The Social Cancer
Part 4 out of 11
"This is the place," the latter was saying. "From here your father's
body was thrown into the water. Here's where the grave-digger brought
Lieutenant Guevara and me."
Ibarra warmly grasped the hand of the young man, who went on: "You
have no occasion to thank me. I owed many favors to your father, and
the only thing that I could do for him was to accompany his body to
the grave. I came here without knowing any one, without recommendation,
and having neither name nor fortune, just as at present. My predecessor
had abandoned the school to engage in the tobacco trade. Your father
protected me, secured me a house, and furnished whatever was necessary
for running the school. He used to visit the classes and distribute
pictures among the poor but studious children, as well as provide
them with books and paper. But this, like all good things, lasted
only a little while."
Ibarra took off his hat and seemed to be praying for a time. Then he
turned to his companion: "Did you say that my father helped the poor
children? And now?"
"Now they get along as well as possible and write when they can,"
answered the youth.
"What is the reason?"
"The reason lies in their torn camisas and their downcast eyes."
"How many pupils have you now?" asked Ibarra with interest, after
"More than two hundred on the roll but only about twenty-five in
"How does that happen?"
The schoolmaster smiled sadly as he answered, "To tell you the reasons
would make a long and tiresome story."
"Don't attribute my question to idle curiosity," replied Ibarra
gravely, while he stared at the distant horizon. "I've thought
better of it and believe that to carry out my father's ideas will be
more fitting than to weep for him, and far better than to revenge
him. Sacred nature has become his grave, and his enemies were the
people and a priest. The former I pardon on account of their ignorance
and the latter because I wish that Religion, which elevated society,
should be respected. I wish to be inspired with the spirit of him
who gave me life and therefore desire to know about the obstacles
encountered here in educational work."
"The country will bless your memory, sir," said the schoolmaster,
"if you carry out the beautiful plans of your dead father! You wish
to know the obstacles which the progress of education meets? Well
then, under present circumstances, without substantial aid education
will never amount to much; in the very first place because, even
when we have the pupils, lack of suitable means, and other things
that attract them more, kill off their interest. It is said that in
Germany a peasant's son studies for eight years in the town school,
but who here would spend half that time when such poor results are to
be obtained? They read, write, and memorize selections, and sometimes
whole books, in Spanish, without understanding a single word.
What benefit does our country child get from the school?"
"And why have you, who see the evil, not thought of remedying it?"
The schoolmaster shook his head sadly. "A poor teacher struggles not
only against prejudices but also against certain influences. First,
it would be necessary to have a suitable place and not to do as I
must at present--hold the classes under the convento by the side
of the padre's carriage. There the children, who like to read aloud,
very naturally disturb the padre, and he often comes down, nervous,
especially when he has his attacks, yells at them, and even insults
me at times. You know that no one can either teach or learn under
such circumstances, for the child will not respect his teacher when
he sees him abused without standing up for his rights. In order to
be heeded and to maintain his authority the teacher needs prestige,
reputation, moral strength, and some freedom of action.
"Now let me recount to you even sadder details. I have wished to
introduce reforms and have been laughed at. In order to remedy the evil
of which I just spoke to you, I tried to teach Spanish to the children
because, in addition to the fact that the government so orders, I
thought also that it would be of advantage for everybody. I used the
simplest method of words and phrases without paying any attention to
long rules, expecting to teach them grammar when they should understand
the language. At the end of a few weeks some of the brightest were
almost able to understand me and could use a few phrases."
The schoolmaster paused and seemed to hesitate, then, as if making
a resolution, he went on: "I must not be ashamed of the story of
my wrongs, for any one in my place would have acted the same as I
did. As I said, it was a good beginning, but a few days afterwards
Padre Damaso, who was the curate then, sent for me by the senior
sacristan. Knowing his disposition and fearing to make him wait,
I went upstairs at once, saluted him, and wished him good-morning
in Spanish. His only greeting had been to put out his hand for me to
kiss, but at this he drew it back and without answering me began to
laugh loud and mockingly. I was very much embarrassed, as the senior
sacristan was present. At the moment I didn't know just what to say,
for the curate continued his laughter and I stood staring at him. Then
I began to get impatient and saw that I was about to do something
indiscreet, since to be a good Christian and to preserve one's
dignity are not incompatible. I was going to put a question to him
when suddenly, passing from ridicule to insult, he said sarcastically,
'So it's buenos dins, eh? Buenos dias! How nice that you know how to
talk Spanish!' Then again he broke out into laughter."
Ibarra was unable to repress a smile.
"You smile," continued the schoolmaster, following Ibarra's example,
"but I must confess that at the time I had very little desire to
laugh. I was still standing--I felt the blood rush to my head and
lightning seemed to flash through my brain. The curate I saw far,
far away. I advanced to reply to him without knowing just what I was
going to say, but the senior sacristan put himself between us. Padre
Damaso arose and said to me in Tagalog: 'Don't try to shine in borrowed
finery. Be content to talk your own dialect and don't spoil Spanish,
which isn't meant for you. Do you know the teacher Ciruela?
Well, Ciruela was a teacher who didn't know how to read, and he had
a school.' I wanted to detain him, but he went into his bedroom and
slammed the door.
"What was I to do with only my meager salary, to collect which I
have to get the curate's approval and make a trip to the capital of
the province, what could I do against him, the foremost religious
and political power in the town, backed up by his Order, feared by
the government, rich, powerful, sought after and listened to, always
believed and heeded by everybody? Although he insulted me, I had to
remain silent, for if I replied he would have had me removed from my
position, by which I should lose all hope in my chosen profession. Nor
would the cause of education gain anything, but the opposite, for
everybody would take the curate's side, they would curse me and
call me presumptuous, proud, vain, a bad Christian, uncultured,
and if not those things, then anti-Spanish and a filibuster. Of a
schoolmaster neither learning nor zeal is expected; resignation,
humility, and inaction only are asked. May God pardon me if I have
gone against my conscience and my judgement, but I was born in this
country, I have to live, I have a mother, so I have abandoned myself
to my fate like a corpse tossed about by the waves."
"Did this difficulty discourage you for all time? Have you lived
"Would that it had been a warning to me! If only my troubles had been
limited to that! It is true that from that time I began to dislike
my profession and thought of seeking some other occupation, as my
predecessor had done, because any work that is done in disgust and
shame is a kind of martyrdom and because every day the school recalled
the insult to my mind, causing me hours of great bitterness. But what
was I to do? I could not undeceive my mother, I had to say to her that
her three years of sacrifice to give me this profession now constituted
my happiness. It is necessary to make her believe that this profession
is most honorable, the work delightful, the way strewn with flowers,
that the performance of my duties brings me only friendship, that the
people respect me and show me every consideration. By doing otherwise,
without ceasing to be unhappy myself, I should have caused more
sorrow, which besides being useless would also be a sin. I stayed on,
therefore, and tried not to feel discouraged. I tried to struggle on."
Here he paused for a while, then resumed: "From the day on which I
was so grossly insulted I began to examine myself and I found that I
was in fact very ignorant. I applied myself day and night to the study
of Spanish and whatever concerned my profession. The old Sage lent me
some books, and I read and pondered over everything that I could get
hold of. With the new ideas that I have been acquiring in one place
and another my point of view has changed and I have seen many things
under a different aspect from what they had appeared to me before. I
saw error where before I had seen only truth, and truth in many
things where I had formerly seen only error. Corporal punishment, for
example, which from time immemorial has been the distinctive feature
in the schools and which has heretofore been considered as the only
efficacious means of making pupils learn--so we have been accustomed
to believe--soon appeared to me to be a great hindrance rather than
in any way an aid to the child's progress. I became convinced that
it was impossible to use one's mind properly when blows, or similar
punishment, were in prospect. Fear and terror disturb the most serene,
and a child's imagination, besides being very lively, is also very
impressionable. As it is on the brain that ideas are impressed,
it is necessary that there be both inner and outer calm, that there
be serenity of spirit, physical and moral repose, and willingness,
so I thought that before everything else I should cultivate in the
children confidence, assurance, and some personal pride. Moreover,
I comprehended that the daily sight of floggings destroyed kindness
in their hearts and deadened all sense of dignity, which is such a
powerful lever in the world. At the same time it caused them to lose
their sense of shame, which is a difficult thing to restore. I have
also observed that when one pupil is flogged, he gets comfort from
the fact that the others are treated in the same way, and that he
smiles with satisfaction upon hearing the wails of the others. As for
the person who does the flogging, while at first he may do it with
repugnance, he soon becomes hardened to it and even takes delight in
his gloomy task. The past filled me with horror, so I wanted to save
the present by modifying the old system. I endeavored to make study
a thing of love and joy, I wished to make the primer not a black book
bathed in the tears of childhood but a friend who was going to reveal
wonderful secrets, and of the schoolroom not a place of sorrows but a
scene of intellectual refreshment. So, little by little, I abolished
corporal punishment, taking the instruments of it entirely away from
the school and replacing them with emulation and personal pride. If
one was careless about his lesson, I charged it to lack of desire
and never to lack of capacity. I made them think that they were more
capable than they really were, which urged them on to study just as
any confidence leads to notable achievements. At first it seemed that
the change of method was impracticable; many ceased their studies,
but I persisted and observed that little by little their minds were
being elevated and that more children came, that they came with more
regularity, and that he who was praised in the presence of the others
studied with double diligence on the next day.
