Chapter 14: - Page 2 of 8

Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

We all deserve it, even you and I! You, señor gobernadorcillo, have there a bundle of tapers that came from some Chinese shop, yet this now makes the tenth year that I have been proposing to each new occupant of your office the purchase of lightning-rods.  Every one laughs at me, and buys bombs and rockets and pays for the ringing of bells.  Even you yourself, on the day after I made my proposition, ordered from the Chinese founders a bell in honor of St. Barbara,[1] when science has shown that it is dangerous to ring the bells during a storm.  Explain to me why in the year ’70, when lightning struck in Biñan, it hit the very church tower and destroyed the clock and altar.  What was the bell of St. Barbara doing then?

At the moment there was a vivid flash. Jesús, María, y José! Holy St. Barbara! exclaimed the gobernadorcillo, turning pale and crossing himself.

Tasio burst out into a loud laugh.  You are worthy of your patroness, he remarked dryly in Spanish as he turned his back and went toward the church.

Inside, the sacristans were preparing a catafalque, bordered with candles placed in wooden sockets.  Two large tables had been placed one above the other and covered with black cloth across which ran white stripes, with here and there a skull painted on it.

Is that for the souls or for the candles? inquired the old man, but noticing two boys, one about ten and the other seven, he turned to them without awaiting an answer from the sacristans.

Won’t you come with me, boys? he asked them.  Your mother has prepared a supper for you fit for a curate.

The senior sacristan will not let us leave until eight o’clock, sir, answered the larger of the two boys.  I expect to get my pay to give it to our mother.

Ah! And where are you going now?

To the belfry, sir, to ring the knell for the souls.

Going to the belfry! Then take care! Don’t go near the bells during the storm!

[1]St. Barbara is invoked during thunder-storms as the special protectress against lightning.—TR.

Learn this Filipino word:

batóng tuntungan