A YOUNG ship-surgeon who had made several voyages, set out about thirty-five years ago, on board a rotten old three-master, commanded by a worn-out captain. The ship was named Le Cultivateur, and the young surgeon was named Paul de la Gironière. He came of Breton race; feared nothing, and loved adventure.
After touching in sundry ports, the old three-master reached the Philippine Islands, and anchored near the little town of Cavita, in the bay of Manilla. There, the young doctor obtained leave to live ashore until the vessel sailed again; and having found lodgings in the town, he began to amuse himself in the open air with his gun. He mixed with the natives, and picked up what he could of their language, increasing at the same time his knowledge of Spanish.
At the end of four months – in September, eighteen hundred and twenty – cholera broke out in Manilla, and soon spread over the island. Mortality was terrible among the Indians; and, as often happens with Indians, and used to happen often among Europeans when people were more ignorant than they are now, the belief rose that somebody was poisoning the wells. No suspicion, fell upon the Spanish masters of the island, who were dying with the rest; but there were several French ships in the harbour, and it was therefore settled that the wells were poisoned by the French.
On the ninth of October a horrible massacre began at Manilla and Cavita. The old captain of the Cultivateur was one of the first victims. Almost all the French residents in Manilla were assassinated, and their houses pillaged and destroyed.
Monsieur Paul, the doctor, who was known on shore as Doctor Pablo, contrived to escape in good time to his ship. As soon as he was on board, his services were wanted but the mate of an American vessel, who had received a poniard wound. That having been dressed, the doctor next heard from several French captains that one of their number, Captain Drouant from Marseilles, was still on shore. There remained but an hour of twilight; he might possibly be saved. The bold young Breton therefore went ashore again in a canoe, and, when he landed, bade the sailors abide by the boat until he or Captain Drouant should come to them. He then began his search; and, at a little place called Puesta Baga, perceived a group of three or four hundred Indians. Among them they had the unlucky captain, pale as a ghost: whom a wild Indian with a kris in his hand held by the shoulder. Down rushed Doctor Pablo on the group, thrust the wild Indian to the right and Captain Drouant to the left, and pointing out where the boat was, bade the captain run and save himself. The captain ran, and the Indians were too much surprised at the presumption of his rescuer to take immediate heed of the departure of their victim; so the captain reached the boat, and pulled away from shore.
But, how was Doctor Pablo to escape? The Indian whom he had thrust aside, ran at him with uplifted arm; him the young surgeon met by a blow on the head with a little cane. The man ran back to his companions, amazed and wrathful. Knives were drawn on all sides, and a circle was formed about the mad white man; one would not strike alone, but a score or two would strike together. The circle was closing, when an Indian soldier, armed with a musket, jumped into the midst. Holding his musket by the muzzle, he swung it violently round at arm’s length, and the revolving butt-end soon cleared a wide space. “Fly, sir!” the soldier said; “nobody will touch a hair of you while I am here.”
In truth a way was opened, by which the young man was quietly permitted to depart; as he went, the soldier cried after him, “You cared for my wife when she was ill, and refused money; now you are paid.”
Captain Drouant having taken the canoe, Monsieur Paul had no course left him but to go to his old home in Cavita. On the way, he met a crowd of workers from the arsenal, who had set out with hatchets to attack the ships. Among these, too, there was a friend who pinned him to a wall, concealed his person until his companions were gone by, and then urged him to promise that he would not go on board the ships, but to hide on shore.
The Doctor’s case was little improved when he reached home. There came a knocking at the door, and a whispering outside, of “Doctor Pablo.” It was the friendly voice of a Chinese storekeeper.
“What have you to say, Yang-Po?”
“Doctor Pablo, save yourself. The Indians intend attacking you this night.”
Doctor Pablo would not save himself by flight; he thought it best to barricade his doors with furniture, to load his pistols, and to abide the issue.
