domingo, 31 de outubro de 2010


Diogo and I remained for about six months at the house of Aunt Francisca. Diogo, although he was there as a servant, was treated with very special affection just because he was my friend. Aunt Francisca even insisted that he stayed as a guest, but his pride and his sense of loyalty to those of his status wouldn’t let him accept.
            At first, I had felt the need to get out of there, for despite my Aunt’s kindness and good will, I still felt like I was imposing. Diogo’s situation wasn’t much different, for although he was there as a servant, he knew Aunt Francisca’s staff was more than enough and that she had only taken him in out of generosity. He tried several times to find employment in other households but without success.
            Besides, after my Father and Luz had left, both Diogo and I had been the target of several provocations and even aggressions, and not even Aunt Francisca was spared, for one night they tried to burn the house down. Happily, we managed to stop the fire from spreading before it hurt someone or caused any irreparable damage, but it became clear that our presence in that house jeopardized the safety of all who lived there.
            The next day, after discussing the matter with Diogo, I informed Aunt Francisca of our decision to leave.
            «But where will you go?», she asked, concerned. «Everyday, people in my situation are taking refuge in the Azores. The Count of Vila Flor has managed to keep the absolutists at bay and stop them from entering the Terceira Island. Perhaps that’s the only safe place for a liberal right now». «But you can’t just leave so suddenly...» «Probably, there won’t be a boat for a week, so it won’t be so sudden. Besides, you saw what happened tonight. We can’t stay any longer». «But we’re not sure if that was because of you. There are so many people in this world capable of evil deeds for no reason...» «But you know that Diogo and I have been receiving threats». «All right. I understand you cannot stay. But it’s silly to leave so suddenly. Listen to me for a moment. We are at the end of November. It’s less than a month to Christmas. Why don’t you stay for Christmas and the New Year and travel after that?» «The longer I stay, the more you will be in danger». «It’s just a few weeks. I have been spending my Christmases alone for so long... Of course I have the servants. They’re very affectionate with me, but it’s not the same as having family here. Please, Pedro...»
            I could see that she was being sincere. She was aware of the danger that my presence meant, but she was willing to risk it, just to feel a little less alone that Christmas.
I admit the idea of spending Christmas in a strange land, without Luz and my Father, scared me too. I had talked with Diogo about the possibility of going to the Azores, and we had decided that if we did, it would be to try and join the troops of Vila Flor, for it was the best way we could think of helping the cause. If that happened, God only knew how our Christmas that year would be like.
«Maybe you’re right, Aunt. I’ll tell Diogo about it and if he agrees, we’ll leave after the New Year».

Diogo accepted my Aunt’s proposition and we decided to leave after Twelfth Day. We wrote to Luz and Cecília to wish them Happy Holidays and let them know of our decision. The reply came one week before Christmas. Besides wishing us a merry Christmas, Cecília – and especially Luz – urged us not to rush ourselves, for although they knew we were not safe in that house, they also knew that we were going to the islands to fight, and they feared even more for our safety there.
But the most surprising came next: Luz was going to get married. I felt as if stunned as I read the news. For me, Maria da Luz had not yet stopped being the little girl whose blond braids I used to pull and with whom I used to chase the animals around the gardens of the Roseiral. Even when I thought about the possibility of her union with Diogo, it was something in the long run.
Luz explained the details: Álvaro Sousa Dias, son of an old friend of the family, had proposed, which had immediately pleased my Father. Although Luz didn’t say it in so many words, I could understand that my Father had induced her to accept because he saw in it a way to save his financial situation, which was getting worse by the day. I could also see that Luz didn’t love him, despite all the good qualities she mentioned about him, and that she was only willing to accept to please my Father.
I felt like travelling immediately to the Roseiral and stopping her from doing something as crazy as handing her whole life to someone she did not love for the happiness of a selfish old man.
However, perhaps already anticipating my reaction, Luz urged me not to worry about her and declared that she had only accepted because she didn’t love anyone else and so her sacrifice would not be so great. Perhaps with time, she said, she would in fact eventually love him. But that wasn’t what made me change my mind about travelling to stop that marriage. The wedding would only take place in two years time. Álvaro should respect a year of mourning for his Mother’s death before officially announcing the engagement and after that, for some hypocritical demand of my Father, another year should pass before they would actually get married. That made me give up my intent. It seemed ridiculous trying to stop something that was only going to happen after two years anyway. Deep down, I hoped that during that time, Luz would end up refusing.
Reading that Luz was going to get married under those conditions, I had felt deep anger, but I believe it was true sadness that the news caused in Diogo.
Diogo was too reserved to admit he was hurting but not so cold that he could hide from his best friend such deep pain. I believe that up until that moment, Diogo did not know that he loved my sister. He had truly believed that he cherished her in the same way that he cherished me. The awareness that she was off limits to him had never bothered him. Only now, that she was willing to give herself to someone else, he realised that he wanted her for himself and that he couldn’t bear picturing her in the arms of another man.
Diogo didn’t say a word when he finished reading the letter, but I could see all that in his eyes. I wanted to comfort him, but without telling him that I knew he was suffering, for I knew how uncomfortable he was when people could see through him. «I’m sure she’ll end up changing her mind», I said. «Why should she? She is 16. She found a good catch. Nothing more natural than getting married».
I could detect a certain bitterness in his voice, as if he wanted to force himself to hate Luz, so that her loss couldn’t hurt him. However, he eventually admitted: «I always knew that Maria da Luz was out of my reach, but I had never realised how much that hurt me...»
And pulling himself together: «You shouldn’t let me speak like this. Who am I to ever...»
Diogo didn’t finish his sentence, but I knew what he meant and I said: «You’re the only man that I’m sure would never hurt my sister, but if she is too blind to see that...»
We remained silent for a moment. Aunt Francisca knocked on the door of my room, where Diogo and I had been reading the letter. «So?», she asked. «Are there any news? Is everyone alright at the Roseiral?» «Luz is getting married», I declared, guessing that to her, it was probably happy news. «Married?! Really? God, I keep forgetting that my nephews are all grown up... But why those faces? It’s the best news I’ve heard in years! Who’s the lucky gentleman? When are they getting married?»
Despite everything, we could not help but smile at the joy with which my Aunt greeted the news.
«Here’s the letter», I said, to avoid having to tell her all the details. «You may read it».
Diogo and I sneaked out of the room, for we knew how boring it could be listening to an old widow chat about marriage.

Until Christmas, time seemed to drag on, despite Aunt Francisca’s gentleness. Diogo and I were anxious to fight. The idle life we led in that house made us eager for the end of the season. However, when Christmas did come, both my friend and I were glad we had decided to stay. Unlike what happened in the Roseiral, Aunt Francisca – perhaps because she was a lonely woman – gathered all her servants around her table and so I fulfilled the old dream of having Diogo at my dinner table on Christmas Eve.
In certain moments of the evening I felt melancholy. I missed Maria da Luz, Cecília, Father Ricardo and although I tried to convince myself of the contrary, I missed my Father. I wondered if he felt the same and how that first Christmas without me would be for him. I must confess I was selfish, for I could not help wishing that he felt the same void as I did.
In the week between Christmas and the New Year, Diogo and I made arrangements for our departure. We wouldn’t be taking much. Just the clothes we had brought from the Roseiral and some basic personal effects.
We found out that a boat to the Azores would leave the city on January the 8th and we wanted to be ready when the time came. So that week seemed to pass relatively quickly, since we were always busy. But the same cannot be said of the days that followed the arrival of 1982, for with everything ready, the expectation of the journey took hold of us just like the expectation of the moment to open the presents used to when we were little. Still, we took advantage of the time to write the last letter we would send from the mainland to the Roseiral.
When the day finally came, Aunt Francisca insisted on seeing us off at the harbour and so we went in her carriage, driven by old Quim, the coach driver.
Before going on board, I said goodbye to Aunt Francisca, who hugged me with true emotion and took Diogo’s hands with sincere affection. «You’re a very kind lady», my friend said to her. «I don’t know how we can ever thank you enough». «You have nothing to thank me for», she said. «You have been the children I never had for these past few months. You made me happy. All I ask is that you are happy too. And that you don’t forget me». «We’ll never forget you, Aunt Francisca», I assured. «And when it’s all over, we’ll come visit as soon as we can», Diogo added. «Well, you better be going», she said, trying to disguise her emotion. «Or you’ll miss the boat».
After the last goodbyes, Diogo and I paid our passages and climbed on board. From the deck, we saw Aunt Francisca, who seemed determined not to go anywhere before the boat left. She didn’t have to wait long, for shortly after we had climbed on board, the deep sound of the horn cut through the dawn and the ship started to move slowly. We waved at Aunt Francisca until she was no longer visible to us.

