At noon of Sunday, the 6th of July, the fiesta exploded. There is no other way to describe it. People had been coming in all day from the country, but they were assimilated in the town and you did not notice them. The square was as quiet in the hot sun as on any other day. The peasants were in the outlying wine-shops. There they were drinking, getting ready for the fiesta. They had come in so recently from the plains and the hills that it was necessary that they make their shifting in values gradually. They could not start in paying café prices. They got their money’s worth in the wine-shops. Money still had a definite value in hours worked and bushels of grain sold. Late in the fiesta it would not matter what they paid, nor where they bought.
Now on the day of the starting of the fiesta of San Fermin they had been in the wine-shops of the narrow streets of the town since early morning. Going down the streets in the morning on the way to mass in the cathedral, I heard them singing through the open doors of the shops. They were warming up. There were many people at the eleven o’clock mass. San Fermin is also a religious festival.
I walked down the hill from the cathedral and up the street to the café on the square. It was a little before noon. Robert Cohn and Bill were sitting at one of the tables. The marble-topped tables and the white wicker chairs were gone. They were replaced by cast-iron tables and severe folding chairs. The café was like a battleship stripped for action. To-day the waiters did not leave you alone all morning to read without asking if you wanted to order something. A waiter came up as soon as I sat down.
“What are you drinking?” I asked Bill and Robert.
“Sherry,” Cohn said.
“Jerez,” I said to the waiter.
Before the waiter brought the sherry the rocket that announced the fiesta went up in the square. It burst and there was a gray ball of smoke high up above the Theatre Gayarre, across on the other side of the plaza. The ball of smoke hung in the sky like a shrapnel burst, and as I watched, another rocket came up to it, trickling smoke in the bright sunlight. I saw the bright flash as it burst and another little cloud of smoke appeared. By the time the second rocket had burst there were so many people in the arcade, that had been empty a minute before, that the waiter, holding the bottle high up over his head, could hardly get through the crowd to our table. People were coming into the square from all sides, and down the street we heard the pipes and the fifes and the drums coming. They were playing the riau-riau music, the pipes shrill and the drums pounding, and behind them came the men and boys dancing. When the fifers stopped they all crouched down in the street, and when the reed-pipes and the fifes shrilled, and the flat, dry, hollow drums tapped it out again, they all went up in the air dancing. In the crowd you saw only the heads and shoulders of the dancers going up and down.
In the square a man, bent over, was playing on a reed-pipe, and a crowd of children were following him shouting, and pulling at his clothes. He came out of the square, the children following him, and piped them past the café and down a side street. We saw his blank pockmarked face as he went by, piping, the children close behind him shouting and pulling at him.
“He must be the village idiot,” Bill said. “My God! look at that!”
Down the street came dancers. The street was solid with dancers, all men. They were all dancing in time behind their own fifers and drummers. They were a club of some sort, and all wore workmen’s blue smocks, and red handkerchiefs around their necks, and carried a great banner on two poles. The banner danced up and down with them as they came down surrounded by the crowd.
“Hurray for Wine! Hurray for the Foreigners!” was painted on the banner.
“Where are the foreigners?” Robert Cohn asked.
“We’re the foreigners,” Bill said.
All the time rockets were going up. The café tables were all full now. The square was emptying of people and the crowd was filling the cafés.
“Where’s Brett and Mike?” Bill asked.
“I’ll go and get them,” Cohn said.
“Bring them here.”
The fiesta was really started. It kept up day and night for seven days. The dancing kept up, the drinking kept up, the noise went on. The things that happened could only have happened during a fiesta. Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences. It seemed out of place to think of consequences during the fiesta. All during the fiesta you had the feeling, even when it was quiet, that you had to shout any remark to make it heard. It was the same feeling about any action. It was a fiesta and it went on for seven days.
That afternoon was the big religious procession. San Fermin was translated from one church to another. In the procession were all the dignitaries, civil and religious. We could not see them because the crowd was too great. Ahead of the formal procession and behind it danced the riau-riau dancers. There was one mass of yellow shirts dancing up and down in the crowd. All we could see of the procession through the closely pressed people that crowded all the side streets and curbs were the great giants, cigar-store Indians, thirty feet high, Moors, a King and Queen, whirling and waltzing solemnly to the riau-riau.
