26 OCTOBER 1878, Page 12




Sta,—The small town of Amelie-les-Bains, in the Eastern Pyrenees, close to the Spanish frontier, under the shadow of Mont Canigon, and hanging over the gorges of the River Tech, and its tributary, the Mondony, has been this week en fête, and middle-class French and Spaniards, and peasants of both countries, have flocked in for their annual jollification. The usual gambling- stalls, where you invest your sou and run your chance for a packet of sweetmeats or whatever else you have a mind to, offered temptations as irresistible as ever ; the bains and boissons refreshed the guests as far as hot-sulphur waters can refresh, and the time passed gaily with music and dancing a in Catalan. But chief among the attractions, and that which is looked forward to as the great event of the feast, is the Bull-fight. For days the terrace on which the " Thermes Romaine" are placed was in preparation for the occasion ; barriers were put up, sur- mounted by benches, and the place turned into a small amphi- theatre. Some American friends of ours offered us room at a window in their hotel which overlooked the scene, but we said with great self-abnegation, " No ! bull-fights are bloody and brutal, and as the only English here, we will uphold our testimony against them." " Not at all," said they, " No horses are used, and neither the matadores nor the bulls are ever hurt ; we have seen them in Barcelona, and a more harmless exhibition could not be witnessed." " Is it possible ? " and with some slight misgiving at what promised to be rather a slow affair, we accepted our places. Many things in travelling come to modify one's previously con- ceived ideas, but was it possible that our notions of a Spanish bull-fight were all wrong?

The preparations being complete, the ground was cleared, the matadores, two in number, with one or two non-professional volunteers, put themselves in readiness, and the first bull rushed into the arena. He was small, and appeared frightened out of his senses by the spectacle that met him, the clamour of the people and the din of the music, and seemed more solicitous for his own safety than anxious for the blood of his antagonists.

Some appearance of wrath was, however, excited in him by the matadores, who did their utmost with red blanket and goads to irritate him, and he was induced to " run " them once or twice, but in a manner so inefficient that it could have resulted in nothing even if the men had kept their ground. At length, when nothing more could be got out of the animal, he was let out, and another was driven in, with a similar result, the spectators doing their best to aid the matadores in their endeavours to excite the

poor panic-stricken beast, until he, too, was allowed to escape. Three or four more followed, all insignificant and without fight ; nevertheless, the matadores, who need not have moved an inch for any of them, did what they could to keep up the delusion of danger by running away and jumping up the barriers. In the case of another beast who showed no better "form," a big fellow from among the spectators jumped into the arena, and after one or two unsuccessful attempts, succeeded in taking the bull by the horns. Then ensued a somewhat novel wrestling- match, man against bull. The man, despite the frantic struggles of the bull, kept his hold, and the bull, in his endeavours to get loose, finally tumbled over on his side, amidst the vociferous applause of the spectators. On regaining his feet, the animal, finding his exit unopposed, rushed out of the place, as if conscious of his humiliation. This incident was not uninteresting, but it was hardly in accordance with anticipation, and was more enjoyed by the spectators than by the matadores. To show that they also were capable of such a feat, the next bull was secured by one of them, who had a good dance with him, another matadore the while clinging to the animal's tail. Emboldened by these ex- ploits, others among the spectators descended to try their hands, and to win applause apparently so easily obtained, but the mata- dores, seeing that the credit and dignity of their sport were at stake, refused to allow the interference, and so irritated did they become, that for some minutes there was every probability of a hand-to-hand fight. The public, however, besought their patience, and with the aid of the police, who promptly appeared as in France they always do, succeeded in pacifying them, and the entertainment proceeded. The best sport of the legitimate sort was shown by a cow that was wild with mingled rage and fear, and as her horns were long and sharp and well forward on her head, and as she was remarkably nimble on her feet, she was rather formidable. One of the volunteer matadores, whilst attempting to elude one of her fiery dashes, fell, and might have been hurt if she had had any persistence, but the animal was so distracted, that she missed her opportunity. Even the courage of this cow, however, seemed to depend more on the fear shown by her antagonists, who fled to the barricades at every assault, than from any disposition of her own.

Among the remaining beasts was a calf, who looked on the whole proceedings as a lark, and enjoyed a frisk round the arena without once dreaming of trying to stick anybody, and the cow, his mother, who, having been separated from her offspring, was expected to show some exasperation, could not overcome her abject terror, and fled in all directions. Having run through the herd, the best were put through a second time, but with the exception of the wild cow, who pawed the ground, and alone showed any proper feeling, there was nothing to be done with them ; and the fight, after a duration of 2i- hours, came to an end, the people dispersing with much satisfaction. The " course " was described as better than that of last year, and whether ironically or not, I do not know, as " magnifique." For my own part, it appeared ridiculous, and that such preparations should be made and pilgrimages performed for the sake of such a farce, passes my comprehension. But at any rate, here was a bull-fight without any approach to cruelty, and in which there was nothing that could blunt or degrade the most humane sus- ceptibilities. What proportion of Spanish bull-fights are con- ducted like this one and those which at Barcelona take place every Sunday, I do not know ; but I fancy that those exhibitions of wholesale slaughter of bulls and horses and of imminent danger to men which have coloured our idea of the Spanish national character, are not very common, and are somewhat exaggerated.—I am, Sir, &c.,


Hotel Pereire, Amilie-les-Bains, October 18th.