Sunday, February 13, 2011

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER III: LEGENDS


Ich weiss nicht was soil es bedeuten
Dass ich so traurig bin!

When Padre Florentino joined the group above, the bad humor provoked by
the previous discussion had entirely disappeared. Perhaps their spirits
had been raised by the attractive houses of the town of Pasig, or the
glasses of sherry they had drunk in preparation for the coming meal, or
the prospect of a good breakfast. Whatever the cause, the fact was that
they were all laughing and joking, even including the lean Franciscan,
although he made little noise and his smiles looked like death-grins.
"Evil times, evil times!" said Padre Sibyla with a laugh.
"Get out, don't say that, Vice-Rector!" responded the Canon Irene,
giving the other's chair a shove. "In Hongkong you're doing a fine
business, putting up every building that--ha, ha!"
"Tut, tut!" was the reply; "you don't see our expenses, and the
tenants on our estates are beginning to complain--"
"Here, enough of complaints, _puñales,_ else I'll fall to
weeping!" cried Padre Camorra gleefully. "We're not complaining,
and we haven't either estates or banking-houses. You know that my
Indians are beginning to haggle over the fees and to flash schedules on
me! Just look how they cite schedules to me now, and none other than
those of the Archbishop Basilio Sancho, [10] as if from his time up
to now prices had not risen. Ha, ha, ha! Why should a baptism cost
less than a chicken? But I play the deaf man, collect what I can,
and never complain. We're not avaricious, are we, Padre Salvi?"
At that moment Simoun's head appeared above the hatchway.
"Well, where've you been keeping yourself?" Don Custodio called to
him, having forgotten all about their dispute. "You're missing the
prettiest part of the trip!"
"Pshaw!" retorted Simoun, as he ascended, "I've seen so many rivers
and landscapes that I'm only interested in those that call up legends."
"As for legends, the Pasig has a few," observed the captain, who did
not relish any depreciation of the river where he navigated and earned
his livelihood. "Here you have that of _Malapad-na-bato,_ a rock sacred
before the coming of the Spaniards as the abode of spirits. Afterwards,
when the superstition had been dissipated and the rock profaned, it was
converted into a nest of tulisanes, since from its crest they easily
captured the luckless bankas, which had to contend against both the
currents and men. Later, in our time, in spite of human interference,
there are still told stories about wrecked bankas, and if on rounding
it I didn't steer with my six senses, I'd be smashed against its
sides. Then you have another legend, that of Doña Jeronima's cave,
which Padre Florentino can relate to you."
"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."


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