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Ch6-G The Rumba

She wore a short, white muslin skirt and a blouse of the same material that was cut like a man’s shirt, but open in the front. A blue silk shawl was wound tightly around her hips and she wore a blue silk cloth of the same material around her neck. A third blue cloth was wound around her forehead, covering her hair, and tied at the back in a knot. The ends of it hung down to the nape of her neck. Her costume was that of a peasant girl, from the vaudeville stage, of course. The dancer carried a little basket in her hand; she made a few practiced movements, that were supposed to indicate that she was coming home from work in the field and that it was very hot. Why the heat should make her feel like dancing was not made very clear – without any plausible reason she decided to do it anyway. She threw her little basket away, pulled off the kerchief around her neck, and fanned herself a couple times with it, as if she was wiping the sweat away, and then threw it after the basket. The Goyita went through this little prologue without much enthusiasm, and with rather stiff movements. But you could understand the meaning of it: it was very hot – that was why she was very lightly dressed, with only a skirt and blouse. And: she wanted to dance.

Then she stepped out into the center, threw a glance to her organ grinder, and waited for the beat.

But suddenly, on a wave from the general, all the officers stood up with him.

“Viva la Goyita!” they cried. They emptied their glasses, and held them high in their hands.

Colonel Pearlstein went up to her, and handed her a full glass. And she took it, drank it down to the last drop.

“Viva Villa!” she answered.

She gave the glass back, and threw a quick glance around her. Stamped her feet, and cried out loud: “Send the women out, General!”

He could understand that! – No, she would not dance the rumba in front of them, not in front of prostitutes!

So the women had to go, out into the garden – had to wait outside.

Only then did she begin.

Slowly, step-by-step, stretching and weaving, but subtle and lithe. Gradually her movements became faster, more sweeping and curving. Ripples passed down both arms and down her entire body, from her throat to the tips of her toes, as if snakes were swiftly gliding down her body. And – in sharp contrast to that, was the motion of her shoulders, short, quick, and strangely angular. This was no dance of the hips or the belly. Not one where you kicked up your legs, lifted your arms over your head and made provoking gestures with the head and hands. Even though all of that played a part, even though she pushed out her belly and pulled it back in, rolled her hips – lifted her arms and legs high in gestures of the tiresome heat, that sought coolness. But their gaze was drawn only toward her shoulders, to her shoulders and her breasts.

Then she danced faster, wilder, twirling, her hands placed solidly on her hips. Her shoulders jerked, flew back and forth, sprang out, then back – one – the other – and again, both. Then it opened – only for a brief moment – her unbuttoned blouse – showed a narrow strip of glowing white flesh, down to her waist.

Then, it wasn’t just the shoulders that were working, no, it was her entire chest. – The stretching became a quick jerking, the weaving and swaying became a fast heaving – it seemed, as if she were dancing with her lungs. Always twisting, ever wilder and faster –

And then it jumped – from out of her blouse with a quick twist of her left shoulder – one of her young breasts. There it was – peering out, for a second – quick, as radiant as the white blouse – then disappeared again. Just as quickly as it had come –

“Ah!” Exclaimed the officers. “Ah, oh!”

She danced on. Again and again. This twitching of her shoulders, this trembling of her breasts – and the undulations of her lower body. Again and again. This stretching that became a quick twitching – this wild jerking that dissolved once more into gentle, voluptuous swaying.

Every eye was on her, expectant, greedy and hungry, waiting for that quick moment, when they would spy one of her white breasts.

“The other one!” They cried hoarsely. “The other one!”

That was the game, that it always looked as if one of her breasts wanted to jump out of the protecting blouse – which then covered it back up, again and again.

“The other one!” They screamed.

And almost at the same time, as if on command – the right breast flew out of the blouse. Laughing, glowing – like cool marble – then hiding once more behind the thin cloth.

Poncho Villa jumped up from his chair, and bent forward. His fat eyes protruded from their sockets, the spittle ran out of his open mouth.

“Las dos!” He bellowed. “Both of them!”

And his people yelled after him: “Las dos! Las dos!”

All of the lecherous lust spread like thick fog through the wide room. It crawled into their noses and mouths, Clawed into their poor brains. These crude warriors, at who’s laughing words, thousands of cheeky prostitutes were prepared to obey, these robbers and bandits, that tore half-grown children away from their mothers and dragged nuns from out of their beds, to whom the flesh of women was as cheep and common as their dirty pulque schnapps – they trembled in reverent excitement over these two breasts. Their fat, hot hands groped after these snowy globes, their dark eyes leered after the white quarry that jumped out and just as quickly hit itself again, their tongues, protruded like those of bulls, thirsting after the sweet drink of those white buds. Their nostrils scented the perfume of cherry blossoms, their ugly ears drank in the dancing music of those white kittens that played hide and seek –

One – quick, quick – and then another – quick, quick –

Frank Braun saw how the lame general Alvaro Gumucio embraced a pillar with both arms, clinging to it, as if he feared to faint. He saw, how Poncho Villa pressed his knees on the shoulder of the soldier, that was couching next to him, pressing him down with the entire weight of his bulk, as if he wanted to squash him.

“Las dos!” Whispered the dictator. “Las dos!”

Colonel Pearlstein, who was standing next to him, had a guarded expression on his face. He was still smiling, critical and slightly mocking – but it seemed frozen, turned to solid stone. And his fists were cramped around the handle of his riding crop, bending it, twisting – as if he wanted to break it.

And it even tore him into the red fog. It was, as if he was breathing in hot lava, as if he would choke in the heat of all this passion. And only distantly – distantly – somewhere in the clouds behind the eternal desert beckoned a white coolness –

White,white – there was white somewhere in the infinite distance – shade and snow – innocence and purity – and – behind the marble and the swans and death’s cold grave clothes – was a release from all this burning torment. There somewhere, in the clouds that covered the moon – that wrapped the white glowing light in a radiant mystery – the great salvation –

Then he saw it – flying past like a shooting star in the November night – a little red strip in the middle of her breasts. A small wound, scarcely a half inch long – and a single drop of blood oozed out of it –

Something whipped him into a frenzy – something pulled him forward –

But he conquered it, clung with both hands to the arms of his chair. Held fast.

One – a glimpse – a glimpse – and then another – a glimpse –

Poncho Villa clenched his fists.

“Las dos!” He pleaded. “Las dos!”

Suddenly, with a jerk, she stopped as the music broke off. She drew herself up to her full height – her proud head flung far back – her deep blue, triumphant gaze over her slaves. She stood, threw her arms back, and then with a wild shudder pulled her shoulders back: and then they sprang out, both at the same time – her young breasts.

– No one laughed, no one said a word. There was only a deep, breathless silence.

Were they weeping? Down on their knees? – All of them?

*  *

*

The Goyita stepped back, threw a shawl over her shoulders, and sat down on her chair next to the organ grinder.

No one applauded; no one scarcely dared to make a move. It appeared as if they were petrified, the way they sat there and stood, spellbound and hypnotized for minutes.

Frank Braun thought: ‘She learned that from the animal trainer! – And she had surpassed her master! She understood how to tame the beast.’

The dancer stood up and slowly walked across the courtyard. Colonel Pearlstein, pushed a chair over for her, and she sat down. She said quietly:

“Give me something to drink. I am thirsty.”

The Colonel filled a glass, and she drank.

“It is your name day today, general – to your health!”

At that Poncho Villa woke up. He reached into the little basket, that the soldier held between his knees, and took out the black leather box, then handed it to her without a word. She took it, opened it, and then said with a smile –

“Am I supposed to shave?”

He was confused, like a schoolboy. He took the chest back, then grabbed the watches, bracelets and earrings that he had bought from the peddler and dropped them into her lap. He also pulled off the fat diamond rings from his fingers and threw them in as well. Colonel Pearlstein took chains and brooches out of his pocket, and also handed her a couple of thick packs of new Villa bills. Then the others all came up, filling her lap with jewelry and gold. But the general reached again into his wallet, and took out two hand fulls of gold pieces, and let them fall into her lap clinking. He laughed, happy at how the gold rang so prettily on the gold.

She called the organ grinder, who brought her purse. She put everything inside, carelessly, without looking.

“Thank you!” she said.

Only once and for everyone.

But it seemed as if the officers were anxious for the dancer to take their gifts. They pressed around, sitting, standing, attentive, like dear children in a circle.

‘These are robbers?’ thought Frank Braun. ‘Murderers and rustlers? – They are sweet little lambs!’

And the beautiful shepherdess held them all with the blue silk ribbon of her eyes.

“Drink!” she laughed. “Drink! Be happy, it is the general’s name day!”

Then they drank. No one thought to call the women back – oh no – the Goyita was here, who had danced the rumba for them. She sat with them; she drank with them, smoked with them, her, the Goyita –

Frank Braun toasted with her.

“Who remains from the circus?” he asked.

She returned his gaze. “Him there!” she answered, pointing at the organ grinder. “Him there – and no one else. – He was one of the stable boys. Now he is almost blind.”

“Blind?” he asked. “From the fever?”

She said: “I don’t know. He lay for a long time in the hospital in San Francisco – when he came out, that’s how he was. Now he travels around with me.” – She looked at him for a long time with her sapphire gaze – it seemed to him, as if a cool, blue water bathed him, washing away all the hot dirt.

“You have helped my priests,” she continued, “You are good, like the captain was. Like all the other Germans on that terrible ship.”
“What happened to the animals?” he interrupted her.

She explained:

“The captain helped me to sell them in San Francisco. Also, the tents and the cages – all of it. I received a lot of money – more than we believed. I have had Masses read for the souls of the director. And for Louison – and for all the others. – Only they didn’t want the tiger and didn’t want the wolf; they were both sick. I nursed them back to health – I had more luck with them than with poor little Louison.”

She spoke quietly and calmly, good-naturedly and indifferently, as if she was speaking of a long forgotten time.

“The tiger was bad tempered and ugly, clawed at me, was treacherous and mean. That’s why I sold him to the general – it is good that the bull conquered him. But the Wolf is thankful and good – he is my loyal animal.”

She told him of the captain of the Thuringia, of the officers and the crew. Told of her excursions in California and Texas, Sonora, and Chihuahua. And how she finally came to General Villa –

No one interrupted her, everyone listened quietly. Frank Braun kept his eyes on her, but it was not her blue eyes, that he sought. It was like a compulsion – he had to stare at her throat, lurking, waiting, to see whether her shawl might move. Because underneath was a small wound with a drop of blood: he must see it –

Finally, she stood up.

