At noon we were all at the café. It was crowded. We were eating shrimps and drinking beer. The town was crowded. Every street was full. Big motor-cars from Biarritz and San Sebastian kept driving up and parking around the square. They brought people for the bull-fight. Sight-seeing cars came up, too. There was one with twenty-five Englishwomen in it. They sat in the big, white car and looked through their glasses at the fiesta. The dancers were all quite drunk. It was the last day of the fiesta.
The fiesta was solid and unbroken, but the motor-cars and tourist-cars made little islands of onlookers. When the cars emptied, the onlookers were absorbed into the crowd. You did not see them again except as sport clothes, odd-looking at a table among the closely packed peasants in black smocks. The fiesta absorbed even the Biarritz English so that you did not see them unless you passed close to a table. All the time there was music in the street. The drums kept on pounding and the pipes were going. Inside the cafés men with their hands gripping the table, or on each other’s shoulders, were singing the hard-voiced singing.
“Here comes Brett,” Bill said.
I looked and saw her coming through the crowd in the square, walking, her head up, as though the fiesta were being staged in her honor, and she found it pleasant and amusing.
“Hello, you chaps!” she said. “I say, I have a thirst.”
“Get another big beer,” Bill said to the waiter.
“Is Cohn gone?” Brett asked.
“Yes,” Bill said. “He hired a car.”
The beer came. Brett started to lift the glass mug and her hand shook. She saw it and smiled, and leaned forward and took a long sip.
“Very good,” I said. I was nervous about Mike. I did not think he had slept. He must have been drinking all the time, but he seemed to be under control.
“I heard Cohn had hurt you, Jake,” Brett said.
“No. Knocked me out. That was all.”
“I say, he did hurt Pedro Romero,” Brett said. “He hurt him most badly.”
“How is he?”
“He’ll be all right. He won’t go out of the room.”
“Does he look badly?”
“Very. He was really hurt. I told him I wanted to pop out and see you chaps for a minute.”
“Is he going to fight?”
“Rather. I’m going with you, if you don’t mind.”
“How’s your boy friend?” Mike asked. He had not listened to anything that Brett had said.
“Brett’s got a bull-fighter,” he said. “She had a Jew named Cohn, but he turned out badly.”
Brett stood up.
“I am not going to listen to that sort of rot from you, Michael.”
“How’s your boy friend?”
“Damned well,” Brett said. “Watch him this afternoon.”
“Brett’s got a bull-fighter,” Mike said. “A beautiful, bloody bull-fighter.”
“Would you mind walking over with me? I want to talk to you, Jake.”
“Tell him all about your bull-fighter,” Mike said. “Oh, to hell with your bull-fighter!” He tipped the table so that all the beers and the dish of shrimps went over in a crash.
“Come on,” Brett said. “Let’s get out of this.”
In the crowd crossing the square I said: “How is it?”
“I’m not going to see him after lunch until the fight. His people come in and dress him. They’re very angry about me, he says.”
Brett was radiant. She was happy. The sun was out and the day was bright.
“I feel altogether changed,” Brett said. “You’ve no idea, Jake.”
“Anything you want me to do?”
“No, just go to the fight with me.”
“We’ll see you at lunch?”
“No. I’m eating with him.”
We were standing under the arcade at the door of the hotel. They were carrying tables out and setting them up under the arcade.
“Want to take a turn out to the park?” Brett asked. “I don’t want to go up yet. I fancy he’s sleeping.”
We walked along past the theatre and out of the square and along through the barracks of the fair, moving with the crowd between the lines of booths. We came out on a cross-street that led to the Paseo de Sarasate. We could see the crowd walking there, all the fashionably dressed people. They were making the turn at the upper end of the park.
“Don’t let’s go there,” Brett said. “I don’t want staring at just now.”
We stood in the sunlight. It was hot and good after the rain and the clouds from the sea.
“I hope the wind goes down,” Brett said. “It’s very bad for him.”
