He pulled down his hat until the wide brim touched his shoulders. He crouched lower under the cover of his cart and peered ahead. The road seemed to writhe under the lash of the noon- day heat; it swum from side to side, humped and bent itself like a feeling serpent, and disappeared behind the spur of a low hill on which grew a scrawny thicket of bamboo. There was not a house in sight. Along the left side of the road ran the deep, dry gorge of a stream, the banks sparsely covered by sun-burned cogon grass. In places, the rocky, waterless bed showed aridly. Farther, beyond the shimmer of quivering heat waves rose ancient hills not less blue than the cloud-palisaded sky. On the right stretched a land waste of low rolling dunes. Scattered clumps of hardy ledda relieved the otherwise barren monotony of the landscape. Far away he could discern a thin indigo line that was the sea. The grating of the cartwheels on the pebbles of the road and the almost soundless shuffle ofthe weary bull but emphasized the stillness. Now and then came the dry rustling of fallingearth as lumps from the cracked sides of the gorge fell down to the bottom. He struck at the bull with the slack of the rope. The animal broke into a heavy trot. The dust stirred slumbrously. The bull slowed down, threw up his head, and a glistening thread of saliva spun out into the dry air. The dying rays of the sun were reflected in points of light on the wet, heaving flanks.
The man in the cart did not notice the woman until she had rounded the spur of land and stood unmoving beside the road, watching the cart and its occupant come toward her. She was young, surprisingly sweet and fresh amidst her parched surroundings. A gaily stripped kerchief covered her head, the ends tied at the nape of her neck. She wore a homespun bodice of light red cloth with small white checks. Her skirt was also homespun and showed a pattern of white checks with narrow stripes of yellow and red. With both hands she held by the mouth...
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