The Devil’s Rosebush

The Devil’s Rosebush
(El rosal del diablo)
by Pedro Escamilla

– I –

If we are to credit old legends and local traditions, Germany is one of the countries the devil visits most.

This is not to attack the goodness of its inhabitants; the Spirit of Darkness no doubt has his preferences, which we need to respect.

Indeed, there’s hardly a German legend without the devil playing the protagonist. And it’s said that this is a country that holds to its traditions.

In some legends, he’s seen acting out a comedy with humble mountain people; at other times, an epic romance with the inhabitants of ancient castles.

The devil is everywhere.

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A Ripper of Yesteryear (Parts III and IV)

A Ripper of Yesteryear
(Un destripador de antaño)
Parts III and IV
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

(Read Part II here)

– III –

In that back room of the apothecary shop, where, according to the authoritative account of Jacoba de Alberte, no human being entered, Don Custodio was in the habit most nights of having a chat with a canon of the Holy Metropolitan Church, a fellow student of pharmaceutical arts, an older man, dry as a piece of kindling, with a ready smile and a great fondness for tobacco. He was the constant friend and intimate confidant of Don Custodio, and if the horrendous crimes that the common people attributed to the apothecary were true, no one would be more appropriate to keep the secret of such abominations than the Canon Don Lucas Llorente, who was the quintessence of mystery and of concealment from the masses.

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A Ripper of Yesteryear (Part II)

A Ripper of Yesteryear
(Un destripador de antaño)
Part II
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

(Read Part I here)

– II –

One day more dismay than ever fell upon the millers’ shack. The fatal deadline had come: the end of the lease, and either they paid the landlord, or they would see themselves evicted from the property, with neither a roof to shelter them nor land to cultivate the cabbage for their soup. And both the good-for-nothing Juan Ramon and the diligent Pepona alike professed for that parcel of land the mindless affection that they would hardly profess for their son, the fruit of their loins. To leave that place seemed to them worse than going to the grave; for the latter, in the end, must happen to all mortals, while the former doesn’t occur save for the unforeseen hardships of bad luck. Where would they find the money? There probably wasn’t in all the region the two onzas that amounted to the rent for the place. In that year of misery, Pepona calculated, one wouldn’t find two onzas except in the poor box or St. Minia’s collection plate. But the priest surely would have two onzas, and plenty more, sewn into his mattress or buried in the vegetable garden.

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A Ripper of Yesteryear (Part I)

A Ripper of Yesteryear
(Un destripador de antaño)
Part I
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

The legend of “The Ripper,” the half-sage, half-sorcerer assassin, is a very old one in my homeland. I heard it at a tender age, whispered or chanted in frightful refrains, perhaps by my old nursemaid at the edge of my cradle, perhaps in the rustic kitchen, in the gathering of the farmhands, who told it with shudders of fear or dark laughter. It appeared to me again, like one of Hoffman’s phantasmagoric creations, in the dark and twisted alleys of a town that until recently remained tinged with medieval colors, as if there were still pilgrims in the world, and the hymn of Ultreja still resounded below the vaults of the cathedral. Later, the clamor of the newspapers, the vile panic of the ignorant multitude, made the story spring forth again in my imagination, tragic and ridiculous as Quasimodo, hunchbacked with all the humps that disfigure blind Terror and infamous Superstition. I will tell it to you. Enter valiantly with me into the shadowy regions of the soul.

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The Convalescents’ Tea

The Convalescents’ Tea
(El té de las convalecientes)
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

They were still a bit frail, with a touch of haze in their dull eyes; but already they were eager to jump back in the ring and enjoy their youth. They had seen the terror of death up close, and it seemed miraculous to have escaped its clutches.

They were young ladies of the best society, with laughing and lively futures of unlimited promise, surprised in the middle of their lives of pleasant frivolities and hopes of love and happiness by the terrible epidemic, which chose its victims from those in the prime of life, as if it scorned the elderly, death’s sure and soon prey. Some had suffered bronchopneumonia, with its delirium and cruel suffocation; others had vomited blood by the mouthful; yet others began to show symptoms of meningitis….

And just as it seemed they were about to cross the black door and the mysterious river that sleeps between banks lined with asphodel and henbane, whose waters fall from the oar without any echo, the evil began to recede, normality was reappearing. The interesting little patients bloomed again, so to speak — not with all the vitality that one would want, but like those languid and drooping roses that slowly revive in a tall glass of water.

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Godmother Death

Godmother Death
(La madrina)
by Emilia Pardo Bazán

When his second son was born, puny and barely breathing, the father looked down at the child in fury, for he had dreamed of a lineage of sturdy sons. And when the boy’s mother exclaimed — optimistic, as all mothers are — “We must find him a godmother,” the father growled:

“Godmother! Godmother! Death will be his godmother… if he lives!”

Convinced the baby would not survive, the father allowed the baptism day to arrive without stopping his wife from bringing their son to the font. In such cases, it’s good luck to invite the first person who comes along to be the godparent. So that’s what they did, when at dusk of a December day they went to the parish church.

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