|May Day Eve
old people had ordered that the dancing should
stop at ten o'clock but it was almost midnight
before the carriages came fill up to the front
door, the servants running to and fro with
torches to light the departing guests, while the
girls who were staying were promptly herded
upstairs to the bedrooms, the young men gathering
around to wish them a good night and lamenting
their ascent with mock sighs and moanings,
proclaiming themselves disconsolate but
straightway going off to finish the punch and the
brandy though they were quite drunk already and
simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment,
arrogance and audacity, for they were young bucks
newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in
their honor; and they had waltzed and polkaed and
bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and
were in no mood to sleep yet-no, caramba, not on
this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May
eve!-with the night still young and so seductive
that it was madness not to go out, not to go
forth-and serenade the neighbors!
cried one; and swim in the Pasig! cried another;
and gather fireflies! cried a third-whereupon
there arose a great clamor for coats and capes,
for hats and canes, and they were presently
stumbling out among the medieval shadows of the
foul street where a couple of street-lamps
flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon
the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered
hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister
chessboards, against the wild sky murky with
clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled
about in a corner or where a murderous wind
whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of
the sea and now of the summer orchards and
wafting unbearable childhood fragrances of ripe
guavas to the young men trooping uproariously
down the street that the girls who were disrobing
upstairs in the bedrooms scattered screaming to
the windows, crowded giggling at the windows, but
soon sighing amorously over those young men
bawling below; over those wicked young men and
their handsome apparel, their proud flashing
eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black and
vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite
ravished with love, and began crying to one
another how carefree were men but how awful to be
a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was,
till old Anastasia plucked them off by the ear or
the pigtail and chased them off to bed-while from
up the street came the clackety-clack of the
watchman's boots on the cobbles, and the
clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and
the mighty roll of his great voice booming
through the night: "Guardia sereno-o-! A las
doce han dado-o-o!"
And it was May again, said the Old Anastasia. It
was the first day of May and witches were abroad
in the night, she said-for it was a night of
divination, a night of lovers, and those who
cared might peer in a mirror and would there
behold the face of whoever it was they were fated
to marry, said the Old Anastasia as she hobbled
about picking up the piled crinolines and folding
up shawls and taking slippers to a corner while
the girls climbing into the four great
poster-beds that overwhelmed the room began
shrieking with terror, scrambling over each other
and imploring the old woman not to frighten them.
"Enough, enough, Anastasia! We want to
"Go scare the boys instead, you old
"She is not a witch, she is maga. She was
born on Christmas Eve! "
"Saint Anastasia, virgin and martyr."
"Huh? Impossible! She has conquered seven
husbands! Are you a virgin, Anastasia?"
"No, but I am seven times a martyr because
of you, girls!"
"Let her prophesy, let her prophesy! Whom
will I marry old gypsy? Come, tell me."
"You may learn in a mirror if you are not
"I am not afraid, I will go!" cried the
young cousin Agueda jumping up in the bed.
"Girls, girls-we are making too much noise!
My mother will hear and will come and pinch us
all. Agueda, lie down! And you, Anastasia, I
command you to shut your mouth and go away!"
"Your mother told me to stay here all night,
my grand lady!"
"And I will not lie down!" cried
rebellious Agueda, leaping to the floor.
"Stay, old woman. Tell me what I have to
" Tell her! Tell her" chimed the other
The old woman dropped the clothes she had
gathered and approached and fixed her eyes on the
girl." You must take a candle," she
instructed, "and go into a room that is dark
and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone
in the room. Go up the mirror and close your eyes
show to me
him whose woman
I will be.
If all goes right , just above your left shoulder
will appear the face of the man you will
A silence. Then: "And what if all does not
go right?" asked Agueda.
" Ah, then the Lord have mercy on you!"
" because you may see - the Devil!"
The girls screamed and clutched one another,
" But what nonsense!" cried Agueda.
"This is the year 1847. There are no devils
anymore!" Nevertheless she had turned pale.
"But where could I go, huh? Yes I know! Down
the sala. It has that big mirror and no one is
"No, Agueda, no! It is a mortal sin! You
will see the devil!"
"I do not care! I am not afraid! I will
"Oh, you wicked girl! Oh, you mad
"If you do not come to bed, Agueda, I will
call my mother."
"And if you do I will tell her who came to
visit you at the convent last March. Come, old
woman-give me that candle I go."
