The Reign of Greed eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 335 pages of information about The Reign of Greed.

“Poor boy!” he murmured, “similar thoughts also crossed my mind once!  What more could any one desire than to be able to say:  ’I have done this for the good of the fatherland, I have consecrated my life to the welfare of others!’ A crown of laurel, steeped in aloes, dry leaves that cover thorns and worms!  That is not life, that does not get us our daily bread, nor does it bring us honors—­ the laurel would hardly serve for a salad, nor produce ease, nor aid us in winning lawsuits, but quite the reverse!  Every country has its code of ethics, as it has its climate and its diseases, different from the climate and the diseases of other countries.”

After a pause, he added:  “Poor boy!  If all should think and act as he does, I don’t say but that—­Poor boy!  Poor Florentino!”

CHAPTER XVI

THE TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINESE

In the evening of that same Saturday, Quiroga, the Chinese, who aspired to the creation of a consulate for his nation, gave a dinner in the rooms over his bazaar, located in the Escolta.  His feast was well attended:  friars, government employees, soldiers, merchants, all of them his customers, partners or patrons, were to be seen there, for his store supplied the curates and the conventos with all their necessities, he accepted the chits of all the employees, and he had servants who were discreet, prompt, and complaisant.  The friars themselves did not disdain to pass whole hours in his store, sometimes in view of the public, sometimes in the chambers with agreeable company.

That night, then, the sala presented a curious aspect, being filled with friars and clerks seated on Vienna chairs, stools of black wood, and marble benches of Cantonese origin, before little square tables, playing cards or conversing among themselves, under the brilliant glare of the gilt chandeliers or the subdued light of the Chinese lanterns, which were brilliantly decorated with long silken tassels.  On the walls there was a lamentable medley of landscapes in dim and gaudy colors, painted in Canton or Hongkong, mingled with tawdry chromos of odalisks, half-nude women, effeminate lithographs of Christ, the deaths of the just and of the sinners—­made by Jewish houses in Germany to be sold in the Catholic countries.  Nor were there lacking the Chinese prints on red paper representing a man seated, of venerable aspect, with a calm, smiling face, behind whom stood a servant, ugly, horrible, diabolical, threatening, armed with a lance having a wide, keen blade.  Among the Indians some call this figure Mohammed, others Santiago, [34] we do not know why, nor do the Chinese themselves give a very clear explanation of this popular pair.  The pop of champagne corks, the rattle of glasses, laughter, cigar smoke, and that odor peculiar to a Chinese habitation—­a mixture of punk, opium, and dried fruits—­completed the collection.

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The Reign of Greed from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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