04. June 2010 · Comments Off on Gone to Texas – Chapter 8 · Categories: General, Literary Good Stuff, Old West, War

(As promised, another intermittent chapter from the next book – Gone to Texas, which will hopefully be finished this year and released by spring 2011.
Margaret has grown up, and married the schoolteacher. She and her husband and their children are living in Gonzales by the fall of 1835, while her father Alois – having quarreled with first Stephen Austin, and then some of his neighbors in Gonzales – has taken the rest of the family north, to a distant little settlement on the Upper Colorado. But matters are also coming to a slow boil between the American settlers, and the Mexican government, between Federalists and Centralists…)

Margaret took the boys and walked over to the Darsts, after Race shrugged into his coat and hurried away to the militia meeting. She found Sue Dickenson already there, with little Angelina; they let the children play on the floor of the verandah together. Maggie Darst was baking bread, and Sue had brought her knitting basket. The Darst boys, Jacob and Abraham had already gone to the militia meeting with their father.
“What do you suppose they will decide?” Sue asked, as Margaret brought out her own mending.
“They will take a vote on what to do,” she answered, “Return the cannon, as Colonel Ugartechea asked . . . or not. I think the answer they will decide upon is ‘not.’ And then, therefore, they will need to talk about what to do next.”
“And then?” Sue asked, and Maggie Darst was also looking at her, as if she wished to know. How very curious, to be considered as some kind of oracle, merely because she listened to the men talk, and her husband talked to her.
“I don’t know,” Margaret answered, “I expect they will stall, while they send for help from the other settlements. My husband thinks that help will come, very shortly – for even Mr. Austin has come around to agree with the War Party.”
“And no wonder,” Maggie Darst said, with indignation, “To be arrested and imprisoned for years – and for asking no more than was our right to ask for! There he was the most conciliatory of them all – and now agreeing with men he would have thrown out of San Felipe two years ago! The worm will turn, given time enough, I guess.”
“Will they truly come to our aid?” Sue whispered; her eyes large with apprehension. “Will they dare?”
“I think they must,” Margaret answered, soberly, “For the only alternative will be to graciously accept and bind themselves with the chains that General Cos is bringing with him. And I cannot see men like my husband, or either of yours, or Mr. Bowie – or any of them doing that. They must join together and soon, or be defeated separately.”
They talked for a while, while afternoon shadows lengthened, admiring their children, and Mrs. Darst’s house; how vividly Margaret was reminded – of how it was at the building of it that she met Race again, and how they had stood under the redbud tree, while the breeze shook down raindrops from the leaves. Presently the Darst boys came running along the street, shouting exuberantly. Margaret gathered up her sewing basket and Johnny, saying,
“I believe they are finished with the meeting – I must haste home and see to supper.” She bid a farewell to the others, and kissed tiny Angelina, thinking wistfully that she would so love to have her next child be a daughter. When she got home, Race was packing his saddlebags and rolling up one of the coarse-wool Mexican blankets. Bucephalus stood saddled and bridled, with the reins tied to a porch-post.
“I am sent as a courier to Mina,” Race explained, over his shoulder. “If you may fix me something to eat quickly, I told them I would be away before sunset.”
“So, the men have decided to defy Colonel Ugartechea?” She ventured, and Race nodded. “Three voted to give up the cannon, but the rest said ‘no.’ We have actually decided to stall for time,” he explained, “Take the damned thing down from the blockhouse and bury it in George Davis’s peach orchard, while Andrew respectfully asks for the request to be clarified by the good Colonel’s superior, those of us with good horses scatter across the countryside begging for aid, and everyone else pretends to go about their own business.”
“When will you return?” Margaret set down her basket, and the baby, swiftly taking up a knife, and the end of a knuckle of smoked ham from the kitchen safe. “Maggie Darst was baking bread, and gave me a fresh loaf. I wonder if she expected this?”
“Bless her – fresh-baked bread,” Race flashed a quick smile over his shoulder. “I expect to be back before the first demand arrives.” He ate what she prepared for him standing up, as if he were impatient to be away, as she made a few more sandwiches for the journey. “And bless you, my dearest Daisy. I will do my best to return swiftly, but you will be alone with the children tonight and possibly tomorrow. I will take my two pistols, so you should not fear for my safety. Latch the door, if you should fear for yours.”
