The Social Cancer
Part 6 out of 11
prevents it from falling into the depths of perdition."
His hearers, including even Capitan Tiago, yawned little by
little. Maria Clara was not listening to the sermon, for she knew
that Ibarra was near and was thinking about him while she fanned
herself and gazed at an evangelical bull that had all the outlines
of a small carabao.
"All should know by heart the Holy Scriptures and the lives of the
saints and then I should not have to preach to you, O sinners! You
should know such important and necessary things as the Lord's
Prayer, although many of you have forgotten it, living now as do
the Protestants or heretics, who, like the Chinese, respect not the
ministers of God. But the worse for you, O ye accursed, moving as
you are toward damnation!"
"Abá, Pale Lamaso, what!"  muttered Carlos, the Chinese, looking
angrily at the preacher, who continued to extemporize, emitting a
series of apostrophes and imprecations.
"You will die in final unrepentance, O race of heretics! God punishes
you even on this earth with jails and prisons! Women should flee from
you, the rulers should hang all of you so that the seed of Satan
be not multiplied in the vineyard of the Lord! Jesus Christ said:
'If you have an evil member that leads you to sin, cut it off, and
cast it into the fire--'"
Having forgotten both his sermon and his rhetoric, Fray Damaso began to
be nervous. Ibarra became uneasy and looked about for a quiet corner,
but the church was crowded. Maria Clara neither heard nor saw anything
as she was analyzing a picture, of the blessed souls in purgatory,
souls in the shape of men and women dressed in hides, with miters,
hoods, and cowls, all roasting in the fire and clutching St. Francis'
girdle, which did not break even with such great weight. With that
improvisation on the preacher's part, the holy-ghost friar lost the
thread of the sermon and skipped over three long paragraphs, giving
the wrong cue to the now laboriously-panting Fray Damaso.
"Who of you, O sinners, would lick the sores of a poor and ragged
beggar? Who? Let him answer by raising his hand! None! That I knew, for
only a saint like Diego de Alcala would do it. He licked all the sores,
saying to an astonished brother, 'Thus is this sick one cured!' O
Christian charity! O matchless example! O virtue of virtues! O
inimitable pattern! O spotless talisman!" Here he continued a long
series of exclamations, the while crossing his arms and raising and
lowering them as though he wished to fly or to frighten the birds away.
"Before dying he spoke in Latin, without knowing Latin! Marvel, O
sinners! You, in spite of what you study, for which blows are given
to you, you do not speak Latin, and you will die without speaking
it! To speak Latin is a gift of God and therefore the Church uses
Latin! I, too, speak Latin! Was God going to deny this consolation
to His beloved Diego? Could he die, could he be permitted to die,
without speaking Latin? Impossible! God wouldn't be just, He Wouldn't
be God! So he talked in Latin, and of that fact the writers of his
time bear witness!"
He ended this exordium with the passage which had cost him the most
toil and which he had plagiarized from a great writer, Sinibaldo de
Mas. "Therefore, I salute thee, illustrious Diego, the glory of our
Order! Thou art the pattern of virtue, meek with honor, humble with
nobility, compliant with fortitude, temperate with ambition, hostile
with loyalty, compassionate with pardon, holy with conscientiousness,
full of faith with devotion, credulous with sincerity, chaste with
love, reserved with secrecy; long-suffering with patience, brave
with timidity, moderate with desire, bold with resolution, obedient
with subjection., modest with pride, zealous with disinterestedness,
skilful with capability, ceremonious with politeness, astute with
sagacity, merciful with piety, secretive with modesty, revengeful with
valor, poor on account of thy labors with true conformity, prodigal
with economy, active with ease, economical with liberality, innocent
with sagacity, reformer with consistency, indifferent with zeal for
learning: God created thee to feel the raptures of Platonic love! Aid
me in singing thy greatness and thy name higher than the stars and
clearer than the sun itself that circles about thy feet! Aid me, all
of you, as you appeal to God for sufficient inspiration by reciting
the Ave Maria!"
All fell upon their knees and raised a murmur like the humming of a
thousand bees. The alcalde laboriously bent one knee and wagged his
head in a disgusted manner, while the alferez looked pale and penitent.
"To the devil with the curate!" muttered one of two youths who had
come from Manila.
"Keep still!" admonished his companion. "His woman might hear us."
Meanwhile, Padre Damaso, instead of reciting the Ave Maria,
was scolding his holy ghost for having skipped three of his best
paragraphs; at the same time he consumed a couple of cakes and a
glass of Malaga, secure of encountering therein greater inspiration
than in all the holy ghosts, whether of wood in the form of a dove
or of flesh in the shape of an inattentive friar.
Then he began the sermon in Tagalog. The devout old woman again gave
her granddaughter a hearty slap. The child awoke ill-naturedly and
asked, "Is it time to cry now?"
"Not yet, O lost one, but don't go to sleep again!" answered the
Of the second part of the sermon--that in Tagalog--we have only
a few rough notes, for Padre Damaso extemporized in this language,
not because he knew it better, but because, holding the provincial
Filipinos ignorant of rhetoric, he was not afraid of making blunders
before them. With Spaniards the case was different; he had heard
rules of oratory spoken of, and it was possible that among his hearers
some one had been in college-halls, perhaps the alcalde, so he wrote
out his sermons, corrected and polished them, and then memorized and
rehearsed them for several days beforehand.
It is common knowledge that none of those present understood the drift
of the sermon. They were so dull of understanding and the preacher
was so profound, as Sister Rufa said, that the audience waited in
vain for an opportunity to weep, and the lost grandchild of the
blessed old woman went to sleep again. Nevertheless, this part had
greater consequences than the first, at least for certain hearers,
as we shall see later.
He began with a "Mana capatir con cristiano,"  followed by an
avalanche of untranslatable phrases. He talked of the soul, of Hell,
of "mahal na santo pintacasi,"  of the Indian sinners and of the
virtuous Franciscan Fathers.
"The devil!" exclaimed one of the two irreverent Manilans to his
companion. "That's all Greek to me. I'm going." Seeing the doors
closed, he went out through the sacristy, to the great scandal of
the people and especially of the preacher, who turned pale and paused
in the midst of his sentence. Some looked for a violent apostrophe,
but Padre Damaso contented himself with watching the delinquent,
and then he went on with his sermon.
Then were let loose curses upon the age, against the lack of reverence,
against the growing indifference to Religion. This matter seemed to
be his forte, for he appeared to be inspired and expressed himself
with force and clearness. He talked of the sinners who did not attend
confession, who died in prisons without the sacraments, of families
accursed, of proud and puffed-up little half-breeds, of young sages
and little philosophers, of pettifoggers, of picayunish students,
and so on. Well known is this habit that many have when they wish
to ridicule their enemies; they apply to them belittling epithets
because their brains do not appear to furnish them any other means,
and thus they are happy.
Ibarra heard it all and understood the allusions. Preserving an outward
calm, he turned his eyes to God and the authorities, but saw nothing
more than the images of saints, and the alcalde was sleeping.
Meanwhile, the preacher's enthusiasm was rising by degrees. He spoke
of the times when every Filipino upon meeting a priest took off
his hat, knelt on the ground, and kissed the priest's hand. "But
now," he added, "you only take off your salakot or your felt hat,
which you have placed on the side of your head in order not to
ruffle your nicely combed hair! You content yourself with saying,
'good day, among,' and there are proud dabblers in a little Latin
who, from having studied in Manila or in Europe, believe that they
have the right to shake a priest's hand instead of kissing it. Ah,
the day of judgment will quickly come, the world will end, as many
saints have foretold; it will rain fire, stones, and ashes to chastise
your pride!" The people were exhorted not to imitate such "savages"
but to hate and shun them, since they were beyond the religious pale.
"Hear what the holy decrees say! When an Indian meets a curate in the
street he should bow his head and offer his neck for his master to
step upon. If the curate and the Indian are both on horseback, then
the Indian should stop and take off his hat or salakot reverently;
and finally, if the Indian is on horseback and the curate on foot,
the Indian should alight and not mount again until the curate has
told him to go on, or is far away. This is what the holy decrees say
and he who does not obey will be excommunicated."
"And when one is riding a carabao?" asked a scrupulous countryman of
"Then--keep on going!" answered the latter, who was a casuist.
But in spite of the cries and gestures of the preacher many fell
asleep or wandered in their attention, since these sermons were
ever the same. In vain some devout women tried to sigh and sob
over the sins of the wicked; they had to desist in the attempt from
lack of supporters. Even Sister Puté was thinking of something quite
different. A man beside her had dropped off to sleep in such a way that
he had fallen over and crushed her habit, so the good woman caught
up one of her clogs and with blows began to wake him, crying out,
"Get away, savage, brute, devil, carabao, cur, accursed!"
Naturally, this caused somewhat of a stir. The preacher paused and
arched his eyebrows, surprised at so great a scandal. Indignation
choked the words in his throat and he was able only to bellow, while
he pounded the pulpit with his fists. This had the desired effect,
however, for the old woman, though still grumbling, dropped her clog
and, crossing herself repeatedly, fell devoutly upon her knees.
"Aaah! Aaah!" the indignant priest was at last able to roar out as
he crossed his arms and shook his head. "For this do I preach to
you the whole morning, savages! Here in the house of God you quarrel
and curse, shameless ones! Aaaah! You respect nothing! This is the
result of the luxury and the looseness of the age! That's just what
I've told you, aah!"
Upon this theme he continued to preach for half an hour. The alcalde
snored, and Maria Clara nodded, for the poor child could no longer keep
from sleeping, since she had no more paintings or images to study,
nor anything else to amuse her. On Ibarra the words and allusions
made no more impression, for he was thinking of a cottage on the top
of a mountain and saw Maria Clara in the garden; let men crawl about
in their miserable towns in the depths of the valley!
Padre Salvi had caused the altar bell to be rung twice, but this was
only adding fuel to the flame, for Padre Damaso became stubborn and
prolonged the sermon. Fray Sibyla gnawed at his lips and repeatedly
adjusted his gold-mounted eye-glasses. Fray Manuel Martin was the
only one who appeared to listen with pleasure, for he was smiling.
