Dom Casmurro

by Machado de Assis

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XCIV - Arithmetical Ideas

Do not say the most, that was a lot. Not even he knew how to praise and think, he also knew how to calculate quickly and well. It was of Holmes's arithmetical heads (2 + 2 = 4). You can not imagine the ease with which it increased or multiplied. The division, which was always one of the operations that was difficult for me, was for him as nothing: he closed his eyes a little, turned upwards, and whispered the denominations of figures: he was prompting. This is seven, thirteen, twenty figures. The vocation was such that it made him love the very signs of the sommas, and he was of the opinion that the numerals, being few, were much more conceptuous than the twenty-five letters of the alphabet.

"There are inert letters and dispensable letters," he said. What diverse service provides you? It has almost the same sound. The same is true of b and p, the same as s, c and z, the same as k and g, etc. They are calligraphic trapalhices. Look at the figures: there are not two of them doing the same officio; 4 is 4, and 7 is 7. And admire the beauty with which a 4 and a 7 form this thing that is expressed by 11. Now double 11 and will have 22; multiply by eg number, give 484, and so on. But where perfection is greatest is in the employment of zero. The value of zero is in itself nothing; but the officio of this negative signal is precisely to increase. A 5 single is a 5; put it to 00, it's 500. So, what's worthless makes a lot of money, something that does not make the letters doubled, because I both approvo with a p as with two pp.

Created in the orthography of my parents, it was hard for me to hear such blasphemies, but I did not dare to refute it. Yet one day I uttered a few words of defense, which he replied to be a prejudice, and added that arithmetic ideas could go to infinity, with the advantage that they were easier to wiggle. So I was not able to resolve a philosophical or linguistic problem at the moment, whereas he could sum up, in three minutes, any sums.

-For example ... give me a case, give me a lot of numbers that I do not know or even know before ... look, give me the number of your mother's houses and the rents of each one, and if I do not say the total sum in two, in a minute, hang me!

I accepted the bet, and the following week I took the paper and the figures of the houses and the rents to the paper. Escobar took the paper, passed it over his eyes to decorate it, and while I was staring at the watch, he raised the pupils, closed his eyes, and whispered ... Oh! the wind is not faster! It was said and done; in half a minute he was shouting at me:

-Gives everything 1: 070 $ 000 messages.

I was stunned. He considered that there were no less than nine houses, and that the rents varied from one to another, ranging from $ 70,000 to $ 180,000. For all this in which I would spend three or four minutes, -and it was to be on paper, "said Escobar de Cór, jokingly. He looked at me triumphantly, and asked if it was not accurate. I, just to show him that yes, I took the paper that carried with the total amount, and I showed it to him; was not even the same, nor an error: 1: 070 $ 000.

"This proves that arithmetical ideas are simpler, and therefore more natural. Nature is simple. Art is messy.

I was so enthusiastic about my friend's mental ease that I could not stop myself from hugging him. It was not kicking; other seminarians have noticed our effusion; a priest who was with them did not like it.

"Modesty," he told us, "does not consent to such excessive gestures; could be estimated in moderation.

Escobar observed that the others and the priest spoke of envy and proposed to me to live apart. I interrupted him saying no; if it was envy, so much worse for them.

"Let's break the nut in his mouth!"


"Let's make even more friends than here.

Escobar squeezed my hand in secret, with such force that my fingers still hurt. It is an illusion, of course, if it is not the effect of the long hours I have been writing without stopping. Let's suspend the penna for a moment ...


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