2: Part II
<< 1: Part I || 3: Part III >>
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 restaurant, 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 Torreón 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 Montañez 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 Cervantes' feet.
Demetrio, lying on the rug, seemed to be asleep; Cervantes, who had watched everything with profound
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
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 morning. 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 mustache. When he laughed, his blue eyes disappeared
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 Montañez 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 gravity.
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
Montañez, 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 Montañez 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-mell.
"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 respectable. . . ."
"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 furnished. 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 Government? 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, flesh-like 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.
"You wouldn't do that!"
"Why not? What are we staying on for? . . . What
cause are we defending now?"
"That's something I can't explain, Tenderfoot. But I'm
thinking it wouldn't show much guts."
"Take your choice, General," said Luis Cervantes,
pointing to the jewels which he had set in a row.
"Oh, you keep it all. . . . Certainly! . . . You know, I
don't really care for money at all. I'll tell you the truth!
I'm the happiest man in the world, so long as there's
always something to drink and a nice little wench that
catches my eye. . . ."
"Ha! Ha! You make the funniest jokes, General. Why
do you stand for that snake of a War Paint, then?"
"I'll tell you, Tenderfoot, I'm fed up with her. But
I'm like that: I just can't tell her so. I'm not brave
enough to tell her to go plumb to hell. That's the way
I am, see? When I like a woman, I get plain silly; and
if she doesn't start something, I've not got the courage
to do anything myself." He sighed. "There's Camilla at
the ranch for instance. . . . Now, she's not much on
looks, I know, but there's a woman I'd like to
"Well, General, we'll go and get her any day you
Demetrio winked maliciously.
"I promise you I'll do it."
"Are you sure? Do you really mean it? Look here, if
you pull that off for me, I'll give you the watch and
chain you're hankering after."
Luis Cervantes' eyes shone. He took the phosphate box,
heavy with its contents, and stood up smiling.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said. "Good night, General! Sleep well."
"I don't know any more about it than you do. The
General told me, 'Quail, saddle your horse and my black
mare and follow Cervantes; he's going on an errand for
me.' Well, that's what happened. We left here at noon,
and reached the ranch early that evening. One-eyed
Maria Antonia took us in. . . . She asked after you,
Pancracio. Next morning Luis Cervantes wakes me up.
'Quail, Quail, saddle the horses. Leave me mine but take
the General's mare back to Moyahua. I'll catch up after
a bit.' The sun was high when he arrived with Camilla.
She got off and we stuck her on the General's mare."
"Well, and her? What sort of a face did she make
coming back?" one of the men inquired.
"Hum! She was so damned happy she was gabbing
all the way."
"And the tenderfoot?"
"Just as quiet as he always is, you know him."
"I think," Venancio expressed his opinion with great
seriousness, "that if Camilla woke up in the General's
bed, it was just a mistake. We drank a lot, remember!
That alcohol went to our heads; we must have lost our
"What the hell do you mean: alcohol! It was all
cooked up between Cervantes and the General."
"Certainly! That city dude's nothing but a . . ."
"I don't like to talk about friends behind their backs,"
said Blondie, "but I can tell you this: one of the two
sweethearts he had, one was mine, and the other was
for the General."
They burst into guffaws of laughter.
When War Paint realized what had happened, she
sought out Camilla and spoke with great affection:
"Poor little child! Tell me how all this happened."
Camilla's eyes were red from weeping.
"He lied to me! He lied! He came to the ranch and
he told me, 'Camilla, I came just to get you. Do you
want to go away with me?' You can be sure I wanted
to go with him; when it comes to loving, I adore him.
Yes, I adore him. Look how thin I've grown just pining away for him. Mornings I used to loathe to grind
corn, Mamma would call me to eat, and anything I
put in my mouth had no taste at all."
Once more she burst into tears, stuffing the corner
of her apron into her mouth to drown her sobs.
"Look here, I'll help you out of this mess. Don't be
silly, child, don't cry. Don't think about the dude any
more! Honest to God, he's not worth it. You surely
know his game, dear? . . . That's the only reason why
the General stands for him. What a goose! . . . All
right, you want to go back home?"
"The Holy Virgin protect me. My mother would beat
me to death!"
"She'll do nothing of the sort. You and I can fix things.
Listen! The soldiers are leaving any moment now. When
Demetrio tells you to get ready, you tell him you feel
pains all over your body as though someone had hit
you; then you lie down and start yawning and shivering.
Then put your hand on your forehead and say, 'I'm
burning up with fever.' I'll tell Demetrio to leave us
both here, that I'll stay to take care of you, that as
soon as you're feeling all right again, we'll catch up with
them. But instead of that, I'll see that you get home
safe and sound."
The sun had set, the town was lost in the drab melancholy of its ancient streets amid the frightened silence
of its inhabitants, who had retired very early, when Luis
Cervantes reached Primitivo's general store, his arrival
interrupting a party that promised great doings.
Demetrio was engaged in getting drunk with his old
comrades. The entire space before the bar was occupied.
War Paint and Blondie had tied up their horses outside;
but the other officers had stormed in brutally, horses
and all. Embroidered hats with enormous and concave
brims bobbed up and down everywhere. The horses
wheeled about, prancing; tossing their restive heads; their
fine breed showing in their black eyes, their small ears
and dilating nostrils. Over the infernal din of the drunkards, the heavy breathing of the horses, the stamp of
their hoofs on the tiled floor, and occasionally a quick,
nervous whinny rang out.
A trivial episode was being commented upon when
Luis Cervantes came in. A man, dressed in civilian
clothes, with a round, black, bloody hole in his fore
head, lay stretched out in the middle of the street, his
mouth gaping. Opinion was at first divided but finally
all concurred with Blondie's sound reasoning. The poor
dead devil lying out there was the church sexton. . . .
But what an idiot! His own fault, of course! Who in
the name of hell could be so foolish as to dress like a
city dude, with trousers, coat, cap, and all? Pancracio
simply could not bear the sight of a city man in front
of him! And that was that!
Eight musicians, playing wind instruments, interrupted
their labors at Cervantes' command. Their faces were
round and red as suns, their eyes popping, for they had
been blowing on their brass instruments since dawn.
"General," Luis said pushing his way through the men
on horseback, "a messenger has arrived with orders to
proceed immediately to the pursuit and capture of
Orozco and his men."
Faces that had been dark and gloomy were now illumined with joy.
"To Jalisco, boys!" cried Blondie, pounding on the
"Make ready, all you darling Jalisco girls of my heart,
for I'm coming along too!" Quail shouted, twisting back
the brim of his hat.
The enthusiasm and rejoicing were general. Demetrio's
friends, in the excitement of drunkenness, offered their
services. Demetrio was so happy that he could scarcely
speak. They were going to fight Orozco and his men!
At last, they would pit themselves against real men! At
last they would stop shooting down the Federals like so
many rabbits or wild turkeys.
"If I could get hold of Orozco alive," Blondie said,
"I'd rip off the soles of his feet and make him walk
twenty-four hours over the sierra!"
"Was that the guy who killed Madero?" asked Meco.
"No," Blondie replied solemnly, "but once when I was
a waiter at 'El Monico,' up in Chihuahua, he hit me
in the face!"
"Give Camilla the roan mare," Demetrio ordered Pancracio, who was already saddling the horses.
"Camilla can't go!" said War Paint promptly.
"Who in hell asked for your opinion?" Demetrio retorted angrily.
"It's true, isn't it, Camilla? You were sore all over,
weren't you? And you've got a fever right now?"
"Well—anything Demetrio says."
"Don't be a fool! say 'No,' come on, say 'No,"' War
Paint whispered nervously into Camilla's ear.
"I'll tell you, War Paint. . . . It's funny, but I'm beginning to fall for him. . . . Would you believe it!" Camilla whispered back.
War Paint turned purple, her cheeks swelled. Without
a word she went out to get her horse that Blondie was
A whirlwind of dust, scorching down the road, suddenly broke into violent diffuse masses; and Demetrio's
army emerged, a chaos of horses, broad chests, tangled
manes, dilated nostrils, oval, wide eyes, hoofs flying in the
air, legs stiffened from endless galloping; and of men
with bronze faces, ivory teeth, and flashing eyes, their
rifles in their hands or slung across the saddles.
Demetrio and Camilla brought up the rear. She was
still nervous, white-lipped and parched; he was angry
at their futile maneuver. For there had been battles, no
followers of Orozco's to be seen. A handful of Federals,
routed. A poor devil of a priest left dangling from a
mesquite; a few dead, scattered over the field, who had
once been united under the archaic slogan, RIGHTS AND
RELIGION, with, on their breasts, the red cloth insignia:
Halt! The Sacred Heart of Jesus is with me!
"One good thing about it is that I've collected all
my back pay," Quail said, exhibiting some gold watches
and rings stolen from the priest's house.
"It's fun fighting this way," Manteca cried, spicing
every other word with an oath. "You know why the hell
you're risking your hide."
In the same hand with which he held the reins, he
clutched a shining ornament that he had torn from one
of the holy statues.
