Palmer/Parmer Family Reunion

The Texan Scouts - Chapter XV

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THE TEXAN SCOUTS

A Story of the Alamo and Goliad

by Joseph A. Altsheler


CHAPTER XV

IN ANOTHER TRAP

When Ned Fulton scaled the lowest wall of the Alamo and dropped into the darkness he ran for a long time. He scarcely knew in what direction he was going, but he was anxious to get away from that terrible town of San Antonio de Bexar. He was filled with grief for his friends and anger against Santa Anna and his people. He had passed through an event so tremendous in its nature, so intense and fiery in its results, that his whole character underwent a sudden change. But a boy in years, the man nevertheless replaced the boy in his mind. He had looked upon the face of awful things, so awful that few men could bear to behold them.

There was a certain hardening of his nature now. As he ran, and while the feeling of horror was still upon him, the thought of vengeance swelled into a passion. The Texans must strike back for what had been done in the Alamo. Surely all would come when they heard the news that he was bringing.

He believed that the Texans, and they must be assembled in force somewhere, would be toward the east or the southeast, at Harrisburg or Goliad or some other place. He would join them as soon as he could, and he slackened his pace to a walk. He was too good a borderer now to exhaust himself in the beginning.

He was overpowered after a while by an immense lethargy. A great collapse, both physical and mental, came after so much exhaustion. He felt that he must rest or die. The night was mild, as the spring was now well advanced in Texas, and he sought a dense thicket in which he might lie for a while. But there was no scrub or chaparral within easy reach, and his feeling of lassitude became so great that he stopped when he came to a huge oak and lay down under the branches, which spread far and low.

He judged that he was about six miles from San Antonio, a reasonably safe distance for the night, and, relaxing completely, he fell asleep. Then nature began her great work. The pulses which were beating so fast and hard in the hoy's body grew slower and more regular, and at last became normal. The blood flowed in a fresh and strong current through his veins. The great physician, minute by minute, was building up his system again.

Ned's collapse had been so complete that he did not stir for hours. The day came and the sun rose brilliant in red and gold. The boy did not stir, but not far away a large animal moved. Ned's tree was at the edge of a little grassy plain, and upon this the animal stood, with a head held high and upturned nose sniffing the breeze that came from the direction of the sleeper.

It was in truth a great animal, one with tremendous teeth, and after hesitating a while it walked toward the tree under which the boy lay. Here it paused and again sniffed the air, which was now strong with the human odor. It remained there a while, staring with great eyes at the sleeping form, and then went back to the grassy little meadow. It revisited the boy at intervals, but never disturbed him, and Ned slept peacefully on.

It was nearly noon when Ned awoke, and he might not have awakened then had not the sun from its new position sent a shaft of light directly into his eyes. He saw that his precious rifle was still lying by his side, and then he sprang to his feet, startled to find by the sun that it was so late. He heard a loud joyous neigh, and a great bay horse trotted toward him.

It was Old Jack, the faithful dumb brute, of which he had thought so rarely during all those tense days in the Alamo. The Mexicans had not taken him. He was here, and happy chance had brought him and his master together again. It was so keen a joy to see a friend again, even an animal, that Ned put his arm around Old Jack's neck, and for the first time tears came to his eyes.

"Good Old Jack!" he said, patting his horse's nose. "You must have been waiting here all the time for me. And you must have fared well, too. I never before saw you looking so fat and saucy."

The finding of the horse simplified Ned's problem somewhat. He had neither saddle nor bridle, but Old Jack always obeyed him beautifully. He believed that if it came to the pinch, and it became necessary for him to ride for his life, he could guide him in the Indian fashion with the pressure of the knees.

He made a sort of halter of withes which he fastened on Old Jack's head, and then he sprang upon his bare back, feeling equal to almost anything. He rode west by south now, his course taking him toward Goliad, and he went on at a good gait until twilight. A little later he made out the shapes of wild turkeys, then very numerous in Texas among the boughs of the trees, and he brought a fine fat one down at the first shot. After some difficulty he lighted a fire with the flint and steel, which the Mexicans fortunately had not taken from him, toasted great strips over the coals, and ate hungrily of juicy and tender wild turkey.

