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niously bestowed upon him, sprang to about to defeat us. She had inspired her the small fire he had kindled to light the imbecile people, in spite of themselves, moss by, and which was still burning with something of her own spirit; and feebly, and gathering the scattered frag- as the volume of steam and smoke from ments in his naked fingers proceeded to the smouldering fire rolled up, there was kindle the pile anew. They tried the a general burst of derision and defiance, manæuvre of the shams again, but with above which her own wiry treble shrilled less success, for only two shots were in fitting accord. With all our boundless wasted at them. The skirmish now com contempt for the Mexicans, we were menced in earnest. The shifting and ex- beginning to find out that destroying a pressive pantomime of from eighty to a Rancho with over three hundred people hundred heads and shoulders appearing inside of it, and a high, strong picketing here and there along the dim outline of around it, was no light undertaking even the picketing, to fire an old fusee at us for something less than a dozen Texans. quickly and disappear, gave us sufficient Castro and his warriors-who, though employment. Our rapid and dexterous they had no guns, might have been of firing covered the Bravo effectually; for some assistance to us in causing a diverno one on the picket dared to expose his sion-had been assigned, before the atbody by leaning forward far enough to tack commenced, their positions at wide bring a gun to bear upon him so close intervals around the whole Rancho, with below. They could only spring up for a orders not to budge, whatever might hapsecond, fire without aim, and dip down pen, until their chief had been sent for, again; and alert as they were, the sharp so that we were deprived of their agency. cry or the groan which sometimes fol. In his stolid faithfulness, Castro would lowed our shots told that they were suf- not have moved after such a command fering. We kept them by the dread of from Hays, without his permission, if the our superior marksmanship so effectually Rancho had been blown sky-high and under cover, that though they wasted we all along with it. The business of bad powder enough, and many of us his warriors was to watch for Agatone were standing openly exposed, ibeir fire and intercept his escape; and so much did us little mischief. A shower of twigs had the chief accustomed them to the cut down by some erratic ball would now despotism of literal obedience that, unless and then fall over us, or the dust would a command had come through him, per. be knocked up at our feet. But when sonally, or through some understood the Bravo had succeeded in setting fire to sign or watch-word, they would have the heap, and the flames began to mount died in their tracks rather than to have up strongly, matters became more serious. stirred for any other duty than that he It seemed to me that the whole population had appointed. of the Rancho made its appearance at
That a renewal of the attack upon once in solid line of heads, and a perfect gate, and of the effort to rekindle the fire storm of curses, missiles and bullets would be something worse than madness was sent after his retreat. Quite severely nearly all felt but the Colonel. It seemed wounded, he took refuge in the sheep- to be utterly impossible for him to realize pen, upon which we found ourselves that, as we had lost two men, and had compelled to fall back for protection, several disabled in the first attack, we with the loss of two men and several should not be able to accomplish twice as wounded. This was getting to be fierce much with half the number in a second work. Even Fitz forgot to be witty! onset, when the whole population of the
“ Boys, don't scatter yer fire,” shouted Rancho had been aroused to desperation the Colonel; “thin ’em from over the in the defence of their hearth-stones. gate!”
Quite discomforted, we were crouched One platoon was sufficient to vacate behind the low fence of the sheep.pen, the place for the moment; but before to consult as to the steps next to be taken. we were ready to fire again they had The Colonel was sufficiently raving and thrown over more water, and the fire unreasonable—for quite characteristically appeared to be quite extinguished. We he swore that we might, could and would, could hear the shrill screams of the old get into the Rancho some how, at any Señora, directing, threatening and driving rate—that enter it we should, even if we her cowardly people up to the defence. used our craniums for battering-rams, and She was perfectly aroused and desperate. were tilted in “ head foremost.”. Several We saw that her ferocious cunning was of, the men were likewise of opinion that,
after such scalding indignities, Texans opposite quarter-of course confounded would not only be able to demolish a the old Señora, and obliged her to sepacontemptible Rancho at a blow, but that rate her defensive force. The Bravo, even if the “Planetary plague” of bale. though wounded in such a manner as ful Mars “hung i’ the sick air,” by venge- would have entirely annihilated the comful Jove! had been the offender, they bative propensity in any other man, inwould scale its high place and pluck its stantly staggered toward the pile at the red hair, to be trampled in the mire of gate. He had only sufficient strength 10 tbeir scorn. Such direful and terrific re. reach it, and throwing himself upon the solves were sufficiently in keeping with ground-or falling upon it—he leaned on the extravagant heroics of this Frontier his elbow, and in a few moments had life.
