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You ought to see how clear that fellow can make
things, Compadre," Demetrio said. All morning long he
had been pondering as much of Luis Cervantes' speech
as he had understood.

"I heard him too," Anastasio answered. "People who
can read and write get things clear, all right; nothing
was ever truer. But what I can't make out is how you're
going to go and meet Natera with as few men as we

"That's nothing. We're going to do things different
now. They tell me that as soon as Crispin Robles enters
a town he gets hold of all the horses and guns in the
place; then he goes to the jail and lets all the jailbirds
out, and, before you know it, he's got plenty of men, all
right. You'll see. You know I'm beginning to feel that
we haven't done things right so far. It don't seem right
somehow that this city guy should be able to tell us
what to do."

"Ain't it wonderful to be able to read and write!"

They both sighed, sadly. Luis Cervantes came in with
several others to find out the day of their departure.

"We're leaving no later than tomorrow," said Demetrio
without hesitation.

Quail suggested that musicians be summoned from
the neighboring hamlet and that a farewell dance be
given. His idea met with enthusiasm on all sides.

"We'll go, then," Pancracio shouted, "but I'm certainly
going in good company this time. My sweetheart's coming
along with me!"

Demetrio replied that he too would willingly take along
a girl he had set his eye on, but that he hoped none of his
men would leave bitter memories behind them as the
Federals did.

"You won't have long to wait. Everything will be ar-
ranged when you return," Luis Cervantes whispered to him.

"What do you mean?" Demetrio asked. "I thought
that you and Camilla . . ."

"There's not a word of truth in it, Chief. She likes you
but she's afraid of you, that's all."

"Really? Is that really true?"

"Yes. But I think you're quite right in not wanting
to leave any bitter feelings behind you as you go. When
you come back as a conqueror, everything will be dif-
ferent. They'll all thank you for it even."

"By God, you're certainly a shrewd one," Demetrio re-
plied, patting him on the back.

At sundown, Camilla went to the river to fetch water
as usual. Luis Cervantes, walking down the same trail,
met her. Camilla felt her heart leap to her mouth. But,
without taking the slightest notice of her, Luis Cervantes
hastily took one of the turns and disappeared among the

At this hour, as usual, the calcinated rocks, the sun-
burnt branches, and the dry weeds faded into the semi-
obscurity of the shadows. The wind blew softly, the green
lances of the young corn leaves rustling in the twilight.
Nothing was changed; all nature was as she had found it
before, evening upon evening; but in the stones and the
dry weeds, amid the fragrance of the air and the light
whir of falling leaves, Camilla sensed a new strangeness,
a vast desolation in everything about her.

Rounding a huge eroded rock, suddenly Camilla found
herself face to face with Luis, who was seated on a stone,
hatless, his legs dangling.

"Listen, you might come down here to say good-bye."

Luis Cervantes was obliging enough; he jumped down
and joined her.

"You're proud, ain't you? Have I been so mean that
you don't even want to talk to me?"

"Why do you say that, Camilla? You've been extreme-
ly kind to me; why, you've been more than a friend,
you've taken care of me as if you were my sister. Now
I'm about to leave, I'm very grateful to you; I'll always
remember you."

"Liar!" Camilla said, her face transfigured with joy.
"Suppose I hadn't come after you?"

"I intended to say good-bye to you at the dance this

"What dance? If there's a dance, I'll not go to it."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't stand that horrible man . . . Deme-

"Don't be silly, child," said Luis. "He's really very fond
of you. Don't go and throw away this opportunity. You'll
never have one like it again in your life. Don't you know
that Demetrio is on the point of becoming a general, you
silly girl? He'll be a very wealthy man, with horses ga-
lore; and you'll have jewels and clothes and a fine house
and a lot of money to spend. Just imagine what a life
you would lead with him!"

Camilla stared up at the blue sky so he should not
read the expression in her eyes. A dead leaf shook slowly
loose from the crest of a tree swinging slowly on the
wind, fell like a small dead butterfly at her feet. She
bent down and took it in her fingers. Then, without look-
ing at him, she murmured:

"It's horrible to hear you talk like that. . . . I like
you . . . no one else. . . . Ah, well, go then, go: I feel
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
wept also.

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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