Saturday, February 12, 2011

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....2)

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....2)

The captain was a man of kindly aspect, well along in years, an old sailor who in his youth had plunged into far vaster seas, but who now in his age had to exercise much greater attention, care, and vigilance
to avoid dangers of a trivial character. And they were the same for each day: the same sand-bars, the same hulk of unwieldy steamer wedged into the same curves, like a corpulent dame in a jammed throng. So, at each moment, the good man had to stop, to back up, to go forward at half speed, sending--now to port, now to starboard--the five sailors equipped with long bamboo poles to give force to the turn the rudder had suggested. He was like a veteran who, after leading men through
hazardous campaigns, had in his age become the tutor of a capricious, disobedient, and lazy boy.

Doña Victorina, the only lady seated in the European group, could say whether the _Tabo_ was not lazy, disobedient, and capricious--Doña Victorina, who, nervous as ever, was hurling invectives against the cascos, bankas, rafts of coconuts, the Indians paddling about, and even the washerwomen and bathers, who fretted her with their mirth and chatter. Yes, the _Tabo_ would move along very well if there were no Indians in the river, no Indians in the country, yes, if there were not a single Indian in the world--regardless of the fact that the helmsmen were Indians, the sailors Indians, Indians the engineers, Indians ninety-nine per cent, of the passengers, and she herself also an Indian if the rouge were scratched off and her pretentious gown removed. That morning Doña Victorina was more irritated than usual because the members of the group took very little notice of her, reason for which was not lacking; for just consider--there could be found three friars, convinced that the world would move backwards the very day they should take a single step to the right; an indefatigable Don Custodio who was sleeping peacefully, satisfied with his projects; a prolific writer like Ben-Zayb (anagram of Ibañez), who believed that the people of Manila thought because he, Ben-Zayb, was a thinker; a canon like Padre Irene, who added luster to the clergy with his rubicund face, carefully shaven, from which towered a beautiful Jewish nose, and his silken cassock of neat cut and small buttons; and a wealthy jeweler like Simoun, who was reputed to be the adviser and inspirer of all the acts of his Excellency, the Captain-General--just consider the presence there of these pillars _sine quibus non_ of the country, seated there in agreeable discourse, showing little sympathy for a renegade Filipina who dyed her hair red! Now wasn't this enough to exhaust the patience of a female Job--a sobriquet Doña Victorina always applied to herself when put out with any one!

The ill-humor of the señora increased every time the captain shouted "Port," "Starboard" to the sailors, who then hastily seized their poles and thrust them against the banks, thus with the strength of their legs and shoulders preventing the steamer from shoving its hull ashore at that particular point. Seen under these circumstances the Ship of State might be said to have been converted from a tortoise into a crab every time any danger threatened.

"But, captain, why don't your stupid steersmen go in that direction?" asked the lady with great indignation.

"Because it's very shallow in the other, señora," answered the captain, deliberately, slowly winking one eye, a little habit which he had cultivated as if to say to his words on their way out, "Slowly, slowly!"

"Half speed! Botheration, half speed!" protested Doña Victorina disdainfully. "Why not full?"

"Because we should then be traveling over those ricefields, señora," replied the imperturbable captain, pursing his lips to indicate the cultivated fields and indulging in two circumspect winks.

Continue reading:
El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....3)

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