THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK FOUR:  THE BOOK of SCIENCE

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

          There had been no such happy resolution to Dr. Rosario's exile; his enemy in Mexico City remained at the right hand of Porfirio Diaz, but seemed to be making no effort to detect and further punish the unfortunate physician. He had resigned himself to the territory - if it were not a place of adventure, neither was it uncomfortable and his duties were not oppressive. Some of his patients survived, those who did not were buried, and time in its passage was kind to him. The flow of supplies by sea and through Vigia Chico was more reliable than the overland route through Peto and sometimes a man without an arm or leg would remember the doctor and thank him. The prostitutes of the territory relied upon his expertise and showed gratitude... a few of their infants he'd delivered were old enough now to walk and speak. And there was no shortage of aguardiente.

          The impending loss of his old friend Captain Macias discouraged him, but Dr. Rosario had risen to the occasion, covering his table with a sheet on which the bloodstains were barely visible and rounded up chairs enough for the departing Captain and a few of his closest friends. José Valero, who had been promoted to Major, was there, Sergeant Martinez, Teniente Osvaldo Andujar and some of the doctor's assistants; a party of twelve to devour a pair of turkeys purchased from indians and to toast José's escape with brandy arrived, just that morning, from Vigia Chico.

          "How fortunate we have been," Rosario lifted his glass, "that the railroad could not be finished as quickly as Bravo desired, before Colonel Huerta was reassigned to the engineering office of Monterrey. Otherwise, this gathering would surely have been blessed with his presence, and we would have only empty bottles from which to drink our toasts.

          The slam of a door put a cease to the merriment, as the General entered and, trailing him, his son Tomas, a recent graduate of military college. Tomas Bravo had been given some of his father's concessions to manage and appeared to have inherited, as well, the General's mercurial temperament. Already he had shot two Chinese, who had been accused of withholding part of the proceeds Bravo demanded of all the Territory's merchants. His gun was always near, as was a bottle, but the young Bravo was neither philosophical, like Rosario, or of a jovial ferocity, like Huerta, and most of Santa Cruz dreaded his approach.

          Dr. Rosario, nonetheless, poured brandy for son and father and the elder Bravo raised his glass. "Finally, Captain, is there nothing we can say or do to persuade you to remain with our company? You're really going back to Yucatan to sell rope? Ah, what a hole you've put us in, José. I suppose that I will have to make do with those dullards they keep sending me from the capital, won't I?" Tomas Bravo's cheeks flushed and he consumed the brandy at one gulp, as if it were the rawest cane liquor. "I suppose I could order my son to draw his pistol and hold you here..." and he turned to the struggling Tomas, "... I wasn't serious, of course. But are you certain that your mind will not be changed?"

          "I'm afraid so," José signed. "My services are required at the family estate."

          There was an uncommon mischief in the old General's eyes. "And perhaps this family might be a larger one." He drew a letter from his breast pocket, addressed in a small, feminine script. In addition to his duties as territorial Governor and military commanders, Bravo had appointed himself Superintendent of Education and Postmaster, drawing a salary for each position. Every item in the mail pouch from Progreso passed before the desk of Bravo's creatures, and the General now waved the letter before the company, allowing each a noseful of the fragrance with which it had been sealed.

          "Think of the poor devils of Santa Cruz del Bravo when you are in the arms of your beloved," the General advised.

          "I shall," promised José. "He raised his glass. Gentlemen, to Hell, and to all its denizens."

          "To Hell!" they repeated, and the brandy was drained. As the warmth of the liquor filled his breast, José smiled at the recollection of the adolescent toast of the Caballeros. What an impression he would make on those chocolateros upon his return to Merida.

          The Devil pacified, they toasted Bravo, Huerta and the latter's successor... the dour Colonel Carlos Plank, who exceeded his General's threescore and ten years by eight more. "Teniente, I expect you in my offices at eight tomorrow morning," Bravo ordered by way of departure. "The sublevados have dared to show their face again. Captain, can you be stayed by the prospect of a good fight."

          "Their extermination shall be my pleasure," imposed Andujar.

          "He'll give them a blow for me," José suggested and Bravo gave a shrug, pointed his son towards the door and left, with not a word of the unctuous Pieter Wallen being uttered.

          Dr. Rosario refilled his glass. "Like father, like son," he declared.

          "Young Tomas is more of a rascal than his father," José offered as the door slammed, "though not so smart as he thinks he is. I don't believe the territory's big enough to hold the two of them. And I can't be sorry that I won't be here, maybe in the way, when either of them comes to realize it."

 

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