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Title: Ahead of the Army
Author: Stoddard, William Osborn, 1835-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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AHEAD OF THE ARMY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: IT WAS SEVERE WORK, BUT IT WAS DONE WITH EAGER ENTHUSIASM
(See page 277)]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

AHEAD OF THE ARMY

by W. O. STODDARD

AUTHOR OF "THE ERRAND BOY OF ANDREW JACKSON," "JACK MORGAN,"
"THE NOANK'S LOG," ETC.

ILLUSTRATED BY
C. CHASE EMERSON

BOSTON
LOTHROP PUBLISHING COMPANY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

COPYRIGHT, 1903, by LOTHROP PUBLISHING COMPANY.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published June, 1903

------------------------------------------------------------------------

PREFACE

Lest any one should suspect exaggeration in the pictures of Mexican
affairs in the old time, which are presented by Señor Carfora, it may be
well to offer a few facts by way of explanation. During sixty-three
years of the national life of the Republic of Mexico, from the
establishment of its independence in 1821 to the year 1884, nearly all
of its successive changes of government were accompanied by more or less
violence and bloodshed. There have been fifty-five Mexican Presidents;
at one revolutionary period, four within three months, and to this list
must be added two emperors and one regency. Both of the emperors were
shot, so were several of the Presidents, and nearly all of the others
incurred the penalty of banishment. How this came to be so will possibly
be better understood by the young Americans who will kindly travel with
Señor Carfora and his generals and his two armies, commanded for him by
General Scott and General Santa Anna. It is the wish of the author that
all his young friends may cultivate a deeper and kinder interest in the
wonderful land of Anahuac and its people. The now peaceful and rapidly
improving republic of the South is, in fact, only a kind of younger
brother of the United States. Mexico has no more sincere well-wisher
than

                                                    William O. Stoddard.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

CONTENTS
                                                                    Page

Far-away Guns                                                         11
The Race of the Goshawk                                               22
The Fortune of War                                                    47
Completely Stranded                                                   69
The Work of the Norther                                               84
Forward, March                                                        99
The Land of the Montezumas                                           119
Out of the Tierra Caliente                                           136
Leaving the Hacienda                                                 157
Pictures of the Past                                                 167
Ned's News                                                           181
A Storm Coming                                                       193
The Revolution                                                       207
The Despatch-bearer                                                  221
Under Fire                                                           240
General Scott and His Army                                           254
The Mountain Passes                                                  267
Señor Carfora Trapped                                                281
The Stars and Stripes in Tenochtitlan                                294

------------------------------------------------------------------------

ILLUSTRATIONS
                                                                    Page

It was severe work, but it was done with eager enthusiasm   Frontispiece
"Do you see that? What does it mean?"                                 30
"We have orders to take care of you"                                 114
Ned saw a long, bright blade of a lance pointed at his bosom         286

------------------------------------------------------------------------



AHEAD OF THE ARMY

CHAPTER I.

FAR-AWAY GUNS


"Boom! Boom! Boom!"

The long surges of the Gulf of Mexico were beating heavily upon the
sandy beach of Point Isabel, but the dull and boding sounds were not the
roar of the surf. There came a long silence, and then another boom. Each
in succession entered the white tents of the American army on the
upland, carrying with it a message of especial importance to all who
were within. It was also of more importance to the whole world than any
man who heard it could then have imagined. It spoke to the sentries at
their posts, and compelled them to turn and listen. It halted all
patrolling and scouting parties, making them stand still to utter sudden
exclamations. More than one mounted officer reined in his horse to
hear, and then wheeled to spur away toward the tent of General Zachary
Taylor, commanding the forces of the United States upon the Rio Grande.

In one small tent, in the camp of the Seventh Infantry, the first boom
stirred up a young man who had been sleeping, and he may have been
dreaming of home. He was in the uniform of a second lieutenant, and in
one respect he was exactly like all the other younger officers and most
of the men of that army, for never before had they heard the sound of a
hostile cannon. War was new to them, and they were not aware how many of
them were now entering a preparatory school in which they were to be
trained for service in a war of vastly greater proportions and for the
command of its contending armies, on either side.

Up sprang the young lieutenant and stepped to the door of his tent. He
was short, strongly built, and his alert, vigorous movements indicated
unusual nerve, vitality, and muscular strength.

"Grant, my boy," he muttered to himself, "that comes from the fort! The
Mexicans are attacking! It's more than twenty miles away. I didn't know
you could hear guns as far as that, but the wind's in the right
direction. Hurrah! The war has begun!"

He was only half right. The war had been begun long years before by
aggressive American settlers in the Spanish-Mexican State of Texas. Now,
at last, the United States had taken up the same old conflict, and only
about half of the American people at all approved of it.

Grant did not linger in front of his tent. He walked rapidly away to
where stood a group of officers, hardly any of them older than himself.

"Meade," he demanded of one of them, "what do you think of that?"

"I think I don't know how long that half-finished fort can hold out,"
responded Lieutenant Meade, and half a dozen other voices instantly
agreed with him as to the perils surrounding the small besieged
garrison.

It was hardly possible, they said, that it could hold out until the
arrival of the main army. This, too, would have to fight all the way
against superior numbers, but that was a thing which it could do, and
they were all wild with eagerness to be on the march, in answer to the
summons of those far-away guns.

There were no railroads to speak of, and only the first small beginnings
of telegraphs in the year 1846. The news of the first fighting would
therefore be slow in reaching the President and Congress at Washington,
so that they might lawfully make what is called a formal declaration of
war. Much had already been taken for granted, but the American
government was at that hour anxiously leaning southward and listening
for the expected roar of Mexican cannon. It came, as rapidly as General
Taylor could send it. A swift despatch-boat, with all her canvas up,
went speeding across the gulf to New Orleans. Thence, in the hands of
special couriers, it would gallop all the remaining distance. Meantime,
the struggle at the Rio Grande frontier would continue, just as if all
the legal arrangements had been made, but it would be weeks before
Europe could be advised of what was going on. All this, too, when this
fight over the annexation of Texas was about to lift the Republic into a
foremost place among the nations. It was to give her all the Pacific
coast which she now has, except Oregon and Alaska, with the gold of
California and the silver of the mountains. Among its consequences were
to be the terrible Civil War, the abolition of slavery, the acquisition
of the Sandwich Islands, and many another vast change in the history of
our country and in that of these very European nations which were then
ignorantly sitting still and thinking little about it, because they had
no ocean cable telegraphs to outrun the swift clipper ships.

There were couriers racing inland in all directions to tell the people
of Mexico, also, that war had come, but the despatches of the general
commanding their forces on the Texas border were carried by a swift
schooner from Matamoras, on the coast, directly to Vera Cruz. A
messenger from that port had before him a gallop of only two hundred and
sixty miles to the city of Mexico. President Paredes, therefore, had
full information of the attack on the American fort sooner than did
President Polk by a number of very important days.

These were bright May days, and during all of them there were other
things going on which had a direct relation to the cannon-firing and the
siege. For instance, all the commerce between Mexico and the rest of the
world was deeply interested, and so were all the warships of the United
States, which were prepared to interfere with that commerce pretty soon,
and shut it off. There were merchant vessels at sea to whose captains
and owners it was a serious question whether or not cruisers carrying
the Stars and Stripes would permit them to reach their intended port
and deliver their cargoes. Whatever may have been the case with all the
rest of these vessels, one of them in particular appeared to be rushing
along in a great hurry at the very hour when Lieutenant Grant woke up so
suddenly and walked out of his tent.

She carried an American flag, somewhat tattered, and she was spreading
quite as much canvas as a prudent skipper might have considered safe
under the strong gale that was blowing. She was bark-rigged, of about
four hundred tons burden, and was headed westward in the Nicholas
Channel, off the northerly coast of the Island of Cuba. There was a high
sea running, but the ship stood up well, and the few men who were on
deck could get about easily. Even a boy of apparently not over
seventeen, who came to a halt near the mainmast, managed to keep his
balance with some help from a rope. That he did so was a credit to him,
and it helped to give him a sailor-like and jaunty air. So did his blue
trousers, blue flannel shirt with a wide collar, and the sidewise pitch
of his tarpaulin hat. He might as well have remarked aloud that he was
one of those boys who are up to almost anything, and who think small
potatoes of a mere storm at sea. Near him, however, stood a pair of men,
either of whom might have felt as much at home under another flag than
the one which was now fluttering its damaged bunting above them. The
shorter of the two was a very dark-faced gentleman of perhaps forty,
with piercing black eyes. In spite of his civilian dress, he wore an
expression that was decidedly warlike, or soldierly.

"Captain Kemp," he said to his companion, "will you be good enough to
tell me why we are in the Nicholas Channel?"

"No, Señor Zuroaga," growled the large-framed, roughly rigged and
grim-looking sailor. "I'm cap'n o' this ship, and I don't give
explanations. We've had gales on gales since we left port. One course is
as good as another, if you're not losing distance. We'll reach Vera Cruz
now three or four days sooner than we reckoned. All those war insurance
risks were paid for for nothing."

"I'm not so sure of that," was slowly and thoughtfully responded. "Not
if one of Uncle Sam's officers should get a look into the hold of this
ship."

"You're a Mexican, anyhow," said Captain Kemp, surlily. "You know enough
to keep your mouth shut. You don't really have to know anything about
the cargo. Besides, it was peace when we sailed. We shall make a safe
landing,--if nothing happens on the way."

"Captain," said the Mexican, "it does not take long to make a
declaration of war when both sides are determined to have one."

"You're wrong there, Señor Zuroaga," replied the captain, emphatically.
"Mexico doesn't want a brush with the States. She isn't strong enough.
The Yankees can whip her out of Texas any day."

"That is not the point at all," replied Zuroaga, sadly. "The fact is,
the Texan Yankees want a war for revenge, and the American party in
power would like to annex a great deal more than Texas. President
Paredes needs a war to keep himself in power and help him put on a
crown. Old Santa Anna wants a war to give him a chance to return from
exile and get control of the army. If we ever do reach Vera Cruz, we
shall hear of fighting when we get there."

"Perhaps," said the captain, "but it will be only a short war, and at
the end of it the United States will have stolen Texas."

"No, señor," said Zuroaga, with a fierce flash in his eyes. "All
educated Mexicans believe that Texas or any other of the old Spanish
provinces has a right to set up for itself. Almost every State has
actually tried it. We have had revolution after revolution."

"Anarchy after anarchy!" growled the captain. "Such a nation as that
needs a king of some kind, or else the strong hand of either England or
France or the United States."

"Mexico! A nation!" exclaimed Señor Zuroaga, after a moment of silence.
"We are not a nation yet. Within our boundaries there are several
millions of ignorant Indians, peons, rancheros and the like, that are
owned rather than ruled by a few scores of rich landholders who
represent the old Spanish military grants. Just now President Paredes is
able to overawe as many of these chiefs as he and others have not
murdered. So he is President, or whatever else he may choose to call
himself. The mere title is nothing, for the people do not know the
difference between one and another. Now, Captain Kemp, one sure thing is
that the Yankees have taken Texas and mean to keep it. They will fight
for it. One other sure thing is that General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
will come back if he can, to carry on that war and supersede Paredes.
If he does so, there is danger ahead for some men. He will settle with
all his old enemies, and he loves bloodshed for its own sake. When he
cannot be killing men, he will sit in a cockpit all day, just for the
pleasure of seeing the birds slaughtering one another. I believe he had
my own father shot quite as much for love of murder as for the
opportunity it gave him for confiscating our family estates in Oaxaca."

"You seem to have enough to hate him for, anyhow, and I don't blame
you," replied the captain, as he turned away to give some orders to the
sailors, and all the while the boy who stood near them had been
listening.

"Well, Ned Crawford," he muttered to himself, "that's it, is it? Father
didn't seem to believe there would be any war. He said there would be
plenty of time, anyhow, for this old _Goshawk_ bark to make the round
trip to New York by way of Vera Cruz."

A great lurch of the ship nearly swung him off his feet just then, and
he was holding on very firmly to his rope when he added:

"He said I'd learn a great deal all the way, and I shouldn't wonder if
I'm learning something new just now. What do they mean by that
dangerous cargo in the hold, and our being captured by American ships of
war? That's a thing father didn't know anything about. I guess I can see
how it is, though. Captain Kemp isn't an American, and he'd do almost
anything to make money. Anything honest, I mean. How it does blow! Well,
let her blow! Father said he was putting me into a first-rate commercial
school, and here I am right in the middle of it."

Ned was indeed at school, and he seemed likely to have unexpected
teachers, but so is every other wide-awake young fellow, just like
Ulysses Grant and his crowd of young associates in their hot weather war
school over there on the Texas border.

Señor Zuroaga also had now walked away, and Ned was left to hold by his
rope, looking out upon the tossing sea and wondering more and more what
sort of adventures he and the _Goshawk_ might be so swiftly racing on
into.



CHAPTER II.

THE RACE OF THE GOSHAWK


A long day had passed and a dark night had come. The air of it was hot
and sultry over all the regions around the Gulf of Mexico. Something
appeared to be weighing it down, as if it might be loaded with the great
events which were about to come.

It was gloomy enough at and around the besieged American fort on the
Texas side of the Rio Grande, but every now and then the darkness and
the silence were broken by the flashes and thunders of the Mexican
artillery, and the responses of the cannon of the bravely defended
fortress. This was already partly in ruins, and the besiegers had good
reasons for their expectation that in due season they were to see the
Stars and Stripes come down from the shattered rampart. It did not seem
to them at all possible that the small force under General Taylor,
twenty miles away at the seaside, could cut through overwhelming
numbers to the relief of the garrison.

It was just as dark in the American camp on the coast, but there were
many campfires burning, and by the light of these and numberless
lanterns there were busy preparations making for the forward march,
which was to begin in the morning. There was an immense amount of
anxiety in the minds of all the Americans who were getting ready, but it
was only on account of the fort and garrison, for that little army had a
remarkable degree of confidence in its own fighting capacity.

It is never as dark on the land, apparently, as it is at sea, where even
the lights hung out by a ship seem to make all things darker, except the
white crests of the billows. One ship's lantern, however, was so hung
that it threw down a dim light upon a pair who were sitting on the deck
near the stern.

"Señor Zuroaga," said one of them, "I wish it was daylight."

"So do I," responded his companion, with hardly a trace of foreign
accent. "The storm's nearly over, but I had so much on my mind that I
could not sleep. The fact is, I came up to try and make up my mind where
we are. I must reach Vera Cruz before Santa Anna does, if I can. If I
do not, I may be shot after landing. I shall be safer, too, after
President Paredes has marched with his army for the Rio Grande. So I
hope for war. Anyhow, the commander at Vera Cruz is a friend of mine."

"I guess I understand," said Ned. "I heard what you said about the way
things are going. But what did you mean about our being in the Nicholas
Channel? What has that got to do with it?"

"Talk Spanish!" replied the señor, with whom the boy appeared to be upon
good terms. "I do not want any of those sailors to understand me, though
I'm very glad that you can. How did that happen?"

"Well," said Ned, "father's been all his life in the Cuban and Mexican
trade, and I'm to grow up into it. I can't remember just when they began
to teach me Spanish. I was thinking about the war, though. If it's
coming, I want to see some of the fighting."

"You may see more than you will like," said his friend in his own
tongue. "Now, as to where we are, remember your geography."

"I can remember every map in it," said Ned, confidently.

"Good!" said the señor. "Now! You know that the Gulf Stream runs along
the coast of Florida. Our road from Liverpool to the gulf was to have
taken us by that way. Instead of that, we came around below the Bahama
Islands, and here we are off the north coast of Cuba. Captain Kemp's
reason is that there might be too many American cruisers along the
Florida coast, and he does not care to be stopped by one of them, if the
war has already begun. We would not be allowed to go any further."

"I see," said Ned. "Of course not. They would stop us, to keep us from
being captured by the Mexicans when we got to Vera Cruz."

"Not exactly," said the señor, half laughing, "but it might cost your
father and his partners their ship and cargo. That is the secret the
sailors are not to know. Away up northward there, a hundred miles or so,
are the Florida Keys, and among them is the United States naval station
at Key West. There are ships of war there, and Captain Kemp will not
sail any nearer to them than he can help. Ned, did you have any idea
that you were sitting over a Mexican powder-magazine?"

"No!" exclaimed Ned. "What on earth do you mean?"

"I think I had better tell you," said the señor. "I half suspected it
before we sailed, and I learned the whole truth afterward. The New York
and Liverpool firm that your father belongs to sent on board an honest
and peaceable cargo, but there was a good deal of room left in the hold,
and the captain filled it up with cannon-balls, musket-bullets, and
gunpowder from the English agents of no less a man than General Santa
Anna himself. It is all for his army, whenever he gets one, but it goes
first to the castle of San Juan de Ulua, at Vera Cruz. If war has been
declared, or if it has in any way begun, the whole thing is what they
call contraband of war, and the _Goshawk_ is liable to be captured and
confiscated."

"Phew!" whistled Ned. "Wonder how father'd like that! Anyhow, we don't
know there's any war."

"We'd be in trouble anyhow," said the señor. "But we are all in the dark
about it. We have been over three weeks on the way, and all the war news
we had when we started was nearly a month old. We can only guess what
has been going on. Here we are, though, in a storm that is driving us
along first-rate into the Gulf of Mexico. We may be four days' sail from
Vera Cruz in a bee-line, and the _Goshawk_ is a racer, but we may not be
able to make a straight course. Well, well, the captain will keep on all
the canvas that's safe, and we may get there. Hullo! the day is
beginning to dawn. Now our real danger begins."

He said no more, and Ned walked forward with something altogether new on
his mind. An American boy, crammed full of patriotism, and wishing that
he were in General Taylor's army, he was, nevertheless, by no fault of
his own, one of the crew of a ship which was carrying ammunition to the
enemy. He almost felt as if he were fighting his own country, and it
made him sick. He had an idea, moreover, that Señor Zuroaga was only
half willing to help his old enemy Santa Anna.

"I don't care if Captain Kemp is an Englishman," he said to himself, "he
had no business to run father and his partners into such a scrape."

That might be so, and perhaps neither Kemp, nor Zuroaga, nor even Ned
himself, knew all about the laws of war which govern such cases, but
just then there flashed across his mind a very dismal suggestion, as he
stared down at the deck he stood on.

"What," he asked himself, "if any accident should touch off those
barrels of powder down there? Why, we'd all be blown sky-high and
nobody'd ever know what had become of us. There'd be nothing but chips
left."

He tried not to think about that, and went below to get his breakfast,
while Captain Kemp ordered his sailors to send up another sail,
remarking to Señor Zuroaga:

"We must make the most we can of this wind. Every hour counts now. I'll
take the _Goshawk_ to Vera Cruz, or I'll run her under water."

"Have you any idea where we are just now?" asked the señor.

"Well on into the gulf," said the captain, cheerfully. "We made a
splendid run in the night, thanks to the gale. I hope it will blow on,
and I think there is no danger of our being overhauled until we are off
the Mexican coast. I wish, though, that I knew whether or not the war
has actually been declared."

"The declaration isn't everything," replied the señor. "If there has
been any fighting at all, American cruisers have a right, after that,
to question ships bound for a hostile port, and to stop and seize all
contraband of war. After goods are once seized, it isn't easy to get
them back again."

"Sail ho!" came down from aloft at that moment.

"Where away?" called back the captain.

"Northerly, sir. Looks like a shark, sir."

"Can you make out her flag?" was inquired, almost anxiously.

The man on the lookout plied his telescope a full half-minute before he
responded:

"Stars and Stripes, sir. Sloop-o'-war, sir. She's changin' her course,
and she's makin' for us, I reckon."

"Let her head!" growled the captain. "This bark'll bear more sail. Hoist
away there, men. Let her have it! Señor, there's one thing I'll do right
off. It may be our best chance if she should overhaul us."

He did not explain his meaning just then, but another sail went up and
something else came down. In a few minutes more, when Ned came on deck
again, he suddenly felt worse than ever. Not long before, when the sun
was rising, he had been on an American ship, with the flag of his
country flying above him, but now his first glance aloft drew from him a
loud exclamation, for he found that while below he had apparently been
turned into an Englishman, and away up yonder the gale was playing with
the Red Cross banner of the British Empire. He stared at it for a
moment, and then he made an excited rush for Señor Zuroaga. He might
have reached him sooner, but for a lurch of the _Goshawk_, which sent
him sprawling full length upon the deck. It did not hurt him much,
however, and as soon as he was on his feet, he blurted out, angrily:

"Señor! I say! Do you see that? What does it mean?"

The Mexican laughed aloud, but not only Ned Crawford but several of the
sailors were eyeing that unexpected bunting with red and angry faces.
They also were Americans, and they had national prejudices.

"You don't like the British flag, eh?" he said. "I do, then, just now.
An American cruiser would not fire a shot at that flag half so quick as
it would at your own."

"Why wouldn't she?" asked Ned.

[Illustration: "DO YOU SEE THAT? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?"]

"Because," said the señor, a little dryly, "the American skipper hasn't
any British navy behind him, ready to take the matter up. It's a
protection in case we can't outrun that sloop-of-war. The men won't care
a cent, as soon as they know it's only a sea dodge to get into port
with."

Sailor-like, they were indeed easily satisfied with whatever the captain
chose to tell them, and on went the _Goshawk_ as a British craft, but
she was nevertheless carrying supplies to the Mexican army.

Señor Zuroaga had brought up a double spy-glass of his own, and, after
studying the stranger through it, he handed it to Ned, remarking:

"Take a look at her. She's a beauty. She is drawing nearer on this tack,
but nobody knows yet whether she can outrun us or not."

Ned took the glass with an unexpected feeling growing within him that he
hoped she could not do so. He did not wish to be caught on board a
British vessel taking powder and shot to kill Americans with. As he put
the glass to his eyes, however, the sloop-of-war appeared to have
suddenly come nearer. It was as if the _Goshawk_ were already within
reach of her guns, and she became a dangerous thing to look at. She was
not, as yet, under any great press of canvas, for her commander may not
have imagined that any merchant vessel would try to get away from him.
There were two things, however, about which nobody on board the
_Goshawk_ was thinking. The first was that, while the American
ship-of-war captain had not heard the firing at the fort on the Rio
Grande, he was under a strong impression that war had been declared. The
other thing came out in a remark which he made to a junior officer
standing by him.

"It won't do!" he declared, emphatically. "I don't at all like that
change of flags. It means mischief. There is something suspicious about
that craft. We must bring her to, and find out what's the matter with
her."

The distance between the two vessels was still too great for anything
but a few signals, to which Captain Kemp responded with others which may
have been of his own invention, for the signal officer on board the
Yankee cruiser could make nothing of them. The _Goshhawk_, moreover, did
not shorten sail, and her steersman kept her away several points more
southerly, instead of bringing her course nearer to that of the cruiser.

"I see!" said her captain, as he watched the change. "She means to get
away from us. It won't do. As soon as we are within range, I'll give
her a gun. She may be a Mexican privateer, for all I know."

At all events, under the circumstances, as he thought, the change of
flags had made it his duty to inquire into her character, and he decided
to do so, even if, as he said, he should have to send one shot ahead of
her and then a dozen into her.

There is something wonderfully exciting about a race of any kind. Men
will make use of anything, from a donkey to a steamboat, to engineer a
trial of speed and endurance. Then they will stand around and watch the
running, as if the future welfare of the human race depended upon the
result. Even the _Goshhawk_ sailors, who had previously grumbled at the
British flag above them, were entirely reconciled to the situation, now
that it included the interesting question whether or not their swift
bark could show her heels to the cruiser. They were very much in doubt
about it, for the ships of the American navy had a high and well-earned
reputation as chasers. They might have been somewhat encouraged if they
had known that the _Portsmouth_, sloop-of-war, had been at sea a long
time without going into any dock to have her bottom scraped clean of its
accumulated barnacles. She was by no means in the best of training for
a marine race-course.

An hour went by and then another. The two vessels were now running on
almost parallel lines, so that any attempt of the sloop to draw nearer
cost her just so much of chasing distance. It might be that they were,
in fact, nearly matched, now that the wind had lulled a little, and both
of them were able to send up more canvas without too much risk of having
their sticks blown out of them. It looked like it, but the Yankee
captain had yet another idea in his sagacious head.

"Let her keep on," he said. "The old _Kennebec_ is out there, somewhere
westerly, not far away. That vagabond may find himself under heavier
guns than ours before sunset. Lieutenant, give him a gun."

"Ay, ay, sir!" came back, and in a moment more there was a flash and a
report at the bow of the _Portsmouth_.

Both range and distance had been well calculated, for an iron messenger,
ordering the _Goshhawk_ to heave to, fell into the water within a hundred
yards of her stern.

"That's near enough for the present," said the American commander, but
Captain Kemp exclaimed, in astonishment:

"They are firing on the British flag, are they? Then there is something
up that we don't know anything about. We must get away at all risks."

They were not doing so just now, although another change of course and a
strong puff of the gale carried the _Goshhawk_ further out of range. The
fact was that her pursuer did not feel quite ready to land shot on board
of her, believing that he was doing well enough and that his prize would
surely be taken sooner or later. Besides, if she were, indeed, to become
a prize, no sound-minded sea-captain could be willing to shoot away her
selling value or that of her cargo.

Noon came, and there did not appear to be any important change in the
relative positions of the two ships. At times, indeed, the _Goshhawk_ had
gained a quarter-mile or so, but only to lose it again, as is apt to be
the case in ocean races. She was not at all tired, however, and both of
the contestants had all the wind they needed.

Two hours more went slowly by, and Captain Kemp began to exhibit signs
of uneasiness at the unexpected persistence with which he was followed.

"What on earth can be the matter?" he remarked, aloud. "I'd have thought
she'd get tired of it before this--"

"Captain!" sharply interrupted Zuroaga, standing at his elbow, glass in
hand. "Another sail! Off there, southerly. Seems to be a full-rigged
ship. What are we to do now?"

"Keep on!" roared the captain, and then he turned to respond to a
similar piece of unpleasant information which came down from the
lookout.

"We'll soon know what she is," he remarked, but not as if he very much
wished to do so. "What I'd like to do would be to sail on into the
darkest kind of a rainy night. That's our chance, if we can get it."

It might be, but at that very moment the commander of the _Portsmouth_
was asserting to his first lieutenant:

"There comes the _Kennebec_, my boy. We'll have this fellow now. We'll
teach him not to play tricks with national flags and man-o'-war
signals."

The race across the Gulf of Mexico was now putting on new and
interesting features, but Ned Crawford, posted well forward to watch the
course of events and what might have been called the race-course, sagely
remarked:

"I don't know that two horses can run any faster than one can. We are as
far ahead as ever we were."

That would have been of more importance if the newcomer had not been so
much to the southward and westward, rather than behind them. She was, of
course, several miles nearer to the _Goshhawk_ than she was to the
_Portsmouth_, and neither of these had as yet been able to make out her
flag with certainty. That she was a full-rigged ship was sure enough,
and if Ned had been upon her deck instead of upon his own, he would have
discovered that she was heavily armed and in apple-pie order. At this
very moment a burly officer upon her quarter-deck was roaring, angrily,
in response to some information which had been given him:

"What's that? A British ship chased by a Yankee cruiser? Lieutenant, I
think the _Falcon_'ll take a look at that. These Yankees are getting too
bumptious altogether. It's as if they thought they owned the gulf! Put
her head two points north'ard. Humph! It's about time they had a
lesson."

There had been some temporary trouble with the flag of the _Falcon_, but
it had now been cleared of its tangle, and was swinging out free. It was
of larger size than the British bunting displayed by the Goshawk. It was
only a few minutes, therefore, before Captain Kemp had a fresh trouble
on his mind, for his telescope had told him the meaning of that flag.

"Worse than ever!" he exclaimed. "She'd make us heave to and show our
papers. Then she'd hand us right over, and no help for it. No, sir! Our
only way is to scud from both of them. Some of our English frigates are
slow goers, and this may be one of that kind."

He was in less immediate peril, perhaps, because of the determination of
the angry British captain to speak to the Yankee first, and demand an
explanation of this extraordinary affair. This it was his plain duty to
do, and the attempt to do it would shortly put him and all his guns
between the _Portsmouth_ and the _Goshhawk_. This operation was going on
at the end of another hour, when Captain Kemp's lookout shouted down to
him:

"Sail ho, sir! 'Bout a mile ahead o' the British frigate. Can't quite
make her out yet, sir."

"I declare!" groaned the captain. "This 'ere's getting kind o' thick!"

The weather also was getting thicker, and all three of the racers were
shortly under a prudent necessity for reducing their excessive spreads
of canvas. The first mate of the _Goshhawk_ had even been compelled to
expostulate with his overexcited skipper.

"Some of it's got to come down, sir," he asserted. "If we was to lose a
spar, we're gone, sure as guns!"

"In with it, then," said the captain. "I wish both of 'em 'd knock out a
stick or two. It'd be a good thing for us."

At all events, a lame horse is not likely to win a race, and the
_Goshhawk_ was doing as well as were either of the others.

Under such circumstances, it was not long before the _Falcon_ and the
_Portsmouth_ were within speaking-trumpet distance of each other, both
of them losing half a mile to the _Goshhawk_ while they were getting
together. Rapid and loud-voiced indeed were the explanations which
passed between the two commanders. At the end of them, the wrath of the
Englishman was turned entirely against the culprit bark, which had
trifled with his flag.

"We must take her, sir!" he shouted. "She's a loose fish o' some kind."

It was while this conversation was going on that Señor Zuroaga, after
long and careful observations, reported to Captain Kemp concerning the
far-away stranger to the westward.

"She is a Frenchman, beyond a doubt. Are all the nations making a naval
rendezvous in the Gulf of Mexico?"

"Nothing extraordinary," said the captain. "But they're all more'n
usually on the watch, on account o' the war, if it's coming."

It was precisely so. War surely brings disturbance and losses to others
besides those who are directly engaged in it, and all the nations having
commercial relations with Mexico were expecting their cruisers in the
gulf to act as a kind of sea police. Moreover, a larger force than usual
would probably be on hand and wide awake.

The day was going fast, and the weather promised to shorten it. Ned was
now wearing an oilskin, for he would not have allowed any amount of rain
to have driven him below. He and all the rest on board the _Goshhawk_
were aware that their pursuers were again beginning to gain on them
perceptibly. It was a slow process, but it was likely to be a sure one,
for the men-of-war could do better sailing in a heavy sea and under
shortened canvas than could a loaded vessel like the saucy merchant
bark.

"I'm afraid they'll catch us!" groaned Ned. "I s'pose they could make us
all prisoners of war,--if there is any war. Oh, I wish all that powder
and shot had been thrown overboard!"

It did not look, just now, as if the Mexican army would ever get any
benefit from it, for even the French stranger to leeward seemed to be
putting on an air of having evil intentions. Captain Kemp had made her
out to be a corvette of moderate size, perhaps a sixteen-gun ship, and
she would be quite likely to co-operate with the police boats of England
and America in arresting any suspicious wanderer in those troubled
waters.

Darker grew the gloom and a light mist came sweeping over the sea. Both
pursuers and pursued began to swing out lights, and before long the mate
of the _Goshhawk_ came to Captain Kemp to inquire, in a puzzled way:

"I say, Cap'n, what on earth do you do that for? It'll help 'em to
foller us, and lose us all the benefit o' the dark."

"No, it won't," growled the captain. "You wait and see. I've sighted one
more light, off there ahead of us, and I'm going to make it do something
for the _Goshhawk_. Those other chaps can't see it yet."

"What in all the world can he be up to?" thought Ned, as he listened,
but the cunning skipper of the bark had all his wits about him.

The lookouts of the men-of-war had indeed been taking note thus far of
only their own lanterns and the glimmer on their intended prize. They
may even have wondered, as did her own mate, why she should aid them in
keeping track of her. At all events, they had little doubt of having her
under their guns before morning. Señor Zuroaga himself sat curled up
under his waterproof well aft, and now and then he appeared to be
chuckling, as if he knew something which amused him. Half an hour later,
when all the lights of the _Goshhawk_ suddenly went out, he actually
broke into a ringing laugh. Her course was changed to almost due north
at that very moment. This would bring her across the track of the
_Portsmouth_ and within a mile of that dangerous cruiser's bow guns.
They might not be quite so dangerous, however, if her gunners should be
unable to see a mark at that distance through the mist. The fifth light,
dead ahead, now became itself only the fourth, and it was immediately
the sole attraction for the watchers in the rigging of the several war
police-boats. This stranger was going westwardly, at a fair rate of
speed, and its light was exceptionally brilliant. In fact, it grew more
and more so during an anxious thirty minutes that followed, but it was
the French corvette which first came within hailing distance, to receive
an answer in angry Portuguese, which the French officers could not make
head or tail of. Even after receiving further communications in broken
Portuguese-Spanish, all they could do was to compel the Brazilian
schooner, _Gonzaga_, laden with honest coffee from Rio for New Orleans,
to heave to as best she might until the next arrival came within hail.
This proved to be the British frigate, and her disappointed captain at
once pretty sharply explained to the Frenchmen the difference between a
two-master from Rio and a British-Yankee runaway bark from nobody knew
where. Then came sweeping along the gallant _Portsmouth_, and there was
need for additional conversation all around. Some of it was of an
exceedingly discontented character, although the several captains were
doing their best to be polite to each other, whatever derogatory remarks
they might feel disposed to make concerning the craft which was carrying
Ned Crawford and his badly wounded patriotism.

