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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.

*          *

*

“I am the general’s adjutant,” cried the other. “I am very sorry—but I must take you away.”

“Who gave the command?” He demanded.

The adjutant said, “I, myself; you are a stranger from out of the United States. You have no papers. We must investigate the case—please, follow me.”

Frank Braun observed the other carefully. He wore high, new, leather chaps—had three revolvers stuck in his belt. In his hand swung a small, elegant riding quirt. No jacket, no vest, the blue shirt was dusty and sweat stained. It stood half open, and there he saw a piece of white wool with blue horizontal stripes.

“An Arba Kanfot?” Asked Frank Braun.

[Translator’s note: a Jewish prayer shawl]

The stranger hesitated.

“No one in Mexico has ever asked me that.”

He stepped up to the window and turned around toward the room so that he could get a good look at him in the full light.

“Are you also?” He continued, “No, no—you are a German!”

Frank Braun nodded, “Yes, I am. And your investigation can easily take place here, if it’s all right with you! Please, would you take your place?”

They both sat down, spoke together, and quickly understood each other. Frank Braun explained that he knew Villa; had ridden with him in Sonora years ago when they had gone up against the Maltorena. What did he want now? Well now, you see, it was like the mood here in this country—which mood? For Villa or Carranza—or someone else?—No, he didn’t care about that at all—he was interested in only one sentiment, the one toward Washington—for or against?—

“You hate the Yankees?” Asked adjutant.

“Should I love them?” He retorted. “Their bullets are striking down thousands of my countrymen.”

It came out hesitatingly, “I am from New York.”

“From Hester Street?” Asked Frank Braun.

The other laughed out loud.

“You know the difference! Not exactly from Hester Street—but not very far from there.”

He became thoughtful.

“I am an American citizen—still today. And I was one body and soul—as a child, a young boy, and as a youth. I believed rock solid in equality and freedom and justice—in the great symbol in New York harbor—and could do nothing that was not for the stars and stripes. Until—”

He hesitated.

And Frank Braun repeated, “until?”

The adjutant said, “Until I saw that it was all a cheeky lie and a doggone swindle! You see, sir; I was born to be a soldier—have never dreamed of being anything else. My father was furious about it, but my mother was happy—she said that I had Makkaber blood. I was cut out for it and my mother set it up so that I could enlist with the 71st Regiment when I was 20 years old. That was not a regular troop, just a volunteer regiment, a National Guard unit, which drilled a couple of times a month. But they gave us uniform, guns and sabers. I reeked of being a soldier!—Posters hung everywhere, on all corners. They distributed enticing flyers from the publicity offices! It was the duty of every patriotic citizen! At that time I was patriotic down into my bones. It was my duty, so I enlisted.”

He laughed out loud, swung the riding quirt lightly through the air.

“They examined me—and the doctor said that I was a splendid fellow, of whom the entire regiment could be proud. But then—after only two days—the decision came—that I was unfit, physically unfit! I howled throughout the entire night—immediately ran to our old doctor to have another physical examination.

No man in New York was as healthy as I was, he declared. I saved my weeks wages, went to the best doctors in the city, let them handle me and touch me for hours. I received a magnificent collection of testimonials—which I sent to the Regiment. But the decision came again; unfit! They didn’t want me, refused me—because I was a Jew. Not once did they want a Jew as a common soldier!”

He jumped up and shoved his arm under Frank Braun’s nose.

“Feel that!” He cried.

Frank Braun grabbed it. The muscles were like steel. Then the Jew lifted up his right leg.

“Feel these—more solid legs have never encircled a horse.”

Again he asked him to seize his leg, attempt to pinch the flesh. But it was impossible—it was chiseled out of stone.

“Any bow-legged, flat-footed counter boy can limp through New York’s streets in the brown uniform,” he cried. “But they didn’t want me—because I was circumcised!—I was—unfit!”

He fell back heavily into the chair, whistled out a couple bars of the national anthem. They taught me in school that Yankee land was the most majestic and the freest in the entire world. Presumably they thought that any Jew would be joyful and thankful for all eternity that an ocean separated him from the lashes of the Czar’s whip. But my father’s home was not in Russia, we came here from Galicia. His brother was a Rabbi—made a little money with petroleum in the Ukrainian country near Selez. Then he went to Vienna—and all of his boys went to school, received a far better education than I ever had. One is an engineer, one a student at the University and two, two are—lieutenants! Today, all four of them are standing in a battlefield, fighting against the murderers of our people. That is better than in the New York ghetto—where you can only tear your mouth off!”

His riding quirt struck a sharp blow through the air.

“I read New York newspapers that a friend sometimes sends down to me. Every day they preach it—just like that time in school—America is the freest land in the world! Germany and Austria are enslaved and reactionary countries, the last and the worst places to be on earth. But my cousins are officers there—and here I am not good enough to be common soldier!”

He bent his switch as if he wanted to break it. He bit his teeth together, sobbed, choked, and then breathed deeply. He jumped up quickly and offered his hand.

“You know my chief?” He cried. “Good! I will pick you up this afternoon and bring you to him. Then we can converse some more—if you like.”

Frank Braun returned the strong grip.

“Your name?” He asked.

The Jew laughed, “De Piedraperla”—“How do you like that? My parents in New York are named Pearlstone—my cousins overseas are named Perlstein—so say Perlstein—it sounds better.”

He opened the door, turned back one more time.

“After everything else I have entirely forgotten to ask what you really want here,” he cried. “But, if your mission is to incite against the Yankees—you are completely welcome! Day and night, no one here dreams of anything else, other than the hatred against the gringos who have ruined this land.”

Frank Braun remained waiting in his room until evening. But the adjutant didn’t come. Then he saddled up his horse, rode out to the camp and asked for Villa’s quarters. He soon found it. The general was housed in a hacienda in front of the city. The overgrown garden teamed with soldiers. They stood, sat and laid around, sucking on their cigarette stubs. He asked for Villa’s adjutant, Colonel Piedraperla. But no one knew the name; no one could give him any information. Curious and ready to help, they came up in a large circle around his horse. What did this man look like? Slender, tall, smooth shaven, elegant, sunburned, black eyes and hair. —They rode back and forth—and couldn’t find him.

“He has a nose like this,” he cried, and drew a mighty arc in the air.

Then they laughed and jumped around in joy, like schoolchildren. Oh, they knew him well, the one with the big nose! That was Don Benjamino—naturally!—and they called out, screamed out everywhere. “Don Benjamino!”

So he was named Benjamin as well—Benjamin Perlstein, thought Frank Braun. Then a sweat covered horse flew through the crowd. The rider reined in, jumped down and threw the reins to a soldier.

“Ah, there you are.” He cried. “I came straight from your room, had already thought the wait might have been too long for you.”—“You must excuse me. We all had our hands full this afternoon.”

He took his arm and led him to the house.

“The general is very sullen today,” he said. “In a bad mood and wild.—He’s got the dancer in his craw!”

He laughed and gave a good kick at a soldier that lay sleeping under the steps.

“Yes, a Spanish dancer—damned beast! She has our heads turned around, Poncho Villa, me and all the others. She gives her favors to no one—is cold like the ice water that you put on all the tables in New York.”

Frank Braun looked up, “Now, openly stating—not one of you seems like someone that would let a wench have her way for very long.”

“It is normally not that way with us,” answered the colonel. “Most certainly not! But she compels us—the devil knows how! Everyone is jealous of the others; so everyone is her protector.—It’s too bad you didn’t come eight days sooner; you could have seen a good welt on my cheek—which the smooth Dolores herself carved in it. She calls herself Goyita. I grabbed her around the body—she tore my own quirt away from me. Villa and Perez Domingo and all the others were rolling around with laughter! But I can console myself. She has distributed many more lashes than that here. The soldiers call her “la Pegona”, the whip,—they would all run through fire for her!”

They entered the house, went through a large patio in which a couple of thirsty plants stood on the marble piles. Yellow curtains hung in front of a high doorway, nearby a couple of soldiers saluted—Don Benjamino pulled the curtains back, called out a couple of words into the completely dark room and from in back came a half curse, a deep, almost unintelligible grunt. The Jew let the curtain fall.

“Let’s go,” he said. “It will be better if we leave him alone today. He invited you tomorrow, to Jaripeo at the arena and after that to the evening meal here—his mood will be better then and you will have better cooperation from him, better results.”

Colonel Perlstein whistled for his horse.

“Would you like to ride around a bit before the sun sets?” He suggested.

They jumped onto their animals and rode at a slow pace through the garden. They stopped at the gate; the adjutant went up to an officer and gave a couple of commands. Then a strange dizziness seized Frank Braun. He heard the voice of the colonel, every word and every syllable. But it was as if he spoke in some foreign language which he didn’t understand. And then all feeling left him everywhere at the same time. His legs no longer gripped the Mexican wooden saddle—they hung in the blue. His hands didn’t hold the reins anymore; they fell slack on the animal’s neck.

It seemed to him as if he didn’t have another drop of blood in his body. He slowly collapsed forward. An officer sprang up, grabbed onto him and straightened him up. And—just as he felt the human contact, the grip of a strong fist around his wrist—it was over. He could grab the reins again—sit upright in the saddle.

“What is wrong with you?” Cried the adjutant. “Man, you look like a bed sheet!”

He shook his head—“Just a slight dizziness—I’m all right now.”

But the Jew was not satisfied.

“We will ride back to the house—that will be better! Tell me—what have you eaten today?”

“No, no, my stomach is in fine shape—today, as always.”

“If you—have been poisoned! Even the best stomach won’t help that. And many things are possible here at this time with us.”

Frank Braun smiled and shook his head. He just wanted to rest.—it was a slight weakness of the nerves that he had been suffering from for several months now.

“That could be,” said the colonel, “might not be. You are now under my protection—let me take care of it.”

He helped him down from the horse, led him up the stone steps into the hotel, and brought him to his room.

“Lay down on the bed,” he cried. “Sleep it off for a couple of hours. I will come to see you later.”

He left. Frank Braun listened through the open door, heard how he shouted downstairs for the innkeeper, then called out for a soldier to come in from the street. He spoke Spanish with him, mixed with a couple of Indian words. It was a Yaqui, thought Frank Braun.

“You,” commanded the adjutant. “You stay here. Stay in the kitchen—anytime something is cooked for the gentleman there!—the stranger, you know, the tall one! Do you know him?”

“Yes,” cried the Indian, “the blonde.”

“Yes, him,” continued the colonel. “You keep watch; you understand; nothing gets into his food that does not belong there! Cook double portions—and taste everything yourself. Eat half of everything!”

“Yes, Colonel!” Cried the Yaqui.

He was very satisfied with such good duty. Then Perlstein turned to the innkeeper.

“Did you hear—what I commanded the soldier?—we have suspicions! And you are responsible to me!—you are! If something happens—on the wall with you! So watch out for yourself!”

He didn’t wait for an answer, went quickly out into the street and sprang onto his mare. There was excited chatter from the patio. Frank Braun stood up and shut the door. He was not tired, no. Just empty, empty—oh so empty! It was the same feeling that he had had in Philadelphia when he was supposed to speak against Livingstone. That time when he kissed Farstin—that time—and then again when he came back from the opera with Lotte—and again when he—

More often now—more often. Sometimes stronger or weaker—but never as strong as today. But he consoled himself. Hadn’t he been healthy again now for several weeks? So healthy that he could not at all imagine how he could be so tired with this emptiness! Then it occurred to him that Lotte Van Ness had given him an envelope as he was leaving. There were a couple of powders in it. She had said that in case he had a strong attack to take a little strychnine—and he should only take some if it was really needed—

Where had he stuck it? He searched in his pockets and found the envelope in his briefcase. He tore it open, took out one of the paper packets, shook the white powder onto his tongue and washed it down with a gulp of water. Now to rest a little—

The envelope seemed heavy to him, he shook out the contents. Four paper packets of powder, a sheet of paper and there, wrapped in cotton and in a sheath of the finest leather was a very little pocket knife. He took the letter and read it. There was Lotte’s quick, wild scrawl, “I beg you, take this little knife, and wear it in the left breast pocket of your shirt for my sake. It is entirely new and very clean—the blade is polished and without any stain. You must not use it. Bring it back to me—as it is. It won’t mean anything to you, but it will mean everything to me.

He took out the knife, opened the single blade. It was platinum; one side showed the image of a scorpion; the other the image of a little crab. The magnificent steel edge gleamed in the last rays of the evening sun. It was so polished that he could see his reflection perfectly, like in a mirror. The edge was very pointed and sharp as a razor. What did she want with this? He thought. But he did it—he carefully wrapped it back up and put it in the soft leather sheath—and into the little breast pocket of his shirt on the left side, over his heart.

 

 

Ch5-B In Mexico

Again she danced past— then the music broke off. She came over toward him with her partner, holding him tight and stood there.

“There, look!” She said.

A small black shell was pinned to her shoulder.

“That is lovely!” He nodded.

She introduced her partner, a tall student. She reached out her hand and asked for a cigarette. Then she took his arm, and dismissed the other.

“Don’t you dance?” She asked.

“No,” said Frank Braun.

She tried again, “I’m a little tired—I would like some ice cream. Come on!”

This was the opportunity, now, but nothing occurred to him, and he didn’t say anything. He thought, “If Tewes saw me!—Ass—he would say—idiot!”

But she wouldn’t give up.

“Can we speak English—when we are alone? It will be so much easier for me.”

He nodded lightly, “as you like.”

Again, there was a pause; He brought her some ice cream. They sat down at a little table far back in a corner, and she tried again.

“I have been thinking about you—so very reserved sometimes—and so different.”

He considered.

He asked, “What were you thinking yesterday?”

She laughed, “Papa and Mama fought for over an hour because of you—you are dangerous. You are a conspirator.”

“Bah,” he said, “I am harmless enough.”

She shook her head.

“No,” she cried. “That you are not. Our maid is from Vienna—she knows about you. Mama has asked her questions. They have warned me about you.”

He glanced over at her, “And?” He asked.

She laughed, “That’s why I’m sitting here.”

He didn’t answer. He looked at her, slowly and quietly. She talked, and talked, but he wasn’t listening. She was dark blonde. Her hair was combed back in large waves. Her eyebrows were a little too heavy—but her eyes themselves were gray and beautiful, her nose was narrow and well formed, with a nervous twitch in her nostrils. Her mouth was small; her upper lip pleasantly curved. Her throat was a little too long; her shoulders a bit too drooping and not full enough. Her breasts were flat, much too flat. And yet she was beautiful—so young—still in her first bloom.

“Why are you staring at me?” She cried. “Say something.”

Then he held her eyes with his, quietly, until she became still.

“What do you want?” She asked.

He didn’t release her, said, “I came here—because of you.”

She put on a smile that broke in the middle.

“Because of you—” He repeated.

Someone came up and asked her to dance.

Then he said—but it rang like a question, “I’m going to leave now.”

She stood up and shook hands.

Then she said, “Come for tea—on—on—the day after tomorrow!”

Again he raised up the roses—each stem was a meter long— American beauties. He inhaled their perfume—then laid them in front of him on the table, grabbed her note and tore it up. He had gone to tea with Ivy Jefferson. He had been alone with her—only once did her mother come in, just for a few minutes. No, he had not courted her, most definitely not. He was not nice to her, not charming. But his green eyes could compel—sometimes—especially if it was his day—and that day had been a good one for him. He had caressed her hand and arm with light fingers.

He had become a good friend to their house. He went over there two or three times every week. He went to the opera with her, went riding with her. Much too often, he thought. She takes up too much of my time—

But she said, “Much too little! You are my beau—and you have to come every day. She had to have her declared beau—like every lady of the New York high society—that was a given. Yet she, Ivy Jefferson, took a German—during these times.

Her father was furious about it; her mother even more. But then, amazingly soon, they got used to it. And Mrs. Alice Jefferson declared to her beau, the English general counsel—that she found what her daughter had done very stylish,  and very courageous. Really, very courageous.

Even more, she became very kind and cordial to him. Not only that—she really invited him, became accustomed to him—just like little Ivy wanted. Only once did her mother attempt to make a serious proposal to her.

“Does it have to be a German?” She cried.

“Should I take an Italian?” Her daughter came back at her. “Make myself ridiculous?”

“No, no, not a Dago. But there were so many Englishmen there, Canadians, Frenchmen and Belgians, even a couple of Russians. They agreed that it could not be an American. Little Ivy got that from her, an instinctive, disdainful contempt for all men of her own country; which she shared with so many other ladies of high society. Oh yes, they were very good at the office—could create money in one way or the other, and in thousands of ways. But as men?—Not one of all these ladies would come out and say it—and yet it hung in the air everywhere.

