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The Texan Scouts: A Story of the Alamo and Goliad, a novel by Joseph A. Altsheler

Chapter 11. The Desperate Defence

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Ned's report created some alarm among the defenders of the Alamo, but it passed quickly.

"I don't see just how it can help 'em," said Crockett. "He's found out that we're few in number. They already knew that. He's learned that the Alamo is made up of a church an' other buildings with walls 'roun' them. They already knew that, too, an' so here we all are, Texans an' Mexicans, just where we stood before."

Nevertheless, the bombardment rose to a fiercer pitch of intensity the next day. The Mexicans seemed to have an unlimited supply of ammunition, and they rained balls and shells on the Alamo. Many of the shells did not burst, and the damage done was small. The Texans did not reply from the shelter of their walls for a long time. At last the Mexicans came closer, emboldened perhaps by the thought that resistance was crushed, and then the Texan sharpshooters opened fire with their long-barreled rifles.

The Texans had two or three rifles apiece, and they poured in a fast and deadly fire. So many of the Mexicans fell that the remainder retreated with speed, leaving the fallen behind them. But when the smoke lifted others came forward under a white flag, and the Texans allowed them to take away their dead.

The cannonade now became spasmodic. All the Mexican cannon would fire continuously for a half hour or so, and then would ensue a silence of perhaps an hour.

In the afternoon Bowie was taken very ill, owing to his great exertions, and a bed was made for him in the hospital. Ned sat there with him a while. The gentle mood that had distinguished the Georgian throughout the siege was even more marked now.

"Ned," he said, "you ought to have gone out the other night when we wanted you to go. Fannin may come to our help or he may not, but even if he should come I don't think his force is sufficient. It would merely increase the number of Texans in the trap."

"I've quite made up my mind that I won't go," said Ned.

"I'm sorry," said Bowie. "As for me, it's different. I'm a man of violence, Ned. I don't deny it. There's human blood on my hands, and some of it is that of my own countrymen. I've done things that I'd like to call back, and so I'm glad to be here, one of a forlorn hope, fighting for Texas. It's a sort of atonement, and if I fall I think it will be remembered in my favor."

Ned was singularly impressed. Crockett had talked in much the same way. Could these men, heroes of a thousand dangers, have really given up? Not to give up in the sense of surrender, but to expect death fighting? But for himself he could not believe such a thing possible. Youth was too strong in him.

He was on the watch again for part of the next night, and he and Crockett were together. They heard sounds made by the besiegers on every side of them. Mexicans were calling to Mexicans. Bridle bits rattled, and metal clanked against metal.

"I suppose the circle is complete," said Ned.

"Looks like it," said Crockett, "but we've got our cattle to eat an' water to drink an' only a direct attack in force can take us. They can bang away with their cannon till next Christmas an' they won't shake our grip on the Alamo."

The night was fairly dark, and an hour later Ned heard a whistle. Crockett heard it, too, and stiffened instantly into attention.

"Did that sound to you like a Mexican whistling?" he asked.

"No, I'd say it came from American lips, and I'd take it also for a signal."

"An' so it is. It's just such a whistle as hunters use when they want to talk to one another without words. I've whistled to my pardners that way in the woods hundreds of times. I think, Ned, that some Texans are at hand waitin' a chance to slip in."

Crockett emitted a whistle, low but clear and penetrating, almost like the song of a night bird, and in a half minute came the rejoinder. He replied to it briefly, and then they waited. Others had gathered at the low plaza wall with them. Hidden to the eyes, they peered over the parapet.

They heard soft footsteps in the darkness, and then dim forms emerged. Despite the darkness they knew them to be Texans, and Crockett spoke low:

"Here we are, boys, waitin' for you! This way an' in a half minute you're in the Alamo!"

The men ran forward, scaled the wall and were quickly inside. They were only thirty-two. Ned had thought that the Panther, Obed, and Will Allen might be among them, but they were not there. The new men were shaking hands with the others and were explaining that they had come from Gonzales with Captain Smith at their head. They were all well armed, carried much ammunition, and were sure that other parties would arrive from different points.

The thirty-two were full of rejoicings over their successful entry, but they were worn, nevertheless, and they were taken into one of the buildings, where food and water were set before them. Ned stood by, an eager auditor, as they told of their adventures.

"We had a hard time to get in here to you," said Captain Smith, "and from the looks of things I reckon we'll have as hard a time to get out. There must be a million Mexicans around the Alamo. We tried to get up a bigger force, but we couldn't gather any more without waiting, and we thought if you needed us at all you needed us in a hurry."

