The Social Cancer
Part 3 out of 11
"I've come to talk about the business which you committed to my care."
"Ah! What about it?"
"Pish!" answered the young man disgustedly, as he seated himself
and turned away his face with a contemptuous expression, "They've
been telling us fairy tales. Young Ibarra is a youth of discernment;
he doesn't seem to be a fool, but I believe that he is a good lad."
"You believe so?"
"Hostilities began last night."
Fray Sibyla then recounted briefly what had taken place between Padre
Damaso and Ibarra. "Besides," he said in conclusion, "the young man
is going to marry Capitan Tiago's daughter, who was educated in the
college of our Sisterhood. He's rich, and won't care to make enemies
and to run the risk of ruining his fortune and his happiness."
The sick man nodded in agreement. "Yes, I think as you do. With a wife
like that and such a father-in-law, we'll own him body and soul. If
not, so much the better for him to declare himself an enemy of ours."
Fray Sibyla looked at the old man in surprise.
"For the good of our holy Order, I mean, of course," he added,
breathing heavily. "I prefer open attacks to the silly praises
and flatteries of friends, which are really paid for."
"Does your Reverence think--"
The old man regarded him sadly. "Keep it clearly before you," he
answered, gasping for breath. "Our power will last as long as it
is believed in. If they attack us, the government will say, 'They
attack them because they see in them an obstacle to their liberty,
so then let us preserve them.'"
"But if it should listen to them? Sometimes the government--"
"It will not listen!"
"Nevertheless, if, led on by cupidity, it should come to wish for
itself what we are taking in--if there should be some bold and
"Then woe unto that one!"
Both remained silent for a time, then the sick man continued:
"Besides, we need their attacks, to keep us awake; that makes us see
our weaknesses so that we may remedy them. Exaggerated flattery will
deceive us and put us to sleep, while outside our walls we shall be
laughed at, and the day in which we become an object of ridicule, we
shall fall as we fell in Europe. Money will not flow into our churches,
no one will buy our scapularies or girdles or anything else, and when
we cease to be rich we shall no longer be able to control consciences."
"But we shall always have our estates, our property."
"All will be lost as we lost them in Europe! And the worst of it is
that we are working toward our own ruin. For example, this unrestrained
eagerness to raise arbitrarily the rents on our lands each year, this
eagerness which I have so vainly combated in all the chapters, this
will ruin us! The native sees himself obliged to purchase farms in
other places, which bring him as good returns as ours, or better. I
fear that we are already on the decline; quos vult perdere Jupiter
dementat prius. For this reason we should not increase our burden;
the people are already murmuring. You have decided well: let us leave
the others to settle their accounts in that quarter; let us preserve
the prestige that remains to us, and as we shall soon appear before
God, let us wash our hands of it--and may the God of mercy have
pity on our weakness!"
"So your Reverence thinks that the rent or tax--"
"Let's not talk any more about money," interrupted the sick man with
signs of disgust. "You say that the lieutenant threatened to Padre
"Yes, Padre," broke in Fray Sibyla with a faint smile, "but this
morning I saw him and he told me that he was sorry for what occurred
last night, that the sherry had gone to his head, and that he believed
that Padre Damaso was in the same condition. 'And your threat?' I
asked him jokingly. 'Padre,' he answered me, 'I know how to keep my
word when my honor is affected, but I am not nor have ever been an
informer--for that reason I wear only two stars.'"
After they had conversed a while longer on unimportant subjects,
Fray Sibyla took his departure.
It was true that the lieutenant had not gone to the Palace, but the
Captain-General heard what had occurred. While talking with some
of his aides about the allusions that the Manila newspapers were
making to him under the names of comets and celestial apparitions,
one of them told him about the affair of Padre Damaso, with a somewhat
heightened coloring although substantially correct as to matter.
"From whom did you learn this?" asked his Excellency, smiling.
"From Laruja, who was telling it this morning in the office."
The Captain-General again smiled and said: "A woman or a friar can't
insult one. I contemplate living in peace for the time that I shall
remain in this country and I don't want any more quarrels with men who
wear skirts. Besides, I've learned that the Provincial has scoffed
at my orders. I asked for the removal of this friar as a punishment
and they transferred him to a better town 'monkish tricks,' as we
say in Spain."
But when his Excellency found himself alone he stopped smiling. "Ah,
if this people were not so stupid, I would put a curb on their
Reverences," he sighed to himself. "But every people deserves its fate,
so let's do as everybody else does."
Capitan Tiago, meanwhile, had concluded his interview with Padre
Damaso, or rather, to speak more exactly, Padre Damaso had concluded
"So now you are warned!" said the Franciscan on leaving. "All this
could have been avoided if you had consulted me beforehand, if you had
not lied when I asked you. Try not to play any more foolish tricks,
and trust your protector."
Capitan Tiago walked up and down the sala a few times, meditating
and sighing. Suddenly, as if a happy thought had occurred to him,
he ran to the oratory and extinguished the candles and the lamp that
had been lighted for Ibarra's safety. "The way is long and there's
yet time," he muttered.
Almost on the margin of the lake, in the midst of meadows and
paddy-fields, lies the town of San Diego. From it sugar, rice,
coffee, and fruits are either exported or sold for a small part of
their value to the Chinese, who exploit the simplicity and vices of
the native farmers.
When on a clear day the boys ascend to the upper part of the church
tower, which is beautified by moss and creeping plants, they break
out into joyful exclamations at the beauty of the scene spread out
before them. In the midst of the clustering roofs of nipa, tiles,
corrugated iron, and palm leaves, separated by groves and gardens,
each one is able to discover his own home, his little nest. Everything
serves as a mark: a tree, that tamarind with its light foliage,
that coco palm laden with nuts, like the Astarte Genetrix, or the
Diana of Ephesus with her numerous breasts, a bending bamboo, an
areca palm, or a cross. Yonder is the river, a huge glassy serpent
sleeping on a green carpet, with rocks, scattered here and there
along its sandy channel, that break its current into ripples. There,
the bed is narrowed between high banks to which the gnarled trees
cling with bared roots; here, it becomes a gentle slope where the
stream widens and eddies about. Farther away, a small hut built on the
edge of the high bank seems to defy the winds, the heights and the
depths, presenting with its slender posts the appearance of a huge,
long-legged bird watching for a reptile to seize upon. Trunks of palm
or other trees with their bark still on them unite the banks by a
shaky and infirm foot-bridge which, if not a very secure crossing,
is nevertheless a wonderful contrivance for gymnastic exercises in
preserving one's balance, a thing not to be despised. The boys bathing
in the river are amused by the difficulties of the old woman crossing
with a basket on her head or by the antics of the old man who moves
tremblingly and loses his staff in the water.
But that which always attracts particular notice is what might be
called a peninsula of forest in the sea of cultivated fields. There
in that wood are century-old trees with hollow trunks, which die only
when their high tops are struck and set on fire by the lightning--and
it is said that the fire always checks itself and dies out in the same
spot. There are huge points of rock which time and nature are clothing
with velvet garments of moss. Layer after layer of dust settles in
the hollows, the rains beat it down, and the birds bring seeds. The
tropical vegetation spreads out luxuriantly in thickets and underbrush,
while curtains of interwoven vines hang from the branches of the trees
and twine about their roots or spread along the ground, as if Flora
were not yet satisfied but must place plant above plant. Mosses and
fungi live upon the cracked trunks, and orchids--graceful guests--
twine in loving embrace with the foliage of the hospitable trees.
Strange legends exist concerning this wood, which is held in awe by
the country folk. The most credible account, and therefore the one
least known and believed, seems to be this. When the town was still
a collection of miserable huts with the grass growing abundantly in
the so-called streets, at the time when the wild boar and deer roamed
about during the nights, there arrived in the place one day an old,
hollow-eyed Spaniard, who spoke Tagalog rather well. After looking
about and inspecting the land, he finally inquired for the owners of
this wood, in which there were hot springs. Some persons who claimed to
be such presented themselves, and the old man acquired it in exchange
for clothes, jewels, and a sum of money. Soon afterward he disappeared
mysteriously. The people thought that he had been spirited away,
when a bad odor from the neighboring wood attracted the attention of
some herdsmen. Tracing this, they found the decaying corpse of the
old Spaniard hanging from the branch of a balete tree. In life he
had inspired fear by his deep, hollow voice, his sunken eyes, and his
mirthless laugh, but now, dead by his own act, he disturbed the sleep
of the women. Some threw the jewels into the river and burned the
clothes, and from the time that the corpse was buried at the foot of
the balete itself, no one willingly ventured near the spot. A belated
herdsman looking for some of his strayed charges told of lights that
he had seen there, and when some venturesome youths went to the place
they heard mournful cries. To win the smiles of his disdainful lady,
a forlorn lover agreed to spend the night there and in proof to wrap
around the trunk a long piece of rattan, but he died of a quick fever
that seized him the very next day. Stories and legends still cluster
about the place.
A few months after the finding of the old Spaniard's body there
appeared a youth, apparently a Spanish mestizo, who said that
he was the son of the deceased. He established himself in the
place and devoted his attention to agriculture, especially the
raising of indigo. Don Saturnino was a silent young man with a
violent disposition, even cruel at times, yet he was energetic and
industrious. He surrounded the grave of his father with a wall,
but visited it only at rare intervals. When he was along in years,
he married a young woman from Manila, and she became the mother of
Don Rafael, the father of Crisostomo. From his youth Don Rafael was a
favorite with the country people. The agricultural methods introduced
and encouraged by his father spread rapidly, new settlers poured in,
the Chinese came, and the settlement became a village with a native
priest. Later the village grew into a town, the priest died, and Fray
All this time the tomb and the land around it remained
unmolested. Sometimes a crowd of boys armed with clubs and stones would
become bold enough to wander into the place to gather guavas, papayas,
lomboy, and other fruits, but it frequently happened that when their
sport was at its height, or while they gazed in awed silence at the
rotting piece of rope which still swung from the branch, stones would
fall, coming from they knew not where. Then with cries of "The old
man! The old man!" they would throw away fruit and clubs, jump from
the trees, and hurry between the rocks and through the thickets;
nor would they stop running until they were well out of the wood,
some pale and breathless, others weeping, and only a few laughing.