It was different with Americans—different than with foreigners. Foreigners made their nostrils tremble, a shine come to their eyes—something was missing in these American men of high society—almost all of them. They were made from good wood—many out of bronze or solid stone. They were well-dressed and well grown, had muscles and sinews and yet—

His friend, the attaché to the Spanish delegation, put it quite well.

“They have no balls!” He laughed.

That was it, most certainly, that alone. And the women noticed it, felt it—consciously and unconsciously. They were asexual—or else masturbated from youth—had no feelings, no excitement, and no red blood. Much less any taste—and even more: they were so unrefined about it, without culture and ignorant. The ladies of society stood much higher than them. They looked down upon the American male—but the European was their equal—stood higher than most. And also—even more importantly—he gave her thrills.

Thrills—and excitement, great or small; a tickle in the blood and in the nerves—a something that whipped it up. No American could do that.

He read Ivy’s letter—three pages—in large stylish handwriting. It was very hateful of him, that he was going away. It was very mean and low down! Why didn’t he come with them to Newport? And did he think she couldn’t find out what he was up to? She would find out—even if it cost her $50,000! And she was not sending him any gifts—no. She would not do that!

He hesitated, sat down, and wrote her. If she took even one step to seek him out she would never see him again. He had his reasons—and if she was smart—she would understand. He thanked her for the roses—he would take them along. He would be back soon enough—and he sent her many kisses. Seven—and then one more. He put the letter in an envelope, wrote the address and then called his secretary. The secretary came with the detectives who were happy and grinning.

“There, you see!” Cried Ernst Rossius, “Roses and a little note.”

The short, fat one stepped up to him, “Very delightful Doctor! Please, if you would—I would like one for my wife!”

Frank Braun took the roses, and divided them into three equal piles—then gave one to each of the three rascals.

“Do you have a wife too?” He asked the gaunt one.

“No,” he said. “But I know a girl!”

The secretary quickly shoved the check at him.

“Sign this,” he said. “$300 for your people.”

He signed his name to the check, gave it to one of them, shook three hands and said, “so long—” three times.

“That was cheap enough!” He cried after they were outside. “How did you do it?”

Rossius laughed, “It’s too bad that you gave away all the roses. You could have given me a couple for my virginal bride.”

“Still the same one?” He asked.

The youth shook his head, “No. A different one—since last week!—

There—the roses—that’s what he had needed! I told the fellows a bunch of lies. You are having a love affair—very secret. Naturally! And you are going on a little honeymoon with the lady! That lightened them up—and the roses strengthened their belief. Then there was the hundred dollars for each of them—”

Frank Braun stayed at Torreon, in the state of Chihuahua. He met up with his escort in Monterey. They traveled southward toward Veracruz to General Carranza. They were agreed upon who they wanted to meet; who they wanted to work with. They would remain together and travel from the villa to Carranza, or somewhere else—if the other was too suspicious to
meet with them. He was even at first agreeable to traveling even further down to the third of the three possibilities, the short and hot eyed Emiliano Zapata, who held Guerrero, Michoacan and Morales.

But it would take too much time, that was certain and he would never push to the north, not him! He was a snazzy dresser in the garb of a robber, one that decorated himself and his little horse with silver, kissed the girls and danced the Jarape, drank a lot of pulque and swirled his mustache up high into the air. He would never push further north and Jepsen knew that as well as he did. It would be better to travel to the northwest than down there.

Nippon’s agents were working here. He waited. Poncho Villa had to come, tomorrow, or the next day—from Durango. Maybe next week or the week after that—but he would come. He had given orders for his people to come here from all parts of the country, and his name was supposed to be worth something. This was supposed to be a show of force, like an army, and they gathered, officers and generals, with small and large troops. They camped in the city and outside of it, in Gomez, Palacio and Lerdo.

Frank Braun rode around through the camp, made friends, and chatted all day long. He had brought along all kinds of trifles from out of New York, exploding cigars, fireworks, wooden matches that would not light and other novelties. He presented them to the officers. Oh, he knew his Mexicans! They were happy as children, and laughed like schoolboys; those, whose dirty fingers were so sticky with human blood.

He sounded them out—that was easy enough. They were all for Villa. Oh, certainly, he was the strongest man. But no one had the slightest idea what he was up to. Anarchy was in their heads like it was everywhere else in this land, and only in one thing, one single point did they all agree. Every soldier, from the generals down to the last mule skinner, every little fruit vendor and boot polisher, every lawyer and politician, even every woman, from the signora’s down to the bordello prostitutes—

That was the hatred, the deep embedded hatred against the Yankees. Scarcely one of them could even imagine how everything could be made right. But they know very well that everything was the way it was because of the Americans, from the very first day. That’s where the money came from, and the weapons which had overthrown the mighty Diaz. With him fell Madero, Gutierrez and Huerta. And the Carranza people, whom they were fighting against, had American money, and shot at them with Yankee bullets.

And themselves, the ones that rode for Villa? Well—them too, really! That was just it! They devoured the entire country; they burned, murdered, robbed and stole. It was all such a shame—and only one benefited, the gringo, the American. And there would be no quiet, no peace anymore; they would continue to battle on with both sides killing each other. That’s what Wall Street and Washington wanted—and that’s what would happen. Everyone was solidly convinced of it.

If only someone would come and lead them; oh, in the blink of an eye, they would all become one; the Villistas, Zapatists, Carranzists and Diaz’s people; all of them, every one of them, from Sonora to the Yucatán. That was the only hope of salvation, the last salvation for this bleeding, miserably torn apart country, an outside battle, a war against the miserable conscienceless gringo, who in so few years had made their beautiful, rich blooming land into the most miserable place on earth. But why? For what reason? What did their enemy, the gringo want? Oh, they knew, and they never got tired of speaking about it.

