Although there are only a handful of people living in Grado del Pico today, stories, tales, yarns and of course tittle-tattle can be heard, discussed and debated in whispered tones in the narrow, shadowy streets of the village. The latest chattter concerns a family from foreign parts.
It all started one summer, when the family from foreign parts came to settle in an old abandoned house at the top of the hill that leads to the Romanic village church. They brought with them their mares which they allowed to wander freely around the streets. In the scrutinous eyes of everyone, this was not a wise thing to do as horses can take to rambling across, what may seem to be, lonely country roads, but whose unexpected traffic can only spell disaster for both travellers and beasts.
Nevertheless, the widowed mother of twin daughters and two sons ignored what she probably considered as vicious village prattle, and soon the family, settled down in their own odd, quiet way to rural life. While the children went to school in nearby Ayllón, the mother got busy making the necessary improvements to their delapidated dwelling. In time, the house had electricity and running water, and the family led a more comfortable existence, especially during the long, harsh winter months.
The days and weeks rolled on, and life seemed to be running its natural course for the widow and her four children, when suddenly at the end of their second summer, the villagers awoke to find that the entire family had vanished in the middle of the night. There was no sign of horses, dogs, children, or the widow herself. The story of the family from foreign parts seemed to have abruptly come to a mysterious end.
Autumn came and went, and the falling leaves soon turned into falling snow flakes as the winter greeted the village. The house was left empty and bare. The snow fell heavier shrouding it in frosty white. One by one, the newly replaced tiles began to fly off the roof, making room for moss and grass to grow. The wind moaned and groaned around the four walls echoing the emptiness prevailing within, and the house was a desolate sight to behold.
When the village had given up hope of ever hearing or seeing the family again, one spring morning it stirred to find, not only had the snow melted and the wind had abated but that life had returned to the house. The family from foreign parts had suddenly reappeared, accompanied by their mares and dog but alas, one child less.
In muted whispers, the villagers soon eagerly reported to each other that the eldest son had suddenly, silently slipped away from this world one winter night in the warm south of Spain, where the family from foreign parts had sought the sunshine and warmth they did not always get in Grado del Pico.
Unable to bear the pain, grief and above all the haunting memory of finding the young teenage boy in permanent sleep on the staircase, the family packed up their belongings and left the gentle climate of the Mediterranean to return to the harsh and sometimes cruel climate of Grado del Pico. No harsh wind could ever touch them as much as the loss of brother and son had.
The villagers spoke in hushed tones about the tragedy, while at the same time they stretched out a helping hand to the family from foreign parts. But the story doesn’t finish here……..
The summer gradually arrived to Grado del Pico. July turned into August and all the while, just as in the past, the mares wandered freely throughout the village and neighbouring areas. The village tongues wagged as the family from foreign parts continued to give the people plenty to natter about.
But the tongues were to lash even more and even louder. Just after the fiestas at the end of August, the family vanished for a second time. On this ocasion they left the mares to the care of the entire village. Worse in the eyes of all, they had left their dog locked in the big, empty, dreary house.
Night after night, the neighbours awoke to the incessant howling of the lonely hound. Thinking that the creature had been left without food, a procession of people soon passed by the house emptying bags of leftover food through an open window. Day by day, the dog could be seen sitting at the top window awaiting the arrival of its departed owners. But weeks were to go by before they returned. And when they did, they did so, taking the village by surprise, arriving in the middle of the night and mysteriously disappearing at dawn.
On one of these rare ocasions, a certain neighbour reported only having spotted the widow, the remaining son and one of the twin daughters getting into the car and driving into the sunrise. What had happened to the other twin? The tongues wagged and lashed louder and louder in the absence of the family from foreign parts.
It was not until the middle of September and school was due to start up that the enigma of the missing twin was solved. The streets began to vibrate with the reports of the return of the girl. Mouths were agape when it was learnt that she had not returned with her mother and siblings, but with her grandparents. Excitement grew, as one by one the villagers learnt that the grandparents were unaware of the whereabouts of their very owm daughter and grandchildren.
The days drew on and the evenings grew shorter. The dog remained in the window of the abandoned house while the grandparents and granddaughter stayed in the local hotel. The villagers decided to call in the civil guards in the hopes that they would be able to shed light on the mystery and put everybody’s minds at ease, but their investigations came to nothing. As the autumn leaves began to fall, and there was still no sign of the widow and her children returning to the village, the grandparents sadly shrugged their shoulders with resignation, packed their cases and flew back to their home in foreign parts with their granddaughter.
Shortly after their departure, the widow returned in the middle of the night with her son and daughter. She gave no explanations to the curious villagers about her mysterious disappearance, but she did have a word or two to say to the kind neighbours who had emptied plates and buckets of leftovers through the open window for the supposedly starving, abandoned dog. The villagers learnt only too late and to their dismay, that the dog had been left with food and water and there had been no need for their concern or charity.
Now, in late November fewer wagging tongues remain in the village. The widow and her son and daughter seem to have returned to a relatively normal pattern of life. Yet, the enigma of her disappearances still hangs over Grado del Pico, just like the autumn fog does on the mountains surrounding that quiescent village, tucked away in the Sierra of Ayllón.