"It soon became known throughout the town that I did not whip the
children. The curate sent for me, and fearing another scene I greeted
him curtly in Tagalog. On this occasion he was very serious with me. He
said that I was exposing the children to destruction, that I was wasting
time, that I was not fulfilling my duties, that the father who spared
the rod was spoiling the child--according to the Holy Ghost--that
learning enters with blood, and so on. He quoted to me sayings of
barbarous times just as if it were enough that a thing had been said by
the ancients to make it indisputable; according to which we ought to
believe that there really existed those monsters which in past ages were
imaged and sculptured in the palaces and temples. Finally, he charged me
to be more careful and to return to the old system, otherwise he would
make unfavorable report about me to the alcalde of the province. Nor was
this the end of my troubles. A few days afterward some of the parents of
the children presented themselves under the convento and I had to call
to my aid all my patience and resignation. They began by reminding me
of former times when teachers had character and taught as their
grandfathers had. 'Those indeed were the times of the wise men,' they
declared, 'they whipped, and straightened the bent tree. They were not
boys but old men of experience, gray-haired and severe. Don Catalino,
king of them all and founder of this very school, used to administer no
less than twenty-five blows and as a result his pupils became wise men
and priests. Ah, the old people were worth more than we ourselves, yes,
sir, more than we ourselves!' Some did not content themselves with such
indirect rudeness, but told me plainly that if I continued my system
their children would learn nothing and that they would be obliged to
take them from the school It was useless to argue with them, for as a
young man they thought me incapable of sound judgment. What would I not
have given for some gray hairs! They cited the authority of the curate,
of this one and that one, and even called attention to themselves,
saying that if it had not been for the whippings they had received from
their teachers they would never have learned anything. Only a few
persons showed any sympathy to sweeten for me the bitterness of such a
"In view of all this I had to give up my system, which, after so much
toil, was just beginning to produce results. In desperation I carried
the whips bank to the school the next day and began the barbarous
practice again. Serenity disappeared and sadness reigned in the faces
of the children, who had just begun to care for me, and who were my
only kindred and friends. Although I tried to spare the whippings and
to administer them with all the moderation possible, yet the children
felt the change keenly, they became discouraged and wept bitterly. It
touched my heart, and even though in my own mind I was vexed with the
stupid parents, still I was unable to take any spite out on those
innocent victims of their parents' prejudices. Their tears burned
me, my heart seemed bursting from my breast, and that day I left
the school before closing-time to go home and weep alone. Perhaps
my sensitiveness may seem strange to you, but if you had been in my
place you would understand it. Old Don Anastasio said to me, 'So the
parents want floggings? Why not inflict them on themselves?' As a
result of it all I became sick." Ibarra was listening thoughtfully.
"Scarcely had I recovered when I returned to the school to find
the number of my pupils reduced to a fifth. The better ones had run
away upon the return to the old system, and of those who remained--
mostly those who came to school to escape work at home--not one
showed any joy, not one congratulated me on my recovery. It would
have been the same to them whether I got well or not, or they might
have preferred that I continue sick since my substitute, although
he whipped them more, rarely went to the school. My other pupils,
those whose parents had obliged them to attend school, had gone to
other places. Their parents blamed me for having spoiled them and
heaped reproaches on me for it. One, however, the son of a country
woman who visited me during my illness, had not returned on account
of having been made a sacristan, and the senior sacristan says that
the sacristans must not attend school: they would be dismissed."
"Were you resigned in looking after your new pupils?" asked Ibarra.
"What else could I do?" was the queried reply. "Nevertheless, during my
illness many things had happened, among them a change of curates, so
I took new hope and made another attempt to the end that the children
should not lose all their time and should, in so far as possible,
get some benefit from the floggings, that such things might at least
have some good result for them. I pondered over the matter, as I wished
that even if they could not love me, by getting something useful from
me, they might remember me with less bitterness. You know that in
nearly all the schools the books are in Spanish, with the exception
of the catechism in Tagalog, which varies according to the religious
order to which the curate belongs. These books are generally novenas,
canticles, and the Catechism of Padre Astete, from which they learn
about as much piety as they would from the books of heretics. Seeing
the impossibility of teaching the pupils in Spanish or of translating
so many books, I tried to substitute short passages from useful works
in Tagalog, such as the Treatise on Manners by Hortensio y Feliza,
some manuals of Agriculture, and so forth. Sometimes I would myself
translate simple works, such as Padre Barranera's History of the
Philippines, which I then dictated to the children, with at times a
few observations of my own, so that they might make note-books. As
I had no maps for teaching geography, I copied one of the province
that I saw at the capital and with this and the tiles of the floor
I gave them some idea of the country. This time it was the women
who got excited. The men contented themselves with smiling, as they
saw in it only one of my vagaries. The new curate sent for me, and
while he did not reprimand me, yet he said that I should first take
care of religion, that before learning such things the children must
pass an examination to show that they had memorized the mysteries,
the canticles, and the catechism of Christian Doctrine.
"So then, I am now working to the end that the children become changed
into parrots and know by heart so many things of which they do not
understand a single word. Many of them now know the mysteries and
the canticles, but I fear that my efforts will come to grief with
the Catechism of Padre Astete, since the greater part of the pupils
do not distinguish between the questions and the answers, nor do they
understand what either may mean. Thus we shall die, thus those unborn
will do, while in Europe they will talk of progress."
"Let's not be so pessimistic," said Ibarra. "The teniente-mayor has
sent me an invitation to attend a meeting in the town hall. Who knows
but that there you may find an answer to your questions?"
The schoolmaster shook his head in doubt as he answered: "You'll see
how the plan of which they talked to me meets the same fate as mine
has. But yet, let us see!"
The Meeting in the Town Hall
The hall was about twelve to fifteen meters long by eight to ten
wide. Its whitewashed walls were covered with drawings in charcoal,
more or less ugly and obscene, with inscriptions to complete their
meanings. Stacked neatly against the wall in one corner were to be seen
about a dozen old flint-locks among rusty swords and talibons, the
armament of the cuadrilleros. At one end of the hall there hung,
half hidden by soiled red curtains, a picture of his Majesty, the King
of Spain. Underneath this picture, upon a wooden platform, an old chair
spread out its broken arms. In front of the chair was a wooden table
spotted with ink stains and whittled and carved with inscriptions
and initials like the tables in the German taverns frequented by
students. Benches and broken chairs completed the furniture.
This is the hall of council, of judgment, and of torture, wherein are
now gathered the officials of the town and its dependent villages. The
faction of old men does not mix with that of the youths, for they are
mutually hostile. They represent respectively the conservative and
the liberal parties, save that their disputes assume in the towns an
"The conduct of the gobernadorcillo fills me with distrust,"
Don Filipo, the teniente-mayor and leader of the liberal faction,
was saying to his friends. "It was a deep-laid scheme, this thing
of putting off the discussion of expenses until the eleventh
hour. Remember that we have scarcely eleven days left."
"And he has staved at the convento to hold a conference with the
curate, who is sick," observed one of the youths.
"It doesn't matter," remarked another. "We have everything
prepared. Just so the plan of the old men doesn't receive a majority--"
"I don't believe it will," interrupted Don Filipo, "as I shall present
the plan of the old men myself!"
"What! What are you saying?" asked his surprised hearers.
"I said that if I speak first I shall present the plan of our rivals."
"But what about our plan?"
"I shall leave it to you to present ours," answered Don Filipo with
a smile, turning toward a youthful cabeza de barangay. "You will
propose it after I have been defeated."
"We don't understand you, sir," said his hearers, staring at him with
"Listen," continued the liberal leader in a low voice to several
near him. "This morning I met old Tasio and the old man said to me:
'Your rivals hate you more than they do your ideas. Do you wish that
a thing shall not be done? Then propose it yourself, and though it
were more useful than a miter, it would be rejected. Once they have
defeated you, have the least forward person in the whole gathering
propose what you want, and your rivals, in order to humiliate you,
will accept it.' But keep quiet about it."
"So I will propose the plan of our rivals and exaggerate it to the
point of making it ridiculous. Ah, here come Señor Ibarra and the
These two young men saluted each of the groups without joining
either. A few moments later the gobernadorcillo, the very same
individual whom we saw yesterday carrying a bundle of candles, entered
with a look of disgust on his face. Upon his entrance the murmurs
ceased, every one sat down, and silence was gradually established,
as he took his seat under the picture of the King, coughed four or
five times, rubbed his hand over his face and head, rested his elbows
on the table, then withdrew them, coughed once more, and then the
whole thing over again.
"Gentlemen," he at last began in an unsteady voice, "I have been so
bold as to call you together here for this meeting--ahem! Ahem! We
have to celebrate the fiesta of our patron saint, San Diego,
on the twelfth of this month--ahem!--today is the second--
ahem! Ahem!" At this point a slow, dry cough cut off his speech.
A man of proud bearing, apparently about forty years of age, then
arose from the bench of the elders. He was the rich Capitan Basilio,
the direct contrast of Don Rafael, Ibarra's father. He was a man who
maintained that after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas the world had
made no more progress, and that since St. John Lateran had left it,
humanity had been retrograding.
"Gentlemen, allow me to speak a few words about such an interesting
matter," he began. "I speak first even though there are others here
present who have more right to do so than I have, but I speak first
because in these matters it seems to me that by speaking first one does
not take the first place--no more than that by speaking last does
one become the least. Besides, the things that I have to say are of
such importance that they should not be put off or last spoken of, and
accordingly I wish to speak first in order to give them due weight. So
you will allow me to speak first in this meeting where I see so many
notable persons, such as the present señor capitan, the former capitan;
my distinguished friend, Don Valentin, a former capitan; the friend
of my infancy, Don Julio; our celebrated captain of cuadrilleros,
Don Melchor; and many other personages, whom, for the sake of brevity,
I must omit to enumerate--all of whom you see present here. I beg of
you that I may be allowed a few words before any one else speaks. Have
I the good fortune to see my humble request granted by the meeting?"
Here the orator with a faint smile inclined his head respectfully. "Go
on, you have our undivided attention!" said the notables alluded to and
some others who considered Capitan Basilio a great orator. The elders
coughed in a satisfied way and rubbed their hands. After wiping the
perspiration from his brow with a silk handkerchief, he then proceeded:
"Now that yon have been so kind and complaisant with my humble self as
to grant me the use of a few words before any one else of those here
present, I shall take advantage of this permission, so generously
granted, and shall talk. In imagination I fancy myself in the midst
of the august Roman senate, senatus populusque romanus, as was said
in those happy days which, unfortunately for humanity, will nevermore
return. I propose to the Patres Conscripti, as the learned Cicero would
say if he were in my place, I propose, in view of the short time left,
and time is money as Solomon said, that concerning this important
matter each one set forth his opinion clearly, briefly, and simply."