Your name day is today, General Villa, I will dance one more dance for you.”

She called to her organ grinder – he had fallen asleep on his chair.

“Leave him alone,” she said, “Don’t wake him up! Who wants to turn the organ?”

They all jumped for it, but tall Dominguez was the first to seize the handle.

She pulled off the light blue blouse, calmly, in front of all the men. She was so calm, so certain of her power over the men.

Frank Braun sharpened his gaze – but where was the little wound?

But this throat, and this bosom was white, blinding white. There was not the slightest red scratch anywhere.

He had dreamed it –

She wrapped a yellow shawl around her body, over her hips, breasts and shoulders. She stood up, and danced a short, simple Ole.

She took the flowers out of her hair, divided them, gave them to everyone. But Poncho Villa received the largest and the most beautiful one. She stepped again to the middle, and said:

“Another one from Sevilla – and then I’m done. – The one, the one they dance in Chipiona – for their Madonna.”

She danced, light footed and happy, bending and swaying softly. And she sang, a simple and naïve little Coppola:

“Morena, Morena eres,
Bendita tu, Morenura!
Que me tienes en la cama
Sin frio ni calentura!”

“Who is Morena?” Asked the general, “the brown haired one, of whom you sing?”

“Who?” She cried. “She is the mother of God, the brown haired mother of God from Chipiona!”

Once again, they raised their glasses, and drank once more to the dancer’s health.

General Villa cried: “I don’t want any more wine. Bring mescal schnapps!”

Frank Braun seized the colonel’s arm.

“Do you have mescal?” he asked. “I have been asking every person in the entire city for it. And no one can find me even a single button!”

The colonel laughed:

“We are not any better! The general is crazy about mescal – like every one of us. It is strongly commanded, that all of it should be delivered here, if we can find any – but no one can find anything, and nothing is ever delivered! What we call mescal schnapps, has nothing of mescal, other than the name – only one fruit in 100 liters of strong alcohol.”

The dancer lightly touched his arm.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Mescal buttons!” he replied. “They are little fruits, from a type of cactus. The Indians call it peyote –”

She said: “I will find you some.”

He looked at her in astonishment. “You? Where?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “But I will find some.”

Then she left. She nodded lightly, and she smiled at those around her. But she didn’t shake hands with anyone.

Behind her went the organ grinder.

*   *
*

The women slowly sneaked back into the court, one after the other. It became loud again, wilder and noisier.

Then more dice throwing, card playing, yelling and singing –

The Saint was gone – and the silent church once more became a whorehouse.

They brought large bottles, thick bellied and heavy, and poured pungent fluid into the glasses, mixing it with wine. There were no corks stuck in the bottlenecks – but brown dried things, like little roots.

Colonel Pearlstein handed him one.

“What is this?” he asked. “But he didn’t try it.

“A finger!” laughed the adjutant. “A dried finger from a Yankee that we shot down at Naco!”

He asked: “Is that the general’s joke?”

“No,” cried Pearlstein, “Colonel Gumucio invented it; he maintains that the schnapps tastes better that way.”

He put one arm under his, “Come, Doctor, we will go. What’s going to happen here now – is not very enjoyable.”

They rode slowly to the city.

“What do you want with the mescal anyway?” asked the Jew.

He answered: “I was just reminded about it. I have not had any for a long time – at least ten years or more. And I thought, perhaps it might help when I have one of these damned attacks.”

Colonel Pearlstein shrugged his shoulders: “I don’t believe in that stuff. But it is true that all the Indians swear by it.”

He pointed with his riding crop to a couple miserable, completely destroyed and burned down walls.

“A large house once stood there,” he said. “It was that of the American consul. They tore it down to the ground.”

“And the consul?” he asked.

“He was lucky. Someone hid him, and helped him to flee – they would have shot him dead, if they had discovered him – so they vented their rage out on the stones. I think the Yankees will be receiving a lot of abuse from us!”

“All of them!” nodded Frank Braun. “Yet even if you shoot dead every single American in this land beginning with the consul  – President Wilson still won’t do anything.”

“Why not?” asked the Colonel.

Frank Braun said: “Pah, you know yourself! Because the Mexicans are supposed to kill themselves! Even more, because that’s the way England wants it – and, you see, colonel, the president and the entire government – and the entire ruling and rich classes in the United States – they make much, much money, when they do what London commands! What you receive in weapons and ammunition, is enough to make each of you dangerous to each other. Yet such shipments serve no purpose for the Yankee – in contrast – he earns one bloody million after the other on war supplies that he sends to Europe – against Germany and Austria, and for Russia and its friends. The war would have ended over there a long time ago, if America didn’t daily send so much to the Allies, as they do every year. That is Yankee land’s greatest business – and as long as that blossoms, they must have peace with you! – Because, you understand, Colonel, if America had to fight with you, they would need those weapons themselves and those munitions: In one blow the shipments overseas would be forbidden. But that would mean Germany’s victory. Only later, when you are entirely weak, will the American give you the mercy stroke from behind – that is when there will be order. But as long as the war lasts in Europe – you will have your beautiful piece; can plunder the consulate and murder Americans to your hearts content! The war, which you need to unite your country, the outside war – can be brought about only one way!”

“How?” asked the adjutant.

“Only one way –” repeated Frank Braun. “If Mexican troops attack Texas or California.”

Colonel Pearlstein didn’t answer, and remained quiet for a long time, became very silent and thoughtful. They rode through the streets without a word. They came to the fonda. Frank Braun climbed down, let his horse be brought to the stall, and shook hands with the adjutant.

“Good night,” he said.

The Colonel shook his hand, then whistled, and stroked the neck of his horse with the riding crop.

He spoke slowly:

“I am an American, was born in New York. I would be with them, riding behind the Star-Spangled Banner today, if they would have had me. They didn’t want me – pushed me away like a leper –”

He gave his animal a quick blow, that frightened it so that it jumped to the side. He corrected it quickly, turned around, and rode away at a trot.

Then he stopped suddenly, turned in the saddle, and cried loudly through the night:

“I will bring Poncho Villa across the border!”

.

They brought the priests back and the nuns with them; the general had them lined up.

“It would give me great pleasure to try out this revolver,” he laughed. He raised the revolver, aimed it for a moment at the head of the first, then suddenly lifted the weapon high and shot into the air.

The old nuns screamed out and fell on their knees, praying out loud. The priests followed their example.

“Shut up, pack,” the general continued. “You are not worth the powder to kill you! Stand up, priests – this man here has paid your ransom! You are free!”

He turned to his adjutant.

“Don Benjamino, see to it, that nothing happens to them! Write out passports for them for their journey to the United States.”

But he had not yet had enough. He called one of the priests over to him and he gave him a cigar. The priest took it, turning it in his trembling fingers.

“Smoke!” commanded the dictator. A soldier held out a burning match for the priest to light his cigar, who then took a couple careful pulls.

“Smoke harder!” cried Poncho Villa. “Inhale and exhale!”

The priest obeyed – sucked as hard as he could, with sucked in cheeks.

Five, six pulls – then the firework exploded with a sharp bang. Frightened, he let the cigar fall, his entire body trembling. His shaking legs threatening to collapse.

Poncho Villa doubled over with laughter.

“Go, go, black gown! And if you get back to Spain, tell your brothers: these are the kind of cigars that they smoke with General Villa.”

Colonel Pearlstein had them led away. But they were not yet out the door, when the dictator called them back.

“Not the nuns,” he bellowed, “not them! He bought the priests, one revolver for each of them. He did not buy the old women – they hang! Out with them!”

Frank Braun cried: “I will buy them too, general.”

“Do you have any more revolvers?” screamed a Villa. “And enough bullets?”

He searched in his suitcase – it was empty. He had only packed six weapons – and he had given away all the toys. The only things left were a couple of books.

“Here, my suitcase –” he offered.

“No!” cried the general. “Give that to Captain Gonzalez, so that he will get your priests safely back to Yankee land. I want revolvers for the nuns, just like for the priests! And if you don’t have anymore – then they must dangle.”

Then the Goyita pressed forward. He had not noticed her the entire time – but now she was suddenly there.

She pushed a couple of officers to the side, and stood right in front of the dictator, drewing herself up to her full height.

She spoke: “I will pay their ransom.”

Poncho Villa screamed at her: “you? – Even if you give me the weight of these stuffed pigs in gold, you won’t get them.”

The Goyita said: “I will dance the rumba.”

The general jumped up. “The rumba? – The nuns are free! Captain Gonzalez – you see to it, that they get through safely and are unharmed.”

The dancer stepped up to the nuns, kissed them, gave each a couple of gold pieces – then came quickly back to the dictator.

“Give me a glass of wine, general,” she said.

Poncho Villa held out champagne to her – she emptied the glass in three quick droughts.

“Another one!” she asked.

Frank Braun gave her his full glass – she thanked him with a small glance, and drank the wine.

“Clear the floor,” she said. “I will get dressed.”

She took her cloths, shoes, castanets, all of the her things in her arms, and went into one of the rooms that led off from the patio.

Once more the officers cleared out a place in the middle, swept it clean of bottles, dirt and paper. Then they all filled their glasses to the brim, and waited.

One, lean, with a heavy mustache, stood next to Frank Braun and looked at him, as if he wanted something, that he did not dare to ask for.

“What do you want?” asked the German.

The Mexican pointed at the leather suitcase with greedy eyes.

“May I have it?” he asked. “The general –”

“Are you Captain Gonzalez?” Frank Braun interrupted him.

The other nodded. The German reached inside, took out the books, and gave him the suitcase, following him to the door.

“Promise me –” he began.

The captain did not let him finish a word.

“I will give them something to eat and to drink, as much as they want – even tonight! I will bring them safely to the border – don’t worry about it.”

He tenderly caressed the beautiful leather suitcase.

“Come on!” He cried to the priests and the nuns.

Frank Braun stepped up to them, gave them Villa gold and American dollar bills. Then he remembered the books, which he held in his hand.

Perhaps – travel guides –

He opened them – no, that is not what they were! – Jacopone da Todi – was one of them. And the other, the thin one, contained the songs of St. Francis and those of his disciples.

“Who can read Latin?” he asked.

One could, the one that had been made to smoke a cigar. He gave him the verses of the Saint of Assisi.

“Is one of you an Italian?”

No, they were all Spanish. But the old mother superior had lived in Rome, and understood both Latin and Italian. He gave her the sweet songs of the man from Todi.

