ANTING-ANTING STORIES And Other STRANGE TALES of the FILIPINOS
Boston: Small, Maynard & Company 1901
The life of the inhabitants of the far-away Eastern islands in which the people of the United States are now so vitally interested opens to our literature a new field not less fresh and original than that which came to us when Mr. Kipling first published his Indian tales. India had always possessed its wonders and its remarkable types, but they waited long for adequate expression. No less wonderful and varied are the inhabitants and the phenomena of the Philippines, and a new author, showing rare knowledge of the country and its strange peoples, now gives us a collection of simple yet powerful stories which bring them before us with dramatic vividness.
Pirates, half naked natives, pearls, man-apes, towering volcanoes about whose summits clouds and unearthly traditions float together, strange animals and birds, and stranger men, pythons, bejuco ropes stained with human blood, feathering palm trees now fanned by soft breezes and now crushed to the ground by tornadoes;—on no mimic stage was ever a more wonderful scene set for such a company of actors. That the truly remarkable stories written by Sargent Kayme do not exaggerate the realities of this strange life can be easily seen by any one who has read the letters from press correspondents, our soldiers, or the more formal books of travel.
Strangest, perhaps, of all these possibilities for fiction is the anting-anting, at once a mysterious power to protect its possessor and the outward symbol of the protection. No more curious fetich can be found in the history of folk-lore. A button, a coin, a bit of paper with unintelligible words scribbled upon it, a bone, a stone, a garment, anything, almost—often a thing of no intrinsic value—its owner has been known to walk up to the muzzle of a loaded musket or rush upon the point of a bayonet with a confidence so sublime as to silence ridicule and to command admiration if not respect.
The Anting-Anting of Captain Von Tollig 1 The Cave in the Side of Coron 21 The Conjure Man of Siargao 41 Mrs. Hannah Smith, Nurse 65 The Fifteenth Wife 93 "Our Lady of Pilar" 113 A Question of Time 131 The Spirit of Mount Apo 153 With What Measure Ye Mete 179 Told at the Club 195 Pearls of Sulu 211
THE ANTING-ANTING OF CAPTAIN VON TOLLIG
There had been a battle between the American forces and the Tagalogs, and the natives had been driven back. The stone church of Santa Maria, around which the engagement had been hottest, and far beyond which the native lines had now been driven, had been turned into a hospital for the wounded Tagalogs left by their comrades on the field. Beneath a broad thatched shed behind the church lay the bodies of the dead, stiff and still under the coverings of cocoanut-fibre cloth thrown hastily over them. The light of a full tropic moon threw the shadow of the roof over them like a soft, brown velvet pall. They were to be buried between day-break and sunrise, that the men who buried them might escape the heat of the day.
The American picket lines had been posted a quarter of a mile beyond the church, near which no other guards had been placed. Not long after midnight a surgeon, one of the two men left on duty in the church, happened to look out through a broken window towards the shed, and in the shadow, against the open moonlight-flooded field beyond, saw something moving. Looking close he could make out the slim, brown figure of a native passing swiftly from one covered form to another, and turning back the cocoanut-fibre cloth to look at each dead man's face.
Calling the man who was working with him the surgeon pointed out the man beneath the shed to him. "That fellow has no business there," he said, "He has slipped through the lines in some way. He may be a spy, but even if he is not, he is here for no good. We must capture him."
"All right," was the answer. "You go around the church one way, and I will come the other."
When the surgeon, outside the hospital, reached a place where he could see the shed again, the Tagalog had ceased his search. He had found the body he was looking for, and sunk down on his knees beside it was searching for something in the clothing which covered the dead man's breast. A moment later he had seen the men stealing towards him from the church, had cleared the open space beneath the shed at a leap, and was off in the moonlight, running towards the outposts. The surgeons swore; and one fired a shot after him from his revolver.
"Might as well shoot at the shadow of that palm tree," the one who had shot said. "Anyway it will wake up the pickets, and they may catch him.
"What do you suppose he was after?" he added.
"Don't know," said his companion. "You wait, and I'll get a lantern and we will see."
The lantern's light showed the clothing parted over a dead man's body, and the fragment of a leather thong which had gone about his neck, with broken ends. Whatever had been fastened to the thong was gone, carried away by the Tagalog when he had fled.
The next morning a prisoner was brought to headquarters. "The picket who caught him, sir," the officer who brought the prisoner reported, "said he heard a shot near the church where the wounded natives are; and then this man came running from that way."
The surgeons who had been on night duty at the hospital were sent for, and their story heard.
"Search the man," said the officer in command.
The native submitted to the ordeal in sullen silence, and made no protest, when, from some place within his clothing, there was taken a small, dirty leather bag from which two broken ends of leather thong still hung. Only his eyes followed the officer's hands wolfishly, as they untied the string which fastened the bag, and took from it a little leather-bound book not more than two inches square. The officer looked at the book curiously. It was very thin, and upon the tiny pages, yellow with age, there was writing, still legible, although the years which had stained the paper yellow had faded the ink. He spelled out a few words, but they were in a language which he did not know. "Take the man to the prison," he said. "I will keep the book."
Later in the day the officer called an orderly. "Send Lieutenant Smith to me," he said.
By one of the odd chances of a war where, like that in the Philippines, the forces at first must be hastily raised, Captain Von Tollig and the subordinate officer for whom he had sent, had been citizens of the same town. The captain had been a business man, shrewd and keen,—too keen some of his neighbors sometimes said of him. Lieutenant Smith was a college man, a law student. It had been said of them in their native town that both had paid court to the same young woman, and that the younger man had won in the race. If this were so, there had been no evidence on the part of either in the service to show that they were conscious of the fact. There had been little communication between them, it is true, but when there had been the subordinate officer never overlooked the deference due his superior.
"I wish you would take this book," said Captain Von Tollig, after he had told briefly how the volume happened to be in his possession, "and see if you can translate it. I suspect it must be something of value, from the risk this man took to get it; possibly dispatches from one native leader to another, the nature of which we ought to know."
The young man took the queer little book and turned the pages curiously. "I hardly think what is written here can be dispatches," he said, "The paper and the ink both look too old for that. The words seem to be Latin; bad Latin, too, I should say. I think it is what the natives call an 'anting-anting;' that is a charm of some kind. Evidently this one did not save the life of the man who wore it. Probably it is a very famous talisman, else they would not have run such a risk to try to get it back."
"Can you read it?"
"Not off hand. With your permission I will take it to my tent, and I think I can study it out there."
"Do so. When you make English of it I'd like to know what it says. I am getting interested in it"
The lieutenant bowed, and went away.
"Bring that prisoner to me," the captain ordered, later in the day.
"Do you want to go free?" he asked, when the Tagalog had been brought.
"If the Senor wills."
"What is that book?"
The man made no answer.
"Tell me what the book is, and why you wanted it; and you may go home."
"Will the Senor give me back the book to carry home with me?"
"I don't know. I'll see later about that."
"It was an 'anting-anting.' The strongest we ever knew. The man who had it was a chief. When he was dead I wanted it."
"If this was such a powerful charm why was the man killed who had it on. Why didn't it save him?"
The Tagalog was silent.
"Come. Tell me that, and you may go."
"And have the book?"
"Yes; and have the book."
"It is a very great 'anting-anting.' It never fails in its time. The man who made it, a famous wise man, very many years ago, watched one whole month for the secrets which the stars told him to write in it; but the last night, the night of the full moon, he fell asleep, and on that one day and night of the month the 'anting-anting' has no good in it for the man who wears it. Else the chief would not be dead. You made the attack, that day. Our people never would."
"Lieutenant Smith to see you, sir," an orderly announced.
"All right. Send him in; and take this fellow outside."
"But, Senor," the man's eyes plead for him as loudly as his words; "the 'anting-anting.' You said I could have it and go."
"Yes, I know. Go out and wait."
"What do you report, Lieutenant? Can you read it?"
"Yes. This is very singular. There is no doubt but the book is now nothing but a charm."
"Yes. I found that out."
"But I feel sure it was originally something more than that. Something very strange."
"It purports to be the record of the doings of a man who seems to have died here many years ago, written by himself. It tells a strange story, which, if true, may be of great importance now. To make sure the record would be kept the writer made the natives believe it was a charm, while its being written in Latin kept the nature of its message from them."
"Have you read it?"
"Most of it. Sometimes a word is gone—faded out;—and a few words I cannot translate;—I don't remember all my Latin. I have written out a translation as nearly as I can make it out." He handed a paper to the captain, who read:
"I, Christopher Lunez, am about to die. Once I had not thought that this would be my end,—a tropic island, with only savages about me. I had thought of something very different, since I got the gold. Perhaps, after all, there is a curse on treasure got as that was. If there is, and the sin is to be expiated in another world, I shall know it soon. I did not—"
Here there was a break, and the story went on.