He was all the time aware that his fire might bring danger down upon him, but he was willing to chance it. After he had eaten enough he took the remainder of his turkey and rode on. It was a clear, starry night and, as he had been awake only since noon, he continued until about ten o'clock, when he again took the turf under a tree for a couch. He slipped the rude halter from Old Jack, patted him on the head and said:

"Old Jack, after the lofty way in which you have behaved I wouldn't disgrace you by tying you up for the night. Moreover, I know that you're the best guard I could possibly have, and so, trusting you implicitly, I shall go to sleep."

His confidence was justified, and the next morning they were away again over the prairie. Ned was sure that he would meet roving Texans or Mexicans before noon, but he saw neither. He surmised that the news of Santa Anna's great force had sent all the Texans eastward, but the loneliness and desolation nevertheless weighed upon him.

He crossed several streams, all of them swollen and deep from spring rains, and every time he came to one he returned thanks again because he had found Old Jack. The great horse always took the flood without hesitation, and would come promptly to the other bank.

He saw many deer, and started up several flights of wild turkeys, but he did not disturb them. He was a soldier now, not a hunter, and he sought men, not animals. Another night came and found him still alone on the prairie. As before, he slept undisturbed under the boughs of a tree, and he awoke the next morning thoroughly sound in body and much refreshed in mind. But the feeling of hardness, the desire for revenge, remained. He was continually seeing the merciless face of Santa Anna and the sanguinary interior of the Alamo. The imaginative quality of his mind and his sensitiveness to cruelty had heightened the effect produced upon him.

He continued to ride through desolate country for several days, living on the game that his rifle brought. He slept one night in an abandoned cabin, with Old Jack resting in the grass that was now growing rankly at the door. He came the next day to a great trail, so great in truth that he believed it to have been made by Mexicans. He did not believe that there was anywhere a Texan force sufficient to tread out so broad a road.

He noticed, too, that the hoofs of the horses were turned in the general direction of Goliad or Victoria, nearer the sea, and he concluded that this was another strong Mexican army intended to complete the ruin of infant Texas. He decided to follow, and near nightfall he saw the camp fires of a numerous force. He rode as near as he dared and reckoned that there were twelve or fifteen hundred men in the camp. He was sure that it was no part of the army with which Santa Anna had taken the Alamo.

Ned rode a wide circuit around the camp and continued his ride in the night. He was forced to rest and sleep a while toward morning, but shortly after daylight he went forward again to warn he knew not whom. Two or three hours later he saw two horsemen on the horizon, and he rode toward them. He knew that if they should prove to be Mexicans Old Jack was swift enough to carry him out of reach. But he soon saw that they were Texans, and he hailed them.

The two men stopped and watched him as he approached. The fact that he rode a horse without saddle or bridle was sufficient to attract their attention, and they saw, too, that he was wild in appearance, with long, uncombed hair and torn clothing. They were hunters who had come out from the little town of Refugio.

Ned hailed them again when he came closer.

"You are Texans and friends?" he said.

"Yes, we are Texans and friends," replied the older of the two men. "Who are you?"

"My name is Fulton, Edward Fulton, and I come from the Alamo."

"The Alamo? How could that be? How could you get out?"

"I was sent out on an errand by Colonel Crockett, a fictitious errand for the purpose of saving me, I now believe. But I fell at once into the hands of Santa Anna. The next morning the Alamo was taken by storm, but every Texan in it died in its defence. I saw it done."

Then he told to them the same tale that Mrs. Dickinson had told to the Panther and his little party, adding also that a large Mexican force was undoubtedly very near.

"Then you've come just in time," said the older man. "We've heard that a big force under General Urrea was heading for the settlements near the coast, and Captain King and twenty-five or thirty men are now at Refugio to take the people away. We'll hurry there with your news and we'll try to get you a saddle and bridle, too."

"For which I'll be thankful," said Ned.

But he was really more thankful for human companionship than anything else. He tingled with joy to be with the Texans again, and during the hours that they were riding to Refugio he willingly answered the ceaseless questions of the two men, Oldham and Jackson, who wanted to know everything that had happened at the Alamo. When they reached Refugio they found there Captain King with less than thirty men who had been sent by Fannin, as Jackson had said, to bring away the people.

Ned was taken at once to King, who had gathered his men in the little plaza. He saw that the soldiers were not Texans, that is, men who had long lived in Texas, but fresh recruits from the United States, wholly unfamiliar with border ways and border methods of fighting. The town itself was an old Mexican settlement with an ancient stone church or mission, after the fashion of the Alamo, only smaller.

"You say that you were in the Alamo, and that all the defenders have fallen except you?" said the Captain, looking curiously at Ned.

