The following is a translation of Justo Sierra O'Reilly, El filibustero (1841), México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, 2003.
... Ahi! dovefuggo?
Dovefuggir potrai? ...
I. Invasion of the Town
“To arms, brave countrymen! The barbarians come to rob us, to insult us, to loot your houses, to rape your daughters and to burn down the town! The king! What is the king when it comes to preserving the honor and existence of what you have most dearly on earth? No! The king's cause is not the one you are going to defend. It is yours, the cause of Yucatán. It is that of the very noble and loyal town of Campeche.”
It was August 11, 1633. Ten pirate ships had appeared in front of the port and the entire neighborhood was in the greatest consternation and anguish, contemplating that hostile apparatus. The brave and determined captain Domingo Galván Romero, in agreement with the town's principal citizens, gave his orders and issued orders for the defense of the plaza...
At five in the afternoon, while all the neighbors were gathered in the royal houses, the lookout from the Eminence Watchtower was seen rushing in... He arrives bathed in sweat, covered in dust... and cannot make himself understood because he is so frightened, agitated with fatigue and terror.
"For God's sake, speak once and for all," Juan Baniverde shouted at him. “What's up? Are they enemies?”
“Yes... soon... to arms... it is, there is no doubt, I... I have recognized him well... it is... Diego the Mulato.”
"Diego the Mulato!" exclaimed the astonished crowd, and at that moment a general stupor spread quickly. "Diego the Mulato! Dear God! Who can resist Diego the Mulato? Who can dull the edge of his sword? Who contains his exterminating arm? What will mitigate his insatiable thirst for revenge and blood?"
As intrepid as Captain Galván was, he did not cease to be disturbed by the news that the lookout from the Eminence brought. He knew Diego el Mulato perfectly, being his godfather as he was, and he knew that he was capable of anything to get revenge for a certain insult received in the town. His name had a horrible celebrity, a fame of blood. Like Victor Hugo's Han of Islanda, Diego el Mulato had eaten the meat of an Indian from Río Lagartos and drank the brackish water of a swamp. Many years of piracy on the coasts of Yucatán had made him fearsome to these peaceful inhabitants, and his name was enough to petrify them with fear. However, it was of the greatest importance to proceed to serious preparations, and to this end, Captain Galván addressed a speech to the neighbors to excite their patriotism and loyalty, making them see that there was no need to fear any enemy, as long as they met his attempts with courage and resolution, and that the good name of Yucatecán and the honor of Campeche depended directly on their success that day.
Lerma's lookout arrived a few moments later and confirmed what the first one said. Diego el Mulato had approached the coast in a boat, disembarked with a party leeward of San Román, where the castle of San Luis is today, and entered the thicket. It was certain that at that moment he was on land, and perhaps within the town or its outskirts, because he had not yet reembarked when the sun had set. This alarmed the neighbors and they no longer had the resolution to secure their properties and keep their families away from that theater until the aid that had been requested from the city of Mérida, where the governor resided, arrived. Since for this it was natural that some considerable interval of time would elapse and the risk was imminent, they resigned themselves to any contingency, since they already believed they were surrounded by the enemy. When at three in the morning the next day the chief of Sambullá reported on the looting that the filibusters had carried out in his town, the town was already in defensive posture, although it only had two hundred and sixty-three men, since the Indians had retired to the nearby mountains.
Don Valerio Mantilla, encomendero of Champotón, had been a victim of the barbaric fury of that detestable filibuster last year. Diego the Mulato surprised that town and put to the sword those who did not have time to escape his fury in advance. Mantilla was one of these unfortunates. His family was in Campeche and although he did not know the pirate personally, our readers must imagine the impression that his landing would cause on the lacerated heart of the gentleman’s widow and children. Conchita, the pretty and innocent Conchita, above all, idol and charm of her late father, delight of the whole family and beautiful ornament of the town, was the one who suffered the most in that bitter ordeal. Letting down her blonde hair, with her eyes swollen from crying so much, terror painted on all her delicate features and dressed in mourning attire, she left on the morning of the twelfth of August to go to the parish church, distant from her house only the width of the street. There she was kneeling on the tomb of her father, at the foot of the altar of souls, uttering choked sobs praying to the heavens... Holy God! Suddenly she hears a loud knock. The bugles, horns and añafiles warn of the enemy's proximity. Trembling, she hears the voice of Captain Galván, who orders to fire... POUMB!, an artillery shot coming from the sea... the bullets cross each other... the shooting becomes general... Conchita falls senseless, fainting in the temple, without a single witness, without a single hand to help her.
The enemies attack the San Román trench with fury: boats and launches protect their hostile operations. They approach once... yet another... and Captain Galván falls impaled by a musket ball, as he goes out to contain those outlaws. However, the brave peasants hold their position with honor; but they gather in that single place, while our enemies, making a live fire along the sea and the beach, detach various parties and take possession of various points of the town.
Everything is already confusion and disorder. The exorbitant superiority of the invaders makes all obstacles to their enterprise disappear. The people of Campeche, faced with the harsh alternative of dying or surrendering at will, found no other means than to take refuge in the convent of San Francisco. The women and children begin a hasty retreat; the elderly and disabled are in the greatest danger. Everything is mourning and horror: the voice of the commanders is no longer heard, and each one tries to avoid that conflict as much as his exhausted strength allows...
When Conchita returned from her long and deep fainting spell, she turned her startled eyes around looking for someone, and only heard a distant noise: it is a hymn to Bacchus that she has been able to perceive, it is the song of the foreigners who celebrate their horrible triumph in the midst of of an orgy. She gathers his thoughts: My God! What memories!... She makes an effort to get away from that lonely place. Everything is submerged in thick darkness: it is eleven at night and she finds herself abandoned by everyone. The door, however, is ajar, and she comes out alarmed, petrified with horror... she finds a lump in the atrium thrown on the ground... it is the corpse of Captain Galván... another one on the street... it is the of Captain Losada... another, that of Captain Pita, another one, oh! what a bloody spectacle! And her mother and her siblings? Nothing! Her house is deserted and in the greatest disorder... she knows how critical her position is and returns horrified again to the parish church in order to hide in its deepest recesses. A cloaked person followed her every movement from step to step; but she had not yet observed it: she walks... she enters the chapel of the tabernacle where a lamp is still burning that barely gives off a tremulous and pale light that gives the objects a terrible appearance. The girl's afflicted heart beats violently... she is perhaps going to exhale her last breath, as she is agitated. At this the unknown one comes between her and the lamp... a gigantic shadow is drawn on the altar... "oh!" she shouted, overcome with terror and fear, out of mercy, help me... free me from Diego the Mulato !" Her eyes closed, her limbs became inactive, and her powers fell asleep.
