Chapter 52: - Page 3 of 5

The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

A short silence ensued.

Are you armed? How are you going to fight with the dead?

With my fists, answered the larger of the two.

Oh, the devil! Now I remember—the dead won’t bet when there’s more than one living person, and there are two of us.

Is that right? Well, I don’t want to leave.

Nor I. I’m short of money, answered the smaller.  But let’s do this: let’s play for it, the one who loses to leave.

All right, agreed the other, rather ungraciously.  Then let’s get inside.  Have you any matches? They went in to seek in the semi-obscurity for a suitable place and soon found a niche in which they could sit.  The shorter took some cards from his salakot, while the other struck a match, in the light from which they stared at each other, but, from the expressions on their faces, apparently without recognition.  Nevertheless, we can recognize in the taller and deep-voiced one Elias and in the shorter one, from the scar on his cheek, Lucas.

Cut! called Lucas, still staring at the other. He pushed aside some bones that were in the niche and dealt an ace and a jack.

Elias lighted match after match.  On the jack! he said, and to indicate the card placed a vertebra on top of it.

Play! called Lucas, as he dealt an ace with the fourth or fifth card.  You’ve lost, he added. Now leave me alone so that I can try to make a raise.

Elias moved away without a word and was soon swallowed up in the darkness.

Several minutes later the church-clock struck eight and the bell announced the hour of the souls, but Lucas invited no one to play nor did he call on the dead, as the superstition directs; instead, he took off his hat and muttered a few prayers, crossing and recrossing himself with the same fervor with which, at that same moment, the leader of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary was going through a similar performance.

Learn this Filipino word:

balát-sibuyas