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    Chapter 29

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    Chapter 30
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    The man who had thus suddenly deprived Major Deck Lyon of his weapon was the same who had been escaping through the brush. He had dropped into the water just as Deck and Artie reached the cove, and a small hollow under the rock had enabled him to keep his head above water and hear the conversation which passed between the two brothers.

    It must be confessed that the major was not dreaming of an attack at such close quarters, and the pistol left his hand easily. Before he could recover from his astonishment over the changed nature of affairs, he found the barrel of the weapon pointed straight for his breast.

    "Hands up there, and keep your mouth shut," was the low but determined command. "I imagine I am master of the situation."

    "Who are you?" asked Deck, as calmly as he could, at the same time revolving in his mind the chances of turning the tables in his favor.

    "I am only asking questions, not answering them," replied the man in black, and Deck now noted that his cleanly shaven face was a truly intelligent one. "Can you see that other fellow?"


    "Then step into the water."

    "Into the water?" queried Deck, in perplexity.

    "Yes, and do not make any noise if you value your life, Major."

    There was no help for it, and the major stepped from the brushwood into the stream. He was up to his knees.

    "Come a little closer, but not too close," went on the man in black. "Can you swim?"

    "Why do you ask that question?"

    "I told you before, Major, that I was simply asking questions, not answering them," said the Confederate spy, for such the fellow really was. "I repeat, can you swim?"

    "A little."

    "Can you swim across this stream?"

    "Perhaps I can."

    "I am going to give you an opportunity to try. Wade out ahead of me, and toward that point where three trees appear to shoot from one trunk," directed the spy, with a wave of his unoccupied hand forward.

    "So you expect to take me along with you," said Deck, steadily. "I may flatly refuse."

    "If you refuse, you'll never tell anybody, Major, for I will take your life where you stand," answered the spy, as coolly as though he was speaking of the weather or some equally commonplace topic.

    The young major did not doubt but that he would keep his word. The fellow evidently knew his business, and in coming into the Union camp he had taken his life into his hands. Probably he had before this shed human life in the same cold-blooded manner. To him the game of war was a science, and the end justified any means.

    "Do you think I will make a valuable prisoner?"

    "I see you are bound to ask questions. I am equally determined not to answer them. Will you swim or not?"

    "I will swim," answered Deck, but his heart sank as he uttered the words. Oh, if only Artie was at hand to put a bullet through this enemy's head. He wanted to look back, but that steady gaze from the spy's keen black eyes deterred him.

    In two minutes the little cove was left behind, and Unionist and Confederate found themselves breasting the swiftly flowing waters of Chickamauga Creek. Evidently the spy knew the creek well, for hardly had they covered ten yards of the distance than Deck's feet struck on a sand bar, and he found himself wading along in water not above his waist.

    "Take my advice and keep down as low as possible," said the spy, keeping in his rear. "A head in this creek to-day is like a head at Donnybrook Fair, anybody will hit it if it is possible to do so."

    "I believe you there," answered Deck, and moved along with just his mouth above the surface. "It's mighty slippery walking," he continued.

    "Which means that you will slip and escape if you can, Major. Don't try it, for it will be your corpse that floats to yonder falls," was the reply, which made Deck's flesh creep. The spy was certainly the most cold-blooded fellow for such a proceeding he had ever encountered.

    Deck wanted to look back, and as a slight splash announced that his follower had taken a misstep, he did so, taking in the shore at one searching glance. Nobody appeared within his range of vision, and again his heart went down into his boots. Evidently he was booked for a Confederate prison as fast as the spy could get him there.

    About three-quarters of the distance to the opposite shore was passed, and Deck was losing all hope, when a distant pistol shot rang out, coming from behind them. Artie had discovered two heads and an arm bobbing above water, and his field-glasses had apprised him of the true situation. He had fired on the spy, but the bullet flew several inches wide of its mark.

    "Call to that fellow to stop shooting, or it will mean your death," ordered the spy, and Deck now understood why the Confederate had desired him to bear him company over the stream.

    As the major had no desire to be shot, he promptly called to Artie. Whether or not his brother understood him clearly he could not tell, but no more shots followed. In a few minutes, both the spy and Deck were in a safe place, behind a heavy clump of bushes.

    "Halt!" came the command, from not far away, and a Confederate picket appeared, holding his gun ready for use. He was ragged and dusty, but ready for business, as his determined face showed. "Have you the countersign?"

    "I have that of three days ago," answered the spy, and advancing, he gave it, and also brought forth a slip of paper which the picket examined with interest. The corporal of the guard was called, and he took both of the newcomers in charge.

    An examination in a tent pitched some distance back from the stream evidently proved satisfactory to several officers present, and the spy was allowed to proceed on his way, and much to Deck's astonishment he was asked to come along.

    "Are you going to take me to the prisoner's camp?" asked Deck, as they walked away.

    "We will talk about that later, Major. By the way, what is your name?"

    "Major Dexter Lyon."

    "Well, Major Lyon, I presume you do not relish being a prisoner?"

    "Hardly, Captain Brentford."

    "I see you caught my name up to the tent. It saves me the trouble of introducing myself. I am Captain Brentford, of General Bragg's staff."

    "I presume you gained considerable information while inside the Union lines," went on Deck, curiously.

