Chapter 21:

Manila Types

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

That night there was a grand function at the Teatro de Variedades.  Mr. Jouay’s French operetta company was giving its initial performance, Les Cloches de Corneville. To the eyes of the public was to be exhibited his select troupe, whose fame the newspapers had for days been proclaiming.  It was reported that among the actresses was a very beautiful voice, with a figure even more beautiful, and if credit could be given to rumor, her amiability surpassed even her voice and figure.

At half-past seven in the evening there were no more tickets to be had, not even though they had been for Padre Salvi himself in his direct need, and the persons waiting to enter the general admission already formed a long queue.  In the ticket-office there were scuffles and fights, talk of filibusterism and races, but this did not produce any tickets, so that by a quarter before eight fabulous prices were being offered for them.  The appearance of the building, profusely illuminated, with flowers and plants in all the doors and windows, enchanted the new arrivals to such an extent that they burst out into exclamations and applause.  A large crowd surged about the entrance, gazing enviously at those going in, those who came early from fear of missing their seats.  Laughter, whispering, expectation greeted the later arrivals, who disconsolately joined the curious crowd, and now that they could not get in contented themselves with watching those who did.

Yet there was one person who seemed out of place amid such great eagerness and curiosity.  He was a tall, meager man, who dragged one leg stiffly when he walked, dressed in a wretched brown coat and dirty checkered trousers that fitted his lean, bony limbs tightly.  A straw sombrero, artistic in spite of being broken, covered an enormous head and allowed his dirty gray, almost red, hair to straggle out long and kinky at the end like a poet’s curls.  But the most notable thing about this man was not his clothing or his European features, guiltless of beard or mustache, but his fiery red face, from which he got the nickname by which he was known, Camaroncocido.[1]  He was a curious character belonging to a prominent Spanish family, but he lived like a vagabond and a beggar, scoffing at the prestige which he flouted indifferently with his rags.  He was reputed to be a kind of reporter, and in fact his gray goggle-eyes, so cold and thoughtful, always showed up where anything publishable was happening.  His manner of living was a mystery to all, as no one seemed to know where he ate and slept.  Perhaps he had an empty hogshead somewhere.

But at that moment Camaroncocido lacked his usual hard and indifferent expression, something like mirthful pity being reflected in his looks.  A funny little man accosted him merrily.

Friend! exclaimed the latter, in a raucous voice, as hoarse as a frog’s, while he displayed several Mexican pesos, which Camaroncocido merely glanced at and then shrugged his shoulders.  What did they matter to him?

[1]Boiled ShrimpTr.


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