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Title: The Blood of the Arena
Author: Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente, 1867-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blood of the Arena" ***

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



[Illustration: When the swordsman clasped her hand she looked into his
eyes. "Don't go--come; come!"
[Chapter III]]



THE BLOOD OF
THE ARENA

BY

VICENTE BLASCO IBÁÑEZ

FROM THE SPANISH, BY FRANCES DOUGLAS

ILLUSTRATED IN COLOR BY TROY
AND MARGARET WEST KINNEY

[Illustration: colophon]

CHICAGO

A. C. McCLURG & CO.

1911

Copyright

A. C. McCLURG & CO.

1911

Published November, 1911

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

W. F. Gall Printing Company

Chicago



CONTENTS


Chapter                                   Page

   I The Hero and the Public                 9

  II The Matador and the Lady               33

 III Born for the Bull-ring                 64

  IV At Carmen's Window-grille              80

   V The Lure of Golden Hair               106

  VI The Voice of the Siren                126

 VII The Spanish Wild Beast                153

VIII Diamonds in the Ring                  178

  IX Breakfast with the Bandit             195

   X A Look into the Face of Death         228

  XI Doctor Ruiz on Tauromachy             256

 XII Airing the Saints                     269

XIII The Mastery of Self-preservation      288

 XIV The Spanish Lilith                    307

  XV Behind the Scenes                     328

 XVI "The Greatest Man in the World"       348

XVII The Atonement of Blood                362



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                    Page

When the swordsman clasped her hand she looked
into his eyes. "Don't go--come; come!"                      Frontispiece

Gallardo's wedding was a national event. Far into
the night guitars strummed with melancholy plaint....
Girls, their arms held high, beat the marble
floor with their little feet                                          96

"For me?" asked the bandit in tones of surprise
and wonder. "For me, Señora Marquesa?"                               224

The animal moved in confusion between the red
cloths, drawing him far away from the swordsman                      294



THE BLOOD OF THE ARENA



CHAPTER I

THE HERO AND THE PUBLIC


JUAN GALLARDO breakfasted early, as he did whenever there was to be a
bull-fight. A slice of roast meat was his only dish. Wine he did not
even touch; the bottle remained unopened before him. He must keep
himself calm. He drank two cups of thick, black coffee, and lighted an
enormous cigar, sitting with his elbows on the table and his chin in his
hands, looking with dreamy eyes at the guests who one by one filled the
dining-room.

It was a number of years ago, not long after he had been given "the
alternative" in the bull-ring of Madrid, that he came to lodge at a
certain hotel on Alcalá Street where his hosts treated him as if he were
one of the family, and the dining-room servants, porters, scullions, and
old waiters adored him as the glory of the establishment. There, too, he
had spent many days wrapped in bandages, in a dense atmosphere heavy
with the smell of iodoform, in consequence of two gorings, but the
unhappy recollection did not weigh upon him.

In his Southern superstitious mind, exposed to continual danger, he
regarded this hotel as a charmed shelter, and thought that nothing ill
would happen to him while living in it; accidents common to the
profession, rents in his clothing, scratches in his flesh perhaps, but
no last and final fall after the manner of other comrades, the
recollection of whom haunted even his happier hours.

On the days of the great bull-fights, after the early breakfast, he
enjoyed sitting in the dining-room contemplating the movement of
travellers. They were foreigners, or people from distant provinces, who
passed near with indifferent countenances, and without looking at him;
and then became curious on learning from the servants that the fine
youth with shaven face and black eyes, dressed like a young gentleman,
was Juan Gallardo, by all familiarly called Gallardo, the famous
bull-fighter. Thus were whiled away the long and painful hours before
going to the plaza.

These moments of uncertainty, in which vague fears emerged from the
depths of his soul, making him doubt himself, were the bitterest in his
professional experience. He would not go out on the street thinking of
the strain of the contest, and of the need of keeping himself rested and
agile; and he could not entertain himself at the table on account of the
necessity of eating a light meal, in order to reach the ring without
disturbance of his digestion.

He remained at the head of the table, his face between his hands and a
cloud of perfumed smoke before his eyes, turning his gaze from time to
time with a certain fatuousness to look at some ladies who were
contemplating the famous bull-fighter with interest.

His pride as the idol of the masses made him feel that he could divine
eulogy and flattery in these looks. They thought him smart and elegant.
And, with the instinct of all men accustomed to pose before the public,
forgetting his preoccupation, he sat erect, knocked off with his finger
nails the cigar ashes fallen on his sleeves, and arranged his ring,
which covered the whole joint of one of his fingers with an enormous
diamond surrounded by a nimbus of colors as if its clear liquid depths
burned with magic fire.

His eyes roved with satisfaction over his person, admiring the suit of
elegant cut, the cap which he wore around the hotel lying on a nearby
chair, the fine gold chain that crossed the upper part of his vest from
pocket to pocket, the pearl in his cravat that seemed to illuminate the
brown tone of his countenance with milky light, and the shoes of Russia
leather showing between their tops and the edge of the rolled-up
trousers socks of open-work silk embroidered like the stockings of a
cocotte.

An atmosphere of English perfumes, mild and vague, but used with
profusion, arose from his clothing and from his black and brilliant
hair. This he brushed carefully down over his temples, adopting a style
certain to attract feminine curiosity. For a bull-fighter the ensemble
was not bad; he felt satisfied with his appearance. Where was there
another more distinguished, or one who had a better way with women?

But suddenly his preoccupation returned, the brilliancy of his eyes
clouded, and he rested his chin in his hands again, puffing at his cigar
tenaciously, his gaze lost in the cloud of smoke. He thought wistfully
of the hour of nightfall, wishing it already here; of the return from
the bull-ring, sweaty and tired, but with the joy of danger conquered,
the appetites awakened, a mad desire for sport, and the certainty of a
few days of safety and rest.

If God would protect him as heretofore he was going to feast with the
appetite of his days of poverty and starvation, get a little drunk, and
go in search of a certain girl who sang in a music-hall, whom he had
seen on his last trip without having a chance to cultivate her
acquaintance. Leading this life of continual change from one end of the
Peninsula to the other he did not have time for much in the way of
pleasure.

Enthusiastic friends who wished to see the swordsman before going to
breakfast at their homes began entering the dining-room. They were old
admirers anxious to figure in a _bandería_ and to have an idol; they had
made the young Gallardo the _matador_ of their choice, and they gave him
sage counsel, frequently recalling their old-time adoration for
Lagartijo or Frascuelo.

In addressing Gallardo they called him _thou_, with gracious
familiarity, while he put _don_ before their names with the traditional
class distinction that still exists between the bull-fighter risen from
the social subsoil and his admirers. These men linked their enthusiasm
with memories of the past to make the young _matador_ feel their
superiority of years and experience. They talked of the old plaza of
Madrid where only bulls that _were_ bulls and bull-fighters that _were_
bull-fighters were recognized. Coming down to the present, they trembled
with emotion on mentioning the Negro, Frascuelo.

"If thou hadst seen him! But thou and those of thy time were at the
breast then, or were not even born."

Other enthusiasts began entering the dining-room, poorly clad and
hungry-looking; obscure newspaper reporters; and men of problematical
profession who appeared as soon as the news of Gallardo's arrival was
circulated, besieging him with praises and petitions for tickets. Common
enthusiasm jostled them against great merchants or public functionaries,
who discussed bull-fighting affairs with them warmly, regardless of
their beggarly aspect.

All, on seeing the swordsman, embraced him or shook his hand with an
accompaniment of questions and exclamations.

"Juanillo--how goes it with Carmen?"

"Well, thanks."

"And how is your mother, Señora Angustias?"

"Fine, thanks. She's at La Rincona'."

"And your sister and your little nephews?"

"As usual, thanks."

"And that good-for-nothing brother-in-law of yours, how is he?"

"He's all right--as much of a gabbler as ever."

"Are there any additions to the family? Any expectations?"

"No--not even that."

He made a fingernail crackle between his teeth with a strong negative
expression and then began returning the questions to the new arrivals,
of whose life he knew nothing beyond their inclination for the art of
bull-fighting.

"And how is your family--all right? Well, glad to hear it. Sit down and
have something."

Then he inquired about the condition of the bulls that were to be fought
within a few hours, for all these friends had come from the plaza and
from seeing the separation and penning in of the animals; and, with
professional curiosity, he asked news of the Café Inglés, a favorite
gathering place of bull-fight fans.

It was the first bull-fight of the spring season, and Gallardo's
enthusiasts showed great hopes, remembering the glowing accounts in the
newspapers of his recent triumphs in other towns of Spain. He was the
bull-fighter who had the most contracts. Since the Easter _corrida_ in
Seville (the first important one of the taurine year) Gallardo had gone
from plaza to plaza killing bulls.

When August and September came, he would have to spend his nights on the
train and his afternoons in the rings, without time to rest. His agent
at Seville was almost crazy, so besieged was he by letters and
telegrams, not knowing how to harmonize so many petitions for contracts
with the exigencies of time. The afternoon before he had fought at
Ciudad Real and, still dressed in his spangled costume, he had boarded
the train to reach Madrid by morning. He had spent a wakeful night, only
napping occasionally, crouched in the portion of a seat left him by the
other passengers who crowded close together to give some chance for rest
to this man who was to expose his life on the morrow, and was to afford
them the joy of a tragic emotion without danger to themselves.

The enthusiasts admired his physical endurance, and the rash daring with
which he threw himself upon the bulls at the moment of killing.

"We will see what thou art going to do this afternoon," they said with
the fervor of true believers. "The devotees expect a great deal of thee.
Thou wilt win many favors, surely. We shall see if thou dost as well as
at Seville."

His admirers now began to disperse to go home to breakfast so as to be
able to reach the bull-fight at an early hour. Gallardo, finding himself
alone, was preparing to retire to his room, impelled by the nervous
restlessness that dominated him. A man, leading two children by the
hand, passed through the doorway of the dining-room, paying no attention
to the questions of the servants. He smiled seraphically on seeing the
bull-fighter, and advanced, dragging the little boys, his eyes glued
upon him, taking no thought as to his feet. Gallardo recognized him.

"How are you, Godfather?"

And then followed the customary questions regarding the health of the
family. The man turned to his sons, saying gravely:

"There he is! Are ye not continually asking me about him? Just like he
is in the pictures."

The two little fellows reverently contemplated the hero whom they had so
often seen in the prints that adorned the rooms of their poor home; he
seemed to them a supernatural being whose heroic deeds and riches were
their greatest marvel as they began to take notice of the things of this
world.

"Juanillo, kiss thy godfather's hand."

The smaller of the two boys dashed his red face, freshly scrubbed by his
mother in preparation for this visit, against the swordsman's right
hand. Gallardo patted his head absent-mindedly. It was one of the many
god-children he had throughout Spain. His enthusiastic friends obliged
him to be godfather in baptism to their children, believing thus to
assure them a future.

To exhibit himself at baptism after baptism was one of the consequences
of his glory. This godchild recalled to his memory the hard times when
he was at the beginning of his career, and he felt a certain gratitude
to the father for the faith he had shown in him in spite of the lack of
it in every one else.

"And how is business, _compadre_?" asked Gallardo. "Are things going
better?"

The _aficionado_ made a wry face. He was living, thanks to his
commissions in the barley market, barely living, no more. Gallardo
looked compassionately at his mean dress--a poor man's Sunday best.

"You want to see the bull-fight, don't you, _compadre_? Go up to my room
and let Garabato give you a ticket. Good-bye, my good fellow. Here, take
this to buy yourselves something."

As his godson kissed his right hand again, the bull-fighter handed the
boys a couple of _duros_ with his left. The father dragged away his
offspring with expressions of gratitude, not making it clear in his
confusion whether his enthusiasm were for the gift to the children or
for the ticket for the _corrida_ which the swordsman's servant was about
to give him.

Gallardo allowed a few moments to elapse, so that he would not meet the
enthusiast and his children again in his room. Then he looked at his
watch. One o'clock! How long it was yet before the hour for the
bull-fight!

As Gallardo walked out of the dining-room and started toward the
stairway a crowd of curiosity-seekers and starvelings hanging around the
street door, attracted by the presence of the bull-fighter, rushed in.
Pushing the servants aside, an irruption of beggars, vagabonds, and
newsboys filed into the vestibule.

The imps with their bundles of papers under one arm took off their caps,
cheering with lusty familiarity.

"Gallardo! Hurrah for Gallardo!"

The most audacious among them grasped his hand and pressed it firmly and
shook it in all directions, anxious to prolong as much as possible this
contact with the great man of the people whose picture they had seen in
the newspapers. Then they rudely invited their companions to participate
in this glory.

"Shake hands with him! He won't get mad. Why, he's all right."

They almost knelt before the bull-fighter, so great was their respect
for him. Other curious ones, with unkempt beards, dressed in old clothes
that had once been elegant, moved about the idol in their worn shoes and
held their grimy hats out to him, talking to him in low tones, calling
him _Don_ Juan to differentiate themselves from the enthusiastic and
irreverent mob. As they told him of their misery they solicited alms, or
more audacious, they begged him, in the name of their devotion to the
game, for a ticket for the bull-fight,--with the intention of selling it
immediately.

Gallardo defended himself, laughing at this avalanche that pushed and
shoved him, the hotel clerks being quite unable to defend him, so awed
were they by the respect that popularity inspires. He searched in all
his pockets till they were empty, distributing silver-pieces blindly
among the greedy, outstretched hands.

"There's none left now. The coal's all burnt up! Let me alone,
pesterers."

Pretending to be annoyed by this popularity which really flattered him,
he opened a passage for himself by a push with his strong arms and
escaped by the stairway, running up the steps with the agility of an
athlete, while the servants, no longer restrained by his presence, swept
and pushed the crowd toward the street.

Gallardo passed the room occupied by Garabato and saw his servant
through the half-opened door bending over valises and boxes getting his
costume ready for the bull-fight.

Finding himself alone in his room the pleasant excitement caused by the
avalanche of his admirers instantly vanished. The unhappy moments of
these bull-fighting days had come, the trepidation of the last hours
before going to the plaza. Miura bulls and the public of Madrid! The
danger which, when he faced it, seemed to intoxicate him and increase
his boldness, caused him bitter anguish now in his solitude, and seemed
to him something supernatural, awful, on account of its uncertainty.

He felt crushed, as if suddenly the fatigue of the hideous night before
had fallen upon him. He had a desire to lie down and rest on the bed at
the other end of the room, when again anxiety over what awaited him,
doubtful and mysterious, drove away his drowsiness.

He strode restlessly up and down the room and lighted another Havana by
the end of the one he had just consumed.

How would this season which he was about to open in Madrid end for him?
What would his enemies say? How would his professional rivals succeed?
He had killed many Miuras--well, they were bulls like all the others;
but he thought of his comrades who had fallen in the ring, almost all of
them victims of the animals of that stock. Accursed Miuras! It was for a
good reason that he and other swordsmen made out their contracts for a
thousand _pesetas_ more when they had to fight animals of this herd.

He continued wandering about the room with nervous step. He stopped to
contemplate stupidly well-known objects that were a part of his
equipment; then he let himself fall into an easy chair as if attacked by
sudden weakness. He looked at his watch repeatedly. It was not yet two
o'clock. How the time crept!

He wished that, as a stimulant for his nerves, the hour for dressing and
going to the ring would come. The people, the noise, the popular
curiosity, the desire to show himself calm and happy in the presence of
the enthusiastic populace, and above all the very nearness of danger,
actual and personal, instantly effaced this anguish of isolation in
which the swordsman, without the aid of external excitement, felt
something akin to fear.

The need of diverting himself caused him to search in the inside pocket
of his waistcoat. He drew out with his pocket-book a little envelope
which emitted a mild, sweet perfume. Standing by a window through which
the obscure light of an inner courtyard entered, he contemplated the
envelope which had been handed him when he arrived at the hotel,
admiring the fine and genteel elegance of the characters in which the
address was written.

He drew out the sheet of paper, breathing in its indefinable perfume
with delight. Ah! people of high birth who have travelled widely,--how
they reveal their inimitable superiority, even in the smallest details!

Gallardo, as though he felt that his person preserved the keen stench of
the misery of his earlier years, perfumed himself with offensive
profusion. His enemies joked about the athletic youth who, by his
excessive use of perfumes, gave the lie to his sex. His admirers smiled
at this weakness, but very often had to turn away their faces, nauseated
by the heavy odors he carried with him.

A whole perfumery shop accompanied him on his travels, and the most
effeminate essences anointed his body when he descended into the arena
among the dead horses, and foul _débris_ characteristic of the place.
Certain enthusiastic _cocottes_, whom he had met on a trip to the towns
in the south of France, had given him the secret of mixtures and
combinations of strange perfumes; but the fragrance of the
letter--_that_ was like the person of her who had written it--a
mysterious odor, delicate and indefinable, that could not be imitated,
that seemed to emanate from her aristocratic body; it was what he called
"the odor of a lady"!

He read and re-read the letter with a beaming smile of delight and
pride. It was not a great matter; half a dozen lines--a greeting from
Seville, wishing him good luck in Madrid; anticipated congratulations
for his triumphs. That letter could have gone astray without in the
least compromising the woman who wrote it. "Friend Gallardo" at the
beginning, in elegant lettering that seemed to tickle the bull-fighter's
eyes, and at the end, "Your friend, Sol"; all in a coldly friendly
style, addressing him as _you_, with an amiable tone of superiority as
though the words were not from equal to equal but had descended
mercifully from on high.

The bull-fighter, gazing at the letter with the adoration which a man of
the people has for caste, though little versed in reading, could not
escape a certain feeling of annoyance, as if he beheld himself
patronized.

"That baggage," he murmured. "That woman! No one living can break her
pride. Look how she talks to me--_you! you!_--and to me!"

But happy memories brought a satisfied smile to his lips. This frigid
style was for letters; these were the customs of a great lady; the
precautions of a woman who had travelled over the world. His annoyance
changed to admiration.

"What that woman doesn't know! And such a cautious creature!"

And in his smile appeared a professional satisfaction, the pride of the
tamer who, appreciating the strength of the conquered wild beast, extols
his own deed.

While Gallardo was admiring this letter his servant Garabato came and
went, bringing clothing and boxes which he left on the bed.

He was a fellow of quiet movements and agile hands, and seemed to take
no notice of the presence of the bull-fighter. For some years he had
accompanied the _diestro_ on all his travels as sword-bearer. He had
commenced in Seville at the same time as Gallardo, serving first as
_capeador_, but the hard blows were reserved for him, while advancement
and glory were for his companion. He was little, dark, and of weak
muscles, and a tortuous and poorly united gash scarred with a whitish
pot-hook his wrinkled, flaccid oldish face. It was from a thrust of a
bull's horn which had left him almost dead in the plaza of a certain
town, and to this atrocious wound others were added that disfigured the
hidden parts of his body.

By a miracle he escaped with his life from his apprenticeship as a
bull-fighter, and the cruellest part of it all was that the people
laughed at his misfortunes, taking pleasure in seeing him stamped on and
routed by the bulls. Finally his total eclipse took place, and he agreed
to be the attendant, the confidential servant, of his old comrade. He
was Gallardo's most fervent admirer, although he abused the confidence
of intimacy by allowing himself to give advice and to criticise. Had
_he_ been in his master's skin, _he_ would have done better at certain
moments. Gallardo's friends found cause for laughter in the frustrated
ambitions of the sword-bearer, but he paid no attention to their jokes.
Renounce the bulls? Never! And so that the memory of his past should not
be wholly obliterated he combed his coarse hair in shining locks over
his ears and wore on the back of his head the long and sacred great lock
of hair, the _coleta_ of his youthful days, the professional emblem that
distinguished him from common mortals.

When Gallardo was angry with him his fierce passion always threatened
this capillary adornment.

"And thou dost wear a _coleta_, shameless one? I'm going to cut that
rat's tail off for thee--brazen-face! _Maleta!_"

Garabato received these threats with resignation, but he took his
revenge by shutting himself up in the silence of a superior man,
answering the joy of the master with shrugs of his shoulders when the
latter, on returning from the plaza of an afternoon in a happy mood,
asked him with infantile satisfaction:

"What didst thou think of it? Did I do well, sure?"

On account of their juvenile comradeship he retained the privilege of
saying _thou_ to his master. He could not talk to the _maestro_ in any
other way, but the _thou_ was accompanied by a grave gesture and an
expression of ingenuous respect. His familiarity was like that of the
ancient shield-bearers to the knights of adventure.

From his collar up, including the tail on the back of his head, he was a
bull-fighter; the rest of his person resembled a tailor and a valet at
the same time. He dressed in a suit of English cloth, a present from the
_Señor_, wearing the lapels stuck full of pins, and with several
threaded needles on one sleeve. His dry, dark hands possessed a feminine
delicacy for handling and arranging things.

When he had placed in order all that was necessary for the master's
dressing, he looked over the numerous objects to assure himself that
nothing was lacking. Then he planted himself in the middle of the room
and without looking at Gallardo, as if he were speaking to himself, he
said in a hoarse voice and with a stubborn accent:

"Two o'clock!"

Gallardo lifted his head nervously, as if he had not noticed the
presence of his servant until then. He put the letter in his pocket and
went to the lower end of the room with a certain hesitancy, as if he
wished to delay the moment of dressing.

"Is everything ready?"

But suddenly his pale face colored with violent emotion. His eyes
opened immeasurably wide as if they had just suffered the shock of a
frightful surprise.

"What clothes hast thou laid out?"

Garabato pointed to the bed, but before he could speak the anger of the
_maestro_ fell upon him, loud and terrible.

"Curses on thee! Dost thou know nothing of the affairs of the
profession? Thou has just come from hay-making, maybe? Bull-fight in
Madrid, with Miura bulls, and thou dost get me out a green costume, the
same that poor Manuel el Espartero wore! My bitterest enemy couldn't do
worse, thou more than shameless one! It seems as if thou wishes to see
me killed, _malaje!_"

His anger increased as he considered the enormity of this carelessness,
which was like a challenge to ill fortune. To fight in Madrid in a green
costume after what had happened! His eyes flashed with hostile fire as
if he had just received a traitorous attack; the whites of his eyes grew
red, and he seemed about to fall upon poor Garabato with his rough
bull-fighter hands.

A discreet knock on the door of the room ended this scene.

"Come in!"

A young man entered, dressed in light clothes, with a red cravat, and
carrying a Cordovan _sombrero_ in a hand beringed with great brilliants.
Gallardo recognized him instantly, with that gift for remembering faces
possessed by all who live before the public.

He changed suddenly from anger to smiling amiability as if the visit
were a sweet surprise. It was a friend from Bilbao, an enthusiastic
admirer, a champion of his glory. That was all he could remember. But
his name? He met so many! What could his name be? The only thing he
knew for certain was that he must address him by _thou_, for an old
friendship existed between the two.

"Sit down! What a surprise! When didst thou come? The family well?"

And the admirer sat down with the satisfaction of a devotee who enters
the sanctuary of the idol determined not to move until the last instant,
gratifying himself by the attention of the bull-fighter's _thou_, and
calling him _Juan_ at every two words so that furniture, walls, and
whoever might pass along the corridor should know of his intimacy with
the great man. He had arrived from Bilbao this morning and would return
on the following day. He took the trip for no other purpose than to see
Gallardo. He had read of his great exploits; the season was beginning
well; this afternoon would be fine! He had been at the sorting of the
bulls where he had especially noticed a dark beast that would
undoubtedly yield great sport in Gallardo's hands.

"What costume shall I get out?" interrupted Garabato, with a voice that
seemed even more hoarse with the desire to show himself submissive.

"The red one, the tobacco-colored, the blue--any one thou wishest."

Another knock sounded on the door and a new visitor appeared. It was
Doctor Ruiz, the popular physician who for thirty years had been signing
the medical certificates of all the injured and treating every
bull-fighter that fell wounded in the plaza of Madrid.

Gallardo admired him and regarded him as the highest representative of
universal science, although he indulged in good-natured jokes about his
kindly disposition and his lack of care in his dress. His admiration was
like that of the populace which only recognizes wisdom in a man of ill
appearance and oddity of character that makes him different from
ordinary mortals.

"He is a saint," Gallardo used to say, "a wise fellow, with wheels in
his head, but as good as good bread, and he never has a _peseta_. He
gives away all he has and he accepts whatever they choose to give him."

Two grand passions animated the doctor's life, revolution and bulls. A
vague and tremendous revolution was to come that would leave in Europe
nothing now existing; an anarchistic republic which he did not take the
trouble to explain, and as to which he was only clear in his
exterminating negations. The bull-fighters talked to him as to a father.
He spoke as a familiar to all of them, and no more was needed than to
get a telegram from a distant part of the Peninsula, for the good doctor
to take the train on the instant to go to treat the horn-wound received
by one of his _boys_ with no other hope of recompense than whatever they
might freely wish to give him.

On seeing Gallardo after a long absence he embraced him, pressing his
flabby abdomen against the other's body which seemed made of bronze.
Bravo! He thought the _espada_ looking better than ever.

"And how is the Republic getting on, doctor? When is it going to
happen?" asked Gallardo with an Andalusian drawl. "Nacional says it's
going to come off soon; that it will be here one of these days."

"And what does that matter to thee, rogue? Let poor Nacional alone. The
best thing for him to do is to stick in his _banderillas_ better. As for
thee, the only thing that should interest thee is to keep on killing
bulls, like the very God himself. A fine afternoon this is going to be.
They tell me that the bulls--"

But here the young man who had seen the sorting of the animals and
wished to talk about it, interrupted the doctor to tell of a dark bull
that had caught his eye, and from which he expected the greatest
prowess. The two men, who had remained silent after bowing to one
another, were face to face, and Gallardo thought an introduction
necessary. But what was the name of that friend whom he addressed as
_thou_? He scratched his head, knitting his eyebrows with an effort at
recollection, but his indecision was short.

"Listen! What is thy name? Pardon, thou seest--with meeting so many
people--"

The young man concealed beneath a smile of approbation his
disenchantment at seeing himself forgotten by the master, and gave his
name. Gallardo on hearing it felt the past come back suddenly to his
memory, and made reparation for his forgetfulness by adding after the
name, "wealthy miner from Bilbao." Then he presented the "famous Doctor
Ruiz" and both men, as if they had known one another all their lives,
united by the enthusiasm of a common devotion, began to gossip about the
bulls of the afternoon.

"Sit down." Gallardo motioned to a sofa at the end of the room. "You'll
not be in the way there. Talk and don't notice me. I am going to dress.
I think that, as we're all men--"

And he took off his clothes, remaining in his under-garments.

Seated on a chair in the centre of the archway that divided the little
reception room from the sleeping alcove, he gave himself up to the
hands of Garabato, who had opened a bag of Russia-leather and was taking
out of it an almost feminine _necessaire_ for the swordsman's toilet.

In spite of the fact that the latter was carefully shaved he lathered
his face again and passed the razor over his cheeks with the skill of
one daily accustomed to the task. After washing himself Gallardo
returned to his seat. The servant deluged his hair with brilliantine and
other perfumes, combing it in curls over his forehead and temples; then
he undertook the arrangement of the professional emblem, the sacred
_coleta_.

With a certain respect he combed the long lock that crowned the occiput
of the _maestro_, braided it and, postponing the completion of the
operation, fixed it on the top of his head with two hairpins, leaving
its final arrangement until later. Now he must occupy himself with the
feet, and he stripped the athlete of his socks, leaving him dressed only
in an undershirt and drawers of silk mesh.

Gallardo's strong muscles were outlined beneath this clothing in
vigorous protuberances. A hollow in one thigh showed a deep scar where
the flesh had disappeared on account of a horn-stab. Signs of old wounds
were marked by white spots on the brown skin of his arms. His breast,
dark and free from hair, was crossed by two irregular purplish lines,
with a round depression, as if it had served as a mould for a coin. But
his gladiatorial person exhaled an odor of clean brave flesh, mingled
with strong but effeminate perfumes.

Garabato, with an armful of cotton and white bandages, knelt at the
swordsman's feet.

"Like the ancient gladiators," said Dr. Ruiz, interrupting his
conversation with the man from Bilbao; "thou hast become a Roman, Juan."

"Age, doctor," answered Gallardo with a certain melancholy. "We all have
to grow old. When I used to fight bulls and hunger too, I didn't need
this--and I had feet of iron in doing the cape-work."

Garabato introduced little tufts of cotton between his master's toes;
then he covered the soles and upper part with a layer of this soft
material and, putting on the bandages, began to bind them in tight
spirals, as the ancient mummies are enwrapped. To fasten this
arrangement he took the threaded needles he wore on one sleeve and
carefully sewed the ends of the bandages.

Gallardo stamped on the floor with his compressed feet, which seemed
firmer inside their soft swathing. Thus encased they felt strong and
agile. The servant then drew on long stockings which reached half way up
his leg; they were thick and flexible like leggings--the only defence of
the legs under the silk of the fighting dress.

"Be careful about wrinkles. Look out, Garabato, I don't like to wear
pockets!"

And he stood up to look at himself in the two panels of the mirror,
stooping to pass his hands over his legs and smooth out the wrinkles.
Over the white stockings Garabato drew on others of rose-colored silk.
Then Gallardo thrust his feet into his low shoes, choosing them from
among several pairs that Garabato had put on a trunk, all with white
soles and perfectly new.

Now the real task of dressing began. The servant handed him his fighting
trousers held by the legs,--tobacco-colored silk with heavy embroideries
of gold on their seams. Gallardo put them on and the thick cords with
gold tassels that closed the knees, congesting the leg with artificial
fulness, hung to his feet.

Gallardo told his servant to tighten them as much as he could, at the
same time swelling up the muscles of his legs. This operation was one of
the most important. A bull-fighter must wear the _machos_ well
tightened. And Garabato, with deft speed, converted the dangling cords
into little bows.

The master put on the fine batiste shirt which the servant offered him,
with gatherings on the bosom, soft and transparent as a feminine
garment. Garabato after buttoning it tied the knot of the long cravat
that fell in a red line, dividing the bosom until it was lost in the
waistband of the trousers.

The most complicated part of the dressing still remained, the _faja_, a
band of silk nearly five yards long, that seemed to fill the whole
apartment, Garabato managing it with the skill of long practice.

The swordsman walked to the other extreme of the room where his friends
were and put one of the ends around his waist.

"Come, be very careful!" he said to his servant. "Make the most of thy
little skill."

Slowly turning on his heels he drew near his servant who held one end of
the belt, thus winding it around his body in regular curves, giving
greater elegance to his waist. Garabato, with rapid movements of his
hands, changed the folds of the band of silk. With some turns the belt
rolled double, with others wide open, and it all adjusted itself to the
bull-fighter's form, smooth as if it were a single piece, without
wrinkles or puffs. Gallardo, scrupulous and fastidious in the
arrangement of his person, stopped his progress in the course of the
rotatory journey to go back two or three times and improve upon the
work.

"It isn't good," he said with ill-humor. "Damn it all! Be careful
Garabato."

After many halts Gallardo reached the end with the entire piece of silk
wound around his waist. The skilful servant had sewed and put pins and
safety pins all over his master's body, converting his clothes into one
single piece. To get out of them the bull-fighter would have to resort
to scissors and to others' hands. He could not divest himself of a
single garment until his return to the hotel, unless the bull should
accomplish it for him in the open plaza and they should finish
undressing him in the hospital.

Gallardo seated himself again and Garabato went about the business of
arranging the queue, taking out the hairpins and adding the _moña_, the
black rosette with streamers which recalled the ancient head-dress of
early bull-fighting times.

The master, as if he wished to put off the moment of final encasement in
the costume, stretched himself, asked Garabato for the cigar that he had
left on the little night-table, and demanded the time, thinking that all
the clocks were fast.

"It's early yet. The boys haven't come. I don't like to go to the plaza
early. It makes a fellow tired to be there waiting!"

A servant of the hotel announced that the carriage with the _cuadrilla_
had arrived.

It was time to go. There was no excuse for delaying the moment of
setting forth. He put over his belt the gold-embroidered vest and
outside of this the jacket, a shining garment with enormous embossments,
heavy as armor and resplendent with light as a glowing coal. The silk,
color of tobacco, was only visible on the under side of the arms and in
two triangles on the back. Almost the entire garment disappeared under
the heavy layer of trimmings and gold-embroidered designs forming
flowers with colored stones in their corollas. The shoulder pieces were
heavy masses of gold embroidery from which fell a fringe of the same
metal. The garment was edged with a close fringe that moved at every
step. From the golden opening of the pockets the points of two
handkerchiefs peeped forth, red like the cravat and the tie.

The cap!

Garabato took out of an oval box with great care the fighting cap, black
and shining, with two pendent tassels, like ears of passementerie.
Gallardo put it on, taking care that the _coleta_ should remain
unhidden, hanging symmetrically down his back.

The cape!

Garabato caught up the cape from off a chair, the _capa de gala_, a
princely mantle of silk of the same shade as the dress and equally
burdened with gold embroidery. Gallardo hung it over one shoulder and
looked at himself in the glass, satisfied with his preparations. It was
not bad.

"To the plaza!"

His two friends took their farewells hastily and called a cab to follow
him. Garabato put under one arm a great bundle of red cloths, from the
ends of which peeped the hilts and guards of many swords.



CHAPTER II

THE MATADOR AND THE LADY


As Gallardo descended to the vestibule of the hotel he saw the street
filled with a dense and noisy crowd as though some great event had taken
place. The buzzing of the multitude outside the door reached his ears.
The proprietor and all his family appeared with extended hands as if
they would bid him farewell for a long journey.

"Good luck! May all go well with you!"

The servants, forgetting distance at the impulse of enthusiasm and
emotion, also held their right hands out to him.

"Good luck, Don Juan!"

And he turned in all directions smiling, regardless of the frightened
faces of the ladies of the hotel.

"Thanks, many thanks! See you later."

He was a different man. From the moment he had hung the glittering cape
over one shoulder a persistent smile illuminated his countenance. He was
pale, with a sweaty pallor like that of the sick; but he smiled,
satisfied to live and to show himself in public, adopting his new pose
with the instinctive freedom of one who but needs an incentive to parade
before the people.

He swaggered with arrogance, puffing occasionally at the cigar he
carried in his left hand. He moved his hips haughtily under his handsome
cape and strode with a firm step and with the flippancy of a gay youth.

"Come, gentlemen, make way! Many thanks; many thanks."

And he tried to preserve his dress from unclean contact as way was made
among an ill-clad, enthusiastic crowd which surged against the doors of
the hotel. They had no money with which to go to the bull-fight but they
took advantage of the opportunity of pressing the hand of the famous
Gallardo, or of at least touching his garments.

A coach drawn by four richly caparisoned mules with tassels and bells
stood waiting at the door. Garabato had already seated himself on the
box with his bundle of _muletas_ and swords. Three bull-fighters were
inside with their capes over their knees, dressed in gayly colored
clothes embroidered with as great profusion as the master's, but in
silver.

Pressed onward by the popular ovation, and having to defend himself with
his elbows from greedy hands, Gallardo reached the carriage-step.

"Good-afternoon, gentlemen," he said shortly to the men of his
_cuadrilla_.

He seated himself at the back so that all could see him, and smiled with
responsive nods to the shouts of some ragged women and to the short
applause begun by some newsboys.

The carriage started with all the impetus of the spirited mules, filling
the street with gay ringing. The mob parted to give passage but many
rushed at the carriage as though they would fall under its wheels. Hats
and canes were waved; an explosion of enthusiasm burst from the crowd,
one of those contagions that agitate and madden the masses at certain
times--making every one shout without knowing why.

"Hurrah for the brave! _Viva España!_"

Gallardo, ever pale and smiling, saluted, repeating "many thanks," moved
by the contagion of popular enthusiasm and proud of his standing which
united his name to that of his native land.

A troop of dishevelled youngsters ran after the coach at full speed, as
though convinced that, at the end of the mad race, something
extraordinary surely awaited them.

For at least an hour Alcalá Street had been like a river of carriages
that flowed toward the outskirts of the city between two banks of
close-packed foot passengers. All kinds of vehicles, ancient and modern,
figured in this tumultuous and noisy emigration, from the ancient
diligence, brought to light like an anachronism, to the automobile.
Crowded tramways passed with groups of people overflowing on their
steps. Omnibuses carried people to the corner of Seville Street, while
the conductor shouted "To the plaza! To the plaza!" Tasselled mules with
jingling bells trotted ahead of open carriages in which rode women in
white _mantillas_ with bright flowers in their hair; every instant
exclamations of alarm were heard at the escape, by apelike agility, of
some boy beneath the wheels of a carriage as he crossed by leaps from
one sidewalk to the other defying the current of vehicles. Automobile
horns tooted; coachmen yelled; newsboys shouted the page with the
picture and history of the bulls that were to be fought, or the likeness
and biography of the famous _matadores_, and from time to time an
explosion of curiosity swelled the deafening roar of the crowd.

Among the dark steeds of the mounted police rode gayly dressed
_caballeros_ with their legs rigidly encased in yellow leggings,
wearing gilded jackets and beaver hats with heavy tassels in lieu of a
cockade, mounted on thin and miserable hacks. They were the _picadores_.
Aft on the crupper, behind the high Moorish saddle, rode an impish
figure dressed in red, the _mono sabio_, or servant who had brought the
troop of horses to their hostelry.

The _cuadrillas_ passed in open coaches, and the embroidery of the
bull-fighters, reflecting the afternoon light, seemed to dazzle the
crowd and excite its enthusiasm. "That is Fuentes!" "That is Bomba!" And
the people, pleased with the identification, followed the retreating
carriages with greedy stare as if something startling were going to
happen and they feared to be too late.

From the top of the hill on Alcalá Street the broad straight road shone
white in the sun, with its rows of trees turning green at the breath of
spring, the balconies black with people, and the highway only visible at
intervals beneath the ant-like movement of the crowd and the rolling of
the coaches descending to the Fountain of Cibeles. Here the hill rose
again amid groves and tall buildings and the Puerta de Alcalá closed the
perspective like a triumphal arch, rearing its perforated white mass
against the blue space in which flecks of clouds floated like solitary
swans.

Gallardo rode in silence, responding to the multitude with a fixed
smile. Since his greeting to the _banderilleros_ he had not spoken a
word. They were also silent and pale with anxiety over the unknown.
Being all bull-fighters together, they put aside as useless the
gallantries necessary before the public.

A mysterious influence seemed to tell the crowd of the passing of the
last _cuadrilla_ that wound its way to the plaza. The vagabonds that ran
behind the coach shouting after Gallardo had been outstripped and the
group scattered among the carriages, but in spite of this the people
turned their heads as if they divined the proximity of the celebrated
bull-fighter behind them and they stopped, lining up against the edge of
the sidewalk to see him better.

The women in the coaches in advance turned their heads, attracted by the
jingling bells of the trotting mules. An indescribable roar rose from
certain groups that barred the passage along the sidewalks. There were
enthusiastic exclamations. Some waved their hats; others lifted canes
and swung them in salutation.

Gallardo responded to all with grinning smile but in his preoccupation
he seemed to take small account of these greetings. At his side rode
Nacional, his confidential servant, a _banderillero_, older than himself
by ten years, a rugged, strong man with brows grown together and a grave
visage. He was famous among the men of the profession for his good
nature, his manliness, and his political enthusiasms.

"Juan--don't complain of Madri'," said Nacional; "thou art made with the
public."

But Gallardo, as if he did not hear him and as if he wished to get away
from the thoughts that occupied him, answered:

"I feel it in my heart that something's going to happen this afternoon."

When they arrived at Cibeles the coach stopped. A great funeral was
coming along the Prado from the Castellana, cutting through the
avalanche of carriages from Alcalá Street.

Gallardo turned paler, contemplating with angry eyes the passing of the
cross and the defile of the priests who broke into a grave chant as they
gazed, some with aversion, others with envy, at that God-forgotten
multitude running after amusement.

Gallardo made haste to take off his cap, in which he was imitated by all
his _banderilleros_ except Nacional.

"But damn it!" yelled Gallardo, "uncover, _condenao_!"

He looked furious, as though he would strike him, convinced by some
confused intuition that this rebellion would cause the most terrible
misfortune to befall him.

"Well, I take it off," said Nacional with the ill grace of a thwarted
child, as he saw the cross pass on, "I take it off, but it is to the
dead."

They were detained some time to let the long _cortège_ pass.

"Bad sign!" muttered Gallardo in a voice trembling with anger. "Whoever
would have thought of bringing a funeral along the road to the plaza?
Damn it! I say something's going to happen to-day!"

Nacional smiled, shrugging his shoulders.

"Superstitions and fanaticisms! Neither God nor Nature bothers over
these things."

These words, which irritated Gallardo still more, caused the grave
preoccupation of the other bull-fighters to vanish, and they began to
joke about their companion as they did on all occasions when he dragged
in his favorite expression of "God or Nature."

When the road was clear the carriage began to move at the full speed of
the mules, crowding along with the other vehicles that flowed to the
plaza. Arrived there it turned to the left toward the gate of the
stables that led to the enclosures and stalls, obliged to move now at
slower pace among the dense crowd. Another ovation to Gallardo when he
descended from the coach followed by his _banderilleros_; blows and
pushes to keep his dress from unclean contact; smiles of greeting;
concealment of the right hand which all wished to press.

"Make way, gentlemen! many thanks!"

The large enclosure between the body of the plaza and the walls of the
outbuildings was full of the curious who wished to see the bull-fighters
at close range before taking their seats. Above the heads of the crowd
emerged the _picadores_ and guards on horseback in their seventeenth
century dress. At one side of the enclosure rose one-story brick
buildings with vines over the doors and pots of flowers in the windows,
a small community of offices, shops, stables, and houses in which lived
the stable boys, the carpenters, and other employees of the bull-ring.

The _matador_ pressed forward laboriously among the assemblage. His name
passed from mouth to mouth with exclamations of enthusiasm.

"Gallardo! Here is Gallardo! Hurrah! _Viva España_!"

And he, wholly preoccupied by the adoration of the public, advanced
swaggering, serene as a god, happy and satisfied, as if he were
assisting at a feast in his honor.

Suddenly two arms encircled his neck, and a strong stench of wine
assailed his nostrils.

"You smasher of women's hearts! You glorious one! Hurrah for Gallardo!"

It was a man of decent appearance; he rested his head on the
swordsman's shoulder and thus remained as though falling asleep in spite
of his enthusiasm. Gallardo's pushing, and the pulling of his friends,
freed the bull-fighter from this interminable embrace. The drunken man,
finding himself separated from his idol, broke out in shouts of
enthusiasm. "Hurrah! Let all the nations of the world come to admire
bull-fighters like this one and die of envy! They may have ships, they
may have money, but that's trivial! They have neither bulls nor youths
like this--no one to outstrip him in bravery. Hurrah, my boy! _Viva mi
tierra_!"

Gallardo crossed a great white washed hall bare of furniture where his
professional companions stood surrounded by enthusiastic groups. Way was
immediately made among the crowd which obstructed a door, and he passed
through it into a narrow, dark room, at the end of which shone the
lights of the chapel. An ancient painting representing the Virgin of the
Dove hung over the back of the altar. Four candles were burning before
it and branches of moth-eaten cloth flowers in vases of common
earthenware were falling to dust.

The chapel was full of people. The devotees of the humbler classes
crowded in to see the great men close by. They remained in the dimness
with uncovered head; some crowded into the foremost ranks, others stood
on chairs and benches, the majority of them with their backs to the
Virgin and looking greedily toward the door, ready to shout a name the
instant they discerned the glitter of a spangled costume.

The _banderilleros_ and _picadores_, poor devils who were going to
expose their lives as much as were the _maestros_, scarcely raised the
slightest murmur by their presence. Only the most fervent enthusiasts
recognized their nicknames.

Suddenly a prolonged buzzing, a name repeated from mouth to mouth:

"Fuentes!--That is Fuentes!"

And this elegant bull-fighter with his air of gentility and his cape
over his shoulder advanced to the altar and bent one knee with
theatrical arrogance, his gypsy-like eyes reflecting the lights and his
graceful and agile body thrown back as he looked upward. As soon as his
prayer was said and he had made the sign of the cross he rose, walking
backwards toward the door without losing sight of the image, like a
singer who retires bowing to the audience.

Gallardo was more simple in his devotions. He entered swaggering with no
less arrogance, cap in hand and his cape folded, but on finding himself
in the presence of the image he fell on both knees and gave himself up
to prayer, unconscious of the hundreds of eyes fixed on him. His simple
Christian soul trembled with fear and remorse. He asked protection with
the fervor of ingenuous men who live in continual danger and believe in
all kinds of adverse influences and in supernatural protection.

For the first time during the whole exciting day he thought of his wife
and mother. Poor Carmen, there in Seville awaiting the telegram! Señora
Angustias, happy with her chickens at the farm of La Rinconada, without
knowing for a certainty in what place her son fought the bulls to-day!
And he with the terrible presentiment that this afternoon something was
going to happen! Virgin of the Dove! Some little protection! He would
be good, he would forget the _other one_, he would live as God commands.

And with his superstitious spirit strengthened with this vain
repentance, he left the chapel with troubled eyes, still deeply stirred
and heedless of the people who obstructed the way.

Outside in the room where the bull-fighters were waiting, a shaven-faced
man, dressed in a black habit which he seemed to wear with a certain
slovenliness, greeted him.

"Bad sign!" murmured the bull-fighter, continuing on his way. "When I
say that something is going to happen to-day--"

The black-robed man was the chaplain of the plaza, an enthusiast in the
art of bull-fighting, who had come with the Holy Oils beneath his habit.
He was accompanied by a neighbor who served him as sacristan in exchange
for a seat to see the bull-fight. On bull-fight days he hired a
carriage, which the management paid for, and he chose by turns among his
friends and _protégés_ one on whom to confer the favor of the seat
destined for the sacristan, beside his own in the front row near the
doors of the bull-pen.

The priest entered the chapel with a proprietary air, scandalized at the
behavior of the congregation; all had their hats off, but were talking
in a loud voice and some were even smoking.

"Gentlemen, this is not a _café_. Be so kind as to go out. The
bull-fight is going to begin."

This news caused a dispersion, while the priest took out the hidden Holy
Oils and placed them in a box of painted wood. Then he too, as soon as
he had secreted the sacred articles, ran out to take his place in the
plaza before the appearance of the _cuadrilla_.

The crowd had disappeared. No one was to be seen in the enclosure but
men dressed in silk and embroidery, yellow horsemen with great beaver
hats, guards on horseback, and the assistants in their suits of gold and
blue.

The bull-fighters formed with customary promptness before the horses'
gate beneath an arch that gave exit to the plaza, the _maestros_ at the
front, then the _banderilleros_ keeping far apart, and behind them, in
the enclosure itself, stamped the sturdy rough squadron of the
_picadores_, smelling of burnt hide and dung, mounted on skeleton-like
horses with one eye bandaged. As rearguard of this army the teams of
mules intended for dragging out the slaughtered bulls fretted behind
them; they were restless, vigorous animals with shining coats, covered
with trappings of tassels and bells, and wore on their collars the
waving national flag.

Beyond the arch, above the wooden gates which half obstructed it, opened
a narrow space, leaving visible a portion of the sky, the tiled roof of
the plaza, and a section of seats with the compact multitude swarming
like ants, amid which fans and papers seemed to flutter like gayly
colored mosquitoes. Through this gallery entered a strong breeze--the
respiration of an immense lung. An harmonious humming was borne on the
undulations of the air, making certain distant music felt, rather
divined than heard.

About the archway peeped heads, many heads; those of the spectators on
the nearby benches were thrust forward, curious to see the heroes
without delay.

Gallardo arranged himself in line with the other bull-fighters, who
exchanged among themselves grave inclinations of the head. They did not
speak; they did not smile. Each one thought of himself, letting his
imagination fly far away; or he thought of nothing, lost in that
intellectual void produced by emotion. They occupied themselves with a
ceaseless arranging of the cape, throwing it loosely over the shoulder,
rolling its ends about the waist, and trying to make their legs, encased
in silk and gold, show agile and brave under this gorgeous funnel. Every
face was pale, not with a deathly pallor, but brilliant and livid, with
the sweaty gloss of emotion. They thought of the arena, still unseen,
experiencing that irresistible terror of events that take place on the
other side of a wall, that fear of the hidden, the unknown danger that
makes itself felt though invisible. How would the afternoon end?

Behind the _cuadrillas_ sounded the trotting of the horses that entered
through the outer arcades of the plaza. They bore the constables with
their long black cloaks and bell-shaped hats decorated with red and
yellow feathers. They had just cleared the ring, emptying it of the
curious, and they came to put themselves at the head of the
_cuadrillas_, serving them as advance guards.

The doors of the archway and those of the barrier wall opposite opened
wide. The great ring appeared, the real plaza, the circular space of
sand where the tragedy of the afternoon was to be enacted for the
excitement and entertainment of fourteen thousand souls. The harmonious
and confused buzzing increased, developing into gay and bizarre music, a
triumphal march of sounding brass that caused arms to swing martially
and hips to swagger. Forward, ye brave!

And the bull-fighters, winking at the violent transition, passed from
the shadow to the light, from the silence of the quiet gallery to the
roar of the ring on whose surrounding seats surged the crowd in waves of
curiosity, rising to their feet to see to better advantage.

The _toreros_ advanced, seeming suddenly to diminish in size in
comparison to the length of the perspective as they trod the arena. They
resembled brilliant little puppets, whose embroideries caught rainbow
reflections from the sun. Their graceful movements fired the people with
an enthusiasm like to that of the child in the presence of a wonderful
toy. The mad gust that stirred the crowds, causing their nerves to
tingle and their flesh to creep, they knew not why, moved the whole
plaza.

The people applauded, the more enthusiastic and nervous yelled, the
music rumbled and, in the midst of this outburst which spread in every
direction, from the door of the exit to the president's box, the
_cuadrillas_ advanced with solemn pace, the graceful movements of arms
and bodies compensating for the shortness of step. In the ring of blue
ether overhanging above the plaza white doves were winging as if
frightened by the roar that escaped from this crater of brick.

The athletes felt themselves different men as they advanced across the
arena. They exposed their lives for something more than money. Their
uncertainty and terror in the presence of the unknown were left behind
those barriers; now they were before the public; they faced reality. And
the thirst for glory in their barbarous and simple souls, the desire to
outstrip their comrades, their pride of strength and skill, blinded
them, made them forget fear and filled them with a brutal courage.

Gallardo had become transfigured. He walked erect, aspiring to be
taller; he moved with the arrogance of a conqueror. He gazed in all
directions with a triumphant air, as though his two companions did not
exist. Everything was his; the plaza and the public. He felt himself
capable of killing every bull that roamed the pastures of Andalusia and
Castile. All the applause was for him, he was sure of it. The thousands
of feminine eyes shaded by white _mantillas_ in boxes and benches, dwelt
only on his person. He had no doubt of it. The public adored him and, as
he advanced, smiling flippantly, as though the entire ovation were
directed to his person, he looked along the rows of seats on the rising
tiers knowing where the greater number of his partisans were grouped and
seeming to ignore those sections where his rivals' friends were
assembled.

They saluted the president, cap in hand, and the brilliant defile broke
up, lackeys and horsemen scattering about the arena. Then, while a guard
caught in his hat the key thrown by the president, Gallardo turned
toward the rows of seats where sat his greatest admirers and handed them
his glittering cape to keep for him. The handsome garment, grasped by
many hands, was spread over the wall as though it were a banner, a
sacred symbol of loyalty.

The most enthusiastic partisans stood waving hands and canes, greeting
the _matador_ with shouts manifesting their expectations. "Let the boy
from Seville show what he can do!"

And he, leaning against the barrier, smiling, sure of his strength,
answered, "Many thanks. What can be done will be done."

Not only were his admirers hopeful of him, but all the people fixed
their attention upon him in a state of great excitement. He was a
bull-fighter who seemed likely to meet with a catastrophe some day, and
the sort of catastrophe which called for a bed in the hospital.

Every one believed he was destined to die in the plaza as the result of
a horn-stab, and this very belief caused them to applaud him with
homicidal enthusiasm, with barbaric interest like that of the
misanthrope who follows an animal tamer from place to place, expecting
every moment to see him devoured by his wild beasts.

Gallardo laughed at the old professors of tauromachy who consider a
mishap impossible as long as the bull-fighter sticks to the rules of the
art. Rules! He knew them not and did not trouble himself to learn them.
Valor and audacity were all that were necessary to win. And, almost
blindly, without other guide than his temerity, or other support than
that of his physical faculties, he had risen rapidly, astonishing the
public into paroxysms, stupefying it with wonder by his mad daring.

He had not climbed up, step by step, as had other _matadores_, serving
long years first as _peón_ and _banderillero_ at the side of the
_maestros_. He had never known fear of a bull's horns. "Hunger stabs
worse." He had risen suddenly and the public had seen him begin as
_espada_, achieving immense popularity in a few years.

They admired him for the reason that they held his misfortune a
certainty. He fired the public with devilish enthusiasm for the blind
way in which he defied Death. They gave him the same attention and care
that they would give a criminal preparing for eternity. This
bull-fighter was not one of those who held power in reserve; he gave
everything, his life included. It was worth the money it cost. And the
multitude, with the bestiality of those who witness danger from a point
of safety, admired and urged the hero on. The prudent made wry faces at
his deeds; they thought him a predestined suicide, shielded by luck, and
murmured, "While he lasts!"

Drums and trumpets sounded and the first bull entered. Gallardo, with
his plain working-cape over one arm, remained near the barrier close to
the ranks of his partisans, in disdainful immobility, believing that the
whole plaza had their eyes glued on him. That bull was for some one
else. He would show signs of existence when his arrived. But the
applause for the skilful cape-work of his companions brought him out of
his quiet, and in spite of his intention he went at the bull, achieving
several feats due more to audacity than to skill. The whole plaza
applauded him, moved by predisposition in his favor because of his
daring.

When Fuentes killed the first bull and walked toward the president's
box, bowing to the multitude, Gallardo turned paler, as though all show
of favor that was not for him was equivalent to ignominious oblivion.
Now his turn was coming; great things were going to be seen. He did not
know for a certainty what they might be but he was going to astound the
public.

Scarcely had the second bull appeared when Gallardo, by his activity and
his desire to shine, seemed to fill the whole plaza. His cape was ever
near the bull's nose. A picador of his cuadrilla, the one called Potaje,
was thrown from his horse and lay unprotected near the horns, but the
maestro, grabbing the beast's tail, pulled with herculean strength and
made him turn till the horseman was safe. The public applauded, wild
with enthusiasm.

When the time for placing the _banderillas_ arrived, Gallardo stood
between the inner and outer barrier awaiting the bugle signal to kill.
Nacional, with the _banderilla_ in his hand, attracted the bull to the
centre of the plaza. No grace nor audacity was in his bearing; it was
merely a question of earning bread. Away in Seville were four small
children who, if he were to die, would not find another father. To
fulfil his duty and nothing more; only to throw his _banderillas_ like a
journeyman of tauromachy, without desire for ovations and merely well
enough to avoid being hissed!

When he had placed the first pair, some of the spectators in the vast
circle applauded, and others bantered the _banderillero_ in a waggish
tone, alluding to his hobbies.

"Less politics, and get closer!"

And Nacional, deceived by the distance, on hearing these shouts answered
smiling, like his master:

"Many thanks; many thanks."

When Gallardo leaped anew into the arena at the sound of the trumpets
and drums which announced the last play, the multitude stirred with a
buzzing of emotion. This _matador_ was its own. Now they were going to
see something great.

He took the _muleta_ from the hands of Garabato, who offered it folded
as he came inside the walls; he grasped the sword which his servant also
presented to him, and with short steps walked over and stood in front of
the president's box carrying his cap in his hand. All craned their
necks, devouring the idol with their eyes, but no one heard his speech.
The arrogant, slender figure, the body thrown back to give greater force
to his words, produced on the multitude the same effect as the most
eloquent address. As he ended his peroration with a half turn, throwing
his cap on the ground, enthusiasm broke out long and loud. Hurrah for
the boy from Seville! Now they were to see the real thing! And the
spectators looked at each other mutely, anticipating stupendous events.
A tremor ran along the rows of seats as though they were in the presence
of something sublime.

The profound silence produced by great emotions fell suddenly upon the
multitude as though the plaza had been emptied. The life of so many
thousands of persons was condensed into their eyes. No one seemed to
breathe.

Gallardo advanced slowly toward the bull holding the _muleta_ across his
body like a banner, and waving his sword in his other hand with a
pendulum-like movement that kept time with his step.

Turning his head an instant he saw that Nacional with another member of
his _cuadrilla_ was following to assist him, his cape over his arm.

"Stand aside, everybody!"

A voice rang out in the silence of the plaza making itself heard even to
the farthest seats, and a burst of admiration answered it. "Stand aside,
everybody!" He had said, "Stand aside, everybody!" What a man!

He walked up to the beast absolutely alone, and instantly silence fell
again. He calmly readjusted the red flag on the stick, extended it, and
advanced thus a few steps until he almost touched the nose of the bull,
which stood stupefied and terrified by the audacity of the man.

The public dared not speak nor even breathe but admiration shone in
their eyes. What a youth! He walked in between the very horns! He
stamped the ground impatiently with one foot, inciting the beast to
attack, and that enormous mass of flesh, defended by sharp horns fell
bellowing upon him. The _muleta_ passed over his horns, which grazed the
tassels and fringes of the dress of the bull-fighter standing firm in
his place, with no other movement than a backward bending of his body. A
shout from the crowd answered this whirl of the _muleta_. Hurrah!

The infuriated beast returned; he re-attacked the man with the "rag,"
who repeated the pass, with the same roar from the public. The bull,
made more and more furious by the deception, attacked the athlete who
continued whirling the red flag within a short distance, fired by the
proximity of danger and the wondering exclamations of the crowd that
seemed to intoxicate him.

Gallardo felt the animal snort upon him; the moist vapor from its muzzle
wet his right hand and his face. Grown familiar by contact he looked
upon the brute as a good friend who was going to let himself be killed
to contribute to his glory.

The bull stood motionless for some seconds as if tired of this play,
gazing with hazy eyes at the man and at the red scarf, suspecting in his
obscure mind the existence of a trick which with attack after attack was
drawing him toward death.

Gallardo felt the presentiment of his happiest successes. Now! He rolled
the flag with a circular movement of his left hand around the staff and
he raised his right hand to the height of his eyes, standing with the
sword pointing towards the neck of the beast.

The crowd was stirred by a movement of protest and horror.

"Don't strike yet," shouted thousands of voices. "No, no!"

It was too soon. The bull was not in good position; he would make a
lunge and catch him. But Gallardo moved regardless of all rules of the
art. What did either rules or life matter to that desperate man?

Suddenly he threw himself forward with his sword held before him, at the
same time that the wild beast fell upon him. It was a brutal, savage
encounter. For an instant man and beast formed a single mass and thus
moved together several paces, no one knowing which was the conqueror,
the man with an arm and part of his body lying between the two horns, or
the beast lowering his head and trying to seize with his defences the
puppet of gold and colors which seemed to be slipping away from him.

At last the group parted, the _muleta_ lay on the ground like a rag, and
the bull-fighter, his hands free, went staggering back from the impulse
of the shock until he recovered his equilibrium a few steps away. His
clothing was in disorder; his cravat floated outside his vest, gored and
torn by one of the horns.

The bull raced on impelled by the momentum of his start. Above his broad
neck the red hilt of the sword embedded to the cross scarcely protruded.
Suddenly the animal paused, shuddering with a painful movement of
obeisance, doubled his fore legs, inclined his head till his bellowing
muzzle touched the sand, and finished by lying down with shudders of
agony.

It seemed as if the very building would fall, as if the bricks dashed
against one another, as if the multitude was about to fly
panic-stricken, by the way it rose to its feet, pale, tremulous,
gesticulating and throwing its arms. Dead! What a stroke! Every one had
believed for a second that the _matador_ was caught on the horns. All
had felt sure they would see him fall upon the sand stained with blood
and, as they beheld him standing up still giddy from the shock but
smiling, surprise and amazement augmented the enthusiasm.

"How fierce!" they shouted from the tiers of seats, not finding a more
fitting word to express their astonishment--" How rash!"

Hats flew into the arena and a deafening roar of applause, like a shower
of hail, ran from row to row of seats as the _matador_ advanced around
the ring until he stood in front of the president's box.

The ovation burst out clamorously when Gallardo, extending his arms,
saluted the president. All shouted, demanding for the swordsman the
honors due to mastery. They must give him the ear. Never was this
distinction so merited; few sword-thrusts like that had ever been seen;
and the enthusiasm increased when a _mozo_ of the plaza handed him a
dark triangle, hairy and blood-stained--the point of one of the beast's
ears.

The third bull was now in the ring, but the ovation to Gallardo
continued as though the public had not yet recovered from its amazement;
as though all that might occur during the rest of the bull-fight would
be tame in comparison.

The other bull-fighters, pale with professional envy, strove valiantly
to attract the attention of the public. Applause was given, but it was
weak and faint after the former ovations. The public was exhausted by
the delirium of its enthusiasm and heeded absent-mindedly the events
that took place in the ring. Fiery discussions broke out and ran from
tier to tier. The adherents of other bull-fighters, serene and unmoved
by the transports that had overcome the people, took advantage of the
spontaneous movement, to turn the discussion upon Gallardo. Very
valiant, very daring, a suicide, they said, but that was not art. And
the vehement adherents of the idol, proud of his audacity and carried
away by their own feelings, became indignant like the believer who sees
the miracles of his favorite saint held in doubt.

The attention of the public was diverted by incidents that disturbed the
people on some of the tiers of seats. Suddenly those in one section
moved; the spectators rose to their feet, turning their backs to the
ring; arms and canes whirled above their heads. The rest of the crowd
ceased looking at the arena, directing their attention to the seat of
trouble and to the large numbers, painted on the inner wall, that marked
the different sections of the amphitheatre.

"Fight in the third!" they yelled joyfully. "Now there's a row in the
fifth!"

Following the contagious impulse of the crowd, all became excited and
rose to their feet to see over their neighbors' heads but were unable to
distinguish anything except the slow ascent of the police who, opening a
passage from step to step, reached the group where the dispute had
begun.

"Sit down!" exclaimed the more prudent, deprived of their view of the
ring where the bull-fighters continued the game.

Little by little the waves of the multitude calmed, the rows of heads
assumed their former regularity on the circular lines of the benches,
and the bull-fight went on. But the nerves of the audience were shaken
and their state of mind manifested itself in unjust animosity toward
certain fighters or by profound silence.

The public, exhausted by the recent intense emotion, found all the
events tame. They sought to allay their ennui by eating and drinking.
The venders in the plaza went about between _barreras_, throwing with
marvellous skill the articles bought. Oranges flew like red balls to the
highest row, going from the hand of the seller to those of the buyer in
a straight line, as if pulled by a thread. Bottles of carbonated drinks
were uncorked. The liquid gold of Andalusian wines shone in little
glasses.

A movement of curiosity circulated along the benches. Fuentes was about
to fix the _banderillas_ in his bull and every one expected some
extraordinary show of skill and grace. He advanced alone to the centre
of the plaza with the _banderillas_ in one hand, serene, tranquil,
walking slowly, as though he were to begin a game. The bull followed his
movements with curious eyes, amazed to see the man alone before him
after the former hurly-burly of fluttering and extended capes, of cruel
barbs thrust into his neck, of horses that came and stood within reach
of his horns, as if offering themselves to his attack.

The man hypnotized the beast. He drew near until he could touch his poll
with the point of the _banderillas_, then he ran slowly away, with short
steps, the bull after him, as though persuaded into obedience and drawn
against his will to the extreme opposite side of the plaza. The animal
seemed to be mastered by the bull-fighter; he obeyed him in all his
movements until the man, calling the game ended, extended his arms with
a _banderilla_ in each hand, raised his small, slender body upon his
toes, advanced toward the bull with majestic ease, and thrust the gayly
colored darts into its neck.

Three times he performed the same feat, applauded by the public. Those
who considered themselves connoisseurs retaliated now for the explosion
of enthusiasm provoked by Gallardo. This was a bull-fighter! This was
pure art.

Gallardo, standing near the barrier, wiped the sweat off his face with a
towel which Garabato handed him. Then he turned his back on the ring to
avoid seeing the prowess of his companion. Outside of the plaza he
esteemed his rivals with that feeling of fraternity established by
danger; but as soon as they stepped into the arena all were enemies and
their triumphs pained him as if they were offences. Now the enthusiasm
of the public seemed to him a robbery that diminished his own great
triumph.

When the fifth bull came out, it was for him, and he sprang into the
arena anxious to again startle the public by his daring.

When a _picador_ fell he threw his cape and enticed the bull to the
other side of the ring, confusing him with a series of movements until
the beast became stupefied and stood motionless. Then Gallardo touched
his nose with one foot, and took his cap and put it between the horns.
Again, he took advantage of the animal's stupefaction and thrust his
body forward as an audacious challenge, and knelt at a short distance,
all but lying down under the brute's nose.

The old _aficionados_ protested loudly. Monkey-shines! Clown-tricks,
that would not have been tolerated in olden days! But they had to
subside, wearied by the tumult of the public.

When the signal for the _banderillas_ was given the people were thrown
into suspense by seeing that Gallardo took the darts from Nacional and
walked towards the beast with them. There was an exclamation of protest.
_He_ to throw the _banderillas_! All knew his inexperience in that
direction. This ought to be left to those who had risen in their career
step by step, for those who had been _banderilleros_ many years at the
side of their _maestros_ before becoming bull-fighters; and Gallardo had
begun at the top, killing bulls ever since he stepped into the plaza.

"No! No!" clamored the multitude.

Doctor Ruiz shouted and gesticulated from the _contrabarrera_.

"Leave off that, boy! Thou knowest but the great act--to kill!"

But Gallardo scorned the public and was deaf to its protests when he
felt the impulse of audacity. Amidst the outcries he went directly
towards the bull, which never moved and, _zas!_ he stuck in the
_banderillas_. The pair lodged out of place, and only skin deep, and one
of the sticks fell at the beast's movement of surprise. But this
mattered not. With that lenity the multitude ever feels for its idols,
excusing and justifying their defects, the entire public commended this
piece of daring by smiling. He, growing more rash, took other
_banderillas_ and lodged them, heedless of the protests of the people
who feared for his life. Then he repeated the act a third time, each
time doing it crudely but with such fearlessness that what in another
would have provoked hisses was received with great explosions of
admiration. What a man! How luck aided this daring youth!

The bull stood with only four of the _banderillas_ in his neck, and
those so lightly embedded that he did not seem to feel them.

"He is perfectly sound," yelled the devotees on the rows of seats,
alluding to the bull, while Gallardo, grasping sword and _muleta_,
marched up to him, with his cap on, arrogant and calm, trusting in his
lucky star.

"Aside, all!" he shouted again.

Divining that some one was near him giving no heed to his orders he
turned his head. Fuentes was a few steps away. He had followed him, his
cape over his arm, feigning inattention but ready to come to his aid as
though he felt a premonition of an accident.

"Leave me alone, Antonio," said Gallardo, with an expression that was at
once angry and respectful, as though he were talking to an elder
brother, at which Fuentes shrugged his shoulders as if he thus threw off
all responsibility, and turned his back and walked away slowly, but
feeling certain of being needed at any moment.

Gallardo waved his flag in the beast's very face and the latter
attacked. "A pass! Hurrah!" the enthusiasts roared. But the animal
suddenly returned, falling upon the _matador_ again and giving him such
a violent blow with his head that the _muleta_ was knocked from his
hands. Finding himself unarmed and hard-pressed he had to make for the
_barrera_, but at the same instant Fuentes' cape distracted the animal.
Gallardo, who divined during his flight the beast's sudden halt, did
not jump over the _barrera_; he sat on the vaulting wall an instant,
contemplating his enemy a few paces away. The rout ended in applause for
this show of serenity.

Gallardo recovered the _muleta_ and sword, carefully arranged the red
flag, and again stood in front of the beast's head, less calmly, but
dominated instead by a murderous fury, by a desire to kill instantly the
animal that had made him run in sight of thousands of admirers.

He had scarcely made a pass with the flag when he thought the decisive
moment had arrived and he squared himself, the _muleta_ held low, the
hilt of the sword raised close to his eyes.

The public protested again, fearing for his life.

"He'll throw thee! No! _Aaay!_"

It was an exclamation of horror that moved the whole plaza; a spasm that
caused the multitude to rise to its feet with eyes staring while the
women covered their faces or grasped the nearest arm in terror.

At the bull-fighter's thrust the sword struck bone, and, delayed in the
movement of stepping aside on account of this difficulty, Gallardo had
been caught by one of the horns and now hung upon it by the middle of
his body. The brave youth, so strong and wiry, found himself tossed
about on the end of the horn like a miserable manikin until the powerful
beast, with a shake of his head, flung him some yards away, where he
fell heavily on the sand with arms and legs extended, like a frog
dressed in silk and gold.

"He is killed! A horn-stab in the belly!" They shouted from the rows of
seats.

But Gallardo got up amidst the capes and the men who rushed to cover
and save him. He smiled; he tested his body; then he raised his
shoulders to indicate to the public that it was nothing. A jar--no more,
and the belt torn to shreds. The horn had only penetrated the wrapping
of strong silk.

Again he grasped the instruments of death, but now nobody would remain
seated, divining that the encounter would be short and terrible.
Gallardo marched towards the beast with a blind impulse determined to
kill or die immediately, without delay or precaution. The bull or he! He
saw red, as if blood had been injected into his eyes. He heard, as
something distant that came from another world, the outcry of the
multitude counselling calmness.

He made only two passes, aided by a cape that he held at his side, then
suddenly, with the swiftness of a dream, like a spring that is loosed
from its fastening, he threw himself upon the bull, giving him a stab
that his admirers said was swift as a lightning stroke. He thrust his
arm so far over that on escaping from between the horns he received a
blow from one of them which sent him staggering away; but he kept on his
feet, and the beast, after a mad run, fell at the extreme opposite side
of the plaza and lay with his legs bent under him and the top of his
head touching the sand until the _puntillero_ came to finish him. The
public seemed to go mad with enthusiasm. A glorious bull-fight! It was
surfeited with excitement. That fellow Gallardo did not rob one of his
money; he responded with excess to the price of entrance. The devotees
would have material to talk about for three days at their meetings at
the _café_. How brave! how fierce! And the most enthusiastic, with
warlike fervor, looked in every direction as if searching for enemies.

"The greatest _matador_ in the world! And here am I to face whoever dare
say to the contrary!"

The remainder of the bull-fight scarcely claimed attention. It all
seemed tasteless and colorless after Gallardo's daring.

When the last bull fell upon the sand a surging crowd of boys, of
popular devotees, of apprentices of the art of bull-fighting, invaded
the ring. They surrounded Gallardo, following him on his way from the
president's box to the door of exit. They crowded against him, all
wishing to press his hand or touch his dress, and at last, the most
vehement, paying no attention to the gesticulations of Nacional and the
other _banderilleros_, caught the master by the legs and raised him to
their shoulders, carrying him around the ring and through the galleries
to the outer edge of the plaza.

Gallardo, taking off his cap, bowed to the groups that applauded his
triumph. Wrapped in his glittering cape, he allowed himself to be
carried like a divinity, motionless and erect above the current of
Cordovan hats and Madrid caps, amidst acclamations of enthusiasm.

As he stepped into his carriage at the lower end of Alcalá Street,
hailed by the crowd that had not seen the bull-fight, but which already
knew of his triumphs, a smile of pride, of satisfaction in his own
strength, illuminated his sweaty countenance over which the pallor of
emotion still spread.

Nacional, anxious about the master's having been caught and about his
violent fall, wished to know if he felt any pain, and if he should call
Doctor Ruiz.

"It's nothing; a petting, nothing more. No bull alive can kill me."

But as though in the midst of his pride arose the recollection of his
past weaknesses, and as though he thought he saw in Nacional's eyes an
ironic expression, he added:

"Those are things that affect me before going to the plaza; something
like hysteria in women. But thou art right, Sebastián. How sayest thou?
God or Nature, that's it; neither God nor Nature should meddle in
affairs of bull-fighting. Every one gets through as he can, by his skill
or by his courage, and recommendations from earth or from heaven are of
no use to him. Thou hast talent, Sebastián; thou shouldst have studied
for a career."

In the optimism of his joy he looked upon the _banderillero_ as a sage,
forgetting the jests with which he had always received the latter's
topsy-turvy reasoning.

When he reached his lodging he found many admirers in the vestibule
anxious to embrace him. They talked of his deeds with such hyperbole
that they seemed altered, exaggerated, and transfigured by the comments
made in the short distance from the plaza to the hotel.

Upstairs his room was full of friends, gentlemen who _thoued_ him, and,
imitating the rustic speech of the country people, shepherds and
cattle-breeders, said to him, slapping his shoulders:

"Thou hast done very well; but really, very well!"

Gallardo freed himself from this enthusiastic reception and went out
into the corridor with Garabato.

"Go and send a telegram home. Thou knowest what to say: '_As usual_.'"

Garabato protested. He must help the _maestro_ undress. The servants of
the hotel would take charge of sending the despatch.

"No, I wish it to be thou. I will wait. Thou must send another telegram.
Thou already knowest who to--to that lady; to Doña Sol. Also '_As
usual_.'"



CHAPTER III

BORN FOR THE BULL-RING


When Señora Angustias was bereft of her husband, Señor Juan Gallardo,
the well known cobbler established in a _portal_ in the ward of the
Feria, she wept with the disconsolateness due the event, but at the same
time, in the depths of her soul, she felt the satisfaction of one who
rests after a long journey, freed from an overwhelming burden.

"Poor fellow, joy of my heart! May God keep him in His glory. So good!
So industrious!"

During twenty years of life together, he had not caused her greater
sorrows than those the rest of the women of the ward had to bear. Of the
three _pesetas_ he averaged as a result of his labor he handed over one
to Señora Angustias for the support of the house and family, using the
other two for personal entertainment and for keeping up appearances
among his friends. He was obliged to respond to the attentions of his
companions when they invited him to a convivial glass, and the famous
Andalusian wine, since it is the glory of God, costs dear. Also it was
inevitable that he should go to see the bulls, because a man who does
not drink nor attend bull-fights--why is he in the world?

Señora Angustias with her two children, Encarnación and little Juan, had
to sharpen her wits and develop numerous talents in order to keep the
family together. She worked as a servant in the houses nearest her
ward, sewed for the women of the neighborhood, sold clothing and
trinkets for a certain brokeress, a friend of hers, and made cigarettes
for the gentlemen, recalling her youthful aptitude when Señor Juan, an
enthusiastic and favored lover, used to come and wait for her at the
door of the Tobacco Factory.

Never could she complain of infidelity or ill-treatment on the part of
her husband. On Saturdays when the cobbler used to come home drunk in
the late hours of the night supported by his friends, joy and tenderness
came with him. Señora Angustias had to drag him into the house, for he
was determined to remain outside the door clapping his hands and
intoning, with slobbery voice, tender love songs dedicated to his
corpulent companion. And when the door was at last closed behind him,
depriving the neighbors of a source of entertainment, Señor Juan, in a
state of sentimental drunkenness, insisted on seeing the sleeping
children; he kissed them, wetting their little faces with great
tear-drops, and repeated his verses in honor of Señora Angustias
(Hurrah! the greatest woman in the world!) till finally the good wife
was compelled to cease frowning and to laugh while she undressed him and
managed him as if he were a sick child.

This was his only vice. Poor fellow! There was not a sign of women or of
gambling. His self-esteem which made him go well dressed while the
family went in rags, and his unequal division of the products of his
labor, were both compensated by generous incentives. Señora Angustias
recollected with pride the great feast days when Juan had her put on her
Manila shawl, her wedding _mantilla_, and, with the children walking in
advance, he strode at her side with white Cordovan hat and silver
handled cane, taking a walk along Delicias with the same air as any
shopkeeper's family from Sierpes Street. On cheap bull-fight days he
courted her pompously before going to the plaza, offering her glasses of
wine at La Campana or at a _café_ in the New Plaza. This happy time was
now but a faint and pleasant memory in the recollection of the poor
woman.

Señor Juan fell ill of phthisis and for two years the wife had to care
for him, making still greater exertions in her industries to compensate
for the lack of the _peseta_ her husband used to turn over to her. At
last he died in the hospital, resigned to his fate, convinced that
existence was of no value without Andalusian wine and without bulls, and
his last look of love and gratitude was for his wife, as if he would
call out with his eyes: "Hurrah! the greatest woman in the world!"

When Señora Angustias was left alone her position did not change for the
worse,--rather for the better. She enjoyed greater liberty in her
movements, freed from the man who for the last two years had weighed
more heavily upon her than the rest of the family. Being an energetic
woman and of prompt decision, she immediately marked out a career for
her children. Encarnación, who was now sixteen, went to the Tobacco
Factory, where her mother was able to introduce her, thanks to her
relations with certain friends of her youth who had become overseers.
Juanillo, who as a lad had passed his days in the _portal_ of the Feria
watching his father work, should be a shoemaker, according to the will
of Señora Angustias. She took him out of school, where he had learned
to read but poorly, and at twelve he became an apprentice to one of the
best shoemakers in Seville.

And now the martyrdom of the poor woman began.

Ah, that boy! Son of such honorable parents! Almost every day, instead
of going to his master's shop he went to the slaughter-house with
certain rascals who had their meeting place on a bench in the Alameda of
Hercules and who delighted to flaunt a cape under the nose of young
bullocks for the entertainment of herders and butchers, generally
getting upset and trampled upon. Señora Angustias, who often toiled far
into the night, needle in hand, so that the boy might go to the shop
neat, with his clothing clean and mended, met him at the door when he
came home with his pantaloons torn, his jacket dirty, and his face
covered with lumps and scratches, afraid to enter yet without courage to
flee owing to his hunger.

The welts made by his mother's blows and the marks of the broom-handle
were added to the bruises of the treacherous bullocks, but the hero of
the slaughter-house suffered them all, provided he did not lack his
daily rations. "Beat me, but give me something to eat." And with his
appetite awakened by violent exercise, he devoured the hard bread, the
spoiled beans, the stale cod-fish, all the cheap food the diligent woman
sought in the shops in the effort to maintain the family on her scanty
earnings.

Toiling all day scrubbing floors, only now and then did she have an
afternoon in which she could concern herself with her son's welfare and
go to the cobbler's to learn of the progress of the apprentice. When she
returned from the shoe-maker's shop she was puffing and blowing with
anger and resolved upon terrible punishments to correct the vagabond.

Most of the time he failed to present himself at the shop at all. He
spent the morning at the slaughter-house and in the afternoons he formed
one of the group of vagabonds collected at the entrance of Sierpes
Street, admiring at close range the bull-fighters out of work who
gathered in Campana Street, dressed in new clothes, with resplendent
hats but with no more than a _peseta_ in their pockets, though each one
was bragging of his exploits.

Little Juan contemplated them as if they were beings of marvellous
superiority, envying their fine carriage and the boldness with which
they flattered the women. The idea that each of these had at home a suit
of silk embroidered with gold, and that with it on he strode before the
multitude to the sound of music, produced a thrill of respect.

The son of Señora Angustias was known as the Little Cobbler among his
ragged friends, and he showed satisfaction at having a nickname, as have
nearly all the great men who appear in the ring. A foundation must be
laid somewhere. He wore around his neck a red handkerchief which he had
pilfered from his sister, and from beneath his cap his hair fell over
his ears in thick locks which he carefully plastered down. He wore his
plaited blouses of drill tucked into his trousers, which were ancient
relics of his father's wardrobe made over by Señora Angustias; he
insisted these must be high in the waist with the legs wide and the hips
well tightened, and wept with humiliation when his mother would not
yield to these exactions.

A cape! If only he might possess a fighting cape and not have to beg
from other more fortunate boys the loan of the coveted "rag" for a few
minutes! In a poor little room at home lay an old forgotten empty
mattress case. Señora Angustias had sold the wool in days of stress. The
Little Cobbler spent a morning locked in the room, taking advantage of
the absence of his mother who was working as a servant in a priest's
house.

With the ingenuity of a shipwrecked mariner on a desert isle who, thrown
upon his own resources, must construct everything necessary to his
existence, he cut a fighting cape from the damp and half-frayed cloth.
Then he boiled in a pot a handful of red aniline bought at a druggist's,
and dipped the ancient cotton in this dye. Little Juan admired his
work--a cape of the most vivid scarlet that would arouse the greatest
envy at the bull-baiting in the surrounding towns! Nothing remained but
to dry it and he hung it in the sun beside the neighbor women's white
clothes. The wind blew the dripping cloth about, bespattering the
nearest pieces, until a chorus of curses and threats, clenched fists,
and mouths that pronounced the ugliest of words against him and his
mother, obliged the Little Cobbler to grasp his mantle of glory and take
to his heels, his hands and face dyed red as though he had just
committed a murder.

Señora Angustias, a strong, corpulent, be-whiskered woman who was not
afraid of men, and inspired the respect of women for her energetic
resolutions, was disheartened and weak in the presence of her son. What
could she do? Her hands had pummelled every part of the boy's body;
brooms were broken on him without beneficial results. That little imp
had, according to her, the flesh of a dog. Accustomed outside of the
house to the tremendous butting of the steers, to the cruel trampling
of the cows, to the clubs of herders and butchers who beat the band of
vagabond bull-fighters without compassion, his mother's blows seemed to
him a natural event, a continuation of his life outside prolonged inside
the home, and he accepted them without the least intention of mending
his ways, as a fee which he must pay in exchange for his sustenance,
chewing the hard bread with hungry enjoyment, while the maternal
maledictions and blows rained on his back.

Scarcely was his hunger appeased when he fled from the house, taking
advantage of the freedom in which Señora Angustias left him when she
absented herself on her round of duties.

In Campana Street, that venerable haunt of the bull-fighters where the
gossip of the great doings of the profession circulated, he received
information about his companions that gave him tremors of enthusiasm.

"Little Cobbler, a bull-fight to-morrow."

The towns in the province celebrated the feasts of their patron saints
with cape-teasing of bulls which had been rejected from the great
plazas, and to these the young bull-fighters went in the hope of being
able to say on their return that they had held the cape in the glorious
plazas of Aznalcollar, Bollullos, or Mairena. They started on the
journey at night with the cape over the shoulder if it were summer, or
wrapped in it if winter, their stomachs empty, their heads full of
visions of bulls and glory.

If the trip were of several days' journey they camped in the open, or
they were admitted through charity to the hayloft of an inn. Alas for
the grapes, melons, and figs they found by the way in those happy
times! Their only fear was that another band, another _cuadrilla_,
possessed of the same idea, would present itself in the _pueblo_ and set
up an opposition.

When they reached the end of their journey, with their eyebrows and
mouths full of dust, tired and foot-sore from the march, they presented
themselves to the alcalde and the boldest among them who performed the
functions of director talked of the merits of his men. All considered
themselves happy if the municipal generosity sheltered them in a stable
of the hostelry and regaled them with a pot of stew in addition, which
they would clean up instantly. In the village plaza enclosed by wagons
and boards, they let loose aged bulls, regular forts of flesh covered
with scabs and scars, with enormous saw-edged horns; cattle which had
been fought many years in all the feasts of the province; venerable
animals that "understood the game," such was their malice. Accustomed to
one continual bull-fight they were in the secret of the tricks of the
contest.

The youths of the _pueblo_ pricked on the beasts from their place of
safety and the people longed for an object of diversion greater than the
bull--in the bull-fighters from Seville. These waved their capes, their
legs trembling, their courage borne down by the weight of their
stomachs. A tumble, and then great clamor from the public! When one in
sudden terror took refuge behind the palisades, rural barbarity received
him with insults, beating the hands clutching at the wood, pounding him
on the legs to make him jump back into the ring. "Get back there,
poltroon! Fraud, to turn your face from the bull."

At times one of the young swordsmen was borne out of the ring by four
companions, pale as a sheet of white paper, his eyes glassy, his head
fallen, his breast like a broken bellows. The veterinary came, quieting
them all on seeing no blood. The boy was suffering from the shock of
being thrown some yards and falling on the ground like a rag torn from a
piece of clothing. Again it was the agony of having been stepped on by a
beast of enormous weight. A bucket of water was thrown on his head and
then, when he recovered his senses, they treated him to a long drink of
brandy. A prince could not be better cared for!

To the ring again! And when the herder had no more bulls to let out and
night was drawing near, two of the _cuadrilla_ grasped the best cape
belonging to the society and holding it by its edges went from one
viewing stand to another soliciting a contribution. Copper coins fell
upon the red cloth in proportion to the pleasure the strangers had given
the country people; and, the bull-baiting ended, they started on their
return to the city, knowing that they had exhausted their credit at the
inn. Often they fought on the way over the distribution of the pieces of
copper which they carried in a knotted handkerchief. Then the rest of
the week, they recounted their deeds before the fascinated eyes of their
companions who had not been members of the expedition.

Once Señora Angustias spent an entire week without hearing from her son.
At last she heard vague rumors of his having been wounded in a
bull-scrimmage in the town of Tocina. _Dios mío_! Where might that town
be? How reach it? She gave up her son for dead, she wept for him, she
longed to go; and then as she was getting ready to start on her
journey, she saw little Juan coming home, pale, weak, but talking with
manly joy of his accident.

It was nothing--a horn-stab in one thigh; a wound a fraction of an inch
deep. And in the shamelessness of triumph he wanted to show it to the
neighbors, affirming that a finger could be thrust into it without
reaching its end. He was proud of the stench of iodoform that he shed as
he walked, and he talked of the attention they had shown him in that
town, which he considered the finest in Spain. The wealthiest citizens,
one might say the aristocracy, interested themselves in his case, the
alcalde had been to see him and later paid his way home. He still had
three _duros_ in his pocket, which he handed to his mother with the
generosity of a great man. So much glory at fourteen! His satisfaction
was yet greater when some genuine bull-fighters in Campana Street fixed
their attention on the boy and asked him how his wound was getting
along.

His companion in poverty was Chiripa, a boy of the same age, with a
small body and malicious eyes, without father or mother, who had tramped
about Seville ever since he had attained the use of his faculties.
Chiripa was a master of the roving life and had travelled over the
world. The two boys started on a journey empty of pocket, without other
equipment than their capes, miserable cast-offs acquired for a few
_reales_ from a second-hand clothing store.

They clambered cautiously into trains and hid under seats. Often they
were surprised by a trainman and, to the accompaniment of kicks and
blows, were left by him on the platform of some solitary station while
the train vanished like a lost hope. They awaited the arrival of
another, spending the night in the open, employing the cunning of
primitive man to satisfy their necessities, crawling round about country
houses to steal some solitary chicken, which, after wringing the fowl's
neck, they would broil over a fire of dry wood and devour scorched and
half raw, with the voracity of young savages.

Often when they slept in the open air near a station awaiting the
passing of a train, a couple of guards would come up to them. On seeing
the red bundles that served as pillows for these vagabonds, their
suspicions were quieted. They gently removed the boys' caps, and on
finding the hairy appendage they went away laughing without further
investigation. These were not young thieves; they were apprentices who
were going to the _capeas_. And in this tolerance there was a mixture of
sympathy for the national sport and of respect for the obscure
possibilities of the future. Who could tell if one of these ragged
youths, despite his present appearance of poverty, might not in the
future be a "star of the art," a great man who would kill bulls for the
entertainment of kings, and live like a prince, and whose deeds and
sayings would be exploited in the newspapers?

One afternoon, the Little Cobbler was left alone in a town of
Extremadura. For the admiration of the rustic audience which applauded
the famous bull-fighters "come purposely from Seville," the two boys
threw _banderillas_ at a fierce and ancient bull. Little Juan stuck his
pair into the beast and was posing near a view-stand, proudly receiving
the popular ovation of tremendous hand-clappings and proffers of cups of
wine, when an exclamation of horror sobered him in his intoxication of
glory. Chiripa was no longer on the ground of the plaza; only the
_banderillas_ rolling in the dust, one slipper and a cap were there. The
bull was moving about as if irritated by some obstacle, carrying hooked
on one of his horns a bundle of clothing resembling a puppet. With the
violent tossing of his head the shapeless roll was loosened from the
horn, ejecting a red stream, but before touching the ground it was
caught by the opposite horn which in its turn tossed it about during
what seemed an interminable time. At last, the sorry bulk fell to the
dust and there it stayed, flabby and inert, like a punctured wine-skin
expelling its contents.

The herder with his leaders took the bull into the corral, for no one
else dared go near him, and poor Chiripa was carried upon a stretcher to
a wretched little room in the town-house that served as a jail. His
companion looked at him with a face as white as if made of plaster.
Chiripa's eyes were glazed and his body was red with the blood which
could not be stopped by the cloths wet with water and vinegar, which
were applied in lieu of anything better.

"Adio', Little Cobbler!" he moaned. "Adio', Juanito!"

And he said no more. The companion of the dead youth, terrified, started
on his return to Seville still seeing his glassy eyes, hearing his
mournful good-bye. He was filled with fear. A gentle cow appearing in
his path would have made him run. He thought of his mother and of the
prudence of her counsel. Would it not be better to dedicate himself to
shoemaking and live tranquilly? But these resolutions only lasted while
he was alone. When he reached Seville he felt the return of
exhilaration. Friends rushed to him to hear about the death of poor
Chiripa in every detail. Professional bull-fighters questioned him in
Campana Street, remembering with pity the little vagabond with the
pock-marked face who had often run errands for them. Juan, fired by such
signs of consideration, gave rein to his powerful imagination,
describing how he had thrown himself upon the bull when he had seen his
poor companion hooked, how he had grabbed the beast by the tail and
achieved even more wonderful feats, in spite of which the other boy had
left this world.

The impulse of fear vanished. Bull-fighter--nothing but a bull-fighter!
Since others were, why should he not be one? He recollected his mother's
spoiled beans and hard bread; the deprivation each pair of new
pantaloons had cost him; the hunger, that inseparable companion of many
of his expeditions. Moreover he had a vehement desire for all the joys
and displays of life; he gazed with envy at the coaches and the horses;
he stood transfixed before the doors of the great houses through whose
iron grilles he saw courtyards of Oriental sumptuousness and arcades of
colored tiles, pavements with marble and chattering fountains casting a
stream of pearls day and night into a basin surrounded by foliage. His
fate was sealed. To kill bulls or die! To be rich, to have the
newspapers talk of him, and to have the people bow to him, even though
it were at the price of his life. He despised the lower grades of the
art. He saw the _banderilleros_ expose their lives equally with the
swordsmen in exchange for thirty _duros_ for each bull-fight; and, after
a round of toil and horn-stabs, become old, with no other future than
some wretched business bought with paltry savings, or else a position at
the slaughter-house. Some died in the hospital; others begged alms from
their youthful companions. He would have nothing to do with
_banderilleros_ nor with spending long years in a _cuadrilla_ in
submission to the despotism of a _maestro_. He would begin with killing
bulls; he would tread the sand of the plazas as a swordsman!

The misfortune of poor Chiripa gave him a certain ascendency over his
companions, and he formed a _cuadrilla_ of ragged youths who marched
behind him to the _capeas_ of the _pueblos_. They respected him because
he was braver and better dressed. Some young girls of the street,
attracted by the manly beauty of the Little Cobbler, who was now in his
eighteenth year, and predisposed by his _coleta_, disputed in noisy
competition the honor of taking care of his comely person. Moreover he
counted on a patron, an old magistrate who had a weakness for the
courage of young bull-fighters and whose friendship infuriated Señora
Angustias and caused her to let loose some most indecent expressions
which she had learned at the Tobacco Factory in her younger days.

The Little Cobbler dressed himself in suits of English cloth well fitted
to the elegance of his figure, and his hat was always resplendent. His
friends took scrupulous care of the whiteness of his collars and
furbelows, and on certain days he proudly wore on his waistcoat a heavy
gold chain, a loan from his respectable friend, that had already figured
around the necks of other "boys who were starting out."

He mingled with broken-down bull-fighters; he could pay for the drinks
of the old _peones_ who recalled the deeds of famous swordsmen. It was
believed for a certainty that some protectors were exerting themselves
in favor of this "boy," awaiting a propitious occasion for him to make
his _début_ in a fight of young bullocks in the plaza of Seville.

The Little Cobbler was now a _matador_. One day, at Lebrija, when a
lively little young bull came into the plaza, his companions had urged
him on to the greatest luck. "Dost thou dare to kill him?" And he killed
him! Henceforward, fired by the ease with which he had escaped danger,
he went to all the _capeas_ in which they announced that a bull was to
be killed, and to all the granges where bulls were to be fought to the
death.

The proprietor of La Rinconada, a rich farmer with a small bull-ring,
was an enthusiast who kept his table set and his hayloft open for all
the hungry who wished to divert him by fighting his cattle. Juan went
there in days of poverty with other companions, to eat and drink to the
health of the rural hidalgo, although it might be at the price of some
rough tumbling. They arrived afoot after a two days' tramp and the
proprietor, seeing the dusty troop with their bundles of capes, said
solemnly:

"Whoever does the best work, I'll buy him a ticket that he may return to
Seville on the train."

Two days the lord of the farm spent smoking on the balcony of his plaza
while the boys from Seville fought young bulls, being frequently caught
and trampled.

He sharply reproved a poorly executed cape-play, and called out, "Get up
off the ground, you big coward! Come, give him wine to get him over his
fright," when a boy persisted in remaining stretched on the ground after
a bull had passed over his body.

The Little Cobbler killed a bull in a manner so much to the liking of
the owner that the latter seated him at his table while his comrades
stayed in the kitchen with the herders and farm laborers, dipping their
horn spoons into the steaming broth.

"Thou hast earned the return by railroad, my brave youth. Thou wilt
travel far if thou dost not lose heart. Thou hast promise."

The Little Cobbler, starting on his return to Seville second class while
the _cuadrilla_ tramped afoot, thought that a new life was beginning for
him, and he cast a look of covetousness at the enormous plantation with
its extensive olive orchards, its fields of grain, its mills, its
meadows stretching out of sight in which were pasturing thousands of
goats, while bulls and cows lay quietly chewing the cud. What wealth! If
only he might some day come to possess something like that!



CHAPTER IV

AT CARMEN'S WINDOW-GRILLE


Gallardo's prowess in fighting young bulls in the _pueblos_, heralded in
Seville, caused the restless and insatiable amateurs, ever seeking a new
luminary to eclipse those already discovered, to fix their attention
upon him.

"He certainly is a boy of wonderful promise," they used to say, on
seeing him pass along Sierpes Street with short step, swinging his arms
arrogantly. "He must be seen on classic ground." This ground for them
and for the Little Cobbler was the ring of the plaza at Seville. The boy
was soon to find himself face to face with the real thing. His protector
had acquired for him a spangled costume, somewhat worn, a cast-off of
some bull-fighter who had failed to win a name. A _corrida_ of young
bulls was arranged for a benefit, and influential devotees, eager for
novelty, managed to include him in the programme gratuitously, as
_matador_.

The son of Señora Angustias declined to appear in the announcements
under his nickname of Little Cobbler, which he desired to forget. He
would have nothing to do with stage names, and less with menial offices.
He wished to be known by the names of his father, he desired to be Juan
Gallardo; no nickname should recall his origin to the great people who
undoubtedly would become his friends of the future.

The whole ward of the Feria flocked _en masse_ to the _corrida_ with a
noisy and patriotic fervor. The dwellers in the ward of Macarena also
showed their interest and the other popular wards allowed themselves to
be carried away with equal enthusiasm. A new _matador_ for Seville!
There was not room for all and thousands were left outside the plaza
anxiously awaiting the news of the _corrida_.

Gallardo fought, killed, was knocked down by a bull without being hurt,
and kept the public in constant anxiety by his daring, which generally
resulted fortunately and provoked colossal bellowings of enthusiasm.
Certain devotees, esteemed for their opinions, smiled complacently. He
had much to learn but he had courage and ambition, which is the
important thing.

"Above all, he goes in to really kill 'in classic style,' and he keeps
inside the field of reality."

At the opposite side of the plaza the old magistrate smiled
compassionately beneath his white beard, admiring the boy's bravery and
the fine appearance he made in the spangled costume. When he saw him
knocked down by the bull he fell back into his seat as if he were going
to faint. That was too much for him.

In one section proudly strutted the husband of Encarnación, Gallardo's
sister, a leather-worker by trade, a prudent man, an enemy of vagrancy,
who had married the cigarette girl, captured by her charms, but under
the express condition of having nothing to do with her scamp of a
brother.

Gallardo, offended by his brother-in-law's distrust, had never ventured
into his shop, which was situated in the outskirts of Macarena, nor
descended from the ceremonious you when now and then of an afternoon he
met him at his mother's house.

"I am going to see how that shameless brother of thine dodges the
oranges," he had said to his wife as he set out for the plaza.

And now, from his seat, he bowed to the swordsman, calling him Juaniyo,
saying _thou_, playing the peacock, content when the young bull-fighter,
attracted by the many shouts, saw him at last and returned the greeting
with a salute of his sword.

"He is my brother-in-law," said the leather-worker so that those near
him might admire him. "I have always known the boy would amount to
something at bull-fighting. My wife and I have helped him much."

The finale was triumphal. The multitude rushed impetuously upon
Juanillo, as if they were about to devour him by their outbursts of
enthusiasm. Fortunately the brother-in-law was present to impose order,
to shield him with his body, and to conduct him to the hired coach in
which he seated himself at the bull-fighter's side.

When they arrived at the house in the ward of the Feria an immense crowd
was following the carriage with shouts of joy and acclamations of praise
that brought the people crowding to the doors. The news of the triumph
had reached there ahead of the swordsman and the neighbors ran out to
see him and to press his hand.

Señora Angustias and her daughter were at the door. The leather-worker
stepped out almost arm in arm with his brother-in-law, monopolizing him,
shouting and gesticulating in the name of the family that nobody should
touch him, as if he were a sick man.

"Here he is, Encarnación," he said, shoving him toward his wife, "Not
even Roger de Flor himself--"

And Encarnación had no need to ask more, for she knew that her husband
vaguely considered this historic individual the personification of all
greatness and that he only ventured to connect his name with portentous
circumstances.

Certain enthusiastic neighbors who came from the _corrida_ flattered
Señora Angustias, crying, "Blessed be the mother that has given birth to
such a valiant youth!"

Her friends overwhelmed her with their exclamations. What luck! And what
sums of money he soon was going to earn!

The poor woman wore in her eyes an expression of astonishment and doubt.
And was it really her little Juan that had made the people run with such
enthusiasm? Had they gone mad?

But she suddenly fell upon him as if all the past had vanished; as if
her worry and fretting were a dream; as if she confessed a shameful
error. Her great flabby arms wound around the bull-fighter's neck and
her tears wetted his cheeks.

"My son! Little Juan! If thy poor father could only see thee!"

"Don't cry, mother--for this is a day of joy. You shall see. If God
gives me luck I will build you a house and your friends shall see you in
a carriage and you shall wear all the Manila shawls you want."

The leather-worker received these promises of greatness with signs of
affirmation in the presence of his astonished wife, who had not yet
recovered from her surprise at this radical change.

"Yes, Encarnación; this youth will do it all if he undertakes it. It was
extraordinary. Not even Roger de Flor himself--!"

That night in the taverns and _cafés_ of the popular wards they talked
only of Gallardo. The bull-fighter of the future! He has flourished like
the very roses. This boy is going to get away the favors from all the
Cordovan caliphs.

In these assertions was revealed Sevillian pride in constant rivalry
with the people of Córdova, which was also a land of good bull-fighters.

Gallardo's existence changed completely from this day. The young
gentlemen greeted him and made him sit among them around the doors of
the _cafés_. The pretty girls who formerly satisfied his hunger and took
care of his adornment, found themselves little by little repelled with
smiling disregard. Even the old protector prudently withdrew in view of
a certain indifference and bestowed his tender friendship on other boys
who were just beginning.

The management of the bull-plaza sought out Gallardo, humoring him as if
he were already a celebrity. By announcing his name on the programmes
success was assured, the plaza filled. The masses applauded wildly the
"boy of Señora Angustias," giving tongue to tales of his valor.
Gallardo's fame extended through Andalusia, and the leather-worker,
without being solicited, mixed in everything and played the part of
defender of his brother-in-law's interests. A thoughtful and expert man
in business, according to himself, he saw the course of his life marked
out.

"Thy brother," he would say to his wife at night as they went to bed,
"needs a practical man at his side to manage his interests. Dost thou
suppose he would think well of naming me his manager? A great thing for
him! Not even Roger de Flor himself! And for us--?"

The leather-worker contemplated in imagination the great riches Gallardo
was going to gain, and he thought also of his own five sons and those
that were still to come. Who could tell if what the swordsman earned
should fall to his nephews?

For a year and a half Juan killed bullocks in the best plazas of Spain.
His fame had reached Madrid. The devotees at the capital felt a
curiosity to see the "Sevillian boy" of whom the newspapers talked so
much and of whom the "intelligent" Andalusians boasted.

Gallardo, escorted by a group of friends from his native city who were
residing in Madrid, strutted along the sidewalk of Seville Street near
the Café Inglés. The pretty girls smiled at his compliments and their
eyes followed the toreador's heavy gold chain and his big diamond
ornaments acquired with his first earnings and on credit--discounting
the future. A _matador_ must show that he has an overplus of money by
decorating his person and treating everybody generously. How far away
were those days when he, with poor Chiripa, tramped along that same
pavement, afraid of the police, contemplating the bull-fighters with
admiration and picking up the stubs of their cigars!

His work in Madrid was lucky. He made friends and formed around him a
group of enthusiasts hungry for novelty who also proclaimed him the
"bull-fighter of the future" and complained because he had not yet
received the "alternative."

"He's going to earn money by basketfuls, Encarnación," said the
brother-in-law. "He is going to have millions, if he doesn't have some
bad luck."

The life of the family changed completely. Gallardo, mingling with the
young gentlemen of Seville, did not wish his mother to continue living
in the house where she had passed her days of poverty. On his account
they had moved to a better street in the city, but Señora Angustias
inclined to remain faithful to the ward of the Feria, with the love
which simple people feel as they grow old for the places where their
youth was spent.

They lived in a much better house. The mother did not work and the
neighbors paid her homage, finding in her a generous lender in their
days of stress. Juan possessed, besides the loud and showy jewels with
which he adorned his person, that supreme luxury of every bull-fighter,
a powerful sorrel mare, with a cowboy saddle and a fine blanket bordered
with multicolored fringe across the pommel. Mounted on her he trotted
along the streets with no other object than to receive the homage of his
friends, who greeted his elegance with noisy _"Olés!"_ This satisfied
his desire for popularity for the moment. On other occasions he rode
with the young bloods, forming a sightly troop of horsemen, to the
pasture of Tablada, on the eve of a great _corrida_, to see the herd
that others had to kill.

"When I take the 'alternative,'" he was saying at every step, making all
his plans for the future depend on that.

He deferred until then a series of projects that would surprise his
mother, poor woman, overcome by the good fortune fallen suddenly upon
her house, and which, she thought, could not be surpassed.

The day of the "alternative" came at last, the day of Gallardo's
recognition as a killer of bulls. A celebrated _maestro_ ceded to him
his sword and _muleta_ in the open ring of Seville and the crowd went
mad with enthusiasm, seeing how he felled with a single sword-thrust the
first "formal" bull that appeared before him. The following month, this
tauromachic degree was bestowed again in the plaza of Madrid where
another _maestro_, not less celebrated, again gave him the "alternative"
in a _corrida_ of Miura bulls.

He was no longer a _novillero_; he was a _matador_, and his name figured
beside those of old swordsmen whom he had worshipped as unapproachable
gods when he was going about among the little towns taking part in the
bull-baitings. He remembered having lain in wait for one of them at a
station near Córdova to ask aid from him when he passed through on the
train with his _cuadrilla_. That night he had something to eat, thanks
to the generous fraternity that exists among the people of the queue
which impels a swordsman of princely luxury to hand out a _duro_ and a
cigar to the unfortunate little vagabond on the road to his first
_capeas_.

Contracts began to shower upon the new swordsman. In all the plazas of
the Peninsula they desired to see him, moved by curiosity. The
newspapers devoted to the profession popularized his picture and his
life, distorting the latter with novel episodes. No other _matador_ had
so many engagements. He was going to make money abundantly.

Antonio, his brother-in-law, told of this success with clouded brow and
loud protestations to his wife and her mother. The swordsman was an
ungrateful fellow--the history of all who rise suddenly. And he had
worked so hard for Juan! With what firmness had he argued with the
managers when the bullock-fight was arranged for him. And now that he
was a _maestro_ he had as a manager a gentleman he had met only a short
time ago; one Don José who was not one of the family but one for whom
Gallardo showed esteem on account of his prestige as an old connoisseur.

"And he will be sorry for it," he ended, adding, "A man has only one
family and where will he find such loving care as we have given him ever
since he was little? He is the loser. With me he would flourish like
Roger de--"

He interrupted himself, swallowing the famous name for fear of the jokes
of the _banderilleros_ and amateurs who frequented the house and who had
no respect for the historical object of the leather-worker's adoration.

Gallardo, with the generosity of a victor, gave some satisfaction to his
brother-in-law by putting him in charge of the house he was having
built, with _carte blanche_ as to expenses. The swordsman, overcome by
the ease with which money came into his hands, was willing to let his
brother-in-law rob him, thus compensating him for not having been chosen
as manager.

The _torero_ was to realize his desire of building a house for his
mother. She, poor woman, who had spent her life scrubbing floors for the
rich, should have her beautiful courtyard with marble pavements, with
tiled wainscot, and rooms with furniture like those of the gentry, with
servants, yes, many servants to wait upon her. He also felt united by a
traditional affection to the ward where his childish poverty had slipped
from him. He rejoiced to outshine the very people who had employed his
mother as a servant and to give a handful of _pesetas_, in moments of
need, to those who had taken shoes to his father or who had given him a
crumb in those sorrowful days. He bought several old houses, one of them
the same in whose _portal_ the cobbler had worked. He had them torn down
and began to build an edifice that was to have white walls with green
painted grilles, a vestibule lined with tiles, and a barred gate of
delicately wrought iron through which should be seen the courtyard with
its fountain in the centre and its marble columns, between which should
hang gilded cages with chattering birds.

Antonio's satisfaction at having full license in the direction and
profit of the works was diminished somewhat by terrible news,--Gallardo
had a sweetheart! He was travelling now in mid-summer, running over
Spain from one plaza to another, making famous sword-thrusts and
receiving applause; but almost daily he sent a letter to a certain girl
in the ward and in the short respites between wandering from one
_corrida_ to another abandoned his companions and took the train to
spend the night in Seville, courting her.

"Have you seen?" shouted the leather-worker, scandalized at what was
taking place "in the bosom of the home" before the very eyes of his wife
and mother-in-law. "A sweetheart! without saying a word to the family,
which is the only thing worth while in the whole world! The Señor wants
to marry. Without doubt he is tired of us. What a shameless fellow!"

Encarnación approved these assertions with rude grimaces of her strong,
fierce face, content to be able to express herself thus against the
brother who filled her with envy by his good fortune. Yes, he had ever
been a shameless fellow.

But the mother protested. "No, indeed! I know the girl and her poor
mother was a chum of mine in the Factory. She is as pure as nuggets of
gold, trim, good, fine-looking. I have already told Juan that it would
please me and the sooner the better."

She was an orphan, living with an aunt and uncle who kept a little
grocery store in the ward. Her father, an old-time dealer in brandies,
had left her two houses on the outskirts of Macarena.

"A little thing," said Señora Angustias, "but the girl doesn't come
empty-handed. She brings something of her own. And as for
clothes--_Josú!_ you ought to see her little hands of gold; how she
embroiders the clothes, how she is preparing her trousseau."

Gallardo vaguely recollected having played with her when they were
children near the _portal_ where the cobbler worked while the two
mothers chatted. She was a sprightly creature, thin and dark, with eyes
of a gypsy--the pupils black and sharply rounded like drops of ink, the
corneas bluish white and the corners a pallid rose-hue. In their races
she was as agile as a boy and her legs looked like reeds; her hair hung
about her head in thick rebellious locks twisting like black snakes.
Then she had dropped out of his sight and he did not meet her until many
years afterward when he was a _novillero_, and had begun to make a name.

It was one Corpus Christi day--one of the few feasts when the women,
shut up in the house through Oriental laziness, go out upon the streets
like Moorish women at liberty, wearing _mantillas_ of silk lace and
carnations on their breasts. Gallardo saw a young girl, tall, slender,
and at the same time strongly built, the waist confined in handsome firm
curves with all the vigor of youth. Her face, of a rice-like pallor,
colored on seeing the bull-fighter; her great luminous eyes hid
themselves beneath their long lashes.

"That girl knows me," said Gallardo to himself. "She must have seen me
in the ring."

And when, after having followed her and her aunt, he heard that it was
Carmen, the companion of his infancy, he was astonished and confused by
the marvellous transformation from the dark thin girl of the past. They
became sweethearts and all the neighbors discussed their affair, seeing
in them a new honor for the neighborhood.

"This is how it is with me," said Gallardo to his enthusiasts, adopting
a princely air. "I don't want to imitate other bull-fighters who marry
_señoritas_ that are all hats and feathers and flounces. For me, those
of my own class; a rich _mantilla_, a fine carriage, grace; that's what
I want--_Olé!_"

His friends, enraptured, spoke highly of the girl,--a splendid lass,
with curves to her body that would set any one wild, and what an air!
But the bull-fighter only made a wry face. The less they talked of
Carmen the better.

In the evening, as he conversed with her through a grated window,
contemplating her Moorish face framed in the flowering vines, the
servant of a nearby tavern presented himself, carrying glasses of
Andalusian wine on a painted tray. He was the envoy who came to collect
the toll, the traditional custom of Seville, which demanded pay from
sweethearts who talk through the grille.

The bull-fighter drank a glass, offering another to the girl, and said
to the boy:

"Give the gentlemen my thanks, and say I'll come along by the shop after
a while. Also tell Montañés to allow no one else to pay, that Juan
Gallardo will pay for everybody."

And when he had finished his talk with his betrothed he went into the
tavern where he was awaited by the tipplers, some enthusiastic friends,
others unknown admirers anxious to toast the health of the bull-fighter
in tall glasses of wine.

On returning from his first trip as a full-fledged matador he spent the
winter evenings close by Carmen's grated window, wrapped in his cape of
greenish cloth, which had a narrow collar and was made generously ample,
with vines and arabesques embroidered in black silk.

"They say that thou dost drink much," sighed Carmen, pressing her face
against the bars.

"Nonsense! Courtesies of friends that one has to return and nothing
more. Thou knowest that a bull-fighter is--a bull-fighter, and he is not
going to live like a begging friar."

"They say that thou goest with bad women."

"That's a lie! That was in other days, before I met thee. Man alive! I
would like to meet the son of a goat that carries thee such tales."

"And when shall we get married?" she continued, cutting off her
sweetheart's indignant remarks by a question.

"As soon as the house is finished, and would to God it were to-morrow!
That worthless brother-in-law of mine will never get it done. He knows
that it's a good thing for him and he is sleeping on his luck."

"I'll set things to rights, Juaniyo, after we are married. Thou shalt
see how well everything will run along. Thou shalt see how thy mother
loves me."

And so their dialogues continued while waiting for the hour of the
wedding which was being talked about all over Seville. Carmen's aunt and
uncle and Señora Angustias discussed it whenever they met, but in spite
of this the bull-fighter scarcely ever entered the home of his
betrothed. They preferred to see one another through the grille,
according to custom.

The winter passed. Gallardo mounted his horse and went hunting in the
pasture lands of some gentlemen who _thou_-ed him with a protecting air.
He must preserve the agility of his body by continual exercise, in
preparation for the next bull-fight season. He feared losing his
strength and nimbleness.

The most tireless propagandist of his glory was Don José, a gentleman
who performed the office of his manager, and always called him _his
matador_. He intervened in all Gallardo's affairs, not admitting a
better right even to his own family. He lived on his rents with no other
occupation than talking about bulls and bull-fighters. For him
bull-fights were the only interesting thing in the world and he divided
the human race into two classes, the elect nations who had bull-rings,
and the dull ones for whom there is no sun, nor joy, nor good
Andalusian wine--in spite of which they think themselves powerful and
happy though they have never seen even a single ill-fought _corrida_ of
bullocks.

He brought to his enthusiasm the energy of a warrior and the faith of an
inquisitor. Fat, still young, bald, and with a light beard, this father
of a family, happy and gay in everyday life, was fierce and stubborn on
the benches of a ring when his neighbors expressed opinions contrary to
his. He felt himself capable of fighting the whole audience in defence
of a bull-fighter friend, and he disturbed the ovations with
extemporaneous protests when they were offered to an athlete who failed
to enjoy his affection.

He had been a cavalry officer, more from love of horses than of war. His
corpulence and his enthusiasm for the bulls had caused him to retire
from the service. He spent the summer witnessing bull-fights and the
winter talking about them. He was eager to be the guide, the mentor, the
manager of a bull-fighter, but all the _maestros_ had their own and so
the advent of Gallardo was a stroke of fortune for him. The slightest
aspersion cast upon the merits of his favorite turned him red with fury
and converted the tauromachic dispute into a personal question. He
counted it as a glorious act of war to have come to blows in a _café_
with a couple of contemptuous amateurs who criticised _his matador_ as
being too boastful.

He felt as though there were not enough papers printed to publish
Gallardo's glory, and on winter mornings he would go and place himself
on a corner touched by a ray of sunlight at the entrance of Sierpes
Street, and as his friends passed, he would say in a loud voice, "No!
there is only one man!" as if he were talking to himself, affecting to
not see those who were drawing near. "The greatest man in the world! And
let him that thinks to the contrary speak out. The only one!"

"Who?" asked his friends, jestingly, pretending not to understand him.

"Who can it be? Juan!"

"What Juan?"

With a gesture of indignation and surprise he would answer, "What Juan
could it be? As if there were many Juans! Juan Gallardo."

"But, man alive," some of them would say to him, "one might think you
two lie down together! It is thou, may be, that is going to get married
to him?"

"Only because he don't want it so," Don José would stoutly answer, with
the fervor of idolatry.

And on seeing other friends approach, he forgot their jibes and
continued repeating:

"No! there is only one man. The greatest in the world. And he that
doesn't believe it let him open his beak, for here am I!"

Gallardo's wedding was a great event. The new house was opened with
it--the house of which the leather-worker was so proud, where he showed
the courtyard, the columns, the tiles, as if all were the work of his
hands.

They were married in San Gil, before the Virgin of Hope, called the
Virgin of Macarena. At the church door the hundreds of Chinese shawls
embroidered with exotic flowers and birds, in which the bride's friends
were draped, glistened in the sunshine.

A deputy to the Cortes stood as best man.

Above the black and white felts of the majority of the guests rose the
shining tall hats of the manager and other gentlemen, Gallardo's
devotees. All of them smiled with satisfaction at the deference of
popularity that was shown them on going about with the bull-fighter.

Alms were given at the door of the house during the day. The poor came
even from the distant towns, attracted by the fame of this gorgeous
wedding.

There was a great feast in the courtyard. Photographers took
instantaneous views for the Madrid newspapers. Gallardo's wedding was a
national event. Far into the night guitars strummed with melancholy
plaint, accompanied by hand-clapping and the click of castanets. The
girls, their arms held high, beat the marble floor with their little
feet, whirling their skirts and _mantillas_ around their slender bodies,
moving with the rhythm characteristic of the _Sevillanas_. Bottles of
rich Andalusian wines were uncorked by the dozen; from hand to hand
passed cups of ardent sherry, of strong _montilla_, and of the wine of
San Lúcar, pale and perfumed. Every one was drunk but their intoxication
left them sweet, subdued, and sad, with no other manifestation than
sighs and songs, many starting at once to intone melancholy chants that
told of prisons, of deaths, and of the poor mother, the eternal theme of
the popular songs of Andalusia.

The last guests took their leave at midnight and the bride and groom
were left in the house with Señora Angustias. The leather-worker, going
out with his wife, made a gesture of desperation. He was drunk and
furious because no one had paid him any attention during the entire
day. As if he were nobody! As if the family did not exist!

[Illustration: Gallardo's wedding was a national event. Far into the
night guitars strummed with melancholy plaint.... Girls, their arms held
high, beat the marble floor with their little feet]

"They cast us out, Encarnación. That girl, with her little face like the
Virgin of Hope, is going to be mistress of everything and there won't be
even a crumb left for us. Thou shalt see how they will fill the place
with children."

And the prolific man grew indignant thinking of Gallardo's future
offspring being brought into the world with no other purpose than to
harm his own.

Time went on. A year passed without Señor Antonio's prediction being
fulfilled. Gallardo and his wife appeared at all the functions with the
pomp and show of a rich and popular bridal pair; she with _mantillas_
that drew forth screams of admiration from the poor women; he, wearing
his brilliants and ever ready to draw out his pocket-book to treat the
people and to succor the beggars that came in bands. The gypsies,
coppery of skin and chattering like witches, besieged Carmen with happy
prophesies. Might God bless her! She was going to have a boy, a little
prattling babe, more beautiful than the sun itself. They read it in the
white of her eyes.

But in vain Carmen flushed with joy and modesty, lowering her eyes; in
vain the _espada_ walked erect, proud of his achievements, believing
that the coveted fruit would soon appear.

And then another year passed without the realization of their hopes.
Señora Angustias was sad when they spoke to her about it. She had other
grandchildren, Encarnación's little ones, who by order of the
leather-worker spent the day in their grandmother's house trying in
every way to please their uncle. But she, wishing to compensate
Gallardo for the hardships of the past, prayed with fervent affection
for a child of his to care for, yearning to shower upon him all the love
she could not give the father in his infancy because of her poverty.

"I know what is the matter," said the old woman sadly, "poor Carmen has
no peace of mind. Thou shouldst see that unhappy creature when Juan is
travelling about the world."

During the winter, in the season of rest when the bull-fighter was at
home or went to the country testing bullocks and joining in the hunt,
all was well. Carmen was then content knowing that her husband was in no
danger. She laughed on the slightest pretext; she ate heartily; her face
was animated by the color of health; but as soon as the spring came and
Juan left home to fight bulls in the rings of Spain the poor girl, pale
and weak, would fall into a painful stupefaction, her eyes enlarged by
fear and ready to shed tears.

"Seventy-two bull-fights this year," said the friends of the house,
commenting on the swordsman's contracts. "No one is so sought after as
he."

And Carmen smiled with a grimace of pain. Seventy-two afternoons of
agony like a criminal doomed to death, awaiting the arrival of the
telegram at nightfall and at the same time dreading it! Seventy-two days
of terror, of vague superstitions, thinking that a word forgotten in a
prayer might influence the luck of the absent one! Seventy-two days of
painful paradox, living in a tranquil house, seeing the same people, her
accustomed existence running on, calm and peaceful as though nothing
extraordinary were happening in the world, hearing the play of her
husband's nephews in the courtyard and the flower-seller's song on the
street, while far, very far away, in unknown cities, her Juan, in the
presence of thousands of eyes, fought with wild beasts, seeing death
pass close to his breast at each movement of the red rag he held in his
hands!

Ah! those days of bull-fights, feast-days, on which the sky seemed more
beautiful and the once solitary street resounded beneath the feet of the
holiday crowd, when guitars strummed with accompaniment of hand-clapping
and song in the tavern at the corner. Carmen, plainly dressed, with her
_mantilla_ over her eyes, left the house as if fleeing from evil dreams,
going to take refuge in the churches. Her simple faith, which
uncertainty burdened with superstitions, made her go from altar to altar
as she recalled to mind the merits and miracles of each image. She went
to San Gil, the church that had seen the happiest day of her existence,
she knelt before the Virgin of Macarena, provided candles, many candles,
and by their ruddy glow contemplated the brown face of the image with
its black eyes and long lashes, which, it was said, resembled her own.
In her she trusted. For a good reason was she Our Lady of Hope. Surely
at this very hour she was protecting Juan by her divine power.

But suddenly indecision and fear rudely burst through her beliefs,
tearing them asunder. The Virgin was a woman and women are so weak! Her
destiny was to suffer and weep, as she wept for her husband, as the
other had wept for her Son. She must confide in stronger powers; she
must implore the aid of a more vigorous protection. And, in the stress
of her agony, abandoning the Macarena without scruple as a useless
friendship is forgotten, she went at other times to the church of San
Lorenzo in search of Jesus, He of the Great Power, the Man-God crowned
with thorns with the cross on his back, sweaty and tearful, the work of
the sculptor Montañés, an awe-inspiring image.

The dramatic sadness of the Nazarene stumbling against the stones and
bent beneath the weight of the cross seemed to console the poor wife.
Lord of the Great Power! This vague and grandiose title tranquillized
her. If the god dressed in brown velvet and gold would but deign to
listen to her sighs, to her prayers repeated in eager haste, with dizzy
rapidity, she was sure that Juan would walk unscathed out of the ring
where he was at that moment. Again she would give money to a sacristan
to light candles, and she passed hours contemplating the vacillating
reflection of the red tongues on the image, believing she saw in the
varnished face, by these alternations of shade and light, smiles of
consolation, kind expressions that promised felicity.

The Lord of Great Power did not deceive her. On her return to the house
she was presented with the little blue paper which she opened with a
trembling hand: "_As usual_." She could breathe again, she could sleep
like the criminal that is freed for the instant from immediate death;
but in two or three days again came the agony of uncertainty, the
terrible torture of doubt.

Carmen, in spite of the love she professed for her husband, had hours of
rebellion. If she had known what this existence was before she married!
At certain moments, craving the sisterhood of pain, she went in search
of the wives of the bull-fighters who figured in Juan's _cuadrilla_,
hoping they could give her news.

Nacional's good woman, who kept a tavern in the same ward, received the
master's wife with tranquillity, wondering at her fears. She was
accustomed to such an existence. Her husband must be all right since he
sent no word. Telegrams cost dear and a _banderillero_ earns little. If
the newsboys did not shout an accident it was because none had happened.
And she continued attentive to the service of her establishment as if no
trace of worry could make its way into her blunted sensibility.

Again, crossing the bridge, Carmen went to the ward of Triana in search
of the wife of Potaje, the _picador_, a kind of gypsy that lived in a
hut like a hen-house surrounded by coppery, dirty youngsters whom she
threatened and terrified with stentorian yells. The visit of the
master's wife filled her with pride, but the latter's anxiety almost
made her laugh. She ought not to be afraid. Those on foot always escaped
the bull and Señor Juan Gallardo's good angel watched over him when he
threw himself upon the beasts. The bulls killed but few. The terrible
thing was being thrown from the horse. It was known to be the end of all
_picadores_ after a life of horrible falls; those who did not die
suddenly from an unforeseen and thundering accident finished their days
in madness. Thus poor Potaje would die--and so many hard struggles in
exchange for a handful of _duros_,--while others--

This last she did not say but her eyes revealed the protest against the
favoritism of Fate for those fine youths who, by a thrust of the sword,
took the applause, the popularity, and the money, with no greater risks
than those faced by their humbler associates.

Little by little Carmen grew accustomed to this new life. The cruel
suspense on bull-fight days, the visits to the saints, the
superstitious fears, she accepted them all as incidents necessary to her
existence. Moreover, her husband's good luck and the continual
conversation in the house on the events of the contest finally
familiarized her with the danger. The fierce bull became for her as for
Gallardo a generous and noble beast come into the world with no other
purpose than to enrich and give fame to those who kill him.

She never attended a bull-fight. Since that afternoon on which she saw
him who was to be her husband in his first _novillada_, she had not
returned to the plaza. She lacked courage to witness a bull-fight, even
one in which Gallardo did not take part. She would faint with terror on
seeing other men face the danger dressed in the same costume as her
Juan.

In the third year of their marriage Gallardo was wounded at Valencia.
Carmen did not know it at once. The telegram arrived on time with the
customary, "_As usual_." It was a merciful act of Don José, the manager,
who, visiting Carmen every day and resorting to skilful jugglery to
prevent her reading the papers, put off her knowledge of the misfortune
for a week.

When Carmen heard of it through the indiscretion of some neighbor women
she wished to take the train immediately to go to her husband, to take
care of him, for she imagined him abandoned. It was not necessary.
Before she could start the swordsman arrived, pale from the loss of
blood, and with one leg doomed to a long season of immobility, but happy
and anxious to tranquillize his family. The house was from that time a
kind of sanctuary, hundreds passing through the courtyard to greet
Gallardo, "the greatest man in the world," seated there in a big willow
chair with his leg on a tabourette and smoking as tranquilly as though
his body were not torn by an atrocious wound.

Doctor Ruiz, who came with him to Seville, prophesied that he would be
well before a month, marvelling at the energy of his constitution. The
facility with which bull-fighters were cured was a mystery to him in
spite of his long practice of surgery. The horn, dirty with blood and
animal excrement, often breaking into splinters at the blow, tore the
flesh, scratched it, perforated it, making at once a deep penetrating
injury and a bruised contusion, and yet these atrocious wounds healed
with greater ease than those in ordinary life.

"I don't know what it is, this mystery," said the old surgeon with an
air of doubt. "Either those boys have got the flesh of a dog, or else
the horn, with all its filth, carries a curative virtue that is unknown
to us."

A short time afterward, Gallardo went back to bull-fighting, his ardor
uncooled by the accident, contrary to the prediction of his enemies.

Four years after his marriage the swordsman gave his wife and mother a
great surprise. They were becoming landed proprietors, yea, proprietors
on a great scale, with lands "stretching beyond view," with olive
orchards, mills, great flocks and herds, and a plantation like those of
the rich gentlemen of Seville.

Gallardo experienced the desire of all bull-fighters, who long to be
lords over lands, breeders of horses, and owners of herds of cattle.
Urban wealth? No. Values in paper do not tempt them nor do they
understand them. The bull makes them think of the green meadow; the
horse recalls the country to their minds. The continual necessity of
movement and exercise, the hunt, and constant travel during the winter
months, cause them to desire the possession of land. According to
Gallardo the only rich man was he who owned a plantation and great herds
of animals. Since his days of poverty, when he had tramped along the
roads through olive orchards and pasture grounds, he had nursed his
fervent desire to possess leagues and leagues of land, enclosed with
barbed-wire fences against the depredation of other men.

His manager knew these desires. Don José it was who took charge of his
affairs, collecting the money from the ring-managers and carrying an
account that he tried in vain to explain to his _matador_.

"I don't understand that music," said Gallardo, content in his
ignorance, "I only know how to despatch bulls. Do whatever you wish, Don
José; I have confidence in you and I know that you do everything for my
good." So Don José, who scarcely ever thought about his own property,
leaving it to the weak administration of his wife, occupied himself at
all hours with the bull-fighter's fortune, placing his money at interest
with the heart of a usurer to make it fruitful. One day he fell upon his
client joyfully.

"I have what thou desirest, a plantation like a world, and besides, it
is very cheap; a regular bargain. Next week we will get it into
writing."

Gallardo was eager to know the name and situation of the plantation.

"It is called La Rinconada."

His desires were fulfilled! When Gallardo went with his wife and mother
to take possession of the plantation he showed them the hayloft where
he had slept with the companions of his wandering misery, the room in
which he had dined with the master, and the little plaza where he had
stabbed a calf, earning for the first time the right to travel by train
without having to hide beneath the seats.



CHAPTER V

THE LURE OF GOLDEN HAIR


On winter evenings when Gallardo was not at La Rinconada, a company of
friends gathered in the dining-room of his house after supper. Among the
first arrivals were the leather-worker and his wife, who always had two
of their children in the swordsman's home. Carmen, wishing to forget her
barrenness and oppressed by the silence of the great dwelling, kept her
sister-in-law's youngest children with her most of the time. They,
partly from spontaneous affection and partly by command of their
parents, affectionately caressed with kissings and cat-like purrings
their handsome aunt and their generous and popular uncle.

When Nacional came to spend an hour with them, although the visit was
rather a matter of duty, the circle was always enlivened. Gallardo,
dressed in a rich jacket like a country gentleman, his head uncovered,
and his coleta smooth and shiny, received his _banderillero_ with
waggish amiability. What were the devotees saying? What lies were they
circulating? How was the republic coming along?

"Garabato, give Sebastián a glass of wine."

But Nacional refused this courtesy. No wine for him! He did not drink.
Wine was to blame for the failures of the laboring class; and the whole
party on hearing this broke out into a laugh, as though he had made
some witty remark which they had been expecting. Then the
_banderillero_ began to be entertaining.

The only one who remained silent, with hostile eyes, was the
leather-worker. He hated Nacional, regarding him as an enemy. He also
was prolific in his fidelity, as befits a man of good principles, so
that a swarm of young children buzzed about the little tavern clinging
to the mother's skirts. Gallardo and his wife had been god-parents to
the two youngest, thus uniting the swordsman and the _banderillero_ in
the relationship of _compadres_. Hypocrite! Every Sunday he brought the
two god-children, dressed in their best, to kiss the hand of their
sponsors in baptism, and the leather-worker paled with indignation
whenever he saw Nacional's children receive a present. They came to rob
his own. Maybe the _banderillero_ even dreamt that a part of the
swordsman's fortune might fall into the hands of these god-children.
Thief! A man who was not of the family!

When he did not receive Nacional's words in silence and with looks of
hatred he tried to censure him, showing himself in favor of the
immediate shooting of all who stir up rebellion and are in consequence a
danger to good citizens.

Nacional was ten years older than the _maestro_. When Gallardo began to
fight in the capeas he was already a _banderillero_ in professional
_cuadrillas_ and he had been to America where he had killed bulls in the
plaza at Lima. At the beginning of his career he enjoyed a certain
popularity on account of being young and agile. He had also shone for a
few days as "the bull-fighter of the future," and the Sevillian
connoisseurs, their eyes upon him, expected him to eclipse the
bull-fighters from other lands. But this lasted only a short while. On
his return from his travels with the prestige of hazy and distant
exploits, the populace rushed to the bull-plaza of Seville to see him
kill. Thousands were unable to get in; but at the moment of final trial
"he lacked heart," as the amateurs said. He lodged the _banderillas_
with skill, like a conscientious and serious workman who fulfils his
duty, but when he went in to kill the instinct of self-preservation,
stronger than his will, kept him at a distance from the bull and
prevented his taking advantage of his stature and his strong arm.
Nacional renounced the highest glories of tauromachy. _Banderillero_,
nothing more! He resigned himself to be a journeyman of his art, serving
others younger than himself and earning a meagre salary as a _peón_ to
support his family and lay by some scanty savings to establish a small
industry by and by. His kindness and his honest habits were proverbial
among the people of the _coleta_. The wife of his _matador_ was fond of
him, believing him a kind of guardian angel of her husband's fidelity.

When, in summer, Gallardo with all his people went to a music hall in
some provincial capital, eager for gambling and sport after having
despatched the bulls in several _corridas_, Nacional remained silent and
grave among the singing girls with their gauzy dress and their painted
lips, like an anchorite from the desert in the midst of the courtesans
of Alexandria. He was not scandalized but he grew sad thinking of the
wife and children that waited for him in Seville. All defects and
corruptions in the world were, in his opinion, the result of lack of
education. Of course those poor women did not know how to read and
write. The same was true of himself and, as he attributed his
insignificance and poverty of intellect to that, he laid all misery and
degradation in the world to the same cause. In his early youth he had
been an iron-founder and an active member of the International Workmen's
Union, an assiduous listener to his more fortunate fellow-workmen who
could read in a loud voice what the newspapers said of the welfare of
the people. He played at soldiering in the days of the national militia,
figuring in the battalions which wore the red cap as the sign of being
implacable federalist propagandists. He spent whole days before the
platforms raised in the public squares, where various societies declared
themselves in permanent session and orators succeeded one another day
and night, haranguing with Andalusian fluency about the divinity of
Jesus and the increase in the price of articles of prime necessity,
until, when hard times came, a strike left him in the trying situation
of the workman black-listed on account of his ideas, finding himself
turned away from every shop.

He liked bull-fighting and he became a _torero_ at twenty-four, just as
he might have chosen any other trade. He, moreover, knew a great deal
and talked with contempt of the absurdities of the present state of
society. Not for nothing does one spend years hearing the papers read!
However ill he might fare at bull-fighting he would surely earn more and
have an easier life than if he were a skilled workman. The people,
remembering the time when he shouldered the musket of the popular
militia, nicknamed him Nacional.

He spoke of the taurine profession with a certain regret, in spite of
the years he had spent therein, and he apologized for belonging to it.
The committee of his district, who had decreed the expulsion of all who
attended bull-fights on account of their barbarous and retrograding
influence, had made an exception in his favor, retaining him as an
active member in good standing.

"I know," he said in Gallardo's dining-room, "that this business of the
bulls is a reactionary thing--something belonging to the times of the
Inquisition; I don't know whether I explain myself. The people need to
learn to read and write as much as they need bread and it is not well
for them to spend their money on us while they so greatly lack
schooling. That is what the papers that come from Madri' say. But the
club members appreciate me, and the committee, after a long preachment
from Don Joselito, have agreed to keep me on the roll of membership."

Don Joselito, the school teacher and chairman of the committee of the
district, was a learned young man of Israelitish extraction who brought
to the political struggle the ardor of the Maccabees and was
undistressed by his brown ugliness and his small-pox scars because they
gave him a certain likeness to Danton. Nacional always listened to him
open-mouthed.

When Don José, Gallardo's business manager, and other friends of the
master, jokingly disputed his doctrines at those after-dinner
gatherings, making extravagant objections, poor Nacional was in
suspense, scratching his forehead from perplexity.

"You are gentlemen and have studied and I don't know how to read or
write. That is why we of the lower class are like sheep. But if only Don
Joselito were here! By the life of the blue dove! If you could hear him
when he lets loose and talks like an angel!"

To fortify his faith, somewhat weakened by the assaults of the jokers,
he would go the following day to see Don Joselito, who seemed to
luxuriate in bitterness, as a descendant of the persecuted chosen
people, and look over what Joselito called his museum of horrors. The
Hebrew, returned to the native land of his forefathers, was collecting
relics of the Inquisition in a room of the school, with the vengeful
accuracy of a prisoner who might reconstruct bone by bone the skeleton
of his jailor. In a bookcase stood rows of parchment tomes--decrees of
sentences pronounced by the Inquisition and catechisms for interrogating
the offender undergoing torture. On one wall hung a white banner with
the dreaded green cross. In the corners were heaped instruments of
torture--frightful scourges and fiendish devices for cleaving, for
stripping and tearing human flesh, that Don Joselito found in the shops
of the curio-dealers and catalogued as ancient belongings of the Holy
Office. Nacional's kind and simple soul, easily roused to anger, rose in
rebellion at the sight of these rusty irons and green crosses.

"Man alive! And yet there are those that say--! By the life of the dove!
I would like to see some folks here!"

Often in summer, when the _cuadrilla_ was going from one province to
another and Gallardo went into the second class carriage in which "the
boys" were travelling, some rural priest or pair of friars would get on
board. The _banderilleros_ would nudge each other with their elbows and
wink one eye looking at Nacional, who seemed even more grave and solemn
in the presence of the enemy. The _picadores_, Potaje and Tragabuches,
lusty aggressive fellows, lovers of riots and fights who felt a decided
aversion to the ecclesiastical dress, urged him on in a loud voice.

"There's thy chance! Go at him for the good cause! Lodge one of thy
yarns in the nape of his neck."

The _maestro_, with all his authority as chief of _cuadrilla_, against
which none may parley nor argue, rolled his eyes, and looked at
Nacional, who maintained a silent obedience. But stronger than duty was
the impulse of his simple soul to convert, and an insignificant word was
enough to open a discussion with the travellers, to try to convince them
of the truth; and the truth was for him a kind of confused and
disordered remnant of arguments learned from Don Joselito.

His comrades looked at each other astonished at the wisdom of their
companion, well pleased that one of them should face professional people
and put them in a tight place, for they were almost invariably priests
of little learning. And the holy men, astounded at Nacional's confused
reasoning and the smiles of the other bull-fighters, finally resorted to
an extreme measure. Did men who continually exposed their lives to peril
take no thought of God and believe in such things as he said? At this
very moment how their wives and mothers must be praying for them!

The men of the _cuadrilla_ grew serious, thinking with timorous gravity
of the scapularies and medallions feminine hands had sewed to their
fighting garments before they left Seville. The _matador_, his sleeping
superstition aroused, was angry with Nacional, as though in this lack of
piety he foresaw danger to his life.

"Keep still and don't talk any more of your crudities. Pardon, Señores!
He is a good man but his head has been turned by so many lies. Shut up
and don't give me any impertinence. Damn it all!"

And Gallardo, to tranquillize these gentlemen whom he believed to be
trustees of the future, overwhelmed the _banderillero_ with threats and
curses.

Nacional took refuge in disdainful silence. All ignorance and
superstition! All from lack of knowing how to read and write! And firm
in his beliefs, with the simplicity of a man who possesses only two or
three ideas and will not let go of them, he took up the discussion again
in a few hours--paying no heed to the anger of the _matador_.

He carried his impiety even into the midst of the ring, among _peones_
and pikemen who, after having said a prayer in the chapel of the plaza,
went into the arena with the hope that the sacred emblems sewed to their
clothing would deliver them from danger.

When the time came to stick the barbs into some enormous bull of great
weight, thick neck, and deep black color, Nacional stood up before him
with his arms extended and the barbs in his hands, shouting insults at
him:

"Come on, you old priest!"

The "priest" dashed forward furiously, and as he approached, Nacional
lodged the _banderillas_ in the nape of his neck with all his strength,
saying in a loud voice, as if he had gained a victory:

"For the clergy!"

Gallardo ended by laughing at Nacional's extravagances.

"Thou makest me ridiculous. Our _cuadrilla_ will be branded as a herd of
heretics. Thou knowest that some audiences don't like that. The
bull-fighter should only fight bulls."

Nevertheless, he loved his _banderillero_, mindful of his attachment
which had sometimes risen to the point of sacrifice. Nacional cared not
if he were hissed when he lodged the _banderillas_ carelessly in
dangerous bulls as a result of his desire to get through quickly. He
cared nothing for glory and only fought bulls for his wage. But the
moment Gallardo walked sword in hand toward a treacherous bull the
_banderillero_ kept near him, ready to aid him with his heavy cape and
his strong arm which had humbled the necks of so many wild beasts. Twice
when Gallardo rolled on the sand, nearly caught by the dagger-like
horns, Nacional threw himself upon the animal forgetting his wife, his
children, his little tavern, everything, ready to die to save his
_maestro_. He was received in Gallardo's dining-room in the evenings,
therefore, as though he were a member of the family.

Gallardo and Don José, who sat across the table smoking, the glass of
cognac within reach of the hand, liked to start Nacional to talking so
as to laugh at his ideas, and they teased him by insulting Don
Joselito--a liar who turned the heads of the ignorant!

The _banderillero_ took the jokes of the swordsman and his manager
calmly. Doubt Don Joselito? Such an absurdity could not move him--no
more than if they should attack his other idol, Gallardo, telling him he
did not know how to kill a bull.

But when the leather-worker, who inspired him with an irresistible
aversion, began to joke him he lost composure. Who was that hungry
fellow who lived by hanging onto his master, to dare to dispute him!
And losing self-command, forgetting the presence of the master's wife
and mother and of Encarnación, who, imitating her husband, curled her
be-whiskered lip and looked scornfully at the _banderillero_, he rushed
down grade into an exposition of his views with the same fervor with
which he discoursed in the committee. For lack of better arguments he
overwhelmed the ideas of the jokers with insults.

"The Bible? _Liquid!_ That nonsense about creation of the world in six
days? _Liquid!_ That about Adam and Eve? _Liquid_, also! All lies and
superstition."

And the word _liquid_, applied to whatever he believed false or
insignificant, fell from his lips as a strong expression of scorn. "That
about Adam and Eve" was for him a subject of sarcasm. How could all
human beings be descendants from one pair only?

"My name is Sebastián Venegas; and thou, Juaniyo, thy name is Gallardo;
and you, Don José, have your surname; and every one has his own, only
those of the parents being alike. If we were all grandchildren of Adam,
and Adam, for example, was named Pérez, we would all have Pérez for a
surname. Is that clear? But every one of us has his own because there
were many Adams and what the priests tell is all _liquid!_ Superstition
and ignorance! We lack education and they deceive us; I think I explain
myself."

Gallardo, throwing himself back with laughter, saluted his
_banderillero_, imitating the bellowing of a bull. The business manager,
with Andalusian gravity, offered him his hand, congratulating him.

"Shake, old boy! Thou hast done well! Not even Castelar could have done
better!"

Señora Angustias was indignant at hearing such things in her house,
horrified with the terror of an old woman who sees the end of her
existence drawing near.

"Shut up, Sebastián; shut thy big, wicked mouth, lost soul, or into the
street thou goest! Thou shalt not say those things here, thou devil! If
I did not know thee--If I did not know that thou art a good man--"

Finally she became reconciled to the _banderillero_, remembering how
much he loved her Juan and what he had done for him in moments of
danger. Moreover, it gave her and Carmen great ease of mind to know that
this serious man of decent habits worked in the _cuadrilla_ by the side
of the other "boys" and of the _matador_ himself, who, when he was
alone, was excessively gay in disposition and let himself be carried
away by the desire to be admired by women.

The enemy of the clergy and of Adam and Eve guarded a secret of his
_maestro_, however, that made him reserved and grave when he saw him at
home with his mother and Señora Carmen. If these women knew what _he_
knew!

In spite of the respect which every _banderillero_ should show his
_matador_ Nacional had dared one day to talk to Gallardo with rough
frankness, relying on his years and on their old friendship.

"Be careful, Juaniyo, for everybody in Seville knows the whole story!
They talk of nothing else and the news is going to reach your house and
there'll be such a riot it'll set fire to the hair of God himself--Don't
forget about that affair with the singing girl; and that was nothing!
This creature is more forceful and more dangerous."

"But what creature is that? And what riots are those thou art talking
about?"

"Who can it be? Doña Sol; that great lady who makes so much talk. The
niece of the Marquis of Moraima, the cattle-breeder."

And as the swordsman was smiling and silent, flattered by Nacional's
exact information, the latter continued with the air of a preacher
proclaiming the vanities of this world, "The married man should above
all things seek the tranquillity of his house. Women! _Liquid!_ They are
all alike and it is nonsense to embitter one's life jumping from one to
another. I am a married man and in the twenty-four years I have lived
with my Teresa I have never been faithless to her even in thought,
although I am a bull-fighter; and I had my day and more than one lass
has cast tender eyes at me."

Gallardo burst out laughing at his _banderillero_. He talked like a
father-superior. And was this the same man that wanted to eat the
priests up raw?

"Nacional, don't be hard on me. Every one is what he is and since the
women come, let them come. What does one live for? Any day he may go out
of the ring foot foremost. Besides, thou knowest nothing of the affair,
nor what a lady is. If thou couldst _see_ that woman!"

Then he ingenuously added, as if he wished to counter-act the expression
of scandal and sadness engraved on Nacional's countenance:

"I love Carmen very much, dost thou understand? I love her as well as
ever; but the other I love too. That is different. I don't know how to
explain it to thee. That's another matter. Drop it!"

And the _banderillero_ could make no further headway in his
expostulation with Gallardo.

Months before, when with the autumn came the end of the bull-fighting
season, the swordsman had had an adventure at the Church of San Lorenzo.
He was resting in Seville a few days before going to La Rinconada with
his family. To kill more than a hundred bulls a year with all the danger
and strain of the contest did not weary him so much as the ceaseless
travel from one end of Spain to the other during a period of several
months. These journeys were made in mid-summer, under a blistering sun,
over parched plains and in old cars whose roofs seemed to be on fire.
The water-jar belonging to the _cuadrilla_, filled at every station, was
not enough to quench the thirst. Moreover, the trains ran crowded with
passengers--people going to the fairs in the cities to see the
bull-fights. Often Gallardo, for fear of missing the train, killed his
last bull in one plaza, and, still dressed in his fighting costume,
rushed to the train, passing like a meteor of light and color among the
groups of travellers and baggage trucks, and changed his clothes in a
first-class compartment under the gaze of the passengers, who were glad
to travel with a celebrity.

When he arrived, worn-out, at some city where the streets were in festal
array, decorated with banners and arches, he had to endure the torment
of enthusiastic adoration. The connoisseurs and his personal adherents
met him at the station and accompanied him to his hotel. They were
well-rested and happy folk who grasped him by the hand and expected to
find him expansive and loquacious, as though on meeting them he must
perforce experience the greatest pleasure.

Frequently a single _corrida_ was not all. He had to fight bulls three
or four days in succession, and when night came, exhausted from
weariness and lack of sleep on account of his recent excitement, he gave
up all social affairs and sat at the door of the hotel in his
shirt-sleeves, enjoying the fresh air of the street. The "boys" of the
_cuadrilla_ lodged at the same inn and kept near the _maestro_, like a
brotherhood in a cloister. Some of the most audacious would ask
permission to take a walk along the illuminated streets and out to the
fair grounds.

"Miuras to-morrow!" said the _matador_. "I know what those walks are.
Thou wilt return at daybreak with two glasses too many and thou'lt not
fail to have some kind of an affair to take thy strength. No; thou canst
not go. When we get through thou mayest play."

And the work over, if there were a few days of liberty before the next
_corrida_ in some other city, the _cuadrilla_ would put off the trip,
and then the gay time would begin, far from the restraint of their
families, with abundance of wine and women in company with enthusiastic
devotees, who imagined this to be the everyday life of their idols.

The divers dates of the _fiestas_ obliged the swordsman to take absurd
journeys. He would leave one city to work in the other extreme of Spain,
and four days later he would return, fighting bulls in a town near the
first one. He almost spent the summer months, when _corridas_ were most
frequent, in the train, making a continual zigzag over all the railroads
of the Peninsula, killing bulls in the plazas, and sleeping on the
cars.

"If all my summer travel were arranged in a straight line," said
Gallardo, "it would sure reach to the North Pole."

At the beginning of the season he started on his travels with
enthusiasm, thinking of the multitude that talked of him throughout the
whole year, impatiently awaiting his coming; he thought of the
unforeseen events; of the adventures that feminine curiosity would
frequently yield him; of the life from hotel to hotel, with its changes,
its annoyances, its varied meals, that contrasted strongly with the
placid existence in Seville and the days of mountain solitude at La
Rinconada. But after a few weeks of this giddy life, in which he earned
five thousand pesetas for each afternoon of work, Gallardo began to
lament, like a child far from its family.

"Ah! My cool house in Seville! Poor Carmen who keeps it shining like a
little silver cup! Ah! _Mamita's_ cooking! So rich!"

He only forgot Seville on holiday nights, when he did not have to fight
bulls the following day; when all the _cuadrilla_, surrounded by
devotees anxious to give them a good impression of the city, gathered at
a _café flamenco_ where women and songs were all for the _maestro_.

When Gallardo went home to recuperate during the remainder of the year
he felt the satisfaction of the mighty who, forgetting honors, give
themselves up to the comforts of ordinary life.

He slept late, free from the tyranny of train schedules and unstirred by
any emotion when he thought of bulls. Nothing to do this day, nor the
next, nor the next! His travel ended at Sierpes Street, or the plaza of
San Fernando. The family seemed changed, happier and in better health,
having him safe at home for a few months. He went out with his hat on
the back of his head, twirling his gold-headed cane and admiring the big
brilliants on his fingers. In the vestibule some men were waiting for
him,--sun-browned men with a sour, sweaty, stench, wearing dirty blouses
and broad hats with ragged rims. Some were field laborers out on a
tramp, who thought it quite natural on passing through Seville to obtain
help from the famous _matador_ whom they called Señor Juan. Others lived
in the city, and _thou_-ed the bull-fighter, calling him Juaniyo.

Gallardo, with a memory for faces characteristic of a public man,
recognized them and permitted their familiarity. They were comrades of
his few school days or his youthful vagabondage.

"Business not going well, eh? Times are hard for everybody."

And before this friendliness could encourage them to greater intimacy he
turned to Garabato who stood holding the gate open.

"Tell the _señora_ to give thee a couple of _pesetas_ for each one."

Then he went out into the street whistling, pleased with his generosity
and the beauty of his life. He was detained on the next block by a
couple of old women, friends of his mother, who asked him to stand as
godfather to the grandchild of one of them. Her poor daughter was about
to become a mother at any moment; her son-in-law, an ardent Gallardist,
had come to blows several times going out of the plaza in defence of his
idol but dared not speak to him.

"But, damn it! Do you take me for the director of an orphan asylum?
I've got more god-children than there are in the poor-house."

To rid himself of them he told them to see his _mamita_. Whatever she
said should stand! And he went on, not stopping until he reached Sierpes
Street, bowing to some and giving others the honor of walking at his
side in glorious intimacy before the gaze of the passersby.

He looked in at the Forty-five Club, to see if his manager were there.
This was an aristocratic society of a limited membership, as its title
indicated, in which the talk was only of bulls and horses. It was
composed of gentlemen-amateurs and cattle-breeders, the Marquis of
Moraima figuring preëminently, like an oracle.

On one of these walks, one afternoon, Gallardo found himself sauntering
along Sierpes Street, and took a notion to enter the parish chapel of
San Lorenzo. In the little square before it stood luxurious carriages.
On this day the best families were wont to pray to the miraculous image
of Our Lord Jesus of the Great Power. Ladies stepped out of the coaches,
dressed in black, with rich _mantillas_; and men went into the church
attracted by the feminine assemblage.

Gallardo entered also. A bull-fighter must take advantage of
opportunities to rub elbows with persons of high position. The son of
Señora Angustias felt the pride of a conqueror when rich gentlemen bowed
to him and elegant ladies murmured his name, turning their eyes upon
him. Moreover, he was a devotee of the Lord of the Great Power. He
tolerated in Nacional his opinions on "God or Nature" without being much
shocked, for the Divinity meant for him something vague and indefinite,
like the existence of a great lord about whom one might listen calmly
to all kinds of blasphemy, because he is only known by hearsay. But the
Virgin of Hope and Jesus of the Great Power he had been accustomed to
seeing since his earliest years, and these must not be maligned. The
susceptibilities of the lusty youth were touched by the theatrical agony
of the Christ with the cross on his back, the sweaty countenance,
painful and livid like that of comrades he had seen stretched out in the
infirmaries of the bull-plazas. He must be on good terms with this
powerful lord and he fervently uttered several _pater-nosters_, standing
before the image, with the candles like red stars reflected in the
corneas of his Moorish eyes.

A movement among the women kneeling before him distracted his attention,
which had been absorbed in a plea for supernatural intervention whenever
his life should be in danger.

A lady passed among the worshippers, attracting their notice; she was a
tall, slender woman, of astounding beauty, dressed in light colors and
wearing a great hat with plumes beneath which shone the luminous gold of
her abundant hair.

Gallardo knew her. It was Doña Sol, the Marquis of Moraima's niece, the
"Ambassadress," as they called her in Seville. She passed among the
women paying no attention to their movements of curiosity, satisfied to
win their glances and to hear the murmur of their words as though this
were a natural homage that should follow her appearance in any public
place. The foreign elegance of her dress and her enormous hat were
outlined in their showy splendor against the dark mass of feminine
toilettes. She knelt, inclined her head as if in prayer for a few
moments, and then her light eyes of greenish blue, with their
reflections of gold, roved about the temple tranquilly as though she
were in a theatre examining the audience, searching for familiar faces.
Those eyes seemed to smile when they encountered the face of a friend
and persisted in their roving until they met Gallardo's, which were
fixed upon her. The _matador_ was not modest. Accustomed to being
himself the object of contemplation of thousands and thousands of
persons on bull-fight afternoons, he might well believe that, wherever
he was, the looks of all must of course be meant for him. Many women, in
hours of confidence, had revealed to him their emotion, the curiosity
and desire they felt on seeing him for the first time in the ring. Doña
Sol's gaze did not fall as it met the bull-fighter's; instead it
remained fixed, with the frigidity of a great lady, obliging the
_matador_, ever respectful to the rich, to turn his eyes away.

"What a woman!" thought Gallardo, with the petulance of a popular idol.
"Can that _gachí_ be for me?"

Outside of the church he felt a desire to wait, and he remained near the
door. His heart warned him of something extraordinary, as on afternoons
when good fortune was coming. It was that mysterious presentiment which
in the ring made him deaf to the protests of the public, throwing
himself headlong into the greatest dangers, and always with excellent
results. When she came out of the church she again looked at him
strangely, as if she had guessed that he would be waiting for her. She
stepped into an open carriage accompanied by two friends, and when the
coachman drove away she still turned her head to see the bull-fighter, a
faint smile on her lips.

Gallardo was distracted the remainder of the afternoon--thinking of his
former love affairs, of the triumphs of admiration and curiosity that
his bull-fighter's arrogance had won for him; conquests that filled him
with pride and made him think himself irresistible, but which now
inspired him with a kind of shame. A woman like that, a great lady, who
had travelled about the world and lived in Seville like an unthroned
queen! That would be a conquest! To his admiration of beauty was united
a certain reverence derived from ancient servitude, of respect for the
rich in a country where birth and fortune possess great importance. If
he should manage to claim the attention of that woman, what a tremendous
triumph!



CHAPTER VI

THE VOICE OF THE SIREN


Don José, firm friend of the Marquis of Moraima, and related to the best
families of Seville, had often talked to Gallardo concerning Doña Sol.

She had returned to Seville only a few months before, arousing the
enthusiasm of the young people. She came, after a long absence in
foreign lands, eager for everything pertaining to _la tierra_, enjoying
the popular customs and finding it all very interesting, "very
artistic." She went to the bull-fights arrayed in the ancient costume of
a _maja_, imitating the dress and pose of the beautiful women painted by
Goya. Strong, accustomed to sports, and a great horsewoman, the people
saw her galloping around the outskirts of Seville, wearing with her
black riding skirt a man's jacket, a red cravat, and a white beaver hat
perched on top of her golden hair. Sometimes she carried a spear across
the pommel of the saddle and with a party of friends converted into
_piqueros_, she went to the pasture grounds to tease and upset bulls,
enjoying this wild festivity, abounding as it did in danger. She was not
a child. Gallardo had a confused recollection of having seen her in his
youth on the _paseo_ of Delicias, seated beside her mother and covered
with white frills, like a luxurious doll in a show-case, while he, a
miserable vagabond, dashed under the wheels of the carriage in search of
cigar stubs. They were undoubtedly the same age,--she must be at the
end of the twenties; but how magnificent! So different from other women!
She seemed like an exotic bird, a bird of paradise, fallen into a
farmyard among mere shiny, well fed hens.

Don José knew her history. An eccentric mind had Doña Sol! Her mother
was dead and she had a considerable fortune. She had married in Madrid a
certain man older than herself, who offered to a woman eager for
splendor and novelty the advantages of travelling about the world as the
wife of an ambassador who represented Spain at the principal courts.

"The way that girl has amused herself, Juan!" said the manager. "The
heads she has turned in ten years from one end of Europe to the other!
She must be a regular geography with secret notes at the foot of each
page. Surely she cannot look at the map without making a little cross of
memory near all the great capitals. And the poor ambassador! He died, of
despondency, no doubt, because there was no longer any place to which he
could be sent. The good gentleman, accredited to represent our country,
would go to a court and inside of a year, behold! the queen or the
empress of that land was writing to Spain asking the minister to retire
the ambassador and his dreaded consort, whom the newspapers called 'the
irresistible Spanish woman.' The crowned heads that _gachí_ has turned!
Queens trembled when they saw her come, as if she were the Asiatic
cholera. At last the poor ambassador saw no other place for his talents
but the republics of America, but as he was a gentleman of good
principles and the friend of kings, he preferred to die. And don't think
that the girl contented herself only with personages who eat and dance
in royal palaces. Not if what they say be true! That child is all
extremes; it is all or nothing! She will as soon go after one that digs
in the ground as the highest above it. I have heard that there in Russia
she was running after one of those bushy-haired fellows that throw
bombs, a youth with a woman's face, who paid no attention to her because
she disturbed him in his business. But the girl kept chasing and chasing
after him until finally they hung him. They say, too, that she had an
affair with a painter in Paris, and they even say he painted her in the
nude, with one arm over her face so as not to be recognized, and that
the picture travels around that way on match-boxes. That must be false;
an exaggeration! What seems more certain is that she was the great
friend of a German, a musician--one of those who write operas. If thou
couldst hear her play the piano! And when she sings! Just like one of
those singers that come to the theatre of San Fernando in the Easter
season. And think not that she sings in Italian only; she talks
anything--French, German, English. Her uncle, the Marquis of Moraima,
when he talks about her at the Forty-five says he has his suspicions
that she speaks Latin. What a woman! Eh, Juanillo? What an interesting
creature!

"In Seville," he went on, "she leads an exemplary life. On that account
I think what they tell of her foreign affairs may be false; lies of
certain young cocks that go for grapes and find them sour."

And laughing at the spirit of this woman, who at times was as bold and
as aggressive as a man, he repeated the rumors that had circulated in
certain clubs on Sierpes Street. When the "Ambassadress" came to live in
Seville, all the young people had formed a court around her.

"Imagine, Juanillo, an elegant woman, different from those around here,
bringing her clothes and hats from Paris, her perfume from London;
besides being a friend of kings, branded with the brand of the finest
stock in Europe, so to speak. They followed in her wake like mad men,
and the girl permitted them certain liberties, wanting to live among
them like a man. But some of them transgressed the bounds, mistaking
familiarity for something else, and, at a loss for words, they made too
free with their hands. Then there were blows, Juan, and something worse.
That young lady is dangerous. It seems that she shoots at a mark, that
she knows how to box like an English sailor, and knows besides, that
Japanese way of fighting that they call _jitsu_. To sum it all up, if a
Christian dares to give her a pinch, she, with her dainty little fists,
without even getting angry, will grasp thee and leave thee torn to
shreds. Now they attack her less, but she has enemies who go about
talking evil of her; some praising what is a lie, others even denying
that she is clever."

Doña Sol, according to the manager, was enthusiastic over life in
Seville. After a long sojourn in cold, foggy lands she admired the
intensely blue sky and the winter sun of soft gold, and she discoursed
on the sweetness of life in this country--_so picturesque!_

"The simplicity of our customs fills her with enthusiasm. She is like
one of those English women that come in Holy Week--as if she had not
been born in Seville; as if she saw it for the first time! They say she
spends her summers in foreign cities and her winters here. She is tired
of her life in palaces and courts, and if thou didst but see the people
she goes with! She has made them receive her like a sister in the
convent of Cristo de Triana and that of the Most Holy Cachorro, and she
has spent a pot of money on wine for the brotherhood. Some nights she
fills her house with guitarists and dancers, for so many girls in
Seville are good singers and dancers. With them go their teachers and
their families, even to their most distant relatives; they all stuff
themselves with olives, sausages, and wine, and Doña Sol, seated in a
big chair like a queen, spends the hours demanding dance after dance,
all which must be native to the country. They say this is a diversion
equal to that which was given to I don't know what king, who had operas
sung for himself alone. Her servants, foreign fellows that have come
with her, long-faced and serious as parrots, go about in their evening
dress with great trays, passing glasses to the dancers who in plain
sight box their ears and snap olive stones in their eyes. Most honest
and diverting games! Now, Doña Sol receives Lechuzo in the mornings, an
old gypsy who gives guitar lessons, master of the purest style; and when
her visitors don't find her with the instrument on her lap, she is with
an orange in her hand. The oranges that creature has eaten since she
came! And still she isn't satisfied!"

Thus continued Don José, explaining to his _matador_ the eccentricities
of Doña Sol.

Four days after Gallardo had seen her in the parish church of San
Lorenzo, the manager approached the _matador_ in a _café_ on Sierpes
Street with an air of mystery.

"_Gachó_, thou art a child of good fortune. Knowest who has been talking
to me about thee?"

And putting his mouth close to the bull-fighter's ear he whispered,
"Doña Sol!"

She had asked him about his _matador_, and expressed a desire to meet
him. She was such an original type! So Spanish!

"She says she has seen thee kill several times, once in Madrid and
again, I know not where. She has applauded thee. She recognizes that
thou are very brave. What if she should take up with thee! Imagine it!
What an honor! Thou wouldst be a brother-in-law, or something like that,
of all the high-toned fellows on the European calendar of swells."

Gallardo smiled modestly, lowering his eyes, but at the same time he
twisted his handsome person proudly as if he did not consider his
manager's hypothesis either difficult or extraordinary.

"But do not form illusions, Juanillo," continued he; "Doña Sol wishes to
study a bull-fighter at close range, with the same interest that she
takes lessons from the master Lechuzo. Local color and nothing more!
'Bring him day after to-morrow to Tablada,' she told me. Thou knowest
what that will be--a baiting of the cattle of the Moraima herd; an
entertainment the Marquis has gotten up to divert his niece. We will go;
she has invited me also."

Two days later, in the afternoon, the _maestro_ and his manager started
from the ward of the Feria like gentlemen _picadores_, eagerly watched
by the people who peeped out of the doors and stood in groups on the
sidewalks.

"They are going to Tablada," they said. "There is to be a bull-baiting."

The manager, mounted on a large-boned mare, was in the dress of the
country, short jacket, cloth trousers with yellow gaiters, and leather
leggings. The swordsman had arrayed himself for the event in his usual
bizarre dress of the ancient bull-fighters, before modern fashion had
levelled their apparel to that of other mortals. A crush hat of velvet
with a plaited band was held on by a chin-strap; the collar of the
shirt, innocent of cravat, was fastened with a pair of brilliants and
two larger ones sparkled on the undulating bosom; the jacket and
waistcoat were of wine-colored velvet with black loops and hangings;
lastly there was a red silk belt and tight knee-breeches of dark mixed
weave bound at the knees with garters of black braid. His leggings were
amber-colored, with leather fringes along the side, and boots of the
same color, half hidden in the wide Moorish stirrups, exposed to view
great silver spurs. Over the saddle-horn, on top of the gay Jerez
blanket whose tassels hung on both sides of the horse, lay a gray jacket
with black trimmings and red lining.

The two horsemen rode at a gallop, carrying on their shoulders javelins
made of fine elastic wood, with balls on the end to guard the tip. Their
passage through the populous ward aroused an ovation. Hurrah! The women
waved their hands.

"God be with you, Señores! Amuse yourself, Señor Juan!"

They spurred their horses to escape from the crowd of youngsters that
ran after them, and the narrow lanes with their blue pavements and white
walls rang with the rhythmic beat of the horseshoes.

On the quiet street of manorial houses with massive grilled gates and
great balconies, where Doña Sol lived, they met other riders before the
door, sitting on their horses, leaning on their lances. They were young
gentlemen, relatives or friends of the lady, who greeted the
bull-fighter with amiable familiarity, happy to have him in the party.
The Marquis of Moraima came out of the house and immediately mounted his
horse.

"The child will be down immediately. Everybody knows the women--how long
they take to get ready."

He said this with the sententious gravity that he gave to all his words,
as if he were uttering oracles. He was a tall, big-boned old man, with
long white whiskers in the midst of which his mouth and eyes preserved
an infantile ingenuousness. Courteous and measured in his speech,
genteel in manner, moderate in his smile, the Marquis of Moraima was a
fine gentleman of the type of by-gone days. He was dressed almost always
in riding clothes, hating the city life, bored by the social demands of
his family when detained by them in Seville, and eager to fly to the
country among shepherd-foremen and cattlemen, whom he treated with the
familiarity of comrades. He had almost forgotten how to write, from lack
of practice, but as soon as the talk turned to cattle, to the raising of
bulls and horses, or to agriculture, his eyes shone and he expressed
himself with the skill of one deeply learned.

The sunlight clouded. The golden glow on the white walls on one side of
the street grew pale. People looked aloft. Along the blue belt between
the two rows of eaves, a dark cloud passed.

"There is no danger," said the Marquis gravely. "As I came out of the
house I saw a bit of paper which the wind blew in a direction I
understand. It will not rain."

All were convinced. It could not rain since the Marquis of Moraima so
declared. He was as weather-wise as an old shepherd; there was no fear
of his being mistaken.

Then he faced Gallardo.

"This year I am going to provide for thee some magnificent _corridas_.
What bulls! We shall see if thou sendest them to death like good
Christians. Thou knowest that this year I have not been quite satisfied.
The poor things deserved better."

Doña Sol appeared, holding up her black riding-skirt in one hand and
showing beneath it the tops of her high gray leather boots. She wore a
man's shirt with a red tie, a jacket and waistcoat of violet velvet, a
velvet three-cornered hat gracefully tipped to one side over her curls.
She mounted her horse with ease, in spite of the abundant plumpness of
her well-developed form, and took her javelin from a servant's hands.
She greeted her friends, excusing her tardiness, while her eyes
travelled toward Gallardo. The manager spurred his mare closer to make
the presentation, but Doña Sol, drawing near, rode up to the
bull-fighter.

Gallardo was disturbed at her presence. What a woman! What should he say
to her?

He saw that she extended him her hand, a fine hand that was gloriously
fragrant, and in his perturbation he could only press it with his great
fingers that better knew how to throw wild beasts. But the delicate and
rosy palm, instead of cringing under the involuntary and brutal pressure
that would have drawn from another a shriek of pain, tightened its
muscles with vigorous force, freeing itself easily from his clasp.

"I am most grateful to you for having come, and I am charmed to meet
you."

And Gallardo, feeling in his confusion the necessity of answering
something, stammered, as if he were greeting a devotee:

"Thanks. The family well?"

Doña Sol's discreet laugh was lost in the noise of the horseshoes that
resounded on the stones with the first movement of the cavalcade. The
lady put her horse to a trot and the whole troop followed, forming an
escort around her. Gallardo, abashed, travelled in the rear, not
recovering from his stupefaction, and vaguely guessing that he had said
something foolish.

They galloped along the outskirts of Seville beside the river; they left
behind them the Tower of Gold; they followed shady avenues of yellow
sand and then a high-road beside which stood inns and lunch-booths.

As they drew near Tablada they saw, on the green expanse of plain, a
dark mass of people and carriages near the palisade that separated the
pasture from the enclosure containing the cattle.

The Guadalquivir swept its current through the length of the
pasture-grounds. On the opposite bank rose the hill called San Juan de
Aznalfarache, crowned by a ruined castle. The country houses loomed
white against the silver gray masses of the olive groves. On the
opposite wing of the extended horizon, against a blue background on
which floated fleecy clouds, was Seville, its houses dominated by the
imposing mass of the cathedral and the marvellous Giralda, a tender
rose-color in the afternoon light.

The riders advanced with much care through the dense crowd. The
curiosity which Doña Sol's eccentricities inspired had attracted nearly
all the ladies of Seville. Her friends bowed to her from their
carriages, thinking her most beautiful in her mannish costume. Her
relatives, the daughters of the Marquis, some unmarried, others
accompanied by their husbands, cautioned her to prudence. "For mercy's
sake, Sol! Don't do crazy things!"

The bull-baiters entered the enclosure, welcomed as they passed through
the palisade by the applause of the common people who had come to the
festivity. The horses, scenting the enemy, and seeing them in the
distance, rose on their hind legs and began to prance and neigh, held in
by the firm hand of the riders.

The bulls were grouped in the centre of the enclosure. Some were quietly
feeding, some were lying on the reddish green winter field. Others, more
rebellious, trotted toward the river, and the older bulls, the trained
leaders, ran after them, ringing the bells that hung around their necks,
while the cowboys helped them in this rounding up, slinging well-aimed
stones that struck the horns of the fugitives. The horsemen remained
motionless a long time, as if holding council before the eager gaze of
the public awaiting something extraordinary.

The first to start was the Marquis, accompanied by one of his friends.
The two riders galloped toward the group of bulls and reined in their
horses when near them, standing in their stirrups, waving their javelins
in the air, and making loud outcries to frighten them. A black bull with
strong legs separated from the band, running toward the end of the
enclosure.

The Marquis was justly proud of his herd, which was composed of fine
selected animals. They were not oxen destined to the production of meat,
with filthy, loose, and wrinkled hide, nor with broad hoofs, nor
drooping head, nor with big ill-placed horns. These were animals of
nervous vigor, strong and heavy enough to make the earth tremble,
raising a cloud of dust beneath their feet; their hide was fine and
glossy like that of a thoroughbred horse, their eyes flashed, their neck
was thick and proud, and they had short legs, fine delicate tails,
slender horns, sharp and clean, as if polished by hand, and round and
small hoofs, so hard that they cut the grass as though made of steel.

The two horsemen rode behind the black bull, attacking him on both
sides, barring his way when he tried to make for the river, until the
Marquis, setting spur to his mare, gained distance and rode up to the
bull, with the javelin held before him and, lodging it under his tail,
managed, with the combined strength of his arm and horse, to make the
beast lose his equilibrium, rolling him on the ground, with his belly
up, his horns driven into the earth and his four feet in the air. The
rapidity and ease with which the breeder accomplished this trick
provoked an explosion of enthusiasm from behind the palisade. Hurrah for
the old man! No one understood bulls like the Marquis. He managed them
as if they were his own children, following them from the time of their
birth in the cow-herd until they went to their death in the plazas like
heroes worthy a better fate.

Other horsemen wished to start at once to win the applause of the crowd
but Moraima held them back, giving preference to his niece. If she were
determined to try her luck it would be better for her to begin now
before the herd grew ugly with continued attacks. Doña Sol spurred on
her horse which was pawing the ground with his fore feet, excited by
the presence of the bulls. The Marquis desired to accompany her in her
race, but she objected. No; she would rather have Gallardo, who was a
bull-fighter. Where was Gallardo? The _matador_, still ashamed of his
stupidity, placed himself at the lady's side without a word. The two set
out on a gallop toward the centre of the drove of bulls. Doña Sol's
horse reared several times, standing almost upright, as if resisting,
but the strong Amazon forced him to advance. Gallardo waved his javelin,
uttering shouts that were more like bellows, just as he did in the ring
when he incited the beasts to show their mettle.

It took but little urging to make an animal separate from the drove. A
white creature with cinnamon-colored spots, an enormous sloping neck,
and horns of the finest point, started out. He ran toward the end of the
enclosure as if it were his customary haunt, to which he was
irresistibly drawn by instinct, and Doña Sol galloped after him,
followed by the _matador_.

"Look out, Señora," called Gallardo. "That bull is old and knows the
game! Be careful that he doesn't turn on you!"

When Doña Sol prepared to achieve the same feat as her uncle, reining
her horse alongside to thrust her javelin under the animal's tail and
upset him, he turned as if he suspected the danger, planting himself in
a threatening attitude before his pursuers. The horse passed in front of
the bull, Doña Sol being unable to rein him in on account of his speed,
and the beast plunged after him, converting the besieger into the
besieged. The lady did not think of flight. Many thousands of people
were watching her from a distance. She feared her friends' laughter and
the commiseration of the men, so she reined in her horse, making him
face the bull. She sat with the javelin under her arm like a _picador_,
and she thrust it into the bull's neck as he came on bellowing, his head
down. The great cervix reddened with a stream of blood, but the beast
continued to advance from mere momentum, not feeling that he enlarged
the wound, till he thrust his horns beneath the horse, shaking him and
lifting his fore feet off the ground. The Amazon was thrown from her
saddle while a shout of horror from hundreds of throats arose in the
distance. The horse, freeing himself from the horns, began to run like
mad, his belly stained with blood, the girths broken, the saddle hanging
over his back. The bull started to follow him, when at that instant
something nearer attracted his attention. It was Doña Sol, who, instead
of lying motionless on the ground, had just arisen, and picking up her
javelin, placed it bravely under her arm to hold off the bull again. It
was mad arrogance, due to her consciousness of the many who watched her.
It was a challenge to death rather than yield to cowardice and ridicule.

They no longer shouted behind the palisade. The crowd was motionless
with the silence of terror. The whole troop of bull-baiters rode up on a
mad gallop in a cloud of dust, the riders seeming to gain in size at
every bound. Aid would come too late. The bull pawed the ground with his
fore feet and lowered his head to attack the audacious little figure
that stood threatening him with the lance. One little horn-stab would
make an end of it! But at the same instant, a fierce bellowing
distracted the bull's attention and something red passed before his
vision like a flame of fire. It was Gallardo, who had thrown himself
off his mare, abandoning the javelin to grasp the jacket which he
carried on the pommel of his saddle.

"Aaaa! Come on!"

The bull came on, running past the red-lined jacket, attracted by an
adversary worthy of him, and turned his hind quarters toward the figure
in the black skirt and violet bodice, that, in the stupefaction of
danger, still stood with the lance under her arm.

"Have no fear, Doña Sol; he is mine now!" cried the bull-fighter, still
pale with emotion but smiling, sure of his skill. Without other defence
than the jacket, he fought the beast, drawing him away from the lady and
escaping from its furious attacks with graceful movements.

The crowd, forgetting the recent fright, commenced to applaud,
enraptured. What joy! To go to a simple baiting and to find themselves
at an almost formal _corrida_, seeing Gallardo work gratis.

The bull-fighter, fired by the violence with which the brute attacked
him, forgot Doña Sol and every one else, intent only on evading his
attacks. The bull became furious, seeing that the man slipped unharmed
from between his horns, and fell upon him again, never encountering
anything but the brilliant red lining of the jacket.

At last he wearied and stood still, his mouth frothing, his head low,
his legs trembling; then Gallardo took advantage of the brute's
stupefaction and taking off his hat touched his head with it. An immense
shout arose behind the palisade, greeting this heroic exploit. Then
yells and ringing of bells sounded at Gallardo's back, cattlemen with
lead-bulls appeared and, surrounding the animal, drove it slowly toward
the thick of the herd.

Gallardo went in search of his mare, which stood motionless, accustomed
to being near the bulls. He picked up his javelin, mounted, and rode
back toward the palisade at a gentle gallop, prolonging the noisy
applause of the crowd by this slow riding. The horsemen who had taken
Doña Sol away greeted him with wild enthusiasm. The manager winked one
eye at him, saying mysteriously, "_Gachó_, thou hast not been slow. Very
good, but very good! Now I tell thee that thou'lt get her."

Doña Sol was in the landau of the Marquis' daughters, outside the
palisade. Her cousins surrounded her, anxious, feeling her over, almost
expecting to find some bone broken by her fall. They gave her glasses of
_manzanilla_ to help her recover from her fright but she smiled with an
air of superiority, passively receiving these feminine demonstrations.

As she saw Gallardo breaking through the lines of people on his horse,
amidst waving hats and extended hands, the lady smiled yet more
brightly.

"Come here, Cid Campeador. Give me your hand!"

And again their hands clasped, with a pressure that lasted long.

In the evening, in the house of the _matador_, this event, which was
talked about throughout the whole city, was commented upon. Señora
Angustias displayed satisfaction, just as after a _corrida_. Her son
saving one of those _señoras_ on whom she gazed with admiration,
habituated to reverence by long years of servitude! Carmen remained
silent, scarcely knowing what to think.

Several days passed without Gallardo's receiving news from Doña Sol.
The manager was out of the city hunting with some friends of the
Forty-five. One afternoon, near nightfall, Don José sought him in a
_café_ on Sierpes Street where the connoisseurs met. He had returned
from the hunt two hours before and had had to go immediately to Doña
Sol's house in response to a certain note that awaited him at his
domicile.

"But, man alive, thou art worse than a wolf!" said the manager, drawing
his _matador_ out of the _café_. "This lady expected thee to go to her
house. She has spent most of her afternoons at home, thinking thou
wouldst come any moment. This shouldn't be. After my having introduced
thee, and after all that happened, thou owest her a call; a question of
asking for her health."

The _matador_ stopped in his walk and scratched his head beneath his
hat.

"Well, but," he murmured with indecision, "well, but I am embarrassed.
Yes, that is it; yes, sir, embarrassed. You know that I have my affairs
with women and that I know how to say a half dozen words to any common
_gachí_; but to this one, no. This is a lady, and when I see her I
realize that I am rough and coarse, and I keep my mouth shut, for I
can't speak without putting my foot in it. No, Don José, I am not going.
I ought not to go."

But the manager, sure of convincing him, conducted him toward Doña Sol's
house, talking of his recent interview with the lady. She showed herself
somewhat offended by Gallardo's forgetfulness. The best in Seville had
gone to see her since her accident at Tablada, but not he.

"Thou knowest that a bull-fighter should stand well with the people who
are worth while. One must have education and show that he is not a
herder raised in the branding-pen. A lady of so much importance who
honors thee and expects thee! Come! I will go with thee."

"Ah! If you accompany me!" And Gallardo drew a deep breath on hearing
this, as if he were freed from the weight of a great danger.

They entered Doña Sol's house. The courtyard was in Moorish style, its
many colored arcades of beautiful designs recalling the horseshoe arches
of the Alhambra. The fountain flowing into a basin where gold-fish were
swimming sang with sweet monotony in the afternoon stillness. In the
four surrounding passages with carved ceilings separated from the
courtyard by the marble columns of the arcades, the bull-fighter saw
ancient mosaics, time-darkened paintings, images of saints with livid
countenances, and wood-work worm-eaten as though it had been fusilladed
with small shot.

A servant conducted them up the broad marble stairway, and there again
the bull-fighter was surprised to see paintings on wood of rude figures
with a gilded background; voluptuous virgins that seemed to be hewn out
with an axe, with delicate colors and faded gold, looted from ancient
altars; tapestries of the soft tone of dry leaves, bordered with flowers
and fruits, some representing scenes from Calvary, others full of hairy
satyrs with hoofs and horns with whom nude girls seemed to play as men
play with bulls in the ring.

"How vast is ignorance," he said to his manager. "And I had thought that
all this was only good for convents. How much these people seem to value
it."

Gallardo received new surprises. He was proud of his own furniture
brought from Madrid, all of gaudy silk and complicated design, heavy and
rich, seeming to proclaim, as it were by shouts, the money it had cost,
but here he was dazzled at the sight of delicate and fragile chairs,
white or green, tables and cupboards of simple lines, walls of a single
tint with no other ornament than small paintings separated by great
distances, and hanging by heavy cords, the whole giving a tone of
subdued and quiet elegance that seemed the handiwork of artists. He was
ashamed of his own stupefaction and of what he had admired in his house
as the supreme of luxury. "How vast is ignorance!" And as he seated
himself he did so with care, fearing lest the chair would crumble
beneath his weight.

Doña Sol's presence banished these thoughts. He saw her, as he had never
before seen her, without _mantilla_ or hat, her glossy hair hanging, and
seeming to justify her romantic name. Her arms, of superlative
whiteness, escaped from the silken funnels of a Japanese tunic crossed
over the breast, which left uncovered a space of adorable neck, slightly
amber-colored, with the lines that suggest the neck of the mother Venus.
Stones of all colors set in rings of strange design covered her fingers
and scintillated with magic splendor as she moved her hands. On her
youthful wrists glistened bracelets of gold, some of Oriental filigree
with mysterious inscriptions, others massive, from which hung amulets
and little foreign figures, mementoes of distant travels. She had
crossed one leg over the other with manlike freedom, and on the point of
one of her feet dangled a red slipper with a high, gilded heel, tiny as
a toy, and covered with heavy embroidery.

Gallardo's ears buzzed, his vision was clouded, he only managed to
distinguish a pair of blue eyes fixed on him with an expression half
caressing, half ironic. To hide his emotion, he smiled, showing his
teeth,--the expressionless smile of a child who wishes to be amiable.

"No, Señora--many thanks. That amounted to nothing."

Thus he received Doña Sol's expressions of gratitude for his heroic feat
of the other afternoon. Little by little Gallardo began to acquire a
certain composure. The lady and the manager talked of bulls, and this
gave the swordsman a sudden confidence. She had seen him kill several
times, and she remembered exactly the principal incidents. Gallardo felt
pride that this woman had gazed upon him at such moments and had even
kept fresh the memory of his deeds. She opened a lacquer box, decorated
with weird flowers, and offered the men cigarettes with golden
mouthpieces which exhaled a strange and pungent perfume.

"They contain opium; they are very agreeable."

And she lighted one, following the smoke spirals with her greenish eyes
which acquired a tremor of liquid gold as they refracted the light. The
bull-fighter, accustomed to the strong Havana tobacco, smoked the
cigarette with curiosity. Pure straw; a mere treat for ladies. But the
strange perfume of the smoke slowly overcame his timidity.

Doña Sol, looking at him fixedly, asked questions about his life. She
wished to get a glimpse behind the scenes of glory, of the subterranean
ways of celebrity, of the miserable wandering life of the bull-fighter
before he gained public acclamation; and Gallardo, with sudden
confidence, talked and talked, telling of his youthful days, dwelling
with proud delectation on the lowliness of his origin, although omitting
all that he considered questionable in his eventful adolescence.

"Very interesting, very original!" said the handsome lady, and
withdrawing her eyes from the bull-fighter they became lost in wandering
contemplation, as if fixed on something invisible.

"The greatest man in the world!" exclaimed Don José in frank enthusiasm.
"Believe me, Sol; there are no two youths like this. And the way he
recuperates from horn-stabs--!"

Happy in Gallardo's fortitude, as if he were his progenitor, he
enumerated the wounds he had received, describing them as if they could
be seen through his clothing. The lady's eyes followed him in this
anatomical journey with sincere admiration. A true hero; timid, shy, and
simple, like all strong men. The manager spoke of taking his leave. It
was after seven and he was expected at home. But Doña Sol rose to her
feet with smiling determination as if to oppose his going. He must
remain; they must dine with her; a friendly invitation. That night she
expected no one else. The Marquis and his family had gone to the
country.

"I am alone--not another word. I command. You will stay and take
pot-luck with me."

And as if her orders admitted of no question, she left the room.

The manager protested. No, he could not remain; he had come from outside
the city that very afternoon, and his family had scarcely seen him.
Besides, he had invited two friends. As for his _matador_, it seemed to
him natural and proper that he should stay. Really, the invitation was
meant for him.

"But stay a while at least!" said the swordsman, distressed. "Damn it!
Don't leave me alone. I shall not know what to do; I shall not know what
to say."

A quarter of an hour afterward Doña Sol appeared again, dressed in one
of her Paris gowns, a Paquin model, the desperation and wonder of
relatives and friends.

Don José insisted again. He must go, but his _matador_ should stay. He
would take care to let them know at home so that they would not wait for
him. Again Gallardo made a gesture of agony, but he grew calm at a look
from the manager.

"Don't worry," he whispered, going toward the door, "dost thou think I
am a child? I will say thou art dining with some connoisseurs from
Madrid."

What torment Gallardo suffered during the first moments of the dinner!
He was intimidated by the grave and lordly luxury of the dining-room in
which he and the lady seemed to be lost, seated face to face at the
centre of a great table, under enormous silver candelabras with electric
lights and rose-colored shades. The imposing servants inspired awe; they
were ceremonious and impassive as if habituated to the most
extraordinary actions; as if nothing this lady did could surprise them.
He was ashamed of his dress and manners, feeling the strong contrast
between the environment and his appearance. But this first impression of
fear and shyness vanished little by little. Doña Sol laughed at his
moderation, at the fear with which he touched the plates and cups.
Gallardo ended by admiring her. What an appetite the blonde woman had!
Accustomed to the squeamishness and abstinence of the _señoritas_ he
had known, who thought it bad taste to eat much, he marvelled at Doña
Sol's voracity and at the naturalness with which she disposed of the
viands. Mouthfuls disappeared between her rosy lips without leaving the
slightest trace of their passage; her jaws worked without in the least
diminishing the beautiful serenity of her countenance; she carried the
glass to her mouth without the slightest drop of liquor spilling a
colored pearl upon her clothing. Surely thus must goddesses eat!

Gallardo, fired by her example, ate, and above all, drank much, seeking
in the varied and heavy wines a remedy for that stupidity that made him
silent as if abashed in the lady's presence, and unable to do more than
to smile and repeat, "Many thanks."

The conversation grew animated; the _matador_ became loquacious and
talked of funny incidents in the tauromachic life, ending by telling
about Nacional's original propaganda, and the feats of his _picador_
Potaje, a wild fellow who swallowed hard-boiled eggs whole; how he was
minus half an ear on account of one of his _compadres_ having bitten it
off, and how, on being carried injured into the infirmaries of the ring,
he would fall on the bed with such a weight of armor and muscle that he
would cut through the mattresses with his enormous spurs, and then had
to be unriveted.

"Very original! Very interesting!"

Doña Sol listened, smiling at the details of the existence of these
rough men, ever close to death, whom she had until then admired only at
a distance.

The champagne completed the work of upsetting Gallardo, and when he
rose from the table he gave his arm to the lady, surprised at his own
audacity. Did not they do so in the great world? He was not so ignorant
as he seemed at first sight!

In the drawing-room where coffee was served he saw a guitar. Doña Sol
offered it to him, asking him to play.

"But I don't know how! I am the most unskilled fellow in the world,
aside from killing bulls!"

He regretted that the _puntillero_ of his _cuadrilla_ was not there, a
boy who set the women crazy with his "hands of gold" for plucking the
strings of a guitar.

Gallardo was leaning back on a sofa smoking the magnificent Havana a
servant had offered him. Doña Sol was smoking one of the cigarettes
whose perfume created such a vague drowsiness. The heaviness of
digestion weighed upon the bull-fighter, closing his mouth and
permitting him no other sign of life than a fixed smile of stupidity.
The lady, wearied, doubtless, at the silence in which her words were
lost, seated herself before a grand piano, and striking the keys with
virile force, drew forth the gay rhythm of _Malagueñas_ followed by
_Sevillanas_, and then all the old Andalusian songs, melancholy and of
Oriental dreaminess, which Doña Sol had stored in her memory as an
enthusiastic admirer of _la tierra_.

Gallardo interrupted the music with his exclamations, just as he did
when seated near the stage of a music-hall.

"Good for those little hands of gold! Let's hear another."

"Do you enjoy music?" asked the lady.

"Oh, very much!" Gallardo had never been asked this question until now,
but undoubtedly he enjoyed it.

Doña Sol passed slowly from the lively rhythm of the popular songs to
other music more slow, more solemn, which the _matador_, in his
philharmonic wisdom, recognized as "church music." He no longer shouted
exclamations of enthusiasm. He was overcome by a delicious quiet, trying
to keep awake by contemplating the handsome lady whose back was turned
toward him. What a figure--Mother of God! His Moorish eyes fastened
themselves on the nape of her neck, round and white, crowned by an
aureole of wild, rebellious, golden hair. An absurd idea danced through
his blunted mind, keeping him awake with the tickling of temptation.

"What would that _gachí_ do if I should rise and creep up behind her
step by step and give her a kiss on that rich little neck of hers?"

But his design did not venture beyond a tempting thought. That woman
inspired an irresistible respect. Moreover, he remembered his manager's
talk of the arrogance with which she could frighten away troublesome
bores; of that little game learned in foreign lands which taught her how
to manage a strong man as if he were a rag. He continued gazing at the
white neck, like a moon surrounded by a nimbus of gold seen through the
clouds which drowsiness hung before his eyes. He was going to fall
asleep! He feared that suddenly a loud snore would interrupt the music,
a music incomprehensible to him, and which, consequently, must be
magnificent. He pinched his legs to keep awake; stretched out his arms;
covered his mouth with one hand to stifle his yawns.

A long time passed. Gallardo was not sure whether he had slept or not.
Suddenly Doña Sol's voice woke him from this painful somnolence. She had
laid down her cigarette with its blue spirals of smoke, and in a low
voice that accentuated the words, giving them impassioned trembling, she
sang, accompanying herself by the melody of the piano.

The bull-fighter cocked his ears to try to understand something. Not a
word. They were foreign songs. "Damn it! Why not a _tango_ or a _soleá_?
And yet a Christian is expected to keep awake."

Doña Sol ran her fingers over the keys, casting her eyes upward,
throwing her head back, her firm breast trembling with musical sighs. It
was Elsa's prayer, the lament of the blonde virgin thinking of the
strong man, the brave warrior, invincible before men, and sweet and
timid with women. She dreamed awake in her song, throwing into her words
tremors of passion, the moisture rising to her eyes. The simple strong
man! The warrior! Maybe he was behind her! Why not?

He did not have the legendary aspect of the other; he was rough and
unpolished, but she could yet see, with the clarity of a vivid
recollection, the grace with which days before he had rushed to her
rescue; the smiling confidence with which he had fought a bellowing,
infuriated beast, just as the Wagnerian heroes fought frightful dragons.
Yes; he was _her_ warrior. And shaken from her heels to the roots of her
hair by a voluptuous fear, giving herself up for conquered in advance,
she thought she could divine the sweet danger that was approaching
behind her. She saw the hero, the knight, rise slowly from the sofa, his
Moorish eyes fixed upon her; she heard his cautious steps; she felt his
hands on her shoulders; then a kiss of fire on her neck, a brand of
passion that marked her his slave for all time--But suddenly the romance
ended, and nothing had happened; she had experienced no other impression
than her own thrills of timid desire.

Disappointed, she turned around on the piano stool; the music ceased.
The warrior was there, buried in the sofa, with a match in his hand,
trying to light his cigar for the fourth time, and opening his eyes
immeasurably wide to drive the torpor from his senses.

Seeing her eyes fastened upon him, Gallardo rose to his feet. Ah, the
supreme moment was coming! The hero strode toward her, to press her with
manly passion, to conquer her, to make her his.

"Good-night, Doña Sol. I must go, it is late. You will want to rest."

Impelled by surprise and dismay, she extended her hand, not knowing what
she did. Strong and simple like a hero!

All the feminine conventionalisms went rushing in confusion through her
mind, the traditional expressions a woman never forgets, not even in the
moments of her greatest abandon. Her desire was impossible. The first
time he entered her house? Without the slightest pretence of resistance?
Could she go to him? But when the swordsman clasped her hand she looked
into his eyes, eyes that could only gaze with impassioned steadiness,
that in their mute tenacity expressed his timid hopes, his silent
desires.

"Don't go--come; come!"

And she said no more.



CHAPTER VII

THE SPANISH WILD BEAST


A great satisfaction was added to the numerous conceits which served to
flatter Gallardo's vanity. When he talked with the Marquis of Moraima,
he contemplated him now with an almost filial affection. That _señor_
dressed like a country gentleman, a rude centaur in chaps, with a strong
lance, was an illustrious personage who could cover his breast with
official sashes and wear in the palace of kings a coat covered with
embroidery, with a golden key sewed to one lapel. His most remote
ancestors had come to Seville with the monarch that expelled the Moors,
receiving as a reward for their deeds immense territories taken from the
enemy, of which the great plains where the Marquis' bulls now pastured
were the remains. His nearest forefathers had been friends and
councillors of monarchs, spending a large part of their patrimony in the
pageantry of court life. And this great lord, kind and frank, who
maintained in the simplicity of his country life the distinction of his
illustrious ancestry, was almost like a near relative of Gallardo. The
cobbler's son was as haughty as if he had become a member and formed a
part of a noble family. The Marquis of Moraima was his uncle, although
he could not confess it publicly and, though the relationship was not
legitimate, he consoled himself thinking of the dominion he exercised
over a woman of that family, thanks to a love that seemed to laugh at
all law and class prejudice. His cousins also, and relatives in greater
or less degree of proximity, were all those young gentlemen who used to
receive him with that somewhat disdainful familiarity which connoisseurs
of rank bestow upon bull-fighters; these now began to treat him as
equals. Accustomed to hear Doña Sol speak of them with the familiarity
of kinship, Gallardo thought it disadvantageous to him not to treat them
with equal freedom.

His life and habits had changed. He seldom entered the _cafés_ on
Sierpes Street where his old admirers gathered. They were good fellows,
simple and earnest, but of little importance; small merchants, workmen
who had risen to be employers; modest employees; vagabonds of no
profession who lived miraculously by unknown expedients, with no other
visible occupation than talking of bulls.

Gallardo passed the windows of the _cafés_ and bowed to these devotees,
who responded with eager signs for him to come in. "I'll return soon."
But he did not. He entered an aristocratic club on the same street, with
servants in knee breeches, with imposing Gothic decorations and silver
service on its tables. The son of Señora Angustias felt a glow of vanity
whenever he passed among the servants standing so erect, with a military
air, in their black coats, and a lackey, imposing as a magistrate, with
a silver chain around his neck, offered to take his hat and stick. It
pleased him to mix with so many distinguished people. The young men,
sunk down in high chairs like those seen in romantic dramas, talked of
horses and women, and kept account of all the duels that took place in
Spain, for they were men of fastidious honor and unquestioned valor. In
an inside room they shot at targets; in another they gambled from the
early evening hours until after sunrise. They tolerated Gallardo as an
"original" of the club, because he was a reputable bull-fighter, who
dressed well, spent money, and had good connections.

"He is very celebrated," said the members, with great tact, realizing
that he knew as much as they did.

The character of Don José, who was charming and well-born, served the
bull-fighter as a guarantee in this new existence. Moreover, Gallardo,
with his cleverness as an old-time street gamin, knew how to make
himself popular with this assemblage of gay youths in which he met
acquaintances by the dozens.

He gambled much. It was the best means of coming into contact with his
"new family" and strengthening the relationship. He gambled and lost
with the bad luck of a man fortunate in other undertakings. He spent his
nights in the "hall of crime," as the gambling room was called, and he
seldom managed to gain. His ill-luck was a cause of pride to the club.

"Last night Gallardo took a good laying out," said the members. "He lost
at least eleven thousand _pesetas_."

And this prestige as a strong "bank," as well as the serenity with which
he gave up his money, made his new friends respect him, finding in him a
firm upholder of society's game. The new passion rapidly took possession
of him. The excitement of the game dominated him even to the point of
sometimes making him forget the great lady who was to him the most
interesting object in the world. To gamble with the best in Seville! To
be treated as an equal by the young gentlemen, with the fraternal
feeling that the loaning of money and common emotions creates!

Suddenly one night a great cluster of electric globes that stood on the
green table and illuminated the room went out. There was darkness and
disorder, but Gallardo's imperious voice rose above the confusion.

"Silence, gentlemen! Nothing has happened. On with the game! Let them
bring candles!"

And the game went on, his companions admiring him for his energetic
oratory even more than for the bulls he killed. The manager's friends
asked him about Gallardo's losses. He would be ruined; what he earned by
the bulls was being eaten up by gaming. But Don José smiled
disdainfully, doubling the glory of his _matador_.

"We have more bull-fights for this year than any one else. We're going
to get tired of killing bulls and earning money. Let the boy amuse
himself. That's what he works for, and that's why he is what he is--the
greatest man in the world!"

Don José considered that the people's admiration for the serenity with
which he lost added glory to his idol. A _matador_ could not be like
other men who keep chasing after a cent. He did not earn his money for
nothing. Besides, it pleased him as a personal triumph, as something
that was an accomplishment of his own, to see him established in a
social set which not everybody could join.

"He is the man of the day," he said with an aggressive air to those who
criticised Gallardo's new habits. "He doesn't go with nobodies, nor does
he sit around taverns like other bull-fighters. And what does that
prove? He is the bull-fighter of the aristocracy, because he wants to
be, and can be. The others are jealous."

In his new existence, Gallardo not only frequented the club, but some
afternoons he mingled with the Society of the Forty-five. It was a kind
of senate of tauromachy. Bull-fighters did not find easy access to its
_salons_, thus leaving the respectable nobility of the connoisseurs free
to voice their opinions.

During the spring and summer the Forty-five gathered in the vestibule
and on the sidewalk, seated in willow arm-chairs, to await the telegrams
from the bull-fights. They had little faith in the opinions of the
press; moreover they must get the news before it came out in the papers.
Telegrams from all parts of the Peninsula where bull-fights were held
came at nightfall, and the members, after listening with religious
gravity to their reading, argued and built suppositions upon these
telegraphic brevities. It was a function that filled them with pride,
elevating them above common mortals, this of remaining quietly seated at
the door of the Society, enjoying the cool air and hearing in a certain
manner, without prejudiced exaggerations, what had occurred that
afternoon in the bull plaza of Bilbao, or of Coruña or Barcelona, or
Valencia, of the ears one _matador_ had received or the hisses that had
greeted another, while their fellow-citizens remained in the saddest
depths of ignorance and walked the streets obliged to wait till night
for the coming out of the newspapers. When there was an accident, and a
telegram arrived announcing the terrible goring of a native
bull-fighter, emotion and patriotic sentiment softened the respectable
senators to the point of communicating the important secret to some
passing friend. The news instantly circulated through the _cafés_ on
Sierpes Street, and no one doubted it at all. It was a telegram received
at the Forty-five.

Gallardo's manager, with his aggressive and noisy enthusiasm, disturbed
the social gravity; but they tolerated him on account of his being an
old friend and they ended by laughing at his ways. It was impossible for
such critical persons to discuss the merits of the bull-fighters
tranquilly with Don José. Often, on speaking of Gallardo as "a brave
boy, but with little art," they looked timorously toward the door.

"Pepe is coming," they said, and the conversation was suddenly broken
off.

Don José entered waving the blue paper of a telegram above his head.

"Have you got news from Santander? Here it is: Gallardo, two strokes,
two bulls, and with the second, the ear. Now, didn't I tell you? The
greatest man in the world!"

The telegram for the Forty-five was often different, but the manager
scarcely conceded it a scornful glance, bursting out in noisy protest.

"Lies! All jealousy! My message is the one that's worth something. That
one shows pique because my boy gets all the favors."

And the members in the end laughed at Don José, touching their foreheads
with a finger to indicate his madness, joking about "the greatest man in
the world" and his funny manager.

Little by little, as an unheard of privilege, he managed to introduce
Gallardo into the Society. The bull-fighter came under the pretext of
looking for his manager and finally seated himself among the gentlemen,
many of whom were not his friends and had chosen _their matador_ among
the rival swordsmen.

The decorations of this club-house had distinction, as Don José said;
high wainscotings of Moorish tiles, and on the immaculately white walls,
gay posters recalling past bull-fights; mounted heads of bulls famous
for the number of horses they had killed or for having wounded some
celebrated _matador_; glittering capes and swords presented by certain
bull-fighters on "cutting the queue" and retiring from the profession.

Servants in frock coats waited on gentlemen in country dress or in
negligee during the hot summer afternoons. In Holy Week and during other
great feasts of Seville, when illustrious connoisseurs from all over
Spain called to greet the Forty-five, the servants dressed in knee
breeches and wore white wigs with red and yellow livery. In this guise,
like lackeys of a royal house, they served trays of _manzanilla_ to the
wealthy gentlemen, some of whom had even taken off their cravats.

In the afternoons, when the dean of the Club, the illustrious Marquis of
Moraima, presented himself, the members formed in a circle in deep
arm-chairs and the famous cattle-breeder occupied a seat higher than the
others like a throne, from which he presided over the conversation. They
always began by talking about the weather. They were mostly breeders and
rich farmers who lived on the products of the earth when favored by the
variable heavens. The Marquis expounded the observations drawn from the
knowledge acquired on interminable horseback rides over the Andalusian
plain. Upon this immense desert, with a boundless horizon like a sea of
land, the bulls resembled drowsy sharks moving slowly among the waves
of herbage. The drought, that cruel calamity of the Andalusian plains,
led to discussions lasting whole afternoons, and when, after long weeks
of expectation, the lowering sky let fall a few drops, big and hot, the
great country gentlemen smiled joyfully, rubbing their hands, and the
Marquis said impressively, looking at the broad circles that wet the
pavement:

"The glory of God! Every drop of these is a five dollar gold piece!"

When they were not busying themselves talking about the weather, cattle
became the subject of their conversation, and especially bulls, as
though they were united to them by a blood relationship. The breeders
listened with respect to the Marquis' opinions, recognizing the prestige
of his superior fortune. The mere amateurs, who never went out of the
city, admired his skill as a raiser of noble animals. What that man
knew! He showed himself convinced of the greatness of his occupation
when he talked of the care the bulls needed. Out of every ten calves
eight or nine were only good for meat, after being tested for their
temper. Only one or two which proved themselves ferocious and aggressive
before the point of the spear came to be considered animals suitable for
combat, living apart, with all manner of care--and such care!

"A herd of fierce bulls," said the Marquis, "should not be treated as a
business. It is a luxury. They give, for a fighting bull, four or five
times more than for an ox for the butcher-shop--but what they cost!"

They must be cared for at all hours, heed must be taken in regard to
their pasture and water, they must be moved from one place to another
with changes of temperature. Each bull costs more to maintain than a
family. And when he is ready he must be watched till the last minute so
that he may not disgrace himself in the ring but do honor to the emblem
of the breeder which he wears on his neck.

The Marquis had been compelled to quarrel with the managers and
authorities of certain plazas, and had refused to furnish his animals
because the band of music was placed over the bull-pens. The noise of
the instruments upset the animals, taking away their courage and
serenity when they entered the arena.

"They are just like ourselves," he said with tenderness. "They lack only
speech. What do I say? Like us? There are some that are better than some
people."

And he told about Lobito, an old bull, a leader, which he declared he
would not sell even if they would give him the whole of Seville with its
Giralda. He no sooner galloped in sight of the drove in which this jewel
lived on the vast pastures, than a shout was enough to call his
attention. "Lobito!" And Lobito, abandoning his companions, came to meet
the Marquis, moistening the horseman's boots with his gentle muzzle; yet
he was an animal of immense power and the rest of the herd lived in fear
of him.

The breeder dismounted, and taking a piece of chocolate out of his
saddle bags, he gave it to Lobito, who gratefully bowed his head armed
with its gigantic horns. The Marquis advanced with an arm resting over
the leader's neck, walking quietly through the drove of bulls, which
grew restless and ferocious at the presence of the man. There was no
danger. Lobito marched like a dog, covering the master with his body,
looking in all directions, compelling respect among his companions with
his flashing eyes. If one more audacious drew near to nose the Marquis
he encountered the threatening horns of the leader. If several united
with dull stupidity to bar his passage, Lobito thrust his armed head
among them and opened the way.

An expression of enthusiasm and tenderness moved the Marquis' beardless
lips and his white side-whiskers as he recalled the great deeds of some
of the animals produced in his pastures.

"The bull! The noblest animal in the world! If men were more like them
the world would be better off. There was Coronel. Do you remember that
treasure?"

And he showed an immense photograph with a handsome mounting, that
represented himself in mountaineer dress, much younger and surrounded by
several girls dressed in white, all seated in the centre of a meadow on
a dark mass at one end of which was a pair of horns. This mass was
Coronel. Immense and fierce toward his companions in the herd, he showed
affectionate submission to the master and his family. He was like a
mastiff, fierce to strangers, but letting the children pull him about by
the tail and ears and put up with all their deviltry with growls of
kindness. The Marquis had with him his young daughters, and the animal
smelt of the little girls' white skirts as they timidly clung to their
father's legs, until, with the sudden audacity of childhood, they ended
by rubbing his nose. "Down, Coronel!" Coronel went down on his knees and
the family seated themselves on his side, which moved up and down like a
bellows with the _ru-ru_ of his powerful respiration.

One day, after much hesitation, the Marquis sold him to the plaza of
Pamplona and attended the bull-fight. Moraima was moved by the
recollection of this event; his eyes filled with emotion. He had never
in all his life seen a bull like that. He came courageously into the
arena and stood planted in the middle of it, surprised at the light
after the darkness of the bull-pen, and at the clamor of thousands of
persons after the silence of the stables. But the moment a _picador_
pricked him he seemed to fill the whole plaza with his tremendous
fierceness.

Before him, men, horses, nothing could stand. In one minute he threw the
horses and tossed the _picadores_ into the air. The _peones_ ran. The
plaza was like a regular branding-pen. The public shouted for more
horses, and Coronel, in the meantime, stood waiting for some one to
stand up and face him. Nothing like that for nobility and power will
ever be seen again.

As soon as they incited him to come on, he rushed up with a courage and
speed that set the public wild. When they gave the sign to kill, with
the fourteen stabs he had in his body, and the complete set of
_banderillas_, he was as brave and valiant as though he had never gone
out of the pasture. Then--

The breeder, when he arrived at this point, always stopped, to
strengthen his voice, which grew tremulous.

Then--the Marquis of Moraima, who had been in a box, found himself, he
knew not how, behind the barrier among attendants who were running about
with the excitement of the eventful contest, and near to the _matador_,
who was making ready his _muleta_ with a certain deliberation, as if
wishing to put off the moment for standing face to face with an animal
of such power. "Coronel!" shouted the Marquis, leaning his body half
over the barrier and beating the boards with his hands.

The animal stood still but raised his head at these cries--distant calls
from a country he would never see again. "Coronel!" Turning his head the
bull saw a man calling to him from the wall and he started in a direct
line to attack him. But in the midst of his advance he slackened his
pace and slowly approached until he touched with his horns the arms held
out to him. His throat was varnished red with little streams of blood
which escaped from the barbs buried in his neck and from the wounds in
his hide, in which the blue muscle could be seen. "Coronel! My son!" And
the bull, as if he understood these outbursts of tenderness, raised his
dripping muzzle and dampened the Marquis' white beard. "Why hast thou
brought me here?" those wild and blood-shot eyes seemed to say. And the
Marquis, unheeding what he did, pressed kisses upon the animal's nose
that was wet with his furious bellowings.

"Don't let him be killed!" shouted a good soul in the galleries; and as
if these words reflected the mind of the public, an explosion of voices
filled the plaza, while thousands of handkerchiefs fluttered above the
tiers of seats like flocks of doves. "Don't let him be killed!" For a
moment the multitude, moved by a vague tenderness, despised its own
diversion, hated the bull-fighter with his glittering dress and his
useless heroism, admired the valor of the animal, and felt inferior to
it, recognizing that among so many thousands of reasoning beings the
greater nobility and sensibility were represented by the poor brute.

"I took him back," said the Marquis, with emotion. "I returned the
management their two thousand _pesetas_. I would have given my whole
hacienda. After he had been pastured in the meadow a month he didn't
even have the scars on his neck. It was my intention to let that brave
beast die of old age, but the good do not prosper in this world. A
tricky bull that was not fit to look him in the face treacherously gored
him to death."

The Marquis and his fellow cattle-breeders passed suddenly from this
tenderness toward the animals, to the pride they felt in their ferocity.
One should see the scorn with which they talked of the enemies of
bull-fights, of those who protested against this art in the name of
prevention of cruelty to animals. Foreigners' nonsense! Errors of
ignoramuses, who only distinguish animals by their horns and think a
slaughter-house ox the same as a fighting-bull! The Spanish bull was a
wild-beast; the most heroic wild beast in the world. And they recounted
the numerous combats between bulls and terrible felines, always followed
by the noisy triumph of the national wild beast.

The Marquis laughed as he recollected another of his animals. A combat
was arranged in a plaza between a bull, and a lion, and a tiger
belonging to a certain famous tamer, and the breeder sent Barrabas, a
wicked animal he had always kept by himself in the pasture because he
was ever goring his companions, and had killed many cattle.

"I saw that, also," said Moraima. "A great iron cage in the centre of
the ring, and in it was Barrabas. First they let the lion loose at him
and the damned beast, taking advantage of the bull's lack of cunning,
jumped onto his hind quarters and began to tear him with his claws and
teeth. Barrabas jumped with fury to unfasten him and get him in front of
his horns where his defences lay. At last, in one of his turns, he
managed to toss the lion in front of him and gored him, and then,
gentlemen, just like a ball, he smelled him from tip to tip a long
while, shook him about like a figure stuffed with straw, till finally,
as if he despised him, he tossed him to one side and there lay what they
call the 'king of beasts' rolled up into a heap, mewing like a cat that
has had a beating. Then they let the tiger at him and the affair was
shorter yet. He had scarcely stuck his nose in before Barrabas hooked
him and tossed him up, and after getting a good shaking, he went into
the corner like the other, curling himself up and playing baby."

These recollections always provoked great laughter at the Forty-five.
The Spanish bull! Little wild beasts to face him! And in their joyful
exclamations there was an expression of national pride, as if the
arrogant courage of the Spanish wild beast signified equally the
superiority of the land and race over the rest of the world.

At the time Gallardo began to frequent the Society, a new subject of
conversation interrupted the endless discussions about bulls and the
country's crops.

At the Forty-five, as well as all over Seville, they talked about
"Plumitas," a bandit celebrated for his audacity, who each day acquired
fresh fame by the fruitless efforts of his pursuers. The newspapers
related his deeds as if he were a national personage; the Government was
interpellated in the Cortes and promised an immediate capture which
never took place; the civil guard concentrated and a regular army was
mobilized for pursuing him while Plumitas, always alone, with no other
auxiliary than his carbine and his restless steed, slipped in and out
among them like a phantom. When their numbers were not great he faced
them and dropped some one of them lifeless, and he was revered and
assisted by the poor country people, miserable slaves on enormous
estates, who saw in the bandit an avenger of the hungry, a quick and
cruel justice, like that exercised by the ancient mail-clad knight
errant. Plumitas demanded money from the rich and, with the air of an
actor who sees himself watched by an immense audience, from time to time
he succored some poor old woman or a laborer burdened with a family.
These acts of generosity were enlarged upon by the gossips of the rural
multitude, who at all hours had the name of Plumitas on their lips but
who were blind and dumb when questioned by the military or the police.

He passed from one province to another with the ease of one who knew the
country well, and the land-owners of Seville and Córdova contributed
equally to his sustenance. Whole weeks would pass without talk of the
bandit, when he would suddenly present himself on a plantation, or make
his entrance into a town, scornful of danger.

At the Forty-five they had direct news of him, the same as if he were a
killer of bulls.

"Plumitas was at my place yesterday," said a rich farmer. "The overseer
gave him thirty _duros_ and he went away after breakfast."

They patiently tolerated this contribution and did not communicate the
news to any but their friends. A denunciation meant declarations and all
kinds of turmoil. Of what use? The civil guard pursued the bandit
fruitlessly and when he became angry with the informers their property
was at the mercy of his vengeance, utterly unprotected.

The Marquis talked about Plumitas and his deeds without dismay, smiling
as if he were discussing a natural and inevitable calamity.

"They are poor boys that have been unlucky and have taken to the woods.
My father (may he rest in peace!) knew the famous José María and
breakfasted with him twice. I have come across many of less fame who
went around doing mischief. They are like bulls; courageous, simple
people. They only attack when they are pressed, growing hotter under
persecution."

"He had left orders at his farmhouses and at all the herders' huts on
his vast territories for them to give Plumitas whatever he asked for.
According to tales of the overseers and cowboys, the bandit, with the
old time respect of the peasant for good and generous masters, spoke in
greatest praise of him, offering to kill any one who might offend the
Señor Marqués in the least. Poor fellow! For a pittance, which was what
he asked when he presented himself, tired and hungry, it was not worth
while to irritate him and attract his vengeance."

"The breeder, who galloped alone over the plains where his bulls
pastured, had a suspicion of having several times crossed Plumitas' path
without recognizing him. He must be one of those gaunt-looking horsemen
he met in the country solitudes with no town in sight and who raised his
hand to his grimy hat, saying with respectful simplicity:

"God be with you, Señor Marqués!"

Moraima, when he talked of Plumitas, sometimes glanced at Gallardo,
who, with the vehemence of the neophyte, railed against the authorities
because they did not protect property.

"Some fine day he'll present himself to thee at La Rincona', boy," said
the Marquis with his grave drawl.

"Damn it! Well, that will not please me, Señor Marqués. Man alive! And
must one pay such heavy taxes for that?"

No; it would not please him to run against that bandit on his excursions
at La Rinconada. He was a brave man when killing bulls, and he forgot
his life in the ring; but these professional man-killers inspired him
with the terrors of the unknown.

His family was at his plantation. Señora Angustias loved country life
after years spent in poverty in city houses. Carmen also enjoyed the
peace of the country. Her industrious disposition inclined her to see to
the work of the farm, enjoying the sweetness of ownership as she
realized the extent of her property. Moreover, the leather-worker's
children, those nephews and nieces who consoled her for her barrenness,
needed the country air for the good of their health.

Gallardo had promised to join them, but put off his trip with all manner
of pretexts. He lived in his city house without other companionship than
that of Garabato, like a bachelor, and this permitted him complete
liberty in his relations with Doña Sol. He thought this the happiest
time of his life. Sometimes he even forgot the existence of La Rinconada
and its inhabitants.

Mounted on fiery steeds he and Doña Sol rode out in the same costumes as
on that day when they first met, sometimes alone, sometimes in the
company of Don José, who by his presence seemed to mollify the scandal
of the people at this exhibition. They were going to see bulls on the
pastures near Seville, to test calves in the Marquis' herds, and Doña
Sol, eager for danger, was enraptured when a young bull, instead of
running away, turned against her at the prick of her javelin and
attacked her so that Gallardo had to rush to her rescue.

Again they went to the station at Empalme, if a shipment of bulls had
been announced for the plazas which gave extra bull-fights late in the
winter.

Doña Sol curiously examined this place, the most important centre of
exportation for the taurine industry. Near the railroad there were
extensive enclosures in which enormous boxes of gray wood, mounted on
wheels, and with two lift-doors, stood by the dozens, awaiting the busy
times of exhibitions, or the summer bull-fights. These boxes had
travelled all over the Peninsula, carrying noble bulls to distant plazas
and returning empty to be occupied by another, and yet another.

Human fraud and cunning succeeded in managing as easily as merchandise
these wild beasts habituated to the freedom of the country. The bulls
that were to be sent off on the train came galloping along a broad dusty
road between two barbed wire fences. They came from far away pastures,
and as they drew near Empalme their drivers started them on a disorderly
race, so as to deceive them more completely by their scurrying speed. In
advance, at full gallop, rode the overseers and herders, with pikes over
their shoulders, followed by the prudent leaders covering the others
with enormous horns, showing them to be old cattle. After them trotted
the fierce bulls, the wild beasts destined for death, marching well
flanked by tame bulls, who prevented their getting out of the road, and
by strong cowboys who ran, sling in hand, ready to check with an
unerring stone the pair of horns that separated from the group.

When they reached the enclosures the advance riders separated, remaining
outside the gate, and the whole troop of bulls, an avalanche of dust,
kicking, bellowing, and bell ringing, rushed impetuously into the place,
the barricade suddenly closing behind the tail of the last animal.
People astride the walls or peering through the galleries excited them
with shouts or by waving hats. They crossed the first enclosure, not
noticing that they were shut in, but as though they still ran in the
open country. The leaders, taught by experience and obedient to the
herders, stood to one side as soon as they went through the door,
letting the whirlwind of bulls that ran snorting after them, pass
quietly through. They only stopped, with surprise and uncertainty, in
the second enclosure, seeing the wall ahead of them, and as they turned,
they found the gate closed in the rear.

Then the boxing up began. One by one the bulls were urged, by the waving
of rags, by shouts and blows, toward a little lane in the centre of
which was placed the travelling box with its lift-doors. It was like a
little tunnel at the end of which could be seen the open space of other
grassy enclosures and leaders that walked peacefully about; a fiction of
a far-away pasture which attracted the wild beast.

He advanced slowly along the lane, now suspicious of danger and fearing
to set his feet on the gently sloping gangway that led to the box
mounted on wheels. The bull divined peril in this little tunnel which
presented itself before him as an inevitable passage. He felt on his
hind quarters the goad that urged him along the lane, obliging him to
advance; he saw above him two rows of people looking over the barriers
and exciting him with gesticulations and whistles. From the roof of the
box, where the carpenters were hidden ready to let the doors fall, hung
a red rag, waving in the rectangle of light framed by the other exit.
The pricks, the shouts, the shapeless mass that danced before his eyes
as if defying him, and the sight of his tranquil companions pastured on
the other side of the passage, finally decided him. He began to run
through the little tunnel; he made the wooden inclined plane tremble
with his weight, but he had scarcely entered the box when the door in
front fell, and before he could turn back the one behind him slid down.

The loud grating of the locks was heard and the animal was swallowed up
in darkness and silence, a prisoner in a little space wherein he could
only lie down with his legs doubled up. Through a trap in the roof
armfuls of forage fell upon him; men pushed the perambulating dungeon on
its little wheels toward the nearby railroad, and immediately another
box was placed in the passage, repeating the deception, until all the
animals for the _corrida_ were ready to start on their journey.

Doña Sol admired these proceedings in the great national industry with
all her enthusiasm for "color," and longed to imitate the overseers and
cowboys. She loved life in the open, the gallop over the immense plains
followed by sharp horns and bony foreheads that could give death with
the slightest movement. Her soul overflowed with strong love for the
pastoral life which we all feel sometimes within us, as an inheritance
from remote ancestors in that epoch in which man, not yet knowing how to
extract riches from the womb of the earth, lived by gathering the beasts
together and depending on their products for his sustenance. To be a
herder, and a herder of wild beasts, seemed to Doña Sol the most
interesting and heroic of professions.

Gallardo, when he had overcome the first intoxication of his good luck,
contemplated the lady in wonder in the hours when they were alone,
asking himself if all women of the great world were like her. Her
caprices, her versatility, astounded him. He dared not _thou_ her; no,
not that. She had never encouraged him to such familiarity, and once
when he tried it, with hesitating tongue and trembling voice, he saw in
her eyes of gilded splendor such an expression of aloofness that he drew
back ashamed, returning to his old form of address.

She on the other hand used _thou_ in her speech to him, as did the great
gentlemen friends of the bull-fighter, but this was only in hours of
intimacy. Whenever she had to write him a short note, telling him not to
come because she was obliged to go out with her relatives, she used
_you_, and in her letters were no other expressions of affection than
the coldly courteous ones which she might employ when writing to a
friend of the lower class.

"That _gachí!_" murmured Gallardo disheartened. "It seems as if she has
always lived with scrubs who might show her letters to everybody and she
is afraid. Anybody would say she doesn't think me a gentleman because I
am a _matador!_"

Other peculiarities of the great lady made the bull-fighter sulky and
sad. Sometimes, when he presented himself at her house, one of those
servants who looked like fine gentlemen in reduced circumstances coldly
barred the way. "The Señora is not in. The Señora has gone out." And he
guessed it was a lie, feeling Doña Sol's presence a short distance away
on the other side of door and curtains. No doubt she was getting tired,
was feeling a sudden aversion to him, and just at the moment of the call
gave orders to her servants not to receive him.

"Well; the coal is burned up!" said he as he walked away. "I'll never
come back again. That _gachí_ is amusing herself with me."

But when he returned he was ashamed of having believed in the
possibility of not seeing Doña Sol again. She received him holding out
to him white firm arms like those of an Amazon, her eyes wide and
wandering, with a strange light that seemed to reflect mental disorder.

"Why dost thou perfume thyself?" she complained, as though she perceived
the most repugnant odors. "It is something unworthy of thee. I wish thee
to smell of bulls, of horses. What rich odors! Dost thou not love them?
Tell me yes, Juanín; beast of God, my animal!"

One afternoon the bull-fighter, seeing her inclined to confidences, felt
curiosity regarding her past and asked about the kings and great
personages who, according to gossip, had crossed Doña Sol's life.

She responded with a cold look in her light eyes.

"And what does that matter to thee? Thou art jealous, maybe? And even if
it were true, what then?"

She remained silent a long while, her gaze wandering, her look of
madness accompanied always by fantastic thoughts.

"Thou must have beaten women," she said, looking at him with curiosity.
"Deny it not. That would greatly interest me! Not thy wife; I know that
she is good. I mean other women, all those that bull-fighters meet; the
women that love with more fury the more they are beaten. No? Truly hast
thou never beaten one?"

Gallardo protested with the dignity of a brave man, incapable of
ill-treating those who were not so strong as he. Doña Sol showed a
certain disappointment on hearing his explanations.

"Some day thou must beat me. I want to know what that is." She spoke
with resolution, and then her face clouded, her brows met, a blue
effulgence animated the gold dust of her pupils.

"No, my strong man; mind me not; risk it not. Thou wouldst come out the
loser."

The advice was valid and Gallardo had occasion to remember it. One day,
in a moment of intimacy, a somewhat rude caress from his bull-fighter
hands awoke the fury of this woman who was attracted to the fellow--and
hated him at the same time. "Take that!" And her right hand, clenched
and hard as a club, gave a blow up and down the swordsman's jaw, with an
accuracy that seemed to follow fixed rules of defence.

Gallardo was stupefied with pain and shame, while the lady, as if she
understood the suddenness of her aggression, tried to justify it with a
cold hostility.

"That is to teach thee a lesson. I know what you are, you bull-fighters.
If I should let myself be trampled on once thou wouldst end by flogging
me every day like a gypsy of Triana. That was well done. Distances must
be preserved."

One afternoon, in the early spring, they were returning from a testing
of calves in the Marquis' pasture. He, with a troop of horsemen, rode
along the highway. Doña Sol, followed by the swordsman, turned her horse
through the fields, enjoying the elasticity of the sod under the horses'
feet. The setting sun dyed the verdure of the plain a soft purple, the
wild flowers dotted it with white and yellow. Across this expanse, on
which the colors took the ruddy tone of distant fire, the shadows of the
riders were outlined, long and slender. The spears they carried on their
shoulders were so gigantic in the shadow that their dark lines were lost
on the horizon. On one side shone the course of the river like a sheet
of reddish steel--half hidden in the grass. Doña Sol looked at Gallardo
with imperious eyes.

"Put thy arm around my waist!"

The swordsman obeyed and thus they rode, the two horses close together,
the riders united from the waist up. The lady contemplated their blended
shadows through the magic light of the meadow moving ahead of their slow
march.

"It seems as though we were living in another world," she murmured, "a
world of legend; something like the scenes one sees on tapestries or
reads of in books of knight errantry; the knight and the Amazon
travelling together with the lance over the shoulder, enamoured and
seeking adventure and danger. But thou dost not understand that, beast
of my soul. Isn't it true that thou dost not comprehend me?"

The bull-fighter smiled, showing his wholesome, strong teeth of
gleaming whiteness. She, as if charmed by his rude ignorance, pressed
her body against his, letting her head fall on his shoulder and
trembling at the caress of Gallardo's breath upon her neck. Thus they
rode in silence. Doña Sol seemed to be sleeping. Suddenly she opened her
eyes and in them shone that strange expression that was a forerunner of
the most extravagant questions.

"Tell me, hast thou ever killed a man?"

Gallardo was agitated, and in his astonishment drew away from Doña Sol.
Who? He? Never! He was a good fellow who had made his way without doing
harm to anybody. He had scarcely ever quarrelled with his companions in
the _capeas_, not even when they kept the copper coins because they were
stronger. A few fisticuffs in some disputes with his comrades in the
profession; a blow with a flask in a _café_; these were the sum of his
deeds. He was inspired with an invincible respect for the life of man.
Bulls were another thing!

"So thou hast never had a desire to kill a man? And I thought that
bull-fighters--!"

The sun hid itself, the meadow lost its fantastic illumination, the
light on the river went out, and the lady saw the tapestry scene she had
admired so much become dark and commonplace. The other horsemen rode far
in advance and she spurred her steed to join the group, without a word
to Gallardo, as if she took no heed of his following her.



CHAPTER VIII

DIAMONDS IN THE RING


Gallardo's family returned to the city for the _fiestas_ of Holy Week.
He was to fight in the Easter _corrida_. It was the first time he would
kill in the presence of Doña Sol since his acquaintance with her, and
this troubled him and made him doubt his strength.

Besides he could not fight in Seville without a certain emotion. He
would be resigned to a calamity in any other town of Spain, knowing he
would not return there for a long while; but in his own city, where were
his greatest enemies!

"We shall see if thou dost shine," said the manager. "Think of those who
will see thee. I want thee to be the greatest man in the world."

On Holy Saturday the penning in of the bulls destined for the _corrida_
took place in the small hours of the night, and Doña Sol wished to
assist in this operation as _piquero_. The bulls must be conducted from
the pasture ground of Tablada to the enclosures in the plaza.

Gallardo did not assist, in spite of his desire to accompany Doña Sol.
The manager opposed it, alleging the necessity of his resting to be
fresh and vigorous on the following afternoon. At midnight the road that
leads from the pasture to the plaza was animated like a fair. The
windows of the taverns were illuminated, and before them passed linked
shadows moving with the steps of the dance to the sound of the pianos.
From the inns, the red doorways flashed rectangles of light over the
dark ground, and in their interiors arose shouts, laughter, twanging of
guitars, and clinking of glasses, a sign that wine circulated in
abundance.

About one in the morning a horseman passed up the road at a short trot.
He was the herald, a rough herder who stopped before the inns and
illuminated houses, announcing that the bulls for the penning-in were to
pass in a quarter of an hour, and asking that the lights be put out and
all remain in silence.

This command in the name of the national fiesta was obeyed with more
celerity than an order from high authority. The houses were darkened and
their whiteness was blended with the sombre mass of the trees; the
people became quiet, hiding themselves behind window-grilles, palisades,
and wire-fences, in the silence of those who await an extraordinary
event. On the walks near the river, one by one the gas lights were
extinguished as the herder advanced announcing the penning-in.

All was silent. In the sky, above the masses of trees, the stars
sparkled in the dense calm of space; below, along the ground, a slight
movement was heard, as if countless insects swarmed thick in the
darkness. The wait seemed long until the solemn tinkling of far away
bells rang out in the cool stillness. They are coming! There they are!

Louder rose the clash and clamor of the copper bells, accompanied by a
confused galloping that made the earth tremble. First passed a body of
horsemen at full speed, with lances held low, gigantic in the obscure
light. These were the herders. Then a troop of amateur lancers, among
whom was Doña Sol, panting from this mad race through the shadows in
which one false step of the horse, a fall, meant death by being trampled
beneath the hard feet of the ferocious herd that came behind, blind in
their disorderly race.

The bells rang furiously; the open mouths of the spectators hidden in
the darkness swallowed clouds of dust, and the fierce herd passed like a
nightmare--shapeless monsters of the night that trotted heavily and
swiftly, shaking their masses of flesh, emitting hideous bellowings,
goring at the shadows, but frightened and irritated by the shouts of the
under-herder who followed on foot, and by the galloping of the horsemen
that brought up the rear, harassing them with goads.

The passage of this heavy and noisy troop lasted but an instant. Now
there was nothing more to be seen. The crowd, satisfied at this fleeting
spectacle after the long wait, came out of their hiding-places, and many
enthusiasts started to run after the herd with the hope of seeing it
enter the enclosures.

The amateur lancers congratulated themselves on the great success of the
penning-in. The herd had come well flanked without a single bull
straying or getting away or making trouble for lancers and _peones_.
They were fine-blooded animals; the very best of the Marquis' herd. On
the morrow, if the _maestros_ showed bull-fighter pride, they were going
to see great things. And in the hope of a grand _fiesta_ riders and
_peones_ departed. One hour afterward the environs of the plaza were
dark and deserted, holding in their bowels the ferocious beasts which
fell quietly into the last sleep of their lives in this prison.

The following morning Juan Gallardo rose early. He had slept badly, with
a restlessness that filled his dreams with nightmare.

He wished they would not give him _corridas_ in Seville! In other towns
he lived like a bachelor, forgetting his family momentarily, in a
strange room in a hotel that did not suggest anything, as it contained
nothing personal. But to dress himself in his glittering costume in his
own bed-chamber, seeing on chairs and tables objects that reminded him
of Carmen; to go out to meet danger from that house which he had built
and which held the most intimate belongings of his existence,
disconcerted him and produced as great uneasiness as if he were going to
kill his first bull. Ah! the terrible moment of leaving, when, dressed
by Garabato in the shining costume, he descended to the silent
courtyard! His nephews approached him awed by the brilliant ornaments of
his apparel, touching them with admiration, not daring to speak; his
be-whiskered sister gave him a kiss with an expression of terror, as if
he were going to his death; his _mamita_ hid herself in the darkest
rooms. No, she could not see him; she felt sick. Carmen was animated but
very pale, her lips, purple from emotion, were compressed, her
eye-lashes moved nervously in the effort to keep herself calm and when
she at last saw him in the vestibule, she suddenly raised her
handkerchief to her eyes, her body was shaken by tremendous sobs, and
his sister and other women had to support her that she might not fall to
the floor.

It was enough to daunt even the very Roger de Flor of whom his
brother-in-law talked.

"Damn it! Man alive!" said Gallardo. "Not for all the gold in the world
would I fight in Seville, if it were not to give pleasure to my
countrymen and so that the shameless brutes cannot say that I'm afraid
of the home audiences."

He walked through the house with a cigarette in his mouth, stretching
himself to see if his muscular arms kept their agility. He took a cup of
Cazalla in the kitchen and watched his _mamita_, ever industrious in
spite of her years and her flesh, moving about near the fireplaces,
treating the servants with maternal vigilance, managing everything for
the good government of the house.

Garabato came to announce that friends were waiting for him in the
courtyard. They were enthusiastic connoisseurs, the admirers who called
on him on bull-fight days. The _matador_ instantly forgot all his
anxieties and went out smiling, his head thrown back, his bearing
arrogant, as if the bulls that awaited him in the plaza were personal
enemies whom he desired to face as soon as possible and make them bite
the dust with his unerring sword.

The farewell was, as on other occasions, disconcerting and disturbing to
Gallardo. The women fled so as not to see him go, all except Carmen, who
forced herself to keep serene, and accompanied him to the door; the
astonishment and curiosity of his little nephews annoyed the
bull-fighter, arrogant and manful now that the hour of danger had come.

"I should think they were taking me to the gallows! Well, see you later!
Don't worry, nothing is going to happen."

And he stepped into his carriage, forcing his way among the neighbors
and the curious grouped before his house, who wished good luck to Señor
Juan.

The afternoons when the bull-fighter fought in Seville were agonizing
for his family as well as for himself. They had not the same resignation
as on other occasions when they had to wait patiently for nightfall and
the arrival of the telegram. Here the danger was near at hand and this
aroused anxiety for news and the desire to know the progress of the
_corrida_ every quarter of an hour.

The leather-worker, dressed like a gentleman, in a fine light woollen
suit and a silky white felt hat, offered his services to the women in
sending messages, although he was furious at the neglect of his
illustrious brother-in-law who had not even offered him a seat in the
coach! At the termination of each bull that Juan killed, he would send
news of the event by one of the boys who swarmed around the plaza.

The _corrida_ was a noisy success for Gallardo. As he entered the ring
and heard the applause of the multitude, he felt that he had grown
several inches taller. He knew the soil he trod; it was familiar; he
felt it his own. The sand of the various arenas exercised a certain
influence on his superstitious soul. He recollected the great plazas of
Valencia and Barcelona with their whitish ground, the dark sand of the
plazas of the north, and the reddish earth of the great ring of Madrid.
The arena of Seville was different from the others--sand from the
Guadalquivir, a deep yellow, as if it were pulverized paint. When the
disembowelled horses shed their blood upon it, Gallardo thought of the
colors of the national flag, that floated over the roof around the
ring.

The diverse architecture of the plazas also influenced the
bull-fighter's imagination, which was readily agitated by the
phantasmagoria of uneasiness. There were rings of more or less recent
construction, some in Roman style, others Moorish, which had the
banality of new churches where all seems empty and colorless. The plaza
of Seville was a taurine cathedral of memories familiar to many
generations, with its façade recalling a past century--a time when the
men wore the powdered wig--and its ochre ring, which the most stupendous
heroes had trod. It had known the glorious inventors of difficult feats,
the perfecters of the art, the heavy champions of the _round school_
with its correct and dignified bull-fighting system, the agile, gay
_maestros_ of the Sevillian school with their plays and mobility that
set the audiences wild--and there he, too, on that afternoon,
intoxicated by the applause, by the sun, by the clamor, and by the sight
of a white _mantilla_ and a blue-clad figure leaning over the railing of
a box, felt equal to the most heroic deeds.

Gallardo seemed to fill the ring with his agility and daring, anxious to
outshine his companions, and eager that the applause should be for him
alone. His admirers had never seen him so great. The manager, after each
one of his brave deeds, arose and shouted, defying invisible enemies
hidden in the masses on the seats: "Let's see who dares say a word! The
greatest man in the world!"

The second bull Gallardo was to kill Nacional drew, with skilful
cape-work, to the foot of the box where sat Doña Sol in blue gown and
white _mantilla_, with the Marquis and his two daughters. Gallardo
walked close to the barrier with sword and _muleta_ in one hand,
followed by the eyes of the multitude, and when he stood before the box,
he looked up, taking off his cap. He was going to tender his bull to the
niece of the Marquis of Moraima! Many smiled with a malicious
expression. "Hurrah for the lucky boys!" He gave a half turn, throwing
down his cap to end his speech, and awaited the bull which the _peones_
were drawing over by the play of the cape. In a short time, managing so
that the bull did not get away from this place, the _matador_
accomplished his feat. He wished to kill under the very eyes of Doña Sol
so that, at close range, she should see him defying danger. Each pass of
his _muleta_ was accompanied by acclamations of enthusiasm and shouts of
fear. The horns passed close to his breast; it seemed impossible for him
to escape the attacks of the bull without losing blood. Suddenly he
squared himself, with the sword raised for attack, and before the
audience could voice their opinions with shouts and counsel, he swiftly
threw himself upon the brute and man and animal formed but a single
body.

When the _matador_ drew away and stood motionless, the bull ran with
halting step, bellowing, with distended nostrils, his tongue hanging
between his lips and the red hilt of the sword visible in his
blood-stained neck. He fell a few steps away and the audience rose to
its feet _en masse_ as though it were a single body moved by a powerful
spring; the outburst of applause and the fury of the acclamations broke
out in a violent storm. There was not another brave man in the world
equal to Gallardo! Could that youth ever once have felt fear?

The swordsman saluted before the box, extending his arms holding the
sword and _muleta_, while Doña Sol's white-gloved hands beat together in
a fever of applause.

Then something flew past spectator after spectator, from the box to the
barrier. It was a lady's handkerchief, the one she carried in her hand,
a fragrant tiny square of batiste and lace drawn through a ring of
brilliants that she presented to the bull-fighter in exchange for this
honor.

Applause broke out again at this gift, and the attention of the
audience, fixed until then on the _matador_, was distracted, many
turning their backs to the ring, to look at Doña Sol, praising her
beauty in loud voices with the familiarity of Andalusian gallantry. A
small, hairy triangle, still warm, was passed from hand to hand from the
barrier to the box. It was the bull's ear, which the _matador_ sent in
testimony of his _brindis_.

At the close of the bull-fight, news of Gallardo's great success spread
throughout the city. When he arrived at his house the neighbors awaited
him at the door, applauding him as if they had actually witnessed the
_corrida_.

The leather-worker, forgetting his anger at the swordsman, candidly
admired him, though more for his valuable friendship than for his
success as a bull-fighter. He had long kept his eye on a certain
position which he no longer doubted his ability to get, now that his
brother-in-law had friends among the best in Seville.

"Show them the ring. See, Encarnación, what a fine gift! Not even Roger
de Flor himself--!"

And the ring was passed around among the women, who admired it with
exclamations of enthusiasm. Only Carmen made a wry face when she saw it.
"Yes, very pretty," and she passed it to her sister-in-law, as though
it burned her hands.

After this bull-fight, the season of travel began for Gallardo. He had
more contracts than in any previous year. Following the _corrida_ in
Madrid he had to fight in all the rings in Spain. His manager studied
train schedules and made interminable calculations for the guidance of
his _matador_.

Gallardo passed from success to success. He had never felt in better
spirits. It seemed as though he carried a new force within him. Before
the bull-fights cruel doubts assailed him, anxieties he had never felt
in the hard times when he was just beginning to make a name for himself;
but the moment he entered the ring these fears vanished and he displayed
a fierce courage accompanied ever by great success.

After his work, in whatever plaza of the provinces, he returned to his
hotel followed by his _cuadrilla_, for they all lived together. He
seated himself, glowing with the pleasant fatigue of triumph, without
removing his glittering costume, and the connoisseurs of the community
came to congratulate him. He had been colossal! He was the greatest
bull-fighter in the world. That stab when he killed the fourth bull!

"Is it really so?" asked Gallardo with infantile pride. "That wasn't
bad, sure."

And with the interminable verbosity of all conversation about bulls,
time passed unheeded by the bull-fighter and his admirers, who never
tired of talking of the _corrida_ of the afternoon and of others that
had taken place some years before. Night closed in, lights were brought,
yet the devotees did not go. The _cuadrilla_, obedient to the
discipline of the profession, silently listened to their gossip at one
end of the room. Until the _maestro_ gave them permission, the boys
could not go to dress and eat. The _picadores_, fatigued by the heavy
iron armor on their legs and by the terrific falls from their horses,
shifted their beaver hats from knee to knee; the _banderilleros_,
prisoners in their garments of silk, wet with sweat, were hungry after
an afternoon of violent exercise. All had but a single thought and cast
terrible glances at the enthusiasts.

"But when will these tiresome old uncles go? Damn their souls!"

Finally the _matador_ remembered them. "You may retire." And the
_cuadrilla_ went out crowding each other like a school set free, while
the _maestro_ continued listening to the praises of the "intelligent,"
without thinking of Garabato who silently awaited the moment of
undressing him.

During his days of rest, the _maestro_, free from the excitement and
danger of glory, turned his thoughts to Seville. Now and then he
received one of those brief, perfumed little notes. Ah! if he had Doña
Sol with him!

In this continual travel from one audience to another, adored by the
enthusiasts, who desired to have him spend a pleasant time in their
town, he met women and attended entertainments gotten up in his honor.
He always went away from these feasts with his brain clouded by wine and
in a fit of ferocious sadness that made him intractable. He felt a cruel
desire to ill-treat the women. It was an irresistible impulse to revenge
himself for the aggressiveness and caprices of that other woman on those
of her own sex.

There were moments when it was necessary to confide his sorrows to
Nacional with that irresistible impulse to confession felt by those who
carry a great weight on their minds. Moreover the _banderillero_ awoke
in him, when far from Seville, a greater affection, a reflected
tenderness. Sebastián knew of his love affair with Doña Sol. He had seen
it, although from afar, and she had often laughed on hearing Gallardo
tell of the _banderillero's_ eccentricities.

Nacional received the _maestro's_ confidences with an expression of
severity.

"The thing thou shouldst do, Juan, is to forget that lady. Remember that
peace in the family is worth more than anything else for us who go about
the world exposed to the danger of coming home useless forever. Remember
that Carmen knows more than thou dost think. She knows everything. She
has asked indirect questions even of me about thy affairs with the
Marquis' niece. Poor girl! It is a sin that thou shouldst make her
suffer. She has her temper, and if she lets it loose she'll give thee
trouble."

But Gallardo, far from his family, his thought dominated by the memory
of Doña Sol, seemed not to understand the dangers of which Nacional
discoursed, and he shrugged his shoulders at such sentimental scruples.

He needed to speak his thoughts, to make his friend participate in his
past joys, with the pride of a satisfied lover who wishes to be admired
in his happiness.

"But thou dost not know that woman! Thou, Sebastián, art an unfortunate
fellow that knowest not the best in life. Imagine all the women of
Seville put together! Nothing! Imagine all those of all the towns where
we have been! Nothing, either! There is only Doña Sol. When one knows a
lady like that one has no mind for any other. If thou didst know her as
I do, boy! The woman of our kind smell of clean flesh, of white
clothing. But this one, Sebastián, this one! Imagine all the roses of
the gardens of the Alcázar together. No, it is something better; imagine
jasmine, honeysuckle, and perfume of vines like those that must grow in
the garden of Paradise. But her sweet odors come from within, as if she
did not put them on, as if they came from her very blood. And besides,
she is not one of those who, once seen, are forever the same. With her
there is always something yet to be desired; something one longs for and
that doesn't come. In fine, Sebastián, I cannot explain myself well--but
thou knowest not what a lady is; so preach not to me and shut thy beak."

Gallardo no longer received letters from Seville. Doña Sol was
travelling in foreign lands. He saw her once when he fought at San
Sebastián. The beautiful lady was at Biarritz and she came in company
with some French women who wished to meet the bull-fighter. He saw her
one afternoon. She went away and he had only vague knowledge of her
during the summer through the few letters he received and through the
news his manager communicated from chance words dropped by the Marquis
of Moraima.

She was at elegant watering-places whose very names Gallardo heard for
the first time, and they were of impossible pronunciation for him; then
he heard that she was travelling in England; afterward that she had gone
on to Germany to hear some operas sung in a wonderful theatre that only
opened its doors a few weeks each year. Gallardo lost faith in ever
seeing her again. She was a bird of passage, venturesome and restless,
and he dared not hope that she would seek her nest in Seville again when
winter returned. This possibility saddened him and revealed the power
this woman had exercised over his body and his mind. Never to see her
again? Why then expose his life and be celebrated? Of what use was the
applause of the multitude?

His manager tried to soothe him. She would return; he was sure. She
would return, if only for a year. Doña Sol, with all her mad caprices,
was a practical woman, who knew how to look out for her property. She
needed the Marquis' help to unravel the business tangles of her own
fortune and that which her husband had left her, both diminished by a
long and luxurious sojourn far from home.

Gallardo returned to Seville at the end of the summer. He still had a
goodly number of autumn bull-fights, but he wished to take advantage of
nearly a month of rest. His family was at the seashore at Sanlúcar, for
the health of the little nephews, who needed the salt-water cure.

Gallardo was overcome with emotion when his manager announced one day
that Doña Sol had just arrived, unexpected by any one. He went to see
her immediately, but after a few words he felt intimidated by her frigid
amiability and the expression of her eyes.

She gazed at him as if he were a stranger. He divined in her manner a
certain surprise at the bull-fighter's rough exterior, at the difference
between herself and this youth, a mere killer of beasts. He also divined
the gulf that had opened between the two. She seemed to him a different
woman; a great dame of another land and race.

They chatted pleasantly. She seemed to have forgotten the past, and
Gallardo lacked the courage to remind her of it, nor did he dare to make
the slightest advance, fearing one of her outbursts of anger.

"Seville!" said Doña Sol. "Very pretty--very agreeable. But there are
other places in the world. I tell you, Gallardo, that some day I am
going to take my flight forever. I foresee that I am going to be very
much bored here. It seems to me my Seville has changed."

She no longer _thou_-ed him. Several days passed before the bull-fighter
dared to remind her of other times during his calls. He limited himself
to contemplating her in silence, with his moist, adoring Moorish eyes.

"I am bored. I may leave any day," exclaimed the lady at every one of
their interviews.

Once again the servant with the imposing air met the bull-fighter at the
inner gate and told him the Señora had gone out when he knew for a
certainty she was in the house.

Gallardo told her one afternoon about a short excursion he must take to
his plantation at La Rinconada. He must look at some olive orchards his
manager had bought during his absence to add to his estate; he must also
acquaint himself with the progress of the work on the plantation.

The idea of accompanying the _matador_ on this excursion occurred to
Doña Sol and made her smile at its absurdity and daring. To go to that
hacienda where Gallardo's family spent a part of the year! To invade
with the scandalous audacity of irregularity and sin that tranquil
atmosphere of domestic life where the poor youth lived with those of his
own home! The very absurdity of the idea decided her. She would go; it
would interest her to see La Rinconada.

Gallardo was afraid. He thought of the people on the plantation, of the
gossips who would tell his family about this trip. But the look in Doña
Sol's eyes overthrew his scruples. Who could tell! Maybe this trip would
bring back the old situation.

He wished, however, to offer a final obstacle to this desire.

"And Plumitas? Remember about him; they say that he is around La
Rinconada."

"Ah! Plumitas!" Doña Sol's countenance, clouded by _ennui_, seemed to
clear by a sudden flash from within. "How charming! I would be delighted
if you could present him."

Gallardo arranged the trip. He had expected to go alone, but Doña Sol's
company obliged him to take an escort for fear of an unhappy adventure
on the road. He sought Potaje, the _picador_. He was a rough fellow, and
feared nothing in the world but his gypsy wife, who, when she grew tired
of taking beatings, tried to bite him. No need to give explanations to
him--only wine in abundance. Alcohol and the atrocious falls in the ring
kept him in a perpetual state of stupidity, as if his head buzzed and
prevented him from saying more than a few words and permitted him but a
clouded vision of things in general.

Gallardo also ordered Nacional to go with them; one more, and that was
discretion beyond all doubt.

The _banderillero_ obeyed from force of habit but grumbled when he heard
that Doña Sol was going with them.

"By the life of the blue dove! Must a father of a family see himself
mixed up in these ugly affairs! What will Carmen and Seña' Angustias say
about me if they find it out?"

When he found himself in the open country, placed beside Potaje on the
seat of an automobile, in front of the _matador_ and the great lady, his
anger little by little vanished. He could not see her well, hidden as
she was in a great blue veil that fell from her travelling cap and
floated over her yellow silk coat; but she was very beautiful. And such
conversation! And such knowledge of things!

Before half the journey was over, Nacional, with his twenty-five years
of marital fidelity, excused the weakness of the _matador_, and made
vain efforts to explain his enthusiasm to himself.

"Whoever found himself in the same situation would do the same.

"Education! A fine thing, capable of giving respectability to even the
greatest sins."



CHAPTER IX

BREAKFAST WITH THE BANDIT


"Let him tell thee who he is--or else let the devil take him. Damn the
luck! Can't a man sleep?"

Nacional heard this answer through the door of his master's room, and
transmitted it to a _peón_ belonging to the hacienda who stood waiting
on the stairs.

"Let him tell thee who he is! Unless he does, the master won't get up."

It was eight o'clock. The _banderillero_ peeped out of the window,
following with his gaze the _peón_ who ran along the road in front of
the plantation until he came to the farther end of the wire fence that
surrounded the estate. Near the entrance to this enclosure he saw a man
on horseback,--so small in the distance, both man and horse seemed to
have stepped out of a box of toys.

The laborer soon returned, after having talked with the horseman.
Nacional, interested in these goings and comings, received him at the
foot of the stairs.

"He says he must see the master," faltered the _peón_. "He looks like an
ill-tempered fellow. He says he wants the master to come down at once
because he's got news for him."

The _banderillero_ hastened upstairs to pound on the master's door
again, paying no attention to his protests. He must get up; it was late
for the country and that man might bring an important message.

"I'm coming!" said Gallardo, gruffly, without rising from his bed.

Nacional peeped out again and saw that the horseman was advancing along
the road toward the farmhouse.

The _peón_ ran out with the answer. He, poor man, seemed nervous, and in
his two dialogues with the _banderillero_ stammered with an expression
of fear and doubt as though not daring to reveal his thoughts. When he
joined the man on horseback, he listened to him a few moments and then
returned on a run toward the house, this time with even more
precipitation. Nacional heard him come up the stairs with no abatement
of speed, till he stood before him, trembling and pale.

"It's Plumitas, Señor Sebastián! He says he's Plumitas and that he must
talk to the master. My heart told me that the minute I saw him."

