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sábado, 7 de enero de 2012

THE NAIL, a short story by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

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"The thing which is most ardently desired by a man who steps into a stagecoach, bent upon a long journey, is that his companions may be agreeable, that they may have the same tastes, possibly the same vices, be well educated and know enough not to be too familiar.
When I opened the door of the coach I felt fearful of encountering an old woman suffering with the asthma, an ugly one who could not bear the smell of tobacco smoke, one who gets seasick every time she rides in a carriage, and little angels who are continually yelling and screaming for God knows what.
Sometimes you may have hoped to have a beautiful woman for a traveling companion; for instance, a widow of twenty or thirty years of age (let us say, thirty-six), whose delightful conversation will help you pass away the time. But if you ever had this idea, as a reasonable man you would quickly dismiss it, for you know that such good fortune does not fall to the lot of the ordinary mortal. These thoughts were in my mind when I opened the door of the stagecoach at exactly eleven o'clock on a stormy night of the Autumn of 1844. I had ticket No. 2, and I was wondering who No. 1 might be. The ticket agent had assured me that No. 3 had not been sold.
It was pitch dark within. When I entered I said, "Good evening," but no answer came. "The devil!" I said to myself. "Is my traveling companion deaf, dumb, or asleep?" Then I said in a louder tone: "Good evening," but no answer came.
All this time the stagecoach was whirling along, drawn by ten horses".

You can read the story on:

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón was born at Guadix in the province of Granada, the 10th of March 1833, the
fourth of ten children of an old and noble family, whose wealth had been lost in the wars of the Napoleonic
period and the disorders that had followed. His father destined him for the bar, and after reaching the baccalaureate at the age of fourteen, at the seminario of Guadix, he went to Granada to begin his professional studies, only to be recalled by the res angusta domi to his home, where perforce he exchanged jurisprudence for theology, and began preparation for the priesthood.
The boy's heart was not in his professional studies, and his best efforts were given to other matters; he
taught himself French and Italian, began to write, and formed the project of going to Madrid, to set up as a
man of letters. His parents declined to support him in this ambition, but Alarcón persisted. Through Torcuato
Tárrago, a young writer at that time living in Guadix, he was introduced to a Cadiz publisher, who undertook
the issuing of a weekly journal, El Eco de Occidente, which was to appear at Cadiz and Granada, and whose literary redaction was to be entrusted to the two young men. The venture [p. vi] was successful. After three years' work the savings seemed sufficient, and on the 18th of January, 1853, Alarcón left home.He went first to Cadiz, where he gave his attention to matters concerning the journal, and a month later he
reached Madrid,—without introduction or friends, but with some little money and with a goodly sheaf of
verses, notably an ambitious continuation of Espronceda's Diablo Mundo, all of which he burned, after much interviewing of publishers. In short, he did not get along at all at the capital, and when his money was gone
and the husks were sour, he made his own the immemorial custom of the prodigal, and went back to his
father's house. A complete reconciliation followed his return. He had been drawn for military service: his
father purchased his release, and gave him permission to live in Granada, where he renewed his connection
with the Eco de Occidente. In Granada also he found agreeable literary society, and the year spent there was one of profit to himself and of success for his journal, in whose management he had an increasing influence and part.

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