“In this same sierra,” Demetrio said, “with but twenty men I killed five hundred Federals. Remember, Anasta-sio?”
As Demetrio began to tell that famous exploit, the men realized the danger they were facing. What if the enemy, instead of being two days away, was hiding some-where among the underbrush on the terrible hill through whose gorge they now advanced? None dared show the slightest fear. Not one of Demetrio Macias’ men dared say, “I shall not move another inch!”
So, when firing began in the distance where the van-guard was marching, no one felt surprised. The recruits turned back hurriedly, retreating in shameful flight, searching for a way out of the canyon. A curse broke from Demetrio’s parched lips. “Fire at ’em. Shoot any man who runs away!” “Storm the hill!” he thundered like a wild beast. But the enemy, lying in ambush by the thousand, opened up its machine-gun fire. Demetrio’s men fell like wheat under the sickle.
Tears of rage and pain rise to Demetrio’s eyes as Anastasio slowly slides from his horse without a sound, and lies outstretched, motionless. Venancio falls close beside him, his chest riddled with bullets. Meco hurtles over the precipice, bounding from rock to rock.
Suddenly, Demetrio finds himself alone. Bullets whiz past his ears like hail. He dismounts and crawls over the rocks, until he finds a parapet: he lays down a stone to protect his head and, lying flat on the ground, begins to shoot.
The enemy scatter in all directions, pursuing the few fugitives hiding in the brush. Demetrio aims; he does not waste a single shot.
His famous marksmanship fills him with joy. Where he settles his glance, he settles a bullet. He loads his gun once more . . . takes aim. . . .
The smoke of the guns hangs thick in the air. Locusts chant their mysterious, imperturbable song. Doves coo lyrically in the crannies of the rocks. The cows graze placidly.
The sierra is clad in gala colors. Over its inaccessible peaks the opalescent fog settles like a snowy veil on the forehead of a bride.
At the foot of a hollow, sumptuous and huge as the portico of an old cathedral, Demetrio Macias, his eyes leveled in an eternal glance, continues to point the barrel of his gun.