It is not the first time that the discovery of a new legend of Toledo surprises us. It is not in vain that it is said that every corner of the city has its own legend, and this well-known sale (now a place with an intense nightlife) was not going to be any less. On this occasion, the blog “Toledo Olvidado” recovers a detailed legend that reveals the origin of such a curious and evocative name: “La Venta del Alma” (Photo: blog “Toledo Olvidado” )
On the other side of the San Martín bridge, on the old road leading from Toledo and Polán and Navahermosa, and at the foot of the hill on which the Cabeza hermitage stands, there is a sale whose title could not help but attract my attention, as long as by chance I crossed the road that borders it at Midday.
One night, the second one that passed in the historical city, we had gone out in order to admire the effect of the moon from the Virgin of the Valley; and well foreign to the toledanas customs, we returned to the capital with intention of entering by the door of San Martin, since the boat that crosses the Tagus ceases from the prayer of rendering services; when arriving, full of admiration and tiredness, to the indicated door, the voice of one of the friends that preceded us, came to make us understand the sad end of our artistic excursion.
La porte est fermée,” he said in his native language and, indeed, the door was closed; we all remained silent, and with our mouth half-open and our eyes fixed on the nailed woods, it seemed that we were waiting for some invisible hand to open it wide.
In vain we beat with our closed fists on her; in vain bitter complaints sprouted from our lips; all our supplications crashed before the insensitivity of her leaves.
There was no other remedy than to go back and ask for hospitality in one of the sales we had found in our path; so we did having the good fortune to find open even the one known by the title of Venta del Alma, and there it was where, from the lips of a simple girl, I heard the tradition that I, in turn, am going to refer to you, as she told me.
I do not know how many, but many years ago, there was in the same place that this occupies, another sale so accredited and favored by the toledanos that it was the envy, not only of the immediate ones, but of all those that in the perimeter of the city and its surroundings rose. It was not the proverbial honesty of the good Gaspar, it was his daughter, it was the beautiful Laura; that with her gaze of fire and her eternal smile attracted to her door, from the proud lord that stopped her horse to greet her, taking a world of lascivious desires when leaving, to the humble trafficker that tied to the fence her horse and spent the hours sitting in the support looking at her with the sadness of the one that dreams with the impossible.
Laura could not look at her without feeling the desire to possess her; not one of those who passed had been able to forget her, after seeing her, and many of them came to confess what they felt, but the daughter of the innkeeper laughed the same of the squire who requebraba, that of the gentleman who offered his future and his fortune.
He had never thought of loving nor did he have a predilection for any of the men who stopped at his door.
Always cheerful, always happy, not even her parents had seen a tear in her eyes nor had they ever surprised her thoughtfully and sadly.
He got up with the aurora singing like birds and only stopped singing when tiredness closed his eyelids.
One day, however, Laura got up later than usual; she barely wanted to taste anything of the modest lunch and not a single song was heard throughout the morning; when after the meal her father noticed her distraction that she seemed submerged, she made an effort to smile, hung her hands on Gaspar’s shoulders tiptoeing to kiss him in the mouth and ran towards his room letting her first tears escape with difficulty contained.
That night, anyone who at twelve o’clock on the road would have seen in the highest window of the house, half hidden behind the multitude of flowers that lean on the windowsill, a white figure with his gaze fixed on the horizon and the white hands crossed and fallen on his skirt: it was Laura who began to understand too late the bitterness of life and suffered the consequences of her good faith; it was Laura, from whose eyelids had fled the dream, that quiet dream of innocence, perhaps forever.
When the first lights of dawn ripped from the mountains the black tunic with which they had wrapped themselves during the night, the girl wiped her cheeks and once again smiled on her lips preparing to offer the glass of wine to her parishioners. As they separated from the window the flowers folded their petals in sadness; that night had been the first night that their owner forgot to water them.
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Some time passed and the murmuring was preying on the family of the sale. When the walkers unleashed the beasts from the rings of the wall and continued on their way, dialogues like these were often heard:
– What do you think, Jaime? Is it true what they say?
– Man, I don’t know, but Laura’s got something going on.
– That’s for sure! She has been losing little by little the color of her cheeks, she can never be heard singing and when we tell her what all men say to the good and beautiful street girls and she smiles, in a way that breaks the heart when looking at her.
– It may be true that her father insisted on marrying her to that old Jew who lends money to the nobles, but Gaspar is rich and loves his daughter too much to sell her in that way; I think the girl has something else.
– What do you think, she’s in love?
– That, but not in love as God commands, because then I would be happy and cheerful, instead of being sad and sad… Don’t you remember a boy, tall, without hair on his face, who two or three months ago came every afternoon when the sun went down for sale, and who passed as a servant of the counts of Gama? I don’t know why, but I never believed it was; whenever I looked at him I saw, through the coarse cloth that covered him, something that he had an interest in hiding; It has always seemed to me that Martin, as he called himself, was not the son of the people raised on the street, poor in knowledge and fortune, but the son of the nobleman, educated in the classrooms, and corrupted and vitiated, like almost everyone else in his class; and what’s more, for me that Martin not only interested Laura but after getting his wish has mocked her, laughing at her tears. And don’t think it’s spite for her contempt that makes me talk like that, no. One afternoon, I was fixing the rigging of this mule a little; Martin, sitting on the sales stand, was boring as if with the fingernails of his hand, hitting the stomach of the jug he was holding with his left hand, and Laura, standing, leaning against the door frame, was looking distracted at the bluish veins of his hand; from time to time, he stopped knocking, both raised his head and his eyes were found; She was looking at him, but not with that quiet look we all know; her eyes had that expression that I felt love and jealousy at the same time; her lips moved as if they were articulating a plea, without the voice reaching my ear, and then Martin muttered something that I could not understand, but which let me guess the disdain and the weariness. When I saw him heading into the corral, singing, as she bowed her head back to the ground containing a tear, believe me Jaime, I would have torn him apart in my hands. Since that day, neither Martin has returned to that house, nor the color of Laura’s cheeks, but instead, she is dark and sad, and in the sale not even the birds can be heard singing.
– Poor girl!
Both kept quiet, and herding the cavalries continued their silent way.
What had happened in the meantime in the family of the sale? What Jamie’s friend had suspected in truth.
Laura, trusting in Martin’s promise, had waited in vain for his return; but the months were succeeding each other and the consequences of his fault began to become visible. There would come a day when it would be possible to hide her condition longer, and Laura knew that her old father would then die of shame. How bitter those days were for her!
One morning, tired of fighting and determined to do everything, she called the salesman; he was the only one who knew those loves: raised since childhood in that house, he was Laura’s brother. Anton went to the city and spent most of the rest of the day there. When evening came to return to the house, Laura, who was waiting for him at the door, came forward to receive him:
– What did you find out? -he said:
– Don’t want to know, Laura.
– Oh! What do I care, talk.
– Martin has deceived you miserably. He is neither a servant of the Counts of Gama, nor has he remained in Toledo longer than necessary to lose you: son of one of the noblest families in Valladolid, he left two years ago for his homeland and since then he has never been heard from again. Do you want to believe me? Tell your father about your misfortune; he loves you too much not to forgive you; in the meantime I will hear to look for him and woe to him! If he refuses to fulfill your promise.
Laura bowed her head and was silent.
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It is not known whether the ventero’s daughter, following Antón’s advice, told her father the story of her sad loves; it is only known that when the next morning, frightened by their tardiness, they called her room, she was dead.
That same day, when Laura’s body went out on the road among a crowd mourning her death, the doors of the sale were closed forever. The sad, crestfallen ventero followed his daughter’s funeral procession, and since then he has not appeared in that place again.
A few days later, the hermit of the Virgen de la Cabeza, at the end of Polán’s feast, returned home happy and legre: Since the night was beautiful and the moon illuminated the earth splendidly, he had taken advantage of those hours to return to his hermitage, and he was already close to it when he arrived at the place where the road leading to the Virgin of the Valley started; he could not help but stop in astonishment; in the silence of the night he had seemed to hear a voice singing from the sale; he knew that that house was deserted and that is why he did not cease to miss it; he went forward a few steps, put his hand in his ear to better pick up the sounds and paid attention: the singing was repeated again, but the hermit could only hear from him the last two verses that said:
He promised me to come
And he will keep his promise.
There was no doubt, that voice was Laura’s, he had heard it so many times that he could not confuse it with any other. When the last word of the song was lost in space, the good man felt a cold sweat running all over his body, his legs began to tremble and he almost fell to the ground faint; however, he made an effort, overcame some of the fear that dominated him and took a few more steps forward; the moon illuminated the façade of the sale; At her door, sitting on the bank of the stone bench that ran on one side of the house, resting her body on her arm, her head back and her pupils sunken fixed in space, there was a woman; as soon as the hermit distinguished her he cried out and ran in the opposite direction to the one he had followed until he fainted and was horrified to find his body in the middle of the road.
Since then no one dared to cross those surroundings while the night enveloped the city with shadows, and even those who during the day passed through the sale, superstitious all, were sanctified when they arrived at its door, without even having the courage to turn their heads towards it.
The Venta del Alma, as it has been called since that day, was for a long time the terror of the region.
A year passed, and people began to forget Laura, when one night the owners of the other sale that some distance from the Soul had risen, felt the gallop of a horse on the road: the late hour and the fear of Laura’s soul had the Toledans, made them appear at the window alarmed, but when they did, hair and knight were lost in one of the corners of the road.
The gates of the city were closed; there was no house nearby where he could go, yet the gentleman did not return for a long time and the windows had to go back into bed worried.
The next morning the population awoke in horror; at the door of the Venta del Alma there was a corpse. Those who had seen him before could not help but recognize him; he was Martin. Not a single wound was all over his body, and there were no signs of strangulation in his throat; the men of science declared that he had died of some thing which they alone would undoubtedly understand; but the strangest thing was that, according to the same statement, Martin’s death had occurred two or three days before the body was found.
Who left him there? It has never been possible to find out.
Some said that Gaspar had thus avenged his daughter’s dishonor; others, perhaps more successful, assumed that Anton had made his offer to Laura: all that was certain was the corpse at the door of the sale, and that Laura’s soul had not since reappeared in her surroundings.
Martin promised to return and kept his promise.
Author: Adrián García Age.
Legend published in “El Correo Militar”, September 1891.
Retrieved by Eduardo Sánchez Butragueño in the blog “Toledo Olvidado”
Photos owned by their authors, shared using original Flickr.com code.
Location in Google Maps of the “Venta del Alma”
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