“I will not,” Margaret tightened his warmest scarf around his neck. He had already put on a heavy hunting coat. She whispered, “Stay safe, my dearest.”
“I will,” he promised – and she was utterly confident that he would. He and Bucephalus were away in a clatter of hoofs; she could hear other hoof-beats drumming on the roads and track-ways leading north, east and to the south, the tracks that only the men familiar with the countryside could negotiate in twilight and at a fast canter.

The party of soldiers from Bexar arrived at mid-morning; announced by a shot and a shout from across the river, a shout in Spanish-accented English, demanding to know where the boat was. Margaret had taken the boys and gone to thank Maggie Darst for the bread. The truth was, her own house felt empty without her husband in it, and dreadfully quiet without the students at their lessons. Perhaps visiting with Maggie again would pass some of the nervous hours. Johnny played or slept on the rag-rug at their feet, while Little Horace amused himself in the yard, enlarging a den for himself among the roots of the red-bud tree where Maggie’s sons had played when they were smaller.
“Thank the lord, they hid the boats in time,” Maggie said, as Jacob Darst cursed and caught up his hat and musket, from where they hung from pegs close to the door. He hared down the road towards the ferry landing at a run. Maggie and Margaret sat in the breezeway, as they had the day before “They’re stuck on the ‘tother side of the river, poor babbies – and I doubt there’s another boat or a low-water crossing for miles. I suppose they could try swimming . . .”
“And ruin those fine uniforms?” Margaret answered, “I’d think not.” The two women waited nervously for what seemed an age, but was only part of an hour, while a splash of sunlight falling through the east-window crept across the scrubbed-pine floor. Now and again, Maggie or Margaret went to the window, or around to the east-facing corner of the house, looking for anything to be seen at the top of the river landing.
“They cannot force there way across the river – if there are only a handful of them,” Margaret reasoned out loud. “They will not be expecting a refusal. They will not know what to do, if they are only simple soldiers. Very likely, they will have to return to Bexar, and seek guidance from one of higher rank. How many men of ours stand on the Gonzales side of the river today, Maggie?”
“My husband said besides himself and Captain Martin and Will Arrington, there were fifteen . . . only fifteen!” Maggie’s voice cracked, and she wrung her hands together. “They have dispatched a letter from Andrew Ponton to Colonel Ugartechea by messenger – a letter refusing to return the cannon, in most reasonable and respectful terms.”
“My husband said that Colonel Ugartechea was only sending a small squad,” Margaret reasoned, to comfort herself as much as Maggie Darst. “So I cannot imagine any more than five or six. And they are on the other side of the river . . .”
“Oh!” groaned Maggie, “Our fellows can’t come fast enough! How soon do you think they will come to our aid?”
“Sooner than the Colonel can send more soldiers,” Margaret answered, “For our fellows will come on horseback, as fast as they can travel, and most of his soldiers will have to march all the way from Bexar.” The two women bent their heads over their sewing, until Margaret heard the voices of children, several small boys having joined Little Horace.
“Look – here come more visitors for you, Maggie,” she said, “It seems that Sue and Mary Millsap cannot bear waiting alone on this day, either.” Sue Dickenson, with Angelina in her arms, puffed as she came up the steps,
“I cannot bear another minute,” she said, “My husband came away from the landing for a moment to fetch some food, but he could only stay for a moment.” Mary Millsaps followed Sue more slowly, unobtrusively led by her oldest daughter. Mary was entirely blind, although one would ordinarily not have noticed, save for the peculiar opacity of her eyes.
“What is happening?” Maggie inquired anxiously, “We cannot see the riverbank from here.” Sue shook her head,
“Nothing very much at all: there are four ordinary soldiers and a corporal, remaining on the riverbank with the cart, calling back and forth to Captain Martin. Almaron says the soldiers, they seem quite baffled. They un-harnessed one of the horses from the cart, and a soldier took it away, but he has not come back yet.”
“Gone to ask for instructions from Bexar,” Margaret set aside her sewing, and took Angelina onto her lap for a bit, until she wriggled to be set down on the rug next to Johnny. “My husband thought they would do this. Their soldiers are men who wait for someone in higher authority to tell them what to do. Good morning, Mary.”
