“Pshaw, great use Quiroga—”
“A fine present.”
“No, that won’t do, for he prides himself upon being incorruptible.”
“Ah, yes, I know!” exclaimed Pecson with a laugh. “Pepay the dancing girl.”
“Ah, yes, Pepay the dancing girl,” echoed several.
This Pepay was a showy girl, supposed to be a great friend of Don Custodio. To her resorted the contractors, the employees, the intriguers, when they wanted to get something from the celebrated councilor. Juanito Pelaez, who was also a great friend of the dancing girl, offered to look after the matter, but Isagani shook his head, saying that it was sufficient that they had made use of Padre Irene and that it would be going too far to avail themselves of Pepay in such an affair.
“Show us the other way.”
“The other way is to apply to his attorney and adviser, Senor Pasta, the oracle before whom Don Custodio bows.”
“I prefer that,” said Isagani. “Senor Pasta is a Filipino, and was a schoolmate of my uncle’s. But how can we interest him?”
“There’s the quid,” replied Makaraig, looking earnestly at Isagani. “Senor Pasta has a dancing girl—I mean, a seamstress.”
Isagani again shook his head.
“Don’t be such a puritan,” Juanito Pelaez said to him. “The end justifies the means! I know the seamstress, Matea, for she has a shop where a lot of girls work.”
“No, gentlemen,” declared Isagani, “let’s first employ decent methods. I’ll go to Senor Pasta and, if I don’t accomplish anything, then you can do what you wish with the dancing girls and seamstresses.”
They had to accept this proposition, agreeing that Isagani should talk to Senor Pasta that very day, and in the afternoon report to his associates at the University the result of the interview.
Isagani presented himself in the house of the lawyer, one of the most talented minds in Manila, whom the friars consulted in their great difficulties. The youth had to wait some time on account of the numerous clients, but at last his turn came and he entered the office, or bufete, as it is generally called in the Philippines. The lawyer received him with a slight cough, looking down furtively at his feet, but he did not rise or offer a seat, as he went on writing. This gave Isagani an opportunity for observation and careful study of the lawyer, who had aged greatly. His hair was gray and his baldness extended over nearly the whole crown of his head. His countenance was sour and austere.
There was complete silence in the study, except for the whispers of the clerks and understudies who were at work in an adjoining room. Their pens scratched as though quarreling with the paper.
At length the lawyer finished what he was writing, laid down his pen, raised his head, and, recognizing the youth, let his face light up with a smile as he extended his hand affectionately.