None of the three suspected that what was going to happen that night would cause them more fright than they had experienced in hundreds of battles. None thought, as they made their way to the cemetery, that what they would see would mark the rest of their already long and weary lives.
When his companion in arms Don Esteban Pere-Guillén died months ago of a strange illness, the friendship and respect they felt for each other was such that they swore that death would never break the circle that united the souls of the four knights.
Many years had fought at the king’s orders demonstrating the courage and loyalty that makes men are recognized as noble lords. Their horses had traversed most of the kingdom and their swords were already resting, worn and rusty, covered with moisture and rust, memories and shed blood.
When their forces were no longer those of their distant youth, they decided to share a small mansion in Toledo in which the camaraderie and the memory of battles meant that the barracks spirit they recalled with nostalgia was not lost.
But time does not forgive and Don Esteban, the bravest of the four, left a great void at his death.
With the intention of not breaking the bond that for so many years united them, every afternoon, at sunset, they went down decorated by the Vega towards the cemetery of the city. There, around the child where the remains of their friend rested, they prayed, laughed, sang or remembered, depending on the day, some of their military conquests or the others. Then, silent and sad, they returned home thinking about who would be next to accompany their comrade.
It had been several days since, with astonishment, they had found the slab covered with petals of various flowers. Asked by the gravedigger and other visitors, they found no explanation of who was the character who secretly paid tribute each day to his companion…
None of them was from Toledo and therefore they ruled out that he was a relative, and it was not possible that he had other friends in the city. So who honored his tomb every day?
Amazed, they decided to find out the reason for the mystery by paying some money to the gravedigger who, after two days of observation, could not give them any explanation of what was happening. One of them even drew his dagger, endangering the gravedigger’s neck if he lied, but the threat was as vain as the effort to find out what had happened.
So that night they decided to end the search. They crossed the Vega in the dark, and the door to the cemetery was in sight just as a bell tower warned of the arrival of midnight.
Photo: O. Utri11a
Stealthily approaching, they could see a silhouette cut out in the mist of the night and, kneeling before the tomb of Don Esteban, she spilled petals as her sobs ripped through the heavy silence of the cemetery. So nervous were they that they were about to be discovered when one of them almost fell into a grave that the gravedigger had opened that very night.
Mutes of terror remained, when in the silence of the night they heard the character exclaim:
– Here I am, my lord and master,” said the voice of a woman, in tears. ” Receive this offering in remembrance of what we were.
All three were petrified. A woman? They believed that they knew everything about the affairs of their deceased companion, and there was nothing to suggest that anyone yearned for him in Toledo.
– So much ambition, so much feeling and then… and then nothing, just misery! -exclaimed the woman again.
Still crouched, they could see his face when a moonbeam illuminated it. It was a disjointed face that, even with traces of ancient beauty, emanated sadness, rage, anger, and fear.
– The mystery is solved, she’s nothing but a madwoman.
– Yes,” replied another, crazy with love.
– Crazy? In love? Have you lost your mind? -She is a witch, a daughter of the Devil who with some strange sortilege intends to send Don Esteban’s soul to hell.
The most launched of the three decided to clarify the mystery and with decisive step and a hand on the hilt of the sword, headed towards the strange woman.
He didn’t have time to talk. When his hand touched the woman’s shoulder, she became quick and uncluttered and cried out:
– Esteban! Are you alive here? Are you back? -he exclaimed as he tried to embrace the gentleman with disproportionate force.
But there were no more words. She collapsed backwards, banging her head against the marble of Don Esteban’s slab and remaining, perhaps where she wanted, lying forever.
Terrified by the scene lived, the three gentlemen remained motionless trying to understand what happened and without daring to touch or look at the strange lady. Then, with a firm but somber step, they went to the Hinge Gate to summon the warden and inform him of what had happened.
Witch, in love or crazy, you never knew who or what she was.
A few days after such a horrible event, they returned to visit their friend again. If anyone had seen the three knights in front of the tomb at that moment, he would be certain that he was standing before men who had just seen death in person. There, again, upon the tomb, a handful of fresh petals had been scattered upon the tomb.
From that moment on, Don Esteban’s friends only returned to the cemetery to be buried there. They arranged to be buried at the opposite end of his old friend’s tomb.
Original source: TOLEDO Magazine. Arte
Author: AGUILAR, Leopoldo
Article: The Mystery of a Sepulchre / Leopoldo Aguilar.
Year/Number: Year II, No. 35 (March 26, 1916) p. 280 – 282
Version published in: Mateo, Javier and Rodríguez Bausá, Luis in ” La vuelta a Toledo en 80 leyendas”