Divide and rule.
(The New Machiavelli.)
Who were the caciques of the town?
Don Rafael, when alive, even though he was the richest, owned more
land, and was the patron of nearly everybody, had not been one of
them. As he was modest and depreciated the value of his own deeds,
no faction in his favor had ever been formed in the town, and we
have already seen how the people all rose up against him when they
saw him hesitate upon being attacked.
Could it be Capitan Tiago? True it was that when he went there he
was received with an orchestra by his debtors, who banqueted him and
heaped gifts upon him. The finest fruits burdened his table and a
quarter of deer or wild boar was his share of the hunt. If he found
the horse of a debtor beautiful, half an hour afterwards it was in
his stable. All this was true, but they laughed at him behind his
back and in secret called him "Sacristan Tiago."
Perhaps it was the gobernadorcillo? No, for he was only an
unhappy mortal who commanded not, but obeyed; who ordered not, but
was ordered; who drove not, but was driven. Nevertheless, he had
to answer to the alcalde for having commanded, ordered, and driven,
just as if he were the originator of everything. Yet be it said to
his credit that he had never presumed upon or usurped such honors,
which had cost him five thousand pesos and many humiliations. But
considering the income it brought him, it was cheap.
Well then, might it be God? Ah, the good God disturbed neither the
consciences nor the sleep of the inhabitants. At least, He did not
make them tremble, and if by chance He might have been mentioned in
a sermon, surely they would have sighed longingly, "Oh, that only
there were a God!" To the good Lord they paid little attention, as
the saints gave them enough to do. For those poor folk God had come
to be like those unfortunate monarchs who are surrounded by courtiers
to whom alone the people render homage.
San Diego was a kind of Rome: not the Rome of the time when the cunning
Romulus laid out its walls with a plow, nor of the later time when,
bathed in its own and others' blood, it dictated laws to the world--
no, it was a Rome of our own times with the difference that in place
of marble monuments and colosseums it had its monuments of sawali
and its cockpit of nipa. The curate was the Pope in the Vatican; the
alferez of the Civil Guard, the King of Italy on the Quirinal: all,
it must be understood, on a scale of nipa and bamboo. Here, as there,
continual quarreling went on, since each wished to be the master and
considered the other an intruder. Let us examine the characteristics
Fray Bernardo Salvi was that silent young Franciscan of whom we
have spoken before. In his habits and manners he was quite different
from his brethren and even from his predecessor, the violent Padre
Damaso. He was thin and sickly, habitually pensive, strict in the
fulfilment of his religious duties, and careful of his good name. In
a month after his arrival nearly every one in the town had joined
the Venerable Tertiary Order, to the great distress of its rival,
the Society of the Holy Rosary. His soul leaped with joy to see about
each neck four or five scapularies and around each waist a knotted
girdle, and to behold the procession of corpses and ghosts in guingón
habits. The senior sacristan made a small fortune selling--or giving
away as alms, we should say--all things necessary for the salvation
of the soul and the warfare against the devil, as it is well known
that this spirit, which formerly had the temerity to contradict God
himself face to face and to doubt His words, as is related in the holy
book of Job, who carried our Lord Christ through the air as afterwards
in the Dark Ages he carried the ghosts, and continues, according to
report, to carry the asuang of the Philippines, now seems to have
become so shamefaced that he cannot endure the sight of a piece of
painted cloth and that he fears the knots on a cord. But all this
proves nothing more than that there is progress on this side also
and that the devil is backward, or at least a conservative, as are
all who dwell in darkness. Otherwise, we must attribute to him the
weakness of a fifteen-year-old girl.
As we have said, Fray Salvi was very assiduous in the fulfilment of his
duties, too assiduous, the alferez thought. While he was preaching--
he was very fond of preaching--the doors of the church were closed,
wherein he was like Nero, who allowed no one to leave the theater while
he was singing. But the former did it for the salvation and the latter
for the corruption of souls. Fray Salvi rarely resorted to blows,
but was accustomed to punish every shortcoming of his subordinates
with fines. In this respect he was very different from Padre Damaso,
who had been accustomed to settle everything with his fists or a cane,
administering such chastisement with the greatest good-will. For this,
however, he should not be judged too harshly, as he was firm in the
belief that the Indian could be managed only by beating him, just
as was affirmed by a friar who knew enough to write books, and Padre
Damaso never disputed anything that he saw in print, a credulity of
which many might have reason to complain. Although Fray Salvi made
little use of violence, yet, as an old wiseacre of the town said,
what he lacked in quantity he made up in quality. But this should
not be counted against him, for the fasts and abstinences thinned his
blood and unstrung his nerves and, as the people said, the wind got
into his head. Thus it came about that it was not possible to learn
from the condition of the sacristans' backs whether the curate was
fasting or feasting.
The only rival of this spiritual power, with tendencies toward the
temporal, was, as we have said, the alferez: the only one, since the
women told how the devil himself would flee from the curate, because,
having one day dared to tempt him, he was caught, tied to a bedpost,
soundly whipped with a rope, and set at liberty only after nine
days. As a consequence, any one who after this would still be the
enemy of such a man, deserved to fall into worse repute than even
the weak and unwary devils.
But the alferez deserved his fate. His wife was an old Filipina of
abundant rouge and paint, known as Doña Consolacion--although her
husband and some others called her by quite another name. The alferez
revenged his conjugal misfortunes on his own person by getting so
drunk that he made a tank of himself, or by ordering his soldiers to
drill in the sun while he remained in the shade, or, more frequently,
by beating up his consort, who, if she was not a lamb of God to
take away one's sins, at least served to lay up for her spouse many
torments in Purgatory--if perchance he should get there, a matter of
doubt to the devout women. As if for the fun of it, these two used to
beat each other up beautifully, giving free shows to the neighborhood
with vocal and instrumental accompaniments, four-handed, soft, loud,
with pedal and all.
Whenever these scandals reached the ears of Padre Salvi, he would
smile, cross himself, and recite a paternoster. They called him a
grafter, a hypocrite, a Carlist, and a miser: he merely smiled and
recited more prayers. The alferez had a little anecdote which he
always related to the occasional Spaniards who visited him:
"Are you going over to the convento to visit the sanctimonious rascal
there, the little curate? Yes! Well, if he offers you chocolate
which I doubt--but if he offers it remember this: if he calls to
the servant and says, 'Juan, make a cup of chocolate, eh!' then stay
without fear; but if he calls out, 'Juan, make a cup of chocolate,
ah!' then take your hat and leave on a run."
"What!" the startled visitor would ask, "does he poison
"No, man, not at all!"
"'Chocolate, eh!' means thick and rich, while 'chocolate, ah!' means
watered and thin."
But we are of the opinion that this was a slander on the part of
the alferez, since the same story is told of many curates. At least,
it may be a thing peculiar to the Order.
To make trouble for the curate, the soldier, at the instigation of his
wife, would prohibit any one from walking abroad after nine o'clock at
night. Doña Consolacion would then claim that she had seen the curate,
disguised in a piña camisa and salakot, walking about late. Fray Salvi
would take his revenge in a holy manner. Upon seeing the alferez enter
the church he would innocently order the sacristan to close all the
doors, and would then go up into the pulpit and preach until the very
saints closed their eyes and even the wooden dove above his head,
the image of the Holy Ghost, murmured for mercy. But the alferez,
like all the unregenerate, did not change his ways for this; he would
go away cursing, and as soon as he was able to catch a sacristan, or
one of the curate's servants, he would arrest him, give him a beating,
and make him scrub the floor of the barracks and that of his own house,
which at such times was put in a decent condition. On going to pay
the fine imposed by the curate for his absence, the sacristan would
explain the cause. Fray Salvi would listen in silence, take the money,
and at once turn out his goats and sheep so that they might graze
in the alferez's garden, while he himself looked up a new text for
another longer and more edifying sermon. But these were only little
pleasantries, and if the two chanced to meet they would shake hands
and converse politely.
When her husband was sleeping off the wine he had drunk, or was
snoring through the siesta, and she could not quarrel with him, Doña
Consolacion, in a blue flannel camisa, with a big cigar in her mouth,
would take her stand at the window. She could not endure the young
people, so from there she would scrutinize and mock the passing girls,
who, being afraid of her, would hurry by in confusion, holding their
breath the while, and not daring to raise their eyes. One great virtue
Doña Consolation possessed, and this was that she had evidently never
looked in a mirror.
These were the rulers of the town of San Diego.
The one thing perhaps that indisputably distinguishes man from the
brute creation is the attention which he pays to those who have passed
away and, wonder of wonders! this characteristic seems to be more
deeply rooted in proportion to the lack of civilization. Historians
relate that the ancient inhabitants of the Philippines venerated and
deified their ancestors; but now the contrary is true, and the dead
have to entrust themselves to the living. It is also related that
the people of New Guinea preserve the bones of their dead in chests
and maintain communication with them. The greater part of the peoples
of Asia, Africa, and America offer them the finest products of their
kitchens or dishes of what was their favorite food when alive, and
give banquets at which they believe them to be present. The Egyptians
raised up palaces and the Mussulmans built shrines, but the masters
in these things, those who have most clearly read the human heart,
are the people of Dahomey. These negroes know that man is revengeful,
so they consider that nothing will more content the dead than to
sacrifice all his enemies upon his grave, and, as man is curious and
may not know how to entertain himself in the other life, each year
they send him a newsletter under the skin of a beheaded slave.
We ourselves differ from all the rest. In spite of the inscriptions on
the tombs, hardly any one believes that the dead rest, and much less,
that they rest in peace. The most optimistic fancies his forefathers
still roasting in purgatory and, if it turns out that he himself be
not completely damned, he will yet be able to associate with them for
many years. If any one would contradict let him visit the churches and
cemeteries of the country on All Saints' day and he will be convinced.