Far away to the northwest, hidden by the darkness, the _Goshhawk_ was
all this while flying along, getting into greater safety with every knot
she was making, and Captain Kemp remarked to Ned:

"My boy, your father won't lose a cent, after all--not unless we find
Vera Cruz blockaded. But our danger isn't all over yet, and it's well
for us that we've slipped out of this part of it."

"Captain Kemp!" exclaimed Ned, "I believe father'd be willing to lose
something, rather than have the Mexicans get that ammunition."

"Very likely he would," laughed the captain, "but I'm an Englishman, and
I don't care. What's more, I'm like a great many Americans. Millions of
them believe that the Mexicans are in the right in this matter."

That was a thing which nobody could deny, and Ned was silenced so far as
the captain's sense of national duty was concerned.

Hundreds of miles to the westward, at that early hour of the evening,
far beyond the path of the storm which had been sweeping the eastern and
southern waters of the gulf, the American army, under General Taylor,
lay bivouacked. It was several miles nearer the besieged fort than it
had been in the morning, for this was the 8th of May. There had been
sharp fighting at intervals since the middle of the forenoon, beginning
at a place called Palo Alto, or "The Tall Trees," and the Mexicans had
been driven back with loss. Any cannonading at the fort could be heard
more plainly now, and it was certain that it had not yet surrendered.

Near the centre of the lines occupied by the Seventh Regiment, a young
officer sat upon the grass. He held in one hand a piece of army bread,
from which he now and then took a bite, but he was evidently absorbed in
thought. He took off his hat at last and stared out into the gloom.

"The Mexican army is out there somewhere," he remarked, slowly. "We are
likely to have another brush with them to-morrow. Well! this is real
war. I've seen my first battle, and I know just how a fellow feels under
fire. I wasn't at all sure how it would be, but I know now. He doesn't
feel first-rate, by any means. Those fellows that say they like it are
all humbugs. I've seen my first man killed by a cannon-ball. Poor Page!
Poor Ringgold! More of us are to go down to-morrow. Who will it be?"

Very possibly, the list of American slain would contain the
announcement that a mere second lieutenant, named Ulysses S. Grant, had
been struck by a chance shot from one of the Mexican batteries.



CHAPTER III.

THE FORTUNE OF WAR


The morning of the 9th of May dawned brightly on the ocean and on the
shore. There was a heavy sea running on the Gulf of Mexico, but the wind
that was blowing was little more than a ten-knot breeze. Before this, at
distances of a few miles from each other, a trio of armed vessels,
representing three of the great powers of the world, were dashing along
under full sail, as if they were in a hurry. They were so, for they all
were searching hungrily after a double-flagged bark, which they had
caught the day before, but which had managed to escape from them in the
night. She had done it mysteriously and impudently. Instead of her,
there now toiled along, away behind them, a dingy-looking Brazilian
coffee schooner, the skipper of which did not conceal his satisfaction
over the idea that he had unintentionally aided some other sailor--he
did not care who--to get away from all those war-sharks. Well to the
westward, with every sail spread that she could carry, the _Goshhawk_
sped along in apparent safety, but she was once more carrying the
American flag, and Ned Crawford, busy below at his breakfast, felt a
great deal easier in his patriotic mind. He could almost forget, for the
moment, that he was taking a cargo of the worst kind of contraband of
war goods to the armies of the enemies of his country. He was shortly on
deck again, to be heartily greeted by Captain Kemp with:

"Hullo, my boy, where are all your ships of war?"

Ned took a long, sweeping glance around the horizon, and replied:

"It looks as if we'd lost 'em."

"We've done it!" chuckled the captain. "I think we'll not see any more
of that lot. We made a fine run in the night, and we may be within three
days' sail of Vera Cruz. But that depends a great deal on the wind and
on our luck in keeping out of difficulties."

The captain turned away to his duties, and Ned went forward among the
sailors. He could always manage to have good chats with them, and they
were especially ready just now to discuss the war and their chances for
running against more cruisers. Ned did not count as one of them exactly,
but he was not to be looked down upon as a mere passenger. His father
had sent him out as a kind of honorary supercargo, or ship's clerk, in
the hope that he might learn something which would be of use to him when
he should grow up into a full-sized merchant. Perhaps he had already
found out a number of things upon which his father had not calculated
when he said good-by to him. He was about to learn some other things
which were not upon the ship's books, for he had reached the heel of the
bowsprit, where Señor Zuroaga was standing, gazing dreamily westward.

"Good morning, señor!" said Ned. "We did get away."

"I don't know how good a morning it is for me," replied the dark-faced
Mexican, wearily. "I may have only three or four days to wait before I
shall know whether or not I am to be shot at Vera Cruz by order of his
Excellency, President Paredes. My best chance is that he cannot know
that I am coming. After I get ashore, my life may very soon depend upon
his being beaten out of power by the armies of the United States."

"It couldn't be so in any other country," said Ned. "What have you ever
done against him?"

"I won't say just now," replied the señor, "but he knows that I am his
enemy. So I am of Santa Anna, if he is to get back. He murdered my
father and confiscated our property in Oaxaca. Do you know where that
is?"

"No," said Ned; "I don't know anything about the States of Mexico. It's
hard enough to keep track of the United States. They make a new one
every few weeks. They may have let in half a dozen while we've been at
sea."

"No," said Zuroaga, "but they've tightened their grip on Texas, and I
hope they'll hold on hard, if only to keep Paredes and Santa Anna from
murdering all the best men in it. Well, Oaxaca lies due south of the
State of Vera Cruz, and I can escape into it if I have half a chance.
I'd be safe then, for I have plenty of friends there. We have owned huge
tracts of land in Oaxaca ever since the Spaniards conquered Mexico."

"How did your folks get so much of it?" inquired Ned.

"I'll tell you," said the señor, proudly, and with a fiery flash in his
coal-black eyes. "A man by the name of Hernando Cortes really conquered
Mexico, without much help from the King of Spain. The king made a great
deal of him for it, at first. He made him a marquis, which was a great
thing in those days, whatever it is now. He also gave him a royal grant
of some of the land he had won for Spain. This land was the valley of
the Tehuantepec River, that empties into the Pacific Ocean near the
eastern boundary of Oaxaca. So his title was Marquis del Valle, and his
descendants hold a great deal of that land to this day. I am one of
them,--one of the Marquisanas, as they call us. I am a direct descendant
of Hernando Cortes, and that isn't all. One of my ancestors married an
Aztec princess, and so I am also descended from the Montezumas, who were
emperors of Mexico before the Spaniards came. I'm an Indian on one side,
and I've more than one good reason for hating a Spaniard and a tyrant."

Ned Crawford had read the story of the conquest of Mexico, like a great
many other American boys. That is, he had read it as if it had been a
tip-top novel rather than a reality. He had admired Hernando Cortes, as
a hero of fiction, but here he was, now, actually talking with one of
the hero's great-great-grandchildren, who was also, after a fashion,
one of the Montezumas. It was like a short chapter out of some other
novel, with the night race of the _Goshhawk_ thrown in by way of
variation. He was thinking about it, however, rather than asking
questions, and the señor went on:

"It's a rich, beautiful country, all that eastern part of Oaxaca. There
are splendid mountains and great forests of mahogany, rosewood, and
pine. Through it runs the Coatzacoalcos River, northerly, to the gulf.
Along the rivers and through the mountain passes, there is an old road
that Cortes himself made to lead his little army across to the Pacific."

"I'd like to go over on it!" exclaimed Ned. "I guess I will, some day. I
want to know all about Mexico."

He made up his mind, from what his companion went on to tell him, that
there would be a great deal worth seeing, but at that time nobody was
dreaming how many Americans, older and younger, were soon to travel over
the old Cortes road. California was to be annexed, as well as Texas, and
before Ned Crawford would be old enough to cast his first vote, there
was to be a great tide of eager gold hunters pouring along what was
called the Tehuantepec route to the placers and diggings.

The days of California gold mining had not yet come, and while Ned and
the señor talked on about the terrible history of Mexico, with its
factions, its bloody revenges, its pronunciamentos, and its fruitless
revolutions, the _Goshhawk_ sailed swiftly along toward Vera Cruz and the
powder-needing garrison of the castle of San Juan de Ulua.

Whether or not the war had actually begun was still a puzzling question
in the mind of Captain Kemp, but he would have had no doubt whatever if
he had been with General Taylor and his remarkable gathering of young
students of the art of war. They all obtained several important lessons
that day. One of these was that it is both difficult and dangerous for
an advancing army to push on through dense bushes and high grass in hot
weather, with Mexican lancers ready to pounce upon them among the lanes
of the chaparral. It was found, not only before but after the short,
sharp collision with the Mexican forces at Resaca de la Palma that a
number of valuable lives had been lost in the bushy wilderness.

The American army moved slowly forward, and before nightfall the long
lines of its blue uniforms went over the prairie rolls in full sight of
the fort. The Stars and Stripes were still flying above the badly
damaged ramparts, and cheer after cheer went up from thousands of
throats, including those of the rescued garrison. They had not really
lost many men, killed or wounded, but among the killed was their
commander, Major Brown, after whom the fort was now named. In later
years, a town grew up around the site of the frontier fortress, and it
is called Brownsville. General Taylor's men had triumphantly cut their
way through the difficult twenty miles from the sea to the siege, but
perhaps any individual hero among them might have safely quoted the wise
remark of Lieutenant Grant, as he looked at the fort and recalled his
exploits of the day.

"Well, after all," he said to himself, "I don't know but what the battle
of Resaca de la Palma would have been won just as well if I had not been
there."

Long years afterward, it was to be said of a number of other battles
that they would not have been won just as well if he had not been there
to win them, and the same would be equally true of several of his young
companions, as inexperienced as himself, and as ignorant of the great
things before them in the far future.

Their army went into camp near the fort; and the Mexican forces, for the
greater part, were believed to have retreated across the Rio Grande.

It is said that after every storm there comes a calm, but it was not a
pleasant calm in the neighborhood of the American camp. There were all
the while strong parties of Mexican lancers hovering around in all
directions, on the lookout for imprudent stragglers, and a sharp watch
had to be kept to guard against sudden dashes at the outposts, for the
"rancheros," as the Mexican horsemen were called, were both well-mounted
and enterprising. There was yet another kind of calm of a curious
character. General Taylor absolutely did not know what to do next, and
he could not know until after he should hear from the President what the
statesmen in Congress had decided. Beyond a doubt, war was going on
right here, but there was a dispute as to the nature of it and as to
what was to be done with it. The Mexican geographers claimed that the
southern boundary of Texas, even if it had been legally annexed to the
United States, was at the Nueces River, and that all their country
south of that line was still their own. According to them, therefore,
General Taylor's army was not in Texas at all, but in Mexico. On the
other hand, the American geographers placed the boundary at the Rio
Grande, many miles south of the Nueces, and claimed that the forces
defeated by General Taylor had invaded the United States. If both
parties were right, then it might have been said that all that land
between the rivers did not belong to anybody until the title to it
should be settled by a military court and gunpowder arguments. That was
really the way in which it was finally settled, and there is now no more
dispute about it. History tells us that so have all the great national
land titles of the world been argued and determined.

There was what some people call a waiting spell, and all things on sea
or land might be spoken of as feverishly quiet for a day or two. In the
afternoon of the third day, however, there was a sort of change in the
weather at one spot away out on the gulf. There was not a cloud in the
sky, indeed, and the _Goshhawk_ was skimming along under full sail so
steadily that part of her crew had nothing better to do than to lie
around on the deck, and feel satisfied that the breeze was so very good.
In the same manner, the American soldiers in the neighborhood of Fort
Brown were lying around in and out of their tents, and wishing that they
had more shade to protect them from the hot sun of Texas or Mexico,
whichever it might be. At that hour, however, there arrived upon the
_Goshhawk_ a bit of unexpected news which awakened everybody, for the man
at the lookout announced, excitedly:

"Schooner under Mexican flag, sir! Well away to loo'ard. Looks as if she
might come pretty nigh us."

"Just the thing I wanted!" shouted Captain Kemp, springing to his feet.
"We'll bear away for her. Up with the British flag, too. She'd shy the
Stars and Stripes. They wouldn't tell us what the news is, either."

Once more, therefore, the _Goshhawk_ became an Englishman, and her chase
after the latest news did not have to be a long one. Not many minutes
later, the two vessels were within hailing distance, and the stranger
spoke first, in a tone of evident anxiety:

"What ship is that?"

"_Goshhawk_, from Liverpool to Vera Cruz, with supplies for the Castle of
San Juan de Ulua. What ship is that?"

"Schooner _Tampico_, from Havana to Matamoras, with supplies for General
Ampudia," came much more cheerfully back. "We had to run away from
Matamoras in ballast to escape the gringos. Their cruisers are around
like hawks. You won't get to Vera Cruz if they can help it."

Captain Kemp already knew something about the reckless ways of
men-of-war, but he did not say so. He merely responded:

"Is that so? How about the war? We've no news at all."

"War?" shouted the Mexican skipper, triumphantly. "Why, there have been
three great battles already. We have whipped the Americans! General
Taylor is surrounded, and will have to surrender. So will the fort on
the Rio Grande. We shall drive the gringos out of Texas. I did not know
until now that you British were going to help us."

There could be no further conversation, for the _Goshhawk_ was sweeping
on out of hearing, but Ned Crawford exclaimed, indignantly:

"Our army defeated? How can that be? I don't believe it!"

Everybody on deck could hear the captain when he laughingly responded:

"The victories were won in that fellow's head, most likely. He was on
board his schooner at Matamoras, and he didn't see it done. All he knows
is that the war is really begun. It takes a long time, men, to make
either an American or a British army think of surrendering. We shall
hear a good deal more about those battles one of these days. I'd like to
read the newspaper reports, though, on both sides."

"They would be good fun," dryly remarked Señor Zuroaga. "There is nobody
on earth that can win victories like a newspaper editor."

"Hullo!" suddenly exclaimed Ned. "Something's the matter with the
captain! Did you hear that?"

There was quite enough to hear. A long, loud hail that came down from
the rigging was followed by almost a yell from Captain Kemp.

"We're chased again!" he said. "Thank God, she's astern! Men, we're in
for it! Now for Vera Cruz or a prison! I'm ready!"

Rapid orders went out, but hardly anything more could be done to
increase the speed of the ship. In fact, the lookout must almost have
taken it for granted that the strange sail away off yonder belonged to a
United States cruiser. Very likely it did, but it would have to draw a
good deal nearer before there could be any absolute certainty. In the
meantime, all on board the _Goshhawk_ might attend to whatever duties
they had, and discuss the remarkable tidings brought by the Mexican
schooner. While doing so, they could hardly have guessed correctly what
was doing and saying on board the other vessel which had caused their
anxiety. She was, indeed, a man-of-war, and she had received from a
returning army transport ship a whole lot of fresh news from General
Taylor's army, by way of Point Isabel on the coast, where he had been
encamped. Something like this had been shouted across the water by an
enthusiastic officer of the transport:

"Awful fightin'! Half a dozen battles! Taylor's whipped the Greasers
into smithereens! He's goin' to march right on into Mexico. I don't keer
if Uncle Sam annexes the hull half-Spanish outfit. I'm goin' in for one
o' them there big silver mines, if we do. Hurrah for Gineral Taylor!"

A chorus of ringing cheers had answered that, but here, also, there were
men of experience ready to question the entire accuracy of such
tremendous war news. The one thing, however, which was brought out
clearly to the mind of a naval commander was his greatly increased duty
of watchfulness to prevent any kind of munitions of war from reaching
the Mexican ports. That was the reason why he was now following at his
best speed what might after all prove to be an entirely innocent trader.
He even went below to consider the matter, and it was a full hour later
when the officer in charge of the deck came hastily down to tell him:

"Same fellow we chased before, sir. I've made him out. He's under
British colors again. Are we to chase?"

"Chase, sir?" roared the captain. "Of course we must chase! We know what
it means now. The old _Portsmouth_ must catch that rascal this time.
I'll come on deck."

Just as good glasses as those on board of her had been watching her
during that hour of swift sailing, and Captain Kemp was even now
lowering his telescope with what sounded like a sigh of relief.

"Mate," he said, "it's the same sloop that followed us before. It makes
me feel better. We know what's about the best she can do. If this wind
holds, I think we can fetch Vera Cruz at nightfall. No one Yankee'd
dare to follow us under the guns of San Juan de Ulua."

"I reckon not," slowly responded the mate of the _Goshhawk_, "but we
don't need to get under that chap's bow-chasers, either."

"No," said Captain Kemp, "but I'll risk a shot or two."

Ned Crawford heard him, for he had been following him pretty closely, to
know what was coming.

"I don't know," he was thinking, "how far one o' those cannon of hers'll
carry. I don't believe, either, that they can hit a mark that is
plunging along as we are. It'd be worse than shooting at a bird on the
wing. Still, it's kind of awful to be shot at by our own people."

The sailors of the _Goshhawk_ were also thinking, and they were beginning
to look at one another very doubtfully. Not only were they Americans,
most of them, but they had not shipped for any such business as this,
and they did not fancy the idea of being killed for nothing. Moreover,
Ned himself heard one of them muttering:

"There's an ugly look to this thing. If a shot from that cruiser were to
strike us amidships, we'd all be blown into the air."

Decidedly that was not a pleasant thing to think of. Neither was there
any great amount of comfort in a suggestion made by another of the men:

"Well, we'd never know what hurt us. We must keep out o' range."

Not long afterward there was a flash at one of the bow-ports of the
cruiser. The report which followed was a peremptory order to heave to,
under penalty of consequences. The gun was shotted, and a great many
eyes watched anxiously for the dipping of that well-aimed ball of iron.
It skipped from crest to crest of several waves before it sank, and then
Captain Kemp shouted:

"All right, men! Half a mile short! We shall get there. The coast's in
full sight now, and we've less than five miles to run."

"Ay, ay, sir!" came back from them, half cheerfully, but one voice was
heard to grumble:

"It's all right, is it? Well, if it wasn't for that half-mile o'
shortage, there'd be a mutinee-e on board o' this ship. I'd start it. I
ain't a-goin' to get myself knocked on the head by Uncle Sam's own men."

There would very likely have been a mutiny, even as it was, if there had
now been time for it to take shape. Thus far, the excitement of the
chase had been in the captain's favor, but the seamen would have been
legally justified in resisting him and bringing the ship to. His
authority would have ceased, for he had no right to compel them to break
the law or to run the risk of a broadside from a man-of-war.

Nearer, nearer, nearer, came both the dim outline of the Mexican coast
and the white sails of the pursuing _Portsmouth_. Louder and more
ominous grew the but half-suppressed murmurs of the sailors, but Captain
Kemp's face was now wearing a hard, set look, and he was known to be a
dangerous man to deal with. Something, which looked like the handle of a
pistol, stuck out of one of his side pockets, and his fingers wandered
to it now and then, as if he might be turning over in his mind the
possibility of soon having to shoot a mutineer. Ned was staring
anxiously back at the Yankee cruiser at the moment when his shoulder was
gripped hard, and Señor Zuroaga almost whirled him around, exclaiming:

"Look! Look yonder! That's the Castle of San Juan de Ulua! Oh, but don't
I wish it were a half-mile nearer! Hear that firing?"

The guns of the _Portsmouth_ were indeed sounding at regular intervals,
and she was evidently almost within range. She was also, however, well
within the prescribed distance line which a hostile cruiser may not pass
without being regarded as making the attack herself. Beyond a doubt,
too, there must have been observers at the fort, who were already
watching the operations of the two approaching vessels. Minutes passed,
which were counted by Ned with a heart that beat so he almost thought he
could hear it.

"I think we are safe now," began the señor, but he had been looking at
the fort, and there was one important fact of which he was not aware.

Only a couple of minutes earlier, the captain of the _Portsmouth_ had
shouted angrily to his first lieutenant:

"No, sir! I will not let her get away. I will take her or sink her! Out
with that starboard battery, and let them have it!"

Around swung the sloop, like the perfect naval machine that she was, and
there quickly followed the reports of several guns at once. It was not a
full broadside, but there was enough of it to have sunk the _Goshhawk_,
if the iron thrown had struck her at or near the water-line. None of it
did so, but the next exclamation of Señor Zuroaga was one of utter
dismay, for the foremast of the bark had been cut off at the cap and
there was a vast rent in her mainsail. Down tumbled a mass of spars and
rigging, forward, and the ship could no longer obey her helm.

"All hands cut away wreckage!" shouted Captain Kemp. "We're all right.
She won't dare come any nearer. Hurrah!"

It was a deep, thunderous roar from the castle which had called out that
apparently untimely hurrah. It was the voice of a 64-pounder gun from
the nearest rampart, and the shot it sent fell within ten feet of the
_Portsmouth's_ bows.

"Hullo!" exclaimed her captain, more angrily than ever. "We've run in
almost to pointblank range of those heavy guns. About! About!
Lieutenant, we must get out of this."

"All right, sir," was anxiously responded. "It isn't worth while to risk
any more shot of that size--not for all there's likely to be under the
hatches of that wretched bark. I think we barked her, anyhow."

He may have meant that for a kind of small joke, but she had been worse
hurt than he could know, for one 32-pounder shot had shattered her
stern, barely missing her sternpost and rudder gearing, and she was no
longer the trim and seaworthy vessel that she had been. One more heavy
gun had sounded from the seaward battery of the castle, but her garrison
had been in a genuinely Mexican condition of unreadiness, and it was
several minutes before they could bring up more ammunition and make
further use of their really excellent artillery. During those minutes,
the _Portsmouth_ had ample opportunity given her to swing around and
sweep swiftly out of danger. She had barely escaped paying dearly for
her pursuit of the _Goshawk._ Her satisfaction, however, consisted only
in part of the damage she had done to the bark, for, in getting around,
she had let drive her entire larboard broadside. It was a waste of
ammunition, certainly, but no Yankee man-of-war commander would ever
have forgiven himself if he had failed to make a good reply to a shot
from the Castle of San Juan de Ulua. Moreover, the sloop's gunners were
ready to swear solemnly that every ball they had sent had hit the fort.

The excitement on board the _Goshhawk_ had been at fever heat, but it was
now diminishing rapidly, for she did not contain a man who was not well
pleased to see the _Portsmouth_ give the matter up. All signs of mutiny
disappeared, of course, for there was no more duty of a military
character to be required of the men. The bark was soon set free of her
wreckage, and prepared to make her way in still further, under the
protection of the fort batteries. Captain Kemp was too busy for any kind
of conversation, and Señor Zuroaga came aft, to where Ned was curiously
studying the work of the 32-pound shot at the stern. The señor leaned
over the side and did the same for a long moment before he remarked:

"We have had a narrow escape. A few feet lower, and that shot would have
let the water in. Fifty feet forward, and it would have touched off the
gunpowder. As it is, our voyage is ended, and I shall know, in an hour
or two, whether or not I am to be shot in the morning."



CHAPTER IV.

COMPLETELY STRANDED


"There don't seem to be any Mexican warships in the harbor," said Ned to
the señor, as they looked landward from the deck of their badly mauled
bark. "There isn't one in sight to come out after that sloop."

"There are two good reasons for it," growled the señor, gloomily. "One
is that there isn't any harbor here. Nothing but an open roadstead,
exposed to all the storms that come, so that to anchor off Vera Cruz is
to run a fair chance of being wrecked. The other is that my unfortunate
country has no navy. There isn't a Mexican vessel afloat that would care
to go out after a Yankee man-of-war. We are not yet a nation, and I'm
half-afraid we never will be. This war may do something for us. There
they come! I shall know very soon now."

As he spoke, he pointed at several boats which were pulling out toward
the _Goshawk._ Some of them appeared to come from the wharves of the
city, but one, which was nearer, was evidently from the castle, and it
was in this that the señor took the deepest interest. Besides its
half-dozen of oarsmen, it contained a tall man in a gorgeous uniform,
and it was only a minute or so before Zuroaga exclaimed:

"Yes, that is Colonel Guerra himself. I am glad he is all alone!"

The bark was now drifting pretty rapidly landward, under such canvas as
she had left, and the _Portsmouth_ was safely out of range of the
Mexican guns, which were throwing away an occasional shot at her. She
had not been touched by one of them, and she had the honor of being the
first United States ship to try her batteries upon the renowned old
Spanish fortress. It was, indeed, a well-built fortification, and it
carried many guns, most of which had been brought over long ago from the
foundries of old Spain. It did not stand upon the main shore, but on an
island about half a mile out, and it therefore seemed unassailable,
except from the sea or by heavy siege-guns on the shore. It had been one
of the last places surrendered when the Spanish government reluctantly
gave up Mexico. From that day onward, in each of the successive
revolutions, it had been a first object with each new tyrant of the
nominal republic or empire to get control of the fortress, which
dominated nearly all of the commerce of Mexico with the outer world. At
the present time, it was commanded by an officer whom President Paredes
believed that he could trust--or he would have shot him. This, of
course, was the main reason for the dark doubts of Señor Zuroaga. On the
other hand, it might be taken into account that any prominent Mexican
officer, like Colonel Guerra, would be willing to strengthen himself for
such political changes as were entirely likely to come. For the sake of
old friendship and family ties, for instance, he might be even desirous
of binding to his own interests a man who was known to have a large
number of personal adherents in the important State of Oaxaca.

That very man stood aft upon the deck of the _Goshhawk_ when the boat of
Colonel Guerra touched her side, but he did not at once come forward to
extend a greeting. That ceremony was performed sufficiently well by
Captain Kemp, and the responses of the castle commander were to the last
degree enthusiastic. According to him, indeed, the fort could not have
held out against a siege for a week without the powder in the hold of
the bark. Therefore, it might be that not much of it was likely to be
distributed among the other forces of Mexico. The captain had many
things to say, but before long Colonel Guerra walked slowly aft without
anybody following him. He may have merely desired to look over the side
and examine the injuries inflicted by the shot of the _Portsmouth_, for
that was the first thing he did, without so much as appearing to
recognize any human being in the neighborhood. One of the two persons
who were there, however, drew slowly near him, and, as he did so, he
heard the colonel mutter, in a very low tone:

"My dear friend, you have done well to bring me the powder. Thank you
for your devotion to me and to Santa Anna, but you are in deadly peril.
The orders of Paredes are out against you. General Morales, whom Paredes
trusts, will soon be here to supersede me, but he will really come to
hold this place for our general when he returns from exile. Consider
that I do not know that you are here, for my next in command is a spy on
me. This ship will never put to sea again. The captain and crew will be
cared for, but that gringo boy is not safe, now that there has been
bloodshed on the Rio Grande. Take him with you to the house of your
cousin, Colonel Tassara, in the lower part of the city. Then get away to
Oaxaca as soon as you can. President Paredes is still in the city of
Mexico, and he will not go to take command of the army in the north for
some time. You and I believe, of course, that he is really gathering it
to have it led by our one-legged hero, Santa Anna. Paredes, however,
suspects that a revolution is springing up under him, and he is watching
for it. Of course, for that reason, he would shoot you at once as a
returned conspirator against him. As for that matter, be careful how you
land, for there are many spies. No doubt you can go where you please,
after you get back among your own people. Farewell, but do not speak to
me."

He turned and strolled carelessly away, and the señor bowed his head for
a moment, as if in deep thought, while Ned Crawford was aware of an
entirely new idea, which had crept into his mind as he had listened to
the warning utterances of Colonel Guerra.

"I declare!" he said to himself, "he believes that Señor Zuroaga brought
the powder, and he didn't. He believes that the señor is going in for
old Santa Anna, and he isn't. He believes that the señor and I are
enemies of Paredes, and so we are. I am! I hope that he'll be beaten out
of his boots by General Taylor, and then upset by the new revolution. I
guess he's right, though, about this ship, and I must find out how I can
send a letter home. I want father and mother to know all about this
business. Go ashore and hide? I'm ready for that, but I'd like to get a
good look at the old city somehow."

Ned had been laboring under many perplexities and a great deal of
depression of spirits during several days, but now he felt a kind of
exhilarating fever creeping all over him, and at first he did not know
exactly what it might be. When his father had taken him with him across
the Atlantic,--it seemed so long ago now,--he had gone eagerly enough,
and he had had a grand time looking at Liverpool and London. It had been
a rare treat for a youngster who had but recently passed up from a
grammar school into the counting-room of a New York shipping-house.
After that, when he had been sent on this trip, to make his voyage home
by way of Mexico, he had considered himself exceedingly lucky. But what
was all that in comparison with this in the way of strange and wild
adventure? Why, he had sailed through a naval engagement, cannonading
and all, and right on out of that into a full-grown war and a half-grown
revolution. The thrill which went over him was, therefore, the adventure
fever. Something like this fever, in the veins of all sorts of men,
young and old, has made the world what it is, discovering its new
countries, its new sciences, its new institutions, and leading it
forward and upward out of its old-time dullness and barbarism. So Ned
stood straighter and felt older and had a pair of very brave, bright
eyes when he walked forward to try and have a few words with Captain
Kemp.

"Captain," he asked, "when can I go ashore?"

"Not quite yet," said the captain. "Don't bother me now. Of course, the
ammunition for the castle goes out first. Then all the rest of the cargo
must go ashore as fast as it can, and you are bound to attend to that.
I'm glad that all of it is apparently on English account, and not for
the American part of the concern. That makes all things easy. I hardly
know what to do with the ship, though. We can't repair her here."

That was evidently the disadvantage of having a vessel get out of order
in a place where there were no good dockyards. As for the unlading,
there were already "lighter" barges on their way from the fort, and
others, no doubt, would soon be on hand from the city. Haste was the
main object, under the circumstances, and the entire work would be
rapidly accomplished.

Zuroaga went below, and Ned followed him, for there was nothing more
that he could do on deck just then.

"Señor," he asked, as soon as they were in the cabin, "how can I send a
letter home? I don't know exactly what to say, either."

"Say anything you please," replied the señor. "Your letter will go by
the mail of the English consul, and the mails for England will not be
meddled with by the Mexican authorities."

"I'll sit right down and begin one," said Ned, but the señor interrupted
him very soberly with:

"One word before you begin, please. I know you overheard what Colonel
Guerra said to me. You and I must get on shore as soon as we can, and it
will not do for either of us to remain in Vera Cruz. I have decided
that I must take you with me to Oaxaca."

"Well," hesitated Ned, "I understand that you must go, but what am I in
danger of if I should stay here?"

"Edward, my dear fellow," said the señor, "I will tell you, and you had
better put it into your letter. First, you just wait and see what
becomes of the _Goshhawk_. She will never sail out of the Gulf of Mexico
again. The captain and crew will get away as best they can, and I can't
tell how long it will be before they can do it. Meantime, you would be
around on shore, and you would be known for a Yankee, a gringo. That
might mean danger for you from any evil-minded Mexican. Some of this
coast population are worse than savages, and they all carry knives.
You'd never know who hurt you."

"That's awful!" exclaimed Ned. "I never thought of that."

"There is another reason," calmly continued the señor, "for your not
lingering down here in the _tierra caliente_--the hot country--any later
in the season. It is the yellow fever, and that is pretty sure to show
itself before long. It takes people from the north quicker, a good deal,
than it does those who were born here. I have even heard that there is
a rumor of some cases occurring already. Your father is an old friend of
mine, and he would never forgive me if I were to permit you to be
exposed to it, when you can so easily get away into the uplands, where
it is never heard of. Be a good clerk now, and attend to your cargo, and
be glad that it hasn't been sent to the bottom of the gulf."

Ned had been thinking of that pretty seriously, and he sat down to write
his home letter, well pleased that he had nothing to do with the
unloading of the contraband of war part of the cargo. With reference to
that, moreover, he had learned from Zuroaga that a Mexican
post-commander of the rank of Colonel Guerra was a kind of local
military dictator. Only so much of the ammunition as he might see fit to
send would ever find its way into any other hands than his own. The
señor had added that it was almost the same with whatever customs duties
were collected by the civil officers of the port, with the one drawback
that a dishonest army collector, if discovered, might possibly get
himself shot as a kind of supposable revolutionist, stealing the profits
of the others.

The lighter barges were now swarming around the bark, and a hundred busy
workmen were doing their best, quite patriotically, for the guns and
gunners of the castle. It was easy to see that the American sailors did
not fancy that job, and were willing to keep out of it. So they
sauntered around, attending to a few ship's duties here and there, while
now and then one or another of them might have been heard to grumble his
unwillingness to ever again go to sea under an English captain. The
truth was that they had excellent reasons for discontent concerning the
scrape into which they had been led, and they were well aware that they
had not yet by any means seen the end of it. Almost the best they could
hope for was that they were to be sent back to some country of Europe,
on some ship or other which had not yet arrived at Vera Cruz, and which
might not sail away with them on board for a number of weeks to come.
Any man among them was now almost willing to have had the _Portsmouth_
sink the _Goshhawk_.

Heavy shot may be craned over into boats, and kegs or barrels of
gunpowder may be let down tenderly, gently, as well by moonlight and
lantern-light as by any other. Therefore, the coming on of night did not
interfere with the landing processes. Moreover, any amount of sleep may
be performed by a healthy boy in a battered ship lying safely at
anchor. So Ned made up, more or less, for the sleep he had lost during
the long race of the _Goshhawk_, and it was not early when he came on
deck the next morning. When he did so, he found his duties as nominal
supercargo cut out for him, and Captain Kemp appeared to be especially
anxious that a son of one of the owners should supervise whatever was to
be done with the peaceable part of his cargo. He even explained to Ned
that he might yet be called upon in some law court to testify to the
honest accuracy of all the papers he was now to sign.

