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The Reign of Greed (El Filibusterismo) Chapter XXXI to XXXIX PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jose Rizal   
Monday, 18 June 2007 17:49

The Reign of Greed

Manila
Philippine Education Company
1912

[iv]

 

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

I. On the Upper Deck
II. On the Lower Deck
III. Legends
IV. Cabesang Tales
V. A Cochero’s Christmas Eve
VI. Basilio
VII. Simoun
VIII. Merry Christmas
IX. Pilates
X. Wealth and Want
XI. Los Baños
XII. Placido Penitente
XIII. The Class in Physics
XIV. In the House of the Students
XV. Señor Pasta
XVI. The Tribulations of a Chinese
XVII. The Quiapo Pair
XVIII. Legerdemain
XIX. The Fuse
XX. The Arbiter
XXI. Manila Types
XXII. The Performance
XXIII. A Corpse
XXIV. Dreams
XXV. Smiles and Tears [xii]
XXVI. Pasquinades
XXVII. The Friar and the Filipino
XXVIII. Tatakut
XXIX. Exit Capitan Tiago
XXX. Juli
XXXI. The High Official
XXXII. Effect of the Pasquinades
XXXIII. La Ultima Razón
XXXIV. The Wedding
XXXV. The Fiesta
XXXVI. Ben-Zayb’s Afflictions
XXXVII. The Mystery
XXXVIII. Fatality
XXXIX. Conclusion
{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXI-The High Official}

The High Official

L’Espagne et sa, vertu, l’Espagne et sa grandeur
Tout s’en va!—Victor Hugo

The newspapers of Manila were so engrossed in accounts of a notorious murder committed in Europe, in panegyrics and puffs for various preachers in the city, in the constantly increasing success of the French operetta, that they could scarcely devote space to the crimes perpetrated in the provinces by a band of tulisanes headed by a fierce and terrible leader who was called Matanglawin.1 Only when the object of the attack was a convento or a Spaniard there then appeared long articles giving frightful details and asking for martial law, energetic measures, and so on. So it was that they could take no notice of what had occurred in the town of Tiani, nor was there the slightest hint or allusion to it. In private circles something was whispered, but so confused, so vague, and so little consistent, that not even the name of the victim was known, while those who showed the greatest interest forgot it quickly, trusting that the affair had been settled in some way with the wronged family. The only one who knew anything certain was Padre Camorra, who had to leave the town, to be transferred to another or to remain for some time in the convento in Manila.

“Poor Padre Camorra!” exclaimed Ben-Zayb in a fit of generosity. “He was so jolly and had such a good heart!”

It was true that the students had recovered their liberty, [300] thanks to the exertions of their relatives, who did not hesitate at expense, gifts, or any sacrifice whatsoever. The first to see himself free, as was to be expected, was Makaraig, and the last Isagani, because Padre Florentine did not reach Manila until a week after the events. So many acts of clemency secured for the General the title of clement and merciful, which Ben-Zayb hastened to add to his long list of adjectives.

The only one who did not obtain his liberty was Basilio, since he was also accused of having in his possession prohibited books. We don’t know whether this referred to his text-book on legal medicine or to the pamphlets that were found, dealing with the Philippines, or both together—the fact is that it was said that prohibited literature was being secretly sold, and upon the unfortunate boy fell all the weight of the rod of justice.

It was reported that his Excellency had been thus advised: “It’s necessary that there be some one, so that the prestige of authority may be sustained and that it may not be said that we made a great fuss over nothing. Authority before everything. It’s necessary that some one be made an example of. Let there be just one, one who, according to Padre Irene, was the servant of Capitan Tiago—there’ll be no one to enter a complaint—”

“Servant and student?” asked his Excellency. “That fellow, then! Let it be he!”

“Your Excellency will pardon me,” observed the high official, who happened to be present, “but I’ve been told that this boy is a medical student and his teachers speak well of him. If he remains a prisoner he’ll lose a year, and as this year he finishes—”

The high official’s interference in behalf of Basilio, instead of helping, harmed him. For some time there had been between this official and his Excellency strained relations and bad feelings, augmented by frequent clashes.

“Yes? So much the greater reason that he should be kept prisoner; a year longer in his studies, instead of injuring [301] him, will do good, not only to himself but to all who afterwards fall into his hands. One doesn’t become a bad physician by extensive practise. So much the more reason that he should remain! Soon the filibustering reformers will say that we are not looking out for the country!” concluded his Excellency with a sarcastic laugh.

The high official realized that he had made a false move and took Basilio’s case to heart. “But it seems to me that this young man is the most innocent of all,” he rejoined rather timidly.

“Books have been seized in his possession,” observed the secretary.

“Yes, works on medicine and pamphlets written by Peninsulars, with the leaves uncut, and besides, what does that signify? Moreover, this young man was not present at the banquet in the pansitería, he hasn’t mixed up in anything. As I’ve said, he’s the most innocent—”

“So much the better!” exclaimed his Excellency jocosely. “In that way the punishment will prove more salutary and exemplary, since it inspires greater terror. To govern is to act in this way, my dear sir, as it is often expedient to sacrifice the welfare of one to the welfare of many. But I’m doing more—from the welfare of one will result the welfare of all, the principle of endangered authority is preserved, prestige is respected and maintained. By this act of mine I’m correcting my own and other people’s faults.”

The high official restrained himself with an effort and, disregarding the allusion, decided to take another tack. “But doesn’t your Excellency fear the—responsibility?”

“What have I to fear?” rejoined the General impatiently. “Haven’t I discretionary powers? Can’t I do what I please for the better government of these islands? What have I to fear? Can some menial perhaps arraign me before the tribunals and exact from me responsibility? Even though he had the means, he would have to consult the Ministry first, and the Minister—” [302]

He waved his hand and burst out into laughter.

“The Minister who appointed me, the devil knows where he is, and he will feel honored in being able to welcome me when I return. The present one, I don’t even think of him, and the devil take him too! The one that relieves him will find himself in so many difficulties with his new duties that he won’t be able to fool with trifles. I, my dear sir, have nothing over me but my conscience, I act according to my conscience, and my conscience is satisfied, so I don’t care a straw for the opinions of this one and that. My conscience, my dear sir, my conscience!”

“Yes, General, but the country—”

“Tut, tut, tut, tut! The country—what have I to do Avith the country? Have I perhaps contracted any obligations to it? Do I owe my office to it? Was it the country that elected me?”

A brief pause ensued, during which the high official stood with bowed head. Then, as if reaching a decision, he raised it to stare fixedly at the General. Pale and trembling, he said with repressed energy: “That doesn’t matter, General, that doesn’t matter at all! Your Excellency has not been chosen by the Filipino people, but by Spain, all the more reason why you should treat the Filipinos well so that they may not be able to reproach Spain. The greater reason, General, the greater reason! Your Excellency, by coming here, has contracted the obligation to govern justly, to seek the welfare—”

“Am I not doing it?” interrupted his Excellency in exasperation, taking a step forward. “Haven’t I told you that I am getting from the good of one the good of all? Are you now going to give me lessons? If you don’t understand my actions, how am I to blame? Do I compel you to share my responsibility?”

“Certainly not,” replied the high official, drawing himself up proudly. “Your Excellency does not compel me, your Excellency cannot compel me, me, to share your responsibility. I understand mine in quite another way, [303] and because I have it, I’m going to speak—I’ve held my peace a long time. Oh, your Excellency needn’t make those gestures, because the fact that I’ve come here in this or that capacity doesn’t mean that I have given up my rights, that I have been reduced to the part of a slave, without voice or dignity.

“I don’t want Spain to lose this beautiful empire, these eight millions of patient and submissive subjects, who live on hopes and delusions, but neither do I wish to soil my hands in their barbarous exploitation. I don’t wish it ever to be said that, the slave-trade abolished, Spain has continued to cloak it with her banner and perfect it under a wealth of specious institutions. No, to be great Spain does not have to be a tyrant, Spain is sufficient unto herself, Spain was greater when she had only her own territory, wrested from the clutches of the Moor. I too am a Spaniard, but before being a Spaniard I am a man, and before Spain and above Spain is her honor, the lofty principles of morality, the eternal principles of immutable justice! Ah, you are surprised that I think thus, because you have no idea of the grandeur of the Spanish name, no, you haven’t any idea of it, you identify it with persons and interests. To you the Spaniard may be a pirate, he may be a murderer, a hypocrite, a cheat, anything, just so he keep what he has—but to me the Spaniard should lose everything, empire, power, wealth, everything, before his honor! Ah, my dear sir, we protest when we read that might is placed before right, yet we applaud when in practise we see might play the hypocrite in not only perverting right but even in using it as a tool in order to gain control. For the very reason that I love Spain, I’m speaking now, and I defy your frown!

“I don’t wish that the coming ages accuse Spain of being the stepmother of the nations, the vampire of races, the tyrant of small islands, since it would be a horrible mockery of the noble principles of our ancient kings. How are we carrying out their sacred legacy? They promised to these [304] islands protection and justice, and we are playing with the lives and liberties of the inhabitants; they promised civilization, and^we are curtailing it, fearful that they may aspire to a nobler existence; they promised them light, and we cover their eyes that they may not witness our orgies; they promised to teach them virtue and we are encouraging their vice. Instead of peace, wealth, and justice, confusion reigns, commerce languishes, and skepticism is fostered among the masses.

“Let us put ourselves in the place of the Filipinos and ask ourselves what we would do in their place. Ah, in your silence I read their right to rebel, and if matters do not mend they will rebel some day, and justice will be on their side, with them will go the sympathy of all honest men, of every patriot in the world! When a people is denied light, home, liberty, and justice—things that are essential to life, and therefore man’s patrimony—that people has the right to treat him who so despoils it as we would the robber who intercepts us on the highway. There are no distinctions, there are no exceptions, nothing but a fact, a right, an aggression, and every honest man who does not place himself on the side of the wronged makes himself an accomplice and stains his conscience.

“True, I am not a soldier, and the years are cooling the little fire in my blood, but just as I would risk being torn to pieces to defend the integrity of Spain against any foreign invader or against an unjustified disloyalty in her provinces, so I also assure you that I would place myself beside the oppressed Filipinos, because I would prefer to fall in the cause of the outraged rights of humanity to triumphing with the selfish interests of a nation, even when that nation be called as it is called—Spain!”

“Do you know when the mail-boat leaves?” inquired his Excellency coldly, when the high official had finished speaking.

The latter stared at him fixedly, then dropped his head and silently left the palace. [305]

Outside he found his carriage awaiting him. “Some day when you declare yourselves independent,” he said somewhat abstractedly to the native lackey who opened the carriage-door for him, “remember that there were not lacking in Spain hearts that beat for you and struggled for your rights!”

“Where, sir?” asked the lackey, who had understood nothing of this and was inquiring whither they should go.

Two hours later the high official handed in his resignation and announced his intention of returning to Spain by the next mail-steamer. [306]

 


1 “Hawk-Eye.”—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXII-Effect of the Pasquinades}

Effect of the Pasquinades

As a result of the events narrated, many mothers ordered their sons immediately to leave off their studies and devote themselves to idleness or to agriculture. When the examinations came, suspensions were plentiful, and he was a rare exception who finished the course, if he had belonged to the famous association, to which no one paid any more attention. Pecson, Tadeo, and Juanito Pelaez were all alike suspended—the first receiving his dismissal with his foolish grin and declaring his intention of becoming an officer in some court, while Tadeo, with his eternal holiday realized at last, paid for an illumination and made a bonfire of his books. Nor did the others get off much better, and at length they too had to abandon their studies, to the great satisfaction of their mothers, who always fancy their sons hanged if they should come to understand what the books teach. Juanito Pelaez alone took the blow ill, since it forced him to leave school for his father’s store, with whom he was thenceforward to be associated in the business: the rascal found the store much less entertaining, but after some time his friends again noticed his hump appear, a symptom that his good humor was returning. The rich Makaraig, in view of the catastrophe, took good care not to expose himself, and having secured a passport by means of money set out in haste for Europe. It was said that his Excellency, the Captain-General, in his desire to do good by good means, and careful of the interests of the Filipinos, hindered the departure of every one who could not first prove substantially that he had the money to spend and could live in idleness in European cities. Among our [307] acquaintances those who got off best were Isagani and Sandoval: the former passed in the subject he studied under Padre Fernandez and was suspended in the others, while the latter was able to confuse the examining-board with his oratory.

Basilio was the only one who did not pass in any subject, who was not suspended, and who did not go to Europe, for he remained in Bilibid prison, subjected every three days to examinations, almost always the same in principle, without other variation than a change of inquisitors, since it seemed that in the presence of such great guilt all gave up or fell away in horror. And while the documents moldered or were shifted about, while the stamped papers increased like the plasters of an ignorant physician on the body of a hypochondriac, Basilio became informed of all the details of what had happened in Tiani, of the death of Juli and the disappearance of Tandang Selo. Sinong, the abused cochero, who had driven him to San Diego, happened to be in Manila at that time and called to give him all the news.

