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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Santa Anna's Advance

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"You lose, Francisco," said one of the men as he made a throw of the dice and looked eagerly at the result. "What was it that you were saying about the general?"

"That I expect an early advance, Ramon," replied Urrea, "a brief campaign, and a complete victory. I hate these Texans. I shall be glad to see them annihilated."

The young officer whom he called Ramon laughed.

"If what I hear be true, Francisco," he said, "you have cause to hate them. There was a boy, Fulton, that wild buffalo of a man, whom they call the Panther, and another who defeated some of your finest plans."

Urrea flushed, but controlled his temper.

"It is true, Ramon," he replied. "The third man I can tell you is called Obed White, and they are a clever three. I hate them, but it hurts my pride less to be defeated by them than by any others whom I know."

"Well spoken, Urrea," said a third man, "but since these three are fighters and will stay to meet us, it is a certainty that our general will scoop them into his net. Then you can have all the revenge you wish."

"I count upon it, Ambrosio," said Urrea, smiling. "I also hope that we shall recapture the man Roylston. He has great sums of money in the foreign banks in our country, and we need them, but our illustrious president cannot get them without an order from Roylston. The general would rather have Roylston than a thousand Texan prisoners."

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All of them laughed, and the laugh made Ned, lying in the shadow, shiver once more. Urrea glanced his way presently, but the recumbent figure did not claim his notice. The attention of his comrades and himself became absorbed in the dice again. They were throwing the little ivory cubes upon a blanket, and Ned could hear them click as they struck together. The sharp little sound began to flick his nerves. Not one to cherish resentment, he nevertheless began to hate Urrea, and he included in that hatred the young men with him. The Texans were so few and poor. The Mexicans were so many, and they had the resources of a nation more than two centuries old.

Ned rose by and by and walked on. He could imitate the Mexican gait perfectly, and no one paid any attention to him. They were absorbed, moreover, in something else, because now the light of torches could be seen dimly in the south. Officers threw down cards and dice. Men straightened their uniforms and Cos and Sesma began to form companies in line. More fuel was thrown on the fires, which sprang up, suffusing all the night with color and brightness. Ned with his rifle at salute fell into place at the end of one of the companies, and no one knew that he did not belong there. In the excitement of the moment he forgot all about the Panther and Obed.

A thrill seemed to run through the whole Mexican force. It was the most impressive scene that Ned had ever beheld. A leader, omnipotent in their eyes, was coming to these men, and he came at midnight out of the dark into the light.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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