They burst into guffaws of laughter.
When War Paint realized what had happened, she sought out Camilla and spoke with great affection:
“Poor little child! Tell me how all this happened.”
Camilla’s eyes were red from weeping.
“He lied to me! He lied! He came to the ranch and he told me, ’Camilla, I came just to get you. Do you want to go away with me?’ You can be sure I wanted to go with him; when it comes to loving, I adore him. Yes, I adore him. Look how thin I’ve grown just pin-ing away for him. Mornings I used to loathe to grind corn, Mamma would call me to eat, and anything I put in my mouth had no taste at all.”
Once more she burst into tears, stuffing the corner of her apron into her mouth to drown her sobs.
“Look here, I’ll help you out of this mess. Don’t be silly, child, don’t cry. Don’t think about the dude any more! Honest to God, he’s not worth it. You surely know his game, dear? . . . That’s the only reason why the General stands for him. What a goose! . . . All right, you want to go back home?”
“The Holy Virgin protect me. My mother would beat me to death!”
“She’ll do nothing of the sort. You and I can fix things. Listen! The soldiers are leaving any moment now. When Demetrio tells you to get ready, you tell him you feel pains all over your body as though someone had hit you; then you lie down and start yawning and shivering. Then put your hand on your forehead and say, ’I’m burning up with fever.’ I’ll tell Demetrio to leave us both here, that I’ll stay to take care of you, that as soon as you’re feeling all right again, we’ll catch up with them. But instead of that, I’ll see that you get home safe and sound.”
The sun had set, the town was lost in the drab mel-ancholy of its ancient streets amid the frightened silence of its inhabitants, who had retired very early, when Luis Cervantes reached Primitivo’s general store, his arrival interrupting a party that promised great doings.
Demetrio was engaged in getting drunk with his old comrades. The entire space before the bar was occupied. War Paint and Blondie had tied up their horses outside; but the other officers had stormed in brutally, horses and all. Embroidered hats with enormous and concave brims bobbed up and down everywhere. The horses wheeled about, prancing; tossing their restive heads; their fine breed showing in their black eyes, their small ears and dilating nostrils. Over the infernal din of the drunk-ards, the heavy breathing of the horses, the stamp of their hoofs on the tiled floor, and occasionally a quick, nervous whinny rang out.
A trivial episode was being commented upon when Luis Cervantes came in. A man, dressed in civilian clothes, with a round, black, bloody hole in his fore-head, lay stretched out in the middle of the street, his mouth gaping. Opinion was at first divided but finally all concurred with Blondie’s sound reasoning. The poor dead devil lying out there was the church sexton. . . . But what an idiot! His own fault, of course! Who in the name of hell could be so foolish as to dress like a city dude, with trousers, coat, cap, and all? Pancracio simply could not bear the sight of a city man in front of him! And that was that!