The road out of Béxar led past a series of crumbling, desanctified missions, their old irrigation ditches clogged with leaves and their apartments inhabited by ragged Indian laborers who huddled within the broken walls at night in fear of Comanche raids. The Spanish friars had left behind mouldering aqueducts as well, and here and there Edmund spotted the crosses they had carved in the trees a century ago to mark the route of the Camino Real. Age had blurred and weathered the crosses, but at the place where the La Bahía road took leave of the old imperial highway the markers were fresh -- a series of pointing hands sharply chiselled into the bark of the live oaks.
He followed the hands urging him southeast, toward the Gulf of Mexico a hundred and fifty miles distant. After a while the hands disappeared and the road itself grew faint, as if deferring to the greater authority of the river. Edmund retained an animal alertness as he rode along, but a part of his mind was lulled into hypnotic contentment. He watched kingfishers and herons sweeping along the bright river, the hawks perched with brooding detachment in the bare trees. He sighted the terrain ahead through the markers of Cabezon's bristly ears, and found himself entranced by the powerful sweep of her neck, the cascading hair of her cinnamon mane. He had bought the mare a year ago from a Lipan who had captured her in the Wild Horse Desert. The creasing scar still showed, a deep furrow in her neck that marked where the mustanger had expertly disabled her by tickling her spinal column with a rifle ball. Edmund rubbed the furrow idly now with his thumb, feeling the taut, vigilant muscle in which it was buried. Cabezon's scar saddened him whenever he considered it. It was the mark of her servitude, the sign that he would always be her master and never, as he strangely craved to be, her comrade.
Excerpted from The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan Copyright© 2000 by Stephen Harrigan. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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