A mysterious inspiration seemed to tell the people of[Pg 33] the coming of the last cuadrilla on its way to the Plaza. The group of ragamuffins who had run after the carriage acclaiming Gallardo had lost their breath and had scattered amongst the traffic, but all the same, people glanced behind them as though they felt the proximity of the famous torero and slackened their pace, lining the edge of the pavement so as to get a better view of him.
The Se?or Juan made no reply, but turned away nervously into the kitchen, calling out to his mother:
The brute, being alone for a moment on that side of the Plaza, attacked the dead body of a horse. It buried its horns in the open belly, lifting on its horns like a[Pg 232] limp rag the miserable carcass which spread its entrails all round. The body fell to the ground almost doubled up, while the bull moved off undecidedly; but it soon turned again to sniff it, snorting and burying its horns in the cavity of the stomach, while the populace laughed at this stupid obstinacy, seeking for life in an inanimate body.
The streets soon became real Ways of Bitterness for Captain Chivo. He was so hot in his armour, surely a little wine would not destroy discipline; so he accepted a glass, and then another, and soon the company were moving along with gaps in their ranks, strewing the way with stragglers, who stopped at every tavern they passed.
The father dragged away his offspring with many grateful excuses, though he did not succeed in making clear, in his very confused thanks, whether his delight was for the present to the children, or for the ticket for the bull-fight which the diestro's servant would give him.
"Now, my lad," he said to the sick man, "you don't[Pg 242] require me any longer, and I have a great deal to do. Now don't be imprudent, and in a couple of months you will be well and strong. It is possible you may feel your leg a little, but you have a constitution of iron, and it will go on getting better."
On the death of her mother, she became possessed of a very good fortune. She had married in Madrid a personage much older than herself who had as Ambassador, represented Spain at the principal Courts of Europe, a prospect which could not fail to be attractive to a woman anxious for splendour and novelty.
Gallardo felt the great heart-beat of his finest feats. Now then! He caught the muleta with a circular sweep of his left hand, rolling it round the stick, and raised his right to the height of his eyes, standing with the sword bending down towards the nape of the brute's neck. A tumult of surprised protest broke from the crowd: "Don't strike!" ... shouted thousands of voices: "No!... No!"...
Sometimes there were long spells of absolute silence, in which the humming of the flies could be heard, a silence so profound it seemed as if the immense circus must be empty, as if the fourteen thousand people on its benches did not even breathe, and that Carmen herself was the only living creature within its walls.
But before the brigand could accept his invitation, Potaje drank and drank again hurriedly. Plumitas only now and then touched his glass, and even then with great hesitation. He was afraid of wine, and also he had lost the habit of drinking it. In the country he could not always get it. Besides, wine was the worst enemy for a man like himself, who had to live constantly wide awake and on guard.