Plumitas! The voice of the _peón_, in spite of his stammering and his
panting with fatigue, seemed to pierce the walls and scatter through
every room as he pronounced this name. The _banderillero_ was struck
dumb with surprise. The sound of oaths accompanied by the swish of
clothing and the thud of a body that hastily flung itself out of bed
were heard in the master's room. In the one Doña Sol occupied there was
a sudden activity that seemed to respond to the tremendous news.

"But, damn him! What does that man want with me? Why does he intrude
himself at La Rinconada? And especially just now!"

It was Gallardo who rushed madly out of his room, with only his trousers
and jacket hurriedly thrown on over his underclothing. He ran past the
_banderillero_, and threw himself down the stairs, followed by
Nacional.

The rider was dismounting before the door. A herder was holding the
reins of the mare and the other workmen formed a group a short distance
away, contemplating the newcomer with curiosity and respect.

He was a man of medium stature, stocky rather than tall, full-faced,
blonde, and with short strong limbs. He was dressed in a gray blouse
trimmed with black braid, dark, well-worn breeches with a double
thickness of cloth on the inside of the leg, and leathern leggings
cracked by sun, rain, and mud. Under his blouse his girth was enlarged
by the addition of a heavy girdle and a cartridge-belt, to which were
added the bulkiness of a heavy revolver and a formidable knife. In his
right hand he carried a repeating carbine. A hat which had once been
white covered his head, its brim flapping and worn ragged by the
inclement weather. A red handkerchief knotted around his neck was the
gayest adornment of his person.

His countenance, broad and chub-cheeked, had the placidity of a full
moon. His cheeks still revealed the fair skin through their heavy tan;
the sharp points of a blonde beard, not shaven for many days, protruded,
gleaming like old gold in the sunlight. His eyes were the only
disquieting feature of his kindly face, which looked like that of a
village sacristan; eyes small and triangular, sunken in bubbles of
fat--narrow eyes, that reminded one of the eyes of pigs, with a wicked
pupil of dark blue.

When Gallardo appeared at the door of the farmhouse the bandit
recognized him instantly and lifted his hat from his round head.

"God give you good-day, Señor Juan," he said with the grave courtesy of
the Andalusian country people.

"Good-day."

"The family well, Señor Juan?"

"Well, thanks, and yours?" asked the matador with the automatism of
custom.

"Well, also, I believe. I haven't seen them for some time."

The two men had drawn near together, examining one another at close
range with simple frankness as though they were two travellers met in
the open country. The bull-fighter was pale and his lips were compressed
to hide his emotion. Did the bandit think he was going to scare him? On
another occasion perhaps this visit would have frightened him; but now,
having upstairs whom he had, he felt equal to fighting him as though he
were a bull, should he announce any evil intentions.

Some seconds passed in silence. All the men of the plantation who had
not gone to their labors in the field, obsessed by the dark fame of his
name, contemplated this terrible personage with an amazement that had in
it something infantile.

"Can they take the mare to the stable to rest a little?" asked the
bandit.

Gallardo made a sign and a boy tugged at the animal's reins, leading her
away.

"Care for her well," said Plumitas. "Remember that she's the best thing
I've got in the world and that I love her more than my wife and
children."

Potaje now came out with his shirt unbuttoned, stretching himself with
all the brutal bigness of his athletic body. He rubbed his eyes, always
blood-shot and inflamed from abuse of drink, and striding up to the
bandit he let a great rough hand fall on one of his shoulders with
studied familiarity, as if he enjoyed making him wince beneath his fist,
but expressing to him at the same time a rude sympathy.

"How art thou, Plumitas?"

He had not seen him before. The bandit shrank back as though to spring
from this rude caress, and his right hand raised his rifle, but the blue
eyes, fastened on the _picador_, seemed to recognize him.

"Thou art Potaje, if I don't deceive myself. I have seen thee stir up
the bulls at Seville and in other plazas. Comrade, what terrible falls
thou hast suffered! How strong thou art! As though made of iron."

And to return his greeting, he grasped one of Potaje's arms with his
callous hand, feeling his muscle with a smile of admiration. The two
stood gazing at one another with affectionate eyes. The _picador_
laughed sonorously.

"Ho! Ho! I imagined thee a bigger man, Plumitas. But it matters not;
take thee altogether, thou art a fine fellow."

The bandit turned to Gallardo:

"Can I breakfast here?"

Gallardo made a gesture of the _gran señor_.

"Nobody who comes to La Rincona' goes without breakfasting."

They all entered the kitchen of the farmhouse, a vast room with a
bell-shaped chimney, the habitual place of these gatherings.

The _matador_ seated himself in an arm-chair; the farmer's daughter
busied herself putting on his shoes, for he had rushed down in his
slippers.

Nacional, wishing to show signs of existence and tranquillized now by
the courteous aspect of the visitor, appeared with a bottle of native
wine and glasses.

"I know thee, also," said the bandit with as much politeness as to the
_picador_. "I have seen thee lodge the _banderillas_. When thou wishest
thou dost it well; but thou shouldst get closer."

Potaje and the _maestro_ laughed at this counsel. When he went to raise
his glass, Plumitas was embarrassed by his carbine, which he held
between his knees.

"Say, man, put that down," said the _picador_. "Must thou keep on guard
even when thou goest on a visit?"

The bandit grew serious. It was all right where it was; it was his
custom. The rifle accompanied him always, even when he slept. And this
allusion to the weapon, which was like an additional member, ever united
to his body, turned him grave again. He looked in all directions with a
nervous restlessness. Anxiety showed in his face the habit of living
alert, of trusting nobody, with no other reliance than his own strength,
having a presentiment of danger near him every hour.

A herder walked through the kitchen in the direction of the door.

"Where's that man going?"

As he said this he rose in his seat, drawing the rifle towards his
breast with his knees.

He was bound for a large field nearby where the farm laborers were
working. Plumitas settled himself peacefully again.

"Listen, Señor Juan. I have come for the pleasure of seeing you and
because I know you are a gentleman, incapable of breathing a whisper
against me. Besides, you must have heard talk of Plumitas. 'Tis not
easy to catch him and whoever does it shall pay for it."

The _picador_ intervened before his _maestro_ could speak.

"Plumitas, don't be silly. Here thou art among comrades while thou dost
behave and carry thyself decently."

And the bandit, becoming suddenly relieved, began to talk to the
_picador_ about his mare, boasting of her merits. The two men met on a
common ground of enthusiasm as fearless riders, which caused them to
regard horses with more affection than people.

Gallardo, still somewhat restless, walked about the kitchen, while the
brown, broad-shouldered women of the farm stirred the fire and prepared
breakfast, looking out of the corners of their eyes at the celebrated
Plumitas. In one of his evolutions he drew near Nacional. He must go to
Doña Sol's room and beg her not to come down. The bandit would surely go
after breakfast. Why let herself be seen by this annoying personage?

The _banderillero_ disappeared, and Plumitas noticing that the _maestro_
was taking no part in the conversation, turned to him, asking him with
interest about the rest of the season's bull-fights.

"I am a Gallardist, you know. I have applauded you more times than you
can imagine. I have seen you in Seville, in Jaén, in Córdova, in many
places."

Gallardo was surprised at this. How could he, who had a veritable army
of persecutors at his heels, quietly attend bull-fights? Plumitas smiled
with an expression of superiority.

"Bah! I go where I wish. I am everywhere."

Then he told of the occasions when he had seen the _matador_ on the way
to the plantation, sometimes accompanied, sometimes alone, passing him
close in the road without being noticed, as though he were a humble
herder riding on his nag to carry a message to some nearby hut.

"When you came from Seville to buy the two mills you have below, I met
you on the road. You were carrying five thousand _duros_. Were you not?
Tell the truth. You see I know all about it. Again I saw you in one of
those 'animals' they call automobiles, with another gentleman from
Seville, your manager, I think. You were going to sign the papers for
the Priests' olive orchard and you were carrying a still larger bag of
money."

Gallardo little by little recalled the exactness of these facts, and
looked with astonishment at this man who was informed of everything. And
the bandit went on to tell how little respect he had for obstacles.

"You see those things they call automobiles? Mere trifles! Such vermin I
stop with nothing but this." And he touched his rifle. "In Córdova I had
accounts to settle with a rich _señor_ who was my enemy. I planted my
mare on one side of the road and when the beast came along, raising dust
and stinking of petroleum, I shouted 'Halt!' It wouldn't stop, and I let
the thing that goes around the wheel have a ball. To abbreviate: the
auto stopped a little farther on and I set out at a gallop to join the
_señor_ and settle accounts. A man that can send a ball where he wants
to can stop anything on the road."

Gallardo listened in astonishment to Plumitas' calm professional talk of
his deeds on the highway.

"There was no reason for stopping you. You do not belong to the rich.
You spring from the poor as I do, but with better luck, with more of
fortune in your work than I, and if you have made money you have well
earned it. I have great respect for you, Señor Juan. I like you because
you are a brave _matador_ and I have a weakness for valiant men. We two
are almost comrades; we both live by exposing our lives. So, although
you did not know me, I was there, watching you pass, without even asking
for a cigarette, to see that nobody dared so much as touch one of your
finger nails; to see that no shameless fellow took advantage of you by
riding out into the road and saying he was Plumitas, for stranger things
have happened."

An unexpected apparition ended the bandit's speech and moved the
bull-fighter's countenance to anger. "Damn it! Doña Sol!" But hadn't
Nacional given her his message? The _banderillero_ followed the lady,
and as he stood in the kitchen door he made gestures of despair to
indicate to the _maestro_ that his prayers and counsel had been useless.

Doña Sol came in wearing her travelling cloak, her golden hair loosely
combed and knotted in all haste. Plumitas at the plantation! What joy!
She had been thinking of him half the night with sweet thrills of
terror, proposing to herself to ride over all the lonely places near La
Rinconada, hoping good luck would cause her to fall in with the
interesting bandit. And, as if her thoughts had exercised a power of
attraction, the highwayman had obeyed her desires and presented himself
at the plantation early in the morning!

Plumitas! That name brought to her mind the typical figure of a bandit.
She hardly needed to meet him; she would scarcely experience surprise.
She imagined him tall, well-formed, well-browned, with a three-cornered
hat above a red handkerchief, from beneath which fell jet black curls;
his agile body dressed in black velvet; his tapering waist bound by a
belt of purple silk; his legs encased in date-colored leather
leggings--a knight errant of the Andalusian steppes, almost like those
elegant tenors she had seen in "Carmen" who discard the soldiers'
uniform and become contrabandists for the sake of love.

Her eyes, wide with curiosity, wandered over the kitchen without finding
a three-cornered hat or an ancient fire-lock. She saw an unknown man who
rose to his feet; a kind of a country guard with a carbine, like those
she had often met on the family estates.

"Good-day, Señora Marquesa. And your uncle, the Marquis, does he keep
well?"

The gaze of all, converging upon this man, told her the truth. Ah! this
was Plumitas!

He had removed his hat with rough courtesy, embarrassed by the lady's
presence; he continued standing, the carbine in one hand and the old
felt hat in the other.

Gallardo wondered at the bandit's words. The man knew everybody. He knew
who Doña Sol was and with a respectful impulse he gave her the family
title.

The lady, recovering from her surprise, made a sign for him to be seated
and to cover himself, but, although he obeyed the former, he put his hat
on a nearby chair. As if divining a question in Doña Sol's eyes, which
were fixed on him, he added:

"Let the Señora Marquesa not be surprised that I know her; I have seen
her many times with the Marquis and other gentlemen when they were
going to test calves. I have also seen from a distance how the lady
attacked the beasts. The Señora is very brave and the finest girl I have
seen in this, God's own country! It is perfect joy to see her on
horseback, with her three-cornered hat, her cravat, and her belt. The
men must follow in crowds after her heavenly little eyes!"

The bandit allowed himself to be drawn by his Southern enthusiasm into
the greatest frankness, seeking new expressions of praise for the lady.

She turned pale, her eyes grew large with happy terror, and she began to
find the bandit interesting. Could he have come to the plantation solely
on her account? Did he intend to kidnap her and carry her away to his
hiding-place in the mountains with the hungry rapacity of a bird of prey
who returns from the plain to his nest on the heights?

The bull-fighter also grew alarmed on hearing these expressions of rude
admiration. Damn it! In his own house and in his very face! If this kept
up he was going upstairs after his gun, and even though this were
Plumitas, they should see who would have her!

The bandit suddenly seemed to understand the annoyance his words caused
and he adopted a respectful attitude.

"Pardon, Señora Marquesa. It is only banter. I have a wife and four
children. The poor girl weeps more on my account than ever wept the
Virgin of Agonies. I am a peaceful Moor; an unfortunate fellow that is
what he is because an evil shadow follows him."

And as though he took pains to be agreeable to Doña Sol, he broke out
into enthusiastic praises of her family. The Marquis of Moraima was one
of the men he most respected in all the world.

"If all the rich were like that! My father worked for him, and told us
about his charity. I had the fever in a herder's hut in a pasture of
his. He knew it but he said nothing. At his farmhouses he leaves an
order for them to give me what I ask and to leave me in peace. Such
things are never forgotten. When I least expect it I meet him alone,
mounted on his horse like a young fellow, as if he did not feel the
passing of the years. 'God be with you, Señor Marqués.' 'Greeting, boy.'
He does not guess who I am because I carry my companion"--and he
motioned to his carbine--"under my blanket. I long to stop him and ask
his hand, not to clasp it, no, not that; how could such a good man clasp
hands with me, who have so many killed and maimed to my account? No, to
kiss it, as though he were my father, to kneel before him and give him
thanks for what he does for me."

The earnestness with which he spoke of his gratitude did not move Doña
Sol. So that was the famous Plumitas! A poor man; a mild rabbit of the
plains whom all thought a wolf, deceived by his fame.

"There are also bad rich men," continued the bandit. "How some of them
make the poor suffer! Near my town there is one that lends money and is
meaner than Judas. I sent him word not to grind the poor so, and the
vile thief, instead of paying attention to me, told the civil guard to
catch me. Well, I burned a barnful of straw for him and I did other
little things to him and it has been over half a year since he has dared
go to Seville, or even out of the town for fear of meeting Plumitas.
Another one was going to turn out a poor little old woman because for a
year she hadn't paid the rent of the miserable hut she had held ever
since her father's time. I went to see the _señor_, just at nightfall,
when he was going to sit down to supper with his family. 'My master, I
am Plumitas, and I need a hundred _duros_.' He gave them to me and I
went to the old woman with them. 'Grandmother, take this; pay that Jew;
what is left over is for you and may it serve your good health.'"

Doña Sol contemplated the bandit with more interest.

"And killed?" she asked. "How many have you killed?"

"Señora, let us not speak of that," said the bandit gravely. "You would
feel repugnance for me and I am only a poor, unfortunate, persecuted
fellow who must defend himself as he can."

A long silence fell.

"You know not how I live, Señora Marquesa," he continued. "The wild
beasts fare better than I. I sleep where I can, or I do not sleep at
all. I get up in one end of the province to lie down in the other. One
must keep his eye well open and his hand firm so they will respect and
not betray one. The poor are good, but poverty is an ugly thing and
turns the best bad. If they hadn't been afraid of me they would have
handed me over to the guards many times. I have no true friends but my
mare and this"--holding up his carbine. "Suddenly I feel a longing to
see my wife and babies, and I enter my town at night while all the
people who recognize me open their eyes wide. But some day it will end
wrong. There are days when I get tired of being by myself and I need to
see people. Long have I wanted to come to La Rincona'. Why should I not
see at close range the Señor Juan Gallardo, I who appreciate him and
have often applauded him? But I always saw you with many friends, or
else your wife and your mother and the children were here. I understand
that; they would have been scared to death at the mere sight of
Plumitas. Now it is different. This time you came with the Señora
Marquesa, and I said to myself: 'Let's go and greet those fine people
and chat with them a while.'"

The peculiar smile that accompanied these words seemed to recognize a
difference between the bull-fighter's family and the lady, and made it
clear that Gallardo's relations with Doña Sol were no secret to him.
Respect for the legitimacy of matrimony dwelt in the soul of this poor
countryman, and he felt that he was authorized in taking greater
liberties with the bull-fighter's aristocratic friend than with the poor
women who composed his family.

Doña Sol paid no attention to these words and besieged the highwayman
with questions, wishing to know how he had come to his present state.

"Nothing, Señora Marquesa; an injustice; one of those misfortunes that
fall on us poor people. I was one of the cleverest in my town and the
workmen always chose me as spokesman when there was anything to be asked
of the rich. I know how to read and write. As a boy I was a sacristan
and they gave me the nickname of Plumitas because I was always after the
chickens to pull out their feathers for my writings."

A rough caress from Potaje's strong hand interrupted him.

"_Compadre_, the minute I saw thee I guessed that thou wert a church rat
or something like that."

Nacional held his peace, respecting these confidences, but he smiled
slightly. A sacristan converted into a bandit! What things Don Joselito
would say when he told him that!

"I married my wife and we had our first baby. One night a couple of
guards came to the house and took me outside the town to the
threshing-floor. Some shots had been fired into a rich man's door, and
those good gentlemen were determined that it was I who did it. I denied
it and they beat me with their guns. I denied it again and they beat me
more. To abbreviate, they kept me till daybreak, beating me all over,
sometimes with the barrel, sometimes with the butt-end, until they were
worn out and I lay on the ground senseless. They had me tied hand and
foot, and beat me as if I were a bale of goods. And all the while they
kept saying to me, 'Art thou not the bravest man in the town? Come on,
defend thyself; let's see how far thy brags can carry thee.' This was
what hurt most, their jibes. My poor little wife cured me as best she
could, but I never rested, I could not endure the remembrance of those
blows and jibes. To abbreviate again, one day one of the guards was
found dead on that same threshing-floor and I, to avoid trouble, took to
the mountains--and I have lived there to this day."

"Boy, thou hast a good hand," said Potaje with admiration. "And the
other?"

"I don't know; he must be somewhere in the world. He left the town; he
asked for transfer in spite of his bravery, but I don't forget him. I
have a message for him. I get sudden news that he is on the other side
of Spain and I go there; I would follow him even into the very Hell
itself. I leave the mare and the carbine with some friend to keep for
me, and I take the train like a gentleman. I have been in Barcelona, in
Valladolid, in many cities. I take my place near the jail and I look
over the guards that go and come. 'This is not my man, nor this either.'
They have given me wrong information, but it doesn't matter. It is years
since I began looking for him, but I shall find him--unless he is dead,
which would be a pity."

Doña Sol followed this tale with interest. An original creature was this
Plumitas! She had made a mistake in thinking him a rabbit. The bandit
became silent, knitting his brows as if he feared he had said too much,
and meant to avoid a new outburst of confidence.

"With your permission," he said to the swordsman, "I'll go to the stable
and see how the mare has been treated. Wilt thou come along, comrade?
Thou shalt see something worth while."

Potaje, accepting the invitation, went out of the kitchen with him.

When the two were left alone, the bull-fighter and the lady, he showed
his ill-humor. Why had she come down? It was foolhardy to present
herself before a man like that; a bandit whose name was the terror of
the people.

But Doña Sol, pleased with the excellent success of her encounter,
laughed at the bull-fighter's fears. The bandit seemed to her a decent
man, a poor fellow whose mischievousness was exaggerated by popular
fancy. He was almost a servant in her family.

"I imagined him different, but anyway I am glad I have seen him. We will
give him an alms when he goes. What an original land this is! What
types! And how interesting his pursuit of that civil guard all over
Spain! What a thrilling article one could write about that!"

The women of the ranch lifted off the flames of the fireplace two great
frying-pans that shed an agreeable odor of sausage.

"Come to breakfast, gentlemen," shouted Nacional, who assumed the
functions of _mayordomo_ at his master's farmhouse.

In the centre of the kitchen stood a great table covered with a cloth,
on which were placed round loaves of bread and numerous bottles of wine.
Plumitas and Potaje and several farm hands answered the call, the
overseer, the farmer, and all those who filled places of greater trust.
They began seating themselves on two benches placed along the length of
the table, while Gallardo glanced undecided at Doña Sol. She ought to
eat upstairs in the rooms set apart for the family. But the lady,
smiling at this suggestion, seated herself at the head of the table. She
enjoyed rustic life and thought it interesting to eat with these people.
She was born to be a soldier. And with a manly air she invited the
_matador_ to be seated, dilating her nostrils with a voluptuous
enjoyment of the savory odor of the sausages. A very rich dish! How
hungry she was!

"This is right," sententiously remarked Plumitas, looking over the
table; "the masters and servants eating together, as they say was the
custom in olden times. I have never seen it before." And he seated
himself near the _picador_, without letting go of his carbine, which he
held between his knees.

"Move over, _guasón_," he said, shoving Potaje with his body.

The _picador_, who treated him with rude _camaraderie_, answered with
another shove and the two strong fellows laughed as they pushed back and
forth, amusing every one at the table by their horse-play.

"But, damn it!" said the _picador_. "Get that blunder-bus out from
between thy knees. Dost thou not see that it is aiming straight at me?
An accident may happen."

The bandit's carbine, resting between his knees, was pointing its black
muzzle at the _picador_.

"Hang that up, _malaje!_" he insisted. "Dost thou need it to eat with?"

"It's all right where it is. Never fear," answered the bandit shortly,
frowning as if he did not like to hear any comments upon his
precautions.

He grasped his spoon, scooped up a great piece of bread, and impelled by
rural courtesy, glanced at the others to make sure that the moment for
eating had arrived.

"Good health, gentlemen!"

He attacked the enormous dish that had been placed in the centre of the
table for him and the two bull-fighters. Another like it steamed farther
down for the farm hands. Suddenly he seemed ashamed of his voracity, and
after a few spoonfuls he stopped, thinking an explanation necessary.

"Since yesterday morning I have tasted nothing but a crumb and a little
milk they gave me in a herder's hut. A good appetite!"

He attacked the plate again, winking his eyes and working his jaws
steadily. The _picador_ invited him to drink. Intimidated in the
master's presence, he gazed wistfully at the bottles of wine placed
within reach of his hand.

"Drink, Plumitas. Dry grazing is bad. It should be moistened."

Before the bandit accepted his invitation the _picador_ drank, and drank
deeply. Plumitas only occasionally touched his glass after much
vacillation. He was afraid of wine; he had lost the habit of drinking
it. He did not always get it on the plains. Besides, wine was the worst
enemy of a man like him, who must live wide awake and on guard.

"But here thou art among friends," said the _picador_. "Consider,
Plumitas, that thou art in Seville, beneath the very mantle of the
Virgin of Macarena. There is no one to touch thee. And if by chance the
civil guards should come, I would put myself at thy side, I would grasp
a spear, and we wouldn't leave one of those lazy devils alive. A little
more and I would be willing to become a free-lance of the mountains!
That has always attracted me."

"Potaje!" admonished the _maestro_ from the end of the table, fearing
the loquacity of the _picador_ and his proximity to the bottles.

The bandit, in spite of drinking little, was red in the face and his
eyes shone with a happy light. He had chosen his place facing the
kitchen door, from which the entrance to the plantation could be seen,
showing a portion of the solitary road. From time to time, a cow, a hog,
a goat, passed along this belt of land, and the shadow of their bodies,
outlined by the sun on the yellow ground, was enough to make Plumitas
jump, ready to drop his spoon and grasp his rifle. He talked with his
companions at the table, but without withdrawing his attention from what
might be outside the door. It was his habit to live at all hours ready
for resistance or for flight, making it a point of honor never to be
taken by surprise.

After he had done eating he accepted one more glass from Potaje, his
last, and he sat with a hand beneath his jaw, gazing out of the door,
dulled and silent by his heavy meal. His was the digestion of a boa, or
a stomach accustomed to irregular nourishment by his prodigious
gorgings, and to long periods of fast. Gallardo offered him an Havana.

"Thanks, Señor Juan. I don't smoke, but I will save it for a companion
of mine who is in the mountains, and the poor boy will value something
to smoke more than a meal itself. He is a young fellow who has had bad
luck and he helps me when there is work for two."

He put the cigar in his blouse, and the recollection of this companion,
who at this very hour wandered in safety far away, caused him to smile
with a ferocious joy. The wine had animated Plumitas. His countenance
was changed. His eyes had metallic gleams of shifting light. His puffy
face contracted with a grin that seemed to dispel his habitual kindly
aspect. He evinced a desire to talk, to boast of his deeds, to pay for
the hospitality by astonishing his benefactors.

"You must have heard about what I did last month on the Fregenal
highway. Have you really heard nothing about that? I planted myself in
the road with my young companion--for we had to stop a diligence and
give a message to a rich man, who has had me on his mind for a while. A
domineering fellow was this man, accustomed to ordering _alcaldes_,
important persons, and even civil guards at his will--what they call in
the papers a _cacique_. I sent him a message asking him for a hundred
_duros_ for a pressing need and what he did was to write to the
governor of Seville, raise a row up there in Madrid, and make them chase
me worse than ever. It was his fault that I had a gun-fight with the
civil guards, and I came out of it shot in the leg; and still not
satisfied, he asked them to imprison my wife, as if the poor thing could
know where her husband was plundering. That Judas dared not stir out of
his town for fear of Plumitas; but about then I disappeared. I went on a
trip, one of those trips I've told you about, and my man took courage
and went to Seville one day on business and to set the authorities
against me."

"We lay in ambush for the coach on its return trip from Seville. My
young companion, who has hands of gold for stopping anything on the
road, ordered the driver to halt. I stuck my head and my carbine in at
the door. Screams of women, cries of children, men who said nothing but
seemed made of wax! I said to the travellers: 'Nothing is going to
happen to you. Calm yourselves, ladies; greeting, gentlemen, and a good
journey. But come, let that fat man step out.' And my man, cringing as
if he were going to hide under the women's skirts, got down, as white as
if his blood had left him, and lisping as if he were drunk. The coach
drove on and we stood in the middle of the road alone. 'Listen; I am
Plumitas, and I am going to give thee something that thou shalt not
forget.' And I gave it to him. But I didn't kill him right off. I hit
him in a place I know, so that he would live twenty-four hours, and so
that when the guards gathered him up he could say it was Plumitas that
had killed him. Thus there could be no mistake nor could others air
themselves with importance."

Doña Sol listened, intensely pale, her lips compressed in terror, and in
her eyes the strange glitter that accompanied her mysterious thoughts.
Gallardo made a wry face, disturbed at this ferocious tale.

"Every one knows his trade, Señor Juan," said Plumitas, as if he divined
his thoughts. "We both live by killing; you kill bulls, and I people.
Only you are rich and get the applause and the fine women, while I often
go hungry and if I don't take care I will end riddled like a sieve in
the open plains for the crows to eat. But you don't beat me in knowing
your trade, Señor Juan! You know where to strike the bull so he will
fall at once. I know where to hit a Christian so that he will fall
doubled up and last a while, or else spend a few weeks remembering
Plumitas, who wishes not to mix with anybody, but who knows how to
settle with those who meddle with him."

Again Doña Sol felt curiosity to know the number of his crimes.

"And killed? How many people have you killed?"

"You will take a dislike to me, Señora Marquesa; but since you
persist.... Understand that I cannot recollect them all, no matter how
much I want to remember. They probably amount to thirty or thirty-five;
I don't know for sure. In this wandering life, who thinks of keeping
accounts? But I am a luckless fellow, Señora Marquesa; an unfortunate
fellow. The fault belongs to them that made me bad. That matter of
killing is like eating cherries. You pull one and the others come after,
by dozens. One must kill to go on living and if one feels pity he is
eaten for his pains."

There was a long silence. The lady contemplated the bandit's short
thick hands with his uneven finger nails. But Plumitas was not looking
at the Señora Marquesa. All his attention was given to the _matador_ in
his desire to show him gratitude for having received him at his table
and to dispel the bad effect his words seemed to have upon him.

"I respect you, Señor Juan," he said. "The first time I saw you fight
bulls, I said to myself, 'That's a brave fellow.' You have many devotees
who admire you, but not the way I do! Believe me, that to see you, I
have many times disguised myself, and gone into the towns where you were
fighting the bulls with the risk of being captured. Is that devotion?"

Gallardo smiled with an affirmative nodding of his head, flattered now
in his artistic pride.

"Besides," continued the bandit, "nobody can say I came to La Rincona'
to ask even a piece of bread. Many times I have gone hungry or have
lacked five _duros_, riding around near here, and never till to-day has
it occurred to me to pass through the wire fence of the plantation.
'Señor Juan is sacred to me,' I said to myself always. 'He earns his
money the same as I do, exposing his life. Comradeship must be
respected.' For you will not deny, Señor Juan, that although you are a
great personage, and I one of the most unfortunate of men, we are alike,
we both live by playing with death. We are quietly eating here, but some
day, if God tires of us and deserts us, they'll gather me up from the
roadside like a mad dog shot to pieces, and you with all your capital
will be carried out of a ring foot foremost; and although the papers may
talk of your misfortune four weeks or so, damned little you will thank
them over there in the other world."

"It is true--it is true," said Gallardo, with sudden pallor at the
bandit's words.

The superstitious fear he felt when moments of danger drew near was
reflected in his countenance. His destiny seemed similar to that of this
terrible vagabond who must necessarily fall some day or other in his
unequal struggle.

"But do you believe I think of death?" continued Plumitas. "I repent of
nothing and I go on my way. I also have my desires and my little pride,
the same as you, when you read in the papers that you did good work on
such a bull and that they gave you the ear. Remember that they talk of
Plumitas all over Spain, that the newspapers tell the greatest lies
about me, and, according to what they say, they are going to bring me
out in the theatres. Even in Madrid, in that palace where the deputies
meet to hold parley, they talk of me nearly every week.

"On top of all this, the pride of having an army following my steps, of
being able, a lone man, to stir the wrath of thousands who live off of
the government and wield a sword! The other day, on Sunday, I entered a
town at mass time and I stopped my mare in the square near some blind
men who were playing the guitar and singing. The people were staring at
a picture the singers had, representing a fine fellow with a
three-cornered hat, whiskers, dressed in the finest style, mounted on a
magnificent horse, with his blunderbuss on the horn of his saddle and a
plump lass on the crupper. I stopped when I saw that the fine fellow in
the picture was Plumitas! That gives pleasure. When one is condemned
like Adam to work or starve, it is well to have the people imagine his
existence different. I bought the paper from the blind singers and I
carry it here; the complete life of Plumitas, with many lies, but all
set to verse. A fine thing! When I lie down on the mountain I read it to
learn it by heart. Some _señor_ who knows much must have written it."

The dreaded Plumitas showed an infantile pride as he talked of his
glory. The silent modesty with which he entered the plantation was gone;
the desire that they should forget his fame and look upon him as nothing
but a poor traveller pressed by hunger had vanished. He glowed when he
remembered that his name was famous and that his deeds received the
honors of publicity.

"Who would have known me," he went on, "if I had kept on living in my
village? I have thought much about that. We downtrodden fellows have no
other recourse than to toil for others, or to follow the only career
that gives money and name--killing! I was no good at killing bulls. My
village is in the mountains and has no fierce cattle. Besides, I am
heavy and unskilled. So I kill people. It is the best thing a poor man
can do to be respected and make his way."

Nacional, who had listened to the bandit's words with silent gravity,
thought it necessary to intervene.

"What the poor man needs is education: to know how to read and write."

Nacional's words provoked the laughter of all who knew his hobby.

"There thou hast let loose one of thy ideas, comrade," said Potaje. "Let
Plumitas go on explaining himself, for what he says is very good."

The bandit received the _banderillero's_ interruption with scorn; he had
little respect for him on account of his timidity in the ring.

"I know how to read and write. And of what use is that? When I lived in
the village it only brought me into notice and made my fate seem harder.
What the poor man needs is justice; let them give him what belongs to
him and if they won't give it to him, let him take it. One must be a
wolf and cause terror. The other wolves will then respect him, and the
cattle even let him eat gratefully. If they find thee a coward and
without strength, even the sheep will despise thee."

Potaje, who was now drunk, assented with enthusiasm to all Plumitas
said. He did not understand his words well, but through the dark mist of
his intoxication he thought he could distinguish a glow of supreme
wisdom.

"That's right, comrade. A club to all the world. Go on, for thou art
very clever."

"I know people," continued the bandit. "The world is divided into two
families, the shearers and the shorn. I don't want to be shorn; I was
born to shear, because I am very brave and am afraid of nobody. The same
thing has happened to you, Señor Juan. By being of good kidney you have
lifted yourself up from the common herd, but your way is better than
mine."

He sat contemplating the _maestro_ a while and then added with an accent
of conviction: "I think, Señor Juan, that we have come into the world
rather late. What deeds of valor and glory young fellows like ourselves
would have done in other times! You would not kill bulls and I would not
roam over the plains hunted like a wild beast. We would be viceroys,
grand moguls! Some great thing across the seas! You have not heard of
one Pizarro, Señor Juan?"

Señor Juan made an ambiguous gesture, not wishing to reveal his
ignorance of this mysterious name which he heard for the first time.

"The Señora Marquesa knows who he is better than I and she will pardon
me if I say wild things. I learned that history when I was a sacristan
and turned myself loose on old romances belonging to the priest. Well,
Pizarro was a poor fellow like us, who crossed the sea with twelve or
thirteen youths as ragged as himself, and entered a country finer than
Paradise--a kingdom where lies Potosí--I need say no more. They had I
don't know how many battles with the natives of the Americas who wear
feathers and carry bows and arrows, and finally they became their
masters, appropriated the treasures of the kings of the country, and the
least of them filled his house to the roof all with gold coins, and
there wasn't one that wasn't made a marquis, a general, or a personage
of power. Many others are like them. Imagine, Señor Juan, if we had only
lived then! What would it have cost us for you and me and some of these
stout fellows who are listening to me to do as much or more than that
Pizarro?"

And the men of the plantation, ever silent, but with eyes glowing with
emotion at this marvellous history, assented to the bandit's theories,
nodding their heads.

"I repeat that we are born too late, Señor Juan. Great careers are
closed to the poor. The Spaniard knows not what to do. There is no
longer any place left for him to go. What there used to be in the world
to be divided up, now the English and other foreigners have
appropriated. The door is closed and we brave men have to rot inside
this barn-yard listening to hard words because we don't surrender
ourselves to our fate. I, who like enough would have become a king in
the Americas, or some other place, go along the roads branded as an
outcast, and they even call me a thief! You, who are a valiant man, kill
bulls and get applause, but I know that many gentlemen look upon
bull-fighting as a low-down trade."

Doña Sol intervened to give the highwayman counsel. Why did he not
become a soldier? He could go to distant lands where there were wars and
utilize his powers nobly.

"Yes, I would be good for that, Señora Marquesa. I have often thought of
it. When I sleep at some plantation or hide myself in my house a few
days, the first time I get into bed like a Christian and eat a hot meal
on a table like this, my body is grateful for it, but I soon tire, and
it seems to me the mountain calls me with all its poverty, and I long to
sleep in the open wrapped in my blanket with a stone for a pillow. Yes;
I would make a good soldier. But where could I go? There are no longer
any real wars, where each one with a handful of comrades does whatever
seems wisest to him. To-day there are only herds of men all wearing the
same color and the same brand, who live and die like clowns. The same
thing happens as in the world: shearers and shorn. You do a great deed
and the colonel appropriates it; you fight a wild beast and they give
the reward to the general. No, I was also born too late to be a
soldier."

Plumitas lowered his eyes, remaining a long time as if absorbed in
inward contemplation of his misfortune, realizing that he had no place
in the present epoch.

Suddenly he grasped his carbine, about to rise.

"I must go--many thanks, Señor Juan, for your attentions. Farewell,
Señora Marquesa."

"But where art thou going?" said Potaje pulling him back. "Sit down,
_malaje_. In no place art thou better off than here."

The _picador_ desired to prolong the highwayman's stay, pleased to be
able to talk with him as with a life-long friend, to be able to tell
afterward in the city about his interesting adventure.

"I have spent three hours here and I must go. I never stay so long in an
open, level place like La Rincona'. It may be that some one has already
gone with a whisper that I am here."

"Art thou afraid of the guards?" asked Potaje. "They won't come, and if
they do, I am with thee."

Plumitas made a deprecatory gesture. The guards! They were men like
others; there might be brave ones, but they were all fathers of families
who tried not to see him, and when they heard he was at a certain place,
they came too late. They only went against him when chance threw them
face to face, without means of evasion.

"Last month I was at the Five Chimneys plantation breakfasting as I am
here, though not in such good company, when I saw six guards coming
afoot. I am sure that they did not know I was there, and that they came
only for refreshment. Bad luck, but neither they nor I could fly in
plain sight of all the people on the plantation. That would cause talk,
and evil tongues make one lose respect, and they will say we are all
cowards. The owner of the hacienda shut the gate, and the guards began
to beat on it with their muskets to make him open up. I ordered him and
a herder to stand behind the doors. 'When I say _now_, open wide.' I
mounted the mare and held my revolver in my hand. '_Now_!' The gate
opened and I rode off flinging demons! You don't know what my poor
little mare can do. They sent I know not how many shots after me, but
nothing! I, too, let loose as I rode away, and according to what they
say, I hit two guards. To abbreviate: I went leaning along my mare's
neck so they couldn't hit me and the guards took their revenge by giving
the men of the hacienda a beating. That's why it is better to say
nothing about my visits, Señor Juan. Along will come those fellows with
their cocked hats and they'll make you dizzy with questions and
declarations, as though they were going to catch me with that."

The men of La Rinconada assented dumbly. They already knew it. They must
keep quiet about the visit to avoid trouble, as was done in all the
plantations and herders' ranches. This general silence was the bandit's
most powerful aid. Moreover, all these countrymen were Plumitas'
admirers. In their rude enthusiasm they looked upon him as an avenging
hero. They had nothing to fear from him. His threats only weighed
against the rich.

"I am not afraid of the guards," continued the bandit. "It's the poor I
fear. They are all good, but what an ugly thing is poverty! I know those
of the cocked hats will not kill me; they have no balls for me. If
anybody kills me, it will be some poor fellow. One lets them come near
without fear, because they are one's own kind, and then they take
advantage of one's carelessness. I have enemies; people sworn against
me. Sometimes there are rascals who carry the whisper in the hope of a
few _pesetas_, or renegades who are sent to do a thing and don't do it,
and one must keep a firm hand to have the respect of all. If one
really harms them the family is left to avenge him. If one is good and
contents himself with giving them a caress with a handful of nettles and
thistles, they remember that joke all their lives--the poor, my own
kind, are those I fear."

[Illustration: "For me?" asked the bandit in tones of surprise and
wonder. "For me, Señora Marquesa?"]

Plumitas stopped, and gazing at Gallardo added:

"Besides, there are the admirers, the pupils, the young fellows that
come chasing along behind. Señor Juan, tell the truth, which tire you
more, the bulls, or all those hungry young bull-fighters who are always
wanting favors of the _maestro_? The same thing happens to me. Didn't I
tell you that we are equals! In every town there's some fine young
fellow who dreams of being my heir and hopes to catch me some day
sleeping in the shade of a tree and-blow my head off. A fine
advertisement it will be for him who catches Plumitas!"

After this he got up and went to the stable followed by Potaje, and a
quarter of an hour afterward he led out into the courtyard his strong
mare, the inseparable companion of his wanderings. The big-boned animal
seemed larger and handsomer after the brief hours of feasting in the
mangers at La Rinconada. Plumitas stopped arranging his blanket over the
horn to caress her flanks. She might indeed be content. Seldom would she
be so well treated as at this hacienda of Señor Juan Gallardo. Now she
must behave, for the journey would be long.

"And where art thou going, comrade?" said Potaje.

"You shouldn't ask that. Abroad through the land! I myself know not. To
meet whatever comes along."

And putting the toe of his boot in one of the blackened and
mud-bespattered stirrups, he gave a spring and rose into the saddle.
Gallardo moved away from Doña Sol, who contemplated the bandit's
preparation for his journey with her mysterious eyes, her lips pale and
compressed by emotion. The bull-fighter searched in the inside of his
jacket and walked toward the rider offering him without ostentation some
papers crushed in his hand.

"What is that?" said the bandit. "Money? Thanks, Señor Juan. You have
heard that it is best to give me something when I leave an hacienda, but
that is for others, for the rich who earn their money in flowery ease.
You earn it by exposing your life. We are companions. Keep it, Señor
Juan."

Señor Juan put the bills back, somewhat annoyed by the bandit's refusal
and by his determination to treat him as a comrade.

"You may tender me a bull if we ever meet in the ring," added Plumitas.
"That is worth more than all the gold in the world."

Doña Sol advanced till she stood close to one of the horseman's legs,
and unfastening an autumn rose she wore on her breast she offered it
silently, gazing at him with her gold-green eyes.

"For me?" asked the bandit in tones of surprise and wonder. "For me,
Señora Marquesa?"

Seeing the lady's nod of affirmation he accepted the flower with
embarrassment, handling it stupidly as if it were of astonishing weight,
not knowing where to put it, till at last he thrust it into a buttonhole
of his blouse, between the two ends of the red handkerchief he wore
around his neck.

"This surely is good!" he exclaimed, his round face broadening into a
smile. "Nothing to equal this ever happened to me before in all my
life."

The rough horseman seemed touched and disturbed at the same time by the
feminine character of the gift. Roses for him--!

He pulled at his mare's reins.

"Health to all, gentlemen! Until we meet again! Health, brave fellow!
Sometime I'll throw thee a cigar if thou dost stick thy lance in well."

He bade the _picador_ farewell, giving him a blow with his hand, and the
centaur answered him with a slap on the thigh that made the bandit's
vigorous muscles tremble. What a fine fellow, that Plumitas! Potaje, in
his mellow state of intoxication, wished to take to the mountains in
company with him.

"_Adios_! _Adios_!"

And setting spurs to his steed he rode away from the hacienda at a swift
trot.

Gallardo manifested satisfaction on seeing him go. Then he looked at
Doña Sol, who stood motionless, following the horseman with her eyes as
he vanished in the distance.

"What a woman!" murmured the swordsman with dismay. "What a mad lady!"

It was good luck that Plumitas was ugly, and went ragged and dirty like
a vagabond. If not, verily she would have gone with him.



CHAPTER X

A LOOK INTO THE FACE OF DEATH


"It seems a lie, Sebastián. A man like thee, with a wife and children,
lending thyself to such wickedness. And I thought better of thee and had
confidence in thee when thou wert travelling with Juaniyo! I worried not
because he went with a person of character. Where are all those fine
things, the honorable ideas and thy religion? Is this what is commanded
in those Jew meetings that gather at the house of Don Joselito, the
teacher?"

Nacional, alarmed at the indignation of Gallardo's mother, and moved by
Carmen's tears as she wept in silence, her face hidden in her kerchief,
defended himself stupidly. But as he heard the last words he sat erect
with priestly gravity.

"Seña' Angustia', touch not my ideas and leave Don Joselito in peace, an
it please you, for he has nothing to do with all this. By the life of
the blue dove! I went to La Rincona' because my _matador_ ordered me. Do
you know what a _cuadrilla_ is? Just the same as an army: discipline and
servility! The _matador_ commands and one must obey. For these
bull-fight customs descend from the times of the Inquisition and there
is no more conservative trade."

"Clown!" screamed Señora Angustias. "Fine thou art with all thy fables
about the Inquisition and Conservatives! Among you all you are killing
that poor girl, who spends the whole day shedding tears like the
Dolorosa. What thou art anxious about is to cover up my son's
rascalities because he feeds thee."

"You have said it, Seña' Angustia'. Juaniyo feeds me, that's it. And
since he feeds me, I have to obey him. But look here, Señora; put
yourself in my place. My _matador_ tells me I must go to La Rincona'.
Good! And at the hour of leaving I find myself in the automobile with a
very fine great lady. What can I do? My _matador_ commands. Moreover, I
didn't go alone. Potaje went along and he is a person of years and
respect."

The bull-fighter's mother was more indignant at this excuse.

"Potaje! A bad man, that Juaniyo would not keep in his _cuadrilla_ if he
had any pride! Don't talk to me about that drunkard that beats his wife
and keeps his children starving."

"Well, Potaje aside. I say I saw that great lady and what was I to do?
She was not a wanton; she is the niece of the marquis who is patron of
the _maestro_--and you well know that bull-fighters have to be on good
terms with people of power. They have to live off the public. Then, at
the hacienda, nothing! I swear it to you by my own dear ones--nothing! I
would be a fine fellow to stand such bad business, even though my
_matador_ ordered me to! I am a decent man, Seña' Angustia'. By the life
of the dove! When one is on the committee and is consulted on
election-day, and counsellors and deputies clasp this hand you see here,
can one do certain things? I repeat, nothing! They said _you_ in talking
to one another, the same as you and I do; each one spent the night in
his proper place; not a wicked look, not an ugly word. Decency at all
hours. And if you would like to have Potaje come, he will tell you--"

But Carmen interrupted him with a plaintive voice, broken by sighs.

"In my house!" she groaned with an expression of agony. "At the
hacienda! And she slept in my bed! I knew all about it before and I kept
still, I kept still! But this! _Josú_! This--there's not another man in
all Seville would dare do as much!"

Nacional intervened kindly.

"Be calm, Señora Carmen. Why, that was of no importance! Merely the
visit of a female admirer of the _maestro's_ to the plantation, one who
desired to see at close range how he lived in the country. These half
foreign ladies are always capricious and queer. You ought to have seen
the French women when the _cuadrilla_ went to fight at Nîmes and Arles!
The whole thing is nothing! the whole thing, _liquid_! Man alive! by the
blue dove! I would like to see the tattler that brought such news!"

Carmen continued weeping without listening to the _banderillero's_
indignant protestations, while Seña' Angustias, seated in an arm-chair
against which her super-abundant obesity rose and fell, frowned and
compressed her hairy, wrinkled lips.

"Shut up, Sebastián, and don't lie," said the old woman. "I know it all.
That trip to the hacienda was an indecent carousal, a gypsy's revel.
They even say you had Plumitas, the robber, with you."

Here Nacional gave a start of surprise and anxiety. He imagined he saw
an ill-appearing horseman with a greasy hat entering the courtyard,
treading the marble flags and, dismounting from his mare, pointing a
carbine at him for being a babbler and a coward. Then he seemed to see
cocked hats, many cocked hats of shining rubber, moustached mouths
questioning, hands scribbling, and the whole _cuadrilla_, in their
spangled costumes, bound elbow to elbow on the road to prison. Here
truly he must make energetic denial.

"_Liquid!_ All _liquid!_ What say you about Plumitas? Everything was
decent there. Man alive! Nothing was lacking but that a citizen like
myself, who carries to the voting boxes more than a hundred votes from
my ward, should be accused of being a friend of Plumitas!"

Señora Angustias, overcome by Nacional's protests, and a little
uncertain about this last report, ceased insisting on it. Good; nothing
about Plumitas! But the other thing! The trip to the hacienda with
that--woman! And firm in the blindness of motherhood, which would put
all the responsibility for her son's misdeeds upon his companions, she
went on scolding Nacional.

"I shall tell thy wife what thou art. The poor thing killing herself in
her shop from daybreak till nightfall, and thou going off on revels like
a lad. Thou shouldst be ashamed. At thy years! With such a troop of
children--"

The _banderillero_ departed, fleeing from Señora Angustias, who in the
storm of her indignation displayed the same nimble tongue as in the days
when she worked in the Tobacco Factory. He resolved not to return to his
master's house.

He met Gallardo on the street. The latter seemed ill-humored, but on
seeing his _banderillero_ he feigned smiles and animation, as if the
domestic troubles made no impression upon him.

"Things are going bad, Juaniyo. I shall never go to thy house again,
even though they try to drag me there. Thy mother insults me as though I
were a gypsy of Triana. Thy wife weeps and looks at me, as though it was
all my fault. Man, do me the favor to not remember me again. Take
another associate when thou goest with women."

Gallardo smiled amiably. That was nothing. That would soon pass. He had
faced worse trials.

"What thou must do is to keep on coming. With many people there is no
riot."

"I?" exclaimed Nacional. "To a priest's house first!"

The _matador_ knew it was useless to insist after that. He spent most of
the day out of the house, away from the women's silent and tearful
reproaches, and when he returned it was with an escort, shielding
himself by his manager and other friends.

One day Carmen sent for the _banderillero_ to come to see her. She
received Nacional in her husband's office, where they could be alone,
instead of in the busy courtyard or the dining-room. Gallardo was at his
club on Sierpes Street. He fled from the house, and to avoid meeting his
wife, he dined outside many days, going with companions to the Eritaña
inn.

Nacional seated himself on a divan, his head bowed and his hat in his
hands, not wishing to look at his master's wife. How she had failed! Her
eyes were red and encircled by deep, dark hollows. Her cheeks were
sallow and the end of her nose shone with a rosy color that told of much
rubbing with the handkerchief.

"Sebastián, you must tell me the whole truth. You are good, you are
Juan's best friend. Never mind what _Mamita_ said the other day. You
know how good she is. She speaks her mind hastily, and then it is all
over."

The _banderillero_ assented with a nod while awaiting her question. What
did the Señora Carmen wish to know?

"Tell me what happened at La Rincona', what you saw, and what you
think."

Ah! good Nacional! With what noble pride he held his head high, happy to
be able to do good and to comfort the forlorn soul. See? He had seen
nothing wrong!

"I swear it by my father, I swear it--by my ideas."

And without fear he took his oath on the most holy testimony of his
ideas, for in reality he had seen nothing and not seeing it, he
logically thought, in the pride of his perspicacity and wisdom, that
nothing wrong could have happened.

"I think they are no more than friends--now--if there has been anything
between them before--I don't know. The people say--they talk--they
invent so many lies! Pay no attention, Seña' Carmen. To be happy and to
be alive, that is reality!"

She insisted again. But what had happened at the hacienda? The hacienda
was her home, and it angered her to see, in addition to infidelity,
something that seemed a sacrilege, a direct insult to her person.

"Do you think I am a fool, Sebastián? I have seen everything since he
first began to notice that lady, or whatever she may be; I even knew
Juan's thoughts. The day he dedicated a bull to her and brought home
that diamond ring I guessed what was between the two and I felt like
grabbing the ring and stamping on it. From that time I have known
everything, everything! There are always people who take it upon
themselves to carry tales because they can hurt one. And besides, they
haven't been cautious, they have gone everywhere together, just like
gypsies that travel from fair to fair. When I was at the plantation I
heard about all that Juan was doing and afterward at Sanlúcar, too."

Nacional thought it necessary to interrupt, seeing that Carmen was moved
by these memories and was beginning to cry.

"And do you believe lies, child? Don't you see they are the inventions
of people that want to hurt him? Envy, nothing more."

"No; I know Juan. Do you think this is the first one? He is what he is.
And he can't be different. Cursed trade, that seems to turn men mad!
After we had been married only two years he had a love affair with a
girl from the market, a butcher girl. What I suffered when I found it
out! But I never said a word. He still thinks I don't know it. After
that, how many he has had! Girls that dance on the stage in _cafés_,
women of the street, and even lost creatures that live in public houses.
I don't know how many there have been--dozens! And I was silent, because
I wished to keep peace in my home. But this woman he has now is not like
the others. Juan is crazy for her; he is foolish; I know he has done
thousands of humiliating things so that she, recollecting that she is a
lady of high birth, will not throw him out into the street in sudden
shame from having relations with a bull-fighter. She has gone now.
Didn't you know it? I found out she had gone because she is bored in
Seville. She left without saying good-bye to Juan, and when he went to
see her the other day, he found the door closed. And there he is, sad as
a sick horse; he goes around among his friends with a funereal face and
drinks to cheer himself up; and when he comes home he acts as if he had
had a beating. No; he can't forget that woman. The señor was proud of
having a woman of that class care for him and his pride is hurt at being
left. Ah, how disgusted I am with him! He is no longer my husband. He
seems to me a different person. We hardly ever speak to one
another--just as if we were strangers, except when quarrelling. I am
alone upstairs and he sleeps downstairs in a room off the courtyard. We
shall never be united again, I swear it! Long ago I could overlook
everything; they were bad habits belonging to the profession; the
bull-fighters' mania. They believe themselves irresistible to women--but
now I don't want to see him any more; he has become repugnant to me."

She spoke with energy, her eyes shining with the glow of hatred.

"Ah, that woman! How she has changed him! He is another man! He only
cares to go with rich young fellows, and now the people of our ward and
all the poor in Seville who were his friends, and helped him in the
beginning, complain of him and some fine day they will raise a riot in
the plaza because he is ungrateful. Money comes in here by the
basketful, and it isn't easy to count it. Not even he himself ever knows
what he has, but I see it all. He gambles a great deal to make his new
friends like him, he loses much; the money comes in one door and goes
out the other. I say nothing to him. It is he that earns it. But he has
had to ask a loan from Don José for things needed at the hacienda and
some olive orchards he bought this year to add to the property were
purchased with other people's money. Nearly everything he earns during
the coming season will go to pay debts.

"And if he should have an accident, and have to retire as others do!

"He has even wanted to change me, just as he is changed. The _señor_
shows, when he comes home after visiting his Doña Sol, or Doña Devil,
that his _mamita_ and I seem to him very out of date in our shawls and
our loose gowns such as are worn by all the daughters of the land. He it
is who has made me wear those hats brought from Madrid in which I look
so hideous, just like one of those monkeys that dance to the
hand-organs. The _mantilla_ is so rich! And he has bought that
hell-wagon, that automobile, that I am always afraid to ride in and
which smells to heaven. If we would let him he would even put a hat with
rooster's tails on poor _Mamita_. He is a vain fellow who thinks only of
that other woman and wants to make us like her so that he won't be
ashamed of us."

The _banderillero_ broke forth in protests. Not so! Juan was
good-hearted and he did all this because he loved his family and wanted
them to have luxuries.

"What you say about Juaniyo may be true, Seña' Carmen, but he must be
forgiven some things. Come! How many there are who die with envy at
sight of you! Is it nothing to be the wife of the bravest of all the
bull-fighters, with handfuls of money and a marvel of a house, of which
you are absolute mistress?--for the master gives you charge of
everything!"

Carmen's eyes grew moist and she raised her handkerchief to her eyes.

"I would rather be a shoe-maker's wife! How often I have thought it! If
only Juan had followed his trade instead of catching this bull-fighting
mania! I would be happier in a poor shawl going to carry him his dinner
in the _portal_ where he worked as did his father. There wouldn't be any
smart girls to take him away from me; he would be mine; we might know
want, but on Sundays, dressed in our best, we would go to dine at an
inn. Besides, the agonies of fear those accursed bulls cause me! This is
not living. Plenty of money, plenty! But believe me, Sebastián, it is
like poison to me, and the more that comes into the house the more my
blood chills. What are hats and all this luxury to me? People think I am
happy and they envy me, while my eyes follow the poor women that have
less, but who carry their babies in their arms and when they are in
trouble forget it in looking into the child's eyes and laughing with it.
Ah, children! I know how great is my misfortune. If only we had
children! If Juan could see a child in the house that was his own, all
his own, something nearer than his little nephews!"

Carmen poured forth a continuous flow of tears that escaped through the
folds of her handkerchief and bathed her reddened cheeks. It was the
sorrow of the childless woman, ever envying the happy fate of mothers;
the desperation of the wife who, on seeing her husband growing distant
to her, pretends to think it due to divers causes, but in the depths of
her soul attributes the misfortune to her barrenness. Ah! for a son to
unite them! And Carmen, convinced by the passing years of the futility
of this desire, was in despair and gazed enviously at her silent
listener, to whom Nature had prodigally given that for which she longed
in vain.

The _banderillero_ departed from this interview with his head bent low
and went in search of the _maestro_, meeting him at the door of the
Forty-five.

"Juan, I have seen thy wife. The affair grows worse and worse. Try to
make up with her, to straighten things out."

"Damn it! May sickness end her, thee, and me! This is not living. God
permit that Sunday a bull may catch me and so it will all be ended! What
is life worth!"

He was partially drunk. He was desperate over the sullen frown he met in
his house and still more (though he confessed it to none), over the
flight of Doña Sol without leaving a word for him, not even a paper with
four lines of farewell. They had put him out of the door; had treated
him worse than if he had been a servant. He did not even know where the
woman was. The Marquis had interested himself but little in his niece's
journey. The maddest girl! She had not told him, either, about her
going, but not on that account would he think her lost in the world. She
would soon give signs of existence from some strange country where her
caprices had carried her.

Gallardo did not conceal his desperation in his own house. At the
silence of his wife, who kept her eyes lowered, or looked at him
frowning and refusing to converse, the _matador_ burst forth into deadly
curses.

"Damn my fate! I hope a Miura will hook me Sunday and shake me like a
bell, and that they will bring me home on a stretcher!"

"Don't say that, _malaje!_" wailed Señora Angustias. "Don't tempt God.
See if that don't bring bad luck."

But the brother-in-law intervened with his sententious air, taking
advantage of the opportunity to flatter the swordsman.

"Never mind, _Mamita_. There isn't a bull alive that can touch him!"

Sunday was the last bull-fight of the year in which Gallardo was to
work. He spent the morning without the vague fears and superstitious
preoccupations of other occasions. He dressed himself joyfully, with a
nervous excitement that seemed to augment the vigor of his arms and
legs. What joy that he would be able to rush out upon the yellow sand
and astound twelve thousand spectators by his gallantry and daring! His
art was the only reality--something which awakened the enthusiasm of the
multitudes and brought in money without measure. All the rest, family
and love, but served to complicate existence and cause unhappiness. Ah!
What sword-thrusts he was going to make! He felt the strength of a giant
within himself. He was a different man, he had neither fear nor dread.
He even showed impatience that it was not yet the hour for going to the
plaza, contrary to other times when he had put off the dreaded moment.
His fury at his domestic unhappiness and at that flight which wounded
his vanity, made him long to throw himself upon the bulls.

When the carriage arrived, Gallardo crossed the courtyard, on this
occasion, paying no attention to the women's emotion. Carmen did not
appear. Bah! Women! They only serve to embitter life. Only in men did
one find lasting affection and joyful companionship. There was his
brother-in-law admiring himself before going to the plaza, happy in a
street suit of the master's which had been made over to his measure even
before the owner had worn it. In spite of being a ridiculous charlatan
he was worth more than all the rest of the family. He never abandoned
him.

"Thou art finer than Roger de Flor himself," Gallardo told him gayly.
"Get into the coach--and I'll take thee to the plaza."

His brother-in-law seated himself near the great man, trembling with
pride as he rode along the streets of Seville, that all should see him
seated among the silken capes and the heavy gold embroideries of the
bull-fighters.

The plaza was full. This important _corrida_ at the end of autumn had
attracted a great audience, not only from the city but from the country
as well. Upon the "bleachers" in the sun were seated many people from
the surrounding country towns.

From the first instant Gallardo showed the nervous activity that
possessed him. He was to be seen far from the _barrera_ advancing to
meet the bull, distracting him with his cape-work, while the _picadores_
awaited the moment in which the bull would attack their miserable
horses.

A certain antagonism of the public against the bull-fighter could be
felt. They applauded him as usual, but the demonstrations of enthusiasm
were more hearty and warm on the shady side than on the rows of seats in
the sun, where many sat in their shirt-sleeves in the burning rays.

Gallardo divined the danger, foresaw that he would have bad luck, and
that half the ring would rise shouting against him, denouncing him as
thankless and ungrateful to those who had elevated him.

He killed his first bull with middling luck. He threw himself as bravely
as ever between the horns, but the sword struck bone. His admirers
applauded him. The thrust was well aimed and he was not to be blamed for
the futility of his effort. But the second time he went in to kill, the
bull, on chasing after the _muleta_, shook the blade out of the wound,
sending it flying away. Then, taking a new sword from Garabato's hands,
he turned toward the wild beast, which awaited him, with fore-feet
planted forward, his neck streaming blood and his dripping mouth almost
touching the sand. The _maestro_ holding his _muleta_ before the bull's
eyes was tranquilly laying back with the point of his sword the shafts
of the _banderillas_ that hung over his head. He was going to kill him
by a stab in the spinal cord. He placed the steel point on the top of
the bull's head, searching between the horns for the sensitive spot.
With an effort he thrust in the sword and the animal shuddered
painfully, but still kept his feet, resisting the steel with a violent
tossing of his head.

"One!" clamored the audience on the bleachers in mocking tones.

"Damn it!" Why did those people attack him with such injustice?

He raised the sword again and thrust, managing this time to reach the
vulnerable spot. The bull fell instantly, as if struck by a lightning
flash in the very nerve-centre of his life, and he lay with his horns
dug into the ground, his legs rigid in the air.

The people in the shade applauded with class enthusiasm, while the
audience in the sun broke into hisses and jibes.

"_Niño litri!_ Aristocrat!"

Gallardo turned his back to these protests and saluted the enthusiasts
with his _muleta_ and sword. The insults of the populace which had
always been friendly to him hurt him and caused him to clench his fists.

"But what do those people want? The bull gave no better account of
himself. Damn it! This is the work of enemies."

He passed a great part of the _corrida_ close to the _barrera_ gazing
disdainfully at what his companions were doing, accusing them mentally
of having prepared these marks of displeasure against him in advance.

He also broke into curses against the bull and the herder that raised
him. He had come so well prepared to do great deeds and he had
encountered a beast which would not permit him to shine! The breeders
that turned out such animals ought to be shot.

When he again took up the instruments of death, he ordered Nacional and
another of his _peones_ to draw the bull with the cape toward the part
of the plaza where the populace was seated.

He knew the public. He must humor the citizens in the sun, those
tumultuous and terrible demagogues who carried class hatred into the
plaza but easily changed hisses into applause when a slight show of
consideration flattered their pride.