“So do I.”
“He says the bulls are all right.”
“Is that San Fermin’s?”
Brett looked at the yellow wall of the chapel.
“Yes. Where the show started on Sunday.”
“Let’s go in. Do you mind? I’d rather like to pray a little for him or something.”
We went in through the heavy leather door that moved very lightly. It was dark inside. Many people were praying. You saw them as your eyes adjusted themselves to the half-light. We knelt at one of the long wooden benches. After a little I felt Brett stiffen beside me, and saw she was looking straight ahead.
“Come on,” she whispered throatily. “Let’s get out of here. Makes me damned nervous.”
Outside in the hot brightness of the street Brett looked up at the tree-tops in the wind. The praying had not been much of a success.
“Don’t know why I get so nervy in church,” Brett said. “Never does me any good.”
We walked along.
“I’m damned bad for a religious atmosphere,” Brett said. “I’ve the wrong type of face.
“You know,” Brett said, “I’m not worried about him at all. I just feel happy about him.”
“I wish the wind would drop, though.”
“It’s liable to go down by five o’clock.”
“You might pray,” I laughed.
“Never does me any good. I’ve never gotten anything I prayed for. Have you?”
“Oh, rot,” said Brett. “Maybe it works for some people, though. You don’t look very religious, Jake.”
“I’m pretty religious.”
“Oh, rot,” said Brett. “Don’t start proselyting to-day. To-day’s going to be bad enough as it is.”
It was the first time I had seen her in the old happy, careless way since before she went off with Cohn. We were back again in front of the hotel. All the tables were set now, and already several were filled with people eating.
“Do look after Mike,” Brett said. “Don’t let him get too bad.”
“Your frients haff gone up-stairs,” the German maître d’hôtel said in English. He was a continual eavesdropper. Brett turned to him:
“Thank you, so much. Have you anything else to say?”
“Good,” said Brett.
“Save us a table for three,” I said to the German. He smiled his dirty little pink-and-white smile.
“Iss madam eating here?”
“No,” Brett said.
“Den I think a tabul for two will be enuff.”
“Don’t talk to him,” Brett said. “Mike must have been in bad shape,” she said on the stairs. We passed Montoya on the stairs. He bowed and did not smile.
“I’ll see you at the café,” Brett said. “Thank you, so much, Jake.”
We had stopped at the floor our rooms were on. She went straight down the hall and into Romero’s room. She did not knock. She simply opened the door, went in, and closed it behind her.
I stood in front of the door of Mike’s room and knocked. There was no answer. I tried the knob and it opened. Inside the room was in great disorder. All the bags were opened and clothing was strewn around. There were empty bottles beside the bed. Mike lay on the bed looking like a death mask of himself. He opened his eyes and looked at me.
“Hello, Jake,” he said very slowly. “I’m getting a lit tle sleep. I’ve want ed a lit tle sleep for a long time.”
“Let me cover you over.”
“No. I’m quite warm.”
“Don’t go. I have n’t got ten to sleep yet.”
“You’ll sleep, Mike. Don’t worry, boy.”
“Brett’s got a bull-fighter,” Mike said. “But her Jew has gone away.”
He turned his head and looked at me.
“Damned good thing, what?”
“Yes. Now go to sleep, Mike. You ought to get some sleep.”
“I’m just start ing. I’m go ing to get a lit tle sleep.”
He shut his eyes. I went out of the room and turned the door to quietly. Bill was in my room reading the paper.
“Let’s go and eat.”
“I won’t eat down-stairs with that German head waiter. He was damned snotty when I was getting Mike up-stairs.”
“He was snotty to us, too.”
“Let’s go out and eat in the town.”
We went down the stairs. On the stairs we passed a girl coming up with a covered tray.
“There goes Brett’s lunch,” Bill said.
“And the kid’s,” I said.
Outside on the terrace under the arcade the German head waiter came up. His red cheeks were shiny. He was being polite.
