“Hell, Anastasio I tell you it’s no nightmare. I’ve for-gotten those fellows they hung, honest. It’s a shot, I tell you. I heard it all right.” “A shot, you say? All right, then, hand me my gun.”
Anastasio Montanez rubbed his eyes, stretched out his arms and legs, and stood up lazily.
They left the hut. The sky was solid with stars; the moon rose like a sharp scythe. The confused rumor of women crying in fright resounded from the various huts; the men who had been sleeping in the open, also woke up and the rattle of arms echoed over the mountain. “You cursed fool, you’ve maimed me for life.” A voice rang clearly through the darkness. “Who goes there?”
The shout echoed from rock to rock, through mound and over hollow, until it spent itself at the far, silent reaches of the night.
“Who goes there?” Anastasio repeated his challenge louder, pulling back the lock of his Mauser. “One of Demetrio’s men,” came the answer.
“It’s Pancracio,” Quail cried joyfully. Relieved, he rested the butt of his rifle on the ground.
Pancracio appeared, holding a young man by the arms; the newcomer was covered with dust from his felt hat to his coarse shoes. A fresh bloodstain lay on his trousers close to the heel.
“Who’s this tenderfoot?” Anastasio demanded.
“You know I’m on guard around here. Well, I hears a noise in the brush, see, and I shouts, ‘Who goes there?’ and then this lad answers, ‘Carranza! Carranza!’ I don’t know anyone by that name, and so I says, ’Carranza, hell!’ and I just pumps a bit of lead into his hoof.”
Smiling, Pancracio turned his beardless head around as if soliciting applause. Then the stranger spoke: “Who’s your commander?”
Proudly, Anastasio raised his head, went up to him and looked him in the face. The stranger lowered his tone considerably.
“Well, I’m a revolutionist, too, you know. The Govern-ment drafted me and I served as a private, but I man-aged to desert during the battle the day before yesterday, and I’ve been walking about in search of you all.”
“So he’s a Government soldier, eh?” A murmur of in-credulity rose from the men, interrupting the stranger.
“So that’s what you are, eh? One of those damn half-breeds,” said Anastasio Montanez. “Why the hell didn’t you pump your lead in his brain, Pancracio?”
“What’s he talking about, anyhow? I can’t make head nor tail of it. He says he wants to see Demetrio and that he’s got plenty to say to him. But that’s all right: we’ve got plenty of time to do anything we damn well please so long as you’re in no hurry, that’s all,” said Pancracio, loading his gun.
“What kind of beasts are you?” the prisoner cried. He could say no more: Anastasio’s fist, crashing down upon his face, sent his head turning on his neck, covered with blood. “Shoot the half-breed!” “Hang him!” “Burn him alive; he’s a lousy Federal.”