Now that we are in San Diego let us visit its cemetery, which is
located in the midst of paddy-fields, there toward the west--not
a city, merely a village of the dead, approached by a path dusty in
dry weather and navigable on rainy days. A wooden gate and a fence
half of stone and half of bamboo stakes, appear to separate it from
the abode of the living but not from the curate's goats and some of
the pigs of the neighborhood, who come and go making explorations
among the tombs and enlivening the solitude with their presence. In
the center of this enclosure rises a large wooden cross set on a
stone pedestal. The storms have doubled over the tin plate for the
inscription INRI, and the rains have effaced the letters. At the foot
of the cross, as on the real Golgotha, is a confused heap of skulls and
bones which the indifferent grave-digger has thrown from the graves
he digs, and there they will probably await, not the resurrection of
the dead, but the coming of the animals to defile them. Round about
may be noted signs of recent excavations; here the earth is sunken,
there it forms a low mound. There grow in all their luxuriance the
tarambulo to prick the feet with its spiny berries and the pandakaki
to add its odor to that of the cemetery, as if the place did not have
smells enough already. Yet the ground is sprinkled with a few little
flowers which, like those skulls, are known only to their Creator;
their petals wear a pale smile and their fragrance is the fragrance of
the tombs. The grass and creepers fill up the corners or climb over
the walls and niches to cover and beautify the naked ugliness and
in places even penetrate into the fissures made by the earthquakes,
so as to hide from sight the revered hollowness of the sepulcher.
At the time we enter, the people have driven the animals away, with the
single exception of some old hog, an animal that is hard to convince,
who shows his small eyes and pulling back his head from a great gap
in the fence, sticks up his snout and seems to say to a woman praying
near, "Don't eat it all, leave something for me, won't you?"
Two men are digging a grave near one of the tottering walls. One
of them, the grave-digger, works with indifference, throwing about
bones as a gardener does stones and dry branches, while the other,
more intent on his work, is perspiring, smoking, and spitting at
"Listen," says the latter in Tagalog, "wouldn't it be better for us
to dig in some other place? This is too recent."
"One grave is as recent as another."
"I can't stand it any longer! That bone you're just cut in two has
blood oozing from it--and those hairs?"
"But how sensitive you are!" was the other's reproach. "Just as if
you were a town clerk! If, like myself, you had dug up a corpse of
twenty days, on a dark and rainy night--! My lantern went out--"
His companion shuddered.
"The coffin burst open, the corpse fell half-way out, it stunk--
and supposing you had to carry it--the rain wet us both--"
"Ugh! And why did you dig it up?"
The grave-digger looked at him in surprise. "Why? How do I know? I
was ordered to do so."
"Who ordered you?"
The grave-digger stepped backward and looked his companion over from
head to foot. "Man, you're like a Spaniard, for afterwards a Spaniard
asked me the same questions, but in secret. So I'm going to answer
you as I answered the Spaniard: the fat curate ordered me to do so."
"Ah! And what did you do with the corpse afterwards?" further
questioned the sensitive one.
"The devil! If I didn't know you and was not sure that you are a man
I would say that you were certainly a Spaniard of the Civil Guard,
since you ask questions just as he did. Well, the fat curate ordered
me to bury it in the Chinamen's cemetery, but the coffin was heavy
and the Chinese cemetery far away--"
"No, no! I'm not going to dig any more!" the other interrupted in
horror as he threw away his spade and jumped out of the hole. "I've cut
a skull in two and I'm afraid that it won't let me sleep tonight." The
old grave-digger laughed to see how the chicken-hearted fellow left,
The cemetery was filling up with men and women dressed in
mourning. Some sought a grave for a time, disputing among themselves
the while, and as if they were unable to agree, they scattered
about, each kneeling where he thought best. Others, who had niches
for their deceased relatives, lighted candles and fell to praying
devoutly. Exaggerated or suppressed sighs and sobs were heard amid
the hum of prayers, orapreo, orapreiss, requiem-aeternams, that arose
from all sides.
A little old man with bright eyes entered bareheaded. Upon seeing
him many laughed, and some women knitted their eyebrows. The old man
did not seem to pay any attention to these demonstrations as he went
toward a pile of skulls and knelt to look earnestly for something
among the bones. Then he carefully removed the skulls one by one, but
apparently without finding what he sought, for he wrinkled his brow,
nodded his head from side to side, looked all about him, and finally
rose and approached the grave-digger, who raised his head when the
old man spoke to him.
"Do you know where there is a beautiful skull, white as the meat of a
coconut, with a complete set of teeth, which I had there at the foot
of the cross under those leaves?"
The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.
"Look!" added the old man, showing a silver coin, "I have only this,
but I'll give it to you if you find the skull for me."
The gleam of the silver caused the grave-digger to consider, and
staring toward the heap of bones he said, "Isn't it there? No? Then
I don't know where it is."
"Don't you know? When those who owe me pay me, I'll give you more,"
continued the old man. "It was the skull of my wife, so if you find
it for me--"
"Isn't it there? Then I don't know! But if you wish, I can give
"You're like the grave you're digging," apostrophized the old man
nervously. "You don't know the value of what you lose. For whom is
"How should I know?" replied the other in bad humor.
"For a corpse!"
"Like the grave, like the grave!" repeated the old man with a dry
smile. "You don't know what you throw away nor what you receive! Dig,
dig on!" And he turned away in the direction of the gate.
Meanwhile, the grave-digger had completed his task, attested by the
two mounds of fresh red earth at the sides of the grave. He took some
buyo from his salakot and began to chew it while he stared stupidly
at what was going on around him.
Signs of Storm
As the old man was leaving the cemetery there stopped at the head
of the path a carriage which, from its dust-covered appearance and
sweating horses, seemed to have come from a great distance. Followed
by an aged servant, Ibarra left the carriage and dismissed it with a
wave of his hand, then gravely and silently turned toward the cemetery.
"My illness and my duties have not permitted me to return," said the
old servant timidly. "Capitan Tiago promised that he would see that
a niche was constructed, but I planted some flowers on the grave and
set up a cross carved by my own hands." Ibarra made no reply. "There
behind that big cross, sir," he added when they were well inside the
gate, as he pointed to the place.
Ibarra was so intent upon his quest that he did not notice the
movement of surprise on the part of the persons who recognized him
and suspended their prayers to watch him curiously. He walked along
carefully to avoid stepping on any of the graves, which were easily
distinguishable by the hollow places in the soil. In other times he
had walked on them carelessly, but now they were to be respected:
his father lay among them. When he reached the large cross he stopped
and looked all around. His companion stood confused and confounded,
seeking some mark in the ground, but nowhere was any cross to be seen.
"Was it here?" he murmured through his teeth. "No, there! But the
ground has been disturbed."
Ibarra gave him a look of anguish.
"Yes," he went on, "I remember that there was a stone near it. The
grave was rather short. The grave-digger was sick, so a farmer had
to dig it. But let's ask that man what has become of the cross."
They went over to where the grave-digger was watching them with
curiosity. He removed his salakot respectfully as they approached.
"Can you tell me which is the grave there that had a cross over
it?" asked the servant.
The grave-digger looked toward the place and reflected. "A big cross?"
"Yes, a big one!" affirmed the servant eagerly, with a significant
look at Ibarra, whose face lighted up.
"A carved cross tied up with rattan?" continued the grave-digger.
"That's it, that's it, like this!" exclaimed the servant in answer
as he drew on the ground the figure of a Byzantine cross.
"Were there flowers scattered on the grave?"
"Oleanders and tuberoses and forget-me-nots, yes!" the servant added
joyfully, offering the grave-digger a cigar.
"Tell us which is the grave and where the cross is."
The grave-digger scratched his ear and answered with a yawn: "Well,
as for the cross, I burned it."
"Burned it? Why did you burn it?"
"Because the fat curate ordered me to do so."
"Who is the fat curate?" asked Ibarra.
"Who? Why, the one that beats people with a big cane."
Ibarra drew his hand across his forehead. "But at least you can tell
us where the grave is. You must remember that."
The grave-digger smiled as he answered quietly, "But the corpse is
no longer there."
"What's that you're saying?"
"Yes," continued the grave-digger in a half-jesting tone. "I buried
a woman in that place a week ago."
"Are you crazy?" cried the servant. "It hasn't been a year since we
"That's very true, but a good many months ago I dug the body up. The
fat curate ordered me to do so and to take it to the cemetery of the
Chinamen. But as it was heavy and there was rain that night--"
He was stopped by the threatening attitude of Ibarra, who had caught
him by the arm and was shaking him. "Did you do that?" demanded the
youth in an indescribable tone.
"Don't be angry, sir," stammered the pale and trembling
grave-digger. "I didn't bury him among the Chinamen. Better be drowned
than lie among Chinamen, I said to myself, so I threw the body into
Ibarra placed both his hands on the grave-digger's shoulders and
stared at him for a long time with an indefinable expression. Then,
with the ejaculation, "You are only a miserable slave!" he turned
away hurriedly, stepping upon bones, graves, and crosses, like one
The grave-digger patted his arm and muttered, "All the trouble dead
men cause! The fat padre caned me for allowing it to be buried while
I was sick, and this fellow almost tore my arm off for having dug it
up. That's what these Spaniards are! I'll lose my job yet!"
Ibarra walked rapidly with a far-away look in his eyes, while the
aged servant followed him weeping. The sun was setting, and over the
eastern sky was flung a heavy curtain of clouds. A dry wind shook the
tree-tops and made the bamboo clumps creak. Ibarra went bareheaded,
but no tear wet his eyes nor did any sigh escape from his breast. He
moved as if fleeing from something, perhaps the shade of his father,
perhaps the approaching storm. He crossed through the town to the
outskirts on the opposite side and turned toward the old house which he
had not entered for so many years. Surrounded by a cactus-covered wall
it seemed to beckon to him with its open windows, while the ilang-ilang
waved its flower-laden branches joyfully and the doves circled about
the conical roof of their cote in the middle of the garden.
But the youth gave no heed to these signs of welcome back to his old
home, his eyes being fixed on the figure of a priest approaching from
the opposite direction. It was the curate of San Diego, the pensive
Franciscan whom we have seen before, the rival of the alferez. The
breeze folded back the brim of his wide hat and blew his guingón
habit closely about him, revealing the outlines of his body and his
thin, curved thighs. In his right hand he carried an ivory-headed
This was the first time that he and Ibarra had met. When they drew
near each other Ibarra stopped and gazed at him from head to foot;
Fray Salvi avoided the look and tried to appear unconcerned. After
a moment of hesitation Ibarra went up to him quickly and dropping a
heavy hand on his shoulder, asked in a husky voice, "What did you do
with my father?"
