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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Before The Dictator

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Ned's color rose.

"It may be so," he said, "but for every Texan who falls the price will be five Mexicans."

"But they will fall, nevertheless," said Urrea. "Here is food for you. Eat, and I will take you to the general."

They offered him Mexican food, but he had no appetite, and he ate little. He stretched and tensed his limbs in order to restore the full flood of circulation, and announced that he was ready. Urrea led the way, and Ned followed with a guard of four men about him.

The boy had eyes and ears for everything around him, but he looked most toward the Alamo. He could not, at the distance, recognize the figures on the wall, but all those men were his friends, and his eyes filled with tears at their desperate case. Out here with the Mexicans, where he could see all their overwhelming force and their extensive preparations, the chances of the Texans looked worse than they did inside the Alamo.

They entered the town and passed through the same streets, along which Ned had advanced with the conquering army of the Texans a few months before. Many evidences of the siege remained. There were tunnels, wrecked houses and masses of stone and adobe. The appearance of the young prisoner aroused the greatest curiosity among both soldiers and people. He heard often the word "Texano." Women frequently looked down at him from the flat roofs, and some spoke in pity.

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Ned was silent. He was resolved not to ask Urrea any questions or to give him a chance to show triumph. He noticed that they were advancing toward the plaza, and then they turned into the Veramendi house, which he had cause to remember so well.

"This was the home of the Vice-Governor," said Urrea, "and General Santa Anna is here."

"I know the place," said Ned. "I am proud to have been one of the Texans who took it on a former occasion."

"We lost it then, but we have it now and we'll keep it," said Urrea. "My men will wait with you here in the courtyard, and I'll see if our illustrious general is ready to receive you."

Ned waited patiently. Urrea was gone a full half hour, and, when he returned, he said:

"The general was at breakfast with his staff. He had not quite finished, but he is ready to receive you now."

Then Urrea led the way into the Veramendi house. Luxurious fittings had been put in, but many of the rents and scars from the old combat were yet visible. They entered the great dining room, and, once more, Ned stood face to face with the most glorious general, the most illustrious dictator, Don Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But Ned alone stood. The dictator sat at the head of the table, about which were Castrillon, Sesma, Cos, Gaona, the Italian, Filisola and others. It seemed to Ned that he had come not only upon a breakfast but upon a conference as well.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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