Dom Casmurro Chapter 108


But not even this quenched my yearning for a son, no matter how weak, skinny and wretched: a son, a child of my own flesh. Whenever we went to Andaraí and saw Escobar and Sanchinha’s daughter, familiarly known as Capituzinha to distinguish her from my wife, since they had baptized her with the same name, we were filled with envy. She was a delightful child, plump, talkative and inquisitive. Her parents, like all parents, talked about her pranks and her cleverness, so that when we returned to Glória at night we would sigh with envy and pray to heaven to bring it to an end …

Our envy came to an end; hopes were born and before long their fruit made its appearance in the world. It was neither wretched nor ugly, as I had asked, but a fine, strapping boy.

It is impossible to describe my joy when he was born; I had felt nothing like it before, nor do I believe that there can be anything similar or remotely to be compared to it. It was ecstasy, madness. If I did not burst into song in the street it was through natural timidity, or if not in the house then so as not to disturb Capitu, who was convalescent. If I did not fall over it is because there is a god who watches over newly made fathers. Outside the house I thought of nothing but the child; at home I watched him, gazed at him, asked him where he had come from and why I was so entirely bound up in him and various other stupid things, not put into words but constantly coming to mind. I think my inattention lost me several court cases.

Capitu was no less tender both to him and to me. We would hold hands, and while we gazed at our son we would talk about ourselves, our past and our future. The moments of greatest delight and mystery were when she fed him. What I felt when I saw my son being suckled at his mother’s breast, that vision of nature giving life and sustenance to a being which had not existed but which our destiny declared should be and our constancy and love caused to be, I could not and cannot find words to express. My memory fails me, and should I try I fear any words would be hopelessly inadequate.

Forgive me for not going into detail. Nor is it necessary to recount the attentions of my mother and of Sancha, who also came to spend the first few days and nights with Capitu. I tried to refuse Sancha’s offer, but she declared it was nothing to do with me and that Capitu, before she was married, had been to nurse her in the Rua dos lnvalidos.

‘Don’t you remember that you went to see her there?’

‘Yes, but what about Escobar here?’

‘I’ll come and have dinner with you, then at night go home to Andaraí. It will only be for a week. It’s obvious you are a first-time father.’

‘Speak for yourself. Where’s your second?’

We were used to speaking so familiarly together. Nowadays, withdrawn into taciturnity, I wonder whether such language still exists, but I suppose it does. Escobar did as he said, dining with us and then going home at night. In the late afternoon we would walk on the beach or the Promenade, he absorbed with his calculations, I with my dreams. I pictured my son a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman; I sent him to various universities and banks and even admitted the possibility of his being a poet. I imagined him a politician, seeing him as an orator, a great orator.

‘It’s possible,’ commented Escobar. ‘No one would have guessed how Demosthenes would turn out.’

Escobar often shared my childish imaginings, looking into the future. He even mentioned the possibility of my son marrying his daughter. Friendship is something real; it was there; it was there in the handshake I gave Escobar on hearing this and in the total lack of words with which I expressed my agreement; these came later, in a rush, straight from my wildly beating heart. Accepting his proposal, I suggested that we should work to this end, bringing them up together and giving them the same education.

It was my idea that Escobar should be the boy’s godfather; his godmother had to be and would be my mother. But my first intention was thwarted by Uncle Cosme, who, on seeing the child, said, among other endearments, ‘Come and receive your godfather’s blessing, you rascal.’

Then, turning to me, he said, ‘It’s a privilege I won’t give up. But you’ll have to be quick with the christening before this heart of mine packs in once and for all.’

I mentioned this discreetly to Escobar, hoping he would understand and forgive me; he just laughed and was not offended. He went on to insist that the baptismal lunch should be given in his house, as indeed it was. I even delayed the ceremony to see if Uncle Cosme would succumb first to his disease, but it seemed that this was more troublesome than fatal. I had no choice but to take the boy to the font, where he was given the name of Ezequiel; this was Escobar’s name and was intended to make up for him not being the godfather.