“I haff a tabul for two for you gentlemen,” he said.
“Go sit at it,” Bill said. We went on out across the street.
We ate at a restaurant in a side street off the square. They were all men eating in the restaurant. It was full of smoke and drinking and singing. The food was good and so was the wine. We did not talk much. Afterward we went to the café and watched the fiesta come to the boiling-point. Brett came over soon after lunch. She said she had looked in the room and that Mike was asleep.
When the fiesta boiled over and toward the bull-ring we went with the crowd. Brett sat at the ringside between Bill and me. Directly below us was the callejon, the passageway between the stands and the red fence of the barrera. Behind us the concrete stands filled solidly. Out in front, beyond the red fence, the sand of the ring was smooth-rolled and yellow. It looked a little heavy from the rain, but it was dry in the sun and firm and smooth. The sword-handlers and bull-ring servants came down the callejon carrying on their shoulders the wicker baskets of fighting capes and muletas. They were bloodstained and compactly folded and packed in the baskets. The sword-handlers opened the heavy leather sword-cases so the red wrapped hilts of the sheaf of swords showed as the leather case leaned against the fence. They unfolded the dark-stained red flannel of the muletas and fixed batons in them to spread the stuff and give the matador something to hold. Brett watched it all. She was absorbed in the professional details.
“He’s his name stencilled on all the capes and muletas,” she said. “Why do they call them muletas?”
“I don’t know.”
“I wonder if they ever launder them.”
“I don’t think so. It might spoil the color.”
“The blood must stiffen them,” Bill said.
“Funny,” Brett said. “How one doesn’t mind the blood.”
Below in the narrow passage of the callejon the sword-handlers arranged everything. All the seats were full. Above, all the boxes were full. There was not an empty seat except in the President’s box. When he came in the fight would start. Across the smooth sand, in the high doorway that led into the corrals, the bull-fighters were standing, their arms furled in their capes, talking, waiting for the signal to march in across the arena. Brett was watching them with the glasses.
“Here, would you like to look?”
I looked through the glasses and saw the three matadors. Romero was in the centre, Belmonte on his left, Marcial on his right. Back of them were their people, and behind the banderilleros, back in the passageway and in the open space of the corral, I saw the picadors. Romero was wearing a black suit. His tricornered hat was low down over his eyes. I could not see his face clearly under the hat, but it looked badly marked. He was looking straight ahead. Marcial was smoking a cigarette guardedly, holding it in his hand. Belmonte looked ahead, his face wan and yellow, his long wolf jaw out. He was looking at nothing. Neither he nor Romero seemed to have anything in common with the others. They were all alone. The President came in; there was handclapping above us in the grand stand, and I handed the glasses to Brett. There was applause. The music started. Brett looked through the glasses.
“Here, take them,” she said.
Through the glasses I saw Belmonte speak to Romero. Marcial straightened up and dropped his cigarette, and, looking straight ahead, their heads back, their free arms swinging, the three matadors walked out. Behind them came all the procession, opening out, all striding in step, all the capes furled, everybody with free arms swinging, and behind rode the picadors, their pics rising like lances. Behind all came the two trains of mules and the bull-ring servants. The matadors bowed, holding their hats on, before the President’s box, and then came over to the barrera below us. Pedro Romero took off his heavy gold-brocaded cape and handed it over the fence to his sword-handler. He said something to the sword-handler. Close below us we saw Romero’s lips were puffed, both eyes were discolored. His face was discolored and swollen. The sword-handler took the cape, looked up at Brett, and came over to us and handed up the cape.
“Spread it out in front of you,” I said.
Brett leaned forward. The cape was heavy and smoothly stiff with gold. The sword-handler looked back, shook his head, and said something. A man beside me leaned over toward Brett.
“He doesn’t want you to spread it,” he said. “You should fold it and keep it in your lap.”
Brett folded the heavy cape.
