AN EAGLE FLIGHT
I have in this rough work shaped out a man Whom this beneath-world doth embrace and hug With amplest entertainment: my free drift Halts not particularly, but moves itself In a wide sea of wax; no levell'd malice Infects one comma in the course I hold; But flies an eagle flight, bold and forth on, Leaving no track behind.
Timon of Athens—Act 1, Scene 1.
An Eagle Flight
A Filipino Novel
"NOLI ME TANGERE"
DR. JOSE RIZAL
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
Copyright, 1900, By McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
I.—The House on the Pasig 1 II.—Crisostomo Ibarra 7 III.—The Dinner 9 IV.—Heretic and Filibuster 12 V.—A Star in the Dark Night 15 VI.—Captain Tiago and Maria 17 VII.—Idylle 20 VIII.—Reminiscences 23 IX.—Affairs of the Country 25 X.—The Pueblo 30 XI.—The Sovereigns 32 XII.—All Saints' Day 35 XIII.—The Little Sacristans 40 XIV.—Sisa 44 XV.—Basilio 47 XVI.—At the Manse 50 XVII.—Story of a Schoolmaster 53 XVIII.—The Story of a Mother 57 XIX.—The Fishing Party 63 XX.—In the Woods 71 XXI.—With the Philosopher 79 XXII.—The Meeting at the Town Hall 87 XXIII.—The Eve of the Fete 94 XXIV.—In the Church 102 XXV.—The Sermon 105 XXVI.—The Crane 109 XXVII.—Free Thought 116 XXVIII.—The Banquet 119 XXIX.—Opinions 126 XXX.—The First Cloud 130 XXXI.—His Excellency 134 XXXII.—The Procession 142 XXXIII.—Dona Consolacion 145 XXXIV.—Right and Might 150 XXXV.—Husband and Wife 156 XXXVI.—Projects 163 XXXVII.—Scrutiny and Conscience 165 XXXVIII.—The Two Women 170 XXXIX.—The Outlawed 176 XL.—The Enigma 181 XLI.—The Voice of the Persecuted 183 XLII.—The Family of Elias 187 XLIII.—Il Buon di si Conosce da Mattina 193 XLIV.—La Gallera 196 XLV.—A Call 201 XLVI.—A Conspiracy 204 XLVII.—The Catastrophe 208 XLVIII.—Gossip 212 XLIX.—Vae Victis 217 L.—Accurst 221 LI.—Patriotism and Interest 224 LII.—Marie Clara Marries 232 LIII.—The Chase on the Lake 242 LIV.—Father Damaso Explains Himself 247 LV.—The Nochebuena 251
In that horrible drama, the Philippine revolution, one man of the purest and noblest character stands out pre-eminently—Jose Rizal—poet, artist, philologue, novelist, above all, patriot; his influence might have changed the whole course of events in the islands, had not a blind and stupid policy brought about the crime of his death.
This man, of almost pure Tagalo race, was born in 1861, at Calamba, in the island of Luzon, on the southern shore of the Laguna de Bay, where he grew up in his father's home, under the tutorage of a wise and learned native priest, Leontio.
The child's fine nature, expanding in the troublous latter days of a long race bondage, was touched early with the fire of genuine patriotism. He was eleven when the tragic consequences of the Cavite insurrection destroyed any lingering illusions of his people, and stirred in them a spirit that has not yet been allayed.
The rising at Cavite, like many others in the islands, was a protest against the holding of benefices by friars—a thing forbidden by a decree of the Council of Trent, but authorized in the Philippines, by papal bulls, until such time as there should be a sufficiency of native priests. This time never came. As the friars held the best agricultural lands, and had a voice—and that the most authoritative—in civil affairs, there developed in the rural districts a veritable feudal system, bringing in its train the arrogance and tyranny that like conditions develop. It became impossible for the civil authorities to carry out measures in opposition to the friars. "The Government is an arm, the head is the convent," says the old philosopher of Rizal's story.
The rising at Cavite miscarried, and vengeance fell. Dr. Joseph Burgos, a saintly old priest, was put to death, and three other native priests with him, while many prominent native families were banished. Never had the better class of Filipinos been so outraged and aroused, and from this time on their purpose was fixed, not to free themselves from Spain, not to secede from the church they loved, but to agitate ceaselessly for reforms which none of them longer believed could be realized without the expulsion of the friars. In the school of this purpose, and with the belief on the part of his father and Leontio that he was destined to use his life and talents in its behalf, Jose was trained, until he left his home to study in Manila. At the College of the Jesuits he carried off all the honors, with special distinction in literary work. He wrote a number of odes; and a melodrama in verse, the work of his thirteenth year, was successfully played at Manila. But he had to wear his honors as an Indian among white men, and they made life hard for him. He specially aroused the dislike of his Spanish college mates by an ode in which he spoke of his patria. A Tagalo had no native land, they contended—only a country.
At twenty Rizal finished his course at Manila, and a few months later went to Madrid, where he speedily won the degrees of Ph.D. and M.D.; then to Germany—taking here another degree, doing his work in the new language, which he mastered as he went along; to Austria, where he gained great skill as an oculist; to France, Italy, England—absorbing the languages and literature of these countries, doing some fine sculpture by way of diversion. But in all this he was single-minded; he never lost the voice of his call; he felt more and more keenly the contrast between the hard lot of his country and the freedom of these lands, and he bore it ill that no one of them even knew about her, and the cancer eating away her beauty and strength. At the end of this period of study he settled in Berlin, and began his active work for his country.
Four years of the socialism and license of the universities had not distorted Rizal's political vision; he remained, as he had grown up, an opportunist. Not then, nor at any time, did he think his country ready for self-government. He saw as her best present good her continued union to Spain, "through a stable policy based upon justice and community of interests." He asked only for the reforms promised again and again by the ministry, and as often frustrated. To plead for the lifting of the hand of oppression from the necks of his people, he now wrote his first novel, "Noli Me Tangere."
The next year he returned to the Philippines to find himself the idol of the natives and a thorn in the flesh of friars and greedy officials. The reading of his book was proscribed. He stayed long enough to concern himself in a dispute of his townspeople with the Dominicans over titles to lands; then finding his efforts vain and his safety doubtful, he left for Japan. Here he pursued for some time his usual studies; came thence to America, and then crossed to England, where he made researches in the British Museum, and edited in Spanish, "Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas," by Dr. Antonio de Morga, an important work, neglected by the Spaniards, but already edited in English by Dean Stanley.
After publishing this work, in Paris, Rizal returned to Spain, where, in 1890, he began a series of brilliant pleas for the Philippines, in the Solidaridad, a liberal journal published at Barcelona and afterward at Madrid. But he roused little sympathy or interest in Spain, and his articles, repeated in pamphlets in the Philippines, served to make his position more dangerous at home.
Disheartened but steadfast, he retired to Belgium, to write his second novel, "El Filibusterismo." "Noli Me Tangere" is a poet's story of his people's loves, faults, aspirations, and wrongs; "El Filibusterismo" is the work of a student of statecraft, pointing out the way to political justice and the development of national life. Inspired, it would seem, by his own creation of a future for his country, he returned to the Solidaridad, where, in a series of remarkable articles, he forecast the ultimate downfall of Spain in the Philippines and the rise of his people. This was his crime against the Government: for the spirit which in a Spanish boy would not permit a Tagalo to have a patria, in a Spaniard grown could not brook the suggestion of colonial independence, even in the far future.
And now having poured out these passionate pleas and splendid forecasts, Rizal was homesick for this land of his. He went to Hong-Kong. Calamba was in revolt. His many friends at the English port did everything to keep him; but the call was too persistent. December 23d, 1891, he wrote to Despujols, then governor-general of the Philippines: "If Your Excellency thinks my slight services could be of use in pointing out the evils of my country and helping heal the wounds reopened by the recent injustices, you need but to say so, and trusting in your honor as a gentleman, I will immediately put myself at your disposal. If you decline my offer, ... I shall at least be conscious of having done all in my power, while seeking the good of my country, to preserve her union to Spain through a stable policy based upon justice and community of interests."
The governor expressed his gratitude, promised protection, and Rizal sailed for Manila. But immediately after his landing he was arrested on a charge of sedition, whose source made the governor's promise impotent. Nothing could be proved against Rizal; but it was not the purpose of his enemies to have him acquitted. A half-way sentence was imposed, and he was banished to Dapidan, on the island of Mindanao. Despujols was recalled to Spain.
In this exile Rizal spent four years, beloved by the natives, teaching them agriculture, treating their sick (the poor without charge), improving their schools, and visited from time to time by patients from abroad, drawn here by his fame as an oculist. Among these last came a Mr. Taufer, a resident of Hong-Kong, and with him his foster-child, Josephine Bracken, the daughter of an Irish sergeant. The pretty and adventurous girl and the banished patriot fell in love with each other.
These may well have been among the happiest years of Rizal's life. He had always been an exile in fact: now that he was one in name, strangely enough he was able for the first time to live in peace among his brothers under the skies he loved. He sang, in his pathetic content:
"Thou dear illusion with thy soothing cup! I taste, and think I am a child again.
Oh! kindly tempest, favoring winds of heaven, That knew the hour to check my shifting flight, And beat me down upon my native soil,..."
Always about his philological studies, he began here a work that should be of peculiar interest to us: a treatise on Tagalog verbs, in the English language. Did his knowledge of America's growing feeling toward Cuba lead him to foresee—as no one else seems to have done—her appearance in the Philippines, or was he thinking of England?
At Hong-Kong, and in his brief stays at Manila, Rizal had established the Liga Filipina, a society of educated and progressive islanders, whose ideas of needed reforms and methods of attaining them were at one with his own. His banishment was a warning of danger and checked the society's activity.
