“It’s you, eh? What’s new? Come on, sit down.”
Luis Cervantes first went over to trim the candle, then drew up a chair without a back, a coarse rag doing the duty of a wicker bottom. The legs of the chair squeaked. War Paint’s black horse snorted and whirled its crupper in wide circles. Luis Cervantes sank into his seat.
“General, I wish to make my report. Here you have . . .”
“Look here, man, I didn’t really want this done, you know. Moyahua is almost like my native town. They’ll say this is why we’ve been fighting!” Demetrio said, look-ing at the bulging sack of silver Cervantes was passing to him. Cervantes left his seat to squat down by Deme-trio’s side.
He stretched a blanket over the floor and into it poured the ten-peso pieces, shining, burning gold.
“First of all, General, only you and I know about this. . . . Secondly, you know well enough that if the sun shines, you should open the window. It’s shining in our faces now but what about tomorrow? You should always look ahead. A bullet, a bolting horse, even a wretched cold in the head, and then there are a widow and orphans left in absolute want! . . . The Govern-ment? Ha! Ha! . . . Just go see Carranza or Villa or any of the big chiefs and try and tell them about your family. . . . If they answer with a kick you know where, they’ll say they’re giving you a handful of jewels. And they’re right; we did not rise up in arms to make some Carranza or Villa President of our Republic. No—we fought to defend the sacred rights of the people against the tyranny of some vile cacique. And so, just as Villa or Carranza aren’t going to ask our consent to the pay-ment they’re getting for the services they’re rendering the country, we for our part don’t have to ask anybody’s permission about anything either.”
Demetrio half stood up, grasped a bottle that stood nearby, drained it, then spat out the liquor, swelling out his cheeks.
“By God, my boy, you’ve certainly got the gift of gab!”
Luis felt dizzy, faint. The spattered beer seemed to intensify the stench of the refuse on which they sat; a carpet of orange and banana peels, fleshlike slices of watermelon, moldy masses of mangoes and sugarcane, all mixed up with cornhusks from tamales and human offal.
Demetrio’s calloused hands shuffled through the bril-liant coins, counting and counting. Recovering from his nausea, Luis Cervantes pulled out a small box of Fallieres phosphate and poured forth rings, brooches, pendants, and countless valuable jewels.
“Look here, General, if this mess doesn’t blow over (and it doesn’t look as though it would), if the revolu-tion keeps on, there’s enough here already for us to live on abroad quite comfortably.”
Demetrio shook his bead.
“You wouldn’t do that!”
“Why not? What are we staying on for? . . . What cause are we defending now?”