Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

The Litri and Manuelito 1


Dr. Sutherland’s 1946 Spanish Journey (see previous post) was not his first visit: he had visited at the turn of the twentieth century. It was then that he had tried bull-fighting.

…I spoke to the Litri’s son, Juan  Miguel, who was carrying a capa.

“Señor, will you do me the favour of lending me your capa?”

“With pleasure, señor, but —does your uncle know?”

“That is my affair.”

“It is as you wish, señor.” And he handed me the capa, which I strapped to my saddle-bow.

The Litri had shown me some of the passes, and, at a dinner-party in my uncle’s house I had said that if one knew the passes it was not so difficult to play a bull, and that I would like to do it myself. My uncle had looked at me, and I knew he thought I was boasting. Well, now he would see his mistake. I handed my sombrero to Juan Miguel.

When the next couple started, I rode fifty yards behind them. They threw their bull and returned. I went on, dismounted twenty yards away from the animal lying on the ground, unstrapped the capa, and left the horse, which trotted back to the corral, a quarter of a mile away. I had not bargained for that nor for the size of the bull when he rose to his feet. He looked bigger than I had anticipated. He had no doubts in his mind, either, and came straight for me. Putting my left foot forward, I held the capa in front and stood steady, waiting and watching those eyes. The Litri was right. It was the eyes, the eyes, and nothing but the eyes. I must remember about the eyes and to stand steady only the capa to be moved. The rush of the bull could only have taken a few seconds, but they felt like hours. Now! And I swung the capa to the right. The eyes and horns followed the movement, and the animal charged blindly past me, only the capa being touched by those cruel horns. “Olle!” I shouted. That was one moment in life that I would like to recapture, when fear, anxiety, and doubt were replaced in an instant by triumph. The glory of achievement was in my soul as never it has since been—not even when five thousand people gave their applause at the end of an hour’s oration. I wheeled round. The triumph was not complete. Again the bull was at me, and there was less time to think. I swung the capa to my left, and again he charged. Not so good this time! His shoulder nearly pushed me over as he passed. He was getting nearer and nearer. I must do the third pass and gain distance.

Standing square to the bull with the capa before me I waited again, watching the eyes. When I thought he had fixed on the capa I moved to my right, and in an instant the eyes of the bull told me the game was lost. I had moved too soon. He had them fixed on me. Flight was impossible; it was a matter of seconds. I dropped the useless capa. Instinctively I put out my hands to save myself. In those few seconds I spoke aloud in an ordinary voice four words: “My God, I’m finished.” The base of the horns struck me under the wrists, and, my arms being held stiffly downwards, I was thrown backwards six feet through the air into a cactus bush, where I fell on my back, and watched him charging again. I knew that I should feel no pain. I hoped that he would not gore me in the kidney, because that would be difficult to repair. And I watched his eyes. They were brown eyes and they were business-like eyes. What yellow eyelashes he had! That was my last thought at the moment when I expected the horns in my body…

From Spanish Journey by Halliday Sutherland.


Click here for Part 2.

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This entry was posted on 1 September 2016 by in Early life, Huelva, Spain.

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