Mike, Jake, and Bill are sitting in the cafe on the last day of the fiesta. They notice large numbers of tourists and onlookers on the last day, and the streets are very crowded.They are joined by Brett, who asks if Cohn hurt Jake. She mentions that Romero has been hurt badly, but that he will fight that day in the ring. Mike asks rude questions about Romero, and Brett asks Jake to walk with her. As they leave, Mike knocks the cafe table over and spills their food and drinks.
While walking, Jake notices that Brett has changed. She says that Romero's people are upset about her relationship with Romero, and that she won't be able to see him while they are dressing him. She asks Jake to go to the fight with her. They walk through the park, and Brett asks that they try to avoid the fashionable people there. She comments that the wind might be bad for Romero in the ring and suggests that they go into the chapel to pray for Romero. They enter the church, but Brett becomes uncomfortable after a few minutes and asks that they leave because she is "damned nervous." After leaving, Brett says that she has the wrong type of face for a religious atmosphere, but she is still worried about Romero. Jake says that she could pray, but Brett says that it doesn't do any good. Jake says that it works for him, and that he is pretty religious (though he seems to be joking).
They return to the hotel and encounter the German maitre d'hotel. Jake asks him to reserve a table for three for lunch, and he says that only two seats will be necessary. On the way up the stairs Jake and Brett pass Montoya, who bows to them but does not smile. Brett goes into Romero's room without knocking. Jake goes to Mike's room, where Mike is lying awake in bed, looking very bad. Mike says that it is a good thing that Cohn is gone, and that Brett has found a bullfighter. Jake tells him to get some sleep.
Jake finds Bill in his room, and they agree to go eat lunch in the town to avoid the German. But they encounter him on the way out and are rude to him. They eat lunch in a restaurant in a side street, and then go to the cafe where they meet Brett.She says Mike was sleeping when she checked on him.
The three of them go to the ring for the bullfight and sit in the front row together, where they watch the sword-handlers and bull-ring servants prepare for the fight. Jake notices that all of the seats are full. They see the three bullfighters standing (Romero, Belmonte, and Marcial), waiting for the fight to start, and Jake notices that Romero looks badly marked from his fight with Cohn. The President (of the bullfight) enters, and the bullfighters and their associates enter the ring.After the procession, Romero hands his cape to his sword-handler and asks him to give it to Brett. Jake tells her to spread it out in front of her. The sword-handler shakes his head, and the man next to them tells her that he doesn't want her to spread it out, but fold it in her lap.
Belmonte fights the first bull and does well, but the crowd, because of Belmonte's fame, expects him to be great. Belmonte is old and slow, and not as good as he used to be. The crowd sneers, shouts insults, and throws cushions at him, and Belmonte merely becomes contemptuous. He is sick and in great pain, and after his second bull he leaves the ring and stands with his head on his arms behind the wall because of the pain. Then he goes back into the ring.
The crowd, because they are against Belmonte, are in favor of Romero, and cheer almost everything he does. Romero does everything that Belmonte cannot do anymore, and Belmonte sees that Romero is not of the decadent bullfighting period that Marcial is. Belmonte has moments of brilliance, but they mean nothing because of the way that he pre-selects his bulls for the smallness of their horns.
Romero does everything he can control the location of right in front of Brett, but without ever looking up at her. Jake says this makes his work something for himself as well as for Brett. He did it without any loss to himself.
Jake describes Romero's actions in the ring, how he expertly manages the bull and himself. Romero's first bull does not see well, which makes it difficult to get him to charge the cape, and Romero is forced to lure the bull into a charge with his body. Three Biarritz English behind Jake, Brett, and Bill, do not understand what is happening and comment that Romero looks like he is afraid or inexperienced. He kills the bull a little early because it cannot see.
Marcial gets considerable applause for his efforts that day, and Romero follows him to face Bocanegra, the bull that had killed a man earlier that day during the morning running. Jake comments that Romero's fight with Cohn had damaged his body but not his spirit, and that his fighting was wiping out that as well. His fight with this bull goes very well, and the crowd cheers him on and won't let him end it. He prolongs his fight, and kills the bull directly below Brett, Jake, and Bill. Romero's brother, who is a banderillero, appeals to the President to cut the ear, a trophy awarded only for a superior bullfight. The President waves his handkerchief, and Romero's brother cuts the ear and gives it to Romero. Romero leans over the wall and hands the ear to Brett. (In Chapter XVII, Jake says that Brett forgets the ear, wrapped in his handkerchief, stuffed in a drawer at the hotel.) He is quickly swept up by the crowd and carried out on their shoulders, despite his painful protests.
They return to the hotel to eat and see Belmonte in the dining room. He seems to speak only in response to direct questions, and doesn't eat much. Bill invites Jake over to the cafe for an absinthe. They talk about Cohn, and Bill says he feels sorry about him. Bill asks what Jake thinks Cohn will do, and Jake says that Cohn will probably get back together with Frances. Bill compares the fiesta to a "wonderful nightmare," and Jake agrees. Jake says that he is depressed, and Bill keeps ordering absinthes for him to try to cheer him up. It doesn't seem to work, and Jake, very drunk and depressed, leaves the cafe and goes back to the hotel. He finds Mike in Brett's hotel room, and Mike tells him that Brett has left with Romero for Madrid. Mike offers him a drink, and Jake decides to go to sleep. He goes back to his room. Bill and Mike come in later to see if he wants to eat with him. He pretends to be asleep, and they leave. He gets up a little later and feels a little less drunk, so he goes down to eat with Bill and Mike. At the table with Bill and Mike he remarks to himself that it seems like "about six people were missing."
Analysis, Chapter XVIII
This is the climactic chapter, with both Romero's public heroism in the bull ring and Brett's desertion. Romero's greatness seems in danger of being misunderstood for part of the chapter, as seen through the comments from the Biarritz people about his handling of his first bull. His physical challenges-being badly beaten by Cohn the night before-also seem like a possible obstacle, yet he manages to keep them from showing even to the limited degree that Belmonte shows his own ailments. At the end of the fight, after he has confronted a worthy bull, the crowd finally sees his greatness and wants to celebrate it with him. Brett's departure with him might be a threat in the sense that she does not value that greatness. Her disrespect for the ear shows that she doesn't possess true aficion, despite her apparent desire to know and understand Romero's work. Yet Romero's greatness offers a source of hope, and though Jake is unable to protect that greatness from Brett, the fact of its possibility stands in contrast to the hopeless bankruptcy (Mike), impotence (Jake), and anachronistic naivete (Cohn) of the rest of the group.
The Sun Also Rises: Novel Summary: Book II - Chapter XVIII