His Excellency, the Captain-General and Governor of the Philippine Islands, had been hunting in Bosoboso. But as he had to be accompanied by a band of music,—since such an exalted personage was not to be esteemed less than the wooden images carried in the processions,—and as devotion to the divine art of St. Cecilia has not yet been popularized among the deer and wild boars of Bosoboso, his Excellency, with the band of music and train of friars, soldiers, and clerks, had not been able to catch a single rat or a solitary bird.
The provincial authorities foresaw dismissals and transfers, the poor gobernadorcillos and cabezas de barangay were restless and sleepless, fearing that the mighty hunter in his wrath might have a notion to make up with their persons for the lack of submissiveness on the part of the beasts of the forest, as had been done years before by an alcalde who had traveled on the shoulders of impressed porters because he found no horses gentle enough to guarantee his safety. There was not lacking an evil rumor that his Excellency had decided to take some action, since in this he saw the first symptoms of a rebellion which should be strangled in its infancy, that a fruitless hunt hurt the prestige of the Spanish name, that he already had his eye on a wretch to be dressed up as a deer, when his Excellency, with clemency that Ben-Zayb lacked words to extol sufficiently, dispelled all the fears by declaring that it pained him to sacrifice to his pleasure the beasts of the forest.
But to tell the truth, his Excellency was secretly very well satisfied, for what would have happened had he missed a shot at a deer, one of those not familiar with political etiquette? What would the prestige of the sovereign power have come to then? A Captain-General of the Philippines missing a shot, like a raw hunter? What would have been said by the Indians, among whom there were some fair huntsmen? The integrity of the fatherland would have been endangered.
So it was that his Excellency, with a sheepish smile, and posing as a disappointed hunter, ordered an immediate return to Los Baños. During the journey he related with an indifferent air his hunting exploits in this or that forest of the Peninsula, adopting a tone somewhat depreciative, as suited the case, toward hunting in Filipinas. The bath in Dampalit, the hot springs on the shore of the lake, card-games in the palace, with an occasional excursion to some neighboring waterfall, or the lake infested with caymans, offered more attractions and fewer risks to the integrity of the fatherland.
Thus on one of the last days of December, his Excellency found himself in the sala, taking a hand at cards while he awaited the breakfast hour. He had come from the bath, with the usual glass of coconut-milk and its soft meat, so he was in the best of humors for granting favors and privileges. His good humor was increased by his winning a good many hands, for Padre Irene and Padre Sibyla, with whom he was playing, were exercising all their skill in secretly trying to lose, to the great irritation of Padre Camorra, who on account of his late arrival only that morning was not informed as to the game they were playing on the General. The friar-artilleryman was playing in good faith and with great care, so he turned red and bit his lip every time Padre Sibyla seemed inattentive or blundered, but he dared not say a word by reason of the respect he felt for the Dominican. In exchange he took his revenge out on Padre Irene, whom he looked upon as a base fawner and despised for his coarseness. Padre Sibyla let him scold, while the humbler Padre Irene tried to excuse himself by rubbing his long nose. His Excellency was enjoying it and took advantage, like the good tactician that the Canon hinted he was, of all the mistakes of his opponents. Padre Camorra was ignorant of the fact that across the table they were playing for the intellectual development of the Filipinos, the instruction in Castilian, but had he known it he would doubtless have joyfully entered into that game.
The open balcony admitted the fresh, pure breeze and revealed the lake, whose waters murmured sweetly around the base of the edifice, as if rendering homage. On the right, at a distance, appeared Talim Island, a deep blue in the midst of the lake, while almost in front lay the green and deserted islet of Kalamba, in the shape of a half-moon. To the left the picturesque shores were fringed with clumps of bamboo, then a hill overlooking the lake, with wide ricefields beyond, then red roofs amid the deep green of the trees,—the town of Kalamba,—and beyond the shore-line fading into the distance, with the horizon at the back closing down over the water, giving the lake the appearance of a sea and justifying the name the Indians give it of dagat na tabang, or fresh-water sea.
