When the Owl Cries by Bartlett, Paul Alexander
When the Owl Cries
by PAUL BARTLETT
New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1960
© PAUL BARTLETT 1960
The Macmillan Company, New York
Brett-Macmillan Ltd., Galt, Ontario
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress catalog card number: 60-9265
Project Gutenberg edition 2012
_When the Owl Cries_ was originally published by Macmillan in 1960. This work has been out-of-print for many years, with reprint rights that reverted to the author and are now held by his Estate. The author’s literary executor, rather than seek to publish a new commercial edition of the book, decided to make the novel available as an open access publication, freely available to readers through Project Gutenberg under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license, which allows anyone to distribute this work without changes to its content, provided that both the author and the original URL from which this work was obtained are mentioned, that the contents of this work are not used for commercial purposes or profit, and that this work will not be used without the copyright holder’s written permission in derivative works (i.e., you may not alter, transform, or build upon this work without such permission). The full legal statement of this license may be found at
_Para mi esposa, aficionada de México, con todo mi cariño_
When the owl cries, an Indian dies.
_Cuando el tecolote llora, se muere el Indio._
--Old Mexican saying
This novel commemorates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. I have written the book because I am fond of Mexico, where I have lived for many years. My story of an hacienda family, though not historical, represents the end of hacienda life, the passing of the landed aristocracy and the beginning of a democratic way. Only through volcanic eruption and earthquake could I symbolize the great social changes that began to take place about 1910.
[Illustration: small cover]
_When the Owl Cries _
Paul Alexander Bartlett
Steven James Bartlett
The book's title, _When the Owl Cries_, comes from the ancient Mexican-Indian superstition, "_Cuando el tecolote llora, se muere el indio_"--"When the owl cries, an Indian dies."
ABOUT THE BOOK AND ITS AUTHOR
_When the Owl Cries_ has been described by reviewers as "The _Gone with the Wind_ of Mexico." It is a gripping, vivid story that takes place on a huge estate, an hacienda, at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. The novel centers about the life of Don Raul Medina, soon to take over the management of the hacienda from his father, Fernando, who is now dying. Fernando has been a cruel _hacendado_, ruling with an iron hand, whip, and gun. Raul is caught in a complex web: his estrangement from his emotionally frail and disturbed wife, his love for the young blonde Lucienne, _hacendada_ of a neighboring estate, and the turmoil and hardships they are plunged into during the Revolution. The colorful, descriptive panorama of the novel leads the reader into a first-hand experience as hacienda life came to an end as a result of the Revolution.
_When the Owl Cries_ was originally published in 1960 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and was an immediate success. The book was listed by the _New York Times Book Review_ in its Best-seller/Recommended column for 13 continuous weeks after its release. The novel received rave reviews across the country. Excerpts of a few of these reviews appear later in this introduction.
Readers may be interested in some personal background about the author and where _When the Owl Cries_ was written. Paul Alexander Bartlett (1909-1990) was a fine artist and the author of numerous short stories, novels, and non-fiction works. He came to Mexico during WWII and developed a life-long interest in visiting haciendas throughout the country in order to make the first large-scale artistic and photographic record of these ancient, fascinating, but rapidly vanishing places. His interest was inspired by the realization that most of these old estates were rapidly crumbling and disappearing after the ravages of the Mexican Revolution had left them in ruins, and from the neglect that followed the Revolution as Mexican peasants dismantled many of the hacienda buildings for use as building materials.
From the mid-1940s until late in the 1980s, Bartlett visited more than 350 haciendas throughout Mexico. Many were remote and difficult to find and then to visit. He, and often with me as his young _compañero_, traveled by horseback, by car, boat, motorcycle, or on foot to visit these old estates. Some were completely abandoned, the roofs of the buildings having caved in, with gaping holes in their walls and trees growing up through their unsheltered floors. Some, in ramshackle condition, were still being lived in by poor Mexican families. Very rarely a select few were occupied or maintained in absentia by the descendants of their original owners, while a small number of the estimated original 8,000 haciendas have been converted into tourist hotels, schools, and government buildings.
There was no grant funding available for my father's lifelong project. It was a labor of love financed by his and my mother's meager savings, the frequent fate of creative artists. (My mother was Elizabeth Bartlett, well-known for her many published books of poetry.) During each hacienda visit, my father made sketches he later turned into finished pen-and-ink illustrations, of which he completed 350. The collection of hacienda illustrations was exhibited in more than 40 one-man shows in leading galleries, museums, and libraries in the U.S. and Mexico. In addition, he took more than a thousand photographs of the haciendas. Before his death in 1990, the University Press of Colorado published his non-fiction book, _The Haciendas of Mexico: An Artist's Record_, which contains selections of his many illustrations and photographs, accompanied by a text that describes hacienda life and the history of the haciendas.
In 1959, thanks to my parents' friendship with Cuca Cámara, of the long-established Cámara family of Mérida, Yucatán, my father was offered the opportunity live on one of the family's haciendas, located outside of Mérida between the small towns of Motul and Suma. My father and I lived at the Hacienda Kambul while he completed _When the Owl Cries_. The Hacienda Kambul provided a very spartan existence: We slept in hammocks in a large bare room of what had been the _casa principal_, the main residence of the hacienda. The 20-foot-high ceilings and the thick adobe walls helped cool the hot and dry Yucatecan weather; in the mornings, swallows would fly through the opened ten-foot-high doors into the room, chitterling and swooping above our heads.
[Illustration: The author on horseback at the Hacienda Kambul]
The time there was not limited to serious writing. We went horseback riding across the fields of _henequén_, whose fiber, like that of sisal, was traditionally used for rope and twine. Sometimes, we would relax in hammocks on the wide terrace of the _casa principal_. Often, we would travel out into the _campo_ on the hacienda's narrow-gauge railway, on a flat-topped rail car pulled by a mule, called a _plataforma_.
[Illustration: Riding an hacienda _plataforma_. The author's son on the right, the hacienda driver on the left, the mule in front.]
We had no electricity, so evenings were short and mornings early. We had a _huipíl_-clad Maya maid, Bicha, who, along with a thin, old, lame Maya gentleman, Lázaro, helped us to provision ourselves on a close to starvation diet. We were sometimes very sick from the polluted water of the well, which had unwisely been dug right next to the horse corral. We boiled the water conscientiously, but Moctezuma exacted considerable revenge despite our efforts.
[Illustration: Stressful life at the Hacienda Kambul! The author's son on the hacienda terrace; in the foreground their pet dog, a Mexican Maltese, named Mona, whose namesake appears in _When the Owl Cries_.]
It was hard to leave Kambul behind despite the weight we'd lost. But my father had completed _When the Owl Cries_ in the most appropriate setting for a book that seeks to recreate hacienda life, and we shared many happy memories of our outings and leisurely hours there.
REVIEWS OF THE BOOK
As already mentioned, _When the Owl Cries_ was widely and enthusiastically reviewed throughout the country. The following are excerpts from some of these reviews:
"_When the Owl Cries_ is a novel rich in pictorially vivid reading. As you turn the pages, you ask, What next? That is the immemorial appeal of the thriller. But what gives the story stature as a work of art is that Bartlett has been at pains to populate it with believable characters who are stirred by intensely personal concerns."--Charles Poore, in the _New York Times_
"The book charms with its expert knowledge of place and people."--Paul Engle, in the _Chicago Tribune_
"Vivid, impressive, highly pictorial. What makes it a pleasure to read are its marvelous vignettes of Mexican ways of life."--Lon Tinkle, in the _Dallas News_
"Only rarely is an American writer gifted with the perception and sensitivity required to translate into English the intensity and sense of tragedy of the Latin races."--Joe Knefler, in the _L. A. Times_
"Mr. Bartlett has given us a powerful, unusual and taunting novel, filled with characters as real as the headlines in today's papers, who move toward the inevitability of defeat like figures in a Greek tragedy."--D. Evan Gwen, in the _Oxford Mail_
"A _Gone with the Wind_ of Mexico."--_Library Journal_
"The Spirit and atmosphere of Mexico breathe from every page of Paul Bartlett's poignant novel."--Clifford Gessler, in the _Oakland Tribune_
"This is a book the reader can see in his mind--on a wide screen in technicolor with stereophonic sound. It doesn't need Hollywood but it's the kind of story that wouldn't do the movies any harm."--_Florida Times-Union_
"The interiors are magnificent: the feeling one gets of candles and bronze and rosemaries and Spanish furniture and nostalgia and hatred."--_London Times Literary Supplement_
[Illustration: author photo]
"The revolution is reflected in the crumbling of the great feudal hacienda system and the beginning of democracy... a warmly human novel."--_Kansas City Times_
"A novel of exploitation and retribution."--_London Free Press_
"A capably written novel about an exciting land and an exciting era."--_Los Angeles Mirror News_
"An intense struggle heightened by personal involvement, written with understanding."--_Los Angeles Examiner_
"A beautifully atmospheric tale with a punch."--_Washington Post_
"Bartlett has pinpointed the struggle between the old order and new--between father and son."--_The Atlanta Journal_
"One of the high-ranking novels of the year."--Worchester Telegram
"A dramatic, well-written symbol of transition."--_San Jose Mercury_
"Achieves a totality of effect that reminds one of Poe."--_Wichita Falls Times_
"If you like to feel the exotic made factual, here it is."--_Saskatchewan Star-Phoenix_
"A lively and richly picturesque chronicle of a Mexico that was."--_Chicago Sun-Times_
"A book of substance and depth--beautifully, poetically written.--_Moberly Monitor-Index_
"A skillfully written novel, interwoven with color and excitement."--_New Bedford Standard Times_
"A suspenseful story."--_The Diplomat_
"A story of change, love, violence, and corruption that moves fast."--_Sacramento Bee_
"A penetrating novel, with wonderful scenes and rich understanding."--_Long Beach Press Telegram_
"Filled with impressive details of landscape and Mexican life, all presented with an artist's eye."--_Richmond News Leader_
PUBLISHED BOOKS BY PAUL ALEXANDER BARTLETT
[Illustration: The author sketching an hacienda]
_VOICES FROM THE PAST--A Quintet of Novels_, consisting of
* _Sappho's Journal_ * _Christ's Journal_ * _Leonardo da Vinci's Journal_ * _Shakespeare's Journal_ * _Lincoln's Journal_
_When the Owl Cries_
_Adiós Mi México_
_Spokes for Memory_
_The Haciendas of Mexico: An Artist's Record_
Paul Alexander Bartlett was a writer and artist, born in Moberly, Missouri, and educated at Oberlin College, the University of Arizona, the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City, and the Instituto de Bellas Artes in Guadalajara. His work can be divided into three categories: He is the author of many novels, short stories, and poems; second, as a fine artist, his drawings, illustrations, and paintings have been exhibited in more than 40 one-man shows in leading galleries, including the Los Angeles County Museum, the Atlanta Art Museum, the Bancroft Library, the Richmond Art Institute, the Brooks Museum, the Instituto-Mexicano-Norteamericano in Mexico City, and many other galleries; and, third, he devoted much of his life to the most comprehensive study of the haciendas of Mexico that has been undertaken.
350 of his pen-and-ink illustrations of the haciendas and more than 1,000 hacienda photographs make up the Paul Alexander Bartlett Collection held by the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection of the University of Texas, and form part of a second diversified collection held by the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming, which also includes an archive of Bartlett's literary work, fine art, and letters. A third archive consisting primarily of Bartlett's literary work is held by the Department of Special Collections at UCLA.
Paul Alexander Bartlett's fiction has been commended by many authors, among them Pearl Buck, Ford Madox Ford, John Dos Passos, James Michener, Upton Sinclair, Evelyn Eaton, and many others. He was the recipient of many grants, awards, and fellowships, from such organizations as the Leopold Schepp Foundation, the Edward MacDowell Association, the New School for Social Research, the Huntington Hartford Foundation, the Montalvo Foundation, Yaddo, and the Carnegie Foundation.
His wife, Elizabeth Bartlett, a widely published and internationally commended poet, is the author of seventeen published books of poetry, numerous poems, short stories, and essays in leading literary quarterlies and anthologies, and, as the founder of Literary Olympics, Inc., is the editor of a series of multi-language volumes of international poetry that honor the work of outstanding contemporary poets.
Their only child (me) inherited their writer's gene and has published a number of books and articles in the fields of philosophy and psychology.
. . .
See the following page for the map of the Hacienda de Petaca, where _When the Owl Cries_ takes place.
[Illustration: _Plan of the Hacienda Petaca, Colima, Mexico_]
When the Owl Cries
A tattered mass of yellow cloud hung over the great Mexican volcano. Above the broad lagoon, between the volcano and the hacienda house, a flock of herons flew lazily, carrying their white with consummate ease. Their wings took them in a low line above the water. The surface wore a yellowish cast--like weathered lichen, wrinkled along the shores. Some of this yellowish cast spattered the upper slopes of the 14,000-foot peak, where badly eroded lava sides creased to form a cone.
Raul Medina noticed the odd colors as he sat in his garden. He stared at herons and lagoon and volcano and frowned. He was dressed in a gray suit, a short, well built man with a scrubby head of brown hair and eyebrows like twisted cigarette tobacco, his eyes dark brown spoked with gray, his mouth thin but kindly, his face a little meaty for a man in his middle thirties who had lived an outdoor life. As he gazed toward the Colima volcano he rubbed his strong, fibrous hands together. His mind went back in time: he remembered that the curious lagoon and mountain colors had appeared when he was nineteen or twenty; in those days, the cone had blasted open and thrown flames and lava and doused the area with cinders and ashes and shaken down walls.
Raul's thoughts switched to everyday problems. Yesterday a milch cow had died, the poultry had gotten out of their pen, a mule had ripped a tendon on a stone fence, a cowboy lay seriously ill. Manuel Boaz, Raul's personal servant, had come to him after supper, as he sat on the veranda with others, and whispered that the night before an owl had hooted on the roof of the house.
"We haven't heard it for a long time, Don Raul. Someone will die. Your father has been getting worse ... perhaps his time has come. It's not a good sign."
Raul had laughed at him, and waved him away--watched his cigarette disappear in the dark.
The moon was rising above the lagoon; the last streaks in the sunset sky had gone; Raul got up and leaned on top the rough adobe wall surrounding his garden. The granular adobes, still warm after the long sunny day, felt good to his arms. It seemed to Raul that Lucienne von Humboldt was beside him, that they were looking at the moonlight. He felt her kiss on his cheek. They had loved each other a long time, maybe since childhood. It had been weeks since they had seen each other; he tried to plan their next meeting. Cool fingers touched his arm, and he glanced up to see his wife.
"What are you doing here?" Angelina asked, in her husky voice.
"Just watching the moon," he said, wishing she would remove her hand.
Standing beside him, she was just a bit shorter than he, willowy, almost frail. She had what Mexican aristocrats called a "French face," though she was as Mexican as Raul. Her features were tight-skinned features, molded and balanced. Her eyes were blue. She wore her black hair braided in an elaborate bun at the back of her head.
"Whenever you come out into the garden by yourself I know you're troubled. Why, you slipped away from supper before all of us finished. What's wrong?" She was obviously displeased.
"Look at that moon," he said, his mind still on Lucienne.
"A three-quarter moon," she said. "We've seen it before ... I like the way the light trails over the water."
"The lagoon was yellow, even after the sun had set. So was the cone," he said.
"I can tell by your voice that you're worried," she said.
"I suppose I am," he admitted, thinking of the hacienda.
"What is it, then?"
"The usual problems." Then he realized how much more weighed on him, and said, speaking tersely: "It's the way things are headed. Time is bursting around us. I feel things are going badly; it's the people, our hacienda people; I detect undercurrents; it's something hard to describe. Petaca means so much to me, the lagoon, the horses, cattle, the house ... I feel undermined." His words rushed out of him.
"Nothing is so wrong we can't remedy it," she said, annoyed.
"But that's not true, Angelina," he said, his voice cutting across hers. "Petaca can't go on as it has in the past. You must understand. It's more than a conflict with my father and his ideas." His tongue slowed down. "He lies in his room, arm and leg useless. He has always hated the peasants; they've never been his workers--only chattel. My idea of improving their lot is a joke to him. And now there's increasing disapproval at other haciendas; men are sick of the way they have been managed; they want to breathe ... it's freedom they're after."
"Don't be worried, Raul. Perhaps the craving for freedom is not so widespread as you think."
Raul sighed. Angelina never grasped hacienda problems; she cared little at heart about any serious matters. Something seemed to shut her off. She had never loved Petaca, never known what it was to feel the bite of wind, the power of seeds sprouting, the rasp of the mill wheel, or the breadth of sky.
Somewhere in the garden a mockingbird burst into song, evoking its Toltec past. The outburst lasted half a minute and then the lowing of cattle followed and then silence settled over the place. Raul drew away from the wall and at Angelina's suggestion they walked together, following a path to the upper terrace. Leaves glistened in the moonlight. A frog chugged into the nearby swimming pool. The path led under a rose arbor, to a sandstone figure of Christ, a seventeenth century carving, carefully, deeply chiseled, suspended on a huge granite block twisted with stone leaves. The cross marked a curve in the path where ribs of light pushed at vine shadows, and sliced the upper part of the life-sized figure, making the calm face seem awake.
Angelina crossed herself before the statue.
As they walked, Raul noticed her profile, appreciating its perfection; for a moment, it was as if he were strolling with her years before, a few days after their wedding. She had worn another simple white dress then. Those June days had been free of emotional conflict, threat of trouble, and hatred of father for son. Or so it seemed now, looking back.
"It's nice that Caterina's feeling better," Angelina said.
"Yes, it is nice," Raul said, hoping their daughter would continue to improve.
"I still wonder what made her so ill in Guadalajara. I think I did the right thing to bring her here; goodness knows she wanted to come. It takes so much care to bring a child around," she said with peculiar warmth.
"It's a month till school starts; she'll be fine by then," Raul said.
"Of course she will," Angelina agreed. It seemed to her that without their two children she would have fled years before to any city, any place where there were people, theaters, entertainment. Here, at the hacienda, children were the best of life. She had wanted more, until Lucienne had changed her mind. She tried to shake Lucienne from her thoughts--the beautiful auburn hair and smiling face.
She felt the loneliness of this garden and its volcanic shadow. A gleam of the broad lagoon--moon whitened--chilled her. Guadalajara had companionship to offer, relatives, friends, lights in shop windows, lights in homes, pretty parks.
"Is Chico better?" she asked, righting for a better mood.
"Yes, his leg's better. He'll be all right."
Though Chico was his favorite horse, she said, in spite of herself: "I wish he had broken his leg."
He laughed, thinking of the fine palomino he had raised with such care.
"You'll have to try him someday," he said.
"Someday he'll throw you and cripple you. There never was a crazier three-year-old."
They strolled along the farthest side of the garden, under young jacaranda trees; the wind had shaken blossoms onto the path and some of them popped as they stepped on them, making a soft, damp sound. In the moonlight, the mauve flowers on the trees were white or gray or faintly blue.
The main façade of the hacienda showed here, the house almost centering a walled enclosure that had turrets at the four corners. Walls and house were of cut stone, stuccoed white. The house was a simple rectangle with six veranda arches on the ground floor and the same number on the upper floor. The chapel--with a blue and white zigzagged tiled dome--had been built into one side of the residence, and its short spire prodded the cool sky. Moonlight softened the block-like severity of the old building. A sweep of trees set off the place, and behind the trees, dusty gray, rose a mountain range, low and rounded. Columnar cypress plunged out of the main patio and looked about stiffly. There were twenty rooms and two patios in the hacienda, and the cypress were the stage props for the drama that had occurred there for almost three hundred years.
A breeze shook the trees and they bent and swayed about the house; panicles of fresh palm blossoms rustled. A chill nipped the walkers in the garden, as cool air swung down from the volcanic heights.
"It's getting chilly," Angelina said. "Let me go in and get my scarf."
"No. Let's go inside. How about a game of pool?" He questioned the wisdom of his own suggestion, wondering how this gesture could make up for his shortcomings. He cleared his throat, expecting a refusal.
"We haven't played for a long time. Let's. I'll get my scarf."
In the doorway of the poolroom, Raul lit his pipe while Angelina went for her scarf and Manuel Boaz brought lighted candles for their game. Manuel was a burly fellow--almost sixty, part Negro. He had been with the Medinas since childhood. His mother had died in a remote mountain hut on the hacienda. Some said she had been insane. Manuel had the speech of a southerner because a Oaxacan had raised him. He lit candles on wall brackets and leaned in the doorway as Raul and Angelina chalked their cues. Tall, almost gray-skinned, his Negroid face took on a mask of shadows and pale half-lights as he leaned against the doorframe. He wore the customary white of the hacienda peasant and was barefooted. Unlike the Indians, he had to shave, but he had neglected his beard for several days and its stubble crinkled in the light from the candles.
"Angelina--you shoot first."
Manuel stepped away. He knew his place.
Raul grinned as Angelina's cue spun balls wickedly across the felt. She had a knack for pool. She and Caterina and Vincente played frequently. If he let himself be absent-minded, she would beat him. The game went pleasantly enough. Manuel brought _copitas_ of brandy and set bottle and tray on the low armoire. Raul used his cue as a staff while Angelina played the nine.
This was his favorite room and its familiarity relaxed him. He took in the thick, unpainted ceiling beams, the carved cedar armoire (stained and discolored), the huge roll-top desk with a deer head and a tiger skin above it. The skin was nailed to the wall with silver horseshoe nails. Between the grilled windows of the opposite side of the room, windows that led to the garden, hung a painting of their horse, El Pobre. Who had named the horse--his father, in some fit of anger? El Pobre had been anything but poor. He had outrun and outjumped all hacienda rivals. And when old and spoiled, Uncle Roberto had given him a set of horseshoes with silver nails--a gift typical of Roberto's city humor. French prints, some fencing swords, a piece of Sèvres ware, a gold crucifix, a rack of guns and cues--for Raul it was a perfect room.
He wished Lucienne had such a room at her hacienda. Palma Sola had a plainness about it, except for Lucienne's plants and flowers and the nearness of the sea.
"You're not thinking of what you're doing," Angelina said, pushing back her hair. "You shouldn't have missed that shot."
"I guess I wasn't thinking," Raul said.
c"You'll get beaten," she said.
"You just watch this play," he said, and sent a ball into a pocket with skilled English.
"That was luck, just luck," she said, and her glance took him in nervously. She was a little afraid of him at times. She felt inferior, disliked, shunned. His mind could spread itself over so much. His feeling for life made her hands turn cold. She could not follow his plans. His idea of taking over Petaca--that was idiotic. Better the old ways. What could one man do with seventeen hundred people? What if they were underfed, sick, poor! They had always been that way. He couldn't get anywhere with new-fangled ideas. Those arguments between Raul and his father were pointless. Let the old man have his say ... lying there, in his room, he was still _hacendado_ with whip and gun, unafraid to take and destroy.
Outside, in the garden, a man began to sing: Delgado, the gardener. His watering can clinked on the edge of the stone-walled pool. He was singing a Coliman song, pitched rather high; Delgado was seventy and his old throat added a special tremolo to every word. A bird took up his song. "Ave María, ave María, mi corazón es tuya ... ave María." The song floated around a corner of the house, as Delgado walked away.
Raul won the game, and they sat down by the armoire. Her pale blue scarf loose over her arm, Angelina poured them another brandy and handed him his with an absent smile. She was thinking now of their children, of the fun they had had today, at the mill.
"Salud," she said, raising her glass.
He raised his glass, but glanced away.
"I'm taking grain to the huts at Sector 15," he said. "Father has cut off the corn supply from that sector."
"It must have been necessary to punish someone," she said. There was a pause. He did not bother to correct her assumption. "Do you think we can drive to Colima this week? I'd love to buy some things--it would be nice to go to town; we haven't been to town together for several weeks."
"I'll try," he said. "I think we can go."
A bat skittered close to the ceiling and then flew round and round the room, keeping near the walls. They watched it silently. It seemed such a small brown spot, in such haste, dipping between the candles on the armoire.
"What an ugly thing!" Angelina said.
"Manuel," Raul called.
When Manuel appeared, Raul pointed to the bat and said, "Drive it out."
Manuel brought his wide-brimmed hat, waved it, and chased the bat outdoors. He said nothing, but the way he moved expressed acceptance and pleasure. He had the grace of an old cat.
After Manuel went out, Raul said: "I've been thinking about Manuel, how he and I used to fly kites. He would take the kite on top of the house, where the roof's flat. We'd let out balls of string. He must have been thirty years old then. I remember his face--so full of smiles. He was patient with me. He knew the things a boy wanted to do. Horses. Hunting." His voice trailed off. He lit his pipe.
"He'd do anything for you," Angelina said, and rose abruptly. "Let's blow out the candles. You and Manuel have been true to each other. That's a fine thing." Then in a high voice, she added: "A fine thing."
He tried to disregard the inference. He puffed out a candle and watched her bend over another atop the armoire. The ivory light flared across her polished features. Sadness stabbed him: their marriage should have worked. Who had made the first mistake? Gradually, like a candlelit picture, Lucienne's face appeared, hazel eyes serious.
The hacienda of Petaca dated from 1619. The deed--signed in Colima--lay in a cedar jewel box in the living room. The Jesuit paper (some lawyer had gotten hold of ecclesiastical stationery) bore the cross-and-crown watermark. Flowery signatures in brown ink were fading into the foxed sheets that had frayed and chipped edges.
Petaca stretched over 1,580,000 acres: sugarcane fields, corn land, wheat land, cattle country, hills, valleys, rivers, lava beds, half a volcano, a lagoon, a pre-Columbian pyramid, villages with their gardens and orchards. The main house was thirty miles from Colima, the capital of the state. Peasants of the neighboring haciendas had dubbed Petaca the "Hacienda of the Clarín." Their ironical name referred to Raul's father, not the mockingbirds in the grove behind the residence. He had made many a man "sing." The nickname, said with a ttck of the tongue, conveyed their condemnation.
Fernando Medina, the Clarín, lay in bed, propped on pillows. His bed faced a tall grilled window, its wooden shutters flung back. As he lay against his pillows, one hand twitched nervously. He was seventy-nine, white-headed, ashen and scrawny, part Coro, part Spanish. Bowled over by a stroke, he still had a patriarchal air. His eyes could still explode. The white eyebrows, though thin, arched imperially. Decaying and absent teeth had crumpled his mouth; only when he was angry could it regain its forcefulness; at all other times it mocked the man. Don Fernando had been rebellious. As a young fellow, he had quarreled with his father over a trivial matter and shot and killed him. This was the venom of his life. No law had punished Fernando.
As he lay against his pillow, his hand trembling, he coughed and moaned. He hated inactivity; he hated being alone; he hated his room; lifting a small copper bell from the bed table, he clanged it erratically. As his hand quivered more violently, he plunged it under the sheet and pinned it down.
"Did you ring, Don Fernando?"
"Of course I rang. Bring me a cigarette and light it, Chavela."
"But Dr. Velasco asked me not to ... you..."
"Get a cigarette and be quick about it! Don't tell me what Dr. Velasco said, and don't run to him with your prattles."
"Sí, Don Fernando," she said, cringing a little.
As he waited for the cigarette (she had to go to the kitchen for a light), he eyed the grilled window. The bronze bars had a chunk of landscape wedged between them: a strap of corn land with giant chirimoya trees beyond. The chirimoyas had green limbs, and their mat of branches formed an umbrella cap of foliage. Don Fernando's sight was weak and branches did not exist for him. The umbrella seemed to float in mid-air. The effect annoyed him. He clanged his bell.
Chavela, a fat Tarascan peasant in her twenties, hurried back, a cigarette in one hand and a charcoal ember in the other. Pincher-wise she gripped the glowing ember between splints of wood, tongs she had improvised.
"Light my cigarette, you fool, before the charcoal falls on the bed! Did you have to bring it here? Don't you ever think for yourself?"
Chavela's broad chocolate face looked troubled; her big steady hands seemed to lift on strings as she brought the ember to the tip of her cigarette and puffed violently, close to Fernando's bed. Smoke corkscrewed from her nose and mouth, and she frowned and coughed, and then grinned. Carefully, she placed the cigarette between his lips.
"There," she said. For a second, her eyes narrowed; she turned away, repelled, and as she turned, the ember dropped alongside the bed.
"You could have burned me!" wailed Fernando. "Where's Angelina? ... get her!"
"She's outdoors, playing with the children."
"Playing with the children: doesn't she do anything else? Doesn't anybody do anything here?"
A heavy tread outside Fernando's room made Chavela glance toward the door; a spur dragged its wheel over tiles; it was Jorge Farias, the corn-production manager, a hungry-looking man, half Spanish, half Tarascan. He removed his wide-brimmed straw hat as he halted in the bedroom doorway; the rough brim scraped across his trousers.
"Farias wants to see you," said Chavela, and went out.
"May I come in?" asked Farias.
Don Fernando motioned him inside with childish gesture. As Farias entered, the old man spat on the floor.
Farias was dressed in soiled brown trousers and a white shirt designed like a four-pocketed jacket, he had on black riding boots spurred with star-shaped rowels, polished from use. He stood stiffly erect. He disliked the old man. Nearly fifty, he felt that his years of service, doled out to the Clarín, had been largely wasted; yet he liked his job and was proud of any help he could render his own people whenever Fernando's vigilance slackened.
"Can't you bear to look at me?" said Fernando.
"I'm at your service," said Farias.
"Sit down ... sit down!"
The spurs dragged. The chair by the window squeaked. Farias supposed he would be told to check the crops along the boundary line of the Santa Cruz del Valle hacienda, where it adjoined Petaca. He dreaded the journey through the mountains, but remembered he could take his son along, unless the Clarín had another job for Luis. But the Clarín's mind was slipping. Last week, he had ordered Felipe locked in the pillory; Felipe had not been guilty of stealing; it had been Carlos Vasconcales who had robbed the corn bins; nothing Farias could say had altered the Clarín's decision. Farias studied a crack in the red tiles; the crack wandered like a river toward the old man's bed. Farias found himself staring at Don Fernando. Cigarette smoke hooded his face--a falcon's hood of gray.
"I want you to leave here early tomorrow. Check the crops along Santa Cruz del Valle. Go armed."
"There's something else. Check the stone fences along our property; take time to fix them if they're down; we can't have cattle foraging on our corn. Understand?"
"Yes, sir. I'll check thoroughly. Anything else?"
"Expect trouble.... You may go."
Fernando attempted to see Farias walk to the door, but his eyes had shifted out of focus; he saw a brownish blur; he shook himself and waited. The click of spurs faded. He raised his cigarette and inhaled deeply. Slowly, his sight cleared. The window and its barred landscape returned. He welcomed the sight now, thinking of death with a throb of panic: death would remove all landscapes, however blurred. His shaky hand carried the cigarette to his mouth and then let it fall. He slept.
He dreamed of a fracas over the impounding of a stream on the lower slope of the volcano; that quarrel had taken place thirty or more years ago; yet now, in the dream, the angry voices of workers rose; his _administrador_ drew a revolver; a peasant yanked away the gun....
Waking, Fernando clattered his copper bell, and this time his son appeared.
"Yes, Father," said Raul, near the bed.
"A drink of water."
Raul poured a glass of water from a bed-table water bottle; a great green fly buzzed about the mouth of the bottle; his father reached for the glass; the hand shook and drops spilled.
The room had been papered in egg-white paper with brown aviaries triangled on it; from every aviary a flock of birds--all resembling swallows--cascaded. A black wooden wardrobe that weighed half a ton filled one wall. Its double doors, sides, and corners were ornamented with carved eagles and brass gewgaws. Some of the eagles had conch-shell eyes. The eyes peered into a full-length mirror, framed in carved wood. Above a washstand hung a Swiss etching of the Matterhorn, a sketchy rendering. Fernando's bed was four-posted and canopied with a dingy white cloth.
Raul glimpsed himself in the mirror as he held his father's glass, and the reflection startled him. Catching the resemblance, he set down the glass with a jerk and began to walk out of the room.
"Raul," said his father.
"What is it, Father?" said Raul, compelling himself to speak politely.
"I sent Farias to check the corn fences."
"He'll check them carefully," said Raul.
"Will Velasco come this afternoon?"
"He'll come unless he has a sick person to take care of."
"I feel bad. I feel as if ... Raul, it's bad."
"But you've felt that way before."
"Yes, I have. Still, I feel...." He said no more.
"Velasco usually comes about seven."
"Very well," said Fernando.
Raul waited, and as he waited, standing in the door, his father dozed. He called Chavela and instructed her to check from time to time. Stepping into the patio, he paused to take in the warm sun; he felt more like himself as he assimilated the light and air, heard laughter in the kitchen, and listened to the twittering and jabbering of parrots, thrushes and doves in their wall cages, cages that decorated all sides of the patio. A stone fountain centered the patio. Many years ago, the pink stones had been brought by oxcart from a prehistoric pyramid in Sector 9. Carved snakes wound from stone block to stone block, to vanish, with reptilian grace, over the rim. Raul sat on the curb, under the cypress. A dragonfly rode a lily pad. Where bougainvillaea climbed the wall a white butterfly, as big as a woman's cupped hands, descended: it seemed to be coming down an aerial stairway a step at a time. Raul shut his eyes, wanting to forget his problems, the ugly face of his father, the threat of dissolving traditions.
Presently, he went to the stable where Chico stood, brushed and saddled, tail switching. Manuel was polishing the cantle, chatting with other men; hens and roosters scratched in the floor straw; the air boomed with flies.
"The sacks are on," said Manuel, punching a corn sack behind Chico's saddle.
"Let's go, then," said Raul. "Are you ready?"
"I'm all set," said Manuel.
The palomino's beauty was obvious in many ways: bone structure, slant of ears, line of hocks, texture of mane and tail. Chico swung his head to watch Raul mount; his teeth ground his bit slightly. Lagoon and volcano came alive as the men rode side by side, Manuel on an Arabian bay. Each rider had a western saddle ornamented with silver, tasseled with red. They left the hacienda by the main road, lined on both sides with eucalyptus trees, four and five feet in diameter and fifty to sixty feet tall. The fragrant foliage sweetened the air; birds sang; dust puffs fitted like leggings around the horse's hoofs. Manuel's Arabian carried the heaviest sack of corn, but did not seem to mind. Raul packed a revolver in a new holster. Manuel had two pistols slung on a full cartridge belt. Both were dressed in white and wore straw hats with quail feathers under the bands.
Again volcano and lagoon swung with the riders; at a curve in the road, with the shore line close, ducks swam across the volcano's reflection. The double line of eucalyptus rambled on, but at the end of the lane, where a road intersected, they spread into a grove. Close to the grove, a white wooden cross pegged a hill. A tall man was looping dried marigold strands on an arm of the cross, his back toward Raul and Manuel. When he heard the horses, he faced about, his face luxuriously bearded with curly white hair. Picking up his hat out of the weeds, he walked toward the road.
"It's Alberto, the musician," said Raul, pleased.
"Ah, so it is. I hear he's been very sick," said Manuel.
"Good morning," said Alberto, smiling, bowing a little, big hat dangling in front of his stomach, gripped by both hands. His immaculate whites must have been ironed that morning.
"Good morning, Alberto," said Raul. "Sorry to hear you've been sick. I didn't know. How are you feeling?"
"Ai, patrón, I feel better, thank God. My legs troubled me. I'm old ... it is nothing. It will pass."
"When are you coming again to play for us?"
"Here's something for you."
Alberto limped close to Chico and patted his mane. The horse shied and blew through his nose, clicking his bit.
"Steady now, Chico," Raul said, and handed a few coins to Alberto. The old man accepted the money graciously, jingling it before pocketing it. For Raul, there was Christ in Alberto's face, the Christ of his own hacienda, of many haciendas. A few thorns, he thought, a few drops of blood ... He remembered Alberto at a fiesta years before: a drunk had struck him in the mouth. Alberto had toppled. Yet he had not complained. The jingle of coins in the open air, the cross on the hill, made Raul taste betrayal--he was offering the vinegar sop to his people. He hadn't the guts to free them! He jerked Chico's bit angrily, the horse reared, and Raul went on down the road.
Disturbed, Manuel eyed his friend doubtfully as they jogged along. Huts lay around another bend, and they rode slowly, over badly placed cobbles. The area was semi-arid, the soil rocky and alkaline. A few stone huts pimpled the ground among maguey and tangles of prickly pear and candelabra. Each hut resembled a cairn topped by a straw wig. The unmortared walls were made of lava, rough, porous, grayish-lavender. Big and suckling pigs slumped in front of a wooden watering trough that had a leak at one end; chickens fed here and there; dogs yapped at the horsemen.
Raul dismounted in front of a doorless hut, and began to pull off his corn sack, tugging at the leather thongs and henequen cords. A deep voice said, "Bueno," and Raul looked into the face of Salvador, the head man of the hutment, a three-hundred-pound fellow, with a paunch, a stevedore's shoulders, grinning jowl and swooping mustache.
"Let me take the sack, patrón."
"I heard you had no corn here," Raul said, backing away.
"No corn for three days."
"You should have come to me."
"Sometimes it's better to wait. We have our chickens and pigs. We're not starving."
"You can't make tortillas out of chickens and pigs," said Raul.
Salvador laughed soundlessly, and the upper part of his body shook. He untied the corn sack and shouldered its weight easily. Barefooted, standing there, legs spread, one hand balancing the burlap, he faced Raul, the sun streaming over his whites.
"Will you go inside and wait for me?" Salvador asked.
"I want to talk to you," said Raul.
He entered the low hut and sat on the packed earth floor and took a cigarette paper from his pocket. Presently, Salvador came in and sat against the wall opposite Raul, across the hut. Their feet almost touched. A broken candle lay on a termite-riddled chest that had been patched with a triangle of pine from which dangled a rusty padlock. Clothes and a folded hammock hung on pegs. There were no other furnishings. Outside, women gabbled over the corn sacks and children dashed about crying: "We've got corn.... Come, see the corn!"
Salvador fished out paper and tobacco and paper and tobacco became a cigarette with magical dexterity. The two smoked silently. They had met in this hut quite a few times through the years. Last September they had weathered a hurricane's tail behind these walls. As Raul smoked, he kept seeing the musician's face and sensing his own obligations.
"I want you to move to the house in a few days," Raul said. "I need your help, Salvador. I want you to turn out several carts; that means wheels, frames, and yokes."
"But Don Fernando doesn't want them," said Salvador, and his lip pulled away from his cigarette with a scrap of paper clinging to it. What was Don Raul thinking? What kind of quarrel would come of this?
"You do the job for me. I'm not waiting any longer. I've made up my mind to take over Petaca. We can't go on waiting and waiting. My father's day is over."
Raul felt his voice was trembling, and tried to distract himself with the ash of his cigarette.
"There will be a lot of trouble," said Salvador, skeptical of such a decision. "People will take sides. We'll have our hands full."
"Are you afraid?" scoffed Raul.
"Of course not, patrón."
"Our people are hungry and sick," said Raul, staring at a stone embedded in the wall.
"I'll do my part," said Salvador humbly, picking the shred of paper from his lip. "I know that we need new carts, that carts need repairing.... There's a lot that needs doing."
"When you come to the house, bring Teresa. She can help us."
