THE STORMING OF THE ALAMO
Be ribbed with iron for this one attempt:
Set ope' your sluices, send the vigorous blood
Through every active limb for our relief."
"Now they begin the tragic play,
And with their smoky cannon banish day."
"Endure and conquer. God will soon dispose
To future good our past and present woes:
Resume your courage, and dismiss your care;
An hour will come with pleasure to relate
Your sorrows past, as benefits of Fate."
The Senora was already dressed. She turned with a face full
of fear and anger to her daughters as they entered her room--
"These American diablos! They are attacking the city. They
will take it--that is to be expected--who can fight diablos?
And what is to become of us? Oh, Antonia! Why did you
prevent Fray Ignatius? We might now have been safe in the
convent", and Rachela nodded her head in assent,
with an insufferable air of reproof and toleration.
Antonia saw that the time had not yet come for pleading her
own cause. She left Isabel with her mother. The Senora's
breakfast was waiting, and she offered to share it with her
youngest daughter. Antonia went downstairs to prepare for
herself some coffee. She was surprised and pleased to find it
made. For a certain thought had come to Molly in the night
and she had acted upon it--
"The praist is a strange praist, and almost as black as a
nagur; and I'd be a poor body, I think, to let him be meddling
wid my work. Shure, I never heard of the like of such
interfering in Ireland, nor in the States at all!" Then
turning to the Mexican cook, Manuel--"You may lave the fire
alone till I bees done wid it."
"Fray Ignatius will not give you absolution if you disobey him."
"He can be kaping the same then. There is an Irish praist
at San Patricio, and I'll be going there for my absolution;
and I'll be getting none any nearer that an Irish soul will be
a pin the better for. I'll say that, standing in the church,
to the saints themselves; and so be aff wid you and let the fire alone
till I bees done wid it."
But it was not Molly's place to serve the food she cooked, and
she did not trouble herself about the serving. When she had
asserted her right to control her own work, and do it or
neglect it as it seemed good to herself alone, she was
satisfied. Over Antonia--who was at least half a Mexican--she
acknowledged a Mexican priest to have authority; and she had
no intention of interfering between Fray Ignatius and his
lawful flock. She was smoking her pipe by the fire when
Antonia entered the kitchen, and she neither lifted her eyes
nor spoke to her.
Against such unreasonable isolation Antonia could not help
a feeling of anger; and she heard with satisfaction the regular
crack of the rifles. Her thought was--"They will make these
people find their tongues also, very soon." She was
exceedingly anxious for information; and, as she ate her roll
and drank her coffees she was considering how they could gain it.
For even if Fray Ignatius were able to visit them, his report
would be colored by his prejudices and his desires, and could not
be relied on.
Her heart fluttered and sank; she was hot and cold, sanguine
and fearful. She could not endure the idea of a suspense
unrelieved by any reliable word. For the siege might be a
long one. San Antonio was strongly walled and defended. The
Alamo fortress stood in its centre. It had forty-eight
cannon, and a garrison of a thousand men. Before it could be
reached, the city had to be taken; and the inhabitants would
in the main fight desperately for their homes.
As soon as she was alone with her mother, she pointed out
these facts to her. "Let me write to Lopez Navarro, mi madre.
He is a friend."
"Of the Americans! Si."
"Of freedom. He will send us word."
"Are you forgetful of what is moral and respectable, Antonia?
That a young lady should write to Lopez Navarro--a man that is
unmarried--is such a thing as never before happened! He would
think the world had come to an end, or worse."
"Dear mother! In a time of trouble like this, who would
think wrong of us? Surely you might write."
"As you say, Antonia. Tell me, then, who will take the letter."
"The peon Ortiz will take it. This morning he brought in wood
and kindled the fire, and I saw in his face the kindness of his heart."
After some further persuasion, the Senora agreed to write; and
Ortiz undertook the commission, with a nod of understanding.
Then there remained nothing to be done but to listen and to
watch. Fortunately, however, Rachela found the centre of
interest among the servants in the kitchen; and the Senora and
her daughter could converse without espionage.
Just after sunset a letter arrived from Navarro. Rachela
lingered in the room to learn its contents. But the Senora,
having read them, passed the letter to Antonia and Isabel; and
Rachela saw with anger that Antonia, having carefully
considered it, threw it into the fire. And yet the news it
brought was not unfavorable:
"SENORA MARIA FLORES WORTH:
"I send this on December the fifth, in the year of our
Blessed Lord and Lady 1835. It is my honor and pleasure to
tell you that the Americans, having performed miracles of
valor, reached the Plaza this afternoon. Here the main body
of the Mexican troops received them, and there has been severe
fighting. At sunset, the Mexicans retreated within the Alamo.
