Chapter 17: - Page 2 of 4


(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The son’s questioning gaze pained Sisa’s heart, for she understood it only too well, so she added hastily: He came and asked a lot about you and wanted to see you, and he was very hungry.  He said that if you continued to be so good he would come back to stay with us.

An exclamation of disgust from Basilio’s contracted lips interrupted her.  Son! she reproached him.

Forgive me, mother, he answered seriously.  But aren’t we three better off—you, Crispin, and I? You’re crying—I haven’t said anything.

Sisa sighed and asked, Aren’t you going to eat? Then let’s go to sleep, for it’s now very late.  She then closed up the hut and covered the few coals with ashes so that the fire would not die out entirely, just as a man does with his inner feelings; he covers them with the ashes of his life, which he calls indifference, so that they may not be deadened by daily contact with his fellows.

Basilio murmured his prayers and lay down near his mother, who was upon her knees praying.  He felt hot and cold, he tried to close his eyes as he thought of his little brother who that night had expected to sleep in his mother’s lap and who now was probably trembling with terror and weeping in some dark corner of the convento.  His ears were again pierced with those cries he had heard in the church tower.  But wearied nature soon began to confuse his ideas and the veil of sleep descended upon his eyes.

He saw a bedroom where two dim tapers burned.  The curate, with a rattan whip in his hand, was listening gloomily to something that the senior sacristan was telling him in a strange tongue with horrible gestures.  Crispin quailed and turned his tearful eyes in every direction as if seeking some one or some hiding-place.  The curate turned toward him and called to him irritably, the rattan whistled.  The child ran to hide himself behind the sacristan, who caught and held him, thus exposing him to the curate’s fury.  The unfortunate boy fought, kicked, screamed, threw himself on the floor and rolled about.  He picked himself up, ran, slipped, fell, and parried the blows with his hands, which, wounded, he hid quickly, all the time shrieking with pain.  Basilio saw him twist himself, strike the floor with his head, he saw and heard the rattan whistle.  In desperation his little brother rose.  Mad with pain he threw himself upon his tormentor and bit him on the hand.  The curate gave a cry and dropped the rattan—the sacristan caught up a heavy cane and struck the boy a blow on the head so that he fell stunned—the curate, seeing him down, trampled him with his feet.  But the child no longer defended himself nor did he cry out; he rolled along the floor, a lifeless mass that left a damp track.[1]

[1] Dream or reality, we do not know whether this may have happened to any Franciscan, but something similar is related of the Augustinian Padre Piernavieja.—Author’s note.

Fray Antonio Piernavieja, O.S.A., was a parish curate in the province of Bulacan when this work was written. Later, on account of alleged brutality similar to the incident used here, he was transferred to the province of Cavite, where, in 1896, he was taken prisoner by the insurgents and by them made bishop of their camp. Having taken advantage of this position to collect and forward to the Spanish authorities in Manila information concerning the insurgents’ preparations and plans, he was tied out in an open field and left to perish of hunger and thirst under the tropical sun. See Guía Oficial de Filipinas, 1885, page 195; El Katipunan ó El Filibusterismo en Filipinas (Madrid, 1897), page 347; Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XII.—TR.

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