Wearied by a day of anxiety, excitement, and severe physical labour, the beleaguered Frenchman found it difficult to keep awake and watchful, through the first hours of the night. At eleven o’clock there came again a knocking, hurriedly repeated.
“Who is there?”
“We are friends. The Indians are behind us. Escape through the roof at the back, and you will find us in the street of the Campauario.”
He took this good advice, and had not long escaped before his house was searched and pillaged. His new friends sheltered him for the night, and were about to convey him to his ship on the succeeding morning, when one of them brought him a letter signed by all the captains in harbour, saying that being in momentary fear of attack, they had determined to heave anchor, and stand out to sea; but that two of them, Drouant and Perroux, would have to leave on land part of their provisions, their sails, and their water, unless he would send those stores off by means of a canoe which was sent with the letter, and was subject to its orders.
“The safety of two ships,” said the young surgeon, “depends on sending off this water and these stores.”
“Your own safety,” his friends replied, “depends on getting off yourself, and that immediately.”
“I am resolved to see after the stores.”
“The go alone, for we will not escort you to destruction.”
Doctor Pablo did go alone, and found upon the shore a crowd of Indians watching the ships. He believed that by not fearing them he would remove nearly all cause for fear, and therefore went boldly up to them, saying, “Which one of you would like to earn some money? I will give any man a piastre for a day’s work.” There was a silence. Presently one said, “You do not seem to be afraid of us.” “Why, no,” he replied, drawing his two pistols; “you see I stake only one life against two.” The men were at his service in a minute; two hundred were chosen; a note was penciled in and sent off by the canoe to summon all the ship’s boats to convey the stores. A quantity of money belonging to Captain Drouant was taken to the beach secretly by the pocketful, and deposited in a corner of one of the boats. All went well; there was only one unlucky accident. When Captain Perroux’s sails were being repaired, one of the men engaged in the work had died of cholera, and the rest, fearing infection, had wrapped him up hurriedly in a small sail and run away. The Indians, in moving the sailcloths, uncovered the body, and were at once in an uproar. This was, they said, a French plot for poisoning the air and spreading the infection. “Nonsense, men,” said Pablo. “Afraid of a poor devil dead of cholera? So be it. I’ll soon relieve you of him.” Then, with a great display of coolness which he did not altogether feel, he wrapped the body again in a piece of the sail-cloth, and, lifting it up in his arms, he carried it down to the shore. He caused a hole to be dug, and laid the body in the grave himself. When it was covered up, he erected a rude cross over the spot. After that, the loading went on without further hindrance.
Having paid the Indians, and given them a cask of brandy, Doctor Pablo went to the ship with the last cargo of water, and there – as he had taken little or no refreshment during the last twenty-four hours – his work being now done, he began to feel exhausted. He was exhausted in more senses than one, for he was near the end of his worldly as well as his bodily resources. All his goods and the small hoards that he had made, were either destroyed or stolen; he owned nothing but what he had upon him – a check shirt, canvas trousers, and a calico waistcoat, with a small fortune of thirty-two piastres in his pockets. When he had recovered from his faintness and had taken a little food, he bethought him of an English captain in the Bay who owed him a hundred piastres; as the vessels were all on the point of departure, he must set off in a small boat at once to get them. Now this captain, one of the perfidious sons of Albion I am sorry to say, replied to the young doctor’s demand that he owed him nothing, and threatened to throw him overboard. So, in sooth he was obliged to tumble back into his boat, and return to the Cultivateur as he could. But then, how could he? – for the night was become pitch dark, and a violent contrary wind had arisen.
The night was spent in idly tossing on the waves; but when morning came, and he got on board his ship, other difficulties disappeared. The Spanish authorities had quelled the riots, and the priests in the suburbs of Civita had threatened excommunication against any one who attempted Doctor Pablo’s life; for, as a son of Aesculapius, his life was particularly cherished. The French ships remained at anchor; and when, soon afterwards, an Indian came on board the Cultivateur to invite the doctor to his home near the mountains of Marigondon, ten leagues off, he had leisure to go, and went.
