They penetrated a cavern, the guide warning the helmsman when to lower his head, when to crawl on all fours. After a short passage they arrived at a sort of room, dimly lighted by pitch torches, where twelve or fifteen men, dirty, ragged, and sinister, were talking low among themselves. His elbows resting on a stone, an old man of sombre face sat apart, looking toward the smoky torches. It was a cavern of tulisanes. When Elias arrived, the men started to rise, but at a gesture from the old man they remained quiet, contenting themselves with examining the newcomer.
"Is it thou, then?" said the old chief, his sad eyes lighting a little at sight of the young man.
"And you are here!" exclaimed Elias, half to himself.
The old man bent his head in silence, making at the same time a sign to the men, who rose and went out, not without taking the helmsman's measure with their eyes.
"Yes," said the old man to Elias when they were alone, "six months ago I gave you hospitality in my home; now it is I who receive compassion from you. But sit down and tell me how you found me."
"As soon as I heard of your misfortunes," replied Elias slowly, "I set out, and searched from mountain to mountain. I've gone over nearly two provinces." After a short pause in which he tried to read the old man's thoughts in his sombre face, he went on:
"I have come to make you a proposition. After vainly trying to find some representative of the family which caused the ruin of my own, I have decided to go North, and live among the savage tribes. Will you leave this life you are beginning, and come with me? Let me be a son to you?"
The old man shook his head.
"At my age," he said, "when one has taken a desperate resolution it is final. When such a man as I, who passed his youth and ripe age laboring to assure his future and that of his children, who submitted always to the will of superiors, whose conscience is clear—when such a man, almost on the border of the tomb, renounces all his past, it is because after ripe reflection he concludes that there is no such thing as peace. Why go to a strange land to drag out my miserable days? I had two sons, a daughter, a home, a fortune. I enjoyed consideration and respect; now I am like a tree stripped of its branches, bare and desolate. And why? Because a man dishonored my daughter; because my sons wished to seek satisfaction from this man, placed above other by his office; because this man, fearing them, sought their destruction and accomplished it. And I have survived; but if I did not know how to defend my sons, I shall know how to avenge them. The day my band is strong enough, I shall go down into the plain and wipe out my vengeance and my life in fire! Either this day will come or there is no God!"
The old man rose, and, his eyes glittering, his voice cavernous, he cried, fastening his hands in his long hair:
"Malediction, malediction upon me, who held the avenging hands of my sons! I was their assassin!"
"I understand you," said Elias; "I too have a vengeance to satisfy; and yet, from fear of striking the innocent, I choose to forego that."
"You can; you are young; you have not lost your last hope. I too, I swear it, would not strike the innocent. You see this wound? I got it rather than harm a cuadrillero who was doing his duty."
"And yet," said Elias, "if you carry out your purpose, you will bring dreadful woes to our unhappy country. If with your own hands you satisfy your vengeance, your enemies will take terrible reprisals—not from you, not from those who are armed, but from the people, who are always the ones accused. When I knew you in other days, you gave me wise counsels: will you permit me——"
The old man crossed his arms and seemed to attend.
"Senor," continued Elias, "I have had the fortune to do a great service to a young man, rich, kind of heart, upright, wishing the good of his country. It is said he has relations at Madrid; of that I know nothing, but I know he is the friend of the governor-general. What do you think of interesting him in the cause of the miserable and making him their voice?"
The old man shook his head.
"He is rich, you say. The rich think only of increasing their riches. Not one of them would compromise his peace to go to the aid of those who suffer. I know it, I who was rich myself."
"But he is not like the others. And he is a young man about to marry, who wishes the tranquillity of his country for the sake of his children's children."
"He is a man, then, who is going to be happy. Our cause is not that of fortunate men."
"No, but it is that of men of courage!"
"True," said the old man, seating himself again. "Let us suppose he consents to be our mouthpiece. Let us suppose he wins the captain-general, and finds at Madrid deputies who can plead for us; do you believe we shall have justice?"
"Let us try it before we try measures of blood," said Elias. "It must surprise you that I, an outlaw too, and young and strong, propose pacific measures. It is because I see the number of miseries which we ourselves cause, as well as our tyrants. It is always the unarmed who pay the penalty."
"And if nothing result from our steps?"
"If we are not heard, if our grievances are made light of, I shall be the first to put myself under your orders."
The old man embraced Elias, a strange light in his eyes.
"I accept the proposition," he said; "I know you will keep your word. I will help you to avenge your parents; you shall help me to avenge my sons!"
"Meanwhile, senor, you will do nothing violent."
"And you will set forth the wrongs of the people; you know them. When shall I have the response?"
"In four days send me a man to the lake shore of San Diego. I will tell him the decision, and name the person on whom I count."
"Elias will be chief when Captain Pablo is fallen," said the old man. And he himself accompanied the helmsman out of the cave.
The day after the departure of the doctor and the doctora, Ibarra returned to the pueblo. He hastened to the house of Captain Tiago to tell Maria he had been reconciled to the Church. Aunt Isabel, who was fond of the young fellow, and anxious for his marriage with her niece, was filled with joy. Captain Tiago was not at home.
"Come in!" Aunt Isabel cried in her bad Castilian. "Maria, Crisostomo has returned to favor with the Church; the archbishop has disexcommunicated him!"
But Crisostomo stood still, the smile froze on his lips, the words he was to say to Maria fled from his mind. Leaning against the balcony beside her was Linares; on the floor lay leafless roses and sampagas. The Spaniard was making garlands with the flowers and leaves from the vines; Maria Clara, buried in her fauteuil, pale and thoughtful, was playing with an ivory fan, less white than her slender hands.
At sight of Ibarra Linares paled, and carmine tinted the cheeks of Maria Clara. She tried to rise, but was not strong enough; she lowered her eyes and let her fan fall.
For some seconds there was an embarrassing silence; then Ibarra spoke.
"I have this moment arrived, and came straight here. You are better than I thought you were."
One would have said Maria had become mute: her eyes still lowered, she did not say a word in reply. Ibarra looked searchingly at Linares; the timid young man bore the scrutiny with haughtiness.
"I see my arrival was not expected," he went on slowly. "Pardon me, Maria, that I did not have myself announced. Some day I can explain to you—for we shall still see each other—surely!"
At these last words the girl raised toward her fiance her beautiful eyes full of purity and sadness, so suppliant and so sweet that Ibarra stood still in confusion.
"May I come to-morrow?" he asked after a moment.
"You know that to me you are always welcome," she said in a weak voice.
Ibarra left, calm in appearance, but a tempest was in his brain and freezing cold in his heart. What he had just seen and comprehended seemed to him incomprehensible. Was it doubt, inconstancy, betrayal?
"Oh, woman!" he murmured.
Without knowing where he went, he arrived at the ground where the school was going up. Senor Juan hailed him with delight, and showed him what had been done since he went away.
With surprise Ibarra saw Elias among the workmen; the helmsman saluted him, as did the others, and at the same time made him understand that he had something to say to him.
"Senor Juan," said Ibarra, "will you bring me the list of workmen?" Senor Juan disappeared, and Ibarra approached Elias, who was lifting a great stone and loading it on a cart.
"If you can, senor," said the helmsman, "give me an hour of conversation, there is something grave of which I want to talk with you. Will you go on the lake early this evening in my boat?"
Ibarra gave a sign of assent and Elias moved away. Senor Juan brought the list, but Ibarra searched it in vain for the name of the helmsman.
THE VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED.
The sun was just setting when Ibarra stepped into the little boat on the lake shore. He appeared disturbed.
"Pardon me, senor," said Elias, "for having asked this favor; I wished to speak to you freely, with no possibility of listeners."
"And what have you to say?"
They had already shot away from the bank. The sun had disappeared behind the crest of the mountains, and as twilight is of short duration in this latitude, the night was descending rapidly, lighted by a brilliant moon.
"Senor," replied Elias, "I am the spokesman of many unfortunates." And briefly he told of his conversation with the chief of the tulisanes, omitting the old man's doubts and threats.
"And they wish?" asked Ibarra, when he had finished.
"Radical reforms in the guard, the clergy, and the administration of justice."
"Elias," said Ibarra, "I know little of you, but I believe you will understand me when I say that though I have friends at Madrid whom I might influence, and though I might interest the captain-general in these people, neither they nor he could bring about such a revolution. And more, I would not take a step in this direction, because I believe what you want reformed is at present a necessary evil."
"You also, senor, believe in necessary evil?" said Elias with a tremor in his voice. "You think one must go through evil to arrive at good?"
"No; but I look at evil as a violent remedy we sometimes use to cure ourselves of illness."
"It is a bad medicine, senor, that does away with the symptoms without searching out the cause of the disease. The Municipal Guard exists only to suppress crime by force and terrorizing."
"The institution may be imperfect, but the terror it inspires keeps down the number of criminals."
"Rather say that this terror creates new criminals every day," said Elias. "There are those who have become tulisanes for life. A first offence punished inhumanly, and the fear of further torture separates them forever from society and condemns them to kill or to be killed. The terrorism of the Municipal Guard shuts the doors of repentance, and as a tulisan, defending himself in the mountains, fights to much better advantage than the soldier he mocks, we cannot remedy the evil we have made. Terrorism may serve when a people is enslaved, and the mountains have no caverns; but when a desperate man feels the strength of his arm, and anger possesses him, terrorism cannot put out the fire for which it has itself heaped the fuel."
"You would seem to speak reasonably, Elias, if one had not already his own convictions. But let me ask you, Who demand these reforms? You know I except you, whom I cannot class with these others; but are they not all criminals, or men ready to become so?"
"Go from pueblo to pueblo, senor, from house to house, and listen to the stifled groanings, and you will find that if you think that, you are mistaken."
"But the Government must have a body of unlimited power, to make itself respected and its authority felt."
"It is true, senor, when the Government is at war with the country; but is it not unfortunate that in times of peace the people should be made to feel they are at strife with their rulers? If, however, we prefer force to authority, we should at least be careful to whom we give unlimited power. Such a force in the hands of men ignorant, passionate, without moral training or tried honor, is a weapon thrown to a madman in the middle of an unarmed crowd. I grant the Government must have an arm, but let it choose this arm well; and since it prefers the power it assumes to that the people might give it, let it at least show that it knows how to assume it!"
Elias spoke with passion; his eyes were brilliant, his voice was resonant. His words were followed by silence; the boat, no longer driven forward by the oars, seemed motionless on the surface of the lake; the moon shone resplendent in the sapphire sky; above the far banks the stars glittered.
"And what else do they ask?"
"Reform of the religious orders,—they demand better protection——"
"Against the religious orders?"
"Against their oppression, senor."
"Do the Philippines forget the debt they owe those men who led them out of error into the true faith? It is a pity we are not taught the history of our country!"
"We must not forget this debt, no! But were not our nationality and independence a dear price with which to cancel it? We have also given the priests our best pueblos, our most fertile fields, and we still give them our savings, for the purchase of all sorts of religious objects. I realize that a pure faith and a veritable love of humanity moved the first missionaries who came to our shores. I acknowledge the debt we owe those noble men; I know that in those days Spain abounded in heroes, of politics as well as religion. But because the ancestors were true men, must we consent to the excesses of their unworthy descendants? Because a great good has been done us, may we not protest against being done a great wrong? The missionaries conquered the country, it is true; but do you think it is through the monks that Spain will keep the Philippines?"
"Yes, and through them only. It is the opinion of all those who have written on the islands."
"Senor," said Elias in dejection, "I thank you for your patience. I will take you back to the shore."
"No," said Ibarra, "go on; we should know which is right in so important a question."
"You will excuse me, senor," said Elias, "I have not eloquence enough to convince you. If I have some education, I am an Indian, and my words would always be suspected. Those who have expressed opinions contrary to mine are Spaniards, and as such disarm in advance all contradiction. Besides, when I see that you, who love your country, you, whose father sleeps below this calm water, you who have been attacked and wronged yourself, have these opinions, I commence to doubt my own convictions, I acknowledge that the people may be mistaken. I must tell these unfortunates who have placed their confidence in men to put it in God or in their own strength."
"Elias, your words hurt me, and make me, too, have doubts. I have not grown up with the people, and cannot know their needs. I only know what books have taught me. If I take your words with caution, it is because I fear you may be prejudiced by your personal wrongs. If I could know something of your story, perhaps it would alter my judgment. I am mistrustful of theories, am guided rather by facts."
Elias thought a moment, then he said:
"If this is so, senor, I will briefly tell you my history."
THE FAMILY OF ELIAS.
"It is about sixty years since my grandfather was employed as accountant by a Spanish merchant. Although still young, he was married, and had a son. One night the warehouse took fire, and was burned with the surrounding property. The loss was great, incendiarism was suspected, and my grandfather was accused. He had no money to pay for his defence, and he was convicted and condemned to be publicly flogged in the streets of his pueblo. Attached to a horse, he was beaten as he passed each street corner by men, his brothers. The curates, you know, advocate nothing but blows for the discipline of the Indian. When the unhappy man, marked forever with infamy, was liberated, his poor young wife went about seeking work to keep alive her disabled husband and their little child. Failing in this, she was forced to see them suffer, or to live herself a life of shame."
Ibarra rose to his feet.
"Oh, don't be disturbed! There was no longer honor or dishonor for her or hers. When the husband's wounds were healed, they went to hide themselves in the mountains, where they lived for a time, shunned and feared. But my grandfather, less courageous than his wife, could not endure this existence and hung himself. When his body was found, by chance, my grandmother was accused for not reporting his death, and was in turn condemned to be flogged; but in consideration of her state her punishment was deferred. She gave birth to another son, unhappily sound and strong; two months later her sentence was carried out. Then she took her two children and fled into a neighboring province.
"The elder of the sons remembered that he had once been happy. As soon as he was old enough he became a tulisan to avenge his wrongs, and the name of Balat spread terror in many provinces. The younger son, endowed by nature with a gentle disposition, stayed with his mother, both living on the fruits of the forest and dressing in the cast-off rags of those charitable enough to give. At length the famous Balat fell into the hands of justice, and paid a dreadful penalty for his crimes, to that society which had never done anything to teach him better than to commit them. One morning the young brother, who had been in the forest gathering fruits, came back to find the dead body of his mother in front of their cabin, the horror-stricken eyes staring upward; and following them with his own, the unhappy boy saw suspended from a limb the bloody head of his brother."
"My God!" cried Ibarra.
"It is perhaps the cry that escaped the lips of my father," said Elias coldly. "Like a condemned criminal, he fled across mountains and valleys. When he thought himself far enough away to have lost his identity, he found work with a rich man of the province of Tayabas. His industry and the sweetness of his disposition gained him favor. Here he stayed, economized, got a little capital, and as he was yet young, thought to be happy. He won the love of a girl of the pueblo, but delayed asking for her hand, fearing that his past might be uncovered. At length, when love's indiscretion bore fruit, to save her reputation he was obliged to risk everything. He asked to marry her, his papers were demanded, and the truth was learned. As the father was rich, he instituted a prosecution. The unhappy young man made no defence, and was sent to the garrison.
"Our mother bore twins, my sister and me. She died while we were yet young, and we were told that our father was dead also. As our grandfather was rich, we had a happy childhood; we were always together, and loved each other as only twins can. I was sent very early to the college of the Jesuits, and my sister to La Concordia, that we might not be completely separated. In time we returned to take possession of our grandfather's property. We had many servants and rich fields. We were both happy, and my sister was affianced to a man she adored.
"By my haughtiness, perhaps, and for pecuniary reasons, I had won the dislike of a distant relative. He threw in my face the obscurity of our origin and the dishonor of our race. Believing it calumny, I demanded satisfaction; the tomb where so many miseries sleep was opened, and the truth came forth to confound me. To crown all, there had been with us many years an old servant, who had suffered all my caprices without complaint. I do not know how our relative found it out, but he brought the old man before the court and made him declare the truth: he was our father. Our happiness was ended. I gave up my inheritance, my sister lost her fiance, and with our father we left the pueblo, to live where he might. The thought of the unhappiness he had brought upon us shortened our father's days, and my sister and I were left alone. She could not forget her lover, and little by little I saw her droop. One day she disappeared, and I searched everywhere for her in vain. Six months afterward, I learned that at the time I lost her there had been found on the lake shore of Calamba the body of a young woman drowned or assassinated. A knife, they said, was buried in her breast. From what they told me of her dress and her beauty, I recognized my sister. Since then I have wandered from province to province, my reputation and my story following in time. Many things are attributed to me, often unjustly, but I continue my way and take little account of men. You have my story, and that of one of the judgments of our brothers!"
Elias rowed on in a silence which was for some time unbroken.
"I believe you are not wrong when you say that justice should interest herself in the education of criminals," said Crisostomo at length; "but it is impossible, it is Utopia; where get the money necessary to create so many new offices?"
"Why not use the priests, who vaunt their mission of peace and love? Can it be more meritorious to sprinkle a child's head with water than to wake, in the darkened conscience of a criminal, that spark lighted by God in every soul to guide it in the search for truth? Can it be more humane to accompany a condemned man to the gallows than to help him in the hard path that leads from vice to virtue? And the spies, the executioners, the guards, do not they too cost money?"
"My friend, if I believed all this, what could I do?"
"Alone, nothing; but if the people sustained you?"
"I shall never be the one to lead the people when they try to obtain by force what the Government does not think it time to give them. If I should see the people armed, I should range myself on the side of the Government. I do not recognize my country in a mob. I desire her good; that is why I build a school. I seek this good through instruction; without light there is no route."
"Without struggle, no liberty; without liberty, no light. You say you know your country little. I believe you. You do not see the conflict coming, the cloud on the horizon: the struggle begun in the sphere of the mind is going to descend to the arena of blood. Listen to the voice of God; woe to those who resist it! History shall not be theirs!"
Elias was transfigured. He stood uncovered, his manly face illumined by the white light of the moon. He shook his mane of hair and continued:
"Do you not see how everything is waking? The sleep has lasted centuries, but some day the lightning will strike, and the bolt, instead of bringing ruin, will bring life. Do you not see minds in travail with new tendencies, and know that these tendencies, diverse now, will some day be guided by God into one way? God has not failed other peoples; He will not fail us!"
The words were followed by solemn silence. The boat, drawn on by the waves, was nearing the bank. Elias was the first to speak.
"What shall I say to those who sent me?"
"That they must wait. I pity their situation, but progress is slow, and there is always much of our own fault in our misfortunes."
Elias said no more. He lowered his eyes and continued to row. When the boat touched the shore, he took leave of Ibarra.
"I thank you, senor," he said, "for your kindness to me, and, in your own interest, I ask you to forget me from this day."
When Ibarra was gone, Elias guided his boat toward a clump of reeds along the shore. His attention seemed absorbed in the thousands of diamonds that rose with the oar, and fell back and disappeared in the mystery of the gentle azure waves. When he touched land, a man came out from among the reeds.
"What shall I say to the captain?" he asked.
"Tell him Elias, if he lives, will keep his word," replied the helmsman sadly.
"And when will you join us?"
"When your captain thinks the hour has come."
"That is well; adieu!"
"If I live!" repeated Elias, under his breath.
IL BUON DI SI CONOSCE DA MATTINA.
While Ibarra and Elias were on the lake, old Tasio, ill in his solitary little house, and Don Filipo, who had come to see him, were also talking of the country. For several days the old philosopher, or fool—as you find him—prostrated by a rapidly increasing feebleness, had not left his bed.
"The country," he was saying to Don Filipo, "isn't what it was twenty years ago."
"Do you think so?"
"Don't you see it?" asked the old man, sitting up. "Ah! you did not know the past. Hear the students of to-day talking. New names are spoken under the arches that once heard only those of Saint Thomas, Suarez, Amat, and the other idols of my day. In vain the monks cry from the chair against the demoralization of the times; in vain the convents extend their ramifications to strangle the new ideas. The roots of a tree may influence the parasites growing on it, but they are powerless against the bird, which, from the branches, mounts triumphant toward the sky!"
The old man spoke with animation, and his eye shone.
"And yet the new germ is very feeble," said the lieutenant. "If they all set about it, the progress already so dearly paid for may yet be choked."
"Choke it? Who? The weak dwarf, man, to choke progress, the powerful child of time and energy? When has he done that? He has tried dogma, the scaffold, and the stake, but E pur si muove is the device of progress. Wills are thwarted, individuals sacrificed. What does that mean to progress? She goes her way, and the blood of those who fall enriches the soil whence spring her new shoots. The Dominicans themselves do not escape this law, and they are beginning to imitate the Jesuits, their irreconcilable enemies."
"Do you hold that the Jesuits move with progress?" asked the astonished Don Filipo. "Then why are they so attacked in Europe?"
"I reply as did once an ecclesiastic of old," said the philosopher, laying his head back on the pillow and putting on his mocking air, "that there are three ways of moving with progress: ahead, beside, behind; the first guide, the second follow, the third are dragged. The Jesuits are of these last. At present, in the Philippines, we are about three centuries behind the van of the general movement. The Jesuits, who in Europe are the reaction, viewed from here represent progress. For instance, the Philippines owe to them the introduction of the natural sciences, the soul of the nineteenth century. As for ourselves, at this moment we are entering a period of strife: strife between the past which grapples to itself the tumbling feudal castle, and the future whose song may be heard afar off, bringing us from distant lands the tidings of good news."
The old man stopped, but seeing the expression of Don Filipo he smiled and went on.
"I can almost divine what you are thinking."
"You are thinking that I may easily be wrong; to-day I have the fever, and I am never infallible. But it is permitted us to dream. Why not make the dreams agreeable in the last hours of life? You are right: I do dream! Our young men think of nothing but loves and pleasures; our men of riper years have no activity but in vice, serve only to corrupt youth with their example; youth spends its best years without ideal, and childhood wakes to life in rust and darkness. It is well to die. Claudite jam rivos, pueri."
"Is it time for your medicine?" asked Don Filipo, seeing the cloud on the old man's face.
"The parting have no need of medicine, but those who stay. In a few days I shall be gone. The Philippines are in the shadows."
To keep holy the afternoon of Sunday in Spain, one goes ordinarily to the plaza de toros; in the Philippines, to the gallera. Cock-fights, introduced in the country about a century ago, are to-day one of the vices of the people. The Chinese can more easily deprive themselves of opium than the Filipinos of this bloody sport.
The poor, wishing to get money without work, risks here the little he has; the rich seeks a distraction at the price of whatever loose coin feasts and masses leave him. The education of their cocks costs both much pains, often more than that of their sons.
Since the Government permits and almost recommends it, let us take our part in the sport, sure of meeting friends.
The gallera of San Diego, like most others, is divided into three courts. In the entry is taken the sa pintu, that is, the price of admission. Of this price the Government has a share, and its revenues from this source are some hundred thousand pesos a year. It is said this license fee of vice serves to build schools, open roads, span rivers, and establish prizes for the encouragement of industry. Blessed be vice when it produces so happy results! In this entry are found girls selling buyo, cigars, and cakes. Here gather numerous children, brought by their fathers or uncles, whose duty it is to initiate them into the ways of life.
In the second court are most of the cocks. Here the contracts are made, amid recriminations, oaths, and peals of laughter. One caresses his cock, while another counts the scales on the feet of his, and extends the wings. See this fellow, rage in his face and heart, carrying by the legs his cock, deplumed and dead. The animal which for months has been tended night and day, on which such brilliant hopes were built, will bring a peseta and make a stew. Sic transit gloria mundi! The ruined man goes home to his anxious wife and ragged children. He has lost at once his cock and the price of his industry. Here the least intelligent discuss the sport; those least given to thought extend the wings of cocks, feel their muscles, weigh, and ponder. Some are dressed in elegance, followed and surrounded by the partisans of their cocks; others, ragged and dirty, the stigma of vice on their blighted faces, follow anxiously the movements of the rich; the purse may get empty, the passion remains. Here not a face that is not animated; in this the Filipino is not indolent, nor apathetic, nor silent; all is movement, passion. One would say they were all devoured by a thirst always more and more excited by muddy water.
From this court one passes to the pit, a circle with seats terraced to the roof, filled during the combats with a mass of men and children; scarcely ever does a woman risk herself so far. Here it is that destiny distributes smiles and tears, hunger and joyous feasts.
Entering, we recognize at once the gobernadorcillo, Captain Basilio, and Jose, the man with the scar, so cast down by the death of his brother. And here comes Captain Tiago, dressed like the sporting man, in a canton flannel shirt, woollen trousers, and a jipijapa hat. He is followed by two servants with his cocks. A combat is soon arranged between one of these and a famous cock of Captain Basilio's. The news spreads, and a crowd gathers round, examining, considering, forecasting, betting.
While men were searching their pockets for their last cuarto, or in lieu of it were engaging their word, promising to sell the carabao, the next crop, and so forth, two young fellows, brothers apparently, looked on with envious eyes. Jose watched them by stealth, smiling evilly. Then making the pesos sound in his pocket, he passed the brothers, looking the other way and crying:
"I pay fifty; fifty against twenty for the lasak!"
The brothers looked at each other discontentedly.
"I told you not to risk all the money," said the elder. "If you had listened to me——"
The younger approached Jose and timidly touched his arm.
"What! It's you?" he cried, turning and feigning surprise. "Does your brother accept my proposition?"
"He won't do it. But if you would lend us something, as you say you know us——"
Jose shook his head, shifted his position, and replied:
"Yes, I know you; you are Tarsilo and Bruno; and I know that your valiant father died from the club strokes of these soldiers. I know you don't think of vengeance——"
"Don't concern yourself with our history," said the elder brother, joining them; "that brings misfortune. If we hadn't a sister, we should have been hanged long ago!"
"Hanged! Only cowards are hanged. Besides, the mountain isn't so far."
"A hundred against fifty for the bulik!" cried some one passing.
"Loan us four pesos—three—two," begged Bruno. Jose again shook his head.
"Sh! the money isn't mine. Don Crisostomo gave it to me for those who are willing to serve him. But I see you are not like your father; he was courageous. The man who is not must not expect to divert himself." And he moved away.
"See!" said Bruno, "he's talking with Pedro; he's giving him a lot of money!" And in truth Jose was counting silver pieces into the palm of Sisa's husband.
Tarsilo was moody and thoughtful; with his shirt sleeve he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"Brother," said Bruno, "I'm going, if you don't; our father must be avenged!"
"Wait," said Tarsilo, gazing into his eyes—they were both pale—"I'm going with you. You are right: our father must be avenged!" But he did not move, and again wiped his brow.
"What are you waiting for?" demanded Bruno impatiently.
"Don't you think—our poor sister——"
"Bah! Isn't Don Crisostomo the chief, and haven't we seen him with the governor-general? What risk do we run?"
"And if we die?"
"Did not our poor father die under their clubs?"
"You are right!"
The brothers set out to find Jose, but hesitation again possessed Tarsilo.
"No; come away! we're going to ruin ourselves!" he cried.
"Go on if you want to. I shall accept!"
Unhappily a man came up and asked:
"Are you betting? I'm for the lasak."
"How much?" demanded Bruno.
The man counted his pieces.
"I have two hundred; fifty against forty!"
"No!" said Bruno resolutely.
"Good! Fifty against thirty!"
"Double it if you will."
"A hundred against sixty, then!"
"Agreed! Wait while I go for the money," and turning to his brother he said:
"Go away if you want to; I shall stay!"
Tarsilo reflected. He loved Bruno, and he loved sport.
"I am with you," he said. They found Jose.
"Uncle," said Tarsilo, "how much will you give?" "I've told you already; if you will promise to find others to help surprise the quarters, I'll give you thirty pesos each, and ten to each companion. If all goes well, they will each receive a hundred, and you double. Don Crisostomo is rich!"
"Agreed!" cried Bruno; "give us the money!"
"I knew you were like your father! Come this way, so that those who killed him cannot hear us," said Jose. And drawing them into a corner, he added as he counted out the money:
"Don Crisostomo has come and brought the arms. To-morrow night at eight o'clock meet me in the cemetery. I will give you the final word. Go find your companions." And he left them.
The brothers appeared to have exchanged roles. Tarsilo now seemed undisturbed; Bruno was pale. They went back to the crowd, which was leaving the circle for the raised seats. Little by little the place became silent. Only the soltadores were left in the ring holding two cocks, with exaggerated care, looking out for wounds. The silence became solemn; the spectators became mere caricatures of men; the fight was about to begin.
Two days later Brother Salvi presented himself at the house of Captain Tiago. The Franciscan was more gaunt and pale than usual; but as he went up the steps a strange light shone in his eyes, and his lips parted in a strange smile. Captain Tiago kissed his hand, and took his hat and cane, smiling beatifically.
"I bring good news," said the curate as he entered the drawing-room; "good news for everybody. I have letters from Manila confirming the one Senor Ibarra brought me, so that I believe, Don Santiago, the obstacle is quite removed."
Maria Clara, seated at the piano, made a movement to rise, but her strength failed her and she had to sit down again. Linares grew pale; Captain Tiago lowered his eyes.
"The young man seems to me very sympathetic," said the curate. "At first I misjudged him. He is impulsive, but when he commits a fault, he knows so well how to atone for it that one is forced to forgive him. If it were not for Father Damaso——" And the curate flashed a glance at Maria Clara. She was listening with all her being, but did not take her eyes off her music, in spite of the pinches that were expressing Sinang's joy. Had they been alone they would have danced.
