HotFreeBooks.com
Adventures in the Philippine Islands
by Paul P. de La Gironiere
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The same race is found in various parts of the Malay country; and the people of New Zealand—the Paponins—resemble them very much in form and colour.

My intention was to pass some days amongst those wild savages, and our preparations were speedily made. I chose two of my best Indians to accompany me. It is not requisite to state that my lieutenant was one of the party, for he was always with me in all my perilous expeditions.

We took each of us a small haversack, containing rice for three or four days, some dried venison, a good provision of powder, ball, and shot for game, some coloured handkerchiefs, and a considerable quantity of cigars for our own use, and to insure a welcome amongst the Ajetas. Each of us carried a good double-barreled gun and his poignard. Our clothes were those which we wore in all our expeditions,—on our heads the common salacote, a shirt of raw silk, the pantaloon turned up to above the knee; the feet and legs remained uncovered. With these simple preparations we set out on a trip of some weeks, during which, and from the second day of our starting, we could expect no shelter but the trees of the forest, and no food but the game we shot, and the edible parts of the palm tree.

I took special care not to forget the vade mecum which I always took with me, whenever I made these excursions for any number of days—I mean paper and a pencil, with which I made notes, to aid my recollections, and enable me afterwards to write down in a journal the remarks I made during my travels. Every preparation being made, we one morning started from Jala-Jala. We traversed the peninsula formed by my settlement, and embarked on the other side in a small canoe, which took us to the bottom of the lake to the north-east of my habitation. We passed the night in the large village of Siniloan, and at an early hour the following day resumed our march. This first day's journey was one of toil and suffering: we were then beginning the rainy season, and the heavy storms had swelled the rivers. We marched for some time along the banks of a torrent, which rushed down from the mountains, and which we were obliged to swim through fifteen times during the day. In the evening we came to the foot of the mountains where begin the forests of gigantic trees, which cover almost all the centre of the island of Luzon. There we made our first halt, lighted our fires, and prepared our beds and our supper. I think that I have already described our beds, which use and fatigue always rendered agreeable to us, when no accident occurred to disturb our repose. But I have said nothing of the simple composition of our meals, nor of our manner of preparing them. Our rice and palms required to be cooked, an operation which might seem rather embarrassing, for we had with us no large kitchen articles: we sometimes wanted a fire-box and tinder. But the bamboo supplied all these. The bamboo is one of the three tropical plants which Nature, in her beneficence and care, seems to have given to man to supply most of his wants. And here I cannot forbear dedicating a few lines to the description of those three products of the tropics, viz: the bamboo, the cocoa-nut tree, and the banana-plant.

The bamboo belongs to the gramineous family; it grows in thick groves, in the woods, on the river banks, and wherever it finds a humid soil. In the Philippines there are counted twenty-five or thirty kinds, different in form and thickness. There are some of the diameter of the human body, and hollow in the interior: this kind serves especially for the construction of huts, and for making vessels to transport and to keep water. The filaments are used for making baskets, hats, and all kinds of basket-work, cords, and cables of great solidity.

Another bamboo, of smaller dimensions, and hollow within, which is covered with varnish, almost as hard as steel, is employed in building Indian houses. Cut to a point it is extremely sharp, and is used for many purposes. The Indians make lances of it, and arrows, and fleams for bleeding horses, and lancets for opening abscesses, and for taking thorns or other things out of the flesh.

A third kind, much more solid, and as thick as one's arm, and not hollow within, is used in such parts of the buildings as require sold timber, and especially in the roofing.

A fourth kind, much smaller, and also without being hollow, serves to make the fences that surround enclosed fields when tilled. The other kinds are not so much employed, but still they are found to be useful.

To preserve the plants, and to render them very productive, the shoots are cut at ten feet from the ground. These shoots look like the tubes of an organ, and are surrounded with branches and thorns. At the beginning of the rainy season there grows from each of those groves a quantity of thick bamboos, resembling large asparagus, which shoot up as it were by enchantment. In the space of a month they become from fifty to sixty feet long, and after a short time they acquire all the solidity necessary for the various works to which they are destined.

The cocoa-nut tree belongs to the palm family: it requires to grow seven years before it bears fruit; but after this period, and for a whole century, it yields continually the same product—that is, every month about twenty large nuts. This produce never fails, and on the same tree may be seen continually flowers and fruits of all sizes. The cocoa-nut affords, as everyone knows, nutritious food, and when pressed yields a quantity of oil. The shell of the nut serves to make vases, and the filamentary parts are spun into ropes and cables for ships, and even into coarse clothing. The leaves are used to make baskets and brooms, and for thatching the huts.

A liquor is also taken from the cocoa-nut tree, called cocoa-wine; it is a most stupifying drink, of which the Indians make great use at their festivities. To produce the cocoa-wine, large groves of the cocoa-trees are laid out, from which merely the sap or juice is expected, but nothing in the shape of fruit. These trees have long bamboos laid at their tops from one to another, on which the Indians pass over every morning, bearing large vessels, in which they collect the liquid. It is a laborious and dangerous employment,—a real promenade in the air, at the height of from sixty to eighty feet from the ground. It is from the bud which ought to produce the flower that the liquid is drawn of which the spirit is afterwards made. As soon as the bud is about to burst, the Indian employed in collecting the liquid ties it very tight, a few inches from its point, and then cuts across the point beyond the tying. From this cutting, or from the pores which are left uncovered, a saccharine liquid flows, which is sweetish and agreeable to the palate before it has fermented. After it has passed the fermentation it is carried to the still, and submitted to the process of distillation, it then becomes the alcoholic liquor known in the country as cocoa-wine.

Besides these uses, the cocoa-nut shell, when burned, gives the fine black colour which the Indians make use of to dye their straw hats.

The banana is an herbaceous plant, without any woody matter: the trunk of each is formed of leaves placed one above the other. This trunk rises from twelve to fifteen feet from the ground, and then spreads out into long broad leaves, not less than five or six feet each. From the middle of these leaves the flower rises, and also the spike (regime). By this word is to be understood a hundred of large bananas growing from the same stalk, forming together a long branch, that turns towards the sun.

Before the fruit has reached its full ripeness, the spike is cut, and becomes fit for use. The part of the plant which is in the earth is a kind of large root, from which proceed successively thirty shoots, and each shoot ought not to have more than one spike, or bunch; it is then cut fronting the sun, and as all the shoots rising from the same trunk are of different ages, there are fruits to be found in all the stages of growth; so that every month or fortnight, and at all seasons, a spike or two may be gathered from the same plant. There is also a species of banana the fruit of which is not good to eat, but from which raw silk is formed, called abaca, which is used to make clothes, and all kinds of cordage. This filament is found in the trunk of the plant, which, as I have said, consists of leaves placed one over another, which, after being separated into long strips, and left for some hours in the sun, is then placed on an iron blade, not sharp, and then dragged with force over it. The parenchyme of the plant is taken off by the iron blade, and the filaments then separate. Nothing is now wanting but to expose them for some time to the sun's rays; after which they are brought to market.

I observe that I have left my journey aside to describe three tropical plants, which afford a sufficiency for all the wants of man. Those plants are well-known; yet there may be some persons ignorant of the utility, and of the various services which they render to the inhabitants of the tropics. My readers will from them be naturally led to reflect how the inhabitants of the torrid zone are favoured by nature, in comparison with those of our frigid climate.

We were at the foot of the mountains, preparing to pass the night. Our labour was always divided: one got the beds ready, another the fire, a third the cookery. He who had to prepare the fire collects a quantity of dry wood and of brambles. Under this heap of firewood he puts about twelve pounds of elemi gum, which is common in the Philippines, where it is found in quantities at the foot of the large trees from which it flows naturally. He then takes a piece of bamboo, half a yard long, which he splits to its length, tears with poignard so as to make very thin shavings, which he rubs together while rolling them between his hands, and then puts them into the hollow part of the other piece, and lays it down on the ground, and then with the sharp side of the piece from which he had taken the shavings, he rubs strongly the piece lying on the ground, as if he wished to saw it across. In a short time the bamboo containing the shavings is cut through and on fire. The flame rising from the shavings, when blown lightly upon, quickly sets the elemi gum in a blaze, and in an instant there is a fire sufficient to roast an ox.

