When he reached the summit, he glanced down to see the sun steeping the valley in a lake of gold. Near the canyon, enormous rocks loomed protrudent, like fantastic Negro skulls. The pitaya trees rose tenuous, tall, like the tapering, gnarled fingers of a giant; other trees of all sorts bowed their crests toward the pit of the abyss. Amid the stark rocks and dry branches, roses bloomed like a white offering to the sun as smoothly, suavely, it unrav-eled its golden threads, one by one, from rock to rock.
Demetrio stopped at the summit. Reaching backward, with his right arm he drew his horn which hung at his back, held it up to his thick lips, and, swelling his cheeks out, blew three loud blasts. From across the hill close by, three sharp whistles answered his signal.
In the distance, from a conical heap of reeds and dry straws, man after man emerged, one after the other, their legs and chests naked, lambent and dark as old bronze. They rushed forward to greet Demetrio, and stopped be-fore him, askance. “They’ve burnt my house,” he said.
A murmur of oaths, imprecations, and threats rose among them.
Demetrio let their anger run its course. Then he drew a bottle from under his shirt and took a deep swig; then he wiped the neck of the bottle with the back of his hand and passed it around. It passed from mouth to mouth; not a drop was left. The men passed their tongues greedily over their lips to recapture the tang of the liq-uor.
“Glory be to God and by His Will,” said Demetrio, “tonight or tomorrow at the latest we’ll meet the Federals. What do you say, boys, shall we let them find their way about these trails?”
The ragged crew jumped to their feet, uttering shrill cries of joy; then their jubilation tamed sinister and they gave vent to threats, oaths and imprecations.
“Of course, we can’t tell how strong they are,” said Demetrio as his glance traveled over their faces in scrutiny.
“Do you remember Medina? Out there at Hos-totipaquillo, he only had a half a dozen men with knives that they sharpened on a grindstone. Well, he held back the soldiers and the police, didn’t he? And he beat them, too.”
“We’re every bit as good as Medina’s crowd!” said a tall, broad-shouldered man with a black beard and bushy eyebrows.
“By God, if I don’t own a Mauser and a lot of car-tridges, if I can’t get a pair of trousers and shoes, then my name’s not Anastasio Montanez! Look here, Quail, you don’t believe it, do you? You ask my partner Demetrio if I haven’t half a dozen bullets in me already. Christ! Bullets are marbles to me! And I dare you to contradict me!”
“Viva Anastasio Montanez,” shouted Manteca.
“All right, all right!” said Montanez. “Viva Demetrio Macias, our chief, and long life to God in His heaven and to the Virgin Mary.”
“Viva Demetrio Macias,” they all shouted.