Satisfied with himself and flattered by the attention in the hall, the
orator took his seat, not without first casting a glance of superiority
toward Ibarra, who was seated in a corner, and a significant look at
his friends as if to say, "Aha! Haven't I spoken well?" His friends
reflected both of these expressions by staring at the youths as though
to make them die of envy.
"Now any one may speak who wishes that--ahem!" began the
gobernadorcillo, but a repetition of the cough and sighs cut short
To judge from the silence, no one wished to consider himself called
upon as one of the Conscript Fathers, since no one rose. Then Don
Filipo seized the opportunity and rose to speak. The conservatives
winked and made significant signs to each other.
"I rise, gentlemen, to present my estimate of expenses for the fiesta,"
he began. "We can't allow it," commented a consumptive old man,
who was an irreconcilable conservative.
"We'll vote against it," corroborated others. "Gentlemen!" exclaimed
Don Filipo, repressing a smile, "I haven't yet made known the plan
which we, the younger men, bring here. We feel sure that this great
plan will be preferred by all over any other that our opponents think
of or are capable of conceiving."
This presumptuous exordium so thoroughly irritated the minds of the
conservatives that they swore in their hearts to offer determined
"We have estimated three thousand five hundred pesos for the expenses,"
went on Don Filipo. "Now then, with such a sum we shall be able to
celebrate a fiesta that will eclipse in magnificence any that has
been seen up to this time in our own or neighboring provinces."
"Ahem!" coughed some doubters. "The town of A---- has five thousand,
B---- has four thousand, ahem! Humbug!"
"Listen to me, gentlemen, and I'll convince you," continued the
unterrified speaker. "I propose that we erect a theater in the middle
of the plaza, to cost one hundred and fifty pesos."
"That won't be enough! It'll take one hundred and sixty," objected
a confirmed conservative.
"Write it down, Señor Director, two hundred pesos for the theater,"
said Don Filipo. "I further propose that we contract with a troupe
of comedians from Tondo for seven performances on seven successive
nights. Seven performances at two hundred pesos a night make fourteen
hundred pesos. Write down fourteen hundred pesos, Señor Director!"
Both the elders and the youths stared in amazement. Only those in
the secret gave no sign.
"I propose besides that we have magnificent fireworks; no little
lights and pin-wheels such as please children and old maids, nothing
of the sort. We want big bombs and immense rockets. I propose two
hundred big bombs at two pesos each and two hundred rockets at the
same price. We'll have them made by the pyrotechnists of Malabon."
"Huh!" grunted an old man, "a two-peso bomb doesn't frighten or deafen
me! They ought to be three-peso ones."
"Write down one thousand pesos for two hundred bombs and two hundred
The conservatives could no longer restrain themselves. Some of them
rose and began to whisper together. "Moreover, in order that our
visitors may see that we are a liberal people and have plenty of
money," continued the speaker, raising his voice and casting a rapid
glance at the whispering group of elders, "I propose: first, four
hermanos mayores for the two days of the fiesta; and second, that
each day there be thrown into the lake two hundred fried chickens,
one hundred stuffed capons, and forty roast pigs, as did Sylla,
a contemporary of that Cicero, of whom Capitan Basilio just spoke."
"That's it, like Sylla," repeated the flattered Capitan Basilio.
The surprise steadily increased.
"Since many rich people will attend and each one will bring thousands
of pesos, his best game-cocks, and his playing-cards, I propose that
the cockpit run for fifteen days and that license be granted to open
all gambling houses--"
The youths interrupted him by rising, thinking that he had gone
crazy. The elders were arguing heatedly.
"And, finally, that we may not neglect the pleasures of the soul--"
The murmurs and cries which arose all over the hall drowned his voice
out completely, and tumult reigned.
"No!" yelled an irreconcilable conservative. "I don't want him to
flatter himself over having run the whole fiesta, no! Let me speak! Let
"Don Filipo has deceived us," cried the liberals. "We'll vote against
his plan. He has gone over to the old men. We'll vote against him!"
The gobernadorcillo, more overwhelmed than ever, did nothing to restore
order, but rather was waiting for them to restore it themselves.
The captain of the cuadrilleros begged to be heard and was granted
permission to speak, but he did not open his mouth and sat down again
confused and ashamed.
By good fortune, Capitan Valentin, the most moderate of all
the conservatives, arose and said: "We cannot agree to what the
teniente-mayor has proposed, as it appears to be exaggerated. So many
bombs and so many nights of theatrical performances can only be desired
by a young man, such as he is, who can spend night after night sitting
up and listening to so many explosions without becoming deaf. I have
consulted the opinion of the sensible persons here and all of them
unanimously disapprove Don Filipo's plan. Is it not so, gentlemen?"
"Yes, yes!" cried the youths and elders with one voice. The youths
were delighted to hear an old man speak so.
"What are we going to do with four hermanos mayores?" went on the old
man. "What is the meaning of those chickens, capons, and roast pigs,
thrown into the lake? 'Humbug!' our neighbors would say. And afterwards
we should have to fast for six months! What have we to do with Sylla
and the Romans? Have they ever invited us to any of their festivities,
I wonder? I, at least, have never received any invitation from them,
and you can all see that I'm an old man!"
"The Romans live in Rome, where the Pope is," Capitan Basilio prompted
him in a low voice. "Now I understand!" exclaimed the old man calmly.
"They would make of their festivals watch-meetings, and the Pope
would order them to throw their food into the sea so that they might
commit no sin. But, in spite of all that, your plan is inadmissible,
impossible, a piece of foolishness!"
Being so stoutly opposed, Don Filipo had to withdraw his proposal. Now
that their chief rival had been defeated, even the worst of the
irreconcilable insurgents looked on with calmness while a young cabeza
de barangay asked for the floor.
"I beg that you excuse the boldness of one so young as I am in
daring to speak before so many persons respected for their age and
prudence and judgment in affairs, but since the eloquent orator,
Capitan Basilio, has requested every one to express his opinion,
let the authoritative words spoken by him excuse my insignificance."
The conservatives nodded their heads with satisfaction, remarking
to one another: "This young man talks sensibly." "He's modest." "He
"What a pity that he doesn't know very well how to gesticulate,"
observed Capitan Basilio. "But there's time yet! He hasn't studied
Cicero and he's still a young man!"
"If I present to you, gentlemen, any program or plan," the young
man continued, "I don't do so with the thought that you will find
it perfect or that you will accept it, but at the same time that I
once more bow to the judgment of all of you, I wish to prove to our
elders that our thoughts are always like theirs, since we take as
our own those ideas so eloquently expressed by Capitan Basilio."
"Well spoken! Well spoken!" cried the flattered conservatives. Capitan
Basilio made signs to the speaker showing him how he should stand and
how he ought to move his arm. The only one remaining impassive was the
gobernadorcillo, who was either bewildered or preoccupied; as a matter
of fact, he seemed to be both. The young man went on with more warmth:
"My plan, gentlemen, reduces itself to this: invent new shows that
are not common and ordinary, such as we see every day, and endeavor
that the money collected may not leave the town, and that it be not
wasted in smoke, but that it be used in some manner beneficial to all."
"That's right!" assented the youths. "That's what we want."
"Excellent!" added the elders.
"What should we get from a week of comedies, as the teniente-mayor
proposes? What can we learn from the kings of Bohemia and Granada, who
commanded that their daughters' heads be cut off, or that they should
be blown from a cannon, which later is converted into a throne? We
are not kings, neither are we barbarians; we have no cannon, and if
we should imitate those people, they would hang us on Bagumbayan. What
are those princesses who mingle in the battles, scattering thrusts and
blows about in combat with princes, or who wander alone over mountains
and through valleys as though seduced by the tikbálang? Our nature is
to love sweetness and tenderness in woman, and we would shudder at the
thought of taking the blood-stained hand of a maiden, even when the
blood was that of a Moro or a giant, so abhorred by us. We consider
vile the man who raises his hand against a woman, be he prince or
alferez or rude countryman. Would it not be a thousand times better
to give a representation of our own customs in order to correct our
defects and vices and to encourage our better qualities?"
"That's right! That's right!" exclaimed some of his faction.
"He's right," muttered several old men thoughtfully.
"I should never have thought of that," murmured Capitan Basilio.
"But how are you going to do its." asked the irreconcilable.
"Very easily," answered the youth. "I have brought here two
dramas which I feel sure the good taste and recognized judgment of
the respected elders here assembled will find very agreeable and
entertaining. One is entitled 'The Election of the Gobernadorcillo,'
being a comedy in prose in five acts, written by one who is here
present. The other is in nine acts for two nights and is a fantastical
drama of a satirical nature, entitled 'Mariang Makiling,' written
by one of the best poets of the province. Seeing that the discussion of
preparations for the fiesta has been postponed and fearing that there
would not be time enough left, we have secretly secured the actors
and had them learn their parts. We hope that with a week of rehearsal
they will have plenty of time to know their parts thoroughly. This,
gentlemen, besides being new, useful, and reasonable, has the great
advantage of being economical; we shall not need costumes, as those
of our daily life will be suitable."
"I'll pay for the theater!" shouted Capitan Basilio enthusiastically.
"If you need cuadrilleros, I'll lend you mine," cried their captain.
"And I--and I--if art old man is needed--" stammered another one,
swelling with pride.
"Accepted! Accepted!" cried many voices.
Don Filipo became pale with emotion and his eyes filled with tears.
"He's crying from spite," thought the irreconcilable, so he yelled,
"Accepted! Accepted without discussion!" Thus satisfied with revenge
and the complete defeat of his rival, this fellow began to praise
the young man's plan.
The latter continued his speech: "A fifth of the money collected may be
used to distribute a few prizes, such as to the best school child, the
best herdsman, farmer, fisherman, and so on. We can arrange for boat
races on the river and lake and for horse races on shore, we can raise
greased poles and also have other games in which our country people can
take part. I concede that on account of our long-established customs we
must have some fireworks; wheels and fire castles are very beautiful
and entertaining, but I don't believe it necessary to have bombs, as
the former speaker proposed. Two bands of music will afford sufficient
merriment and thus we shall avoid those rivalries and quarrels between
the poor musicians who come to gladden our fiesta with their work
and who so often behave like fighting-cocks, afterwards going away
poorly paid, underfed, and even bruised and wounded at times. With
the money left over we can begin the erection of a small building for
a schoolhouse, since we can't wait until God Himself comes down and
builds one for us, and it is a sad state of affairs that while we have
a fine cockpit our children study almost in the curate's stable. Such
are the outlines of my plan; the details can be worked out by all."
