In great excitement, they yelled and shrieked and were about to fire at the prisoner.
“Sssh! Shut up! I think Demetrio’s talking now,” An-astasio said, striving to quiet them. Indeed, Demetrio, having ascertained the cause of the turmoil, ordered them to bring the prisoner before him.
“It’s positively infamous, senor; look,” Luis Cervantes said, pointing to the bloodstains on his trousers and to his bleeding face.
“All right, all right. But who in hell are you? That’s what I want to know,” Demetrio said.
“My name is Luis Cervantes, sir. I’m a medical stu-dent and a journalist. I wrote a piece in favor of the revolution, you see; as a result, they persecuted me, caught me, and finally landed me in the barracks.”
His ensuing narrative was couched in terms of such detail and expressed in terms so melodramatic that it drew guffaws of mirth from Pancracio and Manteca.
“All I’ve tried to do is to make myself clear on this point. I want you to be convinced that I am truly one of your coreligionists. . . .”
“What’s that? What did you say? Car . . . what?” Demetrio asked, bringing his ear close to Cervantes.
“Coreligionist, sir, that is to say, a person who posses-ses the same religion, who is inspired by the same ideals, who defends and fights for the same cause you are now fighting for.”
“What are we fighting for? That’s what I’d like to know.”
In his disconcertment, Luis Cervantes could find no reply.
“Look at that mug, look at ’im! Why waste any time, Demetrio? Let’s shoot him,” Pancracio urged impatiently.
Demetrio laid a hand on his hair which covered his ears, and stretching himself out for a long time, seemed to be lost in thought. Having found no solution, he said:
“Get out, all of you; it’s aching again. Anastasio put out the candle. Lock him up in the corral and let Pan-cracio and Manteca watch him. Tomorrow, we’ll see.
Through the shadows of the starry night, Luis Cer-vantes had not yet managed to detect the exact shape of the objects about him. Seeking the most suitable resting-place, he laid his weary bones down on a fresh pile of manure under the blurred mass of a huizache tree. He lay down, more exhausted than resigned, and closed his eyes, resolutely determined to sleep until his fierce keepers or the morning sun, burning his ears, awakened him. Something vaguely like warmth at his side, then a tired hoarse breath, made him shudder. He opened his eyes and feeling about him with his hands, he sensed the coarse hairs of a large pig which, resenting the presence of a neighbor, began to grunt.
All Luis’ efforts to sleep proved quite useless, not only because the pain of his wound or the bruises on his flesh smarted, but because he suddenly realized the exact nature of his failure.