Chapter 6: - Page 3 of 5


(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Basilio passed the examinations by answering the solitary question asked him, like a machine, without stopping or breathing, and in the amusement of the examiners won the passing certificate.  His nine companions—they were examined in batches of ten in order to save time—did not have such good luck, but were condemned to repeat the year of brutalization.

In the second year the game-cock that he tended won a large sum and he received from Capitan Tiago a big tip, which he immediately invested in the purchase of shoes and a felt hat.  With these and the clothes given him by his employer, which he made over to fit his person, his appearance became more decent, but did not get beyond that.  In such a large class a great deal was needed to attract the professor’s attention, and the student who in the first year did not make himself known by some special quality, or did not capture the good-will of the professors, could with difficulty make himself known in the rest of his school-days.  But Basilio kept on, for perseverance was his chief trait.

His fortune seemed to change somewhat when he entered the third year.  His professor happened to be a very jolly fellow, fond of jokes and of making the students laugh, complacent enough in that he almost always had his favorites recite the lessons—in fact, he was satisfied with anything.  At this time Basilio now wore shoes and a clean and well-ironed camisa.  As his professor noticed that he laughed very little at the jokes and that his large eyes seemed to be asking something like an eternal question, he took him for a fool, and one day decided to make him conspicuous by calling on him for the lesson.  Basilio recited it from beginning to end, without hesitating over a single letter, so the professor called him a parrot and told a story to make the class laugh.  Then to increase the hilarity and justify the epithet he asked several questions, at the same time winking to his favorites, as if to say to them, You’ll see how we’re going to amuse ourselves.

Basilio now understood Spanish and answered the questions with the plain intention of making no one laugh.  This disgusted everybody, the expected absurdity did not materialize, no one could laugh, and the good friar never pardoned him for having defrauded the hopes of the class and disappointed his own prophecies.  But who would expect anything worth while to come from a head so badly combed and placed on an Indian poorly shod, classified until recently among the arboreal animals? As in other  centers of learning, where the teachers are honestly desirous that the students should learn, such discoveries usually delight the instructors, so in a college managed by men convinced that for the most part knowledge is an evil, at least for the students, the episode of Basilio produced a bad impression and he was not questioned again during the year.  Why should he be, when he made no one laugh?

Quite discouraged and thinking of abandoning his studies, he passed to the fourth year of Latin.  Why study at all, why not sleep like the others and trust to luck?

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