During the first half hour of the journey, Diogo and I just stayed there, leaning over the railing, admiring the immense stretch of water ahead of us. Despite my limited knowledge about the matter, it seemed to me, from the look of the sky, that the weather was favourable to navigation. «I don’t think the weather will be playing pranks on us, don’t you agree?» I said to Diogo.
A middle aged gentleman who was passing by and happened to year our conversation, said: «Nowadays, storms are just a secondary danger. What I really fear is an attack on the boat». «Why should there be an attack on a passenger ship?» «Don’t you know these vessels are full of political fugitives? Ever since the men from the Belfast were defeated, liberals keep arriving in the islands... Those agitators!»
Diogo and I exchanged looks. When that man talked to us like that, we were alerted to the danger of revealing our identities on board ship. «And the ships are attacked because there are liberals on board?», Diogo asked. «Exactly!», said the man, sounding really annoyed. «The good Portuguese, loyal to D. Miguel, want – and rightly so, if you want to know my opinion – to catch the evildoers and give them the punish they deserve before they arrive in Terceira Island. Once they get there, nobody can lay their hands on them, for the Count of Vila Flor keeps constant patrol of the place!»
Already annoyed and somewhat recklessly, I retorted: «Are you telling us that the absolutists attack passenger ships without even thinking of those who are innocent?» «You speak as if His Majesty’s men were criminals! Can’t you see there is no other way?»
I still hadn’t learned that prudence was at times better policy than a frankness that could be taken as boldness, and I had not learned either that sometimes it is best not to show your feelings. That man’s words angered me. I felt the blood rushing to my face and I felt like shouting to him that D. Miguel was nothing but a traitor forced to exile by his own family and that I recognized the title of Majesty only to D. Pedro who, as the eldest son of D. João VI, was the rightful heir to the throne. I would have certainly said all of those things to him if I hadn’t felt Diogo grasp my arm firmly as he said to the man: «Never mind my friend. He was nervous when you mentioned we could be attacked. After all, the presence of those liberals puts all in danger». «For a moment, I thought you were liberals too...»
And the man walked away, still suspicious. With a jerk I freed myself from Diogo’s grasp.
«Whey the hell did you speak of the liberals as if they were the enemy? I’m not afraid of some old absolutist!» «Why are you always so edgy? This journey can take a long time. Do want to spend everyday afraid you might get murdered? I’ve heard that’s quite common in these voyages». «I told you I’m not afraid». Diogo grabbed my arms as an older brother would have done and he said in grave tone: «Sir Pedro, it’s not about measuring how brave you are! This is serious, now! If you want to be ready to vanquish the absolutists, it’s not enough to take a weapon and slaughter them. First of all, if you want to survive in this war, learn to walk in their midst without being noticed». «But that’s cowardice!», I said, unable to accept that things are not always as clear as we idealize them. «Listen to me, Sir Pedro. If that old man finds out who we are – what we are – we will be in danger. You say you are not afraid. Very well, what do you intend to do? Kill a man old enough to be your grandfather? That’s no more ethical than trying to remain unnoticed...»
I finally understood where Diogo was getting at. It wasn’t always simple to know what decision was the most correct one, and not always the one that seemed the most noble was, in fact, the most just.
«I hadn’t thought about it like that...»

For a moment, we are silent. Then, looking around, Diogo said, as if he was thinking out loud: «Have you thought that many of the men on board this ship are fugitives like us?»
I looked around too. Although most of the passengers were in the lower deck, there were still plenty men there on the upper deck. I watched them with a certain curiosity, trying to read in their faces which of them were there for the same reason as me.

The first four days of the journey were lived under permanent stress, due to the fear of attacks from the miguelites, but after that, both the crew and the passengers who had taken the trip more than once and knew how things usually happened, seemed more at ease and so Diogo and I felt relieved too.
The ship was fairly large and sometimes we didn’t see some of the passenger for days. Maybe that’s why only on the third day we noticed that on board was one of the young men who had been in the same cell with us on the day we were arrested for helping a wounded liberal. Diogo and I thought about introducing ourselves but fear kept us silent. However, our travelling companion had recognized us too and he was the one who approached us one morning, when we were having the bland tea that was served as breakfast, at one of the tables in the deck.
Rodrigo – that was his name – sat casually at our table and in a confiding tone he said: «I suppose we are here for the same reasons...» «I didn’t think you’d recognize us», Diogo replied.
Rodrigo smiled. There was a certain mockery in his eyes, but it didn’t come from an evil personality, it came only from the life of fugitive that fate had brought upon him.
«I have lived these past few months like a wild animal. My eyes never deceive me and my memory never fails me. I saw you coming on board and I recognized you immediately». «Why didn’t you say something to us?» «It wouldn’t have been wise. There are people on board this ship who are on the side of the enemy and who know who I am. If they realised that we had met before this trip, they would easily arrive at the conclusion that you are liberals too. If they see us together know, they’ll think we met on board the Esperança and we are just chatting. Or at least, they won’t be sure of the contrary». «Those people who know you...», I asked. «Why don’t they arrest you?»
Rodrigo smiled again. There was a mixture of mockery, tenderness and bitterness in his eyes.
«Because they think I can lead them to a lot more of our men». «And can you?» «Yes, I could. But that will never happen! Even if they torture me, even if they kill me, they won’t get a word out of me!»
From what he said, Diogo and I gathered that Rodrigo was probably in charge of a group of liberals, but before we had a chance to ask any more questions, our new companion turned to me and said: «I wasn’t expecting to find you here, after that incident in the Police Station. I thought your Father...» «You thought the same as that boy who accused me of false heroism», I said, finishing the sentence for him. «That when the moment of truth came, I would hang on the nobility of a title. Well, as you see, you were wrong». «I suppose I can’t blame you for being sarcastic. But please understand that for someone who is used to being trampled by people like your Father...»
A strange feeling took over me. Nobody knew my Father’s faults better than I did but it was the first time I heard someone else talking about him in those terms. And in a way, it made me feel uncomfortable. «I’m sorry», Rodrigo said. «I didn’t mean to offend you». «It’s alright», I told him, trying to convince myself that what I was saying was true. «My Father didn’t show the least respect for what I believe in or for my feelings when he kicked me out of his house and forbade me to see my own sister. No one recognizes his faults better than me».
Diogo must have sensed that the conversation was leaving me uncomfortable, for he changed the subject: «Tell us, Rodrigo. What are your plans when you get off this ship?» «That, you’ll know when the time is right», he said, sounding vaguely mysterious.

During the days that followed, Rodrigo, quite more experienced than us in a life as a fugitive, introduced us to some of his companions, men whom he knew to be trustworthy; some invaluable to the cause. In a short time, we came to know exactly who on board that ship was a liberal and who was an absolutist; which were the ones we should be nice to, and which we should keep our distance from, which were the liberals whose cowardice might turn into miguelites, and which were the miguelites which we might, without danger, lure to our side and thus find out about theirs secrets.
The more united we were, the more invincible we felt. Although we were, despite everything, a minority among the passengers of the Esperança, we were no longer afraid of an enemy attack. We felt like we could defeat the world.