He who had to manage the cooking cut two or three pieces of the large bamboo, and put in each whatever he wished to cook—usually rice or some part of the palm tree—he added some water, stopped the ends of the bamboo with leaves, and laid it in the middle of the fire. This bamboo was speedily burned on the outside, but the interior was moistened by the water, and the food within was as well boiled as in any earthen vessels. For plates we had the large palm leaves. Our meals, as may be observed, were Spartan enough, even during the days while our provision of rice and dried venison lasted. But when game was found, and that a stag or a buffalo fell to our lot, we fed like epicures. We drank pure water whenever a spring or a rivulet tempted us, but if we were at a loss we cut long pieces of the liana, called "the traveller's drink," from which flowed a clear and limpid draught, preferable perhaps to any which we might have procured from a better source.

It was evident I was not travelling like a nabob; and it would have been impossible to take more baggage. How could any one, with large provisions and a pompous retinue move in the midst of mountains covered with forests literally along untouched by human feet, and forced, in order to get through them, at every instant to swim across torrents, and having no other guide than the sun, or the blowing of the breeze. There was no choice but to travel in the Indian style, as I did, or to remain at home.

The first night we spent in the open air passed quietly; our strength was restored, and we were recruited for the journey. At an early hour we were up, and, after a frugal breakfast, we resumed our march. For more than two hours we climbed up a mountain covered with heavy timber, the ascent was rough and fatiguing, at last we reached the top, quite exhausted, where there was a vast flat, which it would take us some days to traverse. It was there, on this flat, that I beheld the most majestic, the finest virgin forest that existed in the world. It consists of gigantic trees, grown up as straight as a rush, and to a prodigious height. Their tops, where alone their branches grow, are laced into one another, so as to form a vault impenetrable to the rays of the sun. Under this vault, and among those fine trees, prolific nature has given birth to a crowd of climbing plants of a most remarkable description. The rattan and the flexible liana mount up to the topmost branches, and re-descending to the earth, take fresh root, receive new sustenance, and then remount anew, and at various distances they join themselves to the friendly trunks of their supporting columns, and thus they form very often most beautiful decorations. Varieties of the pandanus are to be seen, of which the leaves, in bunches, start from the ground, forming beautiful sheaves. Enormous ferns were to be met with, real trees in shape, and up which we clambered often, to cut the top branches, for their delicious perfume and which serve as food nearly the same as the palms. But, in the midst of this extraordinary vegetation nature is gloomy and silent; not a sound is to be heard, unless perhaps the wind that shakes the tops of the trees, or from time to time the distant noise of a torrent, which, falling precipitately, cascades from the heights of the mountains to their base. The ground is moist, as it never receives the sun's rays: the little lakes and the rivers, that never flow unless when swollen by the storms, present to the eye water black and stagnant, on which the reflection of the fine clear blue sky is never to be seen.

The sole inhabitants of these melancholy though majestic solitudes are deer, buffaloes and wild boars, which being hidden in their lairs and dens in the daytime, come out at night in search of food. Birds are seldom seen, and the monkeys so common in the Philippines, shun the solitude of these immense forests. One kind of insect is met with in great abundance, and it plagues the traveller to the utmost; they are the small leeches, which are found on all the mountains of the Philippines that are covered with forests. They lie close to the ground in the grass, or on the leaves of the trees, and dart like grasshoppers on their prey, to which they fasten. Travellers are therefore always provided with little knives, cut from the bamboo, to loosen the hold of the insects, after which they rub the wound with a little chewed tobacco. But soon another leech, attracted by the flowing blood, takes the place of the one which was removed, and constant care is necessary to avoid being victimised by those little insects, of which the voracity far exceeds that of our common leeches.

Our way lay through these singular creations of nature, and I was engaged in looking at and examining the curiosities around me, while my Indians were seeking some kind of game—deer, buffalo, or wild boar—to replace our stock of rice and venison, which was exhausted. We were at length reduced to the palms as our only resource; but the palms, though pleasing to the palate, are not sufficiently nutritive to recruit the strength of poor travellers, when, suffering under extreme fatigue, and after a laborious march, they find no lodging but the moist ground, and no shelter but the vault of the sky.

We directed our course as near as possible towards the eastern coast, which is bathed by the Pacific ocean. We knew that it was in that direction the Ajetas commenced their settlement. We wished also to pass through the large Tagalese village, Binangonan de Lampon, which is to be found, isolated and hidden, at the foot of the eastern mountains, in the midst of the savages. We had already spent several nights in the forest, and without experiencing any great inconvenience. The fires which we lighted every evening warmed us, and saved us from the myriads of terrible leeches, which otherwise would certainly have devoured us. We imagined that we were within one day's march of the sea-shore, where we expected to take some time for rest, when, of a sudden, a burst of thunder at a distance gave us reason to apprehend a storm. Nevertheless, we continued our journey; but in a short time the growling of the thunder approached so near as to leave no doubt that the hurricane would burst over us. We stopped, lighted our fires, cooked our evening's repast, and placed some of the palm leaves on poles by the side of a slope to save us from the heavy rain. We had not finished all our preparations when the storm broke. If we had not had the glimmering glare of our firebrands we should have been in profound obscurity, although it was not yet night. We all three, with pieces of palm branches in our hands, crouched under the slight shelter which we had improvised, and there awaited the full force of the storm. The thunder-claps were redoubled; the rain began with violence to batter the trees, and then to assail us like a torrent. Our fires were speedily extinguished; we found ourselves in the deepest darkness, interrupted only by the lightning, which from time to time rushed, serpent-like, through the trees of the forest, scattering a dazzling light, to leave us the moment after in profound obscurity. Around us the din was horrible; the thunder was continuous, the echoes of the mountains repeating from distance to distance its sound, sometimes deadened, and sometimes with awful grandeur. The wind, which blew with violence, shattered the uppermost parts of the trees, breaking off large branches, which fell with a crash to the ground. Some trunks were uprooted, and, while falling, tore down the boughs of the neighbouring trees. The rain was incessant, and in the intervals between the thunder we could hear the awful roar of the waters of a torrent which rushed madly past the base of the mound where we had taken refuge. Amidst all this frightful commotion, mournful and dismal sounds were heard, like the howls of a large dog which had lost its master: they were the cries of the deer in their distress, seeking for a place of shelter. Nature seemed to be in convulsions, and to have declared war in every element. The loose thatch under which we had taken refuge was soon penetrated, and we were completely deluged. We soon quitted this miserable hole, preferring to move our stiffened and almost deadened limbs, covered with the fearful little leeches, which terrible infliction deprived us of the strength so necessary in our awful position.

I avow that at this moment I sincerely repented my fatal curiosity, for which I paid so dearly. I could compare this frightful night only to the one I had passed in the bamboos, when I was wrecked on the lake. In appearance there was not such pressing danger, for we could not be swallowed up by the waves; but there were large trees, under which we were obliged to stop, and one of which might be uprooted and fall upon us; a bough torn off by the wind might crush us; and the lightning, equally terrific in its reports and its effects, might strike us at any moment. One thing was especially painful, and that was the cold, and the difficulty of moving our frozen and almost paralysed limbs. We awaited with impatience the cessation of the storm; but it was not until after three hours of mortal agony that the thunder gradually ceased. The wind fell; the rain subsided; and for some time we heard nothing but the large drops which dripped from the trees, and the dread sound of the torrents. Calm was restored; the sky became pure and starry: but we were deprived of that view which gives hope to the traveller, for the forest presented only a dome of green, impenetrable to the sight.

Exhausted as we were by our exposure to the elements and our exertions, we were so overpowered by nature's great renovator sleep, that, notwithstanding our clothes were saturated with the rain, we were able to pass the remainder of the night in tranquillity. At break of day the forest, which a few hours previously had been the scene of the terrors which I have described, was again tranquil and silent. When we quitted our lair we were frightful to look at; we were covered with leeches, and the marks of blood on our faces rendered us hideous. On looking at my two poor Indians I could not avoid laughing aloud; they also looked at me, but their respect for me prevented their laughing. I was no doubt equally punished, and my white skin must have served to show well the ravages of those creatures. We were, indeed, knocked up; we could scarcely move, so weak had we become. However, act we must, and promptly,—to light a fire quickly, in order to warm us; to cook some of the palm stalks; to cross, by swimming, a torrent which, with a terrible noise, was rushing on below us; and to reach, during the day, the shores of the Pacific ocean. If we delayed to start it might not be possible to pass through the torrents,—we had left several behind us,—we might find ourselves in the impossibility of going either backward or forward, and perhaps be obliged to remain several days waiting for the waters to subside before we could proceed. Besides, other storms might arise, frequent as they are at this season, and we should have to remain for several weeks in a desert spot without resources, and where the first night passed under such a bad roof was no recommendation, There was no time to be lost. From a large heap of palm leaves, where we had placed and covered up our haversacks in order to preserve them from the wet, we drew them out safe; our precautions had fortunately been successful, they were quite dry. We made a large fire, thanks to the elemi gum, which burns with such ease. Our feelings were delightful when the heat entered our frames, dried our dripping garments, re-animated our courage, and gave us some strength. But, to enjoy that satisfaction fully, one should have acquired it at the same cost as I had. I very much doubt that any European would like to participate in the scenes of that night simply for the enjoyments of the following day.

