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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Fannin's Camp

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He held on toward Goliad, passing through alternate regions of forest and prairie, and he maintained a fair pace until night. He had not eaten since morning, and all his venison was gone, but strangely enough he was not hungry. When the darkness was coming he sat down in one of the little groves so frequent in that region, and he was conscious of a great weariness. His bones ached. But it was not the ache that comes from exertion. It seemed to go to the very marrow. It became a pain rather than exhaustion.

He noticed that everything about him appeared unreal. The trees and the earth itself wavered. His head began to ache and his stomach was weak. Had the finest of food been presented to him he could not have eaten it. He had an extraordinary feeling of depression and despair.

Ned knew what was the matter with him. He was suffering either from overwhelming nervous and physical exhaustion, or he had contracted malaria in the swamps of the Guadalupe. Despite every effort of the will, he began to shake with cold, and he knew that a chill was coming. He had retained his blankets, his frontiersman's foresight not deserting him, and now, knowing that he could not continue his flight for the present, he sought the deepest part of the thicket. He crept into a place so dense that it would have been suited for an animal's den, and lying down there he wrapped the blankets tightly about himself, his rifle and his ammunition.

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In spite of his clothing and the warm blankets he grew colder and colder. His teeth chattered and he shivered all over. He would not have minded that so much, but his head ached with great violence, and the least light hurt his eyes. It seemed to him the culmination. Never had he been more miserable, more lost of both body and soul. The pain in his head was so violent that life was scarcely worth the price.

He sank by and by into a stupor. He was remotely conscious that he was lying in a thicket, somewhere in boundless Texas, but it did not really matter. Cougars or bears might come there to find him, but he was too sick to raise a hand against them. Besides, he did not care. A million Mexicans might be beating up those thickets for him, and they would be sure to find him. Well, what of it? They would shoot him, and he would merely go at once to some other planet, where he would be better off than he was now.

It seems that fate reserves her severest ordeals for the strong and the daring, as if she would respond to the challenges they give. It seems also that often she brings them through the test, as if she likes the courage and enterprise that dare her, the all-powerful, to combat. Ned's intense chill abated. He ceased to shake so violently, and after a while he did not shake at all. Then fever came. Intolerable heat flowed through every vein, and his head was ready to burst. After a while violent perspiration broke out all over him, and then he became unconscious.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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