The Social Cancer: A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal

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A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere from the Spanish of José Rizal By Charles Derbyshire

Translator’s Introduction

I

“We travel rapidly in these historical sketches. The reader flies in his express train in a few minutes through a couple of centuries. The centuries pass more slowly to those to whom the years are doled out day by day. Institutions grow and beneficently develop themselves, making their way into the hearts of generations which are shorter-lived than they, attracting love and respect, and winning loyal obedience; and then as gradually forfeiting by their shortcomings the allegiance which had been honorably gained in worthier periods. We see wealth and greatness; we see corruption and vice; and one seems to follow so close upon the other, that we fancy they must have always co-existed. We look more steadily, and we perceive long periods of time, in which there is first a growth and then a decay, like what we perceive in a tree of the forest.”

FROUDE, Annals of an English Abbey.

Monasticism’s record in the Philippines presents no new general fact to the eye of history. The attempt to eliminate the eternal feminine from her natural and normal sphere in the scheme of things there met with the same certain and signal disaster that awaits every perversion of human activity. Beginning with a band of zealous, earnest men, sincere in their convictions, to whom the cause was all and their personalities nothing, it there, as elsewhere, passed through its usual cycle of usefulness, stagnation, corruption, and degeneration.

To the unselfish and heroic efforts of the early friars Spain in large measure owed her dominion over the Philippine Islands and the Filipinos a marked advance on the road to civilization and nationality. In fact, after the dreams of sudden wealth from gold and spices had faded, the islands were retained chiefly as a missionary conquest and a stepping-stone to the broader fields of Asia, with Manila as a depot for the Oriental trade. The records of those early years are filled with tales of courage and heroism worthy of Spain’s proudest years, as the missionary fathers labored with unflagging zeal in disinterested endeavor for the spread of the Faith and the betterment of the condition of the Malays among whom they found themselves. They won the confidence of the native peoples, gathered them into settlements and villages, led them into the ways of peace, and became their protectors, guides, and counselors.

In those times the cross and the sword went hand in hand, but in the Philippines the latter was rarely needed or used. The lightness and vivacity of the Spanish character, with its strain of Orientalism, its fertility of resource in meeting new conditions, its adaptability in dealing with the dwellers in warmer lands, all played their part in this as in the other conquests. Only on occasions when some stubborn resistance was met with, as in Manila and the surrounding country, where the most advanced of the native peoples dwelt and where some of the forms and beliefs of Islam had been established, was it necessary to resort to violence to destroy the native leaders and replace them with the missionary fathers. A few sallies by young Salcedo, the Cortez of the Philippine conquest, with a company of the splendid infantry, which was at that time the admiration and despair of martial Europe, soon effectively exorcised any idea of resistance that even the boldest and most intransigent of the native leaders might have entertained.

For the most part, no great persuasion was needed to turn a simple, imaginative, fatalistic people from a few vague animistic deities to the systematic iconology and the elaborate ritual of the Spanish Church. An obscure Bathala or a dim Malyari was easily superseded by or transformed into a clearly defined Diós, and in the case of any especially tenacious “demon,” he could without much difficulty be merged into a Christian saint or devil. There was no organized priesthood to be overcome, the primitive religious observances consisting almost entirely of occasional orgies presided over by an old woman, who filled the priestly offices of interpreter for the unseen powers and chief eater at the sacrificial feast. With their unflagging zeal, their organization, their elaborate forms and ceremonies, the missionaries were enabled to win the confidence of the natives, especially as the greater part of them learned the local language and identified their lives with the communities under their care. Accordingly, the people took kindly to their new teachers and rulers, so that in less than a generation Spanish authority was generally recognized in the settled portions of the Philippines, and in the succeeding years the missionaries gradually extended this area by forming settlements from among the wilder peoples, whom they persuaded to abandon the more objectionable features of their old roving, often predatory, life and to group themselves into towns and villages “under the bell.”

The tactics employed in the conquest and the subsequent behavior of the conquerors were true to the old Spanish nature, so succinctly characterized by a plain-spoken Englishman of Mary’s reign, when the war-cry of Castile encircled the globe and even hovered ominously near the “sceptered isle,” when in the intoxication of power character stands out so sharply defined: “They be verye wyse and politicke, and can, thorowe ther wysdome, reform and brydell theyr owne natures for a tyme, and applye ther conditions to the manners of those men with whom they meddell gladlye by friendshippe; whose mischievous maners a man shall never know untyll he come under ther subjection; but then shall he parfectlye parceve and fele them: for in dissimulations untyll they have ther purposes, and afterwards in oppression and tyrannye, when they can obtain them, they do exceed all other nations upon the earthe.”1

In the working out of this spirit, with all the indomitable courage and fanatical ardor derived from the long contests with the Moors, they reduced the native peoples to submission, but still not to the galling yoke which they fastened upon the aborigines of America, to make one Las Casas shine amid the horde of Pizarros. There was some compulsory labor in timber-cutting and ship-building, with enforced military service as rowers and soldiers for expeditions to the Moluccas and the coasts of Asia, but nowhere the unspeakable atrocities which in Mexico, Hispaniola, and South America drove mothers to strangle their babes at birth and whole tribes to prefer self-immolation to the living death in the mines and slave-pens. Quite differently from the case in America, where entire islands and districts were depopulated, to bring on later the curse of negro slavery, in the Philippines the fact appears that the native population really increased and the standard of living was raised under the stern, yet beneficent, tutelage of the missionary fathers. The great distance and the hardships of the journey precluded the coming of many irresponsible adventurers from Spain and, fortunately for the native population, no great mineral wealth was ever discovered in the Philippine Islands.

The system of government was, in its essential features, a simple one. The missionary priests drew the inhabitants of the towns and villages about themselves or formed new settlements, and with profuse use of symbol and symbolism taught the people the Faith, laying particular stress upon “the fear of God,” as administered by them, reconciling the people to their subjection by inculcating the Christian virtues of patience and humility. When any recalcitrants refused to accept the new order, or later showed an inclination to break away from it, the military forces, acting usually under secret directions from the padre, made raids in the disaffected parts with all the unpitying atrocity the Spanish soldiery were ever capable of displaying in their dealings with a weaker people. After sufficient punishment had been inflicted and a wholesome fear inspired, the padre very opportunely interfered in the natives’ behalf, by which means they were convinced that peace and security lay in submission to the authorities, especially to the curate of their town or district. A single example will suffice to make the method clear: not an isolated instance but a typical case chosen from among the mass of records left by the chief actors themselves.

Fray Domingo Perez, evidently a man of courage and conviction, for he later lost his life in the work of which he wrote, was the Dominican vicar on the Zambales coast when that Order temporarily took over the district from the Recollects. In a report written for his superior in 1680 he outlines the method clearly: “In order that those whom we have assembled in the three villages may persevere in their settlements, the most efficacious fear and the one most suited to their nature is that the Spaniards of the fort and presidio of Paynaven2 of whom they have a very great fear, may come very often to the said villages and overrun the land, and penetrate even into their old recesses where they formerly lived; and if perchance they should find anything planted in the said recesses that they would destroy it and cut it down without leaving them anything. And so that they may see the father protects them, when the said Spaniards come to the village, the father opposes them and takes the part of the Indians. But it is always necessary in this matter for the soldiers to conquer, and the father is always very careful always to inform the Spaniards by whom and where anything is planted which it may be necessary to destroy, and that the edicts which his Lordship, the governor, sent them be carried out …. But at all events said Spaniards are to make no trouble for the Indians whom they find in the villages, but rather must treat them well.”3

This in 1680: the Dominican transcriber of the record in 1906 has added a very illuminating note, revealing the immutability of the system and showing that the rulers possessed in a superlative degree the Bourbonesque trait of learning nothing and forgetting nothing: “Even when I was a missionary to the heathens from 1882 to 1892, I had occasion to observe the said policy, to inform the chief of the fortress of the measures that he ought to take, and to make a false show on the other side so that it might have no influence on the fortress.”

Thus it stands out in bold relief as a system built up and maintained by fraud and force, bound in the course of nature to last only as long as the deception could be carried on and the repressive force kept up to sufficient strength. Its maintenance required that the different sections be isolated from each other so that there could be no growth toward a common understanding and coöperation, and its permanence depended upon keeping the people ignorant and contented with their lot, held under strict control by religious and political fear.

Yet it was a vast improvement over their old mode of life and their condition was bettered as they grew up to such a system. Only with the passing of the years and the increase of wealth and influence, the ease and luxury invited by these, and the consequent corruption so induced, with the insatiable longing ever for more wealth and greater influence, did the poison of greed and grasping power enter the system to work its insidious way into every part, slowly transforming the beneficent institution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries into an incubus weighing upon all the activities of the people in the nineteenth, an unyielding bar to the development of the country, a hideous anachronism in these modern times.

It must be remembered also that Spain, in the years following her brilliant conquests of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, lost strength and vigor through the corruption at home induced by the unearned wealth that flowed into the mother country from the colonies, and by the draining away of her best blood. Nor did her sons ever develop that economic spirit which is the permanent foundation of all empire, but they let the wealth of the Indies flow through their country, principally to London and Amsterdam, there to form in more practical hands the basis of the British and Dutch colonial empires.

The priest and the soldier were supreme, so her best sons took up either the cross or the sword to maintain her dominion in the distant colonies, a movement which, long continued, spelled for her a form of national suicide. The soldier expended his strength and generally laid down his life on alien soil, leaving no fit successor of his own stock to carry on the work according to his standards. The priest under the celibate system, in its better days left no offspring at all and in the days of its corruption none bred and reared under the influences that make for social and political progress. The dark chambers of the Inquisition stifled all advance in thought, so the civilization and the culture of Spain, as well as her political system, settled into rigid forms to await only the inevitable process of stagnation and decay. In her proudest hour an old soldier, who had lost one of his hands fighting her battles against the Turk at Lepanto, employed the other in writing the masterpiece of her literature, which is really a caricature of the nation.

There is much in the career of Spain that calls to mind the dazzling beauty of her “dark-glancing daughters,” with its early bloom, its startling—almost morbid—brilliance, and its premature decay. Rapid and brilliant was her rise, gradual and inglorious her steady decline, from the bright morning when the banners of Castile and Aragon were flung triumphantly from the battlements of the Alhambra, to the short summer, not so long gone, when at Cavite and Santiago with swift, decisive havoc the last ragged remnants of the once world-dominating power were blown into space and time, to hover disembodied there, a lesson and a warning to future generations. Whatever her final place in the records of mankind, whether as the pioneer of modern civilization or the buccaneer of the nations or, as would seem most likely, a goodly mixture of both, she has at least—with the exception only of her great mother, Rome—furnished the most instructive lessons in political pathology yet recorded, and the advice to students of world progress to familiarize themselves with her history is even more apt today than when it first issued from the encyclopedic mind of Macaulay nearly a century ago. Hardly had she reached the zenith of her power when the disintegration began, and one by one her brilliant conquests dropped away, to leave her alone in her faded splendor, with naught but her vaunting pride left, another “Niobe of nations.” In the countries more in contact with the trend of civilization and more susceptible to revolutionary influences from the mother country this separation came from within, while in the remoter parts the archaic and outgrown system dragged along until a stronger force from without destroyed it.

Nowhere was the crystallization of form and principle more pronounced than in religious life, which fastened upon the mother country a deadening weight that hampered all progress, and in the colonies, notably in the Philippines, virtually converted her government into a hagiarchy that had its face toward the past and either could not or would not move with the current of the times. So, when “the shot heard round the world,” the declaration of humanity’s right to be and to become, in its all-encircling sweep, reached the lands controlled by her it was coldly received and blindly rejected by the governing powers, and there was left only the slower, subtler, but none the less sure, process of working its way among the people to burst in time in rebellion and the destruction of the conservative forces that would repress it.

In the opening years of the nineteenth century the friar orders in the Philippines had reached the apogee of their power and usefulness. Their influence was everywhere felt and acknowledged, while the country still prospered under the effects of the vigorous and progressive administrations of Anda and Vargas in the preceding century. Native levies had fought loyally under Spanish leadership against Dutch and British invaders, or in suppressing local revolts among their own people, which were always due to some specific grievance, never directed definitely against the Spanish sovereignty. The Philippines were shut off from contact with any country but Spain, and even this communication was restricted and carefully guarded. There was an elaborate central government which, however, hardly touched the life of the native peoples, who were guided and governed by the parish priests, each town being in a way an independent entity.

Of this halcyon period, just before the process of disintegration began, there has fortunately been left a record which may be characterized as the most notable Spanish literary production relating to the Philippines, being the calm, sympathetic, judicial account of one who had spent his manhood in the work there and who, full of years and experience, sat down to tell the story of their life.4 In it there are no puerile whinings, no querulous curses that tropical Malays do not order their lives as did the people of the Spanish village where he may have been reared, no selfish laments of ingratitude over blessings unasked and only imperfectly understood by the natives, no fatuous self-deception as to the real conditions, but a patient consideration of the difficulties encountered, the good accomplished, and the unavoidable evils incident to any human work. The country and the people, too, are described with the charming simplicity of the eyes that see clearly, the brain that ponders deeply, and the heart that beats sympathetically. Through all the pages of his account runs the quiet strain of peace and contentment, of satisfaction with the existing order, for he had looked upon the creation and saw that it was good. There is “neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” but the deliberate recital of the facts warmed and illumined by the geniality of a soul to whom age and experience had brought, not a sour cynicism, but the mellowing influence of a ripened philosophy. He was such an old man as may fondly be imagined walking through the streets of Parañaque in stately benignity amid the fear and respect of the brown people over whom he watched.

But in all his chronicle there is no suggestion of anything more to hope for, anything beyond. Beautiful as the picture is, it is that of a system which had reached maturity: a condition of stagnation, not of growth. In less than a decade, the terrific convulsions in European politics made themselves felt even in the remote Philippines, and then began the gradual drawing away of the people from their rulers—blind gropings and erratic wanderings at first, but nevertheless persistent and vigorous tendencies.

The first notable influence was the admission of representatives for the Philippines into the Spanish Cortes under the revolutionary governments and the abolition of the trade monopoly with Mexico. The last galleon reached Manila in 1815, and soon foreign commercial interests were permitted, in a restricted way, to enter the country. Then with the separation of Mexico and the other American colonies from Spain a more marked change was brought about in that direct communication was established with the mother country, and the absolutism of the hagiarchy first questioned by the numbers of Peninsular Spaniards who entered the islands to trade, some even to settle and rear families there. These also affected the native population in the larger centers by the spread of their ideas, which were not always in conformity with those that for several centuries the friars had been inculcating into their wards. Moreover, there was a not-inconsiderable portion of the population, sprung from the friars themselves, who were eager to adopt the customs and ideas of the Spanish immigrants.

The suppression of many of the monasteries in Spain in 1835 caused a large influx of the disestablished monks into the Philippines in search for a haven, and a home, thus bringing about a conflict with the native clergy, who were displaced from their best holdings to provide berths for the newcomers. At the same time, the increase of education among the native priests brought the natural demand for more equitable treatment by the Spanish friar, so insistent that it even broke out into open rebellion in 1843 on the part of a young Tagalog who thought himself aggrieved in this respect.

Thus the struggle went on, with stagnation above and some growth below, so that the governors were ever getting further away from the governed, and for such a movement there is in the course of nature but one inevitable result, especially when outside influences are actively at work penetrating the social system and making for better things. Among these influences four cumulative ones may be noted: the spread of journalism, the introduction of steamships into the Philippines, the return of the Jesuits, and the opening of the Suez Canal.

The printing-press entered the islands with the conquest, but its use had been strictly confined to religious works until about the middle of the past century, when there was a sudden awakening and within a few years five journals were being published. In 1848 appeared the first regular newspaper of importance, El Diario de Manila, and about a decade later the principal organ of the Spanish-Filipino population, El Comercio, which, with varying vicissitudes, has continued down to the present. While rigorously censored, both politically and religiously, and accessible to only an infinitesimal portion of the people, they still performed the service of letting a few rays of light into the Cimmerian intellectual gloom of the time and place.

With the coming of steam navigation communication between the different parts of the islands was facilitated and trade encouraged, with all that such a change meant in the way of breaking up the old isolation and tending to a common understanding. Spanish power, too, was for the moment more firmly established, and Moro piracy in Luzon and the Bisayan Islands, which had been so great a drawback to the development of the country, was forever ended.

The return of the Jesuits produced two general results tending to dissatisfaction with the existing order. To them was assigned the missionary field of Mindanao, which meant the displacement of the Recollect Fathers in the missions there, and for these other berths had to be found. Again the native clergy were the losers in that they had to give up their best parishes in Luzon, especially around Manila and Cavite, so the breach was further widened and the soil sown with discontent. But more far-reaching than this immediate result was the educational movement inaugurated by the Jesuits. The native, already feeling the vague impulses from without and stirred by the growing restlessness of the times, here saw a new world open before him. A considerable portion of the native population in the larger centers, who had shared in the economic progress of the colony, were enabled to look beyond their daily needs and to afford their children an opportunity for study and advancement—a condition and a need met by the Jesuits for a time.

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 communication with the mother country became cheaper, quicker, surer, so that large numbers of Spaniards, many of them in sympathy with the republican movements at home, came to the Philippines in search of fortunes and generally left half-caste families who had imbibed their ideas. Native boys who had already felt the intoxication of such learning as the schools of Manila afforded them began to dream of greater wonders in Spain, now that the journey was possible for them. So began the definite movements that led directly to the disintegration of the friar régime.

In the same year occurred the revolution in the mother country, which had tired of the old corrupt despotism. Isabella II was driven into exile and the country left to waver about uncertainly for several years, passing through all the stages of government from red radicalism to absolute conservatism, finally adjusting itself to the middle course of constitutional monarchism. During the effervescent and ephemeral republic there was sent to the Philippines a governor who set to work to modify the old system and establish a government more in harmony with modern ideas and more democratic in form. His changes were hailed with delight by the growing class of Filipinos who were striving for more consideration in their own country, and who, in their enthusiasm and the intoxication of the moment, perhaps became more radical than was safe under the conditions—surely too radical for their religious guides watching and waiting behind the veil of the temple.

In January, 1872, an uprising occurred in the naval arsenal at Cavite, with a Spanish non-commissioned officer as one of the leaders. From the meager evidence now obtainable, this would seem to have been purely a local mutiny over the service questions of pay and treatment, but in it the friars saw their opportunity. It was blazoned forth, with all the wild panic that was to characterize the actions of the governing powers from that time on, as the premature outbreak of a general insurrection under the leadership of the native clergy, and rigorous repressive measures were demanded. Three native priests, notable for their popularity among their own people, one an octogenarian and the other two young canons of the Manila Cathedral, were summarily garroted, along with the renegade Spanish officer who had participated in the mutiny. No record of any trial of these priests has ever been brought to light. The Archbishop, himself a secular5 clergyman, stoutly refused to degrade them from their holy office, and they wore their sacerdotal robes at the execution, which was conducted in a hurried, fearful manner. At the same time a number of young Manilans who had taken conspicuous part in the “liberal” demonstrations were deported to the Ladrone Islands or to remote islands of the Philippine group itself.

This was the beginning of the end. Yet there immediately followed the delusive calm which ever precedes the fatal outburst, lulling those marked for destruction to a delusive security. The two decades following were years of quiet, unobtrusive growth, during which the Philippine Islands made the greatest economic progress in their history. But this in itself was preparing the final catastrophe, for if there be any fact well established in human experience it is that with economic development the power of organized religion begins to wane—the rise of the merchant spells the decline of the priest. A sordid change, from masses and mysteries to sugar and shoes, this is often said to be, but it should be noted that the epochs of greatest economic activity have been those during which the generality of mankind have lived fuller and freer lives, and above all that in such eras the finest intellects and the grandest souls have been developed.

Nor does an institution that has been slowly growing for three centuries, molding the very life and fiber of the people, disintegrate without a violent struggle, either in its own constitution or in the life of the people trained under it. Not only the ecclesiastical but also the social and political system of the country was controlled by the religious orders, often silently and secretly, but none the less effectively. This is evident from the ceaseless conflict that went on between the religious orders and the Spanish political administrators, who were at every turn thwarted in their efforts to keep the government abreast of the times.

The shock of the affair of 1872 had apparently stunned the Filipinos, but it had at the same time brought them to the parting of the ways and induced a vague feeling that there was something radically wrong, which could only be righted by a closer union among themselves. They began to consider that their interests and those of the governing powers were not the same. In these feelings of distrust toward the friars they were stimulated by the great numbers of immigrant Spaniards who were then entering the country, many of whom had taken part in the republican movements at home and who, upon the restoration of the monarchy, no doubt thought it safer for them to be at as great a distance as possible from the throne. The young Filipinos studying in Spain came from different parts of the islands, and by their association there in a foreign land were learning to forget their narrow sectionalism; hence the way was being prepared for some concerted action. Thus, aided and encouraged by the anti-clerical Spaniards in the mother country, there was growing up a new generation of native leaders, who looked toward something better than the old system.

It is with this period in the history of the country—the author’s boyhood—that the story of Noli Me Tangere deals. Typical scenes and characters are sketched from life with wonderful accuracy, and the picture presented is that of a master-mind, who knew and loved his subject. Terror and repression were the order of the day, with ever a growing unrest in the higher circles, while the native population at large seemed to be completely cowed—“brutalized” is the term repeatedly used by Rizal in his political essays. Spanish writers of the period, observing only the superficial movements,—some of which were indeed fantastical enough, for

         “they,
Who in oppression’s darkness caved have dwelt,
They are not eagles, nourished with the day;
What marvel, then, at times, if they mistake their way?”

—and not heeding the currents at work below, take great delight in ridiculing the pretensions of the young men seeking advancement, while they indulge in coarse ribaldry over the wretched condition of the great mass of the “Indians.” The author, however, himself a “miserable Indian,” vividly depicts the unnatural conditions and dominant characters produced under the outworn system of fraud and force, at the same time presenting his people as living, feeling, struggling individuals, with all the frailties of human nature and all the possibilities of mankind, either for good or evil; incidentally he throws into marked contrast the despicable depreciation used by the Spanish writers in referring to the Filipinos, making clear the application of the self-evident proposition that no ordinary human being in the presence of superior force can very well conduct himself as a man unless he be treated as such.

The friar orders, deluded by their transient triumph and secure in their pride of place, became more arrogant, more domineering than ever. In the general administration the political rulers were at every turn thwarted, their best efforts frustrated, and if they ventured too far their own security threatened; for in the three-cornered wrangle which lasted throughout the whole of the Spanish domination, the friar orders had, in addition to the strength derived from their organization and their wealth, the Damoclean weapon of control over the natives to hang above the heads of both governor and archbishop. The curates in the towns, always the real rulers, became veritable despots, so that no voice dared to raise itself against them, even in the midst of conditions which the humblest indio was beginning to feel dumbly to be perverted and unnatural, and that, too, after three centuries of training under the system that he had ever been taught to accept as “the will of God.”

The friars seemed long since to have forgotten those noble aims that had meant so much to the founders and early workers of their orders, if indeed the great majority of those of the later day had ever realized the meaning of their office, for the Spanish writers of the time delight in characterizing them as the meanest of the Spanish peasantry, when not something worse, who had been “lassoed,” taught a few ritualistic prayers, and shipped to the Philippines to be placed in isolated towns as lords and masters of the native population, with all the power and prestige over a docile people that the sacredness of their holy office gave them. These writers treat the matter lightly, seeing in it rather a huge joke on the “miserable Indians,” and give the friars great credit for “patriotism,” a term which in this connection they dragged from depth to depth until it quite aptly fitted Dr. Johnson’s famous definition, “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

In their conduct the religious corporations, both as societies and as individuals, must be estimated according to their own standards—the application of any other criterion would be palpably unfair. They undertook to hold the native in subjection, to regulate the essential activities of his life according to their ideas, so upon them must fall the responsibility for the conditions finally attained: to destroy the freedom of the subject and then attempt to blame him for his conduct is a paradox into which the learned men often fell, perhaps inadvertently through their deductive logic. They endeavored to shape the lives of their Malay wards not only in this existence but also in the next. Their vows were poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The vow of poverty was early relegated to the limbo of neglect. Only a few years after the founding of Manila royal decrees began to issue on the subject of complaints received by the King over the usurpation of lands on the part of the priests. Using the same methods so familiar in the heyday of the institution of monasticism in Europe—pious gifts, deathbed bequests, pilgrims’ offerings—the friar orders gradually secured the richest of the arable lands in the more thickly settled portions of the Philippines, notably the part of Luzon occupied by the Tagalogs. Not always, however, it must in justice be recorded, were such doubtful means resorted to, for there were instances where the missionary was the pioneer, gathering about himself a band of devoted natives and plunging into the unsettled parts to build up a town with its fields around it, which would later become a friar estate. With the accumulated incomes from these estates and the fees for religious observances that poured into their treasuries, the orders in their nature of perpetual corporations became the masters of the situation, the lords of the country. But this condition was not altogether objectionable; it was in the excess of their greed that they went astray, for the native peoples had been living under this system through generations and not until they began to feel that they were not receiving fair treatment did they question the authority of a power which not only secured them a peaceful existence in this life but also assured them eternal felicity in the next.

With only the shining exceptions that are produced in any system, no matter how false its premises or how decadent it may become, to uphold faith in the intrinsic soundness of human nature, the vow of chastity was never much more than a myth. Through the tremendous influence exerted over a fanatically religious people, who implicitly followed the teachings of the reverend fathers, once their confidence had been secured, the curate was seldom to be gainsaid in his desires. By means of the secret influence in the confessional and the more open political power wielded by him, the fairest was his to command, and the favored one and her people looked upon the choice more as an honor than otherwise, for besides the social standing that it gave her there was the proud prospect of becoming the mother of children who could claim kinship with the dominant race. The curate’s “companion” or the sacristan’s wife was a power in the community, her family was raised to a place of importance and influence among their own people, while she and her ecclesiastical offspring were well cared for. On the death or removal of the curate, it was almost invariably found that she had been provided with a husband or protector and a not inconsiderable amount of property—an arrangement rather appealing to a people among whom the means of living have ever been so insecure.

That this practise was not particularly offensive to the people among whom they dwelt may explain the situation, but to claim that it excuses the friars approaches dangerously close to casuistry. Still, as long as this arrangement was decently and moderately carried out, there seems to have been no great objection, nor from a worldly point of view, with all the conditions considered, could there be much. But the old story of excess, of unbridled power turned toward bad ends, again recurs, at the same time that the ideas brought in by the Spaniards who came each year in increasing numbers and the principles observed by the young men studying in Europe cast doubt upon the fitness of such a state of affairs. As they approached their downfall, like all mankind, the friars became more open, more insolent, more shameless, in their conduct.

The story of Maria Clara, as told in Noli Me Tangere, is by no means an exaggerated instance, but rather one of the few clean enough to bear the light, and her fate, as depicted in the epilogue, is said to be based upon an actual occurrence with which the author must have been familiar.

The vow of obedience—whether considered as to the Pope, their highest religious authority, or to the King of Spain, their political liege—might not always be so callously disregarded, but it could be evaded and defied. From the Vatican came bull after bull, from the Escorial decree after decree, only to be archived in Manila, sometimes after a hollow pretense of compliance. A large part of the records of Spanish domination is taken up with the wearisome quarrels that went on between the Archbishop, representing the head of the Church, and the friar orders, over the questions of the episcopal visitation and the enforcement of the provisions of the Council of Trent relegating the monks to their original status of missionaries, with the friars invariably victorious in their contentions. Royal decrees ordering inquiries into the titles to the estates of the men of poverty and those providing for the education of the natives in Spanish were merely sneered at and left to molder in harmless quiet. Not without good grounds for his contention, the friar claimed that the Spanish dominion over the Philippines depended upon him, and he therefore confidently set himself up as the best judge of how that dominion should be maintained.

Thus there are presented in the Philippines of the closing quarter of the century just past the phenomena so frequently met with in modern societies, so disheartening to the people who must drag out their lives under them, of an old system which has outworn its usefulness and is being called into question, with forces actively at work disintegrating it, yet with the unhappy folk bred and reared under it unprepared for a new order of things. The old faith was breaking down, its forms and beliefs, once so full of life and meaning, were being sharply examined, doubt and suspicion were the order of the day. Moreover, it must ever be borne in mind that in the Philippines this unrest, except in the parts where the friars were the landlords, was not general among the people, the masses of whom were still sunk in their “loved Egyptian night,” but affected only a very small proportion of the population—for the most part young men who were groping their way toward something better, yet without any very clearly conceived idea of what that better might be, and among whom was to be found the usual sprinkling of “sunshine patriots” and omnipresent opportunists ready for any kind of trouble that will afford them a chance to rise.

Add to the apathy of the masses dragging out their vacant lives amid the shadows of religious superstition and to the unrest of the few, the fact that the orders were in absolute control of the political machinery of the country, with the best part of the agrarian wealth amortized in their hands; add also the ever-present jealousies, petty feuds, and racial hatreds, for which Manila and the Philippines, with their medley of creeds and races, offer such a fertile field, all fostered by the governing class for the maintenance of the old Machiavelian principle of “divide and rule,” and the sum is about the most miserable condition under which any portion of mankind ever tried to fulfill nature’s inexorable laws of growth. 

II

And third came she who gives dark creeds their power,
Silabbat-paramasa, sorceress,
Draped fair in many lands as lowly Faith,
But ever juggling souls with rites and prayers;
The keeper of those keys which lock up Hells
And open Heavens. “Wilt thou dare,” she said,
“Put by our sacred books, dethrone our gods,
Unpeople all the temples, shaking down
That law which feeds the priests and props the realm?”
But Buddha answered, “What thou bidd’st me keep
Is form which passes, but the free Truth stands;
Get thee unto thy darkness.”

SIR EDWIN ARNOLD, The Light of Asia.

“Ah, simple people, how little do you know the blessing that you enjoy! Neither hunger, nor nakedness, nor inclemency of the weather troubles you. With the payment of seven reals per year, you remain free of contributions. You do not have to close your houses with bolts. You do not fear that the district troopers will come in to lay waste your fields, and trample you under foot at your own firesides. You call ‘father’ the one who is in command over you. Perhaps there will come a time when you will be more civilized, and you will break out in revolution; and you will wake terrified, at the tumult of the riots, and will see blood flowing through these quiet fields, and gallows and guillotines erected in these squares, which never yet have seen an execution.”6 Thus moralized a Spanish traveler in 1842, just as that dolce far niente was drawing to its close. Already far-seeing men had begun to raise in the Spanish parliament the question of the future of the Philippines, looking toward some definite program for their care under modern conditions and for the adjustment of their relations with the mother country. But these were mere Cassandra-voices—the horologe of time was striking for Rome’s successor, as it did for Rome herself.

Just where will come the outbreak after three centuries of mind-repression and soul-distortion, of forcing a growing subject into the strait-jacket of medieval thought and action, of natural selection reversed by the constant elimination of native initiative and leadership, is indeed a curious study. That there will be an outbreak somewhere is as certain as that the plant will grow toward the light, even under the most unfavorable conditions, for man’s nature is but the resultant of eternal forces that ceaselessly and irresistibly interplay about and upon him, and somewhere this resultant will express itself in thought or deed.

After three centuries of Spanish ecclesiastical domination in the Philippines, it was to be expected that the wards would turn against their mentors the methods that had been used upon them, nor is it especially remarkable that there was a decided tendency in some parts to revert to primitive barbarism, but that concurrently a creative genius—a bard or seer—should have been developed among a people who, as a whole, have hardly passed through the clan or village stage of society, can be regarded as little less than a psychological phenomenon, and provokes the perhaps presumptuous inquiry as to whether there may not be some things about our common human nature that the learned doctors have not yet included in their anthropometric diagrams.

On the western shore of the Lake of Bay in the heart of the Philippines clusters the village of Kalamba, first established by the Jesuit Fathers in the early days of the conquest, and upon their expulsion in 1767 taken over by the Crown, which later transferred it to the Dominicans, under whose care the fertile fields about it became one of the richest of the friar estates. It can hardly be called a town, even for the Philippines, but is rather a market-village, set as it is at the outlet of the rich country of northern Batangas on the open waterway to Manila and the outside world. Around it flourish the green rice-fields, while Mount Makiling towers majestically near in her moods of cloud and sunshine, overlooking the picturesque curve of the shore and the rippling waters of the lake. Shadowy to the eastward gleam the purple crests of Banahao and Cristobal, and but a few miles to the southwestward dim-thundering, seething, earth-rocking Taal mutters and moans of the world’s birth-throes. It is the center of a region rich in native lore and legend, as it sleeps through the dusty noons when the cacao leaves droop with the heat and dreams through the silvery nights, waking twice or thrice a week to the endless babble and ceaseless chatter of an Oriental market where the noisy throngs make of their trading as much a matter of pleasure and recreation as of business.

Directly opposite this market-place, in a house facing the village church, there was born in 1861 into the already large family of one of the more prosperous tenants on the Dominican estate a boy who was to combine in his person the finest traits of the Oriental character with the best that Spanish and European culture could add, on whom would fall the burden of his people’s woes to lead him over the via dolorosa of struggle and sacrifice, ending in his own destruction amid the crumbling ruins of the system whose disintegration he himself had done so much to compass.

José Rizal-Mercado y Alonso, as his name emerges from the confusion of Filipino nomenclature, was of Malay extraction, with some distant strains of Spanish and Chinese blood. His genealogy reveals several persons remarkable for intellect and independence of character, notably a Philippine Eloise and Abelard, who, drawn together by their common enthusiasm for study and learning, became his maternal grandparents, as well as a great-uncle who was a traveler and student and who directed the boy’s early studies. Thus from the beginning his training was exceptional, while his mind was stirred by the trouble already brewing in his community, and from the earliest hours of consciousness he saw about him the wrongs and injustices which overgrown power will ever develop in dealing with a weaker subject. One fact of his childhood, too, stands out clearly, well worthy of record: his mother seems to have been a woman of more than ordinary education for the time and place, and, pleased with the boy’s quick intelligence, she taught him to read Spanish from a copy of the Vulgate in that language, which she had somehow managed to secure and keep in her possession—the old, old story of the Woman and the Book, repeated often enough under strange circumstances, but under none stranger than these. The boy’s father was well-to-do, so he was sent at the age of eight to study in the new Jesuit school in Manila, not however before he had already inspired some awe in his simple neighbors by the facility with which he composed verses in his native tongue.

He began his studies in a private house while waiting for an opportunity to enter the Ateneo, as the Jesuit school is called, and while there he saw one of his tutors, Padre Burgos, haled to an ignominious death on the garrote as a result of the affair of 1872. This made a deep impression on his childish mind and, in fact, seems to have been one of the principal factors in molding his ideas and shaping his career. That the effect upon him was lasting and that his later judgment confirmed him in the belief that a great injustice had been done, are shown by the fact that his second important work, El Filibusterismo, written about 1891, and miscalled by himself a “novel,” for it is really a series of word-paintings constituting a terrific arraignment of the whole régime, was dedicated to the three priests executed in 1872, in these words: “Religion, in refusing to degrade you, has placed in doubt the crime imputed to you; the government, in surrounding your case with mystery and shadow, gives reason for belief in some error, committed in fatal moments; and all the Philippines, in venerating your memory and calling you martyrs, in no way acknowledges your guilt.” The only answer he ever received to this was eight Remington bullets fired into his back.

In the Ateneo he quickly attracted attention and became a general favorite by his application to his studies, the poetic fervor with which he entered into all the exercises of religious devotion, and the gentleness of his character. He was from the first considered “peculiar,” for so the common mind regards everything that fails to fit the old formulas, being of a rather dreamy and reticent disposition, more inclined to reading Spanish romances than joining in the games of his schoolmates. And of all the literatures that could be placed in the hands of an imaginative child, what one would be more productive in a receptive mind of a fervid love of life and home and country and all that men hold dear, than that of the musical language of Castile, with its high coloring and passionate character?

His activities were varied, for, in addition to his regular studies, he demonstrated considerable skill in wood-carving and wax-modeling, and during this period won several prizes for poetical compositions in Spanish, which, while sometimes juvenile in form and following closely after Spanish models, reveal at times flashes of thought and turns of expression that show distinct originality; even in these early compositions there is that plaintive undertone, that minor chord of sadness, which pervades all his poems, reaching its fullest measure of pathos in the verses written in his death-cell. He received a bachelor’s degree according to the Spanish system in 1877, but continued advanced studies in agriculture at the Ateneo, at the same time that he was pursuing the course in philosophy in the Dominican University of Santo Tomas, where in 1879 he startled the learned doctors by a reference in a prize poem to the Philippines as his “patria,” fatherland. This political heresy on the part of a native of the islands was given no very serious attention at the time, being looked upon as the vagary of a schoolboy, but again in the following year, by what seems a strange fatality, he stirred the resentment of the friars, especially the Dominicans, by winning over some of their number the first prize in a literary contest celebrated in honor of the author of Don Quixote.

The archaic instruction in Santo Tomas soon disgusted him and led to disagreements with the instructors, and he turned to Spain. Plans for his journey and his stay there had to be made with the utmost caution, for it would hardly have fared well with his family had it become known that the son of a tenant on an estate which was a part of the University endowment was studying in Europe. He reached Spanish territory first in Barcelona, the hotbed of radicalism, where he heard a good deal of revolutionary talk, which, however, seems to have made but little impression upon him, for throughout his entire career breadth of thought and strength of character are revealed in his consistent opposition to all forms of violence.

In Madrid he pursued the courses in medicine and philosophy, but a fact of even more consequence than his proficiency in his regular work was his persistent study of languages and his omnivorous reading. He was associated with the other Filipinos who were working in a somewhat spectacular way, misdirected rather than led by what may be styled the Spanish liberals, for more considerate treatment of the Philippines. But while he was among them he was not of them, as his studious habits and reticent disposition would hardly have made him a favorite among those who were enjoying the broader and gayer life there. Moreover, he soon advanced far beyond them in thought by realizing that they were beginning at the wrong end of the labor, for even at that time he seems to have caught, by what must almost be looked upon as an inspiration of genius, since there was nothing apparent in his training that would have suggested it, the realization of the fact that hope for his people lay in bettering their condition, that any real benefit must begin with the benighted folk at home, that the introduction of reforms for which they were unprepared would be useless, even dangerous to them. This was not at all the popular idea among his associates and led to serious disagreements with their leaders, for it was the way of toil and sacrifice without any of the excitement and glamour that came from drawing up magnificent plans and sending them back home with appeals for funds to carry on the propaganda—for the most part banquets and entertainments to Spain’s political leaders.

His views, as revealed in his purely political writings, may be succinctly stated, for he had that faculty of expression which never leaves any room for doubt as to the meaning. His people had a natural right to grow and to develop, and any obstacles to such growth and development were to be removed. He realized that the masses of his countrymen were sunk deep in poverty and ignorance, cringing and crouching before political authority, crawling and groveling before religious superstition, but to him this was no subject for jest or indifferent neglect—it was a serious condition which should be ameliorated, and hope lay in working into the inert social mass the leaven of conscious individual effort toward the development of a distinctive, responsible personality. He was profoundly appreciative of all the good that Spain had done, but saw in this no inconsistency with the desire that this gratitude might be given cause to be ever on the increase, thereby uniting the Philippines with the mother country by the firm bonds of common ideas and interests, for his earlier writings breathe nothing but admiration, respect, and loyalty for Spain and her more advanced institutions. The issue was clear to him and he tried to keep it so.

It was indeed administrative myopia, induced largely by blind greed, which allowed the friar orders to confuse the objections to their repressive system with an attack upon Spanish sovereignty, thereby dragging matters from bad to worse, to engender ill feeling and finally desperation. This narrow, selfish policy had about as much soundness in it as the idea upon which it was based, so often brought forward with what looks very suspiciously like a specious effort to cover mental indolence with a glittering generality, “that the Filipino is only a grown-up child and needs a strong paternal government,” an idea which entirely overlooks the natural fact that when an impressionable subject comes within the influence of a stronger force from a higher civilization he is very likely to remain a child—perhaps a stunted one—as long as he is treated as such. There is about as much sense and justice in such logic as there would be in that of keeping a babe confined in swaddling-bands and then blaming it for not knowing how to walk. No creature will remain a healthy child forever, but, as Spain learned to her bitter cost, will be very prone, as the parent grows decrepit and it begins to feel its strength, to prove a troublesome subject to handle, thereby reversing the natural law suggested by the comparison, and bringing such Sancho-Panza statecraft to flounder at last through as hopeless confusion to as absurd a conclusion as his own island government.

Rizal was not one of those rabid, self-seeking revolutionists who would merely overthrow the government and maintain the old system with themselves in the privileged places of the former rulers, nor is he to be classed among the misguided enthusiasts who by their intemperate demands and immoderate conduct merely strengthen the hands of those in power. He realized fully that the restrictions under which the people had become accustomed to order their lives should be removed gradually as they advanced under suitable guidance and became capable of adjusting themselves to the new and better conditions. They should take all the good offered, from any source, especially that suited to their nature, which they could properly assimilate. No great patience was ever exhibited by him toward those of his countrymen—the most repulsive characters in his stories are such—who would make of themselves mere apes and mimes, decorating themselves with a veneer of questionable alien characteristics, but with no personality or stability of their own, presenting at best a spectacle to make devils laugh and angels weep, lacking even the hothouse product’s virtue of being good to look upon.

Reduced to a definite form, the wish of the more thoughtful in the new generation of Filipino leaders that was growing up was that the Philippine Islands be made a province of Spain with representation in the Cortes and the concomitant freedom of expression and criticism. All that was directly asked was some substantial participation in the management of local affairs, and the curtailment of the arbitrary power of petty officials, especially of the friar curates, who constituted the chief obstacle to the education and development of the people.

The friar orders were, however, all-powerful, not only in the Philippines, but also in Madrid, where they were not chary of making use of a part of their wealth to maintain their influence. The efforts of the Filipinos in Spain, while closely watched, do not seem to have been given any very serious attention, for the Spanish authorities no doubt realized that as long as the young men stayed in Madrid writing manifestoes in a language which less than one per cent of their countrymen could read and spending their money on members of the Cortes, there could be little danger of trouble in the Philippines. Moreover, the Spanish ministers themselves appear to have been in sympathy with the more moderate wishes of the Filipinos, a fact indicated by the number of changes ordered from time to time in the Philippine administration, but they were powerless before the strength and local influence of the religious orders. So matters dragged their weary way along until there was an unexpected and startling development, a David-Goliath contest, and certainly no one but a genius could have polished the “smooth stone” that was to smite the giant.

It is said that the idea of writing a novel depicting conditions in his native land first came to Rizal from a perusal of Eugene Sue’s The Wandering Jew, while he was a student in Madrid, although the model for the greater part of it is plainly the delectable sketches in Don Quixote, for the author himself possessed in a remarkable degree that Cervantic touch which raises the commonplace, even the mean, into the highest regions of art. Not, however, until he had spent some time in Paris continuing his medical studies, and later in Germany, did anything definite result. But in 1887 Noli Me Tangere was printed in Berlin, in an establishment where the author is said to have worked part of his time as a compositor in order to defray his expenses while he continued his studies. A limited edition was published through the financial aid extended by a Filipino associate, and sent to Hongkong, thence to be surreptitiously introduced into the Philippines.

Noli Me Tangere (“Touch Me Not”) at the time the work was written had a peculiar fitness as a title. Not only was there an apt suggestion of a comparison with the common flower of that name, but the term is also applied in pathology to a malignant cancer which affects every bone and tissue in the body, and that this latter was in the author’s mind would appear from the dedication and from the summing-up of the Philippine situation in the final conversation between Ibarra and Elias. But in a letter written to a friend in Paris at the time, the author himself says that it was taken from the Gospel scene where the risen Savior appears to the Magdalene, to whom He addresses these words, a scene that has been the subject of several notable paintings.

In this connection it is interesting to note what he himself thought of the work, and his frank statement of what he had tried to accomplish, made just as he was publishing it: “Noli Me Tangere, an expression taken from the Gospel of St. Luke,7 means touch me not. The book contains things of which no one up to the present time has spoken, for they are so sensitive that they have never suffered themselves to be touched by any one whomsoever. For my own part, I have attempted to do what no one else has been willing to do: I have dared to answer the calumnies that have for centuries been heaped upon us and our country. I have written of the social condition and the life, of our beliefs, our hopes, our longings, our complaints, and our sorrows; I have unmasked the hypocrisy which, under the cloak of religion, has come among us to impoverish and to brutalize us, I have distinguished the true religion from the false, from the superstition that traffics with the holy word to get money and to make us believe in absurdities for which Catholicism would blush, if ever it knew of them. I have unveiled that which has been hidden behind the deceptive and dazzling words of our governments. I have told our countrymen of our mistakes, our vices, our faults, and our weak complaisance with our miseries there. Where I have found virtue I have spoken of it highly in order to render it homage; and if I have not wept in speaking of our misfortunes, I have laughed over them, for no one would wish to weep with me over our woes, and laughter is ever the best means of concealing sorrow. The deeds that I have related are true and have actually occurred; I can furnish proof of this. My book may have (and it does have) defects from an artistic and esthetic point of view—this I do not deny—but no one can dispute the veracity of the facts presented.”8

But while the primary purpose and first effect of the work was to crystallize anti-friar sentiment, the author has risen above a mere personal attack, which would give it only a temporary value, and by portraying in so clear and sympathetic a way the life of his people has produced a piece of real literature, of especial interest now as they are being swept into the newer day. Any fool can point out errors and defects, if they are at all apparent, and the persistent searching them out for their own sake is the surest mark of the vulpine mind, but the author has east aside all such petty considerations and, whether consciously or not, has left a work of permanent value to his own people and of interest to all friends of humanity. If ever a fair land has been cursed with the wearisome breed of fault-finders, both indigenous and exotic, that land is the Philippines, so it is indeed refreshing to turn from the dreary waste of carping criticisms, pragmatical “scientific” analyses, and sneering half-truths to a story pulsating with life, presenting the Filipino as a human being, with his virtues and his vices, his loves and hates, his hopes and fears.

The publication of Noli Me Tangere suggests the reflection that the story of Achilles’ heel is a myth only in form. The belief that any institution, system, organization, or arrangement has reached an absolute form is about as far as human folly can go. The friar orders looked upon themselves as the sum of human achievement in man-driving and God-persuading, divinely appointed to rule, fixed in their power, far above suspicion. Yet they were obsessed by the sensitive, covert dread of exposure that ever lurks spectrally under pharisaism’s specious robe, so when there appeared this work of a “miserable Indian,” who dared to portray them and the conditions that their control produced exactly as they were—for the indefinable touch by which the author gives an air of unimpeachable veracity to his story is perhaps its greatest artistic merit—the effect upon the mercurial Spanish temperament was, to say the least, electric. The very audacity of the thing left the friars breathless.

A committee of learned doctors from Santo Tomas, who were appointed to examine the work, unmercifully scored it as attacking everything from the state religion to the integrity of the Spanish dominions, so the circulation of it in the Philippines was, of course, strictly prohibited, which naturally made the demand for it greater. Large sums were paid for single copies, of which, it might be remarked in passing, the author himself received scarcely any part; collections have ever had a curious habit of going astray in the Philippines.

Although the possession of a copy by a Filipino usually meant summary imprisonment or deportation, often with the concomitant confiscation of property for the benefit of some “patriot,” the book was widely read among the leading families and had the desired effect of crystallizing the sentiment against the friars, thus to pave the way for concerted action. At last the idol had been flouted, so all could attack it. Within a year after it had begun to circulate in the Philippines a memorial was presented to the Archbishop by quite a respectable part of the Filipinos in Manila, requesting that the friar orders be expelled from the country, but this resulted only in the deportation of every signer of the petition upon whom the government could lay hands. They were scattered literally to the four corners of the earth: some to the Ladrone Islands, some to Fernando Po off the west coast of Africa, some to Spanish prisons, others to remote parts of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the author had returned to the Philippines for a visit to his family, during which time he was constantly attended by an officer of the Civil Guard, detailed ostensibly as a body-guard. All his movements were closely watched, and after a few months the Captain-General “advised” him to leave the country, at the same time requesting a copy of Noli Me Tangere, saying that the excerpts submitted to him by the censor had awakened a desire to read the entire work. Rizal returned to Europe by way of Japan and the United States, which did not seem to make any distinct impression upon him, although it was only a little later that he predicted that when Spain lost control of the Philippines, an eventuality he seemed to consider certain not far in the future, the United States would be a probable successor.9

Returning to Europe, he spent some time in London preparing an edition of Morga’s Sucesos de las Filipinas, a work published in Mexico about 1606 by the principal actor in some of the most stirring scenes of the formative period of the Philippine government. It is a record of prime importance in Philippine history, and the resuscitation of it was no small service to the country. Rizal added notes tending to show that the Filipinos had been possessed of considerable culture and civilization before the Spanish conquest, and he even intimated that they had retrograded rather than advanced under Spanish tutelage. But such an extreme view must be ascribed to patriotic ardor, for Rizal himself, though possessed of that intangible quality commonly known as genius and partly trained in northern Europe, is still in his own personality the strongest refutation of such a contention.

Later, in Ghent, he published El Filibusterismo, called by him a continuation of Noli Me Tangere, but with which it really has no more connection than that some of the characters reappear and are disposed of.10 There is almost no connected plot in it and hardly any action, but there is the same incisive character-drawing and clear etching of conditions that characterize the earlier work. It is a maturer effort and a more forceful political argument, hence it lacks the charm and simplicity which assign Noli Me Tangere to a preeminent place in Philippine literature. The light satire of the earlier work is replaced by bitter sarcasm delivered with deliberate intent, for the iron had evidently entered his soul with broadening experience and the realization that justice at the hands of decadent Spain had been an iridescent dream of his youth. Nor had the Spanish authorities in the Philippines been idle; his relatives had been subjected to all the annoyances and irritations of petty persecution, eventually losing the greater part of their property, while some of them suffered deportation.

In 1891 he returned to Hongkong to practise medicine, in which profession he had remarkable success, even coming to be looked upon as a wizard by his simple countrymen, among whom circulated wonderful accounts of his magical powers. He was especially skilled in ophthalmology, and his first operation after returning from his studies in Europe was to restore his mother’s sight by removing a cataract from one of her eyes, an achievement which no doubt formed the basis of marvelous tales. But the misfortunes of his people were ever the paramount consideration, so he wrote to the Captain-General requesting permission to remove his numerous relatives to Borneo to establish a colony there, for which purpose liberal concessions had been offered him by the British government. The request was denied, and further stigmatized as an “unpatriotic” attempt to lessen the population of the Philippines, when labor was already scarce. This was the answer he received to a reasonable petition after the homes of his family, including his own birthplace, had been ruthlessly destroyed by military force, while a quarrel over ownership and rents was still pending in the courts. The Captain-General at the time was Valeriano Weyler, the pitiless instrument of the reactionary forces manipulated by the monastic orders, he who was later sent to Cuba to introduce there the repressive measures which had apparently been so efficacious in the Philippines, thus to bring on the interference of the United States to end Spain’s colonial power—all of which induces the reflection that there may still be deluded casuists who doubt the reality of Nemesis.

Weyler was succeeded by Eulogio Despujols, who made sincere attempts to reform the administration, and was quite popular with the Filipinos. In reply to repeated requests from Rizal to be permitted to return to the Philippines unmolested a passport was finally granted to him and he set out for Manila. For this move on his part, in addition to the natural desire to be among his own people, two special reasons appear: he wished to investigate and stop if possible the unwarranted use of his name in taking up collections that always remained mysteriously unaccounted for, and he was drawn by a ruse deliberately planned and executed in that his mother was several times officiously arrested and hustled about as a common criminal in order to work upon the son’s filial feelings and thus get him back within reach of the Spanish authority, which, as subsequent events and later researches have shown, was the real intention in issuing the passport. Entirely unsuspecting any ulterior motive, however, in a few days after his arrival he convoked a motley gathering of Filipinos of all grades of the population, for he seems to have been only slightly acquainted among his own people and not at all versed in the mazy Walpurgis dance of Philippine politics, and laid before it the constitution for a Liga Filipina (Philippine League), an organization looking toward greater unity among the Filipinos and coöperation for economic progress. This Liga was no doubt the result of his observations in England and Germany, and, despite its questionable form as a secret society for political and economic purposes, was assuredly a step in the right direction, but unfortunately its significance was beyond the comprehension of his countrymen, most of whom saw in it only an opportunity for harassing the Spanish government, for which all were ready enough.

All his movements were closely watched, and a few days after his return he was arrested on the charge of having seditious literature in his baggage. The friars were already clamoring for his blood, but Despujols seems to have been more in sympathy with Rizal than with the men whose tool he found himself forced to be. Without trial Rizal was ordered deported to Dapitan, a small settlement on the northern coast of Mindanao. The decree ordering this deportation and the destruction of all copies of his books to be found in the Philippines is a marvel of sophistry, since, in the words of a Spanish writer of the time, “in this document we do not know which to wonder at most: the ingenuousness of the Governor-General, for in this decree he implicitly acknowledges his weakness and proneness to error, or the candor of Rizal, who believed that all the way was strewn with roses.”11 But it is quite evident that Despujols was playing a double game, of which he seems to have been rather ashamed, for he gave strict orders that copies of the decree should be withheld from Rizal.

In Dapitan Rizal gave himself up to his studies and such medical practice as sought him out in that remote spot, for the fame of his skill was widely extended, and he was allowed to live unmolested under parole that he would make no attempt to escape. In company with a Jesuit missionary he gathered about him a number of native boys and conducted a practical school on the German plan, at the same time indulging in religious polemics with his Jesuit acquaintances by correspondence and working fitfully on some compositions which were never completed, noteworthy among them being a study in English of the Tagalog verb.

But while he was living thus quietly in Dapitan, events that were to determine his fate were misshaping themselves in Manila. The stone had been loosened on the mountain-side and was bounding on in mad career, far beyond his control. 

III

He who of old would rend the oak,
Dream’d not of the rebound;
Chain’d by the trunk he vainly broke
Alone—how look’d he round?

BYRON.

Reason and moderation in the person of Rizal scorned and banished, the spirit of Jean Paul Marat and John Brown of Ossawatomie rises to the fore in the shape of one Andres Bonifacio, warehouse porter, who sits up o’ nights copying all the letters and documents that he can lay hands on; composing grandiloquent manifestoes in Tagalog; drawing up magnificent appointments in the names of prominent persons who would later suffer even to the shedding of their life’s blood through his mania for writing history in advance; spelling out Spanish tales of the French Revolution; babbling of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; hinting darkly to his confidants that the President of France had begun life as a blacksmith. Only a few days after Rizal was so summarily hustled away, Bonifacio gathered together a crowd of malcontents and ignorant dupes, some of them composing as choice a gang of cutthroats as ever slit the gullet of a Chinese or tied mutilated prisoners in ant hills, and solemnly organized the Kataastaasang Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng̃ mga Anak ng̃ Bayan, “Supreme Select Association of the Sons of the People,” for the extermination of the ruling race and the restoration of the Golden Age. It was to bring the people into concerted action for a general revolt on a fixed date, when they would rise simultaneously, take possession of the city of Manila, and—the rest were better left to the imagination, for they had been reared under the Spanish colonial system and imitativeness has ever been pointed out as a cardinal trait in the Filipino character. No quarter was to be asked or given, and the most sacred ties, even of consanguinity, were to be disregarded in the general slaughter. To the inquiry of a curious neophyte as to how the Spaniards were to be distinguished from the other Europeans, in order to avoid international complications, dark Andres replied that in case of doubt they should proceed with due caution but should take good care that they made no mistakes about letting any of the Castilas escape their vengeance. The higher officials of the government were to be taken alive as hostages, while the friars were to be reserved for a special holocaust on Bagumbayan Field, where over their incinerated remains a heaven-kissing monument would be erected.

This Katipunan seems to have been an outgrowth from Spanish freemasonry, introduced into the Philippines by a Spaniard named Morayta and Marcelo H. del Pilar, a native of Bulacan Province who was the practical leader of the Filipinos in Spain, but who died there in 1896 just as he was setting out for Hongkong to mature his plans for a general uprising to expel the friar orders. There had been some masonic societies in the islands for some time, but the membership had been limited to Peninsulars, and they played no part in the politics of the time. But about 1888 Filipinos began to be admitted into some of them, and later, chiefly through the exertions of Pilar, lodges exclusively for them were instituted. These soon began to display great activity, especially in the transcendental matter of collections, so that their existence became a source of care to the government and a nightmare to the religious orders. From them, and with a perversion of the idea in Rizal’s still-born Liga, it was an easy transition to the Katipunan, which was to put aside all pretense of reconciliation with Spain, and at the appointed time rise to exterminate not only the friars but also all the Spaniards and Spanish sympathizers, thus to bring about the reign of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, under the benign guidance of Patriot Bonifacio, with his bolo for a scepter.

With its secrecy and mystic forms, its methods of threats and intimidation, the Katipunan spread rapidly, especially among the Tagalogs, the most intransigent of the native peoples, and, it should be noted, the ones in Whose territory the friars were the principal landlords. It was organized on the triangle plan, so that no member might know or communicate with more than three others—the one above him from whom he received his information and instructions and two below to whom he transmitted them. The initiations were conducted with great secrecy and solemnity, calculated to inspire the new members with awe and fear. The initiate, after a series of blood-curdling ordeals to try out his courage and resolution, swore on a human skull a terrific oath to devote his life and energies to the extermination of the white race, regardless of age or sex, and later affixed to it his signature or mark, usually the latter, with his own blood taken from an incision in the left arm or left breast. This was one form of the famous “blood compact,” which, if history reads aright, played so important a part in the assumption of sovereignty over the Philippines by Legazpi in the name of Philip II.

Rizal was made the honorary president of the association, his portrait hung in all the meeting-halls, and the magic of his name used to attract the easily deluded masses, who were in a state of agitated ignorance and growing unrest, ripe for any movement that looked anti-governmental, and especially anti-Spanish. Soon after the organization had been perfected, collections began to be taken up—those collections were never overlooked—for the purpose of chartering a steamer to rescue him from Dapitan and transport him to Singapore, whence he might direct the general uprising, the day and the hour for which were fixed by Bonifacio for August twenty-sixth, 1896, at six o’clock sharp in the evening, since lack of precision in his magnificent programs was never a fault of that bold patriot, his logic being as severe as that of the Filipino policeman who put the flag at half-mast on Good Friday.

Of all this Rizal himself was, of course, entirely ignorant, until in May, 1896, a Filipino doctor named Pio Valenzuela, a creature of Bonifacio’s, was despatched to Dapitan, taking along a blind man as a pretext for the visit to the famous oculist, to lay the plans before him for his consent and approval. Rizal expostulated with Valenzuela for a time over such a mad and hopeless venture, which would only bring ruin and misery upon the masses, and then is said to have very humanly lost his patience, ending the interview “in so bad a humor and with words so offensive that the deponent, who had gone with the intention of remaining there a month, took the steamer on the following day, for return to Manila.”12 He reported secretly to Bonifacio, who bestowed several choice Tagalog epithets on Rizal, and charged his envoy to say nothing about the failure of his mission, but rather to give the impression that he had been successful. Rizal’s name continued to be used as the shibboleth of the insurrection, and the masses were made to believe that he would appear as their leader at the appointed hour.

Vague reports from police officers, to the effect that something unusual in the nature of secret societies was going on among the people, began to reach the government, but no great attention was paid to them, until the evening of August nineteenth, when the parish priest of Tondo was informed by the mother-superior of one of the convent-schools that she had just learned of a plot to massacre all the Spaniards. She had the information from a devoted pupil, whose brother was a compositor in the office of the Diario de Manila. As is so frequently the case in Filipino families, this elder sister was the purse-holder, and the brother’s insistent requests for money, which was needed by him to meet the repeated assessments made on the members as the critical hour approached, awakened her curiosity and suspicion to such an extent that she forced him to confide the whole plan to her. Without delay she divulged it to her patroness, who in turn notified the curate of Tondo, where the printing-office was located. The priest called in two officers of the Civil Guard, who arrested the young printer, frightened a confession out of him, and that night, in company with the friar, searched the printing-office, finding secreted there several lithographic plates for printing receipts and certificates of membership in the Katipunan, with a number of documents giving some account of the plot.

