Monday, March 15, 2010

Noli Me Tangere - Part 3 ( Chapter XXII to XXXII )

Chapter XXII.

Might and Right.

It was about ten o’clock at night. The last rockets lazily soared into the dark sky, where paper balloons shone like new stars. Some of the fireworks had set fire to houses and were threatening them with destruction; for this reason men could be seen on the ridges of the roofs carrying buckets of water and long bamboo poles with cloths tied on the ends. Their dark shadows seemed descended from ethereal space to be present at the rejoicings of human beings. An enormous number of wheels had been burned, also castles, bulls, caraboas and other pieces of fireworks, and finally a great volcano, which surpassed in beauty and grandeur anything that the inhabitants of San Diego had ever seen.

Now the people turned in one great crowd toward the plaza to attend the last theatrical performance. Here and there could be seen the colored Bengal lights, fantastically illuminating groups of merry people. The small boys were making use of their torches to search for unexploded firecrackers in the grass, or, in fact, for anything else that might be of use to them. But the music was the signal and all abandoned the lawn for the theatre.

The large platform was splendidly illuminated. Thousands of lights surrounded the pillars and hung from the roof, while a number, in pyramid-shaped groups, were arranged on the floor of the stage. An employee attended to these and whenever he would come forward to regulate them, the public would whistle at him and shout: “There he is! There he is now!”

In front of the stage, the orchestra tuned its instruments, and behind the musicians sat the principal people of the town. Spaniards and rich visitors were occupying the reserved chairs. The public, the mass of people without [138]titles or rank, filled the rest of the plaza. Some carried with them benches, not so much for seats as to remedy their lack of stature. When they stood upon them, rude protests were made on the part of those without benches or things to stand on. Then they would get down immediately, but soon mount up on their pedestals again as if nothing had happened.

Comings and goings, cries, exclamations, laughter, squibs that had been slow in going off, and firecrackers increased the tumult. Here, a foot broke through a bench, and some one fell to the floor, while the crowd laughed and made a show of him who had come so far to see a show. There, they fought and disputed over positions, and, a little farther on, the noise of breaking bottles and glasses could be heard: it was Andeng. She was carrying drinks and refreshments on a tray which she was balancing with both hands, but she had met her lover and he tried to take advantage of her helplessness by tickling....

The teniente mayor presided at the production since the gobernadorcillo was fonder of monte.

Maria Clara and her friends had arrived, and Don Filipo received them, and accompanied them to their seats. Behind came the curate with another Franciscan and some Spaniards. With the curate were some other people who make it their business to escort the friars.

“May God reward them in another life,” said the old man, referring to them as he walked away from Maria Clara’s party.

The performance began with Chananay and Marianito in Crispinoé la Comare. Everybody had eyes and ears intent upon the stage, except one, Father Salví. He seemed to have come to the theatre for no other purpose than to watch Maria Clara, whose sadness gave to her beauty an air so ideal and interesting that everybody looked upon her with rapture. But the Franciscan’s eyes, deeply hidden in their hollow orbits, spoke no words of rapture. In that sombre look one could read something desperately sad. With such eyes Cain might have contemplated from afar the Paradise whose delights his mother had pictured to him. [139]

The act was just ending when Ibarra arrived. His presence occasioned a buzz of conversation. The attention of everybody was fixed on him and on the curate.

But the young man did not seem to be aware of it, for he greeted Maria Clara and her friends with naturalness and sat down at their side. The only one who spoke was Sinang.

“Did you see the volcano when they touched it off?” she asked.

“No, my little friend. I had to accompany the Governor General.”

“Well, that is too bad! The curate came with us and he was telling us stories about condemned people. What do you think? Doesn’t he do it to make us afraid so that we cannot enjoy ourselves? How does it appear to you?”

The curate arose and approached Don Filipo, with whom he seemed to be having a lively discussion. He was speaking with animation and Don Filipo replying with moderation and in a low voice.

“I am sorry that I cannot please Your Reverence,” said the latter. “Señor Ibarra is one of the heaviest tax-payers and has a right to sit here as long as he does not disturb the public order.”

“But is not scandalizing good Christians disturbing the public order? You let a wolf into the flock. You will be held responsible for this before God and before the authorities of the town.”

“I always hold myself responsible for acts which emanate from my own will, Father,” replied Don Filipo, slightly inclining his head. “But my little authority does not give me power to meddle in religious affairs. Those who wish to avoid contact with him do not have to speak to him. Señor Ibarra does not force himself on any one.”

“But he affords danger. He who loves danger perishes in it.”

“I don’t see any danger, Father. The Alcalde and the Governor General, my superiors, have been talking with him all the afternoon, and it is not for me to give them a lesson.”

“If you don’t put him out of here, we will leave.” [140]

“I am very, very sorry, but I cannot put any one out of here.”

The curate repented having said what he did, but now there was no alternative. He made a signal to his companion, who laboriously rose to his feet and both went out. The persons attached to the friars imitated the priests, not, however, without first glancing with hatred at Ibarra.

Murmurs and whispers increased. Then various persons approached and saluted the young man and said:

“We are with you. Take no notice of them.”

“Who are ’them’?” he asked with surprise.

“Those who have gone out in order to avoid contact with you.”

“To avoid contact with me? Contact with me?”

“Yes, they say that you are excommunicated.”

Ibarra, surprised, did not know what to say and looked around him. He saw Maria Clara, who was hiding her face behind her fan.

“But is it possible?” he exclaimed at last. “Are we still in the darkness of the Middle Ages? So that——”

And turning to the young women and changing his tone, he said:

“Excuse me; I have forgotten an appointment. I will return to accompany you home.”

“Stay!” said Sinang. “Yeyeng is going to dance in the ‘La Calandria.’ She dances divinely.”

“I cannot, my little friend, but I will certainly return.”

The murmurs increased.

While Yeyeng, dressed in the style of the lower class of Madrid, was coming on the stage with the remark: “Da Usté su permiso?” (Do you give your permission?) and as Carvajal was replying to her “Pase usté adelante” (Pass forward), two soldiers of the Civil Guard approached Don Filipo, asking him to suspend the performance.

“And what for?” asked he, surprised at the request.

“Because the alferez and his Señora have been fighting and they cannot sleep.”

“You tell the alferez that we have permission from the [141]Alcalde, and that no one in the town has any authority over him, not even the gobernadorcillo, who is my on-ly su-per-ior.”

“Well, you will have to suspend the performance,” repeated the soldiers.

Don Filipo turned his back to them. The guards marched off.

In order not to disturb the general tranquillity, Don Filipo said not a word about the matter to any one.

After a piece of light opera, which was heartily applauded, the Prince Villardo presented himself on the stage, and challenged all the Moros, who had imprisoned his father, to a fight. The hero threatened to cut off all their heads at a single blow and to send them all to the moon. Fortunately for the Moros, who were making ready to fight to the tune of the “Riego Hymn,”1 a tumult intervened. All of a sudden, the orchestra stopped playing and the musicians made a rush for the stage, throwing their instruments in all directions. The brave Villardo was not expecting such a move, and, taking them for allies of the Moros he also threw down his sword and shield and began to run. The Moros, seeing this terrible giant fleeing, found it convenient to imitate him. Cries, sighs, imprecations and blasphemies filled the air. The people ran, trampled over each other, the lights were put out, and the glass lamps with their cocoanut oil and little wicks were flying through the air. “Tulisanes! Tulisanes!” cried some. “Fire! Fire! Ladrones!” cried others. Women and children wept, chairs and spectators were rolled over on the floor in the midst of the confusion, rush and tumult.

“What has happened?”

Two Civil Guards with sticks in hand had gone after the musicians in order to put an end to the spectacle. The teniente mayor, with the cuaderilleros,2 armed with their old sabers, had managed to arrest the two Civil Guards in spite of their resistance. [142]

“Take them to the tribunal!” shouted Don Filipo. “Be careful not to let them get away!”

Ibarra had returned and had sought out Maria Clara. The terrified young maidens, trembling and pale, were clinging closely to him. Aunt Isabel was reciting the litanies in Latin.

The crowd having recovered a little from the fright and some one having explained what had caused the rush and tumult, indignation arose in everyone’s breast. Stones rained upon the Civil Guards who were being conducted to the tribunal by the cuaderilleros. Some one proposed that they burn the barracks of the Civil Guards and that they roast Doña Consolacion and the alferez alive.

“That is all that they are good for,” cried a woman, rolling up her sleeves and stretching out her arms. “They can disturb the people but they persecute none but honorable men. They do nothing with the tulisanes and the gamblers. Look at them! Let us burn the cuartel.”

Somebody had been wounded in the arm and was asking for confession. A plaintive voice was heard coming from under an upset bench. It was a poor musician. The stage was filled with the players and people of the town and they were all talking at the same time. There was Chananay, dressed in the costume of Leonor in the “Trovador,” talking in corrupted Spanish with Ratia, who was in a school teacher’s costume. There too, was Yeyeng, dressed in a silk wrapper, talking with the Prince Villardo. There too, Balbino and the Moros, trying to console the musicians who were more or less sorry sights. Some Spaniards were walking from one place to another, arguing with every one they met.

But a nucleus for a mob already formed. Don Filipo knew what was their intention and tried to stop them.

“Do not break the peace!” he shouted. “To-morrow we will demand satisfaction: we will have justice. I will take the responsibility for our getting justice.”

“No!” some replied. “They did the same thing in Calamba. The same thing was promised, but the Alcalde [143]did nothing. We want justice done by our own hands. To the cuartel!”

In vain the teniente mayor argued with them. The group that had gathered showed no signs of changing its attitude or purpose. Don Filipo looked about him, in search of help. He saw Ibarra.

“Señor Ibarra, for my sake, as a favor, hold them while I seek some cuaderilleros.”

“What can I do?” asked the young man, perplexed. But the teniente mayor was already in the distance.

Ibarra in turn looked about him, for he knew not whom. Fortunately, he thought he discerned Elias, in the crowd, but not taking an active part in it. Ibarra ran up to him, seized his arm and said to him in Spanish:

“For heaven’s sake! Do something, if you can! I cannot do anything.”

The pilot must have understood, for he lost himself in the mob.

Lively discussions were heard mingled with strong interjections. Soon the mob began to disperse, each one of the participants becoming less hostile. And it was time for them to do so, for the cuaderilleros were coming to the scene with fixed bayonets.

In the meantime, what was the curate doing?

Father Salví had not gone to bed. Standing on foot, immovable and leaning his face against the shutter, he was looking toward the plaza and, from time to time, a suppressed sigh escaped his breast. If the light of his lamp had not been so dim, perhaps one might have seen that his eyes were filling with tears. Thus he stood for almost an hour.

The tumult in the plaza roused him from this state. Full of surprise, he followed with his eyes the people as they rushed to and fro in confusion. Their voices and cries he could vaguely hear even at that distance. One of the servants came running in breathlessly and informed him what was going on.

A thought entered his mind. Amid confusion and tumult libertines take advantage of the fright and the weakness of woman. All flee to save themselves; nobody thinks of anyone else; the women faint and their cries [144]are not heard; they fall; are trampled over; fear and fright overcome modesty, and under cover of darkness.... He fancied he could see Ibarra carrying Maria Clara fainting in his arms, and then disappearing in the darkness.

With leaps and bounds, he went down the stairs without hat, or cane, and, almost like a crazy person, turned toward the plaza.

There he found some Spaniards reproving the soldiers. He looked toward the seats which Maria Clara and her friends had been occupying, and saw that they were vacant.

“Father curate! Father curate!” shouted the Spaniards to him, but he took no notice and ran on in the direction of the house of Captain Tiago. There he recovered his breath. He saw through the transparent shade, a shadow—that adorable shadow, so graceful and delicate in its contour—that of Maria Clara. He could also see another shadow, that of her aunt carrying cups and glasses.

“Well!” he muttered to himself. “It seems that she has only fallen ill.”

Aunt Isabel afterward closed the shell windows and the graceful shadow could no longer be seen.

The curate walked away from there without seeing the crowd. He was looking at the bust of a beautiful maiden which he had before his eyes, a maiden sleeping and breathing sweetly. Her eyelids were shaded by long lashes, which formed graceful curves like those on Rafael’s virgins. Her small mouth was smiling, and her whole countenance seemed to breathe virginity, purity and innocence. That sweet face of hers on the background of the white draperies of the bed was a vision like the head of a cherubim among the clouds. His impassioned imagination went on and pictured to him.... Who can describe all that a burning brain can conceive? [145]
1 A popular Spanish song handed down from the time of Riego’s uprising in Spain.
2 Volunteer police.

Chapter XXIII.
Two Visitors.

Ibarra found his mind in such a state that it was impossible for him to sleep. So, in order to divert himself and to drive away the gloomy idea which distracted his mind, he began work in his solitary laboratory. Morning came upon him, still at work making mixtures and compounds to the action of which he submitted pieces of cane and other substances, and afterward enclosed them in numbered and sealed flasks.

A servant entered, announcing the arrival of a peasant.

“Let him enter!” said he, without even turning to look.

Elias entered and remained standing in silence.

“Ah! is it you?” Ibarra exclaimed in Tagalog on recognizing him. “Excuse me if I have kept you waiting. I was not aware of your presence. I was making an important experiment.”

“I do not wish to disturb you!” replied the young pilot. “I have come in the first place, to ask you if you want anything from the province of Batangas, whither I am going now; and, in the second place, to give you some bad news.”

Ibarra looked inquiringly at the pilot.

“The daughter of Captain Tiago is ill,” added Elias quietly, “but the illness is not serious.”

“I had already feared it,” responded Ibarra. “Do you know what the illness is?”

“A fever. Now, if you have nothing to order——”

“Thanks, my friend. I wish you a good journey, but before you go, permit me to ask you a question. If it is indiscreet, do not answer me.”

