“Look, Pancracio,” said Meco, completely black save for his eyes and teeth. “This is for that man who passes that tree. I’ll get the son of a . . .”
“Take that! Right in the head. You saw it, didn’t you, mate? Now, this is for the fellow on the roan horse. Down you come, you shave-headed bastard!”
“I’ll give that lad on the trail’s edge a shower of lead. If you don’t hit the river, I’m a liar! Now: look at him!”
“Oh, come on, Anastasio don’t be cruel; lend me your rifle. Come along, one shot, just one!”
Manteca and Quail, unarmed, begged for a gun as a boon, imploring permission to fire at least a shot apiece. “Come out of your holes if you’ve got any guts!”
“Show your faces, you lousy cowards!”
From peak to peak, the shouts rang as distinctly as though uttered across a street. Suddenly, Quail stood up, naked, holding his trousers to windward as though he were a bullfighter flaunting a red cape, and the soldiers below the bull. A shower of shots peppered upon Demetrio’s men.
“God! That was like a hornet’s nest buzzing over-head,” said Anastasio Montanez, lying flat on the ground without daring to wink an eye.
“Here, Quail, you son of a bitch, you stay where I told you,” roared Demetrio.
They crawled to take new positions. The soldiers, con-gratulating themselves on their successes, ceased firing when another volley roused them.
“More coming!” they shouted.
Some, panic-stricken, turned their horses back; others, abandoning their mounts, began to climb up the moun-tain and seek shelter behind the rocks. The officers had to shoot at them to enforce discipline.
“Down there, down there!” said Demetrio as he leveled his rifle at the translucent thread of the river.
A soldier fell into the water; at each shot, invariably a soldier bit the dust. Only Demetrio was shooting in that direction; for every soldier killed, ten or twenty of them, intact, climbed afresh on the other side.
“Get those coming up from under! Los de Abajo! Get the underdogs!” he screamed.
Now his fellows were exchanging rifles, laughing and making wagers on their marksmanship.
“My leather belt if I miss that head there, on the black horse!”
“Lend me your rifle, Meco.”
“Twenty Mauser cartridges and a half yard of sausage if you let me spill that lad riding the bay mare. All right! Watch me.... There! See him jump! Like a bloody deer.”
“Don’t run, you half-breeds. Come along with you! Come and meet Father Demetrio!”
Now it was Demetrio’s men who screamed insults. Manteca, his smooth face swollen in exertion, yelled his lungs out. Pancracio roared, the veins and muscles in his neck dilated, his murderous eyes narrowed to two evil slits.
Demetrio fired shot after shot, constantly warning his men of impending danger, but they took no heed until they felt the bullets spattering them from one side.