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Platero is a small donkey, a soft, hairy donkey: so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones. Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard like two black crystal scarabs.
I turn him loose, and he goes to the meadow, and, with his nose, he gently caresses the little flowers of rose and blue and gold.... I call him softly, "Platero?" and he comes to me at a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound.
He eats whatever I give him. He likes mandarin oranges, amber-hued muscatel grapes, purple figs tipped with crystalline drops of honey.
He is as loving and tender as a child, but strong and sturdy as a rock. When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving countrymen, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively:
"He is like steel," they say.
Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.
Night falls, hazy and purple. Vague green and mauve luminosities persist behind the tower of the church. The road ascends full of shadows, of bells, of the fragrance of grass, of songs, of weariness, of desire. Suddenly a dark man wearing a cap and carrying a pick, his face red for an instant in the light of his cigarette, comes toward us from the wretched but that is lost in piles of coal sacks. Platero is afraid.
"See for yourself.... White butterflies."
The man wants to stick his iron pick in the little basket, and I do not prevent him. I open the knapsack, and he sees nothing in it. And the food for the soul passes, candid and free, without paying tribute to the customs.
At dusk, when, stiff with cold, Platero and I enter the purple darkness of the miserable bystreet that fronts the dry river bed, the children of the poor are playing at makebelieve, frightening one another, playing beggars. One throws a sack over his head, another says he is blind, another limps....
Later, with that fickleness of childhood, since they at least wear shoes and clothes, and since their mothers—though only they know how—have fed them, they become princes and princesses.
"My father has a silver clock."
"Mine has a horse."
"Mine a gun."
Clock to rouse him at daybreak; gun that cannot kill hunger; horse to take him to misery....
Then the children join hands, dancing in a circle. In the darkness a little girl with fragile voice like a thread of liquid crystal in the shadow sings proudly like a princess:
"I am the young widow
Of great Count Oré.. . ."
Aye, aye! Sing, dream, children of the poor! Soon, at the awakening of your youth, spring, like a beggar disguised as winter, will frighten you.
"Let us go, Platero."
We unwittingly put our hands in our pockets, and on our brows we felt the fine touch of a cool shadow, as when entering a thick pine forest. The chickens began going up their perch, one by one. All around, the countryside darkened its greenness, as if the purple veil of the main altar were spread over it. The distant sea was visible as a white vision, and a few stars shone palely. How the whiteness of the roofs took on a changed whiteness! Those of us who were on the roofs called to each other more or less wittily, small dark creatures in the confining silence of the eclipse.
We tried looking at the sun through all sorts of things: opera glasses, telescopes, bottles, smoked glass; and from all angles: the dormer window, the ladder in the yard, the granary window; through the scarlet and blue panes of the skylight....
On hiding, the sun, which a moment before made everything twice, thrice, a hundred times greater and better with its complexities of light and gold, now leaves all things, without the long transition of twilight, lonely and poverty-stricken as though one had exchanged gold for silver first and then silver for copper. The town resembles a musty and valueless copper cent. How gloomy and unimportant the streets, the squares, the tower, the mountain roads.
Down in the yard Platero appears less real, different and diminished, a different donkey....