The gringo wanted their land, wanted Sonora, Coahuila, Chihuahua and rich Tamalpais with its oilfields. They wanted to rob them and steal from them, like they once stole California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. But they were much too cowardly to simply take it. They worked in the background, inciting them against each other; let them shoot each other, one after another, through the long years. Then, when there were scarcely any more men in the entire land that could carry a gun; that was when the brave Yankees would come. Then there would be peace. Then they would take whatever they wanted!—That was gringo politics.

They poured the agave schnapps down in large glasses; pounded on the tables with their fists, spit and screamed and made a fuss. And then— one and then another gave a sob, cried.

“Oh, it would be much better, when the gringos finally came! Everything will be at an end, soon enough.”

They moaned implacably, like one of the bulls which is down on its knees with the blade of the Espada standing high between its horns, and longingly waiting for the quick mercy stroke of the Puntillero.

And yet the New York newspapers still screamed: “Germans incite Mexico against the states.”

Germans? Oh sure!—Here, there was only one that incited, one—and that was the Yankee.

The next Sunday Villa rode in. They had decorated the city, torn carpets and colored bed sheets hung from out of the windows. Also a few banners fluttered around. The people remained in their houses, but several prostitutes lounged against the windows and in the doorways. They laughingly replied to the spicy taunts of the incoming men. The men rode and raced through the streets, without much order, as they pleased. They were tattered and torn, colorfully armed, and all of them wearing their large pointed hats.

He stood on the little balcony, looking down—the general had not yet passed by. There was a knock at the door.

“Come in!” He cried and turned around.

An officer came through the door, tall, with a mighty eagle nose and it occurred to him that at least the man was smooth shaven.

“Please excuse this interruption,” he said, politely enough. “I must arrest you.”

He asked, “Who are you?”

Vampire chapter 5

 

Turquoises

 

Spoke Rimnild, the king’s little daughter:

“Knight in blue!

If my little mirror remains clear for you,

Then I am your true Frau!

If it appears cloudy,

My thoughts have not been pure.

If it has blood red spots,

Then take someone new:

Then I have given my maidenhood away,

Been unfaithful to you!

 

The Ballad of Hind Horn

And Maid Rimnald (XIV century)

 

“But two turquoise—which they call Teuxihitl—take them roughly polished and set in silver, bound into a silver chain. Wear them over the left hip when you travel cross country to protect against robbers.

 

Juan de Galdos (XVI century)

 

His secretary put the revolver in the leather handbag.

“No,” said Frank Braun. “Put that one away. I won’t need it.”

Then he hesitated, held the weapon loosely in his hand.

“Or I could present it as a gift, it would be welcome enough.”

But he hesitated again for a moment, “No, not this one. It is a German army revolver. They will not be able to say that I am smuggling weapons across the Rio Grande. Everything that the Mexicans will get will come from the Yankees themselves—so they will be getting American goods from me! There—down in that drawer—are enough Smith and Wesson’s, take a good half dozen of them. And don’t forget the bullets, five cartons with every weapon.”

They packed the revolvers, the handbag became heavy enough.

“Should I call your dear friends?” asked his secretary. “You need to be leaving.”

He nodded, “Yes, go get them!—are they already here?”

“All three!” laughed the other. “It will be quiet enough.”

He went to the window, pushed the curtains back and waved with a quick gesture. He was a young fellow, slender and clear eyed, scarcely twenty three, a roustabout, bright enough, competent and able to do anything that was needed. Perhaps a little scatterbrained and superficial when the girls spooked him in the head; but he always pulled himself back together when needed, found a way out of ticklish situations—that was what was needed in his position. His name was Ernst Rossius; he had run away from school, traveled around three parts of the earth as a journalist and translator, a steward, sailor and stevedore—even as a land surveyor, whatever it took. Now he was stranded in the States, like so many thousands.

He had come to him one day and introduced himself.

“References?” asked Frank Braun out of habit.

That was the first question he always asked any visitor. Then he would take the letter, never even read it, but look at it, letting the other speak. That gave him enough time to form an impression.

“Here,” said the young man quickly.

He reached into a pocket, took out a bundle of papers and handed them to him. They were lyrical poems. There was a signature and date at the bottom of each.

Frank Braun grumbled, “Nice references—phooey, the devil!”

But he still read them. The poems were bad, unripe and sentimental, and yet—here and there was a ring, a short sentence—just a little bit more, that was of this fellow, Ernst Rossius and no one else. There was a “perhaps” that cried out from these verses.

“What can you do?” he asked.

The youngster said, “Anything, or nothing—however you take it. I can do anything, but nothing special.”

Again, that pleased him. He laughed.

“As far as I’m concerned, you can stay around if you want to.”

So he stayed.

The detectives came in. They were very anxious about the open trunk. Usually when he went away it was only for two or three days and he only took a large leather suitcase with. A couple of times in the beginning, he had brought one of them along, later, he only told them where he was going and where he would be speaking. After that they graciously took his report, remained in New York, and stuck all the pretty travel expenses into their own pockets.

But this looked different.

“How long will you be gone?” asked the gaunt one suspiciously.

“One month, six weeks perhaps,” he answered.

“Oh, that long? Why? Where was he going?”

He had to have some peace and quiet, that was all. He had to be alone, had some work that he had to do himself. He wanted to be on the mainland, by the ocean.

But they didn’t believe a syllable. Oh, they were informed—more than he thought. He wanted to go to Canada, that was certain; to blow up the Welland Canal or some railroad bridge. The newspapers were full of it. A couple of attempts had already failed—but you know the Germans—they will try it again and again, until—

The short fat one lifted up the heavy suitcase—heavy, very heavy.

“Dynamite?” he asked timidly.

