Chapter 2:

On the Lower Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

There, below, other scenes were being enacted.  Seated on benches or small wooden stools among valises, boxes, and baskets, a few feet from the engines, in the heat of the boilers, amid the human smells and the pestilential odor of oil, were to be seen the great majority of the passengers.  Some were silently gazing at the changing scenes along the banks, others were playing cards or conversing in the midst of the scraping of shovels, the roar of the engine, the hiss of escaping steam, the swash of disturbed waters, and the shrieks of the whistle.  In one corner, heaped up like corpses, slept, or tried to sleep, a number of Chinese pedlers, seasick, pale, frothing through half-opened lips, and bathed in their copious perspiration.  Only a few youths, students for the most part, easily recognizable from their white garments and their confident bearing, made bold to move about from stern to bow, leaping over baskets and boxes, happy in the prospect of the approaching vacation.  Now they commented on the movements of the engines, endeavoring to recall forgotten notions of physics, now they surrounded the young schoolgirl or the red-lipped buyera with her collar of sampaguitas, whispering into their ears words that made them smile and cover their faces with their fans.

Nevertheless, two of them, instead of engaging in these fleeting gallantries, stood in the bow talking with a man, advanced in years, but still vigorous and erect.  Both these youths seemed to be well known and respected, to judge from the deference shown them by their fellow passengers.  The elder, who was dressed in complete black, was the medical student, Basilio, famous for his successful cures and extraordinary treatments, while the other, taller and more robust, although much younger, was Isagani, one of the poets, or at least rimesters, who that year came from the Ateneo,[1] a curious character, ordinarily quite taciturn and uncommunicative.  The man talking with them was the rich Capitan Basilio, who was returning from a business trip to Manila.

Capitan Tiago is getting along about the same as usual, yes, sir, said the student Basilio, shaking his head.  He won’t submit to any treatment.  At the advice of a certain person he is sending me to San Diego under the pretext of looking after his property, but in reality so that he may be left to smoke his opium with complete liberty.

When the student said a certain person, he really meant Padre Irene, a great friend and adviser of Capitan Tiago in his last days.

Opium is one of the plagues of modern times, replied the capitan with the disdain and indignation of a Roman senator.  The ancients knew about it but never abused it. While the addiction to classical studies lasted—mark this well, young men—opium was used solely as a medicine; and besides, tell me who smoke it the most?—Chinamen, Chinamen who don’t understand a word of Latin! Ah, if Capitan Tiago had only devoted himself to Cicero— Here the most classical disgust painted itself on his carefully-shaven Epicurean face.  Isagani regarded him with attention: that gentleman was suffering from nostalgia for antiquity.

[1] The Jesuit College in Manila, established in 1859.—Tr.


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