Romero did not look up at us. He was speaking to Belmonte. Belmonte had sent his formal cape over to some friends. He looked across at them and smiled, his wolf smile that was only with the mouth. Romero leaned over the barrera and asked for the water-jug. The sword-handler brought it and Romero poured water over the percale of his fighting-cape, and then scuffed the lower folds in the sand with his slippered foot.
“What’s that for?” Brett asked.
“To give it weight in the wind.”
“His face looks bad,” Bill said.
“He feels very badly,” Brett said. “He should be in bed.”
The first bull was Belmonte’s. Belmonte was very good. But because he got thirty thousand pesetas and people had stayed in line all night to buy tickets to see him, the crowd demanded that he should be more than very good. Belmonte’s great attraction is working close to the bull. In bull-fighting they speak of the terrain of the bull and the terrain of the bull-fighter. As long as a bull-fighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively safe. Each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger. Belmonte, in his best days, worked always in the terrain of the bull. This way he gave the sensation of coming tragedy. People went to the corrida to see Belmonte, to be given tragic sensations, and perhaps to see the death of Belmonte. Fifteen years ago they said if you wanted to see Belmonte you should go quickly, while he was still alive. Since then he has killed more than a thousand bulls. When he retired the legend grew up about how his bull-fighting had been, and when he came out of retirement the public were disappointed because no real man could work as close to the bulls as Belmonte was supposed to have done, not, of course, even Belmonte.
Also Belmonte imposed conditions and insisted that his bulls should not be too large, nor too dangerously armed with horns, and so the element that was necessary to give the sensation of tragedy was not there, and the public, who wanted three times as much from Belmonte, who was sick with a fistula, as Belmonte had ever been able to give, felt defrauded and cheated, and Belmonte’s jaw came further out in contempt, and his face turned yellower, and he moved with greater difficulty as his pain increased, and finally the crowd were actively against him, and he was utterly contemptuous and indifferent. He had meant to have a great afternoon, and instead it was an afternoon of sneers, shouted insults, and finally a volley of cushions and pieces of bread and vegetables, thrown down at him in the plaza where he had had his greatest triumphs. His jaw only went further out. Sometimes he turned to smile that toothed, long-jawed, lipless smile when he was called something particularly insulting, and always the pain that any movement produced grew stronger and stronger, until finally his yellow face was parchment color, and after his second bull was dead and the throwing of bread and cushions was over, after he had saluted the President with the same wolf-jawed smile and contemptuous eyes, and handed his sword over the barrera to be wiped, and put back in its case, he passed through into the callejon and leaned on the barrera below us, his head on his arms, not seeing, not hearing anything, only going through his pain. When he looked up, finally, he asked for a drink of water. He swallowed a little, rinsed his mouth, spat the water, took his cape, and went back into the ring.
Because they were against Belmonte the public were for Romero. From the moment he left the barrera and went toward the bull they applauded him. Belmonte watched Romero, too, watched him always without seeming to. He paid no attention to Marcial. Marcial was the sort of thing he knew all about. He had come out of retirement to compete with Marcial, knowing it was a competition gained in advance. He had expected to compete with Marcial and the other stars of the decadence of bull-fighting, and he knew that the sincerity of his own bull-fighting would be so set off by the false æsthetics of the bull-fighters of the decadent period that he would only have to be in the ring. His return from retirement had been spoiled by Romero. Romero did always, smoothly, calmly, and beautifully, what he, Belmonte, could only bring himself to do now sometimes. The crowd felt it, even the people from Biarritz, even the American ambassador saw it, finally. It was a competition that Belmonte would not enter because it would lead only to a bad horn wound or death. Belmonte was no longer well enough. He no longer had his greatest moments in the bull-ring. He was not sure that there were any great moments. Things were not the same and now life only came in flashes. He had flashes of the old greatness with his bulls, but they were not of value because he had discounted them in advance when he had picked the bulls out for their safety, getting out of a motor and leaning on a fence, looking over at the herd on the ranch of his friend the bull-breeder. So he had two small, manageable bulls without much horns, and when he felt the greatness again coming, just a little of it through the pain that was always with him, it had been discounted and sold in advance, and it did not give him a good feeling. It was the greatness, but it did not make bull-fighting wonderful to him any more.
