Part 2 out of 3
ashamed now. Please leave me!"
She threw away the leaf she had crumpled in her
hand and covered her face with a corner of her apron.
When she opened her eyes, Luis Cervantes had disap-
She followed the river trail. The river seemed to have
been sprinkled with a fine red dust. On its surface drifted
now a sky of variegated colors, now the dark crags,
half light, half shadow. Myriads of luminous insects
twinkled in a hollow. Camilla, standing on the beach of
washed, round stones, caught a reflection of herself in
the waters; she saw herself in her yellow blouse with the
green ribbons, her white skirt, her carefully combed hair,
her wide eyebrows and broad forehead, exactly as she
had dressed to please Luis. She burst into tears.
Among the reeds, the frogs chanted the implacable
melancholy of the hour. Perched on a dry root, a dove
That evening, there was much merrymaking at the
dance, and a great quantity of mezcal was drunk.
"I miss Camilla," said Demetrio in a loud voice.
Everybody looked about for Camilla.
"She's sick, she's got a headache," said Agapita harsh-
ly, uneasy as she caught sight of the malicious glances
leveled at her.
When the dance was over, Demetrio, somewhat un-
steady on his feet, thanked all the kind neighbors who
had welcomed them and promised that when the revo-
lution had triumphed he would remember them one and
all, because "hospital or jail is a true test of friendship."
"May God's hand lead you all," said an old woman.
"God bless you all and keep you well," others added.
Utterly drunk, Maria Antonia said:
"Come back soon, damn soon!"
On the morrow, Maria Antonia, who, though she was
pockmarked and walleyed, nevertheless enjoyed a no-
torious reputation--indeed it was confidently proclaimed
that no man had failed to go with her behind the river
weeds at some time or other--shouted to Camilla:
"Hey there, you! What's the matter? What are you
doing there skulking in the corner with a shawl tied
round your head! You're crying, I wager. Look at her
eyes; they look like a witch's. There's no sorrow lasts
more than three days!"
Agapita knitted her eyebrows and muttered indistinct-
ly to herself.
The old crones felt uneasy and lonesome since Deme-
trio's men had left. The men, too, in spite of their gossip
and insults, lamented their departure since now they
would have no one to bring them fresh meat every day.
It is pleasant indeed to spend your time eating and drink-
ing, and sleeping all day long in the cool shade of the
rocks, while clouds ravel and unravel their fleecy threads
on the blue shuttle of the sky.
"Look at them again. There they go!" Maria Antonia
yelled. "Why, they look like toys."
Demetrio's men, riding their thin nags, could still be
descried in the distance against the sapphire translucence
of the sky, where the broken rocks and the chaparral
melted into a single bluish smooth surface. Across the air
a gust of hot wind bore the broken, faltering strains of
"La Adelita," the revolutionary song, to the settlement.
Camilla, who had come out when Maria Antonia
shouted, could no longer control herself; she dived back
into her hut, unable to restrain her tears and moaning.
Maria Antonia burst into laughter and moved off.
"They've cast the evil eye on my daughter," Agapita
said in perplexity. She pondered a while, then duly reached
a decision. From a pole in the hut she took down a piece
of strong leather which her husband used to hitch up the
yoke. This pole stood between a picture of Christ and
one of the Virgin. Agapita promptly twisted the leather
and proceeded to administer a sound thrashing to Camil-
la in order to dispel the evil spirits.
Riding proudly on his horse, Demetrio felt like a new
man. His eyes recovered their peculiar metallic brilliance,
and the blood flowed, red and warm, through his cop-
pery, pure-blooded Aztec cheeks.
The men threw out their chests as if to breathe the
widening horizon, the immensity of the sky, the blue from
the mountains and the fresh air, redolent with the various
odors of the sierra. They spurred their horses to a gallop
as if in that mad race they laid claims of possession to
the earth. What man among them now remembered the
stern chief of police, the growling policeman, or the con-
ceited cacique? What man remembered his pitiful hut
where he slaved away, always under the eyes of the
owner or the ruthless and sullen foreman, always forced
to rise before dawn, and to take up his shovel, basket,
or goad, wearing himself out to earn a mere pitcher of
atole and a handful of beans?
They laughed, they sang, they whistled, drunk with the
sunlight, the air of the open spaces, the wine of life.
Meco, prancing forward on his horse, bared his white
glistening teeth, joking and kicking up like a clown.
"Hey, Pancracio," he asked with utmost seriousness,
"my wife writes me I've got another kid. How in hell is
that? I ain't seen her since Madero was President."
"That's nothing," the other replied. "You just left her
a lot of eggs to hatch for you!"
They all laughed uproariously. Only Meco, grave and
aloof, sang in a voice horribly shrill:
"I gave her a penny
That wasn't enough.
I gave her a nickel
The wench wanted more.
We bargained. I asked
If a dime was enough
But she wanted a quarter.
By God! That was tough!
All wenches are fickle
And trumpery stuff!"
The sun, beating down upon them, dulled their minds
and bodies and presently they were silent. All day long
they rode through the canyon, up and down the steep,
round hills, dirty and bald as a man's head, hill after hill
in endless succession. At last, late in the afternoon, they
descried several stone church towers in the heart of a
bluish ridge, and, beyond, the white road with its curling
spirals of dust and its gray telegraph poles.
They advanced toward the main road; in the distance
they spied a figure of an Indian sitting on the embank-
ment. They drew up to him. He proved to be an un-
friendly looking old man, clad in rags; he was laboriously
attempting to mend his leather sandals with the help of a
dull knife. A burro loaded with fresh green grass stood
by. Demetrio accosted him.
"What are you doing, Grandpa?"
"Gathering alfalfa for my cow."
"How many Federals are there around here?"
"Just a few: not more than a dozen, I reckon."
The old man grew communicative. He told them of
many important rumors: Obregon was besieging Guada-
lajara, Torres was in complete control of the Potosi re-
gion, Natera ruled over Fresnillo.
"All right," said Demetrio, "you can go where you're
headed for, see, but you be damn careful not to tell any-
one you saw us, because if you do, I'll pump you full of
lead. And I could track you down, even if you tried to
hide in the pit of hell, see?"
"What do you say, boys?" Demetrio asked them as
soon as the old man had disappeared.
"To hell with the mochos! We'll kill every blasted one
of them!" they cried in unison.
Then they set to counting their cartridges and the hand
grenades the Owl had made out of fragments of iron
tubing and metal bed handles.
"Not much to brag about, but we'll soon trade them
for rifles," Anastasio observed.
Anxiously they pressed forward, spurring the thin flanks
of their nags to a gallop. Demetrio's brisk, imperious
tones of order brought them abruptly to a halt.
They dismounted by the side of a hill, protected by
thick huizache trees. Without unsaddling their horses,
each began to search for stones to serve as pillows.
At midnight Demetrio Macias ordered the march to
be resumed. The town was five or six miles away; the best
plan was to take the soldiers by surprise, before reveille.
The sky was cloudy, with here and there a star shining.
From time to time a flash of lightning crossed the sky
with a red dart, illumining the far horizon.
Luis Cervantes asked Demetrio whether the success of
the attack might not be better served by procuring a guide
or leastways by ascertaining the topographic conditions of
the town and the precise location of the soldiers' quar-
"No," Demetrio answered, accompanying his smile with
a disdainful gesture, "we'll simply fall on them when they
least expect it; that's all there is to it, see? We've done it
before all right, lots of times! Haven't you ever seen the
squirrels stick their heads out of their holes when you
poured in water? Well, that's how these lousy soldiers are
going to feel. Do you see? They'll be frightened out of
their wits the moment they hear our first shot. Then they'll
slink out and stand as targets for us."
"Suppose the old man we met yesterday lied to us.
Suppose there are fifty soldiers instead of twenty. Who
knows but he's a spy sent out by the Federals!"
"Ha, Tenderfoot, frightened already, eh?" Anastasio
"Sure! Handling a rifle and messing about with band-
ages are two different things," Pancracio observed.
"Well, that's enough talk, I guess," said Meco. "All we
have to do is fight a dozen frightened rats."
"This fight won't convince our mothers that they gave
birth to men or whatever the hell you like. . . ." Manteca
When they reached the outskirts of the town, Venancio
walked ahead and knocked at the door of a hut.
"Where's the soldiers' barracks?" he inquired of a man
who came out barefoot, a ragged serape covering his
"Right there, just beyond the Plaza," he answered.
