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Remember the Alamo

CHAPTER XV

GOLIAD



"How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes bless'd?

* * * * *

By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung.
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there."

"How shall we rank thee upon glory's page?
Thou more than soldier, and just less than sage."

"Grief fills the room up of my absent child;
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me;
Remembers me of all his gracious parts."


Near midnight, on March the ninth, the weary fugitives arrived at Gonzales. They had been detained by the deep mud in the bottom lands, and by the extreme exhaustion of the ladies, demanding some hours' rest each day. The village was dark and quiet. Here and there the glimmer of a candle, now and then the call of a sentry, or the wail of a child broke the mysterious silence.

Ortiz appeared to know the ground perfectly. He drove without hesitation to a log house in which a faint thread of light was observable, and as he approached it he gave a long, peculiar whistle. The door was instantly thrown open, and, as the wagon stopped, two men stepped eagerly to it. In another instant the Senora was weeping in her husband's arms, and Isabel laughing and crying and murmuring her sweet surprises into the ear of the delighted Luis. When their wraps had been removed from the wagon, Ortiz drove away, leaving Navarro and Antonia standing by the little pile of ladies' luggage.

"I will take charge of all, Senorita. Alas! How weary you are!"

"It is nothing, Senor. Let me thank you for your great kindness."

"Senorita, to be of service to you is my good fortune. If it were necessary, my life for your life, and I would die happy."

She had given him her hand with her little speech of thanks, and he raised it to his lips. It was an act of homage that he might have offered to a saint, but in it Lopez unconsciously revealed to Antonia the secret love in his heart. For he stood in the glow of light from the open door, and his handsome face showed, as in a glass darkly, the tenderness and hopelessness of his great affection. She was touched by the discovery, and though she had a nature faithful as sunrising she could not help a feeling of kindly interest in a lover so reticent, so watchful, so forgetful of himself.

The log cabin in which they found shelter was at least a resting-place. A fire of cedar logs burned upon the hearth, and there was a bed in the room, and a few rude chairs covered with raw hide. But the Senora had a happy smile on her weary face. She ignored the poverty of her surroundings. She had her Roberto, and, for this hour at least, had forgiven fate.

Presently the coffee-pot was boiling, and Doctor Worth and Luis brought out their small store of corn-bread and their tin camp-cups, and the weary women ate and drank, and comforted themselves in the love and protection at their side. Doctor Worth sat by his wife, and gave Antonia his hand. Isabel leaned her pretty head against Luis, and listened with happy smiles to his low words:

"Charming little one, your lips are two crimson curtains. Between curtain and curtain my kiss is waiting. Give it to me."

"Eyes of my soul, to-night the world begins again for me."

"At this blessed hour of God, I am the happiest man he has made."

"As for me, here in this dear, white hand I put my heart."

Is there any woman who cannot imagine Isabel's shy glances, and the low, sweet words in which she answered such delightful protestations? And soon, to add a keener zest to his happiness, Luis began to be a little jealous.

"With us is Dias de Bonilla. Do you remember, my beloved one. that you danced with him once?"

"How can you say a thing so offensive?"

"Yes, dear, at the Senora Valdez's."

"It may be. I have forgotten."

"Too well he remembers. He has dared to sing a serenade to your memory--well, truly, he did not finish it, and but for the Senor Doctor, I should have taught him that Isabel is not a name for his lips to utter. Here, he may presume to come into your presence. Will you receive him with extreme haughtiness? It would be a great satisfaction to me."

"The poor fellow! Why should I make him miserable? You should not be jealous, Luis."

"If you smile on him--the least little smile--he will think you are in love with him. He is such a fool, I assure you. I am very distressed about this matter, my angel."

"I will tell you Luis--when the myrtle-tree grows figs, and the fig-tree is pink with myrtle flowers, then I may fall in love with Dias de Bonilla--if I can take the trouble."

No one heeded this pretty, extravagant talk. It was a thing apart from the more serious interests discussed by Doctor Worth and his wife and eldest daughter. And when Ortiz and Navarro joined the circle, the story of the fall of the Alamo was told again, and Luis forgot his own happiness, and wept tears of anger and pity for the dead heroes.

