A Rebellion in Dixieñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“I can do it all the time,” replied Dan, snappishly, for just then his arm pained him and he moved it to another position. “I can get away with you the best day you ever saw.”
“Oh, it is very easy for you to talk that way now, but if you had two good arms I would try you right here.”
“Say, Leon, what do you reckon those fellows will do with us after they get us to Ellisville?” said Cale, speaking with difficulty.
“I am sure I don’t know. If I had my way with you I would send you among the rebels, with orders not to come back. You talk of the rebels as ‘our men,’ and you belong with them.”
“I guess you’ll stretch hemp,” said the man who was acting as sentry over them.
“I hope they won’t go that far, but I don’t know,” said Leon, as he turned his horse about and started for Ellisville.
It was getting dark by this time, but all the way Leon saw some signs of the fight. Here was a dead rebel who had been shot during the retreat, and who had fallen in the middle of the road, and he had been moved out on one side and his body covered with a blanket. A little further on he came across a wagon which was loaded with wounded Confederates, and the Union men all greeted him as though they were glad to see him. There was one thing about it, if there was any faith to be put in what the men said to him: His father had been in a constant worry ever since he failed to show up at Newman’s house, and he became so satisfied that Newman was to blame for his capture – for Mr. Sprague knew that somebody had made a prisoner of him – that he sent a squad of men back to the house and placed them all in custody. Finally Leon came up to the place where the slaughter had taken effect when the Confederates got ready to make their charge, and he shuddered when he looked at it. The rebels and their horses had fallen together in a heap until they were piled on top of one another. The Union men had not got through removing them yet.
“By gracious, if those rebels could come up here from Mobile and see what I have seen to-day, I’ll bet they would give up trying to conquer us,” said Leon, as he once more gave his horse the rein and drew up before the hotel porch. “I didn’t suppose that a battle ended in that way. I thought the dead and wounded were scattered all around, and that you had to hunt a long time before you found them, but – I never want to see another fight.”
The hotel porch was empty when he got there, but a little way up toward the grove he saw a company of Confederates, all huddled together, and Union men were keeping guard over them. They were waiting there until their paroles could be made out. You see they had no printing-press in Jones county, and everything like this had to be made out by hand. He went up into the President’s room, and there he found as many men as could find seats at the table engaged in writing. Some of the prisoners were there to assist them.
“The way we do this,” said Mr. Knight, addressing himself to the captain who had last commanded the regiment (by the way, he was wounded, too, for a handkerchief that was wet with blood was tied around his forehead) – “the way we do this is all owing to you rebels alone.
You have not hung any of our men yet; indeed, I don’t know that you have had a chance, but if you had hung any of them, we should pick out as many men as had been executed and hang them to the nearest tree. We want you to understand that these paroles are matters of life and death with you. If you go into battle against us without being exchanged, and we capture you, you can expect nothing but death. I think you have found out, by the way that cavalry charged upon us, that we know how to fight. How many men had you to go back to Mobile?”
“Well, sir, I should say about two hundred.”
“And how many had you in the first place?”
“We marched up here to assault you with eleven hundred men, sir.”
“And only two hundred escaped! That’s doing pretty good work.”
Leon was astonished when he found out that so small a number of Confederates had got away, and then, seeing that the conversation between the President and the rebel captain had ceased, he began looking around for his father. He found him at last sitting at a table in a remote corner of the room, and walked up and placed his hand upon his shoulder. Mr. Sprague looked up, and finding Leon’s face beaming down upon him, put his pen in his mouth and extended his hand.
“Halloo, Leon; you have got back, haven’t you?” he exclaimed; and for the first time in his life he saw his father’s eyes filled with tears.
“Yes, sir, I have got back. Where’s Mr. Smith?”
“Mr. Smith has got his death-wound, I am afraid,” said his father, looking down at the paper on which he was writing with a most gloomy expression. “He wants to see you bad, and I would advise you to go down to him at once. You will find him in the parlor, lying on the sofa.”
