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Another burst of music, a great fanfare of trumpets, and then slowly
in triumphal procession the picadors, mounted bull-fighters with
lances, entered the ring.

Theoretically, when these men enter, the savage beast they are
supposed to be encountering immediately makes a terrible charge upon
them; but, as a matter of fact, the bull never wishes to fight or
attack any one, and does not, until his brutal captors absolutely
force him into doing so. That is why a bull-fight, as well as being
hideously degrading and cruel, is also dull and tedious.

If one were watching the grand natural passion of an animal fighting
for his life on the prairie, against another, with an equal fortune of
war for both, there would be excitement in it. But in this case one
sees an unwilling animal tortured into a fight, which it neither seeks
nor understands, and which it has from the start no chance of winning.

In this case, as in all I have seen, the beautiful Andalusian, having
made his gallop round the ring and finding no chance of escape, had
subsided into a quiet trot and when the picadors entered he stood
still, demurely regarding them from the opposite side of the arena.

The sunlight fell full upon him, on his glossy sides and grand head,
from which the noble, lustrous brown eyes looked out with benign and
gentle dignity on the great multitude, the sandy space, and the
picadors who were stealing slowly up to him.

It is a difficult matter for the picador to approach the bull, for the
horses shrink from the awful fate awaiting them, and only by plunging
great spurs into their sides can their riders get them to advance.

Anything more unutterably cowardly and despicably mean than the
picador can hardly be imagined. Riding a poor, aged horse, generally
one that has been wounded in a previous combat, and that is
absolutely naked of all protection from the bull's horns, he is
himself cased from head to foot in metal and leather, so that by no
possibility can he be scratched.

He comes into the ring with the deliberate intention of riding his
tottering, naked horse on to the horns of the bull, and the greater
number of these helpless creatures he can get mangled and
disembowelled under him, the greater and finer picador he is and the
more the people love him. Such is humanity!

On this afternoon the bull eyed the horses' approach with no ill-will,
he seemed to be reflecting - "Perhaps these are friends of mine and
will show me the way out." But when at last the picador, having
spurred his flinching horse close up to the bull's side, jabbed at his
glossy neck with his lance and the pain convinced the great monarch
they were hostile, he threw up his head with a snort and in a lithe,
agile bound he passed by them and trotted quietly away.

This enraged the people, and screams of "Coward! Coward!" went up from
all parts of the ring.

How they can twist into any semblance of cowardice the benignity of an
animal that scorns to take any notice of what it sees is a feeble and
puny opponent is amazing, a fit illustration of the weakness of the
human intellect.

As the bull continued his gentle trot, unmoved, the audience grew
furious, and then began that tedious and utterly sickening chase of
the unwilling bull by the faltering and unwilling horses.

The bull, conscious of his great strength and absolutely fearless, had
all that chivalry which seems inherent in animals and which is quite
lacking in man in his attitude to them.

As the unfortunate horses were ridden up to and across the face of the
bull, he did his best to avoid them. Over and over again the picadors
stabbed him with their lances and thrust their naked horses at his
head, but his whole attitude and manner said plainly: "Why should I
toss these poor old, trembling horses? I have no quarrel with them. I
could kill them in a minute, but I don't want to."

The screaming fiends above him yelled and cursed and tore pieces of
wood from the seats to throw at him. Insults and invectives were
showered on the picadors, until at last one of them, stung by the
filthy abuse of the mob, drove his spurs so deep into his horse that
the animal reared a little; the picador then, with spur and knee,
almost lifted him on to the long pointed horns of the bull, who,
forced back against the hoarding, had lowered his head in anger as the
blood streamed from the lance wounds in his neck.

Then there was the horrid, low sound of grating horn against the ribs
of the horse, the ripping of the hide; the animal was lifted into the
air a moment, then fell. There was a gush of blood on the sand, blood
and entrails; with a groan it staggered quivering to its feet, made a
step forwards, trod on its own trailing, bleeding insides, fell again,
groaning with anguish, quivering convulsively.

The people were delighted. They shouted and screamed and stood up on
their seats and waved their kerchiefs, especially the women!

