by Emilia Pardo Bazán
The four tapers burned, dripping droplets of wax. A bat, dropping down from the vaulted ceiling, began to describe awkward curves in the air. A compact, shadowy form slipped across the flagstones and climbed with somber caution over a fold of the pall. In the same instant, Dorotea de Guevara opened her eyes, recumbent in her tomb.
She was well aware that she was not dead; but a leaden veil, a bronze padlock prevented her from seeing and speaking. She heard, yes, and perceived–as one perceives within dreams–what had been done to her when they washed and enshrouded her. She heard the sobs of her husband, and felt her children’s tears on her rigid white cheeks. And now, in the solitude of the closed up church, she had recovered her senses, and was overcome with great fear. This was no nightmare, but reality. There, the coffin; there, the candles… and she herself wrapped in a white shroud, with the scapular of Our Lady of Mercy on her breast.
The Ghost of a Grudge
(El fantasma de un rencor)
by Juana Manuela Gorriti
Translator’s note: this story directly follows “El emparedado” (In the Wall). Canon B. contributes his own story of a coincidence to the group of ten people trapped together by a winter storm.
Eight years ago I was the curate of Lurin, and I was called to administer the sacraments to a young woman dying of consumption. They had brought her to Lima in the hope of a cure; but the inexorable illness continued its fatal course, and carried her away.
Such an angel of candor, virtue, and resignation! She withdrew from life with a serene spirit, regretting only the pain of those who wept over her.
But there was one black spot on her immaculate soul: resentment.
In the Wall
by Juana Manuela Gorriti
There were ten of us. The strongest downpour of last winter had brought us together by chance, trapped in a parlor around an improvised stove.
In that heterogenous circle doubly illuminated by gaslight and the embers of the fire, time was represented in its broadest sweep. Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the present, and even the promises of a smiling future, in the lovely eyes of four pretty and restless young ladies, who grew impatient, annoyed with the monotony of the evening.
The piano actually stood open, and the music desk held lovely sheet music and waltzes to choose from; but we had among us two men of the church; and their presence intimidated the young women, and prevented them from surrendering to the rhythms of Strauss and the melodies of Verdi. Nor did they even dare appeal to the supreme recourse of the bored: to pass arm in arm along the length of the room; and so they whispered among themselves, smothering prolonged yawns.
The Nocturnal Laundresses or Washerwomen of the Night
(Les Laveuses de Nuit ou Lavandières)
by George Sand
During the full moon, we see, on the path to the Font de Fonts (Fountain of Fountains), strange washerwomen; the spectres of sinful mothers who are condemned to wash, until Judgment Day, the swaddling clothes and corpses of their victims.
— Maurice Sand
This is, in our opinion, the most sinister of the visions of fear. It is also the most widespread, as I believe it is found in every region.
Around stagnant pools and limpid springs, in the moors and on the edges of shaded founts; in the sunken paths below the old willows or on the sun-scorched plains, during the night one hears the hurried beating and the furious splashing of these fantastical washerwomen. In certain provinces it’s believed that they evoke rain and attract storms by making the water of the springs and swamps fly up to the clouds with their agile laundry paddles. But here there is a confusion. The evocation of storms is the monopoly of witches known as “cloud herders.” The authentic washerwomen are the souls of infanticidal mothers. They beat and wring incessantly an object that resembles wet laundry, but which, seen up close, is nothing other than a child’s corpse. Each one has her own child, or children, if they have committed the crime multiple times. You must avoid observing them or bothering them; because, though you may be six feet tall and muscular, they would seize you, pummel you into the water and wring you about as if you were no more and no less than a pair of stockings.
Juan Holgado and Death
(Juan Holgado y La Muerte)
by Fernán Caballero (Cecilia Böhl de Faber)
Once upon a time there was a certain man named Juan Holgado (i.e., John Well-off); and truly nobody could have less deserved such a name, for morning nor evening, as a rule, could the poor fellow get enough to satisfy his hunger. Moreover he had a heap of youngsters with gullets like sharks.
One day Juan Holgado said to his wife:
“These brats are a pack of gluttons, and are capable of swallowing oilcloth itself. I should like to eat a hare by myself, at my pleasure, and without these young mastiffs to take it out of my mouth.”
by José María Barreto
It was ten at night. With the raised collars of the elegant capes that hid our broad and immaculate shoulders, and irreproachable tailcoats with large silk lapels, we waited impatiently in the newsroom for the typesetters to bring us the final proofs of the articles that were to go out the next day in the newspaper columns, so that we might leave immediately for the dance being given that night in the aristocratic salon of a notable public figure.
With us was Bonardi, a valiant soldier who from time to time contributed to the paper scientific studies on the organization of the military, and whom we loved dearly, for his wit was matched by few people, and his exceptional memory by none, and he always had something new and entertaining to relate to us.
That night, he had a tale to tell.
by Horacio Quiroga
“I will tell you the story,” he began, “because it is the best way to make my point.”
With his promise to tell us the story, we quickly drank down our coffee and settled ourselves comfortably in our chairs to listen for a while, our eyes fixed on Cordoba’s.
* * *
You all know that I have been in Laboulaye for some time. My partner travels through the colonies on behalf of the firm all year; while I, being quite useless at that, attend to the warehouse. As you might imagine, for at least eight months of the year my duties are nothing but paperwork, and two employees–one working with me on the books and the other at the counter—are more than enough for us. Given the scale of our business, neither the daily transaction records nor the accounts are onerous. We still maintain, however, a morbid vigilance over the books, as if this dismal thing could repeat itself. The books!… Anyway, it’s been four years since this adventure, and our two employees were the protagonists.