Soldiers minus an arm or leg, cripples, rheumatics, and consumptives spoke bitterly of Demetrio. Young whippersnappers were given officers’ commissions and wore stripes on their hats without a day’s service, even before they knew how to handle a rifle, while the veter-ans, exhausted in a hundred battles, now incapacitated for work, the veterans who had set out as simple pri-vates, were still simple privates. The few remaining offi-cers among Demetrio’s friends also grumbled, because his staff was made up of wealthy, dapper young men who oiled their hair and used perfume.
“The worst part of it,” Venancio said, “is that we’re gettin’ overcrowded with Federals!”
Anastasio himself, who invariably found only praise for Demetrio’s conduct, now seemed to share the general discontent.
“See here, brothers,” he said, “I spits out the truth when I sees something. I always tell the boss that if these people stick to us very long we’ll be in a hell of a fix. Certainly! How can anyone think otherwise? I’ve no hair on my tongue; and by the mother that bore me, I’m going to tell Demetrio so myself.”
Demetrio listened benevolently, and, when Anastasio had finished, he replied:
“You’re right, there’s no gettin’ around it, we’re in a bad way. The soldiers grumble about the officers, the officers grumble about us, see? And we’re damn well ready now to send both Villa and Carranza to hell to have a good time all by themselves. . . . I guess we’re in the same fix as that peon from Tepatitlan who com-plained about his boss all day long but worked on just the same. That’s us. We kick and kick, but we keep on killing and killing. But there’s no use in saying anything to them!”
“Hm, I don’t know. . . . Because . . . because . . . do you see? . . . What we’ve got to do is to make the men toe the mark. I’ve got orders to stop a band of men coming through Cuquio, see? In a few days we’ll have to fight the Carranzistas. It will be great to beat the hell out of them.”
Valderrama, the tramp, who had enlisted in Deme-trio’s army one day without anyone remembering the time or the place, overheard some of Demetrio’s words. Fools do not eat fire. That very day Valderrama disap-peared mysteriously as he had come.
They entered the streets of Juchipila as the church bells rang, loud and joyfully, with that peculiar tone that thrills every mountaineer.
“It makes me think we are back in the days when the revolution was just beginning, when the bells rang like mad in every town we entered and everybody came out with music, flags, cheers, and fireworks to welcome us,” said Anastasio Montanez. “They don’t like us no more,” Demetrio returned.
“Of course. We’re crawling back like a dog with its tail between its legs,” Quail remarked.
“It ain’t that, I guess. They don’t give a whoop for the other side either.” “But why should they like us?” They spoke no more.