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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Herald Of Attack

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"On! On! Old Jack," he said, "show 'em the cleanest heels that were ever seen in Texas! On! On! my beauty of a horse, my jewel of a horse! Would you let miserable Mexican ponies overtake you? You who were never beaten! Ah, now we gain! But faster! faster!"

It seemed that Old Jack understood. He stretched out his long neck and became a streak in the darkness. A third Mexican threw his lasso, but the noose only touched his flying tail. A fourth threw, and the noose did not reach him at all.

They were far out on the plain now, where the moonlight revealed everything, and the horse's sure instinct would guide. Ned felt Old Jack beneath him, running strong and true without a jar like the most perfect piece of machinery. He stole a glance over his shoulder. All the Mexicans were there, too far away now for a throw of the lasso, but several of them were trying to reload their weapons. Ned knew that if they succeeded he would be in great danger. No matter how badly they shot a chance bullet might hit him or his horse. And he could afford for neither himself nor Old Jack to be wounded.

Once more the boy leaned far over on his horse's neck and cried in his ear:

"On, Old Jack, on! Look, we gain now, but we must gain more. Show to them what a horse you are!"

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And again the great horse responded. Fast as he was going it seemed to Ned that he now lengthened his stride. His long head was thrust out almost straight, and his great body fairly skimmed the earth. But the Mexicans hung on with grim tenacity. Their ponies were tough and enduring, and, spread out like the arc of a bow, they continually profited by some divergence that Old Jack made from the straight line. Aware of this danger Ned himself, nevertheless, was unable to tell whether the horse was going in a direct course, and he let him have his head.

"Crack!" went a musket, and a bullet sang past Ned's face. It grazed Old Jack's ear, drawing blood. The horse uttered an angry snort and fairly leaped forward. Ned looked back again. Another man had succeeded in loading his musket and was about to fire. Then the boy remembered the pistol at his belt. Snatching it out he fired at the fellow with the loaded musket.

The Mexican reeled forward on his horse's neck and his weapon dropped to the ground. Whether the man himself fell also Ned never knew, because he quickly thrust the pistol back in his belt and once more was looking straight ahead. Now confidence swelled again in his heart. He had escaped all their bullets so far, and he was still gaining. He would escape all the others and he would continue to gain.

He saw just ahead of him one of the clumps of trees that dotted the plain, but, although it might give momentary protection from the bullets he was afraid to gallop into it, lest he be swept from his horse's back by the boughs or bushes. But his direct course would run close to the left side of it, and once more he sought to urge Old Jack to greater speed.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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