He undertook by himself during the week the sweeping of the immense Plaza, its rows of seats and boxes, without ever complaining of the overwhelming work. If the manager was displeased with him and wished to punish him he would open the doors to all the riffraff wandering round the Plaza. The poor man would be in[Pg 314] despair, promising amendment, in order that this swarm of people should not take over his work.
But the torero frowned. Enough of these jests if you please. Eh? And the less you all talk of Carmen the better.
But Gallardo picked himself up from among the medley of cloaks and men which rushed to his rescue. With a smile he passed his hands over his body, and then shrugged his shoulders to show he was not hurt. Nothing but the force of the blow and a sash in rags. The horn had only torn the strong silk belt.
The rest of the corrida scarcely attracted any attention. It all seemed insipid and colourless after Gallardo's great feats.
In certain Plazas the Marquis had even fought with the managers and the authorities, refusing to hand over his animals, because a band was stationed just over the bulls' entrance. The noise of the instruments bewildered the noble animals, robbing them of their bravery and their calmness as they entered the Plaza.
She entered the room quietly, with cast down eyes, as if she were ashamed of her former hostility, and taking Juan's hand in both hers she asked:
 i.e. bull-fights, etc.
Can they take the mare round to the stable to rest a little? enquired the bandit.
Gallardo did not dare to approach the tauromachic demagogy, whom he knew had always hated him and were rejoicing at his decadence. Most of them would not go to see him in the circus, nor admire any torero of the present day. Their expected Messiah must arrive before they returned to the Plaza.
The espada was as careful of his underclothing as a woman, and he put on his "Nazarene" dress with the same scrupulous care as he did his fighting costume. First he put on his silk stockings and patent leather shoes, then the white satin robe his mother had made[Pg 254] for him, and above this the high pointed hood of green velvet, which fell over his shoulders and face like a mask, and hung down in front like a chasuble as far as his knees. On one side of the breast the coat of arms of the brotherhood was delicately embroidered in variegated colours. The torero having put on his white gloves took the tall staff which was a sign of dignity in the brotherhood. It was a long staff covered with green velvet, with a silver top, and pointed at the end with the same metal.
The setting sun dyed everything with crimson, lengthening indefinitely the shadows of the riders with their long lances over their shoulders, and the broad river half hidden among the vegetation rolled along one side of the meadows.
Some of the rapiers shook themselves loose, being scarcely fixed in the flesh, others remained stuck in a bone, but the greater part of the length uncovered, bending with the brute's movements. The bull was following the circuit of the barrier bellowing with his head low, as if complaining of this useless torture. The espada followed him, muleta in hand, anxious to finish him, yet dreading to expose himself, and behind him came a whole troup of peons, spreading their capes, as though by this fluttering of stuffs they were trying to persuade the bull to double up his legs and to lie down on the sand. The bull's progress close to the barrier, with his neck bristling with rapiers, provoked storms of sarcasms and insults.
What would that gachi do if I went up softly on tip-toe and kissed that beautiful neck?...
Then he glanced round the boxes, fixing his eyes on[Pg 349] the one occupied by Do?a Sol. She had applauded him before when he executed his stupendous exploit of lying down before the bull. Her gloved hands had clapped enthusiastically when he had turned towards the barrier saluting the audience. Now, when she realised that the torero was looking at her, she saluted him with a kindly gesture, and even her companion, that odious fellow, made a stiff bow, as if he were breaking in two at the waist. He had surprised her several times with her opera-glasses fixed persistently on him, or searching for him when he retired behind the barriers. Ah! that gachi!... Possibly she felt once more attracted by his courage. Gallardo thought he would go and see her the following day, possibly the wind might have changed.
Suddenly he threw himself forward with his sword at[Pg 48] the same instant that the beast fell upon him. The encounter was brutal, savage. For an instant man and beast formed one confused mass, and thus advanced a few paces. No one could see who was the conqueror; the man with one arm and part of his body between the two horns; or the brute lowering his head and fighting to catch on those horns the brilliantly coloured golden puppet which seemed to be slipping away from him.