They were all standing outside the chapel where San Fermin and the dignitaries had passed in, leaving a guard of soldiers, the giants, with the men who danced in them standing beside their resting frames, and the dwarfs moving with their whacking bladders through the crowd. We started inside and there was a smell of incense and people filing back into the church, but Brett was stopped just inside the door because she had no hat, so we went out again and along the street that ran back from the chapel into town. The street was lined on both sides with people keeping their place at the curb for the return of the procession. Some dancers formed a circle around Brett and started to dance. They wore big wreaths of white garlics around their necks. They took Bill and me by the arms and put us in the circle. Bill started to dance, too. They were all chanting. Brett wanted to dance but they did not want her to. They wanted her as an image to dance around. When the song ended with the sharp riau-riau! they rushed us into a wine-shop.
We stood at the counter. They had Brett seated on a wine-cask. It was dark in the wine-shop and full of men singing, hard-voiced singing. Back of the counter they drew the wine from casks. I put down money for the wine, but one of the men picked it up and put it back in my pocket.
“I want a leather wine-bottle,” Bill said.
“There’s a place down the street,” I said. “I’ll go get a couple.”
The dancers did not want me to go out. Three of them were sitting on the high wine-cask beside Brett, teaching her to drink out of the wine-skins. They had hung a wreath of garlics around her neck. Some one insisted on giving her a glass. Somebody was teaching Bill a song. Singing it into his ear. Beating time on Bill’s back.
I explained to them that I would be back. Outside in the street I went down the street looking for the shop that made leather wine-bottles. The crowd was packed on the sidewalks and many of the shops were shuttered, and I could not find it. I walked as far as the church, looking on both sides of the street. Then I asked a man and he took me by the arm and led me to it. The shutters were up but the door was open.
Inside it smelled of fresh tanned leather and hot tar. A man was stencilling completed wine-skins. They hung from the roof in bunches. He took one down, blew it up, screwed the nozzle tight, and then jumped on it
“See! It doesn’t leak.”
“I want another one, too. A big one.”
He took down a big one that would hold a gallon or more, from the roof. He blew it up, his cheeks puffing ahead of the wine-skin, and stood on the bota holding on to a chair.
“What are you going to do? Sell them in Bayonne?”
“No. Drink out of them.”
He slapped me on the back.
“Good man. Eight pesetas for the two. The lowest price.”
The man who was stencilling the new ones and tossing them into a pile stopped.
“It’s true,” he said. “Eight pesetas is cheap.”
I paid and went out and along the street back to the wine-shop. It was darker than ever inside and very crowded. I did not see Brett and Bill, and some one said they were in the back room. At the counter the girl filled the two wine-skins for me. One held two litres. The other held five litres. Filling them both cost three pesetas sixty centimos. Some one at the counter, that I had never seen before, tried to pay for the wine, but I finally paid for it myself. The man who had wanted to pay then bought me a drink. He would not let me buy one in return, but said he would take a rinse of the mouth from the new wine-bag. He tipped the big five-litre bag up and squeezed it so the wine hissed against the back of his throat.
“All right,” he said, and handed back the bag.
In the back room Brett and Bill were sitting on barrels surrounded by the dancers. Everybody had his arms on everybody else’s shoulders, and they were all singing. Mike was sitting at a table with several men in their shirt-sleeves, eating from a bowl of tuna fish, chopped onions and vinegar. They were all drinking wine and mopping up the oil and vinegar with pieces of bread.
“Hello, Jake. Hello!” Mike called. “Come here. I want you to meet my friends. We’re all having an hors-d’œuvre.”
I was introduced to the people at the table. They supplied their names to Mike and sent for a fork for me.
“Stop eating their dinner, Michael,” Brett shouted from the wine-barrels.
“I don’t want to eat up your meal,” I said when some one handed me a fork.
“Eat,” he said. “What do you think it’s here for?”
I unscrewed the nozzle of the big wine-bottle and handed it around. Every one took a drink, tipping the wine-skin at arm’s length.