sábado, 30 de outubro de 2010


Diogo e eu permanecemos cerca de seis meses em casa da tia Francisca. Diogo, embora lá estivesse como criado, era tratado com um carinho muito especial pelo simples facto de ser meu amigo. A tia Francisca chegou mesmo a insistir para que ele passasse a frequentar a casa como hóspede, mas o seu orgulho e o seu sentido de lealdade para com os da sua condição impediram-no de aceitar.
            Nos primeiros tempos, sentira necessidade de sair dali, pois apesar da simpatia e da boa vontade da minha tia, eu não deixava de me sentir um intruso. A situação de Diogo não era muito diferente, pois apesar de lá estar como criado, sabia que a tia Francisca tinha pessoal que chegasse e só o aceitara por bondade. Tentou várias vezes encontrar quem o empregasse noutra casa, mas nada conseguiu.
            Além disso, depois de o meu pai e Luz se terem ido embora, tanto eu como Diogo fomos vítimas de várias provocações e mesmo agressões, e nem mesmo a tia Francisca foi poupada, pois uma noite, tentaram incendiar a casa. Felizmente, conseguimos evitar que o fogo se espalhasse antes que vitimasse alguém ou provocasse danos materiais irreparáveis, mas a partir daí, tornou-se óbvio que a nossa presença naquela casa punha em risco a segurança de todos os que lá viviam.
            No dia seguinte, depois de ter discutido o assunto com Diogo, comuniquei à tia Francisca a nossa decisão de partir.
– Mas para onde irás? – perguntou ela, preocupada.
– Todos os dias, pessoas na minha situação estão a refugiar-se nos Açores. O Conde de Vila Flor tem conseguido afastar os absolutistas da Ilha Terceira e talvez seja esse o único sítio seguro neste país para um liberal, neste momento.
– Mas não podes partir assim, de repente...
– Só deve haver barco daqui a uma semana, por isso, não será assim tão repentinamente. Além disso, a tia bem viu o que se passou esta noite. Não podemos ficar mais tempo.
– Mas não temos a certeza se foi por vossa causa. Há tanta gente capaz de más acções sem ter motivo...
– Mas a tia sabe que Diogo e eu temos recebido ameaças.
– Está bem. Eu entendo que não possam ficar. Mas é uma tolice partir assim, de repente. Ouve o que eu tenho para te dizer. Estamos no fim de Novembro. Falta menos de um mês para o Natal. Porque não passas cá o Natal e o Ano Novo e viajas depois?
– Quanto mais tempo ficar, mais a tia estará em perigo.
– São só mais umas semanas. Há já tanto tempo que passo os meus Natais sozinha... É claro que tenho os criados. Eles são muito carinhosos comigo, mas não é o mesmo que ter cá família. Por favor, Pedro...
            Pude perceber que ela era sincera. Tinha consciência do perigo que representava a minha presença ali, mas estava disposta a arriscar apenas para se sentir um pouco menos só naquele Natal. Confesso que também me assustava passar o Natal numa terra estranha, sem Luz e o meu pai.
            Conversara com Diogo acerca da possibilidade de ir para os Açores e tínhamos decidido que se o fizéssemos, seria para tentar integrar as tropas de Vila Flora, pois era a forma mais ao nosso alcance de ajudar a causa. Se isso acontecesse, só Deus sabia como iria ser o nosso Natal desse ano.
– Talvez a tia tenha razão. Vou transmitir a sua proposta a Diogo e se ele concordar, partiremos depois do Ano Novo.
            Diogo aceitou o proposto pela minha tia e decidimos a partir a seguir ao Dia de Reis. Escrevemos a Luz e a Cecília, para lhes desejar boas festas e para comunicar a nossa decisão. A resposta chegou uma semana antes do Natal. Além de retribuírem os desejos de um bom Natal, Cecília – e especialmente Luz – apelavam a que não nos precipitássemos, pois embora soubessem que não estávamos seguros naquela casa, também sabiam que íamos para as ilhas para lutar, e temiam ainda mais pela nossa segurança lá.
            Mas o mais surpreendente vinha depois: Luz ia-se casar. Senti-me como que atordoado ao ler a notícia. Maria da Luz ainda não deixara de ser para mim a menina a quem eu puxava as tranças loiras e com quem eu perseguia a bicharada pelos jardins do Roseiral. Mesmo quando pensava na possibilidade de a ver unir-se a Diogo, era uma coisa a longo prazo.
            Luz explicava os pormenores: Álvaro Sousa Dias, filho de um velho amigo da família, pedira-a em casamento, o que desde logo agradara a meu pai. Embora Luz não o dissesse com todas as letras, pude perceber que o meu pai a instigara a aceitar, vendo nisso uma maneira de salvar a sua situação económica, que se deteriorava cada vez mais. Pude também perceber que Luz não o amava, apesar de todas as qualidades que lhe apontava, e que apenas se prontificava a aceitá-lo para agradar a meu pai.
            Senti vontade de viajar imediatamente para o Roseiral e impedi-la de cometer a loucura de entregar toda a sua vida a um homem que não amava para fazer a felicidade de um velho egoísta. Contudo, talvez já prevendo a minha reacção, Luz apelava para que não me afligisse por ela e declarava ter aceitado apenas porque não amava outra pessoa e assim, o sacrifício não seria tão grande. Talvez com o tempo, dizia, acabasse de facto por vir a amá-lo. Mas não foi isso que me fez mudar de ideias em relação a viajar para impedir essa união. O casamento só se deveria realizar dali a dois anos. Álvaro deveria guardar um ano de luto pela morte da sua mãe antes de oficializar o noivado e após isso, por uma exigência hipócrita de meu pai, deveriam deixar passar mais um ano até celebrarem o casamento. Isso fez-me desistir do meu propósito. Parecia-me ridículo tentar impedir uma coisa que, de qualquer forma, só aconteceria dali a dois anos. No fundo, tinha esperança de que durante esse espaço de tempo, Luz acabasse por recusar. Ao ler que Luz se ia casar naquelas circunstâncias, sentira uma profunda revolta, mas foi verdadeira tristeza o que a notícia provocou em Diogo.
            Diogo era demasiado reservado para confessar a sua mágoa, mas não tão frio que pudesse esconder do seu melhor amigo uma dor tão profunda. Creio que até então, Diogo não soubera que amava a minha irmã. Acreditara, de facto, que a estimava da mesma forma que me estimava a mim. A consciência de que ela era para ele algo de proibido nunca o incomodara. Só agora, que ela se dispunha a entregar-se a outro homem, ele confessava a si próprio que a queria para si e que lhe era impossível imaginá-la nos braços de outro.
            Diogo não disse uma palavra após ler a carta, mas tudo isso eu pude ver nos seus olhos. Queria consolá-lo, mas sem lhe dizer que sabia do seu sofrimento, pois sabia como ficava incomodado quando as pessoas percebiam os seus sentimentos.
– Tenho a certeza de que ela acaba por mudar de ideias – disse.
– Porque haveria de mudar? Tem quase dezasseis anos. Encontrou um bom partido. Nada mais natural do que casar-se.
            Percebi um certo tom de amargura na sua voz, quase como se se quisesse obrigar-se a odiar Luz, para que a sua perda o não pudesse fazer sofrer. Contudo, acabou por confessar:
– Sempre soube que Maria da Luz estava fora do meu alcance, mas nunca tinha percebido o quanto isso me doía...
            E recompondo-se:
– Não me devia deixar falar assim. Quem sou eu para alguma vez sequer...
            Diogo não completou a sua frase, mas eu percebi o que ele queria dizer e respondi:
– És o único homem que eu tenho a certeza que nunca faria sofrer a minha irmã, mas se ela é demasiado cega para ver isso...
            Ficámos em silêncio por momentos. A tia Francisca bateu à porta do quarto, onde eu e Diogo estivéramos a ler a carta.
– Então? – indagou. – Há novidades? Estão todos bem, no Roseiral?
– Luz vai-se casar – anunciei, calculando que, para ela, fosse uma notícia feliz.
– Casar-se?! A sério? Meu Deus, até me esqueço que os meus sobrinhos cresceram... Mas porque estão vocês com essas caras? É a melhor notícia que recebo há anos! Quem é o felizardo? Quando é que se casam?
            Apesar de tudo, a forma alegre com que a minha tia recebeu a notícia não podia deixar de nos fazer sorrir.
– Está aqui a carta – disse-lhe, para evitar ter de contar todos os pormenores. – Pode ler.
            E Diogo e eu saímos discretamente do quarto, pois sabíamos como podia ser aborrecido ouvir uma velha viúva dissertar acerca do casamento.
            Até ao Natal, os dias pareciam arrastar-se, apesar da simpatia da tia Francisca. Diogo e eu ansiávamos por ir combater. A vida ociosa que levávamos naquela casa fazia-nos ansiar pelo fim da quadra. No entanto, quando o Natal chegou, tanto eu como o meu amigo nos sentimos felizes por termos ficado. Ao contrário do que se passava no Roseiral, a tia Francisca – provavelmente, porque era mulher sozinha – reunia toda a criadagem à sua mesa e eu realizei assim o velho sonho de ter Diogo à mesma mesa que eu na noite de Natal. Em certas partes da noite, senti-me melancólico. Sentia a falta de Maria da Luz, de Cecília, do padre Ricardo e, embora me esforçasse por me convencer do contrário, sentia a falta do meu pai. Perguntava a mim mesmo se ele sentiria o mesmo, e como seria para ele o primeiro Natal sem mim. Devo confessar o meu egoísmo, pois não pude evitar desejar que ele sentisse o mesmo vazio que eu.
            Na semana de intervalo entre o Natal e o Ano Novo, Diogo e eu dedicámo-nos a fazer preparativos para a nossa partida. Não levaríamos muita coisa. Apenas a roupa que tínhamos trazido do Roseiral e alguns utensílios básicos. Tivemos conhecimento de que iria sair da cidade um barco para os Açores no dia oito de Janeiro e queríamos estar prontos quando a altura chegasse. Assim, essa semana não custou muito a passar, uma vez que estivemos constantemente ocupados. Mas o mesmo não se pode dizer dos dias que se seguiram à chegada de 1829, pois tendo já tudo pronto, a expectativa da viagem apoderou-se de nós da mesma maneira que a expectativa do momento de abrir os presentes quando éramos pequenos. Ainda assim, aproveitámos para escrever para o Roseiral a última carta que enviaríamos do continente.
            Quando o dia, finalmente, chegou, a tia Francisca insistiu em acompanhar-nos até ao porto e assim, seguimos na sua carruagem, conduzida pelo velho Quim, o cocheiro. Antes de embarcar, despedi-me da tia Francisca, que me abraçou com verdadeira emoção e tomou as mãos de Diogo com sincero carinho.