Upon taking possession of the town, the filibusters were distributed throughout it to satisfy her unbridled greed and her brutal lasciviousness. Ten of them entered the parish and stole everything they could get their hands on, without respecting what was most holy and worthy of veneration. They were already retreating from that sacred place when "prey!" one of the barbarians exclaimed... Conchita barely gave any sign of life. "Back off, you wretches!" a loud voice then shouted. The place was cleared in a moment.
The newly arrived filibuster, chief among them without a doubt, crossed his arms, fixed his bright eyes on Conchita... and heaved a deep sigh. A respectful fear contains him... two thick tears roll down the pirate's toasted cheeks... he feels unusual compassion in his soul... he approaches... he leans on an altar and with astonished admiration, as if he were a guise of a statue, remains motionless in that place. When Conchita regained the use of her faculties, the filibuster followed her movements: and he is the same one who receives her in his arms, in the chapel of the tabernacle.
II. The Fisherman
A little away from the town, on the beach of San Román, lived a mysterious man, a man unknown to the whole world, despite appearing very frequently at the market to sell the fruit of his industry. A miserable hut covered with old and poorly woven palms, constantly swaying in the breeze, served as his shelter. Inside it, only a net and fishing instruments, an iron stove, two clay pots, a flask, two blunderbusses and a rough twine hammock were visible. Our man was then fifty-eight years old, he was stocky and robust; his forehead and cheeks wrinkled; eyes of opaque green on a red background; bald, and his complexion of a sallow color. Some said he was Italian, others Portuguese, and some took him for Dutch. Nobody knew the truth. Back in the year 1625 he had appeared in that country, and since then he lived peacefully without doing harm. He did not busy himself with anything other than fishing, chewing tobacco, eating, sleeping most of the day and staying awake at night. He did not have relations with any person in the town, since his home, his figure, his manners and his character made him absolutely uncommunicative. The townspeople called him "the witch fisherman", for no other reason than his isolation.
On the night of that ominous day, when the filibusters took Campeche, committing a horrible massacre and all kinds of excesses, our fisherman from the beach, with a small and mean lantern, groped along the shore of the sea looking to help some unfortunate wounded man who might have fallen among the dead, who on the part of the invaders succumbed in the fray. It was already very late in the hour when, at a signal that was very familiar to him—a muffled cry similar to the cawing of a crow—he stopped the lantern, which like a sad will-o'-the-wisp wandered through those lonely places: the signal is repeated, and the weak light disappears. The gloom is already frightening at that critical moment.
The fisherman and another person met a few steps away. "Such a long time!" exclaimed the first. “Nothing, my father; We talk later. Let's not spend these precious moments in vain. Help me to help this unfortunate creature,” and saying this, the newcomer made an effort to support his precious burden.
“How, even more crimes, monster, worthy son of an infamous but unfortunate father! Get away, far from here: I can no longer lend myself to your iniquities, barbarian! Even more crimes!”
“For mercy's sake, my father! This girl, this pure and innocent girl needs our help. You call me a criminal! Ah, no, I swear to you: it is not crime that guides me; It's, what do I know? ...it is a chaste, noble and pious sentiment...she is so pretty, so tender! Come, come!..." and they both walked towards the hut.
Arriving at it, the fisherman, with an air of distrust and murmuring a few isolated words, made a light. The filibuster immediately took off his cape and placed the angelic and innocent Conchita on top of it. An intense paleness reigned on the girl's face: those discolored cheeks, that languid, melancholic and immobile physiognomy could not be contemplated without emotion, without a deep feeling of tenderness and pain. Her blonde hair was scattered in disarray, her eyes were closed: copious icy sweat ran from her forehead and her cold hands were crossed over her chest, which she was barely beating with a short, labored breath.
“See here,” said the pirate, “the image of pain.”
“It is nothing but that of death,” answered the fisherman with a hoarse and broken voice. A deathly and somber silence followed after these ominous words.
"Death!" repeated the filibuster, after a long interval. “And why should this divine, this candid and pure dove die? If her life, like ours, my father, had been a fabric of horrible crimes, a chain of unheard-of atrocities, such a fate would not move me. But since she is so young, so pure and innocent, so tender, so pretty, so interesting, so enchanting, ah!, this would be horrible; I would finally believe in this fatality that still chills me: that destiny that you say presides over the fate and career of man on earth.”
“However,” replied the fisherman, “that destiny, that fatality, would drag her to death. You doubt it still...!”
“Yes, my father, I doubt: you yourself have given me reason. ‘Even more crimes!’ you exclaimed in horror, as if you were reproving and blaming me for an action that, if it had been iniquitous, it was not in my power to avoid. You have given me my being in crime: I was born in crime: you took my mother's life for no other reason than because she was a different color than yours. There is a new crime. You have inclined me to robbery, murder and piracy. You have made the seed of all crimes and iniquities develop in me. When once, enraptured, horrified by your atrocities and mine, I wanted to flee from you, to get away forever from such an impious life, you fool! You told me: 'Where, where would you go so that crime would not pursue you? Destiny, fate with its heavy iron hand, stops you, drags you and plunges you into an unfathomable abyss. Flee! What is it to flee from the influence of destiny?’ And new murders, new fires, more blood and more devastation was the immediate result of your infernal words, of your fateful sentences. What, then, can you reproach in my conduct? Fatality has seeded my career with the most frightening vices: fate, if you want it, will be the one that has inspired in me a noble and virtuous feeling today. “I love, I love, my father, this most beautiful creature.”
“See here a new and more horrendous crime!” the beach fisherman said under his breath.
Conchita at that moment heaved a sigh, and gradually regained the use of her senses. It was already a fairly clear day when she opened her eyes to recognize the place where she was. Near her she sees standing a man of gallant presence. His manner was that of a distressed person, and all his proportions and features of his physiognomy inspired the keenest interest. His forehead was wide and spacious: his nose was aquiline; his mouth was well proportioned, although the lower lip was somewhat bulging, and the upper lip was covered with a light lip; long curls of brown hair fell over his pearly neck: his cheeks were flushed like scarlet, by the influence of the sun of the tropics: and above all, his eyes had an indefinable, fascinating and insinuating shine, a divine or perhaps infernal shine: it was a irresistible shine. His suit consisted of a red velvet jacket, somewhat worn and threadbare; dark wool pants and thick leather-soled boots. A small silver hoop hung from his left ear, and a blue silk cap covered his head. When Conchita noticed him, he was leaning on the stove, with one hand on his cheek and looking at her with interest, with anxiety. Their gazes met, oh! The damage was already done. The pirate's eyes had never looked in vain at a woman's: they had never failed to inspire love, delirious and frantic love. Unlucky Conchita! To where can she flee?
"Who are you, sir? What do I owe you? Are we far from that infernal monster? What is my family? Do you know? Where am I? Surely you come from heaven to free me from that beast, from that brutal and bloodthirsty pirate. Out of compassion, tell me: are we far from Diego el Mulato?”
“Diego el Mulato! Does that unfortunate man inspire so much horror?”
“Ah! You are a foreigner and you undoubtedly do not know who Diego el Mulato is; my father's murderer..."
“You've already heard it,” said the fisherman in a low voice, who was calmly contemplating this pathetic scene from a corner of the hut.
“And where,” asked the pirate, “where did Diego el Mulato murder your father, young lady?”
“Ah!, in Champotón.”
“In November of the previous year?”
“Would you perhaps be the daughter of Don Valerio Mantilla?”
“How! You knew my father? What happiness! You will be my defender, my guardian angel..."
“Yes, I will be,” exclaimed the pirate, “I swear,” and he suddenly disappeared from that place.
III. The Guardian
When the attack on the village began, Conchita's mother, brothers, and family started moving to avoid the danger. And the girl? What happens to the girl Conchita? She looks for her everywhere in the house, in those of the neighbors, and Conchita does not appear. In such difficult circumstances, the death of Captain Galván is known. Those from the town in disorder head to the convent of San Francisco and the critical hour arrives. The pain of Señora de Mantilla knows no limits, and she had almost adopted the resolution of perishing inside the plaza than escaping without her daughter, when it was said that Conchita had left home and had probably taken refuge in the same convent of San Francisco. The lady thinks so, she goes through the crowd, she arrives, but no one gives an account of her daughter. It was impossible to go back, however, because the filibusters were already camped in the Guadalupe neighborhood, and it was well known that the old Captain Lazada had been coldly murdered. The bitterness of that afflicted mother can only be conceived: it is not possible to express it.
The guardian of the convent lavished a thousand consolations on his dismayed guests, and guided by a holy zeal, for her evangelical charity, he offered the good lady to go out the next day in search of the girl.
"I know Diego el Mulato and his father," he said to himself, "and I hope to find success."
Indeed, the next morning, overcoming the difficult steps and making a long detour through the neighborhood of Santa Ana to avoid any bad event, he headed to San Román, skirting the Eminence. Upon reaching a crossroads, close to the witch fisherman's hut, Fray Juan Benavente (that was the guardian's name) came face to face with Diego the Mulatto. The pirate approached with respect, kissed the religious man's hand and spoke a few mysterious words with him.
“It will be possible!” exclaimed the guardian, and they both headed to the hut.
“But, by God!” Diego el Mulato said when he entered, “in reward for such an action, I only demand strict secrecy about this occurrence. My name above all must remain unknown, does your fatherhood understand? My name above all must be a deep mystery.”
“That's what I promise,” said the friar, and greeted the fisherman...
Conchita was about to leave... Oh!, a spear has stuck his heart...
“Someday, angelic creature, someday you will see me again!” the pirate said in a voice so low that only Conchita could hear. They looked at each other: ah, what a look! Diego el Mulato's eyes had never looked in vain at a woman's: they had never stopped inspiring love, delirious and frantic love. Unlucky Conchita! Where, where can she flee?
I. The Revelation
The girl's ardent imagination was wounded to the core. Tranquility had already been restored in the town with the withdrawal of the filibusters, but Conchita had lost her innocence and peaceful heart. The spirit of the the people of Campeche had been revived; Conchita's was sad and dejected. Everyone enjoyed the sweetnesses that a peaceful society offers; only Conchita experienced the deepest bitterness in her soul, the bitterness produced by the absence of a loved object. The memory of her adventure in the fisherman's hut haunted her everywhere: the image of that foreigner who had generously freed her from Diego el Mulato was mixed in all her thoughts. She felt herself being burned by a vehement fire, that devouring fire that the looks of the stranger ignited. A single idea occupied her: the return of her liberator. A single feeling stirred her: the love that the man's bewitching eyes inspired.
When the guardian, returning to the convent, delivered the girl into the hands of her grieving mother, he explained her adventure in a very natural way, so that she could not doubt his story. Conchita, at the sound of the first cannon shots, had fainted in the parish church. A stranger saw her by chance, separated her from that place and commended her to the care of a respectable old man.
The good lady observed, however, that since that fateful day, the character of her daughter had taken on a melancholy aspect. She sighed involuntarily. Music, which had so much charm for her, apparently took part in her same affections: the vihuela in her hands only produced a languid, although tender and pathetic melody. She frequently cried... she had dire dreams... pure and angelic creature! The days of good fortunate had passed... very soon her name was erased from the book of happiness.
"Why hide? Why run away from me? Why avoid the recognition of my entire family? Oh, why not reciprocate my tender and deep feelings, my vehement love?" the inconsolable girl often exclaimed in her soliloquies.
Days, months and... years passed! The generous stranger has not yet shown up: he has not yet come to fulfill his solemn promise to see her again. Ungrateful! He has undoubtedly forgotten that Conchita loves him; that without him she cannot be happy; that his gaze has released, drop by drop, into the most intimate part of the passionate heart of that angel of candor and purity, a lethal poison, a deadly poison that circulates violently through her veins, and that gradually destroys the essence of her life. He will have moved away from his victim: those first impulses of love would be fleeting, his emotions fleeting from him. Perhaps another more fortunate woman will possess his heart and she will experience the ineffable delight of being loved.
