Gallardo listened silently. He had not seen the bandit since his accident, but he kept a kindly remembrance of him. His farm people had told him that twice while he was in danger, Plumitas had called at the farm to enquire about him. Afterwards, while he was staying there himself, on several occasions his shepherds and workmen had spoken mysteriously of Plumitas, who, knowing he was at la Rinconada, had asked for news of Se?or Juan when he met them on the road.
At last the President waved a red handkerchief, and a salvo of applause greeted the gesture.
They all went in except El Nacional, who leaving his wife and children, remained in the little square.
The toreros advanced, dwarfed immediately they trod the arena, by the immensity of their surroundings. They seemed like brilliant dolls on whose embroideries the sunlight flashed in iridescent hues, and their graceful movements fired the people with the delight that a child takes in some marvellous toy. The mad impulse which agitates a crowd, sending a shiver down its backbone and giving it goose-creeps for no particular reason, affected the entire Plaza. Some applauded, others, more enthusiastic or more nervous, shouted, the music clanged, and in the midst of this universal tumult, the cuadrillas advanced solemnly and slowly from the entrance door up to the presidential chair, making up for the shortness of their step by the graceful swing of their arms and the swaying of their bodies. Meanwhile on the circle of blue sky above the Plaza fluttered several white pigeons, terrified by the roar which arose from this crater of bricks.
She no longer "tutoyed" him, and it was many days before the torero dared during his visits to make the[Pg 186] slightest allusion to the past. He confined himself to gazing at her in silence, with his moist and adoring Moorish eyes.
This news caused a general exodus, during which the priest took out the hidden Oils and placed them in a painted wooden box. He, too, having concealed his sacred deposit, hurried out in order to reach his seat in the Plaza before the appearance of the cuadrillas.
The saddler was a great help to Gallardo, who for the first time began to think his brother-in-law "simpatico," remarkable for his good sense, and worthy of a better fate. He it was who, during the matador's absence, undertook to pacify the women, including his own wife, leaving them like exhausted furies.
"It is nothing ... only a bruise. You are not bleeding, before the corrida is ended you will be on your horse again."
The torero was also nearly falling asleep on a bench, when one of his friends offered to give him a lift home in his carriage; he was obliged to leave early so as to be home before the old Countess, his mother, arose to hear Mass, as she did daily, at dawn.
But neither his powers nor his fame can last forever. The life of even Juan Gallardo is taken into his hands every time he steps into the ring to face the wild bulls; at first comes a minor accident, then a loss of prestige, and at last the fatal day upon which he is carried out of the arena, dead. He dies a victim of his own glory, a sacrifice upon the altar of national blood-lust. That Do?a Sol who lures him from his wife and home is, in her capricious, fascinating, baffling way, almost a symbol of the fickle bull-fight audience, now hymning the praises of a favorite, now sneering him off the scene of his former triumphs.
"And whither are you going, comrade?" asked Potaje.