A murmur of pleasure ran through the hall, as nearly every one agreed
with the youth.
Some few muttered, "Innovations! Innovations! When we were young--"
"Let's adopt it for the time being and humiliate that fellow," said
others, indicating Don Filipo.
When silence was restored all were agreed. There was lacking only the
approval of the gobernadorcillo. That worthy official was perspiring
and fidgeting about. He rubbed his hand over his forehead and was
at length able to stammer out in a weak voice: "I also agree, but
Every one in the hall listened in silence.
"But what?" asked Capitan Basilio.
"Very agreeable," repeated the gobernadorcillo, "that is to say--
I don't agree--I mean--yes, but--" Here he rubbed his eyes
with the back of his hand. "But the curate," the poor fellow went on,
"the curate wants something else."
"Does the curate or do we ourselves pay for this fiesta? Has he given
a cuarto for it?" exclaimed a penetrating voice. All looked toward
the place whence these questions came and saw there the Sage Tasio.
Don Filipo remained motionless with his eyes fixed on the
"What does the curate want?" asked Capitan Basilio.
"Well, the padre wants six processions, three sermons, three high
masses, and if there is any money left, a comedy from Tondo with
songs in the intermissions."
"But we don't want that," said the youths and some of the old men.
"The curate wants it," repeated the gobernadorcillo. "I've promised
him that his wish shall be carried out."
"Then why did you have us assemble here?"
"F-for the very purpose of telling you this!"
"Why didn't you tell us so at the start?"
"I wanted to tell you, gentlemen, but Capitan Basilio spoke and I
haven't had a chance. The curate must be obeyed."
"He must be obeyed," echoed several old men.
"He must be obeyed or else the alcalde will put us all in jail,"
added several other old men sadly.
"Well then, obey him, and run the fiesta yourselves," exclaimed the
youths, rising. "We withdraw our contributions."
"Everything has already been collected," said the gobernadorcillo.
Don Filipo approached this official and said to him bitterly, "I
sacrificed my pride in favor of a good cause; you are sacrificing your
dignity as a man in favor of a bad one, and you've spoiled everything."
Ibarra turned to the schoolmaster and asked him, "Is there anything
that I can do for you at the capital of the province? I leave for
"Have you some business there?"
"We have business there!" answered Ibarra mysteriously.
On the way home, when Don Filipo was cursing his bad luck, old Tasio
said to him: "The blame is ours! You didn't protest when they gave
you a slave for a chief, and I, fool that I am, had forgotten it!"
The Story of a Mother
Andaba incierto--volaba errante,
Un solo instante--sin descansar.
Sisa ran in the direction of her home with her thoughts in that
confused whirl which is produced in our being when, in the midst of
misfortunes, protection and hope alike are gone. It is then that
everything seems to grow dark around us, and, if we do see some
faint light shining from afar, we run toward it, we follow it,
even though an abyss yawns in our path. The mother wanted to save
her sons, and mothers do not ask about means when their children
are concerned. Precipitately she ran, pursued by fear and dark
forebodings. Had they already arrested her son Basilio? Whither had
her boy Crispin fled?
As she approached her little hut she made out above the garden fence
the caps of two soldiers. It would be impossible to tell what her heart
felt: she forgot everything. She was not ignorant of the boldness of
those men, who did not lower their gaze before even the richest people
of the town. What would they do now to her and to her sons, accused
of theft! The civil-guards are not men, they are civil-guards; they
do not listen to supplications and they are accustomed to see tears.
Sisa instinctively raised her eyes toward the sky, that sky which
smiled with brilliance indescribable, and in whose transparent
blue floated some little fleecy clouds. She stopped to control the
trembling that had seized her whole body. The soldiers were leaving
the house and were alone, as they had arrested nothing more than the
hen which Sisa had been fattening. She breathed more freely and took
heart again. "How good they are and what kind hearts they have!" she
murmured, almost weeping with joy. Had the soldiers burned her house
but left her sons at liberty she would have heaped blessings upon
them! She again looked gratefully toward the sky through which a
flock of herons, those light clouds in the skies of the Philippines,
were cutting their path, and with restored confidence she continued on
her way. As she approached those fearful men she threw her glances in
every direction as if unconcerned and pretended not to see her hen,
which was cackling for help. Scarcely had she passed them when she
wanted to run, but prudence restrained her steps.
She had not gone far when she heard herself called by an imperious
voice. Shuddering, she pretended not to hear, and continued on her
way. They called her again, this time with a yell and an insulting
epithet. She turned toward them, pale and trembling in spite of
herself. One of them beckoned to her. Mechanically Sisa approached
them, her tongue paralyzed with fear and her throat parched.
"Tell us the truth or we'll tie you to that tree and shoot you,"
said one of them in a threatening tone.
The woman stared at the tree.
"You're the mother of the thieves, aren't you?" asked the other.
"Mother of the thieves!" repeated Sisa mechanically.
"Where's the money your sons brought you last night?"
"Ah! The money--"
"Don't deny it or it'll be the worse for you," added the other. "We've
come to arrest your sons, and the older has escaped from us. Where
have you hidden the younger?"
Upon hearing this Sisa breathed more freely and answered, "Sir, it
has been many days since I've seen Crispin. I expected to see him
this morning at the convento, but there they only told me--"
The two soldiers exchanged significant glances. "All right!" exclaimed
one of them. "Give us the money and we'll leave you alone."
"Sir," begged the unfortunate woman, "my sons wouldn't steal
even though they were starving, for we are used to that kind of
suffering. Basilio didn't bring me a single cuarto. Search the whole
house and if you find even a real, do with us what you will. Not all
of us poor folks are thieves!"
"Well then," ordered the soldier slowly, as he fixed his gaze on
Sisa's eyes, "come with us. Your sons will show up and try to get
rid of the money they stole. Come on!"
"I--go with you?" murmured the woman, as she stepped backward and
gazed fearfully at their uniforms. "And why not?"
"Oh, have pity on me!" she begged, almost on her knees. "I'm very
poor, so I've neither gold nor jewels to offer you. The only thing
I had you've already taken, and that is the hen which I was thinking
of selling. Take everything that you find in the house, but leave me
here in peace, leave me here to die!"
"Go ahead! You're got to go, and if you don't move along willingly,
we'll tie you."
Sisa broke out into bitter weeping, but those men were inflexible. "At
least, let me go ahead of you some distance," she begged, when she
felt them take hold of her brutally and push her along.
The soldiers seemed to be somewhat affected and, after whispering
apart, one of them said: "All right, since from here until we get into
the town, you might be able to escape, you'll walk between us. Once
there you may walk ahead twenty paces, but take care that you don't
delay and that you don't go into any shop, and don't stop. Go ahead,
Vain were her supplications and arguments, useless her promises. The
soldiers said that they had already compromised themselves by having
conceded too much. Upon finding herself between them she felt as if
she would die of shame. No one indeed was coming along the road, but
how about the air and the light of day? True shame encounters eyes
everywhere. She covered her face with her pañuelo and walked along
blindly, weeping in silence at her disgrace. She had felt misery and
knew what it was to be abandoned by every one, even her own husband,
but until now she had considered herself honored and respected: up
to this time she had looked with compassion on those boldly dressed
women whom the town knew as the concubines of the soldiers. Now it
seemed to her that she had fallen even a step lower than they in the
The sound of hoofs was heard, proceeding from a small train of men
and women mounted on poor nags, each between two baskets hung over
the back of his mount; it was a party carrying fish to the interior
towns. Some of them on passing her hut had often asked for a drink of
water and had presented her with some fishes. Now as they passed her
they seemed to beat and trample upon her while their compassionate
or disdainful looks penetrated through her pañuelo and stung her
face. When these travelers had finally passed she sighed and raised the
pañuelo an instant to see how far she still was from the town. There
yet remained a few telegraph poles to be passed before reaching the
bantayan, or little watch-house, at the entrance to the town. Never
had that distance seemed so great to her.
Beside the road there grew a leafy bamboo thicket in whose shade she
had rested at other times, and where her lover had talked so sweetly as
he helped her carry her basket of fruit and vegetables. Alas, all that
was past, like a dream! The lover had become her husband and a cabeza
de barangay, and then trouble had commenced to knock at her door. As
the sun was beginning to shine hotly, the soldiers asked her if she did
not want to rest there. "Thanks, no!" was the horrified woman's answer.
Real terror seized her when they neared the town. She threw her
anguished gaze in all directions, but no refuge offered itself,
only wide rice-fields, a small irrigating ditch, and some stunted
trees; there was not a cliff or even a rock upon which she might dash
herself to pieces! Now she regretted that she had come so far with
the soldiers; she longed for the deep river that flowed by her hut,
whose high and rock-strewn banks would have offered such a sweet
death. But again the thought of her sons, especially of Crispin, of
whose fate she was still ignorant, lightened the darkness of her night,
and she was able to murmur resignedly, "Afterwards--afterwards--
we'll go and live in the depths of the forest."
Drying her eyes and trying to look calm, she turned to her guards and
said in a low voice, with an indefinable accent that was a complaint
and a lament, a prayer and a reproach, sorrow condensed into sound,
"Now we're in the town." Even the soldiers seemed touched as they
answered her with a gesture. She struggled to affect a calm bearing
while she went forward quickly.
At that moment the church bells began to peal out, announcing the end
of the high mass. Sisa hurried her steps so as to avoid, if possible,
meeting the people who were coming out, but in vain, for no means
offered to escape encountering them. With a bitter smile she saluted
two of her acquaintances, who merely turned inquiring glances upon
her, so that to avoid further mortification she fixed her gaze on
the ground, and yet, strange to say, she stumbled over the stones in
the road! Upon seeing her, people paused for a moment and conversed
among themselves as they gazed at her, all of which she saw and felt
in spite of her downcast eyes.