The world, society, pleasures, what were they for Conchita? An unbearable torment. The caresses of her grieving mother, the benevolent affection of her relatives and friends, sometimes only inspired sadness in her. Annoyance and indifference at times. She was already taciturn, reserved and melancholic. The vehemence of her passion deeply influenced her character and way of life. It was necessary to think seriously about the extirpation of that destructive principle.
Señora de Mantilla, for whom the reasons for her daughter's present situation were a mystery, conceived the project of uniting her with a cousin, a worthy young man, well received in society for his fine manners, brilliant education, elegant and attractive in his figure. Don Fernando García Gutiérrez enthusiastically loved his cousin; everywhere he followed her and missed no opportunity to show her the tender and sweet affection that he professed for her. Constantly dedicated to entertaining her, he provided her with distractions, made her go for a walk, played the psaltery sweetly to accompany her, organized dances at home, attracted his friends to his aunt's gatherings, and, in short, did everything possible to soften Conchita's bitterness, which made him suffer as much as she did. Ignorant, however, of the hidden cause of her cousin's sorrows, he conceived, at the same time, the same project as her aunt. Here, the two people who loved Conchita the most and were interested in her fate agreed to keep all hope of happiness and fortune away from her.
“My daughter, dear!” her mother once told her, “I suffer as much as you do, and perhaps more, when considering the state of sadness in which I see you and the despondency that overwhelms you. I would die of grief, I would succumb to my pain, if I can’t find way to make you happy and fortunate. You are right, my daughter: shyness and innocence must have made you suffer greatly on that ominous day when the filibusters took the town, but much time has passed and an effort must be made. You, who were born for the delight and contentment of your afflicted mother, for the honor of your house and family, should you refuse me consolation? No, I don't want to believe it. Your cousin Don Fernando loves you passionately... he has the most brilliant qualities, he offers to unite your fate to his and wants to be your husband. What happiness is in store for you, my daughter! I just want to hear from your mouth that you feel in this union the same satisfaction as your mother.
If a lightning bolt, released impetuously and suddenly from the electrified clouds, voraciously destroying every obstacle it encountered in its rapid trajectory, had fallen at Conchita's feet, it would not have caused her as much horror and terror as the strange proposition of her mother. In that unexpected moment she drew back the curtain that hid a horrible scene from her view, terrifying scenes that petrified her, stopping the flow of blood in her veins. She then learned how critical her position was, the pitiful state of her spirit, and she foresaw a disastrous future. Until then it had not occurred to her that a situation like this would arise, and with her thoughts devoted exclusively to her unknown lover, she only lived for him and for him: the idea of giving him a rival had never occurred to presented itself to her heart, because she would have believed she had offended the only object that she loved, that she adored with exalted enthusiasm.
“Ah, my mother!” she exclaimed, “No...it can't be...it's impossible. I esteem and appreciate my cousin Fernando very much. Even more: I appreciate with all my soul the notable distinction he does me and the offer of his hand: but I cannot be his wife... this is absolutely impossible. Astonished and horrified, Señora de Mantilla falls silent upon hearing her daughter's response. Flooded with tears, she takes her leave and locks herself in her room, immersed in a sea of sorrows, conjectures, and strange thoughts.
Conchita, however, immediately knew the imprudence of her behavior and repented of it, but it was already too late: her secret had ceased to be secret, and by abandoning herself to a passion like hers, to an almost delirious passion, she had wounded the heart of her good mother and made her situation more dire. How could she, in fact, reveal with all her circumstances that mystery that she had to bury in the most hidden from her heart? How could she justify such an extravagant passion in the eyes of her family? What security did she have to believe that she was loved? On the contrary, wasn't the prolonged absence of that foreigner proving to her that she was nothing to him? And, above all, who was this unknown foreigner? What was his homeland and family? What was his means and relationships? What if he was married? What if he wasn't worthy of her? Conchita, given over to only one hope, to which all her possibilities were opposed, had never fixed her consideration on all these particulars. She had never believed it was necessary to think seriously about the matter. So unworldly and young, without any experience, she only meditated on the precious object of her idolatry. Sometimes, however, she asked herself why she would lack the courage to explain herself to a mother who loved her so much?
"There is surely in this love," she said then, "something horrible, something irregular, since I feel such repugnance in manifesting it. Am I on the path to perdition? Good God!" she exclaimed and returned to her memories with a stronger and more exalted impetuosity. The discreet lady kept a profound silence about her occurrence, contenting herself with advising her daughter and leading her on the right path. She allowed Don Fernando to continue his attentions, but forebode him to talk about marriage, because she did not yet consider it appropriate, judging it better to defer it for later. It cost the passionate cousin a lot to obey the precepts of Señora de Mantilla, but respecting her motives, he only dedicated himself to deserving Conchita's affection.
II. The Drunk
But it was written in the unalterable pages of the eternal book of destinies, that Conchita, apparently born for happiness, would nevertheless be a victim of the crudest regrets. A conflict awaited her at every step. After some time, Don Fernando came to see that his cousin was agitated by a passion... an amorous passion without a doubt. But in vain he made efforts to inspire her confidence, so that she would reveal her secret to him. In vain he observed and meditated deeply on her strange behavior. In vain he made investigations and proceeded methodically... nothing! Everything was shrouded in mystery. He knew those in the town... they were his friends... they congratulated him on his upcoming marriage... everyone apparently participated in a satisfaction, which he, however, saw as very far away. Who, then, was his rival? Where did this fortunate mortal live who thus stole the heart of his cousin? Conchita loves: there is no doubt... and her lover...?, her lover! He surely does not live in the town, since she would not have been able to escape the investigations of the young lover. It was necessary to look for him elsewhere. Don Fernando swore to do so.
One afternoon when the two cousins were reading one of Cervantes' recently published works, they heard a commotion and shouting from boys in the street. It was very natural to go out to the balcony, to impose oneself upon the cause of that commotion. A poor, harmless man came with slow but irregular steps, overwhelmed by the shouting of that mob. It took a lot of work for Don Fernando and other people to calm the storm.
"Sir, he is a witch, he is the witch fisherman...", the boys said.
“No, my children, he is unhappy, a drunk,” replied Don Fernando. The children left the fisherman alone.
As this scene played out, Conchita had her eyes fixed on that man, whom she thought she had seen somewhere else. As he approached, the girl's excitement grew... Don Fernando was once again at her side, when the drunk lay down on his back on the parapet of the parish atrium, in front of Conchita, who was disturbed and moved beyond measure without knowing the cause. A few moments later, the fisherman, with a deep voice, sang a song, which, although it was simple, was tender and pathetic. At the end of the third stanza he raised his tone and with slow singing he said:
Someday, angelic creature,
someday you will see me again.
“Yes,” Conchita shouted, “that was his solemn promise. You were present…” and she fell fainting into the arms of her family. Don Fernando, without wasting time, rushed down to detain that terrible man, that man whose singing produced such an extraordinary effect. An errand done in vain! The fisherman had disappeared.
“That was his promise... you were present!” Don Fernando repeated, overwhelmed by the tormenting passion of jealousy. "Yes, there is no doubt," he exclaimed. "Conchita loves a man who has promised to see her again, who has wounded her heart... and that old man has witnessed the scene... he has witnessed my misfortune. Angelic creature! Ah, yes, Conchita is an angel, she is a divine being, but she loves... who...? This is exasperating."
Don Fernando flies to his house, gets one of his best horses. Without notifying any of his family, without saying goodbye to his aunt, he quickly leaves for the road to Hampolol. A thought, a memory has suddenly presented itself to him. The day the filibusters took the town and sacked it, Conchita fell unconscious in the parish church... yes... a foreigner saw her by chance, separated her from that place and commended her to the care of a respectable old man. Dear God, he has discovered everything. Conchita, since that terrible day, has been dejected and sad... there is no doubt... the foreigner is her lover, he is the one who offered to see her again. The respectable old man... is the miserable drunk, who with infernal singing has caused such a deep impression on the tender soul of his cousin.
In that year, Fray Juan Benavente has a governing role in his order, and due to that office he was obligated to live in the large convent of the city of Mérida. One night, a little after the call for prayers, a cloaked man appeared at the convent door, expressing his desire to speak immediately to the governing priest. He was immediately led to his cell, and once the two men were alone, the newcomer took off a mask...
“You, here?” the good religious man exclaimed, half angry and embarrassed.
“Yes, reverend, and only your fatherhood has the privilege of speaking to me that way. I have come exclusively to demand from you the fulfillment of a solemn promise.”
“You had no need to remind me of an obligation I contracted… somewhat imprudently, to tell the truth.
“Diego—or Mulato, as those lazy people, who cannot look me face-to-face, cowardly call me—trusts a lot in Father Benavente's promise.”
“You have nothing more to say. God help you,” said the religious man, giving his blessing to the pirate, who was leaving the cell, when Don Fernando García Gutiérrez, who was arriving from Campeche, entered, out of breath.
"My father!" said Don Fernando, throwing himself into the arms of the religious man, "I love... I adore Conchita... she loves... she adores another." Who is it, for pity's sake? That foreigner who took her away from the parish church, who entrusted her to an old man, who is he? Where is he? I want to see him, I want to meet this hateful rival... this mysterious being who has made me miserable. What is his name? You know, my father... I am desperate, delirious until you give me a satisfactory answer. Ah! If I could see him! I would know him at first sight when I heard his voice..."
While the religious man, in the midst of that conflict, made efforts to reassure Don Fernando, Diego el Mulato entered the cell for the second time and respectfully kissed the priest's hand, extending his own with an expressive farewell greeting to Don Fernando.
“Your rival, my son!” said Father Benavente, after the young lover had calmed down somewhat, “your rival! You amaze me with your exclamations, with your disconcerted words. Is it possible?”
“Yes, my father, yes. Conchita loves deliriously a stranger, a man wrapped in a disguise, which I still cannot remove, if you do not help me in such an important undertaking. Only you undoubtedly know that man. A fisherman, the witch fisherman from San Román beach, pretending to be drunk, sang certain words yesterday in front of my aunt's house. Conchita has recognized that evil man, has understood the meaning of the song and has fainted. There is no other possibility—the foreigner you spoke of, when you brought Conchita, is his lover; the fisherman, the old man to whose care she was recommended and the witness of that fatal promise, of that sacrificial oath of love. For God's sake, father! What is that foreigner's name? Who is he? Where is he?" the unfortunate knight repeated again and again.
The religious man did everything he could to calm the impetuosity, the ardent exaltation of his guest.
Don Fernando was impatient to return to Campeche and continue his investigations. When the day came, he said goodbye to Fray Juan Benavente, who did not see fit to make the explanation that was requested of him. He had serious reasons not to verify it.
III. September 14
The year was 1636. The Campeche neighborhood was making its preparations for a solemn day: September 14. The young ladies arranged their rich gold-plated taffeta dresses. Spirited horses will come out to show off their proud nature, tamed by elegantly attired young people.
The melancholy Don Fernando appeared in a mourning suit. He accompanied his cousin in the sanctuary... The solemnity begins: a group of sailors enter and leave... next to a confessional, near Conchita, a certain personage is standing.
“Silence! We would be lost if they watched us.” The stranger was still talking when Don Fernando approached. His cousin was agitated.
“Pure and angelic creature, I see you again; but it won't be the last time... I still can't..." Conchita has understood everything.
The vigilant cousin has finally discovered his rival... there is no longer any doubt in the matter. The girl was so deeply moved that she needed help, and Don Fernando saw the stranger leave, unable to follow him.
But after he managed to get away, he rushed to the fisherman's hut on the beach... A black dot wandered on the horizon, over the restless waves... It was Diego el Mulato and his father, who were heading in a boat towards a ship that was waiting for them outside the port.
I. The Fire
Two men, one elderly, the other young, walked with slow steps along the beach of San Román on the day of the festivities. The old man, his arm outstretched, walked around the semicircle of the horizon formed by the sea. It seemed that he was talking about an important subject, judging by the vehemence of his gestures and the interest with which he focused the young man's attention. He suddenly gives a shout of joy, turns to the crowd still wandering in the square.
