Chapter 23: - Page 2 of 5

A Corpse

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Do your duty, young man, was Padre Irene’s constant admonition.  Do your duty.  Then he would deliver a sermon on this topic with such great conviction and enthusiasm that Basilio would begin to feel kindly toward the preacher.  Besides, Padre Irene promised to get him a fine assignment, a good province, and even hinted at the possibility of having him appointed a professor.  Without being carried away by illusions, Basilio pretended to believe in them and went on obeying the dictates of his own conscience.

That night, while Les Cloches de Corneville was being presented, Basilio was studying at an old table by the light of an oil-lamp, whose thick glass globe partly illuminated his melancholy features.  An old skull, some human bones, and a few books carefully arranged covered the table, whereon there was also a pan of water with a sponge.  The smell of opium that proceeded from the adjoining bedroom made the air heavy and inclined him to sleep, but he overcame the desire by bathing his temples and eyes from time to time, determined not to go to sleep until he had finished the book, which he had borrowed and must return as soon as possible.  It was a volume of the Medicina Legal y Toxicología of Dr. Friata, the only book that the professor would use, and Basilio lacked money to buy a copy, since, under the pretext of its being forbidden by the censor in Manila and the necessity for bribing many government employees to get it in, the booksellers charged a high price for it.

So absorbed wras the youth in his studies that he had not given any attention at all to some pamphlets that had been sent to him from some unknown source, pamphlets that treated of the Philippines, among which figured those that were attracting the greatest notice at the time because of their harsh and insulting manner of referring to the natives of the country.  Basilio had no time to open them, and he was perhaps restrained also by the thought that there is nothing pleasant about receiving an insult or a provocation without having any means of replying or defending oneself.  The censorship, in fact, permitted insults to the Filipinos but prohibited replies on their part.

In the midst of the silence that reigned in the house, broken only by a feeble snore that issued now and then from the adjoining bedroom, Basilio heard light footfalls on the stairs, footfalls that soon crossed the hallway and approached the room where he was.  Raising his head, he saw the door open and to his great surprise appeared the sinister figure of the jeweler Simoun, who since the scene in San Diego had not come to visit either himself or Capitan Tiago.

How is the sick man? he inquired, throwing a rapid glance about the room and fixing his attention on the pamphlets, the leaves of which were still uncut.

The beating of his heart is scarcely perceptible, his pulse is very weak, his appetite entirely gone, replied Basilio in a low voice with a sad smile.  He sweats profusely in the early morning.

Noticing that Simoun kept his face turned toward the pamphlets and fearing that he might reopen the subject of their conversation in the wood, he went on: His system is saturated with poison.  He may die any day, as though struck by lightning.  The least irritation, any excitement may kill him.

Learn this Filipino word:

nagdaláng-awà