Chapter 52: - Page 4 of 5

The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Throughout the night a drizzling rain continued to fall.  By nine o’clock the streets were dark and solitary.  The coconut-oil lanterns, which the inhabitants were required to hang out, scarcely illuminated a small circle around each, seeming to be lighted only to render the darkness more apparent.  Two civil-guards paced back and forth in the street near the church.

It’s cold! said one in Tagalog with a Visayan accent.  We haven’t caught any sacristan, so there is no one to repair the alferez’s chicken-coop.  They’re all scared out by the death of that other one. This makes me tired.

Me, too, answered the other.  No one commits robbery, no one raises a disturbance, but, thank God, they say that Elias is in town.  The alferez says that whoever catches him will be exempt from floggings for three months.

Aha! Do you remember his description? asked the Visayan.

I should say so! Height: tall, according to the alferez, medium, according to Padre Damaso; color, brown; eyes, black; nose, ordinary; beard, none; hair, black.

Aha! But special marks?

Black shirt, black pantaloons, wood-cutter.

Aha, he won’t get away from me! I think I see him now.

I wouldn’t mistake him for any one else, even though he might look like him.

Thus the two soldiers continued on their round.

By the light of the lanterns we may again see two shadowy figures moving cautiously along, one behind the other.  An energetic Quién vive? stops both, and the first answers, España! in a trembling voice.

The soldiers seize him and hustle him toward a lantern to examine him.  It is Lucas, but the soldiers seem to be in doubt, questioning each other with their eyes.

The alferez didn’t say that he had a scar, whispered the Visayan. Where you going?

Learn this Filipino word:

maningíl sa hangin