Since nobody knew where the city square was, Venan-
cio made him walk ahead to show the way. Trembling
with fear, the poor devil told them they were doing him
a terrible wrong.
"I'm just a poor day laborer, sir; I've got a wife and a
lot of kids."
"What the hell do you think I have, dogs?" Demetrio
scowled. "I've got kids too, see?"
Then he commanded:
"You men keep quiet. Not a sound out of you! And
walk down the middle of the street, single file."
The rectangular church cupola rose above the small
"Here, gentlemen; there's the Plaza beyond the church.
Just walk a bit further and there's the barracks."
He knelt down, then, imploring them to let him go, but
Pancracio, without pausing to reply, struck him across
the chest with his rifle and ordered him to proceed.
"How many soldiers are there?" Luis Cervantes asked.
"I don't want to lie to you, boss, but to tell you the
truth, yes, sir, to tell you God's truth, there's a lot of
them, a whole lot of 'em."
Luis Cervantes turned around to stare at Demetrio,
who feigned momentary deafness.
They were soon in the city square.
A loud volley of rifle shots rang out, deafening them.
Demetrio's horse reared, staggered on its hind legs, bent
its forelegs, and fell to the ground, kicking. The Owl
uttered a piercing cry and fell from his horse which
rushed madly to the center of the square.
Another volley: the guide threw up his arms and fell
on his back without a sound.
With all haste, Anastasio Montanez helped Demetrio
up behind him on his horse; the others retreated, seek-
ing shelter along the walls of the houses.
"Hey, men," said a workman sticking his head out of a
large door, "go for 'em through the back of the chapel.
They're all in there. Cut back through this street, then
turn to the left; you'll reach an alley. Keep on going ahead
until you hit the chapel."
As he spoke a fresh volley of pistol shots, directed
from the neighboring roofs, fell like a rain about them.
"By God," the man said, "those ain't poisonous spiders;
they're only townsmen scared of their own shadow. Come
in here until they stop."
"How many of them are there?" asked Demetrio.
"There were only twelve of them. But last night they
were scared out of their wits so they wired to the town
beyond for help. I don't know how many of them there
are now. Even if there are a hell of a lot of them, it
doesn't cut any ice! Most of them aren't soldiers, you
know, but drafted men; if just one of them starts mu-
tinying, the rest will follow like sheep. My brother was
drafted; they've got him there. I'll go along with you
and signal to him; all of them will desert and follow you.
Then we'll only have the officers to deal with! If you want
to give me a gun or something. . . ."
"No more rifles left, brother. But I guess you can
put these to some use," Anastasio Montanez said, passing
him two hand grenades.
The officer in command of the Federals was a young
coxcomb of a captain with a waxed mustache and blond
hair. As long as he felt uncertain about the strength of the
assailants, he had remained extremely quiet and prudent;
but now that they had driven the rebels back without al-
lowing them a chance to fire a single shot, he waxed bold
and brave. While the soldiers did not dare put out their
heads beyond the pillars of the building, his own shadow
stood against the pale clear dawn, exhibiting his well-built
slender body and his officer's cape bellying in the breeze.
"Ha, I remember our coup d'etat!"
His military career had consisted of the single adven-
ture when, together with other students of the Officers'
School, he was involved in the treacherous revolt of
Feliz Diaz and Huerta against President Madero. When-
ever the slightest insubordination arose, he invariably re-
called his feat at the Ciudadela.
"Lieutenant Campos," he ordered emphatically, "take
a dozen men and wipe out the bandits hiding there! The
curs! They're only brave when it comes to guzzling meat
and robbing a hencoop!"
A workingman appeared at the small door of the spiral
staircase, announcing that the assailants were hidden in
a corral where they might easily be captured. This mes-
sage came from the citizens keeping watch on housetops.
"I'll go myself and get it over with!" the officer de-
But he soon changed his mind. Before he had reached
the door, he retraced his steps.
"Very likely they are waiting for more men and, of
course, it would be wrong for me to abandon my post.
Lieutenant Campos, go there yourself and capture them
dead or alive. We'll shoot them at noon when every-
body's coming out of church. Those bandits will see the
example I'll set around here. But if you can't capture
them, Lieutenant, kill them all. Don't leave a man of
them alive, do you understand?"
In high good humor, he began pacing up and down
the room, formulating the official despatch he would send
off no later than today.
To His Honor the Minister for War,
General A. Blanquet,
I have the honor to inform your Excellency that on the
morning of . . . a rebel army, five hundred strong, com-
manded by . . . attacked this town, which I am charged
to defend. With such speed as the gravity of the situation
called for, I fortified my post in the town. The battle
lasted two hours. Despite the superiority of the enemy in
men and equipment, I was able to defeat and rout them.
Their casualties were twenty killed and a far greater num-
ber of wounded, judging from the trails of blood they left
behind them as they retreated. I am pleased to state there
was no casualty on our side. I have the honor to con-
gratulate Your Excellency upon this new triumph for the
Federal arms. Viva Presidente Huerta! Viva Mexico!
"Well," the young captain mused, "I'll be promoted to
major." He clasped his hands together, jubilant. At this
precise moment, a detonation rang out. His ears buzzed, he--
If we get through the corral, we can make the alley,
eh?" Demetrio asked.
"That's right," the workman answered. "Beyond the
corral there's a house, then another corral, then there's
Demetrio scratched his head, thoughtfully. This time
his decision was immediate.
"Can you get hold of a crowbar or something like that
to make a hole through the wall?"
"Yes, we'll get anything you want, but . . ."
"But what? Where can we get a crowbar?"
"Everything is right there. But it all belongs to the
Without further ado, Demetrio strode into the shed
which had been pointed out as the toolhouse.
It was all a matter of a few minutes. Once in the alley,
hugging to the walls, they marched forward in single file
until they reached the rear of the church. Now they had
but a single fence and the rear wall of the chapel to
"God's will be done!" Demetrio said to himself. He was
the first to clamber over.
Like monkeys the others followed him, reaching the
other side with bleeding, grimy hands. The rest was easy.
The deep worn steps along the stonework made their as-
cent of the chapel wall swifter. The church vault hid
them from the soldiers.
"Wait a moment, will you?" said the workman. "I'll
go and see where my brother is; I'll let you know and then
you'll get at the officers."
But no one paid the slightest attention to him.
For a second, Demetrio glanced at the soldiers' black
coats hanging on the wall, then at his own men, thick on
the church tower behind the iron rail. He smiled with
satisfaction and turning to his men said:
"Come on, now, boys!"
Twenty bombs exploded simultaneously in the midst
of the soldiers who, awaking terrified out of their sleep,
started up, their eyes wide open. But before they had real-
ized their plight, twenty more bombs burst like thunder
upon them leaving a scattering of men killed or maimed.
"Don't do that yet, for God's sake! Don't do it till I
find my brother," the workman implored in anguish.
In vain an old sergeant harangued the soldiers, insult-
ing them in the hope of rallying them. For they were rats,
caught in a trap, no more, no less. Some of the soldiers,
attempting to reach the small door by the staircase, fell
to the ground pierced by Demetrio's shots. Others fell at
the feet of these twenty-odd specters, with faces and
breasts dark as iron, clad in long torn trousers of white
cloth which fell to their leather sandals, scattering death
and destruction below them. In the belfry, a few men
struggled to emerge from the pile of dead who had fallen
"It's awful, Chief!" Luis Cervantes cried in alarm.
"We've no more bombs left and we left our guns in the
Smiling, Demetrio drew out a large shining knife. In the
twinkling of an eye, steel flashed in every hand. Some
knives were large and pointed, others wide as the palm
of a hand, others heavy as bayonets.
"The spy!" Luis Cervantes cried triumphantly. "Didn't
I tell you?"
"Don't kill me, Chief, please don't kill me," the old ser-
geant implored squirming at the feet of Demetrio, who
stood over him, knife in hand. The victim raised his
wrinkled Indian face; there was not a single gray hair in
his head today. Demetrio recognized the spy who had
lied to him the day before. Terrified, Luis Cervantes
quickly averted his face. The steel blade went crack,
crack, on the old man's ribs. He toppled backward, his
arms spread, his eyes ghastly.
"Don't kill my brother, don't kill him, he's my brother!"
the workman shouted in terror to Pancracio who was
pursuing a soldier. But it was too late. With one thrust,
Pancracio had cut his neck in half, and two streams of
scarlet spurted from the wound.
"Kill the soldiers, kill them all!"
