(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
The stars still glittered in the sapphire arch of heaven and the birds were still sleeping among the branches when a merry party, lighted by torches of resin, commonly called huepes, made its way through the streets toward the lake. There were five girls, who walked along rapidly with hands clasped or arms encircling one another’s waists, followed by some old women and by servants who were carrying gracefully on their heads baskets of food and dishes. Looking upon the laughing and hopeful countenances of the young women and watching the wind blow about their abundant black hair and the wide folds of their garments, we might have taken them for goddesses of the night fleeing from the day, did we not know that they were Maria Clara and her four friends, the merry Sinang, the grave Victoria, the beautiful Iday, and the thoughtful Neneng of modest and timid beauty. They were conversing in a lively manner, laughing and pinching one another, whispering in one another’s ears and then breaking out into loud laughter.
You’ll wake up the people who are still asleep, Aunt Isabel scolded.
When we were young, we didn’t make so much disturbance.
Neither would you get up so early nor would the old folks have been such sleepy-heads, retorted little Sinang.
They were silent for a short time, then tried to talk in low tones, but soon forgot themselves and again filled the street with their fresh young voices.
Behave as if you were displeased and don’t talk to him, Sinang was advising Maria Clara.
Scold him so he won’t get into bad habits.
Don’t be so exacting, objected Iday.
Be exacting! Don’t be foolish! He must be made to obey while he’s only engaged, for after he’s your husband he’ll do as he pleases, counseled little Sinang.
What do you know about that, child? her cousin Victoria corrected her.
Sst! Keep quiet, for here they come!
A group of young men, lighting their way with large bamboo torches, now came up, marching gravely along to the sound of a guitar.
It sounds like a beggar’s guitar, laughed Sinang. When the two parties met it was the women who maintained a serious and formal attitude, just as if they had never known how to laugh, while on the other hand the men talked and laughed, asking six questions to get half an answer.
Is the lake calm? Do you think we’ll have good weather? asked the mothers.
Don’t be alarmed, ladies, I know how to swim well, answered a tall, thin, emaciated youth.