Chapter 24: - Page 3 of 10

In the Wood

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

At a little distance he saw in the middle of the brook a kind of bathing-place, well enclosed, decorated with palm leaves, flowers, and streamers, with a leafy clump of bamboo for a covering, from within which came the sound of happy feminine voices.  Farther on he saw a bamboo bridge and beyond it the men bathing.  Near these a crowd of servants was busily engaged around improvised kalanes in plucking chickens, washing rice, and roasting a pig.  On the opposite bank in a cleared space were gathered men and women under a canvas covering which was fastened partly to the hoary trees and partly to newly-driven stakes.  There were gathered the alferez, the coadjutor, the gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, the schoolmaster, and many other personages of the town, even including Sinang’s father, Capitan Basilio, who had been the adversary of the deceased Don Rafael in an old lawsuit.  Ibarra had said to him, We are disputing over a point of law, but that does not mean that we are enemies, so the celebrated orator of the conservatives had enthusiastically accepted the invitation, sending along three turkeys and putting his servants at the young man’s disposal.

The curate was received with respect and deference by all, even the alferez.  Why, where has your Reverence been? asked the latter, as he noticed the curate’s scratched face and his habit covered with leaves and dry twigs.  Has your Reverence had a fall?

No, I lost my way, replied Padre Salvi, lowering his gaze to examine his gown.

Bottles of lemonade were brought out and green coconuts were split open so that the bathers as they came from the water might refresh themselves with the milk and the soft meat, whiter than the milk itself.  The girls all received in addition rosaries of sampaguitas, intertwined with roses and ilang-ilang blossoms, to perfume their flowing tresses.  Some of the company sat on the ground or reclined in hammocks swung from the branches of the trees, while others amused themselves around a wide flat rock on which were to be seen playing-cards, a chess-board, booklets, cowry shells, and pebbles.

They showed the cayman to the curate, but he seemed inattentive until they told him that the gaping wound had been inflicted by Ibarra.  The celebrated and unknown pilot was no longer to be seen, as he had disappeared before the arrival of the alferez.

At length Maria Clara came from the bath with her companions, looking fresh as a rose on its first morning when the dew sparkling on its fair petals glistens like diamonds.  Her first smile was for Crisostomo and the first cloud on her brow for Padre Salvi, who noted it and sighed.

The lunch hour was now come, and the curate, the coadjutor, the gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, and the other dignitaries took their seats at the table over which Ibarra presided.  The mothers would not permit any of the men to eat at the table where the young women sat.

Learn this Filipino word:

mitsá ng buhay