The Texans have taken possession of the Veramendi House, and
the portion of the city surrounding it. There has been a
great slaughter of our poor countrymen. I charge myself
whenever I pass the Plaza, to say a paternoster for the souls
who fell there. Senora Maria Flores Worth, I kiss your hands.
I kiss also the hands of the Senorita Antonia, and the hands
of the Senorita Isabel, and I make haste to sign myself,
This little confidence between mother and daughters restored
the tone of feeling between them. They had something to talk
of, personal and exclusive. In the fear and uncertainty, they
forgot priestly interdiction and clung to each other with that affection
which is the strength of danger and the comforter of sorrow.
On the following day the depression deepened. The sounds
of battle were closer at hand. The Mexican servants had an
air of insolence and triumph. Antonia feared for the
evening's report--if indeed Navarro should be able to send
one. She feared more when she saw the messenger early in the
afternoon. "Too early is often worse than too late." The
proverb shivered upon her trembling lips as she took the
letter from him. The three women read it together, with
"SENORA MARIA FLORES WORTH:
"This on the sixth of December, in the year of our Blessed
Lord and Lady 1835. The brave, the illustrious Colonel Milam
is dead. I watched him three hours in to-day's fight. A man
so calm was inconceivable. He was smiling when the ball
struck him--when he fell. The Texans, after his loss, retired
to their quarters. This was at the hour of eleven. At the
hour of one, the Mexicans made another sortie from the Alamo.
The Texans rushed to meet them with an incredible vengeance.
Their leader was General Burleson. He showed himself to
General Cos in a sheet of flame. Such men are not to be
fought. General Cos was compelled to retire to the Alamo.
The battle is over for to-day. On this earth the soul has but
a mortal sword. The water in the river is red with
blood. The Plaza is covered with the dead and the dying. I
have the honor to tell you that these `miserables' are being
attended to by the noble, the charitable Senor Doctor Worth.
As I write, he is kneeling among them. My soul adores his
humanity. I humbly kiss your hands, Senora, and the hands of
your exalted daughters.
Until midnight this letter furnished the anxious, loving women
with an unceasing topic of interest. The allusion to her husband
made the Senora weep. She retired to her oratory and poured out
her love and her fears in holy salutations, in thanksgivings
The next morning there was an ominous lull in the atmosphere.
As men run backward to take a longer leap forward, so both
armies were taking breath for a fiercer struggle. In the
Worth residencia the suspense was becoming hourly harder to
endure. The Senora and her daughters were hardly conscious of
the home life around them. In that wonderful folk-speech
which so often touches foundation truths, they were not all
there. Their nobler part had projected itself beyond its
limitations. It was really in the struggle. It mattered
little to them now whether food was cooked or not. They
were neither hungry nor sleepy. Existence was prayer and
Just before sunset Antonia saw Don Lopez coming through the
garden. The Senora, accompanied by her daughters, went to
meet him. His face was perplexed and troubled:
"General Cos has been joined by Ugartechea with three hundred
men," he said. "You will see now that the fight will be still
And before daylight broke on the morning of the 5th, the
Americans attacked the Alamo. The black flag waved above
them; the city itself had the stillness of death; but for
hours the dull roar and the clamorous tumult went on without
cessation. The Senora lay upon her bed motionless, with hands
tightly locked. She had exhausted feeling, and was passive.
Antonia and Isabel wandered from window to window, hoping to
see some token which would indicate the course of events.
Nothing was visible but the ferocious flag flying out above
the desperate men fighting below it. So black! So cruel and
defiant it looked! It seemed to darken and fill the
whole atmosphere around it. And though the poor women
had not dared to whisper to each other what it said to them,
they knew in their own hearts that it meant, if the Americans
failed, the instant and brutal massacre of every prisoner.
The husband and father were under its inhuman shadow. So most
probably were Darius Grant and Luis Alveda. It was even
likely that Jack might have returned ere the fight, and was
with the besiegers. Every time they went to the window, it
filled their hearts with horror.
In the middle of the afternoon it suddenly disappeared.
Antonia watched it breathlessly. Several times before, it had
been dropped by some American rifle; but this time it was not
as speedily replaced. In a few minutes she uttered a shrill
cry. It was in a voice so strained, so piercing, so unlike
her own, that the Senora leaped from her bed. Antonia turned
to meet her mother with white, parted lips. She was speechless
with excess of feeling, but she pointed to the Alamo.
The black flag was no longer there! A white one was flying
in its place.
"IT IS A SURRENDER!" gasped Antonia. "IT IS A SURRENDER!"
as if in response to her words, a mighty shout and a simultaneous
salute of rifles hailed the emblem of victory.