"But Father Damaso has said," continued the curate, without losing sight of Maria Clara, "that as godfather he could not permit; but, indeed, I believe if Senor Ibarra will ask his pardon everything will arrange itself."
Maria rose, made an excuse, and with Victorina left the room.
"And if Father Damaso does not pardon him?" asked Don Santiago in a low voice.
"Then Maria Clara must decide. But I believe the matter can be arranged."
The sound of an arrival was heard, and Ibarra entered. His coming made a strange impression. Captain Tiago did not know whether to smile or weep. Father Salvi rose and offered his hand so affectionately that Crisostomo could scarcely repress a look of surprise.
"Where have you been all day?" demanded wicked Sinang. "We asked each other: 'What can have taken that soul newly rescued from perdition?' and each of us had her opinion."
"And am I to know what each opinion was?"
"No, not yet! Tell me where you went, so I can see who made the best guess."
"That's a secret too; but I can tell you by yourself if these gentlemen will permit."
"Certainly, certainly?" said Father Salvi. Sinang drew Crisostomo to the other end of the great room.
"Tell me, little friend," said he, "is Maria angry with me?"
"I don't know. She says you had best forget her, and then she cries. This morning when we were wondering where you were I said to tease her: 'Perhaps he has gone a-courting.' But she was quite grave, and said: 'It is God's will!'"
"Tell Maria I must see her alone," said Ibarra, troubled.
"It will be difficult, but I'll try to manage it."
"And when shall I know?"
"To-morrow. But you are going without telling me the secret!"
"So I am. Well, I went to the pueblo of Los Banos to see about some cocoanut trees!"
"What a secret!" cried Sinang aloud in a tone of a usurer despoiled.
"Take care, I really don't want you to speak of it."
"I've no desire to," said Sinang scornfully. "If it had been really of importance I should have told my friends; but cocoanuts, cocoanuts, who cares about cocoanuts!" and she ran off to find Maria.
Conversation languished, and Ibarra soon took his leave. Captain Tiago was torn between the bitter and the sweet. Linares said nothing. Only the curate affected gayety and recounted tales.
The bell was announcing the time of prayer the evening after. At its sound every one stopped his work and uncovered. The laborer coming from the fields checked his song; the woman in the streets crossed herself; the man caressed his cock and said the Angelus, that chance might favor him. And yet the curate, to the great scandal of pious old ladies, was running through the street toward the house of the alferez. He dashed up the steps and knocked impatiently. The alferez opened.
"Ah, father, I was just going to see you; your young buck——"
"I've something very important——" began the breathless curate.
"I can't allow the fences to be broken; if he comes back, I shall fire on him."
"Who knows whether to-morrow you will be alive," said the curate, going on toward the reception-room.
"What? You think that youngster is going to kill me?"
"Senor alferez, the lives of all of us are in danger!"
The curate pointed to the door, which the alferez closed in his customary fashion.
"Now, go ahead," he said calmly.
"Did you see how I ran? When I thus forget myself, there is some grave reason."
"And this time it is——"
The curate approached him and spoke low.
"Do you—know—of nothing—new?"
The alferez shrugged his shoulders.
"Are you speaking of Elias?"
"No, no! I'm speaking of a great peril!"
"Well, finish then!" cried the exasperated alferez.
The curate lowered his voice mysteriously:
"I have discovered a conspiracy!"
The alferez gave a spring and looked at the curate in stupefaction.
"A terrible conspiracy, well organized, that is to break out to-night!"
The alferez rushed across the room, took down his sabre from the wall, and grasped his revolver.
"Whom shall I arrest?" he cried.
"Be calm! There is plenty of time, thanks to the haste with which I came. At eight o'clock——"
"They shall be shot, all of them!"
"Listen! It is a secret of the confessional, discovered to me by a woman. At eight o'clock they are to surprise the barracks, sack the convent, and assassinate all the Spaniards."
The alferez stood dumbfounded.
"Be ready for them; ambush your soldiers; send me four guards for the convent! You will earn your promotion to-night! I only ask you to make it known that it was I who warned you."
"It shall be known, father; it shall be known, and, perhaps, it will bring down a mitre!" replied the alferez, his eyes on the sleeves of his uniform.
While this conversation was in progress, Elias was running toward the house of Ibarra. He entered and was shown to the laboratory, where Crisostomo was passing the time until the hour of his appointment with Maria Clara.
"Ah! It is you, Elias?" he said, without noticing the tremor of the helmsman. "See here! I've just made a discovery: this piece of bamboo is non-combustible."
"Senor, there is no time to talk of that; take your papers and flee!"
Ibarra looked up amazed, and, seeing the gravity of the helmsman's face, let fall the piece of bamboo.
"Leave nothing behind that could compromise you, and may an hour from this time find you in a safer place than this!"
"What does all this mean?"
"That there is a conspiracy on foot which will be attributed to you. I have this moment been talking with a man hired to take part in it."
"Did he tell you who paid him?"
"He said it was you."
Ibarra stared in stupid amazement.
"Senor, you haven't a moment to lose. The plot is to be carried out to-night."
Crisostomo still gazed at Elias, as if he did not understand.
"I learned of it too late; I don't know the leaders; I can do nothing. Save yourself, senor!"
"Where can I go? I am due now at Captain Tiago's," said Ibarra, beginning to come out of his trance.
"To another pueblo, to Manila, anywhere! Destroy your papers! Fly, and await events!"
"And Maria Clara? No! Better die!"
Elias wrung his hands.
"Prepare for the accusation, at all events. Destroy your papers!"
"Aid me then," said Crisostomo, in almost helpless bewilderment. "They are in these cabinets. My father's letters might compromise me. You will know them by the addresses." And he tore open one drawer after another. Elias worked to better purpose, choosing here, rejecting there. Suddenly he stopped, his pupils dilated; he turned a paper over and over in his hand, then in a trembling voice he asked:
"Your family knew Don Pedro Eibarramendia?"
"He was my great-grandfather."
"Your great-grandfather?" repeated Elias, livid.
"Yes," said Ibarra mechanically, and totally unobservant of Elias. "The name was too long; we cut it."
"Was he a Basque?" asked Elias slowly.
"Yes; but what ails you?" said Crisostomo, looking round and recoiling before the hard face and clenched fists of Elias.
"Do you know who Don Pedro Eibarramendia was? Don Pedro Eibarramendia was the wretch who caused all our misfortune! I have long been searching for his descendants; God has delivered you into my hands! Look at me! Do you think I have suffered? And you live, and you love, and have a fortune and a home; you live, you live!" and, beside himself, he ran toward a collection of arms on the wall. But no sooner had he reached down two poniards than he dropped them, looking blindly at Ibarra, who stood rigid.
"What was I going to do?" he said under his breath, and he fled like a madman.
Captain Tiago, Aunt Isabel, and Linares were dining. Maria Clara had said she was not hungry, and was at the piano with Sinang. The two girls had arranged this moment for meeting Ibarra away from too watchful eyes. The clock struck eight.
"He's coming! Listen!" cried the laughing Sinang.
He entered, white and sad. Maria Clara, in alarm, started toward him, but before any one could speak a fusilade sounded in the street; then random pistol shots, and cries and clamor. Crisostomo seemed glued to the floor. The diners came running in crying: "The tulisanes! The tulisanes!" Aunt Isabel fell on her knees half dead from fright, Captain Tiago was weeping. Some one rushed about fastening the windows. The tumult continued outside; then little by little there fell a dreadful silence. Presently the alferez was heard crying out as he ran through the street:
"Father Salvi! Father Salvi!"
"Mercy!" exclaimed Aunt Isabel. "The alferez is asking for confession!"
"The alferez is wounded!" murmured Linares, with an expression of the utmost relief.
"The tulisanes have killed the alferez! Maria, Sinang, into your chamber! Barricade the door!"
In spite of the protests of Aunt Isabel, Ibarra went out into the street. Everything seemed turning round and round him; his ears rang; he could scarcely move his limbs. Spots of blood, flashes of light and darkness alternated before his eyes. The streets were deserted, but the barracks were in confusion, and voices came from the tribunal, that of the alferez dominating all the others. Ibarra passed unchallenged, and reached his home, where his servants were anxiously watching for him.
"Saddle me the best horse and go to bed," he said to them.
He entered his cabinet and began to pack a valise. He had put in his money and jewels and Maria's picture and was gathering up his papers when there came three resounding knocks at the house door.
"Open in the name of the King! Open or we force the door!" said an imperious voice. Ibarra armed himself and looked toward the window; then changed his mind, threw down his revolver, and went to the door. Three guards immediately seized him.
"I make you prisoner in the name of the King!" said the sergeant.
"You will learn at the tribunal; I am forbidden to talk with you."
"I am at your disposition. It will not be for, I suppose, long."
"If you promise not to try to escape us, we may leave your hands free; the alferez grants you that favor."
Crisostomo took his hat and followed the guards, leaving his servants in consternation.
Elias, after leaving the house of Ibarra, ran like a madman, not knowing whither. He crossed the fields and reached the wood. He was fleeing from men and their habitations; he was fleeing from light; the moon made him suffer. He buried himself in the mysterious silence of the wood. The birds stirred, wakened from their sleep; owls flew from branch to branch, screeching or looking at him with great, round eyes. Elias did not see or hear them; he thought he was followed by the irate shades of his ancestors. From every branch hung the bleeding head of Balat. At the foot of every tree he stumbled against the cold body of his grandmother; among the shadows swung the skeleton of his infamous grandfather; and the skeleton, the body, and the bleeding head cried out: "Coward! Coward!"
He ran on. He left the mountain and went down to the lake, moving feverishly along the shore; his wandering eyes became fixed upon a point on the tranquil surface, and there, surrounded by a silver nimbus and rocked by the tide, stood a shade which he seemed to recognize. Yes, that was her hair, so long and beautiful; yes, that was her breast, gaping from the poniard stroke. And the wretched man, kneeling in the sand, stretched out his arms to the cherished vision:
"Thou! Thou, too!" he cried.
His eyes fixed on the apparition, he rose, entered the water and descended the gentle slope of the beach. Already he was far from the bank; the waves lapped his waist; but he went on fascinated. The water reached his breast. Did he know it? Suddenly a volley tore the air; the night was so calm that the rifle shots sounded clear and sharp. He stopped, listened, came to himself; the shade vanished; the dream was gone. He perceived that he was in the lake, level with his eyes across the tranquil water he saw the lights in the poor cabins of fishermen. Everything came back to him. He made for the shore and went rapidly toward the pueblo.
San Diego was deserted; the houses were closed; even the dogs had hidden themselves. The glittering light that bathed everything detached the shadows boldly, making the solitude still more dreary.
Fearing to encounter the guards, Elias scaled fences and hedges, and so, making his way through the gardens, reached the home of Ibarra. The servants were around the door lamenting the arrest of their master. Elias learned what had happened, and made feint of going away, but returned to the back of the house, jumped the wall, climbed into a window and made his way to the laboratory. He saw the papers, the arms taken down, the bags of money and jewels, Maria's picture, and had a vision of Ibarra surprised by the soldiers. He meditated a moment and decided to bury the things of value in the garden. He gathered them up, went to the window, and saw gleaming in the moonlight the casques and bayonets of the guard. His plans were quickly laid. He hid about his person the money and jewels, and, after an instant's hesitation, the picture of Maria. Then, heaping all the papers in the middle of the room, he saturated them with oil from a lamp, threw the lighted candle in the midst, and sprang out of the window. It was none too soon: the guards were forcing entrance against the protests of the servants.
But dense smoke made its way through the house and tongues of flame began to break out. Soldiers and servants together cried fire and rushed toward the cabinet, but the flames had reached the chemicals, and their explosion drove every one back. The water the servants could bring was useless, and the house stood so apart that their cries brought no aid. The flames leaped upward amid great spirals of smoke; the house, long respected by the elements, was now their prisoner.
It was not yet dawn. The street in which were the barracks and tribunal was still deserted; none of its houses gave a sign of life. Suddenly the shutter of a window opened with a bang and a child's head appeared, looking in all directions, the little neck stretched to its utmost—plas! It was the sound of a smart slap in contact with the fresh human skin. The child screwed up his face, shut his eyes, and disappeared from the window, which was violently closed again.
But the example had been given: the two bangs of the shutter had been heard. Another window opened, this time with precaution, and the wrinkled and toothless head of an old woman looked stealthily out. It was Sister Puta, the old dame who had caused such a commotion during Father Damaso's sermon. Children and old women are the representatives of curiosity in the world; the children want to know, the old women to live over again. The old sister stayed longer than the child, and gazed into the distance with contracted brows. Timidly a skylight opened in the house opposite, giving passage to the head and shoulders of sister Rufa. The two old women looked across at each other, smiled, exchanged gestures, and signed themselves.
"Since the sack of the pueblo by Balat I've not known such a night!" said Sister Puta.
"What a firing! They say it was the band of old Pablo."
"Tulisanes? Impossible! I heard it was the cuadrilleros against the guards; that's why Don Filipo was arrested."
"They say at least fourteen are dead."
Other windows opened and people were seen exchanging greetings and gossip.
By the light of the dawn, which promised a splendid day, soldiers could now be seen dimly at the end of the street, like gray silhouettes coming and going.
"Do you know what it was?" asked a man, with a villainous face.
"Yes, the cuadrilleros."
"No, senor, a revolt!"
"What revolt? The curate against the alferez?"
"Oh, no; nothing of that kind. It was an uprising of the Chinese."
"The Chinese!" repeated all the listeners, with great disappointment.
"That's why we don't see one!"
"They are all dead!"
"I—I suspected they had something on foot!"
"I saw it, too. Last night——"
"What a pity they are all dead before Christmas!" cried Sister Rufa. "We shall not get their presents!"
The streets began to show signs of life. First the dogs, pigs, and chickens began to circulate; then some little ragged boys, keeping hold of each other's hands, ventured to approach the barracks. Two or three old women crept after them, their heads wrapt in handkerchiefs knotted under their chins, pretending to tell their beads, so as not to be driven back by the soldiers. When it was certain that one might come and go without risking a pistol shot, the men commenced to stroll out. Affecting indifference and stroking their cocks, they finally got as far as the tribunal.
Every quarter hour a new version of the affair was circulated. Ibarra with his servants had tried to carry off Maria Clara, and in defending her, Captain Tiago had been wounded. The number of dead was no longer fourteen, but thirty. At half-past seven the version which received most credit was clear and detailed.
"I've just come from the tribunal," said a passer, "where I saw Don Filipo and Don Crisostomo prisoners. Well, Bruno, son of the man who was beaten to death, has confessed everything. You know, Captain Tiago is to marry his daughter to the young Spaniard. Don Crisostomo wanted revenge, and planned to massacre all the Spaniards. His band attacked the convent and the barracks. They say many of them escaped. The guards burned Don Crisostomo's house, and if he hadn't been arrested, they would have burned him, too."
"They burned the house?"
"You can still see the smoke from here," said the narrator.
Everybody looked: a column of smoke was rising against the sky. Then the comments began, some pitying, some accusing.
"Poor young man!" cried the husband of Sister Puta.
"What!" cried the sister. "You are ready to defend a man that heaven has so plainly punished? You'll find yourself arrested too. You uphold a falling house!"
The husband was silent; the argument had told.
"Yes," went on the old woman. "After striking down Father Damaso, there was nothing left but to kill Father Salvi!"
"But you can't deny he was a good child."
"Yes, he was good," replied the old woman; "but he went to Europe, and those who go to Europe come back heretics, the curates say."
"Oho!" said the husband, taking his advantage. "And the curate, and all the curates, and the archbishop, and the pope, aren't they all Spaniards? What? And are they heretics?"
Happily for Sister Puta, the conversation was cut short. A servant came running, pale and horror-stricken.
"A man hung—in our neighbor's garden!" she gasped.
A man hung! Nobody stirred.
"Let's come and see," said the old man, rising.
"Don't go near him," cried Sister Puta, "'twill bring us misfortune. If he's hung, so much the worse for him!"
"Let me see him, woman. You, Juan, go and inform them at the tribunal; he may not be dead." And the old man went off, the women, even Sister Puta, following at a distance, full of fear, but also of curiosity.
Hanging from the branch of a sandal tree in the garden a human body met their gaze. The brave man examined it.
"We must wait for the authorities; he's been dead a long time," he said.
Little by little the women drew near.
"It's the new neighbor," they whispered. "See the scar on his face?"
In half an hour the authorities arrived.
"People are in a great hurry to die!" said the directorcillo, cocking his pen behind his ear, and he began his investigation.
Meanwhile a peasant wearing a great salakat on his head and having his neck muffled was examining the body and the cord. He noticed several evidences that the man was dead before he was hung. The curious countryman noticed also that the clothing seemed recently torn and was covered with dust.
"What are you looking at?" demanded the directorcillo, who had gathered all his evidence.
"I was looking, senor, to see if I knew him," stammered the man, half uncovering, in which he managed to lower his salakat even farther over his eyes.
"But didn't you hear that it is a certain Jose? You must be asleep!"
Everybody laughed. The confused countryman stammered something else and went away. When he had reached a safe distance, he took off his disguise and resumed the stature and gait of Elias.
With threatening air the guards marched back and forth before the door of the town hall, menacing with the butt of their rifles intrepid small boys, who came and raised themselves on tiptoe to see through the gratings.
The court room had not the same appearance as the day of the discussion of the fete. The guards and the cuadrilleros spoke low; the alferez paced the room, looking angrily at the door from time to time. In a corner yawned Dona Consolacion, her steely eyes riveted on the door leading into the prison. The arm-chair under the picture of His Majesty was empty.
It was almost nine o'clock when the curate arrived.
"Well," said the alferez, "you haven't kept us waiting!"
"I did not wish to be here," said the curate, ignoring the tone of the alferez. "I am very nervous."
"I thought it best to wait for you," said the alferez. "We have eight here," he went on, pointing toward the door of the prison; "the one called Bruno died in the night. Are you ready to examine the two unknown prisoners?"
The curate sat down in the arm-chair.
"Let us go on," he said.
"Bring out the two in the cepo!" ordered the alferez in as terrible a voice as he could command. Then turning to the curate:
"We skipped two holes."
For the benefit of those not acquainted with the instruments of torture of the Philippines, we will say that the cepo, a form of stocks, is one of the most innocent; but by skipping enough holes, the position is made most trying. It is, however, a torture that can be long endured.
The jailor drew the bolt and opened the door. A sickening odor escaped, and a match lighted by one of the guards went out in the vitiated air; when it was possible to take in a candle, one could see dimly, from the rooms outside, the forms of men crouching or standing. The cepo was opened.
A dark figure came out between two soldiers; it was Tarsilo, the brother of Bruno. His torn clothing let his splendid muscles show. The other prisoner brought out was weeping and lamenting.
"What is your name?" the alferez demanded of Tarsilo.
"What did Don Crisostomo promise you for attacking the convent?"
"I have never had any communication with Don Crisostomo."
"Don't attempt to deny it: what other reason had you for joining the conspiracy?"
"You had killed our father, we wished to avenge him, nothing more. Go find two of your guards. They're at the foot of the precipice, where we threw them. You may kill me now, you will learn nothing more."
There was silence and general surprise.
"You will name your accomplices," cried the alferez, brandishing his cane.
The accused man smiled disdainfully. The alferez talked apart with the curate.
"Take him where the bodies are," he ordered.
In a corner of the patio, on an old cart, five bodies were heaped under a piece of soiled matting.
"Do you know them?" asked the alferez, lifting the covering. Tarsilo did not reply. He saw the body of Sisa's husband, and that of his brother, pierced through with bayonet strokes. His face grew darker, and a great sigh escaped him; but he was mute.
"Beat him till he confesses or dies!" cried the exasperated alferez.
They led him back where the other prisoner, with chattering teeth, was invoking the saints.
"Do you know this man?" demanded Father Salvi.
"I never saw him before," replied Tarsilo, looking at the poor wretch with faint compassion.
"Fasten him to the bench; gag him!" ordered the alferez, trembling with rage. When this was done, a guard began his sad task.
Father Salvi, pale and haggard, rose trembling, and left the tribunal. In the street he saw a girl, leaning against the wall, rigid, motionless, her eyes far away. The sun shone full down on her. She seemed not to breathe but to count, one after another, the muffled blows inside. It was Tarsilo's sister.
The torture continued until the soldier, breathless, let his arm fall, and the alferez ordered his victim released. But Tarsilo still refused to speak. Then Dona Consolacion whispered in her husband's ear; he nodded.
"To the well with him!" he said.
The Filipinos know what that means. In Tagalo it is called timbain. We do not know who invented this judiciary process, but it must belong to antiquity. Truth coming out of a well is perhaps a sarcastic interpretation.
In the middle of the patio of the tribunal was a picturesque well curb of uncut stones. It had a rustic crank of bamboo; its water was slimy and putrid. All sorts of refuse had been thrown around it and in it.
Toward this Tarsilo was led. He was very pale, and his lips trembled, if he was not praying. The pride he had shown appeared now to be crushed out; he seemed resigned to suffer. The poor wretch looked enviously at the pile of bodies, and sighed heavily.
"Speak then!" said the directorcillo. "You will be hung anyway. Why not die without so much suffering?" But Tarsilo remained mute.
When the well was reached, they bound his feet. He was to be let down head foremost. He was fastened to the curb; the crank turned, and his body disappeared. The alferez noted the seconds with his watch. At the signal the body was drawn up, too pitiable to describe; but Tarsilo was still mute. Again he was let down, again he refused to speak; when he was drawn up the third time, he no longer breathed.
His torturers looked at each other in consternation. The alferez ordered the body taken down, and they all examined it for signs of life; but there were none.
"See," said a cuadrillero, at last, "he has strangled himself with his tongue!"
"Put the body with the others," ordered the alferez nervously. "We must examine the other unknown prisoner."
The news spread that the prisoners were to be taken to the capital, and members of their families ran wildly from convent to barracks, from barracks to tribunal, but found no consolation anywhere. The curate was said to be ill. The guards dealt roughly with the supplicating women, and the gobernadorcillo was more useless than ever. The friends of the accused, therefore, had collected near the prison, waiting for them to be brought out. Doray, Don Filipo's young wife, wandered back and forth, her child in her arms, both crying. The Capitana Tinay called on her son Antonio, and brave Capitana Maria watched the grating behind which were her twins, her only children.
At two in the afternoon, an uncovered cart drawn by two oxen stopped in front of the tribunal. It was surrounded, and there were loud threats of breaking it.
"Don't do that!" cried Capitana Maria; "do you wish them to go on foot?" In a few moments, twenty soldiers came out and surrounded the ox-cart; then the prisoners appeared. The first was Don Filipo, who smiled at his wife. Doray responded by bitter sobs, and would have rushed to her husband, had not the guards held her back. The son of Capitana Tinay was crying like a child, which did not help to check the lamentations of his family. The twins were calm and grave. Ibarra came last. He walked between two guards, his hand free; his eyes sought on all sides for a friendly face.
"He is the guilty one!" cried numerous voices. "He is the guilty one, and his hands are unbound!"
"Bind my arms," said Ibarra to his guards.
"We have no orders."
The soldiers obeyed.
The alferez appeared on horseback, armed to the teeth, and followed by an escort of soldiers. The prisoners' friends saluted them with affectionate words; only Ibarra was friendless.
"What has my husband done to you?" sobbed Doray. "See my child; you have robbed him of his father!"
Grief began to turn to hate against the man who was said to have provoked the uprising.
The alferez gave the order to start.
"Coward!" cried a woman, as the cart moved off. "While the others fought, you were in hiding! Coward!"
"Curses on you!" cried an old man, running after. "Cursed be the gold heaped up by your family to take away our peace. Accurst! accurst!"
"May you be hung, heretic!" cried a woman, picking up a stone and throwing it after him. Her example was promptly followed, and a shower of dust and pebbles beat against the unhappy man. Crisostomo bore this injustice without a sign. It was the farewell of his beloved country. He bent his head and sat motionless. Perhaps he was thinking of a man beaten in the pueblo streets; perhaps of the body of a girl, washed up by the waves.
The alferez felt obliged to drive away the crowd, but stones did not cease to fall, nor insult to sound. One mother only did not curse Ibarra; the Capitana Maria watched her sons go, with compressed lips and eyes full of silent tears.
Of all the people in the open windows as he passed, none but the indifferent and curious showed Ibarra the least compassion. All his friends had deserted him, even Captain Basilio, who had forbidden Sinang to weep. When Crisostomo passed the smoking ruins of his home, that home where he was born, and spent his happy childhood and youth, the tears, long repressed, gushed from his eyes, and bound as he was, he had to experience the bitterness of showing a grief that could not rouse the slightest sympathy.
From a hill, an old man, pale and thin, wrapped in a mantle, and leaning on a stick, watched the sad procession. At the news of what had happened, old Tasio had left his bed, and tried to go to the pueblo, but his strength had failed him. He followed the cart with his eyes, until it disappeared in the distance. Then, after resting a while in thought, he got up painfully, and started toward his home, halting for breath at almost every step. The next day some shepherds found him dead under the shadow of his solitary house.
PATRIOTISM AND INTEREST.
The telegraph had secretly transmitted to Manila the news of the uprising, and thirty-six hours later, the newspapers, their accounts expanded, corrected, and mutilated by the attorney-general, talked about it with much mystery and no little menace. Meanwhile the private accounts, coming out of the convents, had gone from mouth to mouth, to the great alarm of those who heard them. The fact, distorted in countless versions, was accepted as true with more or less readiness, according to its fitness to the passions and ideas of the different hearers.
Though public tranquillity was not disturbed, the peace of the hearthstones became like that of a fish-pond, all on top; underneath was commotion. Crosses, gold lace, office, power, honors of all kinds began to hover over one part of the population, like butterflies in a golden sunshine. For the others a dark cloud rose on the horizon, and against this ashy background stood in relief bars, chains, and the fateful arms of the gibbet. Destiny presented the event to the Manila imagination, like certain Chinese fans: one face painted black, the other gilded, and gorgeous with birds and flowers.
There was great agitation in the convents. The provincials ordered their carriages, and held secret conferences; then presented themselves at the palace, to offer their support to the imperiled government.
"A Te Deum, a Te Deum!" said a monk in one convent. "Through the goodness of God, our worth is made manifest in these perilous times!"
"This petty general, this prophet of evil, will gnaw his moustaches after this little lesson," said another.
"What would have become of him without the religious orders?"
"The papers almost go to the point of demanding a mitre for Brother Salvi."
"And he will get it! He's consumed with desire for it!"
"Do you think so?"
"Why shouldn't he be? In these days mitres are given for the asking."
"If mitres had eyes, and could see on what craniums——"
We spare our readers other comments of this nature. Let us enter the home of a private citizen, and as we know few people at Manila, we will knock at the door of Captain Tinong, the friendly and hospitable gentleman whom we saw inviting Ibarra, with so much insistence, to honor his house with a visit.
In his rich and spacious drawing-room, at Tondo, Captain Tinong is seated in a great arm-chair, passing his hand despairingly across his brow; while his weeping wife, the Capitana Tinchang, reads him a sermon, listened to by their two daughters, who are seated in a corner, mute with stupefaction.
"Ah, Virgin of Antipolo!" cried the wife. "Ah, Virgin of the Rosary; I told you so! I told you so! Ah, Virgin of Carmel! Ah!"
"Why, no! You didn't tell me anything," Captain Tinong finally ventured to reply. "On the contrary, you said I did well to keep up the friendship with Captain Tiago, and to go to his house, because—because he was rich; and you said——"
"What did I say? I didn't say it! I didn't say anything! Ah, if you had listened to me!"
"Now you throw the blame back on me!" said the captain bitterly, striking the arm of his chair with his fist. "Didn't you say I did well to invite him to dinner, because, as he was rich——"
"It is true I said that, because—because it couldn't be helped; you had already invited him; and you did nothing but praise him. Don Ibarra here, and Don Ibarra there, and Don Ibarra on all sides. But I didn't advise you to see him or to speak to him at the dinner. That you cannot deny!"
"Did I know, for instance, that he was to be there?"
"You ought to have known it!"
"How, if I wasn't even acquainted with him?"
"You ought to have been acquainted with him!"
"But, Tinchang, if it was the first time I had ever seen him or heard him spoken of?"
"You ought to have seen him before, you ought to have heard him spoken of; that's what you are a man for! And now, you will be sent into exile, our goods will be confiscated——Oh, if I were a man! if I were a man!"
"And if you were a man," asked the vexed husband, "what would you do?"
"What? Why, to-day, this very day, I should present myself to the captain-general, and offer to fight against the rebels, this very day!"
"But didn't you read what the Diario says? Listen! 'The infamous and abortive treason has been repressed with energy, force, and vigor, and the rebellious enemies of the country and their accomplices will promptly feel all the weight and all the severity of the laws!' You see, there is no rebellion!"
"That makes no difference, you should present yourself; many did it in 1872, and so nobody harmed them."
"Yes! it was done also by Father Bug——" But his wife's hands were over his mouth.
"Say it! Speak that name, so you may be hung to-morrow at Bagumbayan! Don't you know it is enough to get you executed without so much as a trial? Go on, say it!"
