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

Chapter 13. To The Last Man

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Ned awoke after a feverish night, when there was yet but a strip of gray in the east. It was Sunday morning, but he had lost count of time, and did not know it. He had not undressed at all when he lay down, and now he stood by the window, seeking to see and hear. But the light was yet dim and the sounds were few. Nevertheless the great pulse in his throat began to leap. The attack was at hand.

The door of the room was unlocked and the two peons who had guarded him upon the roof came for him. Ned saw in the half gloom that they were very grave of countenance.

"We are to take you to the noble Captain Urrea, who is waiting for you," said Fernando.

"Very well," said Ned. "I am ready. You have been kind to me, and I hope that we shall meet again after to-day."

Both men shook their heads.

"We fear that is not to be," said Fernando.

They found Urrea and another young officer waiting at the door of the house. Urrea was in his best uniform and his eyes were very bright. He was no coward, and Ned knew that the gleam was in anticipation of the coming attack.

"The time is at hand," he said, "and it will be your wonderful fortune to see how Mexico strikes down her foe."

His voice, pitched high, showed excitement, and a sense of the dramatic. Ned said nothing, and his own pulses began to leap again. The strip of gray in the east was broadening, and he now saw that the whole town was awake, although it was not yet full daylight. Santa Anna had been at work in the night, while he lay in that feverish sleep. He heard everywhere now the sound of voices, the clank of arms and the beat of horses' hoofs. The flat roofs were crowded with the Mexican people. Ned saw Mexican women there in their dresses of bright colors, like Roman women in the Colosseum, awaiting the battle of the gladiators. The atmosphere was surcharged with excitement, and the sense of coming triumph.

Ned's breath seemed to choke in his throat and his heart beat painfully. Once more he wished with all his soul that he was with his friends, that he was in the Alamo. He belonged with them there, and he would rather face death with those familiar faces around him than be here, safe perhaps, but only a looker-on. It was with him now a matter of the emotions, and not of reasoned intellect. Once more he looked toward the old mission, and saw the dim outline of the buildings, with the dominating walls of the church. He could not see whether anyone watched on the walls, but he knew that the sentinels were there. Perhaps Crockett, himself, stood among them now, looking at the great Mexican coil of steel that was wrapping itself tighter and tighter around the Alamo. Despite himself, Ned uttered a sigh.

"What is the matter with you?" asked Urrea, sharply. "Are you already weeping for the conquered?"

"You know that I am not," replied Ned. "You need not believe me, but I regret that I am not in the Alamo with my friends."

"It's an idle wish," said Urrea, "but I am taking you now to General Santa Anna. Then I leave, and I go there! Look, the horsemen!"

He extended his hand, and Ned saw his eyes kindling. The Mexican cavalry were filing out in the dim dawn, troop after troop, the early light falling across the blades of the lances, spurs and bridles jingling. All rode well, and they made a thrilling picture, as they rode steadily on, curving about the old fortress.

"I shall soon be with them," said Urrea in a tone of pride. "We shall see that not a single one of your Texans escapes from the Alamo."

Ned felt that choking in his throat again, but he deemed it wiser to keep silent. They were going toward the main plaza now, and he saw masses of troops gathered in the streets. These men were generally silent, and he noticed that their faces expressed no elation. He divined at once that they were intended for the assault, and they had no cause for joy. They knew that they must face the deadly Texan rifles.

Urrea led the way to a fortified battery standing in front of the main plaza. A brilliant group stood behind an earthen wall, and Ned saw Santa Anna among them.

"I have brought the prisoner," said Urrea, saluting.

"Very good," replied the dictator, "and now, Captain Urrea, you can join your command. You have served me well, and you shall have your share in the glory of this day."

Urrea flushed with pride at the compliment, and bowed low. Then he hurried away to join the horse. Santa Anna turned his attention.

"I have brought you here at this moment," he said, "to give you a last chance. It is not due to any mercy for you, a rebel, but it is because you have been so long in the Alamo that you must know it well. Point out to us its weakest places, and you shall be free. You shall go north in safety. I promise it here, in the presence of my generals."

