Anastasio shook his belt; the silver coins rang as he shook them together.
Meanwhile, Pancracio dealt the cards, the jack of spades turned up out of the deck and a quarrel ensued. Altercation, noise, then shouts, and, at last, insults. Pan-cracio brought his stony face close to Manteca, who looked at him with snake’s eyes, convulsive, foaming at the mouth. Another moment and they would have been exchanging blows. Having completely exhausted their stock of direct insults, they now resorted to the most flowery and ornate insulting of each other’s ancestors, male and female, paternal or maternal. Yet nothing unto-ward occurred.
After their supply of words was exhausted, they gave over gambling and, their arms about each other’s shoul-ders, marched off in search of a drink of alcohol.
“I don’t like to fight with my tongue either, it’s not de-cent. I’m right, too, eh? I tell you no man living has ever breathed a word to me against my mother. I want to be respected, see? That’s why you’ve never seen me fooling with anyone.” There was a pause. Then, suddenly, “Look there, Tenderfoot,” Anastasio said, changing his tone and standing up with one hand spread over his eyes. “What’s that dust over there behind the hillock. By God, what if it’s those damned Federals and we sitting here doing nothing. Come on, let’s go and warn the rest of the boys.”
The news met with cries of joy.
“Ah, we’re going to meet them!” cried Pancracio jubi-lantly, first among them to rejoice.
“Of course, we’re going to meet them! We’ll strip them clean of everything they brought with them.”
A few moments later, amid cries of joy and a bustle of arms, they began saddling their horses. But the enemy turned out to be a few burros and two Indians, driving them forward.
“Stop them, anyhow. They must have come from some-where and they’ve probably news for us,” Demetrio said.
Indeed, their news proved sensational. The Federal troops had fortified the hills in Zacatecas; this was said to be Huerta’s last stronghold, but everybody predicted the fall of the city. Many families had hastily fled south-ward. Trains were overloaded with people; there was a scarcity of trucks and coaches; hundreds of people, panic-stricken, walked along the highroad with their be-longings in a pack slung over their shoulders. General Panfilo Natera was assembling his men at Fresnillo; the Federals already felt it was all up with them.
“The fall of Zacatecas will be Huerta’s requiescat in pace,” Luis Cervantes cried with unusual excitement. “We’ve got to be there before the fight starts so that we can join Natera’s army.”
Then, suddenly, he noted the surprise with which De-metrio and his men greeted his suggestion. Crestfallen, he realized they still considered him of no account.
On the morrow, as the men set off in search of good mounts before taking to the road again, Demetrio called Luis Cervantes: