"Dr. Halliday Sutherland is 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
This is the third part of the story of The Litri and his son, Manuelito, from The Arches of the Years by Dr. Halliday Sutherland.
At the end of the hunt I rode back to Huelva with the Litri. In crossing the plain to reach the road we passed through a great herd of wild bulls. We walked the horses and did not speak. When passing close to a bull, he would stop grazing, raise his head, and gaze with large brown eyes. The rider must ignore him, look straight ahead, and pretend that he has not seen the bull—and to do so for the first time needs more resolution that to cut your worst enemy in the street. Once on the road the horses went at the easy Castilian pace (the paseo) at which a man may almost go to sleep in the saddle. In England this pace is called the run.
Soon the sun was setting over the Atlantic, and the western sky became a blaze of dazzling light. In the south the sun sets quickly, falling inch by inch behind the ocean, and for a few moments after it has gone a green light lingers on the horizon—then it is dark; a thin vapour comes in from the sea, and the air is chilly. Far down in the northern sky is the Bear, and ahead, flashing like a diamond by candle-light, is the South Star.
The road passes a fonda, and from its open door, throwing out a river of light, comes the music of a guitar, the clash of castanets, and a glimpse of dancing-girls in gaily-coloured dresses. Now the road leads through palm trees that rustle in the slight wind, by wayside ponds where bull-frogs are croaking and by brushwood alive with the myriad sounds of insects that are awake at night. Beside a lonely cluster of trees is a statue of Our Lady, the Star of the Sea, who watches over sailors, and on the steps of her statue a girl is praying. Overhead is the cloudless pageantry of the stars, and behind a silver haze in the east a moon is rising on the cold Sierras, where the wolves will now be howling. For the Litri and for me the sun has set on a Castle in Spain.
The Litri was not a talkative man, except when he was telling a story, and for the most part we rode in silence. In the starlight he looked like a Roman emperor, and I wondered if Severus had looked like that when he led the legions over a roadless country from York to Inverness. On the outskirts of Huelva we came to the parting of our ways and said good-bye, wishing each other health, wealth, and all the other things; and that we might walk with God—he in South America and I in England. He was sailing soon for a season in Brazil, where matadors are well paid.
There he made money and returned to Spain. On his return the Litri gave his son, Juan Miguel, a place in the cuadrilla, and within five years the young man had become his father’s sobresaliente. His name was then approved by the Society of Matadors, and when the day came he qualified as a matador by killing a full-grown bull in public. This took place in the Huelva ring. The Litri killed the first bull, and, when the second was ready to be killed, made a speech to the president, kissed his son on both cheeks, handed him a sword and muleta, and, in the presence of ten thousand people, named him Manuelito.
The next post will be published on December 1st, 2016.