Then the Spanish population went wild. General Ramon Blanco was governor and seems to have been about the only person who kept his head at all. He tried to prevent giving so irresponsible a movement a fictitious importance, but was utterly powerless to stay the clamor for blood which at once arose, loudest on the part of those alleged ministers of the gentle Christ. The gates of the old Walled City, long fallen into disuse, were cleaned and put in order, martial law was declared, and wholesale arrests made. Many of the prisoners were confined in Fort Santiago, one batch being crowded into a dungeon for which the only ventilation was a grated opening at the top, and one night a sergeant of the guard carelessly spread his sleeping-mat over this, so the next morning some fifty-five asphyxiated corpses were hauled away. On the twenty-sixth armed insurrection broke out at Caloocan, just north of Manila, from time immemorial the resort of bad characters from all the country round and the center of brigandage, while at San Juan del Monte, on the outskirts of the city, several bloody skirmishes were fought a few days later with the Guardia Civil Veterana, the picked police force.

Bonifacio had been warned of the discovery of his schemes in time to make his escape and flee to the barrio, or village, of Balintawak, a few miles north of Manila, thence to lead the attack on Caloocan and inaugurate the reign of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity in the manner in which Philippine insurrections have generally had a habit of starting—with the murder of Chinese merchants and the pillage of their shops. He had from the first reserved for himself the important office of treasurer in the Katipunan, in addition to being on occasions president and at all times its ruling spirit, so he now established himself as dictator and proceeded to appoint a magnificent staff, most of whom contrived to escape as soon as they were out of reach of his bolo. Yet he drew considerable numbers about him, for this man, though almost entirely unlettered, seems to have been quite a personality among his own people, especially possessed of that gift of oratory in his native tongue to which the Malay is so preeminently susceptible.

In Manila a special tribunal was constituted and worked steadily, sometimes through the siesta-hour, for there were times, of which this was one, when even Spanish justice could be swift. Bagumbayan began to be a veritable field of blood, as the old methods of repression were resorted to for the purpose of striking terror into the native population by wholesale executions, nor did the ruling powers realize that the time for such methods had passed. It was a case of sixteenth-century colonial methods fallen into fretful and frantic senility, so in all this wretched business it is doubtful whim to pity the more: the blind stupidity of the fossilized conservatives incontinently throwing an empire away, forfeiting their influence over a people whom they, by temperament and experience, should have been fitted to control and govern; or the potential cruelty of perverted human nature in the dark Frankenstein who would wreak upon the rulers in their decadent days the most hideous of the methods in the system that produced him, as he planned his festive holocaust and carmagnole on the spot where every spark of initiative and leadership among his people, both good and bad, had been summarily and ruthlessly extinguished. There is at least a world of reflection in it for the rulers of men.

In the meantime Rizal, wearying of the quiet life in Dapitan and doubtless foreseeing the impending catastrophe, had requested leave to volunteer his services as a physician in the military hospitals of Cuba, of the horrors and sufferings in which he had heard. General Blanco at once gladly acceded to this request and had him brought to Manila, but unfortunately the boat carrying him arrived there a day too late for him to catch the regular August mail-steamer to Spain, so he was kept in the cruiser a prisoner of war, awaiting the next transportation. While he was thus detained, the Katipunan plot was discovered and the rebellion broke out. He was accused of being the head of it, but Blanco gave him a personal letter completely exonerating him from any complicity in the outbreak, as well as a letter of recommendation to the Spanish minister of war. He was placed on the Isla de Panay when it left for Spain on September third and traveled at first as a passenger. At Singapore he was advised to land and claim British protection, as did some of his fellow travelers, but he refused to do so, saying that his conscience was clear.

As the name of Rizal had constantly recurred during the trials of the Katipunan suspects, the military tribunal finally issued a formal demand for him. The order of arrest was cabled to Port Said and Rizal there placed in solitary confinement for the remainder of the voyage. Arrived at Barcelona, he was confined in the grim fortress of Montjuich, where; by a curious coincidence, the governor was the same Despujols who had issued the decree of banishment in 1892. Shortly afterwards, he was placed on the transport Colon, which was bound for the Philippines with troops, Blanco having at last been stirred to action. Strenuous efforts were now made by Rizal’s friends in London to have him removed from the ship at Singapore, but the British authorities declined to take any action, on the ground that he was on a Spanish warship and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of their courts. The Colon arrived at Manila on November third and Rizal was imprisoned in Fort Santiago, while a special tribunal was constituted to try him on the charges of carrying on anti-patriotic and anti-religious propaganda, rebellion, sedition, and the formation of illegal associations. Some other charges may have been overlooked in the hurry and excitement.

It would be almost a travesty to call a trial the proceedings which began early in December and dragged along until the twenty-sixth. Rizal was defended by a young Spanish officer selected by him from among a number designated by the tribunal, who chivalrously performed so unpopular a duty as well as he could. But the whole affair was a mockery of justice, for the Spanish government in the Philippines had finally and hopelessly reached the condition graphically pictured by Mr. Kipling:

Panic that shells the drifting spar—
Loud waste with none to check—
Mad fear that rakes a scornful star
Or sweeps a consort’s deck!

The clamor against Blanco had resulted in his summary removal by royal decree and the appointment of a real “pacificator,” Camilo Polavieja.

While in prison Rizal prepared an address to those of his countrymen who were in armed rebellion, repudiating the use of his name and deprecating the resort to violence. The closing words are a compendium of his life and beliefs: “Countrymen: I have given proofs, as well as the best of you, of desiring liberty for our country, and I continue to desire it. But I place as a premise the education of the people, so that by means of instruction and work they may have a personality of their own and that they may make themselves worthy of that same liberty. In my writings I have recommended the study of the civic virtues, without which there can be no redemption. I have also written (and my words have been repeated) that reforms, to be fruitful, must come from above, that those which spring from below are uncertain and insecure movements. Imbued with these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, and I do condemn, this absurd, savage rebellion, planned behind my back, which dishonors the Filipinos and discredits those who can speak for us. I abominate all criminal actions and refuse any kind of participation in them, pitying with all my heart the dupes who have allowed themselves to be deceived. Go back, then, to your homes, and may God forgive those who have acted in bad faith.” This address, however, was not published by the Spanish authorities, since they did not consider it “patriotic” enough; instead, they killed the writer!

Rizal appeared before the tribunal bound, closely guarded by two Peninsular soldiers, but maintained his serenity throughout and answered the charges in a straightforward way. He pointed out the fact that he had never taken any great part in politics, having even quarreled with Marcelo del Pilar, the active leader of the anti-clericals, by reason of those perennial “subscriptions,” and that during the time he was accused of being the instigator and organizer of armed rebellion he had been a close prisoner in Dapitan under strict surveillance by both the military and ecclesiastical authorities. The prosecutor presented a lengthy document, which ran mostly to words, about the only definite conclusion laid down in it being that the Philippines “are, and always must remain, Spanish territory.” What there may have been in Rizal’s career to hang such a conclusion upon is not quite dear, but at any rate this learned legal light was evidently still thinking in colors on the map serenely unconscious in his European pseudo-prescience of the new and wonderful development in the Western Hemisphere—humanity militant, Lincolnism.

The death sentence was asked, but the longer the case dragged on the more favorable it began to look for the accused, so the president of the tribunal, after deciding, Jeffreys-like, that the charges had been proved, ordered that no further evidence be taken. Rizal betrayed some sunrise when his doom was thus foreshadowed, for, dreamer that he was, he seems not to have anticipated such a fatal eventuality for himself. He did not lose his serenity, however, even when the tribunal promptly brought in a verdict of guilty and imposed the death sentence, upon which Polavieja the next day placed his Cúmplase, fixing the morning of December thirtieth for the execution.

So Rizal’s fate was sealed. The witnesses against him, in so far as there was any substantial testimony at all, had been his own countrymen, coerced or cajoled into making statements which they have since repudiated as false, and which in some cases were extorted from them by threats and even torture. But he betrayed very little emotion, even maintaining what must have been an assumed cheerfulness. Only one reproach is recorded: that he had been made a dupe of, that he had been deceived by every one, even the bankeros and cocheros. His old Jesuit instructors remained with him in the capilla, or death-cell,13 and largely through the influence of an image of the Sacred Heart, which he had carved as a schoolboy, it is claimed that a reconciliation with the Church was effected. There has been considerable pragmatical discussion as to what form of retraction from him was necessary, since he had been, after studying in Europe, a frank freethinker, but such futile polemics may safely be left to the learned doctors. That he was reconciled with the Church would seem to be evidenced by the fact that just before the execution he gave legal status as his wife to the woman, a rather remarkable Eurasian adventuress, who had lived with him in Dapitan, and the religious ceremony was the only one then recognized in the islands.14 The greater part of his last night on earth was spent in composing a chain of verse; no very majestic flight of poesy, but a pathetic monody throbbing with patient resignation and inextinguishable hope, one of the sweetest, saddest swan-songs ever sung.

Thus he was left at the last, entirely alone. As soon as his doom became certain the Patriots had all scurried to cover, one gentle poetaster even rushing into doggerel verse to condemn him as a reversion to barbarism; the wealthier suspects betook themselves to other lands or made judicious use of their money-bags among the Spanish officials; the better classes of the population floundered hopelessly, leaderless, in the confused whirl of opinions and passions; while the voiceless millions for whom he had spoken moved on in dumb, uncomprehending silence. He had lived in that higher dreamland of the future, ahead of his countrymen, ahead even of those who assumed to be the mentors of his people, and he must learn, as does every noble soul that labors “to make the bounds of freedom wider yet,” the bitter lesson that nine-tenths, if not all, the woes that afflict humanity spring from man’s own stupid selfishness, that the wresting of the scepter from the tyrant is often the least of the task, that the bondman comes to love his bonds—like Chillon’s prisoner, his very chains and he grow friends,—but that the struggle for human freedom must go on, at whatever cost, in ever-widening circles, “wave after wave, each mightier than the last,” for as long as one body toils in fetters or one mind welters in blind ignorance, either of the slave’s base delusion or the despot’s specious illusion, there can be no final security for any free man, or his children, or his children’s children. 

IV

“God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
Why look’st thou so?”—“With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross!”

COLERIDGE.

It was one of those magic December mornings of the tropics—the very nuptials of earth and sky, when great Nature seems to fling herself incontinently into creation, wrapping the world in a brooding calm of light and color, that Spain chose for committing political suicide in the Philippines. Bagumbayan Field was crowded with troops, both regulars and militia, for every man capable of being trusted with arms was drawn up there, excepting only the necessary guards in other parts of the city. Extra patrols were in the streets, double guards were placed over the archiepiscopal and gubernatorial palaces. The calmest man in all Manila that day was he who must stand before the firing-squad.

Two special and unusual features are to be noted about this execution. All the principal actors were Filipinos: the commander of the troops and the officer directly in charge of the execution were native-born, while the firing-squad itself was drawn from a local native regiment, though it is true that on this occasion a squad of Peninsular cazadores, armed with loaded Mausers, stood directly behind them to see that they failed not in their duty. Again, there was but one victim; for it seems to have ever been the custom of the Spanish rulers to associate in these gruesome affairs some real criminals with the political offenders, no doubt with the intentional purpose of confusing the issue in the general mind. Rizal standing alone, the occasion of so much hurried preparation and fearful precaution, is a pathetic testimonial to the degree of incapacity into which the ruling powers had fallen, even in chicanery.

After bidding good-by to his sister and making final disposition regarding some personal property, the doomed man, under close guard, walked calmly, even cheerfully, from Fort Santiago along the Malecon to the Luneta, accompanied by his Jesuit confessors. Arrived there, he thanked those about him for their kindness and requested the officer in charge to allow him to face the firing-squad, since he had never been a traitor to Spain. This the officer declined to permit, for the order was to shoot him in the back. Rizal assented with a slight protest, pointed out to the soldiers the spot in his back at which they should aim, and with a firm step took his place in front of them.

Then occurred an act almost too hideous to record. There he stood, expecting a volley of Remington bullets in his back—Time was, and Life’s stream ebbed to Eternity’s flood—when the military surgeon stepped forward and asked if he might feel his pulse! Rizal extended his left hand, and the officer remarked that he could not understand how a man’s pulse could beat normally at such a terrific moment! The victim shrugged his shoulders and let the hand fall again to his side—Latin refinement could be no further refined!

A moment later there he lay, on his right side, his life-blood spurting over the Luneta curb, eyes wide open, fixedly staring at that Heaven where the priests had taught all those centuries agone that Justice abides. The troops filed past the body, for the most part silently, while desultory cries of “Viva España!” from among the “patriotic” Filipino volunteers were summarily hushed by a Spanish artillery-officer’s stern rebuke: “Silence, you rabble!” To drown out the fitful cheers and the audible murmurs, the bands struck up Spanish national airs. Stranger death-dirge no man and system ever had. Carnival revelers now dance about the scene and Filipino schoolboys play baseball over that same spot.

A few days later another execution was held on that spot, of members of the Liga, some of them characters that would have richly deserved shooting at any place or time, according to existing standards, but notable among them there knelt, torture-crazed, as to his orisons, Francisco Roxas, millionaire capitalist, who may be regarded as the social and economic head of the Filipino people, as Rizal was fitted to be their intellectual leader. Shades of Anda and Vargas! Out there at Balintawak—rather fitly, “the home of the snake-demon,”—not three hours’ march from this same spot, on the very edge of the city, Andres Bonifacio and his literally sansculottic gangs of cutthroats were, almost with impunity, soiling the fair name of Freedom with murder and mutilation, rape and rapine, awakening the worst passions of an excitable, impulsive people, destroying that essential respect for law and order, which to restore would take a holocaust of fire and blood, with a generation of severe training. Unquestionably did Rizal demonstrate himself to be a seer and prophet when he applied to such a system the story of Babylon and the fateful handwriting on the wall!

But forces had been loosed that would not be so suppressed, the time had gone by when such wild methods of repression would serve. The destruction of the native leaders, culminating in the executions of Rizal and Roxas, produced a counter-effect by rousing the Tagalogs, good and bad alike, to desperate fury, and the aftermath was frightful. The better classes were driven to take part in the rebellion, and Cavite especially became a veritable slaughter-pen, as the contest settled down into a hideous struggle for mutual extermination. Dark Andres went his wild way to perish by the violence he had himself invoked, a prey to the rising ambition of a young leader of considerable culture and ability, a schoolmaster named Emilio Aguinaldo. His Katipunan hovered fitfully around Manila, for a time even drawing to itself in their desperation some of the better elements of the population, only to find itself sold out and deserted by its leaders, dying away for a time; but later, under changed conditions, it reappeared in strange metamorphosis as the rallying-center for the largest number of Filipinos who have ever gathered together for a common purpose, and then finally went down before those thin grim lines in khaki with sharp and sharpest shot clearing away the wreck of the old, blazing the way for the new: the broadening sweep of “Democracy announcing, in rifle-volleys death-winged, under her Star Banner, to the tune of Yankee-doodle-do, that she is born, and, whirlwind-like, will envelop the whole world!”

MANILA, December 1, 1909

1 Quoted by Macaulay: Essay on the Succession in Spain.

2 The ruins of the Fuerza de Playa Honda, ó Real de Paynavén, are still to be seen in the present municipality of Botolan, Zambales. The walls are overgrown with rank vegetation, but are well preserved, with the exception of a portion looking toward the Bankal River, which has been undermined by the currents and has fallen intact into the stream.

3 Relation of the Zambals, by Domingo Perez, O.P.; manuscript dated 1680. The excerpts are taken from the translation in Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLVII, by courtesy of the Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, Ohio.

4 “Estadismo de las Islas Filipinas, ó Mis Viages por Este Pais, por Fray Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga, Agustino calzado.” Padre Zuñiga was a parish priest in several towns and later Provincial of his Order. He wrote a history of the conquest, and in 1800 accompanied Alava, theGeneral de Marina, on his tours of investigation looking toward preparations for the defense of the islands against another attack of the British, with whom war threatened. The Estadismo, which is a record of these journeys, with some account of the rest of the islands, remained in manuscript until 1893, when it was published in Madrid.

5 Secular, as distinguished from the regulars, i.e., members of the monastic orders.

6 Sinibaldo de Mas, Informe sobre el estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1842, translated in Blair and Robertson’s The Philippine Islands, Vol. XXVIII, p. 254.

7 Sic. St. John xx, 17.

8 This letter in the original French in which it was written is reproduced in the Vida y Escritos del Dr. José Rizal, by W. E. Retana (Madrid, 1907).

9 Filipinas dentro de Cien Años, published in the organ of the Filipinos in Spain, La Solidaridad, in 1889–90. This is the most studied of Rizal’s purely political writings, and the completest exposition of his views concerning the Philippines.

10 An English version of El Filibusterismo, under the title The Reign of Greed, has been prepared to accompany the present work.

11 “Que todo el monte era orégano.” W.E. Retana, in the appendix to Fray Martinez de Zuñiga’s Estadismo, Madrid, 1893, where the decree is quoted. The rest of this comment of Retana’s deserves quotation as an estimate of the living man by a Spanish publicist who was at the time in the employ of the friars and contemptuously hostile to Rizal, but who has since 1898 been giving quite a spectacular demonstration of waving a red light after the wreck, having become his most enthusiastic, almost hysterical, biographer: “Rizal is what is commonly called a character, but he has repeatedly demonstrated very great inexperience in the affairs of life. I believe him to be now about thirty-two years old. He is the Indian of most ability among those who have written.”

12 From Valenzuela’s deposition before the military tribunal, September sixth, 1896.

13 Capilla: the Spanish practise is to place a condemned person for the twenty-four hours preceding his execution in a chapel, or a cell fitted up as such, where he may devote himself to religious exercises and receive the final ministrations of the Church.

14 But even this conclusion is open to doubt: there is no proof beyond the unsupported statement of the Jesuits that he made a written retraction, which was later destroyed, though why a document so interesting, and so important in support of their own point of view, should not have been preserved furnishes an illuminating commentary on the whole confused affair. The only unofficial witness present was the condemned man’s sister, and her declaration, that she was at the time in such a state of excitement and distress that she is unable to affirm positively that there was a real marriage ceremony performed, can readily be accepted. It must be remembered that the Jesuits were themselves under the official and popular ban for the part they had played in Rizal’s education and development and that they were seeking to set themselves right in order to maintain their prestige. Add to this the persistent and systematic effort made to destroy every scrap of record relating to the man—the sole gleam of shame evidenced in the impolitic, idiotic, and pusillanimous treatment of him—and the whole question becomes such a puzzle that it may just as well be left in darkness, with a throb of pity for the unfortunate victim caught in such a maelstrom of panic-stricken passion and selfish intrigue.

*

What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now?
   Not an Andromache e’en, not an Orestes, my friend?
No! there is nought to be seen there but parsons, and syndics of commerce,
   Secretaries perchance, ensigns and majors of horse.
But, my good friend, pray tell, what can such people e’er meet with
   That can be truly call’d great?—what that is great can they do?

SCHILLER: Shakespeare’s Ghost.

(Bowring’s translation.

Author’s Dedication

To My Fatherland:

Recorded in the history of human sufferings is a cancer of so malignant a character that the least touch irritates it and awakens in it the sharpest pains. Thus, how many times, when in the midst of modern civilizations I have wished to call thee before me, now to accompany me in memories, now to compare thee with other countries, hath thy dear image presented itself showing a social cancer like to that other!

Desiring thy welfare, which is our own, and seeking the best treatment, I will do with thee what the ancients did with their sick, exposing them on the steps of the temple so that every one who came to invoke the Divinity might offer them a remedy.

And to this end, I will strive to reproduce thy condition faithfully, without discriminations; I will raise a part of the veil that covers the evil, sacrificing to truth everything, even vanity itself, since, as thy son, I am conscious that I also suffer from thy defects and weaknesses.

THE AUTHOR

EUROPE, 1886

Chapter I A Social Gathering

On the last of October Don Santiago de los Santos, popularly known as Capitan Tiago, gave a dinner. In spite of the fact that, contrary to his usual custom, he had made the announcement only that afternoon, it was already the sole topic of conversation in Binondo and adjacent districts, and even in the Walled City, for at that time Capitan Tiago was considered one of the most hospitable of men, and it was well known that his house, like his country, shut its doors against nothing except commerce and all new or bold ideas. Like an electric shock the announcement ran through the world of parasites, bores, and hangers-on, whom God in His infinite bounty creates and so kindly multiplies in Manila. Some looked at once for shoe-polish, others for buttons and cravats, but all were especially concerned about how to greet the master of the house in the most familiar tone, in order to create an atmosphere of ancient friendship or, if occasion should arise, to excuse a late arrival.

This dinner was given in a house on Calle Anloague, and although we do not remember the number we will describe it in such a way that it may still be recognized, provided the earthquakes have not destroyed it. We do not believe that its owner has had it torn down, for such labors are generally entrusted to God or nature—which Powers hold the contracts also for many of the projects of our government. It is a rather large building, in the style of many in the country, and fronts upon the arm of the Pasig which is known to some as the Binondo River, and which, like all the streams in Manila, plays the varied rôles of bath, sewer, laundry, fishery, means of transportation and communication, and even drinking water if the Chinese water-carrier finds it convenient. It is worthy of note that in the distance of nearly a mile this important artery of the district, where traffic is most dense and movement most deafening, can boast of only one wooden bridge, which is out of repair on one side for six months and impassable on the other for the rest of the year, so that during the hot season the ponies take advantage of this permanent status quo to jump off the bridge into the water, to the great surprise of the abstracted mortal who may be dozing inside the carriage or philosophizing upon the progress of the age.

The house of which we are speaking is somewhat low and not exactly correct in all its lines: whether the architect who built it was afflicted with poor eyesight or whether the earthquakes and typhoons have twisted it out of shape, no one can say with certainty. A wide staircase with green newels and carpeted steps leads from the tiled entrance up to the main floor between rows of flower-pots set upon pedestals of motley-colored and fantastically decorated Chinese porcelain. Since there are neither porters nor servants who demand invitation cards, we will go in, O you who read this, whether friend or foe, if you are attracted by the strains of the orchestra, the lights, or the suggestive rattling of dishes, knives, and forks, and if you wish to see what such a gathering is like in the distant Pearl of the Orient. Gladly, and for my own comfort, I should spare you this description of the house, were it not of great importance, since we mortals in general are very much like tortoises: we are esteemed and classified according to our shells; in this and still other respects the mortals of the Philippines in particular also resemble tortoises.

If we go up the stairs, we immediately find ourselves in a spacious hallway, called there, for some unknown reason, the caida, which tonight serves as the dining-room and at the same time affords a place for the orchestra. In the center a large table profusely and expensively decorated seems to beckon to the hanger-on with sweet promises, while it threatens the bashful maiden, the simple dalaga, with two mortal hours in the company of strangers whose language and conversation usually have a very restricted and special character.

Contrasted with these terrestrial preparations are the motley paintings on the walls representing religious matters, such as “Purgatory,” “Hell,” “The Last Judgment,” “The Death of the Just,” and “The Death of the Sinner.”

At the back of the room, fastened in a splendid and elegant framework, in the Renaissance style, possibly by Arévalo, is a glass case in which are seen the figures of two old women. The inscription on this reads: “Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, who is worshiped in Antipolo, visiting in the disguise of a beggar the holy and renowned Capitana Inez during her sickness.”1 While the work reveals little taste or art, yet it possesses in compensation an extreme realism, for to judge from the yellow and bluish tints of her face the sick woman seems to be already a decaying corpse, and the glasses and other objects, accompaniments of long illness, are so minutely reproduced that even their contents may be distinguished. In looking at these pictures, which excite the appetite and inspire gay bucolic ideas, one may perhaps be led to think that the malicious host is well acquainted with the characters of the majority of those who are to sit at his table and that, in order to conceal his own way of thinking, he has hung from the ceiling costly Chinese lanterns; bird-cages without birds; red, green, and blue globes of frosted glass; faded air-plants; and dried and inflated fishes, which they call botetes. The view is closed on the side of the river by curious wooden arches, half Chinese and half European, affording glimpses of a terrace with arbors and bowers faintly lighted by paper lanterns of many colors.

In the sala, among massive mirrors and gleaming chandeliers, the guests are assembled. Here, on a raised platform, stands a grand piano of great price, which tonight has the additional virtue of not being played upon. Here, hanging on the wall, is an oil-painting of a handsome man in full dress, rigid, erect, straight as the tasseled cane he holds in his stiff, ring-covered fingers—the whole seeming to say, “Ahem! See how well dressed and how dignified I am!” The furnishings of the room are elegant and perhaps uncomfortable and unhealthful, since the master of the house would consider not so much the comfort and health of his guests as his own ostentation, “A terrible thing is dysentery,” he would say to them, “but you are sitting in European chairs and that is something you don’t find every day.”

This room is almost filled with people, the men being separated from the women as in synagogues and Catholic churches. The women consist of a number of Filipino and Spanish maidens, who, when they open their mouths to yawn, instantly cover them with their fans and who murmur only a few words to each other, any conversation ventured upon dying out in monosyllables like the sounds heard in a house at night, sounds made by the rats and lizards. Is it perhaps the different likenesses of Our Lady hanging on the walls that force them to silence and a religious demeanor or is it that the women here are an exception?

A cousin of Capitan Tiago, a sweet-faced old woman, who speaks Spanish quite badly, is the only one receiving the ladies. To offer to the Spanish ladies a plate of cigars and buyos, to extend her hand to her countrywomen to be kissed, exactly as the friars do,—this is the sum of her courtesy, her policy. The poor old lady soon became bored, and taking advantage of the noise of a plate breaking, rushed precipitately away, muttering, “Jesús! Just wait, you rascals!” and failed to reappear.

The men, for their part, are making more of a stir. Some cadets in one corner are conversing in a lively manner but in low tones, looking around now and then to point out different persons in the room while they laugh more or less openly among themselves. In contrast, two foreigners dressed in white are promenading silently from one end of the room to the other with their hands crossed behind their backs, like the bored passengers on the deck of a ship. All the interest and the greatest animation proceed from a group composed of two priests, two civilians, and a soldier who are seated around a small table on which are seen bottles of wine and English biscuits.

The soldier, a tall, elderly lieutenant with an austere countenance—a Duke of Alva straggling behind in the roster of the Civil Guard—talks little, but in a harsh, curt way. One of the priests, a youthful Dominican friar, handsome, graceful, polished as the gold-mounted eyeglasses he wears, maintains a premature gravity. He is the curate of Binondo and has been in former years a professor in the college of San Juan de Letran,2 where he enjoyed the reputation of being a consummate dialectician, so much so that in the days when the sons of Guzman3 still dared to match themselves in subtleties with laymen, the able disputant B. de Luna had never been able either to catch or to confuse him, the distinctions made by Fray Sibyla leaving his opponent in the situation of a fisherman who tries to catch eels with a lasso. The Dominican says little, appearing to weigh his words.

Quite in contrast, the other priest, a Franciscan, talks much and gesticulates more. In spite of the fact that his hair is beginning to turn gray, he seems to be preserving well his robust constitution, while his regular features, his rather disquieting glance, his wide jaws and herculean frame give him the appearance of a Roman noble in disguise and make us involuntarily recall one of those three monks of whom Heine tells in his “Gods in Exile,” who at the September equinox in the Tyrol used to cross a lake at midnight and each time place in the hand of the poor boatman a silver piece, cold as ice, which left him full of terror.4 But Fray Damaso is not so mysterious as they were. He is full of merriment, and if the tone of his voice is rough like that of a man who has never had occasion to correct himself and who believes that whatever he says is holy and above improvement, still his frank, merry laugh wipes out this disagreeable impression and even obliges us to pardon his showing to the room bare feet and hairy legs that would make the fortune of a Mendieta in the Quiapo fairs.5

One of the civilians is a very small man with a black beard, the only thing notable about him being his nose, which, to judge from its size, ought not to belong to him. The other is a rubicund youth, who seems to have arrived but recently in the country. With him the Franciscan is carrying on a lively discussion.

“You’ll see,” the friar was saying, “when you’ve been here a few months you’ll be convinced of what I say. It’s one thing to govern in Madrid and another to live in the Philippines.”

“But—”

“I, for example,” continued Fray Damaso, raising his voice still higher to prevent the other from speaking, “I, for example, who can look back over twenty-three years of bananas and morisqueta, know whereof I speak. Don’t come at me with theories and fine speeches, for I know the Indian.6 Mark well that the moment I arrived in the country I was assigned to a toxin, small it is true, but especially devoted to agriculture. I didn’t understand Tagalog very well then, but I was, soon confessing the women, and we understood one another and they came to like me so well that three years later, when I was transferred to another and larger town, made vacant by the death of the native curate, all fell to weeping, they heaped gifts upon me, they escorted me with music—”

“But that only goes to show—”

“Wait, wait! Don’t be so hasty! My successor remained a shorter time, and when he left he had more attendance, more tears, and more music. Yet he had been more given to whipping and had raised the fees in the parish to almost double.”

“But you will allow me—”

“But that isn’t all. I stayed in the town of San Diego twenty years and it has been only a few months since I left it.”

Here he showed signs of chagrin.

“Twenty years, no one can deny, are more than sufficient to get acquainted with a town. San Diego has a population of six thousand souls and I knew every inhabitant as well as if I had been his mother and wet-nurse. I knew in which foot this one was lame, where the shoe pinched that one, who was courting that girl, what affairs she had had and with whom, who was the real father of the child, and so on—for I was the confessor of every last one, and they took care not to fail in their duty. Our host, Santiago, will tell you whether I am speaking the truth, for he has a lot of land there and that was where we first became friends. Well then, you may see what the Indian is: when I left I was escorted by only a few old women and some of the tertiary brethren—and that after I had been there twenty years!”

“But I don’t see what that has to do with the abolition of the tobacco monopoly,”7 ventured the rubicund youth, taking advantage of the Franciscan’s pausing to drink a glass of sherry.

Fray Damaso was so greatly surprised that he nearly let his glass fall. He remained for a moment staring fixedly at the young man.

“What? How’s that?” he was finally able to exclaim in great wonderment. “Is it possible that you don’t see it as clear as day? Don’t you see, my son, that all this proves plainly that the reforms of the ministers are irrational?”

It was now the youth’s turn to look perplexed. The lieutenant wrinkled his eyebrows a little more and the small man nodded toward Fray Damaso equivocally. The Dominican contented himself with almost turning his back on the whole group.

“Do you really believe so?” the young man at length asked with great seriousness, as he looked at the friar with curiosity.

“Do I believe so? As I believe the Gospel! The Indian is so indolent!”

“Ah, pardon me for interrupting you,” said the young man, lowering his voice and drawing his chair a little closer, “but you have said something that awakens all my interest. Does this indolence actually, naturally, exist among the natives or is there some truth in what a foreign traveler says: that with this indolence we excuse our own, as well as our backwardness and our colonial system. He referred to other colonies whose inhabitants belong to the same race—”

“Bah, jealousy! Ask Señor Laruja, who also knows this country. Ask him if there is any equal to the ignorance and indolence of the Indian.”

“It’s true,” affirmed the little man, who was referred to as Señor Laruja. “In no part of the world can you find any one more indolent than the Indian, in no part of the world.”

“Nor more vicious, nor more ungrateful!”

“Nor more unmannerly!”

The rubicund youth began to glance about nervously. “Gentlemen,” he whispered, “I believe that we are in the house of an Indian. Those young ladies—”

“Bah, don’t be so apprehensive! Santiago doesn’t consider himself an Indian—and besides, he’s not here. And what if he were! These are the nonsensical ideas of the newcomers. Let a few months pass and you will change your opinion, after you have attended a lot of fiestas and bailúhan, slept on cots, and eaten your fill of tinola.”

“Ah, is this thing that you call tinola a variety of lotus which makes people—er—forgetful?”

“Nothing of the kind!” exclaimed Fray Damaso with a smile. “You’re getting absurd. Tinola is a stew of chicken and squash. How long has it been since you got here?”

“Four days,” responded the youth, rather offended.

“Have you come as a government employee?”

“No, sir, I’ve come at my own expense to study the country.”

“Man, what a rare bird!” exclaimed Fray Damaso, staring at him with curiosity. “To come at one’s own expense and for such foolishness! What a wonder! When there are so many books! And with two fingerbreadths of forehead! Many have written books as big as that! With two fingerbreadths of forehead!”

The Dominican here brusquely broke in upon the conversation. “Did your Reverence, Fray Damaso, say that you had been twenty years in the town of San Diego and that you had left it? Wasn’t your Reverence satisfied with the town?”

At this question, which was put in a very natural and almost negligent tone, Fray Damaso suddenly lost all his merriment and stopped laughing. “No!” he grunted dryly, and let himself back heavily against the back of his chair.

The Dominican went on in a still more indifferent tone. “It must be painful to leave a town where one has been for twenty years and which he knows as well as the clothes he wears. I certainly was sorry to leave Kamiling and that after I had been there only a few months. But my superiors did it for the good of the Orders for my own good.”

Fray Damaso, for the first time that evening, seemed to be very thoughtful. Suddenly he brought his fist down on the arm of his chair and with a heavy breath exclaimed: “Either Religion is a fact or it is not! That is, either the curates are free or they are not! The country is going to ruin, it is lost!” And again he struck the arm of his chair.

Everybody in the sala turned toward the group with astonished looks. The Dominican raised his head to stare at the Franciscan from under his glasses. The two foreigners paused a moment, stared with an expression of mingled severity and reproof, then immediately continued their promenade.

“He’s in a bad humor because you haven’t treated him with deference,” murmured Señor Laruja into the ear of the rubicund youth.

“What does your Reverence mean? What’s the trouble?” inquired the Dominican and the lieutenant at the same time, but in different tones.

“That’s why so many calamities come! The ruling powers support heretics against the ministers of God!” continued the Franciscan, raising his heavy fists.

“What do you mean?” again inquired the frowning lieutenant, half rising from his chair.

“What do I mean?” repeated Fray Damaso, raising his voice and facing the lieutenant. “I’ll tell you what I mean. I, yes I, mean to say that when a priest throws out of his cemetery the corpse of a heretic, no one, not even the King himself, has any right to interfere and much less to impose any punishment! But a little General—a little General Calamity—”

“Padre, his Excellency is the Vice-Regal Patron!” shouted the soldier, rising to his feet.

“Excellency! Vice-Regal Patron! What of that!” retorted the Franciscan, also rising. “In other times he would have been dragged down a staircase as the religious orders once did with the impious Governor Bustamente.8 Those were indeed the days of faith.”

“I warn you that I can’t permit this! His Excellency represents his Majesty the King!”

“King or rook! What difference does that make? For us there is no king other than the legitimate9—”

“Halt!” shouted the lieutenant in a threatening tone, as if he were commanding his soldiers. “Either you withdraw what you have said or tomorrow I will report it to his Excellency!”

“Go ahead—right now—go on!” was the sarcastic rejoinder of Fray Damaso as he approached the officer with clenched fists. “Do you think that because I wear the cloth, I’m afraid? Go now, while I can lend you my carriage!”

The dispute was taking a ludicrous turn, but fortunately the Dominican intervened. “Gentlemen,” he began in an authoritative tone and with the nasal twang that so well becomes the friars, “you must not confuse things or seek for offenses where there are none. We must distinguish in the words of Fray Damaso those of the man from those of the priest. The latter, as such, per se, can never give offense, because they spring from absolute truth, while in those of the man there is a secondary distinction to be made: those which he utters ab irato, those which he utters ex ore, but not in corde, and those which he does utter in corde. These last are the only ones that can really offend, and only according to whether they preexisted as a motive in mente, or arose solely per accidens in the heat of the discussion, if there really exist—”

“But I, by accidens and for my own part, understand his motives, Padre Sibyla,” broke in the old soldier, who saw himself about to be entangled in so many distinctions that he feared lest he might still be held to blame. “I understand the motives about which your Reverence is going to make distinctions. During the absence of Padre Damaso from San Diego, his coadjutor buried the body of an extremely worthy individual—yes, sir, extremely worthy, for I had had dealings with him many times and had been entertained in his house. What if he never went to confession, what does that matter? Neither do I go to confession! But to say that he committed suicide is a lie, a slander! A man such as he was, who has a son upon whom he centers his affection and hopes, a man who has faith in God, who recognizes his duties to society, a just and honorable man, does not commit suicide. This much I will say and will refrain from expressing the rest of my thoughts here, so please your Reverence.”

Then, turning his back on the Franciscan, he went on: “Now then, this priest on his return to the town, after maltreating the poor coadjutor, had the corpse dug up and taken away from the cemetery to be buried I don’t know where. The people of San Diego were cowardly enough not to protest, although it is true that few knew of the outrage. The dead man had no relatives there and his only son was in Europe. But his Excellency learned of the affair and as he is an upright man asked for some punishment—and Padre Damaso was transferred to a better town. That’s all there is to it. Now your Reverence can make your distinctions.”

So saying, he withdrew from the group.

“I’m sorry that I inadvertently brought up so delicate a subject,” said Padre Sibyla sadly. “But, after all, if there has been a gain in the change of towns—”

“How is there to be a gain? And what of all the things that are lost in moving, the letters, and the—and everything that is mislaid?” interrupted Fray Damaso, stammering in the vain effort to control his anger.

Little by little the party resumed its former tranquillity. Other guests had come in, among them a lame old Spaniard of mild and inoffensive aspect leaning on the arm of an elderly Filipina, who was resplendent in frizzes and paint and a European gown. The group welcomed them heartily, and Doctor De Espadaña and his señora, the Doctora Doña Victorina, took their seats among our acquaintances. Some newspaper reporters and shopkeepers greeted one another and moved about aimlessly without knowing just what to do.

“But can you tell me, Señor Laruja, what kind of man our host is?” inquired the rubicund youth. “I haven’t been introduced to him yet.”

“They say that he has gone out. I haven’t seen him either.”

“There’s no need of introductions here,” volunteered Fray Damaso. “Santiago is made of the right stuff.”

“No, he’s not the man who invented gunpowder,”10 added Laruja.

“You too, Señor Laruja,” exclaimed Doña Victorina in mild reproach, as she fanned herself. “How could the poor man invent gunpowder if, as is said, the Chinese invented it centuries ago?”

“The Chinese! Are you crazy?” cried Fray Damaso. “Out with you! A Franciscan, one of my Order, Fray What-do-you-call-him Savalls,11 invented it in the—ah the seventh century!”

“A Franciscan? Well, he must have been a missionary in China, that Padre Savalls,” replied the lady, who did not thus easily part from her beliefs.

“Schwartz,12 perhaps you mean, señora,” said Fray Sibyla, without looking at her.

“I don’t know. Fray Damaso said a Franciscan and I was only repeating.”

“Well, Savalls or Chevas, what does it matter? The difference of a letter doesn’t make him a Chinaman,” replied the Franciscan in bad humor.

“And in the fourteenth century, not the seventh,” added the Dominican in a tone of correction, as if to mortify the pride of the other friar.

“Well, neither does a century more or less make him a Dominican.”

“Don’t get angry, your Reverence,” admonished Padre Sibyla, smiling. “So much the better that he did invent it so as to save his brethren the trouble.”

“And did you say, Padre Sibyla, that it was in the fourteenth century?” asked Doña Victorina with great interest. “Was that before or after Christ?”

Fortunately for the individual questioned, two persons entered the room. 

1 A similar picture is found in the convento at Antipolo.—Author’s note.

2 A school of secondary instruction conducted by the Dominican Fathers, by whom it was taken over in 1640. “It had its first beginning in the house of a pious Spaniard, called Juan Geronimo Guerrero, who had dedicated himself, with Christian piety, to gathering orphan boys in his house, where he raised, clothed, and sustained them, and taught them to read and to write, and much more, to live in the fear of God.”—Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLV, p. 208.—TR.

3 The Dominican friars, whose order was founded by Dominic de Guzman.—TR.

4 In the story mentioned, the three monks were the old Roman god Bacchus and two of his satellites, in the disguise of Franciscan friars,—TR.

5 According to a note to the Barcelona edition of this novel, Mendieta was a character well known in Manila, doorkeeper at the Alcaldía, impresario of children’s theaters, director of a merry-go-round, etc.—TR.

6 See Glossary.

7 The “tobacco monopoly” was established during the administration of Basco de Vargas (1778–1787), one of the ablest governors Spain sent to the Philippines, in order to provide revenue for the local government and to encourage agricultural development. The operation of the monopoly, however, soon degenerated into a system of “graft” and petty abuse which bore heartily upon the natives (see Zuñiga’s Estadismo), and the abolition of it in 1881 was one of the heroic efforts made by the Spanish civil administrators to adjust the archaic colonial system to the changing conditions in the Archipelago.—TR.

8 As a result of his severity in enforcing the payment of sums due the royal treasury on account of the galleon trade, in which the religious orders were heavily interested, Governor Fernando de Bustillos Bustamente y Rueda met a violent death at the hands of a mob headed by friars, October 11, 1719. See Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLIV; Montero y Vidal, Historia General de Filipinas, Vol. I, Chap. XXXV.—TR.

9 A reference to the fact that the clerical party in Spain refused to accept the decree of Ferdinand VII setting aside the Salic law and naming his daughter Isabella as his successor, and, upon the death of Ferdinand, supported the claim of the nearest male heir, Don Carlos de Bourbon, thus giving rise to the Carlist movement. Some writers state that severe measures had to be adopted to compel many of the friars in the Philippines to use the feminine pronoun in their prayers for the sovereign, just whom the reverend gentlemen expected to deceive not being explained.—TR.

10 An apothegm equivalent to the English, “He’ll never set any rivers on fire.”—TR.

11 The name of a Carlist leader in Spain.—TR.

12 A German Franciscan monk who is said to have invented gunpowder about 1330.

Chapter II Crisostomo Ibarra

It was not two beautiful and well-gowned young women that attracted the attention of all, even including Fray Sibyla, nor was it his Excellency the Captain-General with his staff, that the lieutenant should start from his abstraction and take a couple of steps forward, or that Fray Damaso should look as if turned to stone; it was simply the original of the oil-painting leading by the hand a young man dressed in deep mourning.

“Good evening, gentlemen! Good evening, Padre!” were the greetings of Capitan Tiago as he kissed the hands of the priests, who forgot to bestow upon him their benediction. The Dominican had taken off his glasses to stare at the newly arrived youth, while Fray Damaso was pale and unnaturally wide-eyed.

“I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra, the son of my deceased friend,” went on Capitan Tiago. “The young gentleman has just arrived from Europe and I went to meet him.”

At the mention of the name exclamations were heard. The lieutenant forgot to pay his respects to his host and approached the young man, looking him over from head to foot. The young man himself at that moment was exchanging the conventional greetings with all in the group, nor did there seem to be any thing extraordinary about him except his mourning garments in the center of that brilliantly lighted room. Yet in spite of them his remarkable stature, his features, and his movements breathed forth an air of healthy youthfulness in which both body and mind had equally developed. There might have been noticed in his frank, pleasant face some faint traces of Spanish blood showing through a beautiful brown color, slightly flushed at the cheeks as a result perhaps of his residence in cold countries.

“What!” he exclaimed with joyful surprise, “the curate of my native town! Padre Damaso, my father’s intimate friend!”

Every look in the room was directed toward the Franciscan, who made no movement.

“Pardon me, perhaps I’m mistaken,” added Ibarra, embarrassed.

“You are not mistaken,” the friar was at last able to articulate in a changed voice, “but your father was never an intimate friend of mine.”

Ibarra slowly withdrew his extended hand, looking greatly surprised, and turned to encounter the gloomy gaze of the lieutenant fixed on him.

“Young man, are you the son of Don Rafael Ibarra?” he asked.

The youth bowed. Fray Damaso partly rose in his chair and stared fixedly at the lieutenant.

“Welcome back to your country! And may you be happier in it than your father was!” exclaimed the officer in a trembling voice. “I knew him well and can say that he was one of the worthiest and most honorable men in the Philippines.”

“Sir,” replied Ibarra, deeply moved, “the praise you bestow upon my father removes my doubts about the manner of his death, of which I, his son, am yet ignorant.”

The eyes of the old soldier filled with tears and turning away hastily he withdrew. The young man thus found himself alone in the center of the room. His host having disappeared, he saw no one who might introduce him to the young ladies, many of whom were watching him with interest. After a few moments of hesitation he started toward them in a simple and natural manner.

“Allow me,” he said, “to overstep the rules of strict etiquette. It has been seven years since I have been in my own country and upon returning to it I cannot suppress my admiration and refrain from paying my respects to its most precious ornaments, the ladies.”

But as none of them ventured a reply, he found himself obliged to retire. He then turned toward a group of men who, upon seeing him approach, arranged themselves in a semicircle.

“Gentlemen,” he addressed them, “it is a custom in Germany, when a stranger finds himself at a function and there is no one to introduce him to those present, that he give his name and so introduce himself. Allow me to adopt this usage here, not to introduce foreign customs when our own are so beautiful, but because I find myself driven to it by necessity. I have already paid my respects to the skies and to the ladies of my native land; now I wish to greet its citizens, my fellow-countrymen. Gentlemen, my name is Juan Crisostomo Ibarra y Magsalin.”

The others gave their names, more or less obscure, and unimportant here.

“My name is A———,” said one youth dryly, as he made a slight bow.

“Then I have the honor of addressing the poet whose works have done so much to keep up my enthusiasm for my native land. It is said that you do not write any more, but I could not learn the reason.”

“The reason? Because one does not seek inspiration in order to debase himself and lie. One writer has been imprisoned for having put a very obvious truth into verse. They may have called me a poet but they sha’n’t call me a fool.”

“And may I enquire what that truth was?”

“He said that the lion’s son is also a lion. He came very near to being exiled for it,” replied the strange youth, moving away from the group.

A man with a smiling face, dressed in the fashion of the natives of the country, with diamond studs in his shirt-bosom, came up at that moment almost running. He went directly to Ibarra and grasped his hand, saying, “Señor Ibarra, I’ve been eager to make your acquaintance. Capitan Tiago is a friend of mine and I knew your respected father. I am known as Capitan Tinong and live in Tondo, where you will always be welcome. I hope that you will honor me with a visit. Come and dine with us tomorrow.” He smiled and rubbed his hands.

“Thank you,” replied Ibarra, warmly, charmed with such amiability, “but tomorrow morning I must leave for San Diego.”

“How unfortunate! Then it will be on your return.”

“Dinner is served!” announced a waiter from the café La Campana, and the guests began to file out toward the table, the women, especially the Filipinas, with great hesitation. 

Chapter III The Dinner

Jele, jele, bago quiere.1

Fray Sibyla seemed to be very content as he moved along tranquilly with the look of disdain no longer playing about his thin, refined lips. He even condescended to speak to the lame doctor, De Espadaña, who answered in monosyllables only, as he was somewhat of a stutterer. The Franciscan was in a frightful humor, kicking at the chairs and even elbowing a cadet out of his way. The lieutenant was grave while the others talked vivaciously, praising the magnificence of the table. Doña Victorina, however, was just turning up her nose in disdain when she suddenly became as furious as a trampled serpent—the lieutenant had stepped on the train of her gown.

“Haven’t you any eyes?” she demanded.

“Yes, señora, two better than yours, but the fact is that I was admiring your frizzes,” retorted the rather ungallant soldier as he moved away from her.

As if from instinct the two friars both started toward the head of the table, perhaps from habit, and then, as might have been expected, the same thing happened that occurs with the competitors for a university position, who openly exalt the qualifications and superiority of their opponents, later giving to understand that just the contrary was meant, and who murmur and grumble when they do not receive the appointment.

“For you, Fray Damaso.”

“For you, Fray Sibyla.”

“An older friend of the family—confessor of the deceased lady—age, dignity, and authority—”

“Not so very old, either! On the other hand, you are the curate of the district,” replied Fray Damaso sourly, without taking his hand from the back of the chair.

“Since you command it, I obey,” concluded Fray Sibyla, disposing himself to take the seat.

“I don’t command it!” protested the Franciscan. “I don’t command it!”

Fray Sibyla was about to seat himself without paying any more attention to these protests when his eyes happened to encounter those of the lieutenant. According to clerical opinion in the Philippines, the highest secular official is inferior to a friar-cook: cedant arma togae, said Cicero in the Senate—cedant arma cottae, say the friars in the Philippines.2

But Fray Sibyla was a well-bred person, so he said, “Lieutenant, here we are in the world and not in the church. The seat of honor belongs to you.” To judge from the tone of his voice, however, even in the world it really did belong to him, and the lieutenant, either to keep out of trouble or to avoid sitting between two friars, curtly declined.

None of the claimants had given a thought to their host. Ibarra noticed him watching the scene with a smile of satisfaction.

“How’s this, Don Santiago, aren’t you going to sit down with us?”

But all the seats were occupied; Lucullus was not to sup in the house of Lucullus.

“Sit still, don’t get up!” said Capitan Tiago, placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “This fiesta is for the special purpose of giving thanks to the Virgin for your safe arrival. Oy! Bring on the tinola! I ordered tinola as you doubtless have not tasted any for so long a time.”

A large steaming tureen was brought in. The Dominican, after muttering the benedicite, to which scarcely any one knew how to respond, began to serve the contents. But whether from carelessness or other cause, Padre Damaso received a plate in which a bare neck and a tough wing of chicken floated about in a large quantity of soup amid lumps of squash, while the others were eating legs and breasts, especially Ibarra, to whose lot fell the second joints. Observing all this, the Franciscan mashed up some pieces of squash, barely tasted the soup, dropped his spoon noisily, and roughly pushed his plate away. The Dominican was very busy talking to the rubicund youth.

“How long have you been away from the country?” Laruja asked Ibarra.

“Almost seven years.”

“Then you have probably forgotten all about it.”

“Quite the contrary. Even if my country does seem to have forgotten me, I have always thought about it.”

“How do you mean that it has forgotten you?” inquired the rubicund youth.

“I mean that it has been a year since I have received any news from here, so that I find myself a stranger who does not yet know how and when his father died.”

This statement drew a sudden exclamation from the lieutenant.

“And where were you that you didn’t telegraph?” asked Doña Victorina. “When we were married we telegraphed to the Peñinsula.”3

“Señora, for the past two years I have been in the northern part of Europe, in Germany and Russian Poland.”

Doctor De Espadaña, who until now had not ventured upon any conversation, thought this a good opportunity to say something. “I—I knew in S-spain a P-pole from W-warsaw, c-called S-stadtnitzki, if I r-remember c-correctly. P-perhaps you s-saw him?” he asked timidly and almost blushingly.

“It’s very likely,” answered Ibarra in a friendly manner, “but just at this moment I don’t recall him.”

“B-but you c-couldn’t have c-confused him with any one else,” went on the Doctor, taking courage. “He was r-ruddy as gold and t-talked Spanish very b-badly.”

“Those are good clues, but unfortunately while there I talked Spanish only in a few consulates.”

“How then did you get along?” asked the wondering Doña Victorina.

“The language of the country served my needs, madam.”

“Do you also speak English?” inquired the Dominican, who had been in Hongkong, and who was a master of pidgin-English, that adulteration of Shakespeare’s tongue used by the sons of the Celestial Empire.

“I stayed in England a year among people who talked nothing but English.”

“Which country of Europe pleased you the most?” asked the rubicund youth.

“After Spain, my second fatherland, any country of free Europe.”

“And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you consider the most notable thing that you have seen?” inquired Laruja.

Ibarra appeared to reflect. “Notable—in what way?”

“For example, in regard to the life of the people—the social, political, religious life—in general, in its essential features—as a whole.”

Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying. “Frankly, I like everything in those people, setting aside the national pride of each one. But before visiting a country, I tried to familiarize myself with its history, its Exodus, if I may so speak, and afterwards I found everything quite natural. I have observed that the prosperity or misery of each people is in direct proportion to its liberties or its prejudices and, accordingly, to the sacrifices or the selfishness of its forefathers.”

“And haven’t you observed anything more than that?” broke in the Franciscan with a sneer. Since the beginning of the dinner he had not uttered a single word, his whole attention having been taking up, no doubt, with the food. “It wasn’t worth while to squander your fortune to learn so trifling a thing. Any schoolboy knows that.”

Ibarra was placed in an embarrassing position, and the rest looked from one to the other as if fearing a disagreeable scene. He was about to say, “The dinner is nearly over and his Reverence is now satiated,” but restrained himself and merely remarked to the others, “Gentlemen, don’t be surprised at the familiarity with which our former curate treats me. He treated me so when I was a child, and the years seem to make no difference in his Reverence. I appreciate it, too, because it recalls the days when his Reverence visited our home and honored my father’s table.”

The Dominican glanced furtively at the Franciscan, who was trembling visibly. Ibarra continued as he rose from the table: “You will now permit me to retire, since, as I have just arrived and must go away tomorrow morning, there remain some important business matters for me to attend to. The principal part of the dinner is over and I drink but little wine and seldom touch cordials. Gentlemen, all for Spain and the Philippines!” Saying this, he drained his glass, which he had not before touched. The old lieutenant silently followed his example.

“Don’t go!” whispered Capitan Tiago. “Maria Clara will be here. Isabel has gone to get her. The new curate of your town, who is a saint, is also coming.”

“I’ll call tomorrow before starting. I’ve a very important visit to make now.” With this he went away.

Meanwhile the Franciscan had recovered himself. “Do you see?” he said to the rubicund youth, at the same time flourishing his dessert spoon. “That comes from pride. They can’t stand to have the curate correct them. They even think that they are respectable persons. It’s the evil result of sending young men to Europe. The government ought to prohibit it.”

“And how about the lieutenant?” Doña Victorina chimed in upon the Franciscan, “he didn’t get the frown off his face the whole evening. He did well to leave us so old and still only a lieutenant!” The lady could not forget the allusion to her frizzes and the trampled ruffles of her gown.

That night the rubicund youth wrote down, among other things, the following title for a chapter in his Colonial Studies: “Concerning the manner in which the neck and wing of a chicken in a friar’s plate of soup may disturb the merriment of a feast.” Among his notes there appeared these observations: “In the Philippines the most unnecessary person at a dinner is he who gives it, for they are quite capable of beginning by throwing the host into the street and then everything will go on smoothly. Under present conditions it would perhaps be a good thing not to allow the Filipinos to leave the country, and even not to teach them to read.”

1 “He says that he doesn’t want it when it is exactly what he does want.” An expression used in the mongrel Spanish-Tagalog ‘market language’ of Manila and Cavite, especially among the children,—somewhat akin to the English ‘sour grapes.’—TR.

2 Arms should yield to the toga (military to civil power). Arms should yield to the surplice (military to religious power),—TR.

3 For Peninsula, i.e., Spain. The change of n to ñ was common among ignorant Filipinos.—TR.

Chapter IV Heretic and Filibuster

Ibarra stood undecided for a moment. The night breeze, which during those months blows cool enough in Manila, seemed to drive from his forehead the light cloud that had darkened it. He took off his hat and drew a deep breath. Carriages flashed by, public rigs moved along at a sleepy pace, pedestrians of many nationalities were passing. He walked along at that irregular pace which indicates thoughtful abstraction or freedom from care, directing his steps toward Binondo Plaza and looking about him as if to recall the place. There were the same streets and the identical houses with their white and blue walls, whitewashed, or frescoed in bad imitation of granite; the church continued to show its illuminated clock face; there were the same Chinese shops with their soiled curtains and their iron gratings, in one of which was a bar that he, in imitation of the street urchins of Manila, had twisted one night; it was still unstraightened. “How slowly everything moves,” he murmured as he turned into Calle Sacristia. The ice-cream venders were repeating the same shrill cry, “Sorbeteee!” while the smoky lamps still lighted the identical Chinese stands and those of the old women who sold candy and fruit.

“Wonderful!” he exclaimed. “There’s the same Chinese who was here seven years ago, and that old woman—the very same! It might be said that tonight I’ve dreamed of a seven years’ journey in Europe. Good heavens, that pavement is still in the same unrepaired condition as when I left!” True it was that the stones of the sidewalk on the corner of San Jacinto and Sacristia were still loose.

While he was meditating upon this marvel of the city’s stability in a country where everything is so unstable, a hand was placed lightly on his shoulder. He raised his head to see the old lieutenant gazing at him with something like a smile in place of the hard expression and the frown which usually characterized him.

“Young man, be careful! Learn from your father!” was the abrupt greeting of the old soldier.

“Pardon me, but you seem to have thought a great deal of my father. Can you tell me how he died?” asked Ibarra, staring at him.

“What! Don’t you know about it?” asked the officer.

“I asked Don Santiago about it, but he wouldn’t promise to tell me until tomorrow. Perhaps you know?”

“I should say I do, as does everybody else. He died in prison!”

The young man stepped backward a pace and gazed searchingly at the lieutenant. “In prison? Who died in prison?”

“Your father, man, since he was in confinement,” was the somewhat surprised answer.

“My father—in prison—confined in a prison? What are you talking about? Do you know who my father was? Are you—?” demanded the young man, seizing the officer’s arm.

“I rather think that I’m not mistaken. He was Don Rafael Ibarra.”

“Yes, Don Rafael Ibarra,” echoed the youth weakly.

“Well, I thought you knew about it,” muttered the soldier in a tone of compassion as he saw what was passing in Ibarra’s mind. “I supposed that you—but be brave! Here one cannot be honest and keep out of jail.”

“I must believe that you are not joking with me,” replied Ibarra in a weak voice, after a few moments’ silence. “Can you tell me why he was in prison?”

The old man seemed to be perplexed. “It’s strange to me that your family affairs were not made known to you.”

“His last letter, a year ago, said that I should not be uneasy if he did not write, as he was very busy. He charged me to continue my studies and—sent me his blessing.”

“Then he wrote that letter to you just before he died. It will soon be a year since we buried him.”

“But why was my father a prisoner?”

“For a very honorable reason. But come with me to the barracks and I’ll tell you as we go along. Take my arm.”

They moved along for some time in silence. The elder seemed to be in deep thought and to be seeking inspiration from his goatee, which he stroked continually.

“As you well know,” he began, “your father was the richest man in the province, and while many loved and respected him, there were also some who envied and hated him. We Spaniards who come to the Philippines are unfortunately not all we ought to be. I say this as much on account of one of your ancestors as on account of your father’s enemies. The continual changes, the corruption in the higher circles, the favoritism, the low cost and the shortness of the journey, are to blame for it all. The worst characters of the Peninsula come here, and even if a good man does come, the country soon ruins him. So it was that your father had a number of enemies among the curates and other Spaniards.”

Here he hesitated for a while. “Some months after your departure the troubles with Padre Damaso began, but I am unable to explain the real cause of them. Fray Damaso accused him of not coming to confession, although he had not done so formerly and they had nevertheless been good friends, as you may still remember. Moreover, Don Rafael was a very upright man, more so than many of those who regularly attend confession and than the confessors themselves. He had framed for himself a rigid morality and often said to me, when he talked of these troubles, ‘Señor Guevara, do you believe that God will pardon any crime, a murder for instance, solely by a man’s telling it to a priest—a man after all and one whose duty it is to keep quiet about it—by his fearing that he will roast in hell as a penance—by being cowardly and certainly shameless into the bargain? I have another conception of God,’ he used to say, ‘for in my opinion one evil does not correct another, nor is a crime to be expiated by vain lamentings or by giving alms to the Church. Take this example: if I have killed the father of a family, if I have made of a woman a sorrowing widow and destitute orphans of some happy children, have I satisfied eternal Justice by letting myself be hanged, or by entrusting my secret to one who is obliged to guard it for me, or by giving alms to priests who are least in need of them, or by buying indulgences and lamenting night and day? What of the widow and the orphans? My conscience tells me that I should try to take the place of him whom I killed, that I should dedicate my whole life to the welfare of the family whose misfortunes I caused. But even so, who can replace the love of a husband and a father?’ Thus your father reasoned and by this strict standard of conduct regulated all his actions, so that it can be said that he never injured anybody. On the contrary, he endeavored by his good deeds to wipe out some injustices which he said your ancestors had committed. But to get back to his troubles with the curate—these took on a serious aspect. Padre Damaso denounced him from the pulpit, and that he did not expressly name him was a miracle, since anything might have been expected of such a character. I foresaw that sooner or later the affair would have serious results.”