Meanwhile, Simoun had recovered his health, or so at least the newspapers said. Ben-Zayb rendered thanks to “the Omnipotent who watches over such a precious life,” and manifested the hope that the Highest would some day reveal the malefactor, whose crime remained unpunished, thanks to the charity of the victim, who was too closely following the words of the Great Martyr: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. These and other things Ben-Zayb said in print, while by mouth he was inquiring whether there was any truth in the rumor that the opulent jeweler was going to give a grand fiesta, a banquet such as had never before been seen, in part to celebrate his recovery and in part as a farewell to the country in which he had increased his fortune. It was whispered as certain that Simoun, who would have to leave with the Captain-General, whose command expired in May, was making every effort to secure from Madrid an extension, [308] and that he was advising his Excellency to start a campaign in order to have an excuse for remaining, but it was further reported that for the first time his Excellency had disregarded the advice of his favorite, making it a point of honor not to retain for a single additional day the power that had been conferred upon him, a rumor which encouraged belief that the fiesta announced would take place; very soon. For the rest, Simoun remained unfathomable, since he had become very uncommunicative, showed himself seldom, and smiled mysteriously when the rumored fiesta was mentioned.

“Come, Señor Sindbad,” Ben-Zayb had once rallied him, “dazzle us with something Yankee! You owe something to this country.”

“Doubtless!” was Simoun’s response, with a dry smile.

“You’ll throw the house wide open, eh?”

“Maybe, but as I have no house—”

“You ought to have secured Capitan Tiago’s, which Señor Pelaez got for nothing.”

Simoun became silent, and from that time on he was often seen in the store of Don Timoteo Pelaez, with whom it was said he had entered into partnership. Some weeks afterward, in the month of April, it was rumored that Juanito Pelaez, Don Timoteo’s son, was going to marry Paulita Gomez, the girl coveted by Spaniards and foreigners.

“Some men are lucky!” exclaimed other envious merchants. “To buy a house for nothing, sell his consignment of galvanized iron well, get into partnership with a Simoun, and marry his son to a rich heiress—just say if those aren’t strokes of luck that all honorable men don’t have!”

“If you only knew whence came that luck of Señor Pelaez’s!” another responded, in a tone which indicated that the speaker did know. “It’s also assured that there’ll be a fiesta and on a grand scale,” was added with mystery.

It was really true that Paulita was going to marry [309] Juanito Pelaez. Her love for Isagani had gradually waned, like all first loves based on poetry and sentiment. The events of the pasquinades and the imprisonment of the youth had shorn him of all his charms. To whom would it have occurred to seek danger, to desire to share the fate of his comrades, to surrender himself, when every one was hiding and denying any complicity in the affair? It was quixotic, it was madness that no sensible person in Manila could pardon, and Juanito was quite right in ridiculing him, representing what a sorry figure he cut when he went to the Civil Government. Naturally, the brilliant Paulita could no longer love a young man who so erroneously understood social matters and whom all condemned. Then she began to reflect. Juanito was clever, capable, gay, shrewd, the son of a rich merchant of Manila, and a Spanish mestizo besides—if Don Timoteo was to be believed, a full-blooded Spaniard. On the other hand, Isagani was a provincial native who dreamed of forests infested with leeches, he was of doubtful family, with a priest for an uncle, who would perhaps be an enemy to luxury and balls, of which she was very fond. One beautiful morning therefore it occurred to her that she had been a downright fool to prefer him to his rival, and from that time on Pelaez’s hump steadily increased. Unconsciously, yet rigorously, Paulita was obeying the law discovered by Darwin, that the female surrenders herself to the fittest male, to him who knows how to adapt himself to the medium in which he lives, and to live in Manila there was no other like Pelaez, who from his infancy had had chicanery at his finger-tips. Lent passed with its Holy Week, its array of processions and pompous displays, without other novelty than a mysterious mutiny among the artillerymen, the cause of which was never disclosed. The houses of light materials were torn down in the presence of a troop of cavalry, ready to fall upon the owners in case they should offer resistance. There was a great deal of weeping and many lamentations, but the affair did not get beyond that. The curious, among [310] them Simoun, went to see those who were left homeless, walking about indifferently and assuring each other that thenceforward they could sleep in peace.

Towards the end of April, all the fears being now forgotten, Manila was engrossed with one topic: the fiesta that Don Timoteo Pelaez was going to celebrate at the wedding of his son, for which the General had graciously and condescendingly agreed to be the patron. Simoun was reported to have arranged the matter. The ceremony would be solemnized two days before the departure of the General, who would honor the house and make a present to the bridegroom. It was whispered that the jeweler would pour out cascades of diamonds and throw away handfuls of pearls in honor of his partner’s son, thus, since he could hold no fiesta of his own, as he was a bachelor and had no house, improving the opportunity to dazzle the Filipino people with a memorable farewell. All Manila prepared to be invited, and never did uneasiness take stronger hold of the mind than in view of the thought of not being among those bidden. Friendship with Simoun became a matter of dispute, and many husbands were forced by their wives to purchase bars of steel and sheets of galvanized iron in order to make friends with Don Timoteo Pelaez. [311]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXIII-La Ultima Razón}

La Ultima Razón1

At last the great day arrived. During the morning Simoun had not left his house, busied as he was in packing his arms and his jewels. His fabulous wealth was already locked up in the big steel chest with its canvas cover, there remaining only a few cases containing bracelets and pins, doubtless gifts that he meant to make. He was going to leave with the Captain-General, who cared in no way to lengthen his stay, fearful of what people would say. Malicious ones insinuated that Simoun did not dare remain alone, since without the General’s support he did not care to expose himself to the vengeance of the many wretches he had exploited, all the more reason for which was the fact that the General who was coming was reported to be a model of rectitude and might make him disgorge his gains. The superstitious Indians, on the other hand, believed that Simoun was the devil who did not wish to separate himself from his prey. The pessimists winked maliciously and said, “The field laid waste, the locust leaves for other parts!” Only a few, a very few, smiled and said nothing.

In the afternoon Simoun had given orders to his servant that if there appeared a young man calling himself Basilio he should be admitted at once. Then he shut himself up in his room and seemed to become lost in deep thought. Since his illness the jeweler’s countenance had become harder and gloomier, while the wrinkles between his eyebrows had [312] deepened greatly. He did not hold himself so erect as formerly, and his head was bowed.

So absorbed was he in his meditations that he did not hear a knock at the door, and it had to be repeated. He shuddered and called out, “Come in!”

It was Basilio, but how altered! If the change that had taken place in Simoun during those two months was great, in the young student it was frightful. His cheeks were hollow, his hair unkempt, his clothing disordered. The tender melancholy had disappeared from his eyes, and in its place glittered a dark light, so that it might be said that he had died and his corpse had revived, horrified with what it had seen in eternity. If not crime, then the shadow of crime, had fixed itself upon his whole appearance. Simoun himself was startled and felt pity for the wretch.

Without any greeting Basilio slowly advanced into the room, and in a voice that made the jeweler shudder said to him, “Señor Simoun, I’ve been a wicked son and a bad brother—I’ve overlooked the murder of one and the tortures of the other, and God has chastised me! Now there remains to me only one desire, and it is to return evil for evil, crime for crime, violence for violence!”

Simoun listened in silence, while Basilio continued; “Four months ago you talked to me about your plans. I refused to take part in them, but I did wrong, you have been right. Three months and a half ago the revolution was on the point of breaking out, but I did not then care to participate in it, and the movement failed. In payment for my conduct I’ve been arrested and owe my liberty to your efforts only. You are right and now I’ve come to say to you: put a weapon in my hand and let the revolution come! I am ready to serve you, along with all the rest of the unfortunates.”

The cloud that had darkened Simoun’s brow suddenly disappeared, a ray of triumph darted from his eyes, and like one who has found what he sought he exclaimed: “I’m right, yes, I’m right! Right and Justice are on my side, because [313] my cause is that of the persecuted. Thanks, young man, thanks! You’ve come to clear away my doubts, to end my hesitation.”

He had risen and his face was beaming. The zeal that had animated him when four months before he had explained his plans to Basilio in the wood of his ancestors reappeared in his countenance like a red sunset after a cloudy day.

“Yes,” he resumed, “the movement failed and many have deserted me because they saw me disheartened and wavering at the supreme moment. I still cherished something in my heart, I was not the master of all my feelings, I still loved! Now everything is dead in me, no longer is there even a corpse sacred enough for me to respect its sleep. No longer will there be any vacillation, for you yourself, an idealistic youth, a gentle dove, understand the necessity and come to spur me to action. Somewhat late you have opened your eyes, for between you and me together we might have executed marvelous plans, I above in the higher circles spreading death amid perfume and gold, brutalizing the vicious and corrupting or paralyzing the few good, and you below among the people, among the young men, stirring them to life amid blood and tears. Our task, instead of being bloody and barbarous, would have been holy, perfect, artistic, and surely success would have crowned our efforts. But no intelligence would support me, I encountered fear or effeminacy among the enlightened classes, selfishness among the rich, simplicity among the youth, and only in the mountains, in the waste places, among the outcasts, have I found my men. But no matter now! If we can’t get a finished statue, rounded out in all its details, of the rough block we work upon let those to come take charge!”

Seizing the arm of Basilio, who was listening without comprehending all he said, he led him to the laboratory where he kept his chemical mixtures. Upon the table was placed a large case made of dark shagreen, similar to those [314] that hold the silver plate exchanged as gifts among the rich and powerful. Opening this, Simoun revealed to sight, upon a bottom of red satin, a lamp of very peculiar shape, Its body was in the form of a pomegranate as large as a man’s head, with fissures in it exposing to view the seeds inside, which were fashioned of enormous carnelians. The covering was of oxidized gold in exact imitation of the wrinkles on the fruit.

Simoun took it out with great care and, removing the burner, exposed to view the interior of the tank, which was lined with steel two centimeters in thickness and which had a capacity of over a liter. Basilio questioned him with his eyes, for as yet he comprehended nothing. Without entering upon explanations, Simoun carefully took from a cabinet a flask and showed the young man the formula written upon it.

“Nitro-glycerin!” murmured Basilio, stepping backward and instinctively thrusting his hands behind him. “Nitro-glycerin! Dynamite!” Beginning now to understand, he felt his hair stand on end.

“Yes, nitro-glycerin!” repeated Simoun slowly, with his cold smile and a look of delight at the glass flask. “It’s also something more than nitro-glycerin—it’s concentrated tears, repressed hatred, wrongs, injustice, outrage. It’s the last resort of the weak, force against force, violence against violence. A moment ago I was hesitating, but you have come and decided me. This night the most dangerous tyrants will be blown to pieces, the irresponsible rulers that hide themselves behind God and the State, whose abuses remain unpunished because no one can bring them to justice. This night the Philippines will hear the explosion that will convert into rubbish the formless monument whose decay I have fostered.”

Basilio was so terrified that his lips worked without producing any sound, his tongue was paralyzed, his throat parched. For the first time he was looking at the powerful liquid which he had heard talked of as a thing distilled [315] in gloom by gloomy men, in open war against society. Now he had it before him, transparent and slightly yellowish, poured with great caution into the artistic pomegranate. Simoun looked to him like the jinnee of the Arabian Nights that sprang from the sea, he took on gigantic proportions, his head touched the sky, he made the house tremble and shook the whole city with a shrug of his shoulders. The pomegranate assumed the form of a colossal sphere, the fissures became hellish grins whence escaped names and glowing cinders. For the first time in his life Basilio was overcome with fright and completely lost his composure.

Simoun, meanwhile, screwed on solidly a curious and complicated mechanism, put in place a glass chimney, then the bomb, and crowned the whole with an elegant shade. Then he moved away some distance to contemplate the effect, inclining his head now to one side, now to the other, thus better to appreciate its magnificent appearance.

Noticing that Basilio was watching him with questioning and suspicious eyes, he said, “Tonight there will be a fiesta and this lamp will be placed in a little dining-kiosk that I’ve had constructed for the purpose. The lamp will give a brilliant light, bright enough to suffice for the illumination of the whole place by itself, but at the end of twenty minutes the light will fade, and then when some one tries to turn up the wick a cap of fulminate of mercury will explode, the pomegranate will blow up and with it the dining-room, in the roof and floor of which I have concealed sacks of powder, so that no one shall escape.”

There wras a moment’s silence, while Simoun stared at his mechanism and Basilio scarcely breathed.

“So my assistance is not needed,” observed the young man.