Pancracio and Manteca surpassed the others in the
savagery of their slaughter, and finished up with the
wounded. Montanez, exhausted, let his arm fall; it hung
limp to his side. A gentle expression still filled his glance;
his eyes shone; he was naive as a child, unmoral as a
"Here's one who's not dead yet," Quail shouted.
Pancracio ran up. The little blond captain with curled
mustache turned pale as wax. He stood against the door
to the staircase unable to muster enough strength to take
Pancracio pushed him brutally to the edge of the cor-
ridor. A jab with his knee against the captain's thigh--
then a sound not unlike a bag of stones falling from the
top of the steeple on the porch of the church.
"My God, you've got no brains!" said Quail. "If I'd
known what you were doing, I'd have kept him for my-
self. That was a fine pair of shoes you lost!"
Bending over them, the rebels stripped those among
the soldiers who were best clad, laughing and joking as
they despoiled them. Brushing back his long hair, that
had fallen over his sweating forehead and covered his
eyes, Demetrio said:
"Now let's get those city fellows!"
On the day General Natera began his advance against
the town of Zacatecas, Demetrio with a hundred men went
to meet him at Fresnillo.
The leader received him cordially.
"I know who you are and the sort of men you bring.
I heard about the beatings you gave the Federals from
Tepic to Durango."
Natera shook hands with Demetrio effusively while Luis
"With men like General Natera and Colonel Demetrio
Macias, we'll cover our country with glory."
Demetrio understood the purpose of those words, after
Natera had repeatedly addressed him as "Colonel."
Wine and beer were served; Demetrio and Natera
drank many a toast. Luis Cervantes proposed: "The tri-
umph of our cause, which is the sublime triumph of Jus-
tice, because our ideal--to free the noble, long-suffering
people of Mexico--is about to be realized and because
those men who have watered the earth with their blood
and tears will reap the harvest which is rightfully theirs."
Natera fixed his cruel gaze on the orator, then turned his
back on him to talk to Demetrio. Presently, one of Na-
tera's officers, a young man with a frank open face, drew
up to the table and stared insistently at Cervantes.
"Are you Luis Cervantes?"
"Yes. You're Solis, eh?"
"The moment you entered I thought I recognized you.
Well, well, even now I can hardly believe my eyes!"
"It's true enough!"
"Well, but . . . look here, let's have a drink, come
"Hm," Solis went on, offering Cervantes a chair,
"since when have you turned rebel?"
"I've been a rebel the last two months!"
"Oh, I see! That's why you speak with such faith and
enthusiasm about things we all felt when we joined the
"Have you lost your faith or enthusiasm?"
"Look here, man, don't be surprised if I confide in you
right off. I am so anxious to find someone intelligent
among this crowd, that as soon as I get hold of a man
like you I clutch at him as eagerly as I would at a glass
of water, after walking mile after mile through a parched
desert. But frankly, I think you should do the explaining
first. I can't understand how a man who was correspond-
ent of a Government newspaper during the Madero re-
gime, and later editorial writer on a Conservative jour-
nal, who denounced us as bandits in the most fiery ar-
ticles, is now fighting on our side."
"I tell you honestly: I have been converted," Cervantes
"Are you absolutely convinced?"
Solis sighed, filled the glasses; they drank.
"What about you? Are you tired of the revolution?"
asked Cervantes sharply.
"Tired? My dear fellow, I'm twenty-five years old and
I'm fit as a fiddle! But am I disappointed? Perhaps!"
"You must have sound reasons for feeling that way."
"I hoped to find a meadow at the end of the road. I
found a swamp. Facts are bitter; so are men. That bitter-
ness eats your heart out; it is poison, dry rot. Enthu-
siasm, hope, ideals, happiness-vain dreams, vain dreams.
. . . When that's over, you have a choice. Either you
turn bandit, like the rest, or the timeservers will swamp
you. . . ."
Cervantes writhed at his friend's words; his argument
was quite out of place . . . painful. . . . To avoid being
forced to take issue, he invited Solis to cite the cir-
cumstances that had destroyed his illusions.
"Circumstances? No--it's far less important than that.
It's a host of silly, insignificant things that no one notices
except yourself . . . a change of expression, eyes shin-
ing-lips curled in a sneer-the deep import of a phrase
that is lost! Yet take these things together and they com-
pose the mask of our race . . . terrible . . . grotesque . . .
a race that awaits redemption!"
He drained another glass. After a long pause, he con-
"You ask me why I am still a rebel? Well, the revolu-
tion is like a hurricane: if you're in it, you're not a man
. . . you're a leaf, a dead leaf, blown by the wind."
Demetrio reappeared. Seeing him, Solis relapsed into
"Come along," Demetrio said to Cervantes. "Come
Unctuously, Solis congratulated Demetrio on the
feats that had won him fame and the notice of Pancho
Villa's northern division.
Demetrio warmed to his praise. Gratefully, he heard his
prowess vaunted, though at times he found it difficult to
believe he was the hero of the exploits the other nar-
rated. But Solis' story proved so charming, so con-
vincing, that before long he found himself repeating it
as gospel truth.
"Natera is a genius!" Luis Cervantes said when they had
returned to the hotel. "But Captain Solis is a nobody
. . . a timeserver."
Demetrio Macias was too elated to listen to him.
"I'm a colonel, my lad! And you're my secretary!"
Demetrio's men made many acquaintances that eve-
ning; much liquor flowed to celebrate new friendships.
Of course men are not necessarily even tempered, nor is
alcohol a good counselor; quarrels naturally ensued.
Yet many differences that occurred were smoothed out in
a friendly spirit, outside the saloons, restaurants, or broth-
On the morrow, casualties were reported. Always a few
dead. An old prostitute was found with a bullet through
her stomach; two of Colonel Macias' new men lay in the
gutter, slit from ear to ear.
Anastasio Montanez carried an account of the events
to his chief. Demetrio shrugged his shoulders.
"Bury them!" he said.
They're coming back!"
It was with amazement that the inhabitants of Fresnillo
learned that the rebel attack on Zacatecas had failed com-
"They're coming back!"
The rebels were a maddened mob, sunburnt, filthy,
naked. Their high wide-brimmed straw hats hid their
faces. The "high hats" came back as happily as they had
marched forth a few days before, pillaging every hamlet
along the road, every ranch, even the poorest hut.
"Who'll buy this thing?" one of them asked. He had
carried his spoils long: he was tired. The sheen of the
nickel on the typewriter, a new machine, attracted every
glance. Five times that morning the Oliver had changed
hands. The first sale netted the owner ten pesos; pres-
ently it had sold for eight; each time it changed hands, it
was two pesos cheaper. To be sure, it was a heavy bur-
den; nobody could carry it for more than a half-hour.
"I'll give you a quarter for it!" Quail said.
"Yours!" cried the owner, handing it over quickly, as
though he feared Quail might change his mind. Thus for
the sum of twenty-five cents, Quail was afforded the pleas-
ure of taking it in his hands and throwing it with all his
might against the wall.
It struck with a crash. This gave the signal to all who
carried any cumbersome objects to get rid of them by
smashing them against the rocks. Objects of all sorts,
crystal, china, faience, porcelain, flew through the air.
Heavy, plated mirrors, brass candlesticks, fragile, delicate
statues, Chinese vases, any object not readily convertible
into cash fell by the wayside in fragments.
Demetrio did not share the untoward exaltation. After
all, they were retreating defeated. He called Montanez
and Pancracio aside and said:
"These fellows have no guts. It's not so hard to take a
town. It's like this. First, you open up, this way. . . ."
He sketched a vast gesture, spreading his powerful arms.
"Then you get close to them, like this. . . ." He brought
his arms together, slowly. "Then slam! Bang! Whack!
Crash!" He beat his hands against his chest.
Anastasio and Pancracio, convinced by this simple,
lucid explanation answered:
"That's God's truth! They've no guts! That's the trouble
Demetrio's men camped in a corral.
"Do you remember Camilla?" Demetrio asked with a
sigh as he settled on his back on the manure pile where
the rest were already stretched out.
"Camilla? What girl do you mean, Demetrio?"
"The girl that used to feed me up there at the ranch!"
Anastasio made a gesture implying: "I don't care a
damn about the women ... Camilla or anyone else...."