"Reckon you're right about the need of bein' in a hurry," said Crockett. "When you want help you want it right then an' there."

"So you do," said Smith, as he took a fresh piece or steak, "and we had it in mind all the time. The wind was blowing our way, and in the afternoon we heard the roaring of cannon a long distance off. Then as we came closer we heard Mexicans buzzing all around the main swarm, scouts and skirmishers everywhere.

"We hid in an arroyo and waited until dark. Then we rode closer and found that there would never be any chance to get into the Alamo on horseback. We took the saddles and bridles off our horses, and turned them loose on the prairie. Then we undertook to get in here, but it was touch and go. I tell you it was touch and go. We wheeled and twisted and curved and doubled, until our heads got dizzy. Wherever we went we found Mexicans, thousands of 'em."

"We've noticed a few ourselves," said Crockett.

"It was pretty late when we struck an opening, and then not being sure we whistled. When we heard you whistle back we made straight for the wall, and here we are."

"We're mighty glad to see you," said Crockett, "but we ain't welcomin' you to no picnic, I reckon you understand that, don't you, Jim Smith?"

"We understand it, every one of us," replied Smith gravely. "We heard before we started, and now we've seen. We know that Santa Anna himself is out there, and that the Mexicans have got a big army. That's the reason we came, Davy Crockett, because the odds are so heavy against you."

"You're a true man," said Crockett, "and so is every one of these with you."

The new force was small--merely a few more for the trap--but they brought with them encouragement. Ned shared in the general mental uplift. These new faces were very welcome, indeed. They gave fresh vigor to the little garrison, and they brought news of that outside world from which he seemed to have been shut off so long. They told of numerous parties sure to come to their relief, but he soon noticed that they did not particularize. He felt with certainty that the Alamo now had all the defenders that it would ever have.

Repeated examinations from the walls of the church confirmed Ned in his belief. The Mexican circle was complete, and their sheltered batteries were so near that they dropped balls and shells whenever they pleased inside the Alamo. Duels between the cannon and the Texan sharpshooters were frequent. The gunners as they worked their guns were forced to show themselves at times, and every exposure was instantly the signal for a Texan bullet which rarely missed. But the Mexicans kept on. It seemed that they intended to wear out the defenders by the sheer persistency of their cannon fire.

Ned became so hardened to the bombardment that he paid little attention to it. Even when a ball fell inside the Alamo the chances were several hundred to one that it would not hit him. He had amused himself with a mathematical calculation of the amount of space he occupied compared with the amount of space in the Alamo. Thus he arrived at the result, which indicated comparatively little risk for himself.

The shrewdest calculations are often wrong. As he passed through the convent yard he met Crockett, and the two walked on together. But before they had gone half a dozen steps a bomb hissed through the air, fell and rolled to their feet. It was still hissing and smoking, but Ned, driven by some unknown impulse, seized it and with a mighty effort hurled it over the wall, where it burst. Then he stood licking his burned fingers and looking rather confusedly at Crockett. He felt a certain shyness over what he had done.

The veteran frontiersman had already formed a great affection for the boy. He knew that Ned's impulse had come from a brave heart and a quick mind, and that he had probably saved both their lives. He took a great resolution that this boy, the youngest of all the defenders, should be saved.

"That was done well, Ned," he said quietly. "I'm glad, boy, that I've known you. I'd be proud if you were a son of mine. We can talk plainly here with death all around us. You've got a lot in that head of yours. You ought to make a great man, a great man for Texas. Won't you do what I say and slip out of the Alamo while there's still a chance?"

Ned was much moved, but he kept his resolution as he had kept it before. He shook his head.

"You are all very good to me here," he said. "Mr. Bowie, too, has asked me to go, but if I should do so and the rest of you were to fall I'd be ashamed of myself all the rest of my life. I'm a Texan now, and I'm going to see it through with the rest of you."

"All right," said Crockett lightly. "I've heard that you can lead a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink, an' if a boy don't want to go you can't make him go. So we'll just go into this little improvised armory of ours, an' you an' I will put in our time moldin' bullets."

They entered one of the adobe buildings. A fire had been built on the hearth, and a half dozen Texans were already busy there. But they quickly made room for Crockett and Ned. Crockett did not tell Ned that their supplies of powder and lead were running low, and that they must reduce their fire from the walls in order that they might have sufficient to meet an attack in force.

