Chapter 6:


(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

When the bells began their chimes for the midnight mass and those who preferred a good sleep to fiestas and ceremonies arose grumbling at the noise and movement, Basilio cautiously left the house, took two or three turns through the streets to see that he was not watched or followed, and then made his way by unfrequented paths to the road that led to the ancient wood of the Ibarras, which had been acquired by Capitan Tiago when their property was confiscated and sold.  As Christmas fell under the waning moon that year, the place was wrapped in darkness.  The chimes had ceased, and only the tolling sounded through the darkness of the night amid the murmur of the breeze-stirred branches and the measured roar of the waves on the neighboring lake, like the deep respiration of nature sunk in profound sleep.

Awed by the time and place, the youth moved along with his head down, as if endeavoring to see through the darkness.  But from time to time he raised it to gaze at the stars through the open spaces between the treetops and went forward parting the bushes or tearing away the lianas that obstructed his path.  At times he retraced his steps, his foot would get caught among the plants, he stumbled over a projecting root or a fallen log.  At the end of a half-hour he reached a small brook on the opposite side of which arose a hillock, a black and shapeless mass that in the darkness took on the proportions of a mountain.  Basilio crossed the brook on the stones that showed black against the shining surface of the water, ascended the hill, and made his way to a small space enclosed by old and crumbling walls.  He approached the balete tree that rose in the center, huge, mysterious, venerable, formed of roots that extended up and down among the confusedly-interlaced trunks.

Pausing before a heap of stones he took off his hat and seemed to be praying.  There his mother was buried, and every time he came to the town his first visit was to that neglected and unknown grave.  Since he must visit Cabesang Tales’ family the next day, he had taken advantage of the night to perform this duty.  Seated on a stone, he seemed to fall into deep thought. His past rose before him like a long black film, rosy at first, then shadowy with spots of blood, then black, black, gray, and then light, ever lighter.  The end could not be seen, hidden as it was by a cloud through which shone lights and the hues of dawn.

Thirteen years before to the day, almost to the hour, his mother had died there in the deepest distress, on a glorious night when the moon shone brightly and the Christians of the world were engaged in rejoicing.  Wounded and limping, he had reached there in pursuit of her—she mad and terrified, fleeing from her son as from a ghost.  There she had died, and there had come a stranger who had commanded him to build a funeral pyre.  He had obeyed mechanically and when he returned he found a second stranger by the side of the other’s corpse.  What a night and what a morning those were! The stranger helped him raise the pyre, whereon they burned the corpse of the first, dug the grave in which they buried his mother, and then after giving him some pieces of money told him to leave the place.  It was the first time that he had seen that man—tall, with blood-shot eyes, pale lips, and a sharp nose.

Entirely alone in the world, without parents or brothers and sisters, he left the town whose authorities inspired in him such great fear and went to Manila to work in some rich house and study at the same time, as many do.  His journey was an Odyssey of sleeplessness and startling surprises, in which hunger counted for little, for he ate the fruits in the woods, whither he retreated whenever he made out from afar the uniform of the Civil Guard, a sight that recalled the origin of all his misfortunes.  Once in Manila, ragged and sick, he went from door to door offering his services.


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