For three weeks, he lived happily as this Indian’s guest, and then an express messenger came with a letter from the mate of his ship, who had commanded it since the death of the old captain, informing him that the Cultivateur was about to sail for France, and that he must make haste to come on board. The letter had been some days written, and when Doctor Pablo reached Manilla, there was his vessel to be seen, with its outspread sails, almost a speck on the horizon! His first thought was to give chase in a canoe, the Indians saying that if the breeze did not freshen they might overtake the ship. But they demanded twelve piastres on the spot, and only twenty-five were then lying in the doctor’s pockets. What was to be done? If they failed to overtake the vessel, what figure was he to make in a town where he knew nobody, with nothing but a check shirt, canvas trousers, calico waistcoat, and thirteen piastres? Suddenly, he resolved to let the Cultivateur go, and keep what money he had, to set himself up as a practitioner of physic in Manilla.
But Manilla, as the world knows, in a gay place in which there is much display of wealth and carriages, and of Spanish colonial frippery and fashion. How should he begin? His stars provided for him in the first instance. Before he left the shore on his way back into Manilla, he met a young European, with whom he exchanged confidences. This young European was another ship doctor, who had himself thought of settling in the Philippines, but was called home by family affairs; he confirmed Monsieur de la Gironière in his purpose. There was a difficulty about his dress; it was not quite the costume in which to pay physician’s visits. “Never mind that, my dear fellow,” said his friend. “I can furnish you with all you want: a new suit of clothes and six magnificent lancets. You shall have them at cost price.” The bargain was settled; the departing doctor turned back to his inn, out of which Doctor Pablo presently issued fully equipped. He had a most respectable and professional set of clothes; only they were too long for him in every respect, and everywhere too wide. He had six lancets in his pocket, and his little calico waistcoat packed up in his hat. He had pail for his equipment twenty-four piastres, so he came out into the streets of Manilla with just one piastre in his hand and the whole world of the Philippines before him.
A triumphant idea presently occurred to him. There was a Spanish captain, Juan Porras, known to be almost blind. He would go and offer him his services. Where did he live? A hundred people in the streets were asked in vain. At last an Indian shopkeeper observed, “If Senor Don Juan is a captain, he will be known at any guard-house.” To a guard-house Doctor Pablo went, and thence was at once conducted by a soldier to the captain’s dwelling. Night was then closing.
Don Juan Porras was an Andalusian, and a jolly fellow. He was in the act of covering his eyes with enormous poultices.
“Senor captain,” said the young Breton, “I am a doctor and a learned oculist. I am come to take care of you, and I am sure that I know how to cure you.”
“Quite enough,” he replied; “every physician in Manilla is an ape.”
“That is just my opinion,” said Doctor Pablo; “and for that reason I have resolved to come myself and practice in the Philippines.”
“What countryman are you?”
“I am from France.”
“A French physician! I am at your service. Take my eyes; do that you will with them.”
“Your eyes, senor captain, are very bad. If they are to be healed soon, they ought not be left a minute.”
“Would you mind making a short stay with me?”
“I consent, on condition that you let me pay you for my board and lodging.”
“Do as you will,” replied Don Juan; “the thing is settled at once. Send for your luggage.”
Doctor Pablo’s canvas trousers had been thrown aside as too ragged to be worth preserving, and his whole luggage was the little white waistcoat packed up in his hat, and his hat was all the box he had. He adopted, the straightforward course, which is at all times the sensible and right course; he told the captain the plain truth about himself, and that his lodging could be paid for only out of his earnings, say from month to month. The captain was on his part delighted. “If you are poor,” he said, “it will be the making of you to cure me. You are sure to do your best.”