“Don’t forget, mother,” he said, “don’t forget: that these are the pious poems of the one that wrote the Mater Dolorosa as well as the Mater Speciosa. Dolorosa – was the mother of God – who has been with all of you tonight – very tragic! And yet she was also – the Speciosa! And meditate on this: Dolores is the name of the woman, that has made you free, Dolores Echevarria.”

From inside came the sounds of the organ grinder.

“Go with God!” he cried. “Pray for the Catholic priests in this land. And – for the Jews in Russia – the same thing is happening to them over there, as is happening to you here! – And, and, – for the Germans – everywhere in the world!”

He hurried away – and again took his place next to Villa. But the dancer was not yet back – it was only the hand organ playing the wild rhythm of the rumba.

“Congratulations!” The Colonel whispered to him. “That was well done! But I tell you, Doctor – a half year ago Villa would not have set the priests and the nuns free! Not for the shaving kit and not for the revolvers, not for your exploding cigars or for the other toys from the New York five and ten cent store! – Not even for the rumba of the Goyita!”

He handed him a full glass.

“Don’t drink yet – just wait – until the dancer comes,” he continued. “The French revolution is going out of fashion with us – that is what it is! Sometimes the general doubts, whether it really is necessary to kill everyone that wears priestly garments! Did you hear any juicy curses from him, any blasphemies? Nothing – not one word! But a half year ago, he spit them out with every sentence: “Me cago em Dios!” – “Jodo en la Virgen!” – Unflattering filth, such as no one other than him in the entire world can speak! Now it is different, since we have been studying the Prussian King. – I have, God help me, not learned very much, and don’t know whether everything is true, that our Spanish book tells of Frederick the great. That he was a devout atheist – that he believed in nothing – that impressed Villa. But then it said, that despite that, he left all the religions in peace. That he said, that everyone could believe in their own way. In the beginning, the general could not grasp that at all – but it appears that he has gradually come to understand. Because, you see, when we have a book, we all read it at least a dozen times over and over again! The general has to copy somebody – and I believe, that the day is not far away, where everyone can pray in his own way, as he wishes!”

He interrupted himself – the Goyita stepped into the courtyard.

They brought the priests back and the nuns with them; the general had them lined up.

“It would give me great pleasure to try out this revolver,” he laughed. He raised the revolver, aimed it for a moment at the head of the first, then suddenly lifted the weapon high and shot into the air.

The old nuns screamed out and fell on their knees, praying out loud. The priests followed their example.

“Shut up, pack,” the general continued. “You are not worth the powder to kill you! Stand up, priests – this man here has paid your ransom! You are free!”

He turned to his adjutant.

“Don Benjamino, see to it that nothing happens to them! Write out passports for them for their journey to the United States.”

But he had not yet had enough. He called one of the priests over to him and gave him a cigar. The priest took it, turning it in his trembling fingers.

“Smoke!” commanded the dictator. A soldier held out a burning match for the priest to light his cigar, who then took a couple careful pulls.

“Smoke harder!” cried Poncho Villa. “Inhale and exhale!”

The priest obeyed – sucked as hard as he could, with sucked in cheeks.

Five, six pulls – then the firework exploded with a sharp bang. Frightened, he let the cigar fall, his entire body trembling. His shaking legs threatened to collapse.

Poncho Villa doubled over with laughter.

“Go, go, black gown! And if you get back to Spain, tell your brothers: these are the kind of cigars that they smoke with General Villa.”

Colonel Pearlstein had them led away. But they were not yet out the door, when the dictator called them back.

“Not the nuns,” he bellowed, “not them! He bought the priests, one revolver for each of them. He did not buy the old women – they hang! Out with them!”

Frank Braun cried: “I will buy them too, general.”

“Do you have any more revolvers?” yelled Villa. “And enough bullets?”

He searched in his suitcase – it was empty. He had only packed six weapons – and he had given away all the toys. The only things left were a couple of books.

“Here, my suitcase –” he offered.

“No!” cried the general. “Give that to Captain Gonzalez, so that he will get your priests safely back to Yankee land. I want revolvers for the nuns, just like for the priests! And if you don’t have anymore – then they must dangle.”

Then the Goyita pressed forward. He had not noticed her the entire time – but now she was suddenly there.

She pushed a couple of officers to the side, and stood right in front of the dictator, drawing herself up to her full height.

She spoke: “I will pay their ransom.”

Poncho Villa yelled at her: “you? – Even if you gave me the weight of these stuffed pigs in gold, you won’t get them.”

The Goyita said: “I will dance the rumba.”

The general jumped up. “The rumba? – The nuns are free! Captain Gonzalez – you see to it, that they get through safely and are unharmed.”

The dancer stepped up to the nuns, kissed them, gave each a couple of gold pieces – then came quickly back to the dictator.

“Give me a glass of wine, general,” she said.

Poncho Villa held out champagne to her – she emptied the glass in three quick droughts.

“Another one!” she asked.

Frank Braun gave her his full glass – she thanked him with a small glance, and drank the wine.

“Clear the floor,” she said. “I will get dressed.”

She took her clothes, shoes, castanets, all of the her things in her arms, and went into one of the rooms that led off from the patio.

Once more the officers cleared out a place in the middle, swept it clean of bottles, dirt and paper. Then they all filled their glasses to the brim, and waited.

One, lean, with a heavy mustache, stood next to Frank Braun and looked at him, as if he wanted something that he did not dare to ask for.

“What do you want?” asked the German.

The Mexican pointed at the leather suitcase with greedy eyes.

“May I have it?” he asked. “The general –”

“Are you Captain Gonzalez?” Frank Braun interrupted him.

The other nodded. The German reached inside, took out the books, and gave him the suitcase, following him to the door.

“Promise me –” he began.

The captain did not let him finish a word.

“I will give them something to eat and to drink, as much as they want – even tonight! I will bring them safely to the border – don’t worry about it.”

He tenderly caressed the beautiful leather suitcase.

“Come on!” He cried to the priests and the nuns.

Frank Braun stepped up to them, gave them Villa gold and American dollar bills. Then he remembered the books, which he held in his hand.

Perhaps – travel guides –

He opened them – no, that is not what they were! – Jacopone da Todi – was one of them. And the other, the thin one, contained the songs of St. Francis and those of his disciples.

“Who can read Latin?” he asked.

One could, the one that had been made to smoke a cigar. He gave him the verses of the Saint of Assisi.

“Is one of you an Italian?”

No, they were all Spanish. But the old mother superior had lived in Rome, and understood both Latin and Italian. He gave her the sweet songs of the man from Todi.

“Don’t forget, mother,” he said, “don’t forget: that these are the pious poems of the one that wrote the Mater Dolorosa as well as the Mater Speciosa. Dolorosa – was the mother of God – who has been with all of you tonight – much suffering! And yet she was also – the Speciosa! And meditate on this: Dolores is the name of the woman, that has made you free, Dolores Echevarria.”

From inside came the sounds of the organ grinder.

“Go with God!” he cried. “Pray for the Catholic priests in this land. And – for the Jews in Russia – the same thing is happening to them over there, as is happening to you here! – And, and, – for the Germans – everywhere in the world!”

He hurried away – and again took his place next to Villa. But the dancer was not yet back – it was only the hand organ playing the wild rhythm of the rumba.

“Congratulations!” The Colonel whispered to him. “That was well done! But I tell you, Doctor – a half year ago Villa would not have set the priests and the nuns free! Not for the shaving kit and not for the revolvers, not for your exploding cigars or for the other toys from the New York five and ten cent store! – Not even for the rumba of the Goyita!”

He handed him a full glass.

“Don’t drink yet – just wait – until the dancer comes,” he continued. “The French revolution is going out of fashion with us – that is what it is! Sometimes the general doubts whether it is really necessary to kill everyone that wears priestly garments! Did you hear any juicy curses from him, any blasphemies? Nothing – not one word! But a half year ago, he spit them out with every sentence: “Me cago em Dios!” – “Jodo en la Virgen!” – Unflattering filth, such as no one other than him in the entire world can speak! Now it is different, since we have been studying the Prussian King. – I am, God help me, not very well educated, and don’t know whether everything is true, that our Spanish book tells of Frederick the great. That he was a devout atheist – that he believed in nothing – that impressed Villa. But then it said, that despite that, he left all the religions in peace. That he said, that everyone could believe in their own way. In the beginning, the general could not grasp that at all – but it appears that he has gradually come to understand. Because, you see, when we have a book, we all read it at least a dozen times over and over again! The general has to copy somebody – and I believe, that the day is not far away, where everyone can pray in his own way, as he wishes!”

He interrupted himself – the Goyita stepped into the courtyard.

There was a knock on the door and the Yaqui soldier came back with a large leather suitcase. Frank Braun searched for the key, then opened it. The pistols were at the bottom. On top of them, Frank Braun found a heavy black leather case heavily decorated with silver. What was in that? He picked it up and looked at it. Then he remembered, silver toilet articles – everything of hammered silver. It was a present that a gentleman in Cleveland had given to him after a lecture. At the time he had scarcely given it a glance. It was a little shaving kit.

His secretary had packed the damned thing? How lucky – he could not have possibly found a better present for the general. Leaving the revolvers in the bag, he took out the case and stuffed his pockets with other silly, five and ten cent store articles. He went back across the court with the colonel, the box in his arms. When he got back to the patio, the peddler had already closed his deal with the general and was squatting in a corner, putting away his wares. The dictator was playing with the gold trinkets, looking fondly at his fat fingers on which he now wore three heavy rings, set with imitation diamonds.

Frank Braun walked over to him, shook hands, wished him a happy name day, and then gave him his present. Villa did not thank him – he was much too curious to find out what was in the case. He opened it cautiously and took out all the shiny things, one by one. There were three razors of Solinger steel and ivory handles, soap, cups and brushes. Everything could be taken apart and put back together again – that pleased the general very much. There were two mirrors – a hand mirror and a small desk mirror. He looked into that one for a long time. But the main attractions were the small manicure instruments – small files and knives, scissors, small sticks, powder boxes, little spoons – an endless store of wonders. The officers pressed around, just as astonished at the strange things as he was.

“Women!” cried the general. The girls pressed close. “Which of you know what these are?”

They devoured the shiny things with their eyes, trembling with greed and the desire to be allowed to touch them. But one of them pressed forward, proud and puffed up, “I know all of them!”

“You, Concha?” asked the General. “Where did you learn about these things?”