“There!” he exclaims, and everyone prostrates themselves with anointing, directing their prayers to heaven. In the distance we could see a ship crossing the port of Campeche under full sail. The Avenger, a 12-gun brig commanded by Diego el Mulato, then received the honors that the simple people of that century believed they were giving to that ship, which took the lord of San Román to the happy beaches of Campeche and which, according to popular tradition, Iappeared in front of the port every September 14.
The brig that was greeted with such joy, however, brought mourning and desolation for the peaceful residents of the town. Diego el Mulato, at that fatal moment that had been designated for him in advance, broke the seal of an order from his superiors whose content he did not know. He only knew that he had to open it on that day, at that hour and at that latitude. The sheet contained several instructions, which the pirate read to himself. His face alternated between flushed or pale, looking like a man who suffers within himself the struggle of various passions that compete for the empire of the heart, Diego el Mulato walked from stern to bow with disconcerted and irregular steps. He frequently fixed his penetrating gaze on the restless plain. Sometimes he turned his sparkling eyes around, as if to count the number of men he could have at his disposal in a critical and committed situation, and sometimes he remained in a state of deep musing and dejection.
Leaning next to the bow mast, with his feet crossed, with an air of calm indifference, on a large roll of hawser, the fisherman could be seen wrapped in a huge, scarlet-colored jacket, smoking his pipe and blowing out puffs of thick smoke. He watched with admirable coolness everything that passed around him, and he observed the pirate's agitation almost with contempt. Diego el Mulato had to take choose a side…
“Would my father care to listen to his son for a moment, somewhere the conversation cannot be heard?” the pirate asked the fisherman, stopping suddenly next to him. A trace of impatience or indignation was observed at that moment on the cold and monotonous physiognomy of the old man.
He will doubtless hesitate, but the pirate's deprecating air and his respectful accent made him extend his arm and lean on that of his son. A moment later they were in the ship's chamber with the door locked.
Diego el Mulato presented his father with the mysterious document, which the fisherman scanned with his eyes.
“Well,” he then exclaimed, “there can be room for deliberation here!”
“But, what about her, father?”
“She will suffer the fate of others, and if she has already touched the ominous line that predetermined her destiny, she will undoubtedly die like the others. Who can avoid the fulfillment of the horrible decrees of fate? Are you, weak and cowardly creature, the one who would dare to counteract its influence? Have I not subjected myself to suffering its rigors even when they have come at your hand? Have you not forced me to interfere in the affairs of you and that woman? Have I not lost my tranquility, abandoning my hut and shelter where I had chosen to spend the last years of my hectic and violent life? Well then let her die, if necessary. I, my son, pity her. She is so beautiful and so worthy of interest! She loves you with such vehemence! However, why should we lose all hope?...Perhaps she will be able to escape her fate..."
“Yes,” exclaimed the pirate, “I will save her. I will watch around her, I will follow her with my eyes everywhere, I will throw myself into the middle of dangers and perish with her, if fate has condemned her to die. I already see it all; my love can be well reconciled with my duties. I will burn down the village and save Conchita. Let us speak no more. Listen to my instructions and let us act accordingly.”
Diego el Mulato and Giovanni Strazza (that was the fisherman's name) entered into a deep discussion.
Conchita, returning home, had seriously alarmed her family. Her passion was already reaching delirium and her cousin Don Fernando was given over to the desperate extremes of rage and pain. A stranger, a foreigner perhaps—a filibuster!—has taken away all hope from him, all fortune and happiness. He has seen him, he has heard him and he has not been able to speak to him, he has not been able to rip out his heart, nor make him shed his soul in spurts of blood! Such a hateful rival still lives!
"By God," he said, in an outburst of fury to the inconsolable Señora de Mantilla, "I swear in the name of the living God to pierce the chest of the infamous villain who has thus come to disturb our rest and happiness, and heaven knows that I will keep my solemn oath, even if for this purpose I needed the help of... the most abominable and criminal man, Diego el Mulato himself."
Conchita's mother only responded with sighs and sobs, which further redoubled the pain of the extremely indignant cousin, who in a moment of recklessness had revealed the mysterious conversation in the church.
Night came, and little by little the groups in the Plaza de San Román dissolved. The rowers began their return to the towns. The bustle ceases, the lights in the houses are extinguished. The deepest and most gloomy silence reigns in the town, and all the neighbors have quietly surrendered themselves into the arms of Morpheus. Only at Conchita's house did they sit up watching at her side. It's half past eleven at night. In this fatal moment, the stars lose their brightness and radiance. A black enclosure has replaced the deep blue of the sky, and the town with its beaches, its hills, its ships, its towers and viewpoints, seems submerged in a black and horrible chaos.
Two boats then cautiously approach Campeche beach, one heading to the windward side and the other to the leeward side of the town.
At the stroke of midnight, a passing glow shines on the parish tower, like the one produced by a light that was lit and extinguished instantly. A flash from the sea, accompanied by a loud detonation of artillery, corresponded to the signal from the tower, undoubtedly agreed upon in advance.
“To arms!” immediately shouted the harquebusier who was doing his duty as a sentinel in the government buildings. “To arms, to weapons, the enemy is in front of the town!” Five minutes later, a small battery placed on the spit of the sea, where the bastion of San Carlos is today, fired a very lively fire with bullets, small iron bars, and shrapnel, although the deep darkness did not allow the objects to be distinguished, and therefore the aim was uncertain. The entire town is in motion. Consternation has spread rapidly, fear has taken hold of the faint-hearted souls, because they still remember the tragic and bloody scenes of August 12, 1633. No one dares to pronounce the ominous name of Diego el Mulato for fear of finding out about a horrible reality: his presence in Campeche.
Everyone crowds into a single point and waits for the result of the battle that is being prepared. The lieutenant general, the mayors and war captains are taking their defense measures, but nevertheless they cannot organize properly, because the enemy is unknown and has only fired one shot from the sea. "Fire, fire... fire...!" shouted a thousand different voices at the same time, and they all look to the San Román neighborhood, from whose center a thick and enormous column of black smoke rose at that moment. Being born, growing, rising to the firmament, setting its bases in the abyss and being strewn with red and devouring flames, everything was the work of so few seconds that before running to prevent its rapid progression, half the neighborhood was already prey to the impetuous voracity of that superb and indomitable element.
