Chapter 48: - Page 2 of 3

The Enigma

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

You know that for my part you are always welcome, she answered faintly.

Ibarra withdrew in apparent calm, but with a tempest in his head and ice in his heart.  What he had just seen and felt was incomprehensible to him: was it doubt, dislike, or faithlessness?

Oh, only a woman after all! he murmured.

Taking no note of where he was going, he reached the spot where the schoolhouse was under construction.  The work was well advanced, Ñor Juan with his mile and plumb-bob coming and going among the numerous laborers.  Upon catching sight of Ibarra he ran to meet him.

Don Crisostomo, at last you’ve come! We’ve all been waiting for you. Look at the walls, they’re already more than a meter high and within two days they’ll be up to the height of a man.  I’ve put in only the strongest and most durable woods—molave, dungon, ipil, langil—and sent for the finest—tindalo, malatapay, pino, and narra—for the finishings.  Do you want to look at the foundations?

The workmen saluted Ibarra respectfully, while Ñor Juan made voluble explanations.  Here is the piping that I have taken the liberty to add, he said.  These subterranean conduits lead to a sort of cesspool, thirty yards away.  It will help fertilize the garden.  There was nothing of that in the plan. Does it displease you?

Quite the contrary, I approve what you’ve done and congratulate you.  You are a real architect. From whom did you learn the business?

From myself, sir, replied the old man modestly.

Oh, before I forget about it—tell those who may have scruples, if perhaps there is any one who fears to speak to me, that I’m no longer excommunicated.  The Archbishop invited me to dinner.

Abá, sir, we don’t pay any attention to excommunications! All of us are excommunicated. Padre Damaso himself is and yet he stays fat.

How’s that?

It’s true, sir, for a year ago he caned the coadjutor, who is just as much a sacred person as he is.  Who pays any attention to excommunications, sir?

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