Demetrio handed the reins of his horse to his orderly and walked slowly along the steep trail with his wife and son.
“Blessed be the Virgin Mary, Praise be to God! Now you’ll never leave us any more, will you? Never . . . never. . . . You’ll stay with us always?”
Demetrio’s face grew dark. Both remained silent, lost in anguish. Demetrio suppressed a sigh. Memories crowded and buzzed through his brain like bees about a hive.
A black cloud rose behind the sierra and a deafening roar of thunder resounded. The rain began to fall in heavy drops; they sought refuge in a rocky hut.
The rain came pelting down, shattering the white Saint John roses clustered like sheaves of stars clinging to tree, rock, bush, and pitaya over the entire mountainside.
Below in the depths of the canyon, through the gauze of the rain they could see the tall, sheer palms shaking in the wind, opening out like fans before the tempest. Everywhere mountains, heaving hills, and beyond more hills, locked amid mountains, more mountains encircled in the wall of the sierra whose loftiest peaks vanished in the sapphire of the sky.
“Demetrio, please. For God’s sake, don’t go away! My heart tells me something will happen to you this time.”
Again she was wracked with sobs. The child, fright-ened, cried and screamed. To calm him, she controlled her own great grief.
Gradually the rain stopped, a swallow, with silver breast and wings describing luminous charming curves, fluttered obliquely across the silver threads of the rain, gleaming suddenly in the afternoon sunshine.
“Why do you keep on fighting, Demetrio?”
Demetrio frowned deeply. Picking up a stone absent-mindedly, he threw it to the bottom of the canyon. Then he stared pensively into the abyss, watching the arch of its flight.
“Look at that stone; how it keeps on going. . . .”
It was a heavenly morning. It had rained all night, the sky awakened covered with white clouds. Young wild colts trotted on the summit of the sierra, with tense manes and waving hair, proud as the peaks lifting their heads to the clouds.
The soldiers stepped among the huge rocks, buoyed up by the happiness of the morning. None for a moment dreamed of the treacherous bullet that might be awaiting him ahead; the unforeseen provides man with his greatest joy. The soldiers sang, laughed, and chattered away. The spirit of nomadic tribes stirred their souls. What mat-ters it whether you go and whence you come? All that matters is to walk, to walk endlessly, without ever stop-ping; to possess the valley, the heights of the sierra, far as the eye can read.
Trees, brush, and cactus shone fresh after rain. Heavy drops of limpid water fell from rocks, ocher in hue as rusty armor.
Demetrio Macias’ men grew silent for a moment. They believed they heard the familiar rumor of firing in the distance. A few minutes elapsed but the sound was not repeated.