An hour afterwards a little Mexican boy came running with all
his speed. He brought a few lines from Don Lopez. They had
evidently been written in a great hurry, and on a piece of
paper torn from his pocket-book, but oh! how welcome they were.
The very lack of formality gave to them a certain hurry of good fortune:
"May you and yours be God's care for many years to come,
Senora! The Mexicans have surrendered the Alamo, and asked
for quarter. These noble-minded Americans have given it. The
Senor Doctor will bring you good news. I rejoice with you.
Death and captivity had been turned away from their home, and
the first impulse of these pious, simple-hearted women was a
prayer of thanksgiving. Then Antonia remembered the
uncomfortable state of the household, and the probable
necessities of the men coming back from mortal strife and
the shadow of death.
She found that the news had already changed the domestic
atmosphere. Every servant was attending to his duty. Every
one professed a great joy in the expected arrival of the
Senor. And what a happy impetus the hope gave to her own
hands! How delightful it was to be once more arranging the
evening meal, and brightening the rooms with fire and light!
Soon after dark they heard the swing of the garden gate, the
tramp of rapid footsteps, and the high-pitched voices of
excited men. The door was flung wide. The Senora forgot that
it was cold. She went with outstretched arms to meet her
husband. Dare and Luis were with him. They were black with
the smoke of battle. Their clothing was torn and bloodstained;
the awful light of the fierce struggle was still upon their faces.
But they walked like heroes, and the glory of the deeds they
had done crowned with its humanity, made them appear
to the women that loved them but a little lower than the angels.
Doctor Worth held his wife close to his heart and kissed
her tears of joy away, and murmured upon her lips the
tenderest words a woman ever hears--the words a man never
perfectly learns till he has loved his wife through a quarter
of a century of change, and sorrow, and anxiety. And what
could Antonia give Dare but the embrace, the kiss, the sweet
whispers of love and pride, which were the spontaneous outcome
of both hearts?
There was a moment's hesitation on the part of Luis and
Isabel. The traditions of caste and country, the social bonds
of centuries, held them. But Isabel snapped them asunder.
She looked at Luis. His eyes were alight with love for her,
his handsome face was transfigured with the nobility of the
emotions that possessed him. In spite of his disordered
dress, he was incomparably handsome. When he said, "Angel
mio!" and bent to kiss her hand, she lifted her lovely face to
his, she put her arms around his neck, she cried softly on his
breast, whispering sweet little diminutives of affection and
pride. Such hours as followed are very rare in this life; and
they are nearly always bought with a great price--paid for in
advance with sorrow and anxiety, or earned by such
faithful watching and patient waiting as touches the very
citadel of life.
The men were hungry; they had eaten nothing all day. How
delicious was their meal! How happy and merry it made the
Senora, and Antonia, and Isabel, to see them empty dish after
dish; to see their unaffected enjoyment of the warm room, and
bright fire, of their after-dinner coffee and tobacco. There
was only one drawback to the joy of the reunion--the absence
"His disappointment will be greater than ours," said Jack's
father. "To be present at the freeing of his native city, and
to bring his first laurels to his mother, was the brightest
dream Jack had. But Jack is a fine rider, and is not a very
fine marksman; so it was decided to send him with Houston to
the Convention. We expected him back before the attack on the
city began. Indeed, we were waiting for orders from the
Convention to undertake it."
"Then you fought without orders, father?"
"Well, yes, Antonia--in a way. Delays in war are as dangerous
as in love. We were surrounded by dragoons, who scoured the
country in every direction to prevent our foraging. San
Antonio HAD to be taken. Soon done was well done. On the
third of December Colonel Milam stepped in front of the ranks,
and asked if two hundred of the men would go with him and
storm the city. The whole eleven hundred stepped forward, and
gave him their hands and their word. From them two hundred of
the finest marksmen were selected."
"I have to say that was a great scene, mi Roberto."
"The greater for its calmness, I think. There was no shouting,
no hurrahing, no obvious enthusiasm. It was the simple assertion
of serious men determined to carry out their object."
"And you stormed San Antonio with two hundred men, father?"
"But every man was a picked man. A Mexican could not show his
head above the ramparts and live. We had no powder and ball
to waste; and I doubt if a single ball missed its aim."
"A Mexican is like a Highland Scot in one respect," said Dare;"
he fights best with steel. They are good cavalry soldiers."
"There are no finer cavalry in the world than the
horsemen from Santa Fe, Dare. But with powder and ball
Mexicans trust entirely to luck; and luck is nowhere against
Kentucky sharpshooters. Their balls very seldom reached us,
though we were close to the ramparts; and we gathered them up
by thousands, and sent them back with our double-Dupont
powder. THEN they did damage enough. In fact, we have
taken the Alamo with Mexican balls."