The _peones_, waving their capes at the bull, began a race to attract
him to the sunny side of the ring. A movement of joyful surprise from
the populace welcomed this manoeuvre. The supreme moment, the bull's
death, was to take place before their eyes--and not, as almost always
happened, at a great distance for the convenience of the rich who were
seated in the shade.

The fierce beast, as he stood alone on that side of the plaza, began to
attack the dead body of a horse. He thrust his head into the open belly
and raised the miserable carcass on his horns like a limp rag. It fell
to the ground, lying almost doubled, and the bull backed away with
indecisive step. He returned again to sniff it with deep bellowings,
while the audience laughed at his stupid tenacity, at this search for
life in the inanimate body.

"Jam him hard there! Thou hast lots of strength, boy! Keep it up, or
he'll turn on thee!"

But every one's attention was withdrawn from this venting of the bull's
fury to Gallardo who was crossing the plaza with a short swinging step,
in one hand the rolled _muleta_, in the other flourishing his sword as
though it were a cane.

The entire audience in the sun applauded, grateful to have the swordsman
come over to them.

"Thou hast put them into thy pocket," said Nacional, who stood near the
bull with the cape ready.

The multitude gesticulated, calling to the bull-fighter--"Here, here!"

Each one wished him to kill the bull before his seat that he might not
lose the slightest detail, and the swordsman hesitated between the
contradictory calls of thousands of mouths. With one foot on the
vaulting wall of the barrier he calculated where best to end the bull.
He must be drawn farther away. The dead horse seemed to fill that whole
side of the plaza and disturbed the bull-fighter.

He was about to order Nacional to attract the beast away, when he heard
a familiar voice behind him, a voice he did not recognize but which
caused him to turn quickly.

"Good-afternoon, Señor Juan. We are going to applaud reality!"

He saw in the first row, under the panel of the inner barrier, a folded
jacket on the edge of the wall, a pair of arms in shirt sleeves crossed
over it, and a broad face recently shaved resting in the hands, with a
hat drawn down to the ears. He looked like a good-natured rustic, come
from a country town to witness the bull-fight.

Gallardo recognized him. It was Plumitas.

He had fulfilled his promise and there he was among twelve thousand
people who did not know him, greeting the _matador_, who felt a certain
gratitude for this display of confidence. Gallardo marvelled at his
temerity. To come down to Seville, to enter the plaza, far from the
hills and the deserts where defence was easy for him, without the aid of
his two companions, his mare and his carbine, and all--to see him kill
bulls! Of the two, that man was the brave one. He thought of his
plantation which was at Plumitas' mercy, of the country life which was
only possible by maintaining good relations with this extraordinary
personage. The bull must be for him.

He smiled at the bandit, who continued contemplating him with placid
countenance; he took off his cap and shouted, turning toward the
boisterous multitude, but with his eyes on Plumitas.

"_Vaya!_ In honor of you!"

He threw his cap into the bleachers and many hands were stretched out in
rivalry, struggling to grasp the sacred trust. Gallardo gave signs to
Nacional to bring the bull near him with his skilful cape-work. He
extended his _muleta_ and the beast attacked with sonorous bellowing,
passing beneath the red rag. "_Olé!_" roared the crowd, acknowledging
its old idol again and disposed to admire all that he did.

He continued making _pases_ at the bull, accompanied by the exclamations
of the people a few feet away. Seeing him near they gave him advice.
"Take care, Gallardo!" The bull was perfectly sound. He must not let
himself get between him and the barrier. He must keep his retreat clear.

Others more enthusiastic excited him to deeds of daring with audacious
counsel.

"Let him have one of thy best! _Zas!_ A sword-thrust and thou hast him
in thy pocket!"

The animal was too big and too cautious to be put in the pocket. He was
excited by the proximity of the dead horse, and kept returning to it as
if the odor intoxicated him.

In one of his evolutions, the bull, tired by the _muleta_, stood
motionless. Gallardo had the dead horse behind him. It was a bad
situation, but out of worse he had come victorious. He wished to take
advantage of the horse's position. The public excited him to it. Among
the men on the bleachers who had risen to their feet, and were leaning
forward to lose no detail of the decisive moment, he recognized many
popular devotees who had begun to cool toward him but were now
applauding him again, moved by consideration for the populace.

"Score a point, there! Good boy! Now we'll see the real thing! Strike
true!"

Gallardo turned his head slightly to salute Plumitas, who sat smiling,
his moon face peeping above his arms and the jacket.

"For you, comrade!"

He squared himself with the sword presented ready to kill--but at that
instant the earth seemed to shake and he felt himself hurled to a great
distance; then the plaza fell, everything turned black, and a fierce
hurricane of voices seemed to blow in from off the sea. His body
vibrated painfully, his head buzzed as if it would burst; a mortal
anguish contracted his breast--and he fell into a dark and limitless
void, as into the unconsciousness of death.

The bull, at the very instant in which Gallardo made ready to thrust,
had suddenly thrown himself upon him, attracted by the horse behind him.
It was a brutal encounter, in which the body of the bull-fighter with
its silk and gold trappings rolled away and disappeared beneath his
feet. He did not gore him with his horns, but the blow was horrible,
staggering. With head and horns the wild beast felled the man as though
he had been struck by a sledge hammer.

The bull, which saw only the horse, felt an obstacle near his feet, and
scorning the dead body, turned to attack again the brilliant puppet that
lay motionless on the sand. He raised it with one horn, tossed it some
feet away after giving it a brief shaking, and then started to return to
a third attack.

The multitude, stupefied by the swiftness with which all this had
occurred, remained silent, appalled. The bull was going to kill him!
Perhaps he had already done so! Suddenly a shriek from the entire
audience broke this agonizing silence. A cape was held between the wild
beast and his victim, a rag almost thrust over its head by vigorous arms
which tried to blind the brute. It was Nacional, who, in desperation,
threw himself upon the bull, willing to be caught by him to save his
master. The beast, stupefied by this new obstacle, charged against it,
turning tail to the man lying on the sand. The _banderillero_, in
between the horns, ran backward, waving the cape, not knowing how to
free himself from this perilous situation, but happy to see that he was
drawing the bull away from the wounded man.

The audience almost forgot the swordsman, so impressed was it by this
new incident. Nacional was going to fall also; he could not get out from
between the horns; the wild beast already had him almost hooked. Men
shouted as if their cries could aid him; women wailed with anguish,
turning away their faces and clutching one another convulsively, until
the _banderillero_, taking advantage of the moment in which the wild
beast lowered his head to charge, rushed from between the horns,
stepping to one side, while the animal ran on blindly, the torn cape
hanging before his eyes.

Then there broke forth deafening applause. The fickle multitude,
impressed only by the danger of the moment, applauded Nacional. It was
one of the happiest moments of his life. The audience, taken up with
him, scarcely noticed Gallardo's inanimate body as it was carried out of
the ring, the head hanging limp, by bull-fighters and employees of the
plaza.

At nightfall the only subject of conversation in the city was Gallardo's
injury, the most terrible of his life. Extras were being published in
many cities and newspapers all over Spain gave accounts of the events
with lengthy comment. The telegraph worked as if a political personage
had just been the victim of an assassin.

Terrifying news circulated along Sierpes Street exaggerated by Southern
hyperbolic commentary. Poor Gallardo had just died. He who gave the sad
news had seen him in a bed in the infirmary of the plaza, white as
paper, a cross in his hands. Another presented himself with less
lugubrious news. He was not dead yet, but he would die any moment.

"He has lost everything! Everything! Disembowelled! The brute has left
the poor fellow punctured like a sieve."

Guards had been placed at the entrances to the plaza so that the people,
anxious for news, should not invade the infirmary. The multitude surged
outside the ring asking news of the master's condition from those who
came and went.

Nacional, still dressed in his fighting costume, peered out several
times, ill-humored and frowning, blustering and angry, because
arrangements for moving the _maestro_ to his house had not been made.
The people seeing the _banderillero_ forgot the injured man and
congratulated him.

"Señor Sebastián, you have done very well. If it hadn't been for you--!"

But what mattered it to him what he had done? All--_liquid_. The only
thing of importance was poor Juan who lay in the infirmary fighting
death.

"And how is he, Señor Sebastián?"

"Very bad. He has just regained his senses. He has one leg ground to
dust; a horn-stab under the arm; and what more I know not! The poor boy
is as dear to me as my patron-saint. We are going to carry him home."

When night fell Gallardo was taken from the ring on a stretcher. The
multitude marched silently after him. The journey was long. Every moment
Nacional, who walked with his cape hanging over his arm, mingling in his
glittering bull-fighter's dress with the vulgar crowd, bent over the
rubber cover of the litter and ordered the bearers to halt.

The doctors from the plaza walked behind and with them the Marquis of
Moraima and Don José, who seemed ready to faint and fall into the arms
of companions from the Forty-five, who were all jumbled together and
mixed in with the ragged mob that followed the bull-fighter.

The crowd was in a state of consternation. It was a gloomy procession,
as if one of those national disasters that overcome differences of class
and level all men by general misfortune had taken place.

"What a calamity, Señor Marqués," said a chubby-cheeked, blonde rustic,
his jacket hanging over one shoulder.

Twice he had rudely shoved away one of the stretcher bearers in his
desire to help carry it. The Marquis looked at him sympathetically. He
must be one of those country men who were accustomed to greet him on the
high-road.

"Yes; a great calamity, boy."

"Do you think he will die, Señor Marqués?"

"They fear so--unless a miracle saves him. He is ground to dust."

The Marquis, laying his right hand on the stranger's shoulder, seemed to
be grateful for the sadness reflected in his countenance.

The arrival at Gallardo's house was painful. Cries of despair arose in
the courtyard. On the street, the women, neighbors, and friends of the
family, screamed and tore their hair, believing Juan already dead.
Potaje and some comrades were obliged to stand in the doorway scattering
blows and cuffs so that the multitude following the stretcher should not
besiege the house. The street was filled with a crowd that surged about
commenting on the event. All stared at the house anxious to divine
something through the walls.

The stretcher was carried into a room off the courtyard and the
_matador_ was moved to a bed with great care. He was enwrapped in cloths
and blood-stained bandages that smelled of strong antiseptics. A pink
stocking was all that remained of his fighting costume. His
underclothing was torn in some places and cut by scissors in others.

His _coleta_ hung about his neck disordered and tangled; his face had
the pallor of death. He opened his eyes as he felt a hand pressed into
one of his and smiled slightly on seeing Carmen, a Carmen as white as
himself, with dry eyes, livid lips, and an expression of dread, as if
this were her husband's last moment.

Gallardo's grave gentlemen friends prudently intervened. That could not
continue; Carmen must retire. As yet, only preliminary treatment had
been given the wound, and there was still much work for the doctors, so
the wife was taken out of the room. The wounded man made a sign with his
eyes to Nacional, who bent over him straining to catch his faint
whisper.

"Juan says," he murmured, going out into the courtyard, "to telegraph to
Doctor Ruiz."

The manager answered, happy at his foresight that he had done so in the
middle of the afternoon, as soon as he became convinced of the
seriousness of the calamity. He was sure the doctor must already be on
the way and would arrive the next morning.

After this, Don José continued questioning the doctors who had treated
him in the plaza. Their first, perturbation over, they grew more
optimistic. It was possible he might not die. His constitution was so
strong! The greatest thing to fear was the shock he had suffered, the
shaking which was enough to kill another instantly; but he had already
come out of the first collapse and had recovered his senses, although
his weakness was great. As for the wounds, they did not consider them
dangerous. That on the arm was a slight thing; perhaps it would be less
agile than before. As for the leg, there was less hope. The bone was
fractured; Gallardo might be left lame.

Don José, who had made every effort to be impassive when, hours before,
the swordsman's death was considered inevitable, shuddered on hearing
this. His _matador_ lame? Then he could never again fight bulls! He was
indignant at the calmness with which the doctors talked of the
possibility of Gallardo's being left useless for bull-fighting.

"That cannot be. Do you think it logical that Juan will live and not
fight bulls? Who would take his place? It cannot be, I say! The greatest
man in the world, and they want him to retire!"

He spent the night watching with the men of the _cuadrilla_ and
Gallardo's brother-in-law. The next morning he rushed to the station.
The express from Madrid arrived and on it Doctor Ruiz. He came without
baggage, dressed with his usual carelessness, smiling beneath his
yellowish white beard, his big abdomen shaking like a Buddha, in his
loose waistcoat, with the movements of his short legs. He had received
the news in Madrid as he was coming away from a fight of young bullocks
arranged to introduce a certain boy from Las Ventas. It was a clownish
exhibition which had greatly amused him and he laughed after a night of
weariness in the train, remembering this grotesque _corrida_, as if he
had forgotten the object of his journey.

As he entered the sick room the bull-fighter, who seemed overcome with
weakness, opened his eyes and recognized him, and his face lighted with
a smile of confidence. Ruiz, after listening in a corner to the whispers
of the doctors who had given first aid, approached the invalid with a
resolute air.

"Courage, my good fellow, thou are not going to die of this! Thou hast
ever such rare luck!"

And then he added, turning to his colleagues: "But what a magnificent
animal this Juanillo is! Any other, by this time, would not have left us
anything to do."

He examined him with care. A bad horn-wound; but he had seen many worse!
In cases of sickness that he called _ordinary_, he vacillated undecided,
not venturing to express an opinion. But the goring of a bull was his
speciality and he always expected the most remarkable recoveries, as if
the horns gave the wound and the remedy at once.

"The man that doesn't die in the ring itself," he said, "can almost say
he is saved. The cure is just a question of time."

For three days Gallardo was subjected to atrocious operations and
groaned with pain, for his weak state did not permit of the use of
anæsthetics. Doctor Ruiz extracted various splinters from one leg,
fragments of the fractured shin-bone.

"Who said thou wouldst be left useless for fighting?" exclaimed the
doctor, happy in his skill. "Thou wilt fight bulls again, son; the
public will still be obliged to applaud thee much."

The manager assented to these words. He had thought the same. Could that
youth, who was the greatest man in the world, die thus?

By Doctor Ruiz' order, the bull-fighter's family had moved to Don José's
house. The women bothered him; their proximity was intolerable during
operating hours. A moan from the bull-fighter was enough to awaken
instant response from all parts of the house; the mother's and sister's
screams were like painful echoes. Carmen had to be held by force, and
she fought like a mad woman in her desire to go to her husband's side.

Grief had changed the wife, making her forget her animosity. Often her
tears were caused by remorse, for she believed herself the unconscious
author of the calamity.

"The fault is mine; I know it," she said in despair to Nacional. "He
said over and over again he wished a bull would gore him to finish it
all! I have been very wicked. I have embittered his life."

In vain the _banderillero_ recounted the event in all its details to
convince her that the calamity had been accidental. No; Gallardo,
according to her, had wanted to end his life, and had it not been for
the _banderillero_, he would have been carried out of the ring dead.

When the operations were over, the family returned to the house. Carmen
entered the wounded man's room with a light step and lowered eyes, as if
ashamed of her former hostility.

"How art thou?" she asked, clasping one of Juan's hands between both her
own. She remained thus, silent and timid in the presence of Dr. Ruiz and
other friends who stayed by the sick man's bedside. Had she been left
alone perhaps she would have knelt beside her husband asking his
forgiveness. Poor fellow! She had made him desperate by her cruelty,
sending him to his death. She wished to forget it all. And her simple
soul looked out of her eyes with self-abnegation, her humility mingled
with wifely love and tenderness.

Gallardo seemed to have grown smaller with so much suffering; he was
thin, pale, and shrunken. Nothing was left of the arrogant youth who
fired the public with his daring. He complained of his inactivity and of
his useless leg, heavy as lead. The terrible operations he had undergone
in full consciousness seemed to have made him a coward. His fortitude in
bearing pain had disappeared and he groaned at the slightest
molestation.

His room was like a place of reunion through which the most celebrated
connoisseurs of the city passed. The smoke of their cigars was mingled
with the stench of iodoform and strong liniments. Bottles of wine that
had been presented by the callers stood on the tables among medicine
flasks and packages of cotton and bandages.

"That is nothing," shouted his friends, wishing to encourage the
bull-fighter with their noisy optimism. "Inside of a couple of months
thou wilt be fighting bulls again. Thou hast fallen into good hands.
Doctor Ruiz works miracles."

The doctor was equally encouraging.

"We have a man on our hands again. Look at him; he is smoking. And a
sick man that smokes--"



CHAPTER XI

DOCTOR RUIZ ON TAUROMACHY


Far into the night the doctor, the manager, and members of the
_cuadrilla_ kept the wounded man company. When Potaje came he sat near
the table trying to keep the bottles within reach of his hand. The
conversation between Ruiz, the manager, and Nacional was always about
bulls. It was impossible to be with Don José and talk of anything else.
They commented on all bull-fighters' defects, discussed their merits and
the money they earned, while the convalescent listened in forced
inactivity or fell into a drowsy torpor stupefied by the murmur of
conversation.

Generally the doctor was the only one who talked, followed in his
pompous argument by Nacional's grave and admiring eyes. "Bull-fighting
is an evolution," said he. "Dost thou understand, Sebastián? A
development from the customs of our country, a modification of the
popular diversions which Spaniards of olden times were given to; those
times of which Don Joselito must often have talked of to thee."

Dr. Ruiz, with a glass in one hand, talked and talked, only stopping to
take a sip.

The idea that bull-fighting as we know it is an ancient sport is nothing
but a tremendous lie. They killed wild beasts in Spain for the diversion
of the people but bull-fighting did not then exist as it is known
to-day. The Cid speared bulls skilfully and Christian and Moorish
gentlemen diverted themselves in the bull-ring, but bull-fighting as a
profession did not exist nor did they send the animals to a noble death
according to rules.

The doctor related the history of the national sport for centuries past.
Only on rare occasions, when kings married, when a treaty of peace was
signed, or a chapel in a cathedral was dedicated, were such events as
bull-fights celebrated. There was no regularity in the repetition of
these feasts, nor were there any professional fighters. Titled gentlemen
dressed in costumes of silks went into the bull-ring mounted on their
chargers to spear the beast, or to fight it with lances before the eyes
of the ladies. If the bull managed to throw them off their horses they
drew their swords, and with the assistance of their lackeys put it to
death, wounding it wherever they could, without conforming to any rules.
When the _corrida_ was for the people the multitude descended into the
arena, attacking the bull _en masse_ until they succeeded in routing it,
killing it by dagger thrusts.

"Bull-fights did not exist," continued the doctor. "That was hunting
wild cattle. In fact, the people had other occupations, and reckoned on
other sports peculiar to their epoch, and did not need to perfect this
diversion."

The warlike Spaniard had a sure means of making his career in his
incessant wars in divers parts of Europe, and the exploration of the
Americas always called for valiant men. Moreover, religion afforded
frequent emotional spectacles, full of the thrill provided by the sight
of suffering in others by which indulgences for the soul could be
obtained. The sentences pronounced by the Inquisition and the burning
of human beings at the stake were spectacles that took away interest in
games with mere wild animals. The Inquisition became the great national
festival.

"But there came a day," continued Doctor Ruiz with a fine smile, "in
which the Inquisition began to lose ground. Everything comes to an end
in this world. It finally died of old age, long before the reform
statutes suppressed it. It wore itself out; the world had changed and
such diversions became something like what a bull-fight in Norway would
be among the snows and beneath the gloomy sky. They lacked atmosphere.
They began to be ashamed of burning men, with all the pomp of sermons,
ridiculous vestures, and recantations. They no longer dared pass
Inquisition sentences. When it was necessary to show that it still
existed they contented themselves with beatings given behind closed
doors. At the same time we Spaniards, weary of roving over the world in
search of adventure, began to stay at home. There were no longer wars in
Flanders or in Italy; the conquest of America, with its continual
embarkation of adventurers, terminated, and then it was that the art of
bull-fighting began, that permanent plazas were constructed and
_cuadrillas_ of professional bull-fighters were formed; the game was
adjusted to rules, and the feats of _banderillas_ and of killing, as we
know them to-day, were recognized. The multitude found the sport much to
its liking. Bull-fighting became democratic when it was converted into a
profession. Gentlemen were substituted by plebians who demanded pay for
exposing their lives, and the people flocked to the bull-rings of their
own free will, and dared to insult from their seats in the plaza the
very authority which inspired their terror in the streets. The sons of
those who had frequented with religious and intense enthusiasm the
burning of heretics and the baiting of Jews gave themselves up to
witnessing, with noisy shouts, the struggle between the man and the
bull, in which only occasionally death comes to the man. Is this not
progress?"

Ruiz insisted on his idea. In the middle of the eighteenth century when
Spain retired within herself, renouncing distant wars, and new
colonizations, and when religious cruelty languished for lack of
atmosphere, then was the time when bull-fighting flourished forth.
Popular heroism needed new heights to scale for notoriety and fortune.
The ferocity of the multitude, accustomed to orgies of death, needed a
safety valve to give expansion to its soul, educated for centuries to
the contemplation of torture. The Order of the Inquisition was replaced
by the bull-fight. He who a century before would have been a soldier in
Flanders, or a military colonizer in the solitudes of the New World,
became a bull-fighter. The people, finding their avenues of expansion
closed, saw in the new national sport a glorious opening for all the
ambitious ones who had valor and courage.

"It was progress!" continued the doctor. "That seems clear to me. So I,
who am revolutionary in everything, am not ashamed to say I like the
bulls. Man needs a spice of wickedness to enliven the monotony of
existence. Alcohol is bad also and we know it does us harm, but nearly
all of us drink it. A little savagery now and then gives one new energy
to go on living. We all like to take a look into the past once in a
while and live the life of our remote ancestors. Brutality renews those
mysterious inner forces that it is not well to let die. You say
bull-fights are barbarous? So they are; but they are not the only
barbarous sport in the world. The turning to violent and savage joys is
a human ailment that all people suffer equally. For that reason I am
indignant when I see foreigners turn contemptuous eyes on Spain, as if
such things only existed here."

And the doctor railed against horse-races, in which many more men are
killed than in bull-fights; against fox hunting with trained dogs,
witnessed by civilized spectators; against many modern games out of
which the champions come with broken legs, fractured skulls, or
flattened noses; against the duel, fought in the majority of cases
without other cause than an unhealthy desire for publicity.

"The bull and the horse," railed Ruiz, "bring to tears the very people
that don't raise the slightest outcry in their own countries when they
see a racing animal fall in the hippodrome, ruptured, or with broken
legs, the very people who think the establishment of a zoölogical garden
the complement to the beauty of every great city."

Doctor Ruiz was indignant because, in the name of civilization,
bull-fights were anathematized as barbarous and sanguinary, while in the
name of the same civilization the most useless as well as harmful
animals on earth were lodged and fed and warmed in princely luxury. Why
is that? Science knows them perfectly and has them catalogued. If their
extermination is objected to, one must still protest against the dark
tragedies that take place every day in the cages in the zoölogical
parks, the goat bleating piteously as he is thrust defenceless into the
panther's den, to be crushed to death by the wild beast burying his
claws in the victim's entrails, and his chops in his steaming blood;
timid rabbits, torn from the mountain's fragrant peace, trembling at the
breath of the boa which hypnotizes them with its eyes and winds the
coils of its grotesque rings about them. Hundreds of poor animals which
should be protected because of their weakness die to sustain absolutely
useless ferocious wild beasts that are kept and feasted in cities which
boast of belonging to the higher civilization; and from these same
cities insults are hurled against Spanish cruelty, because brave and
expert men, following rules of undisputed wisdom, kill a proud and
fearful wild beast face to face, in broad day, beneath the blue heavens,
in the presence of a noisy, gay-colored multitude, adding the charm of
picturesque beauty to the emotion of danger. _Vive Dios!_

"They insult us because we have become weak," said Ruiz, waxing
indignant over what he considered universal injustice. "Our world is
like a monkey that imitates the gestures and joys of the one he respects
as a master. Just now England leads, and both hemispheres approve
horse-racing; crowds stupidly gather to watch lank nags run around a
race-track, a spectacle that could not be surpassed in insipidity. If in
the days of Spain's supremacy bull-fighting had been as popular as
to-day, there would now be bull-rings in many European countries. Don't
talk to me about the superior foreigners! I admire them because they
have made revolutions, and we owe much of our thought to them; but
regarding bulls, heavens, man, they talk nothing but nonsense!"

And the vehement doctor, with the blindness of fanaticism, condemned in
his execration everybody on the planet who abominated the Spanish sport
while at the same time they upheld other sanguinary diversions which
cannot even justify themselves with the pretext of beauty.

After a stay of ten days in Seville the doctor had to return to Madrid.

"Well, young fellow," he said to the sick man, "thou dost not need me
now and I have a great deal to do. Don't be imprudent. After two months
thou wilt be well and strong. It is possible thou mayest be a little
stiff in the leg, but thou hast a constitution of iron and thou wilt
mend."

Gallardo's recovery took place within the time set by Ruiz. When at the
end of a month his leg was freed from its enforced quiet, the
bull-fighter, weak and limping slightly, could go out and sit in an
arm-chair in the courtyard, where he received his friends.

During his illness, when the fever was high and he was lost in delirium,
one thought, ever the same, held firm in the midst of his imaginative
wanderings. Doña Sol--did that woman know of his misfortune?

While he was still in bed he ventured to ask his manager about her one
day when they were alone.

"Yes, man," said Don José, "she has thought of thee. She sent me a
telegram from Nice, asking about thy health three days after the
accident. Doubtless she heard of it through the newspapers. They have
talked about thee everywhere, as if thou wert a king."

The manager had answered the telegram but had heard nothing from her
since.

Gallardo was satisfied with this news for some days but then he began
to ask again, with the insistence of a sick man who thinks the whole
world interested in the state of his health. Had she not written? Had
she not asked for more news of him? The manager tried to excuse Doña
Sol's silence and thus console his _matador_. He must remember that the
lady was always travelling. How could any one know where she might be at
that moment?

But the bull-fighter's sorrow at thinking himself forgotten obliged Don
José to lie out of pity. Days before he had received a short note from
Italy in which Doña Sol asked for news of the wounded man.

"Let me see it," said Gallardo eagerly.

When he pretended to have forgotten it at home, Gallardo implored him,
"Bring it to me. I so long to see her writing, to convince myself that
she remembers me."

To avoid new complications, Don José invented a correspondence which
never reached his hands because it was directed to some one else. Doña
Sol wrote, according to him, to the marquis in regard to business
connected with her fortune, and at the end of every letter she asked
about Gallardo's health. Again, the letters were to a cousin of hers and
in them was the same thought of the bull-fighter.

Gallardo heard this news joyfully but at the same time shook his head
with a doubtful expression. When would he see her again! Would he ever
see her? Ah, that erratic woman, who had flown without reason at the
caprice of her strange disposition!

"What thou shouldst do," said the manager, "is to forget women and think
about business a little. Thou art no longer in bed. How dost thou feel
in regard to strength? Tell me, shall we fight bulls or not? Thou hast
the rest of the winter in which to grow strong. Shall we accept
contracts to fight this year, or shall we refuse?"

Gallardo raised his head proudly, as if something dishonorable had been
proposed to him. Give up bull-fighting? Pass a year without being seen
in the ring? Was it possible the public could be resigned to such an
absence?

"Accept, Don José. From now till spring there is time to get strong. I
will fight whatever they put before me. You can make a contract for the
Easter bull-fight. It seems to me this leg is going to give me a good
deal of trouble, but by then, God willing, I'll be as if made of iron."

It was two months before the bull-fighter grew strong. He limped
slightly and felt less agility in his arms; but he made light of these
troubles as insignificant when he began to feel the power of health
reanimating his vigorous body.

Finding himself alone in his wife's room (for he had returned to it when
he abandoned the sick chamber), he stood before a mirror and squared
himself as though facing a bull, placing one arm above the other in the
form of a cross as though holding the sword and _muleta_ in his hands.
_Zas!_ A sword-thrust at the invisible bull. To the very hilt! He smiled
proudly thinking how his enemies were going to be deceived, those who
prophesied his immediate decadence whenever he was gored.

It would be a long time yet before he could enter the ring. He longed
for the glory of applause and the acclamation of the multitudes with the
eagerness of a beginner,--as though the recent injury had closed a past
existence; as if the former Gallardo were another man while now he had
to begin his career anew.

He decided to pass the rest of the winter at La Rinconada with his
family, to gain strength. Hunting and long trips would improve his
broken leg. Besides, he would ride on horseback overseeing the work, he
would visit the flocks of goats, the herds of swine, the droves of
cattle and horses pastured in the meadows. The administration of the
plantation was not getting on well. Everything cost him more than other
proprietors and the profits were less. It was the estate of a
bull-fighter of generous habits accustomed to earning great quantities
of money without knowing the restriction of economy. His travels during
a part of the year, and his accident, which had brought stupefaction and
disorder into his house, caused business to go awry.

Antonio, his brother-in-law, who had established himself at the
plantation for a season with the airs of a dictator intending to set
everything in order, had only impeded the progress of the work and
provoked the ire of the laborers. Fortunately Gallardo counted on
certain returns from the bull-fights, an inexhaustible source of wealth
for repairing his prodigality.

Before leaving for La Rinconada Señora Angustias begged her son to go
and kneel before the Virgin of Hope. It was to fulfil a promise she had
made in that dismal twilight when she had seen him brought home upon a
stretcher, pale and motionless as a dead man. How often had she wept
before the Macarena, the beautiful Queen of Heaven with her long lashes
and olive cheeks, asking her not to forget her poor Juanillo!

The occasion was a popular event. The gardeners of the Macarena ward
were called upon by the master's mother, and the Church of San Gil was
filled with flowers arranged in tall heaps like pyramids on the altars,
or hanging in garlands between the arches and suspended from the lamps
in great clusters.

The sacred ceremony took place one bright morning. In spite of its being
a week-day the church was filled with the best families of the nearby
wards; stout women with black eyes and short necks, with waists and hips
outlined in coarse curves, wearing black silk gowns with lace
_mantillas_ over their pale faces; workmen recently shaven, in new
suits, round hats, and with great gold chains on their waistcoats.
Beggars came in bands as if a wedding were to be celebrated and stood at
the doors of the temple in double file. The good wives of the ward,
unkempt and with babies in their arms, formed groups, impatiently
awaiting the arrival of Gallardo and his family.

A mass was to be sung with accompaniment of orchestra and voices,
something extraordinary, like the opera in the theatre of San Fernando
at Christmas time. Then the priests would sing the _Te Deum_ as a
thanksgiving for the recovery of Señor Juan Gallardo, just as when the
king entered Seville.

The _cortège_ appeared making its way through the crowd. The
bull-fighter's mother and wife, with relatives and friends, walked in
advance, while the heavy silk of their skirts rustled as they passed,
smiling sweetly beneath their _mantillas_.

Behind came Gallardo, followed by an interminable escort of
bull-fighters and friends, all dressed in light colors, with chains and
rings of amazing splendor, wearing on their heads white felt hats which
contrasted with the blackness of the feminine headgear.

Gallardo was grave. He was a sincere believer. He thought little about
God and blasphemed Him in difficult moments with the automatism of
custom; but this was a different thing; he was going to give thanks to
the Most Holy Macarena, and he entered the temple with an air of pious
compunction.

All went in except Nacional, who abandoned his wife and offspring and
remained outside in the churchyard.

"I am a free-thinker," he believed the time opportune to declare before
a group of friends. "I respect all beliefs; but what is going on inside,
for me is--_liquid!_ I don't want to be lacking in respect to the
Macarena, nor to rob her of her due, but, comrade, if I had not arrived
in time to attract the bull away when Juaniyo was stretched on the
ground--!"

The sound of the instruments was borne out to the churchyard, with the
voices of the singers, a sweet, voluptuous harmony, accompanied by
breaths of perfume from the flowers and the odor of wax candles.

The bull-fighters and devotees of Gallardo who were gathered outside the
temple smoked cigarette after cigarette. From time to time some of them
strayed off to while away the time in the nearest tavern.

When the company came forth again the poor appeared smiling and
gesticulating, their hands full of coin. There was money for all. The
_maestro_ Gallardo was liberal.

Señora Angustias wept, with her head reclining on a friend's shoulder.

At the door of the church the _matador_, smiling and magnificent, gave
his arm to his wife, who walked tremulous with emotion and with lowered
eyes, a tear quivering on her lashes.

Carmen felt as if she had just been married a second time.



CHAPTER XII

AIRING THE SAINTS


As Holy Week drew near, Gallardo gave his mother a great joy. In former
years the swordsman used to join the procession of the San Lorenzo
parish as a devotee of Our Lord Jesus of the Great Power, dressed in a
black tunic with a tall hood and a mask that left only his eyes visible.
It was a gentleman's fraternity, and the bull-fighter, finding himself
on the road to fortune, had joined it, forsaking popular brotherhoods in
which devotion was accompanied by drunkenness and scandal.

Gallardo talked with pride of the seriousness of this religious
association. Everything was orderly and well disciplined, as in the
army. On the night of Holy Thursday, when the clock on San Lorenzo was
striking the second stroke of two at break of day, the doors opened
instantaneously and the whole interior of the temple, full of lights and
with the fraternity in line, appeared before the eyes of the multitude
which was crowded together in the darkness of the churchyard.

The black-cowled figures, silent and gloomy, with no other expression of
life than the glitter of their eyes behind the dark mask, advanced two
by two with slow step, keeping a wide space between pair and pair,
grasping their torches of livid flame and trailing their long tunics on
the floor.

The multitude, with that impressionability inherent in Southern peoples,
contemplated intently the passing of the hooded brethren whom they
called Nazarenes, mysterious maskers who perhaps were great gentlemen,
moved by traditional devotion to figure in this nocturnal procession
which ended immediately at sunrise.

It was a silent fraternity. The Nazarenes must not speak, and they
marched escorted by municipal guards who took care that the importunate
should not molest them. Drunkards abounded in the multitude. There
wandered through the streets tireless devotees who, in memory of the
Passion of Our Lord, began on Holy Wednesday to demonstrate their piety
by walking from tavern to tavern, and did not reach the last station
until Saturday, in which they took final refuge after innumerable falls
by the way which had been for them likewise a sort of Via Dolorosa.

As the members of the fraternity, sentenced to silence under heavy
penalty, marched along in procession, the drunken concourse drew near
and murmured in their ears the most atrocious insults against the
maskers and their families, whom perhaps they did not know. The Nazarene
held his peace and suffered in silence, swallowing the outrages and
offering them as a sacrifice to the Lord of Great Power. But these
troublesome fellows, like flies that would not be driven away, incited
to further activity by this meekness, redoubled their offensive buzzing
until at last some pious masker thought that, although silence was
obligatory, inaction was not, and without speaking a word, raised the
torch and struck a drunkard who had disturbed the sacred order of the
ceremony.

During the course of the procession, when the bearers of the statues
halted for rest and the heavy platforms of the images hung about with
lanterns stood still, at a light hiss the hooded brethren stopped, the
couples standing face to face, with the flambeau resting on one foot,
gazing at the crowd through the masks with their mysterious eyes. They
were like gloomy apparitions escaped from an Inquisition sentence,
grotesque beings seeming to shed perfumes of incense and stench of
burning flesh.

The mournful blast of the copper trumpets sounded, breaking the silence
of the night. Above the points of the hoods the pennants of the
fraternity, squares of black velvet edged with gold fringe, moved in the
breeze; the Roman anagram, S. P. Q. R., recalled the intervention of the
Prefect of Judea in the death of the Saviour.

The image of Our Father Jesus of the Great Power advanced on a heavy
platform of wrought metal with black velvet hangings that grazed the
ground, hiding the feet of the twenty sweaty, half-naked men who walked
beneath carrying it. Four groups of lanterns with golden angels shone at
the corners; in the centre was Jesus, a Jesus tragic, painful, bleeding,
crowned with thorns, bent beneath the weight of the cross, his face
cadaverous and his eyes tearful, dressed in an ample velvet tunic so
covered with golden flowers that the rich cloth could scarcely be
distinguished beneath the delicate arabesque in the complicated design
of the embroidery.

The presence of the Lord of the Great Power called forth sighs from
hundreds. "Father Josú!" murmured the old women, their eyes fixed on the
image with hypnotic stare. "Lord of the Great Power! Remember us!"

The image rested in the centre of a plaza with its escort of hooded
inquisitionists, and the devotion of the Andalusian people, which
confides all conditions of its soul to song, greeted the float with
bird-like trills and interminable lamentations.

An infantile voice of tremulous sweetness broke the silence. It was a
young woman who, advancing through the crowd until she stood in the
first row, broke into a _saeta_ to Jesus. The three verses of the song
were for the Lord of Great Power, for the most divine statue, and for
the sculptor Montañés, one of the great Spanish artists of the golden
age.

This _saeta_ was like the first shot of a battle that starts an
interminable outburst of explosions. Hers was not yet ended when another
was heard from a different quarter, and another and another, as if the
plaza were a great cage of mad birds which, on being awakened by the
voice of a companion, all joined in song at once in bewildering
confusion. Masculine voices, grave and hoarse, united their sombre tones
to the feminine trilling. All sang with their eyes fixed on the image,
as if they stood alone before it, forgetting the crowd that surrounded
them, deaf to the other voices, without losing place or hesitating in
the complicated trills of the _saeta_, which made discord and mingled
inharmoniously with the chanting of the others. The hooded brethren
listened motionless, gazing at the Jesus, who received these warblings
without ceasing to shed tears beneath the weight of the cross and the
stinging pain of the thorns, until the conductor of the image, deciding
that the halt be over, rang a silver bell on the fore-end of the
platform. "Arise!" The Lord of Great Power, after several vibrations,
rose higher and the feet of the invisible bearers began to move along
the ground like tentacles.

Next came the Virgin, "Our Lady of the Greater Sorrow," for every parish
paraded two images--one of the Son of God and the other of His Holy
Mother. Beneath a velvet canopy the golden crown of the Lady of Greater
Sorrow trembled, surrounded by lights. The train of her mantle, many
yards long, fell behind the image, held out by a kind of wooden
hoop-skirt, showing the splendor of its heavy embroideries, glittering
and costly, on which the skill and patience of an entire generation had
been spent.

The hooded brethren, with sputtering torches, escorted the Virgin, the
reflection of their lights trembling on this regal mantle which filled
the scene with glittering splendor. To the sound of the double beat of
drums marched a group of women, their bodies in shadow and their faces
reddened by the flame of the candles they carried in their hands; old
women in _mantillas_, with bare feet; young women dressed in white gowns
originally intended as winding-sheets; women who walked with difficulty
as though suffering from painful maladies--a whole battalion of
suffering humanity, delivered from death through the mercy of the Lord
of Great Power and His Most Holy Mother, walking behind their images to
fulfil a vow.

The procession, after marching slowly through the streets, with long
halts accompanied by songs, entered the cathedral, which remained open
all night. The defile of lights on entering the enormous naves of this
temple brought out from obscurity the gigantic columns wrapped in
purple hangings edged with lines of gold, without dissipating the thick
darkness of the vaulted roof. The hooded men marched like black insects
in the ruddy light of the torches below, while night was still massed
above. They went out into the starlight again, leaving this crypt-like
obscurity, and the sun surprised the procession in the open street,
extinguishing the brilliancy of their torches, causing the gold of the
holy vestments and the tears and sweat of agony on the images to glisten
in the light of dawn.

Gallardo was devoted to the Lord of the Great Power and to the majestic
silence of his fraternity, but this year he decided to parade with those
of the Macarena who escorted the miraculous Virgin of Hope.

Señora Angustias was overjoyed when she heard his decision. Well did he
owe it to this Virgin for having saved him from his last goring.
Besides, this flattered her sentiments of plebian simplicity.

"Every one with his kind, Juaniyo. Thou goest with the upper class, but
remember that the poor always loved thee and that they had begun to talk
against thee, thinking that thou didst despise them."

The bull-fighter knew it too well. The tumultuous populace which
occupied the bleachers in the plaza had begun to show a certain
animosity toward him, thinking themselves forgotten. They criticised his
intercourse with the rich and his drawing away from those who had been
his first admirers. To overcome this animosity, Gallardo took advantage
of every opportunity, flattering the rabble with the unscrupulous
servility of those who must live by public applause. He had sent for the
most influential brethren of the Macarena to explain to them that he
would be in the procession. The people must not know of it. He did it as
a devotee and wished his act to remain a secret. But in a few days,
nothing else was discussed in the whole ward. The Macarena would be
carried this year in great beauty! They scorned the rich devotees of the
Great Power with its orderly, insipid procession, and they gave
attention only to their rivals of the boisterous Triana on the other
side of the river, who were so arrogant over their objects of devotion,
Our Lady of Protection and Christ of the Expiration, whom they called
the Most Holy _Cachorro_.

Gallardo collected all his own and his wife's jewels to contribute to
the Macarena's splendor. In her ears he would put some pendants of
Carmen's which he had bought in Madrid, investing in them the profits of
several bull-fights. On her breast she should wear his chain of rolled
gold, and hanging from it all his rings and the great diamond buttons
which he put in his shirt bosom when he went out dressed in courtly
style.

"_Josú!_ How fine our brunette will be," said the women of the
neighborhood speaking of the Virgin. "Señor Juan is running everything.
Half Seville will go mad with enthusiasm."

The _matador_ believed in the Virgin and with devout egoism he wished to
enter into her favor in view of future dangers, but he trembled as he
thought of the jokes of his friends when they gathered in the _cafés_
and societies on Sierpes Street.

"They will cut off my _coleta_ if they recognize me. But one has to get
along with everybody."

On Holy Thursday he went to the cathedral at night with his wife to hear
the _Miserere_. The temple, with its stupendously high vaulted arches,
was without other light than that of the ruddy glow from the candles on
the columns. The people of the better class were caged behind the
grilles of the chapels on the sides, avoiding contact with the sweaty
crowd that surged in the naves. The lights destined for the musicians
and singers shone from out the obscurity of the choir like a
constellation of red stars. Eslava's _Miserere_ sent forth its sweet
Italian melodies into this awesome atmosphere of shade and mystery. It
was an Andalusian _Miserere_, somewhat playful and gay, like the
flapping of bird wings, with romances like love serenades and choruses
like revellers' roundelays, the joy of living in a fair land that causes
forgetfulness of death and protests against the sorrow of the Passion.

When the tenor's voice ended the last romance and his lamentations were
lost in the vaulted ceiling, apostrophizing the deicide city,
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" the crowd scattered, desiring to return as soon
as possible to the streets, which had the aspect of a theatre, with the
electric lights, their rows of chairs on the sidewalks, and their boxes
in the plazas.

Gallardo returned home to dress himself as a Nazarene. Señora Angustias
had given much care to his costume, which took her back to the days of
her youth. Ah! her poor husband, who on this night had put on his
warlike trappings and, throwing his lance over his shoulder, had gone
out into the streets not to return till the following day, when he came
back with his helmet dented and his armour covered with filth, after
having camped with his brothers-in-arms in all the taverns in Seville!

The swordsman cared for his underwear with feminine scrupulousness. He
paid the Nazarene costume the same attentions he gave a fighting dress
on a bull-fight afternoon. He put on silk stockings and patent leather
shoes, and the white sateen gown prepared by his mother's hands, and
over this the pointed cape of green velvet that fell from his shoulders
to his knees, like a chasuble. The coat of arms of the fraternity was
richly and carefully embroidered with a profusion of colors on one side
of the breast. Then he drew on white gloves and grasped a tall cane,
emblem of dignity in the fraternity; a staff covered with green velvet
and tipped with silver.

In a narrow street Gallardo met the procession of the Company of the
Jews, a troop of men in coats of mail, who, eager to show their warlike
discipline, kept step as they marched in time to a drum that beat
ceaselessly. They were young men and old, with their countenances framed
by the metallic chin-straps of the helmet, wearing wine-colored habits,
flesh-colored cotton hose, and high sandals. They wore the Roman sword
at the belt, and, to imitate modern soldiers, the cord that held their
lances hung from one shoulder, like a gun-case. At the head of the
company floated the Roman banner with its senatorial inscription.

The procession marched with traditional slowness, stopping whole hours
at the crossways. They did not value time. It was twelve o'clock at
night and the Macarena would not return to her abode until twelve on the
following morning, taking more time to travel about the city than is
needed to go from Seville to Madrid.

First came the _paso_ of the "Sentence of Our Lord Jesus Christ," a
float filled with figures representing Pilate seated on a golden throne
surrounded by soldiers in colored skirts and plumed helmets, watching
the sad Jesus soon to march to the place of execution in a tunic of
brown velvet covered with embroideries, and three golden plumes that
signified rays of divinity above his crown of thorns. This _paso_
proceeded without attracting attention, as if humbled by the proximity
of the one that came after, the Queen of the popular wards, the
miraculous Virgin of Hope, the Macarena. When the Virgin with the rosy
cheeks and long lashes left San Gil beneath a trembling canopy of
velvet, bowing with the movement of the hidden bearers, a deafening
acclamation arose from the multitude that surged through the small
plaza. But how pretty the great Señora! She never grew older!

The mantle, splendid, immense, with heavy gold embroidery that resembled
the meshes of a net, hung behind the float, like the wide-spread tail of
a gigantic peacock. Her glass eyes shone as if filled with tears of
emotion in response to the acclamations of the faithful, and to this
glitter was added the scintillation of the jewels that covered her body,
forming an armor of gold and precious stones over the embroidered
velvet. She seemed sprinkled with a shower of luminous drops, in which
flamed all the colors of the rainbow. From her neck hung strings of
pearls, chains of gold with dozens of rings linked together that
scattered magic splendors as she moved. The tunic and the front of the
mantle were hung with gold watches fastened on with pins, pendants of
emeralds and diamonds, rings with enormous stones like luminous pebbles.
All the devotees sent their jewels that they might light the most Holy
Macarena on her journey. The women exhibited their hands divested of
ornaments on this night of religious sacrifice, happy to have the Mother
of God display jewels that were their pride. The public knew them from
having seen them every year. That one which the Virgin displayed on her
breast, hanging from a chain, belonged to Gallardo, the bull-fighter.
But others shared the popular honors along with him. Feminine glances
devoured rapturously two enormous pearls and a strand of rings. They
belonged to a girl of the ward who had gone to Madrid two years before,
and being a devotee of the Macarena, returned to see the feast with an
old gentleman. The luck of that girl--!

Gallardo, with his face covered, and leaning on a staff, the emblem of
authority, marched before the _paso_ with the dignitaries of the
brotherhood. Other hooded brothers carried long trumpets adorned with
green bannerets with fringes of gold. They raised the mouthpiece to an
aperture in the masks, and an ear-splitting blast, an agonizing sound,
rent the silence. But this hair-raising roar awoke no echo of death in
the hearts that beat around them.

Along the dark and solitary cross-streets came whiffs of springtime
breezes laden with garden perfumes, the fragrance of orange blossoms,
and the aroma of flowers in pots ranged behind grilles and balconies.
The blue of the sky paled at the caress of the moon which rested on a
downy bed of clouds, thrusting its face between two gables. The
melancholy defile seemed to march against the current of Nature, losing
its funereal gravity at each step. In vain the trumpets sounded
lamentations of death, in vain the minstrels wept as they intoned the
sacred verses, and in vain the grim executioners kept step with
hangman's frown. The vernal night laughed, scattering its breath of
perfumed life. No one dwelt on death.

Enthusiastic _Macarenos_ surrounded the Virgin like a troop of
revellers. Gardeners came from the suburbs with their dishevelled women
who dragged a string of children by the hand, taking them on an
excursion lasting until the dawn. Young fellows of the ward with new
hats and with curls smoothed down over their ears flourished clubs with
warlike fervor, as though some one were likely to display lack of
respect for the beautiful Lady, so that the support of their arm would
be necessary. All jostled together, crowding into the narrow streets
between the enormous _paso_ and the walls, but with their eyes fixed on
those of the image, talking to her, hurling compliments to her beauty
and miraculous power with the inconsistency produced by wine and their
frivolous bird-like minds.

"_Olé, la Macarena!_ The greatest Virgin in the world! She who excels
all other Virgins!"

Every fifty steps the sacred platform was halted. There was no hurry.
The journey was long. At many houses they demanded that the Virgin stop
so that they could gaze on her at leisure. Every tavern keeper also
asked for a pause at the door of his establishment, alleging his rights
as a citizen of the ward. A man crossed the street directing his steps
toward the hooded brethren with the staffs who walked in advance of the
float.

"Hold! Let them stop! For here is the greatest singer in the world who
wishes to sing a couplet to the Virgin."

"The greatest singer in the world," leaning against one friend, and
handing his glass to another, advanced toward the image with shaking
legs, and after clearing his throat delivered a torrent of hoarse sounds
in which trills obliterated the clarity of the words. It could only be
understood that he sang to the "Mother," the Mother of God, and as he
uttered this word, his voice acquired additional tremors of emotion with
that sensibility to popular poesy that finds its most sincere
inspiration in maternal love.

Another and then another voice was heard, as if the minstrel had started
a musical contest; as if the street were filled with invisible birds,
some hoarse and rasping, others shrill, with a penetrating screech that
suggested a red and swollen throat, ready to burst. Most of the singers
kept hidden in the crowd, with the simplicity of devotion that does not
crave to be seen in its manifestations; others were eager to exhibit
themselves, planting themselves in the midst of the crowd before the
holy Macarena.

When the songs ended the public burst into vulgar exclamations of
enthusiasm, and again the Macarena, the beautiful, the only, was
glorified, and wine circulated in glasses around the feet of the image;
the most vehement threw their hats at her as if she were a real girl, a
pretty girl, and it was not clear now whether it was the fervor of the
faithful who sang to the Virgin, or a pagan orgy that accompanied her
transit through the streets.

In advance of the float went a youth dressed in a violet tunic and
crowned with thorns. He trod the bluish paving stones with bare feet and
marched with his body bowed beneath the weight of a cross twice as big
as himself, and when after a long wait he rejoined the float, good
souls aided him to drag his burden.

The women wept with tender compassion as they saw him. Poor boy! With
what holy fervor he performed his penance. Every one in the ward
remembered his sacrilegious crime. Accursed wine, that turns men mad!
Three years before, on the morning of Holy Friday, when the Macarena was
about to retire to her church after having wandered all night through
the streets of Seville, this sinner, who was really a good boy and had
been revelling with his friends overnight, had compelled the float to
stop at a tavern on the plaza of the marketplace. He sang to the Virgin,
and then, possessed of a holy enthusiasm, burst into endearing
expressions, _Olé!_ Pretty Macarena! He loved her more than his
sweetheart! To better express his faith, he threw at her feet what he
had in his hand, thinking it was his hat, and a wine glass burst on the
handsome face of the great Lady. They took him weeping to the police
station. But he loved the Macarena as if she were his mother! It was the
accursed wine that made men do they knew not what! He trembled with fear
at the years of imprisonment awaiting him for disrespect to religion; he
shed tears of repentance for his sacrilege; until finally, even the most
indignant interceded in his favor and the matter was settled by his
promise to give an example to sinners by performing an extraordinary
penance. Sweaty and panting he dragged the cross, changing the position
of the burden when one of his shoulders became numbed by the painful
weight. His comrades pitied him; they dared not laugh at his penance,
and they compassionately offered him glasses of wine. But he turned his
eyes away from the offering, fixing them on the Virgin to make her a
witness to his martyrdom. He would drink the next day without fear, when
the Macarena was left safe in her church.

The float halted in a street of the ward of the Feria, and now the head
of the procession had reached the centre of Seville. The green-hooded
brethren and the company wearing the coats of mail advanced with warlike
mien like an army marching to attack. They wished to reach Campana
Street and take possession of the entrance to Sierpes Street before
another fraternity should present itself. The vanguard once in control
of this position could tranquilly await the Virgin's arrival. The
_Macarenos_ each year made themselves masters of the famous street and
took whole hours to pass through it, enjoying the impatient protests of
the fraternities of other wards.

Sierpes Street was converted into a sort of reception hall with the
balconies thronged with people, electric globes hanging from wires
strung from wall to wall, and all the _cafés_ and stores illuminated;
the windows were filled with heads, and rows of chairs along the walls,
with crowds, rising in their seats each time the distant trumpeting and
beating of the drums announced the proximity of a float.

It was three in the morning and nothing indicated the lateness of the
hour. People were eating in _cafés_ and taverns. The thick odor of oil
escaped through the doors of the places where fish was frying. Itinerant
venders stationed themselves in the centre of the street crying sweets
and drinks. Whole families who only came to light on occasions of great
festivity, had been there from two o'clock in the afternoon watching
the passing of processions and more processions. There were Virgins with
mantles of overwhelming sumptuousness which drew shouts of admiration by
their display of velvet; Redeemers, crowned with gold and wearing
vestments of brocade, and a whole world of absurd images whose tragic,
bleeding, or tearful faces contrasted with the theatrical luxury and
richness of their clothing. Foreigners, attracted by the strangeness of
this Christian ceremony, joyous as a pagan feast in which there were no
faces of woe and sadness but those of the images, heard their names
called out by Sevillians seated near them. The floats started off--those
of the Sacred Decree of the Holy Christ of Silence; of Our Lady of
Sorrows; of Jesus with the Cross on His Shoulder; of Our Lady of the
Valley; of Our Father Jesus of the Three Falls; of Our Lady of Tears; of
the Lord of Good Death; and of Our Lady of the Three Necessities,
accompanied by Nazarenes black and white, red, green, blue and violet,
all masked, hiding their mysterious personality beneath their pointed
hoods.

The heavy platforms advanced slowly and with great difficulty because of
the narrowness of the street. On reaching the plaza of San Francisco,
opposite the viewing stand built in front of the Government palace, the
floats made a half-turn until they stood facing the images and by a
genuflexion of their bearers they saluted the illustrious strangers and
royal personages gathered to witness the feast.

Near the floats marched boys with pitchers of water. The catafalque had
scarcely stopped when a fold of the velvet hangings which hid its
interior was raised and twenty or thirty men appeared, sweaty, purple
from fatigue, half naked, with handkerchiefs bound around their heads,
and looking like tired savages. They were the so-called "Galicians," in
which geographic appellative are confounded all lusty workmen whatever
may be their origin, as though the other sons of the country were not
capable of constant or fatiguing labor. They greedily drank the water,
or, if there were a tavern near, they rebelled against the director of
the float and demanded wine. Thus the festivities were prolonged through
the whole night, frivolous, gay, and theatrical. In vain the brass horns
sent forth their death-laments proclaiming the greatest of crimes, the
unjust death of a God. Nature did not respond to this traditional
sorrow. The river went purling on beneath the bridges, spreading its
luminous sheet through the silent fields; the orange trees,
incense-givers of the night, opened their thousand white mouths and shed
the fragrance of voluptuous fruit upon the air; the palms waved their
clusters of plumes over the Moorish ramparts of the Alcázar; the
Giralda, a blue phantom, vanished in the heavens, eclipsing stars and
hiding a portion of the sky behind its shapely mass; and the moon,
intoxicated by nocturnal perfumes, seemed to smile at the earth swollen
with the nutrient sap of spring, at the luminous furrow-like streets of
the city in whose ruddy depths swarmed a multitude content just to be
alive, which drank and sang and found a pretext for interminable
feasting in a tragic death of long ago.

At the door of a _café_ stood Nacional with all his family watching the
passing of the brotherhood. "Superstition and ignorance!" But he
followed the custom, coming every year to witness the invasion of
Sierpes Street by the noisy Macarenes.

He immediately recognized Gallardo by his genteel bearing and the
athletic jauntiness with which he wore the inquisitorial vestment.

"Juanillo; have the procession stop. There are some foreign ladies in
the _café_ who want to get a good look at the Macarena."

The sacred platform came to a halt; the band played a gay march, one of
those that enlivens the audience at the bull-ring, and immediately the
hidden conductors of the float commenced to raise one leg in unison,
then the other, executing a dance that made the catafalque move with
violent undulations, crowding the people against the walls. The Virgin,
with the burden of her heavy mantle, jewels, flowers, and lanterns,
danced to the music. This exhibition was the result of practice and one
which was the pride of the _Macarenos_. The good youths of the ward,
holding both sides of the float, supported it during this violent
commotion and shouted with enthusiasm at this exhibition of strength and
skill.

"Let all Seville come to see this! It is great! This only the
_Macarenos_ do!"

And when the music and the undulations ceased and the float again stood
still there was thunderous applause mingled with impious and vulgar
compliments to the Most Holy Macarena. They shouted _vivas_ to the Most
Holy Macarena, the sainted, the only.

The brotherhood continued on its triumphal march, leaving stragglers in
every tavern and fallen on every street. The sun, as it rose, surprised
it far from the parish at the extreme opposite side of Seville, made
the jewelled armor on the image scintillate with its first rays, and
lighted up the livid countenances of the Nazarenes who had taken off
their masks. The image and her attendants, overtaken by the dawn,
resembled a dissolute troop returning from an orgy. The two floats were
abandoned in the middle of the street near the market, while the whole
procession took an eye-opener in the nearby taverns, substituting great
glasses of Cazalla and Rute brandy for native wine. The hooded
brethren's white garments were now filthy rags; nothing but miserable
relics remained of the brilliant "Jewish" army which looked as though
returning from a defeat. The captain walked with unsteady step, the
melancholy plumes fallen over his livid countenance, his only thought to
defend his glorious raiment from being rubbed and pulled to pieces.
Respect the uniform!

Gallardo left the procession soon after sunrise. He had done enough in
accompanying the Virgin all night and surely she would take it into
account. Besides, this last part of the feast, until the Macarena
entered San Gil, now nearly mid-day, was the most disagreeable. The
people who arose fresh and tranquil from sleep jested at the hooded
brethren so ridiculous in the sunlight, dragging along in their
drunkenness and filth. It was not prudent for a matador to be seen with
them.

Señora Angustias kept watch for him in the courtyard and helped the
Nazarene take off his vestments. He must rest after having fulfilled his
duty to the Virgin. Easter Sunday he was to have a bull-fight; the first
after his accident. Accursed trade! For him rest was impossible, and the
poor women, after a period of tranquillity, saw their old fears and
anguish renewed.



CHAPTER XIII

THE MASTERY OF SELF-PRESERVATION


Saturday and Sunday morning Gallardo received calls from enthusiastic
connoisseurs from outside Seville who had come for the _fiestas_ of Holy
Week and to the Feria. All were smiling, confident of his future
heroism.

"We'll see how thou'lt stand up! The devotees have their eyes fixed on
thee. How is thy strength?"

Gallardo did not doubt his vigor. The months spent in the country had
strengthened him. He was now as strong as before he had been gored. The
only thing that made him recall his accident when hunting on the
plantation was a certain weakness in the wounded leg. But this he only
noticed after long trips.

"I'll do all I know how to do," murmured Gallardo. "I don't think I'll
be altogether bad."

The manager put in a word with the mad blindness of his faith.

"Thou'lt flourish like the roses themselves--like an angel."

Then, forgetting the bull-fight for a moment, they commented on a piece
of news that had just circulated through the city.

On a mountain in the province of Córdova the civil guard had found a
decomposed body with a head mutilated and almost blown off by a
gun-shot. It was impossible to recognize it, but the clothing, the
carbine, all made them believe it was Plumitas. Gallardo listened in
silence. He had not seen the bandit since his accident, but he
remembered him well. His plantation hands had told him that while he was
in danger Plumitas twice presented himself at La Rinconada to inquire
for his health. Afterward, while living there with his family, herders
and laborers spoke to him several times mysteriously about Plumitas,
who, when he met them on the highway and learned that they were from La
Rinconada, gave them greetings for Señor Juan. Poor man! Gallardo pitied
him, recalling his predictions. The civil guard had not killed him. He
had been assassinated while asleep. He had perished at the hands of one
of his kind, of one of his followers, seeking notoriety.

Sunday his departure for the plaza was more trying than ever. Carmen
made strong efforts to be calm and was even present while Garabato
dressed the _maestro_. She smiled, with a sad smile; she feigned gayety,
thinking she noticed in her husband an equal anxiety which he also tried
to hide under a forced exhilaration. Señora Angustias paced up and down
outside the room to see her Juan once more, as though she were about to
lose him. When Gallardo went out into the courtyard with his cap on and
his cape over his shoulder the mother threw her arms around his neck,
shedding tears. She did not utter a word, but her heavy sobs revealed
her thoughts. To fight for the first time after his accident, in the
same plaza where he had been gored! The superstition of the woman of the
people rebelled against this foolhardiness. Ah! When would he retire
from the accursed trade? Had he not enough money yet?

But the brother-in-law intervened with authority as the grave family
counsellor. "Come, _Mamita_, this does not amount to so much--a
bull-fight like all the others! Juan must be left in peace and his
serenity must not be upset by this continual crying just as he is to
start for the plaza."

Carmen accompanied her husband to the door; she wished to encourage him.
Besides, since her love had been reawakened by the accident and she and
Juan had again been living happily together, she would not believe that
a new misfortune would come to disturb her joy. That goring was an act
of God, who often brings good out of ill, and He wished to draw them
together again by this means. Juan would fight bulls as before and would
come home well and sound.

"Good luck to thee!"

With loving eyes she watched the carriage that drove away followed by a
troop of ragamuffins. When the poor woman was left alone she went up to
her room and lighted candles before an image of the Virgin of Hope.

Nacional rode in the coach at his master's side, frowning and gloomy.
That Sunday was election day, but his companions in the _cuadrilla_ had
not heard of it. The people only talked of Plumitas' death and of the
bull-fight. The _banderillero_ had remained with his fellow committeemen
until past mid-day, "working for the idea." Accursed _corrida_ that came
to interrupt his duties as a good citizen, preventing him from taking to
the polls several friends who would not vote if he did not go for them.
Only "those of the idea" went to the voting places; the city seemed to
ignore the existence of the elections. There were great groups in the
streets arguing passionately; but they only talked of bulls. What
people! Nacional recollected with indignation the schemes and outrages
of the opposition to bring about this neglect of civic duty. Don
Joselito, who had protested with all his forensic eloquence, was in
prison with other companions. The _banderillero_, who would gladly have
shared their martyrdom, had been obliged to abandon them, to put on his
glittering costume and follow his master. Was this outrage to good
citizens to go unrebuked? Would not the people rise in retaliation?

As the coach passed the vicinity of Campana Street the bull-fighters saw
a great crowd flourishing clubs and heard them shouting. The police,
sabres in hand, were charging upon them, receiving blows and returning
them two for one.

Ah, at last! The moment had arrived!

"The revolution! The fight is on!"

But the _maestro_, half smiling, half angry, pushed him back into his
seat.

"Don't be a fool, Sebastián; thou seest nothing but revolutions and
hobgoblins everywhere."

The members of the _cuadrilla_ smiled, divining the fact that it was
only the noble people, angered at not being able to get tickets for the
bull-fight at the office on Campana Street, and who now wanted to attack
and burn it, but were held in check by the police. Nacional sadly hung
his head.

"Reaction and ignorance! The lack of knowing how to read and write."

They arrived at the plaza. A noisy ovation, an interminable outburst of
hand-clapping, greeted the appearance of the _cuadrillas_ in the ring.
All the applause was for Gallardo. The public hailed his first
appearance in the arena after the terrible injury that had caused so
much talk all over the Peninsula.

When the moment came for Gallardo to kill his first bull the explosion
of enthusiasm was repeated. The women in white _mantillas_ watched him
from the boxes with their glasses. On the "bleachers" they applauded and
acclaimed him, as did those in the shade. Even his enemies were won by
this sympathetic impulse. Poor boy! He had suffered so much! The plaza
was all his own. Gallardo had never seen an audience so completely given
over to himself.

He took off his cap before the president's box to offer his bull. _Olé!
Olé!_ No one heard a word, but all were wild with enthusiasm. He must
have said very fine things. The applause accompanied him when he turned
toward the bull, and hushed in expectant silence when he stood near the
wild beast. He extended the _muleta_, standing planted before the
creature, but at some distance, not as on former occasions, when he had
fired the audience by thrusting the red rag almost into the animal's
eyes. In the silence of the plaza there was a movement of surprise--but
no one spoke. Gallardo stamped the ground several times to incite the
animal, and at last the bull attacked mildly, barely passing beneath the
_muleta_, for the bull-fighter hurriedly moved aside with shameless
precipitation. The people looked at one another in surprise. What was
that?

The _matador_ saw Nacional at his side and not far off another _peón_ of
the _cuadrilla_, but he did not shout, "Stand aside, everybody!" On the
great tiers of seats a murmur arose, the noise of vehement conversation.
Gallardo's friends thought it well to explain in the name of their
idol.

"He is not wholly recovered yet. He ought not to fight. That leg--don't
you see it?"

The two lackeys' capes assisted the swordsman in his _pases_. The animal
moved in confusion between the red cloths and no sooner had he attacked
the _muleta_ than he noticed the cape-work of another bull-fighter,
distracting his attention from the swordsman. Gallardo, as if eager to
get out of the situation quickly, squared himself with his sword held
high, and threw himself upon the bull.

A murmur of stupefaction followed the stroke. The sword was plunged in
less than a third of its length, and hung vibrating, ready to fall out
of the neck. Gallardo had jumped back from the horns, without burying
his sword down to the hilt as he used to do.

"But it is well placed!" shouted his partisans, pointing to the sword,
and they applauded clamorously to make up in noise for lack of numbers.

The "intelligent" smiled with pity. That boy was going to lose the only
notable thing he had--valor, daring. They had seen him bend his arm
instinctively at the moment of walking up to the bull with the sword;
they had seen him turn away his face with that movement of terror that
impels men to close their eyes to hide a danger.

The sword rolled along the ground and Gallardo, taking another, turned
upon the bull again accompanied by his _peones_. Nacional's cape was
ever ready to be spread out before him, to distract the wild beast;
besides, the bellowing of the _banderillero_ confused the bull and made
him turn whenever he drew near to Gallardo.

Another thrust of the same kind, more than half of the steel blade
remaining in sight.

"He doesn't get close!" they began to protest on the tiers of seats.
"He's afraid of the horns!"

Gallardo extended his arms before the bull, his body making the figure
of the cross, as if giving the audience behind him to understand that
the animal already had enough with that thrust and would fall at any
moment. But the wild beast remained standing, shaking his head from side
to side.

Nacional, exciting him with the rag, made him run, taking advantage of
every opportunity to beat him on the neck lustily, with all the force of
his arm. The audience, divining his intentions, began to protest. He was
making the animal run so that the motion would work the sword in deeper.
His heavy blows with his cape were to drive in the sword. They called
him a thief; they alluded to his mother with ugly words, impugning the
legitimacy of his birth; menacing clubs waved above the "bleachers" in
the sun; oranges and bottles began to fly into the arena, but he acted
as if deaf and blind to this shower of insults and projectiles, and kept
on chasing the bull with the satisfaction of one who fulfils his duty
and saves a friend.

Suddenly a stream of blood gushed from the beast's mouth, and he doubled
up his forelegs and knelt motionless but with his head high, ready to
get up and attack. The _puntillero_ came up eager to finish him and get
the _maestro_ out of his embarrassing position. Nacional helped him,
leaning cunningly against the sword and driving it in up to the hilt.
The people in the sun, who saw this manoeuvre, rose to their feet with
angry protest.

[Illustration: The animal moved in confusion between the red cloths
drawing him far away from the swordsman.]

"Thief! Assassin!"

They protested in the name of the poor bull, as though he were not
destined to die at all hazards; they threatened Nacional with their
fists, as though they had witnessed a crime, and the _banderillero_,
with bowed head, finally took refuge behind the barrier. Gallardo,
meanwhile, walked toward the president's box to salute him, and his
undaunted admirers accompanied him with a din of applause.

"He's had bad luck," they said with ardent faith, refusing to be
undeceived. "But the sword-thrusts, how well aimed! No one can dispute
that."

Gallardo went and stood an instant before the seats where sat his most
fervent partisans, and leaned against the barrier, making his
explanations. The bull was bad; it was impossible to make a good job of
him. His enthusiasts, Don José at their head, assented to these excuses,
which were the same that they themselves had invented.

During a great part of the bull-fight Gallardo remained on the vaulting
wall of the _barrera_. Such explanations might suffice for his
partisans, but he felt a cruel doubt, a lack of self-confidence, the
like of which he had never known before. The bulls seemed bigger, as if
possessed of _double life_, giving them greater resistance against
death. They used to fall beneath his sword with such miraculous ease.
No, they had let the worst of the herd out for him to disconcert him. An
intrigue of his enemies! Another suspicion dwelt confusedly in the
obscure depths of his mind, but he did not wish to consider it close; he
had no interest in extracting it from its mysterious shade. His arm
seemed shorter the moment he held it before him with the sword. It used
to reach the wild beast's neck with the swiftness of a lightning flash;
now the distance seemed interminable, a terrifying void which he knew
not how to bridge. His legs also seemed to be other and different, to
live apart, with a will of their own, independent of the rest of his
body. In vain he ordered them to remain quiet and firm as before. They
did not obey. They seemed to have eyes, to see the danger, to spring
with unwonted lightness, without the self-control to stand still when
they felt the vibrations of the air stirred by the rush of the wild
beast.

In the blindness of his rage at his own sudden weakness Gallardo blamed
the public for his mortification. What did these people want?--that he
should let himself be killed to give them pleasure? Signs enough of mad
audacity he bore on his body. He did not need to prove his courage. That
he was alive was due to a miracle, thanks to celestial intervention, to
God's goodness, and to his mother's and his poor little wife's prayers.
He had seen the dry face of Death as few see it, and he knew the worth
of life better than any other.

"Perhaps you think you're going to take my scalp!" he thought, while he
contemplated the multitude.

He would fight bulls in future as did many of his friends, some days he
would do it well, others ill. Bull-fighting was nothing but a trade, and
once the highest places were gained the important thing was to live and
keep oneself out of danger as best one could. He was not going to let
himself be caught merely for the pleasure of having the people give
tongue to his courage.

When the moment came for killing his second bull, these thoughts
inspired a quiet courage within him. No animal should finish him! He
would do all he could without placing himself within reach of the horns.
As he strode up to the wild beast he wore the same arrogant mien as on
his great afternoons. "Stand aside, everybody!"

The crowd stirred with a murmur of satisfaction. He had said, "Stand
aside, everybody!" He was going to do some of his greatest feats. But
what the public expected did not take place, nor did Nacional cease
walking behind him, his cape over his arm, divining, with the cunning of
an old _peón_ accustomed to bull-fighters' artful tricks, the theatrical
falseness of his master's command. Gallardo held the rag some distance
away from the bull and began to make _pases_ with visible caution, each
time remaining at a good distance from the wild beast and aided always
by Sebastián's cape.

As he stood an instant with his _muleta_ held low the bull made a
movement as if to charge, but did not stir. The swordsman, excessively
alert, was deceived by this movement and sprang backward, fleeing from
the animal that had not attacked him. This needless retreat placed him
in a ridiculous position and part of the audience laughed, while others
uttered exclamations of surprise. Some hisses were heard.

"Ouch, he'll catch thee!" shouted an ironic voice.

"_Sarasa!_" groaned another with effeminate intonation.

Gallardo reddened with fury. This to him! And in the plaza of Seville!
He felt the bold heart-throb of earlier days and a mad desire to fall
blindly upon the bull and to let happen whatever God willed. But his
body refused to obey him! His arm seemed to think; his legs saw the
danger, mocking the demands of his will with their rebellion! Yet the
audience, resenting the insult, came to his aid and imposed silence.
Treat a man thus who was convalescing from a serious injury! This was
unworthy the plaza of Seville! Let it be seen if there were such a thing
as decency!

Gallardo made the most of this sympathetic compassion, to extricate
himself from the difficulty. Walking sideways beside the bull, he
stabbed him with a sidelong treacherous plunge. The animal fell like a
slaughter-house beast, a stream of blood gushing out of his mouth. Some
applauded without knowing why, others hissed, and the great mass
remained silent.

"They have let insidious dogs out to him!" clamored the manager from his
seat, although the _corrida_ was supplied with bulls from the Marquis'
own herd. "Why, those are not bulls! We shall see what he will do the
next time, when he has truly noble beasts."

Gallardo noted the silence of the crowd as he left the plaza. The groups
near him passed without a greeting, without one of those acclamations
with which they used to receive him on happier afternoons. The miserable
gang that stays outside the plaza awaiting news, and before the finish
of the _corrida_ knows all its incidents, did not even follow the
carriage.

Gallardo tasted the bitterness of defeat for the first time. Even his
_banderilleros_ rode frowning and silent like soldiers in retreat. But
when he reached home and felt around his neck his mother's arms,
Carmen's, and even his sister's, and his little nephews' caresses as
they hugged his legs, he felt his dejection vanish. Curse it! The
important thing was to live; to keep his family happy; to earn the
public's money as other bull-fighters did without those daring deeds
which sooner or later would cause his death.

The next few days he felt that he ought to exhibit himself and talk with
his friends in the popular _cafés_ and clubs on Sierpes Street. He
thought he could impose a courteous silence upon his detractors and
prevent comment on his ill success. He spent whole afternoons in the
gatherings of humble admirers he had abandoned long before when seeking
the friendship of the rich. And finally he entered the Forty-five where
the manager imposed his opinions by loud talking and gesticulation,
upholding Gallardo's glory as of old.

Great Don José! His enthusiasm was immovable, bomb-proof! It never
occurred to him that his _matador_ could cease to be all that he had
believed. Not one criticism, not one reproach for his downfall! Instead
he took it upon himself to excuse him, adding to this the consolation of
his good advice.

"Thou still dost feel thy wound. What I say is, 'You shall see, when he
is quite well, and you will talk differently then.' Thou wilt do as
before--thou wilt walk straight up to the bull, with that courage God
has given thee, and, _zas!_ a stab up to the cross--and thou wilt put
him in thy pocket."

Gallardo approved with an enigmatical smile. "Put the bulls in his
pocket!" He desired nothing else. But, alas! they had become so big and
unmanageable! They had grown during the time of his absence from the
arena!

Gambling consoled him and made him forget his troubles. He went back
with fresh passion to losing money over the green table, impelled by
that spirit of youth which was undaunted by lack of luck. One night
they took him to dine at the Eritaña Inn where there was a great revel
in honor of three foreign women of the gay life whom some of the young
men had met in Paris. They had come to Seville to see the feasts of Holy
Week and the Feria, and they were eager for the picturesque features of
the country. Their beauty was somewhat faded, but was retouched by the
arts of the toilet. The rich young fellows pursued them, attracted by
their exotic charm, soliciting generous favors which were seldom
refused. They expressed a wish to know a celebrated bull-fighter, one of
the smartest _matadores_, that fine Gallardo whose picture they had so
often looked at in the papers and on match-boxes. After having seen him
in the plaza they had asked their friends to present him.

The gathering took place in the great dining-room of the Eritaña, a
_salon_ opening on the garden with tawdry Moorish decorations, a poor
imitation of the splendors of the Alhambra. Here balls and political
banquets were held. Here they toasted the regeneration of the country
with fervent oratory, and here the charms of the fair sex were displayed
to the rhythm of the _tango_, and the twang-twang of the guitars, while
kisses and screams were heard in the corners, and bottles were uncorked
lavishly. Gallardo was received like a demi-god by the three women who,
ignoring their friends, stared only at him, and disputed for the honor
of sitting beside him, caressing him with the eyes of she-wolves in the
mating season. They reminded him of another--of the absent, the almost
forgotten one--with their golden hair, their elegant gowns, and the
atmosphere of perfumed and tempting flesh which seemed to envelope him
in a swirl of intoxication.

His comrades' presence further contributed to making this memory more
vivid. They were all Doña Sol's friends; some of them even belonged to
her family and he had looked upon them as relatives.

They ate and drank with that savage voracity of nocturnal feasts, to
which people go with the fixed intention of excess in everything, taking
refuge in drunkenness as soon as possible to acquire the happiness of
stupidity.

In one end of the _salon_ some gypsies strummed their guitars, intoning
melancholy songs. One of the foreign women, with the enthusiasm of the
neophyte, sprang upon a table and began to slowly move her well rounded
hips, seeking to imitate the native dances, showing off her progress
after a few days of instruction by a Sevillian teacher.

"_Asaúra! Malaje! Sosa!_" the friends shouted ironically, encouraging
her with rhythmic hand-clappings.

They jested at her heaviness, but with devouring eyes they admired the
beauty of her body. And she, proud of her art, taking these
incomprehensible calls for enthusiastic praise, went on moving her hips
and raised her arms above her head like the handles of a jar, with her
gaze aloft.

After midnight they were all drunk. The women, lost to shame, besieged
the swordsman with their admiring glances. He impassively let himself be
managed by the hands that disputed for him, while lips surprised him
with burning kisses on his cheeks and neck. He was drunk, but his
drunkenness was sad. Ah! the other woman! The true blonde! The gold of
these unbound locks that floated around him was artificial, gilded by
chemicals applied to coarse strong hair. The lips had a flavor of
perfumed ointment. Through the aroma his imagination detected an odor
of vulgarity. Ah! the other one! the other one!

Gallardo, without knowing how, found himself in the gardens, beneath the
solemn silence that seemed to fall from the stars, among arbors of
luxurious vegetation, following a tortuous path, seeing the dining-room
windows through the foliage illuminated like mouths of Hell before which
passed and repassed shadows like black demons. A woman was dragging him
by the arm, and he let himself be taken, without even seeing her, with
his thoughts far, far away.

An hour afterwards he returned to the dining-room. His companion, her
hair disordered, her eyes brilliant and hostile, was talking with her
friends. They laughed and pointed him out with a deprecatory gesture to
the other men, who laughed also--Ah! Spain! Land of disillusion, where
all was but legend, even to the prowess of her heroes!

Gallardo drank more and more. The women who had quarrelled over him,
besieging him with their caresses, turned their backs on him, falling
into the arms of the other men. The guitarists scarcely played;
surfeited with wine, they leaned over their instruments in pleasant
drowsiness.

The bull-fighter also was going to sleep on a bench when one of his
friends, who was obliged to retire before his mother, the countess,
arose, as she did every day to attend mass at daybreak, offered to take
him home in his carriage. The night wind did not dissipate the
bull-fighter's intoxication. When the friend left him at the corner of
his street Gallardo walked with vacillating step in the direction of his
home. Near the door he stopped, grasping the wall with both hands and
resting his head on his arms as if he could not bear the weight of his
thoughts.

He had completely forgotten his friends, the supper at Eritaña, and the
three painted foreign women who had quarrelled for him and then insulted
him. Something remained in his memory of the other one, ever there, but
indefinite and vague! Now his mind, by one of those capricious bounds of
intoxication, reverted wholly to bull-fighting. He was the greatest
_matador_ in the world. _Olé!_ So his manager and his friends declared,
and it was true. His adversaries should see something when he went back
to the plaza. What happened the other day was simple carelessness; Bad
Luck that had played one of her tricks on him.

Proud of the omnipotent strength that intoxication communicated to him
at the moment, he saw all the Andalusian and Castilian bulls transformed
into weak goats that he could overthrow with but a blow from his hand.
What occurred the other day was nothing--_liquid!_ as Nacional said. The
best singer lets slip a false note now and then.

And this aphorism, learned from the mouths of venerable patriarchs of
the bull-fighting profession on afternoons of misfortune, stimulated him
with an irresistible desire to sing, and he filled the silence of the
solitary street with his voice. With his head resting on his arms he
began to hum a strophe of his own composition which was an extravagant
hymn of praise to his own merits. "I am Juaniyo Gallardo--with more
c--c--courage than God." Not being able to improvise more in his own
honor, he repeated the same words over and over in a hoarse and
monotonous voice that broke the silence and set an invisible dog down
the street to barking.

It was the paternal heritage revived in him; the singing mania that
accompanied Señor Juan the cobbler on his weekly drunken rounds.

The house door opened and Garabato, still half asleep, thrust out his
head to see the drunken man, whose voice he thought he recognized.

"Ah! Is it thou?" said the _matador_. "Wait till I sing the last one."

He repeated the incomplete song in honor of his valor several times,
until he finally decided to enter the house. He felt no desire to go to
bed. Divining his condition, he put off the moment of going up to his
room where Carmen awaited him, perhaps awake.

"Go to sleep, Garabato. I have a great deal to do."

He did not know what, but his office, with its decoration of
vainglorious pictures, favors won in the bull-ring, and posters that
proclaimed his fame, attracted him.

When the globes of electric light illuminated the room and the servant
went out, Gallardo stood in the centre of the office, vacillating on his
legs, casting a glance of admiration around the walls, as if he
contemplated this museum of glory for the first time.

"Very good, but very good!" he murmured. "That fine fellow is me; and
that one too, and all! And yet there are some people that talk against
me! Curse it! I'm the greatest man in the world! Don José says so, and
he tells the truth."

He threw his hat upon the divan as if he were taking off a crown of
glory that oppressed his forehead, and staggered over to the desk,
leaning against it, his gaze fixed on an enormous bull's head that
adorned the wall at the lower end of the office.

"Hello! Good-evening, my good boy! What art thou pretending to do there?
Moo! Moo!"

He greeted him with bellowings, childishly imitating the lowing of the
bulls in the pasture and in the plaza. He did not recognize him; he
could not remember why the hairy head with its threatening horns was
there. Gradually he began to recollect.

"I know thee, boy! I remember how thou madest me rage that afternoon.
The people hissed, they threw bottles at me, they even insulted my poor
mother, and thou, so gay, what fun thou hadst!--eh?--shameless beast!"

In his intoxicated state he thought he saw the varnished muzzle and the
light in the glass eyes tremble with laughter. He even imagined that the
horns moved the head, assenting to this question, with an undulation of
the hanging neck.

The drunken man, until then smiling and good natured, felt his anger
rise with the recollection of that afternoon of misfortune. And even
that evil beast smiled? Those wicked, crafty, scheming bulls, which
seemed to jest at the combatant, were to blame when a man was ridiculed.
Ah! how Gallardo detested them! What a look of hatred he fastened on the
glass eyes of the horned head!

"Still laughing? Damn thee, _guasón!_ Cursed be the cow that bore thee
and thy thief of a master that gave thee grass in his pasture! I hope
he's in prison. Still laughing? Still making faces at me?"

In his fury he leaned his body on the table stretching out his arms and
opening the drawers. Then he stood erect, raising one hand toward the
horned head.

Bang! bang! Two shots from a revolver.

A glass globe in the hollow of one eye burst into tiny fragments and a
round black hole, circled by singed hair, opened in the forehead.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SPANISH LILITH


With the extreme violence characteristic of the changeable and erratic
climate of Madrid in the midspring the temperature gave a jump
backwards.

It was cold. The gray sky was lavish of terrific rains, accompanied
sometimes by flakes of snow. The people, already dressed in light
clothing, opened wardrobes and chests to get out wraps and overcoats.
The rain blackened and ruined the white spring hats.

No functions had been given in the bull plaza for two weeks. The Sunday
_corrida_ was postponed until a week-day when the weather should be
fine. The management, the employees of the plaza, and the innumerable
devotees whom this forced suspension cast into an ill humor, watched the
firmament with the anxiety of the peasant who fears for his crops. A
clearing in the sky, or the appearance of a few stars at midnight when
they left the _cafés_, made them cheerful again.

"It's going to clear up--bull-fight day after to-morrow."

But the clouds gathered again, the dark gloomy weather with its
continual rain persisted, and the devotees of the game grew indignant at
a climate that seemed to have declared war on the national sport.
Unhappy country! Even bull-fights were becoming impossible in it!

Gallardo had spent two weeks in enforced rest. His _cuadrilla_
complained of the inactivity. In any other town in Spain the
bull-fighters would have endured this lack of work resignedly. The
_matador_ paid their board in the hotels everywhere except in Madrid. It
was a bad rule established long ago by the _maestros_ who lived in the
capital. It was assumed that all bull-fighters must have their own home
in the court city. And the poor lackeys and _picadores_, who lived at a
miserable boarding-house kept by the widow of a _banderillero_, cut down
their living by all manner of economies, smoking little and standing in
the doors of _cafés_. They thought of their families with the longing of
men who in exchange for their blood receive but a handful of _pesetas_.
When the two bull-fights were over the proceeds from them would already
be eaten up.

The _matador_ was equally ill-humored in the solitude of his hotel, not
because of the weather, but rather on account of his poor luck. He had
fought his first _corrida_ in Madrid with a deplorable result. The
public had changed toward him. He still had partisans of dauntless faith
who were strong in his defence; but these enthusiasts, noisy and
aggressive a year ago, now showed a certain indifference, and when they
found occasion to applaud him they did so with timidity. On the other
hand, his enemies and that great mass of the public that look for
dangers and deaths,--how unjust in their condemnations! How bold in
insulting him! What they tolerated in other _matadores_ they prohibited
in him.

With the eagerness of a celebrity who feels that he is losing prestige,
Gallardo exhibited himself prodigally in the places frequented by the
devotees of the game. He went into the Café Inglés, where the partisans
of the Andalusian bull-fighters gather, and by his presence prevented
implacable commentaries being heaped upon his name. He himself, smiling
and modest, started the conversation with a humility that disarmed the
most hostile.

"It's true I didn't do well; I know it. But you will see at the next
bull-fight, when the weather clears up. What can be done will be done."

He dared not enter certain _cafés_ near the Puerta del Sol, where other
devotees of a more modest class gathered. They were the enemies of
Andalusian bull-fighting, genuine _Madrileños_, embittered by the unfair
prevalence of _matadores_ from Córdova and Seville, while the capital
had not a single glorious representative. The memory of Frascuelo, whom
they considered a son of Madrid, was perpetuated in these gatherings
like the veneration of a miraculous saint. There were among them some
who for many years had not gone to the plaza, not since the Negro
retired. Why go? They contented themselves by reading the reviews in the
newspapers, convinced that there were no bulls, nor even bull-fighters,
since Frascuelo's death--Andalusian boys, nothing else; dancers who made
monkey-shines with their capes and bodies without knowing what it was to
_receive_ a bull.

Occasionally a breath of hope circulated among them. Madrid was going to
have a great _matador_. They had just discovered a bullock fighter, a
son of the suburbs, who, after covering himself with glory in the plazas
of Vallecas and Tetuán, worked in the great plaza Sundays in cheap
bull-fights.

His name became popular. In the barber-shops in the lesser wards they
talked of him with enthusiasm, prophesying great triumphs. The hero went
from tavern to tavern drinking and increasing the nucleus of his
partisans.

But time passed and their prophecies remained unfulfilled. Either this
hero fell with a mortal horn wound, with no other recognition of his
glory than four lines in the newspapers, or another subsided after a
goring, becoming one of the many tramps who exhibit the _coleta_ at the
Puerta del Sol, waiting for imaginary contracts. Then the devotees
turned their eyes on other beginners, expecting with an Hebraic faith
the coming of the _matador_ glory to Madrid.

Gallardo dared not go near these tauromachic demagogues who had always
hated him and hailed his decadence. The majority of them did not go to
see him in the ring, nor did they admire the present-day bull-fighters.
They were waiting for their Messiah before deciding to return to the
plaza.

When he wandered at nightfall through the centre of Madrid near the
Puerta del Sol and Seville Street, he allowed himself to be accosted by
the vagabonds of the profession who form groups at these places,
boasting of their achievements. They were youths who greeted him as
"_maestro_," or "Señor Juan"; many with a hungry air, leading up to a
petition for a few _pesetas_, but well dressed, clean, spick and span,
adopting gallant airs, as if they were surfeited with the pleasures of
existence, and wearing a scandalous display of brass in rings and
imitation chains. Some were honorable fellows who were trying to make
their way in tauromachy to maintain their families on something more
than the workman's daily wage. Others, less scrupulous, had female
friends who worked at unmentionable occupations, willing to sacrifice
their bodies to support and keep decent some fine fellow, who, to
believe his words, would sometime be a celebrity.

Without other belongings than the clothes they wore they strutted from
morning till night in the centre of Madrid, talking about the contracts
they had not cared to make, and spying on one another to find out who
had money and could treat his comrades. When one, by a capricious turn
of luck, managed to get a fight of young bullocks in some place in the
province, he first had to redeem his glittering costume from a pawn
shop--venerable and tarnished garments that had belonged to various
heroes of the past.

Among this tauromachic crowd, embittered by misfortune, and kept in
obscurity through stupidity or fear, there were men who commanded
general respect. One who fled before the bulls was feared for the skill
with which he used his knife. Another had been in prison for killing a
man with his fist. The famous _Swallow-hats_ enjoyed the honors of
celebrity since one afternoon when, in a tavern at Vallecas, he ate a
Cordovan felt hat torn into pieces and fried, with wine at discretion to
make the mouthfuls go down.

Some, suave mannered, always well dressed and freshly shaved, fastened
themselves upon Gallardo, accompanying him on his walks in the hope that
he would invite them to dine. Others with an arrogant look in their bold
eyes entertained the swordsman gayly with the relation of their
adventures.

On sunny mornings they went to the Castellana in search of game, when
the governesses of the great houses take the children out for an airing.
These were English misses or German _frauleins_, who had just come to
Madrid with their heads filled with picturesque ideas about this land of
legend, and when they saw a young fellow with shaven face and broad hat,
they immediately imagined him to be a bull-fighter--a bull-fighter
lover--how fine!

"They are girls as insipid as bread without salt, you know, _maestro_.
Big feet and hempen hair, but they have their good points, you bet they
have! As they scarcely catch on to what one says to them, they're all
smiles, showing their teeth, which are very white. And they open their
big eyes wide. They don't talk Christian but they understand when one
makes signs of asking a tip, and as one is a gentleman and is always
lucky, they give money for tobacco and other things--and one manages to
live. I have three on hand now."

The speaker boasted of his indefatigable cleverness which absorbed the
savings of the governesses.

Others devoted themselves to the foreign women of the music-halls,
dancers and singers who came to Spain with the desire of immediately
experiencing the joys of having a bull-fighter lover. They were lively
French women, with snub noses and straight corsets, so spiritually
slender there seemed to be nothing tangible under their perfumed and
rustling, cabbage-like, crimpled skirts; German girls with solid flesh,
heavy, imposing, and blonde as Valkyries; Italians with black, oily
hair, with a greenish brown complexion and a tragic air.

The young bull-fighters laughed, recollecting their first private
interviews with these devout enthusiasts. The foreign woman was always
afraid of being deceived, dreading to find that her legendary hero was
but an ordinary man. Really, was he a bull-fighter? And they looked for
his queue, smiling complacently at their wit when they felt the hairy
appendage in their fingers, which was equivalent to a certificate of
identification.

"You know what these women are, _maestro_. They spend the whole evening
kissing and caressing the _coleta_. To entertain them one has to jump up
and perform in the middle of the room and explain how bulls are fought,
turning over a chair, doing cape-work with a sheet, and lodging
_banderillas_ with the fingers. Holy Sea! And then, as they are girls
who go about the world dragging money out of every Christian that comes
near them, they begin their begging in their broken Spanish that even
God himself couldn't understand: 'Bull-fighter sweetheart, wilt thou
give me one of thy capes, all embroidered in gold, to wear when I come
on to dance?' You see, _maestro_, how greedy these girls are. As if one
bought capes as freely as newspapers. As if one had oceans of them--!"

The young bull-fighter promised the cape with generous arrogance. All
bull-fighters are rich. And while the gorgeous gift was on the way, they
became more intimate, and the lover asked loans of his friend, who, if
she did not have money, pawned a jewel; and he, growing bolder, began
helping himself to anything that lay within reach of his hand. When she
happened to awaken from her amorous dream, protesting at such liberties,
the fine fellow demonstrated the vehemence of his passion and returned
the loans to her legendary hero in the form of a beating.

Gallardo enjoyed this tale, particularly when he heard the last part.

"Aha! thou doest well!" he said with savage joy. "Be firm with those
girls. Thou knowest them. Thus they love thee more! The worst thing a
Christian can do is to humble himself before certain women. Man must
make himself respected."

He ingenuously admired the lack of scruple in these youths who lived by
levying a contribution on the illusions of passing foreign women, and he
pitied himself thinking of his weakness before a certain one.

At sunset, one afternoon, the swordsman on entering Alcalá Street from
the Puerta del Sol, stopped, struck by surprise. A blonde lady was
getting out of a carriage at the door of the Hotel de Paris. A man who
looked like a foreigner gave her his hand, assisting her to alight, and
after speaking a few words he drove away while she went into the hotel.

It was Doña Sol. The bull-fighter did not doubt her identity. Neither
did he doubt the relations that united her to the foreigner after seeing
her glances and the smile with which they said farewell. Thus she used
to look at him, thus she used to smile at him in those happy days when
they rode together in the deserted fields illuminated by the soft
rose-color of the setting sun--"Curse it!"

He spent the evening in ill-humor in the company of some friends; then
he slept badly, many scenes of the past being reproduced in his dreams.
When he rose the dark and livid light of a gloomy day entered through
the balconies. It was raining, the water drops mingled with flakes of
snow. Everything was black; the sky, the walls opposite, a dripping
gable within view, the muddy pavement, the roofs of the coaches shining
like mirrors, the movable cupolas of the umbrellas.

Eleven o'clock! Should he go to see Doña Sol? Why not! The night before
he had put aside this thought with a rush of anger. That would be to
humble himself. She had run away from him without any explanation
whatever, and later, when she heard of his being wounded unto death, she
had scarcely interested herself in his health. A simple telegram at
first and nothing more, not even a poor letter of a few lines; she, who
with such ease wrote to her friends. No; he would not go to see her. He
was very proud.

But the next morning his determination seemed to have softened during
the night. "Why not?" he asked himself. He must see her again. For him
she was first among all the women he had ever known; she attracted him
with a force different from the affection he felt for others. "I have a
right to her," the bull-fighter said to himself, realizing his weakness.
Ah! how he had felt the violent separation!

The atrocious goring in the plaza of Seville, with the rigor of physical
pain, had softened the force of his amorous torment. Illness, and then
his tender reinstatement in the good graces of Carmen during
convalescence, had made him resigned to his fate. But forget? Never! He
had made every effort not to think of the past, but the most
insignificant circumstance--passing along a road on which he had
galloped with the beautiful Amazon; meeting on the street an English
blonde; contact with those young Sevillian gentlemen who were her
relatives, all resurrected the image of Doña Sol. Ah, this woman! He
would never find another like her. When he lost her, Gallardo believed
the decadence of his life had begun. He was no longer the same. He
deemed himself many steps lower in social consideration. He even
attributed his downfall in his art to this abandonment. When he had her
he was more valiant. When the blonde girl fled bad luck had begun for
the bull-fighter. If she would return to him, surely the sun of his
glory would rise again. His spirit, at times sustained, at others
weakened by the mirage of superstition, believed this firmly.

Perhaps his desire to see her might stir again a joyful heart-throb,
like that which had often saved him in the ring. Why not? He had great
confidence in himself. His easy triumphs with women dazzled by his
success made him believe in the irresistible charm of his person. It
might be that Doña Sol, seeing him after a long absence--who could tell!
The first time they were alone it happened so.

And Gallardo, trusting in his lucky star, with the arrogant tranquillity
of a man of fortune, who necessarily must awaken desire wherever his
gaze falls, marched over to the Hotel de Paris, which was situated a
short distance from his own.

He had to wait more than half an hour subjected to the curious gaze of
employees and guests who turned their faces on hearing his name.

A servant invited him to enter the elevator and conducted him to a
little _salon_ on the next floor from which the Puerta del Sol could be
seen with the black roofs of the houses opposite, the pavements
concealed beneath the meeting streams of umbrellas, and the shining
asphalt of the plaza furrowed by swift coaches, which seemed to whip
the rain, or by tram cars that crossed in every direction and rang an
incessant warning to the foot passengers.

A little door concealed by hangings opened and Doña Sol appeared, amid a
rustling of silk, and a sweet perfume of fresh pink flesh, in all the
splendor of the summer of her existence.

Gallardo devoured her with his eyes, inspecting her with the exactitude
of one who knew her well and did not forget details.

Just as she was in Seville! No--more beautiful, if possible, with the
added temptation of a long absence.

She presented herself in elegant abandon, wearing an odd costume with
strange jewels, as he first saw her in her house in Seville. Her feet
were thrust into slippers covered with heavy gold embroideries which,
when she sat down and crossed her limbs, hung loose, ready to fall off
her pointed toes. She extended him her hand, smiling with amiable
frigidity.

"How are you, Gallardo? I knew you were in Madrid. I have seen you."

You! She no longer used the _thou_ of the great lady, to which he had
responded with respectful courtesy as her lover in a class beneath. This
_you_ that seemed to put them on a level drove the swordsman to despair.
He wished to be a kind of serf, elevated by love to the great lady's
arms, and he found himself treated with the cold and courteous
consideration which an ordinary friend inspires.

She explained that she had attended the only bull-fight Gallardo had
given in Madrid and had seen him there. She had gone to see the bulls
with a foreigner who desired a glimpse of things Spanish; a friend who
accompanied her on her travels but who lived in another hotel.

Gallardo responded to this with an affirmative movement of the head. He
remembered the foreigner; he had seen him with her.

The two fell into a long silence, not knowing what to say. Doña Sol was
the first to break the pause.

She found the bull-fighter looking well; she vaguely recollected about a
great wound he had received; she was almost certain of having
telegraphed to Seville, asking for news of him. With the life she lived,
with continual change of country and new friendships, her thoughts were
in such confusion! But he appeared now as usual, and in the _corrida_ he
had seemed to her arrogant and strong, although rather unlucky. She did
not understand much about bulls. "Was it nothing, that goring?"

Gallardo was irritated by the accent of indifference with which the
woman asked the question. And he, when he considered himself between
life and death, had thought only of her!

With the gloom of dismay he told her about his being caught, and of his
convalescence which had lasted all winter.

She listened to him with feigned interest, while her eyes revealed
indifference. The misfortunes of the gladiator were of no importance to
her. They were accidents of his trade which could only be of interest to
him.

Gallardo, as he spoke of his convalescence at the plantation, thought of
the man he and Doña Sol had met together there. "And Plumitas? Do you
remember that poor fellow? He was killed. I don't know whether you
heard about it."

Doña Sol also vaguely remembered this. Possibly she had read it in the
Paris newspapers, which printed a great deal about the bandit as an
interesting type of picturesque Spain.

"Poor man," said Doña Sol with indifference. "I barely recall him as a
clownish and uninteresting rustic. At a distance things are seen at
their true values. What I do remember is the day he breakfasted with us
at the farmhouse."

Gallardo had not forgotten this event. Poor Plumitas! With what emotion
he took the flower offered by Doña Sol! Did she not remember?

Doña Sol's eyes showed sincere astonishment.

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Is that so? I swear I remember nothing about
it. Ah! that land of the sun! The intoxication of the picturesque! The
follies one commits!"

Her exclamations, revealed a vague repentance. Then she began to laugh.

"And maybe that poor rustic kept the flower until his last moment; no,
Gallardo? Don't tell me he did not. Perhaps no one ever gave him a
flower before in all his life. And it is possible also they found that
dried flower on his dead body, a mysterious token no one could explain.
Don't you know anything about it, Gallardo? Didn't the newspapers
mention it? Hush; don't tell me no; don't dispel my illusions. It must
have been so; I want it to be so. Poor Plumitas! How interesting! And I
had forgotten all about the flower! I will tell my friend, who thinks he
will write on things Spanish."

The recollection of this friend, who within a few minutes was brought
into the conversation for a second time, depressed the bull-fighter.

He sat gazing steadily at the beautiful lady with a tearful melancholy
in his Moorish eyes which seemed to implore compassion.

"Doña Sol! Doña Sol!" he murmured with an accent of despair, as if he
would reproach her for her cruelty.

"What is it, my friend?" she asked smiling. "What is the matter with
you?"

Gallardo kept silence and bowed his head, intimidated by the ironic
reflection in those blue eyes, sparkling with their tiny flakes of gold.

After a moment he sat erect as does one who adopts a resolution.

"Where have you been all this time, Doña Sol?"

"Travelling about the world," she answered simply. "I am a bird of
passage. In innumerable cities whose very names you do not know."

"And that foreigner who accompanies you now--is--?"

"He is a friend," she said coldly. "A friend who has had the kindness to
accompany me, taking advantage of the opportunity to see Spain; a fine
man who bears an illustrious name. From here we go to Andalusia when he
gets through seeing the museums. What more do you desire to know?"

In that question, asked with hauteur, an imperious intention of keeping
the bull-fighter at a distance was apparent, of establishing social
differences between the two. Gallardo was disconcerted.

"Doña Sol!" he moaned with ingenuousness. "God cannot forgive what you
have done to me! You have been unkind to me, very unkind. Why did you
run away without a word?"

His eyes moistened, he clenched his fists in desperation.

"Don't act so, Gallardo. What I did was a great favor to you. Don't you
know me well enough yet? Did you not weary of that affair? If I were a
man I would run away from women of my character. The unhappy man who
falls in love with me is a suicide."

"But why did you go?" insisted Gallardo.

"I went because I was bored. Do I speak clearly? And when a woman is
bored, I believe she has a right to escape in search of new diversions.
I am bored to death everywhere; pity me."

"But I love you with all my soul!" exclaimed the bull-fighter with a
dramatic and ingenuous expression that would have been ridiculous in
another man.

"I love you with all my soul!" repeated Doña Sol imitating his accent
and gesture. "And what of that? Ah, these egotistical men, who are
applauded by the people and imagine that everything has been created for
them. 'I love thee with all my soul and therefore thou must love me
also'--But no, _señor_. I do not love you, Gallardo. You are my friend
and nothing more. That affair in Seville was a dream, a mad caprice,
which I barely recollect and which you should forget."

The bull-fighter rose, drawing near Doña Sol with extended hands. In his
ignorance he did not know what to say, divining that his rude words were
inefficient to convince that woman. He trusted his desires and hopes to
action, with the vehemence of an impulsive man, intending to overpower
the woman, to attract her and dispel by contact the chill which
separated them.

"Doña Sol!" he supplicated, grasping her hands.

But she, with a simple turn of her agile right hand, disengaged herself
from the bull-fighter. A flash of pride and anger darted from her eyes
and she bent forward aggressively, as if she had suffered an insult.

"Silence, Gallardo! If you go on thus you will not be my friend and I
will show you the door."

The bull-fighter's attitude changed to one of despair; he was humbled
and ashamed.

"Don't be a baby," she said. "Why remember what is no longer possible?
Why think of me? You have your wife, who, I hear, is pretty and simple;
a good companion. And if not she, there are others. Think how many
clever girls you can find there in Seville, those who wear the
_mantilla_, with flowers in their hair, those that used to please me so
much, who would think it a joy to be loved by Gallardo. My infatuation
is over. It hurts your pride, being a famous man accustomed to success;
but so it is; it's over; friend and nothing more. I am changed. I have
become bored and I never retrace my steps. My illusions last but a short
time and pass, leaving no trace. I deserve pity, believe me."

She gazed at the bull-fighter with eyes of commiseration, with pitying
curiosity, as if she suddenly saw him in all his defects and crudeness.

"I think things that you could not understand," she continued. "You seem
to me changed. The Gallardo of Seville was different from the one here.
Are you really the same person? I do not doubt it, yet to me you are a
different man. How can I explain it to you? Once I met a rajah in
London. Do you know what a rajah is?"

Gallardo negatively shook his head blushing at his ignorance.

"It is an Indian prince."

The old-time ambassadress recalled the Hindoo magnate, his coppery face
shaded by a black beard, his enormous white turban with a great dazzling
diamond above his forehead and the rest of his body enwrapped in white
vestments of thin and innumerable veils, like the petals of a flower.

"He was handsome, he was young, he adored me with the mysterious eyes of
an animal of the forest, but he seemed to me ridiculous, and I jested at
him every time he stammered one of his Oriental compliments in English.
He shook with cold, the fogs made him cough, he moved around like a bird
in the rain, waving his veils as if they were wet wings. When he talked
to me of love, gazing at me with his moist gazelle-like eyes, I longed
to buy him an overcoat and a cap, so that he would not shake any longer.
However, I realized that he was handsome and could have been the joy,
for quite a few months, of a woman desirous of something extraordinary.
It was a question of atmosphere, of scene. You, Gallardo, do you know
what that is?"

And Doña Sol remained pensive, recalling the poor rajah always shaking
with cold in his absurd vestments amid the foggy light of London. In her
imagination she beheld him there in his own country transfigured by the
majesty of power and by the light of the sun, his coppery complexion,
with the greenish reflexions of the tropical vegetation, taking on a
tone of artistic bronze. She saw him mounted on his elephant on parade,
with long golden hangings that swept the ground, escorted by warlike
horsemen and slaves bearing censers with perfumes, his great turban
crowned with white feathers set with precious stones, his bosom covered
with breast-plates of diamonds, his waist bound by a belt of emeralds,
from which hung a golden scimitar; she saw him surrounded by bayaderes
with painted eyes and firm breasts, forests of lances, and, in the
background, pagodas with multiple roofs one above another, with little
bells that chimed mysterious symphonies at the slightest whisper of the
breeze; palaces of more mystery; dense thickets in whose shadows leaped
and growled ferocious multicolored animals. Ah, atmosphere! Seeing the
poor rajah thus, proud as a god, beneath an arid sky of intense blue,
and in the splendor of an ardent sun, it would never have occurred to
her to present him with an overcoat. It was almost certain that she
herself might have fallen into his arms giving herself up as a serf of
love.

"You remind me of the rajah, friend Gallardo. There in Seville, in your
native costume, with the lance over your shoulder, you were all right.
You were a complement to the landscape. But here! Madrid has become very
much Europeanized; it is a city like others. Native costumes are no
longer worn. Manila shawls are seldom seen off the stage. Don't be
offended, Gallardo; but I don't know why you remind me of the rajah."

She looked through the windows at the wet ground and the rainy sky, at
the scattering flakes of snow, and the crowd that moved with accelerated
step under the dripping umbrellas. Then she turned her gaze on the
swordsman, stared strangely at the braid hanging from his head, at the
way his hair was combed, at his hat, at all the details that revealed
his profession, which contrasted with his elegant and modern costume.

The bull-fighter was--in Doña Sol's opinion--out of his element. Ah,
this Madrid; rainy and dismal! Her friend who had come with the illusion
of a Spain of eternal blue sky, was disappointed. She herself, seeing on
the walk near the hotel the groups of young bull-fighters in gallant
attitudes, inevitably thought of exotic animals brought from sunny
countries to zoölogical gardens beneath a rainy sky in a gray light.
There in Andalusia Gallardo was the hero, the spontaneous product of a
cattle country. Here he seemed to her a comedian, with his shaven face
and the stage manners of one accustomed to public homage; a comedian who
instead of speaking dialogues with his equals awoke the tragic thrill in
combat with wild beasts.

Ah! The seductive mirage of the lands of the sun! The deceitful
intoxication of light and color! And she had been able to love that
rough, uncouth fellow a few months, she had extolled the crudities of
his ignorance, and she had even demanded that he should not abandon his
habits, that he should smell of bulls and horses, so as not to dispel
with perfumes the odors of wild animals that enveloped his person! Ah,
atmosphere! To what mad deeds it drives one!

She remembered the danger in which she had stood of being killed by a
bull's horns; then the breakfast with a bandit, to whom she had listened
speechless with admiration and in the end had given a flower. What
nonsense! And how far away it seemed now!

Nothing remained of this past which caused her to feel repentance for
its absurdity except that lusty youth motionless before her with his
supplicating eyes and his infantile effort to resurrect those days. Poor
man! As if the madness could be repeated when one thinks calmly, and
illusion, blind enchantress of life, has vanished!

"It is all over," said the lady. "The past must be forgotten, now that
looking back it does not appear in the same colors. What would I not
give to have the eyes I used to have! On returning to Spain I find it
changed. You also are different. It even seemed to me the other day,
seeing you in the plaza, that you were less daring--that the people were
less enthusiastic."

She said this simply, without malice, but Gallardo imagined he divined
in her voice a trace of mockery; he bowed his head and his cheeks
reddened.

"Curse it!" Professional worries surged through his mind. Everything
that happened was because he no longer got _close_ to the bulls. She had
said it plainly. He seemed to her a different man. If he became the
Gallardo of former times perhaps she would receive him better. Women
love none but the brave.

The bull-fighter deceived himself with these illusions, taking what was
a caprice, dead forever, for a momentary aversion that he could conquer
by force of prowess.

Doña Sol arose. The call had been long and the bull-fighter did not seem
disposed to go; he was content to be near her, vaguely trusting to
circumstance to draw them together. But he was obliged to imitate her.
She excused herself, pleading an engagement. She was expecting her
friend; they were going together to the Prado Gallery.

Then she invited him to breakfast the next morning; a quiet breakfast in
her apartments. Her friend would also come. Undoubtedly it would be a
pleasure to him to see a bull-fighter at close range. He scarcely spoke
Spanish but he would be pleased to meet Gallardo.

The swordsman pressed her hand, answering with incoherent words, and
left the room. Fury clouded his vision; his ears buzzed.

Thus she bade him good-bye--coldly, as she would an occasional friend.
And that was the same woman he had known in Seville! And she invited him
to breakfast with her friend who would amuse himself by examining him
close at hand, as if he were a rare beast.

Curse it! He was a brave man. He was done. He would never go to see her
again.



CHAPTER XV

BEHIND THE SCENES


Just at that time Gallardo received several letters from Don José and
from Carmen. The manager tried to encourage his _matador_, counselling
him to walk straight up to the bulls--"_Zas!_ a thrust and thou wilt put
him in thy pocket." But underlying his enthusiasm a certain depression
might be detected, as if his faith were dwindling and he had begun to
doubt that Gallardo was "the greatest man in the world." He knew of the
discontent and hostility with which the public received him. The last
bull-fight in Madrid disheartened Don José completely. No; Gallardo was
not like other swordsmen who went on in spite of public derision,
satisfied with earning money. His _matador_ had bull-fighter pride and
could only show himself in the ring to advantage when received with
great enthusiasm.

Don José pretended to understand what ailed his swordsman. Want of
courage? Never. He would suffer death before he would recognize this
defect in his hero. It was because he was tired, because he was not yet
recovered from his goring. "And so," he advised in all his letters, "it
would be better for thee to retire and rest a season. Afterward thou
wilt fight again like thine old self." He offered to arrange everything.
A doctor's certificate was enough to certify his temporary weakness,
and the manager would settle with the plaza impresarios to arrange the
pending contracts by sending a _matador_ from the beginners' ranks, who
would substitute Gallardo for a modest sum. They would still make money
by this arrangement.

Carmen was more vehement in her petitions. He must retire immediately;
he must "cut his queue." She was more afraid now than in the first years
of her married life, when the bull-fights and the fearful suspense
seemed to her conditions of existence that destroyed her peace of mind.
Her heart told her, with that feminine instinct seldom mistaken in its
forebodings, that something grave was going to happen. She scarcely
slept; she dreaded the night hours, broken as they were by sanguinary
visions. She waxed furious at the public in her letters--a crowd of
ingrates who forgot what the bull-fighter had done when he was himself;
evil-minded people who wished to see him die for their diversion, as
though she did not exist, as though he had no mother. "Juan, _Mamita_
and I ask it of thee. Retire. Why go on bull-fighting? We have enough to
live on and it pains me to have to see thee insulted by people who are
beneath thee. And if another accident should happen--Heavens!--I believe
I should go mad."

Gallardo remained thoughtful after reading these letters. Retire! What
nonsense! Women's notions! They could say this easily on the impulse of
affection, but it was impossible. "Cut his queue" at thirty! How his
enemies would laugh! He had no right to retire while his members were
sound and he could fight. Such an absurd thing had never happened. Money
was not all. How about glory? And professional pride? What would the
thousands and thousands of enthusiastic partisans who admired him say of
him? What answer would they make to the enemies who threw it in their
faces that Gallardo had retired through cowardice?

Moreover, the _matador_ stopped to consider whether his fortune would
permit this solution. He was rich, and yet he was not. His social
position was not established. What he possessed was the work of the
early years of his married life, when one of his greatest joys consisted
in saving, and in surprising Carmen and the _mamita_ with news of fresh
acquisitions. Later he had gone on earning money, maybe in greater
quantity, but it was wasted and had disappeared through various leaks in
his new existence. He had gambled a great deal and had lived a life of
splendor. His gambling had caused him to ask loans of various devotees
in the provinces. He was rich, but if he retired, thus losing the income
of the _corridas_ (some years two hundred thousand _pesetas_, others
three hundred thousand) he would have to retrench, after paying his
debts, by living like a country gentleman off the product of La
Rinconada, practising economies and overseeing the estate himself, for
up to that time the plantation, abandoned to mercenary hands, had
produced almost nothing.

In former times he would have considered himself extremely wealthy with
a small part of what he actually possessed. Now he seemed almost a poor
man if he gave up bull-fighting. He would have to forego the Havana
cigars which he distributed prodigally, and the high-priced Andalusian
wines; he would have to curtail the impulses of a _gran señor_ and no
longer shout in _cafés_ and taverns, "It's all paid for!" with the
generous impulse of a man accustomed to defy death, which led him to
conduct his life with mad extravagance. He would have to dismiss the
troop of parasites and flatterers that swarmed around him, making him
laugh with their whining petitions; and when a smart woman of equivocal
class came to him (if any would come, after he had retired), he could no
longer make her turn pale with emotion by putting into her ears hoops of
gold and pearls, nor could he amuse himself by spotting her rich Chinese
shawl with wine to surprise her afterwards with a finer one.

So had he lived, and so must he continue to live. He was a bull-fighter
of the good old times, such as the people represent a _matador_ of bulls
to be, liberal, proud, a reveller in scandalous extravagances and quick
to succor the unfortunate with princely alms whenever they touched his
rude sentiments.

Gallardo jested at many of his companions, bull-fighters of a new kind,
vulgar members of the guild of the industry of killing bulls, who
journeyed from plaza to plaza like commercial travellers, and were
careful and mean in all their expenditures. Some of them, who were
almost boys, carried in their pocket an account book of income and
expenses, marking down even the five centimes for a glass of water at a
station. They only mingled with the rich to accept their attentions and
it never occurred to them to treat anybody. Others boiled great pots of
coffee at home when the travelling season came on and carried the black
liquid with them in bottles, having it reheated, to avoid this expense
in hotels. The members of certain _cuadrillas_ endured hunger and
growled in public about the avarice of their _maestros_.

Gallardo was not tired of his life of splendor. And they wanted him to
renounce it!

Moreover, he thought of the necessities of his own house, where all were
accustomed to an easy existence; the full and unembarrassed life of a
family which does not count money or worry about its coming in, seeing
it drip ceaselessly as from a faucet. Besides his wife and mother, he
had taken upon himself another family, his sister, his chattering
brother-in-law as idle as though his relationship to a celebrated man
gave him the right to vagrancy, and all the troop of little nephews who
were growing up and becoming constantly more expensive. He would have to
call to an order of economy and parsimony all these people accustomed to
live at his cost in merry and open-handed carelessness! And everybody,
even poor Garabato, would have to go to the plantation, to parch in the
sun and become brutish as rustics! Poor _Mamita_ could no longer gladden
her last days with pious generosity dispensing money among the needy
women in the ward, shrinking like a bashful girl when her son pretended
to be angry at finding she had nothing left of the hundred _duros_ he
had given her two weeks before! Carmen naturally would try to cut down
expenses, sacrificing herself first, depriving her existence of many
frivolities that made it bright.

"Curse it!" All this meant the degradation of his family--on his
account. Gallardo felt ashamed that such a thing might happen. It would
be a crime to deprive them after having accustomed them to luxury. And
what must he do to avoid it? Simply get _closer_ to the bulls; to go on
fighting as in former times.

He would get _closer_!

He answered his manager's and Carmen's letters with brief and labored
lines that revealed his firm intention. Retire? Never!

He was resolved to be the same as ever, he swore it to Don José. He
would follow his advice. "Zas! A thrust, and the beast in his pocket."
His courage rose, and he felt equal to taking care of all the bulls in
the universe no matter how big they might be.

He was gay toward his wife, although his pride was rather hurt because
she doubted his strength. She should hear news after the next _corrida_!
He meant to astonish the public to shame it for its injustice. If the
bulls were good, he would be like the very Roger de Flor himself!

Good bulls! This was Gallardo's worry. It used to be one of his vanities
that he never gave them a thought, and he never went to see them in the
plaza before the _corrida_.

"I kill everything they let out to me," he used to say arrogantly. And
he beheld the bulls for the first time when he saw them enter the ring.

Now he wished to examine them, to choose them, to prepare for success by
a careful study of their condition.

The weather had cleared, the sun shone; the following day the second
bull-fight was to take place.

In the afternoon Gallardo went alone to the plaza. The amphitheatre of
red brick, with its Moorish windows, stood by itself at the base of
green hills. In the background of this broad and monotonous landscape
something resembling a distant flock of sheep shone white on the slope
of a hill. It was a cemetery.

Seeing the bull-fighter in the vicinity of the plaza some slovenly
individuals, parasites of the ring, vagabonds who slept in the stables
through charity, living at the cost of devotees and on the leavings of
patrons of the nearby taverns, approached him. Some of them had come
from Andalusia with a shipment of bulls and hung about in the vicinity
of the plaza. Gallardo distributed some coins among these beggars, who
followed him cap in hand, and entered the ring through the door of the
_Caballerizas_.

In the _corral_ he saw a group of devotees watching the _picadores_
testing horses. Potaje, with great cowboy spurs on his heels, was
grasping a spear, preparing to mount. Those in charge of the stables
escorted the manager of the horses, an obese man in a great Andalusian
hat, slow of speech, who responded calmly to the insulting and abusive
wrangling of the _picadores_.

The "wise monkeys," with arms bared were pulling the hacks by the bridle
reins for the riders to try them. For several days they had been riding
and training these miserable horses which still bore on their flanks the
red gashes of the spurs. They brought them out to trot over the
clearings adjacent to the plaza, making them acquire an artificial
energy with the iron on their heels and obliging them to make turns to
accustom them to running in the ring. They came back to the plaza with
their sides dyed with blood, and before entering the stables they
received a baptism of several bucketfuls of water. Near the trough not
far away the water standing between the stones was dark red, like
spilled wine.

The horses destined for the bull-fight the following day were almost
dragged out of the stables to be examined and passed upon by the
_picadores_. These worn-out remnants of wretched horse-flesh advanced,
with tremulous flanks drooping with old age and sickness, a reproach to
human ingratitude so forgetful of past service. Some were mere
skeletons with sharp protruding ribs that seemed about to break through
their hairy hide. Others walked proudly, stamping their strong hoofs,
their coats shining and their eyes bright; beautiful animals that it was
hard to imagine among outcasts destined to death, magnificent beasts
that seemed to have been recently unharnessed from a luxurious carriage.
These were the most dreaded, for they were horses afflicted with vertigo
and other maladies, and behind these specimens of misery and infirmity,
rang the sad hoof-beats of steeds past work, mill and factory horses,
farm horses, public cab nags, all dulled by years of pulling the plough
or the cart, unhappy pariahs who were going to be exploited until the
last instant, forced to provide diversion to men with their pawing and
springing when the bull's horns gored their shrinking bodies. To mount
this miserable horse-herd, tremulous with madness or ready to drop with
misery, as much courage was needed as to stand before the bull. Heavy
Moorish saddles with high pommel, yellow seat, and cowboy stirrups were
thrown upon them, and as they received this weight their legs almost
gave way.

Potaje wore a haughty mien in his discussions with the overseer of the
horses, speaking for himself and for his comrades, making even the "wise
monkeys" laugh with his gypsy-like maledictions. Let the other
_picadores_ leave it to him to come to an understanding with the
horse-traders. Nobody knew better than he how to make these people stand
around.

A servant approached him, dragging after him a dejected hack with long
hair and ribs in painful relief.

"What art thou bringing there?" said Potaje facing the man. "That can't
be received. That's an animal no man alive could mount. Take it to thy
mother!"

The phlegmatic contractor answered with grave calmness. If Potaje dared
not mount him it was because the _piqueros_ now-a-days were afraid of
everything. With a horse like this, kind and gentle, Señor Calderón,
Trigo, or any of the good-old-time horsemen could have fought bulls two
consecutive afternoons without getting a fall and without the animal
receiving a scratch. But now! Now there was much fear and very little
shame.

The _picador_ and the contractor insulted one another with friendly
calmness, for among them abusive language lost significance from force
of habit.

"What thou art," answered Potaje, "is a freshy, a bigger thief than José
María the _Earlybird_. Get out, and let thy bald-headed grandmother that
rode on a broom every Saturday at the stroke of twelve get on that
raw-boned, hard-gaited beast."

Those present laughed and the contractor merely shrugged his shoulders.

"But what's the matter with that horse?" he said coolly. "Look at him,
thou evil soul. Better is he than others that have glanders, or get
dizzy and that have thrown thee off over their ears before thou wast
even near the bull. He is sounder than an apple, for he has been
twenty-eight years in a gas factory doing his duty like a decent person,
without ever being found fault with. And now along comest thou, thou
street-crier, abusing him with thy 'buts' and thy fault finding, as if
he were a bad Christian."

"But I don't want him! Get out! Keep him!"

The contractor slowly approached Potaje, and with the ease of a man
expert in these transactions whispered in his ear. The _picador_,
pretending to be offended, finally walked up to the hack. He shouldn't
miss the sale on his account! He didn't want to be taken for an
intractable man, capable of injuring a comrade.

Putting a foot in the stirrup he swung the weight of his body upon the
poor horse. Then, holding the spear under his arm, he thrust it into a
great post embedded in the wall, spearing it several times with
tremendous force, as if he had a stout bull at the end of his lance. The
poor hack trembled and bent his legs under these shocks.

"He don't turn badly," said Potaje with conciliating tone. "The _penco_
is better than I thought. He's got a good mouth, good legs. Thou hast
won. Let him be kept."

The _picador_ dismounted, disposed to accept anything the contractor
offered him after his mysterious "aside."

Gallardo left the group of devotees who had laughingly witnessed this
performance. A porter of the plaza went with him to where the bulls were
kept. He passed through a little door entering the _corrales_.

A rubble wall that reached the height of a man's neck surrounded the
_corral_ on three sides, strengthened by heavy posts united to the
little upper balcony. Passages so narrow that a man could only go
through them side-wise opened at certain distances. Eight bulls were in
the spacious _corral_, some lying down, others standing with lowered
heads sniffing at the pile of hay before them. The bull-fighter walked
the length of these galleries examining the animals. At times he would
come outside the barricade, his body looming up through the narrow
openings. He waved his arms, giving savage whoops of challenge that
stirred the bulls out of their immobility. Some sprang nervously,
attacking with lowered head this man who came to disturb the peace of
their enclosure. Others stood firm on their legs, waiting with raised
heads and threatening mien for the rash being to approach them.

Gallardo, who quickly hid himself again behind the barricades, examined
the appearance and character of the wild beasts, without deciding which
two he desired to choose.

The plaza overseer was near him; a big athletic man, with leggings and
spurs, dressed in coarse cloth and wearing a broad hat held by a chin
strap. They had nicknamed him Young Wolf; he was a rough rider who spent
the greater part of the year in the open country, coming to Madrid like
a savage, with no curiosity to see its streets nor desire to pass beyond
the vicinity of the plaza.

To his mind the capital of Spain was a ring with clearings and waste
lands in its environs, and beyond these a mysterious series of houses
with which he had felt no desire to become acquainted. The most
important establishment in Madrid was, in his opinion, Gallina's tavern,
situated near the plaza, a pleasant realm of joy; an enchanting palace
where he supped and ate at the manager's cost, before returning to the
pastures mounted on his steed, with his dark blanket over the pommel,
his saddle bags on the croup, and his spear over his shoulder. He
rejoiced in terrifying the servants of the tavern with his friendly
greetings; terrible hand-clasps that made the bones crack and drew
shrieks of terror. He smiled, proud of his strength and proud to be
called "brute," and seated himself before his meal, a plate the size of
a dishpan, full of meat and potatoes, besides a jug of wine.

He tended the bulls acquired by the manager, sometimes in the pasture
grounds of Muñoza, or, when the heat was excessive, in the meadows among
the Guadarramas. He brought them to the enclosure two days before the
_corrida_, at midnight, crossing the arroyo Abroñigal, at the outskirts
of Madrid, accompanied by horsemen and cowboys. He was in despair when
bad weather prevented the bull-fight and the herd had to remain in the
plaza, and he could not return immediately to the tranquil solitudes
where he pastured the other bulls.

Slow of speech, dull of thought, this centaur who smelled of hide and
hay expressed himself with warmth when he talked of his pastoral life
herding wild beasts. The sky of Madrid seemed to him narrow and to have
fewer stars. He described with picturesque loquacity the nights in the
pasture with his bulls sleeping in the diffused light of the firmament
and in the dense silence broken only by the mysterious noises from the
thickets. The mountain snakes sang with a strange voice in this
stillness. They sang, _sí, señor_! No one cared to dispute Young Wolf;
he had heard it a thousand times, and to doubt this were to call him a
liar, exposing oneself to feel the weight of his heavy hands. And as the
reptiles sang, so the bulls talked, only that he had not managed to
penetrate all the mysteries of their tongue. They were Christians
although they walked on four legs and had horns. It was a fine sight to
see them awaken when the morning light appeared. They sprang up
joyfully like children; they played, pretending to attack, locking
horns; they tried to ride one another with a noisy joy, as if they
greeted the presence of the sun which is God's glory. Then he told of
his long excursions through the Guadarramas, following the course of the
stream of liquid snow that flowed down from the mountain peaks, like
transparent crystal, feeding the rivers and the meadows with their
herbage dotted with tiny flowers; of the flapping of the wings of the
birds that came and perched on the sleeping bulls' horns; of the wolves
that howled through the night, ever far away, very far away, as if
frightened by the procession of primeval beasts that followed the
leader's bell to dispute with them the wild solitude. Let them not talk
to him of Madrid, where the people were suffocated! The only acceptable
things in this forest of houses were Gallina's wine and his savory
stews.

Young Wolf talked to the swordsman and helped him by his advice to
choose two animals. The overseer showed neither respect nor wonder in
the presence of this famous man, so admired by the people. The
bull-herder almost hated the bull-fighter. Kill one of those noble
animals, with all kinds of deceptions! A braver man was he who lived
among them, passing before their horns in the solitude, without other
defence than his arm, and with no applause whatever.

As Gallardo left the _corral_ another joined the group, greeting the
_maestro_ with great respect. He was an old man, charged with the
cleanliness of the plaza. He had spent many years in this employment and
had known all the famous bull-fighters of his time. He went poorly clad,
but frequently women's rings glistened on his fingers, and he blew his
nose upon a dainty lace-edged linen handkerchief, which he drew out of
the depths of his blouse.

Alone during the week he swept the immense ring, the tiers of seats and
the boxes, without complaint as to the magnitude of this task. Whenever
the manager found fault and threatened to punish him by opening the door
to the vagabonds who idled around outside the plaza, the poor man in
desperation promised to mend, so that this unwelcome irruption of
scavengers might not cheat him of his spoil. At the most, he admitted
half a dozen rogues, bull-fight apprentices, who were faithful to him in
exchange for his permitting them on festal days to see the _corrida_
from "the dogs' box," a door with a grille situated near the bull-pens,
through which the wounded combatants were carried out. These assistants,
clutching the iron bars, witnessed the _corrida_, struggling and
fighting like monkeys in a cage to occupy the front row.

The old man distributed them skilfully during the week as the cleaning
of the plaza progressed. The youngsters worked in the seats in the sun
occupied by the poor and dirty public, which leaves in its wake a
scrap-heap of orange skins, papers, and cigar stubs.

"Look out for the tobacco," he ordered his troop. "Any one that holds on
to a single cigar stub won't see the bull-fight Sunday."

He patiently cleaned the shady side, bending over like a treasure-seeker
in the mystery of the boxes to put the findings in his pockets; ladies'
fans, rings, handkerchiefs, lost coins, all that an invasion of fourteen
thousand persons leaves in its wake. He heaped up the smokers'
leavings, mincing the stubs and selling them for pulverized tobacco
after exposing them to the sun. The valuables were for a pawnbrokeress
who bought these spoils of a public forgetful or overcome by emotion.

Gallardo answered the old man's pleasant greetings by giving him a
cigar, and he took leave of Young Wolf. It was agreed with the overseer
that he should shut up the two chosen bulls for him. The other swordsmen
would not protest. They were boys in good luck, in the flower of their
youthful bravery, who killed whatever was put before them.

Going out into the courtyard again where the horse-testing was going on
Gallardo saw a man move away from the group of spectators; he was tall,
spare, and of a coppery complexion, dressed like a bull-fighter. Beneath
his black hat locks of grayish hair fell over his ears, and he was
wrinkled around the mouth.

"Pescadero! How art thou?" said Gallardo, pressing his hand with sincere
effusion.

He was an old-time swordsman who had had hours of glory in his youth,
but whose name few remembered. Other _matadores_ coming after had
obscured his poor fame, and Pescadero, after fighting bulls in America
and suffering various wounds, had retired with a small capital of
savings. Gallardo knew that he was the owner of a tavern in the vicinity
of the ring where he vegetated far from the devotees and bull-fighters'
trade. He did not expect to see him in the plaza, but Pescadero said
with a melancholy expression: "What brings me here? Devotion to the
game. I seldom come to the bull-fights, but affairs of the trade still
attract me, and I come in a neighborly fashion to see these things. Now
I am nothing but a tavern keeper."

Gallardo, contemplating his forlorn appearance, thought of the Pescadero
he had known in his youth, one of his most admired heroes, arrogant,
favored by the women, a notable figure in Campana Street when he went to
Seville, with his velvet hat, his wine-colored jacket, and his silken
girdle, leaning on a gold-headed cane. And thus would _he_ become,
common and forgotten if he retired from bull-fighting.

They discussed professional matters a long time. Pescadero, like all old
men embittered by bad luck, was a pessimist. There were no good
bull-fighters any more. Only Gallardo and a few others killed bulls in
classic style. Even the beasts seemed less powerful. And after these
lamentations he insisted on his friend accompanying him to his house.
Since they had met, and the _matador_ had nothing to do, he must visit
his establishment.

Gallardo smiled, and asked about the school of tauromachy established by
Pescadero near his tavern.

"What wouldst thou, son!" said the latter apologetically. "One has to
help oneself, and the school yields more than all the customers of the
tavern. Very good people come, young gentlemen who want to learn so as
to shine in bullock-fights, foreigners that grow enthusiastic at the
bull-fights and get a crazy notion to become bull-fighters in their old
age. I have one taking a lesson now. He comes every afternoon. Thou
shalt see."

After taking a glass of wine at the tavern they crossed the street and
entered a place surrounded by a high wall. On the boards nailed
together, that served as a door, was posted a great bill which
announced, "School of Tauromachy."

They entered. The first thing that claimed Gallardo's attention was the
bull, an animal made of wood and rushes, mounted on wheels, with a tail
of tow, head of braided straw, a section of cork in place of a neck, and
a pair of genuine and enormous horns which inspired the pupils with
terror.

A bare-breasted youth, wearing a cap and two hanks of hair over his
ears, communicated activity to the beast by pushing it when the students
stood before it cape in hand.

In the centre of the enclosure a round, corpulent old man with a red
face stood in his shirt-sleeves holding an armful of _banderillas_. Near
the wall, slouching in one chair and resting her arms on another, was a
lady of about the same age and not less voluminous, wearing a beflowered
hat. Her florid face, with spots as yellow as chaff, dilated with
enthusiasm every time her companion performed a good feat. The roses on
her hat, and her false curls of a ridiculous blonde hue, shook with
laughter as she applauded.

Standing in the doorway Pescadero explained these people to Gallardo.
They must be French, or natives of some other foreign country--he was
not sure where they were from nor did it matter to him. They were a
married couple who travelled about the world and seemed to have lived
everywhere. He had had a thousand trades, to judge from his tales; miner
in Africa; colonist in distant isles; hunter of horses with a lasso in
the solitudes of America. Now he wished to fight bulls--to earn money
as did the Spaniards; and he attended the school every afternoon, with
the determination of a stubborn child, paying generously for his
lessons.

"Imagine it; a bull-fighter with that shape and well past fifty years of
age!"

When the pupil saw the two men enter, he lowered his arms laden with
_banderillas_, and the lady arranged her skirt and flowery hat. Oh,
_cher maître_!--

"Good-afternoon _Mosiú_; greetings, _Madame_," said the master, raising
his hand to his hat. "Let us see, _Mosiú_, how the lesson is getting on.
You know what I have told you. Firm on your ground, you stir up the
beast, you let him come on, and when you have him beside you, aim, and
put the barbs in his neck. You don't have to worry yourself about
anything; the bull will do everything for you. Attention! Are we ready?"

The master moved away, and the pupil faced the terrible bull, or rather
the gamin who was behind it, his hands on its hind quarters to push it.

"A-a-a-a! Come on, Morito!"

Pescadero gave a frightful bellow to cause the animal to charge,
exciting, with yells and with furious stamping on the ground, this
animal with entrails of air and rushes, and a head of straw. Morito
charged like a wild beast, with great clatter of wheels, bobbing his
head up and down as he moved, the page who pushed him bringing up the
rear. Never could bull of famous breed compare in intelligence with this
Morito, immortal beast, stuck full of barbs and sword-thrusts thousands
of times, suffering no other wounds than such insignificant ones as a
carpenter cures. He seemed as wise as man. On drawing near the pupil, he
changed his course so as not to touch him with his horns, moving away
with the barbs lodged in his cork neck.

An ovation greeted this heroic feat, the _banderillero_ remaining firm
in his place, arranging the suspenders of his trousers and the cuffs of
his shirt.

"Masterful, _Mosiú_!" shouted Pescadero. "That pair is first class!"

The foreigner, moved by the professor's applause, responded with
modesty, beating his breast:

"Me got the most important. Courage, _mucho_ courage."

Then, to celebrate his deed, he turned to Morito's page, who seemed to
lick his lips in anticipation of the order. Let a bottle of wine be
fetched. Three empty ones lay on the ground near the lady, who was
constantly growing more purple in the face, wriggling in her clothing,
greeting her companion's tauromachic exploits with great shouts of
laughter.

On learning that he who had just arrived with the teacher was the famous
Gallardo, and on recognizing his countenance so often admired by her in
the newspapers and on match-boxes, the foreign woman lost color and her
eyes grew tender. Oh, _cher maître_! She smiled at him, she rubbed
against him, desiring to fall into his arms with all the weight of her
voluminous and flabby person.

Glasses were clinked to the glory of the new bull-fighter. Even Morito
took part in the feast, the steward who acted as nurse drinking in his
name.

"Before two months, _Mosiú_," said Pescadero, with his Andalusian
gravity, "you will be sticking _banderillas_ in the plaza of Madrid like
the very God himself, and you will have all the applause, all the money,
and all the women--with your lady's permission."

The lady, without ceasing to gaze upon Gallardo with tender eyes, was
moved with joy, and a noisy laugh shook her waves of fat.

Pescadero accompanied Gallardo down the street.

"_Adios_, Juan," he said gravely. "Maybe we'll see each other in the
plaza to-morrow. Thou seest what I have come to--to earn my bread by
these frauds and clown-tricks."

Gallardo walked away, thoughtful. Ah! that man whom he had seen throw
money around in his good times with the arrogance of a prince, sure of
his future! He had lost his savings in bad speculations. A
bull-fighter's life was not one in which to learn the management of a
fortune. And yet they proposed that _he_ retire from his profession!
Never.

He must get _close_ to the bulls!



CHAPTER XVI

"THE GREATEST MAN IN THE WORLD"


During the whole night one dominant thought floated over the dark lake
of Gallardo's dreams. He must get _close_! And the next morning the
resolution was firmly rooted in his mind. He _would_ get close, and
astound the public by his brave deeds. Such was his mettle that he went
to the plaza free from the superstitious fears of former times. He felt
the certainty of triumph, the presentiment of his glorious afternoons.

The _corrida_ was unlucky from the start. The first bull "came in
fighting," furiously attacking the men on horseback. In an instant he
had thrown the three _picadores_ who awaited him lance in socket, and
two of the hacks, lay dying, streams of dark blood gushing from their
perforated chests. The other horse ran across the plaza, mad with pain
and surprise. The bull, attracted by this race, ran after him, and
lowering his powerful head beneath his belly, raised him on his horns
and threw him on the ground, venting his rage on the poor broken and
punctured hulk. As the wild beast left it kicking and dying, a _mono
sabio_ approached to finish it, burying his dagger blade in the crown of
his head. The wretched hack showed the fury of a lion in his death
struggles and bit the man, who gave a scream and shook his bleeding
right hand, pressing on the dagger until the horse ceased kicking and
lay with rigid limbs. Other plaza employees came running from all
directions with great baskets of sand to throw in heaps over the pools
of blood and the dead bodies of the horses.

The public was on its feet, gesticulating and vociferating. It was
filled with enthusiasm by the bull's fierceness and protested because
there was not a _picador_ in the ring, shouting in chorus: "Horses,
horses!"

Everybody knew they would come in immediately, but it infuriated them to
have an interval pass without new carnage. The bull stood alone in the
centre of the ring proud and bellowing, raising his blood-stained horns,
the ribbons of the emblem on his lacerated neck fluttering in the
breeze.

New horsemen appeared and the repugnant spectacle was repeated. The
_picador_ had barely approached with spear held in advance, reining his
horse to one side so that the bandaged eye would prevent his seeing the
bull, when the shock and fall were instantaneous. Javelins broke with
the cracking sound of dry wood; the gored horse was raised on the
powerful horns; blood spouted; bits of hide and flesh fell after the
shock of mortal combat; the _picador_ rolled along the sand like a
yellow-legged puppet and was immediately covered by the attendants'
capes.

The public hailed the riders' noisy falls with shouting and laughter.
The arena resounded with the shock of their heavy bodies and their
iron-covered legs. Some fell backwards like stuffed sacks, and their
heads, as they encountered the boards of the barricade, awoke a dismal
echo.

"He'll never get up again," shouted the people. "He must have busted his
melon."

But he did get up again; he extended his arms, scratched his head,
recovered his heavy beaver hat lost in the fall, and remounted the same
horse which the _monos sabios_ forced upon its feet with pushes and
blows. The gay horseman urged his steed into a trot, and astride the
agonized wreck rode to meet the wild beast again.

"Good for you!" he shouted, throwing his hat at a group of friends.

No sooner did he stand before the bull, thrusting his lance into the
neck, than man and horse rose on high, the two immediately falling apart
from the violence of the shock, and rolling in different directions.
Again, before the bull attacked, the _monos sabios_ and some of the
audience warned the horseman. "Dismount!" But before his rigid legs
would allow him to do so, the horse fell flat, instantly dead, and the
_picador_ was hurled over his ears his head striking the arena with a
resounding thud.

The bull's horns never managed to gore the riders, but those lying on
the ground apparently lifeless were carried by the _peones_ to the
infirmary to have their broken bones set or to be resuscitated from
deathlike unconsciousness.

Gallardo, eager to attract the sympathy of the audience, hurried from
place to place; he received great applause at one time for pulling a
bull's tail to save a _picador_ who lay on the ground at the point of
being gored.

While the _banderillas_ were being placed, Gallardo leaned against the
barrier and gazed along the boxes. Doña Sol must be in one of them. At
last he saw her, but without her white _mantilla_, without anything to
remind him of that Sevillian lady dressed like one of Goya's _majas_.
One might think her, with her blonde hair and her novel and elegant hat,
one of those foreign women attending a bull-fight for the first time.
At her side was the friend, that man of whom she talked with admiration
and to whom she was showing the interesting features of the country. Ah,
Doña Sol! Soon she should see of what mettle was the brave youth she had
abandoned! She would have to applaud him in the presence of the hated
stranger; she would be transported and moved against her will by the
enthusiasm of the audience.

When the moment arrived for Gallardo to kill his first bull, the second
on the programme, the public received him kindly as if it had forgotten
its anger at the previous bull-fight. The two weeks of suspension on
account of the rain seemed to have produced great tolerance in the
multitude. They were willing to find everything acceptable in a
_corrida_ so long awaited. Besides, the fierceness of the bulls and the
great mortality of horses had put the public in a good humor.

Gallardo strode up to the bull, his head uncovered after his salutation,
with the _muleta_ held before him, and swinging his sword like a cane.
Behind him, although at a prudent distance, followed Nacional and
another bull-fighter. A few voices from the rows of seats protested.
"How many acolytes!" It resembled a parish priest going to a funeral.

"Stand aside, everybody!" shouted Gallardo.

The two _peones_ paused, because he said it as if he meant it, with an
accent that left no room for doubt.

He strode ahead until near the wild beast, and there he unrolled his
_muleta_, making a few passes more like those of his old times, until he
thrust the rag near the drivelling muzzle. "A good play! Hurrah!" A
murmur of satisfaction ran along the tiers of seats. The bull-fighter
of Seville had redeemed his name; he had bull-fighter pride! He was
going to do some of his own feats, as in his better days. His _pases de
muleta_ were accompanied by noisy exclamations of enthusiasm, while his
partisans became reanimated and rebuked their enemies. What did they
think of that? Gallardo was careless sometimes--they knew that--but any
afternoon when he wished--!

That was one of the good afternoons. When he saw the bull standing with
motionless fore-feet, the public itself fired him with its advice. "Now!
Thrust!"

Gallardo threw himself against the wild beast with the sword presented,
but rapidly moved away from the danger of the horns.

Applause arose, but it was short; a threatening murmur cut by strident
hisses followed. The enthusiasts ceased looking at the bull to face the
rest of the public with indignation. What injustice! What lack of
knowledge! He had started in at the killing well enough--

But the enemies pointed to the bull derisively persisting in their
protests, and the whole plaza joined in a deafening explosion of hisses.
The sword had penetrated obliquely--passing through the bull's body, its
point appearing through one side, near his fore-leg. The people
gesticulated and waved their arms with roars of indignation. What a
scandal! Even a bad bullock-fighter would not make such a stroke as
that!

The animal, with the hilt of the sword in his neck, and the point
protruding through the joint of his fore-leg, began to limp, his
enormous mass quivering with the movement of his unsteady tread. This
spectacle seemed to move the audience with generous indignation. Poor
bull! So good; so noble. Some leaned forward, raging with fury, as if
they would throw themselves head foremost into the ring. Thief--son of a
thief! To thus martyrize an animal that was better than he. And all
shouted with impetuous sympathy for the animal's suffering, as if they
had not paid their money to witness his death.

Gallardo, astounded at his act, bowed his head beneath the storm of
insults and threats. "Cursed be the luck." He had started in to kill
just as in his better epoch, dominating the nervous feeling that forced
him to turn away his face as if he could not bear the sight of the wild
beast that charged him. But desire to avoid danger, to immediately
escape from between the horns, had caused him to lose his luck again
with that stupid and scandalous thrust.

The people on the tiers of seats stirred restlessly with the fervor of
numerous disputes. "He doesn't understand. He turns away his face. He
has made a fool of himself." Gallardo's partisans excused their idol,
but with less fervency. "That might happen to anybody. It is a
misfortune. The important thing is to start in to kill with spirit as he
does."

The bull, after running and limping with painful steps which made the
crowd howl with indignation, stood motionless, so as not to prolong his
martyrdom.

Gallardo grasped another sword, walked up and faced the bull.

The public divined his task. He must finish him by pricking him in the
base of the brain; the only thing he could do after his crime.

He held the point of the sword between the two horns, while with the
other hand he shook the _muleta_ so that the animal, attracted by the
rag, would lower his head to the ground. He pressed on the sword, and
the bull, feeling himself wounded, tossed his head throwing out the
instrument.

"One!" shouted the multitude with mocking unanimity.

The _matador_ repeated his play and again drove in the sword, making the
wild beast shudder.

"Two!" they sang mockingly from the bleachers.

He tried again to touch the vulnerable spot with no other result than a
bellow of pain from the animal, tortured by this martyrdom.

"Three!"

Hisses and shouts of protest were united to this ironic chorus on the
part of the public. When was that fool going to get through?

Finally he succeeded in touching with the point of his sword the
beginning of the spinal cord, the centre of life, and the bull fell
instantly, lying on his side with rigid legs.

The swordsman wiped the sweat off his brow and began his return to the
president's box with slow step, breathing heavily. At last he was free
of that animal. He had thought he would never finish. The public
received him with sarcasms as he passed, or with disdainful silence.
None applauded. He saluted the president in the midst of general
indifference, and took refuge behind the barrier, like a pupil shamed by
his faults. While Garabato offered him a glass of water, the _matador_
looked at the boxes, meeting the eyes of Doña Sol which had followed him
into his retreat. What must that woman think of him! How she and her
friend would laugh on seeing him insulted by the public! What a damnable
idea of that lady to come to the bull-fight!

He remained between barriers avoiding all fatigue until the next bull he
was to kill should be let out. His wounded leg pained him on account of
his having run so much. He was no longer himself; he knew it now. His
arrogance and his resolve to get closer resulted in nothing. His legs
were no longer swift and sure as in former times, nor had his right arm
that daring that made him extend it fearlessly, eager to reach the
bull's neck without delay. Now it bent disobedient to his will, with the
blind instinct of certain animals that shrink and hide their faces,
thinking thus to avoid danger.

His old-time superstitions suddenly awoke, terrifying and obsessing him.

"I feel that something is going to happen," thought Gallardo. "My heart
tells me that the fifth bull will catch me--he'll catch me--there is no
escape."

However, when the fifth bull came out, the first thing he met was
Gallardo's cape. What an animal! He seemed different from the one he had
chosen in the _corral_ the day before. Surely they had changed the order
in regard to letting out the bulls. Fear kept ringing in the
bull-fighter's ears. "Bad sign! He'll catch me; I'll go out of the ring
to-day foot foremost."

In spite of this he kept on fighting the wild beast and drawing it away
from _picadores_ in danger. At first his feats were received in silence.
Then the public, softening, applauded him mildly. When it came time for
the death-stroke and Gallardo squared himself before the wild beast,
every one seemed to divine the confusion of his mind. He moved as if
disconcerted; the bull no sooner tossed his head than, taking the
attitude for an advance, he stepped back, receding by great springs,
while the public greeted these attempts at flight with a chorus of
jests.

"Ouch! Ouch! He'll catch thee!"

Suddenly, as if he wished to end it by any means, he threw himself upon
the animal with the sword, but obliquely, so as to escape from danger as
soon as possible. An explosion of hisses and voices! The sword was
embedded but a few inches, and after vibrating in the wild beast's neck,
was shaken out and hurled far away.

Gallardo took his sword again and approached the bull. He squared
himself to go in to kill and the wild beast charged at the same instant.
He longed to flee but his legs no longer had the agility of other times.
He was struck and rolled over from the shock. Aid came, and Gallardo
arose covered with dirt, with a great rent in the seat of his trousers
through which his white underclothing escaped, and minus a slipper and
the _moña_ which adorned his queue.

The arrogant youth whom the public had so much admired for his elegance,
presented a pitiful and absurd appearance with his clothes awry, his
hair disarranged, his _coleta_ fallen and undone like a limp tail.

Several capes were mercifully extended around him to aid and shield him.
The other bull-fighters, with generous comradeship, even prepared the
bull so that he could finish with it quickly. But Gallardo seemed blind
and deaf; no sooner did he see the animal than he stepped back at his
lightest charges, as if the recent upsetting had maddened him with
fear. He did not understand what his comrades said to him, but, with his
face intensely pale, and frowning as though to concentrate his mind, he
stammered, not knowing what he said:

"Stand aside, everybody! Leave me alone!"

Meanwhile fear kept singing through his brain: "To-day thou diest.
To-day is thy last goring."

The public divined the swordsman's thought from his confused movements.

"The bull makes him sick. He has become afraid!"

Even Gallardo's most fervent partisans kept silent through shame, unable
to explain this occurrence never before seen.

The people seemed to revel in his terror, with the undaunted courage of
those who are in a place of safety. Others, thinking of their money,
shouted against this man who let himself be ruled by the instinct of
self-preservation, defrauding them of their joy. A robbery! Vile people
insulted the swordsman, expressing doubt as to his sex. Odium had
brought to light and spread abroad, after many years of adulation,
certain memories of the bull-fighter's youth, forgotten even by himself.
They recalled his nocturnal life with the vagabonds on the Alameda of
Hercules. They laughed at his torn breeches and at the white clothing
that escaped through the rent.

"If thou couldst see thyself!" shouted shrill voices, with feminine
accent.

Gallardo, protected by his companions' capes, took advantage of all the
bull's distractions to wound him with his sword, deaf to the mocking of
the public.

He dealt thrusts that the animal barely felt. His terror at being
caught lengthened his arm and caused him to stand at a distance,
wounding only with the point of the sword.

Some blades were scarcely embedded in the flesh, and fell; others
remained lodged in bone but were uncovered in their greater length,
vibrating with the movements of the bull which walked with lowered head,
following the contour of the wall, bellowing as if with weariness at the
useless torment. The swordsman followed him, _muleta_ in hand, eager to
finish him, yet fearful of exposing himself, and behind came the whole
troop of assistants moving their capes as if they wished to induce the
animal by the waving of their rags to bend his legs and lie down.

The bull's journey about the ring close to the barrier, his muzzle
drivelling, his neck bristling with swords, provoked an explosion of
mockery and insult.

"It is the Via Dolorosa," they said.

Others compared the animal to a cushion full of pins. Thief! Miserable
bull-puncher!

Some, more vile, persisted in their insults to Gallardo's sex, changing
his name.

"Juanita, don't get lost!"

A long time passed and a part of the public, wishing to discharge its
fury against something higher than the bull-fighter, turned towards the
presidential box. "_Señor Presidente!_" How long was this scandal going
to last?

The president made a sign that quieted the protestants and gave an
order. A minor official with his plumed shovel-hat and floating cape was
seen to run along behind the barrier until he stood near the bull.
There, turning to Gallardo, he held out his hand, with his index finger
raised. The public applauded. It was the first notice. If the bull was
not killed before the third, he would be returned to the _corral_,
leaving the swordsman under the stain of the greatest dishonor.

Gallardo, as if awakening from his dream, terrified at this threat,
raised his sword and threw himself upon the bull. Another thrust that
barely penetrated the bull's body.

The swordsman let fall his arms in dejection. Surely the beast was
immortal. Sword-thrusts made no impression on him. It seemed as if he
would never fall.

The inefficiency of the last stroke infuriated the public. Every one
rose to his feet. The hisses were deafening, obliging the women to cover
their ears. Many waved their arms, bending forward, as if they wished to
hurl themselves into the plaza. Oranges, bread crusts, seat cushions,
flew into the ring like swift projectiles aimed at the _matador_.
Stentorian voices rose from the seats in the sun, roars like those of a
steam siren, which it seemed incredible should be produced by the human
throat. From time to time a deafening clamor of bells pealed forth with
furious strokes. A derisive chorus near the bull pens chanted the
_gorigori_ of the dead.

Many turned towards the president. When would the second notice be
given? Gallardo wiped off the sweat with his handkerchief, gazing in all
directions as if surprised at the injustice of the public, and making
the bull responsible for all that occurred. At that moment his eyes
rested on Doña Sol's box. She turned her back so as not to see the ring;
perhaps she felt pity for him; perhaps she was ashamed of her
condescensions in the past.

Again he threw himself upon the animal to kill, but few could see what
he did, for he was hidden by the open capes hung continually about him.
The bull fell, a stream of blood gushing out of his mouth.

At last! The public became less restless, ceasing to gesticulate, but
the shouts and hisses continued. The beast was finished by the
_puntillero_; the swords were drawn out, he was harnessed by the head to
a team of mules and dragged from the ring, leaving a broad belt of
smoothed earth and pools of blood which the attendants obliterated with
the rake and baskets of sand.

Gallardo hid himself between barriers, fleeing from the insulting
protests which his presence raised. There he remained, tired and panting
for breath, with his leg aching, but in the midst of his dejection
feeling satisfaction at being free from danger. He had not died on the
wild beast's horns, but he owed his safety to his prudence. Ah, the
public! A multitude of assassins that hankers for a man's death as if
they alone made good use of life and had a family.

His departure from the plaza was sad, behind the crowd that filled the
environs of the ring, the carriages, the automobiles, the long rows of
tram-cars.

His coach rolled along slowly to avoid driving over the groups of
spectators coming out of the plaza. These separated to let the mules
pass, but as they recognized the swordsman they seemed to repent their
amiability. In the movement of their lips Gallardo read tremendous
insults. Other carriages in which rode handsome women in white
_mantillas_ passed near his. Some turned their heads so as not to see
the bull-fighter; others looked on him with eyes of pitying
commiseration.

The _matador_ shrank as if he wished to pass unnoticed. He hid behind
the corpulence of Nacional who rode silent and frowning.

A crowd of boys following the carriage broke out into hisses. Many who
were standing on the sidewalks imitated them, thinking thus to avenge
themselves for their poverty, which had compelled them to remain outside
the plaza the whole afternoon in a vain hope of seeing something.

The news of Gallardo's failure had circulated among them and they
insulted him, glad to humiliate a man who earned enormous riches.

This outburst aroused the swordsman from the mute resignation into which
he had fallen.

"Curse it! But why do they hiss? Have they been at the bull-fight? Have
they paid out their money?"

A stone struck against a wheel of the coach. The vagabonds were shouting
at the very steps, but two guards rode up on horseback and quelled the
disturbance, afterward escorting all the way up Alcalá Street the famous
Juan Gallardo--"the greatest man in the world."



CHAPTER XVII

THE ATONEMENT OF BLOOD


The _cuadrillas_ had just entered the ring when loud blows were heard on
the door of the _Caballerizas_.

A plaza employee approached it shouting with ill-humor. Nobody entered
there; they must go to another door. But an insistent voice answered him
from without, and he opened it.

A man and a woman entered; he wearing a white Cordovan hat, she dressed
in black and with a _mantilla_ over her head.

The man grasped the employee's hand, leaving something in it that
humanized his fierce aspect.

"You know me, don't you?" said the newcomer. "Really, don't you know me?
I am Gallardo's brother-in-law and this lady is his wife."

Carmen gazed all around the abandoned courtyard. In the distance, behind
the thick brick walls, sounded music, and the respiration of the
multitude could be felt, broken by shouts of enthusiasm and murmurs of
curiosity. The _cuadrillas_ were defiling before the president.

"Where is he?" anxiously inquired Carmen.

"Where should he be, woman?" replied the brother-in-law brusquely. "In
the plaza, doing his duty. It is madness to have come; nonsense. Oh,
this weak character of mine!"

Carmen continued gazing about her, but with a certain indecision, as if
repentant for having come there. What was she to do?

The employee moved by Antonio's hand pressure, or by the relationship of
those two persons to the _matador_ of fame, became obsequious. If the
lady wished to await the termination of the bull-fight, she might rest
at the _concièrge's_ house. If they chose to see the _corrida_, he could
get them a good place, although they had no tickets.

Carmen shuddered at this proposition. See the bull-fight? No. She had
come to the plaza by an effort of her will, and she regretted it. It was
impossible for her to endure the sight of her husband in the ring. She
had never seen him fighting bulls. She would wait there until she could
bear it no longer.

"God help me!" said the leather-worker with resignation. "We will stay,
though I don't know what we shall do here in front of the stables."

Encarnación's husband had been following after his sister-in-law since
the day before, putting up with her hysteria and tears of nervousness
excited by fear.

Saturday at mid-day Carmen had talked to him in her husband's office.
She was going to Madrid! She was determined on taking this journey. She
could not live in Seville. She had spent a week of insomnia, seeing
horrible visions. Her feminine instinct warned her of some great danger.
She must rush to Juan's side. She did not know why, nor what she could
accomplish by the journey, but she longed to be near Gallardo, with that
affectionate desire that believes it can minimize danger by being close
to the person beloved.

This was not living! She had learned through the daily papers about
Juan's bad luck the Sunday before in the Plaza of Madrid. She understood
bull-fighter professional pride. She guessed that he would not tolerate
this misfortune with resignation. He would do mad deeds to reconquer the
applause of the public. The last letter she had received from him gave
her to understand it vaguely.

"Yes, yes!" she said energetically to her brother-in-law, "I am going to
Madrid this very afternoon. If thou wishest, thou mayest accompany me;
if thou dost not wish to come, I will go alone. Above all--not a word to
Don José; he would prevent the trip. No one knows about it but
_Mamita_."

The leather-worker accepted. A free trip to Madrid, although in such sad
company! On the way, Carmen gave expression to her fears. She would talk
to her husband forcefully. Why continue fighting bulls? Had they not
enough to live on? He must retire, and immediately; if not, she would
die. This _corrida_ must be the last. Even this one seemed more than she
could bear. She would arrive in Madrid in time to prevent her husband
working that afternoon. Her heart told her that by her presence she
would prevent a great calamity. But her brother-in-law protested in
consternation on hearing this.

"What barbarity! What women are! They get an idea in the head, and
things must be so. Dost thou believe, then, that there is no authority,
nor laws, nor rules of the plaza, and that it is enough for a woman to
take a notion to embrace her husband when she gets frightened, to
suspend a _corrida_ and leave the public with its thumb on its nose?
Thou mayest say what thou wilt to Juan, but it must be after the
bull-fight. Authority can't be played with; we would all go to jail."

The leather-worker imagined the most dramatic consequences if Carmen
persisted in her absurd idea of presenting herself to her husband in
order to prevent his bull-fighting. They would all be locked up. He
already saw himself in prison as an accomplice to this act which in his
simplicity he considered a crime.

When they reached Madrid he had to make renewed efforts to prevent his
companion from rushing to the hotel where her husband was. What good
would that do?

"Thou wilt confuse him by thy presence and he will go to the plaza in a
bad humor, excited, and if anything happens to him the fault will be
thine."

This idea subdued Carmen and caused her to follow her brother-in-law's
advice. She allowed herself to be taken to a hotel of his selection, and
she remained there all the morning lying on a sofa in her room, weeping
as if she were sure of coming adversity. The leather-worker, happy to be
in Madrid, well housed, waxed indignant against this despair which
seemed to him absurd.

"Man alive! What women are! Any one would think thou art a widow, while
thy husband is at this very moment getting ready for the _corrida_ hale
and hearty as Roger de Flor himself. What nonsense!"

Carmen scarcely ate any breakfast, deaf to the praises her
brother-in-law rendered the cook of the establishment. In the afternoon
her resignation vanished again.

The hotel was situated near the Puerta del Sol and the noise and stir of
the people going to the bull-fight reached her. No, she could not stay
in that strange room while her husband risked his life. She must see
him. She lacked courage to witness the spectacle, but she longed to be
near him; she must go to the plaza. Where was the plaza? She had never
seen it. If she could not enter, she would wander around its environs.
The important thing was to feel herself near, believing that by this
proximity she could influence Gallardo's luck.

The leather-worker protested. By the life of--! He intended to see the
bull-fight; he had gone out and bought a ticket and now Carmen spoiled
his pleasure by her determination to go to the plaza.

"But what wilt thou do there, girl? What wilt thou better by thy
presence? Imagine if Juaniyo should chance to see thee."

They argued long, but the woman answered all his reasoning with the same
firm reply:

"Thou needst not accompany me; I will go alone."

The brother-in-law at last surrendered and they rode to the plaza in a
hired coach. The leather-worker remembered a great deal about the
amphitheatre and its dependencies from having accompanied Gallardo on
one of his trips to Madrid for the spring bull-fights.

He and the employee were undecided and ill humored in the presence of
this woman with reddened eyes and sunken cheeks who stood planted in the
courtyard uncertain what to do. The two men felt themselves drawn by the
murmur of the crowd and the music that rose from the plaza. Must they
stand there the whole afternoon and not see the bull-fight?

The employee had a brilliant inspiration.

If the lady wished to pass into the chapel--

The defiling of the _cuadrillas_ was over. Some horsemen came trotting
out of the door that gave access to the ring. They were _picadores_ who
were not on duty and were retiring from the arena to substitute their
companions when their turn came. Hitched to some rings in the wall stood
a row of six saddled horses, the first that must enter the plaza to
supply those fallen. Behind them the lancers passed the time making
evolutions with their steeds. A stable boy mounted a skittish wild mare
and galloped her along the _corral_ to tire her, and then turned her
over to the _piqueros_.

The hacks, tortured by the flies, stamped their feet, pulling on the
rings as if they divined the coming danger. The other horses trotted,
urged on by the riders' spurs.

Carmen and her brother-in-law had to take refuge under the arcades, and
finally the bull-fighter's wife accepted the invitation to pass into the
chapel. It was a safe and tranquil place and there she could do
something useful for her husband.

When she entered the sacred room with its atmosphere made dense by the
respiration of the public that had witnessed the bull-fighters' prayers,
Carmen gazed upon the poverty of the altar. Four lights were burning
before the Virgin of the Dove, but this tribute seemed niggardly to her.

She opened her purse to give a _duro_ to an employee. Could he not bring
more tapers? The man scratched his head. Tapers? Tapers? He did not
believe he could find any among the chattels belonging to the plaza. But
he suddenly recalled to mind the sisters of a _matador_ who brought
candles whenever he fought bulls. Maybe they were not all gone, and
there might be a few in some corner of the chapel. After a long search
he found them. There were no candlesticks, but the employee, a man of
resources, brought a couple of empty bottles, and sticking the candles
into their necks, he lit them and placed them near the other lights.

Carmen had knelt and the two men took advantage of her immobility to
rush to the plaza, eager to witness the first events of the _corrida_.

The woman remained lost in contemplation of the crude image reddened by
the lights. She was not familiar with this Virgin, but she must be sweet
and kind like the one in Seville to whom she had so often made
supplication. Moreover, she was the Virgin of the bull-fighters, she
heard their last prayers when danger near at hand gave sincere piety to
those rough men. On that floor her husband had knelt many times. And
this thought was enough to cause her to feel attracted to the image and
to contemplate her with religious trust, as if she had known her since
childhood.

Her lips moved, repeating the supplications with automatic haste, but
her thoughts fled away from prayer, as if drawn by the noises of the
multitude that reached her.

Ah! that intermittent volcano-like bellowing, that roar of distant
waves, broken from time to time by pauses of tragic silence! Carmen
imagined herself witnessing the invisible bull-fight. She divined by the
variations in the sounds from the plaza the progress of the tragedy that
was taking place within the ring. Sometimes there was an explosion of
angry shouts with accompaniment of hisses; again thousands and thousands
of voices uttered unintelligible words. Suddenly rose a shriek of
terror, prolonged, shrill, that seemed to rise to heaven; a fearful and
halting exclamation that brought to mind thousands of heads in a row,
blanched by emotion, following the swift race of a bull in pursuit of a
man--until it was suddenly broken by a shout, re-establishing calm. The
danger had passed.

There were long intervals of silence; a silence absolute; the silence of
the void, in which the buzzing of the flies hovering around the horses
was magnified, as though the immense amphitheatre were deserted, as
though the fourteen thousand persons seated on its surrounding seats had
become motionless and breathless, and Carmen were the only living being
that existed within its heart.

Suddenly this silence was animated by a loud and indescribable shock as
though every brick in the plaza were loosened from its place and all
were dashing against one another. It was the prolonged applause that
made the ring tremble. In the nearby courtyard sounded blows of the rod
on the hide of the wretched horses, blasphemy, clatter of hoofs, and
voices. "Whose turn?" New lancers were called into the plaza.

To these noises others nearer were added. Footsteps sounded in the
adjoining rooms, doors opened suddenly, voices and labored breathing of
several men were heard, as if they walked burdened by great weight.

"It is nothing--a bruise. Thou'rt not bleeding. Before the _corrida_ is
over thou'lt be lancing again."

A hoarse voice, weakened by pain, groaned between gasps with an accent
that reminded Carmen of home:

"Virgin of Solitude! I must have broken something. Look well, doctor.
Alas, my children!"

Carmen shuddered with horror. She raised her eyes that had wandered in
fear to the Virgin. Her nose seemed drawn out by her emotion to a sharp
point between sunken and pallid cheeks. She felt sick; she feared that
she would fall to the floor in a faint from terror. She tried to pray
again, to isolate herself in prayer; to not hear the noises from
without, transmitted through the walls with a tone of despair. But in
spite of her a dismal sound reached her ear of sponges being wet in
water and voices of men who must be doctors and nurses stimulating the
_picador_, who complained with the energy of a mountaineer, at the same
time striving to hide the pain of his broken bones through manly pride.

"Virgin of Solitude! My children! What will the poor babes have to eat
if their father cannot use the lance?"

Carmen arose. Ah, she could bear no more! She would fall fainting if she
remained in that gloomy place trembling at the echoes of pain. She
thought she felt in her own bones the same torture that caused that
unknown man to groan.

She went out into the courtyard. Blood on all sides; blood on the floor
and around some casks where water mingled with the red fluid.

The _picadores_ were retiring from the ring. The sign for the display of
the _banderillas_ had been given, and the riders came out on their
bleeding horses. They dismounted, talking with animation of the
incidents of the bull-fight. Carmen saw Potaje let his vigorous person
down off his horse hurling a string of curses at the _mono sabio_ who
stupidly assisted him in his descent. He seemed benumbed by his hidden
iron greaves and from the pain of several violent falls. He raised one
hand to his back to ease himself with painful stretches, but he smiled,
showing his yellow horse-like teeth.

"Have ye seen how well Juan does to-day?" he said to those who
surrounded him. "To-day he surely is all right."

Seeing a solitary woman in the courtyard, and recognizing her, he showed
no surprise.

"You here, Seña' Carmen? How good!"

He spoke tranquilly, as if he, in the stupor which wine and his own
bestiality kept him, could not be surprised by anything in the world.

"Have you seen Juan?" he continued. "He laid down on the ground before
the bull, under his very nose. Nobody else can do what that fellow does.
Peep in and see him, for he is very fine to-day."

Some one called him from the door of the infirmary. His companion, the
_picador_, wanted to speak to him before being taken to the hospital.

"Adio', Seña' Carmen. I must see what that poor fellow wants. A fall
with a fracture, they say. He won't use the lance again this whole
season."

Carmen took refuge under the arcades and closed her eyes to the
repugnant spectacle in the courtyard, yet at the same time fascinated by
the sickening sight of the blood.

The _monos sabios_ led in the wounded horses by the bridle reins. A
stable boy, seeing them, began to bestir himself, in a fever of
activity.

"Courage, brave boys!" he shouted, addressing the youths with the
horses. "Firm! Firm there!"

A stable-boy carefully approached a horse that was struggling in pain,
took off his saddle, fastened leather straps around his legs, binding
the four extremities, and threw the animal to the ground.

"There, there! Firm! Firm with him!" the one in charge of the horses
continued shouting, without ceasing his activity.

Another held the reins of the fallen animal and pressed his poor head
against the ground by placing his foot on it. The nose contracted with
distortions of pain, the long yellow teeth gritted with a chill of
martyrdom, his stifled whinnies lost in the dust from the pressure of
the foot. The gory hands of the others worked to return the flaccid
entrails to the open cavity of the abdomen or stuffed it with handfuls
of tow while still others, with a skill acquired by practice, sewed up
the hide.

When the horse was "fixed" with barbaric promptness, they threw a bucket
of water over his head, loosed his feet from the straps and gave him
several blows with a rod to make him stand up. Some, after walking
barely two steps, fell flat, shedding a stream of blood from the wound
stitched with pack-thread. It was instantaneous death. Others were kept
alive by some marvellous resource of animal vigor, and the lackeys,
after this "fixing," took them to the "varnishing," inundating their
feet and bellies with strong ablutions from casks of water. The white or
chestnut color of the animals became glossy and the hair dripped a
rose-colored liquid, a mixture of water and blood. The horses were
patched up as if they were old shoes; their waning strength was
exploited to the last breath, prolonging their agony and death. The
important thing was to keep these animals on their feet a few minutes
longer, until the _picadores_ could get into the plaza again; the bull
would take charge of finishing the work.

Carmen wished to go. Virgin of Hope! What was she doing there? She did
not know the order the _matadores_ were to follow in their work. Maybe
that last trumpet-blast signalled the moment in which her husband would
stand before the wild beast. And she there, a few steps from him, and
not seeing him! She wished to escape, to free herself from this torment.

Moreover, the blood that ran through the courtyard, and the torment of
those poor beasts, caused her the greatest anguish. Her womanly delicacy
rebelled against these tortures, while she held her handkerchief to her
nostrils to stifle the slaughter-house odors.

She had never been to a bull-fight. A great part of her existence had
been spent hearing conversation about bulls, but in the tales of these
sports she saw only the external, what all the world saw, the events in
the ring, in the light of the sun, with glitter of silks and
embroideries and the ostentatious spectacle, without realizing the
odious preparations that took place in the mystery of the wings. And
they lived off this "sport," with its repugnant martyrdom of guiltless
animals; and their fortune had been made at the cost of such spectacles!

A loud applause broke out within the ring. Orders were issued in the
courtyard with imperious voice. The first bull had just died. The
barricade at the end of the passage that communicated with the ring was
opened and the noises of the multitude and the echoes of the music were
borne in with more intensity.

The mules were in the plaza; one team to collect the dead horses,
another to drag out the bull's carcass.

Carmen saw her brother-in-law coming along the arcades. He was still
tremulous with enthusiasm over what he had seen.

"Juan--colossal! This afternoon as he never was before! Fear not. Why,
that boy eats the bulls up alive!"

Then he glanced at her uneasily, fearful that she would make him lose so
interesting an afternoon. What did she decide? Did she think she had the
courage to peep into the plaza?

"Take me away!" she said with an agonized accent. "Get me out of here
quickly. I am sick. Leave me in the first church we can find."

The leather-worker made a wry face. By the life of Roger--! Leave such a
magnificent bull-fight! And as they walked toward the door he was
calculating where he could abandon Carmen so as to immediately return to
the plaza.


When the second bull came in, Gallardo, still leaning against the
barrier, was receiving felicitations from his admirers. What courage
that boy had--"when he wished." The whole plaza had applauded the first
bull, forgetting their anger at the former _corridas_. When a _picador_
fell and lay senseless from the terrible shock, Gallardo had rushed up
with his cape, drawing the wild beast into the centre of the ring. He
made some bold _verónicas_ that at last held the bull motionless and
exhausted, after turning from the lure of the red rag. The bull-fighter,
taking advantage of the animal's stupefaction, stood erect within a few
steps of his muzzle, thrusting his body forward as if in challenge. He
felt the heart-throbbing, that happy precursor of his great daring. He
must conquer the public with a dash of audacity, and he knelt before
the horns with a certain precaution, ready to arise at the slightest
sign of charging.

The bull stood quiet. Gallardo reached out a hand until he touched the
drivelling muzzle and the animal made no movement whatever. Then he
dared something that held the public in palpitating silence. Slowly he
laid himself down on the sand, with the cape between his arms serving as
a pillow, and thus he remained some seconds lying beneath the nose of
the bull who sniffed him with a kind of fear, as if he suspected danger
in this body that audaciously placed itself beneath his horns.

When the bull, recovering his aggressive fierceness, lowered his horns,
the bull-fighter rolled toward his feet, in this way putting himself out
of his reach, and the animal passed over him, vainly seeking in his
ferocious blindness the bulk that attacked him.

Gallardo rose brushing off the dust, and the public, which adored feats
of daring, applauded him with the old-time enthusiasm. It hailed not
alone his audacity, it applauded itself, admiring its own majesty,
guessing that the bull-fighter's daring was to reconcile himself with
it, to regain its affection. Gallardo came to the _corrida_ disposed to
the most daring deeds to reconquer applause.

"He is careless," they said on the tiers of seats, "often he is slack;
but he has bull-fighter pride and he is going to redeem his name."

But the enthusiasm of the public, their gay excitement over Gallardo's
achievement, and the true sword-thrust with which the other _matador_
had killed the first bull, turned to ill-humor and protest as they saw
the second in the ring. He was enormous and of beautiful build, but he
ran through the centre of the arena looking with surprise at the noisy
multitude on the bleachers, frightened at the voices and hisses that
were meant to excite him, fleeing from his own shadow, as if he divined
all kinds of intrigue. The _peones_ ran, waving the cape at him. He
charged at the red rag, following it some instants, but suddenly he gave
a snort of surprise and, turning his hind quarters, fled in the opposite
direction with violent springs. His eagerness for flight infuriated the
public.

"That's no bull--it's a monkey."

The swordsmen's capes finally managed to attract it toward the barrier,
where the _picadores_ waited motionless on their mounts, with lance
under arm. He approached a rider with lowered head and with fierce
snorts as if to charge. But before the iron could be lodged in his neck,
he gave a spring and ran, passing through the capes the _peones_ waved
at him. In his flight he met another lancer and repeated the springing,
the snorting and the flight. Then he met the third horseman, who,
thrusting forward his lance, speared him in the neck, by this punishment
only augmenting his fear and his speed.

The public had risen to its feet _en masse_, gesticulating and shouting.
A tame bull! What an abomination! Every one turned toward the president
roaring his protest. "_Señor Presidente!_" That could not be allowed.

A chorus of voices that repeated the same words with monotonous
intonation began to rise from some sections.

"Fire! Fi-i-ire!"

The president seemed to hesitate. The bull was running, followed by the
combatants, who chased after him, their capes over their arms. When any
of these managed to head him off, or to stop him, he smelt the cloth
with the usual snort and ran in a different direction, jumping and
kicking.

The noisy protest against these flights increased. "_Señor Presidente_!"
Was his lordship deaf? Bottles, oranges, and seat cushions began to fall
into the ring around the fugitive animal. The public hated it for its
cowardice. One bottle struck on one of the horns and the people
applauded this true shot though not knowing who it was. Many of the
audience leaned forward as if about to throw themselves into the ring to
destroy the bad beast with their hands. What a scandal! To see in the
plaza of Madrid oxen that were only fit for meat! "Fire! Fire!"

At last the president waved a red handkerchief and a salvo of applause
greeted this signal.

The fire _banderillas_ were an extraordinary sight; something
unexpected, that augmented the interest of the _corrida_. Many who had
protested until they were hoarse felt inward satisfaction at this
incident. They were going to see the bull roasted alive, running mad
with terror at the fire-streams that would be hanging from his neck.

Nacional advanced carrying, hanging from his hands, with the points
downward, two thick _banderillas_ that seemed to be encased in black
paper. He went toward the bull without great precaution, as if his
cowardice merited no art whatever, and he lodged the infernal barbs to
the accompaniment of the vengeful applause of the multitude.

There was a crackling sound as if something broke and two spirals of
white smoke began to blaze on the animal's neck. In the light of the sun
the fire could not be seen, but the hair singed and disappeared and a
black mark extended around the neck. The bull ran, surprised at the
attack, accelerating his flight as though thus to free himself from
torment, until suddenly detonations like gunshots began to burst on his
neck, the burning embers of paper flying around his eyes. The animal
sprang aloft, filled with terror, his four feet in the air at once,
vainly twisting his horned head to pull out with his mouth those demons
clutched upon his neck. The people laughed and applauded, thinking his
springs and contortions funny. It seemed as if, with his strong heavy
body, he were executing a trained animal's dance.

"How they sting him," they exclaimed, with ferocious laughter.

The _banderillas_ ceased crackling and bursting. His carbonized neck was
covered with blisters of fat. The bull, no longer feeling the burning of
the fire, stood motionless, breathing hard, his head lowered, thrusting
out his dry dark-red tongue.

Another _banderillero_ approached him and put in a second pair. The
smoke spirals rose again above the charred flesh, the shots resounded
and the bull ran madly, trying to reach his neck with his mouth by
twisting his massive body; but now his movements were less violent, as
though the vigorous animal began to habituate itself to martyrdom.

Still a third pair was lodged, and his neck became carbonized, shedding
through the ring a nauseating odor of melted grease, burnt hide, and
hair consumed by fire.

The public continued applauding with vengeful frenzy, as though the
gentle animal were an adversary of their beliefs and they did a pious
deed in burning him. They laughed when they saw him tremulous on his
legs, moving his flanks like the sides of a bellows, lowing with a
shrieking howl of pain, his eyes reddened, and dragging his tongue over
the sand, greedy for a sensation of coolness.

Gallardo, leaning against the barrier, near the president's box, awaited
the sign to kill. Garabato had the sword and _muleta_ ready on the edge
of the wall.

"Curse it!" The bull-fight had begun so well, and for bad luck to
reserve this bull for him, the one he himself had chosen on account of
its fine appearance, but which now that it trod the arena turned out to
be tame!

He excused himself in advance for defective work, talking with the
"intelligent" who occupied seats near the barrier.

"What can be done will be done--and no more," he said, shrugging his
shoulders.

Then he turned toward the boxes, gazing at Doña Sol's. She had applauded
him before, when he achieved his stupendous feat of lying down before
the bull. Her gloved hands clapped with enthusiasm when he turned toward
the barrier, bowing to the public. When Doña Sol saw that the
bull-fighter was looking at her, she bowed to him with an affectionate
manner, and even her companion, despicable fool! had joined this
salutation with a stiff inclination of the body as if he were going to
break off at the waist. Afterward he had several times surprised her
glasses directed persistently at him, seeking him out in his retirement
between barriers. That _gachí_! Perhaps she felt re-attracted to him.
Gallardo decided to call on her next day, to see if the wind had
changed.

The signal to kill was given and the swordsman, after a short speech,
strode up to the animal.

His admirers shouted advice.

"Despatch him quick! He is an ox that deserves nothing."

The bull-fighter held his _muleta_ before the animal, which charged, but
with a slow step made cautious by torture, with a manifest intention of
crushing, of wounding, as if martyrdom had awakened all his ferocity.
That man was the first object which had placed itself before his horns
since the torture.

The multitude felt its vengeful animosity against the bull vanish. He
did not recover himself badly; he charged. _Olé!_ And all hailed the
_pases de muleta_ with enthusiasm, including combatant and wild beast in
common approbation.

The bull stood motionless, lowering his head, with his tongue
protruding. Silence, the forerunner of the mortal thrust, fell; a
silence greater than that of absolute solitude, product of many
thousands of bated breaths; silence so intense that the faintest sound
in the ring carried to the most distant seats. All heard a slight
clashing of sticks striking against each other. It was the sound made
when Gallardo with the point of his sword laid back over the bull's neck
the charred shafts of the _banderillas_ that rested between the horns.
After this arrangement to facilitate the blow, the multitude thrust
their heads still farther forward, responsive to the mysterious
correspondence that had just been established between its will and that
of the _matador_. "Now!" He was going to fell the bull with a masterful
stroke. All divined the swordsman's resolution.

Gallardo threw himself upon the bull and the whole audience breathed
hard in unison after the nerve-straining pause. The animal drew away
from the encounter, running, bellowing with fury, while the rows of
seats burst out into hisses and protests. As usual! Gallardo had turned
away his face and bent his arm at the moment of killing. The animal bore
in his neck the loose and wavering sword, and after taking a few steps
the steel blade sprang out of the flesh and rolled on the sand.

Part of the public rebuked Gallardo. The charm that had united the
swordsman to the multitude at the beginning of the feast was broken.
Lack of confidence reappeared; criticism of the bull-fighter spread. All
seemed to have forgotten the enthusiasm of a short time before.

Gallardo recovered his sword and with bowed head, lacking spirit to
protest at the ingratitude of a multitude tolerant to others, inflexible
with him, strode up to the bull again.

In his confusion he thought he saw a bull-fighter place himself at his
side. It must be Nacional.

"Be calm, Juan! Don't get rattled."

"Damn it!" Must the same thing always happen to him? Could he no longer
thrust his arm between the horns, as in other times, burying the sword
to the hilt? Was he to spend the rest of his life making audiences
laugh? An ox which they had had to set on fire!

He placed himself before the animal, which seemed to await him, his legs
motionless as if he wished to put an end immediately to his long
torture. He would not make more passes with the _muleta_. He squared
himself, the red rag held near the ground, the sword horizontal at the
height of his eyes. Now for the stroke!

The audience rose to its feet with a sudden impulse. For some seconds
man and beast formed but a single mass and thus moved a few steps. The
most intelligent raised their hands ready to applaud. He had thrown
himself to kill as in his better days. A master stroke!

But suddenly the man emerged from between the horns hurled like a
projectile by a powerful toss of the bull's head, and rolled along the
sand. The bull lowered his head and his horns hooked up the body,
raising it from the ground an instant and letting it fall, to continue
on his race, bearing in his neck the blade of the sword, embedded to the
cross!

Gallardo slowly raised himself and the plaza burst forth into a
deafening applause, eager to repair its injustice. Hurrah! Good for the
bull-fighter of Seville! He had done well!

But the bull-fighter did not respond to these exclamations of
enthusiasm. He put his hands on his abdomen, bent over in an attitude of
pain, and took a few hesitating steps with lowered head. Twice he raised
it and looked toward the door of exit--as if he feared he could not find
it, staggering blindly as though intoxicated.

Suddenly he fell upon the sand--contracted like an enormous worm of silk
and gold. Four _mozos_ of the plaza slowly lifted him up until they
raised him on their shoulders. Nacional joined the group holding the
swordsman's ghastly head with its glassy eyes showing through their
half-closed lashes.

The public made a movement of surprise, ceasing their applause. Every
one gazed about, undecided as to the gravity of the event. But suddenly
optimistic news circulated, coming from no one knew where; that
anonymous opinion, which all heed and which at certain moments fires a
multitude or causes it to remain motionless. It was nothing. A wound in
the abdomen that deprived him of his senses. No one had seen blood.

The crowd, suddenly tranquillized, began to be seated again, turning its
attention from the wounded bull-fighter to the wild beast, which was
still on its feet, resisting the agonies of death.

Nacional helped to place his _maestro_ on a bed in the infirmary. He
fell on it like a sack, inanimate, his arms hanging outside the couch.

Sebastián, though he had often seen his _maestro_ wounded and bleeding,
and had kept his serenity in spite of it, now felt an agony of fear,
seeing him inert and of a greenish white color, as if he were dead.

"By the life of the blue dove!" he moaned. "Are there no doctors? Is
there nobody here?"

The man in charge of the hospital, after sending away the mangled
_picador_, had rushed back to his box in the plaza.

The _banderillero_ was in despair; the seconds seemed hours; he screamed
to Garabato and to Potaje who had followed after him, not sure what he
was trying to tell them.

Two doctors came and after closing the door so that no one could disturb
them, they stood undecided before the swordsman's inanimate body. He
must be undressed. Garabato began to unbutton, rip, and tear the
bull-fighter's clothing, by the light that entered through a window in
the ceiling.

Nacional could hardly see the body. The doctors stood around the wounded
man, consulting each other with significant glances. It must be a
collapse that had apparently deprived him of life. No blood was seen.
The rents in his clothing were the effect, no doubt, of the tumbling the
bull had given him.

Doctor Ruiz entered hastily and his colleagues made way for him,
respecting his skill. He swore in his nervous precipitation while he
began to assist Garabato to open the bull-fighter's clothing.

There was a movement of astonishment, of painful surprise, around the
bed. The _banderillero_ dared not inquire. He looked between the heads
of the doctors and saw Gallardo's body with the shirt raised above his
breast. The naked abdomen was gashed by a tortuous aperture like
bleeding lips, through which appeared patches of bright blue.

Doctor Ruiz sadly shook his head. Besides the atrocious and incurable
wound, the bull-fighter had received a tremendous shock from the bull's
tossing. He did not breathe.

"Doctor--doctor!" cried the _banderillero_, begging to know the truth.

Doctor Ruiz, after a long silence, shook his head again.

"It is all over, Sebastián. Thou must seek another _matador_."

Nacional raised his eyes aloft. Thus to end a man like that, unable to
press the hand of his friends, without a word, suddenly, like a
miserable rabbit struck in the neck!

In despair he left the infirmary. Ah, he could not see that! He was not
like Potaje who stood quiet and frowning at the foot of the bed,
contemplating the body as though he did not see it, while he twirled his
beaver hat in his fingers.

He was about to cry like a child. His breast heaved with anguish, and
his eyes filled with tears.

He had to make way through the courtyard to give passage to the
_picadores_ who were entering the ring again.

The terrible news began to circulate through the plaza. Gallardo was
dead! Some doubted the truth of the information; others accepted it;
still no one moved from his seat. The third bull was soon to come in.
The _corrida_ had not yet reached its first half, and there was no
reason for abandoning it.

Through the door of the ring came the murmur of the multitude and the
sound of music.

The _banderillero_ felt a fierce hatred born within him for all that
surrounded him; an aversion to his profession and to the public that
supported it. In his memory danced the sonorous words with which he had
made the people laugh, finding in them now a new expression of justice.

He thought of the bull which was at that moment being dragged out of the
arena, its neck burned and blood-stained, its legs rigid, and its glassy
eyes staring at blue space as do those of the dead.

Then in imagination he saw the friend who lay but a few steps away from
him on the other side of a brick wall, also motionless and stiff, his
breast bare, his abdomen torn open, a glazed and mysterious brilliancy
between his half-closed lashes.

Poor bull! Poor _matador_!

Suddenly the murmuring amphitheatre burst forth into a bellowing,
hailing the continuation of the spectacle. Nacional closed his eyes and
clenched his fists.

It was the bellowing of the wild beast, the real and only one!


THE END





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