An Early Legend

The year 1875, and so it began …

Night had fallen on the farm, Cortijo Las Salinas, and a stormy grey sky was overhead.
Candles were burning by the large stone fireplace and in a large clay pot cooked the hare that José Maria had hunted for dinner that afternoon.  Natividad poked the fire and stirred the pot constantly to avoid the meat with almond sauce sticking to the pan, whilst watching the glow of the light that cast strange threatening shadows around her.

A strong wind blew, strong enough to shake the candlelight. Everyone was restless, tired and looking forward to dinner together.  The nine children, Joseph, Maria, Pilar, Nicholas, Gumersinda, Peter, Nati, Victorian, and Doroteo, the smallest, just two years old, patiently waiting with a piece of bread in hand for the desired hare meat to be ready.  Once ready everyone was quick to devour the food greedily with the small slices of bread scraping the soup pot and licking fingers. Victorian looked strange sitting in his father’s lap while he used the utility knife to cut small pieces of meat for himself to eat.  When they had finished dinner the children went to bed reluctantly to the sound of their father’s stern voice, just like every night, after fighting amongst themselves for some trifle.

Natividad again in late pregnancy, was finally able to sit down and rest awhile in front of the fireplace with her husband but he was preoccupied, thinking of another child he would have to feed.  They heard a loud clap of thunder overhead and a little scared, went to the window where a hinge had come loose and the shutters flapped threateningly.  The raging wind struck the window that had swung open and a gust of wind and rain whipped in as José Maria held his breath with a surprised expression as suddenly a  piece of wall broke off  the left side of the chimney. They were surprised that the gap had been exposed and José Maria began to carefully remove the rock and earth to discover the gap in its entirety.  They discovered a decayed wood cupboard, and inside two small jars badly damaged by the passing of time. Some chunks of mud remained in their hands and fell before the eyes of Natividad, who looked stunned as she looked at her hands.  They completely forgot about the rain and thunder as they looked at their discovery.  This finding had left them stunned as the objects were filled with ancient scrolls littered with phrases that are repeated over and over again.
They read “In the year of the lights and crosses” but did not understand what it meant but they were farmers and had a strong inclination towards superstition.  It was as if José Maria had uncovered a secret that should remain sealed forever as since that night the dreams and premonitions started.  It was as if an evil darkness had been exposed through the gap in the fireplace.

It had been just a few days since that night when Natividad was alone in the farmhouse. José Maria had left with the donkey to go to Sabariego to buy some furniture.  It was a cold night as Natividad lit the fire and was pleasant to feel the crackle of the fire while preparing dinner.
Through the small window the full moon loomed.  An urgent knock on the door startled her thoughts.   She left the clay pot on the table, while a bad omen comes to mind as she walks towards the door, smoothing the wrinkles from her apron with one hand and with the other she picks up a candle that stood in that great soot-stained stone fireplace.

Not without caution, she removed the large piece of wood that barred the door, and opened the door without asking who it is.  In the dark doorway the candlelight projected strange shadows that surround a dense, dark mist. Waiting expectantly she looked back and forth, she spun around to hear her name called behind her but saw there was nobody there. She stayed holding the candle in hand anxious and frightened. The sigh of the wind whistled around again as she thought she heard her name once again. Struggling to control this primitive fear trapped in her throat, she went to the horse corral. The door creaked loudly as it opened and further increased her fear.

She went quietly to see the oxen, mules, goats, hens and the donkey sleeping … everything seemed to be in order, nothing seemed troubled and all was quiet.  In the hall were some plows and farming implements and on a pile of hay the dogs dozed and being startled by the intrusion looked up restlessly.

A sound barely audible behind Natividad left her almost breathless and she could feel an invisible hand touch her as cold as steel.  A shiver of dread almost paralyzed her. The candle suddenly went out and she could see the face of fear in that black darkness.
Hurriedly, she turned around and ran out of the pen, not turning her head as if the devil himself was in pursuit.  It seemed an endless distance to the safety of the farm, when there she hurriedly bolted the door, trembling with terror.  She cursed a thousand times to José Maria for not being there with her!

She went straight to the stove with the fire burning and to her astonishment saw that the clay pot in which she was making the food was not on the table where she had left it when she heard a knock on the door.  She looked to either side of the room and suddenly her eyes are riveted on the window sill that is to the right of the fireplace in disbelief.  She could see the gazpacho was now on the table, she jumped back and almost fell to the ground, just missing the black and white cat.  His tail bristled as he meowed piteously.
‘Nati, open the door to me!’ José Maria’s voice rang in her ears like a godsend.  Stumbling to open the door with trembling hands and crying like a baby she threw herself into his arms, and quickly tried to explain what had happened.   He told Nati, that she spent too much time alone and has many fantasies …!  She looked at him in disbelief, hurt … as he did not believe her.

But this was only the beginning of the many legends to be told from Cortijo Las Salinas.

Many thanks to Fina Larom for the original writing of this legend.  Translated from Spanish to English.

The Ruin Before the Renovation

Published by Steffi Goddard Artist

Contemporary artist, painter of large exciting abstract paintings, contemporary faces, women and the female form and anything that inspires me

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