– A senhora é muito bondosa – disse-lhe o meu amigo. – Não sei como poderemos agradecer-lhe.
– Não têm nada que me agradecer – respondeu ela. – Vocês foram os filhos que eu nunca tive, durante estes últimos meses. Fizeram-me feliz. Tudo o que vos peço é que sejam felizes também, e que não me esqueçam.
– Nunca a esqueceremos, tia Francisca – assegurei.
– E quando tudo isto terminar, na primeira oportunidade, vimos visitá-la.
– Bom, não se demorem mais – disse ela, procurando disfarçar a emoção – ou ainda perdem o barco.
            Depois das últimas despedidas, Diogo e eu pagámos as nossas passagens e subimos a bordo. Do convés, avistámos a tia Francisca, que parecia decidida a não arredar pé dali enquanto o barco não partisse. Não teve de esperar muito, pois pouco após termos subido, o som grave do apito cortou a aurora e o navio começou a mover-se lentamente. Ficámos a acenar para a tia Francisca até esta deixar de estar ao alcance da nossa visão.
            Durante a primeira meia hora de viagem, Diogo e eu ficámos ali, debruçados sobre a amurada do navio, contemplando a imensidão de água que se estendia à nossa frente. Apesar dos meus limitados conhecimentos, parecia-me, pelo aspecto do céu, que o tempo se apresentava favorável à navegação.
– Parece-me que o tempo não nos vai pregar partidas – disse para Diogo. – Não achas?
            Um senhor de meia-idade que ia a passar na ocasião e ouviu por acaso a nossa conversa, declarou:
– Hoje em dia, as tempestades não passam de um perigo secundário. O que eu receio verdadeiramente é que o barco seja atacado.
– Porque haveriam de atacar um barco de passageiros?
– Então não sabem que estas embarcações vão cheias de fugitivos políticos? Desde que os homens que vinham no Belfast foram derrotados, ainda não deixaram de chegar liberais às ilhas... Esses agitadores!
            Diogo e eu entreolhámo-nos. O facto de aquele homem se ter dirigido a nós daquela forma alertou-nos para a imprudência que seria revelar as nossas identidades a bordo do navio.
– E os barcos são atacados por causa da presença de liberais? – indagou Diogo.
– Nem mais! – respondeu o homem, parecendo deveras irritado. – Os bons portugueses, fiéis a D. Miguel, querem – e com muita razão, se querem saber a minha opinião – apanhar os malfeitores, para lhes darem o castigo que merecem antes que eles cheguem à Terceira. Uma vez lá chegados, já ninguém os apanha, pois o Conde de Vila Flor tem aquilo tudo patrulhado!
            Já irritado, ripostei, com alguma imprudência:
– Está a dizer-nos que os absolutistas atacam navios de passageiros sem ter em conta as pessoas que estão inocentes?
– Ora, fala como se os homens de Sua Majestade fossem criminosos! Não vê que não há outra maneira?
            Ainda não tinha aprendido que a prudência era, em certas ocasiões, melhor política do que uma sinceridade que podia ser tomada por ousadia, e não tinha aprendido também que, por vezes, é melhor não mostrar tudo o que sentimos. As palavras do homem enraiveceram-me. Senti o sangue aflorar-me às faces e tive vontade de lhe gritar que D. Miguel não passava de um traidor forçado ao exílio pela sua própria família e que só reconhecia o título de Majestade a D. Pedro, que como filho mais velho de D. João VI era o herdeiro legítimo. Ter-lhe-ia, com certeza, dito isso tudo se não sentisse Diogo agarrar-me o braço com firmeza enquanto dizia para o homem:
– Não ligue ao meu amigo. Ficou nervoso quando o senhor referiu que podíamos ser atacados. Afinal, a presença desses liberais põe-nos a todos em perigo.
– Por instantes, cheguei a pensar que também o fossem...
            E o homem afastou-se, ainda desconfiado. Com um safanão, libertei-me da mão de Diogo.
– Porque diabo falaste dos liberais como se fossem eles o inimigo? Não tenho medo de um velho absolutista!
– Mas porque há-de ser sempre tão nervoso? Esta viagem pode demorar mais de uma semana. Quer ter de passar cada dia com receio de ser assassinado? Tenho ouvido dizer que isso é comum nestas viagens.
– Já te disse que não tenho medo.
            Diogo agarrou-me pelos braços como um irmão mais velho e disse com gravidade:
– Pedro, não se trata de medir a coragem de cada um! Isto agora é a sério! Se quer estar preparado para vencer os absolutistas, não basta pegar numa arma e exterminá-los. Antes de mais, se quiser sobreviver nesta guerra, aprenda a mover-se no meio deles sem se fazer notar.
– Mas isso é uma cobardia! – respondi, incapaz de aceitar que nem sempre as coisas são tão lineares quanto as idealizamos.
– Oiça, Pedro. Se aquele velho descobre quem somos – o que somos – ficamos em perigo. Disse-me que não tinha medo. Pois bem, que pretende fazer? Matar um homem que tem idade para ser seu avô? Não é mais ético do que tentar passar despercebido...
            Percebia finalmente onde Diogo queria chegar. Nem sempre era simples decidir qual a decisão mais correcta, e nem sempre a que se nos afigurava mais nobre era, de facto, a mais justa.
– Não tinha pensado nas coisas dessa maneira...
            Durante alguns momentos, ficámos ambos em silêncio. Depois, olhando em redor, Diogo reflectiu, em voz alta:
– Já pensou que os homens a bordo deste navio são, em grande parte, fugitivos como nós?
            Olhei também à minha volta. Embora a maior parte dos passageiros se encontrasse na coberta inferior, ainda havia bastantes homens no convés. Observei-os com uma certa curiosidade, tentando ler no semblante de cada um quais ali estariam pela mesma razão que eu.
            Os primeiros quatro dias de viagem foram vividos sob permanente tensão, devido ao receio dos ataques miguelistas, mas passado esse tempo, tanto a tripulação como os passageiros que já haviam efectuado aquela viagem mais do que uma vez – e que sabiam como as coisas costumavam passar-se – pareceram ficar mais tranquilos, pelo que eu e Diogo nos sentimos também mais aliviados.
            O barco era relativamente grande e passavam-se dias e dias sem que víssemos este ou aquele passageiro. Talvez por isso só no terceiro dia de viagem reparámos que a bordo se encontrava um dos rapazes que estivera detido connosco no dia em que fôramos presos por ajudar um liberal ferido. Diogo e eu pensámos em dar-nos a conhecer, mas o receio fez-nos guardar silêncio. No entanto, o nosso companheiro de viagem também nos reconhecera e foi ele quem nos abordou, uma manhã, quando tomávamos o chá deslavado que serviam como pequeno-almoço, sentados a uma das mesas do convés.
            Rodrigo – era esse o seu nome – sentou-se à nossa mesa como que por acaso e disse, em tom de confidência:
– Suponho que estejamos aqui pelos mesmos motivos...
– Não pensei que nos reconhecesse – declarou Diogo.
            Rodrigo sorriu. Havia uma certa malícia no seu olhar, que não lhe vinha de uma personalidade nefasta, mas apenas da vida de fugitivo a que o destino o votara.
– Nos últimos meses, tenho vivido com um animal selvagem. Os meus olhos nunca me enganam e a memória nunca me trai. Vi-os embarcar e reconheci-os imediatamente.
– Porque não nos falou?
– Não era prudente. Há gente a bordo deste navio que está do lado do inimigo e sabe quem eu sou. Se percebessem que nos conhecíamos antes desta viagem, facilmente concluiriam que também são liberais. Se nos virem juntos agora, pensarão que só nos conhecemos a bordo do Esperança e estamos apenas a tagarelar. Ou pelo menos, ficarão na dúvida.
– Essas pessoas que o conhecem... – indaguei. – Porque não o prendem?
            Rodrigo voltou a sorrir. O seu olhar revelava um misto de malícia, ternura e amargura.
– Porque pensam que os posso conduzir a um número muito maior dos nossos homens.
– E pode?
– Sim, posso. Mas tal não acontecerá! Ainda que me torturem, ainda que me matem, de mim não arrancarão uma palavra!
            Pelo que ele dizia, Diogo e eu concluímos que Rodrigo deveria comandar um grupo de liberais, mas antes que pudéssemos fazer mais perguntas, o nosso novo companheiro virou-se para mim e declarou:
– Não esperava encontrá-lo aqui, depois daquele incidente na esquadra. Julguei que o seu pai...
– Julgou o mesmo que aquele rapaz, que me acusava de falso heroísmo – concluí. – Que na hora da verdade, eu me agarrava à nobreza de um título. Bem, como vê, estava enganado.
– Suponho que não lhe posso censurar a ironia... Mas entenda que para quem está habituado a ser espezinhado por homens como o seu pai...
            Envolveu-me uma sensação estranha. Ninguém, mais do que eu, conhecia e apontava os defeitos do meu pai, mas era a primeira vez que ouvia outra pessoa referir-se a ele naquele tom. E de certa forma, isso fez-me sentir desconfortável.
– Peço desculpa – disse Rodrigo. – Não quis ofendê-lo.
– Não tem importância – respondi, tentando convencer-me a mim próprio de que aquilo que dizia era verdade. – O meu pai não teve o mínimo de respeito por aquilo em que eu acreditava ou por aquilo que eu sentia quando me expulsou de casa e se sentiu no direito de me proibir de ver a minha própria irmã. Ninguém sabe reconhecer melhor os seus defeitos do que eu.
            Diogo deve ter percebido que aquele assunto me estava a deixar pouco à vontade, pois mudou o tema da conversa:
– Diga-nos, Rodrigo: quais são os seus planos depois de desembarcar?
– Isso, sabê-lo-ão na altura certa – respondeu ele, com um ar algo misterioso.
            Durante os dias que se seguiram, Rodrigo, bastante mais experiente do que nós naquela vida de foragido, foi-nos apresentando companheiros seus, homens que ele sabia serem de confiança; alguns, de valor incalculável para a causa. Em pouco tempo, ficámos a saber exactamente quem a bordo daquele navio era liberal e quem era absolutista; quais aqueles a quem nos convinha ser agradáveis e quais aqueles de que era melhor guardar distância; quais os liberais que a cobardia poderia tornar miguelistas e quais os miguelistas que poderíamos, sem perigo, tentar atrair para o nosso lado, ficando assim a conhecer os seus segredos. Quanto mais unidos estávamos, mais invencíveis nos sentíamos. Embora fôssemos, apesar de tudo, uma minoria entre os passageiros do Esperança, já não receávamos um ataque inimigo. Sentíamos que podíamos vencer o mundo.

