Chapter 32: - Page 4 of 8

The Derrick

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Soon were heard the distant strains of the band, which was preceded by a motley throng made up of persons of all ages, in clothing of all colors.  The yellowish individual became uneasy and with a glance examined his whole apparatus.  A curious countryman followed his glance and watched all his movements; this was Elias, who had also come to witness the ceremony, but in his salakot and rough attire he was almost unrecognizable.  He had secured a very good position almost at the side of the windlass, on the edge of the excavation.  With the music came the alcalde, the municipal officials, the friars, with the exception of Padre Damaso, and the Spanish employees.  Ibarra was conversing with the alcalde, of whom he had made quite a friend since he had addressed to him some well-turned compliments over his decorations and ribbons, for aristocratic pretensions were the weakness of his Honor.  Capitan Tiago, the alferez, and some other wealthy personages came in the gilded cluster of maidens displaying their silken parasols.  Padre Salvi followed, silent and thoughtful as ever.

Count upon my support always in any worthy enterprise, the alcalde was saying to Ibarra.  I will give you whatever appropriation you need or else see that it is furnished by others.

As they drew nearer the youth felt his heart beat faster.  Instinctively he glanced at the strange scaffolding raised there.  He saw the yellowish individual salute him respectfully and gaze at him fixedly for a moment.  With surprise he noticed Elias, who with a significant wink gave him to understand that he should remember the warning in the church.

The curate put on his sacerdotal robes and commenced the ceremony, while the one-eyed sacristan held the book and an acolyte the hyssop and jar of holy water.  The rest stood about him uncovered, and maintained such a profound silence that, in spite of his reading in a low tone, it was apparent that Padre Salvi’s voice was trembling.

Meanwhile, there had been placed in the glass case the manuscripts, newspapers, medals, coins, and the like, and the whole enclosed in the leaden cylinder, which was then hermetically sealed.

Señor Ibarra, will you put the box in its place? The curate is waiting, murmured the alcalde into the young man’s ear.

I would with great pleasure, answered the latter, but that would be usurping the honorable duty of the escribano.  The escribano must make affidavit of the act.

So the escribano gravely took the box, descended the carpeted stairway leading to the bottom of the excavation and with due solemnity placed it in the hole in the stone.  The curate then took the hyssop and sprinkled the stones with holy water.

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