The Voice of the Persecuted
Before the sun set, Ibarra stepped into Elías's boat, which was on the lake shore. The young man seemed upset.
"Forgive me, Señor," said Elías with a certain sadness upon seeing him. "Forgive me for having presumed to invite you to an appointment. I wanted to talk to you in complete freedom and here we will have no witnesses. Within an hour we will be able to return."
"You are mistaken, friend Elías," said Ibarra, making an effort to smile. "You have to take me to that town with a bell tower that we can see from here. I am bound by fate to go there."
"Yes! Just imagine! On my way here I met the Alferez who was trying to keep me company. I was thinking of you and, knowing that he would recognize you, I had to get rid of him: I had to tell him I was going to that town
with a bell tower that can be seen from here, where I will have to stay the whole day, since the man wants to look for me tomorrow afternoon."
"I thank you for your caution, but you should simply have told him that I would accompany you," Elías said casually.
"But what about you?"
"He would not have recognized me, for the only time he ever saw me he did not know how to make out my forebears."
"Today I am out of luck," sighed Ibarra, thinking of Maria Clara. "What is it that you want to tell me?" he asked after a few seconds.
Elías looked around him. They were already far from the shore. The sun had set and, since in these latitudes twilight hardly lasts, the shadows began to lengthen, making brighter the disk of the moon in its fullness.
"Señor," replied Elías gravely, "I am the bearer of the aspirations of many unfortunates."
"Can I do something for them?"
"Much, Sir, more than anybody else."
Elías recounted briefly the conversation he had had with the chieftain of the bandits, omitting mention of the latter's doubts and threats. Ibarra listened attentively, and when Elías finished his narrative there reigned a long silence, which Ibarra was the first to break.
"So what do they wish...?"
"Radical reforms in the armed forces, in the clergy, the administration of justice -- meaning that they are asking for a paternal outlook on the part of the government."
"Reforms? In what sense?"
"For example: More respect for human dignity, more guarantees for the individual's safety, less power to the
armed forces, less privileges for this body which easily abuses its power."
"Elías," countered the young man. "I do not know who you are, but I perceive that you are not a common man -- you think and act differently from the others. You will understand me if I say that although the state of things is defective, it would still be, even if changed. I could make my friends in Madrid talk by paying them; I could talk to the Capitan General, but neither would they achieve anything, nor would he have enough power to introduce so many innovations, nor would I ever take a step in this direction, because I understand very well that although it is true that these entities leave much to be desired, they are at present necessary -- they are what we call a necessary evil."
Elías, much surprised, raised his head and looked at Ibarra aghast.
"Do you, Sir, also believe in the necessary evil?" he asked in a slightly trembling voice. "Do you believe that in order to do good it is necessary to do evil?"
"No! I believe in it as a violent remedy which we resort to when we want to heal a sickness. Now, the country is an organism which suffers a chronic malaise and to heal it the government has to resort to harsh and violent means if you like, but useful and necessary ones."
"He is a bad doctor, Sir, he who seeks only to correct the symptoms and muffle them without attempting to inquire into the origin of the evil, or knowing it, is fearful of attacking it. The Civil Guard has only this end in view: the repression of crime by terror and force, an end which is not fulfilled or achieved except by chance. Furthermore, Sir, it has to be taken into account that society only has the right to be severe with the failings of individuals after it
has illustrated and administered the necessary means for his moral perfection. In our country, since there is no society, because the country and the government do not constitute a unity, the latter should be indulgent, not only because indulgence is needed, but also because the individual, uncared for and abandoned, has less responsibility for the reason that he has not been enlightened. Besides, following your comparison, the treatment applied to the evils of the country is so destructive as to affect even a sound organism, whose vitality weakens and conditions it for evil. Would it not be more reasonable to strengthen the sick body and lessen somewhat the violence of the treatment?"
"To weaken the Civil Guard would be tantamount to exposing to danger the security of the towns."
"The security of the towns!" Elías exclaimed bitterly. "Very soon it will be fifteen years that these towns have had their Civil Guard, and see: we still have bandits; we still hear of towns being sacked; you are still held up in the highways; the robberies continue, and their perpetrators are not investigated; crime prevails and true criminal roams freely, but not so the peaceful inhabitant of the town.
"Ask every honest citizen if he regards this institution as a blessing, a protection of the government and not an imposition, a despotism whose abuses wound more than do the criminals' violence. These, it is true, are often serious but are rare. Against it one has the faculty to defend oneself, but against the vexations of the legal power, to protest is not allowed, and even if these are not too grievous, they are, however, continuous and sanctioned.