    "I did gain a good deal, but not as much as one would wish. Your fellows are pretty close-mouthed. I must give them credit for it. I wish I could say as much for our gallant boys of the South."

    "I don't suppose it will do me any good to ask where you have been."

    "Oh, I won't mind telling you, now we are over here. I have been up to the Widow Glenn's house."

    "To General Rosecrans' headquarters!" gasped Deck, in consternation.

    "I see it almost overwhelms you to think a Southern spy could get close to Union headquarters. A clever trick did it--a trick I learned when I was in the detective bureau at Washington."

    "You impersonated one of our officers?"

    "Exactly. The poor fellow was dead, and I donned his coat and hat, fixed up my face to suit, and took his place for ten hours. It was tough on the dead officer, but he will never make a kick."

    "I believe you killed him," said Deck, bluntly.

    A frown crossed the face of Captain Brentford. "We will let that pass, Major Lyon; it will do no good for us to say things which are unpleasant. I want you to look at something else."

    "Look at something else?"

    "Your own personal position. Do you realize the nasty situation you are in?"

    "Having heard of the horrors of your Southern prisons, I think I do."

    "It is my duty to hand you over to the officers at the prisoners' camp, a mile or so from here."

    "I suppose you will do your duty."

    "To make a prisoner of such a young and promising fellow as yourself seems a great pity."

    "I am willing to take what comes, as the fortunes of war," replied Deck, who did not propose to be led into showing the white feather, especially in front of such a coldly polished rascal as Captain Brentford appeared to be.

    "Are you willing to be sent to prison, to languish there until the close of this struggle?"

    "I am willing to submit to that which I cannot alter."

    "Ah, that is more like it." Captain Brentford looked around, to see that nobody was in sight. "Major Lyon, I am tired, let us sit under yonder tree for a few minutes and rest."

    "I don't care much to rest in these wet clothes. I may take cold."

    "You are no wetter than myself. I think it may pay you to take the rest I propose."

    "If you order a rest, I cannot do anything but obey, Captain Brentford," concluded Deck, and walked to the spot indicated.

    At the tent where they had stopped, his coat had been wrung out for him and his boots emptied, so he was not so badly off as might be supposed, although far from as comfortable as he would have been had his garments been dry. He was now totally unarmed, even his sabre, extra pistol, and pocket knife having been taken from him. In addition to this his hands had been tied loosely together behind his back.

    There was a large, flat rock under the tree designated, and Deck deposited himself on this, in the shelter of the slight breeze that was blowing. The captain took up a position opposite, so that he had a square view of his prisoner's face.

    "Major Lyon, I think I am safe in making you a proposal," he began, after a moment's pause.

    "What sort of a proposal, Captain Brentford?"

    "I think you would rather recross the creek and join your command than go ahead to where I am to take you."

    "That goes without saying."

    "Exactly. And that being so, supposing we try to come to terms."

    "I must confess I don't understand you," said Deck, much puzzled by his captor's words.

    "It is too bad that I must speak plainer. You wish to return to the Union lines. Very well, what is it worth to you?"

    "Worth to me?"

    "That is what I said. I am a plain-spoken man, and to me a spade is a spade and not an instrument for upturning the soil."

    "But I don't understand you, Captain Brentford. If you mean what is it worth in money, let me state that I am not worth ten dollars, all told, at the present moment."

    "I know exactly what you have in your pocket, a five dollar goldpiece and four dollars in United States scrip that won't be worth anything after the Confederacy gets done with the North."

    "Then what are you driving at?"

    "You have something else about you which might prove of far more value to me than money."

    "And that is--" began Deck, hesitatingly.

    "Information. Now do you understand?"

    The cat was out of the bag, and the major drew a long breath. At the same time a look of deep scorn came into his loyal eyes.

    "So you wish me to buy my liberty through what information I may be able to give you concerning the Union troops and their proposed movements?" he said slowly.

    "I did not put it that way."

    "You suggested it, then."

    "We will let it stand at that." Captain Brentford's face took on a sharp look. "What do you say to it?"

    "I say, Captain Brentford, that you are a scoundrel to suggest such a thing to me."

    "A scoundrel!"

    "Yes, a scoundrel. Perhaps, were you placed as I am placed, you would barter your very soul to gain your liberty; I am made of different stuff--and I thank God for it!" answered Deck, with all the fervor of his patriotic heart.

    "Don't get on a high horse, Major, it will do you no good."

    "I mean what I say, and I shall stick to it. Try your best, you'll get no military information out of me."

    "You forget that your very life is in my hands."

    "I forget nothing," Deck replied, but a cold chill crept down his backbone, as he looked into those black eyes, now blazing like those of a snake. "I do not doubt but that you would kill me, as you killed that officer at General Rosecrans' headquarters, if you saw fit to do so."

    "I would kill you if I thought it in the line of my duty. I was sent forth by General Bragg to obtain certain information, and to obtain it at any cost. I propose to obey orders. As a major in the Union cavalry you must know certain things, and you have got to tell me--or take the consequences. We will finish this business before we stir another step," answered Captain Brentford, and again took up his pistol, which he had allowed to drop into his lap.

    For the instant Deck knew not how to reply. A nameless dread took possession of him, as he realized how helpless he was, unarmed, and with his hands tied behind him. He looked up the road, and just then the sounds of rapid hoof-strokes reached his ears.
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