“Look at them again. There they go!” Maria Antonia yelled. “Why, they look like toys.”
Demetrio’s men, riding their thin nags, could still be descried in the distance against the sapphire translucence of the sky, where the broken rocks and the chaparral melted into a single bluish smooth surface. Across the air a gust of hot wind bore the broken, faltering strains of “La Adelita,” the revolutionary song, to the settlement. Camilla, who had come out when Maria Antonia shouted, could no longer control herself; she dived back into her hut, unable to restrain her tears and moaning. Maria Antonia burst into laughter and moved off.
“They’ve cast the evil eye on my daughter,” Agapita said in perplexity. She pondered a while, then duly reached a decision. From a pole in the hut she took down a piece of strong leather which her husband used to hitch up the yoke. This pole stood between a picture of Christ and one of the Virgin. Agapita promptly twisted the leather and proceeded to administer a sound thrashing to Camil-la in order to dispel the evil spirits.
Riding proudly on his horse, Demetrio felt like a new man. His eyes recovered their peculiar metallic brilliance, and the blood flowed, red and warm, through his cop-pery, pure-blooded Aztec cheeks.
The men threw out their chests as if to breathe the widening horizon, the immensity of the sky, the blue from the mountains and the fresh air, redolent with the various odors of the sierra. They spurred their horses to a gallop as if in that mad race they laid claims of possession to the earth. What man among them now remembered the stern chief of police, the growling policeman, or the con-ceited cacique? What man remembered his pitiful hut where he slaved away, always under the eyes of the owner or the ruthless and sullen foreman, always forced to rise before dawn, and to take up his shovel, basket, or goad, wearing himself out to earn a mere pitcher of atole and a handful of beans?
They laughed, they sang, they whistled, drunk with the sunlight, the air of the open spaces, the wine of life.
Meco, prancing forward on his horse, bared his white glistening teeth, joking and kicking up like a clown.
“Hey, Pancracio,” he asked with utmost seriousness, “my wife writes me I’ve got another kid. How in hell is that? I ain’t seen her since Madero was President.”
“That’s nothing,” the other replied. “You just left her a lot of eggs to hatch for you!”
They all laughed uproariously. Only Meco, grave and aloof, sang in a voice horribly shrill:
“I gave her a penny
That wasn’t enough.
I gave her a nickel
The wench wanted more.
We bargained. I asked
If a dime was enough
But she wanted a quarter.
By God! That was tough!
All wenches are fickle
And trumpery stuff!”
The sun, beating down upon them, dulled their minds and bodies and presently they were silent. All day long they rode through the canyon, up and down the steep, round hills, dirty and bald as a man’s head, hill after hill in endless succession. At last, late in the afternoon, they descried several stone church towers in the heart of a bluish ridge, and, beyond, the white road with its curling spirals of dust and its gray telegraph poles.