Since some of our characters are still living and others have been lost sight of, a real epilogue is impossible. For the satisfaction of the groundlings we should gladly kill off all of them, beginning with Padre Salvi and ending with Doña Victorina, but this is not possible. Let them live! Anyhow, the country, not ourselves, has to support them.
After Maria Clara entered the nunnery, Padre Damaso left his town to live in Manila, as did also Padre Salvi, who, while he awaits a vacant miter, preaches sometimes in the church of St. Clara, in whose nunnery he discharges the duties of an important office. Not many months had passed when Padre Damaso received an order from the Very Reverend Father Provincial to occupy a curacy in a remote province. It is related that he was so grievously affected by this that on the following day he was found dead in his bedchamber. Some said that he had died of an apoplectic stroke, others of a nightmare, but his physician dissipated all doubts by declaring that he had died suddenly.
None of our readers would now recognize Capitan Tiago. Weeks before Maria Clara took the vows he fell into a state of depression so great that he grew sad and thin, and became pensive and distrustful, like his former friend, Capitan Tinong. As soon as the doors of the nunnery closed he ordered his disconsolate cousin, Aunt Isabel, to collect whatever had belonged to his daughter and his dead wife and to go to make her home in Malabon or San Diego, since he wished to live alone thenceforward, tie then devoted himself passionately to liam-pó and the cockpit, and began to smoke opium. He no longer goes to Antipolo nor does he order any more masses, so Doña Patrocinia, his old rival, celebrates her triumph piously by snoring during the sermons. If at any time during the late afternoon you should walk along Calle Santo Cristo, you would see seated in a Chinese shop a small man, yellow, thin, and bent, with stained and dirty finger nails, gazing through dreamy, sunken eyes at the passers-by as if he did not see them. At nightfall you would see him rise with difficulty and, supporting himself on his cane, make his way to a narrow little by-street to enter a grimy building over the door of which may be seen in large red letters: FUMADERO PUBLICO DE ANFION.1 This is that Capitan Tiago who was so celebrated, but who is now completely forgotten, even by the very senior sacristan himself.
Doña Victorina has added to her false frizzes and to her Andalusization, if we may be permitted the term, the new custom of driving the carriage horses herself, obliging Don Tiburcio to remain quiet. Since many unfortunate accidents occurred on account of the weakness of her eyes, she has taken to wearing spectacles, which give her a marvelous appearance. The doctor has never been called upon again to attend any one and the servants see him many days in the week without teeth, which, as our readers know, is a very bad sign. Linares, the only defender of the hapless doctor, has long been at rest in Paco cemetery, the victim of dysentery and the harsh treatment of his cousin-in-law.
The victorious alferez returned to Spain a major, leaving his amiable spouse in her flannel camisa, the color of which is now indescribable. The poor Ariadne, finding herself thus abandoned, also devoted herself, as did the daughter of Minos, to the cult of Bacchus and the cultivation of tobacco; she drinks and smokes with such fury that now not only the girls but even the old women and little children fear her.
Probably our acquaintances of the town of San Diego are still alive, if they did not perish in the explosion of the steamer “Lipa,” which was making a trip to the province. Since no one bothered himself to learn who the unfortunates were that perished in that catastrophe or to whom belonged the legs and arms left neglected on Convalescence Island and the banks of the river, we have no idea whether any acquaintance of our readers was among them or not. Along with the government and the press at the time, we are satisfied with the information that the only friar who was on the steamer was saved, and we do not ask for more. The principal thing for us is the existence of the virtuous priests, whose reign in the Philippines may God conserve for the good of our souls.2
Of Maria Clara nothing more is known except that the sepulcher seems to guard her in its bosom. We have asked several persons of great influence in the holy nunnery of St. Clara, but no one has been willing to tell us a single word, not even the talkative devotees who receive the famous fried chicken-livers and the even more famous sauce known as that “of the nuns,” prepared by the intelligent cook of the Virgins of the Lord.
Nevertheless: On a night in September the hurricane raged over Manila, lashing the buildings with its gigantic wings. The thunder crashed continuously. Lightning flashes momentarily revealed the havoc wrought by the blast and threw the inhabitants into wild terror. The rain fell in torrents. Each flash of the forked lightning showed a piece of roofing or a window-blind flying through the air to fall with a horrible crash. Not a person or a carriage moved through the streets. When the hoarse reverberations of the thunder, a hundred times re-echoed, lost themselves in the distance, there was heard the soughing of the wind as it drove the raindrops with a continuous tick-tack against the concha-panes of the closed windows.