"This brutal massacre was on the morning of the sixth, you say, Navarro?"

"Last Sabbath morning, Senor. Mass was being offered in the churches, and Te Deums sung while it went on."

"A mass to the devil it was," said Ortiz.

"Now, I will tell you something. On the morning of the second, Thomas was in Washington. A convention sitting there declared, on that day, the independence of Texas, and fifty- five out of fifty-six votes elected General Houston Commander- in-Chief."

"Houston! That is the name of victory! Gracias a Dios!" cried Navarro.

"It is probable that the news of this movement influenced Santa Anna to such barbarity."

"It is his nature to be brutal."

"True, Ortiz; yet I can imagine how this proclamation would incense him. On the morning of the sixth, the convention received the last express sent by poor Travis from the Alamo. It was of the most thrilling character, breathing the very spirit of patriotism and courage--and despair. In less than an hour, Houston, with a few companions, was on his way to the Alamo. At the same time he sent an express to Fannin, urging him to meet him on the Cibolo. Houston will be here to-morrow."

"Then he will learn that all help is too late."

But Houston had learned it in his own way before he reached Gonzales; for Travis had stated that as long as the Alamo could be held, signal guns would be fired at sunrising; and it is a well-authenticated fact that these guns were heard by trained ears for more than one hundred miles across the prairie. Houston, whose senses were keen as the Indians with whom he had long lived knew when he was within reach of the sound; and he rose very early, and with his ear close to the ground waited in intense anxiety for the dull, rumbling murmur which would tell him the Alamo still held out. His companions stood at some distance, still as statues, intently watching him. The sun rose. He had listened in vain; not the faintest sound did his ear detect.

"The Alamo has fired its last gun," he said, on rejoining his companions.

"And the men, General?"

"They have died like men. You may be sure of that."

At Gonzales he heard the particulars. And he saw that the news had exerted a depressing influence upon the troops there. He called them together. He spoke to them of the brutal tragedy, and he invested its horrors with the grandeur of eternal purpose and the glory of heroic sacrifice.

"They were soldiers," he cried; "and they died like soldiers. Their names will be the morning stars of American history. They will live for ever in the red monument of the Alamo." He looked like a lion, with a gloomy stare; his port was fierce, and his eyes commanded all he viewed. "Vengeance remains to us! We have declared our independence, and it must be maintained."

He immediately sent off another express to Fannin; apprised him of the fall of the Alamo; ordered him to blow up Goliad and fall back upon Gonzales. Then he sent wagons into the surrounding country, to transport the women and children to the eastern settlements; for he knew well what atrocities would mark every mile of Santa Anna's progress through the country.

These wagons, with their helpless loads, were to rendezvous at Peach Creek, ten miles from Gonzales; where also he expected Fannin and his eight hundred and sixty men to join him. This addition would make the American force nearly twelve hundred strong. Besides which, Fannin's little army was of the finest material, being composed mostly of enthusiastic volunteers from Georgia and Alabama; young men, who, like Dare Grant and John Worth, were inspired with the idea of freedom, or the spread of Americanism, or the fanaticism of religious liberty of conscience--perhaps, even, with hatred of priestly domination. Houston felt that he would be sufficient for Santa Anna when the spirit of this company was added to the moral force of men driven from their homes and families to fight for the lands they had bought and the rights which had been guaranteed them.

So he watched the horizon anxiously for Fannin's approach, often laying his ear to the ground to listen for what he could not see. And, impatient as he was for their arrival, the Senora was more so. She declared that her sufferings would be unendurable but for this hope. The one question on her lips, the one question in her eyes, was, "Are they coming?" And Antonia, though she did not speak of her private hopes, was equally anxious. Brother and lover were both very dear to her. And to have the whole family together would be in itself a great help. Whatever their deprivations and fatigues, they could comfort each other with their affection.