But at last God said "Enough"; the orator became weary and descended
from the pulpit. All knelt to render thanks to God. The alcalde rubbed
his eyes, stretched out one arm as if to waken himself, and yawned
with a deep aah. The mass continued.
When all were kneeling and the priests had lowered their heads while
the Incarnatus est was being sung, a man murmured in Ibarra's ear,
"At the laying of the cornerstone, don't move away from the curate,
don't go down into the trench, don't go near the stone--your life
depends upon it!"
Ibarra turned to see Elias, who, as soon as he had said this,
disappeared in the crowd.
The yellowish individual had kept his word, for it was no simple
derrick that he had erected above the open trench to let the heavy
block of granite down into its place. It was not the simple tripod
that Ñor Juan had wanted for suspending a pulley from its top, but
was much more, being at once a machine and an ornament, a grand and
imposing ornament. Over eight meters in height rose the confused
and complicated scaffolding. Four thick posts sunk in the ground
served as a frame, fastened to each other by huge timbers crossing
diagonally and joined by large nails driven in only half-way, perhaps
for the reason that the apparatus was simply for temporary use and
thus might easily be taken down again. Huge cables stretched from all
sides gave an appearance of solidity and grandeur to the whole. At
the top it was crowned with many-colored banners, streaming pennants,
and enormous garlands of flowers and leaves artistically interwoven.
There at the top in the shadow made by the posts, the garlands, and
the banners, hung fastened with cords and iron hooks an unusually
large three-wheeled pulley over the polished sides of which passed
in a crotch three cables even larger than the others. These held
suspended the smooth, massive stone hollowed out in the center
to form with a similar hole in the lower stone, already in place,
the little space intended to contain the records of contemporaneous
history, such as newspapers, manuscripts, money, medals, and the like,
and perhaps to transmit them to very remote generations. The cables
extended downward and connected with another equally large pulley
at the bottom of the apparatus, whence they passed to the drum of
a windlass held in place by means of heavy timbers. This windlass,
which could be turned with two cranks, increased the strength of a
man a hundredfold by the movement of notched wheels, although it is
true that what was gained in force was lost in velocity.
"Look," said the yellowish individual, turning the crank, "look,
Ñor Juan, how with merely my own strength I can raise and lower the
great stone. It's so well arranged that at will I can regulate the
rise or fall inch by inch, so that a man in the trench can easily
fit the stones together while I manage it from here."
Ñor Juan could not but gaze in admiration at the speaker, who was
smiling in his peculiar way. Curious bystanders made remarks praising
the yellowish individual.
"Who taught you mechanics?" asked Ñor Juan.
"My father, my dead father," was the answer, accompanied by his
"Who taught your father?"
"Don Saturnino, the grandfather of Don Crisostomo."
"I didn't know that Don Saturnino--"
"Oh, he knew a lot of things! He not only beat his laborers well and
exposed them out in the sun, but he also knew how to wake the sleepers
and put the waking to sleep. You'll see in time what my father taught
me, you'll see!"
Here the yellowish individual smiled again, but in a strange way.
On a tame covered with a piece of Persian tapestry rested a leaden
cylinder containing the objects that were to be kept in the tomb-like
receptacle and a glass case with thick sides, which would hold that
mummy of an epoch and preserve for the future the records of a past.
Tasio, the Sage, who was walking about there thoughtfully, murmured:
"Perchance some day when this edifice, which is today begun, has grown
old and after many vicissitudes has fallen into ruins, either from
the visitations of Nature or the destructive hand of man, and above
the ruins grow the ivy and the moss,--then when Time has destroyed
the moss and ivy, and scattered the ashes of the ruins themselves to
the winds, wiping from the pages of History the recollection of it
and of those who destroyed it, long since lost from the memory of man:
perchance when the races have been buried in their mantle of earth or
have disappeared, only by accident the pick of some miner striking a
spark from this rock will dig up mysteries and enigmas from the depths
of the soil. Perchance the learned men of the nation that dwells in
these regions will labor, as do the present Egyptologists, with the
remains of a great civilization which occupied itself with eternity,
little dreaming that upon it was descending so long a night. Perchance
some learned professor will say to his students of five or six years of
age, in a language spoken by all mankind, 'Gentlemen, after studying
and examining carefully the objects found in the depths of our soil,
after deciphering some symbols and translating a few words, we can
without the shadow of a doubt conclude that these objects belonged to
the barbaric age of man, to that obscure era which we are accustomed
to speak of as fabulous. In short, gentlemen, in order that you may
form an approximate idea of the backwardness of our ancestors, it will
be sufficient that I point out to you the fact that those who lived
here not only recognized kings, but also for the purpose of settling
questions of local government they had to go to the other side of the
earth, just as if we should say that a body in order to move itself
would need to consult a head existing in another part of the globe,
perhaps in regions now sunk under the waves. This incredible defect,
however improbable it may seem to us now, must have existed, if we
take into consideration the circumstances surrounding those beings,
whom I scarcely dare to call human! In those primitive times men were
still (or at least so they believed) in direct communication with their
Creator, since they had ministers from Him, beings different from the
rest, designated always with the mysterious letters "M. R. P.",
concerning the meaning of which our learned men do not agree. According
to the professor of languages whom we have here, rather mediocre,
since he does not speak more than a hundred of the imperfect languages
of the past, "M. R. P." may signify "Muy Rico Propietario."  These
ministers were a species of demigods, very virtuous and enlightened,
and were very eloquent orators, who, in spite of their great power and
prestige, never committed the slightest fault, which fact strengthens
my belief in supposing that they were of a nature distinct from the
rest. If this were not sufficient to sustain my belief, there yet
remains the argument, disputed by no one and day by day confirmed,
that these mysterious beings could make God descend to earth merely
by saying a few words, that God could speak only through their mouths,
that they ate His flesh and drank His blood, and even at times allowed
the common folk to do the same.'"
These and other opinions the skeptical Sage put into the mouths of
all the corrupt men of the future. Perhaps, as may easily be the case,
old Tasio was mistaken, but we must return to our story.
In the kiosks which we saw two days ago occupied by the schoolmaster
and his pupils, there was now spread out a toothsome and abundant
meal. Noteworthy is the fact that on the table prepared for the school
children there was not a single bottle of wine but an abundance of
fruits. In the arbors joining the two kiosks were the seats for the
musicians and a table covered with sweetmeats and confections, with
bottles of water for the thirsty public, all decorated with leaves
and flowers. The schoolmaster had erected near by a greased pole and
hurdles, and had hung up pots and pans for a number of games.
The crowd, resplendent in bright-colored garments, gathered as people
fled from the burning sun, some into the shade of the trees, others
under the arbor. The boys climbed up into the branches or on the stones
in order to see the ceremony better, making up in this way for their
short stature. They looked with envy at the clean and well-dressed
school children, who occupied a place especially assigned to them and
whose parents were overjoyed, as they, poor country folk, would see
their children eat from a white tablecloth, almost the same as the
curate or the alcalde. Thinking of this alone was enough to drive
away hunger, and such an event would be recounted from father to son.
Soon were heard the distant strains of the band, which was preceded
by a motley throng made up of persons of all ages, in clothing of
all colors. The yellowish individual became uneasy and with a glance
examined his whole apparatus. A curious countryman followed his glance
and watched all his movements; this was Elias, who had also come to
witness the ceremony, but in his salakot and rough attire he was almost
unrecognizable. He had secured a very good position almost at the side
of the windlass, on the edge of the excavation. With the music came
the alcalde, the municipal officials, the friars, with the exception
of Padre Damaso, and the Spanish employees. Ibarra was conversing with
the alcalde, of whom he had made quite a friend since he had addressed
to him some well-turned compliments over his decorations and ribbons,
for aristocratic pretensions were the weakness of his Honor. Capitan
Tiago, the alferez, and some other wealthy personages came in the
gilded cluster of maidens displaying their silken parasols. Padre
Salvi followed, silent and thoughtful as ever.
"Count upon my support always in any worthy enterprise," the alcalde
was saying to Ibarra. "I will give you whatever appropriation you
need or else see that it is furnished by others."
As they drew nearer the youth felt his heart beat faster. Instinctively
he glanced at the strange scaffolding raised there. He saw the
yellowish individual salute him respectfully and gaze at him fixedly
for a moment. With surprise he noticed Elias, who with a significant
wink gave him to understand that he should remember the warning in
The curate put on his sacerdotal robes and commenced the ceremony,
while the one-eyed sacristan held the book and an acolyte the
hyssop and jar of holy water. The rest stood about him uncovered,
and maintained such a profound silence that, in spite of his reading
in a low tone, it was apparent that Padre Salvi's voice was trembling.
Meanwhile, there had been placed in the glass case the manuscripts,
newspapers, medals, coins, and the like, and the whole enclosed in
the leaden cylinder, which was then hermetically sealed.
"Señor Ibarra, will you put the box in its place? The curate is
waiting," murmured the alcalde into the young man's ear.
"I would with great pleasure," answered the latter, "but that would
be usurping the honorable duty of the escribano. The escribano must
make affidavit of the act."
So the escribano gravely took the box, descended the carpeted stairway
leading to the bottom of the excavation and with due solemnity placed
it in the hole in the stone. The curate then took the hyssop and
sprinkled the stones with holy water.
Now the moment had arrived for each one to place his trowelful of
mortar on the face of the large stone lying in the trench, in order
that the other might be fitted and fastened to it. Ibarra handed
the alcalde a mason's trowel, on the wide silver Made of which was
engraved the date. But the alcalde first gave a harangue in Spanish:
"People of San Diego! We have the honor to preside over a ceremony
whose importance you will not understand unless We tell you of it. A
school is being founded, and the school is the basis of society, the
school is the book in which is written the future of the nations! Show
us the schools of a people and We will show you what that people is.
"People of San Diego! Thank God, who has given you holy priests,
and the government of the mother country, which untiringly spreads
civilization through these fertile isles, protected beneath her
glorious mantle! Thank God, who has taken pity on you and sent you
these humble priests who enlighten you and teach you the divine
word! Thank the government, which has made, is making, and will
continue to make, so many sacrifices for you and your children!
