Chapter 14:

Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The peculiar old man wandered about the streets aimlessly.  A former student of philosophy, he had given up his career in obedience to his mother’s wishes and not from any lack of means or ability.  Quite the contrary, it was because his mother was rich and he was said to possess talent.  The good woman feared that her son would become learned and forget God, so she had given him his choice of entering the priesthood or leaving college.  Being in love, he chose the latter course and married.  Then having lost both his wife and his mother within a year, he sought consolation in his books in order to free himself from sorrow, the cockpit, and the dangers of idleness.  He became so addicted to his studies and the purchase of books, that he entirely neglected his fortune and gradually ruined himself.  Persons of culture called him Don Anastasio, or Tasio the Sage, while the great crowd of the ignorant knew him as Tasio the Lunatic, on account of his peculiar ideas and his eccentric manner of dealing with others.

As we said before, the evening threatened to be stormy.  The lightning flashed its pale rays across the leaden sky, the air was heavy and the slight breeze excessively sultry.  Tasio had apparently already forgotten his beloved skull, and now he was smiling as he looked at the dark clouds.  Near the church he met a man wearing an alpaca coat, who carried in one hand a large bundle of candles and in the other a tasseled cane, the emblem of his office as gobernadorcillo.

You seem to be merry? he greeted Tasio in Tagalog.

Truly I am, señor capitan, I’m merry because I hope for something.

Ah? What do you hope for?

The storm!

The storm? Are you thinking of taking a bath? asked the gobernadorcillo in a jesting way as he stared at the simple attire of the old man.

A bath? That’s not a bad idea, especially when one has just stumbled over some trash! answered Tasio in a similar, though somewhat more offensive tone, staring at the other’s face.  But I hope for something better.

What, then?

Some thunderbolts that will kill people and burn down houses, returned the Sage seriously.

Why don’t you ask for the deluge at once?


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