The Grateful Bandits





Monsieur de la Gironiere, a French planter and trader, who visited the

Philippines a lifetime ago, or more, told stories of the islands and

their people that are taken in these days with a lump of salt. Among

these narrations is one pertaining to the bandits who in the first

years of the nineteenth century were numerous and troublesome

on several of the islands, and who were alternately harassed and

befriended by the officials,--chased when they had money and well

treated when they had parted with most of it to cool the sweating palms

of authority. Gironiere was visiting the cascades of Yang Yang when

he found himself surrounded by brigands who were chattering volubly

and pointing to his horses. They did not at first offer violence, but

presently he understood that soldiers were in chase of them, and they

were considering whether it would not be wise to kill the horses, lest

the troop, on its arrival, should seize them to aid in the pursuit.



Gironiere could not afford horses often. He eagerly assured the

thieves that he would not give his nags to the military; that he

would, on the contrary, depart by the road over which he had come,

in order to avoid meeting the soldiers, and this promise he made on

the honor of a gentleman. The leader of the brigands saluted, and

the Frenchman drove away, as he had agreed, the thieves watching him

until he was out of sight. For months after this incident he had no

trouble with the natives. His household goods, his garden products,

his poultry were spared. Some years later, when he had definitely

cast his fortunes with the Spaniards, he accepted a commission as

captain of the horse guards at Laguna, and it then became his duty

to trouble the very robbers who once had spared him. Their fighting

was usually open, and, as the marksmanship on both sides was the

very worst, it was seldom that anybody was hurt. Truces were made,

as in honorable war, and the leaders corresponded with one another

as to terms of battle or surrender. One unofficial document received

by Gironiere cautioned him to look out for himself, as there was one

in the bandit ranks who was ungrateful. "Beware of Pedro Tumbaga," it

said. "He has ordered us to take you by surprise in your house. This

warning is in payment for your kindness at the cascades. You kept

your word. We are ready to fight you now, as you would fight us;

but we don't strike in the back. Tumbaga will shoot you from hiding."



Gironiere was a crafty person, likewise a cautious one. He knew where

to send an answer to this epistle, and he sent it: "You are brave men,

and I thank you. I do not fear Tumbaga, for he is a coward. How can

you keep among you a man who would shoot another in the back?" Just

look at that for slyness! And the message had the effect he desired

and expected. Some brave bandit got behind a tree a couple of weeks

afterward and shot a bullet through Tumbaga. Thus was the power of

the brigands weakened, the safety of Gironiere assured, and good

feeling re-established between the law and its habitual breakers.





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