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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    A MISSING DOCUMENT OF IMPORTANCE

    Major Dexter Lyon was on the lookout and saw the second flag of truce as quickly as any one. At the same time Carson Lee, still in the top of the magnolia, announced that "another rag" was "out for an airin'."

    "You want ter go slow," he added. "They may be gittin' desperate an' up to some o' their mean tricks."

    Promising to use all caution, Deck advanced to meet the new messenger. He proved to be a mild sort of a guerilla and was evidently extremely nervous.

    "I came out to arrange terms with you," he said, in such a low voice that Deck could hardly hear him.

    "Are you ready to surrender?"

    "We are--on certain terms."

    "I gave your other messenger my terms. I haven't any others to make."

    "The boys is divided as to wot to do. About half of 'em is willing to give themselves up unconditionally, the other half want to be treated as prisoners of war."

    "I will not treat any as prisoners of war--I said that before," answered Deck, firmly. "Are you willing to give yourself up unconditionally?"

    "Yes."

    "Then you had best do so without delay--and so had the others who think as you do. We will give you just ten minutes in which to make up your minds," went on Deck, feeling he had the enemy, "on the run," and determined to make the best of his chances.

    "So them reënforcements have arrived, eh?" said the messenger, and now his voice actually trembled. "Just hold on ten minutes, Major, and I'll be back," and he almost ran for the house.

    The man left the front door wide open, and Lee, from his superior position, announced that a lively confab was in progress within. In less than five minutes the messenger marched forth, followed by five of his comrades, all trailing their guns.

    "Five on 'em goin' to give up," announced Lee, when a shot was fired from the mansion, and one of the guerillas was seen to throw up his arms and fall headlong. He had been shot through the neck, and expired almost instantly. The others set out on a run for the magnolias, fearful that their former companions in arms would murder them likewise for deserting. A dozen reports from both sides followed, but no further damage was done.

    As soon as the four guerillas reached Deck's command they were disarmed, and a guard of two slaves conducted them to a distance, keeping a close watch upon them. Another negro was sent by a circuitous route to the fort, to tell the defenders there what had occurred.

    Deck now felt certain that those remaining in the mansion would soon make a dash for safety, satisfied that every moment's delay increased their peril, and preferring to run the risk of being shot than the certainty of being hung if captured. At the most there could not be over eight guerillas in a condition to fight, and the major felt assured his forces could readily take care of them.

    The dash came just after Deck's message had been delivered to Levi and Artie. Almost simultaneously all the lower doors of the mansion were thrown open and seven guerillas darted out, to scatter in as many different directions, three going off toward the meadow behind the barns, one in the neighborhood of the negroes' huts, and the others taking to the creek and the bridge over it. In less than two minutes each ruffian was at least a hundred yards from the nearest of his companions.

    In this emergency there was but one thing to do, and that was to divide up the detachments at the magnolias and at the fort. This was done by Deck on one side and Artie on the other, and away went the major and Faraway, the slave, after the guerilla who was making for the bridge, while every other ruffian was being pursued in a similar fashion by the remaining Unionists.

    It had grown darker rapidly, and it was with difficulty that the major kept his man in sight, especially after the bushes near the bridge were reached. There was also a danger of a shot, but none came just then.

    "He's gone!" suddenly burst out Faraway, when the bridge was less than a hundred feet away. "De earth hab swallowed him up!"

    "He went under the bridge," answered Deck, halting. "Go slow, for he'll shoot us if he can."

    After this the advance was made with great caution, until the young commander had gained the pile of stones upon which rested one end of the wooden structure. Here the great tree growing by the bridge bench cast a deep shade all around, and he had to strain his eyes to see at all.

    Crack! It was the report of a pistol and it came from less than fifty feet away. As the report died away Deck was seen to throw up his arms and drop. At once an exultant chuckle proceeded from the guerilla's lips, and heedless of the negro, he darted out of his hiding-place and ran for the creek road.

    "Oh, Mars'r Deck!" cried Faraway, in dismay, when he started back dumfounded, for the young major had suddenly arisen to a kneeling position, taken careful aim and fired. The bullet sped true to its mark, and the guerilla went down, shot through the right knee.

    "Hang yer cursed Yankee trick!" he groaned, as Deck came up to him, totally uninjured from the shot aimed at him a minute previously. Lying as he was, he attempted to fire again, but the major kicked the pistol from his grasp and Faraway pounced upon him and pinned him to the ground.

    "Any kind of a trick would be justifiable in capturing such a rascal as you," said Deck, as he directed Faraway to disarm the prisoner. This done, and making sure that the fellow could not walk away, they propped him up on the creek bridge and left him.

    Returning to the vicinity of the mansion, Deck found that one other guerilla had been captured by Artie and Clinker, and that white men and negroes were scattered in all directions endeavoring to round up the remainder. The search for the fleeing ones was kept up until midnight, and two others were wounded and taken into custody.

    All the prisoners were either marched or carried to Fort Bedford, and here the wounded ones were cared for as tenderly as though they were friends instead of enemies. The dead were laid out for burial, unless the bodies should be claimed by relatives or friends.

    Deck had bound a silk handkerchief around his neck, which felt stiff where the bullet had scratched it. Artie had been hurt, too, but the wound was of small consequence. The Unionists received even greater care than the guerillas.

    It was exactly two o'clock in the morning when Deck came into the mansion thoroughly worn out by what he had passed through. Mrs. Lyon had ordered Diana (not Dinah, if you please) to prepare the best meal Riverlawn could afford, and while the family and the other whites sat down in the dining room, the negroes made themselves comfortable in the spacious kitchen. In the meantime the prisoners at the fort were kept under close guard and a messenger was despatched to notify the county authorities of what had taken place.

