Chapter 42: - Page 3 of 11

The Espadañas

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Doña Victorina was a lady of forty and five winters, which were equivalent to thirty and two summers according to her arithmetical calculations. She had been beautiful in her youth, having had, as she used to say, ‘good flesh,’ but in the ecstasies of contemplating herself she had looked with disdain on her many Filipino admirers, since her aspirations were toward another race. She had refused to bestow on any one her little white hand, not indeed from distrust, for not a few times had she given jewelry and gems of great value to various foreign and Spanish adventurers. Six months before the time of our story she had seen realized her most beautiful dream,—the dream of her whole life,—for which she might scorn the fond illusions of her youth and even the promises of love that Capitan Tiago had in other days whispered in her ear or sung in some serenade. Late, it is true, had the dream been realized, but Doña Victorina, who, although she spoke the language badly, was more Spanish than Augustina of Saragossa, [2] understood the proverb, Better late than never, and found consolation in repeating it to herselfAbsolute happiness does not exist on earth, was another favorite proverb of hers, but she never used both together before other persons.

Having passed her first, second, third, and fourth youth in casting her nets in the sea of the world for the object of her vigils, she had been compelled at last to content herself with what fate was willing to apportion her. Had the poor woman been only thirty and one instead of thirty and two summers—the difference according to her mode of reckoning was great—she would have restored to Destiny the award it offered her to wait for another more suited to her taste, but since man proposes and necessity disposes, she saw herself obliged in her great need for a husband to content herself with a poor fellow who had been cast out from Estremadura [3] and who, after wandering about the world for six or seven years like a modern Ulysses, had at last found on the island of Luzon hospitality and a withered Calypso for his better half. This unhappy mortal, by name Tiburcio Espadaña, was only thirty-five years of age and looked like an old man, yet he was, nevertheless, younger than Doña Victorina, who was only thirty-two. The reason for this is easy to understand but dangerous to state.

[2] The Maid of Saragossa, noted for her heroic exploits during the siege of that city by the French in 1808–09.—TR.

[3] A region in southwestern Spain, including the provinces of Badajoz and Caceres.—TR.

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