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Sep 22nd
The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere) Chapter LXI to Glossary PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jose Rizal   
Monday, 18 June 2007 23:04





The Social Cancer

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

Philippine Education Company
New York: World Book Company


Translated from Spanish into English




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




Author’s Dedication


A Social Gathering


Crisostomo Ibarra


The Dinner


Heretic and Filibuster


A Star in a Dark Night


Capitan Tiago


An Idyl on an Azotea




Local Affairs


The Town


The Rulers


All Saints


Signs of Storm


Tasio: Lunatic or Sage


The Sacristans






Souls In Torment


A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties


The Meeting in the Town Hall


The Story of a Mother[liv]


Lights and Shadows




In the Wood


In the House of the Sage


The Eve of the Fiesta


In the Twilight




The Morning


In the Church


The Sermon


The Derrick


Free Thought


The Dinner




The First Cloud


His Excellency


The Procession


Doña Consolación


Right and Might


Two Visits


The Espadañas




An Examination of Conscience


The Hunted


The Cockpit


The Two Señoras


The Enigma


The Voice of the Hunted[iv]


Elias’s Story




The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows


Il Buon Dí Si Conosce Da Mattina




The Catastrophe


Rumors and Belief


Vae Victis!


The Accursed


Patriotism and Private Interests


Maria Clara Weds


The Chase on the Lake


Padre Damaso Explains


Christmas Eve






{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter LXI -The Chase on the Lake}

Chapter LXI

The Chase on the Lake

"Listen, sir, to the plan that I have worked out," said Elias thoughtfully, as they moved in the direction of San Gabriel. "I’ll hide you now in the house of a friend of mine in Mandaluyong. I’ll bring you all your money, which I saved and buried at the foot of the balete in the mysterious tomb of your grandfather. Then you will leave the country."

"To go abroad?" inquired Ibarra.

"To live out in peace the days of life that remain to you. You have friends in Spain, you are rich, you can get yourself pardoned. In every way a foreign country is for us a better fatherland than our own."

Crisostomo did not answer, but meditated in silence. At that moment they reached the Pasig and the banka began to ascend the current. Over the Bridge of Spain a horseman galloped rapidly, while a shrill, prolonged whistle was heard.

"Elias," said Ibarra, "you owe your misfortunes to my family, you have saved my life twice, and I owe you not only gratitude but also the restitution of your fortune. You advise me to go abroad—then come with me and we will live like brothers. Here you also are wretched."

Elias shook his head sadly and answered: "Impossible! It’s true that I cannot love or be happy in my country, but I can suffer and die in it, and perhaps for it—that is always something. May the misfortunes of my native land be my own misfortunes and, although no noble sentiment unites us, although our hearts do not beat to a single name, at least may the common calamity bind me to [473]my countrymen, at least may I weep over our sorrows with them, may the same hard fate oppress all our hearts alike!" "Then why do you advise me to go away?"

"Because in some other country you could be happy while I could not, because you are not made to suffer, and because you would hate your country if some day you should see yourself ruined in its cause, and to hate one’s native land is the greatest of calamities."

"You are unfair to me!" exclaimed Ibarra with bitter reproach. "You forget that scarcely had I arrived here when I set myself to seek its welfare."

"Don’t be offended, sir, I was not reproaching you at all. Would that all of us could imitate you! But I do not ask impossibilities of you and I mean no offense when I say that your heart deceives you. You loved your country because your father taught you to do so; you loved it because in it you had affection, fortune, youth, because everything smiled on you, your country had done you no injustice; you loved it as we love anything that makes us happy. But the day in which you see yourself poor and hungry, persecuted, betrayed, and sold by your own countrymen, on that day you will disown yourself, your country, and all mankind."

"Your words pain me," said Ibarra resentfully.

Elias bowed his head and meditated before replying. "I wish to disillusion you, sir, and save you from a sad future. Recall that night when I talked to you in this same banka under the light of this same moon, not a month ago. Then you were happy, the plea of the unfortunates did not touch you; you disdained their complaints because they were the complaints of criminals; you paid more attention to their enemies, and in spite of my arguments and petitions, you placed yourself on the side of their oppressors. On you then depended whether I should turn criminal or allow myself to be killed in order to carry out a sacred pledge, but God has not permitted this because the old chief of the outlaws [474]is dead. A month has hardly passed and you think otherwise." "You’re right, Elias, but man is a creature of circumstances! Then I was blind, annoyed—what did I know? Now misfortune has torn the bandage from my eyes; the solitude and misery of my prison have taught me; now I see the horrible cancer which feeds upon this society, which clutches its flesh, and which demands a violent rooting out. They have opened my eyes, they have made me see the sore, and they force me to be a criminal! Since they wish it, I will be a filibuster, a real filibuster, I mean. I will call together all the unfortunates, all who feel a heart beat in their breasts, all those who were sending you to me. No, I will not be a criminal, never is he such who fights for his native land, but quite the reverse! We, during three centuries, have extended them our hands, we have asked love of them, we have yearned to call them brothers, and how do they answer us? With insults and jests, denying us even the chance character of human beings. There is no God, there is no hope, there is no humanity; there is nothing but the right of might!" Ibarra was nervous, his whole body trembled.

As they passed in front of the Captain-General’s palace they thought that they could discern movement and excitement among the guards.

"Can they have discovered your flight?" murmured Elias. "Lie down, sir, so that I can cover you with zacate. Since we shall pass near the powder-magazine it may seem suspicious to the sentinel that there are two of us."

The banka was one of those small, narrow canoes that do not seem to float but rather to glide over the top of the water. As Elias had foreseen, the sentinel stopped him and inquired whence he came.

"From Manila, to carry zacate to the judges and curates," he answered, imitating the accent of the people of Pandakan.

A sergeant came out to learn what was happening. "Move on!" he said to Elias. "But I warn you not to take [475]anybody into your banka. A prisoner has just escaped. If you capture him and turn him over to me I’ll give you a good tip." "All right, sir. What’s his description?"

"He wears a sack coat and talks Spanish. So look out!" The banka moved away. Elias looked back and watched the silhouette of the sentinel standing on the bank of the river.

"We’ll lose a few minutes’ time," he said in a low voice. "We must go into the Beata River to pretend that I’m from Peñafrancia. You will see the river of which Francisco Baltazar sang."

The town slept in the moonlight, and Crisostomo rose up to admire the sepulchral peace of nature. The river was narrow and the level land on either side covered with grass. Elias threw his cargo out on the bank and, after removing a large piece of bamboo, took from under the grass some empty palm-leaf sacks. Then they continued on their way.

"You are the master of your own will, sir, and of your future," he said to Crisostomo, who had remained silent. "But if you will allow me an observation, I would say: think well what you are planning to do—you are going to light the flames of war, since you have money and brains, and you will quickly find many to join you, for unfortunately there are plenty of malcontents. But in this struggle which you are going to undertake, those who will suffer most will be the defenseless and the innocent. The same sentiments that a month ago impelled me to appeal to you asking for reforms are those that move me now to urge you to think well. The country, sir, does not think of separating from the mother country; it only asks for a little freedom, justice, and affection. You will be supported by the malcontents, the criminals, the desperate, but the people will hold aloof. You are mistaken if, seeing all dark, you think that the country is desperate. The country suffers, yes, but it still hopes and trusts and will only rebel when it has lost its patience, that is, when those who govern it wish it to [476]do so, and that time is yet distant. I myself will not follow you, never will I resort to such extreme measures while I see hope in men." "Then I’ll go on without you!" responded Ibarra resolutely.

"Is your decision final?"

"Final and firm; let the memory of my mother bear witness! I will not let peace and happiness be torn away from me with impunity, I who desired only what was good, I who have respected everything and endured everything out of love for a hypocritical religion and out of love of country. How have they answered me? By burying me in an infamous dungeon and robbing me of my intended wife! No, not to avenge myself would be a crime, it would be encouraging them to new acts of injustice! No, it would be cowardice, pusillanimity, to groan and weep when there is blood and life left, when to insult and menace is added mockery. I will call out these ignorant people, I will make them see their misery. I will teach them to think not of brotherhood but only that they are wolves for devouring, I will urge them to rise against this oppression and proclaim the eternal right of man to win his freedom!"

"But innocent people will suffer!"

"So much the better! Can you take me to the mountains?"

"Until you are in safety," replied Elias.

Again they moved out into the Pasig, talking from time to time of indifferent matters.

"Santa Ana!" murmured Ibarra. "Do you recognize this building?" They were passing in front of the country-house of the Jesuits.

"There I spent many pleasant and happy days!" sighed Elias. "In my time we came every month. Then I was like others, I had a fortune, family, I dreamed, I looked forward to a future. In those days I saw my sister in the near-by college, she presented me with a piece of her own [477]embroidery-work. A friend used to accompany her, a beautiful girl. All that has passed like a dream." They remained silent until they reached Malapad-na-bato.1 Those who have ever made their way by night up the Pasig, on one of those magical nights that the Philippines offers, when the moon pours out from the limpid blue her melancholy light, when the shadows hide the miseries of man and the silence is unbroken by the sordid accents of his voice, when only Nature speaks—they will understand the thoughts of both these youths. At Malapad-na-bato the carbineer was sleepy and, seeing that the banka was empty and offered no booty which he might seize, according to the traditional usage of his corps and the custom of that post, he easily let them pass on. Nor did the civil-guard at Pasig suspect anything, so they were not molested.

Day was beginning to break when they reached the lake, still and calm like a gigantic mirror. The moon paled and the east was dyed in rosy tints. Some distance away they perceived a gray mass advancing slowly toward them.

"The police boat is coming," murmured Elias. "Lie down and I’ll cover you with these sacks."

The outlines of the boat became clearer and plainer.

"It’s getting between us and the shore," observed Elias uneasily.

Gradually he changed the course of his banka, rowing toward Binangonan. To his great surprise he noticed that the boat also changed its course, while a voice called to him.

Elias stopped rowing and reflected. The shore was still far away and they would soon be within range of the [478]rifles on the police boat. He thought of returning to Pasig, for his banka was the swifter of the two boats, but unluckily he saw another boat coming from the river and made out the gleam of caps and bayonets of the Civil Guard. "We’re caught!" he muttered, turning pale.

He gazed at his robust arms and, adopting the only course left, began to row with all his might toward Talim Island, just as the sun was rising.

The banka slipped rapidly along. Elias saw standing on the boat, which had veered about, some men making signals to him.

"Do you know how to manage a banka?" he asked Ibarra.

"Yes, why?"

"Because we are lost if I don’t jump into the water and throw them off the track. They will pursue me, but I swim and dive well. I’ll draw them away from you and then you can save yourself."

"No, stay here, and we’ll sell our lives dearly!"

"That would be useless. We have no arms and with their rifles they would shoot us down like birds."

At that instant the water gave forth a hiss such as is caused by the falling of hot metal into it, followed instantaneously by a loud report.

"You see!" said Elias, placing the paddle in the boat. "We’ll see each other on Christmas Eve at the tomb of your grandfather. Save yourself."

"And you?"

"God has carried me safely through greater perils."

As Elias took off his camisa a bullet tore it from his hands and two loud reports were heard. Calmly he clasped the hand of Ibarra, who was still stretched out in the bottom of the banka. Then he arose and leaped into the water, at the same time pushing the little craft away from him with his foot.

Cries resounded, and soon some distance away the [479]youth’s head appeared, as if for breathing, then instantly disappeared. "There, there he is!" cried several voices, and again the bullets whistled.

The police boat and the boat from the Pasig now started in pursuit of him. A light track indicated his passage through the water as he drew farther and farther away from Ibarra’s banka, which floated about as if abandoned. Every time the swimmer lifted his head above the water to breathe, the guards in both boats shot at him.

So the chase continued. Ibarra’s little banka was now far away and the swimmer was approaching the shore, distant some thirty yards. The rowers were tired, but Elias was in the same condition, for he showed his head oftener, and each time in a different direction, as if to disconcert his pursuers. No longer did the treacherous track indicate the position of the diver. They saw him for the last time when he was some ten yards from the shore, and fired. Then minute after minute passed, but nothing again appeared above the still and solitary surface of the lake.

Half an hour afterwards one of the rowers claimed that he could distinguish in the water near the shore traces of blood, but his companions shook their heads dubiously. [480]



1 The "wide rock" that formerly jutted out into the river just below the place where the streams from the Lake of Bay join the Mariquina to form the Pasig proper. This spot was celebrated in the demonology of the primitive Tagalogs and later, after the tutelar devils had been duly exorcised by the Spanish padres, converted into a revenue station. The name is preserved in that of the little barrio on the river bank near Fort McKinley.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter LXII -Padre Damaso Explains}

Chapter LXII

Padre Damaso Explains

Vainly were the rich wedding presents heaped upon a table; neither the diamonds in their cases of blue velvet, nor the piña embroideries, nor the rolls of silk, drew the gaze of Maria Clara. Without reading or even seeing it the maiden sat staring at the newspaper which gave an account of the death of Ibarra, drowned in the lake.

Suddenly she felt two hands placed over her eyes to hold her fast and heard Padre Damaso’s voice ask merrily, "Who am I? Who am I?"

Maria Clara sprang from her seat and gazed at him in terror.

"Foolish little girl, you’re not afraid, are you? You weren’t expecting me, eh? Well, I’ve come in from the provinces to attend your wedding."

He smiled with satisfaction as he drew nearer to her and held out his hand for her to kiss. Maria Clara approached him tremblingly and touched his hand respectfully to her lips.

"What’s the matter with you, Maria?" asked the Franciscan, losing his merry smile and becoming uneasy. "Your hand is cold, you’re pale. Are you ill, little girl?"

Padre Damaso drew her toward himself with a tenderness that one would hardly have thought him capable of, and catching both her hands in his questioned her with his gaze.

"Don’t you have confidence in your godfather any more?" he asked reproachfully. "Come, sit down and tell me your little troubles as you used to do when you were a child, when you wanted tapers to make wax dolls, You [481]know that I’ve always loved you, I’ve never been cross with you." His voice was now no longer brusque, and even became tenderly modulated. Maria Clara began to weep.

"You’re crying, little girl? Why do you cry? Have you quarreled with Linares?"

Maria Clara covered her ears. "Don’t speak of him not now!" she cried.

Padre Damaso gazed at her in startled wonder.

"Won’t you trust me with your secrets? Haven’t I always tried to satisfy your lightest whim?"

The maiden raised eyes filled with tears and stared at him for a long time, then again fell to weeping bitterly.

"Don’t cry so, little girl. Your tears hurt me. Tell me your troubles, and you’ll see how your godfather loves you!"

Maria Clara approached him slowly, fell upon her knees, and raising her tear-stained face toward his asked in a low, scarcely audible tone, "Do you still love me?"


"Then, protect my father and break off my marriage!" Here the maiden told of her last interview with Ibarra, concealing only her knowledge of the secret of her birth. Padre Damaso could scarcely credit his ears.

"While he lived," the girl continued, "I thought of struggling, I was hoping, trusting! I wanted to live so that I might hear of him, but now that they have killed him, now there is no reason why I should live and suffer." She spoke in low, measured tones, calmly, tearlessly.

"But, foolish girl, isn’t Linares a thousand times better than—"

"While he lived, I could have married—I thought of running away afterwards—my father wants only the relationship! But now that he is dead, no other man shall call me wife! While he was alive I could debase myself, for there would have remained the consolation that he lived [482]and perhaps thought of me, but now that he is dead—the nunnery or the tomb!" The girl’s voice had a ring of firmness in it such that Padre Damaso lost his merry air and became very thoughtful.

"Did you love him as much as that?" he stammered.

Maria Clara did not answer. Padre Damaso dropped his head on his chest and remained silent for a long time.

"Daughter in God," he exclaimed at length in a broken voice, "forgive me for having made you unhappy without knowing it. I was thinking of your future, I desired your happiness. How could I permit you to marry a native of the country, to see you an unhappy wife and a wretched mother? I couldn’t get that love out of your head even though I opposed it with all my might. I committed wrongs, for you, solely for you. If you had become his wife you would have mourned afterwards over the condition of your husband, exposed to all kinds of vexations without means of defense. As a mother you would have mourned the fate of your sons: if you had educated them, you would have prepared for them a sad future, for they would have become enemies of Religion and you would have seen them garroted or exiled; if you had kept them ignorant, you would have seen them tyrannized over and degraded. I could not consent to it! For this reason I sought for you a husband that could make you the happy mother of sons who would command and not obey, who would punish and not suffer. I knew that the friend of your childhood was good, I liked him as well as his father, but I have hated them both since I saw that they were going to bring about your unhappiness, because I love you, I adore you, I love you as one loves his own daughter! Yours is my only affection; I have seen you grow—not an hour has passed that I have not thought of you—I dreamed of you—you have been my only joy!"

Here Padre Damaso himself broke out into tears like a child.

[483]"Then, as you love me, don’t make me eternally wretched. He no longer lives, so I want to be a nun!" The old priest rested his forehead on his hand. "To be a nun, a nun!" he repeated. "You don’t know, child, what the life is, the mystery that is hidden behind the walls of the nunnery, you don’t know! A thousand times would I prefer to see you unhappy in the world rather than in the cloister. Here your complaints can be heard, there you will have only the walls. You are beautiful, very beautiful, and you were not born for that—to be a bride of Christ! Believe me, little girl, time will wipe away everything. Later on you will forget, you will love, you will love your husband—Linares."