After Quail, an expert in such matters, had examined
Manteca's treasure covetously, he uttered a solemn
"Hell, Your ornament is nothing but tin!"
"Why in hell are you hanging on to that poison?"
Pancracio asked Blondie who appeared dragging a prisoner.
"Do you want to know why? Because it's a long time
since I've had a good look at a man's face when a rope
tightens around his neck!"
The fat prisoner breathed with difficulty as he followed Blondie on foot; his face was sunburnt, his eyes
red; his forehead beaded with sweat, his wrists tightly
"Here, Anastasio, lend me your lasso. Mine's not
strong enough; this bird will bust it. No, by God, I've
changed my mind, friend Federal: think I'll kill you on
the spot, because you are pulling too hard. Look, all the
mesquites are still a long way off and there are no telegraph poles to hang you to!"
Blondie pulled his gun out, pressed the muzzle against
the prisoner's chest and brought his finger against the
trigger slowly . . . slowly. . . . The prisoner turned pale
as a corpse; his face lengthened; his eyelids were fixed
in a glassy stare. He breathed in agony, his whole body
shook as with ague. Blondie kept his gun in the same
position for a moment long as all eternity. His eyes
shone queerly. An expression of supreme pleasure lit up
his fat puffy face.
"No, friend Federal," he drawled, putting back his
gun into the holster; "I'm not going to kill you just yet.
. . . I'll make you my orderly. You'll see that I'm not so
Slyly he winked at his companions. The prisoner had
turned into an animal; he gulped, panting, dry-mouthed.
Camilla, who had witnessed the scene, spurred her horse
and caught up with Demetrio.
"What a brute that Blondie is: you ought to see what
he did to a wretched prisoner," she said. Then she told
Demetrio what had occurred. The latter wrinkled his
brow but made no answer.
War Paint called Camilla aside.
"Hey you . . . what are you gobbling about? Blondie's
my man, understand? From now on, you know how
things are: whatever you've got against him you've got
against me too! I'm warning you."
Camilla, frightened, hurried back to Demetrio's side.
The men camped in a meadow, near three small
lone houses standing in a row, their white walls cutting
the purple fringe of the horizon. Demetrio and Camilla
rode toward them. Inside the corral a man, clad in shirt
and trousers of cheap white cloth, sat greedily puffing at
a cornhusk cigarette. Another man sitting beside him
on a flat cut stone was shelling corn. Kicking the air
with one dry, withered leg, the extremity of which was
like a goat's hoof, he frightened the chickens away.
"Hurry up, 'Pifanio," said the man who was smoking,
"the sun has gone down already and you haven't taken
the animals to water."
A horse neighed outside the corral; both men glanced
up in amazement. Demetrio and Camilla were looking
over the corral wall at them.
"I just want a place to sleep for my woman and me,"
Demetrio said reassuringly.
As he explained that he was the chief of a small
army which was to camp nearby that night, the man
smoking, who owned the place, bid them enter with great
deference. He ran to fetch a broom and a pail of water
to dust and wash the best corner of the hut as decent
lodging for his distinguished guests.
"Here, 'Pifanio, go out there and unsaddle the horses."
The man who was shelling corn stood up with an
effort. He was clad in a tattered shirt and vest. His
torn trousers, split at the seam, looked like the wings of
a cold, stricken bird; two strings of cloth dangled from
his waist. As he walked, he described grotesque circles.
"Surely you're not fit to do any work!" Demetrio said,
refusing to allow him to touch the saddles.
"Poor man," the owner cried from within the hut,
"he's lost all his strength. . . . But he surely works for
his pay. . . . He starts working the minute God Almighty
himself gets up, and it's after sundown now but he's
Demetrio went out with Camilla for a stroll about
the encampment. The meadow, golden, furrowed, stripped
even of the smallest bushes, extended limitless in its immense desolation. The three tall ash trees which stood
in front of the small house, with dark green crests, round
and waving, with rich foliage and branches drooping to
the very ground, seemed a veritable miracle.
"I don't know why but I feel there's a lot of sadness
around here," said Demetrio.
"Yes," Camilla answered, "I feel that way too."
On the bank of a small stream, 'Pifanio was strenuously tugging at a rope with a large can tied to the end
of it. He poured a stream of water over a heap of fresh,
cool grass; in the twilight, the water glimmered like crystal. A thin cow, a scrawny nag, and a burro drank noisily
Demetrio recognized the limping servant and asked
him: "How much do you get a day?"
"Eight cents a day, boss."
He was an insignificant, scrofulous wraith of a man
with green eyes and straight, fair hair. He whined complaint of his boss, the ranch, his bad luck, his dog's life.