At the end of the sala, seated before a table covered with documents, was the secretary. His Excellency was a great worker and did not like to lose time, so he attended to business in the intervals of the game or while dealing the cards. Meanwhile, the bored secretary yawned and despaired. That morning he had worked, as usual, over transfers, suspensions of employees, deportations, pardons, and the like, but had not yet touched the great question that had stirred so much interest—the petition of the students requesting permission to establish an academy of Castilian. Pacing from one end of the room to the other and conversing animatedly but in low tones were to be seen Don Custodio, a high official, and a friar named Padre Fernandez, who hung his head with an air either of meditation or annoyance. From an adjoining room issued the click of balls striking together and bursts of laughter, amid which might be heard the sharp, dry voice of Simoun, who was playing billiards with Ben-Zayb.
Suddenly Padre Camorra arose. “The devil with this game, puñales!” he exclaimed, throwing his cards at Padre Irene’s head. “Puñales, that trick, if not all the others, was assured and we lost by default! Puñales! The devil with this game!”
He explained the situation angrily to all the occupants of the sala, addressing himself especially to the three walking about, as if he had selected them for judges. The general played thus, he replied with such a card, Padre Irene had a certain card; he led, and then that fool of a Padre Irene didn’t play his card! Padre Irene was giving the game away! It was a devil of a way to play! His mother’s son had not come here to rack his brains for nothing and lose his money!
Then he added, turning very red, “If the booby thinks my money grows on every bush!... On top of the fact that my Indians are beginning to haggle over payments!” Fuming, and disregarding the excuses of Padre Irene, who tried to explain while he rubbed the tip of his beak in order to conceal his sly smile, he went into the billiardroom.
“Padre Fernandez, would you like to take a hand?” asked Fray Sibyla.
“I’m a very poor player,” replied the friar with a grimace.
“Then get Simoun,” said the General. “Eh, Simoun! Eh, Mister, won’t you try a hand?”
“What is your disposition concerning the arms for sporting purposes?” asked the secretary, taking advantage of the pause.
Simoun thrust his head through the doorway.
“Don’t you want to take Padre Camorra’s place, Señor Sindbad?” inquired Padre Irene. “You can bet diamonds instead of chips.”
“I don’t care if I do,” replied Simoun, advancing while he brushed the chalk from his hands. “What will you bet?”
“What should we bet?” returned Padre Sibyla. “The General can bet what he likes, but we priests, clerics—”
“Bah!” interrupted Simoun ironically. “You and Padre Irene can pay with deeds of charity, prayers, and virtues, eh?”
“You know that the virtues a person may possess,” gravely argued Padre Sibyla, “are not like the diamonds that may pass from hand to hand, to be sold and resold. They are inherent in the being, they are essential attributes of the subject—”
“I’ll be satisfied then if you pay me with promises,” replied Simoun jestingly. “You, Padre Sibyla, instead of paying me five something or other in money, will say, for example: for five days I renounce poverty, humility, and obedience. You, Padre Irene: I renounce chastity, liberality, and so on. Those are small matters, and I’m putting up my diamonds.”
“What a peculiar man this Simoun is, what notions he has!” exclaimed Padre Irene with a smile.
“And he,” continued Simoun, slapping his Excellency familiarly on the shoulder, “he will pay me with an order for five days in prison, or five months, or an order of deportation made out in blank, or let us say a summary execution by the Civil Guard while my man is being conducted from one town to another.”
This was a strange proposition, so the three who had been pacing about gathered around.
“But, Señor Simoun,” asked the high official, “what good will you get out of winning promises of virtues, or lives and deportations and summary executions?”
“A great deal! I’m tired of hearing virtues talked about and would like to have the whole of them, all there are in the world, tied up in a sack, in order to throw them into the sea, even though I had to use my diamonds for sinkers.”
“What an idea!” exclaimed Padre Irene with another smile. “And the deportations and executions, what of them?”
“Well, to clean the country and destroy every evil seed.”
“Get out! You’re still sore at the tulisanes. But you were lucky that they didn’t demand a larger ransom or keep all your jewels. Man, don’t be ungrateful!”
