Chapter 24: - Page 10 of 10

In the Wood

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

They say that on a very rainy day in September the alferez met a man who was carrying a bundle of firewood.  The road was very muddy and there was only a narrow path at the side, wide enough for but one person.  They say that the alferez, instead of reining in his pony, put spurs to it, at the same time calling to the man to get out of the way.  It seemed that this man, on account of the heavy load he was carrying on his shoulder, had little relish for going back nor did he want to be swallowed up in the mud, so he continued on his way forward.  The alferez in irritation tried to knock him down, but he snatched a piece of wood from his bundle and struck the pony on the head with such great force that it fell, throwing its rider into the mud.  They also say that the man went on his way tranquilly without taking any notice of the five bullets that were fired after him by the alferez, who was blind with mud and rage.  As the man was entirely unknown to him it was supposed that he might be the famous Elias who came to the province several months ago, having come from no one knows where.  He has given the Civil Guard cause to know him in several towns for similar actions.

Then he’s a tulisan? asked Victoria shuddering.

I don’t think so, for they say that he fought against some tulisanes one day when they were robbing a house.

He hasn’t the look of a criminal, commented Sinang.

No, but he looks very sad.  I didn’t see him smile the whole morning, added Maria Clara thoughtfully.

So the afternoon passed away and the hour for returning to the town came.  Under the last rays of the setting sun they left the woods, passing in silence by the mysterious tomb of Ibarra’s ancestors.  Afterwards, the merry talk was resumed in a lively manner, full of warmth, beneath those branches so little accustomed to hear so many voices.  The trees seemed sad, while the vines swung back and forth as if to say, Farewell, youth! Farewell, dream of a day!

Now in the light of the great red torches of bamboo and with the sound of the guitars let us leave them on the road to the town.  The groups grow smaller, the lights are extinguished, the songs die away, and the guitar becomes silent as they approach the abodes of men.  Put on the mask now that you are once more amongst your kind!

Learn this Filipino word:

humáhanap ng katí ng katawán