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Home Sections DrRizal.com The Reign of Greed (El Filibusterismo) Chapter XXI to XXX
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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 XXI-Manila Types}

Manila Types

That night there was a grand function at the Teatro de Variedades. Mr. Jouay’s French operetta company was giving its initial performance, Les Cloches de Corneville. To the eyes of the public was to be exhibited his select troupe, whose fame the newspapers had for days been proclaiming. It was reported that among the actresses was a very beautiful voice, with a figure even more beautiful, and if credit could be given to rumor, her amiability surpassed even her voice and figure.

At half-past seven in the evening there were no more tickets to be had, not even though they had been for Padre Salvi himself in his direct need, and the persons waiting to enter the general admission already formed a long queue. In the ticket-office there were scuffles and fights, talk of filibusterism and races, but this did not produce any tickets, so that by a quarter before eight fabulous prices were being offered for them. The appearance of the building, profusely illuminated, with flowers and plants in all the doors and windows, enchanted the new arrivals to such an extent that they burst out into exclamations and applause. A large crowd surged about the entrance, gazing enviously at those going in, those who came early from fear of missing their seats. Laughter, whispering, expectation greeted the later arrivals, who disconsolately joined the curious crowd, and now that they could not get in contented themselves with watching those who did.

Yet there was one person who seemed out of place amid such great eagerness and curiosity. He was a tall, meager man, who dragged one leg stiffly when he walked, dressed [198] in a wretched brown coat and dirty checkered trousers that fitted his lean, bony limbs tightly. A straw sombrero, artistic in spite of being broken, covered an enormous head and allowed his dirty gray, almost red, hair to straggle out long and kinky at the end like a poet’s curls. But the most notable thing about this man was not his clothing or his European features, guiltless of beard or mustache, but his fiery red face, from which he got the nickname by which he was known, Camaroncocido.1 He was a curious character belonging to a prominent Spanish family, but he lived like a vagabond and a beggar, scoffing at the prestige which he flouted indifferently with his rags. He was reputed to be a kind of reporter, and in fact his gray goggle-eyes, so cold and thoughtful, always showed up where anything publishable was happening. His manner of living was a mystery to all, as no one seemed to know where he ate and slept. Perhaps he had an empty hogshead somewhere.

But at that moment Camaroncocido lacked his usual hard and indifferent expression, something like mirthful pity being reflected in his looks. A funny little man accosted him merrily.

“Friend!” exclaimed the latter, in a raucous voice, as hoarse as a frog’s, while he displayed several Mexican pesos, which Camaroncocido merely glanced at and then shrugged his shoulders. What did they matter to him?

The little old man was a fitting contrast to him. Small, very small, he wore on his head a high hat, which presented the appearance of a huge hairy worm, and lost himself in an enormous frock coat, too wide and too long for him, to reappear in trousers too short, not reaching below his calves. His body seemed to be the grandfather and his legs the grandchildren, while as for his shoes he appeared to be floating on the land, for they were of an enormous sailor type, apparently protesting against the hairy worm [199] worn on his head with all the energy of a convento beside a World’s Exposition. If Camaroncocido was red, he was brown; while the former, although of Spanish extraction, had not a single hair on his face, yet he, an Indian, had a goatee and mustache, both long, white, and sparse. His expression was lively. He was known as Tio Quico,2 and like his friend lived on publicity, advertising the shows and posting the theatrical announcements, being perhaps the only Filipino who could appear with impunity in a silk hat and frock coat, just as his friend was the first Spaniard who laughed at the prestige of his race.

“The Frenchman has paid me well,” he said smiling and showing his picturesque gums, which looked like a street after a conflagration. “I did a good job in posting the bills.”

Camaroncocido shrugged his shoulders again. “Quico,” he rejoined in a cavernous voice, “if they’ve given you six pesos for your work, how much will they give the friars?”

Tio Quico threw back his head in his usual lively manner. “To the friars?”

“Because you surely know,” continued Camaroncocido, “that all this crowd was secured for them by the conventos.”

The fact was that the friars, headed by Padre Salvi, and some lay brethren captained by Don Custodio, had opposed such shows. Padre Camorra, who could not attend, watered at the eyes and mouth, but argued with Ben-Zayb, who defended them feebly, thinking of the free tickets they would send his newspaper. Don Custodio spoke of morality, religion, good manners, and the like.

“But,” stammered the writer, “if our own farces with their plays on words and phrases of double meaning—”

“But at least they’re in Castilian!” the virtuous councilor interrupted with a roar, inflamed to righteous wrath. “Obscenities in French, man, Ben-Zayb, for God’s sake, in French! Never!” [200]

He uttered this never with the energy of three Guzmans threatened with being killed like fleas if they did not surrender twenty Tarifas. Padre Irene naturally agreed with Don Custodio and execrated French operetta. Whew, he had been in Paris, but had never set foot in a theater, the Lord deliver him!

Yet the French operetta also counted numerous partizans. The officers of the army and navy, among them the General’s aides, the clerks, and many society people were anxious to enjoy the delicacies of the French language from the mouths of genuine Parisiennes, and with them were affiliated those who had traveled by the M.M.3 and had jabbered a little French during the voyage, those who had visited Paris, and all those who wished to appear learned.

Hence, Manila society was divided into two factions, operettists and anti-operettists. The latter were supported by the elderly ladies, wives jealous and careful of their husbands’ love, and by those who were engaged, while those who were free and those who were beautiful declared themselves enthusiastic operettists. Notes and then more notes were exchanged, there were goings and comings, mutual recriminations, meetings, lobbyings, arguments, even talk of an insurrection of the natives, of their indolence, of inferior and superior races, of prestige and other humbugs, so that after much gossip and more recrimination, the permit was granted, Padre Salvi at the same time publishing a pastoral that was read by no one but the proof-reader. There were questionings whether the General had quarreled with the Countess, whether she spent her time in the halls of pleasure, whether His Excellency was greatly annoyed, whether there had been presents exchanged, whether the French consul—, and so on and on. Many names were bandied about: Quiroga the Chinaman’s, Simoun’s, and even those of many actresses.

Thanks to these scandalous preliminaries, the people’s [201] impatience had been aroused, and since the evening before, when the troupe arrived, there was talk of nothing but attending the first performance. From the hour when the red posters announced Les Cloches de Corneville the victors prepared to celebrate their triumph. In some offices, instead of the time being spent in reading newspapers and gossiping, it was devoted to devouring the synopsis and spelling out French novels, while many feigned business outside to consult their pocket-dictionaries on the sly. So no business was transacted, callers were told to come back the next day, but the public could not take offense, for they encountered some very polite and affable clerks, who received and dismissed them with grand salutations in the French style. The clerks were practising, brushing the dust off their French, and calling to one another oui, monsieur, s’il vous plait, and pardon! at every turn, so that it was a pleasure to see and hear them.

But the place where the excitement reached its climax was the newspaper office. Ben-Zayb, having been appointed critic and translator of the synopsis, trembled like a poor woman accused of witchcraft, as he saw his enemies picking out his blunders and throwing up to his face his deficient knowledge of French. When the Italian opera was on, he had very nearly received a challenge for having mistranslated a tenor’s name, while an envious rival had immediately published an article referring to him as an ignoramus—him, the foremost thinking head in the Philippines! All the trouble he had had to defend himself! He had had to write at least seventeen articles and consult fifteen dictionaries, so with these salutary recollections, the wretched Ben-Zayb moved about with leaden hands, to say nothing of his feet, for that would be plagiarizing Padre Camorra, who had once intimated that the journalist wrote with them.

“You see, Quico?” said Camaroncocido. “One half of the people have come because the friars told them not to, making it a kind of public protest, and the other half because [202] they say to themselves, ‘Do the friars object to it? Then it must be instructive!’ Believe me, Quico, your advertisements are a good thing but the pastoral was better, even taking into consideration the fact that it was read by no one.”

“Friend, do you believe,” asked Tio Quico uneasily, “that on account of the competition with Padre Salvi my business will in the future be prohibited?”

“Maybe so, Quico, maybe so,” replied the other, gazing at the sky. “Money’s getting scarce.”

Tio Quico muttered some incoherent words: if the friars were going to turn theatrical advertisers, he would become a friar. After bidding his friend good-by, he moved away coughing and rattling his silver coins.

With his eternal indifference Camaroncocido continued to wander about here and there with his crippled leg and sleepy looks. The arrival of unfamiliar faces caught his attention, coming as they did from different parts and signaling to one another with a wink or a cough. It was the first time that he had ever seen these individuals on such an occasion, he who knew all the faces and features in the city. Men with dark faces, humped shoulders, uneasy and uncertain movements, poorly disguised, as though they had for the first time put on sack coats, slipped about among the shadows, shunning attention, instead of getting in the front rows where they could see well.

“Detectives or thieves?” Camaroncocido asked himself and immediately shrugged his shoulders. “But what is it to me?”

The lamp of a carriage that drove up lighted in passing a group of four or five of these individuals talking with a man who appeared to be an army officer.

“Detectives! It must be a new corps,” he muttered with his shrug of indifference. Soon, however, he noticed that the officer, after speaking to two or three more groups, approached a carriage and seemed to be talking vigorously with some person inside. Camaroncocido took a few steps [203] forward and without surprise thought that he recognized the jeweler Simoun, while his sharp ears caught this short dialogue.

“The signal will be a gunshot!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t worry—it’s the General who is ordering it, but be careful about saying so. If you follow my instructions, you’ll get a promotion.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, be ready!”

The voice ceased and a second later the carriage drove away. In spite of his indifference Camaroncocido could not but mutter, “Something’s afoot—hands on pockets!”

But feeling his own to be empty, he again shrugged his shoulders. What did it matter to him, even though the heavens should fall?

So he continued his pacing about. On passing near two persons engaged in conversation, he caught what one of them, who had rosaries and scapularies around his neck, was saying in Tagalog: “The friars are more powerful than the General, don’t be a fool! He’ll go away and they’ll stay here. So, if we do well, we’ll get rich. The signal is a gunshot.”

“Hold hard, hold hard,” murmured Camaroncocido, tightening his fingers. “On that side the General, on this Padre Salvi. Poor country! But what is it to me?”

Again shrugging his shoulders and expectorating at the same time, two actions that with him were indications of supreme indifference, he continued his observations.

Meanwhile, the carriages were arriving in dizzy streams, stopping directly before the door to set down the members of the select society. Although the weather was scarcely even cool, the ladies sported magnificent shawls, silk neckerchiefs, and even light cloaks. Among the escorts, some who were in frock coats with white ties wore overcoats, while others carried them on their arms to display the rich silk linings. [204]

In a group of spectators, Tadeo, he who was always taken ill the moment the professor appeared, was accompanied by a fellow townsman of his, the novice whom we saw suffer evil consequences from reading wrongly the Cartesian principle. This novice was very inquisitive and addicted to tiresome questions, and Tadeo was taking advantage of his ingenuousness and inexperience to relate to him the most stupendous lies. Every Spaniard that spoke to him, whether clerkling or underling, was presented as a leading merchant, a marquis, or a count, while on the other hand any one who passed him by was a greenhorn, a petty official, a nobody! When pedestrians failed him in keeping up the novice’s astonishment, he resorted to the resplendent carriages that came up. Tadeo would bow politely, wave his hand in a friendly manner, and call out a familiar greeting.

“Who’s he?”

“Bah!” was the negligent reply. “The Civil Governor, the Vice-Governor, Judge ——, Señora ——, all friends of mine!”

The novice marveled and listened in fascination, taking care to keep on the left. Tadeo the friend of judges and governors!

Tadeo named all the persons who arrived, when he did not know them inventing titles, biographies, and interesting sketches.

“You see that tall gentleman with dark whiskers, somewhat squint-eyed, dressed in black—he’s Judge A ——, an intimate friend of the wife of Colonel B ——. One day if it hadn’t been for me they would have come to blows. Hello, here comes that Colonel! What if they should fight?”

The novice held his breath, but the colonel and the judge shook hands cordially, the soldier, an old bachelor, inquiring about the health of the judge’s family.

“Ah, thank heaven!” breathed Tadeo. “I’m the one who made them friends.” [205]

“What if they should invite us to go in?” asked the novice timidly.

“Get out, boy! I never accept favors!” retorted Tadeo majestically. “I confer them, but disinterestedly.”

The novice bit his lip and felt smaller than ever, while he placed a respectful distance between himself and his fellow townsman.

Tadeo resumed: “That is the musician H——; that one, the lawyer J——, who delivered as his own a speech printed in all the books and was congratulated and admired for it; Doctor K——, that man just getting out of a hansom, is a specialist in diseases of children, so he’s called Herod; that’s the banker L——, who can talk only of his money and his hoards; the poet M——, who is always dealing with the stars and the beyond. There goes the beautiful wife of N——, whom Padre Q——is accustomed to meet when he calls upon the absent husband; the Jewish merchant P——, who came to the islands with a thousand pesos and is now a millionaire. That fellow with the long beard is the physician R——, who has become rich by making invalids more than by curing them.”

“Making invalids?”

“Yes, boy, in the examination of the conscripts. Attention! That finely dressed gentleman is not a physician but a homeopathist sui generis—he professes completely the similis similibus. The young cavalry captain with him is his chosen disciple. That man in a light suit with his hat tilted back is the government clerk whose maxim is never to be polite and who rages like a demon when he sees a hat on any one else’s head—they say that he does it to ruin the German hatters. The man just arriving with his family is the wealthy merchant C——, who has an income of over a hundred thousand pesos. But what would you say if I should tell you that he still owes me four pesos, five reales, and twelve cuartos? But who would collect from a rich man like him?”

“That gentleman in debt to you?” [206]

“Sure! One day I got him out of a bad fix. It was on a Friday at half-past six in the morning, I still remember, because I hadn’t breakfasted. That lady who is followed by a duenna is the celebrated Pepay, the dancing girl, but she doesn’t dance any more now that a very Catholic gentleman and a great friend of mine has—forbidden it. There’s the death’s-head Z——, who’s surely following her to get her to dance again. He’s a good fellow, and a great friend of mine, but has one defect—he’s a Chinese mestizo and yet calls himself a Peninsular Spaniard. Sssh! Look at Ben-Zayb, him with the face of a friar, who’s carrying a pencil and a roll of paper in his hand. He’s the great writer, Ben-Zayb, a good friend of mine—he has talent!”

“You don’t say! And that little man with white whiskers?”

“He’s the official who has appointed his daughters, those three little girls, assistants in his department, so as to get their names on the pay-roll. He’s a clever man, very clever! When he makes a mistake he blames it on somebody else, he buys things and pays for them out of the treasury. He’s clever, very, very clever!”

Tadeo was about to say more, but suddenly checked himself.

“And that gentleman who has a fierce air and gazes at everybody over his shoulders?” inquired the novice, pointing to a man who nodded haughtily.

But Tadeo did not answer. He was craning his neck to see Paulita Gomez, who was approaching with a friend, Doña Victorina, and Juanito Pelaez. The latter had presented her with a box and was more humped than ever.

Carriage after carriage drove up; the actors and actresses arrived and entered by a separate door, followed by their friends and admirers.

After Paulita had gone in, Tadeo resumed: “Those are the nieces of the rich Captain D——, those coming up in a landau; you see how pretty and healthy they are? Well, [207] in a few years they’ll be dead or crazy. Captain D—— is opposed to their marrying, and the insanity of the uncle is appearing in the nieces. That’s the Señorita E——, the rich heiress whom the world and the conventos are disputing over. Hello, I know that fellow! It’s Padre Irene, in disguise, with a false mustache. I recognize him by his nose. And he was so greatly opposed to this!”

The scandalized novice watched a neatly cut coat disappear behind a group of ladies.

“The Three Fates!” went on Tadeo, watching the arrival of three withered, bony, hollow-eyed, wide-mouthed, and shabbily dressed women. “They’re called—”

“Atropos?” ventured the novice, who wished to show that he also knew somebody, at least in mythology.

“No, boy, they’re called the Weary Waiters—old, censorious, and dull. They pretend to hate everybody—men, women, and children. But look how the Lord always places beside the evil a remedy, only that sometimes it comes late. There behind the Fates, the frights of the city, come those three girls, the pride of their friends, among whom I count myself. That thin young man with goggle-eyes, somewhat stooped, who is wildly gesticulating because he can’t get tickets, is the chemist S——, author of many essays and scientific treatises, some of which are notable and have captured prizes. The Spaniards say of him, ‘There’s some hope for him, some hope for him.’ The fellow who is soothing him with his Voltairian smile is the poet T——, a young man of talent, a great friend of mine, and, for the very reason that he has talent, he has thrown away his pen. That fellow who is trying to get in with the actors by the other door is the young physician U——, who has effected some remarkable cures—it’s also said of him that he promises well. He’s not such a scoundrel as Pelaez but he’s cleverer and slyer still. I believe that he’d shake dice with death and win.”

“And that brown gentleman with a mustache like hog-bristles?” [208]

“Ah, that’s the merchant F——, who forges everything, even his baptismal certificate. He wants to be a Spanish mestizo at any cost, and is making heroic efforts to forget his native language.”

“But his daughters are very white.”

“Yes, that’s the reason rice has gone up in price, and yet they eat nothing but bread.”

The novice did not understand the connection between the price of rice and the whiteness of those girls, but he held his peace.

“There goes the fellow that’s engaged to one of them, that thin brown youth who is following them with a lingering movement and speaking with a protecting air to the three friends who are laughing at him. He’s a martyr to his beliefs, to his consistency.”

The novice was filled with admiration and respect for the young man.

“He has the look of a fool, and he is one,” continued Tadeo. “He was born in San Pedro Makati and has inflicted many privations upon himself. He scarcely ever bathes or eats pork, because, according to him, the Spaniards don’t do those things, and for the same reason he doesn’t eat rice and dried fish, although he may be watering at the mouth and dying of hunger. Anything that comes from Europe, rotten or preserved, he considers divine—a month ago Basilio cured him of a severe attack of gastritis, for he had eaten a jar of mustard to prove that he’s a European.”

At that moment the orchestra struck up a waltz.

“You see that gentleman—that hypochondriac who goes along turning his head from side to side, seeking salutes? That’s the celebrated governor of Pangasinan, a good man who loses his appetite whenever any Indian fails to salute him. He would have died if he hadn’t issued the proclamation about salutes to which he owes his celebrity. Poor fellow, it’s only been three days since he came from the province and look how thin he has become! Oh, here’s the great man, the illustrious—open your eyes!” [209]

“Who? That man with knitted brows?”

“Yes, that’s Don Custodio, the liberal, Don Custodio. His brows are knit because he’s meditating over some important project. If the ideas he has in his head were carried out, this would be a different world! Ah, here comes Makaraig, your housemate.”

