Chapter 21: - Page 5 of 5

The Story of a Mother

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

At last Sisa reached her hut and entered it in silence.  She walked all about it and ran in and out for a time.  Then she hurried to old Tasio’s house and knocked at the door, but he was not at home.  The unhappy woman then returned to her hut and began to call loudly for Basilio and Crispin, stopping every few minutes to listen attentively.  Her voice came back in an echo, for the soft murmur of the water in the neighboring river and the rustling of the bamboo leaves were the only sounds that broke the stillness.  She called again and again as she climbed the low cliffs, or went down into a gully, or descended to the river.  Her eyes rolled about with a sinister expression, now flashing up with brilliant gleams, now becoming obscured like the sky on a stormy night; it might be said that the light of reason was flickering and about to be extinguished.

Again returning to her hut, she sat down on the mat where she had lain the night before.  Raising her eyes, she saw a twisted remnant from Basilio’s camisa at the end of the bamboo post in the dinding, or wall, that overlooked the precipice.  She seized and examined it in the sunlight.  There were blood stains on it, but Sisa hardly saw them, for she went outside and continued to raise and lower it before her eyes to examine it in the burning sunlight.  The light was failing and everything beginning to grow dark around her. She gazed wide-eyed and unblinkingly straight at the sun.

Still wandering about here and there, crying and wailing, she would have frightened any listener, for her voice now uttered rare notes such as are not often produced in the human throat.  In a night of roaring tempest, when the whirling winds beat with invisible wings against the crowding shadows that ride upon it, if you should find yourself in a solitary and ruined building, you would hear moans and sighs which you might suppose to be the soughing of the wind as it beats on the high towers and moldering walls to fill you with terror and make you shudder in spite of yourself; as mournful as those unknown sounds of the dark night when the tempest roars were the accents of that mother.  In this condition night came upon her.  Perhaps Heaven had granted some hours of sleep while the invisible wing of an angel, brushing over her pallid countenance, might wipe out the sorrows from her memory; perhaps such suffering was too great for weak human endurance, and Providence had intervened with its sweet remedy, forgetfulness.  However that may be, the next day Sisa wandered about smiling, singing, and talking with all the creatures of wood and field.

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