She heard the shameless tones of a woman who asked from behind at the
top of her voice, "Where did you catch her? And the money?" It was a
woman without a tapis, or tunic, dressed in a green and yellow skirt
and a camisa of blue gauze, easily recognizable from her costume as
a querida of the soldiery. Sisa felt as if she had received a slap
in the face, for that woman had exposed her before the crowd. She
raised her eyes for a moment to get her fill of scorn and hate, but
saw the people far, far away. Yet she felt the chill of their stares
and heard their whispers as she moved over the ground almost without
knowing that she touched it.
"Eh, this way!" a guard called to her. Like an automaton whose
mechanism is breaking, she whirled about rapidly on her heels, then
without seeing or thinking of anything ran to hide herself. She
made out a door where a sentinel stood and tried to enter it, but
a still more imperious voice called her aside. With wavering steps
she sought the direction of that voice, then felt herself pushed
along by the shoulders; she shut her eyes, took a couple of steps,
and lacking further strength, let herself fall to the ground, first
on her knees and then in a sitting posture. Dry and voiceless sobs
shook her frame convulsively.
Now she was in the barracks among the soldiers, women, hogs, and
chickens. Some of the men were sewing at their clothes while their
thighs furnished pillows for their queridas, who were reclining
on benches, smoking and gazing wearily at the ceiling. Other women
were helping some of the men clean their ornaments and arms, humming
doubtful songs the while.
"It seems that the chicks have escaped, for you've brought only the
old hen!" commented one woman to the new arrivals,--whether alluding
to Sisa or the still clucking hen is not certain.
"Yes, the hen is always worth more than the chicks," Sisa herself
answered when she observed that the soldiers were silent.
"Where's the sergeant?" asked one of the guards in a disgusted
tone. "Has report been made to the alferez yet?"
A general shrugging of shoulders was his answer, for no one was going
to trouble himself inquiring about the fate of a poor woman.
There Sisa spent two hours in a state of semi-idiocy, huddled in a
corner with her head hidden in her arms and her hair falling down in
disorder. At noon the alferez was informed, and the first thing that
he did was to discredit the curate's accusation.
"Bah! Tricks of that rascally friar," he commented, as he ordered
that the woman be released and that no one should pay any attention
to the matter. "If he wants to get back what he's lost, let him ask
St. Anthony or complain to the nuncio. Out with her!"
Consequently, Sisa was ejected from the barracks almost violently,
as she did not try to move herself. Finding herself in the street, she
instinctively started to hurry toward her house, with her head bared,
her hair disheveled, and her gaze fixed on the distant horizon. The sun
burned in its zenith with never a cloud to shade its flashing disk;
the wind shook the leaves of the trees lightly along the dry road,
while no bird dared stir from the shade of their branches.
At last Sisa reached her hut and entered it in silence, She walked all
about it and ran in and out for a time. Then she hurried to old Tasio's
house and knocked at the door, but he was not at home. The unhappy
woman then returned to her hut and began to call loudly for Basilio
and Crispin, stopping every few minutes to listen attentively. Her
voice came back in an echo, for the soft murmur of the water in the
neighboring river and the rustling of the bamboo leaves were the
only sounds that broke the stillness. She called again and again as
she climbed the low cliffs, or went down into a gully, or descended
to the river. Her eyes rolled about with a sinister expression, now
flashing up with brilliant gleams, now becoming obscured like the
sky on a stormy night; it might be said that the light of reason was
flickering and about to be extinguished.
Again returning to her hut, she sat down on the mat where she had
lain the night before. Raising her eyes, she saw a twisted remnant
from Basilio's camisa at the end of the bamboo post in the dinding,
or wall, that overlooked the precipice. She seized and examined it
in the sunlight. There were blood stains on it, but Sisa hardly saw
them, for she went outside and continued to raise and lower it before
her eyes to examine it in the burning sunlight. The light was failing
and everything beginning to grow dark around her. She gazed wide-eyed
and unblinkingly straight at the sun.
Still wandering about here and there, crying and wailing, she would
have frightened any listener, for her voice now uttered rare notes such
as are not often produced in the human throat. In a night of roaring
tempest, when the whirling winds beat with invisible wings against
the crowding shadows that ride upon it, if you should find yourself
in a solitary and ruined building, you would hear moans and sighs
which you might suppose to be the soughing of the wind as it beats
on the high towers and moldering walls to fill you with terror and
make you shudder in spite of yourself; as mournful as those unknown
sounds of the dark night when the tempest roars were the accents of
that mother. In this condition night came upon her. Perhaps Heaven
had granted some hours of sleep while the invisible wing of an angel,
brushing over her pallid countenance, might wipe out the sorrows
from her memory; perhaps such suffering was too great for weak human
endurance, and Providence had intervened with its sweet remedy,
forgetfulness. However that may be, the next day Sisa wandered about
smiling, singing, and talking with all the creatures of wood and field.
Lights and Shadows
Three days have passed since the events narrated, three days which
the town of San Diego has devoted to making preparations for the
fiesta, commenting and murmuring at the same time. While all were
enjoying the prospect of the pleasures to come, some spoke ill of the
gobernadorcillo, others of the teniente-mayor, others of the young men,
and there were not lacking those who blamed everybody for everything.
There was a great deal of comment on the arrival of Maria Clara,
accompanied by her Aunt Isabel. All rejoiced over it because they loved
her and admired her beauty, while at the same time they wondered at the
change that had come over Padre Salvi. "He often becomes inattentive
during the holy services, nor does he talk much with us, and he is
thinner and more taciturn than usual," commented his penitents. The
cook noticed him getting thinner and thinner by minutes and complained
of the little honor that was done to his dishes. But that which caused
the most comment among the people was the fact that in the convento
were to be seen more than two lights burning during the evening while
Padre Salvi was on a visit to a private dwelling--the home of Maria
Clara! The pious women crossed themselves but continued their comments.
Ibarra had telegraphed from the capital of the province welcoming Aunt
Isabel and her niece, but had failed to explain the reason for his
absence. Many thought him a prisoner on account of his treatment of
Padre Salvi on the afternoon of All Saints, but the comments reached
a climax when, on the evening of the third day, they saw him alight
before the home of his fiancée and extend a polite greeting to the
priest, who was just entering the same house.
Sisa and her sons were forgotten by all.
If we should now go into the home of Maria Clara, a beautiful nest
set among trees of orange and ilang-ilang, we should surprise the two
young people at a window overlooking the lake, shadowed by flowers
and climbing vines which exhaled a delicate perfume. Their lips
murmured words softer than the rustling of the leaves and sweeter
than the aromatic odors that floated through the garden. It was the
hour when the sirens of the lake take advantage of the fast falling
twilight to show their merry heads above the waves to gaze upon the
setting sun and sing it to rest. It is said that their eyes and hair
are blue, and that they are crowned with white and red water plants;
that at times the foam reveals their shapely forms, whiter than
the foam itself, and that when night descends completely they begin
their divine sports, playing mysterious airs like those of Æolian
harps. But let us turn to our young people and listen to the end of
their conversation. Ibarra was speaking to Maria Clara.
"Tomorrow before daybreak your wish shall be fulfilled. I'll arrange
everything tonight so that nothing will be lacking."
"Then I'll write to my girl friends to come. But arrange it so that
the curate won't be there."
"Because he seems to be watching me. His deep, gloomy eyes trouble me,
and when he fixes them on me I'm afraid. When he talks to me, his voice
--oh, he speaks of such odd, such strange, such incomprehensible
things! He asked me once if I have ever dreamed of letters from my
mother. I really believe that he is half-crazy. My friend Sinang and
my foster-sister, Andeng, say that he is somewhat touched, because
he neither eats nor bathes and lives in darkness. See to it that he
does not come!"
"We can't do otherwise than invite him," answered Ibarra
thoughtfully. "The customs of the country require it. He is in your
house and, besides, he has conducted himself nobly toward me. When
the alcalde consulted him about the business of which I've told you,
he had only praises for me and didn't try to put the least obstacle
in the way. But I see that you're serious about it, so cease worrying,
for he won't go in the same boat with us."
Light footsteps were heard. It was the curate, who approached with a
forced smile on his lips. "The wind is chilly," he said, "and when
one catches cold one generally doesn't get rid of it until the hot
weather. Aren't you afraid of catching cold?" His voice trembled
and his eyes were turned toward the distant horizon, away from the
"No, we rather find the night pleasant and the breeze delicious,"
answered Ibarra. "During these months we have our autumn and our
spring. Some leaves fall, but the flowers are always in bloom."
Fray Salvi sighed.
"I think the union of these two seasons beautiful, with no cold winter
intervening," continued Ibarra. "In February the buds on the trees
will burst open and in March we'll have the ripe fruit. When the hot
month's come we shall go elsewhere."
Fray Salvi smiled and began to talk of commonplace things, of the
weather, of the town, and of the fiesta. Maria Clara slipped away on
"Since we are talking of fiestas, allow me to invite you to the one
that we are going to celebrate tomorrow. It is to be a picnic in the
woods, which we and our friends are going to hold together."
"Where will it be held?"
"The young women wish to hold it by the brook in the neighboring wood,
near to the old balete, so we shall rise early to avoid the sun."
The priest thought a moment and then answered: "The invitation is
very tempting and I accept it to prove to you that I hold no rancor
against you. But I shall have to go late, after I've attended to my
duties. Happy are you who are free, entirely free."
A few moments later Ibarra left in order to look after the arrangements
for the picnic on the next day. The night was dark and in the street
some one approached and saluted him respectfully.
"Who are you?" asked Ibarra.
"Sir, you don't know my name," answered the unknown, "but I've been
waiting for you two days."
"For what purpose?"
"Because nowhere has any pity been shown me and they say that I'm an
outlaw, sir. But I've lost my two sons, my wife is insane, and every
one says that I deserve what has happened to me."
Ibarra looked at the man critically as he asked, "What do you want
"To beg for your pity upon my wife and sons."
"I can't stop now," replied Ibarra. "If you wish to come, you can
tell me as we go along what has happened to you."
The man thanked him, and the two quickly disappeared in the shadows
along the dimly lighted street.
