THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
CHAPTER FORTY THREE
Silvestro Kaak had had to set the heavy box down to stretch his arm, allowing a breathless Colonel Solis to catch up with him. "Give me the telegram," said the Tatoob, "and you can make yourself useful by telling me how to find the telegraph office."
"It's over that way," Solis scowled, nodding to his left. "Your Spanish has truly improved," he added. "It is miraculous."
"It suffices," Silvestro replied, but permitted the Colonel to guide him to the office... a dusty room behind a Lebanese cafe. "Send this message to Santa Cruz del Bravo," he ordered the operator.
This man, a musty-breathed civilian, frowned and opened a yellow notebook filled with papers. Placing spectacles upon his nose he searched but looked up with a mortuarial frown. "There is no such place."
"There is!" Silvestro shouted, "and I am its Governor. Look for the capital of Quintana Roo," he sneered, "fifty leguas to the south and east if you know your directions."
"Ah," the operated smiled, following his finger. "You must mean Chan Santa Cruz. Governor Alvarado has ordered all those names of pueblos taken by the dictator's officials changed back to their indigenous titles. I know where that is. I can reach it for you through Peto... if the lines have not been cut. Such things are known to happen in the territory." And he closed his notebook with a mycotic thud.
"Don't murder him," the Colonel said in Mayan. "You will not be able to get your message through."
The operator looked up. "And what is your message?"
"To the Most Holy pueblo and Oficiales of... Chan Santa Cruz... begin preparing for the ceremony. I am bringing..."
And Silvestro paused. "What do I call this?" he wondered aloud.
"A contraption!" smirked the Colonel, using a Spanish word that had the second meaning of an idiot. "A box of junk..."
"... an offering," the Tatoob decided. "My negotiations with the President have been successful. All of Mexico stands in admiration of the valor of the sublevados, of the territory's prospects and of the enterprise of the mazehualob. I have been awarded..."
"Enough," Solis said. "These pendejos charge by the word," he reminded the General. "Tell them as much as you wish when we've returned, it will be only a few more days. Stop the telegram after successful," he told the operator, "add an order to send the Decauville to Peto to await us, and send it on at once. The address for reply shall be the Ayuntamiento."
"I do not trust that man," Silvestro confided in a whisper. "How do I know that he is sending what I said?" The clicking of the telegraph reminded him of insects.
"If he does not fear you, he fears Alvarado," Solis replied and, when the telegram had been sent and the Colonel had paid for it, they returned to their hotel.
Maria had taken the boxes of clothes and gifts from their shelves and flung them in a heap upon the bed, where they resembled the plunder of a minor raid of Saracens. "We'll never be ready by the afternoon train," she despaired.
Solis put his hand upon the General's shoulder. "Tomorrow morning's train also arrives in time to meet the Decauville to Santa Cruz," he said. "Even if we were to the station on time, for the overnight train, we should have to wait an extra day in Peto. Many of the people there are partial to Francisco May," he reminded the Tatoob.
"Then we'll wait until tomorrow morning," Maria decided. "That means we can attend the reception at the French consulate. Wouldn't they be dying to meet the new Governor... should he go in uniform?" she asked Colonel Solis.
"Is it your word that we would have to wait in Peto?" Silvestro sighed.
Solis nodded with an affectation of sorrow. "I think that formal civilian dress would be appropriate. It is a custom that one defers to the Jefe Militar in his own state, and Alvarado will be present, and in uniform. Our business can be hurried. Why don't you change your clothes?" he suggested. "The French and their guests won't know that you're a Governor until you dress like one!"
"It's hot," protested the Tatoob.
"A Jefe Politico never sweats," the Colonel reminded him and guided Silvestro towards the bath from which, in half an hour's time, a Governor emerged... a dignitary in tails and trousers of a somber black. "Your spectacles," said Solis and the Tatoob raised them to his eyes. "Perfect," he concluded. "Your husband is an indian Carranza, although not nearly so fat, and beardless. A Benito Juarez, perhaps? Yes. Only don't remind Consul Neviers."
"Where is the ring?" Maria demanded, for she had spotted the bare finger of the Tatoob. "Our wedding ring?"
"I sold it," Silvestro answered offhandedly.
"Beast!" Maria shrieked and threw herself upon the indian Carranza, knocking his spectacles to the floor and scratching his chin. "Monster!"
Silvestro threw her aside and she landed on the bed amid the dishevelment of her purchases. "I am no monster," he scowled, "neither am I a fool." And he snatched up the white peon's trousers he had carried back from the bath and shook out a gold ring, which he placed upon his finger.
"I obtained a substitute, a tin ring with thin gold plate," the Tatoob said. "No businessman doubts that a customer is down to his last when he must sell his wedding ring, isn't that so?"
"Mi General!" Maria cried, leaping up into Silvestro's arms.
Whether it was tears or laughter that was the cause of her convulsions the Colonel did not know, but observed in the moment a splendid opportunity to replenish his supply of tobacco. It was dangerously low, and there was little hope that what was to be found in Quintana Roo would meet his standards. Admonishing the Governor to be careful of his raiments, Solis shut the door behind him.
RETURN to HOMEPAGE – “THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ”
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