HOW THE CORPORAL WENT BACK TO SPAIN

For six months the tao of the district talked of Felizardo, the man
who had slain a priest; then, as nothing more had been heard of the
outlaw, and a new band of ladrones had been formed in the neighbourhood
of Calocan, the centre of interest shifted, and the crime at San
Polycarpio, if not forgotten, at least ceased to be discussed.

The tao knew nothing about Father Pablo’s connection with the band
of the late Cinicio Dagujob–the Church had seen to that fact being
suppressed–but the corporal knew, in fact he had been the first to
suspect it, and he took the information across to Don José Ramirez.

“This Pablo was a mestizo,” he said. “You knew him, I suppose. No? A
big scoundrel, gross and burly. I wonder why the Church will allow
natives to be priests. I am sure the Holy Father cannot know. Some
day, perhaps, I may have the chance of telling him, if I get back
to Spain. A villain, that Pablo; but still your Felizardo was wrong
to kill him. Nothing can save him now. I told you that night, even
after we found how splendidly he had boloed those ladrones, that he
would not come back. I was right, of course. Have I not been thirty
years in these accursed Islands, and if I do not know the Filipinos,
who should know them, Senor? A fine fighter, that Felizardo. Had
he been in our native troops, he would have risen high. And now,
because he is a savage at heart, he has become a ladrone.”

Don José sighed–there had been a romance and a tragedy in his own
life, many years before, in Spain. “No, corporal. He went because he
loved one woman too well to leave her to some one else.”

The corporal twisted his moustache. “Therein he was a savage, as I
said before. He got one idea in his mind, and he could not forget it,
not having room for two. I have loved women, Senor, and women have
loved me, many of them; but as for turning highwayman, or at least
outlaw, for the sake of one–pouf!” He shook his head with a great
assumption of scorn.

“I see.” Don José smiled. They had been friends for many years, these
two, and he knew the story of the girl in Spain whom the other had gone
back to marry–and found dead; therefore, he always listened patiently
to those stories of subsequent love affairs, none of which ever had
the slightest foundation in fact. “I see,” he repeated. “Then you think
a man should have as many wives as he can get, like a Moor or a Chino?”

“No, no”–the corporal frowned–“the Church would not allow that,
only–well,” he got up rather hastily. “I was forgetting the time. I
must be off. After thirty years’ service in these accursed Islands, one
must not begin to neglect one’s duty, Senor.” At the door he stopped
and looked back. “Think no more of your Felizardo, Don José. He will
never return; and, if he did, we should have to hang him. A fine
fighter, certainly–but, to kill a priest!”

“But you say the priest was also a ladrone,” the merchant objected.

The corporal shook his head. “A priest is a priest, and the Church
will not forgive, or admit excuses. How can she, when she has the
souls of all these savages to save? Still, if I ever get the chance
of seeing the Holy Father, and explaining—-” and he went out,
still frowning and shaking his head.

Don José helped himself slowly to another glass of wine, and
sighed. “We shall never go back to Spain, he and I. It is getting
too late now, and so”–he smiled sadly–“the Holy Father will lose
much useful information.”

When Felizardo slew Pablo the priest, and took to the bush, carrying
Dolores Lasara in his arms, he had no definite aim, save that of
gaining a temporary hiding-place; but the moment he had found this, and
even whilst he was bringing the girl round with some of the wine he had
taken from her father’s table–the bottle itself was sticky with her
father’s blood–his mind became busy with the problem of the future.

He was an outlaw for life. He had killed a priest–had offended
far beyond the offence of the ordinary ladrone, who only kills
ordinary men, and tortures women and children. True, the priest
was a ladrone, even worse than a ladrone, but it was the cloth, and
not the man beneath it, which mattered. Felizardo faced the issue
squarely. Somehow, it seemed as though he had learned many things
during that night. He had taken up the bolo, and thenceforth the Law
of the Bolo must be his only code. A few hours before, no one had
less desire to be an outlaw than he; now, he had become an outlaw,
despite himself; but he did not rail against Fate, because he was an
Asiatic, and also because, after all, he had got Dolores.

Still, there was one trouble, which would be greater for her than
for him. He put it to her very gently after he had told her of the
end of Father Pablo.

“We cannot be married now, dear one,” he said. “No priest would do it,
even though I captured him, and threatened him with death.”

She looked at him with shining eyes. “What matter? I shall have you,
all the same.”

