Signs of Storm
(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
As the old man was leaving the cemetery there stopped at the head of the path a carriage which, from its dust-covered appearance and sweating horses, seemed to have come from a great distance. Followed by an aged servant, Ibarra left the carriage and dismissed it with a wave of his hand, then gravely and silently turned toward the cemetery.
My illness and my duties have not permitted me to return, said the old servant timidly.
Capitan Tiago promised that he would see that a niche was constructed, but I planted some flowers on the grave and set up a cross carved by my own hands. Ibarra made no reply.
There behind that big cross, sir, he added when they were well inside the gate, as he pointed to the place.
Ibarra was so intent upon his quest that he did not notice the movement of surprise on the part of the persons who recognized him and suspended their prayers to watch him curiously. He walked along carefully to avoid stepping on any of the graves, which were easily distinguishable by the hollow places in the soil. In other times he had walked on them carelessly, but now they were to be respected: his father lay among them. When he reached the large cross he stopped and looked all around. His companion stood confused and confounded, seeking some mark in the ground, but nowhere was any cross to be seen.
Was it here? he murmured through his teeth.
No, there! But the ground has been disturbed.
Ibarra gave him a look of anguish.
Yes, he went on,
I remember that there was a stone near it. The grave was rather short. The grave-digger was sick, so a farmer had to dig it. But let’s ask that man what has become of the cross.
They went over to where the grave-digger was watching them with curiosity. He removed his salakot respectfully as they approached.
Can you tell me which is the grave there that had a cross over it? asked the servant.
The grave-digger looked toward the place and reflected.
A big cross?
Yes, a big one! affirmed the servant eagerly, with a significant look at Ibarra, whose face lighted up.
A carved cross tied up with rattan? continued the grave-digger.
That’s it, that’s it, like this! exclaimed the servant in answer as he drew on the ground the figure of a Byzantine cross.
Were there flowers scattered on the grave?
Oleanders and tuberoses and forget-me-nots, yes! the servant added joyfully, offering the grave-digger a cigar.
Tell us which is the grave and where the cross is.