The prostitute said, “I was up in Washington. I went there with Colonel Benitez, the one general Madero sent.”

He allowed her to kneel down beside him.

Oh yes, she knew them all, had studied them well in Yankee land. She took out every little piece, explaining it exactly to him. He carefully laid everything back in its place, not trying to use anything. There was only one thing he could not resist – it was when she explained the ear spoon to him. He took it carefully between his thumb and pointer finger, and used it to easily clean first the left and then the right ear. Then he laughed, very satisfied with the result, cleaned it thoroughly on Concha’s hair and laid it back in the chest.

“Do you know how to use everything?” he asked the prostitute, who eagerly nodded. “Good, then you should come back tomorrow morning, to make my hands beautiful.”

He laughed out loud and stuck his dirty hands in her face, showing her the deep black nails.

The prostitute stood up radiant, smiling. What a stroke of luck – the general’s manicure!

The adjutant bent down to him.

“The Goyita is here, general.”

“Let her come in,” Poncho Villa cried. Then he turned to Frank Braun and offered him a cigarette. “Thank you Caballero, thank you! – Bring us wine, I want to drink with him!”

He offered a full glass to Frank Braun.

“Drink, German, drink! If you want women, pick one out for yourself. If you want a horse, say so and Don Benjamino will give you the best horse we have!”

He waved for a soldier to bring him a basket and some brown paper. He showed his present one more time to his officers, explaining everything himself, magnanimous and proud, deeply knowledgeable. He wrapped up the chest, and laid it in the basket. Then he gave it to the soldier. But he hesitated on whether to send it to his room; finally he ordered the Indian to squat down beside him with the case between his legs. Perhaps he would like to look at it again later.

The space was cleared in the center of the patio and the marble floor was swept clean. The men crowded into the space between the pillars, some of the officers sat on the few available chairs while the rest lay or squatted on the floor. The women had to stand against the walls in the rear.

A hurdy-gurdy man pushed his instrument onto the patio with squeaking wheels, placed himself in a corner between two pillars and immediately started to play. The Goyita followed right behind him.

She stepped into the center of the patio without bowing to her audience, without greeting anyone. She wore a Spanish costume; her hair was coiled high and pinned with a large comb, from which her mantilla hung down, a veil of black lace, that fell down over her shoulders. She wore several red hibiscus blossoms in her dark black hair over her left ear, and one of the same in the middle of her breast.

She had large, beautiful eyes that glowed a deep blue.

“Well, how do you like her?” Pearlstein asked.

Frank Braun looked at her. He knew her – why, certainly. Where had he seen her before?

Then it occurred to him – that was – yes, that was the dancer from the Thuringia, who had nursed little Louison! Then he also knew where Francisco Villa had gotten the Tiger – it had come from the fever ship!

He nodded lightly across at her, and caught her glance. She recognized him right away, but didn’t respond. She treated him like all the others. She waited for the rhythm of the hand organ, and then began to dance.

She danced a madrilena, playing with her little fan. Dignified, proper, a little stiff and boring. It seemed silly – a madrilena here!

But this audience liked it right away; they showered the Goyita with applause.

Then she took the castanets, and danced a rich petenera; again quite tame, graceful and delicate, like the well mannered Fräulein in Toledo and Saragossa.

She laid down the mantilla, pulled out the comb and laid them both on a chair next to her companion, the organ grinder. All her things were lying there, clothes, and shoes. He even saw a riding crop.

La Pegona, he thought.

She put on a hat, a gray felt hat with the stiff brim, a pert Córdoba, like those the men wear in Andalusia. And she selected a large manton, a long, fringed silk shawl of green and yellow with giant, red flowers. Then she returned to the center of the floor.

Then she danced the tango. But not wild and frenzied like the cheeky women in front of their clay huts, in the suburbs of Buenos Aries. It was not a gypsy tango either, like those, the Andalusian prostitutes danced in their cuadros, swinging their behind’s and lifting their skirts. No, it was very measured, proud, and reserved. Almost moral – ad usum Delphini!

She threw the hat away, and took up a white manton. Then she danced the seguidialla, then the soleares. Finally, with a very beautiful old cloth of deepest violet she danced a malaguena. And always with the clicking castanets.

Family dances, he thought. Exactly like the high society girls danced in Granada, in Jaen and Sevilla. Those, those who were educated in cloisters, who could converse in French and play the piano badly, who were never allowed out on the streets alone and in the evenings  and received their lovers at the ugly, narrow barred windows that separated them from love through long years, until the priest spoke the necessary blessings in the church. She danced gracefully, very competently and  dignified.

She stepped back, sat down on her chair. Immediately she was surrounded by officers, who held out their glasses to her. But she shook her head, and didn’t drink a drop.

“The rumba!” cried Poncho Villa. “Dance the rumba!” And the others took it up, all  shouting, that she should dance the rumba.

“No,” spoke the Goyita. And not another word.

She pulled off the high-heeled shoes, and put on spargatten, peasant shoes of canvas made with hemp soles. Nothing else. No hat and no mantilla, no comb, nor shawl, nor castanets.

That was how she danced the quick Aragonese jota. Oh yes, there was blood in that – now she showed some of her slender legs in quick movements.

The officers could not get enough, wanted more, always more. And ever again, they demanded her to dance the rumba. But this Frau remained firm. She put her high-heeled shoes back on, and danced the faruca, sensuous like a gypsy, swinging her hips –, no, that was not for high society. She danced the garrotin with her feet drumming and stamping, mimicking the movements of the toreros. And then, raising her skirts, and letting them fall, the provocative buleria.

“The rumba!” shouted the officers, excited, and aroused. “The rumba!”

“No!” She said again.

In a skirt with a long train. She danced the Flamenco of the Gaditanian prostitutes, the lapateao, and por alegrias, twirling and cheeky. She also danced the common Mariana, rolling her hips, throwing her buttocks, twisting and rolling her stomach, while the motions of her hands invited in shameless gestures.

Villa called out to her: “dance the rumba for me!”

He couldn’t stand that all the officers were standing around her, while he was sitting there alone. He fought with himself, he really wanted to jump up, and joined them. But he wanted to show, that he was different – not to his generals, – only to the dancer.

“Dance the rumba for me,” he cried, “only for me!”

Abruptly the Goyita stood up, going forward a few steps, the officers made room for her, crowding to the sides. She took another poll on her cigarette, then threw it away. With both hands. She put on the manton, and lifted her head high.

“No!” She cried at him. “Not for you, and not for anyone! – You are all drunk tonight – all of you!”

She walked diagonally across the patio, like a princess, and no one dared to stop her.

Poncho Villa fumed with rage – and yet he laughed – enjoyed himself – happy that at least he had held back, and not thrown himself at her like the others.

“You are like a bunch of horny tomcats,” he bellowed. “You are like a bunch of dogs,” he shouted, “running after a bitch in heat!”

They all laughed heartily, and only one old man replied – the crippled, ugly Alvaro Gomucio, who was lame in his left leg.

He cried: “you’re only half right, poncho Villa! –”La Goyita is not in heat!”

Again, they roared with laughter, filled their glasses and rinsed their hoarse throats with champagne.

*   *
*

An officer came into the courtyard, stood in front of Villa and saluted.

“Gonzalez as outside,” he announced. “He brought the prisoners from Bonanza.”

“Bring them in!” Commanded the general.

Don Benjamino muttered: “Oh No! this will go bad for them.”

A couple of officers and soldiers came in, covered from head to toe with the yellow brown dust and dirt; looking at them. You could see that they had come from a hard ride. They pushed their prisoners in front of them, who could scarcely stand on their trembling legs, pushed forward with stone clubs and saber sheaths.

There were nine, six men and three women.

“Priests and nuns!” the Colonel whispered to Frank Braun. “Look – the garb of the women was once nun’s clothing, before they became so tattered and torn and ruined by dirt and blood. And the fellows – do you recognize their tonsures? Now pay attention: now we’re going to play the French revolution.”

“What do you mean?” asked the German.

“In our book –” the adjutant continued, “in the book about the great revolution, that the general has had read to him at least a dozen times, it says that the Jacobites hated the priests. That they stormed the cloisters and raped the nuns. And that they hung all the men of the priesthood on the streetlights. We don’t have any streetlights – but we can hang them, just as well as the French.”

He explained to him, that a couple days ago, the general had given orders to pillage the convent of the Sisters of Good Hearts at Bonanza; there had been a rumor that a few priests had escaped and were being hidden by the nuns at this convent.

“I see the priests,” Frank Braun said, “but where are the nuns?”

Again Colonel Pearlstein laughed: “Oh, it was just a small convent – there couldn’t have been more than a dozen sisters there. How many are here? Three? Well, then the other nine are soldier prostitutes today! That happens quickly with us. You see, every troop receives the command to seize and bring to headquarters everyone who doesn’t put up armed resistance or try to escape. Only, if they try to flee – they are shot. But it is strange: it is always the sisters that are still tolerably pleasing, that always attempt to flee, always attempt armed resistance. We only get the old fossils at headquarters – to interrogate.”

“And the general is not jealous?” asked Frank Braun. “Not angry that his rascals only bring the old flesh and devour the tender themselves?”

“No,” said the Colonel, “decidedly not. Because he knows, that the young nuns would have already gone through twenty hands before they were delivered to him – that is no different than with our women. And then, you see, there is one other thing about the nuns. Earlier, the general himself pillaged many convents – and well knows the difference. He has long-lost the taste for that sort of thing – they are not good in bed. I believe, he would give all the sisters in the world for a single kiss from la Goyita.”

Captain Gonzalez made his report. There were the priests; the seventh, an eighty-year-old man, had collapsed, half dead on the way: they had left him lying there. Of the nuns, four had put up armed resistance, and five had attempted to flee: they had been shot down.

“Hopefully, you scored a bull’s-eye!” roared Villa. And he laughed aloud, like all the others, over his glorious joke.

He bellowed at the priests. “You have spied, you dogs, for general Carranza!”

One attempted to speak, a couple of broken words came painfully from his trembling lips.

The Poncho Villa interrupted him: “Shut up!”

He waved with his hand, then grabbed his glass, allowed it to be filled.
He shouted at the nuns, crying: “Can you dance the rumba?”

The old sisters stared at him – why was he asking that? But he scarcely looked at them, and hissed contemptuous: “Away!”

‘So this is how they do court-martial’s here!’ thought Frank Braun. ‘A single: shoot the dog! That’s all – then they place them against the wall. The Jacobites couldn’t have done it better! Why bother with hearings, with judges and witnesses and lawyers? They have tonsures, are priests – shoot them dead!