Outside, above the singing, we could hear the music of the procession going by.
“Isn’t that the procession?” Mike asked.
“Nada,” some one said. “It’s nothing. Drink up. Lift the bottle.”
“Where did they find you?” I asked Mike.
“Some one brought me here,” Mike said. “They said you were here.”
“He’s passed out,” Brett called. “They’ve put him away somewhere.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“How should we know,” Bill said. “I think he’s dead.”
“He’s not dead,” Mike said. “I know he’s not dead. He’s just passed out on Anis del Mono.”
As he said Anis del Mono one of the men at the table looked up, brought out a bottle from inside his smock, and handed it to me.
“No,” I said. “No, thanks!”
“Yes. Yes. Arriba! Up with the bottle!”
I took a drink. It tasted of licorice and warmed all the way. I could feel it warming in my stomach.
“Where the hell is Cohn?”
“I don’t know,” Mike said. “I’ll ask. Where is the drunken comrade?” he asked in Spanish.
“You want to see him?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Not me,” said Mike. “This gent.”
The Anis del Mono man wiped his mouth and stood up.
In a back room Robert Cohn was sleeping quietly on some wine-casks. It was almost too dark to see his face. They had covered him with a coat and another coat was folded under his head. Around his neck and on his chest was a big wreath of twisted garlics.
“Let him sleep,” the man whispered. “He’s all right.”
Two hours later Cohn appeared. He came into the front room still with the wreath of garlics around his neck. The Spaniards shouted when he came in. Cohn wiped his eyes and grinned.
“I must have been sleeping,” he said.
“Oh, not at all,” Brett said.
“You were only dead,” Bill said.
“Aren’t we going to go and have some supper?” Cohn asked.
“Do you want to eat?”
“Yes. Why not? I’m hungry.”
“Eat those garlics, Robert,” Mike said. “I say. Do eat those garlics.”
Cohn stood there. His sleep had made him quite all right.
“Do let’s go and eat,” Brett said. “I must get a bath.”
“Come on,” Bill said. “Let’s translate Brett to the hotel.”
We said good-bye to many people and shook hands with many people and went out. Outside it was dark.
“What time is it do you suppose?” Cohn asked.
“It’s to-morrow,” Mike said. “You’ve been asleep two days.”
“No,” said Cohn, “what time is it?”
“It’s ten o’clock.”
“What a lot we’ve drunk.”
“You mean what a lot we’ve drunk. You went to sleep.”
Going down the dark streets to the hotel we saw the sky-rockets going up in the square. Down the side streets that led to the square we saw the square solid with people, those in the centre all dancing.
It was a big meal at the hotel. It was the first meal of the prices being doubled for the fiesta, and there were several new courses. After the dinner we were out in the town. I remember resolving that I would stay up all night to watch the bulls go through the streets at six o’clock in the morning, and being so sleepy that I went to bed around four o’clock. The others stayed up.
My own room was locked and I could not find the key, so I went up-stairs and slept on one of the beds in Cohn’s room. The fiesta was going on outside in the night, but I was too sleepy for it to keep me awake. When I woke it was the sound of the rocket exploding that announced the release of the bulls from the corrals at the edge of town. They would race through the streets and out to the bull-ring. I had been sleeping heavily and I woke feeling I was too late. I put on a coat of Cohn’s and went out on the balcony. Down below the narrow street was empty. All the balconies were crowded with people. Suddenly a crowd came down the street. They were all running, packed close together. They passed along and up the street toward the bull-ring and behind them came more men running faster, and then some stragglers who were really running. Behind them was a little bare space, and then the bulls galloping, tossing their heads up and down. It all went out of sight around the corner. One man fell, rolled to the gutter, and lay quiet. But the bulls went right on and did not notice him. They were all running together.
After they went out of sight a great roar came from the bull-ring. It kept on. Then finally the pop of the rocket that meant the bulls had gotten through the people in the ring and into the corrals. I went back in the room and got into bed. I had been standing on the stone balcony in bare feet. I knew our crowd must have all been out at the bull-ring. Back in bed, I went to sleep.
Cohn woke me when he came in. He started to undress and went over and closed the window because the people on the balcony of the house just across the street were looking in.