"You certainly earn your pay all right, my lad," Demetrio interrupted kindly. "You complain and complain,
but you aren't no loafer, you work and work." Then,
aside to Camilla: "There's always more damned fools in
the valley than among us folk in the sierra, don't you
"Of course!" she replied.
They went on. The valley was lost in darkness; stars
came out. Demetrio put his arm around Camilla's waist
amorously and whispered in her ear.
"Yes," she answered in a faint voice.
She was indeed beginning to "fall for him" as she had
Demetrio slept badly. He flung out of the house very
"Something is going to happen to me," he thought.
It was a silent dawn, with faint murmurs of joy. A
thrush sang timidly in one of the ash trees. The animals
in the corral trampled on the refuse. The pig grunted its
somnolence. The orange tints of the sun streaked the
sky; the last star flickered out.
Demetrio walked slowly to the encampment.
He was thinking of his plow, his two black oxen—young beasts they were, who had worked in the fields
only two years—of his two acres of well-fertilized corn.
The face of his young wife came to his mind, clear and
true as life: he saw her strong, soft features, so gracious
when she smiled on her husband, so proudly fierce toward strangers. But when he tried to conjure up the
image of his son, his efforts were vain; he had forgotten. . . .
He reached the camp. Lying among the furrows, the
soldiers slept with the horses, heads bowed, eyes closed.
"Our horses are pretty tired, Anastasio. I think we
ought to stay here at least another day."
"Well, Compadre Demetrio, I'm hankering for the
sierra. . . . If you only knew. . . . You may not believe
me but nothing strikes me right here. I don't know what
I miss but I know I miss something. I feel sad . . .
lost. . . ."
"How many hours' ride from here to Limon?"
"It's no matter of hours; it's three days' hard riding,
"You know," Demetrio said softly, "I feel as though
I'd like to see my wife again!"
Shortly after, War Paint sought out Camilla.
"That's one on you, my dear. . . . Demetrio's going to
leave you flat! He told me so himself; 'I'm going to get
my real woman,' he says, and he says, 'Her skin is white
and tender . . . and her rosy cheeks. . . . How beautiful
she is!' But you don't have to leave him, you know; if
you're set on staying, well—they've got a child, you know,
and I suppose you could drag it around. . . ."
When Demetrio returned, Camilla, weeping, told him
"Don't pay no attention to that crazy baggage. It's all
Since Demetrio did not go to Limon or remember his
wife again, Camilla grew very happy. War Paint had
merely stung herself, like a scorpion.
Before dawn, they left for Tepatitlán. Their silhouettes wavered indistinctly over the road and the fields
that bordered it, rising and falling with the monotonous,
rhythmical gait of their horses, then faded away in the
nacreous light of the swooning moon that bathed the
Dogs barked in the distance.
"By noon we'll reach Tepatitlán, Cuquio tomorrow,
and then . . . on to the sierra!" Demetrio said.
"Don't you think it advisable to go to Aguascalientes
first, General?" Luis Cervantes asked.
"Our funds are melting slowly."
"Nonsense . . . forty thousand pesos in eight days!"
"Well, you see, just this week we recruited over five
hundred new men; all the money's gone in advance loans
and gratuities," Luis Cervantes answered in a low voice.
"No! We'll go straight to the sierra. We'll see later
"Yes, to the sierra!" many of the men shouted.
"To the sierra! To the sierra! Hurrah for the mountains!"
The plains seemed to torture them; they spoke with
enthusiasm, almost with delirium, of the sierra. They
thought of the mountains as of a most desirable mistress
long since unvisited.
Dawn broke behind a cloud of fine reddish dust; the
sun rose an immense curtain of fiery purple. Luis Cervantes pulled his reins and waited for Quail.
"What's the last word on our deal, Quail?"
"I told you, Tenderfoot: two hundred for the watch
"No! I'll buy the lot: watches, rings, everything else.
Quail hesitated, turned slightly pale; then he cried
"Two thousand in bills, for the whole business!"
Luis Cervantes gave himself away. His eyes shone
with such an obvious greed that Quail recanted and
"Oh, I was just fooling you. I won't sell nothing! Just
the watch, see? And that's only because I owe Pancracio
two hundred. He beat me at cards last night!"
Luis Cervantes pulled out four crisp "double-face" bills
of Villa's issue and placed them in Quail's hands.
"I'd like to buy the lot. . . . Besides, nobody will offer
you more than that!"
As the sun began to beat down upon them, Manteca
"Ho, Blondie, your orderly says he doesn't care to go
on living. He says he's too damned tired to walk."