Again the old lieutenant paused. “There happened to be wandering about the province an ex-artilleryman who has been discharged from the army on account of his stupidity and ignorance. As the man had to live and he was not permitted to engage in manual labor, which would injure our prestige, he somehow or other obtained a position as collector of the tax on vehicles. The poor devil had no education at all, a fact of which the natives soon became aware, as it was a marvel for them to see a Spaniard who didn’t know how to read and write. Every one ridiculed him and the payment of the tax was the occasion of broad smiles. He knew that he was an object of ridicule and this tended to sour his disposition even more, rough and bad as it had formerly been. They would purposely hand him the papers upside down to see his efforts to read them, and wherever he found a blank space he would scribble a lot of pothooks which rather fitly passed for his signature. The natives mocked while they paid him. He swallowed his pride and made the collections, but was in such a state of mind that he had no respect for any one. He even came to have some hard words with your father.

“One day it happened that he was in a shop turning a document over and over in the effort to get it straight when a schoolboy began to make signs to his companions and to point laughingly at the collector with his finger. The fellow heard the laughter and saw the joke reflected in the solemn faces of the bystanders. He lost his patience and, turning quickly, started to chase the boys, who ran away shouting ba, be, bi, bo, bu.1 Blind with rage and unable to catch them, he threw his cane and struck one of the boys on the head, knocking him down. He ran up and began to kick the fallen boy, and none of those who had been laughing had the courage to interfere. Unfortunately, your father happened to come along just at that time. He ran forward indignantly, caught the collector by the arm, and reprimanded him severely. The artilleryman, who was no doubt beside himself with rage, raised his hand, but your father was too quick for him, and with the strength of a descendant of the Basques—some say that he struck him, others that he merely pushed him, but at any rate the man staggered and fell a little way off, striking his head against a stone. Don Rafael quietly picked the wounded boy up and carried him to the town hall. The artilleryman bled freely from the mouth and died a few moments later without recovering consciousness.

“As was to be expected, the authorities intervened and arrested your father. All his hidden enemies at once rose up and false accusations came from all sides. He was accused of being a heretic and a filibuster. To be a heretic is a great danger anywhere, but especially so at that time when the province was governed by an alcalde who made a great show of his piety, who with his servants used to recite his rosary in the church in a loud voice, perhaps that all might hear and pray with him. But to be a filibuster is worse than to be a heretic and to kill three or four tax-collectors who know how to read, write, and attend to business. Every one abandoned him, and his books and papers were seized. He was accused of subscribing to El Correo de Ultramar, and to newspapers from Madrid, of having sent you to Germany, of having in his possession letters and a photograph of a priest who had been legally executed, and I don’t know what not. Everything served as an accusation, even the fact that he, a descendant of Peninsulars, wore a camisa. Had it been any one but your father, it is likely that he would soon have been set free, as there was a physician who ascribed the death of the unfortunate collector to a hemorrhage. But his wealth, his confidence in the law, and his hatred of everything that was not legal and just, wrought his undoing. In spite of my repugnance to asking for mercy from any one, I applied personally to the Captain-General—the predecessor of our present one—and urged upon him that there could not be anything of the filibuster about a man who took up with all the Spaniards, even the poor emigrants, and gave them food and shelter, and in whose veins yet flowed the generous blood of Spain. It was in vain that I pledged my life and swore by my poverty and my military honor. I succeeded only in being coldly listened to and roughly sent away with the epithet of chiflado.”2

The old man paused to take a deep breath, and after noticing the silence of his companion, who was listening with averted face, continued: “At your father’s request I prepared the defense in the case. I went first to the celebrated Filipino lawyer, young A———, but he refused to take the case. ‘I should lose it,’ he told me, ‘and my defending him would furnish the motive for another charge against him and perhaps one against me. Go to Señor M———, who is a forceful and fluent speaker and a Peninsular of great influence.’ I did so, and the noted lawyer took charge of the case, and conducted it with mastery and brilliance. But your father’s enemies were numerous, some of them hidden and unknown. False witnesses abounded, and their calumnies, which under other circumstances would have melted away before a sarcastic phrase from the defense, here assumed shape and substance. If the lawyer succeeded in destroying the force of their testimony by making them contradict each other and even perjure themselves, new charges were at once preferred. They accused him of having illegally taken possession of a great deal of land and demanded damages. They said that he maintained relations with the tulisanes in order that his crops and animals might not be molested by them. At last the case became so confused that at the end of a year no one understood it. The alcalde had to leave and there came in his place one who had the reputation of being honest, but unfortunately he stayed only a few months, and his successor was too fond of good horses.

“The sufferings, the worries, the hard life in the prison, or the pain of seeing so much ingratitude, broke your father’s iron constitution and he fell ill with that malady which only the tomb can cure. When the case was almost finished and he was about to be acquitted of the charge of being an enemy of the fatherland and of being the murderer of the tax-collector, he died in the prison with no one at his side. I arrived just in time to see him breathe his last.”

The old lieutenant became silent, but still Ibarra said nothing. They had arrived meanwhile at the door of the barracks, so the soldier stopped and said, as he grasped the youth’s hand, “Young man, for details ask Capitan Tiago. Now, good night, as I must return to duty and see that all’s well.”

Silently, but with great feeling, Ibarra shook the lieutenant’s bony hand and followed him with his eyes until he disappeared. Then he turned slowly and signaled to a passing carriage. “To Lala’s Hotel,” was the direction he gave in a scarcely audible voice.

“This fellow must have just got out of jail,” thought the cochero as he whipped up his horses. 

1 The syllables which constitute the first reading lesson in Spanish primers.—TR.

2 A Spanish colloquial term (“cracked”), applied to a native of Spain who was considered to be mentally unbalanced from too long residence in the islands,—TR.

Chapter V A Star in a Dark Night

Ibarra went to his room, which overlooked the river, and dropping into a chair gazed out into the vast expanse of the heavens spread before him through the open window. The house on the opposite bank was profusely lighted, and gay strains of music, largely from stringed instruments, were borne across the river even to his room.

If the young man had been less preoccupied, if he had had more curiosity and had cared to see with his opera glasses what was going on in that atmosphere of light, he would have been charmed with one of those magical and fantastic spectacles, the like of which is sometimes seen in the great theaters of Europe. To the subdued strains of the orchestra there seems to appear in the midst of a shower of light, a cascade of gold and diamonds in an Oriental setting, a deity wrapped in misty gauze, a sylph enveloped in a luminous halo, who moves forward apparently without touching the floor. In her presence the flowers bloom, the dance awakens, the music bursts forth, and troops of devils, nymphs, satyrs, demons, angels, shepherds and shepherdesses, dance, shake their tambourines, and whirl about in rhythmic evolutions, each one placing some tribute at the feet of the goddess. Ibarra would have seen a beautiful and graceful maiden, clothed in the picturesque garments of the daughters of the Philippines, standing in the center Of a semicircle made up of every class of people, Chinese, Spaniards, Filipinos, soldiers, curates, old men and young, all gesticulating and moving about in a lively manner. Padre Damaso stood at the side of the beauty, smiling like one especially blessed. Fray Sibyla—yes, Fray Sibyla himself—was talking to her. Doña Victorina was arranging in the magnificent hair of the maiden a string of pearls and diamonds which threw out all the beautiful tints of the rainbow. She was white, perhaps too much so, and whenever she raised her downcast eyes there shone forth a spotless soul. When she smiled so as to show her small white teeth the beholder realized that the rose is only a flower and ivory but the elephant’s tusk. From out the filmy piña draperies around her white and shapely neck there blinked, as the Tagalogs say, the bright eyes of a collar of diamonds. One man only in all the crowd seemed insensible to her radiant influence—a young Franciscan, thin, wasted, and pale, who watched her from a distance, motionless as a statue and scarcely breathing.

But Ibarra saw nothing of all this—his eyes were fixed on other things. A small space was enclosed by four bare and grimy walls, in one of which was an iron grating. On the filthy and loathsome floor was a mat upon which an old man lay alone in the throes of death, an old man breathing with difficulty and turning his head from side to side as amid his tears he uttered a name. The old man was alone, but from time to time a groan or the rattle of a chain was heard on the other side of the wall. Far away there was a merry feast, almost an orgy; a youth was laughing, shouting, and pouring wine upon the flowers amid the applause and drunken laughter of his companions. The old man had the features of his father, the youth was himself, and the name that the old man uttered with tears was his own name! This was what the wretched young man saw before him. The lights in the house opposite were extinguished, the music and the noises ceased, but Ibarra still heard the anguished cry of his father calling upon his son in the hour of his death.

Silence had now blown its hollow breath over the city, and all things seemed to sleep in the embrace of nothingness. The cock-crow alternated with the strokes of the clocks in the church towers and the mournful cries of the weary sentinels. A waning moon began to appear, and everything seemed to be at rest; even Ibarra himself, worn out by his sad thoughts or by his journey, now slept.

Only the young Franciscan whom we saw not so long ago standing motionless and silent in the midst of the gaiety of the ballroom slept not, but kept vigil. In his cell, with his elbow upon the window sill and his pale, worn cheek resting on the palm of his hand, he was gazing silently into the distance where a bright star glittered in the dark sky. The star paled and disappeared, the dim light of the waning moon faded, but the friar did not move from his place—he was gazing out over the field of Bagumbayan and the sleeping sea at the far horizon wrapped in the morning mist. 

Chapter VI Capitan Tiago

Thy will be done on earth.

While our characters are deep in slumber or busy with their breakfasts, let us turn our attention to Capitan Tiago. We have never had the honor of being his guest, so it is neither our right nor our duty to pass him by slightingly, even under the stress of important events.

Low in stature, with a clear complexion, a corpulent figure and a full face, thanks to the liberal supply of fat which according to his admirers was the gift of Heaven and which his enemies averred was the blood of the poor, Capitan Tiago appeared to be younger than he really was; he might have been thought between thirty and thirty-five years of age. At the time of our story his countenance always wore a sanctified look; his little round head, covered with ebony-black hair cut long in front and short behind, was reputed to contain many things of weight; his eyes, small but with no Chinese slant, never varied in expression; his nose was slender and not at all inclined to flatness; and if his mouth had not been disfigured by the immoderate use of tobacco and buyo, which, when chewed and gathered in one cheek, marred the symmetry of his features, we would say that he might properly have considered himself a handsome man and have passed for such. Yet in spite of this bad habit he kept marvelously white both his natural teeth and also the two which the dentist furnished him at twelve pesos each.

He was considered one of the richest landlords in Binondo and a planter of some importance by reason of his estates in Pampanga and Laguna, principally in the town of San Diego, the income from which increased with each year. San Diego, on account of its agreeable baths, its famous cockpit, and his cherished memories of the place, was his favorite town, so that he spent at least two months of the year there. His holdings of real estate in the city were large, and it is superfluous to state that the opium monopoly controlled by him and a Chinese brought in large profits. They also had the lucrative contract of feeding the prisoners in Bilibid and furnished zacate to many of the stateliest establishments in Manila u through the medium of contracts, of course. Standing well with all the authorities, clever, cunning, and even bold in speculating upon the wants of others, he was the only formidable rival of a certain Perez in the matter of the farming-out of revenues and the sale of offices and appointments, which the Philippine government always confides to private persons. Thus, at the time of the events here narrated, Capitan Tiago was a happy man in so far as it is possible for a narrow-brained individual to be happy in such a land: he was rich, and at peace with God, the government, and men.

That he was at peace with God was beyond doubt,—almost like religion itself. There is no need to be on bad terms with the good God when one is prosperous on earth, when one has never had any direct dealings with Him and has never lent Him any money. Capitan Tiago himself had never offered any prayers to Him, even in his greatest difficulties, for he was rich and his gold prayed for him. For masses and supplications high and powerful priests had been created; for novenas and rosaries God in His infinite bounty had created the poor for the service of the rich—the poor who for a peso could be secured to recite sixteen mysteries and to read all the sacred books, even the Hebrew Bible, for a little extra. If at any time in the midst of pressing difficulties he needed celestial aid and had not at hand even a red Chinese taper, he would call upon his most adored saints, promising them many things for the purpose of putting them under obligation to him and ultimately convincing them of the righteousness of his desires.

The saint to whom he promised the most, and whose promises he was the most faithful in fulfilling, was the Virgin of Antipolo, Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages.1 With many of the lesser saints he was not very punctual or even decent; and sometimes, after having his petitions granted, he thought no more about them, though of course after such treatment he did not bother them again, when occasion arose. Capitan Tiago knew that the calendar was full of idle saints who perhaps had nothing wherewith to occupy their time up there in heaven. Furthermore, to the Virgin of Antipolo he ascribed greater power and efficiency than to all the other Virgins combined, whether they carried silver canes, naked or richly clothed images of the Christ Child, scapularies, rosaries, or girdles. Perhaps this reverence was owing to the fact that she was a very strict Lady, watchful of her name, and, according to the senior sacristan of Antipolo, an enemy of photography. When she was angered she turned black as ebony, while the other Virgins were softer of heart and more indulgent. It is a well-known fact that some minds love an absolute monarch rather than a constitutional one, as witness Louis XIV and Louis XVI, Philip II and Amadeo I. This fact perhaps explains why infidel Chinese and even Spaniards may be seen kneeling in the famous sanctuary; what is not explained is why the priests run away with the money of the terrible Image, go to America, and get married there.

In the sala of Capitan Tiago’s house, that door, hidden by a silk curtain leads to a small chapel or oratory such as must be lacking in no Filipino home. There were placed his household gods—and we say “gods” because he was inclined to polytheism rather than to monotheism, which he had never come to understand. There could be seen images of the Holy Family with busts and extremities of ivory, glass eyes, long eyelashes, and curly blond hair—masterpieces of Santa Cruz sculpture. Paintings in oil by artists of Paco and Ermita2 represented martyrdoms of saints and miracles of the Virgin; St. Lucy gazing at the sky and carrying in a plate an extra pair of eyes with lashes and eyebrows, such as are seen painted in the triangle of the Trinity or on Egyptian tombs; St. Pascual Bailon; St. Anthony of Padua in a guingón habit looking with tears upon a Christ Child dressed as a Captain-General with the three-cornered hat, sword, and boots, as in the children’s ball at Madrid that character is represented—which signified for Capitan Tiago that while God might include in His omnipotence the power of a Captain-General of the Philippines, the Franciscans would nevertheless play with Him as with a doll. There, might also be seen a St. Anthony the Abbot with a hog by his side, a hog that for the worthy Capitan was as miraculous as the saint himself, for which reason he never dared to refer to it as the hog, but as the creature of holy St. Anthony; a St. Francis of Assisi in a coffee-colored robe and with seven wings, placed over a St. Vincent who had only two but in compensation carried a trumpet; a St. Peter the Martyr with his head split open by the talibon of an evil-doer and held fast by a kneeling infidel, side by side with another St. Peter cutting off the ear of a Moro, Malchus3 no doubt, who was gnawing his lips and writhing with pain, while a fighting-cock on a doric column crowed and flapped his wings—from all of which Capitan Tiago deduced that in order to be a saint it was just as well to smite as to be smitten.

Who could enumerate that army of images and recount the virtues and perfections that were treasured there! A whole chapter would hardly suffice. Yet we must not pass over in silence a beautiful St. Michael of painted and gilded wood almost four feet high. The Archangel is biting his lower lip and with flashing eyes, frowning forehead, and rosy cheeks is grasping a Greek shield and brandishing in his right hand a Sulu kris, ready, as would appear from his attitude and expression, to smite a worshiper or any one else who might approach, rather than the horned and tailed devil that had his teeth set in his girlish leg.

Capitan Tiago never went near this image from fear of a miracle. Had not other images, even those more rudely carved ones that issue from the carpenter shops of Paete,4 many times come to life for the confusion and punishment of incredulous sinners? It is a well-known fact that a certain image of Christ in Spain, when invoked as a witness of promises of love, had assented with a movement of the head in the presence of the judge, and that another such image had reached out its right arm to embrace St. Lutgarda. And furthermore, had he not himself read a booklet recently published about a mimic sermon preached by an image of St. Dominic in Soriano? True, the saint had not said a single word, but from his movements it was inferred, at any rate the author of the booklet inferred, that he was announcing the end of the world.5 Was it not reported, too, that the Virgin of Luta in the town of Lipa had one cheek swollen larger than the other and that there was mud on the borders of her gown? Does not this prove mathematically that the holy images also walk about without holding up their skirts and that they even suffer from the toothache, perhaps for our sake? Had he not seen with his own eyes, during the regular Good-Friday sermon, all the images of Christ move and bow their heads thrice in unison, thereby calling forth wails and cries from the women and other sensitive souls destined for Heaven? More? We ourselves have seen the preacher show to the congregation at the moment of the descent from the cross a handkerchief stained with blood, and were ourselves on the point of weeping piously, when, to the sorrow of our soul, a sacristan assured us that it was all a joke, that the blood was that of a chicken which had been roasted and eaten on the spot in spite of the fact that it was Good Friday—and the sacristan was fat! So Capitan Tiago, even though he was a prudent and pious individual, took care not to approach the kris of St. Michael. “Let’s take no chances,” he would say to himself, “I know that he’s an archangel, but I don’t trust him, no, I don’t trust him.”

Not a year passed without his joining with an orchestra in the pilgrimage to the wealthy shrine of Antipolo. He paid for two thanksgiving masses of the many that make up the three novenas, and also for the days when there are no novenas, and washed himself afterwards in the famous bátis, or pool, where the sacred Image herself had bathed. Her votaries can even yet discern the tracks of her feet and the traces of her locks in the hard rock, where she dried them, resembling exactly those made by any woman who uses coconut-oil, and just as if her hair had been steel or diamonds and she had weighed a thousand tons. We should like to see the terrible Image once shake her sacred hair in the eyes of those credulous persons and put her foot upon their tongues or their heads. There at the very edge of the pool Capitan Tiago made it his duty to eat roast pig, sinigang of dalag with alibambang leaves, and other more or less appetizing dishes. The two masses would cost him over four hundred pesos, but it was cheap, after all, if one considered the glory that the Mother of the Lord would acquire from the pin-wheels, rockets, bombs, and mortars, and also the increased profits which, thanks to these masses, would come to one during the year.

But Antipolo was not the only theater of his ostentatious devotion. In Binondo, in Pampanga, and in the town of San Diego, when he was about to put up a fighting-cock with large wagers, he would send gold moneys to the curate for propitiatory masses and, just as the Romans consulted the augurs before a battle, giving food to the sacred fowls, so Capitan Tiago would also consult his augurs, with the modifications befitting the times and the new truths, tie would watch closely the flame of the tapers, the smoke from the incense, the voice of the priest, and from it all attempt to forecast his luck. It was an admitted fact that he lost very few wagers, and in those cases it was due to the unlucky circumstance that the officiating priest was hoarse, or that the altar-candles were few or contained too much tallow, or that a bad piece of money had slipped in with the rest. The warden of the Brotherhood would then assure him that such reverses were tests to which he was subjected by Heaven to receive assurance of his fidelity and devotion. So, beloved by the priests, respected by the sacristans, humored by the Chinese chandlers and the dealers in fireworks, he was a man happy in the religion of this world, and persons of discernment and great piety even claimed for him great influence in the celestial court.

That he was at peace with the government cannot be doubted, however difficult an achievement it may seem. Incapable of any new idea and satisfied with his modus vivendi, he was ever ready to gratify the desires of the last official of the fifth class in every one of the offices, to make presents of hams, capons, turkeys, and Chinese fruits at all seasons of the year. If he heard any one speak ill of the natives, he, who did not consider himself as such, would join in the chorus and speak worse of them; if any one aspersed the Chinese or Spanish mestizos, he would do the same, perhaps because he considered himself become a full-blooded Iberian. He was ever first to talk in favor of any new imposition of taxes, or special assessment, especially when he smelled a contract or a farming assignment behind it. He always had an orchestra ready for congratulating and serenading the governors, judges, and other officials on their name-days and birthdays, at the birth or death of a relative, and in fact at every variation from the usual monotony. For such occasions he would secure laudatory poems and hymns in which were celebrated “the kind and loving governor,” “the brave and courageous judge for whom there awaits in heaven the palm of the just,” with many other things of the same kind.

He was the president of the rich guild of mestizos in spite of the protests of many of them, who did not regard him as one of themselves. In the two years that he held this office he wore out ten frock coats, an equal number of high hats, and half a dozen canes. The frock coat and the high hat were in evidence at the Ayuntamiento, in the governor-general’s palace, and at military headquarters; the high hat and the frock coat might have been noticed in the cockpit, in the market, in the processions, in the Chinese shops, and under the hat and within the coat might have been seen the perspiring Capitan Tiago, waving his tasseled cane, directing, arranging, and throwing everything into disorder with marvelous activity and a gravity even more marvelous.

So the authorities saw in him a safe man, gifted with the best of dispositions, peaceful, tractable, and obsequious, who read no books or newspapers from Spain, although he spoke Spanish well. Indeed, they rather looked upon him with the feeling with which a poor student contemplates the worn-out heel of his old shoe, twisted by his manner of walking. In his case there was truth in both the Christian and profane proverbs beati pauperes spiritu and beati possidentes,6 and there might well be applied to him that translation, according to some people incorrect, from the Greek, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of good-will on earth!” even though we shall see further along that it is not sufficient for men to have good-will in order to live in peace.

The irreverent considered him a fool, the poor regarded him as a heartless and cruel exploiter of misery and want, and his inferiors saw in him a despot and a tyrant. As to the women, ah, the women! Accusing rumors buzzed through the wretched nipa huts, and it was said that wails and sobs might be heard mingled with the weak cries of an infant. More than one young woman was pointed out by her neighbors with the finger of scorn: she had a downcast glance and a faded cheek. But such things never robbed him of sleep nor did any maiden disturb his peace. It was an old woman who made him suffer, an old woman who was his rival in piety and who had gained from many curates such enthusiastic praises and eulogies as he in his best days had never received.

Between Capitan Tiago and this widow, who had inherited from brothers and cousins, there existed a holy rivalry which redounded to the benefit of the Church as the competition among the Pampanga steamers then redounded to the benefit of the public. Did Capitan Tiago present to some Virgin a silver wand ornamented with emeralds and topazes? At once Doña Patrocinio had ordered another of gold set with diamonds! If at the time of the Naval procession7 Capitan Tiago erected an arch with two façades, covered with ruffled cloth and decorated with mirrors, glass globes, and chandeliers, then Doña Patrocinio would have another with four facades, six feet higher, and more gorgeous hangings. Then he would fall back on his reserves, his strong point, his specialty—masses with bombs and fireworks; whereat Doña Patrocinia could only gnaw at her lips with her toothless gums, because, being exceedingly nervous, she could not endure the chiming of the bells and still less the explosions of the bombs. While he smiled in triumph, she would plan her revenge and pay the money of others to secure the best orators of the five Orders in Manila, the most famous preachers of the Cathedral, and even the Paulists,8 to preach on the holy days upon profound theological subjects to the sinners who understood only the vernacular of the mariners. The partizans of Capitan Tiago would observe that she slept during the sermon; but her adherents would answer that the sermon was paid for in advance, and by her, and that in any affair payment was the prime requisite. At length, she had driven him from the field completely by presenting to the church three andas of gilded silver, each one of which cost her over three thousand pesos. Capitan Tiago hoped that the old woman would breathe her last almost any day, or that she would lose five or six of her lawsuits, so that he might be alone in serving God; but unfortunately the best lawyers of the Real Audiencia looked after her interests, and as to her health, there was no part of her that could be attacked by sickness; she seemed to be a steel wire, no doubt for the edification of souls, and she hung on in this vale of tears with the tenacity of a boil on the skin. Her adherents were secure in the belief that she would be canonized at her death and that Capitan Tiago himself would have to worship her at the altars—all of which he agreed to and cheerfully promised, provided only that she die soon.

Such was Capitan Tiago in the days of which we write. As for the past, he was the only son of a sugar-planter of Malabon, wealthy enough, but so miserly that he would not spend a cent to educate his son, for which reason the little Santiago had been the servant of a good Dominican, a worthy man who had tried to train him in all of good that he knew and could teach. When he had reached the happy stage of being known among his acquaintances as a logician, that is, when he began to study logic, the death of his protector, soon followed by that of his father, put an end to his studies and he had to turn his attention to business affairs. He married a pretty young woman of Santa Cruz, who gave him social position and helped him to make his fortune. Doña Pia Alba was not satisfied with buying and selling sugar, indigo, and coffee, but wished to plant and reap, so the newly-married couple bought land in San Diego. From this time dated their friendship with Padre Damoso and with Don Rafael Ibarra, the richest capitalist of the town.

The lack of an heir in the first six years of their wedded life made of that eagerness to accumulate riches almost a censurable ambition. Doña Pia was comely, strong, and healthy, yet it was in vain that she offered novenas and at the advice of the devout women of San Diego made a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Kaysaysay9 in Taal, distributed alms to the poor, and danced at midday in May in the procession of the Virgin of Turumba10 in Pakil. But it was all with no result until Fray Damaso advised her to go to Obando to dance in the fiesta of St. Pascual Bailon and ask him for a son. Now it is well known that there is in Obando a trinity which grants sons or daughters according to request—Our Lady of Salambaw, St. Clara, and St. Pascual. Thanks to this wise advice, Doña Pia soon recognized the signs of approaching motherhood. But alas! like the fisherman of whom Shakespeare tells in Macbeth, who ceased to sing when he had found a treasure, she at once lost all her mirthfulness, fell into melancholy, and was never seen to smile again. “Capriciousness, natural in her condition,” commented all, even Capitan Tiago. A puerperal fever put an end to her hidden grief, and she died, leaving behind a beautiful girl baby for whom Fray Damaso himself stood sponsor. As St. Pascual had not granted the son that was asked, they gave the child the name of Maria Clara, in honor of the Virgin of Salambaw and St. Clara, punishing the worthy St. Pascual with silence.

The little girl grew up under the care of her aunt Isabel, that good old lady of monkish urbanity whom we met at the beginning of the story. For the most part, her early life was spent in San Diego, on account of its healthful climate, and there Padre Damaso was devoted to her.

Maria Clara had not the small eyes of her father; like her mother, she had eyes large, black, long-lashed, merry and smiling when she was playing but sad, deep, and pensive in moments of repose. As a child her hair was curly and almost blond, her straight nose was neither too pointed nor too flat, while her mouth with the merry dimples at the corners recalled the small and pleasing one of her mother, her skin had the fineness of an onion-cover and was white as cotton, according to her perplexed relatives, who found the traces of Capitan Tiago’s paternity in her small and shapely ears. Aunt Isabel ascribed her half-European features to the longings of Doña Pia, whom she remembered to have seen many times weeping before the image of St. Anthony. Another cousin was of the same opinion, differing only in the choice of the smut, as for her it was either the Virgin herself or St. Michael. A famous philosopher, who was the cousin of Capitan Tinong and who had memorized the “Amat,”11 sought for the true explanation in planetary influences.

The idol of all, Maria Clara grew up amidst smiles and love. The very friars showered her with attentions when she appeared in the processions dressed in white, her abundant hair interwoven with tuberoses and sampaguitas, with two diminutive wings of silver and gold fastened on the back of her gown, and carrying in her hands a pair of white doves tied with blue ribbons. Afterwards, she would be so merry and talk so sweetly in her childish simplicity that the enraptured Capitan Tiago could do nothing but bless the saints of Obando and advise every one to purchase beautiful works of sculpture.

In southern countries the girl of thirteen or fourteen years changes into a woman as the bud of the night becomes a flower in the morning. At this period of change, so full of mystery and romance, Maria Clara was placed, by the advice of the curate of Binondo, in the nunnery of St. Catherine12 in order to receive strict religious training from the Sisters. With tears she took leave of Padre Damaso and of the only lad who had been a friend of her childhood, Crisostomo Ibarra, who himself shortly afterward went away to Europe. There in that convent, which communicates with the world through double bars, even under the watchful eyes of the nuns, she spent seven years.

Each having his own particular ends in view and knowing the mutual inclinations of the two young persons, Don Rafael and Capitan Tiago agreed upon the marriage of their children and the formation of a business partnership. This agreement, which was concluded some years after the younger Ibarra’s departure, was celebrated with equal joy by two hearts in widely separated parts of the world and under very different circumstances. 

1 This celebrated Lady was first brought from Acapulco, Mexico, by Juan Niño de Tabora, when he came to govern the Philippines in 1626. By reason of her miraculous powers of allaying the storms she was carried back and forth in the state galleons on a number of voyages, until in 1672 she was formally installed in a church in the hills northeast of Manila, under the care of the Augustinian Fathers. While her shrine was building she is said to have appeared to the faithful in the top of a large breadfruit tree, which is known to the Tagalogs as “antipolo”; hence her name. Hers is the best known and most frequented shrine in the country, while she disputes with the Holy Child of Cebu the glory of being the wealthiest individual in the whole archipelago.

There has always existed a pious rivalry between her and the Dominicans’ Lady of the Rosary as to which is the patron saint of the Philippines, the contest being at times complicated by counterclaims on the part of St. Francis, although the entire question would seem to have been definitely settled by a royal decree, published about 1650, officially conferring that honorable post upon St. Michael the Archangel (San Miguel). A rather irreverent sketch of this celebrated queen of the skies appears in Chapter XI of Foreman’s The Philippine Islands.—TR.

2 Santa Cruz, Paco, and Ermita are districts of Manila, outside the Walled City.—TR.

3 John xviii. 10.

4 A town in Laguna Province, noted for the manufacture of furniture.—TR.

5 God grant that this prophecy may soon be fulfilled for the author of the booklet and all of us who believe it. Amen.—Author’s note.

6 “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “blessed are the possessors.”—TR.

7 The annual celebration of the Dominican Order held in October in honor of its patroness, the Virgin of the Rosary, to whose intervention was ascribed the victory over a Dutch fleet in 1646, whence the name. See Guía Oficial de Filipinas, 1885, pp. 138, 139; Montero y Vidal, Historia General de Filipinas, Vol. I, Chap. XXIII; Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XXXV, pp. 249, 250.—TR.

8 Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, whose chief business is preaching and teaching. They entered the Philippines in 1862.—TR.

9 “Kaysaysay: A celebrated sanctuary in the island of Luzon, province of Batangas, jurisdiction, of Taal, so called because there is venerated in it a Virgin who bears that name ….

“The image is in the center of the high altar, where there is seen an eagle in half-relief, whose abdomen is left open in order to afford a tabernacle for the Virgin: an idea enchanting to many of the Spaniards established in the Philippines during the last century, but which in our opinion any sensible person will characterize as extravagant.

“This image of the Virgin of Kaysaysay enjoys the fame of being very miraculous, so that the Indians gather from great distances to hear mass in her sanctuary every Saturday. Her discovery, over two and a half centuries ago, is notable in that she was found in the sea during some fisheries, coming up in a drag-net with the fish. It is thought that this venerable image of the Filipinos may have been in some ship which was wrecked and that the currents carried her up to the coast, where she was found in the manner related.

“The Indians, naturally credulous and for the most part quite superstitious, in spite of the advancements in civilization and culture, relate that she appeared afterwards in some trees, and in memory of these manifestations an arch representing them was erected at a short distance from the place where her sanctuary is now located.”—Buzeta and Bravo’s Diccionario, Madrid, 1850, but copied “with proper modifications for the times and the new truths” from Zuñiga’s Estadismo, which, though written in 1803 and not published until 1893, was yet used by later writers, since it was preserved in manuscript in the convent of the Augustinians in Manila, Buzeta and Bravo, as well as Zuñiga, being members of that order.

So great was the reverence for this Lady that the Acapulco galleons on their annual voyages were accustomed to fire salutes in her honor as they passed along the coast near her shrine.—Foreman. The Philippine Islands, quoting from the account of an eruption of Taal Volcano in 1749, by Fray Francisco Vencuchillo.

This Lady’s sanctuary, where she is still “enchanting” in her “eagle in half-relief,” stands out prominently on the hill above the town of Taal, plainly visible from Balayan Bay.—TR.

10 A Tagalog term meaning “to tumble,” or “to caper about,” doubtless from the actions of the Lady’s devotees. Pakil is a town in Laguna Province.—TR.

11 A work on scholastic philosophy, by a Spanish prelate of that name.—TR.

12 The nunnery and college of St. Catherine of Sienna (“Santa Catalina de la Sena”) was founded by the Dominican Fathers in 1696.—TR.

Chapter VIII An Idyl on an Azotea

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

That morning Aunt Isabel and Maria Clara went early to mass, the latter elegantly dressed and wearing a rosary of blue beads, which partly served as a bracelet for her, and the former with her spectacles in order to read her Anchor of Salvation during the holy communion. Scarcely had the priest disappeared from the altar when the maiden expressed a desire for returning home, to the great surprise and displeasure of her good aunt, who believed her niece to be as pious and devoted to praying as a nun, at least. Grumbling and crossing herself, the good old lady rose. “The good Lord will forgive me, Aunt Isabel, since He must know the hearts of girls better than you do,” Maria Clara might have said to check the severe yet maternal chidings.

After they had breakfasted, Maria Clara consumed her impatience in working at a silk purse while her aunt was trying to clean up the traces of the former night’s revelry by swinging a feather duster about. Capitan Tiago was busy looking over some papers. Every noise in the street, every carriage that passed, caused the maiden to tremble and quickened the beatings of her heart. Now she wished that she were back in the quiet convent among her friends; there she could have seen him without emotion and agitation! But was he not the companion of her infancy, had they not played together and even quarreled at times? The reason for all this I need not explain; if you, O reader, have ever loved, you will understand; and if you have not, it is useless for me to tell you, as the uninitiated do not comprehend these mysteries.

“I believe, Maria, that the doctor is right,” said Capitan Tiago. “You ought to go into the country, for you are pale and need fresh air. What do you think of Malabon or San Diego?” At the mention of the latter place Maria Clara blushed like a poppy and was unable to answer.

“You and Isabel can go at once to the convent to get your clothes and to say good-by to your friends,” he continued, without raising his head. “You will not stay there any longer.”

The girl felt the vague sadness that possesses the mind when we leave forever a place where we have been happy, but another thought softened this sorrow.

“In four or five days, after you get some new clothes made, we’ll go to Malabon. Your godfather is no longer in San Diego. The priest that you may have noticed here last night, that young padre, is the new curate whom we have there, and he is a saint.”

“I think that San Diego would be better, cousin,” observed Aunt Isabel. “Besides, our house there is better and the time for the fiesta draws near.”

Maria Clara wanted to embrace her aunt for this speech, but hearing a carriage stop, she turned pale.

“Ah, very true,” answered Capitan Tiago, and then in a different tone he exclaimed, “Don Crisostomo!”

The maiden let her sewing fall from her hands and wished to move but could not—a violent tremor ran through her body. Steps were heard on the stairway and then a fresh, manly voice. As if that voice had some magic power, the maiden controlled her emotion and ran to hide in the oratory among the saints. The two cousins laughed, and Ibarra even heard the noise of the door closing. Pale and breathing rapidly, the maiden pressed her beating heart and tried to listen. She heard his voice, that beloved voice that for so long a time she had heard only in her dreams he was asking for her! Overcome with joy, she kissed the nearest saint, which happened to be St. Anthony the Abbot, a saint happy in flesh and in wood, ever the object of pleasing temptations! Afterwards she sought the keyhole in order to see and examine him. She smiled, and when her aunt snatched her from that position she unconsciously threw her arms around the old lady’s neck and rained kisses upon her.

“Foolish child, what’s the matter with you?” the old lady was at last able to say as she wiped a tear from her faded eyes. Maria Clara felt ashamed and covered her eyes with her plump arm.

“Come on, get ready, come!” added the old aunt fondly. “While he is talking to your father about you. Come, don’t make him wait.” Like a child the maiden obediently followed her and they shut themselves up in her chamber.

Capitan Tiago and Ibarra were conversing in a lively manner when Aunt Isabel appeared half dragging her niece, who was looking in every direction except toward the persons in the room.

What said those two souls communicating through the language of the eyes, more perfect than that of the lips, the language given to the soul in order that sound may not mar the ecstasy of feeling? In such moments, when the thoughts of two happy beings penetrate into each other’s souls through the eyes, the spoken word is halting, rude, and weak—it is as the harsh, slow roar of the thunder compared with the rapidity of the dazzling lightning flash, expressing feelings already recognized, ideas already understood, and if words are made use of it is only because the heart’s desire, dominating all the being and flooding it with happiness, wills that the whole human organism with all its physical and psychical powers give expression to the song of joy that rolls through the soul. To the questioning glance of love, as it flashes out and then conceals itself, speech has no reply; the smile, the kiss, the sigh answer.

Soon the two lovers, fleeing from the dust raised by Aunt Isabel’s broom, found themselves on the azotea where they could commune in liberty among the little arbors. What did they tell each other in murmurs that you nod your heads, O little red cypress flowers? Tell it, you who have fragrance in your breath and color on your lips. And thou, O zephyr, who learnest rare harmonies in the stillness of the dark night amid the hidden depths of our virgin forests! Tell it, O sunbeams, brilliant manifestation upon earth of the Eternal, sole immaterial essence in a material world, you tell it, for I only know how to relate prosaic commonplaces. But since you seem unwilling to do so, I am going to try myself.

The sky was blue and a fresh breeze, not yet laden with the fragrance of roses, stirred the leaves and flowers of the vines; that is why the cypresses, the orchids, the dried fishes, and the Chinese lanterns were trembling. The splash of paddles in the muddy waters of the river and the rattle of carriages and carts passing over the Binondo bridge came up to them distinctly, although they did not hear what the old aunt murmured as she saw where they were: “That’s better, there you’ll be watched by the whole neighborhood.” At first they talked nonsense, giving utterance only to those sweet inanities which are so much like the boastings of the nations of Europe—pleasing and honey-sweet at home, but causing foreigners to laugh or frown.

She, like a sister of Cain, was of course jealous and asked her sweetheart, “Have you always thought of me? Have you never forgotten me on all your travels in the great cities among so many beautiful women?”

He, too, was a brother of Cain, and sought to evade such questions, making use of a little fiction. “Could I forget you?” he answered as he gazed enraptured into her dark eyes. “Could I be faithless to my oath, my sacred oath? Do you remember that stormy night when you saw me weeping alone by the side of my dead mother and, drawing near to me, you put your hand on my shoulder, that hand which for so long a time you had not allowed me to touch, saying to me, ‘You have lost your mother while I never had one,’ and you wept with me? You loved her and she looked upon you as a daughter. Outside it rained and the lightning flashed, but within I seemed to hear music and to see a smile on the pallid face of the dead. Oh, that my parents were alive and might behold you now! I then caught your hand along with the hand of my mother and swore to love you and to make you happy, whatever fortune Heaven might have in store for me; and that oath, which has never weighed upon me as a burden, I now renew!

“Could I forget you? The thought of you has ever been with me, strengthening me amid the dangers of travel, and has been a comfort to my soul’s loneliness in foreign lands. The thoughts of you have neutralized the lotus-effect of Europe, which erases from the memories of so many of our countrymen the hopes and misfortunes of our fatherland. In dreams I saw you standing on the shore at Manila, gazing at the far horizon wrapped in the warm light of the early dawn. I heard the slow, sad song that awoke in me sleeping affections and called back to the memory of my heart the first years of our childhood, our joys, our pleasures, and all that happy past which you gave life to while you were in our town. It seemed to me that you were the fairy, the spirit, the poetic incarnation of my fatherland, beautiful, unaffected, lovable, frank, a true daughter of the Philippines, that beautiful land which unites with the imposing virtues of the mother country, Spain, the admirable qualities of a young people, as you unite in your being all that is beautiful and lovely, the inheritance of both races” so indeed the love of you and that of my fatherland have become fused into one.

“Could I forget you? Many times have I thought that I heard the sound of your piano and the accents of your voice. When in Germany, as I wandered at twilight in the woods, peopled with the fantastic creations of its poets and the mysterious legends of past generations, always I called upon your name, imagining that I saw you in the mists that rose from the depths of the valley, or I fancied that I heard your voice in the rustling of the leaves. When from afar I heard the songs of the peasants as they returned from their labors, it seemed to me that their tones harmonized with my inner voices, that they were singing for you, and thus they lent reality to my illusions and dreams. At times I became lost among the mountain paths and while the night descended slowly, as it does there, I would find myself still wandering, seeking my way among the pines and beeches and oaks. Then when some scattering rays of moonlight slipped down into the clear spaces left in the dense foliage, I seemed to see you in the heart of the forest as a dim, loving shade wavering about between the spots of light and shadow. If perhaps the nightingale poured forth his varied trills, I fancied it was because he saw you and was inspired by you.

“Have I thought of you? The fever of love not only gave warmth to the snows but colored the ice! The beautiful skies of Italy with their clear depths reminded me of your eyes, its sunny landscape spoke to me of your smile; the plains of Andalusia with their scent-laden airs, peopled with oriental memories, full of romance and color, told me of your love! On dreamy, moonlit nights, while boating oil the Rhine, I have asked myself if my fancy did not deceive me as I saw you among the poplars on the banks, on the rocks of the Lorelei, or in the midst of the waters, singing in the silence of the night as if you were a comforting fairy maiden sent to enliven the solitude and sadness of those ruined castles!”

“I have not traveled like you, so I know only your town and Manila and Antipolo,” she answered with a smile which showed that she believed all he said. “But since I said good-by to you and entered the convent, I have always thought of you and have only put you out of my mind when ordered to do so by my confessor, who imposed many penances upon me. I recalled our games and our quarrels when we were children. You used to pick up the most beautiful shells and search in the river for the roundest and smoothest pebbles of different colors that we might play games with them. You were very stupid and always lost, and by way of a forfeit I would slap you with the palm of my hand, but I always tried not to strike you hard, for I had pity on you. In those games you cheated much, even more than I did, and we used to finish our play in a quarrel. Do you remember that time when you became really angry at me? Then you made me suffer, but afterwards, when I thought of it in the convent, I smiled and longed for you so that we might quarrel again—so that we might once more make up. We were still children and had gone with your mother to bathe in the brook under the shade of the thick bamboo. On the banks grew many flowers and plants whose strange names you told me in Latin and Spanish, for you were even then studying in the Ateneo.1 I paid no attention, but amused myself by running after the needle-like dragon-flies and the butterflies with their rainbow colors and tints of mother-of-pearl as they swarmed about among the flowers. Sometimes I tried to surprise them with my hands or to catch the little fishes that slipped rapidly about amongst the moss and stones in the edge of the water. Once you disappeared suddenly and when you returned you brought a crown of leaves and orange blossoms, which you placed upon my head, calling me Chloe. For yourself you made one of vines. But your mother snatched away my crown, and after mashing it with a stone mixed it with the gogo with which she was going to wash our heads. The tears came into your eyes and you said that she did not understand mythology. ‘Silly boy,’ your mother exclaimed, ‘you’ll see how sweet your hair will smell afterwards.’ I laughed, but you were offended and would not talk with me, and for the rest of the day appeared so serious that then I wanted to cry. On our way back to the town through the hot sun, I picked some sage leaves that grew beside the path and gave them to you to put in your hat so that you might not get a headache. You smiled and caught my hand, and we made up.”

Ibarra smiled with happiness as he opened his pocketbook and took from it a piece of paper in which were wrapped some dry, blackened leaves which gave off a sweet odor. “Your sage leaves,” he said, in answer to her inquiring look. “This is all that you have ever given me.”

She in turn snatched from her bosom a little pouch of white satin. “You must not touch this,” she said, tapping the palm of his hand lightly. “It’s a letter of farewell.”

“The one I wrote to you before leaving?”

“Have you ever written me any other, sir?”

“And what did I say to you then?”

“Many fibs, excuses of a delinquent debtor,” she answered smilingly, thus giving him to understand how sweet to her those fibs were. “Be quiet now and I’ll read it to you. I’ll leave out your fine phrases in order not to make a martyr of you.”

Raising the paper to the height of her eyes so that the youth might not see her face, she began: “‘My’—but I’ll not read what follows that because it’s not true.”

Her eyes ran along some lines.

“‘My father wishes me to go away, in spite of all my pleadings. ‘You are a man now,’ he told me, ‘and you must think about your future and about your duties. You must learn the science of life, a thing which your fatherland cannot teach you, so that you may some day be useful to it. If you remain here in my shadow, in this environment of business affairs, you will not learn to look far ahead. The day in which you lose me you will find yourself like the plant of which our poet Baltazar tells: grown in the water, its leaves wither at the least scarcity of moisture and a moment’s heat dries it up. Don’t you understand? You are almost a young man, and yet you weep!’ These reproaches hurt me and I confessed that I loved you. My father reflected for a time in silence and then, placing his hand on my shoulder, said in a trembling voice, ‘Do you think that you alone know how to love, that your father does not love you, and that he will not feel the separation from you? It is only a short time since we lost your mother, and I must journey on alone toward old age, toward the very time of life when I would seek help and comfort from your youth, yet I accept my loneliness, hardly knowing whether I shall ever see you again. But you must think of other and greater things; the future lies open before you, while for me it is already passing behind; your love is just awakening, while mine is dying; fire burns in your blood, while the chill is creeping into mine. Yet you weep and cannot sacrifice the present for the future, useful as it may be alike to yourself and to your country.’ My father’s eyes filled with tears and I fell upon my knees at his feet, I embraced him, I begged his forgiveness, and I assured him that I was ready to set out—’”

Ibarra’s growing agitation caused her to suspend the reading, for he had grown pale and was pacing back and forth.

“What’s the matter? What is troubling you?” she asked him.

“You have almost made me forget that I have my duties, that I must leave at once for the town. Tomorrow is the day for commemorating the dead.”

Maria Clara silently fixed her large dreamy eyes upon him for a few moments and then, picking some flowers, she said with emotion, “Go, I won’t detain you longer! In a few days we shall see each other again. Lay these flowers on the tomb of your parents.”

A few moments later the youth descended the stairway accompanied by Capitan Tiago and Aunt Isabel, while Maria Clara shut herself up in the oratory.

“Please tell Andeng to get the house ready, as Maria and Isabel are coming. A pleasant journey!” said Capitan Tiago as Ibarra stepped into the carriage, which at once started in the direction of the plaza of San Gabriel.

Afterwards, by way of consolation, her father said to Maria Clara, who was weeping beside an image of the Virgin, “Come, light two candles worth two reals each, one to St. Roch,2 and one to St. Raphael, the protector of travelers. Light the lamp of Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, since there are so many tulisanes. It’s better to spend four reals for wax and six cuartos for oil now than to pay a big ransom later.” 

1 The “Ateneo Municipal,” where the author, as well as nearly every other Filipino of note in the past generation, received his early education, was founded by the Jesuits shortly after their return to the islands in 1859.—TR.

2 The patron saint of Tondo, Manila’s Saint-Antoine. He is invoked for aid in driving away plagues,—TR.

Chapter VIII Recollections

Ibarra’s carriage was passing through a part of the busiest district in Manila, the same which the night before had made him feel sad, but which by daylight caused him to smile in spite of himself. The movement in every part, so many carriages coming and going at full speed, the carromatas and calesas, the Europeans, the Chinese, the natives, each in his own peculiar costume, the fruit-venders, the money-changers, the naked porters, the grocery stores, the lunch stands and restaurants, the shops, and even the carts drawn by the impassive and indifferent carabao, who seems to amuse himself in carrying burdens while he patiently ruminates, all this noise and confusion, the very sun itself, the distinctive odors and the motley colors, awoke in the youth’s mind a world of sleeping recollections.

Those streets had not yet been paved, and two successive days of sunshine filled them with dust which covered everything and made the passer-by cough while it nearly blinded him. A day of rain formed pools of muddy water, which at night reflected the carriage lights and splashed mud a distance of several yards away upon the pedestrians on the narrow sidewalks. And how many women have left their embroidered slippers in those waves of mud!

Then there might have been seen repairing those streets the lines of convicts with their shaven heads, dressed in short-sleeved camisas and pantaloons that reached only to their knees, each with his letter and number in blue. On their legs were chains partly wrapped in dirty rags to ease the chafing or perhaps the chill of the iron. Joined two by two, scorched in the sun, worn out by the heat and fatigue, they were lashed and goaded by a whip in the hands of one of their own number, who perhaps consoled himself with this power of maltreating others. They were tall men with somber faces, which he had never seen brightened with the light of a smile. Yet their eyes gleamed when the whistling lash fell upon their shoulders or when a passer-by threw them the chewed and broken stub of a cigar, which the nearest would snatch up and hide in his salakot, while the rest remained gazing at the passers-by with strange looks.

The noise of the stones being crushed to fill the puddles and the merry clank of the heavy fetters on the swollen ankles seemed to remain with Ibarra. He shuddered as he recalled a scene that had made a deep impression on his childish imagination. It was a hot afternoon, and the burning rays of the sun fell perpendicularly upon a large cart by the side of which was stretched out one of those unfortunates, lifeless, yet with his eyes half opened. Two others were silently preparing a bamboo bier, showing no signs of anger or sorrow or impatience, for such is the character attributed to the natives: today it is you, tomorrow it will be I, they say to themselves. The people moved rapidly about without giving heed, women came up and after a look of curiosity continued unconcerned on their way—it was such a common sight that their hearts had become callous. Carriages passed, flashing back from their varnished sides the rays of the sun that burned in a cloudless sky. Only he, a child of eleven years and fresh from the country, was moved, and to him alone it brought bad dreams on the following night.

There no longer existed the useful and honored Puente de Barcas, the good Filipino pontoon bridge that had done its best to be of service in spite of its natural imperfections and its rising and falling at the caprice of the Pasig, which had more than once abused it and finally destroyed it. The almond trees in the plaza of San Gabriel1 had not grown; they were still in the same feeble and stunted condition. The Escolta appeared less beautiful in spite of the fact that an imposing building with caryatids carved on its front now occupied the place of the old row of shops. The new Bridge of Spain caught his attention, while the houses on the right bank of the river among the clumps of bamboo and trees where the Escolta ends and the Isla de Romero begins, reminded him of the cool mornings when he used to pass there in a boat on his way to the baths of Uli-Uli.

He met many carriages, drawn by beautiful pairs of dwarfish ponies, within which were government clerks who seemed yet half asleep as they made their way to their offices, or military officers, or Chinese in foolish and ridiculous attitudes, or Gave friars and canons. In an elegant victoria he thought he recognized Padre Damaso, grave and frowning, but he had already passed. Now he was pleasantly greeted by Capitan Tinong, who was passing in a carretela with his wife and two daughters.

As they went down off the bridge the horses broke into a trot along the Sabana Drive.2 On the left the Arroceros Cigar Factory resounded with the noise of the cigar-makers pounding the tobacco leaves, and Ibarra was unable to restrain a smile as he thought of the strong odor which about five o’clock in the afternoon used to float all over the Puente de Barcas and which had made him sick when he was a child. The lively conversations and the repartee of the crowds from the cigar factories carried him back to the district of Lavapiés in Madrid, with its riots of cigar-makers, so fatal for the unfortunate policemen.

The Botanical Garden drove away these agreeable recollections; the demon of comparison brought before his mind the Botanical Gardens of Europe, in countries where great, labor and much money are needed to make a single leaf grow or one flower open its calyx; he recalled those of the colonies, where they are well supplied and tended, and all open to the public. Ibarra turned away his gaze toward the old Manila surrounded still by its walls and moats like a sickly girl wrapped in the garments of her grandmother’s better days.

Then the sight of the sea losing itself in the distance! “On the other shore lies Europe,” thought the young man,—“Europe, with its attractive peoples in constant movement in the search for happiness, weaving their dreams in the morning and disillusioning themselves at the setting of the sun, happy even in the midst of their calamities. Yes, on the farther shore of the boundless sea are the really spiritual nations, those who, even though they put no restraints on material development, are still more spiritual than those who pride themselves on adoring only the spirit!”

But these musings were in turn banished from his mind as he came in sight of the little mound in Bagumbayan Field.3 This isolated knoll at the side of the Luneta now caught his attention and made him reminiscent. He thought of the man who had awakened his intellect and made him understand goodness and justice. The ideas which that man had impressed upon him were not many, to be sure, but they were not meaningless repetitions, they were convictions which had not paled in the light of the most brilliant foci of progress. That man was an old priest whose words of farewell still resounded in his ears: “Do not forget that if knowledge is the heritage of mankind, it is only the courageous who inherit it,” he had reminded him. “I have tried to pass on to you what I got from my teachers, the sum of which I have endeavored to increase and transmit to the coming generation as far as in me lay. You will now do the same for those who come after you, and you can treble it, since you are going to rich countries.” Then he had added with a smile, “They come here seeking wealth, go you to their country to seek also that other wealth which we lack! But remember that all that glitters is not gold.” The old man had died on that spot.

At these recollections the youth murmured audibly: “No, in spite of everything, the fatherland first, first the Philippines, the child of Spain, first the Spanish fatherland! No, that which is decreed by fate does not tarnish the honor of the fatherland, no!”

He gave little heed to Ermita, the phenix of nipa that had rearisen from its ashes under the form of blue and white houses with red-painted roofs of corrugated iron. Nor was his attention caught by Malate, neither by the cavalry barracks with the spreading trees in front, nor by the inhabitants or their little nipa huts, pyramidal or prismatic in shape, hidden away among the banana plants and areca palms, constructed like nests by each father of a family.

The carriage continued on its way, meeting now and then carromatas drawn by one or two ponies whose abaka harness indicated that they were from the country. The drivers would try to catch a glimpse of the occupant of the fine carriage, but would pass on without exchanging a word, without a single salute. At times a heavy cart drawn by a slow and indifferent carabao would appear on the dusty road over which beat the brilliant sunlight of the tropics. The mournful and monotonous song of the driver mounted on the back of the carabao would be mingled at one time with the screechings of a dry wheel on the huge axle of the heavy vehicle or at another time with the dull scraping of worn-out runners on a sledge which was dragged heavily through the dust, and over the ruts in the road. In the fields and wide meadows the herds were grazing, attended ever by the white buffalo-birds which roosted peacefully on the backs of the animals while these chewed their cuds or browsed in lazy contentment upon the rich grass. In the distance ponies frisked, jumping and running about, pursued by the lively colts with long tails and abundant manes who whinnied and pawed the ground with their hard hoofs.

Let us leave the youth dreaming or dozing, since neither the sad nor the animated poetry of the open country held his attention. For him there was no charm in the sun that gleamed upon the tops of the trees and caused the rustics, with feet burned by the hot ground in spite of their callousness, to hurry along, or that made the villager pause beneath the shade of an almond tree or a bamboo brake while he pondered upon vague and inexplicable things. While the youth’s carriage sways along like a drunken thing on account of the inequalities in the surface of the road when passing over a bamboo bridge or going up an incline or descending a steep slope, let us return to Manila. 

1 Now Plaza Cervantes.—TR.

2 Now Plaza Lawton and Bagumbayan; see note, infra.— TR.

3 The Field of Bagumbayan, adjoining the Luneta, was the place where political prisoners were shot or garroted, and was the scene of the author’s execution on December 30, 1906. It is situated just outside and east of the old Walled City (Manila proper), being the location to which the natives who had occupied the site of Manila moved their town after having been driven back by the Spaniards—hence the name, which is a Tagalog compound meaning “new town.” This place is now called Wallace Field, the name Bagumbayan being applied to the driveway which was known to the Spaniards as the Paseo de las Aguadas, or de Vidal, extending from the Luneta to the Bridge of Spain, just outside the moat that, formerly encircled the Walled City.—TR.

Chapter IX Local Affairs

Ibarra had not been mistaken about the occupant of the victoria, for it was indeed Padre Damaso, and he was on his way to the house which the youth had just left.

“Where are you going?” asked the friar of Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel, who were about to enter a silver-mounted carriage. In the midst of his preoccupation Padre Damaso stroked the maiden’s cheek lightly.

“To the convent to get my things,” answered the latter.

“Ahaa! Aha! We’ll see who’s stronger, we’ll see,” muttered the friar abstractedly, as with bowed head and slow step he turned to the stairway, leaving the two women not a little amazed.

“He must have a sermon to preach and is memorizing it,” commented Aunt Isabel. “Get in, Maria, or we’ll be late.”

Whether or not Padre Damaso was preparing a sermon we cannot say, but it is certain that some grave matter filled his mind, for he did not extend his hand to Capitan Tiago, who had almost to get down on his knees to kiss it.

“Santiago,” said the friar at once, “I have an important matter to talk to you about. Let’s go into your office.”

Capitan Tiago began to feel uneasy, so much so that he did not know what to say; but he obeyed, following the heavy figure of the priest, who closed the door behind him.

While they confer in secret, let us learn what Fray Sibyla has been doing. The astute Dominican is not at the rectory, for very soon after celebrating mass he had gone to the convent of his order, situated just inside the gate of Isabel II, or of Magellan, according to what family happened to be reigning in Madrid. Without paying any attention to the rich odor of chocolate, or to the rattle of boxes and coins which came from the treasury, and scarcely acknowledging the respectful and deferential salute of the procurator-brother, he entered, passed along several corridors, and knocked at a door.

“Come in,” sighed a weak voice.

“May God restore health to your Reverence,” was the young Dominican’s greeting as he entered.

Seated in a large armchair was an aged priest, wasted and rather sallow, like the saints that Rivera painted. His eyes were sunken in their hollow sockets, over which his heavy eyebrows were almost always contracted, thus accentuating their brilliant gleam. Padre Sibyla, with his arms crossed under the venerable scapulary of St. Dominic, gazed at him feelingly, then bowed his head and waited in silence.

“Ah,” sighed the old man, “they advise an operation, an operation, Hernando, at my age! This country, O this terrible country! Take warning from my ease, Hernando!”

Fray Sibyla raised his eyes slowly and fixed them on the sick man’s face. “What has your Reverence decided to do?” he asked.

“To die! Ah, what else can I do? I am suffering too much, but—I have made many suffer, I am paying my debt! And how are you? What has brought you here?”

“I’ve come to talk about the business which you committed to my care.”

“Ah! What about it?”

“Pish!” answered the young man disgustedly, as he seated himself and turned away his face with a contemptuous expression, “They’ve been telling us fairy tales. Young Ibarra is a youth of discernment; he doesn’t seem to be a fool, but I believe that he is a good lad.”

“You believe so?”

“Hostilities began last night.”

“Already? How?”

Fray Sibyla then recounted briefly what had taken place between Padre Damaso and Ibarra. “Besides,” he said in conclusion, “the young man is going to marry Capitan Tiago’s daughter, who was educated in the college of our Sisterhood. He’s rich, and won’t care to make enemies and to run the risk of ruining his fortune and his happiness.”

The sick man nodded in agreement. “Yes, I think as you do. With a wife like that and such a father-in-law, we’ll own him body and soul. If not, so much the better for him to declare himself an enemy of ours.”

Fray Sibyla looked at the old man in surprise.

“For the good of our holy Order, I mean, of course,” he added, breathing heavily. “I prefer open attacks to the silly praises and flatteries of friends, which are really paid for.”

“Does your Reverence think—”

The old man regarded him sadly. “Keep it clearly before you,” he answered, gasping for breath. “Our power will last as long as it is believed in. If they attack us, the government will say, ‘They attack them because they see in them an obstacle to their liberty, so then let us preserve them.’”

“But if it should listen to them? Sometimes the government—”

“It will not listen!”

“Nevertheless, if, led on by cupidity, it should come to wish for itself what we are taking in—if there should be some bold and daring one—”

“Then woe unto that one!”

