Chapter 60: - Page 8 of 11

Maria Clara Weds

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Through the window and a door that opened on the azotea the moonlight entered.  The musicians continued to play merry waltzes, laughter and the hum of voices penetrated into the chamber, several times her father, Aunt Isabel, Doña Victorina, and even Linares knocked at the door, but Maria did not move.  Heavy sobs shook her breast.

Hours passed—the pleasures of the dinner-table ended, the sound of singing and dancing was heard, the candle burned itself out, but the maiden still remained motionless on the moonlit floor at the feet of an image of the Mother of Jesus.

Gradually the house became quiet again, the lights were extinguished, and Aunt Isabel once more knocked at the door.

Well, she’s gone to sleep, said the old woman, aloud.  As she’s young and has no cares, she sleeps like a corpse.

When all was silence she raised herself slowly and threw a look about her.  She saw the azotea with its little arbors bathed in the ghostly light of the moon.

An untroubled future! She sleeps like a corpse! she repeated in a low voice as she made her way out to the azotea.

The city slept.  Only from time to time there was heard the noise of a carriage crossing the wooden bridge over the river, whose undisturbed waters reflected smoothly the light of the moon.  The young woman raised her eyes toward a sky as clear as sapphire.  Slowly she took the rings from her fingers and from her ears and removed the combs from her hair.  Placing them on the balustrade of the azotea, she gazed toward the river.

A small banka loaded with zacate stopped at the foot of the landing such as every house on the bank of the river has.  One of two men who were in it ran up the stone stairway and jumped over the wall, and a few seconds later his footsteps were heard on the stairs leading to the azotea.

Maria Clara saw him pause on discovering her, but only for a moment.  Then he advanced slowly and stopped within a few paces of her.  Maria Clara recoiled.

Crisostomo! she murmured, overcome with fright.

Yes, I am Crisostomo, replied the young man gravely.  An enemy, a man who has every reason for hating me, Elias, has rescued me from the prison into which my friends threw me.

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