Chapter 38: - Page 3 of 4

Fatality

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

This is a dangerous place, answered the corporal, gazing uneasily toward the mountain.  Move on!

Move on! echoed Mautang and his lash whistled.

The prisoner twisted himself around to stare at him with reproachful eyes.  You are more cruel than the Spaniard himself, he said.

Mautang replied with more blows, when suddenly a bullet whistled, followed by a loud report.  Mautang dropped his rifle, uttered an oath, and clutching at his breast with both hands fell spinning into a heap.  The prisoner saw him writhing in the dust with blood spurting from his mouth.

Halt! called the corporal, suddenly turning pale.

The soldiers stopped and stared about them.  A wisp of smoke rose from a thicket on the height above. Another bullet sang to its accompanying report and the corporal, wounded in the thigh, doubled over vomiting curses.  The column was attacked by men hidden among the rocks above.

Sullen with rage the corporal motioned toward the string of prisoners and laconically ordered, Fire!

The wretches fell upon their knees, filled with consternation.  As they could not lift their hands, they begged for mercy by kissing the dust or bowing their heads—one talked of his children, another of his mother who would be left unprotected, one promised money, another called upon God—but the muzzles were quickly lowered and a hideous volley silenced them all.

Then began the sharpshooting against those who were behind the rocks above, over which a light cloud of smoke began to hover.  To judge from the scarcity of their shots, the invisible enemies could not have more than three rifles.  As they advanced firing, the guards sought cover behind tree-trunks or crouched down as they attempted to scale the height.  Splintered rocks leaped up, broken twigs fell from trees, patches of earth were torn up, and the first guard who attempted the ascent rolled back with a bullet through his shoulder.

The hidden enemy had the advantage of position, but the valiant guards, who did not know how to flee, were on the point of retiring, for they had paused, unwilling to advance; that fight against the invisible unnerved them.  Smoke and rocks alone could be seen—not a voice was heard, not a shadow appeared; they seemed to be fighting with the mountain.

Shoot, Carolino! What are you aiming at? called the corporal.

At that instant a man appeared upon a rock, making signs with his rifle.

Shoot him! ordered the corporal with a foul oath.

Three guards obeyed the order, but the man continued standing there, calling out at the top of his voice something unintelligible.

Learn this Filipino word:

paniningaláng-pugad