Thursday, April 25, 2013

At the Lawrence



He went straight to Genoveva's house; he wanted to talk to Mélanie, to question her and find out what it all meant - the trip to Sintra and the move.
Upstairs, he found the front door open; he knocked on the door and went into the house; he peered into the living room where he saw Mélanie standing before him and the broad back of a man in a jacket disappearing into Genoveva's bed­room. Mélanie, quite unperturbed and with the familiar air of a lady of the house and the manner of a confidante, invited him in and asked why he hadn't been to see them.
There were two large trunks in the room, which Mélanie was filling; on the chairs were dresses, various packages and hatboxes; on the floor were piles of underclothes and the occasional sachet of aromatic herbs; there was lace, ribbons on nightdresses, a whole intimate feminine world that gave Vítor a troubling sense of half-glimpsed nakedness.
'So, where are you moving to?'
'To Rua das Flores, a third-floor apartment, on the corner. It's a lovely house and all newly fitted out.' And she praised the house, but that only irritated Vítor.
'And where are they staying in Sintra?'
At the Lawrence. I'm not going until tomorrow, because I had to do the packing. They're in Sintra for a fortnight.'
'I see,' said Vítor, preparing to light a cigarette.
Mélanie ran off to find a match for Vítor, and Vítor strolled about the room. 'So she was permanently installed with that fool Dâmaso!' Vítor felt neither jealous nor sad; he simply hated her, found her vulgar and stupid. 'How I despise her!' he thought. 'If the silly woman came to me now on bended knee, I wouldn't touch her even with tongs!' His foot touched a hat and he gave it a kick that sent it flying against the wall. And all that linen, all those petticoats, even the smell of them irritated him; Dâmaso would have touched them. That beast had lounged on those sheets. It was comical really. Dâmaso! If only he were there now; he would like to hear Dâmaso make one of his facetious comments. And he laughed to himself. What a punch he'd land him. He would, with pleasure, tear him limb from limb. Not out of jealousy, mind, but because he had always disliked him; he was a bourgeois, a conformist and a dandy. He hated him.
Mélanie came back bearing a box of matches.
'So, they're off for a honeymoon in Sintra, are they?'
Mélanie made a slight gesture with her head, smiled faintly and shrugged; then she bent down and went back to packing the trunks, saying:
'Well, when you can't have what you want, you have to make do with what you have.'

Eça de Queirós, The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers, London, Dedalus, 2000, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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