The party arrived, making their way through the crowd. The espada's mother and wife walked first, among relations and friends, dressed in rustling black silks, smiling beneath their mantillas. Gallardo came after, followed by an interminable escort of toreros and friends, all dressed in light suits, with gold chains and rings of extraordinary brilliancy, their white felt hats contrasting strangely with the women's black clothes.
Before the Holy Week holidays Gallardo's family returned to Seville. The espada was to fight at the Easter corrida. It was the first time he would kill in Do?a Sol's presence since he had come to know her, and it made him doubtful of his powers.
Gallardo raised his head nervously, as if up to now he had not noticed his servant's presence. He put the letter into his pocket-book, and then walked lazily to the end of the room, as though he wished to postpone the dressing time.
"It's like la Dolorosa!" they shouted.
About mid-day on the Saturday, Carmen had called Antonio into the matador's study, and told him of her intention to go at once to Madrid. She could not stay in Seville, she had had a week of restless nights, which her imagination had peopled with horrible scenes, and her feminine instinct made her fear some great disaster. She felt she must be by Juan's side, she did not know why, nor what would happen on the journey, all she wanted was to be near Gallardo.
"We shall see how you fight! The 'aficion' has its eyes on you! How are you with regard to strength?"
He saw in the first rank, below the rope of the inside barrier, a jacket folded on the line of the wall; on it were crossed a pair of arms in shirt sleeves, on which rested a broad face, freshly shaved, with the hat pulled down to its ears. It looked like a good-natured countryman come in from his village to see the corrida.
"But do you believe that I think of death? No, I repent of nothing, and I go on my way. I also have my pleasures and my little prides, just the same as you, when you read in the papers that you did very well with a certain bull and were given the ear. Just think that all Spain talks of el Plumitas, that the papers tell the biggest lies about me, they even say they are going to exhibit me at the theatres, and in that place in Madrid, where the deputies meet, they talk daily of my capture. Over and above this I have the pride of seeing a whole army tracking my footsteps, to see myself, a man alone, driving thousands mad who are paid by Government and wear a sword. The other day, a Sunday, I rode into a village during Mass, and drew up my mare in the Plaza close to some blind men who were singing and playing the guitar. The people were lost in admiration before a cartoon carried by the singers, which represented a fine looking man with whiskers, in a pointed hat, splendidly dressed and riding a magnificent horse, with a gun across the saddle bow, and a good looking girl en[Pg 210] croupe behind. It was a long time before I realised that that good looking fellow was Plumitas!... That did please me. When one goes about ragged and half starving, it is delightful that people should imagine you something quite different. I bought the paper they were singing from. I have got it here, the complete life of Plumitas with many lies, all in verse. But it is a fine thing. When I lie on the hill-side I read it so as to learn it by heart. It must have been written by some very clever man."
"Hush! Pepe is coming," and Pepe would enter waving a telegram above his head.