The stars still glittered in the sapphire arch of heaven and the birds
were still sleeping among the branches when a merry party, lighted
by torches of resin, commonly called huepes, made its way through
the streets toward the lake. There were five girls, who walked along
rapidly with hands clasped or arms encircling one another's waists,
followed by some old women and by servants who were carrying gracefully
on their heads baskets of food and dishes. Looking upon the laughing
and hopeful countenances of the young women and watching the wind blow
about their abundant black hair and the wide folds of their garments,
we might have taken them for goddesses of the night fleeing from the
day, did we not know that they were Maria Clara and her four friends,
the merry Sinang, the grave Victoria, the beautiful Iday, and the
thoughtful Neneng of modest and timid beauty. They were conversing
in a lively manner, laughing and pinching one another, whispering in
one another's ears and then breaking out into loud laughter.
"You'll wake up the people who are still asleep," Aunt Isabel
scolded. "When we were young, we didn't make so much disturbance."
"Neither would you get up so early nor would the old folks have been
such sleepy-heads," retorted little Sinang.
They were silent for a short time, then tried to talk in low tones,
but soon forgot themselves and again filled the street with their
fresh young voices.
"Behave as if you were displeased and don't talk to him," Sinang was
advising Maria Clara. "Scold him so he won't get into bad habits."
"Don't be so exacting," objected Iday.
"Be exacting! Don't be foolish! He must be made to obey while he's
only engaged, for after he's your husband he'll do as he pleases,"
counseled little Sinang.
"What do you know about that, child?" her cousin Victoria corrected
"Sst! Keep quiet, for here they come!"
A group of young men, lighting their way with large bamboo torches,
now came up, marching gravely along to the sound of a guitar.
"It sounds like a beggar's guitar," laughed Sinang. When the two
parties met it was the women who maintained a serious and formal
attitude, just as if they had never known how to laugh, while on the
other hand the men talked and laughed, asking six questions to get
half an answer.
"Is the lake calm? Do you think we'll have good weather?" asked
"Don't be alarmed, ladies, I know how to swim well," answered a tall,
thin, emaciated youth.
"We ought to have heard mass first," sighed Aunt Isabel, clasping
"There's yet time, ma'am. Albino has been a theological student in
his day and can say it in the boat," remarked another youth, pointing
to the tall, thin one who had first spoken. The latter, who had a
clownish countenance, threw himself into an attitude of contrition,
caricaturing Padre Salvi. Ibarra, though he maintained his serious
demeanor, also joined in the merriment.
When they arrived at the beach, there involuntarily escaped from
the women exclamations of surprise and pleasure at the sight of
two large bankas fastened together and picturesquely adorned with
garlands of flowers, leaves, and ruined cotton of many colors. Little
paper lanterns hung from an improvised canopy amid flowers and
fruits. Comfortable seats with rugs and cushions for the women had
been provided by Ibarra. Even the paddles and oars were decorated,
while in the more profusely decorated banka were a harp, guitars,
accordions, and a trumpet made from a carabao horn. In the other banka
fires burned on the clay kalanes for preparing refreshments of tea,
coffee, and salabat.
"In this boat here the women, and in the other there the men," ordered
the mothers upon embarking. "Keep quiet! Don't move about so or we'll
"Cross yourself first," advised Aunt Isabel, setting the example.
"Are we to be here all alone?" asked Sinang with a grimace. "Ourselves
alone?" This question was opportunely answered by a pinch from
As the boats moved slowly away from the shore, the light of the
lanterns was reflected in the calm waters of the lake, while in the
eastern sky the first tints of dawn were just beginning to appear. A
deep silence reigned over the party after the division established
by the mothers, for the young people seemed to have given themselves
up to meditation.
"Take care," said Albino, the ex-theological student, in a loud tone
to another youth. "Keep your foot tight on the plug under you."
"It might come out and let the water in. This banka has a lot of
holes in it."
"Oh, we're going to sink!" cried the frightened women.
"Don't be alarmed, ladies," the ex-theological student reassured them
to calm their fears. "The banka you are in is safe. It has only five
holes in it and they aren't large."
"Five holes! Jesús! Do you want to drown us?" exclaimed the horrified
"Not more than five, ladies, and only about so large," the
ex-theological student assured them, indicating the circle formed
with his index finger and thumb. "Press hard on the plugs so that
they won't come out."
"María Santísima! The water's coming in," cried an old woman who felt
herself already getting wet.
There now arose a small tumult; some screamed, while others thought
of jumping into the water.
"Press hard on the plugs there!" repeated Albino, pointing toward
the place where the girls were.
"Where, where? Diós! We don't know how! For pity's sake come here,
for we don't know how!" begged the frightened women.
It was accordingly necessary for five of the young men to get over
into the other banka to calm the terrified mothers. But by some
strange chance it seemed that there w, as danger by the side of each
of the dalagas; all the old ladies together did not have a single
dangerous hole near them! Still more strange it was that Ibarra had
to be seated by the side of Maria Clara, Albino beside Victoria,
and so on. Quiet was restored among the solicitous mothers but not
in the circle of the young people.
As the water was perfectly still, the fish-corrals not far away,
and the hour yet early, it was decided to abandon the oars so that
all might partake of some refreshment. Dawn had now come, so the
lanterns were extinguished.
"There's nothing to compare with salabat, drunk in the morning before
going to mass," said Capitana Tika, mother of the merry Sinang. "Drink
some salabat and eat a rice-cake, Albino, and you'll see that even
you will want to pray."
"That's what I'm doing," answered the youth addressed. "I'm thinking
of confessing myself."
"No," said Sinang, "drink some coffee to bring merry thoughts."
"I will, at once, because I feel a trifle sad."
"Don't do that," advised Aunt Isabel. "Drink some tea and eat a few
crackers. They say that tea calms one's thoughts."
"I'll also take some tea and crackers," answered the complaisant youth,
"since fortunately none of these drinks is Catholicism."
"But, can you--" Victoria began.
"Drink some chocolate also? Well, I guess so, since breakfast is
not so far off."
The morning was beautiful. The water began to gleam with the light
reflected from the sky with such clearness that every object stood
revealed without producing a shadow, a bright, fresh clearness
permeated with color, such as we get a hint of in some marine
paintings. All were now merry as they breathed in the light breeze that
began to arise. Even the mothers, so full of cautions and warnings,
now laughed and joked among themselves.
"Do you remember," one old woman was saying to Capitana Tika,
"do you remember the time we went to bathe in the river, before we
were married? In little boats made from banana-stalks there drifted
down with the current fruits of many kinds and fragrant flowers. The
little boats had banners on them and each of us could see her name
on one of them."
"And when we were on our way back home?" added another, without
letting her go on. "We found the bamboo bridges destroyed and so we
had to wade the brooks. The rascals!"
"Yes, I know that I chose rather to let the borders of my skirt get
wet than to uncover my feet," said Capitana Tika, "for I knew that
in the thickets on the bank there were eyes watching us."
Some of the girls who heard these reminiscences winked and smiled,
while the others were so occupied with their own conversations that
they took no notice.
One man alone, he who performed the duty of pilot, remained silent and
removed from all the merriment. He was a youth of athletic build and
striking features, with large, sad eyes and compressed lips. His black
hair, long and unkempt, fell over a stout neck. A dark striped shirt
afforded a suggestion through its folds of the powerful muscles that
enabled the vigorous arms to handle as if it were a pen the wide and
unwieldy paddle which' served as a rudder for steering the two bankas.
Maria Clara had more than once caught him looking at her, but on such
occasions he had quickly turned his gaze toward the distant mountain
or the shore. The young woman was moved with pity at his loneliness
and offered him some crackers. The pilot gave her a surprised stare,
which, however, lasted for only a second. He took a cracker and
thanked her briefly in a scarcely audible voice. After this no one
paid any more attention to him. The sallies and merry laughter of the
young folks caused not the slightest movement in the muscles of his
face. Even the merry Sinang did not make him smile when she received
pinchings that caused her to wrinkle up her eyebrows for an instant,
only to return to her former merry mood.
The lunch over, they proceeded on their way toward the fish-corrals,
of which there were two situated near each other, both belonging
to Capitan Tiago. From afar were to be seen some herons perched
in contemplative attitude on the tops of the bamboo posts, while a
number of white birds, which the Tagalogs call kalaway, flew about in
different directions, skimming the water with their wings and filling
the air with shrill cries. At the approach of the bankas the herons
took to flight, and Maria Clara followed them with her gaze as they
flew in the direction of the neighboring mountain.
"Do those birds build their nests on the mountain?" she asked the
pilot, not so much from a desire to know as for the purpose of making
"Probably they do, señora," he answered, "but no one up to this time
has ever seen their nests."
"Don't they have nests?"
"I suppose they must have them, otherwise they would be very
Maria Clara did not notice the tone of sadness with which he uttered
these words. "Then--"
"It is said, señora," answered the strange youth, "that the nests of
those birds are invisible and that they have the power of rendering
invisible any one who possesses one of them. Just as the soul can
only be seen in the pure mirror of the eyes, so also in the mirror
of the water alone can their nests be looked upon."
Maria Clara became sad and thoughtful. Meanwhile, they had reached
the first fish-corral and an aged boatman tied the craft to a post.
"Wait!" called Aunt Isabel to the son of the fisherman, who was getting
ready to climb upon the platform of the corral with his panalok,
or fish-net fastened on the end of a stout bamboo pole. "We must get
the sinigang ready so that the fish may pass at once from the water
into the soup."
"Kind Aunt Isabel!" exclaimed the ex-theological student. "She doesn't
want the fish to miss the water for an instant!"
Andeng, Maria Clara's foster-sister, in spite of her carefree and happy
face, enjoyed the reputation of being an excellent cook, so she set
about preparing a soup of rice and vegetables, helped and hindered by
some of the young men, eager perhaps to win her favor. The other young
women all busied themselves in cutting up and washing the vegetables.
In order to divert the impatience of those who were waiting to see the
fishes taken alive and wriggling from their prison, the beautiful Iday
got out the harp, for Iday not only played well on that instrument,
but, besides, she had very pretty fingers. The young people applauded
and Maria Clara kissed her, for the harp is the most popular instrument
in that province, and was especially suited to this occasion.
