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

Chapter 20. The Cry For Vengeance

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As soon as the schooner was out of range Ned and his comrades stood up on the deck, and looked back at the long low coastline, which had offered to them so much danger. At first they saw Mexican horsemen on the beach, but as they went further and further out to sea they disappeared.

A strong wind hummed through the sails and the schooner, heeling over a little, went swiftly northward, leaving a long white wake. Ned and his comrades sat on the benches that ran around the sides of the deck. Some of the rich brown color faded from the Panther's face, and his eyes looked a little bit uneasy.

"I'm glad to be here," he said, "glad to be out of reach of the Mexicans, but I wish I was on somethin' a lot steadier than this."

Obed White, familiar with the waters of the Maine coast, laughed.

"This is just a spanking good breeze," he said. "Look how the waves dance!"

"Let 'em dance," said the Panther, "an' they can do my share of dancin', too. I never felt less like roarin' an' t'arin' an' rippin' in my life."

"Any way, we're getting a fine rest," said Will Allen. "It's pleasant to be out here, where nobody can drop suddenly on you from ambush."

The schooner made another curve to the eastward, the water became smoother and the Panther's qualms disappeared. Food and water were brought to them on deck, and they ate and drank with good appetites. Then John Roylston, who had gone below, as soon as they were out of range, reappeared. He went directly to Ned, shook hands with him with great energy, and said in a tone of deep gratitude:

"I had given you up for lost. But you reappeared with your friends, just in time to save the most valuable of all cargoes for the Texans. I should like to hear now how you rose from the dead, because I had direct information that you were in the Alamo, and I know that everybody there perished."

"I come, nevertheless, as the bearer of bad news," said Ned, with Goliad fresh in his mind.

"How is that?"

Then Ned told for the second time the dreadful deed done by order of Santa Anna, and it seemed to him as he told it that all the details were as vivid and terrible as ever. His desire for revenge upon the dictator and the Mexicans had not diminished a particle. Roylston's face, usually a mask, showed horror.

"It was an awful thing to do," he said, "but it means now that Santa Anna will never conquer Texas. No man can do such a deed and yet triumph. Now, tell me how it is that you are not among the slain in the Alamo." Ned related the story anew, and he dwelt upon the fact that Santa Anna had spared him at the mention of Roylston's name. But when the story was finished, the merchant was silent for quite a while. Ned knew by the contraction of the lines upon the great brow that he was thinking. At last, he broke the silence.

"No doubt you have wondered that my name had so much influence with Santa Anna," he said. "I have hinted at it before, but I will explain more fully now. I am, as you know, a merchant. I trade throughout the whole southwest, and I have ships in the Gulf and the Caribbean. One of them, the 'Star of the South,' on which we now are, can show her heels to anything in these seas.

"Earlier in my life I came in contact with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Like many others I fell for a while under his spell. I believed that he was a great and liberal man, that he would even be able to pull Mexico out of her slough of misrule and ignorance. I helped him in some of his young efforts. The splendid hacienda that he has near Vera Cruz was bought partly with money that I furnished.

"But our friendship could not last. Vain, ruthless, cruel, but with genius, Santa Anna can have no friends except those whom he may use. Unless you submit, unless you do everything that he wishes, you are, in his opinion, a traitor to him, a malefactor and an enemy, to be crushed by trickery or force, by fair means or foul. How could I have continued dealings with such a man?

"I soon saw that instead of being Mexico's best friend he was her worst enemy. I drew away in time, but barely. I was in Mexico when the break came, and he would have seized and imprisoned me or had me shot, but I escaped in disguise.

"I retained, too, a hold upon Santa Anna that he has sought in vain to break. Such a man as he always needs money, not a few thousands, but great sums. He has been thrifty. The treasury of Mexico has been practically at his mercy, but he does not trust the banks of his own land. He has money not only in the foreign banks of Mexico, but also large amounts of it in two of the great banks of London. The English deposits stand as security for the heavy sums that he owes me. His arm is long, but it does not reach to London.

"He cannot pay at present without putting himself in great difficulties, and, for the time being, I wish the debt to stand. It gives me a certain power over him, although we are on opposite sides in a fierce war. When you gave him my name in San Antonio, he did not put you to death because he feared that I would seize his English money when I heard of it.

"The younger Urrea has heard something of these debts. He is devoted to Santa Anna, and he knew that he would have rendered his chief an immense service if he could have secured his release from them. That was what he tried to force from me when I was in his hands, but you and your friends saved me. You little thought, Edward Fulton, that you were then saving your own life also. Otherwise, Santa Anna would have had you slain instantly when you were brought before him at San Antonio. Ah, how thoroughly I know that man! That he can be a terrible and cruel enemy he has already proved to Texas!"

The others listened with deep interest to every word spoken by Roylston. When he was through, the Panther rose, stretched his arms, and expanded his mighty chest. All the natural brown had returned to his cheeks, and his eyes sparkled with the fire of confidence.

"Mr. Roylston," he said, "the hosts of our foe have come an' they have devoured our people as the locusts ate up Egypt in the Bible, but I think our worst days have passed. We'll come back, an' we'll win."

"Yes," said Ned. "I know as truly as if a prophet had told me that we'll square accounts with Santa Anna."

He spoke with such sudden emphasis that the others were startled. His face seemed cut in stone. At that moment he saw only the Alamo and Goliad.

The "Star of the South" sped northward, and Edward Fulton sat long on her deck, dreaming of the day when the Texans, himself in the first rank, should come once more face to face with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Joseph A. Altsheler's Novel: Texan Scouts: A Story of the Alamo and Goliad


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