It was in fact Makaraig, with Pecson, Sandoval, and Isagani. Upon seeing them, Tadeo advanced and spoke to them.

“Aren’t you coming in?” Makaraig asked him.

“We haven’t been able to get tickets.”

“Fortunately, we have a box,” replied Makaraig. “Basilio couldn’t come. Both of you, come in with us.”

Tadeo did not wait for the invitation to be repeated, but the novice, fearing that he would intrude, with the timidity natural to the provincial Indian, excused himself, nor could he be persuaded to enter. [210]

 


1 “Boiled Shrimp”—Tr.

2 “Uncle Frank.”—Tr.

3 Messageries Maritimes, a French line of steamers in the Oriental trade.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXII-The Performance}

The Performance

The interior of the theater presented a lively aspect. It was filled from top to bottom, with people standing in the corridors and in the aisles, fighting to withdraw a head from some hole where they had inserted it, or to shove an eye between a collar and an ear. The open boxes, occupied for the most part by ladies, looked like baskets of flowers, whose petals—the fans—shook in a light breeze, wherein hummed a thousand bees. However, just as there are flowers of strong or delicate fragrance, flowers that kill and flowers that console, so from our baskets were exhaled like emanations: there were to be heard dialogues, conversations, remarks that bit and stung. Three or four boxes, however, were still vacant, in spite of the lateness of the hour. The performance had been advertised for half-past eight and it was already a quarter to nine, but the curtain did not go up, as his Excellency had not yet arrived. The gallery-gods, impatient and uncomfortable in their seats, started a racket, clapping their hands and pounding the floor with their canes.

“Boom—boom—boom! Ring up the curtain! Boom—boom—boom!”

The artillerymen were not the least noisy. Emulators of Mars, as Ben-Zayb called them, they were not satisfied with this music; thinking themselves perhaps at a bullfight, they made remarks at the ladies who passed before them in words that are euphemistically called flowers in Madrid, although at times they seem more like foul weeds. Without heeding the furious looks of the husbands, they [211] bandied from one to another the sentiments and longings inspired by so many beauties.

In the reserved seats, where the ladies seemed to be afraid to venture, as few were to be seen there, a murmur of voices prevailed amid suppressed laughter and clouds of tobacco smoke. They discussed the merits of the players and talked scandal, wondering if his Excellency had quarreled with the friars, if his presence at such a show was a defiance or mere curiosity. Others gave no heed to these matters, but were engaged in attracting the attention of the ladies, throwing themselves into attitudes more or less interesting and statuesque, flashing diamond rings, especially when they thought themselves the foci of insistent opera-glasses, while yet another would address a respectful salute to this or that señora or señorita, at the same time lowering his head gravely to whisper to a neighbor, “How ridiculous she is! And such a bore!”

The lady would respond with one of her most gracious smiles and an enchanting nod of her head, while murmuring to a friend sitting near, amid lazy flourishes of her fan, “How impudent he is! He’s madly in love, my dear.”

Meanwhile, the noise increased. There remained only two vacant boxes, besides that of his Excellency, which was distinguished by its curtains of red velvet. The orchestra played another waltz, the audience protested, when fortunately there arose a charitable hero to distract their attention and relieve the manager, in the person of a man who had occupied a reserved seat and refused to give it up to its owner, the philosopher Don Primitivo. Finding his own arguments useless, Don Primitivo had appealed to an usher. “I don’t care to,” the hero responded to the latter’s protests, placidly puffing at his cigarette. The usher appealed to the manager. “I don’t care to,” was the response, as he settled back in the seat. The manager went away, while the artillerymen in the gallery began to sing out encouragement to the usurper.

Our hero, now that he had attracted general attention, [212] thought that to yield would be to lower himself, so he held on to the seat, while he repeated his answer to a pair of guards the manager had called in. These, in consideration of the rebel’s rank, went in search of their corporal, while the whole house broke out into applause at the firmness of the hero, who remained seated like a Roman senator.

Hisses were heard, and the inflexible gentleman turned angrily to see if they were meant for him, but the galloping of horses resounded and the stir increased. One might have said that a revolution had broken out, or at least a riot, but no, the orchestra had suspended the waltz and was playing the royal march: it was his Excellency, the Captain-General and Governor of the islands, who was entering. All eyes sought and followed him, then lost sight of him, until he finally appeared in his box. After looking all about him and making some persons happy with a lordly salute, he sat down, as though he were indeed the man for whom the chair was waiting. The artillerymen then became silent and the orchestra tore into the prelude.

Our students occupied a box directly facing that of Pepay, the dancing girl. Her box was a present from Makaraig, who had already got on good terms with her in order to propitiate Don Custodio. Pepay had that very afternoon written a note to the illustrious arbiter, asking for an answer and appointing an interview in the theater. For this reason, Don Custodio, in spite of the active opposition he had manifested toward the French operetta, had gone to the theater, which action won him some caustic remarks on the part of Don Manuel, his ancient adversary in the sessions of the Ayuntamiento.

“I’ve come to judge the operetta,” he had replied in the tone of a Cato whose conscience was clear.

So Makaraig was exchanging looks of intelligence with Pepay, who was giving him to understand that she had something to tell him. As the dancing girl’s face wore a happy expression, the students augured that a favorable outcome was assured. Sandoval, who had just returned [213] from making calls in other boxes, also assured them that the decision had been favorable, that that very afternoon the Superior Commission had considered and approved it. Every one was jubilant, even Pecson having laid aside his pessimism when he saw the smiling Pepay display a note. Sandoval and Makaraig congratulated one another, Isagani alone remaining cold and unsmiling. What had happened to this young man?

Upon entering the theater, Isagani had caught sight of Paulita in a box, with Juanito Pelaez talking to her. He had turned pale, thinking that he must be mistaken. But no, it was she herself, she who greeted him with a gracious smile, while her beautiful eyes seemed to be asking pardon and promising explanations. The fact was that they had agreed upon Isagani’s going first to the theater to see if the show contained anything improper for a young woman, but now he found her there, and in no other company than that of his rival. What passed in his mind is indescribable: wrath, jealousy, humiliation, resentment raged within him, and there were moments even when he wished that the theater would fall in; he had a violent desire to laugh aloud, to insult his sweetheart, to challenge his rival, to make a scene, but finally contented himself with sitting quiet and not looking at her at all. He was conscious of the beautiful plans Makaraig and Sandoval were making, but they sounded like distant echoes, while the notes of the waltz seemed sad and lugubrious, the whole audience stupid and foolish, and several times he had to make an effort to keep back the tears. Of the trouble stirred up by the hero who refused to give up the seat, of the arrival of the Captain-General, he was scarcely conscious. He stared toward the drop-curtain, on which was depicted a kind of gallery with sumptuous red hangings, affording a view of a garden in which a fountain played, yet how sad the gallery looked to him and how melancholy the painted landscape! A thousand vague recollections surged into his memory like distant echoes of music heard in the night, [214] like songs of infancy, the murmur of lonely forests and gloomy rivulets, moonlit nights on the shore of the sea spread wide before his eyes. So the enamored youth considered himself very wretched and stared fixedly at the ceiling so that the tears should not fall from his eyes.

A burst of applause drew him from these meditations. The curtain had just risen, and the merry chorus of peasants of Corneville was presented, all dressed in cotton caps, with heavy wooden sabots on their feet. Some six or seven girls, well-rouged on the lips and cheeks, with large black circles around their eyes to increase their brilliance, displayed white arms, fingers covered with diamonds, round and shapely limbs. While they were chanting the Norman phrase “Allez, marchez! Allez, marchez!” they smiled at their different admirers in the reserved seats with such openness that Don Custodio, after looking toward Pepay’s box to assure himself that she was not doing the same thing with some other admirer, set down in his note-book this indecency, and to make sure of it lowered his head a little to see if the actresses were not showing their knees.

“Oh, these Frenchwomen!” he muttered, while his imagination lost itself in considerations somewhat more elevated, as he made comparisons and projects.

Quoi v’la tous les cancans d’la s’maine!” sang Gertrude, a proud damsel, who was looking roguishly askance at the Captain-General.

“We’re going to have the cancan!” exclaimed Tadeo, the winner of the first prize in the French class, who had managed to make out this word. “Makaraig, they’re going to dance the cancan!”

He rubbed his hands gleefully. From the moment the curtain rose, Tadeo had been heedless of the music. He was looking only for the prurient, the indecent, the immoral in actions and dress, and with his scanty French was sharpening his ears to catch the obscenities that the austere guardians of the fatherland had foretold.

Sandoval, pretending to know French, had converted himself [215] into a kind of interpreter for his friends. He knew as much about it as Tadeo, but the published synopsis helped him and his fancy supplied the rest. “Yes,” he said, “they’re going to dance the cancan—she’s going to lead it.”

Makaraig and Pecson redoubled their attention, smiling in anticipation, while Isagani looked away, mortified to think that Paulita should be present at such a show and reflecting that it was his duty to challenge Juanito Pelaez the next day.

But the young men waited in vain. Serpolette came on, a charming girl, in her cotton cap, provoking and challenging. “Hein, qui parle de Serpolette?” she demanded of the gossips, with her arms akimbo in a combative attitude. Some one applauded, and after him all those in the reserved seats. Without changing her girlish attitude, Serpolette gazed at the person who had started the applause and paid him with a smile, displaying rows of little teeth that looked like a string of pearls in a case of red velvet.

Tadeo followed her gaze and saw a man in a false mustache with an extraordinarily large nose. “By the monk’s cowl!” he exclaimed. “It’s Irene!”

“Yes,” corroborated Sandoval, “I saw him behind the scenes talking with the actresses.”

The truth was that Padre Irene, who was a melomaniac of the first degree and knew French well, had been sent to the theater by Padre Salvi as a sort of religious detective, or so at least he told the persons who recognized him. As a faithful critic, who should not be satisfied with viewing the piece from a distance, he wished to examine the actresses at first hand, so he had mingled in the groups of admirers and gallants, had penetrated into the greenroom, where was whispered and talked a French required by the situation, a market French, a language that is readily comprehensible for the vender when the buyer seems disposed to pay well. [216]

Serpolette was surrounded by two gallant officers, a sailor, and a lawyer, when she caught sight of him moving about, sticking the tip of his long nose into all the nooks and corners, as though with it he were ferreting out all the mysteries of the stage. She ceased her chatter, knitted her eyebrows, then raised them, opened her lips and with the vivacity of a Parisienne left her admirers to hurl herself like a torpedo upon our critic.

Tiens, tiens, Toutou! Mon lapin!” she cried, catching Padre Irene’s arm and shaking it merrily, while the air rang with her silvery laugh.

“Tut, tut!” objected Padre Irene, endeavoring to conceal himself.

Mais, comment! Toi ici, grosse bête! Et moi qui t’croyais—

’Tais pas d’tapage, Lily! Il faut m’respecter! ’Suis ici l’Pape!

With great difficulty Padre Irene made her listen to reason, for Lily was enchanteé to meet in Manila an old friend who reminded her of the coulisses of the Grand Opera House. So it was that Padre Irene, fulfilling at the same time his duties as a friend and a critic, had initiated the applause to encourage her, for Serpolette deserved it.

Meanwhile, the young men were waiting for the cancan. Pecson became all eyes, but there was everything except cancan. There was presented the scene in which, but for the timely arrival of the representatives of the law, the women would have come to blows and torn one another’s hair out, incited thereto by the mischievous peasants, who, like our students, hoped to see something more than the cancan.

 

Scit, scit, scit, scit, scit, scit,

Disputez-vous, battez-vous,

Scit, scit, scit, scit, scit, scit,

Nous allons compter les coups.

 

The music ceased, the men went away, the women returned, a few at a time, and started a conversation among [217] themselves, of which our friends understood nothing. They were slandering some absent person.

“They look like the Chinamen of the pansiteria!” whispered Pecson.

“But, the cancan?” asked Makaraig.

“They’re talking about the most suitable place to dance it,” gravely responded Sandoval.

“They look like the Chinamen of the pansiteria,” repeated Pecson in disgust.

A lady accompanied by her husband entered at that moment and took her place in one of the two vacant boxes. She had the air of a queen and gazed disdainfully at the whole house, as if to say, “I’ve come later than all of you, you crowd of upstarts and provincials, I’ve come later than you!” There are persons who go to the theater like the contestants in a mule-race: the last one in, wins, and we know very sensible men who would ascend the scaffold rather than enter a theater before the first act. But the lady’s triumph was of short duration—she caught sight of the other box that was still empty, and began to scold her better half, thus starting such a disturbance that many were annoyed.

“Ssh! Ssh!”

“The blockheads! As if they understood French!” remarked the lady, gazing with supreme disdain in all directions, finally fixing her attention on Juanito’s box, whence she thought she had heard an impudent hiss.

Juanito was in fact guilty, for he had been pretending to understand everything, holding himself up proudly and applauding at times as though nothing that was said escaped him, and this too without guiding himself by the actors’ pantomime, because he scarcely looked toward the stage. The rogue had intentionally remarked to Paulita that, as there was so much more beautiful a woman close at hand, he did not care to strain his eyes looking beyond her. Paulita had blushed, covered her face with her fan, and glanced stealthily toward where Isagani, silent and morose, was abstractedly watching the show. [218]

Paulita felt nettled and jealous. Would Isagani fall in love with any of those alluring actresses? The thought put her in a bad humor, so she scarcely heard the praises that Doña Victorina was heaping upon her own favorite.

Juanito was playing his part well: he shook his head at times in sign of disapproval, and then there could be heard coughs and murmurs in some parts, at other times he smiled in approbation, and a second later applause resounded. Doña Victorina was charmed, even conceiving some vague ideas of marrying the young man the day Don Tiburcio should die—Juanito knew French and De Espadaña didn’t! Then she began to flatter him, nor did he perceive the change in the drift of her talk, so occupied was he in watching a Catalan merchant who was sitting next to the Swiss consul. Having observed that they were conversing in French, Juanito was getting his inspiration from their countenances, and thus grandly giving the cue to those about him.

Scene followed scene, character succeeded character, comic and ridiculous like the bailiff and Grenicheux, imposing and winsome like the marquis and Germaine. The audience laughed heartily at the slap delivered by Gaspard and intended for the coward Grenicheux, which was received by the grave bailiff, whose wig went flying through the air, producing disorder and confusion as the curtain dropped.

“Where’s the cancan?” inquired Tadeo.

But the curtain rose again immediately, revealing a scene in a servant market, with three posts on which were affixed signs bearing the announcements: servantes, cochers, and domestiques. Juanito, to improve the opportunity, turned to Doña Victorina and said in a loud voice, so that Paulita might hear and he convinced of his learning:

Servantes means servants, domestiques domestics.”

“And in what way do the servantes differ from the domestiques?” asked Paulita.

Juanito was not found wanting. “Domestiques are those [219] that are domesticated—haven’t you noticed that some of them have the air of savages? Those are the servantes.”

“That’s right,” added Doña Victorina, “some have very bad manners—and yet I thought that in Europe everybody was cultivated. But as it happens in France,—well, I see!”

“Ssh! Ssh!”

But what was Juanito’s predicament when the time came for the opening of the market and the beginning of the sale, and the servants who were to be hired placed themselves beside the signs that indicated their class! The men, some ten or twelve rough characters in livery, carrying branches in their hands, took their place under the sign domestiques!

“Those are the domestics,” explained Juanito.

“Really, they have the appearance of being only recently domesticated,” observed Doña Victorina. “Now let’s have a look at the savages.”

Then the dozen girls headed by the lively and merry Serpolette, decked out in their best clothes, each wearing a big bouquet of flowers at the waist, laughing, smiling, fresh and attractive, placed themselves, to Juanito’s great desperation, beside the post of the servantes.

“How’s this?” asked Paulita guilelessly. “Are those the savages that you spoke of?”

“No,” replied the imperturbable Juanito, “there’s a mistake—they’ve got their places mixed—those coming behind—”

“Those with the whips?”

Juanito nodded assent, but he was rather perplexed and uneasy.

“So those girls are the cochers?”

Here Juanito was attacked by such a violent fit of coughing that some of the spectators became annoyed.

“Put him out! Put the consumptive out!” called a voice.

Consumptive! To be called a consumptive before Paulita! Juanito wanted to find the blackguard and make [220] him swallow that “consumptive.” Observing that the women were trying to hold him back, his bravado increased, and he became more conspicuously ferocious. But fortunately it was Don Custodio who had made the diagnosis, and he, fearful of attracting attention to himself, pretended to hear nothing, apparently busy with his criticism of the play.

“If it weren’t that I am with you,” remarked Juanito, rolling his eyes like some dolls that are moved by clockwork, and to make the resemblance more real he stuck out his tongue occasionally.

Thus that night he acquired in Doña Victorina’s eyes the reputation of being brave and punctilious, so she decided in her heart that she would marry him just as soon as Don Tiburcio was out of the way. Paulita became sadder and sadder in thinking about how the girls called cochers could occupy Isagani’s attention, for the name had certain disagreeable associations that came from the slang of her convent school-days.

At length the first act was concluded, the marquis taking away as servants Serpolette and Germaine, the representative of timid beauty in the troupe, and for coachman the stupid Grenicheux. A burst of applause brought them out again holding hands, those who five seconds before had been tormenting one another and were about to come to blows, bowing and smiling here and there to the gallant Manila public and exchanging knowing looks with various spectators.

While there prevailed the passing tumult occasioned by those who crowded one another to get into the greenroom and felicitate the actresses and by those who were going to make calls on the ladies in the boxes, some expressed their opinions of the play and the players.

“Undoubtedly, Serpolette is the best,” said one with a knowing air.

“I prefer Germaine, she’s an ideal blonde.”

“But she hasn’t any voice.” [221]

“What do I care about the voice?”

“Well, for shape, the tall one.”

“Pshaw,” said Ben-Zayb, “not a one is worth a straw, not a one is an artist!”

Ben-Zayb was the critic for El Grito de la Integridad, and his disdainful air gave him great importance in the eyes of those who were satisfied with so little.

“Serpolette hasn’t any voice, nor Germaine grace, nor is that music, nor is it art, nor is it anything!” he concluded with marked contempt. To set oneself up as a great critic there is nothing like appearing to be discontented with everything. Besides, the management had sent only two seats for the newspaper staff.

In the boxes curiosity was aroused as to who could be the possessor of the empty one, for that person, would surpass every one in chic, since he would be the last to arrive. The rumor started somewhere that it belonged to Simoun, and was confirmed: no one had seen the jeweler in the reserved seats, the greenroom, or anywhere else.

“Yet I saw him this afternoon with Mr. Jouay,” some one said. “He presented a necklace to one of the actresses.”

“To which one?” asked some of the inquisitive ladies.

“To the finest of all, the one who made eyes at his Excellency.”

This information was received with looks of intelligence, winks, exclamations of doubt, of confirmation, and half-uttered commentaries.

