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XVI


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
a store."

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
boss."

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
scale.

"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
upon them.

"It's awful, Chief!" Luis Cervantes cried in alarm.
"We've no more bombs left and we left our guns in the
corral."

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
hyena.

"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
another step.

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!"





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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