Chapter 3: - Page 2 of 4


(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Everybody knows that, remarked Padre Sibyla disdainfully.

But neither Simoun, nor Ben-Zayb, nor Padre Irene, nor Padre Camorra knew it, so they begged for the story, some in jest and others from genuine curiosity.  The priest, adopting the tone of burlesque with which some had made their request, began like an old tutor relating a story to children.

Once upon a time there was a student who had made a promise of marriage to a young woman in his country, but it seems that he failed to remember her.  She waited for him faithfully year after year, her youth passed, she grew into middle age, and then one day she heard a report that her old sweetheart was the Archbishop of Manila.  Disguising herself as a man, she came round the Cape and presented herself before his grace, demanding the fulfilment of his promise.  What she asked was of course impossible, so the Archbishop ordered the preparation of the cave that you may have noticed with its entrance covered and decorated with a curtain of vines.  There she lived and died and there she is buried.  The legend states that Doña Jeronima was so fat that she had to turn sidewise to get into it.  Her fame as an enchantress sprung from her custom of throwing into the river the silver dishes which she used in the sumptuous banquets that were attended by crowds of gentlemen.  A net was spread under the water to hold the dishes and thus they were cleaned.  It hasn’t been twenty years since the river washed the very entrance of the cave, but it has gradually been receding, just as the memory of her is dying out among the people.  

A beautiful legend! exclaimed Ben-Zayb.  I’m going to write an article about it. It’s sentimental!

Doña Victorina thought of dwelling in such a cave and was about to say so, when Simoun took the floor instead.

But what’s your opinion about that, Padre Salvi? he asked the Franciscan, who seemed to be absorbed in thought.  Doesn’t it seem to you as though his Grace, instead of giving her a cave, ought to have placed her in a nunnery—in St. Clara’s, for example? What do you say?

There was a start of surprise on Padre Sibyla’s part to notice that Padre Salvi shuddered and looked askance at Simoun.

Because it’s not a very gallant act, continued Simoun quite naturally, to give a rocky cliff as a home to one with whose hopes we have trifled.  It’s hardly religious to expose her thus to temptation, in a cave on the banks of a river—it smacks of nymphs and dryads.  It would have been more gallant, more pious, more romantic, more in keeping with the customs of this country, to shut her up in St. Clara’s, like a new Eloise, in order to visit and console her from time to time.

I neither can nor should pass judgment upon the conduct of archbishops, replied the Franciscan sourly.

But you, who are the ecclesiastical governor, acting in the place of our Archbishop, what would you do if such a case should arise?

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