“No, you have another mission to fulfill,” replied Simoun thoughtfully. “At nine the mechanism will have exploded and the report will have been heard in the country round, in the mountains, in the caves. The uprising that I had arranged with the artillerymen was a failure from lack [316] of plan and timeliness, but this time it won’t be so. Upon hearing the explosion, the wretched and the oppressed, those who wander about pursued by force, will sally forth armed to join Cabesang Tales in Santa Mesa, whence they will fall upon the city,2 while the soldiers, whom I have made to believe that the General is shamming an insurrection in order to remain, will issue from their barracks ready to fire upon whomsoever I may designate. Meanwhile, the cowed populace, thinking that the hour of massacre has come, will rush out prepared to kill or be killed, and as they have neither arms nor organization, you with some others will put yourself at their head and direct them to the warehouses of Quiroga, where I keep my rifles. Cabesang Tales and I will join one another in the city and take possession of it, while you in the suburbs will seize the bridges and throw up barricades, and then be ready to come to our aid to butcher not only those opposing the revolution but also every man who refuses to take up arms and join us.”

“All?” stammered Basilio in a choking voice.

“All!” repeated Simoun in a sinister tone. “All—Indians, mestizos, Chinese, Spaniards, all who are found to be without courage, without energy. The race must be renewed! Cowardly fathers will only breed slavish sons, and it wouldn’t be worth while to destroy and then try to rebuild with rotten materials. What, do you shudder? Do you tremble, do you fear to scatter death? What is death? What does a hecatomb of twenty thousand wretches signify? Twenty thousand miseries less, and millions of wretches saved from birth! The most timid ruler does not [317] hesitate to dictate a law that produces misery and lingering death for thousands and thousands of prosperous and industrious subjects, happy perchance, merely to satisfy a caprice, a whim, his pride, and yet you shudder because in one night are to be ended forever the mental tortures of many helots, because a vitiated and paralytic people has to die to give place to another, young, active, full of energy!

“What is death? Nothingness, or a dream? Can its specters be compared to the reality of the agonies of a whole miserable generation? The needful thing is to destroy the evil, to kill the dragon and bathe the new people in the blood, in order to make it strong and invulnerable. What else is the inexorable law of Nature, the law of strife in which the weak has to succumb so that the vitiated species be not perpetuated and creation thus travel backwards? Away then with effeminate scruples! Fulfill the eternal laws, foster them, and then the earth will be so much the more fecund the more it is fertilized with blood, and the thrones the more solid the more they rest upon crimes and corpses. Let there be no hesitation, no doubtings! What is the pain of death? A momentary sensation, perhaps confused, perhaps agreeable, like the transition from waking to sleep. What is it that is being destroyed? Evil, suffering—feeble weeds, in order to set in their place luxuriant plants. Do you call that destruction? I should call it creating, producing, nourishing, vivifying!”

Such bloody sophisms, uttered with conviction and coolness, overwhelmed the youth, weakened as he was by more than three months in prison and blinded by his passion for revenge, so he was not in a mood to analyze the moral basis of the matter. Instead of replying that the worst and cowardliest of men is always something more than a plant, because he has a soul and an intelligence, which, however vitiated and brutalized they may be, can be redeemed; instead of replying that man has no right to dispose of one life for the benefit of another, that the right to life is inherent in every individual like the right to liberty and to [318] light; instead of replying that if it is an abuse on the part of governments to punish in a culprit the faults and crimes to which they have driven him by their own negligence or stupidity, how much more so would it be in a man, however great and however unfortunate he might be, to punish in a wretched people the faults of its governments and its ancestors; instead of declaring that God alone can use such methods, that God can destroy because He can create, God who holds in His hands recompense, eternity, and the future, to justify His acts, and man never; instead of these reflections, Basilio merely interposed a cant reflection.

“What will the world say at the sight of such butchery?”

“The world will applaud, as usual, conceding the right of the strongest, the most violent!” replied Simoun with his cruel smile. “Europe applauded when the western nations sacrificed millions of Indians in America, and not by any means to found nations much more moral or more pacific: there is the North with its egotistic liberty, its lynch-law, its political frauds—the South with its turbulent republics, its barbarous revolutions, civil wars, pronunciamientos, as in its mother Spain! Europe applauded when the powerful Portugal despoiled the Moluccas, it applauds while England is destroying the primitive races in the Pacific to make room for its emigrants. Europe will applaud as the end of a drama, the close of a tragedy, is applauded, for the vulgar do not fix their attention on principles, they look only at results. Commit the crime well, and you will be admired and have more partizans than if you had carried out virtuous actions with modesty and timidity.”

“Exactly,” rejoined the youth, “what does it matter to me, after all, whether they praise or censure, when this world takes no care of the oppressed, of the poor, and of weak womankind? What obligations have I to recognize toward society when it has recognized none toward me?”

“That’s what I like to hear,” declared the tempter triumphantly. [319] He took a revolver from a case and gave it to Basilio, saying, “At ten o’clock wait for me in front of the church of St. Sebastian to receive my final instructions. Ah, at nine you must be far, very far from Calle Anloague.”

Basilio examined the weapon, loaded it, and placed it in the inside pocket of his coat, then took his leave with a curt, “I’ll see you later.” [320]

 


1 Ultima Razón de Reyes: the last argument of kings—force. (Expression attributed to Calderon de la Barca, the great Spanish dramatist.)—Tr.

2 Curiously enough, and by what must have been more than a mere coincidence, this route through Santa Mesa from San Juan del Monte was the one taken by an armed party in their attempt to enter the city at the outbreak of the Katipunan rebellion on the morning of August 30, 1896. (Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XXVI.)

It was also on the bridge connecting these two places that the first shot in the insurrection against American sovereignty was fired on the night of February 4, 1899.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXIV-The Wedding}

The Wedding

Once in the street, Basilio began to consider how he might spend the time until the fatal hour arrived, for it was then not later than seven o’clock. It was the vacation period and all the students were back in their towns, Isagani being the only one who had not cared to leave, but he had disappeared that morning and no one knew his whereabouts—so Basilio had been informed when after leaving the prison he had gone to visit his friend and ask him for lodging. The young man did not know where to go, for he had no money, nothing but the revolver. The memory of the lamp filled his imagination, the great catastrophe that would occur within two hours. Pondering over this, he seemed to see the men who passed before his eyes walking without heads, and he felt a thrill of ferocious joy in telling himself that, hungry and destitute, he that night was going to be dreaded, that from a poor student and servant, perhaps the sun would see him transformed into some one terrible and sinister, standing upon pyramids of corpses, dictating laws to all those who were passing before his gaze now in magnificent carriages. He laughed like one condemned to death and patted the butt of the revolver. The boxes of cartridges were also in his pockets.

A question suddenly occurred to him—where would the drama begin? In his bewilderment he had not thought of asking Simoun, but the latter had warned him to keep away from Calle Anloague. Then came a suspicion: that afternoon, upon leaving the prison, he had proceeded to the former house of Capitan Tiago to get his few personal effects and had found it transformed, prepared for a fiesta [321] —the wedding of Juanito Pelaez! Simoun had spoken of a fiesta.

At this moment he noticed passing in front of him a long line of carriages filled with ladies and gentlemen, conversing in a lively manner, and he even thought he could make out big bouquets of flowers, but he gave the detail no thought. The carriages were going toward Calle Rosario and in meeting those that came down off the Bridge of Spain had to move along slowly and stop frequently. In one he saw Juanito Pelaez at the side of a woman dressed in white with a transparent veil, in whom he recognized Paulita Gomez.

“Paulita!” he ejaculated in surprise, realizing that it was indeed she, in a bridal gown, along with Juanito Pelaez, as though they were just coming from the church. “Poor Isagani!” he murmured, “what can have become of him?”

He thought for a while about his friend, a great and generous soul, and mentally asked himself if it would not be well to tell him about the plan, then answered himself that Isagani would never take part in such a butchery. They had not treated Isagani as they had him.

Then he thought that had there been no imprisonment, he would have been betrothed, or a husband, at this time, a licentiate in medicine, living and working in some corner of his province. The ghost of Juli, crushed in her fall, crossed his mind, and dark flames of hatred lighted his eyes; again he caressed the butt of the revolver, regretting that the terrible hour had not yet come. Just then he saw Simoun come out of the door of his house, carrying in his hands the case containing the lamp, carefully wrapped up, and enter a carriage, which then followed those bearing the bridal party. In order not to lose track of Simoun, Basilio took a good look at the cochero and with astonishment recognized in him the wretch who had driven him to San Diego, Sinong, the fellow maltreated by the Civil Guard, the same who had come to the prison to tell him about the occurrences in Tiani. [322]

Conjecturing that Calle Anloague was to be the scene of action, thither the youth directed his steps, hurrying forward and getting ahead of the carriages, which were, in fact, all moving toward the former house of Capitan Tiago—there they were assembling in search of a ball, but actually to dance in the air! Basilio smiled when he noticed the pairs of civil-guards who formed the escort, and from their number he could guess the importance of the fiesta and the guests. The house overflowed with people and poured floods of light from its windows, the entrance was carpeted and strewn with flowers. Upstairs there, perhaps in his former solitary room, an orchestra was playing lively airs, which did not completely drown the confused tumult of talk and laughter.

Don Timoteo Pelaez was reaching the pinnacle of fortune, and the reality surpassed his dreams. He was, at last, marrying his son to the rich Gomez heiress, and, thanks to the money Simoun had lent him, he had royally furnished that big house, purchased for half its value, and was giving in it a splendid fiesta, with the foremost divinities of the Manila Olympus for his guests, to gild him with the light of their prestige. Since that morning there had been recurring to him, with the persistence of a popular song, some vague phrases that he had read in the communion service. “Now has the fortunate hour come! Now draws nigh the happy moment! Soon there will be fulfilled in you the admirable words of Simoun—‘I live, and yet not I alone, but the Captain-General liveth in me.’” The Captain-General the patron of his son! True, he had not attended the ceremony, where Don Custodio had represented him, but he would come to dine, he would bring a wedding-gift, a lamp which not even Aladdin’s—between you and me, Simoun was presenting the lamp. Timoteo, what more could you desire?

The transformation that Capitan Tiago’s house had undergone was considerable—it had been richly repapered, while the smoke and the smell of opium had been completely [323] eradicated. The immense sala, widened still more by the colossal mirrors that infinitely multiplied the lights of the chandeliers, was carpeted throughout, for the salons of Europe had carpets, and even though the floor was of wide boards brilliantly polished, a carpet it must have too, since nothing should be lacking. The rich furniture of Capitan Tiago had disappeared and in its place was to be seen another kind, in the style of Louis XV. Heavy curtains of red velvet, trimmed with gold, with the initials of the bridal couple worked on them, and upheld by garlands of artificial orange-blossoms, hung as portières and swept the floor with their wide fringes, likewise of gold. In the corners appeared enormous Japanese vases, alternating with those of Sèvres of a clear dark-blue, placed upon square pedestals of carved wood.

The only decorations not in good taste were the screaming chromos which Don Timoteo had substituted for the old drawings and pictures of saints of Capitan Tiago. Simoun had been unable to dissuade him, for the merchant did not want oil-paintings—some one might ascribe them to Filipino artists! He, a patron of Filipino artists, never! On that point depended his peace of mind and perhaps his life, and he knew how to get along in the Philippines! It is true that he had heard foreign painters mentioned—Raphael, Murillo, Velasquez—but he did not know their addresses, and then they might prove to be somewhat seditious. With the chromos he ran no risk, as the Filipinos did not make them, they came cheaper, the effect was the same, if not better, the colors brighter and the execution very fine. Don’t say that Don Timoteo did not know how to comport himself in the Philippines!

The large hallway was decorated with flowers, having been converted into a dining-room, with a long table for thirty persons in the center, and around the sides, pushed against the walls, other smaller ones for two or three persons each. Bouquets of flowers, pyramids of fruits among ribbons and lights, covered their centers. The groom’s place was designated [324] by a bunch of roses and the bride’s by another of orange-blossoms and tuberoses. In the presence of so much finery and flowers one could imagine that nymphs in gauzy garments and Cupids with iridescent wings were going to serve nectar and ambrosia to aerial guests, to the sound of lyres and Aeolian harps.

But the table for the greater gods was not there, being placed yonder in the middle of the wide azotea within a magnificent kiosk constructed especially for the occasion. A lattice of gilded wood over which clambered fragrant vines screened the interior from the eyes of the vulgar without impeding the free circulation of air to preserve the coolness necessary at that season. A raised platform lifted the table above the level of the others at which the ordinary mortals were going to dine and an arch decorated by the best artists would protect the august heads from the jealous gaze of the stars.

On this table were laid only seven plates. The dishes were of solid silver, the cloth and napkins of the finest linen, the wines the most costly and exquisite. Don Timoteo had sought the most rare and expensive in everything, nor would he have hesitated at crime had he been assured that the Captain-General liked to eat human flesh. [325]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXV-The Fiesta}

The Fiesta

 

“Danzar sobre un volcán.”

