Machado de Assis (1839–1908) is widely acclaimed as the progenitor of twentieth-century Latin American fiction. He was the son of a mulatto father and a washerwoman and the grandson of freed slaves. In his lifetime, he was hailed as Brazil’s greatest writer. His prodigious output of novels, plays, and stories rivaled contemporaries like Chekhov, Flaubert, and Maupassant, but he was barely translated into English until 1963 and still lacks proper recognition today. This story has been excerpted from the first complete collection in English of his work, The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis.