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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Herald Of Attack

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He turned Old Jack in order to rejoin his comrades, when he suddenly heard a low sound from the east. He listened a moment, and then, hearing it distinctly, he knew it. It was the thud of hoofs, and the horsemen were coming straight toward the grove, which was two or three hundred yards in width.

Owing to the darkness and the foliage Ned could not see his comrades, but he started toward them at once. Then came a sudden cry, the rapid beat of hoofs, the crack of shots, and a Mexican body of cavalry dashed into the wood directly between the boy and his comrades. He heard once the tremendous shout of the Panther and the wild Mexican yells. Two horsemen fired at him and a third rode at him with extended lance.

It was Old Jack that saved Ned's life. The boy was so startled that his brain was in a paralysis for a moment. But the horse shied suddenly away from the head of the lance, which was flashing in the moonlight. Ned retained both his seat and his rifle. He fired at the nearest of the Mexicans, who fell from his saddle, and then, seeing that but one alternative was left him he gave Old Jack the rein and galloped from the grove into the west.

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Amid all the rush and terrific excitement of the moment, Ned thought of his comrades. It was not possible for him to join them now, but they were three together and they might escape. The Panther was a wonderful borderer, and Obed White was not far behind him. He turned his attention to his own escape. Two more shots were fired at him, but in both cases the bullets went wide. Then he heard only the thud of hoofs, but the pursuing horsemen were very near.

Something whizzed through the air and instinctively he bent forward almost flat on the neck of Old Jack. A coiling shape struck him on the head, slipped along his back, then along the quarters of his horse and fell to the ground. He felt as if a deadly snake had struck at him, and then had drawn its cold body across him. But he knew that it was a lasso. The Mexicans would wish to take him alive, as they might secure valuable information from him. Now he heard them shouting to one another, every one boasting that his would be the successful throw. As Ned's rifle was empty, and he could not reload it at such speed, they seemed to fear nothing for themselves.

He looked back. They numbered seven or eight, and they were certainly very near. They had spread out a little and whenever Old Jack veered a yard or two from the pursuers some one gained. He saw a coil of rope fly through the air and he bent forward again. It struck Old Jack on the saddle and fell to the ground. Ned wondered why they did not fire now, but he remembered that their rifles or muskets, too, might be empty, and suddenly he felt a strange exultation. He was still lying forward on his horse's neck, and now he began to talk to him.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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