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XVIII


They're coming back!"

It was with amazement that the inhabitants of Fresnillo
learned that the rebel attack on Zacatecas had failed com-
pletely.

"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
with them!"

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
there too!"

"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
obscenity.





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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