Chapter 15:

The Sacristans

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The thunder resounded, roar following close upon roar, each preceded’ by a blinding flash of zigzag lightning, so that it might have been said that God was writing his name in fire and that the eternal arch of heaven was trembling with fear.  The rain, whipped about in a different direction each moment by the mournfully whistling wind, fell in torrents.  With a voice full of fear the bells sounded their sad supplication, and in the brief pauses between the roars of the unchained elements tolled forth sorrowful peals, like plaintive groans.

On the second floor of the church tower were the two boys whom we saw talking to the Sage.  The younger, a child of seven years with large black eyes and a timid countenance, was huddling close to his brother, a boy of ten, whom he greatly resembled in features, except that the look on the elder’s face was deeper and firmer.

Both were meanly dressed in clothes full of rents and patches.  They sat upon a block of wood, each holding the end of a rope which extended upward and was lost amid the shadows above.  The wind-driven rain reached them and snuffed the piece of candle burning dimly on the large round stone that was used to furnish the thunder on Good Friday by being rolled around the gallery.

Pull on the rope, Crispin, pull! cried the elder to his little brother, who did as he was told, so that from above was heard a faint peal, instantly drowned out by the reechoing thunder.

Oh, if we were only at home now with mother, sighed the younger, as he gazed at his brother. There I shouldn’t be afraid.

The elder did not answer; he was watching the melting wax of the candle, apparently lost in thought.

There no one would say that I stole, went on Crispin.  Mother wouldn’t allow it. If she knew that they whip me—

The elder took his gaze from the flame, raised his head, and clutching the thick rope pulled violently on it so that a sonorous peal of the bells was heard.

Are we always going to live this way, brother? continued Crispin.  I’d like to get sick at home tomorrow, I’d like to fall into a long sickness so that mother might take care of me and not let me come back to the convento.  So I’d not be called a thief nor would they whip me.  And you too, brother, you must get sick with me.

No, answered the older, we should all die: mother of grief and we of hunger.

Crispin remained silent for a moment, then asked, How much will you get this month?

Two pesos.  They’re fined me twice.

Then pay what they say I’ve stolen, so that they won’t call us thieves. Pay it, brother!

Learn this Filipino word: