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The following day, the police investigated the wreckage of the fire and immediately ordered the removal of the rubble, to remove the bodies that were.

 About that time, Bertoleza's friend, noticing that old Liborio, after escaping dying in the confusion of the fire, fled in agony to his hiding place, followed him in disguise and observed that the wretch, as soon as he gave light to the lamp, began panting to get something out of his filthy mattress.


It was bottles. He took out the first, the second, half a dozen of them. Then she hurriedly pulled the covers off the cot and made a bundle. She was going to make her way out again, but she let out a muffled groan and fell to the ground without strength, splashing with blood and clutching the mysterious package to her chest.


João Romão appeared, and he, as soon as he saw him, redoubled his anguish and twisted himself all over the bottles, defending them with his whole body, looking terrified and sideways at his intervener, as if he had come face to face with a bandit. And with each step the salesman took, the old man's trembling and startling increased, drawing from his throat the hoarse grunts of a beaten and frightened animal. Twice she tried to get up; twice he rolled to the ground dying. Joao Romão objected that any delay there would be certain death: the fire was advancing. I wanted to help him carry the burden. Liborio, for the only answer, rolled up his lips, showing his toothless gums and trying to bite the hand that the salesman was already extending over the bottles.


But from above, the tip of a sling of fire pierced the ceiling and lit up the miserable pigsty red. Liborio still tried a supreme effort, and could not do anything, beginning to tremble from head to toe, trembling, trembling, clinging more and more to his bundle, and he was already struggling, when the salesman violently snatched it from his clutches. . It was also time, because, after insinuating the lingo, the fire showed its mouth and finally opened its devouring gill.


The rogue was running away from his career, embracing his prey, while the old man, unable to get to his feet, followed his trail, with difficulty, strangled by senile despair, already speechless, snarling some shrieks of death, his eyes blurred, all purple, his fingers gnarled like the nails of a wounded vulture.


João Romão crossed the career path and got into his hole to hide the theft. At the first glance, he immediately recognized that what was in the bottles was paper money. He buried the bundle on the shelf of an old cupboard full of bottles and went back outside to accompany the fire service.


At midnight the fire was completely extinguished and four sentries were around the ruins of the thirty-odd little houses that burned down. The salesman was only able to return to the bundle of bottles at five o'clock in the morning, when Bertoleza, who had worked wonders against the fire, passed through the bedroom, leaning against the bed, her skirt still soaked with water, her body covered with small burns. She verified that the bottles were eight and were filled to the brim with bills of all denominations, which were stuffed there, one by one, after being carefully rolled and folded in the fashion of raffle tickets. Fearful, however, that the Creole was not sleeping well and would notice, Joao Romão decided to postpone counting the money until later and kept the treasure in another, safer place.


The following day, the police investigated the wreckage of the fire and immediately ordered the removal of the rubble, to remove the bodies that were.


Rita had disappeared from the inn during the night's confusion; Piedade fell to bed, with a fever of forty degrees; Machona had a cracked ear and a twisted foot; that of Dores had her head broken; Bruno had been stabbed in the thigh; two quarry workers were seriously injured; an Italian had lost two front teeth, and a little girl from Augusta Carne Molle had died crushed by the people. And everyone, everyone complained about the damage they had received and revolted against the rigors of fate. The entire day was spent computing the damages and taking stock of what had been saved from the fire. He felt an annoyed lot of sop and wet ash. A hard, disconsolate silence stultified those poor people. Shadowy figures, hands clasped behind, remained forgotten hours, staring motionless at the charred and still damp skeletons of the burned-out houses. The corpses of the Witch and Liborio were carried to the middle of the courtyard, misshapen, hideous, and they lay between two lit candles, in the open, waiting for Misericordia's car. People came into the street to see them; they discovered themselves in front of them, and some onlookers piously threw a copper coin into the plate which, at the feet of the two deceased, received the alms for the shroud. In Augusta's house, on a table covered with a ceremonious lace tablecloth, was the corpse of her dead daughter, all decorated with flowers, with a brass Christo at the head and two candles that burned sadly. Alexandre, seated in a corner of the room, with his face hidden in his hands, wept, awaiting the grief of the visitors; he had dressed up, just for that, in his best uniform,


The little girl's funeral was at Leonie's expense, who appeared at three o'clock, dressed in a cream-colored satin, in a cart driven by a coachman in white flannel shorts and gold-broiled livery.