"It'll take about two days more," he told him, "and you mustn't go
ashore till the ship's empty. The American consul hasn't taken his
passports yet, but he expects to get away soon, somehow or other. Most
likely, he'll be taken off by a ship of war. So, perhaps, will other
Americans. You might wait and get away then, if you think best, but you
can't hope to ever go on this ship."

Ned had an increasingly strong feeling that he did not now care to go on
that or any other craft of war or peace. He would much rather go to
Oaxaca than to New York, and he felt more sure than ever that his
father would not wish him to run any risk of the dreadful yellow fever.
So he worked on industriously, learning a great deal concerning the
processes required in getting a cargo out of a ship. During several
hours, he was so occupied that he almost forgot the existence of his
Mexican friend, but he was dimly aware that a small rowboat had come to
the off-shore side of the ship, and had shortly pulled away without any
interference on the part of the officials, military or civil. Perhaps
she was understood to have come there by order of Colonel Guerra. Toward
nightfall, however, that boat came again, as she did before, not running
in among the barges, but seeming to avoid them. There were five men in
her, and one of them stood up to say to a sailor at the rail:

"I wish to see young Señor Carfora. Is he on board?"

"Hullo!" thought Ned. "That's the Spanish name Señor Zuroaga told me I
was to go by." Then he sang out aloud, as he hurried across the deck,
"Here I am. What do you want of me?"

"Lean over and talk low," responded the man in the boat, but the one
sailor near them did not understand a word of Spanish, and he might
suppose, if he wished to do so, that it was something about the cargo.
Ned himself listened eagerly, while the speaker went on: "I am Colonel
Tassara. Señor Zuroaga must not come to the ship again. I will be here
to-morrow evening. May I be assured that you will then be ready to come
to my house?"

"Tell him of course you will!" said a voice behind Ned, peremptorily,
and it was Captain Kemp who had come over for a few words with Tassara.

"I'll be ready, colonel," said Ned, when his turn came to speak, and the
boat pulled away, leaving him and the captain by themselves.

"It's a good arrangement for you, my boy," said the captain. "Unless I
am mistaken, though, there are signs of the worst kind of a
northeasterly storm. This is a dangerous anchorage for that sort of
thing. I don't think I shall risk having too many men on board when the
norther gets here. The cargo will be all out, and the ship's well
insured. The American consul doesn't know a thing about the ammunition
or the running away from the cruisers. He has enough else on his hands
just now."

Ned did not care a great deal about that, but he was more than ever in a
hurry to see the end of his supercargo business. The fact was that an
air of something like mystery appeared to be gathering around him, and
there is a tremendous fascination in anything mysterious. What if he
were now getting right in behind the war, after a fashion, and at the
same time into the darkest kind of revolution or rebellion against the
power of President Paredes, in company with that wonderful adventurer,
General Santa Anna, and all the desperate characters of Mexico?



CHAPTER V.

THE WORK OF THE NORTHER


During the rest of that day and the earlier part of the next the weather
continued fairly good, and the unloading went steadily on. In the many
intervals of his duties, Ned tried hard to drive his mental fever away,
and amused himself as best he might. The city itself was worth looking
at, with its tiers of streets rising one above another from the shore.
He saw several churches, and some of them were large, with massive
towers and steeples.

"The Mexicans must have been richer than they are now," he said to
himself, "when those things were built. They cost piles of money."

He had no idea how rich a country it is, or how much richer it might be,
if its wonderful natural resources were to be made the most of. As for
the city, he had heard that Vera Cruz contained about seven or eight
thousand people, besides its military garrison, its foreigners, and a
continually varying mob of transient visitors from the interior. Zuroaga
had told him, moreover, that it was from the latter that any gringo like
himself would be in danger of violence. They were a vindictive,
bloodthirsty class of men, most of them, for they retained undiminished
the peculiar characteristics of their Indian ancestors.

"I don't care to run against any of them," thought Ned. "I don't like
this _tierra caliente_ country, anyhow. It's too hot to live in."

Then he thought a great deal of the wonderful land of forests and
mountains which lay beyond the fever-haunted lowlands, and he longed
more and more for a good look at the empire which Hernando Cortes won
from the old Montezumas and their bloody war-god, Huitzilopochtli.

In the afternoon of the second day the sky was manifestly putting on a
threatening aspect. The wind began to rise and the sea began to roughen.
The men discharging the cargo hastened their work, and it was evident
that the last of the lighter barges would soon be setting out for the
shore. Ned was staring at them and recalling all the yarns he had heard
concerning the destructive power of a gulf "norther," when Captain Kemp
came walking slowly toward him, with a face which appeared to express no
sort of unusual concern for anything in the world. Nevertheless, he
said:

"Get ready now, Ned, as sharp as you can. There comes your boat. I shall
send some papers by the colonel. Señor Zuroaga's luggage all went on
shore yesterday. I think some other men will have to be looking out for
themselves before long. If the _Goshhawk_ should drag her anchors and go
ashore, I hope there won't be too much sea running for good boats to
live in."

"I'm all ready now!" exclaimed Ned, as he sprang away, but he went with
a curious question rising in his mind: "What if a cable were more'n half
cut through? Wouldn't it be likely to break and let go of an anchor, if
it were pulled at too hard by a gale of wind? I don't really know
anything about it, but Señor Zuroaga thinks that Captain Kemp is a
curious man to deal with. Father thinks that he is a good sailor, too."

All the wardrobe that Ned had on board was easily contained in a
waterproof satchel of moderate size, and he was half-glad now that
there was no more of it, it went so quickly over into the large yawl
that was waiting alongside when he returned on deck. It was a four-oared
boat, and Colonel Tassara, at the stern, beckoned to him without
speaking, as if he might have reasons for silence as well as haste.

"In with you, Ned," said Captain Kemp. "I'll try to see you within a day
or two. Take good care of yourself. Good day, colonel."

The Mexican officer only bowed, and in a moment more the yawl was
fighting her difficult way over the rapidly increasing waves, for the
first strength of the norther had really come, and there might soon be a
great deal more of it,--for the benefit of the _Goshhawk_.

"There!" muttered Captain Kemp, as he saw them depart, "I haven't more
than a good boat's crew left on board. We'll take to the life-boat as
soon as the cable parts. There isn't any use in trying to save this bark
under all the circumstances. I've done my duty. I couldn't have
calculated on heavy shot first, and then for a whole gang of cruisers
watching for me off the coast. This 'ere norther, too! Well, I didn't
make the war, and I don't see that I ought to lose any money by it. I
won't, either."

Whatever was his exact meaning, the mate and four other men who remained
evidently agreed with him, from what they were shortly saying to one
another. It might also have been taken note of by a careful observer
that the mate was a Scotchman, and that the four others were all from
Liverpool. Whoever had put so much contraband of war on board the
_Goshhawk_ had not entrusted it entirely to the eccentricities of a lot
of out-and-out American sailors, with peculiar notions concerning their
flag.

On went Colonel Tassara's yawl, and it was not likely to meet any other
boat that evening. As the rollers increased in size momentarily, Ned
began to have doubts as to whether such a boat had any reasonable hope
of reaching the shore. It was now pitch-dark also, and he could but feel
that his adventures in Mexico were beginning in a remarkably unpleasant
manner. The landing could not have been made at any place along the
beach, where the surf was breaking so dangerously, and it looked almost
as perilous to approach the piers and wharves.

"How on earth are we to do it?" exclaimed Ned, in English, but no
answer came from the hard-breathing rowers.

Colonel Tassara seemed now to be steering a southerly course, instead of
directly landward, and Ned calculated that this would carry them past
all of the usual landing-places. It also gave them narrow escapes from
rolling over and over in the troughs between several high waves. On the
whole, therefore, it was a pretty rough boating excursion, but it was
not a long one. It did take them almost past the city front, and at last
Ned thought he saw a long, black shadow reaching out at the boat. It was
better than a shadow, for it was a long wooden pier, old enough to have
been built by Cortes himself. The waves were breaking clean over it,
but, at the same time, it was breaking them, so that around in the lee
of it the water was less boisterous, and the yawl might reach the beach
in safety. There was no wharf, but all Ned cared for was that he saw no
surf, and he felt better than he had at any moment since leaving the
_Goshhawk_. It was the same, for they said so, emphatically, with the
boatmen and Colonel Tassara.

"One of the men will take your bag," said the colonel to Ned, as soon as
they were out on shore. "We will go right along to my house, and we
shall hardly meet anybody just now. I'm glad of that. Santa Maria, how
dark it is getting! This will be the worst kind of norther."

A couple of lanterns had been taken from the boat. They had previously
been lighted by the colonel with much difficulty, and without them it
would have been impossible to follow the stony, grassy pathway by which
Ned Crawford made his first invasion of the Mexican territory. He did
not now feel like annexing any of it, although Mexican patriots asserted
that their title to Vera Cruz or the city of Mexico itself was no better
than their right to Texas. His gloomy march was a short one, and only a
few shadowy, unrecognized human beings passed him on the way.

The party came to a halt before a one-story stone dwelling, with a long
piazza in front of it, close to the weedy sidewalk of a crooked and
straggling street. It was apparent that this was not in the aristocratic
quarter of the city, if it had one. A door in the middle of the house
swung open as they arrived, and the boatman who carried Ned's bag put it
down on the threshold. The lanterns went away with him and his fellow
rowers, but other lights made their appearance quickly,--after the door
had closed behind Ned and Colonel Tassara. Not one of the boat's crew
had obtained a peep into the house, or had seen any of its occupants.
Ned was now aware that he had entered a broad hall-like passageway,
which appeared to run through the house, and to have several doors on
each side. One of these doors had opened to let the new light in, and
through it also came Señor Zuroaga, two other men, and a young girl, who
at once threw her arms around the neck of Colonel Tassara.

"O father!" she exclaimed, "I am so glad! Mother and I were so
frightened! We were afraid you would be drowned."

"My dear little daughter," he responded, sadly, "I fear there will be
more than one lot of poor fellows drowned to-night. This storm is
fearful!"

It seemed, in fact, to be getting worse every minute, and Ned was
thinking of the _Goshhawk_ and the state of her cable, even while he was
being introduced to the pretty Señorita Felicia Tassara, and then to her
mother, a stately woman, who came to meet her husband without
condescending to say how badly she had been alarmed on his account.

"She's just about the proudest-looking woman I ever saw," thought Ned,
for, although she welcomed him politely, she at once made him aware
that she did not consider him of any importance whatever. He was only a
young gringo, from nobody knew where, and she was a Mexican lady of high
rank, who hated Americans of all sorts.

Ned's only really hearty greeting came from Señor Zuroaga, who seemed to
him, under the circumstances, like an old friend.

"Carfora, my dear fellow," he said, "you and the colonel must come in to
your supper----"

"Why, señor," expostulated Ned, "I'm wet through, and so is he."

"I declare!" exclaimed Zuroaga. "What's in my head that I should
overlook that? You must change your rig. Come this way with me."

Ned followed him, bag in hand, through a narrow passage which opened at
the right, and they went on almost to the end of it. The room which they
then entered was only seven feet wide, but it was three times as long,
and it was oddly furnished. Instead of a bedstead, a handsome hammock,
with blankets, sheets, and a pillow in it, hung at one side, and the
high window was provided with mosquito nettings. There was no carpet on
the floor, but this was clean, and a good enough dressing-bureau stood
at the further end of the room. Before the mirror of this, the señor set
down the lamp he had been carrying, and said to Ned:

"My dear Carfora, I have explained to the haughty señora that you are
the son of an American merchant, and of a good family, so that she will
not really treat you like a common person. She is descended from the
oldest families of Spain, and there is no republicanism in her. The
sooner you are ready, the better. I will be back in five minutes."

Open came the bag, but the best Ned could do in the way of style was a
very neat blue suit. What he would have called the swallow-tails, which
Señora Tassara might have expected as the dinner dress of a more
important guest, could hardly be required of a young fellow just escaped
from a norther. As soon as he felt that he had done his best, he turned
toward the door, but it opened to let in Señor Zuroaga in full
regulation dinner costume. How he could have put it on so quickly
puzzled Ned, but he asked no questions. It was quite possible, however,
that even the descendant of Cortes and the Montezumas was a little bit
in awe of the matronly descendant of the ancient Spanish grandees. She
might be a powerful personage in more ways than one. At all events, Ned
was led out to the central hall and across it, to where an uncommonly
wide door stood open, letting out a flood of illumination.

"Walk in, señors," said Colonel Tassara, from just inside this portal,
and the next moment Ned was altogether astonished.

He had been impressed, on reaching this house, that it was an old and
even dingy affair, of no considerable size, but he did not yet know that
the older Spanish mansions were often built with only one story and
around a central courtyard. Moreover, at least in Mexico, they were apt
to show few windows in front, and to be well calculated for use as a
kind of small forts, if revolutionary or similar occasions should ask
for thick walls, with embrasures for musketry. One glance around Señora
Tassara's dining-room was enough to work a revolution in Ned's ideas
relating to that establishment. It was large, high-ceilinged, and its
carpetless floor was of polished mahogany. The walls and ceiling were of
brilliant white stucco. Upon the former were hung several trophies of
weapons and antlers of deer. In the centre, at the right, in a kind of
ornamental shrine, was an ivory and ebony crucifix, which was itself a
priceless work of art. The long dining-table had no cloth to conceal the
fact that it was of the richest mahogany, dark with age and polished
like a mirror. On the table was an abundance of fine china ware, none of
it of modern manufacture, but all the more valuable for that reason. At
the end nearest Ned stood a massive silver coffee-urn, beautifully
molded, and it was not wonderful that he stood still a moment to stare
at it, for it had taken him altogether by surprise.

Almost instantly a change came over the dark, handsome features of
Señora Tassara. She smiled brightly, for Ned's undisguised admiration of
that mass of silver had touched her upon a tender spot, and she now
spoke to him with at least four times as much cordiality as she had
shown him in the hall.

"Ah, my young friend," she said, turning gracefully toward him, "so you
are pleased with my coffee-urn? No table in your city of New York can
show anything like it. It is of the oldest Seville workmanship, and
there are not many such remaining in all the world. It is an heirloom."

"Señor Carfora," at that moment interrupted Colonel Tassara, "I will
show you something else that is worth more than any kind of silver
ware. Take a good look at this!"

He stepped to a trophy of arms which hung upon the wall near him, and
took from it a long, heavy sword, with a worn-looking but deeply chased
gold hilt. He drew it from the sheath, gazing with evident pride at its
curving blade of dull blue steel.

"I think you have never before seen a sword like that," he said. "It may
have been made at Toledo, for all I know, but it is centuries old. It
was won from a Moor by an ancestor of mine, at the taking of Granada,
when the Moorish power was broken forever by the heroes of Spain. Who
can tell? It may have come down from the days of the Cid Campeador
himself."

Whoever that military gentleman may have been, Ned had no idea, but he
determined to find out some day, and just now he was glad to grasp the
golden hilt, and remember all that he had ever heard about the Moors. He
had not at all expected to hear of them again, just after escaping from
a norther in the Gulf of Mexico, but, without being aware of it, he was
learning a great deal about the old Spanish-Mexican aristocracy, and
why it could not easily become truly republican, even in the New World,
which is beginning to grow old on its own account.

Dinner was now ready, and Ned voted it a prime good one, for it
consisted mainly of chicken, with capital corn-cakes and coffee. It was
a tremendous improvement upon the dinners he had been eating at sea,
cooked in the peculiar style of the caboose of the _Goshhawk_.

One large idea was becoming firmly fixed in the acute mind of the young
adventurer, and it tended to make him both watchful and silent. Not only
was he in a country which was at war with his own, but he was in a land
where men were apt to be more or less suspicious of each other. It was
also quite the correct thing in good manners for him to say but little,
and he was the better able to hear what the others were saying.
Therefore, he could hardly help taking note that none of the party at
the dinner-table said anything about the powder on the _Goshhawk_, or
concerning a possible trip to be made to Oaxaca by any one there. They
all appeared ready, on the other hand, to praise the patriotism,
statesmanship, and military genius of that truly great man, President
Paredes. They made no mention whatever of General Santa Anna, but they
spoke confidently of the certainty with which Generals Ampudia and
Arista were about to crush the invading gringos at the north, under
Taylor. They also were sure that these first victories were to be
followed by greater ones, which would be gained by the President
himself, as soon as he should be able to take command of the Mexican
armies in person. If any friend of his, a servant, for instance, of the
Tassara family, had been listening, he would have had nothing to report
which would have made any other man suppose that the rulers of Mexico
had bitter, revengeful foes under that hospitable roof.

The dinner ended, and Ned was once more in his room, glad enough to get
into his hammock and go to sleep. If the norther did any howling around
that house, he did not hear it, but he may have missed the swing motion
which a hammock obtains on board a ship at sea. His eyes closed just as
he was thinking:

"This is great, but I wonder what on earth is going to happen to me
to-morrow."



CHAPTER VI.

FORWARD, MARCH


The sun of the next morning arose upon a great deal of doubt and
uncertainty in many places. Some of the soldiers of General Taylor's
army were altogether uncertain into what bushes of the neighboring
chaparral the norther had blown their tents, and they went out in search
of their missing cotton duck shelters. The entire force encamped at the
Rio Grande border was in the dark as to what it might next be ordered to
do, and all sorts of rumors went around from regiment to regiment, as if
the rumor manufacturer had gone crazy. General Taylor himself was sure
of at least the one point, that he had no right to cross the muddy river
in front of him and make a raid into Mexico until he should hear again
from the government at Washington, and be officially informed that the
war, which he was carrying on so well, had really begun. He and all his
army believed that it was already going on, and they grumbled
discontentedly that they were compelled to remain in camp, and watch for
ranchero lancers on Texan soil, if it was legally Texan at all, until
permission arrived to strike their tents and march forward.

The news of the fighting and of what were described as the great battles
on the Mexican border had reached New Orleans and Key West. It was
travelling northward at full speed, but it had not yet been heard by the
government or by the people of the North and West. None of these had as
yet so much as imagined what a telegraphic news-bringer might be, and so
they could not even wish that they had one, or they would surely have
done so. The uncertainties of that morning, therefore, hampered all the
councils of the nation. Almost everybody believed that there would soon
be a war, although a great many men were strongly opposed to the idea of
having one. Taking the war for granted, however, there were doubts and
differences of opinion among both military and unmilitary men as to how
it was to be carried on. Some were opposed to anything more than a
defence of the Rio Grande boundary-line, but these moderate persons were
hooted at by the out-and-out war party, whom nothing promised to
satisfy but an invasion which intended the capture of the city of
Mexico. Nothing less than this, they said, would obtain the objects of
the war, and secure a permanent peace at the end of it. Then, supposing
such an invasion to be decided on, an important question arose as to how
and where the Mexican territory might best be entered by a conquering
army. Many declared that General Taylor's forces were already at the
right place for pushing ahead, but the commander-in-chief, General
Winfield Scott, by all odds the best general the country possessed,
responded that the march proposed for Taylor was too long, too
difficult, and that it was likely to result in disaster. The shorter and
only practicable route, he asserted, was by way of the sea and Vera
Cruz. He was also known to be politically opposed to any war whatever.
Thereupon, a number of prominent men, who disagreed with him, set
themselves at work to have him removed or put aside, that a commander
might take his place who was not so absurdly under the influence of
military science, common sense, and of the troubles which might be
encountered in marching seven hundred miles or more through an enemy's
country. There were, it was said, eloquent politicians, who did not
know how to drill an "awkward squad," but who felt sure of their ability
to beat Old Scott in such an agreeable affair as a military picnic party
to the city of Mexico.

The young military scholars in the camp near Fort Brown were ignorant of
all this. They were satisfied with their present commander, as well they
might be, for he was a good one. They were satisfied with themselves,
and were enthusiastically ready to fight anything which should be put in
front of them. They were dreadfully dissatisfied with camp life,
however, and especially with the fact that they and all the other raw
troops of that army were forced to undergo a great deal of drill and
discipline in hot weather. Perhaps, if this had not been given them,
they would hardly have rendered so good an account of themselves in the
severe tests of soldiership which they underwent a few months later.

The first doubt that came to Ned Crawford that morning, as his eyes
opened and he began to get about half-awake, related to his hammock and
to how on earth he happened to be in it. Swift memories followed then of
the norther, the perilous pull ashore, the arrival at the Tassara place,
and the people he had met there. He recalled also something about
silver coffee-urns and Moorish warriors, but the next thing, he was out
upon the floor, and his head seemed to buzz like a beehive with
inquiries concerning his immediate future.

"Here I am," he said aloud. "I'm in Mexico; in Vera Cruz; at this house
with Señor Zuroaga; and I don't know yet what's become of the _Goshhawk_.
I don't really ever expect to see her again, but I hope that Captain
Kemp and the sailors didn't get themselves drowned. I must see about
that, first thing. Then I suppose I must see the American consul, write
another letter home, see the merchants our goods were delivered to,--and
what I'm to do after that I don't know."

There was a loud rap at his door just then, and in a moment more he was
almost repeating that speech to Señor Zuroaga.

"Please say very little to Colonel Tassara or anybody else in this
house," replied the senor, emphatically. "Get used, as soon as you can,
to being called Carfora. We must make you look like a young Mexican
right away. I've bought a rig which will fit you. It is well that you
are so dark-complexioned. A red-haired fellow would never pass as you
will. All the American residents of Vera Cruz are already under
military protection, and I am glad there are so few of them, for there
are said to have been two or three assassinations. Part of the mountain
men who are loafing in town just now are wild Indians, as reckless and
cruel as any of your Sioux warriors on a war-path. Come along to
breakfast. You won't meet the ladies this time, but I believe the señora
and señorita like you a little, because you had the good taste to admire
their silver and china."

"Oh, that old coffee-urn!" said Ned. "Well, it's as fine as anything I
ever saw, even in a jewelry window."

"Yes," laughed the señor, "but the señora wants to have the American
consul killed because he told her she had better have that thing melted
and made over into one of the modern patterns. She will never forgive
him. Tell her again, when you have a chance, that the old-time Seville
silversmiths could beat anything we have nowadays, and she will love
you. I do not really believe myself that we are getting much ahead of
those ancient artists. They were wonderful designers."

Ned was willing to believe that they were, and he made up his mind to
praise Señora Tassara's pet urn to the best of his ability.

He was not to have an opportunity for doing so immediately. Their
breakfast was ready for them in the dining-room, but they were allowed
to eat it by themselves. It seemed to Ned a very good one, but several
times he found himself turning away from it to stare at the silver
marvel and at the weapons on the walls. There was no apparent reason for
haste, but neither of them cared to linger, and before long they were
out on the piazza in front, Zuroaga with his hat pulled down to his eyes
and his coat collar up. Ned was at once confirmed in his previous idea
that the house was anything but new, and to that he added the conviction
that it was much larger than it had appeared to be in the night. He
believed, too, that it must have cost a deal of money to build it long
ago. He had only a moment for that calculation, however, for his next
glance went out toward the gulf, and he came near to being astonished.
The path which he had followed in coming up from the shore had been a
steep one, and he was now standing at a place from which he had a pretty
good view of the tossing water between the mainland and the castle of
San Juan de Ulua. The old fortress was there, unharmed by the norther,
but not in any direction, as far as his eyes could reach, was there any
sign of a ship, at anchor or otherwise.

"Señor!" he exclaimed. "What has become of them? They are all gone! Do
you suppose they have been wrecked?"

"Not all of them, by any means," replied the señor, but he also was
searching the sea with a serious face. "As many as could lift their
anchors in time to make a good offing before the norther came were sure
to do so. If there were any that did not succeed, I can't say where they
may have gone to just now."

"The _Goshhawk_--" began Ned, but the señor gripped his arm hard, while
he raised his right hand and pointed up the road.

"Silence!" he commanded, in a sharp whisper. "Look! there he comes.
Don't even call him by his name. Wait and hear what he has to say. He
can tell us what has become of the bark. They are a used-up lot of men."

So they were, the five who now came walking slowly along from somewhere
or other on the coast upon which the disastrous storm had blown.

"Captain Kemp and the crew of his life-boat," thought Ned, but he obeyed
the señor at first, and was silent until the haggard-looking party
arrived and came to a halt in front of him. Then, however, he lost his
prudence for a moment, and anxiously inquired:

"Were any of you drowned?"

"Not any of us that are here," responded the captain, grimly. "No, nor
any other of the _Goshhawk_ men, but there are more wrecks in sight
below, and I don't know how many from them got ashore. Our bark stranded
this side of them, and she's gone all to pieces. We took to the
life-boat in time, but we've had a hard pull of it. We went ashore
through the breakers, about six miles below this, and here we are, but I
don't want to ever pass such another night. I'm going on down to the
consul's now, to report, and Ned had better be there as soon as he can.
Then, the sooner he's out o' Vera Cruz, the better for him and all of
us."

"I think so myself," said Señor Zuroaga. "Don't even stay here for
breakfast. Nobody from here must come to the consul's with Señor
Carfora."

"Of course not," said the captain, wearily, and away he went, although
Ned felt as if he were full to bursting with the most interesting kind
of questions concerning the captain's night in the life-boat and the
sad fate of the swift and beautiful _Goshhawk_.

"Come into the house," said the señor, "and put on your Mexican rig. I
have a message from Colonel Guerra that we must get away to-night. I
must not bring any peril upon the Tassara family. Up to this hour no
enemy knows that I was a passenger on the powder-boat, as they call it."

"All right," said Ned. "I'll write one more letter home. I couldn't get
out of the city in any other way just now, and I want to see Mexico."

That idea was growing upon him rapidly, but his next errand was to the
señor's own room, to put on what he called his disguise. He followed his
friend to a large, handsome chamber in the further end of the house,
and, as he entered it, his first thought was:

"Hullo! are they getting ready for a fight?"

In the corners of the room and leaning against the walls here and there
were weapons enough to have armed half a company of militia, if the
soldiers did not care what kinds of weapons they were to carry, for the
guns and swords and pistols were of all patterns except those of the
present day. Ned saw at least one rusty firelock, which put him in mind
of pictures he had seen of the curious affairs the New England fathers
carried when they went to meeting on Sunday. He had no time to examine
them, however, for here were his new clothes, and he must be in them
without delay. He admired each piece, as he put it on, and then one look
into the señor's mirror convinced him that he was completely disguised.
He had been turned into a somewhat stylish young Mexican, from his
broad-brimmed straw hat to his Vera Cruz made shoes. He still wore a
blue jacket, but this one was short, round-cornered, and had bright
silver buttons. His new trousers were wide at the bottoms, with
silver-buttoned slashes on the outsides below the knees. He had not worn
suspenders on shipboard, but now his belt was of yellow leather and
needlessly wide, with a bright buckle and a sword-catch on the left
side. As to this matter, the señor showed him a short, straight,
wide-bladed sort of cutlas, which he called a machete.

"That is to be yours," he said. "You need not carry it in town, but you
will as soon as we get away. You will have pistols, too, and a gun. It
won't do to go up the road to Oaxaca unarmed. Now you may make the best
of your way to the consul's, and I'll stay here to finish getting
ready."

He appeared to be laboring under a good deal of excitement, and so, to
tell the truth, was the disguised young American. Out he went into the
hall, trying hard to be entirely collected and self-possessed, but it
was only to be suddenly halted. Before him stood the stately Señora
Tassara, and clinging to her was the very pretty Señorita Felicia, both
of them staring, open-eyed, at the change in his uniform. The señorita
was of about fourteen, somewhat pale, with large, brilliant black eyes,
and she was a very frank, truthful girl, for she exclaimed:

"Oh, mother, do look at him! But it does not make a Mexican of him. He's
a gringo, and he would fight us if he had a chance. I want them all to
be killed!"

"No, my dear," said the señora, with a pleasant laugh. "Señor Carfora
will not fight us. He and his ship brought powder for Colonel Guerra and
the army. I am sorry he must leave us. You must shake hands with him."

"Oh, no!" said the wilful Felicia, spitefully. "I don't want to shake
hands with him. He is one of our enemies."

"No, I'm not!" stammered Ned. "But did you know that our ship was
wrecked in the norther? If you had been on board of her when she went
ashore, you would have been drowned. The men in the life-boat had a hard
time in getting ashore. I'm glad you were at home."

"There, dear," said her mother. "That is polite. You heard what Señor
Zuroaga said about the wrecks. They were terrible! Can you not say that
you are glad Señor Carfora was not drowned?"

"No, mother," persisted Felicia. "I'll say I wish he had been drowned,
if--if he could have swum ashore afterward. Good enough for him."

Señora Tassara laughed merrily, as she responded:

"You are a dreadfully obstinate young patriot, my darling. But you must
be a little more gracious. The gringo armies will never come to Vera
Cruz. They are away up north on the Rio Grande."

"Well, mother, I will a little," said the señorita, proudly. "Señor
Carfora, your generals will be beaten all to pieces. You wait till you
see our soldiers. You haven't anything like them. They are as brave as
lions. My father is a soldier, and he is to command a regiment. I wish I
were a man to go and fight."

Her eyes were flashing and she looked very warlike, but the only thing
that poor Ned could think of to say just then was:

"Señora Tassara, if you are not careful, somebody will get in some day
and steal your beautiful coffee-urn."

"Ah me!" sighed the señora. "This has been attempted, my young friend.
Thieves have been killed, too, in trying to carry off the Tassara plate.
There would be more like it, in some places, if so much had not been
made plunder of and melted up in our dreadful revolutions. Some of them
were only great robberies. I understand that you must go to your
business now, but we shall see you again this evening."

"Good morning, Señora Tassara," said Ned, as he bowed and tried to walk
backward toward the outer door. "Good morning, Señorita Tassara. You
would feel very badly this morning if you had been drowned last night."

The last thing he heard, as he reached the piazza, was a ringing peal of
laughter from the señora, but he believed that he had answered politely.

He knew his way to the office of the American consul, and the distance
was not great in so small a town, but as he drew near it, he saw that
there was a strong guard of soldiers in front of the building. They
were handsomely uniformed regulars from the garrison of San Juan de
Ulua, and there was cause enough for their being on duty. All up and
down the street were scattered groups of sullen-looking men, talking and
gesticulating. None of them carried guns, but every man of them had a
knife at his belt, and not a few of them were also armed with machetes
of one form or another. They would have made a decidedly dangerous mob
against anything but the well-drilled and fine-looking guards who were
protecting the consulate. Ned remembered what Felicia had said about her
soldiers, and he did not know how very different were these disciplined
regulars from the great mass of the levies which were to be encountered
by the troops of the United States. He was admiring them and he was
thinking of battles and generals, when one of the most ferocious-looking
members of the mob came jauntily sauntering along beside him. He was a
powerfully built man, almost black with natural color and sunburn. He
was not exactly ragged, but he was barefooted, and his broad-brimmed
sombrero was by no means new. A heavy machete hung from his belt, and he
appeared to be altogether an undesirable new acquaintance. Ned looked
up at him almost nervously, for he did not at all like the aspect of
affairs in that street. He was thinking:

"I guess they were right about the excitement of the people. This isn't
any place for fellows like me. I must get out of Vera Cruz as soon as I
can. It's a good thing that I'm disguised. I must play Mexican."

At that moment a good-natured smile spread across the gloomy face of his
unexpected companion, and he said, in a low tone of voice:

"Say nothing, Señor Carfora. Walk on into the consulate. I belong to
General Zuroaga. There are four more of his men here. We have orders to
take care of you. You are the young Englishman that brought us the
powder. There was not a pound to be bought in Vera Cruz, but some of
those fellows would knife you for a gringo."

[Illustration: "WE HAVE ORDERS TO TAKE CARE OF YOU"]

Quite a useless number of queer Spanish oaths were sprinkled in among
his remarks, but Ned did not mind them. He only nodded and strictly
obeyed the injunction against talking, even while he was asking himself
how on earth his friend, the señor, ever became a general. He concluded,
for the moment, that it might be a kind of militia title, such as he had
heard of in the United States. However that might be, he and his
guide soon reached the door of the consulate, and he himself was
promptly admitted, as if the keeper of the door had been expecting to
see him. There were guards inside the house as well as in the street,
and they motioned Ned on through a narrow entry-way, at the end of which
was an open room. He passed on into this, and the next moment he was
exclaiming:

"Hullo, Captain Kemp! I'm so glad you are here! What am I to do next?"

"Almost nothing at all," said the captain, quietly. "Just sign your
papers and get away. The consul himself has gone to the city of Mexico,
with United States government despatches for President Paredes, and we
shall finish our business as easy as rolling off a log. You have nothing
to do with the wrecking of the _Goshhawk_, for you weren't on board when
she parted her cable. But just look at those people!"

Ned did so, for the room, a large and well-furnished office, was almost
crowded with Americans of all sorts, mostly men, whose faces wore varied
expressions of deep anxiety.

"What are they all here for?" asked Ned.

"Safety!" growled the captain. "And to inquire how and when they can
find their way out of this city of robbers. I hear that a whole
regiment is to be on guard duty to-night, and that the mob is to be put
down. If I ever see your father again, I'll explain to him why I sent
you away."

Before Ned could make any further remarks, he was introduced to the
vice-consul, a dapper, smiling little man, who did not appear to be in
the least disturbed by his unpleasant surroundings. Almost a score of
papers, larger and smaller, required the signature of the young
supercargo of the unfortunate _Goshhawk_. They were speedily signed,
although without any clear idea in Ned's mind as to what they all were
for, and then Captain Kemp took him by the arm and led him away into a
corner of the room.

