Chapter 24: - Page 4 of 10

In the Wood

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

This time, Albino, you can’t invent holes as in the bankas, said Leon to the quondam student of theology.  What! What’s that? asked the old women.

The bankas, ladies, were as whole as this plate is, explained Leon.

Jesús! The rascal! exclaimed the smiling Aunt Isabel.

Have you yet learned anything of the criminal who assaulted Padre Damaso? inquired Fray Salvi of the alferez.

Of what criminal, Padre? asked the military man, staring at the friar over the glass of wine that he was emptying,

What criminal! Why, the one who struck Padre Damaso in the road yesterday afternoon!

Struck Padre Damaso? asked several voices.

The coadjutor seemed to smile, while Padre Salvi went on: Yes, and Padre Damaso is now confined to his bed.  It’s thought that he may be the very same Elias who threw you into the mudhole, señor alferez.

Either from shame or wine the alferez’s face became very red.

Of course, I thought, continued Padre Salvi in a joking manner, that you, the alferez of the Civil Guard, would be informed about the affair.

The soldier bit his lip and was murmuring some foolish excuse, when the meal was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a pale, thin, poorly-clad woman.  No one had noticed her approach, for she had come so noiselessly that at night she might have been taken for a ghost.

Give this poor woman something to eat, cried the old women. Oy, come here!

Still the strange woman kept on her way to the table where the curate was seated.  As he turned his face and recognized her, his knife dropped from his hand.

Give this woman something to eat, ordered Ibarra.

The night is dark and the boys disappear, murmured the wandering woman, but at sight of the alferez, who spoke to her, she became frightened and ran away among the trees.

Who is she? he asked.

An unfortunate woman who has become insane from fear and sorrow, answered Don Filipo.  For four days now she has been so.

Is her name Sisa? asked Ibarra with interest.

Learn this Filipino word:

masamá ang bibíg