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VIII


The sun had set, the town was lost in the drab mel-
ancholy of its ancient streets amid the frightened silence
of its inhabitants, who had retired very early, when Luis
Cervantes reached Primitivo's general store, his arrival
interrupting a party that promised great doings.

Demetrio was engaged in getting drunk with his old
comrades. The entire space before the bar was occupied.
War Paint and Blondie had tied up their horses outside;
but the other officers had stormed in brutally, horses
and all. Embroidered hats with enormous and concave
brims bobbed up and down everywhere. The horses
wheeled about, prancing; tossing their restive heads; their
fine breed showing in their black eyes, their small ears
and dilating nostrils. Over the infernal din of the drunk-
ards, the heavy breathing of the horses, the stamp of
their hoofs on the tiled floor, and occasionally a quick,
nervous whinny rang out.

A trivial episode was being commented upon when
Luis Cervantes came in. A man, dressed in civilian
clothes, with a round, black, bloody hole in his fore-
head, lay stretched out in the middle of the street, his
mouth gaping. Opinion was at first divided but finally
all concurred with Blondie's sound reasoning. The poor
dead devil lying out there was the church sexton. . . .
But what an idiot! His own fault, of course! Who in
the name of hell could be so foolish as to dress like a
city dude, with trousers, coat, cap, and all? Pancracio
simply could not bear the sight of a city man in front
of him! And that was that!

Eight musicians, playing wind instruments, interrupted
their labors at Cervantes' command. Their faces were
round and red as suns, their eyes popping, for they had
been blowing on their brass instruments since dawn.

"General," Luis said pushing his way through the men
on horseback, "a messenger has arrived with orders to
proceed immediately to the pursuit and capture of
Orozco and his men."

Faces that had been dark and gloomy were now il-
lumined with joy.

"To Jalisco, boys!" cried Blondie, pounding on the
counter.

"Make ready, all you darling Jalisco girls of my heart,
for I'm coming along too!" Quail shouted, twisting back
the brim of his hat.

The enthusiasm and rejoicing were general. Demetrio's
friends, in the excitement of drunkenness, offered their
services. Demetrio was so happy that he could scarcely
speak. They were going to fight Orozco and his men!
At last, they would pit themselves against real men! At
last they would stop shooting down the Federals like so
many rabbits or wild turkeys.

"If I could get hold of Orozco alive," Blondie said,
"I'd rip off the soles of his feet and make him walk
twenty-four hours over the sierra!"

"Was that the guy who killed Madero?" asked Meco.

"No," Blondie replied solemnly, "but once when I was
a waiter at 'El Monico,' up in Chihuahua, he hit me
in the face!"

"Give Camilla the roan mare," Demetrio ordered Pan-
cracio, who was already saddling the horses.

"Camilla can't go!" said War Paint promptly.

"Who in hell asked for your opinion?" Demetrio re-
torted angrily.

"It's true, isn't it, Camilla? You were sore all over,
weren't you? And you've got a fever right now?"

"Well--anything Demetrio says."

"Don't be a fool! say 'No,' come on, say 'No,"' War
Paint whispered nervously into Camilla's ear.

"I'll tell you, War Paint. . . . It's funny, but I'm be-
ginning to fall for him. . . . Would you believe it!" Ca-
milla whispered back.

War Paint turned purple, her cheeks swelled. Without
a word she went out to get her horse that Blondie was
saddling.





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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