"The nunnery or—death!"

"The nunnery, the nunnery, or death!" exclaimed Padre Damaso. "Maria, I am now an old man, I shall not be able much longer to watch over you and your welfare. Choose something else, seek another love, some other man, whoever he may be—anything but the nunnery."

"The nunnery or death!"

"My God, my God!" cried the priest, covering his head with his hands, "Thou chastisest me, so let it be! But watch over my daughter!"

Then, turning again to the young woman, he said, "You wish to be a nun, and it shall be so. I don’t want you to die."

Maria Clara caught both his hands in hers, clasping and kissing them as she fell upon her knees, repeating over and over, "My godfather, I thank you, my godfather!"

With bowed head Fray Damaso went away, sad and sighing. "God, Thou dost exist, since Thou chastisest! But let Thy vengeance fall on me, harm not the innocent. Save Thou my daughter!" [484]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter LXIII -Christmas Eve}

Chapter LXIII

Christmas Eve

High up on the slope of the mountain near a roaring stream a hut built on the gnarled logs hides itself among the trees. Over its kogon thatch clambers the branching gourd-vine, laden with flowers and fruit. Deer antlers and skulls of wild boar, some with long tusks, adorn this mountain home, where lives a Tagalog family engaged in hunting and cutting firewood.

In the shade of a tree the grandsire was making brooms from the fibers of palm leaves, while a young woman was placing eggs, limes, and some vegetables in a wide basket. Two children, a boy and a girl, were playing by the side of another, who, pale and sad, with large eyes and a deep gaze, was seated on a fallen tree-trunk. In his thinned features we recognize Sisa’s son, Basilio, the brother of Crispin.

"When your foot gets well," the little girl was saying to him, "we’ll play hide-and-seek. I’ll be the leader."

"You’ll go up to the top of the mountain with us," added the little boy, "and drink deer blood with lime-juice and you’ll get fat, and then I’ll teach you how to jump from rock to rock above the torrent."

Basilio smiled sadly, stared at the sore on his foot, and then turned his gaze toward the sun, which shone resplendently.

"Sell these brooms," said the grandfather to the young woman, "and buy something for the children, for tomorrow is Christmas."

"Firecrackers, I want some firecrackers!" exclaimed the boy.

[485]"I want a head for my doll," cried the little girl, catching hold of her sister’s tapis. "And you, what do you want?" the grandfather asked Basilio, who at the question arose laboriously and approached the old man.

"Sir," he said, "I’ve been sick more than a month now, haven’t I?"

"Since we found you lifeless and covered with wounds, two moons have come and gone. We thought you were going to die."

"May God reward you, for we are very poor," replied Basilio. "But now that tomorrow is Christmas I want to go to the town to see my mother and my little brother. They will be seeking for me."

"But, my son, you’re not yet well, and your town is far away. You won’t get there by midnight."

"That doesn’t matter, sir. My mother and my little brother must be very sad. Every year we spend this holiday together. Last year the three of us had a whole fish to eat. My mother will have been mourning and looking for me."

"You won’t get to the town alive, boy! Tonight we’re going to have chicken and wild boar’s meat. My sons will ask for you when they come from the field."

"You have many sons while my mother has only us two. Perhaps she already believes that I’m dead! Tonight I want to give her a pleasant surprise, a Christmas gift, a son."

The old man felt the tears springing up into his eyes, so, placing his hands on the boy’s head, he said with emotion: "You’re like an old man! Go, look for your mother, give her the Christmas gift—from God, as you say. If I had known the name of your town I would have gone there when you were sick. Go, my son, and may God and the Lord Jesus go with you. Lucia, my granddaughter, will go with you to the nearest town."

"What! You’re going away?" the little boy asked him. [486]"Down there are soldiers and many robbers. Don’t you want to see my firecrackers? Boom, boom, boom!" "Don’t you want to play hide-and-seek?" asked the little girl. "Have you ever played it? Surely there’s nothing any more fun than to be chased and hide yourself?"

Basilio smiled, but with tears in his eyes, and caught up his staff. "I’ll come back soon," he answered. "I’ll bring my little brother, you’ll see him and play with him. He’s just about as big as you are."

"Does he walk lame, too?" asked the little girl. "Then we’ll make him ‘it’ when we play hide-and-seek."

"Don’t forget us," the old man said to him. "Take this dried meat as a present to your mother."

The children accompanied him to the bamboo bridge swung over the noisy course of the stream. Lucia made him support himself on her arm, and thus they disappeared from the children’s sight, Basilio walking along nimbly in spite of his bandaged leg.

The north wind whistled by, making the inhabitants of San Diego shiver with cold. It was Christmas Eve and yet the town was wrapped in gloom. Not a paper lantern hung from the windows nor did a single sound in the houses indicate the rejoicing of other years.

In the house of Capitan Basilio, he and Don Filipo—for the misfortunes of the latter had made them friendly—were standing by a window-grating and talking, while at another were Sinang, her cousin Victoria, and the beautiful Iday, looking toward the street.

The waning moon began to shine over the horizon, illumining the clouds and making the trees and houses east long, fantastic shadows.

"Yours is not a little good fortune, to get off free in these times!" said Capitan Basilio to Don Filipo. "They’ve burned your books, yes, but others have lost more."

A woman approached the grating and gazed into the interior. Her eyes glittered, her features were emaciated, [487]her hair loose and dishevelled. The moonlight gave her a weird aspect. "Sisal" exclaimed Don Filipo in surprise. Then turning to Capitan Basilio, as the madwoman ran away, he asked, "Wasn’t she in the house of a physician? Has she been cured?"

Capitan Basilio smiled bitterly. "The physician was afraid they would accuse him of being a friend of Don Crisostomo’s, so he drove her from his house. Now she wanders about again as crazy as ever, singing, harming no one, and living in the woods."

