ESCRITORES



São Bernardo





Autor: Graciliano Ramos
Título: São Bernardo
Idiomas: port, eng
Tradutor: R. L. Scott-Buccleuch(eng)
Data: 28/12/2004

São Bernardo

Capítulo VI

Graciliano Ramos

Naquele segundo ano houve dificuldades medonhas. Plantei mamona e algodão, mas a safra foi ruim, os preços baixos, vivi meses aperreado, vendendo macacos e fazendo das fraquezas forças para não ir ao fundo. Trabalhava danadamente, dormindo pouco, levantando-me às quatro da manhã, passando dias ao sol, à chuva, de facão, pistola e cartucheira, comendo nas horas de descanso um pedaço de bacalhau assado e um punhado de farinha. À noite, na rede, explicava pormenores do serviço a Casimiro Lopes. Ele acocorava-se na esteira e, apesar da fadiga, ouvia atento. Às vezes Tubarão ladrava lá fora e nós aguçávamos o ouvido.

Uma feita distinguimos passos ao redor da casa. Olhei por uma fresta na parede. A escuridão era grande, mas percebi um vulto. E as pisadas continuaram. O cachorro latiu e rosnou.

– Mais esta! cochichou Casimiro Lopes.

No dia seguinte visitei Mendonça, que me recebeu inquieto. Conversamos sobre tudo, especialmente sobre votos. Dirigi amabilidades às filhas dele, duas solteironas, e lamentei a morte da mulher, excelente pessoa, caridosa, amiga de servir, sim senhor. Mendonça, espantado, perguntou onde eu tinha visto D. Alexandrina.

– Faz tempo. Fui morador do velho Salustiano. Arrastei a enxada, no eito.

As moças acanharam-se mas o pai achou que eu procedia com honestidade revelando francamente a minha origem. Depois queixou-se dos vizinhos (nenhum se dava com ele).

– Há por aí umas pestes que principiaram como o senhor e arrotam importância. Trabalhar não é desonra. Mas se eu tivesse nascido na poeira, por que havia de negar?

Tentou envergonhar-me:

– Trabalhador alugado, hem? Não se incomode. O Fidélis, que hoje é senhor de engenho, e conceituado, furtou galinhas.

Enquanto ele tesourava o próximo, observei-o. Pouco a pouco ia perdendo os sinais de inquietação que a minha presença lhe tinha trazido. Parecia à vontade catando os defeitos dos vizinhos e esquecido do resto do mundo, mas não sei se aquilo era tapeação. Eu me insinuava, discutindo eleições. É possível, porém, que não conseguisse enganá-lo convenientemente e que ele fizesse comigo o jogo que eu fazia com ele. Sendo assim, acho que representou bem, pois cheguei a capacitar-me de que ele não desconfiava de mim. Ou então quem representou bem fui eu, se o convenci de que tinha ido ali politicar. Se ele pensou isso, era doido. Provavelmente não pensou. Talvez tenha pensado depois de iludir-se e julgar que estava sendo sincero. Foi o que me sucedeu. Repetindo as mesmas palavras, os mesmos gestos, e ouvindo as mesmas histórias, acabei gostando do proprietário de Bom-Sucesso.

Continuava a observá-lo, mas a observação era instintiva. Despertou. Bocejando, mostrando os caninos amarelos e pontudos, Mendonça bateu palmas e esfarelou um mosquito. Mosquito como bala! Tinha passado uma noite horrível.

Respondi que havia dormido como pedra. Os pântanos em S. Bernardo estavam aterrados, não restava um mosquito para remédio. Arrependi-me de ter falado precipitadamente. Mendonça examinou-me de través, e suponho que não ficou satisfeito. Tornou a referir-se à noite de insônia, e eu repeti que tinha dormido. Pouco seguro, com a cara mexendo. Naturalmente ele compreendeu que era mentira.

Cada um de nós mentiu estupidamente. Empurrei de novo na palestra a minha vida de trabalhador. Resultado medíocre: as moças cochilaram e Mendonça estirou o beiço.

Um caboclo mal-encarado entrou na sala. Mendonça franziu a testa. Quis despedir-me; receei, porém, que o momento fosse impróprio e conservei-me sentado, esperando modificar a impressão desagradável que produzia. As moças me achavam maçador, evidentemente.

– Se o inverno vindouro for como este, desgraça-se tudo: isto vira lama e não nasce um pé de mandioca.

– Decerto, concordou Mendonça, visivelmente aporrinhado com o caboclo, que me olhava tranqüilo, sem levantar a cabeça.

– Pois até logo, exclamei de chofre. A eleição domingo, hem? Entendido. Mato um… (ia dizer um boi. Moderei-me: todo o mundo sabia que eu tinha meia dúzia de eleitores) um carneiro. Um carneiro é bastante, não? Está direito. Até domingo.

E saí, descontente. Creio que foi mais ou menos o que aconteceu. Não me lembro com precisão.

Atravessei o pátio e entrei no atalho que ia ter a S. Bernardo. Que vergonha! Tomar a terra dos outros e deixá-la com aquelas veredas indecentes, cheias de camaleões, o mato batendo no rosto de quem passava!

Percorri a zona da encrenca. A cerca ainda estava no ponto em que eu a tinha encontrado no ano anterior. Mendonça forcejava por avançar, mas continha-se; eu procurava alcançar os limites antigos, inutilmente. Discórdia séria só esta: um moleque de S. Bernardo fizera mal à filha do mestre de açúcar de Mendonça, e Mendonça, em conseqüência, metera o alicate no arame; mas eu havia consertado a cerca e arranjado o casamento do moleque com a cabrochinha.

Dei uma vista no algodoal e encaminhei-me ao paredão do açude. Poucos trabalhadores.

Subi a colina. Tinha-se concluído os alicerces desta nossa casa, as paredes começavam a elevar-se. De repente um tiro. Estremeci. Era na pedreira, que Mestre Caetano escavacava lentamente, com dois cavouqueiros. Outro tiro, ruim: pedra miúda voando.

Quando se acabariam aqueles serviços moles? Desgraçadamente faltavam-me recursos para atacá-los firme. Assim mesmo, lidando com o pessoal escasso, às vezes na sexta feira eu não sabia onde buscar dinheiro para pagar as folhas no sábado.

Fiz algumas perguntas ao pedreiro. Um pedreiro só. As paredes tinham um metro de altura. Se eu empregasse muitos operários, as obras sairiam mais baratas. O paredão do açude não ia para a frente, acuava. E a pedreira, onde uns vultos miudinhos se moviam, era como se em seis meses de trabalho não tivesse sido desfalcada.

Um carro de bois passou lá embaixo; outro carro de bois veio vindo, carregado de tijolos.

Onde andaria a velha Margarida? Seria bom encontrar a velha Margarida e trazê-la para S. Bernardo. Devia estar pegando um século, pobre da negra.

Demorei-me até que os serventes lavaram as colheres e guardaram as ferramentas. Fiquei só. Os homens da lavoura e os do açude foram debandando também.

Mais tiros na pedreira, os últimos. Pensei no Mendonça. Canalha. Do lado de cá da cerca o algodão pintava, a mamona crescia nos aceiros da roça; do lado de lá, sapé e espinho. Quantas braças de terra aquele malandro tinha furtado! Felizmente estávamos em paz. Aparentemente. De qualquer forma era-me necessário caminhar depressa.

Desci a ladeira e fui jantar. Enquanto jantava, falei em voz baixa a Casimiro Lopes, a princípio com panos mornos, depois delineando um projeto. Casimiro Lopes desviou-se dos panos mornos e colaborou no projeto.

Deixei o negócio entabulado, fechei as portas e escrevi algumas cartas aos bancos da capital e ao governador do Estado. Aos bancos solicitei empréstimos, ao governador comuniquei a instalação próxima de numerosas indústrias e pedi a dispensa de imposto sobre os maquinismos que importasse. A verdade é que os empréstimos eram improváveis e eu não imaginava a maneira de pagar os maquinismos. Mas havia-me habituado a considerá-los meio comprados.

Em seguida consultei o Aprendizado Agrícola da Satuba relativamente à possível aquisição de um bezerro limosino.

Quando ia terminando, ouvi pisadas em redor da casa. Levantei-me e olhei pela fresta. Lá estava um tipo dando estalos com os dedos, enganando o Tubarão. Reparando, julguei reconhecer o freguês carrancudo que tinha entrado na sala do Mendonça. Abandonei a espreita e chamei Casimiro Lopes, que me substituiu. Deitei-me pensando em Mestre Caetano e na pedreira. Marretas, alavancas, aço para broca, pólvora, estopim.