quarta-feira, 27 de outubro de 2010


I distinctly remember my first experience as a liberal. I was 17 then and the news that the men from the Belfast had been welcomed in Oporto like heroes had aroused in me – and also in Diogo, although he kept more reserved – a state of euphoria that only the dreaming minds of youth are capable of. On the other hand, my Father raged and threw his arms up in anger.
«Will those liberals never give up?» he’d say in his voice that seemed to make tremble the sturdy Roseiral.
            Despite living constantly isolated, as if inside an invisible bell jar made of hatred against the rest of the world, my Father was a man who liked being near the action. So, every time there was a new development in the struggle between absolutists and liberals, he’d take a coach, the coach driver and went to meet the events. He usually travelled alone but this time he decided to take his family with him.
            On the day he heard the news of what was happening in Oporto, my Father sent for us – for Luz and I – and announced:
«Be ready to travel early in the morning tomorrow. We are going to spend a few days with Aunt Francisca.» «We’re going to Oporto?» Luz asked, in surprise. «Yes. It seems like the liberals are at it again. I want to go there and see first hand what’s happening. And I want you to come with me. Your Aunt Francisca hasn’t seen you since you were little. And you Pedro, you’ll have the chance to watch your precious little idols being crushed, since the absolutists have already started to retaliate.» «Yeah, they probably retaliate on the wives and children of our men!» I retorted, more to offend him than for thinking that it was true. «“Our men!” Just listen to him! It’s not my son, the man who speaks like this.»
            I opened my mouth to reply but I felt my sister squeezing my arm as if begging me not to let the argument go any further. My Father noticed the gesture too and chose to leave things at that. «Warn Cecília and Diogo» he said, changing the subject. «They’re coming with us. I don’t know how long we’ll be staying and I don’t want to steal your Aunt’s servants from their work».
            Going to Oporto, where an attempt to install Liberalism was happening at that very moment, was in itself appealing, but being able to share that moment with Diogo made things even more attractive and so I ran to tell him the news.
«And D. José wants me to go?» Diogo said, in surprise. «I thought he’d want to keep you as far away as possible from any liberal.» «He thinks he can teach me a lesson. I’ll prove to him that my commitment to the liberal ideals is not just some youthful whim.»

            The next morning, the whole family, and also Cecília and Diogo, got up early. But I believe I was the first to wake up, for I had hardly slept at all. I had merely rolled in bed, impatient for the time to leave. However, when I looked through the window after getting dressed, Diogo was already placing our luggage on the carriage. It must have been around twenty to six. The sky was only now getting lighter and a few stars were still visible. On the horizon, there were tinges of red and orange. Since I was ready, I went to meet my friend.
«We’ll have hot weather for the journey», I remarked, as I helped him place the last suitcase on the carriage. «Beats travelling through muddy roads».
            Luz was the next one to join us. She was wearing a dress of a very soft pink and white lace gloves. I noticed she seemed sad and looking at me strangely. «Don’t look at me as if I was leaving alone and for good», I said half serious, half joking. «If you knew how I fear this trip...» «What are you afraid of?»
            Maria da Luz was silent for a moment and then exclaimed: «Pedro, promise me that if there’s fighting over there, you won’t take part in it!» «I can’t promise you that». «Oh, Diogo, promise me for him! Swear to me that you won’t let him get involved in any skirmishes!»
            Diogo was going to reply but I didn’t give him a chance.
«Diogo cannot promise for me. You have no right to ask him that. He’s my friend, not my Father. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t control my decisions». «You’re right... You won’t listen even to Father...»
            Seeing my sister’s heavy-hearted expression, Diogo looked reproachingly at me.
«Give me your hand, Miss Luz. I’ll help you up.»
            Luz obeyed and when she was already inside the carriage, Diogo recommended: «You shouldn’t be so harsh when you talk to your sister. She is worried and the truth is she has a point.»
            I opened my mouth to reply but I saw Cecília coming towards us and I thought it wouldn’t be the right place for an argument about the issue, so I said nothing.
            Cecília arrived carrying a basket with the food for the journey, got in the carriage, sat next to my sister and I got in too. When my Father arrived, Diogo jumped in the driver’s seat and began our journey. As I had gathered from the colours in the sky, there was a pretty hot day and around noon my Father told Diogo to look for a shade where we cold rest, for Luz, used to the seclusion of the Roseiral, was starting to feel giddy because of the heat and the bumpy road.
            As soon as Diogo found the craved shade, we got out, sat on a blanket that Cecília had brought for that purpose and ate some of the delicacies she had cooked. We rested there for almost an hour, until Luz was feeling better, and then we were on our way again.
            It was a quarter to eleven p.m. when we arrived at the house of Aunt Francisca and since we knew she rarely went to bed before half past eleven, we were in no risk of awaking her up.
            We all got out of the carriage, rather tired and sore. And while Diogo was getting our luggage out, my Father knocked on the door. We heard steps coming towards the door and Aunt Francisca herself – the servants were already asleep – opened. She let out an exclamation which was both for surprise and joy: «Praised be the Lord, my darling nephews!»

            Aunt Francisca was my Mother’s older sister and she was fifteen years older than she would have been if she were alive. She had married very young and had been a widow for the past eight years, which had caused her to age quite a lot. Despite being only 51, her face looked the face of an old lady, but was extremely agreeable due to her gentle and kind eyes. She called my Father “brother” and maybe because she had never had children, she loved us as if we were hers. «Come in, come in! Have you had dinner yet? I already ate but we can still fix you something.» «Thank you, Francisca» my Father said, «we already ate on the road. Please forgive us for coming without warning.» «Oh, don’t be silly!»

