Chapter 57: - Page 2 of 8

Vae Victis!

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Bring out those two who are in the stocks, ordered the alferez in a tone that he tried to make as terrible as possible.  Then turning to the curate he added with a change of tone, They are fastened in by skipping two holes.

For the benefit of those who are not informed about these instruments of torture, we will say that the stocks are one of the most harmless.  The holes in which the offender’s legs are placed are a little more or less than a foot apart; by skipping two holes, the prisoner finds himself in a rather forced position with peculiar inconvenience to his ankles and a distance of about a yard between his lower extremities.  It does not kill instantaneously, as may well be imagined.

The jailer, followed by four soldiers, pushed back the bolt and opened the door.  A nauseating odor and currents of thick, damp air escaped from the darkness within at the same time that laments and sighs were heard.  A soldier struck a match, but the flame was choked in such a foul atmosphere, and they had to wait until the air became fresher.

In the dim light of the candle several human forms became vaguely outlined: men hugging their knees or hiding their heads between them, some lying face downward, some standing, and some turned toward the wall.  A blow and a creak were heard, accompanied by curses—the stocks were opened, Doña Consolacion bent forward with the muscles of her neck swelling and her bulging eyes fixed on the half-opened door.

A wretched figure, Tarsilo, Bruno’s brother, came out between two soldiers.  On his wrists were handcuffs and his clothing was in shreds, revealing quite a muscular body.  He turned his eyes insolently on the alferez’s woman.

This is the one who defended himself with the most courage and told his companions to run, said the alferez to Padre Salvi.

Behind him came another of miserable aspect, moaning and weeping like a child.  He limped along exposing pantaloons spotted with blood.  Mercy, sir, mercy! I’ll not go back into the yard, he whimpered.

He’s a rogue, observed the alferez to the curate.  He tried to run, but he was wounded in the thigh.  These are the only two that we took alive.

What’s your name? the alferez asked Tarsilo.

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