The ending, or endings, of The Crime of Father Amaro.
Near the middle of the novel, a minor character dies; Amaro is her attending priest. Eça de Queirós uses the episode to give us a look at the genuine spiritual power of even a bad priest like Amaro. His delivery of the last rites is a serious and meaningful responsibility, meaningful to the dying and those around her, even if Amaro himself sees the duty only as a burden, and even though he uses the incident to chase women.
The early scene foreshadows two later deaths, one where Amaro fails in his ordinary priestly duties, and another where his failure is considerably worse than ordinary. Whatever Eça may mock, he takes death seriously enough.
This last death leads to a funeral scene, too, although a curious one, since the author mostly does not show us the funeral – he is using the limited third person for all it is worth. We follow the funeral procession to a chapel but do not enter it; we instead join a pair of servants who take the opportunity to “wander” into a tavern and gossip. The chapel door is a threshold Eça does not want to cross, the genuine religious service something he does not want us to see. It exists outside of this novel. The servants rejoin the procession for the burial, so we do get to see that. The scene ends with the point of view leaving the servants, the camera “pulling back”:
‘Amen,’ came the deep voice of the sacristan and the shrill voice of the choirboy.
‘Amen,’ said the others in a sighing murmur that was lost amongst the cypresses, the grass, the graves and the cold mists of that sad December day. (461)
This is not Father Amaro’s ending. We need a few pages more for him. A “man of state and two men of religion,” Amaro one of them, accidentally meet at the foot of the statue of Camões (see wiki for photo - when visiting Lisbon, you can recreate the scene!), author of The Lusiads, hero of Portuguese culture, representative of empire and glory. An ironic contrast might be on its way.
‘Well, just look around you! What peace, what vigour, what prosperity!’
And he made a sweeping gesture that took in the whole of the Largo do Loreto, which, at that hour, at the close of a serene afternoon, contained the essence of city life. Empty carriages rode slowly by; women in twos tottered past, wearing false hair and high heels and displaying the anaemic pallor of a degenerate race… (470)
More: a hungover nobleman, people sprawling in “idle torpor,” pimps, an ox cart (“the symbol of an antiquated agricultural system dating back centuries”), lottery-peddling urchins. The laying on, it is thick. The geography of the square, and the nature of Portugal, is finally summarized as “two gloomy church façades… three pawnshop signs… four taverns.” It’s a sublimely savage passage, worthy of one of Victor Hugo’s great explosions. In the last words of the novel, our bad priest and his worse superiors congratulate themselves, under the gaze of their great poet, for the marvelous achievements of their civilization, the very thing that the reader of the novel has spent the previous 470 pages watching them destroy.