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Sep 30th
The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere) Chapter XXI to XXX PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jose Rizal   
Monday, 18 June 2007 23:04





The Social Cancer

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

Philippine Education Company
New York: World Book Company


Translated from Spanish into English




Copyright, 1912, by Philippine Education Company.
Entered at Stationers’ Hall.
Registrado en las Islas Filipinas.
All rights reserved.




Author’s Dedication


A Social Gathering


Crisostomo Ibarra


The Dinner


Heretic and Filibuster


A Star in a Dark Night


Capitan Tiago


An Idyl on an Azotea




Local Affairs


The Town


The Rulers


All Saints


Signs of Storm


Tasio: Lunatic or Sage


The Sacristans






Souls In Torment


A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties


The Meeting in the Town Hall


The Story of a Mother[liv]


Lights and Shadows




In the Wood


In the House of the Sage


The Eve of the Fiesta


In the Twilight




The Morning


In the Church


The Sermon


The Derrick


Free Thought


The Dinner




The First Cloud


His Excellency


The Procession


Doña Consolación


Right and Might


Two Visits


The Espadañas




An Examination of Conscience


The Hunted


The Cockpit


The Two Señoras


The Enigma


The Voice of the Hunted[iv]


Elias’s Story




The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows


Il Buon Dí Si Conosce Da Mattina




The Catastrophe


Rumors and Belief


Vae Victis!


The Accursed


Patriotism and Private Interests


Maria Clara Weds


The Chase on the Lake


Padre Damaso Explains


Christmas Eve






{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXI-The Story of a Mother}

Chapter XXI

The Story of a Mother

Andaba incierto—volaba errante,

Un solo instante—sin descansar.


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, [150]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—"

[151]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 [152]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 [153]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 [154]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?"

[155]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.

[156]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. [157]


1 With uncertain pace, in wandering flight, for an instant only—without rest.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXII-Lights and Shadows}

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 [158]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."


"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!"

[159]"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 [160]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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIII-Fishing} [161]

Chapter XXIII


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."

[162] "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 [163]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."


"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.

[164]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.

[165] "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.

[166]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 [167]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 [168]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 [169]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 [170]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 [171]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 [172]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 [173]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 sinigang ready 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.

[174]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. [175]



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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIV-In the Wood}

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 [176]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 [177]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 [178]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.

[179]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.

[180]"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?"

[181]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 [182]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.

[183]"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.

[184]"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!"

[185]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.

[186]"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 [187]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! [188]



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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXV-In the House of the Sage}

Chapter XXV

(There is an Alternate Chapter XXV that was never included in this book  - Click Here to Read it)

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, [189]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 [190]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 [191]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 [192]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 [193]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."

[194]"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 [195]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. [196]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 [197]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 [198]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, [199]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 [200]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! [201]



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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVI-The Eve of the Fiesta}

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 [202]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 [203]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 [204]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.

[205]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 [206]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 [207]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."

[208]"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.

[209]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. [210]



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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVII-In the Twilight}

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 [211]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 [212]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 [213]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 [214]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 [215]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.

[216]"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!"

[217]"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. [218]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVIII-Correspondence}

Chapter XXVIII


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 [219]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 [220]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 [221]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 [222]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,2 which 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 [223]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.




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 [224]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,




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.


"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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIX-The Morning}

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! [226]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 [227]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 [228]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 [229]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 [230]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. [231]



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 [229n]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.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter Chapter XXX-In the Church}

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 [232]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 [233]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 [234]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 [235]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. [236]


Continue Reading Chapter XXXI to XL


1 The principal character in Calderon de la Barca’s La Vida es Sueño. There is also a Tagalog corrido, or metrical romance, with this title.—TR.

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