Palmer/Parmer Family Reunion

The Texan Scouts - Chapter V

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THE TEXAN SCOUTS

A Story of the Alamo and Goliad

by Joseph A. Altsheler


CHAPTER V

SANTA ANNA'S ADVANCE

The three rode abreast, Ned in the center. The boy was on terms of perfect equality with Obed and the Panther. They treated him as a man among men, and respected his character, rather grave for one so young, and always keen to learn.

The land rolled away in swells as usual throughout a great part of Texas, but they were not of much elevation and the red glow in the south was always in sight, deepening fast as they advanced. They stopped at last on a little elevation within the shadow of some myrtle oaks, and saw the fires spread before them only four or five hundred yards away, and along a line of at least two miles. They heard the confused murmur of many men. The dark outlines of cannon were seen against the firelight, and now and then the musical note of a mandolin or guitar came to them.

"We was right in our guess," said the Panther. "It's a lot bigger force than the one that Cos led away from San Antonio, an' it will take a heap of rippin' an' t'arin' an' roarin' to turn it back. Our people don't know how much is comin' ag'in 'em."

The Panther spoke in a solemn tone. Ned saw that he was deeply impressed and that he feared for the future. Good cause had he. Squabbles among the Texan leaders had reduced their army to five or six hundred men.

"Don't you think," said Ned, "that we ought to find out just exactly what is here, and what this army intends?"

"Not a doubt of it," said Obed. "Those who have eyes to see should not go away without seeing."

The Panther nodded violently in assent.

"We must scout about the camp," he said. "Mebbe we'd better divide an' then we can all gather before day-break at the clump of trees back there."

He pointed to a little cluster of trees several hundred yards back of them, and Ned and Obed agreed. The Panther turned away to the right, Obed to the left and Ned took the center. Their plan of dividing their force had a great advantage. One man was much less likely than three to attract undue attention.

Ned went straight ahead a hundred yards or more, when he was stopped by an arroyo five or six feet wide and with very deep banks. He looked about, uncertain at first what to do. Obed and the Panther had already disappeared in the dusk. Before him glowed the red light, and he heard the distant sound of many voices.

Ned quickly decided. He remembered how they had escaped up the bed of the creek when they were besieged by Urrea, and if one could leave by an arroyo, one could also approach by it. He rode to the group of trees that had been designated as the place of meeting, and left his horse there. He noticed considerable grass within the ring of trunks, and he was quite confident that Old Jack would remain there until his return. But he addressed to him words of admonition:

"Be sure that you stay among these trees, old friend," he said, "because it's likely that when I want you I'll want you bad. Remain and attend to this grass."

Old Jack whinnied softly and, after his fashion, rubbed his nose gently against his master's arm. It was sufficient for Ned. He was sure that the horse understood, and leaving him he went back to the arroyo, which he entered without hesitation.

Ned was well armed, as every one then had full need to be. He wore a sombrero in the Mexican fashion, and flung over his shoulders was a great serape which he had found most useful in the winter. With his perfect knowledge of Spanish and its Mexican variants he believed that if surprised he could pass as a Mexican, particularly in the night and among so many.

The arroyo led straight down toward the plain upon which the Mexicans were encamped, and when he emerged from it he saw that the fires which at a distance looked like one continuous blaze were scores in number. Many of them were built of buffalo chips and others of light wood that burned fast. Sentinels were posted here and there, but they kept little watch. Why should they? Here was a great Mexican army, and there was certainly no foe amounting to more than a few men within a hundred miles.

Ned's heart sank as he beheld the evident extent of the Mexican array. The little Texan force left in the field could be no match for such an army as this.

Nevertheless, his resolution to go through the Mexican camp hardened. If he came back with a true and detailed tale of their numbers the Texans must believe and prepare. He drew the brim of his sombrero down a little further, and pulled his serape up to meet it. The habit the Mexicans had of wrapping their serapes so high that they were covered to the nose was fortunate at this time. He was now completely disguised, without the appearance of having taken any unusual precaution.

He walked forward boldly and sat down with a group beside a fire. He judged by the fact that they were awake so late that they had but little to do, and he saw at once also that they were Mexicans from the far south. They were small, dark men, rather amiable in appearance. Two began to play guitars and they sang a plaintive song to the music. The others, smoking cigarritos, listened attentively and luxuriously. Ned imitated them perfectly. He, too, lying upon his elbow before the pleasant fire, felt the influence of the music, so sweet, so murmurous, speaking so little of war. One of the men handed him a cigarrito, and, lighting it, he made pretense of smoking—he would not have seemed a Mexican had he not smoked the cigarrito.