"I've not forgotten," Demetrio went on, drawing on his
cigarette. "Yes, I was feeling like hell! I'd just finished
drinking a glass of water. God, but it was cool. . . . 'Don't
you want any more?' she asked me. I was half dead with
fever . . . and all the time I saw that glass of water, blue
. . . so blue . . . and I heard her little voice, 'Don't you
want any more?' That voice tinkled in my ears like a
silver hurdy-gurdy! Well, Pancracio, what about it? Shall
we go back to the ranch?"
"Demetrio, we're friends, aren't we? Well then, listen.
You may not believe it, but I've had a lot of experience
with women. Women! Christ, they're all right for a while,
granted! Though even that's going pretty far. Demetrio,
you should see the scars they've given me . . . all over
my body, not to speak of my soul! To hell with women.
They're the devil, that's what they are! You may have
noticed I steer clear of them. You know why. And don't
think I don't know what I'm talking about. I've had a hell
of a lot of experience and that's no lie!"
"What do you say, Pancracio? When are we going back
to the ranch?" Demetrio insisted, blowing gray clouds of
tobacco smoke into the air.
"Say the day, I'm game. You know I left my woman
"Your woman, hell!" Quail said, disgruntled and sleepy.
"All right, then, our woman! It's a good thing you're
kindhearted so we all can enjoy her when you bring her
over," Manteca murmured.
"That's right, Pancracio, bring one-eyed Maria An-
tonia. We're all getting pretty cold around here," Meco
shouted from a distance.
The crowd broke into peals of laughter. Pancracio and
Manteca vied with each other in calling forth oaths and
Villa is coming!"
The news spread like lightning. Villa--the magic word!
The Great Man, the salient profile, the unconquerable
warrior who, even at a distance, exerts the fascination of
a reptile, a boa constrictor.
"Our Mexican Napoleon!" exclaimed Luis Cervantes.
"Yes! The Aztec Eagle! He buried his beak of steel
in the head of Huerta the serpent!" Solis, Natera's chief
of staff, remarked somewhat ironically, adding: "At least,
that's how I expressed it in a speech I made at Ciudad
The two sat at the bar of the saloon, drinking beer.
The "high hats," wearing mufflers around their necks and
thick rough leather shoes on their feet, ate and drank
endlessly. Their gnarled hands loomed across table,
across bar. All their talk was of Villa and his men. The
tales Natera's followers related won gasps of astonish-
ment from Demetrio's men. Villa! Villa's battles! Ciu-
dad Juarez . . . Tierra Blanca . . . Chihuahua . . . Tor-
reon. . . .
The bare facts, the mere citing of observation and ex-
perience meant nothing. But the real story, with its ex-
traordinary contrasts of high exploits and abysmal cruel-
ties was quite different. Villa, indomitable lord of the
sierra, the eternal victim of all governments . . . Villa
tracked, hunted down like a wild beast . . . Villa the rein-
carnation of the old legend; Villa as Providence, the ban-
dit, that passes through the world armed with the blazing
torch of an ideal: to rob the rich and give to the poor. It
was the poor who built up and imposed a legend about
him which Time itself was to increase and embellish as a
shining example from generation to generation.
"Look here, friend," one of Natera's men told Anas-
tasio, "if General Villa takes a fancy to you, he'll give you
a ranch on the spot. But if he doesn't, he'll shoot
you down like a dog! God! You ought to see Villa's
troops! They're all northerners and dressed like lords!
You ought to see their wide-brimmed Texas hats and their
brand-new outfits and their four-dollar shoes, imported
from the U. S. A."
As they retailed the wonders of Villa and his men,
Natera's men gazed at one another ruefully, aware that
their own hats were rotten from sunlight and moisture,
that their own shirts and trousers were tattered and
barely fit to cover their grimy, lousy bodies.
"There's no such a thing as hunger up there. They
carry boxcars full of oxen, sheep, cows! They've got cars
full of clothing, trains full of guns, ammunition, food
enough to make a man burst!"
Then they spoke of Villa's airplanes.
"Christ, those planes! You know when they're close
to you, be damned if you know what the hell they are!
They look like small boats, you know, or tiny rafts . . .
and then pretty soon they begin to rise, making a hell of
a row. Something like an automobile going sixty miles an
hour. Then they're like great big birds that don't even
seem to move sometimes. But there's a joker! The God-
damn things have got some American fellow inside with
hand grenades by the thousand. Now you try and figure
what that means! The fight is on, see? You know how
a farmer feeds corn to his chickens, huh? Well, the Amer-
ican throws his lead bombs at the enemy just like that.
Pretty soon the whole damn field is nothing but a grave-
yard . . . dead men all over the dump . . . dead men here
. . . dead men there . . . dead men everywhere!"
Anastasio Montanez questioned the speaker more par-
ticularly. It was not long before he realized that all this
high praise was hearsay and that not a single man in
Natera's army had ever laid eyes on Villa.
"Well, when you get down to it, I guess it doesn't mean
so much! No man's got much more guts than any other
man, if you ask me. All you need to be a good fighter is
pride, that's all. I'm not a professional soldier even though
I'm dressed like hell, but let me tell you. I'm not forced
to do this kind of bloody job, because I own . . ."
"Because I own over twenty oxen, whether you believe
it or not!" Quail said, mocking Anastasio.
The firing lessened, then slowly died out. Luis Cer-
vantes, who had been hiding amid a heap of ruins at the
fortification on the crest of the hill, made bold to show
his face. How he had managed to hang on, he did not
know. Nor did he know when Demetrio and his men had
disappeared. Suddenly he had found himself alone; then,
hurled back by an avalanche of infantry, he fell from his
saddle; a host of men trampled over him until he rose
from the ground and a man on horseback hoisted him
up behind him. After a few moments, horse and riders
fell. Left without rifle, revolver, or arms of any kind, Cer-
vantes found himself lost in the midst of white smoke and
whistling bullets. A hole amid a debris of crumbling
stone offered a refuge of safety.
"Luis, how are you!"
"The horse threw me. They fell upon me. Then they
took my gun away. You see, they thought I was dead.
There was nothing I could do!" Luis Cervantes explained
"Nobody threw me down," Solis said. "I'm here be-
cause I like to play safe."
The irony in Solis' voice brought a blush to Cer-
"By God, that chief of yours is a man!" Solis said.
"What daring, what assurance! He left me gasping--and a
hell of a lot of other men with more experience than me,
Luis Cervantes vouchsafed no answer.
"What! Weren't you there? Oh, I see! You found a
nice place for yourself at the right time. Come here, Luis,
I'll explain; let's go behind that rock. From this meadow
to the foot of the hill, there's no road save this path be-
low. To the right, the incline is too sharp; you can't do
anything there. And it's worse to the left; the ascent is so
dangerous that a second's hesitation means a fall down
those rocks and a broken neck at the end of it. All right!
A number of men from Moya's brigade who went down to
the meadow decided to attack the enemy's trenches the
first chance they got. The bullets whizzed about us, the
battle raged on all sides. For a time they stopped firing,
so we thought they were being attacked from behind. We
stormed their trenches--look, partner, look at that
meadow! It's thick with corpses! Their machine guns did
that for us. They mowed us down like wheat; only a hand-
ful escaped. Those Goddamned officers went white as a
sheet; even though we had reinforcements they were
afraid to order a new charge. That was when Demetrio
Macias plunged in. Did he wait for orders? Not he! He
" 'Come on, boys! Let's go for them!'
"'Damn fool!' I thought. 'What the hell does he think
"The officers, surprised, said nothing. Demetrio's
horse seemed to wear eagle's claws instead of hoofs, it
soared so swiftly over the rocks. 'Come on! Come on!' his
men shouted, following him like wild deer, horses and
men welded into a mad stampede. Only one young fellow
stepped wild and fell headlong into the pit. In a few sec-
onds the others appeared at the top of the hill, storming
the trenches and killing the Federals by the thousand.
With his rope, Demetrio lassoed the machine guns and
carried them off, like a bull herd throwing a steer. Yet his
success could not last much longer, for the Federals
were far stronger in numbers and could easily have de-
stroyed Demetrio and his men. But we took advantage of
their confusion, we rushed upon them and they soon
cleared out of their position. That chief of yours is a
Standing on the crest of the hill, they could easily
sight one side of the Bufa peak. Its highest crag spread out
like the feathered head of a proud Aztec king. The three-
hundred-foot slope was literally covered with dead, their
hair matted, their clothes clotted with grime and blood.
A host of ragged women, vultures of prey, ranged over
the tepid bodies of the dead, stripping one man bare, de-
spoiling another, robbing from a third his dearest pos-
Amid clouds of white rifle smoke and the dense black
vapors of flaming buildings, houses with wide doors and
windows bolted shone in the sunlight. The streets seemed
to be piled upon one another, or wound picturesquely
about fantastic corners, or set to scale the hills nearby.