"I have nothing to tell," replied Ned.

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely sure."

"Then it merely means a little more effusion of blood. You may stay with us and see the result."

All the ancient, inherited cruelty now shone in Santa Anna's eyes. It was the strange satanic streak in him that made him keep his captive there in order that he might see the fall of his own comrades. A half dozen guards stood near the person of the dictator, and he said to them:

"If the prisoner seeks to leave us, shoot him at once."

The manner of Santa Anna was arrogant to the last degree, but Ned was glad to stay. He was eager to see the great panorama which was about to be unrolled before him. He was completely absorbed in the Alamo, and he utterly forgot himself. Black specks were dancing before his eyes, and the blood was pounding in his ears, but he took no notice of such things.

The gray bar in the east broadened. A thin streak of shining silver cut through it, and touched for a moment the town, the river, the army and the Alamo. Ned leaned against an edge of the earthwork, and breathed heavily and painfully. He had not known that his heart could beat so hard.

The same portentous silence prevailed everywhere. The men and women on the roofs of the houses were absolutely still. The cavalry, their line now drawn completely about the mission, were motionless. Ned, straining his eyes toward the Alamo, could see nothing there. Suddenly he put up his hand and wiped his forehead. His fingers came away wet. His blood prickled in his veins like salt. He became impatient, angry. If the mine was ready, why did they not set the match? Such waiting was the pitch of cruelty.

"Cos, my brother," said Santa Anna to the swart general, "take your command. It was here that the Texan rebels humiliated you, and it is here that you shall have full vengeance."

Cos saluted, and strode away. He was to lead one of the attacking columns.

"Colonel Duque," said Santa Anna to another officer, "you are one of the bravest of the brave. You are to direct the attack on the northern wall, and may quick success go with you."

Duque glowed at the compliment, and he, too, strode away to the head of his column.

"Colonel Romero," said Santa Anna, "the third column is yours, and the fourth is yours, Colonel Morales. Take your places and, at the signal agreed, the four columns will charge with all their strength. Let us see which will be the first in the Alamo."

The two colonels saluted as the others had done, and joined their columns.

The bar of gray in the east was still broadening, but the sun itself did not yet show. The walls of the Alamo were still dim, and Ned could not see whether any figures were there. Santa Anna had put a pair of powerful glasses to his eyes, but when he took them down he said nothing of what he had seen.

"Are all the columns provided?" he said to General Sesma, who stood beside him.

"They have everything," replied Sesma, "crowbars, axes, scaling ladders. Sir, they cannot fail!"

"No, they cannot," said Santa Anna exultantly. "These Texan rebels fight like demons, but we have now a net through which they cannot break. General Gaona, see that the bands are ready and direct them to play the Deguelo when the signal for the charge is given."

Ned shivered again. The "Deguelo" meant the "cutting-of-throats," and it, too, was to be the signal of no quarter. He remembered the red flag, and he looked up. It hung, as ever, on the tower of the church of San Fernando, and its scarlet folds moved slowly in the light morning breeze. General Gaona returned.

"The bands are ready, general," he said, "and when the signal is given they will play the air that you have chosen."

A Mexican, trumpet in hand, was standing near. Santa Anna turned and said to him the single word:


The man lifted the trumpet to his lips, and blew a long note that swelled to its fullest pitch, then died away in a soft echo.

It was the signal. A tremendous cry burst from the vast ring of the thousands, and it was taken up by the shrill voices of the women on the flat roofs of the houses. The great circle of cavalrymen shook their lances and sabers until they glittered.

When the last echo of the trumpet's dying note was gone the bands began to play with their utmost vigor the murderous tune that Santa Anna had chosen. Then four columns of picked Mexican troops, three thousand strong, rushed toward the Alamo. Santa Anna and the generals around him were tremendously excited. Their manner made no impression upon Ned then, but he recalled the fact afterward.

The boy became quickly unconscious of everything except the charge of the Mexicans and the Alamo. He no longer remembered that he was a prisoner. He no longer remembered anything about himself. The cruel throb of that murderous tune, the Deguelo, beat upon the drums of his ears, and mingled with it came the sound of the charging Mexicans, the beat of their feet, the clank of their arms, and the shouts of their officers.