"—— all the others are dead, and the wreck of our ship has broken to bits and has disappeared. Before the ruin was complete, though, I had brought the gold on shore and buried it. No one saw me. The natives ran from us at first, far into the forest, and ——"
The words which would have finished the sentence were wanting.
"Where three islands lie out at sea in a line with a promontory like a buffalo's head, I sunk the gold deep in the sands, at the foot of the cliff, and dug a rude cross in the rock above it. Some day I hope a white man guided by this, will find the treasure and—"
"There was no more," said the lieutenant, when the captain, coming to this sudden end looked up at him. "The last few pages of the book are gone, torn out, or worn loose and lost. What I have translated was scattered over many pages, with disconnected signs and characters written in between. The book was evidently intended to be looked upon as a mystic talisman, probably that the natives on this account might be sure to take good care of it.
"All of the Tagalogs who can procure them, carry these 'anting-anting.' Some are thought to be much more powerful than others. Evidently this was looked upon as an unusually valuable charm. Sometimes they are only a button, sewed up in a rag. One of the prisoners we took not long ago wore a broad piece of cloth over his breast, on which was stained a picture of a man killing another with a 'barong.' He believed that while he wore it no one could kill him with that weapon; and thought the only reason he was not killed in the skirmish in which he was captured was because he had the 'anting-anting' on."
"Do you believe the story which the book tells is true?" the captain inquired.
"I don't know. Some days I think I could believe anything about this country."
"Have you shown the book to any one else, or told any one what you make out of it?"
"Do not do so, then. That is all, now. I will keep the book," he added, putting the little brown volume inside his coat.
Several days later the officer in charge of the quarters where the native prisoners were confined reported to the captain: "One of the prisoners keeps begging to be allowed to see you, sir," he said. "He says you told him he might go free. Shall I let him be brought up here?"
"Yes. Send him up."
"Well?" said Captain Von Tollig, when the man appeared at headquarters, and the orderly who had brought him had retired.
"The little book, Senor. You said I could have it back, and go."
"Yes. You may go. I will have you sent safely through our lines; but the book I have decided to keep."
The man's face grew ash-colored with disappointment or anger. "But, Senor," he protested. "You told me ——"
"I know; but I have changed my mind. You can go, if you wish, without the book, or not, just as you choose."
"Then I will stay," the Tagalog said slowly, adding a moment later, "My people will surely slay me if I go back to them without the book."
"Very well." The captain called for the guard, and the man was taken back to prison; but later in the day an order was sent that he be released from confinement and put to work with some other captured natives about the camp.
During the next two or three weeks a stranger to Tagalog methods of warfare might very reasonably have thought the war was ended, so far as this island, at least, was concerned. The natives seemed to have disappeared mysteriously. Even the men who had been longest in the service were puzzled to account for the sudden ceasing of the constant skirmishing which had been the rule before. The picket lines were carried forward and the location of the camp followed, from time to time, as scouting parties returned to report the country clear of foes. The advance would have been even more rapid, except for the necessity of keeping communication open at the rear with the harbour where two American gunboats lay at anchor.
As a result of one of the advances the camp was pitched one night upon a broad plateau looking out upon the sea. Inland the ground rose to the thickly forest-clad slope of a mountain, to which the American officers felt sure the Tagalogs had finally retreated. Early in the evening, when the heat of the day had passed, a group of these officers were standing with Captain Von Tollig in the center of the camp, examining the mountain slope with their glasses.
"What did you say was the name of this place?" one of the officers asked a native deserter who had joined the American forces, and at times had served as a guide to the expedition.
"That is Mt. Togonda," he answered, pointing to the hills before them, "and this," swinging his hand around the plateau on which the camp's tents were pitched, "is La Plaza del Carabaos."
The captain's eyes met those of Lieutenant Smith.
"La Plaza del Carabaos" means "The Square of the Water Buffalos."
As if with one thought the two men turned and looked out to sea. The sun had set. Against the glowing western sky a huge rock at the plateau's farthest limit was outlined. Rough-carved as the rock had been by the chisel of nature, the likeness to a water buffalo's head was striking. Beyond the rock three islands lay in a line upon the sunset-lighted water. Far out from the foot of the cliff the two men could hear the waves beating upon the sand.
"This is an excellent place for a camp," the captain said when he turned to his men again. "I think we shall find it best to stay here for some time."
Perhaps a month of respite from attack had made the sentries careless; perhaps it was only that the Tagalogs had spent the time in gathering strength. No one can ever know just how that wicked slaughter of our soldiers in the campaign on that island did come about.
The Tagalogs swept down into the camp that night as a hurricane might have blown the leaves of the mountain trees across the plateau; and then were gone again, leaving death, and wounds worse than death, behind them.
When our men had rallied, and had come back across the battle-ground, they found among the others, the captain lying dead outside his tent. A Tagalog dagger lay beside the body, and the uniform had been torn apart until the officer's bare breast showed.
The first full moon of the month shone down upon the dead man's white, still face.
THE CAVE IN THE SIDE OF CORON
A "barong" is a Moro native's favourite weapon. With one deft whirl, and then a downward slash of the keen steel blade he can cleave the skull of an opponent from crown to teeth, or cut an arm clean from the shoulder socket.
When I was sent with a squad of brave men from my company to reconnoitre from Mt. Halcon, in the Island of Mindoro, and the force was ambushed, the way I saw the men meet death will always make me hate a Moro. Why I was spared, then, and bound, instead of being killed like the men, I could not imagine. Later I knew.
The Moros had no business to be on Mindoro, anyway. Their home was in Mindanao, far to the south, but three hundred years of Spanish attempt to rule them had left them still an untamed people, and the war between the two races had been endless. Each year when the southwest monsoons had blown, the Moro war-proas had gone northward carrying murder and pillage wherever they had appeared. When the Spanish were not too much occupied elsewhere they fitted out retaliatory expeditions which left effects of little permanence. That year the Moros had found not Spaniards but a small force of American troops, sent south from Manila, and from them had cut off my little scouting squad. It made no difference to them that we were of another nation. They cared nothing for a change in rulers. We were white, and Christians; that was enough. We were to be slain.
The leader of the Moros was a tall old man with glittering eyes set in a gloomy face. I watched him as I lay bound on the deck of one of the war-proas; for, fearing attack I suppose, soon after my capture the sails had been spread and the fleet of boats turned to the south.
"Feed him" the chief had said, when night came on, and pointed to me with his foot. I thought then I had been saved from death for slavery, and deemed that the worst fate possible, I did not know the Moro nature.
On the afternoon of the fifth day out, we passed Busuanga and approached a small rocky island which I afterwards learned was Coron. So far as could be seen no human habitation was near, and far to the south stretched the unbroken waters of the Sulu Sea. The chief gave an order in the Moro tongue, and a black and yellow flag was run up to the mast head. In response to the signal all the proas of the fleet joined us in a little bay at the end of the island, and dropped anchor. At one side of the bay it would be possible to land and climb from there to the top of the island, from which, everywhere else, as far as I could see, a sheer cliff came down three hundred feet to where the waves beat against the jagged rocks at its base.
The smaller boats which had been towed behind the larger craft were cast off and brought alongside the chief's proa. I was lifted into one and rowed to a place where we could land. My feet had been untied, but my hands were still fastened behind my back. Two Moros grasped me by the arms and guided me between them. They would not let me turn my head, but I could hear the voices of men following us. The chief led the way. He did not speak or pause until we had reached the level summit of the island. When he did speak it was in Spanish, which he had learned that I understood. We were halted on the very edge of the precipice. Far down below the little fleet of war-proas floated lightly on the water, the black and yellow signal still fluttering from the flag ship. I could see now that the men that had come up the path behind me had brought a quantity of ropes. Perhaps there were thirty men in all. I wondered what they were going to do with me, but had decided that any fate was better than to be a Moro slave.
"Men of Mindanao," said the chief, "you know our errand. You know how often men of our band have been captured by the white men of the north to lie in prisons there, where death comes so slowly that a 'barong' blow would be paradise. The few that have crept back to us, weak, hollow-eyed and trembling, have only come to show us what it meant to starve, and then have died. The sky is just, and gives us once and again a white man to whom we may show that the prophet's words 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' are just. Give the white dog his due."
Two men grasped me and wound a stout rope, coil after coil, about me from my neck to my feet, until I was as helpless as a swathed Egyptian mummy. One end of another rope was fastened in a slip-noose about my body, and a dozen of the men, sitting well back from the edge of the cliff and bracing themselves one against another, paid out the rope.
The chief himself, touching me with his foot as he would have touched some unclean thing, rolled me over the brink of the precipice. The sharp rocks cut my face until the blood came, but that meant little to a man who expected to be dropped upon rocks just as sharp three hundred feet beneath him.