Lying there, Ned saw many tents, evidence of a camp that was not for the day only, and he beheld officers in bright uniforms passing among them. His heart gave a great jump when he noticed among them a heavy-set, dark man. It was Cos, Cos the breaker of oaths. With him was another officer whose uniform indicated the general. Ned learned later that this was Sesma, who had been dispatched with a brigade by Santa Anna to meet Cos on the Rio Grande, where they were to remain until the dictator himself came with more troops.

The music ceased presently and one of the men said to Ned:

"What company?"

Ned had prepared himself for such questions, and he moved his hand vaguely toward the left.

"Over there," he said.

They were fully satisfied, and continued to puff their cigarritos, resting their heads with great content upon pillows made of their saddles and blankets. For a while they said nothing more, happily watching the rings of smoke from their cigarritos rise and melt into the air. Although small and short, they looked hardy and strong. Ned noticed the signs of bustle and expectancy about the camp. Usually Mexicans were asleep at this hour, and he wondered why they lingered. But he did not approach the subject directly.

"A hard march," he said, knowing that these men about him had come a vast distance.

"Aye, it was," said the man next on his right. "Santiago, but was it not, José?"

José, the second man on the right, replied in the affirmative and with emphasis:

"You speak the great truth, Carlos. Such another march I never wish to make. Think of the hundreds and hundreds of miles we have tramped from our warm lands far in the south across mountains, across bare and windy deserts, with the ice and the snow beating in our faces. How I shivered, Carlos, and how long I shivered! I thought I should continue shivering all my life even if I lived to be a hundred, no matter how warmly the sun might shine."

The others laughed, and seemed to Ned to snuggle a little closer to the fire, driven by the memory of the icy plains.

"But it was the will of the great Santa Anna, surely the mightiest man of our age," said Carlos. "They say that his wrath was terrible when he heard how the Texan bandits had taken San Antonio de Bexar. Truly, I am glad that I was not one of his officers, and that I was not in his presence at the time. After all, it is sometimes better to be a common soldier than to have command."

"Aye, truly," said Ned, and the others nodded in affirmation.

"But the great Santa Anna will finish it," continued Carlos, who seemed to have the sin of garrulity. "He has defeated all his enemies in Mexico, he has consolidated his power and now he advances with a mighty force to crush these insolent and miserable Texans. As I have said, he will finish it. The rope and the bullet will be busy. In six months there will be no Texans."

Ned shivered, and when he looked at the camp fires of the great army he saw that this peon was not talking foolishness. Nevertheless his mind returned to its original point of interest. Why did the Mexican army remain awake so late?

"Have you seen the President?" he asked of Carlos.

"Often," replied Carlos, with pride. "I fought under him in the great battle on the plain of Guadalupe less than two years ago, when we defeated Don Francisco Garcia, the governor of Zacatecas. Ah, it was a terrible battle, my friends! Thousands and thousands were killed and all Mexicans. Mexicans killing Mexicans. But who can prevail against the great Santa Anna? He routed the forces of Garcia, and the City of Zacatecas was given up to us to pillage. Many fine things I took that day from the houses of those who presumed to help the enemy of our leader. But now we care not to kill Mexicans, our own people. It is only the miserable Texans who are really Gringos."

Carlos, who had been the most amiable of men, basking in the firelight, now rose up a little and his eyes flashed. He had excited himself by his own tale of the battle and loot of Zacatecas and the coming slaughter of the Texans. That strain of cruelty, which in Ned's opinion always lay embedded in the Spanish character, was coming to the surface.

Ned made no comment. His serape, drawn up to his nose, almost met the brim of his sombrero and nobody suspected that the comrade who sat and chatted with them was a Gringo, but he shivered again, nevertheless.

"We shall have a great force when it is all gathered," he said at length.

"Seven thousand men or more," said José proudly, "and nearly all of them are veterans of the wars. We shall have ten times the numbers of the Texans, who are only hunters and rancheros."

"Have you heard when we march?" asked Ned, in a careless tone.

