Adios, Cordera!

By Leopoldo Alas English Version They were three-always the same three- Rosa, Pinin and La Cordera. The meadow Samonte was a triangular patch of velvety green spread out like a carpet at the foot of the hill. Its lower angle extended as far as the railway track from Oviedo to Gijon; and a telegraph post, flying flagpole in the corner of the field, represented to Rosa and Pinin the world without- a world unknown, mysterious, and forever to be dreaded and ignored. Pinin, after seriously considering the subject as he watched from day to day this tranquil and inoffensive post, finally came to the conclusion that the telegraph post was trying its best to be simply a friendly tree, nothing more, and to give the impression that its glass cups were some strange fruit; soon he gained sufficient confidence to climb up almost to the wires. He never went as far as the cups, for they reminded him too strongly of some of the scared vessels in the church, and he was able to shake off a feeling of awe only when he had slid down again and planted his feet safely on the green sod. Rosa, less audacious but more enamored of the unknown, contented herself with sitting beneath the telegraph post for hours at a time and listening to the wind as it drew a weird metallic song from the wires and mingled it with sighs from the heart of the pine. At times these vibrations seemed to be music , and then again to Rosa they were whispers traveling along the wires from an unknown to an unknown. She had no curiosity to learn what people on opposite of the sides of the world were saying to one another. It mattered nothing to her; she only listened to the sound of its melody and mystery. La Cordera, having lived to a mature age, was more matter-of-fact than her companions. She held aloof from contact with the world and contemplated the telegraph pole from a purely an inanimate of no use except to rub against. La Codera was a cow who had seen much of life, and for hours together she lay in the meadow passing her time meditating rather the feeling enjoying the tranquility of life., the gray sky, the peaceful earth, and seeking ti improve her mind. She joined in the games of the children, whose duty it was to guard her, and had she been able, she would have smiled at the idea that Rosa and Pinin were charged with her care-she,, La Cordera!with keeping her the railway track. Just as she would be inclined to jump! Why should meddle with the railway track? It was her pleasure to graze quietly, selecting with care the choicest morsels without raising her head to look about in idle curiosity, and after that to lie down either to meditate or else to taste the delights of simply not suffering; just to exist-that was all she cared to do; other things were dangerous undertakings. Her peace of mind had only been disturbed at the inauguration of the railway, when she had become almost beside herself with terror at seeing the first train pass. She had jumped the stone wall before the neighboring field and joined the other cattle in their wild antics; and her fear had lasted for several days, recurring with more or less violence every time the engine appeared at the mouth of the tunnel. Little by little she realized that the train was harmless, a peril which always passed by, a

catastrophe which threatened but did not strike. She therefore reduced her precautions and ceased to put herself on the defensive by lowering her head. Later on she gazed at the train without even getting up and ended by entirely losing her antipathy and distrust and not looking at it at all. In Rosa and Pinin the novelty of the railway produced impressions much more agreeable. In the beginning it brought excitement mixed with superstitious dead; the children danced wildly about and gave vent to loud shrieks. Then there came a kind of quiet diversions, repeated several times a day as they watched the huge iron snake glide rapidly by, with its burden of strange people. But the railway and telegraph furnished incidents of only short duration, and these were soon swallowed up in the sea of solitude which surrounded the meadow Samonte, then no living being was to be seen nor sound from the outside world to be heard. Morning after morning under the burning rays of the sun and amid the hum of swarming insects the children and the cow watched for the approach of noon to return to the house, and on the long, melancholy afternoons they gain awaited the coming of the night. The shadows lengthened , the birds became quiet, and here and there a star appeared in the darkest part of the sky. The souls of the children reflected the serenity of solemn and serious nature, and seated near La Cordera, they maintained a dreamy silence, broken only now and then by the soft tinkle of the cowbell. The children, inseparable as the two halves of green fruit, were united in an affection existing by reason of their scanty knowledge of what was distinct in them and what made them two. This affection was extended to La Cordera, the motherly cow, and as far as she was able, she returned guarding her. She showed wonderful patience and tolerance when, included in their imaginative games, she was subjected to no very gentle usage and gave evidence at all times of quiet and thoughtful consideration. Only recently had Anton de Chinta, the children's father, acquired possession of the meadow Samonte and La Cordera enjoyed the privilege of such succulent pasture. She had previously been compelled herbage which grew along borders. In those times of poverty, Pinin and Rosa out for her the most favorable spots, and in many guarded her against the indignities to which animals that ave to look for folder on public lands are exposed. And in the lean and hungry days of the stable when hay was scarce and turnips not to be had, the cowed to the children a thousand little turnips which served to make life more bearable. Then, too, during those heroic times between the birth and weaning of her calves, when the inevitable question arose as to how much milk the Chintas should have and what was necessary for her own offspring, it was at such times that Pinin and Rosa were always found taking sides with La Cordera. They would secretly let loose the young calf, which, wild with delight and stumbling over everything in its path, would rush to seek food and shelter underneath the ample body of its mother. The latter would turn her head toward the children with a look of tenderness and gratitude. Such ties could never be broken and such memories never be effaced. Anton de Chinta had come to the conclusion that he was born under an unlucky star and that his golden dreams of gradually increasing his stable were not to be fulfilled; for, having procured the one cow by means of a thousand economies and privatizations, he not only failed to acquire a second but finally found himself behind his rent. He saw in La Cordera his only available asset and realized that