Slowly I was lowered down the face of the cliff until, perhaps twenty feet down, I found to my surprise that my descent had ceased, and that I was dangling before the mouth of a cave of considerable size. While I swung there, wondering what would happen next, the end of a rope ladder flung down from above dropped across the opening in the side of the cliff, and a moment later two agile Moros climbed down the ladder and from it entered the cave. From where they stood it was easy for them to reach out and haul me in after them, as a bale of merchandise swinging from a hoisting pulley is hauled in through a window.
Loosening the slip-knot they fastened into it the rope which had been coiled about my body, and giving it a jerk as a signal the whole was drawn up out of sight. Then, binding my feet again, they laid me on the hard rock near the mouth of the cave, and climbed nimbly back as they had come. The rope ladder was drawn up, and I was left alone.
I was to be left there to starve. That was what the chief's "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" had meant.
From where they had left me I could see the proas at anchor, and see the rocky point on which we had landed. That night they built a fire on the rocks where I could see it; and feasted there with songs and dancing. Whenever the wind freshened, the smell of the broiling fish came up to where I was, and I understood then why it was that I had not been fed that day as usual on the deck of the war-proa. I began to realise something of the depths of cruelty of the Moro nature. "Began," I say, for I found out later that even then I did not measure it all.
In the morning the proas were still at anchor, and during the day and night there was more feasting. Sometime that day I freed my hands. I found that the thongs had been nearly cut. Evidently the men who left me had meant that I should free myself. It was easy then to untie the rope which bound my ankles, but weak as I was from hunger, and cramped from being so long bound, it was some time before I could bear my weight upon my feet. When I could it was the morning of the second day of my imprisonment and the third that I had been without food. The men below were sleeping after their carouse, stretched out on the decks of the proas. A sentinel on the rocky point poked the smouldering embers of the fire and raking out some overdone fragments of fish made a breakfast from them and pitched the bones into the sea. Only those who have lived three days without food can understand how delicious even those cast-off fish bones looked to me. I walked away from the mouth of the cave to be where I could not see the man eat. The daylight enabled me to explore the interior of the cave more thoroughly than I had been able to do before. From a crevice, far within, a tiny thread of water trickled down the rock. It was too thin to be called a stream, and was dried up entirely by the air before it reached the mouth of the cave, but I found that I could press my hand against the rock and after a long time gather water enough to moisten my lips and throat. For even that I was thankful. At least I should not die of thirst.
Still farther in the cave I found a pile of something lying on the floor. I could not see in the dark there what it was, but brought a double handful out to the light. It was a fragment of a military uniform wrapped loosely around some human bones. Dangling from the cloth was a corroded button on which I could still discern the insignia of Spain. I flung the horrid relics as far out from the cave as my weak strength would let me, and sank down, wondering how long it would be until the bones and uniform of a soldier of the United States would lie rotting there beside those of a soldier of Spain.
A shout from below aroused me. A Moro had seen the fragments of cloth fluttering down and had greeted them. The men had landed on the rocky point again, and a party of them were coming up the path. Slung on a pole carried over the shoulders of two of them was a piece of fish net, through the meshes of which I could see a dozen cocoanuts.
There was food; delicious food! And they were bringing it to me! I understood it all now. They had not meant to starve me, but only to torture me before they took me on to slavery. How good that was. Slavery did not seem hard to me now. Slavery was better than starvation. Oh I would work gladly enough, no matter how hard the task, if I could only have food.
The men had passed out of sight, now, climbing upward, and by and by I heard them talking above me. I leaned as far out from the mouth of the cave as in my weakness I dared, and looked up. Yes, I was right. The bag of cocoanuts was being lowered to me. I could see the black face of the Moro who was directing the operation, peering over the edge of the cliff. I sank down, too weak to stand. I thought I must save what little strength I had to break a nut against the rock, when they reached me.
I could see the bottom of the fish net bag. Now it was even with the cave. I could reach it if it was only a little nearer. Why did not those foolish Moros swing it nearer? I leaned out from the cave again to try and signal to them.
What was this I saw? Not one, but twenty black faces grinning down at me with devilish cruelty. And the bag of food that I had waited for, hung by a rope from the end of the pole pushed out from the rock above, swung lazily around and around just beyond my reach. I made a frantic effort to grasp it, and barely saved myself from falling headlong. The fiendish laughter of the men above was answered by a chorus of shouts from below. I looked down. From the decks of the proas and from about the fire on shore, where another feast was beginning, the Moro men were watching me.
Then I understood for the first time the depths of Moro cruelty. I was to be baited there until, crazed by hunger, I flung myself to an awful death upon the rocks below. I wondered how many men, perhaps braver soldiers than I, had gone down there before me.
I would not. If die I must, I would at least cheat those gibbering fiends of their show. I would die as that other man had done, far in the cave and out of sight. I dragged myself in, drank from the little stream of water, and lay down. I must have slept, or lain in a stupor for several hours, since, when I recovered myself again, it was late afternoon.
From where I lay I could see the bag of cocoanuts swing in the breeze. Perhaps it had blown nearer and I could reach it. I dragged myself out to the mouth of the cave again. It was just as far away as ever, and I too weak now to try to reach it. After a time I began to realise that there was no noise from the revelers below. I looked down. The bay was empty. The proas had gone, the men gone with them, and not a breath of smoke rising from the ashes showed where their fires had been. They must have put out their fires. Dimly I wondered why. Anyway I had cheated them of their game. They had become discouraged, waiting to see me die, and had gone.
These thoughts were passing weakly through my mind, when suddenly I saw something which made me stand up, weak as I was. Far out across the Strait of Mindoro a streamer of black smoke showed against the sky. My eyes followed it to where a gray hull rested on the water. It was one of our gunboats bound from Ilo Ilo back to Manila. I shouted, faintly, forgetting that miles of space lay between her and myself. I knew when I stopped to think that she was going from me. Even if she had come near Coron she had passed while I lay asleep.
That was why the proas had gone. They had seen the streak of smoke, and slipping behind the island of Coron had gone around Culion, and so on, home.
I must have slept for some time after that, for when I was next conscious of anything it was the forenoon of another day, and the cave was flooded with the bright light of noon. I did not suffer anything now. That seemed to have passed. I lay quite easy, and wondered what it was that had aroused me. After a while I could tell. It was the ceaseless twittering of a flock of birds which were flying in and out of the cave. They had not been there before, nor had I seen them about. They must have come during the night. I thought if I could catch one I would eat it, but I decided it was useless to try to catch them, they darted about so swiftly. By and by I felt sure that this was so, for I could see that the birds were swallows, and there came into my mind a vivid picture of the high beams of my father's barn, away in Vermont, when I was a boy, and the barn swallows flashing like arrows through the star-shaped openings far up in the gable ends.
Two of the birds had lighted on the wall opposite me, clinging to the rock. I wondered what they were doing there. Perhaps I could catch them. I would try. I found that I could rise, and that I was much stronger than I had thought. Even a hope of food seemed to give me strength. I crept towards the birds and put out my hand. The birds flew, and dodging me swept out into the sunlight. I was near enough the side of the cave now to see what they had been doing. Fastened to the rock was the beginning of what was to be a nest.
Once, years before that, I had been the guest of honor at a ten course Chinese dinner. After the tiny China cups of fiery liquor, which was the first course, had been drunk, the servant brought on what looked to me like fine white sponges boiled in chicken broth. My host told me that this was birds' nest soup, the most famous dish of China, made of material worth its weight in gold. It came back to me now that he had added that the best nests were gathered in the Philippine Islands. Little did I imagine then what that scrap of table conversation might one day mean to me.
I pulled the nest down and ate it. It looked like white glue, and tasted like beef jelly. I looked for another, and found it and ate it. There were no more. I drank my fill of water, when I could get it, which took some time, and then I lay down and went to sleep. I felt as if I had eaten a full meal. When I woke I could almost have danced, I felt so strong and well again. In my new strength I even tried to reach the bag of cocoanuts, but they hung just as far off as ever, and that was so far no breeze quite swung them within my reach. No matter! While I had slept, the birds had been at work, and half a dozen half-formed nests were glued to the rocks in easy reach. They grew like mushrooms in the night. I pulled down two and ate them. For dinner I had two more, and one for supper.
After that I had no cause to suffer, so far as food and water were concerned. When the birds built faster than my immediate wants required, I tore the completed nests down before the builders could spoil them, and stored them away. The birds twittered and scolded, but began to build again.
How long this would have lasted I do not know, but one morning when I woke and came to the mouth of the cave to look out, I saw that in the night a Chinese junk, with broad latteen sails, had dropped anchor in the bay below.
