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VII


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
senses."

"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 pin-
ing 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 Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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