"I'm glad to move, but I must continue to look after these people, too. They're my friends." A hunch of his shoulder indicated those who lived in the surrounding huts.
"You can do both jobs," said Raul, and glanced at Salvador confidently.
As Raul smoked, tasting the cigarette, liking the cool, rocky interior, a leghorn hen scratched, found a grub and beaked it in the sunlight.
Raul felt easier in his mind. The new responsibility was a challenge; he had no doubt as to his administrative ability. Back against the rocks, he smoked in silence. He was on the side of freedom.
As they headed for the hacienda house, Manuel rode in front.
Raul called him: "Ride beside me, Manuel."
Manuel checked his horse and gave his cartridge belt a yank.
A buzzard circled above them.
"I've made up my mind," Raul said, and his face brightened. "I've told Salvador that I will manage the hacienda from now on."
Manuel's fingers tightened with pleasure on the rein, his eyes became slits, and a slow grin began. He glanced at Raul and nodded, and then glanced away.
"I told Salvador to move to Petaca and make us new carts and repair old ones. We must begin to improve things."
"But your father?" Manuel asked, almost mechanically, fearing Don Fernando's domination; for a moment he felt his conflicting sense of duty, acquired through the years.
"I'll have it out with him," said Raul, working his horse closer to Manuel's, his knee rubbing the Arabian. "Things have gone much too far. He sent Farias to check the corn fences; you know how many boundary troubles have come of that; there's never any attempt to work out a sensible relationship with the del Valle people." His thin lips narrowed. "I want corn distributed to all sectors where there's a shortage. I want our people to know my father is not in control."
"He'll strike back," said Manuel.
"I've stood enough intolerance," Raul exclaimed.
Manuel was satisfied to jog along behind Raul, he wanted to weigh the abrupt change and consider possibilities; he was eager to accept and participate. Slit-eyed, he gazed about him. His nostrils expanded as he remembered Don Fernando had once whipped a young boy until blood streaked his back ... Tonio Enriques. Manuel rubbed his hand over the bullets in his cartridge belt and clucked to his horse.
For Raul, the return trip was melancholy and yet beautiful: Petaca appeared on the gradual slope above the lagoon. It was his job to administer the million and a half acres, to supervise crops, gardens, people ... little Carmen might race to him and cry, "Can we have another jug of milk for supper?" Gasper might come to the office and say, "Mama's sick, she's passing bile--" Dr. Velasco could live at the hacienda and receive annual wages, instead of having to make the long ride from town, at the beck and call of everyone. Should he be unwilling, Dr. Hernández would consent. Gabriel Storni would have his stained-glass windows for the chapel.... Some prayers would be answered. Debts would be canceled. Of course, it would take time.
As he rode between the rows of tall eucalyptus, he felt that time was his friend. Perhaps current political and economic tensions would ease. President Díaz was not his man ... his corrupt regime would last as long only as he could make it last. Reason told Raul that he himself could not alter, singlehanded, the feudalistic setup of the hacienda system. It was Petaca he wanted to change.
Breaking off twigs from a low eucalyptus branch, he crumpled the foliage in his fingers. As he went inside the house he smelled the aroma of the crushed leaves; as he stood in the doorway of his bedroom he sensed the oily pungency.
He found Angelina sitting in front of her circular mirror, brushing her hair. Gazing into the mirror, she smiled at Raul and went on brushing.
"You're back quickly," she said, covering her knees with her skirt.
"I was down along the lagoon," he said.
"I was playing with the children in the garden and messed up my hair."
He tossed his belt and revolver on their bed. Going up to her, he wanted to touch her, stroke her hair, but instead he thought of Lucienne and remembered her smile. Angry with himself, he said, loudly:
"I've told Salvador and Manuel that I'm taking over the hacienda. Sectors are in need of grain. People are hungry. I want Velasco to move here and help the sick. I want no more beatings. I can't wait any longer. It's my job now!"
Angelina stared at him in the glass, until his eyes found hers, and he sensed her disapproval at once. She did not speak. Her brush in her lap, she was thinking that he was a dumb fool, that from now on stability would be a thing of the past. Still looking at him, she reached for her comb, and her brush fell to the floor.
He stooped to pick it up and said, "I'd like to change things slowly."
"Your father will fight you," she said.
Her fingers rolled her hair into a competent bun. She slid a dark green band of velvet around the pile of black hair and got up and paused by the window. Their room was on the upper floor, facing both front and patio sides, a long, broad room with shuttered windows on each side, allowing cross ventilation, so desirable in the summer. He stood beside her and they watched a boy spin a wooden top in the sunlight by the serpent fountain. Someone was patting tortillas in the kitchen. The smell of stewing beef crossed the patio.
"I'm going to the corral and stables. I know the animals haven't been getting enough grain," he said.
"What about Pedro?" she asked. "Have you thought of him?"
"I'll dismiss him," Raul said.
"I wonder whether you can do that?"
"What do you mean?"
"He works for your father."
"Pedro's been a killer long enough. I'll get him out of here!"
"Remember, change things slowly," she warned, huskily.
"I'll do the right things," he protested. "Pedro will be the first man to go. I can't work with him here. I see no reason for delaying his dismissal. With all there is to do, I want no complications."
"Pedro has friends. Talk with Gabriel. Maybe he'll be helpful. Your father will know of your decision by tonight, because someone will tell him. Manuel and Salvador will talk, and the news will travel fast." Angelina's voice had taken on a harsh quality. She stared at the sky, dreading responsibilities. "There are so many of us here at the hacienda," she said.
The boy went on spinning his top by the fountain.
From the corrals came the noise of a horse being shod: the crack of hammer against nail sounded as if it had all the time in the world behind it.
Raul decided to talk with Gabriel. Perhaps Gabriel, who had the hacienda problems at heart, could judge things reasonably.
Angelina had gone back to her dressing table and was scenting her hair. A peacock screamed in the garden and from somewhere along the lagoon another answered, putting in amorous cackles, ironical and derisive cries.
When Raul went out, she leaned far back in her chair and stretched and yawned. It had been nice in the garden, nicer still playing the organ for Caterina in the chapel, the chapel cool, Caterina singing, humming, tapping the organ keys ... que chula ... her face serious, why so serious, as if she were old? She would be able to play pretty well soon. She'll play for me and I'll sit and gaze through the ex-eye window ... cielito voices.... When St. Catherine played, the roses fell about her ... Philadelphia organ ... in gold letters on the front ... a long way to Philadelphia, a long way to happiness sometimes.
Tears came but she squeezed them back with her knuckles.
Tears ... why tears? We buried our love long ago. Go to Guadalajara, see Carlos and Rico, see Estelle....
Gabriel Storni's small room was in a one-story stone building across the court from the main house. There had been a school there, next door to Gabriel's room, until Don Fernando had discontinued it after he and the teacher had quarreled. As Raul walked across the forecourt, pigeons lit on the roof, then fluttered off nervously and swarmed through the air above the chapel spire. Raul heard the wings, but did not see them as he walked along. Horsemen clopped over cobbles, yet he did not turn his head. Rapping on Storni's door he waited, fingers nicking at the sun ridged wood, wood that was more slab than door. Rusty hinges hung the slab and they squealed as Gabriel opened the door.
"Come in, come in," he said affably.
The robe was Franciscan, the face Italian. Gabriel, at fifty-seven, had lustrous brown eyes, a bald head, a compassionate mouth, thick neck, large ears, a reddish wen under one eye. His front teeth had been capped with gold. He wore gold-rimmed glasses. He walked with a limp. But his defects were forgotten when he smiled.
The smile welcomed Raul.
"So nice to see you."
Momentarily the dark room, after brilliant sun, bothered Raul and he bumped into one of the familiar leather chairs. He only half saw the Spanish desk with papers in every pigeonhole, its reed-bottom chair, the shelves of books, and the plain wall cross carved from a scrap of high altitude cedar. Raul touched Gabriel's silver and bone rosary, where it lay on a corner of the desk.
"I'd like to talk with you."
"Sit down. Let me take these papers off the chair."
They faced each other on leather chairs, the door slightly open; again horsemen crossed the court, the hoof beats making the cobbles sound like empty clay bowls.
"One of these days you'll have your stained-glass windows," said Raul.
"Ah," said Gabriel, amused at such an unprompted declaration. "Right now, I think we ought to have a school teacher. We must reopen our school."
"I'm going to see to it," said Raul.
"What made your father change his mind?" asked Gabriel eagerly.
"I've decided to make these changes, now."
Gabriel began to laugh softly, one hand on his knee. His glasses shook and seemed about to fall.
"My dear boy, what's happened? Hadn't you better explain?"
"I've decided to take over Petaca. I should have done it long ago."
Gabriel blinked at Raul as if seeing him through smudged lenses. He trusted Raul, but he cleared his throat and knotted together the edge of his robe.
"We're in for trouble," Gabriel said, drawing his feet underneath his chair and bending forward thoughtfully. "This will really upset the hacienda."
"I don't want trouble; that's why I came to you."
Gabriel sighed. He was willing to assume responsibility, but he could not see where he could help. He had looked forward to the young man's administration of the estate at the death of his father. Removing his glasses, he pinched his nose, and then put the glasses on again.
"There's Pedro Chávez," he said. "You'll have to deal with him."
"Angelina reminded me," Raul said.
"Did you have to be reminded?" asked Gabriel. "Who else knows your decision besides Angelina?"
"Salvador and Manuel."
"Well, in a short time everyone will know."
"Father doesn't know. Shall I tell him today?"
"We'll tell him later. I see no reason to go to him now."
"I think I should tell him today. He should hear it from me.
"What precipitated your decision? I thought you would wait until..." He did not bother to finish the sentence; he was trying to consider problems dispassionately.
"It's the shortage of corn. Father has refused to supply grain. Many are ill, but you know the situation better than I do. I won't wait any longer. Farias was sent to check the corn and fences along the del Valle line. I don't want any shootings and I don't want any trouble."
Gabriel chuckled. "You don't want trouble," he said. "Now you'll have your hands full."
"Maybe it won't be so bad."
"Come--what about Pedro Chávez?"
"I'll order him to leave the hacienda." Raul slapped the side of his boot with the palm of his hand. "I've had more than enough of Pedro."
"I'm with you," cried Gabriel. "Let's get him out of here as soon as possible."
Raul grabbed the priest's arm, and squeezed it. Gabriel's eyes glittered, and he stood up and said: "I remember the talks we've had in this room. I'll help you see that our people are treated right at Petaca. The Americans fought for their liberty.... Their war brought freedom! God will bless your decision, Raul. We'll work together."
"I'll talk to my father," said Raul, rising.
"Perhaps we should wait till Dr. Velasco comes," said Gabriel.
"I'd rather not."
"The shock may be too much for Don Fernando. I'd wait." Gabriel hesitated.
"You're wrong. Father will fight. He won't give in to me, in spite of his stroke. Let's talk to him before Velasco comes. Come with me."
"I suppose we may as well," sighed Gabriel.
Together they crossed the cobbles, a mangy yellow dog trailing them, sniffing the priest's robes. Entering by the veranda, they went directly into Don Fernando's bedroom. He was asleep. Gabriel bent over him, made the sign of the cross, and counted his pulse, the old man's skin cold to his fingers.
"It's steady," he whispered to Raul.
Fernando opened his eyes.
"Is it time for Mass?" he jibed thickly. He disliked Father Gabriel. To his way of thinking, his kind of mental superiority was out of place on an hacienda. It had been Gabriel who had influenced Raul to study abroad. Priests were for women and children. He had been a fool to put money into Raul's education. Education destroyed a man's strength.... Lids barely open, he glared at his son and the priest's bald head.
"How are you feeling?" Gabriel asked, avoiding his stare.
"Thirsty," said Fernando.
Raul poured water from the table bottle and gave the glass to his father.
"More water, Father?"
"You look rested," said Gabriel.
"I'll speak to Chavela," said Gabriel, and started to leave the room.
"I came to tell you I have taken charge of the hacienda. People are hungry and sick. They can't wait any longer." Raul realized that Gabriel had halted abruptly, to listen. He had spoken distinctly but not loudly. He was not disturbed. He felt ashamed of himself for not declaring himself long ago.
His father's eyes flashed with wild anger; his mouth twitched; his jaw dropped; his decayed teeth showed. He raised one hand but it shook, and he shoved it underneath his sheet and tried to sit up. His Adam's apple rose and fell; he gulped and rolled on his pillow. He tried to get one leg out of bed but could not. Patches scabbed his sight; he shook his head but saw his father riding a white range horse. With great difficulty, Fernando made out that Gabriel had returned to his bedside.
"Get out," Fernando managed. "Get out!" he shrilled.
"It's time Raul managed Petaca," said Gabriel kindly. "You must see it his way. You need to rest." He was alarmed by the man's tortured face.
"I am dismissing Pedro Chávez," said Raul. "There will be no more killings on my hacienda."
Fernando's eyes were bloodshot; they flicked from left to right; tears oozed at the corners.
"God damn you!" he said hoarsely. He puckered his lips to spit, wanting to catch them both.
"It's time our sick were cared for, Don Fernando," said Gabriel.
"Shut up," said the old man.
They waited a few moments longer by his bed. A burro screeched and hollered in a field. A cloud passed over the sun. The old man coughed and faced the ceiling, one hand clenched; the other, beneath the sheet, trembled.
Raul tapped Gabriel's arm and they went out.
In the patio, Raul said, "It's done now."
"He took it hard," said Gabriel.
"When it came time to tell him, I couldn't spare him," said Raul.
"Such hate," said Gabriel,
"He tried to spit on us. Did you see his lips?" asked Raul, resenting the scene, feeling he would never be able to forget it.
"Ssst, Raul. It's bad enough."
"It won't be bad for our people."
"I know ... I know," said Gabriel.
"Tomorrow our people will have grain."
"Tomorrow, yes ... tomorrow," said Gabriel. He brushed flies from his bald spot and scanned the sky, his gold rims twinkling. "It has gotten cloudy. It may rain. The corn needs rain. I must go, Raul. I must talk to others."
Walking away, he felt for the small bronze cross he wore on a neck chain. The cross was buried in the hairs of his throat. He prayed as he walked, fingers enclosing the metal. He prayed for the hacienda people; he asked help for the old man; wisdom for Raul; let good come of this transition, no additional anguish.
In his room, the door closed, a candle lit, he knelt on the bare tiles before the mountain crucifix: as he knelt, a lovely bone figurine appeared on the barren wood: the figure had hung in his mother's house in Padua, very old, very yellow, very fragile. A women knelt beside him, in this illusion, wrapped in a threadbare shawl. It was cloudy and sultry and the Italian light filmed the room; the woman was speaking.
Strange he could not recall her face, only the form, wrapped in blue cloth. The sound of her voice was also lost.
"Mother," he said aloud; then he pushed aside his longing for Italy and his home and family and began to pray:
"Jesus, help us. We are many here. Bless us with a special mercy. Take us to your sacred heart; we are your children ... the haciendas are headed for troubled times. Help us to be decent to one another."
Sitting in his living room, Raul tried to rationalize his own actions. It still seemed illogical he had waited so long before assuming authority. Slouched in a red plush chair, he regarded his son, writing at the desk, doing an assignment given him by his school. Vicente would return to his school in Colima on Monday. A brass candlestick, holding five candles, burned beside the boy; the back of his blond head was toward Raul. Raul listened to the scratch of pencil on paper. Now and then Vicente sighed. He was ten, attractive, sweet-mannered, bright, and kind. He said he wanted to become a priest--"like Father Gabriel." Raul hoped he would change his mind and administer Petaca someday. How quiet Vicente had become since Raul had taken over the hacienda! It was as if he understood the gravity of the changes; the responsibilities. Yesterday at breakfast, Chavela had spouted, as she served: "Is it true? What will happen? Is that why Don Fernando won't eat? You know he won't eat anything at all. Why, he won't talk to me!"
Vicente had dug impulsively at his sliced pineapple. "You leave things to Papa," he had said.
Raul went over his decision, blaming the delay on his character. He saw the old Christ face and knew Alberto had sprung the latch, though other things had contributed their influence. He had been too slow, like so many Mexicans--willing to see men suffer. Afraid to stop their suffering. Afraid to be myself, he thought. When have I been myself? At school, abroad? No, I was a foreigner there, reticent, shy. This is home--Petaca--with its evasions, its ignorance. That's it. Perhaps I'm ignorant, ignorant of life's meaning and my own purpose!
A week or more before in Colima, the fat, ignorant _licenciado_ Don Pascual had had something to say: "Mark my words, Raul, we're in for trouble. Far off, lost as we are in Colima, men are angry. When men grow angry, they're like bees, and when they swarm anything can happen. Mark my words!"
The Don Pascuals can be right. I must watch my step. I must reform old ways slowly. And he remembered that he had done nothing slowly as yet. Could he learn to work slowly? He brushed his hands restlessly over the arms of his chair.
True, Fernando had refused to eat. He had not summoned Pedro. He talked to no one.
Vicente had gone to him and given him water. He had lingered around his bed and talked; discouraged and embarrassed by his grandfather's silence, he had wandered out of the room.
"Why is he like that, Papa?"
"He'll be all right in a day or two," Raul had assured him.
Caterina came into the living room, took a book from the corner bookcase, and strode out, unaware of her father and brother. She was slender, dark, olive skinned. She liked to parade about with her wavy hair loose over her shoulders. She loved scarlet dresses and had one on. Only thirteen, she was a rare sight on an hacienda. Raul wondered if she had chosen a book to read to her grandfather. She was fond of him--blind to his cruelties, oblivious of his ugliness. She found in him something no one else could find.
If he continued his starvation, he would soon die.... Fernando Medina, El Clarín, starving himself! It didn't make sense. Perhaps Caterina would induce him to eat. She could coax better than anyone.
Raul was tempted to follow her, but instead he got up and paced the room, walking noiselessly. In front of the fireplace he lit his pipe, flaring the head of the match with his thumb-nail. Vicente smiled at him and he grinned back.
"How are you doing, boy?"
"Good for you. Is it hard?"
Raul drew reflectively, enjoying the sweet warmth of the Cuban tobacco. He kicked idly at the pelt of the mountain lion beside the hearth. Dust and ashes puffed from the old, dried hair. On the mantelpiece, a great beam of unpeeled cedar, between a pair of crystal candle holders, lay the lion's tail, torn off by Vicente and Caterina during some game.
Walking the length of the room, Raul tried to concentrate. There was only concern: where to begin? Who needed help? How much corn and wheat were to be allotted? Yesterday, he and Velasco and Hernández had worked with the sick. He had put men to building huts behind the stables; the stable hands must have places of their own and not continue sleeping with the cattle. He had men clean the well that watered the stock. Carts had gone to Colima for lumber. Tomorrow he wanted repairs to begin on the granary roof. He wanted to speak to Gabriel about reconditioning the schoolroom, he wanted to see Salvador about the oxcarts.
Where to begin ... the thought haunted. It seemed to him a million beginnings could add up to nothing. Most of all, he wanted to reassure his people. Life at Petaca would have to even out over a long stretch of time to reassure the peasants.
Fussing with his pipe, he crossed the patio to look at his father. Fernando lay asleep, hand over the edge of his bed. A book lay open beside him, almost ready to slip to the floor. Perhaps Caterina had read to him. Raul smiled, as he took in an empty soup bowl under the bedside table lamp ... bread crumbs peppered the floor.
Going to the veranda, to the intricate grilled gate that closed the front of the house at night, he saw a bonfire across the cobbled court, near the far wall. Flames bloodied the wall and the turret on top. Men huddled close and seemed to be heating tortillas or making _tacos_ over embers scraped from the blaze. Someone began to pluck a guitar, and Raul caught the glint of wood and strings. A man sang: "Es de los que bailan grande obligación darle a su pareja ..."
When had his people known freedom. Had it been under the last Indian emperor, Cuauhtemoc? Had it been under Moctezuma? Had it been at Chichén Itzá or Palenque? Surely, in some bygone age, his people had been freer and suffered less. Men still worshiped the old gods. A while ago, at the base of the volcano, at a place called Ojo Blanco, he had discovered an altar encrusted with blood. Turkey blood, said Manuel, since feathers had gotten stuck in the black crust. Deep inside a granite niche, a stone figure had grinned apishly.
"Toltec?" he asked Manuel.
"I don't know, Don Raul."
Higher up the volcano, on the seaward side, his men had reported other altars, through the years. On his own climbs, Raul had come across other idols, one a bloated thing of obsidian, the glass unpocked by time. Had these men known happier days?
The moon shone brightly, and it was chilly. He wanted to stroll along the lagoon and yet felt he should not walk alone, not for the time being. As a boy, he had played along the lagoon, speared frogs, sailed boats, waded and swum. As a boy ... What about Vicente? Would anyone molest him? Of course not. Then his own risk was an exaggeration.
He got a jacket, went through the garden, and opened a rose-trellised gate that led to the shore. First one frog and then another plopped into the water. A night bird startled him by whirring off from sedges near his feet. He stood still, his heart pounding. At once, he called himself a coward, but as he began to follow the shore, he realized someone was trailing him. He stopped, his hand on the trunk of a primavera tree and waited for the man to approach.
"Coming ... coming," came Manuel's voice. Raul broke into a chuckle.
"Why are you following me? Haven't you anything better to do?"
"You need company."
"I suppose I do. A night bird scared me. I'm an old woman."
"It's no time for an old woman to be about alone," laughed Manuel.
"I'm not going far."
"I brought this," said Manuel, tapping his revolver.
"For the frogs," said Raul.
"Not tonight," Manuel said.
Raul walked on, across clumps of grass that had wiry tops.
"I think we're overdoing this gun business ... too much precaution."
Raul was touched by Manuel's solicitude. Who else, beside his children, cared so much at Petaca? Even if there was no danger, it amounted to the same thing. Their walk took them through cane, and a snake slid toward the lagoon, its gray-white body sparkling, as if carrying dew or pieces of spider web. He and Manuel had routed many a snake along this shore. Ash, eucalyptus, pepper, jacaranda, primavera, tabachin and palm grew here. His grandfather and father had planted them. Close to the shore some of the trees had not done well, but on higher ground all were superb. Paths wound among them. Where moonlight scraped a circle on the ground, Angelina had placed a rustic table and chairs.
Raul sat on a log, and Manuel crouched on his heels, his back against an ash tree.
"Were the men having tortillas in the court?" Raul asked.
"Yes ... they hadn't had any for several days."
"Salvador came tonight, to live at the hacienda," said Raul.
"I know," said Manuel. "He'll be a lot of help."
"Do many know of my decision?"
"Most of them, I think."
"How do they feel about it? What have you heard?"
"I've heard only good things: some are very pleased, even excited."
Manuel moved closer and squatted beside Raul. For a while they were silent, listening to the waves and the night sounds.
"It's beautiful tonight," Raul said.
"Perhaps it's too beautiful. The charcoal makers, who came down from the volcano today, say smoke is seeping from the crater."
"If there were much smoke we would have seen it ... wouldn't we?"
"Perhaps," said Manuel.
"You sound pessimistic. What is it? Tell me why you followed me?"
"Pedro is here," he answered, after a pause.
"You know that for a fact?" asked Raul, stiffening.
"I saw him. He came from Manzanillo."
"Where did you see him?"
"In the stable, with other men."
"Did you speak to him?"
"No. He's drinking. He's out for trouble." Manuel spoke with a peculiar emphasis, recalling Pedro's drunken brawls, Raul's displeasure, Don Fernando's disregard. Manuel took time to pull a grass blade and poke it between his teeth, and then said, "He's very drunk."
The moon floated directly overhead, a spray of cloud in front of it. Something shook the dried fingers of a palm--a bird.
"Pedro came to talk with Don Fernando," said Manuel.
"I won't stop him," said Raul.
"I hear he says he'll never leave Petaca."
"He talks big. He's afraid."
"No--he's not afraid. Don't make that mistake, Don Raul!"
"Pedro has to leave.... I won't put up with him," he exclaimed.
In his mind's eye, Raul saw Pedro roping cattle in their corral, his lasso pinning a yearling. In the corral and on the range he had no rival. But as overseer, his cowpuncher skill meant nothing. He had not the slightest concept of what cooperation meant.
Returning, they took the road that led straight to the hacienda and entered the feudal wall through a seldom used gate. Raul said good-night to Manuel and lingered on the terrace, beside the swimming pool. Lighting his pipe, he reminded himself he must fill his tobacco pouch. The pool was flecked with jacaranda flowers, bats zoomed. Elbows on the adobe wall, Raul searched the volcano for a sign of smoke. High on the flank, nearest the ocean, he detected a red spark; perhaps a charcoal burner's fire. In the living room, he put his pipe on the desk, filled his pouch, and blew out the candles.
During the night, Caterina called him:
"Papa, Papa ... come."
She was having a bad dream and he rubbed her legs and stomach and quieted her, kissed her cheek and tiptoed back to bed. Sleep would not come and for a long time he contemplated the starry windows. Angelina lay curled in a kitten's ball. Suddenly, clearly he heard an owl cry. Before he could restrain himself, he sat up. Angelina stirred and muttered. Ridiculing superstitions, he lay still and tried to plumb the stars.
In the morning, the children got up first and dressed happily.
Caterina dashed down the stairs singing, her loose slippers clumping the tiles. "Soy la golandrina ... soy la golandrina..."
Almost at once she rushed back up the steps, screaming:
"... Grandpa's fallen on the floor! I think he's dead! Grandpa's lying on the floor ... quick, quick. He's fallen out of bed!" she cried, repeating herself till her mother hurried down. Caterina hid her face in her pillow and sobbed. Raul threw on his robe and got into his slippers.
A gentle rain trickled across the window glass of his father's window. Shadows, formed by the water on the pane, shimmered on Fernando's face. His features seemed a little less ugly. He groaned, as Angelina propped up his head and gave him a drink.
With his hand on a bedpost, Raul contemplated his wife. Her face was tender, and she spoke sweetly. Her attitude helped him feel compassionate. Together, they placed Don Fernando in bed and covered him. How pitiful, shut off by sickness and age. His hate had raised walls around him. It was more than hate, Raul knew. In Guadalajara, three or four months ago, he and his father had attempted to locate a pump suitable for irrigation. After a futile day they had gone to the nearest cantina, a fairly disreputable place. His father had ordered drinks. Then, when the waiter had gone, he had turned to Raul:
"I can't forget it, even here! I try to get away from it. I drink to get away from it; I ride like hell to get away..."
"What are you trying to get away from?"
"You're not that stupid, Raul! After all these years! Christ ..."
Swiftly, he had gripped Raul's hand with cold fingers.
"It's my father ... I often see him. I thought you knew."
In Fernando's eyes, in the cantina, there had been the glaze of fear. Fear and regret had cut him with their termites. Nobody cared for him, unless it was little Caterina. She had not seen Flores dragged behind a horse, across a field and back again, across a field and back again ... she had been in school in Guadalajara.
Chavela brought a tray of breakfast things, and Raul left the room as Angelina began to wash the old man's face, saying: "Come now, you're all right. Come now."
In the patio, Vicente ran up to Raul and asked, "Is Grandpa dead?"
"No, son, he fell on the floor."
"Shall I go in?"
"If you want to. Mama's there. You don't have to go inside."
With a frightened face, he dashed off.
As Raul crossed the patio, Gabriel appeared. He spoke, and Raul nodded significantly toward the bedroom. Gabriel limped past. Raul did not stop, but walked onto the veranda, to find Pedro Chávez, squatting on his heels by the steps.
Pedro was six foot two, about thirty-six, a Yaqui, with square shoulders, big arms, big hands, big legs and feet. His facial tissue folded thickly across sharp bones and he had the swarthy complexion of Sonorans. Deep-set brown eyes glared past a Mongolian nose. He wore his hair long, and strands of it hung over his plaid shirt and buckskin vest. A single silver button dangled loosely on his vest and other silver buttons ran down the seams of his black trousers. His feet bulged in a pair of chamois-colored boots. He carried a Colt and had a belt of cartridges.
Seeing Raul, he grinned a nervous grin (it was as if he had nothing to do with the grin) and his eyes blazed.
"I hear Don Fernando is worse," he said, continuing to squat disrespectfully on his heels. He spoke with obvious contempt.
Raul held himself straight.
"When did you hear that?" he asked.
"Last night. They say he won't eat," said Pedro.
"I just came from his room. He ate last night ... I've been wanting to talk to you. This time is as good as any. I've taken over the management. I want you to leave Petaca." Raul realized he had spoken too rapidly. He stopped.
"I'm not leaving here," Pedro snapped, eyes on the floor.
"I order you to leave Petaca, at once," said Raul, accenting each word.
"I couldn't do that. It's my job."
"I never hired you."
"But your father hired me." Pedro talked slowly, the Yaqui way, clicking each syllable.
A brown cricket crept over the red tiles, crept near Pedro's boots, crawled on, circling a little.
"You're no longer employed here. Go to the Banco Nacional in Colima. I'll write a note to the bank. They'll pay you off. Manuel will give you my note for the bank."
"Haven't you any money here?"
"I'll pay you through the bank. I want it that way. That way there's no question about a record of payment."
"I refuse to leave Petaca."
"I'll speak to the rurales."
Pedro lashed with the flat of his palm and smashed the cricket. He continued to squat, though he swayed on his heels.
"I'll tell the rurales to remove you. They know how. You'll rot in jail a while. The police will appreciate my attitude. You have your choice. Now, get out. I've had more than enough of your killings. When Flores was tied behind a horse and dragged across the ground, you whipped the horse. I should have killed you myself then. God knows, I wanted to."
Raul paused to wet his lips. Pedro glared at the floor between his legs. "You've killed four of our men, two without provocation. I'm not running that kind of hacienda."
"I get the work done," Pedro muttered.
"I can get the work done without beatings and killings. Don't be a fool, Pedro. Your job is over. My father can't keep you against my will. Go back to being a Yaqui sergeant."
"I'll see," said Pedro.
Raul jerked at his belt. The angry gesture made Pedro look up; it annoyed him to be reminded that Raul was unarmed; then he reconsidered that thought--his right hand stole toward his Colt: a secretive, instinctive movement: his hand had performed the same movement on the hunt or when among brawling men: the timing would be perfect. Raul had begun to turn away; instantly, instinctively, he whirled around.
"Get out of here!"
Raul's stony face moved Pedro. He got up, hitched his trousers, hitched his belt, snuffed, examined the cricket stain on his hand, and stalked off, his spurs nicking the stone steps. He had a cowboy sprawl, a cowman's gait; he strolled toward the corral, rolling a cigarette as he walked, feeling the weight of his Colt, insensible to everything but the urge to kill.
Early Sunday morning the wind began to howl. It beat off the delicate jacaranda blossoms until the garden pool wore a top of flowers. On the terrace, a strip of honeysuckle tore loose and wrapped itself around the stone Christ. The sky became a mushy gray, and later in the day the clouds oozed rain, then hail. Hailstones, the size of parrots' eyes, flicked at bougainvillaea, jacaranda, cup-of-gold, and oleander until the garden had little brilliance left. Everything was green and wet, and the wet green clambered from within, a threat, a tropic impulse.
Raul recognized the force. He felt it also in the sky as he stood at Caterina's bedroom window on the second floor. From there, the volcano seemed to knife the sky at a peculiar angle, with a peculiar pressure. As he stood by the window frame he felt a tremor. The tiled floor shifted, swayed, lowered, raised, stopped. It was a mild quake and Caterina did not awaken. Her rag elephant fell to the floor from her bed. Eyes on the volcano tip, Raul waited for a belch of smoke. It did not come. But another quake came. Remaining by the window, he lit his pipe and listened to fumbling rain and hail.
Caterina had been seriously ill for six days. Dr. Velasco and Dr. Hernández had puzzled over prescriptions. Nothing had helped the acute diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Her temperature had shot up, then had fallen. Dr. Velasco called it "tropic fever"; Dr. Hernández said it was "black fever." New medicines had been used effectively in Guadalajara, and Dr. Velasco had gone for them, reassuring everyone. He would be back on tomorrow's train that arrived at nine P.M., if it pulled into Colima on time.
Sitting by Caterina's bed, Raul noticed her pallor, how it seemed more pronounced in her hands than in her face. The fingers felt lifeless. Cupping his hands around hers he tried to warm them. He began to rub. This morning they had gone through the motions of a card game during the storm and suddenly, about half through the game, she had said, "My fingers hurt, they're so cold. Papa, let's never finish our game."
Taken by surprise, he had had to blink back his tears.
A dozen jobs had kept him from her since then. Coming out of the wind and hail, he had found her alone. The Colima nun, her nurse, had gone downstairs to eat. Raul liked being alone with Caterina. Hearing the storm, watching it from her window, he thought of things they had shared: the moth and butterfly collection (Lucienne's idea), horseback rides, boating on the lagoon, fishing.
She had a tiny bronze cannon that had been mounted on the garden sundial pedestal. She had found it during a visit to Guadalajara and had insisted that Raul install it for her and, for a while, she had primed it faithfully. It had "boomed" each sunny noon, the sunshine igniting the powder through a magnifying glass.
Some of her dolls were ranged on the floor beside her bed, toppled bodies, Swiss, African, Chinese, Mexican. She called one "Flaco," one "Negro," another "Henry." ... He had never known all their names.
Caterina stirred. Breathing fast, she rubbed both hands roughly over her face, and her lids fluttered open.
"Papa," she said.
"Where am I?"
"In your bed."
"I dreamed ... I was in school."
"In Guadalajara?" he asked.
"Yes.... Oh, Papa, don't send me back to school."
"Why? I thought you liked the school and the Sisters."
"I can't go, and it's too far."
"Not now," he said.
"Oh ... Papa..."
"When shall we go on a picnic?"
"Soon," he said. "Maybe next week. Where would you like to go?"
"'Way up the mountain."
"Up the volcano on horseback?"
"Yes," she said, liking her father's bushy hair and eyebrows.
"We'll do that--all of us. Soon."
She shivered and closed her eyes. It seemed to her that all the window frames and doorways were merging. It seemed as if the floor had tilted.
"Papa ... have the nurse change me."
"I'll call her."
He went to the patio window and called, and Carmela answered immediately.
Back at Caterina's side, Raul said: "Carmela's coming right away. You know, Caterina, I think the sun will be out soon. The hail has stopped. The wind's rough but it may blow off the clouds."
She did not respond.
As he waited for Carmela, he thought about the timbre of her voice, how frail it had become, frightened, hurried.
Carmela changed her and made her comfortable.
"Thank you, Sister," Caterina said.
"You're welcome, dear."
Carmela, a whipcord woman, could have carried the Master's cross. She had a dusky mustache above Mayan lips. Her hair was sheep-thick and done in twin buns that had long pins sticking in them. Tufts of hair grew in each of her ears. She walked with a rustler's tread--years of convent living and nursing had not tamed her tread. Yet she had the essence of sanctity in her face, and people said that she never lost patience.
When she left the room, Raul sat on the bed at Caterina's feet.
"She's nice," Caterina said.
"Big," he laughed.
"Papa ... when will my stomach stop hurting?" She began to cry and covered her face with one arm. "Oh, Papa ... Papa ... ask God..."
"What is it?" asked Carmela, returning.
"Deep in your stomach?" the nun asked, pushing back her white collar.
"Let me give you more laudanum," said Carmela, going to the medicines on a tray at the dressing table.
"No. It makes me sleep. No. No-ooo."
"Sleep is best for you. It'll make you strong," the nun said, vigorously rattling the bottle and spoon; she yanked the cork from a blue bottle sniffed the contents and said, "Ah." Her starched clothes sounded the same as the rustle of distant hail.
"No..." Caterina said feebly.
"Please," said Carmela.
"Papa ... no!" (Frightened)
"Then later," said Raul.
The syrupy medicine went back into the bottle.
Gusts swirled through the garden, and the rain-heavy foliage bent low; window curtains fluttered, their red and white cotton billowing now inside, now outside.
"Papa, can I give Mona to Lucienne? I want to. Papa, will you read to me?"
He did not answer her question about the dog. Mona had been Caterina's pet for over two years. What was her insight into his relationship with Lucienne? Was she expressing approval ... did she feel she was about to die?
"Yes, yes, I'll read to you. What would you like? Your Grillo?"
The _Grillo_ was an Italian book about the adventures of a cricket.
"Yes, Papa ... Grillo."
By the time he found the book, she had fallen asleep. The cricket, printed in orange on the cover of the novel, crept away from his hands. Sparks of lightning whisked over the blue and white pattern of floor tiling. He laid her book lovingly on the circular table, cluttered with the child's things: cutouts, a sewing kit, some dried figs, doll dishes.... It was a small corner room, with white enameled furniture. Above her bed hung a pastel portrait of her mother. The portrait, done with too obvious care, was gilt framed, and dangled from a long wire. The picture began to sway.
"Another quake," said the nun, from her chair by the window. "That's the third."
They stared at each other questioningly. Sister Carmela fingered her beads, and shivered. She hated quakes, and remembered the devastation caused by the last big shock in Colima.
The quake lasted a little longer than the others; the dolls rocked together on the floor; a dish clattered; someone shouted, "Don Raul, Don Raul!"
Stepping to the window on the patio side, Raul saw Salvador.
"A tree has blown down on the stable. Can you come?" Salvador shouted.
"I'll be down."
Raul went down the stairway. Angelina stood on the bottom steps, a cup of broth in her hands.
"Raul, there was another quake.... How is Caterina?"
"No better. Her stomach pains her a great deal. She's asleep."
"I'll go up anyway. Maybe she'll wake soon and have some broth."
They passed one another without really seeing one another.
"Your father wants to know how Caterina is," Angelina said, as she went up.
"I'll tell him."
He crossed the hail-splattered patio to his father's room, resenting the chill. Fernando had ordered his bed moved--to avoid seeing the distorted landscape. He now faced the patio and Raul paused in the doorway, sensing his father's gaze.
"How is she?" he asked.
"I'm afraid she's worse."
"You're afraid, poor boy! Why don't you do something to help?"
"Velasco has gone to Guadalajara. He'll be back with new medication tomorrow."
"You'll let her die."
"Not if we can help it."
"I'm going up to her room."
"You couldn't make it up the stairway."
"Men can carry me," he said savagely. "Or have all the men at Petaca become too weak!"
Raul turned to leave, but waited a moment.
"Raul--will Caterina want me?" The old man asked humbly, his voice normal.
"It might help her."
"I'll arrange for you to be carried up later."
At the stable, Salvador and others were stacking roof tiles knocked off by the fallen eucalyptus. Branches of the huge tree lashed at the men, and the air smelled of oil from the bruised leaves and bark. Someone inside the stable bawled an order; cattle shuffled; a hinge of wind opened and closed. Raul inspected the tree, recalling its shaggy beauty, and fought the gale as he climbed between branches. Someone began to chop at a branch that had gouged the roof. Salvador tapped Raul's arm.
"I'll get men with a bucksaw," he said.
"Have them saw the trunk close to the roots ... about here," said Raul, indicating a bruise on the tree. "Cut it there and then it can be yanked away from the stable wall."
"I'll bring some oxen," said Salvador.
"Put a chain to a whippletree and drag it off."
"Some of the wall may crumble."
"Have the grain moved to a dry place. That should be done right away. You can saw the tree a second time, nearer the top; that'll free two sections." It seemed impossible, measuring the stabbing roots, wet and naked, that the tree could have toppled. "I'm going back inside, to be with Caterina. She's not doing well."
