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Chapter 30: Juli


The death of Capitan Tiago and Basilio’s imprisonment were soon reported in the province, and to the honor of the simple inhabitants of San Diego, let it be recorded that the latter was the incident more regretted and almost the only one discussed. As was to be expected, the report took on different forms, sad and startling details were given, what could not be understood was explained, the gaps being filled by conjectures, which soon passed for accomplished facts, and the phantoms thus created terrified their own creators.
In the town of Tiani it was reported that at least, at the very least, the young man was going to be deported and would very probably be murdered on the journey. The timorous and pessimistic were not satisfied with this but even talked about executions and courts-martial—January was a fatal month; in January the Cavite affair had occurred, and they even though curates, had been garroted, so a poor Basilio without protectors or friends—
“I told him so!” sighed the Justice of the Peace, as if he had at some time given advice to Basilio. “I told him so.”
“It was to be expected,” commented Sister Penchang. “He would go into the church and when he saw that the holy water was somewhat dirty he wouldn’t cross himself with it. He talked about germs and disease, abá, it’s the chastisement of God! He deserved it, and he got it! As though the holy water could transmit diseases! Quite the contrary, abá!
She then related how she had cured herself of indigestion by moistening her stomach with holy water, at the same time reciting the Sanctus Deus, and she recommended the remedy to those present when they should suffer from dysentery, or an epidemic occurred, only that then they must pray in Spanish:
Santo Diós,
Santo fuerte,
Santo inmortal,
¡Libranos, Señor, de la peste
Y de todo mal!
“It’s an infallible remedy, but you must apply the holy water to the part affected,” she concluded.
But there were many persons who did not believe in these things, nor did they attribute Basilio’s imprisonment to the chastisement of God. Nor did they take any stock in insurrections and pasquinades, knowing the prudent and ultra-pacific character of the boy, but preferred to ascribe it to revenge on the part of the friars, because of his having rescued from servitude Juli, the daughter of a tulisan who was the mortal enemy of a certain powerful corporation. As they had quite a poor idea of the morality of that same corporation and could recall cases of petty revenge, their conjecture was believed to have more probability and justification.
“What a good thing I did when I drove her from my house!” said Sister Penchang. “I don’t want to have any trouble with the friars, so I urged her to find the money.”
The truth was, however, that she regretted Juli’s liberty, for Juli prayed and fasted for her, and if she had stayed a longer time, would also have done penance. Why, if the curates pray for us and Christ died for our sins, couldn’t Juli do the same for Sister Penchang?
When the news reached the hut where the poor Juli and her grandfather lived, the girl had to have it repeated to her. She stared at Sister Bali, who was telling it, as though without comprehension, without ability to collect her thoughts. Her ears buzzed, she felt a sinking at the heart and had a vague presentiment that this event would have a disastrous influence on her own future. Yet she tried to seize upon a ray of hope, she smiled, thinking that Sister Bali was joking with her, a rather strong joke, to be sure, but she forgave her beforehand if she would acknowledge that it was such. But Sister Bali made a cross with one of her thumbs and a forefinger, and kissed it, to prove that she was telling the truth. Then the smile faded forever from the girl’s lips, she turned pale, frightfully pale, she felt her strength leave her and for the first time in her life she lost consciousness, falling into a swoon.
When by dint of blows, pinches, dashes of water, crosses, and the application of sacred palms, the girl recovered and remembered the situation, silent tears sprang from her eyes, drop by drop, without sobs, without laments, without complaints! She thought about Basilio, who had had no other protector than Capitan Tiago, and who now, with the Capitan dead, was left completely unprotected and in prison. In the Philippines it is a well-known fact that patrons are needed for everything, from the time one is christened until one dies, in order to get justice, to secure a passport, or to develop an industry. As it was said that his imprisonment was due to revenge on account of herself and her father, the girl’s sorrow turned to desperation. Now it was her duty to liberate him, as he had done in rescuing her from servitude, and the inner voice which suggested the idea offered to her imagination a horrible means.
