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    Chapter 1

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    A CALL FOR ASSISTANCE

    "How many miles have we still to go, Deck?"

    "Not over seven by this road, Artie," replied Major Deck Lyon, commanding the first battalion, Riverlawn Cavalry, of Kentucky. "I should think the surroundings would begin to look familiar to you, even if we have been away from home for some time."

    "I never frequented this road," exclaimed Captain Artie Lyon, commanding the fourth company of the Riverlawns. "Doesn't it run into that cut where you saved Kate Belthorpe and the rest of her party from that gang of so-styled 'Home Guard' ruffians?"

    "I believe it does," was the slow response, and Major Dexter Lyon blushed; for although the incident referred to had occurred many months before, it was still fresh in his mind, as were also the beautiful face and bewitching eyes of the maiden. The young major was but nineteen years of age, and it could hardly be said that he was in love, yet a warm attachment had sprung up between these two people. "Does your wound trouble you in riding, Artie?" he went on, to change the subject, and thus prevent his cousin from teasing him in his most susceptible spot.

    "Not enough to count." Artie paused to urge his lagging horse ahead. "I wonder if any of Morgan's desperadoes are in this neighborhood. I understood from what Captain Ripley said that they were trying to overrun the whole State. It's a pity we haven't more of such first-class sharpshooters around as he commands."

    "What's the matter with Life Knox's tall boys, Artie? I reckon they can shoot about as well as any of Ripley's men, even though they are not as well drilled. If I know anything about it, Life is a whole host in himself."

    "Oh, I agree with you there, Deck." There was another pause as the pair of horsemen swung around a heavily wooded bend. "What a pity father couldn't get a furlough to come home with us. I don't believe he would have been missed, when the main body of the Department of the Cumberland is doing nothing but keeping an eye on Bragg. Mother and the girls would have been delighted to see--Hullo, if there isn't Levi Bedford coming this way--and with half a dozen of the boys! Something is up, sure!"

    As Captain Artie broke off, a tall, heavy-set man, mounted on a coal-black horse, burst into view, riding at a high rate of speed. Behind the man came six stout negroes; and all of the party carried guns, and the white man a pistol in addition.

    "Hi, Levi!" yelled Major Deck, as soon as the party of seven came within hailing distance.

    "Deck!" burst out the overseer of Riverlawn. "And Artie, by all that's fortunate!"

    "De young mars'rs!" came from several of the colored men. "Proud to see yo', Mars'r Dexter, an' Mars'r Artie!"

    At this Deck and Artie smiled on the slaves. Deck shook hands with Levi Bedford, and Artie followed suit. "Is there any special reason for this meeting being fortunate, Levi?" questioned the major, anxiously.

    "I think so," was the hasty answer. "Less than two hours ago, and just after I had made the rounds at Riverlawn, to make sure that everything was all right, and no marauders in sight, I received this note." And the overseer passed over a small sheet of note-paper, upon which a few lines were written in pencil, in a small hand.

    "DEAR MR. BEDFORD: If you can, come to our assistance at once. A detachment of three soldiers of Morgan's cavalry has arrived at Lyndhall. One of the three is to return to his company at once and bring them here to plunder the estate. I am at home alone with my sister Kate and three servants. The negro who delivers this is a stranger to me, but well known to my father.

    "MARGIE BELTHORPE."

    "Kate in danger!" The words left Deck's lips before he could think to repress them. "Levi, we must not waste a moment in getting to Lyndhall!"

    "Just my idea," responded the overseer. "I didn't lose a minute in getting the boys together, after I received that. Some of the boys were out in the back pasture, rounding up two stallions that broke away; but I sent word for them to follow, and I reckon they'll soon be after us, four or five strong."

    "Four more will give you eleven men, counting yourself. Artie and I will make thirteen. An unlucky number--for those ruffians, if we get to Lyndhall in time. Forward!" and Major Deck wheeled his horse, followed by Captain Artie; and away went the entire party at the best speed their animals could command.

    The time was the middle of the month of January, 1863, and the Army of the Cumberland, under General Rosecrans, was resting in and around Murfreesboro. The long, stubborn fight at Stone River had exhausted the men, and no new campaign could be undertaken until the wrecked and burned lines of communication were restored, the army reclothed and otherwise put into proper shape, and the necessary steps taken to make Murfreesboro safe as a new base of supplies.

    As the readers of the former volumes of this series know, the Riverlawn Cavalry was one of the first to be organized in the State of Kentucky, at the time when the Commonwealth was still undecided as to whether it should remain in the Union or throw its lot in with the Confederacy. The original body of men, forming two companies, had been raised very largely by Noah Lyon, the father of Dexter, who had used them in putting down the lawless uprisings of the Home Guards of the neighborhood--a mob of unprincipled fellows who, under the guise of wishing to defend Kentucky's neutrality during the great conflict, secretly plotted to aid the Confederacy, and later on, when the Commonwealth declared for the Union, promptly joined the ranks of the Secessionists.

    From two companies the command had developed to a full regiment of twelve companies, of which Noah Lyon was colonel. Following his father into the war, Dexter had, by hard work and a bravery which sometimes bordered on recklessness, risen from the ranks until he became senior major, while his cousin Artie, of about Deck's age, had well earned the commission of a captain. Both had been wounded more than once, Artie rather seriously, and both were known to care little or nothing for the injuries received in such a righteous cause.

