by Mariano Azuela
A Novel of the Mexican Revolution
Translated by E. Munguia, Jr. Original Title: LOS DE ABAJO
“How beautiful the revolution!
Even in its most barbarous aspect it is beautiful,”
Solis said with deep feeling.
That’s no animal, I tell you! Listen to the dog bark-ing! It must be a human being.”
The woman stared into the darkness of the sierra.
“What if they’re soldiers?” said a man, who sat In-dian-fashion, eating, a coarse earthenware plate in his right hand, three folded tortillas in the other.
The woman made no answer, all her senses directed outside the hut. The beat of horses’ hoofs rang in the quarry nearby. The dog barked again, louder and more angrily.
“Well, Demetrio, I think you had better hide, all the same.”
Stolidly, the man finished eating; next he reached for a cantaro and gulped down the water in it; then he stood up.
“Your rifle is under the mat,” she whispered.
A tallow candle illumined the small room. In one cor-ner stood a plow, a yoke, a goad, and other agricultural implements. Ropes hung from the roof, securing an old adobe mold, used as a bed; on it a child slept, covered with gray rags.
Demetrio buckled his cartridge belt about his waist and picked up his rifle. He was tall and well built, with a sanguine face and beardless chin; he wore shirt and trousers of white cloth, a broad Mexican hat and leather sandals.
With slow, measured step, he left the room, vanishing into the impenetrable darkness of the night.
The dog, excited to the point of madness, had jumped over the corral fence.
Suddenly a shot rang out. The dog moaned, then barked no more. Some men on horseback rode up, shout-ing and sweating; two of them dismounted, while the other hung back to watch the horses.
“Hey, there, woman: we want food! Give us eggs, milk, beans, anything you’ve got! We’re starving!”
“Curse the sierra! It would take the Devil himself not to lose his way!”
“Guess again, Sergeant! Even the Devil would go astray if he were as drunk as you are.”
The first speaker wore chevrons on his arm, the other red stripes on his shoulders.
“Whose place is this, old woman? Or is it an empty house? God’s truth, which is it?”
“Of course it’s not empty. How about the light and that child there? Look here, confound it, we want to eat, and damn quick tool Are you coming out or are we going to make you?”
“You swine! Both of you! You’ve gone and killed my dog, that’s what you’ve done! What harm did he ever do you? What did you have against him?”