"Fire...! Fire in San Francisco...!" And now the neighborhood of San Francisco presented the same spectacle as that of San Román... "Fire! Fire in Guadalupe! Fire in Santa Ana...!"
Oh, holy God! Who can explain the anguish and pain of the people of Campeche on that horrible night? Who can paint the horrible picture that the town offered at two-thirty in the morning? The fire broke out. It had spread like an electric fluid and the town seemed submerged in an ocean of flames, smoke, and ashes. To make that desperate position more frightening, the neighbors had barely tried to escape by boat and canoe by sea, when The Avenger, the terrible pirate ship, started a very lively and sustained fire against the town, throwing jars of sulfur, red bullet, and shrapnel.
Everything is now confusion in Campeche. All you can hear is the roar of the fire, the resounding noise of the collapsing buildings, the explosion of the enemy cannon, everyone’s undistinguishable laments, sobs and prayers. They wait to see the enemy sword shine above their heads, to humbly succumb to its first blows. Nobody thinks uselessly about a defense, neither of people, nor of buildings.
Diego el Mulato, like the exterminating angel of the mysterious book of the Apocalypse, contemplated that horrible, yet sublime and surprising scene of destruction from the tower of the parish church. Alone and far from his people, with his arms crossed over his chest, one foot extended forward and his body half resting on the other, he observed with savage serenity this atrocious work of his iniquitous and bloodthirsty hands. An equivocal trait of pleasure, or of bitter irony, shone in his physiognomy as beautiful as it was sinister. His gallant and terrifying figure would offer the image of the cursed archangel, beautiful and proud, when he prepared to fight even against God himself. Although he sometimes had needed his sword, his daggers and pistols were now attached to his belt, and he did not express any intention of making use of his weapons. As the light given off by the general blaze was as bright as the midday sun, nothing that happened escaped his penetrating gaze, which he often fixed on Señora de Mantilla's house, where was enclosed the dear object of his purest illusions.
The houses in the center of the town were still safe due to the low force of the off-shore wind that was blowing. Many families, including Conchita's, had adopted the policy of staying inside their houses until there was no other recourse but to leave them. Fearing an ambush from the enemies, and furthermore, the bullets and shrapnel that the pirate ship was throwing were a new reason to maintain this rather dangerous position. Suddenly, due to the action of a red hot bullet, the house of the factor Pedro Zedeño, in which a considerable deposit of gunpowder is kept, is ignited, and without any delay, the building goes up with a frightful explosion and spreads the fire with impetuous voracity to all the nearby houses. Through patios, doors and balconies it enters the house of Señora de Mantilla, which before anything could be done, was engulfed in flames, whose power nothing can resist. Everything disappears and turns into embers.
While more than four hundred people, led by the fearless young Don Fernando García Gutiérrez, made vain and useless efforts to penetrate the interior of the house and free Señora de Mantilla, Conchita, and her little brother, the only people who were not able to escape at the first explosion, a foreigner appears, breaks through the middle of the crowd and without concern for any danger, penetrates and pounces, surprising everyone. A few moments later he carries Conchita and the child in his arms, and when it seemed impossible to save the unfortunate mother, he once again broke through the formidable barrier that the flames, smoke, and rubble presented, and almost suffocated, he pulled her out unscathed, although fainted and senseless.
Mother and children lie stretched out on a platform in the parish church, and there they are given all kinds of help. After those first moments, Don Fernando attentively fixes his scrutinizing gaze on Diego el Mulato. The pirate does not like to suffer such an examination and with a brusque and haughty tone he orders everyone to leave that place.
“Your houses are caught in the fire, your interests are lost, your families perish, and you are like chickens here!” he exclaimed with evident signs of anger and fury.
“And who is,” replied Don Fernando, “the insolent one who dares to insult us like this? Who...? and at that moment the pirate brought a small ivory instrument like a bugle to his lips, from which came a very high-pitched sound that left all the bystanders stunned, and continued: “You were asking who I am? Don't you know me? I am your rival: I am Diego el Mulato... Do you know me now? ”And already in his hands the steel gleamed.
II. The Kidnapping
The crowd let out a cry of fear and surprise when they heard the abominable name of Diego el Mulato. Terrified, everyone gathered in the parish atrium rushed out in different directions, even fleeing from the shadow of the ferocious pirate, who with a hard and sinister eye challenged his rival. Don Fernando, petrified with horror at that mystery that is revealed to him for the first time, remains for the moment in absolute inaction. How can Conchita— daughter of such noble parents, the first beauty of Campeche, the most precious jewel of her family—love Diego el Mulato, of such a low class, murderer of her father, a man-eating criminal, the most ferocious and brutal man! Since when have tigers been able to mix with lambs, doves with snakes? The angelic Conchita has humiliated herself in such a way! She has degraded herself to the point of loving with such enthusiasm Diego el Mulato, who has left a trail of blood along the coasts of Yucatán! Diego el Mulato!... Holy God! What a terrible mystery.
"You my rival, despicable! You, Conchita's lover!" the noble gentleman shouted, overcome with fury, as soon as he had come to his senses from the surprise caused by the impudence and audacity of his adversary, who, however, had just discovered a bitter truth, a truth that should remain forever buried in the abyss.
“You are my rival and I haven't ripped out your soul yet!... Defend yourself....”
“You wretch! Do you want to die, then?” replied the pirate. “Well then…he dies!”
Within seconds, Don Fernando's head had rolled down the eight steps of the parish atrium.
Captain Rodríguez arrived late, who to free the unfortunate young man had gone to the site of the battle with three hundred chosen men who had just sworn to either die or defeat the infamous and outlaw invaders of the peaceful town. Resolved to relinquish their lives at a high cost, they rushed into the square. But what horror! The beautiful and seductive features of Don Fernando, covered in dust and blood, are offered to their view. They attack the pirate at the same time, who defends himself like a lion, leaving those closest to him dead or wounded.
His strength was already leaving him, when Conchita, having returned to consciousness after fainting, sat up and looked around, and as the day had already become sufficiently light, she looked at her lover, attacked by his enemies… She flies to hug him, and full of indignation and love, she addresses the Campechanos with a lost and delirious apostrophe. In order not to hurt her, the fight is interrupted for a moment, during which Captain Rodríguez takes advantage to show her the head and torso of her cousin.
