“You must have sound reasons for feeling that way.”
“I hoped to find a meadow at the end of the road. I found a swamp. Facts are bitter; so are men. That bitter-ness eats your heart out; it is poison, dry rot. Enthu-siasm, hope, ideals, happiness-vain dreams, vain dreams. . . . When that’s over, you have a choice. Either you turn bandit, like the rest, or the timeservers will swamp you. . . .”
Cervantes writhed at his friend’s words; his argument was quite out of place . . . painful. . . . To avoid being forced to take issue, he invited Solis to cite the cir-cumstances that had destroyed his illusions.
“Circumstances? No—it’s far less important than that. It’s a host of silly, insignificant things that no one notices except yourself . . . a change of expression, eyes shin-ing-lips curled in a sneer-the deep import of a phrase that is lost! Yet take these things together and they com-pose the mask of our race . . . terrible . . . grotesque . . . a race that awaits redemption!”
He drained another glass. After a long pause, he con-tinued:
“You ask me why I am still a rebel? Well, the revolu-tion is like a hurricane: if you’re in it, you’re not a man . . . you’re a leaf, a dead leaf, blown by the wind.”
Demetrio reappeared. Seeing him, Solis relapsed into silence.
“Come along,” Demetrio said to Cervantes. “Come with me.”
Unctuously, Solis congratulated Demetrio on the feats that had won him fame and the notice of Pancho Villa’s northern division.
Demetrio warmed to his praise. Gratefully, he heard his prowess vaunted, though at times he found it difficult to believe he was the hero of the exploits the other nar-rated. But Solis’ story proved so charming, so con-vincing, that before long he found himself repeating it as gospel truth.
“Natera is a genius!” Luis Cervantes said when they had returned to the hotel. “But Captain Solis is a nobody . . . a timeserver.” Demetrio Macias was too elated to listen to him. “I’m a colonel, my lad! And you’re my secretary!”
Demetrio’s men made many acquaintances that eve-ning; much liquor flowed to celebrate new friendships. Of course men are not necessarily even tempered, nor is alcohol a good counselor; quarrels naturally ensued. Yet many differences that occurred were smoothed out in a friendly spirit, outside the saloons, restaurants, or broth-els.
On the morrow, casualties were reported. Always a few dead. An old prostitute was found with a bullet through her stomach; two of Colonel Macias’ new men lay in the gutter, slit from ear to ear.
Anastasio Montanez carried an account of the events to his chief. Demetrio shrugged his shoulders. “Bury them!” he said.
“They’re coming back!”
It was with amazement that the inhabitants of Fresnillo learned that the rebel attack on Zacatecas had failed com-pletely.