“He’s trying to play the Monte Cristo,” remarked a lady who prided herself on being literary.

“Or purveyor to the Palace!” added her escort, jealous of Simoun.

In the students’ box, Pecson, Sandoval, and Isagani had remained, while Tadeo had gone to engage Don Custodio in conversation about his projects, and Makaraig to hold an interview with Pepay.

“In no way, as I have observed to you before, friend [222] Isagani,” declared Sandoval with violent gestures and a sonorous voice, so that the ladies near the box, the daughters of the rich man who was in debt to Tadeo, might hear him, “in no way does the French language possess the rich sonorousness or the varied and elegant cadence of the Castilian tongue. I cannot conceive, I cannot imagine, I cannot form any idea of French orators, and I doubt that they have ever had any or can have any now in the strict construction of the term orator, because we must not confuse the name orator with the words babbler and charlatan, for these can exist in any country, in all the regions of the inhabited world, among the cold and curt Englishmen as among the lively and impressionable Frenchmen.”

Thus he delivered a magnificent review of the nations, with his poetical characterizations and most resounding epithets. Isagani nodded assent, with his thoughts fixed on Paulita, whom he had surprised gazing at him with an expressive look which contained a wealth of meaning. He tried to divine what those eyes were expressing—those eyes that were so eloquent and not at all deceptive.

“Now you who are a poet, a slave to rhyme and meter, a son of the Muses,” continued Sandoval, with an elegant wave of his hand, as though he were saluting, on the horizon, the Nine Sisters, “do you comprehend, can you conceive, how a language so harsh and unmusical as French can give birth to poets of such gigantic stature as our Garcilasos, our Herreras, our Esproncedas, our Calderons?”

“Nevertheless,” objected Pecson, “Victor Hugo—”

“Victor Hugo, my friend Pecson, if Victor Hugo is a poet, it is because he owes it to Spain, because it is an established fact, it is a matter beyond all doubt, a thing admitted even by the Frenchmen themselves, so envious of Spain, that if Victor Hugo has genius, if he really is a poet, it is because his childhood was spent in Madrid; there he drank in his first impressions, there his brain was molded, there his imagination was colored, his heart modeled, and the most beautiful concepts of his mind born. [223] And after all, who is Victor Hugo? Is he to be compared at all with our modern—”

This peroration was cut short by the return of Makaraig with a despondent air and a bitter smile on his lips, carrying in his hand a note, which he offered silently to Sandoval, who read:

“MY DOVE: Your letter has reached me late, for I have already handed in my decision, and it has been approved. However, as if I had guessed your wish, I have decided the matter according to the desires of your protégés. I’ll be at the theater and wait for you after the performance.

“Your duckling,

“CUSTODINING.”

 

“How tender the man is!” exclaimed Tadeo with emotion.

“Well?” said Sandoval. “I don’t see anything wrong about this—quite the reverse!”

“Yes,” rejoined Makaraig with his bitter smile, “decided favorably! I’ve just seen Padre Irene.”

“What does Padre Irene say?” inquired Pecson.

“The same as Don Custodio, and the rascal still had the audacity to congratulate me. The Commission, which has taken as its own the decision of the arbiter, approves the idea and felicitates the students on their patriotism and their thirst for knowledge—”

“Well?”

“Only that, considering our duties—in short, it says that in order that the idea may not be lost, it concludes that the direction and execution of the plan should be placed in charge of one of the religious corporations, in case the Dominicans do not wish to incorporate the academy with the University.”

Exclamations of disappointment greeted the announcement. Isagani rose, but said nothing.

“And in order that we may participate in the management of the academy,” Makaraig went on, “we are intrusted with the collection of contributions and dues, with [224] the obligation of turning them over to the treasurer whom the corporation may designate, which treasurer will issue us receipts.”

“Then we’re tax-collectors!” remarked Tadeo.

“Sandoval,” said Pecson, “there’s the gauntlet—take it up!”

“Huh! That’s not a gauntlet—from its odor it seems more like a sock.”

“The funniest, part of it,” Makaraig added, “is that Padre Irene has advised us to celebrate the event with a banquet or a torchlight procession—a public demonstration of the students en masse to render thanks to all the persons who have intervened in the affair.”

“Yes, after the blow, let’s sing and give thanks. Super flumina Babylonis sedimus!”

“Yes, a banquet like that of the convicts,” said Tadeo.

“A banquet at which we all wear mourning and deliver funeral orations,” added Sandoval.

“A serenade with the Marseillaise and funeral marches,” proposed Isagani.

“No, gentlemen,” observed Pecson with his clownish grin, “to celebrate the event there’s nothing like a banquet in a pansitería, served by the Chinamen without camisas. I insist, without camisas!”

The sarcasm and grotesqueness of this idea won it ready acceptance, Sandoval being the first to applaud it, for he had long wished to see the interior of one of those establishments which at night appeared to be so merry and cheerful.

Just as the orchestra struck up for the second act, the young men arose and left the theater, to the scandal of the whole house. [225]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIII-A Corpse}

A Corpse

Simoun had not, in fact, gone to the theater. Already, at seven o’clock in the evening, he had left his house looking worried and gloomy. His servants saw him return twice, accompanied by different individuals, and at eight o’clock Makaraig encountered him pacing along Calle Hospital near the nunnery of St. Clara, just when the bells of its church were ringing a funeral knell. At nine Camaroncocido saw him again, in the neighborhood of the theater, speak with a person who seemed to be a student, pay the latter’s admission to the show, and again disappear among the shadows of the trees.

“What is it to me?” again muttered Camaroncocido. “What do I get out of watching over the populace?”

Basilio, as Makaraig said, had not gone to the show. The poor student, after returning from San Diego, whither he had gone to ransom Juli, his future bride, from her servitude, had turned again to his studies, spending his time in the hospital, in studying, or in nursing Capitan Tiago, whose affliction he was trying to cure.

The invalid had become an intolerable character. During his bad spells, when he felt depressed from lack of opium, the doses of which Basilio was trying to reduce, he would scold, mistreat, and abuse the boy, who bore it resignedly, conscious that he was doing good to one to whom he owed so much, and yielded only in the last extremity. His vicious appetite satisfied, Capitan Tiago would fall into a good humor, become tender, and call him his son, tearfully recalling the youth’s services, how well he administered the estates, and would even talk of making [226] him his heir. Basilio would smile bitterly and reflect that in this world complaisance with vice is rewarded better than fulfilment of duty. Not a few times did he feel tempted to give free rein to the craving and conduct his benefactor to the grave by a path of flowers and smiling illusions rather than lengthen his life along a road of sacrifice.

“What a fool I am!” he often said to himself. “People are stupid and then pay for it.”

But he would shake his head as he thought of Juli, of the wide future before him. He counted upon living without a stain on his conscience, so he continued the treatment prescribed, and bore everything patiently.

Yet with all his care the sick man, except for short periods of improvement, grew worse. Basilio had planned gradually to reduce the amount of the dose, or at least not to let him injure himself by increasing it, but on returning from the hospital or some visit he would find his patient in the heavy slumber produced by the opium, driveling, pale as a corpse. The young man could not explain whence the drug came: the only two persons who visited the house were Simoun and Padre Irene, the former rarely, while the latter never ceased exhorting him to be severe and inexorable with the treatment, to take no notice of the invalid’s ravings, for the main object was to save him.

“Do your duty, young man,” was Padre Irene’s constant admonition. “Do your duty.” Then he would deliver a sermon on this topic with such great conviction and enthusiasm that Basilio would begin to feel kindly toward the preacher. Besides, Padre Irene promised to get him a fine assignment, a good province, and even hinted at the possibility of having him appointed a professor. Without being carried away by illusions, Basilio pretended to believe in them and went on obeying the dictates of his own conscience.

That night, while Les Cloches de Corneville was being presented, Basilio was studying at an old table by the light [227] of an oil-lamp, whose thick glass globe partly illuminated his melancholy features. An old skull, some human bones, and a few books carefully arranged covered the table, whereon there was also a pan of water with a sponge. The smell of opium that proceeded from the adjoining bedroom made the air heavy and inclined him to sleep, but he overcame the desire by bathing his temples and eyes from time to time, determined not to go to sleep until he had finished the book, which he had borrowed and must return as soon as possible. It was a volume of the Medicina Legal y Toxicología of Dr. Friata, the only book that the professor would use, and Basilio lacked money to buy a copy, since, under the pretext of its being forbidden by the censor in Manila and the necessity for bribing many government employees to get it in, the booksellers charged a high price for it.

So absorbed wras the youth in his studies that he had not given any attention at all to some pamphlets that had been sent to him from some unknown source, pamphlets that treated of the Philippines, among which figured those that were attracting the greatest notice at the time because of their harsh and insulting manner of referring to the natives of the country. Basilio had no time to open them, and he was perhaps restrained also by the thought that there is nothing pleasant about receiving an insult or a provocation without having any means of replying or defending oneself. The censorship, in fact, permitted insults to the Filipinos but prohibited replies on their part.

In the midst of the silence that reigned in the house, broken only by a feeble snore that issued now and then from the adjoining bedroom, Basilio heard light footfalls on the stairs, footfalls that soon crossed the hallway and approached the room where he was. Raising his head, he saw the door open and to his great surprise appeared the sinister figure of the jeweler Simoun, who since the scene in San Diego had not come to visit either himself or Capitan Tiago.

“How is the sick man?” he inquired, throwing a rapid [228] glance about the room and fixing his attention on the pamphlets, the leaves of which were still uncut.

“The beating of his heart is scarcely perceptible, his pulse is very weak, his appetite entirely gone,” replied Basilio in a low voice with a sad smile. “He sweats profusely in the early morning.”

Noticing that Simoun kept his face turned toward the pamphlets and fearing that he might reopen the subject of their conversation in the wood, he went on: “His system is saturated with poison. He may die any day, as though struck by lightning. The least irritation, any excitement may kill him.”

“Like the Philippines!” observed Simoun lugubriously.

Basilio was unable to refrain from a gesture of impatience, but he was determined not to recur to the old subject, so he proceeded as if he had heard nothing: “What weakens him the most is the nightmares, his terrors—”

“Like the government!” again interrupted Simoun.

“Several nights ago he awoke in the dark and thought that he had gone blind. He raised a disturbance, lamenting and scolding me, saying that I had put his eyes out. When I entered his room with a light he mistook me for Padre Irene and called me his saviour.”

“Like the government, exactly!”

“Last night,” continued Basilio, paying no attention, “he got up begging for his favorite game-cock, the one that died three years ago, and I had to give him a chicken. Then he heaped blessings upon me and promised me many thousands—”

At that instant a clock struck half-past ten. Simoun shuddered and stopped the youth with a gesture.

“Basilio,” he said in a low, tense voice, “listen to me carefully, for the moments are precious. I see that you haven’t opened the pamphlets that I sent you. You’re not interested in your country.”

The youth started to protest.

“It’s useless,” went on Simoun dryly. “Within an [229] hour the revolution is going to break out at a signal from me, and tomorrow there’ll be no studies, there’ll be no University, there’ll be nothing but fighting and butchery. I have everything ready and my success is assured. When we triumph, all those who could have helped us and did not do so will be treated as enemies. Basilio, I’ve come to offer you death or a future!”

“Death or a future!” the boy echoed, as though he did not understand.

“With us or with the government,” rejoined Simoun. “With your country or with your oppressors. Decide, for time presses! I’ve come to save you because of the memories that unite us!”

“With my country or with the oppressors!” repeated Basilio in a low tone. The youth was stupefied. He gazed at the jeweler with eyes in which terror was reflected, he felt his limbs turn cold, while a thousand confused ideas whirled about in his mind. He saw the streets running blood, he heard the firing, he found himself among the dead and wounded, and by the peculiar force of his inclinations fancied himself in an operator’s blouse, cutting off legs and extracting bullets.

“The will of the government is in my hands,” said Simoun. “I’ve diverted and wasted its feeble strength and resources on foolish expeditions, dazzling it with the plunder it might seize. Its heads are now in the theater, calm and unsuspecting, thinking of a night of pleasure, but not one shall again repose upon a pillow. I have men and regiments at my disposition: some I have led to believe that the uprising is ordered by the General; others that the friars are bringing it about; some I have bought with promises, with employments, with money; many, very many, are acting from revenge, because they are oppressed and see it as a matter of killing or being killed. Cabesang Tales is below, he has come with me here! Again I ask you—will you come with us or do you prefer to expose yourself to the resentment of my followers? In critical moments, [230] to declare oneself neutral is to be exposed to the wrath of both the contending parties.”

Basilio rubbed his hand over his face several times, as if he were trying to wake from a nightmare. He felt that his brow was cold.

“Decide!” repeated Simoun.

“And what—what would I have to do?” asked the youth in a weak and broken voice.

“A very simple thing,” replied Simoun, his face lighting up with a ray of hope. “As I have to direct the movement, I cannot get away from the scene of action. I want you, while the attention of the whole city is directed elsewhere, at the head of a company to force the doors of the nunnery of St. Clara and take from there a person whom only you, besides myself and Capitan Tiago, can recognize. You’ll run no risk at all.”

“Maria Clara!” exclaimed Basilio.

“Yes, Maria Clara,” repeated Simoun, and for the first time his voice became human and compassionate. “I want to save her; to save her I have wished to live, I have returned. I am starting the revolution, because only a revolution can open the doors of the nunneries.”

“Ay!” sighed Basilio, clasping his hands. “You’ve come late, too late!”

“Why?” inquired Simoun with a frown.

“Maria Clara is dead!”

Simoun arose with a bound and stood over the youth. “She’s dead?” he demanded in a terrible voice.

“This afternoon, at six. By now she must be—”

“It’s a lie!” roared Simoun, pale and beside himself. “It’s false! Maria Clara lives, Maria Clara must live! It’s a cowardly excuse! She’s not dead, and this night I’ll free her or tomorrow you die!”

Basilio shrugged his shoulders. “Several days ago she was taken ill and I went to the nunnery for news of her. Look, here is Padre Salvi’s letter, brought by Padre Irene. Capitan Tiago wept all the evening, kissing his daughter’s [231] picture and begging her forgiveness, until at last he smoked an enormous quantity of opium. This evening her knell was tolled.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Simoun, pressing his hands to his head and standing motionless. He remembered to have actually heard the knell while he was pacing about in the vicinity of the nunnery.

“Dead!” he murmured in a voice so low that it seemed to be a ghost whispering. “Dead! Dead without my having seen her, dead without knowing that I lived for her—dead!”

Feeling a terrible storm, a tempest of whirlwind and thunder without a drop of water, sobs without tears, cries without words, rage in his breast and threaten to burst out like burning lava long repressed, he rushed precipitately from the room. Basilio heard him descend the stairs with unsteady tread, stepping heavily, he heard a stifled cry, a cry that seemed to presage death, so solemn, deep, and sad that he arose from his chair pale and trembling, but he could hear the footsteps die away and the noisy closing of the door to the street.

“Poor fellow!” he murmured, while his eyes filled with tears. Heedless now of his studies, he let his gaze wander into space as he pondered over the fate of those two beings: he—young, rich, educated, master of his fortunes, with a brilliant future before him; she—fair as a dream, pure, full of faith and innocence, nurtured amid love and laughter, destined to a happy existence, to be adored in the family and respected in the world; and yet of those two beings, filled with love, with illusions and hopes, by a fatal destiny he wandered over the world, dragged ceaselessly through a whirl of blood and tears, sowing evil instead of doing good, undoing virtue and encouraging vice, while she was dying in the mysterious shadows of the cloister where she had sought peace and perhaps found suffering, where she entered pure and stainless and expired like a crushed flower! [232]

Sleep in peace, ill-starred daughter of my hapless fatherland! Bury in the grave the enchantments of youth, faded in their prime! When a people cannot offer its daughters a tranquil home under the protection of sacred liberty, when a man can only leave to his widow blushes, tears to his mother, and slavery to his children, you do well to condemn yourself to perpetual chastity, stifling within you the germ of a future generation accursed! Well for you that you have not to shudder in your grave, hearing the cries of those who groan in darkness, of those who feel that they have wings and yet are fettered, of those who are stifled from lack of liberty! Go, go with your poet’s dreams into the regions of the infinite, spirit of woman dim-shadowed in the moonlight’s beam, whispered in the bending arches of the bamboo-brakes! Happy she who dies lamented, she who leaves in the heart that loves her a pure picture, a sacred remembrance, unspotted by the base passions engendered by the years! Go, we shall remember you! In the clear air of our native land, under its azure sky, above the billows of the lake set amid sapphire hills and emerald shores, in the crystal streams shaded by the bamboos, bordered by flowers, enlivened by the beetles and butterflies with their uncertain and wavering flight as though playing with the air, in the silence of our forests, in the singing of our rivers, in the diamond showers of our waterfalls, in the resplendent light of our moon, in the sighs of the night breeze, in all that may call up the vision of the beloved, we must eternally see you as we dreamed of you, fair, beautiful, radiant with hope, pure as the light, yet still sad and melancholy in the contemplation of our woes! [233]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIV-Dreams}

Dreams

 

Amor, qué astro eres?

 

On the following day, Thursday, at the hour of sunset, Isagani was walking along the beautiful promenade of Maria Cristina in the direction of the Malecon to keep an appointment which Paulita had that morning given him. The young man had no doubt that they were to talk about what had happened on the previous night, and as he was determined to ask for an explanation, and knew how proud and haughty she was, he foresaw an estrangement. In view of this eventuality he had brought with him the only two letters he had ever received from Paulita, two scraps of paper, whereon were merely a few hurriedly written lines with various blots, but in an even handwriting, things that did not prevent the enamored youth from preserving them with more solicitude than if they had been the autographs of Sappho and the Muse Polyhymnia.

This decision to sacrifice his love on the altar of dignity, the consciousness of suffering in the discharge of duty, did not prevent a profound melancholy from taking possession of Isagani and brought back into his mind the beautiful days, and nights more beautiful still, when they had whispered sweet nothings through the flowered gratings of the entresol, nothings that to the youth took on such a character of seriousness and importance that they seemed to him the only matters worthy of meriting the attention of the most exalted human understanding. He recalled the walks on moonlit nights, the fair, the dark December mornings after the mass of Nativity, the holy water that he used to offer her, when she would thank him with a look charged [234] with a whole epic of love, both of them trembling as their fingers touched. Heavy sighs, like small rockets, issued from his breast and brought back to him all the verses, all the sayings of poets and writers about the inconstancy of woman. Inwardly he cursed the creation of theaters, the French operetta, and vowed to get revenge on Pelaez at the first opportunity. Everything about him appeared under the saddest and somberest colors: the bay, deserted and solitary, seemed more solitary still on account of the few steamers that were anchored in it; the sun was dying behind Mariveles without poetry or enchantment, without the capricious and richly tinted clouds of happier evenings; the Anda monument, in bad taste, mean and squat, without style, without grandeur, looked like a lump of ice-cream or at best a chunk of cake; the people who were promenading along the Malecon, in spite of their complacent and contented air, appeared distant, haughty, and vain; mischievous and bad-mannered, the boys that played on the beach, skipping flat stones over the surface of the water or searching in the sand for mollusks and crustaceans which they caught for the mere fun of catching and killed without benefit to themselves; in short, even the eternal port works to which he had dedicated more than three odes, looked to him absurd, ridiculous child’s play.

