“Goddamn their souls, they’ve branded me!” Demetrio cried, his teeth flashing.
Then, very swiftly, he slid down a gully and was lost....
Two men were missing, Serapio the candymaker, and Antonio, who played the cymbals in the Juchipila band. “Maybe they’ll join us further on,” said Demetrio.
The return journey proved moody. Anastasio Montanez alone preserved his equanimity, a kindly expression play-ing in his sleepy eyes and on his bearded face. Pancracio’s harsh, gorillalike profile retained its repulsive immuta-bility.
The soldiers had retreated; Demetrio began the search for the soldiers’ horses which had been hidden in the sierra.
Suddenly Quail, who had been walking ahead, shrieked. He had caught sight of his companions swinging from the branches of a mesquite. There could be no doubt of their identity; Serapio and Antonio they certainly were. Anastasio Montanez prayed brokenly.
“Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come...”
“Amen,” his men answered in low tones, their heads bowed, their hats upon their breasts. . . .
Then, hurriedly, they took the Juchipila canyon north-ward, without halting to rest until nightfall.
Quail kept walking close to Anastasio unable to banish from his mind the two who were hanged, their dislocated limp necks, their dangling legs, their arms pendulous, and their bodies moving slowly in the wind.
On the morrow, Demetrio complained bitterly of his wound; he could no longer ride on horseback. They were forced to carry him the rest of the way on a makeshift stretcher of leaves and branches.
“He’s bleeding frightfully,” said Anastasio Montanez, tearing off one of his shirt-sleeves and tying it tightly about Demetrio’s thigh, a little above the wound.
“That’s good,” said Venancio. “It’ll keep him from bleeding and stop the pain.”
Venancio was a barber. In his native town, he pulled teeth and fulfilled the office of medicine man. He was accorded an unimpeachable authority because he had read The Wandering Jew and one or two other books. They called him “Doctor”; and since he was conceited about his knowledge, he employed very few words.
They took turns, carrying the stretcher in relays of four over the bare stony mesa and up the steep passes.
At high noon, when the reflection of the sun on the calcareous soil burned their shoulders and made the landscape dimly waver before their eyes, the monoto-nous, rhythmical moan of the wounded rose in unison with the ceaseless cry of the locusts. They stopped to rest at every small hut they found hidden between the steep, jagged rocks.
“Thank God, a kind soul and tortillas full of beans and chili are never lacking,” Anastasio Montanez said with a triumphant belch.
The mountaineers would shake calloused hands with the travelers, saying: