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  The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Before The Dictator

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Ned's feeling of exaltation lasted. The long siege, the incessant danger and excitement, and the wonderful way in which the little band of Texans had kept a whole army at bay had keyed him up to a pitch in which he was not himself, in which he was something a little more than human. Such extraordinary moments come to few people, and his vivid, imaginative mind was thrilled to the utmost.

He was on the early watch, and he mounted the wall of the church. The deep silence which marked the beginning of the night still prevailed. They had not heard any shots, and for that reason they all felt that the messenger had got through with Travis' last letter.

It was very dark that night and Ned could not see the red flag on the tower of the church of San Fernando. But he knew it was there, waving a little in the soft wind which blew out of the southwest, herald of spring. Nothing broke the silence. After so much noise, it was ominous, oppressive, surcharged with threats. Fewer lights than usual burned in the town and in the Mexican camp. All this stillness portended to Ned the coming storm, and he was right.

His was a short watch, and at 11 o'clock he went off duty. It was silent and dark in the convent yard, and he sought his usual place for sleep in the hospital, where many of the Texans had been compelled to go, not merely to sleep, but because they were really ill, worn out by so many alarms, so much fighting and so much watching. But they were all now asleep, overpowered by exhaustion. Ned crept into his own dark little corner, and he, too, was soon asleep.

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But he was awakened about four hours later by some one pulling hard at his shoulder. He opened his eyes, and stared sleepily. It was Crockett bending over him, and, Bowie lying on his sick bed ten feet away, had raised himself on his elbow. The light was so faint that Ned could scarcely see Crockett's face, but it looked very tense and eager.

"Get up, Ned! Get up!" said Crockett, shaking him again. "There's great work for you to do!"

"Why, what is it?" exclaimed the boy, springing to his feet.

"It's your friends, Roylston, an' that man, the Panther, you've been tellin' me about," replied Crockett in quick tones. "While you were asleep a Mexican, friendly to us, sneaked a message over the wall, sayin' that Roylston, the Panther, an' others were layin' to the east with a big force not more'n twenty miles away--not Fannin's crowd, but another one that's come down from the north. They don't know whether we're holdin' out yet or not, an' o' course they don't want to risk destruction by tryin' to cut through the Mexican army to reach us when we ain't here. The Mexican dassent go out of San Antonio. He won't try it, 'cause, as he says, it's sure death for him, an' so somebody must go to Roylston with the news that we're still alive, fightin' an' kickin'. Colonel Travis has chose you, an' you've got to go. No, there's no letter. You're just to tell Roylston by word of mouth to come on with his men."

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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