kindled the fire anew with the help of The only possible question left open his flint and steel. Our party threw in a for discussion, was the practicability of close volley to cover this cool exhibition of all this. The tame and cowardly senti- desperation, and though now reduced to ment that everything they chose to pur- five or six guns, it had the effect of clearpose might not be accomplished, was not ing the wall entirely. It was evident to be endured in the utterance. These the Mexicans were panic stricken for the men had become so accustomed to bear. time-how long this might last, we did ing down everything before them, that not lose an instant in philosophizing absolutely nothing appeared to them im- about. The others of those who had possible; and I lost all the ground I had been hurt seemed, like the Bravo, to have gained in their contidence, when I at- forgotten that anything had happened to tempted to make them see the ulter ab- them, and were quite as alert with the surdity of any farther attempts upon the ramrod and trigger as the most active of Rancho. The firing on both sides had I have quite a confused recollection ceased. A very excited discussion was of the occurrences which followed for angrily proceeding as to the course pro some half-hour after this; indeed, they per to be taken now, when it was all at were too exciting, too hurried in my cononce discovered that Bill Johnson was no fused memory, for me to reproduce them longer in our midst. What had become at all effectively. I can only recall here of him at such a crisis, when we needed and there a fragmentary incident, which every energy of every member of the may assist others in apprehending what party who had been left alive?
were the consequences of the darkened “ Bill knows what he is about,” said and frantic action of the struggle which Hays; “ we shall hear from him pre- followed. I find myself now-looking sently."
back from the condition of a calmer exSure enough ; within two minutes the istence-surprised, beyond expression, wild war-whoop of the Lipans was sound- that my individuality and consciousness ed from the other side of the Rancho, and could have been so entirely overwhelmfollowing it instantly, a spire of fame ed in this heady tumult. I remember the shot up from the same quarter toward the vindictive exulting expression of the razenith, illuminating the whole region ging Colonel's voice, when he said, with a with great distinctness. The discomfited strange laugh, “ Ha, ha! we've got 'em Rangers sprang to their feet, and their at last, boys !--come on. answering yell had, in its electric burst, Before he said this, he had been silently a savagery that reminded me of famished tugging at one of the heaviest picketwild beasts replying to the call of their posts of the sheep-pen, and, having loosshagged brethren to a feast oi blood. A ened it, swung it upon his broad shouldiversion had been suddenly made by Bill ders, he then led the way towards the and Castro. The wary Trapper had per now undefended gate. Though the fire ceived in time that all was lost in front, the Bravo had kindled was beginning to and had glided away-fortified with a burn vigorously, I recollect that, in entire watchword from Hays—to bring our In- disregard of its heat, he projected himself dian auxiliaries into action. The rush through the midst of it and threw the which instantly followed on our part, and whole weight of his own immense the scattering of the heads which had strength, along with the battering-ram he been linked in that continuous line along had thus extemporized, against the gate. the top of the picket, caused a magical The man's strength was so preternatuchange in the aspect of affairs. This ralized, in the concentration of his fury, new attack-so unexpected and from the that though the gate was massive and
strong, we heard the planks crash, as it with it, filled them with such a hopeless burst its way through, while he fell panic, that before we had time to strike from the rebound upon the burning pile, iwo blows, men, women and children, utterly helpless, and lay there as if he with yells of moi tal fright, were rushing had been shot. Several of us sprang pell-mell on every side-some towards forward, and dragged him out of this the burning gate through which we came perilous predicament by the heels. He --others into the doors of the low huts had nearly made a Hindoo sacrifice of ranged around the four sides of the court. himself, upon the altar of his own head- All but the Colonel and one or two of long ferocity. The fire rushed through the scalded men, ceased to strike after the fracture he had caused, and, in an the resistance had ceased. Hays and instant, the timbers of the gate were myself induced the two men to hold blazing with a fierceness which scattered their hands, but could do nothing with the crowd that had rallied above in the the Colonel, who was perfectly mad and effort to extinguish it. Now the scene blind to everything but the one purpose was demoniac; the frantic wail of the of finding Agatone and the old Señora, despairing Mexicans, who saw that all and hewed away at all, of whatever sex was lost, and feared they were to be and age, who chanced to impede his burned up alive; their ill-directed de- search. The men went down on their fence and grotesque gestures, as they knees before him, clamoring for mercy, hurled into the air leaden and every other and without pausing to regard them an kind of projectiles; the lurid illumina- instant, he would strike them to the tion of the two fires; the rapid move- ground with his foot, the handle of his ments and fierce exulting cries of our knife, or the blade of it, just as it hapmen, constituted