He went to the adjutant.

“Keep the people here, only for a minute!” he asked.

“What do you want?” asked the Colonel.

He replied: “Only for a minute!”

‘Like the Yankee press,’ he thought, ‘exactly like that! – They write: Germans! They are barbarians, Huns, betrayers, terrorists, robbers and child murderers! Kill them dead! Like the disciples, just like that! Jews, they screech, Jews, those that crucified the Lord, spilled the blood of the Christ child – kill them dead! –

He was a leper, the German, like the others – like the Jews, like the Catholic priests: so their fates were forged together.

He considered, then looked over at the general. He was uncommonly ugly, with protruding cheekbones and huge ears. Hairy from his neck down and with long hairy arms, with wild flickering eyes, that were even suspicious of themselves. The short nose was smashed in, the giant mouth below it was full of large snow white teeth, that glowed brightly from out of lips, which were much too short. And he ground them, ground them together, like a tiger –

But then the general struck the soldier that was squatting next to him lightly over the head. He took the leather case, opened it, and began to play with the mirrors and little spoons –

He thought: no – he is not a Tiger ! He is a gorilla, that is playing at being a Tiger.

He stepped up close to him.

“General,” he said. “You have promised me a horse. I have a good one – and don’t need a second one right now. Would you grant me a different wish?”

“What do you want?” asked the dictator.

“Release the priests for me,” he asked.

The general furoughed his brow; then he continued: “Not for nothing, general! I will give you a revolver for each one!” He turned around and asked the adjutant to bring his suitcase over to him.

Poncho Villa laughed. “A revolver for each priest?”

He considered.

“And I will give you five boxes of bullets with each weapon – 250 bullets!”

“You are making a very bad bargain,” cried the general. “All of them together are not worth a bullet.”

They brought him the suitcase, and he opened it, took out a box with wooden matches that would not light, and gave them to the general. Then a box of exploding cigars, a couple Jack-in-the-Boxes, pretty little toys. He emptied the suitcase, giving the general all of the cheap playthings.

An entire Christmas assortment for all kinds of children!

Poncho Villa forgot everything else in a moment. He watched as Frank Braun explained the childish pranks to him, meanwhile, sending the officers over to the other side so they couldn’t see. Then he tested the playthings himself, one after the other, calling the general’s back, then waving the women up, giving them the little things – pounding his knees with pleasure, when they fell for it.

Once more Frank Braun repeated, “Do I get the priests, general?”

“Where are the weapons?” Poncho Villa replied.

He took them out, piece by piece, and laid them on the floor alongside the boxes of bullets. The general took a revolver, and examined it carefully, feeling it.

Bring the priests!” he commanded.

He leaned forward, pushed his head up, and whispered, “We received champagne last night, 100 cases of it. And I christened him with the first glass of the first bottle.”

“You christened him?” asked Frank Braun in astonishment.

“Yes,” nodded the Jew. “Yes, I did! They christen steamers, airplanes, zeppelins, don’t they, and with champagne – why not a bull? And what a christening it was! I had a lot of fun – and it was a little complement to you!”

“What’s his name, then?” he asked.

“Just wait,” cried Don Benjamino. “First, we must see him – then we can talk about it!”

He turned impatiently to the back, and commanded the soldiers: “Give the signal – the signal!”

Then, in the same moment, as the trumpet blew, the gate flew open. And out stepped an immense bull. He came out with a calm, solid step – stood there, lifted his head, breathed deeply, and let his eyes get accustomed to the bright light.

“How do you like him?” asked Pearlstein. “And now tell me, what’s his name?”

Frank Braun looked at him closely. It was a majestic animal with wonderful horns that were sharp and bowed to the front, into the air and not to the sides. Then he threw his head up, easily and quickly; his neck was strong, his legs were sturdy, his breast was wide. He was spotted black and white, and in between showed little, rust red spots.

“Well, what’s his name?” urged the colonel. “Don’t you know it? – The colors! The colors! I christened him Aleman”.

On the side where the women sat a piece of colored cloth fell over the balustrade and down into the arena. A soldier jumped across the plank to pick it up, but the bull roared as soon as he saw him, as if to say: “This place belongs to me!” He rushed toward the intruder who quickly climbed back with the cloth. But this bull did not crash against the planks in a clumsy attack; he lifted his horns in the midst of his charge, and with a powerful jump soared over the man tall boards of the six-foot fence. Then he ran around in the narrow corridor, chasing everyone in front of him – soldiers, bullfighters, and cowboys, who ran for their lives. The chase went around the arena in the narrow corridor of planks, until, under the dictator’s box, one of the bullfighters closed the door, which shut off the courtyard door and at the same time opened a new gate into the arena. The bull rushed out into the arena and again stood in the sand, which he claimed as his domain.

Then, in the middle of the giant arena – he noticed the tiger. He did not rush at his opponent, like a wild storm wind. He walked forward calmly, step-by-step, his head half lowered to the ground, his eyes on the tiger, sharp horns pointing straight forward. 10 feet from the big cat he stopped.

Again, the tiger crouched, ready for the charge – again, the two beasts eyed each other suspiciously. Then the bull took aim, backed up a few steps for a start, and charged at the tiger. But the cat seemed to have foreseen this and jumped aside, immediately crouching down again – and then leaped forward. In the next instant the cat sat on the bull’s back, it’s powerful claws thrusting deeply into the bull’s body. But this only lasted for an instant – the next second, the two beasts were apart again. There was too much power on both sides – and the cat had apparently miscalculated the distance. Even his strong claws could not maintain their grip on the bull’s back, even though they toured deeply into the flesh, making the red blood gush forth in a torrent and then – then the blood christened him – better than the champagne – then he really glowed in the evening sun and the three colors of Germany.

Frank Braun threw a quick look at Colonel Pearlstein. The colors of the Lewis! He thought.

The bull, having shaken off his enemy, whirled around to face him, and shaking his enormous head back and forth, roared with pain. Then, in a quick decision once more rushed at the cat, which had not expected this new attack to be carried out with such lightning speed. The cat bounded aside, barely escaping the full force of the powerful horns, but was not fast enough. The bull’s horns caught him a glancing blow above the left hind leg. Not with the points, but with the side. And so much power was behind the thrust that it knocked the beast down and rolled him over in the sand. The bull stopped with a jerk, turned in a quarter of a second, and attacked again. But then the tiger also seized the moment, and sprang – hung on to the head of the bull – dug its mighty claws deep into the bull’s neck. The bull shook him off with two or three quick movements, instantly regaining his balance, and attacked again in a fraction of a second. Then his horns caught the huge cat before it actually touched the ground and threw him skyward like a ball. Then he lowered his powerful head and charged again. His sharp weapons caught the cat’s thigh and once more sent him sailing through the air. And then it was as if he played tennis with the giant cat. Wherever it fell, he picked it up with his terrible horns, and threw it high again and again over the sand.

Several times the tiger tried to regain his feet and crawl to safety – in vain. Cornered, he fought on, and often his claws gored. But the pain only seemed to make the proud bull stronger and wilder – his attacks grew ever more vicious as he thrust his daggers deeper and deeper, lifting the cat and pushing it toward the fence. And there he made his final attack – with both his horns. He nailed the dying Tiger to the boards.

Then he tore himself loose and trotted slowly to the center of the arena. In the last rays of the sinking sun, he rested from his victory, panting, bellowing triumphantly, wrapped in the red cloak of his own blood.

The crowd applauded; they screamed and yelled, half crazy in wild enthusiasm, in honor of the bull. They threw their hats into the arena, their coats, wraps, and shawls. They stood on the benches, stamping their feet, waving their arms and shouting:

“Bravo El Toro! Bravo El Toro!”

One man with the piercing voice of a castrate shrieked:

“Viva bravo Toro!”

The crowd took it up, 10,000 people shrieking in unison:

“Viva El Toro! Viva El Toro!”

Poncho Villa had also jumped to his feet and shouted with the rest. All at once he yelled into the arena:

“Viva la Goyita!”

Frank Braun asked, “why does he honor the dancer?”

The colonel whispered, “because it is she who –”

He interrupted himself as the general beckoned him to his side. Poncho Villa reached into a big leather pouch that hung at the left side of his belt, next to his saber hilt, opened it and took out a fistful of gold coins, all shiny new American $20 gold pieces.

“Take this colonel!” The dictator said, “count out 100, and send them to la Goyita!”

The colonel did so, tied the money in his handkerchief and sent three soldiers with it to the Spanish dancer.

For the last time that afternoon the gates on the east side opened. Cows came into the arena, red, white, and dun colored. Tinkling bells were tied to their necks and they were all decorated with ribbons and garlands of flowers; behind them, the chulos drove their quadriga of mules into the arena. The bull cast a quick glance at the four mules in their brightly colored harness and the red blouses of the drivers, and turned contemptuously away – no, that was not for him! The chulos tied the tiger’s tail to their ropes and whipped up their mules, shouting and waving. The mules dragged the dead beast around the arena at a fast gallop.

In the meantime, the cows surrounded the blood bedecked victor, pushing and crowding close to him. One, a beautiful, snowy white animal, put her pink snout against his neck and gently, almost tenderly, licked the red blood. He lifted his head over hers and licked her, just once, shyly and quickly, between her eyes and her forehead. And for a third time, the musicians struck up the Royal March of the Prussian King – but this time in honor of the proud, victorious bull.

This time the crowd did not make any jokes about women and cows and petticoats. They watched reverently, in silence and admiration.

That was the last number in the great games given in honor of general Villa at Torreon. But after the bull and his cows had disappeared behind the gates, one more shout arose from the stands, a wild, ringing shout in which the whole crowd joined in.

“Viva Villa!”

About 10 o’clock that night, Colonel Pearlstein knocked at Frank Braun’s door with the silver handle of his riding crop.

“Come along, Doctor,” he urged. “It’s time now!”

The horses were already saddled and waiting in front of the Fonda. They climbed into the saddles.

“The party is in full swing at Villa’s garden!”

The Jew laughed as they were riding over to the general’s quarters.

“They have eaten all the food and drunk all the pulque they want. Now the champagne corks are popping and Villa drinks with his generals in the patio; they’re waiting for la Goyita!”

They rode through the streets of the suburbs. Everything was brightly lit and from every house came the shouts of soldiers and the shrill voices of women.

“The men were paid today – their wages for three months. The money just got off the printing press; it arrived, with the champagne yesterday.”