The Liga was succeeded, in the sense only of followed, by the Katipunan,—a native word also meaning league. The makers of this "league," though avowing the same purpose as the members of the other, were men of very different stamp. Their initiation was a blood-rite: they sought immediate independence; they preached a campaign of force, if not of violence. That a recent reviewer should have connected Dr. Rizal's name with the Katipunan is difficult to understand. Not alone are his writings, acts, and character against such a possibility, but so also is the testimony of the Spanish archives: for not only was it admitted at his final trial that he was not suspected of any connection with the Katipunan, but his well-known disapproval of that society's premature and violent action was even made a point against him. He was so much the more dangerous to the state because he had the sagacity to know that the times were not yet ripe for independence, and the honesty and purity of purpose to make only demands which the state herself well knew to be just.
When the rebellion of 1896 broke out, Rizal, still at Dapidan, knew that his life would not long be worth a breath of his beloved Philippine air. He asked, therefore, of the Government permission to go to Cuba as an army surgeon. It was granted, and he was taken to Manila—ovations all along his route—and embarked on the Isla de Panay for Barcelona. He carried with him the following letter from General Blanco, then governor-general of the Philippines, to the Minister of War at Madrid:
Manila, August 30th, 1896.
Esteemed General and Distinguished Friend:
I recommend to you with genuine interest, Dr. Jose Rizal, who is leaving for the Peninsula, to place himself at the disposal of the Government as volunteer army surgeon to Cuba. During the four years of his exile at Dapidan, he has conducted himself in the most exemplary manner, and he is in my opinion the more worthy of pardon and consideration, in that he is in no way connected with the extravagant attempts we are now deploring, neither those of conspirators nor of the secret societies that have been formed.
I have the pleasure to reassure you of my high esteem, and remain,
Your affectionate friend and comrade,
But as soon as the Isla was on the seas, despatches began to pass between Manila and Madrid, and before she reached her port the promises, acceptances, and recommendations of the Government officials were void. Upon landing, Rizal was immediately arrested and confined in the infamous Montjuich prison. Despujols was now military governor of Barcelona. The interview of hours which he is said to have had with his Filipino prisoner must have been dramatic. Rizal was at once re-embarked, on the Colon, and returned to Manila, a state prisoner. Blanco was recalled, and Poliavieja, a sworn friend of the clericals, was sent out.
Rizal was tried by court-martial, on a charge of sedition and rebellion. His guilt was manifestly impossible. Except as a prisoner of the state, he had spent only a few weeks in the Philippines since his boyhood. His life abroad had been perfectly open, as were all his writings. The facts stated in General Blanco's letter to the Minister of War were well known to all Rizal's accusers. The best they could do was to aver that he had written "depreciative words" against the Government and the Church. Some testimony was given against him by men who, since the American occupation, have made affidavit that it was false and forced from them by torture. Rizal made a splendid defence, but he was condemned, and sentenced to the death of a traitor. On that day Jose Rizal y Mercado and Josephine Bracken were married. Then the sweetness and strength of his character and his singleness of purpose made a beautiful showing. In the night, which his bride spent on her knees outside his prison, he wrote a long poem of farewell to his patria adorado, fine in its abnegation and exquisite in the wanderings of its fancy. He received the ministrations of a Jesuit priest. He was perfectly calm. "What is death to me?" he said; "I have sown, others are left to reap." At dawn he was shot.
The poem in which he left a record of his last thoughts was the following:
MY LAST THOUGHT.
Land I adore, farewell! thou land of the southern sun's choosing! Pearl of the Orient seas! our forfeited Garden of Eden! Joyous I yield up for thee my sad life, and were it far brighter, Young, rose-strewn, for thee and thy happiness still would I give it. Far afield, in the din and rush of maddening battle, Others have laid down their lives, nor wavered nor paused in the giving. What matters way or place—the cyprus, the lily, the laurel, Gibbet or open field, the sword or inglorious torture, When 'tis the hearth and the country that call for the life's immolation?
Dawn's faint lights bar the east, she smiles through the cowl of the darkness, Just as I die. Hast thou need of purple to garnish her pathway? Here is my blood, on the hour! pour it out, and the sun in his rising Mayhap will touch it with gold, will lend it the sheen of his glory.
Dreams of my childhood and youth, and dreams of my strong young manhood, What were they all but to see, thou gem of the Orient ocean! Tearless thine eyes so deep, unbent, unmarred thy sweet forehead.
Vision I followed from far, desire that spurred on and consumed me! Greeting! my parting soul cries, and greeting again!... O my country! Beautiful is it to fall, that the vision may rise to fulfilment, Giving my life for thy life, and breathing thine air in the death-throe; Sweet to eternally sleep in thy lap, O land of enchantment!
If in the deep, rich grass that covers my rest in thy bosom, Some day thou seest upspring a lowly, tremulous blossom, Lay there thy lips, 'tis my soul; may I feel on my forehead descending, Deep in the chilly tomb, the soft, warm breath of thy kisses. Let the calm light of the moon fall around me, and dawn's fleeting splendor; Let the winds murmur and sigh, on my cross let some bird tell its message; Loosed from the rain by the brazen sun, let clouds of soft vapor Bear to the skies, as they mount again, the chant of my spirit. There may some friendly heart lament my parting untimely, And if at eventide a soul for my tranquil sleep prayeth, Pray thou too, O my fatherland! for my peaceful reposing. Pray for those who go down to death through unspeakable torments; Pray for those who remain to suffer such torture in prisons; Pray for the bitter grief of our mothers, our widows, our orphans; Oh, pray too for thyself, on the way to thy final redemption.
When our still dwelling-place wraps night's dusky mantle about her, Leaving the dead alone with the dead, to watch till the morning, Break not our rest, and seek not to lay death's mystery open. If now and then thou shouldst hear the string of a lute or a zithern, Mine is the hand, dear country, and mine is the voice that is singing.
When my tomb, that all have forgot, no cross nor stone marketh, There let the laborer guide his plough, there cleave the earth open. So shall my ashes at last be one with thy hills and thy valleys. Little 'twill matter then, my country, that thou shouldst forget me! I shall be air in thy streets, and I shall be space in thy meadows. I shall be vibrant speech in thine ears, shall be fragrance and color, Light and shout, and loved song forever repeating my message.
Rizal's own explanation of the lofty purpose of his searching story of his Tagalog fatherland was in these words of his dedicatory preface:
TO MY COUNTRY
The records of human suffering make known to us the existence of ailments of such nature that the slightest touch irritates and causes tormenting pains. Whenever, in the midst of modern civilizations, I have tried to call up thy dear image, O my country! either for the comradeship of remembrance or to compare thy life with that about me, I have seen thy fair face disfigured and distorted by a hideous social cancer.
Eager for thy health, which is our happiness, and seeking the best remedy for thy pain, I am about to do with thee what the ancients did with their sick: they exposed them on the steps of their temples, that every one who came to adore the divinity within might offer a remedy.
So I shall strive to describe faithfully thy state without extenuation; to lift a corner of the covering that hides thy sore; sacrificing everything to truth, even the love of thy glory, while loving, as thy son, even thy frailties and sins.
AN EAGLE FLIGHT
THE HOUSE ON THE PASIG.
It was toward the end of October. Don Santiago de los Santos, better known as Captain Tiago, was giving a dinner; and though, contrary to custom, he had not announced it until that very afternoon, it had become before evening the sole topic of conversation, not only at Binondo, but in the other suburbs of Manila, and even in the city itself. Captain Tiago passed for the most lavish of entertainers, and it was well known that the doors of his home, like those of his country, were closed to nobody and nothing save commerce and all new or audacious ideas. The news spread, therefore, with lightning rapidity in the world of the sycophants, the unemployed and idle, whom heaven has multiplied so generously at Manila.
The dinner was given in a house of the Calle de Anloague, which may yet be recognized, if an earthquake has not demolished it. This house, rather large and of a style common to the country, stood near an arm of the Pasig, called the Boco de Binondo, a rio which, like all others of Manila, washing along the multiple output of baths, sewers, and fishing grounds serves as a means of transport, and even furnishes drinking-water, if such be the humor of the Chinese carrier. Scarcely at intervals of a half-mile is this powerful artery of the quarter where the traffic is most important, the movement most active, dotted with bridges; and these, in ruins at one end six months of the year and inapproachable the remaining six at the other, give horses a pretext for plunging into the water, to the great surprise of preoccupied mortals in carriages dozing tranquilly or philosophizing on the progress of the century.
The house of Captain Tiago was rather low and on lines sufficiently incorrect. A grand staircase with green balustrades, carpeted at intervals, led from the vestibule, with its squares of colored faience, to the main floor, between Chinese pedestals ornamented with fantastic designs, supporting vases and jardinieres of flowers.
At the top of the staircase was a large apartment, called here caida, which for this night served at once as dining- and music-room. In the centre, a long table, luxuriously set, seemed to promise to diners-out the most soothing satisfaction, at the same time threatening the timid girl—the dalaga—who for six mortal hours must submit to the companionship of strange and diverse people.
In contrast to these mundane preparations, richly colored pictures of religious subjects hung about the walls, and at the end of the apartment, imprisoned in ornate and splendid Renaissance carving, was a curious canvas of vast dimensions, bearing the inscription, "Our Lady of Peace and of Safe Journeys, Venerated at Antipolo." The ceiling was prettily decorated with jewelled Chinese lamps, cages without birds, spheres of crystal faced with colored foil, faded air plants, botetes, etc. On the river side, through fantastic arches, half Chinese, half European, were glimpses of a terrace, with trellises and arbors, illuminated by little colored lanterns. Brilliant chandeliers, reflected in great mirrors, lighted the apartment. On a platform of pine was a superb grand piano. In a panel of the wall, a large portrait in oil represented a man of agreeable face, in frock coat, robust, straight, symmetrical as the gavel between his jewelled fingers.
The crowd of guests almost filled the room; the men separated from the women, as in Catholic churches and synagogues. An old cousin of Captain Tiago's was receiving alone. Her appearance was kindly, but her tongue not very flexible to the Castilian. She filled her role by offering to the Spaniards trays of cigarettes and buyos, and giving the Filipinos her hand to kiss. The poor old lady, wearied at last, profited by the sound of breaking china to go out hurriedly, grumbling at maladroits. She did not reappear.
