Chapter 3: - Page 3 of 4


(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Padre Salvi shrugged his shoulders and calmly responded, It’s not worth while thinking about what can’t happen.  But speaking of legends, don’t overlook the most beautiful, since it is the truest: that of the miracle of St. Nicholas, the ruins of whose church you may have noticed.  I’m going to relate it to Señor Simoun, as he probably hasn’t heard it.  It seems that formerly the river, as well as the lake, was infested with caymans, so huge and voracious that they attacked bankas and upset them with a slap of the tail.  Our chronicles relate that one day an infidel Chinaman, who up to that time had refused to be converted, was passing in front of the church, when suddenly the devil presented himself to him in the form of a cayman and upset the banka, in order to devour him and carry him off to hell.  Inspired by God, the Chinaman at that moment called upon St. Nicholas and instantly the cayman was changed into a stone.  The old people say that in their time the monster could easily be recognized in the pieces of stone that were left, and, for my part, I can assure you that I have clearly made out the head, to judge from which the monster must have been enormously large.

Marvelous, a marvelous legend! exclaimed Ben-Zayb. It’s good for an article—the description of the monster, the terror of the Chinaman, the waters of the river, the bamboo brakes.  Also, it’ll do for a study of comparative religions; because, look you, an infidel Chinaman in great distress invoked exactly the saint that he must know only by hearsay and in whom he did not believe.  Here there’s no room for the proverb that ‘a known evil is preferable to an unknown good.’  If I should find myself in China and get caught in such a difficulty, I would invoke the obscurest saint in the calendar before Confucius or Buddha.  Whether this is due to the manifest superiority of Catholicism or to the inconsequential and illogical inconsistency in the brains of the yellow race, a profound study of anthropology alone will be able to elucidate.

Ben-Zayb had adopted the tone of a lecturer and was describing circles in the air with his forefinger, priding himself on his imagination, which from the most insignificant facts could deduce so many applications and inferences.  But noticing that Simoun was preoccupied and thinking that he was pondering over what he, Ben-Zayb, had just said, he inquired what the jeweler was meditating about.

About two very important questions, answered Simoun; two questions that you might add to your article.  First, what may have become of the devil on seeing himself suddenly confined within a stone? Did he escape? Did he stay there? Was he crushed? Second, if the petrified animals that I have seen in various European museums may not have been the victims of some antediluvian saint?

The tone in which the jeweler spoke was so serious, while he rested his forehead on the tip of his forefinger in an attitude of deep meditation, that Padre Camorra responded very gravely, Who knows, who knows?

Since we’re busy with legends and are now entering the lake, remarked Padre Sibyla, the captain must know many—

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