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.
“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!”