Last Reviewed on February 13, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1140
Demetrio sits in a tavern listening to men tell tales of their great adventures in war. Some of his men enter, and Anastasio Montañés recognizes an old friend, Towhead Margarito. A woman named War Paint joins the men for a drink; she has a “provocative gaze” and is subject to some obscene remarks from other soldiers in the bar.
War Paint congratulates Demetrio on his accomplishments; in reply, he orders champagne. Towhead wants ice water and flies into a rage when the waiter doesn’t bring it, striking the waiter on the face. He explains that he has no facial hair because of his “fiery temper,” and he believes it’s best to release his rage—otherwise he might die from it. Several other men speak up in agreement, detailing stories about people they killed because they were angry: “the theme is inexhaustible.”
Near dawn, when everyone is drunk and guns are firing at random, Demetrio and War Paint leave the tavern together.
War Paint, Demetrio, Anastasio Montañés, and Pancracio raid a house. War Paint tells the men that “the days when soldiers stay in inns are over . . . All ya have to do is choose the house that best suits ya and ya go and take it . . . If not, who the hell was the revolution for?” Amid the chaos, Cervantes finds a box containing two diamonds, which he hides in his pocket.
Cervantes worries that the men’s behavior “ruins our good name . . . ruins the reputation of our cause,” but Demetrio dismisses his concern.
As the men ransack the rest of the house, Quail encounters a twelve-year-old girl, and Lard starts a fire, feeding it with books. Towhead Margarito arrives and tells Demetrio that he wants to transfer into Demetrio’s brigade; Demetrio accepts him and makes him a major.
The drinking and debauchery continue, and the ransacking turns into a party celebrating Demetrio’s success in Zacatecas and his promotion to general.
Cervantes presents his “future wife” to Demetrio; she is a fourteen-year-old girl. Towhead Margarito cannot take his eyes off her.
There is a feast and more drinking. Cervantes gives Demetrio a brass eagle signifying Demetrio’s rank. Anastasio Montañés becomes overwhelmed by emotion when he attempts to toast Demetrio.
War Paint enters the room with a beautiful black horse, and the men are envious of her spoils. Towhead says he is tired of her and feels like killing himself. He aims at his reflection in a mirror, the bullet just missing War Paint, who doesn’t even flinch.
Cervantes awakens in the afternoon with injuries to his face and bloodstains on his hands and clothes. He immediately remembers what happened the night before: After the feast, he took his fiancé to a bedroom, but Demetrio interrupted, trying to leap at the girl. War Paint helped restrain him and Anastasio Montañés disarmed him, but Demetrio began throwing punches at everyone he could. Meanwhile, War Paint locked the young girl away in a room so that Demetrio couldn’t get to her.
Cervantes asks War Paint for the key to the room, but they can’t find it. War Paint looks through the keyhole of the room’s locked door and sees that Towhead Margarito has spent the night with the girl.
The next morning, War Paint tells the girl to go home, as “these men are liable to kill” her. Despite all she’s endured, the girl still has a “virgin expression on her face.”
Demetrio’s men move on to ransack the property of Don Mónico, the man who initially started the trouble between the government and Demetrio. Anastasio Montañés is now a colonel, Pancracio is a lieutenant colonel, and Cervantes and Towhead Margarito are majors.
Demetrio and War Paint are dressed up for the occasion. The troops begin forcing themselves into houses to take weapons and horses before turning toward the “large, pretentious house” where Don Monico lives. The door is locked, and after knocking a few times, Pancracio simply fires his gun at the lock to open the door.
Women and children are inside the house, and Demetrio orders that they bring him wine and any weapons they have. The women deny that they have weapons or money, so Demetrio orders his men to ransack the house. As the chaos begins, a large wardrobe opens, and Don Mónico steps out. He throws himself at Demetrio’s feet, claiming to be Demetrio’s friend and asking not to be harmed. Demetrio is brought back to the moment when he and his wife had to flee their home, which was burned to the ground. He orders his men to leave the house and sees that a crowd has gathered in anticipation of their chance to plunder the cacique’s belongings.
Demetrio announces that the house will not be ransacked. Instead, he commands Cervantes to “burn the house down.” As it goes up in flames, the people are confused by “the general’s strange behavior.”
The rebels commandeer a large house that has already been looted. Cervantes finds Demetrio in the barracks and offers him a large bag of coins. Demetrio refuses them, saying, “That’s not what I wanted! Moyahua is almost like my own land . . . that’s why I’m here!”
Cervantes empties the bag to show Demetrio all the money, then tells Demetrio that while things are good now, they might not stay that way, and they need to plan for the future. They have enough money now to “go abroad and live it up for a good while,” but Demetrio refuses, saying “it wouldn’t be manly” to leave the revolution.
Demetrio confesses that he has grown tired of War Paint, but he is not brave enough to send her away. He still thinks about Camila, the girl from the village where he spent time recovering from his wound. Cervantes offers to go and fetch her, and Demetrio offers his own pocket watch to Cervantes as a reward for bringing Camila to him.
Cervantes sweeps all the loot back into the bag and bids the general good night.
Quail is telling the story of how he and Cervantes went to find Camila and bring her to Demetrio, and the men are laughing. War Paint, however, is sympathetic toward Camila, who has been crying.
Camila explains that Cervantes tricked her. She thought he had come back for her because he loved her, a feeling she ardently reciprocated. However, she spent the night in Demetrio’s bed instead.
War Paint promises to help Camila. She tells Camila to act sick when the men are getting ready to move on, and War Paint will stay behind with Camila to “take care of her,” really helping her to return home instead.
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