the force the road wound through a narrow
pass, between lofty pinnacles of rock.

From a point in the road Deck had obtained a glance across the meadow at
the cross-road near the main highway. There he saw the Rangers
retreating vigorously, and coming directly towards him. He could not
quite understand this change in the programme, as laid down by
Lieutenant Belthorpe and himself. But it did not take him long to
explain the situation to his own satisfaction, whether correctly or not.

Captain Gordon's men had made the attack with a volley from the
carbines. As soon as Tom Belthorpe heard the report, he dashed down the
hill to have a finger in the pie; for his men were eager for the affray.
Captain Dingfield had seen them coming, and probably mistook the force
for a much larger one, and ordered a retreat by the cross-road.
Doubtless he had chosen to await the attack of Captain Gordon in this
locality on account of this convenient outlet. The enemy had not waited
for a charge, and neither of the detachments from the two hills had
reached the brook.

Deck hurriedly stated the situation to Sergeant Fronklyn. Then he
pointed out the narrow pass in the road, which would conceal the men for
a few moments. He advised him to advance to it, and then fall upon the
head of the column as it entered the narrow passage. The officer gave
the order to advance, and with it a few ringing words of encouragement.
Fronklyn placed himself at the head of his men, with Deck near him, and
they dashed into the pass at a breakneck speed. The enemy had not yet
reached the narrow defile.

The troopers had their carbines all ready for use, and the sergeant
halted them at a point where they could see the Rangers as they
approached. At the right moment he gave the command to fire, and the
report was the first intimation to Captain Dingfield that an enemy was
in front of him. As soon as the Union soldiers had discharged their
pieces, they were ordered to sling their carbines, and draw their
sabres.

"To the charge! March!" shouted Fronklyn.

The volley had been a surprise to the Rangers, and they were evidently
staggered as some of their saddles were emptied. Captain Dingfield was
not at the front of his company; for the danger was supposed to be in
the rear, and he was as brave a man as ever sat on a horse. Of course he
could form no idea of the strength of the force in front of him, and he
must have realized that he had fallen into a trap. If he had not been
prudent before, he was so now, for the bugler immediately sounded the
recall.

Sergeant Fronklyn did not wait to see what Captain Dingfield would do,
or where he would retreat. He led his men forward, and they charged
furiously upon what had been the right of the column. The Rangers
defended themselves with vigor and determination for a few minutes, and
the accounts of three of them were closed for this world. The next thing
that Deck saw, for he made a business of knowing all that was going on
around him, was a column of cavalry fleeing across the meadow.

The captain of the Rangers, from his position near the rear, had
evidently found a means of escape. Deck fought with his sabre as long as
there was one of the enemy near him; but as fast as the Texans could get
out of the _mêlée_ they fled to the rear. The pass was so narrow that
the Union troopers, few as there were of them on the by-road, had not
room enough to do themselves justice. But Fronklyn urged them on, and
drove them before him, till he heard the clashing of arms in front of
him.

Both Captain Gordon and Lieutenant Belthorpe dashed into the narrow
road, and followed up the enemy, till the last of them had taken to the
meadow. When the ground was examined later, it was found that there was
only one narrow causeway by which the descent to the low ground could be
made; and the Rangers covered and defended this pass till all of their
number had left the road. It was in vain that the fresh troopers pressed
forward from the hill road, for the way was blocked against them. In the
inability of the captain and the lieutenant to bring their numbers to
bear, the combat was on equal terms.

The Rangers defended themselves bravely and skilfully. There were a
number of hand-to-hand struggles with which there was no space for the
interference of others. But it looked as though the Texans had leaped
from the frying-pan into the fire; for they had gone out but a short
distance from the by-road before their horses began to mire; for the
ground proved to be very soft. Several of the Texans were obliged to
dismount, and pull their steeds out of the mud.

Captain Gordon had pressed forward, and engaged the rear of the
retreating column; and he was about to order a pursuit, when he
discovered the enemy was sinking in the mire, and that the meadow was no
place for horses. It was located all along the wild region; and,
doubtless, some of those sink-holes and caverns which abound in this
part of the State existed in this section of wild land. But the captain
was not willing to permit the escape of the enemy.

Deck Lyon was reasonable enough to abandon the idea of "bagging the
game;" for the Rangers could now hardly be regarded as an organized
military company. The meadow proved to be nothing but a quagmire, though
the farmer appeared to get the hay from it, as there were two stacks of
it on the field; but he had to take the occasion when the ground was
frozen to obtain his crop. By this time the Texans were scattered all
over the meadow, wandering about in search of more solid ground.

It would have been easy enough to shoot down the whole of them; but
Captain Gordon was too chivalrous a man to murder the defenceless
fellows. A few of them had crossed the brook, and were ascending the
hill on the other side. A number of them were making a road of the
bottom of the little stream, which seemed to be composed of sand washed
in from the hills.

The first company were at ease all along the by-road, watching the
movements and the struggles of the enemy; and no doubt Captain Dingfield
wished he had fought it out, or surrendered on the hard ground. The
night was coming on; and even if the Texans extricated themselves from
their pitiable condition, they must be so demoralized that they could do
no further mischief till they had rested and recruited from the effects
of their battle with the mud.

"What are them men doin' in there?" asked the farmer, who wandered as
far as the causeway, when it was safe to do so, and there encountered
Deck, whom he had met before.

"They are trying to get out," replied Private Lyon.

"They can't do it!" exclaimed the native, who indulged in much profane
speech. "They'll make a cemetry of the whole medder. It's nothin' but
muck in there till you git to the bottom on't, and that's where them
fellers will go. I had a colt git in there, and all on us couldn't git
him out; and I reckon his carcass is lyin' on the bottom now. They've
sp'ilt my medder," continued the farmer; and he heaped curses on the
unfortunate troopers, who were tearing up the soft sod at a fearful
rate.

The native had picked up the three horses of the troopers who had been
killed in the affray, and they were some compensation for the damage
done him in the meadow, which looked as though it had been ploughed up.

"Isn't there any way for those men to get out of that quagmire?" asked
Captain Gordon, as he encountered the farmer.

"I don't know o' none," replied the man in a surly tone, "If they was
only Yankees, I'd like it better."

"I like it better as it is," replied the captain.

He knew of no way to extricate the troopers from their plight. It was
the dry season of the year, and probably there was less water and less
mud than in the wet season. The bodies of the horses seemed to be
resting on the sod, with their legs wholly plunged in the soft soil. The
riders had dismounted, and attacked two stacks of hay on the field, and
were placing it in front of their animals. It afforded a better
foundation for them than the oozy turf; and a couple of them were
already standing on their legs.

The darkness was gathering rapidly, and Captain Gordon gave the order
for his men to form in column; and then he marched them out to the hill
road. He was satisfied that the Texans would escape from their miserable
plight, though it might require many hours for them to accomplish it.
They had already begun to build a sort of causeway of the hay, to
connect with the solid one by which they had fled from the fight. The
hay was of a coarse quality, abundantly mixed with weeds and bushes, and
it appeared to be substantial enough to support the horses.

It was evident to the captain that the entire force of the enemy could
be easily captured as they came off the meadow; but it might require the
whole night to secure them. The first company, now united, marched to
the hill road, and halted in a field which had been selected before for
the camping-ground. The men proceeded to feed themselves and their
horses. A half-dozen scouts were left on the by-road to watch the mired
Texans. They had built a great fire to afford them light, and continued
their labors.

A portion of the field where they had encamped consisted of a grove of
big trees, such as the company had frequently seen. The baggage-train
had been left at the bridge, and the men had no tents, but they were
provided with overcoats and blankets; and thus protected from the cold
of the chill night, it was not accounted a hardship to sleep on the
ground. Sentinels surrounded the camp, and two scouts had been sent out
in each direction on the hill road.

"Scouts coming in from both ways!" shouted the sentinels in the road;
and the word was carried to the guard quarters.

The captain was immediately informed. As Deck happened to be in the
detail for guard duty, he had been stationed in the road, and it was his
voice which first announced the return of the scouts. Captain Gordon,
who had stretched himself under a tree for a nap, hastened to the road
to ascertain the cause of the alarm.

"Where are the scouts, Deck?" he asked, as he confronted the sentinel in
the road.

"They have not got here yet," replied Deck, as he saluted the captain.
"I saw them at the top of the hills, coming in at full speed."

"But there is no enemy in this vicinity, except the Texans in the
quagmire," added the captain.

"I know of none, Captain."

The two scouts came in almost at the same moment, before the captain and
the private could discuss the situation, and reported a detachment of
cavalry approaching from either direction.



CHAPTER XXVII

AT THE CAMP-FIRE NEAR THE ROAD


As Captain Gordon suggested, there was no enemy in the vicinity with the
exception of the Texan Rangers, half buried in the mud. The approach of
cavalry from both directions, and in the darkness, was rather an
alarming announcement; and if the scouts had not been close by, he would
have ordered the long roll, and prepared for defence. The camp-fires
were blazing near the road, and a weird light was cast upon the scene.

"Well, Beck, what is your news?" demanded the captain, as the scout
saluted him.

"A detachment of cavalry was coming up when I left the top of the hill,"
replied the trooper.

"What were they?" demanded the captain impatiently.

"I don't know, Captain; we could not make them out in the darkness,"
replied the scout; and he was the one who came from the south.

"How many were there of them?"

"We looked at them as they came down the hill, and Wilder and I reckoned
there were about fifty of them. They had a wagon train behind them."

"Very well, Beck. What have you to say, Layder?" asked Captain Gordon,
turning to the scout from the north.

"My report is just about the same as Beck's; though the detachment comes
from the other way. But they didn't have no baggage-train."

"Did you make out how many there were, Layder?"

"We made out about forty of 'em, Captain; we could not see very well,
and there may have been more of 'em."

"Return to your mates, and ascertain, if you can, who and what they
are," added Captain Gordon.

Deck Lyon had something to say, but he did not feel like saying it. He
was perfectly satisfied that there would be no fighting with the
approaching detachments. He had been reasoning over the situation, and
he had formed a decided opinion. He had heard the train on the railroad,
both when it went down and when it returned about dark; but he knew
nothing about the events which had transpired at the camp by the bridge.
The only fact that bothered him was that the detachment from the south
had a baggage-train.

"Well, Deck, what do you make of it?" asked Captain Gordon, as he halted
in front of the sentinel.

"The two detachments are the second company of Riverlawn Cavalry,"
replied Deck without any hesitation; for this was the decided opinion he
had reached.

"What makes you think so, Deck?" asked the captain with a smile.

"Except the Texans in the mud, there is no other cavalry in these parts.
That's the first reason. The second is, that Major Lyon sent half the
first company under Lieutenant Belthorpe up the railroad, and he can
have heard nothing from this force since; and he would naturally get a
little anxious about it. The third reason is, that he sent you and the
rest of the first company in pursuit of the Texans. If you have not
sent any messenger to him, I shouldn't wonder if the major had worried a
little about you, Captain," said Deck.

"I sent no messenger to him; I could not spare a single man, for I was
liable to meet the whole company of Texans," added the captain. "But I
think you are right, and the same suggestions came to my mind."

Half an hour later the same scouts returned to the camp, and reported
that the captain and Deck were correct in their suppositions. In a
quarter of an hour more the second company rode into the camp. Major
Lyon was with the detachment from the south. The moment he saw Deck, he
leaped from his horse as lightly as his son could have done it, and
grasped both of the hands of the sentinel.

"I am glad to see you again. Dexter!" exclaimed the father. "I have had
a deal of worry over your disappearance, and I was afraid I should have
to send bad news to your mother and your sister."

"No use of worrying about me, father," replied Deck, still holding the
hand of the major. "I have had considerable experience to-day, but I
have worked through it all."

"But what became of you?" asked the anxious father.

"I was captured by the bridge-burners, and I was only sorry that I could
not prevent them from setting the bridge afire. I suppose it was all
burnt up, and your business here is all a failure."

"Not at all, my son; the bridge was hardly damaged at all, and a train
has been over it twice since they tried to burn it. But I will see you
later," added the major, as he pressed the hand of his son again.

Captain Gordon was considerate enough to relieve the sentinel from duty,
and he went with his father to the nearest camp-fire. The wagons were
driven into the field, and a few minutes later the headquarters tent was
pitched. Stools were placed before the fire, and all the commissioned
officers of both companies were sent for. It looked like a council of
war, though the object of the meeting was to receive the reports of the
officers. For the first time since the arrival of the squadron, the two
companies were united.

Captain Gordon, as the senior, was called upon first for his report; and
he recited it at length, ending with the skirmish at the cross-roads
near the camp. Lieutenant Belthorpe described his wanderings with half
the company, including his brief engagement with the Rangers.

"I feel as though I should be mean if I failed to inform the officers of
the squadron how much service Deck Lyon has rendered to me since I found
him on the road," said Tom. "We are not on parade just now, and I
suppose I may say it."

"Dry up, Tom!" exclaimed Deck, loud enough to be heard by the speaker,
though hardly by the others.

"Not just yet, Lieutenant," interposed the major. "I don't understand
how you happened to meet Dexter in the road; for the last he told me of
himself was that he was taken prisoner by the enemy. I should like to
hear his narrative first, for it may throw some light on other matters."

Deck was admonished by his father to tell the whole story, without any
omissions; and he related his adventure from the time he had first seen
Brown Kipps. He explained how he had been duped by that worthy
Tennesseean, and in what manner he had been tempted to shoot his four
custodians through the back of the head.

"I hope you didn't do it, Dexter," interposed his father, before he had
come to the sequel of the affair.

"I did not, father; for I feared the deed would haunt me to the last day
of my life, be it long or short," replied Deck. "It looked like
cold-blooded murder to me."

The assembled officers applauded him vigorously with their hands; and
the young soldier was glad to receive this testimonial of his officers,
for to him it seemed to settle the moral question involved in his
action.

"I do not believe in carrying on the war upon peace principles; but I do
believe that soldiers should not become assassins," added the major.

The officers likewise applauded this sentiment of their commander.

"We are ready to hear you now, Lieutenant Belthorpe, as I know how
Dexter came into your path. It is important to remember that the
bridge-burners, with their wagon and supplies of combustibles,
proceeded to the north by the hill road. Go on, Lieutenant."

Tom Belthorpe described the action with half the Rangers under
Lieutenant Redway, and the interposition of Deck when he discovered the
approach of the other half of the Rangers. He had retreated rather
against his will by Deck's advice.