Every day wagon-loads of women and children joined the camp, and the march eastward was very slow. But no circumstance extols more loudly the bravery and tenderness of these American soldiers than the patience with which this encumbrance was endured. Men worn out with watching and foraging were never too weary to help some mother still more weary, or to carry some little child whose swollen feet would no longer aid it.

One night they rested at a little place on the Colorado. In one room of a deserted cabin Houston sat with Major Hockly, dictating to him a military dispatch. They had no candles, and Houston was feeding the fire with oak splinters, to furnish light enough for their necessity. In the other room, the Worth family were gathered. Antonia, in preparing for their journey, had wisely laid a small mattress and a couple of pillows in the wagon; and upon this mattress the Senora and Isabel were resting. Doctor Worth and Thomas sat by the fire talking of Fannin's delay; and Antonia was making some corn-meal cakes for their supper.

When the Senora's portion was given to her she put it aside, and lifted her eyes to Antonia's face. They asked the question forever in her heart, "Is Jack coming?" and Antonia pitifully shook her head.

Then the poor woman seemed to have reached the last pitch of endurance. "Let me die!" she cried. "I can bear life no longer." To Mary and the saints she appealed with a passionate grief that was distressing to witness. All the efforts of her husband and her children failed to sooth her; and, as often happens in a complication of troubles, she seized upon the most trifling as the text of her complaint.

"I cannot eat corn bread; I have always detested it. I am hungry. I am perishing for my chocolate. And I have no clothing. I am ashamed of myself. I thank the saints I have no looking-glass. Oh, Roberto! Roberto! What have you done to your Maria?"

"My dear wife! My dear, dear wife! Be patient a little longer. Think, love, you are not alone. There are women here far more weary, far more hungry; several who, in the confusion, have lost their little children; others who are holding dying babes in their arms."

"Giver of all good! give me patience. I have to say to you that other women's sorrows do not make me grateful for my own. And Santa Maria has been cruel to me. Another more cruel, who can find? I have confessed to her my heartache about Juan; entreated her to bring my boy to me. Has she done it?"

"My darling Maria."

"Grace of God, Roberto! It is now the twenty-third of March; I have been seventeen days wandering with my daughters like very beggars. If only I had had the discretion to remain in my own house!"

"Maria, Lopez will tell you that Fray Ignatius and the brothers are in possession of it. He saw them walking about the garden reading their breviaries."

At this moment General Houston, in the opposite room was dictating: "Before God, I have found the darkest hours of my life. For forty-eight hours I have neither eaten an ounce of anything, nor have I slept." The Senora's sobbing troubled him. He rose to close the door, and saw two men entering. One leaned upon the other, and appeared to be at the point of death.

"Where is there a doctor, General?"

"In that room, sir. Have you brought news of Fannin?"

"I have."

"Leave your comrade with the doctor, and report."

The entrance of the wounded man silenced the Senora. She turned her face to the wall and refused to eat. Isabel sat by her side and held her hand. The doctor glanced at it as he turned away. It had been so plump and dimpled and white. It was now very thin and white with exposure. It told him far better than complaining, how much the poor woman had suffered. He went with a sigh to his patient.

"Stabbed with a bayonet through the shoulder--hard riding from Goliad--no food--no rest--that tells the whole story, doctor."

It was all he could say. A fainting fit followed. Antonia procured some stimulant, and when consciousness returned, assisted her father to dress the wound. Their own coffee was gone, but she begged a cup from some one more fortunate; and after the young man had drunk it, and had eaten a little bread, he was inclined to make light of his wound and his sufferings.

"Glad to be here at all," he said. "I think I am the only one out of five hundred."

"You cannot mean that you are of Fannin's command?"

"I was of Fannin's command. Every man in it has been shot. I escaped by a kind of miracle."

The doctor looked at the Senora. She seemed to be asleep. "Speak low," he said, "but tell me all."

The man sat upon the floor with his back against the wall. The doctor stooped over him. Antonia and Isabel stood beside their father.

