Amid clouds of white rifle smoke and the dense black vapors of flaming buildings, houses with wide doors and windows bolted shone in the sunlight. The streets seemed to be piled upon one another, or wound picturesquely about fantastic corners, or set to scale the hills nearby. Above the graceful cluster of houses, rose the lithe columns of a warehouse and the towers and cupola of the church.
“How beautiful the revolution! Even in its most bar-barous aspect it is beautiful,” Solis said with deep feel-ing. Then a vague melancholy seized him, and speaking low:
“A pity what remains to do won’t be as beautiful! We must wait a while, until there are no men left to fight on either side, until no sound of shot rings through the air save from the mob as carrion-like it falls upon the booty; we must wait until the psychology of our race, con-densed into two words, shines clear and luminous as a drop of water: Robbery! Murder! What a colossal failure we would make of it, friend, if we, who offer our enthu-siasm and lives to crush a wretched tyrant, became the builders of a monstrous edifice holding one hundred or two hundred thousand monsters of exactly the same sort. People without ideals! A tyrant folk! Vain bloodshed!”
Large groups of Federals pushed up the hill, fleeing from the “high hats.” A bullet whistled past them, singing as it sped. After his speech, Alberto Solis stood lost in thought, his arms crossed. Suddenly, he took fright.
“I’ll be damned if I like these plaguey mosquitoes!” he said. “Let’s get away from here!”
So scornfully Luis Cervantes smiled that Solis sat down on a rock quite calm, bewildered. He smiled. His gaze roved as he watched the spirals of smoke from the rifles, the dust of roofs crumbling from houses as they fell before the artillery. He believed he discerned the sym-bol of the revolution in these clouds of dust and smoke that climbed upward together, met at the crest of the hill and, a moment after, were lost. . . .
“By heaven, now I see what it all means!” He sketched a vast gesture, pointing to the station. Locomotives belched huge clouds of black dense smoke rising in columns; the trains were overloaded with fugi-tives who had barely managed to escape from the cap-tured town.
Suddenly he felt a sharp blow in the stomach. As though his legs were putty, he rolled off the rock. His ears buzzed. . . Then darkness . . . silence . . . eternity. . . .
Demetrio, nonplussed, scratched his head: “Look here, don’t ask me any more questions. . . . You gave me the eagle I wear on my hat, didn’t you? All right then; you just tell me: ‘Demetrio, do this or do that,’ and that’s all there is to it.”
To champagne, that sparkles and foams as the beaded bubbles burst at the brim of the glass, Demetrio pre-ferred the native tequila, limpid and fiery.