Whatever may be said of the herded masses of the Mexican troops, the Mexican officers were full of courage. They were always in advance, waving their swords and shouting to their men to come on. Another silver gleam flashed through the gray light of the early morning, ran along the edges of swords and lances, and lingered for a moment over the dark walls of the Alamo.

No sound came from the mission, not a shot, not a cry. Were they asleep? Was it possible that every man, overpowered by fatigue, had fallen into slumber at such a moment? Could such as Crockett and Bowie and Travis be blind to their danger? Such painful questions raced through Ned's mind. He felt a chill run down his spine. Yet his breath was like fire to his lips.

"Nothing will stop them!" cried Santa Anna. "The Texans cower before such a splendid force! They will lay down their arms!"

Ned felt his body growing colder and colder, and there was a strange tingling at the roots of the hair. Now the people upon the roofs were shouting their utmost, and the voices of many women united in one shrill, piercing cry. But he never turned to look at them. His eyes were always on the charging host which converged so fast upon the Alamo.

The trumpet blew another signal, and there was a crash so loud that it made Ned jump. All the Mexican batteries had fired at once over the heads of their own troops at the Alamo. While the gunners reloaded the smoke of the discharge drifted away and the Alamo still stood silent. But over it yet hung a banner on which was written in great letters the word, "Texas."

The Mexican troops were coming close now. The bands playing the Deguelo swelled to greater volume and the ground shook again as the Mexican artillery fired its second volley. When the smoke drifted away again the Alamo itself suddenly burst into flame. The Texan cannon at close range poured their shot and shell into the dense ranks of the Mexicans. But piercing through the heavy thud of the cannon came the shriller and more deadly crackle of the rifles. The Texans were there, every one of them, on the walls. He might have known it. Nothing on earth could catch them asleep, nor could anything on earth or under it frighten them into laying down their arms.

Ned began to shout, but only hoarse cries came from a dry throat through dry lips. The great pulses in his throat were leaping again, and he was saying: "The Texans! The Texans! Oh, the brave Texans!"

But nobody heard him. Santa Anna, Filisola, Castrillon, Tolsa, Gaona and the other generals were leaning against the earthwork, absorbed in the tremendous spectacle that was passing before them. The soldiers who were to guard the prisoner forgot him and they, too, were engrossed in the terrible and thrilling panorama of war. Ned might have walked away, no one noticing, but he, too, had but one thought, and that was the Alamo.

He saw the Mexican columns shiver when the first volley was poured upon them from the walls. In a single glance aside he beheld the exultant look on the faces of Santa Anna and his generals die away, and he suddenly became conscious that the shrill shouting on the flat roofs of the houses had ceased. But the Mexican cannon still poured a cloud of shot and shell over the heads of their men at the Alamo, and the troops went on.

Ned, keen of ear and so intent that he missed nothing, could now separate the two fires. The crackle of the rifles which came from the Alamo dominated. Rapid, steady, incessant, it beat heavily upon the hearing and nerves. Pyramids and spires of smoke arose, drifted and arose again. In the intervals he saw the walls of the church a sheet of flame, and he saw the Mexicans falling by dozens and scores upon the plain. He knew that at the short range the Texan rifles never missed, and that the hail of their bullets was cutting through the Mexican ranks like a fire through dry grass.

"God, how they fight!" he heard one of the generals--he never knew which--exclaim.

Then he saw the officers rushing about, shouting to the men, striking them with the flats of their swords and urging them on. The Mexican army responded to the appeal, lifted itself up and continued its rush. The fire from the Alamo seemed to Ned to increase. The fortress was a living flame. He had not thought that men could fire so fast, but they had three or four rifles apiece.

The silence which had replaced the shrill shouting in the town continued. All the crash was now in front of them, and where they stood the sound of the human voice would carry. In a dim far-away manner Ned heard the guards talking to one another. Their words showed uneasiness. It was not the swift triumphal rush into the Alamo that they had expected. Great swaths had been cut through the Mexican army. Santa Anna paled more than once when he saw his men falling so fast.