Leon waited to hear no more, but worked his way through the men toward the door, stopping to shake hands with this one, or to give a bow and a smile to another, and presently found himself in the parlor. The doctor was there and bending over the wounded man, and so was a distant relative of his, who seemed determined that the doctor should not exchange any words with Mr. Smith without he could hear them. Leon had never liked that man, Leonard Smith. It is true that he had never worked for his father, nor for Mr. Smith, either, for there was something about him that neither of the gentlemen approved of. He was constantly telling around that he was going to have a lot of money one of these days, and nobody knew where he was going to get it. Mr. Smith had a little, just how much no one knew, and it was very clear to everyone that Leonard Smith wouldn’t get any of it when he got done with it. Mr. Smith had often been heard to declare:
“I’ll never help a man who is too lazy to help himself. What does that Leonard Smith do to earn his living? He works at the logs about half the time, and the balance he spends in visiting me. I have often told him to go to work, but he won’t do it. He is a sort of second cousin to me, but all the same he has no claim on me.”
When Leon came into the parlor Mr. Smith turned his head and saw him. With more strength than a person of his injuries would be likely to show he thrust out his hand and welcomed him in his cheery way.
“Why, Leon, where have you been?” exclaimed the wounded man. “Come here and tell me all about it. Now, doctor, I can get along without any more help until I get through with Leon. Take everybody out of the room.”
The only person in the room besides the doctor and Leon was this Leonard Smith, and he didn’t seem inclined to move. He walked back toward the foot of the sofa and leaned upon it, and there he seemed determined to stay.
“I want you to go, too,” said Mr. Smith, in angry tones. “Take him out with you, doctor.”
“I guess I had better stay here,” said Leonard. “You might want me to hand you your water or something.”
“I reckon this man I have got here is enough to hand me my water or anything else,” retorted Mr. Smith. “Doctor, I want to see Leon about something particular, and I would thank you to take that fellow out of the room. I haven’t got but a short time to live – ”
“Come, now, Leonard, go out of the room,” said the doctor.
Leonard waited a moment, just long enough to cast a glance of mingled hate and rage upon Mr. Smith and Leon, and then went out, banging the door after him.
“That’s all right,” said Mr. Smith. “Now, lock the door. It will take not more than a minute, but what little I do say I want to reach your ears, and your ears alone. Pull up a chair and sit down.”
Leon complied. He fastened the door, and then drew a chair close to the wounded man’s side and leaned over him.
THE EVENTS OF A WEEK
“That’s all right,” repeated Mr. Smith, as Leon seated himself close by his side. “I didn’t want that Leonard Smith to hear a word I had to say to you, for he is a slippery fellow, and I don’t deny that I have detected him in efforts to steal money from me. The funds I have got – Put your hand inside my vest and pull out my pocket-book.”
Leon arose to his feet and was about to comply with the man’s request when the door of the parlor was tried with a careful hand, but the lock prevented intrusion.
“That’s Leonard,” said Mr. Smith. “Let him work. He has got rid of the doctor and was coming in to hear what I had to say to you. That’s it,” he continued, as Leon drew out a pocket-book which was made so large that it would contain bills at full length. “Now, put it in your pocket and button it up and give it to your father the first thing you do. My will is in there, and my money is all bequeathed to you.”
Leon gasped, but he had never thought of anything like this, and he didn’t know what to say to it. Finally he stammered:
“Do you think it right, Mr. Smith, to take all this money away from Leonard and give it to me, who – ”
“I have a right to do what I please with my own,” interrupted Mr. Smith. “I have worked hard for every cent of it, and I have made it all. The money is all in gold, and the will tells where to find it; but don’t you let Leonard get hold of the pocket-book, for if you do he will cheat you out of it. Keep watch of him the first thing you do, and don’t let him catch you off your guard. Now, Leon, that’s all. Hand me a drink of water. This fever, or something else in me, is burning me up.”
Leon made all haste to bring the wounded man a tumbler of water from the table, and when he had drained it he thought it wise to provide for the use of the money in case Mr. Smith’s injuries should not be as severe as they thought.
“Of course, if you get well,” he began.
“Why, then, of course, I’ll get the money back. I understand that; but, Leon, you don’t want to talk about such things. I know when I am done for as well as anybody. Now you may unlock the door and let Leonard in. After that, take the money up and give it to your father. It is all willed to you, mind you, but of course your father will have full charge of it until you are twenty-one. Now unlock the door.”
Leon lingered a moment. Something told him that he would not see Mr. Smith alive again, and he wanted to bid him good-bye, but he didn’t know how to go about it. The wounded man was getting impatient, so he stepped up and shook him by the hand; after that he unlocked the door, and he unlocked it so suddenly that it came open with a jerk, and Leonard Smith, who was leaning over with his ear close to the key-hole in the hope of hearing something that would be of use to him, came into the parlor on all-fours. He didn’t apologize for his abrupt entrance, and neither did Leon for letting him into the room so suddenly, while Mr. Smith looked the disgust he could not express in words.