expressive epit, pened. He would rush into one of the ome of the fiery tumult of a siege. I low huts, where men, women and chilremember that the gate burnt out with dren were piled upon each other in a such singular rapidity, that it almost corner, each trying to get to the bottom, seemed to have been made of paper, and and hauling them out by the hair or the through the red opening we could see heels, he would scatter them, like so the square of the open court, filled with many billets of wood, to and fro, over the confused and swaying, tumult of the the room, until he had examined every population, maddened with panic, and face, to see if those he hated were among utterly incapable of self-defence. There them. In this search, he was actively was a momentary glimpse of the pre- assisted by the other members of the siding genius of this infernal saturnalia, party, and I cannot say with any particin the form of the old Señora, which ular regard to a gentle etiquette on the presented itself for an instant in the in- part of any one of us. The Mexicans tense light of the opening. Her squatty were perfectly passive, and abjectly subfigure was quickened with the action of mitted to being tumbled abouť at our a hateful life, which the years seemed pleasure. But Agatone and the old Se. only to have intensified; she was but nora were nowhere to be found, and hali-clothed, and was tossing her skinny fears that they had escaped were begin. arms into the air; her coarse, stiff, gray- ning to be spoken. The very idea of ish hair, wild about her shoulders, while such a thing, seemed to inspire the Coher coppery face looked like a seamy lonel with a sort of ubiquity of energy; blotch of crumpled parchment, out of every corner, hole and cranny of the which two round coals were burning, Rancho was dived into by him, in an aswhite with fierceness. I shall never for- tonishingly short time; everything that a get the wizard and supernatural aspect good-sized mouse even, could have hid her momentary appearance gave to the beneath, was turned over, yet neither of whole scene. The hate and defiance of the objects of his affectionate interest that look seemed to have a galvanic ef were to be found. fect upon the Colonel, who instantly The fires, in the mean time, were raprushed over the burning heaps and idly subsiding, of themselves, for it is through the opening around which the extremely difficult to burn down one of flames were licking, calling upon us to these Ranchos. The picket is of heavy follow. This, of course, we did. The musquit timber, the most difficult wood Mexicans made a feeble attempt to drive to burn in the world ; the huts inside us back, but the raging aspect of the Co. are built of “ dobies,” (clumsy bricks lonel, and the terror his name carried dried in the sun,) and are thatched with
the bulrushes of the salt-swamps of the and Agatone bad passed out through country; and they are nearly as difficult this way. to set on fire as the “ dobies ;" so that The man muttered some confused anwhen the more inflammable timbers of swer, while we sprang forward, and, the gate had burned out, the flames and lifting the beef's hide, which served for a light went gradually down, leaving us in door, passed out into the open air, and comparative darkness. The fire, Bill and stood upon the brink of the steep bank of the Lipans had kindled, was still throw- the river. The moon was quite bright, ing up a fitful light, though, for the rea. and the fires still gave some illumination. sons given, it spread but little. We had We have observed that the river was all, but the Colonel, given up the search narrow. The first objects which met in despair, and were standing in a group our eyes were two human figures, just in around a small fire, which is kept burn the act of shaking the water from their ing, night and day, beneath a huge kettle garments as they stepped rapidly across of tallow or lard, which is always boil. the narrow interval where the light fell, ing over it, and from the capacious depths between the edge of the water and the of which, the singular shower we had deep gloom of the forest. There they been first saluted with, had come. The are!" said some one, quickly. This was men, in spite of the excitement, fatigues followed by the discharge of several and injuries contingent upon the late pieces from our party, but too late. The scenes, were joking each other upon what figures were lost beneath the shadows of had occurred, and passing around certain the forest. That shrill taunting laugh bottles which their investigations had was the reply, and at the same moment brought to light. The disappointment of the Colonel, brushing past us, threw Bill and the Colonel—since all the toil himself, with a horrid blasphemy upon and loss we had endured seemed to have his lips, headlong down the steep bank amounted to nothing, after the escape of into the water. A deep-mouthed whoop their two enemies-was just being laugh- from Bill, higher up the river, told that ed at by Fitz, when the Colonel thrust his sharp vision had made the same dishis head from the door of one of the huts covery; and, in a little while, we could on the side next the river, and shouting see the river dark with black objects, eagerly—“ Here boys—I've found their which proved to be the heads of the hole-we'll catch 'em yet”-disappeared Lipans, who were swimming across in within it quickly. We all rushed into the pursuit. the hut. We found him, with a lamp in The sounds of pursuit soon died away, his hand, stooping at a square hole in and as none of us felt like taking quite the back part of the room, which seemed so steep a plunge-bath as the Colonel's, as if it had been cut through the picket- gratuitously, and as it appeared to us ing, near the bottom. It had been con- there were more than enough already in cealed by a bed and some skins, which the chase to accomplish its objects, we he hail dragged away.