The port, ah, the port of Manila, a bastard that since its conception had brought tears of humiliation and shame to all! If only after so many tears there were not being brought forth a useless abortion!

Abstractedly he saluted two Jesuits, former teachers of his, and scarcely noticed a tandem in which an American rode and excited the envy of the gallants who were in calesas only. Near the Anda monument he heard Ben-Zayb talking with another person about Simoun, learning that the latter had on the previous night been taken suddenly ill, that he refused to see any one, even the very aides of the General. “Yes!” exclaimed Isagani with a bitter smile, “for him attentions because he is rich. The soldiers return [235] from their expeditions sick and wounded, but no one visits them.”

Musing over these expeditions, over the fate of the poor soldiers, over the resistance offered by the islanders to the foreign yoke, he thought that, death for death, if that of the soldiers was glorious because they were obeying orders, that of the islanders was sublime because they were defending their homes.1

“A strange destiny, that of some peoples!” he mused. “Because a traveler arrives at their shores, they lose their liberty and become subjects and slaves, not only of the traveler, not only of his heirs, but even of all his countrymen, and not for a generation, but for all time! A strange conception of justice! Such a state of affairs gives ample right to exterminate every foreigner as the most ferocious monster that the sea can cast up!”

He reflected that those islanders, against whom his country was waging war, after all were guilty of no crime other than that of weakness. The travelers also arrived at the shores of other peoples, but finding them strong made no display of their strange pretension. With all their weakness the spectacle they presented seemed beautiful to him, and the names of the enemies, whom the newspapers did not fail to call cowards and traitors, appeared glorious to him, as they succumbed with glory amid the ruins of their crude fortifications, with greater glory even than the ancient Trojan heroes, for those islanders had carried away no Philippine Helen! In his poetic enthusiasm he thought of the young men of those islands who could cover themselves with glory in the eyes of their women, and in his amorous desperation he envied them because they could find a brilliant suicide. [236]

“Ah, I should like to die,” he exclaimed, “be reduced to nothingness, leave to my native land a glorious name, perish in its cause, defending it from foreign invasion, and then let the sun afterwards illumine my corpse, like a motionless sentinel on the rocks of the sea!”

The conflict with the Germans2 came into his mind and he almost felt sorry that it had been adjusted: he would gladly have died for the Spanish-Filipino banner before submitting to the foreigner.

“Because, after all,” he mused, “with Spain we are united by firm bonds—the past, history, religion, language—”

Language, yes, language! A sarcastic smile curled his lips. That very night they would hold a banquet in the pansitería to celebrate the demise of the academy of Castilian.

“Ay!” he sighed, “provided the liberals in Spain are like those we have here, in a little while the mother country will be able to count the number of the faithful!”

Slowly the night descended, and with it melancholy settled more heavily upon the heart of the young man, who had almost lost hope of seeing Paulita. The promenaders one by one left the Malecon for the Luneta, the music from which was borne to him in snatches of melodies on the fresh evening breeze; the sailors on a warship anchored in the river performed their evening drill, skipping about among the slender ropes like spiders; the boats one by one lighted their lamps, thus giving signs of life; while the beach,

 

Do el viento riza las calladas olas

Que con blando murmullo en la ribera

Se deslizan veloces por sí solas.3

 

[237]

as Alaejos says, exhaled in the distance thin, vapors that the moon, now at its full, gradually converted into mysterious transparent gauze.

A distant sound became audible, a noise that rapidly approached. Isagani turned his head and his heart began to beat violently. A carriage was coming, drawn by white horses, the white horses that he would know among a hundred thousand. In the carriage rode Paulita and her friend of the night before, with Doña Victorina.

Before the young man could take a step, Paulita had leaped to the ground with sylph-like agility and smiled at him with a smile full of conciliation. He smiled in return, and it seemed to him that all the clouds, all the black thoughts that before had beset him, vanished like smoke, the sky lighted up, the breeze sang, flowers covered the grass by the roadside. But unfortunately Doña Victorina was there and she pounced upon the young man to ask him for news of Don Tiburcio, since Isagani had undertaken to discover his hiding-place by inquiry among the students he knew.

“No one has been able to tell me up to now,” he answered, and he was telling the truth, for Don Tiburcio was really hidden in the house of the youth’s own uncle, Padre Florentino.

“Let him know,” declared Doña Victorina furiously, “that I’ll call in the Civil Guard. Alive or dead, I want to know where he is—because one has to wait ten years before marrying again.”

Isagani gazed at her in fright—Doña Victorina was thinking of remarrying! Who could the unfortunate be?

“What do you think of Juanito Pelaez?” she asked him suddenly.

Juanito! Isagani knew not what to reply. He was tempted to tell all the evil he knew of Pelaez, but a feeling of delicacy triumphed in his heart and he spoke well of his rival, for the very reason that he was such. Doña Victorina, entirely satisfied and becoming enthusiastic, then [238] broke out into exaggerations of Pelaez’s merits and was already going to make Isagani a confidant of her new passion when Paulita’s friend came running to say that the former’s fan had fallen among the stones of the beach, near the Malecon. Stratagem or accident, the fact is that this mischance gave an excuse for the friend to remain with the old woman, while Isagani might talk with Paulita. Moreover, it was a matter of rejoicing to Doña Victorina, since to get Juanito for herself she was favoring Isagani’s love.

Paulita had her plan ready. On thanking him she assumed the role of the offended party, showed resentment, and gave him to understand that she was surprised to meet him there when everybody was on the Luneta, even the French actresses.

“You made the appointment for me, how could I be elsewhere?”

“Yet last night you did not even notice that I was in the theater. I was watching you all the time and you never took your eyes off those cochers.”

So they exchanged parts: Isagani, who had come to demand explanations, found himself compelled to give them and considered himself very happy when Paulita said that she forgave him. In regard to her presence at the theater, he even had to thank her for that: forced by her aunt, she had decided to go in the hope of seeing him during the performance. Little she cared for Juanito Pelaez!

“My aunt’s the one who is in love with him,” she said with a merry laugh.

Then they both laughed, for the marriage of Pelaez with Doña Victorina made them really happy, and they saw it already an accomplished fact, until Isagani remembered that Don Tiburcio was still living and confided the secret to his sweetheart, after exacting her promise that she would tell no one. Paulita promised, with the mental reservation of relating it to her friend.

This led the conversation to Isagani’s town, surrounded [239] by forests, situated on the shore of the sea which roared at the base of the high cliffs. Isagani’s gaze lighted up when he spoke of that obscure spot, a flush of pride overspread his cheeks, his voice trembled, his poetic imagination glowed, his words poured forth burning, charged with enthusiasm, as if he were talking of love to his love, and he could not but exclaim:

“Oh, in the solitude of my mountains I feel free, free as the air, as the light that shoots unbridled through space! A thousand cities, a thousand palaces, would I give for that spot in the Philippines, where, far from men, I could feel myself to have genuine liberty. There, face to face with nature, in the presence of the mysterious and the infinite, the forest and the sea, I think, speak, and work like a man who knows not tyrants.”

In the presence of such enthusiasm for his native place, an enthusiasm that she did not comprehend, for she was accustomed to hear her country spoken ill of, and sometimes joined in the chorus herself, Paulita manifested some jealousy, as usual making herself the offended party.

But Isagani very quickly pacified her. “Yes,” he said, “I loved it above all things before I knew you! It was my delight to wander through the thickets, to sleep in the shade of the trees, to seat myself upon a cliff to take in with my gaze the Pacific which rolled its blue waves before me, bringing to me echoes of songs learned on the shores of free America. Before knowing you, that sea was for me my world, my delight, my love, my dream! When it slept in calm with the sun shining overhead, it was my delight to gaze into the abyss hundreds of feet below me, seeking monsters in the forests of madrepores and coral that were revealed through the limpid blue, enormous serpents that the country folk say leave the forests to dwell in the sea, and there take on frightful forms. Evening, they say, is the time when the sirens appear, and I saw them between the waves—so great was my eagerness that once I thought I could discern them amid the foam, busy in their divine [240] sports, I distinctly heard their songs, songs of liberty, and I made out the sounds of their silvery harps. Formerly I spent hours and hours watching the transformations in the clouds, or gazing at a solitary tree in the plain or a high rock, without knowing why, without being able to explain the vague feelings they awoke in me. My uncle used to preach long sermons to me, and fearing that I would become a hypochondriac, talked of placing me under a doctor’s care. But I met you, I loved you, and during the last vacation it seemed that something was lacking there, the forest was gloomy, sad the river that glides through the shadows, dreary the sea, deserted the sky. Ah, if you should go there once, if your feet should press those paths, if you should stir the waters of the rivulet with your fingers, if you should gaze upon the sea, sit upon the cliff, or make the air ring with your melodious songs, my forest would be transformed into an Eden, the ripples of the brook would sing, light would burst from the dark leaves, into diamonds would be converted the dewdrops and into pearls the foam of the sea.”

But Paulita had heard that to reach Isagani’s home it was necessary to cross mountains where little leeches abounded, and at the mere thought of them the little coward shivered convulsively. Humored and petted, she declared that she would travel only in a carriage or a railway train.

Having now forgotten all his pessimism and seeing only thornless roses about him, Isagani answered, “Within a short time all the islands are going to be crossed with networks of iron rails.

 

“‘Por donde rápidas

Y voladoras

Locomotoras

Corriendo irán,’4

 

as some one said. Then the most beautiful spots of the islands will be accessible to all.” [241]

“Then, but when? When I’m an old woman?”

“Ah, you don’t know what we can do in a few years,” replied the youth. “You don’t realize the energy and enthusiasm that are awakening in the country after the sleep of centuries. Spain heeds us; our young men in Madrid are working day and night, dedicating to the fatherland all their intelligence, all their time, all their strength. Generous voices there are mingled with ours, statesmen who realize that there is no better bond than community of thought and interest. Justice will be meted out to us, and everything points to a brilliant future for all. It’s true that we’ve just met with a slight rebuff, we students, but victory is rolling along the whole line, it is in the consciousness of all! The traitorous repulse that we have suffered indicates the last gasp, the final convulsions of the dying. Tomorrow we shall be citizens of the Philippines, whose destiny will be a glorious one, because it will be in loving hands. Ah, yes, the future is ours! I see it rose-tinted, I see the movement that stirs the life of these regions so long dead, lethargic. I see towns arise along the railroads, and factories everywhere, edifices like that of Mandaloyan! I hear the steam hiss, the trains roar, the engines rattle! I see the smoke rise—their heavy breathing; I smell the oil—the sweat of monsters busy at incessant toil. This port, so slow and laborious of creation, this river where commerce is in its death agony, we shall see covered with masts, giving us an idea of the forests of Europe in winter. This pure air, and these stones, now so clean, will be crowded with coal, with boxes and barrels, the products of human industry, but let it not matter, for we shall move about rapidly in comfortable coaches to seek in the interior other air, other scenes on other shores, cooler temperatures on the slopes of the mountains. The warships of our navy will guard our coasts, the Spaniard and the Filipino will rival each other in zeal to repel all foreign invasion, to defend our homes, and let you bask in peace and smiles, loved and respected. Free from the system of exploitation, [242] without hatred or distrust, the people will labor because then labor will cease to be a despicable thing, it will no longer be servile, imposed upon a slave. Then the Spaniard will not embitter his character with ridiculous pretensions of despotism, but with a frank look and a stout heart we shall extend our hands to one another, and commerce, industry, agriculture, the sciences, will develop under the mantle of liberty, with wise and just laws, as in prosperous England.”5

Paulita smiled dubiously and shook her head. “Dreams, dreams!” she sighed. “I’ve heard it said that you have many enemies. Aunt says that this country must always be enslaved.”

“Because your aunt is a fool, because she can’t live without slaves! When she hasn’t them she dreams of them in the future, and if they are not obtainable she forces them into her imagination. True it is that we have enemies, that there will be a struggle, but we shall conquer. The old system may convert the ruins of its castle into formless barricades, but we will take them singing hymns of liberty, in the light of the eyes of you women, to the applause of your lovely hands. But do not be uneasy—the struggle will be a pacific one. Enough that you spur us to zeal, that you awake in us noble and elevated thoughts and encourage us [243] to constancy, to heroism, with your affection for our reward.”

Paulita preserved her enigmatic smile and seemed thoughtful, as she gazed toward the river, patting her cheek lightly with her fan. “But if you accomplish nothing?” she asked abstractedly.

The question hurt Isagani. He fixed his eyes on his sweetheart, caught her lightly by the hand, and began: “Listen, if we accomplish nothing—”

He paused in doubt, then resumed: “You know how I love you, how I adore you, you know that I feel myself a different creature when your gaze enfolds me, when I surprise in it the flash of love, but yet if we accomplish nothing, I would dream of another look of yours and would die happy, because the light of pride could burn in your eyes when you pointed to my corpse and said to the world: ‘My love died fighting for the rights of my fatherland!’ ”

“Come home, child, you’re going to catch cold,” screeched Doña Victorina at that instant, and the voice brought them back to reality. It was time to return, and they kindly invited him to enter the carriage, an invitation which the young man did not give them cause to repeat. As it was Paulita’s carriage, naturally Doña Victorina and the friend occupied the back seat, while the two lovers sat on the smaller one in front.

To ride in the same carriage, to have her at his side, to breathe her perfume, to rub against the silk of her dress, to see her pensive with folded arms, lighted by the moon of the Philippines that lends to the meanest things idealism and enchantment, were all dreams beyond Isagani’s hopes! What wretches they who were returning alone on foot and had to give way to the swift carriage! In the whole course of the drive, along the beach and down the length of La Sabana, across the Bridge of Spain, Isagani saw nothing but a sweet profile, gracefully set off by beautiful hair, ending in an arching neck that lost itself amid the gauzy piña. A diamond winked at him from the lobe of the [244] little ear, like a star among silvery clouds. He heard faint echoes inquiring for Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, the name of Juanito Pelaez, but they sounded to him like distant bells, the confused noises heard in a dream. It was necessary to tell him that they had reached Plaza Santa Cruz. [245]

 


1 Referring to the expeditions—Misión Española Católica—to the Caroline and Pelew Islands from 1886 to 1895, headed by the Capuchin Fathers, which brought misery and disaster upon the natives of those islands, unprofitable losses and sufferings to the Filipino soldiers engaged in them, discredit to Spain, and decorations of merit to a number of Spanish officers.—Tr.

2 Over the possession of the Caroline and Pelew Islands. The expeditions referred to in the previous note were largely inspired by German activity with regard to those islands, which had always been claimed by Spain, who sold her claim to them to Germany after the loss of the Philippines.—Tr.

3 “Where the wind wrinkles the silent waves, that rapidly break, of their own movement, with a gentle murmur on the shore.”—Tr.

4 “Where rapid and winged engines will rush in flight.”—Tr.

5 There is something almost uncanny about the general accuracy of the prophecy in these lines, the economic part of which is now so well on the way to realization, although the writer of them would doubtless have been a very much surprised individual had he also foreseen how it would come about. But one of his own expressions was “fire and steel to the cancer,” and it surely got them.

On the very day that this passage was translated and this note written, the first commercial liner was tied up at the new docks, which have destroyed the Malecon but raised Manila to the front rank of Oriental seaports, and the final revision is made at Baguio, Mountain Province, amid the “cooler temperatures on the slopes of the mountains.” As for the political portion, it is difficult even now to contemplate calmly the blundering fatuity of that bigoted medieval brand of “patriotism” which led the decrepit Philippine government to play the Ancient Mariner and shoot the Albatross that brought this message.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXV-Smiles and Tears}

Smiles and Tears

The sala of the Pansiteria Macanista de Buen Gusto1 that night presented an extraordinary aspect. Fourteen young men of the principal islands of the archipelago, from the pure Indian (if there be pure ones) to the Peninsular Spaniard, were met to hold the banquet advised by Padre Irene in view of the happy solution of the affair about instruction in Castilian. They had engaged all the tables for themselves, ordered the lights to be increased, and had posted on the wall beside the landscapes and Chinese kakemonos this strange versicle:

“GLORY TO CUSTODIO FOR HIS CLEVERNESS AND PANSIT ON EABTH TO THE YOUTHS OF GOOD WILL.”

In a country where everything grotesque is covered with a mantle of seriousness, where many rise by the force of wind and hot air, in a country where the deeply serious and sincere may do damage on issuing from the heart and may cause trouble, probably this was the best way to celebrate the ingenious inspiration of the illustrious Don Custodio. The mocked replied to the mockery with a laugh, to the governmental joke with a plate of pansit, and yet—!

They laughed and jested, but it could be seen that the merriment was forced. The laughter had a certain nervous ring, eyes flashed, and in more than one of these a tear glistened. Nevertheless, these young men were cruel, they were unreasonable! It was not the first time that their most [246] beautiful ideas had been so treated, that their hopes had been defrauded with big words and small actions: before this Don Custodio there had been many, very many others.

In the center of the room under the red lanterns were placed four round tables, systematically arranged to form a square. Little wooden stools, equally round, served as seats. In the middle of each table, according to the practise of the establishment, were arranged four small colored plates with four pies on each one and four cups of tea, with the accompanying dishes, all of red porcelain. Before each seat was a bottle and two glittering wine-glasses.

Sandoval was curious and gazed about scrutinizing everything, tasting the food, examining the pictures, reading the bill of fare. The others conversed on the topics of the day: about the French actresses, about the mysterious illness of Simoun, who, according to some, had been found wounded in the street, while others averred that he had attempted to commit suicide. As was natural, all lost themselves in conjectures. Tadeo gave his particular version, which according to him came from a reliable source: Simoun had been assaulted by some unknown person in the old Plaza Vivac,2 the motive being revenge, in proof of which was the fact that Simoun himself refused to make the least explanation. From this they proceeded to talk of mysterious revenges, and naturally of monkish pranks, each one relating the exploits of the curate of his town.

A notice in large black letters crowned the frieze of the room with this warning:

 

De esta fonda el cabecilla

Al publico advierte

Que nada dejen absolutamente

Sobre alguna mesa ó silla.3

 

[247]

“What a notice!” exclaimed Sandoval. “As if he might have confidence in the police, eh? And what verses! Don Tiburcio converted into a quatrain—two feet, one longer than the other, between two crutches! If Isagani sees them, he’ll present them to his future aunt.”

“Here’s Isagani!” called a voice from the stairway. The happy youth appeared radiant with joy, followed by two Chinese, without camisas, who carried on enormous waiters tureens that gave out an appetizing odor. Merry exclamations greeted them.

Juanito Pelaez was missing, but the hour fixed had already passed, so they sat down happily to the tables. Juanito was always unconventional.

“If in his place we had invited Basilio,” said Tadeo, “we should have been better entertained. We might have got him drunk and drawn some secrets from him.”

“What, does the prudent Basilio possess secrets?”

“I should say so!” replied Tadeo. “Of the most important kind. There are some enigmas to which he alone has the key: the boy who disappeared, the nun—”

“Gentlemen, the pansit lang-lang is the soup par excellence!” cried Makaraig. “As you will observe, Sandoval, it is composed of vermicelli, crabs or shrimps, egg paste, scraps of chicken, and I don’t know what else. As first-fruits, let us offer the bones to Don Custodio, to see if he will project something with them.”

A burst of merry laughter greeted this sally.

“If he should learn—”

“He’d come a-running!” concluded Sandoval. “This is excellent soup—what is it called?”

Pansit lang-lang, that is, Chinese pansit, to distinguish it from that which is peculiar to this country.”

“Bah! That’s a hard name to remember. In honor of Don Custodio, I christen it the soup project!”

“Gentlemen,” said Makaraig, who had prepared the menu, “there are three courses yet. Chinese stew made of pork—” [248]

“Which should be dedicated to Padre Irene.”

“Get out! Padre Irene doesn’t eat pork, unless he turns his nose away,” whispered a young man from Iloilo to his neighbor.

“Let him turn his nose away!”

“Down with Padre Irene’s nose,” cried several at once.

“Respect, gentlemen, more respect!” demanded Pecson with comic gravity.

“The third course is a lobster pie—”

“Which should be dedicated to the friars,” suggested he of the Visayas.

“For the lobsters’ sake,” added Sandoval.

“Right, and call it friar pie!”

The whole crowd took this up, repeating in concert, “Friar pie!”

“I protest in the name of one of them,” said Isagani.

“And I, in the name of the lobsters,” added Tadeo.

“Respect, gentlemen, more respect!” again demanded Pecson with a full mouth.

“The fourth is stewed pansit, which is dedicated—to the government and the country!”

All turned toward Makaraig, who went on: “Until recently, gentlemen, the pansit was believed to be Chinese or Japanese, but the fact is that, being unknown in China or Japan, it would seem to be Filipino, yet those who prepare it and get the benefit from it are the Chinese—the same, the very, very same that happens to the government and to the Philippines: they seem to be Chinese, but whether they are or not, the Holy Mother has her doctors—all eat and enjoy it, yet characterize it as disagreeable and loathsome, the same as with the country, the same as with the government. All live at its cost, all share in its feast, and afterwards there is no worse country than the Philippines, there is no government more imperfect. Let us then dedicate the pansit to the country and to the government.”

“Agreed!” many exclaimed.

“I protest!” cried Isagani. [249]

“Respect for the weaker, respect for the victims,” called Pecson in a hollow voice, waving a chicken-bone in the air.

“Let’s dedicate the pansit to Quiroga the Chinaman, one of the four powers of the Filipino world,” proposed Isagani.

“No, to his Black Eminence.”

“Silence!” cautioned one mysteriously. “There are people in the plaza watching us, and walls have ears.”

True it was that curious groups were standing by the windows, while the talk and laughter in the adjoining houses had ceased altogether, as if the people there were giving their attention to what was occurring at the banquet. There was something extraordinary about the silence.

“Tadeo, deliver your speech,” Makaraig whispered to him.

It had been agreed that Sandoval, who possessed the most oratorical ability, should deliver the last toast as a summing up.

Tadeo, lazy as ever, had prepared nothing, so he found himself in a quandary. While disposing of a long string of vermicelli, he meditated how to get out of the difficulty, until he recalled a speech learned in school and decided to plagiarize it, with adulterations.

“Beloved brethren in project!” he began, gesticulating with two Chinese chop-sticks.

“Brute! Keep that chop-stick out of my hair!” cried his neighbor.

“Called by you to fill the void that has been left in—”

“Plagiarism!” Sandoval interrupted him. “That speech was delivered by the president of our lyceum.”

“Called by your election,” continued the imperturbable Tadeo, “to fill the void that has been left in my mind”—pointing to his stomach—“by a man famous for his Christian principles and for his inspirations and projects, worthy of some little remembrance, what can one like myself say of him, I who am very hungry, not having breakfasted?”

“Have a neck, my friend!” called a neighbor, offering that portion of a chicken. [250]

“There is one course, gentlemen, the treasure of a people who are today a tale and a mockery in the world, wherein have thrust their hands the greatest gluttons of the western regions of the earth—” Here he pointed with his chopsticks to Sandoval, who was struggling with a refractory chicken-wing.

“And eastern!” retorted the latter, describing a circle in the air with his spoon, in order to include all the banqueters.

“No interruptions!”

“I demand the floor!”

“I demand pickles!” added Isagani.

“Bring on the stew!”

All echoed this request, so Tadeo sat down, contented with having got out of his quandary.

The dish consecrated to Padre Irene did not appear to be extra good, as Sandoval cruelly demonstrated thus: “Shining with grease outside and with pork inside! Bring on the third course, the friar pie!”

The pie was not yet ready, although the sizzling of the grease in the frying-pan could be heard. They took advantage of the delay to drink, begging Pecson to talk.

Pecson crossed himself gravely and arose, restraining his clownish laugh with an effort, at the same time mimicking a certain Augustinian preacher, then famous, and beginning in a murmur, as though he were reading a text.

Si tripa plena laudal Deum, tripa famelica laudabit fratres—if the full stomach praises God, the hungry stomach will praise the friars. Words spoken by the Lord Custodio through the mouth of Ben-Zayb, in the journal El Grito de la Integridad, the second article, absurdity the one hundred and fifty-seventh.

“Beloved brethren in Christ: Evil blows its foul breath over the verdant shores of Frailandia, commonly called the Philippine Archipelago. No day passes but the attack is renewed, but there is heard some sarcasm against the reverend, venerable, infallible corporations, defenseless and unsupported. [251] Allow me, brethren, on this occasion to constitute myself a knight-errant to sally forth in defense of the unprotected, of the holy corporations that have reared us, thus again confirming the saving idea of the adage—a full stomach praises God, which is to say, a hungry stomach will praise the friars.”

“Bravo, bravo!”

“Listen,” said Isagani seriously, “I want you to understand that, speaking of friars, I respect one.”

Sandoval was getting merry, so he began to sing a shady couplet about the friars.

“Hear me, brethren!” continued Pecson. “Turn your gaze toward the happy days of your infancy, endeavor to analyze the present and ask yourselves about the future. What do you find? Friars, friars, and friars! A friar baptized you, confirmed you, visited you in school with loving zeal; a friar heard your first secret; he was the first to bring you into communion with God, to set your feet upon the pathway of life; friars were your first and friars will be your last teachers; a friar it is who opens the hearts of your sweethearts, disposing them to heed your sighs; a friar marries you, makes you travel over different islands to afford you changes of climate and diversion; he will attend your death-bed, and even though you mount the scaffold, there will the friar be to accompany you with his prayers and tears, and you may rest assured that he will not desert you until he sees you thoroughly dead. Nor does his charity end there—dead, he will then endeavor to bury you with all pomp, he will fight that your corpse pass through the church to receive his supplications, and he will only rest satisfied when he can deliver you into the hands of the Creator, purified here on earth, thanks to temporal punishments, tortures, and humiliations. Learned in the doctrines of Christ, who closes heaven against the rich, they, our redeemers and genuine ministers of the Saviour, seek every means to lift away our sins and bear them far, far off, there where the accursed Chinese and Protestants [252] dwell, to leave us this air, limpid, pure, healthful, in such a way that even should we so wish afterwards, we could not find a real to bring about our condemnation.

“If, then, their existence is necessary to our happiness, if wheresoever we turn we must encounter their delicate hands, hungering for kisses, that every day smooth the marks of abuse from our countenances, why not adore them and fatten them—why demand their impolitic expulsion? Consider for a moment the immense void that their absence would leave in our social system. Tireless workers, they improve and propagate the races! Divided as we are, thanks to our jealousies and our susceptibilities, the friars unite us in a common lot, in a firm bond, so firm that many are unable to move their elbows. Take away the friar, gentlemen, and you will see how the Philippine edifice will totter; lacking robust shoulders and hairy limbs to sustain it, Philippine life will again become monotonous, without the merry note of the playful and gracious friar, without the booklets and sermons that split our sides with laughter, without the amusing contrast between grand pretensions and small brains, without the actual, daily representations of the tales of Boccaccio and La Fontaine! Without the girdles and scapularies, what would you have our women do in the future—save that money and perhaps become miserly and covetous? Without the masses, novenaries, and processions, where will you find games of panguingui to entertain them in their hours of leisure? They would then have to devote themselves to their household duties and instead of reading diverting stories of miracles, we should then have to get them works that are not extant.

“Take away the friar and heroism will disappear, the political virtues will fall under the control of the vulgar. Take him away and the Indian will cease to exist, for the friar is the Father, the Indian is the Word! The former is the sculptor, the latter the statue, because all that we are, think, or do, we owe to the friar—to his patience, his toil, his perseverance of three centuries to modify the form [253] Nature gave us. The Philippines without the friar and without the Indian—what then would become of the unfortunate government in the hands of the Chinamen?”

“It will eat lobster pie,” suggested Isagani, whom Pecson’s speech bored.

“And that’s what we ought to be doing. Enough of speeches!”

As the Chinese who should have served the courses did not put in his appearance, one of the students arose and went to the rear, toward the balcony that overlooked the river. But he returned at once, making mysterious signs.

“We’re watched! I’ve seen Padre Sibyla’s pet!”

“Yes?” ejaculated Isagani, rising.

“It’s no use now. When he saw me he disappeared.”

Approaching the window he looked toward the plaza, then made signs to his companions to come nearer. They saw a young man leave the door of the pansitería, gaze all about him, then with some unknown person enter a carriage that waited at the curb. It was Simoun’s carriage.

“Ah!” exclaimed Makaraig. “The slave of the Vice-Rector attended by the Master of the General!” [254]

 


1 These establishments are still a notable feature of native life in Manila. Whether the author adopted a title already common or popularized one of his own invention, the fact is that they are now invariably known by the name used here. The use of macanista was due to the presence in Manila of a large number of Chinese from Macao.—Tr.

2 Originally, Plaza San Gabriel, from the Dominican mission for the Chinese established there; later, as it became a commercial center, Plaza Vivac; and now known as Plaza Cervantes, being the financial center of Manila.—Tr.

3 “The manager of this restaurant warns the public to leave absolutely nothing on any table or chair.”—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVI-Pasquinades}

Pasquinades

Very early the next morning Basilio arose to go to the hospital. He had his plans made: to visit his patients, to go afterwards to the University to see about his licentiateship, and then have an interview with Makaraig about the expense this would entail, for he had used up the greater part of his savings in ransoming Juli and in securing a house where she and her grandfather might live, and he had not dared to apply to Capitan Tiago, fearing that such a move would be construed as an advance on the legacy so often promised him.

Preoccupied with these thoughts, he paid no attention to the groups of students who were at such an early hour returning from the Walled City, as though the classrooms had been closed, nor did he even note the abstracted air of some of them, their whispered conversations, or the mysterious signals exchanged among them. So it was that when he reached San Juan de Dios and his friends asked him about the conspiracy, he gave a start, remembering what Simoun had planned, but which had miscarried, owing to the unexplained accident to the jeweler. Terrified, he asked in a trembling voice, at the same time endeavoring to feign ignorance, “Ah, yes, what conspiracy?”

“It’s been discovered,” replied one, “and it seems that many are implicated in it.”

With an effort Basilio controlled himself. “Many implicated?” he echoed, trying to learn something from the looks of the others. “Who?”

“Students, a lot of students.”

Basilio did not think it prudent to ask more, fearing [255] that he would give himself away, so on the pretext of visiting his patients he left the group. One of the clinical professors met him and placing his hand mysteriously on the youth’s shoulder—the professor was a friend of his—asked him in a low voice, “Were you at that supper last night?”

In his excited frame of mind Basilio thought the professor had said night before last, which was the time of his interview with Simoun. He tried to explain. “I assure you,” he stammered, “that as Capitan Tiago was worse—and besides I had to finish that book—”

“You did well not to attend it,” said the professor. “But you’re a member of the students’ association?”

“I pay my dues.”

“Well then, a piece of advice: go home at once and destroy any papers you have that may compromise you.”

Basilio shrugged his shoulders—he had no papers, nothing more than his clinical notes.

“Has Señor Simoun—”

“Simoun has nothing to do with the affair, thank God!” interrupted the physician. “He was opportunely wounded by some unknown hand and is now confined to his bed. No, other hands are concerned in this, but hands no less terrible.”

Basilio drew a breath of relief. Simoun was the only one who could compromise him, although he thought of Cabesang Tales.

“Are there tulisanes—”

“No, man, nothing more than students.”

Basilio recovered his serenity. “What has happened then?” he made bold to ask.

“Seditious pasquinades have been found; didn’t you know about them?”

“Where?”

“In the University.”

“Nothing more than that?”

“Whew! What more do you want?” asked the professor, [256] almost in a rage. “The pasquinades are attributed to the students of the association—but, keep quiet!”

The professor of pathology came along, a man who had more the look of a sacristan than of a physician. Appointed by the powerful mandate of the Vice-Rector, without other merit than unconditional servility to the corporation, he passed for a spy and an informer in the eyes of the rest of the faculty.

The first professor returned his greeting coldly, and winked to Basilio, as he said to him, “Now I know that Capitan Tiago smells like a corpse—the crows and vultures have been gathering around him.” So saying, he went inside.

Somewhat calmed, Basilio now ventured to inquire for more details, but all that he could learn was that pasquinades had been found on the doors of the University, and that the Vice-Rector had ordered them to be taken down and sent to the Civil Government. It was said that they were filled with threats of assassination, invasion, and other braggadocio.

The students made their comments on the affair. Their information came from the janitor, who had it from a servant in Santo Tomas, who had it from an usher. They prognosticated future suspensions and imprisonments, even indicating who were to be the victims—naturally the members of the association.

Basilio then recalled Simoun’s words: “The day in which they can get rid of you, you will not complete your course.”

“Could he have known anything?” he asked himself. “We’ll see who is the most powerful.”

Recovering his serenity, he went on toward the University, to learn what attitude it behooved him to take and at the same time to see about his licentiateship. He passed along Calle Legazpi, then down through Beaterio, and upon arriving at the corner of this street and Calle Solana saw that something important must indeed have happened. Instead of the former lively, chattering groups on the sidewalks [257] were to be seen civil-guards making the students move on, and these latter issuing from the University silent, some gloomy, some agitated, to stand off at a distance or make their way home.

The first acquaintance he met was Sandoval, but Basilio called to him in vain. He seemed to have been smitten deaf. “Effect of fear on the gastro-intestinal juices,” thought Basilio.

Later he met Tadeo, who wore a Christmas face—at last that eternal holiday seemed to be realized.

“What has happened, Tadeo?”

“We’ll have no school, at least for a week, old man! Sublime! Magnificent!” He rubbed his hands in glee.

“But what has happened?”

“They’re going to arrest all of us in the association.”

“And are you glad of that?”

“There’ll be no school, there’ll be no school!” He moved away almost bursting with joy.

Basilio saw Juanito Pelaez approaching, pale and suspicious. This time his hump had reached its maximum, so great was his haste to get away. He had been one of the most active promoters of the association while things were running smoothly.

“Eh, Pelaez, what’s happened?”

“Nothing, I know nothing. I didn’t have anything to do with it,” he responded nervously. “I was always telling you that these things were quixotisms. It’s the truth, you know I’ve said so to you?”

Basilio did not remember whether he had said so or not, but to humor him replied, “Yes, man, but what’s happened?”

“It’s the truth, isn’t it? Look, you’re a witness: I’ve always been opposed—you’re a witness, don’t forget it!”

“Yes, man, but what’s going on?”

“Listen, you’re a witness! I’ve never had anything to do with the members of the association, except to give them [258] advice. You’re not going to deny it now. Be careful, won’t you?”

“No, no, I won’t deny it, but for goodness’ sake, what has happened?”

But Juanito was already far away. He had caught a glimpse of a guard approaching and feared arrest.

Basilio then went on toward the University to see if perhaps the secretary’s office might be open and if he could glean any further news. The office was closed, but there was an extraordinary commotion in the building. Hurrying up and down the stairways were friars, army officers, private persons, old lawyers and doctors, there doubtless to offer their services to the endangered cause.

At a distance he saw his friend Isagani, pale and agitated, but radiant with youthful ardor, haranguing some fellow students with his voice raised as though he cared little that he be heard by everybody.

“It seems preposterous, gentlemen, it seems unreal, that an incident so insignificant should scatter us and send us into flight like sparrows at whom a scarecrow has been shaken! But is this the first time that students have gone to prison for the sake of liberty? Where are those who have died, those who have been shot? Would you apostatize now?”

“But who can the fool be that wrote such pasquinades?” demanded an indignant listener.

“What does that matter to us?” rejoined Isagani. “We don’t have to find out, let them find out! Before we know how they are drawn up, we have no need to make any show of agreement at a time like this. There where the danger is, there must we hasten, because honor is there! If what the pasquinades say is compatible with our dignity and our feelings, be he who he may that wrote them, he has done well, and we ought to be grateful to him and hasten to add our signatures to his! If they are unworthy of us, our conduct and our consciences will in themselves protest and defend us from every accusation!” [259]

Upon hearing such talk, Basilio, although he liked Isagani very much, turned and left. He had to go to Makaraig’s house to see about the loan.

Near the house of the wealthy student he observed whisperings and mysterious signals among the neighbors, but not comprehending what they meant, continued serenely on his way and entered the doorway. Two guards advanced and asked him what he wanted. Basilio realized that he had made a bad move, but he could not now retreat.

“I’ve come to see my friend Makaraig,” he replied calmly.

The guards looked at each other. “Wait here,” one of them said to him. “Wait till the corporal comes down.”

Basilio bit his lips and Simoun’s words again recurred to him. Had they come to arrest Makaraig?—was his thought, but he dared not give it utterance. He did not have to wait long, for in a few moments Makaraig came down, talking pleasantly with the corporal. The two were preceded by a warrant officer.

“What, you too, Basilio?” he asked.

“I came to see you—”

“Noble conduct!” exclaimed Makaraig laughing. “In time of calm, you avoid us.”