“Did you see the show?” I asked.
“Yes. We were all there.”
“Anybody get hurt?”
“One of the bulls got into the crowd in the ring and tossed six or eight people.”
“How did Brett like it?”
“It was all so sudden there wasn’t any time for it to bother anybody.”
“I wish I’d been up.”
“We didn’t know where you were. We went to your room but it was locked.”
“Where did you stay up?”
“We danced at some club.”
“I got sleepy,” I said.
“My gosh! I’m sleepy now,” Cohn said. “Doesn’t this thing ever stop?”
“Not for a week.”
Bill opened the door and put his head in.
“Where were you, Jake?”
“I saw them go through from the balcony. How was it?”
“Where you going?”
No one was up before noon. We ate at tables set out under the arcade. The town was full of people. We had to wait for a table. After lunch we went over to the Iruña. It had filled up, and as the time for the bull-fight came it got fuller, and the tables were crowded closer. There was a close, crowded hum that came every day before the bull-fight. The café did not make this same noise at any other time, no matter how crowded it was. This hum went on, and we were in it and a part of it.
I had taken six seats for all the fights. Three of them were barreras, the first row at the ring-side, and three were sobrepuertos, seats with wooden backs, half-way up the amphitheatre. Mike thought Brett had best sit high up for her first time, and Cohn wanted to sit with them. Bill and I were going to sit in the barreras, and I gave the extra ticket to a waiter to sell. Bill said something to Cohn about what to do and how to look so he would not mind the horses. Bill had seen one season of bull-fights.
“I’m not worried about how I’ll stand it. I’m only afraid I may be bored,” Cohn said.
“You think so?”
“Don’t look at the horses, after the bull hits them,” I said to Brett. “Watch the charge and see the picador try and keep the bull off, but then don’t look again until the horse is dead if it’s been hit.”
“I’m a little nervy about it,” Brett said. “I’m worried whether I’ll be able to go through with it all right.”
“You’ll be all right. There’s nothing but that horse part that will bother you, and they’re only in for a few minutes with each bull. Just don’t watch when it’s bad.”
“She’ll be all right,” Mike said. “I’ll look after her.”
“I don’t think you’ll be bored,” Bill said.
“I’m going over to the hotel to get the glasses and the wine-skin,” I said. “See you back here. Don’t get cock-eyed.”
“I’ll come along,” Bill said. Brett smiled at us.
We walked around through the arcade to avoid the heat of the square.
“That Cohn gets me,” Bill said. “He’s got this Jewish superiority so strong that he thinks the only emotion he’ll get out of the fight will be being bored.”
“We’ll watch him with the glasses,” I said.
“Oh, to hell with him!”
“He spends a lot of time there.”
“I want him to stay there.”
In the hotel on the stairs we met Montoya.
“Come on,” said Montoya. “Do you want to meet Pedro Romero?”
“Fine,” said Bill. “Let’s go see him.”
We followed Montoya up a flight and down the corridor.
“He’s in room number eight,” Montoya explained. “He’s getting dressed for the bull-fight.”
Montoya knocked on the door and opened it. It was a gloomy room with a little light coming in from the window on the narrow street. There were two beds separated by a monastic partition. The electric light was on. The boy stood very straight and unsmiling in his bull-fighting clothes. His jacket hung over the back of a chair. They were just finishing winding his sash. His black hair shone under the electric light. He wore a white linen shirt and the sword-handler finished his sash and stood up and stepped back. Pedro Romero nodded, seeming very far away and dignified when we shook hands. Montoya said something about what great aficionados we were, and that we wanted to wish him luck. Romero listened very seriously. Then he turned to me. He was the best-looking boy I have ever seen.
“You go to the bull-fight,” he said in English.
“You know English,” I said, feeling like an idiot.
“No,” he answered, and smiled.
One of three men who had been sitting on the beds came up and asked us if we spoke French. “Would you like me to interpret for you? Is there anything you would like to ask Pedro Romero?”
We thanked him. What was there that you would like to ask? The boy was nineteen years old, alone except for his sword-handler, and the three hangers-on, and the bull-fight was to commence in twenty minutes. We wished him “Mucha suerte,” shook hands, and went out. He was standing, straight and handsome and altogether by himself, alone in the room with the hangers-on as we shut the door.