Simoun proceeded to relate how he had been intercepted by a band of tulisanes, who, after entertaining him for a day, had let him go on his way without exacting other ransom than his two fine revolvers and the two boxes of cartridges he carried with him. He added that the tulisanes had charged him with many kind regards for his Excellency, the Captain-General.
As a result of this, and as Simoun reported that the tulisanes were well provided with shotguns, rifles, and revolvers, and against such persons one man alone, no matter how well armed, could not defend himself, his Excellency, to prevent the tulisanes from getting weapons in the future, was about to dictate a new decree forbidding the introduction of sporting arms.
“On the contrary, on the contrary!” protested Simoun, “for me the tulisanes are the most respectable men in the country, they’re the only ones who earn their living honestly. Suppose I had fallen into the hands—well, of you yourselves, for example, would you have let me escape without taking half of my jewels, at least?”
Don Custodio was on the point of protesting; that Simoun was really a rude American mulatto taking advantage of his friendship with the Captain-General to insult Padre Irene, although it may be true also that Padre Irene would hardly have set him free for so little.
“The evil is not,” went on Simoun, “in that there are tulisanes in the mountains and uninhabited parts—the evil lies in the tulisanes in the towns and cities.”
“Like yourself,” put in the Canon with a smile.
“Yes, like myself, like all of us! Let’s be frank, for no Indian is listening to us here,” continued the jeweler. “The evil is that we’re not all openly declared tulisanes. When that happens and we all take to the woods, on that day the country will be saved, on that day will rise a new social order which will take care of itself, and his Excellency will be able to play his game in peace, without the necessity of having his attention diverted by his secretary.”
The person mentioned at that moment yawned, extending his folded arms above his head and stretching his crossed legs under the table as far as possible, upon noticing which all laughed. His Excellency wished to change the course of the conversation, so, throwing down the cards he had been shuffling, he said half seriously: “Come, come, enough of jokes and cards! Let’s get to work, to work in earnest, since we still have a half-hour before breakfast. Are there many matters to be got through with?”
All now gave their attention. That was the day for joining battle over the question of instruction in Castilian, for which purpose Padre Sibyla and Padre Irene had been there several days. It was known that the former, as Vice-Rector, was opposed to the project and that the latter supported it, and his activity was in turn supported by the Countess.
“What is there, what is there?” asked his Excellency impatiently.
“The petition about sporting arms,” replied the secretary with a stifled yawn.
“Pardon, General,” said the high official gravely, “your Excellency will permit me to invite your attention to the fact that the use of sporting arms is permitted in all the countries of the world.”
The General shrugged his shoulders and remarked dryly, “We are not imitating any nation in the world.”
Between his Excellency and the high official there was always a difference of opinion, so it was sufficient that the latter offer any suggestion whatsoever to have the former remain stubborn.
The high official tried another tack. “Sporting arms can harm only rats and chickens. They’ll say—”
“But are we chickens?” interrupted the General, again shrugging his shoulders. “Am I? I’ve demonstrated that I’m not.”
“But there’s another thing,” observed the secretary. “Four months ago, when the possession of arms was prohibited, the foreign importers were assured that sporting arms would be admitted.”
His Excellency knitted his brows.
“That can be arranged,” suggested Simoun.
“Very simply. Sporting arms nearly all have a caliber of six millimeters, at least those now in the market. Authorize only the sale of those that haven’t these six millimeters.”
All approved this idea of Simoun’s, except the high official, who muttered into Padre Fernandez’s ear that this was not dignified, nor was it the way to govern.
“The schoolmaster of Tiani,” proceeded the secretary, shuffling some papers about, “asks for a better location for—”
“What better location can he want than the storehouse that he has all to himself?” interrupted Padre Camorra, who had returned, having forgotten about the card-game.
“He says that it’s roofless,” replied the secretary, “and that having purchased out of his own pocket some maps and pictures, he doesn’t want to expose them to the weather.”
“But I haven’t anything to do with that,” muttered his Excellency. “He should address the head secretary, the governor of the province, or the nuncio.” 
