“It’s not too late, old man,” Bardwell said, almost in a whisper.
“By God! I wish I weren’t a coward!” was Trefethan’s answering cry. “I could go back to her. She’s there, now. I could shape up and live many a long year… with her… up there. To remain here is to commit suicide. But I am an old man – forty-seven – look at me. The trouble is,” he lifted his glass and glanced at it, “the trouble is that suicide of this sort is so easy. I am soft and tender. The thought of the long day’s travel with the dogs appalls me; the thought of the keen frost in the morning and of the frozen sled-lashings frightens me – ”
Automatically the glass was creeping toward his lips. With a swift surge of anger he made as if to crash it down upon the floor. Next came hesitancy and second thought. The glass moved upward to his lips and paused. He laughed harshly and bitterly, but his words were solemn:
“Well, here’s to the Night-Born. She WAS a wonder.”
THE MADNESS OF JOHN HARNED
I TELL this for a fact. It happened in the bull-ring at Quito. I sat in the box with John Harned, and with Maria Valenzuela, and with Luis Cervallos. I saw it happen. I saw it all from first to last. I was on the steamer Ecuadore from Panama to Guayaquil. Maria Valenzuela is my cousin. I have known her always. She is very beautiful. I am a Spaniard – an Ecuadoriano, true, but I am descended from Pedro Patino, who was one of Pizarro’s captains. They were brave men. They were heroes. Did not Pizarro lead three hundred and fifty Spanish cavaliers and four thousand Indians into the far Cordilleras in search of treasure? And did not all the four thousand Indians and three hundred of the brave cavaliers die on that vain quest? But Pedro Patino did not die. He it was that lived to found the family of the Patino. I am Ecuadoriano, true, but I am Spanish. I am Manuel de Jesus Patino. I own many haciendas, and ten thousand Indians are my slaves, though the law says they are free men who work by freedom of contract. The law is a funny thing. We Ecuadorianos laugh at it. It is our law. We make it for ourselves. I am Manuel de Jesus Patino. Remember that name. It will be written some day in history. There are revolutions in Ecuador. We call them elections. It is a good joke is it not? – what you call a pun?
John Harned was an American. I met him first at the Tivoli hotel in Panama. He had much money – this I have heard. He was going to Lima, but he met Maria Valenzuela in the Tivoli hotel. Maria Valenzuela is my cousin, and she is beautiful. It is true, she is the most beautiful woman in Ecuador. But also is she most beautiful in every country – in Paris, in Madrid, in New York, in Vienna. Always do all men look at her, and John Harned looked long at her at Panama. He loved her, that I know for a fact. She was Ecuadoriano, true – but she was of all countries; she was of all the world. She spoke many languages. She sang – ah! like an artiste. Her smile – wonderful, divine. Her eyes – ah! have I not seen men look in her eyes? They were what you English call amazing. They were promises of paradise. Men drowned themselves in her eyes.
Maria Valenzuela was rich – richer than I, who am accounted very rich in Ecuador. But John Harned did not care for her money. He had a heart – a funny heart. He was a fool. He did not go to Lima. He left the steamer at Guayaquil and followed her to Quito. She was coming home from Europe and other places. I do not see what she found in him, but she liked him. This I know for a fact, else he would not have followed her to Quito. She asked him to come. Well do I remember the occasion. She said:
“Come to Quito and I will show you the bullfight – brave, clever, magnificent!”
But he said: “I go to Lima, not Quito. Such is my passage engaged on the steamer.”
“You travel for pleasure – no?” said Maria Valenzuela; and she looked at him as only Maria Valenzuela could look, her eyes warm with the promise.
And he came. No; he did not come for the bull-fight. He came because of what he had seen in her eyes. Women like Maria Valenzuela are born once in a hundred years. They are of no country and no time. They are what you call goddesses. Men fall down at their feet. They play with men and run them through their pretty fingers like sand. Cleopatra was such a woman they say; and so was Circe. She turned men into swine. Ha! ha! It is true – no?
It all came about because Maria Valenzuela said:
“You English people are – what shall I say? – savage – no? You prize-fight. Two men each hit the other with their fists till their eyes are blinded and their noses are broken. Hideous! And the other men who look on cry out loudly and are made glad. It is barbarous – no?”
“But they are men,” said John Harned; “and they prize-fight out of desire. No one makes them prize-fight. They do it because they desire it more than anything else in the world.”
Maria Valenzuela – there was scorn in her smile as she said: “They kill each other often – is it not so? I have read it in the papers.”