Our scanty cookery was soon ready, and expeditiously dispatched, and we moved off in quick time.

My Indians were uneasy, as they feared they would not be able to pass through the torrent which was heard at a distance, consequently they marched quicker than I did. On reaching the bank I found them in a consternation. "Oh, master!" said my faithful Alila, "it is not possible to pass; so we must spend some days here." I cast my eyes on the torrent, which was rolling between steep rocks, in a yellow, muddy stream: it had all the appearance of a cascade, and was carrying down the trunks of trees and branches broken off during the storm. My Indians had already come to a decision, and were arranging a spot for a fit bivouac; but I did not wish to give up all hopes of success so speedily, and set about examining with care the means of overcoming the difficulty.

The torrent was not more than a hundred yards in breadth, and a good swimmer could with ease get over in a few minutes. But it was necessary, on the opposite side, to arrive at a spot which was not too steep, and where one could find safe footing, and out of the torrent; otherwise the risk would be run of being drawn down, no one could tell whither.

From the bank on which we were it was easy to jump into the water, but on the other side, for a hundred yards down the stream, there was but one spot where the rocks were interrupted. A small stream joined there the one we wished to cross. After I had carefully calculated by sight the length of the passage, I considered myself strong enough to attempt it. I was a better swimmer than my Indians; and I was certain if I was once on the other side, that they would follow. I told them that I was going to cross over the torrent.

But one reflection caused me to hesitate. How could I preserve our haversacks, and save our precious provision of powder? How keep our guns from injury? It would not be possible to think of carrying those articles on my back through a torrent so rapid, and in which, beyond doubt, I should be under water more than once before I gained the other side.

The Indians, being fertile in expedients, speedily extricated me from this difficulty: they cut several rattans, and joined the ends together, so as to form a considerable length. One of them climbed a tree which leant over the torrent, and there fastened one end of the rattan length, while I took the other end to carry it over to the other bank. All our arrangements being effected I plunged into the water, and without much difficulty gained the opposite side, having the end of the rattan with me, which I fastened to a tree on the steep bank I had gained, allowing a slight inclination of the line towards me, yet raised sufficiently over the water to allow the articles which we were anxious to pass over to slide along without touching the water. Our newly constructed bridge was wonderfully successful. The articles came across quite safe and dry; and my Indians, by its aid, quickly joined me. We congratulated each other on our fortunate passage, and the more so, as we expected before sunset to reach the Pacific ocean. Of the woods we had had enough: and we now looked for the sun, which for several days had been obscured by clouds; the leeches caused us considerable suffering, and weakened us very much, and our miserable diet was not sufficient to recruit our exhausted frames. Moreover we did not doubt that, on reaching the sea, we should be amply recompensed for all the privations we had endured. In fine, with renewed hopes we found our courage revive, and soon forgot the fatal night of the storm.

I walked nearly as quick as my Indians, who, like me, hastened to get clear of the insupportable humidity in which we had existed for several days.

Two hours after we had passed the torrent a dull and distant sound struck our ears. At first we supposed it to be a fresh storm; but soon we knew, from its regularity, that it was nothing less than the murmur of the Pacific ocean, and the sound of the waves which come from afar to break themselves on the eastern shore of Luzon. This certainty caused me a most pleasing emotion. In a few hours I should again see the blue sky, warm myself in the generous rays of the sun, and find a boundless horizon. I should also get rid of the fearful leeches, and should soon salute Nature, animated in creation, in exchange for the solitudes from which we had just emerged.

We were now on the declivity of the mountains, the descent of which was gentle and our march easy. The sound of the waves increased by degrees. Near three o'clock in the afternoon we perceived through the trees that the sun was clear; and an instant afterwards we beheld the sea, and a magnificent beach, covered with fine glittering sand. The first movement of all three was to strip off our clothes and to plunge into the waves; and while we thus enjoyed a salutary bath, we amused ourselves in collecting off the rocks a quantity of shell-fish, which enabled us to make the most hearty meal we had eaten since we started from home.

Having thus satisfied our hunger, our thoughts were directed to taking rest, of which we stood in great need; but it was no longer on knotty and rough pieces of timber, that we were going to repose,—it was on the soft sand, which the shore offered to us, warmed as it was by the last rays of the setting sun. It was almost night when we stretched ourselves on this bed, which to us was preferable to one of down. Our sacks served as pillows; we laid our guns, which were properly primed, close by our sides, and after a few minutes were buried in a profound sleep. I know not how long I had enjoyed this invigorating balm when I was awakened by the painful feeling of something crawling over me. I felt the prickings of sharp claws, which fastened in my skin, and occasionally caused me great pain. Similar sensations had awakened my two Indians. We collected the embers which were still ignited, and were able to see the new kind of enemies which assailed us. They were the crabs called "Bernard the Hermit," [23] and in such quantities that the ground was crawling with them, of all sizes and of all ages. We swept the sand on which we laid down, hoping to drive them away, and to have some sleep; but the troublesome—or rather, the famishing hermits—returned to the charge, and left us neither peace or quiet. We were busy in resisting their attacks, when suddenly, on the edge of the forest, we perceived a light, which came towards us. We seized our guns, and awaited its approach in profound silence and without any movement. We then saw a man and woman coming out of the wood, each having a torch in their hands. We knew them to be Ajetas, who were coming, no doubt, to catch fish on the beach. When they reached within a few steps from us, they stood for an instant motionless and gazed at us with fixed attention. We three were seated, watching them, and trying to guess their intentions. One of them put his hand to his shoulder, as if to take his bow; and I instantly cocked my gun. The noise caused by the movement of the gun-lock was sufficient to frighten them: they threw down their light, and scampered off like two wild beasts, in the highest alarm, to hide themselves in the forest.

Their appearance was enough to prove that we were in a place frequented by the Ajetas. The two savages whom we had seen were perhaps gone to inform their friends, who might come in great numbers and let fly at us their poisoned arrows. This dread, and the incessant attacks of Bernard the Hermit, caused us to spend the remainder of the night near a large fire.

As soon as day broke we made an excellent breakfast, thanks to the abundance of shell-fish, of which we could take whatever quantity we liked, and then set out again. Our way lay sometimes along the shore, and at other times through the woods. The journey was very fatiguing, but without any incident worthy of notice. It was after night-fall when we arrived at the village of Binangonan de Lampon. This village, inhabited by Tagalocs, is thrown, like an oasis of men, somewhat civilised, in the midst of forests and savage people, and who had no direct communication with the other districts which are governed by the Spaniards.

My name was known to the inhabitants of Binangonan de Lampon, consequently we were received with open arms, and all the heads of the village disputed with each other for the honour of having me as a guest. I gave the preference to him who had first invited me, and in his dwelling I experienced the kindest hospitality. I had scarcely entered when the mistress of the house herself wished to wash my feet, and to show me all those attentions which proved to me the pleasure they felt that I had given them this preference.

During supper, while I was enjoying the good food which was before me, the small house in which I was seated became filled with young girls, who gazed at me with a curiosity which was really comic. When I had finished my meal the conversation with my host began to weary me, and I stretched myself on a mat, which on that occasion I regarded as an excellent substitute for a feather-bed.

I spent three days with the kind Tagalocs, who received and treated me like a prince. On the fourth day I bade them adieu, and we shaped our course to the northward, in the midst of mountains covered with thick forests, and which, like those that we had quitted, showed no path for the traveller, except some tracks or openings through which wild animals passed. We proceeded with great caution, for we found ourselves in the district peopled by Ajetas. At night we concealed our fire, and each of us in turn kept watch, for what we dreaded most was a surprise.

One morning, while marching in silence, we heard before us a number of shrill voices, resembling rather the cries of birds than human sounds. We kept strict watch, and shaded ourselves as much as possible by the aid of the trees and of the brushwood. Suddenly we perceived before us, at a very little distance, forty savages of both sexes, and of all ages; they absolutely seemed to be mere brutes; they were on the bank of a river, and close to a large fire. We advanced some steps presenting the but-end of our guns. The moment they saw us they set up a shrill cry, and were about to take to flight; but I made signs, and showed the packet of cigars which we wished to give them. Fortunately I had learned at Binangonan the way by which I was to approach them. As soon as they understood us they ranged themselves in a line, like men about to be reviewed; that was the signal that we might come near them. We approached with the cigars in our hands, and at one end of the line I began to distribute my presents. It was highly important to make friends of them, and, according to their custom, to give to each an equal share. My distribution being finished, our alliance was cemented, and peace concluded: the savages and we had nothing to dread from each other. They all began smoking. A stag had been suspended to a tree; their chief cut three large pieces from it with a bamboo knife, which he threw into the glowing fire, and a moment afterwards drew it out again and handed it round, a piece being given to each of us. The outside of this steak was burned, and a little spotted with cinders, but the inside was raw and full of blood; however it was necessary not to show any repugnance, and to make a cannibal feast, otherwise my hosts would have been affronted, and I was anxious to live with them for some days on a good understanding. I therefore eat my portion of the stag, which, after all, was not bad: my Indians did as I had done. Good relations were thus established between us, and treachery was not then to be expected.

I now found myself in the midst of a tribe of men whom I had come from Jala-Jala to see, and I set about examining them at my ease, and for as long as I wished. We fixed our bivouac some steps from theirs, as if we wished to form part of the family of our new friends. I could not address them but by signs, and I had the greatest difficulty in making them understand me, but on the day after my arrival I had an interpreter. A woman came to me with a child, to which she wished to give a name; she had been reared amongst the Tagalocs; she had spoken that language, of which she remembered a little, and could give, although with much difficulty, all the information I desired which was to me of interest.

The creatures with whom I had thus formed a connection for a few days, and as I saw them, seemed rather to be a large family of monkeys than human beings. Their voices very much resembled the shrill cries of those animals, and in their gestures they were exactly like them. The only difference I could see was that they knew how to handle a bow and a lance, and to make a fire. To describe them properly I shall give a sketch of their forms and physiognomies.

The Ajeta, or little negro, is as black as ebony, like the Africans; his greatest height is four feet and a-half; his hair is woolly, and as he takes no trouble about cutting it, and knows not how to arrange it, it forms around his head a sort of crown, which gives him an odd aspect, and, at a distance makes him appear as if surrounded with a kind of halo; his eye is yellowish, but lively and brilliant, like that of an eagle. The necessity of living by the chase, and of pursuing his prey, produces the effect on this organ of giving to it the most extraordinary vivacity. The features of the Ajetas have something of the African black, but the lips are not so prominent; while young their forms are pretty; but their lives being spent in the woods, sleeping always in the open air without shelter, eating much one day and often having nothing—long fastings, followed by repasts swallowed with the voracity of wild beasts—gave them a protruding stomach, and made their extremities lank and shrivelled. They never wear any clothing, unless a belt of the rind of a tree, from eight to ten inches in breadth, which they tie round their waist; their arms are composed of a bamboo lance, a bow of the palm tree, and poisoned arrows. Their food consists of roots, of fruits, and of the products of the chase; the flesh they eat nearly raw; and they live in tribes composed of from fifty to sixty individuals. During the day, the old men, the infirm, and the children, remain near a large fire, while the others are engaged in hunting; when they have a sufficiency of food to last for some days, they remain round their fire, and sleep pell-mell among the cinders.

It is extremely curious to see collected together fifty or sixty of these brutes of every age, and each more or less deformed; the old women especially are hideous, their decrepit limbs, their big bellies and their extraordinary heads of hair, give them all the looks of furies, or of old witches.

I had scarcely arrived than women with very young children came in crowds to me. In order to satisfy them I caressed their babes: but that was not what they wanted, and, notwithstanding their gestures and their words, I could not make out their wishes. On the following day, the woman whom I have already mentioned as having lived for some time among the Tagalocs, arrived from a neighbouring tribe, accompanied by ten other women, each of whom had an infant in her arms. She explained what I was not able to comprehend on the previous day, and said: "We have amongst us very few words for conversation: all our children take at their birth the name of the place where they are born. There is great confusion, then, and we have brought them to you that you may give them names."

As soon as I understood this explanation, I wished to celebrate the ceremony with all the pomp that the circumstances and the place allowed. I went to a small rivulet, and there, as I knew the formula for applying the baptismal water, I took my two Indians as sponsors, and during several days baptised about fifty of these poor children. Each mother who brought her infant was accompanied by two persons of her own family. I pronounced the sacramental words, and poured water on the head of the child, and then announced aloud the name I had given to the child. Therefore, as they have no means of perpetuating their recollections, from the time that I pronounced the name,—Francis, for instance,—the mother and her accompanying witnesses repeated it very often, until they learned to say it correctly, and commit it to memory. Then they went away, and were constantly repeating the name, which they were anxious to retain.

The first day the ceremony was rather long; but the second day the number lessened, and I was allowed to pursue my examination of the character of my hosts. I had retained the woman who spoke Tagaloc, and in the long conversations which I held with her, she initiated me thoroughly in all their customs and usages.

The Ajetas have no religion; they do not adore any star. It seems, however, that they have transmitted to, or received from, the Tinguianes, the practice of adoring, during one day, a rock or a trunk of any tree on which they find any resemblance whatever of an animal; they then abandon it, and think no more of an idol until they meet with a strange form, which, for a short time, constitutes the object of their frivolous worship. They have a strong veneration for the dead; and during several years it is their practice to visit their graves, and there to leave a little tobacco or betel. The bow and arrows which once belonged to the deceased are hung up over his grave on the day of his interment; and every night, according to the belief of his surviving comrades, he rises up out of his grave, and goes to hunt in the forest.

Interments take place without any ceremony. The dead body is laid at full length in a grave, which is covered up with earth. But whenever one of the Ajetas is dangerously ill, and his recovery despaired of, or that he has been even slightly wounded by a poisoned arrow, his friends place him seated in a deep hole, with the arms crossed over his breast, and thus inter him while living.

I thought of speaking to my interpreter on religion, and asked her if she did not believe in a Supreme Being—an all-powerful Divinity, on whom all nature—even we ourselves—depend in all things; and who had created the firmament, and who was looking on at our acts. She looked at me with a smile, and said: "When I was young, amongst your brothers, I remember that they spoke to me of a master, who, as they said, had Heaven for his dwelling-place; but all that was lies; for see"—(she here took up a small stone and threw it into the air, saying, in a very serious tone)—"how can a king, as you say, remain in the sky any more than that stone?" What answer could I give to such reasoning? I left religion aside, to put to her other questions.

I have already stated that the Ajetas did not often wait for the death of a person to put him into the ground. As soon as the last honours are rendered to a deceased, it is requisite, conformably to their usages, to take revenge for his death. The hunters of the tribe to which he belonged set out, with their lances and their arrows, to kill the first living creature which should appear before their eyes—be it man, stag, wild boar, or buffalo. From the moment they start in search of a victim, they take care, in every part of the forest through which they pass, to break the young shoots of the arbustus shrub, by pointing its tops in the direction which they are following. This is done to give a caution to their friends, and other passers-by, to avoid those places in which they are searching for a victim, for if one of themselves fell into their hands, he would, without fail, be taken as the expiatory victim.

They are faithful in marriage, and have but one wife. When a young man has made his choice, his friends or his parents make a demand for the young girl; a refusal is never given. A day is chosen; and on the morning of that day the young girl is sent into the forest, where she hides herself or not, just as she pleases, and according as she wishes to be married to the young man who has asked her. An hour after her departure, the young man is sent to find out his bride. If he has the good luck to find her, and to bring her back to her parents before sunset, the marriage is concluded, and she becomes his wife without fail; but if, on the contrary, he returns to the camp without her, he is not allowed to renew his addresses.

Among the Ajetas old age is highly respected. It is always one of the oldest men who governs the assembled body. All the savages of this race live, as I have stated, in large families of from sixty to eighty persons. They ramble about through the forests, without having any fixed spot for their abode; and they change their encampment according to the greater or less quantity of game which they find in various places.