    The first duty of the Riverlawns as a regular military body had been to put down the raids of several bands of guerillas operating in counties bordering upon, or near, the Tennessee State line. Successful in these, the command had become a part of the Union army, and as such had taken an active part in the battle of Mill Springs, or Logan's Crossroads, as it is sometimes called. After this had come a series of operations on and around Duck River, and in the entrenchments before Corinth, and then had come the advance of Rosecrans's forces upon Murfreesboro, ending in the bloody battle of Stone River, which, while hardly a victory, caused the shattered forces of the Confederate General Bragg to retreat, and go into winter quarters at Tullahoma.

    Although each of the Lyons fought with the warmth and enthusiasm of a true Kentuckian, not one of the members of the several families living at Riverlawn and at Barcreek, a small, nearby town, had been born within the borders of the State. All hailed from New Hampshire, and were Yankee bred as well as born.

    The original emigrant to Kentucky had been Duncan Lyon, one of four brothers, who had settled at Riverlawn and made a comfortable fortune in raising hemp, tobacco, and horses. Duncan Lyon had been as good-hearted as he was successful, and under his care Riverlawn had become a model plantation and stock-breeding farm, with Levi Bedford as superintendent or overseer, and with fifty-one slaves, old and young, who thought "Mars'r Lyon de best gen'men in de hull world."

    The next member of the family to come West had been Titus Lyon, another of the four brothers. Titus was a mason by trade, and inclined to be shiftless, and when Duncan Lyon wrote that the mason at Barcreek was dead, Titus had very promptly come on with his wife, two sons, and three daughters. It had taken a good deal of help from Duncan to place Titus on his feet, and even then the proprietor of Riverlawn was pained to note that the mason was more inclined to loaf around the village, drinking whiskey and talking politics, than he was to work at his trade.

    During the times that Duncan Lyon and Titus were locating in Kentucky, Noah Lyon was attending strictly to his farm in New Hampshire, not a large place, but still one upon which, by economy, he managed to earn a living not only for himself, his wife, and his two children, Dexter and Hope, but also for the two children of his deceased brother Cyrus, Artemas and Dorcas. From the time that Artie and Dorcas came into the family they were looked upon as brother and sister by Deck and Hope, and both always referred to Mr. and Mrs. Noah Lyon as father and mother.

    The somewhat unexpected death of Duncan Lyon had proved a shock to all his relatives, but when Lawyer Cosgrove, of Bowling Green, the county seat, came forward to read the plantation owner's will, the second shock, to Titus Lyon, was even greater than the first.

    Duncan Lyon had valued his estate at one hundred thousand dollars. Riverlawn was put down as being worth twenty-five thousand dollars, and this magnificent property, including all things in the house and on the grounds and the fifty-one slaves, went to Noah Lyon, who likewise received ten thousand dollars, half cash and half stocks, for having taken care of Artie and Dorcas since they had become orphans. It may here be remarked that Duncan Lyon had been a bachelor, and had never felt capable of raising the children himself. To the children he left one-quarter of his estate, half cash and half stocks, Noah to remain their guardian until of age.

    Of the balance of his property he gave to Titus only twenty-five thousand dollars, from which amount was to be deducted a note for five thousand, leaving the mason twenty thousand dollars, half cash and half in stocks. All the stocks to be divided were named in a schedule, so there might be no disputes.

    As might be supposed, Titus Lyon was very angry over the provisions of his brother's will, thinking that Riverlawn should have been settled upon himself. When Noah Lyon gave up his home in the East to take charge of Riverlawn, Titus did not call upon him for several days, and for some time after that the unreasonable mason talked about being swindled out of five thousand dollars, he thinking he ought to have had half of the ten thousand given to Noah for supporting Cyrus's children, although he had never lifted a hand to assist the orphans.

    With the breaking out of the war Titus had been in his element. Strange as it may seem, he had sided with the South in the struggle, and had even gone so far as to spend a large amount of money in equipping a company of Home Guards, of which he was to be captain. But the arms and ammunition, hidden away in a cavern, had been discovered by Artie and Deck who had turned them over to Noah Lyon, for use, later on, by the Unionists. This confiscation of property had made matters even worse between the two families, and for a long while Titus and his two sons were very bitter. They entered the Confederate service much against the wishes of Titus's wife, and while serving under the stars and bars one of the sons, Orly, was killed and Titus was taken prisoner.

    His own capture and the killing of Orly, coupled with the fact that Sandy, the older son, was nearly starved while in the Southern service, produced a profound impression upon Titus Lyon. While a prisoner he gave up drinking and signed the pledge. Then when Sandy suddenly left the Confederate service to enlist on the Union side under his Uncle Noah, he began to study the situation, and he wrote to Noah that he had seen the error of his ways and was now for the Union, once and forever. Later on he was released, and he joined the Riverlawns, to become adjutant of the regiment in which Sandy was now a second lieutenant of the fifth company, second battalion, the battalion being commanded by Major Tom Belthorpe, of Lyndhall and the company by Captain Gadbury, a dashing young soldier, who was far more attentive to Margie Belthorpe than Deck Lyon had ever dared to be to her younger sister.

    There had been but one thing concerning Duncan Lyon's will which had excited much curiosity when the document was read and when the lawyer having the matter in hand had had his say. This was concerning the fifty-one negroes installed at Riverlawn. Noah Lyon was requested not to part with any of them. Furthermore, the heir to the plantation was left a sealed letter which was not to be opened until five years later. The Lyons sometimes imagined the contents of the letter concerned the disposition of the slaves, but they had no positive information on the point.
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