The Cordonera

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The Cordonera. Emilia Pardo Bazan

Everyone remembers her, because she lived many, many years, and three generations have seen her slowly age, in her narrow tent, among rolls of yarn, pieces of trimmings, gold and silver chevrons for chasubles, and strings of souls of acorns, of turned wood, which, hung from nails, produced, when they collided, a chatter of ossicles of the dead.
She was well known that she must have been very beautiful… When? Here began the vagueness and even the contradictions of a story that nobody knew well, because no one ever took care to find out on time.
Would the woman count seventy, seventy-six, eighty, who, invariably, at the same time of the morning, opened her establishment, sat down, very straightened and gray hair, behind the counter, and wielding needles gleaming from use, began to do stocking, interrupting her work if a customer entered, with monotonous and forced resignation?
One could not attach age strictly to a face that had retained its sculptural regularity, and to a body still straight, still with rich and noble curves. Old age is not something to be hidden; But, without a doubt, there are people who hide it, not with shaves or touch-ups, but by special kindness of nature, until very late.
There are women who already at sixty seem overwhelmed by decrepitude. The cordonera, if she had the hard four, wore them so well, that when she dyed her cheeks pink any emotion—the anger of haggling over a commodity, for example—seemed, suddenly, rejuvenated.
The cordonera had its legend, almost forgotten. Rarely, with a spontaneous movement of curiosity, someone, usually a stranger – because in the provinces legends are preserved to tell them to strangers and amaze them – would approach the little shop and contemplate for a moment that withered face, with still beautiful lines. It was that he had been told how, in another time, by the cordonera, a man killed himself …

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