Whether the pictures roused a spirit of devotion, whether the women of the Philippines are exceptional, the feminine part of the assembly remained silent. Scarcely was heard even a yawn, stifled behind a fan. The men made more stir. The most interesting and animated group was formed by two monks, two Spanish provincials, and an officer, seated round a little table, on which were wine and English biscuits.
The officer, an old lieutenant, tall and morose, looked a Duke of Alba, retired into the Municipal Guard. He spoke little and dryly. One of the monks was a young Dominican, handsome, brilliant, precociously grave; it was the curate of Binondo. Consummate dialectician, he could escape from a distinguo like an eel from a fisherman's nets. He spoke seldom, and seemed to weigh his words.
The other monk talked much and gestured more. Though his hair was turning gray, he seemed to have preserved all his vigor. His carriage, his glance, his large jaws, his herculean frame, gave him the air of a Roman patrician in disguise. Yet he seemed genial, and if the timbre of his voice was autocratic, his frank and merry laugh removed any disagreeable impression, so far even that one pardoned his appearing in the salon with unshod feet.
One of the provincials, a little man with a black beard, had nothing remarkable about him but his nose, which, to judge from its size, ought not to have belonged to him entire. The other, young and blond, seemed newly arrived in the country. The Franciscan was conversing with him somewhat warmly.
"You will see," said he, "when you have been here several months; you will be convinced that to legislate at Madrid and to execute in the Philippines is not one and the same thing."
"I, for example," continued Brother Damaso, raising his voice to cut off the words of his objector, "I, who count twenty-three years of plane and palm, can speak with authority. I spent twenty years in one pueblo. In twenty years one gets acquainted with a town. San Diego had six thousand souls. I knew each inhabitant as if I'd borne and reared him—with which foot this one limped, how that one's pot boiled—and I tell you the reforms proposed by the Ministers are absurd. The Indian is too indolent!"
"Ah, pardon me," said the young man, speaking low and drawing nearer; "that word rouses all my interest. Does it really exist from birth, this indolence of the native, or is it, as some travellers say, only an excuse of our own for the lack of advancement in our colonial policy?"
"Bah! ask Senor Laruja, who also knows the country well; ask him if the ignorance and idleness of the Indians are not unparalleled?"
"In truth!" the little dark man made haste to affirm; "nowhere will you find men more careless."
"Nor more corrupt, nor more ungrateful."
"Nor more ill-bred."
The young man looked about uneasily. "Gentlemen," said he, still speaking low, "it seems to me we are the guests of Indians, and that these young ladies——"
"Bah, you are too timid: Santiago does not consider himself an Indian, besides, he isn't here. These are the scruples of a newcomer. Wait a little. When you have slept in our strapped beds, eaten the tinola, and seen our balls and fetes, you'll change your tone. And more, you will find that the country is going to ruin; she is ruined already!"
"What does your reverence mean?" cried the lieutenant and Dominican together.
"The evil all comes from the fact that the Government sustains wrong-doers in the face of the ministers of God," continued the Franciscan, raising his voice and facing about. "When a curate rids his cemetery of a malefactor, no one, not even the king, has the right to interfere; and a wretched general, a petty general from nowhere——"
"Father, His Excellency is viceroy," said the officer, rising. "His Excellency represents His Majesty the king."
"What Excellency?" retorted the Franciscan, rising in turn. "Who is this king? For us there is but one King, the legitimate——"
"If you do not retract that, Father, I shall make it known to the governor-general," cried the lieutenant.
"Go to him now, go!" retorted Father Damaso; "I'll loan you my carriage."
The Dominican interposed.
"Senores," said he in a tone of authority, "you should not confuse things, nor seek offence where there is none intended. We must distinguish in the words of Father Damaso those of the man from those of the priest. The latter per se can never offend, because they are infallible. In the words of the man, a sub-distinction must be made, into those said ab irato, those said ex ore, but not in corde, and those said in corde. It is these last only that can offend, and even then everything depends. If they were not premeditated in mente, but simply arose per accidens in the heat of the conversation——"
At this interesting point there joined the group an old Spaniard, gentle and inoffensive of aspect. He was lame, and leaned on the arm of an old native woman, smothered in curls and frizzes, preposterously powdered, and in European dress. With relief every one turned to salute them. It was Doctor de Espadana and his wife, the Doctora Dona Victorina. The atmosphere cleared.
"Which, Senor Laruja, is the master of the house?" asked the young provincial. "I haven't been presented."
"They say he has gone out."
"No presentations are necessary here," said Brother Damaso; "Santiago is a good fellow."
Er hat das Pulfer nicht erfunden. "He didn't invent gunpowder," added Laruja.
"What, you too, Senor de Laruja?" said Dona Victorina over her fan. "How could the poor man have invented gunpowder when, if what they say is true, the Chinese made it centuries ago?"
"The Chinese? 'Twas a Franciscan who invented it," said Brother Damaso.
"A Franciscan, no doubt; he must have been a missionary to China," said the Senora, not disposed to abandon her idea.
"Who is this with Santiago?" asked the lieutenant. Every one looked toward the door, where two men had just entered. They came up to the group around the table.
One was the original of the portrait in oil, and he led by the hand a young man in deep black. "Good evening, senores; good evening, fathers," said Captain Tiago, kissing the hands of the priests, "I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra."
At the name of Ibarra there were smothered exclamations. The lieutenant, forgetting to salute the master of the house, surveyed the young man from head to foot. Brother Damaso seemed petrified. The arrival was evidently unexpected. Senor Ibarra exchanged the usual phrases with members of the group. Nothing marked him from other guests save his black attire. His fine height, his manner, his movements, denoted sane and vigorous youth. His face, frank and engaging, of a rich brown, and lightly furrowed—trace of Spanish blood—was rosy from a sojourn in the north.
"Ah!" he cried, surprised and delighted, "my father's old friend, Brother Damaso!"
All eyes turned toward the Franciscan, who did not stir.
"Pardon," said Ibarra, puzzled. "I am mistaken."
"You are not mistaken," said the priest at last, in an odd voice; "but your father was not my friend."
Ibarra, astonished, drew slowly back the hand he had offered, and turned to find himself facing the lieutenant, whose eyes had never left him.
"Young man, are you the son of Don Rafael Ibarra?"
"Then welcome to your country! I knew your father well, one of the most honorable men of the Philippines."
"Senor," replied Ibarra, "what you say dispels my doubts as to his fate, of which as yet I know nothing."
The old man's eyes filled with tears. He turned away to hide them, and moved off into the crowd.
The master of the house had disappeared. Ibarra was left alone in the middle of the room. No one presented him to the ladies. He hesitated a moment, then went up to them and said:
"Permit me to forget formalities, and salute the first of my countrywomen I have seen for years."
No one spoke, though many eyes regarded him with interest. Ibarra turned away, and a jovial man, in native dress, with studs of brilliants down his shirt-front, almost ran up to say:
"Senor Ibarra, I wish to know you. I am Captain Tinong, and live near you at Tondo. Will you honor us at dinner to-morrow?"
"Thank you," said Ibarra, pleased with the kindness, "but to-morrow I must leave for San Diego."
"What a pity! Well then, on your return——"
"Dinner is served," announced a waiter of the Cafe La Campana.
The guests began to move toward the table, not without much ceremony on the part of the ladies, especially the natives, who required a great deal of polite urging.
The two monks finding themselves near the head of the table, like two candidates for a vacant office, began politely resigning in each other's favor.
"This is your place, Brother Damaso."
"No, yours, Brother Sibyla."
"You are so much the older friend of the family."
"But you are the curate of the quarter."
This polite contention settled, the guests sat down, no one but Ibarra seeming to think of the master of the house.
"What," said he, "you're not to be with us, Don Santiago?"
But there was no place: Lucullus was not dining with Lucullus.
"Don't trouble yourself," said Captain Tiago, laying his hand on the young man's shoulder. "This feast is a thank-offering for your safe return. Ho, there! bring the tinola! I've ordered the tinola expressly for you, Crisostomo."
"When did you leave the country?" Laruja asked Ibarra.
"Seven years ago."
"Then you must have almost forgotten it."
"On the contrary, it has been always in my thoughts; but my country seems to have forgotten me."
"Why do you say that?" asked the old lieutenant.
"Because for several months I have had no news, so that I do not even know how and when my father died."
The lieutenant could not repress a groan.
"And where were you that they couldn't telegraph you?" asked Dona Victorina. "When we were married, we sent despatches to the peninsula."
"Senora, I was in the far north," said Ibarra.
"You have travelled much," said the blond provincial; "which of the European countries pleased you most?"
"After Spain, my second country, the nations that are free."
"And what struck you as most interesting, most surprising, in the general life of nations—the genius of each, so to put it?" asked Laruja.
"Before visiting a country I carefully studied its history, and, except the different motives for national pride, there seems to me nothing surprisingly characteristic in any nation. Given its history, everything appears natural; each people's wealth and misery seem in direct proportion to its freedom and its prejudices, and in consequence, in proportion to the self-sacrifice or selfishness of its progenitors."
"Did you discover nothing more startling than that?" demanded the Franciscan, with a mocking laugh. "It was hardly worth while squandering money for so slight returns. Not a schoolboy but knows as much."
The guests eyed one another, fearful of what might follow. Ibarra, astonished, remained silent a moment, then said quietly:
"Senores, do not wonder at these words of Brother Damaso. He was my curate when I was a little boy, and with his reverence the years don't count. I thank him for thus recalling the time when he was often an honored guest at my father's table."
Brother Sibyla furtively observed the Franciscan, who was trembling slightly. At the first possible opportunity Ibarra rose.
"You will pardon me if I excuse myself," he said. "I arrived only a few hours ago, and have matters of importance to attend to. The dinner is over. I drink little wine, and scarcely taste liquors." And raising a glass as yet untouched, "Senores," he said, "Spain and the Philippines forever!"
"You're not going!" said Santiago in amazement. "Maria Clara and her friends will be with us in a moment. What shall I say to her?"
"That I was obliged to go," said Ibarra, "and that I'm coming early in the morning." And he went out.
