Many of our visitors were displeased with the exhibition. They talked of rules of art, they sought proportion—one said that this figure did not have seven heads, that the face lacked a nose, having only three, all of which made Padre Camorra somewhat thoughtful, for he did not comprehend how a figure, to be correct, need have four noses and seven heads. Others said, if they were muscular, that they could not be Indians; still others remarked that it was not sculpture, but mere carpentry. Each added his spoonful of criticism, until Padre Camorra, not to be outdone, ventured to ask for at least thirty legs for each doll, because, if the others wanted noses, couldn’t he require feet? So they fell to discussing whether the Indian had or had not any aptitude for sculpture, and whether it would be advisable to encourage that art, until there arose a general dispute, which was cut short by Don Custodio’s declaration that the Indians had the aptitude, but that they should devote themselves exclusively to the manufacture of saints.
“One would say,” observed Ben-Zayb, who was full of bright ideas that night, “that this Chinaman is Quiroga, but on close examination it looks like Padre Irene. And what do you say about that British Indian? He looks like Simoun!”
Fresh peals of laughter resounded, while Padre Irene rubbed his nose.
“It’s the very image of him!”
“But where is Simoun? Simoun should buy it.”
But the jeweler had disappeared, unnoticed by any one.
“Punales!” exclaimed Padre Camorra, “how stingy the American is! He’s afraid we would make him pay the admission for all of us into Mr. Leeds’ show.”
“No!” rejoined Ben-Zayb, “what he’s afraid of is that he’ll compromise himself. He may have foreseen the joke in store for his friend Mr. Leeds and has got out of the way.”
Thus, without purchasing the least trifle, they continued on their way to see the famous sphinx. Ben-Zayb offered to manage the affair, for the American would not rebuff a journalist who could take revenge in an unfavorable article. “You’ll see that it’s all a question of mirrors,” he said, “because, you see—” Again he plunged into a long demonstration, and as he had no mirrors at hand to discredit his theory he tangled himself up in all kinds of blunders and wound up by not knowing himself what he was saying. “In short, you’ll see how it’s all a question of optics.”
Mr. Leeds, a genuine Yankee, dressed completely in black, received his visitors with great deference. He spoke Spanish well, from having been for many years in South America, and offered no objection to their request, saying that they might examine everything, both before and after the exhibition, but begged that they remain quiet while it was in progress. Ben-Zayb smiled in pleasant anticipation of the vexation he had prepared for the American.