she must sold in spite of the fact that she was considered one of the family and that his wife her last breath had referred to the cow as their future mainstay. As the mother lay upon her deathbed, in a room separated from the stable only by partition of interwoven cornstalks, she turned her weary eyes toward La Cordera as if to silently entreat her to be a second mother to the children and to supply that affection which the father could not understand. Anton de Chinta had realized this in some way and consequently said nothing to the children of the necessity for selling the cow. One Saturday morning at daybreak he took advantage of the fact that Rosa and Pinin were still asleep and started with a heavy heart for Gijon, driving La Cordera before him. When the children awoke they were at a loss to explain the cause of his sudden departure but felt sure the cow must have accompanied him much against her will; and when at evening the father, tired and covered with dust, brought the animal back and would give no explanation of his absence, the children apprehended danger. The cow had not been sold. With the sophistry of tenderness and affection he had put the selling price so high that no one would pay it and had scowled at any prospective purchaser presumptuous enough even to approach the amount upon which he obstinately insisted. He quieted his conscience with the argument that surely he had been willing to sell; the fault lay with the others who were not willing to pay La Cordera's value. So he had taken the road home again, accompanied by a number of neighboring farmers who were driving their livestock before them and experiencing more or less difficulty according to the length of acquaintance between master and beast. From the day when Pinin and Rosa began to suspect that there was trouble in store, they had no peace of mind, and their worst fears were soon afterward conformed by the appearance of the landlord with threats of eviction. La Cordera must therefore be sold, and perhaps only for the price of a breakfast. The following Saturday Pinin accompanied his father to a neighboring market town, where the child looked in horror at the butchers armed with their weapons of slaughter. To one of these the animal stood, and after being branded was driven back to her stable, the bell tinkling sadly at all the way. Anton was silent, the eyes of the boy were red and swollen, and Rosa, upon hearing of the sale, put her arms around La Cordera's neck and sobbed. The next few days were sad ones in the meadow Samonte. La Cordera, ignorant of her fate, was as calm and placid as she would continue to be up to the moment when the brutal blow of the axe was given. Pinin and Rosa could do nothing but lie stretched out on the grass in continued silence, discontinued in regard to the future. They cast looks of hatred at the telegraph wires and the passing trains which were connected with that world so distant from all their comprehension- the world which was robbing them of their only friend and companion. A few days later, the separation took place; the butcher came and brought the money agreed

upon. He was asked by Anton to take a draught of wine and forced to listen to the extraordinary virtues of the cow. The father could not believe that La Cordera was not going to another master where she would be well treated and happy. Excited by the wine and the the weight of the money in his pocket, Anton continued to extol her domestic qualities, her milk-giving capacity, and strength under the yoke. The other smiled as he realized what destiny awaited her. Pinin and Rosa, clasping one another's hands, stood watching the enemy from a distance and thinking sadly of the past, with its memories of La Cordera. Before she was finally led away they flung themselves upon her neck and covered it with kisses. The children followed distance down the narrow road and formed a melancholy group with the indifferent driver and the reluctant cow. Finally they stopped and stood watching the animal as it slowly disappeared in the shadows of the bordering hedges. Their foster mother was lost to them forever. “Adios, Cordera!” cried Rosa, bursting into tears. “Adios, Cordera de mi alma.” “Adios, Cordera,” repeated Pinin, his voice chocked with emotion. “Adios,” Rosa answered sadly, and for the last time the distant cowbell and then its piteous lamentation was lost among other sounds of the night. Early the following day, Pinin and Rosa went to the meadow Samonte. Never had its solitude been so oppressive; never had it seemed a desert waste until now. Suddenly smoke appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, and then came the train. In a box-like car pierced with narrow windows, could be seen the forms of closely packed cattle. The children shook their fists at the train, more convinced than ever of the capacity of the world. “They are taking her to the slaughter!” “Adios, Cordera!” “Adios, Cordera!” And Pinin and Rosa gazed with hatred upon the railway and the telegraph, those symbols of the cruel world which was taking away their companion of so many years for the merely of its gluttonous appetite. “Adios, Cordera!” “Adios, Cordera!”

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