"What is the impact of this institution on the life of our towns? It paralyzes communication, because all fear
ill treatment for senseless causes. Attention is paid to formalities but not to the core of the matter, the first symptom of incapacity. Because one has forgotten his residence tax, he is handcuffed and ill-treated; it matters not whether he is a decent person and one highly considered. The officers consider it a primary duty to have themselves saluted by reason of rank or by force, even in the dead of night. Their inferiors ape them in maltreating and despoiling the peasants, and do not lack pretexts. The sanctity of the home does not exist. Lately in Calamba, they raided, passing through the window, the house of a peaceful citizen to whom the officer owed money and favors. There is no security for the individual. When they need to clean headquarters or house, they go out and apprehend anyone who does not resist, and make him work the whole day. Do you want more? During the fiestas the prohibited games have continued, but the merriment allowed by law is brutally disturbed. Did you not perceive the people's reaction to them? What did the people achieve in erasing their anger and waiting for the justice of men? Ah! Sir, if this is what you call preserving the peace..."
"I agree that there are evils," replied Ibarra, "but let us accept these evils for the sake of the benefits that go with them. This institution may be imperfect, but, believe me, it prevents, by the terror it inspires, the growth of the number of criminals."
"Or say rather that on account of terror their number increases," rectified Elías. "Before the creation of this body almost all the evil-doers except a few, were criminals because of hunger. They pillaged and robbed in order to live. However, once the need was over and the highways were free once more, the poor but valiant local police with their obsolete weapons were enough to make them flee,
this force so often calumniated by those who have written about our country, those whose rights were to die, whose duty was to fight, and whose recompense was ridicule. Today there are bandits and they are so for life. A mistake,
a crime inhumanly punished, the resistance against the abuses of this power, the fear of cruel reprisals throw them out of society forever and condemn them to kill or killed. The terrorism of the Civil Guard closes against the them the doors of repentance, and since a tulisan or a bandit fights and defends himself in the mountains better than does a soldier whom he derides, the result is that we are not capable of extinguishing the evil we have created.
"Remember what the prudence of the Capitan-General de la Torre achieved: the amnesty he granted to these hapless wretches has proven that in those mountains still beat the hearts of human beings who only yearn for pardon. Terrorism is useful when the people are enslaved, when the mountains have no caves, when power places behind each tree a sentry and when the slave's body has only guts and hunger. But when the desperate one who fights for life feels the strength of his arm, his heart beats and his whole being is filled with bile. Will terrorism be able to put out the fire on which it pours more fuel?"
"You confuse me, Elías, by talking this way. I could believe you are right if I did not have my own convictions. But take note of this -- do not be offended for I exclude you and take you for an exception -- consider who these are who press for reforms! Almost all of them are criminals or on the verge of criminalism!"
"Criminals or future criminals -- but why are they such? Because their peace has been broken, their happiness wrenched from them; they have been wounded in their most cherished affections. When they asked justice for protection they became convinced that they can expect it
only from themselves. But you are mistaken, Sir, if you think criminals only ask for it. Go from town to town, from house to house, listen to the silent sighs of families; you will be convinced that the evils the Civil Guard correct are the same, if not less, than the evils they continually cause. Are we to infer from this that all the citizens are criminals? Then what is the use of defending the others? Why not destroy all of them?"
"There is an error in your reasoning which escapes me at this moment, some error in theory which can be refuted by experience, for in Spain, in the Mother Country, this body serves and has been serving effectively."
“I do not doubt it. Perhaps over there it is better organized, the personnel more select, perhaps because Spain needs it, but not the Philippines. Our customs, our character, which are always being invoked when they wish to deny us a right, are altogether forgotten when they want to impose something on us. And tell me, Sir, why this institution has not been adopted by other nations which, being neighbors to Spain, should resemble her more than does the Philippines? Is it because of this that they have less robberies in their trains, less mutiny, less murders, less assassinations and less stabbings in their great capitals?"
Ibarra lowered his head as if reflecting, then raising it, he replied:
"This question, my friend, deserves more serious study. If my investigations show that these complaints are legitimate and well-founded, I will write to my friends in Madrid, since we do not have representatives. In the meantime believe that the government, to make itself respected, needs an entity with unlimited power, and the authority to impose it."
"That is so, Sir, if the government were at war with
the people; but for the good of the government we should not make the people believe that they are at odds with the government. Besides, if this were so, if we prefer strength to prestige, we should consider well those to whom we give this unlimited power, this authority. So much power in the hands of men, and ignorant men at that, full of passions, without moral education, without proven integrity, is a weapon in the hands of a mad man amid a defenseless multitude. I will concede and I want to believe that the government needs this arm; well, let it choose this arm well, let it choose the most worthy, and since it prefers this authority let the people give it, or at least make believe that it knows how to give this authority."
Elías spoke with passion, with enthusiasm, his eyes glowing, his voice resonant, vibrant. There was a solemn pause. The boat, unmoved by paddle, seemed to float motionless over the waters; the moon shone majestically in the dark blue sky; some lights were gleaming on the distant shore.
"And what else are they asking?" Ibarra queried.
"The reformation of the clergy," answered Elías in a sad, discouraged voice. "The unfortunate ones ask for greater protection against..."
"Against the Religious Orders?"
"Against their oppressors, Sir!"
"Have the Filipinos forgotten what they owe to these religious orders? Have they forgotten how much they are beholden to those who rescued them from error to give them the gift of faith, to those who had shielded them against the tyrannies of civil power? This is the evil result of not teaching the history of our country."
Elías, aghast, could hardly believe what he heard.
"Sir," he replied gravely, "you are accusing the people
of ingratitude. Permit me – I, one of the people who suffer -- to defend them. Favors done, so that they may have the right to be acknowledged, must not be self-serving. Let us skip the missionary duty of Christian charity, so often handled as a pretext: let us omit history. Let us not ask what Spain has done to the Jewish people who had given all of Europe One Book, One Faith and One God; what she did to the Arabs who gave her culture, and themselves tolerated her own religion and awakened her national pride and self-consciousness, dormant and almost wiped out during the Roman and Visigothic dominations.
"You say that she has given us the true faith and rescued us from error? Do you call faith, those external practices, religion, the trade of scapulars and leather belts; truth, those miracles and tales which we hear daily? Is that the law of Jesus Christ? For this it was not necessary for God to have Himself crucified nor for us to be eternally beholden. Superstition already existed long before this. What was needed was only to perfect it and to raise the price of the goods. You will say that no matter how imperfect is our religion today, it is preferable to what we previously had. I agree, and I am convinced of its truth, but it is too expensive, since in exchange we have given
our own nationality, our independence; for it we have given her priests our best towns, our fields and still give up our own savings in the buying of religious objects. An article made by foreign industry has been introduced to us, we paid well and we are at peace. If you speak of the protection it gave against the Spanish land grantees, I could answer you that precisely because of these Religious Orders we fell into the power of the encomenderos!
"But no! I admit that true faith and a genuine love for
humanity guided the first missionaries who arrived at our shores. I acknowledge our debt of gratitude to those noble hearts. I know that Spain then abounded with heroes of all categories: in the religious as well as the political, in the civilian and in the military. But because their ancestors were men of righteousness, shall we consent to the abuses of their degenerate descendants? Because they did us a great good, would we be guilty if we prevented them from doing us evil? The country does not seek the abolition of the clergy. It is asking only for reforms as required by the present circumstances and according to its pressing needs."
"I love our country as much as you can love her, Elías;
I understand something of what you wish for her. I have listened with attention to what you had been saying, withal, my friend, I believe we are viewing things with the eyes of passion. I see less need for reform here than in any other place."
"Is it possible, Sir?" exclaimed Elías, throwing up hands despondently, "you do not see the need for reforms here? You whose family misfortunes..."
"Ah! I forget myself and I forget my own mishaps when the security of the Philippines and that of Spain are involved," Ibarra quickly replied. "To keep the Philippines it is necessary that the friars continue as they do, and in the union with Spain lies the welfare of the country."
Ibarra had already finished speaking, but Elías was still listening. His face was sad and his eyes had lost their brightness.
"The missionaries conquered the country, it is true,” he replied. "Do you think that the Philippines will be preserved by the friars?"
"Yes! only by them. Those who have written about her also believe this."
"Oh!" Elías exclaimed, throwing down the paddle in the boat much discouraged. "I did not think you had such a poor idea of the government and of the country. Why don't you despise one and the other? What would you say of a family which lives in peace only because of the intervention of a stranger? A country that obeys because it is deceived, a government which commands because it resorts to deception, a government which does not know how to inspire love and respect for its own sake! Begging your pardon, Sir, I believe that your government is stupid and suicidal when it rejoices in that belief! I thank you for your kindness in listening to me. Now, where do you want me to take you?"