“American money?”

“No, not this time,” the colonel said. “Our own! Here, take some!”

He pulled out a roll of bills from his pocket and handed it to Frank Braun – there were 500 bills of 100 pesos each. The bank notes were made of the cheapest paper, poorly printed with the childish signature: Francisco Villa. Frank Brown handed back the roll, but the colonel refused it.

“No, no, keep it!” he said. “From tomorrow on it will be legal currency – you can’t use anything else. Otherwise, of course, it has no value whatsoever – it’s just paper of which we can print as much as we like: Villa money!”

“Do the people take it?”

“They’ve got to take it. What other choice do they have?” replied the adjutant. “Didn’t the people take Assignat’s? That is where Villa got the idea – from his book about the French Revolution. We copy it in all details. Madero started that – then Carranza followed his example, and all the others – but most of all Villa. Zapata’s the only one who doesn’t do it – he plugs along in his own fashion. He probably doesn’t know there ever was such a thing as the French Revolution.”

In the gardens. The soldiers lay on the ground. They drank and gambled, smoked and sang, told crude stories, and crept behind the bushes with their harlots, emitting obscene bellows, shameless and brutal. Now and then one would hear the whining sound of a badly tuned arpa and would see them dance the national Jarabe Tapatio with clumsy steps. Or the women would dance the mitote alone, the warrior dance. In one place they were gambling for a wench who stood by and laughed. They dealt out the dirty cards: siete y media. At another place they rolled dice on an old drum for a woman. In front of some house they were taking chances in a lottery – for another woman-the prize. Oh, yes, it was truly a celebration – Villa’s great celebration.

They climbed down from the horses and stepped into the house. They walked through the house into the patio, into the open, square courtyard which the Mexicans had decorated with naïve taste as a ballroom. Mattresses wrapped in colored cloth were spread upon the floor of the colonnades, with a few wicker chairs and old rocking chairs arranged between them. Garlands of leaves with red, yellow, and blue paper flowers were strung between the pillars. Carbide lamps were hung high up on the walls, casting a bright, glaring light on the scene, and underneath the gallery dangled a couple of dim Chinese lanterns.

Here Villa was drinking with his generals and colonels – and with painted, half naked women. It was exactly the same picture as outside in the garden – here too, the men stood and sat and squatted on the floor, smoking, drinking, singing, making lewd remarks, and pinching the women on their buttocks or reaching for their breasts. To be sure, their uniforms were not quite as ragged and they all wore new leather chaps of American make. Nor were they quite drunk enough to simply throw themselves on the floor with the harlots; only occasionally would a man slap a woman on her rear and she would follow him laughingly into the house. Perhaps the girl were slightly younger, and better merchandise than the flesh that was offered to the soldiers. But the main thing was that here, they drank champagne – Goulet, Roderer, and Montebello – cold on ice as it should be. That is how you could tell they were gentlemen.

“Don’t you have anything you could give the general for a birthday present?” The colonel asked in a low voice. “It would flatter him.”

Frank Braun felt in his pockets; but they were empty. There was the little knife in his shirt pocket – but what good would that be to Villa, for whom every knife had to have at least the length of a good machete! Dammit, why hadn’t he thought of something!

Then he remembered the revolvers that his secretary had packed for him.

“I will ride back for them,” he said.

“Don’t bother,” the colonel said. “I will send one of my Yaquis. You can trust him. Give him your room key – and tell him what to bring.”

Frank Braun tried to give detailed instructions – then he decided it would be better to have the entire bag brought over. He described where the bag was – on a broken chair, at the side of the bed.

The colonel nodded, beckoned to one of the soldiers and gave him the key.

“Come along with me,” he said then. “In the meantime, we will have a glass of champagne in my room.”

They turned to go. Frank Braun quickly looked back to see whether the general had noticed them. Villa sat on his chair with a glass in his hand while a peddler squatted on the floor in front of him, displaying jewelry from a large wooden box – necklaces, earrings, bracelets – and wide gold rings with flashy stones – for the general’s fat fingers.

And then came Vasquez’s great feat, which no one in all Mexico could duplicate.

A huge, powerful bull with yellow spots on his dirty white hide was let into the arena and instantly turned in a vicious charge against the riders—who nimbly evaded him. The horses themselves seemed to be taking part in this game, unafraid of the deadly horns, trusting to their superior speed. They quietly stood and waited, pawing the sand, letting the bull come close; and then, at the last moment, quickly leaping aside. Several times even the riders were in the path of the attacking bull. But not once did the horns touch the body of a horse.

Then at a wave from Vasquez the riders collected in the center of the ring, turning the bull and surrounding him on all sides.  He attacked them left and right, roaring, tossing his head into the air, charging about the sand in impotent rage against these enemies whom he could not catch. Then the riders began to shout at him and their yells were taken up by the thousands of spectators. As the bull raised his head, surprised at this noise, looking around the arena, one of the Mexicans rode up to him and dealt him a blow with his long whip. The bull leaped forward and buried his sharp horns in the sand. On all sides the whips whirred through the air, hissing and cracking and crashing.

And then—suddenly—the courage of the powerful beast broke—he fled, ran through the sand. And after him surged a storm of whips, whizzing, swishing, cracking, whirring through the air. Soon it was the same chase along the fence as they had done before with the horses—hoy! Hoy! And corre! Corre!

Again four riders fell back and again the Arabian mare galloped alone up to the bull. She was a few hundred yards behind him, galloping at full pace, her head stretched forward—one straight line from the nostrils to the tip of her magnificent tail. Her legs were stretched out so that her sides seemed to be touching the sand that she kicked up with her hoofs. Vasquez sat in the saddle with his legs dangling, but with his head and torso bent forward.

The mare came nearer and nearer. Then her nostrils were close to his tail, and then her neck was against the bull’s flanks—then her body tight against his. With a sudden jerk, Vasquez lifted himself in the saddle; turned, bent back—both his hands reached out and held fast.

The mare shot ahead—as her master held tight to the tail of the animal—which he had seized, which he held—for just a moment, but long enough to wheel the powerful beast around, to throw it down and out into the arena.

The bull fell, flipped over and rolled; this enormous animal that weighed over three hundred and fifty kilos. Brought down by its tail, by two human hands!

That was Vasquez Cabrera’s masterpiece.

But that was not yet the end. The bull stood up again; the riders chased him again, lassoed him, threw him to the ground and tied all four feet together. Then one rider climbed down, tied a thin cord around the body of the animal, around the neck, right behind the forelegs. Then Vasquez climbed down from his mare, hobbled through the sand, awkward and clumsy. He bent forward, put his right leg over the bull’s body, and grabbed the rope with both hands. Then he waited, while the others loosened their lassoes.

The bull was freed and stood back up in a second. But a rider sat on his back.

That was unbearable—who in the world rode on a bull? The animal hesitated, stood still for long minutes, appeared to be considering it. Then a strong tremor ran through his hide that would by itself have thrown a man off. But Vasquez didn’t move.

Then it began. The proud bull did like the mustangs did, jumped up high on all four legs. He jumped, fell to the ground, rolled around—but when he stood back up, the rider once more was sitting on top. He reared up on his hind legs, stood there, whirled—but this rider didn’t slide off, his fingers held fast to the taut rope. Then, quickly, the bull leaped forward, kicked his hind legs into the air, drilled his horns into the sand—ah, it looked as if he was standing on his head. But Vasquez remained on top, his arm swinging, his feet stretched out to the animal’s ears, lying along the powerful back.

That was his last attempt. The bull remained standing quietly, pawing, bellowing, moaning, melancholy, then began walking, obeying the pressure from the heels of his master. Through the wide sand, back and forth, like a charming pony.

So rode Vasquez Cabrera.

“Is he a Yaqui?” Frank Braun asked, through the tumultuous applause and cheers.

The adjutant answered, “No, the Yaquis can’t do that, they are a mountain people. Vasquez is a Mayan from Yucatan. He is not one of us; he just came up from the south for the day. Three weeks ago he worked with his men in Jalapa, for Carranza. He does not perform often—only a few times a year—and at very high prices. But he performs everywhere—in front of friends and enemies—whoever is willing to pay his prices: he is the only man whom nobody in all Mexico would harm.”

Again he waved his handkerchief and the band played the Spanish Royal March for a second time. And to the strains of this march, the Goyita strode into the ring.

Frank Braun had often seen similar performances, on farms and ranches in Texas and Coahuila. He had seen it done in more refined ways, more elaborately, but less colorfully, and cheapened, on all kinds of vaudeville stages; the rope-throwing of the cowboys and vaqueros. But it looked so much gayer here in this colorful rodeo, even though her fringed leather skirt smacked of vaudeville, and the ugly brown veil made her head appear like a large wooden egg. She went through the whole series, throwing circles, ovals and spirals, tracing quick figures in the air and in the sand. Then she swung her arms over her head and threw the whirring rope about her like a wide cloak.

She made one of the Mexicans ride through the arena and threw her lasso at fifty meters, tearing him from the saddle. She let another man stand at a considerable distance from her and tied him securely and expertly by throwing her rope around his legs, the right wrist, then the left, over the arms, chest and finally the throat—she tied him up from a distance with nothing but a single rope.

Finally she took the bola—which was new in this part of the country. It was the weapon of the Argentine gauchos—three short ropes, tied together on one end, with heavy lead balls attached to the free ends. She ordered a couple of mustangs and bulls driven into the arena and threw her bola—three times as far as the vaqueros could throw their lassos. The bola whizzed through the air like a wild rocket, caught the galloping animals by the neck and legs and threw them to the ground. The vaqueros rode over, loosened the bola and felt the bones of the frightened animals to see whether the lead weights had broken anything. No, no, the animals were unharmed—that was the trick. But the vaqueros gravely shook their heads; the lasso seemed much safer. The bola could be thrown further, that was true—but what did they have their good horses for?

She performed another number for them. A gray wolf jumped over the fence, and ran right up to her in long leaps—then she had it jump through hoops. It was a very large and beautiful animal, slim and fleet, with a sleek, with well-groomed fur. Frank Braun wondered where she could have got him, since American wolves were not nearly as big.—then an unsaddled horse was brought in. She carefully powdered the soles of her boots, jumped upon the bare back and put the horse into an easy gallop. She rode around, followed by her wolf. She skillfully stood up, stood on the back of the horse, and then jumped through open and paper covered hoops held up before her, while the wolf ran in a serpentine motion between the horse’s hoofs. She also jumped rope on back of the horse.