"They cannot recoil! They cannot!" he cried.

But they did. The column led by Colonel Duque, a brave man, was now at the northern wall, and the men were rushing forward with the crowbars, axes and scaling ladders. The Texan rifles, never more deadly, sent down a storm of bullets upon them. A score of men fell all at once. Among them was Duque, wounded terribly. The whole column broke and reeled away, carrying Duque with them.

Ned saw the face of Santa Anna turn purple with rage. He struck the earthwork furiously with the flat of his sword.

"Go! Go!" he cried to Gaona and Tolsa. "Rally them! See that they do not run!"

The two generals sprang from the battery and rushed to their task. The Mexican cannon had ceased firing, for fear of shooting down their own men, and the smoke was drifting away from the field. The morning was also growing much lighter. The gray dawn had turned to silver, and the sun's red rim was just showing above the eastern horizon.

The Texan cannon were silent, too. The rifles were now doing all the work. The volume of their fire never diminished. Ned saw the field covered with slain, and many wounded were drifting back to the shelter of the earthworks and the town.

Duque's column was rallied, but the column on the east and the column on the west were also driven back, and Santa Anna rushed messenger after messenger, hurrying up fresh men, still driving the whole Mexican army against the Alamo. He shouted orders incessantly, although he remained safe within the shelter of the battery.

Ned felt an immense joy. He had seen the attack beaten off at three points. A force of twenty to one had been compelled to recoil. His heart swelled with pride in those friends of his. But they were so few in number! Even now the Mexican masses were reforming. The officers were among them, driving them forward with threats and blows. The great ring of Mexican cavalry, intended to keep any of the Texans from escaping, also closed in, driving their own infantry forward to the assault.

Ned's heart sank as the whole Mexican army, gathering now at the northern or lower wall, rushed straight at the barrier. But the deadly fire of the rifles flashed from it, and their front line went down. Again they recoiled, and again the cavalry closed in, holding them to the task.

There was a pause of a few moments. The town had been silent for a long time, and the Mexican soldiers themselves ceased to shout. Clouds of smoke eddied and drifted about the buildings. The light of the morning, first gray, then silver, turned to gold. The sun, now high above the earth's rim, poured down a flood of rays.

Everything stood out sharp and clear. Ned saw the buildings of the Alamo dark against the sun, and he saw men on the walls. He saw the Mexican columns pressed together in one great force, and he even saw the still faces of many who lay silent on the plain.

He knew that the Mexicans were about to charge again, and his feeling of exultation passed. He no longer had hope that the defenders of the Alamo could beat back so many. He thought again how few, how very few, were the Texans.

The silence endured but a moment or two. Then the Mexicans rushed forward in a mighty mass at the low northern wall, the front lines firing as they went. Flame burst from the wall, and Ned heard once more the deadly crackle of the Texan rifles. The ground was littered by the trail of the Mexican fallen, but, driven by their officers, they went on.

Ned saw them reach the wall and plant the scaling ladders, many of them. Scores of men swarmed up the ladders and over the wall. A heavy division forced its way into the redoubt through the sallyport, and as Ned saw he uttered a deep gasp. He knew that the Alamo was doomed. And the Mexicans knew it, too. The shrill screaming of the women began again from the flat roofs of the houses, and shouts burst from the army also.

"We have them! We have them!" cried Santa Anna, exultant and excited.

Sheets of flame still burst from the Alamo, and the rifles still poured bullets on the swarming Mexican forces, but the breach had been made. The Mexicans went over the low wall in an unbroken stream, and they crowded through the sallyport by hundreds. They were inside now, rushing with the overwhelming weight of twenty to one upon the little garrison. They seized the Texan guns, cutting down the gunners with lances and sabers, and they turned the captured cannon upon the defenders.

Some of the buildings inside the walls were of adobe, and they were soon shattered by the cannon balls. The Texans, covered with smoke and dust and the sweat of battle, were forced back by the press of numbers into the convent yard, and then into the church and hospital. Here the cannon and rifles in hundreds were turned upon them, but they still fought. Often, with no time to reload their rifles, they clubbed them, and drove back the Mexican rush.