Then they implored him, almost begged him, heaven knows that he had already done enough. The Kaiser was already finished. It was lunacy, criminally rash to put his own life at risk. What if the damned Canadians caught him—executed him as a spy!—they would never be able to forgive themselves, for not having protected him better. They loved him so much—

“And your good jobs!” He laughed.

There was a knock. The old servant announced the mailman.

“Take him into the front room,” he commanded.

Then he turned to his secretary.

“Can you finish with these people?” He asked in German.

“I think so,” answered the youth.

He crossed the room and closed the door after him. He took receipt of his letter, signed for it. Then he told the postman that he was going to a seaside resort for a couple of weeks and that his secretary was authorized to sign for his mail. That was not entirely proper, but a few dollar bills quickly made things fine. Then a messenger came with a large bouquet of red roses and a little note with them. It was from Ivy Jefferson, little blonde Ivy Jefferson, whom he had been dating for a couple of months now. He knew her father and her mother—she played a role on Fifth Avenue and he played one on Wall Street.

He took the card from the roses—it was perfumed. The perfume smelled young and fresh, like the fresh flesh of eighteen year old Ivy Jefferson.—The roses were a good omen. He held her firmly, this blonde Ivy, and with her, he held her father and mother—they had to do whatever she wanted, their spoiled, selfish, only child. And along with them—twenty other families, even more—it would be good insurance if something did happen to him down there. He held all of them—against their own inclinations—and only with this one little card; Ivy.

It had been her coming out day in February. The day on which she was introduced to the world, on which everyone in New York that belonged to high society had been there—oh, only the highest. A couple of years earlier in London he had been invited—just casually—in chatting. He must come over for it! And he had—at the time, replied, “Certainly, I will come to it!”

Now he was here, was in New York. One morning tall Tewes had brought in the newspapers, and all of them had a giant picture of blonde Ivy on them. Ivy Jefferson was being introduced into high society—Ah, now that was more important than  all the slaughters in Poland and France.

“Didn’t you once say that you knew the Jefferson’s?” asked the journalist. “Have you already visited them?”

He said, “No.”

“Then you must go there—today!”

And he wouldn’t give in, packed him up, and took him along with down to Wall Street, to the old offices of the Jefferson Bank.

“In there Doctor!” he cried.

He waited outside, pacing up and down with long strides until Frank Braun came back out.

“Well—what happened?” he asked. “Did he invite you?”

“Yes, he did,” he answered, “ungraciously enough!”

The journalist crowed, “I can only imagine! Only allies will be there—munitions people and bankers, financiers! You will be the only German—that is for certain.”

He rubbed his fingers together in satisfaction.

“Ah, I can just imagine the face old Jefferson must have made! Sweet and sour and sick—and yet cordial—and very resigned. He knew very well that what he was doing was wrong! But if he didn’t invite you—his precious spouse would be furious at his tactlessness and cowardice—and now that he has invited you, she will scold him just as much!”

He lit a big cigar, blew the smoke away in thick clouds.

“But now comes the real thing, Doctor! You must court the Jefferson girl like the very devil, must push away all the others! The little brat holds many threads—or will hold them—if she doesn’t already know how! Apparently—she is entirely indifferent today; British or German! You must win her! The little one can be very useful to us—or to them. You see—”

And then he talked, explained things to him bluntly, and in quick sentences; between exhaled puffs of smoke, explained how the Jefferson Bank worked, in front of, and behind the curtains. He explained how the old stock exchange bear—and his wife, no less—would do anything for a smile from their little blonde daughter.

“How do you know all of this?” asked Frank Braun.

Tewes remained standing and waved his long arms in the air.

“Haven’t I been a political newspaper reporter here in New York City for over twenty three years now? Over there you need to know about the authorities— here it’s the families!”

Frank Braun received his invitation and went along with it because Tewes wanted him to, and even more because Lotte Van Ness urged him as well.

“Tewes is right, three times over,” she said. “Court her. Show her what you can do. Take her—give her her first kiss.”

“Kisses—without feelings!” He threw back at her.

“Bah,” she said. “What about it? Kisses are kisses—whether they are sincere or not.”

It was not difficult to play the rooster.  There were a couple of French bankers and diplomats, but they were old, amusing enough, but completely unable to speak English. Then there were Italian artists, painters and singers, second class, all of them; boisterous and servile at the same time. There were also several Englishmen, with very good manners, quiet and cold. They were entertaining, but without humor, very polite and obliging, but it was always with an offensive manner.

“How good of me to come over here for you—now get packed!”

And the Americans, naturally there were many Americans. They were young fellows, well grown, healthy, large and powerful; these sons of the first houses—what a contrast they were to the hollow cheeked, narrow chested and flat-footed folk; those millions that spewed forth into the light from the subway day in and day out!—They were students of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, who could row and ride, box and drive automobiles,  play baseball and football and were just as good at hockey as they were at tennis. And there was no question that they wore their dinner jackets as easily as their polo shirts. There were no Jews there—none at all.

The Kaiser himself would have liked to ask Herren Ballin to breakfast, or the King of England, Sir Ernest Cassel! But this was an American house—one of the highest. The Russian Czar would have to ask Baron Gunzburg to tea, and play bridge with Herren Mandelbaum, before the richest Jew would ever cross over this threshold! He would be almost as much of an outsider here as he was, the German.

Ivy Jefferson stood there, near her parents, with a giant bouquet of orchids in her arms. She welcomed everyone, shook over four hundred hands, and said a hurried phrase to each one. He had come late enough, made his bow, took her hand. He knew from over in Europe that she understood German—so he spoke to her in his own language. Her father heard and immediately made a long face—threw a suspicious glance to his wife and then a very reproachful one at him. Then he greeted him distinctly cool in English. He replied, short and polite, and then turned back again to the girl, and said smiling and loud enough for all to hear:

“Should I speak English?—Your father is deathly afraid to have German spoken in his house.”

