Chapter 23: - Page 4 of 5

A Corpse

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The will of the government is in my hands, said Simoun.  I’ve diverted and wasted its feeble strength and resources on foolish expeditions, dazzling it with the plunder it might seize.  Its heads are now in the theater, calm and unsuspecting, thinking of a night of pleasure, but not one shall again repose upon a pillow. I have men and regiments at my disposition: some I have led to believe that the uprising is ordered by the General; others that the friars are bringing it about; some I have bought with promises, with employments, with money; many, very many, are acting from revenge, because they are oppressed and see it as a matter of killing or being killed.  Cabesang Tales is below, he has come with me here! Again I ask you—will you come with us or do you prefer to expose yourself to the resentment of my followers? In critical moments, to declare oneself neutral is to be exposed to the wrath of both the contending parties.

Basilio rubbed his hand over his face several times, as if he were trying to wake from a nightmare.  He felt that his brow was cold.

Decide! repeated Simoun.

And what—what would I have to do? asked the youth in a weak and broken voice.

A very simple thing, replied Simoun, his face lighting up with a ray of hope.  As I have to direct the movement, I cannot get away from the scene of action. I want you, while the attention of the whole city is directed elsewhere, at the head of a company to force the doors of the nunnery of St. Clara and take from there a person whom only you, besides myself and Capitan Tiago, can recognize.  You’ll run no risk at all.

Maria Clara! exclaimed Basilio.

Yes, Maria Clara, repeated Simoun, and for the first time his voice became human and compassionate.  I want to save her; to save her I have wished to live, I have returned.  I am starting the revolution, because only a revolution can open the doors of the nunneries.

Ay! sighed Basilio, clasping his hands. You’ve come late, too late!

Why? inquired Simoun with a frown.

Maria Clara is dead!

Simoun arose with a bound and stood over the youth.  She’s dead? he demanded in a terrible voice.

This afternoon, at six. By now she must be—

It’s a lie! roared Simoun, pale and beside himself.  It’s false! Maria Clara lives, Maria Clara must live! It’s a cowardly excuse! She’s not dead, and this night I’ll free her or tomorrow you die!

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