Salvador nodded sadly, the wind tearing his hair, his three hundred pounds impressive, soaked with rain.
"May God help her," he said.
Raul felt the kindness in Salvador's voice; he needed kindness and assurance. He was shaken by the storm, the quakes, and Caterina's condition. Gripping his hat brim, he entered the house through the kitchen. Inside, by the door, near the adobe oven, a boy of five or six sat at a low table, eating. He glanced shyly at Raul. Servants broke off talking. Raul pulled off his hat. A woman was cleaning _garbanzas_, another was grinding coffee, and others were washing clothes. They bowed. The smell of coffee surprised Raul; it seemed so unrelated to his troubled world. He patted the boy's head, and asked:
"Will someone find me two men? I want Don Fernando carried upstairs."
His hand on the child's chair, he thought of other peasant children, many of them beautiful: how many died every year of diarrhea or dysentery on the hacienda, on every hacienda? He asked himself whose boy this boy might be. Such a calm face. A little embarrassed by his own emotions, he returned to Caterina's room. He told himself that no one escaped death, that death came even to God's house.
When Caterina had had her broth, Don Fernando was carried upstairs, an easy trick with Manuel at one side and Esteban, a young fellow, a Coliman, very tall, very thin, at the other. They brought him in a chair and set him beside Caterina's bed. The wind still lashed, and Fernando shivered under his blanket. The two sick ones grinned at each other. Fernando reached out, patted Caterina, then straightened and sank back in his chair. He frowned, cleared his throat and rumbled, imitating someone:
"Get up, pretty princess, I command you." He clapped his hands softly and at once hid his shaky arm. "I, the magician of El Rey del Mundo, bid you get well. Chia, chia ... hear the magic word." Laughter transformed his miserable face. "Come, little one, we'll go to the castle with the gold door."
Raul and the nun smiled, smiles of apprehension.
"My king, I shall obey," said Caterina, her eyes aglow, holding her hands out to him. "Oh, king let us visit the castle."
"At once," said the magician.
"At once," whispered the girl.
"When I was a boy," Fernando began, his voice full of tenderness, "I got sick. The same trouble as yours. Just as bad, and I was seven or eight. I remember it very well. Papa rode to Colima for a doctor, and bandits beat him up on the way home--his mozo ran away and left him, when he saw the bandits closing in. Remember that story?"
"Tell it again."
"The men beat him and stole his horse and he began to walk home, limping along, because he had been so bruised and hurt. It was a long, long way, maybe ten miles. Dark. Cloudy. Pretty soon he heard a horseman. He hid behind a cactus bush. It was the doctor, following him, going as fast as he could to Petaca. He was astonished to find Papa, walking, all bruised and hurt. He helped him and they got on the doctor's horse and rode home...."
Sometimes Caterina had thought about the bandits; sometimes she had wondered how badly hurt Great-Grandpa had been. She wanted to question her grandfather now, but her head throbbed.
Fernando studied her face, considered its pallor, the feebleness of the eyelids, the tremble in the lips. Her throat pulse fluttered.
"Raul and I will stay here with you," he said.
"Raul," Fernando said.
"What is it?" Raul replied.
"Bring me morphine."
"She wouldn't take her dosage."
"I'll give it to her."
"She wouldn't take the laudanum," Raul said.
"Bring the morphine," said Fernando.
Raul's shoes rubbed slickly on the tiled floor.
"Here's a spoon."
"Caterina--a little dose, for Grandpa?"
"Raul, lift her head."
"Take it, child.... You'll be all right."
"Yes ... Gran'pa."
The face trusted him. She swallowed the medicine and sank back on the pillows.
"Rest now and we'll go to the castle together and I'll tell you how I found a tiny statue of the Huastecas. You haven't heard that story.... We were riding horseback through a barranca in San Luis Potosi; men had been digging a ditch for irrigation...."
Most of his life he had lacked the power of affection, except with Caterina. He bowed his head; he could say no more; he felt beaten, dried, useless. Life would have been all right had he been able to reach outside himself. Carry me downstairs; put me to bed. The fool. The old, ugly fool. Tired. Carry me.
When Don Fernando was taken away, Angelina began her vigil, she and the nun. She heard workers sawing the eucalyptus, observed the moon's climb, felt the nip of the night air, dozed fitfully in her easy chair. Awake, she prayed for her girl, a faithless prayer, since she believed Caterina fatally ill; she had seen too many children pass away with fever and dysentery to have any illusions. Doll faces--looming through a bad dream--wept and pled for Caterina. Chapel music sounded ... there was no God, not really ... only wandering....
The nun stretched on a cot and snored, her responsibility forgotten. Toward dawn, the birds began, high-flying parrots and then the garden orioles. The caged birds in the patio answered, and a strange bird, in the grove behind the house, scraped tin note against tin note.
Vicente, sleepy eyed, yawning, padded in, barefooted. He stood silently by his sister's bedside. Until now, he had shunned her room unless she asked for him. Ever since Grandpa had been confined to his bed, Vicente had feared death, and, alarmed by Caterina's white face, her stillness, he had kept away. After a glance he stole downstairs, into the kitchen, hungry, cold, uneasy.
The chapel bell clanged its stiff bell for Mass and, after Mass, Gabriel went to sit beside Caterina. She brightened, finding him there, wiping his glasses, smiling.
"Were you here all night?"
"No, I just came in."
"I thought I saw you all night ... holding a candle ... for me."
"No, my angel, that was your mother who was with you."
"I don't remember her."
"You were sleeping."
"I want to get better."
"You are better. I can see you're better today," he lied.
"Has Doctor come?"
"He'll come shortly, with new medicines. Let me call Carmela. It's time for you to eat. Then I'll come back and read to you."
"I'm not hungry."
He hoped food might strengthen her; her anguish filled him with pity and love. Such a sweet child. The small face had darkness working from within--around the eyes, inside them; their own personal magic had dimmed. Her lips moved stiffly.
What was it his mother had said? When the sight darkens, the shadow of the cross is beckoning. He shook his head, sorely troubled. His fingers drummed on his knees. He wished Dr. Velasco could arrive, by some miracle, before nightfall.
Gabriel got up, determined to help. "Carmela, Carmela," he called from the window.
"Can you bring the child something to eat? I think she should have something."
"Right away, Padre. I'll heat something, some atole. I'll be right along."
Sitting on the foot of her bed, he began to talk to her:
"Delgado's cleaning the pool.... You should see the jacaranda blossoms scattered on the water, flowers and leaves too. Did you hear about the eucalyptus? It blew down, the giant one beside the corral. They had to saw it into sections and drag off the pieces with oxen...." He found it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying. Perplexed by the gravity of her illness, he tried to ransack his brain for some old remedy. Carmela came with a tray and he rose and said good morning to her.
By coaxing, they got Caterina to eat some thin _atole_; but then, in a little while, she vomited, and knotted under the covers, shivering with anguish.
By the time Dr. Velasco arrived, pounding in on a weary, sweaty horse, she had been dead several hours.
The doctor slapped his forehead and turned away, his black kit on the desk, the new medicines bulging in his coat pocket. Only the nun was there, in the darkened living room, to see his despair. For a long time they sat there together, saying little.
While the nun fussed with Caterina's hair, Raul sat in the easy chair and listened to Angelina sob, her sobbing padded by the thick stone walls of her room and heavy doors. Something in her had snapped: she said it was the end: she meant, he thought, that she would never see Caterina again: as for him, he felt he would find his child someday; and yet he asked the question: Where? Just now she would not hopscotch in the patio, squeeze his hand during Mass, fill his pipe, dash to meet him after a full day in the hacienda campo, giggle at supper. Sitting stiffly, watching Carmela arrange Caterina's hair, he tried to deny weariness. He felt as if he had ridden horseback for days. He prayed to St. Catherine, remembering how lovingly they had christened the child in her honor.
Suddenly his wife ceased sobbing; the nun left the room; a door closed; the ramrod of silence jabbed him. Death was silence. Sitting erect, he observed a cinch strap of blackbirds over the stable roof where the eucalyptus had crashed. Strange they flew silently. Blackbirds were _hacendado_ birds: he had often thought of them that way: they were the black plunderers. Rapacious, yet not so rapacious as the owl.
Without glancing at Caterina, he walked out, walked down the stairs blindly, asking himself whether he had attended to civilities, telegrams to be sent from the Colima office, a notice for the Colima paper, the casket, the grave prepared. His hand on the wrought-iron railing, he sensed his own mortality....
What was life for?
The burial was to take place before sunset.
During the afternoon, the chapel bell had tolled intermittently and alarmed pigeons had flown about. Even the livestock had become restless. Small boys, Caterina's friends, had yanked the bell rope, their ragged shirts and trousers flapping dismally.
Manuel and Salvador carried the casket out of the chapel, following a path through the grove. The flowers on the box caught at branches and twigs, falling, littering the route. Bougainvillaea, cup-of-gold, roses, lilies, jacaranda blossoms that had survived the wind, rain and hail. As the men put the casket down by the grave, a hummingbird dived and clicked at the flowers; the men stared sadly; the ebony rapier poked; the red-green-blue feathers throbbed; then a second and third hummingbird whisked the blossoms.
At the morning chapel service, the ceremony had been touching because Vicente had raced from the room, sobbing. Gabriel had not said the right words: his mind had turned back to Italy and his reminiscences of the death of a childhood friend had indicated more than he had intended of the transience of life, the beauty of childhood. Peasants had crowded the chapel: men in white, women with blue _rebozos_ over pink and white blouses and skirts, half clad children.
Someone had heaped bougainvillaea over the altar and on top the mango-shaped glass dome that protected the jeweled virgin of Petaca. A wreath of pink and white carnations had leaned against the casket. Candles had burned on the altar and at the ends of the coffin. The virgin's jewels, her rubies and emeralds, gleamed.
Lucienne von Humboldt had come first. From her hacienda, Palma Sola, by the ocean, she had driven to Petaca in her blue and yellow victoria, scarred and bitten by sea air. The black she wore made her seem older than twenty-six, and accentuated her auburn hair and the Germanic character of her face. Her hazel eyes, glossy thick hair, and rose-colored skin impressed everyone.
Baroness Radziwill and her big family had arrived next, a wreath of evergreen on the carriage top. She had placed a gold plated candleholder for Caterina and lit it herself. A beautiful woman in her sixties, with gray hair and black eyes, she had a motherly manner with everybody.
Count de Selva had come with his fat wife and three sons. As workers gathered in the forecourt, afoot and horseback, the Count had remained in his carriage. His servant had cleaned off the mud-spattered coat of arms on the doors and had polished the blue running boards and fenders. An obese, asthmatic man, de Selva preferred to wait until the chapel ceremony began before showing himself; he had come only out of respect for the Medina family, scarcely remembering Caterina.
Lucienne removed a ring from her handbag and buried it among the flowers on top of the casket, Manuel and Salvador waiting in the shade of a palm tree. She nodded to them and said:
"I put it in there. She wanted to ... I had promised it to her." She did not care whether they understood her.
She wondered if anyone realized the courage it had taken to come here. Was Angelina defiant? Was she terribly bitter? Her face, so forlorn, had filled her with compassion. She should never have come to Petaca ... her city friends meant so much to her.
Neither man spoke; it was not for them to comment. Manuel admired Lucienne for her love of Raul and her affection for Caterina, and he appreciated the hundreds of kindnesses she had shown him through the years. They had been friends since her girlhood. Her beauty filled him with pleasure. Noticing her black dress, he recalled her recent return from Europe, the hatboxes, suitcases full of gowns and high-heeled shoes ... things she had forgotten for her garden. Anyone who appreciated plants and flowers as much as she appreciated them had a place in his heart.
Raul found Lucienne by Caterina's grave, and her black clothes startled him. They shook hands, their eyes lowered; he could not bring himself to look at her; he had merely glimpsed her at the chapel service.
"I'm sorry you lost her, Raul," she said.
"A lovely girl," he said, as if he had memorized the words.
"Such a dear child. I loved her."
"She wants you to have Mona," he said.
"Mona, her little dog?" she asked, hoping that a few words, any words, might lessen his strain. Such a sad, dark face.
Palm fronds laddered the space behind her.
"You taught her to collect plants and butterflies."
"Now God has taken her...."
"I wish I thought so, Raul."
"Don't say that," he objected.
"You know how I feel, you know what I believe. I can't lie, even at this time." The gentleness of her speech took away its offense. "I wish I could believe in immortality. It would be my comfort too, you know. I need that comfort."
Raul fingered his pipe in his pocket. It was not often he resented Lucienne's Teutonic independence, her foreignness, her atheism. Glancing beyond her, he felt the sorrow of his friend Manuel, expressed in his face, stooped shoulders, and bowed head. He looked at the raw burial place, the palms with their tattered greens and browns, fronds over the headstones and markers in this family plot. A mound of vines hid his grandfather's stone, and the same vines in exuberance scrambled toward the newly upturned earth that would cover Caterina. Raul determined to have the cemetery cleaned and properly tended: by the end of the week the graves should be cleared and reornamented with shells.
Men were approaching, carrying Don Fernando, who had refused to attend chapel service but who had demanded to be brought to the grave. The men stumbled over roots; Fernando cried out; lizards fled under vines; birds soared away.
The Radziwills and de Selvas walked together and Father Gabriel and Angelina followed; then the peasants, like white ants, sifted through the grove. Vicente, ashamed of himself, had hidden in the stable.
They were a courageous-looking lot. The sunburned _hacendados_ had the bodies of people who live outdoors, for even the asthmatic Count had been a stockman. The powdered women stood out among the peasants who needed only a feather or two to put them back a thousand years. Fine faces, buck faces, pretty girls, hags with tortilla cheeks, all gazed with sympathy at the grave of the child.
A bright cloud hung over the group, its shadow twisting toward the slope of the volcano. Shadows flecked the grove, the bent heads, the casket and its wilting flowers; other shadows fled across fields where oxen grazed. Gabriel said a few words and prayed and Angelina wept, clinging to Raul's arm, hating his black, hating Lucienne. She longed to return to her room and hide her grief, to be away from Lucienne's auburn hair, her placid face. Had she never known tragedy? Why had she come? Not out of respect! No, no ... to see Raul, to bribe him away, to laugh at her sorrow ... let me go, Raul. I'll go back alone!
Slowly, everyone began to leave the grove.
Raul thought himself the only one left, and then he saw his father in his chair among the trees. A great iguana peered at him from a palm immediately behind: its iridescent greenish head and dark eyes faced the ground, the tongue licked out. Click, click, ssh, ssh, said the blackbirds.
"Shall I call the men to carry you?" asked Raul.
"No," growled Fernando. "I told them to leave me here."
A flock of parrots fanned through the wood, loros, with red on their shoulders, yellow daubs on their beaks.
"My wife's gravestone is the parrots' roosting place," said Fernando. "She gave up her fight too soon. They'll not dump their excrement on my grave any sooner than I can help it."
Raul kicked at a scrap of palm and admired his courage.
"Death is for fools," the old man spluttered.
"Then we're all due to be fools," Raul said.
"Light a cigarette for me."
Raul's wax taper flared and dropped among the fronds and and grass.
"Caterina was no fool," Fernando retracted. "But you shouldn't have buried her in her scarlet dress."
"What would you have liked?"
"That doesn't matter."
"Your men have come to carry you."
"Let them wait. I came to sit and think. I'm old enough to sit and think. Over there is Pepe. He called himself 'The Tiger.' Under that crooked palm is Mama; I was glad to see her go because she never had a well day. There's Papa--the man I murdered. He'll be glad to see me go." The old man's voice was blown by the wind. "I counted them one day last year ... quite a lot of them buried there. The jungle has us under its vines and lianas and rot...."
"I'll have this place cleaned next week."
"You'll have it cleaned. What for? Can you keep back the jungle? Are you thinking of Caterina? The jungle has her already. This palmera stretches all the way to the Pacific. You can't stop it, boy.... Neither can you change the hacienda."
"I can try."
"I'll stop you whenever I can. I've decided to have a special chair constructed. In my chair I can look after the hacienda."
"No, Father. Your day is past. It's my job!"
Fernando spat. "You and your radical ways. God, you can't run this place!"
"Everyone will laugh at you."
In the tree behind Fernando, the iguana decided to climb higher, its head waggling, tongue forking.
"That's the least of my worries. I'm thinking about the people and their chance to live as men ought to live."
"They're not men," said Fernando, coughing over his cigarette.
"They've been called animals, many things. I think they're men."
"You'll ruin Petaca ... I could summon a lawyer and preserve my control. I suppose you could declare me physically or mentally incompetent. It would be touch and go, maybe one bribe against another. I'm not that kind of fool. We'd lose Petaca. I'm not that far gone."
"The courts are no place for us," said Raul, knowing how easy it would be to expose the Medina crime; he began to walk away, thinking of Caterina, disliking the conversation, the grizzled face of his father.
"I hadn't finished speaking," said Fernando.
"I don't want to listen."
"I've talked to Pedro."
"I told him he had to go."
"He'll stay," the old man croaked.
"Let's keep sane," said Raul, curbing his emotions, shutting down on his voice. "You must accept my way; hostility will finish Petaca. We have to settle things between us. It's time I had the administration. You've had your day. There never has been any mutual planning, so now I have to work out the problems alone."
"I tell you, you'll ruin Petaca!" Fernando exclaimed; his cigarette had died out, but he still held the stub between his fingers.
Parrots jabbered and a few of them roosted in the iguana tree.
"Get me out of here, before the parrots use me for a headstone!"
"I wish we could work together."
"That's sentiment--not sense. I've never wanted to work with you or anyone. In Europe, you picked up ideas. Hell, I know what men are. I know what life is!" He shouted for the men who had been lugging him; his voice broke and became that of an old woman. "Get me out of here," he quavered.
Raul followed a palmera path that wandered toward the ocean. He thought: I won't forget that place with the old man's talk squirming among the graves. Tomorrow I'll go back and see whether her grave has been taken care of ... maybe I'd better go back later tonight....
From a hill, the hacienda resembled a small fort, disguised among garden and trees. The volcano blocked the horizon, dragging an ugly purple scar above the green valley and dark green lagoon. Where banana trees fanned into a screen, Raul sat down, overcome with grief. The banana leaves, shaking in the wind, chopped his thoughts to fragments: he saw the open grave, Caterina in her red dress, the chapel, and Vicente running away, Angelina crying: it would have been better to have put Caterina in a buggy and taken her to Colima, as sick as she was. How stupid to have become dependent on Velasco and Hernández.
What is wrong with people? he thought. He felt more and more confused. The shaking leaves irritated him; he felt shut in, dominated by the grove. Shortly, he rose and walked through the palmera, to find the spade sticking where the workmen had left it. It was dusk now and fireflies blinked yellow and green. One of the bugs flickered about him, as he began to shovel the dirt onto her coffin. Stars were brilliant ... fronds motionless now. The spade rasped. The box sounded hollow. Raul brushed away sweat. The smell of the fresh earth choked him and he leaned on the handle, remembering that she had dashed after fireflies, shouting, bottling them, sharing them with Vicente.
Salvador found Raul leaning on the spade and, without a word, took it and went on filling the grave.
"Let me have a cigarette paper, Don Raul," he said, as Raul started off.
"Of course," said Raul, and gave him paper and tobacco.
As Raul passed the corral, Chico neighed. Head over brick wall, he called and Raul thought of a night ride and then dismissed the idea. While he stroked the horse's head, Manuel joined him and they lit cigarettes: as the match flared, they studied one another, read one another's minds, a communication without words.
Raul inhaled deeply, and said:
"I know a sculptor in Guadalajara and I'll have him make a bronze figure for Caterina's grave. The next time I go to Guadalajara, I'll visit his studio. I want the figure of a young girl carrying flowers. Our family burial plot is as cheap and ugly as the fields. It doesn't have to be."
"Caterina deserves something good," Manuel said.
Raul patted Chico's nose and distended lip, and the horse bobbed his head, snuffling.
"I must go and be with Angelina now," Raul said. "I don't know where she is: is she in her room?"
"Father Gabriel's with her. In the living room."
"I'm glad of that. I'll join them."
He felt tempted to mention the owl's cry in the night: no, that would be unwise: peering at the sky, he imagined broad, dark wings headed for the lagoon: the bird would glide low, searching for a frog in the sedges, a snake, a toad ... a child.
Lying in the palmera, Raul wiped his handkerchief over his face. The August heat sopped matted fronds of trees, trickled down lianas, webbed ladders of foliage. A cooked iguana revolved on the bamboo spit in front of Raul. Manuel, squatting on his heels, turned the iguana over a tiny fire. Raul sat up and removed his revolver from its holster and began reloading, cursing the border fracas that had taken them so far from Petaca. As he shoved in a greasy bullet, the earth commenced to rock, trees shook, lianas bent.
The men gaped at one another. A growl drummed underneath them, drummed at the palmera, rattled rocks and seemed, somehow, part of both earth and sky. Raul felt the sand give underneath him and sprang up, revolver in hand. The palm next to him, a tree many years old, leaned over, and then the growl passed farther away and disappeared.
"That was a bad one," Manuel said.
"The volcano," said Raul.
Another shock reached them as they ate their iguana: the sand heaved, palms waved like flags; numbness hung in the air; the sun died out; birds cried as though in pain. A full-grown _tigre_ rushed past Manuel, crazed with fear. His plunge sent up a flock of birds that cackled insanely.
"Let's get where we can see the volcano," said Raul, stuffing his mouth.
"Listen," said Manuel.
A volcanic explosion sounded like air passing through a bamboo tube.
"I'll see about the horses," cried Manuel.
They were yanking at their ropes as Manuel raced toward them, whacking foliage aside, hoping he could get to them before they broke away. He tied them to a ceiba, where they had some sort of forage.
Another explosion told Raul the volcano had let loose; he planned to push through the palmera to the closest hill and take stock of the eruption. With his hunting knife, he sliced more iguana and, putting on his hat, lunged after Manuel. Rolling their eyes and snuffing, the horses dragged at their reins and kicked. Raul grabbed Chico, and handed Manuel a chunk of meat.
"We can eat as we ride," he said. "Let's make for the nearest hill. Maybe we can see what's happened."
As Raul mounted, yellow cup-shaped primavera flowers spattered his saddle, hat, and shoulders. The tree, loaded with blossoms, had been a landmark for the last few miles. Manuel swung onto his horse, took a mouthful of iguana, checked his rifle in its scabbard, and nodded to Raul.
Here no trail cut through and both horse and rider had to worm ahead, a slow, painful ride, Chico rebelling, fighting back at fronds and lianas. Parrots sputtered and he snuffed and threw his head. When he tried to plunge through bamboo, Manuel dismounted and swung his machete.
"We'll have to do it slow. You take my horse, Raul."
A great hive of maggots, a brown clot, in the arms of a red birch, broke as Manuel swung the knife. Sweat dripped from his face and arms. He stopped to peel off his shirt and knot it around his waist. His Negroid features, streaked with dust and pocked with leaf fragments, had whitened. He worked with big long sweeps of the machete, realizing haste was futile. His eyes became slits, and he called back at Raul:
"There ought to be a place to break through soon ... soon now."
"You ride, Manuel. I'll cut."
"No ... you ride," said Manuel, wheezing as he chopped.
"I wonder what happened at Petaca?" Raul said.
Raul left his saddle and slashed with the bone-handled knife and a load of ants sprayed over him. He backed away, shouting:
"Next time, I'll look, and then cut."
Before long, they reached a hill strewn with wreckage from a forest fire: old palm logs humped the sand and rocks; the horses walked across fronds so burned and fragile their ashes rose in spurts. From the crest they saw the volcano.
A black horse's tail, some twenty thousand feet long, arched above the peak. The smoke seemed too enormous to be moved by any wind. Lower, behind other mountain ranges, ranges that flanked the cone, black teeth of rain gaped, ready to bite into the earth.
Neither Raul nor Manuel spoke. Faces streaked, their white clothes filthy, they merely looked, steadying their horses. A chain of yellow traveled through the volcanic smoke and then the flame became red and gradually bloomed into more smoke.
"I've never seen so much smoke," Raul said.
"Lava must be pouring down," Manuel said, recalling his mother's sobbing, when he was a boy; the peak had threatened them then and the ground had trembled drunkenly. Some said she had been all right till that day. Some said a man had quarreled with her, beaten her, and hurled her into a corner of their hut. Manuel reached into his pocket for a shred of iguana and chewed it and said:
"What do you think ... Do you think it will get worse?"
"I don't think so. The cone is blown open now." Raul sat erect, his face set. "We have a long way to go and I'm worried about Petaca."
They soon found a trail and trotted their horses, horses and men swaying to avoid lianas and thorned branches. Manuel had his machete in its case. He slouched over the pommel and munched iguana, as if it were chewing gum. Thirsty, he wanted to drink from their gourd but something kept him from taking a sip.
Early that morning, men had fired on them as they searched for Farias, missing along the del Valle boundary. While completing his check of the upper corn crops in Sector 11, he had been taken prisoner, he and his son, Luis.
For Raul and Manuel, it had been a dismal and useless search; the hacienda people had said they knew nothing about Farias and Luis and yet someone had tipped off Raul, telling him Luis had escaped and gone back to Petaca.
Again they rode through cactus country, sandy but free of boulders, the cactus tall and strong, with lianas and vines swinging from the top of one to the top of another, a desolate camouflage, suggesting primordial days.
Sky had darkened appreciably and explosions indicated further eruptions, yet no quakes rumbled or shook the ground. When the riders topped a ridge, long-tailed, blue flycatchers winged from cactus to cactus, and parrots clattered in a forgotten language. An iguana slept on a log ... all seemed normal here.
Feeling his cinch strap slip, Manuel got off, checked the strap and yanked it up a notch. A shot rang out as he pulled the leather.
Raul felt something burn his shoulder; he felt he had been slapped by a heavy branch; then he remembered that they had not been moving and put his hand to his shoulder and saw blood.
Swiftly, throwing himself off his saddle, he lay on the ground and shouted:
"Down, Manuel. They hit me!"
Manuel let go his bridle and yanked his rifle, tearing it from its scabbard. With rifle in his arms, he looped his bridle over Chico's head and then--all in a rolling motion--buried himself in the bush.
Quietly, he asked:
"Can you shoot, Don Raul? See anyone?"
Raul hunched along the sand, dug his toes and squirmed behind a heap of vines and bush.
"Hope they don't get our horses," he muttered.
Pain drenched in a kind of perspiration over his brain and he lay motionless, eyes shut, gasping for breath. He thought: It's Pedro ... if I could only get him! It's no good, I've got to sit up, think straight. That damn bullet can't be so bad. Can't seem to see clearly. Now ... now, that's better. Cabrones, to chase us, hunt us. God damn them! Ai, chingado!
Manuel had begun firing, shooting across the trail, picking at trees and vines. His bullets clicked dry stuff and some of it shattered and the dry shattering sound emphasized the danger. A parrot squawked. A couple of shots spanged near Raul and he rolled on his uninjured side, forced himself to sit up and saw three men rushing through the bush, bent double.
"There they go!" he shouted.
Manuel fired several times, his old Remington shooting fast ... then silence.
Raul could hear Manuel crawling toward him; the horses were moving noisily, tangled among bushes; he recognized Chico's snuffling; Manuel's gun clicked against a rock; leaves scraped close by; his head appeared.
"Where did you get hit?" he asked, dragging himself closer.
"How does it feel?"
"Can scarcely see ... for the pain."
"I saw the men, had a good look. Who the hell does Pedro think he is! Here, let me pull open your shirt, Raul. You're bleeding."
"A handkerchief in my back pocket."
"I'll need it for the wound."
"Wait ... have to move," said Raul, sitting up, so Manuel could pull out the handkerchief. "Got to move more ... this way ... try to shake the pain."
"Do you think you'll be able to ride?"
"Later ... I'll manage."
"You're hit deep.... Let me tear the handkerchief and make a wad."
"Aah ... aah ... I taste blood."
"You're not hit in the chest. You're imagining that. Here, I'll tear my shirt and bind your chest and shoulder."
He was aware of the darkening sky as he ripped the shirt. He was aware, too, of the dark stalks of cactus and bush around them, the nervousness of the horses. All right, it was going to rain. All right, they'd be on their way soon enough. He'd have to steady Raul, help him mount. Lucienne's place was the closest. Tighten the bandage, help him get up. That crazy Chico might refuse to stand. All right, he would use his own horse.
Rifle in hand, he walked alongside Raul, his eyes mere slits. Raul rocked in his saddle, pain making it impossible for him to sit erect.
"Slow enough?" asked Manuel.
"It's not bad."
"I'm taking you to Doña Lucienne's. It's the nearest place. Chico's coming along behind."
"We'd better ride home," said Raul.
"It's too far to Petaca."
"I can make it."
"No, it's much too far."
The horse shied at something and the jerk cracked pain throughout Raul's body; without Manuel he would have fallen. They rode in silence, the rain coming in little spurts. Manuel sniffed the air--his nose opening wide.
"The rain smells bitter with smoke," Manuel said. "Can you taste it? Let me get in front, to keep the branches from hitting you."
From time to time he stopped, suspecting ambush; he wanted a chance to think out his route, make it as short and easy as possible for Raul, whose gray, tense face haunted him. Such a tortured look! What an unlucky day--the eruption, the shoulder wound. It was as if old Don Fernando had power over everything.
Had he clipped one of Fernando's men? Pedro's silver-buttoned trousers had seemed close. But firing, lying down on rough ground, wasn't accurate. A bush could deflect a shot.
In a gully, among mesquite, cacti and palms, Manuel removed the bloody handkerchiefs, brushed off ticks, and wadded a strip of shirt. Their water gourd held half and he made Raul drink and then sopped the inside of his hat.
To Raul, for all the pain, the care meant a great deal, it slid him back into the past, when he had broken his arm while playing ball with Manuel; he recalled another morning on the lagoon, when the canoe had overturned ... he grinned at Manuel.
"You've been around a long time," he managed.
"Got to take care of you. Can you ride again?"
"Have some more water."
"I can't. You drink, Manuel."
"I can wait. Let's go on, to Lucienne's."
Raul wondered, as they rode, whether neighborhood haciendas had been damaged by the shocks: maybe San Cayetano, Palma Sola, Fortaleza, Santa Cruz del Valle.
At del Valle the Jesuits had a _mayordomo_ nobody could reason with; someday, when things calmed down a little, he would visit Señor Oc. This Farias trouble had to be thrashed out. The hacienda folk mentioned Pedro, not Oc. Was that out of fear? He knew he wasn't thinking clearly. These border fracases were bound to lead to serious complications. Everyone said the Jesuits mismanaged del Valle through absentee supervision but something had to be done.
Jab after jab of horseback pain did away with his thinking. His eyes fogged. Clinging to the pommel, he ducked when Manuel directed, let himself be supported, swayed, straightened. Lucienne's? Where? When? They could miss the hacienda in the growing dark. The rain was turning cold.
But, as they neared the ocean, the rain stopped and the sky cleared and shortly after dusk they reached her home. A frenzy of dog barks met them, then they heard the surf and then they heard women wailing in the open, in front of the chapel. Two bodies lay just inside the door, covered with burlap, candles beside them.
Built in 1820, Palma Sola had the white spread of seaside haciendas of that period: its porch stalked on salt gnawed posts, its Marseilles tiled roof defied storm and quake, every wall was thick and every window deep set. Grilles were salty green and shutters were paintless. Nestled under palms, Palma Sola looked as though it could last another hundred years.
Manuel and a servant helped Raul into the living room, and Lucienne hurried in.
"What happened, Raul? Is he badly hurt, Manuel?"
"It's his shoulder, Doña Lucienne."
"Did Chico throw you? No--there's blood."
"Sit down, Don Raul," said Manuel, helping him.
"Not bad," said Raul.
"Sit here," said Lucienne, pulling up a chair.
Raul felt around for the chair. Dimly, he made out Lucienne; then, as strength returned, as he drank water, he saw her, her auburn hair, her look of concern. She touched him and at the same time he received a shock for there, at his feet, sat Mona, Caterina's fuzzy dog, tongue lolling. She barked happily; the bullet pain dug deeper; he tried to rise.
"Please sit down, Raul," said Lucienne, restraining him. "Jesús Peza is here. He can help you. Marta, run for Jesús."
Marta, a pigtailed girl, Lucienne's maid, dashed out of the living room, with Mona at her heels.
Raul fought his dizziness and tugged at his belt.
"Drink this," said Lucienne.
Someone had brought tequila.
Raul smelled it and the strong smell helped him before he could get it to his lips: tequila almendrada: he let the fiery stuff grab him. Why not get drunk? Why not wipe out pain that way? What could Peza do?
"Here's Peza," said Manuel, stripping off Raul's wet shirt.
"Well, Raul, what happened, man? I see you got drenched."
"Where are you hit?"
"In the shoulder," said Manuel.
"Shoulder ... hmm, hmm," said Jesús, and peered into his friend's face. "The last time I saw you was when I filled a molar. A month ago, maybe two, wasn't it? Well, I can help you. I'll fix your shoulder.... You just settle back in that chair."
Jesús Peza had fixed many wounds in and around Colima: _tequila_ wounds, dog bites, stone wounds, wire, gun, knife and horse wounds: as dentist, teeth and mouth often came last. He had not brought his kit to Palma Sola but borrowed a poniard-like knife from Ponchito, Lucienne's gardener. Jesús had the head of a gamecock and as he pecked at Raul's wound he talked fast:
"Fetch me several clean towels, Marta.... Hmm, I tell you that was a bad-enough earthquake; I don't know what's got into that volcano lately.... Fetch me a basin of water and some soap, Manuel.... Hmm, this knife is not so damn dull.... Hell broke loose in Colima, they say; I've got to get back.... Did you hear about the church, Raul ... hmm?"
"No," moaned Raul, barely hearing anything he said.
"Don't be brutal," said Lucienne, backing away.
"I'm not brutal," Jesús objected. "People who don't know anything about surgery always accuse me of being brutal. Hmm, the probe is already underneath the bullet. It's not so deep. I'll wiggle the thing out in a jiffy ... now, a towel, please. Madre de Dios, no, don't tell me I'm brutal; it would be brutal to leave the bullet in...."
"Whose bullet is it?" Jesús asked. "A friend of yours, maybe."
"Pedro Chávez," said Manuel, rolling and lighting a cigarette, wanting to give it to Raul.
"Bad chap, that Pedro. The rurales should kill him," said Jesús, and he sucked through his stained teeth for the bleeding annoyed him. His gamecock head bobbed; his comb of hair leaned to one side; he grunted and pushed.
Lucienne held another glass of tequila for Raul; she wanted to run because she could no longer look.
"Ah," said Raul, blacking out.
"Almost two hundred people were killed in the cathedral," Jesús went on, speaking of the Colima church. "Funeral ... that stupid rich Navarro died and everybody went to the funeral and the roof caved in on the people ... hmm, bad, very bad."
"Is it bad, Raul?" asked Lucienne.
"Hmm ... one should never go to funerals; I tell all my friends that. See, look, here I have it. Here's your bullet! Rifle bullet. Quite a chunk. I thought so. No wonder it went in deep." Jesús juggled the bullet in his palm and poked it with the point of the poniard, one eye shut. He was a connoisseur of bullets. Crimes of every sort interested him. Grumbling about powder and various calibers, he worked over Raul, stopped the bleeding and bandaged the shoulder.
Gradually, Raul sensed relief. Shifting in his chair he inspected the servants who had been watching. Lucienne ordered Marta to clean up, and the bloody towels and bowl disappeared. Peza, still grumbling, went outside for a cigarette. For the moment, the cool, long room, with its gray shuttered windows, belonged to Raul and Lucienne. She helped him to her sofa, backed him with pillows and opened windows. A glass between her fingers, she sipped and talked. The sea rolled its watery sound. Raul let his eyes close, and tried to imagine he had no branding iron of pain.
"... Two men died at the mill, when beams dropped and part of the mill fell on them. You remember Ortiz and Gonzales?"
She was dressed in dark gray, a flowing pleated skirt with a pleated jacket.
"... The men are lying in the chapel....
"... Jesús is going back to Colima right away. He's worried."
He tried to say he was worried about Petaca but he couldn't manage a word.
"Some of the chapel walls have cracked," she said, still standing by him.
Voices outside the house rose: a man shouted and boys began an altercation; a dog started barking.
Lucienne sat on the sofa, touched his face, his hands. For a second, she felt he was hers and the illusion pleased her; the day's trials dropped away and left her thinking of another day, on the beach. Tide low, they had walked to a cove where red-barked trees shaded the sand. Some baby manta rays had been washed onto the beach; seagulls flew low ... Raul had said....
Jesús was saying goodbye.
"Goodbye, Jesús," said Lucienne. "Thank you so much. I hope everything's all right at your home in Colima, with your family. Tell the padre about Ortiz and Gonzales. Perhaps he can send someone to bury them tomorrow. If not, we'll bury them without a priest. What else can we do?"
Jesús wore boots of brown English leather and seemed to be memorizing their creases as Lucienne spoke. His small figure, in neat khaki trousers and blue shirt, looked pitiful.
When he had gone, Raul had a cognac. He asked himself whether any bones had been broken? By the shot or by the fall, when he hurled himself from the saddle.
A white peacock perched in a long open window. It was quiet now and the surf-sound fumbled over the dark furnishings, desks, tables, chairs and sofas from the 70's. Things had not been well cared for and yet their good craftsmanship fought neglect and climate. The woods were mahogany, oak, rosamorada and magnolia. On the walls hung Directoire prints, oil portraits and a poor copy of an Ingres nude, all of them palely lit by a brass center lamp that swung from the ceiling on a brass chain.
"Are you feeling any better?" she asked, from a high armchair. "How far you had to ride to get here. Manuel is wonderful to you...."
"We should have been more alert."
"You can't always be," she said.
"I suppose not. Anything can happen in the campo."
"I'll fix you something to eat. Manuel must get you out of those wet trousers."
"Lucienne ... you must send word to Petaca."
"Should Manuel go?"
"I think that's best."
"Try to rest.... I'll see about it," she said.
Pain kept Raul awake most of the night. All her doctoring helped very little; again and again he saw Lucienne by the lamplight of the adjoining bedroom; she would come and bend over him and whisper something.
"Try to sleep....
"Are you thirsty?"
In the dim light, his face had about it the tragic quality that had haunted her at the burial. Death was such a wearisome thing. Dear Raul, sleep, sleep. This is really your home. We've always been kind to one another ... we can go on being kind. We have that assurance. Only a little while ago you and I were children, playing together.... I can see you in the dining-room doorway, tears streaming down your face, Mama and Papa lying dead on the floor, just as they were when they took them from the sea. Oh, love, I want to share your pain. "Let me get a hammock for you," she said, "to let the air come all around you. Maybe that will help you rest."
She slung a long white hammock for him and he found it more restful lying crosswise, swaying a little....
Mona wandered in and licked his fingers, when his hand hung over the side of the hammock. She lay underneath, on the cool tiles.
Strange, lying here in her bedroom, strange to be alive, strange that Caterina is dead ... stranger still is Angelina's coldness, her sorrow, her introversion ... what is it we say to one another, or don't say? What is it that heals us? Something for one, something else for another. She wouldn't like to care for me but she would like to look after a child. Strange sound the sea makes, strange what life is.