– Gente de lá, murmurou Casimiro Lopes balançando o punho da rede.

– Com certeza.

No outro dia, sábado, matei o carneiro para os eleitores. Domingo à tarde, de volta da eleição, Mendonça recebeu um tiro na costela mindinha e bateu as botas ali mesmo na estrada, perto de Bom-Sucesso. No lugar há hoje uma cruz com um braço de menos.

Na hora do crime eu estava na cidade, conversando com o Vigário a respeito da igreja que pretendia levantar em S. Bernardo. Para o futuro, se os negócios corressem bem.

– Que horror! exclamou Padre Silvestre quando chegou a notícia. Ele tinha inimigos?

– Se tinha! Ora se tinha! Inimigo como carrapato. Vamos ao resto, Padre Silvestre. Quanto custa um sino?

Do romance: RAMOS, Graciliano. São Bernardo. 22» ed.. São Paulo: Martins, 1974. p. 59-64.

 

São Bernardo

chapter VI

Graciliano Ramos

 

That second year I ran into terrible difficulties. I planted castor beans and cotton, but the crop was poor, prices low, and I spend months scraping along in a desperate struggle for survival. I worked like a slave, scarcely sleeping, getting up at four in the morning, working for days in sun and rain, carrying my knife, gun and cartridge belt, and, when I stopped to rest, eating a piece of fish with a handful of flour. At night, in my hammock, I gave Casimiro Lopes his instructions. He would squat down on the mat and, though worn out, listen attentively. Sometimes Shark would back outside and we would prick up our ears.

On one occasion we heard footsteps outside the house. I peered through a crack in the wall. It was pitch dark but I could make out a shape. The footsteps continued. The dog growled and barked.

“This too!” whispered Casimiro Lopes.

Next day I went to see Mendonça, who received me warily. We talked about one thing and another, but especially about votes. I conversed politely with his two daughters, both spinsters, and expressed regret at the death of his wife, such an excellent woman, so kind and attentive. Mendonça was astonished and asked where I had seen Dona Alexandrina.

“A long time ago. I was one of old Salustiano’s hands; used to work on his plantations.”

The women drew back in horror, but the father commended my honest in frankly avowing my origins. Then he complained about his neighbours (nobody got on with him).

“There are some scum here who began like you did but have developed swelled heads. It’s no disgrace to work. If I’d been born in the gutter, why should I bother to deny it?” He tried to take me down a peg. “A hired worked, hey? Don’t let it worry you. Fidélis, who’s now highly respected mill owner, used to steal chickens.”

While he was running down his neighbour, I was watching him. Little by little he lost the signs of uneasiness that my presence had caused. He seemed perfectly at ease, commenting on the defects of others and forgetful of everything else, but I’m not sure whether it wasn’t all put on. I tried to ingratiate myself by discussing elections. But it’s possible I didn’t really succeed in fooling him and he was playing the same game with me. If so, he played it very well for I convinced myself that he didn’t suspect me. In that case it was I who played well, if I convinced him I’d gone there to talk politics. If that’s what he thought he was crazy. Most likely, he didn’t. Maybe he thought so after being fooled into believing. I was sincere. That’s what happened to me. Repeating the same words, the same gestures and hearing the same stories, I ended up liking the landlord of Bom-Sucesso.

Instinctively I continued to watch him closely. He roused himself, yawned, showing his yellow, pointed teeth, and clapped his hands, flattening a mosquito. There were mosquitoes buzzing around like bullets, he said. He’d spent a terrible night. I answered that I’d slept like a rock. The swamps in S. Bernardo had been filled in and there wasn’t a single mosquito left. I regretted having spoken so hastily. Mendonça looked at me out of the corner of his eyes and I guess he wasn’t satisfied. He referred again to his sleepless night and I repeated how well I’d slept. He looked doubtful, his face twitching. Of course he knew it was a lie.

We both lied for all we were worth. I brought the conversation back to my life as a labourer. It wasn’t a success: the women whispered together and Mendonça tugged at his lip. A surly-looking hand came into the room. Mendonça frowned. I wanted to get away but I was afraid it might be an inopportune moment, so I sat there hoping to modify the disagreeable impression I had created. Obviously the women thought I was a bore.

“If next winter’s like this one it’ll be the end: this’ll become a sea of mud and you won’t get a single manioc root to grow.”

“True,” said Mendonça, visibly annoyed with his workman who was gazing at him steadily without raising his head.

