Chapter 19:

The Fuse

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Placido Penitente left the class with his heart overflowing with bitterness and sullen gloom in his looks.  He was worthy of his name when not driven from his usual course, but once irritated he was a veritable torrent, a wild beast that could only be stopped by the death of himself or his foe.  So many affronts, so many pinpricks, day after day, had made his heart quiver, lodging in it to sleep the sleep of lethargic vipers, and they now were awaking to shake and hiss with fury.  The hisses resounded in his ears with the jesting epithets of the professor, the phrases in the slang of the markets, and he seemed to hear blows and laughter.  A thousand schemes for revenge rushed into his brain, crowding one another, only to fade immediately like phantoms in a dream.  His vanity cried out to him with desperate tenacity that he must do something.

Placido Penitente, said the voice, show these youths that you have dignity, that you are the son of a valiant and noble province, where wrongs are washed out with blood.  You’re a Batangan, Placido Penitente! Avenge yourself, Placido Penitente!

The youth groaned and gnashed his teeth, stumbling against every one in the street and on the Bridge of Spain, as if he were seeking a quarrel.  In the latter place he saw a carriage in which was the Vice-Rector, Padre Sibyla, accompanied by Don Custodio, and he had a great mind to seize the friar and throw him into the river.

He proceeded along the Escolta and was tempted to assault two Augustinians who were seated in the doorway of Quiroga’s bazaar, laughing and joking with other friars who must have been inside in joyous conversation, for their merry voices and sonorous laughter could be heard.  Somewhat farther on, two cadets blocked up the sidewalk, talking with the clerk of a warehouse, who was in his shirtsleeves.  Penitents moved toward them to force a passage and they, perceiving his dark intention, good-humoredly made way for him.  Placido was by this time under the influence of the amok, as the Malayists say.

As he approached his home—the house of a silversmith where he lived as a boarder—he tried to collect his thoughts and make a plan—to return to his town and avenge himself by showing the friars that they could not with impunity insult a youth or make a joke of him.  He decided to write a letter immediately to his mother, Cabesang Andang, to inform her of what had happened and to tell her that the schoolroom had closed forever for him.  Although there was the Ateneo of the Jesuits, where he might study that year, yet it was not very likely that the Dominicans would grant him the transfer, and, even though he should secure it, in the following year he would have to return to the University.

They say that we don’t know how to avenge ourselves! he muttered.  Let the lightning strike and we’ll see!

But Placido was not reckoning upon what awaited him in the house of the silversmith.  Cabesang Andang had just arrived from Batangas, having come to do some shopping, to visit her son, and to bring him money, jerked venison, and silk handkerchiefs.


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