“Padre Fernandez!” Anything could be tolerated by Padre Sibyla except to propose the Jesuits to him as a model. Pale and trembling, he broke out into bitter recrimination. “A Franciscan first! Anything before a Jesuit!” He was beside himself.
A general discussion broke out, regardless of the Captain-General. All talked at once, they yelled, they misunderstood and contradicted one another. Ben-Zayb and Padre Camorra shook their fists in each other’s faces, one talking of simpletons and the other of ink-slingers, Padre Sibyla kept harping on the Capitulum, and Padre Fernandez on the Summa of St. Thomas, until the curate of Los Banos entered to announce that breakfast was served.
His Excellency arose and so ended the discussion. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, “we’ve worked like niggers and yet we’re on a vacation. Some one has said that grave matters should he considered at dessert. I’m entirely of that opinion.”
“We might get indigestion,” remarked the secretary, alluding to the heat of the discussion.
“Then we’ll lay it aside until tomorrow.”
As they rose the high official whispered to the General, “Your Excellency, the daughter of Cabesang Tales has been here again begging for the release of her sick grandfather, who was arrested in place of her father.”
His Excellency looked at him with an expression of impatience and rubbed his hand across his broad forehead. “Carambas! Can’t one be left to eat his breakfast in peace?”
“This is the third day she has come. She’s a poor girl—”
“Oh, the devil!” exclaimed Padre Camorra. “I’ve just thought of it. I have something to say to the General about that—that’s what I came over for—to support that girl’s petition.”
The General scratched the back of his ear and said, “Oh, go along! Have the secretary make out an order to the lieutenant of the Civil Guard for the old man’s release. They sha’n’t say that we’re not clement and merciful.”
He looked at Ben-Zayb. The journalist winked.
Reluctantly, and almost with tearful eyes, Placido Penitente was going along the Escolta on his way to the University of Santo Tomas. It had hardly been a week since he had come from his town, yet he had already written to his mother twice, reiterating his desire to abandon his studies and go back there to work. His mother answered that he should have patience, that at the least he must be graduated as a bachelor of arts, since it would be unwise to desert his books after four years of expense and sacrifices on both their parts.