“The Promise,” a legend by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, takes place in the middle of the thirteenth century, when Ferdinand III was the king of Castile and Leon.
The armies of King Ferdinand were about to attack the Moorish city of Seville, and the lover of Margarita was going to take part in the campaign. Fearing for his life, Margarita began to cry. Her lover, who claimed to be the squire of the count of Gomara, comforted her with a promise. He assured her that after the conquest of Seville, the king would give him some land on the Guadalquivir River. He promised that he would then return for her, and they would then live in this sunny region.
The next day as a crowd watched, the soldiers of Gomara marched forth to war. Margarita, who was present among the spectators, caught sight of her lover. However, he was not the squire of the count. He was the count of Gomara himself. She then knew that she had been deceived. The count had pretended to be a member of the lower classes so that he could persuade Margarita to sin with him. If Margarita had known that he was the count, she would never have believed all the fair promises that he made, because a count hardly ever married a commoner.
The next scene took place in the encampment before Seville. The count of Gomara was in his tent. He had enjoyed a signal triumph that day. However, he looked gloomy, and his faithful squire asked him why.
The count explained that he was continually haunted by a supernatural apparition. When his horse bolted and ran straight toward the enemy, a hand appeared out of nowhere, grabbed hold of the bridle, and led him to safety. This same hand was continually doing things for him. In fact, the count claimed that the hand was resting on his shoulders at that very moment.
The squire could not see the hand, and feared that the count had lost his mind, but he faithfully kept silent about his master’s supposed aberration.
One day a pilgrim was entertaining the soldiers encamped about Seville and selling his wares. As the count listened, the pilgrim sang a song about a maiden who was deceived by a count who pretended that he was a squire. When the girl realized that she had been betrayed, she said: “Woe is me! The count has taken away my honor.” Her brother heard her speak these words, and said to her “You have dishonored us.” The girl pointed out that the count had sworn that he would return. Her brother replied: “If he returns, he will not find you where he was accustomed to meet with you.” As the girl was dying, the wind spoke of the misfortune that befalls those who trust in the promises of men.
The final verse of the song spoke of the burial of the girl. They covered her with earth, but her hand raised itself up from the grave. On her hand was the ring that the count had given her. (The song does not specifically say how the girl died, but I believe it is obvious that she was killed by her brother.)
When the pilgrim had finished the song, the count approached him and asked where he had learned it. He told the count that people were singing it in the villages of Gomara. He explained that an unfortunate girl had been seduced by a powerful man and that the high counsels of God had permitted her hand always to remain in the open air after she had been buried.
In the final scene, the count kneeled down by Margarita’s grave and took hold of her hand. A priest then performed a marriage ceremony. The priest had first received the pope’s permission to perform this unusual rite.
After the ceremony, the hand descended below ground level and remained buried ever after.
This summary is based on the original Spanish tale presented online by Analitica.