But the time came when he could walk no farther. He tried repeatedly and failed, and meanwhile the earth spun even more rapidly, threatening to whirl him off into space. It was a terrible sensation; he lay down and hugged the ground, clinging to roots and sobbing weakly. Rosa, he knew, was just around the next bend in the trail; he called to her, but she did not answer, and he dared not attempt to creep forward because his grip was failing. He could feel his fingers slipping—slipping. It was agony. He summoned his last atom of determination, but to no avail. He gave up finally, and felt himself propelled dizzily outward into immeasurable voids. His last thought, as he went whirling end over end through space, was of his sister. She would never know how hard he had tried to reach her.
Late on the second day after the battle Asensio returned to his bohio. Rosa and Evangelina, already frantic at the delay, heard him crying to them while he was still hidden in the woods, and knew that the worst had happened. There was little need for him to tell his story, for he was weaponless, stained, and bloody. He had crossed the hills on foot after a miraculous escape from that ravine of death. Of his companions he knew nothing whatever; the mention of Esteban’s name caused him to beat his breast and cry aloud. He was weak and feverish, and his incoherent story of the midnight encounter was so highly colored that Rosa nearly swooned with horror.
The girl stood swaying while he told how the night had betrayed them, how he had wrought incredible feats of valor before the shifting tide of battle had spewed him out the end of the sunken road and left him half dead in the grass. Asensio had lain there until, finding himself growing stronger, he had burrowed into a tangle of vines at the foot of a wall, where he had remained until the fighting ceased. When the Spaniards had finally discovered their mistake and had ceased riding one another down, when lights came and he heard Colonel Cobo cursing them like one insane, he had wriggled away, crossed the calzada, and hidden in the woods until dawn. He had been walking ever since; he had come home to die.
Rosa heard only parts of the story, for her mind was numbed, her heart frozen. Her emotion was too deep for tears, it paralyzed her for the time being; she merely stood staring, her dark eyes glazed, her ashen lips apart. Finally something snapped, and she knew nothing more until hours afterward, when she found herself upon her comfortless bed with Evangelina bending over her. All night she had lain inert, in a merciful stupor; it was not until the next morning that she gradually came out of her coma.