Above the graceful cluster of houses, rose the lithe
columns of a warehouse and the towers and cupola of the
"How beautiful the revolution! Even in its most bar-
barous aspect it is beautiful," Solis said with deep feel-
ing. Then a vague melancholy seized him, and speaking
"A pity what remains to do won't be as beautiful! We
must wait a while, until there are no men left to fight
on either side, until no sound of shot rings through the
air save from the mob as carrion-like it falls upon the
booty; we must wait until the psychology of our race, con-
densed into two words, shines clear and luminous as a
drop of water: Robbery! Murder! What a colossal failure
we would make of it, friend, if we, who offer our enthu-
siasm and lives to crush a wretched tyrant, became the
builders of a monstrous edifice holding one hundred or
two hundred thousand monsters of exactly the same sort.
People without ideals! A tyrant folk! Vain bloodshed!"
Large groups of Federals pushed up the hill, fleeing
from the "high hats." A bullet whistled past them, singing
as it sped. After his speech, Alberto Solis stood lost in
thought, his arms crossed. Suddenly, he took fright.
"I'll be damned if I like these plaguey mosquitoes!" he
said. "Let's get away from here!"
So scornfully Luis Cervantes smiled that Solis sat
down on a rock quite calm, bewildered. He smiled. His
gaze roved as he watched the spirals of smoke from the
rifles, the dust of roofs crumbling from houses as they
fell before the artillery. He believed he discerned the sym-
bol of the revolution in these clouds of dust and smoke
that climbed upward together, met at the crest of the hill
and, a moment after, were lost. . . .
"By heaven, now I see what it all means!"
He sketched a vast gesture, pointing to the station.
Locomotives belched huge clouds of black dense smoke
rising in columns; the trains were overloaded with fugi-
tives who had barely managed to escape from the cap-
Suddenly he felt a sharp blow in the stomach. As though
his legs were putty, he rolled off the rock. His ears buzzed. . . Then darkness . . . silence . . .
eternity. . . .
Demetrio, nonplussed, scratched his head: "Look
here, don't ask me any more questions. . . . You gave me
the eagle I wear on my hat, didn't you? All right then;
you just tell me: 'Demetrio, do this or do that,' and that's
all there is to it."
To champagne, that sparkles and foams as the beaded
bubbles burst at the brim of the glass, Demetrio pre-
ferred the native tequila, limpid and fiery.
The soldiers sat in groups about the tables in the res-
taurant, ragged men, filthy with sweat, dirt and smoke,
their hair matted, wild, disheveled.
"I killed two colonels," one man clamored in a guttural
harsh voice. He was a small fat fellow, with embroidered
hat and chamois coat, wearing a light purple handker-
chief about his neck.
"They were so Goddamned fat they couldn't even run.
By God, I wish you could have seen them, tripping and
stumbling at every step they took, climbing up the hill,
red as tomatoes, their tongues hanging out like hounds.
'Don't run so fast, you lousy beggars!' I called after them.
'I'm not so fond of frightened geese--stop, You bald-
headed bastards: I won't harm you! You needn't worry!'
By God, they certainly fell for it. Pop, pop! One shot for
each of them, and a well-earned rest for a pair of poor
sinners, be damned to them!"
"I couldn't get a single one of their generals!" said a
swarthy man who sat in one corner between the wall
and the bar, holding his rifle between his outstretched
legs. "I sighted one: a fellow with a hell of a lot of gold
plastered all over him. His gold chevrons shone like a
Goddamned sunset. And I let him go by, fool that I was.
He took off his handkerchief and waved it. I stood there
with my mouth wide open like a fool! Then I ducked
and he started shooting, bullet after bullet. I let him kill
a poor cargador. Then I said: 'My turn, now! Holy Vir-
gin, Mother of God! Don't let me miss this son of a
bitch.' But, by Christ, he disappeared. He was riding
a hell of a fine nag; he went by me like lightning! There
was another poor fool coming up the road. He got it and
turned the prettiest somersault you ever saw!"
Talk flew from lip to lip, each soldier vying with his
fellow, snatching the words from the other's mouth. As
they declaimed passionately, women with olive, swarthy
skins, bright eyes, and teeth of ivory, with revolvers at
their waists, cartridge-belts across their breasts, and broad
Mexican hats on their heads, wove their way like stray
street curs in and out among groups. A vulgar wench,
with rouged cheeks and dark brown arms and neck,
gave a great leap and landed on the bar near Demetrio's
He turned his head toward her and literally collided
with a pair of lubric eyes under a narrow forehead and
thick, straight hair, parted in the middle.
The door opened wide. Anastasio, Pancracio, Quail,
and Meco filed in, dazed.
Anastasio uttered a cry of surprise and stepped for-
ward to shake hands with the little fat man wearing a
charro suit and a lavender bandanna. A pair of old
friends, met again. So warm was their embrace, so tightly
they clutched each other that the blood rushed to their
heads, they turned purple.
"Look here, Demetrio, I want the honor of introducing
you to Blondie. He's a real friend, you know. I love him
like a brother. You must get to know him, Chief, he's
a man! Do you remember that damn jail at Escobedo,
where we stayed together for over a year?"
Without removing his cigar from his lips, Demetrio,
buried in a sullen silence amid the bustle and uproar,
offered his hand and said:
"I'm delighted to meet you!"
"So your name is Demetrio Macias?" the girl asked
suddenly. Seated on the bar, she swung her legs; at
every swing, the toes of her shoes touched Demetrio's
"Yes: I'm Demetrio Macias!" he said, scarcely turn-
ing toward her.
Indifferently, she continued to swing her legs, display-
ing her blue stockings with ostentation.
"Hey, War Paint, what are you doing here? Step down
and have a drink!" said the man called Blondie.
The girl accepted readily and boldly thrust her way
through the crowd to a chair facing Demetrio.
"So you're the famous Demetrio Macias, the hero of
Zacatecas?" the girl asked.
Demetrio bowed assent, while Blondie, laughing, said:
"You're a wise one, War Paint. You want to sport a
Without understanding Blondie's words, Demetrio
raised his eyes to hers; they gazed at each other like two
dogs sniffing one another with distrust. Demetrio could not
resist her furiously provocative glances; he was forced to
lower his eyes.
From their seats, some of Natera's officers began to
hurl obscenities at War Paint. Without paying the slightest
attention, she said:
"General Natera is going to hand you out a little
general's eagle. Put it here and shake on it, boy!"
She stuck out her hand at Demetrio and shook it with
the strength of a man. Demetrio, melting to the con-
gratulations raining down upon him, ordered champagne.
"I don't want no more to drink," Blondie said to the
waiter, "I'm feeling sick. Just bring me some ice water."
"I want something to eat," said Pancracio. "Bring me
anything you've got but don't make it chili or beans!"
Officers kept coming in; presently the restaurant was
crowded. Small stars, bars, eagles and insignia of every
sort or description dotted their hats. They wore wide silk
bandannas around their necks, large diamond rings on
their fingers, large heavy gold watch chains across their
"Here, waiter," Blondie cried, "I ordered ice water.
And I'm not begging for it either, see? Look at this bunch
of bills. I'll buy you, your wife, and all you possess,
see? Don't tell me there's none left--I don't care a damn
about that! It's up to you to find some way to get it and
Goddamned quick, too. I don't like to play about; I get
mad when I'm crossed. . . . By God, didn't I tell you I
wouldn't stand for any backchat? You won't bring it to
me, eh? Well, take this. . . ."
A heavy blow sent the waiter reeling to the floor.
"That's the sort of man I am, General Macias! I'm
clean-shaven, eh? Not a hair on my chin? Do you know
why? Well, I'll tell you! You see I get mad easy as hell;
and when there's nobody to pick on, I pull my hair until
my temper passes. If I hadn't pulled my beard hair by
hair, I'd have died a long time ago from sheer anger!"
"It does you no good to go to pieces when you're
angry," a man affirmed earnestly from below a hat that
covered his head as a roof does a house. "When I was
up at Torreon I killed an old lady who refused to sell
me some enchiladas. She was angry, I can tell you; I
got no enchiladas but I felt satisfied anyhow!"
"I killed a storekeeper at Parral because he gave me
some change and there were two Huerta bills in it," said
a man with a star on his hat and precious stones on his
black, calloused hands.