The shout of joy I gave came near being my ruin, for when the Chinese sailors heard it, and looked up to see a white faced figure gesticulating wildly in a hole in the front of the cliff, so far above them they thought, quite reasonably enough, that they had discovered the door to the home of the evil one himself, and that one of his ministers was trying to entice them to enter. Fortunately they could not flee until the anchor was raised and the sails unfurled, and before this was done their curiosity and common sense combined had conquered their fear. The leader of the expedition, I learned later, had been to Coron before, and now, lighting a few joss sticks as a precaution, in case I did prove to be an evil spirit, he climbed to the top of the cliff where he could talk with me. He had seen Moro fish nets and proa masts before, and he knew the Moro nature, so it did not take long to make him understand my story, nor much longer for him to effect my release, for these Chinese nest-hunting expeditions go fitted with all manner of rock scaling machinery in the way of rope ladders, slings and baskets.
I was very kindly treated on board the junk through all the month the party stayed there gathering nests, but when the men came to know my story, and learned how for two weeks I had lived on nothing but swallows' nests, worth their weight in gold, remember, they used to look at me, some of them, in a way which made me almost wonder if sometime when I was asleep they might not kill me, as the farmer's wife killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
THE CONJURE MAN OF SIARGAO
When I woke that morning, the monkey was sitting on the footboard of my bed, looking at me. Not one of those impudent beasts that do nothing but grin and chatter, but a solemn, old-man looking animal, with a fatherly, benevolent face.
All the same, monkeys are never to be trusted, even if you know more about them than I could about one which had appeared unannounced in my sleeping room over night.
"Filipe!" I shouted, "Filipe!"
The woven bamboo walls of a Philippine house allow sound and air to pass freely, and my native servant promptly entered the room.
"Take that monkey away," I said.
"Oh Senor," cried Filipe. "Never! You cannot mean it. The Conjure man of Siargao brought him to you this morning, as a gift. Much good always comes to the house which the Conjure man smiles on."
"Who in the name of Magellan is the Conjure man, and why is he smiling on me?" I asked.
"He is an old, old man who has lived back in the mountains for many years. He knows more conjure charms than any other man or woman in Siargao. The mountain apes come to his house to be fed, and people say that he can talk with them. He left no message, but brought the monkey, and said that the beast was for you."
"Well, take the creature out of the room while I dress, can't you?"
"Si, Senor," Filipe replied; but the way in which he went about the task showed that for him, at least, a gift monkey from the Conjure man of Siargao was no ordinary animal. The monkey, after gravely inspecting the hand which Filipe respectfully extended to him, condescended to step from the footboard of the bed upon it, and be borne from the room.
After that the "wise man," for I gave the little animal this name, was a regular member of my family, and in time I came to be attached to him. He was never mischievous or noisy, and would sit for an hour at a time on the back of a chair watching me while I wrote or read. He was expert in catching scorpions and the other nuisances of that kind which make Philippine housekeeping a burden to the flesh, and never after he was brought to me did we have any annoyance from them. He seemed to feel that the hunting of such vermin was his especial duty, and, in fact, I learned later that he had been regularly trained to do this.
Chiefly, though, he helped me in the increase of prestige which he gave me with the natives. Filipe treated me with almost as much respect as he did the monkey, when he realised that for some inscrutable reason the Conjure man had chosen to favour me with his friendship. The villagers, after that early morning visit, looked upon my thatched bamboo hut as a sort of temple, and I suspect more than once crept stealthily up conveniently close trees at night to try to peer between the slats of which the house was built, to learn in that way if they could, what the inner rooms of the temple were like.
My house was "up a tree." Up several trees, in fact. Like most of those in Siargao it was built on posts and the sawed off trunks of palm trees. The floor was eight feet above the ground, and we entered by way of a ladder which at night we drew up after us, or rather I drew up, for since Filipe slept at home, the "wise man" and I had our house to ourselves at night. The morning the monkey came, Filipe was prevailed upon to borrow a ladder from another house, and burglarise my home to the extent of putting the monkey in.
I had been in Siargao for two years, as the agent of a Hong Kong firm which was trying to build up the hemp industry there. That was before the American occupation of the islands. The village where I lived was the seaport. I would have been insufferably lonesome if I had not had something to interest me in my very abundant spare time, for during much of the year I was, or rather I had supposed I was, with the exception of the Padre, the only white man on the island. Twice a year the Spanish tax collector came and stayed long enough to wring every particle of money which he possibly could out of the poor natives, and then supplemented this by taking in addition such articles of produce as could be easily handled, and would have a money value in Manila.
The interest which I have referred to as sustaining me was in the plants, trees and flowers of the island. I was not a trained naturalist, but I had a fair knowledge of commercial tropic vegetation before I came to the island, and this had proved a good foundation to work on. Our hemp plantation was well inland, and in going to and from this I began to study the possibilities of the wild trees and plants. It ended in my being able to write a very fair description of the vegetation of this part of the archipelago, explaining how many of the plants might be utilized for medicine or food, and the trees for lumber, dyestuffs or food.
One who has not been there cannot begin to understand the possibilities of the forests under the hands of a man who really knows them. One of the first things which interested me was a bet Filipe made with me that he could serve me a whole meal, sufficient and palatable, and use nothing but bamboo in doing this.
The only thing Filipe asked to have to work with was a "machete," a sharp native sword. With this he walked to the nearest clump of bamboo, split open a dry joint, and cutting out two sticks of a certain peculiar shape made a fire by rubbing them together. Having got his fire he split another large green joint, the center of which he hollowed out. This he filled with water and set on the fire, where it would resist the action of the heat until the water in it boiled, just as I have seen water in a pitcher plant's leaf in America set on the coals of a blacksmith's fire and boiled vigorously. In this water he stewed some fresh young bamboo shoots, which make a most delicious kind of "greens," and finally made me from the wood a platter off which to eat and a knife and fork to eat with. I acknowledged that he had won the bet.
It was on one of the excursions which I made into the forest in my study of these natural resources, that I met the Conjure man. I had been curious to see him ever since he had called on me that morning before I was awake, and left the "wise man," in lieu of a card, but inquiry of Filipe and various other natives invariably elicited the reply that they did not know where he lived. I learned afterwards that the liars went to him frequently, for charms and medicines to use in sickness, at the very time they were telling me that they did not even know in what part of the forest his home was. Later events showed that fear could make them do what coaxing could not.
It happened that one of my expeditions took me well up the side of a mountain which the natives called Tuylpit, so near as I could catch their pronunciation. I never saw the name in print. The mountain's sides were rocky enough so that they were not so impassable on account of the dense under-growth as much of the island was, and I had much less trouble than usual going forward after I left the regular "carabaos" (water buffalo) track.
I had gone on up the mountain for some distance, Filipe, as usual, following me, when, turning to speak to him, I found to my amazement that the fellow was gone. How, when or where he had disappeared I could not imagine, for he had answered a question of mine only a moment before.
If I had been surprised to find myself alone, I was ten times more surprised to turn back again and find that I was not alone.
A man stood in the path in front of me, an old man, but standing well erect, and with keen dark eyes looking out at me from under shaggy white eyebrows.
I knew at once, or felt rather than knew, for the knowledge was instinctive, that this must be the Conjure man of Siargao, but I was dumbfounded to find him, not, as I had supposed, a native, but a white man, as surely as I am one. Before I could pull myself together enough to speak to him, he spoke to me, in Spanish, calling me by name.
"You see I know your name," he said, and then added, as if he saw the question in my eyes, "Yes, it was I who brought the monkey to your house. I knew so long as he was there no man or woman on this island would molest you.
"You wonder why I did it? Because in all the time you have been here, and in all your going about the island, you have never cruelly killed the animals, as most white men do who come here. The creatures of the forest are all I have had to love, for many years, and I have liked you because you have spared them. How I happened to come here first, and why I have stayed here all these years, is nothing to you. Quite likely you would not be so comfortable here alone with me if you knew. Anyway, you are not to know. You are alone, you see. Your servant took good care to get out of the way when he knew that I was coming."
"How did you know my name," I made out to ask, "and so much about me?"
"The natives have told me much of you, when they have been to me for medicines, which they are too thickheaded to see for themselves, although they grow beneath their feet. Then I have seen you many times myself, when you have been in the forest, and had no idea that I, or any one, for that matter, was watching you."
"Why do I see you now, then?" I asked.
"Because the desire to speak once more to a white man grew too strong to be resisted. Because you happened to come, to-day, near my home, to which," he added, with a very courteous inclination of his head, "I hope that you will be so good as to accompany me."
I wish that I could describe that strange home so that others could see it as I did.
Imagine a big, broad house, thatched, and built of bamboo, like all of those in Siargao, that the earthquakes need not shake them down, but built, in this case, upon the ground. A man to whom even the snakes of the forest were submissive, as they were to this man, had no need to perch in trees, as the rest of us must do, in order to sleep in safety. Above the house the plumy tops of a group of great palm trees waved in the air. Birds, more beautiful than any I had ever seen on the island, flirted their brilliant feathers in the trees around the house, and in the vines which laced the tops of the palm trees together a troop of monkeys was chattering. The birds showed no fear of us, and one, a gorgeous paroquet, flew from the tree in which it had been perched and settled on the shoulder of the Conjure man. The monkeys, when they saw us, set up a chorus of welcoming cries, and began letting themselves down from the tree tops. My guide threw a handful of rice on the ground for the bird, and tossed a basket of tamarinds to where the monkeys could get them. Then, having placed me in a comfortable hammock woven of cocoanut fibre, and brought me a pipe and some excellent native tobacco, he slung another hammock for himself, and settled down in it to ask me questions.
Imagine telling the news of the world for the last quarter of a century to an intelligent and once well-educated man who has known nothing of what has happened in all that time except what he might learn from ignorant natives, who had obtained their knowledge second hand from Spanish tax collectors only a trifle less ignorant than themselves.
Just in the middle of a sentence I became aware that some one was looking at me from the door of the house behind me. Somebody or something, I had an uncomfortable feeling that I did not quite know which. I twisted around in the hammock to where I could look.
An enormous big ape stood erect in the doorway, steadying herself by one hand placed against the door casing. She was looking at me intently, as if she did not just know what to do.
My host had seen me turn in the hammock. "Europa," he said, and then added some words which I did not understand.
The huge beast came towards me, walking erect, and gravely held out a long and bony paw for me to shake. Then, as if satisfied that she had done all that hospitality demanded of her, she walked to the further end of the thatch verandah and stood there looking off into the forest, from which there came a few minutes later the most unearthly and yet most human cry I ever heard.
I sprang out of my hammock, but before I could ask, "what was that?" the big ape had answered the cry with another one as weird as the first.
"Sit down, I beg of you," my host said. "That was only Atlas, Europa's mate, calling to her to let us know that he is nearly home. They startled you. I should have introduced them to you before now."
While he was still talking, another ape, bigger than the first, came in sight beneath the palms. Europa went to meet him, and they came to the house together.
As I am a living man that enormous animal, uncanny looking creature, walked up to me and shook hands. The Conjure man had not spoken to him, that was certain. If any one had told him to do this it must have been Europa. The demands of politeness satisfied, the strange couple went to the farther side of the verandah and squatted down in the shade.
"Can you talk with them?" I suddenly made bold to ask.
"Who told you I could?" the Conjure man inquired sharply.
"Filipe," I said.
But his question was the only answer my question ever received.
Later, when I said it was time for me to start for home, he set me out a meal of fruit and boiled rice. I quite expected to hear him order Europa to wait on the table, but he did not, and when I came away, and he came with me down the mountain as far as the "carabaos" track, the two big apes stayed on the verandah as if to guard the house.
When we parted at the foot of the mountain, although I am sure he had enjoyed my visit, my strange host did not ask me to come again, and when he gently declined my invitation for him to come and see me, I did not repeat it. I had a feeling that it would do no good to urge him, and that if a time ever came when he wanted to see me again he would make the wish known to me of his own accord.
It was not more than a month after my visit to the mountain home that the Spanish tax collector came for his semi-annual harvest. The boat which brought him would call for him a month later, and in the intervening time he would have got together all the property which could be squeezed or beaten out of the miserable natives. This particular man had been there before, and I heartily disliked him, as the worst of his kind I had yet seen. Inasmuch as he represented the government to which I also had to pay taxes and was, except for the Padre, about the only white man I saw unless it was when some of our own agents came to Siargao, I felt disgusted when I saw that this man had returned. He brought with him, on this trip, as a servant, a good-for-nothing native who had gone away with him six months before to save his neck from the just wrath of his own people for a crime which he had committed. Secure in the protection afforded by his employer's position, and the squad of Tagalog soldiers sent to help in collecting the taxes, this man had the effrontery to come back and swell about among his fellow people, any one of whom would have cut his throat in a minute if they could have done it without fear of detection by the tax collector.
I noticed, though, that the servant was particularly careful to sleep in the same house with his master, and did not go home at night, as Filipe did. The government representative had a house of his own, which was occupied only when he was on the island. It was somewhat larger than the other houses of the place, but like them was built on posts well up from the ground, and reached by a ladder which could be taken up at will, as, I noticed, it always was at night.
When the collector had been in Siargao less than a week, I was surprised to have him come to my place one day and ask me abruptly if I had ever seen any big apes in my excursions over the island.
I am obliged to confess that I lied to him very promptly and directly, for I told him at once that I never had. You see there had come into my mind at once what the lonely old man on the mountain had said about men who came and killed the animals he loved, and I could see as plainly as when I left them there, the two big apes sitting on the verandah of his home, watching us as we came down the mountain path, and waiting to welcome him when he came home.
The "wise man," sitting on top of the tallest piece of furniture in the room, to which he had promptly mounted when my caller came in, said nothing, but his solemn eyes looked at me in a way which makes me half willing to swear that he had understood every word, and countenanced my untruthfulness.
The tax collector looked up at the monkey suspiciously, as if he sometime might have heard how the animal came into my possession, as, in fact, I had reason afterwards to think he had.
"Caramba," he grunted. "I have reason to think there are big apes here. Juan," his black-leg—in every sense of the word—servant, "has told me there is an old man here who has tamed them. He says he knows where the man lives, back in the mountains.
"If I can find a big ape while I am here, this time," he went on, "I mean to have him or his hide. There was an agent for a museum of some kind in England, in Manila when I came away, and he told me he would give me fifty dollars for the skin of such a beast."
He went on talking in this way for quite a while, but I did not more than half hear what he was saying, for I was trying to think of some way in which I could send word to the old man to guard his companions. I finally decided, however, that Juan, though quite vile enough to do such a thing, would never dare to guide his employer to the Conjure man's house.
I did not properly measure the heart of a native doubly driven by hate of a former master from whom he is free, and fear of a master by whom he is employed at the present time.
The very next day Juan went to the Conjure man's house, and in his master's name demanded that one of the apes be brought, dead or alive, to the tax collector's office.
The only answer he brought back, except a slashed face on which the blood was even then not dry, was:
"Does a father slay his children at a stranger's bidding?"
The next day I was in the forest all day long. When I came home in the edge of the evening, and passed the tax collector's house, I said words which I should not wish to write down here, although I almost believe that the tears which were running down my cheeks at the time washed the record of my language off the recording angel's book, just as they would have blotted out the words upon this sheet of paper.
Europa, noble great animal, lay dead on the ground in front of the house, the slim, strong paw, like a right hand, which she had reached out to welcome me, drabbled with dirt where it had dragged behind the "carabaos" cart in which she had been brought, and which had been hardly large enough to hold her huge body.
I knew it was Europa. I would have known her anywhere, even if Filipe, white with fear and rage, had not told me the story when I reached home.
Juan had guided the tax collector to the mountain home in an evil moment when its owner and Atlas, by some chance were away. The Spaniard had shot Europa, standing in the door, as I had seen her standing, and the two men had brought the body down the mountain.
I think Filipe, and perhaps the other natives, expected nothing less than that the village, if not the whole island, would be destroyed by fire from the sky, that night, or swallowed up in the earth, but the night passed with perfect quiet. Not a sound was heard, nor a thing done to disturb our sleep, or if, as I imagine was the case with some of us who did not sleep, our peace.
Only, in the morning, when no one was seen stirring about the tax collector's house, and then it grew noon and the lattices were not opened or the ladder let down, the Tagalog soldiers brought another ladder and put it against the house, and I climbed up and went in, to find the two men who stayed there, the Spaniard and Juan, dead on the floor. Their swollen faces, black and awful to look at, I have seen in bad dreams since. On the throat of each were the blue marks of long, strong fingers.
And the body of Europa was gone.
MRS. HANNAH SMITH, NURSE
The red eye of the lighthouse on Corregidor Island blazed out through the darkness as a Pacific steamer felt her way cautiously into Manila harbour.
Although it was nearly midnight, a woman—one of the passengers on the steamer—was still on deck, and standing well up toward the bow of the boat was peering into the darkness before her as if she could not wait to see the strange new land to which she was coming. Surely it would be a strange land to her, who, until a few weeks before had scarcely in all her life been outside of the New England town in which she had been born.
People who had seen her on the steamer had wondered sometimes that a woman of her age—for she was not young—should have chosen to go to the Philippine Islands as a nurse, as she told them she was going. Sometimes, at first, they smiled at some of her questions, but any who happened to be ill on the voyage, or in trouble, forgot to do that, for in the touch of her hand and in her words there was shown a skill and a nobleness of nature which won respect.