Elias bowed. [146]

“How were you able to quiet the mob last night?” asked Ibarra, fixing his eyes on him.

“In a very simple way,” replied Elias, with entire frankness. “At the head of it were two brothers whose father died from the effects of a whipping at the hands of the Civil Guard. One day I had the fortune to save them from the same hands into which their father fell, and for this both are under obligations to me. Last night I went to them, and requested them to dissuade the others from their purpose.”

“And those two brothers whose father died by being whipped to death?”

“They will end their lives in the same way,” replied Elias in a low voice. “When adversity has marked itself once on a family, all the members have to perish. When the lightning strikes a tree, it reduces it all to ashes.”

And Elias, seeing that Ibarra was silent, took his leave.

The latter on finding himself alone, lost the serenity of countenance which he had preserved in the presence of the pilot, and grief manifested itself in his face.

“I—I have made her suffer,” he muttered.

He quickly dressed himself and descended the stairs.

A little man, dressed in mourning, with a large scar on his left cheek, meekly saluted him, stopping him on his way.

“What do you wish?” Ibarra asked him.

“Señor, my name is Lucas. I am the brother of the man who was killed yesterday during the ceremony when the stone was being laid.”

“Ah! You have my sympathy—and, well?”

“Señor, I wish to know how much you are going to pay my brother’s family.”

“How much I am going to pay?” repeated the young man without being able to conceal a bored expression. “We will talk that over. Come back this afternoon, for I am busy to-day.”

“Only tell me how much you are going to pay,” insisted Lucas.

“I have told you that we would talk about that some other time. I’m too busy to-day,” said Ibarra, impatiently. [147]

“You haven’t time now, señor?” asked Lucas with bitterness and putting himself in front of the young man. “You do not have time to occupy yourself about the dead?”

“Come this afternoon, my good fellow!” repeated Ibarra, restraining himself. “To-day I have to go and see a sick person.”

“Ah! and you forget the dead for a sick person? Do you think that because we are poor——”

Ibarra looked at him and cut off what he was saying.

“Don’t try my patience!” said he, and went on his way. Lucas stood looking at him, with a smile on his face, full of hatred.

“You do not know that you are a grandson of the man who exposed my father to the sun!” he muttered between his teeth. “You have the very same blood in your veins!”

And, changing his tone he added:

“But if you pay well, we are friends.” [148]
Chapter XXIV.
Episode in Espadaña’s Life.

The festival was over. The citizens found, just as every year, that their treasury was poorer, that they had worked, perspired, and stayed up nights without enjoying themselves, without acquiring new friends, and in a word, had paid dearly for the noise and their headaches. But it did not matter. The next year they would do the same thing, and the same for the coming century, just as had always been the custom to the present time.

Enough sadness reigned in Captain Tiago’s house. All the windows were closed; the people scarcely made a noise, and no one dared to speak except in the kitchen. Maria Clara, the soul of the house, lay sick in her bed.

“What do you think, Isabel? Shall I make a donation to the cross of Tunasan or to the cross of Matahong?” asked the solicitous father in a low voice. “The cross of Tunasan grows, but that of Matahong sweats. Which do you think is the most miraculous?”

Isabel thought for a moment, moved her head and murmured: “To grow—to grow is more miraculous than to sweat. We all sweat, but we do not all grow.”

“That is true, yes, Isabel, but bear in mind that for wood to sweat when it is made into the leg of a chair is no small miracle. Well, the best thing to do is to give alms to both crosses, so that neither will feel resentful, and Maria Clara will recover more quickly. Are the rooms in good order? You know that a new señor comes with the doctors, a relative of Father Dámaso by marriage. It is necessary that nothing be lacking.”

The two cousins, Sinang and Victoria, were at the other end of the dining-room. They had come to keep company with the sick Maria. Andeng was helping them clean up a tea service in order to serve tea. [149]

“Do you know Doctor Espadaña?” asked Maria Clara’s foster sister, directing her question to Victoria.

“No!” replied the latter. “The only thing that I know about him is that he charges very dearly, according to Captain Tiago.”

“Then he ought to be very good,” said Andeng. “The one who performed the operation on the stomach of Doña Marta charged a big price, but he was very wise.”

“You goose!” exclaimed Sinang. “Not all who charge high prices are wise. Look at Doctor Guevara. He did not know how to aid a woman in childbirth, but after cutting off the child’s head, he collected one hundred pesos from the widower. What he did know was how to charge.”

“What do you know about it?” her cousin asked, giving her a jab with her elbow.

“Why shouldn’t I know about it? The husband, who is a wood-sawyer, after losing his wife, had to lose his house also, for the Alcalde was a friend of the doctor’s and made him pay. Why shouldn’t I know? My father loaned him money so that he could make a trip to Santa Cruz.”

A coach stopped before the house and cut off all the conversation.

Captain Tiago, followed by Aunt Isabel, ran downstairs to receive the new arrivals. They were the doctor, Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, his wife, Doctora Doña Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña; and a young Spaniard. The latter had a sympathetic face and a pleasing appearance.

The doctora wore a silk gown, embroidered with flowers, and on her hat, a large parrot half crushed among trimmings of red and blue ribbons. The dust of the road had mingled with the rice powder on her cheeks, strongly accentuating her wrinkles. She was leaning on the arm of her lame husband.

“I have the pleasure to present to you our cousin, Don Alfonso Linares de Espadaña,” said Doña Victorina, pointing toward the young man. “The gentleman is a god-son of a relative of Father Dámaso, and is private secretary to all the ministers.” [150]

The young man bowed gracefully. Captain Tiago almost kissed his hand.

Doña Victorina was a woman of about forty-five summers, which, according to her arithmetical calculations, was equivalent to thirty-two springs. She had been pretty in her youth, but, raging over her own beauty, she had looked with disdain on many Filipino adorers, for her aspirations were for the other race. She had not cared to entrust her little white hand to anybody, but this not on account of lack of confidence on her part, for she had entrusted rings and jewels of inestimable value to various foreign adventurers.

Six months before the time of the happenings of which we are writing, she saw her beautiful dream realized, that dream of her whole life, on account of which she had disdained all manner of flattery and even the promises of love, which had been cooed into her ears, or sung in serenades by Captain Tiago. Late, it is true, she had realized her dream; but she knew well the proverb—“Better late than never,” and consoled herself by repeating it again and again. “There is no complete happiness on this earth,” was her other favorite proverb, but neither of these ever passed her lips in the presence of other people.

Doña Victorina, after passing her first, second, third and fourth youth in fishing in the sea of men for the object of her dreams, had at last to content herself with what fortune cared to give her. The poor little woman, if she, instead of having passed thirty-two springs, had not passed more than thirty-one—the difference according to her arithmetic was very great—would have thrown back the prize which Destiny offered her, and preferred to wait for another more in conformity with her tastes. But, as the man proposed and necessity disposed it so, for she needed a husband very badly, she was compelled to content herself with a poor man, who had been driven by necessity to leave the Province of Estremadura in Spain. He, after wandering about the world for six or seven months, a modern Ulysses, found at last in the island of Luzon, hospitality, money, and a faded Calypso, his better half—but alas! a bitter half. He was known as the unhappy Tiburcio Espadaña, and, although he was [151]thirty-five years old and seemed even older, he was, however, younger than Doña Victorina, who was only thirty-two.

He had come to the Philippines in the capacity of clerk in the custom house, but after all the sea-sickness of the voyage and after fracturing a leg on the way, he had the bad luck to receive his discharge fifteen days after his arrival. He was left without a single cuarto.

Distrusting the sea, he did not wish to return to Spain without having made a fortune. So he decided to devote himself to something. Spanish pride did not permit him to do any manual labor. The poor man would have worked with pleasure to have earned an honorable living, but the prestige of the Spaniard did not permit this, nor did that prestige provide him with the necessities of life.

At first he lived at the expense of some of his countrymen, but, as Tiburcio had some self-respect, the bread was sour to him, and instead of getting fat he grew thin. As he had neither knowledge of any science, money nor recommendations, his countrymen, in order to get rid of him, advised him to go to some of the provinces and pass himself off as a Doctor of Medicine. At first, he did not like the idea, and opposed the plan, for although he had been a servant in the San Carlos Hospital, he had not learned anything about the science of healing, his duty having been to dust off the benches and light the fires, and, even in this work, he had served only a short time. But as necessity was pressing him hard, and as his friends pointed out the vanity of his scruples, he took their advice, went into the provinces and began to visit the sick, charging as much for his services as his conscience permitted. Later on he began to charge dearly and to put a high price on his visits. On this account, he was at once taken to be a great doctor and would probably have made his fortune, had not the attention of the Protective Medical Society of Manila, been called to his exorbitant charges and to his harmful competition.

Private citizens and professors interceded in his behalf. “Man!” said the zealous Doctor C. in speaking of him. “Let him make his little money. Let him make [152]his little six or seven thousand pesos. He will be able to return to his native land then and live in peace. What does it matter to you? Let him deceive the unwary natives. Then they may become smarter. He is a poor, unhappy fellow. Do not take the bread from his mouth. Be a good Spaniard!”

Doctor C. was a good Spaniard and he winked at the matter. But when the facts reached the ears of the people, they began to lose confidence in him, and little by little Don Tiburcio Espadaña lost his clientage, and found himself almost obliged to beg for bread day by day. Then it was that he learned from a friend of his, who was also a friend of Doña Victorina about the position of that woman, and about her patriotism and good heart. Don Tiburcio saw in her a bit of blue sky and asked to be presented.

Doña Victorina and Don Tiburcio met. Tarde venientibus ossa, he would have exclaimed if he had known Latin. She was no longer passable, she was past. Her abundant hair had been reduced to a wad about the size of an onion top, as the servants were wont to describe it. Her face was full of wrinkles and her teeth had begun to loosen. Her eyes had also suffered, and considerably, too. She had to squint frequently when she cared to look off at a certain distance. Her character was the only thing that had remained unchanged.

At the end of half an hour’s conversation, they came to an understanding and accepted each other. She would have preferred a Spaniard less lame, less of a stammerer, less bald, one with more teeth, one of more rank and social standing, or categoría, as she called it. But this class of Spaniards never came to ask her hand. She had heard, too, more than once that “opportunity is bald,” and she honestly believed that Don Tiburcio was that very opportunity, for on account of his dark days he had prematurely lost his hair. What woman is not prudent at thirty-two?

Don Tiburcio, for his part, felt a vague melancholy when he thought of his honeymoon. He smiled with resignation especially when he called the phantom of hunger to his aid. He had never had ambition or pretensions. [153]His tastes were simple, his thoughts limited; but his heart, untouched till then, had dreamed of a very different divinity. In his youth when, tired by his day’s labor, after a frugal meal, he lay down on a poor bed, he dreamed of a smiling, affectionate image. Afterward, when his sorrows and privations increased, the years passed and his poetical dreams were not fulfilled, he thought merely of a good woman, a willing hand, a worker, who might afford him a small dowry, console him when tired from labor, and quarrel with him from time to time. Yes, he was thinking of the quarrels as a happiness! But when, obliged to wander from country to country, in search no longer of a fortune, but of some commodity to sustain his life for the remainder of his days; when, deluded by the accounts of his countrymen who came from beyond the seas, he embarked for the Philippines—then the vision of a housekeeper gave way to an image of an arrogant mestiza, a beautiful native with large black eyes, draped in silks and transparent garments, loaded with diamonds and gold, offering him her love and her carriages.

He arrived in the Philippines and believed that he was about to realize his dream, for the young women who, in silver-plated carriages, frequented the Luneta and the Malecon, Manila’s popular and fashionable drives, looked at him with a certain curiosity. Later, when this curiosity on their part had ceased, the mestiza disappeared from his dreams, and with great labor he formed in his mind a picture of a widow, but an agreeable widow. So it was that when he saw only part of his dream taking on real form, he became sad. But he was somewhat of a philosopher and said to himself: “That was a dream, but in the world one does not live in dreams.” Thus he settled all his doubts; she wasted a lot of rice powder on her cheeks. Pshaw! When they were once married he would make her stop that easily enough; she had many wrinkles in her face, but his coat had more bare spots and patches; she was old, pretentious, and imperious, but hunger was more imperious, and still more pretentious; and then, too, he had a sweet disposition, and, who could tell?—love modifies character; she spoke Spanish [154]very badly, but he himself did not speak it well; at least, the head of the Customs department had so notified him in his discharge from his position, and besides, what did it matter? What if she was old and ridiculous? He was lame, toothless and bald. When some friend jested with him, he would respond: “Give me bread and call me a fool.”

Don Tiburcio was what is vulgarly called a man who would not harm a fly. He was modest and incapable of conceiving an evil thought. He would have made a good missionary had he lived in olden times. His stay in the country had not given him that conviction of his own superiority, of his own worth, and of his high importance, which the larger part of his countrymen acquire in a few weeks in the Philippines. His heart had never been able to conceive hatred for anybody or anything. He had not yet been able to find a revolutionist. He only looked upon the people as unhappy beings whom it was fitting for him to deprive of a little of their wealth in order to prevent himself becoming even more unhappy than they. When they tried to make a case against him for passing as a doctor without a proper license, he did not resent it, he did not complain. He saw the justice of the case, and only replied: “But it is necessary to live!”

So they were married and went to Santa Aña to pass their honeymoon. But on the night of the wedding Doña Victorina had a bad attack of indigestion. Don Tiburcio gave thanks to God and showed solicitude and care. On the second night, however, he conducted himself like an honorable man, but on the day following, when he looked in the mirror at his bare gums, he smiled with melancholy: he had grown ten years older at least.

