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IV


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,
there!"
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
minute, look!"
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."





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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