Chapter 52:

The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The moon was hidden in a cloudy sky while a cold wind, precursor of the approaching December, swept the dry leaves and dust about in the narrow pathway leading to the cemetery.  Three shadowy forms were conversing in low tones under the arch of the gateway.

Have you spoken to Elias? asked a voice.

No, you know how reserved and circumspect he is.  But he ought to be one of us. Don Crisostomo saved his life.

That’s why I joined, said the first voice.  Don Crisostomo had my wife cured in the house of a doctor in Manila.  I’ll look after the convento to settle some old scores with the curate.

And we’ll take care of the barracks to show the civil-guards that our father had sons.

How many of us will there be?

Five, and five will be enough.  Don Crisostomo’s servant, though, says there’ll be twenty of us.

What if you don’t succeed?

Hist! exclaimed one of the shadows, and all fell silent.

In the semi-obscurity a shadowy figure was seen to approach, sneaking along by the fence.  From time to time it stopped as if to look back.  Nor was reason for this movement lacking, since some twenty paces behind it came another figure, larger and apparently darker than the first, but so lightly did it touch the ground that it vanished as rapidly as though the earth had swallowed it every time the first shadow paused and turned.

They’re following me, muttered the first figure.  Can it be the civil-guards? Did the senior sacristan lie?

They said that they would meet here, thought the second shadow.  Some mischief must be on foot when the two brothers conceal it from me.

At length the first shadow reached the gateway of the cemetery.  The three who were already there stepped forward.


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