“Look here, friend,” one of Natera’s men told Anas-tasio, “if General Villa takes a fancy to you, he’ll give you a ranch on the spot. But if he doesn’t, he’ll shoot you down like a dog! God! You ought to see Villa’s troops! They’re all northerners and dressed like lords! You ought to see their wide-brimmed Texas hats and their brand-new outfits and their four-dollar shoes, imported from the U. S. A.”
As they retailed the wonders of Villa and his men, Natera’s men gazed at one another ruefully, aware that their own hats were rotten from sunlight and moisture, that their own shirts and trousers were tattered and barely fit to cover their grimy, lousy bodies.
“There’s no such a thing as hunger up there. They carry boxcars full of oxen, sheep, cows! They’ve got cars full of clothing, trains full of guns, ammunition, food enough to make a man burst!”
Then they spoke of Villa’s airplanes.
“Christ, those planes! You know when they’re close to you, be damned if you know what the hell they are! They look like small boats, you know, or tiny rafts . . . and then pretty soon they begin to rise, making a hell of a row. Something like an automobile going sixty miles an hour. Then they’re like great big birds that don’t even seem to move sometimes. But there’s a joker! The God-damn things have got some American fellow inside with hand grenades by the thousand. Now you try and figure what that means! The fight is on, see? You know how a farmer feeds corn to his chickens, huh? Well, the Amer-ican throws his lead bombs at the enemy just like that. Pretty soon the whole damn field is nothing but a grave-yard . . . dead men all over the dump . . . dead men here . . . dead men there . . . dead men everywhere!”
Anastasio Montanez questioned the speaker more par-ticularly. It was not long before he realized that all this high praise was hearsay and that not a single man in Natera’s army had ever laid eyes on Villa.
“Well, when you get down to it, I guess it doesn’t mean so much! No man’s got much more guts than any other man, if you ask me. All you need to be a good fighter is pride, that’s all. I’m not a professional soldier even though I’m dressed like hell, but let me tell you. I’m not forced to do this kind of bloody job, because I own . . .”
“Because I own over twenty oxen, whether you believe it or not!” Quail said, mocking Anastasio.
The firing lessened, then slowly died out. Luis Cer-vantes, who had been hiding amid a heap of ruins at the fortification on the crest of the hill, made bold to show his face. How he had managed to hang on, he did not know. Nor did he know when Demetrio and his men had disappeared. Suddenly he had found himself alone; then, hurled back by an avalanche of infantry, he fell from his saddle; a host of men trampled over him until he rose from the ground and a man on horseback hoisted him up behind him. After a few moments, horse and riders fell. Left without rifle, revolver, or arms of any kind, Cer-vantes found himself lost in the midst of white smoke and whistling bullets. A hole amid a debris of crumbling stone offered a refuge of safety. “Hello, partner!” “Luis, how are you!”