IstanBULgariA

The Tall Woman

The Tall Woman part 14

The Tall Woman part 14

“At the first glance I perceived, with amazement and alarm, that she was Telesforo’s implacable enemy. She was just as he had described her to me—with her enormous nose, her devilish eyes, her awful mouth, her percale handkerchief, and that diminutive fan which seemed in her hands the scepter of indecency and mockery.

“She immediately observed that I was looking at her, and fixed her gaze upon me in a peculiar manner, as if recognizing me, as if letting me know that she recognized me, as if acquainted with the fact that the dead man had told me about the scenes in Jardines Street and Lobo Street, as if defying me, as if declaring me the inheritor of the hate which she had cherished for my unfortunate friend.

“I confess that at the time my fright was greater than my wonder at; those new coincidences and accidents. It seemed evident to me that some supernatural relation, antecedent to earthly fife, had existed between the mysterious old woman and Telesfo

The Tall Woman part 13

The Tall Woman part 13

“Well, listen a few minutes longer, and you will see that I was mistaken at the time, as you are mistaken now. The one who unfortunately made no mistake was Telesforo. It is much easier to speak the word ‘insanity’ than to find an explanation for some things that happen on the earth.”

“Speak, speak!”

“I am going to; and this time, as it is the last, I will pick up the thread of my story without first drinking a glass of wine.”

Province of Albacete

“A few days after that conversation with Telesforo I was sent to the province of Albacete in my capacity as engineer of the mountain corps. Not many weeks had passed before I learned, from a contractor for public works, that my unhappy friend had been attacked by a dreadful form of jaundice; it had turned him entirely green, and he reclined in an arm-chair without working or wishing to see anybody, weeping night and day in the most inconsolable and bitter grief. The doctors had gi

The Tall Woman part 12

The Tall Woman part 12

“‘It was madness to try to catch her. Besides, people were already passing through the Carrera de San Jeronimo, and in Prado Street, loo. It was broad daylight. The tall woman kept on running or flying, as far as Huertas Street, which was now lighted up by the sun. There she stopped to look back at me. She waved her closed fan at me once or twice, threateningly, and then disappeared around a corner.

‘“Wait a little longer, Gabriel. Do not yet pronounce judgment in this case, where my life and soul are concerned. Listen to me two minutes longer.

In Santa Agueda

‘“When I entered my house I met Colonel Falcon, who had just come to tell me that my Joaquina, my betrothed, all my hope and happiness and joy on earth, had died the day before in Santa Agueda. The unfortunate father had telegraphed Falcon to tell me—me, who should have divined it an hour before, when I met the evil spirit of my life! Don’t you understand, now, that I must kill t

The Tall Woman part 11

The Tall Woman part 11

“‘Upon this, I looked around—-and there she was! There at my shoulder, almost touching me with her clothes, gazing at me with her horrible little eyes, displaying the gloomy cavern of her mouth, fanning herself in a mocking manner, as if to make fun of my childish alarm.

“‘I passed from dread to the most furious anger, to savage and desperate rage. I dashed at the heavy old creature. I flung her against the wall. I put my hand to her throat. I felt of her face, her breast, the straggling locks of her gray hair until I was thoroughly convinced that she was a human being—a woman.

Making believe to cry

‘“Meanwhile she had uttered a howl which was hoarse and piercing at the same time. It seemed false and feigned to me, like the hypocritical expression of a fear which she did not really feel. Immediately afterwards she exclaimed, making believe to cry, though she was not crying, but looking at me with her hyena eyes:

‘““Why

The Tall Woman part 10

The Tall Woman part 10

“ ‘For my part, I tried to believe that it was so. I even came to believe it at the end of several months. Still, I would have given years, of my life to be sure that I was not again to encounter the tall woman. But, to-day, I would give every drop of my blood to be able to meet her again.’

“‘What for?’

“‘To kill her on the spot.’

“‘I do not understand you.’

“ ‘You will understand me when I tell you that I did meet her again, three weeks ago, a few hours before I had the fatal news of my poor Joaquina’s death.’

“‘Tell me about it, tell me about it!’

“‘There is little more to tell. It was five o’clock in the morning. It was not yet fully light, though the dawn was visible from the streets looking towards the east. The street-lamps had just been put out, and the policemen had withdrawn. As I was going through Prado Street, so as to get to the other end of Lobo Street, the dreadful w

The Tall Woman part 9

The Tall Woman part 9

“‘A few moments later I was in my room; I always carried my latchkey, so as not to have to disturb my good Jose. Nevertheless, he was waiting for me that night. My misfortunes of the 15th and 16th of November were not yet ended.

“‘“What has happened?” I asked him, in surprise.

““‘Major Falcon was here,” he replied, with evident agitation, “waiting for you from eleven till half-past two, and he told me that, if you came home to sleep, you had better not undress, as he would be back at daybreak.”

“‘Those words left me trembling with grief and alarm, as if they had predicted my own death to me. I knew that my beloved father, ill his home in Jaen, had been suffering frequent and dangerous attacks of his chronic disease. I had written to my brothers that, if there should hr a sudden and fatal termination of the sickness, they were to telegraph Major Falcon, who would inform me in some suitable way. I had not the slightest doub

The Tall Woman part 8

The Tall Woman part 8

“ ‘This reasoning gone through with, I made an extraordinary effort and turned my head. Ah, Gabriel!—Gabriel! how fearful it was! The tall woman had followed me with silent tread, was right over me, almost touching me with her fan, almost leaning her head on my shoulder.

“‘Why was she doing it?—why, my Gabriel? Was she a thief? Was she really a man in disguise? Was she some malicious old hag who had seen that I was afraid of her? Was she a specter conjured up by my very cowardice ? Was she a mocking phantasm of human self-deception?

“‘I could never tell you all I thought in a single moment. If the truth must be told, I gave a scream and flew away like a child of four years who thinks he sees the Black Man. I did not stop running until I got out into Montera Street. Once there, my fear left me like magic. This in spite of the fact that that street also was deserted. Then I turned my head to look back to Jardines Street. I could see down its whole l

The Tall Woman part 7

The Tall Woman part 7

‘“I did not dash away in a run when I saw my life’s sphinx. I restrained my impulse to do so, less out of shame and manly pride than out of fear lest my very fright should reveal to her who I was, or should give her wings to follow me, to overtake me—I do not know what. Panic like that dreams of dangers which have neither form nor name.

Distant Montera Street

“‘My house was at the opposite end of the long and narrow street, in which I was alone, entirely alone with that mysterious phantom whom I thought able to annihilate me with a word. How should I ever get home? Oh, how anxiously I looked towards that distant Montera Street, broad and well lighted, where there are policemen to be found at all hours! I decided finally to get the better of my weakness; to dissemble and hide that wretched fear; not to hasten my pace, but to keep on advancing slowly, even at the cost of years of health or life, and in this way, little by little, to go on getting nea

The Tall Woman part 6

The Tall Woman part 6

“‘The very terror or delirium of fear which instantly overcame me gave me somehow a most acute perception, so that I could distinguish at a glance, in the two seconds it took me to pass by that repugnant vision, the slightest details of her face and dress. Let me see if I can put together my impressions in the way and form in which I received them, as they were engraved ineffaceably on my brain in the light of the street-lamp which shone luridly over that ghastly scene. But I am exciting myself too much, though there is reason enough for it, as you will see further on. Don’t be concerned, however, for the state of my mind. I am not yet crazy!

Little cotton handkerchief

“ ‘The first thing which struck me in that woman, as I will call her, was her extreme height and the breadth of her bony shoulders. Then, the roundness and fixity of her dry owl-eyes, the enormous size of her protruding nose, and the great dark cavern of her mouth. Finally, her dress,

The Tall Woman part 5

The Tall Woman part 5

Nevertheless, the pitiable scene would be gone over again as often as a similar thing occurred—and remember that I was twenty-four years old, that I had experienced a great many adventures by night, and yet that I had never had the slightest difficulty of any sort with such solitary women in the streets after midnight! But nothing of what I have so far told you ever came to have any importance, since that irrational fear always ieft me as soon as I reached home, or saw any one else in the street, and I would scarcely recall it a few minutes afterwards, any more than one would recall a stupid mistake which had no result of any consequence.