"I think his advice was good, if he is my son," added the major.

"No doubt of it; you would have been pinched between the two portions of
the Confederate force, and outnumbered nearly two to one," added Captain
Gordon.

"I was quite satisfied in regard to the wisdom of the advice, badly as
we desired to fight out the action, as soon as I had a chance to think
of it," continued Tom. "Then Deck did a very neat piece of spy-work,
which enabled us to follow the enemy without being seen or heard. The
whole of the Rangers had come together, and they outnumbered Captain
Gordon's command. It was Deck's suggestion to strike across lots, and
reach the by-road; but I did not follow it in full, and divided my
force, so that the Texans should not retreat by the way we came."

"And when you came down the hill with hardly more than twenty men, the
Texans took fright, and retreated up that by-road, where they were
received by Sergeant Fronklyn," added Captain Gordon. "This caused them
to seek a new avenue of escape; and they plunged into the quagmire,
where they are now."

"What you say of Deck leads me to indorse his conduct in the action on
the east road this morning," said Captain Truman, who had said nothing
before; and he proceeded to describe what the young man had done in that
affair.

"Pleasant as it is to hear such excellent reports of the behavior of my
son, I must add that his brother has behaved equally well, though he has
not had the opportunity to distinguish himself except in doing his
simple duty," said the major. "But I have more important business than
this, for I received new orders before I left the camp at the bridge. I
am required to assure the safe passage of trains on the railroad first;
but it appears that the State has been invaded in the south-east, or is
liable to further invasion in that direction.

"The worst feature of this aspect of the situation is that hordes of
guerillas have been turned loose upon us; and even now they are engaged
in their work of plundering and destroying the property of Union men,
not to speak of the outrages committed upon the citizens. These
guerillas, or some of them, take the name of 'Partisan Rangers.' Indiana
and Ohio troops are moving in the direction mentioned; but the enemy are
still busy there. 'The Confederate cavalry,'" continued the commander,
reading from a letter he had taken from his pocket, "'scoured the
country in the vicinity of their camp, arrested prominent Union men, and
destroyed their property.' This is the situation for a hundred miles
east of us; and I am ordered to check these raids of the guerillas with
all my available force.

"I am ordered to move without any unnecessary delay, and I shall march
to-morrow morning. I expect a company of Union Home Guards here by
to-morrow; and I shall be obliged to leave Captain Truman and half his
company; but as soon as he is relieved by the infantry company, he will
rejoin the squadron."

"We have been unable to make out that there is any Confederate force in
this vicinity, with the exception of the Rangers who are just now
struggling with the mud in the bog meadow near us," said Captain Gordon.

"How many of them are there?" asked the major.

"I am sure I don't know," replied the captain.

"I counted eighty-one of them, including Captain Dingfield; but some few
of them had escaped through the mud to the hill on the other side of the
bog," said Deck, who was always doing some useful work when he found a
chance.

"As many as that; perhaps half a company is not force enough to leave
with you, Captain Truman," suggested the major.

"Quite enough, Major Lyon; for we should have to act mainly on the
defensive," replied the captain of the second company. "My men have
fought the Texans once to-day; and though they are brave and daring
fellows, they are not such terrible bugbears as they have been
represented to be. But infantry can guard the bridge better than
cavalry."

"The infantry will probably relieve you by to-morrow. If the Texans,
with their bridge-burners, were out of the way, I need leave no force,"
added the major.

"But we can put them out of the way very easily," suggested Captain
Gordon.

"Do you mean to shoot them down as they stick in the mud there? We are
not murderers, Captain," replied the major sternly.

"I meant nothing of the kind," returned the captain with a blush. "I
could have ordered my men to do that before it appeared that the action
was finished."

"Pardon me, Captain; I know you are not a murderer."

"They are stuck fast there, eighty-one of them, according to Deck's
figures; and we can make prisoners of them as they get out of the bog,
as I think they will before morning, for they have hit upon an effective
plan."

"It would take one of our companies to capture them, and to dispose of
them as prisoners, so that we should gain nothing," replied the major,
vetoing the plan at once. "The Union Home Guards may be here early in
the morning, for they have had time enough to make the march."

The meeting closed; and officers and privates were tired enough after
the long day to wrap themselves in their blankets and sleep.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE


The night passed without any alarm. The sentinels were relieved at
regular intervals, including the two who patrolled the by-road. The
latter complained, when others were put in their places, that they might
as well be asleep in the camp, for they could see nothing of the Texans.
There was only one place where they could obtain a view of them when it
was light enough for them to see anything.

The night was unusually dark, for a heavy mass of black clouds had
rolled up from the west, promising a smart shower. The Rangers had
extinguished their fires at an early hour in the evening, for what
reason the guards were unable to determine; but the fact was suspicious,
and they redoubled their vigilance. The last that had been seen of the
bemired troopers, they were building the causeway of hay to unite with
the one of solid rocks and earth built by the farmer to obtain access
to his hay-field.

This causeway was believed to be the only possible way to get on or off
the meadow. Captain Gordon had made a survey of the locality in person,
and had gone up the road as far as the house of the farmer, the only one
in the vicinity. He had met the native in his walk, and had questioned
him with all the skill he possessed in regard to the surroundings; for
the fellow was not disposed to give any information. The only statement
of any importance he could drag out of him was that the causeway was the
only way by which the Texans could leave the meadow. The captain could
see none himself, though he believed from his manner that the man was
lying to him.

The place looked as though there had been an immense sink-hole there at
some remote period in the past, which had been filled up by the wash
from the hills around it. This flow had brought down quantities of dry
leaves and other vegetable matter; and this, with the growth of rank
grass and weeds decaying on the spot, had formed what is called a bog in
Ireland, and a peat meadow in the Northern States.

There was fuel enough in it to supply a village for a hundred years; but
wood was so plentiful in this region that it would not pay to cut, dry,
and carry it to more solid ground. Whether the captain was satisfied or
nor with his investigations, he could obtain no further information. The
meadow seemed to be surrounded with rocky formations; though his
knowledge of it, obtained in the darkness, was very imperfect. But he
and his men had seen the troopers laying the causeway of hay to the one
of earth, as though they believed this was the only avenue of escape.

The two sentinels extended their beat as far as the farmer's house.
After nine o'clock in the evening its windows were dark, and the people
within appeared to have retired. But the big dog of the native did not
retire with the rest of the family, and he made a rude attack upon the
guards every time they approached the house. About midnight he had
assailed one of the men so furiously that he was obliged to defend
himself with his sabre; and the brute was so badly wounded that nothing
more was seen of him. His dead body was found the next morning near the
house; and the farmer was as furious as the canine had been, though he
had a proper respect for carbines and sabres.

When the guard was relieved after midnight, all was quiet on the meadow,
and it was believed that the troopers had taken to their blankets. One
of the sentinels declared that he could hear them snore; but this was
doubtless a camp-fire exaggeration. They watched the causeway, as they
had been instructed to do; and certainly none of the Texans came out
that way. One of them proposed to explore the space between the by-road
and the position of the troopers; but the other insisted that such an
enterprise would result in certain death, for no doubt the enemy had
sentinels whose carbines were loaded with ball cartridges.

So far as the guards could report, there was no change at the by-road
during the night. The headquarters tent had been pitched, and Major Lyon
had been up half the night studying his maps, and repeatedly reading the
written orders he had received, as well as a mass of newspaper cuttings
which had been sent with them. The latter were, for the most part,
accounts of outrages committed by Confederate cavalry of companies of
"Partisan Rangers," and of bands who were not provided with even the
doubtful authority of the insurrectionary government.

Before daylight in the morning Major Lyon was on his feet; for he felt
that he was loaded with a heavy responsibility. He was charged with the
protection of the railroad bridges in the vicinity, though he was to be
immediately relieved from this duty to enable him to assist with the
more vigor in suppressing the guerillas and other predatory bands.
Artie, now his orderly, slept in the tent with him, and he was sent to
have "The Assembly of Buglers" sounded; and this is the call for the
troopers to appear on the parade.

There was a commotion at the guard quarters; and before Artie had roused
the bugler from his slumbers, he was called by the officer of the day.
Was Major Lyon awake? He was, for he had called his orderly.

"Inform him at once that the sentinel from the by-road reports the
disappearance of the enemy in the bog," said the officer.

As soon as he received the information, the major hastened to the guard
tent, where the sentinel who had brought the news was detained. The
trooper repeated his information to the commander. It was hardly light
enough in the bog to see anything, but he and his mate had satisfied
themselves that the Rangers had all disappeared; but of how or where
they had made their escape he had no knowledge.

"Did you hear no noise of any kind?" asked the major.

"Nothing at all; it was as still as a tomb all the time I was on guard,"
replied the sentinel. "We were not sure they were gone till we walked
out a piece on the meadow, and found the hay, of which they had made a
road to solid ground; but it did not lead to the causeway."

"Where did it lead?" demanded the major.

"In the direction of the farmer's house; but we did not follow it, for
it was decided that I should come up to the camp and report what we had
found out."

"Who was with you, More?" asked the officer of the guard.

"Bunch; and he was to follow the hay-road after I left him," replied the
sentinel.

Major Lyon was very prompt in deciding upon his action, and the first
company was soon in line, and ready to march. Deck belonged in one of
its ranks, and Artie was in close attendance upon the commander. As the
former had conducted the detachment "across lots" the afternoon before,
the major sent for him; and the two young soldiers rode side by side
behind their father, who had Captain Gordon at his side.

"It seems that we are to have a long tramp of it after this; and we are
not likely to be at home Christmas or Thanksgiving this year," said
Artie, as the column descended the hill to the by-road.

"Wherever we may be, it looks like a lively time ahead; for things seem
to be very much mixed in the State," replied Deck.

"How do you suppose the Texans got out of the mud-hole, Deck?"

"I don't know; but I have no doubt the farmer who lives near it and owns
the farm helped them out of it. He is a surly fellow, and I saw that he
was a Secessionist when I met him."

"What do these two darkies want?" asked Artie, pointing to a couple of
colored men, who were running down the hill from the northward as though
their very lives depended upon their speed.

"Probably they are messengers who have come from the vicinity of the
bridge by the same route I did," replied Deck, as he noticed that one
of them was flourishing what looked like a letter in the air.

The two men reached the brook before the column turned in at the
by-road, and had a chance to catch their breath before the officers came
up to them. They had probably seen the column come out from the camp,
and had hurried to intercept it before it turned into the highway they
saw ahead; and it was probable that they were familiar with the
locality.

"W'ich o' you uns is Mars'r Major Lyon?" asked the man with the letter
of the first one he met, who happened to be Deck.

"The one with the plume in his hat," replied the private. "Where do you
come from, Cæsar?"

"From de souf road; more'n a t'ousand so'diers dar. De man wid de feder
in his hat," replied the negro, as he rushed forward to the major and
delivered his letter, with a jumbled speech, of which the recipient took
no notice.

Major Lyon drew up his horse at the side of the brook, his sons
remaining with him, while the column continued on the march. He tore
open the envelope, and read the epistle written with a pencil.

"Be'n a-lookin' fo' you all night, Mars'r," said the bearer. "De gin'ral
done gib me de letter 'fo' dark, an done tell me to find you. Done tramp
seben miles on de roleraid; but we done couldn't found you."

"Where did you sleep?" asked the major, who was evidently pleased with
the information contained in the letter.

"In a swotch-house," replied the messenger, who was very much confused,
and his small stock of English was badly mixed. "In a swotch-house on de
roleraid."

"He means a switch-house," laughed Deck, who could not see why the
fellow upset his words so badly.

The major read the missive a second time, and then took a sort of
portfolio from his pocket, and hastily wrote a reply to it, which he
folded and pinned together in the absence of an envelope.

"How did you find us this morning?" asked the major.

"We done find de hoss-tracks an' de wagon-tracks, an' we follers dem."

"Here's a dollar for your service; but don't spend it for apple-jack, my
boy," said the major, as he handed a couple of half-dollars to the
messengers. "You may go to the camp yonder, and get something to eat, if
you like, before you return."

The men were grateful; and the one who received the money gave half of
it to his companion. The major and his orderlies hurried forward, and
found that Captain Gordon had halted the company at the causeway, where
the inquiry must begin.

"The Home Guards arrived at the bridge last night, and the captain of
the company reports to me as directed. I have written out what
information I have to give him, and you will send a couple of your men
to deliver the paper."

Two troopers were despatched at once as the bearers of the order. It was
possible that the men might encounter some of the Rangers who had
escaped from the other side of the meadow; and they were cautioned by
the major to be on the lookout for them, and to return as soon as
possible. They departed at a gallop, which promised a speedy return.

"One thing is plain enough: the Texans did not come out of the mire by
this causeway," said the major, as he turned his attention to the
question under consideration.

"The sentinels were here all night," replied Captain Gordon.

"But we can easily discover where they did escape," added the commander
as he dismounted, indicating that he intended to conduct the inquiry
personally; and Deck and Artie followed his example. "Detail ten men to
go with us, dismounted, and you will go with us, Captain."

Deck and Artie were directed to go ahead as guides. They descended the
causeway, and came to the sod that covered and concealed the mud
beneath. The turf was strong enough to support men on foot, as had been
seen the afternoon before in the movements of the Rangers. But the hoofs
of the horses cut through it, and they were mired as soon as they
advanced, though some of them wallowed a considerable distance before
they gave up the struggle.

The meadow was nearly round in form, and about half a mile in diameter.
The orderlies, as both of them soon came to be called, advanced safely,
though they were compelled to avoid the places where the Texans' horses
had cut up the sod and brought the mud to the surface. The material of
the hay causeway, which had at first been extended in the direction of
the solid one, had been removed; but leading from the brook, towards a
point above the farmer's house, they saw the one that must have been
used by the Rangers.

The two haystacks seen the day before had been entirely removed, and the
road built of it was about a foot deep of hay. The officers and the ten
men followed the guides; and the hay causeway conducted them to an
inclined plane built of old boards and planks, which the party mounted,
and came to a field near the road. The mysterious disappearance of the
Texans was fully explained.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE RIVERLAWN CAVALRY CHANGES BASE


The first thing Major Lyon did when he reached the road, and the
disappearance of the Texans was no longer mysterious, was to take from
his pocket his map of the county. He found the hill road, and the one
where they stood.

"If the sentinel who reported that he could hear the Rangers snore in
the bog told the truth, the enemy got some rest last night," said the
major, addressing Captain Gordon.