"Yes," replied the boy.

"And that the Mexican force dispatched against the Eastern settlements is much nearer than was supposed?"

"Yes," replied Ned, "and as proof of my words there it is now."

He had suddenly caught the gleam of lances in a wood a little distance to the west of the town, and he knew that the Mexican cavalry, riding ahead of the main army, was at hand. It was a large force, too, one with which the little band of recruits could not possibly cope in the open. Captain King seemed dazed, but Ned, glancing at the church, remembered the Alamo. Every Spanish church or mission was more or less of a fortress, and he exclaimed:

"The church, Captain, the church! We can hold it against the cavalry!"

"Good!" cried the Captain. "An excellent idea!"

They rushed for the church and Ned followed. Old Jack did not get the saddle and bridle that had been promised to him. When the boy leaped from his back he snatched off the halter of withes and shouted loudly to him: "Go!"

It pained him to abandon his horse a second time under compulsion, but there was no choice. Old Jack galloped away as if he knew what he ought to do, and then Ned, running into the church with the others, helped them to bar the doors.

The church was a solid building of stone with a flat roof, and with many loopholes made long ago as a defence against the Indians. Ned heard the cavalry thundering into the village as they barred the doors, and then he and half a dozen men ran to the roof. Lying down there, they took aim at the charging horsemen.

These were raw recruits, but they knew how to shoot. Their rifles flashed and four or five saddles were emptied. The men below were also firing from the loopholes, and the front rank of the Mexican cavalry was cut down by the bullets. The whole force turned at a shout from an officer, and galloped to the shelter of some buildings. Ned estimated that they were two hundred in number, and he surmised that young Urrea led them.

He descended from the roof and talked with King. The men understood their situation, but they were exultant. They had beaten off the enemy's cavalry, and they felt that the final victory must be theirs. But Ned had been in the Alamo, and he knew that the horsemen had merely hoped to surprise and overtake them with a dash. Stone fortresses are not taken by cavalry. He was sure that the present force would remain under cover until the main army came up with cannon. He suggested to Captain King that he send a messenger to Fannin for help.

King thought wisely of the suggestion and chose Jackson, who slipped out of the church, escaped through an oak forest and disappeared. Ned then made a careful examination of the church, which was quite a strong building with a supply of water inside and some dried corn. The men had brought rations also with them, and they were amply supplied for a siege of several days. But Ned, already become an expert in this kind of war, judged that it would not last so long. He believed that the Mexicans, flushed by the taking of the Alamo, would push matters.

King, lacking experience, leaned greatly on young Fulton. The men, who believed implicitly every word that he had said, regarded him almost with superstition. He alone of the defenders had come alive out of that terrible charnel house, the Alamo.

"I suspect," said King, "that the division you saw is under General Urrea."

"Very probably," said Ned. "Of course, Santa Anna, no longer having any use for his army in San Antonio, can send large numbers of troops eastward."

"Which means that we'll have a hard time defending this place," said King gloomily.

"Unless Fannin sends a big force to our help."

"I'm not so sure that he'll send enough," said King. "His men are nearly all fresh from the States, and they know nothing of the country. It's hard for him to tell what to do. We started once to the relief of the Alamo, but our ammunition wagon broke down and we could not get our cannon across the San Antonio River. Things don't seem to be going right with us."

Ned was silent. His thoughts turned back to the Alamo. And so Fannin and his men had started but had never come! Truly "things were going wrong!" But perhaps it was just as well. The victims would have only been more numerous, and Fannin's men were saved to fight elsewhere for Texas.

He heard a rattle of musketry, and through one of the loopholes he saw that the Mexican cavalry in the wood had opened a distant fire. Only a few of the bullets reached the church, and they fell spent against the stones. Ned saw that very little harm was likely to come from such a fire, but he believed it would be wise to show the Mexicans that the defenders were fully awake.

"Have you any specially good riflemen?" he asked King.

"Several."

"Suppose you put them at the loopholes and see if they can't pick off some of those Mexican horsemen. It would have a most healthy effect."

Six young men came forward, took aim with their long barreled rifles, and at King's command fired. Three of the saddles were emptied, and there was a rapid movement of the Mexicans, who withdrew further into the wood. The defenders reloaded and waited.

Ned knew better than Captain King or any of his men the extremely dangerous nature of their position. Since the vanguard was already here the Mexican army must be coming on rapidly, and this was no Alamo. Nor were these raw recruits defenders of an Alamo.

