Chapter 23: - Page 5 of 5

A Corpse

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Basilio shrugged his shoulders.  Several days ago she was taken ill and I went to the nunnery for news of her. Look, here is Padre Salvi’s letter, brought by Padre Irene.  Capitan Tiago wept all the evening, kissing his daughter’s picture and begging her forgiveness, until at last he smoked an enormous quantity of opium.  This evening her knell was tolled.

Ah! exclaimed Simoun, pressing his hands to his head and standing motionless.  He remembered to have actually heard the knell while he was pacing about in the vicinity of the nunnery.

Dead! he murmured in a voice so low that it seemed to be a ghost whispering.  Dead! Dead without my having seen her, dead without knowing that I lived for her—dead!

Feeling a terrible storm, a tempest of whirlwind and thunder without a drop of water, sobs without tears, cries without words, rage in his breast and threaten to burst out like burning lava long repressed, he rushed precipitately from the room.  Basilio heard him descend the stairs with unsteady tread, stepping heavily, he heard a stifled cry, a cry that seemed to presage death, so solemn, deep, and sad that he arose from his chair pale and trembling, but he could hear the footsteps die away and the noisy closing of the door to the street.

Poor fellow! he murmured, while his eyes filled with tears. Heedless now of his studies, he let his gaze wander into space as he pondered over the fate of those two beings: he—young, rich, educated, master of his fortunes, with a brilliant future before him; she—fair as a dream, pure, full of faith and innocence, nurtured amid love and laughter, destined to a happy existence, to be adored in the family and respected in the world; and yet of those two beings, filled with love, with illusions and hopes, by a fatal destiny he wandered over the world, dragged ceaselessly through a whirl of blood and tears, sowing evil instead of doing good, undoing virtue and encouraging vice, while she was dying in the mysterious shadows of the cloister where she had sought peace and perhaps found suffering, where she entered pure and stainless and expired like a crushed flower!  

Sleep in peace, ill-starred daughter of my hapless fatherland! Bury in the grave the enchantments of youth, faded in their prime! When a people cannot offer its daughters a tranquil home under the protection of sacred liberty, when a man can only leave to his widow blushes, tears to his mother, and slavery to his children, you do well to condemn yourself to perpetual chastity, stifling within you the germ of a future generation accursed! Well for you that you have not to shudder in your grave, hearing the cries of those who groan in darkness, of those who feel that they have wings and yet are fettered, of those who are stifled from lack of liberty! Go, go with your poet’s dreams into the regions of the infinite, spirit of woman dim-shadowed in the moonlight’s beam, whispered in the bending arches of the bamboo-brakes! Happy she who dies lamented, she who leaves in the heart that loves her a pure picture, a sacred remembrance, unspotted by the base passions engendered by the years! Go, we shall remember you! In the clear air of our native land, under its azure sky, above the billows of the lake set amid sapphire hills and emerald shores, in the crystal streams shaded by the bamboos, bordered by flowers, enlivened by the beetles and butterflies with their uncertain and wavering flight as though playing with the air, in the silence of our forests, in the singing of our rivers, in the diamond showers of our waterfalls, in the resplendent light of our moon, in the sighs of the night breeze, in all that may call up the vision of the beloved, we must eternally see you as we dreamed of you, fair, beautiful, radiant with hope, pure as the light, yet still sad and melancholy in the contemplation of our woes!  

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