Chapter 32:

The Derrick

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The yellowish individual had kept his word, for it was no simple derrick that he had erected above the open trench to let the heavy block of granite down into its place.  It was not the simple tripod that Ñor Juan had wanted for suspending a pulley from its top, but was much more, being at once a machine and an ornament, a grand and imposing ornament.  Over eight meters in height rose the confused and complicated scaffolding.  Four thick posts sunk in the ground served as a frame, fastened to each other by huge timbers crossing diagonally and joined by large nails driven in only half-way, perhaps for the reason that the apparatus was simply for temporary use and thus might easily be taken down again.  Huge cables stretched from all sides gave an appearance of solidity and grandeur to the whole.  At the top it was crowned with many-colored banners, streaming pennants, and enormous garlands of flowers and leaves artistically interwoven.

There at the top in the shadow made by the posts, the garlands, and the banners, hung fastened with cords and iron hooks an unusually large three-wheeled pulley over the polished sides of which passed in a crotch three cables even larger than the others.  These held suspended the smooth, massive stone hollowed out in the center to form with a similar hole in the lower stone, already in place, the little space intended to contain the records of contemporaneous history, such as newspapers, manuscripts, money, medals, and the like, and perhaps to transmit them to very remote generations.  The cables extended downward and connected with another equally large pulley at the bottom of the apparatus, whence they passed to the drum of a windlass held in place by means of heavy timbers.  This windlass, which could be turned with two cranks, increased the strength of a man a hundredfold by the movement of notched wheels, although it is true that what was gained in force was lost in velocity.

Look, said the yellowish individual, turning the crank, look, Ñor Juan, how with merely my own strength I can raise and lower the great stone.  It’s so well arranged that at will I can regulate the rise or fall inch by inch, so that a man in the trench can easily fit the stones together while I manage it from here.

Ñor Juan could not but gaze in admiration at the speaker, who was smiling in his peculiar way.  Curious bystanders made remarks praising the yellowish individual.

Who taught you mechanics? asked Ñor Juan.

My father, my dead father, was the answer, accompanied by his peculiar smile.

Who taught your father?

Don Saturnino, the grandfather of Don Crisostomo.

I didn’t know that Don Saturnino—


Learn this Filipino word:

may kató sa ulo