Fray Salvi, pale and trembling as he read the deep feelings that
flushed the youth's face, could not answer; he seemed paralyzed.
"What did you do with my father?" again demanded the youth in a
The priest, who was gradually being forced to his knees by the heavy
hand that pressed upon his shoulder, made a great effort and answered,
"You are mistaken, I did nothing to your father."
"You didn't?" went on the youth, forcing him down upon his knees.
"No, I assure you! It was my predecessor, it was Padre Damaso!"
"Ah!" exclaimed the youth, releasing his hold, and clapping his hand
desperately to his brow; then, leaving poor Fray Salvi, he turned away
and hurried toward his house. The old servant came up and helped the
friar to his feet.
Tasio: Lunatic or Sage
The peculiar old man wandered about the streets aimlessly. A former
student of philosophy, he had given up his career in obedience to
his mother's wishes and not from any lack of means or ability. Quite
the contrary, it was because his mother was rich and he was said
to possess talent. The good woman feared that her son would become
learned and forget God, so she had given him his choice of entering
the priesthood or leaving college. Being in love, he chose the latter
course and married. Then having lost both his wife and his mother
within a year, he sought consolation in his books in order to free
himself from sorrow, the cockpit, and the dangers of idleness. He
became so addicted to his studies and the purchase of books, that he
entirely neglected his fortune and gradually ruined himself. Persons
of culture called him Don Anastasio, or Tasio the Sage, while the
great crowd of the ignorant knew him as Tasio the Lunatic, on account
of his peculiar ideas and his eccentric manner of dealing with others.
As we said before, the evening threatened to be stormy. The lightning
flashed its pale rays across the leaden sky, the air was heavy and
the slight breeze excessively sultry. Tasio had apparently already
forgotten his beloved skull, and now he was smiling as he looked at
the dark clouds. Near the church he met a man wearing an alpaca coat,
who carried in one hand a large bundle of candles and in the other
a tasseled cane, the emblem of his office as gobernadorcillo.
"You seem to be merry?" he greeted Tasio in Tagalog.
"Truly I am, señor capitan, I'm merry because I hope for something."
"Ah? What do you hope for?"
"The storm? Are you thinking of taking a bath?" asked the
gobernadorcillo in a jesting way as he stared at the simple attire
of the old man.
"A bath? That's not a bad idea, especially when one has just stumbled
over some trash!" answered Tasio in a similar, though somewhat
more offensive tone, staring at the other's face. "But I hope for
"Some thunderbolts that will kill people and burn down houses,"
returned the Sage seriously.
"Why don't you ask for the deluge at once?"
"We all deserve it, even you and I! You, señor gobernadorcillo,
have there a bundle of tapers that came from some Chinese shop, yet
this now makes the tenth year that I have been proposing to each new
occupant of your office the purchase of lightning-rods. Every one
laughs at me, and buys bombs and rockets and pays for the ringing
of bells. Even you yourself, on the day after I made my proposition,
ordered from the Chinese founders a bell in honor of St. Barbara,
when science has shown that it is dangerous to ring the bells during
a storm. Explain to me why in the year '70, when lightning struck
in Biñan, it hit the very church tower and destroyed the clock and
altar. What was the bell of St. Barbara doing then?"
At the moment there was a vivid flash. "Jesús, María, y José! Holy
St. Barbara!" exclaimed the gobernadorcillo, turning pale and crossing
Tasio burst out into a loud laugh. "You are worthy of your patroness,"
he remarked dryly in Spanish as he turned his back and went toward
Inside, the sacristans were preparing a catafalque, bordered with
candles placed in wooden sockets. Two large tables had been placed
one above the other and covered with black cloth across which ran
white stripes, with here and there a skull painted on it.
"Is that for the souls or for the candles?" inquired the old man,
but noticing two boys, one about ten and the other seven, he turned
to them without awaiting an answer from the sacristans.
"Won't you come with me, boys?" he asked them. "Your mother has
prepared a supper for you fit for a curate."
"The senior sacristan will not let us leave until eight o'clock,
sir," answered the larger of the two boys. "I expect to get my pay
to give it to our mother."
"Ah! And where are you going now?"
"To the belfry, sir, to ring the knell for the souls."
"Going to the belfry! Then take care! Don't go near the bells during
Tasio then left the church, not without first bestowing a look of pity
on the two boys, who were climbing the stairway into the organ-loft. He
passed his hand over his eyes, looked at the sky again, and murmured,
"Now I should be sorry if thunderbolts should fall." With his head
bowed in thought he started toward the outskirts of the town.
"Won't you come in?" invited a voice in Spanish from a window.
The Sage raised his head and saw a man of thirty or thirty-five years
of age smiling at him.
"What are you reading there?" asked Tasio, pointing to a book the
man held in his hand.
"A work just published: 'The Torments Suffered by the Blessed Souls
in Purgatory,'" the other answered with a smile.
"Man, man, man!" exclaimed the Sage in an altered tone as he entered
the house. "The author must be a very clever person."
Upon reaching the top of the stairway, he was cordially received by the
master of the house, Don Filipo Lino, and his young wife, Doña Teodora
Viña. Don Filipo was the teniente-mayor of the town and leader of one
of the parties--the liberal faction, if it be possible to speak so,
and if there exist parties in the towns of the Philippines.
"Did you meet in the cemetery the son of the deceased Don Rafael,
who has just returned from Europe?"
"Yes, I saw him as he alighted from his carriage."
"They say that he went to look for his father's grave. It must have
been a terrible blow."
The Sage shrugged his shoulders.
"Doesn't such a misfortune affect you?" asked the young wife.
"You know very well that I was one of the six who accompanied the body,
and it was I who appealed to the Captain-General when I saw that no
one, not even the authorities, said anything about such an outrage,
although I always prefer to honor a good man in life rather than to
worship him after his death."
"But, madam, I am not a believer in hereditary monarchy. By reason
of the Chinese blood which I have received from my mother I believe
a little like the Chinese: I honor the father on account of the son
and not the son on account of the father. I believe that each one
should receive the reward or punishment for his own deeds, not for
those of another."
"Did you order a mass said for your dead wife, as I advised
you yesterday?" asked the young woman, changing the subject of
"No," answered the old man with a smile.
"What a pity!" she exclaimed with unfeigned regret.
"They say that until ten o'clock tomorrow the souls will wander at
liberty, awaiting the prayers of the living, and that during these
days one mass is equivalent to five on other days of the year, or
even to six, as the curate said this morning."
"What! Does that mean that we have a period without paying, which we
should take advantage of?"
"But, Doray," interrupted Don Filipo, "you know that Don Anastasio
doesn't believe in purgatory."
"I don't believe in purgatory!" protested the old man, partly rising
from his seat. "Even when I know something of its history!"
"The history of purgatory!" exclaimed the couple, full of
surprise. "Come, relate it to us."
"You don't know it and yet you order masses and talk about its
torments? Well, as it has begun to rain and threatens to continue,
we shall have time to relieve the monotony," replied Tasio, falling
into a thoughtful mood.
Don Filipo closed the book which he held in his hand and Doray sat
down at his side determined not to believe anything that the old man
was about to say.
The latter began in the following manner: "Purgatory existed long
before Our Lord came into the world and must have been located in
the center of the earth, according to Padre Astete; or somewhere near
Cluny, according to the monk of whom Padre Girard tells us. But the
location is of least importance here. Now then, who were scorching
in those fires that had been burning from the beginning of the
world? Its very ancient existence is proved by Christian philosophy,
which teaches that God has created nothing new since he rested."
"But it could have existed in potentia and not in actu,"  observed
"Very well! But yet I must answer that some knew of it and as existing
in actu. One of these was Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, who wrote part of
the Zend-Avesta and founded a religion which in some points resembles
ours, and Zarathustra, according to the scholars, flourished at least
eight hundred years before Christ. I say 'at least,' since Gaffarel,
after examining the testimony of Plato, Xanthus of Lydia, Pliny,
Hermippus, and Eudoxus, believes it to have been two thousand five
hundred years before our era. However that may be, it is certain that
Zarathustra talked of a kind of purgatory and showed ways of getting
free from it. The living could redeem the souls of those who died in
sin by reciting passages from the Avesta and by doing good works, but
under the condition that the person offering the petitions should be a
relative, up to the fourth generation. The time for this occurred every
year and lasted five days. Later, when this belief had become fixed
among the people, the priests of that religion saw in it a chance of
profit and so they exploited 'the deep and dark prison where remorse
reigns,' as Zarathustra called it. They declared that by the payment
of a small coin it was possible to save a soul from a year of torture,
but as in that religion there were sins punishable by three hundred to
a thousand years of suffering, such as lying, faithlessness, failure
to keep one's word, and so on, it resulted that the rascals took in
countless sums. Here you will observe something like our purgatory,
if you take into account the differences in the religions."
A vivid flash of lightning, followed by rolling thunder, caused
Doray to start up and exclaim, as she crossed herself: "Jesús, María,
y José! I'm going to leave you, I'm going to burn some sacred palm
and light candles of penitence."
The rain began to fall in torrents. The Sage Tasio, watching the young
woman leave, continued: "Now that she is not here, we can consider this
matter more rationally. Doray, even though a little superstitious,
is a good Catholic, and I don't care to root out the faith from her
heart. A pure and simple faith is as distinct from fanaticism as the
flame from smoke or music from discords: only the fools and the deaf
confuse them. Between ourselves we can say that the idea of purgatory
is good, holy, and rational. It perpetuates the union of those who
were and those who are, leading thus to greater purity of life. The
evil is in its abuse.
