THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK TWO:  BOOK of the CAMPAÑA

 

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

 

 

          Luis reached the encampment in less than an hour, gasping for breath... his face, feet and hands torn and bleeding from the sprint. By the evening meal, not a man among the company of Chankik was ignorant of the news of the abandonment of Chan Santa Cruz.

          Victoriano Huerta, however, remained wary. "It's a trick," he opined. "These savages have left their village for the cover just beyond, they wait for us to approach and then..." he clapped his hands together.  "Besides, who is this mule driver, anyway? You should have the Jackal question him more rigorously."

          "We will search the village," Bravo said, "and, if it is a trick and some must die, it will be so." So, in the morning, a party of spies was sent down the mule driver's trail towards Chan Santa Cruz; men of the Yucatan Guard and Federals with experience in fighting indians and bandits on their home ground, including the acrobatic corporal from José's first battle at the chicle camp near Yokdzonot. This fellow climbed the tallest tree bordering the holy city and sat with his field glasses for three hours, searching for signs of life. There were none. Not an indian about, nor dogs, nor pigs, not even a chicken.

          The spies returned to Chankik.

          On the next day, April twenty seventh, thirty soldiers accompanied by a contingent of prisoners twice that in size arrived at Chan Santa Cruz. This time, they prowled the outskirts of the city, peeking into huts nearest to the trail. Nothing. They fired a volley of shots towards the cathedral. Again, no response was made. Curiously, the air of abandonment afflicted them more than would have the presence of the Cruzob and the prospect of a good fight. They returned to Chankik, having recovered the mules of Luis Gomez, now sleek and lazy from two days of plenty and no work.

          On the twenty eighth, an advance guard of twenty men, then thirty more was established in the monte, barely half a kilometer from the entrance to Chan Santa Cruz. Another encampment, twice that size, was set up half of the distance back to Chankik. From these camps, continual surveillance could be kept upon the Cruzob capital. The day passed without incident and the twenty ninth as well.

          "They're gone!" said Huerta with an indisguisable twinge of bitterness. "Those cowardly dogs... they've run off to the jungle! What a sour finish to the campaign," he added. "Well at least I'll be glad to get back to Mexico!"

          General Bravo nodded at the Colonel's disappointment with a distracted smile upon his face. Where Huerta's dream of a battlefield soaked with blood and the corpses of enemies was crumbled, his own mind spun visions of a new Jerusalem... a scientific paradise with the railroads and electricity he had read about in magazines from America and Spain; with paved streets on which strolled impeccably attired gentlemen and charming ladies on their way to dine on patios beneath the starry sky or to the opera. A wonderland of busy offices and bustling commercial enterprise: Americans machines and solicitous native attendants in clean uniforms, reformed... all thoughts of revolt burned away by the cleansing fires of Christian education. And at the center of this model state he saw himself; a just, but demanding Governor, tolerant of all save waste, insubordination and the slothfulness that tropics breed, the "Indian disease" as it is called.  A champion of progress, science and education to reign over the new territory... which, of course, would have been removed from beneath the thumb of the decadent Yucatecans.

          "Do you wish to give the orders to take this wretched village?" Colonel Huerta sneered, intruding on the General's reveries like the point of a needle on a balloon.

          Bravo scowled. He sat down, a thought having occurred to him. "We will wait," he said. "I'll telegraph the President that we will enter the insurgent capital in six days."

          "Six days," frowned Huerta, then counted on his fingers. "Why, that's..."

          The old General nodded. "It's Independence Day," he said. "I gave my oath to don Porfirio that we would raise the flag of the Republic over Chan Santa Cruz on the anniversary of our national independence. Fortunately, I did not specify the year that I would do so. Now I can say to the President, with a conscience absolutely clear, that I have kept my word."

 

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