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0105_001E The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Before The Dictator

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The words came forth popping like pistol shots. Ned was swept off his feet. He did not have time to argue or ask questions. Bowie also added a fresh impetus. "Go, Ned, go at once!" he said. "You are chosen for a great service. It's an honor to anybody!"

"A service of great danger, requirin' great skill," said Crockett, "but you can do it, Ned, you can do it."

Ned flushed. This was, in truth, a great trust. He might, indeed, bring the help they needed so sorely.

"Here's your rifle an' other weapons an' ammunition," said Crockett. "The night's at its darkest an' you ain't got any time to waste. Come on!"

So swift was Crockett that Ned was ready almost before he knew it. The Tennesseean never ceased hurrying him. But as he started, Bowie called to him:

"Good-by, Ned!"

The boy turned back and offered his hand. The Georgian shook it with unusual warmth, and then lay back calmly on his blankets.

"Good-by, Ned," he repeated, "and if we don't meet again I hope you'll forget the dark things in my life, and remember me as one who was doing his best for Texas."

"But we will meet again," said Ned. "The relieving force will be here in two or three days and I'll come with it."

"Out with you!" said Crockett. "That's talk enough. What you want to do now is to put on your invisible cap an' your seven league boots an' go like lightnin' through the Mexican camp. Remember that you can talk their lingo like a native, an' don't forget, neither, to keep always about you a great big piece of presence of mind that you can use on a moment's notice."

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Ned wore his serape and he carried a pair of small, light but very warm blankets, strapped in a pack on his back. His haversack contained bread and dried beef, and, with his smaller weapons in his belt, and his rifle over his shoulder, he was equipped fully for a long and dangerous journey.

Crockett and the boy passed into the convent yard.

The soft wind from the southwest blew upon their faces, and from the high wall of the church a sentinel called: "All's well!" Ned felt an extraordinary shiver, a premonition, but it passed, unexplained. He and Crockett went into the main plaza and reached the lowest part of the wall.

"Ought I to see Colonel Travis?" asked Ned, as they were on the way.

"No, he asked me to see to it, 'cause there ain't no time to waste. It's about three o'clock in the mornin' now, an' you've got to slip through in two or three hours, 'cause the light will be showin' then. Now, Ned, up with you an' over."

Ned climbed to the summit of the wall. Beyond lay heavy darkness, and he neither saw nor heard any human being. He looked back, and extended his hand to Crockett as he had to Bowie.

"Good-by, Mr. Crockett," he said, "you've been very good to me."

The great brown hand of the frontiersman clasped his almost convulsively.

"Aye, Ned," he said, "we've cottoned to each other from the first. I haven't knowed you long, but you've been like a son to me. Now go, an' God speed you!"

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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