Chapter 9:

Local Affairs

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Ibarra had not been mistaken about the occupant of the victoria, for it was indeed Padre Damaso, and he was on his way to the house which the youth had just left.

Where are you going? asked the friar of Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel, who were about to enter a silver-mounted carriage.  In the midst of his preoccupation Padre Damaso stroked the maiden’s cheek lightly.

To the convent to get my things, answered the latter.

Ahaa! Aha! We’ll see who’s stronger, we’ll see, muttered the friar abstractedly, as with bowed head and slow step he turned to the stairway, leaving the two women not a little amazed.

He must have a sermon to preach and is memorizing it, commented Aunt Isabel.  Get in, Maria, or we’ll be late.

Whether or not Padre Damaso was preparing a sermon we cannot say, but it is certain that some grave matter filled his mind, for he did not extend his hand to Capitan Tiago, who had almost to get down on his knees to kiss it.

Santiago, said the friar at once, I have an important matter to talk to you about.  Let’s go into your office.

Capitan Tiago began to feel uneasy, so much so that he did not know what to say; but he obeyed, following the heavy figure of the priest, who closed the door behind him.

While they confer in secret, let us learn what Fray Sibyla has been doing.  The astute Dominican is not at the rectory, for very soon after celebrating mass he had gone to the convent of his order, situated just inside the gate of Isabel II, or of Magellan, according to what family happened to be reigning in Madrid.  Without paying any attention to the rich odor of chocolate, or to the rattle of boxes and coins which came from the treasury, and scarcely acknowledging the respectful and deferential salute of the procurator-brother, he entered, passed along several corridors, and knocked at a door.

Come in, sighed a weak voice.

May God restore health to your Reverence, was the young Dominican’s greeting as he entered.

Seated in a large armchair was an aged priest, wasted and rather sallow, like the saints that Rivera painted.  His eyes were sunken in their hollow sockets, over which his heavy eyebrows were almost always contracted, thus accentuating their brilliant gleam. Padre Sibyla, with his arms crossed under the venerable scapulary of St. Dominic, gazed at him feelingly, then bowed his head and waited in silence.

Ah, sighed the old man, they advise an operation, an operation, Hernando, at my age! This country, O this terrible country! Take warning from my ease, Hernando!

Fray Sibyla raised his eyes slowly and fixed them on the sick man’s face.  What has your Reverence decided to do? he asked.


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