You can never be too careful

BY Augusto do Rosário Rodrigues
Translated from the Portuguese by Paul Melo e Castro

Sancho Serapião do Santo Sepulcro Costa Paredes Malcorado, son of old Nicomedes, the sacristan of Santa Eufrásia, had just entered his twentieth year. He had rudimentary schooling, a basic knowledge of music, and knew how to assist at Mass. His family had inherited land from a great-great-grandfather missionary, which they lived well off, though without ostentation. Nicomedes, besides village sacristan, was also headman, justice of the peace, and chief castrator of the local pigs, and wanted his boy to follow in his fourfold footsteps.

Sancho, however, had far loftier ambitions: he planned to strike it rich in Africa, so he could come back and vie with the grandees of the village. When his parents passed on, leaving their house in the hands of a maiden aunt, our hero availed himself of an offer from a neighbour with a tailor’s shop in Beira and went over to work for him as an accountant. As well as bed and board he earned three hundred escudos per month. The tailor, a widower with a single daughter of marriageable age, treated him like a son. God willing — the tailor thought — Sancho will join the family one day.

His daughter, dusky-skinned and lovely, had finished high school and acquired an almost aristocratic bearing. Yet our haughty son of a sacristan, vain of his status as a village gaunkar, looked upon his host with nothing but disdain. The tailor, realising his daughter deserved better than a sacristan for a father-in-law, soon got shot of the uppity blighter.

Our hero, who had some money put aside, continued on to Lourenço Marques where he found a job as a customs broker for an English firm, earning two thousand escudos a month. On the QT he traded in cloth, which quickly augmented his nest egg. But what really ensured his prosperity was the reclusive life he led. Due to his caste snobbery, the local Goans, few of whom were of his kind, fled this unsociable boor. And so he lived alone, cooking for himself, untroubled by bothersome visitors. His frugal ways trebled his capital and his culinary skills encased his stout body in an ample layer of flab.

One fine day, after totting up his accounts, he found that he now had nine thousand escudos safely stashed in the Banco Nacional Ultramarino. He smiled with delight, ate six chouriços and four eggs for lunch, topped that off with a generous nip of firewater, and took himself to bed. When he awoke, he decided to transfer his savings with the Ultramarino to its branch in Goa. The next morning, this issue with the bank resolved, he packed his bags, dispatched a telegram to his aunt, and left on a steamer for Bombay.


Read the full story in our print anthology ‘The Brave New World of Goan Writing 2018.’ Buy the anthology here.

Augusto do Rosário Rodrigues the author (1910–1999), was a regular contributor of poems and short stories in Portuguese to the post-1961 Goan press and radio.

Paul Melo e Castro the translator, is an academic and lecturer in Comparative Literature and Portuguese at the University of Glasgow.