A Rebellion in Dixieñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
There was another thing that happened during the week that made the Union men draw a long breath of relief. The boats which that squad had been sent up to build were all done, and now it needed nothing but a strong force of Confederates, much too large to be handled by them, to send the last man of them over to the island, where they would be comparatively safe. They were now ready to fight, and they didn’t care how soon it was forced upon them. During that week, too, a large number of men, probably two hundred of them in all, came in to give themselves up. Some of them were on foot, and others had their wagons along loaded with their families and household furniture. They had heard the particulars of the capture of that wagon-train, and believing that the men in Jones county were in earnest, and that they did not intend to be forced into the rebel army, they watched their opportunity and came in by night. And this wasn’t the worst of it. There were more came in every day, until Leon wondered where they should get food for them all.
“I don’t think the rebels knew how many fighting men there were about here,” said he. “We must have as many as twenty-five hundred men here.”
“Yes, and I guess if you had said double that you wouldn’t have been far out of the way,” said Ballard, who stuck close to the boys wherever they went. “It will take ten thousand men to whip us.”
“Do you suppose that Jeff Davis can send that number of men up here? We are only one little part of the Confederacy, and I should think he would want to save his men for something else.”
“He may now, but he won’t after a while. When Mobile becomes surrounded by Union troops, as she certainly will, he will need all the men he can get.”
And there was one other thing that happened during this week that caused Leon and Tom to look at each other in perfect astonishment. It proved that the chief men of the county, although they might act so very innocent, were not to be taken unawares. They had spies out. Some of them went to Mobile to see what they could find there that was worth looking at, especially to keep track of that strong force which they knew would be sent against them sooner or later, and the others went up into the interior of the State to keep a lookout for some more wagon-trains. These men took their lives in their hands, for every one of them that went into the Confederate lines was dressed in a rebel uniform. If they were caught and could not make a good excuse in regard to the regiment and company they belonged to, they would be hanged. Leon had been so very busy ever since he came into camp that he had not had time to learn all these things; but there was one other thing that he did learn which afforded him infinite gratification. It was what happened to Mr. Newman and family. They had been arrested as soon as Mr. Sprague found out, or rather mistrusted, that one of their number could tell more about Leon’s absence than any one else, and Bass Kennedy’s corn being thrown out of the calaboose, they were chucked in there, and guards placed over them to be sure that they stayed, too.
Of course, Mr. Sprague was very much astonished when he learned that Dan had made a prisoner of Leon and had been wounded and captured by the pickets, and when he was brought to Ellisville he had him put into the jail with his father and mother. On the morning that the prisoners were sent away they were given a wagon to themselves and forwarded to the rebels in Mobile, and Leon never heard of them afterward. We may tell you, however, that Dan’s arm was amputated when he got among the doctors, and Cale never recovered his good looks. He looked as if his jaws were sunk in, and all the negro-twist he could get in them would not make them look any different.
By this time everything had been got ready for the visit of that force which was to crush out the rebellion of the Jones-County Confederacy. We don’t say that Mr. Sprague and the other chief men looked upon it as boys’ play, because they knew well enough what it meant. The actions of the regiment of cavalry which came in there, as well as the threats they had made that they were “going to sweep everything clean,” and that before night there wouldn’t be a Union man left, showed them that they couldn’t hope for any mercy. The head men of the Confederacy would be hanged, and the others would be forced into the rebel army. Mr. Sprague talked this all over with Leon, but the latter did not exhibit any signs of wavering.
“Well, I suppose if that is what we have got to contend with we can’t meet it any too soon,” said Leon, compressing his mouth firmly, as he always did whenever his courage was tested to the utmost. “I never thought that this thing was coming through all right. Such an exploit was never thought of before.”
“I know it; and that is what makes us think we shall come through with flying colors. There’s one thing about it: We won’t fight against our old flag.”
In spite of all the constant work there was for him to do at headquarters, Mr. Sprague found opportunity to go home and assist his wife in packing up for the island, which was the place the backwoodsmen had decided upon to make their last stand. It was a piece of ground in the midst of the swamp, entirely surrounded by water, and now that the inside of it had been cleared of all underbrush, which had been piled around the outside of it to answer for a breastwork, the island seemed to be a larger camp than the force of men at their disposal needed. Leon went up and saw it. He took his mother over in one of the boats, making their stock swim behind, and through a long, winding pathway, made of corduroy logs, and obstructed at every turn by numerous barricades, and when he came at last into the cleared space he was astonished.
“Why, father, we haven’t got men enough to fill up that space,” said he. “There’s room enough for ten thousand men.”
“Don’t worry yourself,” said his father, with a smile. “This war is not half over yet. By the time we have our first fight here we’ll have more men than we want.”
We must not forget to say that Tom Howe’s mother and Mr. Giddings and his family went with them. They all settled right down close together, and seemed as happy and contented there as they would have been under their own roofs. Mr. Giddings especially was the source of constant merriment to the boys. It didn’t make any difference to him that he was so far from his mountain home, but he pitched right in and had a good time. Of course, he was careful of his rifle. Whenever he could get his hands upon that he seemed to throw care to the winds. It was on this very day that Mr. Sprague thought it best to speak to Leon about that will. The boy didn’t know anything about it, and if anything happened to him during the fights that followed he wanted Leon to know where to get the money. Mr. Sprague, in the presence of his wife, had examined the will a few days before, and the result almost took his breath away. There were a few gold-pieces in the pocket-book, perhaps a hundred dollars or two, and a few bills payable; but they were all marked off, as if to show Mr. Sprague that Mr. Smith did not want to press the men for the money. Among these bills was the will, and when Mr. Sprague came to examine it his hand shook and he passed it over to his wife, saying:
“My goodness! Mary, who would have supposed that Mr. Smith was worth so much money? We dare not say anything about this, for if we do our lives will not be worth a moment’s purchase. These men around us will fight as hard to keep the money here as they will to keep the rebels away. Now, what had we better do?”
COLEMAN PROVES HIS HONESTY
Mrs. Sprague fastened her eyes on the document, and as she read the color all left her face. She looked around. There was plenty of opportunity for her to be overheard now, for they were living in a brush lean-to, and there were people constantly passing back and forth almost within reach of them. There were plenty of folks there that could be trusted with their secret, but there were lots more from whom it must be kept at all hazards.
“And do you think that some of these people will fight for this money?” she said in an earnest whisper.
“There are lots of them that will do it,” returned her husband. “You see we will be as poor as they make them when this thing is ended, and where they are going to get money to start on, I don’t know. I tell you, we mustn’t let anybody know it. Put that away and I will go out and call Leon.”
The heir of all this wealth was found assisting Mr. Giddings, who was just putting the finishing touches on his brush shanty preparatory to getting his family under it. He looked up when he saw his father approaching, and he had never seen him look so white before; but he was warned by the signal his father made him, and so he didn’t say a word. His mother handed him the will when he entered their brush lean-to, and in less time than it takes to tell it Leon was master of its contents.
“A hundred thousand dollars!” he gasped.
“Sh! Not so loud,” cautioned his mother. “You don’t want everybody to know it, do you? Sit down here and tell us what you think of it.”
“To think that old Mr. Smith, who went about with his knees and elbows out, should be worth so much money!” said Leon. “It is no wonder that that fellow wanted to fight for it.”
“Yes, and you must be careful what you say around where he can hear it,” said his father, who had taken up a position in the door of the lean-to so that he could partially screen Leon while reading the will. “If he finds out where that money is hid, it’s all up with you.”
“But he won’t find it,” said Leon, who quickly copied after his father and spoke in an almost inaudible whisper. “He has got it hidden in the pig-pen. I was there while he was laying that floor along in the early part of the war, and he said then that I might some day dig up something under it. I couldn’t think then what he meant, although I know it now.”
“Well, you had better let your mother take care of the will,” said Mr. Sprague, “and then if anything happens to us she will know right where to go and get the money. I tell you that is a good deal more than we thought we were going to have.”
Leon was almost overwhelmed by the result of the last few minutes, and if he could have had his own way he would have been glad to get off somewhere by himself and think the matter over. But now it was impossible. Everywhere he went there was somebody around, and it seemed to Leon, now that he thought about it, that those who knew about Mr. Smith’s will had a way of looking at him as though they knew the secrets of what was hidden under the pig-pen. Of course, it was all imagination on his part, but still he wanted to get away and talk the matter over with Tom Howe.
“Mustn’t I take anybody into my confidence at all, not even Tom?” said he.
“Take nobody into your confidence,” said his father, earnestly. “You don’t know what sort of a fellow Tom is. He may be all right to have around where there’s a jam of logs in the river, but you don’t want to say anything to him about this money business.”
“Well, when are you going to get it? We’ll have to go away from here in order to use it.”
“We’ll go to it after this war is settled, and not before. Of course, we shall have to go away from here, for we can’t use it around where Leonard Smith is. And here’s another thing I want to tell you. Remember and keep close within reach of me, and don’t let Smith or anybody else get you off on one side. If you do, you will suffer for it.”
Leon smiled and wondered what sort of a story Smith could make up to draw him off in the woods, and it wasn’t so very long before he found out. Ever since the night that Mr. Smith died, Leonard had been half-crazy. He had no idea how much the will in the pocket-book contained, but he was certain that it was enough to keep him all his days without work. This was what this lazy vagabond was building his hopes upon. Anyway, he didn’t want the Spragues to have it, and what was more he was determined that they shouldn’t. If there was any way by which could get the will, or any means to learn the hiding-place of the money, why then it would be clear sailing with him. Leon undoubtedly had time to read the will and find out where the money was concealed, and if he could get him off by himself somewhere he would find out where that money was concealed, or he would leave Leon hanging to a tree in the woods. It took him two days to come to this decision, and all the while he roamed about over Mr. Smith’s place, poking into every place that he could think of where there was the least chance of hiding money. When the funeral procession came there he slunk into the woods, but when they went away again he came out and renewed his endeavors to find the fortune.
“There is money hidden somewhere about here, and I am as certain of it as that I am alive,” said Leonard Smith, when the men who had composed the funeral procession had gone away. “If it were not that Leon has the secret stowed away in his head I would up-end him the moment I saw him; but if I can get him in the woods and make preparations to hang him, I’ll find out where the money is. I can’t do anything by myself, and I must have somebody to help me. Now, who shall I get?”
Fortunately it was an easy thing for Leonard Smith to decide upon this question. He thought over all the worthless fellows who occurred to his mind just then, and finally hit upon one who was just about of as much use in the world as he was. Caleb Coleman was on the island beyond a doubt – he was always around where he was certain there was no danger – and if he could only get over there and see him he was sure that he could induce him to lend a hand in finding the money. But the trouble was he did not care to go around where Leon was.
“I don’t know whether that boy is certain that I am looking for the money or not, but he acts as if he did,” said Smith, as he took a look around to make sure that he had not missed any place where he thought there was a chance of hiding the money.
He had removed every pile of boards there was about the farm-house and had dug under them until he saw that the earth had not recently been disturbed, and then threw the piles of boards back again. He had even been in the cow-stable and plied his search there; but with all his looking he could not find any place which bore the appearance of having been dug over, and he was almost inclined to give up his search in despair. But he had one more trump card to play, and the more he thought of it the more confident he became that it would surely work.
“Here’s one thing that I have got to blame old Sprague for,” said Smith, as he picked up his rifle – nobody ever thought of going abroad without a rifle in war times – and turned his steps toward the island. “He’s gone and sent off that Newman family, and if they were here I would know right where to go to find three good men to assist me; but seeing that he couldn’t mind his own business, I suppose Coleman is the best one I can get. I’ll bet I will make his eyes open if I promise him one thousand dollars in gold.”
Smith had not yet been over to the island, but it was no trouble at all for him to get there, for the boats were constantly employed in carrying over the household furniture of the refugees. He did not know that there were so many men in the county before, and when he came to look closely at them he found that the most of them were strangers. A great many of them, too, were dressed in rebel uniform, and they worked like honest men who were anxious to take their families to a place of safety; but he did not see Coleman there.
“I’ll bet I’ll find him on the island, laid down alongside the fire,” said Smith, as his boat touched the shore and he jumped off. “You may be sure that he wouldn’t do any work while there is anybody to do it for him.”
