Padre Damaso Explains
(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)
Vainly were the rich wedding presents heaped upon a table; neither the diamonds in their cases of blue velvet, nor the piña embroideries, nor the rolls of silk, drew the gaze of Maria Clara. Without reading or even seeing it the maiden sat staring at the newspaper which gave an account of the death of Ibarra, drowned in the lake.
Suddenly she felt two hands placed over her eyes to hold her fast and heard Padre Damaso’s voice ask merrily,
Who am I? Who am I?
Maria Clara sprang from her seat and gazed at him in terror.
Foolish little girl, you’re not afraid, are you? You weren’t expecting me, eh? Well, I’ve come in from the provinces to attend your wedding.
He smiled with satisfaction as he drew nearer to her and held out his hand for her to kiss. Maria Clara approached him tremblingly and touched his hand respectfully to her lips.
What’s the matter with you, Maria? asked the Franciscan, losing his merry smile and becoming uneasy.
Your hand is cold, you’re pale. Are you ill, little girl?
Padre Damaso drew her toward himself with a tenderness that one would hardly have thought him capable of, and catching both her hands in his questioned her with his gaze.
Don’t you have confidence in your godfather any more? he asked reproachfully.
Come, sit down and tell me your little troubles as you used to do when you were a child, when you wanted tapers to make wax dolls, You know that I’ve always loved you, I’ve never been cross with you.
His voice was now no longer brusque, and even became tenderly modulated. Maria Clara began to weep.
You’re crying, little girl? Why do you cry? Have you quarreled with Linares?
Maria Clara covered her ears.
Don’t speak of him not now! she cried.
Padre Damaso gazed at her in startled wonder.
Won’t you trust me with your secrets? Haven’t I always tried to satisfy your lightest whim?
The maiden raised eyes filled with tears and stared at him for a long time, then again fell to weeping bitterly.