Tuesday, August 16, 2005

II. A Challenge and A Wager (1)

It began one afternoon, during a special merienda held at the residence of Alejandro Baltran Alessio du Verrada ei Ramirez, Guvernador-Henerale of Hinirang. The occasion being celebrated was the defeat of a small force of insurgent natives north of Ciudad, and the hero of the hour was the young commander of the Ispaniola force, Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal. The two men sipped chocolate from Mejico and discussed things only men-of-action particularly cared about, and were later joined by the Guvernador-Henerale’s mistress, Andreia Carmen Jimenez ei Rojillo, freshly returned from confession from the Katedral Grandu.

They were seated at the spacious courtyard of the Guvernador-Henerale’s residence, a pleasant arbor of shady trees, flowerbeds and smooth-stoned paths, where the breeze was the most aromatic and the heat less oppressive than elsewhere.

“Ultimately, I must concede to the fact that the lovely Seóra has pointed out to me,” Ser Pietrado said, looking at Andreia directly in the eye. “These Katao du Hirinang, these indios, are not much of a threat at all. Certainly not for the flower of Ispaniola. They are lazy, boorish and unorganized. They have no courage, no morals, no civilization. If not for us, they would burn as pagans.”

“Ser Pietrado, you have misunderstood my words,” Andreia met his gaze evenly. “If the Katao were given equal opportunity, then I suspect your words would be emptier than they are now. Any one of them is your equal.”

“I can defeat any one of them in anything. At any time, anywhere,” Ser Pietrado boasted. “They are like animals.”

“Ser Peitrado!” the Guvernador-Henerale admonished him. “Those are words not in keeping with the character of a gentleman.”

Before the young man could reply, another voice interrupted their conversation.

“I could beat you in a race.”

The three turned to see who had spoken. A very fat serving woman, carrying a tray of cold refreshment for them, was biting her lips in despair.

“Forgive me, my lords, my lady,” she spoke in halting Ispaniola, “I did not mean to speak my thoughts out loud.”

“No, no,” said Andreia, gliding to the woman’s side. “But did you mean what you said?”

Opo, Seóra,” the woman replied, “I want to show the gentleman that we are not all stupid. And we are certainly not animals.”

Ser Pietrado turned to the Guvernador-Henerale. “Ser, if this is the kind of servant you keep, I-“

The Guvernador-Henerale, impressed by the fact that the woman had courage to speak, silenced him with a gesture. He turned to the servant and asked her, “What is your name?”

“I am called Rosang Taba, my lord.”

Ser Pietrado’s aristocratic lips lifted in a sneer. “Rosa Gordura. How appropriate.”

“And what do you do for me?” the Guvernador-Henerale asked her.

“I am one of the house servants, my lord. I thought my lords and the lady would like some more chocolate,” Rosang Taba said, glancing at the cups and saucers on her tray.

“And do you think you can actually defeat this gentleman, Ser Pietrado, in a… what did you say?”

“In a race, my lord.”

“A race?”

Opo, Ser.”

“And you are certain of this?”

Opo, Ser.”

“Then you shall have your chance.”

Ser Pietrado raised his eyebrows. “Your Excellency, certainly you jest! This, this obese woman is no match for me in anything, especially in a race!”

Andreia fixed him with a glance. “You can beat her, yes?”

“Of course I can!” Ser Pietrado nearly shouted. Andreia simply smiled.

Rosang Taba cleared her throat timidly. “I just ask two things, my lord. As the noble gentleman has said, I am hardly fit. May I ask him for a head start of fifteen paces?”

“Take fifty paces!” Ser Peitrado laughed at the absurdity of it all. “What is your other request, that I race blindfolded?”

Hindi po, Ser. But that you allow me to choose where we shall race.”

“Then do so. We shall race tomorrow afternoon. Let me know where,” Ser Pietrado said.

“Jandro,” Andreia said to the Guvernador-Henerale, “How about a small wager?”

“Ah, certainly,” the Guvernador-Henerale smiled at the woman he loved.

“I cannot possibly fail the Seóra’s expectations,” Ser Pietrado told Andreia.

“Who said I’m wagering on you?”

After Ser Pietrado left in a huff, the Guvernador-Henerale wagged a finger at Andreia and moved to comfort his favorite commander. And the most beautiful woman in Ciudad, without looking directly at the fat serving woman, whispered words only Rosang Taba could hear.

“Manalo ka.”

(1) Esperanza Luisa-Artemio, ed., The Collected Letters of Andreia Carmen Jimenez. (Lu Prensa Universidad, 1863)


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