But it was a cheerful little party that occupied itself with molding bullets. Ned put a bar of lead into a ladle, and held it over the fire until the bar became molten. Then he poured it into the mold until it was full, closed it, and when he opened it again a shining bullet dropped out. He worked hour after hour. His face became flushed with the heat, but with pride he watched his heap of bullets grow.

Crockett at last said they had done enough for one day, and Ned was glad when they went outside and breathed the fresh air again. There was no firing at that time, and they climbed once more upon the church wall. Ned looked out upon the scene, every detail of which was so familiar to him now. But conspicuous, and seeming to dominate all, was the blood-red flag of no quarter floating from the tower of the church of San Fernando. Wind and rain had not dimmed its bright color. The menace in its most vivid hue was always there.

Travis, who was further along the wall with a pair of strong field glasses, came back and joined Ned and Crockett.

"If you would like to see Santa Anna you can," he said to Ned. "He is on the church of San Fernando now with his generals looking at us. Take these glasses and your gaze may meet his."

Ned took the glasses, and there was Santa Anna standing directly under the folds of the banner with his own glasses to his eyes, studying the Alamo and its defenders. About him stood a half dozen generals. Ned's heart swelled with anger. The charm and genius of Santa Anna made him all the more repellent now. Ned knew that he would break any promise if it suited him, and that cunning and treachery were his most potent tools.

Santa Anna, at that very moment, was discussing with Sesma, Cos, Gaona and others the question of an immediate assault with his whole army upon the Alamo. They had heard rumors of an advance by Fannin with help for the Texans, but, while some of the younger spirits wished prompt attack, Santa Anna decided on delay.

The dictator doubted whether Fannin would come up, and if he did he would merely put so many more rats in the trap. Santa Anna felt secure in his vast preponderance of numbers. He would take the Texans in his own good time, that is, whenever he felt like it. He did not care to hurry, because he was enjoying himself greatly in San Antonio. Capable of tremendous energy at times, he gave himself up at other times to Babylonian revels.

Ned handed the glasses to Crockett, who also took a long look.

"I've heard a lot of Santa Anna," he said, "an' maybe I'll yet meet him eye to eye."

"It's possible," said Travis, "but, Davy, we've got to wait on the Mexicans. It's always for them to make the move, and then we'll meet it if we can. I wish we could hear from Bonham. I'm afraid he's been taken."

"Not likely," said Crockett. "One man, all alone, an' as quick of eye an' foot as Bonham, would be pretty sure to make his way safely."

"I certainly hope so," said Travis. "At any rate, I intend to send out another letter soon. If the Texans are made to realize our situation they will surely come, no matter how far away they may be."

"I hope they will," said Crockett. But Ned noticed that he did not seem to speak with any great amount of confidence. Balancing everything as well as he could, he did not see how much help could be expected. The Texan towns were tiny. The whole fringe of Texan settlements was small. The Texans were but fifty or sixty thousands against the seven or eight millions of Mexico, and now that they knew a great Mexican army was in Texas the scattered borderers would be hard put to it to defend themselves. He did not believe that in any event they could gather a force great enough to cut its way through the coil of Santa Anna's multitude.

But Travis' faith in Bonham, at least, was justified. The next night, about halfway between midnight and morning, in the darkest hour, a man scaled the wall and dropped inside the plaza. It proved to be Bonham himself, pale, worn, covered with mud and dust, but bringing glad tidings. Ned was present when he came into the church and was met by Travis. Bowie, Crockett and Smith. Only a single torch lighted up the grim little group.

"Fannin has left Goliad with 300 men and four cannon to join us," Bonham said. "He started five days ago, and he should be here soon. With his rifles and big guns he'll be able to cut his way through the Mexicans and enter the Alamo."

"I think so, too," said Travis, with enthusiasm.

But Ned steadily watched Bowie and Crockett. They were the men of experience, and in matters such as these they had minds of uncommon penetration. He noticed that neither of them said anything, and that they showed no elation.

Everybody in the Alamo knew the next day that Bonham had come from Fannin, and the whole place was filled with new hope. As Ned reckoned, it was about one hundred and fifty miles from San Antonio de Bexar to Goliad; but, according to Bonham, Fannin had already been five days on the way, and they should hear soon the welcome thunder of his guns. He eagerly scanned the southeast, in which direction lay Goliad, but the only human beings he saw were Mexicans. No sound came to his ears but the note of a Mexican trumpet or the crack of a vaquero's whip.