At that, little Ivy—spoke in German—hesitating and broken, but still in German.

“Today is my day. Speak German!”

He said, “Thank you.” And turned around to go.

But she held him back, intentionally and openly. Oh, she was fully grown up now, was “in high society.” And from this hour on, was independent of all others, and of her parents. She had to show them—and this was her first opportunity. And—just for something to talk about—she spoke:

“Everyone has said a couple of things about my appearance to me—you haven’t said a word. Do I please you?”

He measured her in a tenth of a second.

“Much,” he said slowly, “very much! Only—your maid is a goose.”

“Why do you say that?” She asked.

He pulled his lips down into a frown.

“You have a loose thread—just a little one, right there, where a conch shell should be.”

She turned red—he could see that very well, even under the makeup and powder. Her gaze met his, offended and hurt—then flew over to her shoulder. She bit her teeth together—

“Oh,” she whispered.

Then she turned sharply away—left him standing, and pushed away the outstretched hand of another. He left, lost himself among the people. He considered for a moment—then nodded in satisfaction.  He thought:

“That went well. Two hundred men shook her hand—they all said the same things. She will notice me.”

He sat at a table, somewhere in the back of the Gothic dining room. He ate a little, drank, spoke with a few highly indifferent people; then crossed over with them into the winter garden, then into the ballroom, and stood over to one side, entirely alone, watching. Yes, they could dance, these American youngsters; back and forth, regular, always the same, soulless, without any passion, infinitely boring—but lithe, untiring and for hours. He stood there and waited. He saw her pass by, two times, five times, many times. She looked over at him, but did not nod to him. Several times when she sat out a couple of minutes, it seemed to him as if her eyes looked confused—inviting at first, then angry—then inviting again. Why didn’t he come over to ask her for a dance? But he just stood there, quiet, unmoving, watching and waiting, scornful, and a little bored. Oh no, it was not intentional with him. He just let things happen as they would. He waited. He thought, “She will come.”

 

He went across Madison Square in the dusk—there, a couple blocks away, where Broadway and Fifth Avenue, became one. Behind him both giant streets were separated by the knife edge of the mighty flatiron building, the only building in the entire city that carried a strongly unique thought. He crept along the walls of the buildings through the icy snowstorm, working his way further step by step and floundering deeply in the white snow.

Across, on the north side surrounded by pillars, he saw the strong brick building of Madison Square Garden, copied from the Alcazar of Seville, complete with the Giralda bell tower.

It occurred to him that a year ago he had been eating and drinking up there on the roof garden one wild night with Stanford White, the architect, and slender Evelyn Nesbitt Thaw, the performer. White, the renowned architect, was the pride of New York. Then on the very next day—and in the same chair—he encountered the death bringing bullet of Harry Thaw, her husband.—Who even thought of his name today—who spoke of him? It was scarce, but every once in a while someone from some other state spoke about his millionaire murderer, who had played insanity and been set free by some court. Or when Evelyn Nesbit croaked out one of her husky songs in vaudeville.—

And not far from the Alcazar building was the Greek temple of the Supreme Court, and on the other side, the Presbyterian Church with four enormously tall marble pillars. But both buildings were overwhelmed, crushed to death, by the sky high mass of the Metropolitan building, tasteless, cheap, and without feeling, just high, large and gigantic, towering like a four cornered tower of Babel from whose top a red flaming torch shone. This crude tower, with its showy, illuminated, giant clock contrasted with everything in the area that had any style, form or color.

There on the corner of Twenty Third Street, tucked into a doorway was a Jewish newspaper boy shouting out into the snow storm. His Jewish papers, “Truth”, “Future”, and “Forward” were huge newspapers from the east side in the Jewish language and Hebrew alphabet that were sold by the hundreds of thousands. He bought a couple of the papers and read the jubilant headlines, “Hindenburg gives Moscow her daily portion!”— “Germany gains reinforcements!” That would make millions in the New York ghettoes rejoice!

He knew very well that it was only their hate, their raging hate against murderous Russia who was slaughtering their brothers and fathers, mothers and sisters like sheep in a slaughterhouse, no, clubbing them to death out in the open like mangy dogs. And yet they stood side by side with his folk—there was not one of these papers that did not openly fight for Germany’s cause—oh, even more decisively, wildly and recklessly than the German newspapers themselves in this country.

He battled tiredly through the storm, diagonally across the place. A melody hummed in his head, some old street song that kept going through his head. He searched for the words.—It must have something to do with what he had just been thinking about—with the Jews and with the Germans. Then it occurred to him, slowly, line by line—first the rhythm and then the words that fell very heavy on his tongue.

 

“Ti kolinší židí

Křestány vrazdejí!

Holku podřezali

Krv jé vycedili

Do vody hodili!”

 

That—yes that—that was what he had heard over and over again in Bohemia. Just like this year on all the streets, in all the locales, from the hurdy-gurdy players and the gramophones, from pianos and violins, from music bands and from the throats of the people everywhere, singing, whistling and playing. Everywhere, through nights and days, the battle song of the allies filled the city “Tipperary” and again, “Tipperary”!

Tipperary—the battle song of the allies, and—naturally!—That of all the Yankees that were against Germany. They sang it, because it was fashionable—but also to show their love for England, Russia and France, and to express their hatred against the Germans. Just exactly like the Bohemian folk expressed their hatred against the Jews in this hot little song:

 

“The Jews came from Kolin

They slaughtered the Christians

Cut the throats of the little girls,

Poured their blood into a bucket

Threw it deep down into the well.”