"Under what flag did you fight, Roberto?"
"Under the Mexican republican flag of eighteen twenty-four;
but indeed, Maria, I do not think we had one in the camp. We
were destitute of all the trappings of war--we had no
uniforms, no music, no flags, no positive military discipline.
But we had one heart and mind, and one object in view; and
this four days' fight has shown what men can do, who are moved
by a single, grand idea."
The Senora lay upon a sofa; the doctor sat by her side.
Gradually their conversation became more low and confidential.
They talked of their sons, and their probable whereabouts; of
all that the Senora and her daughters had suffered from the
disaffection of the servants; and the attitude taken by
Fray Ignatius. And the doctor noticed, without much surprise,
that his wife's political sympathies were still in a state of
transition and uncertainty. She could not avoid prophesying
the speedy and frightful vengeance of Mexico. She treated the
success at San Antonio as one of the accidents of war. She
looked forward to an early renewal of hostilities.
"My countrymen are known to me, Roberto," she said, with a
touch that was almost a hope of vengeance. "They have an
insurmountable honor; they will revenge this insult to it in
some terrible way. If the gracious Maria holds not the hands
of Santa Anna, he will utterly destroy the Americans! He will
be like a tiger that has become mad."
"I am not so much afraid of Santa Anna as of Fray Ignatius.
Promise me, my dear Maria, that you will not suffer yourself
or your children to be decoyed by him into a convent. I
should never see you again."
The discussion on this subject was long and eager. Antonia,
talking with Dare a little apart, could not help hearing it
and feeling great interest in her father's entreaties, even
though she was discussing with Dare the plans for their
future. For Dare had much to tell his betrothed. During the
siege, the doctor had discovered that his intended son-in-law
was a fine surgeon. Dare had, with great delicacy, been quite
reticent on this subject, until circumstances made his
assistance a matter of life and death; and the doctor
understood and appreciated the young man's silence.
"He thinks I might have a touch of professional jealousy--he
thinks I might suspect him of wanting a partnership as well as
a wife; he wishes to take his full share of the dangers of
war, without getting behind the shield of his profession";
these feelings the doctor understood, and he passed from Fray
Ignatius to this pleasanter topic, gladly.
He told the Senora what a noble son they were going to have;
he said, "when the war is over, Maria, my dear, he shall marry
"And what do you say, Roberto, if I should give them the fine
house on the Plaza that my brother Perfecto left me?"
"If you do that you will be the best mother in the world,
Maria. I then will take Dare into partnership. He is good
and clever; and I am a little weary of work. I shall enjoy
coming home earlier to you. We will go riding and walking,
and our courting days will begin again."
"Maria Santissima! How delightful that will be, Roberto! And
as for our Isabel, shall we not make her happy also? Luis
should have done as his own family have done; a young man to
go against his mother and his uncles, that is very wicked!
but, if we forgive that fault, well, then, Luis is as good as
"I think so. He began the study of the law. He must finish it.
He must learn the American laws also. I am not a poor man, Maria.
I will give Isabel the fortune worthy of a Yturbide or a Flores--
a fortune that will make her very welcome to the Alvedas."
The Senora clasped her husband's hand with a smile. They were
sweetening their own happiness with making the happiness of
their children. They looked first at Antonia. She sat with
Dare, earnestly talking to him in a low voice. Dare clasped
in his own the dear little hand that had been promised to
him. Antonia bent toward her lover; her fair head rested
against his shoulder. Isabel sat in a large chair, and Luis
leaned on the back of it, stooping his bright face to the
lovely one which was sometimes dropped to hide her blushes,
and sometimes lifted with flashing eyes to answer his tender words.
"My happiness is so great, Roberto, I am even tired of being
happy. Call Rachela. I must go to sleep. To-night I cannot
even say an ave."
"God hears the unspoken prayer in your heart, Maria; and tonight
let me help you upstairs. My arm is stronger than Rachela's."
She rose with a little affectation of greater weakness and
lassitude than she really felt. But she wished to be weak, so
that her Roberto might be strong--to be quite dependent on his
care and tenderness. And she let her daughters embrace
her so prettily, and then offered her hand to Dare and Luis
with so much grace and true kindness that both young men were
"It is to be seen that they are gentlemen," she said, as she
went slowly upstairs on her husband's arm--"and hark!
that is the singing of Luis. What is it he says?" They stood
still to listen. Clear and sweet were the chords of the
mandolin, and melodiously to them Luis was protesting--
"Freedom shall have our shining blades!
Our hearts are yours, fair Texan maids!"
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