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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Black Tragedy

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Ned marched forth with the rest, although he did not speak to any of those about him. He looked first at Urrea, whose manner was polite and smiling, as it had been the night before, and then his glance shifted to the other officers, older men, and evidently higher in rank. He saw that two, Colonels by their uniforms, were quite pale, and that one of them was biting savagely at his mustache. It all seemed sinister to Ned. Why was Urrea doing everything, and why were his superiors standing by, evidently a prey to some great nervous strain?

The recruits, under Urrea's orders, were formed into three columns. One was to take the road toward San Antonio, the second would march toward San Patricio, and the third to Copano. The three columns shouted good-by, but the recruits assured one another that they would soon meet again. Urrea told one column that it was going to be sent home immediately, another that it was going outside the town, where it was to help in killing cattle for beef which they would eat, and the third that it was leaving the church in a hurry to make room for Santa Anna's own troops, who would reach the town in an hour.

Ned was in the largest column, near the head of it, and he watched everything with a wary eye. He noticed that the Mexican colonels still left all the arrangements to Urrea, and that they remained extremely nervous. Their hands were never quiet for a moment.

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The column filed down through the town, and Ned saw the Mexican women looking at them. He heard two or three of them say "pobrecitos" (poor fellows), and their use of the word struck upon his ear with an ominous sound. He glanced back. Close behind the mass of prisoners rode a strong squadron of cavalry with young Urrea at their head. Ned could not see Urrea's face, which was hidden partly by a cocked and plumed hat, but he noticed that the young Mexican sat very upright, as if he felt the pride of authority. One hand held the reins, and the other rested on the silver hilt of a small sword at his side.

A column of Mexican infantry marched on either side of the prisoners, and only a few yards away. It seemed to Ned that they were holding the Texans very close for men whom they were to release in a few hours. Trusting the Mexicans in nothing, he was suspicious of everything, and he watched with a gaze that missed no detail. But he seemed to be alone in such thoughts. The recruits, enjoying the fresh air and the prospect of speedy freedom, were talking much, and exchanging many jests.

They passed out of the little town, and the last Ned saw of it was the Mexican women standing in the doorways and watching. They continued along the road in double file, with the Mexican infantry still on either side, and the Mexican cavalry in the rear. A half mile from the town, and Urrea gave an order. The whole procession stopped, and the column of Mexican infantry on the left passed around, joining their comrades on the right. The recruits paid no attention to the movement, but Ned looked instantly at Urrea. He saw the man rise now in his saddle, his whole face aflame. In a flash he divined everything. His heart leaped and he shouted:

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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