 

That is how the folk felt, felt like that and no other way! And they were rock solid in their belief of ritual murder—kill him dead, the Jew!

What—what did Lotte Lewi want to do with that—with her great union, her proud dream of love and brotherhood? It was foolishness, a childish dream.

—But no, no! It was not the Christians—it was the Germans alone that she wanted to unite with Israel. These, these lines from this little song were not from Germans, they were from Czechs and Slavs, like the pogrom bands of the Czar. Hadn’t a Czech regiment mutinied immediately at the beginning of the war—and ran over to the enemy with flying colors? They hated the Germans no less than the Jews.

He considered, thought back on his time at Prague. There had been carousing day after day, brawling colorful capped German students, whose unconcerned strolling over graves incited the mobs. There had been sticks and stones—many times even knives and bullets. And it was always a German student against a dozen Czechs. Who were these German lads that had no fear, laughed so brightly, and placed their blood— and perhaps their lives—in play for the German cause at the oldest German university? These high grown fellow countrymen and fraternity students, turning, drilling and doing exercises in uniforms and caps as their rapiers rattled loudly over the pavement? Who are these Germans in Prague that battled for their language and customs year in and year out in the middle of a Slavic country? They were nine tenths pure Jews by race. The Czechs gave them the sweet name of lousy, mangy, dirty, wallowing, German dogs. They thought of them as German—Oh yes, all this Slavish hatred of Germans was nothing more than anti-Semitism in the final analysis!

And those Jews that felt themselves to be Germans, that fought in the hottest places most passionately for Germany’s cause were Levi’s children fighting for the black, white and red! Jews and Germans against the Slavs—wasn’t that the daily cry of the Jewish newspapers—the passionate desire of the millions in the New York ghettos? Jews as Germans—as an equal tribe of the German nation, like the Swabian, the Franks, the Styrian, Pomeranians and Tyroleans—wasn’t that Lotte Lewi’s prophetic dream? Fulfilled there in the oldest city of German science—years before the war! Unobserved—scarcely noticed by anyone here or there, but still clear and open, graspable with both hands.

And again, wasn’t it as if an ancient word was becoming true for the second time—larger, stronger than the first time? That time, in little Palestine, the tribe of Levi received no portion of land, but merged into all of the tribes, cementing them tightly together, the tribe of Louis whose flag flew the German colors. Couldn’t it happen again in the near future? Israel as a German tribe mixed through them all and cementing them more completely and tightly together!

A foreign element? A piece of Asiatic race? Oh, he was not afraid of that! These racial questions were children’s eggs that they had been walking on with the soles of their feet for thirty years already. It had happened more than once in the last century—and what had happened once could happen again. In the 19th century in the Crimean the Hungarian folk of the Chasaren had converted to Judaism. Today there were no better Jews than these blonde, blue eyed Karaim out of south Russia. Oh, it was possible, most certainly possible.

And then?—Then? Germany would be Israel’s Zion—and the Promised Land—would be the entire world!

 

*               *

*

 

 

He turned around the corner toward Gramercy Park. Someone was coming toward him in a black overcoat that threw off the snow. The white felt hat was pulled down firmly over the forehead. He was shuffling, weaving, limping and almost falling. The man was not drunk, only stumbling and staying upright with difficulty in the icy snowstorm.

Frank Braun stepped toward him, giving the appearance as if he wanted to help. The man in black laughed at that—no, it was more of a growl, a slimy, drooling grunt. It rang in his ears like the fisherman’s knife eviscerating and tearing a fish, so smooth and believable that he could almost smell the repulsive smell,—smooth and yet crunching and sliding. Very disgusting.—He recognized it at once. That was how his uncle laughed—and the man in the Pullman car. He looked around—were there any black mice jumping through the snow?

No—there were none. But Frank Braun remained standing where he was, waiting, letting the man come up to him. But no, this man did not spit. He snarled past and grunted again. Now he could see the man’s face in the street light. It was a Chinese, round and over fat. The man grabbed onto the iron fence and hung there, swaying as if on the railing of a listing ship.   Then he bent down and sailed across, then diagonally, over the street and down toward China town.

Frank Braun watched after him. But the man did not spit.—no, the white carpet remained smooth. Only, now and then and then again the disgusting grunts hit his ears, before being torn to shreds, into pieces by the howling wind of the winter storm.

There no more autos, no more wagons, busses or street cars. Empty, everything was empty, and the icy howling kept growing ever stronger. It would permit nothing to be in the streets except itself. It whipped at the snowflakes that spewed in from all sides, chased up and down the concrete walls, tore at the streetlamps, fence, benches and buildings. It also formed, just for a few minutes, fantastic figures all around the park, and then tore them apart again, creating and destroying at the same time.

One raised up like a mighty animal behind the snow covered fence in a leafless bush. It was a bear, an eternal polar bear, like the one he saw daily in the papers as Russian’s rending symbol. And over there leaning against the street light, one stood in an overcoat, like some forgotten sentry in the winter night. Something protruded out from under his overcoat, black and pointed, like a bayonets.—Then from the west side came a new blast. It created new misty figures out of the snow—stormed across and pounded against the iron fence making it rattle. Now there was a new chase, more, many more blindingly white figures grew out of the ground. They rushed toward him, at him, through him. The new snow crowded around him with more and more of them. They seized him, threw him to the ground, tore him around, like a clumsy frame and pinned him solidly to the white ground. Wearily he got onto his knees and crawled forwards, groping, crawling. While over him rode thousands, hundreds of thousands of white riders. They stopped, howled and screamed.—

And broke apart behind him on the iron fence.—

But just across the street—only thirty steps away—there was his club.—He could get warm there. Drink grog. Play poker.

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