The prisoner had fallen in the middle of the road, utterly exhausted.
"Well, well!" Blondie shouted, retracing his steps. "So
little mama's boy is tired, eh? Poor little fellow. I'll buy
a glass case and keep you in a corner of my house just
as if you were the Virgin Mary's own little son. You've
got to reach home first, see? So I'll help you a little,
He drew his sword out and struck the prisoner several
"Let's have a look at your rope, Pancracio," he said.
There was a strange gleam in his eyes. Quail observed
that the prisoner no longer moved arm or leg. Blondie
burst into a loud guffaw: "The Goddamned fool. Just as
I was learning him to do without food, too!"
"Well, mate, we're almost to Guadalajara," Venancio
said, glancing over the smiling row of houses in Tepatitlán nestling against the hillside.
They entered joyously. From every window rosy
cheeks, dark luminous eyes observed them. The schools
were quickly converted into barracks; Demetrio found
lodging in the chapel of an abandoned church.
The soldiers scattered about as usual pretending to
seek arms and horses, but in reality for the sole purpose
In the afternoon some of Demetrio's men lay stretched
out on the church steps, scratching their bellies. Venancio, his chest and shoulders bare, was gravely occupied
in killing the fleas in his shirt. A man drew near the wall
and sought permission to speak to the commander. The
soldiers raised their heads; but no one answered.
"I'm a widower, gentlemen. I've got nine children and
I barely make a living with the sweat of my brow. Don't
be hard on a poor widower!"
"Don't you worry about women, Uncle," said Meco,
who was rubbing his feet with tallow, "we've got War
Paint here with us; you can have her for nothing."
The man smiled bitterly.
"She's only got one fault," Pancracio observed,
stretched out on the ground, staring at the blue sky,
"she goes mad over any man she sees."
They laughed loudly; but Venancio with utmost gravity
pointed to the chapel door. The stranger entered timidly
and confided his troubles to Demetrio. The soldiers had
cleaned him out; they had not left a single grain of corn.
"Why did you let them?" Demetrio asked indolently.
The man persisted, lamenting and weeping. Luis Cervantes was about to throw him out with an insult. But
"Come on, Demetrio, don't be harsh, give him an order
to get his corn back."
Luis Cervantes was obliged to obey; he scrawled a few
lines to which Demetrio appended an illegible scratch.
"May God repay you, my child! God will lead you to
heaven that you may enjoy his glory. Ten bushels of corn
are barely enough for this year's food!" the man cried,
weeping for gratitude. Then he took the paper, kissed
everybody's hand, and withdrew.
They had almost reached Cuquio, when Anastasio
Montañez rode up to Demetrio: "Listen, Compadre, I
almost forgot to tell you. . . . You ought to have seen
the wonderful joke that man Blondie played. You know
what he did with the old man who came to complain
about the corn we'd taken away for horses? Well, the
old man took the paper and went to the barracks. 'Right
you are, brother, come in,' said Blondie, 'come in, come
in here; to give you back what's yours is only the right
thing to do. How many bushels did we steal? Ten? Sure
it wasn't more than ten? . . . That's right, about fifteen,
eh? Or was it twenty, perhaps? . . . Try and remember,
friend. . . . Of course you're a poor man, aren't you, and
you've a lot of kids to raise. . . . Yes, twenty it was. All
right, now! It's not ten or fifteen or twenty I'm going to
give you. You're going to count for yourself. . . . One,
two, three . . . and when you've had enough you just tell
me and I'll stop.' And Blondie pulled out his sword and
beat him till he cried for mercy."
War Paint rocked in her saddle, convulsed with mirth.
Camilla, unable to control herself, blurted out:
"The beast! His heart's rotten to the core! No wonder
I loathe him!"
At once War Paint's expression changed.
"What the hell is it to you!" she scowled. Camilla,
frightened, spurred her horse forward. War Paint did likewise and, as she trotted past Camilla, suddenly she
reached out, seized the other's hair and pulled with all
her might. Camilla's horse shied; Camilla, trying to brush
her hair back from over her eyes, abandoned the reins.
She hesitated, lost her balance and fell in the road, striking
her forehead against the stones.
War Paint, weeping with laughter, pressed on with utmost skill and caught Camilla's horse.
"Come on, Tenderfoot; here's a job for you," Pancracio said as he saw Camilla on Demetrio's saddle, her
face covered with blood.
Luis Cervantes hurried toward her with some cotton;
but Camilla, choking down her sobs and wiping her eyes,
"Not from you! If I was dying, I wouldn't accept anything from you . . . not even water."
In Cuquio Demetrio received a message.
"We've got to go back to Tepatitlán, General," said
Luis Cervantes, scanning the dispatch rapidly. "You've
got to leave the men there while you go to Lagos and take
the train over to Aguascalientes."
There was much heated protest, the men muttering to
themselves or even groaning out loud. Some of them,
mountaineers, swore that they would not continue with
Camilla wept all night. On the morrow at dawn, she
begged Demetrio to let her return home.
"If you don't like me, all right," he answered sullenly.
"That's not the reason. I care for you a lot, really.
But you know how it is. That woman . . ."
"Never mind about her. It's all right! I'll send her off to
hell today. I had already decided that."
Camilla dried her tears. . . .
Every horse was saddled; the men were waiting only
for orders from the Chief. Demetrio went up to War
Paint and said under his breath:
"You're not coming with us."
"What!" she gasped.
"You're going to stay here or go wherever you damn
well please, but you're not coming along with us."
"What? What's that you're saying?" Still she could not
catch Demetrio's meaning. Then the truth dawned upon
her. "You want to send me away? By God, I suppose you
believe all the filth that bitch . . . "
And War Paint proceeded to insult Camilla, Luis Cervantes, Demetrio, and anyone she happened to remember at the moment, with such power and originality that
the soldiers listened in wonder to vituperation that transcended their wildest dream of profanity and filth.
Demetrio waited a long time patiently. Then, as she
showed no sign of stopping, he said to a soldier quite
"Throw this drunken woman out."
"Blondie, Blondie, love of my life! Help! Come and
show them you're a real man! Show them they're nothing
but sons of bitches! . . ."
She gesticulated, kicked, and shouted.
Blondie appeared; he had just got up. His blue eyes
blinked under heavy lids; his voice rang hoarse. He asked
what had occurred; someone explained. Then he went
up to War Paint, and with great seriousness, said:
"Yes? Really? Well, if you want my opinion, I think
this is just what ought to happen. So far as I'm concerned, you can go straight to hell. We're all fed up
with you, see?"
War Paint's face turned to granite; she tried to speak
but her muscles were rigid.
The soldiers laughed. Camilla, terrified, held her breath.
War Paint stared slowly at everyone about her. It all
took no more than a few seconds. In a trice she bent
down, drew a sharp, gleaming dagger from her stocking
and leapt at Camilla.
A shrill cry. A body fell, the blood spurting from it.
"Kill her, Goddamn it," cried Demetrio, beyond himself. "Kill her!"
Two soldiers fell upon War Paint, but she brandished
her dagger, defying them to touch her:
"Not the likes of you, Goddamn you! Kill me yourself, Demetrio!"
War Paint stepped forward, surrendered her dagger
and, thrusting her breast forward, let her arms fall to
Demetrio picked up the dagger, red with blood, but
his eyes clouded; he hesitated, took a step backward.
Then, with a heavy hoarse voice he growled, enraged:
"Get out of here! Quick!"
No one dared stop her. She moved off slowly, mute,
Blondie's shrill, guttural voice broke the silent stupor:
"Thank God! At last I'm rid of that damned louse!"
Someone plunged a knife
Deep in my side.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew.
The blood flowed out
Of that mortal wound.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew.
His head lowered, his hands crossed over the pommel
of his saddle, Demetrio in melancholy accents sang the
strains of the intriguing song. Then he fell silent; for
quite a while he continued to feel oppressed and sad.
"You'll see, as soon as we reach Lagos you'll come out
of it, General. There's plenty of pretty girls to give us a
good time," Blondie said.
"Right now I feel like getting damn drunk," Demetrio answered, spurring his horse forward and leaving
them as if he wished to abandon himself entirely to his
After many hours of riding he called Cervantes.
"Listen, Tenderfoot, why in hell do we have to go to
"You have to vote for the Provisional President of the
"President, what? Who in the devil, then, is this man
Carranza? I'll be damned if I know what it's all about."
At last they reached Lagos. Blondie bet that he would
make Demetrio laugh that evening.
Trailing his spurs noisily over the pavement, Demetrio entered "El Cosmopolita" with Luis Cervantes,
Blondie, and his assistants.
The civilians, surprised in their attempt to escape, remained where they were. Some feigned to return to their
tables to continue drinking and talking; others hesitantly
stepped up to present their respects to the commander.
"General, so pleased! . . . Major! Delighted to meet you!"
