Chapter 5: - Page 4 of 5

A Cochero’s Christmas Eve

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The only, house wherein there seemed to be any mirth was Capitan Basilio’s.  Hens and chickens cackled their death chant to the accompaniment of dry and repeated strokes, as of meat pounded on a chopping-block, and the sizzling of grease in the frying-pans.  A feast was going on in the house, and even into the street there passed a certain draught of air, saturated with the succulent odors of stews and confections. In the entresol Basilio saw Sinang, as small as when our readers knew her before,[2] although a little rounder and plumper since her marriage.  Then to his great surprise he made out, further in at the back of the room, chatting with Capitan Basilio, the curate, and the alferez of the Civil Guard, no less than the jeweler Simoun, as ever with his blue goggles and his nonchalant air.

It’s understood, Señor Simoun, Capitan Basilio was saying, that we’ll go to Tiani to see your jewels.

I would also go, remarked the alferez, because I need a watch-chain, but I’m so busy—if Capitan Basilio would undertake—

Capitan Basilio would do so with the greatest pleasure, and as he wished to propitiate the soldier in order that he might not be molested in the persons of his laborers, he refused to accept the money which the alferez was trying to get out of his pocket.

It’s my Christmas gift!

I can’t allow you, Capitan, I can’t permit it!

All right! We’ll settle up afterwards, replied Capitan Basilio with a lordly gesture.

Also, the curate wanted a pair of lady’s earrings and requested the capitan to buy them for him.  I want them first class.  Later we’ll fix up the account.

Don’t worry about that, Padre, said the good man, who wished to be at peace with the Church also.  An unfavorable report on the curate’s part could do him great damage and cause him double the expense, for those earrings were a forced present.  Simoun in the meantime was praising his jewels.

That fellow is fierce! mused the student.  He does business everywhere. And if I can believe a certain person, he buys from some gentlemen for a half of their value the same jewels that he himself has sold for presents.  Everybody in this country prospers but us!

He made his way to his house, or rather Capitan Tiago’s, now occupied by a trustworthy man who had held him in great esteem since the day when he had seen him perform a surgical operation with the same coolness that he would cut up a chicken.  This man was now waiting to give him the news.  Two of the laborers were prisoners, one was to be deported, and a number of carabaos had died.

[2] The reference is to Noli Me Tangere, in which Sinang appears.

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