Chapter 29: - Page 2 of 4

The Morning

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The hermano mayor for this day had sent servants to seek in the streets for whomsoever they might invite, as did he who gave the feast of which the Gospel tells us.  Almost by force were urged invitations to partake of chocolate, coffee, tea, and sweetmeats, these invitations not seldom reaching the proportions of a demand.

There was to be celebrated the high mass, that known as the dalmatic, like the one of the day before, about which the worthy correspondent wrote, only that now the officiating priest was to be Padre Salvi, and that the alcalde of the province, with many other Spaniards and persons of note, was to attend it in order to hear Padre Damaso, who enjoyed a great reputation in the province.  Even the alferez, smarting under the preachments of Padre Salvi, would also attend in order to give evidence of his good-will and to recompense himself, if possible, for the bad spells the curate had caused him.

Such was the reputation of Padre Damaso that the correspondent wrote beforehand to the editor of his newspaper:

As was announced in my badly executed account of yesterday, so it has come to pass. We have had the especial pleasure of listening to the Very Reverend Fray Damaso Verdolagas, former curate of this town, recently transferred to a larger parish in recognition of his meritorious services.  The illustrious and holy orator occupied the pulpit of the Holy Ghost and preached a most eloquent and profound sermon, which edified and left marveling all the faithful who had waited so anxiously to see spring from his fecund lips the restoring fountain of eternal life.  Sublimity of conception, boldness of imagination, novelty of phraseology, gracefulness of style, naturalness of gestures, cleverness of speech, vigor of ideas—these are the traits of the Spanish Bossuet, who has justly earned such a high reputation not only among the enlightened Spaniards but even among the rude Indians and the cunning sons of the Celestial Empire.

But the confiding correspondent almost saw himself obliged to erase what he had written.  Padre Damaso complained of a cold that he had contracted the night before, for after singing a few merry songs he had eaten three plates of ice-cream and attended the show for a short time.  As a result of all this, he wished to renounce his part as the spokesman of God to men, but as no one else was to be found who was so well versed in the life and miracles of San Diego,—the curate knew them, it is true, but it was his place to celebrate mass,—the other priests unanimously declared that the tone of Padre Damaso’s voice could not be improved upon and that it would be a great pity for him to forego delivering such an eloquent sermon as he had written and memorized.  Accordingly, his former housekeeper prepared for him lemonade, rubbed his chest and neck with liniment and olive-oil, massaged him, and wrapped him in warm cloths.  He drank some raw eggs beaten up in wine and for the whole morning neither talked nor breakfasted, taking only a glass of milk and a cup of chocolate with a dozen or so of crackers, heroically renouncing his usual fried chicken and half of a Laguna cheese, because the housekeeper affirmed that cheese contained salt and grease, which would aggravate his cough.

All for the sake of meriting heaven and of converting us! exclaimed the Tertiary Sisters, much affected, upon being informed of these sacrifices.

May Our Lady of Peace punish him! muttered the Sisters of the Holy Rosary, unable to forgive him for leaning to the side of their rivals.

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