Pedro Romero had the greatness. He loved bull-fighting, and I think he loved the bulls, and I think he loved Brett. Everything of which he could control the locality he did in front of her all that afternoon. Never once did he look up. He made it stronger that way, and did it for himself, too, as well as for her. Because he did not look up to ask if it pleased he did it all for himself inside, and it strengthened him, and yet he did it for her, too. But he did not do it for her at any loss to himself. He gained by it all through the afternoon.
His 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 down 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 bull’s 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 the long hickory shaft into the hump of muscle on the bull’s shoulder, and pulled his horse sideways as he pivoted on the pic, making a wound, enforcing the iron into the bull’s 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 bull’s tail went up and he charged, and Romero moved his arms ahead of the bull, wheeling, his feet firmed. 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 Romero’s cape filled again, this time on the other side. Each time he let the bull pass so close that the man and the bull 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 away.
In his own bulls 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. Nothing very fine could happen with a bull that could not see the lures, but the President would not order him replaced.
“Why don’t they change him?” Brett asked.
“They’ve paid for him. They don’t want to lose their money.”
“It’s hardly fair to Romero.”
“Watch how he handles a bull that can’t see the color.”
“It’s the sort of thing I don’t 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 bull’s 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 bull’s charge from his own body to the flannel. They preferred Belmonte’s imitation of himself or Marcial’s imitation of Belmonte. There were three of them in the row behind us.
“What’s he afraid of the bull for? The bull’s so dumb he only goes after the cloth.”
“He’s just a young bull-fighter. He hasn’t learned it yet.”
“But I thought he was fine with the cape before.”
“Probably he’s 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 watching 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 at little, almost imperceptible, jerk that so offended the critical judgment of the Biarritz bull-fight experts.
“He’s going to kill now,” I said to Brett. “The bull’s still strong. He wouldn’t wear himself out.”
Out in the centre 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. Romero’s left hand dropped the muleta over the bull’s 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 bull’s 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 President’s 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 Romero’s last bull came in. It was the bull that had sprinted out and killed the man in the morning running.
During Romero’s first bull his hurt face 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 in bulls.
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 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 along 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 Romero’s older brother leaned forward behind him and drove a short knife into the bull’s neck at the base of the horns. The first time he missed. He drove the knife in again, and the bull went over, twitching and rigid. Romero’s brother, holding the bull’s horn in one hand, the knife in the other, looked up at the President’s 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 a little circle 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.
“Don’t get bloody,” Romero said, and grinned. The crowd wanted him. Several boys shouted at Brett. The crowd was the boys, the dancers, and 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 people’s shoulders. But they held him and lifted him. It was uncomfortable and his legs were spraddled and his body was very sore. They were lifting him and all running toward the gate. He had his hand on somebody’s shoulder. He looked around at us apologetically. The crowd, running, went out the gate with him.
We all three went back to the hotel. Brett went up-stairs. Bill and I sat in the down-stairs dining-room and ate some hard-boiled eggs and drank several bottles of beer. Belmonte came down in his street clothes with his manager and two other men. They sat at the next table and ate. Belmonte ate very little. They were leaving on the seven o’clock train for Barcelona. Belmonte wore a blue-striped shirt and a dark suit, and ate soft-boiled eggs. The others ate a big meal. Belmonte did not talk. He only answered questions.
Bill was tired after the bull-fight. So was I. We both took a bull-fight very hard. We sat and ate the eggs and I watched Belmonte and the people at his table. The men with him were tough-looking and businesslike.
“Come on over to the café,” Bill said. “I want an absinthe.”
