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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Herald Of Attack

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Ned understood now that he was lost. Instinct had failed absolutely. Brave and resourceful as he was he uttered a groan of despair. It was torture to be so near the end of his task and then to fail. But the despair lasted only a moment. The courage of a nature containing genuine greatness brought back hope.

He dismounted and led his horse around the thicket. Then they came to a part of the woods which seemed thinner, and not knowing anything else to do he went straight ahead. But he stopped abruptly when his feet sank in soft mud. He saw directly before him a stream yellow, swollen and flowing faster than usual.

Ned knew that it was the San Antonio River, and now he had a clue. By following its banks he would reach the town. The way might be long, but it must inevitably lead him to San Antonio, and he would take it.

He remounted and rode forward as fast as he could. The river curved and twisted, but he was far more cheerful now. The San Antonio was like a great coiling rope, but if he followed it long enough he would certainly come to the end that he wished. The Norther continued to blow. He and his horse were a huge moving shape of white. Now and then the snow, coating too thickly upon his serape, fell in lumps to the ground, but it was soon coated anew and as thick as ever. But whatever happened he never let the San Antonio get out of his sight.

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He was compelled to stop at last under a thick cluster of oaks, where he was somewhat sheltered from the wind and snow. Here he dismounted again, stamped his feet vigorously for warmth and also brushed the snow from his faithful horse. Old Jack, as usual, rubbed his nose against the boy's arm.

The horse was a source of great comfort and strength to Ned. He always believed that he would have collapsed without him. As nearly as he could guess the time it was about halfway between midnight and morning, and in order to preserve his strength he forced himself to eat a little more.

A half hour's rest, and remounting he resumed his slow progress by the river. The rest had been good for both his horse and himself, and the blood felt warmer in his veins. He moved for some time among trees and thickets that lined the banks, and after a while he recognized familiar ground. He had been in some of these places in the course of the siege of San Antonio, and the town could not be far away.

It was probably two hours before daylight when he heard a sound which was not that of the Norther, a sound which he knew instantly. It was the dull clank of bronze against bronze. It could be made only by one cannon striking against another. Then Santa Anna, or one of his generals, despite the storm and the night, was advancing with his army, or a part of it. Ned shivered, and now not from the cold.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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