Miranda showed up at the inn first thing in the morning, his air pitying but superior. He gave Joao Romão a slight hug, spoke to him in a low voice, regretting that catastrophe, but congratulated him because everything was safe.


The shopkeeper, in effect, impressed by the first attempt at fire, had tried to secure all his properties; and with such inspiration he did it that now, instead of bringing him harm, it even left him profits.


“Oh, oh, my dear! Caution and chicken broth never harmed the patient!... whispered the tenement owner, laughing. Look, those guys sure didn't like the game! he added, pointing to the side on which the largest group of unfortunates took care of the remains of their tossed tarreos.


—Oh, but those, what the hell! they have nothing to lose!... considered the other.


And the two neighbors went to the end of the stage, talking in low voices.


"I'm going to rebuild all this!" declared João Romão, with an energetic gesture that embraced all that dismantled babylonia.


And he explained his project: He intended to enlarge the inn, entering a little through the grass. On the left side, leaning against Miranda's wall, a new row of houses would be built, thus taking advantage of part of the patio, which didn't need to be so big; A second floor would be built on top of the others, with a long, barred front porch. Small business to have there, giving money, instead of a hundred rooms, no less than four hundred to five hundred, twelve to twenty-five thousand reis each!


Oh! he would show how things are done well.


Miranda listened to him silently, looking at him with respect.


"You're one hell of a man!" she said at last, patting him on the shoulder.


And when he left there, in his vulgar heart as a man who never produced and spent his life, like any merchant, exploring the good faith of some and the intellectual work of others, he brought great admiration to his neighbour. What was left of the primitive envy was transformed in that instant into a boundless and blind enthusiasm.


"He's a son of a bitch!" she muttered along the street, on her way to her store. He is very strong! It's a pity to be involved with the plague of that Creole! I don't even know how such a clever man falls into such a blunder!


It wasn't until around ten o'clock at night that Joao Romão, after making sure that Bertoleza had worked in a stone sleeper, decided to rock the Liborio bottles. The devil is that he also almost couldn't stand his legs and felt his eyes closing with fatigue. But he could not remain silent without knowing exactly how he had been beaten by the miser.


He lit a candle, fetched the filthy, precious bundle, and carried it to the eating house beside the kitchen.


He laid everything down on one of the tables, sat down, and began the task. He took the first bottle, tried to empty it, hitting the bottom; however, it was necessary for him to extract the notes, one by one, because they were very cramped and sticky with mold. As he hooked them, he would immediately unroll them and carefully spread them out in a bundle, after drying their moisture with the heat of his hands and the candle. And the pleasure he took in this service put all his senses at play and chased away his sleep and fatigue. But when she moved on to the second bottle, she suffered a painful disappointment: almost all the banknotes were already prescribed by the treasury; then came the fear that the best part of the cake would be unusable; he still had the hope that that bottle was the oldest of all and therefore the worst.


And he continued his delicious work more ardently.


He had already emptied six, when he noticed that the candle, consumed to the end, was flickering to extinguish; she went to get another new one and saw at the same time what time it was. «Oh! how quickly the night had passed!...» Three-thirty in the morning. "It seemed impossible!"


When the count was over, the first carts passed outside on the street.


"Fifteen contos, four hundred thousand reis!"


But eight contos and six hundred were in prescripted notes. And the shopkeeper, at the sight of such a beautiful somma, so stupidly compromised, felt the indignation of a robbed. He cursed that damned old Liborio for such relaxation; he cursed the government because it limited, with roguish intentions, the period of circulation of his bonds; he even felt remorse for not having taken possession of the miser's treasury, as soon as the miser, one of the first residents of the tenement, appeared to him with the mattress on his back, crying that they would give him a corner as alms where he could get in with his misery. Joao Romão had always had a clairvoyant greed for that bottled money; he had sniffed it ever since he looked closely into the round, lively little eyes of the decrepit vulture, and was completely convinced,


"It would be an act of justice!" concluded João Romão; at least it would prevent all this poor money from rotting so savagely!


Now goodbye! but seven rich little stories, almost entire ones, remained on her fingernails. “And then, what the hell! the others would just as well go with it... Today two thousand reis were imposed: tomorrow five. Not in purchases, but in change... Why not? Someone would complain, but many would swallow the loofah... There was no shortage of foreigners and rednecks for that!... And besides, it wasn't a crime!... Yes! if there was a thief in that, complain about the government! the government was the thief!


—In any case, he concluded, saving the good and bad money and getting ready to rest; this is enough to start the works! Let it be, and in a few days I'll show you how much I'm worth!



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