Doña Victorina, charmed with her husband, had a good set of front teeth made for him, and had the best tailors in the city dress and equip him. She ordered carriages and calesas, sent to Batangas and Albay provinces for the finest spans of horses, and even obliged him to make two entries in the coming horse races.

In the meantime, while she was transforming her husband, she did not forget her own person. She laid aside the silk saya or Filipino skirt and piña cloth bodice, for [155]a dress of European style. She substituted false curls in front for the simple hair dress of the Filipinos. Her dresses, which fitted her “divinely bad,” disturbed the peace and tranquillity of the entire neighborhood.

The husband never went out of the house afoot—she did not want people to see that he was lame. He always took her for drives through the places most deserted, much to her pain, for she wanted to display her husband on the drives most frequented by the public. But out of respect for their honeymoon, she kept silent.

The last quarter of the honeymoon had just begun when he wanted to stop her from using rice powder on her cheeks, saying to her that it was false and not natural. Doña Victorina frowned and looked squarely at his front set of teeth. He at once became silent, and she learned his weakness.

She soon got the idea that she was to become a mother and made the following announcement to all her friends: “Next month, we, I and de Espadaña are going to the Peñinsula.1 I don’t want to have my son born here and have them call him a revolutionist.”

She added a de to her husband’s name. The de did not cost anything and gave categoría to the name. When she signed herself, she wrote Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña. That de de Espadaña was her mania. Neither the lithographer who printed her cards, nor her husband, could get the idea out of her head.

“If I do not put more than one de in the name people will think that I haven’t it, fool!” said she to her husband.

She was talking continually about her preparations for the voyage to Spain. She learned by memory the names of the points where the steamers called, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk—“I am going to see the sismus of the Suez Canal. De Espadaña thinks that it is the most beautiful, and De Espadaña has seen the whole world.”—“I will probably never return to this land of savages.”—“I was not born to live here. Aden or Port Said would be more suitable for me. I have always [156]thought so since I was a child.” Doña Victorina, in her geography, divided the world into two parts, the Philippines and Spain. In this she differed from the lower class of people in Madrid for they divide it into Spain and America, or Spain and China, America and China being merely different names for the same country.

The husband knew that some of these things were barbarisms, but he kept silent so that she would not mock him and twit him with his stammering. She feigned to be whimsical in order to increase her illusion that she was a mother, and she began to dress herself in colors, adorn herself with flowers and ribbons, and to walk through the Escolta in a wrapper. But oh! what an illusion! Three months passed and the dream vanished. By this time, having no fear that her son would be a revolutionist, she gave up the voyage. She consulted doctors, mid-wives and old women, but all in vain. To the great displeasure of Captain Tiago she made fun of San Pascual Bailon, as she did not care to run to any saint. On account of this a friend of her husband told her:

“Believe me, Señora, you are the only espiritu fuerte (strong-minded person) in this country.”

She smiled without understanding what espiritu fuerte meant, but, at night, when it was time to be sleeping, she asked her husband about it.

“Daughter,” replied he, “the e—espir—espiritu most fu-fuerte that I know—know about is a—a—ammonia. My fr-fr-friend must have be-been us-using a figure of rhetoric.”

From that time on, she was always saying, whenever she could, “I am the only ammonia in this country, speaking rhetorically, as Señor N. de N. who is from the Peñinsula and who has much categoría, puts it.”

Whatever she said had to be done. She had come to dominate her husband completely. On his part, he offered no great resistance, and was converted into a little lap dog for her. If he incommoded her she would not let him go out for a drive, and when she became really infuriated, she would snatch out his false teeth and leave [157]him a horrible-looking man for one or more days, according to the offense.

It occurred to her that her husband ought to be a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, and so she expressed herself to him.

“Daughter! Do you want them to arrest me?” he said, frightened.

“Don’t be a fool. Let me arrange it!” she replied. “You are not going to attend any one, but I want them to call you a doctor and me a doctora, eh?”

And on the following day Rodoreda, a prominent marble dealer in Manila, received an order for the following engraving on black marble: DR. DE ESPADAÑA, SPECIALIST IN ALL KINDS OF DISEASES.

All of the servants had to give them their new titles, and, in consequence of it all, she increased the number of her curls in front, the layer of rice powder, the ribbons and laces, and looked with more disdain than ever on the poor and less fortunate women of her country, who had less categoría than she. Each day she felt herself more dignified and elevated, and, following along this road, in less than a year she would think herself of divine origin.

These sublime thoughts, however, did not prevent her from growing more ridiculous and older each day. Every time that Captain Tiago met her in the street and remembered that he had once made love to her in vain, he would go at once to the church and give a peso for a mass as a thank offering for his good luck in not marrying her. In spite of this, Captain Tiago highly respected her husband, on account of his title of “specialist in all kinds of diseases,” and he listened with close attention to the few phrases that he managed to stutter out. In fact, it was on account of this title and the fact that the doctor did not attend everybody, that the Captain chose him to attend his daughter.

As to the young man Linares, it is a different story. When she was making ready for her voyage to Spain, Doña Victorina thought of having an administrator from the Peñinsula to look after her affairs, for she did not trust Filipinos. Her husband remembered a nephew in [158]Madrid who was studying to become a lawyer, and who was considered the smartest one in his family. They wrote to him, then, sending him in advance money for the passage, and, when the dream was dispelled, the young man was already on his way.

These are the three persons who had just arrived.

While they were eating their breakfast, Father Salví arrived, and, as the husband and wife had already met the friar, they presented him to the young Linares, with all his titles. The young man blushed.

As was natural they spoke of Maria Clara. The young maiden was resting and sleeping. They talked over the voyage. Doña Victorina showed her verbosity by criticising the customs of the provinces, the nipa houses, the bamboo bridges, without forgetting to tell the curate about her friendship with the Commander of the Army, the Alcalde so and so, Judge so and so of the Supreme Court, and with the governor of the province, all persons of categoría, who had much consideration for her.

“If you had come two days before, Dona Victorina,” replied Captain Tiago during a short pause, “you would have met His Excellency, the Governor General. He sat right there.”

“What? How’s that? Was His Excellency here? And in your house? A lie!”

“I tell you he sat right there. If you had come two days before——”

“Ah! What a shame that little Clara did not fall sick before!” exclaimed she, in real sorrow. And directing herself to Linares: “Do you hear, cousin? His Excellency was here! You see De Espadaña was right when he told you that we were not going to the house of a miserable native. For you should know, Don Santiago, that our cousin was a friend of all the Ministers in Madrid and all the Dukes, and he dined in the house of Count del Campanario (belfry).”

“Duke de la Torre (tower), Victorina,” said her husband, correcting her.

“It amounts to the same thing. Do you think you can tell me that——”

“Would I find Father Dámaso in town to-day?” interrupted [159]Linares, turning to Father Salví. “They have told me that he is near here.”

“He is, precisely, and will come here in a little while,” replied the curate.

“How glad I am! I have a letter for him,” exclaimed the young man. “And if it had not been for this happy chance which brought me here, I would have come expressly to visit him.”

“The happy chance—that is, Maria Clara—had, in the meantime awakened.”

“De Espadaña!” said Doña Victorina, finishing her breakfast. “Are we going to see little Clara?” And turning to Captain Tiago, “For you only, Don Santiago; for you alone! My husband does not treat anybody except people of categoría, and he even refuses some of them! My husband is not like those about here—in Madrid he only visited people of categoría.”

They passed into the sick room.

The room was almost dark. The windows were shut for fear of a draught, and the little light which illuminated the room came from the two wax candles which were burning in front of an image of the Virgin of Antipolo.

Her head wrapped up in a handkerchief, saturated in cologne water, her body wrapped in wide folds of white sheets which outlined her virginal form, the sick maiden lay on her bed of kamakon2 among jusi and piña curtains. Her hair, forming a frame around her oval face, increased her transparent paleness, which was animated only by her large eyes full of sadness. At her side were her two friends and Andeng.

De Espadaña felt of her pulse, examined her tongue, asked some questions, and shaking his head seriously, said:

“Sh-sh-she is si-sick. But we-we-we can cu-cu-cure her.”

Doña Victorina looked with pride at those around her.

“A li-lichen in mil-milk in the-the morning; syrup of marsh marsh-mal-mallow, tw-o—two hounds’—hounds’ tongue pi-pills,” ordered De Espadaña. [160]

“Take courage, little Clara,” said Doña Victorina, approaching her. “We have come to cure you. I am going to present our cousin to you.”

Linares was absorbed, contemplating those eloquent eyes which seemed to be seeking some one, and he did not hear Doña Victorina call him.

“Señor Linares,” said the curate, calling him out of his ecstacy. “Here comes Father Dámaso.”

In fact, Father Dámaso was coming, pale and somewhat sad. On leaving his bed, his first visit was to Maria Clara. He was no longer the Father Dámaso that he had been, so robust and talkative. He now walked along in silence and with unsteady footsteps. [161]

1 A wrong pronunciation of the Spanish Peninsula meaning Spain.
2 A costly and rich wood like ebony.

Chapter XXV.

Without paying attention to anybody, Father Dámaso went straight to the sick room and took hold of Maria’s hand.

“Maria!” said he, with indescribable tenderness, as tears dropped from his eyes. “Maria, my child, you are not going to die!”

Maria opened her eyes and looked at him with surprise.

None who knew the Franciscan suspected that he ever had such tender thoughts. No one ever supposed that a heart existed under that gross and rude aspect.

Father Dámaso could say no more and left the maiden, weeping like a child. He went out through the room at the head of the stairs, to give free vent to his grief, on Maria Clara’s balcony under her favorite vines.

“How he loves his god-daughter!” thought they all.

Father Salví witnessed the scene, immovable and silent, lightly biting his lips.

When his grief was somewhat soothed, Father Dámaso was introduced by Doña Victorina to the young Linares, who approached the friar with respect.

Father Dámaso gazed at him in silence from head to foot. He took the letter which the young man handed to him and read it apparently without understanding it, for he asked him:

“And who are you?”

“Alfonso Linares, the god-son of your brother-in-law,” stammered the young man.

Father Dámaso leaned back and examined the young man again. His face brightened up and he rose to his feet.

“And so you are the god-son of little Charles!” he exclaimed. [162]“Come here and let me embrace you. It was some days ago that I received your letter. So it is you! I did not know you—but that is easily explained, for you were not yet born when I left the country. I never knew you.”

And Father Dámaso stretched out his robust arms to the young man who blushed, either from shame or suffocation. Father Dámaso seemed to have completely forgotten his grief.

After the first moments of effusion had passed, and questions had been asked about Carlicos, as he called little Charles, Father Dámaso asked:

“Well. What does Carlicos want me to do for you?”

“I believe he says something in the letter,” stammered Linares again.

“In the letter? Let us see. ’Tis so! And he wants me to get you a job and a wife! Hm! Employment—employment: that is easy. Do you know how to read and write?”

“I have graduated in law from the Central University.”

“Carambas! So you are a pettifogger? Well, you don’t look it—you look more like a young gentleman. But so much the better! But to find you a wife—hm! hm! a wife.”

“Father, I am not in a hurry about it,” said Linares, confused.

But Father Dámaso began to walk from one end of the room to the other, muttering: “A wife! A wife!”

His face by this time was no longer sad, nor was it cheerful. It expressed the greatest seriousness and he seemed to be meditating. Father Salví surveyed the scene from a distance.

“I did not believe that it could give me such pain,” murmured Father Dámaso in a mournful voice. “But of two evils the lesser.”

And raising his voice and approaching Linares, he said:

“Come here, my boy! We will speak with Santiago.”

Linares turned pale and allowed himself to be led along by the priest, who was deep in thought. [163]

Then it was Father Salví’s turn to walk up and down the room and he did so, meditating, as was his custom.

A voice bidding him good morning stopped his monotonous tread. He raised his head and his eyes met Lucas, who saluted him humbly.

“What do you want?” asked the eyes of the curate.

“Father, I am the brother of the man who was killed on the day of the fiesta,” replied Lucas, in a tearful tone.

Father Salví stepped back.

“And what of it?” he muttered, in an unintelligible voice.

Lucas made an effort to weep, and dried his eyes with his handkerchief.

“Father,” said he, crying, “I have been to Crisostomo’s house to ask him for indemnity. At first, he received me with kicks, saying that he would not pay anything, since he had run the risk of being killed through the fault of my dear, unfortunate brother. Yesterday, I went to talk with him again, but he had already left for Manila, leaving me for charity’s sake five hundred pesos for my poor brother—five hundred pesos—ah! Father.”

The curate listened to the first part of his story with surprise and attention, but slowly there appeared on his lips a smile—a smile of such contempt and sarcasm at the comedy that was being played, that if Lucas had seen it he would have fled in all haste.

“And what do you want now?” he asked, turning his back to him.

“Alas! Father, for love of God tell me what I ought to do. Father, you have always given good advice.”

“Who has told you that? You do not live here.”

“But the whole province knows you, Father!”

Father Salví went up to him with his eyes full of anger and, motioning to the street, said to the frightened Lucas:

“Go to your house and give thanks to Don Crisostomo that he has not sent you to jail. Get away from here.”

Forgetting his rôle, Lucas muttered:

“Well, I thought——” [164]

“Out of here!” cried Father Salví, in a nervous tone.

“I want to see Father Dámaso.”

“Father Dámaso is busy. Out of here!” ordered the curate, in an imperative tone, again.

Lucas went down the stairs murmuring: “He is another. How poorly he pays! He who pays better....”

The voice of the curate had reached the ears of all in the house, even Father Dámaso, Captain Tiago and Linares.

“An insolent beggar who came to ask alms and doesn’t want to work,” said Father Salví, taking his hat and cane and starting toward the convent. [165]
The Persecuted.
Chapter XXVI.

By the dim light which the moon diffused through the thick branches of the trees, a man wandered along the forest trails slowly and cautiously. From time to time, as if to find out where he was, he whistled a particular melody, to which another in the distance responded with the same air. The man listened attentively, and afterward proceeded in the direction of the distant sound.

Finally, passing through the thousand difficulties which a virgin forest offers in the night time, he came to a small clearing. High rocks, crowned with trees, surrounded the place, forming a sort of ruined amphitheatre. Recently cut trees, with their charred trunks and enormous rocks, which Nature had covered with her mantle of green foliage, filled the middle of the open space.

Scarcely had the unknown man arrived, when another figure quickly appeared from behind one of the large rocks, advanced and drew a revolver.

“Who are you?” he asked in Tagalog and, in an imperious voice, as he cocked the hammer of his weapon.

“Is old Pablo among you?” asked the first calmly, without replying to the question or becoming intimidated.

“Do you refer to the Captain? Yes, he is.”

“Tell him, then, that Elias is looking for him here,” said the man.

“Are you Elias?” asked the other with a certain respect, and approaching him without lowering his revolver. “Then come.”

Elias followed him.

They penetrated into a kind of cavern, which was hollowed out in the depths of the earth. The guide, who knew the way, told the pilot when he ought to get down, stoop or crawl. However, it was not long before they came to a [166]sala or room in the cave, miserably illuminated by pitch torches, and occupied by twelve or fifteen armed men. The faces of the men were dirty and their clothes ragged; some were sitting down, others lying down, conversing among themselves in a low tone. Leaning his elbows on a stone which served as a table and contemplating thoughtfully the lamp, which was shedding very little light for the amount of smoke it made, sat an old man. His countenance was sad, and his head wrapped in a bloody rag. If we had not known that the place was a cave of tulisanes, we would have said, on reading the desperation on the face of the old man, that it was the Tower of Hunger on the eve when Ugolino devoured his sons.

At the arrival of Elias and the guide, the men were about to arise, but, at a signal from the guide, they were quieted and contented themselves with examining the pilot, who was entirely unarmed.

The old man turned his head slowly and his eyes met the sturdy figure of Elias. The latter, in turn, with his head uncovered, full of sadness and interest, gazed upon the old man.

“Is it you?” asked the old man, his face brightening a little as he recognized the youth.

“How badly off you are!” murmured Elias, in an half-intelligible tone of voice.

The old man bowed in silence, made a sign to the men, who then arose and left, not, however, without first directing glances at the pilot, measuring his stature and muscles.

“Yes!” said the old man to Elias as soon as they found themselves alone. “Six months ago, I gave you refuge in my house. Then, it was I who sympathized with you; now, fortune has changed and it is you who pity me. But sit down, and tell me how you came here.”

“Some fifteen days ago they told me of your misfortune,” replied the young man slowly, and in a low voice, looking toward the light. “I at once set out on the road and I have been searching for you from mountain to mountain. I have travelled over the greater part of two provinces.

“Rather than spill innocent blood,” said Pablo, “I have [167]had to flee. My enemies are afraid to show themselves and shield themselves behind some unhappy fellows who have never done me the slightest injury.”

Then, after a short pause, of which Elias took advantage to read the thoughts in that melancholy countenance, he replied:

“I have come to make a proposition. Having searched in vain for some member of the family which has caused me my misfortunes, I have decided to leave the province where I am living and to emigrate to the north and live there among the heathen and independent tribes. Do you want to leave this life and go with me? I will be your son, since you have lost those whom you had, and I, who have no family, will take you as my father.”

The old man shook his head and said:

“At my age, when a person makes a desperate resolution it is because there is no other course open. A man who, like me has passed his youth and the best years of his life working for his own future and for the future of his sons, a man who has been submissive to all the wishes of his superiors, who has discharged conscientiously all his duties, suffered everything in order to live in peace and in tranquillity; when such a man, whose blood has been chilled by Time, renounces all his past and all his future, on the very edge of his grave—when a man does this, it is because he has decided with mature judgment that peace does not exist, and that there is no Supreme Good. What use is there in living a few miserable days in a foreign land? I had two sons, a daughter, a fireside, a fortune. I enjoyed consideration and esteem. Now I am like a tree that has been stripped of its branches; a wandering fugitive, hunted like a wild beast in the forest, and all—why? Because a man dishonored my daughter, because her brothers wanted to make that man account for his infamous deed, and because that man is placed above all others with a title of Minister of God. But despite it all, I, a father, I, dishonored in my old age, pardoned the injury, for I was indulgent with the passions of youth and the weakness of the flesh, and, as the evil was irreparable, I wanted to save what still remained to me. But the criminal, afraid that vengeance was near at hand, [168]sought the destruction of my sons. What did he do? You do not know? Do you know how they feigned that there had been a robbery in the convent and how one of my sons figured among the accused? The other son they could not include because he was away. Do you know the tortures to which they were submitted? You know them because they are like those in other towns. I saw my son hung by the hair, I heard his cries, I heard him call me, and, coward that I was, and, accustomed to peace, I was not brave enough to kill or be killed. Do you know that the robbery was not proved, that it was seen that it was a calumny, that the curate was transferred to another town and that my son died from the result of his tortures? The other boy, who was still left for me, was not a coward like his father. The executioner was afraid that this son would take revenge for the death of his brother and so, under pretense of his not having a cedula,1 which for the moment had been forgotten, he was imprisoned by the Civil Guard, maltreated, irritated and provoked by force and injuries until he was driven to suicide. And I have survived after such a disgrace. But, if I had not the courage of a father to defend his sons, I have left a heart to take vengeance and I shall be revenged! The discontented are uniting under my command, my enemies increase my camp, and on that day when I consider myself strong enough I will go down into the plain and extinguish in fire both my vengeance and my own existence. And that day will come or there is no God!”

The old man rose to his feet deeply agitated. With his eyes sparkling like fire and, in a hollow voice, he added, tearing his long hair:

“Curses upon me, curses upon me for having restrained the avenging hand of my sons. I have assassinated them! Had I allowed them to kill the criminal; had I had less faith in the justice of God and of men, I would now have my sons; perhaps they would have been fugitives, but I would have them and they would not have died in torture. I was not born to be a father! For that reason, I [169]haven’t them with me now! Curses upon me for not having learned, with all my years, in what age we live! But in blood and fire, and in my own death, I will know how to take vengeance for them!”

The unfortunate father, in the paroxysm of his grief, had taken off the bandage from his head, opening up a wound which he had on the forehead and from which the blood oozed out.

“I respect your grief,” replied Elias, “and I understand your desire for vengeance. I, too, am like you, but, for fear of harming an innocent one, I prefer to forget my misfortunes.”

“You can forget them because you are young, and because you have not lost your son, have not lost your last hope! But, I assure you, I will not harm an innocent person. Do you see that wound? I allowed myself to receive that in order not to kill a poor cuaderillero who was fulfilling his duty.”

“But see!” said Elias, after a moment’s silence. “See what frightful destruction you will bring upon our unfortunate country. If you seek revenge by your own hand your enemies will retaliate, not against you, not against those who are armed, but against the people, who are always accused, and then how many more injustices!”

“Let the people learn to defend themselves. Let each learn to defend himself.”

“You know that that is impossible. Señor, I have known you in other times when you were happy, then you gave me wise advice. Will you permit me...?”

The old man crossed his arms and seemed to meditate upon what he was going to say.

“Señor,” continued Elias, measuring his words well, “I have had the fortune to be of service to a young man, rich, of good heart, noble, and a lover of his country’s welfare. They say that this young man has friends in Madrid. I do not know it, but I can positively assure you that he is a friend of the Governor General. What do you say if we make him the bearer of the people’s complaints, if we can interest him in the cause of the unhappy?”

The old man shook his head.

“Do you say that he is a rich man? The rich think of [170]nothing but to increase their riches. Pride and pomp blind them, and, since they are generally well off, especially if they have powerful friends, none of them ever troubles himself about the unfortunates. I know it all, for I was once rich myself.”

“But the man of whom I am speaking does not seem to be like the others. He is a son who would not allow the memory of his father to be dishonored. He is a young man who thinks about the future—thinks of a good future for his sons, for he may in a short time have a family of his own.”

“Then he is a man who is going to be happy. Our cause is not a cause for happy men.”

“But it is a cause for men of good hearts.”

“That may be,” replied the old man sitting down. “Suppose that he consented to carry our complaints to the Governor General. Suppose that he finds in the court those who will argue for us. Do you think we will get justice?”

“Let us try it before resorting to bloody measures,” replied Elias. “It must seem strange to you that I, another unfortunate, young, robust—that I should propose to you old and weak—peaceful measures. But it is because I have seen so many miseries caused by us similar to those caused by tyrants. The unarmed is the one who suffers.”

“And if we do not accomplish anything?”

“Something will be accomplished, believe me! Not all who govern are unjust. And if we do not accomplish anything, if our voice is not listened to, if the man turns a deaf ear to the grief of his fellow men, then we will put ourselves under your orders.”

The old man, full of enthusiasm, embraced the young man.

“I accept your proposition, Elias. I know that you will keep your word. You come to me and I will help you take vengeance for your father. You will help me to take vengeance for my sons—my sons who were like you!”

“In the meantime, Señor, avoid all violent measures.”

“You can expound the complaints of the people. You certainly know them. When will we know the answer?”

“Within four days send a man to meet me on the beach at San Diego and I will tell him what the person [171]in whom I have hope says. If he accepts, we will get justice, and if he does not accept, I will be the first to fall in the fight which we will begin.”

“Elias will not die. Elias will be chief, when Captain Pablo falls, satisfied in his revenge,” said the old man. [172]
1 Certificate of identification required of all Filipinos under Spanish domination.

Chapter XXVII.
The Cock Fight.

In order to keep the Sabbath holy in the Philippines the people generally go to the cock fight, just as in Spain they go to the bull fight. Cock fighting, a passion introduced into the country and exploited for a century, is one of the vices of the people, more deeply rooted than the opium vice among the Chinese. The poor go there to risk what little they have, desirous of making money without working; the rich go there to amuse themselves, using the money which they have left over from their feasts and thanksgiving masses. The cock is educated with great care, with more care, perhaps, than the son who is to succeed his father in the cock-pit. The Government permits it and almost recommends it, for it decrees that the fight shall only be held in the public plazas and on holidays from after high mass till dark—eight hours.

The San Diego cock-pit does not differ from others which are found in all the towns. It consists of three parts: The first, or entrance, is a large rectangle, some twenty meters in length and fourteen in breadth. On one side is the door, generally guarded by a woman who collects the entrance fee. From the contribution which each one makes the Government receives a part, some hundred thousands of pesos each year. They say that with this money, which gives license to the vice, magnificent schools are raised, bridges and roadways constructed, and rewards offered for the encouragement of agriculture and commerce. Blessed be the vice which produces such good results! In this first precinct are the vendors of betel nut, cigars and tobacco, delicacies and refreshments. There the small boys, who accompany their fathers or uncles, are carefully initiated into the secrets of life.

This precinct communicates with another of slightly [173]larger dimensions, a sort of vestibule, where the people gather before the fight. There, one sees most of the cocks, tied by a cord to a bone driven into the ground like a nail; there, are the bettors, the lovers of the sport, the man skilled in fastening the gaffs or spurs to the cock’s legs; there, bargains are made, the situation discussed, money borrowed, and people curse, swear and laugh boisterously. In one place, some one is caressing his game cock, passing his hand over his brilliant plumage; in another, a man examines and counts the number of scales on the rooster’s legs, for that, they say, is a sign of valor. The battles of the heroes are related. There, too, you will see many a disappointed owner, with a sour face carrying out by the legs, a dead rooster, stripped of its plumage—the animal which was a favorite for months, petted, cared for day and night, and on which flattering hopes had been founded: now, nothing more than a dead fowl, to be sold for a peseta, stewed in ginger and eaten that very night. Sic transit gloria mundi! The loser returns to his fire-side, where an anxious wife and ragged children await him, without his little capital, without his rooster. From all that gilded dream, from all the care of months, from daybreak to sunset, from all those labors and fatigue, from all that, results a peseta, the ashes left from so much smoke.

In this foyer, or vestibule, the most ignorant discuss the coming contests; the most trifling, examine conscientiously the bird, weigh it, contemplate it, extend its wings, feel of its muscles. Some of the people are very well dressed, and are followed and surrounded by the backers of their game cocks. Others, dirty, with the seal of vice imprinted on their squalid faces, anxiously follow the movements of the rich and watch their betting, for the pocketbook can be emptied and the passion still be unsatisfied. There you see no face that is not animated, no indolent Filipino; none apathetic, none silent. All is movement, passion, eagerness.

From this place, one passes into the arena or rueda, as it is called. The floor, inclosed by bamboos, is generally elevated higher than the floor of the other two parts of the cock-pit. Running up from the floor and almost touching [174]the roof, are rows of seats for the spectators or gamblers—they come to be the same. During the combat these seats are filled with men and children who cry, shout, perspire, quarrel, and blaspheme. Fortunately, scarcely any women visit the cock-pit. In the rueda are the prominent men, the rich class, the bettors, the bookmaker, and the referee. The cocks fight on the ground, which is beaten down perfectly smooth, and there Destiny distributes to families laughter or tears, feasts or hunger.

As we enter, we can see the gobernadorcillo, Captain Pablo, Captain Basilio, and Lucas, the man with the scar on his face who was so disconsolate over the death of his brother.

Captain Basilio approaches one of those present and asks him:

“Do you know what cock Captain Tiago is going to bring?”

“I do not know, Señor. This morning two arrived, one of them the lásak (black sprinkled with white) which whipped the Consul’s talisain (red, sprinkled with black).”

“Do you think that my bulik (black, red and white), can beat him?”

