A Mysterious Moonlit Meeting

At length the moon shone out faintly, when suddenly by its beams I beheld a figure moving before me at a slight distance. I quickened the pace of the burra and was soon close at its side….

man with donkey on mountain road

There was something peculiarly strange about the figure, but what struck me the most was the tranquility with which it moved along, taking no heed of me, though of course aware of my proximity, but looking straight forward along the road, save when it occasionally raised a huge face and large eyes toward the moon, which was now shining forth in the eastern quarter.

“A cold night,” said I at last. “Is this the way to Talavera?”

“It is the way to Talavera, and the night is cold.”

“I am going to Talavera,” said I, “as I suppose you are yourself.”

“I am going thither, so are you, Bueno.

The tones of the voice which delivered these words were in their way quite as strange and singular as the figure to which the voice belonged…. I had heard something like it before, but where or when I could by no means remember….

“Are you not afraid,” said I at last, “to travel these roads in the dark? It is said that there are robbers abroad.”

“Are you not rather afraid,” replied the figure, “to travel these roads in the dark? – you who are ignorant of the country, who are a foreigner, an Englishman!”

man in hat riding donkey

“How is it that you know me to be an Englishman?” demanded I, much surprised.

“That is no difficult matter,” replied the figure; “the sound of your voice was enough to tell me that.”

“You speak of voices,” said I; “suppose the tone of your own voice were to tell me who you are?”

“That it will not do,” replied my companion; “you know nothing about me – you can know nothing about me.”

“Be not sure of that, my friend; I am acquainted with many things of which you have little idea.”

“Por exemplo,” said the figure.

“For example,” said I; “you speak two languages.”

The figure moved on, seemed to consider a moment and then said slowly bueno.

“You have two names,” I continued; “one for the house and the other for the street; both are good, but the one by which you are called at home is the one which you like best.”

The man walked on about ten paces, in the same manner as he had previously done; all of a sudden he turned, and taking the bridle of the burra gently in his hand, stopped her.

man with donkey

I had now a full view of his face and figure, and those huge features and Herculean form still occasionally revisit me in my dreams. I see him standing in the moonshine, staring me in the face with his deep calm eyes. At last he said:

“Are you then one of us?”

from The Works of George Borrow Vol. III: The Bible in Spain

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