The corporal asked Basilio his name, then scanned a list. “Medical student, Calle Anloague?” he asked.

Basilio bit his lip.

“You’ve saved us a trip,” added the corporal, placing his hand on the youth’s shoulder. “You’re under arrest!”

“What, I also?”

Makaraig burst out into laughter.

“Don’t worry, friend. Let’s get into the carriage, while I tell you about the supper last night.”

With a graceful gesture, as though he were in his own house, he invited the warrant officer and the corporal to enter the carriage that waited at the door.

“To the Civil Government!” he ordered the cochero.

Now that Basilio had again regained his composure, he [260] told Makaraig the object of his visit. The rich student did not wait for him to finish, but seized his hand. “Count on me, count on me, and to the festivities celebrating our graduation we’ll invite these gentlemen,” he said, indicating the corporal and the warrant officer. [261]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVII-The Friar and the Filipino}

The Friar and the Filipino

 

Vox populi, vox Dei

 

We left Isagani haranguing his friends. In the midst of his enthusiasm an usher approached him to say that Padre Fernandez, one of the higher professors, wished to talk with him.

Isagani’s face fell. Padre Fernandez was a person greatly respected by him, being the one always excepted by him whenever the friars were attacked.

“What does Padre Fernandez want?” he inquired.

The usher shrugged his shoulders and Isagani reluctantly followed him.

Padre Fernandez, the friar whom we met in Los Baños, was waiting in his cell, grave and sad, with his brows knitted as if he were in deep thought. He arose as Isagani entered, shook hands with him, and closed the door. Then he began to pace from one end of the room to the other. Isagani stood waiting for him to speak.

“Señor Isagani,” he began at length with some emotion, “from the window I’ve heard you speaking, for though I am a consumptive I have good ears, and I want to talk with you. I have always liked the young men who express themselves clearly and have their own way of thinking and acting, no matter that their ideas may differ from mine. You young men, from what I have heard, had a supper last night. Don’t excuse yourself—”

“I don’t intend to excuse myself!” interrupted Isagani.

“So much the better—it shows that you accept the consequences of your actions. Besides, you would do ill in [262] retracting, and I don’t blame you, I take no notice of what may have been said there last night, I don’t accuse you, because after all you’re free to say of the Dominicans what seems best to you, you are not a pupil of ours—only this year have we had the pleasure of having you, and we shall probably not have you longer. Don’t think that I’m going to invoke considerations of gratitude; no, I’m not going to waste my time in stupid vulgarisms. I’ve had you summoned here because I believe that you are one of the few students who act from conviction, and, as I like men of conviction, I’m going to explain myself to Señor Isagani.”

Padre Fernandez paused, then continued his walk with bowed head, his gaze riveted on the floor.

“You may sit down, if you wish,” he remarked. “It’s a habit of mine to walk about while talking, because my ideas come better then.”

Isagani remained standing, with his head erect, waiting for the professor to get to the point of the matter.

“For more than eight years I have been a professor here,” resumed Padre Fernandez, still continuing to pace back and forth, “and in that time I’ve known and dealt with more than twenty-five hundred students. I’ve taught them, I’ve tried to educate them, I’ve tried to inculcate in them principles of justice and of dignity, and yet in these days when there is so much murmuring against us I’ve not seen one who has the temerity to maintain his accusations when he finds himself in the presence of a friar, not even aloud in the presence of any numbers. Young men there are who behind our backs calumniate us and before us kiss our hands, with a base smile begging kind looks from us! Bah! What do you wish that we should do with such creatures?”

“The fault is not all theirs, Padre,” replied Isagani. “The fault lies partly with those who have taught them to be hypocrites, with those who have tyrannized over freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Here every independent [263] thought, every word that is not an echo of the will of those in power, is characterized as filibusterism, and you know well enough what that means. A fool would he be who to please himself would say aloud what he thinks, who would lay himself liable to suffer persecution!”

“What persecution have you had to suffer?” asked Padre Fernandez, raising his head. “Haven’t I let you express yourself freely in my class? Nevertheless, you are an exception that, if what you say is true, I must correct, so as to make the rule as general as possible and thus avoid setting a bad example.”

Isagani smiled. “I thank you, but I will not discuss with you whether I am an exception. I will accept your qualification so that you may accept mine: you also are an exception, and as here we are not going to talk about exceptions, nor plead for ourselves, at least, I mean, I’m not, I beg of my professor to change the course of the conversation.”

In spite of his liberal principles, Padre Fernandez raised his head and stared in surprise at Isagani. That young man was more independent than he had thought—although he called him professor, in reality he was dealing with him as an equal, since he allowed himself to offer suggestions. Like a wise diplomat, Padre Fernandez not only recognized the fact but even took his stand upon it.

“Good enough!” he said. “But don’t look upon me as your professor. I’m a friar and you are a Filipino student, nothing more nor less! Now I ask you—what do the Filipino students want of us?”

The question came as a surprise; Isagani was not prepared for it. It was a thrust made suddenly while they were preparing their defense, as they say in fencing. Thus startled, Isagani responded with a violent stand, like a beginner defending himself.

“That you do your duty!” he exclaimed.

Fray Fernandez straightened up—that reply sounded to him like a cannon-shot. “That we do our duty!” he [264] repeated, holding himself erect. “Don’t we, then, do our duty? What duties do you ascribe to us?”

“Those which you voluntarily placed upon yourselves on joining the order, and those which afterwards, once in it, you have been willing to assume. But, as a Filipino student, I don’t think myself called upon to examine your conduct with reference to your statutes, to Catholicism, to the government, to the Filipino people, and to humanity in general—those are questions that you have to settle with your founders, with the Pope, with the government, with the whole people, and with God. As a Filipino student, I will confine myself to your duties toward us. The friars in general, being the local supervisors of education in the provinces, and the Dominicans in particular, by monopolizing in their hands all the studies of the Filipino youth, have assumed the obligation to its eight millions of inhabitants, to Spain, and to humanity, of which we form a part, of steadily bettering the young plant, morally and physically, of training it toward its happiness, of creating a people honest, prosperous, intelligent, virtuous, noble, and loyal. Now I ask you in my turn—have the friars fulfilled that obligation of theirs?”

“We’re fulfilling—”

“Ah, Padre Fernandez,” interrupted Isagani, “you with your hand on your heart can say that you are fulfilling it, but with your hand on the heart of your order, on the heart of all the orders, you cannot say that without deceiving yourself. Ah, Padre Fernandez, when I find myself in the presence of a person whom I esteem and respect, I prefer to be the accused rather than the accuser, I prefer to defend myself rather than take the offensive. But now that we have entered upon the discussion, let us carry it to the end! How do they fulfill their obligation, those who look after education in the towns? By hindering it! And those who here monopolize education, those who try to mold the mind of youth, to the exclusion of all others whomsoever, how do they carry out their mission? By [265] curtailing knowledge as much as possible, by extinguishing all ardor and enthusiasm, by trampling on all dignity, the soul’s only refuge, by inculcating in us worn-out ideas, rancid beliefs, false principles incompatible with a life of progress! Ah, yes, when it is a question of feeding convicts, of providing for the maintenance of criminals, the government calls for bids in order to find the purveyor who offers the best means of subsistence, he who at least will not let them perish from hunger, but when it is a question of morally feeding a whole people, of nourishing the intellect of youth, the healthiest part, that which is later to be the country and the all, the government not only does not ask for any bid, but restricts the power to that very body which makes a boast of not desiring education, of wishing no advancement. What should we say if the purveyor for the prisons, after securing the contract by intrigue, should then leave the prisoners to languish in want, giving them only what is stale and rancid, excusing himself afterwards by saying that it is not convenient for the prisoners to enjoy good health, because good health brings merry thoughts, because merriment improves the man, and the man ought not to be improved, because it is to the purveyor’s interest that there be many criminals? What should we say if afterwards the government and the purveyor should agree between themselves that of the ten or twelve cuartos which one received for each criminal, the other should receive five?”

Padre Fernandek bit his lip. “Those are grave charges,” he said, “and you are overstepping the limits of our agreement.”

“No, Padre, not if I continue to deal with the student question. The friars—and I do not say, you friars, since I do not confuse you with the common herd—the friars of all the orders have constituted themselves our mental purveyors, yet they say and shamelessly proclaim that it is not expedient for us to become enlightened, because some day we shall declare ourselves free! That is just the same [266] as not wishing the prisoner to be well-fed so that he may improve and get out of prison. Liberty is to man what education is to the intelligence, and the friars’ unwillingness that we have it is the origin of our discontent.”

“Instruction is given only to those who deserve it,” rejoined Padre Fernandez dryly. “To give it to men without character and without morality is to prostitute it.”

“Why are there men without character and without morality?”

The Dominican shrugged his shoulders. “Defects that they imbibe with their mothers’ milk, that they breathe in the bosom of the family—how do I know?”

“Ah, no, Padre Fernandez!” exclaimed the young man impetuously. “You have not dared to go into the subject deeply, you have not wished to gaze into the depths from fear of finding yourself there in the darkness of your brethren. What we are, you have made us. A people tyrannized over is forced to be hypocritical; a people denied the truth must resort to lies; and he who makes himself a tyrant breeds slaves. There is no morality, you say, so let it be—even though statistics can refute you in that here are not committed crimes like those among other peoples, blinded by the fumes of their moralizers. But, without attempting now to analyze what it is that forms the character and how far the education received determines morality, I will agree with you that we are defective. Who is to blame for that? You who for three centuries and a half have had in your hands our education, or we who submit to everything? If after three centuries and a half the artist has been able to produce only a caricature, stupid indeed he must be!”

“Or bad enough the material he works upon.”

“Stupider still then, when, knowing it to be bad, he does not give it up, but goes on wasting time. Not only is he stupid, but he is a cheat and a robber, because he knows that his work is useless, yet continues to draw his salary. Not only is he stupid and a thief, he is a villain in that [267] he prevents any other workman from trying his skill to see if he might not produce something worth while! The deadly jealousy of the incompetent!”

The reply was sharp and Padre Fernandez felt himself caught. To his gaze Isagani appeared gigantic, invincible, convincing, and for the first time in his life he felt beaten by a Filipino student. He repented of having provoked the argument, but it was too late to turn back. In this quandary, finding himself confronted with such a formidable adversary, he sought a strong shield and laid hold of the government.

“You impute all the faults to us, because you see only us, who are near,” he said in a less haughty tone. “It’s natural and doesn’t surprise me. A person hates the soldier or policeman who arrests him and not the judge who sends him to prison. You and we are both dancing to the same measure of music—if at the same note you lift your foot in unison with us, don’t blame us for it, it’s the music that is directing our movements. Do you think that we friars have no consciences and that we do not desire what is right? Do you believe that we do not think about you, that we do not heed our duty, that we only eat to live, and live to rule? Would that it were so! But we, like you, follow the cadence, finding ourselves between Scylla and Charybdis: either you reject us or the government rejects us. The government commands, and he who commands, commands,—and must be obeyed!”

“From which it may be inferred,” remarked Isagani with a bitter smile, “that the government wishes our demoralization.”

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean that! What I meant to say is that there are beliefs, there are theories, there are laws, which, dictated with the best intention, produce the most deplorable consequences. I’ll explain myself better by citing an example. To stamp out a small evil, there are dictated many laws that cause greater evils still: ‘corruptissima in republica plurimae leges,’ said Tacitus. To prevent [268] one case of fraud, there are provided a million and a half preventive or humiliating regulations, which produce the immediate effect of awakening in the public the desire to elude and mock such regulations. To make a people criminal, there’s nothing more needed than to doubt its virtue. Enact a law, not only here, but even in Spain, and you will see how the means of evading it will be sought, and this is for the very reason that the legislators have overlooked the fact that the more an object is hidden, the more a sight of it is desired. Why are rascality and astuteness regarded as great qualities in the Spanish people, when there is no other so noble, so proud, so chivalrous as it? Because our legislators, with the best intentions, have doubted its nobility, wounded its pride, challenged its chivalry! Do you wish to open in Spain a road among the rocks? Then place there an imperative notice forbidding the passage, and the people, in order to protest against the order, will leave the highway to clamber over the rocks. The day on which some legislator in Spain forbids virtue and commands vice, then all will become virtuous!”

The Dominican paused for a brief space, then resumed: “But you may say that we are getting away from the subject, so I’ll return to it. What I can say to you, to convince you, is that the vices from which you suffer ought to be ascribed by you neither to us nor to the government. They are due to the imperfect organization of our social system: qui multum probat, nihil probat, one loses himself through excessive caution, lacking what is necessary and having too much of what is superfluous.”

“If you admit those defects in your social system,” replied Isagani, “why then do you undertake to regulate alien societies, instead of first devoting your attention to yourselves?”

“We’re getting away from the subject, young man. The theory in accomplished facts must be accepted.”

“So let it be! I accept it because it is an accomplished [269] fact, but I will further ask: why, if your social organization is defective, do you not change it or at least give heed to the cry of those who are injured by it?”

“We’re still far away. Let’s talk about what the students want from the friars.”

“From the moment when the friars hide themselves behind the government, the students have to turn to it.”

This statement was true and there appeared no means of ignoring it.

“I’m not the government and I can’t answer for its acts. What do the students wish us to do for them within the limits by which we are confined?”

“Not to oppose the emancipation of education but to favor it.”

The Dominican shook his head. “Without stating my own opinion, that is asking us to commit suicide,” he said.

“On the contrary, it is asking you for room to pass in order not to trample upon and crush you.”

“Ahem!” coughed Padre Fernandez, stopping and remaining thoughtful. “Begin by asking something that does not cost so much, something that any one of us can grant without abatement of dignity or privilege, for if we can reach an understanding and dwell in peace, why this hatred, why this distrust?”

“Then let’s get down to details.”

“Yes, because if we disturb the foundation, we’ll bring down the whole edifice.”

“Then let’s get down to details, let’s leave the region of abstract principles,” rejoined Isagani with a smile, “and also without stating my own opinion,”—the youth accented these words—“the students would desist from their attitude and soften certain asperities if the professors would try to treat them better than they have up to the present. That is in their hands.”

“What?” demanded the Dominican. “Have the students any complaint to make about my conduct?”

“Padre, we agreed from the start not to talk of yourself [270] or of myself, we’re speaking generally. The students, besides getting no great benefit out of the years spent in the classes, often leave there remnants of their dignity, if not the whole of it.”

Padre Fernandez again bit his lip. “No one forces them to study—the fields are uncultivated,” he observed dryly.

“Yes, there is something that impels them to study,” replied Isagani in the same tone, looking the Dominican full in the face. “Besides the duty of every one to seek his own perfection, there is the desire innate in man to cultivate his intellect, a desire the more powerful here in that it is repressed. He who gives his gold and his life to the State has the right to require of it opporttmity better to get that gold and better to care for his life. Yes, Padre, there is something that impels them, and that something is the government itself. It is you yourselves who pitilessly ridicule the uncultured Indian and deny him his rights, on the ground that he is ignorant. You strip him and then scoff at his nakedness.”

Padre Fernandez did not reply, but continued to pace about feverishly, as though very much agitated.

“You say that the fields are not cultivated,” resumed Isagani in a changed tone, after a brief pause. “Let’s not enter upon an analysis of the reason for this, because we should get far away. But you, Padre Fernandez, you, a teacher, you, a learned man, do you wish a people of peons and laborers? In your opinion, is the laborer the perfect state at which man may arrive in his development? Or is it that you wish knowledge for yourself and labor for the rest?”

“No, I want knowledge for him who deserves it, for him who knows how to use it,” was the reply. “When the students demonstrate that they love it, when young men of conviction appear, young men who know how to maintain their dignity and make it respected, then there will be knowledge, then there will be considerate professors! If [271] there are now professors who resort to abuse, it is because there are pupils who submit to it.”

“When there are professors, there will be students!”

“Begin by reforming yourselves, you who have need of change, and we will follow.”

“Yes,” said Isagani with a bitter laugh, “let us begin it, because the difficulty is on our side. Well you know what is expected of a pupil who stands before a professor—you yourself, with all your love of justice, with all your kind sentiments, have been restraining yourself by a great effort while I have been telling you bitter truths, you yourself, Padre Fernandez! What good has been secured by him among us who has tried to inculcate other ideas? What evils have not fallen upon you because you have tried to be just and perform your duty?”

“Señor Isagani,” said the Dominican, extending his hand, “although it may seem that nothing practical has resulted from this conversation, yet something has been gained. I’ll talk to my brethren about what you have told me and I hope that something can be done. Only I fear that they won’t believe in your existence.”

“I fear the same,” returned Isagani, shaking the Dominican’s hand. “I fear that my friends will not believe in your existence, as you have revealed yourself to me today.”1 [272]

Considering the interview at an end, the young man took his leave.

Padre Fernandez opened the door and followed him with his gaze until he disappeared around a corner in the corridor. For some time he listened to the retreating footsteps, then went back into his cell and waited for the youth to appear in the street.

He saw him and actually heard him say to a friend who asked where he was going: “To the Civil Government! I’m going to see the pasquinades and join the others!”

His startled friend stared at him as one would look at a person who is about to commit suicide, then moved away from him hurriedly.

“Poor boy!” murmured Padre Fernandez, feeling his eyes moisten. “I grudge you to the Jesuits who educated you.”

But Padre Fernandez was completely mistaken; the Jesuits repudiated Isagani2 when that afternoon they learned that he had been arrested, saying that he would compromise them. “That young man has thrown himself away, he’s going to do us harm! Let it be understood that he didn’t get those ideas here.”

Nor were the Jesuits wrong. No! Those ideas come only from God through the medium of Nature. [273]

 


1 “We do not believe in the verisimilitude of this dialogue, fabricated by the author in order to refute the arguments of the friars, whose pride was so great that it would not permit any Isagani to tell them these truths face to face. The invention of Padre Fernandez as a Dominican professor is a stroke of generosity on Rizal’s part, in conceding that there could have existed any friar capable of talking frankly with an Indian.”—W. E. Retana, in note to this chapter in the edition published by him at Barcelona in 1908. Retana ought to know of what he is writing, for he was in the employ of the friars for several years and later in Spain wrote extensively for the journal supported by them to defend their position in the Philippines. He has also been charged with having strongly urged Rizal’s execution in 1896. Since 1898, however, he has doubled about, or, perhaps more aptly, performed a journalistic somersault—having written a diffuse biography and other works dealing with Rizal. He is strong in unassorted [272n] facts, but his comments, when not inane and wearisome, approach a maudlin wail over “spilt milk,” so the above is given at its face value only.—Tr.