In a few days I'll be back at Petaca. I'll see her and she'll ask about my shoulder and I'll ask about the earthquake. There must be a way to change ourselves. Lucienne says there is no God. How does she know? Has she searched? She spends her time with her plants and her friends. Gabriel has said "God is." For him it's as simple as that. And I must talk to him, to change myself. Caterina didn't live for nothing. Her faith was real to her....
Lying alone in Lucienne's tiny servant's room (a room that had no furniture), Manuel saw his soul sitting in front of him, about three feet high, made of clay. He had often seen it. It had a bulging forehead, close cropped hair and scraggly beard. It spoke in an African tongue, faintly. He listened and tried to understand. Wasn't it repeating the same things? The voice rose. The soul seemed to grapple with something; it snuffed the air ... Manuel, breathing hard, turned restlessly on a dusty straw mat, woke and gazed about at the tiny room.
Up long before dawn, he washed in the sea, ate, talked with Lucienne about Raul's condition and then saddled his horse for Petaca.
Flashes of lightning streaked the gray sky and before he had ridden far it began to rain. He welcomed it, glad the stink of smoke and ash would vanish. A borrowed poncho wrapped around him, he felt warm and comfortable; he was sure none of Pedro's men would be out in the downpour. Passing a stone roadside cross, he thought of Ortiz and Gonzalez, dead in Lucienne's chapel. A man's luck gave out at the strangest moments. Raul's luck had died out yesterday. He would have to fight back....
Slashes of rain struck across the road and men on burros appeared out of the rain, the riders crouched under raincoats of palm, fibrous, soppy masses. Each man bore a hoe. The burros trotted wearily, heads down.
An embankment, gutted by years of erosion, led onto a bridge of sixteenth century red masonry, crumbling and narrow. In the center, on a limestone panel, a Humboldt had had a sonnet carved, before his sugar plantation had collapsed or before his mine had petered out in Jalisco. Empire builders, those Humboldts. Beyond the bridge, sweeping over fields, the rain rippled over sugar cane, breast high. Above, on a rocky hill, was the stone fence line of the Medina property, a great crooked L.
For Manuel, the green sweep of cane held a promise: he hoped for a few acres and felt that Raul would let him have them soon. Many men hoped for acres of their own. Pedro had promised land, if men sided with him, land he had never owned.
Ping of a muzzle-loader stirred a flock of duck from a Medina pond and a scrawny, lame man popped out of bushes and hailed Manuel, a duck slapping his leg.
"Cubo," said Manuel.
Manuel rolled a cigarette, the man walking toward him.
"Any word about Farias?" he asked of this family servant.
"Not a word."
"Raul was shot by one of Pedro's men. He's at Palma Sola. I've just come from there."
"Is he badly hurt?"
"Pretty bad. In the shoulder."
"Madre de Dios."
His old musket and old bare legs and thin arms seemed to have been eaten by the rain. His torn whites stuck to the quivering bird. Thinking of Raul, he rubbed his fingers over his powder horn.
By the time Manuel reached Petaca it was nearly noon; pigeons drowsed on the roof; dogs snoozed on the cobbles. Manuel stabled and rubbed his horse and, while he rubbed the flanks, whistling a little, a man hurried in: El Cisne, the stable hands called him, a flour-skinned fellow, young, tubercular looking.
"Farias is back," he said. "And Luis, too."
"Good," said Manuel. "I want to talk to Farias. Where is he?"
"He's at the mill."
Manuel's horse pushed her nose against her feedbox to ward off flies.
"I'll be right along."
"Where's Don Raul?"
"Injured--at Palma Sola."
They walked toward the mill, the flour-skinned fellow behind Manuel, his whites billowing with air as he strode.
Here and there, tiles had crashed during the quake; an adobe hut, where plows were stored, had collapsed, dumping adobes like dominoes. From a distance, the residence seemed to have escaped. Manuel did not question El Cisne. The path led quickly through an orange grove to the mill, an eighteenth century building, with French earmarks, even a few fleurs-de-lis. A Medina had hired a Gascon architect to do both mill and house but the French influence had long ago disappeared from the house, due to quakes and remodelings.
New ragged cracks appeared in the east wall of the mill, Manuel noted. Men sat by the pool, Farias among them. He and Manuel greeted each other heartily, slapping each other on the back.
"Tell me what happened."
"Pedro tried to keep me, a deliberate mix-up with some del Valle men, to cause trouble. It's just as Luis told you. They'd have kept us both if they could."
"You got away today?"
"I got away yesterday, but it took time to reach Petaca."
"The fools--to keep you. Raul is wounded and at Palma Sola. Pedro tried to get him when we were riding in the campo."
Several workers stood up. One of them stopped whittling.
"What's that?" demanded Farias, instantly blaming Don Fernando. "Tell us again."
"They tried to get Raul, out in the campo. A rifle shot. It's a nasty wound ... deep in the shoulder."
"Did you see Pedro's men?" someone asked.
"Sure, we saw them," said Manuel.
"God damn that Chávez," a man cried.
"Jesús Peza removed the bullet.... When did Luis come in?" Manuel asked Farias. "We lost him day before yesterday."
"He came in yesterday," said Farias. "He's dog tired but he's all right. They stole his horse."
Above the mill, the volcano released streamers of smoke, smoke that fanned wider and wider as it climbed. It had commenced as they talked; now everyone saw it, considered it silently, as if hypnotized. Manuel thought, as he looked, Raul will die. The haciendas will fall. In the smoke he saw the bodies of peasants, dead cattle, rifles, machetes, trees, women, children. Destiny ... the force that takes us, one by one.
Farias stepped up close to Manuel.
"The Clarín tried to kill Raul," he said. "The man's insane." Years of resentment went into his remark; he rubbed chaffed wrists and galled hands and regarded his Petacan friends, most of them bearded, in their fifties and sixties; they had stomached Don Fernando with patient desperation; all of them craved freedom.
"Don Fernando wanted another killing," someone said.
"You'd think he'd have enough by now."
"Of course he put Pedro up to it."
"His own son ... anything to have power over us."
"Times will go worse for us, now that Raul's wounded," said a one-eyed man, with machete dangling from a cord around his neck.
Almost superstitiously, they felt the old man would regain his power and impose his violence. Hunger, sickness and fear had crucified their faces and yet there seemed to be room for this new dread. A paunched man tipped back his hat and fumbled a cigarette. Another coughed and spat....
Ashes from the volcano sifted on the pool, gray, powder-fine, moving in tiny eddies; the same ash flecked the men's hats, beards, shoulders and sleeves. A swallow dipped over the pool and then banked away, as if repulsed by the ash. Silence kicked at the walls of the mill, at the jacarandas and palms, at the fields beyond them.
"I must go and speak to the señora about Don Raul," Manuel said, heading toward the main house. "See me later, in the kitchen, Farias."
Sitting in a hammock on Lucienne's porch facing the ocean, Raul saw himself, a self-portrait: the slightly over-fleshed face, brown skin, tough hands, twisted eyebrows. Not a big man, part Spanish, part Indian. His eyes had taken on a hurt look these days, his mouth had hardened, shoulder muscles had sagged. Briefly amused, he saw himself as a Colonial canvas--reading in a stiff-backed chair, a cat on the floor at his feet, a vase of paper roses on a side table.
Tomorrow, Lucienne's victoria would take him home, away from lolling hammock, the sound of the ocean, back to his people. He thought of his wife, of her discontent. Petaca's deed, in its cedar box, had been the deed to many souls. Yes, Petaca had drained away her spirit, warped her. It had changed her, a painful change.... Her rebellions had been brushed aside. The weather was bad, the food was monotonous. She said: But I haven't any friends here. I said: Can't you read something! Go look at the stars.
But it's so dark outside, Raul, so dark.... I love the stars, but if we could just go to the theater tonight. I want to see a play. Remember that play set in Salamanca.... We liked that play, remember? You have your work. I don't see what's wrong with my wanting friends. I went to school with them. Remember, I'm from Guadalajara.... I like Estelle.... She's....
Slowly, Raul got up and circled the house, to the garden side. Lucienne was talking to her gardener. He had been clipping hedges and they walked among them, stepping over little heaps, pointing, gesturing. Barefooted, wearing light blue, she laughed gayly at something he said. Her hair blazed against the dark hedge, beside the gardener, a wizened, half-naked man.
She came toward Raul. "Don't the hedge leaves smell wonderful?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.
"Like the woods," he said.
"Let's go together one of these days," she suggested. "Way up the volcano, the way we used to ... after the fire and smoke have gone."
"Will the fire and smoke ever go?" he said, letting his discouragement get the better of him.
"That's no way to talk." She kissed him. "Sit on the bench, there," she said, quietly. "Maybe you shouldn't be walking around. I'll change the bandage soon."
"We can skip that.... Let's leave it."
"Who'll change the bandage at Petaca?"
"She doesn't like blood."
"Stay with me a while longer."
"I can't, Lucienne. Who knows what my father may do? With me away, he may press every advantage."
"You must turn Pedro over to the rurales."
"I know," he said.
"I've waited too long already," he said. "But Pedro's not hanging around Petaca, waiting to be turned over to the rurales. They'll have to get him."
A banging started beyond the hedge, where the gardener had resumed his clipping. Raul glanced in the direction of the noise.
"They're trying to mend a damaged spring in the victoria," she explained. "I want them to do something to it, to make it better, for your trip tomorrow. It will be a hard-enough trip for you, I'm afraid." She sat by him, smiling.
"As long as it doesn't fall apart," he said.
She played with his fingers. Through his open shirt, his gold cross dangled on his chest, reminding her she had once shared his faith, when they were youngsters, before her belief had been destroyed in Europe. It seemed to her everyone she had met abroad had been either agnostic or atheist. Viewing Mexico from across the sea, the country's peasant credulity had gradually become absurd. Within a few years, she had ridiculed its faith.
"Raul, I'll miss you."
"You have your friends."
"No friends are like you."
"Ride to Petaca with me, Chula."
"I can't.... I must see the families of the dead. There are many things to look after. I wonder what happened at Petaca?"
"We're buried in duties," he said too loudly.
"Is your shoulder better than yesterday?"
The worker banged at the damaged spring.
"I wish we could meet soon in Colima," she said. "Will Angelina be going away ... perhaps?"
"Since Caterina's death, she doesn't seem to want to go away," he said. "I've suggested it.... No, she refused."
"How long has she known about us, do you suppose? Do we know how difficult we've made her life?"
He didn't know, but he knew he should never have married Angelina, that he had been carried away by her prettiness, by fancy, by passion, lopsided but nonetheless real, nonetheless foolish, passion for her city manners, her frailty....
Really, how long had Angelina known?
Lucienne felt they had been considerate, as she thought about it, but she wasn't sure. It struck her, with brief but keen poignancy, that Angelina had never been married to Raul. What about her charming, corrupt friend, little Estelle, her secrets?
Her head against him, her hand in his, he sensed the beauty of her garden, tall poinsettias, cerise bougainvillaea, roses, honeysuckle, _azucenas_. A row of lilies crossed a stretch of grass under crooked cypress.... This was Lucienne's workshop. She neglected her friends for her garden, a collector's garden: rare columbine, carnations, violets, asters, unusual willows, acacia, papaya, fig, breadfruit and zapote. She grew pittosporum, succulents and cacti. She had Humboldt fever ... her hands felt rough. Something was always germinating in her glasshouses. When she had come back from Europe, along with her Parisian lingerie, Swiss jackets, and Italian hats, she had smuggled seeds or plants. A Japanese rosewood on one trip, a Greek olive tree on another.
"What happened to the camellias, the northern ones?" he asked, after a long silence.
"They seem to be doing all right.... Will you be good to yourself, Raul? I'm worried about your shoulder. I won't know how you're getting along. Get well!"
The worker banged at the broken spring.
"With all these troubled times, Petaca gets farther and farther away from me. I think about you in so many ways," she said. "Your quarrels with your father. Pedro. Your Caterina. Ah, darling...."
"Do you really think I'll succeed in helping Petaca? All my efforts can amount to very little in the end."
"That's all any of us can hope for," she said, "a little progress."
"I wish I had your help."
"But I'm no hacendada. I have my servants, my flowers, my trees." She eyed her garden, its paths, its shade patterns, its sun. "Nobody is treated badly here.... I've just four regular men now. Gonzalez and Ortiz will have to be replaced. My women come and go. I guess I live too near Colima to keep them long. When my old Guanajuato mine stops paying me dividends, then I'll have to become an hacendada.... Just now, I live in peace ... just enough ... you know, my dear."
Someone called Lucienne, and she went into the house.
Raul appreciated Palma Sola. Nowhere in Europe had he discovered such a spot and he doubted whether one existed, such a tropic garden where ocean sucked at discontent. Here palmera, garden and ocean talked together--like old friends. As pain returned, he forced himself to listen to the fronds; their brushing fingers made the sound of falling water.
But there was more to Palma Sola than serenity: there was heat, when the only possible relief was a dip; there were storms; there were cloud banks and scattered fogs; there were phosphorescent waves that swallowed the horizon.
The pain moved in again and Raul thought of Pedro. He wanted him out of the way. Perhaps the Yaqui had murdered somebody. At the earliest opportunity, he would spend a day in Colima, butter some palms and put the rurales wise: the gray-uniformed men would tip their caps and Pedro would be a marked man.
A marked man, for a dozen crimes ... the criminal instinct, nothing else. Protected by my father. How can there be law and justice when a single person can dictate? Yet I will be dictating when I summon the rurales ... the law protects me against the lawless ... and the church has a law against divorce. So I am dictated to, in turn.... Well, I must get up and walk around, toughen myself for that long ride tomorrow.
He got away early, before the sun broke through the low mist. He leaned out of the victoria and called goodbye.
"I hope that spring doesn't come apart," she said.
"Simon's a good driver," Raul said. "We have at least one good spring. We'll make out fine."
"I love you...."
"'Bye, Chulo.... Write me...."
It was a superb morning, the sun barely topping the palmera, mist blurring the ocean, haze concealing the volcano. Silver trimming on the guard's saddle sparkled. Creaking and bumping, sagging on its weak spring, the victoria rolled out of the sand, one of the horses whinnying. Sand gave way to hard ground and Simon cracked his whip.
"Vamos!" he shouted to his team.
Parrots, scarcely larger than hummingbirds, flicked out of the trees and seemed about to strike the carriage. The victoria traveled slowly, swaying from side to side like an old fat man. Little by little, the gray trunks of the palmera hid the beach and house.
Raul tried to make himself comfortable by pushing his good shoulder into the cushion. I'll get used to it. Simon knows what he's doing. There will be good stretches of road. Damn these annoyances.
Before long, they passed a family riding on burros, then several oxcarts loaded with firewood. At noon, they saw Indian women, spinning flax as they trudged along, their bare feet stubbing through deep sand. Later in the afternoon, they met a hill Indian, in buckskin, bow and quiver over his shoulder ... he dog-trotted past, saluting no one.
At dusk, they drove through a herd of belled goats. Their shepherds had black and white serapes over their shoulders. By a campfire alongside the road, Raul noticed a youngster with two honey bears on a rope--cubs the size of house cats.
I'll buy one for Vicente, he thought, and leaned out of the window and called the youngster. The carriage slumped into a pothole, and a spring seemed to snap. Simon bellowed angrily at his horses and the campers howled with laughter. Raul asked the boy how much he wanted for one of his bears.
"You may have them both, patrón."
Raul recognized that hacienda courtesy.
"I want one for my son."
"They're both yours," insisted the boy, rising, drowning disappointment behind a wooden grin. His small body might have been put together out of muscled vines.
"For one bear," said Raul, and handed him some pesos.
The boy reached out, his pets tugging him; he bumped against the wheel of the victoria. Raul felt the cool snout of the cub; quickly, he drew the animal inside, where it sniffed and pawed excitedly at the closed window.
Simon whipped up his horses.
Cuddling the furry ball under his good arm, rolling on through the night, Raul leaned back in his seat, pleased he had something for Vicente. Then he remembered that Vicente would be in Colima, at school. A flash thought said: Earthquake, and he wondered what had happened to Vicente and his school?
He hoped Angelina would greet him happily at Petaca. Why not one more illusion? Life had so many disillusions in it before the end. He told himself he must confess to Gabriel: or had his confessions, through the years, been altogether too revealing? The victoria swayed and he groaned and hugged the bear.
At Petaca, he brushed dust and hair from his freshly laundered suit and, holding the bear under one arm, mounted the lantern-lighted veranda steps. A number of servants greeted him. Instead of returning their greetings, he stared at the earthquake damage: the east wing of the veranda had crumbled into a heap of rubble; the cross of Palenque on the roof line had fallen; a section of the garden wall had toppled; stones, adobe, bougainvillaea and honeysuckle lay on the ground.
Inside the living room, a hole gaped at the east end.
Chavela approached him--as he inspected the damage--her big hands bulging behind her apron.
"Don Raul, I ... Madre de Dios, que pasó! Were you badly hurt?"
"You were shot ... they shot you, patrón."
"Yes ... but where's Angelina? The house has been badly damaged."
"She's upstairs, in bed. She's..."
"Is she ill? Was she hurt? Why wasn't word sent to me!"
"She feels weak, after the quakes, the volcano smoke. We had it bad here."
"Take the honey bear, Chavela. Keep it for Vicente."
She unwrapped her damp hands and grasped the bear, frowning; she hated all pets, feeling that they stole food from the mouths of children. Her arms smothered the bear, and it clawed futilely.
Without saying more, Raul ascended the stairs, glad Angelina had not met the victoria, knowing how painful the sight of it would have been to her....
Above Angelina's bed, there was a jagged plaster crack, where a picture had hung. Propped against bolsters, she held out her hand to him.
"Raul, how are you?"
"My shoulder's about well."
"Manuel said it was a rifle bullet."
"Jesús Peza fixed me. Lucky for me he was at Palma Sola."
"Sit down, won't you?"
"How are you, Angelina? Why are you in bed?"
"The quakes. Have you seen what they did to us?"
"I've seen some of the damage ... I just came in."
She sat up higher, her dark hair flowing around her, her eyes extra brilliant, her willowy body showing through a gauzy pink gown. He sat beside her and tried to enjoy her beauty, the fragrance of her perfume and powder.
"What have you heard from Vicente?" he asked.
"He's all right. We've heard from the school." Her words came slowly.
"Who found out about him?"
"Esteban. I sent him."
"And the school itself?"
"The upper floor was damaged. Several were killed at Mountain Rancheria.... Petaca is ruined ... what happened at Palma Sola?" Her nose wings widened and her mouth trembled.
"Two men were killed there. I hear it was very bad in Colima. But you must know about that."
"Yes ... yes, I heard," she said, indifferently, and her indifference, so sudden and so cold, made him feel like a stranger.
"I heard that maybe two hundred died," he said.
"Is it true that Pedro's men ... ah, shot you?"
"There's no doubt about it. Manuel and I saw them. Pedro was there."
"When Manuel came to me, I sent him to your father."
"I'll speak to my father soon."
He wanted to smoke but did not care to let her see how his arm movements pained him. He clenched and unclenched one hand, staring at the wall.
"Why haven't men been put to work on the roof of the living room? A rain will come and we'll be flooded." He stood. "I'll see to things."
She gazed past him, at the opposite wall, and saw herself wearing a fur coat, entering the theater.... She smiled and arranged her hair.
"I'll find Manuel," he said.
"Yes, he's around," she answered, the words curt. "Let's have time to talk one of these days. I'd like to plan to leave soon. The quakes, the smoke, the dead ... I don't seem to be much help." She picked at her fingernails. "You'll find time for the house ... for Manuel."
In the game room, Raul got Manuel to change his shoulder dressing. Leaning on the pool table, he fought the pain.
"The carriage ride messed you up."
"I suppose so."
"I'll change the dressing again first thing in the morning. Hold still."
"I'm riding to Colima tomorrow to see the rurales."
"Pedro's not here. Wait a day or two."
"Is the hole in my shoulder so bad?"
"Then I'll see Jesús in Colima ... let me sit on the edge of the table, Manuel."
"Colima got it bad, so Esteban says. Many buildings wrecked."
"So bad as that?"
"Stores have been knocked apart. The Sangre de Cristo church lost its roof. The hospital had the upper floor damaged. Houses have gone to pieces. People are camping in the Plaza; there's almost no water...."
"Take it easy with that bandage. We'll have to send men to help in the town; I'll talk to Pepe, Flores and Tonal; they can help. Maybe we can go to town together. If the rurales can't see me I can leave my request in writing.... We'll see an end to Pedro...."
"The bastard," snapped Manuel, helping Raul put on his shirt.
"Not so fast!"
"I've just come from the graveyard," said Manuel, trying to sound matter of fact.
Raul forgot his shoulder.
"What happened there, in God's name?"
"Some of the graves opened ... the quake."
"I, I filled her grave ... took care of the others ... have almost finished."
They glanced at one another, the glance of brothers, the glance of men who had seen a great deal of life and death. Raul's hand felt for Manuel's arm and gripped it with gratitude and affection.
1 bandana 0.25 2-½ kil. tobacco 2.30 cig. papers 0.70 shoes 3.50 2-½ met. cloth 2.25 (for trousers) 6 kil. beans 1.80 4 kil. sugar 1.20 salt 0.62 dried chili 0.10 ------ 12.72
Farias had purchased these items during the last month. Each week he earned twelve pesos but received nothing in cash. His total indebtedness at the _tienda de raya_ amounted to 1,291.68 pesos. Raul, perched on a three-legged stool at the desk in the _tienda de raya_, mumbled Farias' name and x'd his account; then signed and dated the sheet. Flipping to the S pages, he canceled Salvador's account, which totaled over fifteen hundred pesos. Esperito, his father's bookkeeper, had faked entries and Raul spotted them with half an eye; the corroded brass pen between his fingers, he felt Esperito's pocked face over his shoulder, objecting. Let the ghost object: Esperito had been packed off to Guadalajara, to another job of pencil chewing and peso bickering.
Raul wiped the nib of the pen on the desk blotter, pleased that he had control and could be generous. Deliberately tapping the tobacco into his pipe bowl, liking the aroma, he smoked a while, hacienda noises coming in through the open windows. Sun streaked the freckled Petaca map, with its residence, ponds, villages, roads and mountains. His father had tacked it up. A colored print of Porfirio Díaz (as a young man) dangled over the stained flattop desk. A Mosler safe, with New England autumn landscape on its door, squatted under a heap of account books, cattle magazines, boxes of nails, screws and bolts, its casters in dust, sand and pigeon feathers.
All other space in the room was shelved with supplies, soap, boxes of nails and hinges, bundles of machetes, bolts of cloth, cans of tobacco and oil, packages of tobacco and cigarette papers, tins of coffee and gunpowder, the thousand and one things needed at an hacienda. A thousand times a week Petacan men and women talked of the _tienda de raya_ and cursed its prices. The same words were heard at a thousand haciendas. The _tienda_ was the core of the peasants' lives, for there they bought their servitude, since no _hacendado_ permitted purchases anywhere else. The _tienda_ was everyman's ball and chain. Sons inherited their father's indebtedness. If a man fled, the rurales had a way of picking him up with uncanny rapidity.
In the corner, the shelving was broken by a glass gun case: Winchesters and Remingtons stood in a row. Revolvers and pistols, holstered and unholstered, crowded the rack, with boxes of shells neatly stacked behind them. The guns and shells were the only neatly arranged things in the store. Everything else had been put down carelessly, was dusty and tangled with cobwebs.
Raul fiddled with the counterfeit coins a forgotten _mayordomo_ had nailed across the rim of his desk: the five-peso silver piece turned rustily on its nail; the ten-peso coin had a big nick out of the side; he remembered the copper two-centavo coin was like one he had had as a boy; quite a bit of counterfeit money had found its way to the hacienda during the nineties.
Wind puffed through the open room.
Feeling relaxed, he got up, shut the door and walked toward his father's room. His wound had stiffened, as he sat at the desk, and he pumped his arm as he walked, appreciating the fit of his new red leather boots. His jeans and gray shirt, carefully tailored, were also new. Scratches from the palmera marred his cheek and he picked the scab as he paused in his father's open doorway.
"Hello," he said.
His father grunted.
"I'd like to talk to you," said Raul.
"I can't very well stop you," said Fernando. "Come in," he added peevishly.
"I see you've had breakfast," Raul said.
Chavela was removing dishes and silver and placed them on her Tarascan tray. A stupid grin on her face, she worked awkwardly. Amused, Raul watched her, knowing how clever she could be in the kitchen, supervising others. When she had gone he pulled a chair up to the bed. Through the grilled window, the sun spread over the carvings on the ugly wardrobe. Fernando smoked a fresh cigarette and asked:
"Did Farias tell you that our rock fences had been deliberately pulled down along the del Valle line? Or did he keep that information to himself?"
His voice quavered; propped on his pillows, one arm under the sheet, his hair uncombed, his face unshaven, he filled Raul with pity and disgust.
"I've talked with Farias. I plan to visit Santa Cruz. I'll talk with Señor Oc."
"You'll find him a trickster."
"I've never met him. He's your enemy, not mine."
"You imply...." The old man's voice climbed; he wanted the peace of his own folly.
"I came to talk to you about this." Raul tapped his shoulder where a bandage bulged under his shirt. He thought it would be easy to say, but the words choked in his throat.
"Don't accuse me of attempting to assassinate you!" Fernando screamed.
"I'm leaving for Colima in an hour or so. I'll have a talk with the police. I'll have Pedro picked up and jailed," Raul said, forcing himself to keep calm.
"Who'll be your overseer?"
"Salvador, the oxcart maker! Jesús, use your head!"
"I like honest men."
With tense fingers, Raul emptied and filled his pipe; his eyes took in the smooth, familiar bowl and stem. Neither man spoke and the chatter of servants crossed the room; a child called: "Run, Lupe, run."
"You may as well get it into your head that I didn't send Pedro after you."
"You sent him after Farias."
"I wanted to involve those Jesuits. I hate those bastards. I wanted to work up a little trouble ... we've always had difficulties with the del Valle people." He sounded extremely tired; a flip of his fingers sent his cigarette somersaulting across the tiles.
Raul saw himself in his father's mirror; he shut his eyes and bit his pipe stem.... In Guadalajara, his father had said: "I sometimes see him...."
"You think in terms of morals," Fernando went on. "We don't live in a moral age. Do you believe Díaz is a moral president? Surely, at your age, Raul, you're not that blind! You're not moral yourself--if we come to that. I've never been moral but you, well, you seem to feel you're God himself!"
Raul wished he could forget the decayed face, the glaring eyes.
"I don't like what you've said."
"You and your Lucienne don't like a lot of things, I gather. She hides in her flowers and you hide in her lap."
Raul jabbed his pipestem at Fernando. "You hired Pedro; he's been your private assassin; get rid of him."
Fernando's lips collapsed. His eyes slapped shut. House noises filled the room.
"Let me say this," said Raul, pipe in both hands, eyes on the smoke that trailed from its bowl. "Maybe I'm as corrupt as you say. But I happen to love Lucienne, if that makes any difference. I've been promiscuous.... We've all played with hacienda girls. But you have played with lives. You've let people starve for a whim. You've had them kicked and whipped and killed. You've stopped our school. You let Esperito fake entries in the account books. That's corruption."
"You should be able to name things," growled Fernando, his hands under the sheet, the sheet under his chin. "I'm sure you learned everything when you were in Europe, all the pros and cons."
"The record here at Petaca speaks for itself. I know how many men you've had killed."
"Many men have killed and not been held to account. Every general kills."
"That kind of reasoning makes nothing right."
"Do you know how dangerous these times are?" asked Fernando. "Do you?"
"I can only guess. Perhaps it will take only a spark."
"A spark to touch off a conflagration," said Don Fernando, one eyebrow going up.
"You mean a revolution?" asked Raul.
"I doubt if it will be revolution. It won't get that bad. If it gets that bad, we'll be put back a hundred years. A revolution will cost us that much."
"You sound prophetic," laughed Fernando.
"I'm going to help," Raul said.
"I don't want to lose Petaca, whatever happens," said Fernando, feeling the land to be his only friend.
Raul shoved his hands in his pockets and rose to leave. It took all his will power to look at his father briefly.
"I'll send Arrillo to shave you," he said. "I'm going to Colima. I hear the quake damage has been serious ... I want to see what I can do to help."
The room quiet, Fernando feared death: he wanted his son's new boots, trousers and shirt; he wanted to strap on a gun. Through his bloodshot eyes, as he gazed at the sunny patio, he saw himself at twenty-five or thirty, in new clothes, stalking off to Colima. His arm refused to stop shaking; he groaned; death would not let him alone. He tried to make out the serpentine fountain. Was that a woman dipping water? A girl dipping water? The dim figure reminded him of Caterina, and he heard her reading to him, as she had sat beside his bed. But he put Caterina out of his mind and groped for his copper bell and rang.
When Chavela came, he said: "Pedro's at the mill. I want him here.... Oh, Christ, stop looking like a scared calf! Pedro won't hurt you. Get out there and tell him I want him. And bring me another cigarette when you come back."
Fernando enjoyed the prospect of seeing his renegade; it amused him, too, that Pedro had gotten himself into trouble. Like an old cat, Fernando drowsed till Pedro appeared.
"What took you so long?" he began, instinctively aware that considerable time had elapsed since Chavela had left.
"I waited for Don Raul to leave."
"Afraid of him!"
Pedro did not care to reply; he was impervious to the old man's jibes.
One hand was stuck in his enormous leather belt, he was dressed in white, no guns, no cartridges. His boots were dusty. He had left his hat somewhere. A long timothy straw dangled from his mouth.
"You went too far," Fernando exclaimed. "I don't want Raul killed.... you were to kill Manuel. Farias was to have been a blunder for the Jesuits. That didn't work out. You're clever but you're not clever enough. I'm not the murderer of my son. My business with my father taught me something. Now, I want you to leave Petaca. Get out!"
"What?" said Pedro, hand to the straw in his mouth.
"Raul has gone to Colima to talk with the rurales. They'll come here for you. They'll scour the hacienda. At least you're warned." Fernando grinned at the other's dilemma. "Get out. You're licked."
This was something Pedro had not foreseen. He removed the straw from between his teeth and smelled the end of it, frowning.
"You may need me," he mumbled, unable to think.
"Go to Mountain Rancheria. You have friends there. It'll be safe enough. Get out, before I decide to turn you over to the rurales." Fernando chuckled.
"All right. Mountain Rancheria. I'll go there ... all right."
"Come back here in an hour or so. I'll let you have some money."
"Give me enough for some guns. I need guns."
Pedro's face became eager; he tossed away the straw and moved close to Fernando's bed, his spurs rattling. Bending low, he smiled.
Fernando caught the rebel instinct in that grin. God, he thought, to be out of bed. "Guns," he said. "Why do you need guns? What will you do with guns?"
"Sell them, Don Fernando."
"Men are buying guns?"
"Yes. Now I can make money. Big money."
"Is General Matanzas in charge of the garrison?"
"He doesn't know people are buying guns.... He mustn't know."
"Guns," Fernando muttered. "Money for guns."
"There will be trouble," said Pedro.
"I gather that," croaked Fernando. He no longer feared death. He asked Pedro to have men place him in a chair and carry him to the _tienda_. Alone, at the desk, he opened his safe and counted 2,000 pesos for his overseer. Guns! With the bills before him he felt powerful again. The smell of the pesos told him insane things. The map of Petaca confirmed his illusion: 1,800,000 acres, corn land, wheat land, sugar cane, mountains, valleys ... his. Yet, as he stared at the map, he realized he could not distinguish one sector from another. Troubled, he began shuffling the bills; then he noticed the open account book. In spite of his shaky hands, he found the accounts Raul had canceled. Groaning, he slid forward, tried to grasp the desk, tried to rise and collapsed. Somehow, he held to the top of the desk. The guns in the gun rack became sticks. The door became a black hole. He felt his eyes ... they were still open. Slowly, he rested his head on his arms.
Presently, someone rapped and the door opened.
"Don Fernando?" called Pedro, coming inside and closing the door. He stepped to the desk and jogged Fernando's back and the old man looked up; instantly, Pedro realized he could not see.
"Don Fernando," he whispered.
Fernando could not reply. He lowered his head again.
Without hesitation, Pedro picked up the money and jammed it into his trouser pockets; then he stood still and listened carefully; he glanced through the open windows; an oriole sang; a horseman clattered by; then footsteps seemed to be coming toward the _tienda_.
One of Fernando's bearers rapped. Pedro let him in and together they carried Fernando to his room, Chavela hovering about squeaking and clucking. Angelina brought ammonia. Someone went off for Father Gabriel.
Calmly returning to the _tienda_, Pedro checked the safe. The old man had spun the dial. Hands in his pockets, walking stiff-legged, he went to an empty stable and sat on a feed-box. He had never had so much money. His hands trembled. It frightened him to count it ... his tongue hung out.
"... two hundred, three hundred, four-eighty, six hundred, seven hundred ... seven hundred and twelve pesos." He stopped counting, hurriedly stuffed the money inside his hat, and strapped the cord under his chin. His face was red. His jaw sagged. Guns ... guns. They'll be afraid of me at Mountain Rancheria. His tongue skated round his teeth. In the gloom of the stall, he smoked a cigarette and thought of his Yaqui home, the Sonora country, how far away it was. Of a sudden, it seemed close. With hundreds of pesos he could take the train.... Nobody would know him.
Again he counted the money, got up to fifteen hundred and fifteen pesos and stuffed the bills inside his hat, fingering his chin strap. Rising, with a great sigh, he got his horse and threw on his saddle.
As he rode uphill, he watched volcano smoke elbow across the lagoon, a calm gray surface. Petaca lay below. Oxcarts crowded the courtyard as men returned from an irrigation job along the lagoon. Sitting his gray, a spirited stallion, he knew the renegade's fear: the Clarín had planned to pay him off, could trap him if he wanted to. Well, Don Fernando might never recover. To hell with Petaca and the old man! He had money enough to make out. Roweling his horse, Pedro climbed the slope toward Mountain Rancheria. He would buy and sell guns there ... somebody would want his services.
Alberto Saenz, the Christ-faced musician, balanced empty birdcages on top of his head, as he trudged along the shore of the lagoon. Soon he would reach Petaca and could rest. A string of smoke hung out of the volcano, but the air was clear. No doubt the worst was over. Scooping water from the lagoon, he drank from his palms, and the sedgy flavor pleased him. Rising, he stroked his beard and resumed his walk, along the pebbly shore. Herons let him come close, wading no deeper, beaking their feed calmly: what harm could a fellow do with cages on his head?
At Petaca, he sat for a while on the veranda, watching, drowsing. Workers were busy at the far end, where the quake had demolished roof and arches. Stonecutters pecked with hammers and chisels, fast, light strokes; a mason sloshed mortar in a box, adding sand to his mixture. All were bare-headed, barefooted and all wore white. Alberto wore white--his trousers slashed on the outside, above the ankles, his buttonless shirt open on his white-haired chest. Head against a veranda arch, he dreamed of other visits, Raul's kindly mother, the runaway carriage from La Calera, the fiesta of the Virgin of Petaca when they had burned four _castillos_.
Before taking his cages to Raul, he prayed in the chapel. Kneeling, he let the whiteness of the room take him: he had been a lover of Mary ever since he could remember: without a doubt She had saved his mother during the black plague. Strains of music he had played through the years came to him, as he knelt. Stepping toward the altar, he touched the glass dome covering the Virgin: her rubies, emeralds and diamonds never changed. Some night, as the dawn arrived and birds began their day, She would speak and Jesus would gently remove him from this life. Friends would wash him and borrow the hacienda grave box.
Back on the veranda, he picked up his cages, knocked, and asked for Raul.
A new servant from Ameca said harshly:
"You wait on the veranda. No, go round to the kitchen. Get along, wait in the kitchen."
"I'll wait right here," said Alberto, and turned away, to sit on the steps.
Raul overheard, came outside, and accepted the cages. Together they hung them in the patio. Alberto had ideas as to what kinds of birds should be put inside. Raul understood how much the old man prized his gift. He led him into the kitchen for something to eat. His bearded face, through the closing door, brought to mind the man decorating the hill cross and his own resolve to assume the hacienda responsibilities.
On the veranda, Raul talked with the stonecutters. In a short time the house would be repaired. This afternoon, he had to ride to the pond in Sector 17; the quake had cracked the dam and released most of the water. A group of workers was already there, but the job had to be pushed before the dry season.
Oxcarts creaked across the court, each loaded with stone for the veranda. One cart was new, made by Salvador, and pulled by his _garbanza_-colored oxen. Salvador drove his cart and young Esteban rode another, his goad over his shoulder, spear-like, his team black and white. Pigeons fluttered about the carts, as if they hoped for grain.
Salvador greeted Raul with a friendly grin.
"It's hot this morning."
"It's hot to haul stone," Raul said.
"These loads will give us enough to finish the veranda."
"Who supervised the cutting?"
"He's doing a good job," said Raul, and started into the house, pleased with the progress.
"Ah, before you go ... I'd like to say that Isidro found sixty pesos in the stable. They must be yours. I have the bills." He dug into his back pocket and drew out his red bandanna, the pesos knotted inside.
"As far as I know, I haven't lost any money," said Raul.
Salvador held out the cash to Raul, and mopped his face with the bandana, puffing loudly.
"I'll see. I'm pretty sure it's not my money," Raul said.
"Keep it in the tienda, till you know. None of us lost it," said Salvador, and laughed his silent, rocking laugh, his eyes dancing. "Where would we get so much money?"
"Salvador, where did you say Isidro found it?"
"In a stall, by a feedbox."
"Queer," said Raul and took the money and went inside the house.
In the bedroom, Angelina sat beside the patio window, barefooted, in her white dressing gown, a cat in her lap. She was embroidering a pillowcase.
"I had a letter from María," she said, without glancing up.
"Yes," he said, hoping she would not read it, since her sister's letters were garrulous and about people he scarcely knew.
"I got it this morning. Father Gabriel just came back from Colima, and brought it to me." She attempted to sound sprightly.
"How is she?" Raul asked, getting his boots for the ride to the pond.
The cat jumped down and Angelina turned toward Raul, her legs showing under the robe. A boy's legs, he thought, annoyed. A girl's body, with boy's legs. She's never grown up. She loves children but hates the sex act. What is it that fills her with fear? I used to try so hard to please her ... and she tried to please me.
He struggled with his left boot.
What are the bubbles of fear behind her eyes? As if the pigment had broken loose and was swimming to the surface. The smile smiles and the eyes hide something.
We've lived too many years together to disentangle our emotions. The boot hurts, at the heel ... it used to fit fine. I don't want to wear my new ones.
María wants her to come to Guadalajara, but she doesn't need an excuse to go to Guadalajara, or anywhere. Fifteen years ago she wouldn't have left me for anything in the world--or I her.
Blinking at his right boot, he began to yank it on....
"María wants me to come to Guadalajara soon. She's worried about me, after the quakes."
"I think you should visit her," he said. "Has she finished remodeling her house?"
"The remodeling's done.... I need some mourning clothes," she said.
"Have them made in Guadalajara."