The Alamo was a huge volcano of fire and smoke, of shouting and death. Those who looked on became silent again, appalled at the sights and sounds. The smoke rose far above the mission, and caught by a light wind drifted away to the east. The Mexican generals brought up fresh forces and drove them at the fortress. A heavy column, attacking on the south side, where no defenders were now left, poured over a stockade and crowded into the mission. The circle of cavalry about the Alamo again drew closer, lest any Texan should escape. But it was a useless precaution. None sought flight.

In very truth, the last hope of the Alamo was gone, and perhaps there was none among the defenders who did not know it. There were a few wild and desperate characters of the border, whom nothing in life became so much as their manner of leaving it. In the culminating moment of the great tragedy they bore themselves as well as the best.

Travis, the commander, and Bonham stood in the long room of the hospital with a little group around them, most of them wounded, the faces of all black with powder smoke. But they fought on. Whenever a Mexican appeared at the door an unerring rifle bullet struck him down. Fifty fell at that single spot before the rifles, yet they succeeded in dragging up a cannon, thrust its muzzle in at the door and fired it twice loaded with grape shot into the room.

The Texans were cut down by the shower of missiles, and the whole place was filled with smoke. Then the Mexicans rushed in and the few Texans who had survived the grape shot fell fighting to the last with their clubbed rifles. Here lay Travis of the white soul and beside him fell the brave Bonham, who had gone out for help, and who had returned to die with his comrades. The Texans who had defended the room against so many were only fifteen in number, and they were all silent now. Now the whole attack converged on the church, the strongest part of the Alamo, where the Texans were making their last stand. The place was seething with fire and smoke, but above it still floated the banner upon which was written in great letters the word, "Texas."

The Mexicans, pressing forward in dense masses, poured in cannon balls and musket balls at every opening. Half the Texans were gone, but the others never ceased to fire with their rifles. Within that raging inferno they could hardly see one another for the smoke, but they were all animated by the same purpose, to fight to the death and to carry as many of their foes with them as they could.

Evans, who had commanded the cannon, rushed for the magazine to blow up the building. They had agreed that if all hope were lost he should do so, but he was killed on his way by a bullet, and the others went on with the combat.

Near the entrance to the church stood a great figure swinging a clubbed rifle. His raccoon skin cap was lost, and his eyes burned like coals of fire in his swarthy face. It was Crockett, gone mad with battle, and the Mexicans who pressed in recoiled before the deadly sweep of the clubbed rifle. Some were awed by the terrific figure, dripping blood, and wholly unconscious of danger.

"Forward!" cried a Mexican officer, and one of his men went down with a shattered skull. The others shrank back again, but a new figure pressed into the ring. It was that of the younger Urrea. At the last moment he had left the cavalry and joined in the assault.

"Don't come within reach of his blows!" he cried. "Shoot him! Shoot him!"

He snatched a double-barreled pistol from his own belt and fired twice straight at Crockett's breast. The great Tennesseean staggered, dropped his rifle and the flame died from his eyes. With a howl of triumph his foes rushed upon him, plunged their swords and bayonets into his body, and he fell dead with a heap of the Mexican slain about him.

A bullet whistled past Urrea's face and killed a man beyond him. He sprang back. Bowie, still suffering severe injuries from a fall from a platform, was lying on a cot in the arched room to the left of the entrance. Unable to walk, he had received at his request two pistols, and now he was firing them as fast as he could pull the triggers and reload.

"Shoot him! Shoot him at once!" cried Urrea.

His own pistol was empty now, but a dozen musket balls were fired into the room. Bowie, hit twice, nevertheless raised himself upon his elbow, aimed a pistol with a clear eye and a steady hand, and pulled the trigger. A Mexican fell, shot through the heart, but another volley of musket balls was discharged at the Georgian. Struck in both head and heart he suddenly straightened out and lay still upon the cot. Thus died the famous Bowie.

Mrs. Dickinson and her baby had been hidden in the arched room on the other side for protection. The Mexicans killed a Texan named Walters at the entrance, and, wild with ferocity, raised his body upon a half dozen bayonets while the blood ran down in a dreadful stream upon those who held it aloft.

