eBooks Cube
 
III


In Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, in the little country
towns and the neighboring communities, haciendas and
ranches were deserted. When one of the officers found
a barrel of tequila, the event assumed miraculous propor-
tions. Everything was conducted with secrecy and care;
deep mystery was preserved to oblige the soldiers to
leave on the morrow before sunrise under Anastasio and
Venancio.

When Demetrio awoke to the strains of music, his
general staff, now composed chiefly of young ex-govern-
ment officers, told him of the discovery, and Quail, in-
terpreting the thoughts of his colleagues, said senten-
tiously:

"These are bad times and you've got to take advantage
of everythin'. If there are some days when a duck can
swim, there's others when he can't take a drink."

The string musicians played all day; the most solemn
honors were paid to the barrel: but Demetrio was very sad.


"Did he know why?
I don't know why."



He kept repeating the same refrain.

In the afternoon there were cockfights. Demetrio sat
down with the chief officers under the roof of the mu-
nicipal portals in front of a city square covered with
weeds, a tumbled kiosk, and some abandoned adobe
houses.

"Valderrama," Demetrio called, looking away from the
ring with tired eyes, "come and sing me a song--sing
'The Undertaker.'"

But Valderrama did not hear him; he had no eyes
for the fight; he was reciting an impassioned soliloquy as
he watched the sunset over the hills.

With solemn gestures and emphatic tones, he said:

"O Lord, Lord, pleasurable it is this thy land! I shall
build me three tents: one for Thee, one for Moses, one
for Elijah!"

"Valderrama," Demetrio shouted again. "Come and
sing 'The Undertaker' song for me."

"Hey, crazy, the General is calling you," an officer
shouted.

Valderrama with his eternally complacent smile went
over to Demetrio's seat and asked the musicians for a
guitar.

"Silence," the gamesters cried. Valderrama finished
tuning his instrument.

Quail and Meco let loose on the sand a pair of cocks
armed with long sharp blades attached to their legs. One
was light red; his feathers shone with beautiful obsidian
glints. The other was sand-colored with feathers like
scales burned slowly to a fiery copper color.

The fight was swift and fierce as a duel between men.
As though moved by springs, the roosters flew at each
other. Their feathers stood up on their arched necks;
their combs were erect, their legs taut. For an instant
they swung in the air without even touching the ground,
their feathers, beaks, and claws lost in a dizzy whirl-
wind. The red rooster suddenly broke, tossed with his
legs to heaven outside the chalk lines. His vermilion eyes
closed slowly, revealing eyelids of pink coral; his tangled
feathers quivered and shook convulsively amid a pool of
blood.

Valderrama, who could not repress a gesture of violent
indignation, began to play. With the first melancholy
strains of the tune, his anger disappeared. His eyes
gleamed with the light of madness. His glance strayed
over the square, the tumbled kiosk, the old adobe houses,
over the mountains in the background, and over the sky,
burning like a roof afire. He began to sing. He put such
feeling into his voice and such expression into the strings
that, as he finished, Demetrio turned his head aside to
hide his tears.

But Valderrama fell upon him, embraced him warmly,
and with a familiarity he showed everyone at the ap-
propriate moment, he whispered:
"Drink them! . . . Those are beautiful tears."
Demetrio asked for the bottle, passed it to Valder-
rama. Greedily the poet drank half its contents in one
gulp; then, showing only the whites of his eyes, he faced
the spectators dramatically and, in a highly theatrical
voice, cried:

"Here you may witness the blessings of the revolution
caught in a single tear."
Then he continued to talk like a madman, but like a
madman whose vast prophetic madness encompassed all
about him, the dusty weeds, the tumbled kiosk, the gray
houses, the lovely hills, and the immeasurable sky.





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
Nabou.com: the big site