The Doctor’s Wager

Next morning we were awakened by a great racket. There was a procession coming down the street, a number of men in very gay clothes followed by a large crowd of admiring ladies and cheering children. I asked the Doctor who they were.

“They are the bullfighters,” he said. “There is to be a bullfight to-morrow.”

“What is a bullfight?” I asked.

To my great surprise the Doctor got red in the face with anger. It reminded me of the time when he had spoken of the lions and tigers in his private zoo.

“A bullfight is a stupid, cruel, disgusting business,” said he. “These Spanish people are most lovable and hospitable folk. How they can enjoy these wretched bullfights is a thing I could never understand.”

Then the Doctor went on to explain to me how a bull was first made very angry by teasing and then allowed to run into a circus where men came out with red cloaks, waved them at him, and ran away. Next the bull was allowed to tire himself out by tossing and killing a lot of poor, old, broken-down horses who couldn’t defend themselves. Then, when the bull was thoroughly out of breath and wearied by this, a man came out with a sword and killed the bull.

“Every Sunday,” said the Doctor, “in almost every big town in Spain there are six bulls killed like that and as many horses.”

“But aren’t the men ever killed by the bull?” I asked.

“Unfortunately very seldom,” said he. “A bull is not nearly as dangerous as he looks, even when he’s angry, if you are only quick on your feet and don’t lose your head. These bullfighters are very clever and nimble. And the people, especially the Spanish ladies, think no end of them. A famous bullfighter (or matador, as they call them) is a more important man in Spain than a king—Here comes another crowd of them round the corner, look. See the girls throwing kisses to them. Ridiculous business!”