It was the last day of the fiesta. Outside it was beginning to be cloudy again. The square was full of people and the fireworks experts were making up their set pieces for the night and covering them over with beech branches. Boys were watching. We passed stands of rockets with long bamboo stems. Outside the café there was a great crowd. The music and the dancing were going on. The giants and the dwarfs were passing.
“Where’s Edna?” I asked Bill.
“I don’t know.”
We watched the beginning of the evening of the last night of the fiesta. The absinthe made everything seem better. I drank it without sugar in the dripping glass, and it was pleasantly bitter.
“I feel sorry about Cohn,” Bill said. “He had an awful time.”
“Oh, to hell with Cohn,” I said.
“Where do you suppose he went?”
“Up to Paris.”
“What do you suppose he’ll do?”
“Oh, to hell with him.”
“What do you suppose he’ll do?”
“Pick up with his old girl, probably.”
“Who was his old girl?”
“Somebody named Frances.”
We had another absinthe.
“When do you go back?” I asked.
After a little while Bill said: “Well, it was a swell fiesta.”
“Yes,” I said; “something doing all the time.”
“You wouldn’t believe it. It’s like a wonderful nightmare.”
“Sure,” I said. “I’d believe anything. Including nightmares.”
“What’s the matter? Feel low?”
“Low as hell.”
“Have another absinthe. Here, waiter! Another absinthe for this señor.”
“I feel like hell,” I said.
“Drink that,” said Bill. “Drink it slow.”
It was beginning to get dark. The fiesta was going on. I began to feel drunk but I did not feel any better.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel like hell.”
“It won’t do any good.”
“Try it. You can’t tell; maybe this is the one that gets it. Hey, waiter! Another absinthe for this señor!”
I poured the water directly into it and stirred it instead of letting it drip. Bill put in a lump of ice. I stirred the ice around with a spoon in the brownish, cloudy mixture.
“How is it?”
“Don’t drink it fast that way. It will make you sick.”
I set down the glass. I had not meant to drink it fast.
“I feel tight.”
“You ought to.”
“That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”
“Sure. Get tight. Get over your damn depression.”
“Well, I’m tight. Is that what you want?”
“I won’t sit down,” I said. “I’m going over to the hotel.”
I was very drunk. I was drunker than I ever remembered having been. At the hotel I went up-stairs. Brett’s door was open. I put my head in the room. Mike was sitting on the bed. He waved a bottle.
“Jake,” he said. “Come in, Jake.”
I went in and sat down. The room was unstable unless I looked at some fixed point.
“Brett, you know. She’s gone off with the bull-fighter chap.”
“Yes. She looked for you to say good-bye. They went on the seven o’clock train.”
“Bad thing to do,” Mike said. “She shouldn’t have done it.”
“Have a drink? Wait while I ring for some beer.”
“I’m drunk,” I said. “I’m going in and lie down.”
“Are you blind? I was blind myself.”
“Yes,” I said, “I’m blind.”
“Well, bung-o,” Mike said. “Get some sleep, old Jake.”
I went out the door and into my own room and lay on the bed. The bed went sailing off and I sat up in bed and looked at the wall to make it stop. Outside in the square the fiesta was going on. It did not mean anything. Later Bill and Mike came in to get me to go down and eat with them. I pretended to be asleep.
“He’s asleep. Better let him alone.”
“He’s blind as a tick,” Mike said. They went out.
I got up and went to the balcony and looked out at the dancing in the square. The world was not wheeling any more. It was just very clear and bright, and inclined to blur at the edges. I washed, brushed my hair. I looked strange to myself in the glass, and went down-stairs to the dining-room.
“Here he is!” said Bill. “Good old Jake! I knew you wouldn’t pass out.”
“Hello, you old drunk,” Mike said.
“I got hungry and woke up.”
“Eat some soup,” Bill said.
The three of us sat at the table, and it seemed as though about six people were missing.