“Yes, I not only respect brave men, but I like them. I’m proud and happy to call them friends. Here’s my hand on it: friend to friend.” Then, after a pause: “All right, Demetrio Macias, if you don’t want to shake hands, all right! But it’s because you don’t know me, that’s why, just because the first time you saw me I was doing this dog’s job. But look here, I ask you, what in God’s name can a man do when he’s poor and has a wife to support and kids? . . . Right you are, Sergeant, let’s go: I’ve nothing but respect for the home of what I call a brave man, a real, honest, genuine man!”
When they had gone, the woman drew close to Demetrio.
“Holy Virgin, what agony! I suffered as though it was you they’d shot.”
“You go to father’s house, quick!” Demetrio ordered. She wanted to hold him in her arms; she entreated, she wept. But he pushed away from her gently and, in a sullen voice, said, “I’ve an idea the whole lot of them are com-ing.” “Why didn’t you kill ’em?” “Their hour hasn’t struck yet.”
They went out together; she bore the child in her arms. At the door, they separated, moving off in different directions.
The moon peopled the mountain with vague shadows. As he advanced at every turn of his way Demetrio could see the poignant, sharp silhouette of a woman pushing forward painfully, bearing a child in her arms.
When, after many hours of climbing, he gazed back, huge flames shot up from the depths of the canyon by the river. It was his house, blazing. . . .
Everything was still swathed in shadows as Demetrio Macias began his descent to the bottom of the ravine. Between rocks striped with huge eroded cracks, and a squarely cut wall, with the river flowing below, a narrow ledge along the steep incline served as a mountain trail.
“They’ll surely find me now and track us down like dogs,” he mused. “It’s a good thing they know nothing about the trails and paths up here. . . . But if they got someone from Moyahua to guide them . . .” He left the sinister thought unfinished. “All the men from Limon or Santa Rosa or the other nearby ranches are on our side: they wouldn’t try to trail us. That cacique who’s chased and run me ragged over these hills, is at Mohayua now; he’d give his eyeteeth to see me dangling from a telegraph pole with my tongue hanging out of my mouth, purple and swollen. . . .”
At dawn, he approached the pit of the canyon. Here, he lay on the rocks and fell asleep.
The river crept along, murmuring as the waters rose and fell in small cascades. Birds sang lyrically from their hiding among the pitaya trees. The monotonous, eternal drone of insects filled the rocky solitude with mystery.
Demetrio awoke with a start. He waded the river, fol-lowing its course which ran counter to the canyon; he climbed the crags laboriously as an ant, gripping root and rock with his hands, clutching every stone in the trail with his bare feet.