Wealth and Want
(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)
On the following day, to the great surprise of the village, the jeweler Simoun, followed by two servants, each carrying a canvas-covered chest, requested the hospitality of Cabesang Tales, who even in the midst of his wretchedness did not forget the good Filipino customs—rather, he was troubled to think that he had no way of properly entertaining the stranger. But Simoun brought everything with him, servants and provisions, and merely wished to spend the day and night in the house because it was the largest in the village and was situated between San Diego and Tiani, towns where he hoped to find many customers.
Simoun secured information about the condition of the roads and asked Cabesang Tales if his revolver was a sufficient protection against the tulisanes.
They have rifles that shoot a long way, was the rather absent-minded reply.
This revolver does no less, remarked Simoun, firing at an areca-palm some two hundred paces away.
Cabesang Tales noticed that some nuts fell, but remained silent and thoughtful.
Gradually the families, drawn by the fame of the jeweler’s wares, began to collect. They wished one another merry Christmas, they talked of masses, saints, poor crops, but still were there to spend their savings for jewels and trinkets brought from Europe. It was known that the jeweler was the friend of the Captain-General, so it wasn’t lost labor to get on good terms with him, and thus be prepared for contingencies.
Capitan Basilio came with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, prepared to spend at least three thousand pesos. Sister Penchang was there to buy a diamond ring she had promised to the Virgin of Antipolo. She had left Juli at home memorizing a booklet the curate had sold her for four cuartos, with forty days of indulgence granted by the Archbishop to every one who read it or listened to it read.
Jesús! said the pious woman to Capitana Tika,
that poor girl has grown up like a mushroom planted by the tikbalang. I’ve made her read the book at the top of her voice at least fifty times and she doesn’t remember a single word of it. She has a head like a sieve—full when it’s in the water. All of us hearing her, even the dogs and cats, have won at least twenty years of indulgence.
Simoun arranged his two chests on the table, one being somewhat larger than the other.
You don’t want plated jewelry or imitation gems. This lady, turning to Sinang,
wants real diamonds.
That’s it, yes, sir, diamonds, old diamonds, antique stones, you know, she responded.
Papa will pay for them, because he likes antique things, antique stones. Sinang was accustomed to joke about the great deal of Latin her father understood and the little her husband knew.
It just happens that I have some antique jewels, replied Simoun, taking the canvas cover from the smaller chest, a polished steel case with bronze trimmings and stout locks.
I have necklaces of Cleopatra’s, real and genuine, discovered in the Pyramids; rings of Roman senators and knights, found in the ruins of Carthage.