Also, the curate wanted a pair of lady’s earrings and requested the capitan to buy them for him. “I want them first class. Later we’ll fix up the account.”
“Don’t worry about that, Padre,” said the good man, who wished to be at peace with the Church also. An unfavorable report on the curate’s part could do him great damage and cause him double the expense, for those earrings were a forced present. Simoun in the meantime was praising his jewels.
“That fellow is fierce!” mused the student. “He does business everywhere. And if I can believe a certain person, he buys from some gentlemen for a half of their value the same jewels that he himself has sold for presents. Everybody in this country prospers but us!”
He made his way to his house, or rather Capitan Tiago’s, now occupied by a trustworthy man who had held him in great esteem since the day when he had seen him perform a surgical operation with the same coolness that he would cut up a chicken. This man was now waiting to give him the news. Two of the laborers were prisoners, one was to be deported, and a number of carabaos had died.
“The same old story,” exclaimed Basilio, in a bad humor. “You always receive me with the same complaints.” The youth was not overbearing, but as he was at times scolded by Capitan Tiago, he liked in his turn to chide those under his orders.
The old man cast about for something new. “One of our tenants has died, the old fellow who took care of the woods, and the curate refused to bury him as a pauper, saying that his master is a rich man.”
“What did he die of?”
“Of old age.”
“Get out! To die of old age! It must at least have been some disease.” Basilio in his zeal for making autopsies wanted diseases.
“Haven’t you anything new to tell me? You take away my appetite relating the same old things. Do you know anything of Sagpang?”
The old man then told him about the kidnapping of Cabesang Tales. Basilio became thoughtful and said nothing more—his appetite had completely left him.
When the bells began their chimes for the midnight mass and those who preferred a good sleep to fiestas and ceremonies arose grumbling at the noise and movement, Basilio cautiously left the house, took two or three turns through the streets to see that he was not watched or followed, and then made his way by unfrequented paths to the road that led to the ancient wood of the Ibarras, which had been acquired by Capitan Tiago when their property was confiscated and sold. As Christmas fell under the waning moon that year, the place was wrapped in darkness. The chimes had ceased, and only the tolling sounded through the darkness of the night amid the murmur of the breeze-stirred branches and the measured roar of the waves on the neighboring lake, like the deep respiration of nature sunk in profound sleep.