Two patrolmen sheltered themselves under the eaves of a building near the nunnery, one a private and the other a distinguido.
“What’s the use of our staying here?” said the private.
“No one is moving about the streets. We ought to get into a house. My querida lives in Calle Arzobispo.”
“From here over there is quite a distance and we’ll get wet,” answered the distinguido.
“What does that matter just so the lightning doesn’t strike us?”
“Bah, don’t worry! The nuns surely have a lightningrod to protect them.”
“Yes,” observed the private, “but of what use is it when the night is so dark?”
As he said this he looked upward to stare into the darkness. At that moment a prolonged streak of lightning flashed, followed by a terrific roar.
“Nakú! Susmariosep!” exclaimed the private, crossing himself and catching hold of his companion. “Let’s get away from here.”
“Come, come away from here,” he repeated with his teeth rattling from fear.
“What have you seen?”
“A specter!” he murmured, trembling with fright.
“On the roof there. It must be the nun who practises magic during the night.”
The distinguido thrust his head out to look, just as a flash of lightning furrowed the heavens with a vein of fire and sent a horrible crash earthwards. “Jesús!” he exclaimed, also crossing himself.
In the brilliant glare of the celestial light he had seen a white figure standing almost on the ridge of the roof with arms and face raised toward the sky as if praying to it. The heavens responded with lightning and thunderbolts!
As the sound of the thunder rolled away a sad plaint was heard.
“That’s not the wind, it’s the specter,” murmured the private, as if in response to the pressure of his companion’s hand.
“Ay! Ay!” came through the air, rising above the noise of the rain, nor could the whistling wind drown that sweet and mournful voice charged with affliction.
Again the lightning flashed with dazzling intensity.
“No, it’s not a specter!” exclaimed the distinguido.
“I’ve seen her before. She’s beautiful, like the Virgin! Let’s get away from here and report it.”
The private did not wait for him to repeat the invitation, and both disappeared.
Who was moaning in the middle of the night in spite of the wind and rain and storm? Who was the timid maiden, the bride of Christ, who defied the unchained elements and chose such a fearful night under the open sky to breathe forth from so perilous a height her complaints to God? Had the Lord abandoned his altar in the nunnery so that He no longer heard her supplications? Did its arches perhaps prevent the longings of the soul from rising up to the throne of the Most Merciful?
The tempest raged furiously nearly the whole night, nor did a single star shine through the darkness. The despairing plaints continued to mingle with the soughing of the wind, but they found Nature and man alike deaf; God had hidden himself and heard not.
On the following day, after the dark clouds had cleared away and the sun shone again brightly in the limpid sky, there stopped at the door of the nunnery of St. Clara a carriage, from which alighted a man who made himself known as a representative of the authorities. He asked to be allowed to speak immediately with the abbess and to see all the nuns.
It is said that one of these, who appeared in a gown all wet and torn, with tears and tales of horror begged the man’s protection against the outrages of hypocrisy. It is also said that she was very beautiful and had the most lovely and expressive eyes that were ever seen.
The representative of the authorities did not accede to her request, but, after talking with the abbess, left her there in spite of her tears and pleadings. The youthful nun saw the door close behind him as a condemned person might look upon the portals of Heaven closing against him, if ever Heaven should come to be as cruel and unfeeling as men are. The abbess said that she was a madwoman. The man may not have known that there is in Manila a home for the demented; or perhaps he looked upon the nunnery itself as an insane asylum, although it is claimed that he was quite ignorant, especially in a matter of deciding whether a person is of sound mind.
It is also reported that General J——— thought otherwise, when the matter reached his ears. He wished to protect the madwoman and asked for her. But this time no beautiful and unprotected maiden appeared, nor would the abbess permit a visit to the cloister, forbidding it in the name of Religion and the Holy Statutes. Nothing more was said of the affair, nor of the ill-starred Maria Clara.
1 Public Opium-Smoking Room.
2 January 2, 1883.—Author’s note.