"What else has happened in the town since we left it? I know that we have a new curate and another alferez."

"These are terrible times, humanity is retrograding," murmured Capitan Basilio, thinking of the past. "The day after you left they found the senior sacristan dead, hanging from a rafter in his own house. Padre Salvi was greatly affected by his death and took possession of all his papers. Ah, yes, the old Sage, Tasio, also died and was buried in the Chinese cemetery."

"Poor old man!" sighed Don Filipo. "What became of his books?"

"They were burned by the pious, who thought thus to please God. I was unable to save anything, not even Cicero’s works. The gobernadorcillo did nothing to prevent it."

Both became silent. At that moment the sad and melancholy song of the madwoman was heard.

"Do you know when Maria Clara is to be married?" Iday asked Sinang.

"I don’t know," answered the latter. "I received a letter from her but haven’t opened it for fear of finding out. Poor Crisostomo!"

"They say that if it were not for Linares, they would hang Capitan Tiago, so what was Maria Clara going to do?" observed Victoria.

A boy limped by, running toward the plaza, whence [488]came the notes of Sisa’s song. It was Basilio, who had found his home deserted and in ruins. After many inquiries he had only learned that his mother was insane and wandering about the town—of Crispin not a word. Basilio choked back his tears, stifled any expression of his sorrow, and without resting had started in search of his mother. On reaching the town he was just asking about her when her song struck his ears. The unhappy boy overcame the trembling in his limbs and ran to throw himself into his mother’s arms.

The madwoman left the plaza and stopped in front of the house of the new alferez. Now, as formerly, there was a sentinel before the door, and a woman’s head appeared at the window, only it was not the Medusa’s but that of a comely young woman: alferez and unfortunate are not synonymous terms.

Sisa began to sing before the house with her gaze fixed on the moon, which soared majestically in the blue heavens among golden clouds. Basilio saw her, but did not dare to approach’ her. Walking back and forth, but taking care not to get near the barracks, he waited for the time when she would leave that place.

The young woman who was at the window listening attentively to the madwoman’s song ordered the sentinel to bring her inside, but when Sisa saw the soldier approach her and heard his voice she was filled with terror and took to flight at a speed of which only a demented person is capable. Basilio, fearing to lose her, ran after her, forgetful of the pains in his feet.

"Look how that boy’s chasing the madwoman!" indignantly exclaimed a woman in the street. Seeing that he continued to pursue her, she picked up a stone and threw it at him, saying, "Take that! It’s a pity that the dog is tied up!"

Basilio felt a blow on his head, but paid no attention to it as he continued running. Dogs barked, geese cackled, several windows opened to let out curious faces but [489]quickly closed again from fear of another night of terror. Soon they were outside of the town. Sisa began to moderate her flight, but still a great distance separated her from her pursuer.

"Mother!" he called to her when he caught sight of her. Scarcely had the madwoman heard his voice when she again took to flight.

"Mother, it’s I!" cried the boy in desperation, but the madwoman did not heed him, so he followed panting. They had now passed the cultivated fields and were near the wood; Basilio saw his mother enter it and he also went in. The bushes and shrubs, the thorny vines and projecting roots of trees, hindered the movements of both. The son followed his mother’s shadowy form as it was revealed from time to time by the moonlight that penetrated through the foliage and into the open spaces. They were in the mysterious wood of the Ibarra family.

The boy stumbled and fell several times, but rose again, each time without feeling pain. All his soul was centered in his eyes, following the beloved figure. They crossed the sweetly murmuring brook where sharp thorns of bamboo that had fallen on the sand at its margin pierced his bare feet, but he did not stop to pull them out.

To his great surprise he saw that his mother had plunged into the thick undergrowth and was going through the wooden gateway that opened into the tomb of the old Spaniard at the foot of the balete. Basilio tried to follow her in, but found the gate fastened. The madwoman defended the entrance with her emaciated arms and disheveled head, holding the gate shut with all her might.

"Mother, it’s I, it’s I! I’m Basilio, your son!" cried the boy as he let himself fall weakly.

But the madwoman did not yield. Bracing herself with her feet on the ground, she offered an energetic resistance. Basilio beat the gate with his fists, with his Mood-stained head, he wept, but in vain. Painfully he arose and examined [490]the wall, thinking to scale it, but found no way to do so. He then walked around it and noticed that a branch of the fateful balete was crossed with one from another tree. This he climbed and, his filial love working miracles, made his way from branch to branch to the balete, from which he saw his mother still holding the gate shut with her head. The noise made by him among the branches attracted Sisa’s attention. She turned and tried to run, but her son, letting himself fall from the tree, caught her in his arms and covered her with kisses, losing consciousness as he did so.

Sisa saw his blood-stained forehead and bent over him. Her eyes seemed to start from their sockets as she peered into his face. Those pale features stirred the sleeping cells of her brain, so that something like a spark of intelligence flashed up in her mind and she recognized her son. With a terrible cry she fell upon the insensible body of the boy, embracing and kissing him. Mother and son remained motionless.

When Basilio recovered consciousness he found his mother lifeless. He called to her with the tenderest names, but she did not awake. Noticing that she was not even breathing, he arose and went to the neighboring brook to get some water in a banana leaf, with which to rub the pallid face of his mother, but the madwoman made not the least movement and her eyes remained closed.

Basilio gazed at her in terror. He placed his ear over her heart, but the thin, faded breast was cold, and her heart no longer beat. He put his lips to hers, but felt no breathing. The miserable boy threw his arms about the corpse and wept bitterly.

