Chapter 55: - Page 5 of 5

The Catastrophe

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Fearful of meeting the civil-guards, he made his way along through yards and gardens, in one of which he thought he could discern two human figures, but he kept on his way, leaping over fences and walls, until after great labor he reached the other end of the town and went toward Crisostomo’s house.  In the doorway were the servants, lamenting their master’s arrest.

After learning about what had occurred Elias pretended to go away, but really went around behind the house, jumped over the wall, and crawled through a window into the study where the candle that Ibarra had lighted was still burning.  He saw the books and papers and found the arms, the jewels, and the sacks of money.  Reconstructing in his imagination the scene that had taken place there and seeing so many papers that might be of a compromising nature, he decided to gather them up, throw them from the window, and bury them.

But, on glancing toward the street, he saw two guards approaching, their bayonets and caps gleaming in the moonlight.  With them was the directorcillo.  He made a sudden resolution: throwing the papers and some clothing into a heap in the center of the room, he poured over them the oil from a lamp and set fire to the whole.  He was hurriedly placing the arms in his belt when he caught sight of the portrait of Maria Clara and hesitated a moment, then thrust it into one of the sacks and with them in his hands leaped from the window into the garden.

It was time that he did so, too, for the guards were forcing an entrance.  Let us in to get your master’s papers! cried the directorcillo.

Have you permission? If you haven’t, you won’t get in,’ answered an old man.

But the soldiers pushed him aside with the butts of their rifles and ran up the stairway, just as a thick cloud of smoke rolled through the house and long tongues of flame shot out from the study, enveloping the doors and windows.

Fire! Fire! was the cry, as each rushed to save what he could.  But the blaze had reached the little laboratory and caught the inflammable materials there, so the guards had to retire.  The flames roared about, licking up everything in their way and cutting off the passages.  Vainly was water brought from the well and cries for help raised, for the house was set apart from the rest.  The fire swept through all the rooms and sent toward the sky thick spirals of smoke.  Soon the whole structure was at the mercy of the flames, fanned now by the wind, which in the heat grew stronger.  Some few rustics came up, but only to gaze on this great bonfire, the end of that old building which had been so long respected by the elements.

Learn this Filipino word:

háharáp sa dambanà