“He’s a fine boy, don’t you think so?” Montoya asked.
“He’s a good-looking kid,” I said.
“He looks like a torero,” Montoya said. “He has the type.”
“He’s a fine boy.”
“We’ll see how he is in the ring,” Montoya said.
We found the big leather wine-bottle leaning against the wall in my room, took it and the field-glasses, locked the door, and went down-stairs.
It was a good bull-fight. Bill and I were very excited about Pedro Romero. Montoya was sitting about ten places away. After Romero had killed his first bull Montoya caught my eye and nodded his head. This was a real one. There had not been a real one for a long time. Of the other two matadors, one was very fair and the other was passable. But there was no comparison with Romero, although neither of his bulls was much.
Several times during the bull-fight I looked up at Mike and Brett and Cohn, with the glasses. They seemed to be all right. Brett did not look upset. All three were leaning forward on the concrete railing in front of them.
“Let me take the glasses,” Bill said.
“Does Cohn look bored?” I asked.
Outside the ring, after the bull-fight was over, you could not move in the crowd. We could not make our way through but had to be moved with the whole thing, slowly, as a glacier, back to town. We had that disturbed emotional feeling that always comes after a bull-fight, and the feeling of elation that comes after a good bull-fight. The fiesta was going on. The drums pounded and the pipe music was shrill, and everywhere the flow of the crowd was broken by patches of dancers. The dancers were in a crowd, so you did not see the intricate play of the feet. All you saw was the heads and shoulders going up and down, up and down. Finally, we got out of the crowd and made for the café. The waiter saved chairs for the others, and we each ordered an absinthe and watched the crowd in the square and the dancers.
“What do you suppose that dance is?” Bill asked.
“It’s a sort of jota.”
“They’re not all the same,” Bill said. “They dance differently to all the different tunes.”
“It’s swell dancing.”
In front of us on a clear part of the street a company of boys were dancing. The steps were very intricate and their faces were intent and concentrated. They all looked down while they danced. Their rope-soled shoes tapped and spatted on the pavement. The toes touched. The heels touched. The balls of the feet touched. Then the music broke wildly and the step was finished and they were all dancing on up the street.
“Here come the gentry,” Bill said.
They were crossing the street
“Hello, men,” I said.
“Hello, gents!” said Brett. “You saved us seats? How nice.”
“I say,” Mike said, “that Romero what’shisname is somebody. Am I wrong?”
“Oh, isn’t he lovely,” Brett said. “And those green trousers.”
“Brett never took her eyes off them.”
“I say, I must borrow your glasses to-morrow.”
“How did it go?”
“Wonderfully! Simply perfect. I say, it is a spectacle!”
“How about the horses?”
“I couldn’t help looking at them.”
“She couldn’t take her eyes off them,” Mike said. “She’s an extraordinary wench.”
“They do have some rather awful things happen to them,” Brett said. “I couldn’t look away, though.”
“Did you feel all right?”
“I didn’t feel badly at all.”
“Robert Cohn did,” Mike put in. “You were quite green, Robert.”
“The first horse did bother me,” Cohn said.
“You weren’t bored, were you?” asked Bill.
“No. I wasn’t bored. I wish you’d forgive me that.”
“It’s all right,” Bill said, “so long as you weren’t bored.”
“He didn’t look bored,” Mike said. “I thought he was going to be sick.”
“I never felt that bad. It was just for a minute.”
“I thought he was going to be sick. You weren’t bored, were you, Robert?”
“Let up on that, Mike. I said I was sorry I said it.”
“He was, you know. He was positively green.”
“Oh, shove it along, Michael.”
“You mustn’t ever get bored at your first bull-fight, Robert,” Mike said. “It might make such a mess.”
“Oh, shove it along, Michael,” Brett said.
“He said Brett was a sadist,” Mike said. “Brett’s not a sadist. She’s just a lovely, healthy wench.”
“Are you a sadist, Brett?” I asked.
“He said Brett was a sadist just because she has a good, healthy stomach.”
