Chapter 57: - Page 5 of 8

Vae Victis!

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

To the well with him! he ordered.

The Filipinos know what this means: in Tagalog they call it timbaín.  We do not know who invented this procedure, but we judge that it must be quite ancient.  Truth at the bottom of a well may perhaps be a sarcastic interpretation.

In the center of the yard rose the picturesque curb of a well, roughly fashioned from living rock.  A rude apparatus of bamboo in the form of a well-sweep served for drawing up the thick, slimy, foul-smelling water.  Broken pieces of pottery, manure, and other refuse were collected there, since this well was like the jail, being the place for what society rejected or found useless, and any object that fell into it, however good it might have been, was then a thing lost.  Yet it was never closed up, and even at times the prisoners were condemned to go down and deepen it, not because there was any thought of getting anything useful out of such punishment, but because of the difficulties the work offered.  A prisoner who once went down there would contract a fever from which he would surely die.

Tarsilo gazed upon all the preparations of the soldiers with a fixed look.  He was pale, and his lips trembled or murmured a prayer.  The haughtiness of his desperation seemed to have disappeared or, at least, to have weakened.  Several times he bent his stiff neck and fixed his gaze on the ground as though resigned to his sufferings.  They led him to the well-curb, followed by the smiling Doña Consolacion.  In his misery he cast a glance of envy toward the heap of corpses and a sigh escaped from his breast.

Talk now, the directorcillo again advised him.  They’ll hang you anyhow. You’ll at least die without suffering so much.

You’ll come out of this only to die, added a cuadrillero.

They took away the gag and hung him up by his feet, for he must go down head foremost and remain some time under the water, just as the bucket does, only that the man is left a longer time.  While the alferez was gone to look for a watch to count the minutes, Tarsilo hung with his long hair streaming down and his eyes half closed.

If you are Christians, if you have any heart, he begged in a low voice, let me down quickly or make my head strike against the sides so that I’ll die.  God will reward you for this good deed—perhaps some day you may be as I am!

The alferez returned, watch in hand, to superintend the lowering.

Learn this Filipino word:

matamís ang dilà