Estanislau’s Widow, by Artur Azevedo

(My translation of the short story A viúva do Estanislau, which was published in Contos ligeiros in 1974)

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after the death of her husband – poor Estanislau who’d been finally defeated by tuberculosis after a long and terrible struggle –,  it seemed that Adelaide would die as well. People said she loved her husband so much that she’d done everything possible to catch the same disease and lie near him in her grave. She got visibly thinner and everyone said that sooner or later God would grant her wish; but time, which smooths over and repairs everything, was stronger than the pain and, a year and a half later, Adelaide was rosier-cheeked and more beautiful than she’d ever been. Estanislau had left her destitute. The poor boy had not expected to have to put his things in order so soon or, to put it another way, had no way of preparing for the future. While he lived, nothing was lacking; after he died,  everything was lacking and Adelaide, who fortunately didn’t have children, accepted the hospitality offered by her parents. ‘Come and live with us again,’ the old couple said; ‘we’ll pretend you never married.’

It didn’t take long for a suitor to appear. Miranda was an excellent young man who used to visit the old couple’s home on account of working in the same office where Adelaide’s father was the boss. It was with great satisfaction that the latter noted the warm feelings Miranda demonstrated towards the young woman and he almost jumped for joy when, in the office one day, Miranda told him frankly that he wished for nothing so much as to be his son-in-law. The old man went home as happy as a sandboy and told his wife everything:

‘Do you know what, Henriqueta? Miranda told me today he’s attracted to Adelaide and would like to marry her. I’m so pleased, because our daughter couldn’t have a better husband! What do you say?’

‘I say that would be great good fortune, but I doubt Adelaide will accept him.’

‘You doubt it? Why?’

‘Because she thinks only of Estanislau; she’s an inconsolable widow. She’s turned plump, she’s looking much brighter, she’s in good health, but I bet she won’t agree to hear about marrying again.’

‘Leave it to me; I’ll have a word with her.’

The old man had a word with her and discovered, indeed, that Mrs Henriqueta had guessed right:

‘Don’t speak to me about marriage, Daddy! I’d consider myself a worthless woman if I took a substitute for my poor Estanislau!’

But the old man was not so easily convinced: he didn’t give up and returned to the fray, using all the arguments suggested by his long experience of the world:

‘My dear daughter, in a place as full of gossip as Rio de Janeiro, the reputation of a young and pretty widow is in such great danger that the best way you could find of respecting Estanislau’s revered memory would be to get married again. The only difficulty is finding a husband, but – as to that – you’ve been incredibly lucky, my dear daughter. Miranda has been sent to you from heaven! Look! If I myself had to choose a son-in-law, I wouldn’t chose anyone else and, if you marry him, you’ll make your mother and me very happy in our old age.’

These words, which were finally dampened by tears of tenderness, struck home in Adelaide’s spirit and, that same night, while the family was together with Miranda in the dining room, she turned to him and said the following:

‘My friend, I know you’re very fond of me and want to be my husband; I know our marriage would make my parents very happy; but I have to tell you that I still love Estanislau as if he were still alive and I can’t love two men at the same time.’

The old couple almost choked on their soup; Miranda squirmed in his chair without saying anything in reply.

‘I also know you’re a perfect gentleman and that you’d be an ideal husband; I admire your character, your goodness, your intelligence; but, if we married, I wouldn’t be able to give you the affection that every man has the right to expect in his bride’s heart. If, after this true and honest declaration, you still want to be my husband, here’s my hand.’

‘I accept it!’ Miranda promptly replied, taking hold of the hand that Adelaide extended to him. ‘I accept it because – forgive my vanity – I have some confidence in my merits and I’m sure I shall conquer your love!’

They married and, now they’ve been together for a year, they’ve something to boast about – she about some really unexpected physiological changes, and he about being loved more than Estanislau ever was.

‘So are you happy, my daughter?’

‘Very happy, Mummy; Miranda is such a good husband that, over in the other world, Estanislau – in all conscience – would have to forgive me.’

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