            While Cecília and Diogo carried our luggage to the rooms designated by Aunt Francisca, we were led by her to living room, where we sat down. «Anyway, what brings you here?» But her smile soon faded and before any of us had a chance to answer, she exclaimed: «Don’t tell me it’s because of that Belfast business! There’s been no talk about anything else since the damn boat arrived.» «That’s exactly it, my dear sister.» «Oh dear» she said, looking alternately at my Father and me. «Do you still argue about that?» But as if guessing the question could spark an argument right there and then, she answered herself: «Well, it doesn’t matter!» And changing the subject: «You’re all grown up! You’re a man, Pedro! And you, my child, you look just like your Mother, God rest her soul! It’s like having Luisinha here again...»

            My Father used to travel frequently to Oporto, because it was almost always there that the events connected to the war that was about to break out took place, but Luz and I had not seen Aunt Francisca in a long time. In fact, too long to remember anything about her. And so we were rediscovering with pleasure how likable she was. «You must be tired from the trip,» she said. «I’ll go see if Cecília has finished arranging your things in the rooms.»
Aunt Francisca left and came back ten minutes later.
«Everything is in its place. You’ll have to forgive me but the house is not as big as the Roseiral, so you’ll have to make some concessions.
«José, you’ll stay in the large room, as usual. Luz and Cecília will sleep in the small room which was meant for the child that God denied us. I mean, you if don’t mind Cecília sleeping in the same room as you.» «Of course I don’t, Aunt.»

            As soon as I had a chance, I bade good night to Aunt Francisca and the rest of my family and claiming I was exhausted, I retired to the room where I’d be sleeping.
            Just as in the Roseiral, there was a small annex next to kitchen, and that’s where the rooms of the servants were.
The room where Diogo and I would be staying was not very big but it looked welcoming. The bed linens were simple and some blankets had already been mended more than once but for some reason that I can’t explain, I couldn’t help thinking they’d probably feel more cosy than the ones on the luxurious but cold rooms of the Roseiral.
            When I went in the room, Diogo was already lying in his bed, but still awake and the candle on his bedside table was lit.
«I believe my Mother left your pyjamas behind the folding screen» he said.
«This is great! It’s just like when we were little, remember?» «Sure, we were like brothers.» «We still are, Diogo.» «I know, I didn’t mean...» «I know what you meant. Back then we were allowed to be like brothers and now we have to act like master and servant.» «It’s not your fault.» «If you’d at least agree not to call me “sir”...»
Diogo let out an amused laughter.
«It is just like when we were little!» he exclaimed. «I remember having a conversation just like this one. Do you still remember what I told you then?» «Something about not disobeying your Mother and my Father... You also said that it made no difference to our friendship.» «Then I don’t need to say anything else», he said.

            Diogo blew out his candle, said good night and turned to the other side to sleep. I said good night too but I was too excited with the idea of seeing the city after the arrival of the liberals, and maybe even teaching a lesson to some absolutist I might find along the way, so I only fell asleep some two hours later. The result was being really sleepy in the morning, when Cecília came to knock on our door, like she used to do when Diogo and I still slept in the same room in the Roseiral.

«Come on, rise and shine!» she said on the other side of the door. «Don’t be late for breakfast.» I couldn’t resist the temptation of turning to the other side and ignore the recommendation but I eventually woke up as I felt some light object land on me. Diogo had thrown his pillow at me and was laughing at my startled look. «I feel like staying in bed until noon!» I grumbled. «I thought you were in a hurry to take a walk through the city, see the damage...»
            The argument used by Diogo made me forget how sleepy I felt that very instant. I jumped off bed, poured water from a jug into a basin, washed myself, went behind the folding screen where I had left my clothes and got dressed. There was no point in waiting for Diogo, since we wouldn’t be having breakfast together anyway, so I told him: «I’ll meet you in the kitchen after breakfast.»

            When I entered the dining room, rushed and still buttoning a cuff on my shirt, the family had already gathered around the table.
«I’m sorry I’m late» I said as I sat down. «I was so tired I slept like a rock. «Don’t worry about that», my Aunt replied. «I’m glad you slept well».
Breakfast was more cheerful than it used to be in the Roseiral. Around my Aunt Francisca’s permanent high spirits, no silence lasted long. However, when I was already thinking that for the first time in many months I would be sharing a peaceful meal with my Father, he addressed me and immediately something in his voice made me tremble. «Pedro» he said, as he spread strawberry jam on a slice of bread. «I’m going to see a friend this morning. I should like you to come with me.»
            As much as he was trying to sound natural, I knew he wanted to take me to see some old absolutist wielding his power, his influence on the political scene, against the liberal cause, so I said: «I appreciate the invitation but I had already planned to take a walk through the city.»
            Luz looked at me with sadness and Aunt Francisca seemed surprised at my hostile manner.
«Forgive me for interfering, son» she said. «But you’ll have many days to see the city. Why don’t you keep your Father company for today?»

            I felt like shouting that I knew exactly what he was up to, but I didn’t want to be rude in the house of someone who was being so hospitable to us, so I said, without shouting but in a firm voice: «You can’t expect someone of my age to spend the day cooped up in a house with you and your friends. Besides, I already asked Diogo to accompany me to town.»
            It hadn’t been without malice that I had brought Diogo’s name into the conversation. I could very well have omitted that fact, but the quarrels with my Father had become almost like a bad habit and I knew that my friendship with Diogo, a servant, son of a liberal, exasperated him. And I knew that by implying in front of my sister and Aunt that I preferred Diogo’s company to his would make him feel humiliated and spark another argument. But I regretted those words as soon as I uttered them, for I knew that I was unwittingly arousing my Father’s hatred for Diogo.
            Angrily, my Father shouted: «Diogo is not leaving this house! I didn’t bring him to stroll around the city. He is a servant and your Aunt might need him!»
            It was my turn to lose my temper and I retorted as I stood up: «Diogo is our servant, not Aunt Francisca’s, and I want him to come with me! I’m sure Aunt won’t object».
            My Aunt intervened, trying to prevent the argument from going any further. «Pedro is right» she said. «Why shouldn’t he take Diogo? He’s going to need someone to drive the horses. I won’t be needing him. There are more than enough servants in this house.»

            Seeing that my Father wasn’t going to contradict her, I seized the moment to leave the room.
«If you’ll excuse me» I said. «Diogo is waiting for me».
I withdrew from the dining room and went into the kitchen, where I found Diogo and Cecília, and also two of Aunt Francisca’s housemaids, who seemed surprised to see me, for they were not used to having guests invading their kitchen.
«Good morning», I said. And turning to my friend, I asked: «Diogo, are you ready?» «Yes, I’m ready, but...»
            Diogo seemed to be hesitating.
«But what?» «I didn’t mean to pry but I could not help but overhear... Your Father wasn’t too keen on the idea of me coming with you. Perhaps you shouldn’t disobey him». «Don’t worry. Aunt Francisca calmed him down. This is her house and she is happy to let you come».
            Nevertheless, Diogo and I left through the kitchen door, not so much because it was the nearest one but so that we wouldn’t have to pass by my Father.
            We decided not to take the horses, for that would expose my status as a nobleman and I wanted to move unnoticed through the crowd.
            The streets were filled with commotion. Everywhere around there were common people shouting not so flattering words against D. Miguel’s absolutist regime and at the same time praising the liberals from the Belfast.
            For me, and also for my friend, it was a completely new and exciting experience. Some of the men that had come in the ship were strolling around, greeting the people, and like everyone who was there, Diogo and I also looked at them like true heroes, giants capable of conquering everything and everyone. The shouting, the enthusiasm of those people, it was all contagious and I had a strange feeling in my chest. It was like a tightness, but a tightness that felt good, that made me feel more alive, as if my heart was about to leap out through my mouth.
            But something happened that made those men and women – some carrying children in their arms – start running and screaming in such a way that no one could make out what they were saying. Although at first I could not understand what was happening, soon the explanation came for the stampede. There were soldiers coming from everywhere – some on foot, some on their horses – and they were in pursuit of the people, shooting against anyone who dared speak ill of D. Miguel and his policies.
            To our horror, bodies started to fall, hit by the soldier’s bullets – bodies of common men, of young women – and very soon, in the streets where minutes ago you could hear shouting and the lively voices of the crowd, silence was broken only by the sound of the horse’s hooves and the soldier’s boots. Streets became desolate. Except for those who had been caught by a bullet before they could run to safety, there was no one to be seen.
            Diogo and I had taken shelter in an old house that lay in ruins and my heart stopped when a band of those fierce murderers passed hurriedly by us.
«I thought we were going to die!...», I exclaimed, after they had moved away. «So did I...»
            The streets were now plunged in the deepest silence. Fearfully, Diogo and I got out of our hiding place and looked around us, at the bodies lying on the paved streets. It was a depressing spectacle and I felt nauseous. There was nothing I could do, but still, I couldn’t force myself to leave that place. Diogo must have felt the same, for he wasn’t moving either. But something called us back to reality. A sound – a moan – made us look in the direction of one of the bodies lying in the street. There was still life in him. I immediately ran towards the dying man, followed by Diogo. It was a boy maybe 17 or 18 years old, who had been shot in his belly. From the expression in his face and his hushed moaning, you could see he was in severe pain. There was nothing we could do for him. We had no idea where to find a doctor and even if we did, it was not likely that he could save him. All we could do was helping him endure those moments of pain before death. «I don’t wanna die...», he wailed.
            I was too emotional to speak and Diogo was too honest to tell him he was not going to die, even if just to comfort him.
            «My Mother... My Mother is waiting for me... I cannot die...»
            It was useless, but instinct led me to try and stop the bleeding with my scarf.
«Tell her I died for a righteous cause... please».

