The sessions in the ring double as schooling for young would-be matadors. Belmonte watches the aspirants carefully, calling "No, no, not that way—that's too elegant; put your heart into it." And when a protege does well and is applauded, he cautions the audience, "Not too much; he'll get a big head. That is bad."
At the end of the afternoon, Belmonte sums up his cows. One perhaps is brave enough to be chosen as a future mother of fighting bulls. One might be marked as too cowardly and consigned to the slaughterhouse to make steaks for the Belmonte table. The rest are graded as "possible" and sent back to the open range to be tested three months later.
It is a quiet life for a man who has known the adulation of all Spain. There are times when the rugged figure in the Andalusian rancher's outfit speaks wistfully of a noble kill. But it is the trips of his youth across the Guadalquivir River that Belmonte recalls with real pleasure.
"On the other side of the river," Belmonte said to his parting guest, "that is where we fought the bulls naked in the moonlight.
"That was the best."