While thus living in a state of nature altogether primitive, these savages have no instrument of music, and their language imitating, as I have stated, the cries of monkeys, has very few sounds, which are extremely difficult for a stranger to pronounce, how much soever may be his eagerness to study them. They are excellent hunters, and make a wonderful use of the bow. The young negroes, however little, of each sex, while their parents are out hunting, amuse themselves on the banks of the rivulets with their small bows. If by chance they see any fish in the translucent stream they let fly an arrow at it, and it is seldom that they miss their aim.

All the weapons of the Ajetas are poisoned; a simple arrow could not cause a wound so severe as to stop a strong animal, such as a deer, in its course; but if the dart has been smeared with the poison known to them, the smallest puncture of it produces in the wounded animal an inextinguishable thirst, and death ensues upon satisfying it. The hunters then cut out the flesh around the wound, and use the remainder as food, without any danger; but if they neglect this precaution, the meat becomes so exceedingly bitter that even the Ajetas themselves cannot eat it.

Never having given credit to the famous boab of Java, I made experiments at Sumatra on the sort of poison of which the Malays make use to poison their weapons. I discovered that it was simply a strong solution of arsenic in citron juice, with which they coated their arms several times. I tried to find the poison used by the Ajetas. They led me to the foot of a large tree, and tore off a piece of its bark, and told me that that was the poison they used. I chewed some of it before them; it was insupportably bitter, but otherwise not injurious in its natural state. But the Ajetas make a preparation of it, the secret of which they refused to impart to me. When their poison is made up as a paste, they give to their arms a thin coating of it, about an eighth of an inch in thickness.

The Ajetas in their movements are active and supple to an incredible degree; they climb up the highest trees like monkeys, by seizing the trunk with both hands, and using the soles of their feet. They run like a deer in the pursuit of the wild animals: this is their favourite occupation. It is a very curious sight to see these savages set out on a hunting excursion; men, women, and children move together, very much like a troop of ourang-outangs when going on a plundering party. They have always with them one or two little dogs, of a very special breed, which they employ in tracking out their prey whenever it is wounded.

I enjoyed quite at my ease the hospitality exercised towards me by these primitive men. I saw amongst them, and with my own eyes, all that I was desirous of knowing. The painful life which I had led since my departure from home, without any shelter but the trees, and eating nothing but what the savages provided, began to tire me exceedingly: I resolved to return to Jala-Jala. Having previously noticed several graves at a short distance from our bivouac, an idea struck me of carrying away a skeleton of one of the savages, which would, in my judgment, be a curiosity to present to the Jardin des Plantes or to the Museum of Anatomy at Paris. The undertaking was one of great danger, on account of the veneration of the Ajetas for their dead. They might surprise us while violating their graves, and then no quarter was to be expected. I was, however, so much accustomed to overcome whatever opposed my will, that the danger did not deter me from acting upon my resolution. I communicated my intentions to my Indians, who did not oppose my project.

Some few days afterwards we packed up our baggage, and took farewell of our hosts. We shaped our course towards the Indian cemetery. In the first graves which we opened we found the bones decayed in part, and I could only procure two skulls, which were not worth the danger to which they exposed us. However, we continued our researches, and towards the close of the day discovered the remains of a woman, who, from the position of the body in the grave, must have been buried before her death. The bones were still covered with skin; but the body was dry, and almost like a mummy. This was a fit subject. We had taken the body out of the grave, and were beginning to pack it up piece by piece into a sack, when we heard small shrill cries at a distance. The Ajetas were coming upon us, and there was no time to be lost. We seized our prize and started off as quick as possible. We had not got a hundred yards, when we heard the arrows whistling about our ears. The Ajetas, perched on the tops of the trees, waited for us and attacked us, without our having any means of defence. Fortunately night came to our aid; their arrows, usually so sure, were badly directed, and did not touch us. While escaping we fired a gun to frighten them, and were soon able to leave them far behind, without having received any other injury than the alarm, and a sufficient notice of the danger to be encountered in disturbing the repose of their dead. On emerging from the wood, some drops of blood caused me to remark a slight scratch on the forefinger of my right hand; I attributed this to the hurry of my flight, and did not trouble myself much about it, as was my practice with trifles, but continued my march towards the sea-shore.

We still retained the skeleton, which we laid on the sandy beach, as well as our haversacks and guns, and sat down to rest after the fatigue of the journey. My companions then began to make reflections on our position, and my lieutenant, inspired by his affection for me, and his sense of the danger we were exposed to, addressed me in the following strain:

"Oh, master! what have we done, and what is to become of us? To-morrow morning the enraged Ajetas will come to attack us for the execrable booty which we have carried off from them at the risk of our lives. If they would attack in the open ground, with our guns we might defend ourselves; but what can one do against those animals, perched here and there like monkeys in the top branches of the trees of their forest? Those places are for them so many fortresses, from which they will to-morrow shower down upon us those darts, which, alas! never fail to do mischief. Luckily it was night when they attacked us just now, for otherwise we at this hour should have a lance through each of our bodies, and then they would have cut off our heads to serve as trophies for a superb fete. Your head, master, would first have been laid on the ground, and the brutes would have danced round it, and, as our leader, you would have been a target of honour for them to practise upon.

"And now, master, all that which would have occurred to us if the night had not favoured our escape is but deferred, for, alas! we cannot remain continually on this beach, although it is the only spot where we can protect ourselves against these black rascals. We must go to our homes, and this we cannot do without passing through the woods inhabited by these abominable creatures, who made us eat raw meat, and seasoned only with cinders. Well, master, before you undertook this excursion, you ought to have recollected all that happened to us among the Tinguians and the Igorrots."

I listened calmly to this touching lamentation of my lieutenant, who was perfectly right in all he said; but when he finished I sought to rouse his courage, and replied:

"What! my brave Alila! are you afraid? I thought the Tic-balan, and the evil spirits could alone affect your courage. Do you want to make me think that men like yourself, without any arms but bad arrows, are enough to make you quake? Come, enough of this cowardice; to-morrow we shall have daylight, and we shall see what is to be done. In the meantime let us search for shell-fish, for I am very hungry, notwithstanding the alarm into which you are trying to throw me."

This little sermon gave courage to Alila, who immediately set about making a fire, and then, by the aid of lighted bamboos, he and his comrade went to the rocks to find out the shell-fish.

Alila was nevertheless quite right, and I myself could not disguise the fact, that good luck alone could extricate us from the critical position in which we were placed by my fault, in having thought of my country, and in wishing to ornament the Museum of Paris with a skeleton of an Ajetas. [24]

From disposition and habit I was not a man to alarm myself with any danger which was not immediate; yet I avow that the last words I had said to Alila:—"To-morrow we shall have daylight, and we shall see what is to be done:"—came back to my mind, and for a short time occupied my thoughts.

My Indians brought back a large quantity of shell-fish, sufficient for our supper, and Alila ran up quite breathless, saying:

"Master, I have made a discovery! A hundred steps from this I have found a canoe, which the sea has cast upon the beach; it is large enough to hold us three. We can make use of it to get to Binangonan, and there we shall be safe from the poisoned arrows of these dogs the Ajetas."

This discovery was either that Providence had come to our aid, or it was a complication of dangers greater than those reserved to us on land on awaking in the morning.

I went instantly to the spot where Alila had made his important discovery, and having disencumbered the canoe from the sand with which it was partly covered, I soon became certain that, with some bamboos, and by stopping a few cracks, it would be staunch enough to take us over the Pacific ocean, away from the Ajetas.

"Well," said I to Alila, "you see I was right, and you must admit the hand of Providence is here. Is it not evident that this fine boat, built, perhaps, several thousand leagues from this, has arrived express from the Polynesian islands to carry us away from the claws of the savages."

"True, master, true; it is our luck. To-morrow they will finely be taken in on not finding us here; but let us set to work, for we have much to do before this fine boat, as you call it, will be in a fit state for going through the water."

We immediately made a large fire on the shore, and went into the woods to cut down bamboos and rattans; then we set to work to stop the holes, which decreased fast enough under our handy-work upon the abandoned canoe.

Persons who have never travelled amongst the savages cannot imagine how, without having been instructed in the arts, and without nails, one could stop up the fissures in such a boat, and put it in a state fit for sea. Yet the means were very simple; our poignards, bamboos, and rattans supplied everything; by scraping a bamboo we obtained from it something like tow, which we put into the chinks, so that the water could not enter. If it was necessary to stop any breach a few inches in width, we took from the bamboo a little plank, somewhat larger than the opening we wished to close, and then with the point of the poignard we pierced it all round with little holes, to match those which were made in the same manner in the boat itself. Afterwards, with long strings of the rattan, which we split up and made fine, we sewed the little plank to the boat, just as one would a piece of cloth on a coat; we covered the sewing with the elemi gum, and were sure the water could not pass through. The rattan served instead of hemp, and supplied all our necessities on the occasion.

