Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/176

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into groups. The picadores place themselves about the mouth of the passage which leads to the den; the bandarillos and matadores recline against the breastwork which separates the arena from the circular passage at the foot of the lower seats; while the train of six mules, gayly caparisoned, three abreast, vanish through one of the gateways; and are followed by the spotless butcher and the wheelbarrow man—and all await the given signal.

It sounds! and out comes the bull! Perhaps he gives a push, en passant, at one of the picadores, but most probably not. If he does so, neither horse nor man are the worse for it, for the former is fully protected from the horns of the animal by the strong leather caparison, which are, moreover, considerately tipped to prevent bloodshed: and the latter takes good care to run no risk. The generality of the bulls, of which eight are despatched on each representation, did their best to avoid the contest; and in several instances proved their nimbleness by jumping the breastwork. When teased beyond endurance, they would fight feebly, and perhaps overthrow a horse and rider, but it was evidently mere play to their opponents. When the picadores could extract no more courage from the exhausted animal, the footmen plied their childish and inglorious game of petty annoyance and torture, with barbed darts and fireworks, till, thoroughly spent and jaded, the poor brute was given over to the matador, whose clumsy but pompous attempt at giving a death wound, had almost in every instance to be seconded by the butcher. The clever professional coup de grace of the latter was really administered in mercy. The mules then galloped in—were attached to the dead animal, and scoured as quickly out, again followed, as before, by the nimble wheelbarrow man whose spadeful of sand had meantime obliterated all signs of the tragedy. In short, there is nothing in a Mexican bullfight to tempt a second visit, and nothing distinguishing it from those in Spain, if I except one custom, which I should judge to be peculiar to this country, though I may be mistaken.