Both remained silent for a time, then the sick man continued: “Besides, we need their attacks, to keep us awake; that makes us see our weaknesses so that we may remedy them. Exaggerated flattery will deceive us and put us to sleep, while outside our walls we shall be laughed at, and the day in which we become an object of ridicule, we shall fall as we fell in Europe. Money will not flow into our churches, no one will buy our scapularies or girdles or anything else, and when we cease to be rich we shall no longer be able to control consciences.”

“But we shall always have our estates, our property.”

“All will be lost as we lost them in Europe! And the worst of it is that we are working toward our own ruin. For example, this unrestrained eagerness to raise arbitrarily the rents on our lands each year, this eagerness which I have so vainly combated in all the chapters, this will ruin us! The native sees himself obliged to purchase farms in other places, which bring him as good returns as ours, or better. I fear that we are already on the decline; quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat prius.1 For this reason we should not increase our burden; the people are already murmuring. You have decided well: let us leave the others to settle their accounts in that quarter; let us preserve the prestige that remains to us, and as we shall soon appear before God, let us wash our hands of it—and may the God of mercy have pity on our weakness!”

“So your Reverence thinks that the rent or tax—”

“Let’s not talk any more about money,” interrupted the sick man with signs of disgust. “You say that the lieutenant threatened to Padre Damaso that—”

“Yes, Padre,” broke in Fray Sibyla with a faint smile, “but this morning I saw him and he told me that he was sorry for what occurred last night, that the sherry had gone to his head, and that he believed that Padre Damaso was in the same condition. ‘And your threat?’ I asked him jokingly. ‘Padre,’ he answered me, ‘I know how to keep my word when my honor is affected, but I am not nor have ever been an informer—for that reason I wear only two stars.’”

After they had conversed a while longer on unimportant subjects, Fray Sibyla took his departure.

It was true that the lieutenant had not gone to the Palace, but the Captain-General heard what had occurred. While talking with some of his aides about the allusions that the Manila newspapers were making to him under the names of comets and celestial apparitions, one of them told him about the affair of Padre Damaso, with a somewhat heightened coloring although substantially correct as to matter.

“From whom did you learn this?” asked his Excellency, smiling.

“From Laruja, who was telling it this morning in the office.”

The Captain-General again smiled and said: “A woman or a friar can’t insult one. I contemplate living in peace for the time that I shall remain in this country and I don’t want any more quarrels with men who wear skirts. Besides, I’ve learned that the Provincial has scoffed at my orders. I asked for the removal of this friar as a punishment and they transferred him to a better town ‘monkish tricks,’ as we say in Spain.”

But when his Excellency found himself alone he stopped smiling. “Ah, if this people were not so stupid, I would put a curb on their Reverences,” he sighed to himself. “But every people deserves its fate, so let’s do as everybody else does.”

Capitan Tiago, meanwhile, had concluded his interview with Padre Damaso, or rather, to speak more exactly, Padre Damaso had concluded with him.

“So now you are warned!” said the Franciscan on leaving. “All this could have been avoided if you had consulted me beforehand, if you had not lied when I asked you. Try not to play any more foolish tricks, and trust your protector.”

Capitan Tiago walked up and down the sala a few times, meditating and sighing. Suddenly, as if a happy thought had occurred to him, he ran to the oratory and extinguished the candles and the lamp that had been lighted for Ibarra’s safety. “The way is long and there’s yet time,” he muttered. 

1 Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.—TR.

Chapter X The Town

Almost on the margin of the lake, in the midst of meadows and paddy-fields, lies the town of San Diego.1 From it sugar, rice, coffee, and fruits are either exported or sold for a small part of their value to the Chinese, who exploit the simplicity and vices of the native farmers.

When on a clear day the boys ascend to the upper part of the church tower, which is beautified by moss and creeping plants, they break out into joyful exclamations at the beauty of the scene spread out before them. In the midst of the clustering roofs of nipa, tiles, corrugated iron, and palm leaves, separated by groves and gardens, each one is able to discover his own home, his little nest. Everything serves as a mark: a tree, that tamarind with its light foliage, that coco palm laden with nuts, like the Astarte Genetrix, or the Diana of Ephesus with her numerous breasts, a bending bamboo, an areca palm, or a cross. Yonder is the river, a huge glassy serpent sleeping on a green carpet, with rocks, scattered here and there along its sandy channel, that break its current into ripples. There, the bed is narrowed between high banks to which the gnarled trees cling with bared roots; here, it becomes a gentle slope where the stream widens and eddies about. Farther away, a small hut built on the edge of the high bank seems to defy the winds, the heights and the depths, presenting with its slender posts the appearance of a huge, long-legged bird watching for a reptile to seize upon. Trunks of palm or other trees with their bark still on them unite the banks by a shaky and infirm foot-bridge which, if not a very secure crossing, is nevertheless a wonderful contrivance for gymnastic exercises in preserving one’s balance, a thing not to be despised. The boys bathing in the river are amused by the difficulties of the old woman crossing with a basket on her head or by the antics of the old man who moves tremblingly and loses his staff in the water.

But that which always attracts particular notice is what might be called a peninsula of forest in the sea of cultivated fields. There in that wood are century-old trees with hollow trunks, which die only when their high tops are struck and set on fire by the lightning—and it is said that the fire always checks itself and dies out in the same spot. There are huge points of rock which time and nature are clothing with velvet garments of moss. Layer after layer of dust settles in the hollows, the rains beat it down, and the birds bring seeds. The tropical vegetation spreads out luxuriantly in thickets and underbrush, while curtains of interwoven vines hang from the branches of the trees and twine about their roots or spread along the ground, as if Flora were not yet satisfied but must place plant above plant. Mosses and fungi live upon the cracked trunks, and orchids—graceful guests—twine in loving embrace with the foliage of the hospitable trees.

Strange legends exist concerning this wood, which is held in awe by the country folk. The most credible account, and therefore the one least known and believed, seems to be this. When the town was still a collection of miserable huts with the grass growing abundantly in the so-called streets, at the time when the wild boar and deer roamed about during the nights, there arrived in the place one day an old, hollow-eyed Spaniard, who spoke Tagalog rather well. After looking about and inspecting the land, he finally inquired for the owners of this wood, in which there were hot springs. Some persons who claimed to be such presented themselves, and the old man acquired it in exchange for clothes, jewels, and a sum of money. Soon afterward he disappeared mysteriously. The people thought that he had been spirited away, when a bad odor from the neighboring wood attracted the attention of some herdsmen. Tracing this, they found the decaying corpse of the old Spaniard hanging from the branch of a balete tree.2 In life he had inspired fear by his deep, hollow voice, his sunken eyes, and his mirthless laugh, but now, dead by his own act, he disturbed the sleep of the women. Some threw the jewels into the river and burned the clothes, and from the time that the corpse was buried at the foot of the balete itself, no one willingly ventured near the spot. A belated herdsman looking for some of his strayed charges told of lights that he had seen there, and when some venturesome youths went to the place they heard mournful cries. To win the smiles of his disdainful lady, a forlorn lover agreed to spend the night there and in proof to wrap around the trunk a long piece of rattan, but he died of a quick fever that seized him the very next day. Stories and legends still cluster about the place.

A few months after the finding of the old Spaniard’s body there appeared a youth, apparently a Spanish mestizo, who said that he was the son of the deceased. He established himself in the place and devoted his attention to agriculture, especially the raising of indigo. Don Saturnino was a silent young man with a violent disposition, even cruel at times, yet he was energetic and industrious. He surrounded the grave of his father with a wall, but visited it only at rare intervals. When he was along in years, he married a young woman from Manila, and she became the mother of Don Rafael, the father of Crisostomo. From his youth Don Rafael was a favorite with the country people. The agricultural methods introduced and encouraged by his father spread rapidly, new settlers poured in, the Chinese came, and the settlement became a village with a native priest. Later the village grew into a town, the priest died, and Fray Damaso came.

All this time the tomb and the land around it remained unmolested. Sometimes a crowd of boys armed with clubs and stones would become bold enough to wander into the place to gather guavas, papayas, lomboy, and other fruits, but it frequently happened that when their sport was at its height, or while they gazed in awed silence at the rotting piece of rope which still swung from the branch, stones would fall, coming from they knew not where. Then with cries of “The old man! The old man!” they would throw away fruit and clubs, jump from the trees, and hurry between the rocks and through the thickets; nor would they stop running until they were well out of the wood, some pale and breathless, others weeping, and only a few laughing. 

1 We have been unable to find any town of this name, but many of these conditions.—Author’s note.

San Diego and Santiago are variant forms of the name of the patron saint of Spain, St. James.—TR.

2 The “sacred tree” of Malaya, being a species of banyan that begins life as a vine twining on another tree, which it finally strangles, using the dead trunk as a support until it is able to stand alone. When old it often covers a large space with gnarled and twisted trunks of varied shapes and sizes, thus presenting a weird and grotesque appearance. This tree was held in reverent awe by the primitive Filipinos, who believed it to be the abode of the nono, or ancestral ghosts, and is still the object of superstitious beliefs,—TR.

Chapter XI The Rulers

Divide and rule.

(The New Machiavelli.)

Who were the caciques of the town?

Don Rafael, when alive, even though he was the richest, owned more land, and was the patron of nearly everybody, had not been one of them. As he was modest and depreciated the value of his own deeds, no faction in his favor had ever been formed in the town, and we have already seen how the people all rose up against him when they saw him hesitate upon being attacked.

Could it be Capitan Tiago? True it was that when he went there he was received with an orchestra by his debtors, who banqueted him and heaped gifts upon him. The finest fruits burdened his table and a quarter of deer or wild boar was his share of the hunt. If he found the horse of a debtor beautiful, half an hour afterwards it was in his stable. All this was true, but they laughed at him behind his back and in secret called him “Sacristan Tiago.”

Perhaps it was the gobernadorcillo?1 No, for he was only an unhappy mortal who commanded not, but obeyed; who ordered not, but was ordered; who drove not, but was driven. Nevertheless, he had to answer to the alcalde for having commanded, ordered, and driven, just as if he were the originator of everything. Yet be it said to his credit that he had never presumed upon or usurped such honors, which had cost him five thousand pesos and many humiliations. But considering the income it brought him, it was cheap.

Well then, might it be God? Ah, the good God disturbed neither the consciences nor the sleep of the inhabitants. At least, He did not make them tremble, and if by chance He might have been mentioned in a sermon, surely they would have sighed longingly, “Oh, that only there were a God!” To the good Lord they paid little attention, as the saints gave them enough to do. For those poor folk God had come to be like those unfortunate monarchs who are surrounded by courtiers to whom alone the people render homage.

San Diego was a kind of Rome: not the Rome of the time when the cunning Romulus laid out its walls with a plow, nor of the later time when, bathed in its own and others’ blood, it dictated laws to the world—no, it was a Rome of our own times with the difference that in place of marble monuments and colosseums it had its monuments of sawali and its cockpit of nipa. The curate was the Pope in the Vatican; the alferez of the Civil Guard, the King of Italy on the Quirinal: all, it must be understood, on a scale of nipa and bamboo. Here, as there, continual quarreling went on, since each wished to be the master and considered the other an intruder. Let us examine the characteristics of each.

Fray Bernardo Salvi was that silent young Franciscan of whom we have spoken before. In his habits and manners he was quite different from his brethren and even from his predecessor, the violent Padre Damaso. He was thin and sickly, habitually pensive, strict in the fulfilment of his religious duties, and careful of his good name. In a month after his arrival nearly every one in the town had joined the Venerable Tertiary Order, to the great distress of its rival, the Society of the Holy Rosary. His soul leaped with joy to see about each neck four or five scapularies and around each waist a knotted girdle, and to behold the procession of corpses and ghosts inguingón habits. The senior sacristan made a small fortune selling—or giving away as alms, we should say—all things necessary for the salvation of the soul and the warfare against the devil, as it is well known that this spirit, which formerly had the temerity to contradict God himself face to face and to doubt His words, as is related in the holy book of Job, who carried our Lord Christ through the air as afterwards in the Dark Ages he carried the ghosts, and continues, according to report, to carry the asuang of the Philippines, now seems to have become so shamefaced that he cannot endure the sight of a piece of painted cloth and that he fears the knots on a cord. But all this proves nothing more than that there is progress on this side also and that the devil is backward, or at least a conservative, as are all who dwell in darkness. Otherwise, we must attribute to him the weakness of a fifteen-year-old girl.

As we have said, Fray Salvi was very assiduous in the fulfilment of his duties, too assiduous, the alferez thought. While he was preaching—he was very fond of preaching—the doors of the church were closed, wherein he was like Nero, who allowed no one to leave the theater while he was singing. But the former did it for the salvation and the latter for the corruption of souls. Fray Salvi rarely resorted to blows, but was accustomed to punish every shortcoming of his subordinates with fines. In this respect he was very different from Padre Damaso, who had been accustomed to settle everything with his fists or a cane, administering such chastisement with the greatest good-will. For this, however, he should not be judged too harshly, as he was firm in the belief that the Indian could be managed only by beating him, just as was affirmed by a friar who knew enough to write books, and Padre Damaso never disputed anything that he saw in print, a credulity of which many might have reason to complain. Although Fray Salvi made little use of violence, yet, as an old wiseacre of the town said, what he lacked in quantity he made up in quality. But this should not be counted against him, for the fasts and abstinences thinned his blood and unstrung his nerves and, as the people said, the wind got into his head. Thus it came about that it was not possible to learn from the condition of the sacristans’ backs whether the curate was fasting or feasting.

The only rival of this spiritual power, with tendencies toward the temporal, was, as we have said, the alferez: the only one, since the women told how the devil himself would flee from the curate, because, having one day dared to tempt him, he was caught, tied to a bedpost, soundly whipped with a rope, and set at liberty only after nine days. As a consequence, any one who after this would still be the enemy of such a man, deserved to fall into worse repute than even the weak and unwary devils.

But the alferez deserved his fate. His wife was an old Filipina of abundant rouge and paint, known as Doña Consolacion—although her husband and some others called her by quite another name. The alferez revenged his conjugal misfortunes on his own person by getting so drunk that he made a tank of himself, or by ordering his soldiers to drill in the sun while he remained in the shade, or, more frequently, by beating up his consort, who, if she was not a lamb of God to take away one’s sins, at least served to lay up for her spouse many torments in Purgatory—if perchance he should get there, a matter of doubt to the devout women. As if for the fun of it, these two used to beat each other up beautifully, giving free shows to the neighborhood with vocal and instrumental accompaniments, four-handed, soft, loud, with pedal and all.

Whenever these scandals reached the ears of Padre Salvi, he would smile, cross himself, and recite a paternoster. They called him a grafter, a hypocrite, a Carlist, and a miser: he merely smiled and recited more prayers. The alferez had a little anecdote which he always related to the occasional Spaniards who visited him:

“Are you going over to the convento to visit the sanctimonious rascal there, the little curate? Yes! Well, if he offers you chocolate which I doubt—but if he offers it remember this: if he calls to the servant and says, ‘Juan, make a cup of chocolate, eh!’ then stay without fear; but if he calls out, ‘Juan, make a cup of chocolate, ah!’ then take your hat and leave on a run.”

“What!” the startled visitor would ask, “does he poison people? Carambas!

“No, man, not at all!”

“What then?”

“‘Chocolate, eh!’ means thick and rich, while ‘chocolate, ah!’ means watered and thin.”

But we are of the opinion that this was a slander on the part of the alferez, since the same story is told of many curates. At least, it may be a thing peculiar to the Order.

To make trouble for the curate, the soldier, at the instigation of his wife, would prohibit any one from walking abroad after nine o’clock at night. Doña Consolacion would then claim that she had seen the curate, disguised in a piña camisa and salakot, walking about late. Fray Salvi would take his revenge in a holy manner. Upon seeing the alferez enter the church he would innocently order the sacristan to close all the doors, and would then go up into the pulpit and preach until the very saints closed their eyes and even the wooden dove above his head, the image of the Holy Ghost, murmured for mercy. But the alferez, like all the unregenerate, did not change his ways for this; he would go away cursing, and as soon as he was able to catch a sacristan, or one of the curate’s servants, he would arrest him, give him a beating, and make him scrub the floor of the barracks and that of his own house, which at such times was put in a decent condition. On going to pay the fine imposed by the curate for his absence, the sacristan would explain the cause. Fray Salvi would listen in silence, take the money, and at once turn out his goats and sheep so that they might graze in the alferez’s garden, while he himself looked up a new text for another longer and more edifying sermon. But these were only little pleasantries, and if the two chanced to meet they would shake hands and converse politely.

When her husband was sleeping off the wine he had drunk, or was snoring through the siesta, and she could not quarrel with him, Doña Consolacion, in a blue flannel camisa, with a big cigar in her mouth, would take her stand at the window. She could not endure the young people, so from there she would scrutinize and mock the passing girls, who, being afraid of her, would hurry by in confusion, holding their breath the while, and not daring to raise their eyes. One great virtue Doña Consolation possessed, and this was that she had evidently never looked in a mirror.

These were the rulers of the town of San Diego. 

1 “Petty governor,” the chief municipal official, chosen annually from among their own number, with the approval of the parish priest and the central government, by the principalía, i.e., persons who owned considerable property or who had previously held some municipal office. The manner of his selection is thus described by a German traveler (Jagor) in the Philippines in 1860: “The election is held in the town hall. The governor or his representative presides, having on his right the parish priest and on his left a clerk, who also acts as interpreter. All the cabezas de barangay, the gobernadorcillo, and those who have formerly occupied the latter position, seat themselves on benches. First, there are chosen by lot six cabezas de barangay and six ex-gobernadorcillos as electors, the actual gobernadorcillo being the thirteenth. The rest leave the hall. After the presiding officer has read the statutes in a loud voice and reminded the electors of their duty to act in accordance with their consciences and to heed only the welfare of the town, the electors move to a table and write three names on a slip of paper. The person receiving a majority of votes is declared elected gobernadorcillo for the ensuing year, provided that there is no protest from the curate or the electors, and always conditioned upon the approval of the superior authority in Manila, which is never withheld, since the influence of the curate is enough to prevent an unsatisfactory election.”—TR.

Chapter XII All Saints

The one thing perhaps that indisputably distinguishes man from the brute creation is the attention which he pays to those who have passed away and, wonder of wonders! this characteristic seems to be more deeply rooted in proportion to the lack of civilization. Historians relate that the ancient inhabitants of the Philippines venerated and deified their ancestors; but now the contrary is true, and the dead have to entrust themselves to the living. It is also related that the people of New Guinea preserve the bones of their dead in chests and maintain communication with them. The greater part of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and America offer them the finest products of their kitchens or dishes of what was their favorite food when alive, and give banquets at which they believe them to be present. The Egyptians raised up palaces and the Mussulmans built shrines, but the masters in these things, those who have most clearly read the human heart, are the people of Dahomey. These negroes know that man is revengeful, so they consider that nothing will more content the dead than to sacrifice all his enemies upon his grave, and, as man is curious and may not know how to entertain himself in the other life, each year they send him a newsletter under the skin of a beheaded slave.

We ourselves differ from all the rest. In spite of the inscriptions on the tombs, hardly any one believes that the dead rest, and much less, that they rest in peace. The most optimistic fancies his forefathers still roasting in purgatory and, if it turns out that he himself be not completely damned, he will yet be able to associate with them for many years. If any one would contradict let him visit the churches and cemeteries of the country on All Saints’ day and he will be convinced.

Now that we are in San Diego let us visit its cemetery, which is located in the midst of paddy-fields, there toward the west—not a city, merely a village of the dead, approached by a path dusty in dry weather and navigable on rainy days. A wooden gate and a fence half of stone and half of bamboo stakes, appear to separate it from the abode of the living but not from the curate’s goats and some of the pigs of the neighborhood, who come and go making explorations among the tombs and enlivening the solitude with their presence. In the center of this enclosure rises a large wooden cross set on a stone pedestal. The storms have doubled over the tin plate for the inscription INRI, and the rains have effaced the letters. At the foot of the cross, as on the real Golgotha, is a confused heap of skulls and bones which the indifferent grave-digger has thrown from the graves he digs, and there they will probably await, not the resurrection of the dead, but the coming of the animals to defile them. Round about may be noted signs of recent excavations; here the earth is sunken, there it forms a low mound. There grow in all their luxuriance the tarambulo to prick the feet with its spiny berries and the pandakaki to add its odor to that of the cemetery, as if the place did not have smells enough already. Yet the ground is sprinkled with a few little flowers which, like those skulls, are known only to their Creator; their petals wear a pale smile and their fragrance is the fragrance of the tombs. The grass and creepers fill up the corners or climb over the walls and niches to cover and beautify the naked ugliness and in places even penetrate into the fissures made by the earthquakes, so as to hide from sight the revered hollowness of the sepulcher.

At the time we enter, the people have driven the animals away, with the single exception of some old hog, an animal that is hard to convince, who shows his small eyes and pulling back his head from a great gap in the fence, sticks up his snout and seems to say to a woman praying near, “Don’t eat it all, leave something for me, won’t you?”

Two men are digging a grave near one of the tottering walls. One of them, the grave-digger, works with indifference, throwing about bones as a gardener does stones and dry branches, while the other, more intent on his work, is perspiring, smoking, and spitting at every moment.

“Listen,” says the latter in Tagalog, “wouldn’t it be better for us to dig in some other place? This is too recent.”

“One grave is as recent as another.”

“I can’t stand it any longer! That bone you’re just cut in two has blood oozing from it—and those hairs?”

“But how sensitive you are!” was the other’s reproach. “Just as if you were a town clerk! If, like myself, you had dug up a corpse of twenty days, on a dark and rainy night—! My lantern went out—”

His companion shuddered.

“The coffin burst open, the corpse fell half-way out, it stunk—and supposing you had to carry it—the rain wet us both—”

“Ugh! And why did you dig it up?”

The grave-digger looked at him in surprise. “Why? How do I know? I was ordered to do so.”

“Who ordered you?”

The grave-digger stepped backward and looked his companion over from head to foot. “Man, you’re like a Spaniard, for afterwards a Spaniard asked me the same questions, but in secret. So I’m going to answer you as I answered the Spaniard: the fat curate ordered me to do so.”

“Ah! And what did you do with the corpse afterwards?” further questioned the sensitive one.

“The devil! If I didn’t know you and was not sure that you are a man I would say that you were certainly a Spaniard of the Civil Guard, since you ask questions just as he did. Well, the fat curate ordered me to bury it in the Chinamen’s cemetery, but the coffin was heavy and the Chinese cemetery far away—”

“No, no! I’m not going to dig any more!” the other interrupted in horror as he threw away his spade and jumped out of the hole. “I’ve cut a skull in two and I’m afraid that it won’t let me sleep tonight.” The old grave-digger laughed to see how the chicken-hearted fellow left, crossing himself.

The cemetery was filling up with men and women dressed in mourning. Some sought a grave for a time, disputing among themselves the while, and as if they were unable to agree, they scattered about, each kneeling where he thought best. Others, who had niches for their deceased relatives, lighted candles and fell to praying devoutly. Exaggerated or suppressed sighs and sobs were heard amid the hum of prayers, orapreo, orapreiss, requiem-aeternams, that arose from all sides.

A little old man with bright eyes entered bareheaded. Upon seeing him many laughed, and some women knitted their eyebrows. The old man did not seem to pay any attention to these demonstrations as he went toward a pile of skulls and knelt to look earnestly for something among the bones. Then he carefully removed the skulls one by one, but apparently without finding what he sought, for he wrinkled his brow, nodded his head from side to side, looked all about him, and finally rose and approached the grave-digger, who raised his head when the old man spoke to him.

“Do you know where there is a beautiful skull, white as the meat of a coconut, with a complete set of teeth, which I had there at the foot of the cross under those leaves?”

The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.

“Look!” added the old man, showing a silver coin, “I have only this, but I’ll give it to you if you find the skull for me.”

The gleam of the silver caused the grave-digger to consider, and staring toward the heap of bones he said, “Isn’t it there? No? Then I don’t know where it is.”

“Don’t you know? When those who owe me pay me, I’ll give you more,” continued the old man. “It was the skull of my wife, so if you find it for me—”

“Isn’t it there? Then I don’t know! But if you wish, I can give you another.”

“You’re like the grave you’re digging,” apostrophized the old man nervously. “You don’t know the value of what you lose. For whom is that grave?”

“How should I know?” replied the other in bad humor.

“For a corpse!”

“Like the grave, like the grave!” repeated the old man with a dry smile. “You don’t know what you throw away nor what you receive! Dig, dig on!” And he turned away in the direction of the gate.

Meanwhile, the grave-digger had completed his task, attested by the two mounds of fresh red earth at the sides of the grave. He took some buyo from his salakot and began to chew it while he stared stupidly at what was going on around him. 

Chapter XIII Signs of Storm

As the old man was leaving the cemetery there stopped at the head of the path a carriage which, from its dust-covered appearance and sweating horses, seemed to have come from a great distance. Followed by an aged servant, Ibarra left the carriage and dismissed it with a wave of his hand, then gravely and silently turned toward the cemetery.

“My illness and my duties have not permitted me to return,” said the old servant timidly. “Capitan Tiago promised that he would see that a niche was constructed, but I planted some flowers on the grave and set up a cross carved by my own hands.” Ibarra made no reply. “There behind that big cross, sir,” he added when they were well inside the gate, as he pointed to the place.

Ibarra was so intent upon his quest that he did not notice the movement of surprise on the part of the persons who recognized him and suspended their prayers to watch him curiously. He walked along carefully to avoid stepping on any of the graves, which were easily distinguishable by the hollow places in the soil. In other times he had walked on them carelessly, but now they were to be respected: his father lay among them. When he reached the large cross he stopped and looked all around. His companion stood confused and confounded, seeking some mark in the ground, but nowhere was any cross to be seen.

“Was it here?” he murmured through his teeth. “No, there! But the ground has been disturbed.”

Ibarra gave him a look of anguish.

“Yes,” he went on, “I remember that there was a stone near it. The grave was rather short. The grave-digger was sick, so a farmer had to dig it. But let’s ask that man what has become of the cross.”

They went over to where the grave-digger was watching them with curiosity. He removed his salakot respectfully as they approached.

“Can you tell me which is the grave there that had a cross over it?” asked the servant.

The grave-digger looked toward the place and reflected. “A big cross?”

“Yes, a big one!” affirmed the servant eagerly, with a significant look at Ibarra, whose face lighted up.

“A carved cross tied up with rattan?” continued the grave-digger.

“That’s it, that’s it, like this!” exclaimed the servant in answer as he drew on the ground the figure of a Byzantine cross.

“Were there flowers scattered on the grave?”

“Oleanders and tuberoses and forget-me-nots, yes!” the servant added joyfully, offering the grave-digger a cigar.

“Tell us which is the grave and where the cross is.”

The grave-digger scratched his ear and answered with a yawn: “Well, as for the cross, I burned it.”

“Burned it? Why did you burn it?”

“Because the fat curate ordered me to do so.”

“Who is the fat curate?” asked Ibarra.

“Who? Why, the one that beats people with a big cane.”

Ibarra drew his hand across his forehead. “But at least you can tell us where the grave is. You must remember that.”

The grave-digger smiled as he answered quietly, “But the corpse is no longer there.”

“What’s that you’re saying?”

“Yes,” continued the grave-digger in a half-jesting tone. “I buried a woman in that place a week ago.”

“Are you crazy?” cried the servant. “It hasn’t been a year since we buried him.”

“That’s very true, but a good many months ago I dug the body up. The fat curate ordered me to do so and to take it to the cemetery of the Chinamen. But as it was heavy and there was rain that night—”

He was stopped by the threatening attitude of Ibarra, who had caught him by the arm and was shaking him. “Did you do that?” demanded the youth in an indescribable tone.

“Don’t be angry, sir,” stammered the pale and trembling grave-digger. “I didn’t bury him among the Chinamen. Better be drowned than lie among Chinamen, I said to myself, so I threw the body into the lake.”

Ibarra placed both his hands on the grave-digger’s shoulders and stared at him for a long time with an indefinable expression. Then, with the ejaculation, “You are only a miserable slave!” he turned away hurriedly, stepping upon bones, graves, and crosses, like one beside himself.

The grave-digger patted his arm and muttered, “All the trouble dead men cause! The fat padre caned me for allowing it to be buried while I was sick, and this fellow almost tore my arm off for having dug it up. That’s what these Spaniards are! I’ll lose my job yet!”

Ibarra walked rapidly with a far-away look in his eyes, while the aged servant followed him weeping. The sun was setting, and over the eastern sky was flung a heavy curtain of clouds. A dry wind shook the tree-tops and made the bamboo clumps creak. Ibarra went bareheaded, but no tear wet his eyes nor did any sigh escape from his breast. He moved as if fleeing from something, perhaps the shade of his father, perhaps the approaching storm. He crossed through the town to the outskirts on the opposite side and turned toward the old house which he had not entered for so many years. Surrounded by a cactus-covered wall it seemed to beckon to him with its open windows, while the ilang-ilang waved its flower-laden branches joyfully and the doves circled about the conical roof of their cote in the middle of the garden.

But the youth gave no heed to these signs of welcome back to his old home, his eyes being fixed on the figure of a priest approaching from the opposite direction. It was the curate of San Diego, the pensive Franciscan whom we have seen before, the rival of the alferez. The breeze folded back the brim of his wide hat and blew his guingón habit closely about him, revealing the outlines of his body and his thin, curved thighs. In his right hand he carried an ivory-headed palasan cane.

This was the first time that he and Ibarra had met. When they drew near each other Ibarra stopped and gazed at him from head to foot; Fray Salvi avoided the look and tried to appear unconcerned. After a moment of hesitation Ibarra went up to him quickly and dropping a heavy hand on his shoulder, asked in a husky voice, “What did you do with my father?”

Fray Salvi, pale and trembling as he read the deep feelings that flushed the youth’s face, could not answer; he seemed paralyzed.

“What did you do with my father?” again demanded the youth in a choking voice.

The priest, who was gradually being forced to his knees by the heavy hand that pressed upon his shoulder, made a great effort and answered, “You are mistaken, I did nothing to your father.”

“You didn’t?” went on the youth, forcing him down upon his knees.

“No, I assure you! It was my predecessor, it was Padre Damaso!”

“Ah!” exclaimed the youth, releasing his hold, and clapping his hand desperately to his brow; then, leaving poor Fray Salvi, he turned away and hurried toward his house. The old servant came up and helped the friar to his feet. 

Chapter XIV Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

The peculiar old man wandered about the streets aimlessly. A former student of philosophy, he had given up his career in obedience to his mother’s wishes and not from any lack of means or ability. Quite the contrary, it was because his mother was rich and he was said to possess talent. The good woman feared that her son would become learned and forget God, so she had given him his choice of entering the priesthood or leaving college. Being in love, he chose the latter course and married. Then having lost both his wife and his mother within a year, he sought consolation in his books in order to free himself from sorrow, the cockpit, and the dangers of idleness. He became so addicted to his studies and the purchase of books, that he entirely neglected his fortune and gradually ruined himself. Persons of culture called him Don Anastasio, or Tasio the Sage, while the great crowd of the ignorant knew him as Tasio the Lunatic, on account of his peculiar ideas and his eccentric manner of dealing with others.

As we said before, the evening threatened to be stormy. The lightning flashed its pale rays across the leaden sky, the air was heavy and the slight breeze excessively sultry. Tasio had apparently already forgotten his beloved skull, and now he was smiling as he looked at the dark clouds. Near the church he met a man wearing an alpaca coat, who carried in one hand a large bundle of candles and in the other a tasseled cane, the emblem of his office as gobernadorcillo.

“You seem to be merry?” he greeted Tasio in Tagalog.

“Truly I am, señor capitan, I’m merry because I hope for something.”

“Ah? What do you hope for?”

“The storm!”

“The storm? Are you thinking of taking a bath?” asked the gobernadorcillo in a jesting way as he stared at the simple attire of the old man.

“A bath? That’s not a bad idea, especially when one has just stumbled over some trash!” answered Tasio in a similar, though somewhat more offensive tone, staring at the other’s face. “But I hope for something better.”

“What, then?”

“Some thunderbolts that will kill people and burn down houses,” returned the Sage seriously.

“Why don’t you ask for the deluge at once?”

“We all deserve it, even you and I! You, señor gobernadorcillo, have there a bundle of tapers that came from some Chinese shop, yet this now makes the tenth year that I have been proposing to each new occupant of your office the purchase of lightning-rods. Every one laughs at me, and buys bombs and rockets and pays for the ringing of bells. Even you yourself, on the day after I made my proposition, ordered from the Chinese founders a bell in honor of St. Barbara,1 when science has shown that it is dangerous to ring the bells during a storm. Explain to me why in the year ’70, when lightning struck in Biñan, it hit the very church tower and destroyed the clock and altar. What was the bell of St. Barbara doing then?”

At the moment there was a vivid flash. “Jesús, María, y José! Holy St. Barbara!” exclaimed the gobernadorcillo, turning pale and crossing himself.

Tasio burst out into a loud laugh. “You are worthy of your patroness,” he remarked dryly in Spanish as he turned his back and went toward the church.

Inside, the sacristans were preparing a catafalque, bordered with candles placed in wooden sockets. Two large tables had been placed one above the other and covered with black cloth across which ran white stripes, with here and there a skull painted on it.

“Is that for the souls or for the candles?” inquired the old man, but noticing two boys, one about ten and the other seven, he turned to them without awaiting an answer from the sacristans.

“Won’t you come with me, boys?” he asked them. “Your mother has prepared a supper for you fit for a curate.”

“The senior sacristan will not let us leave until eight o’clock, sir,” answered the larger of the two boys. “I expect to get my pay to give it to our mother.”

“Ah! And where are you going now?”

“To the belfry, sir, to ring the knell for the souls.”

“Going to the belfry! Then take care! Don’t go near the bells during the storm!”

Tasio then left the church, not without first bestowing a look of pity on the two boys, who were climbing the stairway into the organ-loft. He passed his hand over his eyes, looked at the sky again, and murmured, “Now I should be sorry if thunderbolts should fall.” With his head bowed in thought he started toward the outskirts of the town.

“Won’t you come in?” invited a voice in Spanish from a window.

The Sage raised his head and saw a man of thirty or thirty-five years of age smiling at him.

“What are you reading there?” asked Tasio, pointing to a book the man held in his hand.

“A work just published: ‘The Torments Suffered by the Blessed Souls in Purgatory,’” the other answered with a smile.

“Man, man, man!” exclaimed the Sage in an altered tone as he entered the house. “The author must be a very clever person.”

Upon reaching the top of the stairway, he was cordially received by the master of the house, Don Filipo Lino, and his young wife, Doña Teodora Viña. Don Filipo was the teniente-mayor of the town and leader of one of the parties—the liberal faction, if it be possible to speak so, and if there exist parties in the towns of the Philippines.

“Did you meet in the cemetery the son of the deceased Don Rafael, who has just returned from Europe?”

“Yes, I saw him as he alighted from his carriage.”

“They say that he went to look for his father’s grave. It must have been a terrible blow.”

The Sage shrugged his shoulders.

“Doesn’t such a misfortune affect you?” asked the young wife.

“You know very well that I was one of the six who accompanied the body, and it was I who appealed to the Captain-General when I saw that no one, not even the authorities, said anything about such an outrage, although I always prefer to honor a good man in life rather than to worship him after his death.”

“Well?”

“But, madam, I am not a believer in hereditary monarchy. By reason of the Chinese blood which I have received from my mother I believe a little like the Chinese: I honor the father on account of the son and not the son on account of the father. I believe that each one should receive the reward or punishment for his own deeds, not for those of another.”

“Did you order a mass said for your dead wife, as I advised you yesterday?” asked the young woman, changing the subject of conversation.

“No,” answered the old man with a smile.

“What a pity!” she exclaimed with unfeigned regret.

“They say that until ten o’clock tomorrow the souls will wander at liberty, awaiting the prayers of the living, and that during these days one mass is equivalent to five on other days of the year, or even to six, as the curate said this morning.”

“What! Does that mean that we have a period without paying, which we should take advantage of?”

“But, Doray,” interrupted Don Filipo, “you know that Don Anastasio doesn’t believe in purgatory.”

“I don’t believe in purgatory!” protested the old man, partly rising from his seat. “Even when I know something of its history!”

“The history of purgatory!” exclaimed the couple, full of surprise. “Come, relate it to us.”

“You don’t know it and yet you order masses and talk about its torments? Well, as it has begun to rain and threatens to continue, we shall have time to relieve the monotony,” replied Tasio, falling into a thoughtful mood.

Don Filipo closed the book which he held in his hand and Doray sat down at his side determined not to believe anything that the old man was about to say.

The latter began in the following manner: “Purgatory existed long before Our Lord came into the world and must have been located in the center of the earth, according to Padre Astete; or somewhere near Cluny, according to the monk of whom Padre Girard tells us. But the location is of least importance here. Now then, who were scorching in those fires that had been burning from the beginning of the world? Its very ancient existence is proved by Christian philosophy, which teaches that God has created nothing new since he rested.”

“But it could have existed in potentia and not in actu,”2 observed Don Filipo.

“Very well! But yet I must answer that some knew of it and as existing in actu. One of these was Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, who wrote part of the Zend-Avesta and founded a religion which in some points resembles ours, and Zarathustra, according to the scholars, flourished at least eight hundred years before Christ. I say ‘at least,’ since Gaffarel, after examining the testimony of Plato, Xanthus of Lydia, Pliny, Hermippus, and Eudoxus, believes it to have been two thousand five hundred years before our era. However that may be, it is certain that Zarathustra talked of a kind of purgatory and showed ways of getting free from it. The living could redeem the souls of those who died in sin by reciting passages from the Avesta and by doing good works, but under the condition that the person offering the petitions should be a relative, up to the fourth generation. The time for this occurred every year and lasted five days. Later, when this belief had become fixed among the people, the priests of that religion saw in it a chance of profit and so they exploited ‘the deep and dark prison where remorse reigns,’ as Zarathustra called it. They declared that by the payment of a small coin it was possible to save a soul from a year of torture, but as in that religion there were sins punishable by three hundred to a thousand years of suffering, such as lying, faithlessness, failure to keep one’s word, and so on, it resulted that the rascals took in countless sums. Here you will observe something like our purgatory, if you take into account the differences in the religions.”

A vivid flash of lightning, followed by rolling thunder, caused Doray to start up and exclaim, as she crossed herself: “Jesús, María, y José! I’m going to leave you, I’m going to burn some sacred palm and light candles of penitence.”

The rain began to fall in torrents. The Sage Tasio, watching the young woman leave, continued: “Now that she is not here, we can consider this matter more rationally. Doray, even though a little superstitious, is a good Catholic, and I don’t care to root out the faith from her heart. A pure and simple faith is as distinct from fanaticism as the flame from smoke or music from discords: only the fools and the deaf confuse them. Between ourselves we can say that the idea of purgatory is good, holy, and rational. It perpetuates the union of those who were and those who are, leading thus to greater purity of life. The evil is in its abuse.

“But let us now see where Catholicism got this idea, which does not exist in the Old Testament nor in the Gospels. Neither Moses nor Christ made the slightest mention of it, and the single passage which is cited from Maccabees is insufficient. Besides, this book was declared apocryphal by the Council of Laodicea and the holy Catholic Church accepted it only later. Neither have the pagan religions anything like it. The oft-quoted passage in Virgil, Aliae panduntur inanes,3 which probably gave occasion for St. Gregory the Great to speak of drowned souls, and to Dante for another narrative in his Divine Comedy, cannot have been the origin of this belief. Neither the Brahmins, the Buddhists, nor the Egyptians, who may have given Rome her Charon and her Avernus, had anything like this idea. I won’t speak now of the religions of northern Europe, for they were religions of warriors, bards, and hunters, and not of philosophers. While they yet preserve their beliefs and even their rites under Christian forms, they were unable to accompany the hordes in the spoliation of Rome or to seat themselves on the Capitoline; the religions of the mists were dissipated by the southern sun. Now then, the early Christians did not believe in a purgatory but died in the blissful confidence of shortly seeing God face to face. Apparently the first fathers of the Church who mentioned it were St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Irenaeus, who were all perhaps influenced by Zarathustra’s religion, which still flourished and was widely spread throughout the East, since at every step we read reproaches against Origen’s Orientalism. St. Irenaeus proved its existence by the fact that Christ remained ‘three days in the depths of the earth,’ three days of purgatory, and deduced from this that every soul must remain there until the resurrection of the body, although the ‘Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso4 seems to contradict it. St. Augustine also speaks of purgatory and, if not affirming its existence, yet he did not believe it impossible, conjecturing that in another existence there might continue the punishments that we receive in this life for our sins.”

“The devil with St. Augustine!” ejaculated Don Filipo. “He wasn’t satisfied with what we suffer here but wished a continuance.”

“Well, so it went” some believed it and others didn’t. Although St. Gregory finally came to admit it in his de quibusdam levibus culpis esse ante judicium purgatorius ignis credendus est,5 yet nothing definite was done until the year 1439, that is, eight centuries later, when the Council of Florence declared that there must exist a purifying fire for the souls of those who have died in the love of God but without having satisfied divine Justice. Lastly, the Council of Trent under Pius IV in 1563, in the twenty-fifth session, issued the purgatorial decree beginning Cura catholica ecclesia, Spiritu Santo edocta, wherein it deduces that, after the office of the mass, the petitions of the living, their prayers, alms, and other pious works are the surest means of freeing the souls. Nevertheless, the Protestants do not believe in it nor do the Greek Fathers, since they reject any Biblical authority for it and say that our responsibility ends with death, and that the ‘Quodcumque ligaberis in terra,’6 does not mean ‘usque ad purgatorium,7 but to this the answer can be made that since purgatory is located in the center of the earth it fell naturally under the control of St. Peter. But I should never get through if I had to relate all that has been said on the subject. Any day that you wish to discuss the matter with me, come to my house and there we will consult the books and talk freely and quietly.

“Now I must go. I don’t understand why Christian piety permits robbery on this night—and you, the authorities, allow it—and I fear for my books. If they should steal them to read I wouldn’t object, but I know that there are many who wish to burn them in order to do for me an act of charity, and such charity, worthy of the Caliph Omar, is to be dreaded. Some believe that on account of those books I am already damned—”

“But I suppose that you do believe in damnation?” asked Doray with a smile, as she appeared carrying in a brazier the dry palm leaves, which gave off a peculiar smoke and an agreeable odor.

“I don’t know, madam, what God will do with me,” replied the old man thoughtfully. “When I die I will commit myself to Him without fear and He may do with me what He wishes. But a thought strikes me!”

“What thought is that?”

“If the only ones who can be saved are the Catholics, and of them only five per cent—as many curates say—and as the Catholics form only a twelfth part of the population of the world—if we believe what statistics show—it would result that after damning millions and millions of men during the countless ages that passed before the Saviour came to the earth, after a Son of God has died for us, it is now possible to save only five in every twelve hundred. That cannot be so! I prefer to believe and say with Job: ‘Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro, and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?’ No, such a calamity is impossible and to believe it is blasphemy!”

“What do you wish? Divine Justice, divine Purity—”

“Oh, but divine Justice and divine Purity saw the future before the creation,” answered the old man, as he rose shuddering. “Man is an accidental and not a necessary part of creation, and that God cannot have created him, no indeed, only to make a few happy and condemn hundreds to eternal misery, and all in a moment, for hereditary faults! No! If that be true, strangle your baby son sleeping there! If such a belief were not a blasphemy against that God, who must be the Highest Good, then the Phenician Moloch, which was appeased with human sacrifices and innocent blood, and in whose belly were burned the babes torn from their mothers’ breasts, that bloody deity, that horrible divinity, would be by the side of Him a weak girl, a friend, a mother of humanity!”

Horrified, the Lunatic—or the Sage—left the house and ran along the street in spite of the rain and the darkness. A lurid flash, followed by frightful thunder and filling the air with deadly currents, lighted the old man as he stretched his hand toward the sky and cried out: “Thou protestest! I know that Thou art not cruel, I know that I must only name Thee Good!”

The flashes of lightning became more frequent and the storm increased in violence. 

1 St. Barbara is invoked during thunder-storms as the special protectress against lightning.—TR.

2 In possibility (i.e., latent) and not: in fact.—TR.

3    “For this are various penances enjoined;
      And some are hung to bleach upon the wind;
      Some plunged in waters, others purged in fires,
      Till all the dregs are drained, and all the rust expires.”

Dryden, Virgil’s Aeneid, VI.

4 “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”—Luke xxiii, 43.

5 It should be believed that for some light faults there is a purgatorial fire before the judgment.

6 Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth.—Matt, xvi, 19.

7 Even up to purgatory.

Chapter XV The Sacristans

The thunder resounded, roar following close upon roar, each preceded’ by a blinding flash of zigzag lightning, so that it might have been said that God was writing his name in fire and that the eternal arch of heaven was trembling with fear. The rain, whipped about in a different direction each moment by the mournfully whistling wind, fell in torrents. With a voice full of fear the bells sounded their sad supplication, and in the brief pauses between the roars of the unchained elements tolled forth sorrowful peals, like plaintive groans.

On the second floor of the church tower were the two boys whom we saw talking to the Sage. The younger, a child of seven years with large black eyes and a timid countenance, was huddling close to his brother, a boy of ten, whom he greatly resembled in features, except that the look on the elder’s face was deeper and firmer.

Both were meanly dressed in clothes full of rents and patches. They sat upon a block of wood, each holding the end of a rope which extended upward and was lost amid the shadows above. The wind-driven rain reached them and snuffed the piece of candle burning dimly on the large round stone that was used to furnish the thunder on Good Friday by being rolled around the gallery.

“Pull on the rope, Crispin, pull!” cried the elder to his little brother, who did as he was told, so that from above was heard a faint peal, instantly drowned out by the reechoing thunder.

“Oh, if we were only at home now with mother,” sighed the younger, as he gazed at his brother. “There I shouldn’t be afraid.”

The elder did not answer; he was watching the melting wax of the candle, apparently lost in thought.

“There no one would say that I stole,” went on Crispin. “Mother wouldn’t allow it. If she knew that they whip me—”

The elder took his gaze from the flame, raised his head, and clutching the thick rope pulled violently on it so that a sonorous peal of the bells was heard.

“Are we always going to live this way, brother?” continued Crispin. “I’d like to get sick at home tomorrow, I’d like to fall into a long sickness so that mother might take care of me and not let me come back to the convento. So I’d not be called a thief nor would they whip me. And you too, brother, you must get sick with me.”

“No,” answered the older, “we should all die: mother of grief and we of hunger.”

Crispin remained silent for a moment, then asked, “How much will you get this month?”

“Two pesos. They’re fined me twice.”

“Then pay what they say I’ve stolen, so that they won’t call us thieves. Pay it, brother!”

“Are you crazy, Crispin? Mother wouldn’t have anything to eat. The senior sacristan says that you’ve stolen two gold pieces, and they’re worth thirty-two pesos.”

The little one counted on his fingers up to thirty-two. “Six hands and two fingers over and each finger a peso!” he murmured thoughtfully. “And each peso, how many cuartos?”

“A hundred and sixty.”

“A hundred and sixty cuartos? A hundred and sixty times a cuarto? Goodness! And how many are a hundred and sixty?”

“Thirty-two hands,” answered the older.

Crispin looked hard at his little hands. “Thirty-two hands,” he repeated, “six hands and two fingers over and each finger thirty-two hands and each finger a cuarto—goodness, what a lot of cuartos! I could hardly count them in three days; and with them could be bought shoes for our feet, a hat for my head when the sun shines hot, a big umbrella for the rain, and food, and clothes for you and mother, and—” He became silent and thoughtful again.

“Now I’m sorry that I didn’t steal!” he soon exclaimed.

“Crispin!” reproached his brother.

“Don’t get angry! The curate has said that he’ll beat me to death if the money doesn’t appear, and if I had stolen it I could make it appear. Anyhow, if I died you and mother would at least have clothes. Oh, if I had only stolen it!”

The elder pulled on the rope in silence. After a time he replied with a sigh: “What I’m afraid of is that mother will scold you when she knows about it.”

“Do you think so?” asked the younger with astonishment. “You will tell her that they’re whipped me and I’ll show the welts on my back and my torn pocket. I had only one cuarto, which was given to me last Easter, but the curate took that away from me yesterday. I never saw a prettier cuarto! No, mother won’t believe it.”

“If the curate says so—”

Crispin began to cry, murmuring between his sobs, “Then go home alone! I don’t want to go. Tell mother that I’m sick. I don’t want to go.”

“Crispin, don’t cry!” pleaded the elder. “Mother won’t believe it—don’t cry! Old Tasio told us that a fine supper is waiting for us.”

“A fine supper! And I haven’t eaten for a long time. They won’t give me anything to eat until the two gold pieces appear. But, if mother believes it? You must tell her that the senior sacristan is a liar but that the curate believes him and that all of them are liars, that they say that we’re thieves because our father is a vagabond who—”

At that instant a head appeared at the top of the stairway leading down to the floor below, and that head, like Medusa’s, froze the words on the child’s lips. It was a long, narrow head covered with black hair, with blue glasses concealing the fact that one eye was sightless. The senior sacristan was accustomed to appear thus without noise or warning of any kind. The two brothers turned cold with fear.

“On you, Basilio, I impose a fine of two reals for not ringing the bells in time,” he said in a voice so hollow that his throat seemed to lack vocal chords. “You, Crispin, must stay tonight, until what you stole reappears.”

Crispin looked at his brother as if pleading for protection.

“But we already have permission—mother expects us at eight o’clock,” objected Basilio timidly.

“Neither shall you go home at eight, you’ll stay until ten.”

“But, sir, after nine o’clock no one is allowed to be out and our house is far from here.”

“Are you trying to give me orders?” growled the man irritably, as he caught Crispin by the arm and started to drag him away.

“Oh, sir, it’s been a week now since we’re seen our mother,” begged Basilio, catching hold of his brother as if to defend him.

The senior sacristan struck his hand away and jerked at Crispin, who began to weep as he fell to the floor, crying out to his brother, “Don’t leave me, they’re going to kill me!”

The sacristan gave no heed to this and dragged him on to the stairway. As they disappeared among the shadows below Basilio stood speechless, listening to the sounds of his brother’s body striking against the steps. Then followed the sound of a blow and heartrending cries that died away in the distance.

The boy stood on tiptoe, hardly breathing and listening fixedly, with his eyes unnaturally wide and his fists clenched. “When shall I be strong enough to plow a field?” he muttered between his teeth as he started below hastily. Upon reaching the organ-loft he paused to listen; the voice of his brother was fast dying away in the distance and the cries of “Mother! Brother!” were at last completely cut off by the sound of a closing door. Trembling and perspiring, he paused for a moment with his fist in his mouth to keep down a cry of anguish. He let his gaze wander about the dimly lighted church where an oil-lamp gave a ghostly light, revealing the catafalque in the center. The doors were closed and fastened, and the windows had iron bars on them. Suddenly he reascended the stairway to the place where the candle was burning and then climbed up into the third floor of the belfry. After untying the ropes from the bell-clappers he again descended. He was pale and his eyes glistened, but not with tears.

Meanwhile, the rain was gradually ceasing and the sky was clearing. Basilio knotted the ropes together, tied one end to a rail of the balustrade, and without even remembering to put out the light let himself down into the darkness outside. A few moments later voices were heard on one of the streets of the town, two shots resounded, but no one seemed to be alarmed and silence again reigned.

Chapter XVI Sisa

Through the dark night the villagers slept. The families who had remembered their dead gave themselves up to quiet and satisfied sleep, for they had recited their requiems, the novena of the souls, and had burned many wax tapers before the sacred images. The rich and powerful had discharged the duties their positions imposed upon them. On the following day they would hear three masses said by each priest and would give two pesos for another, besides buying a bull of indulgences for the dead. Truly, divine justice is not nearly so exacting as human.

But the poor and indigent who earn scarcely enough to keep themselves alive and who also have to pay tribute to the petty officials, clerks, and soldiers, that they may be allowed to live in peace, sleep not so tranquilly as gentle poets who have perhaps not felt the pinches of want would have us believe. The poor are sad and thoughtful, for on that night, if they have not recited many prayers, yet they have prayed much—with pain in their eyes and tears in their hearts. They have not the novenas, nor do they know the responsories, versicles, and prayers which the friars have composed for those who lack original ideas and feelings, nor do they understand them. They pray in the language of their misery: their souls weep for them and for those dead beings whose love was their wealth. Their lips may proffer the salutations, but their minds cry out complaints, charged with lamentations. Wilt Thou be satisfied, O Thou who blessedst poverty, and you, O suffering souls, with the simple prayers of the poor, offered before a rude picture in the light of a dim wick, or do you perhaps desire wax tapers before bleeding Christs and Virgins with small mouths and crystal eyes, and masses in Latin recited mechanically by priests? And thou, Religion preached for suffering humanity, hast thou forgotten thy mission of consoling the oppressed in their misery and of humiliating the powerful in their pride? Hast thou now promises only for the rich, for those who, can pay thee?

The poor widow watches among the children who sleep at her side. She is thinking of the indulgences that she ought to buy for the repose of the souls of her parents and of her dead husband. “A peso,” she says, “a peso is a week of happiness for my children, a week of laughter and joy, my savings for a month, a dress for my daughter who is becoming a woman.” “But it is necessary that you put aside these worldly desires,” says the voice that she heard in the pulpit, “it is necessary that you make sacrifices.” Yes, it is necessary. The Church does not gratuitously save the beloved souls for you nor does it distribute indulgences without payment. You must buy them, so tonight instead of sleeping you should work. Think of your daughter, so poorly clothed! Fast, for heaven is dear! Decidedly, it seems that the poor enter not into heaven. Such thoughts wander through the space enclosed between the rough mats spread out on the bamboo floor and the ridge of the roof, from which hangs the hammock wherein the baby swings. The infant’s breathing is easy and peaceful, but from time to time he swallows and smacks his lips; his hungry stomach, which is not satisfied with what his older brothers have given him, dreams of eating.

The cicadas chant monotonously, mingling their ceaseless notes with the trills of the cricket hidden in the grass, or the chirp of the little lizard which has come out in search of food, while the big gekko, no longer fearing the water, disturbs the concert with its ill-omened voice as it shows its head from out the hollow of the decayed tree-trunk.

The dogs howl mournfully in the streets and superstitious folk, hearing them, are convinced that they see spirits and ghosts. But neither the dogs nor the other animals see the sorrows of men—yet how many of these exist!

Distant from the town an hour’s walk lives the mother of Basilio and Crispin. The wife of a heartless man, she struggles to live for her sons, while her husband is a vagrant gamester with whom her interviews are rare but always painful. He has gradually stripped her of her few jewels to pay the cost of his vices, and when the suffering Sisa no longer had anything that he might take to satisfy his whims, he had begun to maltreat her. Weak in character, with more heart than intellect, she knew only how to love and to weep. Her husband was a god and her sons were his angels, so he, knowing to what point he was loved and feared, conducted himself like all false gods: daily he became more cruel, more inhuman, more wilful. Once when he had appeared with his countenance gloomier than ever before, Sisa had consulted him about the plan of making a sacristan of Basilio, and he had merely continued to stroke his game-cock, saying neither yes nor no, only asking whether the boy would earn much money. She had not dared to insist, but her needy situation and her desire that the boys should learn to read and write in the town school forced her to carry out the plan. Still her husband had said nothing.

That night, between ten and eleven o’clock, when the stars were glittering in a sky now cleared of all signs of the storm of the early evening, Sisa sat on a wooden bench watching some fagots that smouldered upon the fireplace fashioned of rough pieces of natural rock. Upon a tripod, or tunko, was a small pot of boiling rice and upon the red coals lay three little dried fishes such as are sold at three for two cuartos. Her chin rested in the palm of her hand while she gazed at the weak yellow glow peculiar to the cane, which burns rapidly and leaves embers that quickly grow pale. A sad smile lighted up her face as she recalled a funny riddle about the pot and the fire which Crispin had once propounded to her. The boy said: “The black man sat down and the red man looked at him, a moment passed, and cock-a-doodle-doo rang forth.”

Sisa was still young, and it was plain that at one time she had been pretty and attractive. Her eyes, which, like her disposition, she had given to her sons, were beautiful, with long lashes and a deep look. Her nose was regular and her pale lips curved pleasantly. She was what the Tagalogs call kayumanguing-kaligátan; that is, her color was a clear, pure brown. In spite of her youthfulness, pain and perhaps even hunger had begun to make hollow her pallid cheeks, and if her abundant hair, in other times the delight and adornment of her person, was even yet simply and neatly arranged, though without pins or combs, it was not from coquetry but from habit.

Sisa had been for several days confined to the house sewing upon some work which had been ordered for the earliest possible time. In order to earn the money, she had not attended mass that morning, as it would have taken two hours at least to go to the town and return: poverty obliges one to sin! She had finished the work and delivered it but had received only a promise of payment. All that day she had been anticipating the pleasures of the evening, for she knew that her sons were coming and she had intended to make them some presents. She had bought some small fishes, picked the most beautiful tomatoes in her little garden, as she knew that Crispin was very fond of them, and begged from a neighbor, old Tasio the Sage, who lived half a mile away, some slices of dried wild boar’s meat and a leg of wild duck, which Basilio especially liked. Full of hope, she had cooked the whitest of rice, which she herself had gleaned from the threshing-floors. It was indeed a curate’s meal for the poor boys.

But by an unfortunate chance her husband came and ate the rice, the slices of wild boar’s meat, the duck leg, five of the little fishes, and the tomatoes. Sisa said nothing, although she felt as if she herself were being eaten. His hunger at length appeased, he remembered to ask for the boys. Then Sisa smiled happily and resolved that she would not eat that night, because what remained was not enough for three. The father had asked for their sons and that for her was better than eating.

Soon he picked up his game-cock and started away.

“Don’t you want to see them?” she asked tremulously. “Old Tasio told me that they would be a little late. Crispin now knows how to read and perhaps Basilio will bring his wages.”

This last reason caused the husband to pause and waver, but his good angel triumphed. “In that case keep a peso for me,” he said as he went away.

Sisa wept bitterly, but the thought of her sons soon dried her tears. She cooked some more rice and prepared the only three fishes that were left: each would have one and a half. “They’ll have good appetites,” she mused, “the way is long and hungry stomachs have no heart.”

So she sat, he ear strained to catch every sound, listening to the lightest footfalls: strong and clear, Basilio; light and irregular, Crispin—thus she mused. The kalao called in the woods several times after the rain had ceased, but still her sons did not come. She put the fishes inside the pot to keep them warm and went to the threshold of the hut to look toward the road. To keep herself company, she began to sing in a low voice, a voice usually so sweet and tender that when her sons listened to her singing the kundíman they wept without knowing why, but tonight it trembled and the notes were halting. She stopped singing and gazed earnestly into the darkness, but no one was coming from the town—that noise was only the wind shaking the raindrops from the wide banana leaves.

Suddenly a black dog appeared before her dragging something along the path. Sisa was frightened but caught up a stone and threw it at the dog, which ran away howling mournfully. She was not superstitious, but she had heard so much about presentiments and black dogs that terror seized her. She shut the door hastily and sat down by the light. Night favors credulity and the imagination peoples the air with specters. She tried to pray, to call upon the Virgin and upon God to watch over her sons, especially her little Crispin. Then she forgot her prayers as her thoughts wandered to think about them, to recall the features of each, those features that always wore a smile for her both asleep and awake. Suddenly she felt her hair rise on her head and her eyes stared wildly; illusion or reality, she saw Crispin standing by the fireplace, there where he was wont to sit and prattle to her, but now he said nothing as he gazed at her with those large, thoughtful eyes, and smiled.

“Mother, open the door! Open, mother!” cried the voice of Basilio from without.

Sisa shuddered violently and the vision disappeared. 

Chapter XVII Basilio

La vida es sueño.

Basilio was scarcely inside when he staggered and fell into his mother’s arms. An inexplicable chill seized Sisa as she saw him enter alone. She wanted to speak but could make no sound; she wanted to embrace her son but lacked the strength; to weep was impossible. At sight of the blood which covered the boy’s forehead she cried in a tone that seemed to come from a breaking heart, “My sons!”