"That's right! I love refined and educated friends,"
Blondie said. "Come on, boys," he added, jovially drawing his gun, "I'm going to play a tune that'll make you
A bullet ricocheted on the cement floor passing between the legs of the tables, and the smartly dressed
young men-about-town began to jump much as a woman
jumps when frightened by a mouse under her skirt. Pale
as ghosts, they conjured up wan smiles of obsequious approval. Demetrio barely parted his lips, but his followers
doubled over with laughter.
"Look, Blondie," Quail shouted, "look at that man
going out there. Look, he's limping."
"I guess the bee stung him all right."
Blondie, without turning to look at the wounded man,
announced with enthusiasm that he could shoot off the
top of a tequila bottle at thirty paces without aiming.
"Come on, friend, stand up," he said to the waiter.
He dragged him out by the hand to the patio of the
hotel and set a tequila bottle on his head. The poor
devil refused. Insane with fright, he sought to escape,
but Blondie pulled his gun and took aim.
"Come on, you son of a sea cook! If you keep on
I'll give you a nice warm one!"
Blondie went to the opposite wall, raised his gun and
fired. The bottle broke into bits, the alcohol poured over
the lad's ghastly face.
"Now it's a go," cried Blondie, running to the bar to
get another bottle, which he placed on the lad's head.
He returned to his former position, he whirled about,
and shot without aiming. But he hit the waiter's ear instead of the bottle. Holding his sides with laughter, he
said to the young waiter:
"Here, kid, take these bills. It ain't much. But you'll
be all right with some alcohol and arnica."
After drinking a great deal of alcohol and beer, Demetrio spoke:
"Pay the bill, Blondie, I'm going to leave you."
"I ain't got a penny, General, but that's all right. I'll
fix it. How much do we owe you, friend?"
"One hundred and eighty pesos, Chief," the bartender
Quickly, Blondie jumped behind the bar and with a
sweep of both arms, knocked down all the glasses and
"Send the bill to General Villa, understand?"
He left, laughing loudly at his prank.
"Say there, you, where do the girls hang out?"
Blondie asked, reeling up drunkenly toward a small well-
dressed man, standing at the door of a tailor shop.
The man stepped down to the sidewalk politely to let
Blondie stopped and looked at him curiously, impertinently.
"Little boy, you're very small and dainty, ain't you?
. . . No? . . . Then I'm a liar! . . . That's right! . . . You
know the puppet dance. . . . You don't? The hell you
don't! . . . I met you in a circus! I know you can even
dance on a tightrope! . . . You watch!"
Blondie drew his gun out and began to shoot, aiming
at the tailor's feet; the tailor gave a little jump at every
pull of the trigger.
"See! You do know how to dance on the tightrope,
Taking his friends by the arm, he ordered them to
lead him to the red-light district, punctuating every step
by a shot which smashed a street light, or struck some
wall, a door, or a distant house.
Demetrio left him and returned to the hotel, singing
"Someone plunged a knife
Deep in my side.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew."
Stale cigarette smoke, the acrid odors of sweaty
clothing, the vapors of alcohol, the breathing of a
crowded multitude, worse by far than a train full of pigs.
Texas hats, adorned with gold braid, and khaki predominate. "Gentlemen, a well-dressed man stole my suitcase in the station. My life's savings! I haven't enough
to feed my little boy now!"
The shrill voice, rising to a shriek or trailing off into
a sob, is drowned out by the tumult within the train.
"What the hell is the old woman talking about?"
Blondie asks, entering in search of a seat.
"Something about a suitcase . . . and a well-dressed
man," Pancracio replies. He has already the laps of two
civilians to sit on.
Demetrio and the others elbow their way in. Since
those on whom Pancracio had sat preferred to stand up,
Demetrio and Luis Cervantes quickly seize the vacant
Suddenly a woman who has stood up holding a child
all the way from Irapuato, faints. A civilian takes the
child in his arms. The others pretend to have seen nothing. Some women, traveling with the soldiers, occupy two
or three seats with baggage, dogs, cats, parrots. Some
of the men wearing Texan hats laugh at the plump arms
and pendulous breasts of the woman who fainted.
"Gentlemen, a well-dressed man stole my suitcase at
the station in Silao! All my life's savings . . . I haven't
got enough to feed my little boy now! . . ."
The old woman speaks rapidly, parrot-like, sighing and
sobbing. Her sharp eyes peer about on all sides. Here
she gets a bill, and further on, another. They shower
money upon her. She finishes the collection, and goes a
few seats ahead.
"Gentlemen, a well-dressed man stole my suitcase in
the station at Silao." Her words produce an immediate
and certain effect.
A well-dressed man, a dude, a tenderfoot, stealing a
suitcase! Amazing, phenomenal! It awakens a feeling of
universal indignation. It's a pity: if this well-dressed man
were here every one of the generals would shoot him
one after the other!
