After blowing out two or three puffs of smoke, coughing, and spitting through a scupper, he slapped Ben-Zayb on the thigh and asked, “You’ve seen ducks?”
“I rather think so—we’ve hunted them on the lake,” answered the surprised journalist.
“No, I’m not talking about wild ducks, I’m talking of the domestic ones, of those that are raised in Pateros and Pasig. Do you know what they feed on?”
Ben-Zayb, the only thinking head, did not know—he was not engaged in that business.
“On snails, man, on snails!” exclaimed Padre Camorra. “One doesn’t have to be an Indian to know that; it’s sufficient to have eyes!”
“Exactly so, on snails!” repeated Don Custodio, flourishing his forefinger. “And do you know where they get them?”
Again the thinking head did not know.
“Well, if you had been in the country as many years as I have, you would know that they fish them out of the bar itself, where they abound, mixed with the sand.”
“Then your project?”
“Well, I’m coming to that. My idea was to compel all the towns round about, near the bar, to raise ducks, and you’ll see how they, all by themselves, will deepen the channel by fishing for the snails—no more and no less, no more and no less!”
Here Don Custodio extended his arms and gazed triumphantly at the stupefaction of his hearers—to none of them had occurred such an original idea.
“Will you allow me to write an article about that?” asked Ben-Zayb. “In this country there is so little thinking done—”
“But, Don Custodio,” exclaimed Dona Victorina with smirks and grimaces, “if everybody takes to raising ducks the balot  eggs will become abundant. Ugh, how nasty! Rather, let the bar close up entirely!”
ON THE LOWER DECK
There, below, other scenes were being enacted. Seated on benches or small wooden stools among valises, boxes, and baskets, a few feet from the engines, in the heat of the boilers, amid the human smells and the pestilential odor of oil, were to be seen the great majority of the passengers. Some were silently gazing at the changing scenes along the banks, others were playing cards or conversing in the midst of the scraping of shovels, the roar of the engine, the hiss of escaping steam, the swash of disturbed waters, and the shrieks of the whistle. In one corner, heaped up like corpses, slept, or tried to sleep, a number of Chinese pedlers, seasick, pale, frothing through half-opened lips, and bathed in their copious perspiration. Only a few youths, students for the most part, easily recognizable from their white garments and their confident bearing, made bold to move about from stern to bow, leaping over baskets and boxes, happy in the prospect of the approaching vacation. Now they commented on the movements of the engines, endeavoring to recall forgotten notions of physics, now they surrounded the young schoolgirl or the red-lipped buyera with her collar of sampaguitas, whispering into their ears words that made them smile and cover their faces with their fans.