"Down in Chihuahua I killed a man because I always
saw him sitting at the table whenever I went to eat. I
hated the looks of him so I just killed him! What the hell
could I do!"
"Hmm! I killed. . . .
The theme is inexhaustible.
By dawn, when the restaurant was wild with joy and
the floor dotted with spittle, young painted girls from the
suburbs had mingled freely among the dark northern
women. Demetrio pulled out his jeweled gold watch, ask-
ing Anastasio Montanez to tell him the time.
Anastasio glanced at the watch, then, poking his head
out of a small window, gazed at the starry sky.
"The Pleiades are pretty low in the west. I guess it
won't be long now before daybreak. . . ."
Outside the restaurant, the shouts, laughter and song
of the drunkards rang through the air. Men galloped wild-
ly down the streets, the hoofs of their horses hammering
on the sidewalks. From every quarter of the town pis-
tols spoke, guns belched. Demetrio and the girl called
War Paint staggered tipsily hand in hand down the center
of the street, bound for the hotel.
What damned fools," said War Paint convulsed with
laughter! "Where the hell do you come from?..... Soldiers
don't sleep in hotels and inns any more....... Where do
you come from? You just go anywhere you like and
pick a house that pleases you, see. When you go there,
make yourself at home and don't ask anyone for any-
thing. What the hell is the use of the revolution? Who's
it for? For the folks who live in towns? We're the city
folk now, see? Come on, Pancracio, hand me your bayo-
net. Damn these rich people, they lock up everything
She dug the steel point through the crack of a drawer
and, pressing on the hilt, broke the lock, opened the
splinted cover of a writing desk. Anastasio, Pancracio
and War Paint plunged their hands into a mass of post
cards, photographs, pictures and papers, scattering them
all over the rug. Finding nothing he wanted, Pancracio
gave vent to his anger by kicking a framed photograph
into the air with the toe of his shoe. It smashed on the
candelabra in the center of the room.
They pulled their empty hands out of the heap of paper,
cursing. But War Paint was of sterner stuff; tirelessly she
continued to unlock drawer after drawer without failing
to investigate a single spot. In their absorption, they did
not notice a small gray velvet-covered box which rolled
silently across the floor, coming to a stop at Luis Cer-
Demetrio, lying on the rug, seemed to be asleep; Cer-
vantes, who had watched everything with profound in-
difference, pulled the box closer to him with his foot, and
stooping to scratch his ankle, swiftly picked it up. Some-
thing gleamed up at him, dazzling. It was two pure-water
diamonds mounted in filigreed platinum. Hastily he thrust
them inside his coat pocket.
When Demetrio awoke, Cervantes said:
"General, look at the mess these boys have made
here. Don't you think it would be advisable to forbid this
sort of thing?"
"No. It's about their only pleasure after putting their
bellies up as targets for the enemy's bullets."
"Yes, of course, General, but they could do it some-
where else. You see, this sort of thing hurts our prestige,
and worse, our cause!"
Demetrio leveled his eagle eyes at Cervantes. He
drummed with his fingernails against his teeth, absent-
"Come along, now, don't blush," he said. "You can
talk like that to someone else. We know what's mine is
mine, what's yours is yours. You picked the box, all
right; I picked my gold watch; all right too!"
His words dispelled any pretense. Both of them, in
perfect harmony, displayed their booty.
War Paint and her companions were ransacking the
rest of the house. Quail entered the room with a twelve-
year-old girl upon whose forehead and arms were al-
ready marked copper-colored spots. They stopped short,
speechless with surprise as they saw the books lying in
piles on the floor, chairs and tables, the large mirrors
thrown to the ground, smashed, the huge albums and
the photographs torn into shreds, the furniture, objets
d'art and bric-a-brac broken. Quail held his breath, his
avid eyes scouring the room for booty.
Outside, in one corner of the patio, lost in dense clouds
of suffocating smoke, Manteca was boiling corn on the
cob, feeding his fire with books and paper that made
the flames leap wildly through the air.
"Hey!" Quail shouted. "Look what I found. A fine
sweat-cover for my mare."
With a swift pull he wrenched down a hanging, which
fell over a handsomely carved upright chair.
"Look, look at all these naked women!" Quail's little
companion cried, enchanted at a de luxe edition of
Dante's Divine Comedy. "I like this; I think I'll take it
She began to tear out the illustrations which pleased
Demetrio crossed the room and sat down beside Luis
Cervantes. He ordered some beer, handed one bottle up
to his secretary, downed his own bottle at one gulp.
Then, drowsily, he half closed his eyes, and soon fell
"Hey!" a man called to Pancracio from the threshold.
"When can I see your general?"
"You can't see him. He's got a hangover this morn-
ing. What the hell do you want?"
"I want to buy some of those books you're burning."
"I'll sell them to you myself."
"How much do you want for them?"
Pancracio frowned in bewilderment.
"Give me a nickel for those with pictures, see. I'll
give you the rest for nothing if you buy all those with pictures."
The man returned with a large basket to carry away
the books. . . .
"Come on, Demetrio, come on, you pig, get up! Look
who's here! It's Blondie. You don't know what a fine
man he is!"
"I like you very much, General Macias, and I like
the way you do things. So if it's all right, I'd like very
much to serve under you!"
"What's your rank?" Demetrio asked him.
"I'm a captain, General."
"All right, you can serve with me now. I'll make you
major. How's that?"
Blondie was a round little fellow, with waxed mus-
tache. When he laughed, his blue eyes disappeared mis-
chievously between his forehead and his fat cheeks. He
had been a waiter at "El Monico," in Chihuahua; now
he proudly wore three small brass bars, the insignia of
his rank in the Northern Division.
Blondie showered eulogy after eulogy on Demetrio and
his men; this proved sufficient reason for bringing out a
fresh case of beer, which was finished in short order.
Suddenly War Paint reappeared in the middle of the
room, wearing a beautiful silk dress covered with ex-
"You forgot the stockings," Blondie shouted, shaking
with laughter. Quail's girl also burst out laughing. But
War Paint did not care. She shrugged her shoulders in-
differently, sat down on the floor, kicked off her white
satin slippers, and wiggled her toes happily, giving their
muscles a freedom welcome after their tight confinement
in the slippers. She said:
"Hey, you, Pancracio, go and get me my blue stock-
ings . . . they're with the rest of my plunder."
Soldiers and their friends, companions and veterans of
other campaigns, began to enter in groups of twos and
threes. Demetrio, growing excited, began to narrate in
detail his most notable feats of arms.
"What the hell is that noise?" he asked in surprise as
he heard string and brass instruments tuning up in the
"General Demetrio Macias," Luis Cervantes said
solemnly, "it's a banquet all of your old friends and fol-
lowers are giving in your honor to celebrate your vic-
tory at Zacatecas and your well-merited promotion to the
rank of general!"
General Macias, I want you to meet my future wife,"
Luis Cervantes said with great emphasis as he
led a beautiful girl into the dining room.
They all turned to look at her. Her large blue eyes
grew wide in wonder. She was barely fourteen. Her skin
was like a rose, soft, pink, fresh; her hair was very fair;
the expression in her eyes was partly impish curiosity,
partly a vague childish fear. Perceiving that Demetrio
eyed her like a beast of prey, Luis Cervantes congratu-
They made room for her between Luis Cervantes and
Blondie, opposite Demetrio.
Bottles of tequila, dishes of cut glass, bowls, porcelains
and vases lay scattered over the table indiscriminately.
Meco, carrying a box of beer upon his shoulders, came in
cursing and sweating.
"You don't know this fellow Blondie yet," said War
Paint, noticing the persistent glances he was casting at
Luis Cervantes' bride. "He's a smart fellow, I can tell
you, and he never misses a trick."
She gazed at him lecherously, adding:
"That's why I don't like to see him close, even on a
The orchestra struck up a raucous march as though
they were playing at a bullfight. The soldiers roared with
"What fine tripe, General; I swear I haven't tasted the
like of it in all my life," Blondie said, as he began to
reminisce about "El Monico" at Chihuahua.
"You really like it, Blondie?" responded Demetrio.
"Go ahead, call for more, eat your bellyful."
"It's just the way I like it," Anastasio chimed in. "Yes,
I like good food! But nothing really tastes good to you
unless you belch!"
The noise of mouths being filled, of ravenous feeding
followed. All drank copiously. At the end of the dinner,
Luis Cervantes rose, holding a champagne glass in one
hand, and said:
"General. . ."
