Chapter 1: - Page 5 of 8

On the Upper Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The remedy is very simple, he repeated, and wouldn’t cost a cuarto.

The attention now redoubled, for it was whispered in Manila that this man controlled the Captain-General, and all saw the remedy in process of execution.  Even Don Custodio himself turned to listen.

Dig a canal straight from the source to the mouth of the river, passing through Manila; that is, make a new river-channel and fill up the old Pasig.  That would save land, shorten communication, and prevent the formation of sandbars.

The project left all his hearers astounded, accustomed as they were to palliative measures.

It’s a Yankee plan! observed Ben-Zayb, to ingratiate himself with Simoun, who had spent a long time in North America.

All considered the plan wonderful and so indicated by the movements of their heads.  Only Don Custodio, the liberal Don Custodio, owing to his independent position and his high offices, thought it his duty to attack a project that did not emanate from himself—that was a usurpation! He coughed, stroked the ends of his mustache, and with a voice as important as though he were at a formal session of the Ayuntamiento, said, Excuse me, Señor Simoun, my respected friend, if I should say that I am not of your opinion.  It would cost a great deal of money and might perhaps destroy some towns.

Then destroy them! rejoined Simoun coldly.

And the money to pay the laborers?

Don’t pay them! Use the prisoners and convicts!

But there aren’t enough, Señor Simoun!

Then, if there aren’t enough, let all the villagers, the old men, the youths, the boys, work.  Instead of the fifteen days of obligatory service, let them work three, four, five months for the State, with the additional obligation that each one provide his own food and tools.

The startled Don Custodio turned his head to see if there was any Indian within ear-shot, but fortunately those nearby were rustics, and the two helmsmen seemed to be very much occupied with the windings of the river.

But, Señor Simoun—

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