The people crowded from every side to see the procession. The windows clattered with every gust of wind. The interior of the temple was drowned in clouds of incense, and sounds of musical instruments rose intermittently to a clear pitch and disappeared into the mysterious distance. The eight men, now lost in the general scuffle, and dazed with a sort of religious fervor, stretched their arms, ready to start.
“One! . . . Two! . . . Three! . . .” cried Mattao.
With a concentrated effort they all tried to lift the statue from the altar. But the weight was too great, and the statue bent over a little to the left. The men had scarcely time to gain a firm hold on the pedestal. They leaned forward to retain their balance, but the less dextrous, among them Biagio di Clisci and Giovanni Curo, let the statue slip from their hands. It fell with all its weight to one side. Ummalido uttered a piercing cry.
“Look out! Look out!” shouted the people on every side when they noticed the danger that was threatening their patron Saint. A deafening uproar came from the square and drowned the voices.
Power to withdraw
Ummalido fell on his knees; his right hand was nailed flat by the statue. Standing thus on his knees, his glance was fastened to his hand, which he had no power to withdraw. His eyes expressed horror and torment, his mouth was distorted with pain, but he uttered no sound. Blood was dripping on the altar.
With a united effort his comrades tried to lift the statue, but that proved no easy task. Ummalido’s mouth writhed with excruciating pain. The women standing near, shuddered in horror.
Finally the statue was lifted and Ummalido’s hand removed from under it. The hand, crushed and bleeding, presented but a formless mass.
“Go home at once. Go home!” came the advice from some among the crowd, as they urged him gently toward the exits of the church.
One woman removed her apron and offered to bandage his arm. Ummalido refused. He stared silently at a group of men engaged in a quarrel around the statue.
“It’s my turn.”
“No, mine! Mine!”
Cicco Pono, Mattia Scarfarola, and Tommaso Clisci were each con-tending for Ummalido’s place.
Ummalido approached the arguing men. His shapeless hand was dangling by his side, and with his second hand he was making his way through the crowd.