“Woe is me! Who was his murderer...?” asks the unhappy girl.
“Diego el Mulato,” responded one hundred voices.
"Always Diego el Mulato!", and facing the pirate, she begs him, flooded with tears, to avenge her family from Diego el Mulato, and she faints again deeply, however, noticing a light touch of red on her cheeks and a slight smile on her eyes, all symptoms of a fever that will make her more delirious, that will going to deliver her with impunity into the arms of her ferocious lover.
This scene was still happening, when one hundred and fifty filibusters appeared in the square, who had come at the signal given by their leader. In the midst of fire, death, and devastation, a fierce and stubborn fight ensues. Desperation has lifted the people from their previous despondency, and on that horrible day, they perform wonders of courage against their enemies.
It was around nine in the morning on September 15 when a strong northerly wind began to blow, accompanied by strong and copious rain. The fire was about to be extinguished... and this accident gave new energy to those in the town... Filibusters take the defensive, locking themselves in the parish church. There they are attacked with fury, and Diego el Mulato then knows that there is no hope of saving himself except by making a costly sacrifice. The result was not certain, but there was no other choice. He comes out suddenly carrying Conchita in his arms: he orders swords to be wielded and begins to fight his way in retreat. He finally arrives at the pier, he gets into the boats with fifty-two men that he had left, and to get off the beach he consumes his efforts, his people, and a lot of time. He sets sail... he takes Conchita in the presence of the Campechanos. The pirate fights against the elements, against the fury of his enemies, against his feelings... he moves away from the port. But the sea becomes proud, the wind roars with fury... It seems impossible to pursue him.
III. The Shipwreck
The humid north wind, unleashed with all its force, had obscured the horizon, thus preventing the crew of The Avenger from observing the laborious efforts of the boats heading towards it. In vain, Diego el Mulato waves a white flag to attract the attention of his people. In vain, by launching a loud voice, he tries to make himself heard, since the thick clouds and the thickness of the rain prevent him from being observed. In vain, he vomited insults and oaths, seeking in them, a weak and useless resource, what the more natural means could not offer. Everything was ineffective. The pilot, punctually following his instructions, wanting to avoid the almost certain loss of the brig if he remained in the vicinity of the beach, had set sail and turned out to sea, since the first winds from the north made palpable to him the proximity of danger. In such anguished circumstances, one of the boats, steered by the fisherman, capsized, and colliding with the other, broke into a thousand pieces. No help could be given and in a minute even the remains had disappeared into the distance. From time to time, an unfortunate person who was fighting with death would show a hand, a foot or his head through the waves, spewing torrents of salt water from his mouth... Afterwards, only a terrifying memory remains of the unfortunate shipwrecked people.
The shy and passionate virgin can see all the dangers and horrors that surround her. She is embracing her lover with all her strength, the rain and the pounding of the sea have bathed her, and her beautiful, blonde hair is soaked with water. The dress has stuck to her flesh. She does not cry, but the deep blue of her eyes has a kind of indefinable shine. She doesn't remember anything, she doesn't know what's happening to her, she cannot understand her position, nor does she make much effort to find out the reasons for her situation. Although everywhere she sees her death, she is next to her lover, her liberator, and above all, she has distanced herself from Diego el Mulato... whose very name chills her with terror and horror.
Diego el Mulato finally decides to return to land, even though he knows the result that such a desperate measure can bring him. He directs a fiery look at Conchita, and the girl... alas! has been carried off to an unknown region. On the threshold of eternity, the infernal spirits are going to initiate her into their mysteries...
"You are my wife!" exclaimed the pirate.
“Yes…until death!” replied Conchita. A crime was going to be committed: Diego el Mulato was going to put a seal on his voluptuous and savage brutality, but heaven, which protects candor and innocence, prevented it. At that critical moment, the pirate observes a boat that has been manned by those from the town. In it comes the most determined youth of Campeche to prevent the kidnapping of Conchita, and a horrible clash is being prepared. The fury of the sea had reached the last degree: immense mountains of water formed eternal and limitless mountain ranges around it. In that proud space, two atoms float, the two boats. A proud wave was seen launching itself over a hundred others, subsuming all of them, expanding to a prodigious extent, becoming a gigantic and colossal mass. Roaring with the speed of lightning, it collided with the two small boats, shaking them and causing them to creak with a noise similar to the last snoring of a dying man. In the midst of the combined fury of the wind and the sea, the two skiffs meet and smash against each other. The smaller one, driven by Diego el Mulato, capsizes and falls to pieces. The two lovers barely hold on to the broken keel. Ten brave and skilled men throw themselves into the formidable element to save Conchita.
“Leave me, leave me, you evil ones!” shouted the unfortunate young woman, “let me die with my lover!…” She was almost drowning…
“Conchita, come, grab a rope, come for God's sake!…” they shouted at her from the boat. She has barely escaped the pirate's hands when they snatch her away, and in a moment she is inside the boat. Diego el Mulato also manages to get in, and a bloody fight ensues on the small deck over which rivers of blood and salt water flow. His strength is terrible, but he is already losing his vigor...
“Out of mercy!” Conchita said, “barbarians, let me die with him!”
"What?" shouted the voice of her father's brother. “Do you want to die with Diego el Mulato?”
“Diego the Mulato? Oh me! Where will I flee? Where can I flee?” the girl exclaimed.
The pirate threw himself into the sea, and was soon submerged in the waves.
Don Sancho Fernández de Angulo y Sandoval, captain general of these provinces, was in Campeche during the month of March 1676. Invited by the religious community of San Juan de Dios to attend the celebration of their holy patriarch, he immediately went to visiting the sick, whom he generously helped. Leaving the women's infirmary, a specter appeared before his eyes: a dirty, broken, and disheveled old woman. When the captain general extended his hand to give her alms, her old woman made a horrible expression and ran away from him, locking herself in a dark room, from which she screamed:
“No, no, you are Diego the Mulato, and I want to flee from you, you detestable murderer!”
“Who is that unfortunate woman?” the boss asked.
“She is,” the prior responded, “a lady who has been insane for many years: Doña Concepción Suárez de Mantilla,” and the religious man told the sad story that our readers know. The unhappy crazy woman was Conchita.