The moon gleamed majestically in the sky, the wandering breezes sighed, and down in the grass the crickets chirped. The night of light and joy for so many children, who in the warm bosom of the family celebrate this feast of sweetest memories—the feast which commemorates the [491]first look of love that Heaven sent to earth—this night when in all Christian families they eat, drink, dance, sing, laugh, play, caress, and kiss one another—this night, which in cold countries holds such magic for childhood with its traditional pine-tree covered with lights, dolls, candies, and tinsel, whereon gaze the round, staring eyes in which innocence alone is reflected—this night brought to Basilio only orphanhood. Who knows but that perhaps in the home whence came the taciturn Padre Salvi children also played, perhaps they sang "La Nochebuena se viene,

La Nochebuena se va."1

For a long time the boy wept and moaned. When at last he raised his head he saw a man standing over him, gazing at the scene in silence.

"Are you her son?" asked the unknown in a low voice.

The boy nodded.

"What do you expect to do?"

"Bury her!"

"In the cemetery?"

"I haven’t any money and, besides, the curate wouldn’t allow it."


"If you would help me—"

"I’m very weak," answered the unknown as he sank slowly to the ground, supporting himself with both hands. "I’m wounded. For two days I haven’t eaten or slept. Has no one come here tonight?"

The man thoughtfully contemplated the attractive features of the boy, then went on in a still weaker voice, "Listen! I, too, shall be dead before the day comes. Twenty paces from here, on the other side of the brook, there is a big pile of firewood. Bring it here, make a pyre, put our bodies upon it, cover them over, and set fire to the whole—fire, until we are reduced to ashes!"

[492]Basilio listened attentively. "Afterwards, if no one comes, dig here. You will find a lot of gold and it will all be yours. Take it and go to school."

The voice of the unknown was becoming every moment more unintelligible. "Go, get the firewood. I want to help you."

As Basilio moved away, the unknown turned his face toward the east and murmured, as though praying:

"I die without seeing the dawn brighten over my native land! You, who have it to see, welcome it—and forget not those who have fallen during the night!"

He raised his eyes to the sky and his lips continued to move, as if uttering a prayer. Then he bowed his head and sank slowly to the earth.

Two hours later Sister Rufa was on the back veranda of her house making her morning ablutions in order to attend mass. The pious woman gazed at the adjacent wood and saw a thick column of smoke rising from it. Filled with holy indignation, she knitted her eyebrows and exclaimed:

"What heretic is making a clearing on a holy day? That’s why so many calamities come! You ought to go to purgatory and see if you could get out of there, savage!" [493]



1 A Christmas carol: "Christmas night is coming, Christmas night is going."—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Epilogue}


Since some of our characters are still living and others have been lost sight of, a real epilogue is impossible. For the satisfaction of the groundlings we should gladly kill off all of them, beginning with Padre Salvi and ending with Doña Victorina, but this is not possible. Let them live! Anyhow, the country, not ourselves, has to support them.

After Maria Clara entered the nunnery, Padre Damaso left his town to live in Manila, as did also Padre Salvi, who, while he awaits a vacant miter, preaches sometimes in the church of St. Clara, in whose nunnery he discharges the duties of an important office. Not many months had passed when Padre Damaso received an order from the Very Reverend Father Provincial to occupy a curacy in a remote province. It is related that he was so grievously affected by this that on the following day he was found dead in his bedchamber. Some said that he had died of an apoplectic stroke, others of a nightmare, but his physician dissipated all doubts by declaring that he had died suddenly.

None of our readers would now recognize Capitan Tiago. Weeks before Maria Clara took the vows he fell into a state of depression so great that he grew sad and thin, and became pensive and distrustful, like his former friend, Capitan Tinong. As soon as the doors of the nunnery closed he ordered his disconsolate cousin, Aunt Isabel, to collect whatever had belonged to his daughter and his dead wife and to go to make her home in Malabon or San Diego, since he wished to live alone thenceforward, tie then devoted himself passionately to liam-pó and the cockpit, and began to smoke opium. He no longer goes to Antipolo nor does he order any more masses, so Doña Patrocinia, his old rival, [494]celebrates her triumph piously by snoring during the sermons. If at any time during the late afternoon you should walk along Calle Santo Cristo, you would see seated in a Chinese shop a small man, yellow, thin, and bent, with stained and dirty finger nails, gazing through dreamy, sunken eyes at the passers-by as if he did not see them. At nightfall you would see him rise with difficulty and, supporting himself on his cane, make his way to a narrow little by-street to enter a grimy building over the door of which may be seen in large red letters: FUMADERO PUBLICO DE ANFION.1 This is that Capitan Tiago who was so celebrated, but who is now completely forgotten, even by the very senior sacristan himself. Doña Victorina has added to her false frizzes and to her Andalusization, if we may be permitted the term, the new custom of driving the carriage horses herself, obliging Don Tiburcio to remain quiet. Since many unfortunate accidents occurred on account of the weakness of her eyes, she has taken to wearing spectacles, which give her a marvelous appearance. The doctor has never been called upon again to attend any one and the servants see him many days in the week without teeth, which, as our readers know, is a very bad sign. Linares, the only defender of the hapless doctor, has long been at rest in Paco cemetery, the victim of dysentery and the harsh treatment of his cousin-in-law.

The victorious alferez returned to Spain a major, leaving his amiable spouse in her flannel camisa, the color of which is now indescribable. The poor Ariadne, finding herself thus abandoned, also devoted herself, as did the daughter of Minos, to the cult of Bacchus and the cultivation of tobacco; she drinks and smokes with such fury that now not only the girls but even the old women and little children fear her.

Probably our acquaintances of the town of San Diego are still alive, if they did not perish in the explosion of the steamer "Lipa," which was making a trip to the province. [495]Since no one bothered himself to learn who the unfortunates were that perished in that catastrophe or to whom belonged the legs and arms left neglected on Convalescence Island and the banks of the river, we have no idea whether any acquaintance of our readers was among them or not. Along with the government and the press at the time, we are satisfied with the information that the only friar who was on the steamer was saved, and we do not ask for more. The principal thing for us is the existence of the virtuous priests, whose reign in the Philippines may God conserve for the good of our souls.2 Of Maria Clara nothing more is known except that the sepulcher seems to guard her in its bosom. We have asked several persons of great influence in the holy nunnery of St. Clara, but no one has been willing to tell us a single word, not even the talkative devotees who receive the famous fried chicken-livers and the even more famous sauce known as that "of the nuns," prepared by the intelligent cook of the Virgins of the Lord.