 

By seven in the evening the guests had begun to arrive: first, the lesser divinities, petty government officials, clerks, and merchants, with the most ceremonious greetings and the gravest airs at the start, as if they were parvenus, for so much light, so many decorations, and so much glassware had some effect. Afterwards, they began to be more at ease, shaking their fists playfully, with pats on the shoulders, and even familiar slaps on the back. Some, it is true, adopted a rather disdainful air, to let it be seen that they were accustomed to better things—of course they were! There was one goddess who yawned, for she found everything vulgar and even remarked that she was ravenously hungry, while another quarreled with her god, threatening to box his ears.

Don Timoteo bowed here and bowed there, scattered his best smiles, tightened his belt, stepped backward, turned halfway round, then completely around, and so on again and again, until one goddess could not refrain from remarking to her neighbor, under cover of her fan: “My dear, how important the old man is! Doesn’t he look like a jumping-jack?”

Later came the bridal couple, escorted by Doña Victorina and the rest of the party. Congratulations, hand-shakings, patronizing pats for the groom: for the bride, insistent stares and anatomical observations on the part of the men, with analyses of her gown, her toilette, speculations as to her health and strength on the part of the women. [326]

“Cupid and Psyche appearing on Olympus,” thought Ben-Zayb, making a mental note of the comparison to spring it at some better opportunity. The groom had in fact the mischievous features of the god of love, and with a little good-will his hump, which the severity of his frock coat did not altogether conceal, could be taken for a quiver.

Don Timoteo began to feel his belt squeezing him, the corns on his feet began to ache, his neck became tired, but still the General had not come. The greater gods, among them Padre Irene and Padre Salvi, had already arrived, it was true, but the chief thunderer was still lacking. The poor man became uneasy, nervous; his heart beat violently, but still he had to bow and smile; he sat down, he arose, failed to hear what was said to him, did not say what he meant. In the meantime, an amateur god made remarks to him about his chromos, criticizing them with the statement that they spoiled the walls.

“Spoil the walls!” repeated Don Timoteo, with a smile and a desire to choke him. “But they were made in Europe and are the most costly I could get in Manila! Spoil the walls!” Don Timoteo swore to himself that on the very next day he would present for payment all the chits that the critic had signed in his store.

Whistles resounded, the galloping of horses was heard—at last! “The General! The Captain-General!”

Pale with emotion, Don Timoteo, dissembling the pain of his corns and accompanied by his son and some of the greater gods, descended to receive the Mighty Jove. The pain at his belt vanished before the doubts that now assailed him: should he frame a smile or affect gravity; should he extend his hand or wait for the General to offer his? Carambas! Why had nothing of this occurred to him before, so that he might have consulted his good friend Simoun?

To conceal his agitation, he whispered to his son in a low, shaky voice, “Have you a speech prepared?” [327]

“Speeches are no longer in vogue, papa, especially on such an occasion as this.”

Jupiter arrived in the company of Juno, who was converted into a tower of artificial lights—with diamonds in her hair, diamonds around her neck, on her arms, on her shoulders, she was literally covered with diamonds. She was arrayed in a magnificent silk gown having a long train decorated with embossed flowers.

His Excellency literally took possession of the house, as Don Timoteo stammeringly begged him to do.1 The orchestra played the royal march while the divine couple majestically ascended the carpeted stairway.

Nor was his Excellency’s gravity altogether affected. Perhaps for the first time since his arrival in the islands he felt sad, a strain of melancholy tinged his thoughts. This was the last triumph of his three years of government, and within two days he would descend forever from such an exalted height. What was he leaving behind? His Excellency did not care to turn his head backwards, but preferred to look ahead, to gaze into the future. Although he was carrying away a fortune, large sums to his credit were awaiting him in European banks, and he had residences, yet he had injured many, he had made enemies at the Court, the high official was waiting for him there. Other Generals had enriched themselves as rapidly as he, and now they were ruined. Why not stay longer, as Simoun had advised him to do? No, good taste before everything else. The bows, moreover, were not now so profound as before, he noticed insistent stares and even looks of dislike, but still he replied affably and even attempted to smile.

“It’s plain that the sun is setting,” observed Padre Irene in Ben-Zayb’s ear. “Many now stare him in the face.”

The devil with the curate—that was just what he was going to remark! [328]

“My dear,” murmured into the ear of a neighbor the lady who had referred to Don Timoteo as a jumping-jack, “did you ever see such a skirt?”

“Ugh, the curtains from the Palace!”

“You don’t say! But it’s true! They’re carrying everything away. You’ll see how they make wraps out of the carpets.”

“That only goes to show that she has talent and taste,” observed her husband, reproving her with a look. “Women should be economical.” This poor god was still suffering from the dressmaker’s bill.

“My dear, give me curtains at twelve pesos a yard, and you’ll see if I put on these rags!” retorted the goddess in pique. “Heavens! You can talk when you have done something fine like that to give you the right!”

Meanwhile, Basilio stood before the house, lost in the throng of curious spectators, counting those who alighted from their carriages. When he looked upon so many persons, happy and confident, when he saw the bride and groom followed by their train of fresh and innocent little girls, and reflected that they were going to meet there a horrible death, he was sorry and felt his hatred waning within him. He wanted to save so many innocents, he thought of notifying the police, but a carriage drove up to set down Padre Salvi and Padre Irene, both beaming with content, and like a passing cloud his good intentions vanished. “What does it matter to me?” he asked himself. “Let the righteous suffer with the sinners.”

Then he added, to silence his scruples: “I’m not an informer, I mustn’t abuse the confidence he has placed in me. I owe him, him more than I do them: he dug my mother’s grave, they killed her! What have I to do with them? I did everything possible to be good and useful, I tried to forgive and forget, I suffered every imposition, and only asked that they leave me in peace. I got in no one’s way. What have they done to me? Let their mangled limbs fly through the air! We’ve suffered enough.” [329]

Then he saw Simoun alight with the terrible lamp in his hands, saw him cross the entrance with bowed head, as though deep in thought. Basilio felt his heart beat fainter, his feet and hands turn cold, while the black silhouette of the jeweler assumed fantastic shapes enveloped in flames. There at the foot of the stairway Simoun checked his steps, as if in doubt, and Basilio held his breath. But the hesitation was transient—Simoun raised his head, resolutely ascended the stairway, and disappeared.

It then seemed to the student that the house was going to blow up at any moment, and that walls, lamps, guests, roof, windows, orchestra, would be hurtling through the air like a handful of coals in the midst of an infernal explosion. He gazed about him and fancied that he saw corpses in place of idle spectators, he saw them torn to shreds, it seemed to him that the air was filled with flames, but his calmer self triumphed over this transient hallucination, which was due somewhat to his hunger.

“Until he comes out, there’s no danger,” he said to himself. “The Captain-General hasn’t arrived yet.”

He tried to appear calm and control the convulsive trembling in his limbs, endeavoring to divert his thoughts to other things. Something within was ridiculing him, saying, “If you tremble now, before the supreme moment, how will you conduct yourself when you see blood flowing, houses burning, and bullets whistling?”

His Excellency arrived, but the young man paid no attention to him. He was watching the face of Simoun, who was among those that descended to receive him, and he read in that implacable countenance the sentence of death for all those men, so that fresh terror seized upon him. He felt cold, he leaned against the wall, and, with his eyes fixed on the windows and his ears cocked, tried to guess what might be happening. In the sala he saw the crowd surround Simoun to look at the lamp, he heard congratulations and exclamations of admiration—the words “dining-room,” “novelty,” were repeated many times—he saw [330] the General smile and conjectured that the novelty was to be exhibited that very night, by the jeweler’s arrangement, on the table whereat his Excellency was to dine. Simoun disappeared, followed by a crowd of admirers.

At that supreme moment his good angel triumphed, he forgot his hatreds, he forgot Juli, he wanted to save the innocent. Come what might, he would cross the street and try to enter. But Basilio had forgotten that he was miserably dressed. The porter stopped him and accosted him roughly, and finally, upon his insisting, threatened to call the police.

Just then Simoun came down, slightly pale, and the porter turned from Basilio to salute the jeweler as though he had been a saint passing. Basilio realized from the expression of Simoun’s face that he was leaving the fated house forever, that the lamp was lighted. Alea jacta est! Seized by the instinct of self-preservation, he thought then of saving himself. It might occur to any of the guests through curiosity to tamper with the wick and then would come the explosion to overwhelm them all. Still he heard Simoun say to the cochero, “The Escolta, hurry!”

Terrified, dreading that he might at any moment hear the awful explosion, Basilio hurried as fast as his legs would carry him to get away from the accursed spot, but his legs seemed to lack the necessary agility, his feet slipped on the sidewalk as though they were moving but not advancing. The people he met blocked the way, and before he had gone twenty steps he thought that at least five minutes had elapsed.

Some distance away he stumbled against a young man who was standing with his head thrown back, gazing fixedly at the house, and in him he recognized Isagani. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. “Come away!”

Isagani stared at him vaguely, smiled sadly, and again turned his gaze toward the open balconies, across which was revealed the ethereal silhouette of the bride clinging to the groom’s arm as they moved slowly out of sight. [331]

“Come, Isagani, let’s get away from that house. Come!” Basilio urged in a hoarse voice, catching his friend by the arm.

Isagani gently shook himself free and continued to stare with the same sad smile upon his lips.

“For God’s sake, let’s get away from here!”

“Why should I go away? Tomorrow it will not be she.”

There was so much sorrow in those words that Basilio for a moment forgot his own terror. “Do you want to die?” he demanded.

Isagani shrugged his shoulders and continued to gaze toward the house.

Basilio again tried to drag him away. “Isagani, Isagani, listen to me! Let’s not waste any time! That house is mined, it’s going to blow up at any moment, by the least imprudent act, the least curiosity! Isagani, all will perish in its ruins.”

“In its ruins?” echoed Isagani, as if trying to understand, but without removing his gaze from the window.

“Yes, in its ruins, yes, Isagani! For God’s sake, come! I’ll explain afterwards. Come! One who has been more unfortunate than either you or I has doomed them all. Do you see that white, clear light, like an electric lamp, shining from the azotea? It’s the light of death! A lamp charged with dynamite, in a mined dining-room, will burst and not a rat will escape alive. Come!”

“No,” answered Isagani, shaking his head sadly. “I want to stay here, I want to see her for the last time. Tomorrow, you see, she will be something different.”

“Let fate have its way!” Basilio then exclaimed, hurrying away.

Isagani watched his friend rush away with a precipitation that indicated real terror, but continued to stare toward the charmed window, like the cavalier of Toggenburg waiting for his sweetheart to appear, as Schiller tells. Now the sala was deserted, all having repaired to the dining-rooms, [332] and it occurred to Isagani that Basilio’s fears may have been well-founded. He recalled the terrified countenance of him who was always so calm and composed, and it set him to thinking.

Suddenly an idea appeared clear in his imagination—the house was going to blow up and Paulita was there, Paulita was going to die a frightful death. In the presence of this idea everything was forgotten: jealousy, suffering, mental torture, and the generous youth thought only of his love. Without reflecting, without hesitation, he ran toward the house, and thanks to his stylish clothes and determined mien, easily secured admittance.

While these short scenes were occurring in the street, in the dining-kiosk of the greater gods there was passed from hand to hand a piece of parchment on which were written in red ink these fateful words:

 

Mene, Tekel, Phares2

Juan Crisostomo Ibarra

 

“Juan Crisostomo Ibarra? Who is he?” asked his Excellency, handing the paper to his neighbor.

“A joke in very bad taste!” exclaimed Don Custodio. “To sign the name of a filibuster dead more than ten years!”

“A filibuster!”

“It’s a seditious joke!”

“There being ladies present—”

Padre Irene looked around for the joker and saw Padre Salvi, who was seated at the right of the Countess, turn as white as his napkin, while he stared at the mysterious words with bulging eyes. The scene of the sphinx recurred to him.

“What’s the matter, Padre Salvi?” he asked. “Do you recognize your friend’s signature?”

Padre Salvi did not reply. He made an effort to speak [333] and without being conscious of what he was doing wiped his forehead with his napkin.

“What has happened to your Reverence?”

“It is his very handwriting!” was the whispered reply in a scarcely perceptible voice. “It’s the very handwriting of Ibarra.” Leaning against the back of his chair, he let his arms fall as though all strength had deserted him.

Uneasiness became converted into fright, they all stared at one another without uttering a single word. His Excellency started to rise, but apprehending that such a move would be ascribed to fear, controlled himself and looked about him. There were no soldiers present, even the waiters were unknown to him.

“Let’s go on eating, gentlemen,” he exclaimed, “and pay no attention to the joke.” But his voice, instead of reassuring, increased the general uneasiness, for it trembled.

