A murmur of absolute stupefaction greeted the stroke. The blade entering only a third of its length trembled, ready to fly out. Gallardo had slipped out from between the horns, without driving the blade in up to the hilt as in former days.
Do?a Sol listened, intensely pale, with her lips compressed by terror, and in her eyes that strange light which always accompanied her mysterious thoughts.
"Now you have got him!... Go in at him straight!... Give him one in the eye in your own fashion."...
"Every one knows his own business, Se?o Juan," Plumitas continued, as if he guessed the matador's thoughts. "We both live by killing; you kill bulls, I kill men. The only difference is that you are rich and carry off the palm and the beautiful women, and I often rage with hunger, and if I am careless I shall be riddled with shot, and left in the middle of a field for the crows to pick. But all the same the business does not please me, Se?o Juan! You know exactly where you have to strike the bull for him to fall to the ground at once. I also know exactly where to hit a Christian so that he shall die at once, or that he should last a little, or that he should spend weeks raging against Plumitas, who wishes to interfere with no one, but who knows how to treat those who interfere with him."
Gallardo replied to all these salutations with the smile of a barber's block. With his thoughts far away, he took little notice of them. By his side sat El Nacional, the banderillero in whom he placed most trust, a big, hard man, older by ten years than himself, with a grave manner and eyebrows that met between his eyes. He was well known in the profession for his kindness of heart and sterling worth, and also for his political opinions.
"Go out, every one! Leave me alone!"
The enthusiastic father filled all the places with his friends, distributing the entrances amongst comrades of the guild, or poor amateurs of the sport. Moreover, he paid those who formed his son's cuadrilla lavishly, all vagabonds, peons and banderilleros, recruited from among the loafers in the Puerta del Sol, who fought in their everyday clothes, whereas the youngster was resplendent in his gala costume. Anything for the lad's career!
When the play of the banderilleros began, Gallardo remained in the passage between the barriers awaiting the signal to kill. El Nacional with the darts in his hand challenged the bull in the centre of the arena. There was nothing graceful in his movements, nor any proud daring, "simply the question of earning his bread."[Pg 45] Down in Seville he had four little ones, who, if he died, would find no other father. He would do his duty and nothing more, stick in his banderillas like a journeyman of Tauromachia, not desiring applause, and trying to avoid hissing.
Gallardo recognized her. It was Do?a Sol, the niece of the Marquis de Moraima, the Ambassadress, as she was called in Seville. She passed through the women, taking no notice of their curiosity, but pleased at their glances and their murmured words, as if these were a natural homage due to her wherever she appeared. The foreign elegance of her dress and the enormous hat, stood out from among the dark mass of mantillas. She knelt and bent her head for an instant in prayer, and then her clear eyes of a greenish blue with golden lights wandered tranquilly through the church as though she were in a theatre seeking for friends among the audience. Her eyes seemed to smile when they lighted on a friend, and pursuing their wanderings, they at last met those of Gallardo fixed on her.
If a picador fell he spread his cloak and drew the bull to the other end of the arena, bewildering it with a succession of cloak play that left the beast motionless. Then Gallardo would touch it on the muzzle with one foot, or would take off his montero and lay it between the animal's horns. Again and again he took advantage of its stupefaction and exposed his stomach in an audacious challenge, or knelt close to it as though about to lie down beneath its nose.