The Franciscan unburdened himself.
"You saw his arrogance," he said to the blond provincial. "These young fellows won't take reproof from a priest. That comes of sending them to Europe. The Government ought to prohibit it."
That night the young provincial added to his "Colonial Studies," this paragraph: "In the Philippines, the least important person at a feast is he who gives it. You begin by showing your host to the door, and all goes merrily.... In the present state of affairs, it would be almost a kindness to prohibit young Filipinos from leaving their country, if not even from learning to read."
HERETIC AND FILIBUSTER.
Ibarra stood outside the house of Captain Tiago. The night wind, which at this season brings a bit of freshness to Manila, seemed to blow away the cloud that had darkened his face. Carriages passed him like streaks of light, hired calashes rolled slowly by, and foot-passengers of all nationalities jostled one another. With the rambling gait of the preoccupied or the idle, he took his way toward the Plaza de Binondo. Nothing was changed. It was the same street, with the same blue and white houses, the same white walls with their slate-colored fresco, poor imitations of granite. The church tower showed the same clock with transparent face. The Chinese shop had the same soiled curtains, the same iron triangles. One day, long ago, imitating the street urchins of Manila, he had twisted one of these triangles: nobody had ever straightened it. "How little progress!" he murmured; and he followed the Calle de la Sacristia, pursued by the cry of sherbet venders.
"Marvellous!" he thought; "one would say my voyage was a dream. Santo Dios! the street is as bad as when I went away."
While he contemplated this marvel of urban stability in an unstable country, a hand fell lightly on his shoulder. He looked up and recognized the old lieutenant. His face had put off its expression of sternness, and he smiled kindly at Crisostomo.
"Young man," he said, "I was your father's friend: I wish you to consider me yours."
"You seem to have known my father well," said Crisostomo; "perhaps you can tell me something of his death."
"You do not know about it?"
"Nothing at all, and Don Santiago would not talk with me till to-morrow."
"You know, of course, where he died."
"Not even that."
Lieutenant Guevara hesitated.
"I am an old soldier," he said at last, in a voice full of compassion, "and only know how to say bluntly what I have to tell. Your father died in prison."
Ibarra sprang back, his eyes fixed on the lieutenant's.
"Died in prison? Who died in prison?"
"Your father," said the lieutenant, his voice still gentler.
"My father—in prison? What are you saying? Do you know who my father was?" and he seized the old man's arm.
"I think I'm not mistaken: Don Rafael Ibarra."
"Yes, Don Rafael Ibarra," Crisostomo repeated mechanically.
"You will soon learn that for an honest man to keep out of prison is a difficult matter in the Philippines."
"You mock me! Why did he die in prison?"
"Come with me; we will talk on the way."
They walked along in silence, the officer stroking his beard in search of inspiration.
"As you know," he began, "your father was the richest man of the province, and if he had many friends he had also enemies. We Spaniards who come to the Philippines are seldom what we should be. I say this as truthfully of some of your ancestors as of others. Most of us come to make a fortune without regard to the means. Well, your father was a man to make enemies among these adventurers, and he made enemies among the monks. I never knew exactly the ground of the trouble with Brother Damaso, but it came to a point where the priest almost denounced him from the pulpit.
"You remember the old ex-artilleryman who collected taxes? He became the laughing-stock of the pueblo, and grew brutal and churlish accordingly. One day he chased some boys who were annoying him, and struck one down. Unfortunately your father interfered. There was a struggle and the man fell. He died within a few hours.
"Naturally your father was arrested, and then his enemies unmasked. He was called heretic, filibustero, his papers were seized, everything was made to accuse him. Any one else in his place would have been set at liberty, the physicians finding that the man died of apoplexy; but your father's fortune, his honesty, and his scorn of everything illegal undid him. When his advocate, by the most brilliant pleading, had exposed these calumnies, new accusations arose. He had taken lands unjustly, owed men for imaginary wrongs, had relations with the tulisanes, by which his plantations and herds were unmolested. The affair became so complicated that no one could unravel it. Your father gave way under the strain, and died suddenly—alone—in prison."
They had reached the quarters.
The lieutenant hesitated. Ibarra said nothing, but grasped the old man's long, thin hand; then turned away, caught sight of a coach, and signalled the driver.
"Fonda de Lala," he said, and his words were scarcely audible.
A STAR IN THE DARK NIGHT.
Ibarra went up to his chamber, which faced the river, threw himself down, and looked out through the open window. Across the river a brilliantly lighted house was ringing with joyous music. Had the young man been so minded, with the aid of a glass he might have seen, in that radiant atmosphere, a vision. It was a young girl, of exceeding beauty, wearing the picturesque costume of the Philippines. A semicircle of courtiers was round her. Spaniards, Chinese, natives, soldiers, curates, old and young, intoxicated with the light and music, were talking, gesturing, disputing with animation. Even Brother Sibyla deigned to address this queen, in whose splendid hair Dona Victorina was wreathing a diadem of pearls and brilliants. She was white, too white perhaps, and her deep eyes, often lowered, when she raised them showed the purity of her soul. About her fair and rounded neck, through the transparent tissue of the pina, winked, as say the Tagals, the joyous eyes of a necklace of brilliants. One man alone seemed unreached by all this light and loveliness; it was a young Franciscan, slim, gaunt, pale, who watched all from a distance, still as a statue.
But Ibarra sees none of this. Another spectacle appears to his fancy, commands his eyes. Four walls, bare and dank, enclose a narrow cell, lighted by a single streak of day. On the moist and noisome floor is a mat; on the mat an old man dying. Beaten down by fever, he lies and looks about him, calling a name, in strangling voice, with tears. No one—a clanking chain, an echoed groan somewhere; that was all. And away off in the bright world, laughing, singing, drenching flowers with wine, a young man.... One by one the lights go out in the festal house: no more of noise, or song, or harp; but in Ibarra's ears always the agonizing cry.
Silence has drawn her deep breath over Manila; all its life seems gone out, save that a cock's crow alternates with the bells of clock towers and the melancholy watch-cry of the guard. A quarter moon comes up, flooding with its pale light the universal sleep. Even Ibarra, wearied more perhaps with his sad thoughts than his long voyage, sleeps too. Only the young Franciscan, silent and motionless just now at the feast, awake still. His elbow on the window-place of his little cell, his chin sunk in his palm, he watches a glittering star. The star pales, goes out, the slender moon loses her gentle light, but the monk stays on; motionless, he looks toward the horizon, lost now behind the morning mists, over the field of Bagumbayan, over the sleeping sea.
CAPTAIN TIAGO AND MARIA.
While our friends are still asleep or breakfasting, we will sketch the portrait of Captain Tiago. We have no reason to ignore him, never having been among his guests. Short, less dark than most of his compatriots, of full face and slightly corpulent, Captain Tiago seemed younger than his age. His rounded cranium, very small and elongated behind, was covered with hair black as ebony. His eyes, small and straight set, kept always the same expression. His nose was straight and finely cut, and if his mouth had not been deformed by the use of tobacco and buyo, he had not been wrong in thinking himself a handsome man.
He was reputed the richest resident of Binondo, and had large estates in La Pampanga, on the Laguna de Bay, and at San Diego. From its baths, its famous gallera, and his recollections of the place, San Diego was his favorite pueblo, and here he passed two months every year. He had also properties at Santo Cristo, in the Calle de Anloague, and in the Calle Rosario; the exploitation of the opium traffic was shared between him and a Chinese, and, needless to say, brought him great gains. He was purveyor to the prisoners at Bilibid, and furnished zacate to many Manila houses. On good terms with all authority, shrewd, pliant, daring in speculation, he was the sole rival of a certain Perez in the awards of divers contracts which the Philippine Government always places in privileged hands. From all of which it resulted that Captain Tiago was as happy as can be a man whose small head announces his native origin. He was rich, and at peace with God, with the Government, and with men.
That he was at peace with God could not be doubted. One has no motive for being at enmity with Him when one is well in the land, and has never had to ask Him for anything. From the grand salon of the Manila home, a little door, hid behind a silken curtain, led to a chapel—something obligatory in a Filipino house. There were Santiago's Lares, and if we use this word, it is because the master of the house was rather a poly- than a monotheist. Here, in sculpture and oils, were saints, martyrdoms, and miracles; a chapter could scarcely enumerate them all. Before these images Santiago burned his candles and made his requests known.
That he was at peace with the Government, however difficult the problem, could not be doubted either. Incapable of a new idea, and contented with his lot, he was disposed to obey even to the lowest functionary, and to offer him capons, hams, and Chinese fruits at all seasons. If he heard the natives maligned, not considering himself one, he chimed in and said worse: one criticised the Chinese merchants or the Spaniards, he, who thought himself pure Iberian, did it too. He was for two years gobernadorcillo of the rich association of half-breeds, in the face of protestations from many who considered him a native. The impious called him fool; the poor, pitiless and cruel; his inferiors, a tyrant.
As to his past, he was the only son of a rich sugar merchant, who died when Santiago was still at school. He had then to quit his studies and give himself to business. He married a young girl of Santa Cruz, who brought him social rank and helped his fortunes.
The absence of an heir in the first six years of marriage made Captain Tiago's thirst for riches almost blameworthy. In vain all this time did Dona Pia make novenas and pilgrimages and scatter alms. But at length she was to become a mother. Alas! like Shakespeare's fisherman who lost his songs when he found a treasure, she never smiled again, and died, leaving a beautiful baby girl, whom Brother Damaso presented at the font. The child was called Maria Clara.
Maria Clara grew, thanks to the care of good Aunt Isabel. Her eyes, like her mother's, were large, black, and shaded by long lashes; sparkling and mirthful when she laughed; when she did not, thoughtful and profound, even sad. Her curly hair was almost blond, her nose perfect; and her mouth, small and sweet like her mother's, was flanked by charming dimples. The little thing, idol of every one, lived amid smiles and love. The monks feted her. They dressed her in white for their processions, mingled jasmine and lilies in her hair, gave her little silver wings, and in her hands blue ribbons, the reins of fluttering white doves. She was so joyous, had such a candid baby speech, that Captain Tiago, enraptured with her, passed his time in blessing the saints.
