Chapter 40: - Page 2 of 6

Right and Might

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

‘Señor Alcalde,’ I answered, ‘the strength of a teniente-mayor, however insignificant it may be, is like all other authority it emanates from higher spheres. The King himself receives his strength from the people and the people theirs from God. That is exactly what I lack, Señor Alcalde.’ But he did not care to listen to me, telling me that we would talk about it after the fiesta.

Then may God help you! said the old man, starting away.

Don’t you want to see the show?

Thanks, no! For dreams and nonsense I am sufficient unto myself, the Sage answered with a sarcastic smile. But now I think of it, has your attention never been drawn to the character of our people? Peaceful, yet fond of warlike shows and bloody fights; democratic, yet adoring emperors, kings, and princes; irreligious, yet impoverishing itself by costly religious pageants. Our women have gentle natures yet go wild with joy when a princess flourishes a lance. Do you know to what it is due? Well—

The arrival of Maria Clara and her friends put an end to this conversation. Don Filipo met them and ushered them to their seats. Behind them came the curate with another Franciscan and some Spaniards. Following the priests were a number of the townsmen who make it their business to escort the friars. May God reward them also in the next life, muttered old Tasio as he went away.

The play began with Chananay and Marianito in Crispino é la comare. All now had their eyes and ears turned to the stage, all but one: Padre Salvi, who seemed to have gone there for no other purpose than that of watching Maria Clara, whose sadness gave to her beauty an air so ideal and interesting that it was easy to understand how she might be looked upon with rapture. But the eyes of the Franciscan, deeply hidden in their sunken sockets, spoke nothing of rapture. In that gloomy gaze was to be read something desperately sad—with such eyes Cain might have gazed from afar on the Paradise whose delights his mother pictured to him!

The first scene was over when Ibarra entered. His appearance caused a murmur, and attention was fixed on him and the curate. But the young man seemed not to notice anything as he greeted Maria Clara and her friends in a natural way and took a seat beside them.

The only one who spoke to him was Sinang. Did you see the fireworks? she asked.

No, little friend, I had to go with the Captain-General.

Well, that’s a shame! The curate was with us and told us stories of the damned—can you imagine it!—to fill us with fear so that we might not enjoy ourselves—can you imagine it!

The curate arose and approached Don Filipo, with whom he began an animated conversation. The former spoke in a nervous manner, the latter in a low, measured voice.

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