Chapter 34:

The Dinner

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

There in the decorated kiosk the great men of the province were dining.  The alcalde occupied one end of the table and Ibarra the other.  At the young man’s right sat Maria Clara and at his left the escribano.  Capitan Tiago, the alferez, the gobernadorcillo, the friars, the employees, and the few young ladies who had remained sat, not according to rank, but according to their inclinations.  The meal was quite animated and happy.

When the dinner was half over, a messenger came in search of Capitan Tiago with a telegram, to open which he naturally requested the permission of the others, who very naturally begged him to do so.  The worthy capitan at first knitted his eyebrows, then raised them; his face became pale, then lighted up as he hastily folded the paper and arose.

Gentlemen, he announced in confusion, his Excellency the Captain-General is coming this evening to honor my house. Thereupon he set off at a run, hatless, taking with him the message and his napkin.

He was followed by exclamations and questions, for a cry of Tulisanes! would not have produced greater effect.  But, listen! When is he coming? Tell us about it! His Excellency! But Capitan Tiago was already far away.

His Excellency is coming and will stay at Capitan Tiago’s! exclaimed some without taking into consideration the fact that his daughter and future son-in-law were present.

The choice couldn’t be better, answered the latter.

The friars gazed at one another with looks that seemed to say: The Captain-General is playing another one of his tricks, he is slighting us, for he ought to stay at the convento, but since this was the thought of all they remained silent, none of them giving expression to it.

I was told of this yesterday, said the alcalde, but at that time his Excellency had not yet fully decided.

Do you know, Señor Alcalde, how long the Captain-General thinks of staying here? asked the alferez uneasily.

With certainty, no.  His Excellency likes to give surprises.

Here come some more messages. These were for the alcalde, the alferez, and the gobernadorcillo, and contained the same announcement.  The friars noted well that none came directed to the curate.

His Excellency will arrive at four this afternoon, gentlemen! announced the alcalde solemnly.  So we can finish our meal in peace. Leonidas at Thermopylae could not have said more cheerfully, Tonight we shall sup with Pluto!


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