Saturday, February 12, 2011

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....5)

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....5) 

"But, Señor Simoun--"

"Don't fool yourself, Don Custodio," continued Simoun dryly, "only in this way are great enterprises carried out with small means. Thus were constructed the Pyramids, Lake Moeris, and the Colosseum
in Rome. Entire provinces came in from the desert, bringing their tubers to feed on. Old men, youths, and boys labored in transporting stones, hewing them, and carrying them on their shoulders under the direction of the official lash, and afterwards, the survivors returned to their homes or perished in the sands of the desert. Then came other provinces, then others, succeeding one another in the work during years. Thus the task was finished, and now we admire them, we travel, we go to Egypt and to Home, we extol the Pharaohs and the Antonines. Don't fool yourself--the dead remain dead, and might only is considered right by posterity."

"But, Señor Simoun, such measures might provoke uprisings," objected Don Custodio, rather uneasy over the turn the affair had taken.

"Uprisings, ha, ha! Did the Egyptian people ever rebel, I wonder? Did the Jewish prisoners rebel against the pious Titus? Man, I thought you were better informed in history!"

Clearly Simoun was either very presumptuous or disregarded conventionalities! To say to Don Custodio's face that he did not know history! It was enough to make any one lose his temper! So it seemed, or Don Custodio forgot himself and retorted, "But the fact is that you're not among Egyptians or Jews!"

"And these people have rebelled more than once," added the Dominican, somewhat timidly. "In the times when they were forced to transport heavy timbers for the construction of ships, if it hadn't been for
the clerics--"

"Those times are far away," answered Simoun, with a laugh even drier than usual. "These islands will never again rebel, no matter how much work and taxes they have. Haven't you lauded to me, Padre Salvi," he added, turning to the Franciscan, "the house and hospital at Los Baños, where his Excellency is at present?"

Padre Salvi gave a nod and looked up, evading the question.

"Well, didn't you tell me that both buildings were constructed by forcing the people to work on them under the whip of a lay-brother? Perhaps that wonderful bridge was built in the same way. Now tell me, did these people rebel?"

"The fact is--they have rebelled before," replied the Dominican, "and _ab actu ad posse valet illatio!_"

"No, no, nothing of the kind," continued Simoun, starting down a hatchway to the cabin. "What's said, is said! And you, Padre Sibyla, don't talk either Latin or nonsense. What are you friars good for if the people can rebel?"

Taking no notice of the replies and protests, Simoun descended the small companionway that led below, repeating disdainfully, "Bosh, bosh!"

Padre Sibyla turned pale; this was the first time that he, Vice-Rector of the University, had ever been credited with nonsense. Don Custodio turned green; at no meeting in which he had ever found himself had he encountered such an adversary.

"An American mulatto!" he fumed.

"A British Indian," observed Ben-Zayb in a low tone.

"An American, I tell you, and shouldn't I know?" retorted Don Custodio in ill-humor. "His Excellency has told me so. He's a jeweler whom the latter knew in Havana, and, as I suspect, the one who got him advancement by lending him money. So to repay him he has had him come here to let him have a chance and increase his fortune by selling diamonds--imitations, who knows? And he so ungrateful, that, after getting money from the Indians, he wishes--huh!" The sentence was concluded by a significant wave of the hand.

No one dared to join in this diatribe. Don Custodio could discredit himself with his Excellency, if he wished, but neither Ben-Zayb, nor Padre Irene, nor Padre Salvi, nor the offended Padre Sibyla had any confidence in the discretion of the others.

Continue reading:
El Filibusterismo CHAPTER I: On the Upper Deck (cont....6)

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