"Sing the hymn about marriage," begged the old women. The men protested
and Victoria, who had a fine voice, complained of hoarseness. The "Hymn
of Marriage" is a beautiful Tagalog chant in which are set forth the
cares and sorrows of the married state, yet not passing over its joys.
They then asked Maria Clara to sing, but she protested that all her
songs were sad ones. This protest, however, was overruled so she held
back no longer. Taking the harp, she played a short prelude and then
sang in a harmonious and vibrating voice full of feeling:
Sweet are the hours in one's native land,
Where all is dear the sunbeams bless;
Life-giving breezes sweep the strand,
And death is soften'd by love's caress.
Warm kisses play on mother's lips,
On her fond, tender breast awaking;
When round her neck the soft arm slips,
And bright eyes smile, all love partaking.
Sweet is death for one's native land,
Where all is dear the sunbeams bless;
Dead is the breeze that sweeps the strand,
Without a mother, home, or love's caress.
The song ceased, the voice died away, the harp became silent, and they
still listened; no one applauded. The young women felt their eyes
fill with tears, and Ibarra seemed to be unpleasantly affected. The
youthful pilot stared motionless into the distance.
Suddenly a thundering roar was heard, such that the women screamed and
covered their ears; it was the ex-theological student blowing with all
the strength of his lungs on the tambuli, or carabao horn. Laughter
and cheerfulness returned while tear-dimmed eyes brightened. "Are
you trying to deafen us, you heretic?" cried Aunt Isabel.
"Madam," replied the offender gravely, "I once heard of a poor
trumpeter on the banks of the Rhine who, by playing on his trumpet,
won in marriage a rich and noble maiden."
"That's right, the trumpeter of Sackingen!" exclaimed Ibarra, unable
to resist taking part in the renewed merriment.
"Do you hear that?" went on Albino. "Now I want to see if I can't
have the same luck." So saying, he began to blow with even more force
into the resounding horn, holding it close to the ears of the girls
who looked saddest. As might be expected, a small tumult arose and
the mothers finally reduced him to silence by beating him with their
slippers and pinching him.
"My, oh my!" he complained as he felt of his smarting arms, "what a
distance there is between the Philippines and the banks of the Rhine! O
tempora! O mores! Some are given honors and others sanbenitos!"
All laughed at this, even the grave Victoria, while Sinang, she of
the smiling eyes, whispered to Maria Clara, "Happy girl! I, too,
would sing if I could!"
Andeng at length announced that the soup was ready to receive its
guests, so the young fisherman climbed up into the pen placed at
the narrower end of the corral, over which might be written for the
fishes, were they able to read and understand Italian, "Lasciate ogni
speranza voi ch' entrante,"  for no fish that gets in there is
ever released except by death. This division of the corral encloses
a circular space so arranged that a man can stand on a platform in
the upper part and draw the fish out with a small net.
"I shouldn't get tired fishing there with a pole and line," commented
Sinang, trembling with pleasant anticipation.
All were now watching and some even began to believe that they saw
the fishes wriggling about in the net and showing their glittering
scales. But when the youth lowered his net not a fish leaped up.
"It must be full," whispered Albino, "for it has been over five days
now since it was visited."
The fisherman drew in his net, but not even a single little fish
adorned it. The water as it fell back in glittering drops reflecting
the sunlight seemed to mock his efforts with a silvery smile. An
exclamation of surprise, displeasure, and disappointment escaped from
the lips of all. Again the youth repeated the operation, but with no
"You don't understand your business," said Albino, climbing up into
the pen of the corral and taking the net from the youth's hands. "Now
you'll see! Andeng, get the pot ready!"
But apparently Albino did not understand the business either, for
the net again came up empty. All broke out into laughter at him.
"Don't make so much noise that the fish can hear and so not let
themselves be caught. This net must be torn." But on examination all
the meshes of the net appeared to be intact.
"Give it to me," said Leon, Iday's sweetheart. He assured himself
that the fence was in good condition, examined the net and being
satisfied with it, asked, "Are you sure that it hasn't been visited
for five days?"
"Very sure! The last time was on the eve of All Saints."
"Well then, either the lake is enchanted or I'll draw up something."
Leon then dropped the pole into the water and instantly astonishment
was pictured on his countenance. Silently he looked off toward the
mountain and moved the pole about in the water, then without raising
it murmured in a low voice"
"A cayman!" repeated everyone, as the word ran from mouth to mouth
in the midst of fright and general surprise.
"What did you say?" they asked him.
"I say that we're caught a cayman," Leon assured them, and as he
dropped the heavy end of the pole into the water, he continued:
"Don't you hear that sound? That's not sand, but a tough hide, the
back of a cayman. Don't you see how the posts shake? He's pushing
against them even though he is all rolled up. Wait, he's a big one,
his body is almost a foot or more across."
"What shall we do?" was the question.
"Catch him!" prompted some one.
"Heavens! And who'll catch him?"
No one offered to go down into the trap, for the water was deep.
"We ought to tie him to our banka and drag him along in triumph,"
suggested Sinang. "The idea of his eating the fish that we were going
"I have never yet seen a live cayman," murmured Maria Clara.
The pilot arose, picked up a long rope, and climbed nimbly up on the
platform, where Leon made room for him. With the exception of Maria
Clara, no one had taken any notice of him, but now all admired his
shapely figure. To the great surprise of all and in spite of their
cries, he leaped down into the enclosure.
"Take this knife!" called Crisostomo to him, holding out a wide Toledo
blade, but already the water was splashing up in a thousand jets and
the depths closed mysteriously.
"Jesús, María, y José!" exclaimed the old women. "We're going to have
"Don't be uneasy, ladies," said the old boatman, "for if there is
any one in the province who can do it, he's the man."
"What's his name?" they asked.
"We call him 'The Pilot' and he's the best I've ever seen, only he
doesn't like the business."
The water became disturbed, then broke into ripples, the fence shook;
a struggle seemed to be going on in the depths. All were silent
and hardly breathed. Ibarra grasped the handle of the sharp knife
Now the struggle seemed to be at an end and the head of the youth
appeared, to be greeted with joyful cries. The eyes of the old women
filled with tears. The pilot climbed up with one end of the rope in
his hand and once on the platform began to pull on it. The monster
soon appeared above the water with the rope tied in a double band
around its neck and underneath its front legs. It was a large one,
as Leon had said, speckled, and on its back grew the green moss which
is to the caymans what gray hairs are to men. Roaring like a bull and
beating its tail against or catching hold of the sides of the corral,
it opened its huge jaws and showed its long, sharp teeth. The pilot
was hoisting it alone, for no one had thought to assist him.
Once out of the water and resting on the platform, he placed his
foot upon it and with his strong hands forced its huge jaws together
and tried to tie its snout with stout knots. With a last effort the
reptile arched its body, struck the floor with its powerful tail,
and jerking free, hurled itself with one leap into the water outside
the corral, dragging its captor along with it. A cry of horror broke
from the lips of all. But like a flash of lightning another body shot
into the water so quickly that there was hardly time to realize that
it was Ibarra. Maria Clara did not swoon only for the reason that
the Filipino women do not yet know how to do so.
The anxious watchers saw the water become colored and dyed with
blood. The young fisherman jumped down with his bolo in his hand and
was followed by his father, but they had scarcely disappeared when
Crisostomo and the pilot reappeared clinging to the dead body of the
reptile, which had the whole length of its white belly slit open and
the knife still sticking in its throat.
To describe the joy were impossible, as a dozen arms reached out
to drag the young men from the water. The old women were beside
themselves between laughter and prayers. Andeng forgot that her
sinigang had boiled over three times, spilling the soup and putting
out the fire. The only one who could say nothing was Maria Clara.
Ibarra was uninjured, while the pilot had only a slight scratch on
his arm. "I owe my life to you," said the latter to Ibarra, who was
wrapping himself up in blankets and cloths. The pilot's voice seemed
to have a note of sadness in it.
"You are too daring," answered Ibarra. "Don't tempt fate again."
"If you had not come up again--" murmured the still pale and
trembling Maria Clara.
"If I had not come up and you had followed me," replied Ibarra,
completing the thought in his own way, "in the bottom of the lake,
I should still have been with my family!" He had not forgotten that
there lay the bones of his father.
The old women did not want to visit the other corral but wished to
return, saying that the day had begun inauspiciously and that many more
accidents might occur. "All because we didn't hear mass," sighed one.
"But what accident has befallen us, ladies?" asked Ibarra. "The cayman
seems to have been the only unlucky one."
"All of which proves," concluded the ex-student of theology, "that
in all its sinful life this unfortunate reptile has never attended
mass--at least, I've never seen him among the many other caymans
that frequent the church."
So the boats were turned in the direction of the other corral and
Andeng had to get her sinigang ready again. The day was now well
advanced, with a fresh breeze blowing. The waves curled up behind the
body of the cayman, raising "mountains of foam whereon the smooth,
rich sunlight glitters," as the poet says. The music again resounded;
Iday played on the harp, while the men handled the accordions and
guitars with greater or less skill. The prize-winner was Albino, who
actually scratched the instruments, getting out of tune and losing
the time every moment or else forgetting it and changing to another
tune entirely different.
The second corral was visited with some misgivings, as many expected to
find there the mate of the dead cayman, but nature is ever a jester,
and the nets came up full at each haul. Aunt Isabel superintended
the sorting of the fish and ordered that some be left in the trap for
decoys. "It's not lucky to empty the corral completely," she concluded.
Then they made their way toward the shore near the forest of old trees
that belonged to Ibarra. There in the shade by the clear waters of the
brook, among the flowers, they ate their breakfast under improvised
canopies. The space was filled with music while the smoke from the
fires curled up in slender wreaths. The water bubbled cheerfully in
the hot dishes as though uttering sounds of consolation, or perchance
of sarcasm and irony, to the dead fishes. The body of the cayman
writhed about, sometimes showing its torn white belly and again its
speckled greenish back, while man, Nature's favorite, went on his
way undisturbed by what the Brahmins and vegetarians would call so
many cases of fratricide.
