Search This Blog

Loading...

Chapter 26: Pasquinades


Very early the next morning Basilio arose to go to the hospital. He had his plans made: to visit his patients, to go afterwards to the University to see about his licentiateship, and then have an interview with Makaraig about the expense this would entail, for he had used up the greater part of his savings in ransoming Juli and in securing a house where she and her grandfather might live, and he had not dared to apply to Capitan Tiago, fearing that such a move would be construed as an advance on the legacy so often promised him.
Preoccupied with these thoughts, he paid no attention to the groups of students who were at such an early hour returning from the Walled City, as though the classrooms had been closed, nor did he even note the abstracted air of some of them, their whispered conversations, or the mysterious signals exchanged among them. So it was that when he reached San Juan de Dios and his friends asked him about the conspiracy, he gave a start, remembering what Simoun had planned, but which had miscarried, owing to the unexplained accident to the jeweler. Terrified, he asked in a trembling voice, at the same time endeavoring to feign ignorance, “Ah, yes, what conspiracy?”
“It’s been discovered,” replied one, “and it seems that many are implicated in it.”
With an effort Basilio controlled himself. “Many implicated?” he echoed, trying to learn something from the looks of the others. “Who?”
“Students, a lot of students.”
Basilio did not think it prudent to ask more, fearing that he would give himself away, so on the pretext of visiting his patients he left the group. One of the clinical professors met him and placing his hand mysteriously on the youth’s shoulder—the professor was a friend of his—asked him in a low voice, “Were you at that supper last night?”
In his excited frame of mind Basilio thought the professor had said night before last, which was the time of his interview with Simoun. He tried to explain. “I assure you,” he stammered, “that as Capitan Tiago was worse—and besides I had to finish that book—”
“You did well not to attend it,” said the professor. “But you’re a member of the students’ association?”
“I pay my dues.”
“Well then, a piece of advice: go home at once and destroy any papers you have that may compromise you.”
Basilio shrugged his shoulders—he had no papers, nothing more than his clinical notes.
“Has SeƱor Simoun—”
“Simoun has nothing to do with the affair, thank God!” interrupted the physician. “He was opportunely wounded by some unknown hand and is now confined to his bed. No, other hands are concerned in this, but hands no less terrible.”
Basilio drew a breath of relief. Simoun was the only one who could compromise him, although he thought of Cabesang Tales.
“Are there tulisanes—”
“No, man, nothing more than students.”
Basilio recovered his serenity. “What has happened then?” he made bold to ask.
“Seditious pasquinades have been found; didn’t you know about them?”
“Where?”
“In the University.”
“Nothing more than that?”
“Whew! What more do you want?” asked the professor, almost in a rage. “The pasquinades are attributed to the students of the association—but, keep quiet!”
The professor of pathology came along, a man who had more the look of a sacristan than of a physician. Appointed by the powerful mandate of the Vice-Rector, without other merit than unconditional servility to the corporation, he passed for a spy and an informer in the eyes of the rest of the faculty.
The first professor returned his greeting coldly, and winked to Basilio, as he said to him, “Now I know that Capitan Tiago smells like a corpse—the crows and vultures have been gathering around him.” So saying, he went inside.
Somewhat calmed, Basilio now ventured to inquire for more details, but all that he could learn was that pasquinades had been found on the doors of the University, and that the Vice-Rector had ordered them to be taken down and sent to the Civil Government. It was said that they were filled with threats of assassination, invasion, and other braggadocio.
The students made their comments on the affair. Their information came from the janitor, who had it from a servant in Santo Tomas, who had it from an usher. They prognosticated future suspensions and imprisonments, even indicating who were to be the victims—naturally the members of the association.
Basilio then recalled Simoun’s words: “The day in which they can get rid of you, you will not complete your course.”
“Could he have known anything?” he asked himself. “We’ll see who is the most powerful.”
Recovering his serenity, he went on toward the University, to learn what attitude it behooved him to take and at the same time to see about his licentiateship. He passed along Calle Legazpi, then down through Beaterio, and upon arriving at the corner of this street and Calle Solana saw that something important must indeed have happened. Instead of the former lively, chattering groups on the sidewalks were to be seen civil-guards making the students move on, and these latter issuing from the University silent, some gloomy, some agitated, to stand off at a distance or make their way home.
The first acquaintance he met was Sandoval, but Basilio called to him in vain. He seemed to have been smitten deaf. “Effect of fear on the gastro-intestinal juices,” thought Basilio.