“Good morning, Margaret,” Mary smiled as if she could actually see Margaret. She was a plain woman – but her gentle smile transformed her face into fleeting loveliness. “Show me to a chair, Sarah-child,” she added as an aside to her daughter. “And give me my knitting.” Although blind, Mary managed quite nicely in her own house and garden, with the help of her children and everything in the household set in an unvarying place within the house. “I thought as I am not going to get anything done this morning, I may as well come along with Sue and not get anything done with you. Isaac has gone as a messenger, to Beeson’s Crossing and beyond,” She added, and took up her knitting. The slow minutes and hours ticked by, as sluggish as a trickle of molasses on a cold winter morning; the four women worked at their knitting and mending, now and again reproving the children for playing too loudly. Mary Millsap now and again asked for quiet and listened carefully with her head tilted eastwards, but there came no sounds of voices, gunshots or horses, all that long day. At sundown, Margaret took the boys home, noting that Horace and the Millsap children had made quite a deep burrow, at the foot of the redbud tree.
“We’re digging a fort,” Horace announced proudly, and Margaret asked,
“Why are you doing that?”
“’Cause the Meskin sojers are coming soon,” he answered. Margaret’s heart sank – she had so thought to protect the children from the knowledge of what was going on, that they would remain safe in the bubble of their own childlike and wondrous world. The following day, she resisted the temptation to go to Maggie’s house, in spite of Horace fussing that he and his friends wanted to make their fort bigger.
“We have chores to do at home,” she said firmly – and all that interminable September day, she swept the house and worked in the garden to harvest the last of the gourds and beans, rattling in their sun-dried pods. In the afternoon, she sat Horace on one of the school-benches and told him that he would have lessons. The day passed rather faster, aside from being distracted by every distant noise. In the early afternoon, she thought she heard the sound of many horses – not from the ford, where Jesse McCoy and Will Arrington stood guard with two other men of the town – but from the north and east. The sound grew louder, more definite, and she could hear men shouting, but not their words or discern what language.
“Come into the house, Horace,” she said, quietly, and scooped up Johnny into her arms. Horace lingered, looking towards the direction of the sounds, and saying,
“Is that Papa coming home?”
“I don’t know. Come into the house, until we see who it is.” But he would not obey and she hesitated in the doorway, for now the horses were very close, and very many of them. Across the road, she saw young Will King dash out from between Dr. Miller’s house and the stable next to it. He shouted, waving his hands in the air,
“It’s them – it’s Capn’ Tumlinson, from Mina! They’re here!” Margaret sagged against the doorframe in momentary relief, and then snatched at the back of Horace’s short as he made a dash for the steps. A cavalcade of dusty, tired horsemen spilled through the streets of Gonzales, whooping exuberantly. One of them drew rein in front of the house, snatching off his hat and calling across the yard to her,
“Miz Vining!”
“Yes?” She recognized James Tumlinson’s brother, knew him well for he was another friend of her husband’s.
“Race said to tell you he’s coming with Burleson and his company – they’re a day behind us.”
“Thank you for that word!” She called, “How many are come with you?” John Tumlinson’s teeth flashed white as his dusty face split in a wide grin,
“Forty-eight and more coming – Rob Coleman an’ me, we wanted to hustle along, be sure we were here in time for the fandango!”

All that afternoon and evening, all night and into the next morning, bands of horsemen poured into Gonzales; parties from Brazoria, as far away as Columbia on the Brazos, from LaGrange, and Lavaca, from Beeson’s Crossing, and gathered from the tiny settlements and distant hamlets along the Colorado and the Brazos; everywhere that men had settled after accepting a grant from Austin, from DeWitt or a lesser impresario. They camped on the plazas and in the old fort, the overflow from there spreading bedrolls on the porches of nearby houses. Winslow Turner’s wife and their neighbors set up a camp kitchen by their hotel, for many of the volunteers had come so far and fast they carried very little food – or much besides ammunition – with them. Sometime around late afternoon, a dozen volunteers stealthily crossed the river and captured the five Mexican soldiers, still waiting patiently on the opposite bank. One escaped, but the others were quickly locked up in a stoutly-built smokehouse. Margaret cooked dinner for the children, and moved around her house feeling oddly secure and safe, seeing the glow of so many campfires on the plazas, so many lights. She took a tin lantern, and setting a light in that, hung it on a hook by the front door. When it was well-dark, she took the children into bed with her, and slept very well content – until just before sunrise, when Race tapped on the plank door and called her name. She sprang instantly out of bed, and unbarred the door. Her husband stood outside, nearly dropping from weariness,
“Oh, god, Daisy-mine, what a ride!” he fell into her arms with an exuberant embrace, “I shall never feel so tired again in all my life, no matter how long I live. Burleson and his company, we rode through the night from Mina. Oh, ‘tis good to be home . . . I saw Captain Martin, just now – he says we have more than a hundred men encamped within Gonzales, and more to come with daylight.” He shed his hunting coat, and sat on the edge of the bed to kick of his boots. “I’ll tell you all about it, Daisy-mine,” He added with a yawn.