The colonel of a regiment stationed near Manila was sitting in his headquarters. An orderly came to the door and saluted.
"A woman to see you, sir," he said.
"A woman? What kind of a woman?"
"A white woman, sir. Looks about fifty years old. Talks American. Says she has only just come here. Says her name is Smith."
"Show her in."
The man went out. In a few minutes he came back again, and with him the woman that had stayed out on the deck of the Pacific steamer when the boat came past the light of Corregidor.
The Colonel gave his visitor a seat. "What can I do for you?" he said.
"Can I speak to you alone?"
"We are alone now."
"Can't that man out there hear?" motioning toward a soldier pacing back and forth before the door.
"No," said the officer. "We are quite alone."
The woman unfolded a sheet of paper which she had been holding, and looked at it a moment. Then she looked at the officer. "I want to see Heber Smith, of Company F, of your regiment," she said. "Can you tell me where he is?"
In spite of himself—in spite of the self possession which he would have said his campaigning experience had given him, the Colonel started.
"Are you his—?" he began to say. But he changed the question to, "Was he a relative of yours?"
"I am his mother," the woman said, as if she had completed the officer's first question in her mind and answered it.
"I have a letter from him, here," she went on. "The last one I have had. It is dated three months ago. It is not very long." She held up a half sheet of paper, written over on one side with a lead pencil; but she did not offer to let the officer read what was written.
"He tells me in this letter," the woman said, "that he has disgraced himself, been a coward, run away from some danger which he ought to have faced; and that he can't stand the shame of it." "He says," the woman's voice faltered for the first time, and instead of looking the Colonel in the face, as she had been doing, her eyes were fixed on the floor—"he says that he isn't going to try to stay here any longer, and that he is going over to the enemy. Is this true? Did he do that?"
"Yes," said the officer slowly. "It is true."
"He says here," the woman went on, holding up the letter again, "that I shall never hear from him again, or see him. I want you to help me to find him."
"I would be glad to help you if I could," the man said, "but I cannot. No one knows where the man went to, except that he disappeared from the camp and from the city. Besides I have not the right. He was a coward, and now he is a deserter. If he came back now he would have to stand trial, and he might be shot."
"He is not a coward." The woman's cheeks flamed red. "Some men shut their eyes and cringe when there comes a flash of lightning. But that don't make them cowards. He might have been frightened at the time, and not known what he was doing, but he is not a coward. I guess I know that as well as anybody can tell me. He is my boy—my only child. I've come out here to find him, and I'm going to do it. I don't expect I'll find him quick or easy, perhaps. I've let out our farm for a year, with the privilege of renewing the trade when the year is up; and I'm going to stay as long as need be. I'm not going to sit still and hold my hands while I'm waiting, either. I'm going to be a nurse. I know how to take care of the sick and maimed all right, and I guess from what I hear since I've been here you need all the help of that kind you can get. All I want of you is to get me a chance to work nursing just as close to the front as I can go, and then do all you can to help me find out where Heber is, and then let me have as many as you can of these heathen prisoners the men bring in here to take care of, so I can ask them if they have seen Heber. My boy isn't a coward, and if he has got scared and run away, he's got to come back and face the music. Thank goodness none of the folks at home know anything about it, and they won't if I can help it."
The woman folded the letter, and putting it back into its envelope sat waiting. It was evident that she did not conceive of the possibility even of her request not being granted.
The officer hesitated.
"You will have to see the General, Mrs. Smith," he said at last, glad that it need not be his duty to tell her how hopeless her errand was. "I will arrange for you to see him. I will take you to him myself. I wish I could do more to help you."
"How soon can I see him?"
"Tomorrow, I think. I will find out and let you know."
"Thank you," said the woman, as she rose to go. "I don't want to lose any time. I want to get right to work."
The next day the young soldier's mother saw the General and told her story to him. In the mean time, apprised by the Colonel of the regiment of the woman's errand, the General had had a report of the case brought to him. Heber Smith had been sent out with a small scouting party. They had been ambushed, and instead of trying to fight, he had left the men and had run back to cover.
"But that don't necessarily make him a coward," the young man's mother pleaded with the General. "A coward is a man who plans to run away. He lost his head that time. Wasn't that the first time he had been put in such a place?"
The officer admitted that it was.
"Well, then he can live it down. He has got to, for the sake of his father's reputation as well as his own. His father was a soldier, too," she said proudly. "He was in the Union army four years, and had a medal given to him for bravery, and every spring since he died the members of his Grand Army Post have decorated his grave. When Heber comes to think of that, I know he will come back."
The General was not an old man;—that is he was not so old but that, back in her prairie home in a western state, there was a mother to whom he wrote letters, a mother whom he knew to value above his life itself his reputation. The thought of her came to him now.
"I will do what I can, Mrs. Smith" he said, "to help you find your boy. I fear I cannot give you any hope, though, and if he should be found I cannot promise you anything as to his future."
"Thank you," said the woman. "That is all I can ask."
And so it came about that Mrs. Hannah Smith was enrolled as a nurse, and assigned to duty as near the front in the island of Luzon as any nurse could go.
Six months passed, and then another six came near to their end. Mrs. Smith renewed the lease of the farm back among the New England hills for another year, and wrote to a neighbor's wife to see that her woolen clothes and furs were aired and then packed away with a fresh supply of camphor to keep the moths out of them.
In this year's time Mrs. Smith had picked up a wonderful smattering of the Spanish and Tagalog languages for a woman who had lived the life she had before she came to the East. The reason for this, so her companions said, was her being "just possessed to talk with those native prisoners who are brought wounded to the hospital." The other nurses liked her. She not only was willing to take the cases they liked least—the natives—but asked for them.
And sometime in the course of their hospital experience, all Mrs. Smith's native patients—if they did not die before they got able to talk coherently—had to go through the same catechism:
Was there a white man among the people from whom they had come; a white man who had come there from the American army?
Was he a tall young man with light hair and a smooth face?
Did he have a three-cornered white scar on one side of his chin, where a steer had hooked him when he was a boy?
Did he look like this picture? (A photograph was shown the patient)
From no one, though, did she get the answer that her heart craved. Some of the prisoners knew white men that had come among the Tagalog natives, but no one knew a man who answered to this description.
One day a native prisoner who had been brought in more than a week before, terribly wounded, opened his eyes to consciousness for the first time, after days and nights of stupor. He was one of these who naturally fell, now, to "Mrs. Smith's lot," as the surgeons called them. As soon as the nurse's watchful eyes saw the change in the man she came to him and bent over his cot.
"Water, please," he murmured
The woman brought the water, her two natures struggling to decide what she should do after she had given it to him. As nurse, she knew the man ought not to be allowed to talk then. As mother, she was impatient to ask him where he had learned to speak English, and to inquire if he knew her boy.
The nurse conquered. The patient drank the water and was allowed to go to sleep again undisturbed.
In time, though, he was stronger, and then, one day, the mother's questions were asked for the hundredth time; and the last.
Yes, the prisoner patient knew just such a man. He had come among the people of the tribe many months ago. He was a tall, fair young man, and he had such a scar as the "senora," described. He was a fine young man. Once, when this man's father had been sick, the white man had doctored him and made him well. It was this white man, the patient said, who had taught him the little English that he knew.
"Yes," when he saw the photograph of Heber Smith, "that is the man. He has a picture, too," the patient said, "two pictures, little ones, set in a little gold box which hangs on his watch chain."
The hospital nurse unclasped a big cameo breast pin from the throat of her gown and held it down so that the man in bed could see a daguerreotype set in the back of the pin.
"Was one of the pictures like that?" she asked.
The Tagalog looked at the picture, a likeness of a middle-aged man wearing the coat and hat of the Grand Army of the Republic. In the picture a medal pinned on to the breast of the man's coat showed.
"Yes," said he, "one of the pictures is like that."
Then he looked up curiously at the woman sitting beside his bed. "The other picture is that of a woman," he went on, "and—yes—" still studying her face, "I think it must be you. Only," he added, "it doesn't look very much like you."
"No," said the woman, with a grim smile, "it doesn't. It was taken a good many years ago, when I was younger than I am now, and when I hadn't been baked for a year in this heathen climate. It's me, though."
In time, Juan, that was the man's name, was so far recovered of his wound that he was to be discharged from the hospital and placed with the other able-bodied prisoners. The hospital at that time occupied an old convent. The day before Juan was to be discharged, Mrs. Smith managed her cases so that for a time no one else was left in one of the rooms with her but this man.
"Juan," she said, when she was sure they were alone, and that no one was anywhere within hearing, "do you feel that I have done anything to help you to get well?"