“I don’t suppose that that Mene, Tekel, Phares, means that we’re to be assassinated tonight?” speculated Don Custodio.

All remained motionless, but when he added, “Yet they might poison us,” they leaped up from their chairs.

The light, meanwhile, had begun slowly to fade. “The lamp is going out,” observed the General uneasily. “Will you turn up the wick, Padre Irene?”

But at that instant, with the swiftness of a flash of lightning, a figure rushed in, overturning a chair and knocking a servant down, and in the midst of the general surprise seized the lamp, rushed to the azotea, and threw it into the river. The whole thing happened in a second and the dining-kiosk was left in darkness.

The lamp had already struck the water before the servants could cry out, “Thief, thief!” and rush toward the azotea. “A revolver!” cried one of them. “A revolver, quick! After the thief!”

But the figure, more agile than they, had already mounted the balustrade and before a light could be brought, precipitated itself into the river, striking the water with a loud splash. [334]

 


1 Spanish etiquette requires a host to welcome his guest with the conventional phrase: “The house belongs to you.”—Tr.

2 The handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast, foretelling the destruction of Babylon. Daniel, v, 25–28.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXVI-Ben-Zayb’s Afflictions}

Ben-Zayb’s Afflictions

Immediately upon hearing of the incident, after lights had been brought and the scarcely dignified attitudes of the startled gods revealed, Ben-Zayb, filled with holy indignation, and with the approval of the press-censor secured beforehand, hastened home—an entresol where he lived in a mess with others—to write an article that would be the sublimest ever penned under the skies of the Philippines. The Captain-General would leave disconsolate if he did not first enjoy his dithyrambs, and this Ben-Zayb, in his kindness of heart, could not allow. Hence he sacrificed the dinner and ball, nor did he sleep that night.

Sonorous exclamations of horror, of indignation, to fancy that the world was smashing to pieces and the stars, the eternal stars, were clashing together! Then a mysterious introduction, filled with allusions, veiled hints, then an account of the affair, and the final peroration. He multiplied the flourishes and exhausted all his euphemisms in describing the drooping shoulders and the tardy baptism of salad his Excellency had received on his Olympian brow, he eulogized the agility with which the General had recovered a vertical position, placing his head where his legs had been, and vice versa, then intoned a hymn to Providence for having so solicitously guarded those sacred bones. The paragraph turned out to be so perfect that his Excellency appeared as a hero, and fell higher, as Victor Hugo said.

He wrote, erased, added, and polished, so that, without wanting in veracity—this was his special merit as a [335] journalist—the whole would be an epic, grand for the seven gods, cowardly and base for the unknown thief, “who had executed himself, terror-stricken, and in the very act convinced of the enormity of his crime.”

He explained Padre Irene’s act of plunging under the table as “an impulse of innate valor, which the habit of a God of peace and gentleness, worn throughout a whole life, had been unable to extinguish,” for Padre Irene had tried to hurl himself upon the thief and had taken a straight course along the submensal route. In passing, he spoke of submarine passages, mentioned a project of Don Custodio’s, called attention to the liberal education and wide travels of the priest. Padre Salvi’s swoon was the excessive sorrow that took possession of the virtuous Franciscan to see the little fruit borne among the Indians by his pious sermons, while the immobility and fright of the other guests, among them the Countess, who “sustained” Padre Salvi (she grabbed him), were the serenity and sang-froid of heroes, inured to danger in the performance of their duties, beside whom the Roman senators surprised by the Gallic invaders were nervous schoolgirls frightened at painted cockroaches.

Afterwards, to form a contrast, the picture of the thief: fear, madness, confusion, the fierce look, the distorted features, and—force of moral superiority in the race—his religious awe to see assembled there such august personages! Here came in opportunely a long imprecation, a harangue, a diatribe against the perversion of good customs, hence the necessity of a permanent military tribunal, “a declaration of martial law within the limits already so declared, special legislation, energetic and repressive, because it is in every way needful, it is of imperative importance to impress upon the malefactors and criminals that if the heart is generous and paternal for those who are submissive and obedient to the law, the hand is strong, firm, inexorable, hard, and severe for those who against all reason fail to respect it and who insult the sacred institutions of the [336] fatherland. Yes, gentlemen, this is demanded not only for the welfare of these islands, not only for the welfare of all mankind, but also in the name of Spain, the honor of the Spanish name, the prestige of the Iberian people, because before all things else Spaniards we are, and the flag of Spain,” etc.

He terminated the article with this farewell: “Go in peace, gallant warrior, you who with expert hand have guided the destinies of this country in such calamitous times! Go in peace to breathe the balmy breezes of Manzanares!1 We shall remain here like faithful sentinels to venerate your memory, to admire your wise dispositions, to avenge the infamous attempt upon your splendid gift, which we will recover even if we have to dry up the seas! Such a precious relic will be for this country an eternal monument to your splendor, your presence of mind, your gallantry!”

In this rather confused way he concluded the article and before dawn sent it to the printing-office, of course with the censor’s permit. Then he went to sleep like Napoleon, after he had arranged the plan for the battle of Jena.

But at dawn he was awakened to have the sheets of copy returned with a note from the editor saying that his Excellency had positively and severely forbidden any mention of the affair, and had further ordered the denial of any versions and comments that might get abroad, discrediting them as exaggerated rumors.

To Ben-Zayb this blow was the murder of a beautiful and sturdy child, born and nurtured with such great pain and fatigue. Where now hurl the Catilinarian pride, the splendid exhibition of warlike crime-avenging materials? And to think that within a month or two he was going to leave the Philippines, and the article could not be published in Spain, since how could he say those things about the criminals of Madrid, where other ideas prevailed, where [337] extenuating circumstances were sought, where facts were weighed, where there were juries, and so on? Articles such as his were like certain poisonous rums that are manufactured in Europe, good enough to be sold among the negroes, good for negroes,2 with the difference that if the negroes did not drink them they would not be destroyed, while Ben-Zayb’s articles, whether the Filipinos read them or not, had their effect.

“If only some other crime might be committed today or tomorrow,” he mused.

With the thought of that child dead before seeing the light, those frozen buds, and feeling his eyes fill with tears, he dressed himself to call upon the editor. But the editor shrugged his shoulders; his Excellency had forbidden it because if it should be divulged that seven of the greater gods had let themselves be surprised and robbed by a nobody, while they brandished knives and forks, that would endanger the integrity of the fatherland! So he had ordered that no search be made for the lamp or the thief, and had recommended to his successors that they should not run the risk of dining in any private house, without being surrounded by halberdiers and guards. As those who knew anything about the events that night in Don Timoteo’s house were for the most part military officials and government employees, it was not difficult to suppress the affair in public, for it concerned the integrity of the fatherland. Before this name Ben-Zayb bowed his head heroically, thinking about Abraham, Guzman El Bueno,3 or at least, Brutus and other heroes of antiquity.

Such a sacrifice could not remain unrewarded, the gods of journalism being pleased with Abraham Ben-Zayb. Almost upon the hour came the reporting angel bearing the sacrificial lamb in the shape of an assault committed at a country-house on the Pasig, where certain friars were [338] spending the heated season. Here was his opportunity and Ben-Zayb praised his gods.

“The robbers got over two thousand pesos, leaving badly wounded one friar and two servants. The curate defended himself as well as he could behind a chair, which was smashed in his hands.”

“Wait, wait!” said Ben-Zayb, taking notes. “Forty or fifty outlaws traitorously—revolvers, bolos, shotguns, pistols—lion at bay—chair—splinters flying—barbarously wounded—ten thousand pesos!”

So great was his enthusiasm that he was not content with mere reports, but proceeded in person to the scene of the crime, composing on the road a Homeric description of the fight. A harangue in the mouth of the leader? A scornful defiance on the part of the priest? All the metaphors and similes applied to his Excellency, Padre Irene, and Padre Salvi would exactly fit the wounded friar and the description of the thief would serve for each of the outlaws. The imprecation could be expanded, since he could talk of religion, of the faith, of charity, of the ringing of bells, of what the Indians owed to the friars, he could get sentimental and melt into Castelarian4 epigrams and lyric periods. The señoritas of the city would read the article and murmur, “Ben-Zayb, bold as a lion and tender as a lamb!”

But when he reached the scene, to his great astonishment he learned that the wounded friar was no other than Padre Camorra, sentenced by his Provincial to expiate in the pleasant country-house on the banks of the Pasig his pranks in Tiani. He had a slight scratch on his hand and a bruise on his head received from flattening himself out on the floor. The robbers numbered three or four, armed only with bolos, the sum stolen fifty pesos!

“It won’t do!” exclaimed Ben-Zayb. “Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“How don’t I know, puñales?[339]

“Don’t be a fool—the robbers must have numbered more.”

“You ink-slinger—”

So they had quite an altercation. What chiefly concerned Ben-Zayb was not to throw away the article, to give importance to the affair, so that he could use the peroration.

But a fearful rumor cut short their dispute. The robbers caught had made some important revelations. One of the outlaws under Matanglawin (Cabesang Tales) had made an appointment with them to join his band in Santa Mesa, thence to sack the conventos and houses of the wealthy. They would be guided by a Spaniard, tall and sunburnt, with white hair, who said that he was acting under the orders of the General, whose great friend he was, and they had been further assured that the artillery and various regiments would join them, wherefore they were to entertain no fear at all. The tulisanes would be pardoned and have a third part of the booty assigned to them. The signal was to have been a cannon-shot, but having waited for it in vain the tulisanes, thinking themselves deceived, separated, some going back to their homes, some returning to the mountains vowing vengeance on the Spaniard, who had thus failed twice to keep his word. Then they, the robbers caught, had decided to do something on their own account, attacking the country-house that they found closest at hand, resolving religiously to give two-thirds of the booty to the Spaniard with white hair, if perchance he should call upon them for it.

The description being recognized as that of Simoun, the declaration was received as an absurdity and the robber subjected to all kinds of tortures, including the electric machine, for his impious blasphemy. But news of the disappearance of the jeweler having attracted the attention of the whole Escolta, and the sacks of powder and great quantities of cartridges having been discovered in his house, the story began to wear an appearance of truth. Mystery began to enwrap the affair, enveloping it in clouds; there [340] were whispered conversations, coughs, suspicious looks, suggestive comments, and trite second-hand remarks. Those who were on the inside were unable to get over their astonishment, they put on long faces, turned pale, and but little was wanting for many persons to lose their minds in realizing certain things that had before passed unnoticed.

“We’ve had a narrow escape! Who would have said—”

In the afternoon Ben-Zayb, his pockets filled with revolvers and cartridges, went to see Don Custodio, whom he found hard at work over a project against American jewelers. In a hushed voice he whispered between the palms of his hands into the journalist’s ear mysterious words.

“Really?” questioned Ben-Zayb, slapping his hand on his pocket and paling visibly.

“Wherever he may be found—” The sentence was completed with an expressive pantomime. Don Custodio raised both arms to the height of his face, with the right more bent than the left, turned the palms of his hands toward the floor, closed one eye, and made two movements in advance. “Ssh! Ssh!” he hissed.

“And the diamonds?” inquired Ben-Zayb.

“If they find him—” He went through another pantomime with the fingers of his right hand, spreading them out and clenching them together like the closing of a fan, clutching out with them somewhat in the manner of the wings of a wind-mill sweeping imaginary objects toward itself with practised skill. Ben-Zayb responded with another pantomime, opening his eyes wide, arching his eyebrows and sucking in his breath eagerly as though nutritious air had just been discovered.

“Sssh!” [341]

 


1 A town in Ciudad Real province, Spain.—Tr.

2 The italicized words are in English in the original.—Tr.

3 A Spanish hero, whose chief exploit was the capture of Gibraltar from the Moors in 1308.—Tr.

4 Emilio Castelar (1832–1899), generally regarded as the greatest of Spanish orators.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXVII-The Mystery}

The Mystery

 

Todo se sabe

 

Notwithstanding so many precautions, rumors reached the public, even though quite changed and mutilated. On the following night they were the theme of comment in the house of Orenda, a rich jewel merchant in the industrious district of Santa Cruz, and the numerous friends of the family gave attention to nothing else. They were not indulging in cards, or playing the piano, while little Tinay, the youngest of the girls, became bored playing chongka by herself, without being able to understand the interest awakened by assaults, conspiracies, and sacks of powder, when there were in the seven holes so many beautiful cowries that seemed to be winking at her in unison and smiled with their tiny mouths half-opened, begging to be carried up to the home. Even Isagani, who, when he came, always used to play with her and allow himself to be beautifully cheated, did not come at her call, for Isagani was gloomily and silently listening to something Chichoy the silversmith was relating. Momoy, the betrothed of Sensia, the eldest of the daughters—a pretty and vivacious girl, rather given to joking—had left the window where he was accustomed to spend his evenings in amorous discourse, and this action seemed to be very annoying to the lory whose cage hung from the eaves there, the lory endeared to the house from its ability to greet everybody in the morning with marvelous phrases of love. Capitana Loleng, the energetic and intelligent Capitana Loleng, had her account-book open before her, but she [342] neither read nor wrote in it, nor was her attention fixed on the trays of loose pearls, nor on the diamonds—she had completely forgotten herself and was all ears. Her husband himself, the great Capitan Toringoy,—a transformation of the name Domingo,—the happiest man in the district, without other occupation than to dress well, eat, loaf, and gossip, while his whole family worked and toiled, had not gone to join his coterie, but was listening between fear and emotion to the hair-raising news of the lank Chichoy.