He was not the only one who looked and listened. They watched that day and the next through all the bombardment and the more dangerous rifle fire. But they never saw on the horizon the welcome flash from any of Fannin's guns. No sound that was made by a friend reached their ears. The only flashes of fire they saw outside were those that came from the mouths of Mexican cannon, and the only sounds they heard beyond the Alamo were made by the foe. The sun, huge, red and vivid, sank in the prairie and, as the shadows thickened over the Alamo, Ned was sure in his heart that Fannin would never come.

* * * * *

A few days before the defenders of the Alamo had begun to scan the southeast for help a body of 300 men were marching toward San Antonio de Bexar. They were clad in buckskin and they were on horseback. Their faces were tanned and bore all the signs of hardship. Near the middle of the column four cannon drawn by oxen rumbled along, and behind them came a heavy wagon loaded with ammunition.

It was raining, and the rain was the raw cold rain of early spring in the southwest. The men, protecting themselves as well as they could with cloaks and serapes, rarely spoke. The wheels of the cannon cut great ruts in the prairie, and the feet of the horses sank deep in the mud.

Two men and a boy rode near the head of the column. One of these would have attracted attention anywhere by his gigantic size. He was dressed completely in buckskin, save for the raccoon skin cap that crowned his thick black hair. The rider on his right hand was long and thin with the calm countenance of a philosopher, and the one on his left was an eager and impatient boy.

"I wish this rain would stop," said the Panther, his ensanguined eye expressing impatience and anger. "I don't mind gettin' cold an' I don't mind gettin' wet, but there is nothin' stickier or harder to plough through than the Texas mud. An' every minute counts. Them boys in that Alamo can't fight off thousands of Mexicans forever. Look at them steers! Did you ever see anything go as slow as they do?"

"I'd like to see Ned again," said Will Allen. "I'd be willing to take my chance with him there."

"That boy of ours is surely with Crockett and Bowie and Travis and the others, helping to fight off Santa Anna and his horde," said Obed White. "Bonham couldn't have made any mistake about him. If we had seen Bonham himself we could have gone with him to the Alamo."

"But he gave Ned's name to Colonel Fannin," said Will, "and so it's sure to be he."

"Our comrade is certainly there," said Obed White, "and we've got to help rescue him as well as help rescue the others. It's hard not to hurry on by ourselves, but we can be of most help by trying to push on this force, although it seems as if everything had conspired against us."

"It shorely looks as if things was tryin' to keep us back," exclaimed the Panther angrily. "We've had such a hard time gettin' these men together, an' look at this rain an' this mud! We ought to be at Bexar right now, a-roarin', an' a-t'arin', an' a-rippin', an' a-chawin' among them Mexicans!"

"Patience! Patience!" said Obed White soothingly. "Sometimes the more haste the oftener you trip."

"Patience on our part ain't much good to men sixty or eighty miles away, who need us yelling' an' shootin' for them this very minute."

"I'm bound to own that what you say is so," said Obed White.

They relapsed into silence. The pace of the column grew slower. The men were compelled to adapt themselves to the cannon and ammunition wagon, which were now almost mired. The face of the Panther grew black as thunder with impatience and anger, but he forced himself into silence.

They stopped a little while at noon and scanty rations were doled out. They had started in such haste that they had only a little rice and dried beef, and there was no time to hunt game.

They started again in a half hour, creeping along through the mud, and the Panther was not the only man who uttered hot words of impatience under his breath. They were nearing the San Antonio River now, and Fannin began to show anxiety about the fort. But the Panther was watching the ammunition wagon, which was sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. It seemed to him that it was groaning and creaking too much even for the deep mud through which it was passing.

The driver of the ammunition wagon cracked his long whip over the oxen and they tugged at the yoke. The wheels were now down to the hub, and the wagon ceased to move. The driver cracked his whip again and again, and the oxen threw their full weight into the effort. The wheels slowly rose from their sticky bed, but then something cracked with a report like a pistol shot. The Panther groaned aloud, because he knew what had happened.

The axle of the wagon had broken, and it was useless. They distributed the ammunition, including the cannon balls, which they put in sacks, as well as they could, among the horsemen, and went on. They did not complain, but every one knew that it was a heavy blow. In two more hours they came to the banks of the muddy San Antonio, and stared in dismay at the swollen current. It was evident at once to everybody that the passage would be most difficult for the cannon, which, like the ammunition wagon, were drawn by oxen.