Nevertheless: On a night in September the hurricane raged over Manila, lashing the buildings with its gigantic wings. The thunder crashed continuously. Lightning flashes momentarily revealed the havoc wrought by the blast and threw the inhabitants into wild terror. The rain fell in torrents. Each flash of the forked lightning showed a piece of roofing or a window-blind flying through the air to fall with a horrible crash. Not a person or a carriage moved through the streets. When the hoarse reverberations of the thunder, a hundred times re-echoed, lost themselves in the distance, there was heard the soughing of the wind as it drove the raindrops with a continuous tick-tack against the concha-panes of the closed windows.

Two patrolmen sheltered themselves under the eaves of a building near the nunnery, one a private and the other a distinguido.

"What’s the use of our staying here?" said the private.

[496]"No one is moving about the streets. We ought to get into a house. My querida lives in Calle Arzobispo." "From here over there is quite a distance and we’ll get wet," answered the distinguido.

"What does that matter just so the lightning doesn’t strike us?"

"Bah, don’t worry! The nuns surely have a lightningrod to protect them."

"Yes," observed the private, "but of what use is it when the night is so dark?"

As he said this he looked upward to stare into the darkness. At that moment a prolonged streak of lightning flashed, followed by a terrific roar.

"Nakú! Susmariosep!" exclaimed the private, crossing himself and catching hold of his companion. "Let’s get away from here."

"What’s happened?"

"Come, come away from here," he repeated with his teeth rattling from fear.

"What have you seen?"

"A specter!" he murmured, trembling with fright.

"A specter?"

"On the roof there. It must be the nun who practises magic during the night."

The distinguido thrust his head out to look, just as a flash of lightning furrowed the heavens with a vein of fire and sent a horrible crash earthwards. "Jesús!" he exclaimed, also crossing himself.

In the brilliant glare of the celestial light he had seen a white figure standing almost on the ridge of the roof with arms and face raised toward the sky as if praying to it. The heavens responded with lightning and thunderbolts!

As the sound of the thunder rolled away a sad plaint was heard.

"That’s not the wind, it’s the specter," murmured the private, as if in response to the pressure of his companion’s hand.

[497]"Ay! Ay!" came through the air, rising above the noise of the rain, nor could the whistling wind drown that sweet and mournful voice charged with affliction. Again the lightning flashed with dazzling intensity.

"No, it’s not a specter!" exclaimed the distinguido.

"I’ve seen her before. She’s beautiful, like the Virgin! Let’s get away from here and report it."

The private did not wait for him to repeat the invitation, and both disappeared.

Who was moaning in the middle of the night in spite of the wind and rain and storm? Who was the timid maiden, the bride of Christ, who defied the unchained elements and chose such a fearful night under the open sky to breathe forth from so perilous a height her complaints to God? Had the Lord abandoned his altar in the nunnery so that He no longer heard her supplications? Did its arches perhaps prevent the longings of the soul from rising up to the throne of the Most Merciful?

The tempest raged furiously nearly the whole night, nor did a single star shine through the darkness. The despairing plaints continued to mingle with the soughing of the wind, but they found Nature and man alike deaf; God had hidden himself and heard not.

On the following day, after the dark clouds had cleared away and the sun shone again brightly in the limpid sky, there stopped at the door of the nunnery of St. Clara a carriage, from which alighted a man who made himself known as a representative of the authorities. He asked to be allowed to speak immediately with the abbess and to see all the nuns.

It is said that one of these, who appeared in a gown all wet and torn, with tears and tales of horror begged the man’s protection against the outrages of hypocrisy. It is also said that she was very beautiful and had the most lovely and expressive eyes that were ever seen.

The representative of the authorities did not accede to her request, but, after talking with the abbess, left her there in [498]spite of her tears and pleadings. The youthful nun saw the door close behind him as a condemned person might look upon the portals of Heaven closing against him, if ever Heaven should come to be as cruel and unfeeling as men are. The abbess said that she was a madwoman. The man may not have known that there is in Manila a home for the demented; or perhaps he looked upon the nunnery itself as an insane asylum, although it is claimed that he was quite ignorant, especially in a matter of deciding whether a person is of sound mind. It is also reported that General J——— thought otherwise, when the matter reached his ears. He wished to protect the madwoman and asked for her. But this time no beautiful and unprotected maiden appeared, nor would the abbess permit a visit to the cloister, forbidding it in the name of Religion and the Holy Statutes. Nothing more was said of the affair, nor of the ill-starred Maria Clara.



1 Public Opium-Smoking Room.
2 January 2, 1883.—Author’s note.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Glossary}


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

abaka: "Manila hemp," the fiber of a plant of the banana family.

achara: Pickles made from the tender shoots of bamboo, green papayas, etc.

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

alferez: Junior officer of the Civil Guard, ranking next below a lieutenant.

alibambang: A leguminous plant whose acid leaves are used in cooking.

alpay: A variety of nephelium, similar but inferior to the Chinese lichi.

among: Term used by the natives in addressing a priest, especially a friar: from the Spanish amo, master.

amores-secos: "Barren loves," a low-growing weed whose small, angular pods adhere to clothing.

andas: A platform with handles, on which an image is borne in a procession.

asuang: A malignant devil reputed to feed upon human flesh, being especially fond of new-born babes.

até: The sweet-sop.

Audiencia: The administrative council and supreme court of the Spanish régime.