Doctor Pablo and the captain got on very well together. An examination of the eyes next morning showed that the right eye was not only lost, but enveloped in a mass of cancerous disease that would ere long have destroyed his patient’s life. Of the other eye there was still hope. “Your right eye,” the doctor said, “and all this growth about it has to be removed by an operation, or you must die.” The operation was undergone. The wounds healed, the flesh became sound, and, after about six weeks, the use of the left eye was recovered. During this time Doctor Pablo met with a few other patients; so, at the end of the first month, he was able to pay punctually for his board and lodging.
The captain was cured, but nobody knew that, for he still refused to stir out of doors. “I won’t go out,” he said, “to be called Captain One-eye. You must get me a glass eye from France before I’ll stir abroad.”
“But that will make a delay for eighteen months.”
“You must wait eighteen months, then, before you get the credit for my cure. Worry me, and I’ll keep my shutters closed, and make people believe that I can’t bear the light, and am as bad as ever.”
If Captain Juan Porras would but show himself, then Doctor Pablo’s fortune would be made. Was Doctor Pablo to wait eighteen months, until a false eye could be received from France? Certainly not. He would turn mechanician, and get up an eye at Manilla under his own superintendence. He did so, and the captain (though it did not feel as if it were a clever fit) found it not unsatisfactory. He put on spectacles, looked at himself in the glass, and consented to go out.
But what, somebody may ask, is all this story about? Is it true? I only know that it is all seriously vouched for, by the person chiefly concerned: to wit, the doctor himself. Monsieur Alexandre Dumas having included the adventures of Monsieur de la Gironière in a romance of “A Thousand and One Phantoms.” Monsieur de la Gironière considered that it was time for him to tell the naked truth concerning himself and his adventures. This he now does in a little book called Twenty Years in the Philippines; of which, as we understand from a notice prefixed by the author, an English translation is to appear, or perhaps by this time has appeared.
The return of Don Juan caused a great sensation in Manilla. Every one talked of Senor Don Pablo, the great French physician. Patients came from all parts; and, young as he was, he leaped from indigence to opulence. He kept a carriage and four, but still lodged in the captain’s house.
At that time it happened that a young American friend pointed out to him a lady dressed in deep mourning, who was occasionally to be seen upon the promenades – one of the most beautiful women in town. She was the Marchioness of Salinas, eighteen or nineteen years old, and already a widow. Doctor Pablo fell in love.
Vain attempts were made to meet this charming senora in private circles; but she was not to be seen within doors anywhere. One morning an Indian came to fetch the French physician to a boy, his master. He drove to the house indicated – one of the best in the suburb of Santa Cruz – saw the patient, and was writing a prescription in the sick room, when he heard the rustle of a dress behind him, turned his head and saw the lady of his dreams. He dropped his pen and began talking incoherently; she smiled, asked what he thought of her nephew, and went away. This made Doctor Pablo, very diligent in his attendance on the boy; and six months afterwards Madame de las Salinas – Anna – was his wife. She had a fortune of thirty thousand pounds, expected daily in galleons from Mexico.
One evening while they were at tea, news came that the galleons were in the offing. Husband and wife had agreed that when this money came, they would retire to France. Don Pablo had then a splendid practice at Manilla, and held several official situations, kept two carriages and eight horses; also a fine table, at which all Europeans were welcome guests. It was not ruin, therefore, when the tidings came next day that his wife’s money was lost! It had been seized on its way through Mexico by Colonel Yturbide, and paid to the credit of the independent cause, in a civil war then and there in progress. The only difference to Doctor Pablo was, that he could not quit the Philippines.
Among other situations Doctor Pablo held the post of surgeon-major to the first light battalion of the line, and was a warm friend to its captain, Novales. Novales one night revolted, the regiment began an insurrection, and the surgeon-major rushed out at three o’clock in the morning, not exactly knowing what to do. Tumult and cannonading followed. Pablo did not return to his wife for twenty-one hours; he had given his service to the Spaniards, and returned safe. He found his wife upon her knees; she rose to receive him, but her wits were gone. The terror she had suffered cost her an illness that deprived her, for a time, of reason. He watched over her, and she recovered. A month afterwards she relapsed, and it soon appeared that she was subject to monthly relapses of insanity.
He took her in search of health to the Tierra Alta, a district much infested by bandits; but he did not mind bandits. He had sundry adventures with them, and the result of them all was that these people thought Doctor Pablo a fine fellow, and liked him. With much care, Anna’s health was at last perfectly restored.
The young couple, devoted to each other, returned to Manilla, where, soon afterwards, Doctor Pablo considered that he had been insulted by the governor; who had refused to discharge a soldier on account of ill-health on his recommendation. Pablo suddenly resigned every office that he held under the state, and asked his wife how she would like to go and live in Iala-Iala? Anywhere, she replied, with Doctor Pablo. He bought therefore with his savings, the peninsula of Iala-Iala; and, although the governor behaved courteously, refused his resignation, and appeased his wrath, he held to his purpose firmly, and set out to inspect his new theatre of action.
It proved to be a peninsula divided by a chain of mountains which subsided in a series of hills towards the lake. It was covered with forests and thick grassy pasturage, and was full of game; Doctor Pablo held himself to be a mighty hunter, great in the chase of the pheasant or the buffalo. There were no animals on the domain more noxious than civet cats and monkeys – met excepted. The peninsula was a noted haunt of pirates and bandits. Doctor Pablo went to the cabin of the person who was pointed out to him as the most desperate pirate, a fellow who would do his half-a-dozen murders in a day, and said to him, “Mabutin-Tajo,” – that was his name – “you are a great villain. I am the lord of Iala-Iala, I wish you to change your mode of life. If you refuse, I’ll punish you. I want a guard, give me your word of honour that you’ll be an honest man, and I will make you my lieutenant.” The man, after a pause, vowed that he would be faithful to the death, and showed the way to the house of another desperado who would be his serjeant. From these, and with these, the doctor went to others of their stamp, raised a little army, and by evening had in cavalry and infantry, a force of ten men, which was as large as he required. He was captain, Mabutin-Tajo was lieutenant, and the business of the men was thenceforward not to break order but to keep it. He got the people of the place together, caused them to consent to assemble in a village, marked a line of a street, planned sites for a church and for his own mansion, set the people at work, and masons and master workmen to help them, from Manilla.
The people of Manilla thought the great French physician had gone mad, but his faithful wife heartily entered into his scheme; and, after eight months of constant passing to and fro, he at last informed her that her castle in Iala was erected, and conveyed her to her domain.
Doctor Pablo begged from the governor the post which we should call in London, that of Police Magistrate of the Province of the Lagune. This made him the supreme judge on his own domain, and secured more perfectly his influence over people. From Archbishop Hilarion, he begged Father Miguel de San Francisco as a curate. This priest was denied to him, as a person with whom no one could live in peace. Doctor Pablo persisted and obtained his wish. Father Miguel came. He was a fiery, energetic man, a Malay, who got on very well with his new patron, and was appreciated by his flock: not the less because he laboured much among them as a teacher and in other ways, and preached only once a year, then it was always the same sermon – a short one in two parts – half Spanish for the gentlefolks, half Tagaloc for the Indians.
In this way, Monsieur Paul de la Gironière settled in Iala. There, he lived many years. He reformed the natives, taught them, and humanized them. Without a cannon-shot, he put an end to piracy. He cleared woods, and covered the soil with plantations of indigo and sugar-cane, rice and coffee. The end of his history was that he left Iala-Iala when its church contained the graves of his dear wife and of his two infant children, of a favourite brother who had quitted France to dwell with him, of his wife’s sister, and of other friends. Doctor Pablo went back, a lonely man, to his old mother, in France, in the year eighteen hundred and thirty nine, after having passed twenty years in the Philippines.
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