“I want to tell you,” declared Padre Camorra, “that this little schoolmaster is a discontented filibuster. Just imagine—the heretic teaches that corpses rot just the same, whether buried with great pomp or without any! Some day I’m going to punch him!” Here he doubled up his fists.
“To tell the truth,” observed Padre Sibyla, as if speaking only to Padre Irene, “he who wishes to teach, teaches everywhere, in the open air. Socrates taught in the public streets, Plato in the gardens of the Academy, even Christ among the mountains and lakes.”
“I’ve heard several complaints against this schoolmaster,” said his Excellency, exchanging a glance with Simoun. “I think the best thing would be to suspend him.”
“Suspended!” repeated the secretary.
The luck of that unfortunate, who had asked for help and received his dismissal, pained the high official and he tried to do something for him.
“It’s certain,” he insinuated rather timidly, “that education is not at all well provided for—”
“I’ve already decreed large sums for the purchase of supplies,” exclaimed his Excellency haughtily, as if to say, “I’ve done more than I ought to have done.”
“But since suitable locations are lacking, the supplies purchased get ruined.”
“Everything can’t be done at once,” said his Excellency dryly. “The schoolmasters here are doing wrong in asking for buildings when those in Spain starve to death. It’s great presumption to be better off here than in the mother country itself!”
“Before everything the fatherland! Before everything else we are Spaniards!” added Ben-Zayb, his eyes glowing with patriotism, but he blushed somewhat when he noticed that he was speaking alone.
“In the future,” decided the General, “all who complain will be suspended.”
“If my project were accepted—” Don Custodio ventured to remark, as if talking to himself.
“For the construction of schoolhouses?”
“It’s simple, practical, economical, and, like all my projects, derived from long experience and knowledge of the country. The towns would have schools without costing the government a cuarto.”
“That’s easy,” observed the secretary sarcastically. “Compel the towns to construct them at their own expense,” whereupon all laughed.
“No, sir! No, sir!” cried the exasperated Don Custodio, turning very red. “The buildings are already constructed and only wait to be utilized. Hygienic, unsurpassable, spacious—”
The friars looked at one another uneasily. Would Don Custodio propose that the churches and conventos be converted into schoolhouses?
“Let’s hear it,” said the General with a frown.
“Well, General, it’s very simple,” replied Don Custodio, drawing himself up and assuming his hollow voice of ceremony. “The schools are open only on week-days and the cockpits on holidays. Then convert these into schoolhouses, at least during the week.”
“Man, man, man!”
“What a lovely idea!”
“What’s the matter with you, Don Custodio?”
“That’s a grand suggestion!”
“That beats them all!”
“But, gentlemen,” cried Don Custodio, in answer to so many exclamations, “let’s be practical—what places are more suitable than the cockpits? They’re large, well constructed, and under a curse for the use to which they are put during the week-days. From a moral standpoint my project would be acceptable, by serving as a kind of expiation and weekly purification of the temple of chance, as we might say.”
“But the fact remains that sometimes there are cockfights during the week,” objected Padre Camorra, “and it wouldn’t be right when the contractors of the cockpits pay the government—”
“Well, on those days close the school!”
“Man, man!” exclaimed the scandalized Captain-General. “Such an outrage shall never be perpetrated while I govern! To close the schools in order to gamble! Man, man, I’ll resign first!” His Excellency was really horrified.
“But, General, it’s better to close them for a few days than for months.”
“It would be immoral,” observed Padre Irene, more indignant even than his Excellency.
“It’s more immoral that vice has good buildings and learning none. Let’s be practical, gentlemen, and not be carried away by sentiment. In politics there’s nothing worse than sentiment. While from humane considerations we forbid the cultivation of opium in our colonies, we tolerate the smoking of it, and the result is that we do not combat the vice but impoverish ourselves.”
“But remember that it yields to the government, without any effort, more than four hundred and fifty thousand pesos,” objected Padre Irene, who was getting more and more on the governmental side.