" Oh, girls-come and stop her! Take hold of
her! Block the door!"
But Agueda had already slipped outside; was
already tiptoeing across the hall; her feet bare
and her dark hair falling down her shoulders and
streaming in the wind as she fled down the
stairs, the lighted candle sputtering in one hand
while with the other she pulled up her white gown
from her ankles.
She paused breathless in the doorway to the sala
and her heart failed her. She tried to imagine
the room filled again with lights, laughter,
whirling couples, and the jolly jerky music of
the fiddlers. But, oh, it was a dark den, a weird
cavern, for the windows had been closed and the
furniture stacked up against the walls. She
crossed herself and stepped inside.
The mirror hung on the wall before her; a big
antique mirror with a gold frame carved into
leaves and flowers and mysterious curlicues. She
was herself approaching fearfully in it: a small
white ghost that the darkness bodied forth-but
not willingly, not completely, for her eyes and
hair were so dark that the face approaching in
the mirror seemed only a mask that floated
forward; a bright mask with two holes gaping in
it, blown forward by the white cloud of her gown.
But when she stood before the mirror she lifted
the candle level with her chin and the dead mask
bloomed into her living face.
She closed her eyes and whispered the
incantation. When she had finished such a terror
took hold of her that she felt unable to move,
unable to open her eyes, and thought she would
stand there forever, enchanted. But she heard a
step behind her, and a smothered giggle, and
instantly opened her eyes.
"AND WHAT DID YOU SEE, MAMA? OH, WHAT WAS
But Doņa Agueda had forgotten the little girl on
her lap: she was staring past the curly head
nestling at her breast and seeing herself in the
big mirror hanging in the room. It was the same
room and the same mirror but the face she now saw
in it was an old face-a hard, bitter, vengeful
face, framed in greying hair, and so sadly
altered, so sadly different from that other face
like a white mask, that fresh young face like a
purple mask that she had brought before this
mirror one wild May Day midnight years and years
"But what was it, Mama? Oh, please go on!
What did you see?"
Doņa Agueda looked down at her daughter but her
face did not soften though her eyes were filled
with tears. "I saw the devil!" she said
The child blanched. " The devil, Mama? Oh
"Yes, my love. I opened my eyes and there in
the mirror, smiling at me over my left shoulder,
was the face of the devil."
" Oh, my poor little Mama! And you were very
" You can imagine. And that is why good
little girls do not look into mirrors except when
their mothers tell them. You must stop this
naughty habit, darling , of admiring yourself in
every mirror you pass-or you may see something
"But the devil, Mama-what did he look
"Well, let me see
He had curly hair
and a scar on his cheek-"
"Like the scar of Papa?"
"Well, yes. But this of the devil was a scar
of sin, while that of your Papa is a scar of
honor. Or so he says."
"Go on about the devil."
" Well, he had mustaches."
"Like those of Papa?"
"Oh no, Those of your Papa are dirty and
greying and smell horribly of tobacco, while
these of the devil were very black and
elegant-oh, how elegant!"
"And did he have horns and tail?"
The mother's lips curled. "Yes, he did! But,
alas, I could not see them at that time. All I
could see were his fine clothes, his flashing
eyes, his curly hair and mustaches."
"And did he speak to you, Mama?"
Yes, he spoke to me," said
Doņa Agueda. And bowing her greying head, she
"CHARMS LIKE YOURS HAVE NO NEED FOR A
CANDLE, FAIR ONE," he had said, smiling at
her in the mirror and stepping back to give her a
low mocking bow. She had whirled around and
glared at him and he had burst into laughter.
"But I remember you!" he cried.
"You are Agueda, whom I left a mere infant
and came home to find a tremendous beauty, and I
danced a waltz with you but you would not give me
"Let me pass," she muttered fiercely,
for he was barring her the way.
"But I want to dance the polka with you,
fair one," he said
So they stood before the mirror; their panting
breath the only sound in the dark room; the
candle shining between them and flinging their
shadows to the wall. And young Badoy Montiya (who
had crept home very drunk to pass out quietly in
bed) suddenly found himself cold sober and very
much awake ready for anything. His eyes sparkled
and the scar on his face gleamed scarlet.
"Let me pass!" she cried again, in a
voice of fury, but he grasped her by the wrist.
"No," he smiled. "Not until we
"Go to the devil!"
"What a temper has my serrana!"
"I am not your serrana!"