We worked with ardour at this our new and only means of safety. Once caulked, we placed in it two large bamboos as beams, for without those beams we could not have sailed for ten minutes without being upset. Another bamboo served as our mast; the large sack of matting that contained our skeleton was transformed into a sail. At last, before the night was far advanced, every preparation was finished. The wind was favourable, and we hastened to try our boat, and to struggle with new difficulties.

We placed in the canoe our arms and the skeleton, the cause of our new troubles; we then pushed the boat over the sand and got it afloat. It took us a good half-hour to get clear of the breakers. We were every moment in danger of being swamped by the large waves, which rolled on, dashing against the rocks that bound the shore. At last, after we had overcome a thousand difficulties and dangers, we reached the open sea, and the regular wave—a real movable mountain—lifted up, without any sudden shock, our frail boat almost to the skies, and then in the same quiet manner let it sink into an abyss, from which it was again raised to the top of a liquid mountain. These large waves, which follow each other usually from interval to interval very regularly, cause no danger to a good pilot, who takes the precaution of turning the prow of his boat so as to meet them. But woe to him if he forgets himself, and makes a false manoeuvre, he is then sure to be upset and wrecked. Being used to the management of canoes, and, more confident in my own vigilance when at sea than in that of my Indians, I took the helm. The wind was favourable; we set up our little sail, and went very fast, although every moment I was obliged to turn the prow to the heavy waves. We were already a sufficient distance from the shore not to fear, if the wind changed, that we should be driven in among the breakers. Everything led us to expect a safe voyage, when unfortunately my poor Indians were taken ill. They had never sailed before except on the lakes of fresh water, and were now attacked with sea-sickness. This was vexatious to me, for I knew from experience that a person so attacked for the first time is altogether incapable of rendering any service, and even of protecting himself against the smallest danger that threatens him. I had no one to aid me in managing the boat, and was obliged to rely on my own exertions. I told him who held the sheet of the sail to hand it to me, and I twisted it round my foot, for both my hands were engaged in holding the paddle which was our helm. My Indians, like two inanimate bodies, lay at the bottom of the boat.

When I reflect on my position,—on the ocean, in a frail boat; having only for helps two individuals who could not move, two skulls, and a skeleton of an Ajetas,—I cannot help thinking that the reader may imagine that I have concocted a story for his amusement. However, I relate facts exactly as they occurred, and I leave all at liberty to believe as they please.

I was, as it were, alone in my frail boat, struggling continually with the large waves, which obliged me every moment to deviate from the course. I longed for daylight, for I hoped to be able to discern the beach of Binangonan de Lampon, as a place of refuge, where I should find the frank hospitality and the valuable assistance of my old friends.

At last the long-wished-for sun arose above the horizon, and I saw that we were about three leagues from the coast. I had gone far too much out to sea, and had passed Binangonan a long way. It was not possible to steer back, the wind would not allow it; so I decided on pursuing the same course, and on doing my best to reach, before night, Maoban, a large Tagaloc village, situate on the coast of Luzon, and which is separated by a small ridge of mountains from the lake of Bay. The first rays of the sun and a little calm restored my Indians to a state of being able to render me some service. We passed the day without eating or drinking, and we had the regret of seeing that we had not attained our purpose. Our position was most distressing: a storm might rise, the wind might blow with force, and our only resource then would be to throw ourselves into the breakers, and to reach the shore as well as we could. But luckily nothing of the kind took place; and about midnight we knew, from meeting a small island, that we were in front of the village of Maoban. I steered to it, and in a short time we arrived in a calm quiet bay, near a sandy shore. The fatigue and want of food had thoroughly exhausted my strength. I had no sooner landed than I threw myself on the ground, and fell into a deep sleep, which lasted until day. When I awoke I found the sun's rays were shining full upon me: it was near seven o'clock. On any other occasion I should have been ashamed of my laziness, but could I feel dissatisfied with myself for sleeping soundly after thirty-six hours' fasting, and spent in such extraordinary exertions? During my sleep one of my Indians went into the village in search of provisions, and I found excellent rice and salt fish near me. We made a delicious and splendid breakfast. My Indians, on behalf of the inhabitants, asked me to go to the village, and spend the day, but I was too eager to reach home. I knew by walking quickly we could get through the mountains, and arrive at night on the banks of the lake, within a few hours' journey from my house. I determined to start without any delay. We took our things out of the boat; the little sail retook its former shape, as a sack, to hold the skulls and the skeleton, the cause of all the disasters to which we had been exposed, and, with reunited strength, and abundant provisions for the day, we began to mount the high hills which separate the gulf of Maoban from the lake of Bay. The journey was laborious and painful. At seven o'clock we embarked on the lake, and towards midnight we reached Jala-Jala, where I very speedily forgot all the toil and trouble of my long and dangerous journey, while pressing my son in my arms and covering him with paternal kisses.

My excellent friend Vidie, to whom I sold my house and establishment, gave me letters which he had received from Manilla, and from them I learned that my presence was desired there on affairs of importance. I resolved to start on the following day.



CHAPTER XIII

I Determine not again to Separate from my Son—I take him to Manilla—The Effects of the Wound I received among the Ajetas—My Recovery—Kindness of the Spanish and other Inhabitants of Manilla—Illness of my Son—I return with him to Jala-Jala—Sorrowful Remembrances—The Death of my poor Boy—His Interment—My frantic Grief and Despair—I Determine to Quit the Philippines—I am Called to Manilla by Madame Dolores Seneris—My Final Departure from Jala-Jala—I Arrive at Manilla, where I resume Practice as a Surgeon—I Embark for France—Discontent—My Travels through Europe—I Marry again—Death of my Mother and my Second Wife—Conclusion.

Having now concluded my last trip into the interior of the Philippines, I was desirous of not separating myself again from my son, the only being that remained to me of all those whom I had loved so tenderly. I took him with me to Manilla; but I did not altogether bid farewell to Jala-Jala, yet I had almost the intention of never going back to it.

The journey was as agreeable as my melancholy recollections would permit. I experienced such pleasure in holding my boy in my arms, and in receiving his gentle caresses, that I occasionally forgot every sorrow.

I arrived at Manilla, and took up my quarters in the environs, at the abode of Baptiste Vidie, brother of the friend whom I had left at Jala-Jala.

After my escape from the Ajetas, I had noticed a small wound on the forefinger of my right hand, which I attributed to having been accidentally scratched by a branch or a thorn, while we were endeavouring to make our escape with such precipitation from the arrows which the savages let fly at us. The first night I spent at Manilla, I felt in the place where the wound was such extreme pain that I fell down twice totally senseless. The agony increased every instant, and became so violent that I could no longer doubt that it was caused by the poison of an arrow, shot at me by the Ajetas. I sent for one of my confreres, and after a most careful examination, he made a large incision, which did not, however, afford me any relief: the hand, on the contrary, festered up. By little and little the inflammation extended itself up my arm, and I was soon in an alarming state.

In short, after suffering during a whole month, and after the most cruel incertitude, it seemed that the poison had passed into my breast. I could not sleep for an instant; and, in spite of me, dead and painful cries came forth from my breast, which was on fire. My eyes were veiled—I could not see; a burning sweat covered my face; my blood was on fire, and did not circulate in my veins; my life seemed about to become extinct. The medical men declared that I could not pass through the night. According to the usages of the country, I was told that I ought to regulate my affairs for death. I asked that the consul-general of France, my excellent friend Adolphe Barrot, should be sent for.

Adolphe I knew to be a man of true heart and affection, and to him I recommended my poor boy. He promised to take care of him as if he were his own son, to take him to France, and to give him over to my family.

Lastly a good Dominican friar came, and with him I had several long conferences, and after he had dispensed to me the consolations of his ministry, he gave me extreme unction. Everything was done according to the customary form, and nothing was wanting but my death.

However, amidst all these preparations, I alone was not so eager; and, although in excessive anguish, I preserved my presence of mind, and declared I should not die. Was it courage? Was it great confidence in my strength and robust health, which made me believe in my recovery? Was it a presentiment, or was it an inward voice which told me: "The doctors are wrong, and how great will be their surprise tomorrow on finding me better?" In short, I did not wish to die; for, according to my system, my will ought to stop the order of nature, and to make me survive all imaginable pain.

The following day I was better: the doctors found my pulse regular, and without any intermitting symptom. Some days afterwards the poison passed out to my skin: my whole body was covered with a miliary eruption, and thenceforth I was safe. My recovery was very gradual, and for more than a year I felt acute pains in my breast.

During the course of my illness I received the kindest attention from my fellow-countrymen, and in general from all the Spanish inhabitants of Manilla; and here I ought to state, to the praise of the latter class, that during twenty years spent in the Philippines, I always found amongst those with whom I had dealings, a great nobleness of soul and a devotedness free from egotism. I shall never forget the kindnesses I received from this noble race, for which I entertain feelings of the warmest gratitude. To me, every Spaniard is a brother; and to him I shall always be happy to prove that his countrymen have not conferred obligations on an ungrateful character. I hope the reader will pardon me for having quitted my subject for a short time to fulfil the duty of gratitude; but are they not my recollections which I am detailing? [25]

The wish to undertake, together with my boy, the voyage which would restore me to my country; the hope of seeing my kind good mother, my sisters, and all the friends whom I had left behind, reconciled me somewhat to existence, and made me experience a little happiness. I was awaiting with impatience the time for embarking; but, alas! my mission was not yet terminated in the Philippines, and a new catastrophe, quickly opened afresh all my sorrows.

I was scarcely recovered, when my dear boy—my sole delight the last beloved being that remained to me on this earth, so fruitful in joys, and still so destructive of them—my poor Henry fell suddenly ill, and his disease made the most rapid progress. My friends immediately foreboded that a great misfortune would befall me. I alone did not know the state in which my child really was. I loved him with such an ardent passion, that I believed it impossible that Providence would deprive me of him. My medical attendant, or rather my friend, Genu, advised me to take him to Jala-Jala, where his native air and the country, as he said, would without doubt promote his recovery. I liked the advice, for so many persons had recovered their health at Jala-Jala that I hoped for my child a similar good result. I set out with him and his governess; the voyage was one of sadness, for I saw my poor boy continually suffering, without being able to afford him any relief.

On our arrival Vidie came to receive us, and in a few moments I occupied, with my Henry, the room which brought to my remembrance two very sorrowful losses—the death of my little daughter and that of my beloved Anna. It was, moreover, in that very room my Henry was born,—a cruel association of the happiest moments of my existence with that when I was bewailing the state of my beloved boy. Nevertheless, I did not altogether despair, for I had hopes in my art and experience. I seated myself by his bedside, and did not leave him for a moment. I slept close to him, and I passed every day in administering the medicine and all the comforts in my power, but without any good result, or any relief for his sufferings. I lost all hope, and on the ninth day after our arrival the dear boy expired in my arms.

It is not possible for me to give an account of my feelings on this last trial. My heart was broken, my head on fire! I became mad, and never did despair take such a hold on me. I listened to nothing but my sorrow; and force became necessary to tear from my arms the mortal remains of my child.

On the following day he was laid close to his mother, and another tomb was erected in the church of Jala-Jala.

In vain did my friend Vidie endeavour to afford me consolation, or to change the current of my affliction. Several times he tried to remove me from the fatal room, which I now looked upon as a scene of misfortunes, but he could not succeed. I hoped at the time—and I also thought that I too had a right—to die there, where my wife and my son had breathed their last sighs. My tears refused to flow, and even words failed me to express the full extent of my grief. An ardent fever, which devoured me, was far too slow for the eagerness of my wishes. In a moment of bewilderment, I was near committing the greatest act of cowardice which man can perpetrate against his Creator. I double-locked the door; I seized the poignard which I had so often used to protect my life, and pointed it against myself. I was already choosing the spot in which I should strike, in order by one blow to terminate my miserable existence. My arm, strengthened by delirium, was about to smite my breast, when one sudden thought came to prevent me from consummating the crime which has no pardon—although the crime of despair. My mother, my poor mother, whom I had so much loved, my good mother presented herself to my mind, and said to me: "Thou wouldst abandon me—I shall see thee no more!" I recollected then the words of Anna: "Go, and see thy mother again!" This thought changed my resolution completely. I threw the poniard aside with horror, and fell on my bed quite exhausted. My eyes, which during many days had been dry and burning, were once again overflowing with tears, which removed the heavy weight from my lacerated heart.

The force of mind of which I stood so much in need was awakened again within me: I no longer thought of death, but of fulfilling my rigorous destiny. Calmed and relieved already by the abundant flow of tears, I gave myself up wholly to the idea of embracing my mother and my sisters. Then I wished to add the following pages to my journal. My head was not thoroughly right. I shall translate what I then wrote in Spanish, which was my adopted and familiar language, in preference even to French, which I had scarcely spoken during twenty years:—

"How have I strength to take this pen? My poor boy!—my son!—my beloved Henry!—is no more: his soul has flown to his Creator! Oh, God! pardon this complaint in my distress. What have I done to be thus cruelly afflicted? My boy!—my dear son!—my only hope!—my last happiness!—I shall never again see thee! Formerly I was happy; I had my good Anna and my dear child; but cruel fate soon tore my companion from me. My trouble was indeed great, and my affliction was profound; but thou wast still with me, Oh, my child! and all my affections were concentrated in thee. "With thy caresses thou didst dry my tears; thy smile was like that of thy mother, and thy beautiful features reminded me of her, and in thee I found her again. But to-day, alas! I have lost you both. What a void! Oh, God! what a solitude! Oh! I ought to die in this room which is the depository of all my misfortunes. Here I bewailed my poor brother; here I closed the eyes of my daughter; here, also, Anna, when dying, bade me, bathed in tears, her last adieus; and here, at last, thou, my son, they tore thee from my arms, to lay thee near the ashes of thy mother.

"So many afflictions and so many troubles for one man! Oh, God of goodness and mercy, will you not restore to me my poor child? Alas! I scarcely feel that I am mistaken: but He will pity my bewilderment—he who has been beloved and who has seen carried off, one by one, all the elements of his happiness. As for me, an isolated being, and henceforward useless on this earth, it matters little where I shall sink under the weight of my afflictions. If it was not from the hope of seeing my mother and sisters, I should terminate my wretched existence, my grave should be with you—you all!—whom I loved so much. I should remain near you, and during the rest of my miserable existence I should every day visit your tombs! But no; a sacred duty obliges me to leave you, and to separate for ever from you. Cruel! Oh, cruel indeed will be the hour when I shall depart from you. And thou, my beloved, my good, excellent wife, my Anna, thy last words shall be accomplished. I will set out, but regret and grief accompany me during the voyage; my heart and my memory will remain at Jala-Jala. Oh! land bedewed with my sweat, with my blood, and with my tears! when fate brought me to thy shores thou wast covered with dismal forests which this day have given place to rich harvests: among thy inhabitants order, abundance, and prosperity have taken the place of debauchery and misery. My efforts were crowned with full success; all was prosperity around me. Alas! I was too happy! But while misfortune strikes me down and overwhelms me, it will have stricken me alone, my work will outlive me. You will be happy, Oh, my friends! and if I myself have been so in contributing to your welfare, let a thought sometimes awaken your feelings towards him to whom you often gave the name of 'Father;' and if you preserve gratitude towards him, Oh, take a religious care of the tombs, trebly dear to him, which he now intrusts to you."

My readers will pardon this melancholy and long lamentation; they will understand it if they examine with care my position. Separated from my country by five thousand five hundred leagues, the stroke of fate which laid all my cherished hopes in the dust was the more acutely felt as it was unexpected. I had no relatives in the Philippines; in France alone I might yet find some affections; and, at the moment of quitting Jala-Jala for ever, the idea of parting with my Indians—attached, devoted, as they were to me—was an additional grief to the many which overpowered me. Thus I could not resolve to acquaint them beforehand of this separation. I remained in my room, without quitting it even at meal times. My friend Vidie did everything possible to prepare me for these adieus, and to console me. He pressed me to start speedily for Manilla, and to make arrangements for my departure; but an irresistible force retained me at Jala-Jala. I was weak; my heart was so crushed by sorrows that I had no courage to adopt any resolutions. I put it off from day to day, and from day to day I was more undecided. An unexpected occasion was necessary in order to conquer my apathy; it was requisite also to triumph over me by sentiments of gratitude—sentiments which I could never resist.