Urrea rushed into the room and found the cowering woman and her baby. The Mexicans followed, and were about to slay them, too, when a gallant figure rushed between. It was the brave and humane Almonte. Sword in hand, he faced the savage horde. He uttered words that made Urrea turn dark with shame and leave the room. The soldiers were glad to follow.

At the far end of the church a few Texans were left, still fighting with clubbed rifles. The Mexicans drew back a little, raised their muskets and fired an immense shattering volley. When the smoke cleared away not a single Texan was standing, and then the troops rushed in with sword and bayonet.

It was nine o'clock in the morning, and the Alamo had fallen. The defenders were less than nine score, and they had died to the last man. A messenger rushed away at once to Santa Anna with the news of the triumph, and he came from the shelter, glorying, exulting and crying that he had destroyed the Texans.

Ned followed the dictator. He never knew exactly why, because many of those moments were dim, like the scenes of a dream, and there was so much noise, excitement and confusion that no one paid any attention to him. But an overwhelming power drew him on to the Alamo, and he rushed in with the Mexican spectators.

Ned passed through the sallyport and he reeled back aghast for a moment. The Mexican dead, not yet picked up, were strewn everywhere. They had fallen in scores. The lighter buildings were smashed by cannon balls and shells. The earth was gulleyed and torn. The smoke from so much firing drifted about in banks and clouds, and it gave forth the pungent odor of burned gunpowder.

The boy knew not only that the Alamo had fallen, but that all of its defenders had fallen with it. The knowledge was instinctive. He had been with those men almost to the last day of the siege, and he had understood their spirit.

He was not noticed in the crush. Santa Anna and the generals were running into the church, and he followed them. Here he saw the Texan dead, and he saw also a curious crowd standing around a fallen form. He pressed into the ring and his heart gave a great throb of grief.

It was Crockett, lying upon his back, his body pierced by many wounds. Ned had known that he would find him thus, but the shock, nevertheless, was terrible. Yet Crockett's countenance was calm. He bore no wounds in the face, and he lay almost as if he had died in his bed. It seemed to Ned even in his grief that no more fitting death could have come to the old hero.

Then, following another crowd, he saw Bowie, also lying peacefully in death upon his cot. He felt the same grief for him that he had felt for Crockett, but it soon passed in both cases. A strange mood of exaltation took its place. They had died as one might wish to die, since death must come to all. It was glorious that these defenders of the Alamo, comrades of his, should have fallen to the last man. The full splendor of their achievement suddenly burst in a dazzling vision before him. Texans who furnished such valor could not be conquered. Santa Anna might have twenty to one or fifty to one or a hundred to one, in the end it would not matter.

The mood endured. He looked upon the dead faces of Travis and Bonham also, and he was not shaken. He saw others, dozens and dozens whom he knew, and the faces of all of them seemed peaceful to him. The shouting and cheering and vast chatter of the Mexicans did not disturb him. His mood was so high that all these things passed as nothing.

Ned made no attempt to escape. He knew that while he might go about almost as he chose in this crowd of soldiers, now disorganized, the ring of cavalry beyond would hold him. The thought of escape, however, was but little in his mind just then. He was absorbed in the great tomb of the Alamo. Here, despite the recent work of the cannon, all things looked familiar. He could mark the very spots where he had stood and talked with Crockett or Bowie. He knew how the story of the immortal defence would spread like fire throughout Texas and beyond. When he should tell how he had seen the faces of the heroes, every heart must leap.

He wandered back to the church, where the curious still crowded. Many people from the town, influential Mexicans, wished to see the terrible Texans, who yet lay as they had fallen. Some spoke scornful words, but most regarded them with awe. Ned looked at Crockett for the second time, and a hand touched him on the shoulder. It was Urrea.

"Where are your Texans now?" he asked.

"They are gone," replied Ned, "but they will never be forgotten." And then he added in a flash of anger. "Five or six times as many Mexicans have gone with them."

"It is true," said the young Mexican thoughtfully. "They fought like cornered mountain wolves. We admit it. And this one, Crockett you call him, was perhaps the most terrible of them all. He swung his clubbed rifle so fiercely that none dared come within its reach. I slew him."

"You?" exclaimed Ned.

"Yes, I! Why should I not? I fired two pistol bullets into him and he fell."

He spoke with a certain pride. Ned said nothing, but he pressed his teeth together savagely and his heart swelled with hate of the sleek and triumphant Urrea.

"General Santa Anna, engrossed in much more important matters, has doubtless forgotten you," continued the Mexican, "but I will see that you do not escape. Why he spares you I know not, but it is his wish."

He called to two soldiers, whom he detailed to follow Ned and see that he made no attempt to escape. The boy was yet so deeply absorbed in the Alamo that no room was left in his mind for anything else. Nor did he care to talk further with Urrea, who he knew was not above aiming a shaft or two at an enemy in his power. He remained in the crowd until Santa Anna ordered that all but the troops be cleared from the Alamo.

Then, at the order of the dictator, the bodies of the Texans were taken without. A number of them were spread upon the ground, and were covered with a thick layer of dry wood and brush. Then more bodies of men and heaps of dry wood were spread in alternate layers until the funeral pile was complete.

Young Urrea set the torch, while the Mexican army and population looked on. The dry wood flamed up rapidly and the whole was soon a pyramid of fire and smoke. Ned was not shocked at this end, even of the bodies of brave men. He recalled the stories of ancient heroes, the bodies of whom had been consumed on just such pyres as this, and he was willing that his comrades should go to join Hercules, Hector, Achilles and the rest.

The flames roared and devoured the great pyramid, which sank lower, and at last Ned turned away. His mood of exaltation was passing. No one could remain keyed to that pitch many hours. Overwhelming grief and despair came in its place. His mind raged against everything, against the cruelty of Santa Anna, who had hoisted the red flag of no quarter, against fate, that had allowed so many brave men to perish, and against the overwhelming numbers that the Mexicans could always bring against the Texans.

He walked gloomily toward the town, the two soldiers who had been detailed as guards following close behind him. He looked back, saw the sinking blaze of the funeral pyre, shuddered and walked on.

San Antonio de Bexar was rejoicing. Most of its people, Mexican to the core, shared in the triumph of Santa Anna. The terrible Texans were gone, annihilated, and Santa Anna was irresistible. The conquest of Texas was easy now. No, it was achieved already. They had the dictator's own word for it that the rest was a mere matter of gathering up the fragments.

Some of the graver and more kindly Mexican officers thought of their own losses. The brave and humane Almonte walked through the courts and buildings of the Alamo, and his face blanched when he reckoned their losses. A thousand men killed or wounded was a great price to pay for the nine score Texans who were sped. But no such thoughts troubled Santa Anna. All the vainglory of his nature was aflame. They were decorating the town with all the flags and banners and streamers they could find, and he knew that it was for him. At night they would illuminate in his honor. He stretched out his arm toward the north and west, and murmured that it was all his. He would be the ruler of an empire half the size of Europe. The scattered and miserable Texans could set no bounds to his ambition. He had proved it.

He would waste no more time in that empty land of prairies and plains. He sent glowing dispatches about his victory to the City of Mexico and announced that he would soon come. His subordinates would destroy the wandering bands of Texans. Then he did another thing that appealed to his vanity. He wrote a proclamation to the Texans announcing the fall of the Alamo, and directing them to submit at once, on pain of death, to his authority. He called for Mrs. Dickinson, the young wife, now widow, whom the gallantry of Almonte had saved from massacre in the Alamo. He directed her to take his threat to the Texans at Gonzales, and she willingly accepted. Mounting a horse and alone save for the baby in her arms, she rode away from San Antonio, shuddering at the sight of the Mexicans, and passed out upon the desolate and dangerous prairies.

The dictator was so absorbed in his triumph and his plans for his greater glory that for the time he forgot all about Ned Fulton, his youthful prisoner, who had crossed the stream and who was now in the town, attended by the two peons whom Urrea had detailed as his guards. But Ned had come out of his daze, and his mind was as keen and alert as ever. The effects of the great shock of horror remained. His was not a bitter nature, but he could not help feeling an intense hatred of the Mexicans. He was on the battle line, and he saw what they were doing. He resolved that now was his time to escape, and in the great turmoil caused by the excitement and rejoicing in San Antonio he did not believe that it would be difficult.

