Autors i Autores

Salvador Espriu

Tereseta que baixava les escales.

2. English [Tereseta-coming-down-the-stairs]


"That's not fair, no, it's not fair, you're looking. You have to close your eyes and turn your back to us, facing Santa Maria. But first you've got to know where we're playing and that's going to be from carrer dels Corders, carrer de la Bomba, behind the bakery, carrer de la Esglèsia and the square. No, not down by the river because we'll be slowed down by the sand and we've got plenty of space to play anyway. If we include it, we'll never get to hide and we'll get too tired. The rectory, but the wall's out of bounds, all right? And now, no cheating. Teresa, stop there, come on, let's go. That's not fair, she's peeping. Teresa, I told you, you've got to stand with your back to us, looking at Santa Maria. If you do that, you don't need to shut your eyes but you mustn't move a muscle till we call out. Oh, come on, haven't the rest of you got it yet? In carrer de la Torre, yes. By the river, no, because you get bogged down in the sand. You want to count again? We already counted, Teresa. Have you got a problem? This is a waste of time! It's going to be dark soon, the boats will be in and we won't have even started to play. The "Panxita" is coming back from Jamaica? Everybody knows that! My dad went even further, to Russia and all. He came back with a fur coat and he was so hairy he looked like a bear. When he went to give thanks for his safe return, father Josep d'Alpens, who was in the pulpit, greeted him as if he was the devil, and it was hilarious, dad always says. Hey, come on, are we going to play or not? You'd think yours was the only frigate in the world. You're so pig-headed! Let's count and no complaints if you get to be it. Eeny, meeny, miney mo, catch a tinker by the toe. If he shouts let him go. O.U.T spells out and out you must go. You again, Teresa, well you deserve it. Let's scatter. You're limping, Bareu? Hang on everyone, Bareu's limping. Shall we give him a start on us or will he keep an eye on the it. All right, he can help by watching her. Don't complain Tereseta. Now you're not alone. Ah, at last. Hey, let's see your back! If Bareu, lame or not, is going to give the sign, it'll be almost impossible for us to get to the rectory. Who's called out "ready"? No, Teresa, no, we still haven't hidden yet. Don't come down the steps, Tereseta, I'm telling you, don't come down because some idiot's called out too soon. It's just an excuse, I'm trying to wriggle out of it because I'm trapped? You just don't want to play, do you? You're angry because you've got to be the it, that's what's happening. Don't come down the steps, can't you hear me? Don't come down. All right, I've had enough of you! Yes, run behind me all you like. I give up."


"Haven't you seen them? So, where have you been? They got back yesterday! This time they've been doing the grand tour for three months, round the Baltic and then overland of course, through Germany, Switzerland, Milan, Venice and Florence. They left the "Panxita" in Danzig. It's strange. They weren't supposed to go to Italy because it was only meant to be a sea trip, for business. They must have persuaded the captain to make it a pleasure trip, a romantic tour. Their father gives them whatever they want. They're radiant today, talking non-stop. They've brought back heaps of magnificent things: glassware from Trieste, porcelain pieces from Capodimonte, marble, silk, medals. They met up with Viçenc de Pastor in Fiesole, or he arranged a meeting because he loves Teresa. I suspect he hasn't come back too victorious because he's all down in the mouth and doesn't want to talk about it. Yes, they are really beautiful girls and Teresa even more than Julia, don't you think? I don’t agree. Teresa's better-looking. Especially since she came back. She's got a gleam in her eye, a faraway light she's picked up somewhere, and a happiness that's hidden and open at the same time. Júlia's more refined but she's more ethereal and delicate too. Their mother died of tuberculosis and that was a terrible blow for the captain. That and the problems with his son. What a waste, that boy. I think he’s in Trinidad in the midst of all those blacks and white riff-raff. He married a Creole, you might even say mixed-race, and they've got a little girl but there’s something wrong with her, she's humpbacked, and I think they’re scratching for a living. Here they come. Look how they're gliding down the church steps, not even touching them. Teresa is marvellous. You can have Júlia. Laugh, for all I care but they look like duchesses and tonight, at the Corpus Christi ball, they'll be the queens."


"Don't say hullo to Teresa, don't speak to her because she looks right through you. She's changed so much, when she used to be so bright and happy. The thing is, she's had one blow after another. Júlia died a lingering death after putting up a brave fight for months. Then, the very day she died, the "Panxita" ran aground at the mouth of the Rhône. No, it wasn't a huge loss economically speaking because Vallalta is rich, but he loved that boat so much! He spends his days at "Pietat", his country place, surrounded by trees and books, and staring at the sea in the distance. He used to be so strong and now he's a decrepit, shaky old man. He doesn't tell stories of his adventures at sea any more. His memory's gone. What a man he was! They say that, as a lad, he even went on Barceló's expedition against Algiers, and that was last century, but maybe the years don't tally. He was everywhere else though, in Iloilo, Mexico, the Nicobar Islands, Newfoundland, Odessa but now the captain just wants to die in the peace of all his trees, and his daughter's looking after him. Yes, Teresa’s about forty years old or maybe a little more and Vicenç de Pastor is still waiting for her to say the word but Teresa doesn’t love anybody. Don't go and say hullo to her. There's no point. She won't even see you. She's coming down the steps as if by instinct."


