Fuentes walked a little closer to the bull. Bent back. Called again. Somebody in the crowd shouted a warning.
“He’s too damn close,” Zurito said.
“Watch him,” Retana’s man said.
Leaning back, inciting the bull with the banderillos, Fuentes jumped, both feet off the ground. As he jumped the bull’s tail rose and he charged. Fuentes came down on his toes, arms straight out, whole body arching forward, and drove the shafts straight down as he swung his body clear of the right horn.
The bull crashed into the barrera where the flopping capes had attracted his eye as he lost the man.
The gypsy came running along the barrera towards Manuel, taking the applause of the crowd. His vest was ripped where he had not quite cleared the point of the horn. He was happy about it, showing it to the spectators. He made a tour of the ring. Zurito saw him go by, smiling, pointing to his vest. He smiled.
Somebody else was planting the last pair of banderillos. Nobody was paying any attention.
Retana’s man tucked a baton inside the red cloth of a muleta, folded the cloth over it, and handed it over the barrera to Manuel. He reached in the leather sword-case, took out a sword and, holding it by its leather scabbard, reached it over the fence to Manuel. Manuel pulled the blade out by the red hilt and the scabbard fell limp.
He looked at Zurito. The big man saw he was sweating.
“Now you get him, kid,” Zurito said.
“He’s in good shape,” Zurito said.
“Just like you want him,” Retana’s man assured him.
The trumpeter, up under the roof, blew for the final act, and Manuel walked across the arena towards where, up in the dark boxes, the president must be.
In the front row seats the substitute bullfight critic of El Heraldo took a long drink of warm champagne. He had decided it was not worthwhile to write a running story and would write up the corrida back in the office. What the hell was it anyway? Only a nocturnal. If he missed anything he would get it out of the morning papers. He took another drink of the champagne. He had a date at Maxim’s at twelve. Who were these bullfighters anyway? Kids and bums. A bunch of bums. He put his pad of paper in his pocket and looked over towards Manuel, standing very much alone in the ring, gesturing with his hat in a salute towards a box he could not see high up in the dark plaza. Out in the ring the bull stood quiet, looking at nothing.
“I dedicate this bull to you, Mr. President, and to the public of Madrid, the most intelligent and generous in the world,” was what Manuel was saying. It was a formula. He said it all. It was a little too long for nocturnal use.
He bowed at the dark, straightened, tossed his hat over his shoulder, and, carrying the muleta in his left hand and the sword in his right, walked out towards the bull.
Manuel walked toward the bull. The bull looked at him; his eyes were quick. Manuel noticed the way the banderillos hung down on his left shoulder and the steady sheen of blood from Zurito’s pic-ing. He noticed the way the bull’s feet were. As he walked forward, holding the muleta in his left hand and the sword in his right, he watched the bull’s feet. The bull could not charge without gathering his feet together. Now he stood square on them, dully.
Manuel walked towards him, watching his feet. This was all right. He could do this. He must work to get the bull’s head down, so he could go in past the horns and kill him. He did not think about the sword, not about killing the bull. He thought about one thing at a time. The coming things oppressed him, though. Walking forward, watching the bull’s feet, he saw successively his eyes, his wet muzzle, and the wide, forward-pointing spread of his horns. The bull had light circles about his eyes. His eyes watched Manuel. He felt he was going to get this little one with the white face.