Dom Casmurro Chapter 124


‘It’s time we left.’

It was José Dias inviting me to close the coffin. We closed it, and I took hold of one of the handles. There was a final outburst of weeping. I swear that when I arrived at the door and saw the bright sunshine, all those carriages and the people with their heads uncovered, I felt one of those impulses of mine that never get put into practice: it was to hurl coffin, body and everything into the street. In the carriage I told José Dias not to speak. In the cemetery I had to repeat the same procedure as in the house – undo the straps and help carry the coffin to the grave. You can imagine what that cost me. After they lowered the body into the grave they brought lime and a spade. You know all about this – you will have been to more than one funeral; but what you don’t know, nor can any of your friends know, dear reader, nor any other stranger, is what I went through when I saw all eyes turned on me, feet still, ears pricked up; after some moments of total silence I was aware of a vague murmur, interrogatory voices, gesticulations and someone, José Dias, whispering in my ear, ‘Why don’t you speak?’

It was the speech. They wanted the speech. They had a right to hear the speech, which had been announced. Automatically I put my hand in my pocket, took out the paper and read it in fits and starts, not all of it, nor in the right order, nor clearly. I seemed to swallow my voice instead of speaking, and my hands were trembling. It was not just newly awakened emotion that caused this; it was the text itself, the references to my friend, my memories of him, my tribute to his person and his merits. This is what I had to say, and I said it badly. At the same time, fearful that they might guess the truth, I did my best to keep it well concealed. I think only a few heard what I said, but the general reaction was of understanding and approval. The handshakes I received were congratulatory. Some said, ‘Fine! Very good! Magnificent!’ José Dias thought that my words were suited to the sadness of the occasion. A man, who seemed to be a journalist, asked permission to take the manuscript and have it printed. Only my extreme agitation could explain my refusal of so simple a request.