The Fishing Party.
The stars were still shining in the sapphire heavens, and the birds were sleeping on the branches of the trees, when a jolly little party, by the light from the pitch torches, wandered through the streets of the town toward the lake.
Five young maidens, clinging to each other’s hands or belts, tripped along briskly. Behind them came several elderly women and a number of servants gracefully carrying on their heads baskets filled with provisions and various dishes for the picnic. On seeing their joyful faces, with their youthful smiles, their beautiful black hair as it floated in the breeze, and the wide folds of their pretty dresses, you would have taken them for goddesses of the night and would have thought that they were fleeing from day—if perchance you had not already known that it was Maria Clara and her four friends: jolly Sinang; her cousin, the serious Victoria; beautiful Iday; and the pensive Neneng, pretty, modest and timid.
They were talking with animation; they laughed; pinched each other; whispered in each other’s ears and then burst out in shouts of merriment.
“You girls will wake up everybody in town. Don’t you know that people are still asleep?” said Aunt Isabel, reprimanding them. “When we were young, we didn’t make such a noise.”
“But you didn’t get up as early as we do, nor were the old men such great sleepers in your day,” replied little Sinang.
They were quiet for a moment and were trying to talk in a low voice, but they quickly forgot themselves and were again filling the streets with their youthful laughter and melodious voices.
Several young fellows were coming down the street, lighting their way with large bamboo torches. They were marching along almost noiselessly to the tune of a guitar.
“That guitar sounds as though some beggar were playing it,” said Sinang, laughing. But when the young fellows caught up with the rest of the party, the girls suddenly became as quiet and as serious as though they never had learned how to laugh. The young men, however, chatted away, saluted the ladies, laughed and smiled and asked half a dozen questions without giving the girls time to answer any one of them.
The two large bancas,1 which had been secured to transport the picnic party to the fishing grounds, were fastened together and picturesquely adorned with wreaths and garlands of flowers and a large number of vari-colored candles. Paper lanterns hung from the improvised covering of the bancas. Alternately with these were roses, pinks and baskets of fruits such as pineapples, kasuys, bananas, guayabas and lanzones. Ibarra had brought his carpets, blankets and rugs and arranged comfortable seats for the ladies. The poles and paddles used to propel the bancas had also been ornamented. In the better banca were a harp, guitars, accordeons, and a buffalo horn; while, in the other boat, a little fire had been lighted in an improvised stove in order that tea, coffee and salabat might be prepared for the light breakfast.
“The women sit here; the men, there,” said the mothers on stepping into the banca. “Sit still and don’t move, or we will be capsized.”
“Cross yourselves before we start,” said Aunt Isabel, as she traced the form of a cross on her breast.
“And are we to be here all by ourselves,” asked Sinang, on seeing how the girls had been separated from the young men, by the assignment of the seats. Then making a grimace she asked again, “Are we going to be all alone? Aray!”
This aray was caused by a little pinch which her mother had given her on the arm in the way of a reprimand for her complaint.
The bancas were now putting off slowly from the shore. The light from the torches and Japanese lanterns was reflected in the water, for the lake was as smooth as a mirror. In the far eastern horizon could be seen the first rosy tints of the approaching dawn.
Everything was very quiet. The young women, in consequence of the separation from the young men, seemed to be absorbed in meditation.
As the water was smooth as glass and the bamboo weirs where the fish were to be found were not far off, and, it was still early, it was decided that all should stop paddling and take breakfast. The lights were put out, for the day had dawned and preparations were made for desayuno.3
The entire party became jolly as they breathed in the light breeze that had come up. Even the women, so full of presentiments a few moments ago, were now laughing and joking among themselves.
One young man alone of all the party remained silent. He was the pilot, an athletic-looking fellow, and interesting on account of his large, sad eyes and the severe lines of his lips. His long, black hair fell gracefully over his powerful neck. He wore a shirt of coarse dark cloth, through which his powerful muscles could be plainly seen as he manipulated with his strong arms the wide, heavy paddle as if it were only a pen. This paddle served both to propel and to steer the bancas.
More than once he was embarrassed when he caught Maria Clara looking at him. Then he would turn his eyes quickly to some other direction and look far off toward the mountain, or the shore of the lake. The young maiden pitied him in his solitude and offered him some biscuits. The pilot looked at her with surprise, but only for a moment. He took the biscuits, thanked her very briefly and in a voice scarcely audible.
No one else took any notice of him. The happy laughter and jolly conversation of the young men did not cause him to relax a single muscle of his face. Not even Sinang, with all her jollity, had any effect on him.
“Wait a minute!” said Aunt Isabel to the boatman’s son, who had made ready his net and was just about to go up on the baklad to take out the fish from the little enclosure at the end of the weir. “We must have everything ready, so that the fish may pass directly from the water to the pot.”
Andeng, the pretty foster sister of Maria Clara, despite her clear complexion and laughing face, had the reputation of being a good cook. She prepared the rice, tomatoes, and camias,4 while some of the young men tried to aid or bother her, perhaps in order to win her good will. The other girls were busy cleaning and making ready the lettuce, cabbage and peas, and cutting up paayap in pieces about the size of a cigarette.
Finally Andeng announced that the kettle was ready to receive its guests—the fish.
The fisherman’s son went up on top of the rack at the end of the weir. He took a position at the narrow entrance, over which might have been written: “All who enter here leave hope behind,” if indeed the unfortunate fish would know how to read and understand it, for a fish who enters never gets out except to die. The rack is almost circular in form and about a meter in diameter, and is so arranged that a man can stand on top of one end of it and thus take out the fish with his net.
“There, it wouldn’t tire me a bit to fish that way,” said Sinang, quite joyful.
All were watching attentively. Already some of them in their vivid imaginations thought they could see the fish wiggling their tails and trying to get out of the little net, their scales shining in the bright sun. However, the young man failed to catch a single fish in his first attempt.
“It ought to be full of fish,” said Albino, in a low voice. “It is more than five days since we visited the place last.”
The fisherman drew out his net a second time, but not a fish was there in it. The water, as it trickled through the meshes of the net in countless drops which reflected the rays of the sun, seemed to laugh in silvery tones. An “Ah” of surprise, disgust, and disappointment escaped from the lips of all.
The young fellow repeated the same operation, but with a similar result.
“You don’t understand your business!” said Albino to him as he stepped up on the rack and took the net from the hands of the youngster. “Now you will see! Andeng, open up the kettle!”
But Albino did not understand his business, either. The net came up empty as before. All began to laugh.
“Don’t make any noise,” he said, “or the fish will hear it and will keep from being caught. This net must have a hole in it somewhere.”
But every mesh in the net was perfect.
“Let me take it!” said Leon, Iday’s lover, to Albino.
Leon first made sure that the enclosure was in good condition and then examined the net carefully and satisfied himself that there was nothing wrong with it. He then asked: “Are you sure that no one has been out here for five days?”
“We are sure! The last time any one was out here was on All Saints’ Day.”
“Well, then, I am going to bring out something this time, unless the lake is bewitched.”
Leon lowered the net by its bamboo handle into the water, but a look of surprise was painted on his face. In silence he looked toward the neighboring mountain and continued moving the handle of the net from one side to the other. Finally, without taking the net out of the water, he murmured in a low voice: “An alligator.”
“An alligator!” exclaimed half a dozen voices, and the word was repeated again while all stood frightened and stupefied.
“What did you say?” they asked.
“I say that there is an alligator caught in the rack,” said Leon, and sticking the handle of the net into the water again he continued: “Do you hear that sound? That is not sand, it is hard skin, the back of the alligator. Do you see how he wiggles the bamboo pickets in the rack? He is struggling hard but he cannot do anything. Wait. He is a large fellow; his body measures a palm or more in width.”
“What shall be done?” was the question.
“Catch him,” said one.
“Jesús! And who will catch him?”
Nobody offered to dive down to the bottom of the rack. The water was very deep.
“We ought to tie him to our banca and drag him along in triumph,” said Sinang. “The idea of his eating the fish which we ought to have!”
“I have never seen to this day a live alligator,” said Maria Clara.
The pilot rose to his feet, took a long rope and went up cautiously to the platform on the top of the rack. Leon gave up his position to him.
With the exception of Maria Clara, none up till now had paid any attention to him. Now every one was admiring his fine stature.
To the great surprise of all and in spite of all their cries, the pilot leaped into the enclosure.
“Take this knife!” shouted Crisostomo, drawing out a wide-bladed Toledo knife.
But already a thousand little bubbles were rising to the surface of the water, and all that was going on in the depths below was wrapped in mystery.
“Jesús, Maria y José!” exclaimed the women. “We are going to have a misfortune. Jesús, Maria y José!”
“Don’t be alarmed, señoras,” saide old boatman. “If there is any one in this province who can do it, it is that fellow who has just gone down.”
“What is his name?” they asked.
“We call him ‘The Pilot’; he is the best I have ever seen, only he does not like his profession.”
The water was being stirred violently, and it seemed that a fierce fight was being waged in the depths of the lake. The sides of the enclosure swayed to and fro, while the water seemed to be swirled by a dozen currents. All held their breath. Ibarra grasped tightly the handle of his sharp knife.
The fight seemed to be at an end. The head of the young man rose to the surface of the water, and the sight was greeted by joyful shouts from all. The eyes of the women were full of tears.
The pilot crawled up on the platform carrying in his hand the end of the rope, and as soon as he was able pulled on it.
The monster appeared on top of the water. He had the rope tied twice around his neck, and once behind his forelegs. He was a large fellow, as Leon had already announced. He was beautifully colored and green moss was growing on his back. He bellowed like an ox, struck his tail against the sides of the enclosure, snapped at them, and opened his black, frightful-looking mouth, showing his long teeth.
The pilot, unassisted, raised him up out of the water. No one offered to help him. Just as soon as the animal was out of the water and placed on the platform, the pilot put his foot on his back. Then, closing the animal’s massive jaws, he tried to tie his big snout tight with the rope. The reptile made a last effort, doubled up his body, struck the floor of the platform with his powerful tail and, breaking loose, made a leap into the water of the lake, on the other side of the weir, at the same time dragging with him his captor. It seemed that the pilot would be a dead man. A cry of horror went up from all.
Like a flash of lightning, another body leaped into the water. So quickly was it done that they had scarcely time to see that it was Ibarra. Maria Clara did not faint, simply because the Filipinos do not know how to faint.
They all saw the water become colored, and tinged with blood. The young fisherman leaped to the bottom with his bolo in his hand; his father followed him. But, scarcely had they disappeared, when they saw Crisostomo and the pilot reappear, clinging to the body of the reptile. The monster’s white belly was slashed, while in his throat the knife still stuck like a nail.
It is impossible to describe the joy that came over the party at the sight; all arms were extended to help them out of the water. The old women were half crazed with joy, and laughed and prayed. Andeng forgot that her kettle had been boiling three different times; now it was leaking and had put out the fire. The only one who could not speak was Maria Clara.
Ibarra was unhurt. The pilot had a slight scratch on his arm.
“I owe you my life!” said he to Ibarra as the latter wrapped himself up in the shawls and blankets. The voice of the pilot had a ring of sincerity.
“You are too bold,” replied Ibarra. “Another time you must not tempt God.”
“If you had never come back!” exclaimed Maria, pale and trembling.
“If I had never come back and you had followed after me,” replied the young man, “I would have been with all my family in the bottom of the lake.” Ibarra was thinking that in those depths lay the remains of his father.
The mothers of the girls did not want to go to the other baklad or weir. They preferred to go back home happy, for the day had commenced with a bad omen and they feared that they would suffer many misfortunes.
“It is all because we have not heard mass,” sighed one of them.
“But what misfortune have we had, señoras?” asked Ibarra. “The alligator was the unfortunate one.”
“That goes to show,” concluded Albino, “that, in all his fishing life, this reptile has never heard mass. I never saw him, I am sure, among the other reptiles who frequent the church.”
The bancas were turned toward the other fish rack, and it was necessary for Andeng to get the water boiling again.
The day was advancing; a breeze was blowing; little waves were stirred up on the water, and rippled around the alligator. The music began again. Iday was playing the harp, while the young men were playing the accordeons and guitars with more or less skill. But the one who played best was Albino.
The other weir was visited with an entire lack of confidence. Many of the party expected to find there the mate to the alligator, but Nature fooled them and every time that the net was lowered it was brought up full of fish.
They then headed for the shore of the lake, where is situated the forest of trees centuries old, owned by Ibarra. There in the shade and near the crystal brook the party were to take their breakfast among the flowers or under improvised tents.
1 A narrow canoe.
2 A drink made of honey and ginger.
3 A light, early breakfast.
4 A native fruit.
In the Woods.
Very early that morning Father Salví had said mass, cleaning, according to his custom, a dozen dirty souls in a few minutes. The reading of a few letters, which had arrived well sealed with wax, seemed to cause the worthy curate to lose his appetite, for he allowed his chocolate to get cold.
“The Father is ill,” said the cook as he prepared another cup. “It is several days since he has eaten anything; of six dishes which I put on the table for him, he has not touched two.”
“It must be that he does not sleep well,” replied the servant. “He has nightmare since he changed his bedroom. Every day his eyes are sinking deeper, he grows gradually thinner, and is very yellow.”
As a matter of fact, it was a pitiful sight to behold Father Salví. He did not care to touch his second cup of chocolate, nor to taste the Cebu cakes. He walked pensively to and fro in the spacious sala, crumpling between his bony fingers some letters which he would read from time to time. Finally, he called for his carriage, got ready and ordered the coachman to take him to the woods where the picnic was to be held. Arriving at the place, Father Salví dismissed the carriage and all alone, entered the forest.
A shady but difficult path runs through the thicket and leads to the brook which is formed by the hot springs so plentiful at the base of Mount Makiling.
For some time, Father Salví was wandering among the thick underbrush, here trying to evade the thorns which entangled his habit of guingon as if to detain him; there trying to step over the roots of the trees which stuck up through the ground and made the inexperienced traveler stumble again and again. Suddenly he stopped. Mirthful laughter and the sound of young voices reached his ears. The voices and the laughter seemed to come from the direction of the brook and each time seemed to be coming nearer.
“I am going to see if I can find a heron’s nest,” said a voice, beautiful and sweet, and at once recognized by the curate. “You know they say that if a person possesses one of those nests he can make himself invisible to everybody. How I would like to see him and not have him see me! I could follow him everywhere.”
Father Salví hid behind the thick trunk of an old tree and listened.
“That is to say, you want to do with him what the curate does with you: watch him everywhere?” replied the merry voice. “Be careful, for jealousy makes one grow thin and the eyes sink in.”
“No, no. It is not jealousy, it is pure curiosity,” replied the silvery voice, while the other repeated, “yes, yes, jealousy; that’s what it is.” And then she broke out in a merry chuckle.
“If I were jealous of him I would not use the heron’s nest to make myself invisible to him, but would make him invisible to everybody else.”
“But then you yourself would not be able to see him and you would not want that to happen. The best thing to do, if we find a heron’s nest is to give it to the priest. Then he could watch us as much as he pleased, and we would not be troubled with the sight of him. What do you think of the idea?”
“But I don’t believe in the story about the heron’s nests, anyway,” replied one. “But if I were really jealous I would know how to keep watch of a person and make myself invisible....”
“And how? How would you do it? Perhaps you would do as Sister Listener does in the convent?”
This reference to days passed in the convent provoked a jolly laugh all around.
Father Salví saw from his hiding-place Maria Clara, Victoria, and Sinang, wading in the stream. All three were looking into the water, which was like a mirror, in search of the heron’s nest. They were getting wet up to their knees, the wide folds of their bathing skirts allowing one to guess how graceful were the curves of their limbs. They were wearing their hair loose and their arms were bare. Striped, bright-colored bodices covered their breasts. The three lasses, at the same time that they were hunting for that which did not exist, collected flowers and plants which were growing on the banks of the stream.
The religious Acteon, pale and immovable, stood gazing upon Maria Clara, that chaste Diana. The eyes which shone in those dark orbits never tired of admiring those white and beautiful arms, that pretty, round neck, those tiny and rosy feet as they played in the water. As he contemplated all this, strange feelings were awakened in his breast, new dreams took possession of his burning mind.
The three pretty forms disappeared in a thick growth of bamboo behind a bend in the stream, but their cruel allusions could still be heard by the curate. Intoxicated with the strange ideas in his head, staggering, and covered with perspiration, Father Salví left his hiding-place and looked about him in all directions with staring eyes. He stood immovable, in doubt. He took a few steps as if to follow the young women, but he turned about, and walked along the bank of the stream in order to find the rest of the picnic party.
Some distance ahead, in the middle of the stream, he could see a bathing place well enclosed by bamboo. He could hear, merry laughter and feminine accents coming from that direction. Still further down the stream he could see a bamboo bridge and some men in bathing. In the meantime, a multitude of servants were bustling about the improvised fireplaces, some engaged in plucking chickens, others in washing rice and roasting pig. And there on the opposite bank, in a clearing which had been made, were a number of men and women under a tent. The tent had been made by hanging canvas from the limbs of some of the old trees and by erecting a few poles. There in the group was the alferez, the teniente mayor, the coadjutor, the gobernadorcillo, the school teacher, a number, of past captains and lieutenants, including even Captain Basilio, who was Sinang’s father, and the former rival of the deceased Don Rafael. Ibarra had said to him: “The mere fact that we are parties to a law-suit does not mean that we have to be enemies.” So it was that the celebrated orator of the conservative party had accepted the invitation to the picnic with enthusiasm, and had even brought along three turkeys and put his servants at the disposition of the young man.
The parish priest was received with respect and deference by all, even by the alferez.
“But where did Your Reverence come from?” some one asked on seeing his face full of scratches, and his habit covered with leaves and pieces of dried branches. “Has Your Reverence fallen down?”
“No, I lost my way,” replied Father Salví, looking down and examining his clothes.
Bottles of lemonade were opened, green cocoanuts were cut in two so that those who were coming out of the bath might have the refreshing milk to drink and the delicate meat to eat. The young women in addition received rosaries of sampagas interwoven with roses and ilang-ilang, which gave a beautiful fragrance to their loose hair. Some were sitting or lying in hammocks which had been hung from the branches of the trees; others were entertaining themselves in a game that was going on around a large, flat stone. Playing cards, checkers, dice and many other games were in progress.
They showed the alligator to the curate, but he seemed absorbed and paid no attention until they mentioned the fact that the wide wound in the animal’s neck had been made by Ibarra. Then, too, the pilot, the principal figure in the incident, had disappeared and could not be found anywhere.
Finally Maria Clara came out of the bath, accompanied by her friends, fresh as a rose when first it blooms, and when the dew on its divine petals glistens like diamonds. Her first smile was for Ibarra; and her first frown for Father Salví. The latter noticed this, but he did not even sigh.
It was now time to eat. The curate, the coadjutor, the alferez, the gobernadorcillo, and some of the captains, together with the tenente mayor sat down at the table over which Ibarra presided. The mothers of the girls did not allow any one to eat at the table with their charges.
“Do you know anything yet, Señor Alferez, about the criminal who assaulted Father Dámaso?” asked Father Salví.
“About what criminal, Father?” asked the alferez, looking at the parish priest through his empty wine glass.
“About whom could it be? About the one who, day before yesterday, struck Father Dámaso, of course.”
“Struck Father Dámaso?” asked a number of voices.
The coadjutor was seen to smile.
“Yes; and Father Dámaso is now in bed. It is believed that the culprit was that same Elias who once threw you into a mud-hole, Señor Alferez.”
The alferez colored up a little, either from shame or too much wine.
“I thought that you were interested in the affair,” continued Father Salví, with a little jeering in his manner.
The alferez bit his lips and mumbled out a silly excuse.
The meal ended and, while tea and coffee were being served, the young and old distributed themselves about in various groups. Some picked up playing cards and others dice, but the young women, anxious to know the future, preferred to try their luck with the wheel of fortune.
“Come, Señor Ibarra,” shouted Captain Basilio, who was a little bit jolly. “We have a law-suit that has been pending for fifteen years, and there isn’t a judge in the Supreme Court in Manila who can decide it. Let us see if we can settle it on the chess board. What do you say?”
The game of chess began with much solemnity.
“If the game is a draw,” said Ibarra, “it is understood that the suit is off.”
About the middle of the game, Ibarra received a telegram which made his eyes glisten and his face grow pale. He put it in his pocket-book, not, however, without directing a glance at the group of young women who continued with much laughter to play the wheel of fortune.
“Check to the king!” said the young man.
Captain Basilio had no other resort than to hide him behind the queen.
“Check to the queen!” said Ibarra, threatening it with his rook, which was defended by a pawn.
Not being able to cover the queen, nor to retire it on account of the fact that the king was behind it, Captain Basilio asked permission to study the situation a little.
“Certainly, with much pleasure,” replied Ibarra. “I will take advantage of the opportunity, for I have something to say to some of the members of that group over there.”
And rising to his feet, he gave his opponent half an hour to study it out.
Iday held in her hands the strip of cardboard on which was written forty-eight questions, while Albino held the book which contained the answers.
“That’s a lie! It’s not so! It lies!” cried Sinang, half in tears.
“What is the matter with you?” asked Maria Clara.
“Just imagine it: I asked the question ‘When will I have some sense?’ I threw the dice and he, this all-night-watching priest (Albino, the ex-seminary student) reads from the book: ‘When the frogs grow hairs.’ What do you think of that?”
And Sinang made a face at the former religious student, who was still laughing heartily.
“Who told you to ask such a question?” said her cousin Victoria. “Any one who asks such a question deserves just such an answer.”
“You ask a question!” said they all to Ibarra. “We have agreed that the one who receives the best answer shall receive a gift from the others. We have all asked our questions already.”
“And who has received the best answer?”
“Maria Clara, Maria Clara!” replied Sinang. “We made her ask the question whether you loved her or not: ‘Is your lover faithful and constant,’ and the book replied——
But Maria Clara colored up, and, putting her hands over Sinang’s mouth, did not allow her to finish what she had to say.
“Then, let me try it,” said Crisostomo, smiling.
He asked the question: “Will I succeed in my present undertaking?”
“You are going to get a bad answer,” exclaimed Sinang.
Ibarra threw the dice, and noting the number, they looked for the page in the little book with the corresponding answer.
“Dreams are only dreams,” read Albino.
Ibarra took out his pocket-book and opened it trembling.
“This time your book has lied,” he said, full of joy. “Read this!”
“Plan for school house approved; other matter decided in your favor.”
“What does that mean?” they all asked.
“Did you not tell me that the one who received the best answer was to get a present?” the young man asked, his voice trembling with emotion while he carefully divided the paper into two parts.
“Well, then! This is my gift,” he said handing half of the telegram to Maria Clara. “I am going to have a school house for boys and girls erected in the town. This school house will be my gift.”
“And this other piece: what does that mean?”
“I will give that to the one who has obtained the worst answer.”
“Then that is for me!” exclaimed Sinang.
Ibarra gave her the piece of paper and quickly went off.
“And what does this mean?”
But the happy young man was already far away from the little group and he did not reply. He had gone to finish the game of chess.
After making the present to his betrothed, Ibarra was so happy that he began to play without stopping to think or even examining carefully the position of the chess. As a result, although Captain Basilio had defended himself only by the greatest effort, the young man made so many mistakes that the game resulted in a draw.
“We end the suit, we end the suit!” said Captain Basilio, happy over his success.
“Yes, we declare it off,” repeated the young man, “whatever decision the judges may have been able to reach.”
Each grasped the hand of the other and shook it with effusion.
In the meantime, while those present were celebrating the ending of the law-suit, of which both had long been tired, four Civil Guards and a sergeant suddenly arrived on the scene. They were all armed and had their bayonets fixed, a fact which naturally disturbed the merriment and brought fright into the circle of women.
“Let everybody be quiet!” cried the sergeant. “Whoever moves will be shot!”
In spite of this gruff boast, Ibarra rose to his feet and approached the sergeant.
“What do you wish?” he asked.
“That you give up at once the criminal named Elias who acted as pilot for your party this morning,” he replied, in a threatening tone.
“A criminal? The pilot? You must be mistaken!” replied Ibarra.
“No, sir; that Elias is now accused of another crime, of having laid his hands on a priest——”
“Ah! And is the pilot the one?”
“He is the same one, so we are told. You are allowing people of bad reputation to attend your festivals, Señor Ibarra.”
Ibarra looked at him from head to foot and replied with supreme contempt: “I don’t have to account to you for my actions. At our festivals everybody is well received, and you yourself, if you had come, would have been given a seat at the table, the same as the alferez who was here among us two hours ago.”
Saying this, Ibarra turned his back to him. The sergeant bit his mustache and ordered his men to search everywhere among the trees for the pilot, whose description he had on a piece of paper.
Don Filipo said to him: “Take note that this description corresponds to that of nine-tenths of the natives. Take care that you do not make a mistake!
At last the soldiers returned, saying that they had not been able to discover either a banca, or a man that aroused their suspicion. The sergeant murmured a few indistinct words and then marched off.
Soon the people became jolly again, but questions, wonder and comments were without end.
So the afternoon passed and the hour for departure arrived. Just as the sun was dropping below the horizon they left the woods. The trees seemed sad and all the surroundings seemed to bid them farewell and say: “Good-bye, happy youth; good-bye, dream of a day.”
And a little later, by the light of glowing torches of bamboo and with the music of guitars, we leave them on the road toward the town.
In the House of Tasio.
On the morning of the following day, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, after visiting his estates, went to the house of Tasio, the philosopher, his father’s friend.
Quiet reigned in the old man’s garden. The swallows were flying about the gables of the house, but they were making scarcely a sound. The windows were covered with vines which clung to the old, moss-covered wall and made the house appear all the more solitary and quiet. Ibarra tied his horse to a post and, walking almost on tip-toes, crossed the clean and well-cultivated garden. He went up the stairs and, as the door was open, walked in. An old man leaned over a book in which he seemed to be writing. On the walls of the room were collections of insects and leaves, maps, and some shelves of books and manuscripts
Tasio was so absorbed in his work that he did not notice the arrival of the youth. The latter, not wishing to disturb the philosopher, tried to retire from the place, but the old man, looking up, said: “What? Are you here?” and showed no little surprise in his look.
“Excuse me,” replied Ibarra, “I see that you are very busy.”
“As a matter of fact I was writing a little, but it is not urgent, and I want to rest myself. Can I be useful to you in any way?”
Ibarra drew some papers from his pocket-book and replied: “My father was wont to consult you in many things, and I remember that he never had to do other than congratulate himself when he followed your advice. I have on my hands a small undertaking and I want to be assured of success.”
Ibarra then related to him briefly his plan for the erection of a school house in honor of his betrothed. He showed the stupefied philosopher the plans which had been returned from Manila.
“I wish that you would advise me as to what persons I ought first to have on my side in order to make the undertaking most successful. You are well acquainted with the inhabitants of the town. I have just arrived here and am almost a stranger in my country.
The old man examined the plans which were laid out before him. His eyes were full of tears.
“That which you are going to carry out was a dream of mine, the dream of a poor fool,” he exclaimed, greatly moved. “And now, my first advice to you is that you never come to consult me in regard to the matter.”
The young man looked at him in surprise.
“Because sensible people,” he continued, in an ironical tone, “will take you for a fool, like myself. People always consider every one a fool who does not think just as they do and, for this reason, they call me crazy. But I am obliged to them for that, for woe be to me when the time arrives that they say I have sense! That day, should it ever come, would deprive me of the little liberty which I have purchased by sacrificing my reputation for being sane.”
And the old man shook his head, as if to drive away a thought and continued: “My second advice to you is that you consult the curate, the gobernadorcillo, and all the people of good standing. They will all give you bad, foolish and useless advice, but to consult does not mean to obey. Try to appear to be following their advice as far as possible and make them think you are working according to their wishes.”
Ibarra sat thinking for a moment and then replied: “The advice is good but difficult to follow. Could I not carry out my work without a shadow reflecting upon it? Could I not carry out the good work in spite of all? Does truth need to be clothed in the garments of falsehood?”
“That’s it. Nobody likes the bare truth.”
“I hope to be able to realize all my hopes without encountering great resistance,” said Ibarra.
“Yes, if the priests lend you their hand; no, if they draw it away. All your efforts will be battered to pieces against the walls of the curate’s house. The alcalde will deny to you to-morrow what he has granted you to-day. Not a mother will let her son attend the school, and then all your efforts will have just an opposite effect to that intended. You will discourage all others who might wish to attempt beneficent undertakings.”
“Nevertheless,” replied Ibarra, “I cannot believe in this power of which you speak. And even supposing it to be true, admitting that it is as you say, would I not still have on my side the sensible people and the Government?”
“The Government! The Government!” exclaimed the philosopher, raising his eyes and looking at the ceiling. “However much the Government may desire to uplift the country for its own benefit and that of the mother country; however generous may be the Catholic Kings in spirit, I must remind you in confidence that there is another power which does not allow the Government to see, hear, or judge except what the curates or provincial priests wish. The Government is afraid of the advancement of the people, and the people are afraid of the forces of the Government. So long as the Government does not understand the people of the country, the country will never get out from this guardianship. The people will live like weak, young children who tremble at the sound of the voice of their tutor, whose mercy they beg. The Government has no dreams of a great future, a healthy development of the country. The people do not complain, because they have no voice. They do not move, because they are too carefully watched. You say that they do not suffer, because you have not seen what would make your heart bleed. But some day you will see it! alas! some day you will hear it. When the light of day is thrown on their monstrous forms, you will see a frightful reaction. That great force, held back for centuries, that poison, distilled drop by drop, those sighs, so long repressed—all will come to light and will some day burst forth.... Who will then pay the accounts which the people will present and which History preserves for us on its bloody pages?”
“God, the Government, and the Church will never allow that day to come!” replied Crisostomo, impressed in spite of himself. “The Filipinos are religious and they love Spain. The Filipinos will always know how much this nation has done for them. There are abuses; yes! There are defects; I do not deny it. But Spain is working to introduce reforms which will correct them; she is devising plans; she is not selfish. Can it be that my love for my native land is incompatible with love for Spain? Is it necessary to lower one’s self to be a good Christian, to prostitute one’s own conscience to bring about good? I love my fatherland, the Philippines, because I owe to her my life and my happiness—because every man should love his native land. I love Spain, the fatherland of my ancestors, because, in spite of all that may be said, the Philippines owe to Spain, and always will owe to her, their happiness and their future. I am a Catholic. I hold dear the belief of my fathers, and I do not see why I have to bow my head when I am able to raise it; nor why I have to entrust it to my enemies, when I can trample on them.”
“Because the field in which you are sowing your seed is in the hands of your enemies, and you are weak in comparison to them.... It is necessary that you first kiss the hand——”
But the young man did not allow him to go farther and exclaimed violently: “To kiss their hands! You forget that, between them, they killed my father; they threw his body out of its sepulchre: but I, I who am his son, I do not forget it, and, if I do not avenge myself, it is because I consider the prestige of the Church.”
The old philosopher bowed his head. “Señor Ibarra,” he replied slowly, “if you keep those memories—memories which I cannot advise you to forget—if you keep those memories, give up your plans and your undertaking and try to work good for your countrymen in another way. The undertaking needs another man than you for its execution, because to carry it out will not only require money and care, but, in our country, self-denial, tenacity and faith are also needed. The land is not ready for it; it has been sown only with darnel.”
Ibarra understood the weight of these words, but he was not going to be discouraged. Thoughts of Maria Clara filled his mind; he must fulfill his promise to her.
“Does not your experience suggest something other than this hard method?” he asked in a low voice.
The old man took him by the arm and led him to the window. A cool breeze was blowing from the north. Before his eyes lay the garden, stretching out to the large forest which served as a park.
“Why do we not have to do the same as that weak young bush loaded with roses and buds?” said the philosopher pointing to a beautiful rose bush. “The wind blows, shakes it and it bends itself down as if trying to hide its precious load. If the bush kept itself erect, it would be broken off, the wind would scatter its flowers and the buds would be blighted. The wind passes over, and the bush straightens itself up again, proud of its treasure. Thus it would be with you, a plant transplanted from Europe to this stony ground, if you did not look about for some support and belittle yourself. Alone and lofty, you are in bad condition.”
“And would this sacrifice bring the fruits that I hope for?” asked Ibarra. “Would the priest have faith in me and would he forget the offense? Would his kind not be able to feign friendship, to make a false show of protecting me, and then, from behind in the darkness, fight me, harass me and wound my heels, thus making me waver more quickly than they could by attacking me face to face? Given these premises, what do you think could be expected?”
The old man remained silent for some time, not being able to reply. At last he said: “If such a thing took place, if the undertaking failed, I would console you with the thought that you had done all that was in your power. And even so, something would be gained. Lay the first stone, sow the first seed and after the tempest has passed over, some little grain perhaps would germinate.”
“I believe you,” exclaimed Ibarra, stretching out his hand. “Not in vain did I look for good advice. This very day I shall go and make friends with the curate.”
Taking leave of the old man, he mounted on his horse and rode away.
“Attention!” murmured the pessimistic philosopher to himself, as he followed the young man with his eyes. “Let us observe carefully how Destiny will unfold the tragedy which began in the cemetery.
But this time the philosopher was truly mistaken. The tragedy had begun long before.
The Eve of the Fiesta.
It is the tenth of November, the eve of the fiesta to be celebrated in the town of San Diego. Departing from its habitual monotony, the town is displaying extraordinary activity in the church, houses, streets, cock-pit, and the fields. Windows are draped with flags and many-colored decorations. Music and the sound of exploding fireworks fill the air. Everywhere there is rejoicing.
In the streets at fixed intervals, beautiful arches of bamboo are raised, the wood carved and worked in a thousand different ways. The arches are surrounded with ornaments, the very sight of which brings joy to the heart of the small boy. In the church yard, a large and costly awning has been erected. It is propped up by bamboo poles and so arranged that the procession may pass under it. Under its shade the children play, run, jump, fall and otherwise manage to tear and soil their new shirts, which have been intended for the day of the festival.
In the public square a platform has been built of bamboo, nipa and boards, to serve as the stage. It is here that the comedy company from Tondo will tell wonderful tales, and will compete with the gods in the performance of miracles. Here Marianito, Chananay, Balbino, Ratia, Carvajal, Yeyeng, Liceria and the others will sing and dance. The Filipino loves the theatre, and always attends dramatic productions with a great deal of pleasure. The gobernadorcillo was very fond of the theatre, and, with the advice of the curate, he had selected for the fiesta the fantastic comedy: “Prince Villardo, or the Nails Pulled Out of the Infamous Cave,” a play full of magic and fireworks.
From time to time the bells ring out their merry sounds. Firecrackers and the booming of little cannon rend the air. The Filipino pyrotechnist, who has learned his art without a teacher of any renown, displays his skill, setting up pieces representing towers, castles, and the like. Already the small boys are running at break-neck speed toward the outskirts of the town to meet the bands of music. Five organizations have been hired, besides three orchestras.
A band enters the town playing lively marches, and is followed by a lot of ragged and half naked pickaninnies: this one, perhaps, has on his brother’s shirt; that one, his father’s trousers. As soon as the music stops, these little tots know by memory the piece that has been played; they whistle and hum it with great delight, showing at this early age their musical talent.
In the meantime wagons and carriages arrive, bringing relatives, friends, and strangers. Gamblers are also on hand with their best fighting cocks and bags of money, ready to risk their fortunes on the green cloth or in the cock-pit.
“The alferez gets fifty dollars a night,” murmured a little, chubby man when he heard of the recent arrivals, for there were already many rumors that these people bribed the officer so that they might not be interfered with by the law. “Captain Tiago,” he added, “is going to come and will be banker in the monte game. Captain Joaquin brings eighteen thousand. There is going to be a liam-po,1 and the Chino Carlos is going to back it with ten thousand pesos capital. Big bettors will come from Tanauan, Lipa, and Batangas, as well as from Santa Cruz. It’s going to be great! It’s going to be great! This year Captain Tiago will not skin us as he has in the past, for he has not paid for more than three masses this year, and besides, I have a mutya2 of cacao. And how are all the family?”
“Very well, very well, thank you!” replied the visitors from the country.
But the place where the greatest animation reigns, where there is almost a tumult, is over there on the level piece of ground, a short distance from Ibarra’s house. Pulleys creak, and the place resounds with the sound of the hammer, the chiseling of stones, hewing of beams and the shouting of voices. A gang of workmen is making an excavation which will be wide and deep; others are busy piling up quarry stone, unloading carts, sifting sand, putting a capstan in place and so on.
“Put that here! That, there! Come, be lively about it!” shouts a little, old man with an animated and intelligent physiognomy as he goes about, a yard stick and plumb line in hand. He is the director of the work, Ñor Juan, architect, mason, carpenter, whitewasher, locksmith, painter, stone cutter, and, on occasion, sculptor.
“We must finish it immediately! To-morrow nothing can be done, and day after to-morrow the ceremony of laying the corner stone is to take place! Come, be lively!”
“Make the hole just large enough for this cylinder!” said he to one of the stone cutters who was chiseling off a large quadrangular stone. “Inside of this our names will be kept.”
Then he would repeat to every countryman who came along what he had already said a thousand times: “Do you know what we are going to build? Well, it is a school house, a model of its kind, something like those in Germany, but still better. The architect, Señor R., draughted the plans and I, I am in charge of the work. Yes, sir, you see this is going to be a regular palace with two wings, one for the boys and one for the girls. Here in the middle is to be a large garden with three fountains. There, on the sides, groves, where the children can sow and cultivate plants during the hours of recreation, thus improving the time. Just see how deep the foundations are to be: three meters and seventy-five centimeters. The building is going to have a cellar where the indolent pupils will be confined. This will be very close to the playing ground and the gymnasium, so that those who are punished may hear the diligent pupils enjoying themselves. Do you see this large space? Well, this will be a place for them to run and jump. The girls will have a separate garden with benches, swings, a special place for jumping the rope and rolling hoops, fountains and a bird-house. This is going to be magnificent!” 
He kept going from one end to the other, inspecting everything and passing his opinion on all.
“I find that you have got too much lumber here for a crane,” said he to a yellowish-looking fellow, who was directing some other laborers. “I would have enough, with three large beams, to form the tripod and with three others to serve as supporters.”
“O, pshaw!” replied the other, smiling in a peculiar way. “The more apparatus we give ourselves, the greater effect we will produce. The massiveness of it will make a bigger show and give it more importance. They will say: ‘What a lot of work has been done!’ You look at that crane that I am constructing. In a little while, I am going to ornament it with banderolas, garlands of flowers and leaves, and ... you will say afterward that you were right in hiring me, and Señor Ibarra cannot wish for more than that!”
The man laughed. Ñor Juan also smiled and shook his head.
As a matter of fact, the plan for the school had been approved by everybody and all were talking about it. The curate had asked to be allowed to be one of the patrons of the enterprise and he himself was to bless the laying of the corner stone, a ceremony which would take place on the last day of the San Diego festival, as it was considered one of the great solemnities.
The dismal presentiments of the old Tasio seemed to have been dissipated forever. One day Ibarra told the old man so, but the old pessimist only replied: “Things may go well at first, but be on your guard against masked enemies.” 
1 A Chinese gambling game.
2 A little white, pearl-like substance sometimes found in the cacao tree, which is supposed to be a lucky omen.
As Night Comes On.
Great preparations had also been made in the house of Captain Tiago. We are already acquainted with the man. His love for pomp and his pride in being a resident of Manila made it necessary that he should outdo the residents of the province in the splendor of his celebration. There was another thing, too, which made it necessary that he should try to eclipse all others—the fact that his daughter Maria Clara and his future son-in-law were also there. His prospective connection with Ibarra caused the Captain to be often spoken of among the people.
Yes, as a matter of fact, one of the most serious newspapers in Manila had printed an article on its first page, headed “Imitate Him!” in which they offered Ibarra much advice and highly eulogized him. The article spoke of him as “the illustrious and rich young capitalist.” Two lines below, he was termed “the distinguished philanthropist,” and, in the following paragraph, referred to as the “disciple of Minerva who went to his Mother Country to salute the real birthplace of arts and sciences.” Captain Tiago was burning with generous emulation and was wondering whether he ought not to erect a convent at his own expense.
Days before the week of festivities, numerous boxes of provisions and drinks, colossal mirrors, pictures, paintings and his daughter’s piano had arrived at the house. Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel were already living there. Captain Tiago came on the day before the beginning of the festival. As he kissed his daughter’s hand, he made her a present of a beautiful religious relic. It was solid gold, and set with diamonds and emeralds, and contained a little sliver from Saint Peter’s boat, in which Our Saviour sat while fishing. 
The Captain’s interview with his future son-in-law could not have been more cordial. Naturally, the school house was the subject of conversation. Captain Tiago wanted him to call the school “The San Francisco School.”
“Believe me!” he said. “San Francisco is a good patron saint. If you call it ‘The Primary School,’ you gain nothing. Who is Primary, anyway?”
Some friends of Maria Clara arrived and invited her to go for a walk.
“But return quickly,” said the Captain to his daughter, who asked for his permission. “You know that Father Dámaso is going to dine with us to-night. He has just arrived.”
And turning to Ibarra who was deep in thought, he added: “You will dine with us, too? You will be all alone at home.”
“With the greatest pleasure, I assure you, if I did not have to be at home to-night to receive visitors,” replied the young man, mumbling his words and evading Maria Clara’s glance.
“Bring your friends along with you,” replied Captain Tiago cheerfully. “In my house there is always enough to eat. And, besides I would like to have you and Father Dámaso understand each other.”
“There’ll be time enough for that,” replied Ibarra, putting on a forced smile and making ready to accompany the young ladies.
They went downstairs. Maria Clara was walking between Victoria and Iday, while Aunt Isabel followed behind.
As they passed down the street, people stood aside respectfully and gave them the inside of the way. Maria Clara was surprisingly beautiful now. Her paleness had disappeared, and although her eyes were thoughtful, her mouth, on the contrary, seemed all smiles. With that amiability known only to a happy maiden, she saluted friends she had known from childhood who to-day were admirers of her youthful beauty. In less than fifteen days she had regained that frank confidence, that childish chatter, which seemed for awhile to have been left behind in the narrow walls of the convent. It seemed as though the butterfly upon leaving its shell knew all the flowers at once. It was enough that she be given a moment of flight and an opportunity to warm herself in the golden rays of the sun, in order to throw off the rigidity of the chrysalis. New life shone out in every part of her young being. Everything she met with was good and beautiful. Her love was manifested with virginal grace, and innocent in thought, she saw nothing to cause her to put on false blushes. However, she was wont to cover her face with her fan when they joked with her, but her eyes would smile and a gentle tremor would pass over her whole being.
In front of Captain Basilio’s house were some young men who saluted our acquaintances and invited them into the house. The merry voice of Sinang was heard, as she descended the stairs on a run and at once put an end to all excuses.
“Come up a moment so that I can go out with you,” said she. “It bores me to be among so many strangers who talk about nothing but fighting-cocks and playing cards.”
They went upstairs. The house was full of people. Some advanced to greet Ibarra, whose name was known to all. They contemplated with ecstacy Maria Clara’s beauty, and some of the matrons murmured as they chewed their betel-nut: “She looks like the Virgin!”
After they had partaken of chocolate they resumed their walk. In the corner of the plaza a beggar was singing the romance of the fishes, to the accompaniment of a guitar. He was a common sight, a man miserably dressed and wearing a wide-brimmed hat made out of palm leaves. His clothing consisted of a frock coat covered with patches, and a pair of wide trousers such as the Chinese wear, but torn in many places. From beneath the brim of his hat two fiery orbs flashed out a ray of light. He was tall and from his manner seemed to be young. He put a basket down on the ground and, afterwards walking away from it a little distance, he uttered strange, unintelligible sounds. He remained standing, completely isolated, as if he and the people in the street were trying to avoid each other. Women approached his basket, and dropped into it fish, fruit and rice. When there was no one else to approach the basket, other sadder but less mournful sounds could be heard; perhaps he was thanking them. He picked up his basket and walked away to do the same in another place.
Maria Clara felt that this was a pitiful case. Full of interest, she asked about the strange being.
“It is a leper,” replied Iday. “He contracted the disease some four years ago; some say by taking care of his mother, others by having been confined in a damp prison. He lives there in the field near the Chinese cemetery. He does not communicate with any one: everybody flees from him on account of the fear of contagion. You should see his fantastic little house! The wind, the rain and the sunshine go in and out of it as a needle goes through cloth. They have prohibited him from touching anything belonging to anybody. One day a little child fell into the canal. The canal was deep, but this man happened to be passing near and helped to get the little child out. The child’s father learned of it, made a complaint to the gobernadorcillo and the latter ordered that he be given six stripes in the middle of the street, the whip to be afterwards burned. That was atrocious! The leper ran away howling; they pursued him and the gobernadorcillo cried out: ‘Catch him! One might better be drowned than have that disease!’”
“That is true,” murmured Maria Clara. And then, without noticing what she was doing, she went up to the basket of the unfortunate wretch and dropped into it the relic which her father had just presented to her.
“What have you done?” her friends asked her.
“I have nothing else to give him,” she replied, concealing the tears in her eyes by a smile.
“And what is he going to do with the relic?” said Victoria to her. “One day they gave him money but he pushed it away from him with his cane. Why would he care for it, if no one would accept anything coming from him? If he could only eat the relic!”
Maria Clara looked longingly at the women who were selling provisions and shrugged her shoulders. 
But the leper approached the basket, picked up the piece of jewelry which shone in his hands, knelt down, kissed it, and, after taking off his hat, buried his face in the dust on which the young girl had walked.
Maria Clara hid her face behind her fan and raised her handkerchief to her eyes. 
The Hoisting Crane.
While two of the actors were singing the Incarnatus est in the church at the celebration of mass on the last day of the fiesta, and all were kneeling and the priests were bowing their heads, a man whispered in Ibarra’s ear: “During the ceremony of the blessing of the corner stone, do not go near the priest, do not go in the ditch, do not approach the corner stone. Your life will depend on it.”
Ibarra looked and saw that it was Elias, the pilot, but, as soon as he had spoken, he lost himself in the crowd.
The yellow-skinned man kept his word. It was not a simple lifting crane which he had built over the ditch for the purpose of lowering the enormous block of granite. It was not the mere tripod which Ñor Juan had wanted for holding a tackle-block. It was something more. It was at the same time a machine and an ornament, grand and imposing.
The confusing and complicated scaffolding had been raised to a height of more than eight meters. Four heavy timbers buried in the ground and supporting each other with colossal, diagonal braces, served as the base. The braces were joined to each other by immense nails, about half driven into the wood, perhaps because the apparatus was only of a provisional nature, and it could then be more easily taken down. Enormous cables were hanging from all sides, giving the entire apparatus an aspect of solidity and grandeur. The top was gay with flags and banners of various colors, floating pennants, and massive garlands of flowers and leaves, all artistically interwoven.
On high, in the shade of the projecting timbers, banners and wreaths, a large three-wheeled tackle-block was suspended by ropes and iron hooks. Over the shining rims of these pulleys great cables passed, holding suspended in the air a massive stone. The center of this stone had been chiseled out so that when lowered upon the hollowed stone, which had already been placed in the ditch, a small enclosure would be formed between the two. This space was to contain an account of the ceremonies, newspapers, manuscripts and coins, to be transmitted, perhaps, to other generations, in the far distant future. From this tackle-block at the top of the structure, the cable passed down to another smaller pulley which was fastened at the base of the apparatus. Through this pulley, the cable passed to the cylinder of a windlass which was held to the ground by massive beams. This windlass which can be operated by only two hands, multiplies man’s strength by means of a series of cog-wheels. Although there is a gain in force, there is of course a loss in velocity.
“Look!” said the yellow-skinned man, as he gave the crank a turn. “Look, Ñor Juan, with my strength alone, I can raise and lower that massive block of stone. This is so nicely arranged that I can control the ascent or descent of the stone by inches. Thus one man below can arrange the two stones in place, while I manipulate the apparatus from here.”
Ñor Juan could but admire the man as he smiled in such a peculiar manner. The curious people standing about made comments and praised the yellow-skinned man for his work.
“Who taught you the mechanism?” asked Ñor Juan.
“My father, my father who is now dead,” he replied, with that same peculiar smile.
“And who taught your father?”
“Don Saturnino, the grandfather of Don Crisostomo.”
“I did not know that Don Saturnino——”
“Oh, he knew a good many things. Not only did he know how to whip well and how to expose his workmen to the rays of the sun, but he knew also how to awaken the sleeping and how to make those awake sleep. In time, you will see what my father has taught me, you will see!”
And the yellow fellow smiled in a strange manner.
At two eating stands, there was now being prepared a sumptuous and abundant breakfast. However, on the table designated for the little ones of the school, there was no wine, but instead a larger amount of fruit. In a covered passage which joined the two stands, there were seats for the musicians and a table covered with sweetmeats, candies and flasks of water, ornamented with leaves and flowers, for the thirsty public.
The crowd, resplendent in gay-colored clothes, was already fleeing from the hot rays of the sun and gathering under the shade of the trees or of the covering. The small boys climbed the trees near the place, in order to get a better view of the ceremony, and looked with envy upon the school children, who, clean and well dressed, were occupying a place designated for them. The fathers of the school children were enthusiastic. They, poor countrymen that they were, would have the pleasure of seeing their children eat on a white table cloth, just like the curate and the Alcalde. Merely to think of it was enough to drive away their hunger.
Soon strains of music were heard in the distance. A promiscuous crowd of persons of all ages and dress was preceding the band. The yellow-looking man was uneasy and was examining the whole apparatus. A curious countryman was also following his glances and was observing every movement he made. This countryman was Elias, who had also come to attend the ceremony. His hat and his style of dress almost concealed his identity. He had secured the best possible place for himself, right up close to the crane, on the edge of the excavation.
With the band of music came the Alcalde, the officials of the town, the friars, with the exception of Father Dámaso, and the Spanish employees of the Government. Ibarra was conversing with the Alcalde, for they had become quite friendly from the time the young man paid him some high compliments on his insignia, decorations and cordon. Pride in belonging to an aristocratic family was a weakness of His Excellency. Captain Tiago, the alferez and several wealthy persons, with their shining silk hats, walked along, surrounded by a group of youngsters. Father Salví followed, the same as ever, silent and pensive.
The young man could feel his heart beat as they approached the designated place. Instinctively, he glanced at the strange-looking scaffolding which had been raised there. He saw, too, the yellow-looking man who saluted him with respect, and, for a moment, Ibarra fixed his eyes on him. To his surprise, Ibarra also discovered Elias on the edge of the excavation. He gave the young pilot a significant look, letting him understand that he remembered what he had said in the church.
The curate put on his sacerdotal vestments and began the ceremony. The one-eyed sacristan mayor held the book and a choir boy was charged with the water-sprinkler and the vessel of blessed water. The others who stood around about, their heads uncovered, maintained a deep silence. In spite of the fact that Father Salví read in a low tone, it could be noticed that his voice trembled.
In the meantime the articles, such as manuscripts, newspapers, medals and coins, which were to be placed in the corner stone had been enclosed in a little glass box, and hermetically sealed in a leaden cylinder.
“Señor Ibarra, do you wish to put the box in its place? The curate awaits it,” said the Alcalde to Ibarra.
“I would do so with much pleasure,” replied he, “but I would be usurping the honorable duty of the Señor Notary. The Notary ought to attest the act.”
The Notary took it seriously, descended the carpeted stairs to the bottom of the excavation and, with fitting solemnity, deposited the box in the hollow which had been made in the stone. The curate then took up the sprinkler and sprinkled the stones with holy water.
The time had now come for each one to put his trowelful of mortar on the surface of the stone, which lay in the ditch, so that the other stone might fit upon it and be made to adhere to it.
Ibarra presented the Alcalde with a trowel, upon whose wide silver blade was engraved the date. But His Excellency first delivered an address in Spanish.
“Citizens of San Diego,” he said in a solemn tone. “I have the honor to preside at a ceremony the importance of which you already understand. A school is being founded. The school is the base of society. The school is the book in which is written the future of the people. Show me the schools of a people and I will tell you what those people are.
“Citizens of San Diego! Thank God that he has given you virtuous priests; and the Mother Country that she untiringly diffuses her civilization over these fertile islands, protected by her glorious flag. Thank God that she has had pity for you, bringing you these humble priests that they may enlighten you and teach you the divine word. Thank the Government for the great sacrifices it has made, makes now and will make in the future for you and your sons.
“And now that the first stone of this great edifice has been blessed, I, Alcalde Mayor of this province, in the name of His Majesty, the King, whom God guard, King of the Spains, in the name of the illustrious Spanish Government, and under its spotless and ever victorious banner, I consecrate this act and begin the building of this school.
“Citizens of San Diego! Long live the King! Long live Spain! Long live the Church! Long live the priests! Long live the Catholic religion!”
“Viva! Viva!” replied the others. “Long live the Alcalde!”
The Alcalde majestically descended to the accompaniment of the music which had begun to play. He placed some trowels of mortar on the stone and with equal majesty ascended the stairs.
The Government employees applauded.
Ibarra offered another silver trowel to the curate, who, after fixing his eyes on him for a moment, descended slowly to the bottom of the excavation. When about half way down the stairs, he raised his eyes to look at the stone which hung suspended in the air by the powerful cables, but he only looked at it for a second and then descended. He did the same as the Alcalde had done, but this time more applause was heard, for the Government employees were assisted by the other friars and Captain Tiago.
Father Salví seemed to be searching for some one to whom to hand the trowel. He looked with hesitation toward Maria Clara, but, changing his mind, he offered it to the Notary. The latter, for the sake of gallantry, approached Maria Clara, who declined it with a smile. The friars, the Government employees and the alferez, one after another went down and repeated the ceremony. Captain Tiago was not forgotten.
Ibarra had been omitted. He was about to order the yellow man to lower the other stone, when the curate remembered him. In a pleasant tone and, with an affectation of familiarity, he said to him. “Aren’t you going to put on your trowelful, Señor Ibarra?”
“I would be like the fellow who made the stew and then ate it,” replied the young man in the same tone.
“O, go on!” said the Alcalde, giving him a gentle push. “If you don’t, I will order them not to lower the stone and then we will have to wait here till Judgment Day.”
So terrible a threat forced Ibarra to obey. He exchanged the small silver trowel for a larger iron one, which made some of the people smile. He advanced quietly and descended the stairs. Elias looked at him with an indescribable expression. If you had seen him, you would have thought that all his life was concentrated in his eyes. The yellow man looked down into the abyss opening at his feet.
Ibarra, after glancing at the stone which hung over his head, and then at Elias and the yellow man, said to Ñor Juan in a trembling voice: “Give me the bucket of mortar and find another trowel for me above.”
The young man stood alone. Elias was no longer looking at him; his eyes instead were riveted on the yellow man’s hand, while the latter leaned over the ditch and followed with anxiety the movements of Ibarra.
The noise of the trowel removing a mass of sand and lime was heard, accompanied by the low murmur of the employees who were congratulating the Alcalde on his address.
Suddenly there was a frightful creaking. The pulley which was tied to the base of the crane jumped and then the windlass struck the apparatus like a battering-ram. The timbers swayed, ropes flew into the air and, in a second, all came down with a terrible crash. A cloud of dust was raised, and a thousand cries filled the air. Nearly all fled; a few hurried to the ditch. Only Maria Clara and Father Salví remained in their places without moving, both pale and silent.