"But let us now see where Catholicism got this idea, which does
not exist in the Old Testament nor in the Gospels. Neither Moses
nor Christ made the slightest mention of it, and the single passage
which is cited from Maccabees is insufficient. Besides, this book was
declared apocryphal by the Council of Laodicea and the holy Catholic
Church accepted it only later. Neither have the pagan religions
anything like it. The oft-quoted passage in Virgil, Aliae panduntur
inanes, which probably gave occasion for St. Gregory the Great
to speak of drowned souls, and to Dante for another narrative in his
Divine Comedy, cannot have been the origin of this belief. Neither the
Brahmins, the Buddhists, nor the Egyptians, who may have given Rome
her Charon and her Avernus, had anything like this idea. I won't speak
now of the religions of northern Europe, for they were religions of
warriors, bards, and hunters, and not of philosophers. While they yet
preserve their beliefs and even their rites under Christian forms,
they were unable to accompany the hordes in the spoliation of Rome
or to seat themselves on the Capitoline; the religions of the mists
were dissipated by the southern sun. Now then, the early Christians
did not believe in a purgatory but died in the blissful confidence
of shortly seeing God face to face. Apparently the first fathers of
the Church who mentioned it were St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen,
and St. Irenaeus, who were all perhaps influenced by Zarathustra's
religion, which still flourished and was widely spread throughout
the East, since at every step we read reproaches against Origen's
Orientalism. St. Irenaeus proved its existence by the fact that
Christ remained 'three days in the depths of the earth,' three days
of purgatory, and deduced from this that every soul must remain there
until the resurrection of the body, although the "Hodie mecum eris
in Paradiso"  seems to contradict it. St. Augustine also speaks of
purgatory and, if not affirming its existence, yet he did not believe
it impossible, conjecturing that in another existence there might
continue the punishments that we receive in this life for our sins."
"The devil with St. Augustine!" ejaculated Don Filipo. "He wasn't
satisfied with what we suffer here but wished a continuance."
"Well, so it went" some believed it and others didn't. Although
St. Gregory finally came to admit it in his de quibusdam levibus culpis
esse ante judicium purgatorius ignis credendus est, yet nothing
definite was done until the year 1439, that is, eight centuries
later, when the Council of Florence declared that there must exist
a purifying fire for the souls of those who have died in the love of
God but without having satisfied divine Justice. Lastly, the Council
of Trent under Pius IV in 1563, in the twenty-fifth session, issued
the purgatorial decree beginning Cura catholica ecclesia, Spiritu
Santo edocta, wherein it deduces that, after the office of the mass,
the petitions of the living, their prayers, alms, and other pious
works are the surest means of freeing the souls. Nevertheless, the
Protestants do not believe in it nor do the Greek Fathers, since they
reject any Biblical authority for it and say that our responsibility
ends with death, and that the "Quodcumque ligaberis in terra," 
does not mean "usque ad purgatorium,"  but to this the answer can
be made that since purgatory is located in the center of the earth it
fell naturally under the control of St. Peter. But I should never get
through if I had to relate all that has been said on the subject. Any
day that you wish to discuss the matter with me, come to my house
and there we will consult the books and talk freely and quietly.
"Now I must go. I don't understand why Christian piety permits robbery
on this night--and you, the authorities, allow it--and I fear
for my books. If they should steal them to read I wouldn't object,
but I know that there are many who wish to burn them in order to do
for me an act of charity, and such charity, worthy of the Caliph Omar,
is to be dreaded. Some believe that on account of those books I am
"But I suppose that you do believe in damnation?" asked Doray with
a smile, as she appeared carrying in a brazier the dry palm leaves,
which gave off a peculiar smoke and an agreeable odor.
"I don't know, madam, what God will do with me," replied the old man
thoughtfully. "When I die I will commit myself to Him without fear
and He may do with me what He wishes. But a thought strikes me!"
"What thought is that?"
"If the only ones who can be saved are the Catholics, and of them only
five per cent--as many curates say--and as the Catholics form
only a twelfth part of the population of the world--if we believe
what statistics show--it would result that after damning millions
and millions of men during the countless ages that passed before
the Saviour came to the earth, after a Son of God has died for us,
it is now possible to save only five in every twelve hundred. That
cannot be so! I prefer to believe and say with Job: 'Wilt thou break
a leaf driven to and fro, and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?' No,
such a calamity is impossible and to believe it is blasphemy!"
"What do you wish? Divine Justice, divine Purity--"
"Oh, but divine Justice and divine Purity saw the future before the
creation," answered the old man, as he rose shuddering. "Man is an
accidental and not a necessary part of creation, and that God cannot
have created him, no indeed, only to make a few happy and condemn
hundreds to eternal misery, and all in a moment, for hereditary
faults! No! If that be true, strangle your baby son sleeping there! If
such a belief were not a blasphemy against that God, who must be
the Highest Good, then the Phenician Moloch, which was appeased with
human sacrifices and innocent blood, and in whose belly were burned
the babes torn from their mothers' breasts, that bloody deity, that
horrible divinity, would be by the side of Him a weak girl, a friend,
a mother of humanity!"
Horrified, the Lunatic--or the Sage--left the house and ran
along the street in spite of the rain and the darkness. A lurid flash,
followed by frightful thunder and filling the air with deadly currents,
lighted the old man as he stretched his hand toward the sky and cried
out: "Thou protestest! I know that Thou art not cruel, I know that
I must only name Thee Good!"
The flashes of lightning became more frequent and the storm increased
The thunder resounded, roar following close upon roar, each preceded'
by a blinding flash of zigzag lightning, so that it might have been
said that God was writing his name in fire and that the eternal
arch of heaven was trembling with fear. The rain, whipped about in
a different direction each moment by the mournfully whistling wind,
fell in torrents. With a voice full of fear the bells sounded their
sad supplication, and in the brief pauses between the roars of the
unchained elements tolled forth sorrowful peals, like plaintive groans.
On the second floor of the church tower were the two boys whom we saw
talking to the Sage. The younger, a child of seven years with large
black eyes and a timid countenance, was huddling close to his brother,
a boy of ten, whom he greatly resembled in features, except that the
look on the elder's face was deeper and firmer.
Both were meanly dressed in clothes full of rents and patches. They sat
upon a block of wood, each holding the end of a rope which extended
upward and was lost amid the shadows above. The wind-driven rain
reached them and snuffed the piece of candle burning dimly on the
large round stone that was used to furnish the thunder on Good Friday
by being rolled around the gallery.
"Pull on the rope, Crispin, pull!" cried the elder to his little
brother, who did as he was told, so that from above was heard a faint
peal, instantly drowned out by the reechoing thunder.
"Oh, if we were only at home now with mother," sighed the younger,
as he gazed at his brother. "There I shouldn't be afraid."
The elder did not answer; he was watching the melting wax of the
candle, apparently lost in thought.
"There no one would say that I stole," went on Crispin. "Mother
wouldn't allow it. If she knew that they whip me--"
The elder took his gaze from the flame, raised his head, and clutching
the thick rope pulled violently on it so that a sonorous peal of the
bells was heard.
"Are we always going to live this way, brother?" continued
Crispin. "I'd like to get sick at home tomorrow, I'd like to fall
into a long sickness so that mother might take care of me and not
let me come back to the convento. So I'd not be called a thief nor
would they whip me. And you too, brother, you must get sick with me."
"No," answered the older, "we should all die: mother of grief and we
Crispin remained silent for a moment, then asked, "How much will you
get this month?"
"Two pesos. They're fined me twice."
"Then pay what they say I've stolen, so that they won't call us
thieves. Pay it, brother!"
"Are you crazy, Crispin? Mother wouldn't have anything to eat. The
senior sacristan says that you've stolen two gold pieces, and they're
worth thirty-two pesos."
The little one counted on his fingers up to thirty-two. "Six
hands and two fingers over and each finger a peso!" he murmured
thoughtfully. "And each peso, how many cuartos?"
"A hundred and sixty."
"A hundred and sixty cuartos? A hundred and sixty times a
cuarto? Goodness! And how many are a hundred and sixty?"
"Thirty-two hands," answered the older.
Crispin looked hard at his little hands. "Thirty-two hands," he
repeated, "six hands and two fingers over and each finger thirty-two
hands and each finger a cuarto--goodness, what a lot of cuartos! I
could hardly count them in three days; and with them could be bought
shoes for our feet, a hat for my head when the sun shines hot, a big
umbrella for the rain, and food, and clothes for you and mother, and--"
He became silent and thoughtful again.
"Now I'm sorry that I didn't steal!" he soon exclaimed.
"Crispin!" reproached his brother.
"Don't get angry! The curate has said that he'll beat me to death
if the money doesn't appear, and if I had stolen it I could make
it appear. Anyhow, if I died you and mother would at least have
clothes. Oh, if I had only stolen it!"
The elder pulled on the rope in silence. After a time he replied with
a sigh: "What I'm afraid of is that mother will scold you when she
knows about it."
"Do you think so?" asked the younger with astonishment. "You will
tell her that they're whipped me and I'll show the welts on my back
and my torn pocket. I had only one cuarto, which was given to me last
Easter, but the curate took that away from me yesterday. I never saw
a prettier cuarto! No, mother won't believe it."
"If the curate says so--"
Crispin began to cry, murmuring between his sobs, "Then go home
alone! I don't want to go. Tell mother that I'm sick. I don't want
"Crispin, don't cry!" pleaded the elder. "Mother won't believe it--
don't cry! Old Tasio told us that a fine supper is waiting for us."
"A fine supper! And I haven't eaten for a long time. They won't give
me anything to eat until the two gold pieces appear. But, if mother
believes it? You must tell her that the senior sacristan is a liar
but that the curate believes him and that all of them are liars, that
they say that we're thieves because our father is a vagabond who--"
At that instant a head appeared at the top of the stairway leading
down to the floor below, and that head, like Medusa's, froze the
words on the child's lips. It was a long, narrow head covered with
black hair, with blue glasses concealing the fact that one eye was
sightless. The senior sacristan was accustomed to appear thus without
noise or warning of any kind. The two brothers turned cold with fear.
"On you, Basilio, I impose a fine of two reals for not ringing the
bells in time," he said in a voice so hollow that his throat seemed
to lack vocal chords. "You, Crispin, must stay tonight, until what
you stole reappears."
Crispin looked at his brother as if pleading for protection.
"But we already have permission--mother expects us at eight o'clock,"
objected Basilio timidly.
"Neither shall you go home at eight, you'll stay until ten."
"But, sir, after nine o'clock no one is allowed to be out and our
house is far from here."
"Are you trying to give me orders?" growled the man irritably, as he
caught Crispin by the arm and started to drag him away.
"Oh, sir, it's been a week now since we're seen our mother," begged
Basilio, catching hold of his brother as if to defend him.
The senior sacristan struck his hand away and jerked at Crispin,
who began to weep as he fell to the floor, crying out to his brother,
"Don't leave me, they're going to kill me!"
The sacristan gave no heed to this and dragged him on to the
stairway. As they disappeared among the shadows below Basilio stood
speechless, listening to the sounds of his brother's body striking
against the steps. Then followed the sound of a blow and heartrending
cries that died away in the distance.
The boy stood on tiptoe, hardly breathing and listening fixedly,
with his eyes unnaturally wide and his fists clenched. "When shall I
be strong enough to plow a field?" he muttered between his teeth as
he started below hastily. Upon reaching the organ-loft he paused to
listen; the voice of his brother was fast dying away in the distance
and the cries of "Mother! Brother!" were at last completely cut
off by the sound of a closing door. Trembling and perspiring, he
paused for a moment with his fist in his mouth to keep down a cry of
anguish. He let his gaze wander about the dimly lighted church where
an oil-lamp gave a ghostly light, revealing the catafalque in the
center. The doors were closed and fastened, and the windows had iron
bars on them. Suddenly he reascended the stairway to the place where
the candle was burning and then climbed up into the third floor of
the belfry. After untying the ropes from the bell-clappers he again
descended. He was pale and his eyes glistened, but not with tears.
Meanwhile, the rain was gradually ceasing and the sky was
clearing. Basilio knotted the ropes together, tied one end to a rail
of the balustrade, and without even remembering to put out the light
let himself down into the darkness outside. A few moments later voices
were heard on one of the streets of the town, two shots resounded,
but no one seemed to be alarmed and silence again reigned.
Through the dark night the villagers slept. The families who had
remembered their dead gave themselves up to quiet and satisfied sleep,
for they had recited their requiems, the novena of the souls, and had
burned many wax tapers before the sacred images. The rich and powerful
had discharged the duties their positions imposed upon them. On the
following day they would hear three masses said by each priest and
would give two pesos for another, besides buying a bull of indulgences
for the dead. Truly, divine justice is not nearly so exacting as human.
But the poor and indigent who earn scarcely enough to keep themselves
alive and who also have to pay tribute to the petty officials, clerks,
and soldiers, that they may be allowed to live in peace, sleep not
so tranquilly as gentle poets who have perhaps not felt the pinches
of want would have us believe. The poor are sad and thoughtful, for
on that night, if they have not recited many prayers, yet they have
prayed much--with pain in their eyes and tears in their hearts. They
have not the novenas, nor do they know the responsories, versicles,
and prayers which the friars have composed for those who lack original
ideas and feelings, nor do they understand them. They pray in the
language of their misery: their souls weep for them and for those
dead beings whose love was their wealth. Their lips may proffer
the salutations, but their minds cry out complaints, charged with
lamentations. Wilt Thou be satisfied, O Thou who blessedst poverty,
and you, O suffering souls, with the simple prayers of the poor,
offered before a rude picture in the light of a dim wick, or do
you perhaps desire wax tapers before bleeding Christs and Virgins
with small mouths and crystal eyes, and masses in Latin recited
mechanically by priests? And thou, Religion preached for suffering
humanity, hast thou forgotten thy mission of consoling the oppressed
in their misery and of humiliating the powerful in their pride? Hast
thou now promises only for the rich, for those who, can pay thee?
The poor widow watches among the children who sleep at her side. She
is thinking of the indulgences that she ought to buy for the repose
of the souls of her parents and of her dead husband. "A peso,"
she says, "a peso is a week of happiness for my children, a week of
laughter and joy, my savings for a month, a dress for my daughter
who is becoming a woman." "But it is necessary that you put aside
these worldly desires," says the voice that she heard in the pulpit,
"it is necessary that you make sacrifices." Yes, it is necessary. The
Church does not gratuitously save the beloved souls for you nor does
it distribute indulgences without payment. You must buy them, so
tonight instead of sleeping you should work. Think of your daughter,
so poorly clothed! Fast, for heaven is dear! Decidedly, it seems
that the poor enter not into heaven. Such thoughts wander through the
space enclosed between the rough mats spread out on the bamboo floor
and the ridge of the roof, from which hangs the hammock wherein the
baby swings. The infant's breathing is easy and peaceful, but from
time to time he swallows and smacks his lips; his hungry stomach,
which is not satisfied with what his older brothers have given him,
dreams of eating.
The cicadas chant monotonously, mingling their ceaseless notes with
the trills of the cricket hidden in the grass, or the chirp of the
little lizard which has come out in search of food, while the big
gekko, no longer fearing the water, disturbs the concert with its
ill-omened voice as it shows its head from out the hollow of the
The dogs howl mournfully in the streets and superstitious folk,
hearing them, are convinced that they see spirits and ghosts. But
neither the dogs nor the other animals see the sorrows of men--
yet how many of these exist!
Distant from the town an hour's walk lives the mother of Basilio and
Crispin. The wife of a heartless man, she struggles to live for her
sons, while her husband is a vagrant gamester with whom her interviews
are rare but always painful. He has gradually stripped her of her
few jewels to pay the cost of his vices, and when the suffering Sisa
no longer had anything that he might take to satisfy his whims, he
had begun to maltreat her. Weak in character, with more heart than
intellect, she knew only how to love and to weep. Her husband was
a god and her sons were his angels, so he, knowing to what point he
was loved and feared, conducted himself like all false gods: daily
he became more cruel, more inhuman, more wilful. Once when he had
appeared with his countenance gloomier than ever before, Sisa had
consulted him about the plan of making a sacristan of Basilio, and
he had merely continued to stroke his game-cock, saying neither yes
nor no, only asking whether the boy would earn much money. She had
not dared to insist, but her needy situation and her desire that the
boys should learn to read and write in the town school forced her to
carry out the plan. Still her husband had said nothing.
That night, between ten and eleven o'clock, when the stars were
glittering in a sky now cleared of all signs of the storm of the
early evening, Sisa sat on a wooden bench watching some fagots that
smouldered upon the fireplace fashioned of rough pieces of natural
rock. Upon a tripod, or tunko, was a small pot of boiling rice and
upon the red coals lay three little dried fishes such as are sold
at three for two cuartos. Her chin rested in the palm of her hand
while she gazed at the weak yellow glow peculiar to the cane, which
burns rapidly and leaves embers that quickly grow pale. A sad smile
lighted up her face as she recalled a funny riddle about the pot
and the fire which Crispin had once propounded to her. The boy said:
"The black man sat down and the red man looked at him, a moment passed,
and cock-a-doodle-doo rang forth."
Sisa was still young, and it was plain that at one time she had
been pretty and attractive. Her eyes, which, like her disposition,
she had given to her sons, were beautiful, with long lashes and a deep
look. Her nose was regular and her pale lips curved pleasantly. She was
what the Tagalogs call kayumanguing-kaligátan; that is, her color was
a clear, pure brown. In spite of her youthfulness, pain and perhaps
even hunger had begun to make hollow her pallid cheeks, and if her
abundant hair, in other times the delight and adornment of her person,
was even yet simply and neatly arranged, though without pins or combs,
it was not from coquetry but from habit.
Sisa had been for several days confined to the house sewing upon
some work which had been ordered for the earliest possible time. In
order to earn the money, she had not attended mass that morning, as
it would have taken two hours at least to go to the town and return:
poverty obliges one to sin! She had finished the work and delivered
it but had received only a promise of payment. All that day she had
been anticipating the pleasures of the evening, for she knew that her
sons were coming and she had intended to make them some presents. She
had bought some small fishes, picked the most beautiful tomatoes in
her little garden, as she knew that Crispin was very fond of them, and
begged from a neighbor, old Tasio the Sage, who lived half a mile away,
some slices of dried wild boar's meat and a leg of wild duck, which
Basilio especially liked. Full of hope, she had cooked the whitest
of rice, which she herself had gleaned from the threshing-floors. It
was indeed a curate's meal for the poor boys.
But by an unfortunate chance her husband came and ate the rice,
the slices of wild boar's meat, the duck leg, five of the little
fishes, and the tomatoes. Sisa said nothing, although she felt as
if she herself were being eaten. His hunger at length appeased,
he remembered to ask for the boys. Then Sisa smiled happily and
resolved that she would not eat that night, because what remained
was not enough for three. The father had asked for their sons and
that for her was better than eating.
Soon he picked up his game-cock and started away.
"Don't you want to see them?" she asked tremulously. "Old Tasio told
me that they would be a little late. Crispin now knows how to read
and perhaps Basilio will bring his wages."
This last reason caused the husband to pause and waver, but his good
angel triumphed. "In that case keep a peso for me," he said as he
Sisa wept bitterly, but the thought of her sons soon dried her
tears. She cooked some more rice and prepared the only three fishes
that were left: each would have one and a half. "They'll have good
appetites," she mused, "the way is long and hungry stomachs have
So she sat, he ear strained to catch every sound, listening to the
lightest footfalls: strong and clear, Basilio; light and irregular,
Crispin--thus she mused. The kalao called in the woods several times
after the rain had ceased, but still her sons did not come. She put
the fishes inside the pot to keep them warm and went to the threshold
of the hut to look toward the road. To keep herself company, she
began to sing in a low voice, a voice usually so sweet and tender
that when her sons listened to her singing the kundíman they wept
without knowing why, but tonight it trembled and the notes were
halting. She stopped singing and gazed earnestly into the darkness,
but no one was coming from the town--that noise was only the wind
shaking the raindrops from the wide banana leaves.
Suddenly a black dog appeared before her dragging something along the
path. Sisa was frightened but caught up a stone and threw it at the
dog, which ran away howling mournfully. She was not superstitious,
but she had heard so much about presentiments and black dogs that
terror seized her. She shut the door hastily and sat down by the
light. Night favors credulity and the imagination peoples the air
with specters. She tried to pray, to call upon the Virgin and upon
God to watch over her sons, especially her little Crispin. Then she
forgot her prayers as her thoughts wandered to think about them, to
recall the features of each, those features that always wore a smile
for her both asleep and awake. Suddenly she felt her hair rise on her
head and her eyes stared wildly; illusion or reality, she saw Crispin
standing by the fireplace, there where he was wont to sit and prattle
to her, but now he said nothing as he gazed at her with those large,
thoughtful eyes, and smiled.
