Chapter 17:


(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

La vida es sueño.

Basilio was scarcely inside when he staggered and fell into his mother’s arms.  An inexplicable chill seized Sisa as she saw him enter alone.  She wanted to speak but could make no sound; she wanted to embrace her son but lacked the strength; to weep was impossible.  At sight of the blood which covered the boy’s forehead she cried in a tone that seemed to come from a breaking heart, My sons!

Don’t be afraid, mother, Basilio reassured her.  Crispin stayed at the convento.

At the convento? He stayed at the convento? Is he alive?

The boy raised his eyes to her.  Ah! she sighed, passing from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy.  She wept and embraced her son, covering his bloody forehead with kisses.

Crispin is alive! You left him at the convento! But why are you wounded, my son? Have you had a fall? she inquired, as she examined him anxiously.

The senior sacristan took Crispin away and told me that I could not leave until ten o’clock, but it was already late and so I ran away.  In the town the soldiers challenged me, I started to run, they fired, and a bullet grazed my forehead.  I was afraid they would arrest me and beat me and make me scrub out the barracks, as they did with Pablo, who is still sick from it.

My God, my God! murmured his mother, shuddering.  Thou hast saved him! Then while she sought for bandages, water, vinegar, and a feather, she went on, A finger’s breadth more and they would have killed you, they would have killed my boy! The civil-guards do not think of the mothers.

You must say that I fell from a tree so that no one will know they chased me, Basilio cautioned her.

Why did Crispin stay? asked Sisa, after dressing her son’s wound.

Basilio hesitated a few moments, then with his arms about her and their tears mingling, he related little by little the story of the gold pieces, without speaking, however, of the tortures they were inflicting upon his young brother.

My good Crispin! To accuse my good Crispin! It’s because we’re poor and we poor people have to endure everything! murmured Sisa, staring through her tears at the light of the lamp, which was now dying out from lack of oil.  So they remained silent for a while.

Haven’t you had any supper yet? Here are rice and fish.

I don’t want anything, only a little water.

Yes, answered his mother sadly, I know that you don’t like dried fish.  I had prepared something else, but your father came.

Father came? asked Basilio, instinctively examining the face and hands of his mother.


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