But though Captain Tinong had wished, he couldn't have done it. His wife held his mouth with both her hands, squeezing his little head against the back of the chair. Perhaps the poor man would have died of asphyxia, had not a new person come on the stage.
It was their cousin, Don Primitivo, who knew Amat by heart; a man of forty, large and corpulent, and dressed with the utmost care.
"Quid video?" he cried, upon entering; "what is going on?"
"Ah, cousin!" said the wife, weeping, and running to him, "I had you sent for, for I don't know what will become of us! What do you advise—you who have studied Latin and understand reasoning——"
"But quid quaeritis? Nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu." And he sat down sedately. The Latin phrases seemed to have a tranquillizing effect; the husband and wife ceased to lament, and came nearer, awaiting the counsel of their cousin's lips, as once the Greeks awaited the saving phrase of the oracle.
"Why are you mourning? Ubinam gentium sumus?"
"You know the story of the uprising——"
"Well, what of it? Don Crisostomo owes you?"
"No! but do you know that Tinong invited him to dinner, and that he bowed to him on the bridge——in the middle of the day? They will say he was a friend of ours!"
"Friend?" cried the Latin, in alarm, rising; "tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are yourself! Malum est negotium et est timendum rerum istarum horrendissimum resultatum. Hum!"
So many words in um terrified Captain Tinong. He became frightfully pale. His wife joined her hands in supplication.
"Cousin, you speak to us now in Latin, but you know we haven't studied philosophy like you. Speak to us in Tagal or Castilian; give us your advice."
"It is deplorable that you do not know Latin, my cousin: Latin verities are lies in Tagalo. Contra principi negantem fustibus est arguendum, is, in Latin, a truth as veritable as Noah's ark. I once put it in practice in Tagalo, and it was I who got beaten. It is indeed a misfortune that you do not know Latin! In Latin it might all be arranged. You have done wrong, very wrong, cousins, to make friends with this young man. The just pay the dues of sinners. I feel almost like advising you to make your will!" and he moved his head gloomily from side to side.
"Saturnino, what ails you?" cried Capitana Tinchang, terrified. "Ah! Heaven! he is dead! A doctor! Tinong, Tinongy!"
"He has only fainted, cousin; bring some water." Don Primitivo sprinkled his face, and the unfortunate man revived.
"Come, come! don't weep! I've found a remedy. Put him in bed. Come, come! courage! I am with you, and all the wisdom of the ancients! Call a doctor, and this very day, cousin, go present yourself to the captain-general, and take him a present, a gold chain, a ring; say it's a Christmas present. Shut the windows and doors, and if any one asks for your husband, say he is seriously ill. Meanwhile I'll burn all the letters, papers, and books, as Don Crisostomo did. Scripti testes sunt! Go on to the captain's. Leave me to myself. In extremis extrema. Give me the power of a Roman dictator, and see whether I save the coun—What am I saying—the cousin!"
He commenced to upset the shelves of the library, and tear papers and letters. Then he lighted a fire on the kitchen hearth, and the auto-da-fe began. "'Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres,' by Copernicus. Whew! ite, maledicte, in ignem kalanis!" he cried, throwing it to the flames. "Revolution and Copernicus! Crime upon crime! If I don't get through soon enough! 'Liberty in the Philippines!' What books! Into the fire with them!" The most innocent works did not escape the common fate. Cousin Primitivo was right. The just pay for sinners.
Four or five hours later, at a fashionable gathering, the events of the day were being discussed. There were present a number of elderly married ladies and spinsters, together with the wives and daughters of clerks of the administration, all in European costume, fanning and yawning. Among the men, who, by their manners, showed their position, as did the women, was a man advanced in age, small and one-armed, who was treated with distinction, and who kept a reserved distance.
"I could never before suffer the monks and civil guards, because of their want of manners," a portly lady was saying, "but now that I see of what service they are, I could almost marry one of them. I am patriotic."
"I am of the very same mind," said a very prim spinster. "But what a pity the former governor isn't with us!"
"He would put an end to the race of filibusterillos!"
"Don't they say there are many islands yet uninhabited?"
"If I were the captain-general——"
"Senoras," said the one-armed man, "the captain-general knows his duty. I understand he is greatly irritated, for he had loaded this Ibarra with favors."
"Loaded him with favors!" repeated the slim gentlewoman, fanning furiously. "What ingrates these Indians are! Is it possible to treat them like human beings?"
"Do you know what I've heard?" asked an officer.
"No! What is it? What do they say?"
"People worthy of confidence say that all this noise about building a school was a pure pretext; what he meant to make was a fort for his own defence when he had been attacked."
"What infamy! Would any one but an Indian be capable of it?"
"But they say this filibustero is the son of a Spaniard," said the one-armed man, without looking at anybody.
"There it is again," cried the portly lady; "always these creoles! No Indian understands anything about revolution. Train crows, and they'll pick your eyes out!"
"Do you know what I've heard?" asked a pretty creole, to turn the conversation. "The wife of Captain Tinong—you remember? We danced and dined at his house at the fete of Tondo—well, the wife of Captain Tinong gave the captain-general, this afternoon, a ring worth a thousand pesos. She said it was a Christmas present."
"Christmas doesn't come for a month."
"She must have feared a downpour," said the stout lady.
"And so got under cover," said the slim.
"That is evident," said the one-armed man, thoughtfully. "I fear there is something back of this."
"I also," said the portly lady. "The wife of Captain Tinong is very parsimonious—she has never sent us presents, though we have been to her house. When such a person lets slip a little present of a thousand little pesos——"
"But is it certain?" demanded the one-armed man.
"Absolutely! His excellency's aide-de-camp told my cousin, to whom he is engaged. I'm tempted to believe it's a ring she wore the day of the fete. She's always covered with diamonds."
"That's one way of advertising! Instead of buying a lay-figure or renting a shop——"
The one-armed man found a pretext for leaving.
Two hours later, when all the city was asleep, certain inhabitants of Tondo received an invitation through the medium of soldiers. Authority could not permit people of position and property to sleep in houses so ill guarded. In the fortress of Santiago, and in other government buildings, their sleep would be more tranquil and refreshing. Among these people was the unfortunate Captain Tinong.
MARIA CLARA MARRIES.
Captain Tiago was very happy. During these troublous times, no one had paid any attention to him. He had not been arrested, he had not been subjected to cross-examination, to electrical machines, to repeated foot-baths in subterranean habitations, nor to any other of these pleasantries, well known to certain people who call themselves civilized. His friends, that is to say, those who had been—for he had repudiated his Filipino friends as soon as they had become suspects in the eyes of the Government—had returned home after several days of vacation in the edifices of the State. The captain-general had ordered them out of his possessions, to the great displeasure of the one-armed man, who would have liked to celebrate the approaching Christmas in so numerous a company of the rich.
Captain Tinong returned to his home, ill, pale, another man. The excursion had not been for his good. He said nothing, not even to greet his family, who laughed and wept over him, mad with joy. The poor man no longer left the house, for fear of saluting a filibuster. Cousin Primitivo himself, with all the wisdom of the ancients, could not draw him out of his mutism.
Stories like that of Captain Tinong's were numerous, and Captain Tiago was not ignorant of them. He overflowed with gratitude, without knowing exactly to whom he owed these signal favors. Aunt Isabel attributed the miracle to the Virgin of Antipolo.
"I too, Isabel," said Captain Tiago, "but the Virgin of Antipolo has probably not done it alone; my friends have helped, and my future son-in-law, Senor Linares."
It was whispered that Ibarra would be hung; that in spite of lack of proofs of his guilt, one thing had been found that confirmed the accusation; the experts had declared the school was so designed that it might pass for a rampart, faulty enough, to be sure, but what one might expect of ignorant Indians.
In the midst of affairs, Dona Victorina, Don Tiburcio, and Linares arrived. As usual, Dona Victorina talked for the three men and herself; and her speech had undergone a remarkable change. She now claimed to have naturalized herself an Andalusian by suppressing d's and replacing the sound of s by that of z. No one had been able to get the idea out of her head; one would certainly have needed to get her frizzes off the outside first. She talked of visits of Linares to the captain-general, and made continual insinuations as to advantages a relative of position would bring.
"As we say," she concluded, "he who sleeps in a good shade, leans on a good staff."
"It's—it's the opposite, wife."
Maria Clara was yet pale, though she had almost recovered from her illness. She kissed Dona Victorina, smiling rather sadly.
"You have been saved, thanks to your connections!" said the doctora, with a significant look toward Linares.
"God has protected my father," said Maria, in a low voice.
"Yes, Clarita, but the time of miracles is past. We, the Spaniards say, trust not in the Virgin, and save yourself by running."
"It's—it's—the contrary, wife!"
"We must talk business," said Dona Victorina, glancing at Maria. Maria found a pretext for leaving, and went out, steadying herself by the furniture.
What was said in this conference was so sordid and mean, that we prefer not to report it. Suffice it to say that when they parted, they were all satisfied. Captain Tiago said a little after to Aunt Isabel:
"Have the caterer notified that we give a reception to-morrow. Maria must get ready for her marriage at once. When Senor Linares is our son-in-law, all the palaces will be open to us; and every one will die of envy."
And so, toward eight o'clock the next evening, the house of Captain Tiago was once more full. This time, however, he had invited only Spaniards, peninsular and Philippine, and Chinese. Yet many of our acquaintances were there. Father Sibyla and Father Salvi, among numerous Franciscans and Dominicans; the old lieutenant of the Municipal Guard, more sombre than ever; the alferez, recounting his victory for the thousandth time, looking over the heads of everybody, now that he is lieutenant with grade of commandant; Dr. Espadana, who looks upon him with respect and fear, and avoids his glance; Dona Victorina, who cannot see him without anger. Linares had not yet arrived; as a person of importance, he must arouse expectation. There are beings so simple, that an hour's waiting for a man suffices to make him great in their eyes.
Maria Clara was the object of interest to all the women, and the subject of unveiled comments. She had received these ceremoniously, without losing her air of sadness.
