As a result of the events narrated, many mothers ordered their sons immediately to leave off their studies and devote themselves to idleness or to agriculture. When the examinations came, suspensions were plentiful, and he was a rare exception who finished the course, if he had belonged to the famous association, to which no one paid any more attention. Pecson, Tadeo, and Juanito Pelaez were all alike suspended—the first receiving his dismissal with his foolish grin and declaring his intention of becoming an officer in some court, while Tadeo, with his eternal holiday realized at last, paid for an illumination and made a bonfire of his books. Nor did the others get off much better, and at length they too had to abandon their studies, to the great satisfaction of their mothers, who always fancy their sons hanged if they should come to understand what the books teach. Juanito Pelaez alone took the blow ill, since it forced him to leave school for his father’s store, with whom he was thenceforward to be associated in the business: the rascal found the store much less entertaining, but after some time his friends again noticed his hump appear, a symptom that his good humor was returning. The rich Makaraig, in view of the catastrophe, took good care not to expose himself, and having secured a passport by means of money set out in haste for Europe. It was said that his Excellency, the Captain-General, in his desire to do good by good means, and careful of the interests of the Filipinos, hindered the departure of every one who could not first prove substantially that he had the money to spend and could live in idleness in European cities. Among our acquaintances those who got off best were Isagani and Sandoval: the former passed in the subject he studied under Padre Fernandez and was suspended in the others, while the latter was able to confuse the examining-board with his oratory.
Basilio was the only one who did not pass in any subject, who was not suspended, and who did not go to Europe, for he remained in Bilibid prison, subjected every three days to examinations, almost always the same in principle, without other variation than a change of inquisitors, since it seemed that in the presence of such great guilt all gave up or fell away in horror. And while the documents moldered or were shifted about, while the stamped papers increased like the plasters of an ignorant physician on the body of a hypochondriac, Basilio became informed of all the details of what had happened in Tiani, of the death of Juli and the disappearance of Tandang Selo. Sinong, the abused cochero, who had driven him to San Diego, happened to be in Manila at that time and called to give him all the news.
Meanwhile, Simoun had recovered his health, or so at least the newspapers said. Ben-Zayb rendered thanks to “the Omnipotent who watches over such a precious life,” and manifested the hope that the Highest would some day reveal the malefactor, whose crime remained unpunished, thanks to the charity of the victim, who was too closely following the words of the Great Martyr: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. These and other things Ben-Zayb said in print, while by mouth he was inquiring whether there was any truth in the rumor that the opulent jeweler was going to give a grand fiesta, a banquet such as had never before been seen, in part to celebrate his recovery and in part as a farewell to the country in which he had increased his fortune. It was whispered as certain that Simoun, who would have to leave with the Captain-General, whose command expired in May, was making every effort to secure from Madrid an extension, and that he was advising his Excellency to start a campaign in order to have an excuse for remaining, but it was further reported that for the first time his Excellency had disregarded the advice of his favorite, making it a point of honor not to retain for a single additional day the power that had been conferred upon him, a rumor which encouraged belief that the fiesta announced would take place; very soon. For the rest, Simoun remained unfathomable, since he had become very uncommunicative, showed himself seldom, and smiled mysteriously when the rumored fiesta was mentioned.
“Come, Señor Sindbad,” Ben-Zayb had once rallied him, “dazzle us with something Yankee! You owe something to this country.”
“Doubtless!” was Simoun’s response, with a dry smile.
“You’ll throw the house wide open, eh?”
“Maybe, but as I have no house—”
“You ought to have secured Capitan Tiago’s, which Señor Pelaez got for nothing.”
Simoun became silent, and from that time on he was often seen in the store of Don Timoteo Pelaez, with whom it was said he had entered into partnership. Some weeks afterward, in the month of April, it was rumored that Juanito Pelaez, Don Timoteo’s son, was going to marry Paulita Gomez, the girl coveted by Spaniards and foreigners.
“Some men are lucky!” exclaimed other envious merchants. “To buy a house for nothing, sell his consignment of galvanized iron well, get into partnership with a Simoun, and marry his son to a rich heiress—just say if those aren’t strokes of luck that all honorable men don’t have!”
“If you only knew whence came that luck of Señor Pelaez’s!” another responded, in a tone which indicated that the speaker did know. “It’s also assured that there’ll be a fiesta and on a grand scale,” was added with mystery.
It was really true that Paulita was going to marry Juanito Pelaez. Her love for Isagani had gradually waned, like all first loves based on poetry and sentiment. The events of the pasquinades and the imprisonment of the youth had shorn him of all his charms. To whom would it have occurred to seek danger, to desire to share the fate of his comrades, to surrender himself, when every one was hiding and denying any complicity in the affair? It was quixotic, it was madness that no sensible person in Manila could pardon, and Juanito was quite right in ridiculing him, representing what a sorry figure he cut when he went to the Civil Government. Naturally, the brilliant Paulita could no longer love a young man who so erroneously understood social matters and whom all condemned. Then she began to reflect. Juanito was clever, capable, gay, shrewd, the son of a rich merchant of Manila, and a Spanish mestizo besides—if Don Timoteo was to be believed, a full-blooded Spaniard. On the other hand, Isagani was a provincial native who dreamed of forests infested with leeches, he was of doubtful family, with a priest for an uncle, who would perhaps be an enemy to luxury and balls, of which she was very fond. One beautiful morning therefore it occurred to her that she had been a downright fool to prefer him to his rival, and from that time on Pelaez’s hump steadily increased. Unconsciously, yet rigorously, Paulita was obeying the law discovered by Darwin, that the female surrenders herself to the fittest male, to him who knows how to adapt himself to the medium in which he lives, and to live in Manila there was no other like Pelaez, who from his infancy had had chicanery at his finger-tips. Lent passed with its Holy Week, its array of processions and pompous displays, without other novelty than a mysterious mutiny among the artillerymen, the cause of which was never disclosed. The houses of light materials were torn down in the presence of a troop of cavalry, ready to fall upon the owners in case they should offer resistance. There was a great deal of weeping and many lamentations, but the affair did not get beyond that. The curious, among them Simoun, went to see those who were left homeless, walking about indifferently and assuring each other that thenceforward they could sleep in peace.
Towards the end of April, all the fears being now forgotten, Manila was engrossed with one topic: the fiesta that Don Timoteo Pelaez was going to celebrate at the wedding of his son, for which the General had graciously and condescendingly agreed to be the patron. Simoun was reported to have arranged the matter. The ceremony would be solemnized two days before the departure of the General, who would honor the house and make a present to the bridegroom. It was whispered that the jeweler would pour out cascades of diamonds and throw away handfuls of pearls in honor of his partner’s son, thus, since he could hold no fiesta of his own, as he was a bachelor and had no house, improving the opportunity to dazzle the Filipino people with a memorable farewell. All Manila prepared to be invited, and never did uneasiness take stronger hold of the mind than in view of the thought of not being among those bidden. Friendship with Simoun became a matter of dispute, and many husbands were forced by their wives to purchase bars of steel and sheets of galvanized iron in order to make friends with Don Timoteo Pelaez.