"But you know how long that takes? That takes forever." The way she hit the last word piqued him, but he said nothing.
"I'll be glad to get away from that new cook. She puts oil in all our food. Look how she prepared the chayotes last week! Did you ever taste the like!"
She turned back to her embroidery, but thought:
He's putting on boots to go somewhere, he's always going somewhere. Maybe I did say I wouldn't leave. Maybe I did say that Caterina needed me. He never speaks of her ... he doesn't miss her.
Suddenly, she asked: "Why didn't you come here when you were wounded?"
"I was closer to Palma Sola."
"I think you're always closer," she said.
Astonished, he stopped dressing, stopped buttoning his shirt. With a great effort, he made himself continue, his fingers working uncertainly.
"Give her up, Raul. Get her out of our lives. You owe it to me and Vicente."
Somehow he managed the last button and thought: I've got to think clearly. He crossed the room to her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
"Would it help us now, Angelina? There's Estelle, you know...."
She lowered her eyes.
"Estelle," she said, wanting to keep the word to herself.
He felt her tremble.
Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, I'll see Estelle. You and your stinking boots. What can you know about delicacy? Keep your von Humboldt. I'll keep my friend. Once you would have accompanied me to Guadalajara, but now you send me with a servant.
Silent, he went out, pitying her small face, pitying himself, Caterina, Vicente--everyone.
When he had clumped out, she closed the door, locked it, removed her robe, went naked to the wardrobe and unboxed her fox fur, a reddish-gold pelt. With it on, she appraised her body: quite, quite pretty, she told herself. Parading in front of her mirror, she swayed from side to side, dancing the length of the room and then back again to face the mirror. Quite, quite pretty. All of a sudden, her ecstasy faded and she tossed her fur on the bed and flopped beside it. Hunger pervaded her. Closing her lids, flat on her back, she saw the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara, saw María and Estelle, Estelle in pale green moire, her blond hair glistening....
On the stage, the dancers performed jotas; the flamenco, dressed in black, a red sash bleeding round his waist, put her into a trance. Estelle whispered to her ... then....
So many barren days went into life at Petaca. No Vicente to love, no Caterina, no woman her age or kind. Children, yes, but anonymous. No plays, no musicals, no burlesques. In the convent of Ursula, on Calle López Cotilla, she had had a girl friend (it seemed yesterday and not years ago) who had slept with her. They had lain together, without clothes, night after night. Nobody had ever found out. Where was she? Where was Renée? What had happened to her? Would anyone in Guadalajara ever have news of her?
Dear María, I'll come ... I wasn't going to come but now I'll come ... I'll stay with you, then stay with Estelle. I'll have fresh pineapple and oranges ... we'll have dulces ... we'll have nieves ... only a few children will miss me here and maybe the chapel organ. Yes, yes, I heard the organ say, one night, as the candle burnt low, she's nice, she's really quite nice. Am I quite nice? I'm quite pretty. Estelle says I am.
Sighing, she rose and sat at her dressing table and began plucking her brows. Each hair, as she pulled it, made her wince. She rubbed herself with cream, dressed and descended to the living room, pretending, as she walked, that this home was the home of a Guadalajara family and that she was a guest.
It irked her to find Caterina's smiling photo, in its velvet-gold frame, on the desk. Momentarily bewildered, she dusted it and laid it face down. Taking stationery out of the drawer, she wrote María, writing fast, in a nervous spidery scrawl.
"I am glad I can come to you. Raul says I can join you in a few days. I'll try to be real discreet so you can keep me a long time. You must phone Isabel and arrange fittings for me; I have to have so many dresses in black.
"I'm glad the remodeling is done. I know it is pretty...."
A tropical cloud had gathered as she dressed and now, as she wrote, the rain lashed, hitting the lagoon side of the house. She was glad Raul had had men fix the living room roof; he was riding in the rain, she realized. She did not care. Probably Manuel was holding an umbrella over him. Raul had learned to look after himself long ago, he and his Negro. Putting down her pen, she went to the veranda windows, her elegant black swishing. But she was barefooted. More peasant than many peasants, she liked the tongue of tiles licking her soles, the hairiness of oriental rugs, the feel of the mountain lion before the fireplace.
Her old-fashioned dress was low cut, with sleeves three-quarter; in the V of her throat, above her boy breasts, dangled a diamond cross of her mother's. She had braided her hair into a coronet, glossy, perfumed, perfect.
Returning to her desk, hearing the rain, feeling the nakedness of her feet, the nakedness of herself under the dress, she swayed on her chair. As thunder rumbled, she recalled fragments of a poem by Felipe Clavo, a passionate outcry: he had expressed what it was to be manacled by tropical isolation where "white butterflies made love to protruding lianas." Clavo's lines had the sway of a hammock.
Clavo had said: "Love between women is superior to love between men and women--it asks so little." At the Degollado, Clavo had read his poetry but she could not remember him or what he had read; she had been too young.
The woman's poet, some called him.
That didn't matter.
Only loneliness, only love mattered.
"Caterina, do you mind the storm?" she asked, the huskiness of her voice softer than usual. "I guess you don't mind the rain. I guess none of us mind the rain when our day comes. No thunder reaches us...."
Taking her pen, she completed her letter to María and then wrote Estelle Milan. A streak of lightning blazed. In Guadalajara, when it rained, a carriage whisked them to the theater; they laughed as they bumped over cobbles; after the theater, they had supper at the Copa de Leche: Cota, Lorenzo, Cordero, Gouz, Aguirre, Milan. In spite of the storm, she had rejoined her friends: a shiver ran through her because they were so real, so close.
Chavela lit candles on the desk, on the mantelpiece and in wall brackets.
"It's gotten dark so fast," she complained. "What a rain! Do you want me to light the kerosene lamp?"
"Later," Angelina said. "Bring me my cup of coffee."
"I'll bring it right away."
Angelina poured at the desk, mixing her particular concoction of strong coffee and hot milk, pouring the milk from a diminutive Turkish pot of brass. As she drank, she heard Gabriel coming in. She liked Storni and rose to welcome him.
Slipping off his poncho, spreading it over the back of a chair, he kissed her hand and brought a chair close to the desk. Because of the damp, he limped heavily. His robe smelled of dried straw; noticing the smell, she held up her handkerchief and said:
"The coffee's just right. I'll ring for a cup."
"Hot coffee--on an evening like this! Where's Raul?" He was naïvely captivated by her perfume and her old-fashioned dress.
"Raul's gone to see about a dam that cracked in the quake."
"We'll need all the water we can save, before our dry season ends," he said.
She hid her feet under her skirt and played with the diamond cross at her throat.
"I'm leaving for Guadalajara ... María's house is done. Gabriel, it'll be so good to get away. I'll have Vicente come when school is out in Colima."
"I know how you feel," Gabriel adjusted his glasses. "I'd like to get away myself, if there weren't so much to do here at Petaca."
"Why has Don Fernando taken another bad turn?" she asked.
"Money," he said.
"Hacienda money," said Gabriel. "You see, Raul canceled certain accounts. He wants to do away with the indebtedness on the tienda de raya books. A matter of hacienda funds."
"Raul goes too far," she said, putting her cup down hard.
He began to defend Raul's actions and she tried to listen politely, filling his cup, giving him sugar, handing him a napkin. She felt that the sound of the rain was all that kept her in the room--without it everything would disappear.
"Oh, Caterina's photo has fallen over," he said, and set it up.
"I laid it down."
"Why did you do that, Angelina?"
"To help me forget her."
"Forget her ... we mustn't forget her."
"Don't you understand that I miss her ... I miss her all the time ... I don't need her photograph. Can't you see that things can be so bitter ... can't you accept how I feel?" She spoke without rebuke, as though to herself.
They lapsed into silence; the rain beat across the veranda, across the tiles; somewhere a shutter thudded; somewhere children babbled.
"We should have saved her," said Gabriel, stirring his coffee.
"How could we have saved her?"
"The Indians know many ways of curing dysentery."
"Then why don't they cure their own little ones? We see them die every year. Gabriel, the haciendas are littered with their graves."
She remembered playing with Concepción, Miguelito, Trinita, Pepe--dear faces, Petaca's dead children! Her love for them choked her.
Forget Petaca! Forget Raul!
But did one forget someone once loved? Could there never be accord? Gabriel had recommended patience. The dung beetle was patient: she had seen it shoving a ball, worming it from side to side, attacking it frenziedly. She was no dung beetle. Revolving the delicate cup on its saucer, guiding it around inside the rim, her toes digging at the rungs of her chair, she smelled her own flesh, waited. It seemed to her she had waited more than half her life, waited for someone to love, waited for marriage, waited for sexual adjustment, waited for childbirth, for her babies to walk and talk. Even death had to be waited for. Her own. Her friends. Don Fernando's.
She heard her father-in-law say:
"Let's not bring that toy to the breakfast table....
"This is no place for women ... get out....
"Well wait for your wife to go to bed....
"Take the noisy children away...."
Dressed in one of his charro outfits or in badly pressed whites, whip or quirt in hand, he epitomized Petaca. Blood-shot eyes, battered mouth, scrawny neck--soon death would take them away. And she knew how he feared death; she had heard him mumble to himself. It had perplexed her that Caterina had been fond of him but she let them alone, hoping the innocence of one would offset the vices of the other. Well, it had been a brief affection. She wondered how she condescended to treat him humanely, almost with affection sometimes.
Pouring herself more coffee she tried to shake her mood and said the first thing that came to mind:
"What have you been thinking about?"
"I? Oh, I was thinking of Italy. What were you thinking about?"
"Don Fernando. Caterina. Life and death."
"I was thinking of home. Very foolish of me. I guess I'm ... well, sentimental." He patted his bald spot.
"You've been homesick as long as I can remember," she said.
"Come, come now," he said. "I haven't been that bad, have I?"
Chavela went about opening windows and candle flames wavered from the cool, damp but refreshing air. The clack-a-clack of hundreds of blackbirds resounded from their roosting place in the Indian laurels at the lagoon end of the garden.
Gabriel lit a kerosene lamp and placed it on the piano and excused himself.
"Good-night, Angelina ... I must visit Viosco ... he's sick ... thanks for the coffee...."
She hunched on a sofa, her feet under a velvet cushion, eyes on the irresolute candles. Shall I confess to Gabriel that I like to walk naked in my fur? Shall I tell him about the girl at the convent? Shall I tell him why Raul married me? Confess. Must we all confess, confess how lonely we are?
Later, in the chapel, she prayed for Vicente and herself. The place was dimly lit but the darkness and her _rebozo_ could not shut out the Petacans, the lame, the sick, the hungry: they whimpered for clothes, medicine, alms: they fought for food, stole, got drunk, killed. They had never crowded about her before and their ghostly presence drove her to her room.
Raul had stayed in a peasant hut during the rain, a thatched room where woven fronds, carefully herringboned, shut out most of the downpour. A pig slept in a corner. Raul sat on a wooden chest; the owner and his wife squatted on a mat. Above the pig, in a sisal hammock, swung a child. Another hammock was looped over a peg, its pouch resembling a gray moth's case. The deluge shut out nearly all light. Through the open doorway mist drubbed. Nobody tried to talk. Raul dozed. When the rain stopped, he thanked the pair, accepted a chunk of sugar cane for Chico, and got on his horse and rode off.
Chico trotted briskly, whiffing the rain-washed air as they followed a trail through pastureland where knots of Herefords grazed. Belly high to the horse, a stone wall paralleled the trail, iguanas here and there.
At a bend, Chico whirled sidewise, and pain from his bullet wound shot through Raul. He thought he might topple, but somehow managed to keep his saddle, as the horse pirouetted. Shouting, commanding, he dug his spurs. The horse screamed. Then, Raul saw the snake, a good-sized rattler.
Dragging violently at the bit, he checked Chico underneath some orange trees and dismounted, thoroughly disgusted.
"You fool. Haven't you ever seen a rattler before? You ought to learn a thing or two. You crazy fool--you're no colt!"
The snake slithered away through the grass.
At the dam, the foreman told Raul that they had less than a week's work, though the cracks in the dam appeared formidable. Raul sucked his pipe, nodded his head, simply agreeing. The place oozed gnats and flies. Sandpipers paraded the shallows.
Remaining on his horse, Raul chatted with the workers, all of them in breechclouts or shorts. A number wore conical hats of a nearby mountaineer clan. The southerners had bodies like chocolate. Some spoke no Spanish. Through the years, Raul had acquired an Indian vocabulary of sorts and he tried to josh the men but none of his jokes got across. He slapped at gnats, and left as soon as he could.
On his way home, he felt a sense of freedom. The breadth of the land affected him. Uncle Roberto had said: "It does something to a man to live on a place you can't ride across in days." Though Raul had been born at Petaca, he realized there were parts he had never seen, hill country, mountain fields, lava terrain, streams. A subforeman insisted that a lake existed in Sector 25. Recently someone told of Indians camping in 31, thatched huts in a valley of willows.
As dusk brought the swallows and bats, Raul remembered Petacan outings in all kinds of weather, high volcano climbs with lightning flashing from rock to rock, river explorations, treks across pasture lands, trails to milpas, trails through steamy canyons choked with red-barked trees. They had herded cattle, roped yearlings, branded, dehorned; they had driven herds of sheep and goat; they had chased wild horses. Gathered around campfires, they had eaten from chuck wagons. Years past, they had packed burro trains into the Mountain Rancheria area in search of gold and silver. They had hunted deer in the uplands, _tigres_ in the marsh grass of the coastal land, iguanas where the palmera whined, alligator and ibis in the lagoons, wolf and bear midway up the great peak, eagles at the summit.
At first, he had tried to share these things with Angelina but she had not cared for the rough life and so he had gone with his men, storing up the hours, making his own calendar, riding most often with Manuel, including Lucienne when he dared.
High up, in the darkening sky, a hawk drifted.
Surely, the Medinas were monarchs of a kind.
Lights burned at Petaca, in the windows and in the kerosene lamps atop the wooden posts in the courtyard. Raul saw rurales, some mounted, some afoot, their uniforms unmistakable. He had heard that they had been encountered in the remote sections of the hacienda but this was the first time he had seen them and he was glad to have an indication of their interest in apprehending Pedro. His trip to Colima had been successful.
He did not doubt that his father knew where Pedro had gone. (Would this new stroke end his life?) Some said guns were being smuggled, bought and sold. At other haciendas, men had been placed on guard duty. Count de Selva, it was rumored, had clamped men in irons for demanding the right to buy matches in Colima.
A peculiar fear washed over him, as he rode into Petaca. It seemed to be hooked up in his mind with the birthday party Lucienne was planning next week at Palma Sola. A foolish fear, no doubt.
As he stood in the living room at Lucienne's, a little tipsy, glass in hand, Roberto las Casas called the roll, talking to himself:
"Baroness Radziwill and family, Count and Countess de Selva (the old boy's not doing well), Lucienne (very pretty), Joaquín Siquiros, Federicka Kolb (ah!), Benito Serrato (new mayor of Colima), Raul, Gabriel, Jesús Peza, General Matanzas (drunk) ... quite a birthday gathering...."
Roberto flicked ash from his beautifully tailored dinner suit and lifted his glass. For a man in his late fifties, he was handsome. Standing to one side, near some candles, his diamond cuff links and studs glittered. Bald as a man can be, he had the air of a diplomat. Angular, taller than Raul, he had none of Raul's physical toughness ... he was a Guadalajara lawyer, promoter of mining interests and capable dabbler in city real estate. His mother had been the sister of Raul's mother. He liked the city, but appreciated Petaca's spaciousness, hunts, rodeos, fiestas and gambling.
Tonight the roulette wheel spun and the tiny _pelota_ clicked like a race horse; it clicked and stopped, and the sound of the surf came through the room. For days the wind had boiled offshore and now the rollers foamed and thudded.
"Twenty," Joaquin Siquiros called.
"Twenty," someone repeated.
No one had placed money on that number and the wheel began again.
"Forty-one," Siquiros called, in his boyish voice.
Roberto strolled from guest to guest, drinking, eating, chatting, bored with roulette since he had lost heavily; the asthmatic Selva had stolen his luck and Lucienne had won more than her share of the evening's cash. He found Lucienne, beside a big _mafafa_, and put his arm around her.
"Were you lucky the last round?" he asked.
"Yes, but where have you been?"
"Just talking to people, catching up on Palma gossip."
"You're drinking too much."
"Not too much. I'm just tall and hold more. I leave the drinking to the Baroness. See, she can hardly take in her winnings." He laughed gently.
Half asleep, losing, gaining, she leaned on the roulette table, jewels sparkling in her hair.
"... Sister of the Polish pope," said Roberto. "Let's have something to eat," he whispered. "Food has been known to help people in my condition. May I bring you some sandwiches?"
"Please. I'm really hungry."
He served sandwiches and _entremés_ from a silver tray that salt air and time had darkened to a pewter finish.
"Now, my dear, I'll get us some coffee. Let's sit here."
"Twenty-four," Siquiros called.
"Mine, mine!" shouted the Baroness.
"Where did you buy that lovely gown? In Paris?" asked Roberto, bringing the coffee, and sitting down by Lucienne.
"In Rome," she said.
"Rome ... I remember Rome ... but I never saw a gown like yours there." He sipped his drink and said: "Lucienne, you're a beautiful woman; you make the gown more beautiful."
Lucienne laughed happily.
"I'm fairly sober," he said. "And it is your birthday.... Shall I go on? About your hair, your tiara ... your..."
"Ah, no ... no more, dear Roberto." But her hand went to her platinum tiara; she pushed it forward on her head; the rubies, diamonds and sapphires seemed to glow a little more. The gown was dark, almost a velvet green, very long, very simple. She wore no jewelry other than the tiara, a Humboldt heirloom.
"You know, it's almost 2:00 A.M.," she said.
"Why do you think about time on your birthday! When it's four, we'll be able to see the sun. Has it been a wonderful party?"
"Very wonderful, Roberto."
"Have you opened my gift?"
"Tomorrow," he agreed, and took a sandwich from the tray on a side table. "Come, Raul, join us," he said, grasping his cousin's arm. "Aren't you hungry? We have a sandwich tray here."
"I've been hungry all evening," said Raul. "Lucienne, where are the venison steaks you promised?"
"You don't sound like a man who has lost a lot of money," said Roberto.
"I didn't lose so much."
"I'll see to it that you win next year," said Lucienne, bringing him close.
"What could he win next year that he hasn't got now?" laughed Roberto. "Here, Raul, take my chair. I feel better.... I'll try a whirl at that wheel again. What's your lucky number, Lucienne?"
Outside, on the ocean porch, the orchestra began a plaintive Veracruzana, with the violins carrying the melody, the horns a trifle slow, the surf coming through.
Oblivious of the orchestra, General Matanzas sat at the old Chickering; his fingers fished for a sentimental song to match his intoxicated mood. He swayed on his bench, his belly sagging, his epaulettes bobbing. Smoke from some candles on the piano drifted across his gray-white head and beard.
"It's really bad news about Díaz," said Raul to Lucienne. "He shouldn't resign. If he must resign, he should appoint a capable successor. The more I think about it, the less I like the situation. De Selva says we're in for bad times."
"Come, come," said Lucienne. She leaned over and brushed crumbs from his trousers. "I think Díaz will die in office. He should, just to please us. And, anyhow, this is my party...."
"Maybe you don't grasp the significance," he said.
"A man in his eighties has a plan."
"But nobody knows his plan."
"We live a long way from the capital. We'll get some accurate news soon. Our president is no fool."
Federicka Kolb, a friend of the Humboldts for years, paused before Lucienne and Raul, smiled and offered them cigarettes. She was an attractive heavy-set person, with a light complexion and especially intelligent mouth and eyes.
"Darling," asked Lucienne, "what is the latest news about President Díaz? Is there anything we can depend on?"
"General Matanzas said he has resigned and left the country," said Federicka.
"The highest authority," said Lucienne, glancing at the general, who had put his head on his arms.
"I'll talk to him later," said Raul. "Is there any word of a successor? Has Matanzas been in Mexico City recently?"
"I was in Mexico City last week," said Federicka, her face pleasant and calm. "People say Díaz wants Mexico to become a democracy. Díaz wants the Indians to vote."
The orchestra had stopped playing and Baroness Radziwill overheard Federicka's last sentence.
"That's utterly ridiculous," she cried, her black eyes snapping. "Not one Indian in ten thousand can read or write. Is Díaz too old to think?"
"They can read at the point of a gun," said Serrato, the young Colima mayor, his lips twisting.
Federicka took up the challenge: "All of us can remember faithful Indians. When Lucienne's mother and father drowned in the surf, who tried to save them? The Indians who were fishing nearby. Itzla drowned. He gave his life. When my father built the railroad to Cuernavaca, he learned to like them."
"Long live Porfirio Díaz," cried Serrato dully.
"Long live Díaz," others echoed.
"Maybe I've drunk too much coffee," Roberto muttered under his breath. "What's all this?"
"I'm no Díaz man. How do you feel about Petaca and what I'm doing?" Raul asked him.
"Well," said Roberto, grinning, "Fernando, like Díaz, has served his time. I want to see what you can do."
He opened his silver cigarette case and rubbed a smudge from the initials. He felt sleepy, tired of this room and its old-fashioned furniture. A little sickish, he headed for the porch and the cool sea air. Being alone could be comforting.
"I tell you, we're in for bad times," de Selva sermonized before a group. "Our haciendas are threatened by renegades. Don Raul was wounded by one of those fools who wants to grab our land. We have to carry guns ... I go about armed."
Raul led Lucienne to the long, cool porch and they danced to a Strauss waltz ... the ocean beating hard.
"Hold me close, Raul."
"Are you falling asleep?"
"I've been thinking of my presents, what fun it's going to be, opening them."
"When will you open them?"
"At lunch tomorrow ... just the two of us."
"Open them now."
"It's fun to wait. When there aren't so many people around."
"Shall I tell you what Roberto gave you?"
"Tell me ... please."
"Two gold-plated faucets for your bathroom ... in fourteen karats."
"Oh, no. I'll never believe that. How silly!"
"Come on, let's open his package."
"All right, let's open it, let's open all my presents."
They went into the living room, laughing heartily.
Roberto listened to their laughter, as he got ready for bed, his bedroom door half-open. He envied their love. A fine house in Colonia Vallarta had not added up to happiness for him. His wife thought him a clown, not a wit. Now, the Díaz news had disheartened him and he tossed his shirt over one of Lucienne's plants, beside the four-poster. Stretching, he breathed in the cool air, glad to be back by the ocean. It would be fun to see how Lucienne felt about those faucets tomorrow ... he had paid a pretty penny for them....
In the morning, Raul met Lucienne in the greenhouse, whose salt-rimed windows faced the sea, a ramshackle Swiss-style conservatory built by her father when he, too, had dabbled in plants and flowers. When Raul came in, she was adjusting salt screens.
"Good morning. You're up early."
"Good morning, darling. You're lazy. I've already had a swim."
"You should have wakened me."
"But you were so comfortable, I just slipped out of bed."
"Have you had breakfast, Lucienne?"
"I'm waiting for you."
"I often think of you working here. Your world is something you can touch. When we were little you had a garden of your own ... all these years this has been your life ... this and your friends."
"But has anything come of it?"
"I'd like to marry you."
"Raul, don't talk that way, especially before breakfast. An agnostic must be left to her plants."
"I want to break away.... I want Angelina to live permanently in Guadalajara."
She lifted a watering can and began sprinkling seedlings.
"Let's be realistic: who broke away first, you or Angelina?"
"I can't say."
"Really, I don't know ... and what could it matter?"
Drops from the watering can fell on her fresh white cotton dress.
"This is no way to begin the day," she said. "Let's make it a happy day. I think we should have breakfast."
They ate at a square table in her dining room, facing the ocean through many French windows. On three sides, in round bamboo barrels and special boxes, tropical plants grew lavishly, most of them dark green, many of them climbing as high as the ceiling. It was like being inside a miniature park. Barefooted girls served. A girl brought in a blue glass pitcher filled with red roses and placed the bouquet in the center of the table.
"I feel better," said Raul.
"One should never talk marriage in a greenhouse."
"Has everyone gone home?" he asked.
"I think so ... even Roberto."
"What was his hurry?"
"To get the train in Colima."
"He should have waited for me."
"I told him you needed sleep ... that I needed you."
Mona wandered in and Lucienne fed her pieces of tortillas. Her short-haired terrier appeared and the two dogs raised such a hullabaloo the maids had to chase them outside.
"What happened to your baby fox?" said Raul, eating _mamey_.
"It got away, somehow. What's become of Vicente's honey bear?"
"He's around. Vicente likes him."
"How's Vicente doing?"
"Fine. He's a great boy."
"And what does Angelina write ... or should I ask?"
"She wrote strangely."
"How do you mean?"
"She told about a round of parties, and then made curious remarks about Caterina."
"Are you worried about her?"
"Something's wrong." But he avoided saying anything more.
While a girl removed their fruit husks, they smiled sadly at each other. His hand grasped hers. They wanted to push aside unhappiness. The girl set down a platter of golden-brown _pámpanos_ ringed with sliced limes.
"I'd like to walk to the old church this afternoon," he said.
"The old church? Why?"
"I've always liked it ... let me serve you, Lucienne ... nobody knows how long it's been there. It was a lighthouse for years, wasn't it? I haven't seen it for ages."
"Big fig trees are smashing it, lifting walls: one side's trapped in the roots of a huge fig. Treasure hunters have dug up the floors ever since somebody found a tiny gold ship there."
"Do you think anyone found a ship of gold?"
"I doubt it. But you'll see lots of lizards; they attend Mass faithfully." She blushed.
He laughed out, and said: "Who's the priest ... a sea gull?"
"Do you remember the huge tree that grew in front of this house?" she asked. "Our palma sola? It was the tallest palm I've ever seen. Papa loved it. It really hurt him when it blew down.... Raul, have more beans while they're hot. I'm so pleased with my new cook. She's one of the best I've ever had...."
After breakfast, Lucienne showed him her seedling acacias for it was early and the conservatory was still cool. A butterfly coasted about complacently, above the tiers of seedlings now ready for transplanting. Below the trays, on the floor, rare coconuts split their husks, their yellow sprouts resembling boars' tusks. In a bottomless dugout canoe, filled with sand and shells, grew dwarf cacti, mammillaria, opuntia and cholla.
"Isn't that your father's canoe?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "I just keep it.... I like it here, a memento."
"Wasn't it filled with ferns?"
"Yes, it was."
Mona came trotting in and Raul picked her up and stroked her shaggy gray head and shoved some of her hair out of her eyes ... her tongue licked.
"We never escape the past, do we?" he said.
The past accompanied him as he rode home. With Manuel, he rode across country, under ceibas and palm, the trail winding, sometimes across streams, sometimes through boulder-piled land. They talked about Pedro. The people at Mountain Rancheria reported he was living there, buying and selling guns. The rurales had to be informed. It was a six-day trip. Would they go after him?
White ibis and rosy spoonbill flew up from a small lake ... a blue heron sat on a dead and leafless tree, its wings outspread in the sun. An alligator splashed away from the shore as the horses trotted along a shell-strewn beach.
"Do you remember this lake?" Raul asked.
"Sure. We shot a grandfather alligator here, years ago."
"I bagged a _tigre_ in the bush," grinned Raul, "a fast, running shot."
"There are no _tigres_ around now."
"I suppose not," said Raul. "We should go _tigre_ hunting, way up the volcano, where there are plenty of them. Let's try our luck one of these days."
Dismounting, they rested under _cocos de aceite_, a woodland of thousands of short-trunked palms. They nibbled tortillas and a coil of cheese, an armadillo scrabbling in the distance.
"I remember that when it rains here the gnats take over," said Raul.
"Ssh, see, over there," whispered Raul.
Regardless of men and horses, three raccoons, one behind the other, filed toward the water. All stared at the ground, their tails low; the leader had an injured paw and limped badly.
"They're late for their food," said Raul.
"Something must have delayed them," said Manuel.
Raul dug for his pipe and filled it and Manuel rolled a cigarette and they lit from the same match. Again, something ignited in their eyes--they felt their close communion. Saddlebag under his head, Raul smoked, the smoke climbing and climbing, the _cocos de aceite_ completely windless.
A blue flycatcher lit on a mossy log, where it preened its wing and tail feathers lazily.
"Have you heard that the flycatcher is from Quetzalcoatl?" asked Raul.
"Yes, I've heard that," said Manuel.
"I wonder why the old gods died," Raul said.
"People say they died because no one cared any more. Why does anything die, Don Raul?" Manuel shook his head; he removed his hat and forked his fingers through his hair. Faced by his own question, he felt tired, old. The forest could answer that question. Bending over his cigarette, sheltering it, smelling it, he listened to the woods.
"We couldn't go on living, all of us," he said, exhaling after a long drag, the smoke flooding over his eyes. "Some of us must be lost, in jungles, in rivers, fall on the sides of mountains, take sick of fever, be buried in ruins and little roadside places."
"But the gods weren't buried," objected Raul.
"They were buried at Tenochtitlan, at Monte Albán, at temples in Yucatán."
The flycatcher went on preening its lovely feathers.
Manuel lowered his voice: "Perhaps the old gods may return. I've heard it said...."
"I guess it was quite a party," said Fernando.
"Who was there?"
"General Matanzas, Serrato, Roberto ... the Count, Jesús Peza, the Radziwills, Federicka ... several asked about you."
"Don't be so damn' polite."
The old man screwed round among his pillows, his cot in the patio of the serpent fountain. Slouched among pillows and sheets, he resembled a beachcomber, a feudal derelict. Behind him hung one of Alberto's cages, an _azulejo_ fluttering inside. Columnar cypress sliced the sky.
Raul perched on a cane chair, his hat on the floor beside him. He had just returned from an inspection of the lagoon irrigation project, a job that would put fifteen hectares of land under cultivation.
"I saw your cancellations in the books," Fernando cried, the flames in his eyes starting. "I want those cancellations stopped." His voice sounded childish.
Raul did all he could to control himself: he fished out his pipe, nicked off scale, stared at it, silent.
"You can't alter our records," Fernando exclaimed.
"I'm not keeping our people in servitude," Raul declared.
"Will you free them?" Fernando cried, lips wide. "They'll kill you!"
"We've had them killed. Perhaps it's their turn."
"You talk like a madman!"
"Hasn't it been insane to think we can destroy and destroy and go on destroying?"
"We must eat," said Fernando foolishly. He wanted to see clearly: the damn' scum floated about at any time, blocking, filtering; he rubbed his eyes.
"I'm going about the job of changing things as slowly as possible. The lagoon project is coming along. I've had the dam repaired in Sector 17. Petaca is being improved. Our people have a right to a better way...." He thought he could not go on defending himself, repressing his feelings. "You say we must eat. God knows we've never gone hungry, we Medinas!"
"Listen," Fernando said. "I've disposed of my mining shares in Pachuca Incorporated. The money is banked in my name now."
Raul had counted on the dividends for further improvements. He had counted on them as a financial buffer as well. His lips went white.
"Did you hear me?"
"I heard you."
"You talk of improvements. I'll cut your income. I can control Petaca." Fernando's sheet billowed and sank back.
"You can't!" Raul exclaimed.
"Raul--you can't better Petaca on one hand and undermine it on the other. Your radical ideas will ruin us."
"So we must hold our own by destroying others."
"It's a system like any other."
"That's no excuse."
"What will you do? Divide our land? The Indians owned it once. Will you give it back?" His voice crackled.
"That can be answered later," Raul said.
"When? Tomorrow? Next month? How long will you wait?"
Raul replaced his pipe in his pocket and forced himself to reply: "I haven't decided how to act."
"You'd give our land away!"
"No, Father. I won't give up Petaca."
Fernando forced a quaking hand from under the sheet and wedged a pillow behind his back. Except for a general diffusion of yellowish light, he could see nothing.
"I'm almost blind," he mumbled. "When is that optical fool coming from Colima to fit my glasses? Blind ... you know what it is to be going blind? Give me a drink."
As the old man drank, he thought of Pedro; he trembled; his fear of death returned, and he did not want Raul dead.
"Don't go, Raul. Sit down, wait."
Raul held the empty glass and remained standing.
"Did General Matanzas speak to you ... of a new president?" he asked, with difficulty. He had difficulty in swallowing.
"No. He was drunk."
"Who is to take over Mexico ... does anyone say?"
"What utter fools," he growled. "A ship without a helmsman.... And here at Petaca I must fight you." Then he said, sadly: "This is a time of rumors about revolt, about partition of land.... I don't like a time of rumors." He cleared his throat.
For the first time during their conversation, Raul considered his father carefully; he saw that he had lost weight; the gnarled face had shrunken; both hands trembled now. No one had troubled to wash his hands. No one had combed his hair.
Raul went for Chavela and brought her back with comb and brush and pan of warm water and cake of soap. As she held the basin, he washed his father's hands, remembering some old legend of men deriving power and adding to their own longevity by such an act. Chavela dried Fernando's hands and washed his face as he lay with eyes closed, silent. He fell asleep, while she combed and brushed his hair. Raul got his hat and climbed the stair to his room. At another time he would question Fernando about Pedro's gun smuggling.
In his bedroom, he smelled Angelina's perfume and, as he changed from boots to shoes, he went over their disaffection, wanting, no matter how absurd, how contradictory, a touchstone that might bring about harmony.
Downstairs, Gabriel rested, seated in a big armchair, drowned in a book, his robe pulled up from his legs, his sandals kicked off. Light from the veranda drilled holes through his spectacles as he read.
"When did you come in?" asked Raul, poking about.
"I've been at the bookcase quite a while. Last week I got lost in Josse's _Historia_ and now I'm trying Locke's essay on _Understanding_."
"I'm the one who needs understanding."
"Not as much as I need it," said Gabriel. "What is it we need at Petaca?" he wanted to know.
"Can that be it, Raul?"
"You taught me that, Gabriel. You've looked after the cuts and bruises and listened to the bitter stories. You've found ways of expressing friendship in the little things, a new altar cloth, medicine for Motilinia, a straw horse for a boy's birthday."
Quiet, Gabriel thumbed the leather book; for years he had encouraged one after another; it pleased him that Raul should speak out. What he had accomplished he could not say.
One force had worked consistently against him and that was Don Fernando.... As enemies, they had stormed over every sector of the hacienda. Already Raul had re-opened the school and secured a teacher, an able young man from Manzanillo, handy with guitar and songs. Secretly, Gabriel was a little jealous of Raul's successes. But he knew the inner man, the inner conflicts, and probed no more.
Both read in the shuttered, still living room. The bookcase occupied a corner, the top of it strewn with bric-a-brac: silver cup, barometer, Dresden doll, porcelain animals, the deed box.
Raul took down the _Journal of Las Casas_ and after reading a while at random he said, "I never find much time for reading any more."
"In Italy, I read a book a fortnight ... that was my goal."
"Perhaps life was easier in Italy."
"It's a matter of habit," said Gabriel.
"I'm sure you're right. I get more out of my smoking than I do out of my reading."
"When I first came, I read till late every night," Gabriel said.
"I remember how late your light used to burn."
"Well, my eyes aren't up to that kind of reading any more," said Gabriel, regretfully, and fingered the bow of his glasses.
In a loud voice, Salvador called Raul from the doorway of the veranda.
"Tomás is hurt," he said, as if reporting the weather.
"Which Tomás?" asked Raul, laying down his book. Petaca had two, little and big, both stable workers.
"What happened?" asked Raul, rising.
"A horse kicked him. I think the leg is broken."
"I'll go with you," said Gabriel.
The man lay on the ground in a stall, almost buried in gray straw and gray light. An enormous dusty cobweb drooped above him.
"Are you badly hurt?" asked Raul.
"Yes ... patrón."
"My leg, patrón."
"Where--down low, or high up?"
"Umm, I wouldn't want you kicked in the groin. Help me lay him flat, Gabriel."
Storni knelt in the dirt and together they made Little Tomás more comfortable. They removed his sandals and explored the injured leg; the break was obvious.
"Let's take him to my place," said Gabriel.
"Where do you want him?" asked Salvador, and bending over he gathered Tomás as if he were a child.
Tomás began to whimper.
"No, no ... take me to my hut," Tomás begged. "Patrón ... por favor."
"It's closer," said Raul. "Take him to his own place."
It made no difference to Salvador; he said something cheery and swaggered out of the stall and across the stable yard to the row of huts built recently. Tomás and a friend shared a hut. Salvador laid him on a straw mat, just as he would set down pottery. The man-length space had no furnishings, but Tomás' macaw wabbled in and climbed onto his arm and, when Raul scared off the parrot, it squatted in a corner and clicked its beak peevishly.
"I'll go for Velasco," said Gabriel. "I'll get him here as soon as I can, Tomás."
Raul had Salvador bring water; there in the hut some of Tomás' fear vanished; he managed a twisted grin; his face, streaked with straw and sweat, had the eagerness and pathos of a student. Salvador's corn cob fingers removed straw from his hair; sitting beside Salvador, Raul lit a cigarette and then a second one for Tomás.
"What horse kicked you?" he asked.
Salvador picked up more straws.
"Yours ... Don Raul."
"Chico! That damn' horse! What the hell was Chico doing in that stall, Tomás?"
"I was leading him ... to be shod ... he kicked me ... I fell into that stall ... I fell."
"Ah," said Raul, smoking, disappointed in Chico.
Later, outside the stable, he watched men curing a batch of iguana hides; they had the pelts submerged in a chemical solution and kneaded them with wooden mauls. Other men padded saddles with milkweed and sewed and polished leather. Under a thatched _ramada_ they had a dozen saddles on saw-horses; he noticed one of his own, a reddish McClellan, from Texas. The air smelled of leather, strong saddle soap and polish. Sun streaked the stable wall. Raul strolled among his men, chatting, whistling, smoking.
A teenager, in torn shorts, gutted a snake. Above him, head high from the ground, in a carved niche, stood the figure of St. Christopher. A Medina had placed it there generations ago, a pink stone carving done by a local artisan. A snakeskin dangled from St. Christopher's arm and another swung from the saint's sandal. The snake collector looked worried as Raul inspected his workshop.
"Why do you want so many skins?" Raul asked. "Are you trying to get rid of all our snakes?"
"No ... to make belts."
"You cure them for belts?"
"I can make other things." The youngster could scarcely work his tongue; he thought Raul would accuse him of selling his products; he leaned over so far his straight hair touched his bloody knife.
"What can you make?"
"A pouch ... maybe a hatband."
"Make me a tobacco pouch. I'd like a small one, about this big."
"Yes, sir." (Faintly)
"Make me a good one."
He believed in the man's kindness.
The snake boy and Little Tomás and his father faded from Raul's mind as he walked toward the burial plot in the grove. Juggling a smooth white stone, he walked past the rear of the mill; above--he did not stop to look--gulls cried. Usually gulls did not fly this far inland. A dog barked ... it might have been Mona chasing after a girl's ball.
The graves had been redecorated with shells; the jungle had been pushed back; lianas had been cut; vines had been ripped down; trees had been trimmed. For the first time in years he read his mother's name on her marker. Her marker consisted of a red _cantera_ globe; he sat on it and listened to the gabble of parrots and still, high up, somewhere, the cry of gulls.
