Chapter 39: - Page 5 of 7

Doña Consolacion

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Similar incidents occurred every time the question of language came up. The corporal, watching her linguistic progress, sorrowfully calculated that in ten years his mate would have completely forgotten how to talk, and this was about what really came to pass. When they were married she still knew Tagalog and could make herself understood in Spanish, but now, at the time of our story, she no longer spoke any language. She had become so addicted to expressing herself by means of signs—and of these she chose the loudest and most impressive—that she could have given odds to the inventor of Volapuk.

Sisa, therefore, had the good fortune not to understand her, so the Medusa smoothed out her eyebrows a little, while a smile of satisfaction lighted up her face; undoubtedly she did not know Tagalog, she was an orofea!

Boy, tell her in Tagalog to sing! She doesn’t understand me, she doesn’t understand Spanish!

The madwoman understood the boy and began to sing the Song of the Night. Doña Consolacion listened at first with a sneer, which disappeared little by little from her lips. She became attentive, then serious, and even somewhat thoughtful. The voice, the sentiment in the lines, and the song itself affected her—that dry and withered heart was perhaps thirsting for rain. She understood it well: The sadness, the cold, and the moisture that descend from the sky when wrapped in the mantle of night, so ran the kundíman, seemed to be descending also on her heart. The withered and faded flower which during the day flaunted her finery, seeking applause and full of vanity, at eventide, repentant and disenchanted, makes an effort to raise her drooping petals to the sky, seeking a little shade to hide herself and die without the mocking of the light that saw her in her splendor, without seeing the vanity of her pride, begging also that a little dew should weep upon her. The nightbird leaves his solitary retreat, the hollow of an ancient trunk, and disturbs the sad loneliness of the open places—

No, don’t sing! she exclaimed in perfect Tagalog, as she rose with agitation. Don’t sing! Those verses hurt me.

The crazy woman became silent. The boy ejaculated, Abá! She talks Tagalog! and stood staring with admiration at his mistress, who, realizing that she had given herself away, was ashamed of it, and as her nature was not that of a woman, the shame took the aspect of rage and hate; so she showed the door to the imprudent boy and closed it behind him with a kick.

Twisting the whip in her nervous hands, she took a few turns around the room, then stopping suddenly in front of the crazy woman, said to her in Spanish, Dance! But Sisa did not move.

Dance, dance! she repeated in a sinister tone.

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