Las Medias Rojas
Emilia Pardo Bazan
Ildara shifted her weight to the ground and stroked the horse, brushing it the way women do and returning por los enganchones of the branches that grabbed at him. Then, with the slowness of the village tasks, she prepared the fire, lo prendió, tore the cabbages, threw it in the black pot, accompanied by some badly cut potatoes and some barely dry pinto beans, from the first harvest, without soaking. During these operations, uncle Clodio had rolled his cigar, and soaked it very gawkily, making in his cheeks two holes like drains, gray, between the blueness of his neglected beard.
When the girl entered, carrying the firewood that she had just taken from the mountain of her master, her uncle Clodio didn't even lift his head, taken with the occupation of cutting his cigar, using, instead of a knife, his fingers the color of dark amber, because they had been burned by the embers at the end of the cigar.
Without a doubt, the firewood was wet from so much rain the entire week, and it burned badly, emitting a pungent humidity; pero el labriego didn't notice: the humidity, bah, he was accustomed to it since he was a child. As Ildara bent to blow and activate it, the old man observed something very rare: something of a live color, that emerged from the mended and wet skirt of the young woman...a robust leg, imprisoned in a red stocking, of cotton...
-What is this novelty (new thing)?
-Now you spend money on stockings, like the sister of the abbot?
The girl stood up, and he called her, starting to lift herself up, gilded, the belly of the black pot illuminated her round face, beautiful, with small features, an attractive mouth, clear eyes, full of life.
-I bought stockings, I bought stockings- she repeated, without being afraid. -And if I bought them, no se las debo a ninguno.
-Soon the money comes from the mount- uncle Clodio insisted with threatening sarcasm.
-It does not come from that!...I sold some eggs to the abbot, he will say nothing less...And with this I bought the stockings.
A look of wrath crossed his small eyes, under hard eyelids and hairy eyebrows, of the labrador...He jumped from the bank where he was standing with legs apart, and taking hold of his daughter with both his arms, he shook her brutally, slamming her into the wall, while yelling at her:
-Deceptive (liar)! Deceptive! The hens are broody and don't lay eggs!
Ildara, gritting her teeth so she wouldn't scream from the pain, defended her face with her hands. It was always with fear that her father noted her beauty and praise, like she would follow the path of Mariola, her cousin, marked by her own mother in the front with the circle from a metal cooking utensil that tore the skin and flesh below. And she defended her beauty so much, today that she approached the moment of founding the idea of her future. Born the oldest, free from the athoritative pattern, she waited on the boat, in whose inner compartments so many of the church members and members of nearby churchs had come to find luck, venturing out into the unknown to distant countries where gold rolls through the streets and you don't have to do more than bend down to grab it. The father didn't want to emigrate, tired of the life of labor, indifferent to the delayed hope: that if he stayed...She would have everything; it was already agreed with the middleman, the money was advanced to him, and would be paid in full later, which would come from the famous stockings...And the uncle Clodio, astute, guesser, or knower, without letting the young woman corner or persecute him, repeated:
-You are already married, walking with your foot and leg bare, eh, condemned one? Did your mother ever wear stockings? Did she think like you, always looking in the piece of mirror? Taking in, so that you remember...
And with a closed fist, he wounded first her head, then her face, seperating her small hands that were afraid, unchanged by work, with which Ildara defended herself, trembling. The most violent beating fell upon one eye, and the young girl saw, like a starry sky, thousands of brilliant points explodiong in a radiation of intense colors on a black background. Then, the farmer hit her nose, los carillos. The moment of fury passed, in which he would have without scrupulation would have killed her, before he saw her leave, leaving him alone, widowed, with the impossible task of cultivating the land he rented, that he fertilized with sweat for so many years, that he regarded with a mechanical affection, absurd. He finally stopped hitting her; Ildara, incapacitated with fright, could not even cry out anymore.
She left, silently, and washed the blood off in the river nearby. One beautiful, young tooth remained in her hand. Out of the bad eye, she could not see.
So the doctor came, consulted late and reluctantly, as is the custom of labriegos, speaking of a separation in the retina, which the girl didn't understand, but that she knew...she would remain with only one good eye.
And never again did the boat recieve her in its concaves to see the new horizons of diversion and luxory. Those that did go there, they had to go healthy, brave, and the women, with their eyes bright and their teeth complete...