“Padre Camorra, the curate,” whispered the voice. Juli gnawed at her lips and became lost in gloomy meditation.
As a result of her father’s crime, her grandfather had been arrested in the hope that by such means the son could be made to appear. The only one who could get him his liberty was Padre Camorra, and Padre Camorra had shown himself to be poorly satisfied with her words of gratitude, having with his usual frankness asked for some sacrifices—since which time Juli had tried to avoid meeting him. But the curate made her kiss his hand, he twitched her nose and patted her cheeks, he joked with her, winking and laughing, and laughing he pinched her. Juli was also the cause of the beating the good curate had administered to some young men who were going about the village serenading the girls. Malicious ones, seeing her pass sad and dejected, would remark so that she might hear: “If she only wished it, Cabesang Tales would be pardoned.”
Juli reached her home, gloomy and with wandering looks. She had changed greatly, having lost her merriment, and no one ever saw her smile again. She scarcely spoke and seemed to be afraid to look at her own face. One day she was seen in the town with a big spot of soot on her forehead, she who used to go so trim and neat. Once she asked Sister Bali if the people who committed suicide went to hell.
“Surely!” replied that woman, and proceeded to describe the place as though she had been there.
Upon Basilio’s imprisonment, the simple and grateful relatives had planned to make all kinds of sacrifices to save the young man, but as they could collect among themselves no more than thirty pesos, Sister Bali, as usual, thought of a better plan.
“What we must do is to get some advice from the town clerk,” she said. To these poor people, the town clerk was what the Delphic oracle was to the ancient Greeks.
“By giving him a real and a cigar,” she continued, “he’ll tell you all the laws so that your head bursts listening to him. If you have a peso, he’ll save you, even though you may be at the foot of the scaffold. When my friend Simon was put in jail and flogged for not being able to give evidence about a robbery perpetrated near his house, abá, for two reales and a half and a string of garlics, the town clerk got him out. And I saw Simon myself when he could scarcely walk and he had to stay in bed at least a month. Ay, his flesh rotted as a result and he died!”
Sister Bali’s advice was accepted and she herself volunteered to interview the town clerk. Juli gave her four reales and added some strips of jerked venison her grand-father had got, for Tandang Selo had again devoted himself to hunting.
But the town clerk could do nothing—the prisoner was in Manila, and his power did not extend that far. “If at least he were at the capital, then—” he ventured, to make a show of his authority, which he knew very well did not extend beyond the boundaries of Tiani, but he had to maintain his prestige and keep the jerked venison. “But I can give you a good piece of advice, and it is that you go with Juli to see the Justice of the Peace. But it’s very necessary that Juli go.”
The Justice of the Peace was a very rough fellow, but if he should see Juli he might conduct himself less rudely—this is wherein lay the wisdom of the advice.
With great gravity the honorable Justice listened to Sister Bali, who did the talking, but not without staring from time to time at the girl, who hung her head with shame. People would say that she was greatly interested in Basilio, people who did not remember her debt of gratitude, nor that his imprisonment, according to report, was on her account.
After belching three or four times, for his Honor had that ugly habit, he said that the only person who could save Basilio was Padre Camorra, in case he should care to do so. Here he stared meaningly at the girl and advised her to deal with the curate in person.
“You know what influence he has,—he got your grand-father out of jail. A report from him is enough to deport a new-born babe or save from death a man with the noose about his neck.”
Juli said nothing, but Sister Bali took this advice as though she had read it in a novena, and was ready to accompany the girl to the convento. It so happened that [293] she was just going there to get as alms a scapulary in exchange for four full reales.
But Juli shook her head and was unwilling to go to the convento. Sister Bali thought she could guess the reason—Padre Camorra was reputed to be very fond of the women and was very frolicsome—so she tried to reassure her. “You’ve nothing to fear if I go with you. Haven’t you read in the booklet Tandang Basio, given you by the curate, that the girls should go to the convento, even without the knowledge of their elders, to relate what is going on at home? Abá, that book is printed with the permission of the Archbishop!”