All this was the common performance of an equestrienne—but then she herself took up one of the hoops, held it high in the air and whistled to her wolf. He took a short start and jumped in one magnificent high leap over the horse, over the dancer and through the middle of the hoop. A beautiful leap.

Then another and another—finally the wolf jumped up to her and stood with her on the horse’s back. Enthusiastic applause followed her as she rode out of the arena just like it had for all the others.

“Doesn’t she dance?” Frank Braun asked.

“Here, in the sand?” Perlstein retorted. “No, she will dance tonight in the General’s quarters! But now comes the main attraction—Villa’s gift to his army.”

The performers had left and the sand was empty. Only the chulos sprinkled water on the sand, smoothed and leveled it out. Then a bugle call—and a quad Riga of mules was driven into the arena. They pulled in a heavy cage mounted on a platform with small wooden wheels; it was covered on all sides with heavy canvas. The chulos placed it exactly in the center of the arena and one of the red shirted fellows reached under the canvas—you could see that he was drawing back a bolt. Then the men jumped aside quickly and ran with their mules head over heels to the sunny side of the arena.

There was a breathless pause of expectation in the great amphitheater—what was in the cage? It must be something dangerous—and Frank Braun noticed that all around the arena soldiers were posted ten yards apart, aiming their rifles over the red boards at the covered cage.

Nothing, nothing, for long minutes nothing.

Then slowly, painfully slowly, the canvas moved. That was not the wind—no, something pushed and stirred beneath it. A yellow paw appeared, and behind it a round whiskered head—oh, a tiger, a tiger!

The animal crept slowly out from under the canvas, lifting it carefully and deliberately, walking forward step by step—

What an animal! Who of all the thousands in the rodeo had ever seen anything like it?

They did not shout—not even the women screamed. They opened their eyes and mouths wide, and stared—fascinated, almost dazzled by the wild beast.

Again a bugle call—and a black bull rushed into the arena. Straight to the center of the ring, heading for the heavy cage—which he knocked over with a single thrust of his powerful horns. The tiger leaped aside—just one leap—then crouched down, ready to attack.

Then the bull caught sight of his opponent and again lowered his horns menacingly—it looked as if he were going to rush at the tiger instantly. But he hesitated, lifted his head slowly and pawed the ground with his forelegs, throwing up the sand behind him.

The two beasts stared at each other.

Both were creatures of attack; the strength of one lay in the leap, that of the other in the thrust. But the bull was the one the crowd knew; he was their symbol of strength and wild courage—he had to begin the attack.

Both seemed to be measuring each other’s strength—the big cat quietly, crouching and waiting—the bull impatient, almost nervous. Whenever the bull stamped the ground, raising and lowering his head, the tiger answered with a warning, ominous snarl—deep and rumbling.

They stood eye to eye—uncertain—

“Cowardly bull!” the Dictator hissed. But the crowd still waited; there was not a sound in the amphitheater—there was only the oppressive, almost suffocating silence.

Then gradually the black bull turned his head and slowly walked away, step by step—never taking his eyes off the beast in the sand. He raised his horns and trotted over to the fence.

One shout, one tremendous shout of ten thousand voices rose up: “Cowardly bull!”

The General’s aide waved his handkerchief. The gates of the arena were opened—two white cows with tinkling bells were let in. Scarcely noticing the tiger, walking along the side, calmly and determinedly they made straight for the bull. One on each side, they led him gently and quietly back to the stall.

 

The Indians shook with laughter. Their anger at the cowardly bull was gone in an instant—they saw only this amusing picture.

“Las mujeres!” they screamed. “He loves women, and petticoats!”

Pithy jokes flew over to the rows where the prostitutes were sitting, silly, pointed, crude and brutal, all greeted with screams of delight from the women. They bowed, rolling with laughter, proud and flattered in their role, which they now played: Fat cows leading the strong bull to the stall. Over there—

Afternoon shadows had begun to fall over the arena. The sun sank lower and lower. And in the twilight, in the middle of the sand, lay the powerful tiger. No one was paying any attention to the tiger who slowly got to his feet, turned around in a circle and quietly lay down again.

Once more Colonel Perlstein took out his handkerchief.

“I thought so!” he cried gaily. “The cowboys picked out a splendid bull—he was the most peaceful one in the whole herd; besides, he was blind in the left eye, lazy and a coward. He played his role beautifully—better than I could have possibly expected!”

He waved his cloth high in the air—a bugle signal answered.

“But now watch!” he continued; “Now we will have a different kind of bull!”

Ch6-B The Games Begin

Then he was finished. Still a little washing, drying, rubbing—powder, bluish-white powder in large amounts. And two glasses of agave schnapps. Then he threw the key into the sand.

Painfully the bowlegged, black dressed Alguacil crawled down from his horse and picked up the key, climbed back into the saddle, and slid off the other side. The crowd laughed—that was an old joke, which the city clerk had to do, as if he couldn’t ride.

The adjutant waved Frank Braun over, and introduced him to the general. But he remembered right away: He was the German that was there when they fled from Hermosillo back to Ures! He, the one that had given him the beautiful cigarette case! That was gone now; someone had stolen it from him. If he could only catch the fellow!

Frank Braun thought: How stupid that I didn’t think of that! Why didn’t I bring another one from New York?—It was a silvery, horribly tasteless cigarette case, that someone had given him to pay off a poker debt. But all the Mexicans loved to look at it, because it had—in cheap enamel—two naked women on it.

Again the gate in the back opened—solemnly the procession of performers marched through the sand; at the same time, behind the box, a small band began to play, making a confused noise on a variety of musical instruments.

Colonel Perlstein said, “The only other song they play is the Marseillaise, the general’s favorite—this one is in your honor!”

Frank Braun tried hard to make out the melody.

“This one?” he replied. “But that is the Spanish King’s March!”

The adjutant cried, “Really! But it is the only German piece that the band can play.”

He looked at him expectantly, and Frank Braun asked, “Why is it German?”

Then the colonel laughed in satisfaction, genuinely pleased with himself.

“Don’t you know who the composer was?—I know who! It was a Prussian king: Fredrick the Great.”

He looked at him in astonishment, but Don Benjamino nodded powerfully.

“It is really true—just ask for yourself, when you are back in Europe. And—believe me—the king would sooner take a place in Villa’s head, than either Marat or Robespierre would have!”

The colorful assembly came across the round arena.  Leading in the front was the city clerk dressed in black velvet, behind him, fat and heavy, with long lances and round felt hats, which looked like the barber’s shaving basin, came a couple of Picadores. The remainder came on foot.

In front, entirely in white, was him, the one who played Don Tancredo. Then two Espadas and a half dozen Banderilleros. They were all dressed in Spanish bull fighting costumes, blue, rose, green and violet, decorated with lots of gold and silver—with a colored cloth over their left arms. There was only one dressed in black, the one that gave the mercy stroke, the Puntillero.

And then, on magnificent animals, came four riders—Mexicans. Giant hats, long leather chaps and immense spurs. Pieces of silver and silver plating hung on everything—on the harness of the horses, as well as on the clothing of the men. A fifth one followed them, even richer, more elaborately dressed, his hat was even larger, and the silver wheels of his spurs were even larger than those of the others. He rode a snow white Arabian full-blood from Andalusia—oh, a majestic animal!

“That is Vasquez Cabrera,” the adjutant shouted at him. “You will see what he can do.”

Behind him trudged the Chulos, a crowd of lousy fellows in red jackets and caps, the last one was with the Quadriga, the four mules, colorfully decked out in red, green and white. They were used to remove the dead horses and bulls from out of the arena.

But the procession was not yet over. Behind all the men, entirely alone, walked a slender woman.

“That is the Goyita,” cried Don Benjamino, “Dolores Echevarria, the Whip!”

She wore the clothing of a Texas cowboy, genuine enough, with only a short leather skirt instead of chaps. And tightly wound over her face was a very heavy brown veil.

“Why the mask?” asked Frank Braun.

Colonel Perlstein laughed, “She is whiter than the snow and doesn’t want to ruin her complexion in the sun! That is the real secret—everyone here finds it completely understandable.”

The long procession marched through the middle, and then stopped in front of the dictator’s box. They stiffly took off their hats; the general waved his hand at them. But when the Spanish Senorita came, he clapped with his strong fists.

They circled, marched and rode around past the grandstand, slowly and solemnly. And the women and men greeted them with applause and screamed as they went by. Still once more back through the middle, then over to the sunny side—and down back through their gate.

The Chulos rolled a round, white painted wash tub in the sand, placed it exactly in the middle of the arena, bottom up. And with heavy steps, Don Tancredo came up and climbed onto it. His uniform was old Spanish like the Alguacil, but white, entirely white, from his hat to his shoes. He wore white gloves, and white flour clung to his face. He crossed his arms over his chest—an unmoving pillar of gypsum.

Then they let the first bull into the arena. He ran up, straight up, in a wild charge, his horns deeply lowered. Yet then he stopped, as always, standing right in front of the white tub, and didn’t touch it. Raised his head, sniffed at it—no, it was not alive. And he turned around, looked around, swung his tail, dug into the sand with his front hoofs.

Those were the rules; that’s how every bullfight in Mexico began. But now something special happened in honor of the dictator and to the great joy of his people. Don Tancredo took a step forward—seized the bull by the tail, and gave him a good kick. The bull looked around at him, very astonished—no, that was no statue—that was alive. He backed up a couple steps, lowered his mighty head. Don Tancredo quickly made use of the opportune moment—jumped down from his pedestal—which a second later the bull’s horns threw high into the air. Again he remained standing—ah, that was where his statue ran! And the bull turned back toward him in a racing charge.

Don Tancredo doubled back, quick as a rabbit, and then sprinted to the wall, grabbed onto a plank, and swung up. He sat on top as the mighty animal with the sharp horns crashed into the wooden wall beneath him.

“Caramba!” laughed Pancho Villa. “He almost had him.”

And the masses cheered.

Two bullfights followed. A couple of Picadores were thrown from their horses, a half dozen horses had their bellies split open and their intestines torn out. Then came the game of the Banderilleros, which, again in honor of the general, only used fireworks, short fireworks which were ignited, so when the hooks entered the flesh, they burned and exploded and made the black bull even wilder. Then finally the Espadas, who were competent and brave enough, strong in style and with cold, certain thrusts.

“They are all dilettantes!” the colonel declared.

“Soldiers?” he asked. “Indians?”

