Chapter 34: - Page 3 of 8

The Dinner

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But, gentlemen, I don’t understand how it is possible to talk of winnings and losses, interposed the alcalde.  What will these amiable and discreet young ladies who honor us with their company think of us? For me the young women are like the Æolian harps in the middle of the night—it is necessary to listen with close attention in order that their ineffable harmonies may elevate the soul to the celestial spheres of the infinite and the ideal!

Your Honor is becoming poetical! exclaimed the escribano gleefully, and both emptied their wine-glasses. I can’t help it, said the alcalde as he wiped his lips.  Opportunity, while it doesn’t always make the thief, makes the poet.  In my youth I composed verses which were really not bad.

So your Excellency has been unfaithful to the Muses to follow Themis, emphatically declared our mythical or mythological correspondent.

Pshaw, what would you have? To run through the entire social scale was always my dream.  Yesterday I was gathering flowers and singing songs, today I wield the rod of justice and serve Humanity, tomorrow—

Tomorrow your Honor will throw the rod into the fire to warm yourself by it in the winter of life, and take an appointment in the cabinet, added Padre Sibyla.

Pshaw! Yes—no—to be a cabinet official isn’t exactly my beau-ideal: any upstart may become one.  A villa in the North in which to spend the summer, a mansion in Madrid, and some property in Andalusia for the winter—there we shall live remembering our beloved Philippines.  Of me Voltaire would not say, ‘We have lived among these people only to enrich ourselves and to calumniate them.’

The alcalde quoted this in French, so the employees, thinking that his Honor had cracked a joke, began to laugh in appreciation of it.  Some of the friars did likewise, since they did not know that the Voltaire mentioned was the same Voltaire whom they had so often cursed and consigned to hell.  But Padre Sibyla was aware of it and became serious from the belief that the alcalde had said something heretical or impious.

In the other kiosk the children were eating under the direction of their teacher.  For Filipino children they were rather noisy, since at the table and in the presence of other persons their sins are generally more of omission than of commission.  Perhaps one who was using the tableware improperly would be corrected by his neighbor and from this there would arise a noisy discussion in which each would have his partisans.  Some would say the spoon, others the knife or the fork, and as no one was considered an authority there would arise the contention that God is Christ or, more clearly, a dispute of theologians.  Their fathers and mothers winked, made signs, nudged one another, and showed their happiness by their smiles.

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