Also Rises, 1927
Death in the Bullring: Bull
Death in the Bullring: Bull
first "quite" was directly below us. The three matadors take the
bull in turn after each charge he makes at a picador. Belmonte was
the first. Marcial was the second. Then came Romero. The three of
them were standing at the left of the horse. The picador, his hat
over his eyes, the shaft of his pic angling sharply toward the bull,
kicked in the spurs and held them and with the reins in his left
hand walked the horse forward toward the bull. The bull was
watching. Seemingly he watched the white horse, but really he
watched the triangular steel point of the pic. Romero, watching, saw
the bull start to turn his head. He did not want to charge. Romero
flicked his cape so the color caught the bullís eye. The bull
charged with the reflex, charged, and found not the flash of color
but a white horse, and a man leaned far over the horse, shot the
steel point of a long hickory shaft into the hump of muscle on the
bullís shoulder, and pulled his horse sideways as he pivoted on the
pic, making a wound, enforcing the iron into the bullís shoulder,
making him bleed for Belmonte.
The bull did not insist under the iron. He did not
really want to get at the horse. He turned and the group broke apart
and Romero was taking him out with his cape. He took him out softly
and smoothly, and then stopped and, standing squarely in front of
the bull, offered him the cape. The bullís tail went up and he
charged, and Romero moved his arms ahead of the bull, wheeling, his
feet firm. The dampened, mud-weighted cape swung open and full as a
sail fills, and Romero pivoted with it just ahead of the bull. At the
end of the pass they were facing each other again. Romero smiled.
The bull wanted it again, and Romeroís cape filled again, this time
on the other side. Each time he let the bull pass so close that the
man and the cape that filled and pivoted ahead of the bull were all
one sharply etched mass. It was all so slow and so controlled. It
was as though he were rocking the bull to sleep. He made four
veronicas like that, and finished with a half-veronica that turned
his back on the bull and came away toward the applause, his hand on
his hip, his cape on his arm, and the bull watching his back going
In his own bull he was perfect. His first bull did
not see well. After the first two passes with the cape Romero knew
exactly how bad the vision was impaired. He worked accordingly. It
was not brilliant bull-fighting. It was only perfect bull-fighting. The crowd wanted the bull changed.
They made a great row.
very fine could happen with a bull that could not see the lures, but
the President would not order him replaced.
"Why donít they change him?" Brett asked.
"Theyíve paid for him. They donít want to lose their
"Itís hardly fair to Romero."
"Watch how he handles a bull that canít see the
"Itís the sort of thing I donít like to see."
It was not nice to watch if you cared anything about
the person who was doing it. With the bull who could not see the
colors of the capes, or the scarlet flannel of the muleta, Romero
had to make the bull consent with his body. He had to get so close
that the bull saw his body, and would start for it, and then shift
the bullís charge to the flannel and finish out the pass in the
classic manner. The Biarritz crowd did not like it. They thought
Romero was afraid, and that was why he gave that little sidestep
each time as he transferred the bullís charge from his own body to
the flannel. They preferred Belmontís imitation of himself or
Marcialís imitation of Belmonte. There were three of them in the row
"Whatís he afraid of the bull for? The bullís so
dumb he only goes after the cloth."
"Heís just a young bull-fighter. He hasnít learned
"But I thought he was fine with the cape before."
"Probably heís nervous now."
Out in the centre of the ring, all alone, Romero was
going on with the same thing, getting so close that the bull could
see him plainly, offering the body, offering it again a little
closer, the bull watched dully, then so close that the bull thought
he had him offering again and finally drawing the charge and then,
just before the horns came, giving the bull the red cloth to follow
with that little, almost imperceptible, jerk that so offended the
critical judgment of the Biarritz bull-fight experts.
"Heís going to kill now," I said to Brett. "The
bullís still strong. He wouldnít wear himself out."
Out in the center of the ring Romero profiled in
front of the bull, drew the sword out from the folds of the muleta,
rose on his toes, and sighted along the blade. The bull charged as
Romero charged. Romeroís left hand dropped the muleta over the
bullís muzzle to blind him, his left shoulder went forward between
the horns as the sword went in, and for just an instant he and the
bull were one, Romero way out over the bull, the right arm extended
high up to where the hilt of the sword had gone in between the
bullís shoulders. Then the figure was broken. There was a little
jolt as Romero came clear, and then he was standing, one hand up,
facing the bull, his shirt ripped out from under his sleeve, the
white blowing in the wind, and the bull, the red sword hilt tight
between his shoulders, his head going down and his legs settling.
"There he goes," Bill said.
Romero was close enough so the bull could see him.
His hand still up, he spoke to the bull. The bull gathered himself,
then his head went forward and he went over slowly, then all over,
suddenly, four feet in the air.
They handed the sword to Romero, and carrying it
blade down, the muleta in his other hand, he walked over to in front
of the Presidentís box, bowed, straightened, and came over to the
barrera and handed over the sword and muleta.
"Bad one," said the sword-handler.
"He made me sweat," said Romero. He wiped off his
face. The sword-handler handed him the water-jug. Romero wiped his
lips. It hurt him to drink out of the jug. He did not look up at us.
Marcial had a big day. They were still applauding
him when Romeroís last bull came in. It was the bull that had
sprinted out and killed the man in the morning running.
During Romeroís first bull his face hurt had been
very noticeable. Everything he did showed it. All the concentration
of the awkwardly delicate working with the bull that could not see
well brought it out. The fight with Cohn had not touched his spirit
but his face had been smashed and his body hurt. He was wiping all
that out now. Each thing that he did with this bull wiped that out a
little cleaner. It was a good bull, a big bull, and with horns, and
it turned and recharged easily and surely. He was what Romero wanted
When he had finished his work with the Muleta and
was ready to kill, the crowd made him go on. They did not want the
bull killed yet, they did not want it to be over. Romero went on. It
was like a course in bull-fighting. All the passes he linked up, all
completed, all slow, templed and smooth. There were no tricks and no
mystifications. There was no brusqueness. And each pass as it
reached the summit gave you a sudden ache inside. The crowd did not
want it ever to be finished.
The bull was squared on all four feet to be killed,
and Romero killed it directly below us. He killed not as he had been
forced to by the last bull, but as he wanted to. He profiled
directly in front of the bull, drew the sword out of the folds of
the muleta and sighted along the blade. The bull watched him. Romero
spoke to the bull and tapped one of his feet. The bull charged and
Romero waited for the charge, the muleta held low, sighting alone
the blade, his feet firm. Then without taking a step forward, he
became one with the bull, the sword was in high between the
shoulders, the bull had followed the low-swung flannel, that
disappeared as Romero lurched clear to the left, and it was over.
The bull tried to go forward, his legs commenced to settle, he swung
from side to side, hesitated, then went down on his knees, and
Romeroís older brother leaned forward behind him and drove a short
knife into the bullís neck at the base of the horns. The first time
He drove the knife in again, and the bull went over,
twitching and rigid. Romeroís brother, holding the bullís horn in
one had, the knife in the other, looked up at the Presidentís box.
Handkerchiefs were waving all over the bull-ring. The President
looked down from the box and waved his handkerchief. The brother cut
the notched black ear from the dead bull and trotted over with it to
Romero. The bull lay heavy and black on the sand, his tongue out,
boys were running toward him from all parts of the arena, making
circles around him. They were starting to dance around the bull.
Romero took the ear from his brother and held it up
toward the President. The President bowed and Romero, running to get
ahead of the crowd, came toward us. He leaned up against the barrera
and gave the ear to Brett. He nodded his head and smiled. The crowd
were all about him, Brett held down the cape.
"You liked it?" Romero called.
Brett did not say anything. They looked at each
other and smiled. Brett had the ear in her hand.
"Donít get bloody," Romero said, and grinned. The crowd wanted
him. Several boys shouted at Brett. The crowd was the boy, the
dancers, the drunks. Romero turned and tried to get through the
crowd. They were all around him trying to lift him and put him on
their shoulders. He fought and twisted away, and started running, in
the midst of them, toward the exit. He did not want to be carried on
peopleís shoulders. But they held him and lifted him. It was
uncomfortable and his legs were spraddled and his body very sore.
They were lifting him and all running toward the gate. He had his
hand on somebodyís shoulder. He looked around at us apologetically.
The crowd, running, went out the gate with him.