“Let me start up the fire,” Margaret pulled her shawl around herself and knelt to build up the fire, “and start breakfast,” but when she turned around again, Race had lain down at full length on the bed in the place where she had lain with the boys curled against her, and fallen asleep in his clothes. So much for breakfast. There was a little room left on the bed, between the wall and the children; Margaret lay down on it, and reached across the sleeping forms of the boys to embrace her husband, who slept as if nearly dead, in complete exhaustion.
He roused at last, at mid-morning, by the slight noise of Margaret baking pan after pan of corn-bread, for Will King had come with a message from the Turners’ asking for such, to feed the men assembled. The boys still slept in their nest of blankets, curled together like a pair of kittens.
“There will be a militia-drill in the afternoon,” Will whispered, “Special-called. There has been a message received from Bexar – there’s a hundred soldiers dispatched from the old citadel, marching along the road towards us, and the messenger says that Colonel Ugartechea was in a fine old temper about it all.”
“I imagine he would be,” Margaret answered, “for his own words have been proved a lie.” Will grinned,
“And all of Gonzales and the settlements are buzzing like someone threw a great many rocks into a hornets’ nest,” he added, “Let’s see those sojers of his like it, when they walk straight into it. Oh, and Mrs. DeWitt sent to say she has a question to ask of the schoolmaster. They’re staying at the Turners – the ladies there are making a flag, and they can’t think of something proper to put on it.” He took himself away, and Margaret busied herself with her baking, until her husband stirred. He sat up with a jaw-cracking yawn, saying,
“I did not mean to sleep so long, Daisy-mine, but if ever a man needed a few hours…” Margaret brought him coffee, sweetened with molasses, and told him of the militia drill and Mrs. DeWitt’s request. Outside, a fresh breeze stirred the tree leaves, and their shadows arrayed on the floor. “A moment of peace,” he remarked, “Infinitely to be treasured at a time like this. I’ll help you carry all this to the Turners. A hundred against our hundred – I am no soldier, but I think those good odds.”
Indeed, the town seemed every bit as much of a hornet’s nest as Will King had said; a bustling hive of purposeful activity. Never had Margaret seen so many people in Gonzales at one time, or so many horses penned in makeshift corrals. They walked past Sowell’s smithy, carrying the baskets of bread that Margaret had baked, and heard the ringing of hammers against metal. A small cotton-cart sat propped on blocks outside the forge, with the customary spoke-wheels replaced by solid rounds of cotton-wood trunk, as if reinforced to bear something heavy.
“What is that intended for?” Margaret asked, looking curiously at the sturdy little cart.
“It looks for all the world like a cannon-cart,” her husband answered, with a wry twist to his lips, “It seems that having insisted on our possession of the thing, we are intending to use it in earnest. Almaron said it could be quite easily repaired.”
They left their baskets of bread in the Turner’s summer kitchen, which stood as a separate building behind the main house. Smoke from the cook-fire filled the air, and the scent of roasting meats. Inside the Turner’s parlor, it was quieter, but almost as crowded. Mrs. DeWitt and her daughters worked around a center table, upon which a length of white fabric had been laid out. Eveline and Naomi were industriously hemming the edges, while Mrs. DeWitt carefully outlined two shapes upon the silk with a slip of dressmaker’s chalk.
“We picked out the seams of Naomi’s best silk dress, and took a panel from the skirt,” Mrs. DeWitt explained, “She can wear it when she is wed, still – but we needed enough of it for a proper flag. The gentlemen of the committee worked out a design, and I think it very pleasing. What do you think of it – this is our cannon, and a single star for Tejas, all embroidered in black thread outline?”
“You’ll need a motto,” Race said, and his smile broadened. “What about ‘Μολὼν λαβέ’, just below the cannon, in big black letters?”
“Heavens above, I don’t know what it means!” Mrs. DeWitt exclaimed, “What was that which you just said?”
“I said it in Greek,” Race answered, “Quoting the words of King Leonides of Sparta to Xerxes of Persia, when Xerxes asked the Spartans to give up their arms. The king answered, ‘Come and take them’.”
“I like the sentiment,” Mrs. DeWitt answered, “And it would make a very fine motto – but we would have to put it in English. As it is, you’d be the only man in town to understand it.”
Through that day, tension mounted, as volunteers continued arriving from the farthest districts. Margaret, unable to endure an afternoon alone in the house, with all that was going on, left the boys with Mary Millsaps at midday and went to offer her assistance with the needle to Mrs. DeWitt, who accepted gratefully. Thus, she was able to follow her husband’s report of the militia meeting, and to even see and hear some of what transpired all during that long day.
John Moore, the captain of the company of men from Columbus on the Colorado River was elected colonel at the militia meeting, as he was acknowledged by all as a wily and experienced fighter. The other captains of the militia companies would serve under his authority. During the militia meeting, one of the Mexicans escaped from captivity in the smokehouse – although as Race said afterwards to Captain Martin,
“I expect that he will take a good account of what he has seen this day to his officers, and with all speed.”
“Yes, I expect that he will,” Captain Martin allowed cheerfully, and both men exchanged broad grins. Very shortly thereafter, a messenger arrived under a white flag of truce from an officer of the Mexican Army. He stood on the bank opposite the ferry and waved to Jesse McCoy, asking permission to bring over a message. The messenger was one of those who could swim – he paddled across the river, carrying a sealed and waterproof pouch with a message in it from an officer who signed himself with a number of unnecessary and flamboyant flourishes F. Castenada, Lieutenant of the military garrison of Bexar in the State of Tejas y Coahuila. Jesse immediately brought the message from the riverbank landing, just as the militia meeting was finishing.
“Their officer wants to meet with you,” he said to Andrew Ponton.
“Alas, I am unavailable, being painfully indisposed,” Andrew answered, and Jesse grinned.
“You look well enough to me.”
“You are not a competent medical man, sir – your eyes grossly deceive you. I am desperately unwell. Have Joe Clements send a reply – he’s on the town council.”
The mass of soldiers from Bexar arrived very shortly afterwards, Lieutenant Castenada again demanding to meet with Andrew Ponton, in his office as Alcade and senior civil authority of the town. Their horses drank water at the river’s edge, but that was all they could do, for all the boats had been well-hidden and the river was too deep and fast to ford. They withdrew a little to the south, to camp on a low hill outside the river, as the sun slid lower and lower in the western sky. The flag was at last finished, the star and the cannon, and the letters all outlined with embroidery, and Race came to Margaret saying,
“There is nothing more to be done today, Daisy-mine. Let us go home for a peaceable night. Colonel Moore has it that we shall act upon what the Mexicans do tomorrow – all is in readiness, and now the most of us should rest and await what comes in what peace of mind that we can find for ourselves.”
“I would like that very much,” Margaret answered, for her nerves jangled like the strings of a broken harp, and perhaps sensing that, Race put his arms around her, saying,
“I sense, my dear little wife, tomorrow will bring an irrevocable change to everything in our world. I should like very much to spend the very last night of the time of things-as-they-used to be in tranquility, and domestic content . . . to have a plain supper, and sit and read Vitruvius for a while with you, after the boys are asleep, and then to go to sleep in your arms, thinking that there is nothing better than to spend an eternity there. No talk of soldiering, or the War Party, or Colonel Ugartechea’s men camped across the river. Only ourselves, the boys and supper together. Can we manage that, Daisy-mine?”
“We can,” Margaret took his face between her hands and kissed him, heedless of the fact they were standing in the street before Turner’s. How very wise and sensitive he was, the very best of husbands in the world! No, she would never regret marrying the schoolmaster, taking his name and bearing his children.
