Chapter 1: - Page 9 of 10

A Social Gathering

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But I, by accidens and for my own part, understand his motives, Padre Sibyla, broke in the old soldier, who saw himself about to be entangled in so many distinctions that he feared lest he might still be held to blame.  I understand the motives about which your Reverence is going to make distinctions.  During the absence of Padre Damaso from San Diego, his coadjutor buried the body of an extremely worthy individual—yes, sir, extremely worthy, for I had had dealings with him many times and had been entertained in his house.  What if he never went to confession, what does that matter? Neither do I go to confession!  But to say that he committed suicide is a lie, a slander!  A man such as he was, who has a son upon whom he centers his affection and hopes, a man who has faith in God, who recognizes his duties to society, a just and honorable man, does not commit suicide.  This much I will say and will refrain from expressing the rest of my thoughts here, so please your Reverence.

Then, turning his back on the Franciscan, he went on: Now then, this priest on his return to the town, after maltreating the poor coadjutor, had the corpse dug up and taken away from the cemetery to be buried I don’t know where.  The people of San Diego were cowardly enough not to protest, although it is true that few knew of the outrage.   The dead man had no relatives there and his only son was in Europe.  But his Excellency learned of the affair and as he is an upright man asked for some punishment—and Padre Damaso was transferred to a better town.  That’s all there is to it.  Now your Reverence can make your distinctions.

So saying, he withdrew from the group.

I’m sorry that I inadvertently brought up so delicate a subject, said Padre Sibyla sadly. But, after all, if there has been a gain in the change of towns—

How is there to be a gain? And what of all the things that are lost in moving, the letters, and the—and everything that is mislaid? interrupted Fray Damaso, stammering in the vain effort to control his anger.

Little by little the party resumed its former tranquillity.  Other guests had come in, among them a lame old Spaniard of mild and inoffensive aspect leaning on the arm of an elderly Filipina, who was resplendent in frizzes and paint and a European gown.  The group welcomed them heartily, and Doctor De Espadaña and his señora, the Doctora Doña Victorina, took their seats among our acquaintances.  Some newspaper reporters and shopkeepers greeted one another and moved about aimlessly without knowing just what to do.

But can you tell me, Señor Laruja, what kind of man our host is? inquired the rubicund youth.  I haven’t been introduced to him yet.

They say that he has gone out.  I haven’t seen him either.

There’s no need of introductions here, volunteered Fray Damaso.  Santiago is made of the right stuff.

Learn this Filipino word:

iluwál sa maliwanag