“Don’t be afraid, mother,” Basilio reassured her. “Crispin stayed at the convento.”

“At the convento? He stayed at the convento? Is he alive?”

The boy raised his eyes to her. “Ah!” she sighed, passing from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy. She wept and embraced her son, covering his bloody forehead with kisses.

“Crispin is alive! You left him at the convento! But why are you wounded, my son? Have you had a fall?” she inquired, as she examined him anxiously.

“The senior sacristan took Crispin away and told me that I could not leave until ten o’clock, but it was already late and so I ran away. In the town the soldiers challenged me, I started to run, they fired, and a bullet grazed my forehead. I was afraid they would arrest me and beat me and make me scrub out the barracks, as they did with Pablo, who is still sick from it.”

“My God, my God!” murmured his mother, shuddering. “Thou hast saved him!” Then while she sought for bandages, water, vinegar, and a feather, she went on, “A finger’s breadth more and they would have killed you, they would have killed my boy! The civil-guards do not think of the mothers.”

“You must say that I fell from a tree so that no one will know they chased me,” Basilio cautioned her.

“Why did Crispin stay?” asked Sisa, after dressing her son’s wound.

Basilio hesitated a few moments, then with his arms about her and their tears mingling, he related little by little the story of the gold pieces, without speaking, however, of the tortures they were inflicting upon his young brother.

“My good Crispin! To accuse my good Crispin! It’s because we’re poor and we poor people have to endure everything!” murmured Sisa, staring through her tears at the light of the lamp, which was now dying out from lack of oil. So they remained silent for a while.

“Haven’t you had any supper yet? Here are rice and fish.”

“I don’t want anything, only a little water.”

“Yes,” answered his mother sadly, “I know that you don’t like dried fish. I had prepared something else, but your father came.”

“Father came?” asked Basilio, instinctively examining the face and hands of his mother.

The son’s questioning gaze pained Sisa’s heart, for she understood it only too well, so she added hastily: “He came and asked a lot about you and wanted to see you, and he was very hungry. He said that if you continued to be so good he would come back to stay with us.”

An exclamation of disgust from Basilio’s contracted lips interrupted her. “Son!” she reproached him.

“Forgive me, mother,” he answered seriously. “But aren’t we three better off—you, Crispin, and I? You’re crying—I haven’t said anything.”

Sisa sighed and asked, “Aren’t you going to eat? Then let’s go to sleep, for it’s now very late.” She then closed up the hut and covered the few coals with ashes so that the fire would not die out entirely, just as a man does with his inner feelings; he covers them with the ashes of his life, which he calls indifference, so that they may not be deadened by daily contact with his fellows.

Basilio murmured his prayers and lay down near his mother, who was upon her knees praying. He felt hot and cold, he tried to close his eyes as he thought of his little brother who that night had expected to sleep in his mother’s lap and who now was probably trembling with terror and weeping in some dark corner of the convento. His ears were again pierced with those cries he had heard in the church tower. But wearied nature soon began to confuse his ideas and the veil of sleep descended upon his eyes.

He saw a bedroom where two dim tapers burned. The curate, with a rattan whip in his hand, was listening gloomily to something that the senior sacristan was telling him in a strange tongue with horrible gestures. Crispin quailed and turned his tearful eyes in every direction as if seeking some one or some hiding-place. The curate turned toward him and called to him irritably, the rattan whistled. The child ran to hide himself behind the sacristan, who caught and held him, thus exposing him to the curate’s fury. The unfortunate boy fought, kicked, screamed, threw himself on the floor and rolled about. He picked himself up, ran, slipped, fell, and parried the blows with his hands, which, wounded, he hid quickly, all the time shrieking with pain. Basilio saw him twist himself, strike the floor with his head, he saw and heard the rattan whistle. In desperation his little brother rose. Mad with pain he threw himself upon his tormentor and bit him on the hand. The curate gave a cry and dropped the rattan—the sacristan caught up a heavy cane and struck the boy a blow on the head so that he fell stunned—the curate, seeing him down, trampled him with his feet. But the child no longer defended himself nor did he cry out; he rolled along the floor, a lifeless mass that left a damp track.1

Sisa’s voice brought him back to reality. “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?”

“I dreamed—O God!” exclaimed Basilio, sitting up, covered with perspiration. “It was a dream! Tell me, mother, that it was only a dream! Only a dream!”

“What did you dream?”

The boy did not answer, but sat drying his tears and wiping away the perspiration. The hut was in total darkness.

“A dream, a dream!” repeated Basilio in subdued tones.

“Tell me what you dreamed. I can’t sleep,” said his mother when he lay down again.

“Well,” he said in a low voice, “I dreamed that we had gone to glean the rice-stalks—in a field where there were many flowers—the women had baskets full of rice-stalks the men too had baskets full of rice-stalks—and the children too—I don’t remember any more, mother, I don’t remember the rest.”

Sisa had no faith in dreams, so she did not insist.

“Mother, I’ve thought of a plan tonight,” said Basilio after a few moments’ silence.

“What is your plan?” she asked. Sisa was humble in everything, even with her own sons, trusting their judgment more than her own.

“I don’t want to be a sacristan any longer.”

“What?”

“Listen, mother, to what I’ve been thinking about. Today there arrived from Spain the son of the dead Don Rafael, and he will be a good man like his father. Well now, mother, tomorrow you will get Crispin, collect my wages, and say that I will not be a sacristan any longer. As soon as I get well I’ll go to see Don Crisostomo and ask him to hire me as a herdsman of his cattle and carabaos—I’m now big enough. Crispin can study with old Tasio, who does not whip and who is a good man, even if the curate does not believe so. What have we to fear now from the padre? Can he make us any poorer than we are? You may believe it, mother, the old man is good. I’ve seen him often in the church when no one else was about, kneeling and praying, believe it. So, mother, I’ll stop being a sacristan. I earn but little and that little is taken away from me in fines. Every one complains of the same thing. I’ll be a herdsman and by performing my tasks carefully I’ll make my employer like me. Perhaps he’ll let us milk a cow so that we can drink milk—Crispin likes milk so much. Who can tell! Maybe they’ll give us a little calf if they see that I behave well and we’ll take care of it and fatten it like our hen. I’ll pick fruits in the woods and sell them in the town along with the vegetables from our garden, so we’ll have money. I’ll set snares and traps to catch birds and wild cats,2 I’ll fish in the river, and when I’m bigger, I’ll hunt. I’ll be able also to cut firewood to sell or to present to the owner of the cows, and so he’ll be satisfied with us. When I’m able to plow, I’ll ask him to let me have a piece of land to plant in sugar-cane or corn and you won’t have to sew until midnight. We’ll have new clothes for every fiesta, we’ll eat meat and big fish, we’ll live free, seeing each other every day and eating together. Old Tasio says that Crispin has a good head and so we’ll send him to Manila to study. I’ll support him by working hard. Isn’t that fine, mother? Perhaps he’ll be a doctor, what do you say?”

“What can I say but yes?” said Sisa as she embraced her son. She noted, however, that in their future the boy took no account of his father, and shed silent tears.

Basilio went on talking of his plans with the confidence of the years that see only what they wish for. To everything Sisa said yes—everything appeared good.

Sleep again began to weigh down upon the tired eyelids of the boy, and this time Ole-Luk-Oie, of whom Andersen tells us, spread over him his beautiful umbrella with its pleasing pictures. Now he saw himself with his little brother as they picked guavas, alpay, and other fruits in the woods; they clambered from branch to branch, light as butterflies; they penetrated into the caves and saw the shining rocks; they bathed in the springs where the sand was gold-dust and the stones like the jewels in the Virgin’s crown. The little fishes sang and laughed, the plants bent their branches toward them laden with golden fruit. Then he saw a bell hanging in a tree with a long rope for ringing it; to the rope was tied a cow with a bird’s nest between her horns and Crispin was inside the bell.

Thus he went on dreaming, while his mother, who was not of his age and who had not run for an hour, slept not. 

1 Dream or reality, we do not know whether this may have happened to any Franciscan, but something similar is related of the Augustinian Padre Piernavieja.—Author’s note.

Fray Antonio Piernavieja, O.S.A., was a parish curate in the province of Bulacan when this work was written. Later, on account of alleged brutality similar to the incident used here, he was transferred to the province of Cavite, where, in 1896, he was taken prisoner by the insurgents and by them made “bishop” of their camp. Having taken advantage of this position to collect and forward to the Spanish authorities in Manila information concerning the insurgents’ preparations and plans, he was tied out in an open field and left to perish of hunger and thirst under the tropical sun. See Guía Oficial de Filipinas, 1885, p. 195; El Katipunan ó El Filibusterismo en Filipinas (Madrid, 1897), p. 347; Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XII.—TR.

2 The Philippine civet-cat, quite rare, and the only wild carnivore in the Philippine Islands.—TR.

Chapter XVIII Souls in Torment

It was about seven o’clock in the morning when Fray Salvi finished celebrating his last mass, having offered up three in the space of an hour. “The padre is ill,” commented the pious women. “He doesn’t move about with his usual slowness and elegance of manner.”

He took off his vestments without the least comment, without saying a word or looking at any one. “Attention!” whispered the sacristans among themselves. “The devil’s to pay! It’s going to rain fines, and all on account of those two brothers.”

He left the sacristy to go up into the rectory, in the hallway of which there awaited him some seven or eight women seated upon benches and a man who was pacing back and forth. Upon seeing him approach, the women arose and one of them pressed forward to kiss his hand, but the holy man made a sign of impatience that stopped her short.

“Can it be that you’ve lost a real, kuriput?” exclaimed the woman with a jesting laugh, offended at such a reception. “Not to give his hand to me, Matron of the Sisterhood, Sister Rufa!” It was an unheard-of proceeding.

“He didn’t go into the confessional this morning,” added Sister Sipa, a toothless old woman. “I wanted to confess myself so as to receive communion and get the indulgences.”

“Well, I’m sorry for you,” commented a young woman with a frank face. “This week I earned three plenary indulgences and dedicated them to the soul of my husband.”

“Badly done, Sister Juana,” said the offended Rufa. “One plenary indulgence was enough to get him out of purgatory. You ought not to squander the holy indulgences. Do as I do.”

“I thought, so many more the better,” answered the simple Sister Juana, smiling. “But tell me what you do.”

Sister Rufa did not answer at once. First, she asked for a buyo and chewed at it, gazed at her audience, which was listening attentively, then spat to one side and commenced, chewing at the buyo meanwhile: “I don’t misspend one holy day! Since I’ve belonged to the Sisterhood I’ve earned four hundred and fifty-seven plenary indulgences, seven hundred sixty thousand five hundred and ninety-eight years of indulgence. I set down all that I earn, for I like to have clean accounts. I don’t want to cheat or be cheated.”

Here Sister Rufa paused to give more attention to her chewing. The women gazed at her in admiration, but the man who was pacing back and forth remarked with some disdain, “Well, this year I’ve gained four plenary indulgences more than you have, Sister Rufa, and a hundred years more, and that without praying much either.”

“More than I? More than six hundred and eighty-nine plenary indulgences or nine hundred ninety-four thousand eight hundred and fifty-six years?” queried Rufa, somewhat disgruntled.

“That’s it, eight indulgences and a hundred fifteen years more and a few months over,” answered the man, from whose neck hung soiled scapularies and rosaries.

“That’s not strange!” admitted Rufa, at last admitting defeat. “You’re an expert, the best in the province.”

The flattered man smiled and continued, “It isn’t so wonderful that I earn more than you do. Why, I can almost say that even when sleeping I earn indulgences.”

“And what do you do with them, sir?” asked four or five voices at the same time.

“Pish!” answered the man with a gesture of proud disdain. “I have them to throw away!”

“But in that I can’t commend you, sir,” protested Rufa. “You’ll go to purgatory for wasting the indulgences. You know very well that for every idle word one must suffer forty days in fire, according to the curate; for every span of thread uselessly wasted, sixty days; and for every drop of water spilled, twenty. You’ll go to purgatory.”

“Well, I’ll know how to get out,” answered Brother Pedro with sublime confidence. “How many souls have I saved from the flames! How many saints have I made! Besides, even in articulo mortis I can still earn, if I wish, at least seven plenary indulgences and shall be able to save others as I die.” So saying, he strode proudly away.

Sister Rufa turned to the others: “Nevertheless, you must do as I do, for I don’t lose a single day and I keep my accounts well. I don’t want to cheat or be cheated.”

“Well, what do you do?” asked Juana.

“You must imitate what I do. For example, suppose I earn a year of indulgence: I set it down in my account-book and say, ‘Most Blessed Father and Lord St. Dominic, please see if there is anybody in purgatory who needs exactly a year—neither a day more nor a day less.’ Then I play heads and tails: if it comes heads, no; if tails, yes. Let’s suppose that it comes tails, then I write down paid; if it comes heads, then I keep the indulgence. In this way I arrange groups of a hundred years each, of which I keep a careful account. It’s a pity that we can’t do with them as with money—put them out at interest, for in that way we should be able to save more souls. Believe me, and do as I do.”

“Well, I do it a better way,” remarked Sister Sipa.

“What? Better?” demanded the astonished Rufa. “That can’t be! My system can’t be improved upon!”

“Listen a moment and you’ll be convinced, Sister,” said old Sipa in a tone of vexation.

“How is it? Let’s hear!” exclaimed the others.

After coughing ceremoniously the old woman began with great care: “You know very well that by saying the Bendita sea tu pureza and the Señor mío Jesucristo, Padre dulcísimo por el gozo, ten years are gained for each letter—”

“Twenty!” “No, less!” “Five!” interrupted several voices.

“A few years more or less make no difference. Now, when a servant breaks a plate, a glass, or a cup, I make him pick up the pieces; and for every scrap, even the very smallest, he has to recite for me one of those prayers. The indulgences that I earn in this way I devote to the souls. Every one in my house, except the cats, understands this system.”

“But those indulgences are earned by the servants and not by you, Sister Sipa,” objected Rufa.

“And my cups and plates, who pays for them? The servants are glad to pay for them in that way and it suits me also. I never resort to blows, only sometimes a pinch, or a whack on the head.”

“I’m going to do as you do!” “I’ll do the same!” “And I!” exclaimed the women.

“But suppose the plate is only broken into two or three pieces, then you earn very few,” observed the obstinate Rufa.

Abá!” answered old Sipa. “I make them recite the prayers anyhow. Then I glue the pieces together again and so lose nothing.”

Sister Rufa had no more objections left.

“Allow me to ask about a doubt of mine,” said young Juana timidly. “You ladies understand so well these matters of heaven, purgatory, and hell, while I confess that I’m ignorant. Often I find in the novenas and other books this direction: three paternosters, three Ave Marias, and three Gloria Patris—”

“Yes, well?”

“Now I want to know how they should be recited: whether three paternosters in succession, three Ave Marias in succession, and three Gloria Patris in succession; or a paternoster, an Ave Maria, and a Gloria Patri together, three times?”

“This way: a paternoster three times—”

“Pardon me, Sister Sipa,” interrupted Rufa, “they must be recited in the other way. You mustn’t mix up males and females. The paternosters are males, the Ave Marias are females, and the Gloria Patris are the children.”

“Eh? Excuse me, Sister Rufa: paternoster, Ave Maria, and Gloria are like rice, meat, and sauce—a mouthful for the saints—”

“You’re wrong! You’ll see, for you who pray that way will never get what you ask for.”

“And you who pray the other way won’t get anything from your novenas,” replied old Sipa.

“Who won’t?” asked Rufa, rising. “A short time ago I lost a little pig, I prayed to St. Anthony and found it, and then I sold it for a good price. Abá!

“Yes? Then that’s why one of your neighbors was saying that you sold a pig of hers.”

“Who? The shameless one! Perhaps I’m like you—”

Here the expert had to interfere to restore peace, for no one was thinking any more about paternosters—the talk was all about pigs. “Come, come, there mustn’t be any quarrel over a pig, Sisters! The Holy Scriptures give us an example to follow. The heretics and Protestants didn’t quarrel with Our Lord for driving into the water a herd of swine that belonged to them, and we that are Christians and besides, Brethren of the Holy Rosary, shall we have hard words on account of a little pig! What would our rivals, the Tertiary Brethren, say?”

All became silent before such wisdom, at the same time fearing what the Tertiary Brethren might say. The expert, well satisfied with such acquiescence, changed his tone and continued: “Soon the curate will send for us. We must tell him which preacher we’ve chosen of the three that he suggested yesterday, whether Padre Damaso, Padre Martin, or the coadjutor. I don’t know whether the Tertiary Brethren have yet made any choice, so we must decide.”

“The coadjutor,” murmured Juana timidly.

“Ahem! The coadjutor doesn’t know how to preach,” declared Sipa. “Padre Martin is better.”

“Padre Martin!” exclaimed another disdainfully. “He hasn’t any voice. Padre Damaso would be better.”

“That’s right!” cried Rufa. “Padre Damaso surely does know how to preach! He looks like a comedian!”

“But we don’t understand him,” murmured Juana.

“Because he’s very deep! And as he preaches well—”

This speech was interrupted by the arrival of Sisa, who was carrying a basket on her head. She saluted the Sisters and went on up the stairway.

“She’s going in! Let’s go in too!” they exclaimed. Sisa felt her heart beating violently as she ascended the stairs. She did not know just what to say to the padre to placate his wrath or what reasons she could advance in defense of her son. That morning at the first flush of dawn she had gone into her garden to pick the choicest vegetables, which she placed in a basket among banana-leaves and flowers; then she had looked along the bank of the river for the pakó which she knew the curate liked for salads. Putting on her best clothes and without awakening her son, she had set out for the town with the basket on her head. As she went up the stairway she, tried to make as little noise as possible and listened attentively in the hope that she might hear a fresh, childish voice, so well known to her. But she heard nothing nor did she meet any one as she made her way to the kitchen. There she looked into all the corners. The servants and sacristans received her coldly, scarcely acknowledging her greeting.

“Where can I put these vegetables?” she asked, not taking any offense at their coldness.

“There, anywhere!” growled the cook, hardly looking at her as he busied himself in picking the feathers from a capon.

With great care Sisa arranged the vegetables and the salad leaves on the table, placing the flowers above them. Smiling, she then addressed one of the servants, who seemed to be more approachable than the cook: “May I speak with the padre?”

“He’s sick,” was the whispered answer.

“And Crispin? Do you know if he is in the sacristy?” The servant looked surprised and wrinkled his eyebrows. “Crispin? Isn’t he at your house? Do you mean to deny it?”

“Basilio is at home, but Crispin stayed here,” answered Sisa, “and I want to see him.”

“Yes, he stayed, but afterwards he ran away, after stealing a lot of things. Early this morning the curate ordered me to go and report it to the Civil Guard. They must have gone to your house already to hunt for the boys.”

Sisa covered her ears and opened her mouth to speak, but her lips moved without giving out any sound.

“A pretty pair of sons you have!” exclaimed the cook. “It’s plain that you’re a faithful wife, the sons are so like the father. Take care that the younger doesn’t surpass him.”

Sisa broke out into bitter weeping and let herself fall upon a bench.

“Don’t cry here!” yelled the cook. “Don’t you know that the padre’s sick? Get out in the street and cry!”

The unfortunate mother was almost shoved down the stairway at the very time when the Sisters were coming down, complaining and making conjectures about the curate’s illness, so she hid her face in her pañuelo and suppressed the sounds of her grief. Upon reaching the street she looked about uncertainly for a moment and then, as if having reached a decision, walked rapidly away. 

Chapter XIX A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties

El vulgo es necio y pues lo paga, es justo
Hablarle en necio para darle el gusto.1

LOPE DE VEGA.

The mountain-encircled lake slept peacefully with that hypocrisy of the elements which gave no hint of how its waters had the night before responded to the fury of the storm. As the first reflections of light awoke on its surface the phosphorescent spirits, there were outlined in the distance, almost on the horizon, the gray silhouettes of the little bankas of the fishermen who were taking in their nets and of the larger craft spreading their sails. Two men dressed in deep mourning stood gazing at the water from a little elevation: one was Ibarra and the other a youth of humble aspect and melancholy features.

“This is the place,” the latter was saying. “From here your father’s body was thrown into the water. Here’s where the grave-digger brought Lieutenant Guevara and me.”

Ibarra warmly grasped the hand of the young man, who went on: “You have no occasion to thank me. I owed many favors to your father, and the only thing that I could do for him was to accompany his body to the grave. I came here without knowing any one, without recommendation, and having neither name nor fortune, just as at present. My predecessor had abandoned the school to engage in the tobacco trade. Your father protected me, secured me a house, and furnished whatever was necessary for running the school. He used to visit the classes and distribute pictures among the poor but studious children, as well as provide them with books and paper. But this, like all good things, lasted only a little while.”

Ibarra took off his hat and seemed to be praying for a time. Then he turned to his companion: “Did you say that my father helped the poor children? And now?”

“Now they get along as well as possible and write when they can,” answered the youth.

“What is the reason?”

“The reason lies in their torn camisas and their downcast eyes.”

“How many pupils have you now?” asked Ibarra with interest, after a pause.

“More than two hundred on the roll but only about twenty-five in actual attendance.”

“How does that happen?”

The schoolmaster smiled sadly as he answered, “To tell you the reasons would make a long and tiresome story.”

“Don’t attribute my question to idle curiosity,” replied Ibarra gravely, while he stared at the distant horizon. “I’ve thought better of it and believe that to carry out my father’s ideas will be more fitting than to weep for him, and far better than to revenge him. Sacred nature has become his grave, and his enemies were the people and a priest. The former I pardon on account of their ignorance and the latter because I wish that Religion, which elevated society, should be respected. I wish to be inspired with the spirit of him who gave me life and therefore desire to know about the obstacles encountered here in educational work.”

“The country will bless your memory, sir,” said the schoolmaster, “if you carry out the beautiful plans of your dead father! You wish to know the obstacles which the progress of education meets? Well then, under present circumstances, without substantial aid education will never amount to much; in the very first place because, even when we have the pupils, lack of suitable means, and other things that attract them more, kill off their interest. It is said that in Germany a peasant’s son studies for eight years in the town school, but who here would spend half that time when such poor results are to be obtained? They read, write, and memorize selections, and sometimes whole books, in Spanish, without understanding a single word.2 What benefit does our country child get from the school?”

“And why have you, who see the evil, not thought of remedying it?”

The schoolmaster shook his head sadly. “A poor teacher struggles not only against prejudices but also against certain influences. First, it would be necessary to have a suitable place and not to do as I must at present—hold the classes under the convento by the side of the padre’s carriage. There the children, who like to read aloud, very naturally disturb the padre, and he often comes down, nervous, especially when he has his attacks, yells at them, and even insults me at times. You know that no one can either teach or learn under such circumstances, for the child will not respect his teacher when he sees him abused without standing up for his rights. In order to be heeded and to maintain his authority the teacher needs prestige, reputation, moral strength, and some freedom of action.

“Now let me recount to you even sadder details. I have wished to introduce reforms and have been laughed at. In order to remedy the evil of which I just spoke to you, I tried to teach Spanish to the children because, in addition to the fact that the government so orders, I thought also that it would be of advantage for everybody. I used the simplest method of words and phrases without paying any attention to long rules, expecting to teach them grammar when they should understand the language. At the end of a few weeks some of the brightest were almost able to understand me and could use a few phrases.”

The schoolmaster paused and seemed to hesitate, then, as if making a resolution, he went on: “I must not be ashamed of the story of my wrongs, for any one in my place would have acted the same as I did. As I said, it was a good beginning, but a few days afterwards Padre Damaso, who was the curate then, sent for me by the senior sacristan. Knowing his disposition and fearing to make him wait, I went upstairs at once, saluted him, and wished him good-morning in Spanish. His only greeting had been to put out his hand for me to kiss, but at this he drew it back and without answering me began to laugh loud and mockingly. I was very much embarrassed, as the senior sacristan was present. At the moment I didn’t know just what to say, for the curate continued his laughter and I stood staring at him. Then I began to get impatient and saw that I was about to do something indiscreet, since to be a good Christian and to preserve one’s dignity are not incompatible. I was going to put a question to him when suddenly, passing from ridicule to insult, he said sarcastically, ‘So it’s buenos dins, eh? Buenos dias! How nice that you know how to talk Spanish!’ Then again he broke out into laughter.”

Ibarra was unable to repress a smile.

“You smile,” continued the schoolmaster, following Ibarra’s example, “but I must confess that at the time I had very little desire to laugh. I was still standing—I felt the blood rush to my head and lightning seemed to flash through my brain. The curate I saw far, far away. I advanced to reply to him without knowing just what I was going to say, but the senior sacristan put himself between us. Padre Damaso arose and said to me in Tagalog: ‘Don’t try to shine in borrowed finery. Be content to talk your own dialect and don’t spoil Spanish, which isn’t meant for you. Do you know the teacher Ciruela?3 Well, Ciruela was a teacher who didn’t know how to read, and he had a school.’ I wanted to detain him, but he went into his bedroom and slammed the door.

“What was I to do with only my meager salary, to collect which I have to get the curate’s approval and make a trip to the capital of the province, what could I do against him, the foremost religious and political power in the town, backed up by his Order, feared by the government, rich, powerful, sought after and listened to, always believed and heeded by everybody? Although he insulted me, I had to remain silent, for if I replied he would have had me removed from my position, by which I should lose all hope in my chosen profession. Nor would the cause of education gain anything, but the opposite, for everybody would take the curate’s side, they would curse me and call me presumptuous, proud, vain, a bad Christian, uncultured, and if not those things, then anti-Spanish and a filibuster. Of a schoolmaster neither learning nor zeal is expected; resignation, humility, and inaction only are asked. May God pardon me if I have gone against my conscience and my judgement, but I was born in this country, I have to live, I have a mother, so I have abandoned myself to my fate like a corpse tossed about by the waves.”

“Did this difficulty discourage you for all time? Have you lived so since?”

“Would that it had been a warning to me! If only my troubles had been limited to that! It is true that from that time I began to dislike my profession and thought of seeking some other occupation, as my predecessor had done, because any work that is done in disgust and shame is a kind of martyrdom and because every day the school recalled the insult to my mind, causing me hours of great bitterness. But what was I to do? I could not undeceive my mother, I had to say to her that her three years of sacrifice to give me this profession now constituted my happiness. It is necessary to make her believe that this profession is most honorable, the work delightful, the way strewn with flowers, that the performance of my duties brings me only friendship, that the people respect me and show me every consideration. By doing otherwise, without ceasing to be unhappy myself, I should have caused more sorrow, which besides being useless would also be a sin. I stayed on, therefore, and tried not to feel discouraged. I tried to struggle on.”

Here he paused for a while, then resumed: “From the day on which I was so grossly insulted I began to examine myself and I found that I was in fact very ignorant. I applied myself day and night to the study of Spanish and whatever concerned my profession. The old Sage lent me some books, and I read and pondered over everything that I could get hold of. With the new ideas that I have been acquiring in one place and another my point of view has changed and I have seen many things under a different aspect from what they had appeared to me before. I saw error where before I had seen only truth, and truth in many things where I had formerly seen only error. Corporal punishment, for example, which from time immemorial has been the distinctive feature in the schools and which has heretofore been considered as the only efficacious means of making pupils learn—so we have been accustomed to believe—soon appeared to me to be a great hindrance rather than in any way an aid to the child’s progress. I became convinced that it was impossible to use one’s mind properly when blows, or similar punishment, were in prospect. Fear and terror disturb the most serene, and a child’s imagination, besides being very lively, is also very impressionable. As it is on the brain that ideas are impressed, it is necessary that there be both inner and outer calm, that there be serenity of spirit, physical and moral repose, and willingness, so I thought that before everything else I should cultivate in the children confidence, assurance, and some personal pride. Moreover, I comprehended that the daily sight of floggings destroyed kindness in their hearts and deadened all sense of dignity, which is such a powerful lever in the world. At the same time it caused them to lose their sense of shame, which is a difficult thing to restore. I have also observed that when one pupil is flogged, he gets comfort from the fact that the others are treated in the same way, and that he smiles with satisfaction upon hearing the wails of the others. As for the person who does the flogging, while at first he may do it with repugnance, he soon becomes hardened to it and even takes delight in his gloomy task. The past filled me with horror, so I wanted to save the present by modifying the old system. I endeavored to make study a thing of love and joy, I wished to make the primer not a black book bathed in the tears of childhood but a friend who was going to reveal wonderful secrets, and of the schoolroom not a place of sorrows but a scene of intellectual refreshment. So, little by little, I abolished corporal punishment, taking the instruments of it entirely away from the school and replacing them with emulation and personal pride. If one was careless about his lesson, I charged it to lack of desire and never to lack of capacity. I made them think that they were more capable than they really were, which urged them on to study just as any confidence leads to notable achievements. At first it seemed that the change of method was impracticable; many ceased their studies, but I persisted and observed that little by little their minds were being elevated and that more children came, that they came with more regularity, and that he who was praised in the presence of the others studied with double diligence on the next day.

“It soon became known throughout the town that I did not whip the children. The curate sent for me, and fearing another scene I greeted him curtly in Tagalog. On this occasion he was very serious with me. He said that I was exposing the children to destruction, that I was wasting time, that I was not fulfilling my duties, that the father who spared the rod was spoiling the child—according to the Holy Ghost—that learning enters with blood, and so on. He quoted to me sayings of barbarous times just as if it were enough that a thing had been said by the ancients to make it indisputable; according to which we ought to believe that there really existed those monsters which in past ages were imaged and sculptured in the palaces and temples. Finally, he charged me to be more careful and to return to the old system, otherwise he would make unfavorable report about me to the alcalde of the province. Nor was this the end of my troubles. A few days afterward some of the parents of the children presented themselves under the convento and I had to call to my aid all my patience and resignation. They began by reminding me of former times when teachers had character and taught as their grandfathers had. ‘Those indeed were the times of the wise men,’ they declared, ‘they whipped, and straightened the bent tree. They were not boys but old men of experience, gray-haired and severe. Don Catalino, king of them all and founder of this very school, used to administer no less than twenty-five blows and as a result his pupils became wise men and priests. Ah, the old people were worth more than we ourselves, yes, sir, more than we ourselves!’ Some did not content themselves with such indirect rudeness, but told me plainly that if I continued my system their children would learn nothing and that they would be obliged to take them from the school It was useless to argue with them, for as a young man they thought me incapable of sound judgment. What would I not have given for some gray hairs! They cited the authority of the curate, of this one and that one, and even called attention to themselves, saying that if it had not been for the whippings they had received from their teachers they would never have learned anything. Only a few persons showed any sympathy to sweeten for me the bitterness of such a disillusioning.

“In view of all this I had to give up my system, which, after so much toil, was just beginning to produce results. In desperation I carried the whips bank to the school the next day and began the barbarous practice again. Serenity disappeared and sadness reigned in the faces of the children, who had just begun to care for me, and who were my only kindred and friends. Although I tried to spare the whippings and to administer them with all the moderation possible, yet the children felt the change keenly, they became discouraged and wept bitterly. It touched my heart, and even though in my own mind I was vexed with the stupid parents, still I was unable to take any spite out on those innocent victims of their parents’ prejudices. Their tears burned me, my heart seemed bursting from my breast, and that day I left the school before closing-time to go home and weep alone. Perhaps my sensitiveness may seem strange to you, but if you had been in my place you would understand it. Old Don Anastasio said to me, ‘So the parents want floggings? Why not inflict them on themselves?’ As a result of it all I became sick.” Ibarra was listening thoughtfully.

“Scarcely had I recovered when I returned to the school to find the number of my pupils reduced to a fifth. The better ones had run away upon the return to the old system, and of those who remained—mostly those who came to school to escape work at home—not one showed any joy, not one congratulated me on my recovery. It would have been the same to them whether I got well or not, or they might have preferred that I continue sick since my substitute, although he whipped them more, rarely went to the school. My other pupils, those whose parents had obliged them to attend school, had gone to other places. Their parents blamed me for having spoiled them and heaped reproaches on me for it. One, however, the son of a country woman who visited me during my illness, had not returned on account of having been made a sacristan, and the senior sacristan says that the sacristans must not attend school: they would be dismissed.”

“Were you resigned in looking after your new pupils?” asked Ibarra.

“What else could I do?” was the queried reply. “Nevertheless, during my illness many things had happened, among them a change of curates, so I took new hope and made another attempt to the end that the children should not lose all their time and should, in so far as possible, get some benefit from the floggings, that such things might at least have some good result for them. I pondered over the matter, as I wished that even if they could not love me, by getting something useful from me, they might remember me with less bitterness. You know that in nearly all the schools the books are in Spanish, with the exception of the catechism in Tagalog, which varies according to the religious order to which the curate belongs. These books are generally novenas, canticles, and the Catechism of Padre Astete,4 from which they learn about as much piety as they would from the books of heretics. Seeing the impossibility of teaching the pupils in Spanish or of translating so many books, I tried to substitute short passages from useful works in Tagalog, such as the Treatise on Manners by Hortensio y Feliza, some manuals of Agriculture, and so forth. Sometimes I would myself translate simple works, such as Padre Barranera’s History of the Philippines, which I then dictated to the children, with at times a few observations of my own, so that they might make note-books. As I had no maps for teaching geography, I copied one of the province that I saw at the capital and with this and the tiles of the floor I gave them some idea of the country. This time it was the women who got excited. The men contented themselves with smiling, as they saw in it only one of my vagaries. The new curate sent for me, and while he did not reprimand me, yet he said that I should first take care of religion, that before learning such things the children must pass an examination to show that they had memorized the mysteries, the canticles, and the catechism of Christian Doctrine.

“So then, I am now working to the end that the children become changed into parrots and know by heart so many things of which they do not understand a single word. Many of them now know the mysteries and the canticles, but I fear that my efforts will come to grief with the Catechism of Padre Astete, since the greater part of the pupils do not distinguish between the questions and the answers, nor do they understand what either may mean. Thus we shall die, thus those unborn will do, while in Europe they will talk of progress.”

“Let’s not be so pessimistic,” said Ibarra. “The teniente-mayor has sent me an invitation to attend a meeting in the town hall. Who knows but that there you may find an answer to your questions?”

The schoolmaster shook his head in doubt as he answered: “You’ll see how the plan of which they talked to me meets the same fate as mine has. But yet, let us see!” 

1 The common crowd is a fool and since it pays for it, it is proper to talk to it foolishly to please it.

2 “The schools are under the inspection of the parish priests. Reading and writing in Spanish are taught, or at least it is so ordered; but the schoolmaster himself usually does not know it, and on the other hand the Spanish government employees do not understand the vernacular. Besides, the curates, in order to preserve their influence intact, do not look favorably upon the spread of Castilian. About the only ones who know Spanish are the Indians who have been in the service of Europeans. The first reading exercise is some devotional book, then the catechism; the reader is called Casaysayan. On the average half of the children between seven and ten years attend school; they learn to read fairly well and some to write a little, but they soon forget it.”—Jagor, Viajes por Filipinas (Vidal’s Spanish version). Jagor was speaking particularly of the settled parts of the Bicol region. Referring to the islands generally, his “half of the children” would be a great exaggeration.—TR.

3 A delicate bit of sarcasm is lost in the translation here. The reference to Maestro Ciruela in Spanish is somewhat similar to a mention in English of Mr. Squeers, of Dotheboys Hall fame.—TR.

4 By one of the provisions of a royal decree of December 20, 1863, the Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristina, by Gaspar Astete, was prescribed as the text-book for primary schools, in the Philippines. See Blair and Robertson’s The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLVI, p. 98; Census of the Philippine Islands (Washington, 1905), p. 584.—TR.

Chapter XX The Meeting in the Town Hall

The hall was about twelve to fifteen meters long by eight to ten wide. Its whitewashed walls were covered with drawings in charcoal, more or less ugly and obscene, with inscriptions to complete their meanings. Stacked neatly against the wall in one corner were to be seen about a dozen old flint-locks among rusty swords and talibons, the armament of the cuadrilleros.1 At one end of the hall there hung, half hidden by soiled red curtains, a picture of his Majesty, the King of Spain. Underneath this picture, upon a wooden platform, an old chair spread out its broken arms. In front of the chair was a wooden table spotted with ink stains and whittled and carved with inscriptions and initials like the tables in the German taverns frequented by students. Benches and broken chairs completed the furniture.

This is the hall of council, of judgment, and of torture, wherein are now gathered the officials of the town and its dependent villages. The faction of old men does not mix with that of the youths, for they are mutually hostile. They represent respectively the conservative and the liberal parties, save that their disputes assume in the towns an extreme character.

“The conduct of the gobernadorcillo fills me with distrust,” Don Filipo, the teniente-mayor and leader of the liberal faction, was saying to his friends. “It was a deep-laid scheme, this thing of putting off the discussion of expenses until the eleventh hour. Remember that we have scarcely eleven days left.”

“And he has staved at the convento to hold a conference with the curate, who is sick,” observed one of the youths.

“It doesn’t matter,” remarked another. “We have everything prepared. Just so the plan of the old men doesn’t receive a majority—”

“I don’t believe it will,” interrupted Don Filipo, “as I shall present the plan of the old men myself!”

“What! What are you saying?” asked his surprised hearers.

“I said that if I speak first I shall present the plan of our rivals.”

“But what about our plan?”

“I shall leave it to you to present ours,” answered Don Filipo with a smile, turning toward a youthful cabeza de barangay.2 “You will propose it after I have been defeated.”

“We don’t understand you, sir,” said his hearers, staring at him with doubtful looks.

“Listen,” continued the liberal leader in a low voice to several near him. “This morning I met old Tasio and the old man said to me: ‘Your rivals hate you more than they do your ideas. Do you wish that a thing shall not be done? Then propose it yourself, and though it were more useful than a miter, it would be rejected. Once they have defeated you, have the least forward person in the whole gathering propose what you want, and your rivals, in order to humiliate you, will accept it.’ But keep quiet about it.”

“But—”

“So I will propose the plan of our rivals and exaggerate it to the point of making it ridiculous. Ah, here come Señor Ibarra and the schoolmaster.”

These two young men saluted each of the groups without joining either. A few moments later the gobernadorcillo, the very same individual whom we saw yesterday carrying a bundle of candles, entered with a look of disgust on his face. Upon his entrance the murmurs ceased, every one sat down, and silence was gradually established, as he took his seat under the picture of the King, coughed four or five times, rubbed his hand over his face and head, rested his elbows on the table, then withdrew them, coughed once more, and then the whole thing over again.

“Gentlemen,” he at last began in an unsteady voice, “I have been so bold as to call you together here for this meeting—ahem! Ahem! We have to celebrate the fiesta of our patron saint, San Diego, on the twelfth of this month—ahem!—today is the second—ahem! Ahem!” At this point a slow, dry cough cut off his speech.

A man of proud bearing, apparently about forty years of age, then arose from the bench of the elders. He was the rich Capitan Basilio, the direct contrast of Don Rafael, Ibarra’s father. He was a man who maintained that after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas the world had made no more progress, and that since St. John Lateran had left it, humanity had been retrograding.

“Gentlemen, allow me to speak a few words about such an interesting matter,” he began. “I speak first even though there are others here present who have more right to do so than I have, but I speak first because in these matters it seems to me that by speaking first one does not take the first place—no more than that by speaking last does one become the least. Besides, the things that I have to say are of such importance that they should not be put off or last spoken of, and accordingly I wish to speak first in order to give them due weight. So you will allow me to speak first in this meeting where I see so many notable persons, such as the present señor capitan, the former capitan; my distinguished friend, Don Valentin, a former capitan; the friend of my infancy, Don Julio; our celebrated captain of cuadrilleros, Don Melchor; and many other personages, whom, for the sake of brevity, I must omit to enumerate—all of whom you see present here. I beg of you that I may be allowed a few words before any one else speaks. Have I the good fortune to see my humble request granted by the meeting?”

Here the orator with a faint smile inclined his head respectfully. “Go on, you have our undivided attention!” said the notables alluded to and some others who considered Capitan Basilio a great orator. The elders coughed in a satisfied way and rubbed their hands. After wiping the perspiration from his brow with a silk handkerchief, he then proceeded:

“Now that you have been so kind and complaisant with my humble self as to grant me the use of a few words before any one else of those here present, I shall take advantage of this permission, so generously granted, and shall talk. In imagination I fancy myself in the midst of the august Roman senate, senatus populusque romanus, as was said in those happy days which, unfortunately for humanity, will nevermore return. I propose to the Patres Conscripti, as the learned Cicero would say if he were in my place, I propose, in view of the short time left, and time is money as Solomon said, that concerning this important matter each one set forth his opinion clearly, briefly, and simply.”

Satisfied with himself and flattered by the attention in the hall, the orator took his seat, not without first casting a glance of superiority toward Ibarra, who was seated in a corner, and a significant look at his friends as if to say, “Aha! Haven’t I spoken well?” His friends reflected both of these expressions by staring at the youths as though to make them die of envy.

“Now any one may speak who wishes that—ahem!” began the gobernadorcillo, but a repetition of the cough and sighs cut short the phrase.

To judge from the silence, no one wished to consider himself called upon as one of the Conscript Fathers, since no one rose. Then Don Filipo seized the opportunity and rose to speak. The conservatives winked and made significant signs to each other.

“I rise, gentlemen, to present my estimate of expenses for the fiesta,” he began. “We can’t allow it,” commented a consumptive old man, who was an irreconcilable conservative.

“We’ll vote against it,” corroborated others. “Gentlemen!” exclaimed Don Filipo, repressing a smile, “I haven’t yet made known the plan which we, the younger men, bring here. We feel surethat this great plan will be preferred by all over any other that our opponents think of or are capable of conceiving.”

This presumptuous exordium so thoroughly irritated the minds of the conservatives that they swore in their hearts to offer determined opposition.

“We have estimated three thousand five hundred pesos for the expenses,” went on Don Filipo. “Now then, with such a sum we shall be able to celebrate a fiesta that will eclipse in magnificence any that has been seen up to this time in our own or neighboring provinces.”

“Ahem!” coughed some doubters. “The town of A——— has five thousand, B——— has four thousand, ahem! Humbug!”

“Listen to me, gentlemen, and I’ll convince you,” continued the unterrified speaker. “I propose that we erect a theater in the middle of the plaza, to cost one hundred and fifty pesos.”

“That won’t be enough! It’ll take one hundred and sixty,” objected a confirmed conservative.

“Write it down, Señor Director, two hundred pesos for the theater,” said Don Filipo. “I further propose that we contract with a troupe of comedians from Tondo for seven performances on seven successive nights. Seven performances at two hundred pesos a night make fourteen hundred pesos. Write down fourteen hundred pesos, Señor Director!”

Both the elders and the youths stared in amazement. Only those in the secret gave no sign.

“I propose besides that we have magnificent fireworks; no little lights and pin-wheels such as please children and old maids, nothing of the sort. We want big bombs and immense rockets. I propose two hundred big bombs at two pesos each and two hundred rockets at the same price. We’ll have them made by the pyrotechnists of Malabon.”

“Huh!” grunted an old man, “a two-peso bomb doesn’t frighten or deafen me! They ought to be three-peso ones.”

“Write down one thousand pesos for two hundred bombs and two hundred rockets.”

The conservatives could no longer restrain themselves. Some of them rose and began to whisper together. “Moreover, in order that our visitors may see that we are a liberal people and have plenty of money,” continued the speaker, raising his voice and casting a rapid glance at the whispering group of elders, “I propose: first, four hermanos mayores3 for the two days of the fiesta; and second, that each day there be thrown into the lake two hundred fried chickens, one hundred stuffed capons, and forty roast pigs, as did Sylla, a contemporary of that Cicero, of whom Capitan Basilio just spoke.”

“That’s it, like Sylla,” repeated the flattered Capitan Basilio.

The surprise steadily increased.

“Since many rich people will attend and each one will bring thousands of pesos, his best game-cocks, and his playing-cards, I propose that the cockpit run for fifteen days and that license be granted to open all gambling houses—”

The youths interrupted him by rising, thinking that he had gone crazy. The elders were arguing heatedly.

“And, finally, that we may not neglect the pleasures of the soul—”

The murmurs and cries which arose all over the hall drowned his voice out completely, and tumult reigned.

“No!” yelled an irreconcilable conservative. “I don’t want him to flatter himself over having run the whole fiesta, no! Let me speak! Let me speak!”

“Don Filipo has deceived us,” cried the liberals. “We’ll vote against his plan. He has gone over to the old men. We’ll vote against him!”

The gobernadorcillo, more overwhelmed than ever, did nothing to restore order, but rather was waiting for them to restore it themselves.

The captain of the cuadrilleros begged to be heard and was granted permission to speak, but he did not open his mouth and sat down again confused and ashamed.

By good fortune, Capitan Valentin, the most moderate of all the conservatives, arose and said: “We cannot agree to what the teniente-mayor has proposed, as it appears to be exaggerated. So many bombs and so many nights of theatrical performances can only be desired by a young man, such as he is, who can spend night after night sitting up and listening to so many explosions without becoming deaf. I have consulted the opinion of the sensible persons here and all of them unanimously disapprove Don Filipo’s plan. Is it not so, gentlemen?”

“Yes, yes!” cried the youths and elders with one voice. The youths were delighted to hear an old man speak so.

“What are we going to do with four hermanos mayores?” went on the old man. “What is the meaning of those chickens, capons, and roast pigs, thrown into the lake? ‘Humbug!’ our neighbors would say. And afterwards we should have to fast for six months! What have we to do with Sylla and the Romans? Have they ever invited us to any of their festivities, I wonder? I, at least, have never received any invitation from them, and you can all see that I’m an old man!”

“The Romans live in Rome, where the Pope is,” Capitan Basilio prompted him in a low voice. “Now I understand!” exclaimed the old man calmly.

“They would make of their festivals watch-meetings, and the Pope would order them to throw their food into the sea so that they might commit no sin. But, in spite of all that, your plan is inadmissible, impossible, a piece of foolishness!”

Being so stoutly opposed, Don Filipo had to withdraw his proposal. Now that their chief rival had been defeated, even the worst of the irreconcilable insurgents looked on with calmness while a young cabeza de barangay asked for the floor.

“I beg that you excuse the boldness of one so young as I am in daring to speak before so many persons respected for their age and prudence and judgment in affairs, but since the eloquent orator, Capitan Basilio, has requested every one to express his opinion, let the authoritative words spoken by him excuse my insignificance.”

The conservatives nodded their heads with satisfaction, remarking to one another: “This young man talks sensibly.” “He’s modest.” “He reasons admirably.”

“What a pity that he doesn’t know very well how to gesticulate,” observed Capitan Basilio. “But there’s time yet! He hasn’t studied Cicero and he’s still a young man!”

“If I present to you, gentlemen, any program or plan,” the young man continued, “I don’t do so with the thought that you will find it perfect or that you will accept it, but at the same time that I once more bow to the judgment of all of you, I wish to prove to our elders that our thoughts are always like theirs, since we take as our own those ideas so eloquently expressed by Capitan Basilio.”

“Well spoken! Well spoken!” cried the flattered conservatives. Capitan Basilio made signs to the speaker showing him how he should stand and how he ought to move his arm. The only one remaining impassive was the gobernadorcillo, who was either bewildered or preoccupied; as a matter of fact, he seemed to be both. The young man went on with more warmth:

“My plan, gentlemen, reduces itself to this: invent new shows that are not common and ordinary, such as we see every day, and endeavor that the money collected may not leave the town, and that it be not wasted in smoke, but that it be used in some manner beneficial to all.”

“That’s right!” assented the youths. “That’s what we want.”

“Excellent!” added the elders.

“What should we get from a week of comedies, as the teniente-mayor proposes? What can we learn from the kings of Bohemia and Granada, who commanded that their daughters’ heads be cut off, or that they should be blown from a cannon, which later is converted into a throne? We are not kings, neither are we barbarians; we have no cannon, and if we should imitate those people, they would hang us on Bagumbayan. What are those princesses who mingle in the battles, scattering thrusts and blows about in combat with princes, or who wander alone over mountains and through valleys as though seduced by the tikbálang? Our nature is to love sweetness and tenderness in woman, and we would shudder at the thought of taking the blood-stained hand of a maiden, even when the blood was that of a Moro or a giant, so abhorred by us. We consider vile the man who raises his hand against a woman, be he prince or alferez or rude countryman. Would it not be a thousand times better to give a representation of our own customs in order to correct our defects and vices and to encourage our better qualities?”

“That’s right! That’s right!” exclaimed some of his faction.

“He’s right,” muttered several old men thoughtfully.

“I should never have thought of that,” murmured Capitan Basilio.

“But how are you going to do it?” asked the irreconcilable.

“Very easily,” answered the youth. “I have brought here two dramas which I feel sure the good taste and recognized judgment of the respected elders here assembled will find very agreeable and entertaining. One is entitled ‘The Election of the Gobernadorcillo,’ being a comedy in prose in five acts, written by one who is here present. The other is in nine acts for two nights and is a fantastical drama of a satirical nature, entitled ‘Mariang Makiling,’4 written by one of the best poets of the province. Seeing that the discussion of preparations for the fiesta has been postponed and fearing that there would not be time enough left, we have secretly secured the actors and had them learn their parts. We hope that with a week of rehearsal they will have plenty of time to know their parts thoroughly. This, gentlemen, besides being new, useful, and reasonable, has the great advantage of being economical; we shall not need costumes, as those of our daily life will be suitable.”

“I’ll pay for the theater!” shouted Capitan Basilio enthusiastically.

“If you need cuadrilleros, I’ll lend you mine,” cried their captain.

“And I—and I—if art old man is needed—” stammered another one, swelling with pride.

“Accepted! Accepted!” cried many voices.

Don Filipo became pale with emotion and his eyes filled with tears.

“He’s crying from spite,” thought the irreconcilable, so he yelled, “Accepted! Accepted without discussion!” Thus satisfied with revenge and the complete defeat of his rival, this fellow began to praise the young man’s plan.

The latter continued his speech: “A fifth of the money collected may be used to distribute a few prizes, such as to the best school child, the best herdsman, farmer, fisherman, and so on. We can arrange for boat races on the river and lake and for horse races on shore, we can raise greased poles and also have other games in which our country people can take part. I concede that on account of our long-established customs we must have some fireworks; wheels and fire castles are very beautiful and entertaining, but I don’t believe it necessary to have bombs, as the former speaker proposed. Two bands of music will afford sufficient merriment and thus we shall avoid those rivalries and quarrels between the poor musicians who come to gladden our fiesta with their work and who so often behave like fighting-cocks, afterwards going away poorly paid, underfed, and even bruised and wounded at times. With the money left over we can begin the erection of a small building for a schoolhouse, since we can’t wait until God Himself comes down and builds one for us, and it is a sad state of affairs that while we have a fine cockpit our children study almost in the curate’s stable. Such are the outlines of my plan; the details can be worked out by all.”

A murmur of pleasure ran through the hall, as nearly every one agreed with the youth.

Some few muttered, “Innovations! Innovations! When we were young—”

“Let’s adopt it for the time being and humiliate that fellow,” said others, indicating Don Filipo.

When silence was restored all were agreed. There was lacking only the approval of the gobernadorcillo. That worthy official was perspiring and fidgeting about. He rubbed his hand over his forehead and was at length able to stammer out in a weak voice: “I also agree, but—ahem!”

Every one in the hall listened in silence.

“But what?” asked Capitan Basilio.

“Very agreeable,” repeated the gobernadorcillo, “that is to say—I don’t agree—I mean—yes, but—” Here he rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “But the curate,” the poor fellow went on, “the curate wants something else.”

“Does the curate or do we ourselves pay for this fiesta? Has he given a cuarto for it?” exclaimed a penetrating voice. All looked toward the place whence these questions came and saw there the Sage Tasio.

Don Filipo remained motionless with his eyes fixed on the gobernadorcillo.

“What does the curate want?” asked Capitan Basilio.

“Well, the padre wants six processions, three sermons, three high masses, and if there is any money left, a comedy from Tondo with songs in the intermissions.”

“But we don’t want that,” said the youths and some of the old men.

“The curate wants it,” repeated the gobernadorcillo. “I’ve promised him that his wish shall be carried out.”

“Then why did you have us assemble here?”

“F-for the very purpose of telling you this!”

“Why didn’t you tell us so at the start?”

“I wanted to tell you, gentlemen, but Capitan Basilio spoke and I haven’t had a chance. The curate must be obeyed.”

“He must be obeyed,” echoed several old men.

“He must be obeyed or else the alcalde will put us all in jail,” added several other old men sadly.

“Well then, obey him, and run the fiesta yourselves,” exclaimed the youths, rising. “We withdraw our contributions.”

“Everything has already been collected,” said the gobernadorcillo.

Don Filipo approached this official and said to him bitterly, “I sacrificed my pride in favor of a good cause; you are sacrificing your dignity as a man in favor of a bad one, and you’ve spoiled everything.”

Ibarra turned to the schoolmaster and asked him, “Is there anything that I can do for you at the capital of the province? I leave for there immediately.”

“Have you some business there?”

“We have business there!” answered Ibarra mysteriously.

On the way home, when Don Filipo was cursing his bad luck, old Tasio said to him: “The blame is ours! You didn’t protest when they gave you a slave for a chief, and I, fool that I am, had forgotten it!” 

1 The municipal police of the old régime. They were thus described by a Spanish writer, W. E. Retana, in a note to Ventura F. Lopez’s El Filibustero (Madrid, 1893): “Municipal guards, whose duties are principally rural. Their uniform is a disaster; they go barefoot; on horseback, they hold the reins in the right hand and a lance in the left. They are usually good-for-nothing, but to their credit it must be said that they do no damage. Lacking military instruction, provided with fire-arms of the first part of the century, of which one in a hundred might go off in case of need, and for other arms bolos, talibons, old swords, etc., the cuadrilleros are truly a parody on armed force.”—TR.

2 Headman and tax-collector of a district, generally including about fifty families, for whose annual tribute he was personally responsible. The “barangay” is a Malay boat of the kind supposed to have been used by the first emigrants to the Philippines. Hence, at first, the “head of a barangay” meant the leader or chief of a family or group of families. This office, quite analogous to the old Germanic or Anglo-Saxon “head of a hundred,” was adopted and perpetuated by the Spaniards in their system of local administration.—TR.

3 The hermano mayor was a person appointed to direct the ceremonies during the fiesta, an appointment carrying with it great honor and importance, but also entailing considerable expense, as the appointee was supposed to furnish a large share of the entertainments. Hence, the greater the number of hermanos mayores the more splendid the fiesta,—TR.

4 Mt. Makiling is a volcanic cone at the southern end of the Lake of Bay. At its base is situated the town of Kalamba, the author’s birthplace. About this mountain cluster a number of native legends having as their principal character a celebrated sorceress or enchantress, known as “Mariang Makiling.”—TR.

Chapter XXI The Story of a Mother

Andaba incierto—volaba errante,
Un solo instante—sin descansar.1

ALAEJOS.

Sisa ran in the direction of her home with her thoughts in that confused whirl which is produced in our being when, in the midst of misfortunes, protection and hope alike are gone. It is then that everything seems to grow dark around us, and, if we do see some faint light shining from afar, we run toward it, we follow it, even though an abyss yawns in our path. The mother wanted to save her sons, and mothers do not ask about means when their children are concerned. Precipitately she ran, pursued by fear and dark forebodings. Had they already arrested her son Basilio? Whither had her boy Crispin fled?

As she approached her little hut she made out above the garden fence the caps of two soldiers. It would be impossible to tell what her heart felt: she forgot everything. She was not ignorant of the boldness of those men, who did not lower their gaze before even the richest people of the town. What would they do now to her and to her sons, accused of theft! The civil-guards are not men, they are civil-guards; they do not listen to supplications and they are accustomed to see tears.

Sisa instinctively raised her eyes toward the sky, that sky which smiled with brilliance indescribable, and in whose transparent blue floated some little fleecy clouds. She stopped to control the trembling that had seized her whole body. The soldiers were leaving the house and were alone, as they had arrested nothing more than the hen which Sisa had been fattening. She breathed more freely and took heart again. “How good they are and what kind hearts they have!” she murmured, almost weeping with joy. Had the soldiers burned her house but left her sons at liberty she would have heaped blessings upon them! She again looked gratefully toward the sky through which a flock of herons, those light clouds in the skies of the Philippines, were cutting their path, and with restored confidence she continued on her way. As she approached those fearful men she threw her glances in every direction as if unconcerned and pretended not to see her hen, which was cackling for help. Scarcely had she passed them when she wanted to run, but prudence restrained her steps.

She had not gone far when she heard herself called by an imperious voice. Shuddering, she pretended not to hear, and continued on her way. They called her again, this time with a yell and an insulting epithet. She turned toward them, pale and trembling in spite of herself. One of them beckoned to her. Mechanically Sisa approached them, her tongue paralyzed with fear and her throat parched.

“Tell us the truth or we’ll tie you to that tree and shoot you,” said one of them in a threatening tone.

The woman stared at the tree.

“You’re the mother of the thieves, aren’t you?” asked the other.

“Mother of the thieves!” repeated Sisa mechanically.

“Where’s the money your sons brought you last night?”

“Ah! The money—”

“Don’t deny it or it’ll be the worse for you,” added the other. “We’ve come to arrest your sons, and the older has escaped from us. Where have you hidden the younger?”

Upon hearing this Sisa breathed more freely and answered, “Sir, it has been many days since I’ve seen Crispin. I expected to see him this morning at the convento, but there they only told me—”

The two soldiers exchanged significant glances. “All right!” exclaimed one of them. “Give us the money and we’ll leave you alone.”

“Sir,” begged the unfortunate woman, “my sons wouldn’t steal even though they were starving, for we are used to that kind of suffering. Basilio didn’t bring me a single cuarto. Search the whole house and if you find even a real, do with us what you will. Not all of us poor folks are thieves!”

“Well then,” ordered the soldier slowly, as he fixed his gaze on Sisa’s eyes, “come with us. Your sons will show up and try to get rid of the money they stole. Come on!”

“I—go with you?” murmured the woman, as she stepped backward and gazed fearfully at their uniforms. “And why not?”

“Oh, have pity on me!” she begged, almost on her knees. “I’m very poor, so I’ve neither gold nor jewels to offer you. The only thing I had you’ve already taken, and that is the hen which I was thinking of selling. Take everything that you find in the house, but leave me here in peace, leave me here to die!”

“Go ahead! You’re got to go, and if you don’t move along willingly, we’ll tie you.”

Sisa broke out into bitter weeping, but those men were inflexible. “At least, let me go ahead of you some distance,” she begged, when she felt them take hold of her brutally and push her along.

The soldiers seemed to be somewhat affected and, after whispering apart, one of them said: “All right, since from here until we get into the town, you might be able to escape, you’ll walk between us. Once there you may walk ahead twenty paces, but take care that you don’t delay and that you don’t go into any shop, and don’t stop. Go ahead, quickly!”

Vain were her supplications and arguments, useless her promises. The soldiers said that they had already compromised themselves by having conceded too much. Upon finding herself between them she felt as if she would die of shame. No one indeed was coming along the road, but how about the air and the light of day? True shame encounters eyes everywhere. She covered her face with her pañuelo and walked along blindly, weeping in silence at her disgrace. She had felt misery and knew what it was to be abandoned by every one, even her own husband, but until now she had considered herself honored and respected: up to this time she had looked with compassion on those boldly dressed women whom the town knew as the concubines of the soldiers. Now it seemed to her that she had fallen even a step lower than they in the social scale.

The sound of hoofs was heard, proceeding from a small train of men and women mounted on poor nags, each between two baskets hung over the back of his mount; it was a party carrying fish to the interior towns. Some of them on passing her hut had often asked for a drink of water and had presented her with some fishes. Now as they passed her they seemed to beat and trample upon her while their compassionate or disdainful looks penetrated through her pañuelo and stung her face. When these travelers had finally passed she sighed and raised the pañuelo an instant to see how far she still was from the town. There yet remained a few telegraph poles to be passed before reaching the bantayan, or little watch-house, at the entrance to the town. Never had that distance seemed so great to her.

Beside the road there grew a leafy bamboo thicket in whose shade she had rested at other times, and where her lover had talked so sweetly as he helped her carry her basket of fruit and vegetables. Alas, all that was past, like a dream! The lover had become her husband and a cabeza de barangay, and then trouble had commenced to knock at her door. As the sun was beginning to shine hotly, the soldiers asked her if she did not want to rest there. “Thanks, no!” was the horrified woman’s answer.

Real terror seized her when they neared the town. She threw her anguished gaze in all directions, but no refuge offered itself, only wide rice-fields, a small irrigating ditch, and some stunted trees; there was not a cliff or even a rock upon which she might dash herself to pieces! Now she regretted that she had come so far with the soldiers; she longed for the deep river that flowed by her hut, whose high and rock-strewn banks would have offered such a sweet death. But again the thought of her sons, especially of Crispin, of whose fate she was still ignorant, lightened the darkness of her night, and she was able to murmur resignedly, “Afterwards—afterwards—we’ll go and live in the depths of the forest.”

Drying her eyes and trying to look calm, she turned to her guards and said in a low voice, with an indefinable accent that was a complaint and a lament, a prayer and a reproach, sorrow condensed into sound, “Now we’re in the town.” Even the soldiers seemed touched as they answered her with a gesture. She struggled to affect a calm bearing while she went forward quickly.

At that moment the church bells began to peal out, announcing the end of the high mass. Sisa hurried her steps so as to avoid, if possible, meeting the people who were coming out, but in vain, for no means offered to escape encountering them. With a bitter smile she saluted two of her acquaintances, who merely turned inquiring glances upon her, so that to avoid further mortification she fixed her gaze on the ground, and yet, strange to say, she stumbled over the stones in the road! Upon seeing her, people paused for a moment and conversed among themselves as they gazed at her, all of which she saw and felt in spite of her downcast eyes.

She heard the shameless tones of a woman who asked from behind at the top of her voice, “Where did you catch her? And the money?” It was a woman without a tapis, or tunic, dressed in a green and yellow skirt and a camisa of blue gauze, easily recognizable from her costume as a querida of the soldiery. Sisa felt as if she had received a slap in the face, for that woman had exposed her before the crowd. She raised her eyes for a moment to get her fill of scorn and hate, but saw the people far, far away. Yet she felt the chill of their stares and heard their whispers as she moved over the ground almost without knowing that she touched it.

“Eh, this way!” a guard called to her. Like an automaton whose mechanism is breaking, she whirled about rapidly on her heels, then without seeing or thinking of anything ran to hide herself. She made out a door where a sentinel stood and tried to enter it, but a still more imperious voice called her aside. With wavering steps she sought the direction of that voice, then felt herself pushed along by the shoulders; she shut her eyes, took a couple of steps, and lacking further strength, let herself fall to the ground, first on her knees and then in a sitting posture. Dry and voiceless sobs shook her frame convulsively.

Now she was in the barracks among the soldiers, women, hogs, and chickens. Some of the men were sewing at their clothes while their thighs furnished pillows for their queridas, who were reclining on benches, smoking and gazing wearily at the ceiling. Other women were helping some of the men clean their ornaments and arms, humming doubtful songs the while.

“It seems that the chicks have escaped, for you’ve brought only the old hen!” commented one woman to the new arrivals,—whether alluding to Sisa or the still clucking hen is not certain.

“Yes, the hen is always worth more than the chicks,” Sisa herself answered when she observed that the soldiers were silent.

“Where’s the sergeant?” asked one of the guards in a disgusted tone. “Has report been made to the alferez yet?”

A general shrugging of shoulders was his answer, for no one was going to trouble himself inquiring about the fate of a poor woman.

There Sisa spent two hours in a state of semi-idiocy, huddled in a corner with her head hidden in her arms and her hair falling down in disorder. At noon the alferez was informed, and the first thing that he did was to discredit the curate’s accusation.

“Bah! Tricks of that rascally friar,” he commented, as he ordered that the woman be released and that no one should pay any attention to the matter. “If he wants to get back what he’s lost, let him ask St. Anthony or complain to the nuncio. Out with her!”

Consequently, Sisa was ejected from the barracks almost violently, as she did not try to move herself. Finding herself in the street, she instinctively started to hurry toward her house, with her head bared, her hair disheveled, and her gaze fixed on the distant horizon. The sun burned in its zenith with never a cloud to shade its flashing disk; the wind shook the leaves of the trees lightly along the dry road, while no bird dared stir from the shade of their branches.

At last Sisa reached her hut and entered it in silence, She walked all about it and ran in and out for a time. Then she hurried to old Tasio’s house and knocked at the door, but he was not at home. The unhappy woman then returned to her hut and began to call loudly for Basilio and Crispin, stopping every few minutes to listen attentively. Her voice came back in an echo, for the soft murmur of the water in the neighboring river and the rustling of the bamboo leaves were the only sounds that broke the stillness. She called again and again as she climbed the low cliffs, or went down into a gully, or descended to the river. Her eyes rolled about with a sinister expression, now flashing up with brilliant gleams, now becoming obscured like the sky on a stormy night; it might be said that the light of reason was flickering and about to be extinguished.

Again returning to her hut, she sat down on the mat where she had lain the night before. Raising her eyes, she saw a twisted remnant from Basilio’s camisa at the end of the bamboo post in the dinding, or wall, that overlooked the precipice. She seized and examined it in the sunlight. There were blood stains on it, but Sisa hardly saw them, for she went outside and continued to raise and lower it before her eyes to examine it in the burning sunlight. The light was failing and everything beginning to grow dark around her. She gazed wide-eyed and unblinkingly straight at the sun.

Still wandering about here and there, crying and wailing, she would have frightened any listener, for her voice now uttered rare notes such as are not often produced in the human throat. In a night of roaring tempest, when the whirling winds beat with invisible wings against the crowding shadows that ride upon it, if you should find yourself in a solitary and ruined building, you would hear moans and sighs which you might suppose to be the soughing of the wind as it beats on the high towers and moldering walls to fill you with terror and make you shudder in spite of yourself; as mournful as those unknown sounds of the dark night when the tempest roars were the accents of that mother. In this condition night came upon her. Perhaps Heaven had granted some hours of sleep while the invisible wing of an angel, brushing over her pallid countenance, might wipe out the sorrows from her memory; perhaps such suffering was too great for weak human endurance, and Providence had intervened with its sweet remedy, forgetfulness. However that may be, the next day Sisa wandered about smiling, singing, and talking with all the creatures of wood and field. 

1 With uncertain pace, in wandering flight, for an instant only—without rest.

Chapter XXII Lights and Shadows

Three days have passed since the events narrated, three days which the town of San Diego has devoted to making preparations for the fiesta, commenting and murmuring at the same time. While all were enjoying the prospect of the pleasures to come, some spoke ill of the gobernadorcillo, others of the teniente-mayor, others of the young men, and there were not lacking those who blamed everybody for everything.

There was a great deal of comment on the arrival of Maria Clara, accompanied by her Aunt Isabel. All rejoiced over it because they loved her and admired her beauty, while at the same time they wondered at the change that had come over Padre Salvi. “He often becomes inattentive during the holy services, nor does he talk much with us, and he is thinner and more taciturn than usual,” commented his penitents. The cook noticed him getting thinner and thinner by minutes and complained of the little honor that was done to his dishes. But that which caused the most comment among the people was the fact that in the convento were to be seen more than two lights burning during the evening while Padre Salvi was on a visit to a private dwelling—the home of Maria Clara! The pious women crossed themselves but continued their comments.

Ibarra had telegraphed from the capital of the province welcoming Aunt Isabel and her niece, but had failed to explain the reason for his absence. Many thought him a prisoner on account of his treatment of Padre Salvi on the afternoon of All Saints, but the comments reached a climax when, on the evening of the third day, they saw him alight before the home of his fiancée and extend a polite greeting to the priest, who was just entering the same house.

Sisa and her sons were forgotten by all.

If we should now go into the home of Maria Clara, a beautiful nest set among trees of orange and ilang-ilang, we should surprise the two young people at a window overlooking the lake, shadowed by flowers and climbing vines which exhaled a delicate perfume. Their lips murmured words softer than the rustling of the leaves and sweeter than the aromatic odors that floated through the garden. It was the hour when the sirens of the lake take advantage of the fast falling twilight to show their merry heads above the waves to gaze upon the setting sun and sing it to rest. It is said that their eyes and hair are blue, and that they are crowned with white and red water plants; that at times the foam reveals their shapely forms, whiter than the foam itself, and that when night descends completely they begin their divine sports, playing mysterious airs like those of Æolian harps. But let us turn to our young people and listen to the end of their conversation. Ibarra was speaking to Maria Clara.

“Tomorrow before daybreak your wish shall be fulfilled. I’ll arrange everything tonight so that nothing will be lacking.”

“Then I’ll write to my girl friends to come. But arrange it so that the curate won’t be there.”

“Why?”

“Because he seems to be watching me. His deep, gloomy eyes trouble me, and when he fixes them on me I’m afraid. When he talks to me, his voice—oh, he speaks of such odd, such strange, such incomprehensible things! He asked me once if I have ever dreamed of letters from my mother. I really believe that he is half-crazy. My friend Sinang and my foster-sister, Andeng, say that he is somewhat touched, because he neither eats nor bathes and lives in darkness. See to it that he does not come!”

“We can’t do otherwise than invite him,” answered Ibarra thoughtfully. “The customs of the country require it. He is in your house and, besides, he has conducted himself nobly toward me. When the alcalde consulted him about the business of which I’ve told you, he had only praises for me and didn’t try to put the least obstacle in the way. But I see that you’re serious about it, so cease worrying, for he won’t go in the same boat with us.”

Light footsteps were heard. It was the curate, who approached with a forced smile on his lips. “The wind is chilly,” he said, “and when one catches cold one generally doesn’t get rid of it until the hot weather. Aren’t you afraid of catching cold?” His voice trembled and his eyes were turned toward the distant horizon, away from the young people.

“No, we rather find the night pleasant and the breeze delicious,” answered Ibarra. “During these months we have our autumn and our spring. Some leaves fall, but the flowers are always in bloom.”

Fray Salvi sighed.

“I think the union of these two seasons beautiful, with no cold winter intervening,” continued Ibarra. “In February the buds on the trees will burst open and in March we’ll have the ripe fruit. When the hot month’s come we shall go elsewhere.”

Fray Salvi smiled and began to talk of commonplace things, of the weather, of the town, and of the fiesta. Maria Clara slipped away on some pretext.

“Since we are talking of fiestas, allow me to invite you to the one that we are going to celebrate tomorrow. It is to be a picnic in the woods, which we and our friends are going to hold together.”

“Where will it be held?”

“The young women wish to hold it by the brook in the neighboring wood, near to the old balete, so we shall rise early to avoid the sun.”

The priest thought a moment and then answered: “The invitation is very tempting and I accept it to prove to you that I hold no rancor against you. But I shall have to go late, after I’ve attended to my duties. Happy are you who are free, entirely free.”

A few moments later Ibarra left in order to look after the arrangements for the picnic on the next day. The night was dark and in the street some one approached and saluted him respectfully.

“Who are you?” asked Ibarra.

“Sir, you don’t know my name,” answered the unknown, “but I’ve been waiting for you two days.”

“For what purpose?”

“Because nowhere has any pity been shown me and they say that I’m an outlaw, sir. But I’ve lost my two sons, my wife is insane, and every one says that I deserve what has happened to me.”

Ibarra looked at the man critically as he asked, “What do you want now?”

“To beg for your pity upon my wife and sons.”

“I can’t stop now,” replied Ibarra. “If you wish to come, you can tell me as we go along what has happened to you.”

The man thanked him, and the two quickly disappeared in the shadows along the dimly lighted street. 

Chapter XXIII Fishing

The stars still glittered in the sapphire arch of heaven and the birds were still sleeping among the branches when a merry party, lighted by torches of resin, commonly called huepes, made its way through the streets toward the lake. There were five girls, who walked along rapidly with hands clasped or arms encircling one another’s waists, followed by some old women and by servants who were carrying gracefully on their heads baskets of food and dishes. Looking upon the laughing and hopeful countenances of the young women and watching the wind blow about their abundant black hair and the wide folds of their garments, we might have taken them for goddesses of the night fleeing from the day, did we not know that they were Maria Clara and her four friends, the merry Sinang, the grave Victoria, the beautiful Iday, and the thoughtful Neneng of modest and timid beauty. They were conversing in a lively manner, laughing and pinching one another, whispering in one another’s ears and then breaking out into loud laughter.

“You’ll wake up the people who are still asleep,” Aunt Isabel scolded. “When we were young, we didn’t make so much disturbance.”

“Neither would you get up so early nor would the old folks have been such sleepy-heads,” retorted little Sinang.

They were silent for a short time, then tried to talk in low tones, but soon forgot themselves and again filled the street with their fresh young voices.

“Behave as if you were displeased and don’t talk to him,” Sinang was advising Maria Clara. “Scold him so he won’t get into bad habits.”

“Don’t be so exacting,” objected Iday.

“Be exacting! Don’t be foolish! He must be made to obey while he’s only engaged, for after he’s your husband he’ll do as he pleases,” counseled little Sinang.

“What do you know about that, child?” her cousin Victoria corrected her.

“Sst! Keep quiet, for here they come!”

A group of young men, lighting their way with large bamboo torches, now came up, marching gravely along to the sound of a guitar.

“It sounds like a beggar’s guitar,” laughed Sinang. When the two parties met it was the women who maintained a serious and formal attitude, just as if they had never known how to laugh, while on the other hand the men talked and laughed, asking six questions to get half an answer.

“Is the lake calm? Do you think we’ll have good weather?” asked the mothers.

“Don’t be alarmed, ladies, I know how to swim well,” answered a tall, thin, emaciated youth.

“We ought to have heard mass first,” sighed Aunt Isabel, clasping her hands.

“There’s yet time, ma’am. Albino has been a theological student in his day and can say it in the boat,” remarked another youth, pointing to the tall, thin one who had first spoken. The latter, who had a clownish countenance, threw himself into an attitude of contrition, caricaturing Padre Salvi. Ibarra, though he maintained his serious demeanor, also joined in the merriment.

When they arrived at the beach, there involuntarily escaped from the women exclamations of surprise and pleasure at the sight of two large bankas fastened together and picturesquely adorned with garlands of flowers, leaves, and ruined cotton of many colors. Little paper lanterns hung from an improvised canopy amid flowers and fruits. Comfortable seats with rugs and cushions for the women had been provided by Ibarra. Even the paddles and oars were decorated, while in the more profusely decorated banka were a harp, guitars, accordions, and a trumpet made from a carabao horn. In the other banka fires burned on the clay kalanes for preparing refreshments of tea, coffee, and salabat.

“In this boat here the women, and in the other there the men,” ordered the mothers upon embarking. “Keep quiet! Don’t move about so or we’ll be upset.”

“Cross yourself first,” advised Aunt Isabel, setting the example.

“Are we to be here all alone?” asked Sinang with a grimace. “Ourselves alone?” This question was opportunely answered by a pinch from her mother.

As the boats moved slowly away from the shore, the light of the lanterns was reflected in the calm waters of the lake, while in the eastern sky the first tints of dawn were just beginning to appear. A deep silence reigned over the party after the division established by the mothers, for the young people seemed to have given themselves up to meditation.

“Take care,” said Albino, the ex-theological student, in a loud tone to another youth. “Keep your foot tight on the plug under you.”

“What?”

“It might come out and let the water in. This banka has a lot of holes in it.”

“Oh, we’re going to sink!” cried the frightened women.

“Don’t be alarmed, ladies,” the ex-theological student reassured them to calm their fears. “The banka you are in is safe. It has only five holes in it and they aren’t large.”

“Five holes! Jesús! Do you want to drown us?” exclaimed the horrified women.

“Not more than five, ladies, and only about so large,” the ex-theological student assured them, indicating the circle formed with his index finger and thumb. “Press hard on the plugs so that they won’t come out.”

María Santísima! The water’s coming in,” cried an old woman who felt herself already getting wet.

There now arose a small tumult; some screamed, while others thought of jumping into the water.

“Press hard on the plugs there!” repeated Albino, pointing toward the place where the girls were.

“Where, where? Diós! We don’t know how! For pity’s sake come here, for we don’t know how!” begged the frightened women.

It was accordingly necessary for five of the young men to get over into the other banka to calm the terrified mothers. But by some strange chance it seemed that there w, as danger by the side of each of the dalagas; all the old ladies together did not have a single dangerous hole near them! Still more strange it was that Ibarra had to be seated by the side of Maria Clara, Albino beside Victoria, and so on. Quiet was restored among the solicitous mothers but not in the circle of the young people.

As the water was perfectly still, the fish-corrals not far away, and the hour yet early, it was decided to abandon the oars so that all might partake of some refreshment. Dawn had now come, so the lanterns were extinguished.

“There’s nothing to compare with salabat, drunk in the morning before going to mass,” said Capitana Tika, mother of the merry Sinang. “Drink some salabat and eat a rice-cake, Albino, and you’ll see that even you will want to pray.”

“That’s what I’m doing,” answered the youth addressed. “I’m thinking of confessing myself.”

“No,” said Sinang, “drink some coffee to bring merry thoughts.”

“I will, at once, because I feel a trifle sad.”

“Don’t do that,” advised Aunt Isabel. “Drink some tea and eat a few crackers. They say that tea calms one’s thoughts.”

“I’ll also take some tea and crackers,” answered the complaisant youth, “since fortunately none of these drinks is Catholicism.”

“But, can you—” Victoria began.

“Drink some chocolate also? Well, I guess so, since breakfast is not so far off.”

The morning was beautiful. The water began to gleam with the light reflected from the sky with such clearness that every object stood revealed without producing a shadow, a bright, fresh clearness permeated with color, such as we get a hint of in some marine paintings. All were now merry as they breathed in the light breeze that began to arise. Even the mothers, so full of cautions and warnings, now laughed and joked among themselves.

“Do you remember,” one old woman was saying to Capitana Tika, “do you remember the time we went to bathe in the river, before we were married? In little boats made from banana-stalks there drifted down with the current fruits of many kinds and fragrant flowers. The little boats had banners on them and each of us could see her name on one of them.”

“And when we were on our way back home?” added another, without letting her go on. “We found the bamboo bridges destroyed and so we had to wade the brooks. The rascals!”

“Yes, I know that I chose rather to let the borders of my skirt get wet than to uncover my feet,” said Capitana Tika, “for I knew that in the thickets on the bank there were eyes watching us.”

Some of the girls who heard these reminiscences winked and smiled, while the others were so occupied with their own conversations that they took no notice.

One man alone, he who performed the duty of pilot, remained silent and removed from all the merriment. He was a youth of athletic build and striking features, with large, sad eyes and compressed lips. His black hair, long and unkempt, fell over a stout neck. A dark striped shirt afforded a suggestion through its folds of the powerful muscles that enabled the vigorous arms to handle as if it were a pen the wide and unwieldy paddle which’ served as a rudder for steering the two bankas.

Maria Clara had more than once caught him looking at her, but on such occasions he had quickly turned his gaze toward the distant mountain or the shore. The young woman was moved with pity at his loneliness and offered him some crackers. The pilot gave her a surprised stare, which, however, lasted for only a second. He took a cracker and thanked her briefly in a scarcely audible voice. After this no one paid any more attention to him. The sallies and merry laughter of the young folks caused not the slightest movement in the muscles of his face. Even the merry Sinang did not make him smile when she received pinchings that caused her to wrinkle up her eyebrows for an instant, only to return to her former merry mood.

The lunch over, they proceeded on their way toward the fish-corrals, of which there were two situated near each other, both belonging to Capitan Tiago. From afar were to be seen some herons perched in contemplative attitude on the tops of the bamboo posts, while a number of white birds, which the Tagalogs call kalaway, flew about in different directions, skimming the water with their wings and filling the air with shrill cries. At the approach of the bankas the herons took to flight, and Maria Clara followed them with her gaze as they flew in the direction of the neighboring mountain.

“Do those birds build their nests on the mountain?” she asked the pilot, not so much from a desire to know as for the purpose of making him talk.

“Probably they do, señora,” he answered, “but no one up to this time has ever seen their nests.”

“Don’t they have nests?”

“I suppose they must have them, otherwise they would be very unfortunate.”

Maria Clara did not notice the tone of sadness with which he uttered these words. “Then—”

“It is said, señora,” answered the strange youth, “that the nests of those birds are invisible and that they have the power of rendering invisible any one who possesses one of them. Just as the soul can only be seen in the pure mirror of the eyes, so also in the mirror of the water alone can their nests be looked upon.”

Maria Clara became sad and thoughtful. Meanwhile, they had reached the first fish-corral and an aged boatman tied the craft to a post.

“Wait!” called Aunt Isabel to the son of the fisherman, who was getting ready to climb upon the platform of the corral with his panalok, or fish-net fastened on the end of a stout bamboo pole. “We must get the sinigang ready so that the fish may pass at once from the water into the soup.”

“Kind Aunt Isabel!” exclaimed the ex-theological student. “She doesn’t want the fish to miss the water for an instant!”

Andeng, Maria Clara’s foster-sister, in spite of her carefree and happy face, enjoyed the reputation of being an excellent cook, so she set about preparing a soup of rice and vegetables, helped and hindered by some of the young men, eager perhaps to win her favor. The other young women all busied themselves in cutting up and washing the vegetables.

In order to divert the impatience of those who were waiting to see the fishes taken alive and wriggling from their prison, the beautiful Iday got out the harp, for Iday not only played well on that instrument, but, besides, she had very pretty fingers. The young people applauded and Maria Clara kissed her, for the harp is the most popular instrument in that province, and was especially suited to this occasion.

“Sing the hymn about marriage,” begged the old women. The men protested and Victoria, who had a fine voice, complained of hoarseness. The “Hymn of Marriage” is a beautiful Tagalog chant in which are set forth the cares and sorrows of the married state, yet not passing over its joys.

They then asked Maria Clara to sing, but she protested that all her songs were sad ones. This protest, however, was overruled so she held back no longer. Taking the harp, she played a short prelude and then sang in a harmonious and vibrating voice full of feeling:

Sweet are the hours in one’s native land,
   Where all is dear the sunbeams bless;
Life-giving breezes sweep the strand,
   And death is soften’d by love’s caress.

Warm kisses play on mother’s lips,
   On her fond, tender breast awaking;
When round her neck the soft arm slips,
   And bright eyes smile, all love partaking.

Sweet is death for one’s native land,
   Where all is dear the sunbeams bless;
Dead is the breeze that sweeps the strand,
   Without a mother, home, or love’s caress.

The song ceased, the voice died away, the harp became silent, and they still listened; no one applauded. The young women felt their eyes fill with tears, and Ibarra seemed to be unpleasantly affected. The youthful pilot stared motionless into the distance.

Suddenly a thundering roar was heard, such that the women screamed and covered their ears; it was the ex-theological student blowing with all the strength of his lungs on the tambuli, or carabao horn. Laughter and cheerfulness returned while tear-dimmed eyes brightened. “Are you trying to deafen us, you heretic?” cried Aunt Isabel.

“Madam,” replied the offender gravely, “I once heard of a poor trumpeter on the banks of the Rhine who, by playing on his trumpet, won in marriage a rich and noble maiden.”

“That’s right, the trumpeter of Sackingen!” exclaimed Ibarra, unable to resist taking part in the renewed merriment.

“Do you hear that?” went on Albino. “Now I want to see if I can’t have the same luck.” So saying, he began to blow with even more force into the resounding horn, holding it close to the ears of the girls who looked saddest. As might be expected, a small tumult arose and the mothers finally reduced him to silence by beating him with their slippers1 and pinching him.

“My, oh my!” he complained as he felt of his smarting arms, “what a distance there is between the Philippines and the banks of the Rhine! O tempora! O mores! Some are given honors and others sanbenitos!”

All laughed at this, even the grave Victoria, while Sinang, she of the smiling eyes, whispered to Maria Clara, “Happy girl! I, too, would sing if I could!”

Andeng at length announced that the soup was ready to receive its guests, so the young fisherman climbed up into the pen placed at the narrower end of the corral, over which might be written for the fishes, were they able to read and understand Italian, “Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’ entrante,”2 for no fish that gets in there is ever released except by death. This division of the corral encloses a circular space so arranged that a man can stand on a platform in the upper part and draw the fish out with a small net.

“I shouldn’t get tired fishing there with a pole and line,” commented Sinang, trembling with pleasant anticipation.

All were now watching and some even began to believe that they saw the fishes wriggling about in the net and showing their glittering scales. But when the youth lowered his net not a fish leaped up.

“It must be full,” whispered Albino, “for it has been over five days now since it was visited.”

The fisherman drew in his net, but not even a single little fish adorned it. The water as it fell back in glittering drops reflecting the sunlight seemed to mock his efforts with a silvery smile. An exclamation of surprise, displeasure, and disappointment escaped from the lips of all. Again the youth repeated the operation, but with no better result.

“You don’t understand your business,” said Albino, climbing up into the pen of the corral and taking the net from the youth’s hands. “Now you’ll see! Andeng, get the pot ready!”

But apparently Albino did not understand the business either, for the net again came up empty. All broke out into laughter at him.

“Don’t make so much noise that the fish can hear and so not let themselves be caught. This net must be torn.” But on examination all the meshes of the net appeared to be intact.

“Give it to me,” said Leon, Iday’s sweetheart. He assured himself that the fence was in good condition, examined the net and being satisfied with it, asked, “Are you sure that it hasn’t been visited for five days?”

“Very sure! The last time was on the eve of All Saints.”

“Well then, either the lake is enchanted or I’ll draw up something.”

Leon then dropped the pole into the water and instantly astonishment was pictured on his countenance. Silently he looked off toward the mountain and moved the pole about in the water, then without raising it murmured in a low voice:

“A cayman!”

“A cayman!” repeated everyone, as the word ran from mouth to mouth in the midst of fright and general surprise.

“What did you say?” they asked him.

“I say that we’re caught a cayman,” Leon assured them, and as he dropped the heavy end of the pole into the water, he continued: “Don’t you hear that sound? That’s not sand, but a tough hide, the back of a cayman. Don’t you see how the posts shake? He’s pushing against them even though he is all rolled up. Wait, he’s a big one, his body is almost a foot or more across.”

“What shall we do?” was the question.

“Catch him!” prompted some one.

“Heavens! And who’ll catch him?”

No one offered to go down into the trap, for the water was deep.

“We ought to tie him to our banka and drag him along in triumph,” suggested Sinang. “The idea of his eating the fish that we were going to eat!”

“I have never yet seen a live cayman,” murmured Maria Clara.

The pilot arose, picked up a long rope, and climbed nimbly up on the platform, where Leon made room for him. With the exception of Maria Clara, no one had taken any notice of him, but now all admired his shapely figure. To the great surprise of all and in spite of their cries, he leaped down into the enclosure.

“Take this knife!” called Crisostomo to him, holding out a wide Toledo blade, but already the water was splashing up in a thousand jets and the depths closed mysteriously.

Jesús, María, y José!” exclaimed the old women. “We’re going to have an accident!”

“Don’t be uneasy, ladies,” said the old boatman, “for if there is any one in the province who can do it, he’s the man.”

“What’s his name?” they asked.

“We call him ‘The Pilot’ and he’s the best I’ve ever seen, only he doesn’t like the business.”

The water became disturbed, then broke into ripples, the fence shook; a struggle seemed to be going on in the depths. All were silent and hardly breathed. Ibarra grasped the handle of the sharp knife convulsively.

Now the struggle seemed to be at an end and the head of the youth appeared, to be greeted with joyful cries. The eyes of the old women filled with tears. The pilot climbed up with one end of the rope in his hand and once on the platform began to pull on it. The monster soon appeared above the water with the rope tied in a double band around its neck and underneath its front legs. It was a large one, as Leon had said, speckled, and on its back grew the green moss which is to the caymans what gray hairs are to men. Roaring like a bull and beating its tail against or catching hold of the sides of the corral, it opened its huge jaws and showed its long, sharp teeth. The pilot was hoisting it alone, for no one had thought to assist him.

Once out of the water and resting on the platform, he placed his foot upon it and with his strong hands forced its huge jaws together and tried to tie its snout with stout knots. With a last effort the reptile arched its body, struck the floor with its powerful tail, and jerking free, hurled itself with one leap into the water outside the corral, dragging its captor along with it. A cry of horror broke from the lips of all. But like a flash of lightning another body shot into the water so quickly that there was hardly time to realize that it was Ibarra. Maria Clara did not swoon only for the reason that the Filipino women do not yet know how to do so.

The anxious watchers saw the water become colored and dyed with blood. The young fisherman jumped down with his bolo in his hand and was followed by his father, but they had scarcely disappeared when Crisostomo and the pilot reappeared clinging to the dead body of the reptile, which had the whole length of its white belly slit open and the knife still sticking in its throat.

To describe the joy were impossible, as a dozen arms reached out to drag the young men from the water. The old women were beside themselves between laughter and prayers. Andeng forgot that her sinigang had boiled over three times, spilling the soup and putting out the fire. The only one who could say nothing was Maria Clara.

Ibarra was uninjured, while the pilot had only a slight scratch on his arm. “I owe my life to you,” said the latter to Ibarra, who was wrapping himself up in blankets and cloths. The pilot’s voice seemed to have a note of sadness in it.

“You are too daring,” answered Ibarra. “Don’t tempt fate again.”

“If you had not come up again—” murmured the still pale and trembling Maria Clara.

“If I had not come up and you had followed me,” replied Ibarra, completing the thought in his own way, “in the bottom of the lake, I should still have been with my family!” He had not forgotten that there lay the bones of his father.

The old women did not want to visit the other corral but wished to return, saying that the day had begun inauspiciously and that many more accidents might occur. “All because we didn’t hear mass,” sighed one.

“But what accident has befallen us, ladies?” asked Ibarra. “The cayman seems to have been the only unlucky one.”

“All of which proves,” concluded the ex-student of theology, “that in all its sinful life this unfortunate reptile has never attended mass—at least, I’ve never seen him among the many other caymans that frequent the church.”

So the boats were turned in the direction of the other corral and Andeng had to get her sinigangready again. The day was now well advanced, with a fresh breeze blowing. The waves curled up behind the body of the cayman, raising “mountains of foam whereon the smooth, rich sunlight glitters,” as the poet says. The music again resounded; Iday played on the harp, while the men handled the accordions and guitars with greater or less skill. The prize-winner was Albino, who actually scratched the instruments, getting out of tune and losing the time every moment or else forgetting it and changing to another tune entirely different.

The second corral was visited with some misgivings, as many expected to find there the mate of the dead cayman, but nature is ever a jester, and the nets came up full at each haul. Aunt Isabel superintended the sorting of the fish and ordered that some be left in the trap for decoys. “It’s not lucky to empty the corral completely,” she concluded.

Then they made their way toward the shore near the forest of old trees that belonged to Ibarra. There in the shade by the clear waters of the brook, among the flowers, they ate their breakfast under improvised canopies. The space was filled with music while the smoke from the fires curled up in slender wreaths. The water bubbled cheerfully in the hot dishes as though uttering sounds of consolation, or perchance of sarcasm and irony, to the dead fishes. The body of the cayman writhed about, sometimes showing its torn white belly and again its speckled greenish back, while man, Nature’s favorite, went on his way undisturbed by what the Brahmins and vegetarians would call so many cases of fratricide. 

1 The chinela, the Philippine slipper, is a soft leather sole, heelless, with only a vamp, usually of plush or velvet, to hold it on.—TR.

2 “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” The words inscribed over the gate of Hell: Dante’s Inferno, III, 9.—TR.

Chapter XXIV In the Wood

Early, very early indeed, somewhat differently from his usual custom, Padre Salvi had celebrated mass and cleansed a dozen sinful souls in a few moments. Then it seemed that the reading of some letters which he had received firmly sealed and waxed caused the worthy curate to lose his appetite, since he allowed his chocolate to become completely cold.

“The padre is getting sick,” commented the cook while preparing another cup. “For days he hasn’t eaten; of the six dishes that I set before him on the table he doesn’t touch even two.”

“It’s because he sleeps badly,” replied the other servant. “He has nightmares since he changed his bedroom. His eyes are becoming more sunken all the time and he’s getting thinner and yellower day by day.”

Truly, Padre Salvi was a pitiable sight. He did not care to touch the second cup of chocolate nor to taste the sweet cakes of Cebu; instead, he paced thoughtfully about the spacious sala, crumpling in his bony hands the letters, which he read from time to time. Finally, he called for his carriage, got ready, and directed that he be taken to the wood where stood the fateful tree near which the picnic was being held.

Arriving at the edge of the wood, the padre dismissed his carriage and made his way alone into its depths. A gloomy pathway opened a difficult passage through the thickets and led to the brook formed by certain warm springs, like many that flow from the slopes of Mr. Makiling. Adorning its banks grow wild flowers, many of which have as yet no Latin names, but which are doubtless well-known to the gilded insects and butterflies of all shapes and colors, blue and gold, white and black, many-hued, glittering with iridescent spots, with rubies and emeralds on their wings, and to the countless beetles with their metallic lusters of powdered gold. The hum of the insects, the cries of the cicada, which cease not night or day, the songs of the birds, and the dry crashing of the rotten branch that falls and strikes all around against the trees, are the only sounds to break the stillness of that mysterious place.

For some time the padre wandered aimlessly among the thick underbrush, avoiding the thorns that caught at his guingón habit as though to detain him, and the roots of the trees that protruded from the soil to form stumbling-blocks at every step for this wanderer unaccustomed to such places. But suddenly his feet were arrested by the sound of clear voices raised in merry laughter, seeming to come from the brook and apparently drawing nearer.

“I’m going to see if I can find one of those nests,” said a beautiful, sweet voice, which the curate recognized. “I’d like to see him without having him see me, so I could follow him everywhere.”

Padre Salvi hid behind the trunk of a large tree and set himself to eavesdrop.

“Does that mean that you want to do with him what the curate does with you?” asked a laughing voice. “He watches you everywhere. Be careful, for jealousy makes people thin and puts rings around their eyes.”

“No, no, not jealousy, it’s pure curiosity,” replied the silvery voice, while the laughing one repeated, “Yes, jealousy, jealousy!” and she burst out into merry laughter.

“If I were jealous, instead of making myself invisible, I’d make him so, in order that no one might see him.”

“But neither would you see him and that wouldn’t be nice. The best thing for us to do if we find the nest would be to present it to the curate so that he could watch over us without the necessity of our seeing him, don’t you think so?”

“I don’t believe in those herons’ nests,” interrupted another voice, “but if at any time I should be jealous, I’d know how to watch and still keep myself hidden.”

“How, how? Perhaps like a Sor Escucha?1

This reminiscence of school-days provoked another merry burst of laughter.

“And you know how she’s fooled, the Sor Escucha!

From his hiding-place Padre Salvi saw Maria Clara, Victoria, and Sinang wading along the border of the brook. They were moving forward with their eyes fixed on the crystal waters, seeking the enchanted nest of the heron, wet to their knees so that the wide folds of their bathing skirts revealed the graceful curves of their bodies. Their hair was flung loose, their arms bare, and they wore camisas with wide stripes of bright hues. While looking for something that they could not find they were picking flowers and plants which grew along the bank.

The religious Acteon stood pale and motionless gazing at that chaste Diana, but his eyes glittered in their dark circles, untired of staring at those white and shapely arms and at that elegant neck and bust, while the small rosy feet that played in the water awoke in his starved being strange sensations and in his burning brain dreams of new ideas.

The three charming figures disappeared behind a bamboo thicket around a bend in the brook, and their cruel allusions ceased to be heard. Intoxicated, staggering, covered with perspiration, Padre Salvi left his hiding-place and looked all about him with rolling eyes. He stood still as if in doubt, then took a few steps as though he would try to follow the girls, but turned again and made his way along the banks of the stream to seek the rest of the party.

At a little distance he saw in the middle of the brook a kind of bathing-place, well enclosed, decorated with palm leaves, flowers, and streamers, with a leafy clump of bamboo for a covering, from within which came the sound of happy feminine voices. Farther on he saw a bamboo bridge and beyond it the men bathing. Near these a crowd of servants was busily engaged around improvised kalanes in plucking chickens, washing rice, and roasting a pig. On the opposite bank in a cleared space were gathered men and women under a canvas covering which was fastened partly to the hoary trees and partly to newly-driven stakes. There were gathered the alferez, the coadjutor, the gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, the schoolmaster, and many other personages of the town, even including Sinang’s father, Capitan Basilio, who had been the adversary of the deceased Don Rafael in an old lawsuit. Ibarra had said to him, “We are disputing over a point of law, but that does not mean that we are enemies,” so the celebrated orator of the conservatives had enthusiastically accepted the invitation, sending along three turkeys and putting his servants at the young man’s disposal.

The curate was received with respect and deference by all, even the alferez. “Why, where has your Reverence been?” asked the latter, as he noticed the curate’s scratched face and his habit covered with leaves and dry twigs. “Has your Reverence had a fall?”

“No, I lost my way,” replied Padre Salvi, lowering his gaze to examine his gown.

Bottles of lemonade were brought out and green coconuts were split open so that the bathers as they came from the water might refresh themselves with the milk and the soft meat, whiter than the milk itself. The girls all received in addition rosaries of sampaguitas, intertwined with roses and ilang-ilang blossoms, to perfume their flowing tresses. Some of the company sat on the ground or reclined in hammocks swung from the branches of the trees, while others amused themselves around a wide flat rock on which were to be seen playing-cards, a chess-board, booklets, cowry shells, and pebbles.

They showed the cayman to the curate, but he seemed inattentive until they told him that the gaping wound had been inflicted by Ibarra. The celebrated and unknown pilot was no longer to be seen, as he had disappeared before the arrival of the alferez.

At length Maria Clara came from the bath with her companions, looking fresh as a rose on its first morning when the dew sparkling on its fair petals glistens like diamonds. Her first smile was for Crisostomo and the first cloud on her brow for Padre Salvi, who noted it and sighed.

The lunch hour was now come, and the curate, the coadjutor, the gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, and the other dignitaries took their seats at the table over which Ibarra presided. The mothers would not permit any of the men to eat at the table where the young women sat.

“This time, Albino, you can’t invent holes as in the bankas,” said Leon to the quondam student of theology. “What! What’s that?” asked the old women.

“The bankas, ladies, were as whole as this plate is,” explained Leon.

Jesús! The rascal!” exclaimed the smiling Aunt Isabel.

“Have you yet learned anything of the criminal who assaulted Padre Damaso?” inquired Fray Salvi of the alferez.

“Of what criminal, Padre?” asked the military man, staring at the friar over the glass of wine that he was emptying,

“What criminal! Why, the one who struck Padre Damaso in the road yesterday afternoon!”

“Struck Padre Damaso?” asked several voices.

The coadjutor seemed to smile, while Padre Salvi went on: “Yes, and Padre Damaso is now confined to his bed. It’s thought that he may be the very same Elias who threw you into the mudhole, señor alferez.”

Either from shame or wine the alferez’s face became very red.

“Of course, I thought,” continued Padre Salvi in a joking manner, “that you, the alferez of the Civil Guard, would be informed about the affair.”

The soldier bit his lip and was murmuring some foolish excuse, when the meal was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a pale, thin, poorly-clad woman. No one had noticed her approach, for she had come so noiselessly that at night she might have been taken for a ghost.

“Give this poor woman something to eat,” cried the old women. “Oy, come here!”

Still the strange woman kept on her way to the table where the curate was seated. As he turned his face and recognized her, his knife dropped from his hand.

“Give this woman something to eat,” ordered Ibarra.

“The night is dark and the boys disappear,” murmured the wandering woman, but at sight of the alferez, who spoke to her, she became frightened and ran away among the trees.

“Who is she?” he asked.

“An unfortunate woman who has become insane from fear and sorrow,” answered Don Filipo. “For four days now she has been so.”

“Is her name Sisa?” asked Ibarra with interest.

“Your soldiers arrested her,” continued the teniente-mayor, rather bitterly, to the alferez. “They marched her through the town on account of something about her sons which isn’t very clearly known.”

“What!” exclaimed the alferez, turning to the curate, “she isn’t the mother of your two sacristans?”

The curate nodded in affirmation.

“They disappeared and nobody made any inquiries about them,” added Don Filipo with a severe look at the gobernadorcillo, who dropped his eyes.

“Look for that woman,” Crisostomo ordered the servants. “I promised to try to learn where her sons are.”

“They disappeared, did you say?” asked the alferez. “Your sacristans disappeared, Padre?”

The friar emptied the glass of wine before him and again nodded.

Caramba, Padre!” exclaimed the alferez with a sarcastic laugh, pleased at the thought of a little revenge. “A few pesos of your Reverence’s disappear and my sergeant is routed out early to hunt for them—two sacristans disappear and your Reverence says nothing—and you, señor capitan—It’s also true that you—”

Here he broke off with another laugh as he buried his spoon in the red meat of a wild papaya.

The curate, confused, and not over-intent upon what he was saying, replied, “That’s because I have to answer for the money—”

“A good answer, reverend shepherd of souls!” interrupted the alferez with his mouth full of food. “A splendid answer, holy man!”

Ibarra wished to intervene, but Padre Salvi controlled himself by an effort and said with a forced smile, “Then you don’t know, sir, what is said about the disappearance of those boys? No? Then ask your soldiers!”

“What!” exclaimed the alferez, all his mirth gone.

“It’s said that on the night they disappeared several shots were heard.”

“Several shots?” echoed the alferez, looking around at the other guests, who nodded their heads in corroboration of the padre’s statement.

Padre Salvi then replied slowly and with cutting sarcasm: “Come now, I see that you don’t catch the criminals nor do you know what is going on in your own house, yet you try to set yourself up as a preacher to point out their duties to others. You ought to keep in mind that proverb about the fool in his own house—”2

“Gentlemen!” interrupted Ibarra, seeing that the alferez had grown pale. “In this connection I should like to have your opinion about a project of mine. I’m thinking of putting this crazy woman under the care of a skilful physician and, in the meantime, with your aid and advice, I’ll search for her sons.”

The return of the servants without the madwoman, whom they had been unable to find, brought peace by turning the conversation to other matters.

The meal ended, and while the tea and coffee were being served, both old and young scattered about in different groups. Some took the chessmen, others the cards, while the girls, curious about the future, chose to put questions to a Wheel of Fortune.

“Come, Señor Ibarra,” called Capitan Basilio in merry mood, “we have a lawsuit fifteen years old, and there isn’t a judge in the Audiencia who can settle it. Let’s see if we can’t end it on the chess-board.”

“With the greatest pleasure,” replied the youth. “Just wait a moment, the alferez is leaving.”

Upon hearing about this match all the old men who understood chess gathered around the board, for it promised to be an interesting one, and attracted even spectators who were not familiar with the game. The old women, however, surrounded the curate in order to converse with him about spiritual matters, but Fray Salvi apparently did not consider the place and time appropriate, for he gave vague answers and his sad, rather bored, looks wandered in all directions except toward his questioners.

The chess-match began with great solemnity. “If this game ends in a draw, it’s understood that the lawsuit is to be dropped,” said Ibarra.

In the midst of the game Ibarra received a telegram which caused his eyes to shine and his face to become pale. He put it into his pocketbook, at the same time glancing toward the group of young people, who were still with laughter and shouts putting questions to Destiny.

“Check to the king!” called the youth.

Capitan Basilio had no other recourse than to hide the piece behind the queen.

“Check to the queen!” called the youth as he threatened that piece with a rook which was defended by a pawn.

Being unable to protect the queen or to withdraw the piece on account of the king behind it, Capitan Basilio asked for time to reflect.

“Willingly,” agreed Ibarra, “especially as I have something to say this very minute to those young people in that group over there.” He arose with the agreement that his opponent should have a quarter of an hour.

Iday had the round card on which were written the forty-eight questions, while Albino held the book of answers.

“A lie! It’s not so!” cried Sinang, half in tears.

“What’s the matter?” asked Maria Clara.

“Just imagine, I asked, ‘When shall I have some sense?’ I threw the dice and that worn-out priest read from the book, ‘When the frogs raise hair.’ What do you think of that?” As she said this, Sinang made a grimace at the laughing ex-theological student.

“Who told you to ask that question?” her cousin Victoria asked her. “To ask it is enough to deserve such an answer.”

“You ask a question,” they said to Ibarra, offering him the wheel. “We’re decided that whoever gets the best answer shall receive a present from the rest. Each of us has already had a question.”

“Who got the best answer?”

“Maria Clara, Maria Clara!” replied Sinang. “We made her ask, willy-nilly, ‘Is your sweetheart faithful and constant?’ And the book answered—”

But here the blushing Maria Clara put her hands over Sinang’s mouth so that she could not finish.

“Well, give me the wheel,” said Crisostomo, smiling. “My question is, ‘Shall I succeed in my present enterprise?’”

“What an ugly question!” exclaimed Sinang.

Ibarra threw the dice and in accordance with the resulting number the page and line were sought.

“Dreams are dreams,” read Albino.

Ibarra drew out the telegram and opened it with trembling hands. “This time your book is wrong!” he exclaimed joyfully. “Read this: ‘School project approved. Suit decided in your favor.’”

“What does it mean?” all asked.

“Didn’t you say that a present is to be given to the one receiving the best answer?” he asked in a voice shaking with emotion as he tore the telegram carefully into two pieces.

“Yes, yes!”

“Well then, this is my present,” he said as he gave one piece to Maria Clara. “A school for boys and girls is to be built in the town and this school is my present.”

“And the other part, what does it mean?”

“It’s to be given to the one who has received the worst answer.”

“To me, then, to me!” cried Sinang.

Ibarra gave her the other piece of the telegram and hastily withdrew.

“What does it mean?” she asked, but the happy youth was already at a distance, returning to the game of chess.

Fray Salvi in abstracted mood approached the circle of young people. Maria Clara wiped away her tears of joy, the laughter ceased, and the talk died away. The curate stared at the young people without offering to say anything, while they silently waited for him to speak.

“What’s this?” he at length asked, picking up the book and turning its leaves.

The Wheel of Fortune, a book of games,” replied Leon.

“Don’t you know that it’s a sin to believe in these things?” he scolded, tearing the leaves out angrily.

Cries of surprise and anger escaped from the lips of all.

“It’s a greater sin to dispose of what isn’t yours, against the wish of the owner,” contradicted Albino, rising. “Padre, that’s what is called stealing and it is forbidden by God and men!”

Maria Clara clasped her hands and gazed with tearful eyes at the remnants of the book which a few moments before had been the source of so much happiness for her.

Contrary to the general expectation, Fray Salvi did not reply to Albino, but stood staring at the torn leaves as they were whirled about, some falling in the wood, some in the water, then he staggered away with his hands over his head. He stopped for a few moments to speak with Ibarra, who accompanied him to one of the carriages, which were at the disposal of the guests.

“He’s doing well to leave, that kill-joy,” murmured Sinang. “He has a face that seems to say, ‘Don’t laugh, for I know about your sins!’”

After making the present to his fiancée, Ibarra was so happy that he began to play without reflection or a careful examination of the positions of the pieces. The result was that although Capitan Basilio was hard pressed the game became a stalemate, owing to many careless moves on the young man’s part.

“It’s settled, we’re at peace!” exclaimed Capitan Basilio heartily.

“Yes, we’re at peace,” repeated the youth, “whatever the decision of the court may be.” And the two shook hands cordially.

While all present were rejoicing over this happy termination of a quarrel of which both parties were tired, the sudden arrival of a sergeant and four soldiers of the Civil Guard, all armed and with bayonets fixed, disturbed the mirth and caused fright among the women.

“Keep still, everybody!” shouted the sergeant. “Shoot any one who moves!”

In spite of this blustering command, Ibarra arose and approached the sergeant. “What do you want?” he asked.

“That you deliver to us at once a criminal named Elias, who was your pilot this morning,” was the threatening reply.

“A criminal—the pilot? You must be mistaken,” answered Ibarra.

“No, sir, this Elias has just been accused of putting his hand on a priest—”

“Oh, was that the pilot?”

“The very same, according to reports. You admit persons of bad character into your fiestas, Señor Ibarra.”

Ibarra looked him over from head to foot and replied with great disdain, “I don’t have to give you an account of my actions! At our fiestas all are welcome. Had you yourself come, you would have found a place at our table, just as did your alferez, who was with us a couple of hours ago.” With this he turned his back.

The sergeant gnawed at the ends of his mustache but, considering himself the weaker party, ordered the soldiers to institute a search, especially among the trees, for the pilot, a description of whom he carried on a piece of paper.

Don Filipo said to him, “Notice that this description fits nine tenths of the natives. Don’t make any false move!”

After a time the soldiers returned with the report that they had been unable to see either banka or man that could be called suspicious-looking, so the sergeant muttered a few words and went away as he had come—in the manner of the Civil Guard!

The merriment was little by little restored, amid questions and comments.

“So that’s the Elias who threw the alferez into the mudhole,” said Leon thoughtfully.

“How did that happen? How was it?” asked some of the more curious.

“They say that on a very rainy day in September the alferez met a man who was carrying a bundle of firewood. The road was very muddy and there was only a narrow path at the side, wide enough for but one person. They say that the alferez, instead of reining in his pony, put spurs to it, at the same time calling to the man to get out of the way. It seemed that this man, on account of the heavy load he was carrying on his shoulder, had little relish for going back nor did he want to be swallowed up in the mud, so he continued on his way forward. The alferez in irritation tried to knock him down, but he snatched a piece of wood from his bundle and struck the pony on the head with such great force that it fell, throwing its rider into the mud. They also say that the man went on his way tranquilly without taking any notice of the five bullets that were fired after him by the alferez, who was blind with mud and rage. As the man was entirely unknown to him it was supposed that he might be the famous Elias who came to the province several months ago, having come from no one knows where. He has given the Civil Guard cause to know him in several towns for similar actions.”

“Then he’s a tulisan?” asked Victoria shuddering.

“I don’t think so, for they say that he fought against some tulisanes one day when they were robbing a house.”

“He hasn’t the look of a criminal,” commented Sinang.

“No, but he looks very sad. I didn’t see him smile the whole morning,” added Maria Clara thoughtfully.

So the afternoon passed away and the hour for returning to the town came. Under the last rays of the setting sun they left the woods, passing in silence by the mysterious tomb of Ibarra’s ancestors. Afterwards, the merry talk was resumed in a lively manner, full of warmth, beneath those branches so little accustomed to hear so many voices. The trees seemed sad, while the vines swung back and forth as if to say, “Farewell, youth! Farewell, dream of a day!”

Now in the light of the great red torches of bamboo and with the sound of the guitars let us leave them on the road to the town. The groups grow smaller, the lights are extinguished, the songs die away, and the guitar becomes silent as they approach the abodes of men. Put on the mask now that you are once more amongst your kind! 

1 “Listening Sister,” the nun who acts as spy and monitor over the girls studying in a convent.—TR.

2 “Más sabe el loco en su casa que el cuerdo en la ajena.” The fool knows more in his own house than a wise man does in another’s.—TR.

Chapter XXV In the House of the Sage

On the morning of the following day, Ibarra, after visiting his lands, made his way to the home of old Tasio. Complete stillness reigned in the garden, for even the swallows circling about the eaves scarcely made any noise. Moss grew on the old wall, over which a kind of ivy clambered to form borders around the windows. The little house seemed to be the abode of silence.

Ibarra hitched his horse carefully to a post and walking almost on tiptoe crossed the clean and well-kept garden to the stairway, which he ascended, and as the door was open, he entered. The first sight that met his gaze was the old man bent over a book in which he seemed to be writing. On the walls were collections of insects and plants arranged among maps and stands filled with books and manuscripts. The old man was so absorbed in his work that he did not notice the presence of the youth until the latter, not wishing to disturb him, tried to retire.

“Ah, you here?” he asked, gazing at Ibarra with a strange expression. “Excuse me,” answered the youth, “I see that you’re very busy—”

“True, I was writing a little, but it’s not urgent, and I want to rest. Can I do anything for you?”

“A great deal,” answered Ibarra, drawing nearer, “but—”

A glance at the book on the table caused him to exclaim in surprise, “What, are you given to deciphering hieroglyphics?”

“No,” replied the old man, as he offered his visitor a chair. “I don’t understand Egyptian or Coptic either, but I know something about the system of writing, so I write in hieroglyphics.”

“You write in hieroglyphics! Why?” exclaimed the youth, doubting what he saw and heard.

“So that I cannot be read now.”

Ibarra gazed at him fixedly, wondering to himself if the old man were not indeed crazy. He examined the book rapidly to learn if he was telling the truth and saw neatly drawn figures of animals, circles, semicircles, flowers, feet, hands, arms, and such things.

“But why do you write if you don’t want to be read?”

“Because I’m not writing for this generation, but for other ages. If this generation could read, it would burn my books, the labor of my whole life. But the generation that deciphers these characters will be an intelligent generation, it will understand and say, ‘Not all were asleep in the night of our ancestors!’ The mystery of these curious characters will save my work from the ignorance of men, just as the mystery of strange rites has saved many truths from the destructive priestly classes.”

“In what language do you write?” asked Ibarra after a pause.

“In our own, Tagalog.”

“Are the hieroglyphical signs suitable?”

“If it were not for the difficulty of drawing them, which takes time and patience, I would almost say that they are more suitable than the Latin alphabet. The ancient Egyptian had our vowels; our o, which is only final and is not like that of the Spanish, which is a vowel between o and u. Like us, the Egyptians lacked the true sound of e, and in their language are found our ha and kha, which we do not have in the Latin alphabet such as is used in Spanish. For example, in this word mukha,” he went on, pointing to the book, “I transcribe the syllable ha more correctly with the figure of a fish than with the Latin h, which in Europe is pronounced in different ways. For a weaker aspirate, as for example in this word haín, where the h has less force, I avail myself of this lion’s head or of these three lotus flowers, according to the quantity of the vowel. Besides, I have the nasal sound which does not exist in the Latin-Spanish alphabet. I repeat that if it were not for the difficulty of drawing them exactly, these hieroglyphics could almost be adopted, but this same difficulty obliges me to be concise and not say more than what is exact and necessary. Moreover, this work keeps me company when my guests from China and Japan go away.”

“Your guests from China and Japan?”

“Don’t you hear them? My guests are the swallows. This year one of them is missing—some bad boy in China or Japan must have caught it.”

“How do you know that they come from those countries?”

“Easily enough! Several years ago, before they left I tied to the foot of each one a slip of paper with the name ‘Philippines’ in English on it, supposing that they must not travel very far and because English is understood nearly everywhere. For years my slips brought no reply, so that at last I had it written in Chinese and here in the following November they have returned with other notes which I have had deciphered. One is written in Chinese and is a greeting from the banks of the Hoang-Ho and the other, as the Chinaman whom I consulted supposes, must be in Japanese. But I’m taking your time with these things and haven’t asked you what I can do for you.”

“I’ve come to speak to you about a matter of importance,” said the youth. “Yesterday afternoon—”

“Have they caught that poor fellow?”

“You mean Elias? How did you know about him?”

“I saw the Muse of the Civil Guard!”

“The Muse of the Civil Guard? Who is she?”

“The alferez’s woman, whom you didn’t invite to your picnic. Yesterday morning the incident of the cayman became known through the town. The Muse of the Civil Guard is as astute as she is malignant and she guessed that the pilot must be the bold person who threw her husband into the mudhole and who assaulted Padre Damaso. As she reads all the reports that her husband is to receive, scarcely had he got back home, drunk and not knowing what he was doing, when to revenge herself on you she sent the sergeant with the soldiers to disturb the merriment of your picnic. Be careful! Eve was a good woman, sprung from the hands of God—they say that Doña Consolacion is evil and it’s not known whose hands she came from! In order to be good, a woman needs to have been, at least sometime, either a maid or a mother.”

Ibarra smiled slightly and replied by taking some documents from his pocketbook. “My dead father used to consult you in some things and I recall that he had only to congratulate himself on following your advice. I have on hand a little enterprise, the success of which I must assure.” Here he explained briefly his plan for the school, which he had offered to his fiancée, spreading out in view of the astonished Sage some plans which had been prepared in Manila.

“I would like to have you advise me as to what persons in the town I must first win over in order to assure the success of the undertaking. You know the inhabitants well, while I have just arrived and am almost a stranger in my own country.”

Old Tasio examined the plans before him with tear-dimmed eyes. “What you are going to do has been my dream, the dream of a poor lunatic!” he exclaimed with emotion. “And now the first thing that I advise you to do is never to come to consult with me.”

The youth gazed at him in surprise.

“Because the sensible people,” he continued with bitter irony, “would take you for a madman also. The people consider madmen those who do not think as they do, so they hold me as such, which I appreciate, because the day in which they think me returned to sanity, they will deprive me of the little liberty that I’ve purchased at the expense of the reputation of being a sane individual. And who knows but they are right? I do not live according to their rules, my principles and ideals are different. The gobernadorcillo enjoys among them the reputation of being a wise man because he learned nothing more than to serve chocolate and to put up with Padre Damaso’s bad humor, so now he is wealthy, he disturbs the petty destinies of his fellow-townsmen, and at times he even talks of justice. ‘That’s a man of talent,’ think the vulgar, ‘look how from nothing he has made himself great!’ But I, I inherited fortune and position, I have studied, and now I am poor, I am not trusted with the most ridiculous office, and all say, ‘He’s a fool! He doesn’t know how to live!’ The curate calls me ‘philosopher’ as a nickname and gives to understand that I am a charlatan who is making a show of what I learned in the higher schools, when that is exactly what benefits me the least. Perhaps I really am the fool and they the wise ones—who can say?”

The old man shook his head as if to drive away that thought, and continued: “The second thing I can advise is that you consult the curate, the gobernadorcillo, and all persons in authority. They will give you bad, stupid, or useless advice, but consultation doesn’t mean compliance, although you should make it appear that you are taking their advice and acting according to it.”

Ibarra reflected a moment before he replied: “The advice is good, but difficult to follow. Couldn’t I go ahead with my idea without a shadow being thrown upon it? Couldn’t a worthy enterprise make its way over everything, since truth doesn’t need to borrow garments from error?”

“Nobody loves the naked truth!” answered the old man. “That is good in theory and practicable in the world of which youth dreams. Here is the schoolmaster, who has struggled in a vacuum; with the enthusiasm of a child, he has sought the good, yet he has won only jests and laughter. You have said that you are a stranger in your own country, and I believe it. The very first day you arrived you began by wounding the vanity of a priest who is regarded by the people as a saint, and as a sage among his fellows. God grant that such a misstep may not have already determined your future! Because the Dominicans and Augustinians look with disdain on the guingón habit, the rope girdle, and the immodest foot-wear, because a learned doctor in Santo Tomas1 may have once recalled that Pope Innocent III described the statutes of that order as more fit for hogs than men, don’t believe but that all of them work hand in hand to affirm what a preacher once said, ‘The most insignificant lay brother can do more than the government with all its soldiers!’ Cave ne cadas!2 Gold is powerful—the golden calf has thrown God down from His altars many times, and that too since the days of Moses!”

“I’m not so pessimistic nor does life appear to me so perilous in my country,” said Ibarra with a smile. “I believe that those fears are somewhat exaggerated and I hope to be able to carry out my plans without meeting any great opposition in that quarter.”

“Yes, if they extend their hands to you; no, if they withhold them. All your efforts will be shattered against the walls of the rectory if the friar so much as waves his girdle or shakes his habit; tomorrow the alcalde will on some pretext deny you what today he has granted; no mother will allow her son to attend the school, and then all your labors will produce a counter-effect—they will dishearten those who afterwards may wish to attempt altruistic undertakings.”

