The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas

The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis Page B

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Authors: Machado de Assis
certain logic, a certain deduction. For example, it was the
virumque
that made me get to the name of the poet himself, because of the first syllable. I was going to write
virumque
—and
Virgil came
out, then I continued:

    My father, a little put off by that indifference, stood up, came over to me, cast his eyes onto the paper …
    “Virgil!” he exclaimed. “That’s it, my boy. Your bride just happens to be named Virgília.”

XXVII
Virgília?
     
    Virgília? But, then, was it the same lady who some years later …? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played an ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creature of our race and, certainly, the most willful. I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and closes his eyes to freckles and pimples. But I won’t say either that any freckle or pimple blemished her face, no. She was pretty, fresh, she came from the hands of nature full of that sorcery, uncertain and eternal, that an individual passes to another individual for the secret ends of creation. That was Virgília, and she was fair, very fair, ostentatious, ignorant, childish, full of mysterious drives, a lot of indolence, and some devoutness—devoutness or maybe fear. I think fear.
    There in a few lines the reader has the physical and moral portrait of the person who was to influence my life later on. She was all that at sixteen. You who read me, if you’re still alive when these pages come to life—you who read me, beloved Virgília, have you noticed the difference between the language of today and the one I first used when I saw you? Believe me, it was just as sincere then as now. Death didn’t make me sour, or unjust.
    “But,” you’re probably saying, “how can you discern the truth of those times like that and express it after so many years?”
    Ah! So indiscreet! Ah! So ignorant! But it’s precisely that which has made us lords of the earth; it’s that power of restoring the past to touch the instability of our impressions and the vanity of our affections. Let Pascal say that man is a thinking reed. No. He’s a thinking erratum, that’s what he is. Every season of life is an edition that corrects the one before and which will also be corrected itself until the definitive edition, which the publisher gives to the worms gratis.

XXVIII
Provided That…
     
    “Virgília?” I interrupted. “Yes, sir. That’s the name of the bride. An angel, you ninny, an angel without wings. Picture a girl like that, this tall, a lively scamp, and a pair of eyes … Dutra’s daughter …”
    “What Dutra is that?”
    “Councilor Dutra. You don’t know him, lots of political influence. All right, do you accept?”
    I didn’t answer right off. I stared at my shoetops for a few seconds. Then I declared that I was willing to think both things over, the candidacy and the marriage, provided that…
    “Provided that what?”
    “Provided that I’m not obliged to accept both things. I think that I can be a married man and a public man separately …”
    “All public men have to be married,” my father interrupted sententiously. “But do what you will. It’s all right with me. I’m sure that seeing will be believing! Besides, bride and parliament are the same thing … that is, not… you’ll find out later … Go ahead. I accept the delay, provided that…”
    “Provided that what?” I interrupted, imitating his voice.
    “Oh, you rascal! Provided that you don’t let yourself sit there useless, obscure, and sad. I didn’t put out money, care, drive not to see you shine the way you should and as suits you and all of us. Our name has to continue; continue it and make it shine even more. Look, I’m sixty, but if it were

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