It may have been our comparative defeat with fashion in its most distinctive moments of pleasuring (for one thing I wished to see how the dreariness of Madrid gaiety in the Paseo de la Castellana would compare with that of Roman gaiety on the Pincian) which made us the more determined to see a bull-fight in the Spanish capital. We had vowed ourselves in coming to Spain to set the Spaniards an example of civilization by inflexibly refusing to see a bull-fight under any circumstances or for any consideration; but it seemed to us that it was a sort of public duty to go and see the crowd, what it was like, in the time and place where the Spanish crowd is most like itself. We would go and remain in our places till everybody else was placed, and then, when the picadors and banderilleros and matadors were all ranged in the arena, and the gate was lifted, and the bull came rushing madly in, we would rise before he had time to gore anybody, and go inexorably away. This union of self-indulgence and self-denial seemed almost an act of piety when we learned that the bull-fight was to be on Sunday, and we prepared ourselves with tickets quite early in the week. On Saturday afternoon it rained, of course, but the worst was that it rained on Sunday morning, and the clouds did not lift till noon. Then the glowing concierge of our hotel, a man so gaily hopeful, so expansively promising that I could hardly believe he was not an Italian, said that there could not possibly be a bull-fight that day; the rain would have made the arena so slippery that man, horse, and bull would all fall down together in a common ruin, with no hope whatever of hurting one another.

We gave up this bull-fight at once, but we were the more resolved to see a bull-fight because we still owed it to the Spanish people to come away before we had time to look at it, and we said we would certainly go at Cordova where we should spend the next Sabbath. At Cordova we learned that it was the closed season for bull-fighting, but vague hopes of usefulness to the Spanish public were held out to us at Seville, the very metropolis of bull-fighting, where the bulls came bellowing up from their native fields athirst for the blood of the profession and the aficionados, who outnumber there the amateurs of the whole rest of Spain. But at Seville we were told that there would be no more bull-feasts, as the Spaniards much more preferably call the bullfights, till April, and now we were only in October. We said, Never mind; we would go to a bull-feast in Granada; but at Granada the season was even more hopelessly closed. In Ronda itself, which is the heart, as Seville is the home of the bull-feast, we could only see the inside of the empty arena; and at Algeciras the outside alone offered itself to our vision. By this time the sense of duty was so strong upon us that if there had been a bull-feast we would have shared in it and stayed through till the last espada dropped dead, gored through, at the knees of the last bull transfixed by his unerring sword; and the other toreros, the banderilleros with their darts and the picadors with their disemboweled horses, lay scattered over the blood-stained arena. Such is the force of a high resolve in strangers bent upon a lesson of civilization to a barbarous people when disappointed of their purpose. But we learned too late that only in Madrid is there any bull-feasting in the winter. In the provincial cities the bulls are dispirited by the cold; but in the capital, for the honor of the nation, they somehow pull themselves together and do their poor best to kill and be killed. Yet in the capital where the zeal of the bulls, and I suppose, of the bull-fighters, is such, it is said that there is a subtle decay in the fashionable, if not popular, esteem of the only sport which remembers in the modern world the gladiatorial shows of imperial Rome. It is said, but I do not know whether it is true, that the young English queen who has gladly renounced her nation and religion for the people who seem so to love her, cannot endure the bloody sights of the bull-feast; and when it comes to the horses dragging their entrails across the ring, or the espada despatching the bull, or the bull tossing a landerillero in the air she puts up her fan. It is said also that the young Spanish king, who has shown himself such a merciful-minded youth, and seems so eager to make the best of the bad business of being a king at all, sympathizes with her, and shows an obviously abated interest at these supreme moments.

I do not know whether or not it was because we had failed with the bull-feast that we failed to go to any sort of public entertainment in Madrid. It certainly was in my book to go to the theater, and see some of those modern plays which I had read so many of, and which I had translated one of for Lawrence Barrett in the far-off days before the flood of native American dramas now deluging our theater. That play was "Un Drama Nueva," by Estebanez, which between us we called "Yorick's Love" and which my very knightly tragedian made his battle-horse during the latter years of his life. In another version Barrett had seen it fail in New York, but its failure left him with the lasting desire to do it himself. A Spanish friend, now dead but then the gifted and eccentric Consul General at Quebec, got me a copy of the play from Madrid, and I thought there was great reason in a suggestion from another friend that it had failed because it put Shakespeare on the stage as one of its characters; but it seemed to me that the trouble could be got over by making the poet Heywood represent the Shakespearian epoch. I did this and the sole obstacle to its success seemed removed. It went, as the enthusiastic Barrett used to say, "with a shout," though to please him I had hurt it all I could by some additions and adaptations; and though it was a most ridiculously romantic story of the tragical loves of Yorick (whom the Latins like to go on imagining out of Hamlet a much more interesting and important character than Shakespeare ever meant him to be fancied), and ought to have remained the fiasco it began, still it gained Barrett much money and me some little.

I was always proud of this success, and I boasted of it to the bookseller in Madrid, whom I interested in finding me some still moderner plays after quite failing to interest another bookseller. Your Spanish merchant seems seldom concerned in a mercantile transaction; but perhaps it was not so strange in the case of this Spanish bookseller because he was a German and spoke a surprising English in response to my demand whether he spoke any. He was the frowsiest bookseller I ever saw, and he was in the third day of his unshavenness with a shirt-front and coat-collar plentifully bedandruffed from his shaggy hair; but he entered into the spirit of my affair and said if that Spanish play had succeeded so wonderfully, then I ought to pay fifty per cent, more than the current price for the other Spanish plays which I wanted him to get me. I laughed with him at the joke which I found simple earnest when our glowing concierge gave me the books next day, and I perceived that the proposed supplement had really been paid for them on my account. I should not now be grieving for this incident if the plays had proved better reading than they did on experiment. Some of them were from the Catalan, and all of them dealt with the simpler actual life of Spain; but they did not deal impressively with it, though they seemed to me more hopeful in conception than certain psychological plays of ten or fifteen years ago, which the Spanish authors had too clearly studied from Ibsen.

They might have had their effect in the theater, but the rainy weather had not only spoiled my sole chance of the bull-feast; the effect of it in a stubborn cold forbade me the night air and kept me from testing any of the new dramas on the stage, which is always giving new dramas in Madrid. The stage, or rather the theater, is said to be truly a passion with the Madrilenos, who go every night to see the whole or the part of a play and do not mind seeing the same play constantly, as if it were opera. They may not care to see the play so much as to be seen at it; that happens in every country; but no doubt the plays have a charm which did not impart itself from the printed page. The companies are reported very good: but the reader must take this from me at second hand, as he must take the general society fact. I only know that people ask you to dinner at nine, and if they go to the theater afterward they cannot well come away till toward one o'clock. It is after this hour that the tertulia, that peculiarly Spanish function, begins, but how long it lasts or just what it is I do not know. I am able to report confidently, however, that it is a species of salon and that it is said to be called a tertulia because of the former habit in the guests, and no doubt the hostess, of quoting the poet Tertullian. It is of various constituents, according as it is a fashionable, a literary, or an artistic tertulia, or all three with an infusion of science. Oftenest, I believe, it is a domestic affair and all degrees of cousinship resort to it with brothers and sisters and uncles, who meet with the pleasant Latin liking of frequent meetings among kindred. In some cases no doubt it is a brilliant reunion where lively things are said; in others it may be dull; in far the most cases it seems to be held late at night or early in the morning.