In the lands of the sun, at thirteen or fourteen, the child becomes a woman. At this age full of mysteries, Maria Clara entered the convent of Santa Catalina, to remain several years. With tears she parted from the sole companion of her childish games, Crisostomo Ibarra, who in turn was soon to leave his home. Some years after his departure, Don Rafael and Captain Tiago, knowing the inclinations of their children, agreed upon their marriage. This arrangement was received with eager joy by two hearts beating at two extremities of the world.
The sky was blue. A fresh breeze stirred the leaves and shook the nodding "angels' heads," the aerial plants, and the many other adornments of the terrace. Maria and Crisostomo were there, alone together for the first time since his return. They began with charming futilities, so sweet to those who understand, so meaningless to others. She is sister to Cain, a little jealous; she says to her lover: "Did you never forget me among the many beautiful women you have seen?"
He too, he is brother to Cain, a bit subtle.
"Could I ever forget you!" he answered, gazing into the dark eyes. "Your remembrance made powerless that lotus flower, Europe, which steeps out of the memory of many of my countrymen the hopes and wrongs of our land. It seemed as if the spirit, the poetic incarnation of my country was you, frank and lovely daughter of the Philippines! My love for you and that for her fused in one."
"I know only your pueblo, Manila and Antipolo," replied the young girl, radiant; "but I have always thought of you, and though my confessor commanded it, I was never able to forget you. I used to think over all our childish plays and quarrels. Do you remember the day you were really angry? Your mother had taken us to wade in the brook, behind the reeds. You put a crown of orange flowers on my head and called me Chloe. But your mother took the flowers and ground them with a stone, to mix with gogo, for washing our hair. You cried. 'Stupid,' said she, 'you shall see how good your hair smells!' I laughed; at that you were angry and wouldn't speak to me, while I wanted to cry. On the way home, when the sun was very hot, I picked some sage leaves for your head. You smiled your thanks, and we were friends again."
Ibarra opened his pocketbook and took out a paper in which were some leaves, blackened and dry, but fragrant still.
"Your sage leaves," he replied to her questioning look.
In her turn, she drew out a little white satin purse.
"Hands off!" as he reached out for it, "there's a letter in it!"
"My letter of good-by?"
"Have you written me any others, senor mio?"
"What is in it?"
"Lots of fibs, excuses of a bad debtor," she laughed. "If you're good I will read it to you, suppressing the gallantries, though, so you won't suffer too much." And lifting the paper to hide her face, she began:
"'My——' I'll not read what follows, because it's a fib"; and she ran her eyes over several lines. "In spite of my prayers, I must go. 'You are no longer a boy,' my father said, 'you must think of the future. You have to learn things your own country cannot teach you, if you would be useful to her some day. What, almost a man and I see you in tears?' Upon that I confessed my love for you. He was silent, then placing his hand on my shoulder he said in a voice full of emotion: 'Do you think you alone know how to love; that it costs your father nothing to let you go away from him? It is not long since we lost your mother, and I am growing old, yet I accept my solitude and run the risk of never seeing you again. For you the future opens, for me it shuts; the fire of youth is yours, frost touches me, and it is you who weep, you who do not know how to sacrifice the present to a to-morrow good for you and for your country."
Ibarra's agitation stopped the reading; he had become very pale and was walking back and forth.
"What is it? You are ill!" cried Maria, going toward him.
"With you I have forgotten my duty; I should be on my way to the pueblo. To-morrow is the Feast of the Dead."
Maria was silent. She fixed on him her great, thoughtful eyes, then turned to pick some flowers.
"Go," she said, and her voice was deep and sweet; "I keep you no longer. In a few days we shall see each other again. Put these flowers on your father's grave."
A little later, Captain Tiago found Maria in the chapel, at the foot of a statue of the Virgin, weeping. "Come, come," said he, to console her; "burn some candles to St. Roch and St. Michael, patrons of travellers, for the tulisanes are numerous: better spend four reales for wax than pay a ransom."
Ibarra's carriage was crossing one of the most animated quarters of Manila. The street life that had saddened him the night before, now, in spite of his sorrow, made him smile. Everything awakened a world of sleeping recollections.
These streets were not yet paved, so if the sun shone two days continuously, they turned to powder which covered everything. But let it rain a day, you had a mire, reflecting at night the shifting lamps of the carriages and bespattering the foot-passengers on the narrow walks. How many women had lost their embroidered slippers in these muddy waves!
The good and honorable pontoon bridge, so characteristically Filipino, doing its best to be useful in spite of natural faults, and rising or falling with the caprices of the Pasig,—that brave bridge was no more. The new Spanish bridge drew Ibarra's attention. Carriages passed continuously, drawn by groups of dwarf horses, in splendid harness. In these sat at ease government clerks going to their bureaus, officers, Chinese, self-satisfied and ridiculously grave monks, canons. In an elegant victoria, Ibarra thought he recognized Father Damaso, deep in thought. From an open carriage, where his wife and two daughters accompanied him, Captain Tinong waved a friendly greeting.
Then came the Botanical Gardens, then old Manila, still enclosed in its ditches and walls; beyond that the sea; beyond that, Europe, thought Ibarra. But the little hill of Bagumbayan drove away all fancies. He remembered the man who had opened the eyes of his intelligence, taught him to find out the true and the just. It was an old priest, and the holy man had died there, on that field of execution!
To these thoughts he replied by murmuring: "No, after all, first the country, first the Philippines, daughters of Spain, first the Spanish home-land!"
His carriage rolled on. It passed a cart drawn by two horses whose hempen harness told of the back country. Sometimes there sounded the slow and heavy tread of a pensive carabao, drawing a great tumbrel; its conductor, on his buffalo skin, accompanying, with a monotonous and melancholy chant, the strident creaking of the wheels. Sometimes there was the dull sound of a native sledge's worn runners. In the fields grazed the herds, and among them white herons gravely promenaded, or sat tranquil on the backs of sleepy oxen beatifically chewing their cuds of prairie grass. Let us leave the young man, wholly occupied now with his thoughts. The sun which makes the tree-tops burn, and sends the peasants running, when they feel the hot ground through their thick shoes; the sun which halts the countrywoman under a clump of great reeds, and makes her think of things vague and strange—that sun has no enchantment for him.
While the carriage, staggering like a drunken man over the uneven ground, passes a bamboo bridge, mounts a rough hillside or descends its steep slope, let us return to Manila.
AFFAIRS OF THE COUNTRY.
Ibarra had not been mistaken. It was indeed Father Damaso he had seen, on his way to the house which he himself had just left.
Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel were entering their carriage when the monk arrived. "Where are you going?" he asked, and in his preoccupation he gently tapped the young girl's cheek.
"To the convent to get my things," said she.
"Ah! ah! well, well! we shall see who is the stronger, we shall see!" he murmured, as he left the two women somewhat surprised and went up the steps.
"He's probably committing his sermon," said Aunt Isabel. "Come, we are late!"
We cannot say whether Father Damaso was committing a sermon, but he must have been absorbed in important things, for he did not offer his hand to Captain Tiago.
"Santiago," he said, "we must have a serious talk. Come into your office."
Captain Tiago felt uneasy. He answered nothing, but followed the gigantic priest, who closed the door behind them.
While they talk, let us see what has become of Father Sibyla.
The learned Dominican, his mass once said, had set out for the convent of his order, which stands at the entrance to the city, near the gate bearing alternately, according to the family reigning at Madrid, the name of Magellan or Isabella II.
Brother Sibyla entered, crossed several halls, and knocked at a door.
"Come in," said a faint voice.
"God give health to your reverence," said the young Dominican, entering. Seated in a great armchair was an old priest, meagre, jaundiced, like Rivera's saints. His eyes, deep-sunken in their orbits, were arched with heavy brows, intensifying the flashes of their dying light.
Brother Sibyla was moved. He inclined his head, and seemed to wait.
"Ah!" gasped the sick man, "they recommend an operation! An operation at my age! Oh, this country, this terrible country! You see what it does for all of us, Hernando!"
"And what has your reverence decided?"
"To die! Could I do otherwise? I suffer too much, but—I've made others suffer. I'm paying my debt. And you? How are you? What do you bring me?"
"I came to talk of the mission you gave me."
"Ah! and what is there to say?"
"They've told us fairy tales," answered Brother Sibyla wearily. "Young Ibarra seems a sensible fellow. He is not stupid at all, and thoroughly manly."
"Is it so!"
"Hostilities began yesterday."
"Ah! and how?"
Brother Sibyla briefly recounted what had passed between Brother Damaso and Crisostomo.
"Besides," he said in conclusion, "the young man is going to marry the daughter of Captain Tiago, who was educated at the convent of our sisters. He is rich; he would not go about making himself enemies and compromise at once his happiness and his fortune."
The sick man moved his hand in sign of assent.
"Yes, you are right. He should be ours, body and soul. But if he declare himself our enemy, so much the better!"
Brother Sibyla looked at the old man in surprise.
"For the good of our sacred order, you understand," he added, breathing with difficulty; "I prefer attack to the flatteries and adulations of friends; besides, those are bought."
"Your reverence believes that?"
The old man looked at him sadly.
"Remember this well," he went on, catching his breath; "our power lasts as long as it's believed in. If we're attacked, the Government reasons: 'They are assailed because in them is seen an obstacle to liberty: therefore we must support them!'"
"But if the Government should listen to our enemies, if it should come to covet what we have amassed—if there should be a man hardy enough——"
"Ah! then beware!"
Both were silent.
"And too," the sick man continued, "we have need of attack to show us our faults and make us better them. Too much flattery deceives us; we sleep; and more, it makes us ridiculous, and the day we become ridiculous we fall as we have fallen in Europe. Money will no longer come to our churches. No one will buy scapulary, penitential cords, anything; and when we cease to be rich, we can no longer convince the conscience. And the worst is, that we're working our own destruction. For one thing, this immoderate thirst for gain, which I've combated in vain in all our chapters, this thirst will be our ruin. I fear we are already declining. God blinds whom He will destroy."