“If I were in that man’s place I should feel so ashamed of myself that I couldn’t look Mr. Smith in the face,” said Leon, as he bounded up the stairs that led to the President’s room. “But I suppose he has been caught in so many tricks that he isn’t ashamed of anything. Father,” he added, in a whisper, “this is what Mr. Smith wanted to see me about. This pocket-book has got his will in it, and tells us where to find his money. How much of it there is I don’t know; but he wanted me to give it into your hands, with instructions to look out for Leonard Smith.”
“Ah!” said Mr. Sprague, taking the pocket-book and slipping it inside his vest. “So Leonard has got onto it in some way or another, has he?”
“Yes; and it was all Mr. Smith could do to get him out of the parlor when he wanted to talk to me. He says don’t you let Leonard catch you off your guard one instant, for if you do he will cheat you out of it.”
“Why, if the money is made over to you I don’t see what Leonard can have to do with it.”
“But he will find out where the money is hidden, and go there and dig it up.”
“Well, I reckon Mr. Leonard won’t get it now,” said Mr. Sprague, buttoning his vest.
“No, I don’t think he will. Now, hadn’t you better go down and see Mr. Smith? He thinks he isn’t going to last much longer.”
“I will go down and see him now. I hope he will get well, so that he can have this money back again.”
Mr. Sprague laid down his pen and got upon his feet, and just then there was a rumble of wagons in front of the house, which told them that some of the wounded had arrived. Leon went down to assist them and to look for Ballard, whom he wanted to introduce to the President, while his father went on to the parlor. Leon found that there were four wagon-loads of wounded rebels there, and while he was looking around watching for a chance to lend a hand his father came to the door and beckoned to him.
“He has gone,” said he, when Leon approached within speaking distance.
“Is he dead?”
“Yes; and all his pockets are turned inside out.”
Leon followed his father into the parlor, and they found no one there except the doctor and Leonard Smith. The doctor shook his head and turned and went out, while Leonard stood in his accustomed place at the foot of the sofa, and did nothing but glare at the father and son. The pockets had evidently been searched, and Leonard did not have time to put them back again before the doctor came in. Leon drew a long breath of relief when he saw how mad Leonard was. He had arrived home just in the nick of time. If he had delayed his coming half an hour the pocket-book would now be in the possession of one whom Mr. Smith did not want to have it. But it was plain Leonard did not intend to give it up in this way. As Leon took hold of the sheet to spread it reverently over the dead man’s face, Leonard suddenly aroused himself and seemed determined to find out where the pocket-book was.
“I would thank you to give up what you got from him when I went out,” said he, and he was so angry that he could scarcely form the words into a sentence.
“What did I get?” inquired Leon, while his father straightened up and looked at him without speaking.
“You got a pocket-book, or something else, in which he kept his will,” said Leonard. “That pocket-book is mine, and I am bound to have it.”
“It’s safe,” replied Mr. Sprague. “I’ll tell you what I will do in order to find out whether it is in the possession of the one who ought to have it. As soon as these troubles are all over I will take out the will and read it in the presence of the men – ”
“But I don’t intend to remain out of my money so long,” interrupted Leonard. “Some of these rebels might come here and dig down and find it. If I have it now it will be safe.”
“How do you know it is in the ground?”
“Well, I just suppose it is. I don’t know any other place he could put it where it would be equally safe.”
“I told you that I would read the will in the presence of the men and let them decide who owns the money. More than that I cannot promise.”
“Now, I will just tell you what’s the gospel truth,” said Leonard, leaving his place at the foot of the sofa and striding up and shaking both his clinched hands in Mr. Sprague’s face.
“Put down your hands or I will have you arrested in a minute!” said Mr. Sprague, not in the least alarmed by the other’s threatening manner.
“I will shake my fists in your face or in anybody else’s face who intends to rob me of my birthright!” exclaimed Leonard, at the same time allowing his hands to fall by his side. “I tell you that I will camp on that place every night, and woe be to the man or boy who comes there after that money. He will not get away with it.”
“I hope you have said enough in the presence of this dead man – ”
“He was my cousin; that is what he was,” shouted Leonard.
“ – of this dead man to make you ashamed of yourself,” said Mr. Sprague. “Now, we will go out.”
“But I want you to understand what I said about camping on that place,” said Leonard. “The man or boy who gets that money don’t get away with it.”
