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Authors: Gilbert L. Morris

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BOOK: Secret of Richmond Manor
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“I'll be glad to promise that,” Ezra said. “I've had enough of this war to do me.”

“All right, that's what we'll do then. We'll have to buy the grain, but I know Cy Dinwittie has got some he wants to sell. You take the wagon over tomorrow, Leah. Get it, come back here, pick up Ezra, and the two of you will be off.”

* * *

The next day went exactly as Silas had outlined it. Leah got up, dressed, and packed her extra clothes. She went over to Mr. Dinwittie's, bought the grain, and returned. When she got back to Richmond Manor, she pulled up in front of the house.

A young man came out, and she almost fell off the wagon with surprise. She'd only seen Ezra wearing old ragged clothes. Now he wore a good, sound pair of brown trousers, a clean white shirt with a string tie, a black hat with a wide brim, and a pair of almost-new brown boots. He did look a little pale from his long imprisonment.

“Ezra! I never would have known you.”

Ezra laughed sheepishly, “Never had such nice clothes in all my life.” He turned around, as Uncle Silas came onto the porch, and said, “Mr. Carter, sure do thank you for all you've done for me.”

Silas put his hand out and shook the boy's. “God go with you, my boy. You always follow the Lord, you hear me?” Then he turned to Leah and took her in his arms. He kissed her cheek and whispered, “And you come back, you hear me?”

“Are you really well enough? Will you be all right until I get back?”

“Yes, I'll be fine. Don't take any chances.”

And the two got in the wagon and made their way to Richmond, Ezra driving the team.

As they approached the commissary, Leah said, “Are you scared?”

“Not a bit!”

“Well, I am!”

“Don't worry, Leah. It's going to be all right. You wait and see if it isn't.”

He drew up in front of the commissary, and a corporal came over to ask, “You bring that grain to sell it?”

“Yes, sir, sure did.”

The corporal nodded. “We need all we can get. Pull right over there. The quartermaster will be out to weigh it and pay you.”

Ten minutes later a lieutenant walked out and looked at the wagonload of grain. He named the price they were giving, and Ezra said at once, “That's fine, Lieutenant.”

The officer said, “Come on in the office then. I'll pay you while they unload the wagon.”

The lieutenant sat down at his desk, opened a drawer, and paid them cash from a box of Confederate money.

Leah said, “Could you use some more grain, Lieutenant?”

“Could we! All you've got!”

“Well, I live over in Kentucky. We've got to go back there. We'll be glad to bring you another load.”

“Kentucky? That's a long way.”

“Yes, it is, but that's where home is. And relatives and all.”

“Well, you'll need a pass. Let me make it out for you.”

Leah turned and met the eyes of the young Union soldier.

He was smiling.

When they got outside, Ezra said, “You see, I told you it'd be all right.”

Leah laughed nervously. “You've got more faith than I have already, Ezra.”

He helped her into the wagon. “I guess we'd better get started.” He spoke to the horses, and they moved out smartly.

The guard on the outside of town stopped them, and they showed him their receipt and their permit. He took one careless look at the signature and said, “Pass,” and they left the city of Richmond, headed for Kentucky.

One thing they did not notice, and that was Rufus. The fat boy had been loafing downtown, and when Leah and Ezra rode out of the city, he spotted them.

Well, now, who is that feller—and where are they gettin' off to? he wondered
.

14
Lucy Smells a Rat

T
he first thing Silas noticed when he went back into the house was a letter lying on the kitchen table. “I never saw that before. I reckon Leah must have left it for me.”

He picked up the envelope and saw that with it was a note. He pulled his glasses out, put them on, and read.

Uncle Silas, I feel like I must get word to Jeff about what's happening. Would you please see that he gets this letter? I've written it so that no one who reads it will understand what I'm doing except Jeff
.

That was all the note said, and Silas held it in his hand for a moment. “Don't see how I can get this letter to the boy. I'm not able to go to town.”

He waited all morning for somebody he knew to go by on the road, but no one did. But then he looked out and saw Rufus Prather ambling back toward the Driscoll home. Going to the door, he called, “Rufus, come here!”

Rufus looked up and sauntered over. When he got to the porch, he said, “Yes, sir? What'll it be?”

“Rufus, I've got a very important errand. I'll pay you five dollars if you'll go to the camp and see this gets to the right person.”

Rufus took the letter and stared at it. “Well, I can't read. Who does it go to?”

“Take it to the Stonewall Brigade. Give it to an officer there named Capt. Nelson Majors. It's for his son Jeff, but he'll see he gets it.”

“Oh, the soldier boy that went to the party with Leah.”

“That's right. Will you do it?”

“I guess so.”

The matter was urgent, so Silas hesitated but then said, “There'll be another five dollars if you can get it done right away. Stop by on your way back, and I'll give it to you.”

“Why, I'll do that! I can use ten dollars.”

Rufus left Silas Carter's house and headed back toward Richmond. He caught a ride in a wagon, but it was not going out to the camp. When he dismounted, he said, “Thanks for the lift,” and then started walking.

He'd not gone far when he saw Lucy Driscoll coming out of a shop. He knew she had little use for him, but he stopped to say, “Howdy, Miss Lucy.”

“Oh, hello, Rufus. What are you doing in town? I thought you were supposed to be on your way home.”

“Well, I was, but Mr. Carter asked me to deliver this letter out to camp.”

Lucy's eyes sharpened, and Rufus noticed. He had heard about the party from one of the servants. “You didn't take to the Carter girl, did you? So I heard.”

“You hear too much, Rufus. It's just that she's not a true Southerner.”

“Well, she's a mighty pretty Yankee girl, if that's what she is. She knows how to catch the good-looking
fellers too. Why, I saw her earlier today down at the commissary. She was with a fine-looking young feller. I don't know who he was, though.” He winked at her and said, “You might take lessons on how to catch a man from that gal.”

Lucy scowled, and a quick answer leaped to her lips. But then a thought came to her. What young man would Leah be riding in a wagon with? She was instantly suspicious. After all, she's not a true Southern girl. I'd like to know who that man was she was with. If Rufus doesn't know him, he couldn't be from around here. Rufus knows everybody
.

Brightly she said, “You got to walk all the way out to the camp?”

“Yep, it's for a soldier there—that young soldier boy you were so sweet on—Jeff. I'm supposed to give it to his daddy.”

Lucy said, “Oh, no point in you walking all that way. I'll be going out to camp anyway in the buggy. Give it to me.”

Rufus looked at her suspiciously. She'd never done anything nice for him before, but it was a long three-mile walk to the camp, and he was tired. “All right. Be sure you do it.”

“Oh, I will.”

As soon as Rufus turned and headed back out of town, Lucy went to one side and looked at the letter. It was sealed with wax, but she thought,
It wouldn't be wrong to open it if she's doing something she shouldn't
. She opened the letter and read it.

Dear Jeff
,

I know you've been worried about me and you think what I'm doing isn't right. I have to do it. I'll be leaving Richmond for a while and then
I hope our problem will be all solved. I want us to be friends again, like we used to be. Don't worry about me. Stop by and see my uncle if you can. I'm going to Kentucky, but I'll be back soon
.

It was signed, “Leah,” and there was a P.S.

We'll be stopping tonight at the Seven Point Creek. That's where you and I stopped when we first came here. You won't be with me tonight, but I'll be thinking of you at the Creek
.

Lucy thought hard.
She's leaving town with somebody, and she doesn't want anybody to know who it is, or she'd have said so
.

She'd heard the rumors about the Carter girls, Sarah and Leah, being accused of spying. Sarah had actually been tried for it, and the man that had accused her had been to the Driscoll home several times. She thought for a minute and said, “Captain Lyons! That was his name. I'm going to him with this letter.”

Capt. Wesley Lyons looked surprised when a young lady walked into his office. He stood up at once, recognizing her. “Why, it's Miss Driscoll, isn't it?”

“That's right, Captain Lyons. You were at our house two weeks ago at the ball.”

“Yes, I was. Delightful time I had too. Won't you sit down?”

“No, I really don't have time, Captain Lyons. I'm wondering if I should be here at all. You see, I have a problem.”

