Chapter 17:

The Quiapo Fair

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

It was a beautiful night and the plaza presented a most animated aspect.  Taking advantage of the freshness of the breeze and the splendor of the January moon, the people filled the fair to see, be seen, and amuse themselves.  The music of the cosmoramas and the lights of the lanterns gave life and merriment to every one.  Long rows of booths, brilliant with tinsel and gauds, exposed to view clusters of balls, masks strung by the eyes, tin toys, trains, carts, mechanical horses, carriages, steam-engines with diminutive boilers, Lilliputian tableware of porcelain, pine Nativities, dolls both foreign and domestic, the former red and smiling, the latter sad and pensive like little ladies beside gigantic children.  The beating of drums, the roar of tin horns, the wheezy music of the accordions and the hand-organs, all mingled in a carnival concert, amid the coming and going of the crowd, pushing, stumbling over one another, with their faces turned toward the booths, so that the collisions were frequent and often amusing.  The carriages were forced to move slowly, with the tabí of the cocheros repeated every moment.  Met and mingled government clerks, soldiers, friars, students, Chinese, girls with their mammas or aunts, all greeting, signaling, calling to one another merrily.

Padre Camorra was in the seventh heaven at the sight of so many pretty girls.  He stopped, looked back, nudged Ben-Zayb, chuckled and swore, saying, And that one, and that one, my ink-slinger? And that one over there, what say you? In his contentment he even fell to using the familiar tu toward his friend and adversary.  Padre Salvi stared at him from time to time, but he took little note of Padre Salvi.  On the contrary, he pretended to stumble so that he might brush against the girls, he winked and made eyes at them.

Puñales! he kept saying to himself.  When shall I be the curate of Quiapo?

Suddenly Ben-Zayb let go an oath, jumped aside, and slapped his hand on his arm; Padre Camorra in his excess of enthusiasm had pinched him.  They were approaching a dazzling señorita who was attracting the attention of the whole plaza, and Padre Camorra, unable to restrain his delight, had taken Ben-Zayb’s arm as a substitute for the girl’s.

It was Paulita Gomez, the prettiest of the pretty, in company with Isagani, followed by Doña Victorina.  The young woman was resplendent in her beauty: all stopped and craned their necks, while they ceased their conversation and followed her with their eyes—even Doña Victorina was respectfully saluted.

Paulita was arrayed in a rich camisa and pañuelo of embroidered piña, different from those she had worn that morning to the church.  The gauzy texture of the piña set off her shapely head, and the Indians who saw her compared her to the moon surrounded by fleecy clouds.  A silk rose-colored skirt, caught up in rich and graceful folds by her little hand, gave majesty to her erect figure, the movement of which, harmonizing with her curving neck, displayed all the triumphs of vanity and satisfied coquetry.  Isagani appeared to be rather disgusted, for so many curious eyes fixed upon the beauty of his sweetheart annoyed him.  The stares seemed to him robbery and the girl’s smiles faithlessness.


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