He carefully cultivated the good graces of the two soldiers who were guarding him. He bought for them mescal and other fiery drinks which were now being sold in view of the coming festival. Their good nature increased and also their desire to get rid of a task that had been imposed upon them. Why should they guard a boy when everybody else was getting ready to be merry?

They went toward the Main Plaza, and came to the Zambrano Row, where the Texans had fought their way when they took San Antonio months before. Ned looked up at the buildings. They were still dismantled. Great holes were in the walls and the empty windows were like blind eyes. He saw at once that their former inhabitants had not yet returned to them, and here he believed was his chance.

When they stood beside the first house he called the attention of his guards to some Mexican women who were decorating a doorway across the street. When they looked he darted into the first of the houses in the Zambrano Row. He entered a large room and at the corner saw a stairway. He knew this place. He had been here in the siege of San Antonio by the Texans, and now he had the advantage over his guards, who were probably strangers.

He rushed for the staircase and, just as he reached the top, one of the guards, who had followed as soon as they noticed the flight of the prisoner, fired his musket. The discharge roared in the room, but the bullet struck the wall fully a foot away from the target. Ned was on the second floor, and out of range the next moment. He knew that the soldiers would follow him, and he passed through the great hole, broken by the Texans, into the next house.

Here he paused to listen, and he heard the two soldiers muttering and breathing heavily. The distaste which they already felt for their task had become a deep disgust. Why should they be deprived of their part in the festival to follow up a prisoner? What did a single captive amount to, anyhow? Even if he escaped now the great, the illustrious Santa Anna, whose eyes saw all things, would capture him later on when he swept all the scattered Texans into his basket.

Ned went from house to house through the holes broken in the party walls, and occasionally he heard his pursuers slouching along and grumbling. At the fourth house he slipped out upon the roof, and lay flat near the stone coping.

He knew that if the soldiers came upon the roof they would find him, but he relied upon the mescal and their lack of zeal. He heard them once tramping about in the room below him, and then he heard them no more.

Ned remained all the rest of the afternoon upon the roof, not daring to leave his cramped position against the coping. He felt absolutely safe there from observation, Mexicans would not be prowling through dismantled and abandoned houses at such a time. Now and then gay shouts came from the streets below. The Mexicans of Bexar were disturbed little by the great numbers of their people who had fallen at the Alamo. The dead were from the far valleys of Mexico, and were strangers.

Ned afterward thought that he must have slept a little toward twilight, but he was never sure of it. He saw the sun set, and the gray and silent Alamo sink away into the darkness. Then he slipped from the roof, anxious to be away before the town was illuminated. He had no difficulty at all in passing unnoticed through the streets, and he made his way straight for the Alamo.

He was reckoning very shrewdly now. He knew that the superstitious Mexicans would avoid the mission at night as a place thronged with ghosts, and that Santa Anna would not need to post any guard within those walls. He would pass through the inclosures, then over the lower barriers by which the Mexicans had entered, and thence into the darkness beyond.

It seemed to him the best road to escape, and he had another object also in entering the Alamo. The defenders had had three or four rifles apiece, and he was convinced that somewhere in the rooms he would find a good one, with sufficient ammunition.

It was with shudders that he entered the Alamo, and the shudders came again when he looked about the bloodstained courts and rooms, lately the scene of such terrible strife, but now so silent. In a recess of the church which had been used as a little storage place by himself and Crockett he found an excellent rifle of the long-barreled Western pattern, a large horn of powder and a pouch full of bullets. There was also a supply of dried beef, which he took, too.

Now he felt himself a man again. He would find the Texans and then they would seek vengeance for the Alamo. He crossed the Main Plaza, dropped over the low wall and quickly disappeared in the dusk. _

Read next: Chapter 14. The News Of The Fall

Read previous: Chapter 12. Before The Dictator

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