            I could see Diogo open his mouth to speak, but he didn’t have time. The boy had just exhaled his last breath.

«I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to ask who his Mother was. I should have liked to fulfil his last wish».

            Up until then I had felt mostly dread, confusion, and pity for those who had lost their lives in that revenge of the miguelites, but in that moment I felt hatred so intense that it made my whole body tremble. «Damned be those absolutists!», I yelled.

            But I soon wished I hadn’t said that, as I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw four soldiers. They were probably coming to check if their raid had been successful. At first, I was surprised that they didn’t just put a bullet through each of us. But I gathered that maybe because of the way I was dressed they had realised I was a nobleman and that they could get in trouble if they killed me or a servant of mine.
«You are both under arrest», said the one who had touched me. «May I ask why?», I inquired in a harsh tone. «You are sympathizers of the liberals. We saw you watching those troublemakers and now you were helping one of them».
            I had a mind to tell him to go to hell, of shouting to him that I had every right to be a liberal and that it was the only true cause that one could defend, but Diogo, who always managed to keep a cool head longer me, said politely but in a firm voice: «We were helping a dying boy. We arrived in the city yesterday and didn’t know what all this commotion was about. We watched out of simple curiosity. We were helping this boy because we think no one should die alone. That’s not a crime».
            The soldier seemed to be hesitating. «In that case, can you tell me you are not liberal agitators?» «We are not agitators. If we are liberals or not is for us to know». «Anyway, you’ll have to come with me».
            I didn’t know what would be wiser: run and risk taking a bullet or go with them, but since they couldn’t hold us in prison for long on those charges, I said to Diogo: «Perhaps it’s best to do as they say».
            Diogo agreed and we both followed the guards peacefully.
            We were taken to their headquarters and they put us in the same cell, which already contained some six or seven other men, accused of similar offences. They were all common men and looked with some distrust at my nobleman outfit.
            We didn’t know for how long they would keep us there and Diogo called me to a corner of the cell to tell me: «Perhaps it would be better to send for your Father. God only knows what they’ll do to us and it’s not worth risking your head for something you didn’t do».
            I knew Diogo was not a coward and was not afraid to face death for an ideal. It was for me that he spoke like that.
            «They accuse us of being sympathizers of the liberals and that’s what we are», I replied. «I will not hide under D. José’s wing». «It’s pride that makes you speak like that. And that pride doesn’t make sense. It could cost you your life». «Listen, if you were me, wouldn’t you do the same?»
            Diogo didn’t say anything but gave me a friendly pat on my shoulder. And so it was decided that I would not send for my Father and that we’d wait for our fate together and see what was in store for us. However, minutes after we had been placed in the cell, one of the guards approached and, addressing to me, he said: «I need your names».
            I knew that telling him my surname would be like a passport to get out of there, for my relatives were known for holding high nobility titles for centuries, but concealing it could be seen by the guard as disrespect or even another offence, so I said: «Pedro José Castanheira Ávila».
            I could see the man was trying to read through my eyes. He’d recognized a noble surname and wasn’t sure what to do.
            «Are you a relative of D. José Ávila?»
            It was my turn to be surprised. «Do you know him?» «I’ll ask the questions, if you don’t mind». «He’s my Father». «D. José is a good friend». And turning to Diogo: «And you are?...» «Diogo is a servant in hour home. And a friend», I replied. And guessing what the guard was going to say next, I declared: «If you intend to let me go out of consideration for my Father, I should warn you that I won’t leave without Diogo». «It’s a pity that you’re so stubborn. If you’d agree to go without your servant...» «Friend», I corrected. «Ok, without your friend, I could avoid bothering your Father. I could tell him that I caught Diogo on his own. But to let you both go I’ll have to send for D. José». «First of all», I retorted, «you are not a true friend to my Father, for you were willing to lie to him in exchange for just another prisoner. Secondly, if you think your threats scare me, you are wrong. I know exactly what Diogo and I did and it was nothing for which we can be convicted. And above all, I would never betray a friend, especially Diogo. So if you want to send for my Father, do it. But if you dare tell him that you found Diogo on his own in that street, I’ll make sure he sees the kind of friend that you are».
            My words had rendered the guard speechless. I had managed to take his strength – his friendship with my Father – and turn it into a weakness. Both he and I knew that I held the strongest position and he chose to leave without saying another word.
            Diogo came talk to me. «I thank you for what you did». «You shouldn’t thank me. You shouldn’t expect me to act in any other way». «And I didn’t. But it was still an act of courage».

            The other prisoners – some young like us, others older – who had looked distrustfully at us at first, seemed to have acquired a new respect for us after the argument with the guard. «Were you arrested for being liberals?», asked a man in his 50’s, trying to start the communication.
            Diogo and I exchanged looks, not sure how wise it would be to tell the truth, but realising our fear, the man said: «Don’t be afraid, these are all good men. Men of D. Pedro, not of D. Miguel. I suppose we’re here for the same reasons». «To be honest, we were just watching what was happening. We were arrested for helping a wounded man». «Of course!», exclaimed a boy even younger than me or Diogo, with very vivacious eyes. «Sons of noblemen! Why the hell do they interfere in our struggle? To feel like great heroes? You can never be true liberals».
            It was the first time that someone accused me of not being a true liberal and I felt as hurt as I was furious that someone was questioning my feelings and what I would be willing to give for the cause. I almost forgot I was dealing with someone younger than me and punched him, but Diogo tried using words to convince him of the sincerity of our beliefs.
«I’m as humble as you are, but Sir Pedro is my best friend. I understand how you feel, but he is not some hypocritical nobleman trying to show off how brave he is. If so, he would have let his Father think I was the only responsible for us being in prison, in exchange for his freedom». «Oh, come on! If he didn’t do it, it was out of sheer vanity!» «Shut up, João Carlos!», commanded the man who had first spoken to us. «It seems to me that you’re the one who’s becoming vain. Our cause needs people, no matter where they come from».
And turning to us: «Never mind my grandson. He’s still quite green and he thinks he can conquer the whole world on his own, but he is a good allied to the cause».
            With a sulky face, the boy shrugged his shoulders, but did not retort.
            While we were waiting to be told what our fate would be, we took advantage of the time to get to know all those people, who like us had been brought there after falling victims of D. Miguel’s Government, and we ended up friends of even the young João Carlos.

            The guard came to interrupt our conversation; this time, followed by my Father who, standing behind him, had a harsh look on his face. His expression, heavier than usual, made him look older. For the first time, I realised how that dense beard gave me the creeps.
            The guard opened the cell, motioned for Diogo and me to get out and we all went to a tiny sitting room, where the guard explained: «My men arrested them because they were helping a liberal agitator». «We were helping a wounded man», I corrected.
            The guard continued: «Nowadays we can’t take any chances. It’s only natural that my men thought they were sympathizers of the liberal cause. Anyway, your family is always above suspicion of course, and so we sent for you immediately».
            But my Father didn’t seem pleased. «If you really had any consideration for my family you wouldn’t have needed to send for me», he retorted in a bitter tone. «You could just have let the boys go, there was no need for me to collect them. You sent for me because you don’t really believe they’re innocent». «You understand... Pedro is above suspicion but Diogo... Diogo is a servant and your son... Your son is young, it would be natural for him to have distorted views about what loyalty is and lie to protect a friend. I hope you’re not angry with me». «Angry? No... But I resent it. I hope this won’t happen again».
            And without shaking the guard’s hand, my Father turned his back, followed by us. He had brought the carriage and perhaps to avoid having to make the way home alone with me, he ordered Diogo to get in and he himself took the driver’s seat.
            When we arrived, my Aunt and Maria da Luz stared at us with a worried look. My Father ordered Diogo to join the other servants and asked Luz and Aunt Francisca to let him talk to me in private. My sister, however, grabbed my arm and asked: «Pedro, are you alright? Didn’t they hurt you?» «Your brother is fine. Now leave us». «I’m alright», I said too, to tranquilize her. «Do as Father says».