He saw presently a man, holding a white handkerchief on the end of a lance, ride out from the wood. Ned recognized him at once. It was young Urrea. As Ned had suspected, he was the leader of the cavalry for his uncle, the general.

"What do you think he wants?" asked King.

"He will demand our surrender, but even if we were to yield it is likely that we should be put to death afterward."

"I have no idea of surrendering under any circumstances. Do you speak Spanish?"

"Oh, yes," said Ned, seizing the opportunity.

"Then, as I can't, you do the talking for us, and tell it to him straight and hard that we're going to fight."

Ned climbed upon the roof, and sat with only his head showing above the parapet, while Urrea rode slowly forward, carrying the lance and the white flag jauntily. Ned could not keep from admiring his courage, as the white flag, even, in such a war as this might prove no protection. He stopped at a distance of about thirty yards and called loudly in Spanish:

"Within the church there! I wish to speak to you!"

Ned stood up, his entire figure now being revealed, and replied:

"I have been appointed spokesman for our company. What do you want?"

Urrea started slightly in his saddle, and then regarded Ned with a look of mingled irony and hatred.

"And so," he said, "our paths cross again. You escaped us at the Alamo. Why General Santa Anna spared you then I do not know, but he is not here to give new orders concerning you!"

"What do you want?" repeated Ned.

"We want the church, yourself and all the other bandits who are within it."

Ned's face flushed at Urrea's contemptuous words and manner, and his heart hardened into a yet deeper hatred of the Mexicans. But he controlled his voice and replied evenly.

"And if we should surrender, what then?"

"The mercy of the illustrious General Santa Anna, whatever it may be."

"I saw his mercy at the Alamo," replied Ned, "and we want none of it. Nor would we surrender, even if we could trust your most illustrious General Santa Anna."

"Then take your fate," said Urrea. "Since you were at the Alamo you know what befell the defenders there, and this place, mostly in ruins, is not nearly so strong. Adios!"

"Adios!" said Ned, speaking in a firm tone. But he felt that there was truth in Urrea's words. Little was left of the mission but its strong walls. Nevertheless, they might hold them.

"What did he say?" asked King.

"He demanded our surrender."

"On what terms?"

"Whatever Santa Anna might decree, and if you had seen the red flag of no quarter waving in sight of the Alamo you would know his decree."

"And your reply?"

"I told him that we meant to hold the place."

"Good enough," said King. "Now we will go back to business. I wish that we had more ammunition."

"Fannin's men may bring plenty," said Ned. "And now, if you don't mind, Captain King, I'm going to sleep down there at the foot of the wall, and to-night I'll join the guard."

"Do as you wish," said King, "you know more about Texas and these Mexicans than any of us."

"I'd suggest a very thorough watch when night comes. Wake me up about midnight, won't you?"

Ned lay down in the place that he had chosen. It was only the middle of the afternoon, but he had become so inured to hardship that he slept quickly. Several shots were fired before twilight came, but they did not awaken him. At midnight King, according to his request, took him by the shoulder and he stood up.

"Nothing of importance has happened," said King.

"You can see the camp fires of the Mexicans in the wood, but as far as we can tell they are not making any movement."

"Probably they are content to wait for the main force," said Ned.

"Looks like it," said King.

"If you have no objection, Captain," said Ned, "I think I'll go outside and scout about a little."

"Good idea, I think," said King.

They opened the door a moment and Ned slipped forth. The night was quite dark and, with the experience of border work that he was rapidly acquiring, he had little fear of being caught by the Mexicans. He kept his eye on the light burning in the wood and curved in a half circle to the right. The few houses that made up the village were all dark, but his business was with none of them. He intended to see, if he could, whether the main Mexican force was approaching. If it should prove to be at hand with the heavy cannon there would be no possible chance of holding the mission, and they must get away.

He continued in his wide curve, knowing that in this case the longest way around was the best and safest, and he gradually passed into a stretch of chaparral beyond the town. Crossing it, he came into a meadow, and then he suddenly heard the soft pad of feet. He sought to spring back into the chaparral, but a huge dim figure bore down upon him, and then his heart recovered its normal beat when he saw that it was only Old Jack.

Ned stroked the great muzzle affectionately, but he was compelled to put away his friend.

"No, faithful comrade," he said. "I can't take you with me. I'd like to do it, but there's no room in a church for a horse as big as you are. Go now! Go at once, or the Mexicans will get you!"