"But he did not hear them snore; that was absurd," replied the captain.
"If they had been snoring, he could not have heard them; for they were
at work too far from him. If he heard anything, it must have been the
bubbling of the brook; but probably it was all in his imagination. But
what is the point in regard to the snoring, Major Lyon?"

"If the Rangers worked all night, and did not get any sleep, they are
too tired and sleepy this morning to make a long march," replied the
commander.

"Then you think they have camped at some place not far from us?" asked
the captain.

"I only think it is possible they have done so. Captain Dingfield
appeared to be badly wounded, from all reports; and I doubt if there is
as much strategy in his brain to-day as he had yesterday. I shall not
make a business of pursuing him."

"It would be a good thing for this part of the State if he could be
cleaned out entirely, bagged, and his company sent to Louisville as
prisoners," suggested Captain Gordon.

"No doubt of it; but it would be hardly consistent with the orders I
have just received for me to delay in this section to carry out your
idea. We are more needed elsewhere than here."

"Then we are to march on a sort of roving commission to the eastward,
where the Confederates are breaking through from Tennessee, it appears."

"It amounts to that, though my orders are very explicit," replied the
major, as he led the way back to the narrow pass where the company had
been halted. "The situation here is not so bad as it was. We have saved
the bridge; and the Home Guards which arrived there last night are
described as consisting of good men, who will be mustered into a
Kentucky regiment as soon as circumstances permit; and Captain Woodward,
who commands it, is an old soldier, and likely to be made a colonel."

"Then the bridge will be safe."

"It can be better defended by infantry than by cavalry alone; both would
do better than either. Captain Dingfield and his bridge-burners have
been sent to the north, and I have no doubt he intends to join them
there. To follow him would keep me some days, if not a week, from the
more pressing duty assigned to me," reasoned the commander.

"I understand it better now," added the captain.

"I have been informed that troops have been sent to the vicinity of
Munfordville, in Hart County, where the railroad bridge has been partly
destroyed, though a temporary structure has been built to replace it. I
think Dingfield means to go there, and complete the work others failed
to finish."

"I hope we shall find the guerillas, or whatever they are; and I believe
our boys will soon make an end of them," said the captain with
enthusiasm. "Your orders permit you to go where you please, Major."

"They do; for it was not possible for those charged with the protection
of the State to inform me definitely where the guerillas were to be
found, as they are continually changing their locality, though I have
some papers to aid me. I am not a little surprised at the confidence
placed in me by my superiors, who send me on a mission with no definite
instructions."

"All the details of the fights at Riverlawn and its vicinity are known
to them; for I have taken care that they should not be ignorant in
regard to you."

"But I have just become a soldier," added the major modestly.

"Then it runs in the blood, and it has got as far down as Deck," said
Captain Gordon, laughing, as they came to the company.

The party mounted, and rode back at a gallop to the camp. The cooks of
the company had prepared an unusually good breakfast, which was disposed
of with a relish, stimulated by three days' feeding from the haversacks
of the troopers. As soon as it was finished, the order was given to
"break camp;" and, as it had been hardly more than a bivouac, the work
was speedily accomplished, and the two companies were soon in line.

While these preparations were in progress, the major was studying his
county map. What little baggage had been taken from the wagons was soon
loaded again. There was little for the officers to do, after the orders
had been given.

"We are about ready to march," said Captain Gordon, approaching the
commander, who had seated himself on a log near the road.

"I am all ready," replied the major, as he glanced at Artie, who was
holding his horse near him. "Of course Dingfield followed this by-road,
which will take him to another by which he can reach Munfordville, if he
is going there. We will take the same road; and if the Rangers are
resting themselves in camp after the fatigues of the day and night, we
may have a chance to pay our respects to them."

"I should like one more slap at them; for they ran away so rapidly that
I did not get a fair hit at them," added the captain.

"But they are brave men, and we outnumber them two to one. Truman says
they fought like tigers on the east road."

"That is true, and that is the reason I should like to meet them again;
for I believe there is not a braver or more reliable body of men in the
Union army than the Riverlawn Cavalry; and I am not a Kentuckian
either."

"Neither am I by birth, though I am by adoption; and I am precisely of
your opinion in regard to our men," added the major as he mounted his
horse; and his orderlies did the same.

Deck was at home again in the saddle; for Ceph had come to the camp with
the second company. After the prisoners at the bridge had been disposed
of, the wounded had been cared for by sending them in one of the
captured wagons to Riverlawn, consigned to the care of Levi Bedford; for
a hospital had been established there for the wounded in the battles
with the ruffians.

The column moved down the road, and turned into that which the Rangers
had used in their escape. As the right of the line approached the house
of the farmer, that worthy presented himself before the officers; and he
appeared to be mad enough to swallow half-a-dozen Yankees. Possibly he
thought the squadron had started in pursuit of the Texans.

"I want to know who's ter pay me for that dog o' mine some o' you uns
killed last night," he broke out, walking along by the side of the major
and Captain Gordon. "That critter was wuth a hund'ed dollars, and that's
what I want you uns to pay me before you go any furder."

"Are you a loyal citizen of the United States?" asked Major Lyon.

"I'm nothin' o' that sort!" replied the native, who began to heap curses
and maledictions on the government. "The' ain't no United States! She's
done busted all to pieces!"

The major made no reply, and had not even stopped his horse. The fellow
followed him; but he took no further notice of the irate Secessionist,
rather to the amusement of Captain Gordon and others within hearing. But
the farmer was soon tired of addressing one who treated him with silent
contempt, and seated himself on a stump to observe the procession.

Two skilful scouts, one of whom was Life Knox, had already been sent
forward to search for any indications of the camp of the Texans. The
squadron soon reached another road running through a valley. The major
had learned from his map that it connected with the east road in one
direction, and the hill-road in the other.

The column halted to wait for the return of the scouts. Knox and his
companion soon appeared, and reported that he had followed this road to
its junction with the hill-road, without seeing anything of the enemy.

"They ain't within ten miles of here," added the Kentuckian. "I got so I
know the tracks o' them Texas hosses, and I follered 'em five miles.
They don't want nothin' more o' the Riverlawn Cavalry."

This information settled the point so far as the Rangers were concerned,
and nothing was seen of them, though they appeared in some skirmishes
farther north. The Indian craft of Knox had proved to be very useful,
and he was a great favorite with both officers and men. The march was
resumed; but the events of the next two days on the road are not of
interest enough to be reported. At the end of this time the squadron
were in the territory described in the orders of the commander, and
active work was expected.

Just before sunset the battalion halted on the outskirts of a small
village, and went into camp there. The American flag was hoisted on a
pole planted for the purpose, in order that the inhabitants of the
vicinity might make no mistake in regard to the character of the force.
Not only the negroes and loungers to be found in every village flocked
to the camp, but some of the influential citizens appeared on the
ground. The guard kept them outside of the lines. A person on
horse-back, who had the air and manner of the genuine Kentucky
gentleman, attracted the attention of Major Lyon, who was desirous of
obtaining information on the spot in regard to the sentiments of the
people.

"Who is the gentleman on horse-back?" he asked of a well-dressed negro,
who looked like an intelligent man; for the commander suspected that he
was a Secessionist, though he had no reason for supposing that he was
such.

"That is Colonel Coffee, sir, the biggest man in these parts," replied
the colored man.

"How does he stand on the war question? Do you happen to know?"
continued the major.

"Yes, sir," replied the man with a smile; "everybody within twenty miles
of this village knows which side Colonel Coffee is on, sir."

"Well, which side is he on?" demanded the commander, who saw that the
gentleman was approaching him.

"He's a Union man all over and all through; and the people are trying to
get up a Home Guard to protect his place--that's the one you see on the
side of the hill. We expect the gorillas down here."

"You have named them well, my friend," added the major with a laugh. "Do
you know where there are any of them?"

"No, sir; they are like flies, and don't make nests anywhere. I reckon
Colonel Coffee wants to speak to you, sir; for I suppose you are an
officer of this company," added the man, who retired at the approach of
the great man of the locality.

The magnate of the county rode up to the major, and saluted him with
courtly grace; and though the latter was not brought up in a
drawing-room, he was as polite as the occasion required.

"I am exceedingly happy to see that flag hoisted over a body of military
in this county," said the colonel, with a cheerful smile, as he pointed
with his riding-whip at the emblem of the Union.

"I am very glad to be where there are those who appreciate the flag,"
added the major.

"I am only sorry that you will find so few of them in this
neighborhood," returned the dignified Kentuckian. "We are threatened by
roving bands of plunderers to the east and south of us, and for the last
week I have expected to walk away from my place by the light of my
burning house. I live in that one on the side of the hill."

"I hope we shall be able to put an end to this state of affairs at once,
Colonel Coffee," replied the major.

"You know my name," said the magnate with a smile.

"I asked it of that negro."

"He is the village barber, and a very intelligent man. May I ask whom I
have the honor to address?" inquired the colonel.

"Major Lyon, in command of a squadron of United States cavalry," replied
the officer.

"I am very glad to see you, Major, personally, and especially to see you
at Greeltop; for we are greatly in need of efficient protection,"
returned the colonel. "I have heard all about you before."

"I am equally happy to meet you, Colonel Coffee; for I am at present in
urgent need of full information in regard to the condition of affairs in
this section."

"I shall be pleased to have you dine with me, and we can talk over
matters at our leisure in my library."

Major Lyon excused himself from the dinner, and invited the colonel to
his tent, which had been set up by this time.



CHAPTER XXX

THE MAGNATE OF GREELTOP'S VISIT


The cavalrymen had been duly drilled in all the details of forming a
camp; and in a short time the tents were pitched, the pickets set up for
the horses, and the cooks were busy in preparing supper. The
headquarters tent was the first to be arranged, as soon as the major had
indicated its location. Colonel Coffee was invited to take a camp-stool;
for they do not have sofas and armchairs in a camp.

"I have been pleading with the officials for the last two weeks to
attend to the security of this region," said the colonel, as he seated
himself. "I have wondered every day during the last week that Greeltop
has not been sacked, and all our houses burned down; for there is a
great deal of Union sentiment in the place."

"Then the place must be particularly liable to an assault from the
guerillas," suggested the major.

"We have tried to form a Home Guard here for the protection of the
village, and we have a little band of about twenty men; but most of our
young and middle-aged men have left the place to enlist in the loyal
army, so that we have not much stock of which to form a company. But our
little band keep a picket of five or ten of their number in the
outskirts of the village, to warn us of the approach of an enemy."

"We shall soon relieve them of that duty."

"Our men are not soldiers, for they have had no training; but they are
made up of fighting material. Though I am sixty-five years old, I belong
to the company; and I have just returned from patrolling the region to
the eastward of us."

While he listened to the visitor, Major Lyon had spread out his map,
which included the locality; and with the assistance of the colonel he
obtained a clear idea of the surface of the country, the first requisite
for a military commander. While they were still busy over the map, the
sentinel at the entrance to the tent drew aside the curtain, and saluted
the commander.

"A messenger in a great hurry to see Colonel Coffee," said he.

"Admit him," replied the major promptly.

A gentleman dressed in a black coat with a standing collar to it,
encircled with a belt, in which was secured a pair of navy revolvers,
entered the tent, out of breath with excitement of running.

"The Rev. Mr. Elbroon, Major Lyon, one of our Home Guard," said the
colonel as soon as the clergyman appeared at the entrance.

There was nothing clerical in his appearance except the standing collar
of his coat; and the revolvers especially belied his profession.

"The Lord be praised for his great mercy!" exclaimed the minister, as
soon as he could get breath for utterance.

"What is the matter, Joseph?" asked the magnate of Greeltop very
familiarly.

"The guerillas are coming!" exclaimed the reverend gentleman.

"Where are they?" asked the colonel, as coolly as though he had been in
command of a regiment for years.

"They are coming down by the mountain road back of your mansion!"
gasped Mr. Elbroon, who was evidently very much alarmed, and could
hardly speak in his fatigue and excitement.

"Sentinel!" called the major sharply.

The man appeared at once.

"Where is Captain Gordon?"

"He is close by, Major."

"Ask him to come to my tent."

"Sit down, Joseph," said the colonel, giving his stool to his friend and
his fellow-soldier, it appeared. "You don't gain anything by blowing
yourself out."

"But this is no time to sit down," replied the excited minister, though
he took the proffered seat.

Captain Gordon appeared immediately.

"A raid of guerillas on the place, Captain! Have the first company ready
to march in three minutes!" said the commander in hurried tones.

The captain retired in haste, without asking any questions; and a moment
later the bugles were heard sounding the assembly. The major buckled on
his sword, and sent out an order for his horse.

"Thank the good Lord that the military have come at last!" exclaimed
Mr. Elbroon, as he crossed his arms on his breast, and looked up to
heaven in earnest prayer. "But we are wasting time, Colonel; and I am
afraid we shall see your beautiful mansion in flames before we can get
there."

"If we do, it will go up in a good cause," replied the magnate, with a
smile on his dignified face. "I can afford to lose it better than some
of the poor people of the village could their houses. But cool off,
Joseph; you are still all in a flutter."

"I will try to do so," replied the clerical soldier, "I saw them coming
when I was on the top of the mountain. I hurried my poor horse till he
broke down under me; and I had to run on foot the rest of the way."

"Rest yourself, Joseph. If you saw the guerillas from the top of the
mountain, there is no hurry; for they will not reach my house this
half-hour," added the colonel.

"You shall have another horse, my reverend friend," interposed the
commander, as he ordered the sentinel to send for a spare steed.

"Now, Joseph, where were the guerillas when you saw them?" inquired the
magnate.

"They were on the Cliff Road, just coming around the bend."

"That is four miles from my house, and five from here," continued the
colonel.

"But I have been a long time coming here," suggested Mr. Elbroon.

"Excuse me, Colonel Coffee; I should like a little more definite
information in regard to the road by which these guerillas will approach
the village," interposed the commander.

"I don't think they will approach the village at all, Major Lyon. I have
not the remotest doubt that my mansion is their objective point; and
they will first plunder that."

"We will take care that they don't do anything of the sort. Have you any
idea how many there were in the company you saw, Mr. Elbroon?"

"I could see them marching along under the cliff; I should say there
were not less than fifty of them," replied the clergyman. "I did not
wait to count them, but hurried to the village, where I inquired of
everybody for Colonel Coffee. The barber told me he was here."

"Company formed," reported the sentinel at the door.

"We are ready now, gentlemen," said the major, as he passed out of the
tent, followed by the others.