"Whose, then? Someone I know? Someone I have
offended grievously? Because you treat me, you
treat all my friends like mortal enemies."
"And why not?" she demanded, jerking
her wrist away and flashing her teeth in his
face. "Oh, how I detest you, you pompous
young men! You go to Europe and you come back
elegant lords and we poor girls are too tame to
please. We have no grace like the Parisiennes, we
have no fire like the Sevillians, and we have no
salt, no salt, no salt! Aie, how you weary me,
how you bore me, you fastidious young men!"
"Come, come-how do you know about us?"
"I have heard you talking, I have heard you
talking among yourselves, and I despite the pack
"But clearly you do not despise yourself,
seņorita. You come to admire your charms in the
mirror even in the middle of the night!"
She turned livid and he had a moment of malicious
"I was not admiring myself, sir!"
"You were admiring the moon perhaps?"
"Oh!" she gasped, and burst into tears.
The candle dropped from her and she covered her
face and sobbed piteously. The candle had gone
out and they stood in the darkness, and young
Badoy was conscience-stricken.
"Oh, do not cry, little one! Oh, please
forgive me! Please do not cry! But what a brute I
am! I was drunk, little one, I was drunk and knew
not what I said."
He groped and found her hand and touched it to
his lips. She shuddered in her white gown.
"Let me go," she moaned, and tugged
"No. Say you forgive me first. Say you
forgive me, Agueda."
But instead she pulled his hand to her mouth and
bit-bit so sharply into the knuckles that he
cried with pain and lashed out with his other
hand-lashed out and hit the air, for she was
gone, she had fled, and he heard the rustling of
her skirts up the stairs as he furiously sucked
his bleeding fingers.
Cruel thoughts raced through his head: he would
go and tell his mother and make her turn the
savage girl out of the house-or he would go
himself to the girl's room and drag her out of
bed and slap, slap, slap her silly face! But at
the same time he was thinking that they were all
going up to Antipolo in the morning and was
already planning how he would himself into the
same boat with her.
Oh, he would have his revenge, he would make her
pay, that little harlot! She should suffer for
this, he thought greedily licking his bleeding
knuckles. But - Judas!- what eyes she had. And
what a pretty colored she turned when angry! He
remembered here bare shoulders: gold in the
candlelight and delicately furred. He saw the
mobile insolence of her neck, and her taut breast
steady in the fluid gown. Son of a Turk, but she
was quite enchanting! How could she think she had
no fire or grace? And no salt? An arroba she had
No lack of salt in the chrism
At the moment of thy baptism!"
he sang aloud in the dark room and suddenly
realized that he had fallen madly in love with
her. He ached intensely to see her again-at
once!-to touch her hand and her hair; to hear he
harsh voice. He ran to the window and flung open
the casements and the beauty of the night struck
him back like a blow. It was May, it was summer,
and he was young - young! - and deliriously in
love. Such a happiness welled up within him the
tears spurted from his eyes. But he did not
forgive her - no! He would still make her pay, he
would still have his revenge, he thought
viciously, and kissed his wounded fingers. But
what a night it had been! " I will never
forget this night!" he thought aloud in a
awed voice, standing by the window in the dark
room, the tears in his eyes and the wind in his
hair and his bleeding knuckles pressed to his
BUT, ALAS, THE HEART FORGETS; THE HEARTS IS
DISTRACTED; AND MAYTIME PASSES, summer ends; the
storms break over the rot-ripe orchards and the
heart grows old; while the hours, the days, the
months, and the years pile up and pile up, till
the mind becomes too crowded, too confused: dust
gathers in it; cobwebs multiply; the walls darken
and fall into ruin and decay; the memory
and there came a time when Don
Badoy Monitiya walked home through a May Day
midnight without remembering without even caring
to remember; being merely concerned in feeling
his way across the street with his cane; his eyes
having grown quite dim and his legs uncertain -
for he was old; he was over sixty; he was very
stooped and shriveled old man with white hair and
mustaches, coming home from a secret meeting of
conspirators; his mind still resounding with
speeches and his patriot heart still exultant as
he picked his way up the steps to the front door
inside into the slumbering darkness of the house;
wholly unconscious of the May night, till on his
way down the hall, chancing to glance into the
sala, he shuddered, he stopped, his blood ran
cold-for he had seen a face in the mirror there-a
ghostly candlelit face with the eyes closed and
the lips moving, a face that he suddenly felt he
had seen before though it was a full minute
before the lost memory came flowing, came tiding
back, so overflooding the actual moment and so
swiftly washing away the piled hours and days and
months and years that he was left suddenly young
again: he was a gay young buck again, lately come
from Europe: he had been dancing all night: he
was very drunk: he stopped in the doorway: he saw
a face in the dark: he cried out
lad standing before the mirror (for it was a lad
in a night gown) jumped with fright and almost
dropped his candle, but looking around and seeing
the old man, laughed out with relief and came
"Oh, Grandpa, how you frightened me!"
