Chapter 57: - Page 6 of 8

Vae Victis!

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Slowly, slowly! cried Doña Consolacion, as she kept her gaze fixed on the wretch. Be careful!

The well-sweep moved gently downwards.  Tarsilo rubbed against the jutting stones and filthy weeds that grew in the crevices.  Then the sweep stopped while the alferez counted the seconds.

Lift him up! he ordered, at the end of a half-minute.  The silvery and harmonious tinkling of the drops of water falling back indicated the prisoner’s return to the light.  Now that the sweep was heavier he rose rapidly.  Pieces of stone and pebbles torn from the walls fell noisily.  His forehead and hair smeared with filthy slime, his face covered with cuts and bruises, his body wet and dripping, he appeared to the eyes of the silent crowd.  The wind made him shiver with cold.

Will you talk? he was asked.

Take care of my sister, murmured the unhappy boy as he gazed beseechingly toward one of the cuadrilleros.

The bamboo sweep again creaked, and the condemned boy once more disappeared.  Doña Consolacion observed that the water remained quiet.  The alferez counted a minute.

When Tarsilo again came up his features were contracted and livid.  With his bloodshot eyes wide open, he looked at the bystanders.

Are you going to talk? the alferez again demanded in dismay.

Tarsilo shook his head, and they again lowered him.  His eyelids were closing as the pupils continued to stare at the sky where the fleecy clouds floated; he doubled back his neck so that he might still see the light of day, but all too soon he had to go down into the water, and that foul curtain shut out the sight of the world from him forever.

A minute passed.  The watchful Muse saw large bubbles rise to the surface of the water. He’s thirsty, she commented with a laugh.  The water again became still.

This time the alferez did not give the signal for a minute and a half.  Tarsilo’s features were now no longer contracted.  The half-raised lids left the whites of his eyes showing, from his mouth poured muddy water streaked with blood, but his body did not tremble in the chill breeze.

Learn this Filipino word:

hinóg sa pilit