Chapter 19: - Page 4 of 8

The Fuse

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

I want to be free, to live free!

Night surprised him wandering along San Fernando, but not meeting any sailor he knew, he decided to return home.  As the night was beautiful, with a brilliant moon transforming the squalid city into a fantastic fairy kingdom, he went to the fair.  There he wandered back and forth, passing booths without taking any notice of the articles in them, ever with the thought of Hongkong, of living free, of enriching himself.  

He was about to leave the fair when he thought he recognized the jeweler Simoun bidding good-by to a foreigner, both of them speaking in English.  To Placido every language spoken in the Philippines by Europeans, when not Spanish, had to be English, and besides, he caught the name Hongkong.  If only the jeweler would recommend him to that foreigner, who must be setting out for Hongkong!

Placido paused. He was acquainted with the jeweler, as the latter had been in his town peddling his wares, and he had accompanied him on one of his trips, when Simoun had made himself very amiable indeed, telling him of the life in the universities of the free countries—what a difference!

So he followed the jeweler.  Señor Simoun, Señor Simoun! he called.

The jeweler was at that moment entering his carriage.  Recognizing Placido, he checked himself.

I want to ask a favor of you, to say a few words to you.

Simoun made a sign of impatience which Placido in his perturbation did not observe.  In a few words the youth related what had happened and made known his desire to go to Hongkong.

Why? asked Simoun, staring fixedly at Placido through his blue goggles.

Placido did not answer, so Simoun threw back his head, smiled his cold, silent smile and said, All right! Come with me.  To Calle Iris! he directed the cochero.

Simoun remained silent throughout the whole drive, apparently absorbed in meditation of a very important nature.  Placido kept quiet, waiting for him to speak first, and entertained himself in watching the promenaders who were enjoying the clear moonlight: pairs of infatuated lovers, followed by watchful mammas or aunts; groups of students in white clothes that the moonlight made whiter still; half-drunken soldiers in a carriage, six together, on their way to visit some nipa temple dedicated to Cytherea;  children playing their games and Chinese selling sugar-cane.  All these filled the streets, taking on in the brilliant moonlight fantastic forms and ideal outlines.  In one house an orchestra was playing waltzes, and couples might be seen dancing under the bright lamps and chandeliers—what a sordid spectacle they presented in comparison with the sight the streets afforded! Thinking of Hongkong, he asked himself if the moonlit nights in that island were so poetical and sweetly melancholy as those of the Philippines, and a deep sadness settled down over his heart.

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