Juli became impatient and wished to cut short such talk, so she begged the pious woman to go if she wished, but his Honor observed with a belch that the supplications of a youthful face were more moving than those of an old one, the sky poured its dew over the fresh flowers in greater abundance than over the withered ones. The metaphor was fiendishly beautiful.
Juli did not reply and the two left the house. In the street the girl firmly refused to go to the convento and they returned to their village. Sister Bali, who felt offended at this lack of confidence in herself, on the way home relieved her feelings by administering a long preachment to the girl.
The truth was that the girl could not take that step without damning herself in her own eyes, besides being cursed of men and cursed of God! It had been intimated to her several times, whether with reason or not, that if she would make that sacrifice her father would be pardoned, and yet she had refused, in spite of the cries of her conscience reminding her of her filial duty. Now must she make it for Basilio, her sweetheart? That would be to fall to the sound of mockery and laughter from all creation. Basilio himself would despise her! No, never! She would first hang herself or leap from some precipice. At any rate, she was already damned for being a wicked daughter.
The poor girl had besides to endure all the reproaches of her relatives, who, knowing nothing of what had passed between her and Padre Camovra, laughed at her fears. Would Padre Camorra fix his attention upon a country girl when there were so many others in the town? Hero the good women cited names of unmarried girls, rich and beautiful, who had been more or less unfortunate. Meanwhile, if they should shoot Basilio?
Juli covered her ears and stared wildly about, as if seeking a voice that might plead for her, but she saw only her grandfather, who was dumb and had his gaze fixed on his hunting-spear.
That night she scarcely slept at all. Dreams and nightmares, some funereal, some bloody, danced before her sight and woke her often, bathed in cold perspiration. She fancied that she heard shots, she imagined that she saw her father, that father who had done so much for her, fighting in the forests, hunted like a wild beast because she had refused to save him. The figure of her father was transformed and she recognized Basilio, dying, with looks of reproach at her. The wretched girl arose, prayed, wept, called upon her mother, upon death, and there was even a moment when, overcome with terror, if it had not been night-time, she would have run straight to the convento, let happen what would.
With the coming of day the sad presentiments and the terrors of darkness were partly dissipated. The light inspired hopes in her. But the news of the afternoon was terrible, for there was talk of persons shot, so the next night was for the girl frightful. In her desperation she decided to give herself up as soon as day dawned and then kill herself afterwards—anything, rather than enditre such tortures! But the dawn brought new hope and she would not go to church or even leave the house. She was afraid she would yield.
So passed several days in praying and cursing, in calling upon God and wishing for death. The day gave her a slight respite and she trusted in some miracle. The reports that came from Manila, although they reached there magnified, said that of the prisoners some had secured their liberty, thanks to patrons and influence. Some one had to be sacrificed—who would it be? Juli shuddered and returned home biting her finger-nails. Then came the night with its terrors, which took on double proportions and seemed to be converted into realities. Juli feared to fall asleep, for her slumbers were a continuous nightmare. Looks of reproach would flash across her eyelids just as soon as they were closed, complaints and laments pierced her ears. She saw her father wandering about hungry, without rest or repose; she saw Basilio dying in the road, pierced by two bullets, just as she had seen the corpse of that neighbor who had been killed while in the charge of the Civil Guard. She saw the bonds that cut into the flesh, she saw the blood pouring from the mouth, she heard Basilio calling to her, “Save me! Save me! You alone can save me!” Then a burst of laughter would resound and she would turn her eyes to see her father gazing at her with eyes full of reproach. Juli would wake up, sit up on her petate, and draw her hands across her forehead to arrange her hair—cold sweat, like the sweat of death, moistened it!
“Mother, mother!” she sobbed.
Meanwhile, they who were so carelessly disposing of people’s fates, he who commanded the legal murders, he who violated justice and made use of the law to maintain himself by force, slept in peace.
At last a traveler arrived from Manila and reported that all the prisoners had been set free, all except Basilio, who had no protector. It was reported in Manila, added the traveler, that the young man would be deported to the Carolines, having been forced to sign a petition beforehand, in which he declared that he asked it voluntarily. The traveler had seen the very steamer that was going to take him away.
