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Nik Marcel (2Language Books)

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Tall Woman (English)

English & Spanish
Moors and Christians
English & Spanish
English partly translated anew from Spanish.
Copyright © 2013 Nik Marcel
All rights reserved.
2Language Books
(A Bilingual Dual-Language Project)

The Tall Woman

Chapter I.

“What do we know, my friends…! What do we know!” exclaimed Gabriel, a distinguished forestry engineer, as he was sitting under a pine tree beside a spring, about a league and a half from El Escorial, on the border of the provinces of Madrid and Segovia.
I know the place, the spring, and the pine tree, and am seeing it now, but I have forgotten its name.
“Let us sit down, as it is fitting, and it is written… in our program,” continued Gabriel, “to rest and rejuvenate ourselves at this pleasant and classic spot: famous for the digestive properties of that spring, and for the many lambs that have been devoured here by our illustrious teachers, Don Miguel Bosch, Don Máximo Laguna, Don Augustin Pascual, and other distinguished naturalists.
I will tell you a unique and strange story as validation of my thesis. The revelation is – though you may call me an obscurantist for it – that on this terrestrial globe, supernatural events still occur.
What I refer to is things that do not fit within the framework of reason, the sciences, or philosophy – as is understood (or misunderstood) nowadays by such ‘words, words, words’, as Hamlet would say…”
Gabriel directed his animated remarks to five people of different ages. None of them was young, though only one was quite well progressed in years. Three of them were also forestry engineers, the fourth was a painter, and the fifth was somewhat of a litterateur;
all of which had come up with the orator, who was the youngest, on separate hired donkeys from the Real Sitio de San Lorenzo, to spend the day picking herbs in the beautiful pine forests of Peguerinos, chasing butterflies with gauze nets, catching rare beetles under the bark of the decayed pines, and eating a load of provisions, including cold meats, which everyone had chipped in for.
This took place in 1875, and was at the height of the summer. I do not remember whether it was Saint James’s day or Saint Louis’s. I am inclined to think it was Saint Louis’s.
Whichever way it was, we enjoyed ourselves in those deliciously fresh heights, and the heart, the mind, and indeed our stomachs, functioned much better there than in society and ordinary life…
When the six friends were seated, Gabriel continued talking as follows:
“I do not think you will label and discard me as a visionary. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I am, if you will allow me to say so, a man of the modern world. I have no superstition about me, and am as much of a Positivist as one can be, although I include among the positive data of nature all the mysterious faculties and emotions of my soul, it being in the realm of feelings…
Well then, concerning this supernatural (or extra-natural) phenomena, listen to what I have heard and see what I have seen – though without me being the real hero in this singular story that I am going to recount – and then tell me what earthly, physical, or natural explanation, however you may like to call it, can be given to such an extraordinary occurrence.
The case was as follows... But look! Pour me out a drop, for the skin-bottle must have got cooled off by this time in that bubbling and crystal-clear spring, located by the divine on this summit, to cool the botanists’ wine.”
End of Preview

Moors and Christians

Chapter I.

The once famous but now little known town of Aldeire forms part of the Marquisate of El Cenét, or, as one would say, at the back of the Alpujarra, towards the east. It is partly suspended (over a ledge), and partly hidden in a ravine of the massive central ridge of Sierra Nevada, five or six thousand feet above the level of the sea, and seven or eight thousand below the eternal snows of Mulhacen.
Aldeire, be it said with all due respect to its parish priest, is a Moorish town.
That it was Moorish is clearly indicated by its name, its location, and its architecture, that it has not yet become completely Christian – although it figures among the towns of reconquered Spain, has its little Catholic church and its fraternities of the Virgin, of Jesus, and of more than a few saints – and is demonstrated in the character and the customs of its inhabitants: by the terrible and deep rooted passions that unite and separate them into perpetual sides, the lugubrious dark eyes, pale skin, and infrequent talk and laughter among women, men, and children.
However it might be good to recall – in order that neither the parish priest, nor anyone else, bring into question the soundness of this reasoning – that the Moors of the Marquisate of El Cenét were not expelled in totality, like those of the Alpujarra, but that many of them managed to stay there, cowering and concealed, thanks to the prudence – or the cowardice – of those who disregarded the fearless and heroic cry of the doomed prince, Aben Humeya;
from which I infer that Uncle Juan Gomez, nicknamed Hormiga, constitutional mayor of Aldeire in the year of grace 1821, might very well be the grandson of some Mustapha, Mohammed, or something of the like.
It is related, then, that the aforesaid Juan Gomez – a man more than half a century old at the time, rustic, very shrewd, (although he did not know how to read or write,) greedy, and an industrious worker; as might be inferred not only by his nickname, but also from his substantial wealth, acquired through honest or dishonest means, and invested in the most fertile lands of the district – took an extended lease, for almost nothing, (meaning, he gave the town clerk some hens that had left off laying,) on a piece of arid land situated in the vicinity of the village, in the midst of which could be seen the rubble and ruins of an ancient structure – a hermitage or Arabic watchtower – whose name was still La Torre de Moro.
Needless to say, Uncle Hormiga did not stop to consider for a moment who this Moor might be, nor the nature or original purpose of the ruined structure;
the one thing he saw straight off, as clear as water, was that with so many crumbling stones, and so many that he could encourage to crumble, he could make a beautiful and very secure corral for his cattle there.
Consequently, from the very next day, and as an appropriate recreational activity for such a frugal man, he devoted his afternoons to tearing down – all by himself – what remained standing of the old Arabic building.
“You are going to burst,” his wife said to him, seeing him come home in the evening, covered with dust and sweat and carrying his crowbar hidden under his cloak.
“On the contrary,” he answered, “this exercise will ensure that I do not become like our studious sons, who, according to what the tobacconist tells me, were at the theatre in Granada the other night, and had such a buttery colour that it was disgusting to look at them…”
“The poor things! From so much study, no doubt! But you ought to be ashamed of working like a labourer, when you are the richest man in town, and the mayor as well.”
“That is why I go alone. Let’s see. Hand me that salad!”
“Still, it would be good to have someone to help you. You will take a century demolishing the tower by yourself, and besides, you may not manage to knock it all down.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, Torcuata. When I begin to build the wall of the cattle yard, I shall pay workers, and even employ a master mason. But pulling something down, everyone knows how to do that! And it is such fun to destroy! Come, clear away the table and let us go to bed!”
“You speak that way because you are a man. All that destruction makes me fearful and ashamed.”
“The frailties of an old woman! If you only knew how many things there are in the world that ought to be destroyed!”
“Hush, you freemason! It was a misfortune they ever elected you mayor. You will see when the royalists come into power again that the king will have you all hanged!”
“That we shall see! Hypocrite! Sanctimonious prig! Owl! Come on! Turn off that light, and stop blessing yourself... I am very sleepy.”
And so the dialogue would continue until one or the other of the consorts fell asleep.

End of Preview

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