Chapter 61: - Page 3 of 7

The Chase on the Lake

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The banka was one of those small, narrow canoes that do not seem to float but rather to glide over the top of the water.  As Elias had foreseen, the sentinel stopped him and inquired whence he came.

From Manila, to carry zacate to the judges and curates, he answered, imitating the accent of the people of Pandakan.

A sergeant came out to learn what was happening.  Move on! he said to Elias.  But I warn you not to take anybody into your banka.  A prisoner has just escaped. If you capture him and turn him over to me I’ll give you a good tip.

All right, sir.  What’s his description?

He wears a sack coat and talks Spanish.  So look out! The banka moved away.  Elias looked back and watched the silhouette of the sentinel standing on the bank of the river.

We’ll lose a few minutes’ time, he said in a low voice.  We must go into the Beata River to pretend that I’m from Peñafrancia.  You will see the river of which Francisco Baltazar sang.

The town slept in the moonlight, and Crisostomo rose up to admire the sepulchral peace of nature.  The river was narrow and the level land on either side covered with grass.  Elias threw his cargo out on the bank and, after removing a large piece of bamboo, took from under the grass some empty palm-leaf sacks.  Then they continued on their way.

You are the master of your own will, sir, and of your future, he said to Crisostomo, who had remained silent.  But if you will allow me an observation, I would say: think well what you are planning to do—you are going to light the flames of war, since you have money and brains, and you will quickly find many to join you, for unfortunately there are plenty of malcontents.  But in this struggle which you are going to undertake, those who will suffer most will be the defenseless and the innocent.  The same sentiments that a month ago impelled me to appeal to you asking for reforms are those that move me now to urge you to think well.  The country, sir, does not think of separating from the mother country; it only asks for a little freedom, justice, and affection.  You will be supported by the malcontents, the criminals, the desperate, but the people will hold aloof.  You are mistaken if, seeing all dark, you think that the country is desperate.  The country suffers, yes, but it still hopes and trusts and will only rebel when it has lost its patience, that is, when those who govern it wish it to do so, and that time is yet distant.  I myself will not follow you, never will I resort to such extreme measures while I see hope in men.

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