Noli Me Tangere: Chapter 58 – The Accursed

Soon the news spread through the town that the prisoners were about to set out. At first it was heard with terror; afterward came the weeping and wailing. The families of the prisoners ran about in distraction, going from the convento to the barracks, from the barracks to the town hall, and finding no consolation anywhere, filled the air with cries and groans. The curate had shut himself up on a plea of illness; the alferez had increased the guards, who received the supplicating women with the butts of their rifles; the gobernadorcillo, at best a useless creature, seemed to be more foolish and more useless than ever. In front of the jail the women who still had strength enough ran to and fro, while those who had not sat down on the ground and called upon the names of their beloved.

Although the sun beat down fiercely, not one of these unfortunates thought of going away. Doray, the erstwhile merry and happy wife of Don Filipo, wandered about dejectedly, carrying in her arms their infant son, both weeping. To the advice of friends that she go back home to avoid exposing her baby to an attack of fever, the disconsolate woman replied, “Why should he live, if he isn’t going to have a father to rear him?”

“Your husband is innocent. Perhaps he’ll come back.”

“Yes, after we’re all dead!”

Capitana Tinay wept and called upon her son Antonio. The courageous Capitana Maria gazed silently toward the small grating behind which were her twin-boys, her only sons.

There was present also the mother-in-law of the pruner of coco-palms, but she was not weeping; instead, she paced back and forth, gesticulating with uplifted arms, and haranguing the crowd: “Did you ever see anything like it? To arrest my Andong, to shoot at him, to put him in the stocks, to take him to the capital, and only because– because he had a new pair of pantaloons! This calls for vengeance! The civil-guards are committing abuses! I swear that if I ever again catch one of them in my garden, as has often happened, I’ll chop him up, I’ll chop him up, or else–let him try to chop me up!” Few persons, however, joined in the protests of the Mussulmanish mother-in-law.

“Don Crisostomo is to blame for all this,” sighed a woman.

The schoolmaster was also in the crowd, wandering about bewildered. Ñor Juan did not rub his hands, nor was he carrying his rule and plumb-bob;
he was dressed in black, for he had heard the bad news and, true to his habit of looking upon the future as already assured, was in mourning for Ibarra’s death.

At two o’clock in the afternoon an open cart drawn by two oxen stopped in front of the town hall. This was at once set upon by the people, who attempted to unhitch the oxen and destroy it. “Don’t do that!” said Capitana Maria. “Do you want to make them walk?” This consideration acted as a restraint on the prisoners’ relatives.

Twenty soldiers came out and surrounded the cart; then the prisoners appeared. The first was Don Filipo, bound. He greeted his wife smilingly, but Doray broke out into bitter weeping and two guards had difficulty in preventing her from embracing her husband. Antonio, the son of Capitana Tinay, appeared crying like a baby, which only added to the lamentations of his family. The witless Andong broke out into tears at sight of his mother-in-law, the cause of his misfortune. Albino, the quondam theological student, was also bound, as were Capitana Maria’s twins. All three were grave and serious. The last to come out was Ibarra, unbound, but conducted between two guards. The pallid youth looked about him for a friendly face.

“He’s the one that’s to blame!” cried many voices. “He’s to blame and he goes loose!”

“My son-in-law hasn’t done anything and he’s got handcuffs on!” Ibarra turned to the guards. “Bind me, and bind me well, elbow to elbow,” he said.

“We haven’t any order.”

“Bind me!” And the soldiers obeyed.

The alferez appeared on horseback, armed to the teeth, ten or fifteen more soldiers following him.

Each prisoner had his family there to pray for him, to weep for him, to bestow on him the most endearing names–all save Ibarra, who had no one, even Ñor Juan and the schoolmaster having disappeared.

“Look what you’ve done to my husband and my son!” Doray cried to him. “Look at my poor son! You’ve robbed him of his father!”

So the sorrow of the families was converted into anger toward the young man, who was accused of having started the trouble. The alferez gave the order to set out.

“You’re a coward!” the mother-in-law of Andong cried after Ibarra. “While others were fighting for you, you hid yourself, coward!”

“May you be accursed!” exclaimed an old man, running along beside him. “Accursed be the gold amassed by your family to disturb our peace! Accursed! Accursed!”

“May they hang you, heretic!” cried a relative of Albino’s. Unable to restrain himself, he caught up a stone and threw it at the youth.

This example was quickly followed, and a rain of dirt and stones fell on the wretched young man. Without anger or complaint, impassively he bore the righteous vengeance of so many suffering hearts. This was the parting, the farewell, offered to him by the people among whom were all his affections. With bowed head, he was perhaps thinking of a man whipped through the streets of Manila, of an old woman falling dead at the sight of her son’s head; perhaps Elias’s history was passing before his eyes.

The alferez found it necessary to drive the crowd back, but the stone-throwing and the insults did not cease. One mother alone did not wreak vengeance on him for her sorrows, Capitana Maria. Motionless, with lips contracted and eyes full of silent tears, she saw her two sons move away; her firmness, her dumb grief surpassed that of the fabled Niobe.

So the procession moved on. Of the persons who appeared at the few open windows those who showed most pity for the youth were the indifferent and the curious. All his friends had hidden themselves, even Capitan Basilio himself, who forbade his daughter Sinang to weep.

Ibarra saw the smoking ruins of his house–the home of his fathers, where he was born, where clustered the fondest recollections of his childhood and his youth. Tears long repressed started into his eyes, and he bowed his head and wept without having the consolation of being able to hide his grief, tied as he was, nor of having any one in whom his sorrow awoke compassion. Now he had neither country, nor home, nor love, nor friends, nor future!

From a slight elevation a man gazed upon the sad procession. He was an old man, pale and emaciated, wrapped in a woolen blanket, supporting himself with difficulty on a staff. It was the old Sage, Tasio, who, on hearing of the event, had left his bed to be present, but his strength had not been sufficient to carry him to the town hall. The old man followed the cart with his gaze until it disappeared in the distance and then remained for some time afterward with his head bowed, deep in thought. Then he stood up and laboriously made his way toward his house, pausing to rest at every step. On the following day some herdsmen found him dead on the very threshold of his solitary home.






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