“Yes, I surely do. I’ll stake my house and shirt on him!”

At that moment Captain Tiago arrived. He was dressed, like the big gamblers, in a camisa of Canton linen, woolen pantaloons, and a panama-straw hat. Behind him came two servants, carrying the lásak and a white cock of colossal proportions.

“Sinang tells me that Maria Clara is improving steadily,” said Captain Basilio.

“She no longer has any fever, but she is still weak.”

“Did you lose last night?”

“A little. I heard that you won.... I am going to see if I can win back my money.”

“Do you want to fight your lásak?” asked Captain Basilio, looking at the rooster.

“That depends on whether there is any money up.”

“How much will you stake?”

“I don’t play less than two thousand.” [175]

“Have you seen my bulik?” asked Captain Basilio, and then called a man to bring a small rooster.

Captain Tiago examined it, and after weighing it in his hand, and examining its scales, he handed it back.

“What do you put up?” he asked.

“Whatever you say.”

“Two thousand five hundred?”

“Make it three?”


“Let her go!”

The circle of curious people and gamblers learn that the two celebrated cocks are to be fought. Both the roosters have made a history for themselves; both have a reputation. All want to see and examine the two celebrities. Opinions are expressed, and prophecies made.

In the meantime the voices grow louder, the confusion is augmented, the rueda fills up and a rush is made for the seats. The soltadores bring two cocks to the ring for a preliminary contest. One of the roosters is blanco (white), the other rojo (red). They are already spurred, but the gaffs are not yet unsheathed. Cries of “Al blanco! al blanco!” are heard. Some one else shouts, “Al rojo!” The blanco is the favorite.

Civil Guards circulate among the crowd. They are not wearing the uniform of their body, nor do they wear the costume of the native. Pantaloons of guingon with a red fringe, a blue-spotted blouse shirt, and the cuartel cap—you have here their disguise, in harmony with their deportment; watching and betting, making disturbance and talking of maintaining the peace.

While the shouting is going on and men are jingling money in their hands; while the people are going down in their pockets for the last cuarto, or, if that is wanting, pledging their word, promising to sell their carabao, or their next harvest, two young men, apparently brothers, follow the gamblers with envious eyes. They approach, timidly murmur words which nobody catches, and each time become more and more melancholy, and look at each other with disgust and indignation. Lucas observes them, smiles malignantly, rattles some silver pesos, passes near to the two brothers, and looks toward the rueda, shouting: [176]

“I am betting fifty, fifty against twenty on the white!”

The two brothers exchanged looks.

“I told you,” murmured the older, “not to bet all your money. If you had obeyed me, we would have it now to put on the red.”

The younger one approached Lucas timidly and touched him on the arm.

“Is it you?” exclaimed the latter turning around and feigning surprise. “Does your brother accept my proposition or did you come to bet?”

“How can we bet when we have lost all?”

“Then you accept?”

“He does not want to! If you could lend us something: you have already said that you knew us....”

Lucas scratched his head, pulled down his camisa and replied:

“Yes, I know you. You are Tarsilo and Bruno, both young and strong. I know that your brave father died from the result of the hundred lashes which the soldiers gave him. I know that you do not think of avenging him.”

“You need not meddle in our history,” interrupted Tarsilo, the older. “That is a disgrace. If we did not have a sister, we would have been hanged long ago.”

“Hanged? They only hang cowards, or some one who has no money or protection. Certainly the mountains are near.”

“A hundred against twenty on the blanco,” cried one as he passed the group.

“Loan us four pesos ... three ... two,” begged the younger brother. “Presently I will return it to you doubled. The fight is going to begin.”

Lucas scratched his head again.

“Tst! This money is not mine. Don Crisostomo has given it to me for those who want to serve him. But I see that you are not like your father. He was really courageous.”

And, saying this, he went away from them, although not far.

“Let us accept. What does it matter?” said Bruno to his brother. “It amounts to the same thing whether you [177]are hanged or shot down. We poor serve for nothing else.”

“You are right, but think of our sister.”

In the meantime, the circle around the ring had been dispersed; the fight was going to commence. The voices began to die away, and the two soltadores and the skilled gaff fitter, were alone in the middle of the rueda. At a signal from the referee, the sheaths were removed from the razor-like knives on the cocks’ legs, and the fine blades glistened in a menacing way.

The two brothers, gloomy and silent, approached the ring and, resting their faces against the bamboo railing, watched the preparations. A man approached them and said in their ears: “Hundred to ten on the blanco!”

Tarsilo looked at him stupidly. Bruno elbowed his brother, who responded with a grunt.

The soltadores handle the roosters with masterly skill, taking great care not to wound them. A deep silence reigns throughout the pit. You would think that those present, with the exception of the two soltadores, were horrible wax figures. The two roosters are brought close together and allowed to pick at each other and thus become irritated. Then they allow them to look at each other, so that the poor little birds may know who has plucked out their feathers, and with whom they should fight. The feathers around the neck stand up; they look at each other fixedly; flashes of wrath escape from their little, round eyes. The moment has come. The birds are placed on the ground in the ring at a certain distance from each other.

The cocks advance slowly. Their little steps are heard upon the hard floor. Nobody speaks; nobody breathes. Lowering and raising their heads, as if measuring each other with a look, the two roosters mutter sounds, perhaps of threat or contempt. They have perceived the shining blades. Danger animates them, and they turn toward each other decided, but they stop at a short distance, and, as they look at each other, they bow their heads and again raise their feathers on end. With their natural valor, they rush at each other impetuously; they [178]strike beak against beak; breast against breast, blade against blade, and wing against wing. The blows have been stopped with dexterity and skill, and only a few feathers have fallen. They again measure each other! Suddenly the blanco turns and, raising himself in the air, flashes his death-dealing knife, but the rojo has already doubled up his legs, ducked his head and the blanco has only cut the air. Then, on touching the ground, to avoid being wounded from behind, he turns quickly and faces the other. The red attacks him with fury, but he defends himself with coolness. Not without reason was he the favorite of the crowd. All, trembling and anxious, follow the movements of the battle, now this one and now that one giving an involuntary shout. The ground is being covered with red and white feathers, tinged with blood. But the duel does not go to the one who draws first blood. The Filipino here follows the laws laid down by the Government, which say that the cock which is killed or flees loses the fight. The blood now wets the ground; the blows are repeated, but the victory is still undecided. Finally, making a supreme effort, the blanco throws himself forward to give a last blow; he drives his knife into the wing of the rojo and buries it among the bones. But the blanco has been wounded in the breast, and both, weak from loss of blood, and panting, fastened together, remain immovable until the blanco falls, bleeds through his neck, kicks violently and is in the agony of death. The rojo, pinned by his wing, is held to the other’s side; and little by little he doubles up his legs and slowly closes his eyes.

Then the referee, in accordance with the regulations prescribed by the Government, declares the rojo the winner. A wild and prolonged outcry greets the decision, an outcry which is heard throughout the town. He, who, from afar, hears the cry, understands that the dejado has beaten the favorite, for otherwise the outcry would not have lasted so long. So it happens among nations: when a small nation succeeds in gaining a victory over a greater one, the song and story of it last through centuries.

“Do you see?” said Bruno, with indignation, to his [179]brother, “if you had taken my advice to-day, we would have had one hundred pesos. On your account we are without a cuarto.”

Tarsilo did not reply, but, with wide-open eyes, looked around him as if in search of some one.

“There he is talking with Pedro,” added Bruno. “He is giving him money—what a lot of money!”

Tarsilo remained silent and thoughtful. With the arm of his camisa, he wiped away the sweat which formed in drops on his forehead.

“Brother,” said Bruno, “I am decided, even if you are not. The lásak ought to win and we ought not to lose the opportunity. I want to bet on the next fight. What does it matter? Thus, we will avenge our father.”

“Wait!” said Tarsilo to him, and looked him in the eyes. Both were pale. “I am with you. You are right. We will avenge our father.”

He stopped, however, and again wiped away the perspiration.

“Why do you stop?” asked Bruno impatiently.

“Do you know what fight is the next one? Is it worth the trouble?”

“What! Haven’t you heard? Captain Tiago’s lásak against Captain Basilio’s bulik. According to the run of luck, the lásak ought to win.”

“Ah! The lásak. I would bet ... but let us make sure first.”

Bruno made a gesture of impatience, but followed his brother. The latter looked the rooster over carefully, thought about it, debated with himself and asked a few questions. The unfortunate fellow was in doubt. Bruno was nervous and looked at him angrily.

“Why, don’t you see that wide scale which he has there near the spur? Do you see those feet? What more do you want? Look at those legs. Stretch out his wings. And that broken scale on top of that wide one, and that double one?”

Tarsilo did not hear him, he kept on examining the cock. The rattle of silver coins reached his ears.

“Let us see the bulik now,” said he, in a choking voice. [180]

Bruno stamped the ground with his feet, grated his teeth, but obeyed his brother.

They approached the other group. There they were arming the cock, they were selecting gaffs for him, and the expert, in fitting them to the rooster’s legs, was preparing a piece of red silk. He waxed it and rubbed it over his knee a number of times.

Tarsilo gazed at the bird with a sombre air. It seemed that he was not looking at the cock, but at something in the future. He passed his hand over his forehead.

“Are you ready?” he asked his brother, his voice scarcely perceptible.

“I? Long ago. Without having to see them.”

“It is our poor sister——”

“Bah! Didn’t they tell you that the leader is Don Crisostomo? Have you not seen him walking with the Governor General? What danger will we run?”

“And if we are killed?”

“What does it matter? Our father died from being whipped to death.”

“You are right.”

Both brothers sought Lucas in the crowd.

As soon as they caught sight of him, Tarsilo stopped.

“No! Let us go away from here! We are going to lose,” he exclaimed.

“Go if you wish. I am going to accept.”


Unfortunately, a man approached them and said:

“Are you betting? I am backing the bulik.”

The two brothers did not reply.

“I’ll give you odds.”

“How much?” asked Bruno.

The man counted out four peso pieces. Bruno looked at him, breathless.

“I have two hundred. Fifty to forty.”

“No,” said Bruno promptly. “Make it ...”

“All right! fifty to thirty.”

“Double it if you wish!”

“Well! The bulik is my winning color and I have just won. Hundred against sixty!”

“That’s a go! Wait till I go and get my money.” [181]

“But I will be the stake-holder,” said the other, in whom the manner of Bruno inspired little confidence.

“It’s all the same to me!” responded the latter, trusting in the strength of his fists.

And, turning to his brother, he said:

“Go away, if you wish; I’m going to stay.”

Then Tarsilo reflected. He loved his brother and the game. He could not leave him alone, and he murmured. “Let it be so!”

They approached Lucas. The latter saw them coming and smiled.

“Eh! there!” said Tarsilo.

“What is it?”

“How much do you give?” asked the two brothers.

“I have already told you. If you want to find some others to help us surprise the cuartel, I will give you thirty pesos apiece, and ten pesos for each companion you get. If all comes out well, each will receive one hundred pesos and you two, double that amount. Don Crisostomo is rich.”

“Accepted,” exclaimed Bruno. “Hand over the money.”

“I knew well that you were brave, like your father. Come! Don’t let them hear us or they will kill us,” said Lucas, pointing to the Civil Guards.

And taking them into a corner, he told them, as he counted out the money to them:

“To-morrow Don Crisostomo will arrive and bring arms. Day after to-morrow, about eight o’clock at night, come to the cemetery. I will tell you about the final arrangements. You have time to find some other companions.”

They took leave of each other. Now the two brothers seemed to have changed their rôles. Tarsilo was calm; Bruno, pale. [182]

Chapter XXVIII.
The Two Señoras.

While Captain Tiago was fighting his lásak against the bulik, Doña Victorina took a walk through the town, with the intention of seeing the condition of the indolent natives, and of their houses and fields. She had dressed as elegantly as she could, putting all her ribbons and flowers on her silk gown, in order to impress the provincials, and make them see how great a distance was between them and her sacred person. Giving her arm to her lame husband, she fluttered through the streets of the town, among the stupefied and wondering inhabitants. Cousin Linares had remained in the house.

“What ugly houses these natives have,” began Doña Victorina, making a grimace. “I don’t know how they can live there: one must be a native to do it. They meet us and don’t uncover their heads! Hit them over the head as the curates and tenientes of the Guardia Civil do when they don’t take off their hats. Teach them manners.”

“And if they hit me?” asked Dr. de Espadaña.

“Aren’t you a man?”

“Bu—bu—but, I am la—la—lame.”

Doña Victorina was becoming bad-humored. The streets were not paved, and the train of her gown was covered with dust. Besides, they met many young women, who, on passing her, cast down their eyes and did not admire her lavish dress as they should have done. Sinang’s coachman, who was driving her and her cousin in an elegant carriage, had the impudence to call out tabi1 to them in such a warning voice that she had to get out of the way, and was only able to exclaim, “Look at that brute of a coachman! I am going to tell his master that he should educate his servants better!” [183]

“Let us go back to the house,” she ordered her husband.

He, fearing that there was going to be a storm, turned on his heels and obeyed the command.

They met the alferez on the way back and greeted him. He increased the discontent of Doña Victorina, for he not only failed to compliment her on her dress, but surveyed it almost with a mocking manner.

“You ought not to extend your hand to a simple alferez,” said she to her husband as soon as they were some distance away. “He scarcely touches his helmet, and you take off your hat. You don’t know how to maintain your rank.”

“He is ch—ch—chief here!”

“And what does that matter to us? Are we, perchance, natives?”

“You are right,” replied he, not wishing to quarrel.