"As soon as the great Santa Anna arrives it will be decided, I doubt not," said José. "The general and his escort should be here by midnight."

Ned's heart gave a leap. So it was that for which they were waiting. Santa Anna himself would come in an hour or two. He was very glad that he had entered the Mexican camp. Bidding a courteous good night to the men about the fire, he rose and sauntered on. It was easy enough for him to do so without attracting attention, as many others were doing the same thing. Discipline seldom amounted to much in a Mexican army, and so confident were both officers and soldiers of an overwhelming victory that they preserved scarcely any at all. Yet the expectant feeling pervaded the whole camp, and now that he knew that Santa Anna was coming he understood.

Santa Anna was the greatest man in the world to these soldiers. He had triumphed over everything in their own country. He had exhibited qualities of daring and energy that seemed to them supreme, and his impression upon them was overwhelming. Ned felt once more that little shiver. They might be right in their view of the Texan war.

He strolled on from fire to fire, until his attention was arrested suddenly by one at which only officers sat. It was not so much the group as it was one among them who drew his notice so strongly. Urrea was sitting on the far side of the fire, every feature thrown into clear relief by the bright flames. The other officers were young men of about his own age and they were playing dice. They were evidently in high good humor, as they laughed frequently.

Ned lay down just within the shadow of a tent wall, drew his serape higher about his face, and rested his head upon his arm. He would have seemed sound asleep to an ordinary observer, but he was never more wide awake in his life. He was near enough to hear what Urrea and his friends were saying, and he intended to hear it. It was for such that he had come.

"You lose, Francisco," said one of the men as he made a throw of the dice and looked eagerly at the result. "What was it that you were saying about the general?"

"That I expect an early advance, Ramon," replied Urrea, "a brief campaign, and a complete victory. I hate these Texans. I shall be glad to see them annihilated."

The young officer whom he called Ramon laughed.

"If what I hear be true, Francisco," he said, "you have cause to hate them. There was a boy, Fulton, that wild buffalo of a man, whom they call the Panther, and another who defeated some of your finest plans."

Urrea flushed, but controlled his temper.

"It is true, Ramon," he replied. "The third man I can tell you is called Obed White, and they are a clever three. I hate them, but it hurts my pride less to be defeated by them than by any others whom I know."

"Well spoken, Urrea," said a third man, "but since these three are fighters and will stay to meet us, it is a certainty that our general will scoop them into his net. Then you can have all the revenge you wish."

"I count upon it, Ambrosio," said Urrea, smiling. "I also hope that we shall recapture the man Roylston. He has great sums of money in the foreign banks in our country, and we need them, but our illustrious president cannot get them without an order from Roylston. The general would rather have Roylston than a thousand Texan prisoners."

All of them laughed, and the laugh made Ned, lying in the shadow, shiver once more. Urrea glanced his way presently, but the recumbent figure did not claim his notice. The attention of his comrades and himself became absorbed in the dice again. They were throwing the little ivory cubes upon a blanket, and Ned could hear them click as they struck together. The sharp little sound began to flick his nerves. Not one to cherish resentment, he nevertheless began to hate Urrea, and he included in that hatred the young men with him. The Texans were so few and poor. The Mexicans were so many, and they had the resources of a nation more than two centuries old.

Ned rose by and by and walked on. He could imitate the Mexican gait perfectly, and no one paid any attention to him. They were absorbed, moreover, in something else, because now the light of torches could be seen dimly in the south. Officers threw down cards and dice. Men straightened their uniforms and Cos and Sesma began to form companies in line. More fuel was thrown on the fires, which sprang up, suffusing all the night with color and brightness. Ned with his rifle at salute fell into place at the end of one of the companies, and no one knew that he did not belong there. In the excitement of the moment he forgot all about the Panther and Obed.

A thrill seemed to run through the whole Mexican force. It was the most impressive scene that Ned had ever beheld. A leader, omnipotent in their eyes, was coming to these men, and he came at midnight out of the dark into the light.

The torches grew brighter. A trumpet pealed and a trumpet in the camp replied. The Mexican lines became silent save for a deep murmur. In the south they heard the rapid beat of hoofs, and then Santa Anna came, galloping at the head of fifty horsemen. Many of the younger officers ran forward, holding up torches, and the dictator rode in a blaze of light.

