José Rizal.

The Reign of Greed online

. (page 19 of 28)
Online LibraryJosé RizalThe Reign of Greed → online text (page 19 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of which was the fact that Simoun himself refused to make the least
explanation. From this they proceeded to talk of mysterious revenges,
and naturally of monkish pranks, each one relating the exploits of
the curate of his town.

A notice in large black letters crowned the frieze of the room with
this warning:

De esta fonda el cabecilla
Al publico advierte
Que nada dejen absolutamente
Sobre alguna mesa ó silla. [56]

"What a notice!" exclaimed Sandoval. "As if he might have confidence
in the police, eh? And what verses! Don Tiburcio converted into a
quatrain - two feet, one longer than the other, between two crutches! If
Isagani sees them, he'll present them to his future aunt."

"Here's Isagani!" called a voice from the stairway. The happy youth
appeared radiant with joy, followed by two Chinese, without camisas,
who carried on enormous waiters tureens that gave out an appetizing
odor. Merry exclamations greeted them.

Juanito Pelaez was missing, but the hour fixed had already passed, so
they sat down happily to the tables. Juanito was always unconventional.

"If in his place we had invited Basilio," said Tadeo, "we should have
been better entertained. We might have got him drunk and drawn some
secrets from him."

"What, does the prudent Basilio possess secrets?"

"I should say so!" replied Tadeo. "Of the most important kind. There
are some enigmas to which he alone has the key: the boy who
disappeared, the nun - "

"Gentlemen, the _pansit lang-lang_ is the soup _par excellence_!" cried
Makaraig. "As you will observe, Sandoval, it is composed of vermicelli,
crabs or shrimps, egg paste, scraps of chicken, and I don't know
what else. As first-fruits, let us offer the bones to Don Custodio,
to see if he will project something with them."

A burst of merry laughter greeted this sally.

"If he should learn - "

"He'd come a-running!" concluded Sandoval. "This is excellent
soup - what is it called?"

"_Pansit lang-lang_, that is, Chinese _pansit_, to distinguish it
from that which is peculiar to this country."

"Bah! That's a hard name to remember. In honor of Don Custodio,
I christen it the _soup project_!"

"Gentlemen," said Makaraig, who had prepared the menu, "there are
three courses yet. Chinese stew made of pork - "

"Which should be dedicated to Padre Irene."

"Get out! Padre Irene doesn't eat pork, unless he turns his nose away,"
whispered a young man from Iloilo to his neighbor.

"Let him turn his nose away!"

"Down with Padre Irene's nose," cried several at once.

"Respect, gentlemen, more respect!" demanded Pecson with comic gravity.

"The third course is a lobster pie - "

"Which should be dedicated to the friars," suggested he of the Visayas.

"For the lobsters' sake," added Sandoval.

"Right, and call it friar pie!"

The whole crowd took this up, repeating in concert, "Friar pie!"

"I protest in the name of one of them," said Isagani.

"And I, in the name of the lobsters," added Tadeo.

"Respect, gentlemen, more respect!" again demanded Pecson with a
full mouth.

"The fourth is stewed _pansit_, which is dedicated - to the government
and the country!"

All turned toward Makaraig, who went on: "Until recently, gentlemen,
the _pansit_ was believed to be Chinese or Japanese, but the
fact is that, being unknown in China or Japan, it would seem to be
Filipino, yet those who prepare it and get the benefit from it are the
Chinese - the same, the very, very same that happens to the government
and to the Philippines: they seem to be Chinese, but whether they
are or not, the Holy Mother has her doctors - all eat and enjoy it,
yet characterize it as disagreeable and loathsome, the same as with
the country, the same as with the government. All live at its cost,
all share in its feast, and afterwards there is no worse country than
the Philippines, there is no government more imperfect. Let us then
dedicate the _pansit_ to the country and to the government."

"Agreed!" many exclaimed.

"I protest!" cried Isagani.

"Respect for the weaker, respect for the victims," called Pecson in
a hollow voice, waving a chicken-bone in the air.

"Let's dedicate the _pansit_ to Quiroga the Chinaman, one of the four
powers of the Filipino world," proposed Isagani.

"No, to his Black Eminence."

"Silence!" cautioned one mysteriously. "There are people in the plaza
watching us, and walls have ears."

True it was that curious groups were standing by the windows, while
the talk and laughter in the adjoining houses had ceased altogether, as
if the people there were giving their attention to what was occurring
at the banquet. There was something extraordinary about the silence.

"Tadeo, deliver your speech," Makaraig whispered to him.

It had been agreed that Sandoval, who possessed the most oratorical
ability, should deliver the last toast as a summing up.

Tadeo, lazy as ever, had prepared nothing, so he found himself in a
quandary. While disposing of a long string of vermicelli, he meditated
how to get out of the difficulty, until he recalled a speech learned
in school and decided to plagiarize it, with adulterations.

"Beloved brethren in project!" he began, gesticulating with two
Chinese chop-sticks.

"Brute! Keep that chop-stick out of my hair!" cried his neighbor.

"Called by you to fill the void that has been left in - "

"Plagiarism!" Sandoval interrupted him. "That speech was delivered
by the president of our lyceum."

"Called by your election," continued the imperturbable Tadeo, "to fill
the void that has been left in my mind" - pointing to his stomach - "by
a man famous for his Christian principles and for his inspirations
and projects, worthy of some little remembrance, what can one like
myself say of him, I who am very hungry, not having breakfasted?"

"Have a neck, my friend!" called a neighbor, offering that portion
of a chicken.

"There is one course, gentlemen, the treasure of a people who are
today a tale and a mockery in the world, wherein have thrust their
hands the greatest gluttons of the western regions of the earth - "
Here he pointed with his chopsticks to Sandoval, who was struggling
with a refractory chicken-wing.

"And eastern!" retorted the latter, describing a circle in the air
with his spoon, in order to include all the banqueters.

"No interruptions!"

"I demand the floor!"

"I demand pickles!" added Isagani.

"Bring on the stew!"

All echoed this request, so Tadeo sat down, contented with having
got out of his quandary.

The dish consecrated to Padre Irene did not appear to be extra good,
as Sandoval cruelly demonstrated thus: "Shining with grease outside
and with pork inside! Bring on the third course, the friar pie!"

The pie was not yet ready, although the sizzling of the grease in the
frying-pan could be heard. They took advantage of the delay to drink,
begging Pecson to talk.

Pecson crossed himself gravely and arose, restraining his clownish
laugh with an effort, at the same time mimicking a certain Augustinian
preacher, then famous, and beginning in a murmur, as though he were
reading a text.

"_Si tripa plena laudal Deum, tripa famelica laudabit fratres_ - if
the full stomach praises God, the hungry stomach will praise the
friars. Words spoken by the Lord Custodio through the mouth of
Ben-Zayb, in the journal _El Grito de la Integridad_, the second
article, absurdity the one hundred and fifty-seventh.

"Beloved brethren in Christ: Evil blows its foul breath over
the verdant shores of Frailandia, commonly called the Philippine
Archipelago. No day passes but the attack is renewed, but there
is heard some sarcasm against the reverend, venerable, infallible
corporations, defenseless and unsupported. Allow me, brethren, on
this occasion to constitute myself a knight-errant to sally forth in
defense of the unprotected, of the holy corporations that have reared
us, thus again confirming the saving idea of the adage - a full stomach
praises God, which is to say, a hungry stomach will praise the friars."

"Bravo, bravo!"

"Listen," said Isagani seriously, "I want you to understand that,
speaking of friars, I respect one."

Sandoval was getting merry, so he began to sing a shady couplet about
the friars.

"Hear me, brethren!" continued Pecson. "Turn your gaze toward the
happy days of your infancy, endeavor to analyze the present and ask
yourselves about the future. What do you find? Friars, friars, and
friars! A friar baptized you, confirmed you, visited you in school
with loving zeal; a friar heard your first secret; he was the first to
bring you into communion with God, to set your feet upon the pathway
of life; friars were your first and friars will be your last teachers;
a friar it is who opens the hearts of your sweethearts, disposing
them to heed your sighs; a friar marries you, makes you travel over
different islands to afford you changes of climate and diversion; he
will attend your death-bed, and even though you mount the scaffold,
there will the friar be to accompany you with his prayers and tears,
and you may rest assured that he will not desert you until he sees you
thoroughly dead. Nor does his charity end there - dead, he will then
endeavor to bury you with all pomp, he will fight that your corpse
pass through the church to receive his supplications, and he will only
rest satisfied when he can deliver you into the hands of the Creator,
purified here on earth, thanks to temporal punishments, tortures, and
humiliations. Learned in the doctrines of Christ, who closes heaven
against the rich, they, our redeemers and genuine ministers of the
Saviour, seek every means to lift away our sins and bear them far,
far off, there where the accursed Chinese and Protestants dwell,
to leave us this air, limpid, pure, healthful, in such a way that
even should we so wish afterwards, we could not find a real to bring
about our condemnation.