"Look how she came down the steps, such a lady she is! She walks like an aristocrat, taking her time, rhythmically and light-footed, all at once, and her pace is even and sure. She's of a school and style that’s disappeared now. Yes, Teresa is very old, the same age as me, as you know. Do I remember those days? We used to play together so often, right here in this square, hide-and-seek, tic-tac-toe, freeze tag, leapfrog. It’s all so long ago now. We used to think the village was bigger, immense, brighter-coloured, richer, different. We always used to find a new hiding place every time we were out and running around. Each afternoon we used to wait on the sand for the boats to beach, and sometimes for the return of a sailing ship from faraway seas in America or China. My father was second-in-command on his boat and he went as far as Russia, through icy waters, skirting around islands of ice. He came back after that trip all dressed up in fur, looking like a bear and at the church they were scandalised by his extravagance. All sorts of things happened. One day, around sunset, we went down into the reed beds by the river, all quivering and quaking with the idea of the forbidden adventure. We were practically groping our way through them with the feeling that some kind of miracle was hovering around us. There was, perhaps, a cobweb of mist up at the Our Lady of Remedies Chapel, and storm clouds full of witches were banked up in the background, over La Muntala. And, when we got home, we told our grandmothers a story about bumping into ghosts. All sorts of things happened. We were all growing up together and then I got married. Teresa and her sister Júlia, who died of tuberculosis years ago, used to travel with Captain Villalta in the "Panxita". Then the boat was wrecked and, not long afterwards, Júlia and the old man died. Now, as you can see, Teresa walks right by me without so much as looking at me, with her hunchbacked niece trailing behind her like a dog’s shadow, brushing by me without even a glance, and my family comes from a line that's at least as good as hers, yet I'm supposed to kowtow to her as if I'm some kind of servant. Everything's changed. Teresa’s a sad old woman now and she doesn't know how to laugh. And the village seems so small to me now, so empty and bare, and I'm sure it's the same for her too. In the old days we imagined it in our fantasy as if it was in a cloud that went on forever. Carrer de la Bomba, behind the bakery, carrer de la Torre. Teresa used to come down the church steps as fast as lightning and look how she comes down now. She's such a lady, walking like an aristocrat."


"What do you mean, the coffin of the "Frigate" isn't made of good wood? Get away with you! The niece is tight-fisted, that's for sure, but she won't stint on something that important. After all, they're the same flesh and blood and the tongues can wag all they like but they can't deny that. Look, she's gone from being servant or worse to the great lady who's the boss of it all: such is life. How bent Vicenç de Pastor is now! It's like a judgement. Make no mistake, he's so old and so alone yet they say he always loved her, who knows. Yes, a big crowd, but you don't see something like this every day, you don't have a "Frigate" dying every day. Oof! Very rich. You can be sure of at least two hundred thousand doubloons and you'd still fall short of the mark. All the loot for the hunchback. Oh no, my dear, it doesn’t bother me. God made me nice and straight and like everyone else and with good health. It's better like that. No thank you! Look how they're hanging around her. Yesterday they were almost getting their whips out on her, and now they’re sucking up to her. They're all there: Chubby Bòtil, Limpy Fita, Caterina, Narcisa Mus. The last three laid her out because Paulina, the niece, couldn't do it and now they're hoping for something from her, sly things that they are. Do you know what Narcisa told me? Well, while they were looking for her mantilla, they found some blonde curls and the picture of a man in a little box, the portrait of a tall, well-built young man. And, wait for it, there was a name underneath, like a French name. And nobody suspected a thing since she was travelling so much! And she was so hard and so proud. She didn't speak to my godmother, yes my godmother, God love her, because she was poor, even though they used to play together when they were small. And now, you see, there was a secret man. Well, I suppose there was, but maybe she never did anything wrong. Shh, they're bringing her down now. It must be heavy and those steps are narrow and I hope they don't slip. The wood's expensive, you can be sure of that, expensive all right, just like I said. The bearers are sweating, you feel for them they're sweating so much. Let's see if they drop her down the steps and smash it open."

(From "Tereseta-que-baixava-les-escales" [Tereseta-coming-down-the-stairs], Narracions. Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1974, p. 9-16)

Translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark ©


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Institució de les Lletres Catalanes