THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK THREE:  BOOK of the PACIFICATION

 

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

 

          "Well, the rest of it is not too hard to guess,” José told his General and his guest.  “I ordered a guard to be posted around the place and sent a message back to General Bravo here for a hundred men with axes and machetes, and though the tree was old and thick, we pulled it down in the course of a day and hauled the pieces back to Central to be fed to the flames. Even then the damn thing frustrated us for, while it was to be anticipated that many evening meals and pots of coffee would be boiled over the remains of El Indio Triste, so much of that vile fog had seeped into the wood that it wouldn't burn. So there it sits, a pile of lumber in the monte which may someday be dried and seasoned enough to meet its destiny. Needless to say, however, the mysterious disappearances on the road have ceased utterly; men die, of course, but their fall may be explained in the usual nature of things.

          "That is a wonderful story," said Wallen, and his approval also gave pleasure to José, for he could now find some pretext for taking his leave to go about his business. "Only one thing I do not understand... the tree was obviously named for some sad Indian, but why? What is the origin of this name?"

          "I have no idea," José said abruptly. "That's what they've always called it."

          "I can tell you," General Bravo said. "It goes back fifty years or so, one of the expeditions that they made around the time this damnable Talking Cross nonsense got its start. One of our Generals, I don't recall which one, was chasing rebels east of here and he caught up with a bunch on the way to Central, which at the time was just another collection of their miserable hovels. They'd used up all their ammunition, those indians, and they surrendered, figuring they might still be a nuisance to the Mexicans or at least cause a waste of good ammunition. This General, whoever he was, was a smart fellow though, he had a quantity of rope with him and chopped into nooses, and he hung those revolted indians from the branches of that ceiba, dozens of them. That's how the place got its name, and among the superstitious who believe that souls go not to Hell or Heaven but lurk around the places of their death... well... they gave that tree a name to remind them of the fruit it had borne. But as you have been told, it was a living indian at the center of this malice, not some damnable old superstition."

          Bravo smiled, making a motion of dismissal to Captain Macias. "The only dead souls hereabouts are those men whom Don Porfirio is sending here at the behest of the Cuerpo de Operarios. I understand some famous troublemakers from the capital are on their way to our modest establishment - I can assure you this, Mr. Wallen, some of your chicle will have been gathered by the most highly educated, if misguided, labor in the world. That is something that you could take back to Belgium with you, no? All the traitorous journalists and deputies and all of your unwanted University professors in Brussels sent to your farms to do a little honest labor, would you like that?"

          "I would, I would!" Pieter Wallen agreed, his forehead still glistening with sweat.

          "There is no assurance that the texture of chewing gum, or its taste, will be improved by the cultivation of the hands that collect it," Bravo acknowledged, "but this I can assure you... as the Cuerpo accomplishes its objectives, Santa Cruz del Bravo will rightfully take its place as a city among the foremost of the Americas, a place without comparison to any other."

          "Amen," the Captain responded at Bravo's door. Saluting, he exited the offices, standing upon the porch under the tiger-spotted sky. "What fools!" he thought derisively. Even the General did not know the full story of the Sad Indian; would not know, could not understand even were it told to him.

          "There are more things in Heaven and in Earth, General, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," José recited a play upon Shakespeare's words to himself, "and there are things of the Territory apart, even, from the most monstrous of your dreams."

          And now, of course, it was the Captain who was only fooling himself!

 

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