By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Brazilian Tales
Author: Albuquerque, Medeiros e, 1867-1934, Assis, Machado de, 1839-1908, Netto, Coelho, 1864-1934, Dolores, Carmen, 1852-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Brazilian Tales" ***

produced from scanned images of public domain material




Author of "Studies in Spanish-American Literature," etc.

The Four Seas Company


_Copyright, 1921, by_
Boston, Mass., U. S. A.

The Four Seas Press



PRELIMINARY REMARKS                                       7

THE ATTENDANT'S CONFESSION                               43

THE FORTUNE-TELLER                                       65

LIFE                                                     87

THE VENGEANCE OF FELIX                                  107

THE PIGEONS                                             121

AUNT ZEZE'S TEARS                                       139





The noted Brazilian critic, José Verissimo, in a short but important
essay on the deficiencies of his country's letters, has expressed
serious doubt as to whether there exists a genuinely Brazilian
literature. "I do not know," he writes, "whether the existence of an
entirely independent literature is possible without an entirely
independent language." In this sense Verissimo would deny the existence
of a Swiss, or a Belgian, literature. In this sense, too, it was no
doubt once possible, with no small measure of justification, to deny
the existence of an American, as distinguished from an English,
literature. Yet, despite the subtle psychic bonds that link identity of
speech to similarity of thought, the environment (which helps to shape
pronunciation as well as vocabulary and the language itself) is, from
the standpoint of literature, little removed from language as a
determining factor. Looking at the question, however, from the purely
linguistic standpoint, it is important to remember that the Spanish of
Spanish America is more different from the parent tongue than is the
English of this country from that of the mother nation. Similar changes
have taken place in the Portuguese spoken in Brazil. Yet who would now
pretend, on the basis of linguistic similarity, to say that there is no
United States literature as distinguished from English literature?
After all, is it not national life, as much as national language, that
makes literature? And by an inversion of Verissimo's standard may we
not come face to face with a state of affairs in which different
literatures exist within the same tongue? Indeed, is not such a
conception as the "great American novel" rendered quite futile in the
United States by the fact that from the literary standpoint we are
several countries rather than one?

The question is largely academic. At the same time it is interesting to
notice the more assertive standpoint lately adopted by the charming
Mexican poet, Luis G. Urbina, in his recent "La Vida Literaria de
México," where, without undue national pride he claims the right to use
the adjective Mexican in qualifying the letters of his remarkable
country. Urbina shows that different physiological and psychological
types have been produced in his part of the New World; why, then,
should the changes stop there? Nor have they ceased at that point, as
Señor Urbina's delightful and informative book reveals. So, too,
whatever the merits of the academic question involved, a book like
Alencar's "Guarany," for instance, could not have been written outside
of Brazil; neither could Verissimo's own "Scenes from Amazon Life."


Brazilian literature has been divided into four main periods. The first
extends from the age of discovery and exploration to the middle of the
eighteenth century; the second includes the second half of the
eighteenth century; the third comprises the years of the nineteenth
century up to 1840, while that date inaugurates the triumph of
Romanticism over pseudo-Classicism. Romanticism, as in other countries,
gave way in turn to realism and various other movements current in
those turbulent decades. Sometimes the changes came not as a natural
phase of literary evolution, but rather as the consequence of pure
imitation. Thus, Verissimo tells us, Symbolism, in Brazil, was a matter
of intentional parroting, in many cases unintelligent. It did not
correspond to a movement of reaction,--mystical, sensualist,
individualist, socialistic or anarchistic,--as in Europe.

Two chief impulses were early present in Brazilian letters: that of
Portuguese literature and that of the Jesuit colleges. At the time of
the discovery of Brazil only Italy, Spain, France and Portugal
possessed a literary life. Portugal, indeed, as the Brazilian critic
points out, was then in its golden period. It boasted chroniclers like
Fernao Lopes, novelists like Bernardim Ribeiro, historians like Joao de
Barros, and dramatists of the stamp of Gil Vicente. The Jesuit
colleges, too, were followed by other orders, spreading Latin culture
and maintaining communication between the interior and the important
centers. It is natural, then, that early letters in Brazil should have
been Portuguese not only in language, but in inspiration, feeling and
spirit. Similarly, we find the early intellectual dependence of the
Spanish American countries upon Spain, even as later both the Spanish
and the Portuguese writers of America were to be influenced greatly by
French literature. "Brazilian poetry," says Verissimo in the little
essay already referred to, "was already in the seventeenth century
superior to Portuguese verse." He foresaw a time when it would
outdistance the mother country. But Brazilian literature as a whole, he
found, lacked the perfect continuity, the cohesion, the unity of great
literatures, chiefly because it began as Portuguese, later turned to
east (particularly France) and only then to Brazil itself. In the early
days it naturally lacked the solidarity that comes from easy
communication between literary centers. This same lack of communication
was in a sense still true at the time he wrote his essay. The element
of communicability did exist during the Romantic period (1835-1860),
whereupon came influences from France, England, Italy, and even
Germany, and letters were rapidly denationalized. What was thus needed
and beneficial from the standpoint of national culture prejudiced the
interests of national literature, says Verissimo. He finds, too, that
there is too little originality and culture among Brazilian writers,
and that their work lacks sincerity and form (1899). Poetry was too
often reduced to the love of form while fiction was too closely copied
from the French, thus operating to stifle the development of a national
dramatic literature. Excessive preoccupation with politics and finance
(where have we heard that complaint elsewhere?) still further impeded
the rise of a truly native literature.

Perhaps Verissimo's outlook was too pessimistic; he was an earnest
spirit, unafraid to speak his mind and too much a lover of truth to be
misled by a love of his country into making exaggerated claims for
works by his countrymen. We must not forget that he was here looking
upon Brazilian letters as a whole; in other essays by him we discover
that same sober spirit, but he is alive to the virtues of his fellow
writers as well as to their failings.

It is with the prose of the latest period in Brazilian literature that
we are here concerned. From the point of view of the novel and tale
Brazil shares with Argentina, Columbia, Chile and Mexico the leadership
of the Latin-American[1] republics. If Columbia, in Jorge Isaacs'
_Maria_, can show the novel best known to the rest of the world, and
Chile, in such a figure as Alberto Blest-Gana (author of _Martin Rivas_
and other novels) boasts a "South American Balzac," Brazil may point to
more than one work of fiction that Is worthy of standing beside
_María_, _Martin Rivas_ or José Marmol's exciting tale of love and
adventure, _Amalia_. The growing Importance of Brazil as a commercial
nation, together with a corresponding increase of interest in the study
of Portuguese (a language easily acquired by all who know Spanish) will
have the desirable effect of making known to the English reading public
a selection of works deserving of greater recognition.

      [1] I am aware of the recent objection to this term (See my
      Studies in Spanish American Literature, pp. 233-237), but no
      entirely satisfactory substitute has been advanced.

Just to mention at random a few of the books that should in the near
future be known to American readers, either in the original or through
the medium of translations, I shall recall some of the names best known
to Brazilians in connection with the modern tale and novel. If there be
anything lacking in the array of modern writers it is a certain broad
variety of subject and treatment to which other literatures have
accustomed us.

It is not to be wondered at that in surroundings such as the Amazon
affords an "Indian" school of literature should have arisen. We have an
analogous type of fiction in United States literature, old and new,
produced by similar causes. Brazilian "Indianism" reached its highest
point perhaps in José Alencar's famous _Guarany_, which won for its
author national reputation and achieved unprecedented success. From the
book was made a libretto that was set to music by the Brazilian
composer, Carlos Gomez. The story is replete with an intensity of life
and charming descriptions that recall the pages of Chateaubriand, and
its prose often verges upon poetry in its idealization of the Indian
race. Of the author's other numerous works _Iracema_ alone approaches
_Guarany_ in popularity. The dominant note of the author, afterward
much repeated in the literary history of his nation, is the essential
goodness and self-abnegation of the national character.

Alfred d'Escragnolle Taunay (1843-1899) is among the most important of
Brazil's novelists. Born at Rio de Janeiro of noble family he went
through a course in letters and science, later engaging in the campaign
of Paraguay. He took part in the retreat of La Laguna, an event which
he has enshrined in one of his best works, first published in French
under the title _La Retraite de la Laguna_. He served also as secretary
to Count d'Eu, who commanded the Brazilian army, and later occupied
various political offices, rising to the office of senator in 1886. His
list of works is too numerous to mention in a fragmentary introduction
of this nature; chief among them stands _Innocencia_; a sister tale, so
to speak, to Isaacs's _María_. According to Verissimo, _Innocencia_ is
one of the country's few genuinely original novels. It has been called,
by Mérou (1900), "the best novel written in South America by a South
American," a compliment later paid by Guglielmo Ferrero to Graça
Aranha's _Canaan_. Viscount Taunay's famous work has been translated
into French twice, once into English, Italian, German, Danish, and even

The scene is laid in the deserted Matto Grosso, a favorite background
of the author's. Innocencia is all that her name implies, and dwells
secluded with her father, who is a miner, her negress slave Conga, and
her Caliban-like dwarf Tico, who loves Innocencia, the Miranda of this
district. Into Innocencia's life comes the itinerant physician, Cirino
de Campos, who is called by her father to cure her of the fever. Cirino
is her Ferdinand; they make love in secret, for she is meant by
paternal arrangement for a mere brute of a mule driver, Manaçao by
name. Innocencia vows herself to Cirino, when the mule-driver comes to
enforce his prior claim; the father, bound by his word of honor, sides
with the primitive lover. The tragedy seems foreordained, for
Innocencia makes spirited resistance, while Manaçao avenges himself by
killing the doctor. A comic figure of a German scientist adds humor and
a certain poignant irony to the tale. Such a bare outline conveys
nothing of the mysterious charm of the original, nor of its poetic
atmosphere. Comparing _Innocencia_ with what has been termed its sister
work, _María_, I believe that _María_ is the better tale of the two,
although there is much to be said for both. The point need not be
pressed. The heroine of _María_ is more a woman, less a child than
Innocencia, hence the fate of the Spanish girl is tragic where that of
the other maiden is merely pitiful. _Innocencia_, on the other hand, is
stouter in texture. In _María_ there is no love struggle; the struggle
is with life and circumstance; in _Innocencia_ there is not only the
element of rivalry in love, but in addition there is the rigid parent
who sternly, and at last murderously, opposes the natural desires of a
child whom he has promised to another. Where _María_ is idyllic,
poetic, flowing smoothing along the current of a realism tempered by
sentimentalism, _Innocencia_ (by no means devoid of poetry) is
romantic, melodramatic, rushing along turbulently to the outcome in a
death as violent as María's is peaceful. There is in each book a
similar importance of the background. In _Innocencia_ the "point of
honor" is quite as strong and vindictive as in any play of the Spanish
Golden Age. _María_ shares with _Innocencia_ relieving touches of humor
and excellent pages of character description.

Taunay's _O Encilhamento_ is a violent antithesis to the work just
considered. Here the politician speaks. In passages of satire that
becomes so acrimonious at times as to indicate real personages, the
wave of speculation that swept Argentina and Brazil is analyzed and
held up to scorn. The novel is really a piece of historical muck-raking
and was long an object of resentment in the republic.

Everything from Taunay's pen reveals a close communion with nature,
an intimate understanding of the psychology of the vast region's
inhabitants. His shorter tales, which I hope later to present to the
English-reading public, reveal these powers at their best. Now it is a
soldier who goes to war, only, like a military Enoch Arden, to return
and find his sweetheart in another's arms; now it is a clergyman, "the
vicar of sorrows," who, in the luxuriant environment of his charge
suffers the tortures of carnal temptations, with the spirit at last
triumphant over the flesh. Whatever of artifice there is in these
tales is overcome, one of his most sympathetic critics tells us, by
the poetic sincerity of the whole. Taunay, too, has been likened to
Pierre Loti for his exotic flavor. In _Yerecé a Guaná_ we have a
miniature _Innocencia_. Yerecé and Alberto Monteiro fall in love and
marry. The latter has been cured, at the home of Yerecé, of swamp
fever. The inevitable, however, occurs, and Montero hears the call of
civilization. The marriage, according to the custom of the tribe into
which Montero has wed, is dissolved by the man alone. He returns to
his old life and she dies of grief.

A work that may stand beside _Innocencia_ and Verissimo's _Scenes from
Amazon Life_ as a successful national product is Inglez de Sousa's _O
Missionario_. Antonio de Moraes, in this story, is not so strong in
will as Taunay's vicar of sorrows. Antonio is a missionary "with the
vocation of a martyr and the soul of an apostle," on duty in the
tropics. The voluptuous magnetism of the Amazon seizes his body.
Slowly, agonizingly, but surely he succumbs to the enchantment,
overpowered by the life around him.

Since Machado de Assis (who should precede Azevedo) and Coelho Netto
(who should follow him, if strict chronological order were being
observed) are both referred to in section three, which deals
particularly with the authors represented in this sample assortment of
short tales, they are here omitted.

With the appearance of _O Mulato_ by Aluizio Azevedo (1857-1912), the
literature of Brazil, prepared for such a reorientation by the direct
influence of the great Portuguese, Eça de Queiroz, and Emile Zola, was
definitely steered toward naturalism. "In Aluizio Azevedo," says
Benedicto Costa, "one finds neither the poetry of José de Alencar, nor
the delicacy,--I should even say, archness--of Macedo, nor the
sentimental preciosity of Taunay, nor the subtle irony of Machado de
Assis. His phrase is brittle, lacking lyricism, tenderness, dreaminess,
but it is dynamic, energetic, expressive, and, at times, sensual to the
point of sweet delirium."

_O Mulato_, though it was the work of a youth in his early twenties,
has been acknowledged as a solid, well-constructed example of Brazilian
realism. There is a note of humor, as well as a lesson in criticism, in
the author's anecdote (told in his foreword to the fourth edition)
about the provincial editor who advised the youthful author to give up
writing and hire himself out on a farm. This was all the notice he
received from his native province, Maranhao. Yet Azevedo grew to be one
of the few Brazilian authors who supported himself by his pen.

When Brazilian letters are better known in this nation, among Azevedo's
work we should be quick to appreciate such a pithy book as the _Livro
de uma Sogra_,--the Book of a Mother-in-Law. And when the literature of
these United States is at last (if ever, indeed!) released from the
childish, hypocritical, Puritanic inhibitions forced upon it by quasi
official societies, we may even relish, from among Azevedo's long shelf
of novels, such a sensuous product as _Cortiço_.

I have singled out, rather arbitrarily it must be admitted, a few of
the characteristic works that preceded the appearance of Graça Aranha's
_Canaan_, the novel that was lifted into prominence by Guglielmo
Ferrero's fulsome praise of it as the "great American novel."[2] For
South America, no less than North, is hunting that literary will o' the
wisp. Both _Maria_ and _Innocencia_ have been mentioned for that honor.

      [2] Issued, in English (1920) by the publishers of this book.

There is a distinct basis for comparison between _Innocencia_ and
the more famous Spanish American tale from Colombia; between these and
_Canaan_, however, there is little similarity, if one overlook the
poetic atmosphere that glamours all three. Aranha's masterpiece is of
far broader conception than the other two; it adds to their lyricism an
epic sweep inherent in the subject and very soon felt in the treatment.
It is, in fact, a difficult novel to classify, impregnated as it is
with a noble idealism, yet just as undoubtedly streaked with a powerful
realism. This should, however, connote no inept mingling of genres; the
style seems to be called for by the very nature of the vast theme--that
moment at which the native and the immigrant strain begin to merge in
the land of the future--the promised land that the protagonists are
destined never to enter, even as Moses himself, upon Mount Nebo in the
land of Moab, beheld Canaan and died in the throes of the great vision.

_Canaan_ is of those novels that centre about an enthralling idea.
The type which devotes much attention to depictions of life and
customs, to discussions upon present realities and ultimate purposes,
is perhaps more frequent among Spanish and Portuguese Americans than
among our own readers who are apt to be overinsistent in their demands
for swift, visible action. Yet, in the hands of a master, it possesses
no less interest than the more obvious type of fiction, for ideas
possess more life than the persons who are moved by them.

The idea that carries Milkau from the Old World to the New is an ideal
of human brotherhood, high purpose and dissatisfaction with the old,
degenerate world. In the State of Espirito Santo, where the German
colonists are dominant, he plans a simple life that shall drink
inspiration in the youth of a new, virgin continent. He falls in with
another German, Lentz, whose outlook upon life is at first the very
opposite to Milkau's blend of Christianity and a certain liberal
socialism. The strange milieu breeds in both an intellectual langour
that vents itself in long discussions, in breeding contemplation,
mirages of the spirit. Milkau is gradually struck with something wrong
in the settlement. Little by little it begins to dawn upon him that
something of the Old-World hypocrisy, fraud and insincerity, is
contaminating this supposedly virgin territory. Here he discovers no
paradise à la Rousseau--no natural man untainted by the ills of
civilization. Graft is as rampant as in any district of the world
across the sea; cruelty is as rife. His pity is aroused by the plight
of Mary, a destitute servant who is betrayed by the son of her
employers. Not only does the scamp desert her when she most needs his
protection and acknowledgment, but he is silent when his equally
vicious parents drive her forth to a life of intense hardship. She is
spurned at every door and reduced to beggary. Her child is born under
the most distressing circumstances, and under conditions that strike
the note of horror the infant is slain before her very eyes while she
gazes helplessly on.

Mary is accused of infanticide, and since she lacks witnesses, she is
placed in a very difficult position. Moreover, the father of her child
bends every effort to loosen the harshest measures of the community
against her, whereupon Milkau, whose heart is open to the sufferings of
the universe, has another opportunity to behold man's inhumanity to
woman. His pity turns to what pity is akin to; he effects her release
from jail, and together they go forth upon a journey that ends in the
delirium of death. The promised land had proved a mirage--at least for
the present. And it is upon this indecisive note that the book ends.

Ferrero's introduction, though short, is substantial, and to the point.
It is natural that he should have taken such a liking to the book, for
Aranha's work is of intense interest to the reader who looks for
psychological power, and Ferrero himself is the exponent of history as
psychology rather than as economic materialism. "The critics," he says,
"will judge the literary merits of this novel. As a literary amateur I
will point out among its qualities the beauty of its style and its
descriptions, the purity of the psychological analysis, the depth of
the thoughts and the reflections of which the novel is full, and among
its faults a certain disproportion between the different parts of the
book and an ending which is too vague, indefinite and unexpected. But
its literary qualities seem to me to be of secondary importance to the
profound and incontrovertible idea that forms the kernel of the book.
Here in Europe we are accustomed to say that modern civilization
develops itself in America more freely than in Europe, for in the
former country it has not to surmount the obstacle of an older society,
firmly established, as in the case of the latter. Because of this, we
call America 'the country of the young,' and we consider the New World
as the great force which decomposes the old European social organization."
That idea is, as Ferrero points out, an illusion due to distance. He
points out, too, that here is everywhere "an old America struggling
against a new one and, this is very curious, the new America, which
upsets traditions, is formed above all by the European immigrants who
seek a place for themselves in the country of their adoption, whereas
the real Americans represent the conservative tendencies. Europe exerts
on American society--through its emigrants--the same dissolving action
which America exerts--through its novelties and its example--on the old
civilization of Europe." The point is very well taken, and contains the
germ of a great novel of the United States. And just as _Canaan_ stands
by itself in Brazilian literature, so might such a novel achieve
preeminence in our own.

Ferrero is quite right in indicating the great non-literary importance
of the novel, though not all readers will agree with him as to the
excessive vagueness of the end. Hardly any other type of ending would
have befitted a novel that treats of transition, of a landscape that
dazzles and enthralls, of possibilities that founder, not through the
malignance of fate, but through the stupidity of man. There is an epic
swirl to the finale that reminds one of the disappearance of an ancient
deity in a pillar of dust. For an uncommon man like Milkau an uncommon
end was called for. Numerous questions are touched upon in the course
of the leisurely narrative, everywhere opening up new vistas of
thought; for Aranha is philosophically, critically inclined; his
training is cosmopolitan, as his life has been; he knows the great
Germans, Scandinavians, Belgians and Russians; his native exuberance
has been tempered by a serenity that is the product of European
influence. He is some fifty-two years of age, has served his nation at
Christiania as minister, at the Hague, and as leader in the Allied
cause. He is, therefore, an acknowledged and proven spokesman. The
author of _Canaan_ has done other things, among which this book, which
has long been known in French and Spanish, stands out as a document
that marks an epoch in Brazilian history as well as a stage in
Brazilian literature. Whether it is "the" great American novel is of
interest only to literary politicians and pigeon-holers; it is "a"
great novel, whether of America or Europe, and that suffices for the
lover of belles lettres.


In considering the work of such writers as these and the authors
represented in this little pioneer volume one should bear continually
in mind the many handicaps under which authorship labors in Portuguese
and Spanish America: a small reading public, lack of publishers,
widespread prevalence of illiteracy, instability of politics. Under the
circumstances it is not so much to be wondered at that the best work is
of such a high average as that it was done at all. For in nations where
education is so limited and illiteracy so prevalent the manifold
functions which in more highly developed nations are performed by many
are perforce done by a few. Hence the spectacle in the new Spanish and
Portuguese world, as in the old, of men and women who are at once
journalists, novelists, dramatists, politicians, soldiers, poets and
what not else. Such a versatility, often joined to a literary
prolixity, no doubt serves to lower the artistic worth of works
produced under such conditions.

In connection with the special character of the tales included in the
present sample of modern Brazilian short stories,--particularly those
by Machado de Assis and Medeiros e Albuquerque--it is interesting to
keep in mind the popularity of Poe and Hawthorne in South America. The
introspection of these men, as of de Maupassant and kindred spirits,
appeals to a like characteristic of the Brazilians. Such inner seeking,
however, such preoccupation with psychological problems, does not
often, in these writers, reach the point or morbidity which we have
become accustomed to expect in the novels and tales of the Russians.
Stories like _The Attendant's Confession_ are written with a refinement
of thought as well as of language. They are not, as so much of
Brazilian literature must perforce seem to the stranger's mind, exotic.
They belong to the letters of the world by virtue of the human appeal
of the subject and the mastery of their treatment.

Chief among the writers here represented stands Joaquim Maria Machado
de Assis. (1839-1908). Born in Rio de Janeiro of poor parents he was
early beset with difficulties. He soon found his way into surroundings
where his literary tastes were awakened and where he came into contact
with some of the leading spirits of the day. The noted literary
historians of his country, Sylvio Roméro and Joao Ribeiro (in their
_Compendio de Historia da Litteratura Brazileira_) find the writing of
his first period of little value. The next decade, from his thirtieth
to his fortieth year, is called transitional. With the year 1879,
however, Machado de Assis began a long phase of maturity that was to
last for thirty years. It was during this fruitful period that
_Memorias Postumas de Braz Cubas, Quincas Borbas, Historias Sem Data,
Dom Casmurro, Varias Historias_ and other notable works were produced.
The three tales by Machado de Assis in this volume are translated from
his _Varias Historias_. That same bitter-sweet philosophy and gracious,
if penetrating, irony which inform these tales are characteristic of
his larger romances. Four volumes of poetry sustain his reputation as
poet. He is found, by Roméro and Ribeiro, to be very correct and
somewhat cold in his verse. He took little delight in nature and lacked
the passionate, robust temperament that projects itself upon pages of
ardent beauty. In the best of his prose works, however, he penetrates
as deep as any of his countrymen into the abyss of the human soul.

The judgment of Verissimo upon Machado de Assis differs somewhat from
that of his distinguished compatriots. Both because of the importance
of Machado de Assis to Brazilian literature, and as an insight into
Verissimo's delightful critical style, I translate somewhat at length
from that writer.

"With _Varias Historias_," he says in his studies of Brazilian letters,
"Sr. Machado de Assis published his fifteenth volume and his fifth
collection of tales ... To say that in our literature Machado de Assis
is a figure apart, that he stands with good reason first among our
writers of fiction, that he possesses a rare faculty of assimilation
and evolution which makes him a writer of the second Romantic
generation, always a contemporary, a modern, without on this account
having sacrificed anything to the latest literary fashion or copied
some brand-new aesthetic, above all conserving his own distinct,
singular personality ... is but to repeat what has been said many times
already. All these judgments are confirmed by his latest book, wherein
may be noted the same impeccable correctness of language, the same firm
grasp upon form, the same abundancy, force and originality of thought
that make of him the only thinker among our writers of fiction, the
same sad, bitter irony ...

"After this there was published another book by Sr. Machado de Assis,
_Yayá Garcia_. Although this is really a new edition, we may well
speak of it here since the first, published long before, is no longer
remembered by the public. Moreover, this book has the delightful and
honest charm of being in the writer's first manner.

"But let us understand at once, this reference to Machado de Assis's
first manner. In this author more than once is justified the critical
concept of the unity of works displayed by the great writers. All of
Machado de Assis is practically present in his early works; in fact, he
did not change, he scarcely developed. He is the most individual, the
most personal, the most 'himself' of our writers; all the germs of this
individuality that was to attain in _Braz Cubas_, in _Quincas Borbas_,
in the _Papeis Avulsos_ and in _Varias Historias_ its maximum of
virtuosity, may be discovered in his first poems and in his earliest
tales. His second manner, then, of which these books are the best
example, is only the logical, natural, spontaneous development of his
first, or rather, it is the first manner with less of the romantic and
more of the critical tendencies ... The distinguishing trait of Machado
de Assis is that he is, in our literature, an artist and a philosopher.
Up to a short time ago he was the only one answering to such a
description. Those who come after him proceed consciously and
unconsciously from him, some of them being mere worthless imitators. In
this genre, if I am not misemploying that term, he remained without a
peer. Add that this philosopher is a pessimist by temperament and by
conviction, and you will have as complete a characterization as it is
possible to design of so strong and complex a figure as his in two
strokes of the pen.

"_Yayá Garcia_, like _Resurreiçao_ and _Helena_, is a romantic account,
perhaps the most romantic written by the author. Not only the most
romantic, but perhaps the most emotional. In the books that followed it
is easy to see how the emotion is, one might say, systematically
repressed by the sad irony of a disillusioned man's realism." Verissimo
goes on to imply that such a work as this merits comparison with the
humane books of Tolstoi. But this only on the surface. "For at bottom,
it contains the author's misanthropy. A social, amiable misanthropy,
curious about everything, interested in everything,--what is, in the
final analysis, a way of loving mankind without esteeming it...

"The excellency with which the author of _Yayá Garcia_ writes our
language is proverbial ... The highest distinction of the genius of
Machado de Assis in Brazilian literature is that he is the only truly
universal writer we possess, without ceasing on that account to be
really Brazilian."

When the Brazilian Academy of letters was founded in 1897, Machado de
Assis was unanimously elected president and held the position until his
death. Oliveira Lima, who lectured at Harvard during the college season
of 1915-1916, and who is himself one of the great intellectual forces
of contemporary Brazil, has written of Machado de Assis: "By his
extraordinary talent as writer, by his profound literary dignity, by
the unity of a life that was entirely devoted to the cult of
intellectual beauty, and by the prestige exerted about him by his work
and by his personality, Machado de Assis succeeded, despite a nature
that was averse to acclaim and little inclined to public appearance, in
being considered and respected as the first among his country's
men-of-letters: the head, if that word can denote the idea, of a
youthful literature which already possesses its traditions and
cherishes above all its glories ... His life was one of the most
regulated and peaceful after he had given up active journalism, for
like so many others, he began his career as a political reporter,
paragrapher and dramatic critic."

Coelho Netto (Anselmo Ribas, 1864- ) is known to his countrymen as a
professor of literature at Rio de Janeiro. His career has covered the
fields of journalism, politics, education and fiction. Although his
work is of uneven worth, no doubt because of his unceasing
productivity, he is reckoned by so exacting a critic as Verissimo as
one of Brazil's most important writers,--one of the few, in fact, that
will be remembered by posterity. Among his best liked stories are
"Death," "The Federal Capital," "Paradise," "The Conquest," and
"Mirage." Netto's short stories are very popular; at one time every
other youth in Brazil was imitating his every mannerism. He is
particularly felicitous in his descriptions of tropical nature, which
teem with glowing life and vivid picturesqueness.

Coelho Netto is considered one of the chief writers of the modern
epoch. "He is really an idealist," writes Verissimo, "but an idealist
who has drunk deeply of the strong, dangerous milk of French
naturalism." He sees nature through his soul rather than his eyes, and
has been much influenced by the mystics of Russia, Germany and
Scandinavia. His style is derived chiefly from the Portuguese group of
which Eça de Queiroz is the outstanding figure, and his language has
been much affected by this attachment to the mother country. His chief
stylistic quality is an epic note, tempered by a sentimental lyricism.

In his book _Le Roman au Brésil_ (The Novel in Brazil, which I believe
the author himself translated from the original Portuguese into French)
Benedicto Costa, after considering Aluizio Azevedo as the exponent of
Brazilian naturalism and the epicist of the race's sexual instincts,
turns to Coelho Netto's neo-romanticism, as the "eternal praise of
nature, the incessant, exaggerated exaltation of the landscape..." In
Netto he perceives the most Brazilian, the least European of the
republic's authors. "One may say of him what Taine said of Balzac: 'A
sort of literary elephant, capable of bearing prodigious burdens, but
heavy-footed.' And in fact ... he reveals a great resemblance to
Balzac,--a relative Balzac, for the exclusive use of a people,--but a
Balzac none the less."

Despite his lack of ideas, his mixture of archaisms, neologisms, his
exuberance, his slow development of plots, his lack of proportion
(noticeable, naturally, in his longer works rather than in his short
fiction) he stands pre-eminent as a patron of the nation's intellectual
youth and as the romancer of its opulent imagination.

Medeiros e Albuquerque (1867- ) is considered by some critics to be the
leading exponent in the country of "the manner of de Maupassant,
enveloped by an indefinable atmosphere that seems to bring back Edgar
Allan Poe." He has been director-general of public instruction in Rio
de Janeiro, professor at the Normal School and the National School of
Fine Arts, and also a deputy from Pernambuco. With the surprising
versatility of so many South Americans he has achieved a reputation as
poet, novelist, dramatist, publicist, journalist and philosopher.


The part that women have played in the progress of the South American
republics is as interesting as it is little known. The name of the
world's largest river--the Amazon, or more exactly speaking, the
Amazons--stands as a lasting tribute to the bravery of the early women
whom the explorer Orellana encountered during his conquest of the
mighty flood.[3] For he named the river in honor of the tribes'
fighting heroines. Centuries later, when one by one the provinces of
South America rose to liberate themselves from the Spanish yoke, the
women again played a noble part in the various revolutions. The statue
in Colombia to Policarpa Salavarieta is but a symbol of South American
gratitude to a host of women who fought side by side with their
husbands during the trying days of the early nineteenth century. One of
them, Manuela la Tucumana, was even made an officer in the Argentine

      [3] This derivation of the river's name is by many considered
      fanciful. A more likely source of the designation is the Indian
      word "Amassona," i.e., boat-destroyer, referring to the tidal
      phenomenon known as "bore" or "proroca," which sometimes uproots
      tress and sweeps away whole tracts of land.

If women, however, have enshrined themselves in the patriotic annals of
the Southern republics, they have shown that they are no less the
companions of man in the more or less agreeable arts of peace. When one
considers the great percentage of illiteracy that still prevails in
Southern America, and the inferior intellectual position which for
years has been the lot of woman particularly in the Spanish and
Portuguese nations, it is surprising that woman's prominence in the
literary world should be what it is.

The name of the original seventeenth century spirit known as Sor Inés
de la Cruz (Mexico) is part of Spanish literature. Only recently has
she been indicated as her nation's first folklorist and feminist! Her
poems have found their way into the anthologies of universal poesy. The
most distinguished Spanish poetess of the nineteenth century, Gertrudis
Gómez de Avellaneda, was a Cuban by birth, going later to Spain, where
she was readily received as one of the nation's leading literary
lights. Her poetry is remarkable for its virile passion; her novel
"Sab" has been called the Spanish "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for its stirring
protest against slavery and its idealization of the oppressed race. She
was a woman of striking beauty, yet so vigorous in her work and the
prosecution of it that one facetious critic was led to exclaim, "This
woman is a good deal of a man!"

But South America has its native candidate for the title of Spanish
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," and this, too, is the work of a woman. Clorinda
Matto's "Aves Sin Nido" (Birds Without a Nest) is by one of Peru's most
talented women, and exposes the disgraceful exploitation of the Indians
by conscienceless citizens and priests who had sunk beneath their holy
calling. It seems, indeed, that fiction as a whole in Peru has been
left to the pens of the women. Such names as Joana Manuele Girriti de
Belzu, Clorinda Matto and Mercedes Cabello de Carbonero stand for what
is best in the South American novel. The epoch in which these women
wrote (late nineteenth century) and the natural feminine tendency to
put the house in order (whether it be the domestic or the national
variety) led to such stories as Carbonero's "Las Consequencias," "El
Conspirador" and "Blanca Sol." The first of these is an indictment of
the Peruvian vice of gambling; the second throws an interesting light
upon the origin of much of the internal strife of South America, and
portrays a revolution brought on by the personal disappointment of a
politician. "Blanca Sol" has been called a Peruvian "Madame Bovary."

Although Brazil has not yet produced any Amazons of poetry or fiction
to stand beside such names as Sor Inés de la Cruz or Gertrudis Gómez de
Avallaneda, it has contributed some significant names to the women
writers of Latin America. Not least among these is Carmen Dolores
(Emilia Moncorvo Bandeira de Mello) who was born in 1852 at Rio de
Janeiro and died in 1910, after achieving a wide reputation in the
field of the short story, novel and feuilleton. In addition to these
activities she made herself favorably known in the press of Rio, Sao
Paulo and Pernambuco. Her career started with the novel _Confession_.
Other works are _The Struggle_, _A Country Drama_, and _Brazilian
Legends_. The story in this volume is taken from a collection entitled
_The Complex Soul_.

                *     *     *     *     *     *     *

The present selection of tales makes no pretense at completeness,
finality or infallibility of choice. This little book is, so to speak,
merely a modest sample-case. Some of the tales first appeared, in
English, in the _Boston Evening Transcript_ and the _Stratford Journal_
(Boston), to which organs I am indebted for permission to reprint them.


_Roxbury, Mass._


By Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

First President of the Brazilian Academy of Letters

So it really seems to you that what happened to me in 1860 is worth
while writing down? Very well. I'll tell you the story, but on the
condition that you do not divulge it before my death. You'll not have
to wait long--a week at most; I am a marked man.

I could have told you the story of my whole life, which holds many
other interesting details: but for that there would be needed time,
courage and paper. There is plenty of paper, indeed, but my courage is
at low ebb, and as to the time that is yet left me, it may be compared
to the life of a candle-flame. Soon tomorrow's sun will rise--a demon
sun as impenetrable as life itself. So goodbye, my dear sir; read this
and bear me no ill will; pardon me those things that will appear evil
to you and do not complain too much if there is exhaled a disagreeable
odor which is not exactly that of the rose. You asked me for a human
document. Here it is. Ask me for neither the empire of the Great Mogul
nor a photograph of the Maccabees; but request, if you will, my dead
man's shoes, and I'll will them to you and no other.

You already know that this took place in 1860. The year before, about
the month of August, at the age of forty-two, I had become a
theologian--that is, I copied the theological studies of a priest at
Nictheroy, an old college-chum, who thus tactfully gave me my board and
lodging. In that same month of August, 1859, he received a letter from
the vicar of a small town in the interior, asking if he knew of an
intelligent, discreet and patient person who would be willing, in
return for generous wages, to serve as attendant to the invalid Colonel
Felisbert. The priest proposed that I take the place, and I accepted it
eagerly, for I was tired of copying Latin quotations and ecclesiastic
formulas. First I went to Rio de Janeiro to take leave of a brother who
lived at the capital, and from there I departed for the little village
of the interior.

When I arrived there I heard bad news concerning the colonel. He was
pictured to me as a disagreeable, harsh, exacting fellow; nobody could
endure him, not even his own friends. He had used more attendants than
medicines. In fact he had broken the faces of two of them. But to all
this I replied that I had no fear of persons in good health, still less
of invalids. So, after first visiting the vicar, who confirmed all that
I had heard and recommended to me charity and forbearance, I turned
toward the colonel's residence.

I found him on the veranda of his house, stretched out on a chair and
suffering greatly. He received me fairly well. At first he examined me
silently, piercing me with his two feline eyes; then a kind of
malicious smile spread over his features, which were rather hard.
Finally he declared to me that all the attendants he had ever engaged
in his service hadn't been worth a button, that they slept too much,
were impudent and spent their time courting the servants; two of them
were even thieves.

"And you, are you a thief?"

"No, sir."

Then he asked me my name. Scarcely had I uttered it when he made a
gesture of astonishment.

"Your name is Colombo?"

"No, sir. My name is Procopio José Gomes Vallongo."

Vallongo?--He came to the conclusion that this was no Christian name
and proposed thenceforth to call me simply Procopio. I replied that it
should be just as he pleased.

If I recall this incident, it is not only because it seems to me to
give a good picture of the colonel, but also to show you that my reply
made a very good impression upon him. The next day he told the vicar
so, adding that he had never had a more sympathetic attendant. The fact
is, we lived a regular honeymoon that lasted one week.

From the dawn of the eighth day I knew the life of my predecessors--a
dog's life. I no longer slept. I no longer thought of anything, I was
showered with insults and laughed at them from time to time with an air
of resignation and submission, for I had discovered that this was a way
of pleasing him. His impertinences proceeded as much from his malady as
from his temperament. His illness was of the most complicated: he
suffered from aneurism, rheumatism and three or four minor affections.
He was nearly sixty, and since he had been five years old had been
accustomed to having everybody at his beck and call. That he was surly
one could well forgive; but he was also very malicious. He took
pleasure in the grief and the humiliation of others. At the end of
three months I was tired of putting up with him and had resolved to
leave; only the opportunity was lacking.

But that came soon enough. One day, when I was a bit late in giving him
a massage, he took his cane and struck me with it two or three times.
That was the last straw. I told him on the spot that I was through with
him and I went to pack my trunk. He came later to my room; he begged me
to remain, assured me that there wasn't anything to be angry at, that I
must excuse the ill-humoredness of old age ... He insisted so much that
I agreed to stay.

"I am nearing the end, Procopio," he said to me that evening. "I can't
live much longer. I am upon the verge of the grave. You will go to my
burial, Procopio. Under no circumstances will I excuse you. You shall
go, you shall pray over my tomb. And if you don't," he added, laughing,
"my ghost will come at night and pull you by the legs. Do you believe
in souls of the other world, Procopio?"


"And why don't you, you blockhead?" he replied passionately, with
distended eyes.

That is how he was in his peaceful intervals; what he was during his
attacks of anger, you may well imagine!

He hit me no more with his cane, but his insults were the same, if not
worse. With time I became hardened, I no longer heeded anything; I was
an ignoramus, a camel, a bumpkin, an idiot, a loggerhead--I was
everything! It must further be understood that I alone was favored with
these pretty names. He had no relatives; there had been a nephew, but
he had died of consumption. As to friends, those who came now and then
to flatter him and indulge his whims made him but a short visit, five
or ten minutes at the most. I alone was always present to receive his
dictionary of insults. More than once I resolved to leave him; but as
the vicar would exhort me not to abandon the colonel I always yielded
in the end.

Not only were our relations becoming very much strained, but I was in a
hurry to get back to Rio de Janeiro. At forty-two years of age one does
not easily accustom himself to perpetual seclusion with a brutal,
snarling old invalid, in the depths of a remote village. Just to give
you an idea of my isolation, let it suffice to inform you that I didn't
even read the newspapers; outside of some more or less important piece
of news that was brought to the colonel, I knew nothing of what was
doing in the world. I therefore yearned to get back to Rio at the first
opportunity, even at the cost of breaking with the vicar. And I may as
well add--since I am here making a general confession--that having
spent nothing of my wages, I was itching to dissipate them at the

Very probably my chance was approaching. The colonel was rapidly
getting worse. He made his will, the notary receiving almost as many
insults as did I. The invalid's treatment became more strict; short
intervals of peace and rest became rarer than ever for me. Already I
had lost the meagre measure of pity that made me forget the old
invalid's excesses; within me there seethed a cauldron of aversion and
hatred. At the beginning of the month of August I decided definitely to
leave. The vicar and the doctor, finally accepting my explanations,
asked me but a few days' more service. I gave them a month. At the end
of that time I would depart, whatever might be the condition of the
invalid. The vicar promised to find a substitute for me.

You'll see now what happened. On the evening of the 24th of August the
colonel had a violent attack of anger; he struck me, he called me the
vilest names, he threatened to shoot me; finally he threw in my face a
plate of porridge that was too cold for him. The plate struck the wall
and broke into a thousand fragments.

"You'll pay me for it, you thief!" he bellowed.

For a long time he grumbled. Towards eleven o'clock he gradually fell
asleep. While he slept I took a book out of my pocket, a translation of
an old d'Arlincourt romance which I had found lying about, and began to
read it in his room, at a small distance from his bed. I was to wake
him at midnight to give him his medicine; but, whether it was due to
fatigue or to the influence of the book, I, too, before reaching the
second page, fell asleep. The cries of the colonel awoke me with a
start; in an instant I was up. He, apparently in a delirium, continued
to utter the same cries; finally he seized his water-bottle and threw
it at my face. I could not get out of the way in time; the bottle hit
me in the left cheek, and the pain was so acute that I almost lost
consciousness. With a leap I rushed upon the invalid; I tightened my
hands around his neck; he struggled several moments; I strangled him.

When I beheld that he no longer breathed, I stepped back in terror. I
cried out; but nobody heard me. Then, approaching the bed once more, I
shook him so as to bring him back to life. It was too late; the
aneurism had burst, and the colonel was dead. I went into the adjoining
room, and for two hours I did not dare to return. It is impossible for
me to express all that I felt during that time. It was intense
stupefaction, a kind of vague and vacant delirium. It seemed to me that
I saw faces grinning on the walls; I heard muffled voices. The cries of
the victim, the cries uttered before the struggle and during its wild
moments continued to reverberate within me, and the air, in whatever
direction I turned, seemed to shake with convulsions. Do not imagine
that I am inventing pictures or aiming at verbal style. I swear to you
that I heard distinctly voices that were crying at me: "Murderer;

All was quiet in the house. The tick-tick of the clock, very even,
slow, dryly metrical, increased the silence and solitude. I put my ear
to the door of the room, in hope of hearing a groan, a word, an insult,
anything that would be a sign of life, that might bring back peace to
my conscience; I was ready to let myself be struck ten, twenty, a
hundred times, by the colonel's hand. But, nothing--all was silent. I
began to pace the room aimlessly; I sat down, I brought my hands
despairingly to my head; I repented ever having come to the place.

"Cursed be the hour in which I ever accepted such a position," I cried.
And I flamed with resentment against the priest of Nichteroy, against
the doctor, the vicar--against all those who had procured the place for
me and forced me to remain there so long. They, too, I convinced
myself, were accomplices in my crime.

As the silence finally terrified me, I opened a window, in the hope of
hearing at least the murmuring of the wind. But no wind was blowing.
The night was peaceful. The stars were sparkling with the indifference
of those who remove their hats before a passing funeral procession and
continue to speak of other things. I remained at the window for some
time, my elbows on the sill, my gaze seeking to penetrate the night,
forcing myself to make a mental summary of my life so that I might
escape the present agony. I believe it was only then that I thought
clearly about the penalty of my crime. I saw myself already being
accused and threatened with dire punishment. From this moment fear
complicated my feeling of remorse. I felt my hair stand on end. A few
minutes later I saw three or four human shapes spying at me from the
terrace, where they seemed to be waiting in ambush; I withdrew; the
shapes vanished into the air; it had been an hallucination.

Before daybreak I bandaged the wounds that I had received in the face.
Then only did I pluck up enough courage to return to the other room.
Twice I started, only to turn back; but it must be done, so I entered.
Even then, I did not at first go to the bed. My legs shook, my heart
pounded. I thought of flight; but that would have been a confession of
the crime.... It was on the contrary very important for me to hide all
traces of it. I approached the bed. I looked at the corpse, with its
widely distended eyes and its mouth gaping, as if uttering the eternal
reproach of the centuries: "Cain, what hast thou done with thy
brother?" I discovered on the neck the marks of my nails; I buttoned
the shirt to the top, and threw the bed-cover up to the dead man's
chin. Then I called a servant and told him that the colonel had died
towards morning; I sent him to notify the vicar and the doctor.

