Chapter 16: - Page 8 of 9

The Tribulations of a Chinese

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

It’s only a question of getting used to it!

Like the donkey that got used to not eating! In our present campaign the greater part of our losses have been due to wounds on the soles of the feet.  Remember the donkey, madam, remember the donkey!

But, my dear sir, retorted the lady, look how much money is wasted on shoe-leather.  There’s enough to pension many widows and orphans in order to maintain our prestige.  Don’t smile, for I’m not talking about myself, and I have my pension, even though a very small one, insignificant considering the services my husband rendered, but I’m talking of others who are dragging out miserable lives! It’s not right that after so much persuasion to come and so many hardships in crossing the sea they should end here by dying of hunger.  What you say about the soldiers may be true, but the fact is that I’ve been in the country more than three years, and I haven’t seen any soldier limping.

In that I agree with the lady, said her neighbor.  Why issue them shoes when they were born without them?

And why shirts?

And why trousers?

Just calculate what we should economize on soldiers clothed only in their skins! concluded he who was defending the army.  

In another group the conversation was more heated.  Ben-Zayb was talking and declaiming, while Padre Camorra, as usual, was constantly interrupting him.  The friar-journalist, in spite of his respect for the cowled gentry, was always at loggerheads with Padre Camorra, whom he regarded as a silly half-friar, thus giving himself the appearance of being independent and refuting the accusations of those who called him Fray Ibañez.  Padre Camorra liked his adversary, as the latter was the only person who would take seriously what he styled his arguments.  They were discussing magnetism, spiritualism, magic, and the like.  Their words flew through the air like the knives and balls of jugglers, tossed back and forth from one to the other.

That year great attention had been attracted in the Quiapo fair by a head, wrongly called a sphinx, exhibited by Mr. Leeds, an American. Glaring advertisements covered the walls of the houses, mysterious and funereal, to excite the curiosity of the public.  Neither Ben-Zayb nor any of the padres had yet seen it; Juanito Pelaez was the only one who had, and he was describing his wonderment to the party.

Ben-Zayb, as a journalist, looked for a natural explanation.  Padre Camorra talked of the devil, Padre Irene smiled, Padre Salvi remained grave.

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