The picador, who picked himself up unhurt - indeed, cased in armour, he
could not well be otherwise - was cheered and cheered, and bowed and
smiled and took off his cap and swept it to the ground. And the band
crashed loudly to drown the terrible groaning of the dying horse,
struggling in agony on the sand. The bull, sorry rather than otherwise
apparently, walked away to another part of the ring, tossing his head
in pain as the blood dripped from it.

The people clapped delightedly. Suzee seeing all the women about her
doing so, put up her little hands and clapped too.

I bent towards her and caught them and held them down in her lap.

"Be quiet," I said; "I won't have you clap such a disgusting sight."

She stopped at once. A Mexican woman on my other hand, looked daggers
at me for an instant, divining my words, but she was too eager to see
all the blood and the anguish in the arena, not to miss a throe of the
dying horse, to turn her eyes away for more than a moment.

So, after a scowl at me, she directed them again, bulging with
satisfaction, on the scene before her.

From then on, for about an hour, the same hideous thing went on; horse
after horse was brought forward, pushed on the horns of the bull, torn
and mangled beneath its cowardly rider, and then, if completely ripped
open, dragged dead or dying from the ring; if its wound was not large
enough to cause instant death, stuff or straw was thrust into it by
the attendants and the dying animal kicked, lashed, and dragged to its
feet to be thrown again on to the sharp horns amidst the shouts and
laughs of the delighted crowd.

Once, in a general mêlée, when the bull and several picadors were in a
tangled mass at one side of the ring, I saw one of these horses,
terribly wounded, with its life pouring from it, emerge from the
conflict and stagger unnoticed to the hoarding.

It came close to the wall of the ring and looked over; its glazed,
anguished eyes gazed from side to side as if asking: "Is there no
escape, no mercy anywhere?"

A spectator on the audience side of the hoarding raised his hand and
struck it between the eyes. It tottered, staggered, and sank within
the ring.

Eight horses had now been rendered useless, the arena was black and
red with blood, in spite of the assiduous sprinkling of fresh sand,
and there was a pause in the entertainment. The picadors had had their
turn, the banderilleros were ready to appear, but the people were
thoroughly enjoying themselves now and they stamped and roared
"Caballos" till they were hoarse. That horrid cry for more and more
horses to be produced that alarms the administrador, or manager, of
the bull-fight.

In vain the attendants lashed and goaded the dying horses in the
arena. They could not get them to their feet again. There is a limit
to man's sway, the tortured life at last escapes him. The bodies were
dragged away, more sand, and then the administrador himself, pale as
ashes, stepped out before the audience howling for more blood.

"Señors," he commenced, "it is impossible to supply more than eight
horses for one bull; there are five more bulls to be dispatched. They
are more savage than this one. I must keep horses for them. Let the
señors be reasonable and allow the show to continue."

At this promise of five more bulls there was general applause. The
band rolled out fresh music. There was a thunder of drums and the
banderilleros came on, gorgeous in velvet, glittering in spangle and
tinsel.

The bull is weary now and has lost much of his blood; as from the
first, he only longs to escape from this ring, and the mad monkeys who
are gibing and gibbering at him in it. They came forward with their
fresh weapons, shafts and arrows of iron decked up with coloured
ribbons, which they throw at him and which stick on his shoulders and
in his sides, drawing streams of blood wherever they strike him.

Maddened by those, he rushes at the flaming coats the men trail before
his eyes; but the cruel little, dancing, monkey-like man with the
cloak darts away before he can be touched, and at last, after repeated
rushes and repeated failures, the grand creature stands still, wearied
and disdainful, his head erect, the blood flowing from his wounds in
which the darts move, swaying to and fro each time he stirs, causing
him an agony he cannot understand. So he faces the great crowded ring
contemptuously, and the people shout at him and call him a coward and
scream for the espada to come and dispatch him.

The banderilleros retire: they have weakened the bull so that there is
now no danger for the puny little two-legged creature who struts in
next with a sword, and who is greeted with plaudits and triumphal
music. Flowers are thrown him, bouquets, the men call him hero, the
women throw kisses to him.