Nor was reason for all this lacking. Chichoy had gone to deliver some work for Don Timoteo Pelaez, a pair of earrings for the bride, at the very time when they were tearing down the kiosk that on the previous night had served as a dining-room for the foremost officials. Here Chichoy turned pale and his hair stood on end.

Nakú!” he exclaimed, “sacks and sacks of powder, sacks of powder under the floor, in the roof, under the table, under the chairs, everywhere! It’s lucky none of the workmen were smoking.”

“Who put those sacks of powder there?” asked Capitana Loleng, who was brave and did not turn pale, as did the enamored Momoy. But Momoy had attended the wedding, so his posthumous emotion can be appreciated: he had been near the kiosk.

“That’s what no one can explain,” replied Chichoy. “Who would have any interest in breaking up the fiesta? There couldn’t have been more than one, as the celebrated lawyer Señor Pasta who was there on a visit declared—either an enemy of Don Timoteo’s or a rival of Juanito’s.”

The Orenda girls turned instinctively toward Isagani, who smiled silently.

“Hide yourself,” Capitana Loleng advised him. “They may accuse you. Hide!”

Again Isagani smiled but said nothing.

“Don Timoteo,” continued Chichoy, “did not know to [343] whom to attribute the deed. He himself superintended the work, he and his friend Simoun, and nobody else. The house was thrown into an uproar, the lieutenant of the guard came, and after enjoining secrecy upon everybody, they sent me away. But—”

“But—but—” stammered the trembling Momoy.

Nakú!” ejaculated Sensia, gazing at her fiancé and trembling sympathetically to remember that he had been at the fiesta. “This young man—If the house had blown up—” She stared at her sweetheart passionately and admired his courage.

“If it had blown up—”

“No one in the whole of Calle Anloague would have been left alive,” concluded Capitan Toringoy, feigning valor and indifference in the presence of his family.

“I left in consternation,” resumed Chichoy, “thinking about how, if a mere spark, a cigarette had fallen, if a lamp had been overturned, at the present moment we should have neither a General, nor an Archbishop, nor any one, not even a government clerk! All who were at the fiesta last night—annihilated!”

Vírgen Santísima! This young man—”

’Susmariosep!” exclaimed Capitana Loleng. “All our debtors were there, ’Susmariosep! And we have a house near there! Who could it have been?”

“Now you may know about it,” added Chichoy in a whisper, “but you must keep it a secret. This afternoon I met a friend, a clerk in an office, and in talking about the affair, he gave me the clue to the mystery—he had it from some government employees. Who do you suppose put the sacks of powder there?”

Many shrugged their shoulders, while Capitan Toringoy merely looked askance at Isagani.

“The friars?”

“Quiroga the Chinaman?”

“Some student?”

“Makaraig?” [344]

Capitan Toringoy coughed and glanced at Isagani, while Chichoy shook his head and smiled.

“The jeweler Simoun.”

“Simoun!!”

The profound silence of amazement followed these words. Simoun, the evil genius of the Captain-General, the rich trader to whose house they had gone to buy unset gems, Simoun, who had received the Orenda girls with great courtesy and had paid them fine compliments! For the very reason that the story seemed absurd it was believed. “Credo quia absurdum,” said St. Augustine.

“But wasn’t Simoun at the fiesta last night?” asked Sensia.

“Yes,” said Momoy. “But now I remember! He left the house just as we were sitting down to the dinner. He went to get his wedding-gift.”

“But wasn’t he a friend of the General’s? Wasn’t he a partner of Don Timoteo’s?”

“Yes, he made himself a partner in order to strike the blow and kill all the Spaniards.”

“Aha!” cried Sensia. “Now I understand!”

“What?”

“You didn’t want to believe Aunt Tentay. Simoun is the devil and he has bought up the souls of all the Spaniards. Aunt Tentay said so!”

Capitana Loleng crossed herself and looked uneasily toward the jewels, fearing to see them turn into live coals, while Capitan Toringoy took off the ring which had come from Simoun.

“Simoun has disappeared without leaving any traces,” added Chichoy. “The Civil Guard is searching for him.”

“Yes,” observed Sensia, crossing herself, “searching for the devil.”

Now many things were explained: Simoun’s fabulous wealth and the peculiar smell in his house, the smell of sulphur. Binday, another of the daughters, a frank and lovely girl, remembered having seen blue flames in the [345] jeweler’s house one afternoon when she and her mother had gone there to buy jewels. Isagani listened attentively, but said nothing.

“So, last night—” ventured Momoy.

“Last night?” echoed Sensia, between curiosity and fear.

Momoy hesitated, but the face Sensia put on banished his fear. “Last night, while we were eating, there was a disturbance, the light in the General’s dining-room went out. They say that some unknown person stole the lamp that was presented by Simoun.”

“A thief? One of the Black Hand?”

Isagani arose to walk back and forth.

“Didn’t they catch him?”

“He jumped into the river before anybody recognized him. Some say he was a Spaniard, some a Chinaman, and others an Indian.”

“It’s believed that with the lamp,” added Chichoy, “he was going to set fire to the house, then the powder—”

Momoy again shuddered but noticing that Sensia was watching him tried to control himself. “What a pity!” he exclaimed with an effort. “How wickedly the thief acted. Everybody would have been killed.”

Sensia stared at him in fright, the women crossed themselves, while Capitan Toringoy, who was afraid of politics, made a move to go away.

Momoy turned to Isagani, who observed with an enigmatic smile: “It’s always wicked to take what doesn’t belong to you. If that thief had known what it was all about and had been able to reflect, surely he wouldn’t have done as he did.”

Then, after a pause, he added, “For nothing in the world would I want to be in his place!”

So they continued their comments and conjectures until an hour later, when Isagani bade the family farewell, to return forever to his uncle’s side. [346]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXVIII-Fatality}

Fatality

Matanglawin was the terror of Luzon. His band had as lief appear in one province where it was least expected as make a descent upon another that was preparing to resist it. It burned a sugar-mill in Batangas and destroyed the crops, on the following day it murdered the Justice of the Peace of Tiani, and on the next took possession of the town of Cavite, carrying off the arms from the town hall. The central provinces, from Tayabas to Pangasinan, suffered from his depredations, and his bloody name extended from Albay in the south to Kagayan in the north. The towns, disarmed through mistrust on the part of a weak government, fell easy prey into his hands—at his approach the fields were abandoned by the farmers, the herds were scattered, while a trail of blood and fire marked his passage. Matanglawin laughed at the severe measures ordered by the government against the tulisanes, since from them only the people in the outlying villages suffered, being captured and maltreated if they resisted the band, and if they made peace with it being flogged and deported by the government, provided they completed the journey and did not meet with a fatal accident on the way. Thanks to these terrible alternatives many of the country folk decided to enlist under his command.

As a result of this reign of terror, trade among the towns, already languishing, died out completely. The rich dared not travel, and the poor feared to be arrested by the Civil Guard, which, being under obligation to pursue the tulisanes, often seized the first person encountered and subjected him to unspeakable tortures. In its impotence, the [347] government put on a show of energy toward the persons whom it suspected, in order that by force of cruelty the people should not realize its weakness—the fear that prompted such measures.

A string of these hapless suspects, some six or seven, with their arms tied behind them, bound together like a bunch of human meat, was one afternoon marching through the excessive heat along a road that skirted a mountain, escorted by ten or twelve guards armed with rifles. Their bayonets gleamed in the sun, the barrels of their rifles became hot, and even the sage-leaves in their helmets scarcely served to temper the effect of the deadly May sun.

Deprived of the use of their arms and pressed close against one another to save rope, the prisoners moved along almost uncovered and unshod, he being the best off who had a handkerchief twisted around his head. Panting, suffering, covered with dust which perspiration converted into mud, they felt their brains melting, they saw lights dancing before them, red spots floating in the air. Exhaustion and dejection were pictured in their faces, desperation, wrath, something indescribable, the look of one who dies cursing, of a man who is weary of life, who hates himself, who blasphemes against God. The strongest lowered their heads to rub their faces against the dusky backs of those in front of them and thus wipe away the sweat that was blinding them. Many were limping, but if any one of them happened to fall and thus delay the march he would hear a curse as a soldier ran up brandishing a branch torn from a tree and forced him to rise by striking about in all directions. The string then started to run, dragging, rolling in the dust, the fallen one, who howled and begged to be killed; but perchance he succeeded in getting on his feet and then went along crying like a child and cursing the hour he was born.

The human cluster halted at times while the guards drank, and then the prisoners continued on their way with [348] parched mouths, darkened brains, and hearts full of curses. Thirst was for these wretches the least of their troubles.

“Move on, you sons of ——!” cried a soldier, again refreshed, hurling the insult common among the lower classes of Filipinos.

The branch whistled and fell on any shoulder whatsoever, the nearest one, or at times upon a face to leave a welt at first white, then red, and later dirty with the dust of the road.

“Move on, you cowards!” at times a voice yelled in Spanish, deepening its tone.

“Cowards!” repeated the mountain echoes.

Then the cowards quickened their pace under a sky of red-hot iron, over a burning road, lashed by the knotty branch which was worn into shreds on their livid skins. A Siberian winter would perhaps be tenderer than the May sun of the Philippines.

Yet, among the soldiers there was one who looked with disapproving eyes upon so much wanton cruelty, as he marched along silently with his brows knit in disgust. At length, seeing that the guard, not satisfied with the branch, was kicking the prisoners that fell, he could no longer restrain himself but cried out impatiently, “Here, Mautang, let them alone!”

Mautang turned toward him in surprise. “What’s it to you, Carolino?” he asked.

“To me, nothing, but it hurts me,” replied Carolino. “They’re men like ourselves.”

“It’s plain that you’re new to the business!” retorted Mautang with a compassionate smile. “How did you treat the prisoners in the war?”

“With more consideration, surely!” answered Carolino.

Mautang remained silent for a moment and then, apparently having discovered the reason, calmly rejoined, “Ah, it’s because they are enemies and fight us, while these—these are our own countrymen.”

Then drawing nearer to Carolino he whispered, “How [349] stupid you are! They’re treated so in order that they may attempt to resist or to escape, and then—bang!”

Carolino made no reply.

One of the prisoners then begged that they let him stop for a moment.

“This is a dangerous place,” answered the corporal, gazing uneasily toward the mountain. “Move on!”

“Move on!” echoed Mautang and his lash whistled.

The prisoner twisted himself around to stare at him with reproachful eyes. “You are more cruel than the Spaniard himself,” he said.

Mautang replied with more blows, when suddenly a bullet whistled, followed by a loud report. Mautang dropped his rifle, uttered an oath, and clutching at his breast with both hands fell spinning into a heap. The prisoner saw him writhing in the dust with blood spurting from his mouth.

“Halt!” called the corporal, suddenly turning pale.

The soldiers stopped and stared about them. A wisp of smoke rose from a thicket on the height above. Another bullet sang to its accompanying report and the corporal, wounded in the thigh, doubled over vomiting curses. The column was attacked by men hidden among the rocks above.

Sullen with rage the corporal motioned toward the string of prisoners and laconically ordered, “Fire!”

The wretches fell upon their knees, filled with consternation. As they could not lift their hands, they begged for mercy by kissing the dust or bowing their heads—one talked of his children, another of his mother who would be left unprotected, one promised money, another called upon God—but the muzzles were quickly lowered and a hideous volley silenced them all.

Then began the sharpshooting against those who were behind the rocks above, over which a light cloud of smoke began to hover. To judge from the scarcity of their shots, the invisible enemies could not have more than three rifles. As they advanced firing, the guards sought cover behind [350] tree-trunks or crouched down as they attempted to scale the height. Splintered rocks leaped up, broken twigs fell from trees, patches of earth were torn up, and the first guard who attempted the ascent rolled back with a bullet through his shoulder.

The hidden enemy had the advantage of position, but the valiant guards, who did not know how to flee, were on the point of retiring, for they had paused, unwilling to advance; that fight against the invisible unnerved them. Smoke and rocks alone could be seen—not a voice was heard, not a shadow appeared; they seemed to be fighting with the mountain.

“Shoot, Carolino! What are you aiming at?” called the corporal.