"No! replied Ibarra. "Let us thresh this out. It is necessary to know which of us is right in a matter of such consequence."
"Forgive me, Sir,” said Elías shaking his head. "I am not eloquent enough to convince you, even if it is true that I have had some education. I am an Indio, my existence is doubtful to you, and my words are always suspect. Those who have expressed a contrary opinion are Spaniards and as such, even if they speak of trivialities and stupidities, their accent, their titles and their race consecrate them, give them such authority that I desist forever from arguing against them.
"Besides, when I see you, who love your country, you whose father rests beneath these tranquil waters, you who have been provoked, insulted and persecuted, maintaining such opinions in spite of everything, in spite of your education, I start to doubt my own convictions, and to admit the possibility that the people may be mistaken. I have to tell those unfortunate ones that they who placed their confidence in men, must henceforth place it in God and in their own strength. Again I thank you. Tell me
where I am to take you."
"Elías, your bitter words have pierced my heart. They also cause me to doubt. What would you have me do? I have not been brought up among the people whose needs, perhaps, I am not aware of. I spent my childhood in a Jesuit school, I grew up in Europe, I have been developed by books and I have read only what men have been able to bring to light. What remains behind in the shadows, what writers failed to write about, I ignore. For all that, I love, as you do, our country, not only because it is the duty of each man to love the country to which he owes his being and which, perhaps, should be his last refuge, not only because my father had taught me thus, because my mother was a native and because all my most lovely memories dwell in her; I love her besides because I owe her and will owe her my happiness!"
"And I because I owe her my misfortune!" murmured Elías.
"Yes, my friend, I know that you suffer. You are unfortunate and this makes you see the future as dark; it influences your way of thinking. Because of this, I listen to your complaints with certain mental reservations. If I could only appreciate the motives, part of that past...”
"My misfortunes recognize a different origin. If I knew that it could be useful, I would relate them to you; other than that I do not make a mystery out of my past. It is sufficiently known to many."
"Perhaps getting acquainted with the past will correct my judgment. I do not put my trust in theories; I am guided by facts."
"If that is so," Elías answered after a thoughtful pause, "I will tell you briefly my history."
The Family of Elías
Sixty years ago my grandfather lived in Manila. He served as bookkeeper in a Spanish merchant's establishment. My grandfather was then very young; he was married and had a son. One night, it is not known how, the warehouse caught fire. The fire spread through the establishment and to other houses. The losses were heavy, someone had to be blamed and the merchant accused my grandfather. In vain he protested his innocence, but since he was poor and could not pay for able lawyers, he was condemned to be scourged in public and taken through the streets of Manila. Not long ago this was in use, this infamous punishment the people call "caballo y vaca," a thousand times worse than death itself. My grandfather, abandoned by all except his young wife, was tied to a horse, followed by a cruel multitude, and flogged on every street corner, before other men, his brothers, and in the neighborhood of the
numerous temples of a God of peace.
"When the unfortunate man, forever branded, had satisfied the vengeance of men with his blood, his tortures and his cries, they had to untie him from the horse because he had lost consciousness. It would have been better for him if he had died then. They gave him his freedom in one of those gestures of refined cruelty. His wife, pregnant at that time, begged in vain from door to door for work or alms, in order to take care of her sick husband and her poor son, but who would trust the wife of a despicable arsonist? His wife was obliged to resort to prostitution."
Ibarra got up from his seat.
"Oh, don't be upset! Prostitution was no longer a disgrace for her, nor an insult to her husband. Honor and shame no longer existed. Her husband was healed of his wounds and, with his wife and son, hid in the mountains of this province. Here the wife gave birth to a misshapen and diseased foetus, which had the good fortune to die. Thus they lived for a few months, wretched, isolated, hated and avoided by all. My grandfather could no longer bear his misery and, less courageous than his wife, hanged himself in his despair upon seeing his wife sick and deprived of all care and help. The corpse rotted before the very sight of the son, who could hardly take care of his sick mother. The stench led to its discovery by the authorities. My grandmother was accused of and condemned for not informing them. Her husband's death was attributed to her, and it was believed that she, the wife of a wretch who turned later into a prostitute, was capable of anything. If she swore, she was called a perjurer; if she wept they called her a liar, and a blasphemer when she called upon God. However, they had some consideration for her left, and waited for her to deliver
another baby, with which she was pregnant, before giving her the lash. You know that the friars spread the belief that the only way to deal with the natives is to flog them; read what Padre Gaspar de S. Agustin says!