"The spare horse ordered, Major," said the sentinel, as he led him up.

The clerical gentleman was invited to mount this animal, which had been
ridden by one of the men killed; and the colonel mounted his own steed.
The commander took his horse, which was led by Deck, while Artie had
brought up the spare steed. The animal was a higher-spirited beast than
the parson had been in the habit of riding, and Artie had to take him by
the head to prevent him from running away; for he was one of the colts
of the Riverlawn planter's stock.

"My orderlies will ride with me," said the major; "I may want them.
Captain Truman, you will have the second company in marching order, in
case I send for them, though I don't know what this affair will amount
to; and you will leave a guard at the camp if you are called away."

The order was given to Captain Gordon to march. The commander led the
column at full gallop, with the colonel at his side, and the orderlies
in the rear of them. In less than a minute they came to a road turning
off at the left, leading in the direction of the magnate's mansion. It
was situated on the side of a hill, and near the top of it. The
elevation was elliptical in form, and the loftiest part was not more
than sixty feet high, at the summit of which was a Chinese pagoda,
painted in gaudy colors.

There was a valley behind it; for the major could see the tops of some
tall trees, whose roots must be far below the top of the elliptical
hill. Beyond it were what the colonel called the mountains, though
probably not one of them was more than five hundred feet high. The
column followed the road into which it had turned till it came to
another; and here the major ordered the captain to halt his company.

"Here is another road, Colonel Coffee; and it passes behind the hill
which you call Greeltop," said the commander.

"Precisely so," replied the magnate, who thought the major had acquired
a very good knowledge of the locality when he had been there hardly more
than an hour.

"Captain Gordon, you will go that way with half your company, and
Lieutenant Gilder will follow me," said Major Lyon. "The road through
the valley unites with the one from the mountains, by which the
guerillas must approach the village. You will move cautiously as you
come near this road, and halt there till you hear firing on your right."

"You can hardly call it a road through the valley, though the captain
can get through without any difficulty," interposed the magnate. "It is
all a grove, but the ground has been cleared off."

"Dexter, you will call Knox, and scout the road ahead of us. Don't let
the enemy see you, and obey the orders of the sergeant," continued the
major, as the first platoon rode off.

Life Knox was called from his place in the ranks, and the order of the
commander given to him. It was the kind of duty the sergeant liked; for
he was more at home there than in following military forms; though he
was a faithful and obedient soldier, and his captain wished he had a
hundred more like him.

"Here we go again, Deck," said the sergeant, as they galloped up the
road, by the entrance to Colonel Coffee's estate. "Your pa does well to
send me along with you this time, and not leave you alone as he did on
that bridge."

"But I can take care of myself, and I did that time; for I came back
like a bad penny," replied Deck.

"You managed fust-rate, my boy; and if you live to be as old as the
white-haired owner of this place, you will be a brigadier-general; and I
hope I shall be an orderly sergeant under you."

"You are a good deal more likely to become a brigadier-general than I
am, though I may get to be a corporal some time. You may be
major-general; for you understand war much better than most of us."

"That can't never be, Deck. I hain't got the eddication to be anything
more than a non-commissioned officer," said Knox, shaking his head, and
hurrying on his horse.

"It wouldn't be just the thing for a brigadier-general to say
'eddication,'" replied Deck.

"What would you call it? I didn't pay much attention to my eddication
when I was a young cub, and have been sorry for it ever sence. What do
you call it, Deck?"

"Ed-u-ca-tion."

"But I can't say it like that."

"Yes, you can. You have a brother named Edward, and you call him Ed when
you speak of him. Now say this, Life, 'Ed, you can.'"

"'Ed, you can.'"

"Good! Now say, 'Ed, you, Kate,'" which was the name he had given the
mare he rode.

"'Ed, you, Kate.'"

"Exactly; and it is just as easy to say 'educate' as 'eddicate.' Try
it."

He did it as well as though he had been to college.

"You will be a brigadier-general if you keep on; for you know more now
than half of them who pronounce their words correctly," added Deck,
reining in his horse as they came to another road. "This is the one we
are to follow, I think."

"I reckon 'tis; and we won't edicate--ed-u-cate--no more jest now."

"I don't see anything of any guerillas yet."

"They hain't got along," replied Knox, as he reined in his horse and
looked about him.

There was something peculiar about the place which attracted the
attention of the Kentuckian. The road passed through a round open
space. On one side was a broad gateway that led by a winding driveway to
the front door of the colonel's mansion.

"This would be a nice place to meet them gorillas," said Knox, as he
looked about him. "Now get in there, Deck," and he pointed to the open
gateway, and led his mate into it. "You hold Kate while I look inter
this thing afoot;" and he slid from his horse to the ground.

He followed the road, concealing himself as much as possible in the
shadow of the trees.



CHAPTER XXXI

LIFE KNOX ON THE MOUNTAIN ROAD


Life Knox contrived in one way or another to keep his tall form out of
sight of any person who happened to be in the vicinity of his
operations. Deck Lyon had told him the nature of the present enterprise,
so that he understood perfectly the work in which he was engaged. When
he reached the east end of the valley, behind the colonel's mansion, he
was aware that Captain Gordon, with Lieutenant Belthorpe's platoon of
the company, was posted here; but they were so well concealed, in
accordance with the orders, that he could not see them, or even the
pickets sent out by the officer.

It was nearly dark, and Knox thought it was time for the enemy to
appear, if they intended to accomplish anything that day; but it
occurred to the Kentuckian that they "chose darkness because their deeds
were evil." He could neither see nor hear anything that indicated the
approach of mounted men. He walked up the gentle declivity of the
mountain road, and found a country better adapted to his work than
nearer the village. He found one of the knolls which abound in this
region, and he cut his way through the brambles and bushes to the top of
it; for he saw that it commanded a view of what was called the Cliff
Road, though he did not know it by this name.

The marauders had passed the cliffs, and had halted on a little hill in
the road, evidently to make their final preparations for the assault
upon the village. He counted twenty-eight mounted men,--for the
guerillas were not more than a hundred yards from him,--and there was a
considerable number of men on foot, among whom the scout noted two or
three negroes. He looked upon them with interest, and had an excellent
opportunity to observe them. The mounted men seemed to be engaged in a
discussion which became warm, judging from the gestures of some of those
engaged in it.

Knox made up his mind that these ruffians were not regular troops,
though they might be one of the "Partisan" bands, of which he had heard
something from Deck. The men on foot appeared to be vagabonds and
"bummers," eager to share in the spoils of the expedition. The colonel
and the clergyman were perfectly confident that the mansion of the
former was the objective point of the Partisans. They knew it would be
rich in plunder, which was doubtless the sole purpose of the marauders;
for they could do nothing in this manner to advance the cause of the
Confederate States.

Knox had a distinct method of treating the present problem; and though
he commanded nothing, he thought he could bring it about. If he had been
in communication with one of the principal officers of the squadron, he
would have stated his plan to him. He had observed a portion of the
ground not seen by the others, and could easily divine the intended
movements of the commander of the guerillas, if there was any such
personage among them. They had begun to move; and Life thought it was
time for him to do the same. He descended the knoll, and took a position
by the side of the mountain road, in a clump of bushes.

He had hardly taken a favorable place to observe the approach of the
brigands, when he discovered a couple of men approaching from the town,
mounted and armed. They were hard-looking ruffians, and the sergeant did
not like the appearance of them. He had but a moment to consider, and he
did his thinking on the double-quick. The guerillas could not be aware
that a squadron of United States cavalry had just arrived at Greeltop.
If they had known this fact they would not have come; and if informed of
it now, they would take to their heels, and make the dust fly till they
reached a safe retreat.

The two mounted men coming from the village looked ugly and reckless
enough to be brigands; and Life promptly concluded that they had heard
of the approach of the marauders, and were going out to warn them of the
presence of the troops in the place. Each of them carried an old
flintlock gun, which might have seen service in the time of Daniel
Boone, and had a package strapped on behind his saddle. Possibly they
belonged to the band of mounted men, and were going out to join them
with the important news they had obtained.

"Where are you uns bound?" demanded Knox, breaking out of his covert,
and planting himself in the road in front of them.

The Kentuckian was as prudent as he was brave; but if these brigands
were permitted to proceed, the business of the Riverlawn Cavalry would
be ended in this immediate locality for the present. The enemy before
him were two to his one; but he did not appear to take this fact into
consideration.

"Who are you?" shouted the foremost of the pair in a ferocious tone, as
though he expected to frighten the stalwart inquirer, and with a volley
of oaths which startled the Kentuckian, who, maugre his varied
experience, was a high-toned man morally, and never used any profane
expletives.

"I am in command of this road jest now; and no one, not even Gov'nor
McGoffin hisself, could pass out the way you uns is go'n'," replied
Life.

"I reckon we uns is gwine out," replied the spokesman of the pair.

"I reckon not," added the sergeant, as he seized the bridle of the
fellow's Rosinante, whisked him around, pointing him to the village, and
giving him a slap to set him going.

If the brigand had any bad blood in his veins, this decided action was
sufficient to make it boil; and he brought up his old flintlock, and
began to point it at the "commander of that road just then," and would
no doubt have put some of the contents of the rusty barrel through his
head or chest, if Life had waited for him to do so. He did not; and he
did not even take the trouble to unsling the loaded carbine at his back,
but, reaching up, seized the brigand by the throat, and dragged him from
his horse, planting him very solidly on the ground.

The ruffian seemed to be as powerless as an infant in his grasp. Knox
then snatched the gun from his hands; but the man, clinging to it, came
up with it. The sergeant shook him off as he would a fly, and he fell
all in a heap on the ground again. Life tossed the weapon over the fence
into the bushes. The brigand sprang to his feet, and with a long knife
in his hand rushed upon his herculean assailant.

Knox bestowed a blow on the arm with the blade at the end of it, which
was heavy enough to break the bone; and the weapon dropped in the road.
Then he seized the brigand by the throat again, and batted him over the
head with his iron fist, causing him to drop limp and senseless on the
ground. The other ruffian, who did not seem to be so desperate a
character, looked as though he were paralyzed by the vigorous treatment
of his companion; but he had by this time recovered enough of his
self-possession to think of his own safety; and he attempted to run by
the Kentuckian, in the direction of the guerillas.

"You're go'n' the wrong way, Chopsticks," said Life, seizing the bridle
of the horse, and bringing him up with a shock which nearly unseated the
rider. "You're bound for the village, and that's the way your go'n',"
continued Knox, as he unslung his carbine, standing in front of the
horse.

"I want to go the other way; and I reckon you'll git hung to one o'
these big trees for what you've jest did," said the second ruffian.

"I ain't go'n' to hang jest yet; and you're go'n' back to the village
whether you want to or not," replied Knox. "If you move without leave
from the commander of this road, a ball from his carbine will worry its
way through that head o' yourn."

[Illustration: "The ruffian seemed to be as powerless as an infant in
his grasp."]

As he spoke, the sergeant wrenched the gun from the hand of the
ruffian, and tossed it after the other. He seemed to be enjoying the
little scene in which he was the principal actor, and he was as unmoved
as though he had been taking his coffee and hard-tack at a camp-fire.
The horse of the disabled brigand still stood within reach; and, picking
up his first victim, he laid him, face down, across the saddle, as he
would have done a bag of grain. Then he led the steed, with his load, to
the side of the uninjured ruffian, and handed the rein to him.

"Now you can go back to the village where you kim from, and take this
load of carri'n with you. If you feel as if you wanted to jine that band
of ruffins as is comin' this way, the lead from this little piece will
ketch you."

He hit the horse of the rider a slap with the breech of his carbine, and
started him on his way. The sergeant was not a reckless man; though for
the sake of the old flag he worshipped he would have attacked any six
men that assailed it. He had time now to look out for the business of
his mission, though the scene described had occupied but a few minutes
of his time. Taking the side of the road, he walked a short distance in
the direction of the mountains, when he heard the tramp of the horses
of the ruffian band.

A moment later he saw the head of the column appear at a bend in the
road; and it was time for him to begin his retreat. Taking to the bushes
in the field, he made his way back to the valley where Captain Gordon
was posted; but he could see nothing of him. He was in no hurry, and he
walked a short distance into the valley. One of the pickets showed
himself then; and Knox sent word to the captain that the guerillas would
arrive in about fifteen minutes.

Then he returned to the road, and followed it as long as he could see
the column of brigands approaching. He came to a bend in the highway;
and there he discovered the ruffian with the "load of carrion" on the
led horse, with Deck interviewing him.

"You don't want nothin' o' that piece o' rot, Deck!" he shouted to his
mate on the scout.

"But he says he and his friend have been nearly killed by the ruffians
that are coming to take the village, and been robbed of their guns,"
replied Deck, when the sergeant came up to him.

"He is a liar, and so is the feller that is takin' a nap on the hoss. I
did all the mischief that was done to them; for they was go'n' to tell
the cutthroats yonder the last news from Greeltop, and I thought it
wasn't best for them to go that way. Drive on, Be'lzebub!" said the
sergeant, as he gave the horse a slap; and he went on, dragging the
"load of carrion" along with him.

"Have you seen anything of the guerillas, Life?" asked Deck.

"Seen the whole on 'em; and I wish we had a meal-bag big enough to hold
the whole on 'em, and I'd put 'em into it; but I reckon we shall bag the
whole on 'em, if we hain't got no sack."

"How many of them are there, Life?"

"I reckon them two swinktoms I sent back belonged to the gang; and if
they had j'ined the rest of the crowd, it would 'a' made thirty mounted
men," replied Knox. "But they've got as many more without hosses or
mules. They're a jolly lot o' rag'muffins. You'll see 'em in a few
minutes; but I'll ride back and tell the major about it. You stay here,
and keep out o' sight; for we don't want any of the blocusses to see one
of our uniforms, for that would sp'ile the stew all to onct."

Knox arranged this matter with Deck while he was mounting his horse. He
went off at full gallop down the slope, and turned into the road that
led by the front of Colonel Coffee's house. He found the second platoon
of his company posted a short distance from the corner. He saw the major
and his party, including Mr. Elbroon and some other citizens of the
place, and dashed up to them with a grand flourish, saluting his
commander as he did so. Life was in high feather, and thought it in
order to make a proper impression upon the spectators, of whom not a few
had gathered near the spot, perhaps expecting to see a battle.

The sergeant reported to the major, who had withdrawn himself from his
friends, giving the number and present location of the advancing gang;
but no one else was permitted to hear him.

