Chapter 18: - Page 2 of 6

Legerdemain

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The mirrors, Mister, where are the mirrors?

I don’t know where yours are—mine are at the hotel.  Do you want to look at yourself? You’re somewhat pale and excited.

Many laughed, in spite of their weird impressions, on seeing the jesting coolness of the American, while Ben-Zayb retired, quite abashed, to his seat, muttering, It can’t be.  You’ll see that he doesn’t do it without mirrors. The table will have to be changed later.

Mr. Leeds placed the cloth on the table again and turning toward his illustrious audience, asked them, Are you satisfied? May we begin?

Hurry up! How cold-blooded he is! said the widow.  

Then, ladies and gentlemen, take your seats and get your questions ready.

Mr. Leeds disappeared through a doorway and in a few moments returned with a black box of worm-eaten wood, covered with inscriptions in the form of birds, beasts, and human heads.

Ladies and gentlemen, he began solemnly, once having had occasion to visit the great pyramid of Khufu, a Pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, I chanced upon a sarcophagus of red granite in a forgotten chamber.  My joy was great, for I thought that I had found a royal mummy, but what was my disappointment on opening the coffin, at the cost of infinite labor, to find nothing more than this box, which you may examine.

He handed the box to those in the front row.  Padre Camorra drew back in loathing, Padre Salvi looked at it closely as if he enjoyed sepulchral things, Padre Irene smiled a knowing smile, Don Custodio affected gravity and disdain, while Ben-Zayb hunted for his mirrors—there they must be, for it was a question of mirrors.

It smells like a corpse, observed one lady, fanning herself furiously. Ugh!

It smells of forty centuries, remarked some one with emphasis.

Ben-Zayb forgot about his mirrors to discover who had made this remark.  It was a military official who had read the history of Napoleon.

Ben-Zayb felt jealous and to utter another epigram that might annoy Padre Camorra a little said, It smells of the Church.

This box, ladies and gentlemen, continued the American, contained a handful of ashes and a piece of papyrus on which were written some words.  Examine them yourselves, but I beg of you not to breathe heavily, because if any of the dust is lost my sphinx will appear in a mutilated condition.

Learn this Filipino word:

kapit