"We heard of Urrea's approach at San Patricio. The Irish people of that settlement welcomed Urrea with great rejoicing. He was a Catholic--a defender of the faith. But the American settlers in the surrounding country fled, and Fannin heard that five hundred women and children, followed by the enemy, were trying to reach the fortress of Goliad. He ordered Major Ward, with the Georgia battalions, to go and meet the fugitives. Many of the officers entreated him not to divide his men for a report which had come by way of the faithless colony of San Patricio.

"But Fannin thought the risk ought to be taken. He took it, and the five hundred women and children proved to be a regiment of Mexican dragoons. They surrounded our infantry on every side, and after two days' desperate fighting, the Georgia battalions were no more. In the meantime, Fannin got the express telling him of the fall of the Alamo, and ordering him to unite with General Houston. That might have been a possible thing with eight hundred and sixty men, but it was not possible with three hundred and sixty. However, we made the effort, and on the great prairie were attacked by the enemy lying in ambush there. Entirely encircled by them, yet still fighting and pressing onward, we defended ourselves until our ammunition gave out. Then we accepted the terms of capitulation offered by Urrea, and were marched back to Goliad as prisoners of war. Santa Anna ordered us all to be shot."

"But you were prisoners of war?"

"Urrea laughed at the articles, and said his only intention in them was to prevent the loss of Mexican blood. Most of his officers remonstrated with with{sic} him, but he flew into a passion at Miralejes. `The Senor Presidente's orders are not to be trifled with. By the Virgin of Guadelupe!' he cried, `it would be as much as my own life was worth to disobey them.'

"It gave the Mexican soldiers pleasure to tell us these things, and though we scarcely believed such treachery possible, we were very uneasy. On the eighth day after the surrender, a lovely Sunday morning, we were marched out of the fort on pretence of sending us to Louisiana; according to the articles of surrender, and we were in high spirits at the prospect.

"But I noticed that we were surrounded by a double row of soldiers, and that made me suspicious. In a few moments, Fannin was marched into the centre, and told to sit down on a low stool. He felt that his hour had come. He took his watch and his purse, and gave them to some poor woman who stood outside lamenting and praying for the poor Americans. I shall never forget the calmness and brightness of his face. The Mexican colonel raised his sword, the drums beat, and the slaughter began. Fifty men at a time were shot; and those whom the guns missed or crippled, were dispatched with the bayonet or lance."

"You escaped. How?"

"When the lips of the officer moved to give the order: Fire! I fell upon my face as if dead. As I lay, I was pierced by a bayonet through the shoulder, but I made no sign of life. After the execution, the camp followers came to rob the dead. A kind-hearted Mexican woman helped me to reach the river. I found a horse tied there, and I took it. I have been on the point of giving up life several times, but I met a man coming here with the news to Houston, and he helped me to hold out."

The doctor was trembling with grief and anger, and he felt Antonia's hand on his shoulder.

"My friend," he whispered, "did you know John Worth?"

"Who did not know him in Fannin's camp? Any of us would have been glad to save poor Jack; and he had a friend who refused to live without him."

"Dare Grant?"

"That was the man, young lady. Grant was a doctor, and the Mexicans wanted doctors. They offered him his life for his services, but he would not have it unless his friend's life also was spared. They were shot holding each other's hands, and fell together. I was watching their faces at the moment. There wasn't a bit of fear in them."

The Senora rose, and came as swiftly as a spirit to them. She looked like a woman walking in her sleep. She touched the stranger. "I heard you. You saw Dare Grant die. But my boy! My boy! Where is my Juan?"

"Maria, darling."

"Don't speak, Roberto. Where is my Juan? Juan Worth?"

"Madam. I am sorry enough, God knows. Juan Worth--was shot."

Then the wretched mother threw up her hands, and with an awful cry fell to the ground. It was hours ere she recovered consciousness, and consciousness only restored her to misery.

The distress of the father, the brother and sisters of the dead youth was submerged in the speechless despair of the mother. She could not swallow food; she turned away from the sympathy of all who loved her. Even Isabel's caresses were received with an apathy which was terrifying. With the severed curl of her boy's hair in her fingers, she sat in tearless, voiceless anguish.