Don Badoy had turned very pale. "So it was
you, you young bandit! And what is all this, hey?
What are you doing down here at this hour?"
"Nothing, Grandpa. I was only
"Yes, you are the great Seņor Only and how
delightd I am to make your acquaintance, Seņor
Only! But if I break this cane on your head you
may wish you were someone else, sir!"
"It was just foolishness, Grandpa. They told
me I would see my wife."
"Wife, What wife?"
"Mine. The boys at school said I would see
her if I looked in the mirror tonight and said:
show to me
her whose lover
I will be."
Don Badoy cackled ruefully. He took the boy by
the hair, pulled him along into the room, sat
down on a chair, and drew the boy between his
knees. " Now, put your candle down on the
floor, son, and let us talk this over. So you
want your wife already, hey? You want to see her
in advance, hey? But do you know that these are
wicked games and that wicked boys who play them
are in danger of seeing horrors?"
"Well, the boys did warn me I might see a
"Exactly! A witch so horrible you may die of
fright. And she will bewitch you, she will
torture you, she will eat your heart and drink
"Oh, come now, Grandpa. This is 1890. There
are no witches anymore."
"Oh-no, my young Voltaire! And what if I
tell you that I myself have seen a witch?"
"Right in this room and right in that
mirror," said the old man, and his playful
voice had turned savage.
"When, Grandpa ?"
"Not so long ago. When I a was a bit older
than you. Oh, I was a vain fellow and though I
was feeling very sick that night and merely
wanted to lie down somewhere and die I could not
pass the doorway of course without stopping to
see in the mirror what I looked like when dying.
But when I poked my head in what should I see in
the mirror but
"And did she bewitch you, Grandpa?"
"She bewitched me and she tortured me. She
ate my heart and drank my blood," said the
old man bitterly.
"Oh, my poor little, Grandpa! Why have you
never told me! And was she very horrible?"
"Horrible? God, no-she was beautiful! She
was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen!
Her eyes were somewhat like yours but her hair
was like black waters and her golden shoulders
were bare. My God, she was enchanting! But I
should have known-I should have known even
then-the dark fatal creature she was!"
A silence. Then: "What a horrid mirror this
is, Grandpa," whispered the boy. "What
makes you say that, hey?"
"Well, you saw this witch in it. And Mama
once told me that Grandma once told her that
Grandma once saw the devil in this mirror. Was it
of the scare that Grandma died?"
Don Badoy started. For a moment he had forgotten
that she was dead, that she had perished-the poor
Agueda; that they were at peace at last, the two
of them, and her tired body at rest; her broken
body set free at last from the brutal pranks of
the earth-from the trap of a May night; from the
snare of the summer; from the terrible silver net
of the moon. She had been a mere heap of white
hair and bones in the end: a whimpering withered
consumptive, lashing out with her cruel tongue;
her eyes like live coals; her face like
Now, nothing-nothing save a name on a
stone; save a stone in a graveyard-nothing!
nothing at all was left of the young girl who
had flamed so vividly in a mirror one wild May
Day midnight, long, long ago.
And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously;
remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled
and how he had sung aloud in the dark room and
surprised his heart in the instant of falling in
love; such a grief tore up his throat and ashamed
before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and
fumbled his way to the window; threw open the
casements and looked out - looked out upon the
medieval shadows of the foul street where a
couple of street-lamps flickered and a last
carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles,
while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush,
their tiled roofs looming like sinister
chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds,
save where an evil old moo prowled about in a
corner or where a murderous wind, whirled,
whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea
and now of the summer orchards and wafting
unbearable Maytime memories of an old, old love
to the old man shaking with sobs by the window;
the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the
window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and
the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his
mouth - while from up the street came and the
clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and
the mighty roll of his great voice booming
through the night: Guardia sereno-o! A las doce
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