Chapter 32: - Page 6 of 8

The Derrick

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Padre Salvi then seemed to seek for some one to whom he might give the trowel.  He looked doubtfully at Maria Clara, but changing his mind, offered it to the escribano.  The latter in gallantry offered it to Maria Clara, who smilingly refused it.  The friars, the employees, and the alferez went down one after another, nor was Capitan Tiago forgotten.  Ibarra only was left, and the order was about to be given for the yellowish individual to lower the stone when the curate remembered the youth and said to him in a joking tone, with affected familiarity:

Aren’t you going to put on your trowelful, Señor Ibarra?

I should be a Juan Palomo, to prepare the meal and eat it myself, answered the latter in the same tone.

Go on! said the alcalde, shoving him forward gently.  Otherwise, I’ll order that the stone be not lowered at all and we’ll be here until doomsday.

Before such a terrible threat Ibarra had to obey.  He exchanged the small silver trowel for a large iron one, an act which caused some of the spectators to smile, and went forward tranquilly.  Elias gazed at him with such an indefinable expression that on seeing it one might have said that his whole life was concentrated in his eyes.  The yellowish individual stared into the trench, which opened at his feet.  After directing a rapid glance at the heavy stone hanging over his head and another at Elias and the yellowish individual, Ibarra said to Ñor Juan in a somewhat unsteady voice, Give me the mortar and get me another trowel up there.

The youth remained alone.  Elias no longer looked at him, for his eyes were fastened on the hand of the yellowish individual, who, leaning over the trench, was anxiously following the movements of Ibarra.  There was heard the noise of the trowel scraping on the stone in the midst of a feeble murmur among the employees, who were congratulating the alcalde on his speech.

Suddenly a crash was heard.  The pulley tied at the base of the derrick jumped up and after it the windlass, which struck the heavy posts like a battering-ram.  The timbers shook, the fastenings flew apart, and the whole apparatus fell in a second with a frightful crash.  A cloud of dust arose, while a cry of horror from a thousand voices filled the air.  Nearly all fled; only a few dashed toward the trench.  Maria Clara and Padre Salvi remained in their places, pale, motionless, and speechless.

When the dust had cleared away a little, they saw Ibarra standing among beams, posts, and cables, between the windlass and the heavy stone, which in its rapid descent had shaken and crushed everything.  The youth still held the trowel in his hand and was staring with frightened eyes at the body of a man which lay at his feet half-buried among the timbers.

You’re not killed! You’re still alive! For God’s sake, speak! cried several employees, full of terror and solicitude.

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