"No, Elias. Man seems to be an animal who varies with circumstances. I was blind then, unreasonable, I know not what. Now the bandage has been torn from my eyes; the wretchedness and solitude of my prison has taught me better. I see the cancer that is eating into our society; perhaps, after all, it must be torn out by violence."
They came in sight of the governor-general's palace, and thought they saw unusual movement among the guards.
"Your escape must have been discovered," said Elias. "Lie down, senor, so I can cover you with the zacate, for the sentinel at the magazine may stop us."
As Elias had anticipated, the sentinel challenged him, and asked him where he came from.
"From Manila, with zacate for the iodores and curates," said he, imitating the accent of the people of Pandakan.
A sergeant came out.
"Sulung," said he to Elias, "I warn you not to take any one into your boat. A prisoner has just escaped. If you capture him and bring him to me, I will give you a fine reward."
"Good, senor; what is his description?"
"He wears a long coat, and speaks Spanish. Look out for him!"
The bark moved off. Elias turned and saw the sentinel still standing by the bank.
"We shall lose a few minutes," he said; "we shall have to go into the rio Beata, to make him think I'm from Pena Francia. You shall see the rio of which Francisco Baltazar sang."
The pueblo was asleep in the moonlight. Crisostomo sat up to admire the death-like peace of nature. The rio was narrow, and its banks were plains strewn with zacate. Elias discharged his cargo, and from the grass where they were hidden, drew some of those sacks of palm leaves that are called bayones. Then they pushed off again, and soon were back on the Pasig. From time to time they talked of indifferent things.
"Santa Ana!" said Ibarra, speaking low; "do you know that building?" They were passing the country house of the Jesuits.
"I've spent many happy days there," said Elias. "When I was a child, we came here every month. Then I was like other people; had a family, a fortune; dreamed, thought I saw a future."
They were silent until they came to Malapad-na-bato. Those who have sometimes cut a wake in the Pasig, on one of these magnificent nights of the Philippines, when from the limpid azure the moon pours out a poetic melancholy, when shadows hide the miseries of men and silence puts out their sordid words—those who have done this will know some of the thoughts of these two young men.
At Malapad-na-bato, the rifleman was sleepy, and seeing no hope of plunder in the little bark, according to the tradition of his corps and the habit of this post, he let it pass. The guard at Pasig was no more disquieting.
The moonlight was growing pale, and dawn was beginning to tint the east with roses, when they arrived at the lake, smooth and placid as a great mirror. At a distance they saw a gray mass, advancing little by little.
"It's the falua," said Elias under his breath. "Lie down, senor, and I will cover you with these bags."
The outlines of the government boat grew more and more distinct.
"She's getting between us and the shore," said Elias, uneasily; and very gradually he changed the direction of his bark. To his terror he saw the falua make the same change, and heard a voice hailing him. He stopped and thought. The shore was yet some distance away; they would soon be within range of the ship's guns. He thought he would go back to Pasig, his boat could escape the other in that direction; but fate was against him. Another boat was coming from Pasig, and in it glittered the helmets and bayonets of the Civil Guards.
"We are caught!" he said, and the color left his face. He looked at his sturdy arms, and took the only resolution possible; he began to row with all his might toward the island of Talim. The sun was coming up. The bark shot rapidly over the water; on the falua, which changed its tack, Elias saw men signalling.
"Do you know how to manage a bark?" he demanded of Ibarra.
"Because we are lost unless I take to the water to throw them off the track. They will pursue me. I swim and dive well. That will turn them away from you, and you must try to save yourself."
"No, stay, and let us sell our lives dear!"
"It is useless; we have no arms; they would shoot us down like birds."
As he spoke, they heard a hiss in the water, followed by a report.
"You see!" said Elias, laying down his oar. "We will meet, Christmas night, at the tomb of your grandfather. Save yourself! God has drawn me out of greater perils than this!"
He took off his shirt; a ball picked it out of his hands, and two reports followed. Without showing alarm, he grasped the hand Ibarra stretched up from the bottom of the boat, then stood upright and leaped into the water, pushing off the little craft with his foot.
Outcries were heard from the falua. Promptly, and at some distance, appeared the head of the young man, returning to the surface to breathe, then disappearing immediately.
"There, there he is," cried several voices, and balls whistled.
The falua and the bark from Pasig set out in pursuit of the swimmer. A slight wake showed his direction, more and more removed from Ibarra's little bark, which drifted as if abandoned. Every time Elias raised his head to breathe, the guards and the men of the falua fired on him.
The chase went on. The little bark with Ibarra was left far behind. Elias was not more than a hundred yards from the shore. The rowers were getting tired, but so was Elias, for he repeatedly raised his head above the water, but always in a new direction, to disconcert his pursuers. The deceiving wake no longer told the place of the swimmer. For the last time they saw him, sixty feet from the shore. The soldiers fired—minutes and minutes passed. Nothing again disturbed the tranquil surface of the lake.
A half hour later, one of the rowers claimed to have seen traces of blood near the shore, but his comrades shook their heads in doubt.
FATHER DAMASO EXPLAINS HIMSELF.
In vain the precious wedding presents heaped up; not the brilliants in their velvet cases, not embroideries of pina nor pieces of silk, drew the eyes of Maria Clara. She saw nothing but the journal in which was told the death of Ibarra, drowned in the lake.
Suddenly she felt two hands over her eyes, clasping her head, while a merry voice said to her:
"Who is it? Who is it?"
Maria sprang up in fright.
"Little goose! Did I scare you, eh? You weren't expecting me, eh? Why, I've come from the province to be at your marriage——" And with a satisfied smile, Father Damaso gave her his hand to kiss. She took it, trembling, and carried it respectfully to her lips.
"What is it, Maria?" demanded the Franciscan, troubled, and losing his gay smile. "Your hand is cold, you are pale—are you ill, little girl?" And he drew her tenderly to him, took both her hands and questioned her with his eyes.
"Won't you confide in your godfather?" he asked in a tone of reproach. "Come, sit down here and tell me your griefs, as you used to do when you were little, and wanted some tapers to make wax dolls. You know I've always loved you—never scolded you——" and his voice became very tender. Maria began to cry.
"Why do you cry, my child? Have you quarrelled with Linares?"
Maria put her hands over her eyes.
"No; it's not about him—now!"
Father Damaso looked startled. "And you won't tell me your secrets? Have I not always tried to satisfy your slightest wish?"
Maria raised to him her eyes full of tears, looked at him a moment, then sobbed afresh.
Maria came slowly to him, fell on her knees at his feet, and raising her face wet with tears, asked in a voice scarcely audible:
"Do you still love me?"
"Then—protect my father and make him break off my marriage." And she told him of her last interview with Ibarra, omitting everything about the secret of her birth.
Father Damaso could scarcely believe what he heard. She was talking calmly now, without tears.
"So long as he lived," she went on, "I could struggle, I could hope, I had confidence; I wished to live to hear about him; but now—that they have killed him, I have no longer any reason to live and suffer."
"If he had lived, I might have married—for my father's sake; but now that he is dead, I want the convent—or the grave."
"You loved him so?" stammered Father Damaso. Maria did not reply. The father bent his head on his breast.
"My child," he said at last in a broken voice, "forgive me for having made you unhappy; I did not know I was doing it! I thought of your future. How could I let you marry a man of this country, to see you, later on, an unhappy wife and mother? I set myself with all my strength to get this love out of your mind, I used all means—for you, only for you. If you had been his wife, you would have wept for the unfortunate position of your husband, exposed to all sorts of dangers, and without defence; a mother, you would have wept for your children; had you educated them, you would have prepared them a sad future; they would have become enemies of religion; the gallows or exile would have been their portion; had you left them in ignorance, you would have seen them tyrannized over and degraded. I could not consent to this. That is why I found for you a husband whose children should command, not obey; punish, not suffer—I knew your childhood's friend was good, and I liked him, as I did his father; but I hated them both for your sake, because I love you as one loves a daughter, because I idolize you—I have no other love; I have seen you grow up, there isn't an hour in which I do not think of you, you are my one joy——" And Father Damaso began to cry like a child.
