THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK TWO:  BOOK of the CAMPAÑA

 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

 

          The Mexicans knew naught of what was transpiring among the Cruzob. Unlike the enemy, they possessed no secret agents. General Garcia, before Bravo, had sent out men pretending to be chicleros to spy upon the sublevado camps; men who spoke a different dialect of the Maya language, men who knew so little of chicle that they wandered through the monte until the rebels fell upon those who had not already died and hanged their gutted corpses next to the trail for Garcia to find. Bravo had little but contempt for his predecessor and his methods and was, besides, a forward-looking man, with little concern as to the condition of the enemy. As soon as the politicians ceased their meddling with the campaign, the Maya would be smashed. That was all.

          When José Macias arrived at Nohpop his arm was still weak from his wound, but showing every sign of complete recovery. Already he could manage a horse, write a letter, fire a pistol. Soon he would be able to shoulder a rifle. Beyond these things, he was content to wait.

          He left his horse in the care of a convict groom, one of an increasing number drafted into personal service. Bravo's officers were living the lives of minor hacendados, now, whose every need was met by others. A man could grow used to this, as he well knew, and when he expressed such sentiments to Dr. Rosario, the latter promptly agreed. "All the officers have servants, some even three or four. You just go to the wagons when a lot comes in, and a more grateful bunch of dogs you won't find. Isn't that so, Diego?"

          "Yes, my Doctor," said a thin man in a worn but clean white tunic, placing a bottle of quinine before Rosario.

          "General Bravo has made Diego mine to do with as I please, and he feels fortunate for it. He used to be a dentist," Rosario added, "but met with misfortune. Tell my friend what happened to you."

          "It was on account of General Duran in the capital," said the thin man hopefully. "Do you know anything of him?"

          "There are a lot of Durans in the capital," José said, "and a lot of Generals. I don't think I know your man."

          "He had a terrible toothache," the dentist declared. "With his own hand he pointed to the tooth which he wanted to have removed and then he fell asleep. I pulled it out. The General awoke and told me that I'd pulled the wrong one."

          "The General was drunk," Rosario added. "He probably didn't know himself where he was pointing. At any rate, Diego is fortunate that he wasn't shot, and he works for me now. He's happy to do so... wouldn't you rather be doing anything, even blackening boots or sewing up these poor excuses for soldiers than chopping at the goddam monte or serving as a human shield for some idiot Teniente?"

          José smiled. "Have Bravo and Huerta plotted the end of the campaign?"

          "Of course," Rosario declared. "We shall go by the book; banners aloft, trumpets ablare... just how they did against the French, Bravo says, and the way that the French did too. Nobody has the heart to tell him that the sublevados aren't Frenchmen, they'll likely run round the place and shoot from cover. But we'll get them in the end. The revolted ones are streaming into Santa Cruz from all over the Southeast... Belize and Guatemala also... but we'll get them. Bravo's even given some prisoners machetes; I think they hate the sublevados almost as much as they hate us by now and, at any rate, they'll be between forces. Any man who turns, even to scratch at a mosquito on his neck... well, he'll be shot. And if one of the devils kills enough of the Cruzob, well, who knows what will happen? There'll be no use for the poor bastards here after we've won."

          "No?" José asked, but declined to offer a further view. He had seen much on his way back into the encampment and, having been tended all his life by slaves, or people nearly so, he understood how fine it must seem for an officer, not even a colonel or a general but a captain, perhaps, or even a sergeant, to be waited upon as if he were not a soldier about to go into battle but lord of a fine estanción. Slavery, José knew, had brought down both empires and men. He would not bring this up yet, of course, he'd merely wait and see what developed. But if a man as perceptive as Dr. Rosario believed the campaign over as soon as they had taken Chan Santa Cruz, who knew what fantasies were circulating about old Huerta's brandy bottle in the tents of their commanders. Whistling a tune he turned to ask the location of his company.

 

 

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