Chapter 29:

The Morning

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

At the first flush of dawn bands of music awoke the tired people of the town with lively airs.  Life and movement reawakened, the bells began to chime, and the explosions commenced. It was the last day of the fiesta, in fact the fiesta proper. Much was hoped for, even more than on the previous day.  The Brethren of the Venerable Tertiary Order were more numerous than those of the Holy Rosary, so they smiled piously, secure that they would humiliate their rivals.  They had purchased a greater number of tapers, wherefor the Chinese dealers had reaped a harvest and in gratitude were thinking of being baptized, although some remarked that this was not so much on account of their faith in Catholicism as from a desire to get a wife.  To this the pious women answered, Even so, the marriage of so many Chinamen at once would be little short of a miracle and their wives would convert them.

The people arrayed themselves in their best clothes and dragged out from their strong-boxes all their jewelry.  The sharpers and gamblers all shone in embroidered camisas with large diamond studs, heavy gold chains, and white straw hats.  Only the old Sage went his way as usual in his dark-striped sinamay camisa buttoned up to the neck, loose shoes, and wide gray felt hat.

You look sadder than ever! the teniente-mayor accosted him.  Don’t you want us to be happy now and then, since we have so much to weep over?

To be happy doesn’t mean to act the fool, answered the old man.  It’s the senseless orgy of every year! And all for no end but to squander money, when there is so much misery and want.  Yes, I understand it all, it’s the same orgy, the revel to drown the woes of all.

You know that I share your opinion, though, replied Don Filipo, half jestingly and half in earnest.  I have defended it, but what can one do against the gobernadorcillo and the curate?

Resign! was the old man’s curt answer as he moved away.

Don Filipo stood perplexed, staring after the old man.  Resign! he muttered as he made his way toward the church.  Resign! Yes, if this office were an honor and not a burden, yes, I would resign.

The paved court in front of the church was filled with people; men and women, young and old, dressed in their best clothes, all crowded together, came and went through the wide doors.  There was a smell of powder, of flowers, of incense, and of perfumes, while bombs, rockets, and serpent-crackers made the women run and scream, the children laugh.  One band played in front of the convento, another escorted the town officials, and still others marched about the streets, where floated and waved a multitude of banners.  Variegated colors and lights distracted the sight, melodies and explosions the hearing, while the bells kept up a ceaseless chime.  Moving all about were carriages whose horses at times became frightened, frisked and reared all of which, while not included in the program of the fiesta, formed a show in itself, free and by no means the least entertaining.


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