"The Se?ora Marquesa knows all about him; I learnt his history when I was a sacristan, and read the old romances that the priest had. Well, Pizarro was a poor man like us, who crossed the sea with twelve or thirteen gachos, as good fighters as himself, and entered a country that must have been a real paradise, a country in which were the mines of Potosi: I can't say more. They fought many battles with the inhabitants, and at last conquered them, seizing their king's treasures, and he who got least got his house full up to the roof with gold pieces, and there was not one of them who was not made a Marquis, or a General, or a Justiciary. Just imagine, Se?o Juan, if we had lived then! What you and I could have done with a handful of brave men like these who are listening to me!"
Juan Gallardo, the hero of Blood and Sand, has from earliest childhood exhibited a natural aptitude for the bull ring. He is aided in his career by interested parties, and soon jumps to the forefront of his idolized profession, without having to thread his way arduously up the steep ascent of the bull fighters' hierarchy. Fame and fortune come to him, and he is able to gratify the desires of his early days, as if the mirage of hunger and desire had suddenly been converted into dazzling reality. He[Pg ix] lavishes largess upon his mother and his childless wife, and there comes, too, a love out of wedlock.
"Quite well, thank you."
The broad stream of the Guadalquivir rolled along the edge of the pasture; on the opposite side rose the hill of San Juan de Aznalfarache, crowned by its ruined castle, and many white country houses peeped out from among the silver grey of the olive trees. On the opposite side of the wide horizon, on which a few woolly clouds were floating, lay Seville, the line of its houses dominated by the imposing mass of the Cathedral, and the marvellous Giralda, dyed a tender pink in the evening light.
"El Plumitas!" The shepherd's voice, in spite of being shaking and breathless, seemed to penetrate throughout the whole house as he pronounced that name. The banderillero stood dumb with surprise, and from the espada's room came a volley of oaths, the rustle of clothes, and the sound of some one throwing himself roughly out of bed. From the room occupied by Do?a Sol other sounds also came which seemed in answer to this astounding news.
For an hour previously the Calle de Alcala had been a stream of carriages, between banks of crowded foot-passengers, all hurrying to the outskirts of the town. Every sort of vehicle, ancient or modern, figured in this transient but confused and noisy migration, from the pre-historic char-a-banc, come to light like an anachronism, to the modern motor car.
He saw him for the first time. The bandit drew himself together as if he intended to resent this rough and unceremonious caress, and his right hand raised the rifle. However, fixing his little blue eyes on the picador, he seemed to recognize him.
Soon, there were neither men nor horses nor anything else left! In a moment all the horses were down and their riders tossed in the air. The peons ran, and the arena was in disarray, as if a branding had been going[Pg 157] on. The audience clamoured for more horses, while Coronel stood in the middle of the Plaza waiting to turn and rend anyone who came out against him. The slightest invitation was sufficient to make him attack, no one had ever seen anything like him for nobility and power, rushing in to his charge with a grandeur and a dash which drove the populace mad. When the death signal sounded, he had fourteen wounds in him and a complete set of banderillas, yet he was as fresh and as brave as if he had never left his pasture. Then....