THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
A journey of such distance, which would have taken more than a week afoot and at least several days on horseback, was, thus, completed in only a few hours... much of that spent picking up passengers who waited at their small towns for the train. It was early in the afternoon when Silvestro and Clarencio disembarked at the village on the rail nearest to Idznacab. They were still some six kilometers south of the estanción and Silvestro at once began to frown, looking from side to side.
"What are your searching for?" Clarencio asked.
"A carriage or, at least, a carretera," said the Tatoob. "I do not want to return to Idznacab by foot. No matter that don Antonio Macias has sent his invitation, there's a man there who might remember me poorly."
"But what does it matter?" asked Clarencio, who knew some of Silvestro's background... that he was not native to the territory but had been a Yucatecan peon from this very place. "Alvarado himself has proclaimed an end to slavery. Under the law, we are as free as any Mexican."
"Under the law..." Silvestro acknowledged. He took a final glance around the village there but there was no sign even of a horse, let alone one for hire. A ragged boy peeked at him from around the station, and seeing that the two fierce looking men had not drawn their machetes, approached with his basket.
"Chicle, Señores? Goma?"
The Tatoob brushed him away. "We are as free as any Mexican to bow and beg, that is, or to be shot by anyone with the capacity to stay outside the reach of Alvarado's law. When one is not important, nor protected, nobody cares what becomes of him. That is another of the reason why I would rather arrive in a carriage. This man, Armando Feliz, was not so happy when I left him... I gather he has some claim that I was a thief, though I was merely doing what I had to in the cause of the insurgence. Well, let us begin. I think that I remember a way to the patron's house that will enable us to avoid the mayordomo."
"And perhaps he is already dead," Clarencio suggested, trying to be helpful.
They were soon out of the little village on the railroad and, walking the flat and treeless Yucatecan plain, Silvestro felt uneasy and exposed. Living in the territory, he had grown used to the curtain of the monte, a green wall that concealed him from those whom he did not wish to meet. And, after years of such concealment, the wide spaces of his childhood alarmed him and the windows of his senses opened like those in a house many years deserted. If he stood on a fence, he could see what seemed miles upon miles of henequen and the windmill of a small estanción. The shouts of children and a smell of roasting meat were also carried to them across this distance.
"When Capitan Pedro went with the Yaqui to fight for Villa," Clarencio recalled, "he said that they would ride for a hundred leguas without finding corn or water, that they rode through mountains so high that four hundred men atop the shoulders of one another could not touch its peak."
"Pedro is a magnificent storyteller," Silvestro said. "Take this," he added suddenly, passing his bundle to the other. "We are soldiers, remember your job!" And he stopped in the road and changed the position of his rifle so it would be in easy ranch.
Clarencio tied the bundle to his own. The two were heavier than one, and the Tatoob appeared to quicken his step, and to find fault with Clarencio's pace. "But it is his right," he remembered, "the right of the Jefe. He has killed forty Mexicans that we should have survived to be walking here, why shouldn't his hands be free?"
The estanción had few indications of a trap. It was owned by a Ladino, but the smallness of its house and the scrawny corn and henequen crops had thus far saved it from appropriation by Alvarado. The owner, however, still lived in fear of the day when a revolutionary delegation would appear and order him to turn it over to one of their officers, as had been the case of many estanciónes to the north. He had also heard the rumors that Zapatistas had crawled over the mountains of Chiapas to recruit the tribes of territory and now... here came two of the revolted Maya, one of them clearly a person of rank and importance from his earrings, his scars and... especially... the rifle that was in easy reach.
"Abajo!" he hissed to his wife and children and they scuttled down through a door, which concealed a secret basement. Such hiding places had been in use since the War of the Castes. "Un momento," he called out, placing a pistol in his belt and glancing through the window. Only the two indians were visible, but it was also possible that there were more concealed nearby.
"What do you wish?" he asked through the door.
"Water," came the reply, "and some information."
The Ladino opened his door cautiously and led the two indians to his pump. A year ago he would have driven them away or even shot them, but one never knew which of these types might not be in the service of the Governor, seeking to provoke an excuse for Alvarado to confiscate yet another estanción. Silvestro did not move towards the machinery but rather waited and stared until the hacendado filled the bucket and passed it to him.
"Is this the way to Idznacab?" asked the Tatoob, nodding towards the dirt road that ran past the house and tipping the bucket to his lip.
"You will pass the estanción now owned by Colonel Sarmiento, then a few small farms, and after that another owned by Colonel Robles... managed, rather, it is one of those enterprises taken by the Governor. You will recognize it from its three windmills. Then the road crosses another and you go to the right. After two kilometers, that is Idznacab.
Without so much as offering it to Clarencio, the Tatoob put the bucket down and placed a peso on top of the pump. "I've been tipped!" realized the incredulous hacendado, "an indian has tipped me, just as though I'd blacked his boots! In the old days they'd crawl around as if they were dogs, now they demand water and leave money as if they were gentlemen." In his indignation he considered flinging the coin after the retreating indians but, after all, it was real money and not paper, so he put it in his pocket with a final curse upon Alvarado.
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