He turned away. “It is not too late for you to go back, even now. The
good Sisters at the convent would take you.”

For answer, she kissed him, the first kiss she had ever given him,
and they said no more of that matter.

From Felizardo’s own village, from every village for miles round in
fact, you can see a great range of mountains, rugged and forbidding,
beginning practically at the shore of a huge bay and running inland
for many miles. The lower slopes of the range are covered with dense
jungle; but when you have climbed a thousand feet or so, you leave
all this behind, and find bald rock, and lava-beds, and ashes, for
there are half a dozen active volcanoes there, as well as many which
are merely quiescent, and hot springs, and geysers, and other dangers
to life and peace of mind.

Felizardo had often looked at those mountains, especially when he had
been fishing in the bay, waiting lazily for a bite. Then, they had
always seemed to suggest harshness and danger, the very antithesis
to the dreamy life amongst the cocoa-nut groves and the hemp-patches;
now, however, he thought of them in a very different light, as offering
an ideal refuge; and even if, as was rumoured, they were the home of
many bad men–well, was he, himself, not a bad man too?

He made up his mind quickly. It was no use thinking of remaining in
the jungle by the coast. He was not greatly afraid of the authorities
finding him, although the Church might insist on a hue-and-cry of an
unusually vigorous nature; but he was afraid of coming across some
of the local ladrones, who would assuredly take vengeance on him for
what he had done to their friends. So, at the first streak of dawn
he and Dolores set out for the mountains, where the rest of their
lives were to be spent.

It was a long and slow journey, for Dolores was not used to the bush,
and they had to avoid all footpaths and villages. Time after time,
Felizardo had to carry her through those steep-banked, narrow little
streams, which on the paths you cross by shaky pole-bridges; and
twice he had to cut down hemp-palms, and make rafts on which to get
to the other bank of larger streams. The second night out it rained,
a veritable deluge; but he had foreseen it, and had made a little
shelter of palm-leaves, which kept them perfectly dry, greatly to
the surprise of Dolores.

“You seem to know everything, and to be prepared for everything,”
she said; and he felt prouder than he had ever felt in his life.

Early next morning, whilst she still slept, he went out to a
neighbouring village, where they were also asleep, and when she
awakened he was plucking a newly-killed fowl, whilst there was a
basket of sweet potatoes beside him. It was his first definite act
of ladronism, and he shifted uneasily under her gaze, until she,
understanding, laid a soft hand on his arm and said: “They drove you
to it, dearest, and you have done it for me;” so Felizardo enjoyed
his meal after all.

That night, Felizardo went much further. He found a water-buffalo
belonging to the priest of the village they were skirting; and
from that point onwards, until they were well up the lower slopes
of the range, there was plenty of meat, whilst, of course, if you
are a Filipino, you can always find sweet potatoes, and beans,
and cocoa-nuts.

They built a little shelter in the jungle, and there they lived like
children of nature for a week.

“I should be content to stay here for ever,” Dolores said; but the
man shook his head.

“It will rain every day soon, and then you would die. There are caves
on the slope overlooking the bay. We will take one. Then we can store
a supply of food, and, if I can get a pig and some fowls from one of
the villages in the valley, we shall have no need to trouble.”

The first two caves they explored were damp and dark, then they went
into a third–and came on two men and a woman, sitting in the entrance,
smoking some fish.

The men sprang to their feet, and one, the elder, came forward, bolo
in hand; but the woman held the other back. “He may not be an enemy,
and at least be fair,” she cried, for which Dolores loved her ever
afterwards.

The other man was a little unsteady–there was a jar of spirits beside
the fire–and his eyes were staring and bloodshot. He did not stop to
ask any questions, and Felizardo said nothing, except, very quietly:
“Go back, Dolores.”

It was not a fight: it did not last more than a few seconds; then,
as he wiped his bolo on the white tunic of his attacker, Felizardo
looked at the man beside the fire: “And you now?” he asked.

The other shook his head, and sheathed the bolo, which, despite the
woman’s efforts, he had drawn.

“You are the better man,” he replied. “And he,” nodding towards the
body–“he was a scoundrel;” whereat the woman gave a queer little sob,
gratitude, relief, horror perhaps, which brought Dolores running to her
side, and they cried together; whilst the men carried the body out,
and threw it over the cliff, returning with dry earth with which to
cover the stains.