"We shall always have our lands."
"But every year we raise their price, and force the Indian to buy of others. The people are beginning to murmur. We ought not to increase the burdens we've already laid on their shoulders."
"So your reverence believes that the revenues——"
"Talk no more of money," interrupted the old man with aversion. "You say the lieutenant threatened Father Damaso?"
"Yes, Father," replied Sibyla, half smiling; "but this morning he told me the sherry had mounted to his head, and he thought it must have been the same with Brother Damaso. 'And your threat?' I asked jestingly. 'Father,' said he, 'I know how to keep my word when it doesn't smirch my honor; I was never an informer—and that's why I am only a lieutenant.'"
Though the lieutenant had not carried out his threat to go to Malacanang, the captain-general none the less knew what had happened. A young officer told the story.
"From whom do you have it?" demanded His Excellency, smiling.
"From De Laruja."
The captain-general smiled again, and added:
"Woman's tongue, monk's tongue doesn't wound. I don't wish to get entangled with these men in skirts. Besides, the provincial made light of my orders; to punish this priest I demanded that his parish be changed. Well, they gave him a better. Monkishness! as we say in Spain."
Alone, His Excellency ceased to smile.
"Oh! if the people were not so dense, how easy to bridle their reverences! But every nation merits its lot!"
Meanwhile Captain Tiago finished his conference with Father Damaso.
"And now you are warned," said the Franciscan upon leaving. "This would have been avoided if you hadn't equivocated when I asked you how the matter stood. Don't make any more false moves, and trust her godfather."
Captain Tiago took two or three turns about the room, reflecting and sighing. Then suddenly, as if a happy thought had struck him, running to the oratory, he extinguished the two candles lighted for the safeguard of Ibarra.
Almost on the banks of the lake, in the midst of meadows and streams, is the pueblo of San Diego. It exports sugar, rice, coffee, and fruits, or sells these articles of merchandise at low prices to Chinese traders.
When, on a clear day, the children climb to the top stage of the moss-grown and vine-clad church tower, there are joyous exclamations. Each picks out his own little roof of nipa, tile, zinc, or palm. Beyond they see the rio, a monstrous crystal serpent asleep on a carpet of green. Trunks of palm trees, dipping and swaying, join the two banks, and if, as bridges, they leave much to be desired for trembling old men and poor women who must cross with heavy baskets on their heads, on the other hand they make fine gymnastic apparatus for the young.
But what besides the rio the children never fail to talk about is a certain wooded peninsula in this sea of cultivated land. Its ancient trees never die, unless the lightning strikes their high tops. Dust gathers layer on layer in their hollow trunks, the rain makes soil of it, the birds bring seeds, a tropical vegetation grows there in wild freedom: bushes, briers, curtains of netted bind-weed, spring from the roots, reach from tree to tree, hang swaying from the branches, and Flora, as if yet unsatisfied, sows on the trees themselves; mosses and fungi live on the creased bark, and graceful aerial guests pierce with their tendrils the hospitable branches.
This wood is the subject of a legend.
When the pueblo was but a group of poor cabins, there arrived one day a strange old Spaniard with marvellous eyes, who scarcely spoke the Tagal. He wished to buy lands having thermal springs, and did so, paying in money, dress, and jewelry. Suddenly he disappeared, leaving no trace. The people of the pueblo had begun to think of him as a magician, when one day his body was found hanging high to the branch of a giant fig tree. After it had been buried at the foot of the tree, no one cared much to venture in that quarter.
A few months later there arrived a young Spanish halfbreed, who claimed to be the old man's son. He settled, and gave himself to agriculture. Don Saturnino was taciturn and of violent temper, but very industrious. Late in life he married a woman of Manila, who bore him Don Rafael, the father of Crisostomo.
Don Rafael, from his youth, was much beloved. He rapidly developed his father's lands, the population multiplied, the Chinese came, the hamlet grew to a pueblo, the native curate died and was replaced by Father Damaso. And all this time the people respected the sepulchre of the old Spaniard, and held it in superstitious awe. Sometimes, armed with sticks and stones, the children dared run near it to gather wild fruits; but while they were busy at this, or stood gazing at the bit of rope still dangling from the limb, a stone or two would fall from no one knew where. Then with cries of "The old man! the old man!" they threw down sticks and fruit, ran in all directions, between the rocks and bushes, and did not stop till they were out of the woods, all pale and breathless, some crying, few daring to laugh.
Who was the ruler of the pueblo? Not Don Rafael during his lifetime, though he possessed the most land, and nearly every one owed him. As he was modest, and gave little value to his deeds, no party formed around him, and we have seen how he was deserted and attacked when his fortunes fell.
Was it Captain Tiago? It is true his arrival was always heralded with music, he was given banquets by his debtors, and loaded with presents; but he was laughed at in secret, and called Sacristan Tiago.
Was it by chance the town mayor, the gobernadorcillo? Alas! he was an unfortunate, who governed not, but obeyed; did not dispose, but was disposed of. And yet he had to answer to the alcalde for all these dispositions, as if they emanated from his own brain. Be it said in his favor that he had neither stolen nor usurped his honors, but that they cost him five thousand pesos and much humiliation.
Perhaps then it was God? But to most of these good people, God seemed one of those poor kings surrounded by favorites to whom their subjects always take their supplications, never to them.
No, San Diego was a sort of modern Rome. The curate was the pope at the Vatican; the alferez of the civil guard, the King in the Quirinal. Here as there, difficulties arose from the situation.
The present curate, Brother Bernardo Salvi, was the young and silent Franciscan we have already seen. In mode of life and in appearance he was very unlike his predecessor, Brother Damaso. He seemed ill, was always thoughtful, accomplished strictly his religious duties, and was careful of his reputation. Through his zeal, almost all his parishioners had speedily become members of the Third Order of St. Francis, to the great dismay of the rival order, that of the Holy Rosary. Four or five scapularies were suspended around every neck, knotted cords encircled all the waists, and the innumerable processions of the order were a joy to see. The head sacristan took in a small fortune, selling—or giving as alms, to put it more correctly—all the paraphernalia necessary to save the soul and combat the devil. It is well known that this evil spirit, who once dared attack God face to face, and accuse His divine word, as the book of Job tells us, is now so cowardly and feeble that he flees at sight of a bit of painted cloth, and fears a knotted cord.
Brother Salvi again greatly differed from Brother Damaso—who set everything right with fists or ferrule, believing it the only way to reach the Indian—in that he punished with fines the faults of his subordinates, rarely striking them.
From his struggles with the curate, the alferez had a bad reputation among the devout, which he deserved, and shared with his wife, a hideous and vile old Filipino woman named Dona Consolacion. The husband avenged his conjugal woes on himself by drinking like a fish; on his subordinates, by making them exercise in the sun; and most frequently on his wife, by kicks and drubbings. The two fought famously between themselves, but were of one mind when it was a question of the curate. Inspired by his wife, the officer ordered that no one be abroad in the streets after nine at night. The priest, who did not like this restriction, retorted in lengthy sermons, whenever the alferez went to church. Like all impenitents, the alferez did not mend his ways for that, but went out swearing under his breath, arrested the first sacristan he met, and made him clean the yard of the barracks. So the war went on. All this, however, did not prevent the alferez and the curate chatting courteously enough when they met.
And they were the rulers of the pueblo of San Diego.
ALL SAINTS' DAY.
The cemetery of San Diego is in the midst of rice-fields. It is approached by a narrow path, powdery on sunny days, navigable on rainy. A wooden gate and a wall half stone, half bamboo stalks, succeed in keeping out men, but not the curate's goats, nor the pigs of his neighbors. In the middle of the enclosure is a stone pedestal supporting a great wooden cross. Storms have bent the strip of tin on which were the I. N. R. I., and the rain has washed off the letters. At the foot of the cross is a confused heap of bones and skulls thrown out by the grave-digger. Everywhere grow in all their vigor the bitter-sweet and rose-bay. Some tiny flowerets, too, tint the ground—blossoms which, like the mounded bones, are known to their Creator only. They are like little pale smiles, and their odor scents of the tomb. Grass and climbing plants fill the corners, cover the walls, adorning this otherwise bare ugliness; they even penetrate the tombs, through earthquake fissures, and fill their yawning gaps.
At this hour two men are digging near the crumbling wall. One, the grave-digger, works with the utmost indifference, throwing aside a skull as a gardener would a stone. The other is preoccupied; he perspires, he breathes hard.
"Oh!" he says at length in Tagalo. "Hadn't we better dig in some other place? This grave is too recent."
"All the graves are the same, one is as recent as another."
"I can't endure this!"
"What a woman! You should go and be a clerk! If you had dug up, as I did, a boy of twenty days, at night, in the rain——"
"Uh-h-h! And why did you do that?"
The grave-digger seemed surprised.
"Why? How do I know, I was ordered to."
"Who ordered you?"
At this question the grave-digger straightened himself, and examined the rash young man from head to foot.
"Come! come! You're curious as a Spaniard. A Spaniard asked me the same question, but in secret. I'm going to say to you what I said to him: the curate ordered it."
"Oh! and what did you do with the body?"
"The devil! if I didn't know you, I should take you for the police. The curate told me to bury it in the Chinese cemetery, but it's a long way there, and the body was heavy. 'Better be drowned,' I said to myself, 'than lie with the Chinese,' and I threw it into the lake."
"No, no, stop digging!" interrupted the younger man, with a cry of horror, and throwing down his spade he sprang out of the grave.
The grave-digger watched him run off signing himself, laughed, and went to work again.
The cemetery began to fill with men and women in mourning. Some of them came for a moment to the open grave, discussed some matter, seemed not to be agreed, and separated, kneeling here and there. Others were lighting candles; all began to pray devoutly. One heard sighing and sobs, and over all a confused murmur of "requiem aeternam."