"Ho!" War Paint interrupted. "This speech-making busi-
ness isn't for me; I'm all against it. I'll go out to the
corral since there's no more eating here."
Presenting Demetrio with a black velvet-covered box
containing a small brass eagle, Luis Cervantes made a
toast which no one understood but everyone applauded
enthusiastically. Demetrio took the insignia in his hands;
and with flushed face, and eyes shining, declared with
"What in hell am I going to do with this buzzard!"
"Compadre," Anastasio Montanez said in a tremu-
lous voice. "I ain't got much to tell you. . . ."
Whole minutes elapsed between his words; the cursed
words would not come to Anastasio. His face, coated
with filth, unwashed for days, turned crimson, shining
with perspiration. Finally he decided to finish his toast
at all costs. "Well, I ain't got much to tell you, except
that we are pals. . . ."
Then, since everyone had applauded at the end of Luis
Cervantes' speech, Anastasio having finished, made a
sign, and the company clapped their hands in great gravi-
But everything turned out for the best, since his awk-
wardness inspired others. Manteca and Quail stood up
and made their toasts, too. When Meco's turn came, War
Paint rushed in shouting jubilantly, attempting to drag a
splendid black horse into the dining room.
"My booty! My booty!" she cried, patting the superb
animal on the neck. It resisted every effort she made until
a strong jerk of the rope and a sudden lash brought it in
prancing smartly. The soldiers, half drunk, stared at the
beast with ill-disguised envy.
"I don't know what the hell this she-devil's got, but
she always beats everybody to it," cried Blondie. "She's
been the same ever since she joined us at Tierra Blanca!"
"Hey, Pancracio, bring me some alfalfa for my horse,"
War Paint commanded crisply, throwing the horse's rope
to one of the soldiers.
Once more they filled their glasses. Many a head hung
low with fatigue or drunkenness. Most of the company,
however, shouted with glee, including Luis Cervantes'
girl. She had spilled all her wine on a handkerchief and
looked all about her with blue wondering eyes.
"Boys," Blondie suddenly screamed, his shrill, guttural
voice dominating the mall, "I'm tired of living; I feel like
killing myself right now. I'm sick and tired of War Paint
and this other little angel from heaven won't even look at
Luis Cervantes saw that the last remark was addressed
to his bride; with great surprise he realized that it was
not Demetrio's foot he had noticed close to the girl's,
but Blondie's. He was boiling with indignation.
"Keep your eye on me, boys," Blondie went on, gun
in hand. "I'm going to shoot myself right in the fore-
He aimed at the large mirror on the opposite wall
which gave back his whole body in reflection. He took
careful aim. . . .
"Don't move, War Paint."
The bullet whizzed by, grazing War Paint's hair. The
mirror broke into large jagged fragments. She did not
even so much as blink.
Late in the afternoon Luis Cervantes rubbed his eyes
and sat up. He had been sleeping on the hard pavement,
close to the trunk of a fruit tree. Anastasio, Pancracio
and Quail slept nearby, breathing heavily.
His lips were swollen, his nose dry and cold. There were
bloodstains on his hands and shirt. At once he recalled
what had taken place. Soon he rose to his feet and made
for one of the bedrooms. He pushed at the door several
times without being able to force it open. For a few min-
utes he stood there, hesitating.
No--he had not dreamed it. Everything had really oc-
curred just as he recalled it. He had left the table with
his bride and taken her to the bedroom, but just as he
was closing the door, Demetrio staggered after them
and made one leap toward them. Then War Paint dashed
in after Demetrio and began to struggle with him. Deme-
trio, his eyes white-hot, his lips covered with long blond
hairs, looked for the bride, in despair. But War Paint
pushed him back vigorously.
"What the hell is the matter with you? What the hell
are you trying to do?" he demanded, furious.
War Paint put her leg between his, twisted it suddenly,
and Demetrio fell to the ground outside of the bedroom.
He rose, raging.
"Help! Help! He's going to kill me!" she cried, seizing
Demetrio's wrist and turning the gun aside. The bullet
hit the floor. War Paint continued to shriek. Anastasio dis-
armed Demetrio from behind.
Demetrio, standing like a furious bull in the middle of
the arena, cast fierce glances at all the bystanders, Luis
Cervantes, Anastasio, Manteca, and the others.
"Goddamn you! You've taken my gun away! Christ!
As if I needed any gun to beat the hell out of you."
Flinging out his arms, beating and pummeling, he felled
everyone within reach. Down they rolled like tenpins.
Then, after that, Luis Cervantes could remember nothing
more. Perhaps his bride, terrified by all these brutes, had
wisely vanished and hidden herself.
"Perhaps this bedroom communicates with the living
room and I can go in through there," he thought, stand-
ing at the threshold. At the sound of his footsteps, War
Paint woke up. She lay on the rug close to Demetrio at
the foot of a couch filled with alfalfa and corn where the
black horse had fed.
"What are you looking for? Oh, hell, I know what you
want! Shame on you! Why, I had to lock up your sweet-
heart because I couldn't struggle any more against this
damned Demetrio. Take the key, it's lying on that table,
Luis Cervantes searched in vain all over the house.
"Come on, tell me all about your girl."
Nervously, Luis Cervantes continued to look for the key.
"Come on, don't be in such a hurry, I'll give it to you.
Come along, tell me; I like to hear about these things,
you know. That girl is your kind, she's not a country per-
son like us."
"I've nothing to say. She's my girl and we're going to
get married, that's all."
"Ho! Ho! Ho! You're going to marry her, eh? Trying
to teach your grandmother to suck eggs, eh? Why, you
fool, any place you just manage to get to for the first
time in your life, I've left a hundred miles behind me, see.
I've cut my wisdom teeth. It was Meco and Manteca who
took the girl from her home: I knew that all the time.
You just gave them something so as to have her your-
self, gave them a pair of cuff links . . . or a miraculous
picture of some Virgin. . . . Am I right? Sure, I am!
There aren't so many people in the world who know
what's what, but I reckon you'll meet up with a few be-
fore you die!"
War Paint got up to give him the key but she could
not find it either. She was much surprised. Quickly, she
ran to the bedroom door and peered through the key-
hole, standing motionless until her eye grew accustomed
to the darkness within. Without drawing away, she said:
"You damned Blondie. Son of a bitch! Come here a
She went away laughing.
"Didn't I tell them all I'd never seen a smarter fellow
in all my life!"
The following morning, War Paint watched for the mo-
ment when Blondie left the bedroom to feed his
horses. . . .
"Come on, Angel Face. Run home quick!"
The blue-eyed girl, with a face like a Madonna, stood
naked save for her chemise and stockings. War Paint
covered her with Manteca's lousy blanket, took her by the
hand and led her to the street.
"God, I'm happy," War Paint cried. "I'm crazy . . .
about Blondie . . . now."
Like neighing colts, playful when the rainy season
begins, Demetrio's men galloped through the sierra.
"To Moyahua, boys. Let's go to Demetrio Macias'
"To the country of Monico the cacique!"
The landscape grew clearer; the sun margined the
diaphanous sky with a fringe of crimson. Like the bony
shoulders of immense sleeping monsters, the chains of
mountains rose in the distance. Crags there were like
heads of colossal native idols; others like giants' faces,
their grimaces awe-inspiring or grotesque, calling forth
a smile or a shudder at a presentment of mystery.
Demetrio Macias rode at the head of his men; be-
hind him the members of his staff: Colonel Anastasio
Montanez, Lieutenant-Colonel Pancracio, Majors Luis
Cervantes and Blondie. Still further behind came War
Paint with Venancio, who paid her many compliments
and recited the despairing verses of Antonio Plaza. As
the sun's rays began to slip from the housetops, they
made their entrance into Moyahua, four abreast, to the
sound of the bugle. The roosters' chorus was deafening,
dogs barked their alarm, but not a living soul stirred
on the streets.
War Paint spurred her black horse and with one jump
was abreast with Demetrio. They rode forward, elbow
to elbow. She wore a silk dress and heavy gold earrings.
Proudly her pale blue gown deepened her olive skin and
the coppery spots on her face and arms. Riding astride,
she had pulled her skirts up to her knees; her stockings
showed, filthy and full of runs. She wore a gun at her
side, a cartridge belt hung over the pommel of her saddle.
Demetrio was also dressed in his best clothes. His
broad-brimmed hat was richly embroidered; his leather
trousers were tight-fitting and adorned with silver but-
tons; his coat was embroidered with gold thread.