"If, then, their existence is necessary to our happiness,
if wheresoever we turn we must encounter their delicate hands,
hungering for kisses, that every day smooth the marks of abuse from
our countenances, why not adore them and fatten them - why demand their
impolitic expulsion? Consider for a moment the immense void that
their absence would leave in our social system. Tireless workers,
they improve and propagate the races! Divided as we are, thanks
to our jealousies and our susceptibilities, the friars unite us in
a common lot, in a firm bond, so firm that many are unable to move
their elbows. Take away the friar, gentlemen, and you will see how the
Philippine edifice will totter; lacking robust shoulders and hairy
limbs to sustain it, Philippine life will again become monotonous,
without the merry note of the playful and gracious friar, without
the booklets and sermons that split our sides with laughter, without
the amusing contrast between grand pretensions and small brains,
without the actual, daily representations of the tales of Boccaccio
and La Fontaine! Without the girdles and scapularies, what would you
have our women do in the future - save that money and perhaps become
miserly and covetous? Without the masses, novenaries, and processions,
where will you find games of _panguingui_ to entertain them in their
hours of leisure? They would then have to devote themselves to their
household duties and instead of reading diverting stories of miracles,
we should then have to get them works that are not extant.

"Take away the friar and heroism will disappear, the political virtues
will fall under the control of the vulgar. Take him away and the Indian
will cease to exist, for the friar is the Father, the Indian is the
Word! The former is the sculptor, the latter the statue, because all
that we are, think, or do, we owe to the friar - to his patience,
his toil, his perseverance of three centuries to modify the form
Nature gave us. The Philippines without the friar and without the
Indian - what then would become of the unfortunate government in the
hands of the Chinamen?"

"It will eat lobster pie," suggested Isagani, whom Pecson's speech

"And that's what we ought to be doing. Enough of speeches!"

As the Chinese who should have served the courses did not put in his
appearance, one of the students arose and went to the rear, toward
the balcony that overlooked the river. But he returned at once,
making mysterious signs.

"We're watched! I've seen Padre Sibyla's pet!"

"Yes?" ejaculated Isagani, rising.

"It's no use now. When he saw me he disappeared."

Approaching the window he looked toward the plaza, then made signs to
his companions to come nearer. They saw a young man leave the door of
the _pansitería_, gaze all about him, then with some unknown person
enter a carriage that waited at the curb. It was Simoun's carriage.

"Ah!" exclaimed Makaraig. "The slave of the Vice-Rector attended by
the Master of the General!"



Very early the next morning Basilio arose to go to the hospital. He
had his plans made: to visit his patients, to go afterwards to the
University to see about his licentiateship, and then have an interview
with Makaraig about the expense this would entail, for he had used up
the greater part of his savings in ransoming Juli and in securing a
house where she and her grandfather might live, and he had not dared
to apply to Capitan Tiago, fearing that such a move would be construed
as an advance on the legacy so often promised him.

Preoccupied with these thoughts, he paid no attention to the groups
of students who were at such an early hour returning from the Walled
City, as though the classrooms had been closed, nor did he even note
the abstracted air of some of them, their whispered conversations,
or the mysterious signals exchanged among them. So it was that when
he reached San Juan de Dios and his friends asked him about the
conspiracy, he gave a start, remembering what Simoun had planned,
but which had miscarried, owing to the unexplained accident to the
jeweler. Terrified, he asked in a trembling voice, at the same time
endeavoring to feign ignorance, "Ah, yes, what conspiracy?"

"It's been discovered," replied one, "and it seems that many are
implicated in it."

With an effort Basilio controlled himself. "Many implicated?" he
echoed, trying to learn something from the looks of the others. "Who?"

"Students, a lot of students."

Basilio did not think it prudent to ask more, fearing that he would
give himself away, so on the pretext of visiting his patients he left
the group. One of the clinical professors met him and placing his hand
mysteriously on the youth's shoulder - the professor was a friend of
his - asked him in a low voice, "Were you at that supper last night?"