2 Quite suggestive of, and perhaps inspired by, the author’s own experience.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXVIII-Tatakut}

Tatakut

With prophetic inspiration Ben-Zayb had been for some days past maintaining in his newspaper that education was disastrous, very disastrous for the Philippine Islands, and now in view of the events of that Friday of pasquinades, the writer crowed and chanted his triumph, leaving belittled and overwhelmed his adversary Horatius, who in the Pirotecnia had dared to ridicule him in the following manner:

 

From our contemporary, El Grito:

“Education is disastrous, very disastrous, for the Philippine Islands.”

Admitted.

For some time El Grito has pretended to represent the Filipino people—ergo, as Fray Ibañez would say, if he knew Latin.

But Fray Ibañez turns Mussulman when he writes, and we know how the Mussulmans dealt with education. In witness whereof, as a royal preacher said, the Alexandrian library!

 

Now he was right, he, Ben-Zayb! He was the only one in the islands who thought, the only one who foresaw events!

Truly, the news that seditious pasquinades had been found on the doors of the University not only took away the appetite from many and disturbed the digestion of others, but it even rendered the phlegmatic Chinese uneasy, so that they no longer dared to sit in their shops with one leg drawn up as usual, from fear of losing time in extending it in order to put themselves into flight. At eight o’clock in the morning, although the sun continued on its course and his Excellency, the Captain-General, did not appear at the head of his victorious cohorts, still the [274] excitement had increased. The friars who were accustomed to frequent Quiroga’s bazaar did not put in their appearance, and this symptom presaged terrific cataclysms. If the sun had risen a square and the saints appeared only in pantaloons, Quiroga would not have been so greatly alarmed, for he would have taken the sun for a gaming-table and the sacred images for gamblers who had lost their camisas, but for the friars not to come, precisely when some novelties had just arrived for them!

By means of a provincial friend of his, Quiroga forbade entrance into his gaming-houses to every Indian who was not an old acquaintance, as the future Chinese consul feared that they might get possession of the sums that the wretches lost there. After arranging his bazaar in such a way that he could close it quickly in case of need, he had a policeman accompany him for the short distance that separated his house from Simoun’s. Quiroga thought this occasion the most propitious for making use of the rifles and cartridges that he had in his warehouse, in the way the jeweler had pointed out; so that on the following days there would be searches made, and then—how many prisoners, how many terrified people would give up their savings! It was the game of the old carbineers, in slipping contraband cigars and tobacco-leaves under a house, in order to pretend a search and force the unfortunate owner to bribery or fines, only now the art had been perfected and, the tobacco monopoly abolished, resort was had to the prohibited arms.

But Simoun refused to see any one and sent word to the Chinese that he should leave things as they were, whereupon he went to see Don Custodio to inquire whether he should fortify his bazaar, but neither would Don Custodio receive him, being at the time engaged in the study of a project for defense in case of a siege. He thought of Ben-Zayb as a source of information, but finding the writer armed to the teeth and using two loaded revolvers for paper-weights, took his leave in the shortest possible [275] time, to shut himself up in his house and take to his bed under pretense of illness.

At four in the afternoon the talk was no longer of simple pasquinades. There were whispered rumors of an understanding between the students and the outlaws of San Mateo, it was certain that in the pansitería they had conspired to surprise the city, there was talk of German ships outside the bay to support the movement, of a band of young men who under the pretext of protesting and demonstrating their Hispanism had gone to the Palace to place themselves at the General’s orders but had been arrested because it was discovered that they were armed. Providence had saved his Excellency, preventing him from receiving those precocious criminals, as he was at the time in conference with the Provincials, the Vice-Rector, and with Padre Irene, Padre Salvi’s representative. There was considerable truth in these rumors, if we have to believe Padre Irene, who in the afternoon went to visit Capitan Tiago. According to him, certain persons had advised his Excellency to improve the opportunity in order to inspire terror and administer a lasting lesson to the filibusters.

“A number shot,” one had advised, “some two dozen reformers deported at once, in the silence of the night, would extinguish forever the flames of discontent.”

“No,” rejoined another, who had a kind heart, “sufficient that the soldiers parade through the streets, a troop of cavalry, for example, with drawn sabers—sufficient to drag along some cannon, that’s enough! The people are timid and will all retire into their houses.”

“No, no,” insinuated another. “This is the opportunity to get rid of the enemy. It’s not sufficient that they retire into their houses, they should be made to come out, like evil humors by means of plasters. If they are inclined to start riots, they should be stirred up by secret agitators. I am of the opinion that the troops should be resting on their arms and appearing careless and indifferent, so the people may be emboldened, and then in case of any disturbance—out on them, action!” [276]

“The end justifies the means,” remarked another. “Our end is our holy religion and the integrity of the fatherland. Proclaim a state of siege, and in case of the least disturbance, arrest all the rich and educated, and—clean up the country!”

“If I hadn’t got there in time to counsel moderation,” added Padre Irene, speaking to Capitan Tiago, “it’s certain that blood would now be flowing through the streets. I thought of you, Capitan—The partizans of force couldn’t do much with the General, and they missed Simoun. Ah, if Simoun had not been taken ill—”

With the arrest of Basilio and the search made later among his books and papers, Capitan Tiago had become much worse. Now Padre Irene had come to augment his terror with hair-raising tales. Ineffable fear seized upon the wretch, manifesting itself first by a light shiver, which was rapidly accentuated, until he was unable to speak. With his eyes bulging and his brow covered with sweat, he caught Padre Irene’s arm and tried to rise, but could not, and then, uttering two groans, fell heavily back upon the pillow. His eyes were wide open and he was slavering—but he was dead. The terrified Padre Irene fled, and, as the dying man had caught hold of him, in his flight he dragged the corpse from the bed, leaving it sprawling in the middle of the room.

By night the terror had reached a climax. Several incidents had occurred to make the timorous believe in the presence of secret agitators.

During a baptism some cuartos were thrown to the boys and naturally there was a scramble at the door of the church. It happened that at the time there was passing a bold soldier, who, somewhat preoccupied, mistook the uproar for a gathering of filibusters and hurled himself, sword in hand, upon the boys. He went into the church, and had he not become entangled in the curtains suspended from the choir he would not have left a single head on shoulders. It was but the matter of a moment for the [277] timorous to witness this and take to flight, spreading the news that the revolution had begun. The few shops that had been kept open were now hastily closed, there being Chinese who even left bolts of cloth outside, and not a few women lost their slippers in their flight through the streets. Fortunately, there was only one person wounded and a few bruised, among them the soldier himself, who suffered a fall fighting with the curtain, which smelt to him of filibusterism. Such prowess gained him great renown, and a renown so pure that it is to be wished all fame could be acquired in like manner—mothers would then weep less and earth would be more populous!

In a suburb the inhabitants caught two unknown individuals burying arms under a house, whereupon a tumult arose and the people pursued the strangers in order to kill them and turn their bodies over to the authorities, but some one pacified the excited crowd by telling them that it would be sufficient to hand over the corpora delictorum, which proved to be some old shotguns that would surely have killed the first person who tried to fire them.

“All right,” exclaimed one braggart, “if they want us to rebel, let’s go ahead!” But he was cuffed and kicked into silence, the women pinching him as though he had been the owner of the shotguns.

In Ermita the affair was more serious, even though there was less excitement, and that when there were shots fired. A certain cautious government employee, armed to the teeth, saw at nightfall an object near his house, and taking it for nothing less than a student, fired at it twice with a revolver. The object proved to be a policeman, and they buried him—pax Christi! Mutis!

In Dulumbayan various shots also resounded, from which there resulted the death of a poor old deaf man, who had not heard the sentinel’s quién vive, and of a hog that had heard it and had not answered España! The old man was buried with difficulty, since there was no money to pay for the obsequies, but the hog was eaten. [278]

In Manila,1 in a confectionery near the University much frequented by the students, the arrests were thus commented upon.

“And have they arrested Tadeo?”2 asked the proprietess.

Abá!” answered a student who lived in Parian, “he’s already shot!”

“Shot! Nakú! He hasn’t paid what he owes me.”

“Ay, don’t mention that or you’ll be taken for an accomplice. I’ve already burnt the book3 you lent me. There might be a search and it would be found. Be careful!”

“Did you say that Isagani is a prisoner?”

“Crazy fool, too, that Isagani,” replied the indignant student. “They didn’t try to catch him, but he went and surrendered. Let him bust himself—he’ll surely be shot.”

The señora shrugged her shoulders. “He doesn’t owe me anything. And what about Paulita?”

“She won’t lack a husband. Sure, she’ll cry a little, and then marry a Spaniard.”

The night was one of the gloomiest. In the houses the rosary was recited and pious women dedicated paternosters and requiems to each of the souls of their relatives and friends. By eight o’clock hardly a pedestrian could be seen—only from time to time was heard the galloping of a horse against whose sides a saber clanked noisily, then the whistles of the watchmen, and carriages that whirled along at full speed, as though pursued by mobs of filibusters.

Yet terror did not reign everywhere. In the house of the silversmith, where Placido Penitente boarded, the events were commented upon and discussed with some freedom. [279]

“I don’t believe in the pasquinades,” declared a workman, lank and withered from operating the blowpipe. “To me it looks like Padre Salvi’s doings.”

“Ahem, ahem!” coughed the silversmith, a very prudent man, who did not dare to stop the conversation from fear that he would be considered a coward. The good man had to content himself with coughing, winking to his helper, and gazing toward the street, as if to say, “They may be watching us!”

“On account of the operetta,” added another workman.

“Aha!” exclaimed one who had a foolish face, “I told you so!”

“Ahem!” rejoined a clerk, in a tone of compassion, “the affair of the pasquinades is true, Chichoy, and I can give you the explanation.”

Then he added mysteriously, “It’s a trick of the Chinaman Quiroga’s!”

“Ahem, ahem!” again coughed the silversmith, shifting his quid of buyo from one cheek to the other.

“Believe me, Chichoy, of Quiroga the Chinaman! I heard it in the office.”

Nakú, it’s certain then,” exclaimed the simpleton, believing it at once.

“Quiroga,” explained the clerk, “has a hundred thousand pesos in Mexican silver out in the bay. How is he to get it in? Very easily. Fix up the pasquinades, availing himself of the question of the students, and, while every-body is excited, grease the officials’ palms, and in the cases come!”

“Just it! Just it!” cried the credulous fool, striking the table with his fist. “Just it! That’s why Quiroga did it! That’s why—” But he had to relapse into silence as he really did not know what to say about Quiroga.

“And we must pay the damages?” asked the indignant Chichoy.

“Ahem, ahem, a-h-hem!” coughed the silversmith, hearing steps in the street. [280]

The footsteps approached and all in the shop fell silent.

“St. Pascual Bailon is a great saint,” declared the silversmith hypocritically, in a loud voice, at the same time winking to the others. “St. Pascual Bailon—”

At that moment there appeared the face of Placido Penitente, who was accompanied by the pyrotechnician that we saw receiving orders from Simoun. The newcomers were surrounded and importuned for news.

“I haven’t been able to talk with the prisoners,” explained Placido. “There are some thirty of them.”

“Be on your guard,” cautioned the pyrotechnician, exchanging a knowing look with Placido. “They say that to-night there’s going to be a massacre.”

“Aha! Thunder!” exclaimed Chichoy, looking about for a weapon. Seeing none, he caught up his blowpipe.

The silversmith sat down, trembling in every limb. The credulous simpleton already saw himself beheaded and wept in anticipation over the fate of his family.

“No,” contradicted the clerk, “there’s not going to be any massacre. The adviser of”—he made a mysterious gesture—“is fortunately sick.”

“Simoun!”

“Ahem, ahem, a-h-hem!”

Placido and the pyrotechnician exchanged another look.

“If he hadn’t got sick—”

“It would look like a revolution,” added the pyrotechnician negligently, as he lighted a cigarette in the lamp chimney. “And what should we do then?”

“Then we’d start a real one, now that they’re going to massacre us anyhow—”

The violent fit of coughing that seized the silversmith prevented the rest of this speech from being heard, but Chichoy must have been saying terrible things, to judge from his murderous gestures with the blowpipe and the face of a Japanese tragedian that he put on.

“Rather say that he’s playing off sick because he’s afraid to go out. As may be seen—” [281]

The silversmith was attacked by another fit of coughing so severe that he finally asked all to retire.

“Nevertheless, get ready,” warned the pyrotechnician. “If they want to force us to kill or be killed—”

Another fit of coughing on the part of the poor silversmith prevented further conversation, so the workmen and apprentices retired to their homes, carrying with them hammers and saws, and other implements, more or less cutting, more or less bruising, disposed to sell their lives dearly. Placido and the pyrotechnician went out again.

“Prudence, prudence!” cautioned the silversmith in a tearful voice.

“You’ll take care of my widow and orphans!” begged the credulous simpleton in a still more tearful voice, for he already saw himself riddled with bullets and buried.

That night the guards at the city gates were replaced with Peninsular artillerymen, and on the following morning as the sun rose, Ben-Zayb, who had ventured to take a morning stroll to examine the condition of the fortifications, found on the glacis near the Luneta the corpse of a native girl, half-naked and abandoned. Ben-Zayb was horrified, but after touching it with his cane and gazing toward the gates proceeded on his way, musing over a sentimental tale he might base upon the incident.

However, no allusion to it appeared in the newspapers on the following days, engrossed as they were with the falls and slippings caused by banana-peels. In the dearth of news Ben-Zayb had to comment at length on a cyclone that had destroyed in America whole towns, causing the death of more than two thousand persons. Among other beautiful things he said:

The sentiment of charity, MORE PREVALENT IN CATHOLIC COUNTRIES THAN IN OTHERS, and the thought of Him who, influenced by that same feeling, sacrificed himself for humanity, moves (sic) us to compassion over the misfortunes of our kind and to render thanks that in this country, so scourged by cyclones, there are not enacted scenes so desolating as that which the inhabitants of the United States mus have witnessed!”

[282]

Horatius did not miss the opportunity, and, also without mentioning the dead, or the murdered native girl, or the assaults, answered him in his Pirotecnia:

“After such great charity and such great humanity, Fray Ibañez—I mean, Ben-Zayb—brings himself to pray for the Philippines.

But he is understood.

Because he is not Catholic, and the sentiment of charity is most prevalent,” etc.4

[283]

 


1 The Walled City, the original Manila, is still known to the Spaniards and older natives exclusively as such, the other districts being referred to by their distinctive names.—Tr.

2 Nearly all the dialogue in this chapter is in the mongrel Spanish-Tagalog “market language,” which cannot be reproduced in English.—Tr.

3 Doubtless a reference to the author’s first work, Noli Me Tangere, which was tabooed by the authorities.—Tr.

4 Such inanities as these are still a feature of Manila journalism.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXIX-Exit Capitan Tiago}

Exit Capitan Tiago

 

Talis vita, finis ita

 

Capitan Tiago had a good end—that is, a quite exceptional funeral. True it is that the curate of the parish had ventured the observation to Padre Irene that Capitan Tiago had died without confession, but the good priest, smiling sardonically, had rubbed the tip of his nose and answered:

“Why say that to me? If we had to deny the obsequies to all who die without confession, we should forget the De profundis! These restrictions, as you well know, are enforced when the impenitent is also insolvent. But Capitan Tiago—out on you! You’ve buried infidel Chinamen, and with a requiem mass!”

Capitan Tiago had named Padre Irene as his executor and willed his property in part to St. Clara, part to the Pope, to the Archbishop, the religious corporations, leaving twenty pesos for the matriculation of poor students. This last clause had been dictated at the suggestion of Padre Irene, in his capacity as protector of studious youths. Capitan Tiago had annulled a legacy of twenty-five pesos that he had left to Basilio, in view of the ungrateful conduct of the boy during the last few days, but Padre Irene had restored it and announced that he would take it upon his own purse and conscience.

In the dead man’s house, where were assembled on the following day many old friends and acquaintances, considerable comment was indulged in over a miracle. It was reported that, at the very moment when he was dying, the [284] soul of Capitan Tiago had appeared to the nuns surrounded by a brilliant light. God had saved him, thanks to the pious legacies, and to the numerous masses he had paid for. The story was commented upon, it was recounted vividly, it took on particulars, and was doubted by no one. The appearance of Capitan Tiago was minutely described—of course the frock coat, the cheek bulged out by the quid of buyo, without omitting the game-cock and the opium-pipe. The senior sacristan, who was present, gravely affirmed these facts with his head and reflected that, after death, he would appear with his cup of white tajú, for without that refreshing breakfast he could not comprehend happiness either on earth or in heaven.

On this subject, because of their inability to discuss the events of the preceding day and because there were gamblers present, many strange speculations were developed. They made conjectures as to whether Capitan Tiago would invite St. Peter to a soltada, whether they would place bets, whether the game-cocks were immortal, whether invulnerable, and in this case who would be the referee, who would win, and so on: discussions quite to the taste of those who found sciences, theories, and systems, based on a text which they esteem infallible, revealed or dogmatic. Moreover, there were cited passages from novenas, books of miracles, sayings of the curates, descriptions of heaven, and other embroidery. Don Primitivo, the philosopher, was in his glory quoting opinions of the theologians.

“Because no one can lose,” he stated with great authority. “To lose would cause hard feelings and in heaven there can’t be any hard feelings.”

“But some one has to win,” rejoined the gambler Aristorenas. “The fun lies in winning!”

“Well, both win, that’s easy!”

This idea of both winning could not be admitted by Aristorenas, for he had passed his life in the cockpit and had always seen one cock lose and the other win—at best, there was a tie. Vainly Don Primitivo argued in Latin. [285] Aristorenas shook his head, and that too when Don Primitivo’s Latin was easy to understand, for he talked of an gallus talisainus, acuto tari armatus, an gallus beati Petri bulikus sasabung?us sit,1 and so on, until at length he decided to resort to the argument which many use to convince and silence their opponents.

“You’re going to be damned, friend Martin, you’re falling into heresy! Cave ne cadas! I’m not going to play monte with you any more, and we’ll not set up a bank together. You deny the omnipotence of God, peccatum mortale! You deny the existence of the Holy Trinity— three are one and one is three! Take care! You indirectly deny that two natures, two understandings, and two wills can have only one memory! Be careful! Quicumque non crederit anathema sit!

Martin Aristorenas shrank away pale and trembling, while Quiroga, who had listened with great attention to the argument, with marked deference offered the philosopher a magnificent cigar, at the same time asking in his caressing voice: “Surely, one can make a contract for a cockpit with Kilisto,2 ha? When I die, I’ll be the contractor, ha?”