Mr. Sprague and Leon went out without making any reply, the former going back to the President’s room to resume his work upon the paroles, and his son to wander aimlessly about, with no disposition to do any work, although he saw plenty of it before him. After awhile he found Tom Howe, and both his friends with him. They were tired of removing wounded rebels and were now going up to Tom’s camp for a good nap. Ballard was evidently much impressed with the sharp-shooting the Union men had done, and declared that he had never seen the beat.
“I don’t see how any of our fellows came out alive,” said he, and his astonishment was so great that he threw his arms about his head. “You Union men are dead shots!”
“Well, there are plenty of deer and bear loose in the swamps, and squirrels in abundance,” said Leon, “and you can’t expect that men who sometimes have to depend on them for a living will miss them every time.”
“Come on, Leon,” said Dawson. “You’ll have to go up to Tom’s camp, too. We haven’t heard your story yet.”
Leon began his story as they walked along, and as he did not have very much to tell, anyway, his companions knew all about it by the time they got to the place where Tom had left his mule. Tom was disgusted when Leon told him about his being captured by one man, and more than all by such a man as Dan Newman, but he was elated just as much when Leon told how Ballard had taken him into the woods and given him something to eat.
“Howdy, Mr. Ballard,” said Tom, walking up and shaking the Texas rebel by the hand. “I didn’t get a chance to shake hands with you before, but now I am glad to see you. That boy is a friend of mine, and if you do anything for him it is as though you did it for me. Now, we will take some supper and then go to bed.”
While Tom was kindling the fire Leon related to him the particulars of Mr. Smith’s death, and to say that Tom felt quite as badly as Leon did would be telling nothing but the truth. He did not say anything about the will which he had given into his father’s care, or about the trouble that Leonard Smith had threatened to make on account of it, for something told him that he had better keep that to himself. Thus far, he and Mr. Sprague were the only ones that knew anything about it. Of course, he would have been perfectly willing to have trusted Tom with his secret, but there were other men there, Ballard and Dawson, of whom he knew nothing. How did he know that they would not hunt for the money and make off with it? It was hidden in the ground somewhere. Leonard seemed to think that that was the place he would go to find it, and if he told everybody of it they would dig Mr. Smith’s farm full of holes but that they would find it.
“I don’t think I had better say anything about that,” said Leon to himself, after he had thought the matter over. “I will talk about it to father the first chance I get. These men will all be poor when this war is settled, and they may fight about the money as readily as they fired into that regiment of cavalry.”
During the week following there was nothing happened that would be of interest to you, although it was full of interest to the Union men of Jones county. In the first place, as soon as they had eaten breakfast, the prisoners who had been captured the day before were summoned to the hotel, and there signed their paroles. They did it, too, knowing full well what was to be expected if they didn’t keep them, for Mr. Knight was there, and he went over the same speech he had delivered to the captain in his room. There were a number of wagons, and the wounded were placed carefully in them, and they were to be taken away and delivered to their friends. There were also two hundred Union men with them who were to guard them as far as the bridge, and then they were to bid them good-bye and come back.
“I hope,” said Mr. Knight, after he had got through with his speech, “that you all have been treated right since you have been here.”
“Oh, yes, sir,” responded a dozen voices. “You have treated us like we were your own.”
“Then I hope that if you get any of my boys in the Confederate lines you will treat them in the same way. That’s all. Go on.”
Mr. Knight did not raise any objections when the men took off their hats and gave him a cheer. He simply bowed and went up the stairs that led to his room.
The next thing was taking Mr. Smith and Bach Noble, and several other men who had been killed and wounded during the fight with the cavalry, to their homes. It was done with rather more of solemnity than had yet been displayed, and a long line followed after each man who had given up his life in defence of the flag. Mr. Sprague and Leon went with the man who had bequeathed them all he had in this world to give, and saw a grave dug where he had always said he would wish to be laid, and when the ceremony was over they came back to the hotel very much depressed in spirits. And it was a long time before they got over thinking about Mr. Smith. He was so lively and full of fun that he was sadly missed, but it was not long before something else demanded their attention. There was one thing that Leon was glad to see. Leonard Smith was not present at the funeral. It was not the man he cared for – it was the money he thought he had laid away, and which he believed he was in duty bound to get, seeing that Mr. Smith had no one else to bestow it upon. But he saw that he was not likely to get it by fair means, and so he kept out of the way.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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