"Ned, my boy," he said, "you see how it is. You must keep away from the
seacoast for awhile. After things are more settled, you can come back
and get away on a British, or French, or Dutch vessel, if the port isn't
too closely blockaded. Whether I shall get out alive or not, I don't
know. You haven't enough money. I'll let you have a couple of hundred
dollars more in Mexican gold. You'd better not let anybody suspect that
you carry so much with you. This country contains too many patriots who
would cut their own President's throat for a gold piece. Don't ever show
more than one shiner at a time, or you may lose it all."

Ned took the two little bags that were so cautiously delivered to him,
and while he was putting them away in the inner pockets of his jacket,
his mind was giving him vivid pictures of the knives and machetes and
their bearers, whom he had seen in the street.

"Captain," he said, "those fellows out there wouldn't wait for any gold.
A silver dollar would buy one of them."

"Half a dollar," replied the captain. "Not one of them is worth a
shilling. They ought all to be shot. But look here. I mustn't come to
Colonel Tassara's place again. I find that he is under some kind of
suspicion already, and President Paredes makes short work of men whom he
suspects of plotting against him. Go! Get home!"

"That's just about what I'd like to do," said Ned to himself, as he
hurried out of the consulate, but the next moment his courage began to
come back to him, for here was Señor Zuroaga's ferocious-looking
follower, and with him were four others, who might have been his cousins
or his brothers, from their looks, for they all were Oaxaca Indians, of
unmixed descent. Their tribe had faithfully served the children and
grandchildren of Hernando Cortes, the Conquistador, from the day when he
and his brave adventurers cut their way into the Tehuantepec valley.



CHAPTER VII.

THE LAND OF THE MONTEZUMAS

"Father Crawford, do read that newspaper! The war has begun! They are
fighting great battles on the Rio Grande! Oh, how I wish you hadn't sent
Ned to Mexico! He may get killed!"

She was a woman of middle age, tall, fine-looking, and she was evidently
much excited. She was standing at one end of a well-set breakfast table,
and was holding out a printed sheet to a gentleman who had been looking
down at his plate, as if he were asking serious questions of it.

"My dear," he said, as he took the paper, "I knew it was coming, but I
didn't think it would come so soon as this. I don't really see that Ned
is in any danger. Captain Kemp will take care of him."

"But," she said, "the _Goshhawk_ may be captured."

"No," replied Mr. Crawford, confidently. "She hasn't sailed across
prairie to the Rio Grande. There won't be any fighting at Vera Cruz for
ever so long. There can't be any on the sea, for Mexico has no navy. The
_Goshhawk_ is entirely safe, and so is Ned. It'll be a grand experience
for him."

"I don't want him to have so much experience at his age," she said,
anxiously. "I'd rather he'd be at home,--if there's going to be a war."

"I've often wished that I could see a war," replied her husband, as he
glanced over the black-typed headings of the newspaper columns. "I've
travelled a good deal in Mexico, and I wanted Ned to learn all he could
of that country. He will hardly have any chance to do so now."

"He might see too much of it if he were taken prisoner," she exclaimed.
"I can't bear to think of it! Oh, how I wish he were at home!"

Mr. Crawford was silent, and again he appeared to be thinking deeply. He
was not a pale-faced man at any time, but now his color was visibly
increasing. His face was also changing its expression, and it wore a
strong reminder of the look which had come into his son Ned's
countenance when the fever of Mexican exploration took hold of him.
People say "like father, like son," and it may be that Ned's readiness
for a trip into the interior belonged to something which had descended
to him from a father who had been willing to educate his son for the
southern trade by sending him to sea with Captain Kemp. The United
States has had a great many commercial men of that stamp, and there was
a time when almost all the navy the nation possessed was provided by the
merchant patriots, who armed and sent out, or themselves commanded, its
fleets of privateers. Very likely the Crawfords and a number of other
American families could point back to as adventurous an ancestry as
could any Spaniard whose forefathers had fought Moors or won estates for
themselves in Mexico or Peru. As for Mrs. Crawford, she was hardly able
to drink her coffee that morning, after reading the newspaper, and she
might have been even more willing to have Ned come home if she had known
what had become of the _Goshhawk_, and in what company he was a couple of
hours after she arose from her table.

Company? That was it. He was now walking along one of the streets of
Vera Cruz with a squad of men of whom she would have decidedly
disapproved, but whose character her husband would have understood at
sight. Ned's first acquaintance, Pablo, as he called himself, with his
four comrades, made up so thoroughly Mexican a party at all points that
it was in no danger of being interfered with by the mob. Every member of
this had seen, often enough, the son of some wealthy landholder from the
upland country attended by a sufficient number of his own retainers to
keep him from being plundered, and it was well enough to let him alone.
On they went, but it was by a circuitous route and a back street that
they reached the Tassara place. Even then, they did not enter it by the
front door, but by a path which led down to the stables in the rear of
the house. No outsider would afterward be able to say that he saw that
party of men march into the courtyard to be welcomed by Colonel Tassara
and the mysterious personage whom Ned was trying to think of as General
Zuroaga.

"He may be of more importance than I had any idea of," said Ned to
himself, "and I wish I knew what was coming next."

He was not to find out immediately, for Zuroaga motioned him to go on
into the house, while he himself and Tassara remained to talk with
Pablo and the other machete-bearers.

Hardly was Ned three steps inside of the dwelling, when he was met by
Señora Tassara, apparently in a state of much mental agitation.

"My dear young friend!" she exclaimed, "I am so glad you have escaped
from them! Come in. We shall have no regular dinner to-day. You will eat
your luncheon now, however. We are all busy packing up. We must set out
for the country as soon as it is dark. The colonel's enemies are
following him like so many wolves! Felicia, my dear, you will see that
Señor Carfora is properly attended to."

The saucy señorita was standing a little behind her mother, and she now
beckoned to Ned, as if she had no hostility for him whatever.

"Come right along in," she said, peremptorily. "I must eat my luncheon,
too. I want to hear where you have been, and what you have been doing.
Is there any more news from the war? Have your gringo generals been
beaten again? Tell me all you know!"

She was evidently in the habit of being obeyed by those around her, and
Ned felt decidedly obedient, but this was his first intimation that it
was fully noon. Time had passed more rapidly than he had been aware of,
for his mind had been too busy to take note of it. He was hungrily ready
to obey, however, especially concerning the luncheon, and his first bit
of news appeared to please his little hostess exceedingly.

"Not another ship is in," he told her, "and I don't believe there is
going to be any war, anyhow, but I saw some of your soldiers. They were
guarding the American consulate from the mob. They were splendid-looking
fellows. Is your father's regiment of that kind of men?"

"Father's regiment?" she said, angrily. "That's just the difficulty now.
He hasn't any soldiers. Those that he had were taken away from him. So
he must go and gather some more, or President Paredes will say that he
is not patriotic. They took his old regiment away from him after he had
made it a real good one. Tell me about your gringo soldiers. Are there a
great many of them? Do they know how to fight? I don't believe they do."

She was all on fire about the war and her father's enemies, and Ned was
ready to tell her all he knew of the American army, if not a little
more. At least, he described to her the elegant uniforms which were
worn on parade occasions by the New York City militia regiments,
feathers, flags, brass bands, and all, rather than the external
appearance of any martial array that General Taylor was likely to take
with him when he invaded Mexico. Felicia was especially interested in
those magnificent brass bands and wished that she could have some of
them taken prisoners to come and play in front of her house, but all the
while they were talking he was glancing furtively around the room. This
had undergone a remarkable change during his brief absence. The trophies
of arms were all gone, and the wonderful Seville coffee-urn had
disappeared. Perhaps it had walked away, beyond the reach of possible
thieves, and with it may have gone the other silverware of the Tassara
family. Señorita Felicia's quick eyes had followed his own, for she was
watching him.

"Yes, Señor Carfora," she said, "it's all gone. The china is all stored
away in the deep cellar. I don't believe they could find it, and if they
did they could not carry it away to melt it up and make dollars of it.
That's what they did with all the silver one of my aunts had, except
some spoons that were hid in the stable, under the hay. One of the
robbers went into the stable to hunt, too, and a good mule kicked him
dead. If anybody comes to rob this house while we are gone, I wish he
might be kicked by one of our mules at the hacienda. He would not steal
any more."

Ned had other things to tell her, about the United States forts, troops,
and ships of war, and she had stories to tell with excited vivacity that
set forth sadly enough the wretchedly unsettled condition of her
country, which she appeared to love so well, after all. Troubled as it
was, it was her own land, and she hated its enemies.

It was a hot, oppressive day, with a promise of greater heat soon to
come, and the weather itself might be a good enough reason why any
family should be in a hurry to get out of the _tierra caliente_. As for
the removal of valuable property, Ned had already learned that Vera Cruz
was haunted not only by bad characters from the interior, but by
desperadoes from up and down the coast and from the West India Islands.
He was not near enough to hear, however, when Zuroaga remarked to his
friend Tassara:

"You are right, my dear colonel. The Americans will hold the Texan
border with a strong hand, but if Paredes does not promptly come to
terms with them, we shall see a fleet and army at Vera Cruz before long.
This is the weak point of our unhappy republic."

"I think not," replied Tassara, gloomily. "I wish it were a solid
nation, as strong as the castle out yonder. Our weak point is that we
are cut up into factions, and cannot make use of the strength that we
really have undeveloped. As for anything else, one case of yellow fever
was reported yesterday, and I am informed that his Excellency, President
Paredes, talks of coming here shortly to confer with Colonel Guerra.
That may mean trouble for him, and neither you nor I would wish to be
brought before any such council of war as might be called together."

"It might not consist altogether of our friends," said Zuroaga. "In my
case, if not in yours, it might be followed quickly by an order for a
file of soldiers and a volley of musketry. I should not look for mercy
from a tiger."

"On the other hand," responded the colonel, "it would be well for him to
be careful just now. He will need all the strength he can obtain."

"Humph!" exclaimed Zuroaga. "He will try to leave no living, or, at
least, no unimprisoned enemies behind him when he marches for the
border."

It was plain that they were not to be numbered among their President's
friends, whether or not they were altogether just to him. Bloody
severity in putting down sedition was the long-established custom in
Mexico, and one man might not be more to blame for it than another. It
had been handed down from the old days of Spanish rule, and the record
which had been made is not by any means pleasant reading.

When the luncheon was over, the señorita left Ned to himself, appearing
to feel somewhat more friendly than at first, but still considering him
as a gringo and a foreigner. She said she had some things to pack up,
and he went to look after his own. These did not require much packing,
and before long he had again found his way out to the courtyard and the
stables. These were indeed the most interesting spots about the place,
for they contained all the men, the horses, and the mules. Ned shortly
concluded that here were also gathered most of the firearms and at least
a dozen of the wildest kind of Mexican Indians, all ragged and all
barefooted. Preparations for a journey were going forward under Señora
Tassara's direction, and Ned pretty quickly understood that the men
were a great deal more afraid of her than they were of her husband. He
felt so himself, and he instantly got out of her way, as she told him to
do, when he unwisely undertook to help her with her packing.

The horses were of several sorts and sizes, and more like them were
shortly brought in. One large spring wagon and a covered carryall
carriage were in good order. Both were of American manufacture, and so
was the harness of the teams which were to draw them. Ned was feeling a
certain degree of curiosity as to what kind of carriage was to carry
him, when Señor Zuroaga beckoned him to one side and said:

"We shall be with Colonel Tassara's party only the first day. But I have
been thinking. When we were on the _Goshhawk_, you told me that you had
never ridden a horse in your life----"

"Why, I'm a city boy," interrupted Ned. "There isn't any horseback
riding done there. I'd rather go on wheels."

"Of course you would," laughed Zuroaga. "But there won't be any use for
wheels on some of the roads I am to follow. I've picked you out a pony
that you can manage, though, and you will soon learn. You will have to
be a horseman if you are to travel in Mexico."

"So father used to tell me," said Ned. "He can ride anything. Which of
these is my horse? They all look skittish----"

"Neither of these would do for you," replied the señor. "But listen to
me sharply. Twice you have called me general. Don't do it again until we
are beyond the mountains. I'm only a plain señor in all this region of
the country. I only hope that some men in Vera Cruz do not already know
that I am here. If they did, I am afraid I should not get out so easily.
This is your horse. He is a good one."

Hitched to a post near the wall was a fat, undersized animal, black as
jet, and with more mane and tail than was at all reasonable. He carried
a Mexican saddle with wooden stirrups and a tremendous curb-bit bridle.
In front of the saddle were pistol holsters, and behind it hung an
ammunition case, as if Ned were about to become a trooper. He went to
examine the holsters, and found that each of them contained a large
horse-pistol with a flintlock. He also found powder and bullets in the
case, and he wondered whether or not he would ever be able to shoot
anybody with one of those heavy, long-barrelled things without having
something to rest it on.

"I practised for an hour once in a pistol-gallery," he remarked, "but it
wasn't with anything like that."

"You didn't hit centre even then, eh?" laughed the señor. "Well, not
many men can do much with them, but they are better than nothing. They
are too heavy for a hand like yours. Here is your machete. Put it on."

Ned felt a queer tingle all over him, as he took the weapon and hitched
it at his belt. Then he drew it from the sheath and looked at it,
swinging it up and down to feel its weight. It was a straight, one-edged
blade, with a sharp point, and a brass basket hilt, and he remarked:

"Señor Zuroaga, I could hit with that, I guess."

His face had flushed fiery red, and it could be seen, from his handling
of the machete, that his muscles were unusually strong for his size and
age. The señor nodded his approbation, as he remarked:

"I think you will do. There is fight in you, but I hope we shall have no
fighting to do just now. I shall try to find a safe road home."

"A fellow could cut down bushes with this thing," said Ned.

"That's exactly what our rancheros use them for," replied the señor.
"They will do almost anything with a machete. They will cut their way
through thick chaparral, kill and cut up beef cattle, split wood, fight
men or animals, and on the whole it's about the most useful tool there
is in a Mexican camp or hacienda."

"What's that?" asked Ned.

"Any kind of farm with a house on it," said the señor. "You may have to
learn all about haciendas before you get home."

"Just what I'd like to do," said Ned. "I'll learn how to ride, too. How
soon are we to set out?"

"Not till after dark," said the señor. "But you need not be in any hurry
to get into the saddle. You will have quite enough of it before you get
out of it again. There is a long ride before us to-night."

"I'm ready," replied Ned, but nevertheless he looked at that Mexican
saddle with doubtful eyes, as if he were thinking that it might possibly
prove to be a place of trial for a beginner.

At that very hour there were several gentlemen in uniform closeted with
Colonel Guerra in one of the rooms of the Castle of San Juan de Ulua.
The colonel appeared to have been giving them a detailed report of the
condition of the fortress and of its means for defence, whether or not
he had stated exactly the amount of the ammunition brought him by the
ill-fated _Goshhawk_. Other subjects of conversation must now have come
up, however, for one of them arose with great dignity of manner,
remarking:

"My dear colonel, I am glad that I shall be able to make so encouraging
a report to his Excellency. As for Colonel Tassara, we shall serve our
warrant upon him some time to-morrow. We are informed that, beyond a
doubt, the traitor Zuroaga intends to return from Europe shortly. As
sure as he does, he will be engaged in dangerous intrigues against the
existing order of things, and the good of the country requires that he
shall be brought to justice before he can put any of his nefarious plans
in operation. At the same time, we are assured that the invaders upon
the Rio Grande will soon be defeated yet more thoroughly."

All the rest had arisen while he was speaking, and one of them, a fat,
short man in a brilliant uniform, added, enthusiastically:

"We feel that we can rely upon you, Colonel Guerra. We pity the gringos
if they should attempt to beleaguer this impregnable fortress. For my
own part, I believe that Colonel Tassara's court martial can have but
one result. His disobedience must be paid for with his life. All
conspirators like Zuroaga should be shot as soon as they are captured.
This is not a time, my friends, for undue leniency."

"Gentlemen," responded Colonel Guerra with graceful courtesy, "I bid you
all a brief farewell with sincere regret. Your visit has given me
unmixed satisfaction. Do not forget that all of you are to dine with me
to-morrow. From my very heart I can echo your noble sentiments of valor
and patriotism and of devotion to our beloved commander-in-chief, his
heroic Excellency, President Paredes."

Then followed smiles and handshakings of mutual confidence all around,
and the visiting officers took their departure. Hardly had the door
closed behind them, however, before Colonel Guerra again sat down,
hoarsely muttering between his set teeth:

"The snake-hearted villains! What they really hoped for was to find the
fort and garrison in bad condition and unprovided, so that they might
ruin me. They want my disgrace and removal, to make room for one of
them. I don't believe they will catch either Tassara or Zuroaga this
time. The colonel will soon raise his new regiment, and my old friend
will be down in Oaxaca in safety, waiting for the hour that is to come.
Paredes would give something to see my last letter from Santa Anna."

So there were many plots and counterplots, and the politest men might
not be always what they seemed.



CHAPTER VIII.

OUT OF THE TIERRA CALIENTE


Those were days of great commotion in the Congress of the United States.
The whole nation, South as well as North, was divided in opinion as to
the righteousness and expediency of the war with Mexico. There were two
great parties, both of which have long since passed away, for the
question of the annexation of Texas is no longer before the people, and
all this was more than half a century ago. One of the parties called
itself "Whig," but its enemies described its members as "Coons," in the
habit of roosting up a tree out of reach. The other party called itself
"Democratic," while its opponents lampooned its members as "Loco-focos,"
comparing them to the blue-headed sulphur matches of that name, which
were largely manufactured and did not burn very well. Party feeling ran
high, and the debates in Congress were red-hot. The Democratic
President, James K. Polk, was a man of far greater ability and
statesmanship than his party enemies were willing to give him credit
for, and he was supported by a brilliant array of politicians. On the
other hand, the Whig party contained a number of our most distinguished
statesmen, and, curiously enough, most of the generals of the army,
including Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, were well-known Whigs. It
was not altogether unnatural, therefore, that the Democratic party in
power should wish to put the command of any army preparing for the
invasion of Mexico into the hands of officers who were in favor of the
war which they were to carry on. Questions like this, and some others
relating to the unprepared condition of the American army for so
tremendous an undertaking, were responsible for the fact that there was
a long delay in all military operations, even after the hard and
successful fighting done by General Taylor's forces at the Rio Grande.

American cruisers were tacking to and fro over the waters of the Gulf of
Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, without any especial errand of which their
commanders were aware. Regiments of eager volunteers were forming in
several of the States, and were trying hard to discover officers who
knew how to drill and handle them. The politicians were everywhere
calling each other harder and harder names. Not one soul in all the
United States, however, knew anything of a party of mounted men, a
carriage, and a spring-wagon, which quietly made its way out of the city
of Vera Cruz, not long after sunset, one sultry and lazy evening. At the
head of this cavalcade rode two men, who sat upon their spirited horses
as if they were at home in the saddle. At their right, however, was a
young fellow on a black pony who was entirely satisfied with the fact
that the beast under him did not seem to have any spirit at all. He was
at that moment steadying his feet in the stirrups, and remarking to
himself:

"I'm glad none of them saw me mount him. I got upon a high box first,
and even then my machete was tangled with my legs, and I all but fell
over him. I'll get the señor to show me how, or I'll be laughed at by
the men."

He was doing fairly well at present, for the road went up a hill, and
the night was not one for foolishly fast travelling. He could listen all
the better, and one of his companions was saying to the other:

"My dear Zuroaga, we have gained four miles. Every one of them is worth
something handsome to you and me. In my opinion, we did not get away a
moment too soon to save our necks."

"Not one minute!" replied the other, with strong emphasis. "Not even if
Guerra can succeed in gaining for us the best part of another day, as he
believed he could. Perhaps our best chance, after all, is that he has
only one company of lancers, and that any officer sent with it might
have instructions which would take him by another road than this."

"The inspector-general had with him an escort of his own," said Tassara.
"If he should send those fellows, they would be likely to know how to
find us. They are not under the orders of Guerra."

"If," exclaimed Zuroaga, fiercely, "they do not overtake us until after
the middle of our second day out, I believe they would be unlucky to try
to arrest us. I hope they will be wise, and not tire out their horses
with too much haste. I feel as if I could shoot pretty straight if I
should see them coming within range."

"So could I," replied Tassara.

The road which they were then following ran between cultivated lands on
either side. It was not tree-shadowed, and, as Ned looked back, the
moonlight showed him something that made him think rapidly. Additional
horsemen had joined them after they had left the city behind them, and
it occurred to him that arrangements had been made beforehand for
something like a small war. There were not less than twenty armed men,
besides himself and the pair who were with him. For some reason or
other, moreover, the wagon, which was drawn by four mules, and the
carriage, drawn by a pair of fine animals of the same sort, were driven
on well in advance. It appeared, therefore, as if no danger was expected
to meet them from the opposite direction, and that Señora Tassara and
her daughter were fairly well protected from any peril which might come
after them along the road from Vera Cruz. The next thing that struck
Ned, little as he knew about war, was that these horsemen were riding
two and two, not in a straggling procession, but in as perfect order as
if they had been trained cavalry. If he had known a little more, he
would have declared:

"That is just what they are."

He might not also have known that all but six of them were from the
Tassara estates, and that the odd half-dozen were lifelong servants of
the proscribed descendant of Hernando Cortes. If he could have
understood those men, he might also have comprehended one important
feature of the tangled politics of Mexico, and why ambitious military
men were every now and then able to set up for themselves, and defy the
central government until it could manage to capture them, and have them
shot as rebels. Wiser men than he, looking at the matter from the
outside, might also have understood how greatly it was to the credit of
President Paredes that he was making so good a stand against the power
of the United States while hampered by so many difficulties. Ned was no
politician at all, and it was a mere impulse, or a tired feeling, which
led him to pull in his pony and let the men catch up with him, so that
he might chat with them, one after another, and get acquainted. He found
that they were under no orders not to talk. On the contrary, every man
of them seemed to know that Ned had come home from the school which he
had been attending in England, and that he had been instrumental in
procuring powder and bullets for them and for the Mexican army. They
were full of patriotism of a peculiar kind. It would have made them
fight gringos or any other foreigners to-day, and to-morrow to fight as
readily in any causeless revolution which their local leaders might see
fit to set going. They were eager for all the news Ned could give them,
and he was soon on good terms with them, for he took pains not to let
them know how uncomfortable he felt in that saddle. They surely would
have despised any young Mexican who had forgotten how to ride while he
was travelling in Europe.

Hour after hour went by, and on every level stretch of road the wheeled
vehicles were driven at a moderate trot. The horses of what Ned called
the cavalry also trotted occasionally, but it was well for him that his
pony did not seem to know how. Whenever he was asked to go faster, he
struck into a rocking canter, which was as easy and about as lazy as a
cradle, so that his rider received hardly any shaking, and was able to
keep both his seat and his stirrups. Brief halts for rest were made now
and then. Bridges were crossed which Ned understood were over small
branches of the Blanco River, but they were still in the lowlands when,
at about midnight, the little column wheeled out of the road and went on
for a hundred yards or more into a magnificent forest, where the
moonlight came down among the trees to show how old and large they were.

"Halt! Dismount!" came sharply from Colonel Tassara. "It is twelve
o'clock. We have made over twenty miles. We will camp here until
daylight. Pablo, put up the tents."

Every rider but Ned was down on his feet in a twinkling, but he remained
upon his pony's back as still as a statue. He saw a white tent leave the
top of the baggage in the wagon and set itself up, as if by magic.
Another and another followed, and he said to himself:

"They are little picnic tents. One is for the señora and Felicia; one
for the colonel; and one for Señor Zuroaga. Not any for me or for the
men. Oh, dear! How shall I ever get down? I can't move my legs. If I
can't, I shall have to go to sleep in the saddle!"

That was just what he might have done if it had not been for his kind
and thoughtful friend, the general,--if he was one,--for Zuroaga now
came to the side of the pony to inquire, with a merry laugh:

"How are you now, my boy? I knew how it would be. Tired out? Stiff with
so long a ride? Lean over this way and I'll help you down. Come!"

Ned leaned over and tried to pull his feet out of the stirrups. They did
come out somehow, and then he made an extra effort not to fall asleep
with his head on the general's shoulder.

"Used up completely!" exclaimed Zuroaga. "Can you walk? Stretch your
legs. Kick. It's your first long ride? You'll soon get used to it.
There! Now I'll put you into my tent, but we must be on the march again
by six o'clock in the morning. You can sleep till breakfast."

"I can walk, thank you," responded poor Ned, and he did so, after a lame
and awkward fashion, but he was glad to reach the tent. "It's big enough
for two," he said, as he crawled in.

"Is it?" said the general. "Bah! I do not use one half the time. I am a
soldier and a hunter, and I prefer to bivouac in such weather as this. I
must be on the lookout, too, to-night. Crawl in and go to sleep."

Ned was already in. Down he went upon a blanket, without even unbuckling
his machete, and that was the last that he knew that night of the camp
or of anybody in it. Probably, nothing less than the report of a cannon
fired over that tent would have aroused him to go for his horse-pistols
or draw his Mexican sabre.

Señora Tassara and her daughter had disappeared immediately, and they,
also, must have been wearied with their long, hot journey, but all the
rest of the party were old campaigners, and they were ready to take care
of the horses and eat cold rations, for no fires were kindled.

A few minutes later, if Ned had been awake instead of sleeping so
soundly, he might have heard what two men were saying, in half-whispers,
close to the door of his tent.

"Colonel," said Zuroaga, "we are well-hidden in here. The bushes are
very thick along the edge of the road."

"Hark!" interrupted Tassara. "Do you hear that? There they are!"

"I hear them," replied the general. "It may be so. If it is, they have
followed us well. But there cannot be more than half a dozen of them. It
is not any mere squad like that that we need be afraid of."

"This may be only an advance party, I think," said his friend,
thoughtfully. "A larger force may be on our trail before to-morrow
night. But they must not take us. They might merely arrest me, to have
me shot at Vera Cruz, but they would cut down you and poor young Carfora
at once. He is an American, and they would show him no mercy."

There had been a sound of horse hoofs on the road, and it had gone by,
but before Zuroaga could make any response to so gloomy a prophecy, his
own man, Pablo, stood before him. Pablo had been running fast, but he
had breath enough left to say, quite coolly and not loudly:

"Lancers, general. Officer and four men. They have been running their
horses, and they won't travel far to-morrow. I was in the bushes."

"All right, Pablo," said Zuroaga. "It was kind of Colonel Guerra to
order them to use up their horses. We shall not hear of that squad
again. Put Andrea on watch, and go to sleep. Our first danger is over."

Pablo bowed and turned away without another word, and Zuroaga resumed
his conference with Tassara, for those two were brave men, and were
well-accustomed to the peril-haunted lives they were leading.

"Colonel," he said, "it is evident that my young friend Carfora must go
with you. He is not fit for a swift ride of three hundred miles.
Besides, he must have any chance which may happen to turn up for
getting home. Will you take care of him? He is a fine young fellow, but
he cannot ride."

Therefore the pony and that saddle had done something good for Ned, and
Colonel Tassara cheerfully responded:

"With great pleasure, my dear general. I shall be glad to make American
friends. I may need them. He will be safe enough with me, but I fear it
will be a long time before he can get out of Mexico. As for me, I shall
meet more than a hundred of my own men at Orizaba, ready to escort me
across the sierra into my own State of Puebla. After that, my reputation
for loyalty will soon be reëstablished by raising my new regiment. I
think, however, that it will not march into the city of Mexico until his
Excellency President Paredes has set out for the Rio Grande, or as far
north as the luck of this war will permit him to travel. Very possibly,
he may be hindered by the gringos before he reaches the border. Carfora
will remain with me until then. You are right. He would not be safe
anywhere else. As for yourself, you must push on."

"I think," said Zuroaga, "that I shall be almost safe after I am a few
miles beyond Teotitlan. I may have a fight or two on the way. Carfora
must not be killed in any skirmish of that kind. You will not see me
again, dead or alive, until a week or two after the Americans have taken
the city of Mexico, as in my opinion they surely will. I shall be there
then, with five hundred lancers, to uphold the new government which will
take the place of the bloody dictatorship of Paredes, unless the new
affair is to be Santa Anna. In any event, I shall be able to help you,
and I will."

"You are a gloomy prophet," responded Tassara, "but you are an old
student of military operations. Do you really think the Americans will
capture our capital? It will be well defended."

"Bravely enough, but not well," replied Zuroaga. "We have not one
scientific, thoroughly educated engineer officer fit to take charge of
the defences against, for instance, General Scott. Not even Santa Anna
himself, with all his ability, is a general capable of checking the
invaders after they have taken Vera Cruz, and that they will do. He is a
scheming politician rather than a military genius. He and Paredes and
some others whom you and I could name must be whipped out of power
before we can put up an entirely new government, better than any we have
ever had yet. What do you think about it?"

"Think?" exclaimed Tassara, angrily. "I think it will be after you and I
are dead and buried before this miserable half-republic, half-oligarchy,
will be blessed with a solid government like that of the United States."

"And that, too, might get into hot water," muttered his friend, but
neither of the two political prophets appeared to have much more to say.
They separated, as if each might have something else to employ him, and
shortly all the night camp in the grand old forest seemed to be asleep.

The remaining hours of darkness passed silently, and the sun arose with
a promise of another hot day. Small fires were kindled for
coffee-making, but the preparations for breakfast were hurried. Before
six o'clock the mules were harnessed, the horses were saddled, and all
things were made ready for a diligent push southward. It had been a
difficult business to get Ned Crawford out of his tent, but here he was,
trying his best to move his legs as if they belonged to him. His coffee
and corn-cakes did a great deal for him, and he made out to pretend to
help Pablo in getting the fat pony ready for the road. Then, however, he
was willing to see Pablo walk away, and he bravely led the pony to the
side of what may have been an old and apparently abandoned ant-hill.

"I can get on board," he said, as if his patient quadruped had been the
_Goshhawk_. "I saw how some of them mounted. You put your left foot into
the stirrup, and then you make a kind of spring into the saddle. If my
knees will bend for me, I can do it without anybody's help."

It was the ant-hill that helped him, for he did not make any spring.
After his foot was in the stirrup, he made a tremendous effort, and he
arose slowly, painfully to the level of the pony's back. Then his right
leg went over, and he was actually there, hunting a little nervously for
the other stirrup, with his machete away around behind him.

"Glad you have done it!" exclaimed a decidedly humorous voice near the
pony's head. "We are all ready to be off now. Before long, you will be
able to mount as the rancheros do, without touching the stirrup. But
then, I believe that most of them were born on horseback."

They also appeared to be able to do pretty well without much sleep, for
Ned could not see that they showed any signs of fatigue. The
camping-place was speedily left behind them, but it was no longer a
night journey. Ned was almost astonished, now that the darkness was
gone, to discover that this was by no means a wild, unsettled country.
Not only were there many farms, with more or less well-built houses, but
the cavalcade began to meet other wayfarers,--men and women,--on foot
and on horseback, and hardly any of them were willing to be passed
without obtaining the latest news from Vera Cruz and from the war.

"I guess they need it," thought Ned. "The general says there are no
newspapers taken down here, and that, if there were, not one person in
five could read them. They seem a real good-natured lot, though."

So they were, as much so as any other people in the world, and they were
as capable of being developed and educated to better things. As to this
being a new country, it came slowly back into Ned's mind that there had
been a great and populous empire here at a time when the island upon
which the city of New York was afterward built was a bushy wilderness,
occupied by half-naked savages, who were ready to sell it for a few
dollars' worth of kettles and beads.

"I guess I'm beginning to wake up," thought Ned. "When the _Goshhawk_ was
lying in the Bay of Vera Cruz, I was too busy to see anything. No, I
wasn't. I did stare at the Orizaba mountain peak, and they told me it is
over seventeen thousand feet high. First mountain I ever saw that could
keep on snow and ice in such weather as this. I don't want to live up
there in winter. Well! Now I've seen some of the biggest trees I ever
did see. I wonder if any of them were here when the Spaniards came in. I
guess they were, some of them."

He was really beginning to see something of Mexico, and it almost made
him forget the hardness of that unpleasant saddle. At the end of another
mile, he was saying to himself:

"That field yonder is tobacco, is it? The one we just passed was
sugar-cane, and Pablo said the plantation across the road was almost all
coffee. He says that further on he will show me orange groves, bananas,
and that sort of thing. But what on earth are grenaditas and mangoes?
They'll be something new to me, and I want to find out how they taste."

Nothing at all of a military or otherwise of an apparently dangerous
character had been encountered by the fugitive travellers when, at about
the middle of the forenoon, they came to a parting of the ways. A
seemingly well-travelled road went off to the left, or southward, while
the one they were on turned more to the right and climbed a hill, as if
it were making a further effort to get out of the _tierra caliente_. A
great many things had been explained to Ned, as they rode along, and he
was not surprised, therefore, when Señor Zuroaga said to him:

"My young friend, this is the place I told you of. We must part here.
You and your pony will go on with Colonel Tassara, and I will take my
chances for reaching my place of refuge in Oaxaca. It is not a very good
chance, but I must make the best of it that I can. Take good care of
yourself. I have already said good-by to the señora and the señorita. I
think they will soon be out of danger."

Ned was really grateful, and he tried to say so, but all he could think
of just then was:

"General Zuroaga, I do hope you'll get through all right. I hope I shall
see you again safe and sound."

"You never will," said Zuroaga, as he wheeled his horse, "unless I get
out of this Cordoba road. It is a kind of military highway, and I might
meet my enemies at any minute--too many of them."