“One last word about the matter,” Race caught one of her hands in his, “And then no more. When we march out to meet Castenada’s soldiers – and I think that we will, sometime tomorrow or the day after, take the children and sufficient food and blankets, and conceal yourself in the woods of the bottomlands, south of town, until we return. I am breaking my own request, to not talk of this – but I cannot put out of my mind the reports of how General Lopez de Santa Anna’s men were rewarded for defeating the militia of Zacatecas, by allowing two days of rapine, looting and murder of defenseless citizens. I would see you safe, Daisy-mine, as I promised when we exchanged vows – but in the event that our efforts meet with failure, that I would like to be assured that you and the boys will remain safe.”
“Of course we will remain safe,” Margaret answered, “For I have every faith in you. But I will take the boys to the woods . . . and then we will come home and I will prepare dinner and we will read Vitruvius, and see the boys to sleep in their bed; then we will go to ours, and all will still seem to be with us as it was before – no matter what happens on the morrow.”
“Thank you, Daisy-mine,” Race kissed that hand of hers which he held. “Ah, the scripture was more correct in this that most men believe – of the great powers in the world, the greatest of these is love, and that which endures beyond all in this world.”

The combined militias of the settlements – all those who had come to Gonzales – they marched out of Gonzales late the next afternoon, under a blood-red and purple-clouded sunset; a brave rabble of men, young and old, and with every sort of weapon imaginable, although all carried sheathed knives at their belts. Such was the fashion which Mr. Bowie had started, Margaret thought with no little appreciation of the irony. Only half were mounted on horseback. The little cannon trundled bravely along, pulled by two yoke of oxen, and the white flag which Mrs. DeWitt and her daughters and Margaret had sewn floated on a staff before all. Around midday, Lieutenant Castaneda had taken his men and dragoons, and had gone north, searching for a shallow fording-place, by which they could cross over the river and come to Gonzales and arrest Andrew Ponton – and indeed all of those among the town council who had stood in the way of reclaiming that little and practically useless cannon. The soldiers from Bexar were stealthy followed for a little way by several scouts. The closest such fording-place was by Ezekiel William’s outlaying farm, some seven miles or so upriver from town.
“We shall follow and meet them on equal terms,” Race came home to eat a hasty supper, to saddle Bucephalus, gather up his long hunting rifle, his two pistols, hunting-knife and put on his rough hunting clothes once again. “Remember what I said, about the woods, Daisy-mine – rise early in the morning, and take the children to the woods. We have nearly two hundred gathered to us, and the advantage of picking and choosing when to show ourselves . . . but should this venture go against us . . . “
“I do not see how it can, with so many of our folk to outnumber those soldiers!” Margaret answered swiftly, and her husband smiled.
“Ah, but overconfidence has brought down many a general and campaign, as I would know from my studies of history. We may expect and hope for the best outcome, my dearest love – but the wisest of generals also prepare for the worst eventuality. I would like to know that those whom I love best in the world will not be sitting helpless within walls, but as free in the greenwood as a doe deer with two fawns.”
“I shall do as you advise,” Margaret said – as did quite a few other women of Gonzales and their families, early the following morning. The night had been quiet, although she had seemed to wake at every small noise. In the morning – a cool morning, pearly with fog and the slight patter of condensation falling off the tree leaves, she dressed the boys and fed them breakfast, telling them that they were going for a picnic in the woods. She took Race’s volume of Bunyan, slipping it into her apron pocket, a small basket of bread and cheese, a gourd canteen, and several blankets, including the red one which Mama had woven and walked down into the thick woods, in the river-bottom south of town. Many of the leaves still clung to the trees and shrubs, offering a fair concealment. Having found what she thought a safe enough shelter, she spread out a heavy horse-blanket on the sparse grass in the midst of those woods and thickets. With Little Horace’s enthusiastic help, she propped up several slender poles against the bank, to make a tiny brush arbor, hardly large enough for the three of them. Johnny was content with gathering colorful fallen leaves and interesting pebbles from the river-bank, before falling asleep in her lap. Little Horace played with him a while, and then came to eat bread and cheese and listen to her read Pilgrim’s Progress, and to tell them some of the stories which Mama had told to Margaret and her brothers when they were all small. And all the while, Margaret kept an ear attuned, for any odd noise, or sounds of a violent affray. She prided herself that she kept all of her apprehensions from the boys, that her voice was calm and level always. Above them, in the branches of the trees, the birds sang cheerfully and undisturbed, and the river-shallows lipped at the muddy bank. The sun passed through it’s accustomed arc serenely and without interruption; Margaret even dozed for a while herself. Late in the afternoon, though – while she was still undecided about whether to remain through the night in their wood refuge, or risk returning to the house, she heard Race, calling her name. Joyfully, she answered, and within a few moments, he came scrambling down the low bluffs, leading Bucephalus. He was smiling, so she knew the day must have gone well for the militia-men.