When the cloud of dust had partially cleared away, Ibarra could be seen standing among a mass of beams, bamboos, and cables, between the windlass and the massive stone, which in its descent had shaken and crushed everything. The young man was still holding the trowel in his hand, his eyes staring with fright at the dead body of a man which was lying at his feet, half buried under the timbers.
“Are you hurt?—Are you still alive? For God’s sake speak!” said some of the employees, full of terror.
“Miracle! a miracle!” cried some.
“Come and remove the body of this unfortunate man,” said Ibarra, as if awakening from a dream.
On hearing his voice, Maria Clara felt her strength giving way and she fell, half fainting, into the arms of her friends.
Great confusion reigned. Everybody was talking, gesticulating, and running from one side to the other, up and down the stairs, all stupefied and full of consternation.
“Who is the dead man? Is he still alive?” asked the alferez.
The body was identified as the yellow workman who had been standing beside the windlass.
“Let proceedings be brought against the superintendent of the work,” was the first thing that the Alcalde said.
They examined the body, felt of the heart, but it was no longer beating. The blow had fallen on the head and blood was oozing from the nose, ears and mouth. Some strange marks were seen on the man’s neck. There were four deep dents on one side and a single but deeper one on the other. It looked as though an iron hand had grasped it like a pair of pinchers.
The priests warmly congratulated the young man and shook his hand.
“When I think that only a few moments ago I was standing there,” said one of the employees. “Say! If I had been the last! Jesús!” 
“It makes my hair stand on end,” said another, who was bald.
Ibarra had departed, to ascertain the condition of Maria Clara.
“Let this not prevent the festival from continuing,” said the Alcalde. “God be praised! The dead man is neither a priest nor a Spaniard! Your escape must be celebrated! Just think—if the stone had fallen on you!”
“There is such a thing as a presentiment!” said the Notary. “I said so. Señor Ibarra was reluctant to descend. I saw it!”
“Let the festival go on! Give us some music! Weeping will not bring the dead man to life. Captain, serve warrants right here! Let the clerk of the tribunal come. Arrest the superintendent of the work!”
“Put him in the stocks!”
“Put him in the stocks! Eh? Some music, music! Put the maestrillo in the stocks.”
“Señor Alcalde,” replied Ibarra gravely, “if weeping cannot bring the dead man back to life, neither can anything be gained by putting a man in prison when we do not know that he is culpable. I will give bail for him and ask that he be given liberty for some days at least.”
“Well, well! But such a misfortune must not be repeated!”
All kinds of comments were circulating among the people. The theory that it was a miracle was already accepted. Father Salví, however, seemed to rejoice very little over the miracle, which the people attributed to a saint of his order and of his parish.
There were some who claimed to have seen, as the crane was falling, a figure dressed in black like the Franciscans, go down in the ditch. It was without doubt San Diego himself. It was supposed, too, that Ibarra had heard mass and that the yellow man had not. It was all as clear as the light of the sun.
Ibarra went home to change his clothes.
“Hm! Bad beginning,” said Old Tasio as he left the place.
Ibarra had just finished dressing when a servant announced that a countryman was asking for him. Supposing that it was one of his laborers, the young man ordered that they show him into his study, which also served as a library and a chemical laboratory. But, to his great surprise, he met the muscular figure of the mysterious Elias.
“You recently saved my life,” said he in Tagalog, at once comprehending Ibarra’s movement. “I have paid you only half of the debt, and you are not indebted to me; rather the contrary. I have come to ask a favor of you....”
“Speak out!” replied the young man, in the same language and somewhat surprised at the gravity of the peasant.
For some seconds, Elias looked fixedly into Ibarra’s eyes and then replied: “If human justice should ever wish to clear up this mystery, I beg of you not to speak to any one about the warning that I gave you in the church.”
“Don’t be troubled about that,” replied the young man with a certain note of displeasure in his voice. “I know that they are hunting you, but I am no informer.”
“Oh, it is not for my sake, it is not for me!” exclaimed Elias, not without some pride. “It is for your sake. I have nothing to fear from men.”
Ibarra’s surprise increased. The tone in which the countryman was speaking was new to him and did not seem to be in accord either with his state or his fortune.
“What do you mean?” asked Ibarra, interrogating the mysterious man with his look.
“I do not speak in enigmas; I try to express myself clearly. For your greater security, it is necessary that your enemies think you unsuspecting and off your guard.”
Ibarra stepped back.
“My enemies? Have I enemies?”
“All of us have, sir, all from the lowest insect to man, from the poorest to the richest and most powerful. Enmity is the law of life. You have enemies in the highest and in the lowest ranks. You are planning a great undertaking; you have a past; your father, your grandfather had enemies because they had passion. In life it is not criminals who provoke the most hatred, but rather honorable men.”
“Do you know my enemies?” 
Elias did not reply at once, but meditated.
“I knew one, the one who has died,” he replied. “Last night I discovered that something was being plotted against you, through some words that were exchanged between him and an unknown man who lost himself in the crowd. ‘The fish will not eat this one as they did his father; you will see to-morrow,’ said he. These words attracted my attention, not only on account of their meaning but because they were spoken by this man, who only a few days ago had presented himself to the superintendent of the work with the express desire that he be given charge of the work of placing the corner stone. He did not ask for a large wage, but made a great show of his knowledge. I had no sufficient reasons to attribute evil designs to him, but something told me that my suspicions were right. For this reason, in order to warn you, I chose a moment and an occasion when you could not ask me any questions. You already know the rest.”
Elias was then silent for some moments; yet Ibarra did not reply nor utter a word. He was meditating.
“I am sorry that the man is dead,” he replied at last. “We might have been able to learn something more about it from him.”
“If he had lived he would have escaped from the trembling hand of blind, human justice. God has now judged him! God has killed him! Let God be the only judge!”
Crisostomo looked a moment at the man who was speaking to him in this manner. He noticed that his muscular arms were covered with bruises and black and blue spots.
“Do you also believe in the miracle version of the affair?” he said, smiling—“this miracle of which the people speak?”
“If I believed in miracles, I would not believe in God. I would believe in a deified man. In fact, I would believe that man had created God after his image and likeness,” he replied solemnly. “But I believe in Him. More than once I have felt His hand. When all was falling headlong, threatening destruction for everything which was in the place, I Held the criminal. I put myself by his side. He was struck and I am safe and sound.”
“You? So that you...?”
“Yes! I held him when he wanted to escape, once he had begun his fatal work. I saw his crime. I say: ‘Let God be the only judge among men. Let Him be the only one who has the right to take away life. Let man never think of substituting himself for him!’”
“And, still you this time....”
“No!” interrupted Elias, foreseeing the objection that he was going to raise. “It is not the same thing. When a man as judge condemns another to death or destroys his future forever, he does it with impunity and makes use of the force of other men to carry out his sentence. Yet, after all, the sentence may be wrong and unjust. But I, in exposing the criminal to the same danger which he had prepared for others, ran the same risks. I did not kill him. I allowed the hand of God to kill him.”
“Do you not believe in chance?”
“To believe in chance is like believing in miracles. Both theories suppose that God does not know the future. What is a casualty? A happening which absolutely nobody knows beforehand. What is a miracle? A contradiction, a contortion of the laws of nature. Lack of foresight and contradiction in the All Knowing, who directs the machinery of the world, are two great imperfections.”
“Who are you?” Ibarra asked again, with a certain dread. “Have you studied?”
“I have had to believe in God a great deal because I have lost my faith in men,” replied the pilot, evading the question.
Ibarra thought that he understood this man; young and proscribed, he disregarded human justice; denied the right of man to judge his equals, he protested against power and superiority of certain classes of men over others.
“But you must admit the necessity of human justice, however imperfect it may be,” he replied. “God, although he has ministers on the earth, cannot, that is to say, cannot clearly give his judgment upon the millions of contentions which are stirred up by our passions. It is necessary, it is just, that a man should sometimes judge his fellows.”
“For good, yes; for bad, no. To correct and improve, yes; but not to destroy, for if he fails in his judgment, there is no power that can remedy the evil that has been done. But,” he added, changing his tone, “this discussion is beyond and above me, and I am keeping you from those who are now awaiting you. But do not forget what I have just said: You have enemies. Take care of yourself for the good of your country!” 
There, under the shade of the decorated pavilion, the great men of the province were banqueting. The Alcalde occupied one end of the table; Ibarra, the other. On the young man’s right sat Maria Clara, and on his left, the Notary. Captain Tiago, the alferez, the gobernadorcillo, the friars, the employees, and the few señoritas who were present were seated, not according to rank but according to their own fancy.
The banquet was very animated, but, before it was half over, a messenger with a telegram came in search of Captain Tiago. The Captain asked permission to read the message, and naturally all begged of him to do so.
The worthy Captain at first knit his eyebrows; and then raised them. His face became pale, and then brightened up. Doubling up the sheet of paper hurriedly, he arose.
“Gentlemen,” said he, confused, “His Excellency, the Governor General, is coming this afternoon to honor my house.”
And then he started on a run, taking with him the telegram and the napkin, but not his hat. All sorts of questions and exclamations were shouted after him. The announcement of the coming of the tulisanes could not have had a greater effect. “But listen! When does he come? Tell us about it! His Excellency!” But Captain Tiago was already far away.
“His Excellency is coming and will be a guest at Captain Tiago’s house!” exclaimed some one, without considering that the Captain’s daughter and future son-in-law were present.
“The choice could not have been a better one,” replied another.
The friars looked at each other. Their expressions seemed to say: “The Governor General is committing another of his errors, offending us in this way. He ought to be the guest of the convent.” But despite the fact that they thought this, they all kept silent and no one of them expressed his opinion.
“Even yesterday he was speaking to me about it,” said the Alcalde, “but, at that time, His Excellency was not decided.”
“Do you know, Your Excellency, Señor Alcalde, how long the Governor General intends to remain here?” asked the alferez, a little uneasy.
“No, not positively. His Excellency likes surprises.”
“Here come some other telegrams!”
The messages were for the Alcalde, the alferez, and the gobernadorcillo, and announced the same thing to each of them. The friars noticed that none came addressed to the curate.
“His Excellency will arrive at four o’clock this afternoon, gentlemen,” said the Alcalde solemnly. “We can finish at our leisure.”
Leonidas, in the pass of Thermopylæ, could not have said with better grace “To-night we will dine with Pluto.”
“I notice the absence of our great preacher,” said one of the government employees timidly. The speaker had an inoffensive look and before this had not opened his mouth, except to eat, during the entire morning.
All who knew the life of Crisostomo’s father twitched their eyes significantly and seemed to say by their movements: “Go on! It’s a bad beginning that you have made!” But others, more benevolently disposed, replied: “He must be somewhat fatigued.”
“What? Somewhat fatigued!” exclaimed the alferez. “Why, he must be exhausted. What did you think of the sermon this morning?”
“Superb, gigantic!” said the Notary.
“To be able to speak like Father Dámaso, a man needs lungs,” observed Father Manuel Martin.
The Augustine did not concede more than lung power.
“And such easiness of expression,” added Father Salví.
“Do you know that Señor Ibarra has the best cook in the province,” remarked the Alcalde, cutting off the conversation.
“So they say,” replied one of the Government employees, “but his fair neighbor does not wish to do honor to his table, for she scarcely takes a mouthful.”
Maria Clara blushed.
“I thank you, Senor.... You occupy yourself too much about me ... but ...” she said timidly.
“But your presence honors him sufficiently,” concluded the gallant Alcalde. Then turning to Father Salví: “Father Curate, I notice that you have been silent and pensive all day long.”
“It is my nature,” muttered the Franciscan. “I would rather listen than talk.”
“Your Reverence seeks always to gain and never to lose,” replied the alferez, in a joking manner.
But Father Salví did not take it as a joke. His eyes flashed a moment and he replied: “You know very well, Señor Alferez, that, during these days, I am not the one who gains most!”
The alferez overlooked the fling with a false laugh and pretended not to hear it.
“But, gentlemen, I do not understand how you can be talking about gains and losses,” intervened the Alcalde. “What will these amiable and discreet young women, who honor us with their presence, think of us? To my mind, the young women are like Æolian harps in the night. It is only necessary to lend an attentive ear to hear them, for their unspeakable harmonies elevate the soul to the celestial spheres of the infinite and of the ideal....”
“Your Excellency is a poet,” said the Notary gayly; and both drained their wine glasses.
“I cannot help it,” said the Alcalde, wiping his lips. “The occasion, if it does not always make the thief, makes the poet. In my youth I composed verses, and they certainly were not bad ones.”
“So Your Excellency has been unfaithful to the Muses, deserting them for Themis.”
“Psh!” What would you do? It has always been my dream to run through the whole social scale. Yesterday I was gathering flowers, and singing songs; to-day I hold the wand of Justice and serve Humanity. To-morrow....”
“To-morrow Your Excellency will throw the wand into the fire to warm yourself with it in the winter of life, and will then take a portfolio in the Ministry,” added Father Sibyla.
“Psh! Yes ... no.... To be a Minister is not precisely my ideal. The unexpected always happens, though. A little villa in the north of Spain to pass the summer in, a mansion in Madrid, and some possessions in Andalusia for the winter.... We will live remembering our dear Philippines.... Of me Voltaire will not say: ‘Nous n’avons jamais été chez ces peuples que pour nous y enrichir et pour les calomnier.’”
The Government employees thought that His Excellency intended a joke and they began to laugh to make a show of appreciating it. The friars imitated them since they did not know that Voltaire was the Volta-i-ré whom they had so often cursed and condemned to Hades. Father Sibyla, however, recognized the name and assumed a serious air, supposing that the Alcalde had uttered some heresy.
Father Dámaso was waddling down the road. He was half smiling, but in such a malignant manner, that on seeing him, Ibarra, who was in the act of speaking, lost the thread of his remarks. All were surprised to see Father Dámaso, but, excepting Ibarra, they greeted him with marks of pleasure. They had already reached the last course of the dinner, and the champagne was foaming in the glasses.
