Chapter 1: - Page 8 of 8

On the Upper Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

May we know what it was? asked several, drawing nearer and giving him their attention.  The projects of Don Custodio were as renowned as quacks’ specifics.

Don Custodio was on the point of refusing to explain it from resentment at not having found any supporters in his diatribe against Simoun.  When there’s no danger, you want me to talk, eh? And when there is, you keep quiet! he was going to say, but that would cause the loss of a good opportunity, and his project, now that it could not be carried out, might at least be known and admired.

After blowing out two or three puffs of smoke, coughing, and spitting through a scupper, he slapped Ben-Zayb on the thigh and asked, You’ve seen ducks?

I rather think so—we’ve hunted them on the lake, answered the surprised journalist.

No, I’m not talking about wild ducks, I’m talking of the domestic ones, of those that are raised in Pateros and Pasig.  Do you know what they feed on?

Ben-Zayb, the only thinking head, did not know—he was not engaged in that business.

On snails, man, on snails! exclaimed Padre Camorra.  One doesn’t have to be an Indian to know that; it’s sufficient to have eyes!

Exactly so, on snails! repeated Don Custodio, flourishing his forefinger.  And do you know where they get them?

Again the thinking head did not know.

Well, if you had been in the country as many years as I have, you would know that they fish them out of the bar itself, where they abound, mixed with the sand.

Then your project?

Well, I’m coming to that.  My idea was to compel all the towns round about, near the bar, to raise ducks, and you’ll see how they, all by themselves, will deepen the channel by fishing for the snails—no more and no less, no more and no less!

Here Don Custodio extended his arms and gazed triumphantly at the stupefaction of his hearers—to none of them had occurred such an original idea.

Will you allow me to write an article about that? asked Ben-Zayb.  In this country there is so little thinking done—  

But, Don Custodio, exclaimed Doña Victorina with smirks and grimaces, if everybody takes to raising ducks the balot [5] eggs will become abundant.  Ugh, how nasty! Rather, let the bar close up entirely!

[5] Duck eggs, that are allowed to advance well into the duckling stage, then boiled and eaten. The señora is sneering at a custom among some of her own people.—Tr.

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