At that moment the orchestra struck up a waltz.
“You see that gentleman—that hypochondriac who goes along turning his head from side to side, seeking salutes? That’s the celebrated governor of Pangasinan, a good man who loses his appetite whenever any Indian fails to salute him. He would have died if he hadn’t issued the proclamation about salutes to which he owes his celebrity. Poor fellow, it’s only been three days since he came from the province and look how thin he has become! Oh, here’s the great man, the illustrious—open your eyes!”
“Who? That man with knitted brows?”
“Yes, that’s Don Custodio, the liberal, Don Custodio. His brows are knit because he’s meditating over some important project. If the ideas he has in his head were carried out, this would be a different world! Ah, here comes Makaraig, your housemate.”
It was in fact Makaraig, with Pecson, Sandoval, and Isagani. Upon seeing them, Tadeo advanced and spoke to them.
“Aren’t you coming in?” Makaraig asked him.
“We haven’t been able to get tickets.”
“Fortunately, we have a box,” replied Makaraig. “Basilio couldn’t come. Both of you, come in with us.”
Tadeo did not wait for the invitation to be repeated, but the novice, fearing that he would intrude, with the timidity natural to the provincial Indian, excused himself, nor could he be persuaded to enter.
The interior of the theater presented a lively aspect. It was filled from top to bottom, with people standing in the corridors and in the aisles, fighting to withdraw a head from some hole where they had inserted it, or to shove an eye between a collar and an ear. The open boxes, occupied for the most part by ladies, looked like baskets of flowers, whose petals—the fans—shook in a light breeze, wherein hummed a thousand bees. However, just as there are flowers of strong or delicate fragrance, flowers that kill and flowers that console, so from our baskets were exhaled like emanations: there were to be heard dialogues, conversations, remarks that bit and stung. Three or four boxes, however, were still vacant, in spite of the lateness of the hour. The performance had been advertised for half-past eight and it was already a quarter to nine, but the curtain did not go up, as his Excellency had not yet arrived. The gallery-gods, impatient and uncomfortable in their seats, started a racket, clapping their hands and pounding the floor with their canes.
“Boom—boom—boom! Ring up the curtain! Boom—boom—boom!”
The artillerymen were not the least noisy. Emulators of Mars, as Ben-Zayb called them, they were not satisfied with this music; thinking themselves perhaps at a bullfight, they made remarks at the ladies who passed before them in words that are euphemistically called flowers in Madrid, although at times they seem more like foul weeds. Without heeding the furious looks of the husbands, they bandied from one to another the sentiments and longings inspired by so many beauties.