“Well, good bye,” I said abruptly. “The election’s on Sunday, right? Fine. I’ll kill… (I was going to say an ox, but I changed my mind: everyone knows I have only half a dozen electors) a sheep. A sheep’ll be enough, won’t it? That’s settled. Till Sunday.”

I went out feeling dissatisfied. That is more or less what took place. I don’t remember the details.

I crossed the yard and took the path leading to S. Bernardo. It was a disgrace. Fancy stealing other people’s land and leaving it with the roads all rutted and the undergrowth whipping the face of whoever passed by! I passed through the disputed zone. The fence was still in the same place where I had found it. Mendonça was anxiously trying to push forward, but restrained himself, while I, for my part, was seeking unsuccessfully to regain the former boundaries. We had had only one serious disagreement; a lad from S. Bernardo got Mendonça’s sugar foreman’s daughter into trouble, and as a result Mendonça started cutting down the wire. But I repaired the fence and made the culprit marry the girl.

I had a look at the cotton field and walked on to the wall of the dam. There were few workmen. I climbed the hill. The foundations of the new house were finished and the walls were going up. Suddenly a shot rang out. I gave a shudder. It came from the quarry, where the foreman, Caetano, was working with three men. There was another explosion, a bad one, and a shower of small stones flew up. When were they ever going to finish those slow everlasting jobs? Unfortunately I hadn’t the means to get down to them properly. And even with the few workers I had it often happened that on a Friday I didn’t know where the money was coming from to pay the wages on Saturday.

I stopped to question the bricklayer. There was only one. The walls were a metre high. If I employed more men the job would work out cheaper. As for the work on the dam wall, it was losing ground rather than going ahead, while the quarry, where I could see some tiny figures moving, looked as if after six month’s work nothing had been removed from it.

Way down below an ox cart passed by, and there was another one coming, laden with bricks.

Where could old Margarida be living now? It would be good to find out where she was and bring her to S. Bernardo. The old negress must be close on a hundred now, poor thing.

I waited until the men had cleaned their spades and put away their tools. I was alone. The ones from the plantations and the dam were dispersing too. There were more explosions from the quarry, the last. I thought of Mendonça. The swine. This side of the fence the cotton was flourishing and castor beans were growing in the clearings; on the other side, nothing but wild grass and thistles. How many acres of land had the scoundrel stolen? Luckily we were at peace. Or seemed to lie. Nevertheless, I’d better look smart getting home.

I walked down the hill and went for dinner. While I was eating I talked in a low voice to Casimiro Lopes, first of all using circumlocutions, later outlining a definite plan. Casimiro Lopes brushed aside the circumlocutions and approved a plan. With my project thus agreed upon I closed the doors and wrote off some letters to banks in the capital and to the state governor. Those to the banks requested loans, while the one to the governor informed him that I was about to install numerous industries in the near future and asked for exemption from tax on the machinery that I would be importing. The truth is that I was unlikely to get the loans and I couldn’t think up any way of paying for the machinery. But I’d got used to the idea of considering it almost bought. Afterwards I consulted the Satuba Agricultural School about the possibility of acquiring a Limousin calf.

As I was finishing I heard footsteps outside the house. I got up and peered through the crack. There was a fellow there making up to Shark by snapping his fingers. Looking closely I thought I recognised the surly-looking character I’d seen in Mendonça’s room. I left the spy-hole and called Casimiro Lopes, who took my place. I lay down, thinking about Caetano and the quarry, my mind full of hammers, levers, steel of drills, dynamite and fuses.

“Some of theirs,” whispered Casimiro Lopes, shaking the loop of the hammock.

“Could only be.”

Next day, Saturday, I killed the sheep for the voters. Sunday evening, as he was returning from the election, Mendonça was shot in the chest and bit the dust there and then, on the road close to Bom-Sucesso. Today the spot is marked by a cross with one of its arms missing. At the time of the murder I was in town talking to the parish priest about the church I intended to build in S. Bernardo. In the future, that is, provided business progressed satisfactorily.

“How terrible!” said Father Silvestre when they brought the news. “Did he have any enemies?”

“Enemies! Did he have any enemies! As thick as lice. Well, what about it, Father Silvestre? How much did you say a bell costs?”

_________________

From: São Bernardo: a novel. Trans. by R. L. Scott-Buccleuch. London: P. Owen, 1975. p. 26-31.

 



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