In a few weeks Caterina's bronze figure would be cast and, if the artist remained faithful to his sketches, it would be a graceful girl bearing a bouquet of roses in her arms, her dress swirling over bare feet. Soon it would acquire a patina and become part of the jungle. Perhaps it would tell others what a beautiful child she had been. Perhaps ... then he remembered his murdered grandfather and looked at the marker Roberto had set up, a dignified shaft of fluted marble. Time had cracked the stone and quakes had knocked it out of line ... nothing defied the years.
Nothing had helped his father forget his crime.... He, too, was buried here, the best of him, the kindness that a man normally had.
He returned slowly to the house and sat on the long veranda. Men had gathered in the court; one had a guitar and his voice had the old pleading tone. Rocking on an old hide rocker, Raul listened to the singer as the sky filled with stars. The big dipper hung above the court. Someone lit a bonfire. Suddenly, Raul realized that Manuel had been sitting near him for some time.
June 19, 1911
"As you said, it must be destiny that brings me back. Something rules me. As I rode out of Guadalajara, I felt a harshness clawing at my brain. Poor thing, she can't tell the shape of her mind or why it cries so, or what it wants. Of course it wants you, but there is this something else, dark, darker than I dare admit.
"So when I got back to help with the fiesta, I wanted to see if I could straighten myself out a little. I fixed all the clothes for the Virgin, and dressed. I thought: this is the last time. But Trini came in and we got to laughing.
"Fiestas are such bores, and this one was no exception. They praised Farias for getting in the best corn crop ever. There were Indian dances--the viejitos were best.... Doblado killed his bulls as badly as ever ... fireworks ... and all the time I kept thinking of Lucienne, because she came and met Raul secretly. So people told me. I wanted to get sick.
"Raul and I had a bad quarrel, at supper, only yesterday. He said: I want you to live in Guadalajara permanently.' 'Why?' I asked. 'Can't you stand me any more?' And he turned white. I thought he would choke. I just stared at the candle flames prettily. I wonder how you would handle him? He said: 'You came back to fix the Virgin's wardrobe. It's something you always liked to do. You can come back to Petaca, any time. I'm not banishing you.'
"'So I can come back sometimes--how nice! And do you want to keep Vicente forever?' I cried.
"'We can share him, as you like. We can work that out later.'
"'Why later? Later! Haven't we waited too long?'
"'Too long for what?'
"It went on and on. He says it's for my own good. But now I'm sick, and I can't go away...."
Abruptly, she got up from her desk. Barefoot, in a loose gray robe, she walked to the veranda windows, already hating what she felt she might see: men on horseback, women and children, people walking and talking. She had been writing very rapidly, and rubbed her hand as she gazed out. She thought she heard Don Fernando call, and went toward his room, dream-walking, one hand over her breast, the other lifting her skirt a little.
The old man was raving at Chavela, who seemed frozen to one spot, a dishtowel over her arm.
"We must wipe out such crooks as Enriquez and Ricardo Magon! What messes they made in Chihuahua and Coahuila! There's more than meets the eye in their actions."
He squirmed under his bedclothes, the sheet sliding over his head so that only one eye stared out.
"Listen to me: under Porfirio Díaz we have known prosperity ... our centennial celebration told the world ... there must be no political tricks."
When Angelina appeared, Chavela nodded and went out, shaking her head.
"I'm here," said Angelina. "Chavela had to go."
"Angelina, come sit by me. Fix my bed.... We must find another Díaz. We can, you know." He talked a while longer, as she arranged his bed.
She sat beside him, her hands limp in her lap. She remembered a dream she had had during the night. Caterina had been frisking in the patio with Mona. Mona had just been washed and combed and her gray-gold hair stood up beautifully. Caterina wore a scarlet dress. She tossed Mona a ball, but as Mona ran toward her she became a dog of glass bones and glass hair.
Angelina trembled. She whispered to Fernando:
"It was a glass dog ... Mona's a glass dog."
He didn't hear her.
Afraid, she climbed the tile stair to her room and locked the door. She moved stiffly to the window, and looked down to the patio fountain and cypress below. She thought she saw Raul lying beside the fountain. Men began to whip his naked back. Drawing the curtains, she threw herself on her bed and began to talk to herself.
"I mustn't blame him for Caterina's death. I must stop thinking about her. About Raul. I must just let things drift along. Nothing has changed, not too much.... I must think that nothing much has changed. It has to be that way. Close the shutters."
With a great effort, she got up and took her embroidery and began to stitch.
Just before supper, Raul found her asleep across the bed, her fur over her shoulders. He had a hard time waking her and when she woke she griped childishly:
"Go away," she said, "let me sleep. I need rest, please let me sleep. I won't eat any supper. I don't want any ... just let me sleep."
He helped her to bed and then went outside. The moon was low, the stars faded, the volcano glassy. Coyotes barked behind the grove. He felt stupid about Angelina. Could the doctors help her?
He longed to paddle across the lagoon. Why not find Manuel? He knocked at his door and Manuel flung on his shirt and joined him gladly. They spent most of the night on the water, paddling and talking together in Indian and Spanish, about his mother, the beauty of darkness, ghosts, the good old days.
They returned near dawn, had something to eat in the kitchen, and said good night. Raul tried to slip into bed carefully and not disturb Angelina, but she straightened and said:
"Where have you been?"
"I wish you wouldn't go on such escapades. You're not a boy."
He did not reply, but adjusted his pillow and tried to settle onto the mattress.
"I want to go to Colima tomorrow," she said, her head turned away. "I must leave Petaca, if only for a day. I want to see Vicente, too. Don't you want to see him? The church has been repaired, Raul, and we must attend Mass, on the first of the month. A ceremony in honor of the reconstruction. The hospital isn't fixed. Why are they so slow?" Her husky voice, softened by her sleepiness, lulled Raul.
When she woke, men were loading stone onto an oxcart in front of the house, burros were trotting over cobbles, boys were spinning tops.
Glancing at Raul, sprawled on the bed, she tiptoed to the bathroom. Her maid had already filled the tub, and she sank into the cool water.
"Ah," she sighed. "Clavo said, 'It is the flesh ... with lightning in each bone' ... cool water ... morning...." Her face looked younger. There was no fear there.
I must dress and get away to Colima, have a nieve with some friends.
When Raul awoke and went downstairs, he saw Angelina driving off in their carriage. He had meant to accompany her, but had been too sleepy to say so. From the veranda, he enjoyed seeing the Placier sway down the eucalyptus lane, its spokes shining. Someone had harnessed two blacks and two whites, splendid horses!
After breakfast, Raul went to the mill to see Farias, who had his room on the second floor. As he climbed the outside stair, a peacock wailed on top the wrought-iron railing. Raul shook the rusty rail and the bird spurted to the ground, shrieking as it fell.
He knocked on the door of weathered pine. There was no answer. A large knothole had fallen out at head level, and he looked inside. Someone lay on the bunk, his arm flung over the side. Pushing the door, which swung heavily, Raul stepped in.
Blood stained the floor, serape and bunk. Raul rolled the man over and removed the serape from his face and chest. Someone had beaten him ... Farias was dead....
As if he had been struck, Raul stepped back.
"My God!" he exclaimed. "Que paso! Luis, Luis!" he shouted. Where was Farias' son?
On the stairway, clutching the rusty banister, he called:
"Luis ... Salvador ... Manuel! Get Dr. Velasco!"
Then he returned to examine Farias. The man felt cold. Without a doubt, he had been murdered hours before. But by whom, why?
Presently, a corral man came and then another; he sent one of the men for Father Gabriel and another for Luis. He covered Farias and sat on the stair, his eyes shut. He blamed his father, blamed himself ... this was another ugly mess for Petaca. What was wrong with men?
Gabriel limped up the stair, a torn notebook in his hand. He must have been doing some scribbling when the corral man called him. His glasses seemed about to plunge from his nose. Breathing unsteadily, hand on the rail, he paused by Raul and asked:
"What ... happened ... to Farias?"
"Someone killed him."
"Let me see. Step aside."
Raul stepped away.
"Let me see." Raul watched as Gabriel folded back the blanket and crossed himself.
"Madre de Dios ... dead. Who could have killed him? He's been beaten. Blood all over. Why, Raul! Raul, where's Luis?" He began to pray, asking understanding, asking peace. Adjusting his glasses and fumbling with his notebook, he came toward the door.
"I sent someone to find Luis," said Raul.
Dr. Velasco arrived, annoyed at being wakened early. He had spent the better part of the night playing dominoes, and losing. Stopping at the top of the stair, seeing Gabriel, he said, "Now, what kind of alarm is this?"
"Someone killed Farias last night," said Gabriel.
Dr. Velasco made a noise and went into the room.
His heavy-lidded eyes screwed up as he examined Farias: he stripped his shirt and turned him over: a knife had gone in again and again. Velasco had a magician's face, gray hair, gray goatee: the features seemed to be hiding something absurd, a little vulgar; that vulgarity and absurdity disappeared as he bent over Farias. Short, small-boned, quick, he swung around to face Raul.
"He's been dead several hours."
"I've got to clamp down on Petaca. Who is capable of doing that kind of killing?"
"We're rarely short of that kind of fellow," commented Velasco.
Gabriel took Luis into the room, and stayed with him, talking kindly. Even in the bad light he saw the youngster's face grow pale; tears streaked his rawboned features; his shoulders jerked.
"Pedro did it," Luis said.
"How do you know?" asked Velasco, in the doorway.
"Sure ... Pedro," the boy repeated, his hands waving. "You did it, you did it," he said, as if Pedro had come into the room.
"Have you seen Pedro?" asked Gabriel, standing behind Raul.
"No. But a few days ago my father and I found his hut, near Mountain Rancheria, in a canyon. Guns ... guns in the hut ... rifles, pistols. Pedro came to the hut with a woman, as we hid. We tried to slip away, but my horse made a noise. Pedro shot at us. He saw us both. He shouted threats. He said he'd kill us. My father and I got back last night. He was going to tell you, Don Raul."
"It's lucky Pedro didn't find you," said Raul.
Gabriel had covered Farias, and bent over him in prayer again.
Manuel appeared on the stair, stopping about midway. "Don Raul," he said. "Did you call me?"
"Pedro has killed Farias. Have three horses saddled, Manuel. I'll go with Luis and see if we can get Pedro. You ride to Colima and get the rurales. Can you show me the way, Luis?"
Luis tapped his thigh where he had worn his gun on trips with his father. "My father," he began, but his voice broke. He walked down a hall to his own room, where he snatched up his revolver, holster and belt. He returned, strapping them on, trembling.
"Don't go, Raul," said Gabriel, coming out on the stair. "Let the law take care of Pedro Chávez."
Raul was at the bottom of the stair.
"The rurales can have Pedro. I won't stop them. Pedro's not at Mountain Rancheria. We can get there before he does, if we move fast. We'll have a chance to get his guns. Let's at least try to get them. Come on, Luis. Manuel, look after the horses! Get water bags. I'll see to the food. We may be able to get to Rancheria within five days."
But it was a hard push, through bad weather, and it took six days to get there and four to come back, ten days of rough riding, wet weather, poor food and little rest. They found Pedro's hut, his woman and guns. Luis had to cover her with his revolver while Raul removed the guns and ammunition, stuffing them into long grain sacks. They rode off in a hailstorm that gradually became a torrential rain. Making a cairn, in the downpour, they cached the guns and ammunition. Freezing cold, they mounted and rode on, hoping to reach a cabin before night.
When they returned to Petaca, through driving mist, Raul was astonished to see rurales in front of Father Gabriel's room. Dirty, fagged and sore, he dismounted and gave his reins to Luis, saying: "I hope this means they've got him."
A stranger opened the door, and Raul found Gabriel in bed, covered with serapes.
"Raul, thank God, you're safe! Is Luis all right?" he asked.
Raul nodded and said:
"What happened to you, Gabriel?"
"Malaria.... This is Captain Cerro.... This is Señor Medina."
They shook hands, the captain holding his riding gloves in his left hand. Raul had heard good reports of Cerro's having organized his rurales into an efficient corps. He was hard-mouthed and gray-eyed; he seemed the kind of a man to do his job.
"I hope you've had better luck than we've had," Cerro said.
"I couldn't find Pedro," Raul said. "I didn't expect to find him. I found his hut and took his stock of pistols and rifles. His ammunition. The people at Mountain Rancheria are afraid to talk about him."
"My men got there shortly after you had taken the guns. You disappeared in the rain." Cerro drew his gloves through his fingers as he talked.
"We cached the guns. I'll send Luis for them with some men."
"I left some of my men at the rancheria. We're on the lookout for Pedro. You feel sure that he murdered your man, here at the hacienda?"
"There's not much doubt about that," said Raul.
"Ana Paz came to me while you were at the rancheria," said Gabriel to Raul. "She saw Pedro leave Farias' place early that morning. She's been at the hacienda for years, Captain."
Raul laughed angrily.
"You'd think we needed proof that this Pedro is a murderer. There are any number of witnesses to his killings, at Petaca. Father Storni, Manuel Boaz, Salvador Vega, Luis."
"But I understand he committed these ... ah ... crimes ... under orders," said Cerro.
His remark stopped Raul.
"If so, who is guilty?" asked Gabriel, propping himself on his elbow.
"The person who gave the orders," said the captain.
"My father," said Raul.
Embarrassed, Cerro shoved his gloves under his belt and moved toward the door.
"I'll send men to del Valle," he said. "Pedro may be there. I must return to Colima. I'm glad to have met you, Señor Medina. I hoped you might have better luck on your hunt.... I hope you are well soon, Father."
"Stay overnight, Captain. It's a long trip. I don't want you to leave at this hour; you won't get in till very late. Come, meet my wife, have supper with us."
"I have met the señora. She has been very kind. I'm leaving because I have to be at court in the morning. Thank you. I'm sure there will be another time."
Raul saw him outside and then returned to Gabriel.
"Well, I see you didn't take care of yourself while I was away."
"I'm on the mend--now that you're back."
"How is the fever, bad?"
"It comes and goes, not too severe."
"Has Dr. Velasco been helping?"
"Both he and Hernández. Everyone's kind, especially Angelina."
Cerro's horse and the mounts of his rurales clattered out of the court.
"I hated to lose Farias," Raul said, sitting wearily at the desk.
"I can't see why things like that have to happen," Gabriel said. "Men have no right to assume the law. I didn't want you to go after Pedro."
"These disturbances..." Raul said, but he was too tired to finish his sentence.
"Don't become a killer, whatever happens," said Gabriel passionately. "In all your program here at Petaca you have avoided violence. Let's do our best to keep it that way."
The high altitude crucifix hung in a streak of candlelight and attracted Raul's eye. He studied Father Gabriel's face. It had such a sickly pallor; there were rings under his eyes. Poor Italian, so far from home!
"Is there anything I can do for you before I go?"
"Let me have a couple of those pills, in the paper on the desk. And some water."
"Get better soon," said Raul, helping him.
"Before you leave, let me say ... how good it is to see you. I know you're tired but you're all right." He shivered under his blankets, but smiled.
"You'd better get some rest," Raul said. "I'm getting cleaned up."
"Will you put my glasses on my desk?"
"Of course. I'll send someone with a supper tray. In the morning I'll talk with my father."
Raul went to his room, glad to be home, glad to hear the voices of his servants. When he had washed and changed, Angelina came in. She wore a blue dress and white henequen slippers. It was such a change from the mourning clothes that he started to comment, but checked himself. She waited, in the middle of the room, holding a vase of bougainvillaea in her hands.
"It's so good, your being back," she said agreeably.
"It's good to be back."
"He's still at large." He unfolded an ironed handkerchief and put it into his pocket. "Luis and I got his guns.... It's up to Captain Cerro and his rurales now."
"I'm sure they'll get him," she said, and set the flowers on her dressing table where they doubled in the mirror. "I met Captain Cerro. Has he gone back to Colima?" Arranging her flowers, she said: "I like the captain and wanted him to stay.... Have you eaten?"
She walked across the room toward Raul. It was as if she had something unusual to say. She was smiling. But suddenly the floor began to shake, at first slightly, then with marked undulation. She reached out for him and they held each other. Raul waited for the underearth rumbling. She began to sob.
"Take me away. Yes ... yes ... I'll go to Guadalajara and live. Take me away, Raul. Raul ... I have to go. I can't bear it here. All these quakes, these killings." She paused and caught her breath. "Will there be ashes and lava and smoke again?"
He kissed her forehead.
"You know it wasn't a bad quake," he said.
She held to him, as she had during her grinding pains before Vicente had been born: those tortures had made a groveling animal of her. Oh, to be in love again, to be treasured, to be kissed every morning and every night.... "Raul, I feel another quake!"
Terrified, she broke away and went to the door leading to the stair and stood under the door frame.
"I think there won't be another one," he said calmly.
"I want to be with you.... Let me sit at the dining table with you. I can't bear it alone." The husky voice moved him as much as what she said.
Taking her arm, he led her downstairs. She curled her feet under her legs on a chair next to his. A new maid, a charming village girl, served, walking lightly, humming, her stiff skirt swishing. Angelina mentioned the quake to her and the maid said, with a shrug, "It was nothing."
A tall kerosene lamp with a pewter base and blue shade lit the table. All the windows stood open; the air, warm with _pastora_ clouds, did not move. A dead moth lay beside Raul's plate; he pushed it about with a spoon, too tired to think.
"Father set fire to his bed while you were gone," she said.
"What ... was he smoking?"
"Cigarette or matches ... anyhow, Chavela threw water on him."
His face brightened.
"She threw it all over him."
They laughed together, a little ashamed of their disrespect.
"How he must have spluttered," said Raul.
"Oh, he did, he really did! And while you were away, the optometrist came to fit his glasses. They had a time. But he'll have new ones tomorrow. The doctor thinks he'll be able to see fairly well."
"I hope so," Raul said, though Velasco had told him that glasses would not remedy his father's eye condition or would be temporary, at best.
He enjoyed the dinner, his first meal since morning. The new maid served steak, dry rice, sliced tomatoes and tortillas. She poured a dark Spanish wine. For dessert he ate a _flan_, hot chocolate and _pan dulce_. The bright face of the village girl went in and out of the blue lamplight, as Angelina talked.
Quite abruptly, he said:
"I'll go with you on the train to Guadalajara. I can get away in a day or two. I have to see about our mine shares. The bank's correspondence with me is so much wasted paper. I have a hunch it's time to sell because Roberto is selling some of his stock."
"I like hunches," she said, nibbling a mango. She thought of Lucienne's mining interests in Guanajuato, and bit into her mango harder than she wanted to.
In the morning, Gabriel received a letter that excited him and made him feel better, and he sent a man for Raul. He was having breakfast when Raul arrived. While Storni munched a roll and drank coffee, Raul waited, troubled by his friend's yellow face and fingernails. For the time being, he had no fever or chills, but when would they come again? With a flourish, Gabriel put down his cup, rubbed his hands together, and cleared his throat.
Raul glimpsed a coat of arms on the letter.
"I had to make you wait a little but now I'll read it to you: 'Dear Gabriel, I have not written you for a long time. Your letters have gone unanswered because I am a careless, busy hulk, as you know. Far busier these trying days than you might surmise. Still, busy as I am, worried by political conditions, I have been thinking of you. You won't be able to say I have no heart, when you lay down this letter.
"'I have not forgotten the part you have played in my thinking. I am not always foolish. Years ago we used to discuss things that shape the world. Those were memorable days.'"
Gabriel stopped to fix his glasses and wipe his nose, and ask, "Do you know now?"
"I'll read on," Gabriel said: "'You have wanted to brighten your chapel for a long time. Since I, too, love Petaca I want to donate the stained-glass windows. In fact, I have ordered them. Salvador got the dimensions for me. The windows are being made in Mexico City; only a small part of the leading has yet to be done. They will be coming to you very soon.
"'In remembrance of meaningful days. Perhaps I am religious--who knows? Cordially'...."
Gabriel could not speak Roberto's name; tears shone in his eyes. He removed his glasses and blew his nose.
"Good for Roberto," said Raul.
"Ah, yes," said Gabriel.
"Get rid of that malaria so you'll be up and around soon. It wouldn't do to have the windows arrive and you in bed. I'm sure they'll be beautiful," said Raul, ready to leave. "All of us will enjoy them. I wish I had given them."
"Ah, to be sure ... well, I can't say how grateful I am.... But I have something else to tell you, before you go. The same man who brought Roberto's letter brought another one. You know how it is: good news and bad news, a pair of horses."
"What's the bad news?"
"The Colima hospital isn't getting along. They haven't money to hire workers. They're facing a serious situation."
"How much money do they need to hire workers?"
"Several thousand pesos. Father Gamio tells me that they have to pay more for workers and that ... they wonder if you could help. They mention several thousand pesos, no exact amount."
"Shall I send five thousand--for the Medinas?"
"God bless you, Raul!"
"We need His blessing, Gabriel."
"With five thousand they can get some new equipment perhaps!" Gabriel's outburst delighted Raul.
"I should look after the hospital better than I do. Father Gamio can't do it all himself. I'm off to Guadalajara later today, Angelina and I. She'll remain there. I'll be bringing Vicente back when I return. He wants to ride and hunt ... there's another fiesta. You can expect us in three or four days."
"If you see Roberto, tell him how grateful I am."
"I'll tell him. Is there anything you need?"
"Nothing, thank you, Don Raul. Maybe some newspapers?"
"I'll bring back papers and magazines. I'll leave my check for the hospital in the _tienda_. Will you have someone pick it up off my desk? Write an accompanying letter, a gracious one, for Petaca."
"I'll be glad to."
"Goodbye, Gabriel." He smiled affectionately. "Get well."
"I'll pray for you and Angelina," said Gabriel.
"Que le vaya bien."
Shortly after lunch, Raul and Angelina drove toward Colima, the horses pulling well. Gray clouds darkened the landscape; across the lagoon, between its shore line and the volcano, a sandstorm blew. The great peak seemed old, harmless, a dusty, withered thing.
Their carriage clattered over a _tzontli_ bridge; here, on one side, a Medina had erected a plaque in 1761, mortaring it deep inside a niche where it had weathered the years with scarcely a sign of wear.
"Hasta la eternidad," it began, and the phrase ran through Raul's mind as the horses trotted, clopping over firm ground.
Angelina leaned against the faded plush on her side, lost in herself, her folded parasol hard against her side, fingers motionless in the handle strap sewn with gold threads.
Until eternity, he thought, gazing at her uneasily, recalling those lines from their marriage ceremony.
Sugar-cane fields lay on both sides. The road twisted and grew rough, and the driver slowed his horses. A tall knob of a man, he sang in a deep bass, improvising expertly.
Raul hoped the train would be more or less on time because he hated arriving in Guadalajara late, when the air was chill and cabmen were sleepy and crusty. He anticipated a satisfactory adjustment of the mining business. He would invite Uncle Roberto to dinner: Angelina, María ... the four of them enjoying the lobster at the Copa de Leche. It would be fun returning to Petaca with Vicente; the boy was putting on weight, growing too. Nowadays his talk was all about horses: "Tell me about Esmeralda, has she foaled? Is Canelito in pasture? How's Chico? I've read that the heaviest work horses are in France, is that true, Papa?"
While she held tightly to her parasol, Angelina thought of Estelle. She planned an afternoon with her at the hairdresser's: their hair, their nails. They would obtain good seats for the Degollado Theater season: plays, musicals, vaudeville. Because Caterina had not been dead a year, they'd have to steal away. Her head began to ache. She objected to the swaying, the country roads, horrible country roads. Soon, Estelle's face would be lifted to hers, laughter, laughter, laughter....
And it was rather as they both had hoped. The train was on time and the mining deal went well and the four of them enjoyed lobster at the restaurant.... Gray skies, rain sloshing the houses, carriages and streets ... rain ... but the rain didn't matter to Angelina. She met Estelle at her home, on López Cotilla, a tiled house under lofty eucalyptus.
Estelle covered her with kisses. They exchanged little gifts, and had supper in a Directoire dining room adorned with gold candles, the rain scuffing across red and green glassed windows. To Angelina, Estelle had the beauty of something original.... It was as if hair had been invented for her, or hands, or laughter, for her own particular use. Estelle's pile of yellow hair, so disarranged, so beautifully curled, her pink dress, so sheer, sewn with dozens of nacre buttons, her dishabille, they were as Angelina saw her in the bedroom mirror. And when she went to bed with Angelina she took all that glory and absurdity.... Laughter, laughter....
Raul and Lucienne camped in a canyon at twelve thousand feet, close to the timber line, where a fire munched pine logs and emitted wisps of smoke. Directly above them a lava cliff bulged and towered, an ominous flat slab, that had been chiseled off centuries ago. Time and erosion had broken chunks that now cluttered the ground. Lucienne had climbed among the lava blocks, noticing the various kinds of plant life pushing their way through. For her, this rock bowl had a spirit of its own.
Two men had accompanied them on the ride up the volcano and, at supper, all had shared venison, rice and tortillas. Raul had shot a buck and it hung nearby from a tree. It was a starry, chill night, without wind. Raul and Lucienne bedded down under several serapes--the men slept lower down in the canyon. Only the sound of the fire and the stamp of horses broke the silence.
After a while, Raul asked:
"Are you asleep?"
"I'm cold. Can you put more wood on the fire?"
"Of course I can. Right away."
"Put on several logs."
"That's lovely. Now hug me. I'll soon get warm. The sparks are flying 'way up the cliff."
"Are you too tired to sleep?" he asked.
"It's not that.... I'm not used to all these strenuous things," she laughed, her mouth against his neck.
"I love you, my dear," he said.
"Darling, it's wonderful anywhere with you."
"Do you want to ride higher tomorrow?"
"This is high enough, Raul."
"How brilliant the stars ... at this altitude."
"There are clouds again. It could rain."
"It looks only threatening."
"A wet trail won't help," she said sleepily.
"We've got sure-footed horses," he said.
"I climbed near here with my father, during the dry season. We saw the ocean from the rim ... such a clear day," she said.
"We used to cut wood below here. There's a first-rate stand of pine a few thousand feet down."
The fire sputtered and jets of steam puffed. She felt the warmth penetrating her serape, and was grateful.
Her hand found his face. His hand found her breast.
"It's nice to wake up like this."
"Alfredo used to climb mountains. You know Alfredo Villaseñor? What happened to Alfredo? He was a likable fellow. Your father wanted you to marry him."
"He went to Europe ... and I don't know what became of him."
"Did you like him?"
"Very much ... for a while."
He had a faded picture of Villaseñor, mountaineer, Spanish, freckle-faced, well dressed, demanding.
"I'm the sort who runs away to the mountains, takes his own woman, a sorry Catholic, Lucienne. I've been thinking of my lapses. I profess one thing and do another."
His seriousness woke her a little and she said, emphatically, "There's such a thing as tolerance--the scripture teaches that."
"Love sanctifies things."
"Then will the Church accept us?"
"Accept me?" she said, making it a pointed question. "I won't accept the Church. Hush, hush, Raul, it's time to sleep. Think where we are, up here, at the top of things...."
"Are you warm?" he asked.
"Very warm. Let me sleep on your arm."
"Tomorrow we have a long ride," he said.
In a matter of seconds, she fell asleep, breathing gently, her arms around him. He turned thoughts over in his head while listening to a wolf howl, high on the cliff above. How ridiculous to ask: Will the Church accept us? As if Angelina no longer had anything to do with my life. Yet, as he lay there, staring at the gathering clouds, he felt she had less and less to do with his life. Guadalajara would claim her, the parties, friends, theater--Estelle Milan.
It was drizzling when they awoke. They had breakfast around the campfire, the horses tethered nearby, ready for departure. As they began the slow descent, the drizzle changed to rain, chilly, at times falling fast. To reach the regular trail, they filed through a forest of scrub oak. Shale made the going tricky, but the rocky area did not last long. Once on the main trail, they quickened their pace and then--like a great swab--mist puffed over them and swallowed trees and boulders. Because of the mist, Raul had trouble with Chico. Somewhere below nine thousand feet they crossed a number of small cornfields, mist along their edges.
"I wouldn't want to live up this high," said Raul.
Dressed in white tropicals, Raul's men shivered. Raul felt cold and a little shabby in old blue denim. Lucienne was comfortable in corduroy: tan jacket, dark green riding skirt, darker beret, raincoat. Italian boots, laced with yellow laces, reached almost to her knees. She loved the mist, and sang as they plugged along, corkscrewing through pine. Unpacking her plant press, she stopped for a rare fern.
In a flash of sun, the mist broke and below them lay a rancho, a ragged L-shaped patch of lava rock huts with yellow straw wigs, a chapel and municipal building.
"Are we going down there?" Lucienne asked.
"I want to speak to the jefe."
"It looks wild."
"Haven't you been there?"
"No, I've never been there."
"The jefe wears _tigre_ skins."
Raul's men laughed at her.
A rough but short route got them to Palma Sola in the late afternoon, sun at their heels. Before freshening up, Lucienne and Raul went to see some monster turtles lying in beached dugouts. Each one had barnacles on its wounded shell: how their red eyes begged for freedom!
A fisherman, coiling hand line, put his foot on the gunwale, pointed at one and said, "It came from far off," as if he had a magical probe that reached undersea and understood all mysteries.
"Turtles stare in such a sad way," Lucienne said, as they went into the house. She spun her beret onto a chair.
"They know they have to die," said Raul.
"I like plants because they can't look at me, can't accuse, can't plead. They never fill me with a sense of guilt and sorrow."
At a window, facing the beached dugouts, she clasped him tightly, tasting the flavor of transience: she saw her parents' death, saw herself in Europe, thought of other lovers, other friends. Almost tearfully, she kissed him and said, "Let's get dressed for supper."
"You must be tired."
"Not too tired."
At supper he said, "I'm afraid I have to leave tomorrow."
"Can't you stay on a day or two?"
"Can't we meet in Colima soon?" he asked.
"Of course we can."
"But it's never like here--or in the mountains."
"It's such a closed feeling, people, too many people. Maybe we can meet before I go to Guanajuato. When I wrote you about the mine it didn't seem so serious. The manager thinks the mine is giving out."
"So serious ... I hope not."
"Without that income, what shall I do?"
Breaking open a crisp roll, he studied her and considered the problem. He had descended the mine's moldy ladders. He had checked the ore, had had it assayed, had estimated the output. Few mines had less to offer, for both gold and silver ran low. The copper percentage might pay, but no copper smelter existed in Guanajuato.
"I hope I can help. I'll send Señor Rul around to check for you. Maybe it's a case of mismanagement."
"I trust my man.... He can't produce ore if there isn't any ore."
"Let's not let it worry us, Lucienne."
"I hear that the peons are quitting, are in revolt," she said, when they were alone in the dining room. "My people whisper. I pick up remarks."
"What do you hear? Is it about Palma Sola?"
"Other haciendas ... threats, anger, disobedience. It's as you've said: they're turning against us. I'm afraid."
"There won't be trouble here," he said. "Father has so many enemies, we'll have trouble at Petaca, if it comes anywhere. Three-quarters of our land was Indian property years ago."
"So was mine," she said.
"If the peasants revolt, we must give in or fight. We have no choice."
"Not a pleasant prospect," she said.
"It hasn't been pleasant, sweating it out in the mines, sweating it out in the sugar-cane fields, up at dawn, down at dark, always in debt...." He reached for his pipe but did not fill it.
"I don't defend myself against father's accusation of political idealism, weakness, call it whatever you want. I'm groping. But I can see how the people suffer ... in almost every hacienda. Díaz wasn't right for us!"
"I hear of your changes at Petaca. People are amazed at what you've accomplished."
"I like to help. I feed my people. If they're sick they get care. I let them go to Colima to buy things. I've canceled debts in the tienda de raya books. I talk over problems. Many places could do that ... but we have so much to live down at Petaca. I'm glad there never were beatings and killings here."
When he returned to Petaca he found a letter from Angelina, gay and trivial. It heartened him until he reached the final paragraph: "I think Mona is really my dog, not Lucienne's. I think she won't always stay at Palma Sola but will come to me, changing so prettily, her glass bones shining...."
What did Angelina mean. "Glass bones shining?"
In his easy chair, in the living room, he reread her letter; the last paragraph continued to bewilder him. He thought of showing the letter to Gabriel, but dismissed the idea and crumpled the sheet and tossed it into the fireplace. Holding out his hands to the blaze, he leaned his elbows on his knees. He did not need a confidant but needed to be alone. Wind puffed across the house, making a wintry sound. Raul felt disappointed when Father Gabriel appeared, rolling Fernando in his wheelchair.
_Glass bones shining_, Raul thought, seeing that his father was mere bones, sunken eyes, perhaps accented by his new glasses. Fernando stretched out his bony fingers toward the fire and sighed.
"The cold spell will help the corn," he said, his voice thin.
Raul could think of nothing to say.
"Nothing like a fireplace," said Gabriel, sitting down; he was tired, still fighting off his malaria; he, too, was hunting for thoughts. "Raul, I see you've had the Swiss clock repaired. I've always liked it."
"I brought it back from the jeweler's last week," Raul said.
All three eyed the clock on the mantel, a white marble clock veined with black, thin and tall.
"Humph ... you had your clock repaired, what of it?" Fernando said.
Raul and Gabriel waited, ill at ease.
"Time is for getting; get what you can before it gets you. You don't find it on a dial." With his good hand, he pushed angrily at the arm of his chair; each man heard the tick of the marble clock.
"While you were away last week," said Fernando, "I sold the horses in Sector 9." The Clarín stared at Raul maliciously. "Señor Filar paid me sixty pesos per head. We've never done better. I stopped the corn planting in 21.... That sector must be kept for pasture." He beat the side of his chair. "Sitting right here, I can manage Petaca. My people understand me." His voice shrilled, broke.
Raul walked over to the piano. Someone had placed Caterina's picture there, and her face comforted him.
"'A house divided against itself...'" Gabriel began.
"God, don't spout at me!" cried Fernando. "Have some sense. Life is cruel."
"Life is what we make of it," said Gabriel, very gently.
Raul accepted the truism, knowing it was one thing in his father's mind, another in Gabriel's, and another in his own. He tried to remain silent.
"I don't like the bronze figure you had put on Caterina's grave," Fernando objected.
"I haven't seen it yet," said Raul.
"You're ostentatious," said Fernando.
"It was done out of love," said Raul, moving close to the front windows where he could see the forecourt.
With a jolt, Fernando remembered his love for Caterina, remembered the child reading to him, feeding him, remembered his old, old longings for affection. His fear of death came again; he floundered, hoping he might touch something kind before the end.
"Yes ... yes, I'm sure ... it was love," he admitted.
"What did you say?" Raul asked.
"It was love ... not ostentation. But I would have put something else on her grave ... not a statue of a girl."
"What would that have been?" asked Gabriel, curious at this about-face.
"An animal, a frog, a bird ... I think I would have put a bird there."
"I thought of putting her sundial there, her noonday cannon," said Raul.
"Get me a cigarette," said Fernando, to Gabriel.
"I'll light one for you," said Gabriel.
The ticking of the clock came into being again.
Fernando's thoughts faded backward into time: he heard his father speak. His head throbbed. Everything had grown indistinct. What was the purpose of death? Was death talking to someone who never listened? Was death shoving something inside something already black?
"I want to go to bed," Fernando said. "Push me. Help me to bed, Gabriel."
Raul tried to say good night but could not utter a word and neither could Fernando. A rubber tire on the wheel chair squeaked; the wind and the clock continued. His feet toward the fire, he thought of Lucienne and their mountain trip; then he got up and got his jacket and went outside, the wind whipping his hair. So the little figurine had been placed beside the grave.
He found the statue just as he had hoped it would be, the right size, the right pose. True to the artist's sketches, a young girl carried a bouquet of roses and contemplated them lovingly. The bronze had many lights and shadows. A gust of wind blew Raul's jacket, as he stood there, looking.
Manuel, carrying a large box of sea shells, found him testing the statue's base, for balance and security.
"I like it very much," Raul said.
"It's beautiful," Manuel said, setting down the box. "I had them place it for you. Is it all right?"
"It's just the way I wanted it."
Manuel began laying down shells, one by one, in a design around the base of the figure, white shells, most of them identical in size, about as big as the hand.
Raul found a spade and began leveling behind the statue, where Manuel had not placed his shells.
"Shall I lay them in rows, here?"
"I like them that way, Manuel."
Blackbirds shot past on the wind; a large white butterfly wobbled by, as if injured; on a mound of sand an iguana scratched its way over a vine, its head cocked toward the men.
Spade in hand, Raul stepped to a crooked marker that read Alberto Saenz, in jagged lettering. The musician had died during Raul's Guadalajara trip. Raul missed him now. So there would be no more cedar harp at the fiestas.
Manuel said that his box of shells was empty and that he was going for more.
"I'll go with you," Raul said.
They walked together, and Raul asked, "Was Alberto born at Petaca?"
"Yes. His father was born here too."
"Who'll play the harp for us now?"
"Cipriano's only a boy."
"He plays well."
"Do you know who taught him?"
"Alberto," said Manuel.
"How time passes," said Raul.
He and Manuel found cowboys struggling with a bull, outside the main corral, the bull flat in the mud near a watering trough, three lariats on him. While mounted cowboys kept the lariats tight, a veterinarian stuck a hypodermic needle in the animal. The bull bellowed. At a signal, the lariats went limp and the bull struggled to his feet and made off.
The veterinarian, a small man wearing a five-gallon hat, explained the bull's serious condition to Raul, emptying his hypodermic as he talked.
He had been trained in northern France and had ideas and methods of treatment frowned upon by most _hacendados_. Raul welcomed his care, for under his supervision Petaca cattle losses had decreased 20 per cent.
In the dying light the volcano had a greenish mist over it and, with no smoke coming out of the crater, expressed indolence: it said men will dawdle in hammocks and rest on _petates_, that fruit will have time to ripen, that birds will be able to build their nests wherever they want to, that animals will find cool hideouts to escape the summer heat ... nothing will change, only the clouds, the flying things, maybe a fish, nothing more.
Raul understood the lie, and grinned back at the old king.
Roberto sat on the veranda at Petaca and sipped a _ron fuerte_, his feet on the railing, a handkerchief in one hand. He felt happy though tired, happy to be showing off his new dark green riding suit and tired because he had already performed his stock of equestrian tricks. It was almost mid-morning and growing hot and humid, a clear, cloudless day.
"Federicka rides better every year," he said to Raul, sitting beside him, drinking, eyes on Federicka as she jumped a barrier.
Baroness Radziwill executed precise jumps on her claybank, her split skirt flapping gayly. For a stout woman she was a fine rider, and her horse carried her weight well, taking each hurdle rhythmically.
Armand Guerrero, her friend, followed on a Cuban horse, sailing over the whitewashed logs, all of them participating in an improvised arena, sodded and graveled for their annual get-together.
"Armand's mare is heavy-footed," Raul said. "Maybe a bit too old."
Count de Selva sat down beside Raul, breathing through a corner of his mouth, an unlighted cigar between his fingers. Dressed in duck, like Raul, his clothes rather creased, he brushed dust off his knees and groaned because of his asthma.
"There used to be quite a showing of us--quite a showing," he said. "I can remember when as many as fifteen of us families turned out.... Say, that Benito does well enough. If he's as good a mayor as he is a horseman, we'll get things done in Colima."