"Good-by!" shouted Ned, and the general, who was still a great mystery
to him, dashed away at a gallop, followed by Pablo and the wild riders
from the Oaxaca ranches.

The cavalcade had hardly paused, and it now went on up the long, steep
slope to the right. Not many minutes later, it was on high enough ground
to look down upon the road which had been taken by Zuroaga. Ned was not
looking in that direction, but at some snow-capped mountains in the
distance, northward, and he was saying to himself:

"So that is the Sierra Madre, is it? This country has more and higher
mountains in it-- Hullo! What's that? Is she hurt?"

His change of utterance into an anxious exclamation was produced by a
piercing scream from the carriage, and that was followed by the excited
voice of Señora Tassara calling out:

"Husband! The general is attacked! Look! Hear the firing!"

"O father! Can we not help him?" gasped Señorita Felicia.

Her mother was holding to her eyes with trembling hands what Ned took
for an opera-glass, and he wished that he had one, although he could
make out that something like a skirmish was taking place on the other
road. It was too far to more than barely catch the dull reports of what
seemed to be a number of rapidly fired pistol-shots.

"They are fighting!" he exclaimed. "I wish I was there to help him! He
may need more men. I could shoot!"

Whether he could or not, he was almost unconsciously unbuckling the
holster of one of his horse-pistols, when the señora spoke again.

"Santa Maria!" she exclaimed. "The dear general! They are too many for
him. Madre de Dios! Our good friend will be killed!"

"Give me the glass, my dear," said her husband. "Your hands are not
steady enough. I will tell you how it is."

"Oh, do!" she whispered, hoarsely, as she handed it to him. "They are
lancers in uniform. Oh, me! This is dreadful! And they may follow us,
too."

Colonel Tassara took the glass with apparently perfect coolness, and
Ned took note that it did not tremble at all, as he aimed it at the
distant skirmish. It was a number of seconds, however, before he
reported:

"Hurrah! The general rides on, and he rides well. I feel sure that he is
not badly wounded, if at all. He has now but three men with him. There
are riderless horses. There are men on the ground. There are four only
that are riding back toward the Cordoba road. Thank God! The general has
made good his escape from that party of unlucky lancers. He is a
fighter!"

Then he lowered the glass to turn and shout fiercely to his own men:

"Forward! We must reach Orizaba before the news of this skirmish gets
there, if we kill all our horses doing it. Push on!"



CHAPTER IX.

LEAVING THE HACIENDA


It was near the close of a bright summer day, and a deeply interested
company had gathered in the dining-room of the Crawford home in New
York. Dinner was on the table, but nobody had yet sat down. The number
of young persons present suggested that Ned must have older brothers and
sisters.

"Father Crawford," exclaimed one of the grown-up young men, "what is
this about another letter from Edward? I came over to hear the news."

"Letter?" said Mr. Crawford. "I should say so! I guess I'd better read
it aloud. It was a long time getting out and coming around by way of
England. There are all sorts of delays in war-time. It is the last of
three that he wrote before escaping into the interior of Mexico with his
new friends. I am glad that he did go with them, though, and there must
be other letters on the way. We shall hear from him again pretty soon."

They all were silent then, and he read the letter through, with now and
then a few words of explanation, but Mrs. Crawford had evidently read it
before, and all she could say now was:

"Oh, dear! I don't like it! I wish he had come home!"

"It's all right, mother," said Mr. Crawford, "for I have something more
to tell. Captain Kemp is here, and, from what he says, it is plain that
it would not have done for Ned to have remained anywhere on the coast.
He will be safe where he is, and he will learn a great deal. I would not
have him miss it for anything. What's pretty good, too, we have been
paid all our insurance money for the loss of the _Goshhawk_, and our firm
has been given a contract to furnish supplies for the army. I shall be
down on the gulf before long myself, in charge of a supply ship, and I
can make inquiries about Ned. He will turn up all right."

Everybody appeared to be encouraged except Ned's mother, and it was a
pity she could not have seen how well he was looking at that very time.
If, for instance, she had possessed a telescope which would have
reached so far, she might have seen a fine, large bay horse reined in to
a standstill in front of a modern-appearing country-house, well built of
a nearly white kind of limestone. Around this residence was a
wide-spreading lawn, with vines, shrubbery, flowers, and other evidences
of wealth and refinement. The rider of the horse appeared to sit him
easily, and he was a picture of health and high spirits, but for an
expression of discontent that was upon his sunburned face.

"This is all very beautiful," he said, as he glanced around him, "but I
wish I were out of it. I want to hear from home. They must have my
letters by this time, but they couldn't guess where I am now."

He was silent for a moment, and the horse curveted gracefully under him,
as if in doubt whether to gallop away again, or to ask his rider to get
off.

"Well!" said Ned, with a pull on the rein. "It seems like a long,
wonderful dream since I saw General Zuroaga ride away from us at the
cross-roads. What a skirmish that was! Then we made our way through the
mountains, and came here, and hasn't it been a curious kind of life ever
since? I've learned how to ride like a Mexican. I've seen all there is
to see for miles and miles around this place. I've seen lots of old
ruins, all that's left of ancient houses and temples and altars. I
believe the señora likes nothing better than to tell me yarns about the
Montezuma times and about her ancestors in Spain. That's a great
country. I think I'll go over there, some day, and see Granada and the
Alhambra and the old castles and the Spanish people. I like the Mexicans
first-rate, all that I have seen of them. They will be a splendid nation
one of these days, but they're awfully ignorant now. Why, every one in
these parts believes that our army is all the while being whipped all to
pieces by theirs, and I can't exactly swallow that. I'd like to know
just what is really going on. I'm all in the dark."

"Señor Carfora!" called out a clear, ringing voice.

He turned in the saddle, from seeming to gaze at the distant forest, and
there, in the piazza which ran all along the front of the house, stood
Señorita Felicia, her usually pale face flushed with excitement.

"We have a letter from father!" she shouted. "He has completed his
regiment, and he is to command it. President Paredes is going north, to
drive the gringos out of Mexico, and father may have to go with him. He
says it is time for us to move to the city of Mexico. We are to live
with my aunt, Mercedes Paez, and you are to come with us. Is it not
grand?"

"It is just what I was wishing for!" exclaimed Ned. "I'd give almost
anything to see that city, after what your mother has told me."

"Oh," said Felicia, "she was born there, and she'll make you see all
there is of it. But we were all ready, you know, and we are to set out
early to-morrow morning."

"Hurrah!" responded Ned. "But I'd like to hear from General Zuroaga. I
wish I knew whether or not he was much hurt in that fight in the road."

"Father does not believe he was," said Felicia. "Sometimes I almost
think he knows all about it. But there are some things he won't speak
of, and General Zuroaga is one of them."

Ned sprang to the ground, and a barefooted "peon" servant took charge of
his horse. It was not at all the kind of dismounting he had performed at
the camp in the woods on the road from Vera Cruz. Neither did he now
have any machete dangling from his belt, to entangle himself with, and
there were no pistol holsters in front of the saddle. He went on into
the house with the señorita, and in a moment more he was hearing
additional news from her mother. Señora Tassara was as stately as ever,
but it was apparent that she had taken a liking to her young American
guest, whether it was on account of his deep interest in her old
stories, or otherwise. It may have been, in part, that company was a
good thing to have in a somewhat lonely country-house, for she could not
have thought of associating with Mexican neighbors of a social rank
lower than her own. Was she not descended from Spanish grandees, and
were they not, for the greater part, representatives of the mere Aztecs
and Toltecs, whom her forefathers had conquered? It was that very
feeling, however, which in the minds of such men as Paredes and similar
leaders was standing in the way of every effort to construct a genuine
republic out of the people of the half-civilized States of Mexico.

Ned's next questions related to the war, and he inquired how many more
great battles Colonel Tassara had reported.

"Battles?" exclaimed Señora Tassara. "Why, there has not been one fought
since Resaca de la Palma. But he says that General Ampudia sends word
that the American army is about to advance upon him. They will attack
him at the city of Monterey, and they never can take so strong a place
as that is. He is ready for them, but President Paredes believes that it
is time for him to take command of the army in person."

It certainly was so. The Mexican President was a cunning politician, and
he had been by no means an unsuccessful general. He was well aware that
it would not be wise for him to now allow too many victories to be won
by any other Mexican. It might interfere with his own popularity. On the
other hand, if General Ampudia should be defeated, as he was quite
likely to be, then it was good policy for the commander-in-chief, the
President, to be promptly on hand with a larger force, to overwhelm the
invaders who had ruined Ampudia. Therefore, it might be said that the
Americans had the tangled factions and corrupt politics of Mexico
working for them very effectively.

Ned Crawford already knew much about the condition of military and
political affairs, but he was not thinking of them that evening. It was
a great deal pleasanter to sit and talk with Señorita Felicia about the
city of Mexico and others of the historical places of the ancient land
of Anahuac. She still could remind him, now and then, that she hated all
kinds of gringos, but at all events she was willing to treat one of them
fairly well. He, on his part, had formed a favorable opinion of some
Mexicans, but he was as firm as ever in his belief that their army could
never drive the Americans out of Texas.

There was one place which was even busier and more full of the
excitement of getting ready for a new movement than was the Tassara
hacienda. It was among the scattered camps of General Taylor's army,
near Matamoras, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Reinforcements had made
the army more than double its former size, but it was understood that it
was still of only half the numbers of the force it was soon to meet,
under General Ampudia. It was a curious fact, however, that all of
General Taylor's military scholars were entirely satisfied with that
computation, and considered that any other arrangement would have been
unfair, as they really outnumbered their opponents when these were only
two to one. What was more, they were willing to give them the advantage
of fighting behind strong fortifications, for they knew that they were
soon to attack the mountain city of Monterey. Part of what was now
genuinely an invading army was to go up the river in boats for some
distance. The other part was to go overland, and it was an open question
which of them would suffer the more from the hot summer sun. It was to
be anything but a picnic, for here were nearly seven thousand Americans
of all sorts, who were obtaining their first experiences of what war
might really be, if made in any manner whatever in the sultriest kind of
southern weather. Much more agreeable for them might have been a march
across the central table-lands beyond, at an elevation of four thousand
feet above the sea level and the _tierra caliente_.

That was precisely the kind of pleasant journey that was performed by
Ned Crawford and the imposing Tassara cavalcade on the morrow and during
a couple of wonderful days which followed. There being no railway,
whatever the señora wished to take with her had to be conveyed in wagons
or on pack-mules, and the ladies themselves now preferred the saddle to
any kind of carriage. In fact, Ned shortly discovered that Señorita
Felicia was more at home on horseback than he was, and he more than once
congratulated himself that she had never witnessed his first
performances in mounting his fat pony.

"How she would have laughed at me!" he thought. "But at that time there
wasn't another spare saddle-horse, and she and her mother didn't care a
cent whether I could ride or not. They were thinking of Guerra's
lancers."

The scenery was exceedingly beautiful as well as peaceful. There was
nothing whatever to suggest that a dreadful war was going on. There were
houses of friends to stop at, instead of hotels. There were towns and
villages of some importance to be rapidly investigated by a tourist like
Ned, from New York by way of England, and now a good young Mexican for
the time being. Then there was an exciting evening, when all who were on
horseback rode ahead of the wagons and on into the city, which occupies
the site of the wonderful Tenochtitlan, which was captured by Hernando
Cortes and his daring adventurers ever so long ago. From that time
onward, during a number of busy days, Ned became better and better
satisfied with the fact that his father had sent him across the sea to
learn all that he could of Mexico and the Mexicans.



CHAPTER X.

PICTURES OF THE PAST


"Oh, how I wish we had some news from the war!" exclaimed Ned.

"Well," said Señorita Felicia, doubtfully, "there isn't much, but I
suppose there is some almost ready to come."

"I'm tired of waiting for it," replied Ned, "and if there isn't to be
any war news, I wish I had some books!"

The thought that was in Ned Crawford's mind had broken out suddenly, as
he sat at the dinner-table of Señora Mercedes Paez, at the end of those
first days after his arrival in the city of Mexico. There were a number
of persons at the table, and at the head of it was Señora Paez herself.
She was shorter and stouter, but she was every ounce as stately and
imposing as was even Señora Tassara. In front of her sat one affair
which had, from the beginning of his visit in that house, made him feel
more at home than he might otherwise have done. He had become used to
it, and it seemed like an old friend. That Seville coffee-urn had
ornamented the table in the house at Vera Cruz, his first refuge after
he came ashore out of the destructive norther. It had winked at him from
a similar post of honor in the country-house out in Puebla, and Señora
Tassara had affectionately brought it with her to the residence of her
city cousin. She had said that she thought it would be safer here, even
if the city should be captured by those terrible robbers, the Americans.
They could not be intending to steal and melt up all the old silver in
Mexico.

"Why, Señor Carfora!" exclaimed Señorita Felicia, indignantly. "Did you
not know? Aunt Paez has piles and piles of books. They are up in the
library. If you wish to read them, she will let you go there. I had
forgotten that you know how to read. He may do it, may he not, Aunt
Mercedes?"

"Of course he may," replied the señora, "but it is a curious idea for a
boy of his age."

"Oh, thank you!" exclaimed Ned. "But what I'd like to have are some
books that tell about old Mexico and about the city of Tenochtitlan,
that stood here before the Spaniards came. I've been all around
everywhere. I've seen the swamps and the lakes and the walls and forts
and everything. The great cathedral--"

"That," interposed Señora Tassara, "stands on the very spot where an old
temple of the Aztec war-god stood. There were altars in it, where they
used to kill and burn hundreds and thousands of human sacrifices to
Huitzilopochtli, and there were altars to other gods."

"I can't exactly speak that name," said Ned, "but I want to know all
about him and the sacrifices. I want to learn, too, just how Cortes and
his men took the old city. I suppose that when the Americans come, it
will be a different kind of fight--more cannon."

"They won't get here at all," quietly remarked a military-looking old
gentleman sitting near the other end of the table. "It is a long road
from the Rio Grande, and President Paredes is to march, in a few days,
to crush our enemies with an army of twenty thousand men. They have not
so much as taken Monterey yet. You are right, though. If they should
ever get here, they will find the city harder to take than Cortes did.
They will all die before the walls."

He spoke with a great deal of patriotic enthusiasm, and Ned knew that it
was his turn to keep still, for the old gentleman had no idea that he
was talking to a wicked young gringo. Señora Paez, however, calmly
replied:

"Ah, Colonel Rodriguez, my dear friend, the President himself has said
that, after he has beaten them at the northern border, as he surely
will, the Americans are sure to make another attempt by way of Vera
Cruz. That, too, was the opinion of our brave friend, Colonel Guerra,
and he is making every preparation for a siege. It is part of our
grateful hospitality to our guest, Señor Carfora, that his friends have
supplied the Castle of San Juan de Ulua with the ammunition which will
be needed. He came over on the ship which brought it, and he has
remained with us ever since."

Just then Ned Crawford knew what it was to feel very mean indeed. He
felt as if he himself were telling a large lie, and his cheeks flushed
red-hot. He was aware, nevertheless, that even Señora Tassara had not
been told everything, and that Señora Paez was reasonably honest in what
she had been saying. There was no necessity for enlightening Colonel
Rodriguez. Hardly, therefore, had the old gentleman vehemently
exclaimed, "They never can take San Juan de Ulua!" than Ned went hastily
back to his first subject of the ancient history.

"That's it," he said. "I want to find out how Cortes got ashore, and how
he fought his way from the coast to this place. He must have had to
cross the mountains, through the passes, just as our party did when we
came."

"Yes," said the colonel. "He had to climb seven thousand and five
hundred feet up out of the _tierra caliente_, and, if any gringos ever
try that path, they will find all the passes full of fighting Mexicans
and good artillery well posted. Hernando Cortes had all the gunpowder
there was in America when he tried that road."

"My dear young friend," said Señora Paez, "you will find plenty of the
books you wish for. My husband was fond of collecting them. After
dinner, the señorita will show you the library, and you may read
anything there."

Ned was silent once more, for he was still feeling mean, and was asking
himself whether he were not, after all, a kind of spy in the Mexican
camp, going around in disguise, and all the while wishing that he could
help the American army to capture the city.

"Anyhow," he thought, "I can't help myself just now, and when the city
is taken, everything in the Paez house will be entirely safe. I
shouldn't wonder if that old coffee-urn will be safer from thieves than
it is now. There have been half a dozen burglaries since we came, and
I've seen hundreds of the wildest-looking kinds of fellows from the
mountains. Every man of them looked as if he'd like to steal some
silver."

While he was thinking, he was also listening, with a great deal of
interest, to a description which the old officer was giving of the
defences of Monterey, and of the reasons why the American troops would
surely be defeated. It appeared that he had at one time been the
commander of the garrison of the fortress known as the Black Fort, just
outside of the walls of Monterey, on the north, and he evidently
believed it to be impregnable. Ned was no soldier, and it did not occur
to him to ask, as General Taylor might have done, whether or not it was
possible to take the town without wasting time in taking the fort first.

"Come, Señor Carfora," said Felicia, as they all arose from the table,
"I will show you the library. You can't do much reading there to-night,
though, for the lamps have all been taken away. I do not wish to go
there, anyhow, except in the daytime. It is a pokerish kind of place. Do
you believe in ghosts? I do not, but, if I were a ghost, I would pick
out that library for a good place to hide in. Come along. You are a
foreigner, and any kind of good Mexican ghost won't like you."

Whether she herself did so or not, she led the way, and no lamp was as
yet needed, although the day was nearly over and the shadows were
coming. Up-stairs they went and through a short passageway in the second
story of the Paez mansion, and they were almost in the dark when she
said to him:

"Here we are. Hardly any one ever comes here, and it will be dreadfully
dusty. Books are dusty old things anyhow."

She turned the big brass knob in the dusky door before them, and shoved
against it with all her might, but Ned had to help her with his
shoulder, or the massive mahogany portal would not have yielded an inch.
It did go slowly in, upon its ancient-looking bronze hinges, and then
they were in a room which was worth looking at. It was not so very
large, only about fifteen feet by twenty, but it was unusually high, and
it had but one tall, narrow slit of a window. Close by this, however,
were a finely carved reading chair and table, ready to receive all the
light which the window might choose to let in. Ned was staring eagerly
around the room, when his pretty guide remarked:

"You had better see all you can before it gets any darker. Take down as
many books as you want. I don't care much for those fusty-musty old
histories. I must go away now--"

"Hullo, señorita!" exclaimed Ned. "There is a lamp on the table. I have
some matches--"

"I don't believe you can make it burn," she said, "but you can try. It
has not been lighted for this ever so long, and the oil may have dried
up."

Around she whirled and away she went, leaving Ned to his own devices.
His next thought was almost impolite, after all, for he was more than
half glad that she did go, so that he might have the library all to
himself to rummage in. He did not instantly examine the lamp, for he had
never before been in just this kind of room, and it fascinated him. All
its sides were occupied by high bookcases, every one of them crammed
full of volumes of all sorts and sizes. He thought that he had never
seen larger books than were some of the fat folios on the lower shelves.
There were great, flat, atlas-looking concerns leaning against them, and
out on the floor stood several upright racks of maps. Old Señor Paez may
have been what is called a book-worm. At all events, Ned had understood
that he was a very learned man, with a strong enthusiasm for American
history.

"Heavens and earth!" suddenly exclaimed Ned. "What is that?"

He darted forward to a further corner of the room, as if he were in a
great hurry to meet somebody who had unexpectedly come in. It certainly
was something almost in human shape, but it had been standing there a
long while, and the hand which it appeared to hold out to him was of
steel, for it was nothing in the wide world but a complete suit of
ancient armor. It was so set up in that corner, however, that it almost
seemed alive, with its right hand extended, and its left holding a long,
pennoned lance. Its helmet had a barred vizor, so that if there had been
any face behind that, it would have been hidden. Ned went and stood
silently before it for a moment, staring at that vizor.

"I say," he muttered, as if he did not care to speak any louder. "I
don't believe General Taylor's men would care to march far with as much
iron as that on them--not in hot weather. But the old Aztecs didn't have
anything that would go through that kind of uniform. If Cortes and his
men wore it, there is no wonder that they went on killing the Indians
without being much hurt themselves."

In fact, not all of them had been dressed up in precisely such a manner,
although they did wear armor.

Ned examined the whole affair, piece by piece, from head to foot, and
then he turned away from his inspection, for the room behind him was
getting dim and it was time for him to look at his lamp. He took out a
match as he went toward the table at the window, and in a moment more he
was busy with a wick which seemed to be determined not to burn for him.

"It's an old whale-oil lamp," he remarked. "Mother had one, once. I
remember seeing her try to light it and it would sputter for ever so
long. There! It's beginning to kindle, but it's too big for me to carry
around and hunt for books with. I wish I had a smaller one. Hullo!
Here's one of the biggest of those old concerns, right here on the
table."

It was a folio bound in vellum, and when he opened it a great deal of
dust arose from the cover which banged down. Then Ned uttered a loud
exclamation, and was glad he had succeeded in lighting the lamp, for
there before his eyes was a vividly colored picture of a most
extraordinary description. Moreover, it unfolded, so that it was almost
twice the size, length, and width of the book pages.

"They are all in Spanish," he said, "but I guess I can read them.
They're more than a hundred years old. People don't print such books,
nowadays. Nobody would have time enough to read them, I suppose, and
they couldn't sell 'em cheap enough. This is wonderful! It's a picture
of the old Mexican god, Huitzilopochtli."

There was an explanatory inscription, and the artist had pictured the
terrible deity sitting upon a throne of state, gorgeously arrayed in
gold and jewels, and watching with a smile of serene satisfaction the
sacrifice of some unfortunate human victims on the altar in the
foreground at the right. One of the priests attending at the altar had
just cut open the bosom of a tall man lying before him, and was tossing
a bleeding heart upon the smoking fire, where other similar offerings
were already burning.

"That must have been a horrible kind of religion," thought Ned. "I'm
glad that Cortes and his men in armor came to put an end to it. Señora
Paez told me that in only a few years before he came, and her
great-grandfather and his father with him, those priests cut up more
than twenty thousand men, women, and children. He's a curious kind of
god, I should say, to sit there and grin while it was going on."

He could not linger too long over one picture, however, for he had
discovered that there were others in that volume which were as
brilliantly colored and as interesting. On the whole, it was not
necessary to hunt for anything better than this the first evening, and
it appeared as if he were asking a useless question of the steel-clad
warrior in the corner, when at last he turned to him to say:

"Did you ever see anything like this before? I never did. Were you
there, in any of these battles? This is the way that Cortes and his
cavalry scared the Indians, is it? They were awfully afraid of horses.
You can buy horses for almost nothing, nowadays, anywhere in Mexico.
I've learned how to ride 'em, too, but didn't I get pitched off by some
of those ponies! It would have scared mother half to death. I wish I
could see her to-night, and show her some of these pictures. I'd like to
see Bob and the girls, too. They never saw a book like this."

He had examined a number of the pictures, and the lamp was burning
fairly well, but a long time had elapsed since he came into that room,
and he was not at all aware of it.

"Señor Carfora?" called out a voice in the doorway. "Oh, you are here.
You did light the lamp. I was almost afraid you were in the dark."

"No, I'm not," said Ned. "I made it burn, and I've been looking at all
sorts of things. These pictures are just wonderful."

"Oh!" she said, "I would not be in this room in the dark for anything! I
know all those things in that book, though. They are hideous! But they
say that that suit of armor has the worst kind of ghost in it."

"Maybe it has," said Ned. "I don't believe he can get out, anyhow. He's
just stuck in it. I'd rather wear the clothes I have on."

"Well," she replied, "mother sent me to find if you were here, and it
is dreadfully late--"

"Oh, yes!" interrupted Ned. "I suppose it is time for me to go to bed.
I'll go, but I mean to see all there is in this library, señorita. I
won't try to read it all. I don't care for ghosts, but I'd like to see
one."

"I do not care for them in the daytime, either," she told him. "But old
Margarita, the Tlascalan, says that they come at night and sit here and
tell stories of all the Mexican idol gods. All of them hate us, too,
because we turned them out of their temples, and I hate them."

"I'm glad they are gone, anyhow," said Ned, but it was really time to
go, and he carried some of the most brilliant of those illustrations
into some of his dreams that night.



CHAPTER XI.

NED'S NEWS


"Hullo, young man! I've been looking for you. How are you?"

"Captain Kemp!" shouted Ned, in astonishment. "Where did you come from?
Who dreamed of seeing you here?"

"Nobody, I hope," said the captain; "but here I am, and I've brought you
half a dozen letters. They are among my baggage. First thing, though,
tell me all about yourself. Where have you been?"

They were standing in the grand plaza, not many paces from the front of
the cathedral, and Ned had come there for another look at the building
which had taken the place of the old-time temple of the murderous
Mexican god of war. He was wildly excited for a moment, and he began to
ask questions, rather than to tell anything about himself.

"Keep cool, now, my boy," said the captain. "We don't know who's
watching us. I didn't have much trouble in running the Yankee blockade
at Vera Cruz. I brought a cargo from New York, just as if it had been
sent from Liverpool, but I've had to prove that I'm not an American ever
since I came ashore. Spin us your yarn as we walk along."

Ned was now ready to do so, and the captain listened to him with the
most intense interest, putting in remarks every now and then.

"All this," he said, "is precisely what your father wishes you to do, if
you can do it. The way of it is this. He knows, and we all know, that
this war can't be a long one. As soon as it's over, his concern means to
go into the Mexican trade heavier than they ever did before. They think
it will be worth more, and I mean to be in it myself. So it just suits
him to have you here, making friends and learning all about the country
you are to deal with. He says you are in the best kind of business
school. There will be a fortune in it for you some day."

"I don't exactly see how," remarked Ned, doubtfully.

"Well," replied the captain, "not many young American business men know
ten cents' worth about Mexico. You'd better go right on and learn all
there is to know. Keep shy of all politics, though. This war is going to
break Paredes and a lot of others. After they are out of power, your own
friends, like Tassara, Zuroaga, and the rest of them, may be in office,
and you will be in clover. It's a wonderfully rich country, if it were
only in the right hands and had a good government. I'll give you the
letters when we get to my lodgings. Then I must make my way back to Vera
Cruz, but I had to come all this distance to get my pay from the
authorities. I obtained it, even now, only by promising to bring over
another cargo of British gunpowder, to fight the Yankees with."

That was a thing which Ned did not like, but he could not do anything to
prevent it. He could not expect an Englishman to be an American, and it
was all a matter of trade to Captain Kemp, aside from his personal
friendship for Ned and his father. There was more talk of all sorts, and
Ned obtained a great deal of information concerning the war and what the
United States were likely to do. After he had received his precious
letters, however, and had said good-by to Captain Kemp, he almost ran
against people in his haste to reach the Paez mansion. He did not pause
to speak to anybody on arriving, but darted up-stairs and made his way
to the library. It was lighter now in the wonderful book-room, and the
man in armor did not say anything as Ned came in. In a moment he was in
the chair by the window, and he appeared to himself to be almost talking
with the dear ones at home, from whom he had so long been separated.

"Stay where you are," he read from his father's long letter, and at that
hour he felt as if he did not wish to stay. He dropped the letter on the
table, and leaned back in his chair and looked around him. Pretty soon,
however, a little slowly to begin with, but then faster and faster, the
strong and fascinating spirit of adventure came once more upon him. His
very blood tingled, and he sprang to his feet to all but shout to his
mailed acquaintance in the corner:

"Yes, sir, I'll stay! I'll do anything but become a Mexican. Tell you
what, before the war's over, I mean to be in the American army, somehow.
I don't exactly see how I'm to do it, though."

It was time to go down-stairs and report to his faithful friends, for he
knew it would be very mean not to do so, and the first person he met was
Señora Tassara herself.

"I have letters from home!" he exclaimed, bluntly--"newspapers, too!"
and she held up both hands in astonishment, as she responded:

"Letters from the United States? How on earth did they come through the
blockade, and how did they know where you are?"

"I guess they didn't," said Ned. "The English captain that used to
command the _Goshhawk_ brought them. I met him at the plaza, hunting for
me. He was a friend of General Zuroaga, and besides, the British consul
at Vera Cruz knew I was with Colonel Tassara's family. So, if I hadn't
met him, he would have tried to find you. My father writes that I am to
stay in Mexico, and learn all about it."

"I am glad of that," she said. "Why, you could not get out at all just
now without danger to yourself and getting all of us into trouble."

"I wouldn't do that for anything!" exclaimed Ned, and then he went on
with his tremendous budget of miscellaneous news.

It was an exceedingly interesting heap of information, for the captain
had given him both English and American journals, which were a rare
treat at that time in the interior of the beleaguered Mexican republic.
Señora Tassara was busy with these, when Ned and all the other
news-bringers were pounced upon by a yet more eager inquirer.

"Señor Carfora!" exclaimed Felicia, her black eyes flashing curiously at
him. "Where did you get them? I never before saw such big newspapers.
They won't tell us about our army, though."

"Yes, they will," he said, and, while she was searching the broad-faced
prints for army information, he repeated for her benefit all that he had
previously told her mother. Poor Señorita Felicia! She did not obtain at
all what she wanted, for there were no accounts of brilliant Mexican
victories. All of these must have been meanly omitted by the editors,
and at last she angrily threw down a newspaper to say to him:

"Señor Carfora, I am glad you are to stay here, but you will never be
anything better than a gringo, no matter how much you learn. I was up in
the library this morning, and I pulled out six more books for you. You
may read them all, if they will do you any good. One of them is about
Spain, too. What I want to do is to travel all over Spain. It must be
the most beautiful country in the world."

Ned had noticed long ago that her eyes always grew dreamy whenever her
thoughts were turned toward the peninsula which has had so wonderful a
history, but he did not know that his own longings for foreign travel
were very like her own in their origin when he replied:

"Well, I'd like to see Spain. I mean to some day, but I want to see
England first, and Scotland and Ireland. One of my ancestors was an
Irishman, and the Crawfords were from Scotland. It isn't as hot a
country as Spain is. You are a Mexican, not a Spaniard."

"So I am," she said, "and most of the Mexicans are Indians. We ought to
have more Spaniards, but we can't get them. Anyhow, we don't want too
many gringos to come in. They are all heretics, too."

Ned knew what she meant, and he hastened to tell her that his country
contained more church people of her religion than Mexico did, and he
added, to her great disgust:

"And our priests are a hundred times better than yours are. General
Zuroaga says so, and so does your father. I don't like your Mexican
priests. The general says he wishes they were all dead, and their
places filled by good, live men from Europe and the United States."

"Felicia," interrupted her mother, "you must not talk with Señor Carfora
about such things. What I wish is that we had the American common
schools all over our poor, ignorant country. Oh, dear! What if this
horrible war should prove to be really a blessing to us? As things look
now, we are to have another revolution within a year. More men will be
shot, just as they have been before, and nobody can see what the end is
to be."

It was now time for the noonday luncheon, and they went to the
dining-room, where Señora Paez herself was glad to see the foreign
journals and to know that Ned had letters from home.

Many things appeared to be settled, as far as he was concerned. At all
events, his mind was no longer to busy itself with wild plans for
squirming out from among the Aztecs and finding his way to the United
States. After luncheon he went up to the library again. At first it was
only to read his letters over and over, and then it was a kind of relief
to go to his books and try to forget everything else in going on with
his queer schooling. It was unlike any that his old schoolmates at the
North were having, and he caught himself wondering what kind of man it
might make of him. He could not tell, but he was to have yet another
lesson that day, and with it came a promise of a strange kind of
vacation.

It came to him in the evening, when he was so tired of books that he
preferred the company of Señorita Felicia, no matter what saucy or
overpatriotic things she might see fit to say to him. They were sitting
near one of the drawing-room windows, when Señora Paez came quietly
behind him and touched him on the shoulder.

"Come with me," she said. "There is a man up in Señora Tassara's room
who wishes to see you."

"O Señor Carfora!" whispered Felicia. "Don't say a word! I know who it
is. Go right along. He is an old friend of yours."

Up jumped Ned, and he and the señorita followed Señora Paez eagerly.
Half a minute later, he felt as if he had never been so astonished
before in all his life, for his hand was heartily grasped, and the voice
of General Zuroaga said to him:

"Here I am, Señor Carfora. How are you?"

"Oh, but I'm glad to see you!" exclaimed Ned. "I'm all right, but isn't
it awfully dangerous for you to be here?"

"It would be, if some men knew it," replied Zuroaga, "or if I were
unwise enough to remain too long. The fact is that I can give you only a
few minutes, anyhow, this evening. I must be out of the city before
daylight, if I can, but I will return at the end of a week or so. Then I
shall take you with me to the valley of the Tehuantepec. You must see
all that region. After that I shall have a tour to make on political
affairs, through several States, and you will have a chance to see two
thirds of the republic before winter."

"That is just what my father would wish me to do," said Ned, and he
proceeded to tell the general the contents of his letters and all the
news he had heard from Captain Kemp.

"Very good!" said Zuroaga, at last. "I would have been glad to have seen
the captain. He is a rough sort of fellow, but he can be depended on. It
is evident that your father's firm trusts him, but I believe they do not
know exactly all that he has been doing. He is quite willing to make a
few dollars for himself while he is working for others."