He struck the horse smartly on the jaw. Old Jack looked at him reproachfully, but turned and trotted away from the town. Ned continued his scout. This proof of affection from a dumb brute cheered him.

An hour's cautious work brought him to the far side of the wood. As well as he could judge, nearly all the Mexican troopers were asleep around two fires, but they had posted sentinels who walked back and forth, calling at intervals "Sentinela alerte" to one another. Obviously there had been no increase in their force. They were sufficient to maintain a blockade of the church, but too few to surround it completely.

He went two or three miles to the west and, seeing no evidence that the main force was approaching, he decided to return to the church. His original curve had taken him by the south side of the wood, and he would return by the north side in order that his examination might be complete.

He walked rapidly, as the night was far advanced, and the sky was very clear, with bright stars twinkling in myriads. He did not wish day to catch him outside the mission. It was a prairie country, with patches of forest here and there, and as he crossed from one wood to another he was wholly without cover.

He was within a mile of the mission when he heard the faint tread of horses' hoofs, and he concluded that Old Jack, contrary to orders, was coming forward to meet him again. He paused, but the faint tread suddenly became rapid and heavy. A half dozen horsemen who had ridden into the prairie had caught sight of him and now they were galloping toward him. The brightness of the night showed Ned at once that they were Mexican cavalrymen, and as he was on foot he was at a great disadvantage.

He ran at full speed for the nearest grove. The Mexicans fired several musket shots at him, but the bullets all went wild. He did not undertake a reply, as he was straining every effort to reach the trees. Several pistols also were emptied at him, but he yet remained unhurt.

Nevertheless, the horsemen were coming alarmingly near.

He heard the thunder of hoofs in his ears, and he heard also a quick hiss like that of a snake.

Ned knew that the hissing sound was made by a lasso, and as he dodged he felt the coil, thrown in vain, slipping from his shoulders. He whirled about and fired at the man who had thrown the lasso. The rider uttered a cry, fell backward on his horse, and then to the ground.

As Ned turned for the shot he saw that Urrea was the leader of the horsemen. Whether Urrea had recognized him or not he did not know, but the fact that he was there increased his apprehension. He made a mighty effort and leaped the next instant into the protection of the trees and thickets. Fortune favored him now. A wood alone would not have protected him, but here were vines and bushes also.

He turned off at a sharp angle and ran as swiftly and with as little noise as he could. He heard the horses floundering in the forest, and the curses of their riders. He ran a hundred yards further and, coming to a little gully, lay down in it and reloaded his rifle. Then he stayed there until he could regain his breath and strength. While he lay he heard the Mexicans beating up the thickets, and Urrea giving sharp orders.

Ned knew that his hiding place must soon be discovered, and he began to consider what would be the best movement to make next. His heart had now returned to its normal beat, and he felt that he was good for another fine burst of speed.

He heard the trampling of the horses approaching, and then the voice of Urrea telling the others that he was going straight ahead and to follow him. Evidently they had beaten up the rest of the forest, and now they were bound to come upon him. Ned sprang from the gully, ran from the wood and darted across the prairie toward the next little grove.

He was halfway toward the coveted shelter when Urrea caught sight of him, gave a shout, and fired his pistol. Ned, filled with hatred of Urrea, fired in return. But the bullet, instead of striking the horseman, struck the horse squarely in the head. The horse fell instantly, and Urrea, hurled violently over his head, lay still.

Ned caught it all in a fleeting glance, and in a few more steps he gained the second wood. He did not know how much Urrea was hurt, nor did he care. He had paid back a little, too. He was sure, also, that the pursuit would be less vigorous, now that its leader was disabled.

The second grove did not contain so many vines and bushes, but, hiding behind a tree there, Ned saw the horsemen hold off. Without Urrea to urge them on they were afraid of the rifle that the fugitive used so well. Two, also, had stopped to tend Urrea, and Ned decided that the others would not now enter the grove.

He was right in his surmise. The horsemen rode about at a safe distance from the trees. Ned, taking his time, reloaded his rifle again and departed for the mission. There was now fairly good cover all the way, but he heard other troops of Mexicans riding about, and blowing trumpets as signals. No doubt the shots had been heard at the main camp, and many men were seeking their cause.

But Ned, fortunately for himself, was now like the needle in the haystack. While the trumpets signaled and the groups of Mexican horsemen rode into one another he stole back to the old mission and knocked upon the door with the butt of his rifle. Answering King's questions through the loophole, he was admitted quickly.

