The First Cloud
(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
In Capitan Tiago’s house reigned no less disorder than in the people’s imagination. Maria Clara did nothing but weep and would not listen to the consoling words of her aunt and of Andeng, her foster-sister. Her father had forbidden her to speak to Ibarra until the priests should absolve him from the excommunication. Capitan Tiago himself, in the midst of his preparations for receiving the Captain-General properly, had been summoned to the convento.
Don’t cry, daughter, said Aunt Isabel, as she polished the bright plates of the mirrors with a piece of chamois.
They’ll withdraw the excommunication, they’ll write now to the Pope, and we’ll make a big poor-offering. Padre Damaso only fainted, he’s not dead.
Don’t cry, whispered Andeng.
I’ll manage it so that you may talk with him. What are confessionals for if not that we may sin? Everything is forgiven by telling it to the curate.
At length Capitan Tiago returned. They sought in his face the answer to many questions, and it announced discouragement. The poor fellow was perspiring; he rubbed his hand across his forehead, but was unable to say a single word.
What has happened, Santiago? asked Aunt Isabel anxiously.
He answered by sighing and wiping away a tear.
For God’s sake, speak! What has happened?
Just what I feared, he broke out at last, half in tears.
All is lost! Padre Damaso has ordered me to break the engagement, otherwise he will damn me in this life and in the next. All of them told me the same, even Padre Sibyla. I must close the doors of my house against him, and I owe him over fifty thousand pesos! I told the padres this, but they refused to take any notice of it. ‘Which do you prefer to lose,’ they asked me, ‘fifty thousand pesos or your life and your soul?’ Ay, St. Anthony, if I had only known, if I had only known! Don’t cry, daughter, he went on, turning to the sobbing girl.
You’re not like your mother, who never cried except just before you were born. Padre Damaso told me that a relative of his has just arrived from Spain and you are to marry him.
Maria Clara covered her ears, while Aunt Isabel screamed,
Santiago, are you crazy? To talk to her of another sweetheart now! Do you think that your daughter changes sweethearts as she does her camisa?
That’s just the way I felt, Isabel. Don Crisostomo is rich, while the Spaniards marry only for love of money. But what do you want me to do? They’ve threatened me with another excommunication. They say that not only my soul but also my body is in great danger—my body, do you hear, my body!