The general was in good spirits, but more than once he spoke of the
necessity he was under of keeping out of the reach of his old enemies,
and among these he appeared to consider the absent Santa Anna even more
dangerous, in the long run, than President Paredes himself. Señora
Tassara had now joined them, but she seemed disposed to be silent, and
most of the conversation was in the hands of Señora Paez. It was
noticeable that she appeared to have a remarkably good knowledge of the
politics of her country. Perhaps, if Ned had been a few years older and
the least bit of a politician, he might have suspected the truth, that
she was one of the most subtle plotters in the whole country. If she was
also a deadly enemy of President Paredes, it was because she was a
sister of a revolutionary leader whom he had caused to be shot, years
ago, without the formality of a court-martial. Ned saw her eyes flash
and her bosom heave when she spoke of him, and after that he somehow
felt safer than ever under her roof. He also saw that she and General
Zuroaga were the best of friends, and that they had a long private
conference of their own.

"I guess he feels at home here," thought Ned, as he went down-stairs
with Felicia and Señora Tassara, and his confidence in that state of
affairs grew stronger as he walked along the central hall of the house.

"Pablo!" he exclaimed, to a man who lay sprawled out upon the floor, but
the general's Oaxaca follower made him no reply. He and three more like
him, who lay near him, were sound asleep, and there was no good cause
for stirring them up just then.

"They are all well armed," said Ned to himself. "The general will be
protected when he rides away in the morning. But this is the biggest
kind of thing to come to me. The best _I_ can do will be to take to my
books till he gets back. Oh, but won't it be grand fun to make a
complete tour of the mountains and of all the Pacific coast of Mexico?
He says I shall see the tallest peaks of the Cordilleras and that I may
visit some of the great silver mines."

With all that exciting expectation running through his head, it was not
easy for him to get to sleep that night. When he arose in the morning,
his friend, the mysterious general, had already departed.



CHAPTER XII.

A STORM COMING


"A monarchy! a monarchy! nothing but the one-man power will ever do
anything for this miserable multitude of Indians, negroes, and
rebellion-making Spanish aristocrats. Royalty is our only resource, and
I am nearly ready to strike the required blow. I think that Don Maria
Paredes would make as good an emperor as Augustin de Yturbide, and he
will wear the crown of Mexico somewhat longer. But I must look out for
Santa Anna. If he were to return from Cuba too soon, there would be
nothing left for me but to have him shot as soon as he came ashore. Or
else he might have me shot not many days afterward. His emissaries and
spies are all the while working against me, but I shall catch some of
them. Oh, how I would like to get hold of that venomous conspirator,
Zuroaga!"

The President and practically the dictator of the nominal republic of
Mexico was standing in his own luxurious chamber of the government
palace in the city of Mexico. He was in the full uniform of a general
officer, for he was preparing to ride out and attend a review of a
division of the really large army which he had gathered to move against
the American invaders at the north. He deemed himself favored by
fortune, for all things had thus far appeared to operate in the
direction of his high ambition. He was in possession of undisputed
power, and his time for making his supremacy permanent had arrived. It
was the morning of the 4th of August, 1846, and it promised to be a
splendid day for a parade. He had eloquently appealed to all the
patriotism in the land, and he had used his last dollar in raising the
troops who were to win his victories and place him firmly upon the
throne of Anahuac, the lost throne of the Montezumas. A large part of
his forces had already marched, and he was now to follow with the
remainder. It was high time that he should do so, for General Taylor's
army was daily drawing nearer the Mexican lines at the city of Monterey.
Not many minutes later, he rode away from the palace, attended by a
brilliant staff, through crowded streets, where every hat went off and
all the voices shouted "Viva Paredes" with every appearance of
enthusiasm.

That morning Ned Crawford had not felt like going out of the city to see
any review. Days had passed since the departure of General Zuroaga, but
Ned's head was full of what his friend had said to him, and he did not
care much in what direction his feet might take him. So, having all that
responsibility to themselves, they carried him on across the city until,
when he looked around him, he saw that he had almost reached the front
gate of the out-of-date fort, which was known as "the citadel." It
always contained a large garrison, not by any means for the defence of
the capital from external foes, but for the protection of whatever might
be the "government" for the time being from any sudden tumult or
attempted revolution. There were officers and a squad of soldiers
standing a few paces out in front of the wide-open military portal, and
they all were gazing intently in the same direction. Ned also turned to
look, but all that he could see was a solitary rider, upon what seemed
to be an all but exhausted horse, urging the panting animal toward the
citadel.

"Colonel Guerra!" exclaimed Ned. "What has brought him all the way from
Vera Cruz? Has our army come? Is the city taken?"

Nothing of that kind had yet occurred, but there was a reason for the
arrival of the trusted commander of the important fortress on the sea.
Ned was very near him when the horse fell, and his rider sprang to the
earth, covered with dust and evidently in great excitement. The officers
at the gate rushed forward toward him, and one of them loudly demanded:

"Colonel Guerra! What is it? Has he come? All is ready here!"

Guerra himself had not fallen with his horse. Off came his hat and his
sword flashed from the sheath, while his voice rang out clearly,
fiercely:

"Viva Santa Anna! The entire force at Vera Cruz and the garrison of San
Juan de Ulua have pronounced for him. He is now on his way home from
Havana. We shall soon have with us the one hero who can save us from the
American invaders and from the tyranny of King Paredes!"

Possibly, this had been the day calculated upon for the arrival of
precisely such tidings. It might even have been that all these officers
and soldiers were gathered there, prepared both to hear and to act,
while President Paredes should be temporarily absent from the city. At
all events, they were swinging their hats, drawing their swords, and
their enthusiastic acclamations for the returning general were at once
followed by a rush back into the citadel and a hasty closing of its
gates. When that was done, and when the rest of the garrison had joined
in "pronouncing" for Santa Anna, the military control of the Mexican
capital had passed out of the hands of President Paredes.

It was startling news, therefore, which was brought out to him by a
friendly messenger, as he rode so proudly on in front of his shouting
soldiery, believing that they were all his own and ready to do his
bidding. The grand review ended instantaneously, and he came galloping
back in all haste to look out for his tumbling crown. He came with his
brilliant staff and a mixed crowd of friends and unfriends, only to
discover that crown and throne and scepter had disappeared like the
changing figures in a kaleidoscope. He could not even order anybody to
be arrested and shot, for the Vice-President, General Bravo, and all the
members of the national Congress, then in session, were thoughtfully
saying to themselves, if not to each other:

"Santa Anna is coming! The seacoast forces are already his. He will be
right here in a few days. We must be careful what we say or do just now.
We do not even know what these new troops will say to this thing."

They were not to remain long in ignorance upon that point. As the news
went out from regiment to regiment that afternoon, the undisciplined,
ragged mobs of raw recruits began to shout for Santa Anna. Perhaps many
of them had previously served under the one-legged veteran of the old
French and Texan wars and at least half a dozen revolutions.

Ned Crawford turned and hurried homeward, as soon as he felt sure that
his head was still upon his shoulders and that he had heard his
remarkable news correctly. His eyes were busy, too, and he heard what
men were saying to each other. Excited shouts were carrying the errand
of Colonel Guerra swiftly over the city, and everywhere it was
discovering hearers as ready for it as had been the officers at the
gate. He may have been looking a little pale when he entered the parlor
of the Paez mansion, for Señora Paez at once arose and came to meet him,
inquiring, anxiously:

"Señor Carfora, what is the matter? Has anything happened?"

"Santa Anna--" began Ned, but she stepped quickly forward and put her
hand upon his mouth, whispering sharply:

"Speak lower! we do not know who may hear you. What is it?"

She took away her hand, and Ned also whispered, as he hurriedly told her
what he had seen and heard at the citadel. As he did so, her face and
that of Señora Tassara, standing by her, grew much paler than his own.

"My dear Mercedes," said Señora Tassara to her cousin, "this is all as
my husband and General Zuroaga predicted. But the tiger is not here yet,
and by the time he arrives they will be beyond his reach. It takes some
days to travel from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico. Señor Carfora, you
are in no danger. Neither are we."

"No!" angrily exclaimed Señora Paez. "Not for to-day nor to-morrow,
perhaps, but down goes the Paredes monarchy! Ah, me! There is a terrible
time coming for poor Mexico. Who shall tell what the end of it all will
be!"

"Nobody!" said Señora Tassara, sadly, but Felicia whispered to Ned:

"Señor Carfora, the gringos could not do us much harm if their army had
a revolution springing up behind it at home. I wish they had one."

"I don't," replied Ned. "If we did have one, though, it would be bigger
than this is. I don't believe we have any Santa Annas to make one,
anyhow. There isn't a man in all America that would think of being king.
I guess that if we found one we'd hang him."

"Well," said Felicia, "President Paredes would like to hang a great many
people, or shoot them, but I hope he can't. What are you going to do?"

"He does not know, dear," interposed her mother. "We must stop talking
about this thing now. Some of our friends are coming in. It is better to
let them tell us what has happened, just as if we had not heard it at
all. Be very careful what you say."

Perhaps everybody in the Paez mansion was accustomed to that kind of
caution, and when a number of excited women neighbors poured into the
parlor to bring the great tidings and discuss the situation, they found
no one in it who was to be surprised into saying a word which might not
have been heard without offence by the friends of either Paredes or
Santa Anna.

Great changes in public affairs may produce changes in the plans of
individuals, and it was not remarkable if General Zuroaga's intended
week of absence should be somewhat shortened. It may have ended at the
moment when the garrison of the citadel "pronounced" in favor of the
tyrant in exile and against the tyrant in nominal power. Ned, however,
had a small surprise waiting for him. It actually arrived not a great
while after luncheon, when he was feeling as if he would like to sit
down by himself and think over this very curious piece of political
business. He went up into the library, as the safest kind of
thinking-place, and, hardly had he opened the door, before he discovered
that it had another tenant besides the man in armor in the corner.

"General Zuroaga!" he exclaimed, in astonishment.

"Not quite so loud, please," quietly responded the general. "Yes,
Carfora, here I am. Here I must hide, too, for a few hours. The camp is
no longer a safe place for me, even in the disguise I was wearing. There
is really nothing more to keep me there now. I do not need to run any
further risks on account of Paredes and his tin monarchy. He is already
utterly ruined. I must get out of the reach of Santa Anna's
lieutenants, however, if I do not wish to be locked up. You and I can
slip away all the more easily while this tumult is going on, and by noon
to-morrow we may be well out on the road to Oaxaca. Will you be ready?"

"It's just what I was wishing for!" exclaimed Ned. "I know enough to see
that it isn't a good thing for Señora Paez to have me in the house. She
has troubles enough of her own. So has Señora Tassara. If an enemy of
theirs found that they had a gringo here, it would make things worse for
them. They've been real good to me, but I want to go with you."

"Right!" said the general. "And there will be sharp eyes on the watch
while Santa Anna's friends are getting ready for his arrival. He may
appear to come peaceably, but do I not know him? He never yet forgot or
forgave an enemy. He will come back to settle up all old accounts."

"Well," said Ned, "we need not be here to be shot at. I packed up, all
ready, days ago. But, general, I guess I can ride better than I did the
other time. I don't need to have so fat a pony."

"My dear fellow," replied the general, soberly, "you will be mounted on
a horse that can make a swift run, if necessary. I am glad that you
will know what to do with him."

In other things than horsemanship, Ned had made wonderful advances since
he came ashore out of the norther, in the Bay of Vera Cruz. It was as if
he had grown a number of years older in becoming so much more
experienced. Moreover, he knew so much already about the plots and
counterplots which were going on that it was of little use to keep some
things from him. He was, in fact, almost full-grown as a Mexican
conspirator, and he was sure to do whatever he could against either a
monarchy under Paredes or a dictatorship under Santa Anna. It was a full
hour later when they were joined by Señora Paez. She came on a special
errand, for almost her first remark was:

"General, there will be danger from robbers of all sorts. I shall not
dare to keep a great deal of money in the house. I have not much,
either, that I can spare for yourself, but you must take this and spend
it to beat them. What's more, I want you to take my jewels with you and
hide them somewhere in the mountains. Señora Tassara's are already in a
safe place. I hope Señor Carfora has enough."

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Ned. "I have hardly spent anything, and Captain
Kemp gave me another hundred, from father. I almost wish it were all in
bank-bills, though, for gold and silver are heavy things to carry."

"Well, as to that," laughed the general, "I do not know what kind of
paper money we could make in Mexico, just now. That sort of thing will
do only under a pretty solid government. But then, a dollar will go
further in this country than it will in the United States. It looks as
if horses were worth only five dollars a head, and men about half as
much. There are too many that seem ready to sell themselves for
nothing."

He said that wearily and sadly, for he was at heart a true patriot and
he believed himself to be doing his best to bring a better state of
things out of all this anarchy and confusion.

Señora Paez left the room. Ned and the general lay down on the floor to
sleep for awhile, and it was just when the first dim light of dawn was
beginning to creep in at the narrow window that Pablo came to awaken
them. He put his finger on his lip as he did so, and they understood
that there might be danger close at hand. It was not until they were
out of the house, however, leaving it silently by way of the back door,
that he ventured to whisper:

"General, there is a guard already stationed in front. President Paredes
is making his last effort to stop his downfall, and he has heard that
you are in the city. All your friends will be closely watched, to-day."

"I wanted to say good-by to them," began Ned, but here they were.

"General, this is the jewel case," said Señora Paez, as she handed him a
small rosewood box. "Here is the money. Now, Señor Carfora, be a brave
fellow. Learn all you can of our poor country. I hope to see you again."

Señora Tassara was saying something in a very low voice to Zuroaga, when
Felicia turned to Ned and said to him:

"You are a wicked gringo, but I like you pretty well and I do hope you
will get away safely. Take good care of yourself."

"Well, señorita," replied Ned, "I will do that, and so must you. I'd
rather be out among the mountains than here in the city. You'd be safer
there, too. Anyhow, you are not a Mexican. You are a Spaniard and you
would rather be in Spain."

"Maybe I would, just now," she told him with a very melancholy look in
her brilliant black eyes. "But I do love Mexico, and I do know enough to
wish we were not to have any more revolutions. That is, not any more
after Paredes and Santa Anna and some other men have been killed."

"That is the way they all feel about each other," broke in the general.
"Come, Carfora. We have horses waiting for us on one of the back
streets."

There were a few hasty good-bys then. The three fugitives passed out of
sight among the shadows of the buildings, and the women returned to the
house to wait for the downfall of King or Emperor Paredes.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE REVOLUTION


There had been a curious impression upon the minds of some American
statesmen that General Santa Anna would return to his native country
with a purpose of making peace. It was for that reason that he was
permitted to pass unhindered through the blockading fleet in the Gulf,
but he had no such idea in his cunning and ambitious head. His real
objects in returning were to take vengeance upon his enemies, to restore
himself to the supreme power which he had lost by the revolution of
1840, and, for that purpose, to prosecute the war with the United States
with all possible vigor. His personal feeling in that matter might have
been understood by recalling the fact that his downfall had resulted
from his severe defeat in attempting to conquer the earlier American
settlers in Texas. On his arrival in Vera Cruz, on the 16th of August,
a proclamation which he at once issued, denouncing alike the
monarchical ambition of President Paredes and the wicked invasion of
Mexico by the armies of the northern republic, opened the eyes of all
concerned. When, however, with all the troops at his disposal, he slowly
approached the city of Mexico, he put on a cloak of patriotic
moderation. The existing government, consisting of Vice-President Bravo
and the Congress, had succeeded in imprisoning and then in banishing
their would-be emperor, Paredes. They now, as the returning exile drew
near the capital, offered him a temporary dictatorship of the disordered
national affairs, but he modestly replied that he did not desire so
much. He had returned, he said, as a pure and unselfish patriot, only to
serve his country. All that he would be willing to accept would be the
absolute control of the army, as if any power worth speaking of might be
supposed to remain outside of his bayonets and lances. This small
request was readily granted, and from that hour onward he was, for the
time being, more completely the dictator of Mexico than he or any other
man had ever been before. He entered the city and assumed command on the
15th of September. Only a week later, on the 22d and 23d, the fall and
surrender of Monterey strengthened his hold upon the people, for it made
them feel more keenly than ever their need of a good general. He
certainly did act with great energy, for, as early as the 8th of
October, he had advanced with his army as far north as San Luis Potosi,
and was straining every possible resource to prepare for his coming
conflict with General Taylor. It is said that he even mortgaged his
private property to obtain the money required for his military supplies.

During all these weeks and months there had been stormy times in the
Congress of the United States, and the war of the politicians was by no
means ended. General Winfield Scott, however, had been left at the head
of the army, with authority to invade Mexico in any manner he might
choose, but with about half as many troops as he declared to be
necessary for such an undertaking. It was late in December, 1846, when
General Scott in person arrived at the mouth of the Rio Grande and
assumed the direction of military operations. As he did not propose any
considerable further advance into Mexico, except by way of Vera Cruz, he
decided to take his best troops with him to that field of the coming
campaign. This meant that General Taylor was to lose nearly all his
regular army men and officers, their places being filled, as to numbers,
by new regiments of exceedingly brave but untried volunteers. He was
therefore left to face, with raw troops, any intended onslaught of Santa
Anna, who would bring with him several times as large a force, of all
sorts, most of it composed of recent levies, imperfectly organized and
disciplined. It remained to be seen which of the two kinds of men, the
Mexican Indian or the American rifleman, could be the more rapidly
changed into a trained soldier, fitted for a hard day's fight.

Throughout all the interior of Mexico there was a fair degree of peace
and order, although robber bands were reported here and there. No signs
of a coming revolution appear to have been discovered, for nearly all
the great leaders who might have set one on foot were either banished or
shot, or were serving in Santa Anna's army, half hoping for his defeat
and destruction that he might be taken out of the way of their
ambitions.

There came one cloudless day near the end of February, when a kind of
cool and beautiful summer seemed to rule over all the fair land of
Anahuac, except among the snow-clad Cordilleras. There were roses in
bloom in many gardens of the city of Mexico, and all things in and about
the national capital wore an exceedingly peaceful air. The very guards
at the citadel were pacing listlessly up and down, as if they were
lazily aware that all evil-minded gringos and other foes of their
comfort were several hundreds of miles away. At the city gates there
were no sentries of any kind, and a young fellow who rode in on a
spirited pony, at an hour or so after noon, was not questioned by
anybody as to where he came from or what he was doing there. He cast
sharp glances in all directions as he rode onward, but he seemed to have
no need for inquiring his way. He went steadily, moreover, as if he
might have business rather than pleasure on his hands, and he did not
pull in his pony until he had reached the front of the Paez mansion.
There was no one on the piazza but a short, fat old woman, in a blazing
red cotton gown, who sprang to her feet almost as if he had frightened
her, exclaiming:

"Señor Carfora!"

"Dola!" he responded, sharply. "Don't say another loud word! Are either
of the señoras at home? I must see them right away."

"Oh, yes!" she said, turning to run into the house. "I will tell them.
They are in the parlor, and the señorita."

Down sprang Ned and hitched his pony to a post, but then he hurried
through the front door as quickly as Dola herself had done. Perhaps it
was well that he should get in without being recognized by too many
eyes. He did not have to actually get into the parlor before he was
welcomed, for a light form sprang out into the hall, and Felicia herself
shouted, eagerly:

"Oh, Señor Carfora! Are you here? This is wonderful!"

"Señorita," he interrupted her, "I have letters for your mother and
Señora Paez. Where are they?"

"They are right here," she said, "but we have letters, too. All the
flags in the city are out and they are firing salutes of rejoicing."

"I saw the flags," he said, "and I heard some firing, but what on earth
are they rejoicing over? Is there any news?"

The two grown-up women were standing behind her, with faces in which
there was no joy whatever when Felicia exultingly told him:

"Why, have not you heard? General Santa Anna has beaten your gringo army
all to pieces. The United States fleet is coming to Vera Cruz with
another army, and the American soldiers will not dare to come on shore.
All they can do will be to sit there in their ships and look at the
city."

"Come in, Señor Carfora," said Señora Paez. "I cannot tell you how glad
we are to see you. Yes, we have very important letters. I may suppose
that yours are from the general. Please let me have them."

"Do, Señor Carfora!" said Señora Tassara. "I cannot wait a moment. We
will retire to read them, and, while we are gone, Felicia may tell you
all the news from the great battle at the north."

"Yes, so I will," she exclaimed. "And I want him to tell me all about
the places he has been in, and what he has been doing."

In a moment more they two were alone in the parlor, and she was
repeating to him the substance of Santa Anna's report of the manner in
which, at the hard-fought battle of Angostura, or Buena Vista, on the
22d of February, he had shattered the American army under General
Taylor. He had, he said, effectively prevented its further advance into
Mexico, and there was really a strong appearance of truth in his way of
presenting the consequences of the battle, for the American army seemed
to have retreated. Horse after horse had been ridden to death in taking
such great tidings to the city of Mexico, and, for the hour, at least,
the great Mexican commander was more firmly fixed in supreme power than
ever.

Of course, the triumphant bulletin did not make any mention of the fact
that General Taylor had had no intention of advancing any further, being
under express orders from General Scott not to do so, and that Santa
Anna's well-planned and at first nearly successful attempt to crush the
northern invaders had really proved a failure. Ned Crawford listened to
Felicia's enthusiastic account of the battle with a curious question in
his mind which he was too polite to utter.

"Why," he thought, "if Santa Anna was so completely victorious, did he
not make General Taylor surrender?"

There was no one to inform Ned that the Mexican commander had invited
General Taylor to do so before the fight was half over, and that the
stubborn old American had unkindly refused the invitation. At this
moment, however, the señorita's tongue began to busy itself with quite
another matter. The United States fleet, under Commodore Connor, had,
indeed, begun to arrive in front of Vera Cruz on the 18th of February,
with a vast convoy of transport ships under its protection, having on
board the army of General Scott. Neither Ned nor the señorita was aware,
however, how many important questions have to be answered before so many
military passengers might undertake to land, with all their baggage,
within possible reach of the artillery of an enemy. Felicia, for her
part, was positive that they all were too badly scared by the Castle of
San Juan de Ulua and by the bad news from Buena Vista to so much as try
to make a landing.

"General Santa Anna himself is now marching down to meet them," she told
him, "with his whole victorious army, and he will crush them as fast as
they can get out of their ships."

Owing to the grand reports from their army, this was precisely the idea
which was forming in the minds of all the people of Mexico.

"Oh, Señorita Felicia!" said Ned, as if he were quite willing to change
the subject. "I've had a wonderful time. I've been travelling,
travelling, travelling, everywhere with the general."

"Tell me all about it!" she commanded him. "I want to know. It seems to
me as if I had been shut up here and had not seen anybody."

"Well, I can't tell it all just now," he said, "but when we left here we
hurried all the way to Oaxaca. Then we stayed there awhile, among his
own people, and nobody gave us any trouble. No, I mustn't forget one
thing, though. A band of those mountain robbers came one night, and we
had an awful fight with them--"

"Did you kill any of them?" she asked, hastily. "They all ought to be
killed. They are ready to murder anybody else."

"Well," said Ned, "we beat them, and ten of them were shot. I was firing
away all the while, but I don't know if I hit any of them. It was too
dark to tell. The rest of them got away. But I've hunted deer, and I
killed a good many of them. I shot a lynx, too, and a lot of other game.
There's the best kind of fishing on the general's estates. I like
fishing. Then we went south, to the Yucatan line, and I saw some queer
old ruins. After that, the general's business took him away up north of
Oaxaca, and I went with him, and I saw half the States of Mexico before
we finished the trip. I've seen the silver mines and Popocatepetl and
Istaccihuatl, and I don't care to ever see any higher mountains than
they are."

"I have seen Popocatepetl," she said, "and it almost made me have the
headache. They say it is full of sulphur, to make gunpowder with."

Before she could tell anything more about the possible uses of the tall,
old volcano, her mother reëntered the parlor.

"Señor Carfora," she said, "Felicia will have to give you up. Here are
some letters for you that came while you were absent. You had better
read them now, for I cannot say how long it will be best for you to
remain here. Step this way a moment, if you will."

Ned followed her, all in a sudden whirl of excitement at the unexpected
prospect of hearing from his far-away home, but she still held his
promised envelopes in her own hand, while she said to him:

"My dear young friend, you know that Colonel Tassara is with his
regiment. He was in the thickest of the fight at Angostura. He was
wounded, but he hopes to recover soon, and we have not told Felicia. He
writes me that it was really a lost battle, and that the fall of Santa
Anna is surely coming, but that nobody can foretell what course he will
take, cruel or otherwise, when he and his army return to fight with
General Scott, on the road from the sea to this city. Go and read your
letters, and then I will see you again."

Felicia had to give him up, and away he went. The best place to read
home letters seemed to him to be the library, and when he entered the
dim old room, he half imagined that the man in armor nodded at him, and
tried to say how d'ye do. After that, Ned almost forgot that he was in
Mexico, while he devoured the news from home. It was a grand thing to
learn, too, that the letters which he had feared would never get to New
York had all been carefully delivered under the kindly care of the
British consular system. He had never before felt quite so high an
admiration for the British Empire as he acquired just then.

"I'll do something good for the next Englishman I get hold of!" he
declared, with energy, and then he sat still and stared around the room.

"It was just as well," he said, "that I did not stay here and try to
read all those books. I read enough about the ancient times, too. What
father wanted me to know about is Mexico as it is now, and I've seen a
great deal of it. What I want to see next is our army, and I'm going to
find my way to Vera Cruz. Then I'll get on board an American ship,
somehow or other. I wonder if the Mexican officers will manage to arrest
me between this and the seacoast."

That was a point worth thinking of, for General Zuroaga had told him
very plainly that some ignorant or overhasty patriot might easily find
an excuse for calling him a spy, and having him shot at a moment's
notice. He did not have a long time to consider that matter, however,
for the door opened, and the two señoras walked in, with clouded faces.

"Señor Carfora," said Señora Tassara, "you will have no time to lose.
General Zuroaga is right, and his letter must go at once to his friend,
General Morales, who is now in command at Vera Cruz. So must one from my
own husband. It is important, for the best interest of Mexico, that
Morales should know the whole truth. That is, he must be informed that
he cannot expect any help from Santa Anna's beaten army. Are you too
tired to set out immediately? I can give you a fresh horse."

"I'll go!" exclaimed Ned. "My pony isn't tired. He is a first-rate
traveller. I want something to eat, though, and I wish I knew whether or
not the army patrols will stop me on the way."

"I can take care of that," said Señora Paez. "I have had to send special
messengers before this. You will be able to show a government pass."

As she spoke, she held out to him a sealed envelope. Where or how she
had obtained such a thing, she did not explain, but it was an official
envelope, and on it was a printed lettering which might have been
translated: "Government Business. From the Headquarters of the Army.
Despatches from His Excellency, General Bravo." In her own handwriting
was added, moreover: "To His Excellency, General Morales, Vera Cruz."

"There!" she said. "If it becomes necessary, show that, and any man
hindering you will be promptly punished. Do not show it if you can help
it, however, for there are many kinds of army officers nowadays."

"I have seen some of them," said Ned, but what he was really thinking
about most seriously, at that moment, was the supper he had asked for,
and he was well pleased to be led down into the dining-room.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE DESPATCH-BEARER


There are hills to climb, on the crooked highway from the city of Mexico
to the sea, but the greater part of the distance is down, down, down,
for its highest point is over seven thousand feet above tidewater. It
was in a pass leading over this ridge that Ned Crawford looked around
him, up and down and ahead, and exclaimed, as well as his chattering
teeth would let him:

"Well, I'm glad there are no snow-drifts in my way. I suppose the army
men look out for that. But don't I wish I had an overcoat and some furs!
Old Mount Orizaba can get up a first-class winter on his own account."

It looked like it, and this part of his experiences had not been at all
provided for. The Cordillera was very white, and its garment of snow and
ice went down nearer to its feet than when Ned had first seen it.
Moreover, the pony which had travelled so well when he cantered away
from the Paez mansion, some days before, was showing signs of
exhaustion, and it was manifestly well for him that he was now going
down instead of climbing. So it was for Ned, and his uppermost wish was
to hurry down into a more summery climate. He was still doing so, to the
best of his shivering ability, two hours later, when a loud summons to
halt sounded in the road before him.

"Whoop!" shouted Ned, and the soldier, who had presented his bayonet so
sternly, was greeted as if he had been an old friend. Rapid explanations
followed, in Spanish, but before they were completed an officer had made
his appearance from a small but comfortable guard-house at the side of
the road. He was only a lieutenant, and he appeared to gaze with more
than a little awe upon the superscription of Ned's precious government
envelope. He turned it over and over, and almost smelled of it.

"Señor Carfora!" he exclaimed. "This must not be delayed for a moment!
You must ride on, if it kills you. Come in and get a dinner. We will
give you a fresh mount. Tell us the news while you are eating."

"I will do so," replied Ned, with a tremendous effort to stop shivering
and look important. "But I will say that I was told that any man
interfering with that despatch would be shot in one hour."

"Beyond a doubt!" declared the lieutenant, with emphasis. "It would
serve him right, too. This is no time for trifling with orders."

A hearty dinner by a blazing log fire made the despatch-bearer feel a
great deal better, but at the end of it no mercy was shown him. His
fresh pony was ready, and he was ordered to mount and ride. He did so
without offering any objections, and he carried with him the
lieutenant's written pass, for possible use further down the mountain.
It was a good thing to have, but he was called upon to present it only
twice, receiving in each instance positive instructions to push onward
if it killed him and his new pony.

"I can't stand this much longer!" he exclaimed, as the sun was setting.
"I'm almost beyond the snow-line. I think I'll disobey the guards a
little, but I'll keep on obeying Señora Paez. She told me on no account
to try to sleep in a large town or village. They are all military posts,
and too many questions might be asked. I'll try a hacienda, just as I
did on the other side of the mountains. Everybody wants to hear the
news."

Everybody in that region was also genuinely hospitable, and it was
barely dusk when Ned rode in at the gate of a substantial farmhouse, to
be welcomed with the utmost cordiality. Men, women, and children crowded
eagerly around him, to hear all he could tell them of the great battle
and victory of Angostura, and of the current doings in the capital city.
A warm bed was given him, and after a long sleep he awoke somewhat
better fitted for whatever else might be before him. Once more he pushed
on, but before noon of that day all signs of winter were far behind him.
He had passed through more than one considerable village, but so had
other travellers, coming or going, who bore about them no appearance of
being worth the attention of the military authorities. Another and
another night in wayside farmhouses compelled him to admire more than
ever the simple ways and the sincere patriotism of the Mexican farmers.
All the while, however, his anxieties concerning the result of his
perilous errand were growing upon him, and he was obediently using up
his army pony. It was the forenoon of the third day before he was
aroused from his other thoughts into anything like enthusiasm for the
exceeding beauty of the luxuriant vegetation on either side of the road.

"Leaves! flowers! grass!" he exclaimed. "Oh, how beautiful they all are!
Summer here, and winter only a few miles away. Hurrah for the _tierra
caliente_! It's a bully place at this time o' year."

At all events, it was a pleasanter place to be in than any icy pass
among the Mexican sierras, and his thoughts were at liberty to come back
to his present situation. He was not now upon the Cordoba road, by which
he had left the gulf coast ever so long ago. This was the highway from
the city of Jalapa. He was cantering along only a short distance from
the seashore, and he was within a few miles of the gates of Vera Cruz.

"I remember them," he was thinking. "I never had a good chance for a
look at the walls, but I suppose I shall have one pretty soon. I wonder
if they are thick enough to stop a cannon-ball. Captain Kemp told me
they were built all around the city, but he didn't say how high they
are."

Walls there were, indeed, but their masonry was not the next thing that
was to be of especial interest to Ned. There is no kind of stonework
which can compare, under certain circumstances, with the point of a
lance or the edge of a machete, and the bearers of a number of such
weapons were to be seen coming toward him at a gallop.

"It looks like a whole company of lancers!" exclaimed the anxious
despatch-carrier. "Now I'm in for it! Everybody I met on the way was
civil enough, but these may be a different kind of fellows."

Whether they were or not, the whole force under General Morales was in a
state of unusual excitement that day, for the report was going around
that the American army brought by Commodore Connor's fleet was rapidly
coming ashore near Sacrificios Island, only three miles south of Vera
Cruz. If Ned himself had been aware of it, he might have changed his
plans and ridden right in among his own friends. As it was, however, in
less than three minutes he had cantered in among a swarm of angry
Mexicans and glittering spear-points. Their state of discipline was
witnessed to by the fact that the captain in nominal command of them had
some difficulty in obtaining from them permission to ask his own
questions of this newcomer. When at last he succeeded in doing so,
without first having his captive run through by a lance, it shortly
looked as if Ned had been learning diplomacy, if not strategy also,
during his varied and wonderful Mexican experiences.

"Señor Captain," he said, quite coolly, pulling out his official
envelope, "I am ordered to deliver this to General Morales in person. I
am commanded to answer no questions. Any man daring to hinder the
delivery of my despatches will be shot. They are important."

"Where are you from?" came savagely back.

Ned only pointed at the envelope and shut his mouth hard.

"What is your errand to General Morales?"

Ned's brain was working with tremendous rapidity just then, and one of
his swift thoughts got away from him.

"Captain," he said, "you had better ask that question of his Excellency,
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna."

The officer's swarthy face turned pale for a moment, and all the men who
had heard Ned's reply broke out into loud vivas for their great
commander-in-chief, the illustrious victor of the bloody field of
Angostura. The entire company became at once the zealous guardians of
that sacred envelope, which so few of them could have read, and the
captain was forced to restrain his curiosity, and allow Ned to continue,
keeping his mouth closed. For all that, however, the despatch-bearer was
still a prisoner, and was to be conducted as such to the presence of
General Morales. The lancers turned their horses toward the city, and
the gates were reached as quickly as Ned's tired pony could carry him.
At this barrier, of course, there were other guards and officers of
higher rank, and there might have been further delay, or even danger, if
Ned had not promptly exhibited the magical envelope, while the captain
himself repeated his own words for him, and curtly added:

"His Excellency, General Bravo! Viva Morales! Viva Santa Anna!"

