Chapter 59:

Patriotism and Private Interests

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Secretly the telegraph transmitted the report to Manila, and thirty-six hours later the newspapers commented on it with great mystery and not a few dark hints—augmented, corrected, or mutilated by the censor. In the meantime, private reports, emanating from the convents, were the first to gain secret currency from mouth to mouth, to the great terror of those who heard them.  The fact, distorted in a thousand ways, was believed with greater or less ease according to whether it was flattering or worked contrary to the passions and ways of thinking of each hearer.

Without public tranquillity seeming disturbed, at least outwardly, yet the peace of mind of each home was whirled about like the water in a pond: while the surface appears smooth and clear, in the depths the silent fishes swarm, dive about, and chase one another.  For one part of the population crosses, decorations, epaulets, offices, prestige, power, importance, dignities began to whirl about like butterflies in a golden atmosphere. For the other part a dark cloud arose on the horizon, projecting from its gray depths, like black silhouettes, bars, chains, and even the fateful gibbet.  In the air there seemed to be heard investigations, condemnations, and the cries from the torture chamber; Marianas [1] and Bagumbayan presented themselves wrapped in a torn and bloody veil, fishers and fished confused.  Fate pictured the event to the imaginations of the Manilans like certain Chinese fans—one side painted black, the other gilded with bright-colored birds and flowers.

In the convents the greatest excitement prevailed.  Carriages were harnessed, the Provincials exchanged visits and held secret conferences; they presented themselves in the palaces to offer their aid to the government in its perilous crisis.  Again there was talk of comets and omens.

A Te Deum! A Te Deum! cried a friar in one convent.  This time let no one be absent from the chorus! It’s no small mercy from God to make it clear just now, especially in these hopeless times, how much we are worth!

The little general Mal-Aguero [2] can gnaw his lips over this lesson, responded another.

[1] The Marianas, or Ladrone Islands, were used as a place of banishment for political prisoners.—TR.

[2] Evil Omen, a nickname applied by the friars to General Joaquin Jovellar, who was governor of the Islands from 1883 to 1885. It fell to the lot of General Jovellar, a kindly old man, much more soldier than administrator, to attempt the introduction of certain salutary reforms tending toward progress, hence his disfavor with the holy fathers. The mention of General J——— in the last part of the epilogue probably refers also to him.—TR.


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