Ned looked once more upon that dark and singular face, a face daring and cruel, that might have belonged to one of the old conquistadores. In the saddle his lack of height was concealed, but on the great white horse that he rode Ned felt that he was an imposing, even a terrible, figure. His eyes were blazing with triumph as his army united with torches to do him honor. It was like Napoleon on the night before Austerlitz, and what was he but the Napoleon of the New World? His figure swelled and the gold braid on his cocked hat and gorgeous uniform reflected the beams of the firelight.

A mighty cheer from thousands of throats ran along the Mexican line, and the torches were waved until they looked like vast circles of fire. Santa Anna lifted his hat and bowed three times in salute. Again the Mexican cheer rolled to right and to left. Santa Anna, still sitting on his horse, spread out his hands. There was instant silence save for the deep breathing of the men.

"My children," he said, "I have come to sweep away these miserable Texans who have dared to raise the rebel flag against us. We will punish them all. Houston, Austin, Bowie and the rest of their leaders shall feel our justice. When we finish our march over their prairies it shall be as if a great fire had passed. I have said it. I am Santa Anna."

The thunderous cheer broke forth again. Ned had never before heard words so full of conceit and vainglory, yet the strength and menace were there. He felt it instinctively. Santa Anna believed himself to be the greatest man in the world, and he was certainly the greatest in Mexico. His belief in himself was based upon a deep well of energy and daring. Once more Ned felt a great and terrible fear for Texas, and the thin line of skin-clad hunters and ranchmen who were its sole defence. But the feeling passed as he watched Santa Anna. A young officer rushed forward and held his stirrup as the dictator dismounted. Then the generals, including those who had come with him, crowded around him. It was a brilliant company, including Sesma, Cos, Duque, Castrillon, Tolsa, Gaona and others, among whom Ned noted a man of decidedly Italian appearance. This was General Vincente Filisola, an Italian officer who had received a huge grant of land in Texas, and who was now second in command to Santa Anna.

Ned watched them as they talked together and occasionally the crowd parted enough for him to see Santa Anna, who spoke and gesticulated with great energy. The soldiers had been drawn away by the minor officers, and were now dispersing to their places by the fires where they would seek sleep.

Ned noticed a trim, slender figure on the outer edge of the group around Santa Anna. It seemed familiar, and when the man turned he recognized the face of Almonte, the gallant young Mexican colonel who had been kind to him. He was sorry to see him there. He was sorry that he should have to fight against him.

Santa Anna went presently to a great marquée that had been prepared for him, and the other generals retired also to the tents that had been set about it. The dictator was tired from his long ride and must not be disturbed. Strict orders were given that there should be no noise in the camp, and it quickly sank into silence.

Ned lay down before one of the fires at the western end of the camp wrapped as before in his serape. He counterfeited sleep, but nothing was further from his mind. It seemed to him that he had done all he could do in the Mexican camp. He had seen the arrival of Santa Anna, but there was no way to learn when the general would order an advance. But he could infer from Santa Anna's well-known energy and ability that it would come quickly.

Between the slit left by the brim of his sombrero and his serape he watched the great fires die slowly. Most of the Mexicans were asleep now, and their figures were growing indistinct in the shadows. But Ned, rising, slouched forward, imitating the gait of the laziest of the Mexicans. Yet his eyes were always watching shrewdly through the slit. Very little escaped his notice. He went along the entire Mexican line and then back again. He had a good mathematical mind, and he saw that the estimate of 7,000 for the Mexican army was not too few. He also saw many cannon and the horses for a great cavalry force. He knew, too, that Santa Anna had with him the best regiments in the Mexican service.

On his last trip along the line Ned began to look for the Panther and Obed, but he saw no figures resembling theirs, although he was quite sure that he would know the Panther in any disguise owing to his great size. This circumstance would make it more dangerous for the Panther than for either Obed or himself, as Urrea, if he should see so large a man, would suspect that it was none other than the redoubtable frontiersman.

Ned was thinking of this danger to the Panther when he came face to face with Urrea himself. The young Mexican captain was not lacking in vigilance and energy, and even at that late hour he was seeing that all was well in the camp of Santa Anna. Ned was truly thankful now that Mexican custom and the coldness of the night permitted him to cover his face with his serape and the brim of his sombrero.

"Why are you walking here?" demanded Urrea.

"I've just taken a message to General Castrillon," replied Ned.

He had learned already that Castrillon commanded the artillery, and as he was at least a mile away he thought this the safest reply.

"From whom?" asked Urrea shortly.

"Pardon, sir," replied Ned, in his best Spanish, disguising his voice as much as possible, "but I am not allowed to tell."

Ned's tone was courteous and apologetic, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred Urrea would have contented himself with an impatient word or two. But he was in a most vicious temper. Perhaps he had been rebuked by Santa Anna for allowing the rescue of Roylston.

"Why don't you speak up?" he exclaimed. "Why do you mumble your words, and why do you stand in such a slouching manner. Remember that a soldier should stand up straight."

"Yes, my captain," said Ned, but he did not change his attitude. The tone and manner of Urrea angered him. He forgot where he was and his danger.

Urrea's swarthy face flushed. He carried in his hand a small riding whip, which he switched occasionally across the tops of his tall, military boots.

"Lout!" he cried. "You hear me! Why do you not obey!"

Ned stood impassive. Certainly Urrea had had a bad half hour somewhere. His temper leaped beyond control.

"Idiot!" he exclaimed.

Then he suddenly lashed Ned across the face with the little riding whip. The blow fell on serape and sombrero and the flesh was not touched, but for a few moments Ned went mad. He dropped his rifle, leaped upon the astonished officer, wrenched the whip from his hands, slashed him across the cheeks with it until the blood ran in streams, then broke it in two and threw the pieces in his face. Ned's serape fell away. Urrea had clasped his hands to his cheeks that stung like fire, but now he recognized the boy.

"Fulton!" he cried.

The sharp exclamation brought Ned to a realization of his danger. He seized his rifle, pulled up the serape and sprang back. Already Mexican soldiers were gathering. It was truly fortunate for Ned that he was quick of thought, and that his thoughts came quickest when the danger was greatest. He knew that the cry of "Fulton!" was unintelligible to them, and he exclaimed:

"Save me, comrades! He tried to beat me without cause, and now he would kill me, as you see!"

Urrea had drawn a pistol and was shouting fiery Mexican oaths. The soldiers, some of them just awakened from sleep, and all of them dazed, had gathered in a huddle, but they opened to let Ned pass. Excessive and cruel punishment was common among them. A man might be flogged half to death at the whim of an officer, and instinctively they protected their comrade.

As the Mexican group closed up behind him, and between him and Urrea, Ned ran at top speed toward the west where the arroyo cut across the plain. More Mexicans were gathering, and there was great confusion. Everybody was asking what was the matter. The boy's quick wit did not desert him. There was safety in ignorance and the multitude.

He quickly dropped to a walk and he, too, began to ask of others what had caused the trouble. All the while he worked steadily toward the arroyo, and soon he left behind him the lights and the shouting. He now came into the dark, passed beyond the Mexican lines, and entered the cut in the earth down which he had come.

He was compelled to sit down on the sand and relax. He was exhausted by the great effort of both mind and body which had carried him through so much danger. His heart was beating heavily and he felt dizzy. But his eyes cleared presently and his strength came back. He considered himself safe. In the darkness it was not likely that any of the Mexicans would stumble upon him.

He thought of the Panther and Obed, but he could do nothing for them. He must trust to meeting them again at the place appointed. He looked at the Mexican camp. The fires had burned up again there for a minute or two, but as he looked they sank once more. The noise also decreased. Evidently they were giving up the pursuit.

Ned rose and walked slowly up the arroyo. He became aware that the night was very cold and it told on his relaxed frame. He pulled up the serape again, and now it was for warmth and not for disguise. He stopped at intervals to search the darkness with his eyes and to listen for noises. He might meet with an enemy or he might meet with one of his friends. He was prepared for either. He had regained control of himself both body and mind, and his ready rifle rested in the hollow of his arm.

He met neither. He heard nothing but the usual sighing of the prairie wind that ceased rarely, and he saw nothing but the faint glow on the southern horizon that marked the Mexican camp where he had met his enemy.

He left the arroyo, and saw a dark shadow on the plain, the figure of a man, rifle in hand, Ned instantly sprang back into the arroyo and the stranger did the same. A curve in the line of this cut in the earth now hid them from each other, and Ned, his body pressed against the bank, waited with beating heart. He had no doubt that it was a Mexican sentinel or scout more vigilant than the others, and he felt his danger.

