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by Arturo B. Rotor
TURONG brought him from Pauambang in his small sailboat, for the coastwise steamer did not stop at any little island of broken cliffs and coconut palms. It was almost midday; they had been standing in that white glare where the tiniest pebble and fluted conch had become points of light, piercing-bright--the municipal president, the parish priest, Don Eliodoro who owned almost all the coconuts, the herb doctor, the village character. Their mild surprise over when he spoke in their native dialect, they looked at him more closely and his easy manner did not deceive them. His head was uncovered and he had a way of bringing the back of his hand to his brow or mouth; they read behind that too, it was not a gesture of protection. "An exile has come to Anayat… and he is so young, so young." So young and lonely and sufficient unto himself. There was no mistaking the stamp of a strong decision on that brow, the brow of those who have to be cold and haughty, those shoulders stooped slightly, less from the burden that they bore than from a carefully cultivated air of unconcern; no common school-teacher could dress so carelessly and not appear shoddy.
They had prepared a room for him in Don Eliodoro's house so that he would not have to walk far to school every morning, but he gave nothing more than a glance at the big stone building with its Spanish azotea, its arched doorways, its flagged courtyard. He chose instead Turong's home, a shaky hut near the sea. Was the sea rough and dangerous at times? He did not mind it. Was the place far from the church and the schoolhouse? The walk would do him good. Would he not feel lonely with nobody but an illiterate fisherman for a companion? He was used to living alone. And they let him do as he wanted, for the old men knew that it was not so much the nearness of the sea that he desired as its silence so that he...