Later he met Tadeo, who wore a Christmas face—at last that eternal holiday seemed to be realized.
“What has happened, Tadeo?”
“We’ll have no school, at least for a week, old man! Sublime! Magnificent!” He rubbed his hands in glee.
“But what has happened?”
“They’re going to arrest all of us in the association.”
“And are you glad of that?”
“There’ll be no school, there’ll be no school!” He moved away almost bursting with joy.
Basilio saw Juanito Pelaez approaching, pale and suspicious. This time his hump had reached its maximum, so great was his haste to get away. He had been one of the most active promoters of the association while things were running smoothly.
“Eh, Pelaez, what’s happened?”
“Nothing, I know nothing. I didn’t have anything to do with it,” he responded nervously. “I was always telling you that these things were quixotisms. It’s the truth, you know I’ve said so to you?”
Basilio did not remember whether he had said so or not, but to humor him replied, “Yes, man, but what’s happened?”
“It’s the truth, isn’t it? Look, you’re a witness: I’ve always been opposed—you’re a witness, don’t forget it!”
“Yes, man, but what’s going on?”
“Listen, you’re a witness! I’ve never had anything to do with the members of the association, except to give them advice. You’re not going to deny it now. Be careful, won’t you?”
“No, no, I won’t deny it, but for goodness’ sake, what has happened?”
But Juanito was already far away. He had caught a glimpse of a guard approaching and feared arrest.
Basilio then went on toward the University to see if perhaps the secretary’s office might be open and if he could glean any further news. The office was closed, but there was an extraordinary commotion in the building. Hurrying up and down the stairways were friars, army officers, private persons, old lawyers and doctors, there doubtless to offer their services to the endangered cause.
At a distance he saw his friend Isagani, pale and agitated, but radiant with youthful ardor, haranguing some fellow students with his voice raised as though he cared little that he be heard by everybody.
“It seems preposterous, gentlemen, it seems unreal, that an incident so insignificant should scatter us and send us into flight like sparrows at whom a scarecrow has been shaken! But is this the first time that students have gone to prison for the sake of liberty? Where are those who have died, those who have been shot? Would you apostatize now?”
“But who can the fool be that wrote such pasquinades?” demanded an indignant listener.
“What does that matter to us?” rejoined Isagani. “We don’t have to find out, let them find out! Before we know how they are drawn up, we have no need to make any show of agreement at a time like this. There where the danger is, there must we hasten, because honor is there! If what the pasquinades say is compatible with our dignity and our feelings, be he who he may that wrote them, he has done well, and we ought to be grateful to him and hasten to add our signatures to his! If they are unworthy of us, our conduct and our consciences will in themselves protest and defend us from every accusation!”  
Upon hearing such talk, Basilio, although he liked Isagani very much, turned and left. He had to go to Makaraig’s house to see about the loan.
Near the house of the wealthy student he observed whisperings and mysterious signals among the neighbors, but not comprehending what they meant, continued serenely on his way and entered the doorway. Two guards advanced and asked him what he wanted. Basilio realized that he had made a bad move, but he could not now retreat.
“I’ve come to see my friend Makaraig,” he replied calmly.
The guards looked at each other. “Wait here,” one of them said to him. “Wait till the corporal comes down.”
Basilio bit his lips and Simoun’s words again recurred to him. Had they come to arrest Makaraig?—was his thought, but he dared not give it utterance. He did not have to wait long, for in a few moments Makaraig came down, talking pleasantly with the corporal. The two were preceded by a warrant officer.
“What, you too, Basilio?” he asked.
“I came to see you—”
“Noble conduct!” exclaimed Makaraig laughing. “In time of calm, you avoid us.”
The corporal asked Basilio his name, then scanned a list. “Medical student, Calle Anloague?” he asked.
Basilio bit his lip.
“You’ve saved us a trip,” added the corporal, placing his hand on the youth’s shoulder. “You’re under arrest!”
“What, I also?”
Makaraig burst out into laughter.
“Don’t worry, friend. Let’s get into the carriage, while I tell you about the supper last night.”
With a graceful gesture, as though he were in his own house, he invited the warrant officer and the corporal to enter the carriage that waited at the door.
“To the Civil Government!” he ordered the cochero.
Now that Basilio had again regained his composure, he told Makaraig the object of his visit. The rich student did not wait for him to finish, but seized his hand. “Count on me, count on me, and to the festivities celebrating our graduation we’ll invite these gentlemen,” he said, indicating the corporal and the warrant officer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your thoughts?

Contact Us

Name

Email *

Message *