"Thus condemned, a woman will curse the day her child is born: which, besides prolonging the torment, is tantamount to a violation of her maternal feelings. Unfortunately the woman delivered safely, and also unfortunately the child was born healthy and strong. Two months later she served her sentence to the great satisfaction of the men who thought they were fulfilling a duty. No longer safe in those mountains she fled to a nearby province with her two sons. Here they lived like beasts: hating and hated.
"The older of the two brothers, who remembered in the midst of such misery his happy childhood, became a bandit as soon as he was strong enough to stand on his own. Very soon the bloody name of Bálat spread from province to province, terror of the towns, because he carried out his vengeance by fire and blood. The younger, who had received Nature's gift of a good heart, resigned himself to his fate and to infamy by the side of his mother. They lived on what the forest gave, donned the rags thrown to them by wayfarers. She had lost her name and she was known only by titles: the delinquent, the whore, the one who had been flogged; he was known only as the son of his mother. Because of the gentleness of his nature no one could believe him to be the son of the arsonist, and because anything about the morality of the Indios can be doubted. In the end the infamous Bálat one day succumbed to the power of Justice, which demanded of him a strict accounting of his crimes, and yet had not done anything to teach him what was good.
"One morning the younger brother, looking for his mother who had gone to the forest to gather mushrooms and had not yet returned, found her stretched on the ground by the wayside beneath a cotton tree, face turned towards the sky, eyes wide open and fixed, fingers clenched into the soil which was stained with blood. The young man raised his eyes to look in the direction of the woman's gaze. He saw a basket hanging from a branch. Within the basket he saw the bloody head of his brother.”
"My God!" exclaimed Ibarra.
"That is what my father could have said,” continued Elías coolly. "The men had dismembered the highwayman and buried the trunk, but the other parts were scattered and hung in different towns. If you ever go from Calamba to Sto. Tomas, you will still see a wretched lomboy tree where, rotting, a leg of my uncle hung. Nature has cursed it: the tree neither grows further nor bears fruit. They did the same with other parts of his body, but the head, as the best part of the individual, one that can be recognized easily, they put in a basket and hung in front of his mother's hut!”
Ibarra lowered his head.
Elías continued: :The younger brother fled like an accursed creature from town to town, across mountains and valleys. When he thought that no one would recognize him, he found work in the household of a rich man in Tayabas. His industry and gentle disposition won him the esteem of those who knew nothing of his past. By dint of hard work and thrift he was able to save a small capital and, since misery had passed and he was young, he dreamt of happiness. His good looks, his youth and his somewhat comfortable state won for him the love of a young woman of the town. He was afraid to ask for her hand in marriage,
for fear that his past would be known. But love conquers all and both yielded to themselves. To save the maiden's honor the young man risked everything. He asked for her hand; papers were required and the past came to light.
"The young woman's father was rich, and was able to have the man accused in court. He did not try to defend himself; he admitted everything and was sent to prison. The young woman delivered twins: a boy and a girl, who were brought up in secret, made to believe in a deceased father, which was not a difficult thing to do, for the children at a very early age saw their mother die. Besides, we didn't think much of tracing genealogies since our grandfather was rich and our childhood was a happy one. My sister and I were brought up together, we loved each other as twins, who had not known any other love.
"I was sent very young to the school of the Jesuits, and in order not to be totally separated, my sister went to the La Concordia convent school for girls. At the end of our brief education, because we only wanted to be farmers, we returned to the town to take possession of the inheritance from our grandfather. We lived happily for some time, the future smiled on us, we had many servants, our fields harvested bountifully and my sister was on the eve of getting married to a young man she adored and who reciprocated her devotion.
"Because of financial matters, and because of my arrogant character at that time, I was alienated from the good graces of a distant relative who one day threw in my face my somber past, and my infamous paternity. I believed it to be a calumny and I demanded satisfaction. The tomb in which so much rottenness lay was reopened and the truth came out to confound me. To my misfortune we had, for many years, an old servant who put up with all
my whims without ever leaving us; contenting himself to weep and sigh amid the jeerings of the other servants. I don't know how my relative found out. This old man was summoned to court and was made to talk and to tell the truth. The old servant was our own father, who stayed close to his beloved children, and whom I had maltreated many times!
"Our happiness vanished, I renounced our inheritance, my sister lost her betrothed and, with my father, we abandoned the town for any other place. The thought that he had contributed to our misfortune shortened the days of the old man, from whose lips I learned all about the painful past. My sister and I were left alone.
"She wept much, but in the midst of so much sorrow; which became our lot, she could not forget her love. Without complaining and without saying a word she saw her old love wed another. I saw her gradually wither away without being able to comfort her. One day she disappeared. In vain I searched for her everywhere, in vain I asked about her, until six months later, I learned that after a flood, there had been found on the Calamba lakeshore, among the ricefields, the corpse of a young woman who had drowned or been murdered. A knife was buried in her breast. The town authorities had the facts published in the neighboring towns. Nobody came forward to claim the body; no young woman had disappeared. By the signs given me afterwards, by the dress, the jewels, the beauty of her face, and her luxuriant tresses, I was able to recognize in them my poor sister.
"Since then I have wandered from province to province; my fame and my history are on many lips. Deeds are attributed to me, at times I am calumniated, but I do not pay much heed to the opinions of men and I go on my
way. I have here given you a brief sketch of my history and the history of one of the judgments of men."
Elías kept silent and continued paddling. "I am beginning to believe that you have enough reason," Crisostomo murmured in a low voice, "when you say that justice should procure what is good to reward virtue and to educate criminals. Only... this is impossible, utopian. Where can one obtain so much money to pay so many new employees?"
"What then are priests for, they who proclaim their mission of peace and charity? Is it more meritorious to moisten with water the head of a child, give him salt to eat, than to awaken in the darkened conscience of a criminal that spark given by God to each man to look for what is good? Is it more humane to accompany a criminal to the gallows, than to accompany him along the difficult path which leads from vice to virtue? Are not spies also being paid, hangmen, civil guards? This matter of being dirty also costs money."
"My friend, neither you nor I -- much as we would be willing -- we would not be able to achieve it."
"By ourselves alone, it is true, we are nothing. But embrace the cause of the people, make common cause with the people, do not ignore their voices, give an example to others, launch the idea of what is called the motherland!"
"What the people want is impossible; it is necessary to wait."
"Wait! To wait is to suffer!"
"If I ask for reforms, they will laugh at me."
"And what if the people support you?"
"Never! I will never be the one to lead the multitude to obtain by force what the government believes to be untimely, no! And if I ever come to see that multitude rise
up in arms, I will place myself by the side of the government and I will fight them, because in that mob I would not see my country. I desire its good, that is why I am putting up a school: I will seek for that good by means of instruction, by progressive advancement. Without light there is no way."
"Without struggle, too, there is no freedom,” answered Elías.
"But I do not wish that kind of freedom!"
"Without freedom there is no light," replied the helmsman quickly. "You say that you know very little of your country; I believe you. You do not see the forthcoming struggle, you do not see the cloud in the horizon; the struggle begins in the sphere of ideas to come down to the arena which will be dyed in blood. I hear God's voice. Woe unto those who want to resist Him. History has not been written for them!"
Elías looked transfigured. He was on his feet with head uncovered. His manly features, illuminated by the moonlight, bore something of the extraordinary. He shook his abundant mane and continued:
"Do you not see how everything awakens? The sleep lasted for centuries, but one day lightning struck, and the lightning, in destroying, brought forth life. Since then new aspirations work the spirits and these aspirations, today separate, will one day unite, guided by God. God has not failed the other peoples, neither will he fail ours; his cause is the cause of freedom." "
A solemn silence followed these words. Meanwhile, the boat, impelled only by the waves, neared the shore.
Elías was the first to break the quiet.
"What message shall I take to those who sent me?" he asked, changing the tone of the conversation.
"I have already told you: I deplore their condition but let them wait, for evils are not corrected by other evils and in our misfortune all of us share in the guilt."
Elías did not reply; he lowered his head, continued paddling and, reaching the shore, took leave of Ibarra saying:
"I thank you, Sir, for the patience you have accorded me. For your sake I ask you henceforth to forget me and not to recognize me in whatever situation you may encounter me."
Having said this, he turned to his boat and paddled it in the direction of a thick bush on the shore. During the long transit he remained silent; he seemed to see no other thing than the thousands of brilliant gems that his paddle churned up and returned to the lake, where they vanished mysteriously into the blue depths.
At last he reached the shore. A man came out of the thicket, and approached him. He asked:
"What shall I say to the Captain?"
"Tell him that if Elías does not die first, he will keep his word," he sadly replied.
"So when will you rejoin us?"
"When your captain believes that the hour of danger has come."
"Very well, goodbye!"
"If I do not die before that," Elías murmured as the other departed.