There was a sound of doors being beaten down and
forced open. The soldiers had already scattered through
the town, to gather together ammunition and saddles
"We're going to bid Monico good morning," Deme-
trio said gravely, dismounting and tossing his bridle to
one of his men. "We're going to have breakfast with
Don Monico, who's a particular friend of mine . . . ."
The general's staff smiled . . . a sinister, malign
smile. . . .
Making their spurs ring against the pavement, they
walked toward a large pretentious house, obviously that
of a cacique.
"It's closed airtight," Anastasio Montanez said, push-
ing the door with all his might.
"That's all right. I'll open it," Pancracio answered,
lowering his rifle and pointing it at the lock.
"No, no," Demetrio said, "knock first."
Three blows with the butt of the rifle. Three more.
No answer. Pancracio disobeys orders. He fires, smash-
ing the lock. The door opens. Behind, a confusion of
skirts and children's bare legs rushing to and fro, pell-
"I want wine. Hey, there: wine!" Demetrio cries in an
imperious voice, pounding heavily on a table.
"Sit down, boys."
A lady peeps out, another, a third; from among black
skirts, the heads of frightened children. One of the
women, trembling, walks toward a cupboard and, taking
out some glasses and a bottle, serves wine.
"What arms have you?" Demetrio demands harshly.
"Arms, arms . . . ?" the lady answers, a taste of
ashes on her tongue. "What arms do you expect us to
have! We are respectable, lonely old ladies!"
"Lonely, eh! Where's Senor Monico?"
"Oh, he's not here, gentlemen, I assure you! We mere-
ly rent the house from him, you see. We only know
him by name!"
Demetrio orders his men to search the house.
"No, please don't. We'll bring you whatever we have
ourselves, but please for God's sake, don't do anything
cruel. We're spinsters, lone women . . . perfectly re-
spectable. . . ."
"Spinsters, hell! What about these kids here?" Pan-
cracio interrupts brutally. "Did they spring from the
The women disappear hurriedly, to return with an old
shotgun, covered with dust and cobwebs, and a pistol
with rusty broken springs.
"All right, then, let's see the money.
"Money? Money? But what money do you think a
couple of spinsters have? Spinsters alone in the
world. . . . ?"
They glance up in supplication at the nearest soldier;
but they are seized with horror. For they have just seen
the Roman soldier who crucified Our Lord in the Via
Crucis of the parish! They have seen Pancracio!
Demetrio repeats his order to search.
Once again the women disappear to return this time
with a moth-eaten wallet containing a few Huerta bills.
Demetrio smiles and without further delay calls to his
men to come in. Like hungry dogs who have sniffed their
meat, the mob bursts in, trampling down the women who
sought to bar the entrance with their bodies. Several
faint, fall to the ground; others flee in panic. The chil-
Pancracio is about to break the lock of a huge ward-
robe when suddenly the doors open and out comes a
man with a rifle in his hands.
"Senor Don Monico!" they all exclaim in surprise.
"Demetrio, please, don't harm me! Please don't harm
me! Please don't hurt me! You know, Senor Don Deme-
trio, I'm your friend!"
Demetrio Macias smiles slyly. "Are friends," he
asked, "usually welcomed gun in hand?"
Don Monico, in consternation, throws himself at
Demetrio's feet, clasps his knees, kisses his shoes:
"My wife! . . . My children! . . . Please, Senor Don
Demetrio, my friend!"
Demetrio with taut hand puts his gun back in the
A painful silhouette crosses his mind. He sees a
woman with a child in her arms walking over the rocks
of the sierra in the moonlight. A house in flames. . . .
"Clear out. Everybody outside!" he orders darkly.
His staff obeys. Monico and the ladies kiss his hands,
weeping with gratitude. The mob in the street, talking
and laughing, stands waiting for the general's permission
to ransack the cacique's house.
"I know where they've buried their money but I won't
tell," says a youngster with a basket in his hands.
"Hm! I know the right place, mind you," says an old
woman carrying a burlap sack to hold whatever the good
Lord will provide. "It's on top of something . . . there's
a lot of trinkets nearby and then there's a small bag
with mother-of-pearl around it. That's the thing to look
"You ain't talking sense, woman," puts in a man.
"They ain't such fools as to leave silver lying loose like
that. I'm thinking they've got it buried in the well, in a
The mob moves slowly; some carry ropes to tie about
their bundles, others wooden trays. The women open
out their aprons or shawls calculating their capacity. All
give thanks to Divine Providence as they wait for their
share of the booty.
When Demetrio announces that he will not allow loot-
ing and orders them to disband, the mob, disconsolate,
obeys him, and soon scatters; but there is a dull rumor
among the soldiers and no one moves from his place.
Annoyed, Demetrio repeats this order.
A young man, a recent recruit, his head turned by
drink, laughs and walks boldly toward the door. But be-
fore he has reached the threshold, a shot lays him low.
He falls like a bull pierced in the neck by the matador's
sword. Motionless, his smoking gun in his hand, Deme-
trio waits for the soldiers to withdraw.
"Set fire to the house!" he orders Luis Cervantes
when they reach their quarters.
With a curious eagerness Luis Cervantes does not trans-
mit the order but undertakes the task in person.
Two hours later when the city square was black with
smoke and enormous tongues of fire rose from Monico's
house, no one could account for the strange behavior of
They established themselves in a large gloomy house,
which likewise belonged to the cacique of Moyahua. The
previous occupants had already left strong evidences in
the patio, which had been converted into a manure pile.
The walls, once whitewashed, were now faded and
cracked, revealing the bare unbaked adobe; the floor had
been torn up by the hoofs of animals; the orchard was
littered with rotted branches and dead leaves. From
the entrance one stumbled over broken bits of chairs
and other furniture covered with dirt.
By ten o'clock, Luis Cervantes yawned with boredom,
said good night to Blondie and War Paint, who were
downing endless drinks on a bench in the square, and
made for the barracks. The drawing room was alone fur-
nished. As he entered, Demetrio, lying on the floor with
his eyes wide open, trying to count the beams, gazed
"It' s you, eh? What's new? Come on, sit down."
Luis Cervantes first went over to trim the candle, then
drew up a chair without a back, a coarse rag doing
the duty of a wicker bottom. The legs of the chair
squeaked. War Paint's black horse snorted and whirled
its crupper in wide circles. Luis Cervantes sank into his
"General, I wish to make my report. Here you
have . . ."
"Look here, man, I didn't really want this done, you
know. Moyahua is almost like my native town. They'll
say this is why we've been fighting!" Demetrio said, look-
ing at the bulging sack of silver Cervantes was passing
to him. Cervantes left his seat to squat down by Deme-
He stretched a blanket over the floor and into it
poured the ten-peso pieces, shining, burning gold.
"First of all, General, only you and I know about
this. . . . Secondly, you know well enough that if the
sun shines, you should open the window. It's shining in
our faces now but what about tomorrow? You should
always look ahead. A bullet, a bolting horse, even a
wretched cold in the head, and then there are a widow
and orphans left in absolute want! . . . The Govern-
ment? Ha! Ha! . . . Just go see Carranza or Villa or
any of the big chiefs and try and tell them about your
family. . . . If they answer with a kick you know where,
they'll say they're giving you a handful of jewels. And
they're right; we did not rise up in arms to make some
Carranza or Villa President of our Republic. No--we
fought to defend the sacred rights of the people against
the tyranny of some vile cacique. And so, just as Villa
or Carranza aren't going to ask our consent to the pay-
ment they're getting for the services they're rendering
the country, we for our part don't have to ask anybody's
permission about anything either."
Demetrio half stood up, grasped a bottle that stood
nearby, drained it, then spat out the liquor, swelling out
"By God, my boy, you've certainly got the gift of
Luis felt dizzy, faint. The spattered beer seemed to
intensify the stench of the refuse on which they sat; a
carpet of orange and banana peels, fleshlike slices of
watermelon, moldy masses of mangoes and sugarcane, all
mixed up with cornhusks from tamales and human offal.
Demetrio's calloused hands shuffled through the bril-
liant coins, counting and counting. Recovering from his
nausea, Luis Cervantes pulled out a small box of Fallieres
phosphate and poured forth rings, brooches, pendants,
and countless valuable jewels.
"Look here, General, if this mess doesn't blow over
(and it doesn't look as though it would), if the revolu-
tion keeps on, there's enough here already for us to live
on abroad quite comfortably."
Demetrio shook his bead.