“Enough, enough, enough!” exclaimed his Excellency, to end the discussion. “I have my own plans in this regard and will devote special attention to the matter of public instruction. Is there anything else?”
The secretary looked uneasily toward Padre Sibyla and Padre Irene. The cat was about to come out of the bag. Both prepared themselves.
“The petition of the students requesting authorization to open an academy of Castilian,” answered the secretary.
A general movement was noted among those in the room. After glancing at one another they fixed their eyes on the General to learn what his disposition would be. For six months the petition had lain there awaiting a decision and had become converted into a kind of casus belli in certain circles. His Excellency had lowered his eyes, as if to keep his thoughts from being read.
The silence became embarrassing, as the General understood, so he asked the high official, “What do you think?”
“What should I think, General?” responded the person addressed, with a shrug of his shoulders and a bitter smile. “What should I think but that the petition is just, very just, and that I am surprised that six months should have been taken to consider it.”
“The fact is that it involves other considerations,” said Padre Sibyla coldly, as he half closed his eyes.
The high official again shrugged his shoulders, like one who did not comprehend what those considerations could be.
“Besides the intemperateness of the demand,” went on the Dominican, “besides the fact that it is in the nature of an infringement on our prerogatives—”
Padre Sibyla dared not go on, but looked at Simoun.
“The petition has a somewhat suspicious character,” corroborated that individual, exchanging a look with the Dominican, who winked several times.
Padre Irene noticed these things and realized that his cause was almost lost—Simoun was against him.
“It’s a peaceful rebellion, a revolution on stamped paper,” added Padre Sibyla.
“Revolution? Rebellion?” inquired the high official, staring from one to the other as if he did not understand what they could mean.
“It’s headed by some young men charged with being too radical and too much interested in reforms, not to use stronger terms,” remarked the secretary, with a look at the Dominican. “Among them is a certain Isagani, a poorly balanced head, nephew of a native priest—”
“He’s a pupil of mine,” put in Padre Fernandez, “and I’m much pleased with him.” 
“Puñales, I like your taste!” exclaimed Padre Camorra. “On the steamer we nearly had a fight. He’s so insolent that when I gave him a shove aside he returned it.”
“There’s also one Makaragui or Makarai—”
“Makaraig,” Padre Irene joined in. “A very pleasant and agreeable young man.”
Then he murmured into the General’s ear, “He’s the one I’ve talked to you about, he’s very rich. The Countess recommends him strongly.”
“A medical student, one Basilio—”
“Of that Basilio, I’ll say nothing,” observed Padre Irene, raising his hands and opening them, as if to say Dominus vobiscum. “He’s too deep for me. I’ve never succeeded in fathoming what he wants or what he is thinking about. It’s a pity that Padre Salvi isn’t present to tell us something about his antecedents. I believe that I’ve heard that when a boy he got into trouble with the Civil Guard. His father was killed in—I don’t remember what disturbance.”
Simoun smiled faintly, silently, showing his sharp white teeth.
“Aha! Aha!” said his Excellency nodding. “That’s the kind we have! Make a note of that name.”
“But, General,” objected the high official, seeing that the matter was taking a bad turn, “up to now nothing positive is known against these young men. Their position is a very just one, and we have no right to deny it on the ground of mere conjectures. My opinion is that the government, by exhibiting confidence in the people and in its own stability, should grant what is asked, then it could freely revoke the permission when it saw that its kindness was being abused—reasons and pretexts would not be wanting, we can watch them. Why cause disaffection among some young men, who later on may feel resentment, when what they ask is commanded by royal decrees?”
Padre Irene, Don Custodio, and Padre Fernandez nodded in agreement.
“But the Indians must not understand Castilian, you know,” cried Padre Camorra. “They mustn’t learn it, for then they’ll enter into arguments with us, and the Indians must not argue, but obey and pay. They mustn’t try to interpret the meaning of the laws and the books, they’re so tricky and pettifogish! Just as soon as they learn Castilian they become enemies of God and of Spain. Just read the Tandang Basio Macunat—that’s a book! It tells truths like this!” And he held up his clenched fists.
