THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN
Four days dawned and were consumed, devoured by the improbable courtship. Meanwhile the documents, which were the Colonel's obligation, remained on the table of the lovers' suite as, with a reserve of energy miraculous, to Solis, they rose at daybreak... passed the morning hours in the shops, the afternoons at the park, the galleries, the zoological garden and evenings at the cinema, theater or symphony. Rarely did they return before midnight and, with gentle yet steely resolution, Maria then turned her captive away from his duties of state towards those of their bed at the Hotel Alameda.
Solis cornered the General on Thursday evening at a reception for the Japanese consul, that day being some anniversary important to Tokyo. "People at the hotel are talking," he warned the Tatoob. "It was not uncommon for unmarried man and women to carry on during the revolution... after all, when Death waits round any corner, one is not expected to live up to such standards of propriety we follow in peacetime. But, General, progress has emerged triumphant. We no longer have to behave like the Villistas."
"Who is it calling us Villista dogs?" The capitaleños, even those who shared Carranza's matter-of-fact atheism or the rather more pungent stance of Obregon had, nonetheless, interpreted the victories that this one armed General had won over Villa as a repudiation of the bandit by some higher power. The insult in the term no longer lay in its savage connotations, so much as it seemed to describe a loser.
"People at the hotel," Solis repeated, "and in the government." He did not specify, for Silvestro seemed perfectly capable of taking a machete after any who impugned the honor of his Maria.
The Tatoob's rage was brief and remorse followed. "They are right, whoever they may be! Behavior such as mine would not be tolerated in Santa Cruz. I have given many arrobas to the adulterers myself, and to the impudent ones who adopt the vices of Mexicans."
Solis discreetly ignored this observation and, with all of the solicitation of his training, excused Silvestro for his conduct in Mexico City. "Travel, like war, may cause a man to hold to other principles. Is it my place... I ask myself... to criticize that which I know would also apply were I to visit a foreign place, Paris, for example?" He nodded as if they already had come to an understanding. "Foreign manners are easily picked up, like garrapatas, and are as painful to remove... they may not be wholly evil if they cause the opening of windows through which we may view our nature. What is not to be forgotten, however, is that we remember who we are," and the Colonel picked up Carranza's papers, "and what is expected of us."
"That's just what I wish to settle," said the Tatoob. "It shall be my conclusion that we are to be married, Maria and I, married in Christian ceremony, in a Christian church. Then Juan de la Cruz shall look upon us favorably and your people in the hotel," he added, somewhat menacingly, "will cease their whisperings."
"Marry Maria?" The Colonel threw his head back and roared with laughter. "Better clothe a hen in silk than drape that woman in bridal white. Be reasonable," he added, for it was not his intent to anger or embarrass Silvestro, only to guide him from his folly. "You are already a husband, a father."
"As a wealthy man, a jefe, I can support four wives and twice that number of children," Silvestro replied.
"It's bigamy!" cried Solis and explained the crime.
"Juan de la Cruz has spoken to his Christians that men of the highest rank may take four wives. Has he spoken to the Mexicans? It is said that he appeared among the Jews and ordered they have only one but, Colonel, neither you nor I are Jews. To be at peace with your Catolicos, I shall consent to be married in a Mexican cathedral. See that this is arranged."
"Impossible!" the Colonel retorted.
"Then you must find a motorcar," Silvestro said, "to take me to the railroad station with my betrothed. We shall make our way to the Territory, back over the high mountains to the port at Veracruz, where there are always boats to Merida. Notify your President that the money which he owes to me must be ready by tomorrow morning. We will leave at nine. If you wish," he added, "you may accompany us to the station."
"My dear friend," Solis answered, "let us not act so precipitously. I am merely stating the law as it has been written. How it is applied may be another matter."
"Apply it as you will," the Tatoob said, "but quickly. I shall be remembered to Juan de la Cruz by taking the vows on his day."
"Sunday?" Solis asked. "This Sunday?"
"Better this than any other," the Tatoob replied. "Until we are wed, I shall be as despicable in the eyes of Juan de la Cruz as to your people in the hotel. My sins are a river that shall rise until no man can step into their waters without being washed away. Maria is a cataract of sin, a hurricane. My wife is useful, a devoted mother. Maria devours my soul! Were she of the mazehualob I would not approach her for it would be obvious that she was of the xtabai, such creatures as Miguel Chankik uses for his purpose. That she is Mexican is my salvation, Colonel."
"But how can you be sure that she is of Juan de la Cruz?" Solis retorted, for he sensed an avenue, by which reasoning, the General might be relieved of infatuation. "By your own words, and by what I have seen of her, and of those places she springs from, I would not be surprised were her allegiance to that other fellow... enemy to Mexican, or mazehual alike. You would not be the first of her husbands," and the Colonel dropped his voice, winking, "nor should you take courage from what has happened to the others. She is a creature of the Revolution, itself a being not unlike Juan de la Cruz, but of an unlucky aspect. Think upon this, General."
"I have considered," Silvestro replied gravely. "We have discussed our wedding plans, Maria has told me of the church in which she wishes the marriage ceremonies held. A demon would shrink from a church... isn't that so?"
"Obviously," conceded the Colonel, curbing his impulse to say something of the cathedral of Santa Cruz. "And Maria surely is no demon but, rather, only an unusual and perhaps dangerous woman." But he had not exhausted his wiles. "Still it is out of the question that this marriage occur on Sunday. That is the day that Carranza's pilots shall take you into their airship. To be with the eagles, as you said. Have you so quickly forgotten?"
Silvestro frowned. He closed his eyes and, quite suddenly, seemed, to the Colonel, to be one of the walking dead... or else trapped in a mesmeric state. Concerned, the Colonel gripped his shoulder. "General!" he called.
"With the eagles," Silvestro blinked. "I, I am sorry... we shall hold the wedding in the morning. Yes, that is what is to be done."
"You can't be married on a Sunday morning," the Colonel protested. "That is the time set aside for Mass. No padre would cancel his Sunday Mass..."
"To administer the Christian sacraments?" The Tatoob grinned. "What sort of Christian father would this be, to refuse such opportunity. Let it be a matrimonial Mass - the congregation will not be disturbed. They'll be delighted! No Christian, even in Mexico," Silvestro said, "would turn down the opportunity for such celebration. There will be a cake – and, because it is a church, after all, wine for all, but no mescal and no aguardiente. Is that not also the preference of the President?"
Solis remained unconvinced but the Tatoob dismissed his objections. "Find a padre who will do this, and pay what he asks. Do what you must, Colonel, I only ask such business not interrupt our wedding day."
And no sooner had this warning been given then one of Carranza's ministers interrupted them, wishing to present one of the Japanese guests to the Tatoob. "Under the orders of the First Chief, the most estimable Venustiano Carranza, our native populations have been fully welcomed into the Republic as citizens with all due rights and responsibilities inherent... even those who, like this General, speak only their primitive and barbarous tongues."
Silvestro was bored, sated with his triumph yet of a mind to bait the pompous Minister. "I am considering," he said to Solis, "how many wives the Japanese may take. Please ask him!"
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