Chapter 1: - Page 4 of 8

On the Upper Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The thin Franciscan, understanding the Dominican’s smile, decided to intervene and stop the argument.  He was undoubtedly respected, for with a wave of his hand he cut short the speech of both at the moment when the friar-artilleryman was talking about experience and the journalist-friar about scientists.

Scientists, Ben-Zayb—do you know what they are? asked the Franciscan in a hollow voice, scarcely stirring in his seat and making only a faint gesture with his skinny hand.  Here you have in the province a bridge, constructed by a brother of ours, which was not completed because the scientists, relying on their theories, condemned it as weak and scarcely safe—yet look, it is the bridge that has withstood all the floods and earthquakes! [3]

That’s it, puñales, that very thing, that was exactly what I was going to say! exclaimed the friar-artilleryman, thumping his fists down on the arms of his bamboo chair.  That’s it, that bridge and the scientists! That was just what I was going to mention, Padre Salvi—puñales!

Ben-Zayb remained silent, half smiling, either out of respect or because he really did not know what to reply, and yet his was the only thinking head in the Philippines! Padre Irene nodded his approval as he rubbed his long nose.

Padre Salvi, the thin and withered cleric, appeared to be satisfied with such submissiveness and went on in the midst of the silence: But this does not mean that you may not be as near right as Padre Camorra (the friar-artilleryman).  The trouble is in the lake—

The fact is there isn’t a single decent lake in this country, interrupted Doña Victorina, highly indignant, and getting ready for a return to the assault upon the citadel.

The besieged gazed at one another in terror, but with the promptitude of a general, the jeweler Simoun rushed in to the rescue.  The remedy is very simple, he said in a strange accent, a mixture of English and South American.  And I really don’t understand why it hasn’t occurred to somebody.

All turned to give him careful attention, even the Dominican.  The jeweler was a tall, meager, nervous man, very dark, dressed in the English fashion and wearing a pith helmet.  Remarkable about him was his long white hair contrasted with a sparse black beard, indicating a mestizo origin.  To avoid the glare of the sun he wore constantly a pair of enormous blue goggles, which completely hid his eyes and a portion of his cheeks, thus giving him the aspect of a blind or weak-sighted person.  He was standing with his legs apart as if to maintain his balance, with his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat.

[3] This bridge, constructed in Lukban under the supervision of a Franciscan friar, was jocularly referred to as the Puente de Capricho, being apparently an ignorant blunder in the right direction, since it was declared in an official report made by Spanish engineers in 1852 to conform to no known principle of scientific construction, and yet proved to be strong and durable.—Tr.

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