“Demetrio, we’re friends, aren’t we? Well then, listen. You may not believe it, but I’ve had a lot of experience with women. Women! Christ, they’re all right for a while, granted! Though even that’s going pretty far. Demetrio, you should see the scars they’ve given me . . . all over my body, not to speak of my soul! To hell with women. They’re the devil, that’s what they are! You may have noticed I steer clear of them. You know why. And don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve had a hell of a lot of experience and that’s no lie!”
“What do you say, Pancracio? When are we going back to the ranch?” Demetrio insisted, blowing gray clouds of tobacco smoke into the air.
“Say the day, I’m game. You know I left my woman there too!”
“Your woman, hell!” Quail said, disgruntled and sleepy.
“All right, then, our woman! It’s a good thing you’re kindhearted so we all can enjoy her when you bring her over,” Manteca murmured.
“That’s right, Pancracio, bring one-eyed Maria An-tonia. We’re all getting pretty cold around here,” Meco shouted from a distance.
The crowd broke into peals of laughter. Pancracio and Manteca vied with each other in calling forth oaths and obscenity.
“Villa is coming!”
The news spread like lightning. Villa—the magic word! The Great Man, the salient profile, the unconquerable warrior who, even at a distance, exerts the fascination of a reptile, a boa constrictor.
“Our Mexican Napoleon!” exclaimed Luis Cervantes.
“Yes! The Aztec Eagle! He buried his beak of steel in the head of Huerta the serpent!” Solis, Natera’s chief of staff, remarked somewhat ironically, adding: “At least, that’s how I expressed it in a speech I made at Ciudad Juarez!”
The two sat at the bar of the saloon, drinking beer. The “high hats,” wearing mufflers around their necks and thick rough leather shoes on their feet, ate and drank endlessly. Their gnarled hands loomed across table, across bar. All their talk was of Villa and his men. The tales Natera’s followers related won gasps of astonish-ment from Demetrio’s men. Villa! Villa’s battles! Ciu-dad Juarez . . . Tierra Blanca . . . Chihuahua . . . Tor-reon. . . .
The bare facts, the mere citing of observation and ex-perience meant nothing. But the real story, with its ex-traordinary contrasts of high exploits and abysmal cruel-ties was quite different. Villa, indomitable lord of the sierra, the eternal victim of all governments . . . Villa tracked, hunted down like a wild beast . . . Villa the rein-carnation of the old legend; Villa as Providence, the ban-dit, that passes through the world armed with the blazing torch of an ideal: to rob the rich and give to the poor. It was the poor who built up and imposed a legend about him which Time itself was to increase and embellish as a shining example from generation to generation.