"The main army hasn't come up yet," he said, in reply to the eager inquiries of the defenders. "Fannin's men may get here in time, and if they are in sufficient force to beat off the cavalry detachment I suggest that we abandon the mission before we are caught in a trap, and retreat toward Fannin. If we linger the whole Mexican army will be around us."

"Sounds right," said King, "but we've got to hear from Fannin first. Now you look pretty tired, Fulton. Suppose you roll up in some blankets there by the wall and take a nap."

"I don't want to sleep now," said Ned. "You remember that I slept until nearly midnight. But I would like to stretch out a while. It's not very restful to be hunted through woods by Mexicans, even if you do get away."

Ned lay by the wall upon the blankets and watched the sun go slowly up the arch of the heavens. It seemed a hard fate to him that he should again be trapped thus in an old mission. Nor did he have here the strength and support of the great borderers like Bowie and Crockett. He missed them most of all now.

The day passed slowly and with an occasional exchange of shots that did little harm. Toward the twilight one of the sentinels on the wall uttered a great and joyous shout.

"The reinforcements!" he cried. "See, our friends are coming!"

Ned climbed upon the wall and saw a force of more than a hundred men, obviously Texans, approaching. They answered the hail of the sentinel and came on more swiftly. His eyes turned to the wood, in which the Mexican camp yet lay. Their cavalry would still outnumber the Texan force two or three to one, but the Mexicans invariably demanded greater odds than that before they would attack the Texans. Ned saw no stir in the wood. Not a shot was fired as the new men came forward and were joyously admitted to the church.

The men were one hundred and twenty in number, led by Colonel Ward, who by virtue of his rank now commanded all the defenders. As soon as they had eaten and rested a council, at which Ned was present, was held. King had already told the story of young Fulton to Ward, and that officer looked very curiously at Ned as he came forward. He asked him briefly about the Alamo, and Ned gave him the usual replies. Then he told of what he had seen before he joined King.

"How large do you think this force was?" asked Ward.

"About fifteen hundred men."

"And we've a hundred and fifty here. You were not much more than a hundred and fifty in the Alamo, and you held it two weeks against thousands. Why should we retreat?"

"But the Alamo fell at last," said Ned, "and this Refugio mission is not so defensible as the Alamo was."

"You think, then, we should retreat?"

"I do. I'm sure the place cannot be held against a large army."

There was much discussion. Ned saw that all the men of the new force were raw recruits from the States like King's. Many of them were mere boys, drawn to Texas by the love of adventure. They showed more curiosity than alarm, and it was evident to Ned that they felt able to defeat any number of Mexicans.

Ned, called upon again for his opinion, urged that they withdraw from the church and the town at once, but neither Ward nor King was willing to make a retreat in the night. They did not seem especially anxious to withdraw at all, but finally agreed to do so in the morning.

Ned left the council, depressed and uneasy. He felt that his countrymen held the Mexicans too lightly. Were other tragedies to be added to that of the Alamo? He was no egotist, but he was conscious of his superiority to all those present in the grave affairs with which they were now dealing.

He took his rifle and went upon the wall, where he resolved to watch all through the night. He saw the lights in the wood where the Mexicans were camped, but darkness and silence prevailed everywhere else. He had no doubt that young Urrea had sent messengers back to hurry up the main force. He smiled to himself at the thought of Urrea. He was sure that the young Mexican had sustained no fatal injury, but he must have painful wounds. And Ned, with the Alamo as vivid as ever in his mind, was glad that he had inflicted them.

Midnight came, and Ward told Ned that he need not watch any longer when the second relay of sentinels appeared. But the boy desired to remain and Ward had no objection.

"But you'll be sleepy," he said, in a good-humored tone, "when we start at the break of day, and you won't have much chance to rest on a long march."

"I'll have to take the risk," said Ned. "I feel that I ought to be watching."

Toward morning the men in the mission were awakened and began to prepare for the march. They made considerable noise as they talked and adjusted their packs, but Ned paid no attention to them. He was listening instead to a faint sound approaching the town from the south. No one in the church or on the walls heard it but himself, but he knew that it was steadily growing louder.

Ned, moreover, could tell the nature of that sound, and as it swelled his heart sank within him. The first spear of light, herald of dawn, appeared in the east and Ward called out cheerfully:

"Well, we are all ready to go now."

"It is too late," said Ned. "The whole Mexican army is here."

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