A little old man, with piercing eyes, entered uncovered. At sight of him some laughed, others frowned. The old man seemed to take no account of this. He went to the heap of skulls, knelt, and searched with his eyes. Then with the greatest care he lifted the skulls one by one, wrinkling his brows, shaking his head, and looking on all sides. At length he rose and approached the grave-digger.
"Ho!" said he.
The other raised his eyes.
"Did you see a beautiful skull, white as the inside of a cocoanut?"
The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.
"Look," said the old man, showing a piece of money; "it's all I have, but I'll give it to you if you find it."
The gleam of silver made the man reflect. He looked toward the heap and said:
"It isn't there? No? Then I don't know where it is."
"You don't know? When those who owe me pay, I'll give you more. 'Twas the skull of my wife, and if you find it——"
"It isn't there? Then I know nothing about it, but I can give you another."
"You are like the grave you dig," cried the old man, furious. "You know not the value of what you destroy! For whom is this grave?"
"How do I know? For a dead man!" replied the other with temper.
"Like the grave, like the grave," the old man repeated with a dry laugh. "You know neither what you cast out nor what you keep. Dig! dig!" And he went toward the gate.
Meanwhile the grave-digger had finished his task, and two mounds of fresh, reddish earth rose beside the grave. Drawing from his pocket some buyo, he regarded dully what was going on around him, sat down, and began to chew.
At that moment a carriage, which had apparently made a long journey, stopped at the entrance to the cemetery. Ibarra got out, followed by an old servant, and silently made his way along the path.
"It is there, behind the great cross, senor," said the servant, as they approached the spot where the grave-digger was sitting.
Arrived at the cross, the old servant looked on all sides, and became greatly confused. "It was there," he muttered; "no, there, but the ground has been broken."
Ibarra looked at him in anguish.
The servant appealed to the grave-digger.
"Where is the grave that was marked with a cross like this?" he demanded; and stooping, he traced a Byzantine cross on the ground.
"Were there flowers growing on it?"
"Yes, jasmine and pansies."
The grave-digger scratched his ear and said with a yawn:
"Well, the cross I burned."
"Burned! and why?"
"Because the curate ordered it."
Ibarra drew his hand across his forehead.
"But at least you can show us the grave."
"The body's no longer there," said the grave-digger calmly.
"What are you saying!"
"Yes," the man went on, with a smile, "I put a woman in its place, eight days ago."
"Are you mad?" cried the servant; "it isn't a year since he was buried."
"Father Damaso ordered it; he told me to take the body to the Chinese cemetery; I——"
He got no farther, and started back in terror at sight of Crisostomo's face. Crisostomo seized his arm. "And you did it?" he demanded, in a terrible voice.
"Don't be angry, senor," replied the grave-digger, pale and trembling. "I didn't bury him with the Chinese. Better be drowned than that, I thought to myself, and I threw him into the water."
Ibarra stared at him like a madman. "You're only a poor fool!" he said at length, and pushing him away, he rushed headlong for the gate, stumbling over graves and bones, and painfully followed by the old servant.
"That's what the dead bring us," grumbled the gravedigger. "The curate orders me to dig the man up, and this fellow breaks my arm for doing it. That's the way with the Spaniards. I shall lose my place!"
THE LITTLE SACRISTANS.
The little old man of the cemetery wandered absent-minded along the streets.
He was a character of the pueblo. He had once been a student in philosophy, but abandoned his course at the demands of his mother. The good woman, finding that her son had talent, feared lest he become a savant and forget God; she let him choose, therefore, between studying for the priesthood and leaving the college of San Jose. He was in love, took the latter course, and married. Widowed and orphaned within a year, he found in books a deliverance from sadness, idleness, and the gallera. Unhappily he studied too much, bought too many books, neglected to care for his fortune, and came to financial ruin. Some people called him Don Astasio, or Tasio the philosopher; others, and by far the greater number, Tasio the fool.
The afternoon threatened a tempest. Pale flashes of lightning illumined the leaden sky; the atmosphere was heavy and close.
Arrived at the church door, Tasio entered and spoke to two little boys, one ten years old perhaps, the other seven.
"Coming with me?" he asked. "Your mother has ready a dinner fit for curates."
"The head sacristan won't let us leave yet," said the elder. "We're going into the tower to ring the bells."
"Take care! don't go too near the bells in the storm," said Tasio, and, head down, he went off, thinking, toward the outskirts of the town.
Soon the rain came down in torrents, the thunder echoed clap on clap, each detonation preceded by an awful zig-zag of fire. The tempest grew in fury, and, scarce able to ride on the shifting wind, the plaintive voices of the bells rang out a lamentation.
The boys were in the tower, the younger, timid, in spite of his great black eyes, hugging close to his brother. They resembled one another, but the elder had the stronger and more thoughtful face. Their dress was poor, patched, and darned. The wind beat in the rain a little, where they were, and set the flame of their candle dancing.
"Pull your rope, Crispin," said the elder to his little brother.
Crispin pulled, and heard a feeble plaint, quickly silenced by a thunder crash. "If we were only home with mama," he mourned, "I shouldn't be afraid."
The other did not answer. He watched the candle melt, and seemed thoughtful.
"At least, no one there would call me a thief; mama would not have it. If she knew they had beaten me——" The elder gave the great cord a sharp pull; a deep, sonorous tone trembled out.
"Pay what they say I stole! Pay it, brother!"
"Are you mad, Crispin? Mama would have nothing to eat; they say you stole two onces, and two onces make thirty-two pesos."
The little fellow counted thirty-two on his fingers.
"Six hands and two fingers. And each finger makes a peso, and each peso how many cuartos?"
"A hundred sixty."
"And how much is a hundred sixty?"
Crispin regarded his little paws.
"Thirty-two hands," he said, "and each finger a cuarto! O mama! how many cuartos! and with them one could buy shoes, and a hat for the sun, and an umbrella for the rain, and clothes for mama."
Crispin became pensive.
"What I'm afraid of is that mama will be angry with you when she hears about it."
"You think so?" said Crispin, surprised. "But I've never had a cuarto except the one they gave me at Easter. Mama won't believe I stole; she won't believe it!"
"But if the curate says so——"
Crispin began to cry, and said through his sobs:
"Then go alone, I won't go. Tell mama I'm sick."
"Crispin, don't cry," said his brother. "If mama seems to believe what they say, you'll tell her that the sacristan lies, that the curate believes him, that they say we are thieves because our father——"
A head came out of the shadows in the little stairway, and as if it had been Medusa's, it froze the words on the children's lips.
The head was long and lean, with a shock of black hair. Blue glasses concealed one sightless eye. It was the chief sacristan who had thus stolen upon the children.
"You, Basilio, are fined two reales for not ringing regularly. And you, Crispin, stay to-night till you find what you've stolen."
"We have permission," began Basilio; "our mother expects us at nine."
"You won't go at nine o'clock either; you shall stay till ten."
"But, senor, after nine one can't pass through the streets——"
"Are you trying to dictate to me?" demanded the sacristan, and he seized Crispin's arm.
"Senor, we have not seen our mother for a week," entreated Basilio, taking hold of his brother as if to protect him.
With a stroke on the cheek the sacristan made him let go, and dragged off Crispin, who commenced to cry, let himself fall, tried to cling to the floor, and besought Basilio to keep him. But the sacristan, dragging the child, disappeared in the shadows.
Basilio stood mute. He heard his little brother's body strike against the stairs; he heard a cry, blows, heart-rending words, growing fainter and fainter, lost at last in the distance.
"When shall I be strong enough?" he murmured, and dashed down the stairs.
He reached the choir and listened. He could still hear his little brother's voice; then over the cry, "Mama!—Brother!" a door shut. Trembling, damp with sweat, holding his mouth with his hand to stifle a cry, he stood a moment looking about in the dim church. The doors were closed, the windows barred. He went back to the tower, did not stop at the second stage, where the bells were rung, but climbed to the third, loosed the ropes that held the tongues of the bells, then went down again, pale, his eyes gleaming, but without tears.
The rain commenced to slacken and the sky to clear. Basilio knotted the ropes, fastened an end to a beam of the balcony, and, forgetting to blow out the candle, glided down into the darkness.
Some minutes later voices were heard in a street of the pueblo, and two rifle shots rang out; but it raised no alarm, and all again became silent.
Nearly an hour's walk from the pueblo lived the mother of Basilio and Crispin, wife of a man who passed his time in lounging or watching cock-fights while she struggled to bring up their children. The husband and wife saw each other rarely, and their interviews were painful. To feed his vices, he had robbed her of her few trinkets, and when the unhappy Sisa had nothing more with which to satisfy his caprices he began to abuse her. Without much strength of will, dowered with more heart than reason, she only knew how to love and to weep. Her husband was a god, her children were angels. He, who knew how much he was adored and feared, like other false gods, grew more and more arbitrary and cruel.
The stars were glittering in the sky cleared by the tempest. Sisa sat on the wooden bench, her chin in her hand, watching some branches smoulder on her hearth of uncut stones. On these stones was a little pan where rice was cooking, and among the cinders were three dry sardines.
She was still young, and one saw she had been beautiful. Her eyes, which, with her soul, she had given to her sons, were fine, deep, and fringed with dark lashes; her face was regular; her skin pure olive. In spite of her youth, suffering, hunger sometimes, had begun to hollow her cheeks. Her abundant hair, once her glory, was still carefully dressed—but from habit, not coquetry.
All day Sisa had been thinking of the pleasure coming at night. She picked the finest tomatoes in her garden—favorite dish of little Crispin; from her neighbor, Tasio, she got a fillet of wild boar and a wild duck's thigh for Basilio, and she chose and cooked the whitest rice on the threshing-floor.
Alas! the father arrived. Good-by to the dinner! He ate the rice, the filet of wild boar, the duck's thigh, and the tomatoes. Sisa said nothing, happy to see her husband satisfied, and so much happier that, having eaten, he remembered he had children and asked where they were. The poor mother smiled. She had promised herself to eat nothing—there was not enough left for three; but the father had thought of his sons, that was better than food.
Sisa, left alone, wept a little; but she thought of her children, and dried her tears. She cooked the little rice she had left, and the three sardines.
