Sunday, February 13, 2011

El Filibusterismo CHAPTER III: LEGENDS (cont....2)

"A beautiful legend!" exclaimed Ben-Zayb. "I'm going to write an
article about it. It's sentimental!"
Doña Victorina thought of dwelling in such a cave and was about to
say so, when Simoun took the floor instead.
"But what's your opinion about that, Padre Salvi?" he asked the
Franciscan, who seemed to be absorbed in thought. "Doesn't it seem to
you as though his Grace, instead of giving her a cave, ought to have
placed her in a nunnery--in St. Clara's, for example? What do you say?"
There was a start of surprise on Padre Sibyla's part to notice that
Padre Salvi shuddered and looked askance at Simoun.
"Because it's not a very gallant act," continued Simoun quite
naturally, "to give a rocky cliff as a home to one with whose
hopes we have trifled. It's hardly religious to expose her thus to
temptation, in a cave on the banks of a river--it smacks of nymphs and
dryads. It would have been more gallant, more pious, more romantic,
more in keeping with the customs of this country, to shut her up in
St. Clara's, like a new Eloise, in order to visit and console her
from time to time."
"I neither can nor should pass judgment upon the conduct of
archbishops," replied the Franciscan sourly.
"But you, who are the ecclesiastical governor, acting in the place
of our Archbishop, what would you do if such a case should arise?"
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--"
At that moment the steamer crossed the bar and the panorama spread out
before their eyes was so truly magnificent that all were impressed. In
front extended the beautiful lake bordered by green shores and blue
mountains, like a huge mirror, framed in emeralds and sapphires,
reflecting the sky in its glass. On the right were spread out the
low shores, forming bays with graceful curves, and dim there in the
distance the crags of Sungay, while in the background rose Makiling,
imposing and majestic, crowned with fleecy clouds. On the left lay
Talim Island with its curious sweep of hills. A fresh breeze rippled
over the wide plain of water.
"By the way, captain," said Ben-Zayb, turning around, "do you know
in what part of the lake a certain Guevara, Navarra, or Ibarra,
was killed?"
The group looked toward the captain, with the exception of Simoun, who
had turned away his head as though to look for something on the shore.
"Ah, yes!" exclaimed Doña Victorina. "Where, captain? Did he leave
any tracks in the water?"
The good captain winked several times, an indication that he was
annoyed, but reading the request in the eyes of all, took a few steps
toward the bow and scanned the shore.


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