The Stubborn Girl by Leonor Fini

Translated by: Lars-Håkan Svensson

She walked by, dragging her feet a bit. She had taken the oldest lane in the little town. The flagstones were very worn, irregular and filthy.

Suddenly she noticed on the ground a tiny creature who was moving about fitfully, struggling. When he saw her, he said: “Don’t ever say anything about me. I’m the one responsible for wishing myself so small, so itsy-bitsy. You’d do well to keep your mouth shut once and for all.” After making some jerky movements, he finally hid in the black crevice of a flagstone. She was so terrified she couldn’t find the crack or the stone again. She kept going and didn’t stop.

Then she came upon the pharmacist with the big head; she thought for a moment that maybe he was the only one who knew what it was all about. What if it were a disease? You hear about new ones every day! But she didn’t say a word and took the gently sloping road where two terrible scathing women hurled monotonous insults at each other. She had a good mind to take part in their row, but what good? She went on, looking down at the worn, cracked steps; better not to run there.

Back home she was very worried and began searching and rummaging everywhere: the little squat armchairs with their overly thick flounces, the wardrobe closets, the bookshelves, the books, the kitchen and the bathroom. The bidet had been walled up, girdled with metal since the time of her grandmother who thought it was indecent.

While she took shower with pounding water she examined all the pipes. She poured bath salts into the bathtub, thinking that there are lots of people out there who think they’re insects. But not this one who was so soft-spoken and expressed herself so eloquently.

She hadn‘t been in bed long before she got up again and began once again leafing through all the books in the modest library, all the time not hearing a single voice, not even a faint one.

Then she went out to buy flowers that she wanted to wear in her thick hair. That evening, to mark the occasion of the annual house parties of the most important people in town, she put on her most resplendent dress.

It was the first time that she had been invited.

This dress had several layers of skirts: the first was transparent, covered with a foliage pattern, merging into the jabot whose gathered pleats became lace, then became boiling water-like bubbles and then roughly-sewn pleats which widened into lace and whip-stitched bubblings that revealed, depending on how she moved, pink or mauve roses. In the little town she had seldom had an occasion to wear this dress with its cascading frills in silver and gold.

That evening she sent for the only coach in town and set off for the home of the town notables.

Into the pleats of her bust she slipped a pair of very sharp scissors and an old “Gillette” razor blade dating from the days of her grandfather.

Thus beautifully attired, she made her entrance. The already assembled guests started heading in her direction, making her feel extremely uncomfortable.

This unfamiliar house would have been extremely propitious for the tiny gentleman who had spoken to her. She didn’t say a word about him, of course. But pale colored passementeries had peeled away in places from the damas walls which were cracking here and there. On the tablecloths of pinkish-mauve silk, tears could be made out. How tempting to live there, underneath!

Two men asked her to dance. They didn’t hold her very firmly and didn’t say a word, not even when she made a misstep on purpose which should have caused them to pull away and excuse themselves. They didn’t say a word and she understood that the little creature probably wasn’t there.

When she looked for a place to sit on the immense sofa, the groaning of the rebellious, tired innersprings gave her a start. The sharp little scissors stuck her and she cried out. And all this time she felt a depletion of courage falling over her.

For no good reason, she let down her hair, faintly hoping that he might be hiding in there.

She returned on foot, not paying any attention to the irregular old flagstones. She took off her slippers and silk stockings and continued on barefoot.

She began searching again: rummaging through a mass of hatpins, paperknives … Finally, she went to sleep fully dressed.

The next morning she was in a terrible hurry and knocked over several objects. She put on a black suit.

But she had gotten no further than the stairs when a little noise, like droplets of water falling, made her go back in quickly. The faucet was dripping.

She took off her dark clothes. She fixed her eyes on the little drain hole into which the water was running. She leaned forward, scrutinizing the hole to see if anything was hidden in there. She noticed a dark spot which became lighter, then less gray, more yellow, more luminous, more pink.

She noticed that in the darkness she could make out the shape of a string or a little ribbon stretching from what place towards what place? The oscillations made her understand what she was seeing; the whole thing began to amuse her. She saw a golden mist that had grown pale, then more ropes or strings, also golden; then waterfalls flowing from ancient vases. Everything oscillated slowly, imperceptibly. Little pyramids did she see, and pagoda-shaped objects.

But she didn’t detect any breathing or sighing. Who could it be?

She saw twisting columns trying to straighten up, little green hills that opened up and closed and still there were the oscillations of those tiny ropes attached to God knows what.

Exhausted, she stayed there a long time, gazing into the hole …

And then she began to imagine that if people lived down there some of them would be casting their gaze upward toward the sky. There they would have seen this giant eye turning into a black star. If it were threatening, they wouldn’t have known.