"Mother, open the door! Open, mother!" cried the voice of Basilio
Sisa shuddered violently and the vision disappeared.
La vida es sueño.
Basilio was scarcely inside when he staggered and fell into his
mother's arms. An inexplicable chill seized Sisa as she saw him enter
alone. She wanted to speak but could make no sound; she wanted to
embrace her son but lacked the strength; to weep was impossible. At
sight of the blood which covered the boy's forehead she cried in a
tone that seemed to come from a breaking heart, "My sons!"
"Don't be afraid, mother," Basilio reassured her. "Crispin stayed at
"At the convento? He stayed at the convento? Is he alive?"
The boy raised his eyes to her. "Ah!" she sighed, passing from the
depths of sorrow to the heights of joy. She wept and embraced her son,
covering his bloody forehead with kisses.
"Crispin is alive! You left him at the convento! But why are you
wounded, my son? Have you had a fall?" she inquired, as she examined
"The senior sacristan took Crispin away and told me that I could not
leave until ten o'clock, but it was already late and so I ran away. In
the town the soldiers challenged me, I started to run, they fired,
and a bullet grazed my forehead. I was afraid they would arrest me and
beat me and make me scrub out the barracks, as they did with Pablo,
who is still sick from it."
"My God, my God!" murmured his mother, shuddering. "Thou hast saved
him!" Then while she sought for bandages, water, vinegar, and a
feather, she went on, "A finger's breadth more and they would have
killed you, they would have killed my boy! The civil-guards do not
think of the mothers."
"You must say that I fell from a tree so that no one will know they
chased me," Basilio cautioned her.
"Why did Crispin stay?" asked Sisa, after dressing her son's wound.
Basilio hesitated a few moments, then with his arms about her and
their tears mingling, he related little by little the story of the
gold pieces, without speaking, however, of the tortures they were
inflicting upon his young brother.
"My good Crispin! To accuse my good Crispin! It's because we're poor
and we poor people have to endure everything!" murmured Sisa, staring
through her tears at the light of the lamp, which was now dying out
from lack of oil. So they remained silent for a while.
"Haven't you had any supper yet? Here are rice and fish."
"I don't want anything, only a little water."
"Yes," answered his mother sadly, "I know that you don't like dried
fish. I had prepared something else, but your father came."
"Father came?" asked Basilio, instinctively examining the face and
hands of his mother.
The son's questioning gaze pained Sisa's heart, for she understood it
only too well, so she added hastily: "He came and asked a lot about
you and wanted to see you, and he was very hungry. He said that if
you continued to be so good he would come back to stay with us."
An exclamation of disgust from Basilio's contracted lips interrupted
her. "Son!" she reproached him.
"Forgive me, mother," he answered seriously. "But aren't we three
better off--you, Crispin, and I? You're crying--I haven't said
Sisa sighed and asked, "Aren't you going to eat? Then let's go to
sleep, for it's now very late." She then closed up the hut and covered
the few coals with ashes so that the fire would not die out entirely,
just as a man does with his inner feelings; he covers them with the
ashes of his life, which he calls indifference, so that they may not
be deadened by daily contact with his fellows.
Basilio murmured his prayers and lay down near his mother, who was
upon her knees praying. He felt hot and cold, he tried to close his
eyes as he thought of his little brother who that night had expected
to sleep in his mother's lap and who now was probably trembling with
terror and weeping in some dark corner of the convento. His ears were
again pierced with those cries he had heard in the church tower. But
wearied nature soon began to confuse his ideas and the veil of sleep
descended upon his eyes.
He saw a bedroom where two dim tapers burned. The curate, with
a rattan whip in his hand, was listening gloomily to something
that the senior sacristan was telling him in a strange tongue with
horrible gestures. Crispin quailed and turned his tearful eyes in
every direction as if seeking some one or some hiding-place. The
curate turned toward him and called to him irritably, the rattan
whistled. The child ran to hide himself behind the sacristan, who
caught and held him, thus exposing him to the curate's fury. The
unfortunate boy fought, kicked, screamed, threw himself on the floor
and rolled about. He picked himself up, ran, slipped, fell, and parried
the blows with his hands, which, wounded, he hid quickly, all the time
shrieking with pain. Basilio saw him twist himself, strike the floor
with his head, he saw and heard the rattan whistle. In desperation his
little brother rose. Mad with pain he threw himself upon his tormentor
and bit him on the hand. The curate gave a cry and dropped the rattan
--the sacristan caught up a heavy cane and struck the boy a blow
on the head so that he fell stunned--the curate, seeing him down,
trampled him with his feet. But the child no longer defended himself
nor did he cry out; he rolled along the floor, a lifeless mass that
left a damp track.
Sisa's voice brought him back to reality. "What's the matter? Why
are you crying?"
"I dreamed--O God!" exclaimed Basilio, sitting up, covered with
perspiration. "It was a dream! Tell me, mother, that it was only a
dream! Only a dream!"
"What did you dream?"
The boy did not answer, but sat drying his tears and wiping away the
perspiration. The hut was in total darkness.
"A dream, a dream!" repeated Basilio in subdued tones.
"Tell me what you dreamed. I can't sleep," said his mother when he
lay down again.
"Well," he said in a low voice, "I dreamed that we had gone to glean
the rice-stalks--in a field where there were many flowers--the
women had baskets full of rice-stalks the men too had baskets full
of rice-stalks--and the children too--I don't remember any more,
mother, I don't remember the rest."
Sisa had no faith in dreams, so she did not insist.
"Mother, I've thought of a plan tonight," said Basilio after a few
"What is your plan?" she asked. Sisa was humble in everything, even
with her own sons, trusting their judgment more than her own.
"I don't want to be a sacristan any longer."
"Listen, mother, to what I've been thinking about. Today there arrived
from Spain the son of the dead Don Rafael, and he will be a good
man like his father. Well now, mother, tomorrow you will get Crispin,
collect my wages, and say that I will not be a sacristan any longer. As
soon as I get well I'll go to see Don Crisostomo and ask him to hire me
as a herdsman of his cattle and carabaos--I'm now big enough. Crispin
can study with old Tasio, who does not whip and who is a good man,
even if the curate does not believe so. What have we to fear now from
the padre? Can he make us any poorer than we are? You may believe it,
mother, the old man is good. I've seen him often in the church when
no one else was about, kneeling and praying, believe it. So, mother,
I'll stop being a sacristan. I earn but little and that little is taken
away from me in fines. Every one complains of the same thing. I'll be
a herdsman and by performing my tasks carefully I'll make my employer
like me. Perhaps he'll let us milk a cow so that we can drink milk
--Crispin likes milk so much. Who can tell! Maybe they'll give us a
little calf if they see that I behave well and we'll take care of it
and fatten it like our hen. I'll pick fruits in the woods and sell them
in the town along with the vegetables from our garden, so we'll have
money. I'll set snares and traps to catch birds and wild cats,
I'll fish in the river, and when I'm bigger, I'll hunt. I'll be able
also to cut firewood to sell or to present to the owner of the cows,
and so he'll be satisfied with us. When I'm able to plow, I'll ask
him to let me have a piece of land to plant in sugar-cane or corn
and you won't have to sew until midnight. We'll have new clothes for
every fiesta, we'll eat meat and big fish, we'll live free, seeing each
other every day and eating together. Old Tasio says that Crispin has a
good head and so we'll send him to Manila to study. I'll support him
by working hard. Isn't that fine, mother? Perhaps he'll be a doctor,
what do you say?"
"What can I say but yes?" said Sisa as she embraced her son. She noted,
however, that in their future the boy took no account of his father,
and shed silent tears.
Basilio went on talking of his plans with the confidence of the years
that see only what they wish for. To everything Sisa said yes--
everything appeared good.
Sleep again began to weigh down upon the tired eyelids of the boy,
and this time Ole-Luk-Oie, of whom Andersen tells us, spread over
him his beautiful umbrella with its pleasing pictures. Now he saw
himself with his little brother as they picked guavas, alpay, and
other fruits in the woods; they clambered from branch to branch, light
as butterflies; they penetrated into the caves and saw the shining
rocks; they bathed in the springs where the sand was gold-dust and
the stones like the jewels in the Virgin's crown. The little fishes
sang and laughed, the plants bent their branches toward them laden
with golden fruit. Then he saw a bell hanging in a tree with a long
rope for ringing it; to the rope was tied a cow with a bird's nest
between her horns and Crispin was inside the bell.
Thus he went on dreaming, while his mother, who was not of his age
and who had not run for an hour, slept not.
Souls in Torment
It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Fray Salvi finished
celebrating his last mass, having offered up three in the space of
an hour. "The padre is ill," commented the pious women. "He doesn't
move about with his usual slowness and elegance of manner."
He took off his vestments without the least comment, without saying
a word or looking at any one. "Attention!" whispered the sacristans
among themselves. "The devil's to pay! It's going to rain fines,
and all on account of those two brothers."
He left the sacristy to go up into the rectory, in the hallway of
which there awaited him some seven or eight women seated upon benches
and a man who was pacing back and forth. Upon seeing him approach,
the women arose and one of them pressed forward to kiss his hand,
but the holy man made a sign of impatience that stopped her short.
"Can it be that you've lost a real, kuriput?" exclaimed the woman
with a jesting laugh, offended at such a reception. "Not to give
his hand to me, Matron of the Sisterhood, Sister Rufa!" It was an
"He didn't go into the confessional this morning," added Sister Sipa,
a toothless old woman. "I wanted to confess myself so as to receive
communion and get the indulgences."
"Well, I'm sorry for you," commented a young woman with a frank
face. "This week I earned three plenary indulgences and dedicated
them to the soul of my husband."
"Badly done, Sister Juana," said the offended Rufa. "One plenary
indulgence was enough to get him out of purgatory. You ought not to
squander the holy indulgences. Do as I do."
