Demetrio, lying on the rug, seemed to be asleep; Cer-vantes, who had watched everything with profound in-difference, pulled the box closer to him with his foot, and stooping to scratch his ankle, swiftly picked it up. Some-thing gleamed up at him, dazzling. It was two pure-water diamonds mounted in filigreed platinum. Hastily he thrust them inside his coat pocket. When Demetrio awoke, Cervantes said:
“General, look at the mess these boys have made here. Don’t you think it would be advisable to forbid this sort of thing?”
“No. It’s about their only pleasure after putting their bellies up as targets for the enemy’s bullets.”
“Yes, of course, General, but they could do it some-where else. You see, this sort of thing hurts our prestige, and worse, our cause!”
Demetrio leveled his eagle eyes at Cervantes. He drummed with his fingernails against his teeth, absent-mindedly. Then:
“Come along, now, don’t blush,” he said. “You can talk like that to someone else. We know what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours. You picked the box, all right; I picked my gold watch; all right too!”
His words dispelled any pretense. Both of them, in perfect harmony, displayed their booty.
War Paint and her companions were ransacking the rest of the house. Quail entered the room with a twelve-year-old girl upon whose forehead and arms were al-ready marked copper-colored spots. They stopped short, speechless with surprise as they saw the books lying in piles on the floor, chairs and tables, the large mirrors thrown to the ground, smashed, the huge albums and the photographs torn into shreds, the furniture, objets d’art and bric-a-brac broken. Quail held his breath, his avid eyes scouring the room for booty.
Outside, in one corner of the patio, lost in dense clouds of suffocating smoke, Manteca was boiling corn on the cob, feeding his fire with books and paper that made the flames leap wildly through the air.
“Hey!” Quail shouted. “Look what I found. A fine sweat-cover for my mare.”
With a swift pull he wrenched down a hanging, which fell over a handsomely carved upright chair.
“Look, look at all these naked women!” Quail’s little companion cried, enchanted at a de luxe edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy. “I like this; I think I’ll take it along.”
She began to tear out the illustrations which pleased her most.
Demetrio crossed the room and sat down beside Luis Cervantes. He ordered some beer, handed one bottle up to his secretary, downed his own bottle at one gulp. Then, drowsily, he half closed his eyes, and soon fell sound asleep.
“Hey!” a man called to Pancracio from the threshold. “When can I see your general?”
“You can’t see him. He’s got
a hangover this morn-
ing. What the hell do you want?”
“I want to buy some of those books you’re burning.”
“I’ll sell them to you myself.”
“How much do you want for them?”
Pancracio frowned in bewilderment.