"I reckon I oughtn't to say nothin' more, Major Lyon; but I'm afeerd
some o' them blocusses will git off; and it would do the whole crowd
good to hang 'em higher'n Haman."

"We will attend to the hanging, if there is to be any, after the fight;
but if you have any suggestion to make, Knox, I will hear it," replied
the commander.

"I left Deck squarin' the great circle round the corner; and he'll let
you know jest as soon as the gang comes in sight."

"We will attend to them as soon as we get the opportunity," added the
major rather impatiently.

"I'm afeerd you won't hit 'em jest right; for I believe you can bag the
whole on 'em. That circle's a holy good place for a fight, and"--

"Station yourself at the corner, Knox, and make a signal when it is the
right time for the platoon to advance," interposed the commander, who
thought the Kentuckian was making a long story of it.

"Good, Major!" exclaimed Life, who had the matter as he wanted it now;
and he dashed off for the corner.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE SKIRMISH IN THE GREAT CIRCLE


Probably the leader of the marauders hurried the march of his followers
as the Falstaffian column approached the village, in order to prevent
the news of their coming from being circulated too soon. At any rate,
Deck came down the slope at the best speed Ceph could make some time
before the sergeant expected to see him.

"Coming, be they, Deck?" inquired he when Deck reined in before him.

"They are hurrying up, pounding their horses with their heels and the
butts of their guns," replied Deck. "I don't believe there is a nag in
the procession that can make over six miles an hour."

"Have they left the blocusses on foot behind?"

"No; but I fancy they are about out of wind by this time, for they are
running to keep up."

"All right, Deck. I have seen your pa, and you can go down and tell him
all you know; for I am posted here to signal him when the right time
for him to move has come."

Deck obeyed the order; but he had nothing special to report, except the
nearer approach of the ruffians. He fell back when he had said what he
had to say, and watched eagerly for the signal from the sergeant. He was
to keep near the major, to carry his orders if any were to be sent out;
but this would not prevent him from taking part in the fight. Even his
father had provided himself with a sabre, which he was ready to wield in
the conflict if occasion required; not otherwise. The carbines of the
platoon had been unslung, and the men were in readiness to fire a volley
when the time came.

"There is Knox's signal, father!" exclaimed Deck, as the major had
turned away to answer a question of the colonel.

The commander had seen the sergeant waving his cap very vigorously at
the corner. The time had come. The colonel and the clergyman, with those
surrounding them, were the only ones who were excited. The platoon was
as steady as though it was to march to a prayer-meeting.

"Gallop--march!" said the major to Lieutenant Gilder, who was in command
of the body.

Both the magnate and the minister had provided themselves with rifles,
and insisted upon doing their share of the fighting, though Major Lyon
assured them that he had force enough to handle double that of the
enemy. The lieutenant gave the orders in detail, and the command was off
in a moment. The major rode on the flank of the platoon, and the
citizens followed him. Deck kept at the side of his father. Artie was
with the captain; and his office was to carry any report or information
to the major, if the circumstances should require.

We prefer to look through the eyes of Deck at the scene that followed.
As soon as he reached the corner, somewhat in advance of the body of the
company, he discovered the enemy. The mounted men were riding at the
best speed of the miserable animals on which they were mounted; and very
soon they reached what Knox called "the great circle," which was laid
out to set off the grand entrance to Greeltop, the name of the estate of
the colonel; and the village had taken its designation from the stately
mansion and grounds. Before they reached this arena, they set up a
series of frightful yells, evidently intended to intimidate the people
of the village, and make them believe that the imps of the infernal
regions had all broken in upon them at once.

The avenue was very wide, and the platoon resolved itself into "company
front" at the command of the lieutenant. This was the first view the
enemy had of the Union force waiting for them. The body advanced at a
gallop, till the officer reduced the speed, and then formed them in a
double rank. Lieutenant Gilder gave the orders in detail, which resulted
in a volley, before which half-a-dozen saddles were emptied.

"Sling--carbine!" shouted the lieutenant before the smoke enabled the
men to see what execution they had executed. "Draw--sabre!"

As the smoke rolled away the enemy was seen to be badly broken up, and
the leader was using his best efforts to rally his undisciplined
soldiers. But his men had fired as soon as they saw the troopers in
front of them, and two of the latter had been wounded. The volley had
hardly been discharged by the portion of the company in front of the
marauders, when Captain Gordon was seen at the head of his men. He drew
them up in such a position as to avoid sending the bullets into the
midst of the other portion of his company.

Another volley followed from his men; and more of the wretches in front
of them dropped from their saddles, or fell over if they were not
mounted. A panic seized the enemy; and the major ordered his lieutenant
not to charge upon the guerillas in accordance with the usual programme
of the squadron.

"Dexter!" called the commander.

"Here, Major!" replied the orderly promptly, as he saluted the
commander, with his drawn sabre ready for the charge.

"Ride around the flank of the enemy as quick as you can, and give
Captain Gordon my order not to charge till I send him word," said the
major. "Be careful of yourself, and return if you find the passage
dangerous."

It did not look like a perilous undertaking to the father, or he would
not have sent his son with the message. The action had come to look like
a mere butchery to him, and he was not willing to engage in any inhuman
slaughter. Deck dashed along the front of the company; for there was a
space of at least a hundred feet between them and the enemy. The
unmounted men were crushing in a mass to get behind the horses; for they
expected another murderous volley.

Deck forced his horse into the broad gutter; for Ceph was more inclined
to leap into the crowd of guerillas, as he had been trained to do. He
saw the captain several rods from him, and he urged his steed forward to
reach him. His uniform seemed to be a hateful sight to the banditti; and
a couple of them rushed in front of him to intercept his passage. One of
them raised his musket to fire at him; but the intrepid trooper struck
it down with his sabre. The other did not attempt to shoot him, and
probably his gun was not loaded. Both of the men kept their places in
front of him, and were trying to beat him down with their clubbed
weapons.

This was just the sport for Ceph; and, at the right signal from his
rider, he made a spring into the air, with the evident intention of
leaping over the obstacle in front of him. At the same time Deck made a
vigorous use of his sabre, and hit the foremost of the men in the head,
which caused him to spread himself out on the ground. Ceph went clear
over the other, and the rider gave him a blow with the weapon in his
hand as he did so.

Ceph went flying the rest of the way; and the guerillas did not attempt
to stop him. The young horseman had a good chance to see the condition
of the enemy at a glance. The footmen had hemmed in the horses in their
efforts to escape the expected bullets; and there was no question in his
mind that the horde had already been effectually defeated. If the
sergeant's big bag had been ready, they were all ready to go into it.

"Good Heaven, Deck!" exclaimed Captain Gordon, rushing up to him with
all the speed of his horse. "Did you cut through the enemy?"

"Not exactly, Captain," replied Deck. "I am here to deliver to you Major
Lyon's order not to charge the enemy without a special order to that
effect."

"I haven't given that order yet, for the enemy are about crushed
already; but I intended to follow up the charge of the rest of the
company on the other side. But I saw you, Deck, engaged against two men
in front of you only a few minutes ago; and I was about to order the
platoon to charge in order to rescue you. I thought the first company
had lost one of its best soldiers then."

"But I have come through all right, Captain," added Deck, laughing at
the excitement of his officer. "Ceph always does me a good turn when I
get into a tight place, and he did this time."

"There come some more of the men from the other side of the house,"
added the captain, as he pointed to the way the orderly had come.

Deck looked, and saw Life Knox, with a dozen troopers, rushing along the
gutter through which he had come; but the guerillas did not attempt to
molest them, for they were formidable enough to have beaten the whole
squad of the enemy, even before they had lost a man.

"Major Lyon sent me after you, Deck," said the sergeant, as he stopped
his horse in front of him. "You had a narrow squeak of it that time, my
boy."

"No, I didn't, Life; what's the use of making such a to-do about
nothing? I'm all right," replied Deck, who thought his father and the
rest of them were treating him like an infant.

"But your pa was tearing his hair like a mother that had lost her baby,
to think he had sent you into such a tight place," added Knox. "He would
'a' sent the whole company after you in two minutes more. But you are
safe, and I thought you'd gone to feed the worms sure."

"The worms will not dine on me just yet. I am going back now to my place
on the other side of the enemy," said Deck. "You can come when you get
ready, Life."

As he spoke he wheeled his trusty steed, and intimated to him that he
was ready; whereupon Ceph made a spring, and darted off at a breakneck
speed.

"Hold on, Baby!" shouted the sergeant, calling him by a name he had used
before, to which Deck did not object as long as the Kentuckian did not
treat him like an infant. "We uns kim over to escort you back!"

"Obey your orders, Life," returned the furious young rider, without even
looking behind him.

Knox started after him with all the hurry there was in his steed; but
there was hardly a horse in the squadron that could run as fast as
Ceph, for he had been trained to this branch of his equine profession as
a racer. But none of the guerillas were disposed to meddle with him
again; and perhaps the two who had attacked him before had mistaken his
intentions. He rode into the presence of the major, saluted him
gracefully; and the cavalrymen who had witnessed his encounter broke out
in a cheer.

"Captain Gordon replied that he did not give the order to charge,
because he was waiting for you to begin on this side of the enemy," said
Deck.

"Thank Heaven that you are safe, Dexter!" replied the father devoutly.

"Heaven and Ceph," added the young hero.

The father was busy just then, and he said no more. As soon as Deck had
started with his message, Major Lyon realized that the action would
become a slaughter, and he was anxious to stay the flow of blood. He was
not willing to cut down the men in front of him with the sabres of his
soldiers; for they appeared to be helpless, as much from panic as from
the want of proper arms.

"Do you surrender?" he shouted at the top of his lungs, directing his
voice to the mass of the wretches gathered in the centre of the great
circle.

No one answered him, and probably no one heard him. He ordered
Lieutenant Gilder to move his men forward very slowly. This officer was
in front of his troopers; and he led the way as directed, the major
remaining on the flank.

The lieutenant raised his white handkerchief on his sabre, and waved it
in the air to indicate his peaceful intentions. When he had gone half
the distance to the enemy, he halted the platoon.

"Do you surrender?" he shouted at the top of his voice.

The answer was the discharge of half-a-dozen muskets by the mounted
guerillas who held the front of the mass. Lieutenant Gilder dropped from
his horse to the ground; and something like a confused cheer went up
from the men who had fired the volley. Sergeant Knox was the next in
command; and, pushing his horse to the front, he waved his sabre in the
air.

"Draw--pistol!" he cried. "Ready--aim--fire!"

The pistols were all ready for use, and the men fired them into the
front rank of the enemy, which seemed to contain all the fighting
ability there was left in the band. They were reloading their old guns;
but some of them did not live to complete the operation. Dr. Farnwright,
who had been near the major, rushed forward, and Knox sent two men to
assist him. Regardless of the danger of the position, the surgeon rushed
to the front to attend to the lieutenant.

"Platoon--charge!" shouted the sergeant, afraid that the work of the
doctor would be impeded by the senseless operations of the mob.

The troopers, with the sergeant in front of them, darted at the mass of
banditti in the circle; but they fell back only to precipitate
themselves upon the command of Captain Gordon behind them. At this
moment Major Lyon ordered his bugler to sound the recall. The soldiers
fell back only a very short distance in obedience to the signal, and
they had hardly struck a blow. They held the enemy where they were.



CHAPTER XXXIII

CAPTAIN STINGER THE FIRE-EATER


As soon as Dr. Farnwright reached the prostrate form of Lieutenant
Gilder, he shook his head as he glanced at the major; for the advance of
the platoon had left them in the rear. He examined his patient, who had
passed beyond human aid. The ball had struck him in the chest, and had
doubtless penetrated his heart. His body was borne to the rear. Major
Lyon was sad; but the loss of the noble young man did not affect him as
it did the sergeant, for there was nothing revengeful in his nature.

Knox was disposed to annihilate the rabble in front, of him; but he was
an obedient soldier, though he had ordered the discharge of pistols
without orders; for the firing of the ruffians, and especially the fall
of the gallant lieutenant, seemed to render any commands unnecessary.
The major directed him to move his platoon forward, and he kept on the
flank himself as he did so.

Half-a-dozen of the enemy attempted to run by the troopers on the side
of the colonel's house, where Deck had passed the mob; and the sergeant
ordered a file of his men to arrest them. Only two of them had a musket
in their hands, and one of them had a sword at his side. Major Lyon
observed the movement, and ordered the man with the side arm to be
brought to him. Most of the soldiers thought the commander was too
tender of such a horde of ruffians; but he regarded it as little better
than murder to shoot or cut down the enemy, now entirely in his power.

The man wearing the sword appeared to be of a better class of citizens
than the majority of the freebooters. He wore a neat business suit, and
was rather small in stature. He held his head up with something like
dignity in his bearing, and bestowed frequent glances upon his
companions in arms whom he had deserted. The five others were put under
guard where they were captured, and informed that they would be shot if
they attempted to escape. A couple of soldiers drove the one called for
over to the commander.

"Who and what are you?" demanded the major, without any savagery in his
voice or manner.

"I am Lieutenant Garbold; and I am second in command of the force in
front of you," replied the prisoner civilly enough.

"And you have deserted your companions in arms?" added the commander.

"Yes, if you choose to call it by that name; but Captain Stinger and
myself disagreed, and I was not willing to stand there and be shot down
by about three times our own number," replied Garbold.

"Are you and the other man provided with commissions from any source?"

"Not yet; but we claim to be in the service of the Confederate States of
America, waiting for our commissions, and for our men to be mustered in.
We belong to the regular service."

"Hardly," added the major, with something as near like a sneer as he
could gather about his mouth. "You will excuse me if I regard you simply
as unorganized freebooters, land pirates. Your mission is to rob and
outrage the citizens of this village; and the ringleaders ought not to
object to being hung on the first convenient tree."

"We don't rob nor injure any true citizens of Kentucky," replied Garbold
rather sullenly. "As to hanging any of us, we are willing to die in the
good cause; and two Yankee officers will swing for every one of us you
serve in that way."

"That question can be settled later in the day, and our business is with
the present moment," added Major Lyon with becoming dignity. "Who
commands that rabble in front of us?"

"Captain Jeruel Stinger."

"Upon what did you disagree with him?"

"To explain my own action, and not to gratify your curiosity, I will
answer the question," replied Garbold, who evidently intended to be as
"gamy" as one who had run away from his command could be. "I was not in
favor of standing there and allowing our men to be butchered after
resistance was useless. I said as much to Stinger, and I told him I
should step out."

"You were sensible," replied the major. "I am not disposed to sacrifice
your men if it can be avoided. Is Captain Stinger still of the same
mind?"

"I presume he is. He is an out-and-out fire-eater; and there is no more
reason in him than there is in a mule."

"The night is coming on, and we have no time to trifle with the
question. If you will return to Captain Stinger with a squad of troopers
under a flag of truce, I"--

"Me!" exclaimed Garbold. "Stinger would shoot me at sight. I will not
go. I had rather be hanged by the enemy than shot by my friends,"
interposed Garbold.

"Then the loss of any more of your men must rest on your shoulders, and
not on mine. Take him away," replied the commander.

Major Lyon was still unwilling to charge upon the rabble; for they had
ceased to fire their rusty firelocks. It was getting dark, and something
must be done. He called Deck, and gave him a mass of instructions, which
the orderly took in without any repetitions, for Captain Gordon. Colonel
Coffee volunteered to conduct the messenger though his grounds to a gate
near the position of the other portion of the company; and Deck
delivered his message. He was rather sorry he was not permitted to
proceed as he had before; for he had abundant confidence in his ability
to take care of himself.

The commander rode up a bank at the side of the road, where he could see
over the heads of the enemy as soon as his son returned to him. A moment
later he saw Captain Gordon deploy a line of skirmishers, which extended
entirely across the broad avenue, with another rank behind them. Both
advanced in slow time, with none of the fury of a regular charge; but it
was soon evident that they "meant business."

Captain Stinger seemed to be confused, and failed to understand the slow
movement of his foe, and gave no orders. At the same time, and in the
same manner, Sergeant Knox led his men forward; and the "fire-eater" in
command of the rabble could not help seeing that his command was to be
pinched between the two approaching bodies of troopers. Life kept
himself well in advance of his skirmishers; and possibly he felt more
like a brigadier-general than ever before in his life. He watched the
enemy with the eye of an eagle ready to swoop down upon his prey.

Captain Stinger evidently realized that if his men fired in either
direction, the troopers would charge upon them, and it would be but the
work of a minute or two to slaughter the whole of them. He was seen to
make a gesture to a man who was preparing to fire without orders, and
the ruffian refrained from doing so. He plainly knew not what to do,
since there was nothing he could do. But when the front rank of Knox was
within twenty feet of him, with the sergeant ahead of it, he seemed to
be unable to "hold in" any longer, and unslung the rifle at his back.

Knox saw that he was to be the first victim of the irate fire-eater; and
he jammed his heels into the flanks of his spirited steed, the animal
making a long spring, which brought him up with the front line of the
enemy. Still pressing the steed forward, he upset two or three men, and
brought up, when the horse could go no farther, alongside the captain.

The doughty sergeant did not wait to trifle with any weapons, but,
leaning over, he seized the captain by the collar of his coat, dragged
him from his horse, and placed him across his holsters. Bending over his
victim, he held him in his place by the pressure of his body, while he
wheeled his horse, and made his way out of the crowd.

"Take 'em that way!" he shouted to the men.

But there was hardly one of them who had the physical strength to
accomplish such a feat, though they soon grappled with the guerillas,
and dragged them out of the _mêlée_. The men on the other side of the
enemy resorted to the same sort of tactics, which was not laid down in
the regular manual for the instruction of the cavalry.

Captain Stinger was not a model Kentuckian physically any more than his
lieutenant; if he had been, Knox could hardly have handled him so
conveniently. The pressure of the sergeant's chest upon his backbone had
a tendency to tame him; but he was trying to get at some weapon
concealed upon his person. Knox had his pockets under command, and took
two revolvers from them, which he thrust into his breast. He had his
sabre dangling by the tassel knot at his right wrist, while he held the
reins with his left hand. His right was at liberty to seize the pistols.

He hurried his horse to the place where the guards had the six prisoners
in charge. There he hurled his victim to the ground, and ordered the men
to look out for him, and not let him escape, if they had to put a bullet
through him. The sentinels were all mounted; and, as the last prisoner
had been disarmed, there was no danger that he would run away.

Knox returned to his command; but, as he expressed it, "the fun had all
gone out of the guerillas," and it was hardly necessary to drag out any
more of them, for they were all as tame as sick kittens. The men had
secured about a dozen of them, taking them to the guard-house, as they
called the locality of the captives. The major had followed up the
movement, and he could not refrain from laughing at the novel tactics of
the first sergeant.

He directed Knox to fall back with his men, and sent Deck to the captain
to drive the remaining freebooters before him. The ruffians moved before
them at the order of the officer. They were halted in the middle of the
square, and there disarmed, those who had not thrown away their weapons.
While the commander was observing this ceremony, a trooper rode up, and
saluted him.

"A message from Captain Truman," said the cavalryman as he did so.

"What is it?" demanded the major, fearful that the second company had
been attacked by a superior force, and needed a re-enforcement.

"A messenger came from a place called Plain Hill, saying that a band of
mounted men was approaching the village, and they feared the place would
be plundered," replied the messenger. "Captain Truman has just marched
for the place, leaving only a guard at the camp."

"All right; his action is approved, and I hope he will get there in
season to capture the enemy, as we have done here," replied Major Lyon,
as he looked about him for Colonel Coffee and Mr. Elbroon. "Where is the
colonel, Dexter?"

"He is looking over the prisoners as they bring them in," replied Deck.

The major rode over to him. Most of the prisoners were tame and
submissive; but the fire-eater and his lieutenant were figuratively at
swords' points: and it was fortunate for one or both of them that they
had been disarmed, for the former had pitched into the latter with his
fists, and the guards had been obliged to pull them apart.

"That Captain Stinger wanted to be sent to Congress before the war; but
the people wouldn't do it. He is a politician, and a mischievous cur,"
said the colonel, when he saw the major at his side.

"Put him in irons, or tie his arms behind him, Styles," said the
commander, addressing the sergeant of the guard, "if he don't behave
himself. I have a message from the camp, Colonel Coffee," continued he,
turning to the magnate of Greeltop. "Where is Plain Hill, sir?"

"Five miles to the south of us, Major; a village about the size of
Greeltop. Any news from there?" inquired the colonel with decided
interest.

"Captain Truman, of our second company, whom I left at the camp, has had
a message from the place, to the effect that a band of guerillas were
approaching the place; and he marched at once with all his company but a
camp-guard."

"Good!" exclaimed the magnate.

"Heaven be praised!" added the reverend gentleman with a gun in his
hand. "It is a mercy that your company was at hand."

"Good! I say," almost shouted Captain Stinger. "Heaven be praised that
Vinegold is getting there! Our prayers will all go the same way!"

The fire-eater was near enough to hear what the major said.

"I only hope he will burn every house in the place," added the captain.
"There is not such another nest of traitors in Kentucky, unless Greeltop
is the other."

"Who is Vinegold, Captain Stinger?" asked the commander.

"Major Vinegold is a man after my own heart," answered the prisoner.

"If he is your friend, you will be likely to see him before morning,"
added the major, as he turned away.

The prisoners were placed in the centre of the united company, and
marched to the camp just as the darkness was beginning to gather on the
landscape. All the people in Greeltop were in the roads, and greeted the
soldiers with applause and cheers as they marched by them. The officers
and most of the privates were loaded with bouquets on the way.

Several times the magnate, who returned to the camp with the troopers,
began to tell the commander something about Plain Hill; but the cheers
he was obliged to acknowledge prevented him from giving attention, and
the subject was delayed to another time.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE RE-ENFORCEMENT FOR PLAIN HILL


It was not strange that the loyal people of Greeltop were grateful to
their deliverers. Reports of similar occurrences within twenty or thirty
miles of them had fully informed them of the nature of such raids,
doubtless with many exaggerations; but they had every reason to expect
more severe treatment than most other places, for the residents were
Unionists to a greater extent than in other villages in that section.
The magnate was an intensely loyal citizen, and he had largely built up
the place.

Colonel Coffee was a Kentuckian, born in the county where he now lived;
but he had not amassed his million there. His father had been a planter,
and left a moderate fortune to his children at his death. With his share
the colonel had gone to New York, and embarked in business. This had led
him to China, where he had made his million when he was fifty. He
retired, purchased the plantation which had been his father's, and
another. He built the elegant mansion where he now resided.

His partner, equally wealthy, had retired at the same time, and had
purchased another, five miles from it. He had married the sister of the
colonel, and they had always been strong friends. The China merchant had
built up Greeltop, and his brother-in-law had done the same for Plain
Hill. Both of them had lived on the other side of the globe a large
portion of their lives; and when they saw the American flag at the port
of Hong-Kong, it meant more to them than if they had seen it every day
of their existence. One of the effects of foreign travel, or a foreign
residence, is to make American citizens love their own country all the
more.

The influence of these two men, with the liberal expenditure of their
money, had built up the villages, and increased the population of the
surrounding region, so that they were in condition to establish a city
government, which is done on a small number of inhabitants in the South.
This was the substance of what Colonel Coffee wished to tell the
commander of the squadron of cavalry; especially that Mr. Hasbrook, the
magnate of Plain Hill, was his brother-in-law.

Both of them were loyal men; and their example, as well as their
positive efforts, had kept alive the Union sentiment of the
surroundings. This loyalty of the people had aroused the enmity of the
Secessionists of the neighboring counties. They were in especial danger
when the guerillas and partisan hordes began their work of pillage and
outrage.

The people of each of these places had raised a small Home Guard. The
magnates had provided them with excellent arms, and they served rather
as a police than as a military body. Most of the young men had gone into
the army on one side or the other; and fifty men in both villages was
the most they could organize. For two weeks the inhabitants had been
dreading a raid; and day and night mounted patrolmen had surrounded both
places. Probably the existence of the body of Home Guards had had some
influence in preventing an assault.

The column of cavalrymen reached the camp, and the prisoners were
disposed of. Colonel Coffee was very anxious to obtain further
information in regard to the raid upon Plain Hill. Lieutenant Blenks was
in charge of the camp, with only ten men; for the first company was not
far distant, and there was no considerable body of Confederate troops
within twenty-five miles of the village, according to the best
information to be obtained.

"What do you know about this attack upon Plain Hill, Lieutenant?"
demanded Major Lyon, as the officer saluted him on his arrival.

"Very little," replied the lieutenant, as he took a paper from his
pocket, and handed it to the commander. "This note was brought here by a
negro, who had run his horse all the way, I judged by the looks of the
animal."

"'The enemy are down upon us--within four miles of us.--HASBROOK,'" the
major read from the paper, which was not a sealed letter. "It is
addressed to you, Colonel Coffee," he added, as he turned it over and
saw the name on the outside.

"It has come to the right place," replied the magnate.

"Who is Hasbrook?" asked the commander; for he had not yet heard the
story of Plain Hill.

"He is my brother-in-law, standing in about the same relation to Plain
Hill that I do to Greeltop."

"The negro that brought the paper is still here," said the lieutenant.

The man was sent for at the request of the colonel. Major Lyon directed
Captain Gordon to have all the horses fed, and to let the men have their
suppers as soon as possible. Captain Truman had marched with nearly the
whole of his company half an hour before, and must be near his
destination by this time. The major and his companions had dismounted,
and retired to the headquarters tent.

"It is you who have brought this message, is it, Clover?" asked Colonel
Coffee, as the man was shown into the tent by a sentinel. "This man is
Hasbrook's steward," he added, turning to the commander.

He was a mulatto of rather dark shade, was well-dressed, and looked like
an intelligent person.

"I brought the paper, sir," replied Clover. "Mr. Hasbrook sent me over
with it, and told me to carry it to your house; but when I came to this
camp I asked the soldier in front about it, and he sent for the
officer. When I found the camp was of a Union company, I asked the
captain to read the note, and he did so."

"You did well, Clover; to have gone to my house would have delayed the
relief," added the magnate.

"The company started off at full gallop, and I stopped to see you,"
continued the steward.

"But what do you know about the approach of the guerillas, Clover?"
asked the colonel impatiently.

"I don't know anything, sir. One of the Home Guards came to the mansion
with the news that the guerillas were coming, and he sent me off with
the best horse in the stable. I run him all the way, and I hope I have
not hurt him."

"No matter if you have. If the second company is like the first, they
will bag the whole of the villains," said the colonel.

"The Home Guard were all mounted and gathering in the square when I
left. They said there was a hundred men coming down on the village,"
Clover concluded.

Major Lyon had ordered supper for his party to be brought to his tent.
It was camp-fare, but he invited the colonel and the clergyman to join
him.

"Do you suppose there is any danger of another invasion of Greeltop
to-night from the north, Colonel Coffee?" asked the major, as the party,
including Deck, were hastily disposing of the meal.

"Certainly not. I am of the opinion that the two raids upon our villages
were planned to take place at the same time, so that neither of them
could send its Home Guard to the assistance of the other. Your coming,
Major Lyon, was most opportune."

"It so happens. Dexter, tell Captain Gordon to detail ten men from his
company to remain in the camp under command of Lieutenant Blenks, and
have the rest of his men ready to march as soon as they have finished
their supper," said Major Lyon.

"Then you propose to go to Plain Hill, Major?" asked the colonel.

"I have no doubt Captain Truman has force enough to protect the place;
but I desire to capture as many of the ruffians as possible," replied
the major. "Who is the captain of your Home Guard?"

"I am," replied the colonel with a smile.

"Then I wish you would order them to this camp, and relieve my men of
the duty of guarding our prisoners."

"It shall be done at once. Mr. Elbroon, will you attend to this matter?"

"Certainly. Do you go to Plain Hill, Colonel?" replied the clergyman.

"I desire to look after the safety of my sister and her children."

"And I need the assistance of the colonel to show me the way, and point
out the localities in the town," added the major.

Mr. Elbroon mounted his horse, and hastened to the armory of the local
force. The first company had formed in the parade. Colonel Coffee had
taken a fresh horse while near his residence. The commander and his
orderly mounted their horses.

"Lieutenant," said the major, addressing the officer of the camp, "it is
remotely possible that this place may be attacked in my absence with the
company. If such should be the case, you will make a bonfire on the
knoll the other side of the road, and I think we shall be able to see
it. Have it ready to light whether it is needed or not."

The horses had been watered and fed, and they were in fair condition,
though they had been on the march all day. The commander led off at a
smart gallop, and the company kept up with him. Life Knox was in
temporary command of the second platoon. The column moved too rapidly
for any connected conversation, and in half an hour was approaching
Plain Hill.