Padre Sibyla rubbed his hand over his tonsure in sign of impatience. “One word,” he began in the most conciliatory tone, though fuming with irritation, “here we’re not dealing with the instruction in Castilian alone. Here there is an underhand fight between the students and the University of Santo Tomas. If the students win this, our prestige will be trampled in the dirt, they will say that they’ve beaten us and will exult accordingly. Then, good-by to moral strength, good-by to everything! The first dike broken down, who will restrain this youth? With our fall we do no more than signal your own. After us, the government!”
“Puñales, that’s not so!” exclaimed Padre Camorra. “We’ll see first who has the biggest fists!”
At this point Padre Fernandez, who thus far in the discussion had merely contented himself with smiling, began to talk. All gave him their attention, for they knew him to be a thoughtful man.
“Don’t take it ill of me, Padre Sibyla, if I differ from your view of the affair, but it’s my peculiar fate to be almost always in opposition to my brethren. I say, then, that we ought not to be so pessimistic. The instruction in Castilian can be allowed without any risk whatever, and in order that it may not appear to be a defeat of the University, we Dominicans ought to put forth our efforts and be the first to rejoice over it—that should be our policy. To what end are we to be engaged in an everlasting struggle with the people, when after all we are the few and they are the many, when we need them and they do not need us? Wait, Padre Camorra, wait! Admit that now the people may be weak and ignorant—I also believe that—but it will not be true tomorrow or the day after. Tomorrow and the next day they will be the stronger, they will know what is good for them, and we cannot keep it from them, just as it is not possible to keep from children the knowledge of many things when they reach a certain age. I say, then, why should we not take advantage of this condition of ignorance to change our policy completely, to place it upon a basis solid and enduring—on the basis of justice, for example, instead of on the basis of ignorance? There’s nothing like being just; that I’ve always said to my brethren, but they won’t believe me. The Indian idolizes justice, like every race in its youth; he asks for punishment when he has done wrong, just as he is exasperated when he has not deserved it. Is theirs a just desire? Then grant it! Let’s give them all the schools they want, until they are tired of them. Youth is lazy, and what urges them to activity is our opposition. Our bond of prestige, Padre Sibyla, is about worn out, so let’s prepare another, the bond of gratitude, for example. Let’s not be fools, let’s do as the crafty Jesuits—”
“Padre Fernandez!” Anything could be tolerated by Padre Sibyla except to propose the Jesuits to him as a model. Pale and trembling, he broke out into bitter recrimination. “A Franciscan first! Anything before a Jesuit!” He was beside himself.
A general discussion broke out, regardless of the Captain-General. All talked at once, they yelled, they misunderstood and contradicted one another. Ben-Zayb and Padre Camorra shook their fists in each other’s faces, one talking of simpletons and the other of ink-slingers, Padre Sibyla kept harping on the Capitulum, and Padre Fernandez on the Summa of St. Thomas, until the curate of Los Baños entered to announce that breakfast was served.
His Excellency arose and so ended the discussion. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, “we’ve worked like niggers and yet we’re on a vacation. Some one has said that grave matters should he considered at dessert. I’m entirely of that opinion.”
“We might get indigestion,” remarked the secretary, alluding to the heat of the discussion.
“Then we’ll lay it aside until tomorrow.”
As they rose the high official whispered to the General, “Your Excellency, the daughter of Cabesang Tales has been here again begging for the release of her sick grandfather, who was arrested in place of her father.”
His Excellency looked at him with an expression of impatience and rubbed his hand across his broad forehead. “Carambas! Can’t one be left to eat his breakfast in peace?”
“This is the third day she has come. She’s a poor girl—”
“Oh, the devil!” exclaimed Padre Camorra. “I’ve just thought of it. I have something to say to the General about that—that’s what I came over for—to support that girl’s petition.”
The General scratched the back of his ear and said, “Oh, go along! Have the secretary make out an order to the lieutenant of the Civil Guard for the old man’s release. They sha’n’t say that we’re not clement and merciful.”
He looked at Ben-Zayb. The journalist winked.