Chapter 56:

Rumors and Beliefs

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Day dawned at last for the terrified town.  The streets near the barracks and the town hail were still deserted and solitary, the houses showed no signs of life.  Nevertheless, the wooden panel of a window was pushed back noisily and a child’s head was stretched out and turned from side to side, gazing about in all directions.  At once, however, a smack indicated the contact of tanned hide with the soft human article, so the child made a wry face, closed its eyes, and disappeared.  The window slammed shut.

But an example had been set.  That opening and shutting of the window had no doubt been heard on all sides, for soon another window opened slowly and there appeared cautiously the head of a wrinkled and toothless old woman: it was the same Sister Puté who had raised such a disturbance while Padre Damaso was preaching.  Children and old women are the representatives of curiosity in this world: the former from a wish to know things and the latter from a desire to recollect them.

Apparently there was no one to apply a slipper to Sister Puté, for she remained gazing out into the distance with wrinkled eyebrows.  Then she rinsed out her mouth, spat noisily, and crossed herself. In the house opposite, another window was now timidly opened to reveal Sister Rufa, she who did not wish to cheat or be cheated.  They stared at each other for a moment, smiled, made some signs, and again crossed themselves.

Jesús, it seemed like a thanksgiving mass, regular fireworks! commented Sister Rufa.

Since the town was sacked by Balat, I’ve never seen another night equal to it, responded Sister Puté.

What a lot of shots! They say that it was old Pablo’s band.

Tulisanes? That can’t be! They say that it was the cuadrilleros against the civil-guards.  That’s why Don Filipo has been arrested.

Sanctus Deus! They say that at least fourteen were killed.

Other windows were now opened and more faces appeared to exchange greetings and make comments.  In the clear light, which promised a bright day, soldiers could be seen in the distance, coming and going confusedly like gray silhouettes.

There goes one more corpse! was the exclamation from a window.

One? I see two.


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