Father Dámaso showed a little nervousness in his smile when he saw Maria Clara seated on the right of Crisostomo. But, taking a chair by the side of the Alcalde, he asked in the midst of a significant silence: “Were you not talking about something, señores? Continue!”
“We were drinking a toast,” replied the Alcalde. “Señor Ibarra was mentioning those who had aided him in his philanthropic enterprise and was speaking of the architect when Your Reverence....”
“Well, I don’t understand architecture,” interrupted Father Dámaso, “but architects and the dunces who go to them make me laugh! You have an example right here. I drew the plan for a church and it has been constructed perfectly: so an English jeweler who was one day a guest at the convent told me. To draught a plan, one need have but a small degree of intelligence.”
“However,” replied the Alcalde, seeing that Ibarra was silent, “when we are dealing with certain edifices, for example a school, we need a skilled man (perito).”
“He who needs a perito is a perrito (little dog)!” exclaimed Father Dámaso, with a scoff. “One would have to be more of a brute than the natives, who erect their own houses, if he did not know how to build four walls and put a covering over them. That’s all that a school house is.”
All looked toward Ibarra. But the young man, even if he did look pale, kept on conversing with Maria Clara.
“But Your Reverence should consider....”
“Just look you,” continued the Franciscan without allowing the Alcalde to speak. “See how one of our lay brothers, the most stupid one we have, has built a good hospital, handsome and cheap. It is well built and he did not pay more than eight cuartos a day to those whom he employed even those who came from other towns. That fellow knows how to treat them. He does not do like many fools and mesticillos1 who spoil them by paying them three or four reales.”
“Does Your Reverence say that he only paid eight cuartos? Impossible!” said the Alcalde, trying to change the course of the conversation.
“Yes, Señor; and those who brag of being good Spaniards ought to imitate him. You can see very well now, since the Suez Canal was opened, corruption has come here. Before, when we had to double the Cape, there were not so many worthless people coming out here, nor did Filipinos go abroad to be corrupted and spoiled.”
“But, Father Dámaso!”
“You know very well what the native is. As quickly as he learns anything, he goes and becomes a doctor. All these ignoramuses who go to Europe....”
“But listen, Your Reverence ...” interrupted the Alcalde, becoming uneasy at such harsh words.
“They are all going to end as they merit,” he continued. “The hand of God is upon them and one must be blind not to see it. Even in this life, the fathers of such vipers receive their punishment.... They die in prison, eh?”
But he did not finish his remarks. Ibarra, his face flushing, had been following him with his eyes. On hearing the allusion to his father, he rose and, with a single bound, brought down his strong hand on the head of the priest. Stunned with the blow, the friar fell on his back.
Full of astonishment and terror, no one dared to intervene.
“Keep back!” cried the young man, with a menacing voice, and brandishing a sharp knife in his hand. In the meantime, he held the friar down with his foot on his neck. The latter was recovering consciousness. “Let no one approach who does not want to die!”
Ibarra was beside himself. His body trembled, and his threatening eyes almost burst from their sockets. Friar Dámaso struggled and raised himself, but the young man, seizing him by the collar, shook him till he fell on his knees and collapsed.
“Señor Ibarra! Señor Ibarra!” cried some.
But nobody, not even the alferez, dared to approach the glistening blade, considering the strength of the young man and the state of his mind. All were paralyzed.
“All of you people here have said nothing! Now the matter concerns me! I have avoided him. God now brings him to me. Let God judge!”
The young man was breathing hard. With iron hand he held the Franciscan down, and the latter struggled in vain to break loose.
“My heart beats tranquilly. My hand is sure.”
He looked about him and continued: “Is there among you any one who does not love his father; any one who hates his memory, any one who was born in disgrace and humiliation? See! Do you observe this silence? Priest of a peaceful God, with your mouth full of sanctity and religion, and a miserable heart, you could not have known what a father is. You should have thought of your own! Do you see? Among this crowd which you scorn, there is none such as you! You are judged!”
The people around him made a stir, believing that he was going to strike.
“Back!” he again cried in a threatening voice. “What? Do you fear that I would soil my hand with his impure blood? Have I not told you that my heart beats tranquilly? Back from us, all! Listen, priests, judges, you who think yourselves different from other men, and who claim other rights for yourselves! Listen! My father was an honorable man. Ask these people who venerate his memory. My father was a good citizen. He sacrificed himself for me and for the good of his country! His house was open. His table was ready for the stranger or the exile who came to it in his misery. He was a good Christian; he always did what was right. He never oppressed the helpless, nor brought sorrow to the miserable and wretched. To this man, he opened the door of his house. He had him sit at his table and he called him his friend. What has he done in return? He has calumniated him, persecuted him, has armed ignorance against him, violating the sanctity of his office, has thrown him out of his tomb, dishonored his memory, and persecuted him even in death’s repose. And not content with that, he now persecutes his son. I have fled from him, I have avoided his presence. You heard him this morning profane the pulpit; you saw him point me out to the popular fanaticism; I said nothing. Now he comes here in search of a quarrel. To your surprise, I suffered in silence; but he again insults the sacred memory of my father, that memory which every son holds dear.... You who are here, you priests, you judges, have you seen your father watching over you night and day and working for you? Have you seen him deprive himself of you for your good? Have you seen your father die in prison, heart broken, sighing for some one to caress him, searching for some being to console him, alone in sickness, while you were in a foreign land? Have you heard his name dishonored afterward? Have you found his tomb vacant when you wished to pray upon it? No? You are silent. Then by that silence you condemn him!” 
He raised his arm; but a young maiden, quick as a flash, put herself between them and with her delicate hands stopped the arm of the avenger. It was Maria Clara.
Ibarra looked at her with an expression that seemed to reflect madness. Gradually, he loosened the vise-like fingers of his hand, allowed the body of the Franciscan to fall, and dropped his knife upon the ground. Covering his face, he fled through the crowd. 
1 Little mestizos or half breeds. Used in contempt.
The First Cloud.
The house of Captain Tiago was no less disturbed than the imagination of the people. Maria Clara, refusing to listen to the consolation of her aunt and foster sister, did nothing but weep. Her father had forbidden her to speak to Ibarra until the priests should absolve him from the excommunication which they had pronounced upon him.
Captain Tiago, though very busy preparing his house for the reception of the Governor General, had been summoned to the convent.
“Don’t cry, my girl,” said Aunt Isabel as she dusted off the mirrors. “They will certainly annul the excommunication; they will write the Pope.... We will make a large donation.... Father Dámaso had nothing more than a fainting spell.... He is not dead.”
“Don’t cry,” said Andeng to her, in a low voice. “I will certainly arrange it so that you can speak to him. What are the confessionals made for, if we are not expected to sin? Everything is pardoned when one has told it to the curate.”
Finally, Captain Tiago arrived. They scanned his face for an answer to their many questions, but his expression announced too plainly his dismay. The poor man was sweating, and passing his hand over his forehead. He seemed unable to utter a word.
“How is it, Santiago?” asked Aunt Isabel, anxiously.
He answered her with a sigh and dried away a tear.
“For God’s sake, speak! What has happened?”
“What I had already feared!” he broke out finally half crying. “All is lost! Father Dámaso orders that the engagement be broken. If it is not broken off, I am condemned in this life and in the next. They all tell me the same thing, even Father Sibyla! I ought to shut the doors of my house and ... I owe him more than fifty thousand pesos. I told the Fathers so, but they would take no notice of it. ‘Which do you prefer to lose,’ they said to me, ‘fifty thousand pesos, or your life and your soul?’ Alas! Ay! San Antonio! If I had known it, if I had known it!”
Maria Clara was sobbing.
“Do not cry, my daughter,” he added, turning to her. “You are not like your mother. She never cried ... she never cried except when she was whimsical just before your birth.... Father Dámaso tells me that a relative of his has just arrived from Spain ... and that he wants him to be your fiancé.”...
Maria Clara stopped up her ears.
“But, Santiago, are you out of your head?” cried Aunt Isabel. “Speak to her now of another fiancé! Do you think that your daughter can change lovers as easily as she changes her dress?”
“I was thinking the same thing, Isabel. Don Crisostomo is rich.... The Spaniards only marry for love of money.... But what would you have me do? They have threatened me with excommunication. They say that I am in great peril: not only my soul, but also my body ... my body, do you hear? My body!”
“But you only give sorrow to your daughter. Are you not a friend of the Archbishop? Why don’t you write him?”
“The Archbishop is also a friar. The Archbishop does only what the friars say. But, Maria, do not cry. The Governor General will come. He will want to see you and your eyes are all inflamed.... Alas! I was thinking what a happy afternoon I was going to pass.... Without this misfortune, I would be the happiest of men and all would envy me.... Calm yourself, my girl. I am more unfortunate than you and I do not cry. You can have another and better fiancé, but I lose fifty thousand pesos. Ah! Virgin of Antipolo! If I could only have some luck to-night!”
Noises, detonations, the rumbling of carriages, the galloping of horses, and a band playing the Marcha Real announced the arrival of His Excellency, the Governor General of the Philippine Islands. Maria Clara ran to hide in her bedroom.... Poor girl! Gross hands were playing with her heart, ignorant of the delicacy of its fibers.
In the meantime, the house filled with people. Loud steps, commands, and the clanking of sabers and swords resounded on all sides. The afflicted maiden was half kneeling before an engraving of the Virgin, a picture representing her in that attitude of painful solitude, known only to Delaroche, as if she had been surprised on returning from the sepulchre of her Son. But Maria Clara was not thinking of the grief of that Mother; she was thinking of her own. With her head resting on her breast and her hands on the floor, she looked like a lily bent by the storm. A future, cherished for years in her dreams; a future whose illusions, born in her infancy and nursed through her youth, gave form to the cells of her being—that future was now to be blotted from the mind and heart by a single word!
Maria Clara was as good and as pious a Christian as her aunt. The thought of an excommunication terrified her. The threat to destroy the peace of her father demanded that she sacrifice her love. She felt the entire strength of that affection which until now she had not known. It was like a river which glides along smoothly; its banks carpeted with fragrant flowers, its bed formed by fine sand, the wind scarcely rippling its surface, so quiet and peaceful that you would say that its waters were dead; until suddenly its channel is pent up, ragged rocks obstruct its course, and the entangled trunks of trees form a dike. Then the river roars; it rises up; its waves boil; it is lashed into foam, beats against the rocks and rushes into the abyss.
She wanted to pray, but who can pray without hope? One prays when there is hope. When there is none, we surrender ourselves to God and wail. “My God!” cried her heart, “why shouldst thou separate me thus from him I love? Why deny me the love of others? Thou dost not deny me the sun, nor the air, nor dost thou hide the heavens from my sight. Why dost thou deny me love, when it is possible to live without sun, without air, and without the heavens, but without love, never?” 
“Mother, mother,” she was moaning.
Aunt Isabel came to take her from her grief. Some of her girl friends had arrived and the Governor General also desired to talk with her.
“Aunt, tell them that I am ill!” begged the frightened maiden. “They wish to make me play the piano and sing.”
“Your father has promised it. You are not going to go back on your father?”
Maria Clara arose, looked at her aunt, clasped her beautiful arms about her and murmured: “Oh, if I had ...”
But, without finishing the sentence, she dried her tears and began to make her toilet. 
“I want to speak with that young man,” said His Excellency to an adjutant. “He has awakened my interest.”
“They have already gone to look for him, General! But there is a young man here from Manila who insists on being introduced. We have told him that Your Excellency has no time and that you have not come to give audiences, but to see the town and the procession. But he has replied that Your Excellency always has time to dispense justice.”
His Excellency turned to the Alcalde as if in doubt.
“If I am not mistaken,” said the latter, making a slight bow, “it is a young man who this morning had a difficulty with Father Dámaso about the sermon.”
“Still another? Has this friar undertaken to disturb the province, or does he think that he is in command here? Tell the young man to come in!”
His Excellency was walking nervously from one end of the sala to the other.
In the lower part of the house, in the ante-room, were several Spaniards, mingled with army officers and officials of the town of San Diego and some of the neighboring villages. They were grouped in little circles and were conversing about one thing and another. All of the friars were there except Father Dámaso, and they wanted to go in and pay their respects to His Excellency.
“His Excellency, the Governor General, begs Your Reverences to wait a moment,” said the adjutant. “Walk in, young man!”
The young man from Manila entered the sala, pale and trembling.
Everybody was surprised. His Excellency must be irritated to dare to make the friars wait. Father Sibyla said: “I have nothing to say to him.... I am losing time here!”
“It’s the same with me,” said an Augustine. “Shall we go?”
“Would it not be better for us to find out what he thinks?” asked Father Salví. “We would avoid a scandal ... and ... we would be able to call to his mind his duty to ... the Church.”
“Your Reverences can walk in, if you wish,” announced the adjutant, as he escorted out the young man, whose face was now, however, glowing with satisfaction.
Friar Sibyla entered first. Behind him came Father Salví, Father Manuel Martin and the other priests. They all humbly saluted the Governor General, with the exception of Father Sibyla, who preserved even in his bow, an air of superiority. Father Salví, on the contrary, almost touched the floor with his head.
“Which of Your Reverences is Father Dámaso?” asked His Excellency unexpectedly, without having them sit down, or even asking about their health, and without addressing them with any of those courteous phrases which are customary with such high personages.
“Father Dámaso is not among us, señor,” replied Father Sibyla, rather dryly.
“Your Excellency’s servant lies ill in bed,” added Father Salví meekly. “After having the pleasure of saluting you and of inquiring about the health of Your Excellency, as befits all the good servants of the King and all persons of good education, we also come in the name of the respectful servant of Your Excellency who has the misfortune....”
“Oh,” interrupted the Governor General, as he turned a chair around on one leg and smiled nervously. “If all the servants of My Excellency were like His Reverence Father Dámaso, I would prefer to serve My Excellency myself.”
The Reverences did not know how to respond to this interruption.
“Take a seat, Your Reverences!” he added after a short pause, softening his tone a little.
Captain Tiago came in dressed in a frock coat and walking on tip-toes. He was leading Maria Clara by the hand. The young maiden was trembling when she entered, but notwithstanding she made a graceful and ceremonious bow.
“Is this your daughter?” asked the Governor General, somewhat surprised.
“And Your Excellency’s, my General,” replied Captain Tiago seriously.1
The Alcalde and the adjutants opened wide their eyes, but His Excellency did not lose his gravity. He extended his hand to the young maiden and said to her affably: “Happy are the fathers who have daughters like you, señorita. They have spoken to me about you with respect and consideration.... I have desired to see you and to thank you for your pretty deed of to-day. I am informed of all, and when I write to His Majesty’s Government I will not forget your generous conduct. In the meantime, señorita, allow me in the name of His Majesty the King whom I represent here and who loves to see peace and tranquillity among his subjects, and in my own name, that of a father who also has daughters of your age, allow me to extend to you most sincere thanks and propose your name for some mark of recognition.”
“Señor ...” replied Maria Clara, trembling.
His Excellency guessed what she wanted to say, and replied: “It is well enough, señorita, that you are satisfied in your own conscience with the mere esteem of your own people. The testimony of one’s people is the highest reward and we ought not to ask more. But, however, I will not let pass this excellent opportunity to show you that, if justice knows how to punish, she also knows how to reward and is not always blind.”
“Señor Don Juan Crisostomo awaits Your Excellency’s orders,” announced the adjutant in a loud voice.
Maria Clara trembled.
“Ah!” exclaimed the Governor General. “Permit me, señorita, to express the desire to see you again before I leave town. I still have some very important things to say to you. Señor Alcalde, Your Lordship will accompany me for a walk after the conference which I will hold alone with Señor Ibarra.”
“Your Excellency will permit us,” said Father Salví meekly, “to inform you that Señor Ibarra is excommunicated ...”
His Excellency interrupted him saying: “I am glad that I have nothing more to deplore than the condition of Father Dámaso, for whom I sincerely wish a complete recovery, because at his age a voyage to Spain for his health would not be pleasant. But this depends on him ... and in the meantime, may God preserve the health of Your Reverences.”
They retired one after the other.
“We will see who will make the journey first,” said a Franciscan.
“I am going off now right away!” said Father Sibyla, with indignation.
“And we are going back to our provinces, too,” said the Augustins.
They could not endure that through the fault of a Franciscan His Excellency had received them coldly.
In the entrance hall they met Ibarra, their host only a few hours ago. They exchanged no salutations, but their looks were eloquent.
The Alcalde, on the contrary, when the friars had disappeared, greeted the young man and extended his hand to him in a familiar way. But the arrival of the adjutant, who was looking for Ibarra, did not give them an opportunity to converse.
Ibarra was dressed in deep mourning. He presented himself in a calm manner, and bowed profoundly, despite the fact that the sight of the friars had not seemed a good omen for him.
The Governor General advanced a few steps. “It gives me great satisfaction to shake your hand. Grant me your entire confidence.”
“Señor ... such kindness...!”
“Your surprise offends me. It indicates that you did not expect a good reception from me. That is doubting my justice!” 
“A friendly reception, señor, for an insignificant subject like myself, is not justice, it is a favor.”
“Well, well!” said His Excellency, sitting down and pointing out a seat for Ibarra. “Let us speak frankly. I am very much pleased with your action and I have already proposed to His Majesty’s Government that they grant you an insignia for your philanthropic intention of erecting a school.... If you had asked me, I would have attended the ceremony with a great deal of pleasure and perhaps the unpleasantness would have been avoided.”
“My idea of erecting a school seems to me so insignificant,” replied the young man, “that I did not think it an occasion worthy of taking the attention of Your Excellency from your many duties and cares. Then, too, it was my duty to first address the highest authority of the province.”
His Excellency made a bow of satisfaction and adopting a still more intimate manner, continued:
“In regard to the unpleasantness which you have had with Father Dámaso, have no fear nor regret. I will not touch a hair of your head while I govern these Islands. And in regard to the excommunication, I will speak to the Archbishop, for it is necessary for us to adapt ourselves to circumstances. Here, we cannot laugh about these things in public as we do in Spain or in cultured Europe. Nevertheless, be more prudent in the future. You have put yourself in opposition to the religious corporations, which, on account of your position and wealth, need to be respected. But I will protect you, because I like good sons, I like to see a person respect the honor of his father. I, too, love my father, and as sure as there is a God, I know what I would have done had I been in your place....”
And quickly turning the conversation, he asked: “You have told me that you come from Europe; were you in Madrid?”
“Yes, señor; for some months.”
“You have perhaps heard of my family?”
“Your Excellency had just left when I had the honor to be presented to it.” 
“And why, then, did you come here without bringing some letter of introduction?”
“Señor,” replied Ibarra bowing, “because I do not come directly from Spain, and because, having heard of Your Excellency’s character, I thought that a letter of introduction would not only be useless, but even offensive. All Filipinos are recommended to you.”
A smile appeared on the lips of the old officer and he replied slowly, as if weighing and measuring his words:
“It flatters me to learn that you think so ... and ... so it ought to be. However, young man, you ought to know what loads we bear upon our shoulders here in the Philippines. Here, we, old army officers, have to do and be everything: King, Secretary of State, of War, of Agriculture, of Internal Affairs and of Justice. The worst part of it is the fact that in regard to everything we have to consult our distant Mother Country, which approves or rejects our propositions, according to circumstances, sometimes blindly. And you know how we Spaniards say: ‘Grasp much, get little.’ Then, too, we come here ignorant of the country and we leave it as soon as we begin to know it. With you I can be frank, for it would be useless to appear otherwise. In Spain, where each branch of the Government has its own Minister, born and brought up in the country, where they have the press and public opinion, the opposition is open and before the eyes of the Government, and shows up its faults; yet, even there, all is imperfect and defective. And when you consider the conditions here, it is a wonder that all is not upset, with all those advantages lacking, and with the opposition working in the dark. Good intentions and wishes are not wanting in us governing officials, but we find ourselves obliged to make use of eyes and arms which frequently we do not know, and which, perhaps, instead of serving the country, serve only their own interests. That is not our fault; it is the fault of circumstances. You arouse my interest and I do not want our present system of government to prejudice you in any way. I cannot watch everything, nor can I attend to all. Can I be useful to you in any way? Have you anything to request?”
Ibarra meditated. 
“Señor,” he replied, “my greatest desire is the happiness of my country, a happiness due to the efforts of our Mother Country and to the efforts of my fellow countrymen, united with the eternal bonds of a common interest and common object. What I ask the Government can only give after many years of continuous work and proper reforms.”
His Excellency looked at him for several seconds with a look which Ibarra met naturally, without timidity and without boldness.
“You are the first man with whom I have spoken in this country,” he exclaimed grasping his hand.
“Your Excellency has only seen those who lead a grovelling existence in the city. You have not seen the calumniated hovels of our towns. If you had, you would have seen true men, if generous hearts and simple manners make true men.”
The Governor General arose and paced the sala from one side to the other.
“Señor Ibarra,” he exclaimed, stopping a moment. The young man arose. “I will probably leave here within a month. Your education and your mode of thinking are not for this country. Sell what you possess, get your trunk ready and come with me to Europe. That climate will be better for you.”
“I shall cherish all my life the memory of Your Excellency’s kindness,” replied Ibarra, moved by what the Governor General had said. “But I ought to live in the country where my fathers have lived....”
“Where they have died, you should say, to speak more exactly. Believe me! I possibly know your country better than you do yourself.... Ah! Now I remember,” he exclaimed changing the tone of his voice. “You are going to marry a lovely girl and I am keeping you here! Go, go to her side, and that you may have greater liberty send her father to me,” he added, smiling. “Do not forget, however, that I want you to accompany me for a walk.”
Ibarra bowed and departed.
His Excellency called his adjutant.
“I am happy,” said he, giving him a light slap on the shoulder. “To-day I have seen for the first time how one can be a good Spaniard without ceasing to be a good Filipino and to love his country. To-day, at last, I have shown the Reverences that we are not all their playthings. This young man has afforded me the opportunity, and, in a short time, I will have settled all of my accounts with the friar. It’s a pity that this young man, some day or other ... but call the Alcalde to me.”
The latter presented himself at once.
“Señor Alcalde,” he said to him, as he entered the room, “in order to avoid a repetition of scenes such as Your Honor witnessed this afternoon, scenes which I deplore because they take away the prestige of the Government and all Spaniards, I want to commend to you warmly Señor Ibarra, that you may not only aid him in carrying out his patriotic ends, but also prevent in the future any person of whatever class or under whatever pretext, from molesting him.”
The Alcalde understood the reprimand and bowed to conceal his confusion.
“Have the alferez, who is in command here, informed to the same effect. And you will find out if it is true that this officer has methods of procedure that are not in accordance with the regulations. I have heard more than one complaint on this score.”
Captain Tiago, all starched and ironed, presented himself.
“Don Santiago,” said His Excellency, in a cordial tone of voice, “a little while ago I was congratulating you on having a daughter like the Señorita de los Santos. Now I want to congratulate you on your future son-in-law. The most virtuous of daughters is certainly worthy of the best citizen of the Philippines. Is the date of the wedding known?”
“Señor!” stammered the Captain, wiping away the perspiration which was running down his face.
“O, come! I see that there is nothing definite. If you need godfathers, I will be one of them with the greatest pleasure. I would do it to take away the bad taste which so many of the weddings which I have attended here have left in my mouth,” he added, turning to the Alcalde. 
“Yes, señor!” replied Captain Tiago, with a smile which inspired compassion.
Ibarra had gone in search of Maria Clara, almost on a run. He had so many things to tell her. He heard some gentle voices in one of the rooms and knocked at the door.
“Who knocks?” asked Maria Clara.
The voices were silenced and the door ... was not opened.
“It is I. May I come in?” asked the young man, his heart beating violently.
The silence was not broken. A few seconds afterward gentle steps approached the door and Sinang’s cheerful voice murmured through the key-hole: “Crisostomo, we are going to the theatre to-night. Write what you have to say to Maria Clara.”
Then the footsteps were heard retreating, as quickly as they had come.
“What does that mean!” murmured Ibarra to himself, as he went slowly away from the door. 
1 A reply which accords with the Spanish idea of politeness but rather ludicrously used in this instance.
In the evening, by the light of lanterns hung from windows, to the ringing of bells and bursting of bombs, the procession started for the fourth time.
The Governor General left the house on foot, in company with his two adjutants, Captain Tiago, the Alcalde, the alferez, and Ibarra. The Civil Guards and the officials of the town preceded them and cleared the way. His Excellency had been invited to witness the procession from the house of the gobernadorcillo, in front of which a platform had been erected for the recitation of a loa, or religious poem, in honor of the Patron Saint. Ibarra had previously declined with pleasure an invitation to hear this poetical composition, as he had preferred to witness the procession from the house of Captain Tiago with Maria Clara and her friends. But, as His Excellency wished to hear the loa, there was no other remedy for Ibarra but to console himself with the hope of seeing her at the theatre.
The procession was headed by three sacristans carrying silver candlesticks. The children of the school, accompanied by their teacher, followed. Then came the small boys, with colored paper lanterns fastened to the ends of pieces of bamboo, each more or less adorned according to the caprices of the boy, for this part of the illumination was paid for entirely by themselves. However, they fulfilled this duty with a great deal of pleasure.
In the midst of it all, men serving as police, passed to and fro to see that the files of the procession were not broken or the people jammed together in a crowd. For this purpose they used their wands and inflicted some hard blows, thus managing to add to the brilliancy of the procession, to the edification of souls and to the glory of religious pomp.
At the same time that the officers inflicted these sanctified floggings with their wands free of charge, others, to console those who had been punished, distributed wax and tallow candles, also free of charge.
“Señor Alcalde,” said Ibarra, in a low voice, “do they inflict those blows to punish the sinners or merely for pleasure?”
“You are right, Señor Ibarra,” replied the Governor General, who had overheard his question. “This spectacle ... barbarous ... astonishing to those who come from other countries, ought to be prohibited.”
Although it cannot be explained, the first saint who appeared was San Juan el Baptisto. On seeing him, you would say that the cousin of Our Saviour did not enjoy any great renown among these people. He had slender feet and legs and the face of a hermit, and was carried along on an old wooden litter. In marked contrast to the representation of San Juan, was that of San Francisco, the founder of the great order. The latter was drawn in a car, and, as Tasio said: “What a car! How many lights and glass lanterns! Why, I have never seen you surrounded by so many illuminations, Giovanni Bernardone! And what music!”
Behind the music came a standard representing the same saint, but with seven wings. It was carried by the brothers of the Third Order, dressed in guingon and praying in a loud and mournful voice. The next in the procession was Santa Maria Magdalena, a most beautiful image with an abundant growth of hair, a handkerchief of embroidered piña cloth between her ring-covered fingers, and wearing a dress of silk adorned with gold-leaf. Lights and incense surrounded her. The glass tears from her eyes reflected the colors of the colored fire which was burned here and there, giving a fantastic aspect to the procession. Consequently, the sinful saint appeared to be weeping now green, now red and now blue tears. The people did not begin to burn these colored lights till San Francisco was passing; San Juan el Baptisto did not enjoy this honor, passing by quickly, ashamed perhaps to go dressed in skins among so many saints covered with gold and precious jewels.
“There goes our saint!” cried the daughter of the gobernadorcillo to her visitors. “I loaned her my rings, but I did it to get to Heaven.”
Those carrying the illuminations stopped near the platform to hear the loa. The saints did the same. They and their carriers wanted to hear the verses. Those who carried San Juan, tired of waiting, squatted down in the characteristic Filipino manner, and found it convenient to leave their burden on the ground.
“You’ll get into trouble,” objected one.
“Jesús! In the sacristy, they leave him in a corner among spider-webs....”
After Magdalena came the women. They differed from the men in arrangement. Instead of the children, the old women came first and finally the unmarried women. Behind these came the car of the Virgin, and behind that, the curate under his canopy. Father Dámaso gave the following reason for putting the young women next to the Virgin’s car: “The Virgin likes young women, but not old ones.” Of course, this explanation caused many of the older women to make wry faces, but that did not change the taste of the Virgin.
San Diego followed Magdalena, but he did not seem to rejoice over the fact, for he was as precise in his behavior as on the morning when he followed along behind San Francisco. Six brothers of the Third Order drew the car. San Diego stopped before the platform and awaited for the people to salute him.
But it was necessary to await the car which contained the image of the Virgin. Preceding this car were some people dressed in a fantastic manner which made children cry and babies scream. In the midst of that dark mass of habits, hoods and girdles, to the sound of that monotonous and nasal prayer, one could see, like white jessamine, like fresh pansies among old rags, twelve young lassies dressed in white, crowned with flowers, with hair curled and eyes bright as the necklaces they wore. Seizing hold of two wide blue bands which were tied to the car of the Virgin, they drew it along, reminding one of doves drawing the car of Spring.
And now when the images were all attentive, when this child and that had been slapped sufficiently to make him listen to the verses, when everybody had his eyes fixed on the half open curtain, at last, an aaaah! of admiration escaped from the lips of all.
And the sight merited it. A young child appeared with wings, riding boots, a cordon over its shoulder, a belt and a plumed hat.
“The Señor Alcalde!” cried some one, but the young prodigy recited a poem in such a manner that the Alcalde was not offended at the comparison.
The procession then continued. San Juan followed out his bitter career.
As the Virgin passed before the house of Captain Tiago, a heavenly song greeted her like the words of an archangel. It was a sweet, melodious, supplicating voice, weeping the Ave Maria of Gounod. The music of the procession was silenced, the praying ceased, and Father Salví himself stopped. The voice trembled and brought tears to the cheeks of those who heard it. That voice expressed more than a salutation, a prayer, or a plaint.
From the window, where he was viewing the procession, Ibarra heard the voice, and melancholy took possession of his heart. He understood what that soul was suffering and what was expressed in that song. He was afraid to think of the cause of that grief.
The Governor General found him pensive and sad.
Why were the windows in the alferez’s house closed? Where was the masculine face and the flannel shirt of the Medusa or Muse of the Civil Guard while the procession was passing? Could she have understood how unpleasant was the sight of the swelling veins of her forehead, filled, it seemed, not with blood but with vinegar and bile; of her large cigar, that worthy ornament of her red lips; and of her envious look; could she have understood all of that, and, giving way to a generous impulse, have refrained from disturbing the gayety of the crowd by her sinister apparition?
Alas! Her generous impulses lived only in the golden age.
Her house was sad because other people were merry, as Sinang put it. There neither lanterns nor flags could be seen. In fact, if the sentry were not walking up and down in front of the gate, you would have said that the house was unoccupied.
A feeble light illumined the disarranged sala, and made transparent the oyster-shell windows filled with spider-webs and covered with dust. The Señora, according to her custom, her hands folded, sat in a wide arm-chair. She was dressed the same as every day, that is to say, outrageously out of taste. In detail, she had a handkerchief tied around her head, while short, slender locks of tangled hair hung down on either side; a blue flannel shirt over another shirt which should have been white; and a faded-out skirt which moulded itself to her slender thighs as she sat with her legs crossed and nervously wiggled her foot. From her mouth, came big puffs of smoke, which she fastidiously blew up in the space toward which she looked when her eyes were open.
That morning the Señora had not heard mass, not because she had not cared to hear it, for on the contrary she wanted to show herself to the multitude and to hear the sermon, but because her husband had not permitted her to do so. As was usually the case, his prohibition was accompanied by two or three insults, oaths and threats of kicking. The alferez understood that his “female” dressed herself in a ridiculous manner, and that it was not fitting to expose her to the eyes of the people from the capital nor even the country districts.
But she did not understand it that way. She knew that she was beautiful, attractive, that she had the manners of a queen and that she dressed much better and more gorgeously than Maria Clara herself, though to be sure the latter wore a tapis over her skirt while she wore only the skirt. The alferez had to say to her: “Oh, shut your mouth or I’ll kick you till you do!”
Doña Consolacion did not care to be kicked, but she planned revenge.
The dark face of the Señora never had inspired confidence in anybody, not even when she painted it. That morning she was exceptionally uneasy, and as she walked from one end of the sala to the other, in silence and as if meditating something terrible, her eyes shone like those of a serpent about to be crushed. Her look was cold, luminous, and penetrating and had something vicious, loathsome and cruel in it.
The slightest defect in anything, the most insignificant or unusual noise brought forth an obscene and infamous expression; but no one responded. To offer an excuse was a crime.
So the day passed. Encountering no obstacle in her way—her husband had been invited out—she became saturated with bile.
Everything around bent itself before her. She met no resistance, there was nothing upon which she could discharge the vials of her wrath. Soldiers and servants crawled before her.
That she might not hear the rejoicing going on outside, she ordered the windows to be closed, and charged the sentry not to permit any one to enter. She tied a handkerchief around her head to prevent it from bursting; and, in spite of the fact that the sun was still shining brightly, she ordered the lamps lighted.
A madwoman who had been detained for disturbing the public peace was taken to the barracks. The alferez was not there at the time and the unhappy woman had to pass the night seated on a bench. The following day the alferez returned. Fearing lest the unhappy woman should become the butt of the crowd during the fiesta, he ordered the soldiers who were guarding her to treat her with pity and give her something to eat. Thus the demented woman passed two days.
Whether the proximity to Captain Tiago’s house made it possible for the sad song of Maria Clara to reach her ears, whether other strains of music awoke in her memories of old songs, or whether there was some other cause for it, at any rate, the madwoman began that night to sing with a sweet and melancholy voice the songs of her youth. The soldiers heard her and kept silent. Those songs brought back memories of the old times.
Doña Consolacion also heard it in her sorrow, and became interested in the person who was singing.
“Tell her to come upstairs at once!” she ordered, after some seconds of meditation. Something like a smile passed over her dry lips.
They brought the woman and she presented herself without any discomposure, and without manifesting either fear or surprise.
“Orderly, tell this woman in Tagalog to sing!” said the alfereza. “She don’t understand me; she does not know Spanish.”
The demented woman understood the orderly and sang the song “Night.”
Doña Consolacion listened to the beginning with a mocking smile which disappeared gradually from her lips. She became attentive, then more serious and pensive. The woman’s voice, the sentiment of the verses and the song itself impressed her. That dry and burning heart was perhaps softened. She understood the song well: “Sadness, cold, and dampness, wrapped in the mantle of Night descend from the sky,” as the folk song puts it. It seemed that they were also descending upon her heart. “The withered flower which during the day has paraded its dress, desirous of applause and full of vanity, at nightfall repenting, makes an effort to raise its faded petals to the sky, and begs for a little shade in which to hide itself, so as to die without the mockery of the light which saw it in its pomp, to die without the vanity of its pride being seen, and begging for a drop of dew, to weep over it. The night bird, leaving its solitary retreat in the hollow of the old tree, disturbs the melancholy of the forests....”
“No, no! Do not sing!” exclaimed the alfereza in perfect Tagalog and raising to her feet somewhat agitated. “Don’t sing! Those verses hurt me!”
The demented woman stopped. The orderly muttered “Bah!” and exclaimed “She knows how to patá Tagalog!” and stood looking at the señora full of surprise.
The Muse understood that she had been caught, and was ashamed. As her nature was not that of a woman, her shame took the form of rage and hatred. She pointed out the door to the impudent orderly and with a kick closed it behind him. She took several turns about the room, twisting a whip between her nervous hands, and then, stopping suddenly in front of the demented woman, said in Spanish: “Dance!”
The demented one did not move.
“Dance! Dance!” she repeated in a threatening voice.
The poor woman looked at the Señora, her eyes devoid of expression. The alfereza raised one arm and then the other, shaking them in a menacing way.
She then leaped up in the air, and jumped around urging the other woman to imitate her. The band in the procession could be heard playing a slow, majestic march, but the Señora, leaping about furiously was keeping time to different music than that the band was playing, that music which resounded within her. A curious look appeared in the madwoman’s eyes, and a weak smile moved her pale lips. She liked the Señora’s dancing.
The alfereza stopped dancing as if ashamed. She raised the whip, that terrible whip made in Ulango and improved by the alferez by winding wire around it, that same terrible whip which the ladrones and soldiers knew so well.
“Now it is your turn to dance ... dance!”
And she began to whip lightly the demented woman’s bare feet.
The pale face contracted with pain, and she was obliged to defend herself from the blows by her hands.
“Come! Go ahead!” she exclaimed with savage delight, and she passed from lento to allegro-vivace in the use of her whip.
The unhappy woman screamed and quickly raised her feet.
“You have got to dance, you d——d Indian!” exclaimed the Señora and the whip whizzed and whistled.
The woman let herself sink to the floor and tried to cover her legs with her hands, at the same time looking with wild eyes at her tormentor. Two heavy lashes on her back made her rise again. Now it was no longer a scream; it was a howl which escaped from the unfortunate woman. The thin shirt was torn, the skin broke open and the blood oozed out.
The sight of blood excites a tiger; so, too, the sight of the blood of her victim infuriated Doña Consolacion.
“Dance! dance! Curse you! D——n you! Dance! Cursed be the mother who bore you!” she cried. “Dance, or I’ll kill you by whipping you to death!”
Then the alfereza, taking the woman with one hand and whipping her with another, began to jump and dance.
The insane woman understood her at last and went on moving her arms regardless of time or tune. A smile of satisfaction contracted the lips of the teacher. It was like the smile of a female Mephistopheles who had succeeded in developing a good pupil; it was full of hatred, contempt, mockery and cruelty; a coarse laugh could not have expressed more.
Absorbed in the enjoyment which the spectacle afforded her, she did not hear her husband coming, until he opened the door with a kick.
The alferez appeared, pale and gloomy. He saw what was going on there and looked daggers at his wife. She did not move from her tracks and stood smiling in a cynical way.
In the gentlest manner possible, he put his hand on the shoulder of the dancing woman and made her stop. The demented woman sighed and slowly sat down on the blood-covered floor.
The silence continued. The alferez was breathing heavily. His wife was observing him with her questioning eyes. She seized the whip and in a calm and measured tone asked him: “What’s the matter with you? You have not said ‘good evening’ to me.”
The alferez, without replying, called the orderly.
“Take this woman,” he said, “and have Marta give her another shirt and take care of her. Find her good food, and a good bed.... Let him look out who treats her badly!”
After carefully closing the door, he turned the key in the lock and approached his señora.
“You want me to smash you?” he said, clenching his fists.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked she, retreating a step or two.
“What’s the matter with me?” he shouted, in a thundering voice, and, giving vent to an oath, showed her a paper covered with scribbling. He continued:
“Didn’t you write this letter to the Alcalde, saying that I am paid for permitting the gambling, d——n you? I don’t know how I can keep from smashing you.”
“Go ahead! Try it if you dare!” said she, with a mocking smile. “He who smashes me has got to be more of a man than you!”
He heard the insult, but he saw the whip. He seized one of the plates which were on the table and threw it at her head. The woman, accustomed to these fights, ducked quickly and the plate was shivered to pieces against the wall. A glass, a cup, and a knife shared the same fortune.
“Coward!” she cried. “You dare not come near me!”
And then she spat at him to exasperate him more. The man, blind and howling with rage, threw himself on her, but she, with wonderful rapidity, struck him a few blows across the face with the whip, and quickly escaped. Closing the door of her room with a slam, she locked herself in. Roaring with rage and pain the alferez followed her, but, coming up against the door, he could do nothing but belch forth a string of blasphemies.
“Cursed be your ancestors, you swine! Open, d——n you! Open that door or I’ll break your skull!” he howled, pounding and kicking the panels.
Doña Consolacion did not reply. A moving of chairs and trunks could be heard, as though some one was trying to raise a barricade of household furniture. The house fairly shook with the oaths and kicks of the husband.
“Don’t you come in! Don’t you come in!” she said, in a bitter voice. “If you show yourself, I’ll shoot you!”
The husband calmed down, little by little, and contented himself with pacing from one end of the sala to the other like a wild animal in its cage.
“Go and cool your head!” continued the woman in mockery. She seemed to have concluded her preparations for defense.
“I swear that when I catch you, no one—not even God—will see you again! I’ll smash you so fine.”
“Yes! Now you can say what you wish. You would not let me go to mass. You would not let me fulfill my duty to God!” she said with such sarcasm as she alone knew how to use.
The alferez took his helmet, straightened out his clothes, and walked away several paces. But, at the end of several minutes, he returned without making the slightest noise, for he had taken off his boots. The servants, accustomed to these spectacles, paid no attention to them, but the novelty of this move with the boots attracted their notice and they gave each other the wink.
The alferez sat down on a chair next to the door and had the patience to wait more than half an hour.
“Have you really gone out or are you there, you he-goat?” asked a voice from time to time, changing the epithets but raising the tone.
Finally, she commenced to take away the furniture from her barricade. He heard the noise and smiled. “Orderly! Has the señor gone out?” cried Doña Consolacion.
The orderly at a signal from the alferez, replied: “Yes, señora, he has gone out!”
He could hear her laugh triumphantly. She drew back the bolt. The husband arose to his feet slowly; the door was opened.
A cry, the noise of a body falling, oaths, howling, swearing, blows, hoarse voices. Who can describe what took place in the darkness of the bedroom?
The orderly, going out to the kitchen, made a very expressive gesture to the cook.
“And now you’ll catch it!” said the latter.
“I? No, sir. The town will, not I. She asked me if he had gone out, not if he had returned.”
( TO CONTINUE IN PART 3 )
Related Links :
Noli Me Tangere - Part 1 ( Chapter I to X )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 3 ( Chapter XXII to XXXII )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 4 ( From Chapter XXXIII to Chapter XLI )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 3 ( Chapter XXII to XXXII )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 4 ( From Chapter XXXIII to Chapter XLI )