Benito Serrato had a lean black that carried him proudly, ribboned tail switching. Benito, wearing black, tilted his derby as he rode, sitting erect, quirt dangling from his wrist.
The circle in front of the house had become dusty, but a breeze carried the dust away from the veranda, toward the lagoon.
"How many families are here today?" asked the count.
"Um, several ... four or five ... I hope others will come," said Raul.
Federicka Kolb wore red. Her cousin, Eloise Martini, rode a gray which she had matched with a finely tailored outfit. The pair rode side by side, laughing as their mounts cleared the hurdles gracefully.
Roberto jiggled the ice in his glass. "It's getting too muggy to ride--or I'm getting too fat," he said, and patted his paunch. "Nothing like beautiful women on beautiful horses to rest the eyes."
Raul had a horse, known locally as a good jumper, and he put the mare over the hurdles, enjoying her leaps, thinking her so much steadier than Chico. Her great yellow mane, tied with white ribbons, flared at every jump.
Vicente tagged behind.
"How are you coming, boy?" Raul called, as his son curbed his range pony.
"Some people have come to see you, Papa. See, Captain Cerro and his horsemen ... a lot of rurales. I guess you'll have to speak to them."
Raul slipped from his saddle to shake hands with the arrivals. Cerro had brought a number of his best men. Could they ride? Perhaps it wasn't customary, but they would appreciate it very much. Dr. Velasco and Dr. Hernández had also come. Then, to his astonishment and delight, he saw Lucienne.
Bareheaded, she stood in the midst of them, proud, one glove removed. She seemed on the verge of running off and couldn't find much to say beyond civilities. When she got Raul alone she criticized herself for coming, for riding a white horse, for wearing white. She felt her hair falling about her neck and shoved it up underneath her beret.
"Lucienne, have a drink on the veranda with us," said Raul.
Roberto took her arm and hugged her.
"Lucienne ... something cool. Will you ride with us?"
Angered, she drew away, and said: "I wouldn't have come if something terrible hadn't happened yesterday. You know"--she paused to swallow--"they broke into the hacienda Refugio and killed the priest and killed Francisco Goya and his sons."
"Who?" asked Roberto.
"Armed men--I don't know."
"Who told you this?" said Raul.
"Jesús Peza. He told me. He was there, doctoring someone. He got away," said Lucienne. "He's back in Colima."
"My God!" exclaimed Roberto.
"How far is Refugio from here?" Raul asked. "What's the shortest way, Velasco?"
"Forty miles or more," said Velasco.
"Maybe fifty," said de Selva.
"What can we do to help?" asked Gabriel.
"I'm sending men immediately," said Raul. "Gabriel, look after Lucienne. I'll be back shortly."
"Hello, Lucienne, what seems to be wrong?" asked the Baroness, curious that she had come to Petaca, aware of some kind of excitement.
Lucienne explained briefly and sat down with Gabriel on the veranda, out of the sun. Removing her glove, she said: "I'd like a drink. Would someone get me a drink?"
Others had crowded round her and she had to repeat in detail the Refugio tragedy.
Father Gabriel put a drink in her hands.
"There, my dear."
"Thank you.... No, I didn't ride here alone.... No, Francisco wasn't disliked at the hacienda ... but of course...."
"Who knows what was behind the killings?" said the Baroness, in a harsh voice.
"We're all in grave danger," said de Selva.
"You can rely on us to help," said Cerro, behind Lucienne. "I'll inform General Matanzas."
"Yes, yes, do that," the Baroness said.
"Díaz has gone ... that's the reason for this situation," said Roberto, his calm words peculiarly distracting.
"If he hadn't left us ... if he had chosen a successor, there would be no rebellion," said Armand Guerrero.
"No, no ... it's revolution," said de Selva.
"We must protect ourselves," said someone.
"How do you fight hate?" asked Lucienne.
"With hate," said de Selva. "I've been telling you. It's coming. It's here now. The new priest at Refugio is dead. Francisco Goya and his sons are dead. What more do you need to hear?"
Federicka Kolb and her cousin overheard de Selva, and Federicka began to sob, for she had known the Goyas for years.
"Why ... why?" she asked.
"The men who killed them cried _Down with the haciendas!_" said Lucienne.
Raul returned and said: "I have sent men to Refugio. I'll go there later myself."
Felipe Meson, an _hacendado_, in his fifties, sturdy, gray-headed, sunburned, with the face of a crippled hawk, gestured toward Raul.
"You're making a mistake at Petaca," he exclaimed. "You can't pacify the peons. You can't trust them. They'll kill you now."
"I haven't tried to pacify them," Raul explained. "I've tried to help them."
Everyone was crowded on the veranda, with servants going about, serving drinks and putting ice in glasses.
"How can one man help at such a time as this?" asked the Countess.
"I simply want to look after my people when they're sick, see to it they have enough to eat, stop floggings and killings. Could Matanzas know about Refugio?" Raul asked Captain Cerro.
"I'll see, when I ride back. We'll be leaving shortly," said Cerro.
"You'd better supply us with escorts," said de Selva.
Lucienne finished her drink, stood up, and arranged her hair and beret; pulling on a glove, she said: "Raul, you must take care of Petaca. It's walled and you can post guards."
Raul did not reply: a question began in his brain: What about Palma Sola, wholly unprotected? What about de Selva's place, the Radziwill hacienda, the Meson house?
Shortly, luncheon was served in the garden, and they tried to talk of other things. Nothing seemed to go right, however; some of the food was missing, some of the drinks. The servants were confused and whispered among themselves. De Selva talked of fleeing to Mexico City, where he owned a house. "You should have had a town house, Raul." The Baroness mistrusted almost everyone at her hacienda, yet could not make up her mind to desert her property. Roberto and Dr. Velasco drank together. Lucienne, Gabriel and Raul ate at a small table under a chinaberry tree.
One by one, the families drove away, Raul seeing them off. The Count, coughing badly, leaned from his carriage window and told Raul how to defend Petaca. Roberto rode off on a magnificent black he had borrowed from a Colima friend.
Already mounted, Lucienne called goodbye: "I'll be with some of Captain Cerro's men. Be careful when you go to Refugio."
"I'll be careful. Will you stay in Colima until I can send men to help at Palma Sola?"
"Yes--Federicka has asked me to stay with her."
"Right. Stay with her. I'll see you there."
"All right, Raul."
Lucienne's horse backed away, swung around, and she waved.
Raul sent Vicente back to his Colima school in the rurales' care.
He did not get to go to Refugio, for that night Angelina returned on the train--her carriage rolled up to the house, accompanied by a guard of rurales. Greeting her calmly, Raul discovered that she was also calm, calm in an indrawn way, as if pain sucked at her, chilled her from deep within. Something dead shadowed her face. Something dead underlined her voice. She said she was ill, but this was more than the fatigue of travel. No one had told her about Refugio; that was easy to determine. She clung to his arm and asked him to have a snack with her, and yet she could eat very little. She sipped some brandy, her gaze on window, candles, door, servants, nothing for long.
He planned to tell her about Refugio in the morning, hoping she might sleep an undisturbed sleep. He would break the news as undramatically as possible.... Had something tragic happened to her in Guadalajara? Certainly something had precipitated this long train trip--to the place she hated most.
It was not until Sunday that he learned the reason for her return. She did not confide in him. He found a partly finished letter on her desk; seeing it addressed to María, he read it, hoping for a clue to her state of mind.
Dated Sunday morning, it began:
"I have come back to Petaca for a while because I have quarreled with Estelle, a bitter, bitter quarrel and all because she says I see a dog following me about. But I didn't, I don't see a dog. Why does she say that, María? I beg you to go and speak to her, for me. She has another friend right now, but surely she will listen to me. I want to make up with Estelle...."
Without reading any further, Raul knew what was happening to her. An icy sensation closed over his brain, a fear for her sanity, a fear he had never experienced before ... a fear tied in with a dog with bones of glass. What could he say to her? What could he do to help her? Gabriel? Velasco? María? Perhaps María could care for her in Guadalajara. He would confide in María. He must get her away from Petaca, as soon as possible. But how? With trains running irregularly.
That Sunday was the longest day in his life. He could not eat. He went about shrouded in anguish. He tried to resolve problems of defense for the house. He tried to talk normally with Manuel, Gabriel, Salvador, Velasco, and Angelina. He tried to hide in his room, tried to hide in the garden. He tried to reinterpret Angelina's letter differently, calling his deduction an error.
That night, after Raul had gone to sleep, Angelina stole downstairs and entered the chapel. Fear gripped her, the same fear that had overtaken her in Guadalajara, at Estelle's, the same night fear. Now, as she hesitated in the chapel, she saw Mona beside her, transparent.
Calling Mona, she went toward the altar: she knew that thieves were stealing the Virgin's jewels. Someone must protect her. Lighting a taper, she hurried to the front of the chapel. The Virgin was intact under her watermelon dome of glass. Her tiny olivewood face smiled serenely, and Angelina felt happy. In the wavering light, the diamonds and rubies sparkled, and Angelina knelt in prayer.
She thanked God for the Virgin's safety and then burst out:
"Oh, Virgin, help me! I have had a terrible quarrel with Estelle. We were so dear to each other. I want so to have at least one friend, someone to love me ... and--and take Mona away from me. Take her away!"
She thought she heard a sharp sound. She gathered her nightgown about her and stood up. Carrying the taper, she rushed toward the door, where she listened, her ear against the wood.
Perhaps Raul had missed her?
Frightened, she thought of going to Vicente's room, seeing his face, touching him. No, he was at school in Colima. She remembered the phantom dog, expecting to see it, and sobbed.
Stealing back into the house, she heard Don Fernando coughing. It sounded as though he were in pain, and so she lit a night lamp and took him a glass of water and held it patiently.
"Thanks. My throat ... gets dry. What time is it?"
"It's night ... sometime in the night."
"Go back to bed," he told her.
"But I can't sleep," she said softly.
He tried to see her, but without his glasses he saw only a white blur.
"I've been awake a long time," he said. "A long time."
"Are you in pain?"
"No. But I keep seeing things," he said.
"What kind of things?" she said.
"People ... faces mostly. People I've known."
"Oh," she said.
"Do you remember Lola Navarro?" he asked.
"No," she said. The darkness of the room, pierced at either end by the window and the door, seemed to tremble as a breeze came through.
"You were just married when Lola lived here with me," he said.
"I remember," she said, half-remembering. It felt good to be able to speak, to say anything at all.
"Do you remember how well she rode?" He paused, the dark room bothering him. "I miss Caterina..." he said, and his coughing started again and she held the glass, making an effort to steady her hand.
Presently, she asked, "Are you asleep?"
"I thought you'd fallen asleep."
"I wish I could."
"I've had a quarrel with Estelle."
"You shouldn't have brought her here."
"I didn't bring her."
"Women without men are no good," he said.
Back in bed, she fell into a troubled sleep until peacocks and roosters woke her. She dressed and the shrill pot-rack, pot-rack of the guinea hen annoyed her; it seemed to her the most hideous of hacienda noises. Raul got up and dressed rapidly and as he dressed he told her that he and his men must drive three hundred head of cattle to Colima. At breakfast, he still could not tell her about Refugio.
She toyed with her dish of fruit, thinking of Estelle, remembering Guadalajara people.
Such a sad face, he thought.
"Couldn't you and Gabriel do something with some of the children?" he suggested.
"Perhaps we could. I ... I'll talk to Gabriel."
He gulped his food: eggs and bread.
"Bring my coffee," he said to Chavela.
His chewing annoyed her and she wanted to leave the table.
"Why do we change so?" she asked.
"Many things are changing," he said, not following her.
"I don't mean that." She poured herself water.
He got up and drank his coffee standing. "Have to go," he mumbled. "I hear the cattle in the court. Goodbye."
Raul overtook the cattle outside the hacienda gate: Esteban had the group in front, Manuel worked the rear, and other cowboys covered the sides, to pick up strays and keep them moving.
Raul and Manuel rode side by side a while.
"Have we got them all?"
"So far, so good. A fine bunch," said Manuel. "Are we sure of railroad cars?"
"General Matanzas promised cars. He gets a cut."
"Engines too?" joked Manuel.
"Well, they're going through to Guadalajara."
The cattle followed a narrow road through palmera, fronds roofing the trail, dumping dust and dirt on the riders. The hoofs drummed a hollow insistence, hollower in rocky places, where boulders towered. Between houselike rocks lay the ruins of a temple, ancient limestone walls in stubble, weeds and bushes, a circular platform partially terraced. Years ago, Raul had planned to dig there. What for? he asked himself as he rode by. Bones, old pots, an idol? Let the temple keep its secrets.... A young doe, crouched among stones, eyes shifting, ears up. Raul liked this route to Colima, seldom used because it was too rough for carriages and wagons.
In Colima, the promised cars lay on a siding and, after checking the cattle into the loading pen, Raul and Manuel rode to the Hotel Ruiz, a shabby white stucco building overlooking the plaza. The town heat was oppressive, and when Raul had eaten in the flyspecked dining room, where not a breath stirred, he sought the square. There, the iron swans spewed water through misshapen beaks into a mossy fountain; dried bougainvillaea flowers blew about from little piles left by the gardener. The clock--pasted in the Presidencia wall--bonged the hour.
On a bench, Raul smoked and listened to Colimans argue: a bearded fellow was peeved over domino rules. He clacked a domino up and down at his rustic playing table under a laurel tree. His fat partner scowled and talked back. Across the plaza, in the house of Doña Camila, somebody struggled with a guitar.
Colima--he had been here so many times!
Colima--narrow streets, simple one- and two-story homes, red-tiled roofs, whitewashed fronts, patios with banana, breadfruit, coco palms, bamboo and mango. A little town that fought earthquakes and hurricanes, a sugar-cane town with a few coffee plantations nearby.
He smoked and listened to the badly strummed guitar (the domino players had gone); he thought of Angelina.... Kindness, could that help?
He loved Lucienne for her auburn beauty, her even temper, her grace, her humor.
He strolled down a shady street and circled back to the plaza and noticed a band of armed men alongside the church, sitting on the curb, leaning against the wall; most of them had carbines. At first he disregarded them, and then felt concerned.
In the hotel, he mentioned the band of men to Manuel and Esteban, and the three talked it over with the manager. He was a huge, high-strung Spaniard, sallow, fish-eyed, egg-chinned; he said that the hoodlums ought to be strung up and that if they entered the hotel he'd shoot them "one by one." Manuel winked at Raul.
During the night Raul heard rifle shots but in the morning no one had any information. "Drunkards," the manager conjectured.
Raul paid a call on Federicka. In her shady bamboo-slatted living room, he read a letter Lucienne had written him, telling him why she had gone hastily to Guanajuato, her handwriting more of a gardener's scribble: "They say the trains will start running regularly in 1912.... I think I had better find a lead mine, for bullets...." Her humor was there, even in her concern.
"What a foolish thing, to go to Guanajuato at this time," he said.
"I begged her not to go," Federicka said.
She gave him a venison lunch and then they went to see Vicente, at his school, where the sisters and students were blissfully unaware of Mexico's impending disaster. Federicka, too, shrugged a provincial shrug.
Raul, alone for a moment with Vicente, thought: My God, the boy resembles Angelina, face, body, her posture even! Putting a rough arm about him, he hugged him close.
Late in the afternoon, the postmaster showed Raul a newspaper from Guadalajara, brought in by a horseman. It reported street fighting. Raul found many Colima friends who were sorely distressed, who predicted tragedy, who blamed foreign governments and the _hacendados_.
Raul described a cartoon, in the Guadalajara newspaper, to Manuel, as they rode out of Colima, for Petaca.
"It showed a butterfly of death hovering above an hacienda," said Raul.
"How does the song go about the butterfly of death?" asked Manuel, hitching his gun belt, kicking his horse with his spurs.
"I don't remember," said Raul.
"I should remember," Manuel laughed. "I used to sing it to you."
Raul chuckled. "That was quite a time ago."
"It's a Chiapan song about a loco butterfly that went after men, poisoning them on the trail ... 'A touch of the wing, just a touch of the wing,'" Manuel sang.
Outside Colima, children played ball in the yard of a Jesuit school; a priest--robe flung open--drowsed on a swing. Workers trudged along one side of the yard, toward town, bunches of green bananas suspended between them. White oxen wandered by.
Raul's cowboys came up behind them, riding at a leisurely pace, some of them singing, one playing a harmonica.
Raul and Manuel trotted down a long hill and began to climb. Suddenly, Chico drew close to Manuel's mare. He reared, throwing himself on his hind legs and hurled Raul to the road. The blow knocked the wind out of him and pain wired his shoulder to the ground. He thought of his bullet wound. For a few seconds he lay motionless but by the time Manuel reached his side, he was able to stagger to his feet. Chico was standing calmly under a tree.
"Are you hurt?" asked Manuel.
"No ... just stunned."
"That damn' Chico! You cabrón!" Manuel cried, rushing angrily toward the horse, whip in hand. "God damn you!"
"Leave him alone," commanded Raul. "You can't teach him by beating him. He's too old to change. No, Manuel!"
Manuel, helping Raul mount, thought of the Petacan beatings, the men, even boys ... now all that had been stopped by Raul. Teach a horse. Maybe not one as old as Chico. Teach people, maybe so! But it was too late to change the haciendas. The butterfly was over Petaca.
A bullet crashed through a front window, as Angelina wrote a letter to Estelle. She had been having trouble with her pen point and was picking at it with her fingernail. At the thud of lead and crackle of glass, she dropped her pen and stared about her as if she had never seen the room before. A second bullet smashed another pane and embedded itself in a wall. Snatching her brass desk bell, she clanged it frantically. Her letter fluttered to the floor. Another bullet shattered glass. Sliding from her chair she began to crawl toward the wall where there were no windows. Servants screamed in the patio. Single shots became a volley, then silence.
She remembered childhood stories of bandits, sordid crimes; all kinds of fears crosshatched her brain; she hunched herself forward on hands and knees, certain she was going mad. When she reached the wall she stood, then sank, crumpled, doll-like, her legs of no use. She reached for the cross on her gold neck chain, but found she had forgotten it. Closing her eyes, she prayed.
A shot spanged prisms off the chandelier, and pieces of glass thumped the wall near her. Opening her eyes, she picked up a fragment of glass with shaky fingers; as she stared at it she saw Raul.
"Raul!" she screamed.
"Stay on the floor!" he shouted.
"Raul ... what's happening?"
Raul and Manuel paused a second in the patio doorway. Raul held his Mauser. Manuel had a carbine. With a rush, bending low, Raul made for the front windows, telling Manuel to get close to the door so he would be protected by the wall. Raul fired out the broken window, then squatted to reload. Manuel aimed and fired; he was slower, steadier, searching for someone on top of the wall. Smoke choked the room.
"What's wrong?" Angelina cried. "Who is it?"
"We don't know who it is," Raul yelled. He crossed the room and knelt beside his wife. "Stay here by the wall. I have men all around the house. Somebody got on our wall and fired down on us, maybe several men. We'll drive them off. Listen ... the shooting has stopped."
"There goes somebody--along the wall," Manuel shouted, and fired through window glass, fragments flying about him.
Like a wraith, Fernando pushed through the patio entrance in his wheel chair, shoving with one hand, groaning. Manuel saw him in the direct line of fire from the wall and scuttled toward the chair, grabbed it and rolled it near Angelina and Raul.
"Father!" said Raul. "You shouldn't be here."
"You want them to come in my room and kill me. Who is it? What is all this? I, you ... why...." His white face and eyeglassless eyes shocked Angelina and she knelt beside him. "You should have stayed in your room," she said. "Who helped you?"
"Who's out there?" Fernando asked. "What's happening?"
"There are a lot of men. Pedro ... many men ... I don't know just who they are."
"So Pedro has turned against me, the god-damn' bastard. I--"
A volley of shots tore into the house, and Raul and Manuel returned the fire. Rifle bullets cracked above, sounding steadily.
"Our men are shooting from the roof," Raul said to Manuel.
The old man coughed and tried to see; he blinked and tugged at his chair.
Raul, tormented by the firing, his father's presence, the destruction, fired recklessly.
"Take it slow, Raul," Manuel said. "First thing you know, you'll be taking chances."
Crawling to the far end of the room, he opened a French door and aimed carefully at a man on the wall; as he shot, he noticed one of Petaca's guards firing from the corner turret.
"Some of our men are in the turrets," he said.
Esteban soon appeared in the patio door.
"We're driving them away!" he shouted. "Our men are on the roof. They're leaving Petaca ... we've got them on the run!" He pointed his pistol at the walls.
"Good--we've got them on the run," said Raul to Manuel,
"Kill them!" cried Fernando.
"You must be quiet, ssh," said Angelina, shoving his chair nearer to the wall and sitting beside it.
Other Petaca men took over the outside wall, firing. Raul, at one end of the room and Manuel, at the other, watched and waited. The quiet was strange. Holding on to the wheel chair, Angelina began to cry. Raul, flattened against the wall, stared at her, hating her lack of courage and control. Why wasn't she in Guadalajara?
Raul checked his supply of bullets and then wheeled his father to his bedroom and with the help of Angelina and Chavela, got him into bed. Fernando was silent, very weak.
Mounting the defense wall, Raul learned that twenty-five or thirty men had attacked the hacienda; the appearance of some rurales--a handful of them--had discouraged the attack. But Raul could not be sure the report about the rurales was more than a rumor. Esteban insisted that the firing from the roof had driven off the attackers. Two men had been killed and Raul ordered them buried ... two men in white, one young, one middle-aged. Several of Raul's people had been wounded and Velasco dressed their wounds in the small patio.
Gabriel rode in later and seemed less astounded at the attack than anyone. Limping about the patio, helping the wounded, he said Pedro had not led this attack.
"What if he was with the men who attacked us! He didn't supply those guns, we know that. Raul took his guns. The hacienda of Primavera has been burned. I saw it in the Ciudad Guzman newspaper. Did Pedro do that, too? He can't be everywhere."
"I saw him here," said Raul.
"It's a good thing you had guards posted," said Velasco.
"We'd have lost the place without them," said Raul, rolling a bandage. "I'll have to hand out more guns. There are still some in the game room."
"Keep men on the walls and in the turrets," said Gabriel.
Dr. Velasco's goatee quivered over a wounded youngster. "Can't you hold still? Damn you!" he grumbled.
Instrument in hand, the thin wrist swiveling, he probed for a fragment.
"I feel it," he said.
The youngster moaned.
"Shut up," Velasco said, on edge. "Somebody light me a cigarette."
Back of all this mess, Raul saw his father. Full of bitterness, he walked to the living room and examined the smashed windows, the pocked walls, the damaged chandelier. He asked a scared maid to sweep up the smashed glass. Together they knocked out damaged panes. That job done, he sat down, but he had scarcely caught his breath when Gabriel came in, looking beaten.
"Let's both have a brandy," said Raul. "I was thinking..."
"No, not now. I..."
"What is it?"
"Two of our people were shot, a few minutes ago."
"I heard no shooting. Where?"
"Behind the corral."
"Who got shot?"
"Teresa and María Eugenia. They're dead."
"Two women--the scum ... to shoot women!" Raul exclaimed. The last time he had seen María and Teresa they had been preparing food in the kitchen.
"So somebody shot them," Raul said, barely opening his lips.
"It was no accident," said Gabriel.
"My Petaca is taking a beating."
Gabriel turned to go.
"What can I do?" asked Raul.
"Nothing now. I want to see their families. Perhaps..." But he did not bother to finish; instead he read Raul's face, the pain, the struggle for hope.
Shortly after Gabriel had gone, Salvador tramped in, boots clacking. A ricochet bullet had hit him in the head and he had a bloody rag around his skull. A bandolier x'd his chest; he carried a Winchester; his trousers, ripped on the side, sagged over his stomach.
"I have two men at each turret now," he said. "They all have extra bullets. We're ready." He grinned, obviously enjoying himself.
"That should be all right," said Raul. "I wish we could spare a few men and go after Pedro."
"Where would we find him?"
"A couple of men might turn up information."
"Why not? Let's also find out where the attackers went. We've lots of friends; let's use them. We can't wait for the rurales."
"I'd like to get Pedro, you know that," said Salvador.
"See what you can learn. This may be revolution. We've got to know how things stand." He smelled Salvador's sweat and liked it.
"I'll see what I can find out," said Salvador.
"If you can, contact the rurales; get some of them here."
"Hell, they ran off," he scoffed. Settling his belt over his shoulder, he stalked away. His hat, dangling from a cord around his neck, banged the doorframe as he went out.
When Raul went upstairs he found Angelina in bed, a tray of untouched food on the side table; two maids were with her; one of them was offering her a cup of tea.
"How's everything?" she asked quietly.
"We have men in the turrets and there are men at the gate," he said, making an effort to be calm.
"Will they come back?"
"It's not at all likely."
"Tomorrow anything can happen," she murmured, refusing the tea. "I'm worried about Vicente. What's happening in Colima?" Her nervousness increased the huskiness of her voice. "All this mob, all these killings."
"Vicente's probably all right. The revolutionists won't harm Colima."
"Then what? Is it truly revolution, Raul?"
He sat by the window, bent forward, trying to puzzle it out. He did not answer her because he did not know the answer.
The servants left the room.
"Just as soon as I can, I'll go with you to Guadalajara, just as soon as the railroad operates again. They'll be running cars soon. You'll be all right there, with María. You mustn't stay here." He remembered the newspaper account of street fighting, and asked himself where she should go to be safe.
"Can I take Vicente with me?"
He wanted to encourage her as much as possible. "If you want to, take him," he said.
"Surely the troubled times won't last long," she said, hoping.
She wanted to sob into her pillows: she peered at shadows created by the evening lamp, curious forms on the ceiling: she separated the forms: evil faces, women's faces, Estelle laughing at her, everyone ridiculing her for being so weak. She buried herself in her pillows.
"Raul, Raul," she whispered. "Chavela told me what took place at Refugio.... Take me away."
Morning sun polished one of the wooden dragons on Fernando's wardrobe.
"... I can remember Andrea. As blind as I am, I can see her. I wanted to marry her, but you know all that folly. That was the year we got almost no corn at all." Bitterness and rotten teeth and food left over from breakfast clogged his speech and yet Angelina understood him and listened because she felt sick and lonely.
"What a stupid man I was." He chuckled. "I sold her, sold my Andrea. Slave ... I was her slave and I sold her. What if she loved somebody else? I still wanted her. Can you remember a beautiful face?" He stirred painfully on his bed. "I was nineteen--that was the year I killed my father. Out of my head ... I sold her." His voice had slowed, the gravity of those days pressing him. "God, that was a dreadful year...."
"What ever became of Andrea?" Angelina asked, taking a piece of toast from his tray. They were having breakfast together.
"She died in Manzanillo ... typhoid."
He felt the weight of Angelina's body on the bed and groped to touch her.
"My eyes are worse today. Those glasses haven't helped much. I'll have to have another pair made."
Angelina forgot to listen; Chavela came for the dishes, rattling things and talking at the same time. "There's no beef to eat today," she said. "Marcelino says there's been no slaughtering."
"We must have some eggs," said Angelina. "Chickens lay eggs even when there's shooting. I suppose you could have someone kill a chicken or two."
Chavela inspected her tray of soiled dishes blankly. "An omelette," she suggested.
"Better a hen," said Angelina.
"Chavela ... cigarette," said Fernando.
Chavela gazed questioningly at Angelina.
"Give him a cigarette, Chavela."
"Sí ... right away."
Chavela's bare feet retreated soundlessly, the dishes rattling. She wondered if all of them were to be killed at Petaca, ignominiously, falling about the fountain, bleeding on the cobbles, moaning. She tripped on a crack, hurt her toe and swore furiously.
Angelina lost herself in reverie. She saw the rays of sun, the bedroom, a picture on the wall; she saw Petaca as a fort and imagined herself stealthily opening the gate, fleeing across fields to the lagoon; she would cross it in a dugout ... on the other side it was dark; she was alone, weeping. She felt her way through the bush and a hand reached toward her, the fingers transparent, evolving into a dog's paw ... finally, a dog trotted beside her.
"Mona, la Mona," she whispered.
"What did you say?" Fernando asked.
"Nothing," she said.
She walked to the door and went slowly toward the serpentine fountain and leaned over it and stared at the fish that huddled under greenery. Sloshing water with her hand, she gazed about her. The dog was there. It followed her upstairs, to her door.
Breathlessly, she slammed the door.
Breathing fast, she opened her wardrobe and removed her fur; she stroked it and kissed it and laid it on the bed. Lying beside it, she said:
"We'll be going to Guadalajara soon. We'll be going there to stay. We'll be at María's. I'll be all right there.... You'll see. What a fine time we're going to have...."
Raul found her there, asleep. Sitting beside her, he gently woke her.
"It's time to eat," he said.
"What?" she asked.
"Lunch is ready."
"Oh ... I've slept all morning."
"Let me help you up."
"Everything's so quiet," she said.
"Everything's all right."
"I'm glad," she said.
"I've heard from General Matanzas. Troops are all around the country; a number rode by Petaca this morning. They'll protect us, Angelina."
She sat at her dressing table, blinking. Taking her powder puff, she began to powder her throat and neck, wanting to waken gradually.
Raul stood near her, thinking of other years, time by the window, time in the garden, time to play games, to sit with a baby in his lap. Nothing would recapture those days.
"Vicente is downstairs," he said, knowing how pleased she would be.
"He's downstairs! Darling, why didn't you tell me?" she cried happily, holding her puff motionless. "How did he come?"
"He came with Octavio."
"Who's Octavio--a schoolmate?"
"They rode here on horseback?"
"They might have been shot," she murmured, thinking of those who had died at Refugio.
They were facing one another in the mirror.
"They followed the back roads. They knew how to manage."
"Good for Vicente," she said.
"He wants to stay at Petaca," Raul said.
"You mean he won't go with me to Guadalajara? I need him."
"I think we can change his mind."
She called Vicente from the door and he came leaping upstairs, his hair badly combed, his tropic clothes in a mess. He kissed his mother dutifully, then turned to his father and said:
"Tell me about the shooting, the fight here." His energy flashed into his gestures. "It must have been exciting. And to think that you drove the soldiers away!" He beamed proudly.
"They weren't soldiers," said Raul.
"They were rabble," said Angelina.
"I'll tell you all about it later," Raul promised.
"I'm so glad you and Octavio got through safely," said Angelina.
"It was easy, Mother," said Vicente.
"Did anybody bother you?"
"No, Mother. And now everybody in Colima knows that Petaca beat off the--the others. We're safe here."
"You and Octavio get washed for lunch," said Raul. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Sure we're hungry."
Octavio was an older boy, with pained saddle-leather face and down-twisted mouth. "Is it going to be a revolution?" he asked, at lunch.
"I don't know," said Raul.
"People in Colima say no," said Octavio certainly.
Raul served macaroni and chicken to the boys, helping them bountifully.
"The men who attacked Petaca weren't soldiers, were they?" asked Octavio.
"Just peons with guns," said Angelina, wishing she could forget.
"But, but ... then it is revolution. They're sore at us," said Octavio, rolling his eyes.
"In Colima they say the rurales will finish off the peons quickly," said Vicente.
"Federal troops are moving to Colima from the new garrison at Ciudad Guzman," said Octavio. "General Matanzas issued a paper or something. It's on the door of the..."
The rest of his words were garbled by macaroni, but Raul understood them. He felt his appetite die; these boys were trying to talk like men; chaos was a man's business not a boy's. He poked at his food and said:
"Vicente, I'm sending you to Guadalajara with your mother. She needs you there, for an escort. You and she and some of our servants will go together. I can't get away now that things are so bad at Petaca. You'll be helpful in Guadalajara, and you can continue your schooling there."
No one spoke.
Unable to eat, Raul wondered what kind of solution Guadalajara would prove to be: no further bad news had appeared in the papers that he had seen. He wondered what might have occurred in other cities: Tepic, Celaya, Guanajuato? Was Lucienne involved in this same nightmare? He had sent men to Palma Sola and Colima, but she had not returned. Nor was there any letter.
After the others had finished, Raul went into the garden and smoked. Ducks paddled and fed in the pool, their white bottoms twitching. Overhead, buzzards patrolled. Men guarded the wall. The volcano, in the cloudy atmosphere, wore a pall of gray and straws of light sucked at the farthest slope.
He did not see Angelina, watching him from the doorway.
Worried about Lucienne, he walked toward the stone Christ and then retraced his steps to the pool. His stout face had lost flesh; his tobacco eyebrows seemed less twisted; his mouth had grown sterner and he wore a look of pain and sullen anger.
A frog jumped into the pool, swam a short distance and then, without submerging, faced Raul. A bubble formed as it slowly submerged, as if drawn from below.
God, thought Raul, we think we can help men, determine their tomorrows, and yet we don't know ten things about a frog.
It was a comfort to be alone, close to nature.... Also alone, Gabriel knelt in the chapel, praying for his people, particularly for Angelina. The confessional had told him her hallucination ... María, Teresa ... Raul ... Vicente ... Octavio ... his children.
As he knelt, he recalled what it was to be a child, in Italy. He shook his head to jar away his reveries but they continued. He was carrying a basket through an olive grove and it was a large basket for a boy of twelve. The clock in the Amalfi tower boomed ten, ten grave notes, and his mother crossed herself and said something....
Outside, a rifle shot cracked--very close.
Tugging his robe about him, Gabriel prayed for those who had been harmed by the revolutionists. Surely it was God's destiny to free mankind. He prayed for guidance, for patience. An act of kindness might save a nation.
An old man entered the chapel and shut the door behind him, fumbling with the latch. Slowly, he staggered toward the altar, a serape over his left shoulder.
In the candlelight, where vigil cups burned, Gabriel took in his bristling beard and tousled hair.
Miguel Calvo, the sheepherder, Gabriel told himself.
Miguel knelt laboriously, his lips moving soundlessly. He motioned to Gabriel, and then fell.
"What's wrong, Miguel?" said Gabriel, going to him.
"Someone..." Miguel's face wrinkled with pain; his jaw clamped.
"Are you sick, Miguel?"
Gabriel tried to make the man comfortable by pushing his serape under him. His hand found the bullet wound. Blood sopped Miguel's neck and shoulder.
"You've been shot," said Gabriel.
"Sí," said Miguel. "Don't leave ... the chapel...."
"I want to get Dr. Velasco."
"Here--I'll stop the blood with my undershirt."
In a few seconds he had yanked off his undershirt. With a jerk, he tore it and began to bind Miguel's head.
"You'll be all right. God will help you."
"Can you stop the blood?"
"Yes. Hold that piece of cloth. How did it happen?"
"As I walked past ... the chapel."
Gabriel worked swiftly.
"Lie still, Miguel. Hold it. I'll tie this around your head."
"I want it tight."
"Now, I'll get Dr. Velasco."
"No," groaned Miguel.
Gabriel struggled into his robe and stood. "I'll open the side window, by the altar; I can climb out."
"No," said the old peasant, wanting to protect his priest.
Gabriel had no fear. He hated fear. Opening the window, he climbed out and crossed the cobbled courtyard, trying to minimize his limp. Another man was crossing the court, crates of chickens on his tump line. A dog began to bark near the chapel, his yaps becoming more and more frantic.
As Gabriel mounted the veranda steps, a shot rang out; he felt something gnaw his leg and put out his arms to break his fall, wondering why the dog had bitten him. Sprawled on the steps, he yanked up his robe and examined his leg--a bullet, right above the ankle ... what a shame!
Servants helped him into the house where he asked for Manuel or Raul. Then, gathering his wits, he told the servants about Miguel Calvo, and his head wound.
"... it may be serious. Get Dr. Velasco."
He gripped his leg, where the pain dug sharply, widening.
"Get somebody to find that sharpshooter," he said.
He sat on a sofa and began to dress his own wound, Chavela whimpering over a bowl of water, soap and rag. On the mantel, the Swiss clock chimed and he glanced at it, feeling hungry.
"Don't be a ninny, Chavela. And get me some tortillas."
"I will, Padre, I will," said Chavela, glad to escape to the kitchen.
"Bring some beans, too," said Gabriel, sighing. His glasses had become smudged and he wiped the old lenses on his robe, blew on them, wiped them again.
The pain became excruciating as he waited and he rocked from side to side. He had not felt such pain since his barranca mule had crashed on the rocks with him and broken his ankle not long after he had come to Mexico.
"Where did they shoot you?" asked Raul hurrying in.
It took several seconds for Father Gabriel to answer.
"My leg ... nothing."
"Let me see."
"No. I bandaged it."
"Is Velasco coming?" Raul asked. He saw tears of pain behind Gabriel's glasses.
"He has gone to Miguel."
"In the chapel."
"Hit in the head."
Chavela set down tortillas, beans and a glass of milk.
"Oh ... I can eat now," said Gabriel.
Gun shots cracked.
"Someone shot me as I crossed the court and shot Calvo in front of the chapel.... I sent someone to find that fellow." Storni's words ran together.
Raul, armed with a .38, stepped to the front windows. They won't get any more of us, Raul thought. I've got more men on the walls. Someone sneaked in, over the wall. He won't last long.
Shoulder against wall, Raul watched: he moved the length of the room, stationed himself near the front door, then slipped outside and hid behind the arches. He began to work his way the length of the veranda.
Sure, they wanted corn of their own, beef of their own, pulque, eggs, whisky, land--they wanted what any man deserved. They could have part of Petaca, but not all. Salvador rushed up the veranda steps toward Raul, his rifle on its sling. He waved, thumped himself on the chest and roared: "I got him. He's dead."
"Ignacio Raza. The fellow on the wall, the one who did the shooting."
"How did he get inside?" asked Raul, going toward Salvador, clicking the safety.
"I don't know," said Salvador.
They went into the living room to be with Gabriel.
Manuel had come in and was bending over him.
"How are you feeling, Father?" he asked. "Velasco's in the chapel, taking care of Calvo. He'll be here soon."
"Show me where you got hit," said Salvador, clattering his spurs and squatting in front of Gabriel.
"I'd rather wait for Velasco," said Gabriel, perspiration on his glasses.
"Sure," said Salvador, agreeably.
"So you killed that man.... Another man has gone.... That's not the way it should be.... We aren't thinking wisely."
Salvador was amused, and said: "I know.... It's easy to kill a man.... But he shouldn't have come over the wall."
It was not till late that night that Miguel and Gabriel were settled comfortably. The old sheepherder had not been seriously injured. Faint from loss of blood, he had asked to be left in the chapel till next day. They set up a cot for Gabriel in the dining room, close to the kitchen in case he needed someone. Raul sat down to read to him. They had agreed on _Don Quixote_. He found the place where he had left off weeks ago and his eyes slid over familiar paragraphs. Had Cervantes written _Don Quixote_ in prison? Then he should at least be able to read aloud under stress ... smoke curled from his pipe ... Gabriel slept.... A night bird called repetitive notes.
In a day or two, soldiers might improve local conditions. He must get Angelina to Guadalajara somehow ... tomorrow ... next day. She had grown violently hysterical when she learned that Gabriel and Calvo had been shot.
He dimmed the light and laid his book on the buffet and saw his old pipe, a favorite. Manuel had given it to him when Caterina was a baby. Manuel had carved P/C on the bowl, Petaca's cattle brand. He had been clever at carving, but he didn't do any handcraft any more.... His face had lost its smile.... So many, many things had vanished, or changed. Raul paused in the living room by his desk where his revolver gleamed.