Among the others, they talked more of the deceased; at least they discussed what kind of clothing to put on him. Capitan Tinong proposed a Franciscan habit—and fortunately, he had one, old, threadbare, and patched, a precious object which, according to the friar who gave it to him as alms in exchange for thirty-six pesos, would preserve the corpse from the flames of hell and which reckoned in its [286] support various pious anecdotes taken from the books distributed by the curates. Although he held this relic in great esteem, Capitan Tinong was disposed to part with it for the sake of his intimate friend, whom he had not been able to visit during his illness. But a tailor objected, with good reason, that since the nuns had seen Capitan Tiago ascending to heaven in a frock coat, in a frock coat he should be dressed here on earth, nor was there any necessity for preservatives and fire-proof garments. The deceased had attended balls and fiestas in a frock coat, and nothing else would be expected of him in the skies—and, wonderful to relate, the tailor accidentally happened to have one ready, which he would part with for thirty-two pesos, four cheaper than the Franciscan habit, because he didn’t want to make any profit on Capitan Tiago, who had been his customer in life and would now be his patron in heaven. But Padre Irene, trustee and executor, rejected both proposals and ordered that the Capitan be dressed in one of his old suits of clothes, remarking with holy unction that God paid no attention to clothing.

The obsequies were, therefore, of the very first class. There were responsories in the house, and in the street three friars officiated, as though one were not sufficient for such a great soul. All the rites and ceremonies possible were performed, and it is reported that there were even extras, as in the benefits for actors. It was indeed a delight: loads of incense were burned, there were plenty of Latin chants, large quantities of holy water were expended, and Padre Irene, out of regard for his old friend, sang the Dies Irae in a falsetto voice from the choir, while the neighbors suffered real headaches from so much knell-ringing.

Doña Patrocinio, the ancient rival of Capitan Tiago in religiosity, actually wanted to die on the next day, so that she might order even more sumptuous obsequies. The pious old lady could not bear the thought that he, whom she had long considered vanquished forever, should in dying come [287] forward again with so much pomp. Yes, she desired to die, and it seemed that she could hear the exclamations of the people at the funeral: “This indeed is what you call a funeral! This indeed is to know how to die, Doña Patrocinio!” [288]

 


1 “Whether there would be a talisain cock, armed with a sharp gaff, whether the blessed Peter’s fighting-cock would be a bulik—”

Talisain and bulik are distinguishing terms in the vernacular for fighting-cocks, tari and sasabung?in the Tagalog terms for “gaff” and “game-cock,” respectively.

The Tagalog terminology of the cockpit and monkish Latin certainly make a fearful and wonderful mixture—nor did the author have to resort to his imagination to get samples of it.—Tr.

2 This is Quiroga’s pronunciation of Christo.—Tr.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XXX-Juli}

Juli

The death of Capitan Tiago and Basilio’s imprisonment were soon reported in the province, and to the honor of the simple inhabitants of San Diego, let it be recorded that the latter was the incident more regretted and almost the only one discussed. As was to be expected, the report took on different forms, sad and startling details were given, what could not be understood was explained, the gaps being filled by conjectures, which soon passed for accomplished facts, and the phantoms thus created terrified their own creators.

In the town of Tiani it was reported that at least, at the very least, the young man was going to be deported and would very probably be murdered on the journey. The timorous and pessimistic were not satisfied with this but even talked about executions and courts-martial—January was a fatal month; in January the Cavite affair had occurred, and they1 even though curates, had been garroted, so a poor Basilio without protectors or friends—

“I told him so!” sighed the Justice of the Peace, as if he had at some time given advice to Basilio. “I told him so.”

“It was to be expected,” commented Sister Penchang. “He would go into the church and when he saw that the holy water was somewhat dirty he wouldn’t cross himself with it. He talked about germs and disease, abá, it’s the chastisement of God! He deserved it, and he got it! As [289] though the holy water could transmit diseases! Quite the contrary, abá!

She then related how she had cured herself of indigestion by moistening her stomach with holy water, at the same time reciting the Sanctus Deus, and she recommended the remedy to those present when they should suffer from dysentery, or an epidemic occurred, only that then they must pray in Spanish:

 

Santo Diós,

Santo fuerte,

Santo inmortal,

¡Libranos, Señor, de la peste

Y de todo mal!2

 

“It’s an infallible remedy, but you must apply the holy water to the part affected,” she concluded.

But there were many persons who did not believe in these things, nor did they attribute Basilio’s imprisonment to the chastisement of God. Nor did they take any stock in insurrections and pasquinades, knowing the prudent and ultra-pacific character of the boy, but preferred to ascribe it to revenge on the part of the friars, because of his having rescued from servitude Juli, the daughter of a tulisan who was the mortal enemy of a certain powerful corporation. As they had quite a poor idea of the morality of that same corporation and could recall cases of petty revenge, their conjecture was believed to have more probability and justification.

“What a good thing I did when I drove her from my house!” said Sister Penchang. “I don’t want to have any trouble with the friars, so I urged her to find the money.”

The truth was, however, that she regretted Juli’s liberty, for Juli prayed and fasted for her, and if she had stayed a longer time, would also have done penance. Why, if the curates pray for us and Christ died for our sins, couldn’t Juli do the same for Sister Penchang? [290]

When the news reached the hut where the poor Juli and her grandfather lived, the girl had to have it repeated to her. She stared at Sister Bali, who was telling it, as though without comprehension, without ability to collect her thoughts. Her ears buzzed, she felt a sinking at the heart and had a vague presentiment that this event would have a disastrous influence on her own future. Yet she tried to seize upon a ray of hope, she smiled, thinking that Sister Bali was joking with her, a rather strong joke, to be sure, but she forgave her beforehand if she would acknowledge that it was such. But Sister Bali made a cross with one of her thumbs and a forefinger, and kissed it, to prove that she was telling the truth. Then the smile faded forever from the girl’s lips, she turned pale, frightfully pale, she felt her strength leave her and for the first time in her life she lost consciousness, falling into a swoon.

When by dint of blows, pinches, dashes of water, crosses, and the application of sacred palms, the girl recovered and remembered the situation, silent tears sprang from her eyes, drop by drop, without sobs, without laments, without complaints! She thought about Basilio, who had had no other protector than Capitan Tiago, and who now, with the Capitan dead, was left completely unprotected and in prison. In the Philippines it is a well-known fact that patrons are needed for everything, from the time one is christened until one dies, in order to get justice, to secure a passport, or to develop an industry. As it was said that his imprisonment was due to revenge on account of herself and her father, the girl’s sorrow turned to desperation. Now it was her duty to liberate him, as he had done in rescuing her from servitude, and the inner voice which suggested the idea offered to her imagination a horrible means.

“Padre Camorra, the curate,” whispered the voice. Juli gnawed at her lips and became lost in gloomy meditation.

As a result of her father’s crime, her grandfather had been arrested in the hope that by such means the son could be made to appear. The only one who could get him [291] his liberty was Padre Camorra, and Padre Camorra had shown himself to be poorly satisfied with her words of gratitude, having with his usual frankness asked for some sacrifices—since which time Juli had tried to avoid meeting him. But the curate made her kiss his hand, he twitched her nose and patted her cheeks, he joked with her, winking and laughing, and laughing he pinched her. Juli was also the cause of the beating the good curate had administered to some young men who were going about the village serenading the girls. Malicious ones, seeing her pass sad and dejected, would remark so that she might hear: “If she only wished it, Cabesang Tales would be pardoned.”

Juli reached her home, gloomy and with wandering looks. She had changed greatly, having lost her merriment, and no one ever saw her smile again. She scarcely spoke and seemed to be afraid to look at her own face. One day she was seen in the town with a big spot of soot on her forehead, she who used to go so trim and neat. Once she asked Sister Bali if the people who committed suicide went to hell.

“Surely!” replied that woman, and proceeded to describe the place as though she had been there.

Upon Basilio’s imprisonment, the simple and grateful relatives had planned to make all kinds of sacrifices to save the young man, but as they could collect among themselves no more than thirty pesos, Sister Bali, as usual, thought of a better plan.

“What we must do is to get some advice from the town clerk,” she said. To these poor people, the town clerk was what the Delphic oracle was to the ancient Greeks.

“By giving him a real and a cigar,” she continued, “he’ll tell you all the laws so that your head bursts listening to him. If you have a peso, he’ll save you, even though you may be at the foot of the scaffold. When my friend Simon was put in jail and flogged for not being able to give evidence about a robbery perpetrated near his house, abá, for two reales and a half and a string of garlics, the town clerk got him out. And I saw Simon myself when [292] he could scarcely walk and he had to stay in bed at least a month. Ay, his flesh rotted as a result and he died!”

Sister Bali’s advice was accepted and she herself volunteered to interview the town clerk. Juli gave her four reales and added some strips of jerked venison her grand-father had got, for Tandang Selo had again devoted himself to hunting.

But the town clerk could do nothing—the prisoner was in Manila, and his power did not extend that far. “If at least he were at the capital, then—” he ventured, to make a show of his authority, which he knew very well did not extend beyond the boundaries of Tiani, but he had to maintain his prestige and keep the jerked venison. “But I can give you a good piece of advice, and it is that you go with Juli to see the Justice of the Peace. But it’s very necessary that Juli go.”

The Justice of the Peace was a very rough fellow, but if he should see Juli he might conduct himself less rudely—this is wherein lay the wisdom of the advice.

With great gravity the honorable Justice listened to Sister Bali, who did the talking, but not without staring from time to time at the girl, who hung her head with shame. People would say that she was greatly interested in Basilio, people who did not remember her debt of gratitude, nor that his imprisonment, according to report, was on her account.

After belching three or four times, for his Honor had that ugly habit, he said that the only person who could save Basilio was Padre Camorra, in case he should care to do so. Here he stared meaningly at the girl and advised her to deal with the curate in person.

“You know what influence he has,—he got your grand-father out of jail. A report from him is enough to deport a new-born babe or save from death a man with the noose about his neck.”

Juli said nothing, but Sister Bali took this advice as though she had read it in a novena, and was ready to accompany the girl to the convento. It so happened that [293] she was just going there to get as alms a scapulary in exchange for four full reales.

But Juli shook her head and was unwilling to go to the convento. Sister Bali thought she could guess the reason—Padre Camorra was reputed to be very fond of the women and was very frolicsome—so she tried to reassure her. “You’ve nothing to fear if I go with you. Haven’t you read in the booklet Tandang Basio, given you by the curate, that the girls should go to the convento, even without the knowledge of their elders, to relate what is going on at home? Abá, that book is printed with the permission of the Archbishop!”

Juli became impatient and wished to cut short such talk, so she begged the pious woman to go if she wished, but his Honor observed with a belch that the supplications of a youthful face were more moving than those of an old one, the sky poured its dew over the fresh flowers in greater abundance than over the withered ones. The metaphor was fiendishly beautiful.

Juli did not reply and the two left the house. In the street the girl firmly refused to go to the convento and they returned to their village. Sister Bali, who felt offended at this lack of confidence in herself, on the way home relieved her feelings by administering a long preachment to the girl.

The truth was that the girl could not take that step without damning herself in her own eyes, besides being cursed of men and cursed of God! It had been intimated to her several times, whether with reason or not, that if she would make that sacrifice her father would be pardoned, and yet she had refused, in spite of the cries of her conscience reminding her of her filial duty. Now must she make it for Basilio, her sweetheart? That would be to fall to the sound of mockery and laughter from all creation. Basilio himself would despise her! No, never! She would first hang herself or leap from some precipice. At any rate, she was already damned for being a wicked daughter.

The poor girl had besides to endure all the reproaches [294] of her relatives, who, knowing nothing of what had passed between her and Padre Camovra, laughed at her fears. Would Padre Camorra fix his attention upon a country girl when there were so many others in the town? Hero the good women cited names of unmarried girls, rich and beautiful, who had been more or less unfortunate. Meanwhile, if they should shoot Basilio?

Juli covered her ears and stared wildly about, as if seeking a voice that might plead for her, but she saw only her grandfather, who was dumb and had his gaze fixed on his hunting-spear.

That night she scarcely slept at all. Dreams and nightmares, some funereal, some bloody, danced before her sight and woke her often, bathed in cold perspiration. She fancied that she heard shots, she imagined that she saw her father, that father who had done so much for her, fighting in the forests, hunted like a wild beast because she had refused to save him. The figure of her father was transformed and she recognized Basilio, dying, with looks of reproach at her. The wretched girl arose, prayed, wept, called upon her mother, upon death, and there was even a moment when, overcome with terror, if it had not been night-time, she would have run straight to the convento, let happen what would.

With the coming of day the sad presentiments and the terrors of darkness were partly dissipated. The light inspired hopes in her. But the news of the afternoon was terrible, for there was talk of persons shot, so the next night was for the girl frightful. In her desperation she decided to give herself up as soon as day dawned and then kill herself afterwards—anything, rather than enditre such tortures! But the dawn brought new hope and she would not go to church or even leave the house. She was afraid she would yield.

So passed several days in praying and cursing, in calling upon God and wishing for death. The day gave her a slight respite and she trusted in some miracle. The reports that [295] came from Manila, although they reached there magnified, said that of the prisoners some had secured their liberty, thanks to patrons and influence. Some one had to be sacrificed—who would it be? Juli shuddered and returned home biting her finger-nails. Then came the night with its terrors, which took on double proportions and seemed to be converted into realities. Juli feared to fall asleep, for her slumbers were a continuous nightmare. Looks of reproach would flash across her eyelids just as soon as they were closed, complaints and laments pierced her ears. She saw her father wandering about hungry, without rest or repose; she saw Basilio dying in the road, pierced by two bullets, just as she had seen the corpse of that neighbor who had been killed while in the charge of the Civil Guard. She saw the bonds that cut into the flesh, she saw the blood pouring from the mouth, she heard Basilio calling to her, “Save me! Save me! You alone can save me!” Then a burst of laughter would resound and she would turn her eyes to see her father gazing at her with eyes full of reproach. Juli would wake up, sit up on her petate, and draw her hands across her forehead to arrange her hair—cold sweat, like the sweat of death, moistened it!

“Mother, mother!” she sobbed.

Meanwhile, they who were so carelessly disposing of people’s fates, he who commanded the legal murders, he who violated justice and made use of the law to maintain himself by force, slept in peace.

At last a traveler arrived from Manila and reported that all the prisoners had been set free, all except Basilio, who had no protector. It was reported in Manila, added the traveler, that the young man would be deported to the Carolines, having been forced to sign a petition beforehand, in which he declared that he asked it voluntarily.3 The [296] traveler had seen the very steamer that was going to take him away.

This report put an end to all the girl’s hesitation. Besides, her mind was already quite weak from so many nights of watching and horrible dreams. Pale and with unsteady eyes, she sought out Sister Bali and, in a voice that was cause for alarm, told her that she was ready, asking her to accompany her. Sister Bali thereupon rejoiced and tried to soothe her, but Juli paid no attention to her, apparently intent only upon hurrying to the convento. She had decked herself out in her finest clothes, and even pretended to be quite gay, talking a great deal, although in a rather incoherent way.

So they set out. Juli went ahead, becoming impatient that her companion lagged behind. But as they neared the town, her nervous energy began gradually to abate, she fell silent and wavered in her resolution, lessened her pace and soon dropped behind, so that Sister Bali had to encourage her.

“We’ll get there late,” she remonstrated.

Juli now followed, pale, with downcast eyes, which she was afraid to raise. She felt that the whole world was staring at her and pointing its finger at her. A vile name whistled in her ears, but still she disregarded it and continued on her way. Nevertheless, when they came in sight of the convento, she stopped and began to tremble.

“Let’s go home, let’s go home,” she begged, holding her companion back.

Sister Bali had to take her by the arm and half drag her along, reassuring her and telling her about the books of the friars. She would not desert her, so there was nothing to fear. Padre Camorra had other things in mind—Juli was only a poor country girl.

But upon arriving at the door of the convento, Juli firmly refused to go in, catching hold of the wall.

“No, no,” she pleaded in terror. “No, no, no! Have pity!” [297]

“But what a fool—”

Sister Bali pushed her gently along, Juli, pallid and with wild features, offering resistance. The expression of her face said that she saw death before her.

“All right, let’s go back, if you don’t want to!” at length the good woman exclaimed in irritation, as she did not believe there was any real danger. Padre Camorra, in spite of all his reputation, would dare do nothing before her.

“Let them carry poor Basilio into exile, let them shoot him on the way, saying that he tried to escape,” she added. “When he’s dead, then remorse will come. But as for myself, I owe him no favors, so he can’t reproach me!”

That was the decisive stroke. In the face of that reproach, with wrath and desperation mingled, like one who rushes to suicide, Juli closed her eyes in order not to see the abyss into which she was hurling herself and resolutely entered the convento. A sigh that sounded like the rattle of death escaped from her lips. Sister Bali followed, telling her how to act.

That night comments were mysteriously whispered about certain events which had occurred that afternoon. A girl had leaped from a window of the convento, falling upon some stones and killing herself. Almost at the same time another woman had rushed out of the convento to run through the streets shouting and screaming like a lunatic. The prudent townsfolk dared not utter any names and many mothers pinched their daughters for letting slip expressions that might compromise them.

Later, very much later, at twilight, an old man came from a village and stood calling at the door of the convento, which was closed and guarded by sacristans. The old man beat the door with his fists and with his head, while he littered cries stifled and inarticulate, like those of a dumb person, until he was at length driven away by blows and shoves. Then he made his way to the gobernadorcillo’s house, but was told that the gobernadorcillo was not there, [298] he was at the convento; he went to the Justice of the Peace, but neither was the Justice of the Peace at home—he had been summoned to the convento; he went to the teniente-mayor, but he too was at the convento; he directed his steps to the barracks, but the lieutenant of the Civil Guard was at the convento. The old man then returned to his village, weeping like a child. His wails were heard in the middle of the night, causing men to bite their lips and women to clasp their hands, while the dogs slunk fearfully back into the houses with their tails between their legs.

“Ah, God, God!” said a poor woman, lean from fasting, “in Thy presence there is no rich, no poor, no white, no black—Thou wilt grant us justice!”

“Yes,” rejoined her husband, “just so that God they preach is not a pure invention, a fraud! They themselves are the first not to believe in Him.”

At eight o’clock in the evening it was rumored that more than seven friars, proceeding from neighboring towns, were assembled in the convento to hold a conference. On the following day, Tandang Selo disappeared forever from the village, carrying with him his hunting-spear. [299]

 


1 The native priests Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora, charged with complicity in the uprising of 1872, and executed.—Tr.

2 This versicle, found in the booklets of prayer, is common on the scapularies, which, during the late insurrection, were easily converted into the anting-anting, or amulets, worn by the fanatics.—Tr.

3 This practise—secretly compelling suspects to sign a request to be transferred to some other island—was by no means a figment of the author’s imagination, but was extensively practised to anticipate any legal difficulties that might arise.—Tr.

 



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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 August 2007 22:38
 
Comments (3)
1 Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:39
dont you have a summary and a script about this?
2 Friday, 14 August 2009 16:47
i do need pic per chapter of this novel...pls upload on this website for me to have it...tnx
3 Friday, 14 August 2009 16:49
please do upload pictures per summary...thanks..

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