Crispín and Basilio, the two young apprentice sextons that Tasio spoke with earlier, stand at the top of the bell tower as the storm rages on. Basilio tolls the bell and Crispín laments that the sextons and priest have accused him of stealing. He wishes they were at home with their mother, who is expecting them for dinner. Since they’ve started studying to be sextons, they rarely get to see her, and she doesn’t know the torment they live through on a day-to-day basis in the church. Calculating how much the church claims Crispín owes, the two boys determine that the sum is far larger than what they regularly earn. “Now I’m sorry I didn’t steal anything!” Crispín complains. When his brother reproaches him, he responds, “The priest told me he would beat me to death if the money didn’t appear…if I had taken it I could make it appear…”
When Crispín says that the accusations heaped upon him by the church make him wish he actually did steal, he hits upon the idea that sometimes unreasonable rules and regulations actually lead to the very misbehavior they aim to prevent. If a governing body or powerful system (like the church) treats its subordinates like criminals, it may indeed turn innocent people toward subversion, since they’re already forced to live with the consequences of breaking the law. Since Noli Me Tangere is a political novel concerned with examining the impact of oppressive power structures on Filipino citizens, this is an important notion to bear in mind.
As Crispín and Basilio worry what their mother will think if the priest tells her Crispín is a thief, the chief sexton appears from the stairwell. Scolding Basilio for not tolling the bells in the correct rhythm, he tells Crispín that he must stay in the tower until what he stole is replenished. The boy tells him that their mother is expecting them at eight, to which the sexton says the brothers won’t be permitted to leave until ten. Crispín points out that the town’s curfew is at nine o’clock, which means they won’t be able to walk the streets at ten. This correction upsets the sexton, who grabs Crispín, slaps Basilio away, and hauls Crispín down the steps. Petrified, Basilio remains in the dark tower as he hears his brother scream, “They’re going to kill me!” until all is silent again.
The bitterness between the ensign and Father Salví come to fruition in this scene. However, neither the ensign nor the priest feel the adverse effects of their battle—rather, it is Crispín who suffers from their enmity, since it is only because he points out that the ensign has imposed a curfew that he is dragged away by the chief sexton. In this way, the tension between the church and the state is brought to bear on the community itself.
After a few moments, Basilio descends the tower and goes into the church, following his brother’s fading screams until a door closes and he loses the sound. He wanders through the church and then slips outside again. Moments thereafter, two gunshots and a handful of voices are audible in the streets, but nobody pays any attention and the night envelops itself once again in silence.
It is brave of Basilio to seek out his brother in the dark church by following the boy’s screams, but the fact that he didn’t immediately set off behind the chief sexton and Crispín further illustrates the fear church officials inspire in their subordinates.