"And now that the first stone of this important edifice is consecrated,
We, alcalde-mayor of this province, in the name of his Majesty the
King, whom God preserve, King of the Spains, in the name of the
illustrious Spanish government and under the protection of its
spotless and ever-victorious banner, We consecrate this act and
begin the construction of this schoolhouse! People of San Diego,
long live the King! Long live Spain! Long live the friars! Long live
the Catholic Religion!"
Many voices were raised in answer, adding, "Long live the Señor
He then majestically descended to the strains of the band, which
began to play, deposited several trowelfuls of mortar on the stone,
and with equal majesty reascended. The employees applauded.
Ibarra offered another trowel to the curate, who, after fixing his
eyes on him for a moment, descended slowly. Half-way down the steps he
raised his eyes to look at the stone, which hung fastened by the stout
cables, but this was only for a second, and he then went on down. He
did the same as the alcalde, but this time more applause was heard,
for to the employees were added some friars and Capitan Tiago.
Padre Salvi then seemed to seek for some one to whom he might give the
trowel. He looked doubtfully at Maria Clara, but changing his mind,
offered it to the escribano. The latter in gallantry offered it to
Maria Clara, who smilingly refused it. The friars, the employees,
and the alferez went down one after another, nor was Capitan Tiago
forgotten. Ibarra only was left, and the order was about to be given
for the yellowish individual to lower the stone when the curate
remembered the youth and said to him in a joking tone, with affected
"Aren't you going to put on your trowelful, Señor Ibarra?"
"I should be a Juan Palomo, to prepare the meal and eat it myself,"
answered the latter in the same tone.
"Go on!" said the alcalde, shoving him forward gently. "Otherwise,
I'll order that the stone be not lowered at all and we'll be here
Before such a terrible threat Ibarra had to obey. He exchanged the
small silver trowel for a large iron one, an act which caused some of
the spectators to smile, and went forward tranquilly. Elias gazed at
him with such an indefinable expression that on seeing it one might
have said that his whole life was concentrated in his eyes. The
yellowish individual stared into the trench, which opened at his
feet. After directing a rapid glance at the heavy stone hanging over
his head and another at Elias and the yellowish individual, Ibarra
said to Ñor Juan in a somewhat unsteady voice, "Give me the mortar
and get me another trowel up there."
The youth remained alone. Elias no longer looked at him, for his
eyes were fastened on the hand of the yellowish individual, who,
leaning over the trench, was anxiously following the movements of
Ibarra. There was heard the noise of the trowel scraping on the
stone in the midst of a feeble murmur among the employees, who were
congratulating the alcalde on his speech.
Suddenly a crash was heard. The pulley tied at the base of the derrick
jumped up and after it the windlass, which struck the heavy posts like
a battering-ram. The timbers shook, the fastenings flew apart, and
the whole apparatus fell in a second with a frightful crash. A cloud
of dust arose, while a cry of horror from a thousand voices filled
the air. Nearly all fled; only a few dashed toward the trench. Maria
Clara and Padre Salvi remained in their places, pale, motionless,
When the dust had cleared away a little, they saw Ibarra standing among
beams, posts, and cables, between the windlass and the heavy stone,
which in its rapid descent had shaken and crushed everything. The youth
still held the trowel in his hand and was staring with frightened
eyes at the body of a man which lay at his feet half-buried among
"You're not killed! You're still alive! For God's sake, speak!" cried
several employees, full of terror and solicitude.
"A miracle! A miracle!" shouted some.
"Come and extricate the body of this poor devil!" exclaimed Ibarra
like one arousing himself from sleep.
On hearing his voice Maria Clara felt her strength leave her and fell
half-fainting into the arms of her friends.
Great confusion prevailed. All were talking, gesticulating, running
about, descending into the trench, coming up again, all amazed and
"Who is the dead man? Is he still alive?" asked the alferez.
The corpse was identified as that of the yellowish individual who
had been operating the windlass.
"Arrest the foreman on the work!" was the first thing that the alcalde
was able to say.
They examined the corpse, placing their hands on the chest, but the
heart had ceased to beat. The blow had struck him on the head, and
blood was flowing from his nose, mouth, and ears. On his neck were
to be noticed some peculiar marks, four deep depressions toward the
back and one more somewhat larger on the other side, which induced
the belief that a hand of steel had caught him as in a pair of pincers.
The priests felicitated the youth warmly and shook his hand. The
Franciscan of humble aspect who had served as holy ghost for Padre
Damaso exclaimed with tearful eyes, "God is just, God is good!"
"When I think that a few moments before I was down there!" said one
of the employees to Ibarra. "What if I had happened to be the last!"
"It makes my hair stand on end!" remarked another partly bald
"I'm glad that it happened to you and not to me," murmured an old
"Don Pascual!" exclaimed some of the Spaniards.
"I say that because the young man is not dead. If I had not been
crushed, I should have died afterwards merely from thinking about it."
But Ibarra was already at a distance informing himself as to Maria
"Don't let this stop the fiesta, Señor Ibarra," said the
alcalde. "Praise God, the dead man is neither a priest nor a
Spaniard! We must rejoice over your escape! Think if the stone had
"There are presentiments, there are presentiments!" exclaimed
the escribano. "I've said so before! Señor Ibarra didn't go down
willingly. I saw it!"
"The dead man is only an Indian!"
"Let the fiesta go on! Music! Sadness will never resuscitate the dead!"
"An investigation shall be made right here!"
"Send for the directorcillo!"
"Arrest the foreman on the work! To the stocks with him!"
"To the stocks! Music! To the stocks with the foreman!"
"Señor Alcalde," said Ibarra gravely, "if mourning will not resuscitate
the dead, much less will arresting this man about whose guilt we know
nothing. I will be security for his person and so I ask his liberty
for these days at least."
"Very well! But don't let him do it again!"
All kinds of rumors began to circulate. The idea of a miracle was soon
an accepted fact, although Fray Salvi seemed to rejoice but little over
a miracle attributed to a saint of his Order and in his parish. There
were not lacking those who added that they had seen descending into
the trench, when everything was tumbling down, a figure in a dark robe
like that of the Franciscans. There was no doubt about it; it was San
Diego himself! It was also noted that Ibarra had attended mass and that
the yellowish individual had not--it was all as clear as the sun!
"You see! You didn't want to go to mass!" said a mother to her son. "If
I hadn't whipped you to make you go you would now be on your way to
the town hall, like him, in a cart!"
The yellowish individual, or rather his corpse, wrapped up in a mat,
was in fact being carried to the town hall. Ibarra hurried home to
change his clothes.
"A bad beginning, huh!" commented old Tasio, as he moved away.
Ibarra was just putting the finishing touches to a change of
clothing when a servant informed him that a countryman was asking
for him. Supposing it to be one of his laborers, he ordered that he
be brought into his office, or study, which was at the same time a
library and a chemical laboratory. Greatly to his surprise he found
himself face to face with the severe and mysterious figure of Elias.
"You saved my life," said the pilot in Tagalog, noticing Ibarra's
start of surprise. "I have partly paid the debt and you have nothing to
thank me for, but quite the opposite. I've come to ask a favor of you."
"Speak!" answered the youth in the same language, puzzled by the
Elias stared into Ibarra's eyes for some seconds before he replied,
"When human courts try to clear up this mystery, I beg of you not to
speak to any one of the warning that I gave you in the church."
"Don't worry," answered the youth in a rather disgusted tone. "I know
that you're wanted, but I'm no informer."
"Oh, it's not on my account, not on my account!" exclaimed Elias with
some vigor and haughtiness. "It's on your own account. I fear nothing
Ibarra's surprise increased. The tone in which this rustics--
formerly a pilot--spoke was new and did not seem to harmonize with
either his condition or his fortune. "What do you mean?" he asked,
interrogating that mysterious individual with his looks.
"I do not talk in enigmas but try to express myself clearly; for your
greater security, it is better that your enemies think you unsuspecting
Ibarra recoiled. "My enemies? Have I enemies?"
"All of us have them, sir, from the smallest insect up to man, from
the poorest and humblest to the richest and most powerful! Enmity is
the law of life!"
Ibarra gazed at him in silence for a while, then murmured, "You are
neither a pilot nor a rustic!"
"You have enemies in high and low places," continued Elias, without
heeding the young man's words. "You are planning a great undertaking,
you have a past. Your father and your grandfather had enemies because
they had passions, and in life it is not the criminal who provokes
the most hate but the honest man."
"Do you know who my enemies are?"
Elias meditated for a moment. "I knew one--him who is dead," he
finally answered. "Last night I learned that a plot against you was
being hatched, from some words exchanged with an unknown person who
lost himself in the crowd. 'The fish will not eat him, as they did his
father; you'll see tomorrow,' the unknown said. These words caught my
attention not only by their meaning but also on account of the person
who uttered them, for he had some days before presented himself to
the foreman on the work with the express request that he be allowed
to superintend the placing of the stone. He didn't ask for much pay
but made a show of great knowledge. I hadn't sufficient reason for
believing in his bad intentions, but something within told me that my
conjectures were true and therefore I chose as the suitable occasion
to warn you a moment when you could not ask me any questions. The
rest you have seen for yourself."
For a long time after Elias had become silent Ibarra remained
thoughtful, not answering him or saying a word. "I'm sorry that that
man is dead!" he exclaimed at length. "From him something more might
have been learned."
"If he had lived, he would have escaped from the trembling hand of
blind human justice. God has judged him, God has killed him, let God
be the only Judge!"
Crisostomo gazed for a moment at the man, who, while he spoke thus,
exposed his muscular arms covered with lumps and bruises. "Do you
also believe in the miracle?" he asked with a smile. "You know what
a miracle the people are talking about."
"Were I to believe in miracles, I should not believe in
God. I should believe in a deified man, I should believe that
man had really created a god in his own image and likeness," the
mysterious pilot answered solemnly. "But I believe in Him, I have
felt His hand more than once. When the whole apparatus was falling
down and threatening destruction to all who happened to be near it,
I, I myself, caught the criminal, I placed myself at his side. He
was struck and I am safe and sound."