“But the bull,” said John Harned.
“The bull is killed many times in the bull-fight, and the bull does not come into the the ring out of desire. It is not fair to the bull. He is compelled to fight. But the man in the prize-fight – no; he is not compelled.”
“He is the more brute therefore,” said Maria Valenzuela.
“He is savage. He is primitive. He is animal. He strikes with his paws like a bear from a cave, and he is ferocious. But the bull-fight – ah! You have not seen the bullfight – no? The toreador is clever. He must have skill. He is modern. He is romantic. He is only a man, soft and tender, and he faces the wild bull in conflict. And he kills with a sword, a slender sword, with one thrust, so, to the heart of the great beast. It is delicious. It makes the heart beat to behold – the small man, the great beast, the wide level sand, the thousands that look on without breath; the great beast rushes to the attack, the small man stands like a statue; he does not move, he is unafraid, and in his hand is the slender sword flashing like silver in the sun; nearer and nearer rushes the great beast with its sharp horns, the man does not move, and then – so – the sword flashes, the thrust is made, to the heart, to the hilt, the bull falls to the sand and is dead, and the man is unhurt. It is brave. It is magnificent! Ah! – I could love the toreador. But the man of the prize-fight – he is the brute, the human beast, the savage primitive, the maniac that receives many blows in his stupid face and rejoices. Come to Quito and I will show you the brave sport of men, the toreador and the bull.”
But John Harned did not go to Quito for the bull-fight. He went because of Maria Valenzuela. He was a large man, more broad of shoulder than we Ecuadorianos, more tall, more heavy of limb and bone. True, he was larger of his own race. His eyes were blue, though I have seen them gray, and, sometimes, like cold steel. His features were large, too – not delicate like ours, and his jaw was very strong to look at. Also, his face was smooth-shaven like a priest’s. Why should a man feel shame for the hair on his face? Did not God put it there? Yes, I believe in God – I am not a pagan like many of you English. God is good. He made me an Ecuadoriano with ten thousand slaves. And when I die I shall go to God. Yes, the priests are right.
But John Harned. He was a quiet man. He talked always in a low voice, and he never moved his hands when he talked. One would have thought his heart was a piece of ice; yet did he have a streak of warm in his blood, for he followed Maria Valenzuela to Quito. Also, and for all that he talked low without moving his hands, he was an animal, as you shall see – the beast primitive, the stupid, ferocious savage of the long ago that dressed in wild skins and lived in the caves along with the bears and wolves.
Luis Cervallos is my friend, the best of Ecuadorianos. He owns three cacao plantations at Naranjito and Chobo. At Milagro is his big sugar plantation. He has large haciendas at Ambato and Latacunga, and down the coast is he interested in oil-wells. Also has he spent much money in planting rubber along the Guayas. He is modern, like the Yankee; and, like the Yankee, full of business. He has much money, but it is in many ventures, and ever he needs more money for new ventures and for the old ones. He has been everywhere and seen everything. When he was a very young man he was in the Yankee military academy what you call West Point. There was trouble. He was made to resign. He does not like Americans. But he did like Maria Valenzuela, who was of his own country. Also, he needed her money for his ventures and for his gold mine in Eastern Ecuador where the painted Indians live. I was his friend. It was my desire that he should marry Maria Valenzuela. Further, much of my money had I invested in his ventures, more so in his gold mine which was very rich but which first required the expense of much money before it would yield forth its riches. If Luis Cervallos married Maria Valenzuela I should have more money very immediately.
But John Harned followed Maria Valenzuela to Quito, and it was quickly clear to us – to Luis Cervallos and me that she looked upon John Harned with great kindness. It is said that a woman will have her will, but this is a case not in point, for Maria Valenzuela did not have her will – at least not with John Harned. Perhaps it would all have happened as it did, even if Luis Cervallos and I had not sat in the box that day at the bull-ring in Quito. But this I know: we DID sit in the box that day. And I shall tell you what happened.
The four of us were in the one box, guests of Luis Cervallos. I was next to the Presidente’s box. On the other side was the box of General Jose Eliceo Salazar. With him were Joaquin Endara and Urcisino Castillo, both generals, and Colonel Jacinto Fierro and Captain Baltazar de Echeverria. Only Luis Cervallos had the position and the influence to get that box next to the Presidente. I know for a fact that the Presidente himself expressed the desire to the management that Luis Cervallos should have that box.
The band finished playing the national hymn of Ecuador. The procession of the toreadors was over. The Presidente nodded to begin. The bugles blew, and the bull dashed in – you know the way, excited, bewildered, the darts in its shoulder burning like fire, itself seeking madly whatever enemy to destroy. The toreadors hid behind their shelters and waited. Suddenly they appeared forth, the capadores, five of them, from every side, their colored capes flinging wide. The bull paused at sight of such a generosity of enemies, unable in his own mind to know which to attack. Then advanced one of the capadors alone to meet the bull. The bull was very angry. With its fore-legs it pawed the sand of the arena till the dust rose all about it. Then it charged, with lowered head, straight for the lone capador.
It is always of interest, the first charge of the first bull. After a time it is natural that one should grow tired, trifle, that the keenness should lose its edge. But that first charge of the first bull! John Harned was seeing it for the first time, and he could not escape the excitement – the sight of the man, armed only with a piece of cloth, and of the bull rushing upon him across the sand with sharp horns, widespreading.
“See!” cried Maria Valenzuela. “Is it not superb?”
John Harned nodded, but did not look at her. His eyes were sparkling, and they were only for the bull-ring. The capador stepped to the side, with a twirl of the cape eluding the bull and spreading the cape on his own shoulders.
“What do you think?” asked Maria Venzuela. “Is it not a – what-you-call – sporting proposition – no?”
“It is certainly,” said John Harned. “It is very clever.”
She clapped her hands with delight. They were little hands. The audience applauded. The bull turned and came back. Again the capadore eluded him, throwing the cape on his shoulders, and again the audience applauded. Three times did this happen. The capadore was very excellent. Then he retired, and the other capadore played with the bull. After that they placed the banderillos in the bull, in the shoulders, on each side of the back-bone, two at a time. Then stepped forward Ordonez, the chief matador, with the long sword and the scarlet cape. The bugles blew for the death. He is not so good as Matestini. Still he is good, and with one thrust he drove the sword to the heart, and the bull doubled his legs under him and lay down and died. It was a pretty thrust, clean and sure; and there was much applause, and many of the common people threw their hats into the ring. Maria Valenzuela clapped her hands with the rest, and John Harned, whose cold heart was not touched by the event, looked at her with curiosity.
“You like it?” he asked.
“Always,” she said, still clapping her hands.
“From a little girl,” said Luis Cervallos. “I remember her first fight. She was four years old. She sat with her mother, and just like now she clapped her hands. She is a proper Spanish woman.
“You have seen it,” said Maria Valenzuela to John Harned, as they fastened the mules to the dead bull and dragged it out. “You have seen the bull-fight and you like it – no? What do you think?
“I think the bull had no chance,” he said. “The bull was doomed from the first. The issue was not in doubt. Every one knew, before the bull entered the ring, that it was to die. To be a sporting proposition, the issue must be in doubt. It was one stupid bull who had never fought a man against five wise men who had fought many bulls. It would be possibly a little bit fair if it were one man against one bull.”
“Or one man against five bulls,” said Maria Valenzuela; and we all laughed, and Luis Ceryallos laughed loudest.
“Yes,” said John Harned, “against five bulls, and the man, like the bulls, never in the bull ring before – a man like yourself, Senor Crevallos.”
“Yet we Spanish like the bull-fight,” said Luis Cervallos; and I swear the devil was whispering then in his ear, telling him to do that which I shall relate.
“Then must it be a cultivated taste,” John Harned made answer. “We kill bulls by the thousand every day in Chicago, yet no one cares to pay admittance to see.”
“That is butchery,” said I; “but this – ah, this is an art. It is delicate. It is fine. It is rare.”
“Not always,” said Luis Cervallos. “I have seen clumsy matadors, and I tell you it is not nice.”
He shuddered, and his face betrayed such what-you-call disgust, that I knew, then, that the devil was whispering and that he was beginning to play a part.
“Senor Harned may be right,” said Luis Cervallos. “It may not be fair to the bull. For is it not known to all of us that for twenty-four hours the bull is given no water, and that immediately before the fight he is permitted to drink his fill?”
“And he comes into the ring heavy with water?” said John Harned quickly; and I saw that his eyes were very gray and very sharp and very cold.
“It is necessary for the sport,” said Luis Cervallos. “Would you have the bull so strong that he would kill the toreadors?”
“I would that he had a fighting chance,” said John Harned, facing the ring to see the second bull come in.
It was not a good bull. It was frightened. It ran around the ring in search of a way to get out. The capadors stepped forth and flared their capes, but he refused to charge upon them.
“It is a stupid bull,” said Maria Valenzuela.