News of the incident soon spread throughout the town. At first all were incredulous, but, having to yield to the fact, they broke out into exclamations of surprise. Each one, according to his moral lights, made his comments.
“Padre Damaso is dead,” said some. “When they picked him up his face was covered with blood and he wasn’t breathing.”
“May he rest in peace! But he hasn’t any more than settled his debts!” exclaimed a young man. “Look what he did this morning in the convento—there isn’t any name for it.”
“What did he do? Did he beat up the coadjutor again?”
“What did he do? Tell us about it!”
“You saw that Spanish mestizo go out through the sacristy in the midst of the sermon?”
“Yes, we saw him. Padre Damaso took note of him.”
“Well, after the sermon he sent for the young man and asked him why he had gone out. ‘I don’t understand Tagalog, Padre,’ was the reply. ‘And why did you joke about it, saying that it was Greek?’ yelled Padre Damaso, slapping the young man in the face. The latter retorted and the two came to blows until they were separated.”
“If that had happened to me—” hissed a student between his teeth.
“I don’t approve of the action of the Franciscan,” said another, “since Religion ought not to be imposed on any one as a punishment or a penance. But I am almost glad of it, for I know that young man, I know that he’s from San Pedro Makati and that he talks Tagalog well. Now he wants to be taken for a recent arrival from Russia and prides himself on appearing not to know the language of his fathers.”
“Then God makes them and they rush together!”1
“Still we must protest against such actions,” exclaimed another student. “To remain silent would be to assent to the abuse, and what has happened may be repeated with any one of us. We’re going back to the times of Nero!”
“You’re wrong,” replied another. “Nero was a great artist, while Padre Damaso is only a tiresome preacher.”
The comments of the older persons were of a different kind. While they were waiting for the arrival of the Captain-General in a hut outside the town, the gobernadorcillo was saying, “To tell who was right and who was wrong, is not an easy matter. Yet if Señor Ibarra had used more prudence—”
“If Padre Damaso had used half the prudence of Señor Ibarra, you mean to say, perhaps!” interrupted Don Filipo. “The bad thing about it is that they exchanged parts—the youth conducted himself like an old man and the old man like a youth.”
“Did you say that no one moved, no one went near to separate them, except Capitan Tiago’s daughter?” asked Capitan Martin. “None of the friars, nor the alcalde? Ahem! Worse and worse! I shouldn’t like to be in that young man’s skin. No one will forgive him for having been afraid of him. Worse and worse, ahem!”
“Do you think so?” asked Capitan Basilio curiously.
“I hope,” said Don Filipo, exchanging a look with the latter, “that the people won’t desert him. We must keep in mind what his family has done and what he is trying to do now. And if, as may happen, the people, being intimidated, are silent, his friends—”
“But, gentlemen,” interrupted the gobernadorcillo, “what can we do? What can the people do? Happen what will, the friars are always right!”
“They are always right because we always allow them to be,” answered Don Filipo impatiently, putting double stress on the italicized word. “Let us be right once and then we’ll talk.”
The gobernadorcillo scratched his head and stared at the roof while he replied in a sour tone, “Ay! the heat of the blood! You don’t seem to realize yet what country we’re in, you don’t know your countrymen. The friars are rich and united, while we are divided and poor. Yes, try to defend yourself and you’ll see how the people will leave you in the lurch.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Don Filipo bitterly. “That will happen as long as you think that way, as long as fear and prudence are synonyms. More attention is paid to a possible evil than to a necessary good. At once fear, and not confidence, presents itself; each one thinks only of himself, no one thinks of the rest, and therefore we are all weak!”
“Well then, think of others before yourself and you’ll see how they’ll leave you in the lurch. Don’t you know the proverb, ‘Charity begins at home’?”
“You had better say,” replied the exasperated teniente-mayor, “that cowardice begins in selfishness and ends in shame! This very day I’m going to hand in my resignation to the alcalde. I’m tired of passing for a joke without being useful to anybody. Good-by!”
The women had opinions of still another kind.
“Ay!” sighed one woman of kindly expression. “The young men are always so! If his good mother were alive, what would she say? When I think that the like may happen to my son, who has a violent temper, I almost envy his dead mother. I should die of grief!”
“Well, I shouldn’t,” replied another. “It wouldn’t cause me any shame if such a thing should happen to my two sons.”
“What are you saying, Capitana Maria!” exclaimed the first, clasping her hands.
“It pleases me to see a son defend the memory of his parents, Capitana Tinay. What would you say if some day when you were a widow you heard your husband spoken ill of and your son Antonio should hang his head and remain silent?”
“I would deny him my blessing!” exclaimed a third, Sister Rufa, “but—”
“Deny him my blessing, never!” interrupted the kind Capitana Tinay. “A mother ought not to say that! But I don’t know what I should do—I don’t know—I believe I’d die—but I shouldn’t want to see him again. But what do you think about it, Capitana Maria?”
“After all,” added Sister Rufa, “it must not be forgotten that it’s a great sin to place your hand on a sacred person.”
“A father’s memory is more sacred!” replied Capitana Maria. “No one, not even the Pope himself, much less Padre Damaso, may profane such a holy memory.”
“That’s true!” murmured Capitana Tinay, admiring the wisdom of both. “Where did you get such good ideas?”
“But the excommunication and the condemnation?” exclaimed Sister Rufa. “What are honor and a good name in this life if in the other we are damned? Everything passes away quickly—but the excommunication—to outrage a minister of Christ! No one less than the Pope can pardon that!”
“God, who commands honor for father and mother, will pardon it, God will not excommunicate him! And I tell you that if that young man comes to my house I will receive him and talk with him, and if I had a daughter I would want him for a son-in-law; he who is a good son will be a good husband and a good father—believe it, Sister Rufa!”
“Well, I don’t think so. Say what you like, and even though you may appear to be right, I’ll always rather believe the curate. Before everything else, I’ll save my soul. What do you say, Capitana Tinny?”
“Oh, what do you want me to say? You’re both right the curate is right, but God must also be right. I don’t know, I’m only a foolish woman. What I’m going to do is to tell my son not to study any more, for they say that persons who know anything die on the gallows. María Santísima, my son wants to go to Europe!”
“What are you thinking of doing?”
“Tell him to stay with me—why should he know more? Tomorrow or the next day we shall die, the learned and the ignorant alike must die, and the only question is to live in peace.” The good old woman sighed and raised her eyes toward the sky.
“For my part,” said Capitana Maria gravely, “if I were rich like you I would let my sons travel; they are young and will some day be men. I have only a little while to live, we should see one another in the other life, so sons should aspire to be more than their fathers, but at our sides we only teach them to be children.”
“Ay, what rare thoughts you have!” exclaimed the astonished Capitana Tinay, clasping her hands. “It must be that you didn’t suffer in bearing your twin boys.”
“For the very reason that I did bear them with suffering, that I have nurtured and reared them in spite of our poverty, I do not wish that, after the trouble they’re cost me, they be only half-men.”
“It seems to me that you don’t love your children as God commands,” said Sister Rufa in a rather severe tone.
“Pardon me, every mother loves her sons in her own way. One mother loves them for her own sake and another loves them for their sake. I am one of the latter, for my husband has so taught me.”
“All your ideas, Capitana Maria,” said Sister Rufa, as if preaching, “are but little religious. Become a sister of the Holy Rosary or of St. Francis or of St. Rita or of St. Clara.”
“Sister Rufa, when I am a worthy sister of men then I’ll try to be a sister of the saints,” she answered with a smile.
To put an end to this chapter of comments and that the reader may learn in passing what the simple country folk thought of the incident, we will now go to the plaza, where under the large awning some rustics are conversing, one of them—he who dreamed about doctors of medicine—being an acquaintance of ours.
“What I regret most,” said he, “is that the schoolhouse won’t be finished.”
“What’s that?” asked the bystanders with interest.
“My son won’t be a doctor but a carter, nothing more! Now there won’t be any school!”
“Who says there won’t be any school?” asked a rough and robust countryman with wide cheeks and a narrow head.
“I do! The white padres have called Don Crisostomo plibastiero.2 Now there won’t be any school.”
All stood looking questioningly at each other; that was a new term to them.
“And is that a bad name?” the rough countryman made bold to ask.
“The worst thing that one Christian can say to another!”
“Worse than tarantado and sarayate?”3
“If it were only that! I’ve been called those names several times and they didn’t even give me a bellyache.”
“Well, it can’t be worse than ‘indio,’ as the alferez says.”
The man who was to have a carter for a son became gloomier, while the other scratched his head in thought.
“Then it must be like the betelapora4 that the alferez’s old woman says. Worse than that is to spit on the Host.”
“Well, it’s worse than to spit on the Host on Good Friday,” was the grave reply. “You remember the word ispichoso5 which when applied to a man is enough to have the civil-guards take him into exile or put him in jail well, plibustiero is much worse. According to what the telegrapher and the directorcillo said, plibustiero, said by a Christian, a curate, or a Spaniard to another Christian like us is a santusdeus with requimiternam,6 for if they ever call you a plibustiero then you’d better get yourself shriven and pay your debts, since nothing remains for you but to be hanged. You know whether the telegrapher and the directorcillo ought to be informed; one talks with wires and the other knows Spanish and works only with a pen.” All were appalled.
“May they force me to wear shoes and in all my life to drink nothing but that vile stuff they call beer, if I ever let myself be called pelbistero!” swore the countryman, clenching his fists. “What, rich as Don Crisostomo is, knowing Spanish as he does, and able to eat fast with a knife and spoon, I’d laugh at five curates!”
“The next civil-guard I catch stealing my chickens I’m going to call palabistiero, then I’ll go to confession at once,” murmured one of the rustics in a low voice as he withdrew from the group.
1 The Spanish proverb equivalent to the English “Birds of a feather flock together.”—TR.
2 For “filibustero.”
3 Tarantado is a Spanish vulgarism meaning “blunderhead,” “bungler.” Saragate (or zaragate) is a Mexican provincialism meaning “disturber,” “mischief-maker.”—TR.
4 Vete á la porra is a vulgarism almost the same in meaning and use as the English slang, “Tell it to the policeman,” porra being the Spanish term for the policeman’s “billy.”—TR.
5 For sospechoso, “a suspicious character.”—TR.
6 Sanctus Deus and Requiem aeternam (so called from their first words) are prayers for the dead.—TR.