Loreto Paras Sulit
HE first saw her in his brother’s eyes. The palay stalks were taking on gold in the late afternoon sun, were losing their trampled, wind-swept look and stirring into little, almost inaudible whispers.
The rhythm of Fabian’s strokes was smooth and unbroken. So many palay stalks had to be harvested before sundown and there was no time to be lost in idle dallying. But when he stopped to heap up the fallen palay stalks he glanced at his brother as if to fathom the other’s state of mind in that one, side-long glance.
The swing of Vidal’s figure was as graceful as the downward curve of the crescent-shaped scythe. How stubborn, this younger brother of his, how hard-headed, fumed Fabian as he felled stalk after stalk. It is because he knows how very good-looking he is, how he is so much run-after by all the women in town. The obstinate, young fool! With his queer dreams, his strange adorations, his wistfulness for a life not of these fields, not of their quiet, colorless women and the dullness of long nights of unbroken silence and sleep. But he would bend… he must bend… one of these days.
Vidal stopped in his work to wipe off the heavy sweat from his brow. He wondered how his brother could work that fast all day without pausing to rest, without slowing in the rapidity of his strokes. But that was the reason the master would not let him go; he could harvest a field in a morning that would require three men to finish in a day. He had always been afraid of this older brother of his; there was something terrible in the way he determined things, how he always brought them to pass, how he disregarded the soft and the beautiful in his life and sometimes how he crushed, trampled people, things he wanted destroyed. There were flowers, insects, birds of boyhood memories, what Fabian had done to them. There was Tinay… she did not truly like him, but her widowed mother had some lands… he won and married Tinay.
I wonder what can touch him. Vidal thought of miracles, perhaps a vision, a woman… But no… he would overpower them…he was so strong with those arms of steel, those huge arms of his that could throttle a spirited horse into obedience.
“Harvest time is almost ended, Vidal.” (I must be strong also, the other prayed). “Soon the planting season will be on us and we shall have need of many carabaos. Milia’s father has five. You have but to ask her and Milia will accept you any time. Why do you delay…”
He stopped in surprise for his brother had sprung up so suddenly and from the look on his face it was as if a shining glory was smiling shyly, tremulously in that adoring way of his that called forth all the boyishness of his nature—There was the slow crunch, crunch of footsteps on dried soil and Fabian sensed the presence of people behind him. Vidal had taken off his wide, buri hat and was twisting and untwisting it nervously.
“Ah, it is my model! How are you, Vidal?” It was a voice too deep and throaty for a woman but beneath it one could detect a gentle, smooth nuance, soft as silk. It affected Fabian very queerly, he could feel his muscles tensing as he waited for her to speak again. But he did not stop in work nor turn to look at her.
She was talking to Vidal about things he had no idea of. He could not understand why the sound of her voice filled him with this resentment that was increasing with every passing minute. She was so near him that when she gestured, perhaps as she spoke, the silken folds of her dress brushed against him slightly, and her perfume, a very subtle fragrance, was cool and scented in the air about him.
“From now on he must work for me every morning, possibly all day.”
“Very well. Everything as you please.” So it was the master who was with her.
“He is your brother, you say, Vidal? Oh, your elder brother.” The curiosity in her voice must be in her eyes. “He has very splendid arms.”
Then Fabian turned to look at her.
He had never seen anyone like her....