He bows to the President, then turns towards the bull who stands
erect still, though the loss of blood must be telling upon him, stands
with that same air of deadly _ennui_, of weary scorn of all this folly
which he has possessed from the first. Dusty and blood-stained his
glossy coat, bloodshot his great lustrous eyes. As he looks round the
circle already growing dim to them, does he long for his green
Andalusian pastures, does he see again those pleasant streams by which
his herd is wandering?

The little manikin sidles up and jabs him behind the shoulder with his
sword. The bull turns upon him, and he runs for his life. But the bull
does not deign to follow. With a great show of precaution where there
is really no danger, the little man with the sword approaches again.
Amidst cheers from the onlookers he plunges his sword between the
shoulders of the dying monarch and then rushes backwards. The great
beast sways, shivers in mortal anguish for a moment, and then without
a sound sinks, for the first time in this cruel and unequal combat, to
his knees. Sinks, full of a superb dignity to the end, and one asks
oneself - "What _can_ the scheme of creation be that gives a creature
so clean-souled, so grand, into the power of such a miserable mass of
vile lusts as man?"

A moment more and the head crowned with its tapering crescent horns
sinks forwards. A gush of blood from the nostrils on the sand, and it
is over. The glossy form is still - at peace.

With ridiculous manoeuvres the little man comes up again to the great
beast, obviously dead and harmless, and withdraws his sword which he
waves triumphantly before the applauding populace.

While he capers about before his delighted admirers, the attendants
come in and draw away with some difficulty the magnificent form of the
slaughtered bull.

The music broke into a loud march. There was an interval of relaxation
for the audience, to move, look about, chatter, and take refreshments.

"This is the end," I said to Suzee; "let us go now."

"Oh, but Treevor, that man said he had five more bulls, look, nobody
is going yet," she returned, having evidently followed in her own
sharp way the sense of the Spanish speech of the administrador.

"Do you want to see any more?" I asked. "I think it is dull and
tedious, as well as horrible."

"The killing is not nice," she said, in deference to my opinions, I
suppose; "but the music and the people are fun, I think. Do let us
stay for one more fight. You won't want to bring me again."

"No, I certainly shan't," I answered.

"Then do let me stay now, Treevor, just one more time."

I shrugged my shoulders and sat back in my seat, and after a second
the little door opposite opened and another bull, this time apparently
mad with pain, dashed into the ring.

The people applauded him and the shouts and clappings increased his
excitement.

He bounded at full gallop across the sandy space and charged the
hoarding that hemmed him in.

The audience were delighted, but the toreadors entered the ring and
stood together at one side, looking anxious, and some of the
attendants came up and received orders from them.

From the first the animal was unmanageable, out of all control. The
goading and the enraging that goes on in the dens behind the arena had
been overdone apparently, for the bull, wild with rage and pain,
galloped madly round, taking no notice of the pallid group of
toreadors.

At last one or two came forward with their cloaks of scarlet; the bull
made a dash at them, scattering them on either side, then bounded on
and with one tremendous leap cleared the hoarding that separates
spectators from the rings, and landed bellowing in the corridor that
ran round it just below our seats. It was full of onlookers drawn
nearer than usual to the hoarding by the excitement, and they
scattered and fled in all directions, while shriek upon shriek went up
from the women all round us as they saw the bull clear the hoarding
and come down amongst them.

With one accord they stood up. Like a great wave breaking, they rushed
upwards to the highest part of the ring, shrieks and screams on every
side telling of the trampled children and injured women in the frantic
panic.

Suzee rose with the rest, livid and trembling, and would have rushed
after that seething mass behind us, if I had not seized her arm and
forced her back to her seat.

"Sit down, stay where you are," I said; "the bull will do you less
harm than that trampling horde."

We were left there alone; groans and cries came from the
panic-stricken, struggling mass of people behind us; just beneath us
in the emptied corridor stood the bull, snorting with lowered head,
pawing the ground; in the arena, the administrador, green with terror
and anxiety, shouted commands to the pallid and trembling attendants.

I sat still, holding Suzee. The bull paused for a moment in front of
us, then with his head lowered almost to the ground, made a terrific
rush forwards, shattering the woodwork of the platform at our feet to
atoms with his horns. Suzee gave a piercing shriek and fell across me,
unconscious. The animal, startled by the scream, raised its head.

In its rolling eyes I saw nothing but the madness of pain and terror.
As it drew back for a second charge, in its mad effort to dash through
the woodwork to liberty, I slipped sideways with the dead weight of
Suzee on my arm, into the seats on one side. It was not an instant too
soon. The next, the bull rushed forwards and our seats were falling in
splinters about his head. Along, sideways, over chair after chair, I
slipped, dragging and supporting Suzee as best I could. I heard
screams of terror and suffering all round us as the panic spread
amongst the people and they forced themselves in an ever-increasing
mass upwards, fighting their way to the exits at the top of the ring.

My mind was made up. All before me was clear and open, the seats
deserted, below me ran the corridor leading to the entrance by which
we had come in. For that I would make.

There was some slight risk, for the bull, tired now of his futile
efforts to destroy the wooden barriers in front of him, had turned
back into the corridor and started on a mad gallop down it round the
ring.

I must drop down into the corridor before I could arrive at the
entrance, and unless he were stopped he might meet us in the corridor
before I could reach the exit. But his arc of the circle was a long
one, mine to the exit was short, and, anyway, I preferred to chance
meeting him to trusting myself to the mercies of my own kind.

I leapt down into the passage, and, lifting Suzee into my arms, passed
on rapidly to the wicket.

There was no one there. I went through, out into the golden sunlight.

Outside, the accident and the panic had not yet become known. I saw a
carriage, with its driver asleep upon the box, close to the main gate.
I went up to it, put Suzee in and spoke to the man.

"The lady has fainted," I said; "drive us back to the Hotel Iturbide."

The man, delighted at securing a fare so soon, seized the whip and
reins and drove away full tilt before one of the struggling wretches
in the bull-ring had succeeded in getting out.

Suzee recovered consciousness just before we reached the hotel, but
when she had opened her eyes she closed them again instantly and
covered her face with her hands with a cry of terror.

"Oh, Treevor, that awful bull; where is it now? It can't get at us,
can it?"

"No, poor brute," I answered. "You are safe enough now, Suzee; you are
miles away from the bull-ring."

She was trembling so much she could hardly walk up the stairs to our
room, and when we got there I made her go to bed while I sat by her
putting cold compresses on her head. She complained of such pain in
it, I was afraid that the fright and shock would do her serious harm.

I sat up with her through the night, and towards morning she fell into
a tranquil sleep.

I paced up and down the quiet room lighted only by the night light,
thinking over the horrid scene of the afternoon, and when it grew to
be day I was hungering so for a companion to speak to and to feel with
me, that I drew out my writing-case and wrote a long letter to Viola.




CHAPTER XI

THE WAY OF THE GODS


"But, Treevor, I am so very dull when you go out, and when you are
working it is as bad. I do miss my baby so to play with."

"You did not strike me as a very devoted mother when I saw you at
Sitka," I answered.

"Oh, Treevor, he was a very fine boy, and I took so much care of him.
Was he not a very large child?"

"Yes, he certainly was, and with a dreadful voice and a furious
temper. It's no use worrying me, Suzee, about the matter. I dislike
children very much, and I do not wish nor intend to have any of my
own."

Suzee began to cry in the easy way she had. She seemed able to
commence and leave off just when she chose.

"You are a little goose," I said jestingly. "You don't know when you
are well off. For months and months you would be ill and disfigured,
unable to come about with me or be my companion, unable to sit to me
for my painting, and afterwards the child would be an unendurable tie
and burden. Besides, as I say, I have an intense dislike to children
and could never live with one anywhere near me. I am afraid, if you
want them, you must go away from me, to some one who has your views."

Suzee came over to where I was sitting and knelt beside my chair,
clasping both hands round my arm.

"Treevor," she said, almost in a whisper, "you are so beautiful with
your straight face, every line in it is so straight, quite straight;
and your black hair and your dark eyes and your dark eyebrows. I want
that for my baby. I want a son just like you; he must be just like
you, and then I should be so happy."

As she spoke, the lines of a poetess flashed across me, indistinctly
remembered - "beauty that women seek after ... that they may give to
the world again."

