(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
The fiesta is over. The people of the town have again found, as in every other year, that their treasury is poorer, that they have worked, sweated, and stayed awake much without really amusing themselves, without gaining any new friends, and, in a word, that they have dearly bought their dissipation and their headaches. But this matters nothing, for the same will be done next year, the same the coming century, since it has always been the custom.
In Capitan Tiago’s house sadness reigns. All the windows are closed, the inmates move about noiselessly, and only in the kitchen do they dare to speak in natural tones. Maria Clara, the soul of the house, lies sick in bed and her condition is reflected in all the faces, as the sorrows of the mind may be read in the countenance of an individual.
Which seems best to you, Isabel, shall I make a poor-offering to the cross of Tunasan or to the cross of Matahong? asks the afflicted father in a low voice.
The Tunasan cross grows while the Matahong cross sweats which do you think is more miraculous?
Aunt Isabel reflects, shakes her head, and murmurs,
To grow, to grow is a greater miracle than to sweat. All of us sweat, but not all of us grow.
That’s right, Isabel; but remember that to sweat for the wood of which bench-legs are made to sweat—is not a small miracle. Come, the best thing will be to make poor-offerings to both crosses, so neither will resent it, and Maria will get better sooner. Are the rooms ready? You know that with the doctors is coming a new gentleman, a distant relative of Padre Damaso’s. Nothing should be lacking.
At the other end of the dining-room are the two cousins, Sinang and Victoria, who have come to keep the sick girl company. Andeng is helping them clean a silver tea-set.
Do you know Dr. Espadaña? the foster-sister of Maria Clara asks Victoria curiously.
No, replies the latter,
the only thing that I know about him is that he charges high, according to Capitan Tiago.
Then he must be good! exclaims Andeng.
The one who performed an operation on Doña Maria charged high; so he was learned.