Attentive to every sound, she now sat listening: a footfall strong and regular, it was Basilio's; light and unsteady, Crispin's.
But the children did not come.
To pass the time, she hummed a song. Her voice was beautiful, and when her children heard her sing "Kundiman" they cried, without knowing why. To-night her voice trembled, and the notes came tardily.
She went to the door and scanned the road. A black dog was there, searching about. It frightened Sisa, and she threw a stone, sending the dog off howling.
Sisa was not superstitious, but she had so often heard of black dogs and presentiments that terror seized her. She shut the door in haste and sat down by the light. She prayed to the Virgin, to God Himself, to take care of her boys, and most for the little Crispin. Then, drawn away from prayer by her sole preoccupation, she thought no longer of aught but her children, of all their ways, which seemed to her so pleasing. Then the terror returned. Vision or reality, Crispin stood by the hearth, where he often sat to chatter to her. He said nothing, but looked at her with great, pensive eyes, and smiled.
"Mother, open! Open the door, mother!" said Basilio's voice outside.
Sisa shuddered, and the vision disappeared.
Life is a Dream.
Basilio had scarcely strength to enter and fall into his mother's arms. A strange cold enveloped Sisa when she saw him come alone. She wished to speak, but found no words; to caress her son, but found no force. Yet at the sight of blood on his forehead, her voice came, and she cried in a tone which seemed to tell of a breaking heartstring:
"Don't be frightened, mama; Crispin stayed at the convent."
"At the convent? He stayed at the convent? Living?"
The child raised his eyes to hers.
"Ah!" she cried, passing from the greatest anguish to the utmost joy. She wept, embraced her child, covered with kisses his wounded forehead.
"And why are you hurt, my son? Did you fall?"
Basilio told her he had been challenged by the guard, ran, was shot at, and a ball had grazed his forehead.
"O God! I thank Thee that Thou didst save him!" murmured the mother.
She went for lint and vinegar water, and while she bandaged his wound:
"Why," she asked, "did Crispin stay at the convent?"
Basilio looked at her, kissed her, then little by little told the story of the lost money; he said nothing of the torture of his little brother. Mother and child mingled their tears.
"Accuse my good Crispin! It's because we are poor, and the poor must bear everything," murmured Sisa. Both were silent a moment.
"But you have not eaten," said the mother. "Here are sardines and rice."
"I'm not hungry, mama; I only want some water."
"Yes, eat," said the mother. "I know you don't like dry sardines, and I had something else for you; but your father came, my poor child."
"My father came?" and Basilio instinctively examined his mother's face and hands.
The question pained the mother; she sighed.
"You won't eat? Then we must go to bed; it is late."
Sisa barred the door and covered the fire. Basilio murmured his prayers, and crept on the mat near his mother, who was still on her knees. She was warm, he was cold. He thought of his little brother, who had hoped to sleep this night close to his mother's side, trembling with fear in some dark corner of the convent. He heard his cries as he had heard them in the tower; but Nature soon confused his ideas and he slept.
In the middle of the night Sisa wakened him.
"What is it, Basilio? Why are you crying?"
"I was dreaming. O mama! it was a dream, wasn't it? Say it was nothing but a dream!"
"What were you dreaming?"
He did not answer, but sat up to dry his tears.
"Tell me the dream," said Sisa, when he had lain down again. "I cannot sleep."
"It is gone now, mama; I don't remember it all."
Sisa did not insist: she attached no importance to dreams.
"Mama," said Basilio after a moment of silence, "I'm not sleepy either. I had a project last evening. I don't want to be a sacristan."
"Listen, mama. The son of Don Rafael came home from Spain to-day; he should be as kind as his father. Well, to-morrow I find Crispin, get my pay, and say I'm not going to be a sacristan. Then I'll go see Don Crisostomo and ask him to make me a buffalo-keeper. Crispin could go on studying with old Tasio. Tasio's better than the curate thinks; I've often seen him praying in the church when no one else was there. What shall I lose in not being a sacristan? One earns little and loses it all in fines. I'll be a herdsman, mama, and take good care of the cows and carabaos, and make my master love me; then perhaps he'll let us have a cow to milk: Crispin loves milk. And I could fish in the rivers and go hunting when I get big. And by and by perhaps I could have a little land and sow sugar-cane. We could all live together, then. And old Tasio says Crispin is very bright. By and by we would send him to study at Manila, and I would work for him. Shall we, mama? He might be a doctor; what do you say?"
"What can I say, except that you are right," answered Sisa, kissing her son.
Basilio went on with his projects, talking with the confidence of a child. Sisa said yes to everything. But little by little sleep came back to the child's lids, and this time he did not cry in his dreams: that Ole-Luk-Oie, of whom Andersen tells us, unfurled over his head the umbrella with its lining of gay pictures. But the mother, past the age of careless slumbers, did not sleep.
AT THE MANSE.
It was seven o'clock when Brother Salvi finished his last mass. He took off his priestly robes without a word to any one.
"Look out!" whispered the sacristans; "it is going to rain fines! And all for the fault of those children!"
The father came out of the sacristy and crossed to the manse. On the porch six or seven women sat waiting for him, and a man was walking to and fro. The woman rose, and one bent to kiss his hand, but the priest made such a gesture of impatience that she stopped short.
"He must have lost a real miser," she cried mockingly, when he had passed. "This is something unheard of: refuse his hand to the zealous Sister Rufa?"
"He was not in the confessional this morning," said a toothless old woman, Sister Sipa. "I wanted to confess, so as to get some indulgences."
"I have gained three plenary indulgences," said a young woman of pleasing face, "and applied them all to the soul of my husband."
"You have done wrong," said Sister Rufa, "one plenary is enough; you should not squander the holy indulgences. Do as I do."
"I said to myself, the more there are the better," replied young sister Juana, smiling; "but what do you do?"
Sister Rufa did not respond at once; she chewed her buyo, and scanned her audience attentively; at length she decided to speak.
"Well, this is what I do. Suppose I gain a year of indulgences; I say: Blessed Senor Saint Dominic, have the kindness to see if there is some one in purgatory who has need of precisely a year. Then I play heads or tails. If it falls heads, no; if tails, yes. If it falls heads, I keep the indulgence, and so I make groups of a hundred years, for which there is always use. It's a pity one can't loan indulgences at interest. But do as I do, it's the best plan."
At this point Sisa appeared. She said good morning to the women, and entered the manse.
"She's gone in, let us go too," said the sisters, and they followed her.
Sisa felt her heart beat violently. She did not know what to say to the curate in defence of her child. She had risen at daybreak, picked all the fine vegetables left in her garden, and arranged them in a basket with platane leaves and flowers, and had been to the river to get a fresh salad of pako. Then, dressed in the best she had, the basket on her head, without waking her son, she had set out for the pueblo.
She went slowly through the manse, listening if by chance she might hear a well-known voice, fresh and childish. But she met no one, heard nothing, and went on to the kitchen.
The servants and sacristans received her coldly, scarcely answering her greetings.
"Where may I put these vegetables?" she asked, without showing offence.
"There—wherever you want to," replied the cook curtly.
Sisa, half-smiling, placed all in order on the table, and laid on top the flowers and the tender shoots of the pako; then she asked a servant who seemed more friendly than the cook:
"Do you know if Crispin is in the sacristy?"
The servant looked at her in surprise.
"Crispin?" said he, wrinkling his brows; "isn't he at home?"
"Basilio is, but Crispin stayed here."
"Oh, yes, he stayed, but he ran off afterward with all sorts of things he'd stolen. The curate sent me to report it at the quarters. The guards must be on their way to your house by this time."
Sisa could not believe it; she opened her mouth, but her lips moved in vain.
"Go find your children," said the cook. "Everybody sees you're a faithful woman; the children are like their father!"
Sisa stifled a sob, and, at the end of her strength, sat down.
"Don't cry here," said the cook still more roughly, "the curate is ill; don't bother him! Go cry in the street!"
The poor woman got up, almost by force, and went down the steps with the sisters, who were still gossiping of the curate's illness. Once on the street she looked about uncertain; then, as if from a sudden resolution, moved rapidly away.
STORY OF A SCHOOLMASTER.
The lake, girt with hills, lies tranquil, as if it had not been shaken by yesterday's tempest. At the first gleam of light which wakes the phosphorescent spirits of the water, almost on the bounds of the horizon, gray silhouettes slowly take shape. These are the barks of fishermen drawing in their nets; cascos and paraos shaking out their sails.
From a height, two men in black are silently surveying the lake. One is Ibarra, the other a young man of humble dress and melancholy face.
"This is the place," said the stranger, "where the gravedigger brought us, Lieutenant Guevara and me."
Ibarra uncovered, and stood a long time as if in prayer.
When the first horror at the story of his father's desecrated grave had passed, he had bravely accepted what could not be undone. Private wrongs must go unavenged, if one would not add to the wrongs of the country: Ibarra had been trained to live for these islands, daughters of Spain. In his country, too, a charge against a monk was a charge against the Church, and Crisostomo was a loyal Catholic; if he knew how in his mind to separate the Church from her unworthy sons, most of his fellow-countrymen did not. And, again, his intimate life was all here. The last of his race, his home was his family; he loved ideally, and he loved the goddaughter of the malevolent priest. He was rich, and therefore powerful still—and he was young. Ibarra had taken up his life again as he had found it.
His prayer finished, he warmly grasped the young man's hand.
"Do not thank me," said the other; "I owe everything to your father. I came here unknown; your father protected me, encouraged my work, furnished the poor children with books. How far away that good time seems!"
"Ah! now we get along as best we can."
Ibarra was silent.
"How many pupils have you?"
"More than two hundred on the list—in the classes, fifty-five."
"And how is that?"
The schoolmaster smiled sadly.
"It is a long story."
"Don't think I ask from curiosity," said Ibarra. "I have thought much about it, and it seems to me better to try to carry out my father's ideas than to weep or to avenge his death. I wish to inspire myself with his spirit. That is why I ask this question."