Dom Casmurro Chapter 106


I have always said that she was thrifty, or if I haven’t I do so now and not only with money but with old worn-out things that you keep out of habit, as a souvenir or for sentimental reasons. She had some shoes, for example, small, flat shoes that tied at the instep with black ribbon, the last that she had used before wearing boots, which she brought to the house and would take from her dressing-table from time to time together with other old odds and ends, saying that they were part of her childhood. My mother, who was of a similar temperament, liked to hear her talk and behave in this way.

As for purely financial matters, I shall mention just one instance and that will do. It was on the occasion of an astronomy lesson by the seaside in Glória, when you will remember that I made her doze off. One night she was gazing at the sea with such deep concentration that I felt jealous.

‘You’re not listening to me, Capitu.’

‘Me? I heard you perfectly.’

‘What was I saying?’

‘You …You were talking about Sirius.’

‘Sirius my foot, Capitu! It’s twenty minutes since I mentioned Sirius.’

She corrected herself hastily. ‘You were talking about … about Mars.’

I had in fact been talking about Mars, but it was obvious that she had seized only the sound of the word, not the sense. I was annoyed and felt like leaving the room; but Capitu, perceiving this, became the tenderest of creatures, took me by the hand and admitted that she had been doing some calculations, that is, adding up some money to discover a sum that was missing. She was converting paper money into gold. At first I thought it was just an excuse to put me into a good temper, but before long there was I adding up figures, too, with pencil and paper on my knee, until I discovered the difference she had been seeking.

‘But what pounds are these?’ I asked, when I had finished.

Capitu looked up at me and laughed and said that it was my fault for breaking the secret. Then she got up, went to the bedroom and returned with ten pounds sterling in her hand; they were what she had saved from the housekeeping money I gave her every month.

‘All this?’

‘It’s not much, only ten pounds. It’s what your miserly wife has been able to save in a few months,’ she concluded, jingling the coins in her hand.

‘Who changed it for you?’

‘Your friend Escobar.’

‘How is it he never told me anything?’

‘It was only today.’

‘Has he been here?’

‘Just before you arrived. I didn’t say anything so that you wouldn’t be suspicious.’

I wanted to spend double that amount of gold buying a present for Capitu in celebration, but she wouldn’t let me. On the contrary, she asked me what we should do with the pounds.

‘They’re yours,’ I replied.

‘They’re ours,’ she corrected me.

‘Then you look after them.’

The next day I visited Escobar at his warehouse and laughed about their secret. Escobar smiled and told me he had been on the point of going to my office to tell me about it. His sister-in-law (which is how he continued to refer to Capitu) had spoken about it during our last visit to Andaraí, mentioning the reason for keeping it secret.

‘Sanchinha was amazed when I told her about it,’ he concluded. ‘“How is it that Capitu can save money with everything so expensive nowadays?” “I don’t know, my dear. All I know is that she managed to save ten pounds.”’

‘Maybe she’ll learn how to as well.’

‘I doubt it. Sanchinha isn’t extravagant, but she isn’t thrifty either. She makes do with what I give her, but only just.’ Escobar made a sign of assent with his head but without enthusiasm, as if regretting that he couldn’t say the same of his own wife. And you would think so, too, so true it is that the virtues of our fellows inspire in us feelings of vanity, pride or consolation.