Ned in this crisis used the utmost caution. He did not believe that any other would come, and it must be a test of patience between him and his enemy. Whoever showed his head first would be likely to lose in the duel for life. He pressed himself closer and closer against the bank, and sought to detect some movement of the stranger. He saw nothing and he did not hear a sound. It seemed that the man had absolutely vanished into space. It occurred to Ned that it might have been a mere figment of the dusk and his excited brain, but he quickly dismissed the idea. He had seen the man and he had seen him leap into the arroyo. There could be no doubt of it.

There was another long wait, and the suspense became acute. The man was surely on the other side of that curve waiting for him. He was held fast. He was almost as much a prisoner as if he lay bound in the Mexican camp. It seemed to him, too, that the darkness was thinning a little. It would soon be day and then he could not escape the notice of horsemen from Santa Anna's army. He decided that he must risk an advance and he began creeping forward cautiously. He remembered now what he had forgotten in the first moments of the meeting. He might yet, even before this sentinel or scout, pass as a Mexican.

He stopped suddenly when he heard a low whistle in front of him. While it could be heard but a short distance, it was singularly sweet. It formed the first bars of an old tune, "The World Turned Upside Down," and Ned promptly recognized it. The whistle stopped in a moment or two, but Ned took up the air and continued it for a few bars more. Then, all apprehension gone, he sprang out of the arroyo and stood upon the bank. Another figure was projected from the arroyo and stood upon the bank facing him, not more than twenty feet away.

Simultaneously Obed White and Edward Fulton advanced, shook hands and laughed.

"You kept me here waiting in this gully at least half an hour," said Obed. "Time and I waited long on you."

"But no longer than I waited on you," said Ned. "Why didn't you think of whistling the tune sooner?"

"Why didn't you?"

They laughed and shook hands again.

"At any rate, we're here together again, safe and unharmed," said Ned. "And now to see what has become of the Panther."

"You'd better be lookin' out for yourselves instead of the Panther," growled a voice, as a gigantic figure upheaved itself from the arroyo eight or ten yards behind them. "I could have picked you both off while you were standin' there shakin' hands, an' neither of you would never have knowed what struck him."

"The Panther!" they exclaimed joyously, and they shook hands with him also.

"An' now," said the Panther, "it will soon be day. We'd better make fur our horses an' then clear out. We kin tell 'bout what we've seen an' done when we're two or three miles away."

They found the horses safe in the brushwood, Old Jack welcoming Ned with a soft whinny. They were in the saddle at once, rode swiftly northward, and none of them spoke for a half hour. When a faint tinge of gray appeared on the eastern rim of the world the Panther said:

"My tale's short. I couldn't get into the camp, 'cause I'm too big. The very first fellow I saw looked at me with s'picion painted all over him. So I had to keep back in the darkness. But I saw it was a mighty big army. It can do a lot of rippin', an' t'arin', an' chawin'."

"I got into the camp," said Obed, after a minute of silence, "but as I'm not built much like a Mexican, being eight or ten inches too tall, men were looking at me as if I were a strange specimen. One touch of difference and all the world's staring at you. So I concluded that I'd better stay on the outside of the lines. I hung around, and I saw just what Panther saw, no more and no less. Then I started back and I struck the arroyo, which seemed to me a good way for leaving. But before I had gone far I concluded I was followed. So I watched the fellow who was following, and the fellow who was following watched me for about a year. The watch was just over when you came up, Panther. It was long, but it's a long watch that has no ending."

"And I," said Ned, after another wait of a minute, "being neither so tall as Obed nor so big around as the Panther, was able to go about in the Mexican camp without any notice being taken of me. I saw Santa Anna arrive to take the chief command."

"Santa Anna himself?" exclaimed the Panther.

"Yes, Santa Anna himself. They gave him a great reception. After a while I started to come away. I met Urrea. He took me for a peon, gave me an order, and when I didn't obey it tried to strike me across the face with a whip."

"And what did you do?" exclaimed the two men together.

"I took the whip away from him and lashed his cheeks with it. I was recognized, but in the turmoil and confusion I escaped. Then I had the encounter with Obed White, of which he has told already."

"Since Santa Anna has come," said the Panther, "they're likely to move at any moment. We'll ride straight for the cabin an' the boys."

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