Heretic and Filibuster
(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
Ibarra stood undecided for a moment. The night breeze, which during those months blows cool enough in Manila, seemed to drive from his forehead the light cloud that had darkened it. He took off his hat and drew a deep breath. Carriages flashed by, public rigs moved along at a sleepy pace, pedestrians of many nationalities were passing. He walked along at that irregular pace which indicates thoughtful abstraction or freedom from care, directing his steps toward Binondo Plaza and looking about him as if to recall the place. There were the same streets and the identical houses with their white and blue walls, whitewashed, or frescoed in bad imitation of granite; the church continued to show its illuminated clock face; there were the same Chinese shops with their soiled curtains and their iron gratings, in one of which was a bar that he, in imitation of the street urchins of Manila, had twisted one night; it was still unstraightened.
How slowly everything moves, he murmured as he turned into Calle Sacristia. The ice-cream venders were repeating the same shrill cry,
Sorbeteee! while the smoky lamps still lighted the identical Chinese stands and those of the old women who sold candy and fruit.
Wonderful! he exclaimed.
There’s the same Chinese who was here seven years ago, and that old woman—the very same! It might be said that tonight I’ve dreamed of a seven years’ journey in Europe. Good heavens, that pavement is still in the same unrepaired condition as when I left! True it was that the stones of the sidewalk on the corner of San Jacinto and Sacristia were still loose.
While he was meditating upon this marvel of the city’s stability in a country where everything is so unstable, a hand was placed lightly on his shoulder. He raised his head to see the old lieutenant gazing at him with something like a smile in place of the hard expression and the frown which usually characterized him.
Young man, be careful! Learn from your father! was the abrupt greeting of the old soldier.
Pardon me, but you seem to have thought a great deal of my father. Can you tell me how he died? asked Ibarra, staring at him.
What! Don’t you know about it? asked the officer.
I asked Don Santiago about it, but he wouldn’t promise to tell me until tomorrow. Perhaps you know?
I should say I do, as does everybody else. He died in prison!
The young man stepped backward a pace and gazed searchingly at the lieutenant.
In prison? Who died in prison?
Your father, man, since he was in confinement, was the somewhat surprised answer.