Chapter 25:

In the House of the Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

On the morning of the following day, Ibarra, after visiting his lands, made his way to the home of old Tasio.  Complete stillness reigned in the garden, for even the swallows circling about the eaves scarcely made any noise.  Moss grew on the old wall, over which a kind of ivy clambered to form borders around the windows. The little house seemed to be the abode of silence.

Ibarra hitched his horse carefully to a post and walking almost on tiptoe crossed the clean and well-kept garden to the stairway, which he ascended, and as the door was open, he entered.  The first sight that met his gaze was the old man bent over a book in which he seemed to be writing.  On the walls were collections of insects and plants arranged among maps and stands filled with books and manuscripts.  The old man was so absorbed in his work that he did not notice the presence of the youth until the latter, not wishing to disturb him, tried to retire.

Ah, you here? he asked, gazing at Ibarra with a strange expression.  Excuse me, answered the youth, I see that you’re very busy—

True, I was writing a little, but it’s not urgent, and I want to rest.  Can I do anything for you?

A great deal, answered Ibarra, drawing nearer, but—

A glance at the book on the table caused him to exclaim in surprise, What, are you given to deciphering hieroglyphics?

No, replied the old man, as he offered his visitor a chair.  I don’t understand Egyptian or Coptic either, but I know something about the system of writing, so I write in hieroglyphics.

You write in hieroglyphics! Why? exclaimed the youth, doubting what he saw and heard.

So that I cannot be read now.

Ibarra gazed at him fixedly, wondering to himself if the old man were not indeed crazy.  He examined the book rapidly to learn if he was telling the truth and saw neatly drawn figures of animals, circles, semicircles, flowers, feet, hands, arms, and such things.

But why do you write if you don’t want to be read?

Because I’m not writing for this generation, but for other ages.  If this generation could read, it would burn my books, the labor of my whole life.  But the generation that deciphers these characters will be an intelligent generation, it will understand and say, ‘Not all were asleep in the night of our ancestors!’ The mystery of these curious characters will save my work from the ignorance of men, just as the mystery of strange rites has saved many truths from the destructive priestly classes.


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