In the bedroom, his father coughed his dry cough.
Gravely concerned for Lucienne, he lit his pipe and stepped to the fireplace. Perhaps the clock needed winding: yes, he wound it carefully, as if for the last time.
Someone was coming up the steps.
"I went to see Calvo."
"How is he?"
"He's all right."
"We must get Angelina's things packed tomorrow."
"I'm ready to help you."
"Thank you for getting Vicente back to Colima safely. That's an accomplishment these days."
"Let's make the rounds together," said Manuel.
"It's no world for Angelina," Raul said. "We must get her to Guadalajara."
"Have you heard from Palma Sola?"
"Not a word."
"Esteban has gone there again."
"I don't like the silence," Raul exclaimed.
"Shall I ride to Colima?"
"Wait till tomorrow. After breakfast we must work at the packing. Have the carriage in front of the house. Let's do everything to get Angelina off. Organize her guards, six or eight men. If we can get to Colima tomorrow, I'll see about Lucienne."
It seemed to Raul, as he helped load the carriage in the morning, that he might fall asleep as he worked. He had slept little. Even the rain did not revive him, a warm, pleasant rain, slanting in long, insistent lines. He had passed most of the night on the sofa in the living room. The clock had said: Tighten that strap; put that valise on top; go see about Angelina.
"Yes," said Raul, strapping a valise.
"I just came from Palma Sola."
"Yes," said Raul, looking at a rain-streaked, mustached face, with a scar over one eye.
"Doña Lucienne is all right and the hacienda has not been bothered. Federicka and some of her people are with Doña Lucienne."
The rain was a benediction after that: such a great weight had been lifted. He went into the house with a lighter step.
"We're ready now, Angelina," he called presently.
Tears trickled down Fernando's face as Angelina said goodbye; he could not see her; it was goodbye to a voice, to a memory.... After she had gone--he listened carefully to her footsteps, the banging of carriage doors, clatter of horses--he struggled to sit up: If I can sit up, I can still help Petaca. Petaca needs me, with people leaving, Raul away, Manuel ... I must help out.
In his gray world, he puttered with his nervous hands and tugged at his sheet but he could not sit up. Calling weakly to Chavela, he begged a cigarette; she had to put it in his mouth, take it out, put it back; she was still afraid of him, afraid of his closeness to death now. She shuffled uneasily by his bed, sat down, got up.
Raul and Angelina tried to make themselves comfortable, with a valise between them. The luggage on top rolled and thumped. Angelina clutched her mother's jewel case in her lap, a box covered with pink leather.
"Raul, I don't see how I can make it. The rain has made the road so much rougher."
"It is worse on such a bad day. But the train's running again."
"Won't all my luggage get soaked?"
"The tarpaulin's new," he said. "Try to rest against the cushions."
"There's no room. Will I ever get there?"
"I'll take off my poncho. That will make more room."
Rain drummed all the way and the road became a mire in places. They had to pull off to bypass a wagon and the carriage sank to the hubs. Manuel put his cowboy escort to work, but it was a difficult job, with one of the whippletrees splintered. Angelina sat on a valise under her umbrella, a shawl around her, hating the rain and mud.
Colima's streets and houses were a glad sight, but at the railway station they learned from the telegraph operator that the rails had been ripped up by rebels, somewhere miles along the line.
"It will be days before a train can get through," he explained, wanting to be sympathetic.
Raul slipped some money into his hands.
"Keep me informed," he said. "I'll be in touch with you."
He took Angelina to Federicka's, but she could not shake her pessimism; she felt defeated, fated to die at Petaca; she complained of a sick stomach; her head ached. When Federicka urged her to remain in Colima she consented, sullen, ready to go to bed, unwilling to say goodbye to Raul. She shut herself in her room, telling herself: I'll stay here till the train runs.
Raul learned every inch of Colima's time-gnawed station before the train ran again: the scaled walls, the stink of urine, the fruit peels on the floor, peasants sleeping among cockroaches.... Vicente sometimes waited with him, disgusted, a boy in school clothes. Raul was usually hatless, in tight gray trousers and a snow-white pocketed jacket-shirt.
Vicente chewed sugar cane. "It's going to be bad in Guadalajara," he said.
"It may be bad here."
"I don't like the Colegio Francés."
"But you can't stay at Petaca, as it is."
They spoke angrily:
"Mama's getting sicker."
"She'll be better in Guadalajara."
"But she needs you!"
"No, she doesn't need me. You can help."
"But I don't want to go," Vicente exclaimed.
"You're going anyway, to help Mama."
"You help Mama.... You go!"
Buzzards perched on the galvanized iron roof, and Vicente threw rotten oranges at them. When the telegraph operator came out of his room, he said that the train might come tomorrow. "No use waiting any longer. There's no chance today."
Raul gave him cigars.
"Vicente--let's go back to your school. I'll come alone tomorrow."
Angelina had stored her luggage at the hotel, ready for departure, since a train could come at any hour. When it finally arrived, late at night, Raul was on hand. He took both her hands in his, loving her for all she had been to him.
"A good trip, Angelina," he said, as train smoke blew about them.
"Good luck, Raul," she said in her lovely voice, her fingers stealing away from him, to the brooch on her blouse.
"You'll be safe," he said.
"Watch out for yourself at Petaca."
"You too, in Guadalajara. Look after Vicente. The Colegio will be good for him."
She wanted to kiss him but the world inside her talked of many things; she wanted to mention Caterina, wishing she could purge herself of anguish; she wanted to speak of Fernando; she felt she could not breathe. Raul stood out plainly enough--his white shirt flapping--yet he was many Rauls.
She took Vicente's hand.
Sofía, Lucienne's maid, brought Raul a letter, arriving early at Petaca, her face, hair and hands wet with mist. She gave it to him in the living room.
"Dearest Raul," the letter began, "We are all right here at Palma Sola. Don't worry about us. I had no luck in Guanajuato. The manager is honest but afraid. I will tell you more about it when we meet.
"I have heard that things have been bad with you at Petaca and I am sorry, darling. Sorry for you, Angelina, and all concerned. I know how much the hacienda means to you. Everything done to Petaca is something done to you.
"The Kolbs are here with me, as you know, and none of my servants has deserted me. Payno and Otello say we won't have any trouble. I hope they're right.
"My love for Palma Sola knows no bounds these precarious days. I'm so glad to be back. I go about gathering flowers for my vases, setting out new plants, sorting seeds, fixing glass broken by the quakes.
"Darling, write to me, by Sofía. She is a palmera woman and knows every trail and I trust her. I love you."
Raul read, sitting on a chair, while Sofía stood behind staring at her feet. She was a lanky woman, with loosely combed hair.
"Go to the kitchen and eat. Wait for me there," he said, folding the letter. "Have anything you want." He drew a sheet of stationery out of the desk drawer, and sat down and wet his pen in the inkwell.
He felt troubled and could not concentrate for he had just left Gabriel: he and Velasco had cupped pus from his wound, dousing it with peroxide and iodine.
"Feel it burning?" he had asked.
"Good," Velasco had said. "That means live tissue. Your leg will get all right."
Only a few days ago, Gabriel had spoken in chapel of the revolution, warning everyone of its insanities. He had pleaded for sanity....
On that very day Captain Cerro had been hanged by a mob on a tree less than two miles away.
Raul bit the top of his penholder and began to write. Before he had written five lines, he crumpled the sheet and strode to the kitchen, where Sofía was eating.
"I'm going to Palma Sola now," he said. "I'm sending men to look after Lucienne and her place. I'll have my horse saddled. Rest a while here. You needn't hurry."
With Captain Cerro dead, trouble could break out anywhere. He would choose good men for Palma Sola.
Sanity--there was not much sanity. Yet he felt saner as he rode Chico toward Palma Sola through the mist.
Sanity ... was it sanity, taking men from Petaca to guard Palma Sola? he wondered.
But it was something like sanity, seeing Lucienne sitting by her front window, at her piano. The green ocean was calm, swirling its pale color out to the horizon.
Smiling, joyous, she waited for him to dismount and come inside. She was alone.
His spurs clicked, as he came in.
"Darling," she said.
"Lucienne, I..." He kissed her lovingly.
"So sweet of you to come."
"I couldn't write. I tried. I had to come."
"Sit down. Why, you're soaking wet! Was it raining?"
"The palmera, the mist," he said.
"Come and change."
He put his cheek against hers, his arms about her. Her arms went around him for an instant. Then they heard the sounds of horses arriving and people talking.
"Those are my men outside. I brought help, in case there's any need."
"What shall I do with your men, darling? How shall I feed them?"
"They've brought food. I'll send any further provisions they need. You'll keep them here, as long as you stay."
"How are things at Petaca?"
"That's not much of an answer."
"Gabriel has a badly infected leg, caused by a bullet wound."
"I heard that someone shot him. How much worse can it get?"
"We'll have to talk about those things," he said, "but not now. I'll see about my men, where they are to stay, what they can do to help."
"Then some brandy and dry clothes."
Over their brandy, he talked about protecting Palma Sola; he felt that the presence of his men would be sufficient; in all likelihood, there would be no trouble.
"This way I can take you to Colima and feel that everything is all right."
"I wish I could feel that way, Raul. All my things are here, the Humboldt things." She gestured toward the furnishings.
"Where are Federicka and her family and friends?"
"Down on the beach. They'll be back later."
The brandy nipped the edges of her tongue. She thought: Brandy, just the two of us, for a few moments. She was disturbed by new lines in his face, his restless gaze. She took his hand and led him to the dining table, so beautiful in the midst of dark green plants.
"Some more brandy," she suggested.
He nodded toward a newspaper, spread on the table.
"Is it recent?"
"It's from Colima ... a couple of days old."
"Any news from General Matanzas?"
"No. But there's plenty from outside places. In Morelos, several haciendas have been burned. In Guanajuato, owners have been driven away."
"Here at Palma Sola these tragedies seem remote," he said.
"I hope we can keep it that way."
"How's your father?"
"He can't get out of bed any more. He can't sit up, even in bed. He'll die soon, Lucienne."
"I hope I'll be missed when I'm gone," she said. "Me and my trees and my flowers. Do you think I'll ever be able to send my lovely jacaranda seedlings to Guadalajara? The governor wanted them. Ah, these are hard times, for even such simple things as trees."
Raul thought: How fine she is, how much a woman! And he put his mouth on hers; they were friends and lovers; in the warmth and strength of their embrace they found hope.
He decided to remain at Palma Sola a while, maybe no more than three days. He wanted to forget. Together they would see pelicans lurch into the sea, frigate birds ride the wind, herons take the sun. Together they would walk on the beach or go out to sea, in a dugout, trolling.
In the morning, lying close to her open window facing the ocean, he traced the copper coloring of her throat, his fingers moving lightly. Her long hair tangled his arms. His mouth sought her breast.
The ocean breeze tossed the curtains and moved her hair. He drew her, half asleep, underneath him. It had been a long time since they had loved each other in the early morning; laughter bubbled out of her, slowly, slowly. Palma Sola, single tree, phallic, alive. She groaned and laughed against his neck. His body grew tense with joy.
There was nothing to get them up till late. In the afternoon, Federicka and her family went to Colima. The weather was perfect, a little of spring, a little of summer.
The next day, Lucienne said, "Tomorrow we'll go to Colima," and then postponed then: departure. So, for several days they rode horseback, fished, lolled on the beach, and took walks together. The newspapers carried distressing news and when they read them together they were perplexed and saddened. They knew time was ebbing away.
"Of course I must go," said Raul, after another paper had arrived. "I must get back to Petaca.... We must go. I'll leave you in Colima."
"We've been lucky," she said.
"I think so."
"I'll tell Otello to scrape the rust from the carriage."
"Let's go on horseback," he said.
"No, in the victoria. I have too much luggage. Anyhow, I'm sick of Chico. You should get rid of him. Let him drag along behind us."
"He's a good horse."
"What was he like as a colt?"
"I thought so."
"He'll get better."
They were in the old-fashioned room, Raul in seersucker trousers and plaid shirt, Lucienne in gay clothes, a turtleshell comb over one ear, sandals laced high up her ankles.
"I suppose you love Chico in a way. I wish we could keep all the things we love," she said, with quiet passion.
"I wish we could too," he said.
"I hope we're lucky, you and I," she said.
"Yes ... lucky, with you, Lucienne. It hasn't been that way with Angelina. She's had her secrets. They are destroying her.... I'm not sure there can be any adjustment. She goes to her room and locks her door. She walks about, talks to herself, comes downstairs with a strangeness about her. I--I think she's out of her mind. Strange ... how she writes. She acts as if I didn't exist, as if I were half alive...."
She was surprised by his candor, by his revelations, by his concern.
"Will the change to Guadalajara help?"
"I doubt it. I really don't know. She may go mad."
"Darling, hush, I think you're needlessly alarmed."
"No. And I can't talk about it any more ... not now.... But, Lucienne, I need you."
"You have me, Raul."
"Not by my side."
"Maybe it's better that way."
"Better?" he asked.
"For all of us. Angelina, Vicente."
He realized she was straining a point for his sake; her face, her hands, told him she was nervous. They had been seated together. He cupped his chin in his hand.
"You're wonderful," he said. "I love you because you stay the same, taking the good and the bad as it comes."
"I wish I were really like that," she said.
"You've been like that all these years."
They loaded the rusty victoria and headed for Colima, riders trailing behind, with Chico yanking angrily. A cave-shaped cloud held a fragment of a rainbow in its arms; then, in the opposite direction, to the north, the volcano rose above a forest of palms, a peculiar light on its upper slopes, a vaporish yellow. For Raul, the light was startling. It was as if he were seeing the volcano from his garden, the evening the yellow scum had covered the lagoon. He thought of mentioning the coincidence to Lucienne, but decided not to speak of it. Later in the evening, in Colima, he would look at the peak again.
In Colima, they visited friends. Obviously, trouble was everywhere. People tried to be cheerful, particularly those who could not see the _hacendados'_ plight. At Federicka's they had drinks behind the cool bamboo slats, and someone played an accordion. Together, they went to the cathedral. The ugly silence of death pervaded the place. Raul wanted peace but not an ominous peace. At Federicka's, late at night, when others had gone to sleep, he went up on the roof-top to study the volcano.
His pipe lit, he watched. Presently, he saw another red bowl of fire ... that dangerous aerial red, a wisp of smoke above it.
God, he thought, not another eruption! He longed to be able to strike back at the subterranean power; he wanted to dominate it, extinguish it. How dreadful to wait and wait.
An owl cried dismally.
The great quake struck Petaca just before dawn.
Don Fernando felt the shocks at once for he had been lying awake for several hours. He shouted for Chavela but she did not hear him. Angry, he spouted to himself:
"I've got to get out of here. Where are my glasses? Bed's going to break. Damn that Chavela, not coming, never coming when I need her. Who does she think she is? Bring me a cigarette! Where are my glasses? Got to light a candle."
He shouted at the quake now:
"Get me out of bed. All right ... I'll get up. Stop you--sure I'll stop you. I'll stop your rocking. You stone devil of the Indians!"
His quavering hands worked at his sheets. Shoving himself against his pillows, he began to sit up. Groaning and puffing, he reached for his matches but knocked them on the floor.
Finding it possible to swing his feet over the side of the bed, he sat up. Moonlight whitened the tiles near the big window and he detected the light. On the edge of his bed, his arms bearing part of his weight, he gained confidence.
"My wheel chair's nearby.... I'll get out of this place. Raul, Raul," he called, forgetting that Raul was upstairs. "Raul, there's a big quake--the floor...."
He heard shouting and rifle fire but could not, except for an instant, separate the sounds. The blurred noises, growing in intensity, disturbed him and he lifted his head and cried: "What's that? Who's making that noise?"
He tried to rise but crumpled onto the floor. His mind blurred.... Someday ride to Colima, jacket with silver buttons ... ride to Colima ... drink beer. The snake coiled over the fallen log, and the mayordomo shouted: Watch out, I'm going to shoot it! I pulled my .45 and shot him.... There he was ... there my father was, on his white horse, outside the tienda door....
His father and the snake writhed in the old man's brain and the quake returned and red flared through the window. Fernando crawled toward the light. He was trying to find his bed now. The red blurred and faded and he turned and began to crawl in the other direction. A man in a dark blue suit, a neat blue suit, tapped him on the arm and said: "You must stop taking money from the store without my permission." Papa spoke calmly but he was on a white horse, just outside the tienda door.... I swiveled my chair at the desk and shot him, as he rode away.
The quake grew more severe and large blocks of masonry loosened in the inside wall, on the patio side, and fell on Fernando. He died at once.
Outside, men went on shouting and shooting.... They had set fire to the mill and the flames soared high.
Raul had jumped out of bed and grabbed his trousers and shirt. Carrying his shoes, he rushed down a tottering stairs--through the pale dawn--into the patio, where water sloshed out of the fountain, across the cobbles. Servants were screaming and shouting. Toward the mill, flames gushed up; the wall of Fernando's room crumbled: as Raul stood by the fountain, he saw blocks bulge, lean forward, crash to the floor, dust rising, as fine as flour from a smashed flour barrel.
The door to his father's room was ripped from its hinges and thrown to the ground. Rushing into the dusty room, Raul opened the outer window. Then he found his father. Death, in the midst of this disaster, seemed natural to Raul--yet not the gaping mouth and angry eyes. Their anger and derision drove him out of the room, into the patio.
"Are you hurt?" asked Sandoval, rushing up to him, a crowbar in his hand, his hat around his neck on a cord, his shirt ripped.
"My father's dead ... buried under that wall," said Raul, buttoning his shirt, wiping a smudge from his face.
"Somebody set fire to the mill; it's all in flames. I just came from there.... There's shooting."
"Do what you can at the mill--I'll find you later," said Raul. "I'm going for Manuel, I'll see about Father Gabriel.... Find Velasco. Get Esteban. Let's fight 'em off at the mill. Let's fight for this place!"
In the living room a fine old set of ivory dominoes had been hurled to the floor, the box splintering into many pieces. He saw them, as he lit a table lamp and put on his shoes. For a moment, he knelt to pick them up and then remembered his father. Suppose Manuel or Gabriel or someone else had been pinned down?
"Gabriel!" Raul shouted outside the hacienda, aware of the whitening sky. "Gabriel!"
"Where are you?"
"At the chapel."
Gabriel had taken an injured girl just inside the chapel door, and was working over her by a vigil lamp.
"Can you find Velasco for me?"
"I haven't seen him!" Shall I tell him about my father, Raul thought? No, that can wait. I'll go for help.
"I'll see if I can find Velasco. I'm looking for Manuel."
Flames from the mill transfixed him as he went out the chapel door; the light seemed to spout above Petaca, threatening every wall, the forecourt, the chapel. Gabriel, in the doorway beside the girl, tried to give her water.
Was the earth shaking again? Raul thought. Was everything to be lost? Flames blazed over the dining room now; rifle shots came from the same direction. Petaca....
Petaca, 1619, Indian land, Medina land.... He began to run toward the back of the house, toward the _tienda de raya_, thinking he would get a rifle from the gun case and then find Manuel.
He ran inside, wrenched a carbine from the case and loaded his pockets with ammunition.
Petaca--the name sounded in his blood--they were burning Petaca, the mill, the dining room, then....
It was Luis, waving a Winchester.
"Luis, get them out of the dining room. Come on, Luis!"
But the raiders were gone; there were only flames in the dining room. Kerosene had been sloshed over the furniture and drapes and the conflagration roared, driving them outside.
Raul dashed for Manuel's room, his own armed men passing him, headed for the walls and turrets.
"Save the house, the living room ... use dirt and sand ... beat out the fire!" he shouted, and wondered whether anyone heard him or cared.
Among the frightened horses, in the stable, he leaned over Manuel. A terrified horse had kicked him and knocked him unconscious. Raul brought water and rubbed a cold wet cloth over his face, arms, and chest.
"Manuel ... Manuel ... let's get out of here! Manuel ... are you badly hurt?"
"Now, now can you sit up?"
"Raul--I was running toward the mill.... It's on fire," said Manuel, groaning, feeling his arms and chest, peering at Raul with eyes dulled by pain.
"Let's get out of the stable," said Raul.
Manuel struggled to his feet.
"Can you make it?"
"I'll make it. Where?"
"To the house ... they doused it with kerosene."
With other men they returned to the house and began to fight the fire in the dining room with sand and dirt, hauling and shoveling it from the second patio.
Manuel had armed himself at the _tienda_, as they passed. In spite of the pain from his head injury, he helped haul sand. Raul and Salvador worked close to the dining-room door, throwing sand from buckets. While they battled the blaze, men broke in the _tienda_ door and dumped kerosene over the desk and walls.
There, outside the _tienda_, they trapped Pedro.
Raul raised his rifle: the sight cleared the bandolier, raised to the shoulder, dropped lower: was this a man?
The trigger moved.
"Pedro, that's Pedro!" yelled Manuel.
The men were hurling burning wood away from the front of the _tienda_ and a flaming board fell across Pedro's body.
"Take the board off that man!" someone shouted.
"It's Pedro. He's dead," said Manuel.
"Pedro's dead!" shouted Salvador.
"Pedro's dead!" others shouted.
Rifle fire began all along the walls and soon men came and informed Raul that they had beaten off the attackers; presently, others reported that the dining-room fire had been extinguished ... ashen faces, wounded men ... Raul, his clothes ripped and filthy, stared at them. They went up to a water pail and splashed and drank, saying little.
"Shall we take a look at the mill?" Raul asked Manuel.
"Yes ... yes."
Raul stood by the smoldering ashes a long time before he said: "The bastards, to burn it! They might better have stolen the corn and wheat. They could have eaten that. This way everybody loses!"
A gentle mist was falling and he and Manuel stood under a jacaranda, the body of a scorched rat near their feet. The wind shook the damp leaves and pigeons flew low, avoiding the mill. The chapel bell tolled, telling the story.
"Well, we've seen the mill," said Raul.
"What a fire!" said Manuel. "Look how the beams burned."
Raul noticed the charred beams in the ruin.
"The quake knocked down the mill," he said. "The fire got going, then the quake pulled down the beams." He nodded toward the volcano, now drowned in mist.
Raul pulled Manuel's sleeve.
"We have things to do, Manuel. I want to go back to the house. I must bury my father."
"What ... he's dead!"
"The quake killed him. Help me take his body away, Manuel. It won't be easy."
And he welcomed the rain, for now the mist had changed to rain; he welcomed the cool of it, walking back to the house: he liked the fresh smell.
The chapel bell had stopped tolling but now someone dragged at its rope again and the sound seemed to bring great gouts of rain and Raul and Manuel hurried toward the kitchen. They sat down at a table near the tiled stove and gulped coffee. Manuel touched the side of his head and the side of his neck, barely brushing the skin. Raul wanted to ask him how he felt but he couldn't put the words together.
A bearlike man, dirty and rain-soaked, came in, asking for food. No one had seen him before. He spoke out, both hands on a crooked staff, his voice quavering and wild:
"I've just come across Petaca. The peons are leaving. I've seen 'em ... many of them. They're just walking away."
Raul gouged a line across the rough table with his thumbnail: the line divided Petaca: so much for the workers, so much for himself. He wouldn't relinquish more.
He damned the blundering peasants: without proper clothing or food they were forsaking Petaca for more insecurity, hunger and beatings. They were deserting their families.
The bearlike fellow droned on about the peasants. Then, suddenly he stopped, put down his staff, and spat:
"Have you heard about General Matanzas?"
"No, I haven't," said Raul.
"He's sided with the revolutionists!"
My God, today ... tomorrow ... so we change to save our skins, thought Raul. He asked his maid for cigarette paper and tobacco and rolled a cigarette as he finished his coffee.
"We came back to the house to bury my father," he reminded Manuel. "We're burying the past too," he added.
It took hours to dig Don Fernando free, even with the help of Luis and Gabriel. In the late afternoon they carried his body to the grove and Gabriel knelt by his shallow grave and prayed. The sky was clear, the sun hot; the wind whipped Gabriel's robe. His spectacles in his hand, he prayed for decency, a better world, kinder men. Parrots snickered and whispered in the grove while Esteban covered the old man.
Raul had anticipated his father's death too long to be moved. He felt relieved, but it was an unbalanced sense of relief, for he could not forget Pedro's death or the burning house and the ravaged mill. Did it mean anything that both these men had died on the same day? Sitting close to Caterina's grave, he thought of the prayers that lay buried everywhere in the world. I believe in God ... why? Because ... because some people are kind and faithful. Lucienne. Manuel. Farias. Caterina. Vicente.... Birds from the nearest palms drifted past him, their wings sighing.
The men left the cemetery.
A little smoke rose from the volcano as Raul and Gabriel returned to the house. Gabriel made a remark about the swift changes.
"Life has become treacherous too," said Raul sadly. "I wanted changes to be slow, remember? You said: Don't take the law in your hands. I have killed today. Pedro. Did you know?"
"I didn't know," said Gabriel, and crossed himself. "Our old world has gone. God help you, my son." It hurt him that Raul had killed; he had promised Pedro to the law but more than that he had promised Raul a clear conscience.
"I'm giving up Petaca," said Raul.
They paused in front of the old house, where further earthquake damage was obvious: part of the reconstructed veranda had fallen; Fernando's room gaped; the living-room roof had caved in at one end and smoke seeped out, blowing low over the house and garden.
"I'm giving it up. I won't risk more lives. We can't go on defending the house indefinitely. We'll save what we can, before all is lost." He remembered the broken box of dominoes. Hands in his pockets, he faced Gabriel, savage disappointment on his face.
Gabriel had removed his glasses and was wiping his eyes. He wished he need not reply.
"Of course ... yes," he said, wanting proper words, feeling Raul's gaze. "Yes ... Raul ... you must."
What would Raul do? Live in Colima perhaps? Perhaps Guadalajara? In spite of his weariness, in spite of his sadness, a ray of hope returned: could it be Italy, before he died?
Velasco appeared on the veranda and waved something. Raul turned toward the steps.
"Someone's hurt," he said.
"I'll come," said Gabriel, putting on his glasses.
Raul said, going up the steps:
"I'll look after you, Gabriel. Perhaps I can hold my land ... I'll fight for the property ... I'll do what I can for you."
He repeated his words to himself. They seemed impossibly clumsy; the whole situation was impossible.
Velasco had a letter for Raul. Roberto had gotten word through from Guadalajara. Before Raul opened it and read it, he told Velasco what he had decided, and the doctor nodded approval before returning to the injured, digging with a finger at his goatee.
Yes, the letter from Guadalajara, creased, greasy, lacking a stamp. Who brought it? How did it get here? News from Roberto. He found brandy in the living room and sat down to read but smoke, blowing in from the dining room, sent him to the patio and the fountain. He took the brandy, and sat on the edge of the fountain, smoothed out the letter, hesitant, wanting to reconsider his decision, wanting to pause. That was it. Pause. Hold back. Draw a clean breath.
People kept crossing and recrossing the patio. They stopped before him and questioned him, oblivious of the letter fluttering in his hands. As long as he sat and talked, they felt strengthened. How can I abandon them, all of them, my friends, my servants ... they'll be lost without me! Lost? They want land, houses of their own, freedom.
The smell of his own burning house made him cough.
He turned to the letter again and read:
"I hear that things have been going badly at your hacienda, at most of the haciendas in the Colima area. I am very sorry. When I left you, after the equestrian party, I had hoped for better things. Here we have serious problems, too. But our most serious problem is Angelina. You must come here at once. Angelina is ill, is completely deranged. I am sorry to be so blunt, Raul, but what can I do? I must tell you the truth, however painful to me and you.
"María is ill. That is why Angelina stayed with us awhile, though now she is at Holy Cross Hospital.
"You have to know, too, that Guadalajara has suffered. The San Francisco church has been burned. The bishop's residence has been sacked. There's garbage on the street corners, stacked high. There's no water in our homes, there's no sewage disposal.
"Angelina has felt all of this tragedy. Unfortunately, she saw men hanging from lampposts in the plaza.
"I have taken her to several doctors. They all say she is unbalanced. She's gentle and kind. But she sees a dog, a dog that doesn't exist. It's her illness. She's trapped in fear. I hesitate to tell you this, but she doesn't care to eat.
"Vicente is doing all right; he doesn't know the truth yet. He's with us. His school has closed. He doesn't get about much. It's too dangerous.
"Come when you can, Raul. She asks for you. This has been my first chance to get a letter to you. I hope you understand I have tried to communicate, in various ways. Yours, Roberto."
He filled his brandy glass again, and reread the letter. Sweat had broken out on his forehead; it trickled over the backs of his hands, ran down under his arms. A man stopped to question him but Raul ordered him away, not so much as glancing at him.
He felt Angelina's eyes focused on him accusingly; their luminosity made him get up and leave the patio. Down by the pool, he found the silence he wanted. On a bench he stared at the leaf-dotted water, fighting his sense of nightmare.
Such a letter--at such a time.
Yet he read it once more and began to think of leaving, riding horseback, catching a freight to Guadalajara. Some said freight trains went through, once in a while.
He folded the letter, put it in his pocket, and walked away. He must find Manuel. In his simple, small room, on his bed, leaning against the wall, Raul was able to think straight. To Manuel he explained his decision to give up Petaca. A lamp burned below the old Chiapan hanging ... some old clothes dangled from the wooden peg. The room was quiet. Lamplight brought out Manuel's kind features, his weariness.... How he had aged!
"I want us to eat together and then I'll ride to Colima tonight. I must go to her. You will be in charge here. Save what you can, Manuel."
Raul was glad Manuel did not talk: he wanted the silence, the silence of his room, their silence. He remembered to ask about Manuel's head injury. Then there was the silence again.
"You'll be all right in Guadalajara. You'll be able to reach her," Manuel said, that old bond coming to the fore. "I'll be waiting for you here, or in Colima. I can't eat now, my friend. Go with God, Raul." And he stood up, knowing how hard it was for him to go.
For Raul, it was easier to get to Guadalajara than he had supposed. By the next day he found a freight that carried him and others as well--a slow ride, but not hazardous. They had bad water or no water. Some of the people were ill. At the many stops they got fruit, _tacos_ and tortillas. Those who had money paid; those who had no money begged. Raul made a little corner for himself in an old red boxcar, the splintered floor full of holes. He sat among rich and poor. Since the train seldom moved fast, the heat poured on them and they looked forward to the night. And they arrived in Guadalajara in the small hours of the night, their second day out of Colima.
Guadalajara was filthier and more degraded than Roberto had painted it. Poor Vicente, thought Raul. Poor Angelina. Stinking garbage cluttered nearly every street corner. There were no street lamps. Wild dogs ran about. Barbed wire had been flung over benches and around trees in the plaza. Machine gunners had sandbagged the roofs of the municipal buildings ... buzzards were everywhere. All the way to Roberto's house, along Vallarta, the main street, barricades of cobbles had been erected, topped by wrought-iron benches and smashed grilles and balconies. It was amazing to Raul that the hack driver was able to get through to Roberto's home.
"Not much of a homecoming," said Roberto, "but we're still here."
Vicente danced with joy and yet was troubled by his father's haggard face.
"Papa, isn't it awful the way they've torn up the city?" he said, backing away a little.
"It is. Now for the bathroom. I hope there's water. I want to get cleaned up."
"Is Petaca all right?"
"We're still there," he said, and glanced at Roberto.
When he had washed and rested, Raul left the house with Vicente, for the Holy Cross Hospital on Calle Molière. Hollow eyed and thinner, Vicente did not have much to say as they trudged along. Raul talked horses but Vicente seemed to have forgotten his passion for them. He said he was sorry his school had closed and wondered what his friends were doing in Colima? Was it so bad in Colima?
The sun was streaming into the garden patio of the charming pillared home that had been converted into a hospital by the Sisters of Charity long ago. One of the Sisters asked them to wait in the patio and Raul and Vicente sat on a bench, facing a bed of roses. They said nothing until Angelina came.
She shook hands with Raul, but disregarded Vicente. She was quiet-spoken and aloof. Vicente went gladly into the Mother Superior's office when she beckoned to him. His mother frightened him.
Angelina wore a yellow dress Raul could not remember seeing; when she sat beside him, he saw how much weight she had lost; her face was older, threaded with tiny lines; her eyes could not focus on him but glided away, across the garden, to the tiled roof, then, to her hands.
"Do you like me in black?" she asked. "I think I look my best in black." Her voice called up a hundred sensations in him. "Estelle has come to see me ... she comes often," she whispered. "It's not very easy, but we slip away to the theater, to hear Clavo read his poems.... We go to a play." Her eyes lifted to the roof line. "How are things with you?"
"That's nice. Shall we walk around the patio? It's such a nice place."
Raul took her arm and she did not object.
White and yellow roses were in flower; a pet raven sat on a bench and clicked its bill as they passed; Raul tried to summon wisdom; he wanted to speak of Petaca, but Petaca represented every kind of painful failure and transition. He did not dare mention his father's death.
Wanting to say something, he said, "Father Gabriel's well."
"Yes?" she said. "Is he?"
"He sent his love."
She smiled, and glanced away.
He wanted to explain that Gabriel's leg was all right.
"How is Garcia?" she asked.
"Garcia?" he fumbled, trying hard to place him. "He's fine," he said. He must say something cheerful. Again he tried to place Garcia.
She sat down abruptly on a bench and said, "I'm never going back."
"No," he said, sitting down too.
"I like it here. Everyone's kind to me."
He was speechless--he felt his heart had turned to ice. When had she been so frail?
"Here I see no killings. It's quiet. I can rest. The Sisters are nice to me."
One hand shaking, she reached out and seemed to pat something. Then, with a sharp cry, she got up, swayed, and fled into the hospital, her yellow skirt fluttering.
Back in Colima, Raul and Lucienne took Vicente to his school, where his friends swarmed about him, asking him if it was really true that the revolutionists had taken pot shots at his train as he came from Guadalajara. How he enjoyed being back, gabbling! Raul and Lucienne watched him for a while from the school gate, then walked away.
The sun made a tropical wad of itself and Lucienne and Raul kept on the shady side of the street, where breadfruit and coco palms made walking comfortable. A water cart rocked slowly by, pulled by a donkey.... The sloshing water added to the coolness of the shade. A pleasant street, it curved in a long curve toward the center of town, little homes on both sides with a tree now and then, like a jack-in-the-box, popping out of some patio or garden.
Lucienne wore freshly starched white, loose at the waist and shoulders, and carried a pink, blue-lined parasol. She was bareheaded and he was bareheaded. His white clothes had been made by a poor hacienda tailor, and had had the freshness taken out of them, but he, too, looked comfortable, part of the tropical town.
At La Lonja they decided to have something cool to drink and went inside, through a low, arched doorway. La Lonja had been the seventeenth century home of a French merchant. In the center of the grassy patio stood an ugly statue of a sans-culotte woman, chipped and beaten, discolored by bird droppings, yet wonderfully alive, rising up valiantly out of a huddle of bougainvillaea and honeysuckle.
There were quite a number of Colimans at the tile-topped tables, in the shade of a high wall. Someone greeted Raul, as he and Lucienne walked to the back, away from everyone, and farther from the biting sun.
Raul wiped his forehead.
"Vicente has already forgotten Guadalajara," he said. "Children are lucky."
"We're lucky too, to be here," said Lucienne, settling her parasol against her chair.
The waiter brought menus and filled goblets with ice, chatting a one-sided chatter. While he fussed around the table, Lucienne thought of Raul, his fatigue, his sadness. She thought of Angelina's illness: she could see her yellow dress; she could sense some of the fear that had closed in around her.
"It seemed such a long trip, coming back," he said. The train windows had been open on cornfields, on low rolling hills, on sunny villages. A child had cried for hours, her head in her mother's lap.
"What does she do all the time?" Lucienne asked. She did not have to use her name.
"She stays in her room most of the day. She goes into the patio sometimes. The doctors say she's afraid at night."
"Of the dog?"
"But what does she do?"
"She sits alone ... or talks to the Sisters. They try to favor her." He lit his pipe but let the smoke curl up, with the bowl between his fingers.
"I wish I could help her," Lucienne said.
Yes, he thought, we'd like to help. He wanted to tell her he had bought the Sicre house, transacting the business while in Guadalajara, concluding the sale in Colima. I'll bring the furniture from Petaca, he thought, probably next week. A moment ago, I was speaking of my wife's insanity; now, now I must talk about the house I've bought in Colima. Life cheats us of time to adjust. He gazed at her with a sad, hurt expression.
"I bought the Sicre house. You know where it is, out beyond the hospital, on the right, set back in that old garden."
She smiled reminiscently. "I'm glad," she said.
They ordered chilled _cayumito_ fruit; rum, lime and ice--the waiter standing close to Lucienne, admiring her. A young man, new to Colima, he had already heard of her and her interest in plants.
"I've been told that the Sicre house needs many changes," Raul said, as they waited. "I haven't been inside it for years. Shall we go and see it in a day or two?"
"I remember the garden, as a girl. There's a fountain at the back ... somewhere." She looked at him lovingly, fingering her water glass, recalling those days, so long ago. Her mother had taken her to parties then, and introduced her to young men, wanting her to be popular.
She bent forward and said gently:
"I remember some of the trees in the garden, an old carob, an almond.... One had a split trunk and we used to hide messages inside, love notes too. I remember seeing you there, in the garden...."
Taking her hand away from the glass, he felt the cool of her fingers. He leaned forward and kissed her, tasting her mouth. She gripped his hand, her eyes serious. After all these years, no words were necessary.
* * * * *
In 1910, Mexico was in the throes of revolution. In this painful period of exchanging old values for new, the upheaval was felt everywhere. This is the story of a private revolution--a conflict between father and son whose family estate extends for more than a million acres in the western part of the country. Raul Medina, with liberal ideas he gathered at school in Europe, determines to take over control of the hacienda. His bedridden father, Don Fernando, is among the last of a governing class for whom possession had been a law unto itself. With the support of a vicious servant, Don Fernando inflicts great cruelties on the workers. Raul is able to withstand the opposition of his father, but, from the beginning, his ideals are powerless against the realities of hunger and disease.
Woven into the large scale panorama of Mexican life and landscape is Raul's personal story: the failure of his marriage with Angelique, a delicate city woman who hates and fears hacienda life; his friendship with his loyal aide and servant Manuel; his love for Lucienne, the sole inhabitant of a neighboring plantation, who is strong enough to accept romance along with realities of life.
Along with his narrative skill, the author has lent this novel a great love: love of the land in all its variously colorful details; love of the people, their weaknesses and their strengths, their dreams and their disappointments. This is a novel of haunting significance, published in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
[Illustration: PAUL BARTLETT]
Paul Bartlett is well-acquainted with the country he describes so vividly in _When the Owl Cries_. He has spent over eight years in Mexico, living in desert areas, mountain villages, tropical islands and remote haciendas.
He has had over forty short stories published in magazines such as _Accent, The Kenyon Review, The Literary Review, The Chicago Review_ and _New Story_. Nine of his stories have received honorable mention in Martha Foley's _Best American Short Stories of the Year_. He is a recipient of a Huntington Hartford Writing Fellowship for 1960, has taught creative writing at Georgia State College, and has conducted Writer's Conference Workshops.