Chapter 34: - Page 6 of 8

The Dinner

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Padre Damaso was, indeed, approaching with the gait of a heavy man.  He was half smiling, but in such a malignant way that Ibarra, upon seeing him, lost the thread of his talk.  The padre was greeted with some surprise but with signs of pleasure on the part of all except Ibarra.  They were then at the dessert and the champagne was foaming in the glasses.

Padre Damaso’s smile became nervous when he saw Maria Clara seated at Crisostomo’s right.  He took a seat beside the alcalde and said in the midst of a significant silence, Were you discussing something, gentlemen? Go ahead!

We were at the toasts, answered the alcalde.  Señor Ibarra was mentioning all who have helped him in his philanthropic enterprise and was speaking of the architect when your Reverence—

Well, I don’t know anything about architecture, interrupted Padre Damaso, but I laugh at architects and the fools who employ them.  Here you have it—I drew the plan of this church and it’s perfectly constructed, so an English jeweler who stopped in the convento one day assured me.  To draw a plan one needs only to have two fingers’ breadth of forehead.

Nevertheless, answered the alcalde, seeing that Ibarra was silent, when we consider certain buildings, as, for example, this schoolhouse, we need an expert.

Get out with your experts! exclaimed the priest with a sneer.  Only a fool needs experts! One must be more of a brute than the Indians, who build their own houses, not to know how to construct four walls and put a roof on top of them.  That’s all a schoolhouse is!

The guests gazed at Ibarra, who had turned pale, but he continued as if in conversation with Maria Clara.

But your Reverence should consider—

See now, went on the Franciscan, not allowing the alcalde to continue, look how one of our lay brothers, the most stupid that we have, has constructed a hospital, good, pretty, and cheap.  He made them work hard and paid only eight cuartos a day even to those who had to come from other towns.  He knew how to handle them, not like a lot of cranks and little mestizos who are spoiling them by paying three or four reals.

Does your Reverence say that he paid only eight cuartos? Impossible! The alcalde was trying to change the course of the conversation.

Yes, sir, and those who pride themselves on being good Spaniards ought to imitate him.  You see now, since the Suez Canal was opened, the corruption that has come in here.  Formerly, when we had to double the Cape, neither so many vagabonds came here nor so many others went from here to become vagabonds.

Learn this Filipino word:

bisig ng batás