This report put an end to all the girl’s hesitation. Besides, her mind was already quite weak from so many nights of watching and horrible dreams. Pale and with unsteady eyes, she sought out Sister Bali and, in a voice that was cause for alarm, told her that she was ready, asking her to accompany her. Sister Bali thereupon rejoiced and tried to soothe her, but Juli paid no attention to her, apparently intent only upon hurrying to the convento. She had decked herself out in her finest clothes, and even pretended to be quite gay, talking a great deal, although in a rather incoherent way.
So they set out. Juli went ahead, becoming impatient that her companion lagged behind. But as they neared the town, her nervous energy began gradually to abate, she fell silent and wavered in her resolution, lessened her pace and soon dropped behind, so that Sister Bali had to encourage her.
“We’ll get there late,” she remonstrated.
Juli now followed, pale, with downcast eyes, which she was afraid to raise. She felt that the whole world was staring at her and pointing its finger at her. A vile name whistled in her ears, but still she disregarded it and continued on her way. Nevertheless, when they came in sight of the convento, she stopped and began to tremble.
“Let’s go home, let’s go home,” she begged, holding her companion back.
Sister Bali had to take her by the arm and half drag her along, reassuring her and telling her about the books of the friars. She would not desert her, so there was nothing to fear. Padre Camorra had other things in mind—Juli was only a poor country girl.
But upon arriving at the door of the convento, Juli firmly refused to go in, catching hold of the wall.
“No, no,” she pleaded in terror. “No, no, no! Have pity!”
“But what a fool—”
Sister Bali pushed her gently along, Juli, pallid and with wild features, offering resistance. The expression of her face said that she saw death before her.
“All right, let’s go back, if you don’t want to!” at length the good woman exclaimed in irritation, as she did not believe there was any real danger. Padre Camorra, in spite of all his reputation, would dare do nothing before her.
“Let them carry poor Basilio into exile, let them shoot him on the way, saying that he tried to escape,” she added. “When he’s dead, then remorse will come. But as for myself, I owe him no favors, so he can’t reproach me!”
That was the decisive stroke. In the face of that reproach, with wrath and desperation mingled, like one who rushes to suicide, Juli closed her eyes in order not to see the abyss into which she was hurling herself and resolutely entered the convento. A sigh that sounded like the rattle of death escaped from her lips. Sister Bali followed, telling her how to act.
That night comments were mysteriously whispered about certain events which had occurred that afternoon. A girl had leaped from a window of the convento, falling upon some stones and killing herself. Almost at the same time another woman had rushed out of the convento to run through the streets shouting and screaming like a lunatic. The prudent townsfolk dared not utter any names and many mothers pinched their daughters for letting slip expressions that might compromise them.
Later, very much later, at twilight, an old man came from a village and stood calling at the door of the convento, which was closed and guarded by sacristans. The old man beat the door with his fists and with his head, while he littered cries stifled and inarticulate, like those of a dumb person, until he was at length driven away by blows and shoves. Then he made his way to the gobernadorcillo’s house, but was told that the gobernadorcillo was not there, [298] he was at the convento; he went to the Justice of the Peace, but neither was the Justice of the Peace at home—he had been summoned to the convento; he went to the teniente-mayor, but he too was at the convento; he directed his steps to the barracks, but the lieutenant of the Civil Guard was at the convento. The old man then returned to his village, weeping like a child. His wails were heard in the middle of the night, causing men to bite their lips and women to clasp their hands, while the dogs slunk fearfully back into the houses with their tails between their legs.
“Ah, God, God!” said a poor woman, lean from fasting, “in Thy presence there is no rich, no poor, no white, no black—Thou wilt grant us justice!”
“Yes,” rejoined her husband, “just so that God they preach is not a pure invention, a fraud! They themselves are the first not to believe in Him.”
At eight o’clock in the evening it was rumored that more than seven friars, proceeding from neighboring towns, were assembled in the convento to hold a conference. On the following day, Tandang Selo disappeared forever from the village, carrying with him his hunting-spear.

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