The Fortune teller
Machado de Assis
Hamlet observes to Horácio that there is more to heaven and earth than our philosophy dreams. It was the same explanation that the beautiful Rita gave to the young man Camilo, on a Friday in November 1869, when he laughed at her, for having gone the day before to consult a fortune teller; the difference is that it did it in other words.
- Laugh, laugh. Men are like that; they don’t believe in anything. Well know that I went,
and that she guessed the reason for the consultation, even before I told her what it was. He just started putting the cards, he said to me: “You like someone …” I confessed that I did, and then she continued to put the cards together, combined them, and in the end declared that I was afraid of that you would forget me, but that it wasn’t true …
- Wrong! interrupted Camilo, laughing.
- Don’t say that, Camilo. If you only knew how I’ve been doing, by your
cause. Do you know; I’ve already told you. Don’t laugh at me, don’t laugh …
Camilo took her hands and looked at her seriously and fixedly. He swore that he wanted him very much, that his scares were like a child; in any case, when he was afraid, the best fortune teller was himself. Then he scolded her; I told him it was unwise to walk through those houses. Vilela could know it, and then …
- What to know! I was very cautious when entering the house.
- Where is the house?
- Nearby, on Rua da Guarda Velha; no one passed by on that occasion.
Rests; I’m not crazy.
Camilo laughed again:
- Do you really believe in these things? he asked.
It was then that she, without knowing that she translated Hamlet into vulgar, told him that there was a lot of mysterious and true things in this world. If he didn’t believe it,
patience; but the fact is that the fortune teller had guessed everything. What else? The proof is that she was now calm and satisfied.
I think he was going to speak, but he restrained himself. I did not want to remove his illusions.
He too, as a child, and even later, was superstitious, had a whole arsenal of beliefs, which his mother instilled in him and which at the age of twenty disappeared. On the day that he dropped all this parasitic vegetation, and left only the trunk of religion, he, as he had received both teachings from his mother, involved them in the same doubt, and soon afterwards in a total denial. Camilo didn’t believe in anything. Why?
He couldn’t say it, he didn’t have a single argument: he just denied everything. And I say badly, because to deny is still to affirm, and he did not formulate incredulity; in the face of the mystery, he contented himself with lifting his shoulders, and walked.
They parted happily, he even more than she. Rita was sure to be loved; Not only was Camilo, but he saw her shudder and take a chance on him, run to the fortune tellers, and no matter how much he scolded her, he couldn’t help feeling flattered. The meeting place was in the old Rua dos Barbonos, where a proof of Rita lived. She went down Rua das Mangueiras, towards Botafogo, where she lived; Camilo went down to Guarda Velha, looking in passing at the fortune teller’s house.
Vilela, Camilo and Rita, three names, an adventure and no explanation of the origins. Let’s go to it. The first two were childhood friends. Vilela followed the career of magistrate. Camilo entered the civil service, against the wishes of his father, who wanted to see him as a doctor; but his father died, and Camilo preferred to be nothing, until his mother got him a public job. In the beginning of 1869, Vilela returned from the province, where he had married a beautiful and dizzy lady; he abandoned the judiciary and came to open a law firm. Camilo found him a house on the sides of Botafogo, and went on board to receive him.
- And you? exclaimed Rita, extending her hand. You can’t imagine how my husband is your friend, he always talked about you.
Camilo and Vilela looked at each other tenderly. They were really friends. Later, Camilo confessed to himself that Vilela’s wife did not deny her husband’s letters. She was really graceful and lively in her gestures, her eyes warm, her mouth thin and questioning. She was a little older than both: she was thirty years old, Vilela
twenty-nine and Camilo twenty-six. However, Vilela’s serious demeanor made him appear older than his wife, while Camilo was naive in moral and practical life.
It lacked both the action of time and the crystal glasses, which nature puts in the cradle of some to advance the years. Neither experience nor intuition.
The three came together. Coexistence brought intimacy. Shortly afterwards Camilo’s mother died, and in this disaster, which they were, the two proved to be great friends.
his. Vilela took care of the funeral, the suffrages and the inventory; Rita took care of the heart especially, and nobody would do it better.
How they came to love then, he never knew. The truth is that he liked to spend hours with her, he was her moral nurse, almost a sister, but mainly she was a woman and pretty. Odor di feminine: this is what he aspired in her, and around her, to incorporate him into himself. They read the same books, went to theaters and walks together.
- Camilo taught him checkers and chess and they played at night; – she badly, – him, to be pleasant, little less bad. So far the things. Now the action of the person, the stubborn eyes of Rita, who often sought his, who consulted them before asking him to her husband, cold hands, unusual attitudes.
- One day, turning his birthday, he received a rich cane as a gift from Vilela and from Rita only a card with an ordinary pencil greeting, and that was when he was able to read in his heart, he could not tear his eyes out of the note.
- Vulgar words; but there are sublime vulgarities, or at least delightful ones. The old street stall, in which you walked with your beloved woman for the first time, both locked, is worth Apollo’s car. So is the man, so are the things that surround him.
- Camilo sincerely wanted to run away, but he couldn’t. Rita, like a serpent, approached him, enveloped him all, made his bones snap in a spasm, and
- the poison dripped into his mouth. He was stunned and subdued. Shame, scares, regrets, desires, everything felt mixed, but the battle was short and the victory was delusional. Goodbye, scruples! It didn’t take long for the shoe to settle to the foot, and there they were, out on the road, arm in arm, walking loosely over herbs and boulders, suffering nothing more than a few longings when they were absent from each other. Vilela’s confidence and esteem remained the same.
- One day, however, Camilo received an anonymous letter, which he called immoral and
- perfidious, and said that the adventure was known to all. Camilo was afraid, and for
- to deflect suspicions, visits to Vilela’s home began to wane. The latter noticed his absences. Camilo replied that the reason was a frivolous boy’s passion. Candura generated cunning. The absences were prolonged, and the visits stopped entirely. It may also be that a little self-love was involved, an intention to lessen her husband’s fears, to make the act’s aliveness less difficult.
It was around this time that Rita, suspicious and fearful, ran to the fortune teller to consult her about the true cause of Camilo’s procedure. We saw that
fortune teller restored her confidence, and that the boy scolded her for having done what she did. A few more weeks went by. Camilo received two or three more anonymous letters, so passionate, that they could not be a warning of virtue, but despite some suitor; such was the opinion of Rita, who, in other words poorly composed, formulated this thought: – virtue is lazy and mean, it does not waste time or paper; only interest is active and lavish.
Not for that reason Camilo was more relaxed; he feared that the anonymous would go to Vilela, and the catastrophe would then come without remedy. Rita agreed that it was possible.
- Well, she said; I take the envelopes to compare the letter with those of the
cards that appear there; if any are the same, I keep it and tear it …
None appeared; but some time later Vilela started to be somber, saying little, as if suspicious. Rita was in a hurry to tell the other, and they deliberated about it. Her opinion is that Camilo should return to their home, feel for their husband, and it may even be that he heard the confidentiality of some private business. Camilo diverged; showing up after so many months was to confirm the suspicion or complaint. It would be better to beware, sacrificing for a few weeks. They combined the means of correspondence, in case of need, and separated with tears.
The following day, being at the office, Camilo received this note from Vilela: “Come now, to our house; I must speak to you without delay.”
It was more than noon. Camilo left soon; on the street, he warned that it would have been more natural to call him to the office; why at home? Everything indicated special material, and the letter, whether reality or illusion, seemed to tremble. He combined all these things with the news from yesterday.
- Come, now, to our house; I need to speak to you without delay, ”he repeated
eyes on the paper.
Imaginarily, he saw the tip of the ear of a drama, Rita subdued and tearful, Vilela indignant, picking up the pen and writing the note, certain that he would help, and waiting for him to kill him. Camilo shuddered, he was afraid: then he smiled yellow, and in any case he disliked the idea of retreating, and he walked. On the way, he remembered to go home; he could find a message from Rita that would explain everything. He found nothing, and nobody. He returned to the street, and the idea of being discovered seemed more and more credible; an anonymous tip was natural, even from the person who had threatened him before; it could be that Vilela knew everything now. The same suspension of his visits, for no apparent reason, with just a futile pretext, would confirm the rest.
Camilo was walking restless and nervous.
He didn’t read the note, but the words were memorized, fixed before his eyes, or else – which was even worse, – they were murmured in his ear, with Vilela’s own voice. “Come, now, to our house; I need to speak to you without delay.” Said like this, by the voice of the other, they had a tone of mystery and threat. Come, already, already, for what? It was close to one o’clock in the afternoon. The commotion grew from minute to minute. He so much imagined what would happen that he came to believe and see it. I was positively afraid. He began to consider going armed, considering that, if there was nothing, he lost nothing, and precaution was useful. Soon after, he rejected the idea, vexed with himself, and followed, taking the step, towards
from Largo da Carioca, to enter a tilburi. He arrived, went in and ordered a long trot to follow.
“The sooner the better, he thought; I can’t be like this …”
But the same trot from the horse added to his shock. Time flew by, and he would soon find himself in danger. Almost at the end of Rua da Guarda Velha, the taxi had to stop, the street was jammed with a cart, which had fallen. Camilo, in himself, estimated the obstacle, and waited. At the end of five minutes, he noticed that next door, on the left, at the foot of the cab, was the fortune teller’s house, which Rita had once consulted, and he never wanted to believe the letter lesson so much. He looked, saw the windows closed, when all the others were open and full of onlookers from the street incident. One would say the address of the indifferent Destiny.
Camilo leaned back in the cab, to see nothing. His agitation was great, extraordinary, and from the bottom of the moral layers some ghosts of another time emerged, the old beliefs, the old superstitions. The coachman proposed to him to return to the first lane, and to go the other way: he replied that no, that he should wait. And he leaned over to look at the house … Then he made an incredulous gesture: it was the idea of listening to the fortune teller, who passed him in the distance, very far away, with vast gray wings; disappeared, reappeared, and disappeared in the brain again; but after a while he moved his wings again, closer, making a few concentric turns … On the street, the men shouted, hitting the cart:
- Come on! now! push! go! go!
The obstacle would soon be removed.
Camilo closed her eyes, thought of other things: but her husband’s voice whispered in his ears the words of the letter: “Come, now, now …” And he saw the contortions of the drama and trembled. The house looked at him. The legs wanted to go down and enter. Camilo found himself facing a long opaque veil … he quickly thought about the inexplicable of so many things. Her mother’s voice repeated a number of extraordinary cases: and the same phrase from the Prince of Denmark was riveting her: “There are more things in heaven and on earth than philosophy dreams …” What he lost, if. ..?
He found himself on the sidewalk, by the door: he told the driver to wait, and quickly went down the hall and up the stairs. The light was poor, the steps eaten by the feet, the handrails sticky; but he did not, saw or felt anything. Climbed and hit.
When no one came, he had the idea of going down; but it was late, curiosity lashed his blood, the fountains throbbed; he hit again, twice, three strokes. A woman came; was the fortune teller. Camilo said he was going to consult her, she let him in. From there they went up to the attic, by a stairway even worse than the first and darker. Above was a small room, poorly lit by a window, which looked out on the back roof. Old frets, dark walls, an air of poverty, which increased rather than destroyed prestige.
The fortune teller made him sit in front of the table, and sat down on the opposite side, with his
his back to the window, so that the little outside light hit Camilo in the face. He opened a drawer and pulled out a deck of long, ragged cards. As I shuffled them, I quickly looked at him, not in the face, but under the eyes. She was a forty-year-old Italian woman, dark and thin, with big, sharp, sharp eyes. He returned three letters on the table and said:
- Let’s see first what is it that brings you here. You have a big scare …
Camilo, amazed, made an affirmative gesture.
- And you want to know, she continued, if something will happen to him or not …
“Me and her,” he explained briskly.
The fortune teller did not smile: I just told her to wait. Quickly he picked up the cards again and shuffled them, with long thin fingers, with neglected nails; shuffled them well, crossed the packs, one, two. 3 times; then he started to extend them. Camilo had his eyes on her. curious and anxious.
- The letters tell me …
Camilo leaned over to drink the words one by one. Then she declared that she was not afraid of anything. Nothing would happen to either one or the other; he the
third, he ignored everything. Nevertheless, great caution was essential:
envy and spite. He told her about the love that connected them, about the beauty of Rita … Camilo was dazzled. The fortune teller finished, picked up the letters and closed them in the drawer.
“You have restored peace to my spirit,” he said, reaching over the table and shaking the fortune teller’s hand.
She stood up, laughing.
- Go, she said; go, ragazzo innamorato …
And standing with his index finger, he touched his forehead. Camilo shivered, as if it were the hand of the sibyl, and stood up too. The fortune teller went to the dresser, on which was a plate of raisins, took out a bunch of these, started to toss them and eat them, showing two rows of teeth that belied the nails. In this same common action, the woman had a particular air. Camilo, anxious to leave, did not know how to pay; ignored the price.
- Raisins cost money, he said at last, taking out his wallet. How many do you want to send for?
- Ask your heart, she replied.
Camilo took out a ten-mil note and gave it to him. The fortune teller’s eyes shot. The usual price was two milreis.
- I see that you like her very much … And you do well; she likes you very much. Go, go, easy. Look at the stairs, it’s dark; put on your hat …
The fortune teller had already kept the note in her pocket, and went down with him, speaking, with a slight accent. Camilo said goodbye to her below, and went down the stairs that led to the street, while the fortune teller, happy with the payment, went up, humming a barcarola. Camilo found the tilburi waiting; the street was clear.
He entered and followed the long trot.
Everything seemed better now, the other things had another aspect, the sky was clear and the faces were cheerful. He even laughed at his fears, which he called childish; he recalled the terms of Vilela’s letter and acknowledged that they were intimate and familiar. Where had he discovered the threat? He also warned that they were urgent, and that it had been wrong to take so long; it could be some serious and very serious business.
- Come on, let’s go quickly, he repeated to the driver.
And with you, to explain the delay to your friend, you managed something; it seems that he also formed the plan to take advantage of the incident to return to the old assiduity … Back with his plans, the words of the fortune teller were in his soul. In fact, she had guessed the object of the consultation, its state, the existence of a third party; why wouldn’t you guess the rest? The ignored present is worth the future. It was like that, slow and continuous, that the old beliefs of the boy were revealing, and the mystery excited him with the nails of iron. Sometimes he wanted to laugh, and he laughed at himself, something shameful; but the woman, the letters, the dry and affirmative words, the exhortation: – Go, go, ragazzo innamorato; and in the end, in the distance, the barcarola of the farewell, slow and graceful, such were the recent elements, which formed, with the old ones, a new and lively faith.
The truth is that the heart was happy and impatient, thinking about the happy hours
of yesteryear and those that were to come. As he passed by Glória, Camilo looked at the sea, stretched out his eyes, to where the water and the sky give an infinite embrace, and thus had a sense of the future, long, long, interminable.
Soon he arrived at Vilela’s house. He dismounted, pushed the iron garden door and went inside. The house was quiet. He climbed the six stone steps, and barely had time to knock, the door opened, and Vilela appeared to him.
- Sorry, I couldn’t come earlier; what’s up
Vilela did not answer him; his features were decomposed; he motioned to him, and went to an inner room. Entering, Camilo could not suppress a cry of terror: – in the background on the settee, Rita was dead and bloody. Vilela caught him by the collar, and, with two revolver shots, stretched him dead on the floor.