Bottles of tequila, dishes of cut glass, bowls, porcelains and vases lay scattered over the table indiscriminately. Meco, carrying a box of beer upon his shoulders, came in cursing and sweating.
“You don’t know this fellow Blondie yet,” said War Paint, noticing the persistent glances he was casting at Luis Cervantes’ bride. “He’s a smart fellow, I can tell you, and he never misses a trick.” She gazed at him lecherously, adding:
“That’s why I don’t like to see him close, even on a photograph!”
The orchestra struck up a raucous march as though they were playing at a bullfight. The soldiers roared with joy.
“What fine tripe, General; I swear I haven’t tasted the like of it in all my life,” Blondie said, as he began to reminisce about “El Monico” at Chihuahua.
“You really like it, Blondie?” responded Demetrio. “Go ahead, call for more, eat your bellyful.”
“It’s just the way I like it,” Anastasio chimed in. “Yes, I like good food! But nothing really tastes good to you unless you belch!”
The noise of mouths being filled, of ravenous feeding followed. All drank copiously. At the end of the dinner, Luis Cervantes rose, holding a champagne glass in one hand, and said:
“General. . .”
“Ho!” War Paint interrupted. “This speech-making busi-ness isn’t for me; I’m all against it. I’ll go out to the corral since there’s no more eating here.”
Presenting Demetrio with a black velvet-covered box containing a small brass eagle, Luis Cervantes made a toast which no one understood but everyone applauded enthusiastically. Demetrio took the insignia in his hands; and with flushed face, and eyes shining, declared with great candor: “What in hell am I going to do with this buzzard!”
“Compadre,” Anastasio Montanez said in a tremu-lous voice. “I ain’t got much to tell you. . . .”
Whole minutes elapsed between his words; the cursed words would not come to Anastasio. His face, coated with filth, unwashed for days, turned crimson, shining with perspiration. Finally he decided to finish his toast at all costs. “Well, I ain’t got much to tell you, except that we are pals. . . .”
Then, since everyone had applauded at the end of Luis Cervantes’ speech, Anastasio having finished, made a sign, and the company clapped their hands in great gravi-ty.
But everything turned out for the best, since his awk-wardness inspired others. Manteca and Quail stood up and made their toasts, too. When Meco’s turn came, War Paint rushed in shouting jubilantly, attempting to drag a splendid black horse into the dining room.
“My booty! My booty!” she cried, patting the superb animal on the neck. It resisted every effort she made until a strong jerk of the rope and a sudden lash brought it in prancing smartly. The soldiers, half drunk, stared at the beast with ill-disguised envy.
“I don’t know what the hell this she-devil’s got, but she always beats everybody to it,” cried Blondie. “She’s been the same ever since she joined us at Tierra Blanca!”