Miguel Delibes: The holy innocents
but the Grand Duke didn't respond to his call, so Azarias was surprised and he did it again,
but the Grand Duke didn't respond to his call, and Azarias,
stubborn, for the third time, but inside the pen, not a sound, so Azarias pushed open the door, grabbed the lamp, and found the sad owl in a corner, and when he showed him the plucked magpie, the owl didn't move a muscle, and then Azarias left the magpie on the ground and he sat beside him, and he delicately took him by the wings, and he closely held him to the warmth of his body, insistently scratching him between the eyes and tenderly saying to him,
but the bird didn't react to the habitual stimulae, so Azarias deposited him on the straw, went outside and asked for the master,
the goshawk is sick, master, he's got a fever,
he informed him,
and the master,
what can we do, Azarias! he's old by now, you'll have to look for a new chick,
and Azarias disconsolate,
but it's the goshawk, master,
and the master, with sleepy eyes,
and tell, what difference is one bird from another?
but nobody responded, and then Azarias pushed open the gate and saw the owl in the corner where he had left him last night, but fallen and rigid, and Azarias went over to him with sort steps, picked him up by the tip of a wing, opened his jacket, closed it over the bird, and said with a broken voice,
but the Grand Duke didn't open his eyes, nor clatter with his beak, or anything, so that Azarias crossed the patio, went over to the gate, slipped open the blot, and with its squeaking, Lupe─Dacio's wife─came out,
what's gotten into your head now, Azarias?
I'm going over to my sister's
and without more ado, he left, and at a rapid trot, without feeling the gravel, nor the thorns on the soles of his feet, he crossed the oak grove, the growth of Spanish broom, and the stream bed, sweetly clutching the cadaver of the bird against his chest, and as soon as Regula set her eyes on him,
what about the kids?
they're in school,
isn't there anybody at home?
oh, the Little Girl is,
and at that moment Regula noticed the lump that Azarias protected against his chest, opened the ends of his jacket, and the cadaver of the big ugly bird fell on the red floor tiles, and she, Regula, shouted hysterically,
you'd be getting that carrion out of this house, do you hear me?
and Azarias, submissively picked up the bird and left it outside, on the stone bench, came back inside the house, and went out again with the Little Girl, cradling her in his right arm, and the Little Girl turned her lost eyes without focusing on anything, and he, Azarias, picked up the goshawk by his foot, and an adze with his left hand, and Regula,
where are you going with those things?
to dig a grave, I'm telling you,
and on the way, the Little Girl emitted one of those interminable and sorrowful bellows that would freeze anyone's blood but Azarias didn't change his expression, and he reached the foot of the hill, deposited the creature in a cool spot among the rockrose, took off his jacket and in the blink of an eye, he dug a deep hole at the base of a cork tree, deposited the bird in it, and immediately filled up the hole, pushing the dirt with the adze, and he remained watching the tomb, his feet barefoot, his mended pants at the back of the knees, his mouth half-open, and after a while, his pupils turned toward the Little Girl, whose head hung to one side, as if it were disarticulated, and her diffused eyes crossed and looked at the emptiness without focusing on anything, and Azarias squatted down, picked her up in his arms, sat on the edge of the slope, next to the fresh dirt, held her tightly to him, and mumbled,
and began to insistently scratch her hair on the back of her neck with the index finger of his right hand, while the Little Girl, indifferent, let him do it.
Portrait of Miguel Delibes by Alejandro Cabeza