Chapter 23: - Page 8 of 10

Fishing

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Well then, either the lake is enchanted or I’ll draw up something.

Leon then dropped the pole into the water and instantly astonishment was pictured on his countenance.  Silently he looked off toward the mountain and moved the pole about in the water, then without raising it murmured in a low voice:

A cayman!

A cayman! repeated everyone, as the word ran from mouth to mouth in the midst of fright and general surprise.

What did you say? they asked him.

I say that we’re caught a cayman, Leon assured them, and as he dropped the heavy end of the pole into the water, he continued: Don’t you hear that sound? That’s not sand, but a tough hide, the back of a cayman.  Don’t you see how the posts shake? He’s pushing against them even though he is all rolled up.  Wait, he’s a big one, his body is almost a foot or more across.

What shall we do? was the question.

Catch him! prompted some one.

Heavens! And who’ll catch him?

No one offered to go down into the trap, for the water was deep.

We ought to tie him to our banka and drag him along in triumph, suggested Sinang.  The idea of his eating the fish that we were going to eat!

I have never yet seen a live cayman, murmured Maria Clara.

The pilot arose, picked up a long rope, and climbed nimbly up on the platform, where Leon made room for him. With the exception of Maria Clara, no one had taken any notice of him, but now all admired his shapely figure.  To the great surprise of all and in spite of their cries, he leaped down into the enclosure.

Take this knife! called Crisostomo to him, holding out a wide Toledo blade, but already the water was splashing up in a thousand jets and the depths closed mysteriously.

Jesús, María, y José! exclaimed the old women.  We’re going to have an accident!

Don’t be uneasy, ladies, said the old boatman, for if there is any one in the province who can do it, he’s the man.

What’s his name? they asked.

Learn this Filipino word:

mamúmulaklák ang hagdanan