Chapter 22: - Page 3 of 11

The Performance

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Upon entering the theater, Isagani had caught sight of Paulita in a box, with Juanito Pelaez talking to her.  He had turned pale, thinking that he must be mistaken.  But no, it was she herself, she who greeted him with a gracious smile, while her beautiful eyes seemed to be asking pardon and promising explanations.  The fact was that they had agreed upon Isagani’s going first to the theater to see if the show contained anything improper for a young woman, but now he found her there, and in no other company than that of his rival.  What passed in his mind is indescribable: wrath, jealousy, humiliation, resentment raged within him, and there were moments even when he wished that the theater would fall in; he had a violent desire to laugh aloud, to insult his sweetheart, to challenge his rival, to make a scene, but finally contented himself with sitting quiet and not looking at her at all.  He was conscious of the beautiful plans Makaraig and Sandoval were making, but they sounded like distant echoes, while the notes of the waltz seemed sad and lugubrious, the whole audience stupid and foolish, and several times he had to make an effort to keep back the tears.  Of the trouble stirred up by the hero who refused to give up the seat, of the arrival of the Captain-General, he was scarcely conscious.  He stared toward the drop-curtain, on which was depicted a kind of gallery with sumptuous red hangings, affording a view of a garden in which a fountain played, yet how sad the gallery looked to him and how melancholy the painted landscape! A thousand vague recollections surged into his memory like distant echoes of music heard in the night, like songs of infancy, the murmur of lonely forests and gloomy rivulets, moonlit nights on the shore of the sea spread wide before his eyes.  So the enamored youth considered himself very wretched and stared fixedly at the ceiling so that the tears should not fall from his eyes.

A burst of applause drew him from these meditations.  The curtain had just risen, and the merry chorus of peasants of Corneville was presented, all dressed in cotton caps, with heavy wooden sabots on their feet.  Some six or seven girls, well-rouged on the lips and cheeks, with large black circles around their eyes to increase their brilliance, displayed white arms, fingers covered with diamonds, round and shapely limbs.  While they were chanting the Norman phrase Allez, marchez! Allez, marchez! they smiled at their different admirers in the reserved seats with such openness that Don Custodio, after looking toward Pepay’s box to assure himself that she was not doing the same thing with some other admirer, set down in his note-book this indecency, and to make sure of it lowered his head a little to see if the actresses were not showing their knees.

Oh, these Frenchwomen! he muttered, while his imagination lost itself in considerations somewhat more elevated, as he made comparisons and projects.

Quoi v’la tous les cancans d’la s’maine! sang Gertrude, a proud damsel, who was looking roguishly askance at the Captain-General.

We’re going to have the cancan! exclaimed Tadeo, the winner of the first prize in the French class, who had managed to make out this word.  Makaraig, they’re going to dance the cancan!

He rubbed his hands gleefully.  From the moment the curtain rose, Tadeo had been heedless of the music.  He was looking only for the prurient, the indecent, the immoral in actions and dress, and with his scanty French was sharpening his ears to catch the obscenities that the austere guardians of the fatherland had foretold.

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