turned quietly back and passed into the “ Ha, ha!” he chuckled, in an under Rancho again. We very unhesitatingly tone of ecstacy, “we've got 'em-here's laid it under contribution for what amount the burrow, boys!" and holding the of edibles and drinkables were found lamp before him, entered the dark pas- necessary, or rather, what we could get our sage withou hesitation. It admitted him, hands upon. It was now nearly day. We stooping slightly We crowded after were all greatly exhausted ; the wounded him, with a reckless curiosity, to see men dreadfully so. No news was likely what this might lead to. No obstruction to come from the chasè very soon, and presented itself, and we suddenly found repose was to be had at any risk. We ourselves standing in one of those Dutch accordingly took possession of the largest oven-like huts we have mentioned, as room we could find, and, barricading the dug into the bank of the river, on the entrances thereto, placed a sentinel on outside of the picket. The wounded duty, and threw our weary bones upon Mexican was starting up, with terror in skin pallets. his face, from the bed I had rescued for We slept, sentinel and all, until late him. Frightened as he was, he was too in the morning, when we were suddenly weak to rise, and fell back. The Colo- roused by a tremendous thumping and nel sprang at him, and shaking him fu- clatter from without. Springing to my riously by the arm, demanded, in the feet, I saw that our sentinel, half asleep, Mexican language, whether the Señora had undone the fastenings, and the
Colonel, haggard with exhaustion, and plication of exciting interest, which will begrimed with dirt and wet, staggered require more space and time than we can into the room, and threw himself upon now give. Before long we shall resume the floor. The huge form of Bill Johnson them, in connection, with—we hopestalked in after him, dripping with water greater freshness and more undivided apindeed, but with his iron-face looking as plication. In the meantime, we will fresh and kindly as if he had just waked only hastily sketch through to the tragic up, on some calm May-morning, from a denouement of the next day We left the pleasant sleep.
Rancho-without doing it or its people Well, old boy, what's what?” drawled any farther injury—that evening, and out Fitz, who had balf risen, and now returned to the Colonel's. Before sun. sunk down lazily upon his elbow. “You down an express came from Bexar, redid it up clean there, in the bush, I sup- calling Hays and his Rangers to their pose ?”
post immediately. The news of a large “Clean !” said Bill, as he set old Sue body of Mexican troops from the Rio down in a corner with careful tender- Grande actually on their way to destroy
“I aint mighty clean, outen the the place, was sufficient to rouse these mud and stink er that river. But the dauntless and adventurous men. They way that wrinkly-faced hell-cat done us shook off their fatigue, and we were out clean 's nothing to nobody! Them soon in the saddle. No remonstrance two 'll do for screamers, any dark night! could induce the Colonel to accompany We never seen a glimpse uv 'em after us. He had scarcely spoken since the they got under them black woods, till we scene we have last described-sullen and seed 'em safe enough in Navarro's bowed, all his ferocious animality seemed Rancho, six miles over yonder, you to have deserted him. We endeavored know !”
to make him see that his resolve to re“ How could you have let 'em get main in such a neighborhood alone, and away this time, Bill?"
surrounded by an infuriated swarm of ene“ I don't mind er horse runnin, when mies, would be to insure his own murder. I knows a horse is in the case, and can He went moping about like one who felt see which way he'll take. How could any the heavy shadow's of his doom closing body whar want too thick with Old and weighing upon him; seeing him so Scratch, like she, have know'd they had stolidly infatuated we were finally obliged a horse waitin in the bush? ] thunk to leave him. I looked back within she'd tuck to her broom-stick, till the a short distance. He was sitting on the crack o' day. Then I seed ther horse- stile.blocks of his Rancho—his head trail, and followed it till we all comed leaning on his arm, and his fingers meto the Rancho, and thar she war, on top chanically playing with the lock of his er the picket, shakin her scraggy claws favorite six-shooter. This was the last at us and screechin. Kern let drive at I ever saw of this violent man. After her, but he war too mad, it didn't do! the wild and headlong struggles of the next She's some, boys ! Bill Johnson says week were ended, the Texan, the Bravo it! Whar's sumphen to drink, boys ?" and myself, started from Bexar on our
Seizing a bottle, he half emptied its return to the interior, with a view of contents at a single draught, and passed rousing the whole country to the defence it to the Colonel, who silently held up of this devastated frontier, and to retaliahis hand for it.
tory invasion. We passed through this The strange old witch and her worthy neighborhood again, and stopped at the and worshipful nephew had thoroughly Colonel's Rancho. We found it utterly outdone and baffled us after all! Texans, deserted, and scared a black wolf from its the cream of frontier trailers, warr ors, bed on the ashes of the hearth. We and desperadoes, outwitted—defeated by found the contemptible Lieutenant bestan old woman !!
ialized with whiskey to the verge of But it is time we should bring these idiocy. On inquiring of his chaste and diffused and somewhat protracted sketch- delectable wife as to what had happened, es to a close for the present. Indeed, the we learned that on the evening of the incidents of the next week upon a thea- day after we left, the Colonel bad been tre somewhat removed from this locality, shot, as he strolled listlessly and without embrace action much more extended and any precautions about his premises. The of greater historical importance, with a rumor was that Agatone, accompanied by multiplication of characters and a com the old Senora and three men, had fired