"Then if you love me, do not make me forever miserable; he is dead, I wish to be a nun."
The old man rested his forehead in his hand.
"A nun, a nun!" he repeated. "You do not know, my child, all that is hidden behind the walls of a convent, you do not know! I would a thousand times rather see you unhappy in the world than in the cloister. Here your complaints can be heard; there you have only the walls! You are beautiful, very beautiful; you were not made to renounce the world. Believe me, my child, time alters all things; later you will forget, you will love, you will love your husband—Linares."
"Either the convent or—death," repeated Maria, with no sign of yielding.
"Maria," said the father, "I am not young. I cannot watch over you always; choose something else, find another love, another husband, anything, what you will!"
"I choose the convent."
"My God, my God!" cried the priest, burying his face in his hands. "You punish me, be it so! But watch over my daughter!—Maria, you shall be a nun. I cannot have you die."
Maria took his hands, pressed them, kissed them as she knelt.
"Godfather, my godfather," she said.
"Oh, God!" cried the heart of the father, "thou dost exist, because thou dost chastise! Take vengeance upon me, but do not strike the innocent; save my daughter!"
Up on the side of the mountain, where a torrent springs, a cabin hides under the trees, built on their gnarled trunks. Over its thatched roof creep the branches of the gourd, heavy with fruit and flowers. Antlers and wild boars' heads, some of them bearing their long tusks, ornament the rustic hearth. It is the home of a Tagalo family living from the chase and the cup of the woods.
Under the shade of a tree, the grandfather is making brooms from the veins of palm leaves, while a girl fills a basket with eggs, lemons, and vegetables. Two children, a boy and a girl, are playing beside another boy, pale and serious, with great, deep eyes. We know him. It is Sisa's son, Basilio.
"When your foot is well," said the little boy, "you will go with us to the top of the mountain and drink deer's blood and lemon juice; then you'll grow fat; then I'll show you how to jump from one rock to another, over the torrent."
Basilio smiled sadly, examined the wound in his foot, and looked at the sun, which was shining splendidly.
"Sell these brooms, Lucia," said the grandfather to the young girl, "and buy something for your brothers. To-day is Christmas."
"Fire-crackers, I want fire-crackers!" cried the little boy.
"And what do you want?" the grandfather asked Basilio. The boy got up and went to the old man.
"Senor," he said, "have I been ill more than a month?"
"Since we found you, faint and covered with wounds, two moons have passed. We thought you were going to die——"
"May God reward you; we are very poor," said Basilio; "but as to-day is Christmas, I want to go to the pueblo to see my mother and my little brother. They must have been looking everywhere for me."
"But, son, you aren't well yet, and it is far to your pueblo. You would not get there till midnight. My sons will want to see you when they come from the forest."
"You have many children, but my mother has only us two; perhaps she thinks me dead already. I want to give her a present to-night—a son!"
The grandfather felt his eyes grow dim.
"You are as sensible as an old man! Go, find your mother, give her her present! Go, my son. God and the Lord Jesus go with you!"
"What, you're not going to stay and see my fire-crackers?" said the little boy.
"I want you to play hide and seek!" pouted the little girl; "nothing else is so much fun."
Basilio smiled and his eyes filled with tears.
"I shall come back soon," he said, "and bring my little brother; then you can play with him. But I must go away now with Lucia."
"Don't forget us!" said the old man, "and come back when you are well." The children all accompanied him to the bridge of bamboo over the rushing torrent. Lucia, who was going to the first pueblo with her basket, made him lean on her arm; the other children watched them both out of sight.
The north wind was blowing, and the dwellers in San Diego were trembling with cold. It was the Nochebuena, and yet the pueblo was sad. Not a paper lantern hung in the windows, no noise in the houses announcing the joyful time, as in other years.
At the home of Captain Basilio, the master of the house is talking with Don Filipo; the troubles of these times have made them friends.
"You are in rare luck, to be released at just this moment," Captain Basilio was saying to his guest. "They've burned your books, that's true; but others have fared worse."
A woman came up to the window and looked in. Her eyes were brilliant, her face haggard, her hair loose; the moon made her uncanny.
"Sisa?" asked Don Filipo, in surprise. "I thought she was with a physician."
Captain Basilio smiled bitterly.
"The doctor feared he might be taken for a friend of Don Crisostomo's, so he drove her out!"
"What else has happened since I went away? I know we have a new curate and a new alferez——"
"Well, the head sacristan was found dead, hung in the garret of his house. And old Tasio is dead. They buried him in the Chinese cemetery."
"Poor Don Astasio!" sighed Don Filipo. "And his books?"
"The devout thought it would be pleasing to God if they should burn them; nothing escaped, not even the works of Cicero. The gobernadorcillo was no check whatsoever."
They were both silent. At that moment, the melancholy song of Sisa was heard. A child passed, limping, and running toward the place from which the song came; it was Basilio. The little fellow had found his home deserted and in ruins. He had been told about his mother; of Crispin he had not heard a word. He had dried his tears, smothered his grief, and without resting, started out to find Sisa.
She had come to the house of the new alferez. As usual, a sentinel was pacing up and down. When she saw the soldier, she took to flight, and ran as only a wild thing can. Basilio saw her, and fearing to lose sight of her, forgot his wounded foot, and followed in hot pursuit. Dogs barked, geese cackled, windows opened here and there, to give passage to the heads of the curious; others banged to, from fear of a new night of trouble. At this rate, the runners were soon outside the pueblo, and Sisa began to moderate her speed. There was a long distance between her and her pursuer.
"Mother!" he cried, when he could distinguish her.
No sooner did Sisa hear the voice than she again began to run madly.
"Mother, it's I," cried the child in despair. Sisa paid no attention. The poor little fellow followed breathless. They were now on the border of the wood.
Bushes, thorny twigs, and the roots of trees hindered their progress. The child followed the vision of his mother, made clear now and then by the moon's rays across the heavy foliage. They were in the mysterious wood of the family of Ibarra. Basilio often stumbled and fell, but he got up again, without feeling his hurts, or remembering his lameness. All his life was concentrated in his eyes, which never lost the beloved figure from view.
They crossed the brook, which was singing gently, and to his great surprise, Basilio saw his mother press through the thicket and enter the wooden door that closed the tomb of the old Spaniard. He tried to follow her, but the door was fast. Sisa was defending the entrance—holding the door closed with all her strength.
"Mother, it's I, it's I, Basilio, your son!" cried the child, falling from fatigue. But Sisa would not budge. Her feet braced against the ground, she offered an energetic resistance. Basilio examined the wall, but could not scale it. Then he made the tour of the grave. He saw a branch of the great tree, crossed by a branch of another. He began to climb, and his filial love did miracles. He went from branch to branch, and came over the tomb at last.
The noise he made in the branches startled Sisa. She turned and would have fled, but her son, letting himself drop from the tree, seized her in his arms and covered her with kisses; then, worn out, he fainted away.
Sisa saw his forehead bathed in blood. She bent over him, and her eyes, almost out of their sockets, were fixed on his face, which stirred the sleeping cells of her brain. Then something like a spark flashed through them. Sisa recognized her son, and with a cry fell on his senseless body, pressing it to her heart, kissing him and weeping. Then mother and son were both motionless.
When Basilio came to himself, he found his mother without consciousness. He called her, lavished tender names on her, and seeing she did not wake, ran for water and sprinkled her pale face. But the eyes remained closed. In terror, Basilio put his ear to her heart, but her heart no longer beat. The poor child embraced the dead body of his mother, weeping bitterly.
On this night of joy for so many children, who, by the warm hearth, celebrate the feast which recalls the first loving look Heaven gave to earth; on this night when all good Christian families eat, laugh, and dance, 'mid love and kisses; on this night which, for the children of cold countries, is magical with its Christmas trees, Basilio sits in solitude and grief. Who knows? Perhaps around the hearth of the silent Father Salvi are children playing; perhaps they are singing:
"Christmas comes, And Christmas goes."
The child was sobbing. When he raised his head, a man was looking silently down at him.
"You are her son?" he asked.
Basilio nodded his head.
"What are you going to do?"
"In the cemetery?"
"I have no money—if you would help me——"
"I am too weak," said the man, sinking gradually to the ground. "I am wounded. For two days I have not eaten or slept. Has no one been here to-night?" And the man sat still, watching the child's attractive face.
"Listen," said he, in a voice growing feebler, "I too shall be dead before morning. Twenty paces from here, beyond the spring, is a pile of wood; put our two bodies on it, and light the fire."
"Then, if nobody comes, you are to dig here; you will find a lot of gold, and it will be all yours. Study!"
The voice of the unknown man sank lower and lower. Then he turned his head toward the east, and said softly, as though praying:
"I die without seeing the light of dawn on my country. You who shall see it and greet it, do not forget those who fell in the night!"
The Archbishop and the Lady
By Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield
A story of modern society which only a writer of very wide and very exceptional social experience could have written. It is cosmopolitan, yet full of romance; modern, yet informed with a delicate old-world charm. The characters are put before us with a consummate knowledge of the world and a penetrating insight into human nature.
Cloth. 12mo; 5-1/8 x 7-3/4. About $1.50.
By GERTRUDE HALL
Miss Gertrude Hall is known to the world as a poet and as a teller of tales, but with her first novel she reveals new gifts, for it is a modern story tuned to a note of light comedy that she has never struck before. "April's Sowing" is that most widely appreciated thing in letters, a young love story.
Illustrated by Orson Lowell. With decorative cover, frontispiece, title page in color, and ornamental head and tail pieces. Cloth. 12mo; 5-1/8 x 7-3/4. $1.50.
By ELMORE ELLIOTT PEAKE
A novel of American life in the middle West which deals principally with the fortunes of a family whose members are the social and financial leaders of their section. The heroine is a girl whose education is broad enough to enable her to assist her father in managing a railroad. The hero is a Methodist minister of liberal tendencies. The story is told with remarkable fidelity and unusual dramatic interest.
Cloth. 12mo; 5-1/8 x 7-3/4. About $1.50.
Two Unknown Phases of Life Made Known in Fiction
The Powers That Prey
By Josiah Flynt and Francis Walton
The authors of the ten closely related stories which make up this volume have spent most of their lives studying the sociological problems of tramp and criminal life. Mr. Flynt writes: "So far as I am concerned, the book is the result of ten years of wandering with tramps and two years spent with various police organizations." The stories are a decided contribution to sociology, and yet, viewed as stories, they have unusual interest because of their remarkable vigor and their intense realism.
Fully Illustrated. Cloth. 12mo; 5-1/8 x 7-3/4. $1.25.
The Soul of the Street
By NORMAN DUNCAN
"The Soul of the Street" has a unity lacking in many volumes of short stories. They deal with Syrians and Turks, queer folk with queer ways, and Mr. Duncan has gotten at them with such sympathetic insight as only the poetic heart and the story-teller's eye can possess. Character, humor, poignant pathos, and the sad grotesque conjunctions of old and new civilizations are expressed through the medium of a style that has distinction, and strikes a note of rare personality.
Cloth. 12mo; 5-1/8 x 7-3/4. About $1.00.