Once in the street, Basilio began to consider how he might spend the time until the fatal hour arrived, for it was then not later than seven o’clock. It was the vacation period and all the students were back in their towns, Isagani being the only one who had not cared to leave, but he had disappeared that morning and no one knew his whereabouts—so Basilio had been informed when after leaving the prison he had gone to visit his friend and ask him for lodging. The young man did not know where to go, for he had no money, nothing but the revolver. The memory of the lamp filled his imagination, the great catastrophe that would occur within two hours. Pondering over this, he seemed to see the men who passed before his eyes walking without heads, and he felt a thrill of ferocious joy in telling himself that, hungry and destitute, he that night was going to be dreaded, that from a poor student and servant, perhaps the sun would see him transformed into some one terrible and sinister, standing upon pyramids of corpses, dictating laws to all those who were passing before his gaze now in magnificent carriages. He laughed like one condemned to death and patted the butt of the revolver. The boxes of cartridges were also in his pockets.
A question suddenly occurred to him—where would the drama begin? In his bewilderment he had not thought of asking Simoun, but the latter had warned him to keep away from Calle Anloague. Then came a suspicion: that afternoon, upon leaving the prison, he had proceeded to the former house of Capitan Tiago to get his few personal effects and had found it transformed, prepared for a fiesta —the wedding of Juanito Pelaez! Simoun had spoken of a fiesta.
At this moment he noticed passing in front of him a long line of carriages filled with ladies and gentlemen, conversing in a lively manner, and he even thought he could make out big bouquets of flowers, but he gave the detail no thought. The carriages were going toward Calle Rosario and in meeting those that came down off the Bridge of Spain had to move along slowly and stop frequently. In one he saw Juanito Pelaez at the side of a woman dressed in white with a transparent veil, in whom he recognized Paulita Gomez.
“Paulita!” he ejaculated in surprise, realizing that it was indeed she, in a bridal gown, along with Juanito Pelaez, as though they were just coming from the church. “Poor Isagani!” he murmured, “what can have become of him?”
He thought for a while about his friend, a great and generous soul, and mentally asked himself if it would not be well to tell him about the plan, then answered himself that Isagani would never take part in such a butchery. They had not treated Isagani as they had him.
Then he thought that had there been no imprisonment, he would have been betrothed, or a husband, at this time, a licentiate in medicine, living and working in some corner of his province. The ghost of Juli, crushed in her fall, crossed his mind, and dark flames of hatred lighted his eyes; again he caressed the butt of the revolver, regretting that the terrible hour had not yet come. Just then he saw Simoun come out of the door of his house, carrying in his hands the case containing the lamp, carefully wrapped up, and enter a carriage, which then followed those bearing the bridal party. In order not to lose track of Simoun, Basilio took a good look at the cochero and with astonishment recognized in him the wretch who had driven him to San Diego, Sinong, the fellow maltreated by the Civil Guard, the same who had come to the prison to tell him about the occurrences in Tiani.
Conjecturing that Calle Anloague was to be the scene of action, thither the youth directed his steps, hurrying forward and getting ahead of the carriages, which were, in fact, all moving toward the former house of Capitan Tiago—there they were assembling in search of a ball, but actually to dance in the air! Basilio smiled when he noticed the pairs of civil-guards who formed the escort, and from their number he could guess the importance of the fiesta and the guests. The house overflowed with people and poured floods of light from its windows, the entrance was carpeted and strewn with flowers. Upstairs there, perhaps in his former solitary room, an orchestra was playing lively airs, which did not completely drown the confused tumult of talk and laughter.
Don Timoteo Pelaez was reaching the pinnacle of fortune, and the reality surpassed his dreams. He was, at last, marrying his son to the rich Gomez heiress, and, thanks to the money Simoun had lent him, he had royally furnished that big house, purchased for half its value, and was giving in it a splendid fiesta, with the foremost divinities of the Manila Olympus for his guests, to gild him with the light of their prestige. Since that morning there had been recurring to him, with the persistence of a popular song, some vague phrases that he had read in the communion service. “Now has the fortunate hour come! Now draws nigh the happy moment! Soon there will be fulfilled in you the admirable words of Simoun—‘I live, and yet not I alone, but the Captain-General liveth in me.’” The Captain-General the patron of his son! True, he had not attended the ceremony, where Don Custodio had represented him, but he would come to dine, he would bring a wedding-gift, a lamp which not even Aladdin’s—between you and me, Simoun was presenting the lamp. Timoteo, what more could you desire?
The transformation that Capitan Tiago’s house had undergone was considerable—it had been richly repapered, while the smoke and the smell of opium had been completely eradicated. The immense sala, widened still more by the colossal mirrors that infinitely multiplied the lights of the chandeliers, was carpeted throughout, for the salons of Europe had carpets, and even though the floor was of wide boards brilliantly polished, a carpet it must have too, since nothing should be lacking. The rich furniture of Capitan Tiago had disappeared and in its place was to be seen another kind, in the style of Louis XV. Heavy curtains of red velvet, trimmed with gold, with the initials of the bridal couple worked on them, and upheld by garlands of artificial orange-blossoms, hung as portières and swept the floor with their wide fringes, likewise of gold. In the corners appeared enormous Japanese vases, alternating with those of Sèvres of a clear dark-blue, placed upon square pedestals of carved wood.
The only decorations not in good taste were the screaming chromos which Don Timoteo had substituted for the old drawings and pictures of saints of Capitan Tiago. Simoun had been unable to dissuade him, for the merchant did not want oil-paintings—some one might ascribe them to Filipino artists! He, a patron of Filipino artists, never! On that point depended his peace of mind and perhaps his life, and he knew how to get along in the Philippines! It is true that he had heard foreign painters mentioned—Raphael, Murillo, Velasquez—but he did not know their addresses, and then they might prove to be somewhat seditious. With the chromos he ran no risk, as the Filipinos did not make them, they came cheaper, the effect was the same, if not better, the colors brighter and the execution very fine. Don’t say that Don Timoteo did not know how to comport himself in the Philippines!
The large hallway was decorated with flowers, having been converted into a dining-room, with a long table for thirty persons in the center, and around the sides, pushed against the walls, other smaller ones for two or three persons each. Bouquets of flowers, pyramids of fruits among ribbons and lights, covered their centers. The groom’s place was designated by a bunch of roses and the bride’s by another of orange-blossoms and tuberoses. In the presence of so much finery and flowers one could imagine that nymphs in gauzy garments and Cupids with iridescent wings were going to serve nectar and ambrosia to aerial guests, to the sound of lyres and Aeolian harps.
But the table for the greater gods was not there, being placed yonder in the middle of the wide azotea within a magnificent kiosk constructed especially for the occasion. A lattice of gilded wood over which clambered fragrant vines screened the interior from the eyes of the vulgar without impeding the free circulation of air to preserve the coolness necessary at that season. A raised platform lifted the table above the level of the others at which the ordinary mortals were going to dine and an arch decorated by the best artists would protect the august heads from the jealous gaze of the stars.
On this table were laid only seven plates. The dishes were of solid silver, the cloth and napkins of the finest linen, the wines the most costly and exquisite. Don Timoteo had sought the most rare and expensive in everything, nor would he have hesitated at crime had he been assured that the Captain-General liked to eat human flesh.