The river was running deep, with muddy banks, and a muddy bottom, and, taking the lightest of the guns, they tried first to get it across. Many of the men waded neck deep into the water and strove at the wheels. But the stream went completely over the cannon, which also sank deeper and deeper in the oozy bottom. It then became an effort to save the gun. The Panther put all his strength at the wheel, and, a dozen others helping, they at last got it back to the bank from which they had started.

Fannin, not a man of great decision, looked deeply discouraged, but the Panther and others urged him on to new attempts. The Panther, himself, as he talked, bore the aspect of a huge river god. Yellow water streamed from his hair, beard, and clothing, and formed a little pool about him. But he noticed it not at all, urging the men on with all the fiery energy which a dauntless mind had stored in a frame so great and capable.

"If it can be done the Panther will get the guns across," said Will to Obed.

"That's so," said Obed, "but who'd have thought of this? When we started out we expected to have our big fight with an army and not with a river."

They took the cannon into the water a second time, but the result was the same. They could not get it across, and with infinite exertion they dragged it back to the bank. Then they looked at one another in despair. They could ford the river, but it seemed madness to go on without the cannon. While they debated there, a messenger came with news that the investment of the Alamo by Santa Anna was now complete. He gave what rumor said, and rumor told that the Mexican army numbered ten or twelve thousand men with fifty or sixty guns. Santa Anna's force was so great that already he was sending off large bodies to the eastward to attack Texan detachments wherever they could be found.

Fannin held an anxious council with his officers. It was an open talk on the open prairie, and anybody who chose could listen. Will Allen and Obed White said nothing, but the Panther was vehement.

"We've got to get there!" he exclaimed. "We can't leave our people to die in the Alamo! We've got to cut our way through, an', if the worst comes to the worst, die with them!"

"That would benefit nobody," said Fannin. "We've made every human effort to get our cannon across the river, and we have failed. It would not profit Texas for us to ride on with our rifles merely to be slaughtered. There will be other battles and other sieges, and we shall be needed."

"Does that mean we're not goin' on?" asked the Panther.

"We can't go on."

Fannin waved his hand at the yellow and swollen river.

"We must return to Goliad," he said, "I have decided. Besides, there is nothing else for us to do. About face, men, and take up the march."

The men turned slowly and reluctantly, and the cannon began to plough the mud on the road to Goliad, from which they had come.

The Panther had remounted, and he drew to one side with Will and Obed, who were also on their horses. His face was glowing with anger. Never had he looked more tremendous as he sat on his horse, with the water still flowing from him.

"Colonel Fannin," he called out, "you can go back to Goliad, but as for me an' my pardners, Obed White an' Will Allen, we're goin' to Bexar, an' the Alamo."

"I have no control over you," said Fannin, "but it would be much better for you three to keep with us."

"No," said the Panther firmly. "We hear the Alamo callin'. Into the river, boys, but keep your weapons an' ammunition dry."

Their horses, urged into the water, swam to the other bank, and, without looking back the three rode for San Antonio de Bexar.

* * * * *

While the Panther, Obed White and Will Allen were riding over the prairie, Ned Fulton sat once more with his friend. Davy Crockett, in one of the adobe buildings. Night had come, and they heard outside the fitful crackle of rifle fire, but they paid no attention to it. Travis, at a table with a small tallow candle at his elbow, was writing his last message.

Ned was watching the commander as he wrote. But he saw no expression of despair or even discouragement on Travis' fine face. The letter, which a messenger succeeded in carrying through the lines that night, breathed a noble and lofty courage. He was telling again how few were his men, and how the balls and bombs had rained almost continuously for days upon the Alamo. Even as his pen was poised they heard the heavy thud of a cannon, but the pen descended steadily and he wrote:

"I shall continue to hold it until I get relief from my countrymen, or perish in its defence."

He wrote on a little longer and once more came the heavy thud of a great gun. Then the pen wrote:

"Again I feel confident that the determined spirit and desperate courage heretofore exhibited by my men will not fail them in the last struggle, and, although they may be sacrificed to the vengeance of a Gothic enemy, the victory will cost that enemy so dear that it will be worse than a defeat."

"Worse than a defeat!" Travis never knew how significant were the words that he penned then. A minute or two later the sharp crack of a half dozen rifles came to them, and Travis wrote:

"A blood-red flag waves from the church of Bexar and in the camp above us, in token that the war is one of vengeance against rebels."

They heard the third heavy thud of a cannon, and a shell, falling in the court outside, burst with a great crash. Ned went out and returned with a report of no damage. Travis had continued his letter, and now he wrote:

"These threats have no influence upon my men, but to make all fight with desperation, and with that high-souled courage which characterizes the patriot who is willing to die in defence of his country, liberty and his own honor, God and Texas.

"Victory or death."

He closed the letter and addressed it. An hour later the messenger was beyond the Mexican lines with it, but Travis sat for a long time at the table, unmoving and silent. Perhaps he was blaming himself for not having been more watchful, for not having discovered the advance of Santa Anna. But he was neither a soldier nor a frontiersman, and since the retreat into the Alamo he had done all that man could do.

He rose at last and went out. Then Crockett said to Ned, knowing that it was now time to speak the full truth:

"He has given up all hope of help."

"So have I," said Ned.

"But we can still fight," said Crockett.

The day that followed was always like a dream to Ned, vivid in some ways, and vague in others. He felt that the coil around the Alamo had tightened. Neither he nor any one else expected aid now, and they spoke of it freely one to another. Several who could obtain paper wrote, as Ned had done, brief wills, which they put in the inside pockets of their coats. Always they spoke very gently to one another, these wild spirits of the border. The strange and softening shadow which Ned had noticed before was deepening over them all.

Bowie was again in the hospital, having been bruised severely in a fall from one of the walls, but his spirit was as dauntless as ever.

"The assault by the Mexicans in full force cannot be delayed much longer," he said to Ned. "Santa Anna is impatient and energetic, and he surely has brought up all his forces by this time."

"Do you think we can beat them off?" asked Ned.

Bowie hesitated a little, and then he replied frankly:

"I do not. We have only one hundred and seventy or eighty men to guard the great space that we have here. But in falling we will light such a flame that it will never go out until Texas is free."

Ned talked with him a little longer, and always Bowie spoke as if the time were at hand when he should die for Texas. The man of wild and desperate life seemed at this moment to be clothed about with the mantle of the seer.

The Mexican batteries fired very little that day, and Santa Anna's soldiers kept well out of range. They had learned a deep and lasting respect for the Texan rifles. Hundreds had fallen already before them, and now they kept under cover.

The silence seemed ominous and brooding to Ned. The day was bright, and the flag of no quarter burned a spot of blood-red against the blue sky. Ned saw Mexican officers occasionally on the roofs of the higher buildings, but he took little notice of them. He felt instinctively that the supreme crisis had not yet come. They were all waiting, waiting.

The afternoon drew its slow length away in almost dead silence, and the night came on rather blacker than usual. Then the word was passed for all to assemble in the courtyard. They gathered there, Bowie dragging his sick body with the rest. Every defender of the Alamo was present. The cannon and the walls were for a moment deserted, but the Mexicans without did not know it.

There are ineffaceable scenes in the life of every one, scenes which, after the lapse of many years, are as vivid as of yesterday. Such, the last meeting of the Texans, always remained in the mind of Ned. They stood in a group, strong, wiry men, but worn now by the eternal vigilance and danger of the siege. One man held a small torch, which cast but a dim light over the brown faces.

Travis stood before them and spoke to them.

"Men," he said, "all of you know what I know, that we stand alone. No help is coming for us. The Texans cannot send it or it would have come. For ten days we have beaten off every attack of a large army. But another assault in much greater force is at hand. It is not likely that we can repel it. You have seen the red flag of no quarter flying day after day over the church, and you know what it means. Santa Anna never gives mercy. It is likely that we shall all fall, but, if any man wishes to go, I, your leader, do not order him to stay. You have all done your duty ten times over. There is just a chance to escape over the walls and in the darkness. Now go and save your lives if you can."

"We stay," came the deep rumble of many voices together. One man slipped quietly away a little later, but he was the only one. Save for him, there was no thought of flight in the minds of that heroic band.

Ned's heart thrilled and the blood pounded in his ears. Life was precious, doubly so, because he was so young, but he felt a strange exaltation in the face of death, an exaltation that left no room for fear.

The eyes of Travis glistened when he heard the reply.

"It is what I expected," he said. "I knew that every one of you was willing to die for Texas. Now, lads, we will go back to the walls and wait for Santa Anna." _

Read next: Chapter 12. Before The Dictator

Read previous: Chapter 10. Crockett And Bowie

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