They sat down beside the fire, Felizardo in his late foe’s place,
and the stranger poured out some spirit, which they drank in silence.

After a while Felizardo spoke. “Why did you come up here, on the
mountains?”

The stranger, whose name was Carlos, pointed to the woman: “I took
her from a convent.”

Felizardo smiled grimly. “And I killed a priest, for her,” nodding
towards Dolores.

Carlos leaned forward quickly. “Are you named Felizardo? I thought
so. Even here, on the mountains, we hear things…. Let me, let us,
stay here with you in this cave–as I said, you are the better man
and can take it if you will–but I can help you; and the women will
not be lonely.”

For answer, Felizardo held out his hand; and so was started his band,
which afterwards became the most famous in the Islands.

The band grew rapidly, as is the way of such organisations, when the
leader is infinitely stronger than any of his followers; then, after
a while, Felizardo determined to weed it out. He would have no men
who were outlaws merely because of their own vicious natures, to whom
ladronism was a natural calling. There were many of these already in
the mountains, and they formed a rival band against him, on hearing
of which he sallied out one night and cut them to pieces. From that
time onwards, for many years, no native challenged his sovereign
rights over the mountain range.

He made peace with the tribe of head-hunters, who were his northern
neighbours, respecting their customs, so long as they took none of
his men’s heads, and with the tao to the south, from whom he bought
live-stock, the money he gave being obtained from Presidentes and
Tenientes and planters, and other folk who oppress the common people,
though it was taken as tribute, Felizardo not being a midnight robber,
like Cinicio Dagujob had been.

News might go up from the coastal towns to the mountains, in fact
it did go freely–news of what the Government was doing, of how
the Presidentes and Tenientes were robbing the tao, of where the
Guardia Civil was; but very little came down from the mountains, at
least to the white men, and, of that little, practically none reached
Calocan. Consequently, five years after Felizardo had turned ladrone,
neither Don José nor the corporal knew that he was the chief of the
big band, consisting of outlaws rather than of ladrones, of which
they had heard vague rumours.

“They are in the mountains–pouf! I should let them stay there,” the
corporal said. “They do not seem to do much harm, and it would cost
a fabulous sum to hunt them out from amongst the caves and craters;”
an opinion with which Don José, being already heavily taxed, agreed
heartily.

“I wonder if Felizardo is there,” he added.

The corporal shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? Let me see–he
went four, or was it five, years ago. Five, that is it. Probably he
is dead by now; he was not of the true ladrone breed. Anyway, I was
right when I said he would never come back, just as I was right when
I said I should never go home to Spain.”

“Have you applied for your pension?” the merchant asked.

The old soldier drew himself up. “How can I, Senor, when I am still
active, and–and not old, declare I am no longer fit for my work? No,
if they offer it, I shall take it; but until they offer—-” and he
went out, shaking his head.

That night a runner came in with a message for the corporal. A large
band of ladrones, or rather a combination of a number of small bands,
had raided and burned the village of Igut, which was about ten
miles from the foot of the mountains, on the edge of the bay. Most
of the tao had been killed; the Spanish trader had been tortured to
death, and all the women and girls carried off. Troops were being
hurried from Manila–in the Spanish way of hurrying, which did not
mean much–but, meanwhile, all the small detachments were to go in
pursuit. The corporal was to take two of his troopers, and twenty of
the native soldiers attached to his post.

It was a great grief to the corporal that he had to make the trip
by canoe in order to save time. He disliked service on foot, being
a little stiff and short of wind; whilst, more important than that,
it was always more dignified to ride in full uniform, at the head of
your men. Now, however, not only his horse, but his great thigh-boots
as well, would have to remain behind. Even his sabre must be carried
by a native orderly. Still, as he said to Don José, who came to the
landing-stage to see him off, one’s duty came before one’s sense of
dignity, and an old soldier of Spain could afford to do things which
would make a lesser man look absurd.

They landed on the beach at Igut, which now consisted of some piles
of still-smoking ashes, a hundred or two charred posts, the remains
of the nipa-houses, and the blackened walls of the church and the
Spanish merchant’s house. There were bodies everywhere, slashed
hideously with bolo-cuts; and beside the post in the plaza, where
they had done him to death, in the hope of making him confess how he
had hidden the wealth he did not possess, was all that remained of
the Spanish merchant himself; seeing which, the corporal swore great
oaths, unconsciously drew his hand across his eyes–curious how dim
they were growing!–then, like a good Catholic, knelt down and prayed
for the soul of the man he had never seen in life; and after that he
donned the parade uniform he had brought in case of emergency, buckled
on his sabre, and carried out the funeral of his fellow-countryman.

