Chapter 18: - Page 4 of 6

Legerdemain

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The friars are inquisitive too, said the woman’s voice, drawing away.  They don’t want us to know how they’re being fooled.  Why, is the head a friar’s querida?

In the midst of a profound silence the American announced in a tone of emotion: Ladies and gentlemen, with a word I am now going to reanimate the handful of ashes, and you will talk with a being that knows the past, the present, and much of the future!

Here the prestidigitator uttered a soft cry, first mournful, then lively, a medley of sharp sounds like imprecations and hoarse notes like threats, which made Ben-Zayb’s hair stand on end.

Deremof! cried the American.

The curtains on the wall rustled, the lamps burned low, the table creaked.  A feeble groan responded from the interior of the box.  Pale and uneasy, all stared at one another, while one terrified señora caught hold of Padre Salvi.  

The box then opened of its own accord and presented to the eyes of the audience a head of cadaverous aspect, surrounded by long and abundant black hair.  It slowly opened its eyes and looked around the whole audience.  Those eyes had a vivid radiance, accentuated by their cavernous sockets, and, as if deep were calling unto deep, fixed themselves upon the profound, sunken eyes of the trembling Padre Salvi, who was staring unnaturally, as though he saw a ghost.

Sphinx, commanded Mr. Leeds, tell the audience who you are.

A deep silence prevailed, while a chill wind blew through the room and made the blue flames of the sepulchral lamps flicker.  The most skeptical shivered.

I am Imuthis, declared the head in a funereal, but strangely menacing, voice.  I was born in the time of Amasis and died under the Persian domination, when Cambyses was returning from his disastrous expedition into the interior of Libya.  I had come to complete my education after extensive travels through Greece, Assyria, and Persia, and had returned to my native laud to dwell in it until Thoth should call me before his terrible tribunal.  But to my undoing, on passing through Babylonia, I discovered an awful secret—the secret of the false Smerdis who usurped the throne, the bold Magian Gaumata who governed as an impostor.  Fearing that I would betray him to Cambyses, he determined upon my ruin through the instrumentality of the Egyptian priests, who at that time ruled my native country.  They were the owners of two-thirds of the land, the monopolizers of learning, they held the people down in ignorance and tyranny, they brutalized them, thus making them fit to pass without resistance from one domination to another.  The invaders availed themselves of them, and knowing their usefulness, protected and enriched them.  The rulers not only depended on their will, but some were reduced to mere instruments of theirs.  The Egyptian priests hastened to execute Gaumata’s orders, with greater zeal from their fear of me, because they were afraid that I would reveal their impostures to the people.  To accomplish their purpose, they made use of a young priest of Abydos, who passed for a saint.

Learn this Filipino word:

bombo