Breakfast For Anita

Juanito, the little Spanish boy, sat sadly on the step of his home. It was a lovely day, and Juanito would have been happy if only the sound of a baby crying had stopped momentarily.

His little sister Anita was in her cradle on the porch behind him. She was always crying. Juanito often brought her coloured pebbles from the seashore and flowers from the fields and shook his black hair at her, but it was useless. Anita would never smile. She always cried, and every day she was getting thinner. More than anything, Juanito loved little Anita, but she grew more delicate and more fretful.

“It is of no use, Juanito,” his mother said. “Anita, the poor little angel, is not well. She cannot laugh. If only we could give her good goat’s milk, she would grow fat and well, but how can I get goat’s milk for her? It is too expensive to buy, and we hardly have any money.”

Juanito sat with his elbows on his knees and thought and thought. How could he get goat’s milk for little Anita?

He knew many goats on the hillsides belonged to Antonio, the farmer, who made their milk into cheese and sold it in Barcelona. While he sat sadly on the step, little Anita cried even louder, and Juanito could no longer bear it.

“Surely the goats can spare a little milk for her to make her grow fat and strong,” he said, trotting away along the road towards the hillside.

On the way, he clambered over a ditch to pick some of the young corn growing under the almond trees. It was as green and tender as grass and very juicy. A little later, he reached the bare hillsides where the goats were. He picked out a large one that looked friendly, sat down near her and began to talk.

Juanito told the goat about Anita, how she used to laugh and gurgle, and how she was now not well and growing thinner. It was a long story, but Carlota, the goat, stayed and listened.

As he spoke, Juanito held out the bunch of young corn. It was sweet and juicy. The grass was scarce on the hill, and Carlota was tired of trying to chew the myrtle bushes, which were so hard and prickly.

“Carlota, come and give your milk to little Anita,” said Juanito.

He started slowly down the road. Carlota followed. She was tied by a rope from one foreleg to one hindleg so she could not wander away. She strumbled, a step and then a jerk, a step and then a jerk, but Juanito held out the corn. “Carlota, come and give your milk to little Anita,” he said.

So they made their way back to the village and Juanito had almost got to his home when he saw a big man striding towards him. His heart sank. It was Antonio, the farmer.

Antonio, however, was in a happy mood. He had just heard that his goat’s milk cheese had fetched a high price in Barcelona, and if one of his goats had wandered down into the village, it was the matter.

“Good morning,” he said. “That’s my goat Carlota, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” stammered Juanito. “I’ll take her back to the farm.”

“Many thanks,” nodded Antonio, and he walked on.

Juanito’s mother was still rocking the crying baby. She looked up and saw Antonio talking to Juanito; then she saw the goat standing outside as if he had brought it.

“Carlota,” coaxed Juanito. “Come and give your milk to little Anita.”

Without more ado, Carlota was milked, and Anita had her first breakfast of good goat’s milk.

Several weeks she was passed by. Francesca, the farmer’s wife, stood in the doorway and looked down over the field where the herd of goats was grazing. During those weeks, she had been puzzled many times, for she knew nothing about little Anita and was now growing rosy and robust.

“That goat Carlota is bewitched,” she said to Antonio. “A few weeks ago, she was the best milker of the herd, and now she has nothing. I may as well save myself the trouble of milking her. I tell you, she is bewitched.”

Antonio got up from his chair and came and stood beside her. “Do you mean Carlota?” he asked. “That’s the one I found wandering down in the village a few weeks ago. I thought her rope was long, so I hobbled her tighter.”

“Perhaps the rope is too tight, and she feeds with difficulty,” said the farmer’s wife. “Better loosen it.”

Antonio agreed. He went to Carlota and untied the rope that fastened her foreleg to her hindleg. He felt in his pocket for a bit more yarn, but finding none, he sighed and returned to the farmhouse.

Carlota stood meekly by the fig tree for a while but then started to walk. It was easy to walk today without a step and then a jerk. She walked a little faster and then began to run.

That evening when the goats were driven in, Carlota was missing.

“It is not much loss,” grumbled Francesca. “What is the use of such a goat that gives no milk?”

Antonio remembered that Carlota was not hobbled, and he set out to search for her the following day. On the mountain path, he met Juanito.

“I have lost Carlota,” said Antonio.

Juanito was going to answer, “So have I!” but changed his mind and said nothing.

“She was not hobbled,” explained Antonio. “Come with me. Your young legs can climb faster than mine.”

At last, they reached a cliff- edge overlooking the sea. There stood Carlota on the very edge, with a sheer drop down into the sea. Antonio wrung his hands in despair.

“Do not move or make a sound,” he said. “If she takes fright, she will fall and be drowned.”

They stood for half an hour, and then Juanito decided. “Carlota!” he called. “Carlota, come and give your milk to little Anita.”

Carlota turned and trotted away from the cliff edge. She came to Juanito and put her nose against his hand.

The three set off home again, and for a long time, Antonio did not speak. At last, he asked, “What did you say to the goat?”

Juanito hung his head and then told him the whole story.

“And is little Anita well and strong now?” asked Antonio

“Yes, sir, and now she laughs again,” said Juanito.

“Well, her breakfast will be late today,” said Antonio. “You and Carlota had better hurry. My wife dislikes the goat, so you had better keep her, but be careful not to lose her.”

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