Was this the reason of woman's love of beauty in men? Ah, not with all
women! Viola loved beauty, as I did, as all artists do, as they love
their art, for itself alone.

I stroked her smooth shining hair, gently, and shook my head, smiling
down upon her.

"Do you not value my love for you?" I asked.

"Oh yes, yes; you know I do."

"Well, then understand this: you would utterly and entirely lose it if
you became a mother."

Suzee shrank away from me.

"But why, Treevor? Hop Lee was so pleased with me...."

"Men have different tastes. And it is well they have, or the world
would be worse than it is. Some men like children and domesticity and
sick-nursing and childish companionship; I don't. I like health and
beauty, and love and intellect about me, and women who are straight
and slim and can inspire my pictures. That's why, Suzee, and I don't
see any reason why I shouldn't gratify my tastes as they do theirs.
There are plenty of men in the world who like being fathers of
families; the world can well allow an artist to give it his art
instead."

"Oh yes, Treevor, of course; but I am so sorry. I am so dull without a
baby."

We were sitting together in a light balcony of one of the hotels at
Tampico, and the subject of our conversation was one which had come up
many times between us lately.

Some months had slipped by since the accident in the bull-ring. Suzee
had recovered from the shock with a few day's rest and care, and as
soon as she was better we had started on a tour through the country
places of Mexico, and as it grew colder we had worked downwards to the
gulf of Vera Cruz in the Tierra Caliente, or Hot Lands, and now were
making a stay here on the coast, caught by the beauty of palm and sea
and shore.

Suzee, though apparently she had all that most young women covet, had
been for some time restless and dissatisfied, and the reason soon
appeared in conversations like that of to-day.

"Come along," I said, getting up; "see what a lovely evening it is,
let's go for a walk along the seashore."

Suzee looked round at the translucent green bell of the sky that hung
over us, disapprovingly.

"It's always fine weather," she said, rather sulkily; "and there's
nothing to see on that old shore."

"Nothing to see!" I exclaimed in sheer amazement. Then I stopped
short, remembering her indifference to all I valued, and added: "There
are most beautiful shells of every shape and colour, wouldn't you like
to get some of those?"

Suzee's face brightened immediately. This idea took her fancy at once.
It appealed to her keen love of material things. Beauty in air and sky
was nothing to her; but something she could pick up and handle, become
possessed of, like the shells, deeply interested her. She rose at
once.

"I had better take a basket, Treevor," she said, "to carry them back
in." And while she went to get it, I leant over the balcony-rail
musing on that great difference in character between woman and woman,
man and man. Humanity might almost be divided into those two great
parts - those who love and live in ideas; and those who love, and are
wholly concerned with, material things.

She came back in a moment with a basket swinging in her hand. It had
not seemed so necessary here in Mexico that she should dress in
Western clothes, so she had gradually relapsed into her gaily coloured
silks and embroidered muslins and Zouave jackets. This style of
dressing suited the tropical climate, and the convenances of Europe
and America were too far off for anything to matter much here. It gave
her constant occupation, too, the making of her costumes; for she was
marvellously quick and dexterous with her needle, and if I gave her
the silks she fancied she made them into dainty forms and embroidered
them with the greatest skill. As she came back now with her basket the
light fell softly on her lilac silk, all worked with gold thread, and
on her pretty bare head with its block of black shining hair.

We started for the shore, Suzee all animation now and chattering on
the possibility of sewing sea-shells into gold tissue or muslin.

The sky all round and overhead was palest green and strangely
luminous, the sea before us stretched to the far horizon in tones of
gentlest mauve and violet, beneath our feet was the firm brown sand
for miles and miles unrolled like a glossy, sepia carpet. On one side
broke the tiny waves in undulating lines of white; on the other, the
wild sand-dunes, grown over with rough grass and waving cocoanut
palms, came down towards the sea.

We walked on, both contented. I, in the strange colouring and the warm
salt breath in the air, that stirred the palm leaves till they tossed
joyfully in it; she, in the absorbing pursuit of the shells which lay
along the sand, positively studding it, like jewels, with colour. The
tide had recently gone down over the shore where we walked and left
them radiant, gleaming with moisture in the low light of the sun, pink


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