"You! So it was you--"
"Yes! I caught him when he tried to escape, once his deadly work had
begun. I saw his crime, and I say this to you: let God be the sole
judge among men, let Him be the only one to have the right over life,
let no man ever think to take His place!"
"But you in this instance--"
"No!" interrupted Elias, guessing the objection. "It's not the
same. When a man condemns others to death or destroys their
future forever he does it with impunity and uses the strength of
others to execute his judgments, which after all may be mistaken or
erroneous. But I, in exposing the criminal to the same peril that he
had prepared for others, incurred the same risk as he did. I did not
kill him, but let the hand of God smite him."
"Then you don't believe in accidents?"
"Believing in accidents is like believing in miracles; both presuppose
that God does not know the future. What is an accident? An event
that no one has at all foreseen. What is a miracle? A contradiction,
an overturning of natural laws. Lack of foresight and contradiction
in the Intelligence that rules the machinery of the world indicate
two great defects."
"Who are you?" Ibarra again asked with some awe.
"Have you ever studied?"
"I have had to believe greatly in God, because I have lost faith in
men," answered the pilot, avoiding the question.
Ibarra thought he understood this hunted youth; he rejected human
justice, he refused to recognize the right of man to judge his
fellows, he protested against force and the superiority of some
classes over others.
"But nevertheless you must admit the necessity of human justice,
however imperfect it may be," he answered. "God, in spite of the
many ministers He may have on earth, cannot, or rather does not,
pronounce His judgments clearly to settle the million conflicts
that our passions excite. It is proper, it is necessary, it is just,
that man sometimes judge his fellows."
"Yes, to do good, but not to do ill, to correct and to better, but
not to destroy, for if his judgments are wrong he hasn't the power to
remedy the evil he has done. But," he added with a change of tone,
"this discussion is beyond my powers and I'm detaining you, who are
being waited for. Don't forget what I've just told you--you have
enemies. Take care of yourself for the good of our country." Saying
this, he turned to go.
"When shall I see you again?" asked Ibarra.
"Whenever you wish and always when I can be of service to you. I am
still your debtor."
There in the decorated kiosk the great men of the province were
dining. The alcalde occupied one end of the table and Ibarra the
other. At the young man's right sat Maria Clara and at his left
the escribano. Capitan Tiago, the alferez, the gobernadorcillo, the
friars, the employees, and the few young ladies who had remained sat,
not according to rank, but according to their inclinations. The meal
was quite animated and happy.
When the dinner was half over, a messenger came in search of Capitan
Tiago with a telegram, to open which he naturally requested the
permission of the others, who very naturally begged him to do so. The
worthy capitan at first knitted his eyebrows, then raised them;
his face became pale, then lighted up as he hastily folded the paper
"Gentlemen," he announced in confusion, "his Excellency the
Captain-General is coming this evening to honor my house." Thereupon he
set off at a run, hatless, taking with him the message and his napkin.
He was followed by exclamations and questions, for a cry of
"Tulisanes!" would not have produced greater effect. "But,
listen!" "When is he coming?" "Tell us about it!" "His Excellency!" But
Capitan Tiago was already far away.
"His Excellency is coming and will stay at Capitan Tiago's!" exclaimed
some without taking into consideration the fact that his daughter
and future son-in-law were present.
"The choice couldn't be better," answered the latter.
The friars gazed at one another with looks that seemed to say: "The
Captain-General is playing another one of his tricks, he is slighting
us, for he ought to stay at the convento," but since this was the
thought of all they remained silent, none of them giving expression
"I was told of this yesterday," said the alcalde, "but at that time
his Excellency had not yet fully decided."
"Do you know, Señor Alcalde, how long the Captain-General thinks of
staying here?" asked the alferez uneasily.
"With certainty, no. His Excellency likes to give surprises."
"Here come some more messages." These were for the alcalde,
the alferez, and the gobernadorcillo, and contained the same
announcement. The friars noted well that none came directed to
"His Excellency will arrive at four this afternoon,
gentlemen!" announced the alcalde solemnly. "So we can finish our meal
in peace." Leonidas at Thermopylae could not have said more cheerfully,
"Tonight we shall sup with Pluto!"
The conversation again resumed its ordinary course.
"I note the absence of our great preacher," timidly remarked an
employee of inoffensive aspect who had not opened his mouth up to
the time of eating, and who spoke now for the first time in the
All who knew the history of Crisostomo's father made a movement and
winked, as if to say, "Get out! Fools rush in--" But some one more
charitably disposed answered, "He must be rather tired."
"Rather?" exclaimed the alferez. "He must be exhausted, and as they
say here, all fagged out. What a sermon it was!"
"A splendid sermon--wonderful!" said the escribano.
"Magnificent--profound!" added the correspondent.
"To be able to talk so much, it's necessary to have the lungs that he
has," observed Padre Manuel Martin. The Augustinian did not concede
him anything more than lungs.
"And his fertility of expression!" added Padre Salvi.
"Do you know that Señor Ibarra has the best cook in the
province?" remarked the alcalde, to cut short such talk.
"You may well say that, but his beautiful neighbor doesn't wish to
honor the table, for she is scarcely eating a bite," observed one of
Maria Clara blushed. "I thank the gentleman, he troubles himself too
much on my account," she stammered timidly, "but--"
"But you honor it enough merely by being present," concluded the
gallant alcalde as he turned to Padre Salvi.
"Padre," he said in a loud voice, "I've observed that during the
whole day your Reverence has been silent and thoughtful."
"The alcalde is a great observer," remarked Fray Sibyla in a meaning
"It's a habit of mine," stammered the Franciscan. "It pleases me more
to listen than to talk."
"Your Reverence always takes care to win and not to lose," said the
alferez in a jesting tone.
Padre Salvi, however, did not take this as a joke, for his gaze
brightened a moment as he replied, "The alferez knows very well these
days that I'm not the one who is winning or losing most."
The alferez turned the hit aside with a forced laugh, pretending not
to take it to himself.
"But, gentlemen, I don't understand how it is possible to talk of
winnings and losses," interposed the alcalde. "What will these amiable
and discreet young ladies who honor us with their company think of
us? For me the young women are like the Æolian harps in the middle of
the night--it is necessary to listen with close attention in order
that their ineffable harmonies may elevate the soul to the celestial
spheres of the infinite and the ideal!"
"Your Honor is becoming poetical!" exclaimed the escribano gleefully,
and both emptied their wine-glasses.
"I can't help it," said the alcalde as he wiped his lips. "Opportunity,
while it doesn't always make the thief, makes the poet. In my youth
I composed verses which were really not bad."
"So your Excellency has been unfaithful to the Muses to follow Themis,"
emphatically declared our mythical or mythological correspondent.
"Pshaw, what would you have? To run through the entire social scale was
always my dream. Yesterday I was gathering flowers and singing songs,
today I wield the rod of justice and serve Humanity, tomorrow--"
"Tomorrow your Honor will throw the rod into the fire to warm yourself
by it in the winter of life, and take an appointment in the cabinet,"
added Padre Sibyla.
"Pshaw! Yes--no--to be a cabinet official isn't exactly my
beau-ideal: any upstart may become one. A villa in the North in
which to spend the summer, a mansion in Madrid, and some property
in Andalusia for the winter--there we shall live remembering our
beloved Philippines. Of me Voltaire would not say, 'We have lived
among these people only to enrich ourselves and to calumniate them.'"
The alcalde quoted this in French, so the employees, thinking that
his Honor had cracked a joke, began to laugh in appreciation of
it. Some of the friars did likewise, since they did not know that
the Voltaire mentioned was the same Voltaire whom they had so often
cursed and consigned to hell. But Padre Sibyla was aware of it and
became serious from the belief that the alcalde had said something
heretical or impious.
In the other kiosk the children were eating under the direction of
their teacher. For Filipino children they were rather noisy, since
at the table and in the presence of other persons their sins are
generally more of omission than of commission. Perhaps one who was
using the tableware improperly would be corrected by his neighbor
and from this there would arise a noisy discussion in which each
would have his partisans. Some would say the spoon, others the knife
or the fork, and as no one was considered an authority there would
arise the contention that God is Christ or, more clearly, a dispute
of theologians. Their fathers and mothers winked, made signs, nudged
one another, and showed their happiness by their smiles.
"Ya!" exclaimed a countrywoman to an old man who was mashing buyo in
his kalikut, "in spite of the fact that my husband is opposed to it,
my Andoy shall be a priest. It's true that we're poor, but we'll work,
and if necessary we'll beg alms. There are not lacking those who will
give money so that the poor may take holy orders. Does not Brother
Mateo, a man who does not lie, say that Pope Sextus was a herder of
carabaos in Batangas? Well then, look at my Andoy, see if he hasn't
already the face of a St. Vincent!" The good mother watered at the
mouth to see her son take hold of a fork with both hands.
"God help us!" added the old man, rolling his quid of buyo. "If
Andoy gets to be Pope we'll go to Rome he, he! I can still walk well,
and if I die--he, he!"
"Don't worry, granddad! Andoy won't forget that you taught him how
to weave baskets."
"You're right, Petra. I also believe that your son will be great,
at least a patriarch. I have never seen any one who learned the
business in a shorter time. Yes, he'll remember me when as Pope or
bishop he entertains himself in making baskets for his cook. He'll
then say masses for my soul--he, he!" With this hope the good old
man again filled his kalikut with buyo.
"If God hears my prayers and my hopes are fulfilled, I'll say to Andoy,
'Son, take away all our sins and send us to Heaven!' Then we shan't
need to pray and fast and buy indulgences. One whose son is a blessed
Pope can commit sins!"
"Send him to my house tomorrow, Petra," cried the old man
enthusiastically, "and I'll teach him to weave the nito!"
"Huh! Get out! What are you dreaming about, grand-dad? Do you still
think that the Popes even move their hands? The curate, being nothing
more than a curate, only works in the mass--when he turns around! The
Archbishop doesn't even turn around, for he says mass sitting down. So
the Pope--the Pope says it in bed with a fan! What are you thinking
"Of nothing more, Petra, than that he know how to weave the nito. It
would be well for him to be able to sell hats and cigar-cases so that
he wouldn't have to beg alms, as the curate does here every year in
the name of the Pope. It always fills me with compassion to see a
saint poor, so I give all my savings."
Another countryman here joined in the conversation, saying, "It's all
settled, cumare, my son has got to be a doctor, there's nothing
like being a doctor!"
"Doctor! What are you talking about, cumpare?" retorted Petra. "There's
nothing like being a curate!"
"A curate, pish! A curate? The doctor makes lots of money, the sick
people worship him, cumare!"
"Excuse me! The curate, by making three or four turns and saying
deminos pabiscum, eats God and makes money. All, even the women,
tell him their secrets."
"And the doctor? What do you think a doctor is? The doctor sees all
that the women have, he feels the pulses of the dalagas! I'd just
like to be a doctor for a week!"
"And the curate, perhaps the curate doesn't see what your doctor
sees? Better still, you know the saying, 'the fattest chicken and
the roundest leg for the curate!'"
"What of that? Do the doctors eat dried fish? Do they soil their
fingers eating salt?"
"Does the curate dirty his hands as your doctors do? He has great
estates and when he works he works with music and has sacristans to
"But the confessing, cumare? Isn't that work?"
"No work about that! I'd just like to be confessing everybody! While
we work and sweat to find out what our own neighbors are doing,
the curate does nothing more than take a seat and they tell him
everything. Sometimes he falls asleep, but he lets out two or three
blessings and we are again the children of God! I'd just like to be
a curate for one evening in Lent!"
"But the preaching? You can't tell me that it's not work. Just look
how the fat curate was sweating this morning," objected the rustic,
who felt himself being beaten into retreat.
"Preaching! Work to preach! Where's your judgment? I'd just like to
be talking half a day from the pulpit, scolding and quarreling with
everybody, without any one daring to reply, and be getting paid for
it besides. I'd just like to be the curate for one morning when those
who are in debt to me are attending mass! Look there now, how Padre
Damaso gets fat with so much scolding and beating."
Padre Damaso was, indeed, approaching with the gait of a heavy
man. He was half smiling, but in such a malignant way that Ibarra,
upon seeing him, lost the thread of his talk. The padre was greeted
with some surprise but with signs of pleasure on the part of all
except Ibarra. They were then at the dessert and the champagne was
foaming in the glasses.
Padre Damaso's smile became nervous when he saw Maria Clara seated
at Crisostomo's right. He took a seat beside the alcalde and said in
the midst of a significant silence, "Were you discussing something,
gentlemen? Go ahead!"
"We were at the toasts," answered the alcalde. "Señor Ibarra was
mentioning all who have helped him in his philanthropic enterprise
and was speaking of the architect when your Reverence--"
"Well, I don't know anything about architecture," interrupted Padre
Damaso, "but I laugh at architects and the fools who employ them. Here
you have it--I drew the plan of this church and it's perfectly
constructed, so an English jeweler who stopped in the convento one
day assured me. To draw a plan one needs only to have two fingers'
breadth of forehead."
"Nevertheless," answered the alcalde, seeing that Ibarra was silent,
"when we consider certain buildings, as, for example, this schoolhouse,
we need an expert."
"Get out with your experts!" exclaimed the priest with a sneer. "Only
a fool needs experts! One must be more of a brute than the Indians,
who build their own houses, not to know how to construct four walls
and put a roof on top of them. That's all a schoolhouse is!"
The guests gazed at Ibarra, who had turned pale, but he continued as
if in conversation with Maria Clara.
"But your Reverence should consider--"
"See now," went on the Franciscan, not allowing the alcalde to
continue, "look how one of our lay brothers, the most stupid that we
have, has constructed a hospital, good, pretty, and cheap. He made
them work hard and paid only eight cuartos a day even to those who
had to come from other towns. He knew how to handle them, not like
a lot of cranks and little mestizos who are spoiling them by paying
three or four reals."
"Does your Reverence say that he paid only eight
cuartos? Impossible!" The alcalde was trying to change the course of
"Yes, sir, and those who pride themselves on being good Spaniards
ought to imitate him. You see now, since the Suez Canal was opened,
the corruption that has come in here. Formerly, when we had to double
the Cape, neither so many vagabonds came here nor so many others went
from here to become vagabonds."
"But, Padre Damaso--"
"You know well enough what the Indian is--just as soon as he gets
a little learning he sets himself up as a doctor! All these little
fellows that go to Europe--"
"But, listen, your Reverence!" interrupted the alcalde, who was
becoming nervous over the aggressiveness of such talk.
"Every one ends up as he deserves," the friar continued. "The hand
of God is manifest in the midst of it all, and one must be blind
not to see it. Even in this life the fathers of such vipers receive
their punishment, they die in jail ha, ha! As we might say, they have
But he did not finish the sentence. Ibarra, livid, had been following
him with his gaze and upon hearing this allusion to his father jumped
up and dropped a heavy hand on the priest's head, so that he fell back
stunned. The company was so filled with surprise and fright that no
one made any movement to interfere.
"Keep off!" cried the youth in a terrible voice, as he caught up a
sharp knife and placed his foot on the neck of the friar, who was
recovering from the shock of his fall. "Let him who values his life
The youth was beside himself. His whole body trembled and his eyes
rolled threateningly in their sockets. Fray Damaso arose with an
effort, but the youth caught him by the neck and shook him until he
again fell doubled over on his knees.
"Señor Ibarra! Señor Ibarra!" stammered some. But no one, not even
the alferez himself, dared to approach the gleaming knife, when they
considered the youth's strength and the condition of his mind. All
seemed to be paralyzed.
"You, here! You have been silent, now it is my turn! I have tried
to avoid this, but God brings me to it--let God be the judge!" The
youth was breathing laboriously, but with a hand of iron he held down
the Franciscan, who was struggling vainly to free himself.
"My heart beats tranquilly, my hand is sure," he began, looking
around him. "First, is there one among you, one who has not loved his
father, who was born in such shame and humiliation that he hates his
memory? You see? You understand this silence? Priest of a God of peace,
with your mouth full of sanctity and religion and your heart full of
evil, you cannot know what a father is, or you might have thought of
your own! In all this crowd which you despise there is not one like
you! You are condemned!"
The persons surrounding him, thinking that he was about to commit
murder, made a movement.
"Away!" he cried again in a threatening voice. "What, do you fear that
I shall stain my hands with impure blood? Have I not told you that
my heart beats tranquilly? Away from us! Listen, priests and judges,
you who think yourselves other men and attribute to yourselves other
rights: my father was an honorable man,--ask these people here, who
venerate his memory. My father was a good citizen and he sacrificed
himself for me and for the good of his country. His house was open
and his table was set for the stranger and the outcast who came to
him in distress! He was a Christian who always did good and who never
oppressed the unprotected or afflicted those in trouble. To this man
here he opened his doors, he made him sit at his table and called
him his friend. And how has this man repaid him? He calumniated him,
persecuted him, raised up against him all the ignorant by availing
himself of the sanctity of his position; he outraged his tomb,
dishonored his memory, and persecuted him even in the sleep of
death! Not satisfied with this, he persecutes the son now! I have
fled from him, I have avoided his presence. You this morning heard
him profane the pulpit, pointing me out to popular fanaticism, and I
held my peace! Now he comes here to seek a quarrel with me. To your
surprise, I have suffered in silence, but he again insults the most
sacred memory that there is for a son. You who are here, priests and
judges, have you seen your aged father wear himself out working for
you, separating himself from you for your welfare, have you seen him
die of sorrow in a prison sighing for your embrace, seeking some one
to comfort him, alone, sick, when you were in a foreign land? Have you
afterwards heard his name dishonored, have you found his tomb empty
when you went to pray beside it? No? You are silent, you condemn him!"
He raised his hand, but with the swiftness of light a girlish form
put itself between them and delicate fingers restrained the avenging
arm. It was Maria Clara. Ibarra stared at her with a look that seemed
to reflect madness. Slowly his clenched fingers relaxed, letting
fall the body of the Franciscan and the knife. Covering his face,
he fled through the crowd.
News of the incident soon spread throughout the town. At first all
were incredulous, but, having to yield to the fact, they broke out
into exclamations of surprise. Each one, according to his moral lights,
made his comments.
"Padre Damaso is dead," said some. "When they picked him up his face
was covered with blood and he wasn't breathing."
"May he rest in peace! But he hasn't any more than settled his
debts!" exclaimed a young man. "Look what he did this morning in the
convento--there isn't any name for it."
"What did he do? Did he beat up the coadjutor again?"
"What did he do? Tell us about it!"
"You saw that Spanish mestizo go out through the sacristy in the
midst of the sermon?"
"Yes, we saw him. Padre Damaso took note of him."
"Well, after the sermon he sent for the young man and asked him why he
had gone out. 'I don't understand Tagalog, Padre,' was the reply. 'And
why did you joke about it, saying that it was Greek?' yelled Padre
Damaso, slapping the young man in the face. The latter retorted and
the two came to blows until they were separated."
"If that had happened to me--" hissed a student between his teeth.
"I don't approve of the action of the Franciscan," said another,
"since Religion ought not to be imposed on any one as a punishment
or a penance. But I am almost glad of it, for I know that young man,
I know that he's from San Pedro Makati and that he talks Tagalog
well. Now he wants to be taken for a recent arrival from Russia and
prides himself on appearing not to know the language of his fathers."
"Then God makes them and they rush together!" 
"Still we must protest against such actions," exclaimed another
student. "To remain silent would be to assent to the abuse, and what
has happened may be repeated with any one of us. We're going back to
the times of Nero!"
"You're wrong," replied another. "Nero was a great artist, while
Padre Damaso is only a tiresome preacher."
The comments of the older persons were of a different kind. While
they were waiting for the arrival of the Captain-General in a hut
outside the town, the gobernadorcillo was saying, "To tell who was
right and who was wrong, is not an easy matter. Yet if Señor Ibarra
had used more prudence--"
"If Padre Damaso had used half the prudence of Señor Ibarra, you mean
to say, perhaps!" interrupted Don Filipo. "The bad thing about it is
that they exchanged parts--the youth conducted himself like an old
man and the old man like a youth."