"I thought, so many more the better," answered the simple Sister Juana,
smiling. "But tell me what you do."
Sister Rufa did not answer at once. First, she asked for a buyo and
chewed at it, gazed at her audience, which was listening attentively,
then spat to one side and commenced, chewing at the buyo meanwhile: "I
don't misspend one holy day! Since I've belonged to the Sisterhood I've
earned four hundred and fifty-seven plenary indulgences, seven hundred
sixty thousand five hundred and ninety-eight years of indulgence. I
set down all that I earn, for I like to have clean accounts. I don't
want to cheat or be cheated."
Here Sister Rufa paused to give more attention to her chewing. The
women gazed at her in admiration, but the man who was pacing back and
forth remarked with some disdain, "Well, this year I've gained four
plenary indulgences more than you have, Sister Rufa, and a hundred
years more, and that without praying much either."
"More than I? More than six hundred and eighty-nine plenary indulgences
or nine hundred ninety-four thousand eight hundred and fifty-six
years?" queried Rufa, somewhat disgruntled.
"That's it, eight indulgences and a hundred fifteen years more and
a few months over," answered the man, from whose neck hung soiled
scapularies and rosaries.
"That's not strange!" admitted Rufa, at last admitting defeat. "You're
an expert, the best in the province."
The flattered man smiled and continued, "It isn't so wonderful that I
earn more than you do. Why, I can almost say that even when sleeping
I earn indulgences."
"And what do you do with them, sir?" asked four or five voices at
the same time.
"Pish!" answered the man with a gesture of proud disdain. "I have
them to throw away!"
"But in that I can't commend you, sir," protested Rufa. "You'll go
to purgatory for wasting the indulgences. You know very well that
for every idle word one must suffer forty days in fire, according to
the curate; for every span of thread uselessly wasted, sixty days;
and for every drop of water spilled, twenty. You'll go to purgatory."
"Well, I'll know how to get out," answered Brother Pedro with sublime
confidence. "How many souls have I saved from the flames! How many
saints have I made! Besides, even in articulo mortis I can still earn,
if I wish, at least seven plenary indulgences and shall be able to
save others as I die." So saying, he strode proudly away.
Sister Rufa turned to the others: "Nevertheless, you must do as I do,
for I don't lose a single day and I keep my accounts well. I don't
want to cheat or be cheated."
"Well, what do you do?" asked Juana.
"You must imitate what I do. For example, suppose I earn a year of
indulgence: I set it down in my account-book and say, 'Most Blessed
Father and Lord St. Dominic, please see if there is anybody in
purgatory who needs exactly a year--neither a day more nor a day
less.' Then I play heads and tails: if it comes heads, no; if tails,
yes. Let's suppose that it comes tails, then I write down paid; if it
comes heads, then I keep the indulgence. In this way I arrange groups
of a hundred years each, of which I keep a careful account. It's a pity
that we can't do with them as with money--put them out at interest,
for in that way we should be able to save more souls. Believe me,
and do as I do."
"Well, I do it a better way," remarked Sister Sipa.
"What? Better?" demanded the astonished Rufa. "That can't be! My
system can't be improved upon!"
"Listen a moment and you'll be convinced, Sister," said old Sipa in
a tone of vexation.
"How is it? Let's hear!" exclaimed the others.
After coughing ceremoniously the old woman began with great care:
"You know very well that by saying the Bendita sea tu pureza and
the Señor mío Jesucristo, Padre dulcísimo por el gozo, ten years are
gained for each letter--"
"Twenty!" "No, less!" "Five!" interrupted several voices.
"A few years more or less make no difference. Now, when a servant
breaks a plate, a glass, or a cup, I make him pick up the pieces;
and for every scrap, even the very smallest, he has to recite for
me one of those prayers. The indulgences that I earn in this way
I devote to the souls. Every one in my house, except the cats,
understands this system."
"But those indulgences are earned by the servants and not by you,
Sister Sipa," objected Rufa.
"And my cups and plates, who pays for them? The servants are glad to
pay for them in that way and it suits me also. I never resort to blows,
only sometimes a pinch, or a whack on the head."
"I'm going to do as you do!" "I'll do the same!" "And I!" exclaimed
"But suppose the plate is only broken into two or three pieces,
then you earn very few," observed the obstinate Rufa.
"Abá!" answered old Sipa. "I make them recite the prayers anyhow. Then
I glue the pieces together again and so lose nothing."
Sister Rufa had no more objections left.
"Allow me to ask about a doubt of mine," said young Juana timidly. "You
ladies understand so well these matters of heaven, purgatory, and
hell, while I confess that I'm ignorant. Often I find in the novenas
and other books this direction: three paternosters, three Ave Marias,
and three Gloria Patris--"
"Now I want to know how they should be recited: whether three
paternosters in succession, three Ave Marias in succession, and
three Gloria Patris in succession; or a paternoster, an Ave Maria,
and a Gloria Patri together, three times?"
"This way: a paternoster three times--"
"Pardon me, Sister Sipa," interrupted Rufa, "they must be recited in
the other way. You mustn't mix up males and females. The paternosters
are males, the Ave Marias are females, and the Gloria Patris are
"Eh? Excuse me, Sister Rufa: paternoster, Ave Maria, and Gloria are
like rice, meat, and sauce--a mouthful for the saints--"
"You're wrong! You'll see, for you who pray that way will never get
what you ask for."
"And you who pray the other way won't get anything from your novenas,"
replied old Sipa.
"Who won't?" asked Rufa, rising. "A short time ago I lost a little
pig, I prayed to St. Anthony and found it, and then I sold it for a
good price. Abá!"
"Yes? Then that's why one of your neighbors was saying that you sold
a pig of hers."
"Who? The shameless one! Perhaps I'm like you--"
Here the expert had to interfere to restore peace, for no one
was thinking any more about paternosters--the talk was all
about pigs. "Come, come, there mustn't be any quarrel over a pig,
Sisters! The Holy Scriptures give us an example to follow. The
heretics and Protestants didn't quarrel with Our Lord for driving
into the water a herd of swine that belonged to them, and we that
are Christians and besides, Brethren of the Holy Rosary, shall we
have hard words on account of a little pig! What would our rivals,
the Tertiary Brethren, say?"
All became silent before such wisdom, at the same time fearing what
the Tertiary Brethren might say. The expert, well satisfied with
such acquiescence, changed his tone and continued: "Soon the curate
will send for us. We must tell him which preacher we've chosen of
the three that he suggested yesterday, whether Padre Damaso, Padre
Martin, or the coadjutor. I don't know whether the Tertiary Brethren
have yet made any choice, so we must decide."
"The coadjutor," murmured Juana timidly.
"Ahem! The coadjutor doesn't know how to preach," declared Sipa. "Padre
Martin is better."
"Padre Martin!" exclaimed another disdainfully. "He hasn't any
voice. Padre Damaso would be better."
"That's right!" cried Rufa. "Padre Damaso surely does know how to
preach! He looks like a comedian!"
"But we don't understand him," murmured Juana.
"Because he's very deep! And as he preaches well--"This speech was
interrupted by the arrival of Sisa, who was carrying a basket on her
head. She saluted the Sisters and went on up the stairway.
"She's going in! Let's go in too!" they exclaimed. Sisa felt her heart
beating violently as she ascended the stairs. She did not know just
what to say to the padre to placate his wrath or what reasons she
could advance in defense of her son. That morning at the first flush
of dawn she had gone into her garden to pick the choicest vegetables,
which she placed in a basket among banana-leaves and flowers; then
she had looked along the bank of the river for the pakó which she knew
the curate liked for salads. Putting on her best clothes and without
awakening her son, she had set out for the town with the basket on her
head. As she went up the stairway she, tried to make as little noise
as possible and listened attentively in the hope that she might hear
a fresh, childish voice, so well known to her. But she heard nothing
nor did she meet any one as she made her way to the kitchen. There
she looked into all the corners. The servants and sacristans received
her coldly, scarcely acknowledging her greeting.
"Where can I put these vegetables?" she asked, not taking any offense
at their coldness.
"There, anywhere!" growled the cook, hardly looking at her as he
busied himself in picking the feathers from a capon.
With great care Sisa arranged the vegetables and the salad leaves on
the table, placing the flowers above them. Smiling, she then addressed
one of the servants, who seemed to be more approachable than the cook:
"May I speak with the padre?"
"He's sick," was the whispered answer.
"And Crispin? Do you know if he is in the sacristy?" The servant
looked surprised and wrinkled his eyebrows. "Crispin? Isn't he at
your house? Do you mean to deny it?"
"Basilio is at home, but Crispin stayed here," answered Sisa, "and
I want to see him."
"Yes, he stayed, but afterwards he ran away, after stealing a lot of
things. Early this morning the curate ordered me to go and report it
to the Civil Guard. They must have gone to your house already to hunt
for the boys."
Sisa covered her ears and opened her mouth to speak, but her lips
moved without giving out any sound.
"A pretty pair of sons you have!" exclaimed the cook. "It's plain
that you're a faithful wife, the sons are so like the father. Take
care that the younger doesn't surpass him."
Sisa broke out into bitter weeping and let herself fall upon a bench.
"Don't cry here!" yelled the cook. "Don't you know that the padre's
sick? Get out in the street and cry!"
The unfortunate mother was almost shoved down the stairway at the
very time when the Sisters were coming down, complaining and making
conjectures about the curate's illness, so she hid her face in her
pañuelo and suppressed the sounds of her grief. Upon reaching the
street she looked about uncertainly for a moment and then, as if
having reached a decision, walked rapidly away.
A Schoolmaster's Difficulties
El vulgo es necio y pues lo paga, es justo
Hablarle en necio para darle el gusto.
LOPE DE VEGA.
The mountain-encircled lake slept peacefully with that hypocrisy of
the elements which gave no hint of how its waters had the night before
responded to the fury of the storm. As the first reflections of light
awoke on its surface the phosphorescent spirits, there were outlined
in the distance, almost on the horizon, the gray silhouettes of the
little bankas of the fishermen who were taking in their nets and
of the larger craft spreading their sails. Two men dressed in deep
mourning stood gazing at the water from a little elevation" one was
Ibarra and the other a youth of humble aspect and melancholy features.
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