The man reached down, and taking one of the nurse's hands in his own bent over and kissed it.
"Senora," he said, "I owe my life to you."
"Will you do something for me, then? Something which I want done more than anything else in the world?"
"My life is the senora's. I would that I had ten lives to give her."
The woman pulled a letter from out the folds of her nurse's dress. The envelope was not sealed, and before she fastened it she took the letter which was in it out and read it over for one last time. Then, pulling from her waist a little red, white and blue badge pin—one of those patriotic emblems which so many people wear at times—she dropped this into the letter, sealed the envelope, and handed it to the Tagalog. The envelope bore no address.
"I hav'n't put the name of the place on it you said you came from," she told the man, "because goodness only knows how it is spelled; I don't. Besides that, it isn't necessary. You know the place, and you know the man; the man who has got my picture and his father's in a gold locket on his watch chain. I want you to give this letter into his own hands. I expect it will be rather a ticklish job for you to get away from here and get through the lines, but I guess you can do it if you try. Other men have. Don't start until you are well enough so you will have strength to make the whole trip."
A week or so after that, one of the surgeons making his daily visit reported that Juan had made his escape the previous night, and up to that time had not been brought back.
"What a shame!" said one of the other nurses. "After all the care you gave that man, Mrs. Smith. It does seem as if he might have had a little more gratitude."
Mrs. Smith said nothing aloud. But to herself, when she was alone, she said: "Well, I suppose some folks would say that I wasn't acting right, but I guess I've saved the lives of enough of those men since I've been here so that I'm entitled to one of them if I want him."
Then she went on with her work, and waited; and the waiting was harder than the work.
An American expedition was slowly toiling across the island of Luzon to locate and occupy a post in the north. Four companies of men marched in advance, with a guard in the rear. Between them were the mule teams with the camp luggage and the ever present hospital corps. No trace of the enemy had been seen in that part of the island for weeks. Scouts who had gone on in advance had reported the way to be clear, and the force was being hurried up to get through a ravine which it was approaching, so it could go into camp for the night on high, level ground just beyond the valley.
Suddenly a man's voice rang out upon the hot air; an English, speaking voice, strong and clear, and coming, so it seemed at first to the troops when they heard it, from the air above them:
"Halt! Halt!" the voice cried.
"Go back! There is an ambush on both sides! Save yourselves! Be—"
The warning was unfinished. Those of the Americans who had located the sound of the words and had looked in the direction from which they came, had seen a white man standing on the rocky side of the ravine above them and in front of them. They had seen him throw up his arms and fall backward out of sight, leaving his last sentence unfinished. Then there had come the report of a gun, and then an attack, with scores of shouting Tagalogs swarming down the sides of the ravine.
The skirmish was over, though, almost as soon as it had begun, and with little harm to any of the Americans except to such of the scouts as had been cut off in advance. The warning had come in time—had come before the advancing column had marched between the forces hidden on both sides of the ravine. The Tagalogs could not face the fire with which the Americans met them. They fled up the ravine, and up both sides of the gorge, into the shelter of the forest, and were gone. The Americans, satisfied at length that the way was clear, moved forward and went into camp on the ground which had previously been chosen, throwing out advance lines of pickets, and taking extra precautions to be prepared against a night attack.
Early in the evening shots were heard on the outer picket line, and a little later two men came to the commanding officers tent bringing with them a native.
"He was trying to come through our lines and get into the camp, sir," they reported. "Two men fired at him, but missed him."
"Think he's a spy?" the commander asked of another officer who was with him.
"No, Senor, I am not a spy," the prisoner said, surprising all the men by speaking in English. "I have left my people, I want to be sent to Manila, to the American camp there."
"He's a deserter," said one of the officers. Then to the men who held the prisoner, "Better search him."
From out the prisoner's blouse one of the soldiers brought a paper, a sheet torn from a note book, folded, and fastened only by a red, white and blue badge pin stuck through the paper.
The officer to whom the soldier had handed the paper pulled out the pin which had kept it folded, and started to open it, when he saw there was something written on the side through which the pin had been thrust. Bending down to where the camp light fell upon the writing, he saw that it was an address, scrawled in lead pencil:
"Mrs. Hannah Smith; Nurse."
"Do you know the woman to whom this letter is sent? he asked in amazement of the Tagalog from whom it had been taken.
"Do you know where she is now?"
"Yes, Senor. She is in a hospital not far from Manila. She is a good woman. My life is hers. I was there once for many, many days, shot through here," he placed his hand on his side, "and she made me well again."
"Do you know who sent this letter to her?"
"Who was it?"
The man hesitated.
"Who was it? Answer. It is for her good I want to know."
"It was her son, Senor."
"Was he the man who gave us warning of the ambush today?"
The officer folded the paper, unread, and thrust the pin back through the folds. The enamel on the badge glistened in the camp light.
"Keep the Tagalog here," he said to the men, "until I come back;" and walked across the camp to where the hospital tents had been set up.
"Where is Mrs. Smith?" he asked of the surgeon in charge.
"Taking care of the men who were wounded this afternoon."
"Will you tell her that I want to see her alone in your tent, here, and then see that no one else comes in?"
"Mrs. Smith," he said, when the nurse came in, "I have something here for you—a letter. It has just been brought into camp, by a native who did not know that you were here and who wanted to be sent to Manila to find you. It is not very strongly sealed, but no one has read it since it was brought into camp."
He gave the bit of paper to the nurse, and then turned away to stand in the door of the tent, that he might not look at her while she read it. Enough of the nurse's story was known in the army now so that the officer could guess something of what this message might mean to her.
A sound in the tent behind the officer made him turn. The woman had sunk down on the ground beneath the surgeon's light, and resting her arms upon a camp stool had hid her face.
A moment later she raised her head, her face wet with tears and wearing an expression of mingled grief and joy, and held out the letter to the officer.
"Read it!" she said. "Thank God!" and then, "My boy! My boy!" and hid her face again.
"Dear mother," the scrawled note read.
"I got your letter. I'm glad you wrote it. It made things plain I hadn't seen before. My chance has come—quicker than I had expected. I wish I might have seen you again, but I shan't. A column of our men are coming up the valley just below here, marching straight into an ambush. I have tried to get word to them, but I can't, because the Tagalogs watch me so close. They never have trusted me. The only way for me is to rush out when the men get near enough, and shout to them, and that will be the end of it all for me. I don't care, only that I wish I could see you again. Juan will take this letter to you. When you get it, and the men come back, if I save them, I think perhaps they will clear my name. Then you can go home.
"The men are almost here. Mother, dear, good by.—Your Boy."
"I wish I might have seen him," the woman said, a little later. "But I won't complain. What I most prayed God for has been granted me."
"They'll let the charge against him drop, now, won't they? Don't you think he has earned it?"
"I think he surely has. No braver deed has been done in all this war."
"Don't try to come, now, Mrs Smith," as the nurse rose to her feet. "Stay here, and I will send one of the women to you."
When he had done this the officer went back to where the men were still holding Juan between them.
"Your journey is shorter than you thought," the officer said to the Tagalog. "Mrs. Smith is in this camp, and I have given the letter to her."
"May I see her?" exclaimed the man.
"Not now. In the morning you may. Have you seen this man, her son, since he was shot?"
"No, Senor. He gave me the note and told me to slip into the forest as soon as the fight began, so as to get away without any one seeing me. Then I was to stay out of the way until I could get into this camp."
"Do you know where he stood when he was shot?"
"Can you take a party of men there tonight?"
"Yes, Senor; most gladly."
Afterward, when it came to be known that Heber Smith would live, in spite of his wounds and the hours that he had lain there in the bushes unconscious and uncared for, there was the greatest diversity of opinion as to what had really saved his life.
The surgeons said it was partly their skill, and partly the superb constitution that years of work on a New England farm had given to the young man. His mother believed that he had been spared for her sake. Heber Smith himself always said it was his mother's care that saved his life, while Juan never had the least doubt that the young soldier had been protected solely by a marvellous "anting-anting" which he himself had slipped unsuspected into the American soldier's blouse that day, before he had left him. As soon as she knew that her son would live, Mrs. Smith started for Washington, carrying with her papers which made it possible for her to be allowed to plead her case there as she had pleaded it in Manila. A pardon was sent back, as fast as wire and steamer and wire again could convey it. Heber Smith wears the uniform of a second lieutenant, now, won for bravery in action since he went back into the service; and every one who knew her in the Philippines, cherishes the memory of Mrs. Hannah Smith; Nurse.
THE FIFTEENTH WIFE
Mateo, my Filipino servant, was helping me sort over specimens one day under the thatched roof of a shed which I had hired to use for such work while I was on the island of Culion, when I was startled to see him suddenly drop the bird skin he had been working on, and fall upon his knees, bending his body forward, his face turned toward the road, until his forehead touched the floor.