There was no trace of the other detachments which were supposed to
be coming; but that fact did not weigh with the corporal. He had been
ordered to pursue the ladrones, so he marched inland on the trail of
the robbers. It was not difficult to follow them, at least for the
first few miles; they were a large body, and they were taking along
much loot and many prisoners. A little way out, the pursuers came
on the body of a woman, and then those of two children, all boloed,
apparently because they could not travel.




The trail led towards the foot of the range of mountains, Felizardo’s
territory; and the corporal groaned involuntarily. He had to keep
at the head of his little force, yet he was very stiff, and the
climbing tried him severely. Once or twice, he was sorely inclined
to call a halt, just to get his breath again; but he could not let
his native soldiers see any signs of weakness, and so he struggled
on. It was rather curious. After thirty-five years’ service, a man
should be fit for anything, inured to all hardships. Probably it was
only fancy after all, he told himself, as he squared his shoulders,
and looked back sternly for any possible stragglers. Then suddenly,
his orderly, who was just behind him, cried out that he had seen a
ladrone scout, moving amongst the trees; and a moment later, almost
before the corporal had time to take his sabre from the orderly,
the ladrones were on them, three to one, cutting and slashing with
their bolos. The corporal’s men, winded and exhausted, fired a volley
from their muskets, but only one of the enemy was hit, and there was
no chance of reloading. It became a case of the butt-end against
the bolo, and, naturally, the bolo won. A few seconds afterwards,
the corporal, one of his white troopers, and a native sergeant were
the only survivors in sight, standing with their backs to a huge tree.

The corporal had drawn his pistol with his left hand, but a slash
from a bolo had taken off three of his fingers before he could fire,
though he was hardly conscious of the fact. All he knew was that he
must die like a soldier of Spain, with his sabre in his hand.

For a minute, they kept the bolomen at bay, then the native sergeant
went down, and the enemy began to close in, twenty of them, at least.

“It is over. Good-bye!” the corporal cried to his one remaining
comrade.

There had never been any chance, and now there were more bolomen
coming, scores of them, rushing down the hillside, yelling. The
corporal braced himself up. His strength was almost gone, but he
meant to kill one more enemy of Spain before he himself was killed.

And then a miracle seemed to happen. Suddenly, there was not an enemy
within reach of his sabre, for boloman was fighting boloman, or,
rather, the newcomers were slaying his enemies for him. The corporal
lowered the point of his sabre–he had lost a great deal of blood,
and the weight of the weapon now seemed almost unbearable–then he
turned to his comrade with a question in his eyes, and, before the
other had time to answer, lurched forward in a dead faint.

When the corporal recovered his senses, he was lying on a pile of
blankets under a palm-leaf shelter. His left hand, which was bandaged
up, was very painful–that was his first impression; then he began
to remember, vaguely at the outset, seeing everything as through a
mist of blood, which cleared away suddenly when it struck him that he
was a prisoner amongst the ladrones, and he knew how ladrones treated
Spanish prisoners. Better to have died there, at the foot of the big
tree. Still, they should get no sign of weakness from him.

He closed his eyes whilst he repeated a prayer, then opened them again,
to see a native, whose face was somehow familiar, standing beside him,
regarding him with grave interest.

The corporal returned the look, then raised himself on his unwounded
arm. “You are Felizardo!” he cried.

Felizardo nodded. “Yes, Senor, it is Felizardo. You remember last
time, outside Don José’s warehouse, you saved me? Now”–he bowed
slightly–“I am able to save you, also from ladrones.”

The corporal lay back again. This was an unprecedented situation,
for which there was no provision made in the Regulations; for this
same Felizardo was a ladrone who had slain a priest. At first, he
tried to think what would be the correct thing to do; but in the end
he could only jerk out a question: “Why did you do it?”

Felizardo waved his hand. “Those ladrones who burned Igut captured
some of my men’s wives–that was all. We came on you by chance,
and I was glad to pay my debt.”

The corporal breathed heavily. He did not intend to show any anxiety,
but he wanted to know his fate. “And now?” he asked.

Felizardo smiled slightly. “Now, if you like, you may go back to
Calocan at once; or, if you would honour me, stay with me in my
mountains until your wound is healed.”

From any other native, the mere invitation, even without the phrase
“my mountains,” would have stirred the corporal’s deepest wrath; but
somehow he realised, almost with a sense of humiliation, that this
native was a stronger man than himself. For a moment, he was inclined
to accept, then he remembered he must go back and report–his defeat.

“Senor Felizardo,” he said, “I must go back;” he looked away and went
on, a little brokenly: “Thank you, Senor. I told Don José we should
never see you again, either of us. Now I, at least, have seen you,
and I am glad, and–and very grateful.”

Again Felizardo smiled. “So you told Don José that? Well, we shall
see;” and he began to walk away slowly.

The corporal called him back. “I might get you a pardon, even now,
though … you know … the Church—-”

The other man’s face grew hard. “I take no pardons,” he said sternly;
then he shrugged his shoulders and laughed. “And, anyway, Senor,
they would grant none. Still, it was kind of you.”

They carried the corporal down to Igut, where to his surprise he found
eight survivors out of his force, and they put him on board a canoe,
after what seemed a day’s unnecessary delay. Then they started back
to Calocan, his own men paddling the canoe. The corporal was very
unhappy. He knew now that he must be invalided out of the service:
not honourably, however, but in disgrace, for his haste, or rather
his over-devotion to duty, had brought disaster on the arms of Spain.

True, it would be a difficult matter to explain, for the women and
children and the loot as well were back in Igut, and the surviving men
had crept in from the jungle and begun to rebuild the nipa-houses,
whilst, as a price for his rescue, Felizardo had made him promise
not to tell how the mountaineers had rescued him. He wished now he
had not given that promise–it was, probably, like the rest of the
business, contrary to the Regulations–but, having given it, he must
abide by it. He puzzled over the matter all the way back to Calocan,
wondering what his men would say, not knowing that they had received
orders on that point–orders which they now dare not disobey–from
Felizardo himself.

When the canoe reached Calocan, the whole population was waiting on
the beach to greet him. They cheered, and they crowded round him, and
the women showered blessings on him; whilst there was even an orderly
from Manila, commanding him to go to the Governor-General himself, a
Grandee of Spain, as soon as his wounds permitted. The corporal flushed
and stammered and looked round helplessly; then Don José came forward
and took his arm. “Come up to my house. It will be quiet there.”

He led the corporal into the well-remembered room, which, somehow,
seemed different now to the visitor, possibly because he had always
entered it before as a proud and important man, whilst this time he
felt himself an impostor. He took his glass of wine with trembling
hands, put it to his lips, then set it down untasted. He might have
to deceive every one else, but he could not be false to this old
friend. He drew his hand across his forehead slowly, then he blurted
out: “It’s a lie. I was beaten. I thought all my men were killed.”

Don José leaned forward and laid a hand on his arm. “I know the truth,
my friend–everything. Felizardo told me.”

The corporal sat up erect in his chair and
gasped. “Felizardo? When? How?”

“In this room, last night. He came alone, by canoe, and walked straight
in. He wanted me to see you said nothing foolish, and he wanted to
prove you had been wrong when you said he would never come back.”

For a full minute they sat in silence, then the corporal broke out. “He
is a strong man, Senor.”

Don José nodded.

“He is a gentleman, Senor, even if he did kill a priest;” there was
almost a note of defiance in the corporal’s voice.

Again Don José nodded.

There was another spell of silence, which was broken by the merchant
saying: “You will do as he wishes? You will hear all, and say
nothing? Then you will go back to Spain with your pension. Why not? You
tried your best; you held up the ladrones–you, single-handed–and
gave Felizardo his chance. It was your victory, after all.”

They took the corporal’s reticence and his rather muddled statements
as the results of the wound he had received, coupled with his
modesty. How could one doubt when one had been to Igut and seen
the released prisoners, and the restored loot, and the heads of the
ladrones stuck on posts along the beach?

Don José came to Manila to see him start on his journey to Spain.

“Will you see the Holy Father–now?” the merchant asked.

The corporal’s eyes brightened. “Why, yes, if I can. Why should I
have changed–I, who have had thirty-five years in which to learn
the truth?”

Don José laughed. “But has not Felizardo changed you? Is he only a
savage, then?”

For a moment, the corporal was at a loss, then, “If he had not been
educated, he would never have been able to read that letter, and
would not have had to take to the hills,” he answered stoutly.