“Well, anything I can do to help, just let me know.”

“It's like this. I remember hearing about the trouble you had with those two girls that were staying with Mr. Carter.”

She saw at once that Lyons was still angry over the affair. She knew he had been rebuked by his superiors for bringing charges. True, he had succeeded in getting Sarah evicted from the South, but he had expected to see her imprisoned. He still thought she was guilty. “What about those girls?” he demanded, almost harshly.

“Well, the youngest one, Leah Carter—I know her slightly. She has a friend in the Stonewall Brigade. His name is Jeff Majors.”

“Yes, I know Captain Majors. What about this girl?”

“There's something wrong about her, I think. She's not true to the Confederacy.”

“I don't doubt it for a minute,” the captain snapped. “She should have been sent out of Richmond along with her sister.” He peered at her curiously, “Why have you come to me?”

“It's this letter. Mr. Carter gave it to a boy that works for us. It's from Leah Carter, and it's to Captain Majors's son. I opened it. And I suppose you think that's wrong.”

“Opened it? Why would you do that?”

Lucy said stubbornly, “I think she's a spy, just like her sister was.”

This caught the captain's attention. “May I see the letter?”

“Yes, but you won't be able to make much out of it. I know this—she's leaving town with a stranger, and there have been some men who have escaped—some officers, haven't there? I think it's one of them she's trying to get away with.”

Lyons scanned the letter. “This doesn't say anything that could convict her. I'd have to catch her with the man.”

“Well, I didn't know what to do, so I came to you.”

“You did the right thing, young lady. You leave this to me. This creek—Seven Point—they'll be there tonight. I'll have a patrol out there to intercept them. If she does have a Yankee officer with her, you can rest assured he'll be captured, and this time Miss Carter won't get away!”

15
A Wild Ride

T
he Stonewall Brigade wound its way back into Richmond, exhausted and hungry. Jeff was still sad because of the death of the young Union soldier. He said little to anyone but went about his duties quietly.

His father approached him early the next morning. “Here's a letter for you, Jeff.”

Jeff tore open the envelope and stared at the letter. “It's from Leah,” he said finally.

His father, probably seeing that he was disturbed, asked gently, “Anything I can do to help?”

Jeff shook his head slowly. He knew exactly what Leah had planned and wished there were a way he could help. “No, sir, I don't suppose so.”

“Well, I think you deserve a break. Why don't you go into town and see if you can find a razor for me? I've looked everywhere, but that's another thing the blockade's cut off. I'm gonna have to raise a crop of whiskers if I don't find one.”

“Yes, sir, I'll do my best.”

Jeff made his way into town where he went from shop to shop for more than an hour.

Finally he found a used razor, but the price was twenty dollars Confederate money. He raised his eyebrows. “That's mighty expensive. That's too much to pay for a razor.”

The shopkeeper shrugged his shoulders. “If you got two dollars Union money, I'll take that.”

This was the usual exchange at the time. The Confederacy might be at war with the North, but shopkeepers, bankers, and those who dealt in trade knew well the worthlessness of Confederate currency. It had been printed up hurriedly without any backing, with merely a promise to pay, and already the government was strained in every direction from carrying on the war.

“It'll have to do.” Jeff handed the cash over and walked out of the shop. He was headed back toward camp when he saw Lucy in a carriage driven by one of the Driscoll slaves.

“Jeff! Jeff! Wait a minute!”

He halted and went over to where the carriage had drawn up beside the street. “Hello, Lucy. How are you?”

“Jeff! I've got to talk to you.” She turned to the driver and said, “Matthew, leave us alone.” She waited until the driver crawled down out of the buggy and wandered slowly off toward the shops.

“Get up in the buggy, Jeff,” Lucy said. “I've got something to tell you, and I don't think you're going to like it much.”

Staring at her, Jeff asked, “What is it?” He had no idea in the world what the girl had in her mind. She looked pretty, as usual, wearing a dark green dress with a bonnet to match, but he was not in the mood to appreciate beauty. The battle had grieved him, as battles always did.

BOOK: Secret of Richmond Manor
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