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

azotea: The flat roof of a house or any similar platform; a roof-garden.

babaye: Woman (the general Malay term).

baguio: The local name for the typhoon or hurricane.

bailúhan: Native dance and feast: from the Spanish baile.

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

banka: A dugout canoe with bamboo supports or outriggers.

Bilibid: The general penitentiary at Manila.

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

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

calle: Street.

camisa: 1. A loose, collarless shirt of transparent material worn by men outside the trousers.

2. A thin, transparent waist with flowing sleeves, worn by women.

[500]camote: A variety of sweet potato. capitan: "Captain," a title used in addressing or referring to the gobernadorcillo or a former occupant of that office.

carambas: A Spanish exclamation denoting surprise or displeasure.

carbineer: Internal-revenue guard.

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

chico: The sapodilla plum.

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

cochero: Carriage driver: coachman.

Consul: A wealthy merchant; originally, a member of the Consulado, the tribunal, or corporation, controlling the galleon trade.

cuadrillero: Municipal guard.

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

cuidao: "Take care!" "Look out!" A common exclamation, from the Spanish cuidado.

dálag: The Philippine Ophiocephalus, the curious walking mudfish that abounds in the paddy-fields during the rainy season.

dalaga: Maiden, woman of marriageable age.

dinding: House-wall or partition of plaited bamboo wattle.

director, directorcillo: The town secretary and clerk of the gobernadorcillo.

distinguido: A person of rank serving as a private soldier but exempted from menial duties and in promotions preferred to others of equal merit.

escribano: Clerk of court and official notary.

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

gobernadorcillo: "Petty governor," the principal municipal official.

gogo: A climbing, woody vine whose macerated stems are used as soap; "soap-vine."

guingón: Dungaree, a coarse blue cotton cloth.

hermano mayor: The manager of a fiesta.

husi: A fine cloth made of silk interwoven with cotton, abaka, or pineapple-leaf fibers.

ilang-ilang: The Malay "flower of flowers," from which the well-known essence is obtained.

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

kaingÞin: A woodland clearing made by burning off the trees and underbrush, for planting upland rice or camotes. kalan: The small, portable, open, clay fireplace commonly used in cooking.

kalao: The Philippine hornbill. As in all Malay countries, this bird is the object of curious superstitions. Its raucous cry, which may be faintly characterized as hideous, is said to mark the hours and, in the night-time, to presage death or other disaster.

kalikut: A short section of bamboo in which the buyo is mixed; a primitive betel-box.

[501]kamagon: A tree of the ebony family, from which fine cabinet-wood is obtained. Its fruit is the mabolo, or date-plum. kasamá: Tenants on the land of another, to whom they render payment in produce or by certain specified services.

kogon: A tall, rank grass used for thatch.

kris: A Moro dagger or short sword with a serpentine blade.

kundíman: A native song.

kupang: A large tree of the Mimosa family.

kuriput: Miser, "skinflint."

lanson: The langsa, a delicious cream-colored fruit about the size of a plum. In the Philippines, its special habitat is the country around the Lake of Bay.

liam-pó: A Chinese game of chance (?).

lomboy: The jambolana, a small, blue fruit with a large stone.

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

mankukúlan: An evil spirit causing sickness and other misfortunes, and a person possessed of such a demon.

morisqueta: Rice boiled without salt until dry, the staple food of the Filipinos.

Moro: Mohammedan Malay of southern Mindanao and Sulu.

mutya: Some object with talismanic properties, "rabbit’s foot."

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

nipa: Swamp-palm, with the imbricated leaves of which the roots and sides of the common Filipino houses are constructed.

nito: A climbing fern whose glossy, wiry leaves are used for making fine hats, cigar-cases, etc.

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

oy: An exclamation to attract attention, used toward inferiors and in familiar intercourse: probably a contraction of the Spanish imperative, oye, "listen!"

pakó: An edible fern.

palasán: A thick, stout variety of rattan, used for walking-sticks.

pandakaki: A low tree or shrub with small, star-like flowers.

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

papaya: The tropical papaw, fruit of the "melon-tree."

paracmason: Freemason, the bête noire of the Philippine friar.

peseta: A silver coin, in value one-fifth of a peso or thirty-two cuartos.

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

piña: Fine cloth made from pineapple-leaf fibers.

proper names: The author has given a simple and sympathetic touch to his story throughout by using the familiar names commonly employed among the Filipinos in their home-life. Some of these are nicknames or pet names, such as Andong, Andoy, Choy, Neneng ("Baby"), Puté, Tinchang, and Yeyeng. Others are abbreviations or corruptions of the Christian names, often with the particle ng or ay added, which is a common practice: Andeng, Andrea; Doray, Teodora; Iday, Brigida (Bridget); [502]Sinang, Lucinda (Lucy); Sipa, Josefa; Sisa, Narcisa; Teo, Teodoro (Theodore); Tiago, Santiago (James); Tasio, Anastasio; Tiká, Escolastica; Tinay, Quintina; Tinong, Saturnino. Provincial: Head of a religious order in the Philippines.

querida: Paramour, mistress: from the Spanish, "beloved."

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

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

salabat: An infusion of ginger.

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

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

santol: The Philippine sandal-tree.

sawali: Plaited bamboo wattle.

sinamay: A transparent cloth woven from abaka fibers.

sinigang: Water with vegetables or some acid fruit, in which fish are boiled; "fish soup."

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

tabí: The cry of carriage drivers to warn pedestrians.

talibon: A short sword, the "war bolo."

tapa: Jerked meat.

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

tarambulo: A low weed whose leaves and fruit pedicles are covered with short, sharp spines.

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

tikas-tikas: A variety of canna bearing bright red flowers.

tertiary brethren: Members of a lay society affiliated with a regular monastic order, especially the Venerable Tertiary Order of the Franciscans.

timbaín: The "water-cure," and hence, any kind of torture. The primary meaning is "to draw water from a well," from timba, pail.

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

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

zacate: Native grass used for feeding livestock.


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