Chapter 20:

The Arbiter

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

True it was that Padre Irene had said: the question of the academy of Castilian, so long before broached, was on the road to a solution.  Don Custodio, the active Don Custodio, the most active of all the arbiters in the world, according to Ben-Zayb, was occupied with it, spending his days reading the petition and falling asleep without reaching any decision, waking on the following day to repeat the same performance, dropping off to sleep again, and so on continuously.

How the good man labored, the most active of all the arbiters in the world! He wished to get out of the predicament by pleasing everybody—the friars, the high official, the Countess, Padre Irene, and his own liberal principles.  He had consulted with Señor Pasta, and Señor Pasta had left him stupefied and confused, after advising him to do a million contradictory and impossible things.  He had consulted with Pepay the dancing girl, and Pepay, who had no idea what he was talking about, executed a pirouette and asked him for twenty-five pesos to bury an aunt of hers who had suddenly died for the fifth time, or the fifth aunt who had suddenly died, according to fuller explanations, at the same time requesting that he get a cousin of hers who could read, write, and play the violin, a job as assistant on the public works—all things that were far from inspiring Don Custodio with any saving idea.

Two days after the events in the Quiapo fair, Don Custodio was as usual busily studying the petition, without hitting upon the happy solution.  While he yawns, coughs, smokes, and thinks about Pepay’s legs and her pirouettes, let us give some account of this exalted personage, in order to understand Padre Sibyla’s reason for proposing him as the arbiter of such a vexatious matter and why the other clique accepted him.

Don Custodio de Salazar y Sanchez de Monteredondo, often referred to as Good Authority, belonged to that class of Manila society which cannot take a step without having the newspapers heap titles upon them, calling each indedefatigable, distinguished, zealous, active, profound, intelligent, well-informed, influential, and so on, as if they feared that he might be confused with some idle and ignorant possessor of the same name.  Besides, no harm resulted from it, and the watchful censor was not disturbed.  The Good Authority resulted from his friendship with Ben-Zayb, when the latter, in his two noisiest controversies, which he carried on for weeks and months in the columns of the newspapers about whether it was proper to wear a high hat, a derby, or a salakot, and whether the plural of carácter should be carácteres or caractéres, in order to strengthen his argument always came out with, We have this on good authority, We learn this from good authority, later letting it be known, for in Manila everything becomes known, that this Good Authority was no other than Don Custodio de Salazar y Sanchez de Monteredondo.


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