Little house in Jardines Street

“ ‘Things were going on so, when, nearly three years ago (unhappily, I have good reason for knowing the date, it was the night of November 15-16, 1857), I was coming home at three in the morning. As you remember, I was living then in that little house in Jardines Street, near Montera Stre

The Tall Woman part 4

The Tall Woman part 4

‘“Go on,’ I replied, sitting down. The fact was, I almost repented having entered the house as I saw the expression of abject fear on my, friend’s fee.

‘“Listen, then’, said he, wiping the perspiration from his forehead.

“‘I do not know whether it is due to some inborn fatality of imagination, or to having heard some story or other of the kind with which children are so rashly allowed to be frightened, but the fact is, that since my earliest years nothing has caused me so much horror and alarm as a woman alone, in the street, at a late hour of the night. The effect is the same whether I actually encounter her, or simply have an image of her in my mind.

“‘You can testify that I was never a coward. I fought a duel once, when I had to, like any other man. Just after I had left the School of Engineers, my workmen in Despenaperros revolted, and I fought them with stick and pistol until I made them submit. All my life long, in Jaen, in M

The Tall Woman part 3

The Tall Woman part 3

“As you know, it turned out that she died suddenly at the baths of Santa Agueda, at the end of the summer of 1859. I was in Pau when I received the sad news of her death, which affected me very much on account of my close friendship with Telesforo.

With her I had spoken only once, in the house of her aunt, the wife of General Lopez, and I certainly thought her bluish pallor a symptom of bad health. But, however that may be, she had a distinguished manner and a great deal of grace, and was, besides, the only daughter of a title, and a title that carried some comfortable thousands with it; so I felt sure my good mathematician would be inconsolable.

Elegant bachelor quarters in Lobo street

Consequently, as soon as I was back in Madrid, fifteen or twenty days after his loss, I went to see him very early one morning. He lived in elegant bachelor quarters in Lobo street I do not remember the number, but it was near the Carrera de Ban Jeronimo.

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The Tall Woman part 2

The Tall Woman part 2

This took place in 1875. It was the height of the summer. I do not remember whether it was Saint James’s day or Saint Louis’s ; I am inclined to think it was Saint Louis’s. Whichever it was, we enjoyed a delicious coolness at that height, and the heart and brain, as well as the stomach, were there in much better working order than usual.

When the six friends were seated, Gabriel continued as follows:

“I do not think you will accuse me of being a visionary. Luckily or unluckily, I am, if you will allow me to say so, a man of the modern world. I have no superstition about me, and am as much of a Positivist us the best of them, although I include among the positive data of nature all the mysterious faculties and feelings of the soul. Well, then, apropos of supernatural, or extra-natural, phenomena, listen to what I have seen and heard, although I was not the real hero of the very strange story I am going to relate, and then tell me what explanation of an ear

The Tall Woman part 1

The Tall Woman part 1

Pedro Antonio De Alarcon (1833-1891)

Born in the province of Granada, Alarcon studied first for the law and then delved into theology. He made several unsuccessful efforts to sell his early writings. His first success was as editor of a small provincial paper. He was for a great part of his life engaged in political activities, was exiled, and was finally recalled to fill a position of honour. His best works are his novels and short stories.

The most famous of these is doubtless The Tall Woman, one of the classic ghost stories. It is remarkably well told, and exemplifies the writer’s outstanding qualities of vivacity, invention, and ingenuity.

The Tall Woman

“TTDW little we really know, my friends; how little we really I know.”

The speaker was Gabriel, a distinguished civil engineer of the mountain corps. He was seated under a pine tree, near a spring, on the crest of the Guadarrama. It was only about a league and a half di