At first I thought he must be having some new kind of a fit, peculiar to the Philippine Islands, until I happened to glance up the road toward the town, from which my house was a little distance removed, and saw coming toward us a most remarkable procession.
Four native soldiers walked in front, two carrying long spears, and two carrying antiquated seven-foot muskets, relics of a former era in fire arms. After the soldiers came four Visayan slaves, bearing on their shoulders a sort of platform covered with rugs and cushions, on which a woman reclined. On one side of the litter walked another slave, holding a huge umbrella so as to keep the sun's rays off the woman's face. Two more soldiers walked behind.
Mateo might have been a statue, or a dead man, for all the attention he paid to my questions until after the procession had passed the house. Then, resuming a perpendicular position once more, he said, "That was the Sultana Ahmeya, the Sultana."
Then he went on to explain that there were thirteen other sultanas, of assorted colors, who helped make home happy for the Sultan of Culion, who after all, well supplied as he might at first seem to be, was only a sort of fourth-class sovereign, so far as sultanas are concerned, since his fellow monarch on a neighboring larger island, the Sultan of Sulu, is said to have four hundred wives.
Ahmeya, though, Mateo went on to inform me, was the only one of the fourteen who really counted. She was neither the oldest nor the youngest of the wives of the reigning ruler, but she had developed a mind of her own which had made her supreme in the palace, and besides, she was the only one of his wives who had borne a son to the monarch. For her own talents, and as the mother of the heir, the people did her willing homage.
When I saw the royal cavalcade go past my door I had no idea I would ever have a chance to become more intimately acquainted with Her Majesty, but only a little while after that circumstances made it possible for me to see more of the royal family than had probably been the privilege of any other white man. How little thought I had, when the acquaintance began, of the strange experiences it would eventually lead to!
At that time, in the course of collecting natural history specimens, most of my time for three years was spent in the island of Culion. Having a large stock of drugs, for use in my work, and quite a lot of medicines, I had doctored Mateo and two or three other fellows who had worked for me, when they had been ill, with the result that I found I had come to have a reputation for medical skill which sometimes was inconvenient. I had no idea how widely my fame had spread, though, until one morning Mateo came into my room and woke me, and with a face which expressed a good deal of anxiety, informed me that I was sent for to come to the palace.
I confess I felt some concern myself, and should have felt more if I had had as much experience then as I had later, for one never knows what those three-quarters savage potentates may take it into their heads to do.
When I found that I was sent for because the Sultan was ill,—ill unto death, the messenger had made Mateo believe,—and I was expected to doctor him, I did not feel much more comfortable, for I much doubted if my knowledge of diseases, and my assortment of medicines, were equal to coping with a serious case. If the Sultan died I would probably be beheaded, either for not keeping him alive, or for killing him.
It was a great relief, then, when I reached the palace, and just before I entered the room where the sick monarch was, to hear him swearing vigorously, in a combination of the native and Spanish languages which was as picturesque as it was expressive.
I found the man suffering from an acute attack of neuralgia, although he did not know what was the matter with him. He had not been able to sleep for three days and nights, and the pain, all the way up and down one side of his face had been so intense that he thought he was going to die, and almost hoped that he was. His head was tied up in a lot of cloths, not over clean, in which a dozen native doctor's charms had been folded, until the bundle was as big as four heads ought to be.
As soon as I found out what was the matter I felt relieved, for I reckoned I could manage an attack of swelled head all right. I had doctored the natives enough, already, to find out that they had no respect for remedies which they could not feel, and so, going back to the house, I brought from there some extra strong liniment, some tincture of red pepper and a few powerful morphine pills.
I gave my patient one of the pills the first thing, administering it in a glass of water with enough of the cayenne added to it so that the mixture brought tears to his eyes, and then removing the layers of cloth from his head, and gathering in as I did so, for my collection of curiosities, the various charms which I uncovered, I gave his head a vigorous shampooing with the liniment, taking pains to see that the liquor occasionally ran down into the Sultan's eyes. He squirmed a good deal, but I kept on until I thought it must be about time for the morphine to begin to take effect. I kept him on morphine and red pepper for three days, but when I let up on him he was cured, and my reputation was made.
It would have been too great a nuisance to have been endured, had it not been that so high a degree of royal favor enabled me to pursue my work with a degree of success which otherwise I could never have hoped for.
After that I used to see a good deal of the palace life. Although nominally Mohammedans in religion, the inhabitants of these more distant islands have little more than the name of the faith, and follow out few of its injunctions. As a result I was accorded a freedom about the palace which would have been impossible in such an establishment in almost any other country.
One day the Sultan had invited me to dine with him. After the meal, while we were smoking, reclining in some cocoanut fibre hammocks swung in the shade of the palace court yard, I saw a man servant lead a dog through the square, and down a narrow passage way through the rear of the palace.
"Would you like to see the 'Green Devil' eat?" my host asked.
I have translated the native words he used by the term "green devil," because that represents the idea of the original better than any other words I know of, I had not the slightest conception as to who or what the individual referred to might be; but I said at once that I would be very glad indeed to see him eat.
My host swung out of the hammock,—he was a superbly strong and vigorous man, now that he was in health again,—and led the way through the passage. Following him I found myself in another court yard, larger than the first, and with more trees in it. Beneath one of these trees, in a stout cage of bamboo, was the biggest python I ever saw. He must have been fully twenty-five feet long. The cage was large enough to give the snake a chance to move about in it, and when we came in sight he was rolling from one end to the other with head erect, eyes glistening, and the light shimmering on his glossy scales in a way which made it easy to see why he had been given his name. I learned later that he had not been fed for a month, and that he would not be fed again until another month had passed. Like all of his kind he would touch none but live food.
The wretched dog, who seemed to guess the fate in store for him, hung back in the rope tied about his neck, and crouched flat to the ground, too frightened even to whine.
The servant unlocked a door in the side of the cage and thrust the poor beast in. I am not ashamed to say that I turned my head away. It was only a dog, but it might have been a human being, so far as the reptile, or the half-savage man at my side, would have cared.
When I looked again, the dog was only a crushed mass of bones and flesh, about which the snake was still winding and tightening coil after coil.
"We need not wait," the Sultan said. "It will be an hour before he will swallow the food. You can come out again."
I did as he suggested. It was a wonder to me, as it is to every one, how a snake's throat can be distended enough to swallow whole an object so large as this dog, but in some way the reptile had accomplished the feat. The meal over, the huge creature had coiled down as still almost as if dead. He would lie in that way, now, they told me, for days.
It was while I stood watching the snake that Ahmeya came through the square, leading her boy by the hand. The apartments of the royal wives were built around this inner yard. This was the first time I had seen the heir to the throne. He was a handsome boy, and looked like his mother. Ahmeya was tall, for a native woman, and carried herself with a dignity which showed that she felt the honor of her position. Mateo had told me that she had a decided will of her own, and, so the palace gossips said, ruled the establishment, and her associate sultanas, with an unbending hand.
It was not very long after I had seen the green devil eat that Mateo told me there had been another wedding at the palace. Mateo was an indefatigable news-gatherer, and an incorrigible gossip. As the society papers would have expressed it, this wedding had been "a very quiet affair." The Sultan had happened to see a Visayan girl of uncommon beauty, on one of the smaller islands, one day, had bought her of her father for two water buffalos, and had installed her at the palace as wife number fifteen.
For the time being the new-comer was said to be the royal favorite, a condition of affairs which caused the other fourteen wives as little concern as their objections, if they had expressed any, would probably have caused their royal husband. So far as Ahmeya was concerned, she never minded a little thing like that, but included the last arrival in the same indifferent toleration which she had extended to her predecessors.
I saw the new wife only once.—I mean,—yes I mean that.—I saw her as the king's wife only once. She was a handsome woman, with a certain insolent disdain of those about her which indicated that she knew her own charms, and perhaps counted too much on their being permanent.
That summer my work took me away from the island. I went to Manila, and eventually to America. When I finally returned to Culion a year had passed.
I had engaged Mateo, before I left, to look out for such property as I left behind, and had retained my old house. I found him waiting for me, and with everything in good order. That is one good thing to be said about the natives. An imagined wrong or insult may rankle in their minds for months, until they have a chance to stab you in the back. They will lie to you at times with the most unblushing nerve, often when the truth would have served their ends so much better that it seems as if they must have been doing mendacious gymnastics simply to keep themselves in practice; but they will hardly ever steal. If they do, it will be sometime when you are looking squarely at them, carrying a thing off from under your very nose with a cleverness which they seem to think, and you can hardly help feel yourself, makes them deserve praise instead of blame. I have repeatedly left much valuable property with them, as I did in this case with Mateo, and have come back to find every article just as I had left it.