Chapter 13: - Page 4 of 9

The Class in Physics

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The poor youth did not know how to get out of the quandary: he doubted whether to include the kamagon with the metals, or the marble with glasses, and leave the jet as a neutral substance, until Juanito Pelaez maliciously prompted him:

The mirror of kamagon among the wooden mirrors.  

The incautious youth repeated this aloud and half the class was convulsed with laughter.

A good sample of wood you are yourself! exclaimed the professor, laughing in spite of himself.  Let’s see from what you would define a mirror—from a surface per se, in quantum est superficies, or from a substance that forms the surface, or from the substance upon which the surface rests, the raw material, modified by the attribute ‘surface,’ since it is clear that, surface being an accidental property of bodies, it cannot exist without substance. Let’s see now—what do you say?

I? Nothing! the wretched boy was about to reply, for he did not understand what it was all about, confused as he was by so many surfaces and so many accidents that smote cruelly on his ears, but a sense of shame restrained him.  Filled with anguish and breaking into a cold perspiration, he began to repeat between his teeth: The name of mirror is applied to all polished surfaces—

Ergo, per te, the mirror is the surface, angled the professor.  Well, then, clear up this difficulty. If the surface is the mirror, it must be of no consequence to the ‘essence’ of the mirror what may be found behind this surface, since what is behind it does not affect the ‘essence’ that is before it, id est, the surface, quae super faciem est, quia vocatur superficies, facies ea quae supra videtur.  Do you admit that or do you not admit it?

The poor youth’s hair stood up straighter than ever, as though acted upon by some magnetic force.

Do you admit it or do you not admit it?

Anything! Whatever you wish, Padre, was his thought, but he did not dare to express it from fear of ridicule.  That was a dilemma indeed, and he had never been in a worse one.  He had a vague idea that the most innocent thing could not be admitted to the friars but that they, or rather their estates and curacies, would get out of it all the results and advantages imaginable.  So his good angel prompted him to deny everything with all the energy of his soul and refractoriness of his hair, and he was about to shout a proud nego, for the reason that he who denies everything does not compromise himself in anything, as a certain lawyer had once told him; but the evil habit of disregarding the dictates of one’s own conscience, of having little faith in legal folk, and of seeking aid from others where one is sufficient unto himself, was his undoing.  His companions, especially Juanito Pelaez, were making signs to him to admit it, so he let himself be carried away by his evil destiny and exclaimed, Concedo, Padre, in a voice as faltering as though he were saying, In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.

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