In his excited frame of mind Basilio thought the professor had
said _night before last_, which was the time of his interview with
Simoun. He tried to explain. "I assure you," he stammered, "that as
Capitan Tiago was worse - and besides I had to finish that book - "

"You did well not to attend it," said the professor. "But you're a
member of the students' association?"

"I pay my dues."

"Well then, a piece of advice: go home at once and destroy any papers
you have that may compromise you."

Basilio shrugged his shoulders - he had no papers, nothing more than
his clinical notes.

"Has Señor Simoun - "

"Simoun has nothing to do with the affair, thank God!" interrupted
the physician. "He was opportunely wounded by some unknown hand and
is now confined to his bed. No, other hands are concerned in this,
but hands no less terrible."

Basilio drew a breath of relief. Simoun was the only one who could
compromise him, although he thought of Cabesang Tales.

"Are there tulisanes - "

"No, man, nothing more than students."

Basilio recovered his serenity. "What has happened then?" he made
bold to ask.

"Seditious pasquinades have been found; didn't you know about them?"


"In the University."

"Nothing more than that?"

"Whew! What more do you want?" asked the professor, almost in
a rage. "The pasquinades are attributed to the students of the
association - but, keep quiet!"

The professor of pathology came along, a man who had more the look
of a sacristan than of a physician. Appointed by the powerful mandate
of the Vice-Rector, without other merit than unconditional servility
to the corporation, he passed for a spy and an informer in the eyes
of the rest of the faculty.

The first professor returned his greeting coldly, and winked to
Basilio, as he said to him, "Now I know that Capitan Tiago smells like
a corpse - the crows and vultures have been gathering around him." So
saying, he went inside.

Somewhat calmed, Basilio now ventured to inquire for more details,
but all that he could learn was that pasquinades had been found on
the doors of the University, and that the Vice-Rector had ordered
them to be taken down and sent to the Civil Government. It was said
that they were filled with threats of assassination, invasion, and
other braggadocio.

The students made their comments on the affair. Their information
came from the janitor, who had it from a servant in Santo Tomas,
who had it from an usher. They prognosticated future suspensions and
imprisonments, even indicating who were to be the victims - naturally
the members of the association.

Basilio then recalled Simoun's words: "The day in which they can get
rid of you, you will not complete your course."

"Could he have known anything?" he asked himself. "We'll see who is
the most powerful."

Recovering his serenity, he went on toward the University, to learn
what attitude it behooved him to take and at the same time to see
about his licentiateship. He passed along Calle Legazpi, then down
through Beaterio, and upon arriving at the corner of this street
and Calle Solana saw that something important must indeed have
happened. Instead of the former lively, chattering groups on the
sidewalks were to be seen civil-guards making the students move on,
and these latter issuing from the University silent, some gloomy,
some agitated, to stand off at a distance or make their way home.

The first acquaintance he met was Sandoval, but Basilio called to him
in vain. He seemed to have been smitten deaf. "Effect of fear on the
gastro-intestinal juices," thought Basilio.

Later he met Tadeo, who wore a Christmas face - at last that eternal
holiday seemed to be realized.

"What has happened, Tadeo?"

"We'll have no school, at least for a week, old
man! Sublime! Magnificent!" He rubbed his hands in glee.

"But what has happened?"

"They're going to arrest all of us in the association."

"And are you glad of that?"

"There'll be no school, there'll be no school!" He moved away almost
bursting with joy.

Basilio saw Juanito Pelaez approaching, pale and suspicious. This
time his hump had reached its maximum, so great was his haste to get
away. He had been one of the most active promoters of the association
while things were running smoothly.

"Eh, Pelaez, what's happened?"

"Nothing, I know nothing. I didn't have anything to do with it,"
he responded nervously. "I was always telling you that these things
were quixotisms. It's the truth, you know I've said so to you?"

Basilio did not remember whether he had said so or not, but to humor
him replied, "Yes, man, but what's happened?"

"It's the truth, isn't it? Look, you're a witness: I've always been
opposed - you're a witness, don't forget it!"

"Yes, man, but what's going on?"

"Listen, you're a witness! I've never had anything to do with the
members of the association, except to give them advice. You're not
going to deny it now. Be careful, won't you?"