At that instant a man appeared upon a rock, making signs with his rifle.

“Shoot him!” ordered the corporal with a foul oath.

Three guards obeyed the order, but the man continued standing there, calling out at the top of his voice something unintelligible.

Carolino paused, thinking that he recognized something familiar about that figure, which stood out plainly in the sunlight. But the corporal threatened to tie him up if he did not fire, so Carolino took aim and the report of his rifle was heard. The man on the rock spun around and disappeared with a cry that left Carolino horror-stricken.

Then followed a rustling in the bushes, indicating that those within were scattering in all directions, so the soldiers boldly advanced, now that there was no more resistance. Another man appeared upon the rock, waving a spear, and they fired at him. He sank down slowly, catching at the branch of a tree, but with another volley fell face downwards on the rock.

The guards climbed on nimbly, with bayonets fixed ready for a hand-to-hand fight. Carolino alone moved forward reluctantly, with a wandering, gloomy look, the cry of the man struck by his bullet still ringing in his ears. The [351] first to reach the spot found an old man dying, stretched out on the rock. He plunged his bayonet into the body, but the old man did not even wink, his eyes being fixed on Carolino with an indescribable gaze, while with his bony hand he pointed to something behind the rock.

The soldiers turned to see Caroline frightfully pale, his mouth hanging open, with a look in which glimmered the last spark of reason, for Carolino, who was no other than Tano, Cabesang Tales’ son, and who had just returned from the Carolines, recognized in the dying man his grandfather, Tandang Selo. No longer able to speak, the old man’s dying eyes uttered a whole poem of grief—and then a corpse, he still continued to point to something behind the rock. [352]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXXIX-Conclusion}

Conclusion

In his solitary retreat on the shore of the sea, whose mobile surface was visible through the open, windows, extending outward until it mingled with the horizon, Padre Florentino was relieving the monotony by playing on his harmonium sad and melancholy tunes, to which the sonorous roar of the surf and the sighing of the treetops of the neighboring wood served as accompaniments. Notes long, full, mournful as a prayer, yet still vigorous, escaped from the old instrument. Padre Florentino, who was an accomplished musician, was improvising, and, as he was alone, gave free rein to the sadness in his heart.

For the truth was that the old man was very sad. His good friend, Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, had just left him, fleeing from the persecution of his wife. That morning he had received a note from the lieutenant of the Civil Guard, which ran thus:

MY DEAR CHAPLAIN,—I have just received from the commandant a telegram that says, “Spaniard hidden house Padre Florentino capture forward alive dead.” As the telegram is quite explicit, warn your friend not to be there when I come to arrest him at eight tonight.

Affectionately,

PEREZ

Burn this note.

 

“T-that V-victorina!” Don Tiburcio had stammered. “S-she’s c-capable of having me s-shot!”

Padre Florentino was unable to reassure him. Vainly he pointed out to him that the word cojera should have read cogerá,1 and that the hidden Spaniard could not be Don [353] Tiburcio, but the jeweler Simoun, who two days before had arrived, wounded and a fugitive, begging for shelter. But Don Tiburcio would not be convinced—cojera was his own lameness, his personal description, and it was an intrigue of Victorina’s to get him back alive or dead, as Isagani had written from Manila. So the poor Ulysses had left the priest’s house to conceal himself in the hut of a woodcutter.

No doubt was entertained by Padre Florentino that the Spaniard wanted was the jeweler Simoun, who had arrived mysteriously, himself carrying the jewel-chest, bleeding, morose, and exhausted. With the free and cordial Filipino hospitality, the priest had taken him in, without asking indiscreet questions, and as news of the events in Manila had not yet reached his ears he was unable to understand the situation clearly. The only conjecture that occurred to him was that the General, the jeweler’s friend and protector, being gone, probably his enemies, the victims of wrong and abuse, were now rising and calling for vengeance, and that the acting Governor was pursuing him to make him disgorge the wealth he had accumulated—hence his flight. But whence came his wounds? Had he tried to commit suicide? Were they the result of personal revenge? Or were they merely caused by an accident, as Simoun claimed? Had they been received in escaping from the force that was pursuing him?

This last conjecture was the one that seemed to have the greatest appearance of probability, being further strengthened by the telegram received and Simoun’s decided unwillingness from the start to be treated by the doctor from the capital. The jeweler submitted only to the ministrations of Don Tiburcio, and even to them with marked distrust. In this situation Padre Florentino was asking himself what [354] line of conduct he should pursue when the Civil Guard came to arrest Simoun. His condition would not permit his removal, much less a long journey—but the telegram said alive or dead.

Padre Florentine ceased playing and approached the window to gaze out at the sea, whose desolate surface was without a ship, without a sail—it gave him no suggestion. A solitary islet outlined in the distance spoke only of solitude and made the space more lonely. Infinity is at times despairingly mute.

The old man was trying to analyze the sad and ironical smile with which Simoun had received the news that he was to be arrested. What did that smile mean? And that other smile, still sadder and more ironical, with which he received the news that they would not come before eight at night? What did all this mystery signify? Why did Simoun refuse to hide? There came into his mind the celebrated saying of St. John Chrysostom when he was defending the eunuch Eutropius: “Never was a better time than this to say—Vanity of vanities and all is vanity!”

Yes, that Simoun, so rich, so powerful, so feared a week ago, and now more unfortunate than Eutropius, was seeking refuge, not at the altars of a church, but in the miserable house of a poor native priest, hidden in the forest, on the solitary seashore! Vanity of vanities and all is vanity! That man would within a few hours be a prisoner, dragged from the bed where he lay, without respect for his condition, without consideration for his wounds—dead or alive his enemies demanded him! How could he save him? Where could he find the moving accents of the bishop of Constantinople? What weight would his weak words have, the words of a native priest, whose own humiliation this same Simoun had in his better days seemed to applaud and encourage?

But Padre Florentine no longer recalled the indifferent reception that two months before the jeweler had accorded to him when he had tried to interest him in favor of Isagani, [355] then a prisoner on account of his imprudent chivalry; he forgot the activity Simoun had displayed in urging Paulita’s marriage, which had plunged Isagani into the fearful misanthropy that was worrying his uncle. He forgot all these things and thought only of the sick man’s plight and his own obligations as a host, until his senses reeled. Where must he hide him to avoid his falling into the clutches of the authorities? But the person chiefly concerned was not worrying, he was smiling.

While he was pondering over these things, the old man was approached by a servant who said that the sick man wished to speak with him, so he went into the next room, a clean and well-ventilated apartment with a floor of wide boards smoothed and polished, and simply furnished with big, heavy armchairs of ancient design, without varnish or paint. At one end there was a large kamagon bed with its four posts to support the canopy, and beside it a table covered with bottles, lint, and bandages. A praying-desk at the feet of a Christ and a scanty library led to the suspicion that it was the priest’s own bedroom, given up to his guest according to the Filipino custom of offering to the stranger the best table, the best room, and the best bed in the house. Upon seeing the windows opened wide to admit freely the healthful sea-breeze and the echoes of its eternal lament, no one in the Philippines would have said that a sick person was to be found there, since it is the custom to close all the windows and stop up all the cracks just as soon as any one catches a cold or gets an insignificant headache.

Padre Florentine looked toward the bed and was astonished to see that the sick man’s face had lost its tranquil and ironical expression. Hidden grief seemed to knit his brows, anxiety was depicted in his looks, his lips were curled in a smile of pain.

“Are you suffering, Señor Simoun?” asked the priest solicitously, going to his side.

“Some! But in a little while I shall cease to suffer,” he replied with a shake of his head. [356]

Padre Florentine clasped his hands in fright, suspecting that he understood the terrible truth. “My God, what have you done? What have you taken?” He reached toward the bottles.

“It’s useless now! There’s no remedy at all!” answered Simoun with a pained smile. “What did you expect me to do? Before the clock strikes eight—alive or dead—dead, yes, but alive, no!”

“My God, what have you done?”

“Be calm!” urged the sick man with a wave of his hand. “What’s done is done. I must not fall into anybody’s hands—my secret would be torn from me. Don’t get excited, don’t lose your head, it’s useless! Listen—the night is coming on and there’s no time to be lost. I must tell you my secret, and intrust to you my last request, I must lay my life open before you. At the supreme moment I want to lighten myself of a load, I want to clear up a doubt of mine. You who believe so firmly in God—I want you to tell me if there is a God!”

“But an antidote, Señor Simoun! I have ether, chloroform—”

The priest began to search for a flask, until Simoun cried impatiently, “Useless, it’s useless! Don’t waste time! I’ll go away with my secret!”

The bewildered priest fell down at his desk and prayed at the feet of the Christ, hiding his face in his hands. Then he arose serious and grave, as if he had received from his God all the force, all the dignity, all the authority of the Judge of consciences. Moving a chair to the head of the bed he prepared to listen.

At the first words Simoun murmured, when he told his real name, the old priest started back and gazed at him in terror, whereat the sick man smiled bitterly. Taken by surprise, the priest was not master of himself, but he soon recovered, and covering his face with a handkerchief again bent over to listen.

Simoun related his sorrowful story: how, thirteen years [357] before, he had returned from Europe filled with hopes and smiling illusions, having come back to marry a girl whom he loved, disposed to do good and forgive all who had wronged him, just so they would let him live in peace. But it was not so. A mysterious hand involved him in the confusion of an uprising planned by his enemies. Name, fortune, love, future, liberty, all were lost, and he escaped only through the heroism of a friend. Then he swore vengeance. With the wealth of his family, which had been buried in a wood, he had fled, had gone to foreign lands and engaged in trade. He took part in the war in Cuba, aiding first one side and then another, but always profiting. There he made the acquaintance of the General, then a major, whose good-will he won first by loans of money, and afterwards he made a friend of him by the knowledge of criminal secrets. With his money he had been able to secure the General’s appointment and, once in the Philippines, he had used him as a blind tool and incited him to all kinds of injustice, availing himself of his insatiable lust for gold.

The confession was long and tedious, but during the whole of it the confessor made no further sign of surprise and rarely interrupted the sick man. It was night when Padre Florentino, wiping the perspiration from his face, arose and began to meditate. Mysterious darkness flooded the room, so that the moonbeams entering through the window filled it with vague lights and vaporous reflections.

Into the midst of the silence the priest’s voice broke sad and deliberate, but consoling: “God will forgive you, Señor—Simoun,” he said. “He knows that we are fallible, He has seen that you have suffered, and in ordaining that the chastisement for your faults should come as death from the very ones you have instigated to crime, we can see His infinite mercy. He has frustrated your plans one by one, the best conceived, first by the death of Maria Clara, then by a lack of preparation, then in some mysterious way. Let us bow to His will and render Him thanks!” [358]

“According to you, then,” feebly responded the sick man, “His will is that these islands—”

“Should continue in the condition in which they suffer?” finished the priest, seeing that the other hesitated. “I don’t know, sir, I can’t read the thought of the Inscrutable. I know that He has not abandoned those peoples who in their supreme moments have trusted in Him and made Him the Judge of their cause, I know that His arm has never failed when, justice long trampled upon and every recourse gone, the oppressed have taken up the sword to fight for home and wife and children, for their inalienable rights, which, as the German poet says, shine ever there above, unextinguished and inextinguishable, like the eternal stars themselves. No, God is justice, He cannot abandon His cause, the cause of liberty, without which no justice is possible.”

“Why then has He denied me His aid?” asked the sick man in a voice charged with bitter complaint.

“Because you chose means that He could not sanction,” was the severe reply. “The glory of saving a country is not for him who has contributed to its ruin. You have believed that what crime and iniquity have defiled and deformed, another crime and another iniquity can purify and redeem. Wrong! Hate never produces anything but monsters and crime criminals! Love alone realizes wonderful works, virtue alone can save! No, if our country has ever to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be so by corrupting its sons, deceiving some and bribing others, no! Redemption presupposes virtue, virtue sacrifice, and sacrifice love!”

“Well, I accept your explanation,” rejoined the sick man, after a pause. “I have been mistaken, but, because I have been mistaken, will that God deny liberty to a people and yet save many who are much worse criminals than I am? What is my mistake compared to the crimes of our rulers? Why has that God to give more heed to my iniquity than to the cries of so many innocents? Why has He not stricken me down and then made the people triumph? Why [359] does He let so many worthy and just ones suffer and look complacently upon their tortures?”

“The just and the worthy must suffer in order that their ideas may be known and extended! You must shake or shatter the vase to spread its perfume, you must smite the rock to get the spark! There is something providential in the persecutions of tyrants, Señor Simoun!”

“I knew it,” murmured the sick man, “and therefore I encouraged the tyranny.”

