Chapter 10: - Page 4 of 8

Wealth and Want

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Before such great wealth, all under the power of that man who talked so unaffectedly, the spectators felt a kind of awe mingled with dread.  Sinang clucked several times and her mother did not pinch her, perhaps because she too was overcome, or perhaps because she reflected that a  jeweler like Simoun was not going to try to gain five pesos more or less as a result of an exclamation more or less indiscreet.  All gazed at the gems, but no one showed any desire to handle them, they were so awe-inspiring.  Curiosity was blunted by wonder.  Cabesang Tales stared out into the field, thinking that with a single diamond, perhaps the very smallest there, he could recover his daughter, keep his house, and perhaps rent another farm.  Could it be that those gems were worth more than a man’s home, the safety of a maiden, the peace of an old man in his declining days?

As if he guessed the thought, Simoun remarked to those about him: Look here—with one of these little blue stones, which appear so innocent and inoffensive, pure as sparks scattered over the arch of heaven, with one of these, seasonably presented, a man was able to have his enemy deported, the father of a family, as a disturber of the peace; and with this other little one like it, red as one’s heart-blood, as the feeling of revenge, and bright as an orphan’s tears, he was restored to liberty, the man was returned to his home, the father to his children, the husband to the wife, and a whole family saved from a wretched future.

He slapped the chest and went on in a loud tone in bad Tagalog: Here I have, as in a medicine-chest, life and death, poison and balm, and with this handful I can drive to tears all the inhabitants of the Philippines!

The listeners gazed at him awe-struck, knowing him to be right.  In his voice there could be detected a strange ring, while sinister flashes seemed to issue from behind the blue goggles.

Then as if to relieve the strain of the impression made by the gems on such simple folk, he lifted up the tray and exposed at the bottom the sanctum sanctorum.  Cases of Russian leather, separated by layers of cotton, covered a bottom lined with gray velvet.  All expected wonders, and Sinang’s husband thought he saw carbuncles, gems that flashed fire and shone in the midst of the shadows.  Capitan Basilio was on the threshold of immortality: he was going to behold something real, something beyond his dreams.

This was a necklace of Cleopatra’s, said Simoun, taking out carefully a flat case in the shape of a half-moon.  It’s a jewel that can’t be appraised, an object for a museum, only for a rich government.

It was a necklace fashioned of bits of gold representing little idols among green and blue beetles, with a vulture’s head made from a single piece of rare jasper at the center between two extended wings—the symbol and decoration of Egyptian queens.

Sinang turned up her nose and made a grimace of childish depreciation, while Capitan Basilio, with all his love for antiquity, could not restrain an exclamation of disappointment.

It’s a magnificent jewel, well-preserved, almost two thousand years old.

Pshaw! Sinang made haste to exclaim, to prevent her father’s falling into temptation.

Learn this Filipino word:

pinilakang tabing