Dom Casmurro

by Machado de Assis

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XC - The Controversy

The next day, I passed by the deceased's house, without going in or stopping, "or, if I stopped, it was only a moment, even shorter than the one in which I tell you. If I'm not mistaken, I walked faster, afraid that they would call me as I did in the evening. Since he was not going to the funeral, sooner rather than later. I walked and thought of the poor devil.

We were not friends, nor did we know each other very much. Intimacy, what intimacy could there be between delle disease and my health? We had brief and distant relationships. I thought of them, remembering some. They were all reduced to a controversy between us two years earlier, by the way ... You can hardly believe what it was for. It was the Crimson War.

Manduca lived in the interior of the house, lying in bed, reading in disgust. On Sunday, in the afternoon, the father would tuck a dark nightgown into him, and bring him to the back of the shop, where he watched a handful of the street and people passing by. It was all his recreation. It was there that I saw him once, and I was not astonished; his illness was eating some of the meat, his fingers wanted to squeeze; the look did not work, of course. I was from thirteen to fourteen years old. The second time I saw him there, as we talked about the Crimean war, which then burned and was in the papers, Manduca said that the allies would win, and I said no.

"Well, we'll see," he said. Only if justice does not win in this world, which is impossible, and justice is with allies.

"No, sir, the reason is the Russians.

Of course, we would go with what the city papers told us, transcribing what happened, but it might also be that each of us had the opinion of his temperament. I've always been a bit of a Muscovite in my ideas. I defended the law of Russia, Manduca did the same to the Allies, and the third Sunday I entered the store we touched on the subject again. Manduca proposed that we should change the argument by writing, and on Tuesday or Wednesday I received two sheets of paper containing the exposition and defense of the right of allies, and of the integrity of Turkey, concluding by this prophetical phrase:

"The Russians will not enter Constantinople!"

I read it and met the refutation. It does not remind me of one of the arguments I have used, nor perhaps an interest in knowing them, now that the century is about to expire; but the idea that remained of them was that they were irresponsible. I went to take my paper myself. They led me into the alcove, where he lay stretched out on the bed, barely covered by a patchwork quilt. Either I like the controversy or some other cause I do not reach, it did not let me feel all the disgust that came out of the bed and the sick, and the pleasure with which I gave the paper was sincere. Manduca, for her part, no matter how naughtily she had her face, the smile that brought her to conceal the physical evil. The conviction with which he received me the paper and said he would read and respond is that he has no words of ours or others that say it at all and with truth; she was not exalted, she was not noisy, she had no gestures, and no discomfort would allow them, she was simple, great, deep, an infinite pleasure of victory, before I knew my arguments. He already had paper, pen and ink at the foot of the bed. Days later I received the reply; I do not remember if I brought new things or not; the heat was growing, and the end was the same:

"The Russians will not enter Constantinople!"

I trembled, and for some time there continued a fiery polemic, in which none of us gave up, each defending his customers with strength and fury. Manduca was longer than I was. Naturally I had a thousand things that distracted me, study, recreation, family, and health, which called me to other exercises. Manduca, save the span of the street on Sunday afternoon, had only this war, an aspect of the city and the world, but that nobody would deal with him. Chance had given him an adversary; he, who had a liking for writing, sat down to the debate, as to a new and radical remedy. The sad, long hours were now brief and cheerful; his eyes fell from crying, if they wept before. I felt this change in him in the mother's own ways.

"You can not imagine how he is now, after you've written those papers to him," said the shop owner once at the front door. Talk and laugh a lot. As soon as I tell the clerk to take the papers from him, he goes in to inquire about the answer, and he will be very late, and ask the boy when he passes. While waiting, relays journals and takes notes. But he also just gets his papers, throws himself at them, and starts writing the answer. There are times when you do not eat or eat badly; so much that I wanted to ask you something, do not send them at lunch or dinner time ...

I canceled it first. I began to delay the answers, until I did not give any more; he still had two or three times after my silence, but he did not receive any objection, either because of fatigue or because he did not bother, he ended everything with his apologies. The last, like the first, like all, affirmed the same eternal prediction:

"The Russians will not enter Constantinople!"

They did not enter, effectively, then, or after, or until now. But will the prediction be eternal? Will not they ever come in? Difficult problem. The Manduca himself, to enter the grave, has spent three years of dissolution, so surely nature, like history, is not making fun of. His life resisted like Turkey; if at last he yielded, it was because he lacked an alliance like the Anglo-French, and such a simple agreement of medicine and pharmacy could not be considered. He died at last, how the States die; in our particular case, the question is whether Turkey will die, because death spares no one, but whether the Russians will ever enter Constantinople; this was the question for my leper's neighbor, under the sad, broken and infected patchwork quilt ...


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