"There's nothing as vile as a city dude who steals!"
a man says, exploding with indignation.
"To rob a poor old lady!"
"To steal from a poor defenseless woman!"
They prove their compassion by word and deed: a
harsh verdict against the culprit; a five-peso bill for the
"And I'm telling you the truth," Blondie declares.
"Don't think it's wrong to kill, because when you kill,
it's always out of anger. But stealing—Bah!"
This profound piece of reasoning meets with unanimous assent. After a short silence while he meditates,
a colonel ventures his opinion:
"Everything is all right according to something, see?
That is, everything has its circumstances, see? God's own
truth is this: I have stolen, and if I say that everyone
here has done the trick, I'm not telling a lie, I reckon!"
"Hell, I stole a lot of them sewing machines in Mexico," exclaims a major. "I made more'n five hundred
pesos even though I sold them at fifty cents apiece!"
A toothless captain, with hair prematurely white, announces:
"I stole some horses in Zacatecas, all damn fine horses
they was, and then I says to myself, 'This is your own
little lottery, Pascual Mata,' I says. 'You won't have a
worry in all your life after this.' And the damned thing
about it was that General Limon took a fancy to the
horses too, and he stole them from me!"
"Of course—there's no use denying it, I've stolen too,"
Blondie confesses. "But ask any one of my partners
how much profit I've got. I'm a big spender and my
Purse is my friends' to have a good time on! I have
a better time if I drink myself senseless than I would
have sending money back home to the old woman!"
The subject of "I stole," though apparently inexhaustible, ceases to hold the men's attention. Decks of cards
gradually appear on the seats, drawing generals and officers as the light draws mosquitoes.
The excitement of gambling soon absorbs every interest, the heat grows more and more intense. To breathe
is to inhale the air of barracks, prison, brothel, and
pigsty all in one.
And rising above the babble, from the car ahead ever
the shrill voice, "Gentlemen, a well-dressed young man
stole . . ."
The streets in Aguascalientes were so many refuse
piles. Men in khaki moved to and fro like bees before
their hive, overrunning the restaurants, the crapulous
lunch houses, the parlous hotels, and the stands of the
street vendors on which rotten pork lay alongside grimy
The smell of these viands whetted the appetites of
Demetrio and his men. They forced their way into a
small inn, where a disheveled old hag served, on earthenware plates, some pork with bones swimming in a clear
chili stew and three tough burnt tortillas. They paid two
pesos apiece; as they left Pancracio assured his comrades
he was hungrier than when he entered.
"Now," said Demetrio, "we'll go and consult with
They made for the northern leader's billet.
A noisy, excited crowd stopped them at a street crossing. A man, lost in the multitude, was mouthing words
in the monotonous, unctuous tones of a prayer. They
came up close enough to see him distinctly; he wore a
shirt and trousers of cheap white cloth and was repeating:
"All good Catholics should read this prayer to Christ
Our Lord upon the Cross with due devotion. Thus they
will be immune from storms and pestilence, famine, and
"This man's no fool," said Demetrio smiling.
The man waved a sheaf of printed handbills in his
hand and cried:
"A quarter of a peso is all you have to pay for this
prayer to Christ Our Lord upon the Cross. A quarter . . ."
Then he would duck for a moment, to reappear with
a snake's tooth, a sea star, or the skeleton of a fish.
In the same predicant tone, he lauded the medical virtues
and the mystical powers of every article he sold.
Quail, who had no faith in Venancio, requested the
man to pull a tooth out. Blondie purchased a black seed
from a certain fruit which protected the possessor from
lightning or any other catastrophe. Anastasio Montañez
purchased a prayer to Christ Our Lord upon the Cross,
and, folding it carefully, stuck it into his shirt with a
"As sure as there's a God in heaven," Natera said,
"this mess hasn't blown over yet. Now it's Villa fighting
Without answering him, his eyes fixed in a stare,
Demetrio demanded a further explanation.
"It means," Natera said, "that the Convention won't
recognize Carranza as First Chief of the Constitutionalist
Army. It's going to elect a Provisional President of the
Republic. Do you understand me, General?"
Demetrio nodded assent.
"What's your opinion, General?" asked Natera.
Demetrio shrugged his shoulders:
"It seems to me that the meat of the matter is that
we've got to go on fighting, eh? All right! Let's go to it!
I'm game to the end, you know."
"Good, but on what side?"
Demetrio, nonplussed, scratched his head:
"Look here, don't ask me any more questions. I never
went to school, you know. . . . 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's to it!"
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