"What can that mean, Colonel?" asked the major, as they reached the top
of a hill, where a brilliant light suddenly flashed upon them. "Can it
be that the ruffians are burning the houses."

"Possibly; I don't know: but they have not yet fired Hasbrook's mansion,
for I can see it on the top of Plain Hill," replied Colonel Coffee; and
his tones indicated the anxiety he felt.

"You know the place, and perhaps you can tell from the direction where
the fire is located," added the commander.

"It appears to be right in the square."

"And what and where is the square?"

"The village is just the counterpart of Greeltop; for Hasbrook and
I laid it out together. You can see his mansion on the top of the hill.
The square is on the level in front of it, with the houses all around
it."

"Then perhaps they are burning these houses," suggested the major.

"I think not. There is not volume enough in the blaze for a burning
house, much less for several of them."

"And where is the road by which the guerillas will or have arrived at
the place?"

"It comes in on the east end of Plain Hill, behind Hasbrook's house. I
think they would burn his mansion first; but they cannot approach it in
the rear with horses. There are about thirty men in the Home Guard here,
and there will be a fight before any houses are burned," said the
colonel very decidedly.

The column descended the hill from which the light of the fire had been
seen, and dashed up another, which brought them into the village. Then
it was ascertained that a bonfire was blazing in the square, and that
the houses were all safe.

"Who comes there?" demanded a man with a musket in his hand, as the
company reached a broad avenue which appeared to be the principal
street of the village.

"Friends!" returned the major.

"Who is it?" demanded the colonel.

"Walkall," replied the man, who evidently recognized the magnate of
Greeltop.

"All right, Walkall; this is another company of United States cavalry.
Where are the enemy?"

"Behind Mr. Hasbrook's mansion. They have halted there; but we are all
ready for them."

"Where is the company of cavalry which must have arrived an hour or two
since?" inquired the major.

"I don't know just where the troopers are now; we turned over everything
to Captain Truman, and he is managing the matter," replied Walkall. "He
stationed me here to report if an enemy came in on the Greeltop road."

Captain Gordon had been ordered to halt the company. Deck was sent with
the sentinel to find the captain of the second company, and the first
was to remain at the corner. They followed the road leading to the home
of the magnate, which crossed the principal avenue of the village, and
came to another, parallel to it, along the rear of the square. At this
point they were challenged; and it could be seen by the light of the
fire that sentinels were stationed all along this street.

"Who comes there?" demanded the sentinel.

"Messenger from the major of the squadron, directed to find Captain
Truman."

"Can't pass here," added the sentinel decidedly.

"Where is Captain Truman?" asked Deck.

"I don't know no more'n the dead."

At this moment a trooper rode up, and recognized the messenger.

"All right, Deck; you can pass, but the other man cannot," said the
cavalryman, when he had stated his business.

Deck thought the captain had adopted some singular strategy.



CHAPTER XXXV

SURROUNDED AND TOTALLY DEFEATED


"What does all this mean, Withers?" asked Deck, as the trooper conducted
him inside of the grounds of Mr. Hasbrook.

"I don't know anything at all about it; you must ask Captain Truman,"
replied Withers with a laugh. "He's got a big head, and I reckon he
knows what he is about. But how come you over here, Deck?"

"I came over with the first company; and I have a message for Captain
Truman from Major Lyon."

"All right; and he will be glad to see you. He will not let a single
person come up the hill, or a single one go from the house. He's got
some strategy on his brain."

"Have you seen the enemy, Withers?"

"I have not; but the cap'n appears to know jest where they are."

They followed the handsome driveway up a hill; and the light of the
bonfire enabled Deck to get a view of the surroundings. When they had
reached an elevation of about fifty feet, the summit was a plain, very
nearly level, in the middle of which stood the mansion. This was
evidently where the name of "Plain Hill" came from. Before the door of
the house was a mounted sentinel, and there were others on the hill.

The elevation was sprinkled over with large trees, and at the west end
of the mansion was a considerable grove of them. In front of this shady
place there were two sentinels.

"Advance, friends, and give the countersign."

"Barcreek," replied Withers. "This is Deck Lyon, with a message from the
major."

One of the sentinels conducted them to the heart of the grove, where
they found the whole of the second company. The arrival of the messenger
was duly reported to the captain, and he was ushered into his presence.
He was seated on his horse, ready to move at any moment.

"Is that you, Deck? I am glad to see you, though this visit is very
unexpected," said he.

"The first company is down at the avenue in front of the square, with
Major Lyon, who desires a report from you in regard to the condition of
things in this village, and especially as to the locality of the enemy,"
continued the orderly, delivering the substance of his message.

"Come with me, Deck, and I will give you my report verbally; for I
cannot see to write," added the captain, as he led the orderly to the
south side of the hill. "Do you see that little knoll not fifty rods
from us?"

"I see it."

"It is covered with trees, and the enemy are concealed among them. One
of my men has been over there, and reports about seventy-five guerillas,
and I am very anxious to bag the whole of them."

"No doubt of it, as we did the other company of them."

"I supposed you would; but I haven't the news. Just now, Deck, this
company in front of us are waiting for the one that swooped down on
Greeltop. I suppose they were to clean out that village, and then come
over here and finish up this one."

"It was not much of a swoop; and we have every one of them, from Captain
Stinger down to the vagabonds who followed the mounted men on foot,
under guard at the camp. But how do you know that they are waiting for
the other gang, Captain?" asked Deck.

"I captured a messenger of the leader of this horde, scared him out of
his wits, and he told me all about it," replied the captain with a
smile. "The only thing that I am afraid of now, is that the leader of
this gang will not bring on his men, so that I can bag them. Mr.
Hasbrook, who lives in this house, has sent down for some one who will
take the place of this messenger, and inform the captain of the ruffians
that a force of mounted men has just come up the Greeltop road."

"I will do that myself," replied Deck promptly.

"You, Deck!" exclaimed the captain.

"I should like the fun of it; and I could not do my country any greater
service than in helping out the capture of that gang of
ruffians."

"But it would cost you your life if you were discovered. They would hang
you like a dog. No, no, Deck! Your father would never forgive me if I
sent you on such a perilous mission."

"My father believes that I ought to do my duty; and I believe so also.
Where is the fellow you captured? I might borrow his clothes, and they
wouldn't know me from Jeff Davis in the dark. Let me hear the fellow
speak, and I can imitate his voice; and I will promise to come back all
right," pleaded Deck, who was very anxious to undertake the mission.

"No, no, Deck! I cannot send you on such an errand. I gave Mr. Hasbrook
a pass to go down among the Home Guards, and he may find a man to do the
business," said the captain very decidedly. "If he does not find some
one who is better acquainted with this vicinity than you are, Deck, we
will look the matter over again, if your father will consent that you
should go."

"If the bagging of those ragamuffins depends upon your plan, I think he
will consent," added Deck.

"But you must return to your father with my report, and I will explain
to you my plan to capture the enemy."

When he had done so, Deck returned to the great road, and reported
everything to the commander, informing him why the movement was
delayed. He stated the plan of the captain to send a man disguised as
the messenger or spy of Captain Vinegold. The major did not like the
plan, and utterly refused to have his son undertake such an enterprise.

The young soldier was disappointed; but he did not rebel against the
decision of the commander, who was also his father. Later in his career,
when he had a couple of gold bars on his shoulders, he rendered some
important service of this kind; for he was even more fond of an
adventure than the average boy.

"Colonel Coffee, is there any other road than the one by which we have
come from Greeltop that leads to the south?" asked the major, after he
had digested the report sent by his son.

"There is, and a better one than that by which the ruffians came,"
replied the magnate. "As nearly as I can make it out, the enemy are
concealed not more than half a mile from this cross-road; but you could
not get to them without going at least three miles."

"That is not a great distance for mounted men. Is the distance about
three miles?"

"It will not vary half a mile from it."

"Have you your watch with you, Dexter?" asked the major.

"I have, sir; I never leave it in the baggage-wagons," replied Deck.

"What time is it now?" continued the major, as he consulted his own
time-keeper.

"Ten minutes past seven," answered Deck, after he had held his watch up
so that he could see the face by the light of the fire in the square.

"About right. How long will it take you to reach the spot on the hill
where the second company is posted?"

"Ten minutes."

The major had taken a piece of paper from his pocket, and by this time
had written something on it to which he had signed his name.

"Is there any open place at the end of the hill where the captain is, to
the right of the grove?"

"I don't know; I did not look about me much," replied Deck.

"The west end of the hill is a bare rock," interposed Colonel Coffee.

"On this paper I have written, 'Obey the verbal orders sent by Dexter
Lyon.' That is all, except the captain's name and mine. Tell Captain
Truman to prepare a fire, a large fire, on the rock at the west end of
the hill, ready to light. Can the enemy see what he is doing, Colonel?"

"Not at all; the fire in the square sends no light beyond the grove."

"In precisely thirty minutes from the time you reach the top of the
hill, Dexter, tell him to march upon the enemy, leaving a man to light
the fire ten minutes later. Let him attack them vigorously," said the
commander. "Do you understand it all, Dexter?"

"Understood."

"Then hasten to the hill."

The major had taken the colonel and his son one side for this
conference, so that no other person should know anything about it. Deck
ran his horse; and this time the sentinel did not stop him, for his
character was known. As a last word, his father had directed him to
remain with the captain.

Before the messenger reached the hill, the company was moving along the
road to the west, with the magnate as a guide. By his advice the company
marched slowly for the first half-mile, in order to avoid making any
noise which the enemy could hear. Then they galloped at the best speed
of the horses. At the end of twenty minutes they were near the knoll on
which the guerillas were concealed. The major ordered the captain to
halt here, and they waited for further events.

They had not long to wait, for the fire on the rock flashed up with a
brilliant light; and it was evident that Mr. Hasbrook had assisted in
preparing the fuel, and that no little pitch and light wood had been
used. Captain Truman, as the illumination indicated, was in the road,
and marching to the south; while the first company had halted, facing to
the north.

"Mr. Hasbrook must have robbed his woodshed of most of its contents,"
said the captain, who had taken Deck under his wing.

"All his house and stable servants were lugging wood to the rock; and
they must have piled up about a cord of it, Captain," replied Deck.

"The fire not only serves as a signal, but it gives no little light on
the subject before the house," replied the officer.

Skirmishers had been sent out ahead. The place where the enemy was
concealed was a wooded knoll, according to the description given of it
by a scout; and by the light of the huge bonfire it was in plain sight.
Twenty men had been sent out on this service under Sergeant Fronklyn.
When he came near enough, he opened fire upon the knoll, the object
being to draw the enemy from his covert.

"The fire sheds its light for the benefit of the enemy as well as for
our side of the question. Like an impartial judge, it serves both
parties alike," said the captain. "The skirmishers will bring them out,
and that is all we want. So far as our operations are concerned, I think
the enemy must be in perfect darkness; for I have not permitted a single
one of the town's people to come this side of the square."

"They have waked up now," added Deck, as a volley of musketry came out
of the grove on the knoll, which was quite near the road.

"I hope they will not recognize the uniforms of the skirmishers,"
continued the captain.

The main body of the company had slowly followed the advance all the
time, and the crisis of the affair was at hand. The captain reasoned
that the guerillas could not be aware of the combination made by the
major, or they would have retired; and they were likely to mistake the
skirmishers for the Home Guards, if they did not make out the uniform.
After the volley from the knoll, the enemy made a sortie from his
position, and rushed furiously upon the assailants, firing at will all
the time.

Captain Truman gave the order for his men to charge the foe; and the
troopers darted ahead at full gallop. They could see the uniforms of the
skirmishers, and for a moment there was a hot hand-to-hand fight, for
the enemy were plucky enough for the occasion. But if the company could
distinguish the uniforms of the skirmishers, so also could the enemy by
this time; and they could see that the road between them and the village
was full of troopers.

Major Vinegold could not help seeing that he was caught in a trap, and
his bugle sounded the recall. Doubtless his guerillas saw the situation
also; for they were not slow to obey the signal. They detached
themselves from the conflict, and retreated. The voice of Captain Gordon
could be heard above the din; and the enemy was headed to the south at a
gallop. Doubtless the guerilla commander was astounded to find himself
confronted by a company of cavalry in full uniform, instead of a band of
Home Guards.

The signal-fire on the rock of Plain Hill had done its perfect work, and
the first company had moved forward slowly, with skirmishers in front,
and soon came upon the retreating enemy. Captain Gordon charged upon
them, and they fought bravely on both sides. Doubtless the commander of
the guerillas was appalled when he discovered another company in front
of him. Probably he was outnumbered three to one. He fought like a tiger
himself, but his men began to break into the fields on either side. The
officers soon stopped this means of escape by extending their lines
entirely around their hapless foe.

"Do you surrender?" demanded Captain Truman.

"Never!" yelled Major Vinegold, in front of his company.

Deck dashed at him as he made this emphatic reply, and their sabres
flashed fire. Ceph made one of his furious leaps, and the commander of
the enemy sank to the ground as his rider struck a desperate blow.

"We surrender!" shouted the second in command.



CHAPTER XXXVI

MAJOR VINEGOLD OF THE GUERILLAS


The second in command of the guerillas was a more sensible man than
Major Vinegold, who appeared to be a fire-eater, like Captain Stinger;
and when resistance was utterly hopeless, he announced his surrender in
a voice loud enough to be heard a long distance, and neither side struck
a blow afterwards. Deck Lyon appeared to have delivered the last
sabre-stroke; for as soon as his lieutenant saw his chief topple from
his horse, he uttered the words that ended the conflict.

"You gave the finishing touch to the fight, Deck!" exclaimed Captain
Truman in a loud voice, so that all the company could hear him.

"Three cheers for Deck Lyon!" shouted an enthusiastic trooper; and they
were given.

Of course Deck blushed; for he was a reasonably modest young man. He had
not made up his mind to do "a big thing," but simply to do his duty;
and he was doing it like any other member of the company when his
opportunity was presented to him. Major Vinegold was the bone and sinew
of the fight on his own side; and when the young cavalryman saw him
disengaged for the moment, he urged his horse forward to cross swords
with the commander.

Ceph's training seemed to be a part of his being; and when he was
pressed up to him, he rose on his hind-legs for a spring. An indifferent
rider could not have kept his seat in the saddle; but Deck had trained
himself and his steed to the manoeuvre, and each supplemented the
action of the other. The rider leaned forward, grasping the forward horn
of his saddle with the rein hand, while he kept his sabre in readiness
for use in the right. In the present instance, while the animal was in
this flying attitude, Deck struck at the head of his adversary; and the
shock carried him from his saddle to the ground.

