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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

Santa Anna's Advance

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Ned watched them as they talked together and occasionally the crowd parted enough for him to see Santa Anna, who spoke and gesticulated with great energy. The soldiers had been drawn away by the minor officers, and were now dispersing to their places by the fires where they would seek sleep.

Ned noticed a trim, slender figure on the outer edge of the group around Santa Anna. It seemed familiar, and when the man turned he recognized the face of Almonte, the gallant young Mexican colonel who had been kind to him. He was sorry to see him there. He was sorry that he should have to fight against him.

Santa Anna went presently to a great marquée that had been prepared for him, and the other generals retired also to the tents that had been set about it. The dictator was tired from his long ride and must not be disturbed. Strict orders were given that there should be no noise in the camp, and it quickly sank into silence.

Ned lay down before one of the fires at the western end of the camp wrapped as before in his serape. He counterfeited sleep, but nothing was further from his mind. It seemed to him that he had done all he could do in the Mexican camp. He had seen the arrival of Santa Anna, but there was no way to learn when the general would order an advance. But he could infer from Santa Anna's well-known energy and ability that it would come quickly.

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Between the slit left by the brim of his sombrero and his serape he watched the great fires die slowly. Most of the Mexicans were asleep now, and their figures were growing indistinct in the shadows. But Ned, rising, slouched forward, imitating the gait of the laziest of the Mexicans. Yet his eyes were always watching shrewdly through the slit. Very little escaped his notice. He went along the entire Mexican line and then back again. He had a good mathematical mind, and he saw that the estimate of 7,000 for the Mexican army was not too few. He also saw many cannon and the horses for a great cavalry force. He knew, too, that Santa Anna had with him the best regiments in the Mexican service.

On his last trip along the line Ned began to look for the Panther and Obed, but he saw no figures resembling theirs, although he was quite sure that he would know the Panther in any disguise owing to his great size. This circumstance would make it more dangerous for the Panther than for either Obed or himself, as Urrea, if he should see so large a man, would suspect that it was none other than the redoubtable frontiersman.

Ned was thinking of this danger to the Panther when he came face to face with Urrea himself. The young Mexican captain was not lacking in vigilance and energy, and even at that late hour he was seeing that all was well in the camp of Santa Anna. Ned was truly thankful now that Mexican custom and the coldness of the night permitted him to cover his face with his serape and the brim of his sombrero.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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