Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Translated by Juan LePuen
Original title: “Um Incêndio”
English translation copyright Juan LePuen and Fario
Published at Smashwords by Fario
I got this leg wound there.
Camões, The Lusiad, canto V.
I didn’t invent the story I’m going to tell, and my friend Abel didn’t invent it, either. He heard it with a wealth of detail, and one day, in conversation, he gave me a brief version of events that has stayed in my memory—I’m going to tell it exactly as I heard it. You won’t find in it the pithiness, the very passion that this Abel puts into everything he says, whether it’s an idea of his or, as in this case, it’s someone else’s story. Patience; no matter how much you lose with respect to the form, you will lose nothing of the content. The reason is that I haven’t forgotten what it matters to know, say, and have printed.
B—, thirty-two years old, tall, red-headed, a bit pudgy, a straight and pointy nose, and his eyes two pieces of light-blue sky swept by the sun, was an officer in the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. He was recovering from a broken leg. At that point (not yet in the street) he was using a little crutch. He would go to the lobby of the English Hospital, here in Rio, where Abel saw him and was introduced to him when he went there to visit a sick friend, likewise English, and a priest.