Smith was surprised to find that no one on the island had missed him, for nobody spoke to him. The majority of the men were busy building their houses and getting their household goods under cover, and well they might be. After they got through here they were to march in a body down to the hotel and meet the assault of that force which was coming to crush out the last vestige of the Jones-County Confederacy. The men all acted with a feverish eagerness, as if they were impatient to get at it. Smith thought, too, that if that invading force succeeded in following the Union men to their island they were bound to be whipped. The passage through the cane was long and winding, and at every turn there were barricades erected, behind which three or four hundred men could have resisted a thousand. These breastworks of logs had been thrown up by the party who came out to build the boats and without any orders from headquarters, and Mr. Sprague showed what he thought of them by praising the men without stint.
“You will make good soldiers some day,” said he. “The rebels can’t get in here any way they can fix it. They are bound to come in column when they assault these breastworks, because the cane is so thick that they can’t come in any other way, and before they can get in here they won’t have a man left.”
“There’s one of them now,” muttered Smith, as he caught sight of Mr. Sprague standing in the door of his lean-to. If Smith had only known it, Leon was in the act of reading the will. “If I can get a-hold of that boy of yours I’ll soon know as much as he does. He knows where the money is, and he will tell it all sooner than be hung.”
Mr. Sprague bowed to Smith as he passed by, but the latter didn’t pay any attention to him. The man wanted to know where he could find Coleman, but he was much too sharp to speak to Mr. Sprague about it. He kept on a little further, and found somebody of whom he could make inquiries. Another thing that attracted Smith’s attention right here was the air of neatness and order with which all the lean-tos were arranged. They were laid off in streets, so that one could go the whole length of them on the darkest of nights without stumbling over a brush shanty which contained some sleeping occupants.
“You will find Caleb up there on the outskirts of the camp,” said the man of whom he made inquiries. “He’s got sick of poleing the boats over, and so has gone up to camp to lie down.”
“Then he isn’t doing any work at all?” asked Smith.
“Work? Naw. He says he hain’t got but a little time to stay with his folks, and so he intends to see them all he can. When we go down there to meet the rebels, he is going to stay in camp.”
“Then he is just the man I want,” said Smith to himself, as he pursued his way toward Coleman’s lean-to. “I aint a-going to meet the rebels myself, and consequently I don’t blame him.”
Smith followed along up the street until he came to the end of it, and there he found Coleman. The lean-to that he had over him was not very secure, but Coleman didn’t seem to mind that. He lay stretched out on the bedding with his pipe in his mouth, and three or four dogs and as many children kept him company.
“Why don’t you put a roof on your lean-to?” asked Smith. “When it rains you’ll wish you had paid more attention to it.”
“Well, when it rains I can’t fix it; and now it don’t need it,” replied Coleman with a laugh. “It will do.”
“Why don’t you get out and pole the boats over?”
“Oh, there’ll be plenty of men besides me to do that little thing,” replied Coleman. “Besides, I’ve poled some of them over until I am all tired out.”
“Well, get up, if you can. I want to see you.”
“You will think so when you hear it,” replied Smith, impatiently. “Kick some of those dogs out of the way and come along with me.”
Coleman arose with an effort, laid the children carefully aside and followed after Smith, who led the way around on the outside of the lean-to, being particular to keep out of sight of Mr. Sprague at the other end of the street. There he threw himself down upon the leaves and waited for Coleman to join him.
“Sit up closer – not so far off,” he said, when the man halted at least five feet away. “I have got something in particular that I want to say to you, and I don’t want anybody to overhear it.”
“It seems to me that you are mighty friendly, now that the old man is dead and you have come into his fortune,” said Coleman, moving up closer. “How much did you make out of that? I think I have heard you say that you wanted as much as twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars.”
“That’s what I said,” answered Smith, frowning fiercely. “But the trouble is I have not got it.”
“Who has got it, then?” demanded Coleman, looking surprised.
“That little snipe, Leon Sprague. Smith had no business to give it to him, but he did, and I am left out in the cold.”
“I say! That’s a pretty how-de-do, ain’t it?”
“I should say so. Now, I will give you a thousand dollars if you will help me to get it.”
“That’s a power of money, ain’t it? But how can I help you?”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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