“No, not a one of them!” answered the colonel. “Not one of them is pure Indian—that wouldn’t do—there has to be some Spanish blood. But just wait, our Indians will have their turn—they don’t really have any style, but they have sinews and nerves.”

He waved his handkerchief, the hoarse trumpet blew.

The Jaripeo began.

The Mexicans rode into the sand. Vasquez stopped on his Andalusian right next to the gate, the other four jumped in. They let a brown mustang into the arena, and the Vaqueros chased it around. Then Vasquez sat upright in the saddle, galloped out, threw his lasso about fifty meters at the wild nag and caught it around the foreleg, so that it fell down immediately.

They tied it up, let it lay in the sand. Then they chased a couple more wild mustangs out into the arena, fresh from the Llanos, the wide plains of the Durango. One for each of the five—they chased them around, and then brought them down to the ground under the sharp tug of the lasso. And the riders climbed down, went up to the mustangs, and carefully loosened the ropes. Then they grabbed the manes, and swung up onto the bare backs, as the animals got up. They sat on top and remained on top, their left hands grabbing onto the manes; their rights rising and heavily striking down with short, silver headed quirts. The mustangs reared high, stood on their back legs, arched their backs like cats, and jumped with all four legs high into the air. They threw themselves to the ground, rolled over, like young dogs—but the riders were sitting solidly on their backs when they got back up again.

They raced around, bit at the riders, smashed against the walls; they charged, spun around, stood on their hind legs; threw themselves forward like swimmers going head first into the water. But the riders remained on top, and unmercifully, every second, swung the heavy quirt down across their forelegs, bodies, necks and nostrils. The silver decorated leather chaps pressed into the round bodies like screws, the large wheeled spurs beat horribly against the soft flanks. White foam came out of the mouths of the mustangs; drops of blood out of their sides; their brown hides, wet with sweat glistened in the sun. Then the beasts became quiet, calm and tame—recognized their masters. They walked like little lambs, trotted and galloped, as they were commanded—docile and obedient—after only ten minutes.

“I can do that too!” cried Don Benjamino.

The Mexicans drove the dead-tired mustangs away, mounted their race horses once more, and chased new mustangs around the arena. Then the others remained back—alone came the Arabian stud of Vasquez. How he rode it! His spurs never touched its flanks; he pressed the tips of his boots in and his spurs turned outward. The reins hung loose on the saddle horn; he just clicked with his tongue, and cried some strange word.

And the white stud stretched out, flew at the mustang, right alongside it, very close. Then Vasquez leaned over, grabbed the brown mane, swung up, and was suddenly sitting on the back of the wild horse. He rode it without a bridle, without a saddle, without a whip, only with his iron ankles. He let it gallop around, guided by the Andalusian; around the arena, tight against the red painted boards. Exchanged places, crawled back into his saddle and then again back over to the wet sweaty back of the mustang.

Here—there—and always at a racing gallop; and around, circling in a wild chase, like the little lead horses in the gaming salons. Then he whistled—the white stud broke off to the side. Then he rode the mustang into the middle of the arena—and it obeyed, did everything that he commanded, trembling with fear, worn down, dead-tired, and very docile under the pressure of those iron legs.

Vasquez jumped down; the crowd cheered. He took off his hat, and walked awkwardly through the sand with heavy, metal covered chaps, bent over, and stepping in an x-shaped walk on his powerfully bowed legs. The tips of his toes bent in sharply, one after the other, the heels going to the outside, so the fancy trousers didn’t get tangled in the un-bloodied spurs of the rider.

“On foot he is no treat!” laughed the colonel. “He belongs on a nag.”

But the Andalusian trotted over to the mustang, which was standing there shaking, breathing heavily, with heaving flanks. Whinnied, as if he wanted to speak to it, and then led it away through the gate, entirely alone. Trotted back to his master, whickered, and sniffed at his pockets, until he found his reward: thick pieces of delicious sugar candy.

Sapphires

Chapter Six

“Lucrezia Borgia, hour by hour,

Your beauty, your virtue, your honest fame,

And fortune will grow no less,

With each youth you plant in the ground.”

-Ariost.

 

Yâkut al acfar, d. i. the sapphire,

Allows the chaste to remain chaste

Through all temptations.

-Mohammed ibn al Khabîb.

 

It was the high general’s name day, the day of his patron saint, Francis of Caracole. On this Monday the army was Villa’s guest—as well as the entire population of the city. Whoever wanted could come out to the bullfight arena. There was going to be a great game for the people today, not just the national Jaripeo. It was going to be enlarged and embellished through the showmanship of the Spanish Goyita.

The large amphitheater had not suffered much damage in the fighting. Only the part of the grandstands exposed to the sun had been shot to pieces. But Villa’s men had worked on it feverishly during the past few weeks and a huge grandstand had been built to accommodate several more thousands of people. The boxes on the shady side had remained undamaged. They were all decorated for the occasion with large banners of green, white and red, Mexico’s colors.

The dictator’s box was still empty. Frank Braun and a couple of generals sat in an adjoining one. The stands around the circular arena held more than five rows of seats. The crowd all sat or stood waiting. Many could not find seats and had to stand wherever they could find room. The entire side in the sun was reserved for the soldiers with all their weapons, wild and daring; tattered and torn.

But many still wore, despite the heat of the sun, their colored serape, a large heavy cloth with the head cut exactly in the middle, which hung down on all sides.

They were almost only pure Indians, from thirty tribes; scarcely a drop of white blood was there. Large pointed hats were everywhere, reddish brown faces beneath them with black spots for eyes and a wide line of gleaming white teeth. On both sides. thousands of seductive women, in glaringly loud shawls, loosened for hours in the middle of the day; flesh, flesh for the greedy eyes of the soldiers.

Then in the shade, in the boxes and the rows below them were the officers; in amongst them were a couple of civilian families with their women—those that passed for the higher class in Torreon. They threw their large, long fringed silk scarves over the balustrade.

There was no yelling, no frolicking or celebrating. It was still, everyone stared, listening in tense expectation. A great game in the old arena, for the first time after so many years!

The body guards came up, twenty sinewy fellows; Yaqui Indians, the best wood for fighters. Shotguns, pistols, sabers and machetes, with bullet belts around their bodies and others crossed over their breast—weapons for killing, wherever a man could stick them.

Then a trumpet blew, terribly off key, but resounding through the wide amphitheater—then he came, the general, the dictator, the master: Francisco Villa.

He, whom they lovingly called Paco and Pancho, Frasco and Curro; Also Paquito, Frasquito, Panchito and Currito, flattering names of endearment for the more formal sounding Francisco.

He, whom they all knew, began his stealing at four years of age, rebranded his first steer at eight and made his debut as a robber at twelve. He had gone to prison for the first time at fourteen, and broken out; and was already a murderer at fifteen.

He, Villa, who could neither write nor read, and could only scrawl his name with difficulty; who in spite of all that had become great and very powerful.

He began with a corn rick—today he laid entire cities in ashes. A lame goatherd that had testified against him was his first sacrifice—but now he often slaughtered a hundred in a day. It was said of him—with shudders and yet with great admiration—that in Durango he had lined up one hundred and twenty-three captured Huerta officers in a long line, their hands tied behind their backs. That he had walked down the entire row of men placing his revolver against their temples and shooting them one by one. One hundred and twenty-three—him alone—and scarcely needing half a minute for each one.

Who else in the entire land could do that—who, who in the entire world?

Him, only him, Pancho Villa—

They didn’t applaud for him, didn’t stand up, and didn’t cry out. They just looked at him, spellbound, stared at him, still and silent, astonished, enraptured, and blinded in undisguised adoration of such savage greatness.

Frank Braun thought: “They are right. He is a murderer a thousand times, cruel and coarse, a human butcherer and executioner. He is a robber and thief and a rapist and brand changer and a wild drunk. Oh yes,—he is all that and does not try to hide it. But he is great in everything that he does, towering above everything else that surrounds him. He is powerful; he is great—to the children of this land.

The dictator sat down close to the balustrade. He didn’t shake any hands, didn’t greet anyone. He looked over the colorful masses, not in distain—but indifferently.

Again came the hoarse bugle call—and a small door opened on the sunny side. The Alguacil, in old Spanish costume, with a black Velasquez hat on his head and ornamental dagger at his side, rode out across the sands on a black mare. He stopped before the general’s box, took off his hat, and asked with a formal gesture for permission to begin the show.

Don Benjamino stood behind the dictator, and handed him a shapeless, old key. Pancho Villa turned around—there, next to the colonel, was a soldier standing with a little basket. He stroked his stubbled chin—then handed back the key, waved the man forward, and lay back in his chair.

The soldier came forward and unpacked his basket. He first took out a towel, tolerably clean, which he placed around the general’s shoulders. Then he took the shaving basin, with the half cut out opening for the neck, poured some water into it from a small container, added soap to it and began to whip up some lather.

Ah—the Herr Generalissimo was going to have a shave.

Colonel Perlstein came over to the partition between the two boxes and reached out his hand to Frank Braun.

“He is accustomed to getting a shave every Saturday,”  he whispered. “But yesterday he was in such a bad mood that he kicked the man out. That is why I brought him along today.—you shall see that the general looks much more human after he has been freshly shaved.”

The soldier put his basin against the dictator’s neck and began to lather him; without rushing, thoroughly, with professional flourishes. The general was holding still, but suddenly he sat up straight—pushing the basin away.

“I’m thirty,” said Pancho Villa.

They filled a large tumbler with dirty yellow agave brandy and handed it to him. He took a strong gulp, swished it around in his mouth, and spit the stuff out over the balustrade. Then he took a second gulp, leaned back and half closed his eyes. But when the barber came back with his basin and was bending over him, he quickly sat up, pursed his thick lips together and sprayed the pulque into his face.

He bellowed with laughter, clapped his hands together and enjoyed his joke like a schoolboy. The soldier calmly wiped his face and grinned with him—and everyone nearby laughed. But not submissively, not servile and beaten down—no, openly, genuinely and heartily. It really was a good joke, you had to admit.

Then the general drank for the first time—three large glasses of the dirty looking pulque. Then he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. And the soldier applied his brush, lathered, lathered and lathered, enough for an entire regiment. Then he took his razor.

Down below the black dressed city clerk was waiting on his nag, hat in his hand. In the back, beneath the seats in the sun, waited the bull, horses, riders and fighters—all around the mighty arena the large masses listened in silence. There was not a sound—only watching in silence and waiting. Pancho Villa was having his shave.

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