That last word sealed the matter. The envelope was returned to its
bearer, and he was conducted onward under the care of two colonels,
several other officials, and a half-dozen of watchful lancers.

Ned shortly understood that General Morales had returned from the Castle
of San Juan de Ulua to go out for a telescopic inspection of the
American landing, and was now at his headquarters in the city.

"I guess I shall feel better after I get to him," thought Ned, as he and
his excited party halted before the headquarters building. "I may get
stuck with a machete yet, if I have to wait long out here."

He was neither to be delayed nor slaughtered, and in a few minutes more
he was ushered into a handsomely furnished chamber, where the general
was sitting, apparently entirely calm and self-possessed, surrounded by
his staff and a throng of other important men, soldiers and civilians.
He did not say a word while a colonel of the escort was delivering his
report concerning this messenger, but he was all the while sharply
scrutinizing Ned from head to foot.

"Gentlemen," he then said to those around him, "this may be something of
extraordinary importance. Come with me, Carfora!"

He arose from his chair, and Ned silently followed him into another
room. As soon as they were shut in here by themselves, he turned
fiercely upon the young despatch-bearer and demanded:

"Have you said anything to those men? Have you told a living soul what
you know about these tidings?"

"No, general, not one word to anybody," replied Ned, bravely, but there
was a strange thrill at his heart, for he saw that he was in deadly
peril.

Morales tore open the envelope, and found in it several official-looking
papers which it did not take him long to read; but now Ned took out from
an inner pocket three others which were much smaller. The general's face
flushed fiery red, and his eyes were flashing with excitement while he
swiftly examined them.

"Carfora," he exclaimed, "you are too young to have been sent on such an
errand as this. General Bravo! Colonel Tassara! Señora Paez! General
Zuroaga! Ah, Santa Maria! And our brave army was shattered at Angostura,
after all. This is dreadful news! You shall die before I will allow you
to spread it among my men!"

"I shall not do so," said Ned, with his heart in his throat "But may I
not tell them that General Santa Anna has checked the invasion at the
north? Ought I not to say that he is now marching down to defend the
capital, and that he is going to strengthen your army at Vera Cruz? Why,
general, that is just what he is going to do."

The general was silent for a moment, and appeared to be lost in thought.

"No, not now!" he then whispered between his set teeth, but Ned heard
him. "If I shot him, it would make enemies of Zuroaga and the Tassaras
and Señora Paez. Bravo would not care. Carfora," he added, aloud, "you
may go. You may talk as you have said, but you must not leave the city,
and, if you say one word about our being defeated at Buena Vista, I will
have you shot. There are too many desertions already, and I can't afford
to have my whole army stampeded by bad news."

There was, therefore, an imperative military reason for keeping secret
the truth concerning Santa Anna's great victory, and Ned responded:

"General Morales, everybody will be asking me questions. I guess I know
exactly what you wish me to tell. I was ordered to keep my mouth shut."

"See that you do!" growled the general. "Or a musket-ball will shut it
for you. Go out now. If I want you, I shall be able to find you."

They walked out of the inner room together, and they found the main
office crowded, as if many more had hurried in to hear the expected
news.

"Gentlemen! Fellow citizens!" shouted the general, enthusiastically, as
he waved his packet of despatches over his head. "This is glorious! Our
illustrious commander-in-chief, after having given such a severe lesson
to our barbarous invaders at the north, is marching with his entire
force to our own assistance. He will soon crush our assailants on the
seacoast as he has the gringo mob under Taylor!"

A storm of cheers responded, and the entire crowd seemed disposed to
exchange hugs and handshakes, while he turned to an officer at a table.

"By the Way, major," he said, "write an order for quarters and rations
for General Bravo's messenger, Carfora. I may need him again in a few
days. Keep track of him. He is a civilian, but he is a trusted agent of
certain parties whom you may know."

The major began to write something, and, as he did so, Ned believed that
he heard him muttering words which sounded like: "Humph! Messenger of
his Excellency, Santa Anna! We will take good care of him!"

Then the general carelessly signed the paper, which the major prepared
for him, and Ned walked quietly out into the open air. Once there,
however, he took a hasty look at his "order for rations," and discovered
that with it he had now in his possession a full headquarters army pass,
which permitted him to come and go anywhere, through the gates and all
the lines, without hindrance from anybody. He was established as an
accepted and even honored confidential despatch-bearer of the
commander-in-chief of all the armies of Mexico. He was not now to get
entirely away without difficulty, however, for the whole building had
been full of men who were eager for all the news he could give them, and
they had followed him. They seized upon him as if he had been the last
edition of an evening newspaper, containing the reports of all the past
and with, probably, the news for to-morrow morning also somewhere inside
of him. He did not get away from them for some time, and when he did so,
at last, he was sure of being recognized by a considerable number of
patriotic Mexicans, if they ever should meet him again. That might make
him safer, although he was no longer in any immediate danger. Moreover,
although he was not in uniform, the cut and quality of his clothing
informed every person he met that he belonged to the higher orders,
while the machete at his side and the pistols in his belt appeared to
indicate that he was in some way connected with the army.

"I know what I want to do next," he was thinking. "My pony and my
satchel are at the headquarters stables. I can get them whenever I want
them. I must go to the Tassara place. I can find it. Then I must manage
to put them there, so that I won't have to show myself at the
headquarters unless I'm sent for."

He had no difficulty in finding the Tassara homestead, and there was no
observer anywhere near him when he stood in front of the dwelling which
had been his first hospitable refuge in Mexico. It had now, of course, a
lonely and shut-up look, and there was no getting in at the front door,
for much knocking failed to bring a door-keeper. Giving that up,
therefore, he made his way around to the rear, through the unoccupied
stables.

"There is hay enough here for my pony," he remarked, "but I had half
expected that the house would be turned into quarters for troops."

He may have overlooked the fact that the Tassaras were friends of
General Morales, and that their house was under his protection. If it
were supposed to be so, nevertheless, he had cause to forget it again
when he came to the back door, for it stood wide open, with an
appearance of having been unlocked with a hammer.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "I wonder if there is anybody in there now?"

The thought somehow made him draw his machete, and he went on into the
house as if he were looking for a fight. The dining-room was entered
first, and it was utterly empty. Not so much as a chair was left,
although its owners had certainly not taken any furniture away with them
in their hasty escape by night, with Ned and Zuroaga. It looked a little
queer, to say the least, and, as he went on from room to room, he found
precisely such a state of things everywhere else.

"I declare!" said Ned. "Either their friends or some robbers have
cleaned this place of all there was in it that was worth stealing. Not
so much as a bed left. I'll go and take a look at my old room. It was a
cubby-hole of a place, but it would do first-rate for me now."

Perhaps it was so small and so out of the way that Ned had an agreeable
surprise ready for him when he reached it, for there still hung his
hammock, and nothing else in the room had been molested.

"Hurrah!" he shouted. "I've looked into every other room in the house,
and this is the only one they didn't finish. I guess I'll camp here
to-night, after I've been out to get something to eat."

It was true that he had orders for army rations, if he had known where
to find them, but he was also able to purchase whatever he might need,
and he preferred to do so. At the same time, he had a clear
understanding that, if he expected to ever see the United States again,
he had better not show a great deal of cash in the city of Vera Cruz
just now.

"There are plenty of fellows here," he remarked, "who would cut my
throat for a silver dollar, let alone a gold piece."

He sheathed his machete peaceably, and went out by the back door,
determining to let as few people as possible suspect that the Tassara
mansion contained a boarder,--or it was more nearly correct to say
lodger. This was a wise decision to make, but he was not to hunt far for
his supplies that evening. Hardly had he gone a hundred paces from the
Tassara place before he was unceremoniously halted, and it was not by a
lancer this time. Before him, blocking his way, stood a very fat and
apparently much astonished woman.

"Madre de Dios!" she loudly exclaimed. "Señor Carfora! Santa Maria!
Santa Catarina! San Jago! Diablos! Where did you come from?"

Ned had never before heard himself called by all those pet names, but he
knew at a glance that this was no other than Anita, formerly the cook
of Señora Tassara, and believed to be a devoted friend of the family.

"Anita!" he exclaimed. "I'll tell you!" and he proceeded to do so, to
her great gratification, for she was as hungry for news as he was for
his rations.

"You come to my house," she said, "and I will give you something fit to
eat, and that is a good deal to say in Vera Cruz in these days. Santa
Maria! How these ragged banditti do devour everything. We are to be
devoured by the accursed gringos, too, and we must eat while we can."

Her idea, as a good cook, appeared to be that, if several thousands of
people were about to be shut up and starved to death, they ought all to
feed themselves as liberally as possible before the actual process of
starvation should begin. Ned felt a strong sympathy with that notion, as
he walked along with her, and he was ready to tell her anything but the
perilous truth concerning the lost battle at the north. As to that, it
was quite enough to assure her and half a dozen other patriotic Mexican
women, who were at her humble home when he went in, that the great and
successful General Santa Anna was hastening to rescue them from the
American barbarians who were at this hour getting ashore with a great
deal of difficulty through the surf, which was wetting every uniform
among them. If anything at all resembling a "norther" had been blowing,
the landing would necessarily have been postponed until it had blown
over. Among other things, however, Ned told Anita of his visit to the
house, and when the very good supper was ended, she led him to a room
which must have contained at least a third of all the space under her
roof. It was anything but hollow space now, for it was heaped to the
ceiling with furniture, beds, bedding, and a miscellaneous collection of
other household goods.

"There, Señor Carfora!" she said, exultingly. "The Puebla robbers did
get some things, but we saved all these. They were not ready to carry
off heavy stuff, and when they came again, with a cart, at night, it had
all been cared for. The señora has not lost so much, after all."

"You are a faithful woman!" said Ned, admiringly. "I'm glad, too, that
they could not steal the house, for I want to sleep there."

"It's the best place you can find," she told him. "But you had better
always bar the door at night, and sleep with your machete and pistols
where you can reach them."



CHAPTER XV.

UNDER FIRE


"Where am I?" exclaimed Ned, as his eyes came lazily open the next
morning, and in a moment more they were open very widely.

He knew the room he was in, and his thoughts came swiftly back to him.
There hung his sheathed machete at the head of the hammock, and his
pistols lay at his side. There was as yet only just enough light to see
them by, but he sprang out and began to get ready for his first day in a
besieged city. His satchel and pony, he remarked, would be safe enough
at headquarters, and he could go after them whenever he might need them.

"I'll go to Anita's for breakfast," he added. "I can pay her for it,
too. Then I want to see the American fleet, if I can. Oh, but am I not
glad that General Zuroaga gave me that old telescope? I've seen lots of
mountains with it, and now I'll make it show me the ships and the army.
Oh, my soul and body! I'm part of the garrison of Vera Cruz."

That was stretching the facts of the case a little, but he certainly was
serving under the wrong flag that morning. He felt queer and lonely in
that empty, robber-haunted house, and he was glad to get out of it
without being seen. Anita welcomed him enthusiastically, for he had
brought to her and her neighbors the good news of the coming of Santa
Anna's victorious army, and he was a young Mexican patriot for whom she
was glad to cook a good breakfast for a fair price. After that was
eaten, however, Ned's perplexities began, for the first Mexican officer
whom he met, on leaving Anita's house, curtly demanded a look at his
papers. He was altogether too well dressed a fellow to be allowed to
pass by unnoticed. With almost a fainting heart, Ned produced the pass
given him by the major at headquarters, but the next moment the brave
soldier's arms were around him, and he was hugged as a true comrade who
had ridden hard and far to bring good tidings.

"I will show you the gates myself!" exclaimed the lieutenant, for such
he was. "I shall be in command of a patrol that is going out toward
Sacrificios for a look at the gringos. Come on with me."

This was precisely what Ned was wishing for, and, as they hurried along,
he was pumped for all the news he had and a good deal more. In fact, he
found it a task of some difficulty to obey the stern commands of General
Morales and still keep within the truth.

A gate was reached and passed, the officer at the gate receiving a kind
of pay in news, and then Ned drew a long breath, for he suddenly
remembered that he had left the city, contrary to orders.

"Never mind," he said to himself, "I'm inside the Mexican army lines."

In a moment more, he had forgotten everything but his spy-glass, a
pretty good one, for he and the squad of patrollers were at the summit
of a low sand-hill, and there before them, only two miles away, the
boats of the ships of war and the transport ships were coming and going
through the surf with loads of American soldiers. With them, and on all
the vessels in the offing, Ned saw something which had never before
seemed to shine so splendidly, and it brought the hot blood fiercely
from his heart to his cheeks, because he could not just then break out
into a hurrah for the Stars and Stripes. The hurrah did get up into his
throat, but there it had to stop, and it almost choked him. His prudence
got the better of it, somehow, and his next thought was:

"Oh, but won't they have a tough time getting their cannon ashore!"

He was not so far wrong, for that was a problem which was troubling
General Scott and his engineers, but there was one thing more which Ned
did not so much as dream of. In one of those boats a tall man, who was
not in uniform, was leaning forward and gazing earnestly at the shore.

"Mexico!" he muttered. "Ned is in there somewhere. I must have a hunt
for him as soon as I can. I wonder if I did right to ever let him go.
Even after we take Vera Cruz, there will be a long campaign and any
amount of hard fighting. O Ned, my son, where are you?"

Ned was there, indeed, very near and yet very far, and he was wondering,
as were many American officers and soldiers, why the Mexicans did not
cannonade the invading army while it was coming ashore. They might have
done so effectively, and in a day or two they did put a few guns in
position to send an occasional shot, but all the harm they did was to
kill one man.

The patrol party had now performed its duty, and it marched back again,
but in that morning adventure Ned had discovered that he was really free
to come and go. Perhaps the Mexican commander had forgotten him in the
pressure of his other affairs. Even when Ned went to the headquarters
for his pony and baggage, he was treated by everybody as a young fellow
of no importance whatever, and at dinnertime he was able to tell Anita
all about the terrible ships and the swarms of invading gringos on the
shore.

That night the lonely room in the Tassara house was almost too lonely.
Ned lay awake in his hammock through long hours, and was glad that he
had two armies to think of, so that he might keep from listening for
possible footsteps outside of his little chamber, or for an attempt by
some marauder to force open his door. He had barred that, and he had
fastened his window firmly, but he could not feel entirely secure, and
he got up twice to go to the door and listen.

Day after day went by from that time in very much the same manner, and
Ned believed that he was learning a great deal about war, whether or not
it would ever do him any good in business affairs after the war had
come to an end. The entire American army, guns and all, reached the
shore in safety, and all the while Santa Anna and his army were reported
as coming, coming, but they did not come, and the hearts of the besieged
garrison and the terror-stricken people began to die within them.

"They will be too late now," thought Ned, but he did not dare to say as
much to any of his Mexican friends.

From time to time he had been out to ply his telescope upon the fleet
and upon the army. He knew that all the American camps had been
established beyond the reach of any guns in the city fortifications, and
he had watched with intense interest the slow, sure processes of a
regular siege, conducted by a rarely capable general. He had seen the
erection of battery after battery, of which General Scott's artillerymen
were as yet making hardly any apparent use. He did not quite understand
that, in merely being there, more and more of them, those batteries were
already capturing the city. They were sending so few shots at the walls,
or even at the grim Castle of San Juan de Ulua, because the American
general wished to take Vera Cruz without bloodshed, if he could, and he
came very near to the accomplishment of his humane purpose.
Undoubtedly, he would have succeeded in starving out the city, if he,
too, had not received daily notice of the nearer approach of Santa Anna
and all the forces which he could gather. Nobody but that general
himself and his confidential officers knew how really few they were, or
how unfit to assail the Americans in their fortified camps on the shore
of the sea. So, a final day came when the surrender of Vera Cruz was
formally demanded, under the awful penalty of a general bombardment by
the American fleet and army in case of a refusal. Resistance, it was
declared, was now hopeless, and there was no military necessity for
killing anybody. General Morales sent back a positive rejection, for he
still entertained a faint hope of the timely arrival of assistance, and
he did not inform General Scott how sadly he had failed in all his
attempts to obtain supplies for the inhabitants and his army. Famine was
already beginning to threaten all of the poorer classes who had
neglected their opportunities to leave the city, or who had been unable
to do so. As for Ned Crawford's provisions, he had continued to board
with Anita, or with any mess of military men among whom he might happen
to be. He had made many acquaintances, and he had found the ragged,
unpaid, illiterate Mexican soldiers a genuinely hospitable lot of
patriotic fellows. He came to his supper somewhat late on the evening of
March 21st, and that night, after going to care for his pony, he came
back and slept on a blanket on the floor of Anita's kitchen. On the
morning of the 22d, he had but just walked out into the street when
suddenly all the air around him seemed to be full of thunder. Roar
followed roar, and peal followed peal, and then he heard affrighted
shrieks in all directions. The bombardment had begun!

"O Madre de Dios!" moaned the voice of poor Anita behind him. "O Señor
Carfora! We shall all be killed! What shall we do? Oh, the wicked
gringos! What did they come here for? I never did them any harm."

That was a terrible war question which was troubling Ned himself.
Whatever might have been the evil doings of either of the two
governments, or of all the scheming, ambitious politicians, the helpless
people of Mexico were in no manner to blame. Why, then, he asked
himself, should any of them, like Anita, for instance, be killed by
cannon-shot or torn in pieces by bursting shells? He could not settle
the matter in his mind just then, but he said to her, encouragingly:

"Don't be so badly scared. Up here in this northern part of the town, we
are as far away from the shooting as we could be. I'll go over to the
southern side of the city and see what is going on. As soon as I find
out, I'll come back and tell you."

"Oh, do!" she said, "but do not get killed. Come back and get some
dinner. I will cook you a real good one, if you will."

That was something of a promise, for he knew that she was one of the
prudent folk who had looked out for their supplies in time, but he
walked away toward the southerly wall and the forts with a strong
feeling that he must be in the middle of a kind of dreadful dream. He
reached the line of antiquated and defective defences, which had been
good enough long ago, but which were not constructed to resist modern
artillery. Old as it might be, the wall was in the way of his intended
sightseeing, but he saw a ladder leaning against the masonry, and up he
went without asking permission of anybody. He was now standing upon the
broad parapet, with his glass at his eye, and he was obtaining a
first-rate view of the bombardment. On the land, stretching away to the
west and south, were the long lines of the American batteries, within a
not very long range of him, and from each of them at intervals the red
sheets of fire burst forth, while over them the black clouds of powder
smoke arose to be carried away by the brisk March wind that was blowing.
Far away to his right, or seaward, all at anchor in the positions
assigned them, lay the United States ships of war, of all kinds and
sizes, and these, too, were getting at work, although they were as yet
by no means putting forth their whole destructive power. It was as if
they were but studying this siege business, getting the ranges
correctly, and were preparing to do worse things than this in the days
which were to come. Ned was gazing intently at a great 44-gun ship,
which appeared to be sending her missiles at the castle, when a heavy
shot from one of the batteries struck the wall within a few yards of
him. It seemed to go deeply in, and the entire top of the parapet was
torn away for a width of several feet. Ned hurried at once to get a good
look down into the chasm, for it was the first time that he had seen
anything of the kind.

"I wonder if our shot are doing this kind of thing for their batteries
yonder," he said aloud, in the Spanish which was now habitual with him,
but at that moment a not unfriendly hand was laid upon his shoulder, and
a quiet, firm voice said to him:

"What are you doing here, Señor Carfora? You seem to have no fear."

"General Morales!" exclaimed Ned, in astonishment. "No, your Excellency.
I was not thinking of that, but of this big hole. I was wondering if the
walls of the castle are not stronger than these. If they are not--"

"They are much stronger, my brave fellow," interrupted the general. "I
am going over now to see how they are standing it. The Americans are
very accurate gunners. Now, sir, you must not expose yourself in this
manner. You are not a soldier. Go back into the city!"

"General," said Ned, pointing in the direction of the cathedral, "do,
please, look! Some of their shot go over the wall and strike away
inside. I am safer here than I would be in yonder. What I am afraid of
is that a great many of the women and children may be killed. I think,
sir, that you ought not to be here, either. You are the general."

"My boy," said Morales, sadly, "I was thinking of the non-combatants
myself. This firing of the Yankees at the city is hideous. But it is
war, and it cannot be helped. Ah, me! Feeling as I do this morning, I
would ask nothing better than that one of these accursed shot or shell
should come for me. I would a hundred times rather die than be compelled
to surrender Vera Cruz."

He again motioned Ned toward the ladder, and no disobedience was
possible. He himself followed, for his solitary reconnoissance was
ended, and he had been practically assured that his walls were of small
value against heavy siege-guns. When he reached the ground, several
subordinate officers came to join him, and Ned heard him say to them:

"That reckless young scamp, Carfora, has the nerves of an old soldier.
He will make a good one by and by. We need more like him, for some of
our artillerymen left their guns under the American fire."

There was never any lack of courage among men of his kind, a Spaniard
descended from the old conquistadors, while some of the officers around
him were Indians fit to have led their tribes for Montezuma against the
men of Hernando Cortes.

As Ned walked homeward, he halted several times to tell some of his
army acquaintances what he had seen from the wall, and how he had talked
about it with General Morales. No doubt they esteemed him more highly
than ever for his patriotism and high social standing, but he spoke also
of the danger to the people, and they were sure that his heart was with
them. Truth to tell, so it was, for the bombardment shortly became to
him more horrible than ever. Something he could not see passed over his
head, with a hiss that was almost like a human screech. Then followed a
loud explosion, and there before him, on the bloody pavement, he saw the
mangled corpses of a Mexican mother and two small children, who had been
killed while they were hurrying away to a place of safety.

"Oh, the poor things!" sobbed Ned, as he burst out into tears. "What had
they to do with the war!"

He could not bear to take a second look at them, and he hurried on, but
when he reached the house he did not say anything about them to Anita.
He told her about the batteries and the ships, and about the brave
general on the parapet, and then she and her friends who were with her
went away back into the kitchen, to be as safe as possible from flying
shot and shell. It was not, they appeared to think, at all likely that
any wicked gringo gunner would take aim at that kitchen.

As for Ned, he had only come in to go out again, for keeping indoors,
with all that cannonading going on, was altogether out of the question.



CHAPTER XVI.

GENERAL SCOTT AND HIS ARMY


"There they come! They are going to march right in! But what I want,
most of all, is to see the general himself. There he is!"

Telescope in hand, Ned Crawford was standing on the parapet, near one of
the southerly gates of Vera Cruz, watching the triumphant entrance of
the American army. He could hardly have told whether he was more glad to
see them come, or because the siege and the bombardment were over. He
was already familiar with the various troops of Mexico, and he knew that
some of them, but not many, could perform their military evolutions in
pretty good style. The one thing which struck him most forcibly now,
however, as his glass was aimed here and there over the approaching
columns and lines, was that at no point was there a flaw or a defect in
the orderly movements of the American soldiers. With admirable drill
and under perfect management, they swung forward across the broad level
between their earthwork batteries and the badly shattered wall of the
captured city. Compared with them, the garrison which had surrendered
was, for the greater part, only a little better than an ill-provided,
half-armed, undisciplined mob. Wealth, arms, civilization, scientific
generalship, had all been on the side of the great republic of the
North, and there had been no doubt, from the beginning, as to what the
result must be. The one important seaport of Mexico, with all its
foreign commerce, was now under the control of the United States, and
could not be taken from them.

Ned saw one of the advancing lines melt beautifully into the shape of a
long column, and file through the gate near him. Then followed a section
of field artillery and a small detachment of cavalry. All these were to
be admired, of course, but his eyes watched them only for a moment, for
just behind the horsemen came an exceedingly brilliant cavalcade, in
front of which rode the remarkable man whom Ned was most anxious to see.

Beyond a doubt, General Winfield Scott had many severe critics and not a
few personal enemies. By these, he was said to be arrogant, blunt in
manners, opinionated, and also a military martinet with terribly
unvolunteer ideas relating to the rigid discipline required for success
in war. He had seen, however, a deal of hard service in the war of 1812
and otherwise, and his military record was without a flaw. There were
good judges, both in America and Europe, who believed and declared that
for the management of a difficult campaign he had no superior among the
generals then living. He was now actually called upon to prove that he
could perform apparent impossibilities under very trying circumstances
and with somewhat limited resources. Physically, he was a large,
fine-looking man, and he was even excessively particular concerning the
fit and elegance of his parade uniform. He was therefore looking his
best when he rode in to take possession of Vera Cruz.

Ned went down a ladder as soon as he could, after breathlessly staring
at the great commander, but he did not succeed in witnessing the
formalities of the surrender, whatever they were. The crowds in his way
were too much for him, but not long after General Scott and his staff
disappeared through the portal of the building which had been the
headquarters of poor General Morales, Ned worked his way through a
throng of downcast Mexicans toward a young officer who appeared to be in
command of about a half company of infantry. From the excitement of the
moment and from a good many months of daily custom, he spoke to the
lieutenant in Mexican Spanish, in a recklessly eager manner and without
touching his hat.

"What on earth do you want?" was the curt and gruff reply. "I'm only
Lieutenant Grant. You'll have to see somebody else, whatever it is. You
had better go and speak to one of the staff."

If Ned had really been a young Mexican, speaking no tongue but his own,
he might not have understood that perfectly. As it was, however, he at
once broke out with energy into a language to which he had for some time
been unaccustomed. Even now, nevertheless, he forgot to touch his hat.

"Well, Mr. Grant," he said, "I've been all over the country. I've been
in the city of Mexico and among their troops, and I believe I know a lot
of things that I ought to report to General Scott, or somebody."

It was a patriotic idea which had been growing in his mind all that
morning, and it had driven out of him every ounce of bashfulness.

"You have, have you?" said Grant. "I declare. Seems to me you speak
English pretty well for a greaser--almost like a born American. I guess
the general's willing to hear almost anything. But you will have to see
some member of the staff. Hullo! I say! Captain Lee! Here's a kind of
spy. I think you'd better hear him. I can't leave my post."

"Spy?" exclaimed Ned. "No, I'm not any such thing, but my name is Edward
Crawford, and I'm from New York. I got stuck in Mexico and I couldn't
get out. I've been all around everywhere. Things are mixed--"

"Grant," said Captain Lee, "he may have something worth while. I'll take
him in to see Schuyler Hamilton. Let the captain pump him."

Captain Robert E. Lee was not exactly off duty at that hour, for he and
other engineer officers had been ordered to make a survey of the
fortifications, but he was there to receive instructions and he could
take Ned in with him. He was a taller, handsomer fellow than Grant, and
he was all of three times as polite in his treatment of Ned. Perhaps,
however, Grant's first manners had been damaged by being addressed in
such a style, in Spanish, by an excited young Mexican.

In went Ned and Lee, and there was no difficulty in obtaining an
interview with Captain Hamilton. Ned had never heard of him before, but
he was now aware, from Captain Lee, that he was a descendant of General
Philip Schuyler and General Alexander Hamilton of the Revolutionary War.
Ned thought of Señora Tassara's great ancestors for a moment, and then
he did not really care a cent for pedigree. He even startled Hamilton
himself by the energy and rapidity with which he told what he knew of
the condition of things throughout the country, the movements of Santa
Anna, and the political plots and conspiracies. Hamilton was a slender,
graceful young man, handsomer than even Lee, and with piercing black
eyes.

"Lee," he said, "the cub is a genuine curiosity. I can't imagine how on
earth he learned so much. He isn't a fool, by any means. General Scott
will be at liberty in a few minutes, and Crawford must see him."

"All right," said Lee. "I have my instructions now, and I'll leave him
with you. They say the old castle's badly knocked in pieces."

If, as Lee intimated, the fortress of San Juan de Ulua was just then in
bad condition, so was Ned when he heard what they were going to do with
him. He had supposed that his errand had been completely done to the
sharp-eyed staff officer, but now they threatened to bring him before
the general, whom he considered the most tremendous man on the earth. It
was a little too much, but he drew a long breath and stood as straight
as a ramrod, looking very red indeed. In three minutes more he was
brought face to face with the commander-in-chief of the armies of the
United States, and he felt as if he had been surrounded and compelled to
surrender. Captain Hamilton reported the matter in the fewest words
possible, but all the while the general had been watching Ned, looking
right through him, and in a moment Ned found himself feeling perfectly
easy. If General Scott had been his uncle, he could not have spoken to
him in a kinder or more carelessly familiar way. He questioned him about
all his experiences, and an acute listener might have gathered that he
paid more attention to Ned's political information than to anything of
a strictly military nature.

"Hamilton," he slowly remarked, at last, "General Taylor did an
exceedingly good thing for us down here, after all. The battle of Buena
Vista was our own battle. Santa Anna will not be able to raise another
army like the one that was so roughly handled up there. If it had been
here, in good shape, we would have had ten times as much trouble in
taking Vera Cruz. Santa Anna's power is already half broken."

"Perhaps a little more," suggested Hamilton.

"Perhaps," said the general, "but our patriotic young friend here has
made a valuable report. Ah, McClellan! You and Beauregard are to make
the inspection of the castle with Captain Lee. Take Crawford back to
Grant, as you go. He may serve with the Seventh as an unenlisted man.
Let him have his orders, Hamilton. He is a brave fellow."

Out went Ned with a pair of as yet undistinguished officers, both of
whom were to be heard of again in after time, and it did not occur to
the very much elated "scout," as he now considered himself, to correct
General Scott's apparent idea that Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was a
particular friend and guardian of his.

"Now, if this isn't bully!" he thought. "I've been on the Mexican side
all the while till now. I've been kind of part of the garrison of Vera
Cruz, but I've been praised by General Scott, for all that. I wonder
what our folks at home would say to it!"

It was a grand thing to think of, and Ned felt as proud as if he had
been promoted for storming an enemy's entrenchments.

There was another experience of an entirely unexpected character just
before him, however. Hardly had McClellan and Beauregard turned him over
to Grant, and while the latter was inspecting the order written by
Captain Hamilton, Ned was suddenly shaken from head to foot. Not that
anybody, Mexican or American, was actually handling him roughly, but
that a hoarse, eager voice at his right ear exclaimed:

"Edward! My son! Is this you? Are you a prisoner?"

"No, Mister," responded Grant, before Ned could gather his wits to utter
a word. "He isn't a prisoner, but I'm ordered to stick him into the
outside of the Seventh somewhere. Is he your son?"

"He is, lieutenant," said Mr. Crawford. "And, oh, how glad I am!"

"Father!" Ned had shouted, as a pair of strong arms went around him.
"How did you happen to be here?"

"I came on one of our own supply-ships," said Mr. Crawford. "I'll tell
you all about it by and by. I had all but given up hearing anything of
you, and we sail for New York to-morrow. Lieutenant, I haven't seen him
for more'n a year. I want a good long talk."

"Of course you do!" said Grant, heartily. "Take him along, and let him
report at the camp of the Seventh to-morrow morning. You may go now, my
young greaser, but you'd better get on another rig than that before you
come."

"He will do that," said Mr. Crawford. "Come along, Ned. Let's go where
we can be by ourselves. I want to hear your whole yarn, from beginning
to end, and I've all sorts of things to tell you."

"Father," said Ned, "I know just the place. We'll go and get supper at
old Anita's, and we can talk all the way. Hurrah! How's mother?"

All the most important home news followed quickly after that, and Ned
felt that the capture of Vera Cruz was more important than ever.

"I am going to let you stay here, though," said his father. "You can
learn more than in any other way that I know of."

"That's what I want," said Ned. "And now I shall be in our army."

The father and son were not walking very fast, but they could talk
rapidly, and they had a great many things to say. They had some things
to see, as well, for everywhere, as they went, they encountered
detachments of United States soldiers patrolling the city, restoring
order and setting things to rights. That they were doing so appeared to
be a tremendous surprise to large numbers of the inhabitants, who had
almost been expecting to be ruthlessly plundered, if not murdered
outright, by these cruel barbarians from the awful republic of the
North. Not all of them were panic-stricken in this way, however, for
when the house of old Anita was reached, she was standing in the
doorway, and she greeted them loudly with:

"O Señor Carfora! I knew all the while that you were a gringo. I am so
glad that we have surrendered! Santa Maria Gloriosa! Praise all the
saints! We shall have no more cannonading! We shall have plenty to eat!"

"That is just what we want, Anita," replied Ned. "This is my father. He
has come to see me, and you must give him some dinner. Then I will tell
you all about General Scott and the American soldiers."

She had neighbors with her, as usual, and some of them had become
accustomed to regarding Ned as a kind of newsboy. They were now also
prepared to thank a large number of religious personages that he was a
genuine gringo, and on good terms with the conquering invaders, who were
henceforth to have the control of affairs in Vera Cruz.

It was late that night when Ned said good-by to his father, and it was
like pulling teeth to let him go, but there was no help for it, as the
sailing of the supply-ship could not be delayed. Ned was once more alone
in Mexico, and it took all his enthusiasm for his expected army life to
reconcile him to the situation. Perhaps there was not a great deal of
sound sleeping done, in the hammock that swung in the little room in the
Tassara mansion, but at an early hour next morning he was on his way to
hunt up the camp of the Seventh Infantry and the tent of Lieutenant
Grant. This was accomplished without much difficulty, and almost
immediately Ned made a discovery. His probable coming had, of course,
been reported to the colonel commanding the regiment, and that
officer's common-sense remark was:

"Unenlisted orderly, eh? Yankee boy that can speak Spanish, and that
knows every corner of this miserable city? Just what we want. I'm glad
old Fuss and Feathers sent him to us. He is the greatest general in the
world. Send your scout right here to me. I've errands for him."

