Nuts and the Betel and other stories
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So did Lang. Thi-Trau was a woman; long since had she divined the ardent love of Lang, the loving ardour of Cau. The virgin gave over to Fate the business of showing the spouse who should be hers: she would let fall one of her gilded wooden, slippers, and he who should bring it her; must be her husband. That husband was Lang. Lang was infinitely happy. His happiness dazzled him, made him drunk.
Thi-Trau alone existed in all the world. Cau was in despair. Cau suffered a nameless martyrdom; the woman he loved could never be his; and Lang, his other self, had not only bereft him of his beloved, but denied him also that brotherly love, so sweet, so profound, which hitherto he had lavished on him.
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Oh Lang! Oh Thi-Trau! And Cau longed to die.
That autumn eve was soft as a kiss. The sea sang its caressing song. Cau went wandering on the strand, with unkempt locks, with burning brow. Oh to suffer no more! To sleep for ever, nor dream of cruel life! To feel no more that fiery torrent which coursed in his veins, that mountain of grief crushing his heart in his bosom!
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Cau took the plunge. The flood opened to receive the beautiful slender body, but closed not over it. It rocked the dead youth as a mother rocks her new-born child, and softly laid him on the beach. Then the miracle was accomplished. The slim body was transformed into a lovely slender tree; It was the areca. Horrified, meanwhile, Lang and Thi-Trau had beheld the drama, and their locked fingers were unloosened. Lang rushed out on the strand. Forgive me! Come back, Cau, or takejne whither thou art gone! The portent was renewed.
From the soil beaten by the salt waves sprang up two splendid areca-trees, one by the other, mingling the foliage of their magnificent crowns, both alike as fair and proud as Lang and Cau were equal in beauty and in nobility. And Thi-Trau bewailed herself: Oh, my spouse! Oh, my brother! Why have you abandoned me? The young wife embraced with her fair arms the trunk of the tree-genie.
Her slim, supple body grew slimmer and suppler still; her fingers, her locks, became graceful leaves.
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Thi-Trau was a liana twining round the areca-tree; she was a betel-giant. Merciful are the gods. This was in the time of one of the Hung monarchs, a time when so many marvels happened. This king, apparently the third, went to Cua-Han, that he might admire that creeper and those singular trees. The cortege, nevertheless, crossed the Pass of the Clouds, and traversed the high brush amid apathetic tigers, prostrate elephants, and indolent boa-constrictors.
It was nearly decimated when it reached Cua-Han. And immediately the Hung monarch betook himself to the beach. He bathed, made all his escort bathe, and stretched himself wearily under the charming group formed by the trees and the twining betel. A burning thirst dried up his throat, and his lips were on fire. Not a tree all around bore fruit to slake the royal thirst!
The sea-breeze shook the lofty heads of the two arecas. Amid the lanceolated leaves, the king observed certain green nuts. He ordered that they be gathered for him. The king, in his impatience, began to chew a leaf of betel. It was yet in his mouth, when they brought him an areca-nut. It was a revelation!
The whole court copied their sovereign, and felt the better for it. When the royal cortege left Cua-Han, not one among the servants went heavily and painflly as at their coming.
They all went singing, gay and happy, despite the fearful heat about them. They keep up the old tradition. They are images of conjugal love, fraternal love, family love. A branch of betel, twined round an areca-bough, is given as a symbolical gift by the young man betrothed to his future wife. Could he more gracefully plight his troth? Melrose, ltd. By business-leisure on Her taper fingers caressed the single string of a quaint musical instrument, and she murmured in low tones what seemed a rhythmical complaint: — O sun, wherefore dost thou flee?
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As long as their boka-boka would go up, the small boys did not tire of running back and forth on the street. Seeing it soar was thrilling enough. The older boys, however, got a thrill not only from flying their kites high but also from competing to see which kite had sharper thread. Sharpening a thread involved several steps.
First, a used light bulb was placed inside a can and crushed into grainy pieces by pounding it with a stone pestle. A cup of starch along with pieces of the light bulb were then placed in a big can of boiling water. The concoction was continuously stirred and then cooled off.
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The thread was then strung to several posts like a clothesline. The cooled mixture was applied on the thread and once dried, the thread was rolled into an empty milk can. The kite with the sharpened thread would be ready for combat. Once high enough, both fliers would try to make the strings of the kites touch each other. If there was contact, the competitors would unravel more string to make the kites soar higher. Upon contact, if one pulled his string instead of letting it go, his string would likely break, and he would lose the competition.
The kite with the broken thread would fly up and eventually fall on the ground. The boys would go after it, follow it from one street to another, and try to snatch it when low enough. The one who got it would get the kite for himself. That was the unwritten rule of the game. They belonged to the Visayan clan living in the middle of Pepin Street with Aling Yayang as their matriarch.