Then he was finished. Still a little washing, drying, rubbing—powder, bluish-white powder in large amounts. And two glasses of agave schnapps. Then he threw the key into the sand.
Painfully the bowlegged, black dressed Alguacil crawled down from his horse and picked up the key, climbed back into the saddle, and slid off the other side. The crowd laughed—that was an old joke, which the city clerk had to do, as if he couldn’t ride.
The adjutant waved Frank Braun over, and introduced him to the general. But he remembered right away: He was the German that was there when they fled from Hermosillo back to Ures! He, the one that had given him the beautiful cigarette case! That was gone now; someone had stolen it from him. If he could only catch the fellow!
Frank Braun thought: How stupid that I didn’t think of that! Why didn’t I bring another one from New York?—It was a silvery, horribly tasteless cigarette case, that someone had given him to pay off a poker debt. But all the Mexicans loved to look at it, because it had—in cheap enamel—two naked women on it.
Again the gate in the back opened—solemnly the procession of performers marched through the sand; at the same time, behind the box, a small band began to play, making a confused noise on a variety of musical instruments.
Colonel Perlstein said, “The only other song they play is the Marseillaise, the general’s favorite—this one is in your honor!”
Frank Braun tried hard to make out the melody.
“This one?” he replied. “But that is the Spanish King’s March!”
The adjutant cried, “Really! But it is the only German piece that the band can play.”
He looked at him expectantly, and Frank Braun asked, “Why is it German?”
Then the colonel laughed in satisfaction, genuinely pleased with himself.
“Don’t you know who the composer was?—I know who! It was a Prussian king: Fredrick the Great.”
He looked at him in astonishment, but Don Benjamino nodded powerfully.
“It is really true—just ask for yourself, when you are back in Europe. And—believe me—the king would sooner take a place in Villa’s head, than either Marat or Robespierre would have!”
The colorful assembly came across the round arena. Leading in the front was the city clerk dressed in black velvet, behind him, fat and heavy, with long lances and round felt hats, which looked like the barber’s shaving basin, came a couple of Picadores. The remainder came on foot.
In front, entirely in white, was him, the one who played Don Tancredo. Then two Espadas and a half dozen Banderilleros. They were all dressed in Spanish bull fighting costumes, blue, rose, green and violet, decorated with lots of gold and silver—with a colored cloth over their left arms. There was only one dressed in black, the one that gave the mercy stroke, the Puntillero.
And then, on magnificent animals, came four riders—Mexicans. Giant hats, long leather chaps and immense spurs. Pieces of silver and silver plating hung on everything—on the harness of the horses, as well as on the clothing of the men. A fifth one followed them, even richer, more elaborately dressed, his hat was even larger, and the silver wheels of his spurs were even larger than those of the others. He rode a snow white Arabian full-blood from Andalusia—oh, a majestic animal!
“That is Vasquez Cabrera,” the adjutant shouted at him. “You will see what he can do.”
Behind him trudged the Chulos, a crowd of lousy fellows in red jackets and caps, the last one was with the Quadriga, the four mules, colorfully decked out in red, green and white. They were used to remove the dead horses and bulls from out of the arena.
But the procession was not yet over. Behind all the men, entirely alone, walked a slender woman.
“That is the Goyita,” cried Don Benjamino, “Dolores Echevarria, the Whip!”
She wore the clothing of a Texas cowboy, genuine enough, with only a short leather skirt instead of chaps. And tightly wound over her face was a very heavy brown veil.
“Why the mask?” asked Frank Braun.
Colonel Perlstein laughed, “She is whiter than the snow and doesn’t want to ruin her complexion in the sun! That is the real secret—everyone here finds it completely understandable.”
The long procession marched through the middle, and then stopped in front of the dictator’s box. They stiffly took off their hats; the general waved his hand at them. But when the Spanish Senorita came, he clapped with his strong fists.
They circled, marched and rode around past the grandstand, slowly and solemnly. And the women and men greeted them with applause and screamed as they went by. Still once more back through the middle, then over to the sunny side—and down back through their gate.
The Chulos rolled a round, white painted wash tub in the sand, placed it exactly in the middle of the arena, bottom up. And with heavy steps, Don Tancredo came up and climbed onto it. His uniform was old Spanish like the Alguacil, but white, entirely white, from his hat to his shoes. He wore white gloves, and white flour clung to his face. He crossed his arms over his chest—an unmoving pillar of gypsum.
Then they let the first bull into the arena. He ran up, straight up, in a wild charge, his horns deeply lowered. Yet then he stopped, as always, standing right in front of the white tub, and didn’t touch it. Raised his head, sniffed at it—no, it was not alive. And he turned around, looked around, swung his tail, dug into the sand with his front hoofs.
Those were the rules; that’s how every bullfight in Mexico began. But now something special happened in honor of the dictator and to the great joy of his people. Don Tancredo took a step forward—seized the bull by the tail, and gave him a good kick. The bull looked around at him, very astonished—no, that was no statue—that was alive. He backed up a couple steps, lowered his mighty head. Don Tancredo quickly made use of the opportune moment—jumped down from his pedestal—which a second later the bull’s horns threw high into the air. Again he remained standing—ah, that was where his statue ran! And the bull turned back toward him in a racing charge.
Don Tancredo doubled back, quick as a rabbit, and then sprinted to the wall, grabbed onto a plank, and swung up. He sat on top as the mighty animal with the sharp horns crashed into the wooden wall beneath him.
“Caramba!” laughed Pancho Villa. “He almost had him.”
And the masses cheered.
Two bullfights followed. A couple of Picadores were thrown from their horses, a half dozen horses had their bellies split open and their intestines torn out. Then came the game of the Banderilleros, which, again in honor of the general, only used fireworks, short fireworks which were ignited, so when the hooks entered the flesh, they burned and exploded and made the black bull even wilder. Then finally the Espadas, who were competent and brave enough, strong in style and with cold, certain thrusts.
“They are all dilettantes!” the colonel declared.
“Soldiers?” he asked. “Indians?”
“No, not a one of them!” answered the colonel. “Not one of them is pure Indian—that wouldn’t do—there has to be some Spanish blood. But just wait, our Indians will have their turn—they don’t really have any style, but they have sinews and nerves.”
He waved his handkerchief, the hoarse trumpet blew.
The Jaripeo began.
The Mexicans rode into the sand. Vasquez stopped on his Andalusian right next to the gate, the other four jumped in. They let a brown mustang into the arena, and the Vaqueros chased it around. Then Vasquez sat upright in the saddle, galloped out, threw his lasso about fifty meters at the wild nag and caught it around the foreleg, so that it fell down immediately.
They tied it up, let it lay in the sand. Then they chased a couple more wild mustangs out into the arena, fresh from the Llanos, the wide plains of the Durango. One for each of the five—they chased them around, and then brought them down to the ground under the sharp tug of the lasso. And the riders climbed down, went up to the mustangs, and carefully loosened the ropes. Then they grabbed the manes, and swung up onto the bare backs, as the animals got up. They sat on top and remained on top, their left hands grabbing onto the manes; their rights rising and heavily striking down with short, silver headed quirts. The mustangs reared high, stood on their back legs, arched their backs like cats, and jumped with all four legs high into the air. They threw themselves to the ground, rolled over, like young dogs—but the riders were sitting solidly on their backs when they got back up again.
They raced around, bit at the riders, smashed against the walls; they charged, spun around, stood on their hind legs; threw themselves forward like swimmers going head first into the water. But the riders remained on top, and unmercifully, every second, swung the heavy quirt down across their forelegs, bodies, necks and nostrils. The silver decorated leather chaps pressed into the round bodies like screws, the large wheeled spurs beat horribly against the soft flanks. White foam came out of the mouths of the mustangs; drops of blood out of their sides; their brown hides, wet with sweat glistened in the sun. Then the beasts became quiet, calm and tame—recognized their masters. They walked like little lambs, trotted and galloped, as they were commanded—docile and obedient—after only ten minutes.
“I can do that too!” cried Don Benjamino.
The Mexicans drove the dead-tired mustangs away, mounted their race horses once more, and chased new mustangs around the arena. Then the others remained back—alone came the Arabian stud of Vasquez. How he rode it! His spurs never touched its flanks; he pressed the tips of his boots in and his spurs turned outward. The reins hung loose on the saddle horn; he just clicked with his tongue, and cried some strange word.
And the white stud stretched out, flew at the mustang, right alongside it, very close. Then Vasquez leaned over, grabbed the brown mane, swung up, and was suddenly sitting on the back of the wild horse. He rode it without a bridle, without a saddle, without a whip, only with his iron ankles. He let it gallop around, guided by the Andalusian; around the arena, tight against the red painted boards. Exchanged places, crawled back into his saddle and then again back over to the wet sweaty back of the mustang.
Here—there—and always at a racing gallop; and around, circling in a wild chase, like the little lead horses in the gaming salons. Then he whistled—the white stud broke off to the side. Then he rode the mustang into the middle of the arena—and it obeyed, did everything that he commanded, trembling with fear, worn down, dead-tired, and very docile under the pressure of those iron legs.
Vasquez jumped down; the crowd cheered. He took off his hat, and walked awkwardly through the sand with heavy, metal covered chaps, bent over, and stepping in an x-shaped walk on his powerfully bowed legs. The tips of his toes bent in sharply, one after the other, the heels going to the outside, so the fancy trousers didn’t get tangled in the un-bloodied spurs of the rider.
“On foot he is no treat!” laughed the colonel. “He belongs on a nag.”
But the Andalusian trotted over to the mustang, which was standing there shaking, breathing heavily, with heaving flanks. Whinnied, as if he wanted to speak to it, and then led it away through the gate, entirely alone. Trotted back to his master, whickered, and sniffed at his pockets, until he found his reward: thick pieces of delicious sugar candy.