Therefore, the next chapter in Ned's Mexican experiences was that he
found himself sent out, soldierlike, upon a long list of duties, for
which he was peculiarly well prepared by knowing where to find streets
and houses which were as yet unknown to the rank and file of the gallant
Seventh. The men, on their part, soon came to regard him as a soldier
boy, like themselves, and he had a fine opportunity for learning, from
day to day, the processes by which General Scott was organizing his
force for his intended march across the sierra, on the road he had
selected for reaching the city of Mexico. It was soon to be plainly
understood that, whenever that army should march, it would do so as a
sort of human machine, ready to perform any military work which its
commander might require of it.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE MOUNTAIN PASSES


"Grant," said Captain Lee, "what did Crawford say to you about that
Cerro Gordo road? I want to know all I can."

"Well, Captain Lee," replied Grant, "here he is, to speak for himself.
He says he came down that trail in midwinter. He studied it, too,
because his friend, General Zuroaga, told him it was built by a Spanish
fellow by the name of Cortes."

"Good!" said Lee. "Seems to me I've heard of him somewhere, but who is
Zuroaga? Tell me about him, Crawford. Does he know anything?"

By this time, Ned had become pretty well acquainted with Lee and a
number of other officers, and with their free, open-hearted way of
dealing with each other. He could tell, therefore, without any restraint
or bashfulness, all that was necessary concerning his distinguished
Mexican friend and benefactor.

"I see," said the captain. "He is one of their many revolutions. All
right. But I wish old man Cortes hadn't left his road so narrow and
steep as they say it is. Tell me all you saw, Crawford. I have other
accounts, but I want yours. Look at this map and answer my questions."

He held in his hand what purported to be a very rough sketch of the
highway from the city of Jalapa to the city of Mexico. It also pretended
to give a fair idea of the section of that road which crossed the
mountain spur known as Cerro Gordo.

"From there to there," said Lee, "how is it?"

"Crooked as a rail fence," replied Ned. "It isn't like that at all. It's
a zigzag, with rocks on one side and ravines on the other."

"Just as I supposed," said Lee. "Now, mark the zigzags on this other
paper, as well as you can remember them."

They were sitting in Grant's tent, in the camp of the Seventh Regiment,
and the entire advance-guard of the army was encamped in like manner,
waiting for orders from General Scott to climb the mountains before
them. Ned took the crayon handed him, and he really appeared to do
pretty well with it, but he explained that the rough weather and the
condition of his pony had compelled him to dismount and come part of
the way down the mountain on foot, so that he had more time for making
observations.

"If they put cannon on a breastwork on that road," he said, "they can
blow anything in front of them all to pieces."

"Grant," said Lee, "that's just what they can do. Santa Anna has posted
his artillery at Crawford's zigzags, and that Cerro Gordo position
cannot be carried in front. It is perfectly unassailable."

"What on earth are we to do, then?" said Grant. "Our only road to Mexico
seems to be shut and bolted."

"I don't know about that," said Lee. "There are others, if we chose to
try them. But the general has ordered me, with an engineer party, to go
out and find if there is not some way for getting around Santa Anna's
obstructions. I want you to let Crawford go with me."

"O Lieutenant Grant!" eagerly exclaimed Ned, "General Zuroaga told me
there was another place as good for a road as that is."

"Go along, of course," said Grant. "I'd give a month's pay to go with
you. Anything but this sleepy camp."

Ned was ready in a minute, but he found that he was not expected to
carry with him any other weapon than his machete.

"Take that," said Captain Lee. "It will do to cut bushes with. I believe
I'll carry one myself. We shall have a few riflemen, but we must be
careful not to do any firing. We must scout like so many red Indians."

Ned had formerly been on the wrong side of the army lines. During all
the long months of what he sometimes thought of as his captivity among
the Mexicans, he had been occasionally worried by a feeling of disgrace.
He had felt it worst when he was a member of the garrison of Vera Cruz,
and on such remarkably good terms with the rest of the garrison and its
commander. So he had been exceedingly rejoiced when General Scott
battered down his walls and compelled him to surrender. It had been a
grand restoration of his self-respect when he found himself running
errands for the officers of the Seventh, but now he suddenly felt that
he had shot up into full-grown manhood, for, with a bush-cutting sword
at his side, he was to accompany one of the best officers in the
American army upon an expedition of great importance and much danger.

It was still early in the day when Captain Lee's party, all on foot,
passed through the outer lines of the American advance, at the base of
the mountain. All of them were young men, as yet without any military
fame, and there was no one there who could tell them that their little
band of roadhunters contained one commander-in-chief and one
lieutenant-general of the armies of the Southern Confederacy, and one
commander-in-chief and four major-generals, or corps commanders, of the
armies of the United States. It was not by such subordinates as these
that General Santa Anna was assisted in his engineering or other
military operations. That day, however, and for a few days more, he felt
perfectly sure of his really well-chosen position among the rocks and
chasms of the Cerro Gordo.

The engineering party was well aware that its movements might possibly
be observed from the heights beyond, as long as it remained in the open,
therefore it wheeled out into the fields as it went onward, and was soon
lost to view among woodlands.

"Now, Crawford," said Captain Lee, "recall and tell me, as well as you
can, all that Zuroaga told you about his proposed new road."

Ned proceeded to do so, but, at the end of his recollections, he added:

"Well, the general said it would cost a pot of money to do it, now, and
that Cortes had no gunpowder to throw away. He could not have done any
rock-blasting."

"Our difficulty about that is as bad as his was," replied the captain.
"We can have all the gunpowder we need, but we can't use any of it, for
fear of letting his Excellency, General Santa Anna, know what we are up
to. As for the cost of a new road, there is no government in Mexico that
will think of undertaking it. It would cost as much, almost, as a
brand-new revolution."

There was a great deal of hard work done after that, searching,
climbing, and bush-cutting, and Ned wondered at the ready decisions made
here and there, by the engineers. It seemed to him, too, that Captain
Lee and other officers paid a great deal of deference to a young
lieutenant by the name of McClellan. A small force of riflemen was with
them and a party of sappers and miners, but there had not been a sign of
military opposition to the work which they were trying to do.
Nevertheless, it began to dawn upon Ned's mind that sometimes picks and
spades and crowbars may be as important war weapons as even cannon. That
is, there may be circumstances in which guns of any kind are of little
use until after the other tools have been made to clear the way for
them.

Night came, and the entire reconnoitring party camped among the cliffs
of Cerro Gordo, but at about the middle of the next forenoon all the
officers gathered for a kind of council. They were not yet ready to send
in a full and final report, but they had formed important conclusions,
and at the end of the council Ned was called for.

"Crawford," said Captain Lee, "take that despatch to Captain Schuyler
Hamilton, or whoever else is on duty at General Scott's headquarters. In
my opinion, this Zuroaga road will do, after we shall have made it, and
we can climb around into the rear of the Mexican army. If so, all their
batteries in the old road are but so many cannon thrown away."

Ned's heart gave a great thump of pride as he took that carefully folded
and sealed up paper. To carry it was a tremendous honor, and he was not
half sure that it did not make him, for the time being, a regular member
of General Scott's corps of military engineers. He hastened back to the
Jalapa highway, and the first advanced post that he came to furnished
him with a pony. Then he galloped on to the camps and to the general's
headquarters, as if he had been undergoing no fatigue whatever. He
seemed to himself, however, to have seen hardly anything or anybody
until he stood before Captain Hamilton, and held out that vitally
important despatch. Even then he did not quite understand that it was
almost as important as had been the surrender of Vera Cruz. But for that
surrender, the American expedition would have been stopped at the
seashore. But for this feat of the engineers, it would have been
disastrously halted at the foot of the Cerro Gordo pass. One minute
later, Ned's heart jumped again, for he heard the deep voice of the
general himself commanding:

"Hamilton, bring Crawford in. He seems to know something."

Whether he did or not, he could answer questions quite bravely, and he
could tell a great many things which had not been set forth in the brief
report of the engineers. Probably they had not felt ready to say or
assert too much until they had done and learned more, but Ned was under
no such restriction, and he thoroughly believed in what he still
regarded as General Zuroaga's road. That is, if somebody like Cortes,
for instance, could and would afford the necessary amount of gunpowder
to blast away the rocks which he had seen were in the way.

"That will do," said the general, at last. "You may go, Crawford.
Captain Hamilton, we have beaten Santa Anna!"

There may have been a slightly arrogant sound in that confident
assertion, but it was altogether in accord with the positive and
self-reliant character of General Winfield Scott. He had unbounded faith
in his own mental resources, and, at the same time, he had perfect
confidence in the men and officers of his army. It was, therefore, less
to be wondered at that they on their part entertained an almost absurd
respect for their martinet commander.

Orders went out immediately for putting all the force which could be
employed upon the construction of the mountain road. Much of the work
would have to be performed at night, to keep it secret, and the
Mexicans, behind their impassable entrenchments on the old Cerro Gordo
pass, had no idea of the hidden plans of their enemies. Santa Anna
himself may have believed that his antagonist had given up the hope of
ever reaching the city of Mexico by that route. The new one, by which he
did intend to reach it, grew rapidly to completion, and Ned Crawford
obtained from his friend Grant repeated permissions to go and see if
Captain Lee wanted him, and then to come back and report progress to his
own camp.

"Lieutenant Grant's a man that hardly ever says anything," said Ned to
himself, "but he's a prime good fellow, and I like him. He says he isn't
much of an engineer, though, and he couldn't build that road."

Such a road it was, too, with bridges over chasms, where the builders
had to climb up and down like so many cats. Even after it was said to be
complete, it was fit for men only, for not even the most sure-footed
mule could have passed over it. It was finished on the 17th of April,
and on the following day General Scott issued his orders for all the
various parts of the coming battle of Cerro Gordo. Strong bodies of
infantry were to engage the Mexican front, and keep Santa Anna's army
occupied, while the engineers piloted another and stronger column to the
real war business of the day. Ned had managed to get himself tangled up
with this climbing force, if only to see what use was to be made of his
and Zuroaga's new road. The morning came, and even before the sun was up
some of the troops were moving.

"I guess it'll be an all-day's job," thought Ned, as he and one of the
engineer officers reached the first steep declivity. "Hullo! they are
unhitching those artillery horses. What's that for?"

He was soon to know, for strong men took the places of the animals, and
the guns were hauled up and over the mountain by human hands. It was
severe work, but it was done with eager enthusiasm, and a few hours
later Ned was able to shout:

"Hurrah! Here we are, right in behind them. Hurrah for General Scott!"

Anything else that he might have felt like saying was drowned in the
wild cheering which arose from thousands of soldiers, for there was no
longer any need for silence or secrecy. That part of the Mexican army
which had been posted beyond the head of the pass was taken utterly by
surprise. Its commanders were for the moment unable to imagine whence
had come this numerous body of United States infantry, which appeared so
suddenly upon their unprotected flank. They therefore retreated, and the
Mexican army was cut in two, so that all of it which had been stationed
in the pass itself was caught as in a trap, and compelled to surrender.
These trapped prisoners were about three thousand in number, and Ned
kindly remarked concerning them:

"Oh, but ain't I glad we didn't have to kill 'em! We didn't catch old
Santa Anna himself, though. They say the Mexicans made him President for
the battle of Angostura. I guess they wouldn't have done it if they had
waited till now."

Whether or not he was correct in that calculation, the road to the city
of Mexico seemed now to be open, unless the unfortunate republic could
provide its President with another army. As for the American commander,
his troops had more faith in him than ever, and with better reasons for
it. It was afterward said that General Scott's written orders for the
battle of Cerro Gordo, and for others which followed, would answer very
well for full reports of them after they were won.

The whole American army, except the garrison of Vera Cruz and small
parties posted here and there along the road, had now escaped from the
_tierra caliente_ and the yellow fever. Immediately after the battle of
Cerro Gordo, it marched on to the old city of Jalapa, among the
mountains, where its quarters were cool and comfortable. Not many miles
beyond Jalapa begins the great central tableland of Anahuac, and it was
needful that the road leading into it should be taken possession of
before the remnant of Santa Anna's army should rally and construct
barriers at positions from which it might prove difficult to drive them.

"If they do," thought Ned, when he heard that matter under discussion by
the soldiers, "I hope General Scott'll send for me and the other
engineers. I'd like to trap some more prisoners."

He was not to have any such chance as that, but he was not to be idle
altogether,--he and his engineers and his army. The division to which he
and the Seventh Regiment belonged, under the command of General Worth,
was shortly ordered on in the advance, to take and hold a strong
position, known as the town and castle of Perote, and here there was
indeed a long delay which was not engineered by the military forces of
Mexico. The politicians and particularly the Congress of the United
States had interfered very effectively on behalf of President Santa
Anna. They had spent so much time in debates upon the legislation
required for the gathering of fresh troops that the terms of enlistment
of about half of the soldiers under Scott were expiring. It was of no
use for him to move forward with a steadily vanishing army, and he was
compelled to wait for months at and about Perote, until the new men
could arrive and take the places of those who were going home.

"I guess I won't enlist," thought Ned, as that idea came again and again
into his mind. "Neither mother nor father would wish me to do so. But
I'm getting to be an old soldier, after all, and I won't leave the
Seventh till it gets into the city of Mexico."

Whether it ever was to accomplish that feat was only to be determined by
hard fighting, and there came a day, the 7th of August, 1847, when the
division of General Worth, then encamped at Puebla, received orders to
go forward. The entire army was to move, and General Scott had about as
many soldiers with him as when he had landed at Vera Cruz in the spring.

"Hurrah for the city!" shouted Ned, when the news reached him. "I want
to make a morning call at the Paez house."



CHAPTER XVIII.

SEÑOR CARFORA TRAPPED


"I never saw anything finer than this," said Ned, aloud, as he slowly
turned his telescope from one point to another. "It is the old
battle-ground of Cortes, when he and his Spaniards and Tlascalans took
the city of Mexico. It was called Tenochtitlan, then."

He was standing upon a granite ledge, on the slope of the mountains
south of the city, and below him the nearest objects of interest were
the white tents of the American army, encamped there while negotiations
for peace were going forward between the United States government and
Santa Anna. These were not progressing well, for the invaders were
demanding more than any Mexican government could be ready to grant. Not
only was Texas itself demanded, but with it also all the vast
Territories of California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

"Here we are," said Ned again, "but it has taken us two weeks of awful
fighting to get here. There isn't any use in disputing the pluck of the
Mexicans. Away yonder is Churubusco, and over there is Contreras. Didn't
they fight us there! General Scott and his engineers laid out the
battles, but I was with the Seventh everywhere it went. I'll have loads
of yarns to spin when I get home, if I ever do."

Battle after battle had been fought, and the Americans had paid dearly
for the long delay in the arrival of their reinforcements. All that time
had been employed by the Mexican President, with really splendid energy,
in raising a new army and in fortifying the approaches to the city. It
was almost pitiful to see with what patriotism and self-sacrifice the
Mexican people rallied for their last hopeless struggle with superior
power. It was not, however, that they were to contend with superior
numbers, for the forces under Santa Anna were at least three times those
under General Scott. The difference was that the latter was a perfect
army led by a great general, while the former were not an army at all
and had very few capable officers.

Ned had apparently gazed long enough, and he now made his way down the
rugged slope. He did not halt until he reached the door of his own
tent, and there he was met by his friend and supervisor somewhat tartly.

"Well! You are back, at last, are you? I didn't know but what you'd run
away. You may come along with me to-night. You may try and see your
friends. The provision train I am to take in will get out again about
daylight. You may stay there one day, and come away with a train that
will run in to-morrow night, but you'd better wear your Mexican rig, if
you don't mean to have your throat cut."

"All right, sir," said Ned. "I'll run the risk."

"I might not let you," said Grant, "if you were an enlisted man, but you
may learn something of value to them and to us, too. Get ready!"

The fact was that Ned and his army, commanded for him by General Scott,
were in a somewhat peculiar position. An armistice had been declared
while the negotiations were going on, and while, at the same time, the
power of Santa Anna was crumbling to pieces under him. It had been
agreed, on both sides, that all military operations should temporarily
cease, and that American army-trains of wagons might come into the
city, with armed escorts, to obtain supplies. After some unpleasant
experiences with the angry mob of the city, it had been deemed best that
the trains should come and go in the night, when the unruly Mexican
soldiers were in their quarters, and the too patriotic citizens were in
their beds. Ned had several times asked permission to accompany a train,
and it had been refused, but it was now explained that this train would
like to have one more man with it who could talk Spanish. When, however,
an hour or so later, he reported for duty, Lieutenant Grant remarked to
him:

"Well, yes, you can talk it and you can look it, but you can't walk it.
Don't step off so lively, if you mean to pass for a Mexican."

"Hold on, Grant," said another officer, standing near them. "Don't you
think the Mexicans have been lively enough since we left Perote? I've
had to step around a good deal myself on their account."

"Just so," said Grant. "But that's while they're fighting. When they're
at anything like work, though, it's a different kind of movement. Don't
walk fast, Ned, or they'll shoot you for a gringo."

It was nearly midnight when the supply-train, commanded by Lieutenant
Grant, entered the city, and an hour was consumed in obtaining the
supplies and getting them into the wagons, for not a pound of anything
had been made ready for delivery. No true-hearted Mexican really wished
to sell provisions to the enemies of his country.

"Lieutenant, may I go now?" asked Ned, as the last wagon prepared to
move away. "There isn't a patrol in sight, and the Paez place is within
a few squares from this."

Grant replied only by a wave of the hand, for at that moment he had
become engaged in a sharp controversy with the one Mexican officer who
was present on duty for his own side. He had been fairly polite, but he
had not pretended to be pleased to see gringos in Mexico. Therefore, it
was almost without express permission that Ned slipped away from his
train and his escort upon his exceedingly perilous errand.

The streets were dark and deserted, for the heavy-hearted people had
nothing to call them out of their houses at that hour. Nevertheless, Ned
was feverishly on the alert, and, almost without his knowing it, his
machete had jumped out of its sheath, ready for whatever might turn up.

"Halt!" suddenly came from a deep voice at his right, as he stealthily
turned a street corner, and a tall form stepped out of the near shadows
to stand in front of him.

Ned saw the long, bright blade of a lance pointed at his bosom, and
there seemed but one thing left for him to do. The holder of the lance
was beyond his reach, even if he had wished to strike him, but the lance
itself was not. All the strength he had in him seemed to go into the
sudden blow with which he severed the wooden shaft, an inch or so behind
its fitting of sharp steel.

"Diablos!" exclaimed the astonished Mexican, as he struck back a heavy
blow with the cudgel which remained in his hand.

Ned parried as well as he could with his machete, but there was some
force left in the stick when it reached his head, and down he went. He
had made a discovery at that very moment, however.

"Pablo!" he exclaimed, just as a second Mexican sprang toward him with a
long knife in his hand.

"Señor Carfora!" loudly responded Pablo. "Hold back your knife, Manuelo!
It is one of our own men. O Santos! My lance! I have no other weapon. I
told them it was of the soft wood. How are you here, señor?"

[Illustration: NED SAW A LONG, BRIGHT BLADE OF A LANCE POINTED AT HIS
BOSOM]

"To see Señora Paez and General Zuroaga," said Ned. "Is he in the city?"

"Hush! Be careful, Señor Carfora!" said Pablo, as Manuelo almost
reluctantly sheathed his too ready long knife. "We were waiting here for
him. He has been to the palace, to meet General Bravo. Our regiment has
already joined the army, but he is not yet sure about Santa Anna and
some other men. It is a dark time, señor!"

"Now, Pablo," said Ned, "there isn't much to tell about me. I was
captured when Vera Cruz surrendered. I was with General Morales. I got
in to-night, and I have a great deal to say to the general and Señora
Paez and the Tassaras."

"Zuroaga is here now," said a low, cautiously speaking voice behind him.
"Put up your sword, Carfora, and come along with me. I want to see you
more than you do me. I must know the latest news from General Scott's
army. Pablo, it was of no use. Santa Anna would make no terms with me,
but his day is nearly over. Bravo's government has rejected the treaty
offered by the United States, and we are to fight it out to the bitter
end. The gates have been shut, and there will be no more sending out of
supplies. I think the war will begin again to-morrow."

"Oh, dear me!" thought Ned. "There goes all my chance for getting out
again until after our army has captured the city. How my head does
ache!"

The rap from Pablo's lance-staff had not really injured him, however,
and all three of them walked on till they reached the Paez place without
saying another word. Here it was at once evident that they, or, at
least, the general and Pablo, were waited for. The front door opened to
admit them, and shut quickly behind them as they passed in.

"Señora Paez," said Zuroaga to a shadow in the unlighted hall, "the
armistice is ended, but I shall command my Oaxaca regiment in the
fighting which is now sure to come. Let us all meet in the parlor and
hear from Señor Carfora the American account of these lost battles."

"Carfora?" she exclaimed. "Is he here? Oh, how I do wish to hear him! I
believe we have been told altogether too many lies. Our troops do not
half know how badly they have been beaten, nor what is the real strength
of the American army."

They walked on into the parlor, and here there were lights burning, but
Ned was not thinking of them. He was gazing at the pale face of a man
in uniform and on crutches, who came slowly forward between a woman and
a young girl, with a mournful smile upon his face.

"Colonel Tassara!" exclaimed Ned. "I knew you were wounded, but are you
not getting well?"

"Señor Carfora!" quickly interrupted Señorita Felicia. "He was hit in
the leg by a bullet at Angostura. He had a bayonet wound, too, and they
thought he would die, but they made him a general--"

"I am getting better, Carfora," said General Tassara, courageously, "but
I can do no more fighting just now. I sincerely wish that there might
not be any. The plans of Santa Anna--"

"Tassara!" exclaimed Zuroaga. "What we heard is true. He is utterly
ruined. But the peace terms are rejected by all the government we have
left, and our city defences must soon go down as did those at Cerro
Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco. We are to hear more about those
affairs from Señor Carfora. He was an eye witness of them."

"Oh, my dear young friend," said Señora Tassara, "were you with the
American army in all those battles?"

"No, not exactly," said Ned. "I was with General Morales at Vera Cruz.
Then I came on with General Scott all the way from the seacoast to this
place. He has troops enough now, and he will fight his way in. I'm real
sorry about it, too, for no more men need to be killed."

"I think the gringos are just terrible," said Felicia, as she came over
and sat down by Ned. "I want to hear about them. I do hope they won't be
defeated now, though, for if they are nobody can guess who will be
Emperor of Mexico when they are driven away."

"She is not so far wrong," said Tassara, sadly. "The future of our
country is all in the dark. Please let us hear your report."

Pablo, of course, had not followed his superiors into the parlor, and
all who were there were free to discuss the situation. The morning sun
was looking in at the windows when all of the talk was finished. Ned had
learned that only the family and a few trusted servants remained in the
house, but he would have eaten his breakfast with even a more complete
sense of security from any emissaries of the military authorities if he
had known how much they had upon their hands that day, the 4th of
September, 1847. There had already been a sharp correspondence between
the commanders of the two armies, and now General Scott himself declared
the armistice at an end. All the angry patriotism of the Mexican people
arose to meet the emergency, and every possible preparation was rapidly
made for the last desperate struggle in defence of their capital. It was
as if the idea prevailed that, if this American force now here could be
defeated, the United States would give the matter up, instead of sending
more troops to the assistance of their first insufficient battalions.

"Señor Carfora," said Senorita Felicia, "you must not go out of the
house. I do not want you to be killed."

"That is so," added her father. "As the affair stands now, they would
surely regard you as a spy. You would be shot without a trial. All is
confusion. I fear that even General Zuroaga is safe from arrest only
among his own men. The army is the government. This nation needs a
change."

"General Tassara," said Ned, "isn't our army bringing one?"

"The war is promising a great deal," replied Tassara, gloomily. "It has
already delivered us from King Paredes and Santa Anna and from half a
dozen other military usurpers. Moreover, all the lands which the United
States propose to take away will be rescued from any future anarchy and
will be made some use of. They will be lost to Mexico forever within one
week from to-day, for we cannot hold the city."

General Zuroaga had quietly disappeared. Very soon, the Tassara family
went to their own room. Then not even the servants could tell what had
become of Señora Paez. Ned Crawford did not at all know what to do with
himself. He walked around the rooms below; then he went out to the
stables and back again, but he was all alone, for Pablo and the Oaxaca
men had gone to their regiment. He went up to the library and had a
one-sided talk with the man in armor, but it did not do him any good,
and he did not care a cent for all the books on the shelves. They could
tell only of old wars, fought long ago, and here was a real war right on
hand, that seemed to be wandering all around the house.

During all the long, hot days of the armistice, a kind of dull quiet had
appeared to brood over the city and its forts and over the camps and
entrenchments of the besiegers. It had been something like a
thundercloud, which was all the while growing blacker and hanging
lower, and before the end of the first day of renewed hostilities the
anxious watchers in the city houses could hear something which sounded
like distant thunder. It was the occasional roar of a gun from one or
another of the batteries on either side, as a warning of the more
terrible things which were about to come, and more than once Ned groaned
to himself:

"Oh, how I wish I were out there, with Lieutenant Grant and the Seventh.
This is worse than being shut up in Vera Cruz. I didn't have any
regiment of my own, then, but now I belong in General Scott's army."

Evening came at last, and all of the family was gathered behind the
lattices of the parlor windows, to watch the detachments of soldiers
march past, and to wonder where they were going. General Zuroaga was not
there, but there had been a message from him that there would be a great
battle in the morning, for the Americans were moving forward.

"We are in greater numbers than they are," muttered General Tassara.
"But we have no General Scott, and we have no officers like his. Almost
all that we really have is courage and gunpowder, and these are not
enough to defeat such an attack as he will make. The city is lost
already!"



CHAPTER XIX.

THE STARS AND STRIPES IN TENOCHTITLAN


"What a roar it is! And so very near! I hope General Scott will not
bombard this city, as he did Vera Cruz. It would be awful to see
bombshells falling among these crowds of people!"

The American commander had not the slightest idea of doing anything of
the kind, but there had been almost continuous fighting in the days
following the termination of the armistice. Perhaps the hardest of it
had been at Molino del Rey, and the defences there had been carried by
the assailants. There appeared now to be but the one barrier of the
Chapultepec hill between them and a final victory.

A hand was on Ned's shoulder, and a trembling voice said to him:

"Oh, Señor Carfora! Where have you been? I'm so frightened! Are those
cannon coming right on into the city?"

"No," said Ned, "but I have been out all day. I went almost everywhere,
and it seems as if the city were full of wounded men. The soldiers are
crowding in. Oh, how I wish I knew how things are going!"

There was a sound of sobbing behind them, and in a moment more the arms
of Señora Paez were around Felicia.

"My darling! My dear little girl!" she exclaimed. "Señor Carfora, too!
The end has come. The Americans have stormed Chapultepec, and the city
is at their mercy. Alas, for me! General Bravo was taken prisoner, and
my beloved old friend, Zuroaga, was killed at the head of his regiment.
We shall never see him again!"

Ned felt as if somebody had struck him a heavy blow. He could not say a
word for a moment, and then he whispered:

"Poor General Zuroaga! Why, I had no idea that he would be killed!"

That is always so after a battle. Those who read the lists of the killed
and wounded expect to find the names of other people's friends there,
and not the names of those from whom they were hoping to hear an account
of the victory.

"Felicia," said the señora, "your father and mother are in their room.
Do not go there just now. You must not go out again, Señor Carfora. You
have been running too many risks. Talk with me for awhile."

Whether or not he had been in any danger, it had been impossible for Ned
to remain in the house during an entire week of military thunder storm,
and he had ventured out almost recklessly. There had, indeed, been so
much confusion that little attention had generally been paid to him, and
he had even gone out through the gates to use his telescope upon the
distant clouds of smoke and the movements of marching men. He had seen,
therefore, the steady, irresistible advances of the American troops, and
he had almost understood that to General Scott the capture of the city
was merely a matter of mathematical calculation, like an example in
arithmetic.

He went into the parlor with Señora Paez and Felicia, and there they
sat, almost in silence, until long after their usual bedtime, but the
sound of guns had ceased, for the siege of Mexico was ended.

It was during that night that General Santa Anna, with nearly all that
was left of his army, marched silently out of the city, and the last
remnants of his political power passed from him as the American troops
began to march in, the next morning. Of all the negotiations between the
remaining Mexican authorities and General Scott, Ned Crawford knew
nothing, but there was disorder everywhere, and it would have been more
perilous than ever for a fellow like him to have been caught in the
streets by any of the reckless, angry men who swarmed among them. On the
evening of the 14th of September, nevertheless, he was standing in the
Paez piazza with Señorita Felicia, and he saw a column of soldiers
coming up the street.

"Señorita!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Look! Our flag! Our men! Hurrah!
Those are the colors of the Seventh! It is my own regiment, and if there
isn't Lieutenant Grant himself!"

"Do not go!" she said. "Do not leave me!" but she was too late, for he
had darted away, and in a moment more he was greeted with:

"Hullo, Ned! I'm glad you didn't make out to get killed. I knew you
couldn't get out, and I'd about given you up. Is that where you live?"

"It's the house I told you of," said Ned. "They are the best kind of
people--"

"Go back there, then," commanded the lieutenant. "Your father is out
among the hospitals just now, taking care of the wounded, but I want to
know where to send him. I'll see you again. I must go on to my post."

Back he ran to the piazza, and even Felicia was compelled to admit that
her friend Señor Carfora's own regiment was splendid, as its close ranks
swung away in such perfect order.

"But," she said, "you might have been killed, if you had been with them,
and I am glad you did not have to kill any of our people."

"So am I," said Ned, "now that it is all over. I guess this is the end
of the war. But how I shall miss poor General Zuroaga!"

Rapidly and prudently, General Scott was occupying the city and
restoring order. With such wisdom and moderation did he perform his
duties as military governor that almost immediately the previously
distressed inhabitants began to regard the arrival of the United States
army as a positive blessing. At the same time, it was obvious to
everybody that months might be required for the necessary peace
negotiations. A new and firm Mexican government would have to be
established, and much difficult legislation would be called for on the
part of the Congress of the United States, since that body was to
appropriate large sums of money in payment for the territory to be
acquired from Mexico.

During three whole days, Ned went from camp to camp and from hospital to
hospital, in search of his father, but Mr. Crawford had heard tidings of
his son which satisfied him, and he stuck to his wounded soldiers. It
was not, therefore, until the afternoon of the third day that Ned found
a grand reception prepared for him in the parlor of the Paez mansion.

"Father!" he shouted, as he hurried in, after Felicia, at the door, had
warned him of what was before him. "Hurrah! Here I am!"

What happened or was said next, he did not know until he felt himself
somewhat roughly shaken by somebody, and was forced to exclaim:

"Hullo, Captain Kemp! Are you here, too? I declare!"

"Here I am," said the captain, "and I'm going to take you and your
father back to New York on the ship that brought us. You have been in
Mexico long enough."

Ned did not so much as have time to hurrah again before Señora Tassara
came forward to say to him:

"That is not all, Señor Carfora. For the sake of my husband's health,
and for other reasons, he and I and Felicia and Señora Paez are
intending to spend our next winter in the United States. We have
accepted your father's invitation to be passengers with you. What do you
think of that?"

Ned could hardly say what he thought, but he tried to, and perhaps his
best effort was made when he said to Felicia:

"Isn't it tip-top! I'll show you all over the city,--but I'm afraid you
will get awfully seasick on the way. I did at first."

"She will have to run the risk of that," laughed her mother, but after
Ned's long conference with his father was ended, she and Ned spent the
rest of the evening in a discussion of the sights which were to be seen
in the great city of the Americans.

"There would be no use in your remaining here now," Mr. Crawford had
said to Ned. "My business with the army will run right along for a time,
but nothing else can be done until all things are quiet and settled.
Then we may try and find out what good your Mexican experience has done
you."

Mr. Crawford went away at a late hour, but Ned was out of the house
early enough the next morning. He had a strong notion in his head, and
it led him to the grand plaza, to stand in front of the government
building which had been the headquarters of so many different kinds of
governments of Mexico. It was really a fine and costly affair, but the
Mexican national banner was no longer floating from its tall flagstaff.
Instead of it was a broad and beautiful Stars and Stripes, and it had
never before appeared to Ned so very beautiful.

He was gazing up at that evidence that the city was in the hands of
General Scott and his army, when a voice that he knew hailed him with:

"Hullo, youngster! That's our flag. Where's your friend Grant? Have you
seen him?"

"Captain Lee!" exclaimed Ned. "Yes, I've seen him. He's all right."

"So I hear," said Lee. "And they say he distinguished himself at Molino
del Rey. His regiment lost a number of men, too."

"Well," said Ned, "I wasn't with my regiment in these battles here, but
I'm glad that my army has taken Mexico. Grant's a splendid fellow."

"My regiment! My army!" laughed Captain Lee. "All right; that's the way
every American boy ought to feel. I guess you are right about Grant,
too. He may be heard of again some day."

"Tell you what," said Ned. "When I get to New York, I mean to join one
of our city regiments as soon as I can. Then, if there ever is another
war, I'm going to join him. I'd like to serve under him."

"Good!" said Lee. "And then I may hear of Colonel Crawford, of Grant's
Division, United States Volunteers. Good-by. Take care of yourself."

THE END.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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