“Hurry up, ’Pifanio,” said the man who was smoking, “the sun has gone down already and you haven’t taken the animals to water.”
A horse neighed outside the corral; both men glanced up in amazement. Demetrio and Camilla were looking over the corral wall at them.
“I just want a place to sleep for my woman and me,” Demetrio said reassuringly.
As he explained that he was the chief of a small army which was to camp nearby that night, the man smoking, who owned the place, bid them enter with great deference. He ran to fetch a broom and a pail of water to dust and wash the best corner of the hut as decent lodging for his distinguished guests.
“Here, ’Pifanio, go out there and unsaddle the horses.”
The man who was shelling corn stood up with an effort. He was clad in a tattered shirt and vest. His torn trousers, split at the seam, looked like the wings of a cold, stricken bird; two strings of cloth dangled from his waist. As he walked, he described grotesque circles.
“Surely you’re not fit to do any work!” Demetrio said, refusing to allow him to touch the saddles.
“Poor man,” the owner cried from within the hut, “he’s lost all his strength. . . . But he surely works for his pay. . . . He starts working the minute God Almighty himself gets up, and it’s after sundown now but he’s working still!”
Demetrio went out with Camilla for a stroll about the encampment. The meadow, golden, furrowed, stripped even of the smallest bushes, extended limitless in its im-mense desolation. The three tall ash trees which stood in front of the small house, with dark green crests, round and waving, with rich foliage and branches drooping to the very ground, seemed a veritable miracle.
“I don’t know why but I feel there’s a lot of sadness around here,” said Demetrio.
“Yes,” Camilla answered, “I feel that way too.”
On the bank of a small stream, ’Pifanio was strenu-ously tugging at a rope with a large can tied to the end of it. He poured a stream of water over a heap of fresh, cool grass; in the twilight, the water glimmered like crys-tal. A thin cow, a scrawny nag, and a burro drank noisily together.
Demetrio recognized the limping servant and asked him: “How much do you get a day?”
“Eight cents a day, boss.”
He was an insignificant, scrofulous wraith of a man with green eyes and straight, fair hair. He whined com-plaint of his boss, the ranch, his bad luck, his dog’s life.
“You certainly earn your pay all right, my lad,” De-metrio interrupted kindly. “You complain and complain, but you aren’t no loafer, you work and work.” Then, aside to Camilla: “There’s always more damned fools in the valley than among us folk in the sierra, don’t you think?”
“Of course!” she replied.
They went on. The valley was lost in darkness; stars came out. Demetrio put his arm around Camilla’s waist amorously and whispered in her ear.