“But, after all,” replied the youth, “I can’t believe in that power of which you speak, and even supposing it to exist and making allowance for it, I should still have on my side the sensible people and the government, which is animated by the best intentions, which has great hopes, and which frankly desires the welfare of the Philippines.”

“The government! The government!” muttered the Sage, raising his eyes to stare at the ceiling. “However inspired it may be with the desire for fostering the greatness of the country for the benefit of the country itself and of the mother country, however some official or other may recall the generous spirit of the Catholic Kings3 and may agree with it, too, the government sees nothing, hears nothing, nor does it decide anything, except what the curate or the Provincial causes it to see, hear, and decide. The government is convinced that it depends for its salvation wholly on them, that it is sustained because they uphold it, and that the day on which they cease to support it, it will fall like a manikin that has lost its prop. They intimidate the government with an uprising of the people and the people with the forces of the government, whence originates a simple game, very much like what happens to timid persons when they visit gloomy places, taking for ghosts their own shadows and for strange voices the echoes of their own. As long as the government does not deal directly with the country it will not get away from this tutelage, it will live like those imbecile youths who tremble at the voice of their tutor, whose kindness they are begging for. The government has no dream of a healthy future; it is the arm, while the head is the convento. By this inertia with which it allows itself to be dragged from depth to depth, it becomes changed into a shadow, its integrity is impaired, and in a weak and incapable way it trusts everything to mercenary hands. But compare our system of government with those of the countries you have visited—”

“Oh!” interrupted Ibarra, “that’s asking too much! Let us content ourselves with observing that our people do not complain or suffer as do the people of other countries, thanks to Religion and the benignity of the governing powers.

“This people does not complain because it has no voice, it does not move because it is lethargic, and you say that it does not suffer because you haven’t seen how its heart bleeds. But some day you will see this, you will hear its complaints, and then woe unto those who found their strength on ignorance and fanaticism! Woe unto those who rejoice in deceit and labor during the night, believing that all are asleep! When the light of day shows up the monsters of darkness, the frightful reaction will come. So many sighs suppressed, so much poison distilled drop by drop, so much force repressed for centuries, will come to light and burst! Who then will pay those accounts which oppressed peoples present from time to time and which History preserves for us on her bloody pages?”

“God, the government, and Religion will not allow that day to come!” replied Ibarra, impressed in spite of himself. “The Philippines is religious and loves Spain, the Philippines will realize how much the nation is doing for her. There are abuses, yes, there are defects, that cannot be denied, but Spain is laboring to introduce reforms that will correct these abuses and defects, she is formulating plans, she is not selfish!”

“I know it, and that is the worst of it! The reforms which emanate from the higher places are annulled in the lower circles, thanks to the vices of all, thanks, for instance, to the eager desire to get rich in a short time, and to the ignorance of the people, who consent to everything. A royal decree does not correct abuses when there is no zealous authority to watch over its execution, while freedom of speech against the insolence of petty tyrants is not conceded. Plans will remain plans, abuses will still be abuses, and the satisfied ministry will sleep in peace in spite of everything. Moreover, if perchance there does come into a high place a person with great and generous ideas, he will begin to hear, while behind his back he is considered a fool, ‘Your Excellency does not know the country, your Excellency does not understand the character of the Indians, your Excellency is going to ruin them, your Excellency will do well to trust So-and-so,’ and his Excellency in fact does not know the country, for he has been until now stationed in America, and besides that, he has all the shortcomings and weaknesses of other men, so he allows himself to be convinced. His Excellency also remembers that to secure the appointment he has had to sweat much and suffer more, that he holds it for only three years, that he is getting old and that it is necessary to think, not of quixotisms, but of the future: a modest mansion in Madrid, a cozy house in the country, and a good income in order to live in luxury at the capital—these are what he must look for in the Philippines. Let us not ask for miracles, let us not ask that he who comes as an outsider to make his fortune and go away afterwards should interest himself in the welfare of the country. What matters to him the gratitude or the curses of a people whom he does not know, in a country where he has no associations, where he has no affections? Fame to be sweet must resound in the ears of those we love, in the atmosphere of our home or of the land that will guard our ashes; we wish that fame should hover over our tomb to warm with its breath the chill of death, so that we may not be completely reduced to nothingness, that something of us may survive. Naught of this can we offer to those who come to watch over our destinies. And the worst of all this is that they go away just when they are beginning to get an understanding of their duties. But we are getting away from our subject.”

“But before getting back to it I must make some things plain,” interrupted the youth eagerly. “I can admit that the government does not know the people, but I believe that the people know the government even less. There are useless officials, bad ones, if you wish, but there are also good ones, and if these are unable to do anything it is because they meet with an inert mass, the people, who take little part in the affairs that concern them. But I didn’t come to hold a discussion with you on that point, I came to ask for advice and you tell me to lower my head before grotesque idols!”

“Yes, I repeat it, because here you must either lower your head or lose it.”

“Either lower my head or lose it!” repeated Ibarra thoughtfully. “The dilemma is hard! But why? Is love for my country incompatible with love for Spain? Is it necessary to debase oneself to be a good Christian, to prostitute one’s conscience in order to carry out a good purpose? I love my native land, the Philippines, because to it I owe my life and my happiness, because every man should love his country. I love Spain, the fatherland of my ancestors, because in spite of everything the Philippines owes to it, and will continue to owe, her happiness and her future. I am a Catholic, I preserve pure the faith of my fathers, and I do not see why I have to lower my head when I can raise it, to give it over to my enemies when I can humble them!”

“Because the field in which you wish to sow is in possession of your enemies and against them you are powerless. It is necessary that you first kiss the hand that—”

But the youth let him go no farther, exclaiming passionately, “Kiss their hands! You forget that among them they killed my father and threw his body from the tomb! I who am his son do not forget it, and that I do not avenge it is because I have regard for the good name of the Church!”

The old Sage bowed his head as he answered slowly: “Señor Ibarra, if you preserve those memories, which I cannot counsel you to forget, abandon the enterprise you are undertaking and seek in some other way the welfare of your countrymen. The enterprise needs another man, because to make it a success zeal and money alone are not sufficient; in our country are required also self-denial, tenacity of purpose, and faith, for the soil is not ready, it is only sown with discord.”

Ibarra appreciated the value of these observations, but still would not be discouraged. The thought of Maria Clara was in his mind and his promise must be fulfilled.

“Doesn’t your experience suggest any other than this hard means?” he asked in a low voice.

The old man took him by the arm and led him to the window. A fresh breeze, the precursor of the north wind, was blowing, and before their eyes spread out the garden bounded by the wide forest that was a kind of park.

“Why can we not do as that weak stalk laden with flowers and buds does?” asked the Sage, pointing to a beautiful jasmine plant. “The wind blows and shakes it and it bows its head as if to hide its precious load. If the stalk should hold itself erect it would be broken, its flowers would be scattered by the wind, and its buds would be blighted. The wind passes by and the stalk raises itself erect, proud of its treasure, yet who will blame it for having bowed before necessity? There you see that gigantic kupang, which majestically waves its light foliage wherein the eagle builds his nest. I brought it from the forest as a weak sapling and braced its stem for months with slender pieces of bamboo. If I had transplanted it large and full of life, it is certain that it would not have lived here, for the wind would have thrown it down before its roots could have fixed themselves in the soil, before it could have become accustomed to its surroundings, and before it could have secured sufficient nourishment for its size and height. So you, transplanted from Europe to this stony soil, may end, if you do not seek support and do not humble yourself. You are among evil conditions, alone, elevated, the ground shakes, the sky presages a storm, and the top of your family tree has shown that it draws the thunderbolt. It is not courage, but foolhardiness, to fight alone against all that exists. No one censures the pilot who makes for a port at the first gust of the whirlwind. To stoop as the bullet passes is not cowardly—it is worse to defy it only to fall, never to rise again.”

“But could this sacrifice produce the fruit that I hope for?” asked Ibarra. “Would the priest believe in me and forget the affront? Would they aid me frankly in behalf of the education that contests with the conventos the wealth of the country? Can they not pretend friendship, make a show of protection, and yet underneath in the shadows fight it, undermine it, wound it in the heel, in order to weaken it quicker than by attacking it in front? Granted the previous actions which you surmise, anything may be expected!”

The old man remained silent from inability to answer these questions. After meditating for some time, he said: “If such should happen, if the enterprise should fail, you would be consoled by the thought that you had done what was expected of you and thus something would be gained. You would have placed the first stone, you would have sown the seed, and after the storm had spent itself perhaps some grain would have survived the catastrophe to grow and save the species from destruction and to serve afterwards as the seed for the sons of the dead sower. The example may encourage others who are only afraid to begin.”

Weighing these reasons, Ibarra realized the situation and saw that with all the old man’s pessimism there was a great deal of truth in what he said.

“I believe you!” he exclaimed, pressing the old man’s hand. “Not in vain have I looked to you for advice. This very day I’ll go and reach an understanding with the curate, who, after all is said, has done me no wrong and who must be good, since all of them are not like the persecutor of my father. I have, besides, to interest him in behalf of that unfortunate madwoman and her sons. I put my trust in God and men!”

After taking leave of the old man he mounted his horse and rode away. As the pessimistic Sage followed him with his gaze, he muttered: “Now let’s watch how Destiny will unfold the drama that began in the cemetery.” But for once he was greatly mistaken—the drama had begun long before! 

1 The College of Santo Tomas was established in 1619 through a legacy of books and money left for that purpose by Fray Miguel de Benavides, O. P., second archbishop of Manila. By royal decree and papal bull, it became in 1645 the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, and never, during the Spanish régime, got beyond the Thomistic theology in its courses of instruction.—TR.

2 Take heed lest you fall!

3 Ferdinand and Isabella, the builders of Spain’s greatness, are known in Spanish history as “Los Reyes Católicos.”—TR.

Chapter XXVI The Eve of the Fiesta

It is now the tenth of November, the eve of the fiesta. Emerging from its habitual monotony, the town has given itself over to unwonted activity in house, church, cockpit, and field. Windows are covered with banners and many-hued draperies. All space is filled with noise and music, and the air is saturated with rejoicings.

On little tables with embroidered covers the dalagas arrange in bright-hued glass dishes different kinds of sweetmeats made from native fruits. In the yard the hens cackle, the cocks crow, and the hogs grunt, all terrified by this merriment of man. Servants move in and out carrying fancy dishes and silver cutlery. Here there is a quarrel over a broken plate, there they laugh at the simple country girl. Everywhere there is ordering, whispering, shouting. Comments and conjectures are made, one hurries the other,—all is commotion, noise, and confusion. All this effort and all this toil are for the stranger as well as the acquaintance, to entertain every one, whether he has been seen before or not, or whether he is expected to be seen again, in order that the casual visitor, the foreigner, friend, enemy, Filipino, Spaniard, the poor and the rich, may go away happy and contented. No gratitude is even asked of them nor is it expected that they do no damage to the hospitable family either during or after digestion! The rich, those who have ever been to Manila and have seen a little more than their neighbors, have bought beer, champagne, liqueurs, wines, and food-stuffs from Europe, of which they will hardly taste a bite or drink a drop.

Their tables are luxuriously furnished. In the center is a well-modeled artificial pineapple in which are arranged toothpicks elaborately carved by convicts in their rest-hours. Here they have designed a fan, there a bouquet of flowers, a bird, a rose, a palm leaf, or a chain, all wrought from a single piece of wood, the artisan being a forced laborer, the tool a dull knife, and the taskmaster’s voice the inspiration. Around this toothpick-holder are placed glass fruit-trays from which rise pyramids of oranges, lansons, ates, chicos, and even mangos in spite of the fact that it is November. On wide platters upon bright-hued sheets of perforated paper are to be seen hams from Europe and China, stuffed turkeys, and a big pastry in the shape of an Agnus Dei or a dove, the Holy Ghost perhaps. Among all these are jars of appetizing acharas with fanciful decorations made from the flowers of the areca palm and other fruits and vegetables, all tastefully cut and fastened with sirup to the sides of the flasks.

Glass lamp globes that have been handed down from father to son are cleaned, the copper ornaments polished, the kerosene lamps taken out of the red wrappings which have protected them from the flies and mosquitoes during the year and which have made them unserviceable; the prismatic glass pendants shake to and fro, they clink together harmoniously in song, and even seem to take part in the fiesta as they flash back and break up the rays of light, reflecting them on the white walls in all the colors of the rainbow. The children play about amusing themselves by chasing the colors, they stumble and break the globes, but this does not interfere with the general merriment, although at other times in the year the tears in their round eyes would be taken account of in a different way.

Along with these venerated lamps there also come forth from their hiding-places the work of the girls: crocheted scarfs, rugs, artificial flowers. There appear old glass trays, on the bottoms of which are sketched miniature lakes with little fishes, caymans, shell-fish, seaweeds, coral, and glassy stones of brilliant hues. These are heaped with cigars, cigarettes, and diminutive buyos prepared by the delicate fingers of the maidens. The floor of the house shines like a mirror, curtains of piña and husi festoon the doorways, from the windows hang lanterns covered with glass or with paper, pink, blue, green, or red. The house itself is filled with plants and flower-pots on stands of Chinese porcelain. Even the saints bedeck themselves, the images and relics put on a festive air, the dust is brushed from them and on the freshly-washed glass of their cases are hung flowery garlands.

In the streets are raised at intervals fanciful bamboo arches, known as sinkában, constructed in various ways and adorned with kaluskús, the curling bunches of shavings scraped on their sides, at the sight of which alone the hearts of the children rejoice. About the front of the church, where the procession is to pass, is a large and costly canopy upheld on bamboo posts. Beneath this the children run and play, climbing, jumping, and tearing the new camisas in which they should shine on the principal day of the fiesta.

There on the plaza a platform has been erected, the scenery being of bamboo, nipa, and wood; there the Tondo comedians will perform wonders and compete with the gods in improbable miracles, there will sing and dance Marianito, Chananay, Balbino, Ratia, Carvajal, Yeyeng, Liceria, etc. The Filipino enjoys the theater and is a deeply interested spectator of dramatic representations, but he listens in silence to the song, he gazes delighted at the dancing and mimicry, he never hisses or applauds.

If the show is not to his liking, he chews his buyo or withdraws without disturbing the others who perhaps find pleasure in it. Only at times the commoner sort will howl when the actors embrace or kiss the actresses, but they never go beyond that. Formerly, dramas only were played; the local poet composed a piece in which there must necessarily be a fight every second minute, a clown, and terrifying transformations. But since the Tondo artist have begun to fight every fifteen seconds, with two clowns, and even greater marvels than before, they have put to rout their provincial compeers. The gobernadorcillo was very fond of this sort of thing, so, with the approval of the curate, he chose a spectacle with magic and fireworks, entitled, “The Prince Villardo or the Captives Rescued from the Infamous Cave.”1

From time to time the bells chime out merrily, those same bells that ten days ago were tolling so mournfully. Pin-wheels and mortars rend the air, for the Filipino pyrotechnist, who learned the art from no known instructor, displays his ability by preparing fire bulls, castles of Bengal lights, paper balloons inflated with hot air, bombs, rockets, and the like.

Now distant strains of music are heard and the small boys rush headlong toward the outskirts of the town to meet the bands of music, five of which have been engaged, as well as three orchestras. The band of Pagsanhan belonging to the escribano must not be lacking nor that of San Pedro de Tunasan, at that time famous because it was directed by the maestro Austria, the vagabond “Corporal Mariano” who, according to report, carried fame and harmony in the tip of his baton. Musicians praise his funeral march, “El Sauce,”2 and deplore his lack of musical education, since with his genius he might have brought glory to his country. The bands enter the town playing lively airs, followed by ragged or half-naked urchins, one in the camisa of his brother, another in his father’s pantaloons. As soon as the band ceases, the boys know the piece by heart, they hum and whistle it with rare skill, they pronounce their judgment upon it.

Meanwhile, there are arriving in conveyances of all kinds relatives, friends, strangers, the gamblers with their best game-cocks and their bags of gold, ready to risk their fortune on the green cloth or within the arena of the cockpit.

“The alferez has fifty pesos for each night,” murmurs a small, chubby individual into the ears of the latest arrivals. “Capitan Tiago’s coming and will set up a bank; Capitan Joaquin’s bringing eighteen thousand. There’ll be liam-pó: Carlos the Chinaman will set it up with ten thousand. Big stakes are coming from Tanawan, Lipa, and Batangas, as well as from Santa Cruz.3 It’s going to be on a big scale, yes, sir, on a grand scale! But have some chocolate! This year Capitan Tiago won’t break us as he did last, since he’s paid for only three thanksgiving masses and I’ve got a cacao mutyâ. And how’s your family?”

“Well, thank you,” the visitors respond, “and Padre Damaso?”

“Padre Damaso will preach in the morning and sit in with us at night.”

“Good enough! Then there’s no danger.”

“Sure, we’re sure! Carlos the Chinaman will loosen up also.” Here the chubby individual works his fingers as though counting out pieces of money.

Outside the town the hill-folk, the kasamá, are putting on their best clothes to carry to the houses of their landlords well-fattened chickens, wild pigs, deer, and birds. Some load firewood on the heavy carts, others fruits, ferns, and orchids, the rarest that grow in the forests, others bring broad-leafed caladiums and flame-colored tikas-tikas blossoms to decorate the doors of the houses.

But the place where the greatest activity reigns, where it is converted into a tumult, is there on a little plot of raised ground, a few steps from Ibarra’s house. Pulleys screech and yells are heard amid the metallic sound of iron striking upon stone, hammers upon nails, of axes chopping out posts. A crowd of laborers is digging in the earth to open a wide, deep trench, while others place in line the stones taken from the town quarries. Carts are unloaded, piles of sand are heaped up, windlasses and derricks are set in place.

“Hey, you there! Hurry up!” cries a little old man with lively and intelligent features, who has for a cane a copper-bound rule around which is wound the cord of a plumb-bob. This is the foreman of the work, Ñor Juan, architect, mason, carpenter, painter, locksmith, stonecutter, and, on occasions, sculptor. “It must be finished right now! Tomorrow there’ll be no work and the day after tomorrow is the ceremony. Hurry!”

“Cut that hole so that this cylinder will fit it exactly,” he says to some masons who are shaping a large square block of stone. “Within that our names will be preserved.”

He repeats to every newcomer who approaches the place what he has already said a thousand times: “You know what we’re going to build? Well, it’s a schoolhouse, a model of its kind, like those in Germany, and even better. A great architect has drawn the plans, and I—I am bossing the job! Yes, sir, look at it, it’s going to be a palace with two wings, one for the boys and the other for the girls. Here in the middle a big garden with three fountains, there on the sides shaded walks with little plots for the children to sow and cultivate plants in during their recess-time, that they may improve the hours and not waste them. Look how deep the foundations are, three meters and seventy-five centimeters! This building is going to have storerooms, cellars, and for those who are not diligent students dungeons near the playgrounds so that the culprits may hear how the studious children are enjoying themselves. Do you see that big space? That will be a lawn for running and exercising in the open air. The little girls will have a garden with benches, swings, walks where they can jump the rope, fountains, bird-cages, and so on. It’s going to be magnificent!”

Then Ñor Juan would rub his hands together as he thought of the fame that he was going to acquire. Strangers would come to see it and would ask, “Who was the great artisan that built this?” and all would answer, “Don’t you know? Can it be that you’ve never heard of Ñor Juan? Undoubtedly you’ve come from a great distance!” With these thoughts he moved from one part to the other, examining and reexamining everything.

“It seems to me that there’s too much timber for one derrick,” he remarked to a yellowish man who was overseeing some laborers. “I should have enough with three large beams for the tripod and three more for the braces.”

“Never mind!” answered the yellowish man, smiling in a peculiar way. “The more apparatus we use in the work, so much the greater effect we’ll get. The whole thing will look better and of more importance, so they’ll say, ‘How hard they’ve worked!’ You’ll see, you’ll see what a derrick I’ll put up! Then I’ll decorate it with banners, and garlands of leaves and flowers. You’ll say afterwards that you were right in hiring me as one of your laborers, and Señor Ibarra couldn’t ask for more!” As he said this the man laughed and smiled. Ñor Juan also smiled, but shook his head.

Some distance away were seen two kiosks united by a kind of arbor covered with banana leaves. The schoolmaster and some thirty boys were weaving crowns and fastening banners upon the frail bamboo posts, which were wrapped in white cloth.

“Take care that the letters are well written,” he admonished the boys who were preparing inscriptions. “The alcalde is coming, many curates will be present, perhaps even the Captain-General, who is now in the province. If they see that you draw well, maybe they’ll praise you.”

“And give us a blackboard?”

“Perhaps, but Señor Ibarra has already ordered one from Manila. Tomorrow some things will come to be distributed among you as prizes. Leave those flowers in the water and tomorrow we’ll make the bouquets. Bring more flowers, for it’s necessary that the table be covered with them—flowers please the eye.”

“My father will bring some water-lilies and a basket of sampaguitas tomorrow.”

“Mine has brought three cartloads of sand without pay.”

“My uncle has promised to pay a teacher,” added a nephew of Capitan Basilio.

Truly, the project was receiving help from all. The curate had asked to stand sponsor for it and himself bless the laying of the corner-stone, a ceremony to take place on the last day of the fiesta as one of its greatest solemnities. The very coadjutor had timidly approached Ibarra with an offer of all the fees for masses that the devout would pay until the building was finished. Even more, the rich and economical Sister Rufa had declared that if money should be lacking she would canvass other towns and beg for alms, with the mere condition that she be paid her expenses for travel and subsistence. Ibarra thanked them all, as he answered, “We aren’t going to have anything very great, since I am not rich and this building is not a church. Besides, I didn’t undertake to erect it at the expense of others.”

The younger men, students from Manila, who had come to take part in the fiesta, gazed at him in admiration and took him for a model; but, as it nearly always happens, when we wish to imitate great men, that we copy only their foibles and even their defects, since we are capable of nothing else, so many of these admirers took note of the way in which he tied his cravat, others of the style of his collar, and not a few of the number of buttons on his coat and vest.

The funereal presentiments of old Tasio seemed to have been dissipated forever. So Ibarra observed to him one day, but the old pessimist answered: “Remember what Baltazar says:

Kung ang isalúbong sa iyong pagdating
Ay masayang maukha’t may pakitang giliw,
Lalong pag-iñgata’t kaaway na lihim4

Baltazar was no less a thinker than a poet.”

Thus in the gathering shadows before the setting of the sun events were shaping themselves. 

1 These spectacular performances, known as “Moro-Moro,” often continued for several days, consisting principally of noisy combats between Moros and Christians, in which the latter were, of course, invariably victorious. Typical sketches of them may be found in Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XXIII, and Stuntz’s The Philippines and the Far East, Chap. III.—TR.

2 “The Willow.”

3 The capital of Laguna Province, not to be confused with the Santa Cruz mentioned before, which is a populous and important district in the city of Manila. Tanawan, Lipa, and Batangas are towns in Batangas Province, the latter being its capital.—TR.

4 “If on your return you are met with a smile, beware! for it means that you have a secret enemy.”—From the Florante, being the advice given to the hero by his old teacher when he set out to return to his home.

Francisco Baltazar was a Tagalog poet, native of the province of Bulacan, born about 1788, and died in 1862. The greater part of his life was spent in Manila,—in Tondo and in Pandakan, a quaint little village on the south bank of the Pasig, now included in the city, where he appears to have shared the fate largely of poets of other lands, from suffering “the pangs of disprized love” and persecution by the religious authorities, to seeing himself considered by the people about him as a crack-brained dreamer. He was educated in the Dominican school of San Juan de Letran, one of his teachers being Fray Mariano Pilapil, about whose services to humanity there may be some difference of opinion on the part of those who have ever resided in Philippine towns, since he was the author of the “Passion Song” which enlivens the Lenten evenings. This “Passion Song,” however, seems to have furnished the model for Baltazar’s Florante, with the pupil surpassing the master, for while it has the subject and characters of a medieval European romance, the spirit and settings are entirely Malay. It is written in the peculiar Tagalog verse, in the form of a corrido or metrical romance, and has been declared by Fray Toribio Menguella, Rizal himself, and others familiar with Tagalog, to be a work of no mean order, by far the finest and most characteristic composition in that, the richest of the Malay dialects.—TR.

Chapter XXVII In the Twilight

In Capitan Tiago’s house also great preparations had been made. We know its owner, whose love of ostentation and whose pride as a Manilan imposed the necessity of humiliating the provincials with his splendor. Another reason, too, made it his duty to eclipse all others: he had his daughter Maria Clara with him, and there was present his future son-in-law, who was attracting universal attention.

In fact one of the most serious newspapers in Manila had devoted to Ibarra an article on its front page, entitled, “Imitate him!” heaping him with praise and giving him some advice. It had called him, “The cultivated young gentleman and rich capitalist;” two lines further on, “The distinguished philanthropist;” in the following paragraph, “The disciple of Minerva who had gone to the mother country to pay his respects to the true home of the arts and sciences;” and a little further on, “The Filipino Spaniard.” Capitan Tiago burned with generous zeal to imitate him and wondered whether he ought not to erect a convento at his own expense.

Some days before there had arrived at the house where Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel were staying a profusion of eases of European wines and food-stuffs, colossal mirrors, paintings, and Maria Clara’s piano. Capitan Tiago had arrived on the day before the fiesta and as his daughter kissed his hand, had presented her with a beautiful locket set with diamonds and emeralds, containing a sliver from St. Peter’s boat, in which Our Savior sat during the fishing. His first interview with his future son-in-law could not have been more cordial. Naturally, they talked about the school, and Capitan Tiago wanted it named “School of St. Francis.” “Believe me,” he said, “St. Francis is a good patron. If you call it ‘School of Primary Instruction,’ you will gain nothing. Who is Primary Instruction, anyhow?”

Some friends of Maria Clara came and asked her to go for a walk. “But come back quickly,” said Capitan Tiago to his daughter, when she asked his permission, “for you know that Padre Damaso, who has just arrived, will dine with us.”

Then turning to Ibarra, who had become thoughtful, he said, “You dine with us also, you’ll be all alone in your house.”

“I would with the greatest pleasure, but I have to be at home in case visitors come,” stammered the youth, as he avoided the gaze of Maria Clara.

“Bring your friends along,” replied Capitan Tiago heartily. “In my house there’s always plenty to eat. Also, I want you and Padre Damaso to get on good terms.”

“There’ll be time enough for that,” answered Ibarra with a forced smile, as he prepared to accompany the girls.

They went downstairs, Maria Clara in the center between Victoria and Iday, Aunt Isabel following. The people made way for them respectfully. Maria Clara was startling in her beauty; her pallor was all gone, and if her eyes were still pensive, her mouth on the contrary seemed to know only smiles. With maiden friendliness the happy young woman greeted the acquaintances of her childhood, now the admirers of her promising youth. In less than a fortnight she had succeeded in recovering that frank confidence, that childish prattle, which seemed to have been benumbed between the narrow walls of the nunnery. It might be said that on leaving the cocoon the butterfly recognized all the flowers, for it seemed to be enough for her to spread her wings for a moment and warm herself in the sun’s rays to lose all the stiffness of the chrysalis. This new life manifested itself in her whole nature. Everything she found good and beautiful, and she showed her love with that maiden modesty which, having never been conscious of any but pure thoughts, knows not the meaning of false blushes. While she would cover her face when she was teased, still her eyes smiled, and a light thrill would course through her whole being.

The houses were beginning to show lights, and in the streets where the music was moving about there were lighted torches of bamboo and wood made in imitation of those in the church. From the streets the people in the houses might be seen through the windows in an atmosphere of music and flowers, moving about to the sounds of piano, harp, or orchestra. Swarming in the streets were Chinese, Spaniards, Filipinos, some dressed in European style, some in the costumes of the country. Crowding, elbowing, and pushing one another, walked servants carrying meat and chickens, students in white, men and women, all exposing themselves to be knocked down by the carriages which, in spite of the drivers’ cries, made their way with difficulty.

In front of Capitan Basilio’s house some young women called to our acquaintances and invited them to enter. The merry voice of Sinang as she ran down the stairs put an end to all excuses. “Come up a moment so that I may go with you,” she said. “I’m bored staying here among so many strangers who talk only of game-cocks and cards.”

They were ushered into a large room filled with people, some of whom came forward to greet Ibarra, for his name was now well known. All gazed in ecstasy at the beauty of Maria Clara and some old women murmured, as they chewed their buyo, “She looks like the Virgin!”

There they had to have chocolate, as Capitan Basilio had become a warm friend and defender of Ibarra since the day of the picnic. He had learned from the half of the telegram given to his daughter Sinang that Ibarra had known beforehand about the court’s decision in the latter’s favor, so, not wishing to be outdone in generosity, he had tried to set aside the decision of the chess-match. But when Ibarra would not consent to this, he had proposed that the money which would have been spent in court fees should be used to pay a teacher in the new school. In consequence, the orator employed all his eloquence to the end that other litigants should give up their extravagant claims, saying to them, “Believe me, in a lawsuit the winner is left without a camisa.” But he had succeeded in convincing no one, even though he cited the Romans.

After drinking the chocolate our young people had to listen to piano-playing by the town organist. “When I listen to him in the church,” exclaimed Sinang, pointing to the organist, “I want to dance, and now that he’s playing here I feel like praying, so I’m going out with you.”

“Don’t you want to join us tonight?” whispered Capitan Basilio into Ibarra’s ear as they were leaving. “Padre Damaso is going to set up a little bank.” Ibarra smiled and answered with an equivocal shake of his head.

“Who’s that?” asked Maria Clara of Victoria, indicating with a rapid glance a youth who was following them.

“He’s—he’s a cousin of mine,” she answered with some agitation.

“And the other?”

“He’s no cousin of mine,” put in Sinang merrily. “He’s my uncle’s son.”

They passed in front of the parish rectory, which was not one of the least animated buildings. Sinang was unable to repress an exclamation of surprise on seeing the lamps burning, those lamps of antique pattern which Padre Salvi had never allowed to be lighted, in order not to waste kerosene. Loud talk and resounding bursts of laughter might be heard as the friars moved slowly about, nodding their heads in unison with the big cigars that adorned their lips. The laymen with them, who from their European garments appeared to be officials and employees of the province, were endeavoring to imitate whatever the good priests did. Maria Clara made out the rotund figure of Padre Damaso at the side of the trim silhouette of Padre Sibyla. Motionless in his place stood the silent and mysterious Fray Salvi.

“He’s sad,” observed Sinang, “for he’s thinking about how much so many visitors are going to cost. But you’ll see how he’ll not pay it himself, but the sacristans will. His visitors always eat at other places.”

“Sinang!” scolded Victoria.

“I haven’t been able to endure him since he tore up the Wheel of Fortune. I don’t go to confession to him any more.”

Of all the houses one only was to be noticed without lights and with all the windows closed—that of the alferez. Maria Clara expressed surprise at this.

“The witch! The Muse of the Civil Guard, as the old man says,” exclaimed the irrepressible Sinang. “What has she to do with our merrymakings? I imagine she’s raging! But just let the cholera come and you’d see her give a banquet.”

“But, Sinang!” again her cousin scolded.

“I never was able to endure her and especially since she disturbed our picnic with her civil-guards. If I were the Archbishop I’d marry Her to Padre Salvi—then think what children! Look how she tried to arrest the poor pilot, who threw himself into the water simply to please—”

She was not allowed to finish, for in the corner of the plaza where a blind man was singing to the accompaniment of a guitar, a curious spectacle was presented. It was a man miserably dressed, wearing a broad salakot of palm leaves. His clothing consisted of a ragged coat and wide pantaloons, like those worn by the Chinese, torn in many places. Wretched sandals covered his feet. His countenance remained hidden in the shadow of his wide hat, but from this shadow there flashed intermittently two burning rays. Placing a flat basket on the ground, he would withdraw a few paces and utter strange, incomprehensible sounds, remaining the while standing entirely alone as if he and the crowd were mutually avoiding each other. Then some women would approach the basket and put into it fruit, fish, or rice. When no one any longer approached, from the shadows would issue sadder but less pitiful sounds, cries of gratitude perhaps. Then he would take up the basket and make his way to another place to repeat the same performance.

Maria Clara divined that there must be some misfortune there, and full of interest she asked concerning the strange creature.

“He’s a leper,” Iday told her. “Four years ago he contracted the disease, some say from taking care of his mother, others from lying in a damp prison. He lives in the fields near the Chinese cemetery, having intercourse with no one, because all flee from him for fear of contagion. If you might only see his home! It’s a tumbledown shack, through which the wind and rain pass like a needle through cloth. He has been forbidden to touch anything belonging to the people. One day when a little child fell into a shallow ditch as he was passing, he helped to get it out. The child’s father complained to the gobernadorcillo, who ordered that the leper be flogged through the streets and that the rattan be burned afterwards. It was horrible! The leper fled with his flogger in pursuit, while the gobernadorcillo cried, ‘Catch him! Better be drowned than get the disease you have!’”

“Can it be true!” murmured Maria Clara, then, without saying what she was about to do, went up to the wretch’s basket and dropped into it the locket her father had given her.

“What have you done?” her friends asked.

“I hadn’t anything else,” she answered, trying to conceal her tears with a smile.

“What is he going to do with your locket?” Victoria asked her. “One day they gave him some money, but he pushed it away with a stick; why should he want it when no one accepts anything that comes from him? As if the locket could be eaten!”

Maria Clara gazed enviously at the women who were selling food-stuffs and shrugged her shoulders. The leper approached the basket, picked up the jeweled locket, which glittered in his hands, then fell upon his knees, kissed it, and taking off his salakot buried his forehead in the dust where the maiden had stepped. Maria Clara hid her face behind her fan and raised her handkerchief to her eyes.

Meanwhile, a poor woman had approached the leper, who seemed to be praying. Her long hair was loose and unkempt, and in the light of the torches could be recognized the extremely emaciated features of the crazy Sisa. Feeling the touch of her hand, the leper jumped up with a cry, but to the horror of the onlooker’s Sisa caught him by the arm and said:

“Let us pray, let us pray! Today is All Souls’ day! Those lights are the souls of men! Let us pray for my sons!”

“Separate them! Separate them! The madwoman will get the disease!” cried the crowd, but no one dared to go near them.

“Do you see that light in the tower? That is my son Basilio sliding down a rope! Do you see that light in the convento? That is my son Crispin! But I’m not going to see them because the curate is sick and had many gold pieces and the gold pieces are lost! Pray, let us pray for the soul of the curate! I took him the finest fruits, for my garden was full of flowers and I had two sons! I had a garden, I used to take care of my flowers, and I had two sons!”

Then releasing her hold of the leper, she ran away singing, “I had a garden and flowers, I had two sons, a garden, and flowers!”

“What have you been able to do for that poor woman?” Maria Clara asked Ibarra.

“Nothing! Lately she has been missing from the totem and wasn’t to be found,” answered the youth, rather confusedly. “Besides, I have been very busy. But don’t let it trouble you. The curate has promised to help me, but advised that I proceed with great tact and caution, for the Civil Guard seems to be mixed up in it. The curate is greatly interested in her case.”

“Didn’t the alferez say that he would have search made for her sons?”

“Yes, but at the time he was somewhat—drunk.” Scarcely had he said this when they saw the crazy woman being led, or rather dragged along, by a soldier. Sisa was offering resistance.

“Why are you arresting her? What has she done?” asked Ibarra.

“Why, haven’t you seen how she’s been raising a disturbance?” was the reply of the guardian of the public peace.

The leper caught up his basket hurriedly and ran away.

Maria Clara wanted to go home, as she had lost all her mirth and good humor. “So there are people who are not happy,” she murmured. Arriving at her door, she felt her sadness increase when her fiancé declined to go in, excusing himself on the plea of necessity. Maria Clara went upstairs thinking what a bore are the fiesta days, when strangers make their visits. 

Chapter XXVIII Correspondence

Cada uno habla de la feria como le va en ella.1

As nothing of importance to our characters happened during the first two days, we should gladly pass on to the third and last, were it not that perhaps some foreign reader may wish to know how the Filipinos celebrate their fiestas. For this reason we shall faithfully reproduce in this chapter several letters, one of them being that of the correspondent of a noted Manila newspaper, respected for its grave tone and deep seriousness. Our readers will correct some natural and trifling slips of the pen. Thus the worthy correspondent of the respectable newspaper wrote:

“TO THE EDITOR, MY DISTINGUISHED FRIEND,—Never did I witness, nor had I ever expected to see in the provinces, a religious fiesta so solemn, so splendid, and so impressive as that now being celebrated in this town by the Most Reverend and virtuous Franciscan Fathers.

“Great crowds are in attendance. I have here had the pleasure of greeting nearly all the Spaniards who reside in this province, three Reverend Augustinian Fathers from the province of Batangas, and two Reverend Dominican Fathers. One of the latter is the Very Reverend Fray Hernando Sibyla, who has come to honor this town with his presence, a distinction which its worthy inhabitants should never forget. I have also seen a great number of the best people of Cavite and Pampanga, many wealthy persons from Manila, and many bands of music,—among these the very artistic one of Pagsanhan belonging to the escribano, Don Miguel Guevara,—swarms of Chinamen and Indians, who, with the curiosity of the former and the piety of the latter, awaited anxiously the day on which was to be celebrated the comic-mimic-lyric-lightning-change-dramatic spectacle, for which a large and spacious theater had been erected in the middle of the plaza.

“At nine on the night of the 10th, the eve of the fiesta, after a succulent dinner set before us by the hermano mayor, the attention of all the Spaniards and friars in the convento was attracted by strains of music from a surging multitude which, with the noise of bombs and rockets, preceded by the leading citizens of the town, came to the convento to escort us to the place prepared and arranged for us that we might witness the spectacle. Such a courteous offer we had to accept, although I should have preferred to rest in the arms of Morpheus and repose my weary limbs, which were aching, thanks to the joltings of the vehicle furnished us by the gobernadorcillo of B———.

“Accordingly we joined them and proceeded to look for our companions, who were dining in the house, owned here by the pious and wealthy Don Santiago de los Santos. The curate of the town, the Very Reverend Fray Bernardo Salvi, and the Very Reverend Fray Damaso Verdolagas, who is now by the special favor of Heaven recovered from the suffering caused him by an impious hand, in company with the Very Reverend Fray Hernando Sibyla and the virtuous curate of Tanawan, with other Spaniards, were guests in the house of the Filipino Croesus. There we had the good fortune of admiring not only the luxury and good taste of the host, which are not usual among the natives, but also the beauty of the charming and wealthy heiress, who showed herself to be a polished disciple of St. Cecelia by playing on her elegant piano, with a mastery that recalled Galvez to me, the best German and Italian compositions. It is a matter of regret that such a charming young lady should be so excessively modest as to hide her talents from a society which has only admiration for her. Nor should I leave unwritten that in the house of our host there were set before us champagne and fine liqueurs with the profusion and splendor that characterize the well-known capitalist.

“We attended the spectacle. You already know our artists, Ratia, Carvajal, and Fernandez, whose cleverness was comprehended by us alone, since the uncultured crowd did not understand a jot of it. Chananay and Balbino were very good, though a little hoarse; the latter made one break, but together, and as regards earnest effort, they were admirable. The Indians were greatly pleased with the Tagalog drama, especially the gobernadorcillo, who rubbed his hands and informed us that it was a pity that they had not made the princess join in combat with the giant who had stolen her away, which in his opinion would have been more marvelous, especially if the giant had been represented as vulnerable only in the navel, like a certain Ferragus of whom the stories of the Paladins tell. The Very Reverend Fray Damaso, in his customary goodness of heart, concurred in this opinion, and added that in such case the princess should be made to discover the giant’s weak spot and give him the coup de grace.

“Needless to tell you that during the show the affability of the Filipino Rothschild allowed nothing to be lacking: ice-cream, lemonade, wines, and refreshments of all kinds circulated profusely among us. A matter of reasonable and special note was the absence of the well-known and cultured youth, Don Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who, as you know, will tomorrow preside at the laying of the corner-stone for the great edifice which he is so philanthropically erecting. This worthy descendant of the Pelayos and Elcanos (for I have learned that one of his paternal ancestors was from our heroic and noble northern provinces, perhaps one of the companions of Magellan or Legazpi) did not show himself during the entire day, owing to a slight indisposition. His name runs from mouth to mouth, being uttered with praises that can only reflect glory upon Spain and true Spaniards like ourselves, who never deny our blood, however mixed it may be.

“Today, at eleven o’clock in the morning, we attended a deeply-moving spectacle. Today, as is generally known, is the fiesta of the Virgin of Peace and is being observed by the Brethren of the Holy Rosary. Tomorrow will occur the fiesta of the patron, San Diego, and it will be observed principally by the Venerable Tertiary Order. Between these two societies there exists a pious rivalry in serving God, which piety has reached the extreme of holy quarrels among them, as has just happened in the dispute over the preacher of acknowledged fame, the oft-mentioned Very Reverend Fray Damaso, who tomorrow will occupy the pulpit of the Holy Ghost with a sermon, which, according to general expectation, will be a literary and religious event.

“So, as we were saying, we attended a highly edifying and moving spectacle. Six pious youths, three to recite the mass and three for acolytes, marched out of the sacristy and prostrated themselves before the altar, while the officiating priest, the Very Reverend Fray Hernando Sibyla, chanted the Surge Domine—the signal for commencing the procession around the church—with the magnificent voice and religious unction that all recognize and that make him so worthy of general admiration. When the Surge Domine was concluded, the gobernadorcillo, in a frock coat, carrying the standard and followed by four acolytes with incense-burners, headed the procession. Behind them came the tall silver candelabra, the municipal corporation, the precious images dressed in satin and gold, representing St. Dominic and the Virgin of Peace in a magnificent blue robe trimmed with gilded silver, the gift of the pious ex-gobernadorcillo, the so-worthy-of-being-imitated and never-sufficiently-praised Don Santiago de los Santos. All these images were borne on silver cars. Behind the Mother of God came the Spaniards and the rest of the clergy, while the officiating priest was protected by a canopy carried by the cabezas de barangay, and the procession was closed by a squad of the worthy Civil Guard. I believe it unnecessary to state that a multitude of Indians, carrying lighted candles with great devotion, formed the two lines of the procession. The musicians played religious marches, while bombs and pinwheels furnished repeated salutes. It causes admiration to see the modesty and the fervor which these ceremonies inspire in the hearts of the true believers, the grand, pure faith professed for the Virgin of Peace, the solemnity and fervent devotion with which such ceremonies are performed by those of us who have had the good fortune to be born under the sacrosanct and immaculate banner of Spain.

“The procession concluded, there began the mass rendered by the orchestra and the theatrical artists. After the reading of the Gospel, the Very Reverend Fray Manuel Martin, an Augustinian from the province of Batangas, ascended the pulpit and kept the whole audience enraptured and hanging on his words, especially the Spaniards, during the exordium in Castilian, as he spoke with vigor and in such flowing and well-rounded periods that our hearts were filled with fervor and enthusiasm. This indeed is the term that should be used for what is felt, or what we feel, when the Virgin of our beloved Spain is considered, and above all when there can be intercalated in the text, if the subject permits, the ideas of a prince of the Church, the Señor Monescillo,2which are surely those of all Spaniards.

“At the conclusion of the services all of us went up into the convento with the leading citizens of the town and other persons of note. There we were especially honored by the refinement, attention, and prodigality that characterize the Very Reverend Fray Salvi, there being set before us cigars and an abundant lunch which the hermano mayor had prepared under the convento for all who might feel the necessity for appeasing the cravings of their stomachs.

“During the day nothing has been lacking to make the fiesta joyous and to preserve the animation so characteristic of Spaniards, and which it is impossible to restrain on such occasions as this, showing itself sometimes in singing and dancing, at other times in simple and merry diversions of so strong and noble a nature that all sorrow is driven away, and it is enough for three Spaniards to be gathered together in one place in order that sadness and ill-humor be banished thence. Then homage was paid to Terpsichore in many homes, but especially in that of the cultured Filipino millionaire, where we were all invited to dine. Needless to say, the banquet, which was sumptuous and elegantly served, was a second edition of the wedding-feast in Cana, or of Camacho,3 corrected and enlarged. While we were enjoying the meal, which was directed by a cook from ‘La Campana,’ an orchestra played harmonious melodies. The beautiful young lady of the house, in a mestiza gown4 and a cascade of diamonds, was as ever the queen of the feast.. All of us deplored from the bottom of our hearts a light sprain in her shapely foot that deprived her of the pleasures of the dance, for if we have to judge by her other conspicuous perfections, the young lady must dance like a sylph.

“The alcalde of the province arrived this afternoon for the purpose of honoring with his presence the ceremony of tomorrow. He has expressed regret over the poor health of the distinguished landlord, Señor Ibarra, who in God’s mercy is now, according to report, somewhat recovered.

“Tonight there was a solemn procession, but of that I will speak in my letter tomorrow, because in addition to the explosions that have bewildered me and made me somewhat deaf I am tired and falling over with sleep. While, therefore, I recover my strength in the arms of Morpheus—or rather on a cot in the convento—I desire for you, my distinguished friend, a pleasant night and take leave of you until tomorrow, which will be the great day.

Your affectionate friend,

SAN DIEGO, November 11.

THE CORRESPONDENT.”

Thus wrote the worthy correspondent. Now let us see what Capitan Martin wrote to his friend, Luis Chiquito:

“DEAR CHOY,—Come a-running if you can, for there’s something doing at the fiesta. Just imagine, Capitan Joaquin is almost broke. Capitan Tiago has doubled up on him three times and won at the first turn of the cards each time, so that Capitan Manuel, the owner of the house, is growing smaller every minute from sheer joy. Padre Damaso smashed a lamp with his fist because up to now he hasn’t won on a single card. The Consul has lost on his cocks and in the bank all that he won from us at the fiesta of Biñan and at that of the Virgin of the Pillar in Santa Cruz.

“We expected Capitan Tiago to bring us his future son-in-law, the rich heir of Don Rafael, but it seems that he wishes to imitate his father, for he does not even show himself. It’s a pity, for it seems he never will be any use to us.

“Carlos the Chinaman is making a big fortune with the liam-pó. I suspect that he carries something hidden, probably a charm, for he complains constantly of headaches and keeps his head bandaged, and when the wheel of the liam-pó is slowing down he leans over, almost touching it, as if he were looking at it closely. I am shocked, because I know more stories of the same kind.

“Good-by, Choy. My birds are well and my wife is happy and having a good time.

Your friend,

MARTIN ARISTORENAS.”

Ibarra had received a perfumed note which Andeng, Maria Clara’s foster-sister, delivered to him on the evening of the first day of the fiesta. This note said:

“CRISOSTOMO,—It has been over a day since you have shown yourself. I have heard that you are ill and have prayed for you and lighted two candles, although papa says that you are not seriously ill. Last night and today I’ve been bored by requests to play on the piano and by invitations to dance. I didn’t know before that there are so many tiresome people in the world! If it were not for Padre Damaso, who tries to entertain me by talking to me and telling me many things, I would have shut myself up in my room and gone to sleep. Write me what the matter is with you and I’ll tell papa to visit you. For the present I send Andeng to make you some tea, as she knows how to prepare it well, probably better than your servants do.

MARIA CLARA.”

“P.S. If you don’t come tomorrow, I won’t go to the ceremony. Vale!

1 Every one talks of the fiesta according to the way he fared at it.

2 A Spanish prelate, notable for his determined opposition in the Constituent Cortes of 1869 to the clause in the new Constitution providing for religious liberty.—TR.

3 “Camacho’s wedding” is an episode in Don Quixote, wherein a wealthy man named Camacho is cheated out of his bride after he has prepared a magnificent wedding-feast.—TR.

4 The full dress of the Filipino women, consisting of the camisa, pañuelo, and saya suelta, the latter a heavy skirt with a long train. The name mestiza is not inappropriate, as well from its composition as its use, since the first two are distinctly native, antedating the conquest, while the saya suelta was no doubt introduced by the Spaniards.

Chapter XXIX The Morning

At the first flush of dawn bands of music awoke the tired people of the town with lively airs. Life and movement reawakened, the bells began to chime, and the explosions commenced. It was the last day of the fiesta, in fact the fiesta proper. Much was hoped for, even more than on the previous day. The Brethren of the Venerable Tertiary Order were more numerous than those of the Holy Rosary, so they smiled piously, secure that they would humiliate their rivals. They had purchased a greater number of tapers, wherefor the Chinese dealers had reaped a harvest and in gratitude were thinking of being baptized, although some remarked that this was not so much on account of their faith in Catholicism as from a desire to get a wife. To this the pious women answered, “Even so, the marriage of so many Chinamen at once would be little short of a miracle and their wives would convert them.”

The people arrayed themselves in their best clothes and dragged out from their strong-boxes all their jewelry. The sharpers and gamblers all shone in embroidered camisas with large diamond studs, heavy gold chains, and white straw hats. Only the old Sage went his way as usual in his dark-striped sinamay camisa buttoned up to the neck, loose shoes, and wide gray felt hat.

“You look sadder than ever!” the teniente-mayor accosted him. “Don’t you want us to be happy now and then, since we have so much to weep over?”

“To be happy doesn’t mean to act the fool,” answered the old man. “It’s the senseless orgy of every year! And all for no end but to squander money, when there is so much misery and want. Yes, I understand it all, it’s the same orgy, the revel to drown the woes of all.”

“You know that I share your opinion, though,” replied Don Filipo, half jestingly and half in earnest. “I have defended it, but what can one do against the gobernadorcillo and the curate?”

“Resign!” was the old man’s curt answer as he moved away.

Don Filipo stood perplexed, staring after the old man. “Resign!” he muttered as he made his way toward the church. “Resign! Yes, if this office were an honor and not a burden, yes, I would resign.”

The paved court in front of the church was filled with people; men and women, young and old, dressed in their best clothes, all crowded together, came and went through the wide doors. There was a smell of powder, of flowers, of incense, and of perfumes, while bombs, rockets, and serpent-crackers made the women run and scream, the children laugh. One band played in front of the convento, another escorted the town officials, and still others marched about the streets, where floated and waved a multitude of banners. Variegated colors and lights distracted the sight, melodies and explosions the hearing, while the bells kept up a ceaseless chime. Moving all about were carriages whose horses at times became frightened, frisked and reared all of which, while not included in the program of the fiesta, formed a show in itself, free and by no means the least entertaining.

The hermano mayor for this day had sent servants to seek in the streets for whomsoever they might invite, as did he who gave the feast of which the Gospel tells us. Almost by force were urged invitations to partake of chocolate, coffee, tea, and sweetmeats, these invitations not seldom reaching the proportions of a demand.

There was to be celebrated the high mass, that known as the dalmatic, like the one of the day before, about which the worthy correspondent wrote, only that now the officiating priest was to be Padre Salvi, and that the alcalde of the province, with many other Spaniards and persons of note, was to attend it in order to hear Padre Damaso, who enjoyed a great reputation in the province. Even the alferez, smarting under the preachments of Padre Salvi, would also attend in order to give evidence of his good-will and to recompense himself, if possible, for the bad spells the curate had caused him.

Such was the reputation of Padre Damaso that the correspondent wrote beforehand to the editor of his newspaper:

“As was announced in my badly executed account of yesterday, so it has come to pass. We have had the especial pleasure of listening to the Very Reverend Fray Damaso Verdolagas, former curate of this town, recently transferred to a larger parish in recognition of his meritorious services. The illustrious and holy orator occupied the pulpit of the Holy Ghost and preached a most eloquent and profound sermon, which edified and left marveling all the faithful who had waited so anxiously to see spring from his fecund lips the restoring fountain of eternal life. Sublimity of conception, boldness of imagination, novelty of phraseology, gracefulness of style, naturalness of gestures, cleverness of speech, vigor of ideas—these are the traits of the Spanish Bossuet, who has justly earned such a high reputation not only among the enlightened Spaniards but even among the rude Indians and the cunning sons of the Celestial Empire.”

But the confiding correspondent almost saw himself obliged to erase what he had written. Padre Damaso complained of a cold that he had contracted the night before, for after singing a few merry songs he had eaten three plates of ice-cream and attended the show for a short time. As a result of all this, he wished to renounce his part as the spokesman of God to men, but as no one else was to be found who was so well versed in the life and miracles of San Diego,—the curate knew them, it is true, but it was his place to celebrate mass,—the other priests unanimously declared that the tone of Padre Damaso’s voice could not be improved upon and that it would be a great pity for him to forego delivering such an eloquent sermon as he had written and memorized. Accordingly, his former housekeeper prepared for him lemonade, rubbed his chest and neck with liniment and olive-oil, massaged him, and wrapped him in warm cloths. He drank some raw eggs beaten up in wine and for the whole morning neither talked nor breakfasted, taking only a glass of milk and a cup of chocolate with a dozen or so of crackers, heroically renouncing his usual fried chicken and half of a Laguna cheese, because the housekeeper affirmed that cheese contained salt and grease, which would aggravate his cough.

“All for the sake of meriting heaven and of converting us!” exclaimed the Tertiary Sisters, much affected, upon being informed of these sacrifices.

“May Our Lady of Peace punish him!” muttered the Sisters of the Holy Rosary, unable to forgive him for leaning to the side of their rivals.

At half past eight the procession started from the shadow of the canvas canopy. It was the same as that of the previous day but for the introduction of one novelty: the older members of the Venerable Tertiary Order and some maidens dressed as old women displayed long gowns, the poor having them of coarse cloth and the rich of silk, or rather of Franciscan guingón, as it is called, since it is most used by the reverend Franciscan friars. All these sacred garments were genuine, having come from the convento in Manila, where the people may obtain them as alms at a fixed price, if a commercial term may be permitted; this fixed price was liable to increase but not to reduction. In the convento itself and in the nunnery of St. Clara1 are sold these same garments which possess, besides the special merit of gaining many indulgences for those who may be shrouded in them, the very special merit of being dearer in proportion as they are old, threadbare, and unserviceable. We write this in case any pious reader need such sacred relics—or any cunning rag-picker of Europe wish to make a fortune by taking to the Philippines a consignment of patched and grimy garments, since they are valued at sixteen pesos or more, according to their more or less tattered appearance.

San Diego de Alcala was borne on a float adorned with plates of repoussé silver. The saint, though rather thin, had an ivory bust which gave him a severe and majestic mien, in spite of abundant kingly bangs like those of the Negrito. His mantle was of satin embroidered with gold.

Our venerable father, St. Francis, followed the Virgin as on yesterday, except that the priest under the canopy this time was Padre Salvi and not the graceful Padre Sibyla, so refined in manner. But if the former lacked a beautiful carriage he had more than enough unction, walking half bent over with lowered eyes and hands crossed in mystic attitude. The bearers of the canopy were the same cabezas de barangay, sweating with satisfaction at seeing themselves at the same time semi-sacristans, collectors of the tribute, redeemers of poor erring humanity, and consequently Christs who were giving their blood for the sins of others. The surpliced coadjutor went from float to float carrying the censer, with the smoke from which he from time to time regaled the nostrils of the curate, who then became even more serious and grave.

So the procession moved forward slowly and deliberately to the sound of bombs, songs, and religious melodies let loose into the air by bands of musicians that followed the floats. Meanwhile, the hermano mayor distributed candles with such zeal that many of the participants returned to their homes with light enough for four nights of card-playing. Devoutly the curious spectators knelt at the passage of the float of the Mother of God, reciting Credos and Salves fervently. In front of a house in whose gaily decorated windows were to be seen the alcalde, Capitan Tiago, Maria Clara, and Ibarra, with various Spaniards and young ladies, the float was detained. Padre Salvi happened to raise his eyes, but made not the slightest movement that might have been taken for a salute or a recognition of them. He merely stood erect, so that his cope fell over his shoulders more gracefully and elegantly.

In the street under the window was a young woman of pleasing countenance, dressed in deep mourning, carrying in her arms a young baby. She must have been a nursemaid only, for the child was white and ruddy while she was brown and had hair blacker than jet. Upon seeing the curate the tender infant held out its arms, laughed with the laugh that neither causes nor is caused by sorrow, and cried out stammeringly in the midst of a brief silence, “Pa-pa! Papa! Papa!” The young woman shuddered, slapped her hand hurriedly over the baby’s mouth and ran away in dismay, with the baby crying.

Malicious ones winked at each other, and the Spaniards who had witnessed the short scene smiled, while the natural pallor of Padre Salvi changed to the hue of poppies. Yet the people were wrong, for the curate was not acquainted with the woman at all, she being a stranger in the town. 

1 The nunnery of St. Clara, situated on the Pasig River just east of Fort Santiago, was founded in 1621 by the Poor Clares, an order of nuns affiliated with the Franciscans, and was taken under the royal patronage as the “Real Monasterio de Santa Clara” in 1662. It is still in existence and is perhaps the most curious of all the curious relics of the Middle Ages in old Manila.—TR.

Chapter XXX In the Church

From end to end the huge barn that men dedicate as a home to the Creator of all existing things was filled with people. Pushing, crowding, and crushing one another, the few who were leaving and the many who were entering filled the air with exclamations of distress. Even from afar an arm would be stretched out to dip the fingers in the holy water, but at the critical moment the surging crowd would force the hand away. Then would be heard a complaint, a trampled woman would upbraid some one, but the pushing would continue. Some old people might succeed in dipping their fingers in the water, now the color of slime, where the population of a whole town, with transients besides, had washed. With it they would anoint themselves devoutly, although with difficulty, on the neck, on the crown of the head, on the forehead, on the chin, on the chest, and on the abdomen, in the assurance that thus they were sanctifying those parts and that they would suffer neither stiff neck, headache, consumption, nor indigestion. The young people, whether they were not so ailing or did not believe in that holy prophylactic, hardly more than moistened the tip of a finger—and this only in order that the devout might have no cause to talk—and pretended to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, of course without touching them. “It may be blessed and everything you may wish,” some young woman doubtless thought, “but it has such a color!”

It was difficult to breathe in the heat amid the smells of the human animal, but the preacher was worth all these inconveniences, as the sermon was costing the town two hundred and fifty pesos. Old Tasio had said: “Two hundred and fifty pesos for a sermon! One man on one occasion! Only a third of what comedians cost, who will work for three nights! Surely you must be very rich!”

“What has that to do with the drama?” testily inquired the nervous leader of the Tertiary Brethren. “With the drama souls go to hell but with the sermon to heaven! If he had asked a thousand, we would have paid him and should still owe him gratitude.”

“After all, you’re right,” replied the Sage, “for the sermon is more amusing to me at least than the drama.”

“But I am not amused even by the drama!” yelled the other furiously.

“I believe it, since you understand one about as well as you do the other!” And the impious old man moved away without paying any attention to the insults and the direful prophecies that the irritated leader offered concerning his future existence.

While they were waiting for the alcalde, the people sweated and yawned, agitating the air with fans, hats, and handkerchiefs. Children shouted and cried, which kept the sacristans busy putting them out of the sacred edifice. Such action brought to the dull and conscientious leader of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary this thought: “‘Suffer little children to come unto me,’ said Our Savior, it is true, but here must be understood, children who do not cry.”

An old woman in a guingón habit, Sister Puté, chid her granddaughter, a child of six years, who was kneeling at her side, “O lost one, give heed, for you’re going to hear a sermon like that of Good Friday!” Here the old lady gave her a pinch to awaken the piety of the child, who made a grimace, stuck out her nose, and wrinkled up her eyebrows.

Some men squatted on their heels and dozed beside the confessional. One old man nodding caused our old woman to believe that he was mumbling prayers, so, running her fingers rapidly over the beads of her rosary—as that was the most reverent way of respecting the designs of Heaven—little by little she set herself to imitating hint.

Ibarra stood in one corner while Maria Clara knelt near the high altar in a space which the curate had had the courtesy to order the sacristans to clear for her. Capitan Tiago, in a frock coat, sat on one of the benches provided for the authorities, which caused the children who did not know him to take him for another gobernadorcillo and to be wary about getting near him.

At last the alcalde with his staff arrived, proceeding from the sacristy and taking their seats in magnificent chairs placed on strips of carpet. The alcalde wore a full-dress uniform and displayed the cordon of Carlos III, with four or five other decorations. The people did not recognize him.

Abá!” exclaimed a rustic. “A civil-guard dressed as a comedian!”

“Fool!” rejoined a bystander, nudging him with his elbow. “It’s the Prince Villardo that we saw at the show last night!”

So the alcalde went up several degrees in the popular estimation by becoming an enchanted prince, a vanquisher of giants.

When the mass began, those who were seated arose and those who had been asleep were awakened by the ringing of the bells and the sonorous voices of the singers. Padre Salvi, in spite of his gravity, wore a look of deep satisfaction, since there were serving him as deacon and subdeacon none less than two Augustinians. Each one, as it came his turn, sang well, in a more or less nasal tone and with unintelligible articulation, except the officiating priest himself, whose voice trembled somewhat, even getting out of tune at times, to the great wonder of those who knew him. Still he moved about with precision and elegance while he recited the Dominus vobiscum unctuously, dropping his head a little to the side and gazing toward heaven. Seeing him receive the smoke from the incense one would have said that Galen was right in averring the passage of smoke in the nasal canals to the head through a screen of ethmoids, since he straightened himself, threw his head back, and moved toward the middle of the altar with such pompousness and gravity that Capitan Tiago found him more majestic than the Chinese comedian of the night before, even though the latter had been dressed as an emperor, paint-bedaubed, with beribboned sword, stiff beard like a horse’s mane, and high-soled slippers. “Undoubtedly,” so his thoughts ran, “a single curate of ours has more majesty than all the emperors.”

At length came the expected moment, that of hearing Padre Damaso. The three priests seated themselves in their chairs in an edifying attitude, as the worthy correspondent would say, the alcalde and other persons of place and position following their example. The music ceased.

The sudden transition from noise to silence awoke our aged Sister Puté, who was already snoring under cover of the music. Like Segismundo,1 or like the cook in the story of the Sleeping Beauty, the first thing that she did upon awaking was to whack her granddaughter on the neck, as the child had also fallen asleep. The latter screamed, but soon consoled herself at the sight of a woman who was beating her breast with contrition and enthusiasm. All tried to place themselves comfortably, those who had no benches squatting down on the floor or on their heels.

Padre Damaso passed through the congregation preceded by two sacristans and followed by another friar carrying a massive volume. He disappeared as he went up the winding staircase, but his round head soon reappeared, then his fat neck, followed immediately by his body. Coughing slightly, he looked about him with assurance. He noticed Ibarra and with a special wink gave to understand that he would not overlook that youth in his prayers. Then he turned a look of satisfaction upon Padre Sibyla and another of disdain upon Padre Martin, the preacher of the previous day. This inspection concluded, he turned cautiously and said, “Attention, brother!” to his companion, who opened the massive volume.

But the sermon deserves a separate chapter. A young man who was then learning stenography and who idolizes great orators, took it down; thanks to this fact, we can here present a selection from the sacred oratory of those regions. 

1 The principal character in Calderon de la Barca’s La Vida es Sueño. There is also a Tagalogcorrido, or metrical romance, with this title.—TR.

Chapter XXXI The Sermon

Fray Damaso began slowly in a low voice: “‘Et spiritum bonum dedisti, qui doceret eos, et manna tuum non prohibuisti ab ore eorum, et aquam dedisti eis in siti. And thou gavest thy good Spirit to teach them, and thy manna thou didst not withhold from their mouth, and thou gavest them water for their thirst!’ Words which the Lord spoke through the mouth of Esdras, in the second book, the ninth chapter, and the twentieth verse.”1

Padre Sibyla glanced in surprise at the preacher. Padre Manuel Martin turned pale and swallowed hard that was better than his! Whether Padre Damaso noticed this or whether he was still hoarse, the fact is that he coughed several times as he placed both hands on the rail of the pulpit. The Holy Ghost was above his head, freshly painted, clean and white, with rose-colored beak and feet. “Most honorable sir” (to the alcalde), “most holy priests, Christians, brethren in Jesus Christ!”

Here he made a solemn pause as again he swept his gaze over the congregation, with whose attention and concentration he seemed satisfied.

“The first part of the sermon is to be in Spanish and the other in Tagalog; loquebantur omnes linguas.”

After the salutations and the pause he extended his right hand majestically toward the altar, at the same time fixing his gaze on the alcalde. He slowly crossed his arms without uttering a word, then suddenly passing from calmness to action, threw back his head and made a sign toward the main door, sawing the air with his open hand so forcibly that the sacristans interpreted the gesture as a command and closed the doors. The alferez became uneasy, doubting whether he should go or stay, when the preacher began in a strong voice, full and sonorous; truly his old housekeeper was skilled in medicine.

“Radiant and resplendent is the altar, wide is the great door, the air is the vehicle of the holy and divine words that will spring from my mouth! Hear ye then with the ears of your souls and hearts that the words of the Lord may not fall on the stony soil where the birds of Hell may consume them, but that ye may grow and flourish as holy seed in the field of our venerable and seraphic father, St. Francis! O ye great sinners, captives of the Moros of the soul that infest the sea of eternal life in the powerful craft of the flesh and the world, ye who are laden with the fetters of lust and avarice, and who toil in the galleys of the infernal Satan, look ye here with reverent repentance upon him who saved souls from the captivity of the devil, upon the intrepid Gideon, upon the valiant David, upon the triumphant Roland of Christianity, upon the celestial Civil Guard, more powerful than all the Civil Guards together, now existing or to exist!” (The alferez frowned.) “Yes, señor alferez, more valiant and powerful, he who with no other weapon than a wooden cross boldly vanquishes the eternal tulisan of the shades and all the hosts of Lucifer, and who would have exterminated them forever, were not the spirits immortal! This marvel of divine creation, this wonderful prodigy, is the blessed Diego of Alcala, who, if I may avail myself of a comparison, since comparisons aid in the comprehension of incomprehensible things, as another has said, I say then that this great saint is merely a private soldier, a steward in the powerful company which our seraphic father, St. Francis, sends from Heaven, and to which I have the honor to belong as a corporal or sergeant, by the grace of God!”

The “rude Indians,” as the correspondent would say, caught nothing more from this paragraph than the words “Civil Guard,” “tulisan,” “San Diego,” and “St. Francis,” so, observing the wry face of the alferez and the bellicose gestures of the preacher, they deduced that the latter was reprehending him for not running down the tulisanes. San Diego and St. Francis would be commissioned in this duty and justly so, as is proved by a picture existing in the convento at Manila, representing St. Francis, by means of his girdle only, holding back the Chinese invasion in the first years after the discovery. The devout were accordingly not a little rejoiced and thanked God for this aid, not doubting that once the tulisanes had disappeared, St. Francis would also destroy the Civil Guard. With redoubled attention, therefore, they listened to Padre Damaso, as he continued:

“Most honorable sir” Great affairs are great affairs even by the side of the small and the small are always small even by the side of the great. So History says, but since History hits the nail on the head only once in a hundred times, being a thing made by men, and men make mistakes—errarle es hominum,2 as Cicero said—he who opens his mouth makes mistakes, as they say in my country then the result is that there are profound truths which History does not record. These truths, most honorable sir, the divine Spirit spoke with that supreme wisdom which human intelligence has not comprehended since the times of Seneca and Aristotle, those wise priests of antiquity, even to our sinful days, and these truths are that not always are small affairs small, but that they are great, not by the side of the little things, but by the side of the grandest of the earth and of the heavens and of the air and of the clouds and of the waters and of space and of life and of death!”

“Amen!” exclaimed the leader of the Tertiaries, crossing himself.

With this figure of rhetoric, which he had learned from a famous preacher in Manila, Padre Damaso wished to startle his audience, and in fact his holy ghost was so fascinated with such great truths that it was necessary to kick him to remind him of his business.

“Patent to your eyes—” prompted the holy ghost below.

“Patent to your eyes is the conclusive and impressive proof of this eternal philosophical truth! Patent is that sun of virtue, and I say sun and not moon, for there is no great merit in the fact that the moon shines during the night,—in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king; by night may shine a light, a tiny star,—so the greatest merit is to be able to shine even in the middle of the day, as the sun does; so shines our brother Diego even in the midst of the greatest saints! Here you have patent to your eyes, in your impious disbelief, the masterpiece of the Highest for the confusion of the great of the earth, yes, my brethren, patent, patent to all, PATENT!”

A man rose pale and trembling and hid himself in a confessional. He was a liquor dealer who had been dozing and dreaming that the carbineers were demanding the patent, or license, that he did not have. It may safely be affirmed that he did not come out from his hiding-place while the sermon lasted.

“Humble and lowly saint, thy wooden cross” (the one that the image held was of silver), “thy modest gown, honors the great Francis whose sons and imitators we are. We propagate thy holy race in the whole world, in the remote places, in the cities, in the towns, without distinction between black and white” (the alcalde held his breath), “suffering hardships and martyrdoms, thy holy race of faith and religion militant” (“Ah!” breathed the alcalde) “which holds the world in balance and prevents it from falling into the depths of perdition.”

His hearers, including even Capitan Tiago, yawned little by little. Maria Clara was not listening to the sermon, for she knew that Ibarra was near and was thinking about him while she fanned herself and gazed at an evangelical bull that had all the outlines of a small carabao.

“All should know by heart the Holy Scriptures and the lives of the saints and then I should not have to preach to you, O sinners! You should know such important and necessary things as the Lord’s Prayer, although many of you have forgotten it, living now as do the Protestants or heretics, who, like the Chinese, respect not the ministers of God. But the worse for you, O ye accursed, moving as you are toward damnation!”

Abá, Pale Lamaso, what!”3 muttered Carlos, the Chinese, looking angrily at the preacher, who continued to extemporize, emitting a series of apostrophes and imprecations.

“You will die in final unrepentance, O race of heretics! God punishes you even on this earth with jails and prisons! Women should flee from you, the rulers should hang all of you so that the seed of Satan be not multiplied in the vineyard of the Lord! Jesus Christ said: ‘If you have an evil member that leads you to sin, cut it off, and cast it into the fire—’”

Having forgotten both his sermon and his rhetoric, Fray Damaso began to be nervous. Ibarra became uneasy and looked about for a quiet corner, but the church was crowded. Maria Clara neither heard nor saw anything as she was analyzing a picture, of the blessed souls in purgatory, souls in the shape of men and women dressed in hides, with miters, hoods, and cowls, all roasting in the fire and clutching St. Francis’ girdle, which did not break even with such great weight. With that improvisation on the preacher’s part, the holy-ghost friar lost the thread of the sermon and skipped over three long paragraphs, giving the wrong cue to the now laboriously-panting Fray Damaso.

“Who of you, O sinners, would lick the sores of a poor and ragged beggar? Who? Let him answer by raising his hand! None! That I knew, for only a saint like Diego de Alcala would do it. He licked all the sores, saying to an astonished brother, ‘Thus is this sick one cured!’ O Christian charity! O matchless example! O virtue of virtues! O inimitable pattern! O spotless talisman!” Here he continued a long series of exclamations, the while crossing his arms and raising and lowering them as though he wished to fly or to frighten the birds away.

“Before dying he spoke in Latin, without knowing Latin! Marvel, O sinners! You, in spite of what you study, for which blows are given to you, you do not speak Latin, and you will die without speaking it! To speak Latin is a gift of God and therefore the Church uses Latin! I, too, speak Latin! Was God going to deny this consolation to His beloved Diego? Could he die, could he be permitted to die, without speaking Latin? Impossible! God wouldn’t be just, He Wouldn’t be God! So he talked in Latin, and of that fact the writers of his time bear witness!”

He ended this exordium with the passage which had cost him the most toil and which he had plagiarized from a great writer, Sinibaldo de Mas. “Therefore, I salute thee, illustrious Diego, the glory of our Order! Thou art the pattern of virtue, meek with honor, humble with nobility, compliant with fortitude, temperate with ambition, hostile with loyalty, compassionate with pardon, holy with conscientiousness, full of faith with devotion, credulous with sincerity, chaste with love, reserved with secrecy; long-suffering with patience, brave with timidity, moderate with desire, bold with resolution, obedient with subjection., modest with pride, zealous with disinterestedness, skilful with capability, ceremonious with politeness, astute with sagacity, merciful with piety, secretive with modesty, revengeful with valor, poor on account of thy labors with true conformity, prodigal with economy, active with ease, economical with liberality, innocent with sagacity, reformer with consistency, indifferent with zeal for learning: God created thee to feel the raptures of Platonic love! Aid me in singing thy greatness and thy name higher than the stars and clearer than the sun itself that circles about thy feet! Aid me, all of you, as you appeal to God for sufficient inspiration by reciting the Ave Maria!”

All fell upon their knees and raised a murmur like the humming of a thousand bees. The alcalde laboriously bent one knee and wagged his head in a disgusted manner, while the alferez looked pale and penitent.

“To the devil with the curate!” muttered one of two youths who had come from Manila.

“Keep still!” admonished his companion. “His woman might hear us.”

Meanwhile, Padre Damaso, instead of reciting the Ave Maria, was scolding his holy ghost for having skipped three of his best paragraphs; at the same time he consumed a couple of cakes and a glass of Malaga, secure of encountering therein greater inspiration than in all the holy ghosts, whether of wood in the form of a dove or of flesh in the shape of an inattentive friar.

Then he began the sermon in Tagalog. The devout old woman again gave her granddaughter a hearty slap. The child awoke ill-naturedly and asked, “Is it time to cry now?”

“Not yet, O lost one, but don’t go to sleep again!” answered the good grandmother.

Of the second part of the sermon—that in Tagalog—we have only a few rough notes, for Padre Damaso extemporized in this language, not because he knew it better, but because, holding the provincial Filipinos ignorant of rhetoric, he was not afraid of making blunders before them. With Spaniards the case was different; he had heard rules of oratory spoken of, and it was possible that among his hearers some one had been in college-halls, perhaps the alcalde, so he wrote out his sermons, corrected and polished them, and then memorized and rehearsed them for several days beforehand.

It is common knowledge that none of those present understood the drift of the sermon. They were so dull of understanding and the preacher was so profound, as Sister Rufa said, that the audience waited in vain for an opportunity to weep, and the lost grandchild of the blessed old woman went to sleep again. Nevertheless, this part had greater consequences than the first, at least for certain hearers, as we shall see later.

He began with a “Mana capatir con cristiano,”4 followed by an avalanche of untranslatable phrases. He talked of the soul, of Hell, of “mahal na santo pintacasi,”5 of the Indian sinners and of the virtuous Franciscan Fathers.

“The devil!” exclaimed one of the two irreverent Manilans to his companion. “That’s all Greek to me. I’m going.” Seeing the doors closed, he went out through the sacristy, to the great scandal of the people and especially of the preacher, who turned pale and paused in the midst of his sentence. Some looked for a violent apostrophe, but Padre Damaso contented himself with watching the delinquent, and then he went on with his sermon.

Then were let loose curses upon the age, against the lack of reverence, against the growing indifference to Religion. This matter seemed to be his forte, for he appeared to be inspired and expressed himself with force and clearness. He talked of the sinners who did not attend confession, who died in prisons without the sacraments, of families accursed, of proud and puffed-up little half-breeds, of young sages and little philosophers, of pettifoggers, of picayunish students, and so on. Well known is this habit that many have when they wish to ridicule their enemies; they apply to them belittling epithets because their brains do not appear to furnish them any other means, and thus they are happy.

Ibarra heard it all and understood the allusions. Preserving an outward calm, he turned his eyes to God and the authorities, but saw nothing more than the images of saints, and the alcalde was sleeping.

Meanwhile, the preacher’s enthusiasm was rising by degrees. He spoke of the times when every Filipino upon meeting a priest took off his hat, knelt on the ground, and kissed the priest’s hand. “But now,” he added, “you only take off your salakot or your felt hat, which you have placed on the side of your head in order not to ruffle your nicely combed hair! You content yourself with saying, ‘good day, among,’ and there are proud dabblers in a little Latin who, from having studied in Manila or in Europe, believe that they have the right to shake a priest’s hand instead of kissing it. Ah, the day of judgment will quickly come, the world will end, as many saints have foretold; it will rain fire, stones, and ashes to chastise your pride!” The people were exhorted not to imitate such “savages” but to hate and shun them, since they were beyond the religious pale.

“Hear what the holy decrees say! When an Indian meets a curate in the street he should bow his head and offer his neck for his master to step upon. If the curate and the Indian are both on horseback, then the Indian should stop and take off his hat or salakot reverently; and finally, if the Indian is on horseback and the curate on foot, the Indian should alight and not mount again until the curate has told him to go on, or is far away. This is what the holy decrees say and he who does not obey will be excommunicated.”

“And when one is riding a carabao?” asked a scrupulous countryman of his neighbor.

“Then—keep on going!” answered the latter, who was a casuist.

But in spite of the cries and gestures of the preacher many fell asleep or wandered in their attention, since these sermons were ever the same. In vain some devout women tried to sigh and sob over the sins of the wicked; they had to desist in the attempt from lack of supporters. Even Sister Puté was thinking of something quite different. A man beside her had dropped off to sleep in such a way that he had fallen over and crushed her habit, so the good woman caught up one of her clogs and with blows began to wake him, crying out, “Get away, savage, brute, devil, carabao, cur, accursed!”

Naturally, this caused somewhat of a stir. The preacher paused and arched his eyebrows, surprised at so great a scandal. Indignation choked the words in his throat and he was able only to bellow, while he pounded the pulpit with his fists. This had the desired effect, however, for the old woman, though still grumbling, dropped her clog and, crossing herself repeatedly, fell devoutly upon her knees.

“Aaah! Aaah!” the indignant priest was at last able to roar out as he crossed his arms and shook his head. “For this do I preach to you the whole morning, savages! Here in the house of God you quarrel and curse, shameless ones! Aaaah! You respect nothing! This is the result of the luxury and the looseness of the age! That’s just what I’ve told you, aah!”

Upon this theme he continued to preach for half an hour. The alcalde snored, and Maria Clara nodded, for the poor child could no longer keep from sleeping, since she had no more paintings or images to study, nor anything else to amuse her. On Ibarra the words and allusions made no more impression, for he was thinking of a cottage on the top of a mountain and saw Maria Clara in the garden; let men crawl about in their miserable towns in the depths of the valley!

Padre Salvi had caused the altar bell to be rung twice, but this was only adding fuel to the flame, for Padre Damaso became stubborn and prolonged the sermon. Fray Sibyla gnawed at his lips and repeatedly adjusted his gold-mounted eye-glasses. Fray Manuel Martin was the only one who appeared to listen with pleasure, for he was smiling.

But at last God said “Enough”; the orator became weary and descended from the pulpit. All knelt to render thanks to God. The alcalde rubbed his eyes, stretched out one arm as if to waken himself, and yawned with a deep aah. The mass continued.

When all were kneeling and the priests had lowered their heads while the Incarnatus est was being sung, a man murmured in Ibarra’s ear, “At the laying of the cornerstone, don’t move away from the curate, don’t go down into the trench, don’t go near the stone—your life depends upon it!”

Ibarra turned to see Elias, who, as soon as he had said this, disappeared in the crowd. 

1 The Douay version.—TR.

2 “Errare humanum est”: “To err is human.”

3 To the Philippine Chinese “d” and “l” look and sound about the same.—TR.

4 “Brothers in Christ.”

5 “Venerable patron saint.”

Chapter XXXII The Derrick

The yellowish individual had kept his word, for it was no simple derrick that he had erected above the open trench to let the heavy block of granite down into its place. It was not the simple tripod that Ñor Juan had wanted for suspending a pulley from its top, but was much more, being at once a machine and an ornament, a grand and imposing ornament. Over eight meters in height rose the confused and complicated scaffolding. Four thick posts sunk in the ground served as a frame, fastened to each other by huge timbers crossing diagonally and joined by large nails driven in only half-way, perhaps for the reason that the apparatus was simply for temporary use and thus might easily be taken down again. Huge cables stretched from all sides gave an appearance of solidity and grandeur to the whole. At the top it was crowned with many-colored banners, streaming pennants, and enormous garlands of flowers and leaves artistically interwoven.

There at the top in the shadow made by the posts, the garlands, and the banners, hung fastened with cords and iron hooks an unusually large three-wheeled pulley over the polished sides of which passed in a crotch three cables even larger than the others. These held suspended the smooth, massive stone hollowed out in the center to form with a similar hole in the lower stone, already in place, the little space intended to contain the records of contemporaneous history, such as newspapers, manuscripts, money, medals, and the like, and perhaps to transmit them to very remote generations. The cables extended downward and connected with another equally large pulley at the bottom of the apparatus, whence they passed to the drum of a windlass held in place by means of heavy timbers. This windlass, which could be turned with two cranks, increased the strength of a man a hundredfold by the movement of notched wheels, although it is true that what was gained in force was lost in velocity.

“Look,” said the yellowish individual, turning the crank, “look, Ñor Juan, how with merely my own strength I can raise and lower the great stone. It’s so well arranged that at will I can regulate the rise or fall inch by inch, so that a man in the trench can easily fit the stones together while I manage it from here.”

Ñor Juan could not but gaze in admiration at the speaker, who was smiling in his peculiar way. Curious bystanders made remarks praising the yellowish individual.

“Who taught you mechanics?” asked Ñor Juan.

“My father, my dead father,” was the answer, accompanied by his peculiar smile.

“Who taught your father?”

“Don Saturnino, the grandfather of Don Crisostomo.”

“I didn’t know that Don Saturnino—”

“Oh, he knew a lot of things! He not only beat his laborers well and exposed them out in the sun, but he also knew how to wake the sleepers and put the waking to sleep. You’ll see in time what my father taught me, you’ll see!”

Here the yellowish individual smiled again, but in a strange way.

On a tame covered with a piece of Persian tapestry rested a leaden cylinder containing the objects that were to be kept in the tomb-like receptacle and a glass case with thick sides, which would hold that mummy of an epoch and preserve for the future the records of a past.

Tasio, the Sage, who was walking about there thoughtfully, murmured: “Perchance some day when this edifice, which is today begun, has grown old and after many vicissitudes has fallen into ruins, either from the visitations of Nature or the destructive hand of man, and above the ruins grow the ivy and the moss,—then when Time has destroyed the moss and ivy, and scattered the ashes of the ruins themselves to the winds, wiping from the pages of History the recollection of it and of those who destroyed it, long since lost from the memory of man: perchance when the races have been buried in their mantle of earth or have disappeared, only by accident the pick of some miner striking a spark from this rock will dig up mysteries and enigmas from the depths of the soil. Perchance the learned men of the nation that dwells in these regions will labor, as do the present Egyptologists, with the remains of a great civilization which occupied itself with eternity, little dreaming that upon it was descending so long a night. Perchance some learned professor will say to his students of five or six years of age, in a language spoken by all mankind, ‘Gentlemen, after studying and examining carefully the objects found in the depths of our soil, after deciphering some symbols and translating a few words, we can without the shadow of a doubt conclude that these objects belonged to the barbaric age of man, to that obscure era which we are accustomed to speak of as fabulous. In short, gentlemen, in order that you may form an approximate idea of the backwardness of our ancestors, it will be sufficient that I point out to you the fact that those who lived here not only recognized kings, but also for the purpose of settling questions of local government they had to go to the other side of the earth, just as if we should say that a body in order to move itself would need to consult a head existing in another part of the globe, perhaps in regions now sunk under the waves. This incredible defect, however improbable it may seem to us now, must have existed, if we take into consideration the circumstances surrounding those beings, whom I scarcely dare to call human! In those primitive times men were still (or at least so they believed) in direct communication with their Creator, since they had ministers from Him, beings different from the rest, designated always with the mysterious letters “M. R. P.”,1 concerning the meaning of which our learned men do not agree. According to the professor of languages whom we have here, rather mediocre, since he does not speak more than a hundred of the imperfect languages of the past, “M. R. P.” may signify “Muy Rico Propietario.”2 These ministers were a species of demigods, very virtuous and enlightened, and were very eloquent orators, who, in spite of their great power and prestige, never committed the slightest fault, which fact strengthens my belief in supposing that they were of a nature distinct from the rest. If this were not sufficient to sustain my belief, there yet remains the argument, disputed by no one and day by day confirmed, that these mysterious beings could make God descend to earth merely by saying a few words, that God could speak only through their mouths, that they ate His flesh and drank His blood, and even at times allowed the common folk to do the same.’”

These and other opinions the skeptical Sage put into the mouths of all the corrupt men of the future. Perhaps, as may easily be the case, old Tasio was mistaken, but we must return to our story.

In the kiosks which we saw two days ago occupied by the schoolmaster and his pupils, there was now spread out a toothsome and abundant meal. Noteworthy is the fact that on the table prepared for the school children there was not a single bottle of wine but an abundance of fruits. In the arbors joining the two kiosks were the seats for the musicians and a table covered with sweetmeats and confections, with bottles of water for the thirsty public, all decorated with leaves and flowers. The schoolmaster had erected near by a greased pole and hurdles, and had hung up pots and pans for a number of games.

The crowd, resplendent in bright-colored garments, gathered as people fled from the burning sun, some into the shade of the trees, others under the arbor. The boys climbed up into the branches or on the stones in order to see the ceremony better, making up in this way for their short stature. They looked with envy at the clean and well-dressed school children, who occupied a place especially assigned to them and whose parents were overjoyed, as they, poor country folk, would see their children eat from a white tablecloth, almost the same as the curate or the alcalde. Thinking of this alone was enough to drive away hunger, and such an event would be recounted from father to son.

Soon were heard the distant strains of the band, which was preceded by a motley throng made up of persons of all ages, in clothing of all colors. The yellowish individual became uneasy and with a glance examined his whole apparatus. A curious countryman followed his glance and watched all his movements; this was Elias, who had also come to witness the ceremony, but in his salakot and rough attire he was almost unrecognizable. He had secured a very good position almost at the side of the windlass, on the edge of the excavation. With the music came the alcalde, the municipal officials, the friars, with the exception of Padre Damaso, and the Spanish employees. Ibarra was conversing with the alcalde, of whom he had made quite a friend since he had addressed to him some well-turned compliments over his decorations and ribbons, for aristocratic pretensions were the weakness of his Honor. Capitan Tiago, the alferez, and some other wealthy personages came in the gilded cluster of maidens displaying their silken parasols. Padre Salvi followed, silent and thoughtful as ever.

“Count upon my support always in any worthy enterprise,” the alcalde was saying to Ibarra. “I will give you whatever appropriation you need or else see that it is furnished by others.”

As they drew nearer the youth felt his heart beat faster. Instinctively he glanced at the strange scaffolding raised there. He saw the yellowish individual salute him respectfully and gaze at him fixedly for a moment. With surprise he noticed Elias, who with a significant wink gave him to understand that he should remember the warning in the church.

The curate put on his sacerdotal robes and commenced the ceremony, while the one-eyed sacristan held the book and an acolyte the hyssop and jar of holy water. The rest stood about him uncovered, and maintained such a profound silence that, in spite of his reading in a low tone, it was apparent that Padre Salvi’s voice was trembling.

Meanwhile, there had been placed in the glass case the manuscripts, newspapers, medals, coins, and the like, and the whole enclosed in the leaden cylinder, which was then hermetically sealed.

“Señor Ibarra, will you put the box in its place? The curate is waiting,” murmured the alcalde into the young man’s ear.

“I would with great pleasure,” answered the latter, “but that would be usurping the honorable duty of the escribano. The escribano must make affidavit of the act.”

So the escribano gravely took the box, descended the carpeted stairway leading to the bottom of the excavation and with due solemnity placed it in the hole in the stone. The curate then took the hyssop and sprinkled the stones with holy water.

Now the moment had arrived for each one to place his trowelful of mortar on the face of the large stone lying in the trench, in order that the other might be fitted and fastened to it. Ibarra handed the alcalde a mason’s trowel, on the wide silver Made of which was engraved the date. But the alcalde first gave a harangue in Spanish:

“People of San Diego! We have the honor to preside over a ceremony whose importance you will not understand unless We tell you of it. A school is being founded, and the school is the basis of society, the school is the book in which is written the future of the nations! Show us the schools of a people and We will show you what that people is.

“People of San Diego! Thank God, who has given you holy priests, and the government of the mother country, which untiringly spreads civilization through these fertile isles, protected beneath her glorious mantle! Thank God, who has taken pity on you and sent you these humble priests who enlighten you and teach you the divine word! Thank the government, which has made, is making, and will continue to make, so many sacrifices for you and your children!

“And now that the first stone of this important edifice is consecrated, We, alcalde-mayor of this province, in the name of his Majesty the King, whom God preserve, King of the Spains, in the name of the illustrious Spanish government and under the protection of its spotless and ever-victorious banner, We consecrate this act and begin the construction of this schoolhouse! People of San Diego, long live the King! Long live Spain! Long live the friars! Long live the Catholic Religion!”

Many voices were raised in answer, adding, “Long live the Señor Alcalde!”

He then majestically descended to the strains of the band, which began to play, deposited several trowelfuls of mortar on the stone, and with equal majesty reascended. The employees applauded.

Ibarra offered another trowel to the curate, who, after fixing his eyes on him for a moment, descended slowly. Half-way down the steps he raised his eyes to look at the stone, which hung fastened by the stout cables, but this was only for a second, and he then went on down. He did the same as the alcalde, but this time more applause was heard, for to the employees were added some friars and Capitan Tiago.

Padre Salvi then seemed to seek for some one to whom he might give the trowel. He looked doubtfully at Maria Clara, but changing his mind, offered it to the escribano. The latter in gallantry offered it to Maria Clara, who smilingly refused it. The friars, the employees, and the alferez went down one after another, nor was Capitan Tiago forgotten. Ibarra only was left, and the order was about to be given for the yellowish individual to lower the stone when the curate remembered the youth and said to him in a joking tone, with affected familiarity:

“Aren’t you going to put on your trowelful, Señor Ibarra?”

“I should be a Juan Palomo, to prepare the meal and eat it myself,” answered the latter in the same tone.

“Go on!” said the alcalde, shoving him forward gently. “Otherwise, I’ll order that the stone be not lowered at all and we’ll be here until doomsday.”

Before such a terrible threat Ibarra had to obey. He exchanged the small silver trowel for a large iron one, an act which caused some of the spectators to smile, and went forward tranquilly. Elias gazed at him with such an indefinable expression that on seeing it one might have said that his whole life was concentrated in his eyes. The yellowish individual stared into the trench, which opened at his feet. After directing a rapid glance at the heavy stone hanging over his head and another at Elias and the yellowish individual, Ibarra said to Ñor Juan in a somewhat unsteady voice, “Give me the mortar and get me another trowel up there.”

The youth remained alone. Elias no longer looked at him, for his eyes were fastened on the hand of the yellowish individual, who, leaning over the trench, was anxiously following the movements of Ibarra. There was heard the noise of the trowel scraping on the stone in the midst of a feeble murmur among the employees, who were congratulating the alcalde on his speech.

Suddenly a crash was heard. The pulley tied at the base of the derrick jumped up and after it the windlass, which struck the heavy posts like a battering-ram. The timbers shook, the fastenings flew apart, and the whole apparatus fell in a second with a frightful crash. A cloud of dust arose, while a cry of horror from a thousand voices filled the air. Nearly all fled; only a few dashed toward the trench. Maria Clara and Padre Salvi remained in their places, pale, motionless, and speechless.

When the dust had cleared away a little, they saw Ibarra standing among beams, posts, and cables, between the windlass and the heavy stone, which in its rapid descent had shaken and crushed everything. The youth still held the trowel in his hand and was staring with frightened eyes at the body of a man which lay at his feet half-buried among the timbers.

“You’re not killed! You’re still alive! For God’s sake, speak!” cried several employees, full of terror and solicitude.

“A miracle! A miracle!” shouted some.

“Come and extricate the body of this poor devil!” exclaimed Ibarra like one arousing himself from sleep.

On hearing his voice Maria Clara felt her strength leave her and fell half-fainting into the arms of her friends.

Great confusion prevailed. All were talking, gesticulating, running about, descending into the trench, coming up again, all amazed and terrified.

“Who is the dead man? Is he still alive?” asked the alferez.

The corpse was identified as that of the yellowish individual who had been operating the windlass.

“Arrest the foreman on the work!” was the first thing that the alcalde was able to say.

They examined the corpse, placing their hands on the chest, but the heart had ceased to beat. The blow had struck him on the head, and blood was flowing from his nose, mouth, and ears. On his neck were to be noticed some peculiar marks, four deep depressions toward the back and one more somewhat larger on the other side, which induced the belief that a hand of steel had caught him as in a pair of pincers.

The priests felicitated the youth warmly and shook his hand. The Franciscan of humble aspect who had served as holy ghost for Padre Damaso exclaimed with tearful eyes, “God is just, God is good!”

“When I think that a few moments before I was down there!” said one of the employees to Ibarra. “What if I had happened to be the last!”

“It makes my hair stand on end!” remarked another partly bald individual.

“I’m glad that it happened to you and not to me,” murmured an old man tremblingly.

“Don Pascual!” exclaimed some of the Spaniards.

“I say that because the young man is not dead. If I had not been crushed, I should have died afterwards merely from thinking about it.”

But Ibarra was already at a distance informing himself as to Maria Clara’s condition.

“Don’t let this stop the fiesta, Señor Ibarra,” said the alcalde. “Praise God, the dead man is neither a priest nor a Spaniard! We must rejoice over your escape! Think if the stone had caught you!”

“There are presentiments, there are presentiments!” exclaimed the escribano. “I’ve said so before! Señor Ibarra didn’t go down willingly. I saw it!”

“The dead man is only an Indian!”

“Let the fiesta go on! Music! Sadness will never resuscitate the dead!”

“An investigation shall be made right here!”

“Send for the directorcillo!”

“Arrest the foreman on the work! To the stocks with him!”

“To the stocks! Music! To the stocks with the foreman!”

“Señor Alcalde,” said Ibarra gravely, “if mourning will not resuscitate the dead, much less will arresting this man about whose guilt we know nothing. I will be security for his person and so I ask his liberty for these days at least.”

“Very well! But don’t let him do it again!”

All kinds of rumors began to circulate. The idea of a miracle was soon an accepted fact, although Fray Salvi seemed to rejoice but little over a miracle attributed to a saint of his Order and in his parish. There were not lacking those who added that they had seen descending into the trench, when everything was tumbling down, a figure in a dark robe like that of the Franciscans. There was no doubt about it; it was San Diego himself! It was also noted that Ibarra had attended mass and that the yellowish individual had not—it was all as clear as the sun!

“You see! You didn’t want to go to mass!” said a mother to her son. “If I hadn’t whipped you to make you go you would now be on your way to the town hall, like him, in a cart!”

The yellowish individual, or rather his corpse, wrapped up in a mat, was in fact being carried to the town hall. Ibarra hurried home to change his clothes.

“A bad beginning, huh!” commented old Tasio, as he moved away. 

1 Muy Reverendo Padre: Very Reverend Father.

2 Very rich landlord. The United States Philippine Commission, constituting the government of the Archipelago, paid to the religious orders “a lump sum of $7,239,000, more or less,” for the bulk of the lands claimed by them. See the Annual Report of the Philippine Commission to the Secretary of War, December 23, 1903.—TR.

Chapter XXXIII Free Thought

Ibarra was just putting the finishing touches to a change of clothing when a servant informed him that a countryman was asking for him. Supposing it to be one of his laborers, he ordered that he be brought into his office, or study, which was at the same time a library and a chemical laboratory. Greatly to his surprise he found himself face to face with the severe and mysterious figure of Elias.

“You saved my life,” said the pilot in Tagalog, noticing Ibarra’s start of surprise. “I have partly paid the debt and you have nothing to thank me for, but quite the opposite. I’ve come to ask a favor of you.”

“Speak!” answered the youth in the same language, puzzled by the pilot’s gravity.

Elias stared into Ibarra’s eyes for some seconds before he replied, “When human courts try to clear up this mystery, I beg of you not to speak to any one of the warning that I gave you in the church.”

“Don’t worry,” answered the youth in a rather disgusted tone. “I know that you’re wanted, but I’m no informer.”

“Oh, it’s not on my account, not on my account!” exclaimed Elias with some vigor and haughtiness. “It’s on your own account. I fear nothing from men.”

Ibarra’s surprise increased. The tone in which this rustics—formerly a pilot—spoke was new and did not seem to harmonize with either his condition or his fortune. “What do you mean?” he asked, interrogating that mysterious individual with his looks.

“I do not talk in enigmas but try to express myself clearly; for your greater security, it is better that your enemies think you unsuspecting and unprepared.”

Ibarra recoiled. “My enemies? Have I enemies?”

“All of us have them, sir, from the smallest insect up to man, from the poorest and humblest to the richest and most powerful! Enmity is the law of life!”

Ibarra gazed at him in silence for a while, then murmured, “You are neither a pilot nor a rustic!”

“You have enemies in high and low places,” continued Elias, without heeding the young man’s words. “You are planning a great undertaking, you have a past. Your father and your grandfather had enemies because they had passions, and in life it is not the criminal who provokes the most hate but the honest man.”

“Do you know who my enemies are?”

Elias meditated for a moment. “I knew one—him who is dead,” he finally answered. “Last night I learned that a plot against you was being hatched, from some words exchanged with an unknown person who lost himself in the crowd. ‘The fish will not eat him, as they did his father; you’ll see tomorrow,’ the unknown said. These words caught my attention not only by their meaning but also on account of the person who uttered them, for he had some days before presented himself to the foreman on the work with the express request that he be allowed to superintend the placing of the stone. He didn’t ask for much pay but made a show of great knowledge. I hadn’t sufficient reason for believing in his bad intentions, but something within told me that my conjectures were true and therefore I chose as the suitable occasion to warn you a moment when you could not ask me any questions. The rest you have seen for yourself.”

For a long time after Elias had become silent Ibarra remained thoughtful, not answering him or saying a word. “I’m sorry that that man is dead!” he exclaimed at length. “From him something more might have been learned.”

“If he had lived, he would have escaped from the trembling hand of blind human justice. God has judged him, God has killed him, let God be the only Judge!”

Crisostomo gazed for a moment at the man, who, while he spoke thus, exposed his muscular arms covered with lumps and bruises. “Do you also believe in the miracle?” he asked with a smile. “You know what a miracle the people are talking about.”

“Were I to believe in miracles, I should not believe in God. I should believe in a deified man, I should believe that man had really created a god in his own image and likeness,” the mysterious pilot answered solemnly. “But I believe in Him, I have felt His hand more than once. When the whole apparatus was falling down and threatening destruction to all who happened to be near it, I, I myself, caught the criminal, I placed myself at his side. He was struck and I am safe and sound.”

“You! So it was you—”

“Yes! I caught him when he tried to escape, once his deadly work had begun. I saw his crime, and I say this to you: let God be the sole judge among men, let Him be the only one to have the right over life, let no man ever think to take His place!”

“But you in this instance—”

“No!” interrupted Elias, guessing the objection. “It’s not the same. When a man condemns others to death or destroys their future forever he does it with impunity and uses the strength of others to execute his judgments, which after all may be mistaken or erroneous. But I, in exposing the criminal to the same peril that he had prepared for others, incurred the same risk as he did. I did not kill him, but let the hand of God smite him.”

“Then you don’t believe in accidents?”

“Believing in accidents is like believing in miracles; both presuppose that God does not know the future. What is an accident? An event that no one has at all foreseen. What is a miracle? A contradiction, an overturning of natural laws. Lack of foresight and contradiction in the Intelligence that rules the machinery of the world indicate two great defects.”

“Who are you?” Ibarra again asked with some awe.

“Have you ever studied?”

“I have had to believe greatly in God, because I have lost faith in men,” answered the pilot, avoiding the question.

Ibarra thought he understood this hunted youth; he rejected human justice, he refused to recognize the right of man to judge his fellows, he protested against force and the superiority of some classes over others.

“But nevertheless you must admit the necessity of human justice, however imperfect it may be,” he answered. “God, in spite of the many ministers He may have on earth, cannot, or rather does not, pronounce His judgments clearly to settle the million conflicts that our passions excite. It is proper, it is necessary, it is just, that man sometimes judge his fellows.”

“Yes, to do good, but not to do ill, to correct and to better, but not to destroy, for if his judgments are wrong he hasn’t the power to remedy the evil he has done. But,” he added with a change of tone, “this discussion is beyond my powers and I’m detaining you, who are being waited for. Don’t forget what I’ve just told you—you have enemies. Take care of yourself for the good of our country.” Saying this, he turned to go.

“When shall I see you again?” asked Ibarra.

“Whenever you wish and always when I can be of service to you. I am still your debtor.” 

Chapter XXXIV The Dinner

There in the decorated kiosk the great men of the province were dining. The alcalde occupied one end of the table and Ibarra the other. At the young man’s right sat Maria Clara and at his left the escribano. Capitan Tiago, the alferez, the gobernadorcillo, the friars, the employees, and the few young ladies who had remained sat, not according to rank, but according to their inclinations. The meal was quite animated and happy.

When the dinner was half over, a messenger came in search of Capitan Tiago with a telegram, to open which he naturally requested the permission of the others, who very naturally begged him to do so. The worthy capitan at first knitted his eyebrows, then raised them; his face became pale, then lighted up as he hastily folded the paper and arose.

“Gentlemen,” he announced in confusion, “his Excellency the Captain-General is coming this evening to honor my house.” Thereupon he set off at a run, hatless, taking with him the message and his napkin.

He was followed by exclamations and questions, for a cry of “Tulisanes!” would not have produced greater effect. “But, listen!” “When is he coming?” “Tell us about it!” “His Excellency!” But Capitan Tiago was already far away.

“His Excellency is coming and will stay at Capitan Tiago’s!” exclaimed some without taking into consideration the fact that his daughter and future son-in-law were present.

“The choice couldn’t be better,” answered the latter.

The friars gazed at one another with looks that seemed to say: “The Captain-General is playing another one of his tricks, he is slighting us, for he ought to stay at the convento,” but since this was the thought of all they remained silent, none of them giving expression to it.

“I was told of this yesterday,” said the alcalde, “but at that time his Excellency had not yet fully decided.”

“Do you know, Señor Alcalde, how long the Captain-General thinks of staying here?” asked the alferez uneasily.

“With certainty, no. His Excellency likes to give surprises.”

“Here come some more messages.” These were for the alcalde, the alferez, and the gobernadorcillo, and contained the same announcement. The friars noted well that none came directed to the curate.

“His Excellency will arrive at four this afternoon, gentlemen!” announced the alcalde solemnly. “So we can finish our meal in peace.” Leonidas at Thermopylae could not have said more cheerfully, “Tonight we shall sup with Pluto!”

The conversation again resumed its ordinary course.

“I note the absence of our great preacher,” timidly remarked an employee of inoffensive aspect who had not opened his mouth up to the time of eating, and who spoke now for the first time in the whole morning.

All who knew the history of Crisostomo’s father made a movement and winked, as if to say, “Get out! Fools rush in—” But some one more charitably disposed answered, “He must be rather tired.”

“Rather?” exclaimed the alferez. “He must be exhausted, and as they say here, all fagged out. What a sermon it was!”

“A splendid sermon—wonderful!” said the escribano.

“Magnificent—profound!” added the correspondent.

“To be able to talk so much, it’s necessary to have the lungs that he has,” observed Padre Manuel Martin. The Augustinian did not concede him anything more than lungs.

“And his fertility of expression!” added Padre Salvi.

“Do you know that Señor Ibarra has the best cook in the province?” remarked the alcalde, to cut short such talk.

“You may well say that, but his beautiful neighbor doesn’t wish to honor the table, for she is scarcely eating a bite,” observed one of the employees.

Maria Clara blushed. “I thank the gentleman, he troubles himself too much on my account,” she stammered timidly, “but—”

“But you honor it enough merely by being present,” concluded the gallant alcalde as he turned to Padre Salvi.

“Padre,” he said in a loud voice, “I’ve observed that during the whole day your Reverence has been silent and thoughtful.”

“The alcalde is a great observer,” remarked Fray Sibyla in a meaning tone.

“It’s a habit of mine,” stammered the Franciscan. “It pleases me more to listen than to talk.”

“Your Reverence always takes care to win and not to lose,” said the alferez in a jesting tone.

Padre Salvi, however, did not take this as a joke, for his gaze brightened a moment as he replied, “The alferez knows very well these days that I’m not the one who is winning or losing most.”

The alferez turned the hit aside with a forced laugh, pretending not to take it to himself.

“But, gentlemen, I don’t understand how it is possible to talk of winnings and losses,” interposed the alcalde. “What will these amiable and discreet young ladies who honor us with their company think of us? For me the young women are like the Æolian harps in the middle of the night—it is necessary to listen with close attention in order that their ineffable harmonies may elevate the soul to the celestial spheres of the infinite and the ideal!”

“Your Honor is becoming poetical!” exclaimed the escribano gleefully, and both emptied their wine-glasses.

“I can’t help it,” said the alcalde as he wiped his lips. “Opportunity, while it doesn’t always make the thief, makes the poet. In my youth I composed verses which were really not bad.”

“So your Excellency has been unfaithful to the Muses to follow Themis,” emphatically declared our mythical or mythological correspondent.

“Pshaw, what would you have? To run through the entire social scale was always my dream. Yesterday I was gathering flowers and singing songs, today I wield the rod of justice and serve Humanity, tomorrow—”

“Tomorrow your Honor will throw the rod into the fire to warm yourself by it in the winter of life, and take an appointment in the cabinet,” added Padre Sibyla.

“Pshaw! Yes—no—to be a cabinet official isn’t exactly my beau-ideal: any upstart may become one. A villa in the North in which to spend the summer, a mansion in Madrid, and some property in Andalusia for the winter—there we shall live remembering our beloved Philippines. Of me Voltaire would not say, ‘We have lived among these people only to enrich ourselves and to calumniate them.’”

The alcalde quoted this in French, so the employees, thinking that his Honor had cracked a joke, began to laugh in appreciation of it. Some of the friars did likewise, since they did not know that the Voltaire mentioned was the same Voltaire whom they had so often cursed and consigned to hell. But Padre Sibyla was aware of it and became serious from the belief that the alcalde had said something heretical or impious.

In the other kiosk the children were eating under the direction of their teacher. For Filipino children they were rather noisy, since at the table and in the presence of other persons their sins are generally more of omission than of commission. Perhaps one who was using the tableware improperly would be corrected by his neighbor and from this there would arise a noisy discussion in which each would have his partisans. Some would say the spoon, others the knife or the fork, and as no one was considered an authority there would arise the contention that God is Christ or, more clearly, a dispute of theologians. Their fathers and mothers winked, made signs, nudged one another, and showed their happiness by their smiles.

“Ya!” exclaimed a countrywoman to an old man who was mashing buyo in his kalikut, “in spite of the fact that my husband is opposed to it, my Andoy shall be a priest. It’s true that we’re poor, but we’ll work, and if necessary we’ll beg alms. There are not lacking those who will give money so that the poor may take holy orders. Does not Brother Mateo, a man who does not lie, say that Pope Sextus was a herder of carabaos in Batangas? Well then, look at my Andoy, see if he hasn’t already the face of a St. Vincent!” The good mother watered at the mouth to see her son take hold of a fork with both hands.

“God help us!” added the old man, rolling his quid of buyo. “If Andoy gets to be Pope we’ll go to Rome he, he! I can still walk well, and if I die—he, he!”

“Don’t worry, granddad! Andoy won’t forget that you taught him how to weave baskets.”

“You’re right, Petra. I also believe that your son will be great, at least a patriarch. I have never seen any one who learned the business in a shorter time. Yes, he’ll remember me when as Pope or bishop he entertains himself in making baskets for his cook. He’ll then say masses for my soul—he, he!” With this hope the good old man again filled his kalikut with buyo.

“If God hears my prayers and my hopes are fulfilled, I’ll say to Andoy, ‘Son, take away all our sins and send us to Heaven!’ Then we shan’t need to pray and fast and buy indulgences. One whose son is a blessed Pope can commit sins!”

“Send him to my house tomorrow, Petra,” cried the old man enthusiastically, “and I’ll teach him to weave the nito!

“Huh! Get out! What are you dreaming about, grand-dad? Do you still think that the Popes even move their hands? The curate, being nothing more than a curate, only works in the mass—when he turns around! The Archbishop doesn’t even turn around, for he says mass sitting down. So the Pope—the Pope says it in bed with a fan! What are you thinking about?”

“Of nothing more, Petra, than that he know how to weave the nito. It would be well for him to be able to sell hats and cigar-cases so that he wouldn’t have to beg alms, as the curate does here every year in the name of the Pope. It always fills me with compassion to see a saint poor, so I give all my savings.”

Another countryman here joined in the conversation, saying, “It’s all settled, cumare,1 my son has got to be a doctor, there’s nothing like being a doctor!”

“Doctor! What are you talking about, cumpare?” retorted Petra. “There’s nothing like being a curate!”

“A curate, pish! A curate? The doctor makes lots of money, the sick people worship him, cumare!”

“Excuse me! The curate, by making three or four turns and saying deminos pabiscum,2 eats God and makes money. All, even the women, tell him their secrets.”

“And the doctor? What do you think a doctor is? The doctor sees all that the women have, he feels the pulses of the dalagas! I’d just like to be a doctor for a week!”

“And the curate, perhaps the curate doesn’t see what your doctor sees? Better still, you know the saying, ‘the fattest chicken and the roundest leg for the curate!’”

“What of that? Do the doctors eat dried fish? Do they soil their fingers eating salt?”

“Does the curate dirty his hands as your doctors do? He has great estates and when he works he works with music and has sacristans to help him.”

“But the confessing, cumare? Isn’t that work?”

“No work about that! I’d just like to be confessing everybody! While we work and sweat to find out what our own neighbors are doing, the curate does nothing more than take a seat and they tell him everything. Sometimes he falls asleep, but he lets out two or three blessings and we are again the children of God! I’d just like to be a curate for one evening in Lent!”

“But the preaching? You can’t tell me that it’s not work. Just look how the fat curate was sweating this morning,” objected the rustic, who felt himself being beaten into retreat.

“Preaching! Work to preach! Where’s your judgment? I’d just like to be talking half a day from the pulpit, scolding and quarreling with everybody, without any one daring to reply, and be getting paid for it besides. I’d just like to be the curate for one morning when those who are in debt to me are attending mass! Look there now, how Padre Damaso gets fat with so much scolding and beating.”

Padre Damaso was, indeed, approaching with the gait of a heavy man. He was half smiling, but in such a malignant way that Ibarra, upon seeing him, lost the thread of his talk. The padre was greeted with some surprise but with signs of pleasure on the part of all except Ibarra. They were then at the dessert and the champagne was foaming in the glasses.

Padre Damaso’s smile became nervous when he saw Maria Clara seated at Crisostomo’s right. He took a seat beside the alcalde and said in the midst of a significant silence, “Were you discussing something, gentlemen? Go ahead!”

“We were at the toasts,” answered the alcalde. “Señor Ibarra was mentioning all who have helped him in his philanthropic enterprise and was speaking of the architect when your Reverence—”

“Well, I don’t know anything about architecture,” interrupted Padre Damaso, “but I laugh at architects and the fools who employ them. Here you have it—I drew the plan of this church and it’s perfectly constructed, so an English jeweler who stopped in the convento one day assured me. To draw a plan one needs only to have two fingers’ breadth of forehead.”

“Nevertheless,” answered the alcalde, seeing that Ibarra was silent, “when we consider certain buildings, as, for example, this schoolhouse, we need an expert.”

“Get out with your experts!” exclaimed the priest with a sneer. “Only a fool needs experts! One must be more of a brute than the Indians, who build their own houses, not to know how to construct four walls and put a roof on top of them. That’s all a schoolhouse is!”

The guests gazed at Ibarra, who had turned pale, but he continued as if in conversation with Maria Clara.

“But your Reverence should consider—”

“See now,” went on the Franciscan, not allowing the alcalde to continue, “look how one of our lay brothers, the most stupid that we have, has constructed a hospital, good, pretty, and cheap. He made them work hard and paid only eight cuartos a day even to those who had to come from other towns. He knew how to handle them, not like a lot of cranks and little mestizos who are spoiling them by paying three or four reals.”

“Does your Reverence say that he paid only eight cuartos? Impossible!” The alcalde was trying to change the course of the conversation.

“Yes, sir, and those who pride themselves on being good Spaniards ought to imitate him. You see now, since the Suez Canal was opened, the corruption that has come in here. Formerly, when we had to double the Cape, neither so many vagabonds came here nor so many others went from here to become vagabonds.”

“But, Padre Damaso—”

“You know well enough what the Indian is—just as soon as he gets a little learning he sets himself up as a doctor! All these little fellows that go to Europe—”

“But, listen, your Reverence!” interrupted the alcalde, who was becoming nervous over the aggressiveness of such talk.

“Every one ends up as he deserves,” the friar continued. “The hand of God is manifest in the midst of it all, and one must be blind not to see it. Even in this life the fathers of such vipers receive their punishment, they die in jail ha, ha! As we might say, they have nowhere—”

But he did not finish the sentence. Ibarra, livid, had been following him with his gaze and upon hearing this allusion to his father jumped up and dropped a heavy hand on the priest’s head, so that he fell back stunned. The company was so filled with surprise and fright that no one made any movement to interfere.

“Keep off!” cried the youth in a terrible voice, as he caught up a sharp knife and placed his foot on the neck of the friar, who was recovering from the shock of his fall. “Let him who values his life keep away!”

The youth was beside himself. His whole body trembled and his eyes rolled threateningly in their sockets. Fray Damaso arose with an effort, but the youth caught him by the neck and shook him until he again fell doubled over on his knees.

“Señor Ibarra! Señor Ibarra!” stammered some. But no one, not even the alferez himself, dared to approach the gleaming knife, when they considered the youth’s strength and the condition of his mind. All seemed to be paralyzed.

“You, here! You have been silent, now it is my turn! I have tried to avoid this, but God brings me to it—let God be the judge!” The youth was breathing laboriously, but with a hand of iron he held down the Franciscan, who was struggling vainly to free himself.

“My heart beats tranquilly, my hand is sure,” he began, looking around him. “First, is there one among you, one who has not loved his father, who was born in such shame and humiliation that he hates his memory? You see? You understand this silence? Priest of a God of peace, with your mouth full of sanctity and religion and your heart full of evil, you cannot know what a father is, or you might have thought of your own! In all this crowd which you despise there is not one like you! You are condemned!”

The persons surrounding him, thinking that he was about to commit murder, made a movement.

“Away!” he cried again in a threatening voice. “What, do you fear that I shall stain my hands with impure blood? Have I not told you that my heart beats tranquilly? Away from us! Listen, priests and judges, you who think yourselves other men and attribute to yourselves other rights: my father was an honorable man,—ask these people here, who venerate his memory. My father was a good citizen and he sacrificed himself for me and for the good of his country. His house was open and his table was set for the stranger and the outcast who came to him in distress! He was a Christian who always did good and who never oppressed the unprotected or afflicted those in trouble. To this man here he opened his doors, he made him sit at his table and called him his friend. And how has this man repaid him? He calumniated him, persecuted him, raised up against him all the ignorant by availing himself of the sanctity of his position; he outraged his tomb, dishonored his memory, and persecuted him even in the sleep of death! Not satisfied with this, he persecutes the son now! I have fled from him, I have avoided his presence. You this morning heard him profane the pulpit, pointing me out to popular fanaticism, and I held my peace! Now he comes here to seek a quarrel with me. To your surprise, I have suffered in silence, but he again insults the most sacred memory that there is for a son. You who are here, priests and judges, have you seen your aged father wear himself out working for you, separating himself from you for your welfare, have you seen him die of sorrow in a prison sighing for your embrace, seeking some one to comfort him, alone, sick, when you were in a foreign land? Have you afterwards heard his name dishonored, have you found his tomb empty when you went to pray beside it? No? You are silent, you condemn him!”

He raised his hand, but with the swiftness of light a girlish form put itself between them and delicate fingers restrained the avenging arm. It was Maria Clara. Ibarra stared at her with a look that seemed to reflect madness. Slowly his clenched fingers relaxed, letting fall the body of the Franciscan and the knife. Covering his face, he fled through the crowd. 

1 Cumare and cumpare are corruptions of the Spanish comadre and compadre, which have an origin analogous to the English “gossip” in its original meaning of “sponsor in baptism.” In the Philippines these words are used among the simpler folk as familiar forms of address, “friend,” “neighbor.”—TR.

2 Dominus vobiscum.

Chapter XXXV Comments

News of the incident soon spread throughout the town. At first all were incredulous, but, having to yield to the fact, they broke out into exclamations of surprise. Each one, according to his moral lights, made his comments.

“Padre Damaso is dead,” said some. “When they picked him up his face was covered with blood and he wasn’t breathing.”

“May he rest in peace! But he hasn’t any more than settled his debts!” exclaimed a young man. “Look what he did this morning in the convento—there isn’t any name for it.”

“What did he do? Did he beat up the coadjutor again?”

“What did he do? Tell us about it!”

“You saw that Spanish mestizo go out through the sacristy in the midst of the sermon?”

“Yes, we saw him. Padre Damaso took note of him.”

“Well, after the sermon he sent for the young man and asked him why he had gone out. ‘I don’t understand Tagalog, Padre,’ was the reply. ‘And why did you joke about it, saying that it was Greek?’ yelled Padre Damaso, slapping the young man in the face. The latter retorted and the two came to blows until they were separated.”

“If that had happened to me—” hissed a student between his teeth.

“I don’t approve of the action of the Franciscan,” said another, “since Religion ought not to be imposed on any one as a punishment or a penance. But I am almost glad of it, for I know that young man, I know that he’s from San Pedro Makati and that he talks Tagalog well. Now he wants to be taken for a recent arrival from Russia and prides himself on appearing not to know the language of his fathers.”

“Then God makes them and they rush together!”1

“Still we must protest against such actions,” exclaimed another student. “To remain silent would be to assent to the abuse, and what has happened may be repeated with any one of us. We’re going back to the times of Nero!”

“You’re wrong,” replied another. “Nero was a great artist, while Padre Damaso is only a tiresome preacher.”

The comments of the older persons were of a different kind. While they were waiting for the arrival of the Captain-General in a hut outside the town, the gobernadorcillo was saying, “To tell who was right and who was wrong, is not an easy matter. Yet if Señor Ibarra had used more prudence—”

“If Padre Damaso had used half the prudence of Señor Ibarra, you mean to say, perhaps!” interrupted Don Filipo. “The bad thing about it is that they exchanged parts—the youth conducted himself like an old man and the old man like a youth.”

“Did you say that no one moved, no one went near to separate them, except Capitan Tiago’s daughter?” asked Capitan Martin. “None of the friars, nor the alcalde? Ahem! Worse and worse! I shouldn’t like to be in that young man’s skin. No one will forgive him for having been afraid of him. Worse and worse, ahem!”

“Do you think so?” asked Capitan Basilio curiously.

“I hope,” said Don Filipo, exchanging a look with the latter, “that the people won’t desert him. We must keep in mind what his family has done and what he is trying to do now. And if, as may happen, the people, being intimidated, are silent, his friends—”

“But, gentlemen,” interrupted the gobernadorcillo, “what can we do? What can the people do? Happen what will, the friars are always right!”

“They are always right because we always allow them to be,” answered Don Filipo impatiently, putting double stress on the italicized word. “Let us be right once and then we’ll talk.”

The gobernadorcillo scratched his head and stared at the roof while he replied in a sour tone, “Ay! the heat of the blood! You don’t seem to realize yet what country we’re in, you don’t know your countrymen. The friars are rich and united, while we are divided and poor. Yes, try to defend yourself and you’ll see how the people will leave you in the lurch.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Don Filipo bitterly. “That will happen as long as you think that way, as long as fear and prudence are synonyms. More attention is paid to a possible evil than to a necessary good. At once fear, and not confidence, presents itself; each one thinks only of himself, no one thinks of the rest, and therefore we are all weak!”

“Well then, think of others before yourself and you’ll see how they’ll leave you in the lurch. Don’t you know