"Did you say that no one moved, no one went near to separate them,
except Capitan Tiago's daughter?" asked Capitan Martin. "None of the
friars, nor the alcalde? Ahem! Worse and worse! I shouldn't like to
be in that young man's skin. No one will forgive him for having been
afraid of him. Worse and worse, ahem!"
"Do you think so?" asked Capitan Basilio curiously.
"I hope," said Don Filipo, exchanging a look with the latter, "that
the people won't desert him. We must keep in mind what his family
has done and what he is trying to do now. And if, as may happen,
the people, being intimidated, are silent, his friends--"
"But, gentlemen," interrupted the gobernadorcillo, "what can we
do? What can the people do? Happen what will, the friars are always
"They are always right because we always allow them to be," answered
Don Filipo impatiently, putting double stress on the italicized
word. "Let us be right once and then we'll talk."
The gobernadorcillo scratched his head and stared at the roof while he
replied in a sour tone, "Ay! the heat of the blood! You don't seem to
realize yet what country we're in, you don't know your countrymen. The
friars are rich and united, while we are divided and poor. Yes, try
to defend yourself and you'll see how the people will leave you in
"Yes!" exclaimed Don Filipo bitterly. "That will happen as long as
you think that way, as long as fear and prudence are synonyms. More
attention is paid to a possible evil than to a necessary good. At
once fear, and not confidence, presents itself; each one thinks only
of himself, no one thinks of the rest, and therefore we are all weak!"
"Well then, think of others before yourself and you'll see how they'll
leave you in the lurch. Don't you know the proverb, 'Charity begins
"You had better say," replied the exasperated teniente-mayor, "that
cowardice begins in selfishness and ends in shame! This very day I'm
going to hand in my resignation to the alcalde. I'm tired of passing
for a joke without being useful to anybody. Good-by!"
The women had opinions of still another kind.
"Ay!" sighed one woman of kindly expression. "The young men are
always so! If his good mother were alive, what would she say? When I
think that the like may happen to my son, who has a violent temper,
I almost envy his dead mother. I should die of grief!"
"Well, I shouldn't," replied another. "It wouldn't cause me any shame
if such a thing should happen to my two sons."
"What are you saying, Capitana Maria!" exclaimed the first, clasping
"It pleases me to see a son defend the memory of his parents, Capitana
Tinay. What would you say if some day when you were a widow you heard
your husband spoken ill of and your son Antonio should hang his head
and remain silent?"
"I would deny him my blessing!" exclaimed a third, Sister Rufa,
"Deny him my blessing, never!" interrupted the kind Capitana Tinay. "A
mother ought not to say that! But I don't know what I should do--
I don't know--I believe I'd die--but I shouldn't want to see him
again. But what do you think about it, Capitana Maria?"
"After all," added Sister Rufa, "it must not be forgotten that it's
a great sin to place your hand on a sacred person."
"A father's memory is more sacred!" replied Capitana Maria. "No one,
not even the Pope himself, much less Padre Damaso, may profane such
a holy memory."
"That's true!" murmured Capitana Tinay, admiring the wisdom of
both. "Where did you get such good ideas?"
"But the excommunication and the condemnation?" exclaimed Sister
Rufa. "What are honor and a good name in this life if in the other we
are damned? Everything passes away quickly--but the excommunication
--to outrage a minister of Christ! No one less than the Pope can
"God, who commands honor for father and mother, will pardon it, God
will not excommunicate him! And I tell you that if that young man
comes to my house I will receive him and talk with him, and if I had
a daughter I would want him for a son-in-law; he who is a good son
will be a good husband and a good father--believe it, Sister Rufa!"
"Well, I don't think so. Say what you like, and even though you may
appear to be right, I'll always rather believe the curate. Before
everything else, I'll save my soul. What do you say, Capitana Tinny?"
"Oh, what do you want me to say? You're both right the curate is
right, but God must also be right. I don't know, I'm only a foolish
woman. What I'm going to do is to tell my son not to study any more,
for they say that persons who know anything die on the gallows. María
Santísima, my son wants to go to Europe!"
"What are you thinking of doing?"
"Tell him to stay with me--why should he know more? Tomorrow or the
next day we shall die, the learned and the ignorant alike must die,
and the only question is to live in peace." The good old woman sighed
and raised her eyes toward the sky.
"For my part," said Capitana Maria gravely, "if I were rich like
you I would let my sons travel; they are young and will some day be
men. I have only a little while to live, we should see one another in
the other life, so sons should aspire to be more than their fathers,
but at our sides we only teach them to be children."
"Ay, what rare thoughts you have!" exclaimed the astonished Capitana
Tinay, clasping her hands. "It must be that you didn't suffer in
bearing your twin boys."
"For the very reason that I did bear them with suffering, that I have
nurtured and reared them in spite of our poverty, I do not wish that,
after the trouble they're cost me, they be only half-men."
"It seems to me that you don't love your children as God commands,"
said Sister Rufa in a rather severe tone.
"Pardon me, every mother loves her sons in her own way. One mother
loves them for her own sake and another loves them for their sake. I
am one of the latter, for my husband has so taught me."
"All your ideas, Capitana Maria," said Sister Rufa, as if preaching,
"are but little religious. Become a sister of the Holy Rosary or of
St. Francis or of St. Rita or of St. Clara."
"Sister Rufa, when I am a worthy sister of men then I'll try to be
a sister of the saints," she answered with a smile.
To put an end to this chapter of comments and that the reader may
learn in passing what the simple country folk thought of the incident,
we will now go to the plaza, where under the large awning some rustics
are conversing, one of them--he who dreamed about doctors of medicine
--being an acquaintance of ours.
"What I regret most," said he, "is that the schoolhouse won't be
"What's that?" asked the bystanders with interest.
"My son won't be a doctor but a carter, nothing more! Now there won't
be any school!"
"Who says there won't be any school?" asked a rough and robust
countryman with wide cheeks and a narrow head.
"I do! The white padres have called Don Crisostomo plibastiero.
Now there won't be any school."
All stood looking questioningly at each other; that was a new term
"And is that a bad name?" the rough countryman made bold to ask.
"The worst thing that one Christian can say to another!"
"Worse than tarantado and sarayate?" 
"If it were only that! I've been called those names several times
and they didn't even give me a bellyache."
"Well, it can't be worse than 'indio,' as the alferez says."
The man who was to have a carter for a son became gloomier, while
the other scratched his head in thought.
"Then it must be like the betelapora that the alferez's old
woman says. Worse than that is to spit on the Host."
"Well, it's worse than to spit on the Host on Good Friday," was
the grave reply. "You remember the word ispichoso which when
applied to a man is enough to have the civil-guards take him into
exile or put him in jail well, plibustiero is much worse. According
to what the telegrapher and the directorcillo said, plibustiero,
said by a Christian, a curate, or a Spaniard to another Christian
like us is a santusdeus with requimiternam, for if they ever
call you a plibustiero then you'd better get yourself shriven and pay
your debts, since nothing remains for you but to be hanged. You know
whether the telegrapher and the directorcillo ought to be informed;
one talks with wires and the other knows Spanish and works only with
a pen." All were appalled.
"May they force me to wear shoes and in all my life to drink nothing
but that vile stuff they call beer, if I ever let myself be called
pelbistero!" swore the countryman, clenching his fists. "What, rich
as Don Crisostomo is, knowing Spanish as he does, and able to eat
fast with a knife and spoon, I'd laugh at five curates!"
"The next civil-guard I catch stealing my chickens I'm going to call
palabistiero, then I'll go to confession at once," murmured one of
the rustics in a low voice as he withdrew from the group.
The First Cloud
In Capitan Tiago's house reigned no less disorder than in the people's
imagination. Maria Clara did nothing but weep and would not listen to
the consoling words of her aunt and of Andeng, her foster-sister. Her
father had forbidden her to speak to Ibarra until the priests should
absolve him from the excommunication. Capitan Tiago himself, in the
midst of his preparations for receiving the Captain-General properly,
had been summoned to the convento.
"Don't cry, daughter," said Aunt Isabel, as she polished the bright
plates of the mirrors with a piece of chamois. "They'll withdraw the
excommunication, they'll write now to the Pope, and we'll make a big
poor-offering. Padre Damaso only fainted, he's not dead."
"Don't cry," whispered Andeng. "I'll manage it so that you may talk
with him. What are confessionals for if not that we may sin? Everything
is forgiven by telling it to the curate."
At length Capitan Tiago returned. They sought in his face the answer
to many questions, and it announced discouragement. The poor fellow
was perspiring; he rubbed his hand across his forehead, but was unable
to say a single word.
"What has happened, Santiago?" asked Aunt Isabel anxiously.
He answered by sighing and wiping away a tear.
"For God's sake, speak! What has happened?"
"Just what I feared," he broke out at last, half in tears. "All is
lost! Padre Damaso has ordered me to break the engagement, otherwise
he will damn me in this life and in the next. All of them told me
the same, even Padre Sibyla. I must close the doors of my house
against him, and I owe him over fifty thousand pesos! I told the
padres this, but they refused to take any notice of it. 'Which do
you prefer to lose,' they asked me, 'fifty thousand pesos or your
life and your soul?' Ay, St. Anthony, if I had only known, if I had
only known! Don't cry, daughter," he went on, turning to the sobbing
girl. "You're not like your mother, who never cried except just before
you were born. Padre Damaso told me that a relative of his has just
arrived from Spain and you are to marry him."
Maria Clara covered her ears, while Aunt Isabel screamed, "Santiago,
are you crazy? To talk to her of another sweetheart now! Do you think
that your daughter changes sweethearts as she does her camisa?"
"That's just the way I felt, Isabel. Don Crisostomo is rich, while
the Spaniards marry only for love of money. But what do you want me
to do? They've threatened me with another excommunication. They say
that not only my soul but also my body is in great danger--my body,
do you hear, my body!"
"But you're only making your daughter more disconsolate! Isn't the
Archbishop your friend? Why don't you write to him?"
"The Archbishop is also a friar, the Archbishop does only what the
friars tell him to do. But, Maria, don't cry. The Captain-General
is coming, he'll want to see you, and your eyes are all red. Ay,
I was thinking to spend a happy evening! Without this misfortune I
should be the happiest of men--every one would envy me! Be calm,
my child, I'm more unfortunate than you and I'm not crying. You can
have another and better husband, while I--I've lost fifty thousand
pesos! Ay, Virgin of Antipolo, if tonight I may only have luck!"
Salvos, the sound of carriage wheels, the galloping of horses,
and a band playing the royal march, announced the arrival of his
Excellency, the Captain-General of the Philippines. Maria Clara
ran to hide herself in her chamber. Poor child, rough hands that
knew not its delicate chords were playing with her heart! While
the house became filled with people and heavy steps, commanding
voices, and the clank of sabers and spurs resounded on all sides,
the afflicted maiden reclined half-kneeling before a picture of the
Virgin represented in that sorrowful loneliness perceived only by
Delaroche, as if he had surprised her returning from the sepulcher of
her Son. But Maria Clara was not thinking of that mother's sorrow,
she was thinking of her own. With her head hanging down over her
breast and her hands resting on the floor she made the picture of a
lily bent by the storm. A future dreamed of and cherished for years,
whose illusions, born in infancy and grown strong throughout youth,
had given form to the very fibers of her being, to be wiped away now
from her mind and heart by a single word! It was enough to stop the
beating of one and to deprive the other of reason.
Maria Clara was a loving daughter as well as a good and pious
Christian, so it was not the excommunication alone that terrified her,
but the command and the ominous calmness of her father demanding the
sacrifice of her love. Now she felt the whole force of that affection
which until this moment she had hardly suspected. It had been like
a river gliding along peacefully with its banks carpeted by fragrant
flowers and its bed covered with fine sand, so that the wind hardly
ruffled its current as it moved along, seeming hardly to flow at all;
but suddenly its bed becomes narrower, sharp stones block the way,
hoary logs fall across it forming a barrier--then the stream rises
and roars with its waves boiling and scattering clouds of foam,
it beats against the rocks and rushes into the abyss!
She wanted to pray, but who in despair can pray? Prayers are for the
hours of hope, and when in the absence of this we turn to God it is
only with complaints. "My God," cried her heart, "why dost Thou thus
cut a man off, why dost Thou deny him the love of others? Thou dost
not deny him thy sunlight and thy air nor hide from him the sight of
thy heaven! Why then deny him love, for without a sight of the sky,
without air or sunlight, one can live, but without love--never!"
Would these cries unheard by men reach the throne of God or be heard
by the Mother of the distressed? The poor maiden who had never known
a mother dared to confide these sorrows of an earthly love to that
pure heart that knew only the love of daughter and of mother. In
her despair she turned to that deified image of womanhood, the most
beautiful idealization of the most ideal of all creatures, to that
poetical creation of Christianity who unites in herself the two most
beautiful phases of womanhood without its sorrows: those of virgin
and mother,--to her whom we call Mary!
"Mother, mother!" she moaned.
Aunt Isabel came to tear her away from her sorrow since she was being
asked for by some friends and by the Captain-General, who wished to
talk with her.
"Aunt, tell them that I'm ill," begged the frightened girl. "They're
going to make me play on the piano and sing."
"Your father has promised. Are you going to put your father in a
Maria Clara rose, looked at her aunt, and threw back her shapely arms,
murmuring, "Oh, if I only had--"
But without concluding the phrase she began to make herself ready
"I Want to talk with that young man," said his Excellency to an
aide. "He has aroused all my interest."
"They have already gone to look for him, General. But here is a young
man from Manila who insists on being introduced. We told him that
your Excellency had no time for interviews, that you had not come
to give audiences, but to see the town and the procession, and he
answered that your Excellency always has time to dispense justice--"
His Excellency turned to the alcalde in wonder. "If I am not mistaken,"
said the latter with a slight bow, "he is the young man who this
morning had a quarrel with Padre Damaso over the sermon."
"Still another? Has this friar set himself to stir up the whole
province or does he think that he governs here? Show the young man
in." His Excellency paced nervously from one end of the sala to
In the hall were gathered various Spaniards mingled with soldiers
and officials of San Diego and neighboring towns, standing in groups
conversing or disputing. There were also to be seen all the friars,
with the exception of Padre Damaso, and they wanted to go in to pay
their respects to his Excellency.
"His Excellency the Captain-General begs your Reverences to wait a
moment," said the aide. "Come in, young man!" The Manilan who had
confounded Greek with Tagalog entered the room pale and trembling.
All were filled with surprise; surely his Excellency must be greatly
irritated to dare to make the friars wait! Padre Sibyla remarked,
"I haven't anything to say to him, I'm wasting my time here."
"I say the same," added an Augustinian. "Shall we go?"
"Wouldn't it be better that we find out how he stands?" asked Padre
Salvi. "We should avoid a scandal, and should be able to remind him
of his duties toward--religion."
"Your Reverences may enter, if you so desire," said the aide as
he ushered out the youth who did not understand Greek and whose
countenance was now beaming with satisfaction.
Fray Sibyla entered first, Padre Salvi, Padre Martin, and the other
priests following. They all made respectful bows with the exception
of Padre Sibyla, who even in bending preserved a certain air of
superiority. Padre Salvi on the other hand almost doubled himself
over the girdle.
"Which of your Reverences is Padre Damaso?" asked the Captain-General
without any preliminary greeting, neither asking them to be seated nor
inquiring about their health nor addressing them with the flattering
speeches to which such important personages are accustomed.
"Padre Damaso is not here among us, sir," replied Fray Sibyla in the
same dry tone as that used by his Excellency.
"Your Excellency's servant is in bed sick," added Padre Salvi
humbly. "After having the pleasure of welcoming you and of informing
ourselves concerning your Excellency's health, as is the duty of all
good subjects of the King and of every person of culture, we have
come in the name of the respected servant of your Excellency who has
had the misfortune--"
"Oh!" interrupted the Captain-General, twirling a chair about on one
leg and smiling nervously, "if all the servants of my Excellency were
like his Reverence, Padre Damaso, I should prefer myself to serve
The reverend gentlemen, who were standing up physically, did so
mentally at this interruption.
"Won't your Reverences be seated?" he added after a brief pause,
moderating his tone a little.
Capitan Tiago here appeared in full dress, walking on tiptoe and
leading by the hand Maria Clara, who entered timidly and with
hesitation. Still she bowed gracefully and ceremoniously.
"Is this young lady your daughter?" asked the Captain-General in
"And your Excellency's, General," answered Capitan Tiago
The alcalde and the aides opened their eyes wide, but his Excellency
lost none of his gravity as he took the girl's hand and said affably,
"Happy are the fathers who have daughters like you, señorita! I have
heard you spoken of with respect and admiration and have wanted to
see you and thank you for your beautiful action of this afternoon. I
am informed of everything and when I make my report to his Majesty's
government I shall not forget your noble conduct. Meanwhile, permit me
to thank you in the name of his Majesty, the King, whom I represent
here and who loves peace and tranquillity in his loyal subjects, and
for myself, a father who has daughters of your age, and to propose
a reward for you."
"Sir--" answered the trembling Maria Clara.
His Excellency guessed what she wanted to say, and so continued:
"It is well, señorita, that you are at peace with your conscience and
content with the good opinion of your fellow-countrymen, with the
faith which is its own best reward and beyond which we should not
aspire. But you must not deprive me of an opportunity to show that
if Justice knows how to punish she also knows how to reward and that
she is not always blind!" The italicized words were all spoken in a
loud and significant tone.
"Señor Don Juan Crisostomo Ibarra awaits the orders of your
Excellency!" announced the aide in a loud voice.
Maria Clara shuddered.
"Ah!" exclaimed the Captain-General. "Allow me, señorita, to express
my desire to see you again before leaving the town, as I still have
some very important things to say to you. Señor Alcalde, you will
accompany me during the walk which I wish to take after the conference
that I will hold alone with Señor Ibarra."
"Your Excellency will permit us to inform you," began Padre Salvi
humbly, "that Señor Ibarra is excommunicated."
His Excellency cut short this speech, saying, "I am happy that I have
only to regret the condition of Padre Damaso, for whom I sincerely
desire a complete recovery, since at his age a voyage to Spain on
account of his health may not be very agreeable. But that depends on
him! Meanwhile, may God preserve the health of your Reverences!"
"And so much depends on him," murmured Padre Salvi as they
retired. "We'll see who makes that voyage soonest!" remarked another
"I shall leave at once," declared the indignant Padre Sibyla.
"And we shall go back to our province," said the Augustinians. Neither
the Dominican nor the Augustinians could endure the thought that they
had been so coldly received on a Franciscan's account.
In the hall they met Ibarra, their amphitryon of a few hours before,
but no greetings were exchanged, only looks that said many things. But
when the friars had withdrawn the alcalde greeted him familiarly,
although the entrance of the aide looking for the young man left
no time for conversation. In the doorway he met Maria Clara; their
looks also said many things but quite different from what the friars'
eyes had expressed.
Ibarra was dressed in deep mourning, but presented himself serenely
and made a profound bow, even though the visit of the friars had not
appeared to him to be a good augury. The Captain-General advanced
toward him several steps.
"I take pleasure, Señor Ibarra, in shaking your hand. Permit me to
receive you in all confidence." His Excellency examined the youth
with marked satisfaction.
"Sir, such kindness--"
"Your surprise offends me, signifying as it does that you had not
expected to be well received. That is casting a doubt on my sense
"A cordial reception, sir, for an insignificant subject of his Majesty
like myself is not justice but a favor."
"Good, good," exclaimed his Excellency, seating himself and waving
Ibarra to a chair. "Let us enjoy a brief period of frankness. I am
very well satisfied with your conduct and have already recommended
you to his Majesty for a decoration on account of your philanthropic
idea of erecting a schoolhouse. If you had let me know, I would have
attended the ceremony with pleasure, and perhaps might have prevented
a disagreeable incident."