They passed by the officer’s house. Doña Consolacion was in the window, as usual, dressed in her flannel outfit and smoking her cigar. As the house was rather low, they could see each other as they passed, and Doña Victorina could distinguish her very well. The Muse of the Guardia Civil examined her with tranquillity from head to foot, and, afterward, sticking out her lower lip, spit, turning her face to the other side. That put an end to Doña Victorina’s patience, and, leaving her husband without any support, she squared herself in front of the alfereza, trembling with rage, and unable to speak. Doña Consolacion turned her head slowly, looked her over again, and then spit again, but with still greater disdain.

“What is the matter with you, Doña?” said the alfereza.

“Can you tell me, Señora, why you look at me so? Are you envious?” Doña Victorina finally succeeded in saying.

“I envious of you?” said the Medusa with scorn. “O, yes! I envy those curls.”

“Come, wife!” said the doctor. “Do—don’t take no—no—notice of her!”

“Let me give this shameless common person a lesson!” replied the woman, giving her husband a push. He nearly fell to the ground. Turning to Doña Consolacion, she continued:

“Look how you treat me! Don’t think that I am a provincial, or a soldiers’ querida! In my house in Manila [184]alferezas never are allowed to come in. They wait at the door.”

“Oh-oh! Most Excellent Señora! Alferezas don’t enter, but invalids like that out there. Ha, ha, ha!”

If it hadn’t been for all the paint on her face, one could have seen Doña Victorina blush. She wanted to throw herself upon her enemy, but the sentry stopped her. In the meantime, the street was filling up with curious people.

“Listen! I lower myself talking with you. People of categoría ... Do you want my clothes to wash? I will pay you well. Do you think that I don’t know that you are a washerwoman?”

Doña Consolacion became furious. The reference to her being a washerwoman wounded her.

“Do you think that we do not know what you are? Get out! My husband has already told me. Señora, I, at least, have not belonged to more than one man, but you? One must be pretty hard up to take the leavings.”

This shot struck Doña Victorina square in the breast. She rolled up her sleeves, clenched her fists, and, gnashing her teeth, began:

“Come down here, you nasty old thing, that I may smash your filthy mouth.”

The Medusa disappeared quickly from the window, but was soon seen coming down the stairs on a run, swinging her husband’s whip.

Don Tiburcio interposed, pleading with them, but they would have come to blows if the alferez had not arrived.

“But, señoras!... Don Tiburcio!”

“Teach your woman better; buy her better clothes. If you haven’t the money, rob the people. You have your soldiers for that!” shouted Doña Victorina.

“Señora,” said the alferez furiously. “Thank yourself that I don’t forget that you are a woman; for if you were not, I would kick you to pieces, with all your curls and ribbons.”

“Se—se—señor al—alferez!” said Don Tiburcio.

“Go ahead! Kill us! You don’t wear big enough trousers, you quack.”

And so the battle waged: words, gestures, cries, insults, and injuries. They brought out all the nasty things they [185]could think of, all four speaking at the same time, and, saying so many things and bringing to light so many truths, that we will not relate here all that was said. The people who had gathered around to satisfy their curiosity, if they understood all the remarks, must have enjoyed themselves not a little. They were all waiting to see them come to blows. Unfortunately for the spectators, the curate came along and pacified them.

“Señoras! señoras! What a shame. Señor alferez.”

“What are you meddling in these matters for, you hypocrite, you Carlist?”

“Don Tiburcio, take away your wife! Señora, hold your tongue!”

“Tell that to those robbers of the poor!”

Finally, the dictionary of epithets was exhausted. The review of the disgraces of each couple was ended, and little by little they were separated, threatening and insulting each other. Father Salví kept going from one side to the other, adding life to the scene.

“This very day we will go to Manila and we will present ourselves to the Governor General,” said Doña Victorina, in fury to her husband. “You are not a man. It is a shame that you spend money for trousers.”

“B—b—but, wife, and the Guardia Civil? I—I—am lame.”

“You must challenge him to a duel with pistol or sword or, or——”

And Doña Victorina looked at his false teeth.

“Daughter, I never have used——”

Doña Victorina did not let him finish. With a sublime movement she jerked out his false teeth in the middle of the street, and throwing them to the ground stepped on them. He, half crying, and she sputtering away, arrived at the house. At that time, Linares was talking with Maria Clara, Sinang, and Victoria, and, as he knew nothing about the quarrel, the sudden arrival of his cousins gave him a shock. Maria Clara was lying on a sofa among pillows and blankets, and was not a little surprised at the doctor’s new physiognomy.

“Cousin,” said Doña Victorina, “you have got to challenge the alferez immediately to a duel, or——” [186]

“And why? what for?” asked Linares, surprised.

“You challenge him right off, or I will tell them all who you are.”

“But, Doña Victorina!”

The three young women looked at one another.

“The alferez has insulted us. The old witch came down with her whip, and that thing there allowed it all. A man!”

“Pshaw!” said Sinang. “They have been fighting and we haven’t seen it.”

“The alferez has broken the doctor’s teeth,” added Victoria.

“This very day we are going to Manila. You stay here to challenge him to a duel, and, if you don’t, I’ll tell Don Santiago that all that you have told him is a lie. I will tell him——”

“But, Doña Victorina! Doña Victorina!” interrupted Linares, pale and going closer to her. “You keep quiet. Don’t make me call to mind”——and he added in a low voice—“Don’t be imprudent, especially just now.”

Just at that time, when this was going on, Captain Tiago arrived home from the cock-pit. He was downhearted. He had lost his lásak.

But Doña Victorina did not give him much time to sigh. In a few words, and with many insults, she related to him what had passed, she, of course, trying to put herself in a good light.

“Linares is going to challenge him. Do you hear? If he don’t, I won’t let him marry your daughter. Don’t you permit it. If he has no courage, he does not merit Clarita.”

“Then you are going to marry this gentleman?” asked Sinang, with her jolly eyes full of tears. “I knew that you were discreet, but I did not think you so fickle.”

Maria Clara, pale as wax, raising herself half up, looked at her father with frightened eyes, and then at Doña Victorina and Linares. The latter turned red in the face, Captain Tiago looked down, and the señora added:

“Clarita, bear it in mind, and never marry a man who does not wear trousers. You expose yourself to insults like a dog, if you do.” [187]

But the young maiden did not reply and said to her friends:

“Take me to my room, for I cannot go alone.”

They helped her to her feet, and, leaning her marble-like head on pretty Sinang’s shoulder, and, with the arms of her friend around her waist, she went to her bedroom.

That night the doctor and his wife collected their things together, submitted their account to Captain Tiago—which amounted to several thousand pesos—and very early on the following day, left for Manila in the Captain’s carriage. To timid Linares they intrusted the rôle of the avenger. [188]

1 Warning cry of a coachman, meaning “turn.”

Chapter XXIX.
The Enigma.

As Lucas had announced, Ibarra arrived the next day. His first visit was to the family of Captain Tiago, with the object of seeing Maria Clara and telling her that His Most Illustrious Greatness had already reconciled him with the Church. He brought a letter of recommendation to the curate, written by the hand of the Archbishop himself. Aunt Isabel was not a little delighted over it, for she liked the young man and did not look favorably upon the marriage of her niece with Linares. Captain Tiago was not at home.

“Come in,” said the aunt in her half-Castellano language. “Maria, Don Crisostomo is again in the grace of God. The Archbishop has dis-excommunicated him.”

But the young man could not advance. His smile froze on his lips, and words fled from his mind. Linares was standing next to Maria Clara on the balcony, interweaving nosegays with the flowers and leaves on the climbing plants. On the floor, were scattered roses and sampagas. Maria Clara was leaning back on a sofa, pale, pensive, her look sad, playing with her ivory fan. But the fan was not as white as her poor fingers.

At the presence of Ibarra, Linares turned pale and Maria Clara’s cheeks were tinged with carmine. She tried to rise, but her strength failing her, she cast her eyes upon the floor, and let fall her fan.

An embarrassing silence reigned for several seconds. Finally, Ibarra was able to advance, and tremblingly murmured:

“I have just arrived and have hastened to see you.... I find that you are better than I thought.”

Maria Clara seemed to have turned dumb. She could [189]not pronounce a single word, and continued to keep her eyes on the floor.

Ibarra surveyed Linares with a look which the modest young man bore with considerable haughtiness.

“Well, I see that my arrival was not expected,” he said slowly. “Maria, pardon me for not having announced my coming. Some other day I will be able to explain to you my conduct.”

These words were accompanied with a look at Linares. The maiden raised her eyes to Ibarra, those beautiful eyes, full of purity and melancholy, so supplicating and sweet that Ibarra stopped confused.

“May I come to-morrow?”

“You know that on my part you are always welcome,” replied she, scarcely able to pronounce the words.

Ibarra walked away, apparently tranquil; but a tempest raged in his mind, and his heart was chilled. What he had just seen and felt was incomprehensible. What was it? Doubt, apathy or treason?

“Oh, woman!” he murmured.

He arrived, without noticing it, at the place where the school house was being constructed. The work was well along. Ñor Juan, with his yard stick and plumb-line, was going to and fro among the numerous workmen. On seeing the young man approach, he ran to meet him.

“Don Crisostomo,” said he, “you have arrived at last. We were all expecting you. Just see how the walls are rising. They are already a meter and ten centimeters high. Within two days, they will be as high as a man. I have not allowed them to use anything but the best of wood. Do you want to look at the cellar?”

The workmen saluted him respectfully.

“Here is the system of drainage which I have taken the liberty to add,” said Ñor Juan. “These underground canals lead to a cesspool about thirty feet off. It will serve to fertilize the garden. This was not in the plans. Do you object to it?”

“Quite on the contrary, I approve of it and I congratulate you on your idea. You are a true architect. From whom did you learn the profession?”

“From myself, señor,” replied the modest old man. [190]

“O, yes! Before I forget it: let the scrupulous people know (for some may fear to speak to me) that I am no longer excommunicated. The Archbishop invited me to dine with him.”

“Pshaw! señor! We don’t take any notice of excommunications. We are all excommunicated. Dather Dámaso is himself; however, he goes on, as fat as ever.”

“How’s that?”

“I feel sure about it. A year ago he gave the coadjutor a blow with his cane, and the coadjutor is as much a priest as he. Who takes any notice of excommunications, señor?”

Ibarra caught sight of Elias among the workmen. He saluted him like the others, but with a look that gave Ibarra to understand that he wanted to speak with him.

“Ñor Juan,” said Ibarra, “will you bring me a list of the workmen?”

Ñor Juan disappeared and Ibarra approached Elias, who was alone, raising a large stone and loading it in a cart.

“If you are able, señor, to grant me some hours of conversation, come this afternoon to the shore of the lake and embark in my banca, for I want to talk with you about some serious matters,” said Elias. Ibarra gave a nod of assent and went away.

Ñor Juan brought the list, but Ibarra read it in vain. The name of Elias was not on it. [191]

Chapter XXX.
The Voice of the Persecuted.

Before the sun went down, Ibarra put his foot into Elias’s banca on the shore of the lake. He seemed displeased about something, as though he had been opposed or contradicted.

“Pardon me, señor,” said Elias on seeing him. “Pardon me for having ventured to make this appointment with you. I would like to speak with you freely, and here we have no witnesses. We can return within an hour.”

“You are mistaken, friend Elias,” replied Ibarra, trying to smile. “You will have to take me to that town over there, where you see that belfry. Fate obliges me to go there.”


“Yes; on my way here, I met the alferez. He insisted upon accompanying me. I thought about you, and knew that he would recognize you, and, in order to get rid of him, I told him that I was going to that town. Now I will have to remain there all day to-morrow, for the man whom I am going to see will not look for me till to-morrow afternoon.”

“I am obliged to you for your thoughtfulness, but you might have simply told him to accompany you,” replied Elias with naturalness.

“How’s that? And what about you?”

“He would never have recognized me. The only time that he ever saw me, I don’t believe that he thought to take down a description of me.”

“I am in hard luck!” sighed Ibarra, thinking of Maria Clara. “What have you to say to me?”

Elias looked around him. They were far from the shore. The sun had already sunk below the horizon, and, as the twilight in these latitudes is very short, the darkness was [192]falling over the earth, and the disk of the full moon was already shining.

“Señor,” replied Elias, in a grave voice, “I am the spokesman of many unfortunate people.”

“Unfortunate people. What do you mean?”

In a few words, Elias referred to the conversation which he had had with the chief of the tulisanes, but omitted saying anything about the doubts which the chief entertained, or the threats. Ibarra listened attentively, and, when Elias concluded his story, a long silence reigned. Ibarra was the first to break the spell.

“So that they desire——?”

“Radical reforms in the armed forces, in the religious matters, and in the administration of justice. That is to say, they ask for paternal care on the part of the Government.”

“Reforms? In what sense?”

“For example: more respect for human dignity; more security for the individual; less power in the hands of the forces already armed; fewer privileges for that body which easily abuses them.”

“Elias,” replied the young man, “I don’t know who you are, but I believe that you are not an ordinary man. You think and work differently from the others. You will understand me if I say to you that, even if it is true that the present state of affairs is defective, there will be a worse state if there is a change. I could arrange to get the assistance of my friends in Madrid, by paying them. I could speak to the Governor General, but all of that would accomplish nothing. He has not enough power to introduce reforms, nor would I ever take a step in that direction, for I know very well that, if it is true that these religious corporations have their defects, they are now necessities. They are what you might call a necessary evil.”

Elias raised his head and looked astonished.

“Do you believe, señor, in necessary evils?” he asked, his voice slightly trembling. “Do you believe that in order to do good it is necessary to do evil?”

“No. I look upon it as a violent remedy which we have to make use of to cure an illness. To illustrate further, the country is an organism which is suffering from a [193]chronic illness, and, in order to cure it, the Government finds itself compelled to use medicines, hard and violent, if you wish, but useful and necessary.”

“He is a bad doctor, señor, who seeks to cure the symptoms and suppress them without trying to find the origin of the illness, or knowing it, fears to attack it. The Guardia Civil has no other end than this: the suppression of crime by terror and force. This end it neither fulfills nor carries out except in chance instances. And you have to take into account that society can be severe with individuals only after she has furnished all means necessary for their perfect morality. In our country, since there is no society, since the people and the Government do not form a unity, the latter ought to be indulgent, not only because indulgence is necessary, but because the individual, neglected and abandoned by Government, has less self responsibility than if he had been enlightened. Besides, following out your comparison, the medicine applied to the evils of the country is so much of a destroyer that its effect is only felt on the sane parts of the organism. These it weakens and injures. Would it not be more reasonable to fortify and strengthen the infirm organism and minimize a little the violence of the medicine?”

“To weaken the Guardia Civil would be to put the security of the towns in danger.”

“The security of the towns!” exclaimed Elias with bitterness. “The towns have had the Guardia Civil for nearly fifteen years and what is the result? We still have tulisanes, we still hear of them sacking towns, and they still make their attacks on people on the roads. Robberies continue and the robbers are not punished. Crime exists and the real criminal goes free, but not so with the peaceful inhabitants of the town. Ask any honorable citizen if he looks upon this institution as a good, as a protection by the Government, or as an imposition, a despotism whose excesses do more harm than the violence of the criminals. Communication between people is paralyzed, for they fear to be maltreated for trifling causes. More importance is attached to the formality of the law than to the basal principle of it,—the first symptom of incapacity in government. The heads of the organization consider it their [194]first duty to make people salute them, either of their own will or by force, even in the darkness of night. In this, their inferior officers imitate them and maltreat and fleece the poor countrymen. There is no such thing as sacredness of the fireside. There is no security for the individual. What have the people accomplished by overcoming their wrath and by waiting for justice at the hands of others? Ah! señor, if you call that preserving the order——”

“I agree with you that there are evils,” replied Ibarra. “But we have to accept those evils for the good which accompanies them. This institution may be imperfect, but believe me, by the terror which it inspires, it prevents the number of criminals from increasing.”

“You might better say that by that terror it increases the number of criminals,” said Elias, correcting him. “Before this body was created, almost all the evildoers, with the exception of a very few, were criminals because of their hunger. They pillaged and robbed in order to live. That famine once passed over and hunger once satisfied, the roads were again free from criminals. It was sufficient to have the poor but valiant cuaderilleros chase them, with their imperfect arms—that body of men so often calumniated by those who have written upon our country, those men who have three legal rights, to do their duty, to fight and to die. And for all that, a jest as recompense. Now there are tulisanes who will be tulisanes all their lives. A crime inhumanly punished, resistance against the excesses of the power which inflicts such punishment, and fear that other atrocities may be inflicted—these make them forever members of that society who are bound by oath to kill and die1. The terrorism of the Guardia Civil impressed upon them closes forever the doors to repentance. And as a tulisan fights and defends himself in the mountains better than a soldier, whom he scorns, the result is that we are incapable of abating the evil which we have created. Call to mind what the prudent Governor General de la Torre did. The amnesty which he granted to these unhappy people has proved that in these mountains the hearts of [195]men still beat, and only await pardon. Terrorism is useful only when the people are enslaved, when the mountains have no caverns, when the governing power can station a sentry behind every tree, and when the slave has in his body nothing but a stomach. But when the desperado who fights for his life feels the strong arm of that power, then his heart beats and his being fills with passion. Can terrorism put out the fire which——”

“It confuses me, Elias, to hear you talk so. I would believe that you were right if I did not have my own convictions. But note this point—and do not be offended, for I do not include you—I look upon you as an exception—consider who those are who ask for this reform. Almost all are criminals or people who are in the way of becoming such.”

“Criminals or future criminals; but why are they so? Because their peace has been disturbed, their happiness taken away from them, their dearest affections wounded, and, after asking protection from Justice, they have been convinced that they can secure it only by their own hands, by their own efforts. But you are mistaken, señor, if you believe that only criminals ask for it. Go from town to town, from house to house. Listen to the secret sighings of the family and you will be convinced that the evils which the Guardia Civil causes are equal to if not greater than those which it corrects. Would you conclude then that all the citizens are criminals? Then, why defend them from the others? Why not destroy them?”

“There is some flaw in your reasoning which escapes me now. In Spain, the Mother Country, this body lends and has lent very useful services.”

“I do not doubt it. Perhaps there it is better organized; the personnel more select. Perhaps, too, Spain needs such a body, but the Philippines do not. Our customs, our mode of living, which are always cited when any one wants to deny us a right, are totally forgotten when some one wants to impose something on us. And tell me, señor, why have not other nations adopted this institution, other nations which resemble Spain more than do the Philippines? Is it due to the efforts of such an institution that other nations have fewer robberies of the railways, fewer [196]riots, fewer assassinations, and less hand-to-hand fighting in their great capitals?”

Ibarra bowed his head in meditation. Afterward he raised it and replied:

“That question, my friend, needs serious study. If my investigations tell me that these complaints are well founded, I will write to my friends in Madrid, since we have no deputies to represent us. In the meantime, believe me, the Government needs a body like the Guardia Civil, which has unlimited power, in order to make the people respect its authority and the laws imposed.”

“That would be all right, señor, if the Government were at war with the country; but, for the good of the Government, we ought not to make the people believe that they are in opposition to the law. Furthermore, if that were the case, if we preferred force to prestige, we ought to look well to whom we give this unlimited force or power, this authority. Such great power in the hands of men, and ignorant men at that, men full of passion, without moral education, without tested honor—such a thing is a weapon in the hands of a maniac in a multitude of unarmed people. I grant and I will agree with you that the Government needs this weapon, but let it choose that weapon well; let it choose the most worthy men to bear it.”

Elias was speaking with enthusiasm and with fervor. His eyes glistened and his voice vibrated. Then followed a solemn pause. The banca, no longer propelled by the paddle, floated tranquilly on the waves. The moon was shining majestically from a sapphire sky. Some lights were glimmering on the shore.

“And what more do they ask?” said Ibarra.

“Reforms in the priesthood,” responded Elias, in a discouraged and sad tone of voice. “The unfortunates ask more protection against——”

“Against the religious orders?”

“Against their oppressors, señor.”

“Have the Filipinos forgotten what they owe to these orders? Have they forgotten the immense debt of gratitude they owe to them for having saved them from error and given them the Faith? What they owe to them for protection against the civil power? Here is one of the [197]evils which result from not teaching the history of the country in our schools.”

Elias, surprised, could scarcely give credit to what he heard.

“Señor,” he replied in a grave voice. “You accuse the people of ingratitude: permit me, one of those who suffer, to defend the people. Favors, in order to be recognized as such, must be done by persons with disinterested motives. Let us consider in a general way the mission of the orders, of Christian charity, that threadbare subject. Let us lay history aside. Let us not ask what Spain did with the Jews, who gave all Europe a Book, a religion and a God! Let us not ask what Spain has done with the Arabic people who gave her culture, who were tolerant in religion and who reawakened in her a pure national love, fallen into lethargy and almost destroyed by the domination of Romans and Goths. Let us omit all that. Do you say that these orders have given us the Faith and have saved us from error? Do you call those outward ceremonies, faith? Do you call that commerce in straps and scapularies religion? Do you call those miracles and stories which we hear every day truth? Is that the law of Jesus Christ? To teach such a faith as this it was not at all necessary that a God should allow himself to be crucified. Superstition existed long before the friars came here; it was only necessary to perfect it and to raise the price of the traffic. Will you tell me that although our religion of to-day is imperfect, it is better than that which we had before? I will agree with you in that and grant it; but we have purchased it at too high a price if we have had to renounce our nationality and independence for it; when for it, we have given to the priests our best towns, our fields, and still give them our little savings in order to buy religious objects. A foreign industry has been introduced among us; we pay well for it, and are in peace. If you speak of the protection they have afforded us against the civil governors of the provinces, I would reply that through them we fall under the power of these governors. However, I recognize that a true Faith, and a true love for humanity guided the first missionaries who came to our shores. I recognize the debt of gratitude which is due those noble hearts. I know that [198]in those days Spain abounded in heroes of all kinds, as well in religion as in politics, as well in civil life as in military. But because the forefathers were virtuous, should we consent to the abuses practiced by their degenerate descendants? Because a great good has been done for us, are we guilty if we prevent ourselves from being harmed? The country does not ask for abolition of the priesthood; it only asks for reforms which new circumstances and new needs require.”

“I love our country as you love it, Elias. I understand to some extent what you desire. I have heard with attention what you have said; yet, despite all of that, my friend, I believe we are looking upon it with a little prejudice. Here, less than in other things, I see the necessity of reforms.”

“Can it be possible, señor,” said Elias, discouraged and stretching out his hands. “Do you not see the necessity of reforms, you whose family——”

“Ah! I forget myself and I forget my own injuries for the sake of the security of the Philippines, for the sake of the interests of Spain,” interrupted Ibarra eagerly. “To preserve the Philippines it is necessary that the friars continue as they are, and in union with Spain lies the welfare of our country.”

Ibarra had ceased speaking, but Elias continued to listen. His face was sad, his eyes had lost their brilliancy.

“The missionaries conquered the country, it is true,” he said. “Do you think that Spain will be able to keep the Philippines through the instrumentality of the friars?”

“Yes, only through the friars. This is the belief held by all who have written on the Philippines.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Elias, discouraged and throwing his paddle into the bottom of the banca. “I did not think that you had so poor a conception of the Government and of the country.”

Ibarra replied: “I love our country, not only because it is the duty of all men to love the country to which they owe their being, not only because my father taught me so; but also because my mother was a native, an Indian, and because all my most beautiful memories live in these [199]islands. I love it too, because I owe it my happiness and will continue to do so.”

“And I, I love it because I owe to it my misfortunes,” said Elias.

“Yes, my friend, I know that you are suffering, that you are unfortunate, and that this makes you see a dark future and influences your way of thinking. For this reason, I make allowance for your complaints. If I were able to appreciate the motives, if I had known part of that past——”

“My misfortunes have another source. If I had known that they would have been of usefulness, I would have related them, for aside from that, I make no secret of them. They are well enough known by many.”

“Perhaps knowing them would rectify my opinions. You know I do not rely much upon theories; facts are better guides.”

Elias remained pensive for some moments.

“If that is the case, señor,” he replied, “I will relate briefly the history of my misfortunes.” [200]______________________________________
1 Author here shows difficulty in establishing American sovereignty over islands by military forces.

Chapter XXXI.
Elias’s Family.

“Some sixty years ago my grandfather lived in Manila and kept books for a Spanish merchant. My grandfather was then very young, but was married and had a son. One night, without any one knowing the cause, the store-house was burned. The fire spread to the store and from the store to many others. The losses were very heavy. Search was made for the incendiary, and the merchant accused my grandfather. In vain he protested and, as he was poor and could not pay celebrated lawyers, he was condemned to be whipped publicly and to be led through the streets of Manila. It was not a great while ago that this infamous punishment was still in use here. It was a thousand times worse than death itself. My grandfather, abandoned by everybody except his wife, was tied to a horse and, followed by a cruel multitude, was whipped on every corner, in the sight of men, his brothers, and in the vicinity of the numerous temples of the God of Peace. When the unfortunate man, disgraced forever, had satisfied the punishment by his blood, his tortures and his cries, they untied him from the horse, for he had become unconscious. Would to God he had died! As a refined cruelty, they gave him liberty. His wife, embarrassed with a child at the time, begged in vain from door to door for work or alms that she might care for her sick husband and the poor son. But who would have confidence in the wife of an infamous man guilty of arson? The wife, then, had to give herself up to prostitution.”

Ibarra started from his seat.

“Oh! do not be disturbed! Prostitution was not the only dishonor which she and her husband suffered. Honor and shame no longer existed for them. The husband cured his wounds, and, with his wife and son, hid in the mountains of this province. Here the woman brought [201]forth a still-born child, deformed and full of disease. In the mountains, they lived for several months, miserable, isolated, hated and fleeing from all. Unable to endure the misery, less valorous than his wife, and growing desperate at seeing her ill and deprived of all aid and comfort, my grandfather hanged himself. The body rotted in the sight of the son, who was now scarcely able to take care of his sick mother. The bad odor of the rotting corpse disclosed it to Justice. My grandmother was accused and condemned for not having given notice. The death of her husband was attributed to her and people believed it. For, what is a wife of a wretch not capable of doing after having prostituted herself? If she took oath, they said she perjured herself; if she wept, they said that it was false; and if she invoked God, they said she blasphemed. However, they had some consideration for her and waited for her to give birth to a child before whipping her. You know that the friars spread the belief that the only way to deal with the natives is with the whip. Read what Father Gaspar de San Augustin says.

“Thus condemned, the woman cursed the day when she would give birth to the child, and this not only prolonged her punishment, but violated her maternal sentiments. The woman delivered the child, and unfortunately the child was born robust. Two months later the sentence of whipping which had been imposed upon her was carried out, to the great satisfaction of the people, who thought that in this way they were fulfilling their duty. No longer able to be at peace in these mountains she fled with her two sons to a neighboring province and there they lived like wild beasts: hating and hated. The older boy, remembering his happy infancy and its contrast with such great misery, became a tulisan as soon as he had sufficient strength. Before long the bloody name of Bálat extended from province to province; it was the terror of the towns and the people, for he took his revenge with fire and blood. The younger boy, who had received from Nature a good heart, resigned himself to his lot at his mother’s side. They lived on what the forests afforded them; they dressed in the rags that travellers threw away. The mother had lost her good name, she was now [202]known only by such titles as the ‘criminal,’ the ‘prostitute,’ and the ‘horse-whipped woman.’ The younger brother was known only as the son of his mother, because he had such a pleasant disposition that they did not believe him to be the son of the incendiary. Finally the famous Bálat fell one day into the hands of Justice. Society had taught him no good, but he was asked to account for his crimes. One morning as the younger boy was looking for his mother, who had gone to gather mushrooms from the forest, and had not yet returned, he found her lying on the ground by the roadside, under a cotton-tree. Her face was turned toward the sky, her eyes were torn from their sockets, and her rigid fingers were buried in the blood-stained earth. It occurred to the young man to raise his eyes and follow the direction in which his mother had been looking, and there from a limb of a tree he saw a basket, and in that basket the bloody head of his brother.”

“My God!” exclaimed Ibarra.

“That is what my father must have exclaimed,” continued Elias, coldly. “The men had cut the highwayman into quarters and buried him in a trunk of a tree. But the limbs were saved, and were hung up in different towns. If you go some time from Calamba to Santo Tomás you will still find the rotting leg of my uncle hanging from a lomboy tree. Nature has cursed the tree and it neither grows nor gives fruit. They did the same thing with the other members of his body, but the head, the head, as the best part of the man and that part which can be most easily recognized, they hung before the mother’s cabin.”

Ibarra bowed his head.

“The young man fled like one that is accursed,” continued Elias. “He fled from town to town, through mountains and valleys, and when at last he thought he was not recognized by any one, he began to work in the store of a rich man in the province of Tayabas. His activity, his agreeable disposition, won for him the esteem of those who did not know his past life. By working and saving he managed to make a little capital, and, as the misery had passed away, and, as he was young, he thought that he would be happy. His good appearance, his youth, and [203]his quite unencumbered position won for him the love of a girl in the town, but he did not dare to ask for her hand, for fear that she might learn of his past. But love became too strong and both erred. The man, in order to save the honor of the woman, risked all; he asked her to marry him, the papers were looked up and all was disclosed. The girl’s father was rich and began to prosecute the man. The latter, however, did not try to defend himself, admitted it all and was sent to jail. The young woman gave birth to a boy and a girl. They were brought up in seclusion and made to believe that their father was dead. This was not difficult, for while the children were still young they saw their mother die, and they thought little about investigating their genealogy. As our grandfather was very rich, our youth was happy. My sister and I were educated together, we loved each other as only twins can when they know no other love. While very young, I went to study in the Jesuit College, and my sister, in order that we might not be entirely separated, went to the Concordia boarding school. Our short education having been ended, for we only wished to be farmers, we returned to the town to take possession of the inheritance which was left us by our grandfather. We lived happily for some time; the future smiled on us; we had many servants; our fields bore good crops; and my sister was on the eve of being married to a young man who loved her and to whom she was well suited. On account of some pecuniary questions, and, because my character was then haughty, I lost the good will of a distant relative, and he threw in my face one day my dark birth and my infamous ancestry. I thought it a calumny and demanded satisfaction. The tomb in which so much grief was sleeping was opened again and the truth came out. I was confounded. To make the misfortune greater, we had had for some years an old servant who had always suffered all my caprices without ever leaving us. He contented himself by weeping and crying while the other servants jested with him. I do not know how my relative found it out; the fact is that he summoned this old man before the court and made him tell the truth. The old servant was my father, who had stuck fast to his dear children and whom I had maltreated [204]many times. Our happiness disappeared: I renounced our fortune; my sister lost her lover; and with our father we abandoned the town to go to some other point. The thought of having contributed to our disgrace and misfortune, cut short the life of the old man, from whose lips was learned all the sorrowful past. My sister and I were left alone.

“She wept a great deal, but, amid such grief as they piled upon us, she could not forget her love. Without complaining, without saying a word, she saw her old lover marry another girl, and I saw her a little later gradually become ill, without being able to console her. One day she disappeared. In vain I searched for her everywhere; in vain I asked for her for six months. Afterward I learned that during the time while I was searching for her, one day when the water had risen in the lake, there had been found on the beach at Calamba the body of a girl, either drowned or assassinated. She had, they say, a knife piercing her breast. The authorities of Calamba published the fact in the neighboring towns. Nobody presented himself to claim the body; no young woman had disappeared. From the description which they gave me afterward, from the dress, the rings, the beauty of her face and her very abundant hair, I recognized her as my poor sister. From that time, I have been wandering from province to province. My fame and history are in the mouths of many people; they attribute all sorts of deeds to me; at times they calumniate me; but I take no notice of men and continue on my way. I have here briefly related my history, and that of a judgment at the hands of mankind.”

Elias became silent and continued rowing.

“I believe that you are not wrong,” murmured Ibarra, in a low voice, “when you say that justice ought to procure the welfare of the people by lifting up the criminals and by raising the standard of their morality. Only ... that is impossible—a Utopia. And then, where is the money for so many new employees to come from?”

“And what are the priests for, the priests who proclaim peace and charity as their mission? Is it more meritorious for a priest to wet the head of a child, to give [205]it salt to eat, than to awaken in the darkened conscience of a criminal that spark, given by God to every man, that he may seek to do good? Is it more human to accompany a criminal to the gallows than to accompany him through the difficult path which leads from vice to virtue? Are not spies, executioners and Guardias Civiles paid? The latter institution, besides being an evil, also costs money.”

“My friend, neither you nor I, although we wish it, can accomplish it.”

“Alone we are nothing, it is true. Take up the cause of the people, unite them, listen to their voices, give others an example to follow, give them the idea of what is called a fatherland, a patria!”

“What the people ask for is impossible. We must wait.”

“To wait, to wait, is equivalent to suffering!”

“If I should ask it, they would laugh at me.”

“And if the people should sustain you?”

“Never! I would never be the one to lead the multitude and accomplish by force what the Government does not believe is opportune. No! If I ever saw the multitude armed for such a purpose, I would put myself on the side of the Government. And I would fight it, for in such a mob I would not see my country. I wish for its welfare: that is the reason that I am erecting the school-house. I look for it through means of instruction, education and progress. Without light there is no road.”

“Nor without fighting is there liberty,” replied Elias.

“I do not care for that kind of liberty.”

“Without liberty there is no light,” replied the pilot with enthusiasm. “You say that you know very little about our country. I believe it. You do not see the fight that is impending. You do not see the cloud on the horizon. The combat begins in the sphere of ideas, and then descends to the arena to tinge it with blood. I hear the voice of God. Woe to them who resist it. History has not been written for them.”

Elias was transformed. As he stood up, his head uncovered, his manly face illumined by the moonlight, there was something extraordinary about him. He shook his long hair and continued: [206]

“Do you not see how all is awakening? Sleep has lasted for centuries, but one day a thunderbolt will fall and new life will be called forth. New tendencies are animating the spirits, and these tendencies to-day separated, will be united some day, and will be guided by God. God has not failed other peoples, nor will he fail ours. Their cause is liberty.”

A solemn silence followed these words. In the meantime, the banca carried along imperceptibly by the waves, neared the shore. Elias was the first to break the silence.

“What have I to say to those who have sent me?” he asked, changing the tone of his voice.

“I have already told you that I greatly deplore their condition, but for them to wait, since evils are not cured by other evils. In our misfortune, we are all at fault.”

Elias did not insist further. He bowed his head, continued rowing and, bringing the banca up to the shore, took leave of Ibarra saying:

“I thank you, Señor, for your condescension. For your own interests I ask you in the future to forget me, and never to recognize me in whatever place you may meet me.”

And saying this, he turned his banca and rowed in the direction of a dense thicket on the beach. He seemed to observe only the millions of diamonds which his paddle lifted and which fell back into the lake, where they soon disappeared in the mystery of the blue waves.

Finally, he arrived at the place toward which he had been rowing. A man came out of the thicket and approached him:

“What shall I tell the captain?” he asked.

“Tell him that Elias, if he does not die before, will fulfill his word,” he replied gloomily.

“Then when will you meet us?”

“When your captain thinks that the hour of danger has come.”

“All right. Good-bye!”

“If I do not die before,” murmured Elias. [207]
Chapter XXXII.

The modest Linares was serious and very uneasy. He had just received a letter from Doña Victorina which, translated from the most illiterate Spanish, and omitting its many errors in spelling and punctuation, was as follows:

“ESTEEMED COUSIN:—Within three days I want to know from you if you have killed the alferez or he you. I don’t want another day to pass without this animal being punished. If this length of time passes and still you have not challenged him, I will tell Don Santiago that you never were secretary and that you never joked with Canovas or with General Martinez. I will tell Clarita that it is all a lie and I will not give you another cuarto. If you challenge him, I promise you all that you wish. If you do not challenge him, I will accept no excuses or reasons.

“Your cousin who loves you in her heart.


“Sampalog, Monday Eve, 7 o’clock.”

It was a serious matter. Linares knew Doña Victorina’s character and knew what she was capable of doing. To reason with her was out of the question; to beg was useless; to deceive her worse. There was no other remedy than to challenge.

“But what can I do?” he said to himself, as he was walking alone. “If he receives me harshly? If I meet his wife? Who would want to be my second? The curate? Captain Tiago? Cursed be the hour in which I gave ear to her advice! What will this señorita say about me? Now I am sorry to have been secretary to all the ministers.” [208]

The good Linares was in this sad soliloquy when Father Salví arrived. The Franciscan was certainly thinner and paler than usual, but his eyes shone with a peculiar light and a strange smile was seen on his lips.

“Señor Linares, all alone?” saluted the priest and directed his steps to the sala, through the half open door of which notes of the piano were heard.

Linares restrained a smile.

“And Don Santiago?” added the curate.

Captain Tiago presented himself at that moment, kissed the curate’s hand, took the Father’s hat and cane and smiled like one who had been blessed.

“Well, well!” said the curate, going into the sala, followed by Linares and Captain Tiago. “I have good news from Manila which you will all enjoy. I have received letters from Manila which confirm the one which Señor Ibarra brought me yesterday—so that, Don Santiago, the impediment is removed.”

Maria Clara was seated at the piano between her two girl friends. She half rose to her feet at this remark, but her strength failed her and she sat down again. Linares turned pale and looked at Captain Tiago, who turned his eyes to the floor.

“This young man really seems to me a very nice fellow,” continued the curate. “At first, I judged him bad—he is a little quick-tempered. But he knows so well how to atone for his faults afterward, that one cannot hold any grudge against him. If it were not for Father Dámaso....” And the curate directed a quick glance at Maria Clara. She was listening to all that was going on but without taking her eyes off the music—in spite of the concealed pinches which Sinang gave her to express her joy. Had she been alone, she would have danced.

“Father Dámaso?” asked Linares without finishing the sentence.

“Yes,” continued the curate. “Father Dámaso has said that as ... godfather he could not permit ... but I believe that if finally, Señor Ibarra asks pardon, which I do not doubt he will do, all will be arranged.”

Maria Clara arose, made an excuse and retired to her room, accompanied by Victoria. [209]

“And if Father Dámaso does not pardon him?” asked Captain Tiago, in a low voice.

“Then Maria Clara will see that Father Dámaso is her spiritual father. But I believe that they will come to an understanding.”

At that moment, steps were heard and Ibarra appeared, followed by Aunt Isabel. His presence on the scene produced a varied effect. He saluted Captain Tiago affably, the latter not knowing whether to smile or to weep; to Linares he bowed profoundly. Father Salví arose and extended his hand to him so affectionately that Ibarra could not suppress a look of surprise.

“Do not think it strange,” said Father Salví. “I was just paying you a compliment.”

Ibarra thanked him and approached Sinang.

“Where have you been all day?” she asked, with a childish laugh. “We have been asking each other, ‘Where could this soul redeemed from purgatory have gone?’ Each one of us gave a different answer.”

“And will you not tell what you said?”

“No, that is a secret; but I will surely tell you in private. Now tell us where you have been so that we can see who has been able to guess it.”

“No, that also is a secret; but I will tell you alone, if the señores will permit.”

“Certainly, certainly!” said Father Salví.

Sinang took Crisostomo to one end of the hall. She was very happy with the idea of knowing a secret.

“Tell me, my little friend,” said Ibarra, “Is Maria angry with me?”

“I do not know, but she says that it is better that you should forget her and then begins to cry. Captain Tiago wants her to marry that gentleman; Father Dámaso also wishes it; but she says neither yes nor no. This morning when we were asking for you, I said: ‘What if he has gone to make love to some one else?’ She replied to me: ‘Would to God that he had!’ and then began to cry.”

Ibarra was serious.

“Tell Maria that I want to speak with her alone.”

“Alone?” asked Sinang, knitting her eyebrows and looking at him. [210]

“Entirely alone, no. But so that we may not be seen by that other señor.”

“It is difficult, but don’t worry. I will tell her.”

“And when will I know the answer?”

“To-morrow come to the house early. Maria never wants to be alone. We keep her company. Victoria sleeps by her side one night, and I the next. To-morrow night it is my turn. But listen: What is the secret? You are going without telling me the principal thing.”

“That is true. I was in the town of Los Baños. I went up there to do some business in cocoanut trees, since I am thinking of building a factory. Your father will be my partner.”

“Nothing more than that? Give us the secret!” exclaimed Sinang in a loud voice and in the tone of a defrauded usurer. “I thought——”

“Take care. I don’t want you to tell it.”

“I have no desire to!” replied Sinang, sticking up her nose. “If it were something more important, I would tell it to my friends. But to buy cocoanuts! cocoanuts! Who is interested in cocoanuts?”

And she went away in haste to find her girl friends.

A few moments afterward, Ibarra seeing that the conversation was lagging, took leave of the gathering. Captain Tiago’s expression was between sweet and sour; Linares was silent and observing; and the curate, feigning to be joyful, was telling stories. None of the girls had returned. [211]

Related Links :

No comments:

Post a Comment