Huerta shrugged as they returned to General Bravo's office. The Generals shook hands warily and all those present were then dismissed save for José, Huerta and one Major Porrua, apparently a favorite of Vega. Bravo had caused a fine and heavy wooden door with many carvings to be brought from Merida; its thickness served to frustrate eavesdroppers and made a satisfying sound as it was shut.

          "Now," said the man who had granted his name to the capital of the territory, "how goes the pacification in the South?"

          Vega crossed his fingers, regarding the older General before him. "The situation is stable and improving. For these fifty years, the ability of the sublevados to wage war has depended on the willingness... the eagerness, at times, I may add... of the British, Costazuelans, Guatemalans and such to provide their arms. At the present time, conditions are operating in our favor."

          "How is that?" Bravo asked.

          Vega regarded him coolly. "If you had made the attempt to win the loyalty of a few of these indians, you would know, as well as I, that the sublevados have been decimated by disease. They cannot cut the wood and gather the chicle that is the rightful property of Mexico and, therefore, cannot buy arms and ammunition. Some of the healthier ones have crossed over into Costazul where they engage in banditry and try to stir the indians there up, but this has caused the officials in Salamanca to reinforce their outposts on the border. And the British in Belize - they're not inclined to extend credit. There are a few of them who will even take the Cruzob goods and let us know when the devils might try to recross the border. We return the supplies to Belize and the sublevados float up the Rio Hondo into Chetumal Bay."

          "You mentioned disease?" Bravo asked. He turned to Victoriano Huerta. "Is it true, Colonel, that the indians around these parts are diseased?"

          "The only disease that I know the dogs around these parts to have contracted," Huerta smiled, "is lead poisoning. There is an unfortunate abundance of that..."

          "Perhaps things are different here," suggested Vega. "But at Payo Obispo, we regard the indian question as being under control and subordinate, at least for the present, to President Diaz' objective to develop the territory, and to bring it into competition with the rest of the Republic."

          "And by that you mean... that canal?" Vega nodded.

          General Bravo chewed at the tip of his moustaches. "I may, of course, be showing ignorance," he started, "but this canal of yours appears a curious project, to say the least. Of what earthly purpose can there be in digging such a ditch, if you pardon the expression, from nowhere to nowhere?"

          "The same," replied Vega frostily, "as the construction of a railroad between similar locations of present unimportance if future potential."

          "Aha! but that is different. Santa Cruz del Bravo," Bravo ventured with a sudden, if imperfect, modesty "is the capital of Quintana Roo."

          "The Cruzob capital," Vega reminded him. "And for a reason; it is uncomfortable, unhealthy, isolated and without resources. The indians who chose this place were not our equal, but they were not entirely without judgment, such as it may call itself. They needed a place to hide. They found it," he added, pointing downward, "here! Payo Obispo, on the other hand, will be a great port some day, the rival of Progreso or even Veracruz. Upon completion of the Zaragoza canal, the ships of the world will enter the territory directly without the inconvenience of passing through British waters. At least we can agree on the fact that the British have always been pirates, and pirates they shall always be."

          "But there is no need to pass through the English waters," Bravo pointed out, "if such ships were to dock at Vigia Chico. So your port is unnecessary."

          "Why would any ship want to dock at Vigia Chico?" Vega asked, losing his temper. "To trade gum for rum?" He threw his hands into the air. "It is pointless to continue... you and I have done that which was suggested by both Governor Canton and the President. We have met and we do not agree. And I have duties to return to. Accordingly, Providence shall make the decision between us."

          "Not Providence," Bravo corrected, "but Porfirio Diaz." He showed his cadaverous smile. "And if you are impatient to return to your duties, I can show you a trail that is said to lead all the way to Bacalar, though no one has ever returned to confirm whether this is true. After all, you have yourself declared that the sublevados are no longer of consequence."

          And because he was a cultivated man, an Ingenario, General Vega refrained from exploding into curses until he had slammed behind him the heavy door brought by he who had given his name to this capital: Santa Cruz del Bravo.