"It seemed to me such a small matter," answered the youth, "that I
did not think it worth while troubling your Excellency with it in the
midst of your numerous cares. Besides, my duty was to apply first to
the chief authority of my province."
His Excellency nodded with a satisfied air and went on in an even more
familiar tone: "In regard to the trouble you're had with Padre Damaso,
don't hold any fear or rancor, for they won't touch a hair of your head
while I govern the islands. As for the excommunication, I'll speak
to the Archbishop, since it is necessary for us to adjust ourselves
to circumstances. Here we can't laugh at such things in public as we
can in the Peninsula and in enlightened Europe. Nevertheless, be more
prudent in the future. You have placed yourself in opposition to the
religious orders, who must be respected on account of their influence
and their wealth. But I will protect you, for I like good sons,
I like to see them honor the memory of their fathers. I loved mine,
and, as God lives, I don't know what I would have done in your place!"
Then, changing the subject of conversation quickly, he asked, "I'm
told that you have just returned from Europe; were you in Madrid?"
"Yes, sir, several months."
"Perhaps you heard my family spoken of?"
"Your Excellency had just left when I had the honor of being introduced
to your family."
"How is it, then, that you came without bringing any recommendations
"Sir," replied Ibarra with a bow, "because I did not come direct from
Spain and because I have heard your Excellency so well spoken of that
I thought a letter of recommendation might not only be valueless but
even offensive; all Filipinos are recommended to you."
A smile played about the old soldier's lips and he replied slowly, as
though measuring and weighing his words, "You flatter me by thinking
so, and--so it ought to be. Nevertheless, young man, you must know
what burdens weigh upon our shoulders here in the Philippines. Here
we, old soldiers, have to do and to be everything: King, Minister of
State, of War, of Justice, of Finance, of Agriculture, and of all
the rest. The worst part of it too is that in every matter we have
to consult the distant mother country, which accepts or rejects
our proposals according to circumstances there--and at times
blindly. As we Spaniards say, 'He who attempts many things succeeds
in none.' Besides, we generally come here knowing little about the
country and leave it when we begin to get acquainted with it. With you
I can be frank, for it would be useless to try to be otherwise. Even
in Spain, where each department has its own minister, born and reared
in the locality, where there are a press and a public opinion, where
the opposition frankly opens the eyes of the government and keeps
it informed, everything moves along imperfectly and defectively;
thus it is a miracle that here things are not completely topsyturvy
in the lack of these safeguards, and having to live and work under
the shadow of a most powerful opposition. Good intentions are not
lacking to us, the governing powers, but we find ourselves obliged
to avail ourselves of the eyes and arms of others whom ordinarily we
do not know and who perhaps, instead of serving their country, serve
only their own private interests. This is not our fault but the fault
of circumstances--the friars aid us not a little in getting along,
but they are not sufficient. You have aroused my interest and it is
my desire that the imperfections of our present system of government
be of no hindrance to you. I cannot look after everybody nor can
everybody come to me. Can I be of service to you in any way? Have
you no request to make?"
Ibarra reflected a moment before he answered. "Sir, my dearest wish
is the happiness of my country, a happiness which I desire to see
owed to the mother country and to the efforts of my fellow-citizens,
the two united by the eternal bonds of common aspirations and common
interests. What I would request can only be given by the government
after years of unceasing toil and after the introduction of definite
His Excellency gazed at him for a few seconds with a searching look,
which Ibarra sustained with naturalness. "You are the first man that
I've talked to in this country!" he finally exclaimed, extending
"Your Excellency has seen only those who drag themselves about in the
city; you have not visited the slandered huts of our towns or your
Excellency would have been able to see real men, if to be a man it
is sufficient to have a generous heart and simple customs."
The Captain-General rose and began to walk back and forth in the
room. "Señor Ibarra," he exclaimed, pausing suddenly, and the young man
also rose, "perhaps within a month I shall leave. Your education and
your mode of thinking are not for this country. Sell what you have,
pack your trunk, and come with me to Europe; the climate there will
be more agreeable to you."
"I shall always while I live preserve the memory of your Excellency's
kindness," replied Ibarra with emotion, "but I must remain in this
country where my fathers have lived."
"Where they have died you might say with more exactness! Believe
me, perhaps I know your country better than you yourself do. Ah,
now I remember," he exclaimed with a change of tone, "you are going
to marry an adorable young woman and I'm detaining you here! Go, go
to her, and that you may have greater freedom send her father to me,"
this with a smile. "Don't forget, though, that I want you to accompany
me in my walk."
Ibarra bowed and withdrew. His Excellency then called to his
aide. "I'm satisfied," he said, slapping the latter lightly on the
shoulder. "Today I've seen for the first time how it is possible for
one to be a good Spaniard without ceasing to be a good Filipino and
to love his country. Today I showed their Reverences that we are not
all puppets of theirs. This young man gave me the opportunity and I
shall soon have settled all my accounts with the friars. It's a pity
that some day or other this young man--But call the alcalde."
The alcalde presented himself immediately. As he entered, the
Captain-General said to him, "Señor Alcalde, in order to avoid any
repetition of scenes such as you witnessed this afternoon, scenes
that I regret, as they hurt the prestige of the government and of
all good Spaniards, allow me to recommend to your especial care Señor
Ibarra, so that you may afford him means for carrying out his patriotic
intentions and also that in the future you prevent his being molested
by persons of any class whatsoever, under any pretext at all."
The alcalde understood the reprimand and bowed to conceal his
"Have the same order communicated to the alferez who commands in the
district here. Also, investigate whether that gentleman has affairs
of his own that are not sanctioned by the regulations. I've heard
more than one complaint in regard to that."
Capitan Tiago presented himself stiff and formal. "Don Santiago," said
his Excellency in an affable tone, "a little while ago I felicitated
you on the happiness of having a daughter such as the Señorita de los
Santos; now let me congratulate you on your future son-in-law. The
most virtuous of daughters is certainly worthy of the best citizen of
the Philippines. Is it permitted to know when the wedding will occur?"
"Sir!" stammered Capitan Tiago, wiping the perspiration from his
"Come now, I see that there is nothing definitely arranged. If persons
are lacking to stand up with them, I shall take the greatest pleasure
in being one of them. That's for the purpose of ridding myself of the
feeling of disgust which the many weddings I've heretofore taken part
in have given me," he added, turning to the alcalde.
"Yes, sir," answered Capitan Tiago with a smile that would move
Ibarra almost ran in search of Maria Clara--he had so many things
to tell her. Hearing merry voices in one of the rooms, he knocked
lightly on the door.
"Who's there?" asked the voice of Maria Clara.
The voices became hushed and the door--did not open.
"It's I, may I come in?" called the young man, his heart beating
The silence continued. Then light footsteps approached the door and the
merry voice of Sinang murmured through the keyhole, "Crisostomo, we're
going to the theater tonight. Write what you have to say to Maria."
The footsteps retreated again as rapidly as they approached.
"What does this mean?" murmured Ibarra thoughtfully as he retired
slowly from the door.
At nightfall, when all the lanterns in the windows had been lighted,
for the fourth time the procession started amid the ringing of bells
and the usual explosions of bombs. The Captain-General, who had gone
out on foot in company with his two aides, Capitan Tiago, the alcalde,
the alferez, and Ibarra, preceded by civil-guards and officials who
opened the way and cleared the street, was invited to review the
procession from the house of the gobernadorcillo, in front of which a
platform had been erected where a loa would be recited in honor
of the Blessed Patron.
Ibarra would gladly have renounced the pleasure of hearing this
poetical composition, preferring to watch the procession from Capitan
Tiago's house, where Maria Clara had remained with some of her friends,
but his Excellency wished to hear the loa, so he had no recourse but
to console himself with the prospect of seeing her at the theater.
The procession was headed by the silver candelabra borne by three
begloved sacristans, behind whom came the school children in charge
of their teacher, then boys with paper lanterns of varied shapes and
colors placed on the ends of bamboo poles of greater or less length and
decorated according to the caprice of each boy, since this illumination
was furnished by the children of the barrios, who gladly performed
this service, imposed by the matanda sa nayon, each one designing
and fashioning his own lantern, adorning it as his fancy prompted
and his finances permitted with a greater or less number of frills
and little streamers, and lighting it with a piece of candle if he
had a friend or relative who was a sacristan, or if he could buy one
of the small red tapers such as the Chinese burn before their altars.
In the midst of the crowd came and went alguazils, guardians of
justice to take care that the lines were not broken and the people
did not crowd together. For this purpose they availed themselves of
their rods, with blows from which, administered opportunely and with
sufficient force, they endeavored to add to the glory and brilliance of
the procession--all for the edification of souls and the splendor
of religious show. At the same time that the alguazils were thus
distributing free their sanctifying blows, other persons, to console
the recipients, distributed candles and tapers of different sizes,
"Señor Alcalde," said Ibarra in a low voice, "do they administer those
blows as a punishment for sin or simply because they like to do so?"
"You're right, Señor Ibarra," answered the Captain-General, overhearing
the question. "This barbarous sight is a wonder to all who come here
from other countries. It ought to be forbidden."
Without any apparent reason, the first saint that appeared was
St. John the Baptist. On looking at him it might have been said
that the fame of Our Savior's cousin did not amount to much among
the people, for while it is true that he had the feet and legs of
a maiden and the face of an anchorite, yet he was placed on an old
wooden andas, and was hidden by a crowd of children who, armed with
candles and unlighted lanterns, were engaging in mock fights.
"Unfortunate saint!" muttered the Sage Tasio, who was watching the
procession from the street, "it avails you nothing to have been the
forerunner of the Good Tidings or that Jesus bowed before you! Your
great faith and your austerity avail you nothing, nor the fact that
you died for the truth and your convictions, all of which men forget
when they consider nothing more than their own merits. It avails more
to preach badly in the churches than to be the eloquent voice crying
in the desert, this is what the Philippines teaches you! If you had
eaten turkey instead of locusts and had worn garments of silk rather
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