I. How Itaguai Acquired a MadhouseThe chronicles of Itaguai relate that in remote times a certain physician of noble birth, SimãoBacamarte, lived there and that he was one of the greatest doctors in all Brazil, Portugal, and theSpains. He had studied for many years in both Padua and Coimbra. When, at the age of thirty-four, he announced his decision to return to Brazil and his home town of Itaguai, the King ofPortugal tried to dissuade him; he offered Bacamarte his choice between the Presidency ofCoimbra University and the office of Chief Expediter of Government Affairs. The doctor politelydeclined.“Science,” he told His Majesty, “is my only office; Itaguai, my universe.”He took up residence there and dedicated himself to the theory and practice of medicine. Healternated therapy with study and research; he demonstrated theorems with poultices.In his fortieth year Bacamarte married the widow of a circuit judge. Her name was DonaEvarista da Costa e Mascarenhas, and she was neither beautiful nor charming. One of hisuncles, an outspoken man, asked him why he had not selected a more attractive woman. Thedoctor replied that Dona Evarista enjoyed perfect digestion, excellent eyesight, and normal bloodpressure; she had had no serious illnesses and her urinalysis was negative. It was likely she wouldgive him healthy, robust children. If, in addition to her physiological accomplishments, DonaEvarista possessed a face composed of features neither individually pretty nor mutuallycompatible, he thanked God for it, for he would not be tempted to sacrifice his scientific pursuitsto the contemplation of his wife’s attractions.But Dona Evarista failed to satisfy her husband’s expectations. She produced no robustchildren and, for that matter, no puny ones either. The scientific temperament is by naturepatient; Bacamarte waited three, four, five years. At the end of this period he began an exhaustivestudy of sterility. He reread the works of all the authorities (including the Arabian), sent inquiriesto the Italian and German universities, and finally recommended a special diet. But DonaEvarista, nourished almost exclusively on succulent Itaguai pork, paid no heed; and to this lack ofwifely submissiveness—understandable but regrettable—we owe the total extinction of theBacamartian dynasty.
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It, Rio de Janeiro, Dona Evarista, Melville House Publishing