Poor Antonia, weighed down with the double loss that had come to her, felt, for the first time, as if their condition was utterly hopeless. The mental picture of her brother and her lover meeting their tragic death hand in hand, their youth and beauty, their courage and fidelity, was constantly before her. With all the purity and strength of her true heart, she loved Dare; but she did not for a moment wish that he had taken a different course. "It is just what I should have expected from him," she said to Isabel. "If he had let poor Jack die alone, I could never have loved him in the same way again. But oh, Isabel, how miserable I am?"

"Sweet Antonia, I can only weep with you. Think of this; it was on last Sunday morning. Do you remember how sad you were?"

"I was in what seemed to be an unreasonable distress. I went away to weep. My very thoughts were tired with their sorrowful journeys up and down my mind, trying to find out hope and only meeting despair. Oh, my brave Jack! Oh, my dear Dare, what a cruel fate was your's!"

"And mi madre, Antonia? I fear, indeed, that she will lose her senses. She will not speak to Thomas, nor even to me. She has not said a prayer since Jack's death. She cannot sleep. I am afraid of her, Antonia."

"To-night we are to move further east; perhaps the journey may waken her out of this trance of grief. I can see that our father is wretched about her; and Thomas wanders in and out of the room as if his heart was broken."

"Thomas loved Jack. Luis told me that he sat with him and Lopez, and that he sobbed like a woman. But, also, he means a great revenge. None of the men slept last night. They stood by the camp-fires talking. Sometimes I went to the door and looked out. How awful they were in the blaze and darkness! I think, indeed, they could have conquered Santa Anna very easily."

Isabel had not misjudged the spirit of the camp. The news of the massacre at Goliad was answered by a call for vengeance that nothing but vengeance could satisfy. On the following day Houston addressed his little army. He reminded them that they were the children of the heroes who fought for liberty at Yorktown, and Saratoga, and Bunker Hill. He made a soul- stirring review of the events that had passed; he explained to them their situation, and the designs of the enemy, and how he proposed to meet them.

His voice, loud as a trumpet with a silver sound, inspired all who heard it with courage. His large, bright visage, serious but hopeful, seemed to sun the camp. "They live too long," he cried, "who outlive freedom. And I promise you that you shall have a full cup of vengeance. For every man that fell fighting at the Alamo, for every one treacherously slaughtered at Goliad, you shall be satisfied. If I seem to be flying before the enemy now, it is for his destruction. Three Mexican armies united, we cannot fight. We can fight them singly. And every mile we make them follow us weakens them, separates them, confuses them. The low lands of the Brazos, the unfordable streams, the morasses, the pathless woods, are in league with us. And we must place our women and children in safety. Even if we have to carry them to General Gaines and the United States troops, we must protect them, first of all. I believe that we shall win our freedom with our own hands; but if the worst come, and we have to fall back to the Sabine, we shall find friends and backers there. I know President Jackson, my old general, the unconquered Christian Mars! Do you think he will desert his countrymen? Never! If we should need help, he has provided it. And the freedom of Texas is sure and certain. It is at hand. Prepare to achieve it. We shall take up our march eastward in three hours."

Ringing shouts answered the summons. The camp was in a tumult of preparation immediately; Houston was lending his great physical strength to the mechanical difficulties to be encountered. A crowd of men was around. Suddenly a woman touched him on the arm, and he straightened himself and looked at her.

"You will kill Santa Anna, General? You will kill this fiend who has escaped from hell! By the mother of Christ, I ask it."

"My dear madam!"

He was so moved with pity that he could not for a moment or two give her any stronger assurance. For this suppliant, pallid and frenzied with sorrow, was the once beautiful Senora Worth. He looked at her hollow eyes, and shrunk form, and worn clothing, and remembered with a pang, the lovely, gracious lady clad in satin and lace, with a jewelled comb in her fine hair and a jewelled fan in her beautiful hands, and a wave of pity and anger passed like a flame over his face.

"By the memory of my own dear mother, Senora, I will make Santa Anna pay the full price of his cruelties."

"Thank you, Senor"; and she glided away with her tearless eyes fixed upon the curl of black hair in her open palm.



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