"Bah! the proud little thing!" said one.
"Rather pretty," said another, "but he might have chosen some one with a more intelligent face."
"But the money, my dear! The good fellow is selling himself."
In another group some one was saying:
"To marry when one's first fiance is going to be hung!"
"That is what is called prudent; having a substitute at hand."
"Then, when one becomes a widow——"
Possibly some of these remarks reached the ears of Maria Clara. She grew paler, her hand trembled, her lips seemed to move.
In the circles of men the talk was loud, and naturally the recent events were the subject of conversation. Everybody talked, even Don Tiburcio.
"I hear that your reverence is about to leave the pueblo," said the new lieutenant, whom his new star had made more amiable.
"I have no more to do there; I am to be placed permanently at Manila. And you?" asked Father Salvi.
"I also leave the pueblo," said he, throwing back his shoulders; "I am going with a flying column to rid the province of filibusters."
Father Salvi surveyed his old enemy from top to toe, and turned away with a disdainful smile.
"Is it known certainly what is to be done with the chief filibuster?" asked a clerk.
"You are speaking of Don Crisostomo Ibarra," replied another. "It is very probable that he will be hung, like those of 1872, and it will be very just."
"He is to be exiled," said the old lieutenant dryly.
"Exile! Nothing but exile?" cried numerous voices at once. "Then it must be for life!"
"If the young man had been more prudent," went on Lieutenant Guevara, speaking so that all might hear, "if he had confided less in certain persons to whom he wrote, if our attorney-generals did not interpret too subtly what they read, it is certain he would have been released."
This declaration of the old lieutenant's, and the tone of his voice, produced a great surprise among his auditors. No one knew what to say. Father Salvi looked away, perhaps to avoid the dark look the lieutenant gave him. Maria Clara dropped some flowers she had in her hand, and became a statue. Father Sibyla, who knew when to be silent, seemed the only one who knew how to question.
"You speak of letters, Senor Guevara."
"I speak of what I am told by Don Crisostomo's advocate, who is greatly interested in his case, and defended him with zeal. Outside of a few ambiguous lines in a letter addressed to a woman before he left for Europe, in which the procurator found a project against the Government, and which the young man acknowledged as his, there was no evidence against him."
"And the declaration made by the tulisan before he died?"
"The defence destroyed that testimony. According to the witness himself, none of them had any communication with Ibarra, except one named Jose, who was his enemy, as was proven, and who afterward committed suicide, probably from remorse. It was shown that the papers found on his body were forgeries, for the writing was like Ibarra's seven years ago, but not like his hand of to-day. For this it was supposed that the accusing letter served as a model."
"You tell us," said a Franciscan, "that Ibarra addressed this letter to a woman. How did it come into the hands of the attorney-general?"
The lieutenant did not reply. He looked a moment at Father Salvi, and moved off, twisting the point of his gray beard. The others continued to discuss the matter.
"Even women seem to have hated him," said one.
"He burned his house, thinking to save himself, but he counted without his hostess!" said another, laughing.
Meanwhile the old soldier approached Maria Clara. She had heard the whole conversation, sitting motionless, the flowers lying at her feet.
"You are a prudent young woman," he said in a low voice; "by giving over the letter, you assured yourself a peaceful future." And he moved on, leaving Maria with blank eyes and a face rigid. Fortunately Aunt Isabel passed. Maria had strength to take her by the dress.
"What is the matter?" cried the old lady, terrified at the face of her niece. "You are ill, my child. You are ready to faint. What is it?"
"My heart—it's the crowd—so much light—I must rest. Tell my father I've gone to rest," and steadying herself by her aunt's arm, she went to her room.
"You are cold! Do you want some tea?" asked Aunt Isabel at the door.
Maria shook her head. "Go back, dear aunt, I only need to rest," she said. She locked the door of her little room, and at the end of her strength, threw herself down before a statue, sobbing:
"Mother, mother, my mother!"
The moonlight came in through the window, and through the door leading to the balcony. The joyous music of the dance, peals of laughter and the hum of conversation, made their way to the chamber. Many times they knocked at her door—her father, her aunt, Dona Victorina, even Linares. Maria did not move or speak; now and then a hoarse sob escaped her.
Hours passed. After the feast had come the ball. Maria's candle had burned out, and she lay in the moonlight at the foot of the statue. She had not moved. Little by little the house became quiet. Aunt Isabel came to knock once again at the door.
"She must have gone to bed," the old lady called back to her brother. "At her age one sleeps like the dead."
When all was still again, Maria rose slowly, and looked out on the terrace with its vines bathed in the white moonlight.
"A peaceful future!—Sleep like the dead!" she said aloud; and she went out.
The city was mute; only now and then a carriage could be heard crossing the wooden bridge. The girl raised her eyes toward the sky; then slowly she took off her rings, the pendants in her ears, the comb and jewelled pins in her hair, and put them on the balustrade of the terrace; then she looked toward the river.
A little bark, loaded with zacate, drew up to the landing-place below the terrace. One of the two men in it climbed the stone steps, sprang over the wall, and in a moment was mounting the stairway of the terrace. At sight of Maria, he stopped, then approached slowly.
Maria drew back.
"Crisostomo!" she said, speaking low. She was terrified.
"Yes, I am Crisostomo," replied the young man gravely. "An enemy, a man who has reason to hate me, Elias, has rescued me from the prison where my friends put me."
A sad silence followed his words. Maria Clara bent her head. Ibarra went on:
"By the dead body of my mother, I pledged myself, whatever my future, to try to make you happy. I have risked all that remains to me, to come and fulfil that promise. Chance lets me speak to you, Maria; we shall never see each other again. You are young now; some day your conscience may upbraid you. Before I go away forever, I have come to say that I forgive you. Be happy—farewell!" And he began to move away; she held him back.
"Crisostomo!" she said, "God has sent you to save me from despair. Listen and judge me!"
Ibarra tried gently to release himself.
"I did not come to call you to account; I came to bring you peace."
"I want none of the peace you bring me. I shall find peace for myself. You scorn me and your scorn will make even death bitter."
He saw despair in her poor, young face, and asked what she wished.
"I wish you to believe that I have always loved you."
He smiled bitterly.
"Ah! you doubt me! you doubt your childhood's friend, who has never hidden a single thought from you! When you know my history, the sad story that was told me in my illness, you will pity me; you will no longer wear that smile. Why did they not let me die in the hands of my ignorant doctor! You and I should both have been happier!"
She stopped a moment, then went on:
"You force me to this, by your doubts; may my mother forgive me! In one of the most painful of my nights of suffering, a man revealed to me the name of my real father. If he had not been my father, this man said, he might have pardoned the injury you had done him."
Crisostomo looked at Maria in amazement.
"What was I to do?" she went on. "Ought I to sacrifice to my love the memory of my mother, the honor of him who was supposed to be my father, and the good name of him who is? And could I have done this without bringing dishonor upon you too?"
"But the proof—have you had proof? There must be proof!" said Crisostomo, staggered.
Maria drew from her breast two papers.
"Here are two letters of my mother's," she said, "written in her remorse. Take them! Read them! My father left them in the house where he lived so many years. This man found them and kept them, and only gave them up to me in exchange for your letter, as assurance, he said, that I would not marry you without my father's consent. I sacrificed my love! Who would not for a mother dead and two fathers living? Could I foresee what use they would make of your letter? Could I know I was sacrificing you too?"
Ibarra was speechless. Maria went on:
"What remained for me to do? Could I tell you who my father was? Could I bid you ask his pardon, when he had so made your father suffer? Could I say to my father, who perhaps would have pardoned you—could I say I was his daughter? Nothing remained but to suffer, to guard my secret, and die suffering! Now, my friend, now that you know the sad story of your poor Maria, have you still for her that disdainful smile?"
"Maria, you are a saint!"
"I am blessed, because you believe in me——"
"And yet," said Crisostomo, remembering, "I heard you were to marry——"
"Yes," sobbed the poor child, "my father demands this sacrifice; he has loved me, nourished me, and it did not belong to him to do it. I shall pay him my debt of gratitude by assuring him peace through this new connection, but——"
"I shall not forget my vows to you."
"What is your thought?" asked Ibarra, trying to read in her clear eyes.
"The future is obscure. I do not know what I shall do; but I know this, that I can love but once, and that I shall not belong to one I do not love. And you? What will you do?"
"I am no longer anything but a fugitive—I shall fly, and my flight will soon be overtaken, Maria——"
Maria took his head in her hands, kissed his lips again and again, then pushed him away with all her strength.
"Fly, fly!" she said. "Adieu!"
Ibarra looked at her with shining eyes, but she made a sign, and he went, reeling for an instant like a drunken man. He leaped the wall again, and was back in the little bark. Maria Clara, leaning on the balustrade, watched till it disappeared in the distance.
THE CHASE ON THE LAKE.
"Listen, senor, to the plan I have made," said Elias, as he pulled toward San Gabriel. "I will hide you, for the present, at the house of a friend of mine at Mandaluyong. I will bring you there your gold, that I hid in the tomb of your great-grandfather. You will leave the country——"
"To live among strangers?" interrupted Ibarra.
"To live in peace. You have friends in Spain; you may get amnesty."
Crisostomo did not reply; he reflected in silence.
They arrived at the Pasig, and the little bark began to go up stream. On the bridge was a horseman, hastening his course, and a whistle long and shrill was heard.
"Elias," said Ibarra at length, "your misfortunes are due to my family, and you have twice saved my life. I owe you both gratitude and restitution of property. You advise me to leave the country; well, come with me. We will live as brothers."
Elias shook his head.
"It is true that I can never be happy in my country, but I can live and die there, perhaps die for my country. That is always something. But you can do nothing for her, here and now. Perhaps some day——"
"Unless I, too, should become a tulisan," mused Ibarra.
"Senor, a month ago we sat in this same boat, under the light of this same moon. You could not have said such a thing then."