After the animal was mended with this barbarous promptitude, a pail of water was thrown over its head, its legs were freed from the ropes, and a few kicks and blows with a stick made it scramble on to its feet. Some only walked a few steps, falling down again, with torrents of blood rushing from the re-opened wound. This meant instantaneous death. Others stood up apparently[Pg 342] stronger, from their immense resources of animal vitality, and the lads after mending them up took them off to the courtyard to be "varnished." There their stomach and legs were cleansed by several pailsful of water thrown over them, which left their white or chestnut coats bright and shining, while streams of bloody water ran down their legs on to the ground.
"Say! Have you never killed a man?"
"What's the matter with the horse?" he asked quietly. "Look him over well, old grumbler. He is far better than those that have glanders, or staggers, who have before now pitched you over their heads and planted you up to your ears in the sand, before you could face the bull. He is as sound as an apple. For the five and twenty years he has been in an ?rated water factory, doing his work conscientiously, no one has ever found fault with him, and now you come along shouting and abusing him, taking away his character as if he were a bad Christian."
When the espada was questioned about it, he smiled modestly. He had always felt a deep devotion for la Macarena. She was the Virgin of the suburb in which he was born, besides his poor father had never failed to walk in the procession as an armed man. It was an honour of which the family was proud, and had his own position admitted of it he would have been delighted to put on the helmet and carry the lance, like so many Gallardos, his forebears, who were now underground.
The breeder, who was constantly galloping alone over[Pg 162] the plains where his bulls grazed, suspected that he had several times come across Plumitas. He was probably one of those poor-looking horsemen whom he met in the solitary plains without so much as a village on the horizon, who would raise his hand to his greasy sombrero, and say with respectful civility:
On the night of Holy Thursday he went with his wife to the Cathedral to hear the Miserere. The immensely high Gothic arches had no light but that of a few wax[Pg 253] tapers hung on to the pillars, just sufficient for the crowd not to be obliged to feel their way. All the people of better social position were seated in the side chapels behind the iron gratings, anxious to avoid contact with the perspiring masses pouring into the nave.
He killed his first bull with only moderate good [Pg 230]fortune. He threw himself with his usual audacity between the horns, but the rapier struck on a bone. The enthusiasts applauded, because the estocade was well placed, and the inutility of the endeavour was no fault of his. He put himself again in position to kill, but again the sword struck on the same place, and the bull, butting at the muleta, jerked it out of the wound, throwing it to some distance. Taking another rapier from Garabato's hand, he turned again towards the beast, who waited for him, firm on his feet, his neck dripping with blood and his slavering muzzle almost on the sand.