“Won’t be healthy long.”
Bill got Mike started on something else than Cohn. The waiter brought the absinthe glasses.
“Did you really like it?” Bill asked Cohn.
“No, I can’t say I liked it. I think it’s a wonderful show.”
“Gad, yes! What a spectacle!” Brett said.
“I wish they didn’t have the horse part,” Cohn said.
“They’re not important,” Bill said. “After a while you never notice anything disgusting.”
“It is a bit strong just at the start,” Brett said. “There’s a dreadful moment for me just when the bull starts for the horse.”
“The bulls were fine,” Cohn said.
“They were very good,” Mike said.
“I want to sit down below, next time.” Brett drank from her glass of absinthe.
“She wants to see the bull-fighters close by,” Mike said.
“They are something,” Brett said. “That Romero lad is just a child.”
“He’s a damned good-looking boy,” I said. “When we were up in his room I never saw a better-looking kid.”
“How old do you suppose he is?”
“Nineteen or twenty.”
“Just imagine it.”
The bull-fight on the second day was much better than on the first. Brett sat between Mike and me at the barrera, and Bill and Cohn went up above. Romero was the whole show. I do not think Brett saw any other bull-fighter. No one else did either, except the hard-shelled technicians. It was all Romero. There were two other matadors, but they did not count. I sat beside Brett and explained to Brett what it was all about. I told her about watching the bull, not the horse, when the bulls charged the picadors, and got her to watching the picador place the point of his pic so that she saw what it was all about, so that it became more something that was going on with a definite end, and less of a spectacle with unexplained horrors. I had her watch how Romero took the bull away from a fallen horse with his cape, and how he held him with the cape and turned him, smoothly and suavely, never wasting the bull. She saw how Romero avoided every brusque movement and saved his bulls for the last when he wanted them, not winded and discomposed but smoothly worn down. She saw how close Romero always worked to the bull, and I pointed out to her the tricks the other bull-fighters used to make it look as though they were working closely. She saw why she liked Romero’s cape-work and why she did not like the others.
Romero never made any contortions, always it was straight and pure and natural in line. The others twisted themselves like corkscrews, their elbows raised, and leaned against the flanks of the bull after his horns had passed, to give a faked look of danger. Afterward, all that was faked turned bad and gave an unpleasant feeling. Romero’s bull-fighting gave real emotion, because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time. He did not have to emphasize their closeness. Brett saw how something that was beautiful done close to the bull was ridiculous if it were done a little way off. I told her how since the death of Joselito all the bull-fighters had been developing a technic that simulated this appearance of danger in order to give a fake emotional feeling, while the bull-fighter was really safe. Romero had the old thing, the holding of his purity of line through the maximum of exposure, while he dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing.
“I’ve never seen him do an awkward thing,” Brett said.
“You won’t until he gets frightened,” I said.
“He’ll never be frightened,” Mike said. “He knows too damned much.”
“He knew everything when he started. The others can’t ever learn what he was born with.”
“And God, what looks,” Brett said.
“I believe, you know, that she’s falling in love with this bull-fighter chap,” Mike said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Be a good chap, Jake. Don’t tell her anything more about him. Tell her how they beat their old mothers.”
“Tell me what drunks they are.”
“Oh, frightful,” Mike said. “Drunk all day and spend all their time beating their poor old mothers.”
“He looks that way,” Brett said.
“Doesn’t he?” I said.
They had hitched the mules to the dead bull and then the whips cracked, the men ran, and the mules, straining forward, their legs pushing, broke into a gallop, and the bull, one horn up, his head on its side, swept a swath smoothly across the sand and out the red gate.
“This next is the last one.”
“Not really,” Brett said. She leaned forward on the barrera. Romero waved his picadors to their places, then stood, his cape against his chest, looking across the ring to where the bull would come out.
After it was over we went out and were pressed tight in the crowd.
“These bull-fights are hell on one,” Brett said. “I’m limp as a rag.”
“Oh, you’ll get a drink,” Mike said.
The next day Pedro Romero did not fight. It was Miura bulls, and a very bad bull-fight. The next day there was no bull-fight scheduled. But all day and all night the fiesta kept on.