"No, no, I won't deny it, but for goodness' sake, what has happened?"

But Juanito was already far away. He had caught a glimpse of a guard
approaching and feared arrest.

Basilio then went on toward the University to see if perhaps the
secretary's office might be open and if he could glean any further
news. The office was closed, but there was an extraordinary commotion
in the building. Hurrying up and down the stairways were friars, army
officers, private persons, old lawyers and doctors, there doubtless
to offer their services to the endangered cause.

At a distance he saw his friend Isagani, pale and agitated, but radiant
with youthful ardor, haranguing some fellow students with his voice
raised as though he cared little that he be heard by everybody.

"It seems preposterous, gentlemen, it seems unreal, that an incident so
insignificant should scatter us and send us into flight like sparrows
at whom a scarecrow has been shaken! But is this the first time that
students have gone to prison for the sake of liberty? Where are those
who have died, those who have been shot? Would you apostatize now?"

"But who can the fool be that wrote such pasquinades?" demanded an
indignant listener.

"What does that matter to us?" rejoined Isagani. "We don't have
to find out, let them find out! Before we know how they are drawn
up, we have no need to make any show of agreement at a time like
this. There where the danger is, there must we hasten, because honor
is there! If what the pasquinades say is compatible with our dignity
and our feelings, be he who he may that wrote them, he has done well,
and we ought to be grateful to him and hasten to add our signatures
to his! If they are unworthy of us, our conduct and our consciences
will in themselves protest and defend us from every accusation!"

Upon hearing such talk, Basilio, although he liked Isagani very
much, turned and left. He had to go to Makaraig's house to see about
the loan.

Near the house of the wealthy student he observed whisperings and
mysterious signals among the neighbors, but not comprehending what
they meant, continued serenely on his way and entered the doorway. Two
guards advanced and asked him what he wanted. Basilio realized that
he had made a bad move, but he could not now retreat.

"I've come to see my friend Makaraig," he replied calmly.

The guards looked at each other. "Wait here," one of them said to
him. "Wait till the corporal comes down."

Basilio bit his lips and Simoun's words again recurred to him. Had
they come to arrest Makaraig? - was his thought, but he dared not give
it utterance. He did not have to wait long, for in a few moments
Makaraig came down, talking pleasantly with the corporal. The two
were preceded by a warrant officer.

"What, you too, Basilio?" he asked.

"I came to see you - "

"Noble conduct!" exclaimed Makaraig laughing. "In time of calm,
you avoid us."

The corporal asked Basilio his name, then scanned a list. "Medical
student, Calle Anloague?" he asked.

Basilio bit his lip.

"You've saved us a trip," added the corporal, placing his hand on
the youth's shoulder. "You're under arrest!"

"What, I also?"

Makaraig burst out into laughter.

"Don't worry, friend. Let's get into the carriage, while I tell you
about the supper last night."

With a graceful gesture, as though he were in his own house, he
invited the warrant officer and the corporal to enter the carriage
that waited at the door.

"To the Civil Government!" he ordered the cochero.

Now that Basilio had again regained his composure, he told Makaraig
the object of his visit. The rich student did not wait for him to
finish, but seized his hand. "Count on me, count on me, and to the
festivities celebrating our graduation we'll invite these gentlemen,"
he said, indicating the corporal and the warrant officer.



Vox populi, vox Dei

We left Isagani haranguing his friends. In the midst of his enthusiasm
an usher approached him to say that Padre Fernandez, one of the higher
professors, wished to talk with him.

Isagani's face fell. Padre Fernandez was a person greatly respected
by him, being the _one_ always excepted by him whenever the friars
were attacked.

"What does Padre Fernandez want?" he inquired.

The usher shrugged his shoulders and Isagani reluctantly followed him.

Padre Fernandez, the friar whom we met in Los Baños, was waiting
in his cell, grave and sad, with his brows knitted as if he were
in deep thought. He arose as Isagani entered, shook hands with him,
and closed the door. Then he began to pace from one end of the room
to the other. Isagani stood waiting for him to speak.

"Señor Isagani," he began at length with some emotion, "from the
window I've heard you speaking, for though I am a consumptive I have
good ears, and I want to talk with you. I have always liked the young

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryJosé RizalThe Reign of Greed → online text (page 19 of 28)