            Luz reluctantly let Aunt Francisca take her to out of there.
            When we were left alone, my Father stared at me and there was hate in his eyes. I knew he would want to punish me, and more curious than afraid I tried to imagine what kind of punishment he could be thinking about. I asked myself if he’d have the courage to give me a beating despite the fact that I was already 17, and how I’d react if he did. Would I endure the punishment in silence, although certain that I was right? Or would I use force, even if to do that I’d have to forget the respect that prevents a son to hit his Father, even when he is unfair? Perhaps he’d send me back to the Roseiral, to avoid any more contact with the liberals... I thought he might dismiss Diogo, for it would be the best way to punish us both in an equally painful manner. This last possibility scared me and with all the tension, my forehead became covered in droplets of sweat. My Father, however, didn’t seem to notice the ramblings of my mind. He sat down and motioned for me to do the same. I obeyed without uttering a word. «I don’t want you to ever come back to the Roseiral», he said abruptly.
            It was as if someone had pulled a rug from under my feet, or as if someone had violently punched me in my stomach and I had become completely dizzy. It was, after all, as if my world had been taken from me. «What?», I said, not quite sure of what I had just heard. «You heard right. I’m throwing you out of the house. You’re not my son anymore».
            I felt my heart beat out of time and seeing the calmness, the undisturbed look with which my Father uttered those words so harsh, I felt even more disconcerted. When we argued, it was usually him that ended up losing his temper and go from reason to rage. And I used to feel kind of triumphant when he ran out of arguments. Now, it was my turn to feel that no matter what I would say, it would be useless. In a few seconds, I saw everything I would be forced to leave behind: the manor which had always been my home and where, despite everything, I had always had a family. I wouldn’t see Maria da Luz so soon. I saw images of our childhood. I would be leaving behind an entire life. I would be leaving Cecília, who had always cherished me like she did her own son. I wouldn’t again look at my Mother’s portrait that hung in one of the halls of the manor. And despite everything, I knew I would miss my Father. I hated him for what he stood for and defended, but I could not stop myself from loving him. I understood now that all those times when I had thrown in his face that I wouldn’t mind living away from him, I had lied without knowing it. For a moment, I was able to swallow my pride and say: «You can’t do that...»
The hatred is his eyes was gone. There was only grief now. And I could see that he meant it when he said: «I’m sorry, Pedro. I wish you no harm. But if I forgave you today, I’d never forgive myself. It’s better if you just go». «I wasn’t asking for forgiveness. I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I was just asking you to accept me as I am. It was obviously a mistake».
            The harshness of my words brought the hate back. «Say goodbye to you sister. I had planned to stay longer but we’ll go back to Coimbra tomorrow. I already spoke with your Aunt. She says you can remain here until you find a place to stay. By the way, I have also told Cecília that I would have to dismiss Diogo. Your Aunt Francisca, who is to kind for her own good, says he can stay in her service until he finds work in another household.
After tomorrow, I don’t want you to ever look for us again. Neither for me nor for Maria da Luz».
            A thousand thoughts were going through my mind as my Father spoke. At first, I had felt scared and also a little hurt but now I felt only anger, for I didn’t think he had the right to deprive me of contact with my own sister. «You can’t do that! You have no right to impose your will on Luz or me!» «If your sister disobeys, I’m sure she’ll always have a place in this house».
            I didn’t know how to retort and my Father withdrew from the living room. In the moment that I was left alone in that room, I felt completely forlorn, desperately alone and I had the feeling that in the near future, that would be the aspect of my life.
            My first impulse was to go to Maria da Luz and tell her to leave that despotic old man, but I soon realised how that would have been foolish and selfish. I didn’t know how my life would be like from now on. I couldn’t stay in Aunt Francisca’s house forever and I couldn’t ask Luz to leave the comfort and safety of the Roseiral for a life that I wasn’t sure I could give her.
            I decided to follow my Father’s advice. I knew Luz must be in her room and so I went there and knocked on the door. Luz opened immediately and from her expression I gathered she must have remained there, behind the door, anxiously waiting to know the content of our conversation. «May I come in?», I asked.
Luz became paler, maybe because she thought that if I preferred to speak to her in the privacy of her room instead of going to the living room it was because it was serious.
I sat on the edge of the bed and motioned for her to do the same. «What’s the matter?», she asked. «You look disheartened and you’re not usually like that when Father lectures you...» «Father decided to go back to Coimbra tomorrow», I said without the courage to tell her everything in one sitting. «Is that all? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m relieved. Here I’m always worried. With you and with Father». «I won’t be going with you, Luz». «You won’t? You decided to stay for a little while longer? Perhaps that’s a good idea. You and Father need some time away from each other. I’m sure Aunt Francisca won’t mind. I’d stay and keep you company but you have Diogo, I’m sure he’s staying with you, and I can’t leave Father alone.
Luz had spoken so fast and I was feeling so dismayed that I hadn’t managed to interrupt her. However, when she finished, I was able to say: «No, Luz. I’m never going back to the Roseiral».
Luz looked worriedly at me and stammering she said: «What are you saying? Not coming back... I understand you are angry with Father but... Listen, I don’t know what he said to you, maybe he insulted you, but leaving your home... Can’t you forgive him? For me?»
            I had always loved my sister but never until that moment had I felt such tenderness for her. That girl standing in front of me, suffering because of me, holding my hands, brought to my memory my Mother’s portrait. And I couldn’t help thinking that if it was in my power, for her, I’d stay. «Oh, Luz... believe that the last thing I want to do is leaving you in the hands of that bitter old man. But there’s nothing I can do. I’m not going because I want to defy Father. I’m going because he asked me to». «Father... threw you out of the house? But that’s crazy! He didn’t know what he was saying... He was angry... I’ll talk to him. I’m sure that...»
            After several failed attempts to interrupt that torrent of words, I finally managed to make her stop talking by placing a finger on her lips. «I don’t want you to do anything. It’s for the best that this happened now. It would have happened sooner or later and this way we avoid saying to each other things we might never be able to forgive». «But you’ll come visit us, won’t you? I will see you again...» «Please, Luz, be strong so that I won’t have to lie to you. I don’t know when I’ll see you again. Father doesn’t want me to contact you». «What?! But he has no right! If he thinks he can forbid me to see my own brother...» «Please, Luz. Don’t defy him. Don’t defy him for me. One day, when you are a married woman, I will visit you in your home and there will be nothing he can say. But for now, I don’t even know what I’ll do with my own life. I don’t know for how long I’ll stay here or where I’ll go after that. I don’t want you to be without a home because of me. Promise me you won’t say anything to him. Promise me, please». «But...» «Promise me».
            Despite herself, she eventually said: «I promise».
            After speaking with Luz, I thought I should go talk to Diogo, for he too would suffer the consequences of that brief adventure. I found him in the kitchen, having with Cecília a conversation similar to the one I’d had with Luz.
«Forgive me for interrupting», I said. «I came in a bad time. I’ll be back to talk to you, Diogo».
            But Cecília wouldn’t let me go and cried as she threw her arms around my neck. «Oh, Master Pedro! What’ll become of me without the two of you? Why did you anger D. José so much?» «Now, now, Cecília. I don’t want to see you like this. My Father may forbid me from contacting the Roseiral, but he can’t stop you and your son from writing to each other, and I’ll send news in his letters. I know it’s not the same as being together but who knows, maybe some day...»
            Diogo interrupted me and said to Cecília: «Mother, I already explained to you that it’s not our choice and both Sir Pedro and I love you very much. Listen, Sir Pedro and I have to talk about what’s happening. Now, promise me that you won’t be crying». «Don’t worry about me. Just go. I’ll be alright». «Are you sure?», I asked.
            In reply, Cecília tried to force herself to smile and Diogo and I went to talk in our room.
We were both scared, but at the same time thrilled with the idea of figuring out what to do with our lives from that moment on. With a shiver of excitement running through our bodies, and each trying to find in the other the trifle of fear that was in ourselves, we made countless plans, things we wanted to do in the long run.
We wanted to do something useful, fight for our ideals, change the country, change the world. But we couldn’t reach a decision, so we thought we’d think about that after our families’ departure and decided to spend the rest of the day with them.
My Father must have realised that need that we felt of spending that day together, for he asked my Aunt to have his meals served in his bedroom.
I was angry with my Father, but I could not help but appreciate his gesture and I repayed him by saying goodbye to Luz and Cecília that night so he wouldn’t have to see him in the morning. However, I watched them leave the next morning, through the partially open curtain of my bedroom window.