The Golden Hare

In the bosom of the afternoon the sun illuminated her like a conflagration in the engravings of an ornate Bible. Not all hares are alike, Jacinto, and it wasn't her fur, believe me, that distinguished her from the other hares, not her Tartar eyes nor the whimsical shape of her ears. It was something that went far beyond what we humans call personality. The innumerable transmigrations of her soul had taught her to become invisible or visible at certain moments, in complicity with God or a few daring angels. For five minutes at noon she always paused at the same place in the countryside. Her ears standing straight up, she listened to something.

Even the deafening noise of a waterfall that scares birds away, or the crackling of a forest fire that terrifies the most fearless of animals, would not have made her eyes widen so; the unstable murmur of the world she remembered, populated with prehistoric animals, with temples that looked like parched trees, with wars whose aims were achieved by warriors only after those aims had already changed, had made the hare more capricious and more shrewd. One day she stopped, as usual, at the hour when the sun sinks over the trees so they no longer cast a shadow, and heard the barking not of one dog but of many, which were running through the countryside in a frenzy.

With a sudden leap, the hare crossed the road and began to run; the dogs ran after her in total disorder.

"Where are we going?" cried the hare, her voice trembling like lightning.

"To the end of your life," cried the dogs, with dogs' voices.

This is not a children's story, Jacinto; though perhaps influenced by Jorge Alberto Orellana, who is seven years old and always demanding stories from me, I quote the words of the dogs and the hare, which enchant him. We know that a hare can be the accomplice of God and angels if she remains silent before mute interlocutors.

The dogs were not evil, but they had sworn to catch the hare just to kill her. The hare ran into the forest, where the leaves crackled noisily; she crossed a meadow, where the grasses were softly bending; she crossed a lawn with four statues of the seasons and a patio filled with flowers, where a few people were drinking coffee around a table. The women set down their cups to watch the frantic race, which destroyed the tablecloth, the oranges, the clusters of grapes, the plums, the bottles of wine as it passed. The hare was in first place, light as an arrow; the hairless in second; the black Dane in third; the big tiger-striped one in fourth; the sheepdog fifth; and the greyhound last. Five times the pack, running behind the hare, crossed the patio and trampled the flowers. On the second round, the hare was in second place, and the greyhound was still last. On the third round, the hare was in third place. The race continued through the patio; it crossed it twice more, until the hare was in last place. The dogs ran with their tongues hanging out and their eyes half closed. Then they began to run in circles, which grew larger or smaller as they sped up or slowed their steps. The black Dane had time to snatch up an alfajor or some other pastry, which he kept in his mouth until the end of the race.

The hare cried to them, "Don't run so much, not like that! We're just taking a stroll."

But the dogs didn't hear her, because her voice was like the voice of the wind.

The dogs ran so much that they finally dropped, drained, near death, their tongues lolling out like long red cloths. The hare, with her lightning sweetness, drew near them, carrying damp clover in her snout, which she placed on the forehead of each of the dogs. The dogs revived.

"Who put cool water on our foreheads?" asked the largest dog. "And why didn't he give us anything to drink?"

"Who caressed us with his whiskers?" wondered the smallest dog. "I thought they were flies."

"Who licked our ears?" demanded the skinniest dog, trembling.

"Who saved our lives?" exclaimed the hare, looking all around.

"Something is different," said the striped dog, chewing at a paw with great concentration. "It's as if there were more of us."

"It must be because we smell like hare," said the hairless dog, scratching his ear. "It's not the first time."

The hare was sitting among her enemies. She had adopted a dog's posture. For a moment, she was not sure if she was a dog or a hare.

"Who could that be, looking at us?" asked the black Dane, moving just one ear.

"Not one of us," said the hairless dog, yawning.

"Whoever it is, I'm too tired to look at him," sighed the striped dog.

Suddenly voices were heard calling, "Dragón, Sombra, Ayax, Lurón, Señor, Ayax."

The dogs ran off and the hare remained motionless for a moment, alone, in the middle of the countryside. She twitched her nose three or four times, as if sniffing an aphrodisiac. God or something like God called to her, and the hare, perhaps revealing her immortality, fled in one bound.

Translation of “La liebre dorada.” Copyright Silvina Ocampo. By arrangement with the estate of Silvina Ocampo. Translation copyright 2010 by Andrea Rosenberg. All rights reserved.