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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Sad Surrender

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Many replied yes, but then a voice spoke out of the darkness:

"What of the wounded, Colonel? We have sixty men who can't move."

There was an instant's silence, and then a hundred voices said in the darkness:

"We'll never leave them. We'll stay here and fight again!"

Ned was standing with those nearest Fannin, and although the darkness was great his eyes had become so used to it that he could see the pale face of the leader. Fannin's eyes lighted up at the words of his men, and a little color came into his cheeks.

"You speak like brave men rather than wise men," he said, "but I cannot blame you. It is a hard thing to leave wounded comrades to a foe such as the one who faces us. If you wish to stay here, then I say stay. Do you wish it?"

"We do!" thundered scores of voices, and Fannin, moving a little to make himself easier, said simply:

"Then fortify as best you can."

They brought spades and shovels from the wagons, and began to throw up an earthwork, toiling in the almost pitchy darkness. They reinforced it with the bodies of the slain oxen, and, while they toiled, they saw the fires where the Mexican officers rested, sure that their prey could not break from the trap. The Texans worked on. At midnight they were still working, and when they rested a while there was neither food nor drink for them. Every drop of water was gone long since, and they had eaten their last food at supper. They could have neither food nor drink nor sleep.

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Ned had escaped from many dangers, but it is truth that this time he felt despair. His feeling about the hand of fate striking them down became an obsession. What chance had men without an ounce of food or a drop of water to withstand a siege?

But he communicated his fears to no one. Two or three hours before day, he became so sore and weary from work with the spade that he crawled into one of the half-wrecked wagons, and tried to go to sleep. But his nerves were drawn to too high a pitch. After a quarter of an hour's vain effort he got out of the wagon and stood by the wheel. The sky was still black, and the heavy clouds of fog and vapor rolled steadily past him. It seemed to him that everything was closing on them, even the skies, and the air was so heavy that he found it hard to breathe.

He would have returned to work, but he knew that he would overtask his worn frame, and he wanted to be in condition for the battle that he believed was coming with the morrow. They had not tried to cut out at night, then they must do it by day, or die where they stood of thirst.

He sat down at last on the ground, and leaned against a wagon wheel, drawing a blanket over his shoulders for warmth. He found that he could rest better here than inside the wagon, and, in an hour or two, he dozed a little, but when he awoke the night was still very dark.

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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