Chapter 1: - Page 7 of 8

On the Upper Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

An American mulatto! he fumed.

A British Indian, observed Ben-Zayb in a low tone.

An American, I tell you, and shouldn’t I know? retorted Don Custodio in ill-humor.  His Excellency has told me so.  He’s a jeweler whom the latter knew in Havana, and, as I suspect, the one who got him advancement by lending him money.  So to repay him he has had him come here to let him have a chance and increase his fortune by selling diamonds—imitations, who knows? And he so ungrateful, that, after getting money from the Indians, he wishes—huh! The sentence was concluded by a significant wave of the hand.

No one dared to join in this diatribe.  Don Custodio could discredit himself with his Excellency, if he wished, but neither Ben-Zayb, nor Padre Irene, nor Padre Salvi, nor the offended Padre Sibyla had any confidence in the discretion of the others.

The fact is that this man, being an American, thinks no doubt that we are dealing with the redskins.  To talk of these matters on a steamer! Compel, force the people! And he’s the very person who advised the expedition to the Carolines and the campaign in Mindanao, which is going to bring us to disgraceful ruin.  He’s the one who has offered to superintend the building of the cruiser, and I say, what does a jeweler, no matter how rich and learned he may be, know about naval construction?

All this was spoken by Don Custodio in a guttural tone to his neighbor Ben-Zayb, while he gesticulated, shrugged his shoulders, and from time to time with his looks consulted the others, who were nodding their heads ambiguously.  The Canon Irene indulged in a rather equivocal smile, which he half hid with his hand as he rubbed his nose.

I tell you, Ben-Zayb, continued Don Custodio, slapping the journalist on the arm, all the trouble comes from not consulting the old-timers here.  A project in fine words, and especially with a big appropriation, with an appropriation in round numbers, dazzles, meets with acceptance at once, for this! Here, in further explanation, he rubbed the tip of his thumb against his middle and forefinger. [4]

There’s something in that, there’s something in that, Ben-Zayb thought it his duty to remark, since in his capacity of journalist he had to be informed about everything.

Now look here, before the port works I presented a project, original, simple, useful, economical, and practicable, for clearing away the bar in the lake, and it hasn’t been accepted because there wasn’t any of that in it.  He repeated the movement of his fingers, shrugged his shoulders, and gazed at the others as though to say, Have you ever heard of such a misfortune?

[4] Don Custodio’s gesture indicates money.—Tr.

Learn this Filipino word:

kamáy ng singkít