“Oh, it went well, Daisy-mine,” he answered her unasked question as they embraced, “Although with considerable elements of farce about it. Those among us hoping for a bloody battle must have been quite disappointed, but I confess that I am relieved, for the only immediate casualty amongst us was a bloody nose – for one of our horses startled at the sound of a gunshot and threw Dick Andrews head-first to the ground . . . fortunately, it was a plowed field . . . ‘Zekiel William’s watermelon field, as a matter of fact.”
“A battle, Papa? Were you in a battle?” Little Horace demanded. “Weren’t you frightened?”

“Yes, I was and yes I was – and any man who says he was in a battle and wasn’t frightened is a liar, little man; the bravest fighters of all just hide their fears from everyone and do what they must.”
“What happened in Mr. William’s field?” she asked, gathering up the blankets and basket as her husband fondly lifted first Horace and then Johnny into Bucephalus’ saddle, where Little Horace drummed his feet against the horses’ flanks, until his father chided him, and then continued with his account.
“The fog . . . did I say there was a dense fog before sunrise this morning? We had marched through the night, and when dawn came the fog lifted. There were the Mexicans, no doubt as surprised to see us as we were to see them, so close. We fired a warning volley at them, and they at us, upon which we fell back to conceal ourselves amid the woods along the river-bank. They sent a messenger, Doctor Smithers – he does some doctoring and a little horse-trading in Bexar. I bought this good fellow from him, as a matter of fact. Dr. Smithers asked for a parley, and so Colonel Moore went to meet their officer, Castaneda . . . poor chap, he is one of us in sympathy, being a Federalist. He demanded to know why his men had been fired upon. Colonel Moore then answered that as his forces represented those of Lopez de Santa Anna, who had become an enemy of the colonists in Texas and all those who honored the 1824 Constitution . . . and that if he truly was a Federalist than he should immediately surrender and join us in defending it.”
“Oh, my,” Margaret exclaimed, “That was most certainly bold of Colonel Moore! What did the officer say in return?” Race chuckled, and they began walking back towards town and home.
“Oh, he claimed that he could not – as an officer, he must obey the orders given, no matter how he felt personally. He was ordered to fetch the cannon, and so . . . where was the cannon? And Colonel Moore turned and pointed towards it, saying ‘There it is, on the field – so come and take it.’ Then he waved his arm and shouted ‘fire!’ – and at that, the boys did so . . . what an almighty crash it made! A great puff of smoke and the whistle of scrap-iron hurtling through the air – and then it was all over, Daisy-mine. The Mexican troops wheeled around and departed the field in good order and at some speed . . . I think that Lieutenant Castaneda felt honor was satisfied thereby. I expect that he has gone to ask for new orders, since he could not carry out the old ones.”
“And that was all?” Margaret asked, in considerable astonishment. “This is passing miraculous! A battle won – just like that!”
“Aye, it did seem somewhat of an anticlimax,” Race set his arm around her waist, “And thin material for any bard hoping to make a stirring ode out of heroic battlefield deeds this day . . . but what happened in Williams’ fields today has great significance, which I think Castaneda and his commander, and General Cos will not fail to appreciate to the fullest. Lopez de Santa Anna most certainly will see this defiance for that it is – since it has happened in a manner that I wager has not been seen before.”
“And that would be?” Margaret tightened her arm around his waist. Her husband was powdered with dust, and his clothing smelt of black powder and sweat.
“Open and well-armed rebellion, among all degree of settlers here,” he answered,
“Of a certainty, there have been hot-heads and malcontents stirring the pot and preaching independence – but until now they have always been countered by . . . well, by honest and well-meant men such as Mr. Austin, and Dr. Williams – men who were as loyal to their oaths as today was long. But no more – the Peace Party has been driven to open defiance. When sober and reasonable men of business, long resident here put down the tools of their trade, take up a musket and travel to the aid of their friends in answer to a plea . . . that is a matter of note, Daisy-mine. Today has importance out of all proportion to what actually happened with our little affray and our little cannon.”

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