In the Wood
Early, very early indeed, somewhat differently from his usual custom,
Padre Salvi had celebrated mass and cleansed a dozen sinful souls in a
few moments. Then it seemed that the reading of some letters which he
had received firmly sealed and waxed caused the worthy curate to lose
his appetite, since he allowed his chocolate to become completely cold.
"The padre is getting sick," commented the cook while preparing another
cup. "For days he hasn't eaten; of the six dishes that I set before
him on the table he doesn't touch even two."
"It's because he sleeps badly," replied the other servant. "He has
nightmares since he changed his bedroom. His eyes are becoming more
sunken all the time and he's getting thinner and yellower day by day."
Truly, Padre Salvi was a pitiable sight. He did not care to touch the
second cup of chocolate nor to taste the sweet cakes of Cebu; instead,
he paced thoughtfully about the spacious sala, crumpling in his bony
hands the letters, which he read from time to time. Finally, he called
for his carriage, got ready, and directed that he be taken to the
wood where stood the fateful tree near which the picnic was being held.
Arriving at the edge of the wood, the padre dismissed his carriage
and made his way alone into its depths. A gloomy pathway opened a
difficult passage through the thickets and led to the brook formed
by certain warm springs, like many that flow from the slopes of
Mr. Makiling. Adorning its banks grow wild flowers, many of which
have as yet no Latin names, but which are doubtless well-known to
the gilded insects and butterflies of all shapes and colors, blue and
gold, white and black, many-hued, glittering with iridescent spots,
with rubies and emeralds on their wings, and to the countless beetles
with their metallic lusters of powdered gold. The hum of the insects,
the cries of the cicada, which cease not night or day, the songs of
the birds, and the dry crashing of the rotten branch that falls and
strikes all around against the trees, are the only sounds to break
the stillness of that mysterious place.
For some time the padre wandered aimlessly among the thick underbrush,
avoiding the thorns that caught at his guingón habit as though to
detain him, and the roots of the trees that protruded from the soil
to form stumbling-blocks at every step for this wanderer unaccustomed
to such places. But suddenly his feet were arrested by the sound of
clear voices raised in merry laughter, seeming to come from the brook
and apparently drawing nearer.
"I'm going to see if I can find one of those nests," said a beautiful,
sweet voice, which the curate recognized. "I'd like to see him without
having him see me, so I could follow him everywhere."
Padre Salvi hid behind the trunk of a large tree and set himself
"Does that mean that you want to do with him what the curate does with
you?" asked a laughing voice. "He watches you everywhere. Be careful,
for jealousy makes people thin and puts rings around their eyes."
"No, no, not jealousy, it's pure curiosity," replied the silvery voice,
while the laughing one repeated, "Yes, jealousy, jealousy!" and she
burst out into merry laughter.
"If I were jealous, instead of making myself invisible, I'd make him
so, in order that no one might see him."
"But neither would you see him and that wouldn't be nice. The best
thing for us to do if we find the nest would be to present it to the
curate so that he could watch over us without the necessity of our
seeing him, don't you think so?"
"I don't believe in those herons' nests," interrupted another voice,
"but if at any time I should be jealous, I'd know how to watch and
still keep myself hidden."
"How, how? Perhaps like a Sor Escucha?" 
This reminiscence of school-days provoked another merry burst of
"And you know how she's fooled, the Sor Escucha!"
From his hiding-place Padre Salvi saw Maria Clara, Victoria, and Sinang
wading along the border of the brook. They were moving forward with
their eyes fixed on the crystal waters, seeking the enchanted nest of
the heron, wet to their knees so that the wide folds of their bathing
skirts revealed the graceful curves of their bodies. Their hair was
flung loose, their arms bare, and they wore camisas with wide stripes
of bright hues. While looking for something that they could not find
they were picking flowers and plants which grew along the bank.
The religious Acteon stood pale and motionless gazing at that chaste
Diana, but his eyes glittered in their dark circles, untired of staring
at those white and shapely arms and at that elegant neck and bust,
while the small rosy feet that played in the water awoke in his starved
being strange sensations and in his burning brain dreams of new ideas.
The three charming figures disappeared behind a bamboo thicket
around a bend in the brook, and their cruel allusions ceased to be
heard. Intoxicated, staggering, covered with perspiration, Padre Salvi
left his hiding-place and looked all about him with rolling eyes. He
stood still as if in doubt, then took a few steps as though he would
try to follow the girls, but turned again and made his way along the
banks of the stream to seek the rest of the party.
At a little distance he saw in the middle of the brook a kind of
bathing-place, well enclosed, decorated with palm leaves, flowers,
and streamers, with a leafy clump of bamboo for a covering, from
within which came the sound of happy feminine voices. Farther on
he saw a bamboo bridge and beyond it the men bathing. Near these a
crowd of servants was busily engaged around improvised kalanes in
plucking chickens, washing rice, and roasting a pig. On the opposite
bank in a cleared space were gathered men and women under a canvas
covering which was fastened partly to the hoary trees and partly to
newly-driven stakes. There were gathered the alferez, the coadjutor,
the gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, the schoolmaster, and many
other personages of the town, even including Sinang's father, Capitan
Basilio, who had been the adversary of the deceased Don Rafael in
an old lawsuit. Ibarra had said to him, "We are disputing over a
point of law, but that does not mean that we are enemies," so the
celebrated orator of the conservatives had enthusiastically accepted
the invitation, sending along three turkeys and putting his servants
at the young man's disposal.
The curate was received with respect and deference by all, even the
alferez. "Why, where has your Reverence been?" asked the latter,
as he noticed the curate's scratched face and his habit covered with
leaves and dry twigs. "Has your Reverence had a fall?"
"No, I lost my way," replied Padre Salvi, lowering his gaze to examine
Bottles of lemonade were brought out and green coconuts were split
open so that the bathers as they came from the water might refresh
themselves with the milk and the soft meat, whiter than the milk
itself. The girls all received in addition rosaries of sampaguitas,
intertwined with roses and ilang-ilang blossoms, to perfume their
flowing tresses. Some of the company sat on the ground or reclined
in hammocks swung from the branches of the trees, while others
amused themselves around a wide flat rock on which were to be seen
playing-cards, a chess-board, booklets, cowry shells, and pebbles.
They showed the cayman to the curate, but he seemed inattentive
until they told him that the gaping wound had been inflicted by
Ibarra. The celebrated and unknown pilot was no longer to be seen,
as he had disappeared before the arrival of the alferez.
At length Maria Clara came from the bath with her companions, looking
fresh as a rose on its first morning when the dew sparkling on its fair
petals glistens like diamonds. Her first smile was for Crisostomo and
the first cloud on her brow for Padre Salvi, who noted it and sighed.
The lunch hour was now come, and the curate, the coadjutor, the
gobernadorcillo, the teniente-mayor, and the other dignitaries took
their seats at the table over which Ibarra presided. The mothers
would not permit any of the men to eat at the table where the young
"This time, Albino, you can't invent holes as in the bankas," said
Leon to the quondam student of theology. "What! What's that?" asked
the old women.
"The bankas, ladies, were as whole as this plate is," explained Leon.
"Jesús! The rascal!" exclaimed the smiling Aunt Isabel.
"Have you yet learned anything of the criminal who assaulted Padre
Damaso?" inquired Fray Salvi of the alferez.
"Of what criminal, Padre?" asked the military man, staring at the
friar over the glass of wine that he was emptying,
"What criminal! Why, the one who struck Padre Damaso in the road
"Struck Padre Damaso?" asked several voices.
The coadjutor seemed to smile, while Padre Salvi went on: "Yes, and
Padre Damaso is now confined to his bed. It's thought that he may be
the very same Elias who threw you into the mudhole, señor alferez."
Either from shame or wine the alferez's face became very red.
"Of course, I thought," continued Padre Salvi in a joking manner,
"that you, the alferez of the Civil Guard, would be informed about
The soldier bit his lip and was murmuring some foolish excuse, when
the meal was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a pale, thin,
poorly-clad woman. No one had noticed her approach, for she had come
so noiselessly that at night she might have been taken for a ghost.
"Give this poor woman something to eat," cried the old women. "Oy,
Still the strange woman kept on her way to the table where the
curate was seated. As he turned his face and recognized her, his
knife dropped from his hand.
"Give this woman something to eat," ordered Ibarra.
"The night is dark and the boys disappear," murmured the wandering
woman, but at sight of the alferez, who spoke to her, she became
frightened and ran away among the trees.
"Who is she?" he asked.
"An unfortunate woman who has become insane from fear and sorrow,"
answered Don Filipo. "For four days now she has been so."
"Is her name Sisa?" asked Ibarra with interest.
"Your soldiers arrested her," continued the teniente-mayor, rather
bitterly, to the alferez. "They marched her through the town on
account of something about her sons which isn't very clearly known."
"What!" exclaimed the alferez, turning to the curate, "she isn't the
mother of your two sacristans?"
The curate nodded in affirmation.
"They disappeared and nobody made any inquiries about them," added Don
Filipo with a severe look at the gobernadorcillo, who dropped his eyes.
"Look for that woman," Crisostomo ordered the servants. "I promised
to try to learn where her sons are."
"They disappeared, did you say?" asked the alferez. "Your sacristans
The friar emptied the glass of wine before him and again nodded.
"Caramba, Padre!" exclaimed the alferez with a sarcastic laugh, pleased
at the thought of a little revenge. "A few pesos of your Reverence's
disappear and my sergeant is routed out early to hunt for them--
two sacristans disappear and your Reverence says nothing--and you,
señor capitan--It's also true that you--"
Here he broke off with another laugh as he buried his spoon in the
red meat of a wild papaya.
The curate, confused, and not over-intent upon what he was saying,
replied, "That's because I have to answer for the money--"
"A good answer, reverend shepherd of souls!" interrupted the alferez
with his mouth full of food. "A splendid answer, holy man!"
Ibarra wished to intervene, but Padre Salvi controlled himself by
an effort and said with a forced smile, "Then you don't know, sir,
what is said about the disappearance of those boys? No? Then ask
"What!" exclaimed the alferez, all his mirth gone.
"It's said that on the night they disappeared several shots were
"Several shots?" echoed the alferez, looking around at the other
guests, who nodded their heads in corroboration of the padre's
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