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  The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Captives

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Ned had not noticed at first, but, since his eyes were growing used to the dim light, and since the Panther had pointed the way, he saw a dozen men, arms bound tightly behind them, leaning against the trees. They were prisoners and he knew instinctively that they were Texans. His blood, hot at first, now chilled in his veins. They had been captured by Urrea in a raid, and as Santa Anna had decreed that all Texans were rebels who should be executed when taken, they would surely die, unless rescue came.

"What shall we do?" he whispered.

"Nothing now," replied the Panther, in the same soft tone, "but if you an' Obed are with me we'll follow this crowd, an' maybe we can get the Texans away from 'em. It's likely that Urrea will cross the Rio Grande an' go down into Mexico to meet Cos or Santa Anna. Are you game enough to go, Ned? I'm a Ring Tailed Panther an' a roarin' grizzly bear, but I don't like to follow all by myself."

"I'm with you," said Ned, "if I have to go all the way back to the City of Mexico, an' I know that I can speak for Obed, too."

"I jest asked as a matter of form," said the Panther. "I knowed before askin' that you an' Obed would stick to me."

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There was a sudden gust of wind at that moment and the light of the fire sprang higher. The flames threw a glow across the faces of the prisoners. Most of them were asleep, but Ned saw them very distinctly now. One was a boy but little older than himself, his face pale and worn. Near him was an old man, with a face very uncommon on the border. His features were those of a scholar and ascetic. His cheeks were thin, and thick white hair crowned a broad white brow. Ned felt instinctively that he was a man of importance.

Both the boy and the man slept the sleep of utter exhaustion.

Urrea rose presently and looked at his prisoners. The moonlight was shining on his face, and it seemed to Ned to be that of some master demon. The boy was far from denying many good qualities to the Mexicans, but the countenance of Urrea certainly did not express any of them that night. It showed only savage exultation as he looked at the bound men, and Ned knew that this was a formidable enemy of the Texans, one who would bring infinite resources of cunning and enterprise to crush them.

Urrea said a few words to his officers and then withdrew into a small tent which Ned had not noticed hitherto. The officers lay down in their blankets, but a dozen sentinels watched about the open space. Ned and the Panther crept slowly back toward the plain.

"What is our best plan, Panther?" whispered the hoy.

"We can't do anything yet but haul off, watch an' then follow. The chaparral runs along for a mile or two an' we can hide in the north end of it until they march south an' are out of sight. Then we'll hang on."

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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