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dead woman’s grove 107

‘Perhaps she’ll come in the evening, but it’ll just be for a short, snatched moment…’ she said, and then, in a mysterious tone, ‘It’s not just being ill that’s her problem; José Cravo got really angry with her; I think he even hit her, and told her she can’t come to the party…’

At about midday José Cravo arrived, saying that he was coming to carry out his duty: to take orders. He didn’t stay long, and not once during our conversation did I manage to look him in the eyes, which he averted immediately he realized I was looking at him.

You can easily imagine the fears this caused me. On the pretext of a migraine I avoided the dinner, staying at home in a fever of anxiety, waiting for Julia to come, and at the same time begging the gods not to let her risk the danger that disobedience to her lover would bring her. The route (and what a route – rather a goat path!) from her home to the Convent took at least twenty minutes and it would be impossible for him not to notice her absence.

But she came all the same, just as evening was falling and when I no longer hoped to see her. And God, her appearance! Waxen, purple eyelids and lips; frozen hands, and, extraordinarily, more enchanting than ever.

Her lover had not hit her, but on the Sunday evening, when he returned from collecting payment for some sheep he had sold in Figueira, he arrived home in silence, threw himself fully clothed on the bed and began to cry. She was preparing supper and, hearing his sobs, was genuinely upset, as she had never seen him crying, and so went to comfort him. But he pushed her away with such force that she fell to the floor, and then he sat on the edge of the bed and began to swear at her. He told her that Isidro from Vila do Bispo (the one who’d been filled with lead) had been going round all the houses in town telling everyone that she had been meeting me in the office, staying for hours while I was alone, and never going out through the same door she had entered by, as though wanting to avoid the curiosity of the neighbours, who, he

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