Texas Another World Texas Tales White Scalper, The

White Scalper, The

White Scalper, The
Catalog # SKU3736
Publisher Texas National Press
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Gustave Aimard
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The White Scalper

A Tale of the Texan War

Gustave Aimard

Colonel Melendez, after leaving the Jaguar, galloped with his head afire, and panting chest, along the Galveston road, exciting with his spurs the ardour of his horse, which yet seemed to devour space, so rapid was its speed. But it is a long journey from the Salto del Frayle to the town.

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While galloping, the Colonel reflected; and the more he did so, the more impossible did it appear to him that the Jaguar had told him the truth. In fact, how could it be supposed that this partisan, brave and rash though he was, would have dared to attack, at the head of a handful of adventurers, a well-equipped corvette, manned by a numerous crew, and commanded by one of the best officers in the Mexican navy? The capture of the fort seemed even more improbable to the Colonel.

While reflecting thus, the Colonel had gradually slackened his horse's speed; the animal, feeling that it was no longer watched, had insensibly passed from a gallop into a canter, then a trot, and by a perfectly natural transition, fell into a walk, with drooping head, and snapping at the blades of grass within its reach.

Night had set in for some time past; a complete silence brooded over the country, only broken by the hollow moan of the sea as it rolled over the shingle. The Colonel was following a small track formed along the coast, which greatly shortened the distance separating him from Galveston. This path, much used by day, was at this early hour of night completely deserted; the ranchos that stood here and there were shut up, and no light gleamed through their narrow windows, for the fishermen, fatigued by the rude toil of the day, had retired to bed at an early hour.

The young officer's horse, which had more and more slackened its pace, emboldened by impunity, at length stopped near a scrubby bush, whose leaves it began nibbling. This immobility aroused the Colonel from his reverie, and he looked about him to see where he was. Although the obscurity was very dense, it was easy for him to perceive that he was still a long distance from his destination. About a musket-shot ahead was a rancho, whose hermetically-closed windows allowed a thin pencil of light to filter through the interstices of the shutters. The Colonel struck his repeater and found it was midnight. To go on would be madness; the more so, as it would be impossible for him to find a boat in which to cross to the island. Greatly annoyed at this obstacle, which, supposing the Jaguar's revelations to be true, might entail serious consequences, the young officer, while cursing this involuntary delay, resolved on pushing on to the rancho before him, and once there, try to obtain means to cross the bay.

After drawing his cloak tightly round him, to protect him as far as possible from the damp sea air, the Colonel caught up his reins again, and giving his horse the spur, trotted sharply towards the rancho. The traveller speedily reached it, but, when only a few paces from it, instead of riding straight up to the door, he dismounted, fastened his horse to a larch-tree, and, after placing his pistols in his belt, made a rather long circuit, and stealthily crept up to the window of the rancho.

In the present state of fermentation from which people were suffering in Texas, the olden confidence had entirely disappeared to make way for the greatest distrust. The times were past when the doors of houses remained open day and night, in order to enable strangers to reach the fireside with greater facility. Hospitality, which was traditional in these parts, had, temporarily at any rate, changed into a suspicious reserve, and it would have been an act of unjustifiable imprudence to ride up to a strange house, without first discovering whether it was that of a friend. The Colonel especially, being dressed in a Mexican uniform, was bound to act with extreme reserve.

This rancho was rather large; it had not that appearance of poverty and neglect which are found only too often in the houses of Spanish American Campesinos. It was a square house, with a roof in the Italian fashion, having in front an azotea-covered portillo. The white-washed walls were an agreeable contrast to the virgin vines, and other plants which ran over it. This rancho was not enclosed with walls: a thick hedge, broken through at several places, alone defended the approaches. The dependencies of the house were vast, and well kept up. All proved that the owner of this mansion carried on a large trade on his account.

The Colonel, as we have said, had softly approached one of the windows. The shutters were carefully closed, but not so carefully as not to let it be seen that someone was up inside. In vain did the Colonel, though, place his eye at the slit, for he could see nothing. If he could not see, however, he could hear, and the first words that reached his ear probably appeared to him very serious, for he redoubled his attention, in order to lose no portion of the conversation. Employing once again our privilege as romancers, we will enter the rancho, and allow the reader to witness the singular scene going on there, the most interesting part of which escaped the Colonel, greatly to his annoyance.

In a rather small room, dimly lighted by a smoky candle, four men, with gloomy faces and ferocious glances, dressed in the garb of Campesinos, were assembled. Three of them, seated on butacas and equipals, were listening, with their guns between their legs, to the fourth, who, with his arms behind his back, was walking rapidly up and down, while talking.

The broad brims of the vicuna hats which the three first wore, and the obscurity prevailing in the room, only allowed their faces to be dimly seen, and their expression judged. The fourth, on the contrary, was bare-headed; he was a man of about forty, tall, and well built; his muscular limbs denoted a far from common strength, and a forest of black and curly hair fell on his wide shoulders. He had a lofty forehead, aquiline nose, and black and piercing eyes; while the lower part of his face disappeared in a long and thick beard. There was in the appearance of this man something bold and haughty, which inspired respect, and almost fear.

At this moment, he seemed to be in a tremendous passion; his eyebrows were contracted, his cheeks livid, and, at times, when he yielded to the emotion he tried in vain to restrain, his eye flashed to fiercely, that it forced his three hearers to bow their heads humbly, and they seemed to be his inferiors. At the moment when we entered the room, the stranger appeared to be continuing a discussion that had been going on for some time.

"No," he said in a powerful voice, "things cannot go on thus any longer. You dishonour the holy cause we are defending by revolting acts of cruelty, which injure us in the opinion of the population, and authorise all the calumnies our enemies spread with reference to us. It is not by imitating our oppressors that we shall succeed in proving to the masses that we really wish their welfare. However sweet it may be to avenge an insult received, where men put themselves forward as defenders of a principle so sacred as that for which we have been shedding our blood the last ten years, every man must practise self-denial, and forget all his private animosities to absorb them in the great national vengeance. I tell you this frankly, plainly, and with no reserve. I, who was the first that dared to utter the cry of revolt, and inaugurate resistance: I, who, since I have reached man's estate, have sacrificed everything, fortune, friends, and relations, in the sole hope of seeing my country one day free, would retire from a struggle which is daily dishonoured by excesses such as the Redskins themselves would disavow."

The three men, who had been tolerably quiet up to this moment, then rose, protesting simultaneously that they were innocent of the crimes imputed to them.

"I do not believe you," he continued passionately; "I do not believe you, because I can prove the utter truth of the accusation I am now making. You deny it as I expected. Your part was ready traced, and you might be expected to act so: all other paths were closed to you. Only one of you, the youngest, the one who perhaps had the greatest right to employ reprisals, has always remained equal to his mission; and, though our enemies have tried several times to brand him, he has ever remained firm, as the Mexicans themselves allow. This Chief you know as well as I do: it is the Jaguar. Only yesterday, at the head of some of our men, he accomplished one of the most glorious and extraordinary exploits."

All pressed round the stranger, and eagerly questioned him.

"What need for me to tell you what has occurred? You will know it within a few hours. Suffice it for you to know for the present, that the consequence of the Jaguar's daring achievement is the immediate surrender of Galveston, which cannot hold out against us any longer."

312 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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