    The mansion had been turned topsy-turvy, and a few articles of bric-à-brac had been smashed, but otherwise the loss did not seem to be of much consequence outside of the fact that two dozen silver spoons and a gold butter dish were missing, also some wine and whiskey put down in the cellar by Duncan Lyon and which the family of Noah had never touched.

    "I do not mind the liquor, but I do mind the loss of my mother's spoons," said Mrs. Noah. "However, I am glad matters are no worse."

    "I was afraid they would break open father's safe," said Deck, referring to the strong box in the library, in which the colonel was wont to keep his cash and his private papers. "I was much relieved to see it still locked up."

    While Deck had been speaking Levi came in, and now he turned to Mrs. Lyon. "That safe--I left it open for you," he cried hurriedly. "Did you--"

    "I left it open," gasped Mrs. Lyon, falling back in her chair. "I forgot all about it until just now--the guerillas scared me so when they marched in. If they--"

    "The safe is shut--but still--" began Deck, and arising hastily he hurried to the library, with Levi, Artie, and the women folks at his heels. The door refused to budge and Levi worked the combination, a new device Noah Lyon had had put on the door just before leaving home for the seat of war.

    When the strong box came open a mass of private papers and account-books fell out upon the carpeted floor, and it was easy to surmise that the guerillas had looted the safe of all that could be made valuable to them. Levi declared three hundred dollars in gold gone, also two hundred in United States paper money, besides a small box of jewellery, the most valuable articles in which had been a diamond ring and a diamond stud Duncan Lyon had worn during his life, and of which no disposition had ever been made.

    "We are five hundred dollars out by this raid," said Artie, while Mrs. Lyon shook her head sadly. "We had better question the prisoners about this."

    He went off to do so, accompanied by Levi. While they were gone Deck proceeded to arrange the scattered books and papers and restore them to their original resting places.

    "Hullo!" he ejaculated, as he picked up an empty envelope. It was marked! "Not to be opened till five years from the date of my death. Duncan Lyon."

    "The secret envelope uncle left to father!" cried out Hope. "Oh, Deck, where are the contents?"

    "That is what I should like to know," responded her brother, kneeling down with a hand lamp, the better to see. A large batch of papers were sorted with great care, but nothing which might have belonged in the envelope was unearthed.

    "This is worse than the loss of the money or the spoons," sobbed Mrs. Lyon, bursting into tears. "Your father has always been very careful of that secret communication, which he thought related to your Uncle Duncan's slaves. I am sure he will be much put out when he finds the contents of the envelope gone."

    Mrs. Lyon's tears set the girls to crying, and it took some time for Deck to quiet the three. In the meanwhile he had all the female colored help in the mansion search for the missing paper. These people brought him a dozen or more sheets from out-of-the-way corners, but all proved valueless, and at length Deck strode down to the fort.

    The prisoners had been searched, but nothing had been found on them of value. Each man was closely questioned, and the timid guerilla who had carried the second flag of truce that afternoon admitted that he had seen a certain fellow known as Totterly at the safe and had seen the guerilla tear open an envelope, look over its contents and then cram a paper in his coat pocket. Totterly had also taken a chamois bag--the bag which contained the three hundred dollars in gold. Who had taken the paper money was not known to the timid prisoner, nor did he know anything about the spoons.

    "I didn't want to jine them sodgers," he whined. "Gaffy Denny talked me into it. Wish I had a-stayed on my dad's plantation in Logan County."

    "Yes, you would have been much better off," answered Deck, briefly.

    The discovery of the loss sustained put a damper on the supper, and several of Diana's best dishes were hardly touched. But nothing could just then be done, and after Mrs. Lyon and the girls had told how they had been surprised by Gaffy Denny and his men and locked up in the storeroom off of the dining apartment, each of the party retired to catch a few hours of sleep. It is safe to say the lady of the mansion and the girls hardly closed their eyes, but Deck and Artie were growing used to excitement and had slumbered in the very midst of a battlefield, and they rested soundly.

    On the day following, several of the county authorities put into appearance, and the prisoners were taken away to Bowling Green, some to the prison, and the wounded ones to a hospital. A vigorous search was instituted for Totterly, but nothing was learned about him further than that he had confiscated a horse at a little settlement known as Culver's, and had been seen riding with all speed directly south for the Tennessee State line.

    Deck and Artie accompanied the prisoners to the county seat, and on returning to Riverlawn in the afternoon an hour's call was made at Lyndhall--a space of time all too short for the major, for Kate Belthorpe wished to know all about the affair at the mansion, and he was impatient to ask her about herself. Artie, knowing a thing or two or imagining he did, very considerately drew Margie Belthorpe to listen to what he might have to relate, so the affectionate pair were left alone part of the time, something which Deck very much appreciated, and to which pretty Kate did not at all object. The girl shuddered when he was forced to admit that he had been scratched on the neck by a bullet, and flinging her arms about his shoulders begged him to be more prudent in the future, and this he promised--for her sake, as he said in a whisper, and the compact was sealed with a kiss which if not exactly brotherly or sisterly was fully as affectionate.

    "I suppose you proposed, didn't you?" said Artie, when he and Deck were galloping home. "I gave you the best chance in the world."

    "I--I--don't be foolish, Artie," returned the young major, and blushed. "No," he went on, after a pause, "I didn't--but--I reckon it's all right--at least I hope it is;" and Artie clapped him on the back heartily and said he was positive it was all right, and they shook hands. After that the cousins were more brotherly than ever before.
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