Dom Casmurro Chapter 29

THE EMPEROR

On the way home we met the Emperor, who was coming from the School of Medicine. The bus we were in stopped, as did all the other vehicles, and the passengers all got out, stood in the road and took off their hats until the imperial coach had passed. When I returned to my seat I had the fantastic idea of approaching the Emperor, telling him everything and asking him to intervene. I would not mention this idea to Capitu. If His Majesty asks, my mother will give way, I told myself.

I pictured the Emperor listening to me, reflecting for a while and finally agreeing to speak to my mother. With tears in my eyes I would kiss his hand. Then I was at home, waiting, until I heard the outriders and the troop of cavalry. It’s the Emperor! It’s the Emperor! Everyone flocked to the windows to see him pass by; but he didn’t pass by. The coach stopped at our door, the Emperor got out and walked inside. What excitement there was in the neighbourhood! The Emperor’s gone into Dona Gl√≥ria’s house. What can it mean? Whatever can it mean? The family came forward to greet him, my mother being the first to kiss his hand. Then the Emperor, with a gracious smile, and without entering the living-room (or did he come in? I don’t remember very well; dreams are often confused), asked my mother not to make me become a priest, and she, flattered and obedient, promised not to do so.

‘Medicine. Why don’t you send him to study medicine?’

‘If that is Your Majesty’s wish …’

‘Have him taught medicine. It’s a fine career, and here we have fine teachers. Haven’t you ever been to our school? It’s a fine school. We have first-class doctors who bear comparison with the best in the world. Medicine is a noble science; the mere fact that it gives health to men, studies their diseases, combats and overcomes them … You yourself must have seen miracles. Your husband died, but his illness was a fatal one and he didn’t take care of himself. It is a fine career. Send him to our school. Will you do that for my sake? You’d like to go, wouldn’t you, Bentinho?’

‘If my mother wants me …’

‘I do, my child. It is His Majesty’s command.’

Then the Emperor held out his hand again to be kissed and left the house, accompanied by all of us. The street was crowded and the windows packed with onlookers. There was complete silence as the Emperor got into the coach, giving a bow and a farewell wave, still saying, ‘Medicine … our school …’ And then, amid envy and gratitude, the coach moved off.

All this I saw and heard. No, not even Ariosto’s imagination is more fertile than that of children and lovers, nor does a vision of the impossible require more than a quiet corner of a bus. I consoled myself for a few moments – or shall we say minutes? – before abandoning my plan and returning to the real-world faces of my companions.