“Yes, my friend, but more corrupt influences than anything else were spread. You fostered the social rottenness without sowing an idea. From this fermentation of vices loathing alone could spring, and if anything were born overnight it would be at best a mushroom, for mushrooms only can spring spontaneously from filth. True it is that the vices of the government are fatal to it, they cause its death, but they kill also the society in whose bosom they are developed. An immoral government presupposes a demoralized people, a conscienceless administration, greedy and servile citizens in the settled parts, outlaws and brigands in the mountains. Like master, like slave! Like government, like country!”

A brief pause ensued, broken at length by the sick man’s voice. “Then, what can be done?”

“Suffer and work!”

“Suffer—work!” echoed the sick man bitterly. “Ah, it’s easy to say that, when you are not suffering, when the work is rewarded. If your God demands such great sacrifices from man, man who can scarcely count upon the present and doubts the future, if you had seen what I have, the miserable, the wretched, suffering unspeakable tortures for crimes they have not committed, murdered to cover up the faults and incapacity of others, poor fathers of families torn from their homes to work to no purpose upon highways that are destroyed each day and seem only to serve for sinking families into want. Ah, to suffer, to work, is the will of God! Convince them that their murder is their [360] salvation, that their work is the prosperity of the home! To suffer, to work! What God is that?”

“A very just God, Señor Simoun,” replied the priest. “A God who chastises our lack of faith, our vices, the little esteem in which we hold dignity and the civic virtues. We tolerate vice, we make ourselves its accomplices, at times we applaud it, and it is just, very just that we suffer the consequences, that our children suffer them. It is the God of liberty, Señor Simoun, who obliges us to love it, by making the yoke heavy for us—a God of mercy, of equity, who while He chastises us, betters us and only grants prosperity to him who has merited it through his efforts. The school of suffering tempers, the arena of combat strengthens the soul.

“I do not mean to say that our liberty will be secured at the sword’s point, for the sword plays but little part in modern affairs, but that we must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it, by exalting the intelligence and the dignity of the individual, by loving justice, right, and greatness, even to the extent of dying for them,—and when a people reaches that height God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, the tyranny will crumble like a house of cards and liberty will shine out like the first dawn.

“Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one. If Spain should see that we were less complaisant with tyranny and more disposed to struggle and suffer for our rights, Spain would be the first to grant us liberty, because when the fruit of the womb reaches maturity woe unto the mother who would stifle it! So, while the Filipino people has not sufficient energy to proclaim, with head erect and bosom bared, its rights to social life, and to guarantee it with its sacrifices, with its own blood; while we see our countrymen in private life ashamed within themselves, hear the voice of conscience roar in rebellion and protest, yet in public life keep silence or even echo the words of him who abuses them in order to mock the abused; while we see them wrap themselves up in their egotism and with a [361] forced smile praise the most iniquitous actions, begging with their eyes a portion of the booty—why grant them liberty? With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.

“Señor Simoun, when our people is unprepared, when it enters the fight through fraud and force, without a clear understanding of what it is doing, the wisest attempts will fail, and better that they do fail, since why commit the wife to the husband if he does not sufficiently love her, if he is not ready to die for her?”

Padre Florentino felt the sick man catch and press his hand, so he became silent, hoping that the other might speak, but he merely felt a stronger pressure of the hand, heard a sigh, and then profound silence reigned in the room. Only the sea, whose waves were rippled by the night breeze, as though awaking from the heat of the day, sent its hoarse roar, its eternal chant, as it rolled against the jagged rocks. The moon, now free from the sun’s rivalry, peacefully commanded the sky, and the trees of the forest bent down toward one another, telling their ancient legends in mysterious murmurs borne on the wings of the wind.

The sick man said nothing, so Padre Florentino, deeply thoughtful, murmured: “Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land? Where are the youth who will generously pour out their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination? Pure and spotless must the victim be that the sacrifice may be acceptable! Where are you, youth, who will embody in yourselves the vigor of life that has left our veins, the purity of ideas that has been contaminated in our brains, the fire of enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await you, O youth! Come, for we await you!”

Feeling his eyes moisten he withdrew his hand from that [362] of the sick man, arose, and went to the window to gaze out upon the wide surface of the sea. He was drawn from his meditation by gentle raps at the door. It was the servant asking if he should bring a light.

When the priest returned to the sick man and looked at him in the light of the lamp, motionless, his eyes closed, the hand that had pressed his lying open and extended along the edge of the bed, he thought for a moment that he was sleeping, but noticing that he was not breathing touched him gently, and then realized that he was dead. His body had already commenced to turn cold. The priest fell upon his knees and prayed.

When he arose and contemplated the corpse, in whose features were depicted the deepest grief, the tragedy of a whole wasted life which he was carrying over there beyond death, the old man shuddered and murmured, “God have mercy on those who turned him from the straight path!”

While the servants summoned by him fell upon their knees and prayed for the dead man, curious and bewildered as they gazed toward the bed, reciting requiem after requiem, Padre Florentino took from a cabinet the celebrated steel chest that contained Simoun’s fabulous wealth. He hesitated for a moment, then resolutely descended the stairs and made his way to the cliff where Isagani was accustomed to sit and gaze into the depths of the sea.

Padre Florentino looked down at his feet. There below he saw the dark billows of the Pacific beating into the hollows of the cliff, producing sonorous thunder, at the same time that, smitten by the moonbeams, the waves and foam glittered like sparks of fire, like handfuls of diamonds hurled into the air by some jinnee of the abyss. He gazed about him. He was alone. The solitary coast was lost in the distance amid the dim cloud that the moonbeams played through, until it mingled with the horizon. The forest murmured unintelligible sounds.

Then the old man, with an effort of his herculean arms, hurled the chest into space, throwing it toward the sea. It [363] whirled over and over several times and descended rapidly in a slight curve, reflecting the moonlight on its polished surface. The old man saw the drops of water fly and heard a loud splash as the abyss closed over and swallowed up the treasure. He waited for a few moments to see if the depths would restore anything, but the wave rolled on as mysteriously as before, without adding a fold to its rippling surface, as though into the immensity of the sea a pebble only had been dropped.

“May Nature guard you in her deep abysses among the pearls and corals of her eternal seas,” then said the priest, solemnly extending his hands. “When for some holy and sublime purpose man may need you, God will in his wisdom draw you from the bosom of the waves. Meanwhile, there you will not work woe, you will not distort justice, you will not foment avarice!”

 


1 In the original the message reads: “Español escondido casa Padre Florentino cojera remitirá vivo muerto.” Don Tiburcio understands [353n] cojera as referring to himself; there is a play upon the Spanish words cojera, lameness, and cogerá, a form of the verb coger, to seize or capture—j and g in these two words having the same sound, that of the English h.—Tr.

[365] {mospagebreak_scroll title=Glossary}

 

GLOSSARY

abá: A Tagalog exclamation of wonder, surprise, etc., often used to introduce or emphasize a contradictory statement.

alcalde: Governor of a province or district, with both executive and judicial authority.

Ayuntamiento: A city corporation or council, and by extension the building in which it has its offices; specifically, in Manila, the capitol.

balete: The Philippine banyan, a tree sacred in Malay folk-lore.

banka: A dugout canoe with bamboo supports or outriggers.

batalan: The platform of split bamboo attached to a nipa house.

batikúlin: A variety of easily-turned wood, used in carving.

bibinka: A sweetmeat made of sugar or molasses and rice-flour, commonly sold in the small shops.

buyera: A woman who prepares and sells the buyo.

buyo: The masticatory prepared by wrapping a piece of areca-nut with a little shell-lime in a betel-leaf—the pan of British India.

cabesang: Title of a cabeza de barangay; given by courtesy to his wife also.

cabeza de barangay: Headman and tax-collector for a group of about fifty families, for whose “tribute” he was personally responsible.

calesa: A two-wheeled chaise with folding top.

calle: Street (Spanish).

camisa: 1. A loose, collarless shirt of transparent material worn by men outside the trousers. 2. A thin, transparent waist with flowing sleeves, worn by women.

capitan: “Captain,” a title used in addressing or referring to a gobernadorcillo, or a former occupant of that office.

carambas: A Spanish exclamation denoting surprise or displeasure.

carbineer: Internal-revenue guard.

carromata: A small two-wheeled vehicle with a fixed top.

casco: A flat-bottomed freight barge.

cayman: The Philippine crocodile.

cedula: Certificate of registration and receipt for poll-tax.

chongka: A child’s game played with pebbles or cowry-shells.

cigarrera: A woman working in a cigar or cigarette factory.

Civil Guard: Internal quasi-military police force of Spanish officers and native soldiers.

cochero: Carriage driver, coachman.

cuarto: A copper coin, one hundred and sixty of which were equal in value to a silver peso.

filibuster: A native of the Philippines who was accused of advocating their separation from Spain. [366]

filibusterism: See filibuster.

gobernadorcillo: “Petty governor,” the principal municipal official—also, in Manila, the head of a commercial guild.

gumamela: The hibiscus, common as a garden shrub in the Philippines.

Indian: The Spanish designation for the Christianized Malay of the Philippines was indio (Indian), a term used rather contemptuously, the name Filipino being generally applied in a restricted sense to the children of Spaniards born in the Islands.

kalan: The small, portable, open, clay fireplace commonly used in cooking.

kalikut: A short section of bamboo for preparing the buyo; a primitive betel-box.

kamagon: A tree of the ebony family, from which fine cabinet-wood is obtained. Its fruit is the mabolo, or date-plum.

lanete: A variety of timber used in carving.

linintikan: A Tagalog exclamation of disgust or contempt—“thunder!”

Malacañang: The palace of the Captain-General: from the vernacular name of the place where it stands, “fishermen’s resort.”

Malecon: A drive along the bay shore of Manila, opposite the Walled City.

Mestizo: A person of mixed Filipino and Spanish blood; sometimes applied also to a person of mixed Filipino and Chinese blood.

nakú: A Tagalog exclamation of surprise, wonder, etc.

narra: The Philippine mahogany.

nipa: Swamp palm, with the imbricated leaves of which the roofs and sides of the common native houses are constructed.

novena: A devotion consisting of prayers recited for nine consecutive days, asking for some special favor; also, a booklet of these prayers.

panguingui: A complicated card-game, generally for small stakes, played with a monte deck.

panguinguera: A woman addicted to panguingui, this being chiefly a feminine diversion in the Philippines.

pansit: A soup made of Chinese vermicelli.

pansitería: A shop where pansit is prepared and sold.

pañuelo: A starched neckerchief folded stiffly over the shoulders, fastened in front and falling in a point behind: the most distinctive portion of the customary dress of Filipino women.

peso: A silver coin, either the Spanish peso or the Mexican dollar, about the size of an American dollar and of approximately half its value.

petate: Sleeping-mat woven from palm leaves.

piña: Fine cloth made from pineapple-leaf fibers.

Provincial: The head of a religious order in the Philippines.

puñales: “Daggers!”

querida: A paramour, mistress: from the Spanish “beloved.”

real: One-eighth of a peso, twenty cuartos.

sala: The principal room in the more pretentious Philippine houses.

salakot: Wide hat of palm or bamboo, distinctively Filipino.

sampaguita: The Arabian jasmine: a small, white, very fragrant flower, extensively cultivated, and worn in chaplets and rosaries by women and girls—the typical Philippine flower. [367]

sipa: A game played with a hollow ball of plaited bamboo or rattan, by boys standing in a circle, who by kicking it with their heels endeavor to keep it from striking the ground.

soltada: A bout between fighting-cocks.

’Susmariosep: A common exclamation: contraction of the Spanish, Jesús, María, y José, the Holy Family.

tabi: The cry used by carriage drivers to warn pedestrians.

tabú: A utensil fashioned from half of a coconut shell.

tajú: A thick beverage prepared from bean-meal and syrup.

tampipi: A telescopic basket of woven palm, bamboo, or rattan.

Tandang: A title of respect for an old man: from the Tagalog term for “old.”

tapis: A piece of dark cloth or lace, often richly worked or embroidered, worn at the waist somewhat in the fashion of an apron; a distinctive portion of the native women’s attire, especially among the Tagalogs.

tatakut: The Tagalog term for “fear.”

teniente-mayor: “Senior lieutenant,” the senior member of the town council and substitute for the gobernadorcillo.

tertiary sister: A member of a lay society affiliated with a regular monastic order.

tienda: A shop or stall for the sale of merchandise.

tikbalang: An evil spirit, capable of assuming various forms, but said to appear usually as a tall black man with disproportionately long legs: the “bogey man” of Tagalog children.

tulisan: Outlaw, bandit. Under the old régime in the Philippines the tulisanes were those who, on account of real or fancied grievances against the authorities, or from fear of punishment for crime, or from an instinctive desire to return to primitive simplicity, foreswore life in the towns “under the bell,” and made their homes in the mountains or other remote places. Gathered in small bands with such arms as they could secure, they sustained themselves by highway robbery and the levying of black-mail from the country folk.



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