The first idea that came to me was to leave as soon as possible under
the pretext that my brother was ill; and in reality I had received,
several days before, from Rio, a letter telling me that he was not at
all well. But I considered that my immediate departure might arouse
suspicion, and I decided to wait. I laid out the corpse myself, with
the assistance of an old, near-sighted negro. I remained continually in
the room of the dead. I trembled lest something out of the way should
be discovered. I wanted to assure myself that no mistrust could be read
upon the faces of the others; but I did not dare to look any person in
the eye. Everything made me impatient; the going and coming of those
who, on tip-toe crossed the room; their whisperings; the ceremonies and
the prayers of the vicar.... The hour having come, I closed the coffin,
but with trembling hands, so trembling that somebody noticed it and
commented upon it aloud, with pity.

"Poor Procopio! Despite what he has suffered from his master, he is
strongly moved."

It sounded like irony to me. I was anxious to have it all over with. We
went out. Once in the street the passing from semi-obscurity to
daylight dazed me and I staggered. I began to fear that it would no
longer be possible for me to conceal the crime. I kept my eyes steadily
fixed upon the ground and took my place in the procession. When all was
over, I breathed once more. I was at peace with man. But I was not at
peace with my conscience, and the first nights, naturally, I spent in
restlessness and affliction. Need I tell you that I hastened to return
to Rio de Janeiro, and that I dwelt there in terror and suspense,
although far removed from the scene of the crime? I never smiled; I
scarcely spoke; I ate very little; I suffered hallucinations and

"Let the dead rest in peace," they would say to me. "It is out of all
reason to show so much melancholy."

And I was happy to find how people interpreted my symptoms, and praised
the dead man highly, calling him a good soul, surly, in truth, but with
a heart of gold. And as I spoke in such wise, I convinced myself, at
least for a few moments at a time. Another interesting phenomenon was
taking place within me--I tell it to you because you will perhaps make
some useful deduction from it--and that was, although I had very little
religion in me, I had a mass sung for the eternal rest of the colonel
at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. I sent out no invitations to
it, I did not whisper a word of it to anybody; I went there alone. I
knelt during the whole service and made many signs of the cross. I paid
the priest double and distributed alms at the door, all in the name of
the deceased.

I wished to deceive nobody. The proof of this lies in the fact that I
did all this without letting any other know. To complete this incident,
I may add that I never mentioned the colonel without repeating, "May
his soul rest in peace!" And I told several funny anecdotes about him,
some amusing caprices of his ...

About a week after my arrival at Rio I received a letter from the
vicar. He announced that the will of the colonel had been opened and
that I was there designated as his sole heir. Imagine my stupefaction!
I was sure that I had read wrongly; I showed it to my brother, to
friends; they all read the same thing. It was there in black and white,
I was really the sole heir of the colonel. Then I suddenly thought that
this was a trap to catch me, but then I considered that there were
other ways of arresting me, if the crime had been discovered. Moreover,
I knew the vicar's honesty, and I was sure that he would not be a party
to such a plan. I reread the letter five times, ten times, a hundred
times; it was true. I was the colonel's sole heir!

"How much was he worth?" my brother asked me.

"I don't know, but I know that he was very wealthy."

"Really, he's shown that he was a very true friend to you."

"He certainly was--he was...."

Thus, by a strange irony of fate, all the colonel's wealth came into my
hands. At first I thought of refusing the legacy. It seemed odious to
take a sou of that inheritance; it seemed worse than the reward of a
hired assassin. For three days this thought obsessed me; but more and
more I was thrust against this consideration: that my refusal would not
fail to awake suspicion. Finally I settled upon a compromise; I would
accept the inheritance and would distribute it in small sums, secretly.

This was not merely scruple on my part, it was also the desire to
redeem my crime by virtuous deeds; and it seemed the only way to
recover my peace of mind and feel that accounts were straight.

I made hurried preparations and left. As I neared the little village
the sad event returned obstinately to my memory. Everything about the
place, as I looked at it once again, suggested tragic deeds. At every
turn in the road I seemed to see the ghost of the colonel loom. And
despite myself, I evoked in my imagination his cries, his struggles,
his looks on that horrible night of the crime....

Crime or struggle? Really, it was rather a struggle; I had been
attacked, I had defended myself; and in self-defence.... It had been an
unfortunate struggle, a genuine tragedy. This idea gripped me. And I
reviewed all the abuse he had heaped upon me; I counted the blows, the
names ... It was not the colonel's fault, that I knew well; it was his
affliction that made him so peevish and even wicked. But I pardoned
all, everything!... The worst of it was the end of that fatal night ...
I also considered that in any case the colonel had not long to live.
His days were numbered; did not he himself feel that? Didn't he say
every now and then, "How much longer have I to live? Two weeks, or one,
perhaps less?"

This was not life, it was slow agony, if one may so name the continual
martyrdom of that poor man.... And who knows, who can say that the
struggle and his death were not simply a coincidence? That was after
all quite possible, it was even most probable; careful weighing of the
matter showed that it couldn't have been otherwise. At length this
idea, too, engraved itself upon my mind....

Something tugged at my heart as I entered the village; I wanted to run
back; but I dominated my emotions and I pressed forward. I was received
with a shower of congratulations. The vicar communicated to me the
particulars of the will, enumerated the pious gifts, and, as he spoke,
praised the Christian forbearance and the faithfulness which I had
shown in my care of the deceased, who, despite his temper and
brutality, had so well demonstrated his gratitude.

"Certainly," I said, looking nervously around.

I was astounded. Everybody praised my conduct. Such patience, such
devotion. The first formalities of the inventory detained me for a
while; I chose a solicitor; things followed their course in regular
fashion. During this time there was much talk of the colonel. People
came and told me tales about him, but without observing the priest's
moderation. I defended the memory of the colonel. I recalled his good
qualities, his virtues; had he not been austere?...

"Austere!" they would interrupt. "Nonsense! He is dead, and it's all
over now. But he was a regular demon!"

And they would cite incidents and relate the colonel's perversities,
some of which were nothing less than extraordinary.

Need I confess it? At first I listened to all this talk with great
curiosity; then, a queer pleasure penetrated my heart, a pleasure from
which, sincerely, I tried to escape. And I continued to defend the
colonel; I explained him, I attributed much of the fault-finding to
local animosity; I admitted, yes, I admitted that he had been a trifle
exacting, somewhat violent....

"Somewhat! Why he was as furious as a snake!" exclaimed the barber.

And all--the collector, the apothecary, the clerk--all were of the same
opinion. And they would start to relate other anecdotes. They reviewed
the entire life of the deceased. The old folks took particular delight
in recalling the cruelties of his youth. And that queer pleasure,
intimate, mute, insidious, grew within me--a sort of moral tape-worm
whose coils I tore out in vain, for they would immediately form again
and take firmer hold than ever.

The formalities of the inventory afforded me a little relief; moreover,
public opinion was so unanimously unfavorable to the colonel that
little by little the place lost the lugubrious aspect that had at first
struck me. At last I entered into possession of the legacy, which I
converted into land-titles and cash.

Several months had elapsed, and the idea of distributing the
inheritance in charity and pious donations was by no means so strong as
it had at first been; it even seemed to me that this would be sheer
affectation. I revised my initial plan; I gave away several
insignificant sums to the poor; I presented the village church with a
few new ornaments; I gave several thousand francs to the Sacred House
of Mercy, etc. I did not forget to erect a monument upon the colonel's
grave--a very simple monument, all marble, the work of a Neapolitan
sculptor who remained at Rio until 1866, and who has since died, I
believe, in Paraguay.

Years have gone by. My memory has become vague and unreliable.
Sometimes I think of the colonel, but without feeling again the terrors
of those early days. All the doctors to whom I have described his
afflictions have been unanimous as regards the inevitable end in store
for the invalid, and were indeed surprised that he should so long have
resisted. It is just possible that I may have involuntarily exaggerated
the description of his various symptoms; but the truth is that he was
sure of sudden death, even had this fatality not occurred....

Good-bye, my dear sir. If you deem these notes not totally devoid of
value reward me for them with a marble tomb, and place there for my
epitaph this variant which I have made of the divine sermon on the

"Blessed are they who possess, for they shall be consoled."


By Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Hamlet observes to Horatio that there are more things in heaven and
earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. This was the selfsame
explanation that was given by beautiful Rita to her lover, Camillo, on
a certain Friday of November, 1869, when Camillo laughed at her for
having gone, the previous evening, to consult a fortune-teller. The
only difference is that she made her explanation in other words.

"Laugh, laugh. That's just like you men; you don't believe in anything.
Well, let me tell you, I went there and she guessed the reason for my
coming before I ever spoke a word. Scarcely had she begun to lay out
the cards when she said to me: 'The lady likes a certain person ...' I
confessed that it was so, and then she continued to rearrange the cards
in various combinations, finally telling me that I was afraid you would
forget me, but that there were no grounds for my fear."

"She was wrong!" interrupted Camillo with a laugh.

"Don't say that, Camillo. If you only realized in what anguish I went
there, all on account of you. You know. I've told you before. Don't
laugh at me; don't poke fun at me...."

Camillo seized her hands and gazed into her eyes earnestly and long. He
swore that he loved her ever so much, that her fears were childish; in
any case, should she ever harbor a fear, the best fortune-teller to
consult was he himself. Then he reproved her, saying that it was
imprudent to visit such houses. Villela might learn of it, and then ...

"Impossible! I was exceedingly careful when I entered the place."

"Where is the house?"

"Near here. On Guarda-Velha Street. Nobody was passing by at the time.
Rest easy. I'm not a fool."

Camillo laughed again.

"Do you really believe in such things?" he asked.

It was at this point that she translated Hamlet into every-day speech,
assuring her lover that there was many a true, mysterious thing in this
world. If he was skeptical, let him have patience. One thing, however,
was certain: the card reader had guessed everything. What more could he
desire? The best proof was that at this moment she was at ease and

He was about to speak, but he restrained himself. He did not wish to
destroy her illusions. He, too, when a child, and even later, had been
superstitious, filled with an arsenal of beliefs which his mother had
instilled, and which had disappeared by the time he reached twenty. The
day on which he rid himself of all this parasitic vegetation, leaving
behind only the trunk of religion, he wrapped his superstition and his
religion (which had both been inculcated by his mother) in the same
doubt, and soon arrived at a single, total negation. Camillo believed
in nothing. Why? He could not have answered; he had not a solitary
reason; he was content simply to deny everything. But I express myself
ill, for to deny is in a sense to affirm, and he did not formulate his
unbelief. Before the great mystery he simply shrugged his shoulders and
went on.

The lovers parted in good spirits, he more happy than she. Rita was
sure that she was loved; but Camillo was not only sure that she loved
him, but saw how she trembled for him and even took risks, running to
fortune-tellers. However much he had reproved her for this, he could
not help feeling flattered by it. Their secret meeting-place was in the
old Barbonos street at the home of a woman that came from Rita's
province. Rita went off through Mangueiras street, in the direction of
Botafogo, where she resided; Camillo entered Guarda-Velha street,
keeping his eye open, as he passed, for the home of the card reader.

Villela, Camillo and Rita: three names, one adventure and no
explanation of how it all began. Let us proceed to explain. The first
two were friends since earliest childhood. Villela had entered the
magistracy. Camillo found employment with the government, against the
will of his father, who desired him to embrace the medical profession.
But his father had died, and Camillo preferred to be nothing at all,
until his mother had procured him a departmental position. At the
beginning of the year 1869 Villela returned from the interior, where he
had married a silly beauty; he abandoned the magistracy and came hither
to open a lawyer's office. Camillo had secured a house for him near
Botafogo and had welcomed him home.

"Is this the gentleman?" exclaimed Rita, offering Camillo her hand.
"You can't imagine how highly my husband thinks of you. He was always
talking about you."

Camillo and Villela looked at each other tenderly. They were true
friends. Afterwards, Camillo confessed to himself that Villela's wife
did not at all belie the enthusiastic letters her husband had written
to him. Really, she was most prepossessing, lively in her movements,
her eyes burning, her mouth plastic and piquantly inquiring. Rita was a
trifle older than both the men: she was thirty, Villela twenty-nine and
Camillo twenty-six. The grave bearing of Villela gave him the
appearance of being much older than his wife, while Camillo was but a
child in moral and practical life.... He possessed neither experience
nor intuition.

The three became closely bound. Propinquity bred intimacy. Shortly
afterwards Camillo's mother died, and in this catastrophe, for such it
was, the other two showed themselves to be genuine friends of his.
Villela took charge of the interment, of the church services and the
settlement of the affairs of the deceased; Rita dispensed consolation,
and none could do it better.

Just how this intimacy between Camillo and Rita grew to love he never
knew. The truth is that he enjoyed passing the hours at her side; she
was his spiritual nurse, almost a sister,--but most of all she was a
woman, and beautiful. The aroma of femininity: this is what he yearned
for in her, and about her, seeking to incorporate it into himself. They
read the same books, they went together to the theatre or for walks. He
taught her cards and chess, and they played of nights;--she badly,--he,
to make himself agreeable, but little less badly. Thus much, as far as
external things are concerned. And now came personal intimacies, the
timorous eyes of Rita, that so often sought his own, consulting them
before they questioned those of her own husband,--the touches of cold
hands, and unwonted communion. On one of his birthdays he received from
Villela a costly cane, and from Rita, a hastily pencilled, ordinary
note expressing good wishes. It was then that he learned to read within
his own heart; he could not tear his eyes away from the missive.
Commonplace words, it is true; but there are sublime commonplaces,--or
at least, delightful ones. The old chaise in which for the first time
you rode with your beloved, snuggled together, is as good as the
chariot of Apollo. Such is man, and such are the circumstances that
surround him.

Camillo sincerely wished to flee the situation, but it was already
beyond his power. Rita, like a serpent, was charming him, winding her
coils about him; she was crushing his bones, darting her venomous fangs
into his lips. He was helpless, overcome. Vexation, fear, remorse,
desire,--all this he felt, in a strange confusion. But the battle was
short and the victory deliriously intoxicating. Farewell, all scruple!
The shoe now fitted snugly enough upon the foot, and there they were
both, launched upon the high road, arm in arm, joyfully treading the
grass and the gravel, without suffering anything more than lonesomeness
when they were away from each other. As to Villela, his confidence in
his wife and his esteem for his friend continued the same as before.

One day, however, Camillo received an anonymous letter, which called
him immoral and perfidious, and warned him that his adventure was known
to all. Camillo took fright, and, in order to ward off suspicion, began
to make his visits to Villela's house more rare. The latter asked him
the reason for his prolonged absence. Camillo answered that the cause
was a youthful flirtation. Simplicity evolved into cunning. Camillo's
absences became longer and longer, and then his visits ceased entirely.
Into this course there may have entered a little self-respect,--the
idea of diminishing his obligations to the husband in order to make his
own actions appear less treacherous.

It was at this juncture that Rita, uncertain and in fear, ran to the
fortune-teller to consult her upon the real reason for Camillo's
actions. As we have seen, the card reader restored the wife's
confidence and the young man reproved her for having done what she did.
A few weeks passed. Camillo received two or three more anonymous
letters, written with such passionate anger that they could not have
been prompted by mere regard for virtue; surely they came from some
violent rival of his. In this opinion Rita concurred, formulating, in
ill-composed words of her own, this thought: virtue is indolent and
niggardly, wasting neither time nor paper; only self-interest is alert
and prodigal.

But this did not help to ease Camillo; he now feared lest the anonymous
writer should inform Villela, in which case the catastrophe would
follow fast and implacably. Rita agreed that this was possible.

"Very well," she said. "Give me the envelopes in which the letters
came, so that I may compare the handwriting with that of the mail which
comes to him. If any arrives with writing resembling the anonymous
script, I'll keep it and tear it up ..."

But no such letter appeared. A short time after this, however, Villela
commenced to grow grave, speaking very little, as if something weighed
upon his mind. Rita hurried to communicate the change to her lover, and
they discussed the matter earnestly. Her opinion was that Camillo
should renew his visits to their home, and sound her husband; it might
be that Villela would confide to him some business worry. With this
Camillo disagreed; to appear after so many months was to confirm the
suspicions and denunciations of the anonymous letters. It was better to
be very careful, to give each other up for several weeks. They arranged
means for communicating with each other in case of necessity and
separated, in tears.

On the following day Camillo received at his department this letter
from Villela: "Come immediately to our house; I must talk to you
without delay." It was past noon. Camillo left at once; as he reached
the street it occurred to him that it would have been much more natural
for Villela to have called him to his office; why to his house? All
this betokened a very urgent matter; moreover, whether it was reality
or illusion, it seemed to Camillo that the letter was written in a
trembling hand. He sought to establish a connection between all these
things and the news Rita had brought him the night before.

"Come immediately to our house; I must talk to you without delay," he
repeated, his eyes staring at the note.

In his mind's eye he beheld the climax of a drama,--Rita cowed,
weeping; Villela indignant, seizing his pen and dashing off the letter,
certain that he, Camillo, would answer in person, and waiting to kill
him as he entered. Camillo shuddered with terror; then he smiled
weakly; in any event the idea of drawing back was repugnant to him. So
he continued on his way. As he walked it occurred to him to step into
his rooms; he might find there a message from Rita explaining
everything. But he found nothing, nobody. He returned to the street,
and the thought that they had been discovered grew every moment more
convincing; yes, the author of the previous anonymous communications
must have denounced him to the husband; perhaps by now Villela knew
all. The very suspension of his calls without any apparent reason, with
the flimsiest of pretexts, would confirm everything else.

Camillo walked hastily along, agitated, nervous. He did not read the
letter again, but the words hovered persistently before his eyes; or
else,--which was even worse--they seemed to be murmured into his ears
by the voice of Villela himself. "Come immediately to our house; I must
talk to you without delay." Spoken thus by the voice of the other they
seemed pregnant with mystery and menace. Come immediately,--why? It was
now nearly one o'clock. Camillo's agitation waxed greater with each
passing moment. So clearly did he imagine what was about to take place
that he began to believe it a reality, to see it before his very eyes.
Yes, without a doubt, he was afraid. He even considered arming himself,
thinking that if nothing should happen he would lose nothing by this
useful precaution. But at once he rejected the idea, angry with
himself, and hastened his step towards Carioca square, there to take a
tilbury. He arrived, entered and ordered the driver to be off at full

"The sooner the better," he thought. "I can't stand this uncertainty."

But the very sound of the horse's clattering hoofs increased his
agitation. Time was flying, and he would be face to face with danger
soon enough. When they had come almost to the end of Guarda-Velha
street the tilbury had to come to a stop; the thoroughfare was blocked
by a coach that had broken down. Camillo surveyed the obstruction and
decided to wait. After five minutes had gone by, he noticed that there
at his left, at the very foot of the tilbury, was the fortune teller's
house,--the very same as Rita had once consulted. Never, as at this
moment, had he so desired to believe in card-reading. He looked closer,
saw that the windows were closed, while all the others on the street
were opened, filled with folks curious to see what was the matter. It
looked for all the world like the dwelling of indifferent Fate.

Camillo leaned back in his seat so as to shut all this from view. His
excitement was intense, extraordinary, and from the deep, hidden
recesses of his mind there began to emerge spectres of early childhood,
old beliefs, banished superstitions. The coachman proposed another
route; he shook his head and said that he would wait. He leaned forward
to get a better look at the card-reader's house ... Then he made a
gesture of self-ridicule: it had entered his mind to consult the
fortune-teller, who seemed to be hovering over him, far, far above,
with vast, ash-colored wings; she disappeared, reappeared, and then her
image was lost; then, in a few moments, the ash-colored wings stirred
again, nearer, flying about him in narrowing circles ... In the street
men were shouting, dragging away the coach.

"There! Now! Push! That's it! Now!"

In a short while the obstruction was removed. Camillo closed his eyes,
trying to think of other things; but the voice of Rita's husband
whispered into his ears the words of the letter: "Come immediately ..."
And he could behold the anguish of the drama. He trembled. The house
seemed to look right at him. His feet instinctively moved as if to
leave the carriage and go in ... Camillo found himself before a long,
opaque veil ... he thought rapidly of the inexplicability of so many
things. The voice of his mother was repeating to him a host of
extraordinary happenings; and the very sentence of the Prince of
Denmark kept echoing within him:

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in our philosophy."

What could he lose by it, if...?

He jumped out to the pavement, just before the fortune-teller's door;
he told the driver to wait for him, and hastened into the entry,
ascending the stairs. There was little light, the stairs were worn away
from the many feet that had sought them, the banister was smooth and
sticky; but he saw and felt nothing. He stumbled up the stairs and
knocked. Nobody appearing, he was about to go down; but it was too late
now,--curiosity was whipping his blood and his heart beat with violent
throbs; he turned back to the door, and knocked once, twice, three
times. He beheld a woman; it was the card-reader. Camillo said that he
had come to consult her, and she bade him enter. Thence they climbed to
the attic by a staircase even worse than the first and buried in deeper
gloom. At the top there was a garret, ill lighted by a small window.
Old furniture, somber walls, and an air of poverty augmented, rather
than destroyed, the prestige of the occupant.

The fortune-teller told him to be seated before the table, and she sat
down on the opposite side with her back to the window, so that whatever
little light came from without fell full upon Camillo's face. She
opened a drawer and took out a pack of worn, filthy cards. While she
rapidly shuffled them she peered at him closely, not so much with a
direct gaze as from under her eyes. She was a woman of forty, Italian,
thin and swarthy, with large, sharp, cunning eyes. She placed three
cards upon the table, and said:

"Let us first see what has brought you here. The gentleman has just
received a severe shock and is in great fear ..."

Camillo, astonished, nodded affirmatively.

"And he wishes to know," she continued, "whether anything will happen
to him or not ..."

"To me and to her," he explained, excitedly.

The fortune-teller did not smile; she simply told him to wait. She took
the cards hastily once more and shuffled them with her long tapering
fingers whose nails were so long and unclean from neglect; she shuffled
them well, once, twice, thrice; then she began to lay them out.
Camillo's eyes were riveted upon her in anxious curiosity.

"The cards tell me ..."

Camillo leaned forward to drink in her words one by one. Then she told
him to fear nothing. Nothing would happen to him or to the other. He,
the third, was aware of nought. Nevertheless, great caution was
indispensable; envy and rivalry were at work. She spoke to him of the
love that bound them, of Rita's beauty ... Camillo was bewildered. The
fortune-teller stopped talking, gathered the cards and locked them in
the drawer.

"The lady has restored peace to my spirit," he said, offering her his
hand across the table and pressing that of the card-reader.

She arose, laughing.

"Go," she said. "Go, _ragazzo innamorato_ ..."[4]

      [4] Italian for "love-sick boy," "young lover," etc.

And arising, she touched his head with her index finger. Camillo
shuddered, as if it were the hand of one of the original sybils, and
he, too, arose. The fortune-teller went to the bureau, upon which lay a
plate of raisins, took a cluster of them and commenced to eat them,
showing two rows of teeth that were as white as her nails were black.
Even in this common action the woman possessed an air all her own.
Camillo, anxious to leave, was at a loss how much to pay; he did not
know her fee.

"Raisins cost money," he said, at length, taking out his pocket-book.
"How much do you want to send for?"

"Ask your heart," she replied.

Camillo took out a note for ten milreis'[5] and gave it to her. The
eyes of the card-reader sparkled. Her usual fee was two milreis.

      [5] In United States money ten Brazilian milreis are equivalent
      to about $5.50.

"I can see easily that the gentleman loves his lady very much ... And
well he may. For she loves the gentleman very deeply, too. Go, go in
peace, with your mind at ease. And take care as you descend the
staircase,--it's dark. Don't forget your hat ..."

The fortune-teller had already placed the note in her pocket, and
accompanied him down the stairs, chatting rather gaily. At the bottom
of the first flight Camillo bid her good-bye and ran down the stairs
that led to the street, while the card-reader, rejoicing in her large
fee, turned back to the garret, humming a barcarolle. Camillo found the
tilbury waiting for him; the street was now clear. He entered and the
driver whipped his horse into a fast trot.

To Camillo everything had now changed for the better and his affairs
assumed a brighter aspect; the sky was clear and the faces of the
people he passed were all so merry. He even began to laugh at his
fears, which he now saw were puerile; he recalled the language of
Villela's letter and perceived at once that it was most friendly and
familiar. How in the world had he ever been able to read any threat of
danger into those words! He suddenly realized that they were urgent,
however, and that he had done ill to delay so long; it might be some
very serious business affair.

"Faster, faster!" he cried to the driver.

And he began to think of a plausible explanation of his delay; he even
contemplated taking advantage of this incident to re-establish his
former intimacy in Villela's household ... Together with his plans
there kept echoing in his soul the words of the fortune-teller. In
truth, she had guessed the object of his visit, his own state of mind,
and the existence of a third; why, then, wasn't it reasonable to
suppose that she had guessed the rest correctly, too? For, the unknown
present is the same as the future. And thus, slowly and persistently
the young man's childhood superstitions attained the upper hand and
mystery clutched him in its iron claws. At times he was ready to burst
into laughter, and with a certain vexation he did laugh at himself. But
the woman, the cards, her dry, reassuring words, and her good-bye--"Go,
go, _ragazzo innamorato_," and finally, that farewell barcarolle, so
lively and gracious,--such were the new elements which, together with
the old, formed within him a new and abiding faith.

The truth is that his heart was happy and impatient, recalling the
happy hours of the past and anticipating those yet to come. As he
passed through Gloria street Camillo gazed across the sea, far across
where the waters and the heaven meet in endless embrace, and the sight
gave him a sensation of the future,--long, long and infinite.

From here it was but a moment's drive to Villela's home. He stepped
out, thrust the iron garden gate open and entered. The house was
silent. He ran up the six stone steps and scarcely had he had time to
knock when the door opened and Villela loomed before him.

"Pardon my delay. It was impossible to come sooner. What is the

Villela made no reply. His features were distorted; he beckoned Camillo
to step within. As he entered, Camillo could not repress a cry of
horror:--there upon the sofa lay Rita, dead in a pool of blood. Villela
seized the lover by the throat and, with two bullets, stretched him
dead upon the floor.


By Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

    End of time. Ahasverus, seated upon a rock, gazes for a long while
    upon the horizon, athwart which wing two eagles, crossing each
    other in their path. He meditates, then falls into a doze. The day

AHASVERUS. I have come to the end of time; this is the threshold of
eternity. The earth is deserted; no other man breathes the air of life.
I am the last; I can die. Die! Precious thought! For centuries of
centuries I have lived, wearied, mortified, wandering ever, but now the
centuries are coming to an end, and I shall die with them. Ancient
nature, farewell! Azure sky, clouds ever reborn, roses of a day and of
every day, perennial waters, hostile earth that never would devour my
bones, farewell! The eternal wanderer will wander no longer. God may
pardon me if He wishes, but death will console me. That mountain is as
unyielding as my grief; those eagles that fly yonder must be as
famished as my despair. Shall you, too, die, divine eagles?

PROMETHEUS. Of a surety the race of man is perished; the earth is bare
of them.

AHASVERUS. I hear a voice.... The voice of a human being? Implacable
heavens, am I not then the last? He approaches.... Who are you? There
shines in your large eyes something like the mysterious light of the
archangels of Israel; you are not a human being?...


AHASVERUS. Of a race divine, then?

PROMETHEUS. You have said it.

AHASVERUS. I do not know you; but what matters it that I do not? You
are not a human being; then I may die; for I am the last and I close
the gate of life.

PROMETHEUS. Life, like ancient Thebes, has a hundred gates. You close
one, and others will open. You are the last of your species? Then
another better species will come, made not of clay, but of the light
itself. Yes, last of men, all the common spirits will perish forever;
the flower of them it is which will return to earth and rule. The ages
will be rectified. Evil will end; the winds will thenceforth scatter
neither the germs of death nor the clamor of the oppressed, but only
the song of love everlasting and the benediction of universal

AHASVERUS. What can all this posthumous joy matter to the species that
dies with me? Believe me, you who are immortal, to the bones that rot
in the earth the purples of Sidonia are worthless. What you tell me is
even better than what Campanella dreamed. In that man's ideal city
there were delights and ills; yours excludes all mortal and physical
ailments. May the Lord hear you! But let me go and die.

PROMETHEUS. Go, go. But why this haste to end your days?

AHASVERUS. The haste of a man who has lived for thousands of years.
Yes, thousands of years. Men who existed scarcely scores of them
invented a feeling of ennui, _tedium vitae_, which they could never
know, at least in all its implacable and vast reality, because it is
necessary to have journeyed through all the generations and all the
cataclysms to feel that profound surfeit of existence.

PROMETHEUS. Thousands of years?

AHASVERUS. My name Is Ahasverus; I dwelt in Jerusalem at the time they
were about to crucify Christ. When he passed my door he weakened under
the burden of the beam that he carried on his shoulders, and I thrust
him onward, admonishing him not to stop, not to rest, to continue on
his way to the hill where he was to be crucified.... Then there came a
voice from heaven, telling me that I, too, should have to journey
forever, continuously, until the end of time. Such was my crime; I felt
no pity for him who was going to his death. I do not know myself how it
came about. The Pharisees said that the son of Mary had come to destroy
the law, and that he must be slain; I, ignorant wretch, wished to
display my zeal and hence my action of that day. How many times have I
seen the same thing since, traveling unceasingly through cities and
ages! Whenever zealotry penetrated into a submissive soul, it became
cruel or ridiculous. My crime was unpardonable.

PROMETHEUS. A grave crime, in truth, but the punishment was lenient.
The other men read but a chapter of life; you have read the whole book.
What does one chapter know of the other chapter? Nothing. But he who
has read them all, connects them and concludes. Are there melancholy
pages? There are merry and happy ones, too. Tragic convulsion precedes
that of laughter; life burgeons from death; swans and swallows change
climate, without ever abandoning it entirely; and thus all is
harmonized and begun anew. You have beheld this, not ten times, not a
thousand times, but ever; you have beheld the magnificence of the earth
curing the affliction of the soul, and the joy of the soul compensating
for the desolation of things; the alternating dance of Nature, who
gives her left hand to Job and her right to Sardanapalus.

AHASVERUS. What do you know of my life? Nothing; you are ignorant of
human existence.

PROMETHEUS. I, ignorant of human life? How laughable! Come, perpetual
man, explain yourself. Tell me everything; you left Jerusalem ...

AHASVERUS. I left Jerusalem. I began my wandering through the ages. I
journeyed everywhere, whatever the race, the creed, the tongue; suns
and snows, barbarous and civilized peoples, islands, continents;
wherever a man breathed, there breathed I. I never labored. Labor is a
refuge, and that refuge was denied me. Every morning I found upon me
the necessary money for the day ... See; this is the last
apportionment. Go, for I need you no longer. (_He draws forth the money
and throws it away._) I did not work; I just journeyed, ever and ever,
one day after another, year after year unendingly, century after
century. Eternal justice knew what it was doing: it added idleness to
eternity. One generation bequeathed me to the other. The languages, as
they died, preserved my name like a fossil. With the passing of time
all was forgotten; the heroes faded into myths, into shadow, and
history crumbled to fragments, only two or three vague, remote
characteristics remaining to it. And I saw them in changing aspect. You
spoke of a chapter? Happy are those who read only one chapter of life.
Those who depart at the birth of empires bear with them the impression
of their perpetuity; those who die at their fall, are buried in the
hope of their restoration; but do you not realize what it is to see the
same things unceasingly,--the same alternation of prosperity and
desolation, desolation and prosperity, eternal obsequies and eternal
halleluiahs, dawn upon dawn, sunset upon sunset?

PROMETHEUS. But you did not suffer, I believe. It is something not to

AHASVERUS. Yes, but I saw other men suffer, and in the end the
spectacle of joy gave me the same sensations as the discourses of an
idiot. Fatalities of flesh and blood, unending strife,--I saw all pass
before my eyes, until night caused me to lose my taste for day, and now
I cannot distinguish flowers from thistles. Everything is confused in
my wearied retina.

PROMETHEUS. But nothing pained you personally; and what about me, from
time immemorial suffering the wrath of the gods?


PROMETHEUS. My name is Prometheus.

AHASVERUS. You! Prometheus!

PROMETHEUS. And what was my crime? Out of clay and water I made the
first men, and afterwards, seized with compassion, I stole for them
fire from the sky. Such was my crime. Jupiter, who then reigned over
Olympus, condemned me to the most cruel of tortures. Come, climb this
rock with me.

AHASVERUS. You are telling me a tale. I know that Hellenic myth.

PROMETHEUS. Incredulous old fellow! Come see the very chains that
fettered me; it was an excessive penalty for no crime whatever; but
divine pride is terrible ... See; there they are ...

AHASVERUS. And time, which gnaws all things, does not desire them,

PROMETHEUS. They were wrought by a divine hand. Vulcan forged them. Two
emissaries from heaven came to secure me to the rock, and an eagle,
like that which now is flying across the horizon, kept gnawing at my
liver without ever consuming it. This lasted for time beyond my
reckoning. No, no, you cannot imagine this torture ...

AHASVERUS. Are you not deceiving me? You, Prometheus? Was that not,
then, a figment of the ancient imagination?

PROMETHEUS. Look well at me; touch these hands. See whether I really

AHASVERUS. Then Moses lied to me. You are Prometheus, creator of the
first men?

PROMETHEUS. That was my crime.

AHASVERUS. Yes, it was your crime,--an artifice of hell; your crime was
inexpiable. You should have remained forever, bound and devoured,--you,
the origin of the ills that afflict me. I lacked compassion, it is
true; but you, who gave me life, perverse divinity, were the cause of

PROMETHEUS. Approaching death confuses your reason.

AHASVERUS. Yes, it is you; you have the Olympic forehead, strong and
beautiful Titan; it is you indeed ... Are these your chains? I see upon
them no trace of your tears.

PROMETHEUS. I wept them for your humankind.

AHASVERUS. And humanity wept far more because of your crime.

PROMETHEUS. Hear me, last of men, last of ingrates!

AHASVERUS. What need have I of your words? I desire your groans,
perverse divinity. Here are the chains. See how I raise them; listen to
the clank of the iron ... Who unbound you just now?


AHASVERUS. Hercules ... See whether he will repeat his service now that
you are to be bound anew.

PROMETHEUS. You are raving.

AHASVERUS. The sky gave you your first punishment, now earth will give
you the second and the last. Not even Hercules will ever be able to
break these fetters. See how I brandish them in the air, like feathers!
for I represent the power of millennial despairs. All humanity is
concentrated within me. Before I sink into the abyss, I will write upon
this stone the epitaph of a world. I will summon the eagle, and it will
come; I will tell it that the last man, on departing from life, leaves
him a god as a gift.

PROMETHEUS. Poor, ignorant wretch, who rejects a throne! No, you cannot
reject it.

AHASVERUS. Now it is you who are raving. Kneel, and let me manacle your
arms. So, 'tis well you will resist no more. Bend this way; now your
legs ...

PROMETHEUS. Have done, have done. It is the passions of earth turning
upon me; but I, who am not a human being, do not know ingratitude. You
will not be spared a jot of your destiny; it will be fulfilled to the
letter. You yourself will be the new Hercules. I, who announced the
glory of the other, now proclaim yours; and you will be no less
generous than he.

AHASVERUS. Are you mad?

PROMETHEUS. The truth unknown to man is the madness of him who
proclaims it. Proceed, and have done.

AHASVERUS. Glory pays nothing, and dies.

PROMETHEUS. This glory will never die. Have done; have done; show the
sharp beak of the eagle where it is to devour my entrails. But hear me
... No, hear nothing; you cannot understand me.

AHASVERUS. Speak; speak.

PROMETHEUS. The ephemeral world cannot understand the world eternal;
but you will be the link between the two.

AHASVERUS. Tell me everything.

PROMETHEUS. I speak nothing; fetter these wrists well, that I shall not
flee,--so that I shall be here on your return. Tell you all? I have
already told you that a new race shall people the earth, formed of the
chosen spirits of the extinct humanity; the multitude of others will
perish. A noble family, all-seeing and powerful, will be the perfect
synthesis of the divine and the human. The times will be others, but
between them and these a link is necessary, and you shall be that link.


PROMETHEUS. You yourself; you, the chosen one; you, the King. Yes,
Ahasverus. You shall be King. The Wanderer will find rest. The despised
of men shall rule over mankind.

AHASVERUS. Wily Titan, you are deceiving me ... King,--I?

PROMETHEUS. You, King. Who else, then? The new world needs to be bound
by a tradition, and none can speak of one to the other as you can. Thus
there will be no gap between the two humanities. The perfect will
proceed from the imperfect, and your lips will tell the new world its
origin. You will relate to the new humanity all the ancient good and
evil. And thus will you live anew like the tree whose dead branches are
lopped off, only the flourishing ones being preserved, but here growth
will be eternal.

AHASVERUS. Resplendent vision! I myself?

PROMETHEUS. Your very self.

AHASVERUS. These eyes ... these hands ... a new and better life ...
Glorious vision! Titan, it is just. Just was the punishment; but
equally just is the glorious remission of my sin. Shall I live? I
myself? A new and better life? No, you are jesting with me.

PROMETHEUS. Very well, then; leave me. You will return some day, when
this vast heaven will be open to let the spirits of the new life
descend. You will find me here at peace. Go.

AHASVERUS. Shall I again greet the sun?

PROMETHEUS. The selfsame sun that is about to set. Friend sun, eye of
time, nevermore shall your eyelids close. Gaze upon it, if you can.

AHASVERUS. I cannot.

PROMETHEUS. You will be able to, when the conditions of life shall have
changed. Then your retina will gaze upon the sun without peril, for in
the man of the future will be concentrated all that is best in nature,
energizing or subtle, scintillating or pure.

AHASVERUS. Swear that you are not lying.

PROMETHEUS. You will see whether I lie.

AHASVERUS. Speak, speak on; tell me everything.

PROMETHEUS. The description of life is not worth the sensation of life;
you shall experience it deeply. The bosom of Abraham in your old
Scriptures is nothing but this final, perfect world. There you will
greet David and the prophets. There will you tell to the astounded
listeners, not only the great events of the extinct world, but also the
ills they will never know: sickness, old age, grief, egotism,
hypocrisy, abhorrent vanity, imbecility, and the rest. The soul, like
the earth, will possess an incorruptible tunic.

AHASVERUS. I shall gaze ever on the immense blue sky?

PROMETHEUS. Behold how beautiful it is.

AHASVERUS. As beautiful and serene as eternal justice. Magnificent
heaven, more beautiful than the tents of Caesar. I shall behold you
forever; you will receive my thoughts, as before; you will grant me
clear days, and friendly nights ...

PROMETHEUS. Dawn upon dawn.

AHASVERUS. Ah, speak on, speak on. Tell me everything. Let me unbind
these chains ...

PROMETHEUS. Loosen them, new Hercules, last man of the old world, who
shall be the first of the new. Such is your destiny; neither you nor
I,--nobody can alter it. You go farther than your Moses. From the top
of mount Nebo, at the point of death, he beheld the land of Jericho,
which was to belong to his descendants and the Lord said unto him:
"Thou hast seen with thine eyes, yet shalt not pass beyond." _You_
shall pass beyond, Ahasverus; you shall dwell in Jericho.

AHASVERUS. Place your hand upon my head; look well at me; fill me with
the reality of your prediction; let me breathe a little of the new,
full life ... King, did you say?

PROMETHEUS. The chosen king of a chosen people.

AHASVERUS. It is not too much in recompense for the deep ignominy in
which I have dwelt. Where one life heaped mire, another life will place
a halo. Speak, speak on ... speak on ... (_He continues to dream. The
two eagles draw near._)

FIRST EAGLE. Ay, ay, ay! Alas for this last man; he is dying, yet he
dreams of life.

SECOND EAGLE. Not so much that he hated it as that he loved it so much.


By José de Medeiros E Albuquerque (1867- )

Member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters

Old Felix had followed his trade of digger in all the quarries that Rio
de Janeiro possessed. He was a sort of Hercules with huge limbs, but
otherwise stupid as a post. His companions had nicknamed him Hardhead
because of his obstinate character. Once an idea had penetrated his
skull it would stick there like a gimlet and the devil himself couldn't
pull it out. Because of this trait there arose quarrels, altercations
on points of the smallest significance, which the man's acquaintances
would purposely bring up, knowing his evil humor. But Felix, despite
his vigorous and sanguine constitution, was by no means quick to anger,
nor immediately responsive to injury; on the contrary he was
exceedingly patient in his vindictiveness. For the longest time he
would ruminate upon his vengeance, most astutely, and he would carry it
out at the moment when he believed himself perfectly secure. Oh! His
ruses were not of very great finesse and required very little talent;
but by dint of considering and reconsidering the case, by dint of
waiting patiently for the propitious opportunity to present itself, he
finally would play some evil trick upon his comrades. So that nobody
liked him.

Felix had married, but his wife did not long survive. Just long enough
to leave him a son and a daughter, who grew up knowing little
restraint, chumming around with all the good-for-nothings of the
vicinity, plaguing all the neighbors, who on their part, were not slow
to punish the rascals. Thus several years went by. The son became a
notorious character, the daughter an impudent, cynical little runabout
who, on certain occasions, would fill their rickety abode with her
chatter about affairs concerning the "man" of so-and-so or
such-and-such. And thus things were going when the old man took it into
his head to fall ill. An excruciating rheumatism attacked both his
legs, rendering him incapable of moving about, and confining him to an
old, lame armchair that was balanced by a complicated arrangement of
old boxes that could never be got to remain steady. The illness became
chronic. The daughter helped out the finances of the house with her
earnings as laundry-woman ... and perhaps by earnings of a different
nature. Anyway, they got along. The old fellow, willy-nilly, spent his
days invariably riveted to his armchair, groaning with pain at the
least movement, swearing, fretting and fuming, despairing of life. And,
since his daughter simply refused from the very beginning to let him
have even a drop of brandy, he was perforce cured of his vice.

Just about this time there happened to them the worst of all possible
adventures. The son, whom the father had not seen for several weeks,
one fine day attacked a peaceful citizen and, with a terrible knife
thrust in the stomach, despatched him to a better world; as to which
event circumstances seemed so contrary that the son allowed himself to
be arrested.

The old man was in the habit of reading his gazette religiously, from
the first line to the last; thus he learned the news. And it was
through the same newspaper that he followed the trial and learned of
his son's conviction. This made him furious, not so much because of the
sentence as because of a special circumstance. The policeman who had
arrested his son was--just think of it!--Bernardo,--yes, Bernardo, his
own neighbor--the same chap who would greet him daily with the ironic
words: "How are things, Felix old boy? And when will you be ready for a

Even on the day of imprisonment and during those that followed Bernardo
had permitted himself these witty remarks.

Bernardo was a _cabra_ of Bahai, a pretentious mulatto whose enormous
head of hair, carefully parted in the middle into two flourishing
masses, was kept so only through the services of odorous pomade that
cost four sous a pot. He had been, in his day, a dishonest political
henchman, well-known for his exploits; then, supported by the liberal
leader whose election he had worked for, he escaped prison and entered
the police service. At that time police officers were called "bats",--a
sobriquet that troubled Bernardo very little. And it had been he--what
anger flashed in old Felix's eyes as he thought of it!--he, whose past
activities would well bear examination, he who had arrested Felix's

From that moment one preoccupation alone filled Felix's hours--vengeance!
This hatred dominated his existence and became the only power that
could vanquish the ever-growing misery of his broken-down body. The
mere thought that he could not grow well, while the _cabra_ would daily
continue to live in insolent impunity, was enough to give him
convulsions of rage; he would foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth and,
in that obtuse brain of his, concoct scheme upon scheme of vengeance,
almost all of them impracticable, for he was chained to the spot in
stupid impotence.

At times he would wish to call Bernardo and with thunderous violence
pour torrents of insult upon his head. But what end would that serve?
Felix's treacherous, cowardous nature counselled him to have prudence.
So, on the first days after the arrest, when the mulatto would go by,
the old man feigned slumber. Then, in the continuing uncertainty as to
what method of vengeance to pursue, and in order not to let his hatred
betray itself, he spoke to the policeman as if nothing had happened.
Nevertheless there was one thing that puzzled him greatly: his daughter
had said nothing to him about the entire affair. Did she know nothing
about it? It was almost impossible that the mulatto, with his
chatterbox habits, had not spoken of the matter. Had his daughter
feared to shock him with the news? This was all the less probable since
she had never had any particular love for him. Scarcely did a day pass
that she did not call him a "good-for-nothing," "a lazy lout," and
other similar tendernesses. So he breathed not a word, and continued to
ruminate upon his vengeance.

Months rolled on. Far from getting better the illness increased. As
soon as the old fellow tried to move, horrible pains seized him at
every joint. His daughter maltreated him, and at the height of his
attacks she would reply to his complaints that he'd do better if he
left the house, and she even threatened to send him to the hospital. It
was now June. The weather was one long succession of heavy rains; the
invalid suffered atrociously from the cold and the damp, and his
daughter, disgruntled at the bad weather, which interfered with her
washing, lived in unbroken sulkiness. She treated him worse than a dog,
and it was truly with the patience of a dog that he endured everything,
so much did he fear being sent away. A plan of vengeance had arisen in
his brain, and slowly, during the months, ever since he had learned
that his case was incurable, his project had absorbed his entire mental
activity,--indeed, his whole existence. He breathed only for his plan,
for the sure, propitious opportunity.

At last it came, and a terrible day it was. At dusk his daughter had
left, closing the door, as was her habit, and had not returned at
night. The old man was parched with thirst and his physical torture had
doubled. He resolved upon quick action.

In the morning,--it might have been about seven o'clock--his daughter
returned, or rather, rolled into the room, and with her, pell-mell came
"Jane", Bernardo's "friend". Jane was roundly berating his daughter.
"You rotten thing!" she cried. "I'll show you! Trying to take away
somebody else's man." And the two women came to blows, rousing the
entire neighborhood. They tried at last to separate the combatants, but
it would have been easier to break them to bits, so fiercely did they
struggle against each other. There was a whistle; the police arrived,
and the women were taken to the lock-up. All this as quick as a flash.

The old man had not had time to utter a word. But an extreme rage,
blind,--an anger such as only savage beasts can know, overpowered him.
What! His daughter, the mistress of Bernardo! This was the last straw!

Towards noon the mulatto came back. He had spent the night away from
home, under the pretext of a special patrol; he returned, ignorant of
the morning's events. He came in smiling, in that measured walk of his,
waddling along. He approached Felix and asked him the classic question:
"Now then, how goes it?"

Felix did not reply and merely made a sign with his hand. The policeman
entered. When he had come near, Felix said to him in a low voice that
he had something very serious to tell him. But first of all he insisted
that Bernardo go and bring his large knife.

"Why that, Felix? What do you want to do with a knife?" asked the

The old man smiled mysteriously. "Quick, my boy, I'll tell you
afterwards, and you'll see that my story will be worth the trouble."

"All right, I'll get it," replied the officer. And a minute later he
was back with the knife, which he gave to the invalid.

"Now," continued the latter, "go and close the door, so that nobody
will hear. Close it well, and turn the key."

Bernardo felt some mistrust at all this mystery, but knowing for
certain that the helpless old man could do him no harm, he obeyed,
curiously waiting to learn what the other was up to.

"So, you want to tell me now?--Not yet! Here, first put this watch in
your pocket." And the old man drew from his pocket an ancient nickel
watch which he gave to the _cabra_.

"What am I to do with this, Felix?" asked the mulatto.

"Keep it, I tell you," was the reply.

"The old duffer is crazy for sure," thought Bernardo, nevertheless
doing as he was told. Then, seeing in what manner the invalid had
grasped the knife he discreetly withdrew a few paces.

Well, almost immediately Felix made a sudden movement that caused his
pain to increase anew, and he began to groan, to utter most terrible
cries, almost shrieks.

"I am dying! I am dying!"

Bernardo had never heard such awful groaning; his mistrust grew, and,
seeing that the old man still clutched the knife, he thought the
invalid would kill him if he should attempt to approach. He therefore
again stepped back a few paces and awaited developments, persuaded that
he had a lunatic in front of him. The groaning became louder and
louder, so that it was easily to be heard outside. Finally, the
_cabra_, tired of waiting, said, "I'll be back right away, Felix." And
he was about to leave.

Brusquely, the old man uncovered his own breast, and with a rapid
movement, right over the heart, he thrust in the blade with all his
might, up to the hilt. Not a drop of blood spurted out, the thick blade
obstructing the wound. His face convulsed with an expression of
excruciating torment; his hanging arms grew rigid.

The officer rushed to the door, opened it, called for help and returned
to pull the knife from the wound, and to see whether it was yet
possible to save the unfortunate man. Men and women, wildly excited,
ran up to the house crying loudly, and, seeing this man with a long
knife whence the blood was dripping, seeing also the pierced breast of
old Felix, the whole populace rushed upon Bernardo, disarmed him,
crying "Kill him! Kill him!" Bernardo was punched and kicked and
cudgelled from one infuriated person to the other in the crowd, and led
to the police-station by a multitude which every moment waxed greater
and more threatening.

Several months later the trial came to an end. Bernardo was sentenced
to hard labor for life. Nobody would believe his story. The proofs were
overwhelming. Had he not been caught red-handed? The presence of the
nickel-watch in his pocket indicated sufficiently that the motive of
the crime was robbery. The vengeance of old Felix had been well
calculated: the result was there. The old man had conquered.


By Coelho Netto

Member Brazilian Academy of Letters

    When the pigeons leave, misfortune follows.
                           --Indian superstition.

When Joanna appeared at the door yawning, fatigued after the long
sleepless night spent at her son's bedside, Triburcio, on the terrace,
leaning against his spade, was watching the pigeon-house closely.

The sun was already setting and gilded the moist leaves. At the edge of
the ravine, turtle-doves and starlings were circling in the air, making
a joyous noise above the high branches of the neighboring trees.

The _caboclo_[6] Indian did not remove his eyes from the pigeon-house.
The wrinkles on his forehead bore witness to an inner struggle--, grave
thoughts which were clouding his spirit. A pigeon took to flight, then
another, and still another; he turned his head, following them with his
gaze until they were out of sight, and then returned to his melancholy

      [6] Caboclo signifies copper-colored. Indigenous tribes of Brazil
      are so called from the color of their skin.

The birds came and went, entered the pigeon-house and left in agitated
manner, cooing loudly; they circled above the dwelling, sought the
trees, alighted on the thatch of the cabin, descended to earth in
spiral flight.

Some seemed to be getting their bearings, to seek a route: they gazed
across the clear stretches of space and penetrated to the distant
horizons. Others would fly off, describing vast circles, and would
return to the pigeon-house. Then all would come together as if for a
discussion, to plan their departure.

Some, undecided, opened their wings as if about to fly away, but soon
would close them again. Still others would dart off, only to come back
aimlessly, and the noise increased to a hubbub of hurried leaving.

The Indian gazed fixedly. Well he knew that the life of his little son
was at stake, and depended upon the decision of the birds. "When the
pigeons leave, misfortune quickly follows."

Joanna noticed his preoccupation. "What is the matter?" she asked.

The _caboclo_ scratched his head and made no reply. The woman insisted.
"What is the trouble, Tiburcio?"

"The pigeons have taken a whim into their heads, Joanna."

"And you are lost in the contemplation of it? I have not cared to
speak, but I know well the meaning of what I see."

The _caboclo_ slung the spade across his shoulder and walked slowly up
the road that led to the plantation, through the wet hay which exhaled
a piquant odor.

Some hens were clucking, hidden in the high grass, and a little ribbon
of water which flowed gently along sparkled here and there through the
openings in the brushwood.

Tiburcio, head bowed, spade on his shoulder, could not shake off the
deep impression that had been made upon him by the sudden migration of
the birds.

It was the fatal sign.

To be sure, he had heard the owl's screech for many and many a night;
but he had seen no cause for fear in this: everything was going along
nicely; their little son was in good health and they, too, knew no
illness. But now the warning of the evil omen was confirmed. The
pigeons which he had himself brought up were flying away. They were
leaving, thus forecasting the arrival of death.

He turned back; he raised his eyes. There were the birds high above,
still circling about, and Joanna was at the threshold of the cabin,
leaning against the jamb, her arms crossed, her head hanging. The poor
woman was surely weeping.

Within him he felt a mute explosion of hatred and revolt against the
ungrateful birds. Never had he had the courage to kill a single one of
them. He lived only for the purpose of keeping the pigeon-house in
order, thinking only of making it larger so that it might accommodate
more pairs. And the little child, was it not he who crushed the millet
for the fledglings, who climbed the mango-tree, going from branch to
branch to see whether there wasn't some crack through which the rain
came in? Who knows? Perhaps the pigeons were leaving their dwelling
because they no longer saw him?

He shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way. As he crossed the
dam his heart palpitated wildly. He stopped. The water, held back in
its course, threw back a motionless reflection of him. But although he
looked down upon it he saw not his image; his thoughts were entirely
with the little child who, burning with fever, was in delirium.

He chose a side path. The millet stems were so high that he disappeared
within them with a crumpling of dry leaves. The soft ant-hills which it
was his daily custom to level off failed to attract his attention. He
walked straight on. Parrots flew by, chattering, with their green wings
shining in the sun, and huge grasshoppers were jumping in the leaves.

He came upon a straw hut,--here the child was wont to play with its
toys;--there was even now a boot of wild sugar-cane. But already the
grass was beginning to invade the abandoned shelter.... For a month the
little child had not visited the place. When the father came to the
field of manioc he sat down, bent almost in two. The spade weighed upon
his shoulders like a burden. The strength had oozed out of his legs.
His whole body was broken with fatigue, as if at the end of a long
journey. He sat down upon a hillock and began to trace lines upon the
earth, with a distraught air.

At times it seemed as if he heard the echo of his wife's voice. He
would raise his head and strain his ears to catch the sound. But only
the rustling of the leaves stirred by the breeze and the chirping of
the insects in the sun came to him. All earth seemed to perspire. A
diaphanous vapor rose tremblingly from the hot soil; the leaves hung
languidly, and through the intense blueness of the sky passed some
_urubus_[7] in search of distant lodgings.

      [7] Urubu: the black vulture of South America.

Suddenly a pigeon winged through the air, then another, and still
another. They were leaving ... they were leaving!... A beating of
wings,--more on the way. They would never return, never! They were
fleeing in horror, feeling the approach of death.

For a long time he gazed about him, but could see only the rich verdure
waving to the wind in the warm transparency of the atmosphere. He
should have taken his child to town as soon as the illness had
appeared. But who could have foretold this? He raised his eyes to
heaven and they lingered upon the luminous azure; then came another
pigeon. He shook his head and, striking his fist against his thigh,
slung his spade back upon his shoulder and turned in the direction of
his house.

When Joanna saw him on the terrace she appeared to divine his thoughts.

"It is well you returned, my dear! All alone here I am at a loss as to
what to do."

He looked at the pigeon-house, saw that it was deserted, and ominously
silent. As evening fell Tiburcio sat down upon the threshold of the
cabin and began to smoke, waiting for the pigeons. The grasshoppers
were shrilling; all the birds who had their nests in the tree nearby
retired and, as it was still light, they lingered in the branches to
trill their good-night cadences.

The sky grew pale. The landscape was veiled in a light mist. The
evening breeze scattered the gentle odor of lilies. Not very far off a
dog barked now and then. At times a grave lowing saddened the silence.
Tiburcio did not remove his eyes from the pigeon-house, unless it was
to pierce the shadows and try to discover in the distance one of the
birds. Perhaps some of them would return.

Where could they find a better shelter? The forest was full of dangers
and domestic pigeons could scarcely live in the brushwood. What other
pigeon-roost could have attracted them? If he had but followed the line
of their flight ... Some had taken the direction of the fields, others
had flown towards the mountains, and there was no sign of any

It was now quite dark. Joanna lighted a candle. Already the frogs were
croaking in the marshes. A star shone in the sky. Tiburcio fixed his
gaze upon it and began to pray in low tones. The silence was scarcely
broken by the murmuring of the water as it ran and broke over the
stones in the ravine not far away, just behind the cabin.

Tiburcio sighed, arose, leaned against the jamb and lacked courage to
go inside. Joanna came near the door.

"And now?"

"The same thing," he replied.

He stepped down, called her, and together they went towards the
terrace. Near the mango-tree, directly under the pigeon-house, they
stopped, and the Indian, as if in fear of being heard by the child,
asked softly, "Joanna, don't you know any prayers for this?" And he
pointed to the deserted pigeon-roost.

"Only Lina knows," she answered.

"She can pronounce the proper spells?"

"So they say."

Tiburcio stood as if in a dream. Suddenly, in a firm voice, he
announced, "I am going to her."


"Certainly!... Haven't you just said that she was a sorceress?"

"I have never seen it, Tiburcio.... That's what people say."

"But you?"

"I? No. And I am afraid that it is too late. You have seen your self
how far gone he is! He is no longer interested in anything. I move
about, I speak, I go here and there, I come back again into the
room,--but it is all nothing to him. Ah! God in heaven!"

Her voice died out Suddenly she melted into tears. Tiburcio withdrew
and commenced to pace slowly up and down the terrace. The white moon
was rising. The fields became less obscure and, in the light, the
shadows of the trees, very black, stretched across the ground.

"Patience, dear woman, patience!"

The strident crickets were chirping. The _caboclo_ murmured, "Yes, I
know ..."

Of a sudden Joanna shuddered. Quivering she turned towards the cabin,
from whose wide door shone a ray of livid light; for a moment her
astonished gaze lingered and then, with a bound she was gone.

Tiburcio, motionless, without understanding what his wife had just
done, quietly awaited her return, when a piercing cry rang out. The
_caboclo_ rushed to the cabin and made for the room where the candle
was burning. The woman, on her knees before the little bed, leaning
over the child, was sobbing desperately.

"What has happened, Joanna?"

She gave a hoarse cry and threw her arms across the corpse of her son.

"Look! It's all over!"

She bent down, her face brushed a cheek that was burning; her trembling
hands felt a little body that was still aflame. She touched the sunken
chest, where the ribs showed through like laths, and the hollow

"Listen to his heart, Tiburcio!"

He could only reply, "It is all over!"

The mother arose with a leap, disfigured, her hair dishevelled, her
eyes sparkling. She tried to speak, stretched her hands out to her
husband, but fell limp upon a basket and, bowed down, bathed in tears,
she began to repeat the name of her son with an infinite tenderness
that was rent by sobs.