On this occasion, the motive which decided my departure was furnished by Providence. I had a friend in Manilla, a lady of angelic goodness, gentleness, and devotedness. United from the period of my arrival in the most intimate manner with all her family, I had known her as a child, and afterwards married to a highly honourable man, of whom when she was subsequently bereaved, I afforded her all the consolations which the sincerest friendship could offer. She was a witness of the happiness which I enjoyed with my dear Anna, and, hearing that I was unhappy, she did not hesitate to undertake a long journey, and in her turn to come and take a part in my troubles. The excellent Dolores Seneris arrived one morning at Jala-Jala; she threw herself into my arms, and for some moments tears alone were the interpreters of our thoughts. When we recovered from our first emotions, she told me that she had come to take me away, and she herself made the preparations for my departure. I was too grateful for this proof of the friendship of the good Dolores not to acquiesce in her wishes, and it was decided that on the following day I should quit Jala-Jala for ever.

The report was soon spread among my Indians. They all came to bid me farewell: they wept, and they said to me:

"Oh, master, do not deprive us of all hope of seeing you again. Go, and receive consolation from your mother, and then return to your children." That day was filled with most distressing feelings.

The day following was Sunday. I went to say adieu to the remains of those whom I had loved even in their tombs. I heard for the last time the divine service in the modest little church which I had erected, and in which for a long time, surrounded by my dearest friends, I was happy to assemble, on the same day of the week, the small congregation of Jala-Jala.

After the service I proceeded to the beach, where the boat was waiting, which was to take me to Manilla. There—surrounded by my Indians, the good parish priest, Padre Miguel, and my friend Vidie—I bade adieu to them all for the last time. Dolores and I got into the boat, which was scarcely pushed off from the shore when every arm was stretched out towards me, and every one exclaimed:—"May your voyage be happy, master! And oh! return soon!"

One of the oldest Indians made a sign for silence, and then in a loud voice uttered these solemn words:—"Brothers, let us weep and pray, for the sun is obscured to us; the star which is going has shed light on our best days, and now for the future, being deprived of that light, we cannot tell how long will last the night in which we are plunged by the misfortune of his departure."

This exhortation of the old Indian were the last words that reached us: the boat moved away, as I, for the last time, fixed my eyes on the beloved land which I was never again to behold.

We reached Manilla late: it was one of those enchanting nights, which I have described in the happy period of my voyages. Dolores insisted that I should not lodge in any house but hers. Before she set out her careful friendship had provided for everything. I was surrounded by all those little attentions of which woman alone has the secret, and which she knows how to confer with such grace on him who is the object for whom they are designed.

My windows looked on the pretty river Pasig. I there passed whole days in looking at the graceful Indian canoes gliding over the water, and receiving the visits of my friends, who came with eagerness to endeavour to divert my thoughts, and to afford sources of pleasing conversation.

When I was alone I sought to dispel my melancholy by thinking of my voyage; on the happiness I should experience on seeing again my poor mother and sisters, a brother-in-law whom I did not know, and nieces born during my absence.

The obligation of returning the visits I received, and the re-establishment of my health, allowed me at length to enter into affairs connected with my departure.

My friend, Adolphe Barrot, consul-general of France, was every day in expectation of intelligence from his government, with orders for his return home. He proposed to me to wait for him, so that we might make the voyage together. I accepted the proposal with pleasure, and we decided amongst ourselves that, for our return, we should take the route of India, of the Red Sea, and of Egypt.

While I stayed at Manilla I did not wish to be idle. The Spaniards reminded me that at a former epoch I had carried on the art of medicine, and with great success. I soon had patients from all quarters of the island, and I resumed my old profession, and gave advice. But what difference between this time and that of my debut. Then I was young, full of strength and of hope; then I indulged in the illusions usual to youth; a long future of happiness presented itself to my imagination. Now, overwhelmed by the weight of troubles and of the laborious works I had executed, there was only one wish to excite me, and that was, to see France again; and yet my recollections took me continually back to Jala-Jala. Poor little corner of the globe, which I civilised! where my best years were spent in a life of labour, of emotions, of happiness, and of bitterness! Poor Indians! who loved me so much! I was never to see you again! We were soon to be separated by the immensity of the ocean.

Reflections and recollections beyond number thus occupied my mind. But, alas! it is vain to struggle against one's destiny; and Providence, in its impenetrable views, was reserving me for rude trials and fresh misfortunes.

Having again become a doctor at Manilla, where I had such difficulty at my commencement, I visited patients from morning until night. To Dolores and to her sister Trinidad I was indebted for the most touching and most delicate attentions, calculated to heal the wounds which were still bleeding in the bottom of my heart. I frequently saw the two sisters of my poor wife, Joaquina and Mariquita, as well as my young niece, the daughter of excellent Josephine, for whom I had entertained so warm a friendship, and who so soon followed my darling Anna to the grave. By little and little I was forming new ties of affection, which I was soon to break, and never afterwards to renew. I could not forget Jala-Jala, and my recollections never quitted that place where were deposited the remains of those whom of all the world I had most loved. My eager wishes induced me to hope that my work of colonisation should continue, and that my friend Vidie should find some compensation for the rough task he had undertaken. At this period, even while I remained in Manilla, a great misfortune was nearly the cause of throwing Jala-Jala back into its former state of barbarism. The bandits, who always respected the place while I was in possession of it, came one night to attack it, and made themselves masters of the house in which Vidie had shut himself up, and defended until he was forced to escape out of a window, and to run and hide in the woods, leaving his daughter, then very young, to the care of an Indian nurse. The bandits pillaged and shattered everything in the house; wounded his daughter by a sabre-cut, of which to this day she bears the marks; and then went off with the plunder they had made. But Jala-Jala had become too important a point to be neglected; and the Spanish government sent troops to it, to protect Vidie, and to maintain order.

At last, Adolphe Barrot received from the French government the long-awaited instructions to return home; all my preparations were made for setting out. It was in 1839; twenty years had passed over since I left my country, which I was now about to return to with satisfaction. For a long time I had received no news from my mother, and the pleasure which I anticipated from seeing her was troubled by the dread of having new sorrows to experience on my arrival. My mother was then very old; her life had been passed in long tribulations, and in complete sacrifice of self. The numerous moral troubles which she had gone through must have affected her state of health. Besides, I had been so unfortunate: fate seemed to have so roughly treated all my affections, that I could not refrain from thinking that I should never again see her for whom I abandoned my much-loved country. The day for sailing came; yet it was not without a heartfelt grief that I tore myself away from my friends, and bade adieu to the Philippines.



Here ought to terminate the account which I proposed: yet I cannot refrain from dedicating a few lines to my return to my native land.

On board various vessels I passed the coasts of India, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.

After having often admired the grand works of Nature, I felt a strong desire to see the gigantic works executed by the hand of man.

I went to Thebes, and there visited in detail its palaces, its tombs, and its monolithes. I descended the Nile, stopping at every place which contained any monuments worthy of my curiosity. I ascended one of the Pyramids. I passed several days in Cairo, and set out for Alexandria, where I embarked anew, to pass over the small space of sea which separated me from Europe.

I have sometimes wished to compare the grandest of human productions with the works of the Creator; the comparison is by no means favourable to the former, for all those useless ornaments are nothing but lasting proofs of pride, and of the fanaticism of a few men, who were obeyed by a people in slavery. I also saw all that remained of the traces of destruction committed by two of the greatest conquerors of the world: the first was but a haughty despot, causing cohorts of slaves to act as he pleased, and carrying the sword and destruction amongst peaceful people, to profane their tombs, to follow up useless conquests,—history afterwards shows him dying of an orgie; and the other, alas! was enchained to a rock.

From the summit of one of the Pyramids, in religious abstraction, I had contemplated the majestic Nile, which glides serpent-like through a vast plain, bordered by the Desert and arid mountains. Looking, then, below me, I could with difficulty descry some of my travelling companions, who were gazing at the Sphinx, and who appeared like little spots on the sand. And I then exclaimed: "It is not these useless monuments that we ought to admire, but rather this magnificent river, which, in obedience to the laws of all-powerful wisdom, overflows every year, at a fixed period, its limits, and spreads itself, like a vast sea, to water and to vivify these immense plains, which are afterwards covered with rich harvests. If this immutable and beneficent order of Nature did not endure, all these fertile districts would be but a desert waste, where no living creature could exist."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse