Continuation of Pilar's story from Excerpt 2-2 (Chapter 10)
“After Don Benito no one would come out. There was no noise now in the plaza as all were waiting to see who it was that would come out. Then a drunkard shouted in a great voice, ‘Qué salga el toro! Let the bull out!’
“Then some one from by the windows of the Ayuntamiento yelled, ‘They won’t move! They are all praying!’
“Another drunkard shouted, ‘Pull them out. Come on, pull them out. The time for praying is finished.’
“But none came out and then I saw a man coming out of the door.
“It was Don Federico Gonzalez, who owned the mill and feed store and was a fascist of the first order. He was tall and thin and his hair was brushed over the top of his head from one side to the other to cover a baldness and he wore a nightshirt that was tucked into his trousers. He was barefooted as when he had been taken from his home and he walked ahead of Pablo holding his hands above his head, and Pablo walked behind him with the barrels of his shotgun pressing against the back of Don Federico Gonzalez until Don Federico entered the double line. But when Pablo left him and returned to the door of the Ayuntamiento, Don Federico could not walk forward, and stood there, his eyes turned up to heaven and his hands reaching up as though they would grasp the sky.
“‘He has no legs to walk,’ some one said.
“‘What’s the matter, Don Federico? Can’t you walk?’ some one shouted to him. But Don Federico stood there with his hands up and only his lips were moving.
“‘Get on,’ Pablo shouted to him from the steps. ‘Walk.’
“Don Federico stood there and could not move. One of the drunkards poked him in the backside with a flail handle and Don Federico gave a quick jump as a balky horse might, but still stood in the same place, his hands up, and his eyes up toward the sky.
“Then the peasant who stood beside me said, ‘This is shameful. I have nothing against him but such a spectacle must terminate.’ So he walked down the line and pushed through to where Don Federico was standing and said, ‘With your permission,’ and hit him a great blow alongside of the head with a club.
“Then Don Federico dropped his hands and put them over the top of his head where the bald place was and with his head bent and covered by his hands, the thin long hairs that covered the bald place escaping through his fingers, he ran fast through the double line With flails falling on his back and shoulders until he fell and those at the end of the line picked him up and swung him over the cliff. Never did he open his mouth from the moment he came out pushed by the shotgun of Pablo. His only difficulty was to move forward. It was as though he had no command of his legs.
“After Don Federico, I saw there was a concentration of the hardest men at the end of the lines by the edge of the cliff and I left there and I went to the Arcade of the Ayuntamiento and pushed aside two drunkards and looked in the window. In the big room of the Ayuntamiento they were all kneeling in a half circle praying and the priest was kneeling and praying with them. Pablo and one named Cuatro Dedos, Four Fingers, a cobbler, who was much with Pablo then, and two others were standing with shotguns and Pablo said to the priest, ‘Who goes now?’ and the priest went on praying and did not answer him.
“‘Listen, you,’ Pablo said to the priest in his hoarse voice, ‘who goes now? Who is ready now?’
“The priest would not speak to Pablo and acted as though he were not there and I could see Pablo was becoming very angry.
“‘Let us all go together,’ Don Ricardo Montalvo, who was a land owner, said to Pablo, raising his head and stopping praying to speak.
“‘Qué va,’ said Pablo. ‘One at a time as you are ready.’
“‘Then I go now,’ Don Ricardo said. ‘I’ll never be any more ready.’ The priest blessed him as he spoke and blessed him again as he stood up, without interrupting his praying, and held up a crucifix for Don Ricardo to kiss and Don Ricardo kissed it and then turned and said to Pablo, ‘Nor ever again as ready. You Cabron of the bad milk. Let us go.’
“Don Ricardo was a short man with gray hair and a thick neck and he had a shirt on with no collar. He was bow-legged from much horseback riding. ‘Good-by,’ he said to all those who were kneeling. ‘Don’t be sad. To die is nothing. The only bad thing is to die at the hands of this canalla. Don’t touch me,’ he said to Pablo. ‘Don’t touch me with your shotgun.’
“He walked out of the front of the Ayuntamiento with his gray hair and his small gray eyes and his thick neck looking very short and angry. He looked at the double line of peasants and he spat on the ground. He could spit actual saliva which, in such a circumstance, as you should know, Inglés, is very rare and he said, ‘Arriba Espana! Down with the miscalled Republic and I obscenity in the milk of your fathers.’
“So they clubbed him to death very quickly because of the insult, beating him as soon as he reached the first of the men, beating him as he tried to walk with his head up, beating him until he fell and chopping at him with reaping hooks and the sickles, and many men bore him to the edge of the cliff to throw him over and there was blood now on their hands and on their clothing, and now began to be the feeling that these who came out were truly enemies and should be killed.
“Until Don Ricardo came out with that fierceness and calling those insults, many in the line would have given much, I am sure, never to have been in the line. And if any one had shouted from the line, ‘Come, let us pardon the rest of them. Now they have had their lesson,’ I am sure most would have agreed.
“But Don Ricardo with all his bravery did a great disservice to the others. For he aroused the men in the line and where, before, they were performing a duty and with no great taste for it, now they were angry, and the difference was apparent.
“‘Let the priest out and the thing will go faster,’ some one shouted.
“‘Let out the priest.’
“‘We’ve had three thieves, let us have the priest.’
(omitted 154 words here)
“It was then that we saw a disgraceful sight, for the man who walked out of the doorway of the Ayuntamiento was Don Faustino Rivero, the oldest son of his father, Don Celestino Rivero, a land owner. He was tall and his hair was yellow and it was freshly combed back from his forehead for he always carried a comb in his pocket and he had combed his hair now before coming out. He was a great annoyer of girls, and he was a coward, and he had always wished to be an amateur bullfighter. He went much with gypsies and with builfighters and with bull raisers and delighted to wear the Andalucian costume, but he had no courage and was considered a joke. One time he was announced to appear in an amateur benefit fight for the old people’s home in Avila and to kill a bull from on horseback in the Andalucian style, which he had spent much time practicing, and when he had seen the size of the bull that had been substituted for him in place of the little one, weak in the legs, he had picked out himself, he had said he was sick and, some said, put three fingers down his throat to make himself vomit.
“When the lines saw him, they commenced to shout, ‘Hola, Don Faustino. Take care not to vomit.’
“‘Listen to me, Don Faustino. There are beautiful girls over the cliff.’
“‘Don Faustino. Wait a minute and we will bring out a bull bigger than the other.’
“And another shouted, ‘Listen to me, Don Faustino. Hast thou ever heard speak of death?’
“Don Faustino stood there, still acting brave. He was still under the impulse that had made him announce to the others that he was going out. It was the same impulse that had made him announce himself for the bullfight. That had made him believe and hope that he could be an amateur matador. Now he was inspired by the example of Don Ricardo and he stood there looking both handsome and brave and he made his face scornful. But he could not speak.
“‘Come, Don Faustino,’ some one called from the line. ‘Come, Don Faustino. Here is the biggest bull of all.’
“Don Faustino stood looking out and I think as he looked, that there was no pity for him on either side of the line. Still he looked both handsome and superb; but time was shortening and there was only one direction to go.
“‘Don Faustino,’ some one called. ‘What are you waiting for, Don Faustino?’
“‘He is preparing to vomit,’ some one said and the lines laughed.
“‘Don Faustino,’ a peasant called. ‘Vomit if it will give thee pleasure. To me it is all the same.’
“Then, as we watched, Don Faustino looked along the lines and across the square to the cliff and then when he saw the cliff and the emptiness beyond, he turned quickly and ducked back toward the entrance of the Ayuntamiento.
“All the lines roared and some one shouted in a high voice, ‘Where do you go, Don Faustino? Where do you go?’
“‘He goes to throw up,’ shouted another and they all laughed again.
“Then we saw Don Faustino coming out again with Pablo behind him with the shotgun. All of his style was gone now. The sight of the lines had taken away his type and his style and he came out now with Pablo behind him as though Pablo were cleaning a Street and Don Faustino was what he was pushing ahead of him. Don Faustino came out now and he was crossing himself and praying and then he put his hands in front of his eyes and walked down the steps toward the lines.
“‘Leave him alone,’ some one shouted. ‘Don’t touch him.’
“The lines understood and no one made a move to touch Don Faustino and, with his hands shaking and held in front of his eyes, and with his mouth moving, he walked along between the lines.
“No one said anything and no one touched him and, when he was halfway through the lines, he could go no farther and fell to his knees.
“No one struck him. I was walking along parallel to the line to see what happened to him and a peasant leaned down and lifted him to his feet and said, ‘Get up, Don Faustino, and keep walking. The bull has not yet come out.’
“Don Faustino could not walk alone and the peasant in a black smock helped him on one side and another peasant in a black smock and herdsman’s boots helped him on the other, supporting him by the arms and Don Faustino walking along between the lines with his hands over his eyes, his lips never quiet, and his yellow hair slicked on his head and shining in the sun, and as he passed the peasants would say, ‘Don Faustino, buen provecho. Don Faustino, that you should have a good appetite,’ and others said, ‘Don Faustino, a sus ordenes. Don Faustino at your orders,’ and one, who had failed at bullfighting himself, said, ‘Don Faustino. Matador, a sus ordenes,’ and another said, ‘Don Faustino, there are beautiful girls in heaven, Don Faustino.’ And they walked Don Faustino through the lines, holding him close on either side, holding him up as he walked, with him with his hands over his eyes. But he must have looked through his fingers, because when they came to the edge of the cliff with him, he knelt again, throwing himself down and clutching the ground and holding to the grass, saying, ‘No. No. No. Please. NO. Please. Please. No. No.’
“Then the peasants who were with him and the others, the hard ones of the end of the line, squatted quickly behind him as he knelt, and gave him a rushing push and he was over the edge without ever having been beaten and you heard him crying loud and high as he fell.
“It was then I knew that the lines had become cruel and it was first the insults of Don Ricardo and second the cowardice of Don Faustino that had made them so.
(To be continued in Excerpt 2-4)