"My Luiz! My little Luiz! But a moment ago living, oh blessed Virgin!"

Tiburcio turned away and in the room, before the table, he stopped, his
eyes wandering, his lips trembling, the tears rolling in big drops down
his bony face. Joanna left the chamber, wavering as if drunk, and
seeing him, threw herself into his arms; he held her without uttering a
word, and they stood thus in embrace for a long time, in the dark,
narrow room where the crickets were chirping.

Joanna went back to the chamber. Tiburcio remained leaning against the
table, his eyes fixed upon the candle which flickered in the breeze.
Slowly the light of the moon came in, white, climbing upon the walls.
He arose with a sigh, went to the door, sat down upon the threshold,
lighted his pipe and looked leisurely out upon the country, which was
growing brighter beneath the moon. Suddenly it seemed to him that he
heard the cooing of pigeons. Above, the stars were shining, the tree
tops glittered in the moonlight. Could it be an illusion?

Motionless, he concentrated his attention. The cooing continued. He
arose impetuously, walked straight to the pigeon-roost and leaned
against the trunk of the mango-tree.

"Could it be the pigeons who were returning after the passing of
death?" he began to mutter in fury, replying to his thoughts. "Now it's
too late! A curse upon them!"

A beating of wings, a tender cooing, and little cries came from the
pigeon-house. There was no doubt now. He went forward and, from the
middle of the terrace watched the pigeon-house, walking resolutely
towards the cabin.

Joanna was sobbing hopelessly. He took the candle, went to the kitchen,
and seeing the axe in a corner he seized it, still muttering. He then
turned back to the terrace and, having reached the mango-tree, rolled
up the sleeves of his coarse shirt so that he might swing the axe.

At the first blow against the post which supported the pigeon-house the
birds grew still. Tiburcio redoubled his efforts. A crack now weakened
the structure, but still it resisted. He leaned the axe against the
trunk and, grasping the branches, raised himself to the top of the
tree. From there he supported himself between two boughs and gave the
large box a furious kick. The pigeon-roost fell shattered to the

Two pigeons flew off in great fright, dazed. Uncertain of their
direction in the clearness of the night, they lit upon the roof of the

The _caboclo_ slid down lightly along the trunk and saw two little
bodies who were whining, staggering, dragging themselves along. They
were two little pigeons. He bent over them, took them in his hands and
began to examine them. They were ugly, still without wings, having only
a thin down to cover the muscles of their soft, wrinkled bodies. The
Indian turned them over this way and that in his shrivelled hands. He
felt their fragile bones, and the little things struggled to fly away,
moving the stumps of their wings; they stretched out their necks and

Gnashing his teeth, Tiburcio squeezed the fledglings and crushed them.
Their tender bones cracked like bits of wood. The blood gushed forth
and trickled, warm, through the tightened fingers of the man.

Under the impulse of his fury he threw them to the ground; they
flattened out, soft as rotten fruit. And the _caboclo_, growling to
himself, trampled upon them. The parent-birds were cooing dolorously
upon the thatched roof, flying hither and thither.

Joanna, embracing her dead child, was still sobbing when Tiburcio
entered the chamber. He stopped before the little bed, and looked down.
Of a sudden the woman shook, arose with a start, seized her husband's
arm, her eyes distended and her mouth wide open, her head bending over
as if to hear voices, faraway sounds.

"What is it, Joanna? What is the matter with you?"

In terror she stammered reply. "The pigeons, dear husband. Don't you
hear them?"

It was their sad cooing that came from the roof of the house. "They are
returning! Who knows? He is yet warm!" she cried.

And in the heart of the woman arose a great hope.

Tiburcio shrugged his shoulders.

"Now it's their turn to mourn!" he answered. "They are sobbing, like
us. It's a pair that remained behind because of the little ones. I
dashed the pigeon-house to earth, I have killed the fledglings. See!"

And he showed his bloody hands.

"They flew away; they're on the house. Do you want to see?"

He went out; she followed. They walked to the terrace. Tiburcio pointed
to the ruined pigeon-house. Then he grasped the crushed bodies of the
little birds. "Look!"

Without breathing a word Joanna looked on. In her horror she had
stopped weeping. She gazed upon her husband, whose burning eyes flashed
fire. He threw the first little pigeon upon the roof bellowing, "'T is

He threw the second.

"'T is well!" he repeated.

The pigeons, frightened, flew off into the dark foliage.

"'T is well," he said once more.

Joanna, dumb, terrified, could not remove her eyes from her husband,
who was now crying with sobs, his opened hands stained with blood.

"Come, dear husband. It was the will of God. Our little son is in
heaven!" And slowly she heartened him. They entered their cabin and,
before the pallet of the dead child, the tears gushed from their eyes,
while, on the roof above, the pigeons, who had returned, were cooing


By Carmen Dolores

(Emilia Moncorva Bandeira de Mello, 1852-1910)

Pale and thin, for eighteen years she had lived with her youngest
sister, who had married very early and now possessed five children: two
young ladies of marriageable age, a third still in short dresses, and
two little boys.

Maria-José, whose nickname was Zézé, had never been beautiful or
winning. Upon her father's death it was thought best that she should go
to live with her sister Engracigna's family. Here she led a monotonous
existence, helping to bring up her nephews and nieces, who were born in
that young and happy household with a regularity that brooked small
intervals between the births.

A long, pointed nose disfigured her face, and her lips, extremely thin,
looked like a pale crack. Her thoughtful gaze alone possessed a certain
melancholy attractiveness. But even here, her eyes, protruding too far
for the harmony of the lines upon her face seemed always to be red, and
her brows narrow and sparse.

Of late, an intricate network of wrinkles as fine as hairs, had formed
at the corner of her eyes. From her nose, likewise, two furrows ran
along the transparent delicacy of her skin and reached either side of
her mouth. When she smiled, these wrinkles would cover her countenance
with a mask of premature age, and threatened soon to disfigure her
entirely. And yet, from habit, and through passive obedience to
routine, Maria-José continued to dress like a young girl of eighteen,
in brightly colored gowns, thin waists and white hats that ill became
her frail and oldish face.

She would remain for a long time in painful indecision when it was a
matter of picking out some piece of goods that was of too bright a red
or blue,--as if instinctively she understood the disharmony of these
hues with her age, whose rapid oncoming they moreover placed in all the
more noticeable contrast. And at such times Engracigna and her
daughters would say to her with a vehemence whose effect they little
guessed, "Why, Zézé! Buy something and be done with it!... How silly!
Do you want to dress like a widow? What a notion!"

And at bottom they meant it.

None of them saw Maria-José as she really was. Living with her day by
day had served to efface the actual appearance of the faded old maid.
For, in the minds of the mother and her daughters, who were moreover of
a frivolous and indifferent sort, Zézé had grown to be the type, very
vague, to be sure, but the eternal type of young girl of marriagable
years who always should be well dressed and smiling.

When she would be out walking with her nieces, of sixteen and seventeen
years, who wore the same clothes as she herself did, but whose graceful
and lively charm became their gay colors of youth so well, Zézé's
intelligence saw only too plainly the contrast between her and them;
she would hold aloof from the laughing set, morose, wounded, as if
oppressed by an unspeakable shame.

Ah! Who can depict the secret chagrin of an old maid who sees pass by
in useless monotony her dark, loveless, despairing days, without hope
even of some event of personal interest, while about her moves the busy
whirl of happier creatures whose life has but one goal, who feel
emotions and tendernesses, and who look upon her simply as an obscure
accessory in the household's affairs! They all loved her, of course,
but not one of them suspected that she, too, could cherish those
aspirations that are common to all human beings.

Her self-denial seemed to be a most natural thing; indeed, they hardly
considered her in the light of a living person; she was no longer of
any consequence.

This was an attitude that satisfied the general egotism of the family,
and to which they all had grown accustomed, never suspecting the
grievous aspect of her sacrifice which was hidden by a sentiment of
proud dignity.

So, when they would go to the theatre, and the box held only
five--Engracigna, her husband, Fabio, and the three young
ladies,--Maria-José knew beforehand that her sister, snugly wrapped in
her opera-cloak, would come to her and say gently, in that purring
voice of hers: "You'll stay at home with the children tonight, won't
you, Zézé? Little Paul isn't very well, and I wouldn't think of leaving
him with anybody else...."

And she would remain behind, without betraying the revolt within her
which, upon each occasion of these evidences of selfishness, would make
the anemic blood in her veins tremble with agitation.

Alone in the dining-room she would ply her needle mechanically, while
her nephews would amuse themselves with the toys scattered upon the
table,--colored pictures and lead soldiers. Every other moment they
would call her.

"Aunt Zézé, look at George pinching me!"

"I am not! Paul hit me first!..."

And the good aunt would quiet them. Then, after both had been put to
sleep in their little twin beds, she would rest her elbows upon the
window-sill of her gloomy old-maid's room, and placing both hands
beneath her sharp chin, her gaze directed towards heaven, she would
lose herself in contemplation of the stars that shone in the limpid
sky, less lonely, surely, than she upon earth. In vain did her eyes
seek in the eyes of another that expression of sympathy and tenderness
which alone would console her....

The truth is that Maria-José was suffering from the disappointment of
unrequited passion. She had fallen in love with Monjardin, a poet and
great friend of her brother-in-law, Fabio. Monjardin came to the house
every Sunday.

Older than she, almost forty, but having preserved all the
attractiveness of youth,--a black moustache, a vigorous, yet graceful
figure, eyes still bright, charming and wide-awake,--Monjardin, without
knowing it, had conquered Zézé.

This had come about in a rather curious manner. Finding the
conversation of Fabio's wife and daughters too commonplace, Monjardin,
when he would recite some of his poems or tell some story connected
with his literary life, preferred to address Maria-José, whom he saw to
be of a serious and impressive nature.

"Let's have another poem, please, Mr. Monjardin!" she would ask in
supplicating tone. "For instance, that one you call 'Regrets.' You

And then he would describe in his verse the grief of a heart,
disillusioned and broken by the cruelties of fate, that evoked in vain
the remembrance of yesterday's lost loves, vanished in the mists of
eternal despair.

He recited these bitter griefs in a strong, healthy man's voice, erect
in the center of the parlor, looking mechanically, distractedly at
Maria-José with his dreamy eyes; the concentrated effort of his memory
brought to his face an involuntary immobility which Maria-José, most
deliciously touched, drank in.

The poet had announced that he had written a poem which he would recite
at Zézé's anniversary dinner. The date for this was but a few days
distant, and ever since the poet's announcement the whole family had
taken to teasing the old maid, christening her "the muse of
inspiration," and asking her when the wedding would take place....

She smiled ingenuously; at such times her face would even take on an
air of unusual happiness; her features grew animated, less wrinkled and
more firm.

On the day of the celebration Maria-José came out of her room radiant
with hope. At the belt of her white dress bloomed a rose; a little
blood, set pulsing by her agitated heart, brought a feeble color to her
marble cheeks, from which now protruded her long nose in a manner less
displeasing than usual.

"See, mamma," remarked one of the nieces, "doesn't Zézé look like a
young girl today?"

They dined amidst merry chatter. Seated directly across from Monjardin,
Maria-José, hiding her glances behind the fruit-bowls that covered the
table, looked at him furtively without surfeit. Her poor heart beat as
if it would burst, waiting in agonized suspense for the poem in which
the poet, without doubt, was to declare his intimate feelings for her.
Monjardin had already pointed to his pocket as a token that he had the
verses with him, and Zézé had trembled with gratification as she
bashfully lowered her long face.

Champagne sparkled in the glasses and toasts were given. Several guests
of distinction spoke first, then followed the hosts and their
children,--frolicsome little things. Finally Monjardin arose and
unfolded a manuscript, asking permission to declaim the verses which he
had composed in honor of Maria-José, the central figure of the
occasion. The guests greeted his remarks with noisy and enthusiastic

"Hear! Hear!"

Engracigna and her daughters leaned over and cast malicious glances in
the direction of Maria-José, but she was paying no attention to them.
Her ears were buzzing; it seemed that everything was turning round.

Monjardin, the center of all eyes, made pompous preparation; he pulled
down his vest, arranged his sleeves and, in sonorous, cadenced voice
began to recite his alexandrines, scanning the lines impeccably.

His poem opened with a eulogy of the ineffable virtue, compounded of
self-abnegation and chastity, that distinguished the angelic creature
who, with her white tutelary wings, watched over the happiness of his
dear friend's love nest. He then recalled that the date of this day
commemorated the happy birth of a being of immaculate purity,
Maria-José, a veritable saint who had renounced all her own aspirations
so that she might consecrate herself entirely to the duties of her
sister's family; gentle figure of the mother-guardian, who would soon
be the beloved grandmother sharing with her sister the joys of younger
households which would soon be formed, offsprings of that home which
her devoted tenderness as aunt and sister at present cultivated. As he
came to a close, the poet raised his cup of sparkling wine and, in
exalted voice, drank to the health of Zézé amidst the loud huzzahs of
all present.

"Long live Aunt Zézé! Hurrah for Aunt Zézé!" cried the children, glass
in hand, while the nieces laughed loudly, blushing to the ears, for
they had understood very well the poet's reference to future "younger

Fabio and his wife, their eyes somewhat brightened by the strong
champagne, proposed in turn their toast to Zézé.

"Here's to Zézé and the eighteen happy years we've lived together!..."

Maria-José, as soon as she had seized the significance of Monjardin's
verses, had grown deathly pale; stricken by sudden disillusionment, she
felt a glacial chill overwhelm her body to the very marrow; she feared
that she would faint straightway and provide a spectacle for the
guests, who were all drinking her health, their eyes focussed upon her.
A veil of tears spread before her sight.... In vain she tried to
repress them, to force a smile of thanks upon her face. The smile
wrinkled into a dolorous grimace; she succeeded only in convulsing her
contracted visage with the sobs that she sought to restrain. Overcome
at last, humiliated, powerless, she broke into tears, and this
unforeseen denouement put an end at once to all the pleasure of the

"Zézé! Zézé! What ails you?..."

Engracigna had rushed to her side in alarm; everyone rose, seeking the
reason for the outburst; they surrounded the poor creature, whose head
had sunk upon the table, in the midst of the rose petals, the fruits
and the glasses which were strewn in charming confusion.

"What is the trouble?..."

A nervous attack, perhaps?... Confusion produced in her by the touching

Finally they raised Maria-José's head and bathed it in cool water;
whereupon the face of the poor old maid stood revealed in all the
ugliness that her spasms of convulsive weeping cast over it, with her
large aquiline nose, her protruding eyes and her livid lips ...

And now Monjardin drew near. Delicately raising the icy fingers of
Maria-José he lifted them to the edge of his perfumed moustache and
placed upon them a grateful kiss; then, turning to Engracigna's
daughters he said, with a solemn, self-complacent tone, "Aunt Zézé's
tears are the most beautiful homage that could be rendered to my poor

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Brazilian Tales" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.