"Ceph deserves three cheers quite as much as or more than I do," said
the young rider, while the company were waiting for further orders.

"He would not appreciate the compliment," replied the captain.

"Halloo, Artie!" exclaimed Deck, as his brother dashed into the presence
of the captain.

"Bully for you, Deck! We heard the company cheering you; what mighty
deed have you done now?" demanded the messenger, for such he was, from
the major, as he saluted Captain Truman. "It is Major Lyon's order that
you proceed to disarm the prisoners, as they are doing on the other
side."

"Order understood," replied the captain. "You can tell the major that
Deck gave the finishing touch to the fight, Artie;" and he described the
fall of Major Vinegold, and the immediate surrender that followed.

Artie hastened back to headquarters; and the captain formed the
guerillas near him in line, and took from them all their arms. The major
had ordered a large fire to be started at the side of the road, and the
scene was already well lighted. The prisoners had been formed in line in
the same manner on the south end of the battle-field, and their arms
taken from them. On the road, and beside it, seven men lay silent and
motionless; and perhaps there were others on the wooded knoll.

The squadron had not had a man killed, though about a dozen had been
wounded; and Dr. Farnwright and his assistants were attending to them.
Among the prisoners the men were binding up the wounds of each other.
The form of the fire-eater commander lay where he had fallen; and Deck
saw him move as he was about to report to the major. He felt more
interest in this man than in the others; and he dismounted from his
horse.

Ceph was as fond of his master as a kitten of the child that pets it;
and there was no need to secure him, for he would have stood there all
night. Deck was even more devoted to him than he was to pretty Miss Kate
Belthorpe, which is saying a great deal. He had fed him on dainties, and
made him his constant associate in the months when he was drilling. Ceph
was very intelligent, and seemed to understand his master's humor as
though he had been human.

The rider went to the fallen guerilla. He was not dead. He had been
stunned, and was just coming to his senses. By the light of the fire
Deck could see that his head was covered with blood. Looking closer, he
found that his left ear had been smitten entirely from the side of his
head. The sabre appeared to have struck him sideways, giving the blow
that stunned him, and then glancing off so as to take the ear with it.
If the blade had struck him fairly, it would have split his head open;
as it was, his brains were saved at the expense of his ear.

"How do you feel, Major Vinegold?" asked Deck in sympathetic tones,--for
a wounded or dying enemy was no longer a foe to him,--as he took the
handkerchief of the sufferer from his pocket and bound it over his head,
so as to cover the wound.

"I'm better, I think," replied the major, as Deck assisted him to sit
up. "Have we licked that Home Guard?"

"There is no Home Guard here. You have been fighting with a squadron of
United States cavalry, and your successor in command has surrendered."

"Strivers is a coward!"

"We were nearly three to your one; and your lieutenant was no coward,
but a brave fellow, and a sensible man."

"Who's we?"

"I am a loyal soldier, and the one that gave you your wound," replied
Deck.

"You!" exclaimed the major. "Then what are you doing with me now?"

"I am trying to assist you, if I can. I have bound up your wound, and
our surgeon will soon be able to attend to your case."

"Give me a drink of brandy out of your flask," added the wounded man
faintly.

"I have no brandy; but here is some fresh water; for I filled my canteen
at Plain Hill," answered Deck, as he presented it to his patient.

He drank freely; and perhaps it did as much good as the same quantity of
brandy would have done.

"I feel better now," said the major, as Deck assisted him to his feet.
"Where is my horse?"

"But you are a prisoner now. If you will give me your sword and pistols,
it will save you from any further annoyance," replied Deck.

"A prisoner!" he exclaimed bitterly. "Strivers surrendered."

"To three times his own force; and he could not do otherwise," added the
Union soldier very gently. "He would have murdered his own men if he
had fought any longer."

"I cannot help myself," continued the major, as he unbuckled his sword
and gave it to his conqueror. "I did not do it. Strivers did it; and I
am much obliged to you, young man, for striking me down before it was
done."

Dr. Farnwright dressed his wound; Deck found his horse, then assisted
him to mount, and placed him in the rank with the other prisoners. The
dead were ranged in a field, with two more found on the wooded knoll.

"Well, Dexter, you have been playing the hero again, have you?" said the
major, when he rode that way.

"Ceph and I have been doing our duty, and Major Vinegold is the
sufferer, father. I couldn't help doing what I did," replied Deck.

"And he ended the fight!" exclaimed Captain Truman with enthusiasm. "If
he had his proper reward he would be made a captain on the spot."

"A captain at eighteen!" exclaimed the major, who was somewhat
conservative in his ideas. "There is no authority here to make him a
captain, even if it were desirable, as I think it is not. Don't spoil
the boy, Captain Truman."

While they were waiting for the arrangements for the march to be
completed, Deck told his father about his interview with the fallen
leader of the guerillas; and it ended in introducing the major to him.

"I am sorry you are wounded, my friend," said the commander.

"Why do you call me your friend?" asked the prisoner, apparently
astonished. "You are not just our idea of the Yankees."

"On the battle-field we are enemies, and we do our best to kill each
other; but here we are friends, and we do what we can to save each
other. I am glad my son assisted you."

"He is the one-eared man's friend for life, except on the battle-field,
though he struck off that ear."

It was quite evident that he was not such a fire-eater as Captain
Stinger. But the column was ready to move. It was but a short distance
to the village; and when they arrived there, they found the fire in the
square burning even more vigorously, and all the houses lighted. They
were received with tremendous cheers, in which the ladies joined, while
they flourished their handkerchiefs in the absence of so many of the
male population.

The news of the battle and victory had been brought to the village by
Colonel Coffee; and the two magnates had provided a bountiful collation
for the soldiers, though it was in the small hours of the night. The
troopers were petted by the ladies, and Deck was a hero of the first
magnitude. The work of the day and night was finished, and the people
and the soldiers slept after their fatigues, while a portion of the Home
Guards guarded the approaches to the place.

The prisoners were marched under a strong guard to a railroad town, and
sent to Louisville. All was quiet at Greeltop and Plain Hill, and no
further attempt was made to molest these places. The discipline
administered to the guerillas was severe enough to put an end to their
operations in that part of the State. The squadron remained three weeks
in camp at Greeltop, occasionally sending out detachments where they
were needed.

Later in the year it was ordered to Munfordville, where a sharp little
battle was fought, in which the Riverlawn Cavalry had an opportunity to
meet again the old enemies, the Texan Rangers. It was while at this
place that a huge envelope came by special messenger, with other orders,
directed to "Mr. Dexter Lyon, Care of Major Noah Lyon." His father gave
it to him, and Deck opened it, wondering with all his might what it
could contain. It was a lieutenant's commission, and the recipient would
not have been more astonished if the sky had fallen upon him.

The two captains in the squadron had been the principal movers in
obtaining the commission. They had a paper recommending it signed by
every member of the first company; but the business had been done while
the command was waiting at Greeltop, fearful that Major Lyon would veto
or discountenance the measure for family reasons, or because he thought
his son was too young to be "A Lieutenant at Eighteen." With the
commission came a furlough for two weeks, to enable him to prepare for
his new duties.

Deck was astonished and confounded to find himself an officer; for he
had never sought such a position, and honestly and sincerely believed
that he had done only his duty, like every other private in the ranks.
He was overwhelmed with congratulations by the members of both
companies, and especially by the two captains.

"It hasn't come any sooner than I expected it, Deck," said Life Knox, as
he grasped the hand of the young cavalryman.

"I don't think I have deserved it," protested the recipient of the
commission.

"Ask Miss Kate Belthorpe," chuckled the Kentuckian, _par excellence_.

"She is not a military character, and don't understand the matter,"
replied Deck with a very heavy blush.

"She stuck to't that you ought to been made cap'n o' the fust company. I
didn't think so then, but I think you ought to be made a lieutenant as
you have been."

"I don't see why I was selected for this place; for I am appointed
second lieutenant of the first company, in place of poor Gilder."

"Everybody else can see it if you can't. Who brought Major Vinegold to
the ground? Who served Lieutenant Makepeace in the same way? And"--

"Ceph!" exclaimed Deck. "Don't say anything more about it, and we will
call it square;" but the tall and wiry cavalry sergeant was as fond of
Deck as though he had been his own son.

The young lieutenant procured his uniform at Munfordville; and when he
put it on, the whole of both companies cheered him, and the ladies
declared that he was the handsomest officer in the squadron, which was,
perhaps, saying much, for Captain Gordon was a remarkably good-looking
man.

Deck was going home for a part of his furlough; for his father wished
him to do so. He talked with his son full two hours before his
departure, giving him instructions about the plantation, and especially
about the family of Captain Titus Lyon, then a prisoner somewhere.

Of course his mother and sisters were extremely glad to see him, and
were prouder of his uniform than he was himself. Levi Bedford actually
hugged him; and the fifty-one negroes treated him as though he had been
an angel from the realms of bliss. Orly Lyon still desired to join the
Riverlawn Cavalry; and even Sandy had been so far cured of his Secession
tendencies as to be of the same mind.

Mrs. Noah had provided for the family of her husband's brother. She
consented, in the absence of her husband, that her boys should enlist on
the right side. The major had sent money for her to return to her father
in New Hampshire, if she still desired to go there. When Lieutenant Lyon
returned to Munfordville, Sandy and Orly went with him, wearing the
uniform of the squadron.

During his absence the command had been ordered to Somerset; and about a
month later had their first experience in a considerable battle at Mill
Spring. But our story for the present is told; and another volume will
relate the experience of Deck as an officer. His service was not
confined to his duty in command of a platoon, but an abundant
opportunity was given him to gratify to some extent his inborn desire
for stirring adventure in the service of his country, as will be found
in "A LIEUTENANT AT EIGHTEEN."


       *       *       *       *       *


                          OLIVER OPTIC'S BOOKS

                       ALL-OVER-THE-WORLD LIBRARY

                      Illustrated Per Volume $1.25


                              FIRST SERIES


    A MISSING MILLION or The Adventures of Louis Belgrave

    A MILLIONAIRE AT SIXTEEN or The Cruise of the Guardian-Mother

    A YOUNG KNIGHT ERRANT or Cruising in the West Indies

    STRANGE SIGHTS ABROAD or A Voyage in European Waters


                              SECOND SERIES


    THE AMERICAN BOYS AFLOAT or Cruising in the Orient

    THE YOUNG NAVIGATORS or The Foreign Cruise of the Maud

    UP AND DOWN THE NILE or Young Adventurers in Africa

    ASIATIC BREEZES or Students on the Wing (in press)


"The bare announcement of a new series of books by Oliver Optic will
delight boys all over the country. When they farther learn that their
favorite author proposes to 'personally conduct' his army of readers on
a grand tour of the world, there will be a terrible scramble for
excursion tickets--that is, the opening volume of the 'Globe Trotting
Series.' Of one thing the boys may be dead sure, it will be no tame,
humdrum journey, for Oliver Optic does not believe that fun and
excitement are injurious to boys, but, on the contrary, if of the right
kind he thinks it does them good. Louis Belgrave is a fortunate lad,
because, at the age of sixteen, he was the possessor of a cool million
of dollars. No one, not even a young boy, can travel without money, as
our author well knows, therefore he at once provided a liberal supply.
Louis is a fine young fellow with good principles and honor, so he can
be trusted to spend his million wisely. But he does not have entirely
smooth sailing. In the first place he has a rascally step-father whom he
had to subjugate, a dear mother to protect and care for, and the missing
million to find before he could commence his delightful travels. They
are all accomplished at last, and there was plenty of excitement and
brave exploits in the doing of them, as the boy readers will find. The
cover design shows many things--a globe, the Eiffel tower, mountains,
seas, rivers, castles and other things Louis will see on his
travels.--_Current Review._"

LEE AND SHEPARD Publishers Boston


                        _OLIVER OPTIC'S BOOKS._

                         THE BLUE AND THE GRAY

Illustrated. With Emblematic Dies. Each volume bound in Blue and Gray.
Per volume, $1.50.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                AFLOAT


    TAKEN BY THE ENEMY

    WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES

    A VICTORIOUS UNION

    ON THE BLOCKADE

    STAND BY THE UNION

    FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT

       *       *       *       *       *

                                 ON LAND


    BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER

    IN THE SADDLE

    A LIEUTENANT AT EIGHTEEN

    _Other volumes in preparation_

       *       *       *       *       *

The opening of a new series of books from the pen of Oliver Optic is
bound to arouse the highest anticipation in the minds of boy and girl
readers. There never has been a more interesting writer in the field of
juvenile literature than Mr. W. T. Adams, who under his well-known
pseudonym, is known and admired by every boy and girl in the country,
and by thousands who have long since passed the boundaries of youth, yet
who remember with pleasure the genial, interesting pen that did so much
to interest, instruct and entertain their younger years. The present
volume opens "The Blue and the Gray Series," a title that is
sufficiently indicative of the nature and spirit of the series, of which
the first volume is now presented, while the name of Oliver Optic is
sufficient warrant of the absorbing style of narrative. "Taken by the
Enemy," the first book of the series, is as bright and entertaining as
any work that Mr. Adams has yet put forth, and will be as eagerly
perused as any that has borne his name. It would not be fair to the
prospective reader to deprive him of the zest which comes from the
unexpected, by entering into a synopsis of the story. A word, however,
should be said in regard to the beauty and appropriateness of the
binding, which makes it a most attractive volume.--_Boston Budget._

"Taken by the Enemy" has just come from the press, an announcement that
cannot but appeal to every healthy boy from ten to fifteen years of age
in the country. "No writer of the present day," says the Boston
_Commonwealth_, "whose aim has been to hit the boyish heart, has been as
successful as Oliver Optic. There is a period in the life of every
youth, just about the time that he is collecting postage-stamps, and
before his legs are long enough for a bicycle, when he has the Oliver
Optic fever. He catches it by reading a few stray pages somewhere, and
then there is nothing for it but to let the matter take its course.
Relief comes only when the last page of the last book is read; and then
there are relapses whenever a new book appears until one is safely on
through the teens."--_Literary News._



Transcriber's Note. The punctuation and spelling are as printed in the
original publication. The oe ligature has been expanded. The character
Vinegold is referred to as both 'Captain' and 'Major' in the original
version of this book.





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