Chapter 45:

The Hunted

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

In the dim light shed by the moonbeams sifting through the thick foliage a man wandered through the forest with slow and cautious steps. From time to time, as if to find his way, he whistled a peculiar melody, which was answered in the distance by some one whistling the same air. The man would listen attentively and then make his way in the direction of the distant sound, until at length, after overcoming the thousand obstacles offered by the virgin forest in the night-time, he reached a small open space, which was bathed in the light of the moon in its first quarter. The high, tree-crowned rocks that rose about formed a kind of ruined amphitheater, in the center of which were scattered recently felled trees and charred logs among boulders covered with nature’s mantle of verdure.

Scarcely had the unknown arrived when another figure started suddenly from behind a large rock and advanced with drawn revolver. Who are you? he asked in Tagalog in an imperious tone, cocking the weapon.

Is old Pablo among you? inquired the unknown in an even tone, without answering the question or showing any signs of fear.

You mean the capitan? Yes, he’s here.

Then tell him that Elias is here looking for him, was the answer of the unknown, who was no other than the mysterious pilot.

Are you Elias? asked the other respectfully, as he approached him, not, however, ceasing to cover him with the revolver. Then come!

Elias followed him, and they penetrated into a kind of cave sunk down in the depths of the earth. The guide, who seemed to be familiar with the way, warned the pilot when he should descend or turn aside or stoop down, so they were not long in reaching a kind of hall which was poorly lighted by pitch torches and occupied by twelve to fifteen armed men with dirty faces and soiled clothing, some seated and some lying down as they talked fitfully to one another. Resting his arms on a stone that served for a table and gazing thoughtfully at the torches, which gave out so little light for so much smoke, was seen an old, sad-featured man with his head wrapped in a bloody bandage. Did we not know that it was a den of tulisanes we might have said, on reading the look of desperation in the old man’s face, that it was the Tower of Hunger on the eve before Ugolino devoured his sons.


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